My eyes flashed open. I sat up straight, and realized that I needed to read Tara Martin’s, Be Real. I couldn’t quite explain why, but I knew I needed to order it soon. I had seen the book advertised several months ago, and to be honest, I wondered what the book would tell me that I didn’t already know. I believe that God was giving me a nudge, and whispering that reading this book would be the start of something really big.
Recently, I had been journaling a lot. One component of my writing each day is to write down ten dreams as if they have already happened. The repetition of writing certain goals every day has given my brain the ability to search for a way to make sense and organize my thoughts. Looking at this list, I uncovered a pattern. Forty percent of my goals were about discovering away to seek out authenticity, and uncover a way be Real in different areas of my life. As I think about the word Real, I know that it includes being mindful and spending the time to stop and notice the details around me. Yet it also requires bravery to not only ask but share the deeper story.
There is something about a person’s story that has always intrigued me. I love to read and am drawn to the journey a protagonist takes. Every year I read over a hundred books. Once in a while, a book stops me in my tracks and keeps me thinking well after I finish the last page. It is in the moments where I linger after the final word that I am able to meditate on the words and really think about how I can stretch myself to do difficult things. Be Real, by Tara Martin offered me new perspectives as well as clarity on a word that had recently captured my interest. I really like how she defines the word early in her book. The adjectives genuine, not counterfeit, and authentic stand out. Tara also goes on to say that the R represents being Relatable, the E talks about exposing vulnerability, the A is for being approachable and lastly, the L is learning through life. After reading through her acronym, I decided real was my word for 2019. Over the past month, I had heard the word real a number of times. I was given the gift of clues that would unravel clarity in my thinking.
1. At the beginning of December I was talking to my sister-in-law, and rather than saying everything, was “Good but busy”, which I noticed happened to be my usual default phrase, I leveled with her and was honest about a few areas of my life that I was frustrated with. Her response was heart-felt, made me realize I was not alone in my thinking, and offered me a new perspective on what had been wearing me down. Her words made sense and really helped me. By being brave, I had one of the most real conversations I can remember in a long time.
2. Three weeks ago, I stumbled upon a recording of A Walk One Winter Night by Al Andrews. It was in those early morning hours that I listened to a story that changed me. As the protagonist found the nativity scene to be real on a walk one winter night, I too understood what it felt like to really understand the Biblical characters in the nativity scene. It was surreal to feel like I could relate to so many things that the protagonist was experiencing. And, at that moment, one early December morning as I stood in my kitchen I realized what it felt like to encounter something that I connected with on a deep level.
3. Ten days before Christmas, we had the opportunity to see my Godson who is three, and niece who is five in their church Christmas Pageant. My Godson was the littlest shepherd. As he approached the manager scene at the altar he stopped and paused before joining the other shepherds. He was in awe that he was standing in front of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus. His reaction was authentic and genuine. At that moment the Christmas Narrative that I had heard so many times became real for me.
4. A few days before Christmas break, my 10-year-old son came home and said that there was a kid in his class who is seriously convinced that his parents are robots. At first, I was surprised and thought what he said was even a little funny. But, during a long run a few days later, I realized that there was really something to what my son had said. It was then that I wondered what was currently setting me apart from a robot? How real do I appear to others?
It was only a few days after ordering Tara Martin’s book, that I was able to focus on and organize my thoughts. A few pages in, and I was hooked. One of the first thoughts that changed my thinking was that we should never minimize the effort that it took to complete a task. Effort is real. As a parent and a teacher, I am always looking to encourage someone’s best effort, and I applaud time and energy engaged on a project. But, strangely enough I never thought about what a disservice it is to act as if what you have done was no big deal, and didn’t take a lot of time (especially if the opposite is true). One of the coolest gifts someone can give is his or her time and effort. All too often, I have downplayed the time I have invested in something. It is awesome when you feel really good about the time you spent working on something and then have the courage to turn around and share that with other people. Recently, I connected with a former student who is now a senior at MSU. Over the past two years, she has gotten into weight lifting, something I wanted to find out more about, and graciously offered to send me a workout plan she had put together. One of the things I liked best about the project is that she said, “I spent a lot of time researching and putting this plan together”.
The word Real excites me. The word Real defines what I am looking for. The word Real, fills me with passion, and a zest for life. When something feels real, it might be a moment where everything just makes sense, or a sweeping emotion that shakes me to the core, and overwhelms me to the point of tears. What I do know is that I love it when you know the real story behind something, and you feel as if you have broken down the barriers and understand something on a much deeper level. I like it when people are real. I think I am really stretching myself to be real this year.
As Tara Martin says while dedicating the book to her son, “Be Real. It is enough”.