I was recently interviewed by Travis Thomas, the creator of 30 Days of YES – a site dedicated to helping people live their purpose and bring more mindfulness to every aspect of their life. Below is a copy of our conversation. I hope you enjoy reading it! And, I’m happy to answer any of your questions, too!
Here’s the introduction to our interview Travis published on his website:
It is always great when people you haven’t seen in awhile come back into your life and bless you in a new way. I never knew Annette that well, but my wife worked with her for a number of years. She was actually one of our role models for giving us the courage to home-school our children. So, when I got an e-mail from Annette recently telling me about the book she had just written and published, as well as overcoming a scary health problem – I knew we needed to chat.
Annette’s new book The Gospel According to Mamma is on sale now! Hey, friends are allowed to promote friends!
Travis: Annette, how did the idea to write this book come about?
Annette: You know, Travis, one of my early childhood dreams was actually to write books. (But I also wanted to write songs and be an actress. Ha!) And all of those dreams were set aside as I got older, went to college and got married shortly thereafter. The idea to write this book came after almost a decade of writing columns for newspapers, parenting magazines and spirituality websites. My column writing began after my only child left for college and I was trying to come to grips with what I was going to do with my life now that my “nest” was empty. I was struggling to find new purpose. And I began to wonder if I had duly prepared my daughter for the adult life in front of her. I worried whether or not I had told her everything I wanted to or needed to.
So for me, the hundreds of columns I wrote during her first ten years away from home was ultimately about me trying to do just that. Health problems brought my writing to a sudden halt two years ago. After recuperating from a scary surgery and overcoming fears of death, I was certain it was time to fulfill my writing childhood dream and I just had a feeling that my years of column writing had created a foundation that I could draw upon.
Travis: This book feels like an expression of your YES. Do you feel it is? How do you articulate your YES in your own words?
Annette: Oh yes I do! Most definitely, Travis! My YES for this book evolved over the past couple of years. My process of overcoming fear of death was very much grounded in an affirmation of life. You might say, a saying YES to life! Then saying NO to opinions that it’s too late or that I can’t or shouldn’t.
I began by saying yes to many things I’ve never said yes to before. Silly things like adding blond highlights to my hair or bold things like traveling out of the country for the first time with a girl friend and no husbands along.
My saying yes often leads my husband to say “Why now?” which always gets my response of “Why not?” For me, it’s been the “Why not?” question that had to be answered when making decisions and setting new goals. And I’ve often found that there really wasn’t a good enough reason not to. So, I would say YES!
Saying YES is giving myself permission to view myself differently from what I’ve accepted for myself. To think beyond the confines of what I’ve always done or what others have generally expected from me. Saying YES helped me to realize that finding purpose, understanding identity, clarifying values and ideals never reaches some grand finale – that there’s no end to the discovery of who I am because it’s a lifelong journey. This truth has given me permission to make some changes and decisions. Saying YES is about being honest with myself throughout my life and not boxing myself into a set-in-stone self-image, realizing that possibilities and opportunities don’t diminish with age. I can still say YES to do or be whatever I’m dreaming of. And I can still have dreams and pursue dreams for the rest of my life.
Travis: I love that idea of “Why not?” That is a great way to address our fears and hesitancy. Instead of asking “why” we should do something, maybe we need to ask “why not?” Is our answer then based on fear or purpose?
What have been the biggest fears or obstacles along the way to writing this book?
Annette: Once I got over the fear that I was going to die before I could begin to write this book, and others that I have dreams about, there were no obstacles actually. Struggling with health problems stirred me into action and created a passion that can’t be deterred or slowed down. This book came about quickly. After some time reviewing my writing archive with hundreds of columns, I concluded the first book I needed to write would honor the many lessons I had learned from my “mamma.” I could see how the lessons of my youth impacted various actions and experiences in my adult life. I don’t think I had truly appreciated this fact until I re-read my last decade of writing.
Travis: How did you get over the fear that you might die before writing this book?
Annette: It wasn’t easy, Travis, nor was it quick. It actually required many hours in quiet contemplation talking with God the way my mamma taught me. But it came down to one assuring fact – what became a fact to me anyway. That God loves me and is always with me.
Moment by moment, I had to embrace – completely inhale actually – this feeling that God is love and that he loves me,that God is good and surely he wants only good for his children. No matter where I was, what I did, what decisions I made – no matter what – God was with me and loved me. Pondering this kept me from losing all hope no matter what health issue or fear I was faced with.
I asked myself questions: Can I ever be somewhere where God isn’t? Is there ever a moment when God doesn’t care about me? Can anyone or anything have more control over my life than God?
I really love Psalms 139:7-10! “If I make my bed in hell” or “dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea” – “even there – God’s love and presence would be with me.
After many months including a scary surgery and recovery, a more certain sense of God’s love and presence became more dominate in my thought than morbid fears. And this more certain sense came before my surgery. I felt it right before I went into surgery and ever since.
So now, I bathe myself daily in this fact. I want to feel God’s love and presence, relish in it, breathe it in, ponder it, rest in that knowledge. I concluded that God summons us to live! And that’s what I’m doing. Fear is quite simply no longer the big bully stopping me from living my life.
Travis: That is fantastic! I love that idea of God summoning us to live! You are definitely doing that.
What has pleasantly surprised you the most along the way?
Annette: How alive I feel now. How having a certainty of life purpose makes me feel alive. I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time. I have an expectancy of good and an assurance of lots more living to do, than I did a couple of years ago.
Travis: What is your discipline or routine for connecting with your YES on a daily basis?
Annette: Honestly, I don’t have a routine or discipline I don’t think. It could be that having more discipline would be a good thing. I think I used to have more of a routine time or way of doing things including a time for prayer or meditation or even when I would read or study inspirational books. But I began to feel that I was doing things sometimes out of a feeling of obligation or responsibility to do things the way others expected from me, if that makes sense. It didn’t feel honest when it felt forced.
I’ve tried to put the confines of “time” out of my life. Maybe it’s been my desire to remove restrictions and dispose of limitations. I see my life, connecting with my YES, as a moment-by-moment experience, day and night, throughout my life for the rest of my life. I suppose my discipline today is doing what I need to do when I need to do it.
Travis: I love that. Your discipline is to stay open to the need of the moment. How do you express your YES in every aspect of your life? What connects you?
Annette: Expressing my YES is being open, ready and willing to consider new adventures and ideas. I embrace the qualities of being flexible, adaptive, creative, imaginative, receptive and teachable in every aspect of my life, in every moment of my life. And my desire to give myself permission to say YES has created in me a calm satisfaction with my life. This is a huge umbrella of thought that basically everything in my life connects to.
Travis: I can really sense the freedom and possibility you must feel in this space. If you could share one simple message that you want the world to know – what is it?
Annette: That purpose in life never reaches a conclusion or an end. It may change over time or it may look different than you imagined it would, but there is a purpose with all of its implications and possibilities to be experienced. So stay open and flexible and be willing to make adjustments and changes as necessary, and you’ll find the satisfaction in your life that you seek and long for.
Travis: Beautiful Annette! And thank you for blessing the world with your book.