Dig In

The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention. ~ Richard Moss

Having written this book before COVID-19, I want to hug you, to pull you near and tell you that brighter days are ahead of whatever difficult season you’ve gone or are going through. I also want to jump up and down and clap my hands, my ponytail waving furiously with my excitement, and yell, “YOU’VE GOT THIS! LET’S GO! I’m here, cheering you on!”

And also, I want to make you a cup of tea and invite you over for cookies and offer you a blanket when you walk in. Come curl up and let’s talk about why this stuff is so important. Why we, as women, must not back down when life gets hard. Yes, we can cry and let the pain wash over us, but at the end of the day, we must never agree to settle for mediocrity.

We’ve each been given a sacred gift: a number of days to spend here on this earth with our people. And I want to leave you with a challenge: work your tail off. Hustle like mad. Get after it, whatever it is to you.

And then, for the love of all things holy, rest.

Take care of yourself. Treasure your heart, mind, and body the way God treasures you. And then… get up and do it again. We will never regret this life if we leave it all on the court. I hope I am absolutely used up at the end of my days — having given every ounce of love until I had no more left to give, having pursued every curiosity big and small, frivolous or meaningful, and having fully blossomed and poured every ounce of Emily out onto the world so other flowers can come up behind me.

That’s the key. You are not alone. You have sisters, women who are different from you, similar to you, and believing with you that growing is one thing but growing boldly is quite another. Thank You, God, for sisters — both biological and chosen.

Could it be that caring for ourselves and each other (much like tending a flower in a garden) actually helps the entire garden to grow in unison? When we flourish, does that open the door for others to flourish as well? And what if that sparks a chain reaction that makes each of us better?

SOUL CARE

So what is soul care and how does it come into play when you’re hustling to make something happen? To build a life you love?

I’d like to argue that soul care is the secret to achieving the ever-elusive holy grail that is “balance.” For every action we must counteract it with an equal yet opposite reaction. We must roll up our sleeves and do hard work… and then make a space for rest. We must give of our time and resources for the well-being of others… and then turn our efforts inward, to strengthen, heal, and fuel ourselves.

Some people might say this is selfish. But I’d argue that it’s actually selfless. To truly care for your calling — for the life you are building, for the family you’re creating, for the dream you’re pursuing — you have to be willing to do the hard stuff, to stay up late and sacrifice, and to hustle. And you have to be equally willing to make the difficult decision to let certain efforts wilt away — to choose the kids’ Valentine’s Day party at school over the conference call, for example — and to actively pursue rest and refueling as much as you pursue achievement and success.

You lean in. You listen to the desires of your heart.

Sit back and listen. Don’t try to change them. Identify those desires and feed them. If your soul comes alive when you write, put pen to paper. If your soul comes alive when you dance, turn up the music. If your soul comes alive when you sing, even if off-key, sing it out, sister.

Feed your soul what makes it come alive. Set boundaries to protect what matters. Know your value and make yourself a priority. Listen to your body when it needs rest or movement or nourishment. Recognize and acknowledge your heart of hearts. Here are some of the things I remind myself of regularly:

  • You are building this life so you can have flexibility as a mom.
  • You are building this life so that you can change the lives of women everywhere.
  • You are building this life so that you can leave a legacy of compassion and inclusion for your family.
  • You will not sacrifice your soul on the altar of getting ahead. Rather, you will honor humans above hustle and a life well lived above a life well achieved.

SIMPLICITY RULES

The simplest ways to care for your soul involve getting back to basics, stripping away the excess and honoring the beauty found in order, simplicity, and focus. This is where things come full circle. I created Simplified because I was overwhelmed, and I return to those principles again and again.

Dare I say that simplicity is integral to the journey and paramount in the results of our hard work? When we address clutter in our lives — be it tactically in our cabinets, in our desk drawers, or even on our computer desktops or figuratively on our calendars, in our worries, or within our hearts — we make space for our souls to breathe.

Emily P. Freeman is an author and podcaster who has made this pursuit her mission: making space for her soul to breathe. I have put this phrase in my back pocket, as the underscore of why simplicity matters — not just as we seek to create beautiful pantries and picturesque junk drawers but as we move to eliminate the extra, the unnecessary, and the excess. Through these efforts, we hold space for something more valuable.

I was going through a hard time about a year ago — bogged down by the weight of work and raising three kids and living in a new city — when a friend said to me, “I don’t know how to fix it, Emily, but I’m going to sit right here and hold space for you.”

I didn’t know what she meant at first and had to think through her words. And then it clicked. She couldn’t clear my clutter or fix my problems or care for my soul for me. Instead, she could sit and hold space for me. She could make a space for my soul to breathe, space to listen while I unpacked my thoughts and feelings. Space to be a friend when I needed communion. And space to reflect back to me the goodness I was struggling to see in myself.

What a beautiful way to care for each other, to allow each other to heal and grow, by making space.

But it’s difficult to hold space for yourself or the people you love if your life is cluttered.

Clutter is the enemy of clarity. When our lives are cluttered, whether it’s physical, intellectual, emotional, or otherwise, that clutter edges out any space we need in order to process.

And that space is what we need to gain clarity, to achieve our goals or the space to get clear on what they even are.

And this is the beauty of the BUILD concept — from beginning to end. Underpinning all the hard work and hustle it takes to build a life you love is this nonnegotiable: you must make space for your soul so clarity can manifest itself. This is true at the beginning of your journey, throughout the middle, and when you’ve reached the pinnacle of where you want to go.

CLARITY AMID CHAOS

The experiences that the entire world has gone through during a global pandemic have shaken me. Beyond feeling overwhelmed by what is happening, I feel a renewed urgency and intense yearning to live the life I’ve been given fully alive.

To live my life to its absolute fullest with however many days I’m gifted on this earth.
To love enormously and with abandon.
To be overwhelmingly kind and thoughtful.
And to shape my life to be the one I will have no regrets over at the end of my days.

The time our family spent quarantined shook my priorities into new levels of clarity and made me more certain than ever that growing boldly — not just as a single bloom but a colorful, wild, crazy garden full of uniqueness — is what we’re all meant to do.

May we come together with the common goal of growing into the very best versions of ourselves we possibly can. What a glorious, beautiful image that brings up for me — each of us our own wild and colorful flowers, reaching toward the sun, intertwined with one another and bringing so much beauty to the world.

I could go on and on, but my curiosity toward flowers tells me that maybe it’s time to get a pot and plant some seeds. I’ll water them and see what happens. I hope you’ll go nurture your curiosity too.

The world needs who you’re growing to become.

Come to Me all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear and the burden I give you is light. — Matthew 11:28-30

Benediction

May you have the drive and fortitude to roll up your sleeves, break a sweat, and sacrifice when the time is right. And may you have the gumption and bravery to clear the clutter in your life to make space for the goodness that is sure to follow hard work. May you honor your seasons — those that ask for hustle and sacrifice and those that require your focused, quiet attention — creating lap space for a young child, devoting focus to creating a new home, or allowing your soul to heal, rest, and recover. Hold each season beloved, as it will surely fade into another. Above all, may you fill your soul with truth and His promises every step of the way.

You have one life here on this earth. How will you spend the rest of it?

No more playing small.

Who is the woman inside you desperate to be released?

As we grow together, how will you balance hustle with care for the heart of who you are?

Excerpted with permission from Growing Boldly from Emily Ley, copyright Emily Ley.

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Your Turn

How are you caring for yourself? What fuels your soul? Our time matters, ladies, right? So, let’s dig in and spend it doing what’s worthy! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full

Emily Ley

Emily Ley is Founder and Creative Director of Emily Ley Paper & Gifts. She is also the creator of the bestselling Simplified Planner—a daily agenda for what matters most. Raised in Pensacola, Florida (home of the most beautiful beaches you ever did see), Emily graduated from the University of West Florida with degrees in English, creative writing, and public administration and then went on to become the executive director of the city ballet. From there, she worked in nonprofit management and public relations before launching her brand in 2008. Following the success found at its online home, EmilyLey.com, the Emily Ley brand quickly grew to be carried in over 500 retail outlets across the United States and around the world. Emily has been recognized with numerous awards, including Best New Product—Desktop (for the 2015 Simplified Planner®) at the National Stationery Show as well as Top 10 Designers to Watch in 2015 by Stationery Trends Magazine. Now as a businesswoman, wife, and mama to three, Emily enjoys Friday pizza parties on the living room floor, strong cappuccinos with her college-crush-turned-husband, and making memories to savor for a lifetime with her twins and preschooler.

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