On Being a Leaf in the Stream

Book contract is officially SIGNED!
    When my dear friend Vonda Skelton asked me to tag along to a writers conference she was speaking at – I had no idea what could be in store for me. I told her – “I plan to meet with no one. No editors, no authors. I’m here to just be a sponge. I don’t know what I don’t know.”
    I’ve written all my life. I have books still stored in my brain that have yet to be put on paper. I have written manuscripts that I’ve shown – nobody! All of those were swirling in my head as I was telling Vonda “I’m not going to tell anyone I’m a closet writer.” Essentially what I was saying though, was “I won’t be vulnerable.” I was saying “I’m not ready to put myself out there.” “I’m not willing to take the risk of feeling ashamed of my work.”
    The first day of the conference, the faculty was introduced, and I saw Michelle Adams. She wears a smile bigger than Texas. That along with her long blonde locks, knockout humor and gorgeous appearance would attract anyone. But, when they introduced Michelle, I didn’t see any of that. In a flash, I saw a picture of a monster I drew. The monster reminded me of a children’s story I wrote for art therapy trauma class.
    I thought “there isn’t any way I am showing that to her,” but I felt the nudge. You know the feeling, when you know you’re being lead to do something but it scares the daylights out of you. So my next thought was, “OK, I will follow this leading, I will show it to her. What do I have to lose?”
    So before I knew it, I was signing up for a fifteen minute slot to meet with Michelle and show her my story. At that moment, I was very brave. I was sure. As sure as the sun that I was to meet with her and toss this little manuscript her way. I was risking being vulnerable.
    That night, I opened up my iPad to find the story. I couldn’t find it. In a panic I searched my iPad, and then my Dropbox. I had to go back to the original class to find the PDF that housed the story and a few messy digital monster drawings.
    I read it and thought “this is awful!” The courage was gone. I began critiquing it, and had the urge to change it up. Then I heard “no, leave it.” So I did.
    When I woke up the next morning, I felt a rush of fear. I had told no one of my  5:00 appointment with Michelle, and began thinking of ways I could go by that sign-up table and scribble my name out so no one would know it was me. Then I resisted, “no, I felt lead, I’m going to do this!”
     Three o’clock came, and I had the same urge – to go scribble my name out so hard no one would know it was me. “No, I felt lead, I am going to do this” I told myself. I made myself stay in the conference area and not even walk by the room where the sign-up sheets were.
    Ten-till-five. I felt a wave of heat overcome me. Panic. “Oh no – not now!” I reminded myself to breathe. I began implementing the self-calming techniques I teach my clients. It’s easier to teach them than it is to practice them! I reminded myself that I felt lead to share this with her, to be myself, and whatever happens – happens.
    As Martha Beck taught me, it is freeing to be a “leaf in the stream.” The stream is Gods will, and the leaf floats on the stream, and doesn’t fight the current. The leaf knows that it is a waste of energy to fight the current, so it just floats where the will of God takes it.
    As I walked into the room where Michelle was I was chanting in my head “leaf in the stream… you felt lead to do this… just be yourself.. just be transparent and tell her what lead you to sign up.. be you, it’s OK… leaf in the stream.. be you…”
    I sat down in front of her and began blabbering about everything I’ve just told you. The feeling lead to talk with her. Seeing the illustration flash before my eyes. I told her I was a therapist, going to school for my second Master degree in art therapy, and on and on… leaf in the stream. I’m not even sure if I told her my name!
    She stopped me and asked to see the story. I handed her my iPad, and she read through it. She looked at me and said “This is good. You need to publish this!” In my excitement I began sharing with her my vision for this book, a series that parents and therapists can use to help children understand emotions. She was so pleasant, encouraging, and outright amazing. She gave me suggestions on how to improve the story, to show not tell, in the most sincere, gentle way.
    Michelle stopped for a moment, placed her hands flat on my iPad, looked up at me and asked “Would you illustrate my next book?” I was stunned. Leaf in the stream Cheryl, you were lead to this place.
    “Did you just say that?” I asked.
    “Yes!” She replied in her ever-so-cheery voice. “Yes I did.”
    “How can I say “no” to that?”
    We chatted a little bit more about exchanging contact info, and my time was up. I floated out of that room. I passed a woman I had met the night before who asked me who I just met with. I told her and she asked how it went. I told her “I think I just got an illustrating deal!” She was excited for me, but shared how nervous she was for her meeting with another author. I told her “be a leaf in the stream. Be yourself. You will do great!”
    I went outside and stood on the back deck of this facility and looked to the mountains. They were gorgeous and just sang in beauty. I was still floating.
    I can’t believe that just happened! I chanted. I can’t believe that just happened!
    But it did happen, and it never would have happened if I didn’t risk being vulnerable and resisted the possibility of being shamed. I followed the guidance of God. I was sure, and I followed.
    Who would have thought that I would go to my first writers conference and come home an illustrator? I began to think about all of the amazing authors that were there and how many of them could have been looking for an artist like me. I never thought to market myself as an illustrator at that conference. I was going to be a sponge, but was rewarded with becoming an illustrator.
    So, I signed the contract to illustrate “Little Angel Gets a Big Job”. I have a swift deadline. I have been called, and I will answer. I am but a leaf in the stream. Thank you Stream for calling me. Thank you Michelle for taking a risk on me – you will not be disappointed. Thank you Vonda for taking me to this conference. I will forever be grateful!
    Tell me, reader, do you have a leaf in the stream story? I’d love to hear it!

6 thoughts on “On Being a Leaf in the Stream

  1. Vonda Skelton

    Oh, Cheryl, you can’t imagine how excited I am for you!! And what a perfect metaphor–a leaf in the stream. I’m gonna have to remember that! Love you and so proud of you for your willingness to be led, no matter how difficult it was!

  2. Deb Adams

    Congratulations my dear, brave and gifted friend! You have more in your mind and heart to share than anyone I’ve ever known! So proud of and happy for you—- keep being a leaf—-

    with love

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