Preparing the Ones We Love For a Troubling World

preparing for world #HFM

My older daughter was sitting on the floor of her room totally engrossed in a project. She was writing to her sponsored child, Priscilla, but I didn’t know what she was writing because it was written in Swahili.

The last letter she sent was also written in Priscilla’s native language, but I thought it would be a one-time thing. I was surprised to see my typically speedy child patiently looking up words on the Internet in order to write full sentences in a foreign language. She knew all notes written in English were translated to the sponsored child, but for some reason she felt compelled to write in words Priscilla could read and understand herself.

“I see you’re writing in Swahili again,” I said sitting down next to my daughter.

“I want to be sure she knows she is loved … in words she can understand,” my daughter explained. “There are many diseases in and around her village,” she said gravely. “This way Priscilla can read the letter herself and won’t have to wait for a translator.”

That powerful little tidbit shed some light on my daughter’s motive.

“I want these words to stick,” my child added determinedly.

Like a bulletin board, I thought to myself looking at the corkboard directly behind my daughter’s head. It was filled with photos, motivational quotes, swim team goals, and love notes from family members. It was filled with words and images she wanted remember—treasures she wanted to stick with her.

bulletin board

I imagined Priscilla holding my daughter’s note lovingly written in words that were familiar to her. There would be no bulletin board in which to pin this note, but she would not forget. If she had to flee her village with nothing but the clothes on her back, she would still have these words and assurances secured to the bulletin board of her heart.

As my daughter drew one last smiley face at the bottom of the letter she spoke my deepest fears. “I don’t want to miss the chance to tell her she’s loved … you know, just in case.” My daughter gave me a knowing glance as if to acknowledge the worldly dangers that seem to permeate the media and as well as our daily life.

I immediately thought about our experience just a few weeks ago when we visited a new library. We’d moved to a new state over the summer so every building we visit is unfamiliar territory to us. But yet, my child’s need for independence has not decreased through this move; it has actually heightened.

“I’m going to look for medical books in the adult non-fiction section,” my daughter announced, subtly indicating her desire to be alone.

She wanted to roam freely in this new library like she did in our old one. I’d reminded her plenty of times that we now live in one of the biggest cities in America and that things are different here. I didn’t feel like I should remind her again.

“Okay,” I said hesitantly. “I will be right here,” I said pointing to the “Fiction A-G” sign.

With a deep breath, I watched her go. I pulled a few books off the shelf in front of me. I read a few back covers to see if I might like to take any of them home.

After a few minutes I felt the need to check on my child. I began going row by row looking for her blonde ponytail and neon green Nike shirt. I noticed the shelves were exceptionally tall and the books were packed tightly. I tried to peer through the collection to see the next row, but the isles of books acted as solid walls.

As I made my way to the row of Z authors, my heart was pounding a little. It was quite dark back there. My mind imagined all the silent atrocities that could happen to a child if she or he encountered the wrong person in this darkened cavern.

I was practically running now as I looked down every isle for a second time. I finally broke the #1 rule of library etiquette and called out my daughter’s name. Loudly. Much to my relief, she came out from an isle across the library that I somehow missed. She was clearly embarrassed and annoyed.

“Why’d you do that, Mom?” she grumbled while briskly walking over to meet me. She glanced around to see how many people witnessed her moment of embarrassment.

“I had a bad feeling,” I said honestly. “Something doesn’t feel right,” I said looking around at an unsmiling group of faces hunched over a row of computers.

As we headed to the section that she came from, a burly man with short, cropped hair and a library worker quickly emerged from behind the circulation desk. They were heading for a man who was using one of the library computers. When the man saw them coming, he bolted. They raced after him, right out the front door of the library.

My daughter asked what was going on. I scurried over to the window to watch the man in question speed away while the woman got on her phone and the other man hopped in his vehicle with dark, tinted windows.

“I think the man on the computer was doing something illegal. I get the feeling it has happened before and they were trying to catch him,” I surmised. That’s when I turned and placed my hands on my child’s shoulders. I looked right into her face and said, “I had a bad feeling just a few minutes ago. That feeling was right. You must always, always trust your instincts. Trust that little warning voice inside you when it tells you something doesn’t feel right and then get to safety,” I advised.

Although I didn’t know it then, I know now that I was pinning something important to the bulletin board of her heart—the one she will carry with her as she navigates life.

And that was a pin for safety.

“I love you very, very much,” I said pulling her gently to my side because I knew a public hug would not be favorable.

And that was a pin for love.

“Now let’s go look for those medical books,” I said. “I just love how you are pursuing your passion. You inspire me to think about my own dreams,” I admitted.

And that was a pin for affirmation.

I was determined to keep trying to fill the bulletin board of my child’s heart with safety measures, loving words, and positive affirmations so these important messages would be quickly accessible to her—no matter where she was or who she was with.

Since the library incident, I’ve found myself not holding anything back. If the opportunity comes up to talk about potential dangers, I talk about it in words she can understand, the way she carefully and purposefully communicated to Priscilla.

Getting Sudafed became a discussion about Meth—what it does to your brain, how peers might ask her to use drugs and alcohol, and what a good response might be.

Our weather radio failing to go off in the night became a discussion about the different danger codes used at her school and what she would do if someone entered her classroom with the intent to harm.

A sign on the interstate became a discussion about depression and who in our family has suffered and how asking for help was important and brave.

An episode of Full House became a discussion on eating disorders and what to do when friends ask us to keep secrets.

A college textbook from the used bookstore became a discussion on plagiarism and safety measures for walking across campus at night.

Her father’s suitcase became a discussion on Ebola in America—what it is, how it is contracted, and who would take care of her and her sister if her dad or I could not.

I’ve discovered that the more we engage in these types of honest discussions, the more questions my child thinks of and openly asks about. I’m thankful she turns to me for information and feels safe to confide in me, but I am left with a painful reality. There is so much yet to tell her and so much yet to teach her. She is only eleven years old. There is much uncharted territory ahead of her. When I watch the news and see the disease, the abductions, and the threats to our safety and security, I hope and pray I will be around to guide her, answer her questions, and equip her to make wise choices. But alas, the days are full. There is only so much time to talk, teach, respond, and listen. The number of days I have to be a guiding force in my child’s life are beyond my control. But today is not beyond my control. Today I have time, even if it is just a few moments, to place messages on her heart that I hope will stick indefinitely.

Today, a pin for safety:
Trust your instincts.
You can always blame me if you need an excuse when asked to do something you know is not safe.
Be alert when you walk anywhere in public—don’t look down at your phone.

Today, a pin for love:
You make my day better.
I love spending time with you.
You amaze me. You honestly do.

Today, a pin for affirmation:
I admire the way you handled that disappointing situation.
I enjoying hearing what you think about things. Tell me more.
You came up with a smart plan to get that project accomplished.

Unlike an actual corkboard that hangs upon a wall, the heart’s bulletin board cannot ever become too full. There is endless room, especially for soul-building words and life-giving messages. There is no age requirement—every human being, young or old, has a heart’s bulletin board. Every person needs words of safety, love, and affirmation offered in words he or she can understand.

We have no control over how many pins we will be allowed to give in our lifetime, so let us pin as many as we can today.

Pin grace.
Pin adoration.
Pin wisdom.
Pin appreciation.
Pin caution.
Pin encouragement.
Pin love … pin lots and lots of love, every chance you get.

Because the heart’s bulletin board goes where they go. Messages can be retrieved at a moment’s notice, in fear, worry, despair, or joy. Even if you are not standing right beside them, your loved ones can hear these life-giving, life-saving messages. No translation necessary.

bulletin board 2 HFM

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Friends of The Hands Free Revolution, I wrote this post a few days before our beautiful page was taken over by malicious hackers for a 24-hour period this weekend. The content they posted was so vile and so obscene it only intensified my desire to do whatever I can to prepare my loved ones’ hearts to navigate an often troubling world. It also fueled my desire to keep spreading messages of goodness and positivity. Each time you comment on your experience, encourage others, or share a post, you are helping goodness prevail over darkness. Here are two incredible resources, two authors I know personally, that offer ways to connect with and build up our loved ones in a troubling world. Please don’t miss my note of gratitude below these resources. 

1) Napkin Notes by Garth Callaghan is an incredibly inspiring book that shows how one small, daily act can impact a lifetime—even if you only have a limited amount of time to make that impact. Garth writes:

“I share this book because none of us knows how much time we have left. Yes, we walk around the planet with the hope that we are invincible, but we all know life can be taken away in an instant. I have the ‘gift’ of realizing that the end is coming. I can take the time to take stock and share with the people I love how much they mean to me … This book is a call. To wake up. Connect. Share your feelings. Make that phone call. Write that note. Because I know all too well the fragility of life and how important it is to take the time to connect with those we love while we’re still here, while we still can.”

Napkin Notes releases Oct. 28th. To pre-order, click here.

2) My eleven year old daughter is currently engrossed in 10 Truths Girls Should Know by Kari Kampakis. This book, written so directly and so beautifully for girls in the tween/teen age range, offers sound advice to help navigate tough challenges and real life dilemmas. Kari’s book has opened up wonderful dialogue between my daughter and me on the topics of cliques, bullying, rejection, and social media issues. Check out this beautiful review of Kari’s book and click here to pre-order. The book releases on November 4th.

* A final note of gratitude – over the past few days I have experienced an indescribable outpouring of love and support from this community, fellow bloggers, Facebook pages, personal friends, and members of my publishing team who did everything in their power to help me regain control of The Hands Free Revolution page, protect this blog, and make sure I was okay. When fear urged me to go into hiding, you said, “We are here, Rachel. You are not alone. We got your back.” In one day, our community has regained the thousands of followers lost over the weekend and added so many more. We are now bigger and stronger than we ever were. Goodness prevails. Goodness prevails. Thank you for blessing me in such a profound and life-changing way.

The Hands Free Revolution page was hacked, but now the issue is resolved

light will outshine darkness

UPDATE:  Over the last 24 hours my page was taken over by hackers, and I was shut out as the page administrator unable to do anything to stop them. This amazing community came to aid and my defense in a way that I will never forget. Thank you for knowing my heart would never willingly allow this to happen and post the horrific things that were seen here. Thank you for reporting the images to Facebook and for sharing my blog post asking for help to get my page back. This community, as well as many fellow bloggers and personal friends stepped up to show these sabotagers that GOODNESS prevails. While I hope that my administrator status is back for good, please know that if you see anything out of the ordinary from what I normally post, please report the vile content see the steps outlined at the bottom of this post.

I hope to get back to my regular schedule of positivity and hope tomorrow on The Hands Free Revolution FB page. You are the most wonderful community and I am blessed to walk the Hands Free journey with you. Let us continue to focus on the good.

“I’ve always believed the light can outshine the darkness.
I’ve always believed that goodness will prevail.
But sometimes in the face of adversity, a need a little reminding.
Thank you for reminding me.
I shall not ever forget.”
-Rachel Macy Stafford

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Original post:

My friends, I have been locked out as administrator of The Hands Free Revolution Facebook page. The hackers have been posting vile and offensive material. I am deeply sorry if you have been subjected to this in your newsfeed on Facebook. You can help me GREATLY by doing one or both of the following to report the problem:

1. Click this link and report that The Hands Free Revolution page has been hacked.

2. Go to the page and hover over the top right corner of the offensive post for the drop down carrot to show
then click on “I don’t like this post”
A pop up will come up – click on: “It’s Spam”
On the next window click on: “Their account is hacked”
That will report it.

I am so grateful to all of you who have written to me personally to let me know about the situation. Thank you for standing by me as I try to regain control of my Facebook fan page so I can continue spreading messages of positivity and hope!

A Daily Goal with Life-Changing Results

I hope after spending an hour … a day … a lifetime in my presence, I leave your heart fuller, your smile wider, your spirit stronger your future brighter than you could have ever imagined by yourself.   -Rachel Macy Stafford

I hope after spending an hour … a day … a lifetime in my presence,
I leave your heart fuller,
your smile wider,
your spirit stronger
your future brighter
than you could have ever imagined by yourself.
-Rachel Macy Stafford

*name & story have been used with permission

A little over four years ago I started my Hands Free journey to let go of distraction and grasp the moments that mattered. It became my daily practice to write down the little moments of meaningful connection that I would’ve missed had I remained tethered to my devices, pressures, and regrets. What I experienced during my designated Hands Free pockets of time was so powerful I knew it was meant to be shared. I started publishing my daily Hands Free successes and failures on a blog. This helped me stay accountable to my goal—to live more and love more in the precious time that I’d been given. But there was more. My willingness to share my story was unexpectedly reciprocated. Each day for the past four years, I’ve heard from people I do not know. But they tell me their stories and inspire me in ways I could not be inspired alone.

Recently I opened my inbox to this:

“I have you to thank for the light bulb that lit up inside of me that turned into a flaming inferno of wanting to connect with my children. I have you to thank for the belly laugh (the best laugh that I have had with my oldest in years) that I would have missed had I not been in a ‘Hands Free Zone’ that I’ve designated and stuck to. I have you to thank for the wall in my kitchen (which is against my obsessive compulsive nature) that I have posted blog entries and favorite quotes from your book. This wall is what I look at when my baby is crying so loudly that I want to rip my hair out—your words are the caution cones that tell me to slow down and embrace my screaming baby and laugh. I have you to thank for my life, my children’s lives, and the amazing mom that I never knew I could become to them. I have you to thank for raising me from the dead; for that I will be eternally grateful. Thank you for saving me.”

–Fallon*

This message was written by a single, full-time working student/mother. I could see her in her kitchen. Her eyes weary from lack of sleep … baby food stains on the front of her shirt … her older child’s homework splayed across the counter along with bills and school reminder notes. I could see her trying … trying … trying. I did not know this woman, but I adored her.

Attached to the e-mail message was Fallon’s completed assignment for her psychology class. It was a short description of her fall semester goal: Keep Things Simple. To her this meant trying to avoid “overwhelm” which she knew had a negative impact on her mood, her progress, her sleep and of course, her children. “Keep Things Simple means not sweating the small stuff, getting tasks completed in a timely manner, not over exaggerating, and eliminating unnecessary stress to enjoy my life to the fullest,” she wrote.

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Which Way to a Peaceful Response?

"Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves." ~Henry David Thoreau

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” ~Henry David Thoreau

I should’ve known not to get so confident. I hadn’t gotten lost once in this new big city of mine. I’d traveled interstates, back roads, and busy thoroughfares. Every time I’d punched an address into my new navigation system, it had taken me there without fail.

I’d become so confident that I even stopped printing out paper directions as a back up or calling people ahead of time asking for landmarks along the route. Those were the safeguards I’d used for over a decade to compensate for my severely flawed sense of direction. I am known to turn the wrong way out of the bathroom at a restaurant and not be able to find my family. I am known to fear that my car’s been stolen until my Noticer daughter tells me we’re in the wrong parking lot. When my friends heard I was moving to a new, much larger city, they worried. They suggested I not leave a two-mile radius for awhile. But with the help of a new navigation system, I’ve had a new lease on life. I’ve been taking my children to places I never thought I could go by myself. I stopped gripping the steering wheel with sweaty hands when venturing into uncharted territories.

Well … until Saturday morning.

My daughters had their first swim meet with their new team at an aquatics center that was about twenty minutes away from our house. After years of stressful crack-of-dawn departures, we’d learned to get prepared the night before. All the bags were packed. Swim suits and flip flops were laid out. I had the address of where I was going written on a sticky note next to the bags. All I had to do was punch the address in. The night before I thought briefly about gathering my direction back ups, but I happily reminded myself I didn’t need them anymore.

That morning when I punched in the address of the swim center, it didn’t show up. I tried typing in the name of the facility. No luck. I tried just the street. That didn’t work either. For five minutes, I punched anything I thought might get us in the general vicinity. I noticed my fingers becoming more aggressive with each fail and the air in the car was getting warm. Suddenly my hazard lights came on automatically. I frantically felt around the steering wheel for the off button. The obnoxious clicking sound was nearly loud enough to wake the neighbors. I had a full-on sweat going now.

“Why is this address not in existence?” I growled to myself. “And how in the world do I turn these hazard lights off?” I angrily punched more buttons on the dash and ended up turning on all the lights in the car and opening the trunk.

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An Invitation to Live, Really Live

“Come outside, Before the world gets any colder, And you and I get too much older. ‘Come outside,’ she said. ‘Come outside,’ she said.  Climb out your window.” -Counting Crows

“Come outside,
Before the world gets any colder,
And you and I get too much older.
‘Come outside,’ she said.
‘Come outside,’ she said.
Climb out your window.”
-Counting Crows

Recently I’ve found myself driving like my seventy-four year old mom. I’ve been double and triple checking before making left turns. I’ve gone a mile out of my way just to avoid a dangerous intersection. I’ve also been chewing my food slowly so I don’t choke and taking a multi-vitamin. I’ve been determined to do the best job I can of keeping myself alive.

I didn’t connect these heightened safety precautions to my current project until I came to the conclusion section of the book I am writing. My hands began shaking as I typed the closing thoughts that I’d been waiting … living … and making cautious left turns in order to finish. And although I knew my editor would probably remove these final and unnecessary words, I typed, “The End,” in fancy font at the close of my 63,714-word manuscript. And then I cried. I cried because I lived to tell the story.

This particular book was not the easiest to book write, not that any books are—a fact I failed to appreciate until I actually wrote one. This book called for my deepest truths and my most painful reflections. But even more, it called for me to trust that the words would come in due time, not in Rachel’s time. Knowing the deadline for submitting this manuscript to my publisher would sneak up on me as far-off events often do, I tried writing this book last fall. I wrote lots of notes. I wrote lots of ideas. I wrote chapters that I ended up trashing. It was not time. I tried writing this book again in the spring. I took lots of notes. I wrote down lots of ideas. I wrote chapters that I ended up trashing. It was not time. And then summer involved moving boxes, anxious children, tearful goodbyes, and new territories to navigate. I didn’t even try to jot notes or cultivate ideas. I allowed myself to be in “receiving mode” rather than “producing mode.” I decided I would live. I would taste. I would cry. I would walk. I would laugh. I would read. I would say yes to as many Moments That Mattered as I possibly could. I ended up filling lots of little notebooks with experiences that only come from living, real living. And when my family felt settled in our new home, my husband and I went to a Counting Crows concert at a beautiful outdoor venue in our new city. I thought I’d heard every lyric Adam Duritz had ever sang, but on this particular night, he was the master of improvisation. “Round Here” turned into a message my soul had been longing to hear. “Climb out your window,” Adam sang. “Come outside before the world gets any colder, and you and I get too much older. Climb out your window.”

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To Love a Child By Their Book

by their book 1 #HFM

“Well, good for you. You stopped rushing your younger child and undid some of the damage, but what about your older daughter? What about her? What about the damage you did to her?”

It was a question posed by a commenter on this post almost a year after it was published.

Although the reader had no way of knowing, I’d addressed the damage that my hurried, perfectionistic ways had on my older daughter in several painful posts like this one and this one. But for some reason when I read his comment I saw an underlying question: You describe what you did to love your younger daughter as herself, but what about your older daughter? What did you do to love her “as is”?

To me, that question was far more important to address than what damage was done. It’s taken months, maybe even years, but I finally have an answer. I hope it will help someone crack open a few undiscovered pages of a book well worth reading. This is my story …

When I experienced the “hurry up” epiphany several years ago, I realized I needed to make changes before I completely stifled my younger daughter’s carefree spirit. What Avery needed was painfully obvious—it was written all over her face. She needed me to stop trying to change her … to let her be herself … to love her “as is.”

I dug deep to find patience buried inside my productivity-driven soul and stopped trying to turn my child into someone she was not. I noticed certain offerings produced a wide smile, a sigh of contentment, or the look of relief on her face. I learned:

Saying the words “take your time” was love to this child. I tried to say it at least once a day.

Allowing her to do her own hair was love to this child. I stepped aside and let her fashion her own haphazard ponytail for school. If she was happy with how it looked, I chose to be happy with it too.

Letting her play the guitar notes as she felt they should be played was love to this child. I sat back and watched and left the correcting to her instructor.

Giving her assurances in new situations was love to this child. I stopped dismissing her fears and hesitations. I stopped saying, “It’s no big deal. Stop crying,” and instead said, “New things are scary, but I think you are ready. You can do this.”

Speaking gently and not so sharply … letting her do things differently than I did … giving her privacy when she was getting dressed were acts of love in Avery’s book. And through this process of watching, listening, and observing, I learned how to love this child and even found myself borrowing a few pages from her book to re-write my own. Witnessing her approach to life helped me slow down, live better, and love more than I ever imagined I could.

But how to love as my older daughter “as is” was not so obvious. Natalie was the speedy one, the planner, the supervisor, the overachiever, and the worrier. Her book was strikingly similar to my own book, and this didn’t really come as a surprise. I didn’t begin my Hands Free journey until Natalie was six years old and the letting go process took several years. But the more Hands Free I became, the more I could see my former Type-A tendencies in my older daughter. Every time she was impatient, strived for perfection, or laid awake worrying about things beyond her control, the word damage flashed like a neon sign in my guilt-ridden mind. What have I done? I thought. Was there any way to undo the damage?

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A Question to Live By

small moments/small notebooks HFM

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” –Fernando Sabino

I was standing over the shrimp dip when a family friend approached me. Although he was known to ask thought-provoking questions, and this was my going away party, I was not expecting this one. “So once you get settled in your new home, what do you imagine that moment will look like when you feel like everything is going turn out okay?” he asked.

In one mere sentence my friend went straight to my greatest fears, my greatest insecurities, and my greatest hopes. Funny thing is, I knew the answer to his question. I’d envisioned it a thousand times as I’d prepared our home to be emptied. Tears began dripping my face. An unsightly sea of mascara, I was sure, but I could not stop the tears if I tried. My friend didn’t act like it was any big deal. His wife, who is also my dear friend, had probably exposed him to spontaneous sobbing a few times. My friend just waited. Then he listened.

“When my children come home from school and say, ‘I met a friend today, Mama.’ That is when I know it’s gonna be okay. One friend makes the whole world better, you know. One friend for each girl. That is the moment,” I replied. Then I dabbed my eyes with a yellow party napkin and smiled because friends like that just make you smile even when you’re crying.

I thought that conversation concluded over appetizers and farewell hugs, but it didn’t. For the past two months, that conversation has continued in my head.

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Knowing Where Your People Are

where your people are #HFM

“But I’ll kneel down,
Wait for now
And I’ll kneel down,
Know my ground
And I will wait, I will wait for you.”
–Mumford & Sons

At the beginning of any school year, there are always quite a few student information sheets to fill out. But when I came to the pink sheet in my second grader’s folder, I was forced to pause.

What are your child’s fears? What calms your child when upset?

As my pen sat suspended above the blank lines, I let my mind wander into dark territories. What situations would upset my child at school? I knew. Intruders and tornadoes. Thankfully she’d only experienced one of them first-hand, and the tornado did not have a direct hit. But it was close enough to forever alter her perception of storms and the fragility of life.

Thankfully, I knew exactly what would bring comfort to my child if either of these situations arose. She would want to know where her sister was in the building. She would want to know that I was coming for her just as soon as I possibly could.

In other words: tell her where her people are.

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How to Change Someone’s Story

change someone's story 1

This summer my family moved to a new state. Over the past couple months, I’ve repeatedly heard my younger daughter say, “I still don’t feel like this is home. It feels like we’re on a trip, and we need to get back.”

Sometimes she says it through tears. Other times she says it just matter-of-factly. And sometimes she even laughs about it. This fluctuation of emotions pretty much sums up the ups and downs that go along with moving.

But I must admit something. My daughter’s recurring comment, whether said through laughter or tears, has worried me. You see, this particular child is my Firefly with glasses that sit on the tip of her nose. She has prominent freckles and unruly hair that refuses to behave in a smooth and orderly fashion. This child is a Noticer with a keen awareness of other people’s struggles and fears, especially her own. On more than one occasion she’s maturely expressed that she is “different” from the rest. This child is a friend to all but not really attached to one. She marches to her own beat, makes up her own lyrics, sings like no one is listening. What happens to someone like this when thrown into a new environment with people who know nothing of her inner gifts? Back in our former community, she was loved and celebrated “as is”. We are now in a much bigger city where life is fast and unfamiliar. Would her light brighten or dim here? I’ve wondered many times.

Well, I was just at the height of my worry when something happened. I guess you could call it a game changer. In this case, I’m calling it a story changer. I share this experience as a means of grasping what matters in a fast-paced, overly distracted, pressure-cooker world. Whether we are lost or we are found, just a few moments with open hands and attentive eyes can turn things around.

This is our story …

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Life on Repeat

life on repeat HFH 1

“But if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all? And if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like you’ve been here before? How am I gonna be an optimist about this?” -Bastille 

I don’t think it was meant as a criticism, but the words stung a little.

“Usually I have to really dig to find anything new in your messages, but this time I didn’t,” the commenter wrote about a short piece I published on The Hands Free Revolution page.

I write about grasping what really matters in a world of a distraction. I write about seeing the glimmers of goodness amidst the mayhem, mess, and mistakes of everyday life. I have written over 200 blog posts, one book, and I am working on my second book. Sometimes when I write, I find myself asking, “Have I written that somewhere before?” And the answer is yes, in some form or fashion, I probably have. Writing is my instrument for focusing on what really matters. And because the distractions of life never go away, I require daily reminders repeated over and over. To some folks, it probably does begin to feel like a broken record.

But here’s the thing. Every once in awhile, as I am writing about what I write about, something unexpected comes out. Painful personal reflections like the hurry up post, the yelling post, and the bully post that cause tears to come to my eyes. Stories like these cause my hands to shake when I push the ‘publish’ button. That’s when I know someone is out there waiting to read these words. Such moments are my fuel. They say, “Keep writing, Rachel. Even though it’s tedious and repetitive, you just never know when your words are going to intersect with someone who needs them.”

But I am human which means in between those encouraging moments are times of doubt and uncertainty. That’s when I begin to question myself. I think about the criticisms and wonder if I’ve said all there is to say about letting go of distraction to grasp what really matters. I wonder if I’ve run dry. I wonder if my writing gig is up.

But recently, as I was thinking about this painful possibility for myself, I thought of you. I thought to myself, maybe there is something here for all of us. Maybe it will even make one person cry with me today.

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