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.”
Tears streamed down my face, and I didn’t even try to wipe them away. The lyrics, in conjunction with the beautiful melody, made me want to love … to dream … to embrace … to forgive … to live … and to write. The way this song made me feel about living life was exactly what I wanted people to feel when they read my book. I wanted them to feel an urgency to clean the smudges from their dirty windows and see the real living that was out there waiting for them. At last, I had a concrete goal: Write words that ignite this feeling of living and loving freely and fully without distraction, fear, or reservation holding you back. I laid awake in bed for three hours that night, the book writing itself in my head.
The fall and spring notes and ideas, along with my summer living experiences all came together to create the pieces of the puzzle that would make up my book. I printed out a paper calendar and broke down the daunting task of completing a 65,000-word manuscript into smaller, more achievable goals. Having a daily writing goal helped me cut out time wasters and external distractions during my work hours. There were times when internal distraction would invade my sacred space and attempt to discourage me.
“You cannot do this,” Fear would say.
“You will never finish on time,” Insecurity would chime in.
“This is too hard,” Fatigue would whine.
“Don’t forget about the curse of the second book,” Skepticism snarled.
I would go directly to my file where I keep uplifting e-mails and powerful comments from readers of my blog that remind me why I write. “Someone is waiting for this book,” I would remind myself. And then I’d throw an “I can do this!” at the naysayers in my head and resume my work with determination and prayer.
Late afternoon was my refueling time. The orange bus would deposit my inspiration for living freely and loving fully right at my feet. My daughters and I would have a snack on a shady picnic table where we would talk about their day before driving to swim team practice. After dinner was guitar time with my younger daughter, Avery. One evening she grabbed her instrument and headed out the front door. With bare feet, she walked right through the lush green grass to the sunlit sidewalk in front of our house. Avery sat down and began strumming. She paused briefly when she saw me watching from the open door.
“Come outside!” she hollered.
I’d heard those life-changing words before. I didn’t even bother shutting the door behind me.
I sat down next to Avery, the warm cement and tiny pebbles beneath me made my bare legs feel alive. I bowed my head and listened. I couldn’t remember a time when her voice and guitar sounded so rich, so deep, so moving.
Pretty soon a father and his two sons walked down from their basketball game to listen. Avery sang and strummed a few lines of “Peace” by O.A.R. for them. It was a moment to remember.
My child and I walked back inside the house at dusk. “I am glad we went outside,” she said setting her guitar in its usual spot. “I am going to do it again tomorrow. There’s a whole world out there that needs my music,” she said.
I could not argue with that.
Climb out your window.
Don’t you dare let fear, insecurity, or the endless to-do list stop you.
I finished my 64,714-word book on the patio yesterday. I finished with the birds and the sun and the whispering wind. That seemed appropriate.
I felt so thankful I lived to write it.
I felt so thankful I write to live it.
My friends, there is something to be said for waking up with an urgency to finish what you started … to live like you might possibly perish today. There is something to be said for acknowledging that time is in deed limited. This powerful combination of awareness and passion are the enemy of procrastination. Procrastination doesn’t have a chance when a heart decides what it must do before it stops beating.
What if tomorrow morning you were to wake up and think:
I must get those paints out.
I must dust off that keyboard.
I must make amends.
I must look at that course catalog.
I must make that call.
I must fill out that application.
I must take her to that museum that we keep passing by.
I must get that family reunion in the books.
I must buff that camera lens ‘til it shines.
I must lace up my running shoes.
I must plan that trip.
I must plant that garden.
I must quit this job.
I must go after my dream.
I must start living … really living.
My friends, there is a window. You may have not looked out that window in a long, long time. It may be dirty and dusty. The locks might be tight and stubborn. It might not be time to climb out that window just yet; it might be time to simply see the window. Yes, seeing the window is a good first step. Let yourself peek out that window and notice all of the possibilities you’ve forgotten or denied yourself for too long. Maybe, just maybe, you are ready to open that window and breathe in that fresh, invigorating air. Let that air bring ideas to mind and butterflies of anticipation to your stomach. Maybe it is time to crawl out and put your feet in the soft, green grass, move your body, and stop being confined to what is or what used to be. If you are one of the lucky ones who already found your way out of your window, maybe it’s time to reach in and invite someone else out. Maybe it’s time to tell someone what happens when you start painting to live … singing to live … creating to live … writing to live … living to live.
Maybe it’s time to say, “I can do this,” to the naysayers real or imaginary.
One tiny step.
One small daily goal.
The world needs your song.
Friends of The Hands Free Revolution, my second book will go through many rounds of edits with my skillful editors at HarperCollins/Zondervan before it becomes available to you in the Fall of 2015. My hope is that you will find it was worth the wait. It doesn’t have a pretty cover just yet, but it looks beautiful to my grateful eyes.
Please take a moment and share what you see when you look out your life’s window. What is your passion? What small action step you will take today? What are your obstacles? The comment section of this blog never fails to be a place of inspiration, camaraderie, and hope for many people because you share your hearts each week. My friends, if you have a little hope to spare today, there is a 13-year-old girl in desperate need of it. Emma Grace recently learned she has a rare brain tumor and is facing a tremendous fight. Maybe someone out there has words of comfort or has been where this family finds themselves today. Visit the site or feel free to message me personally at email@example.com and I will make sure your message is given to their family. And if nothing else, accept this as an invitation to live, really live. Come outside.
*If you found this post meaningful, I’d be grateful if you share it.
**The inspiring rendition of “Round Here” can be found here. Take 12:47 and let it inspire you.
Jim Sowers says
I really liked:
Procrastination doesn’t have a chance when a heart decides what it must do before it stops beating.
Thanks for this post. I have read your blog for a long time and enjoyed it, but this got under my skin. I think a lot of us will be thinking about this one for a while.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Thanks, Jim. You honed in on my fav line. I even thought about bolding it. Glad to see it didn’t need it. I am grateful to know this post resonated with you. When I began public writing, my goal with each story was to touch one life. That is still my goal and my meaningful measure of success. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.
Thank you for sharing this. Of course you have lit a fire under me once again. Your first book really prompted changes in my life. I can hardly wait to read the second one. Thank you for reminding us about the window and inviting us outside….You are God’s Best.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Yes!!!! To hear I lit a “fire” under you is balm to my soul, Yadi! Please come back sometime and let me know where this fire takes you. I can hardly wait to hear what “living” you do. So grateful you took a moment to tell me this. And please know that you brought me happy tears with your last line. I am so touched.
Gerry Magaw says
In seeing your welcome mat in your photo at the beginning of this post , I instantly thought we should all turn our welcome mats the other way, welcoming ourselves out into the world!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
You are brilliant, Gerry!!! Yes! Let’s do it!
Yes! Maybe we need a dual welcome mat. One side reads to welcome us out and the other side welcomes our loved and appreciated beings in.
Chelsea Hopkins says
You have truly changed my life. I am so thankful I came across your blog and then bought your book. I cannot tell you how much better my life and my family’s life is because of your writing. Please don’t ever stop writing….I need it…..I was a distracted mom of three young girls, and I do get lost from time to time, but everytime you write a new blog it brings me back in focus. You are truly gifted.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Thank you, sweet Chelsea. These are just the words I needed today. I am grateful you are here walking beside me, cheering me on.
Absolutely agreed. Mindfulness in parenting has changed my life and my family’s, and your writing has been a big part of that. Thank you.
You have given me such inspiration every time I read your blogs…. I lost a child in 2006 and the one thing that came from that was he taught us what we needed to do to live better, love better, just be better… to slow down, appreciate what is around us, WHO is around us… to love and live in a meaningful way… your blogs do the same… and for that, I thank you…. beautiful words… I share them daily… don’t stop… and I will continue to listen to my heart…
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your story. You have made me pause and given me inspiration. Today I celebrate you and your beloved child and the lessons he is giving us all today about not waiting to live. Thank you for your kind words about my writing that have blessed me so much today.
I love every word you write! Your first book truly changed my parenting. I have to go back to it frequently, and sometimes I forget…but often I remember and take a big, deep breath, and live in the moment. And, those moments happen more and more often and I am grateful. EXTREMELY grateful.
Beth Hautala says
Oh this is so what I needed to hear today! *wipes away tears*
I’m in the middle of my second book (“Don’t forget about the curse of the second book,” Skepticism snarled.) And while it’s gong will, my entire life feels like it’s snarling around me, trying to convince me that I cannot do anything well—not parent, not write, not be a wife—and certainly not simultaneously. Thank you for the words I needed to press on today and to Live—leaning into the beautiful chaos. Leaning into Grace.
Sue Fairchild says
I quit my job last week to be a writer. It’s been the most wonderful and the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. But I enjoy life more, I love more easily, and my soul has finally found peace. When panic arises I take a deep breath. And I have used my deck often as my office – where I can be outside. Thank you for reminding me today that I need to keep going.
Rachel, your writing always touches me deep in my soul. You have my prayers for the quick and safe healing of Emma Grace.
Today I turn 47. I’ve lived a wonderful, diverse, gift-filled and sometimes ordinary life despite a cranky, defective, once-repaired and now struggling again heart valves. Earlier this week I was making plans to have a potentially fatal, or stroke inducing procedure to save my heart & my life, and I cried though every “last” moment of peace, normalcy and mundane-ness of the life I’ve loved. Yesterday I was told the procedure will be postponed a week, and I’m all cried out. For my birthday celebration I need to keep saying thank you, donating my time, my efforts, my $ to causes for the betterment of those in need…. And I will resume my new normal of driving slowly, avoiding dangerous intersections. And hoping, praying that each moment I AM here, a part of my beautiful family, of my diverse friendships, and the world at large… I hope that I am showing and sharing my love and my gratitude for all the time I HAVE had–and remind myself & my children-/ that tomorrow’s aren’t guaranteed for anyone. It’s a blessing to enjoy each guitar strum, each lyric, each forkful and each heartbeat….
With love prayers and thanks– beth
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Happy Birthday, dear Beth. And it is you who is GIVING us a gift — the gift of perspective. I shall not go through my day without thinking of you and how suddenly the ordinary, mundane, routine was extraordinary and worth remembering through your open eyes. I am so sorry that your procedure was postponed. I will pray that you are filled with peace in the week to come knowing you are EXACTLY where you need to be. I would be so grateful if you check back in after the procedure when you are able. And thank you so much for the prayers for Emma Grace. She is a very special young lady and I just knew I could count on this community to bless her with love & support.
I celebrate you today, Beth. Thank you for being YOU.
Just what I needed this morning. We are taking a trip in a few weeks to South Carolina which is a treck from MN to see if we moving more South is what we want to do as a family. I am living in a holding pattern, not wanting to invest too much here but also not getting much out of life right now, just kind of holding my breath. Waiting is fine but living while you wait is what I need to do! Thank you for this today……reaffirming what my husband and God have told me. Off to invest in this day the Lord has made!
Meghan Nathanson says
Gorgeous. Just, gorgeous. AND, congratulations!!! Love, Meghan
Rachel, I am not a young mom, like the rest of you. I am 64, a grandmother, and retired from a long stressful career. I found your blog through one of my daughters, who IS a mom of young children. I just wanted to tell you how very much I enjoy your delightful, insightful writing. And, that I wish I had had the privilege of your wisdom back when I was raising my daughters. I was a struggling single mom for many years, with no child support, working two jobs to make ends meet. And they often didn’t. What I regret so dearly, is having to work so much that time slipped away from me….and my girls grew up. They grew up to be wonderful women, so I must have done something right. If I could just have a few of those precious everyday moments back! Alas, i cannot redo my past. All I can do now is make every day I have left a special day. I can go outside, climb out that window, watch those sunsets, walk on that beach..and make every moment count. And I will use your words to encourage my daughters to slow down, to hold the small precious hands of their children, to make every day and every experience, however mundane, count. You, my dear, truly have a talent, a gift for words, a calling. Keep on doing what you do, the world needs you!!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Thank you, dear June. You have blessed me immeasurably by sharing your story … your wisdom … your perspective … and your encouraging words. I am so glad you are here walking beside me.
I CAN’T WAIT FOR YOUR NEXT BOOK!!! Lovely words from such a lovely person–and even more so IN person. You rock–keep at it!!
Denise Nichols says
This post blessed me immensely. I am at the very same point in my life. I desire to bless others, and to encourage people to live free from debt and free to dream. God bless you! Denise
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Thank you for sharing, Denise! I love seeing other people’s dreams written down for the whole world to see. To me, that’s one HUGE and significant step closer.
You write it, I will read it. Thank you so much.
This happened to me just the other day! My toddler wanted to go outside to look for monsters. This time, instead of coming up with excuses to stay inside, I just opened the door, and in no time we were in the patch of woods at the end of the street looking for monsters. We didn’t even have shoes on! I too just left the front door open. I have never been happier that I just opened the door. Unfortunately, we didn’t find any monsters, but we sure did look! Sometimes looking is enough.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
If I could hug words, I would hug these. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I have a feeling someone is going to remember looking for monsters with you … maybe forever.
Rebecca Evana says
Rachel, I am a grandmother of four and have been following your posts for awhile now. I raised five children, born within 5 years of one another. I, too, am a writer.
Your words touch my heart like few can and often leave me wiping the tears away from my aging face.
Thank you for the vulnerability with which you share. Oh, how I needed to a comrade on the journey, such as yourself, when I was a young mother! Oh, how my daughters benefit from your words as young mothers’ now!
Even as a grandmother, I am challenged and inspired by your stories. Keep doing what you do, Rachel, and never stop. The world is calling you…Come Outside, Come Outside and remind us all. It never gets too old. <3
Your writing is the epitome of show, don’t tell, for me–I don’t just read your invitation to a more engaged, embodied, authentic life; I see/hear/smell/taste/feel it. Thank you for reminding us to wake up, and to wake up again, to the Love that is waiting to be received and passed on each moment.
I start this week tutoring in an adult literacy class. I used to do volunteer tutoring off and on for years, and in recent years my own kids have been my focus. But this rose to the top of my list this fall as the one new thing I was going to make room for in my schedule. I’m scared, but excited!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Oh this means so much to my writer’s heart! THANK YOU! And I love the idea of tutoring in an adult literacy class. What a beautiful and meaningful way to make a difference in someone else’s life and also your own. I am grateful you shared. May give someone else an idea today!!!
Thank you for this! And congratulations on your book and you new perspective! That is a gift! I also experienced a wake up moment about a month ago and have dusted off my dormant literary ambitions and writing skills to create something. It does feel amazing to be lit up with creativity and vitality again. And to observe life and interact with it. I hope everyone can find their passion and drive and come outside.
Today? Today Adam’s invitation to climb out the window is an invitation to run away from everyone and everything and never look back. I know I can’t, but God help me I want to. I look at my children and husband with disdain because I don’t get to look out the window, never mind climb out of it. Someone boarded it up. The opportunities I hope for are *just* out of reach and someone hid the step stool. I won’t look for the window today. Today is for surviving, not dreaming. Today is for holding on, because maybe, just maybe, tomorrow, some light will peek through those boards, and I’ll find that window. And maybe, just maybe, my family and I can climb out together.
Maria, my heart aches for you. I pray you will get a few moments of self-care this week. Maybe climbing out the window will look different for you. Maybe just taking a few moments to lay down, close your eyes and listen to a song that gives you joy. Or even taking a minute to read an article like this, or just walk around the block and notice the blue sky and clouds! I wish I knew you and could help shoulder your burden! God bless you!
Thank you Agnes! Just knowing you’re out there, somewhere, is helping me shoulder my burden. I will close my eyes for a moment and imagine us cuddled up with a nice warm cup of tea, sharing our stories and comfy in our knowledge that tomorrow is a new day. xo
Sandy Blackard says
Rachel has invited me to respond to some of her readers who have parenting concerns. I’m not sure if it was you, but I replied to a reader with similar concerns back in June. If that was you and you are still overwhelmed and trying to do everything yourself, the advice I offered back then still stands:
Whether or not that was you, at this point you are a few steps ahead. Look at your comment – you mentioned having feelings of disdain for your family but ended with wishing to escape WITH them. Plus, look at these hopeful phrases: “*just* out of reach”and “maybe just maybe…” It sounds like Rachel’s post is stirring you into action! And those phrases say you are ready to tackle your challenges.
Don’t wait! Contact Theresa Kellam, licensed psychologist today: http://www.theresakellam.com Like me, she has volunteered to help Rachel’s readers get started down a new path and occasionally responds to readers comments here by request.
Keep in mind that usually when it feels like a door or window has been closed, even if it feels like it was closed by someone else, we have something to do with it on a subconscious level. Even though we hate feeling trapped, and would never deliberately structure a life with barriers, they serve us somehow. Figuring out how they serve us leads to the freedom we seek. Theresa can help you get started.
Not the same Maria, no – but I do relate to that post! I will reach out to Theresa – thanks!
Oh please keep looking for the light! Focus on the positive be grateful for what is good in your life. I recall having days when I was grateful for not yelling, having a house, a working vehicle and running water. Keep looking for your light and the window is there too! Be kind to yourself.
Elisabeth Pickle says
Well . . . thank you for completely kidnapping my morning. You had me at the Counting Crows. 🙂
I am a recovering attorney just sitting here staring out my dirty window, and dreaming of embarking on a new adventure as a personal chef. I feel the need to feed people. And, I guess, that is how I will feed myself. Thank you so much for your loving and light words. I came across your blog only today for the first time. Will be following now for certain. Come outside. xoxoxo
It’s too late for me to sing my song; something has happened to my vocal chords. It’s too late for me to be a better parent. It’s too late for me to be a runner; arthritis has determined that for me. But these facts should drive me all the more to stop procrastinating on those things that are still possible for me: writing, communicating, organizing, hugging, cheering others on. Missed opportunities are clear illustrations of what happens when we procrastinate, and should urge us to grab the opportunities still available to us.
Your thoughts and words are validating me! Yesterday I had to choose between a doctor’s appt and going paddle boarding. It was the last warm day of September here in Northern Illinois – I wasn’t sure whether I would have another chance this year to get on the water and feel the warm sun. So, I blocked out the voices telling me: It isn’t responsible to cancel a doctor’s appt and I put the rented board in the SUV and drove over to our town lake. What a beautiful day! I don’t regret my choice for a moment. I had 2 wonderful hours to enjoy nature’s beauty, hear my own thoughts and connect with my Creator.
I still feel a little naughty for canceling the appt but I don’t regret the choice to “climb out the window”! It refreshed and empowered me!
This is my first visit to your blog. I am deeply moved by your message this morning. Thank you.
I have always wanted to paint. I have felt it inside of me for years but was too afraid. I started some random painting classes last year. And now I am enrolled in 3 classes a week! It’s all I think about-creating! But there are other things I am procrastinating and your post is a great reminder for us to LIVE.
Your words always sing to my soul.
Any chance, where you at Ravinia? Is your new home, my old home? If it is, I promise it’s not as scary as it seems. The midwest, even when it’s bustling and moving quickly, really does like to stop and enjoy, each other.
Katie Knight says
Wow, the voices in your head sound a lot like mine. Those voices are mean vicious half-truth tellers. A really good lie has just enough truth in it to make us listen. I like to tell my own “inner critic” that what is says is legitimate. It’s true, the fear, the doubt, the exhaustion is all true, except for the part my inner critic left out, that I can do ALL things through Christ Jesus and that I am made new in Christ! Sometimes our own negative thoughts and emotions are our worst enemies. I am glad you silenced you overcame and let yourself breathe until the book was ready inside you. I love your blog! Thank you for writing.
Thank you , im reading this at 6am . I see my window but is blocked with many things in front that I can not reach it to open it fully , sometimes I manage to climb on top of things and open it a little and enjoy what’s on the other side but it’s only for a little while and oh man it makes my soul feel so happy . Such a meaningful article to me thank you .
Words cannot even begin to express the gratitude that I have for your writing! Hands Free Mama completely changed my life….my very busy life…full of so many things to do that never really mattered. And the things that matter most, I discovered, are so preciously waiting to one day be chosen first instead of the 10 mile to do list! I cried the entire way through that book, because it was ME! I wear your bracelet daily as a reminder to live hands free…..to enjoy these little moments because my 5 year old son….is 5 years old ALREADY and he’s growing faster each day and these are the days I want him to remember now…not the busy rushed days before! I wear it also to remind myself that my husband is just as important because we are growing older also! You have inspired me and motivated me to change…and I recommend your book to every mom I meet! Its not just a book…its an incredible journey and I’m so blessed and fortunate to have gone on it! I absolutely cannot wait until Fall 2015 for your next book! God Bless you!! 🙂
Your words always touch my heart – anyway I would like to share them with my friends in Germany – which is sometimes difficult in English. Please find a way to publish your book(s) in German…
Thank you for writing your books and posts – I think I can see my own very special window…
Jennifer Goltz says
Time for Emma Grace will become so important. Last week a friend with four school aged children lost her battle with cancer. The priest at her funeral, a dear friend, said “We thought we’d have more time.” She survived five years when she was given 8 months. She kept fighting. We kept hoping. When the end came it was as sudden as it was expected. You have helped me understand time a little better. My hope and prayer for Emma Grace and all who love her is that they pay attention to and live in each breath, action, moment; to take advantage of each moment of beauty; to say “I love you” with each glance, word, gesture. Because in the end it’s never enough, but it’s all we have, and in that I take comfort.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
I am deeply sorry for your loss, Jennifer. Thank you for taking the time to share your hopes and prayers for Emma Grace and all who love her. I join you in that prayer.
After I took my hundredth look at my growing to-do list, was finally able to put down my sick baby down to sleep, and tuck in my older ones for a nap, I decided to leave the mess and list and sit down and read something of comfort and inspiration. Funny, how your post was the first I came upon and was exactly what I needed. My husband and I recently moved to a new town with our three young children and times are tough. Your writing gives me courage and determination to persevere forward in a living-kind-of-way. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am not always on the right path, but your book and posts get me back on track when I wander. Finally, please pass on my love to Emma Grace and her family. They will all be in my prayers.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
I am so grateful for this beautiful message today. I will pass on your love and prayers to Emma Grace & her family. It means everything.
Congratulations!!!!!!! Can’t wait to read it! 🙂
I’ve forgotten my dream or passions besides my kids. I feel like my heart is now weary.
I cannot wait for your new book. I loved your first one and bought it for 3 dear mom friends of mine. You are so good for my soul.
Thank you for doing what you do.
My window has finally been opended to me. I am finally, after much sadness and grief, able to see and open it. Through my window is a little girl that has been taken from her family. A little girl so much like my own. A little girl who has been placed in the foster system. A little girl who just needs one constant in her life, one person she can feel safe with. I started volunterring with CASA in March and started working on a case in May. This little girl has enabled me to breathe again, to be just me again, not mom or wife or teacher, but me. I lost me when I had two kids, one with special needs and it’s taken a long road to find me again. But she was there, out that window. And a little girl in need helped me find her again. I have always been able to find me in the giving, in serving others. I am thankful that a lost little girl helped me find me.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
This is incredibly moving and hopeful for so many reasons. I am grateful you took the time to share what opened your window. Thank you for climbing out with open arms to that very special girl.
Stephanie Dreyer says
You never fail to inspire me with your words. They always seem to be exactly what I need to read at the particular moment they fall on my eyes. I am grateful. Thank you for inspiring me to continue living my best life. I set intentions to do just as you say in this post and it feels so good. No more waiting. Just live like you mean it with everything you have – today and always, because that’s what it is all about.
You are truly inspiring. It seems your words always come at the right time. Thank you
The other day I was in a room with walls covered in beautiful murals. I was inspired by it. The woman next to me, noticing how intently I was studying the mural asked, “Do you paint?” I quickly shook my head and said no. “Maybe, you should,” she replied, “I’m sure you would have your own style.” Her words caught my breath and made me shed a few tears. I hadn’t expected to be so moved by the art work or her words. I don’t paint with paint, but I have in the past painted with words. It’s been awhile since I wrote, but that woman’s words triggered thoughts that haven’t left me alone. I wondered about the woman who painted the murals and wondered if she ever doubted her gift, ever felt like it took too much away from her family to engage in it. I was grateful that her doubts didn’t get in the way. She painted and blessed my life because of it. Is it possible that I could make a difference with my “painting?” Will I regret letting the fear and busyness keep me from my dreams? Will I feel loss for not sharing what is in me? Hmmmm. Come outside, yes, come outside. Thanks!
Caroline McGraw says
Rachel, congratulations!!! I am so proud of you, both for finishing your book and for LIVING it. Can’t wait to read it next year. 🙂 xo
Thank you for sharing your experiences. They have really helped me when dealing with temper tantrums!
Still trying to figure out my own writing schedule as a SAHM of a 1 and 3 year old. I’ll keep reading!
Shannon P. says
Congratulations, Rachel! I can’t wait to read it!
Very inspiring Rachel! I know I need to start writing to live…
Louise Eddy says
Rachel, again your beautiful words have spoken to my heart. One Sunday about a year ago I too went outside. It changed everything.
It was a rare Sunday when I did not have to work and for some reason I decided to make a coffee and take it outside. As I sat out there, a cool breeze drifted in, I could hear the birds singing and see the beautiful hills lit by sunlight. I started to sob – real wrenching sobs that came from my soul.
In the years before I went back to being a journalist I set up a beautiful outdoor room with a day bed and a drifting white mosquito net, a fan, a hammock chair, brightly painted chairs and a table, colourful flower pots. I placed hand painted ceramic pictures on the wall, and filled a bookcase with all my favourite books. A small fountain sang in the corner.
I ate my breakfast outside every day, sometimes my dinner. On weekends I used to sit out there and read. But what I realised that morning was that I hadn’t sat outside since the day I started that job seven years before. I would get up, check my email, have breakfast, get ready for work – but I did it all inside … and I kept the blinds and curtains closed so I couldn’t see out.
I understand now that I was afraid – afraid that if I went outside my heart would break. If I allowed myself to breathe, to feel, I might just realise how unhappy I was working long exhausting hours in an office, shut off from nature, doing a job that was chipping away at my soul.
I realised then that I had deliberately cut all the things I enjoy right out of my life – sitting outdoors, going for walks, listening to music, baking, singing, spending time with friends – yet it is these little happinesses that might have made the rest bearable.
So now I spend as much time as I can outside. I get up at 5.30am so I have lots of time to sit outside before work and read and write, listen to the birds, feel the sun warm on my face and just breathe. I painted a picnic table bright blue, sat it on the front lawn, and turned it to face the sunset. I have painted my house a crisp white and torn down every blind and curtain so the outside can come in – and Rachel, I am happy.
Your post today coincides with my first ever, “for the general public” blog post. I blogged a bit before for a very private audience but after prayer time decided to hit “share” today. That’s my baby step and it was both thrilling and terrifying…not unlike the moment my three girls each first let go of my hand to take those first baby steps. That same joy in the moment and breathtaking uncertainty about the wobble in that little one’s step, I felt again today. 🙂 But I know Philippians 4:13, so here goes nothing!
After a rough time with the stress of being a working mom knocking me on my butt, I worked through that and found peace and health once again. The clouds have cleared and I received an email from my favorite yoga instructor at our small town’s yoga studio that she was offering Yoga Teacher Training for the very first time. It was a sign, I couldn’t wait on this one. With the support of my husband, I jumped! I start in 17 days, and even though it’s a little scary and time away from my family, I know I made the right choice because I’m ready to live again. Peace and love Rachel, you’re such an inspiration!!
There is not a single word that is spoken/typed/written by you that does not tug at my heart. I, like many others, struggle with the how’s, why’s, where’s and when’s. Your wonderful, amazing view of life is how I want to feel, want my family to feel, how I want to be. I love your posts, I love your book. When I see that there is a new blog post email notice in my inbox I smile and without hesitation I open it & follow the link to read what your heart has to say. It is a way of therapy for me. To know that others go thru life and battle with the exact same things, makes me realize that we all go thru these things.
There are some in this world that are brave, strong and have a heart so full that they are able to help others. Rachel, this is you. Your purpose in this life is so very evident. To you, I say THANK YOU.
Julia Kurskaya says
Hoorey, you did it!! Your new book looks so beautiful to me. I’m so happy!
You are right: the world needs your book. You didn’t give up. After you’ve trashed it two times, you didn’t give up. You are so strong, Rachel!
M. Catlett says
A beautiful inspiration; you lead a tribe out of shadowed woods and into fields of light. Blessings, Rachel.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
How profound, my friend. Thank you for this exquisitely written word of divine encouragement. I will never forget.
Texas Aggie Mom says
As sad as I am that I didn’t have your writings to inspire me and help me change my parenting habits during my daughter’s formative year (especially the yelling and hurrying!) I give thanks that I will be able to give her BOTH of your books when she becomes a mom, along with a heartfelt note filled with love and regret that I was not a “Hands Free” mama. Can’t wait to read the new one! Congratulations on this huge accomplishment -I know many hearts and lives will be changed by your words, just as mine have been.
Thank you for that post. I tend to (try) and keep my kids on a schedule/routine. But, I’ve noticed the times we stray away and just life happen are the memory-making-moments. I was trying to rush my daughter to bed last night after we were “late”. We were Face Timing family members and tickling before bed. When I saw how late it became and how I knew my daughter would be tired, I started rushing her and using my stern voice. She cried because she thought she was in trouble. After I reassured her she wasn’t, we talked about what a fun night we had catching up with family. That’s when I thought about your books and posts and remembered to just love living life as it comes.
I feel like we’re friends–whenever I sit down with your words on my laptop (or yes, on my phone), I know that I’m going to get up inspired. Thank you so much for that, and for this ministry. Thank you for laying down your agenda and going where He sends you. You and your faithfulness are a good example–and the way you handle the times you get it wrong? So right. Thank you for your transparency, and for pointing us away from you and back to where we need to work.
Today, I’m going to make a call about a job offer. I’ve been putting it off for 2 days because I feel busy with my other jobs right now, but I also feel called to help here. And after 2 days of thinking and praying and talking it out with my husband this morning, I realize I can make the call, I can accept the offer–and I can let them know up front that this time, there will be limits. This time, I will not put that job before my family or any of my existing jobs. This time, I’ve got another chance to get it right.
Thank you for sharing yourself with us,
I love this post in part because I cannot wait to read your next book and I am so excited for you! To have gotten to this point of finishing that manuscript – I can almost imagine how it feels (and hope that someday I don’t have to imagine!). But I also love the message. This weekend, my daughter brought a new art set to the door and wanted only to sit outside and draw. I went with her. And it was one of the highlights of our weekend.
Once again your message has hit right home with me. I have read many of your blogs since I discovered your site and like I have said before, my perspective on life has greatly changed. Sometimes I do something I couldn’t have done before and I marvel at how I have changed. Today’s message has spoken directly to me because for a long time I haven’t been living. I haven’t taken the time to climb out of the window and I have always allowed my life to be occupied with things that do not matter. Whenever my children called me to do something with them, I have always had a reason why I can’t. I will no longer care whether I close the door behind me or whether I have a pile of dishes on the sink. I will live. I am getting older and life is getting shorter. Yesterday will never come back. I don’t want to live trying to make up for things I should have done and didn’t do. My children are growing older and soon they will go their own way. I will create time to play and connect with them when they are still young. For that little girl Emma Grace, my prayers are going up for her. I have great faith in God and I know that He is able to heal any condition. When I read about such desperate situations, what comes into my mind is to wish that the parents know God and that they know of His power. He is the great Physician and if they put their trust in Him, He is a God of Miracles and He will do it for them! Let us all stand in the gap for this family and God will heal that angel.
Rachel, Wow! I am older than most of your readers and have no children. Every time I read what you write I am … in awe at your heartfelt and thoughtfulness among other things. So many times I have wanted to comment about what you write and end up not being able to express what I’m thinking. This is my first time commenting and I’ve been following your blog for maybe 6 months or so. Thank you for the reminder to step outside the door. Thank you for what you do through your gift of writing. Thank you for sharing your stories. And congratulations on writing your book! I love that song that your daughter played on her guitar. It’s wonderful that she has discovered her joy and her gift of playing her guitar and how it impacts and helps others. I love that you take/make the time to help your children blossom into the people they are and will be.
I need to step outside again … In some ways I’ve let the door close in the past year or 2. I haven’t done the things I love doing as often and more recently even fewer. Some I’ve stopped almost completely. And I miss it! So much. But a couple months ago I opened the door a bit, stepped out and started doing some volunteer work that I LOVE to do! Hopefully it is helping others even if it is only a little bit right now. It’s amazing how much this has helped me and it’s hard to describe. It reminds me that there ARE other things just outside the door.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Thank you for taking the time to comment and let me know that you are here walking beside me, Lea. My hope for my second book, HANDS FREE LIFE, as I wrote it was that people from all walks of life and backgrounds could benefit from it — singles, marrieds, people with and without children, young and old. I am touched and encouraged to know you read faithfully the words I write. Your comments are so kind and uplifting. Thanks for sharing your story too!
Today is much better. Before I climb out the window, I thought I’d put this here. Pretty Good Year.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
This is good news, Maria. Very good news. May you continue to see glimmers of light shining through. Thank you for the update. You have been in my thoughts.
Your words always seem to come at perfect moments. Some may say it’s coincidence. I think it’s something more powerful than that.
What a work in process living hands free is day after day and week after week. For me, it has blown up into something so much greater than hands free. It’s gone beyond just being present for my children. It has helped lead me in the direction of digging deep into uncovered territory in my soul to truly search for what makes me happy. I think for the past 20 years I’ve really been trying to make everyone else happy. Trying to do what I thought everyone needed or wanted from me. A year ago, I may have thought I was being selfish in thinking this way but through this journey I have come to realize a happy me, makes for a happy, caring, loving and fun mother, wife, friend etc. I believe when the soul flourishes it explodes outwards for others to connect to. An unseen but powerful connection.
Changing the way I connect has been a difficult process for me, but I keep getting back up and trying. As long as I know I am trying, I know I am in the right direction. And when I do slip up and go to my organizer controlling ways, I apologize and that message alone sends such a wonderful lesson for my children.
I think living in the present has allowed me to forget what has to be done next, what’s on my to do list and really lets me listen to my inner most thoughts because I’ve finally allowed myself to tap into the moment and made connections to what really makes me feel good.
Outside is looking so much more clear to me these days.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Thank you, Sara. I believe it is something far greater than coincidence too. And I also agree about what you said about the Hands Free transformational process. It runs so much deeper than our external distractions, doesn’t it? Let me just say, you are going to love my second book. Hands Free Life. We are on the same page, dear.
I love you! I love Avery’s words, they make me smile out loud and I am so glad you share them. We have never met but I live to see Hands Free Mama in my inbox. I almost always tear up when reading your posts and definitely always feel a weight lifted off my shoulders or a new breath of inspiration knowing we are all in this together.
Congratulations Rachel, what a beautiful accomplishment and I so look forward to reading it when it comes out. I have been a step mom of four over the past eight years and now have twin boys of my own. I cherish your perspective and it has really shaped who I strive to be as a woman, mom, wife, friend and daughter. Thank you and God Bless xoxo
Something I needed to hear today as I battle to be Mommy, Student and Employee… 🙂
Last night, my son and I wrote a poem together! In the middle of the week, even though there was homework and housework! I know that may seem like nothing significant, but to me it was everything. To see the smile on his face for getting to do something special with mommy and the pride in his accomplishment gave me such joy. A few months of ago, I would have thought the housework took precedence or allowed the exhaustion from working all day to make me miss that very special moment. I am on a journey to truly live in the moment with who and what matters the most to me. Thank you Rachel, for your continued inspiration and reminders to grab each moment of this precious life. I pray God’s abundant blessings, peace, and strength to each person out there that is on this journey we call life! 🙂
Deborah Kramb says
I absolutely love the way you write and inspire me! These words spoke to me today. When I see your post in my in box I struggle to give you the time – I save the email for days – waiting for a good time to sit back and enjoy. Busy-ness interferes. But, when I do give in – as I did today. I am always rewarded. You give voice to the frustrations we feel. Thank you.
Fallon Arnold says
I cannot wait to read this book!
Oh Rachel, I so needed this today. My world had darkened a bit over the last couple days and while my faith was strong, my path was not well lit. Thank you for your words. They light the way. As tears streamed down my cheeks, I was able to remember that life is a blessing and not a burden. I will live outside today. Much love to you.
So glad to have found a positive community of Moms, experiencing the same challenges. 🙂
Congratulations on completing another book which will touch so many lives. I found this such a wonderfully hopeful and encouraging post and have found many of the readers’ responses very inspiring too. Blessings to all of you. My own life is about to undergo massive changes. I’m having to let go of the lifestyle at home with my family that I treasure (and have learned to value partly because of your blog) and many of the hopes and dreams I have for the future suddenly feel totally unattainable, but the way you and so may other commenters on this blog write about your lives and challenges gives me a glimmer of hope for the future. Thank you.
Every post of yours touches me. We recently moved across country with two young kids and are trying to settle and find a routine, friends and a new normal here. Your honesty and posts are exactly what I need. Thank you
Leslie Fisher says
I immediately typed
“Procrastination doesn’t have a chance when a heart decides what it must do before it stops beating.” into the Notes section of my phone before I even read the rest of the post.
I LOVE IT.
And I need it.
I have read your first book, wear the bracelets, and have your prints hanging in my home as daily visual reminders. Each time that I read one of your posts, I am inspired. Know that you have made an impact on someone’s life today, and in the many days to come.
Thank you, so much.
Rachel Stafford says
This means everything. I am grateful you took the time to tell me.
Exceptional perspective! ?
[…] An Invitation to Live, Really Live on Hands Free Mama: As a writer, I found this post by Rachel Macy Stafford at Hands Free Mama just beautiful: “My friends, there is something to be said for waking up with an urgency to finish what you started … to live like you might possibly perish today. There is something to be said for acknowledging that time is indeed limited…Procrastination doesn’t have a chance when a heart decides what it must do before it stops beating.” […]
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