Let’s be clear: Rachel Macy Stafford’s blog and book are not just for stay-at-home moms, or people who are worried about saving a marriage or a relationship with a child. They are for those wise enough to recognize that the “right now” might be all we have, and that what we do with those moments is all we can really control. And to be quite honest, Stafford’s book Hands Free Mama is changing my life.
If I’m going to be honest, there are probably three books that have changed the course of my life in how I make decisions and how I do ministry: The Bible, Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps, and Doug Fields’ The Purpose Driven Youth Ministry. Stafford’s book has already become a fourth in the brief time I have been reading it. Rather than knocking out this review within hours of reading, I put it down and went to play with my kids, I caught myself starting to say “just a minute” (several times) and instead engaged those around me, and turned away from multi-tasking.
[For me, multitasking at its finest once included playing the Playstation 2, watching a movie on the portable DVD player, carrying on an online chat on the computer, and answering the phone in between texting. Watch TV? That hardly ever happened without a book in my hand or a computer on my lap.]
Hands Free Mama finds us reflecting with Stafford about our own use of technology and time, our own inner Type-A behavior (and our own laziness at other times). She artfully tells her story and that of her family in a way that we begin to identify with our own negative behaviors without ever feeling judged: this is her gift to us, that we are given the “right now,” without ever having anyone besides ourselves point a finger. Stafford’s willingness to tell her own story so fluently allows us to see her process from harried mother and wife into the hands free mama she has become.
The contents here are broken into twelve “steps”: awareness, connectedness, deliberateness, presentness, serenity, clarity, simplification, acceptance, authenticity, forgiveness, compassion, and gratefulness. Stafford asks us to consider what we are giving up by being too busy, in terms of what we’re missing out on and what we can’t get back, sharing her own stories about what she missed and what she has reclaimed.
My copy of the book is dog-eared and will be revisited, but Stafford’s “new eyes” show us that a mundane car ride, simple chores, homework, and waiting in line can all be possibilities we’re missing because we don’t see them the right way. A friend sent me the link for a Hands Free Mama post, “The Bully Too Close To Home,” that sent me after the book, but the straightforward delivery, and its practical application, make the book a must-read for 2014.
In a world where we’re told to aggressively technologize ourselves, Stafford asks us if we’re using technology for the things we said we would when we started: community, time-saving, and efficiency. She’s not anti-technology (she writes that blog!) but she asks us if we’re losing ourselves in the “doing” rather than the “being,” even if we think we’re “doing” for the betterment of the world or in the service of God.
Stafford is intent on using her time to connect with her daughters and her husband, but it’s also about making a difference through her church or through non-profits like Compassion International and Operation Christmas Child. She’s not writing to make more time to make money or work more, but to revel in life’s little moments and to share those moments with others.
I’m not sure what I expected when I asked for the opportunity to read the book and interview Stafford, but what I’ve found has been so much more. Ultimately, I imagine myself looking back a year from now and recognizing that there are four books that changed my life, and I’ll have Stafford to thank for that. Right now, it’s time to put the computer and phone away and get back to being a daddy jungle gym, an attentive listener, and maybe, just maybe, a better man.
As of January 7, Hands Free Mama is available here.
Dear Jacob, I have read your review at least 7 times now. I began crying by the time I got to the second paragraph and still cry reading it again for the 7th time. In one single, honest, and beautifully thoughtful review, you have given me Divine Confirmation. And since you have read my book, you know how much these signs of Divine Confirmation along this journey mean to me. They fuel me to keep going, to hit “publish” even when my hand shakes, to let go of past mistakes, to remember each moment is a chance to start over and connect to what truly matters.
I immediately sent your review to my parents and my pastor who is also a Methodist minister. I called my husband to the computer and we read it together just reveling in your words. I also sent it to my “team” at Zondervan. What this is to me, my family, and everyone who has supported me on this journey is a gift. You have blessed me beyond measure, Jacob, and I hope someday I get the opportunity to thank you in person.
With a grateful and joyful heart,
Rachel, wow! It’s not often you get feedback from the artist/author/creator of a work. I simply hoped to do the book justice! Your book has certainly shaken up the way I see my day, for the better. I thank God for writers like you, for churches that nurture such change, and for families who provide that support. And Zondervan gets my nod as well for recognizing your gift to share! You’re welcome at my church anytime– holler if you’re headed through Virginia!
Thank you, Jacob! It has truly been a joy to correspond with you. It is apparent you have a gift for connecting with people — your congregation is very blessed! Funny, I will be in Virginia this week, but only for one night. I am going to be on the 700 Club! It is my first TV appearance ever so I am slightly nervous. But I will just think about what you wrote in the book review and then I will remember I have someone right there in that very state cheering me on! Thank you!
I may have to tune into that particular episode. I don’t think I’ve ever watched before… 🙂 You’ll be fine. Your story speaks regardless of whether it’s the blog, the book, or “live.” I will pray that God gives you additional peace!