Living Hands Free {thoughts on striving to live unplugged and a review of Hands Free Life}

It’s been nearly a decade since we tossed our TV for good.  Wow, that makes me feel old.  I still remember the slow progression of that honking, massive TV from center stage in the living room to the basement to the basement closet to being given away.  We’ve never looked back.  Hands-down the best decision we’ve every made.

Simply tossing the TV started us on a journey we never set out for ourselves.  A journey that took this TV-loving (hey I was going to make a big-wig career as a TV producer and had the diploma to prove it) to a striving-to-be ‘unplugged‘, TV-free Mama.  And, you know, TV free living was a pretty big deal 10 years ago before all the fancy internet-based viewing we have now.  (Yep, I am old…).   I remember so many people responding at that time with a hardy,

“WHAT?!  You don’t have a TV?!  What do you do?!”

I remember thinking, ‘Well… I live.’

But its the year 2015 and its almost as if to live means to document, to photograph, to beep, to bing, to comment, to live with our hands on devices and our noses in screens.  TV isn’t the big deal it once was, now its the streaming, the YouTube, the Netflix, the stuff on the ipad, ipod, cell phone, computer screen, and all those other little devices I don’t know the names of.

And wouldn’t you agree that it’s a struggle to fight for our lives against the curse of missing the real in exchange for the digital?

Yes, its a sad, sad state of affairs, as my Gramps (he’s 92) would say.

We tossed our cell phone a few years ago too.  And you know what we’re learning?  These things we think we can’t live without?  We can.

And once they’re gone, you realize very quickly they sucked the time and life right out of you and there was something far greater waiting on the other side.  Being a 32-year-old couple without a cell phone absolutely astonishes people.  When he was cancelling our cell phone for good, my husband actually had the guy at Rogers inform him that if he did not have a cell phone, he would have some big problems.  He proceeded to inform him: “You do know you can’t take your home phone with you when you go out, right?”  Haha, yes sir, we understand.  That’s the whole idea.

The whole idea is to peel away as many distracted layers of life as possible.  As many messages and beeps as we can so that our hands are free and our hearts are free to be all here.  Because isn’t life in general distracting enough without technology?

The dishes, the vacuuming, the bed making, the cooking, the dusting, the chicken feeding, the lawn mowing, the homeschool planning, and planning, and planning, the lessons, the activities, and on our life goes – a series of busy moments, some meaningful, but many doomed to be lost in the commotion of simply keeping busy.

Rachel Macy Stafford has written a book that chats about these very things.  

How can we fully live when culture tells us to stuff our life full of distractions that often pull us from what matters?  Hands Free Life is a follow up to Hands Free Mama, which I reviewed several years ago.  I love Rachel’s heart.

She is transparent and honest, sharing her journey as a super distracted professional Mama to a Mama that does everything she can to tune in, unplug, and be present for her family and children.

Her book whispers 9 Habits to help us live Hands Free.  She does this in three sections – Creating Lasting Connections, Living for Today, and Protecting what Matters.  She gives sound, do-able advice for embracing a life like the one we’ve always dreamed we would live, one where we are Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, Loving More.

My husband and I try to make decisions based on how the Holy Spirit is leading us.  We also often ask ourselves, “Would I/we regret it if I/we did/didn’t do this?”  (Make sense?) We have never been lead astray yet if we slow down long enough to use these two ways of making choices.

When we’re on the ball, it goes something like this:
– Talk for hours
– Stress a bit (depending on the given decision)
– Pray (never as much as we should, unfortunately)
Then ask that question about regret.  I mean, truly, years from now would I regret not doing this?  Not embracing this moment?  Not making this change?  Not spending this time?  Would I regret NOT tossing the TV, the cell phone,  the video games…?

In Hands Free Life, Rachel encourages:

“In about twenty or thirty years, let Regret be someone else’s companion.  Because you’ll be looking back on your life with a smile on your face and song on your lips.”

Oh, yes, please Lord.  Let me look back on my life as a Mama with a song on my lips.  Knowing I worked hard at letting go of these ever present, pesky, life stealing distractions so that I could fully embrace my life, my husband, my children, my purpose.  Knowing the Father Himself gave me the strength to overcome myself and live better (more like Him) and love more (more like Him).  No regrets (or very few), not because I’m perfect or even close to ‘good’ but because I chose to commit myself to a life lived with eyes and hands wide open.

I long to live committed daily to building relationships, embracing the moments, and protecting the things that truly matter in my life.  I deeply long to live in a way I won’t regret.  Because, hey, we only get one life.  And I think we often forget this simple truth.  There’s one shot, sister.

As I sat the other day, journaling, I jotted down what living Hands Free meant to me.  What this journey of living fully alive and fully available could and should mean.  Here’s what flowed out, in its raw, morning time penned letters –

What does living Hands Free mean to me?

Free to accept the Father’s gifts and grace.  Not gripping tight to control – but open to His control.  Open to every little moment He sends to be fully seen and savoured.  
Open hands – free for hugs and doing things together and holding hands and books and working hard to make a life that is full and joyous.  Hands free and open to lift towards heaven – in thankfulness – the open palm of praise for these days, these breaths, these children, moments, bird songs, rushing rivers and yes, even the hard things – the dark days… praise for those too.
Hands Free – from distraction, the beeps, the bings, the messages.  Fully in turn with what will be everlasting, what will not perish, and what cannot be taken away…  A heart open to see the best in others and nurture relationships, face to face, soul to soul.  To live in tune with God’s Spirit, nature, and myself.  To live as to not regret.  Or regret as little as possible.
To live heaping grace on others because of the depth of grace that has already been, and continues to be poured on me.
Oh, Jesus, help me.

Hands Free Life releases THIS week.  It will inspire you, encourage you, and cheer you on towards a life fully lived.  It is a much needed book in a season where parents are lost in a whirlwind of distractions, expectations, and sadly – regret.

I’m so gateful to Rachel Macy Stafford for sharing her heart and wisdom with grace and love.

I highly recommend every Mom order this book and drink it in.  You will be challenged, you will be changed.

I love this beautiful country framed print of Rachel’s Hands Free House Rules:

May we all strive to overcome distraction, 

live better, and 

love more.


  • Unknown

    Yay! I am so glad to see that you have a new post on being unplugged. I do enjoy your other posts but was hoping to see something about the struggles with technology so many of us seem to have. Please write more on this issue. For me it is a constant struggle to stay off the phone but I am trying for my children's sake. Do your kids use any technology at home or during school hours? How do you think they will handle the media saturated world we live in once they are on their own? These are things I constantly ponder. I'd really appreciate your thoughts on this. It seems so hard to find people that limit technology use in their homes and I feel like a weirdo most times because I don't support the things everybody else comes to find normal when it comes to the constant usage of technology in their and their children's lives.

  • SmithFamily

    The question we always ask ourselves at our house is:

    And then what?
    I am an avid artist and seamstress, I could spent my life doing these things alone, but once I have completed an awesome project… then what?

    When I had my first little boy I had to give up some of my hobbies for a season. I remember completing a beautiful quilt (if I do say so myself) and my husband smiled and said, "It's lovely, but it will never love you back hun." Our gizmo's and gadgets will never love us back, just the people we make time in our hearts for 🙂

    So no matter what activity we choose to spend time doing, our question is always, "And then what?"

    Thanks for your post. We also tossed the TV, but I use technology for learning. It's always a delicate balancing act

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