Friends. Today is such a treat. One of my absolute favorite authors of all time sat down with me to talk about her journey as a mom and as an author. I’m endlessly inspired by Rachel Macy Stafford and her writing. Hands Free Mama and Hands Free Life touched my heart in immeasurable ways. It was such an honor to get to know her even better through this interview. And.. TODAY… her new book ONLY LOVE TODAY is available! Happy release day, Rachel. We’re cheering you and this important message on! xo, Em
About ONLY LOVE TODAY: Today Rachel Macy Stafford’s latest work of heart, ONLY LOVE TODAY, enters the world. Through her most honest writing yet, she reveals her own struggles to hold onto what’s most important, and make what’s most lasting the first priority in her everyday life. Designed especially for people with busy lives, you can literally open the book to any page and find a short read that will re-route your day and life in a positive, loving direction. Order your copy today—this one’s a life changer. Get your copy here on Amazon and here at Barnes & Noble (signed!) and also at Target!
EL: I just love that ONLY LOVE TODAY is almost like a non-dated devotional, little bits of incredibly inspiring goodness organized by season – ready to be devoured whenever the reader finds a quiet time to sit and read. What inspired you to write a book like this? And how do you carve out your own “me time” to sit down, relax, and read without succumbing to the guilt we all sometimes feel – that we should be tackling our to-do lists, playing with our kids, etc?
RMS: ONLY LOVE TODAY—which is much like a daily inspiration book—was born from an overwhelming request from members of The Hands Free Revolution community on Facebook. Many said their day went profoundly better when they began it with one of my posts. They wanted inspiration they could read without going online—a resource that could be readily available on their nightstand or in a purse or a briefcase and pulled out whenever they needed to take pause and align their day with love. The beauty of the book is you do not have to go any particular order or read for long periods of time to experience a powerful perspective shift.
The way I carve out “me time” is quite intentional – it definitely doesn’t happen by accident or it would never happen! J When I first began my journey to live a less distracted, more gratitude-filled life, I designated “hands free” times of day. One of those times is first thing in the morning. When I wake up, I do not reach for the phone. I reach for faith, family, or self-care. By protecting that initial morning time, my whole day goes much better. Those first ten minutes of the day provides my breathing room, my God time, my preparation-to-lead-with-love time.
One of my favorite lines in ONLY LOVE TODAY is: “We must push away what is urgent so we can see what is necessary.” Whether it’s for ten minutes or ten hours, we must decide it’s necessary to push back the world for a spell so we can tend to our inner needs and our inner circle. Honestly, there will probably never be a “good” time to sit down and relax, but that ache in your soul or those tears on your cheeks often indicate it is a necessary time.
EL: I read the word GRACE many times throughout ONLY LOVE TODAY and it made me smile. As you know, God’s Grace in our journeys as imperfect women is something that is big on my heart. Tell us a little bit about how God’s shown you Grace as a mom balancing family, motherhood, and being an author?
RMS: For many years, I lived in regret for the moments I’d missed while living a distracted life. My child knows let down. She knows distance, agitation, and impatience. She knows what it feels like to have her hopes crushed like a paper airplane. She knows worry that makes it impossible to sleep. She knows confusion and the sound of my sobs. She knows a mama who breaks dishes in frustration. She knows when it’s time to plug her ears and shut her eyes. She knows things I wish I could take back.
But then God reminds me what day it is: It is today. It is not yesterday.
I am reminded that The One who loves me, The One who took my hand and placed me on this transformative journey, still loves me even when I fail miserably.
I am reminded that I am not perfect and that even the “best” parents have their moments of self-doubt and frustration.
In Only Love Today, God used me as a messenger to help readers extend grace to themselves rather than judgment. One of my favorite passages reads:
You are not the sum of your distractions.
You are not comprised of your flaws and failings.
You are someone’s home base, even when you get a little off course.
And love can bring you back.
Love’s navigation never fails.
Those words are God’s grace in my life expressed on paper for others to grasp.
EL: What one point do you hope readers take away from ONLY LOVE TODAY as they read their last passage and close the book?
RMS: I had one consistent prayer as I wrote ONLY LOVE TODAY. Whoever read it—no matter their age, background, history, circumstances, or amount of baggage—I wanted them to hear one message loud and clear: Today matters more than yesterday. Because if you believe that, you have hope. And even the tiniest shred of hope is enough to build a beautiful life.
EL: Was there a turning point for you – maybe before HANDS FREE MAMA – that you changed? That you realized being busy, distracted, and overwhelmed was a terrible waste of time? Or has your journey been more gradual?
RMS: It was definitely a gradual change (and I am still a work in progress), but I distinctly remember one of the major wake-up calls I received that inspired change.
A little over six years ago, we were pulling out of the driveway to go on a family vacation and my husband turned to me looking like someone had died. He said, “You’re never happy anymore.”
I wanted to defend, excuse, and deny—but I couldn’t. He was right. Gone missing was the once joyful woman I used to be. Angry, critical, irritable, and reactive—this was who I’d become. Despite the abundant blessings in my life, I could not see them or feel them because they were buried under my superficial quest for “success” – a societal defined version of success that was so far from what my heart knew was truly important.
The trouble was, my joy was based on external measurements – on tasks being completed, plans running accordingly, goals being met, hairs being in place. And when you base your joy on those factors, you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment.
I began praying for a small step to bring back my joy. I stumbled across a quote by Brene Brown that would become a lifeline:
“We hold the key to lasting happiness in our own hands. For it is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”
Gratitude described here was a small step, an action, a tangible lifeline, and I grabbed it with two hopeful hands and one whole heart.
We love talking with other busy women about how they simplify everyday life, so I’d love to ask you a few quick questions and get a few quick, fun answers for our readers:
EL: How do you take care of yourself so that you’re physically and mentally prepared to be your best self for your loved ones?
RMS: I consistently “lower the bar.” I find it very beneficial to remind myself nothing has to be perfect, just “good enough for today.” I also take a walk outside every single day. I aim for at least 30 minutes, but even ten minutes of fresh air and time for reflection helps me feel rejuvenated and less overwhelmed. I try to get seven hours of sleep a night. I have found that the days I am most irritable, over reactive, and make poor choices always follow a night of insufficient sleep. On those days, I find myself repeating the mantra “only love today” so I am more apt to treat myself with grace, kindness, and compassion like I would a friend who is trying her best. That mantra helps me remember each moment is a chance to start again.
EL: What’s your favorite beauty secret?
RMS: Because the mirror is a personal trigger for judgment and condemnation, I began using it less and less a few years ago. Instead, I purchased a wide array of cute hats from Target that I could throw on when I wanted to seize moments with my loved ones. I called these days “hat days.” These days were all about letting go of perfection and enjoying experiences in a “come as you are” fashion. Throwing on a hat over unwashed hair and showing up “as is” significantly reduced the time it took to look presentable so I had more time to play and have fun. Wearing hats helped me return to a brave, spontaneous, and joyful version of myself. My hat collection has grown to an embarrassing number, but my hats help me live better and love more. Each time I put one on, I’m in the mind frame to embrace life’s precious moments.
EL: What’s your favorite quick-prep dinner for your family?
RMS: I use the crockpot several days a week and my family’s latest favorite recipe is for “Potato-Bacon Chowder.” I dump 1 C water, 1 C sour cream, 1 can of cream of chicken soup, and 2 C milk in the Crockpot. After cooking eight slices of bacon, I chop them up and add them to the pot along with ¾ a bag of frozen hash brown potatoes, a little sautéed onion, and salt & pepper to taste. I cook for several hours until the soup is thick and bubbly. My family loves it!
EL: What tradition or routine is important to you?
RMS: My daughters and I have a very close relationship, and I am certain it is because of the ten or so minutes I spend with each of them individually at night. We call it Talk Time. They know that is sacred time where I push away all my distractions, my to-do’s, and my agenda to be ALL there in the sanctity of their bedrooms. They know they can always count on that period of connection each day. My husband and I try to have Talk Time several times a week too. We believe it is vital to the health of our relationship to offer each other undivided time and presence.
EL: Where do you find your inspiration?
RMS: God speaks to me through music, walks outside, my children, and meaningful conversations.
EL: What’s your favorite app (or other tool!) for helping you do life?
RMS: Despite having a career engrained in technology, I shy away from using apps unless it’s Waze which has completely changed my directionally-challenged self! My favorite tool for anything is a tiny notebook! I always have one with me. I jot down any and all writing ideas, prayers, reminders, memories, and dreams. My tiny notebooks help me stay present because I am constantly noticing these things, recording them, and then using them later for important life projects and conversations.
What a treat! Thank you Rachel! AND Rachel is so generously giving away a SIGNED COPY of her book to one of our readers! Simply enter below and we’ll select a reader on Friday!