Taken from Hands Free Life by Rachel Macy Stafford. Copyright © 2015 by Rachel Macy Stafford. Used by permission of Zondervan.
Like most people who enjoy their sleep, I’m not a fan of middle-of-the-night awakenings. Typically, I provide what is needed—a glass of water, a lost stuffed animal, or a kiss on the cheek—and then quickly usher my child back to bed.
But this particular night was different.
Maybe it was because my daughter Avery was unusually hot with fever. Or maybe it was because my Hands Free journey had taken up permanent space in my head, consistently pointing out when to pay attention. Whatever the reason, I felt compelled to crawl all the way into my child’s bed and nestle under the covers when she quietly commanded, “Stay, Mama.”
Once settled, I cupped Avery’s round face that still held traces of baby and whispered, “I am here.”
These three spoken words appeared to bring great comfort to my child’s weary head, and her eyelids began to close. That is when I studied her face. Every eyelash. Every freckle. Every curve of her small, sweet mouth. I felt the need to soak up every detail of her six-year-old self. Although my eyes stung from a need for sleep, I felt a sense of peace knowing I was exactly where I needed to be.
Just as I was about to nod off, my daughter’s eyes suddenly flew open. Had I not administered the medication myself, I would’ve thought she’d been given a double shot of espresso! With the skill of a seasoned news reporter, Avery began drilling me with questions—questions that even in the light of day would be challenging.
Has anyone in our family been to war?
What war was it?
How did your grandparents die?
Will I die of old age?
Will you die of old age?
Will Grandpa and Grandma die soon?
I managed to answer the first five questions somewhat satisfactorily, given my level of alertness, but the last one stumped me. I began to stall. “Well, Grandma is hoping to be at your high school graduation, so let’s see that’s...” Mumbling to myself I began adding the number of years until my child graduates to my mother’s current age.
My observant child immediately noticed I was miscalculating. “No, Mama. Grandma is seventy-three, not seventy-four,” she corrected. I was about to speak, but something stopped me. I sensed Avery was not finished yet. Illuminated by a crack of white light streaming from her bedroom closet, Avery lifted her hands in front of her face. Like the wings of a bird about to take flight, she spread her small fingers as far as they could go. It was then that this child with sweat-fringed hair and flushed cheeks soberly stated, “I’m keeping track of life.”
I actually stopped breathing for a moment.
Keeping track of life.
It was such a beautiful term, and one that became almost magical given the way Avery extended her two free hands. But what made the hairs stand straight up on my arms was the fact that I knew exactly what it meant. Keeping track of life is knowing you’re on your true path toward fulfillment. It’s being at peace with who you are and how you are living. It’s placing your head on the pillow at night knowing you’ve connected with someone or something that made your heart come alive. It’s investing in what really matters, understanding full well that managing life is the tendency but living life is the goal.
Keeping track of life is much more than going through the motions of putting down the phone, burning the to-do list, and letting go of perfection. It’s something deep. Lasting. Permanent. It is a conscious decision to focus on what really matters when a sea of insignificance tries to pull you away…. Considering the degree of distraction and amount of pressure that exists in the world today, keeping track of life may seem impossible.
But I am here to tell you it is not.
You have the power to make meaningful, lasting human connection despite the busyness of everyday life. You have the power to live in the now despite that inner nudge pushing you out of the moment toward perfection and productivity.You have the power to protect your most sacred relationships, as well as your values, beliefs, health, and happiness, despite the latent dangers of technology and social media.
You have the power to pursue the passions of your heart without sacrificing your job or your daily responsibilities. You have the power to evaluate your daily choices to insure you are investing in a life that matters to you. As your hands, heart, and eyes become open, you will find yourself thinking differently about life. With a Hands Free Life perspective, you have the power to keep track of life so that one day you will look back and see you didn’t just manage life—you actually lived it, and lived it well.