Once upon a time there was a soon-to-be young mother. Wife to the man of her dreams, hardworking nurse, dedicated Christian… she thought she had it all together. If you were an innocent observer, you would’ve thought so too.
But if you’d walked by that black sports car in the parking lot of the doctor’s office that hot Friday morning, and seen her crumbling in the passenger seat, you would’ve known that “it all” wasn’t exactly all together. You would’ve seen her hunched over an ultrasound photo, hot tears streaming down scrunched-up cheeks, Fear gripping her heart.
The perfect little ultrasound photo of the most perfect little girl. A girl.
It wasn’t the baby that made the tears rain down. No, the baby was wanted, prayed for, loved. It was the fear. The all-consuming Fear of Failure kept her trapped in that sticky leather seat. “What if I can’t do this? What if I mess this up? What if I’m not… good enough?” Words jumbled and tumbled out of her mouth, bounced off the windshield, and elicited concern from the caring but confused man beside her.
Eighteen years… no, more… of parenting responsibilities seemed to flash before her eyes in that moment. Could she teach her daughter right? Could she encourage her passions, give feet to her dreams? Most importantly… could she be kind? Could she be patient? When the stresses and messes of life hit, as she knew they would… would she bend, or would she break?
In that moment, Fear of Failure turned a blessed calling into an impossible weight. She cried until she ran out of tears, and when her kind husband saw the waterworks letting up, he said softly, “It’ll be all right. You’ll figure it out.”
“Yeah,” with a meek smile. “Yeah, I will.” Spent from tears, still clutching the 4×4” photo with the perfect little form, she looked out the window. Looking at tomorrow. Looking for the only One she knew could give the healing, the grace, the wisdom she would need. A girl. With God’s help, I’ll figure it out. Little by little, I will.
And little by little, I am.
I’m learning that everything I trust and love about the One who rescued me is Enough to carry me, to fill me up, for this mothering thing.
And I don’t have to be afraid of my weaknesses, of my ill-preparedness… I can trust the One who said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
And I don’t have to have the next ten years of parenting figured out. Today has enough responsibility of its own; there’s no sense borrowing worry from tomorrow (Mathew 6:34).
I don’t have to wonder if I will run out of love. Because in Him there is a well that never runs dry (John 4:14).
And when it comes to love… why do we make it so complicated? The One who showed us what Love looks like when He went to the Cross also simplified it for us. Love is patient. Love is kind (1 Corinthians 13:4).
But sometimes I wonder what patience looks like in the middle of a busy- and tired-mom day.
Sometimes I wonder what kindness looks like with skin on.
Sometimes I need a story. A picture. A yes-you-can-do-it from one who’s gone before.
Sometimes I need a little help translating my ideals into tangible, daily acts of love.
And that’s what Rachel Stafford, in her newest book Only Love Today, has given to us. Help. Drawing on her experience as a writer, a teacher, a mother, she dedicates herself to helping readers “overcome distraction and perfection to live better and love more.” Stafford uses an engaging storytelling style, but she doesn’t just write her stories… she hits them close to home like a batter hits a ball out of the park. She paints her memories in such vivid colors that I can see them too. She writes encouragement so tangible that I can almost touch it.
Encouragement like these words that jumped at me off the page, in the middle of Rachel’s story of putting aside fear, worry and distraction to spend an afternoon baking and decorating cookies with her dearest ones:
“I gave no regard to the flour on the kitchen floor, the fresh blue stain on the dishtowel, or the medical bills lying on the kitchen counter. The clock overhead was merely a decoration, rather than a dictator of our thoughts and actions. My eyes and heart were focused on the right now, and it was all-encompassing.” ~RMS, Only Love Today.
Words that come back to me as we’re having our own cookie-baking party in our tiny cozy kitchen. And if you were an innocent bystander today, you’d see that face, once hunched down in fear, looking up into a pair of bright blue eyes. The eyes that stare back at me as their owner, grown seven years since she was featured in that perfect little ultrasound photo, perches on the kitchen counter and announces, “I think you’re a nice mommy.”
My heart stops for a moment, and worries tumble down, like flour spilled on the kitchen floor.
Those fears don’t matter anymore. Like a forgotten food coloring stain on a dishtowel.
My unrealistic expectations are frozen, like a clock that’s stopped telling time.
She thinks I’m a nice mommy. And that’s enough. That’s more than enough for now.
But it wouldn’t have been possible, without the lifegiving words from His Word. And it would’ve been so much harder without in-the-trenches, me-too wisdom from authors like Stafford, whose newest title resonates with the cry of my heart too:
Only. Because I can only do so much. And I’d rather focus on the little hands that want to be held in mine, than on people-pleasing, perfectionism, or performance.
Love. It isn’t complicated. It’s a deep breath when she needs help finding her doll, again. It’s a kiss on her tear-stained cheek when she’s just finished the meltdown of all meltdowns. It’s learning to just be, right here, right now.
Today. As Stafford says, “Today matters more than yesterday.” And if you’re a worry-prone mama like me, it matters more than tomorrow, too.
And this woman who all those yesterdays ago cried out in desperation, Jesus, can I do it?
Today whispers a prayer of thanks: with You, Lord, I can.
And the scars that once crushed are now merely there
Because the Fear that once froze me can’t stand when He’s near.
And because there is practical help. There is real-life encouragement. There are beautiful stories, from mamas who’ve gone before, that offer hope to the hurting.
Friends, if you’d like some heart-hitting truths that make patience and kindness, forgiveness and grace, come a little closer to your door, this book is like a little package of encouragement, one that you can open to any page and find inspiration. Here’s a little tidbit from the book, which I’ve been privileged enough to read as an advance copy: Only Love Today is “a beautiful book based on the four seasons. From finding daily surrender in the autumn and daily hope in the winter, to daily bloom and daily spark in the spring and summer, you will always find fresh beautiful words for your day.” Only Love Today hits shelves March 7th, and is available to preorder here.
In His Love,