how to soften your sharp edges with just three simple words

Every now and then, we lose track and go astray, at times wandering, at times rerouting, at times taking shortcuts – or even long cuts. And sometimes we find ourselves drifting, directionless, perhaps wondering if the path beneath our feet is one worth staying on at all. Rachel Macy Stafford has a gift for bringing us back home to what matters most. With breathtaking vulnerability, she articulates the ache for belonging and peace most of us cannot; her words offer us the communion which we desperately need to receive – if we are to cultivate daily peace and positivity in our stressed-out lives. Only love today are words which Rachel recites like a prayer and performs like a duty. Only love today are words which have become her way of life; and the way of life for Rachel’s readers who are now finding their own way back to what matters most thanks to the honest, inspired, timely message of her latest book, ONLY LOVE TODAY. It is grace to welcome Rachel to the farm’s front porch today.

 guest post by Rachel Macy Stafford

I f you needed to lose weight, what would be most motivating?

You’ve put on some pounds. I’m not buying you any more clothes until you lose weight.

Or:

Let’s take a walk after dinner. I’ll let you make the salad.

I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

If you needed to learn how to swim, what would be most motivating?

I don’t want to hear your crying. Don’t be a baby!

Or:

I’ll be right by your side. You can do this. If not today, we’ll try again tomorrow.

I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

 If you needed to practice better hygiene, what would be most motivating?

What is that awful smell? It’s a wonder you have any friends.

Or:

Let’s go to the store and pick out some deodorant. Your hair smells so good when you wash it.

I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

If you are a bit clumsy and disorganized, what would motivate you to be more responsible?

Not again! You are either losing things or making a mess.

Or:

Everyone makes mistakes. That’s how we learn. It’s no big deal—just get a rag and clean it up.

I love you just the way you are, exactly as you are.

At times in my life I have been overweight, scared to swim, smelly, and disorganized.

During those times, I could have used some encouragement. So when I saw the boy being dismissed from the pool because he was scared to swim, I cried with him. His father really wanted him to learn to swim. He thought reprimanding him and ignoring the boy’s cries would motivate him to try harder.

At times in my life, I thought this too …

About a little girl and her musical instrument,

About a little girl and her frequent messes,

About a little girl and her leisurely pace,

About a little girl and her reluctance to try new things.

“Play the song again; you’re not trying hard enough.”

“Another spill? Are you serious?”

“How many times do I have to tell you to hurry up?”

“All the other kids have learned to ride their bike. It’s high time you did too.”

With every sharply delivered word and every disapproving glare, that girl got smaller. Less confident. Less capable. Less shiny.

And one day she spoke the words of a defeated soul.

“I just want to be good, Mama,” cried the little girl who once loved to strum her beloved ukulele. Then she placed the instrument at her feet, wondering if she should even be strumming at all.

Over time, my constant critiques and exasperated breaths had led her to believe she was no good.

Over time, I’d broken her beautiful spirit—the one that radiated her God-given light.

Motivating? Not so much.

I could no longer deny the damage I was inflicting.

It was time to stop being so hard on my child; it was time to stop being so hard on myself. My inner bully, the voice that pushed me to ridiculous standards and glorified perfection, had to be silenced.

I prayed for the strength to stand up to my inner bully, but God gave me something more. He gave me a powerful three-word mantra to fight back.

Whenever a critical thought would come to my mind or mouth, I’d cut it off with the words, “Only love today.”

At first, I found myself saying the mantra as frequently as every few minutes—but it was working!

Within days of adopting the only love today mantra, I noticed a change in my heart and my home.

As my inner barriers began to diminish, my ability to respond more lovingly, more patiently, and more gently grew. My tightly-wound inner fiber began to do something I never thought would be possible; it began to soften.

By responding to others and myself with more compassion, patience, and acceptance, I began to see less in black and white and more in color.

I had no idea my loved ones had so many colors until I began to soften so they could shine.

The following vow is something I wish I’d made a few years ago—but perhaps it’s right on time for you. Perhaps it’s right on time for us all; I can’t help but believe our world could use a little softening right now.

Perhaps, in time, we’ll be able to look at ourselves and each other and say, “I love you just the way you are,” the way God loves us.

Perhaps instead of witnessing pain and condemnation in public and private places, we will see love and compassion in action.

Let it begin with us.

My Vow to Soften

I’ve had enough of my hard edges. I’m tired of straining my voice.

I’d like to loosen up and laugh a little more, be positive rather than negative.

I’d like to feel the upward curve of my lips.

I’d like to surrender control of things over which I have no control.

I’d like to let things unfold in their own time, in their own way.

I’d like to participate joyfully in this fleeting life.

I’d like to be softer

toward him,

toward her,

toward me.

Thus, this begins the process of my softening.

And this is my vow:

I vow to listen to opinions – I don’t always have to be right.

I don’t always have to agree or have the last word.

I vow to hand over the hairbrush, the pile of laundry, the school project,

the task before me. “How would you do it?” I will ask.

I vow to step aside and respect a new approach.

Success might be difficult to see at first; I vow to keep looking.

I vow to be more accepting of quirks, mannerisms, and differences.

I vow to be more accepting of tastes and styles unlike my own.

I vow to remember he is in the process of becoming; she is in the process of finding her way. And they are more apt to do it if I stop telling them how.

I vow to regard “weaknesses” as unripened strengths.

Inner gifts can be nurtured when I stop plotting ways to alter, change, and “improve.”

I vow to greet my family and myself with a loving smile,

no matter what happened yesterday.

I vow to pause before correcting.

I shall take a moment to consider if the mistake even needs to be mentioned at all.

I vow to be a voice of encouragement in a demeaning world.

I vow to be a silver lining spotter in my family’s little world.

I vow to be softer today than I was yesterday—a softer voice, a softer posture, a softer touch, a softer thought, a softer timetable.

By being softer, I can hear more, learn more, feel more, and love more.

At last I will fully see his colors, her colors, and my own.

Perhaps it will be for the very first time.

The colors might take my breath away,

bring me to tears,

or offer long-awaited peace.

I shall soften in order to illuminate the colors of the soul.

I shall soften so the human being within me and beside me can shine.

Rachel Macy Stafford has one goal: help people choose love as much as humanly possible. She is the New York Times bestselling author of Hands Free Mama and Hands Free Life, as well as a certified special education teacher and inspiring speaker. Millions find solace and direction in her weekly blog posts and supportive Facebook community.

Only Love Today, Rachel Macy Stafford’s newest work of heart, releases on March 7th. In it, and 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 every-day life. Her soul-building words remind us that we already possess the tools and insights we need in order to find our way back to what matters most. No matter where you flip open this read-anytime, read-anywhere book, you’ll find one of the most necessary elements of a centered, grounded life: encouragement.

This life affirming book offers us a blessed opportunity to learn along with Rachel, and to know what it is to feel less alone and more divinely aligned with peace – even in the midst of the chaos of life. Preorder your copy today and receive a collection of bonus gifts by emailing your receipt to rachelmacystafford@gmail.com.

[ Our humble thanks to Zondervan for their partnership in today’s devotion ]

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