“If I know what love is, it is because of you.”
During my break from the online world over the holidays, I listened to one song over and over while I walked outside: “I Remember Her” by Ingrid Michaelson. My favorite lines are these:
“She would kiss my hand
She would kiss my head
And she'd fall asleep with me
In my tiny bed
She would sing me lullabies
Gave me my hazel eyes
And then she called me beautiful
She made me beautiful
I remember her, I remember her
I remember her so well.”
When I got to see her perform it live in concert, I noticed Ingrid’s confidence … her willingness to bear her scars … the comfort she had in her own skin. And now I know. She walks around this earth wearing her mother’s love.
And I couldn’t get enough of the song that told that story. Maybe it was because my own mother was in my home for a visit, her hands weathered and bruised but loving no less… or maybe it was because I've been so worried about the state of the world, and I want my children to wear my love like protective armor as they navigate life's challenges.
So often I wonder what my children will remember about me. I want them to remember love, like Ingrid does.
An answer came unexpectedly while lying in bed with my ten–year-old daughter. Our faces glowed under the tiny, white lights she strung up for Santa – lights that stayed securely in place in the new year when the rest of the holiday decorations came down. Beneath her beloved twinkle lights, I showed her video clips of her recent basketball game.
“Go, Avery!” you could hear me cheer in one particular video. My daughter watched that 31-second clip seven times.
“What do you say at the end, Mama?” she asked curiously.
“I say: I can’t handle it.” I smiled.
She looked confused.
“I get nervous and excited and my heart beats right out of my chest when I watch you play!” I explained. “Sometimes it feels like too much to handle.”
“I love you,” she said in response to her emotional mother. As she cuddled in closer she whispered, “I am glad you are my mom.”
“And I am glad you are my daughter,” I responded. That’s when I almost got up. Our heartfelt exchange seemed like the perfect time to kiss her cheek and say goodnight … plus, there were dirty dishes in the sink and holiday disarray still filled the floor.
But my heart said: Stay. Just sixty more seconds.
I am learning to listen to it. I’m learning my heart knows.
And in those extra sixty seconds, I received an answer to my long-wondered question: What will she remember?
“I remember laying my head on your lap at church when I was little,” she began unexpectedly, “and you would run your fingers though my hair. I would look up at the tall ceiling and pretend I was walking on the highest beams. You lifted me up there. I was on top of the world.”
The hairs on my arms stood up. I remembered those days in our former church vividly, but my recollection was vastly different than hers.
At the time of this particular memory, this child was very attached to me and did not want to go anywhere – not even church childcare – without me. We were new in a brand new state. I’d left my parents behind in the move. My husband traveled during the week. I was a little lost and completely overwhelmed.
And in the same moment my child felt my love, tears dripped down my face as the pastor spoke, and I wondered how badly I was failing.
The disparity between her memory and my memory was almost laughable now.
But it was also greatly comforting.
You can feel like you’re failing and still BE LOVE.
You can feel like you’re in the dark and still be someone’s light.
You can feel like you’re going under and still lift someone up.
You can feel like you’re failing and still BE LOVE.
Thank you, God. I’d been wondering.
But there was more. And you need to hear this.
The other day, I went to visit a friend who had major surgery. Due to anesthesia, her mind was fuzzy and she easily lost her train of thought.
“I was going to tell you something when you came over,” my friend said, scratching her head. “And now I can’t remember.”
“It’ll come to you,” I assured, having gone through a few surgeries myself. My friend and I moved on to other topics like aging parents, keeping indoor plants alive, and the pros and cons of pain medication.
“Oh! I know,” she said excitedly, gently propping herself up on a pillow. But before she told me what it was, she said the most beautiful remark: “Thank you for staying long enough for me to remember.”
Suddenly, it all came together … my obsession with Ingrid’s song, my daughter’s unexpected recollection, my friend’s gratitude for staying a little longer …
THIS is the message we need as we begin a New Year: Thank you for staying long enough to remember.
Please listen carefully:
Last year was a brutal one for many. Maybe it was one of your lowest … darkest … most uncertain years to date … but you stayed long enough to remember what you came here for.
In the dictionary, remembering means to recall to the mind with effort – to think of again, but it also means to return to original shape or form.
Maybe this year isn’t about making drastic changes, setting elaborate goals, or overhauling our lives – maybe this year is about returning to our original form …. returning to what we already know … returning to love.
Close your eyes and think of a time when you were love. Maybe you were love as a small child with your first pet or when you gave something of value to your best childhood friend … maybe you were love when you picked flowering weeds and gave them to your mother or stuck up for your sibling … maybe you were love when you attempted to bake your first cake for your beloved or when you held a friend as she cried against your chest … maybe you were love when you bent down and gave what you had in your pocketbook to a desperate soul … maybe you were love when you crawled into a tiny bed with aching knees to shoo away a bad dream … maybe you were love when tears streaked your face, and you didn’t even know you were love because you thought you were failing.
You can feel like you’re failing and still BE LOVE.
I know this now.
As we begin a new year fresh with possibility, let’s remember what we already know …
Love prevails over failures, flaws, and disastrous days.
Love makes good things possible.
Love doesn’t have to be perfect to be felt, absorbed, and transformational.
Love is always a good place to start a new beginning.
Let’s remember that because of us, there are people walking around this earth wearing love like armor – and they didn’t ask for it. It was just given. It was just given.
Because of us.
My friends, if the start of a new year feels like pressure to change and be something you'll never be, take a deep breath and remember:
You already possess what you need to get this year off to a promising start.
You already possess what you need to create a fulfilling and memorable life for yourself and the ones who share it.
It’s in your voice when you cheer from the stands.
It’s in your fingertips when you smooth away stray hairs.
It’s in your tears when you hurt and worry and hope and pray.
It’s in your view when you choose to look forward, not back.
My friends, let’s declare this year The Year of Remembering …
Remembering the beautiful potential of who we already are
And who we can be
When we choose love as much as humanly possible.
My friends, you don’t have to change a million things.
You don’t have to undo years of damage.
You don’t have to re-invent yourself.
Because you are love, and love holds the greatest of possibilities.
This I know for sure.
And I bet your heart knows too.
Let’s remember together as we set our sights on the highest beams of the new year ahead.
Exciting Update: This post was written several years ago, but the notion of learning to trust that “my heart knows” has been the foundation of a glorious self-reclamation journey I call Soul Shift. Through the teaching I do online and in person, I’ve discovered that when people cultivate harmony within themselves, they create healing ripples outward, into families and communities. This is the premise of my fifth book that releases in March called:
SOUL SHIFT: The Weary Human’s Guide to Getting Unstuck & Reclaiming Your Path to Joy
My favorite component of the book is that it is set up like a garden exploration. It has hand-drawn illustrations and a gorgeous living map. Using those unique features – along with space to journal, doodle, color, and sketch – readers can learn to recognize emotional triggers as invitations to release limiting beliefs, build healthy connections, and expand their capacity to flourish.
Those who pre-order the book will be receiving a special gift in January, so please keep your receipt! Thank you for supporting my work, dear friends. You can pre-order from your favorite retailer. Links below:
Barnes & Noble
Premiere Collectibles (signed copy)
Barbara Lane says
Thank you so much for this wonderful article! How encouraging to realize how much we show love without even realizing it. I remember when my two girls were little, they would lay their head in my lap and I would sing to them and rub their heads. Today they are in their 40’s but when they are stressed, they often lean on me and ask me to “rub my head.” Precious moments of love!
Rachel Stafford says
Oh my goodness, that is beautiful! That would be one of my hopes for the future.
Sharon Foulke says
I was moved by your witing. I’d like to be part of your team. The form didn’t work when I clicked it.
Rachel Stafford says
Hi Sharon, can you send me an email indicating your tried to fill out the form and had difficulties? I will send it to my publisher and let them know! I bet they can help you. firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much for your support! Love, RMS
Chris Musi says
Rachel, once again you bring tears to my eyes. I feel as though we must be kindred spirits of a sort. Your words speak to what I’ve been wondering within the depths of my heart as this new year begins. And just like you, I’m finding the answers to perhaps be simpler than I originally thought: Be Love, Be Joy, Be Peace. Tall order, but worth the effort. Thank you, as always.
Laura Jane says
Rachel, as usual you’ve moved me to tears, especially this part: “You can feel like you’re failing and still BE LOVE. You can feel like you’re in the dark and still be someone’s light.” It reminds me of something I read in one of my children’s storybooks: “To somebody else, you will always be strong.” As someone who didn’t have the experience with adults that you’ve described with your mom… I have to tell you that I’ve often wondered, “Can I do this?” Without a framework, without memories of receiving that kind of love, can I give it? Some days I feel empty to give it… But your words give me not only the tools, but the strength, to give love and be love… to smile when I’m tired, to brush hair gently when I feel hurried… you know what I mean:) Thank you for the encouragement that is ALWAYS gentle enough to let us know we’re not alone in our struggles… but powerful enough to lift us up out of them. saving and sharing this one. so grateful for you, friend!
Oh Rachel – how I so appreciate your words the Lord always uses at just the right time. I just shut down all my social media accounts to give myself more mental space – to BE in relationships and more available to my family. Last night I stayed snuggled up next to our daughter much longer than my type-a mind thought I should, but my heart knew better. I’m so thankful for your always encouraging and love filled words. I can’t wait to read your new book, your leather ‘Only Love Today’ bracelet is a daily staple on my wrist. Bless you and your precious family!!
Beautiful, just beautiful. Thank you for touching my heart once again! What a blessing it is that you share your heart to help others. <3
Thank you Rachel.
‘You can feel like your failing, and still be love’
What a powerful statement, one I want to remember forever.
Melissa K says
I love, love, love this. My mom would rub my head while I layed on her lap or snuggled against her chest. I could literally feel that sensation while reading this post. Be Love! I am all in for 2017 & beyond! HUGS!!!!!
Katie Jean @pixiedustandwhiskey.com says
This was so beautiful and such great encouragement. I wrote something so similar last week and yet found I was still second guessing myself thinking I don’t know what I’m doing again. Many days my patience runs thin and I wonder how badly I’m messing up, then I have to remember that I am still showing them love. I often think of your post to take the three second pause. Sometimes that’s all it takes to have patience with a “threenager.” 😉 Thank you for your heartfelt words. I always find value in them. God bless!
Thank you!! This is beautiful written Rachel and I’ll be looking back on it when … I need to.
I don’t even know where to begin. “You can feel like you’re failing and still BE love.” I feel as if I’m failing every day. I hear my inner bully all the time and wonder how much it shaped my sons’ lives (21 & 24 now). I wonder what would’ve been had I only known “Only Love Today” when they were younger. My heart breaks so many days, re-living the “perfectionist, irritated mom” moments. I wonder if my oldest would be happier, if my youngest would be less critical, would my marriage have survived, had I only paused more. Now my bullies are guilt and regret. I wish I knew how to move past them. Thank you for your beautiful posts.
Rachel Stafford says
Dear Kim, my heart is with you this morning. I don’t know if this message will help, but I offer it to you with high hopes that today you can forgive yourself and know you were doing the best you could with what you knew at the time.
I HAVE TODAY
by Rachel Macy Stafford
I have today. Yesterday is gone. All the mistakes, failures, poor choices, and the things I wish I could do over, they are gone.
Today stands before me with arms wide open.
This hopeful truth is yours too.
You are never too far gone to come back.
You are never too tarnished to be made new.
You are never too broken to be made whole.
It’s never too late to make changes.
It’s never too late to begin again.
It’s never too late to choose love.
Today stands before us with arms wide open.
All we have to do is grasp it.
Let us be where we are now and stop looking back.