January 8, 2021

Parenting Is the Riskiest Thing I’ve Ever Done


I am not a risk-taker.

The worst that can happen—as in, "what’s the worst that...?"—is usually far too "worst" for me.

This is the same reason I can’t sell ANYTHING. My husband, a natural salesman like his father before him, says, "My dad always said, 'The worst someone can say is 'no.''" To which I always reply, "EXACTLY! They might say no! I’d rather just not ask in the first place." I honestly can’t think of a possible "yes" that’s worth the risk of a "no."

Yet here I am, 22 contiguous years into parenting, and it’s easily the riskiest thing I’ve ever done.

Honestly, I think it’s the riskiest thing any parent who’s in it for the long haul and for the highest good of their children ever does.

No one tells you this, of course. Baby shower and new baby cards don’t say, "Congratulations! You have just leapt off the highest cliff of your life!" They say things about new hands to hold and a new heart to love. Both of which, bless the day, are true!

But it’s a chancy truth.

Love is always a risk. We risk our hearts. We risk our comfort. We risk our convenience. But often we make this investment with some reassurance that love will be returned. We get married and enter into a covenant...a promise that goes both ways. Or we love a friend who, at least to begin with, seems to love us back.

But parenting is a chance we take without any prior agreement from one of the major parties involved. Our children can rightly tell us, “I didn’t ask to be born!” (And many children across the ages have availed themselves of this claim.)

Signing on voluntarily to love the children we bring into the world is in a risk class all its own. It reminds me of what Mary Steenburgen’s character tells Steve Martin’s character in the movie Parenthood: "What do you want? Guarantees? These are kids, not appliances."

We risk our children not loving us. We risk them not liking us. We risk them breaking our hearts. We risk them leaving us.

We risk pain where they are concerned that is none of their own doing and also pain that is.

We take this edgy chance partly because we don’t know what we’re getting into (ignorance being if not bliss then at least emboldening).

We also take it because we suspect there are joys to be had in this uncertain game we won’t find by playing it safe.

But mostly we take it because we trust it will be worth it.

Worth it in the most life-changing, life-bettering ways.

Worth it when they learn something new we’ve taught them.

Worth it when they learn something new we didn’t teach them.

Worth it when they teach us something we needed to learn but couldn’t have learned any other way.

Worth it when we fight and win battles together.

Worth it when we get to watch them do something that lights them up.

Worth it when they make the world a better place.

Worth it when they do something only they can do.

Worth it when they’re loved enough to leave us when they can.

Worth it when they love us enough to come back when they can.

Worth it when they fill up a space in our hearts we didn't know was waiting for anything.

I know there are parents who wish with all their broken hearts they hadn’t taken this risk. I can only try to start to imagine all the reasons this might be true. How I hope these parents will be surprised in the near future by joys they can’t begin to imagine in the present.

But for me—and I do not take this one bit for granted—becoming a parent is without question the biggest chance I’ve ever taken that I’d absolutely, without a doubt, take all over again.

December 5, 2020

How To Have Yourself a Mary and Martha Little Christmas


I’m trying to be more like Mary this Christmas.

No, not that Mary. The other one. The one who’s always portrayed as the A+ student to Martha’s “needs improvement” whenever the Biblical story of Jesus at Mary and Martha’s house is told.

(Briefly, based on Luke 10: Jesus was hanging out at his friends’ house. Mary parked herself at His feet and gave Him her rapt attention. Martha, meanwhile, ran around trying to cook for everyone, including Jesus. She started whining to the Man Himself about how her sister needed to get up off the floor already and help her out. Jesus said [paraphrasing here], “My dear Martha, you’re all worked up trying to do things your way. But Mary has picked the better way.”)

I’m on the record as a longtime member of the Martha Defense Council. I’ve been a guest in houses where no one was on Martha duty, and frankly, I’ve been hungry. But I think both Mary and Martha have some pointers to pass along where this present Christmas is concerned.

Use the paper plates, for instance.

The thing is, Martha wasn’t doing a bad thing; she just wasn’t doing the better thing.

Wow, would it ever be a whole lot easier to ace this test if the choice of how to spend our time came down to good versus bad. The trick is that it’s usually a choice between good and better.

It’s not like Martha was in the back room gossiping with her BFF while she ignored her honored Guest; she was trying to show love and care. She was trying to meet needs. She was trying to serve well. (Sounds like most moms I know.)

I think Martha was doing what I tend to do, especially at Christmas: I run around like a crazy person doing things that can be done anytime or another time and miss what can only be done in this time.

Martha could always cook a meal, but she couldn’t always sit at Jesus’ feet. I can always do dishes, but I can’t always sit on the couch with my big kids and look at the Christmas lights. I can always—another year—put the greenery garland I like but don’t love on my front railings, but I can’t always decorate the Christmas tree with the teenager I both like and love.

So I’ll be keeping Martha close at hand to keep me on track while I try to be a little more like Mary this Christmas. While I leave the real dishes in the cupboard and use the paper plates for family pizza night with my whole present-and-accounted-for family. While I leave the front railings plain and decorate cookies with my big kids.

While I put good on the back burner good and sit at the feet of better.

November 25, 2020

Known By His Names


Two years, five days, and about eight hours ago, I shared a post on this blog introducing a 365-day series on the names of God. I thought it would be fun to wake up every morning for a year to a name, title, attribute, or role of the Great I AM (which, by the way, was Day 5).

I knew there was a 365-names-of-God song, so I figured if someone could sing about them, I could write about them.

I imagine God got quite a laugh out of that, but, true to His graceful, provisional nature, He faithfully provided a year’s worth of entries about Himself.

Now, I am so grateful to let you know that the book version of this series, which my mama “suggested” I write starting on about Day 2, is finished in self-published fashion and available on Amazon as Known By His Names: A 365-Day Journey From The Beginning to The Amen.

I came to regard writing the original series as a manna in the wilderness experience: save for a couple weeks when I was away with my family, God never let me get more than a day or so ahead on His names, and so they joined the journey in no particular Biblical order. 

But once I had a stack of 365 pages of individual names to guide me, I was able to order them more or less following the path of Scripture...from The Beginning in Genesis to The Amen in Revelation. In the book, they are headed by day (Day 1-Day 365) but not by calendar date, so the journey can be started on any day of any year. Each day is intended as its own entity, but the days also feed off each other so that the reader can start with Day 1 and continue along in order...by Day 365 (however long it takes to get there!), I am trusting a tapestry will have emerged, woven together by the thread of God’s names.

To back up the book, I gave it its own page here, including an A-Z names of God bookmark that can be printed of, as well as a list-in-progress of links to all the original posts as they first appeared on this blog but in the order they appear in the book.

In all this, my prayer remains the same as it was on Day 1 of those first 365: that God’s great names might be known and praised forever.

He is the Beginning. He is the Amen. And He is everything we need Him to be—and infinitely more—for every breath of every day in between.

For His great name’s sake,

Elizabeth