On choice


One of my ambitions is to never say No to an opportunity because I am afraid.

I do not live this perfectly, and the doors I remember shutting in fear still haunt me.

A week or two ago I got a call asking if I would talk to a Mormon lady from Utah, who’s in the area interviewing Mennonite women about motherhood.

My heart leaped at the chance, and I knew at once the only reason I’d say no was because I was nervous. Talking to a stranger? Talking about my motherhood, no less? All my insecurities rise to the surface. Oh Lord…


I love talking to Mormons, but they’re not created equal. Some have a personal relationship with Jesus, some do not (ditto Mennonites). With this unknown lady, I didn’t know what to expect. Would we get into theology or let our differences rest?

I am too prone to placing stock in first impressions, but the minute Karen walked in my door, I knew she loved Jesus. You don’t get a face like that at 50 without walking with Him a lot of years.

She is a mother of five grown children, one step away from a Master’s degree at Brigham Young University, and doing a project on women of faith as mothers; how faith affects “motherwork.”

She asked many questions, among them my long term goals and short term goals for raising my children. I said many things, then talked about wanting my kids to love the Lord, talked about experiencing the panicky frustration of being unable to guarantee this result, talking about fear of them walking away at the end, talked about trying to let the fear go.

After we were off the record, she told me a bit of her own story. Early in marriage, her husband asked her “What’s your goal for parenthood?”

She said, “WELL! Someday I want to stand before the Lord with all my children…”

“Well, that’s a stupid goal,” he said. She was shocked. This faithful man…?

Karen looked deep into my eyes, and her words were straight and gentle. “When your goals in life are dependent on someone else’s choices, you are setting yourself up for failure.”

Her new goal became to give her children so much of Jesus that loving Him would be a natural choice. And she succeeded.

She now has one son who is uncertain of the existence of Jesus Christ. As she told me this, she choked a little on the words, and her eyes were damp.  “It hurts like crazy,” she said. “But it’s a different kind of hurt than if I had not taught him. I saw him shed tender tears as a child. I know he knew Jesus once, even if he’s chosen not to know him right now.”

She said teach your children of Jesus. Love them. Train them. Mother them well–that’s your goal. But let them choose. God always respects our agency. It’s Satan who robs us of choice, steals our volition.

It is ironic, isn’t it, that the opportunities we take on for the sake of other people usually end up heaping treasure in our own hands? Karen’s words are a gift I will keep always.

Say yes to the opportunities that come…

“When your goal is dependent on someone else’s choices, you are setting yourself up for failure.”

What do you think?

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12 years ago

not failure but disappointment. If she mothered well, and sounds like she did – she was not a failure, even though she has been greatly disappointed.
in other areas of life, i’m not sure.

12 years ago
Reply to  Shari Zook

I understood your post to say that she was successful. 🙂

12 years ago


What’s the thing with skipping a day? Were you waiting on tech support?

Hard to get good help these days, ain’t it.

Well. Do what you can.

Suzanna Weaver
12 years ago

I keep coming back to this post — it sends chills thro me everythime I think of that “WELL! Someday I want to stand before the Lord with all my children…” it’s the goal of every christian parent — sometimes we just need to put it in perspective i a different way. We stive for this daily but this was just so blunt and to the point it really stood out to me.

I meant to say exactly what Rosanna said — but you both covered my thots well so enough said.

…and I hope you don’t mind…I’ve used this your blog/testimony etc of this mother in several conversations over the past few days, even shared a few sentences on facebook. It just really stood out ot me. Thanks for sharing it with me!

12 years ago

Oh, this made me cry. What this mother did is my heart’s goal…but the tears? Well, because I’ve been thinking about how heart-rending it would be to see my child walk away from God when I long with every part of me for each of them to love Him. I want to meet their choices in adulthood with the knowledge that I have parented the best I could by leaning hard on God’s grace. I long to be freed from the sense that their choices determine if I was “successful” or not. Still, to have given all my life and heart to these precious children and watch them walk away from Truth? Oh, it would be painful.

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