A Brand New Ending




I remember telling a friend on my 30th birthday, “I don’t regret a thing. Nothing. I have no regrets.” I was talking particularly about parenting. I can quickly think of lots of other things in life I regretted prior to turning 30, but at that point, I genuinely had no parenting regrets. Ignorance is bliss, I suppose.

That seems a lifetime ago.

Now, if someone were to pose that question, they’d better pull up a chair and plan to spend the afternoon. Now, I have a lengthy list of regrets. An “if only” list, if you will. A “How dumb could I have been” list. I do not think I am unique in this. Actually, if you have a child older than 10 and if you don’t have such a list, I invite you to contact me. I’ll pull up a chair and sit down. You can take all afternoon telling me all the things you did right and how you avoided doing something you regret.

I suppose there are those folks who look at things that aren’t such good ideas in hindsight and instead of regretting they are grateful for them. They see the lessons learned. They see the growth. They see the great potential for change. I’d like to think I do that, too. And I do. Sometimes. When it comes to my kids, though, I hate to think that my imprudence has somehow hurt them. So, while grateful for the lessons learned, I wrestle around with regret that they were learned at the expense of my children.

I try not to get stuck there. The beauty of a big family is that if a mother regrets something she did when she was young and imprudent, she might just have a chance at a redo with a younger child. The corollary is that I don’t have the luxury of doing what some of my friends are doing as they settle into an empty nest. I can’t look at the regrets, confess the mistakes, be forgiven and relax in the grace. I have more children to raise. I want to figure it out, get it right this time, perfect the process. I try to relax in the forgiveness and beg the grace for the next leg of this long journey. I long to be still and know God, but sometimes, I just keep striving and I forget that God’s got this (Ps 46:10).

A friend who understands this sense of urgency around regret and fine-tuning parenting for the benefit of the younger siblings sent me some wisdom penned by author Carl Bard. “Although no one can go back and make a brand-new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand-new ending.” He’s right, of course.

A brand-new ending? Now there’s a hopeful prospect. How? How do I write a new ending? By holding the pen and letting God be the author.

We are sinners well practiced in examining our consciences and listing our sins so that we can confess them. But then what? Are we equally well-practiced at receiving showers of grace? Or do we think that somehow in order to get God on our sides we have to be good enough, to be free of stupid mistakes? Do we fill up with self-recrimination and think as if we must merit grace?

We don’t merit grace. Ever. We don’t have to merit grace. God promises that goodness and mercy are ours. Even in the darkest shadows, He assures us, “Indeed, goodness and mercy shall pursue me all the days of my life (Ps 23:6).” He’s pursuing us with the brand-new ending. He’s chasing after us with the story that isn’t filled with regret. This ending is the one where God sees the regretful things and offers mercy. This ending is the one where He sees the dark times and offers goodness. This is the new ending. He is hunting us down with a beautifully bound book of our lives — with the brand-new story to replace the tattered regret-filled one. And this story?

It’s entitled Grace.


  1. jessica says

    Today is my 41st birthday. These were good words to read first thing this morning. Thank you. Let me start now . . .

  2. Maria says

    This is perhaps too personal, even for a blog, but would you consider sharing some of your parenting “mistakes” in a way that preserves the anonymity of your family circumstances? I take you to be one of a very short list of mother-mentors, particularly through your homeschool book. I know every family is different, but as I embark on homeschooling my growing family (4 so far and all under 4!) I am looking for the pitfalls. Of course, I can understand if that is not something you would want to discuss explicitly. Know that you are in my prayers (and I bet the prayers of others whom you do not know) during this season of your life.

  3. Mary Lou Shookhoff says

    One day I was reading the story of David and I realized what a sinner he was and then realized how much and how dearly God loved him. That was the day I realized that God DOES love sinners. I was brought up in the day of hellfire and damnation and thought I never, ever could get into heaven because I wasn’t good enough.
    So I just thumbed through the Bible and with a few exceptions (like Jezebel) kept on seeing the wonders of God’s love for sinners and knew that if I loved Him, served Him, confessed my sins, tried to do better each year of my life, and most of all pray and ask Him to help me, that with God’s love beyond anything I’ve ever expected, I will see Him one day soon.

  4. Mary says

    I could have written Maria’s comment above word for word. I would love to hear more about the tweaking of your parenting philosophy. Your words always bless. You are an authentic Titus 2woman and for that, for you, i am most grateful!

  5. Sharla says

    I “third” 2 of the other women, in being curious what you felt you were so imprudent with…though I also can understand it would be hard to write without sharing your family’s personal struggles too much. I just gain so much from you, and as my oldest is 10, I already have lots of regrets, but try to consult so many of the parenting books you mention – so am curious about their pitfalls, maybe, not so much yours.

  6. Kimberly says

    + Yes, what others have said…my oldest is 10, I have many regrets already, but we also have many years left to parent, and hopefully more souls will be given us too. I would be very grateful for your thoughts on what you regret, even just in general, without specific details? or what changes you hope to make in the future with your next bunch? Thank you for your openness. God bless you!

  7. Kim F. says

    I too have regrets. We have 9 kids as well and my oldest is 20. I have the most regrets for how things have gone for her. Though as I ponder God’s mercy and grace I slowly realize that He is also writing the story of my children’s lives. He uses everything and I know He can use my mistakes for their good. Hopefully they will take the bad of my parenting and improve upon it for the good of their children. It is a process and thankfully He is still writing my story and a many more chances to improve for the younger generation in my family. I thank God that the story He writes of your life Elizabeth is one that we can follow and learn from and marvel at! You are truly an amazing wife, mother and woman of God and I thank God for your writings. I still hope to meet you in person some day! Peace

  8. says

    OH my goodness me, thankyou for this post. Our eldest is nearly 17 and the last few years have been… challenging. I’m convinced that I must have made all SORTS of awful mistakes in his past in order to end up here. *sigh*
    I really hope that writing of a ‘parenting teenagers’ book is in your future!

  9. Sonja says

    Oh how I can relate to the feeling of trying to make it right for the younger siblings. Once my oldest (at 16) said to me, “Gee, that’s not how it was for us, Mom!” in a very accusatory tone. I replied, “I certainly hope, Maria, that after 16 years of parenting I have learned something.” The look on her face was priceless. She really took it to heart it seemed and much less often after that blamed me for my shortcomings. I pray daily that God will mitigate my mistakes along the way for each child. I have to trust with a childlike confidence that God will use my shortcomings for a greater good. I firmly believe that when our children witness us trying to better ourselves, to grow in virtue, to weed out vice, it is not only an example to them but also an admittance that we don’t have it all right and that we are doing our best.

  10. kelli says

    I can relate to your pain as the oldest grandchild… I was the first of the grandchildren, and my oldest is the only great-grandchild that really got to know my grandfather as I knew him. My second son was born 7 years later and although he met my grandfather, due to cancer and age, they did not have the same playful and witty relationship that my oldest has or that I had. My youngest two (and hopefully more) and the rest of the great-grands will never meet him on earth. I feel very fortunate that my daughter has seen the face of her greatest angel, and she passes the stories (and card game rules) along to the younger ones. Heartbreaking for me, but nothing but net for them! We pray for the repose of his soul, and the sweet healing for your family. God Bless you! Oh and the sewing… a modern maples from the scraps of this years projects. Oh how my grandfather loved my wonky and scrappy quilts :)

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