#TellHisStory: When Love is a Risk

June 2, 2015 | 36 comments

There’s no such thing as risk-free love.

The risk of love is loss. The risk of love is having your heart broken. The more your heart enlarges for the ones you love, the harder the break when you lose it.

But there is an even greater risk than love. It’s deciding not to love at all.

I knew it for sure when I watched my daughter one summer day, with her chin resting on the farm gate. Inside the pen, a veterinarian held a stethoscope to the heart of her sick calf.

The vet was listening for heartbeats per second. But me? I was trying to hear my girl’s heart. The risk of love had found its way to her heart’s doorstep.

When the veterinarian gave the calf a shot with a long needle, Lydia’s hands gripped the gate. She winced, the same way I winced when she had her first immunizations as a baby. My grown-up girl looked down the gate at me, eyes wide and pooling as her baby calf fought and groaned.

Love stings. 

“Is she going to be ok, Mom?” she whispered. “She isn’t going to die, is she?”

Lydia was the one who knew first that her calf was sick. She had told me earlier that day, as we bottle-fed, that something wasn’t right. Sherbet the Calf had backed away from a bottle of milk.

“Come on, Sherbs,” she cajoled, waving that gigantic bottle in front of a young calf’s face. “Come on. Drink!”

“See?” she turned to me, with wild, searching eyes. “It’s just not right!”

Moms know these things about their babies — even adoptive moms of calves.

Hours later, the vet pulled onto the yard in a pickup. Lydia shot out the back door with determination in every step. The vet carried a stethoscope, a thermometer and a portable pharmacy. And Lydia — carrying her worry — ran down the hill alongside him. She ran hard after love.

I watched her from a distance. I tried not to stand between her and this calamitous love that needed to have its way with her heart.

farm girl at gate

I held back advice. Lydia answered the vet’s questions, not me. I watched her stand tall, looking that vet straight in the eye when he confirmed her fears: Sherbet was sick. Probably pneumonia. She would need to do the hard work of nursing her calf to health, but there were no guarantees. Lydia nodded her head, straightened her shoulders, determined.

With love there are never any guarantees. Love can be erratic, like it might drop straight out of the bottom of your heart. You’re effervescent with joy one day, and worried sick the next. In one skinny minute, everything can fall apart.

Yeah, love is risky.

But in the end, our biggest regrets will be the chances we didn’t take. When we are on our death beds, we won’t wish that we’d made more money, or spent more time at the office.

We will have wished that we loved when we had the chance.

They’ll know us by our love. They’ll remember us for the risks we took.

As mothers and daughters and uncles and cousins and wives, we have to love when it’s ugly.

We love … even when we know love might fade or might break out heart. Or might get a fever — or cancer. We love, even if our love stays out past curfew. We know that love might run out the door, but we love anyway. We know that love might break the rules, or break the glass, or spill the milk (or spill the beans). But we love anyway. Because that’s what we were made for: love.

Love is a risk, but in the end, love prevails.

When all is said and done, how we loved is how we’ll be remembered.

It all boils down to this. God is Love. And we know that Love died for messy, erratic us. In this unfathomable mystery called Gospel, we must have been worth every calamitous risk. Or it simply wouldn’t have happened.  

That’s what the cross is — an act of courageous, risky, incomparable love. Jesus took the risk. He loved us with His whole life, even though there was a 100 percent guarantee that we would break His heart, again and again. Even though there was a certainty that we would walk out on him, run away from him, live like we don’t know him.

Jesus loved us when we were hard to love.

And that’s what we’re called to do, too. We’re called to love when it’s hard.

I watched my daughter on that summer day, from my side of the gate, knowing that love will get riskier as the years stretch on. She could turn away. She could choose to let someone else do the hard work of loving unto heartbreak, unto broken promises, unto the diagnosis, unto death. But she’ll have to decide whether love is worth the risk.

On that day, she chose love. I knew it for sure, because instead of turning her back on a very sick calf, she reached a hand through the gate to run her fingers along its back.

This is someone she loved. This is someone who was worth the risk.


Hey Tell His Story crew! It’s always a joy to gather here every week. The linkup goes lives each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great. And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Author and accomplished speaker Kim Hyland is our latest featured writer. Her words are so soothing. Find Kim here. To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂 )

xo Jennifer


by | June 2, 2015 | 36 comments


  1. Beth

    Oh, dear friend, I needed this today. On this day when someone I have loved celebrates a birthday. This someone who has chosen she no longer wants to be a part of our family. And it just hurts because I loved her so why? We loved her so why?

    But, “We love … even when we know love might fade or might break our heart.”

    I keep reminding myself that love is ALWAYS the right choice.

    Thank you for this.

    • dukeslee

      I’m so glad these words could serve your beautiful heart today, Beth. What you’re dealing with is so, so, so hard. I’m so sorry, friend.

  2. Christine Duncan

    This was so beautiful, Jennifer. And the Savior wants us to love as He loves… with abandon. Even when the cost is high. He is the greatest example. Even more powerful when it’s the next generation living it for real in the daily stuff.
    Going forward in love today… 🙂

  3. Katie Reid

    Beautiful reflections Jennifer. I also like the newer font look on your images and such- love-ly. 🙂

    • dukeslee

      Thanks Katie! I love the new fonts, too. You’ve got a good eye! I bought the fonts at a really good price, so I could have my own look. And I just love the fonts I found!

  4. Betsy Cruz

    This is good encouragement to love to the fullest, even when our hearts break. (My sweet daughter is caring for Robin, our 6 year guinea pig with a LARGE tumor on his side. We’ve been to the vet several times…) But oh yes, we have to love guinea pigs, and calves, and MOST OF ALL PEOPLE, even when it’s hard.

    • dukeslee

      Your daughter is learning these lessons in a powerful way, I’m sure. Thanks, Betsy, for sharing. Praying for your sweet daughter.

  5. Kristi Woods

    Love…even when it’s hard. It’s not always easy to love, is it? Golly, my heart pitter-pattered a bit for that sweet girl of yours and the lesson she taught all of us. What a lesson! We had lambs when I was a youngster. Oddly, the livestock can take a space in our hearts we didn’t even know existed. It sounds as though your daughter has experienced that first-hand. Thanking God that she and we can love even when it’s not easy.

    • dukeslee

      I’ve been astounded at the life and faith lessons since living on the farm. And sheep? Yes, please. We had sheep a couple of years ago. I adored them! We are getting some goats next week, just in time for the fair. 🙂

  6. Anita

    Ah, I’ve been thinking about messy and hard love a lot lately. Mostly in how it’s so easy to love people as long as they AREN’T messy and hard. I’m good at the ‘I forgive you” statements to those who have wronged me, but not so good and jumping in a loving those who have wronged me.

    • dukeslee

      And it’s hard to draw the line between loving, and being taken advantage of, you know? Still trying to sort that one out in my mind.

  7. Christi Gee

    I love this. No guarantees. Life is messy. People are messy. Do it anyway (to paraphrase Mother Theresa).
    Thanks for the sweet insight into your daughter’s heart and thank her for us for letting you tell her story!

    • dukeslee

      Love the Mother Teresa paraphrase, Christi. Thanks for that. And I’ll pass the “thanks” on to Lydia!

  8. Janet

    Ah…daughters. And messy love. And stepping back, biting your lip to keep from taking over. Beautifully said, wonderfully written. “It all boils down to this. God is Love. And we know that Love died for messy, erratic us. In this unfathomable mystery called Gospel, we must have been worth every calamitous risk. Or it simply wouldn’t have happened.” Amazing Grace!

    • dukeslee

      Amazing, indeed. His grace still amazes me, Janet. Thanks for being here.

  9. Mary

    Love is hard but I want to be remembered for how I loved. Taking risks when it comes to love is something I am now hesitant about, but with God and the risk He took for me-who knows? I love the silent lesson that your daughter, Lydia learned because as a mom you knew it was okay to let the lesson come through the experience of real life. Blessings my friend!

    • dukeslee

      God’s love for us is crazy. It just is, you know? Blessings to you, too, dear Mary.

  10. Bev @ Walking Well With God

    I needed this…just at this moment. “How we loved is how we’ll be remembered.” My fuse has been running short all day with all the interruptions that have fallen between me and my task of finishing my ever lovin’ “to do” list. The interruptions were by people who needed my love…right then…and I felt myself getting impatient. Your post hit me smack between the eyes. Loving well needed to be at the top of my “to do” list. In the scheme of leaving a legacy of love the other things really didn’t matter. They were just more “to do’s”. Thank you for the wake up call!!
    Bev xx

    • dukeslee

      I understand exactly what you’re saying. I can be such a task-master, and I know that sometimes, there’s carnage … and the carnage is the people I love, and the people I’m called to love. Sending you love and prayers tonight, Bev.

  11. Tara Ulrich

    Jennifer, tears streamed down my face as I read your post. I don’t know if I have told you this before but I have been praying about foster care and/or adoption. I have felt God leading me in one direction, but I also have felt fear creep in. Your words today remind me that love is always worth the risk! Thank you for reminding me that sometimes you have to be brave and take the chance worth risking. I don’t want to look back on my life and say, “I wish I would have loved more.” I truly do have so much love to give and there are so many in need of that love. Your daughter reminds me of the beauty of loving and risking that love for! Thanks friend!

    • dukeslee

      Tara, I am so touched that God would intersect my words with your heart. Please know that I’m praying, right now, that God would guide you and lead you. And that we would both risk love, even when it looks hard. Love to you tonight, Tara.

  12. Cheryl Smith

    I hope and trust there was a good outcome for that little calf. Bless your daughter’s heart, I hope she was rewarded for her love by seeing it come back to good health. 🙂

  13. Mindy Whipple

    Such a touching post. Seeing a lot of non-love coming across my Facebook feed today. Jesus loved the hard to love sinners: the tax collector, the prostitute, and more. He paid the ultimate price because he loved all us sinners and that love leads us to repentance. He took the risk because we were worth it – what an example for us to follow…Much love to you Jennifer for sharing your heart and touching mine.

  14. JViola79

    Jennifer, just the other day I wrote to someone that there is nothing as painful nor as joyful as love. It is so worth the risk. Loved this post!

  15. June

    The hard work of loving – your daughter’s tender heart is a beautiful example, Jennifer. I hope the story had a happy ending 🙂

  16. Trudy Den Hoed

    I love this story, Jennifer, and its comparison to how Jesus took the risk to love us even though He knew we’d break His heart again and again. I hope your daughter’s calf lived!

  17. Jennifer Camp

    Jennifer, I needed this today. A neighbor who is dear to me is not well. Thank you, so much, for your encouragement.

  18. Sharon

    This story just tug at my own heart strings. Yes, love is a risk. I just wrote my blog post for next week, and I talked a bit about that very same idea. God especially really took a risk when He loved us, and yet gave us the ability to turn our backs on Him. But love isn’t truly love unless it’s given freely.

    Would love to know what happened to the calf – hopefully it was a good outcome.


  19. Nancy Ruegg

    Jennifer, thank you for the booster shot of resolve to keep loving on the people around us–even when it’s inconvenient, exhausting, rebuffed, unappreciated, risky, or hard. “Amen” also to your statement that we’ll never regret the loving we’ve done. Such an important thought to keep front and center during busy days!

  20. Martha Orlando

    Your daughter’s choice reflects entirely the way she has been raised, Jennifer. Love is the essence of lives because God first loved us. You’ve taught her that. You’ve shown her that. May her heart never stop loving others as much if not more than she loves herself. Blessings!

  21. s.rae

    mmm. good word!

  22. Elizabeth Stewart

    So beautiful and so true. Love is risk and vulnerability.

  23. Mary Hill

    I hope her calf was okay in the end. Thanks for sharing this sweet story.

  24. Susan Burfoot Mead

    Oh! Great love also experiences the greatest hurts and losses. Better to have loved…

    I can SEE her and FEEL her through your words, Jennifer.

  25. Renee Kinlaw

    Loved it. I could feel her pain and yours. Thanks so much for sharing. Beautiful tribute to God and your daughter.



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