One would have to be super bitter to create a license plate about relationship woes.

I saw it on my drive to school. The license plate itself was personalized to say Nevr Agn and the surrounding plate holder said, “I love being single”.

I pulled up to see a man driving with a scowl on his face. 

Well then. Working for you?

The other night I held one of my girls as she cried over a broken relationship. She just didn’t understand why things had gone south.

Her heart was broken.


It’s enough to make one turn into a turtle, tuck inside a hard shell and avoid relationships altogether.

Nevr Agn.

Why bother when there’s so much potential for pain?

We want it. We want love. We want affirmation. We want to be seen and known and appreciated just as we are. But the risk is so great.

We risk with a spouse, choosing one soul to love for all our days. That soul morphs and changes and becomes. That human goes through loss and frustration and anger and sorrow. And sometimes they leave. And we can’t hold on.

We risk with our children. As they come into our world, so dependent on our care. They grow and mature and spread their wings and sometimes those wings slap us in the face as they fly solo. Their teenage angst and independence and passion rails against our protective covering. And it hurts.

We risk in friendship. We tentatively invest our hearts, reach and encourage. Sometimes bearing fruit in the most beautiful connections, sometimes standing with egg on our face, feeling foolish for having opened our hearts one more time.

We risk.

Sometimes the risk is so big and the pain so deep that we end up like the man and his license plate. Never again, we think.

But in that, we lose.

Because sometimes, oftentimes, the greater the risk, the deeper and sweeter the reward.

I was taking pictures of Wilna for prom. She and all her beautiful friends. We’d had some harder discussions the week prior – conversations every teen parent understands. The push and pull of dependence and independence. The longing for freedom and the grounding of responsibility. The letting go and holding on and the everything in between.

And then the moment. The moment when my 18-year-old paused in the midst of the friends and pics and laughter to ask if we could take a picture together. And the leaning in and the holding close for a moment of authentic love and appreciation. That moment is carved into my memory. She loves me, I thought. And I felt it.

The moments. That’s what make it all worth it. The inside jokes of a long time friendship where they choose to stay in the mess because they can’t imagine life without the other. The cherished memories of a couple built on shared tears and joys, the relationship that pushes through offenses to find a place of solid comfort and steadiness. The drawing in of a teen who for a moment remembers how deeply they’re loved, and loves back.

Those moments make it all worth it in the end.

The deeper the risk, the sweeter the reward.

And so, we risk.

8 Responses

  1. Thank you, Ms. Elsa for this email. I so needed to hear this. I recently after 10 years found someone and risked it. after 4 months it started to go sour and it has been there since. The pain was like I had not felt in forever and really beat myself up about. Its been a struggle and it is going on a year with the back and forth. I have ask for signs and they are there but my heart ignores then back to the pain. I turned 60 this year and have been feeling like the sign on the man’s license plate. After reading you email I going to let go and take another risk in due time. I deserve that I know it is in the cards for me.

    1. Oh friend, so heartbreaking! Yes, sometimes the risks bring so much pain it’s hard to imagine trying again. But there are good people out there, great relationships in the waiting as we risk (and of course, some not so great – as you discovered as well). Praying for your hurting heart!

  2. Okay – again this was the perfect message for a few in my DC class that ended last week, some of whom will return for the next session on Sunday. So I asked before if I could pass you message on – of course you said yes! But I ask again because it’s the right thing to do. We all just love “real and sometimes goofy” you. 🙂

  3. I absolutely love this, and your precious picture with Wilma could NOT be more adorable!!!

  4. T

    The picture says it all – two beautiful women in a warm embrace !!!
    I love you both so much !!!!!!
    Nana Nat

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