Guest Post: Learning from Julia

Witty Women Who Write: Jen Pollack Michel

Wit: /wit/ noun – a person who has an aptitude for using words and ideas in a quick and inventive way

staff_jenWhen I began thinking about Wit’s End, one of my hopes was to create a place to share the wisdom and words of other women. To do so, I’ve asked a variety of authors whose blogs and books I enjoy reading to share an article for Wit’s End. Today’s article is from my friend, Jen Pollack Michel. She’s the author of Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, as well as being a wife and mom of five. I encourage you to visit her website to read more and enjoy Jen’s ability to blend Biblical wisdom with beautiful writing.

Learning From Julia

I came late to my admiration of Julia Child. Nevertheless, when we moved to Toronto in 2011 and enrolled our children in a French immersion school, I renewed my love for all things French. It seemed appropriate to finally read Child’s autobiography, My Life in France.

Reading the book, it’s easy to realize that Julia was exceptional for her time. She stood a rare six feet two inches. But her stature was not all that was extraordinary about her. She was intensely curious. She was disarmingly friendly. Whether she was learning to speak French or poach a fish, she resisted the impulse to self-consciousness. She gave herself permission to try, to fail, and always to try again. I quickly grew to admire that courage in her.

It cost Julia Child $450 to enroll at the Cordon Bleu. As her husband’s salary as an American diplomat was by no means extravagant, committing themselves to the expense of enrolling at the best of all French culinary schools made little sense. There was no crystal ball to consult and reassure, that yes, the money would be well-spent, that her efforts would be hardly wasted, that there were published cookbooks in her future along with a television show. She had no real certainty that her idea was better than hair-brained.

But it was a love for cooking that fueled Julia Child’s motivation to learn, to practice, and to devote herself so entirely to its mastery. It was the sheer pleasure in the tastes and textures of food and the delight in creating the simply perfect meal.

In France, in the kitchen, Julia Child found her pulse. Her love for cooking energized her, invigorated her. Even at the age of 90 at which time she collaborated with her nephew for the writing of My Life in France, she spoke of how the work of writing the book had vitalized her.

I do not know anything about Julia’s religious commitments, but her experience as a human teaches me something about the benefits of risk. What good does it do me to hobble through life, crippled by fears and uncertainties? In fact, if I want the evidence that the gospel is taking root in my life and that I’m living into the way of Jesus, it will be how utterly fearless I am. “Perfect love casts out fear,” the Apostle John writes, reminding us of the courage granted to the people of God. Having Jesus as our advocate, brother and friend, what can be feared?

Failure? Disapproval? Loss?

I’m learning to pay attention to my fears and desires. I’m also learning to lean into my God-inspired risks. All the while, I’m driving deeper into knowing that, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  (Romans 8:31)


Jen Pollock Michel is a writer and speaker who lives with her husband and five children in Toronto. She is the author of Teach us to Want: Longing, Ambition and the Life of Faith, Christianity Today’s 2015 Book of the Year (InterVarsity Press). Jen also writes regularly for Today in the Word, a devotional published by The Moody Bible Institute, and is a regular contributor for Christianity Today’s popular Her.meneutics blog. Jen earned her BA in French from Wheaton College and her MA in Literature from Northwestern University. You can follow Jen on Twitter @jenpmichel or you can find her at