Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Tuesday 19th April 2016

if you’re feeling irrelevant – #TellHisStory

Sometimes, I think I’ll run out.

Run out of something to say here. Run out of hours. Run out of life. Of energy. Of purpose. Of time.

Run out of being relevant anymore.

The other night, at Bible study, our leader asked the question: “What are you most afraid of?”

He gave us choices. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. I don’t remember the other choices. That’s because there was one sentence beating a drum inside my brain:

I am afraid of becoming irrelevant.

I don’t like to admit this to you. I don’t obsess or ruminate on it, but last week, that fear came up an alarming three times, so it seems worth mentioning and exploring. Sometimes, I have to listen to my fears a little, to see what they’re saying – to better understand what wrong things I’m believing about my purpose and identity.

The first time I felt the fear: My Dad asked me last week how I keep coming up with ideas for my blog, and for books, and my talks. On the inside, I felt panicky, wondering if the well will run dry someday soon. I’ve been writing on this blog for nearly eight years. What else can I say? I sometimes ask myself the same questions other bloggers, writers, and communicators ask: Haven’t I already said this before? Are they tired of hearing this stuff? Isn’t someone else saying it better? Am I still relevant?

The second time I felt the fear: On Sunday, when the Bible study leader asked the question. I stayed quiet. Only now am I sharing.

The third time I felt the fear: Yesterday, as I was finishing up my manuscript for The Happiness Dare. I was reading “ galleys” — generally an author’s last chance to make any changes to a book.


As I read the closing paragraphs of the book, I began to cry a little. I can’t begin to describe to you how fun it was to write that book, but there were really hard parts of the story that we had to live – in real-time – as our family fought for happiness. (Sometimes happiness has a real warrior quality to it, you know?)

Anyway, as I read that book one last time, I thought to myself, “What more can I say after this book is out there? What if this book is it? What if, after this one, I’m not relevant anymore?”

But this whole “irrelevance” thing is more than books and blogs. It’s my babies, too. God entrusted us with two beautiful girls, and they are growing up so fast. Already they don’t need me like they used to. Yeah, they need me, but in a different way.

So that’s been the fear inside of me lately, this awful fear of becoming irrelevant, of having nothing to offer anymore. It’s not always rational, but it’s a real fear.

But then something happened yesterday afternoon, to set my mind right again. My sister, Juliann, sent me a photograph. It was Dad, learning to walk again.

Six weeks ago, Dad had his leg partially amputated, after months of pain, infection and declining mobility. If anyone has exhibited the warrior quality of happiness, it’s my dad.

Look at the determination on his face. He’s about to get after it. I could just cry when I look at this picture.


This was a new beginning, the first day of the rest of his life.

Looking at the photo, I am in awe. Dad is doing something that he hasn’t done for nearly two years. He is walking upright. Without pain. One foot in front of the other.

In that moment when I first saw the photo, I thought of a hundred ways that Dad could have given up. He could have said this:

“I’ve run out of strength.”

“I’ve run out of ambition.”

“I’ve run out of purpose.”

“I’ve run out of relevance.”

But Dad never once said any of those things.

Even when he couldn’t walk, he was still running his race. 

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

I don’t know where you’re at today, friend. Maybe you fear irrelevance too. Maybe you feel purposeless. Maybe life feels tedious and tiring, like you’re spinning your wheels at the office, in your marriage, on your blog, with your kids, in that relationship that has been super-hard. Maybe you fear that your words, your influence, your guidance, your wisdom don’t matter much anymore.

Don’t give up. You haven’t “run out.”

If you’re feeling weak, He is your strength.

If you’re feeling purposeless, He is your purpose.

If you’re feeling irrelevant, He is your relevance.

This is the lesson I’m learning from Dad. Even when I am down, I am not defeated. Every day is a new day to believe it again:

This is the first day of the rest of your life.

Come on now, let’s live it!

Dad, making friends with his new leg. :)

Dad, making friends with his new leg. 🙂




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Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live 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! Our featured writer this week is Jen. We all fall sometimes, and Jen’s practical advice – and encouragement – for a spiritual fall? I love it. Find Jen 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

  • sandraj

    I love this post and this reminder to “run with persevere in the race marked out for us”. Sometimes I feel like I’m in the wrong race or would prefer a different one, but, my calling is to run my marked out race with faithful perseverance. God provides the relevance and the purpose, my work is to keep stepping. Blessings!

    • “Sometimes I feel like I’m in the wrong race”– yes! This!

    • I totally relate to that, Sandra. “God provides the relevant and the purpose, my work is to keep stepping.”

  • Liz

    Love that smile on your Dad’s face as he clutches his new leg! You are a wonderful encourager and your words recorded in books and on your blog will live on beyond your years and even after you are gone they will ring in the ears of your children. Praying perseverance and Holy Inspiration for all your days!

    • Thank you for you encouragement, Liz. Means so much to me.

  • Meghan Weyerbacher

    I have definitely felt this way on some days. But so thankful His word is rooted deep and reminds me of the truth which is that no matter what the world thinks of me (us!) we are loved and important to HIM! I teared up reading about your dad and seeing his progress! Oh, how I love that line where you said “Each day is a new day to believe it again.” It is so true. And to end with him hugging his leg speaks volumes. To come to terms with, or be thankful for something some would see as a set back…to see it as a blessing instead. The perspective is awesome. Love you, Jennifer and I pray you know you ARE relevant and that we women need you and your heart’s words! They matter. And PS: who cares if they are repeated because we are like the stubborn Israelite’s who NEED to be repeated to bahaahaa!!!!

    • Great point about the Israelites, Meghan. I needed that.

  • Your dad’s smile!! I mean really, how many of us would have a huge smile on our face while we carry around our leg??!! That is just a glorious testament to the goodness of God! And yes, I too wonder when the well will run dry and Jenn, my well is way more shallow than yours. I suppose as long as God allows us to keep climbing the hill to His glory, we’ll have stuff to say along the way. So, so glad you haven’t stopped sharing your thoughts with us – they make me smile that smile your dad is wearing. xo

    • Thank you, Tiffany. I’m so proud of my Dad.

  • Cheryl Burroughs-Zueger

    How timely! How relevant!! This was so what I needed to hear today!! A gentle nudge, a sweet reminder to stay the course! Fears such as these are so paralyzing if we lose our focus. Peter was great walking on water as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. Thank you, Jennifer! Your words are such a blessing. And your precious Dad….he is such an inspiration to all of us!

    • Great reminder, about Peter. Thanks for that, Cheryl.

  • Dear Jennifer … your dad, his smile, his leg in hand? This is a grace-bearing image that I will carry with me …

  • Oh, sweet friend. Seriously, how did you know?

    One of the biggest things I’m struggling with (when it comes to writing a book, yikes) is the feeling that I don’t really have anything to say. And what I might have to say, I feel like someone else could say better.

    Your dad is an inspiration– I continue to hold him up in prayer!

    • I am cheering you on, Ally! It’s been fun to see you in some of our writer groups! yay, too!

  • Tara Ulrich

    Jennifer, I could cry happy tears with you. Those pictures of your dad and his new leg are phenomenal. What a gift! Fear has this way of creeping in and paralyzing us, doesn’t it? I am thankful that I can put all my faith and trust in God. You are indeed relevant my friend!

  • Thank you for writing openly about your fears, Jennifer. I so identify with them. Believe me, you are so very relevant in this blogosphere. Your dad’s photos and attitude are such a testimony of God’s sufficient grace to give us perseverance to keep going even when it’s one step at a time. Blessings and hugs to you!

    • I’m glad my fears made sense. It always feels a little risky to share so vulnerably! Thank you for holding it gently in your hands.

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  • Angela Howard

    I adore these pictures of your dad! The value of both determination and joy when facing difficulty is more than words can do justice to. Thank you for sharing your story, your dad’s journey and your faith.

  • Your dad is such a great example to us all! Those pictures of him are inspiring! And thanks for your “pep talk.” I guess we all go through times when we wonder if we’ll stop being relevant and run out of things to say. Thank you for sharing!

    • Gayl,

      I have really felt the fear of irrelevance creep in when I enter into a space where I feel out of my league. I realize that’s just pride. Not cool, but that happens from time to time. Thanks Gayl, for sharing your thoughts ,too.

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  • Pam Ecrement

    I am so blessed to see your dad and hear of the great healing and progress. I also want to thank you for sharing so openly about your fear of irrelevance and the feelings of uncertainty about writing, etc. It comforts me somehow as a blogger/writer of a year in some way to know that after 8 years and so much offered in your work that those feelings can creep in. You are NOT irrelevant. I think the enemy likes to get our head twisted sometimes because He knows the Lord is using us whether for one or many.

    • Thanks, Pam. I appreciate that. I do so much. I really DO know I’m not irrelevant, but that’s a fear that crept in a few times last week, based on nothing but anxiety. I think it’s better to share those fears openly, so others know they aren’t the only one. Have a great week.

      • Pam Ecrement

        I hear you! We all have need for reminders! Blessings on your week as well.

  • Mary

    I have no words except I love your dad. What a beautiful example he is. I see that same warrior quality in my own dad and it honestly keeps me going.

    As for not feeling relevant, my first thought is I don’t think like that. As I examined it more closely I realize I do, but I hadn’t given it a name yet. When your sons are grown and you seek “what’s next”, there is a sense of what is my purpose and do I have more to give. I know the answer is “yes” and that is all because of God. I am blessed by your words today friend!

    • So glad that these words reached you in a way that fit your life circumstance. I don’t know that everyone feels irrelevant at times, but I certainly think a lot of us do when we are going through seasons of change. Grateful for you, Mary.

  • It does seem that whenever our roles change we interpret it to mean that we’re not important. I’m trusting for grace to resist that thought as my two grown up sons and my two teen sons make for a different job description for me every week, it seems! These days are an adventure, and your words about happiness are such a challenge for me these past few weeks. Thank you!

    • I appreciate your insights on how change in our lives can cause us to question our relevance. Thank you, Michele.

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  • Thank you! Your dad’s sweet face and wonderful smile brought me joy this morning!

  • Susan

    Jennifer, I must comment. I am 20+ years older than you are – I haven’t run out yet. And, I’ll tell you why. God continues to do new things in us (ISAIAH), always remember that. Every day His mercy is NEW for ME. Every day He shows me something from His Word that is like a BRAND NEW SOMETHING! I implore you to read my blog today (this is not a paid advertisement), it is confirmation that something HE did became like brand new for me Tuesday morning. TUESDAY morning, at that – the simple day (Emily F.), the day of no significance – HIS WORD BECAME ALIVE and was brand new – it set my feet to dancing! God bless you Jennifer and your dad with his new BFF (btw, did he ever choose a name for “it”?) xoxoxo I haven’t linked yet, but I’ll be number 40 or maybe 41…

    • No name for Dad’s leg yet! LOL! He is going to name it, so he says, but is waiting to get more acquainted with his new friend so he can understand its personality. 😉

      • Susan

        Be sure to let us know when he does!!! Love your dad’s spirit!

    • and i’m even older than Susan! ha – but we do adore what God gives us to share. love the naming idea!

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  • Your dad is an inspiration as are your words here today, Jennifer. In God’s eyes, none of us are irrelevant; we can all be used to spread the good news and I believe with all my heart He will continue to grace us with the ability to do so while we live and breathe. We will never run out as He overflows our cups. Blessings to you and your sweet family!

    • Amen, Martha. Thanks for your words.

  • Megan Willome

    Love his smile!

  • Thank you for this, Jennifer. As I read through the comments it is evident that I am not the only one touched by your honesty and by your dad’s amazing attitude. You both have inspired me this morning! God bless you!

    • I am so glad, Deb. I appreciate you being here.

  • Rachel

    What a beautiful story! This brought tears to my eyes. And yes, Jennifer, you are relevant! I love reading your words and stories. I get your fears as well and I often think the same thing! Your words encourage me that I’m not alone in this writing thing and There are many feeling this way so I keep pressing on and running the race God has marked out for ME!
    (And a side note… on your girls growing up too fast.) It’s hard. My oldest girl is away at college now, finishing up her second year and the day we dropped her off on the other side of the country I thought my heart was going to explode with pain… I get tears in my eyes again just typing it out. And yes, it’s difficult and yes, it stinks yet this is what I’m learning as well. They grow into amazing ladies that God has made them into and I get to see these beautiful people emerging and blooming before me and it’s an amazing gift. Yes, the time goes too fast… and we never really grasp it all until we wish we could have it again. So you are right and holding the moments now. And I’m finding even with her… I’m now relevant to her in a new, different way and it’s still all good!
    Thank you again for your words! They are an encouragement to me!

    • Hi Rachel! Thanks for sharing how it looks for a mama to be relevant after her little birdies have flown from the nest. I know your words will be an encouragement to everyone who reads them — including me!

  • Aren’t you glad you have that picture of your dad–on your screen and in your heart? Oh, thank you for sharing that. And thank you for telling us about your fear. I think it’s one that many of us share. . . and so, of course, not even our fears are irrelevant, not if they’re shared and used to encourage one another. Thank you for the way you do that so well.

    I’m so grateful to be joining #TellHisStory; thank you for hosting all of us!

    • Richella! Yes! I treasure this picture. He’s still at Mayo, and making progress every day.

      Thanks, also, for standing with me in my vulnerability. It’s always good to know we aren’t alone.

  • wondering why we “still” get those feelings of inadequacy and fear when He’s come through over and over? but i do. read in jesus calling a couple weeks ago (before speaking, i think:) “stop wasting time wondering if you are adequate or not for the task” or something like that. yep. guilty as charged. a waste of time. of course, i’m not. which is the point. looking forward to your preordered book in my mailbox. God will use it all for good.

  • This post brought tears to my eyes as it hit my heart today. After a long battle with over scheduling my life, I have started to dip back into having to back out of things I thought I would have time for. Sometimes, putting my kids first is hard. I want to take off with abandoned in my writing career …but fear that I will compromise my calling as a mom overwhelms me. My husband is gone a lot. My family lives far away. Listen to me justify. I have two good legs to run. Yet, some day, I feel leg-less. Thank you much for your words of wisdom here today.
    Happy Wednesday!

  • Love the picture of your dad holding his leg! I sure have felt that emptiness, wondering if I have more to say or not. It was especially disconcerting when I had to teach the next day and I was drawing blanks on what to teach. At any rate thanks so much for sharing this, for showing that we’re not alone in feeling this way. Blessings on your new book coming out.

  • You’re dad is such an inspiration, Jennifer! and so are you, friend! He is our relevance – and so much more – amen!

  • Yay! Love seeing that smile on his face and the determination in his eyes! Looks like he has a BK (below knee) prosthesis, which should be an easier adjustment — no artificial knee will colapse on him!

    Continued prayers for him today as he adjusts. Hugs

  • Alisa Nicaud

    What an inspiration your dad is!! I love that he never gives up. There are so many times when I’m feeling unappreciated, uninspired and feel like I have nothing left to offer. My first thought is “I want to give up!” I love that in the face of these adversities, your dad chose not to give up. It is a choice we all have to make!

  • I read this and had to pause…then come back to read again because it is so very relevant. In fact I commented and had to erase as I thought about it more. Relevant!!!! Jennifer, you have a way of speaking so pointedly with His gentleness gracing the words. We give in to those things, those lies that keep us from being brave enough to say what He has put in our hearts. And I wondered…what if we repeat His message to our hearts??? Isn’t that how we actually learn? By repetition??!! 😊
    God is so good. I wonder if we really truly believed in His goodness, then would any of the worries we let plague us be arrows that then touch us?

    Grateful you are willing to type your heart here!! Don’t stop.

  • Anita

    Oh, I love the photo of your dad holding his leg! That’s choosing happiness! And about those rapidly growing daughters…you will probably feel more irrelevant and maybe even as dumb as mud after the fourth visitor arrives (you know, Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Brain Snatcher). Wait it out. Keep close to them. Take them on dates. Pursue them. When they go away to college, you will suddenly become very relevant…and their best friend.

  • Jennifer, I struggle with some of those same feelings of being irrelevant! It’s especially hard being in the pastorate when the focus is on being hip and culturally relevant and “flashy”, and that’s just not us.

  • Jen

    Big sigh of relief… because I’m always thankful that I’m not the only one struggling with such fears. 🙂 Thank you for being vulnerable and honest with us. And thanks for the feature, too – that was a nice surprise!

  • Jennifer,

    Thank you for sharing your honest fear and the wonderful photograph of your dad. I’ve been wondering how he…what a precious photo 🙂 And Congrats on your book 🙂

  • Lynn Mosher

    Your dad is so cute! What a champion he is! Did he ever name his new leg? ~ I’m sooo with you on this, um, fear. I kept reading about myself in all your words. So excited for you about your book! Blessings!

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