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 7th November 2017

How To Live a Life of Meaning and Intention

Lydia turns 16 in a week. All the things about getting older have been coming true. I have to close my eyes tight to remember how it felt to strap her into a car seat, or to lift her from the crib. We’ve walked a long stretch of life since those early days, when I charted every feeding, every body function, every diapering on a piece of paper. I hummed a lullaby to her every night, same song again and again, while rubbing a thousand endless rings into her back. There were the endless loads of laundry, the feverish nights, the unexplained crying, the same books read and re-read. It was all the same, day in, day out, and day in again.

It’s true what they say, about the days going slow and the years going fast.

Time is a greedy thing, gobbling up minutes.

At her last birthday party, Lydia stood in a ring of girls and tossed her head back. Her hair ran in brown ribbons down her back. She and her friends were all squinty with laughter, turning into each other, so full and happy and alive. I stood in the doorway and watched my daughter. She looked like a little woman. There goes the girl.

I can’t even begin to tell you what joy I feel as a mom, to watch my girls grow into women. I admire their sense of justice, their perseverance, their questions, … their crazy sense of humor. (Exhibit A: Lydia’s birthday wish list, below.)

There goes the girl.

The years disappear, the psalmist told us. And birthdays always remind us just how much.

Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away. – Psalm 90:10

Birthdays also remind us that we’re just passing through, on our way to somewhere else, to a forever place.


My friend Diane sent a photograph to me a while back, saying she liked my smile. I first noticed the lines around my eyes, not in a resentful way, but in a matter-of-fact way. In the photo, I see a life-lined face, grooved and creased by millions of moments that made me who I am. I see that I am getting older, and I don’t fear it. My only fear would be not really living the life I’d been given. The tragedy would be allowing years to disappear in a fog of disappointment or drudgery, with no way to recover the beauty — which was always present, but passed by, unnoticed.

I haven’t always leaned into my life. I’ve abandoned myself to the urges to be something more, something other.

But you know, that was a big waste of time. We won’t get into that here today. I wrote a whole book about the dangers of trying to be someone you’re NOT. And I want to get on with my point here. Which is this:

I’ve got to spend the rest of my days living my life, or it won’t get lived. Same goes for you. You are the only you there is. What truth is your life-lined face speaking, about who you are? 

Look, I don’t mean to get morbid here, but young or old, there’s one common trait uniting us — we’re terminal. On the big screen of eternity’s theater, our lives are microscopic blips.

I want my wee little blip on the screen to blink boldly for a King, before it flickers out. I want to pay attention, love well, lay down my own desires, and make daily decisions that match up with my beliefs. I want to reach out, lean in, look up, and bow down. I want to breathe more deeply, see more beauty, make more room at the table, learn more from the Teacher, and pass more of the good stuff onto my people.

I don’t know how this all ends, but when it comes down to the last moments, I don’t want to say, “Oh, how time flew.” I want to exclaim to my people, “Look! Look, how we learned to fly!”


Here’s what we’ve been up to on Instagram this week. We are counting our blessings in a 30-day gratitude challenge. It’s not too late to join us. Print the 30-day chart out by clicking here.

Share your blessings with us in community on Facebook, on Instagram, or Twitter. Use the tags #30DayGratitudeChallenge #TheHappinessDare.

Find me on Instagram here. 

And from our Facebook community

The #1 myth that Christians tell each other is this: “God will never give you more than you can handle.”
I know that people mean well when they say those words, and at some point, I probably said the same thing, while searching for the right words to comfort someone.
Unfortunately, the words aren’t really comforting.
First, the words suggest that God gave you the awful thing in your life — that he gave you cancer, harmed your kid, sent the hurricane to your city. Suddenly, the God we really need to comfort us during our time of trial … has been identified as the one who brought this hell upon us.
The second problem is this: It implies that the person in pain ought to be able to handle this. “You ought to be strong enough, faithful enough, to endure whatever hardship comes your way.” But the truth is, there is so much of life we can’t handle on our own. Sometimes, it really IS too much to handle: the death of your own child, the divorce, the rejection, the natural disaster.
The truth is, God doesn’t give us a bunch of stuff to see how we’ll “handle it.” But He DOES help us deal with what we’ve been given.
If you want to comfort someone today, the best gift you can give is your presence, your hugs, your prayers. Let them know they’re not alone, and that you carry them in your heart.
And if you are the one in pain today, know that God is not the source of your suffering. He is the source of your comfort.
God didn’t give you what “you can handle.” But I can promise you this: He does give you Himself as you walk through this dark valley.

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 Bev Rihtarchik. Bev’s honest encouragement to choose gratitude — even in the midst of pain — is very timely as Thanksgiving approaches. Find Bev 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

  • Lynn Morrissey

    Jennifer! This is such a beautiful post about life and love and Lydia! I had noted her birthday on my calendar and actually just saw it yesterday. What I had not realized is that she will be Sweet Sixteen! Oh my! Where *has* that time flown since I met the two of you?! Wow! It makes me smile and it sobers me (part of the purpose of your post). When I heard your email ping into my inbox, I was literally just writing about my own beautiful daughter, Sheridan, who turned twenty-five this past August. Before you know it, you will be writing about that milestone birthday of lovely Lydia’s! Time does fleet, and yes, we ourselves are fleeting. I love your wake-up call and am trying to heed it. And this quote is a keeper: “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh, how time flew.’ I want to exclaim to my people, ‘Look! Look, how we learned to fly!'” Yes, that’s exactly it. I’d say you and Lydia are flying high, soaring really, for the Kingdom of God. Please give the birthday girl my personal and warm embrace from her aunt-from-afar, Lynn! And a real, hug-the-stuffing-out of you hug! One thing I had to do was teach my nieces how to hug! Thankfully, they were fast learners. On second thought, I don’t think I have to teach you a thing, Jennifer!
    xoxo Lynn

    • I can’t believe that Sheridan is 25! … Thanks for always remembering Lydia’s birthday. You are so generous-hearted toward our family. Love you, friend.

  • I have a son turning 16 in January, and he also has a wild and wacky sense of humor. It’s such a gift to see our kids grow into people who can come up with ideas that are surprising and completely foreign to us — and way funnier than anything we’d think to utter. As you said, it wasn’t that long ago that we were monitoring both ends of their digestive systems!

    Blessings to you as you celebrate — and also as you remember.

    • Sometimes I just shake my head. 🙂

  • Mary

    You have beautiful daughters and have brought them up well. I also pray that my blip on the screen blinks boldly for the King. Thank you for sharing your daughter and motherhood with all of us.

    • Thank you, Mary. Means a lot. xo

  • I LOVE your daughter’s wish list. It’s hysterical and whimsical. I also love the idea that life is terminal (no, I’m not morbid, either). It gives purpose to my days to know that I only have so much time in which to explore, love, invent, embrace, learn, and be happy!

    • Her imagination keeps us on our toes, Anita. 🙂

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  • Sarah Geringer

    This post resonates with me, Jennifer, because my firstborn became a teenager this year. That baby boy is all but gone, except perhaps in an occasional innocent glance. I miss those baby days, but I’m learning (slowly) that each parenting stage has its unique joys. A mother’s love has to adapt much more often than I first realized. But I rejoice that God’s love is constant through all my changing seasons, and I want to be more like him as I parent my three children.

    • Sarah,

      I’ve been so delighted at the teenage years. Delighted and surprised. Surprised, because I remember how smart-alecky I was as a teen!

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  • Love your daughter’s list! I just hit a “milestone” birthday a few months ago, and it left me feeling the same way – I want to make the rest of my days count and live them fully. I love the graphic!

    • So glad these words and the graphic reached you, Barbara. xo

  • JeanneTakenaka

    Jennifer, It’s kind of fun knowing I’m not the only one who charted all those vital statistics of my wee ones, when they were wee. I was updating my sons’ school K-12 photo frames, and it hit me hard that my oldest only has three more pictures to add before he launches into the world. Like you, I’m realizing they days feel slow, but they years fly by!

    I loved your daughter’s birthday list. It sounds like she has a delightful sense of humor.

    • I had that same thought with our girls’ school pictures!

  • I absolutely LOVE the list! She is cute with her cat bag for algebra! and so many other fun wishes. I smiled all the way through.
    Thank you for reminding me to live with intention. At 70 years of age, it is SO important. I may or may not have more time here, but however God has my life planned, I want to live accordingly. Thanks, ~ linda

    • She’s a riot. Keeps us on our toes!

  • Bev @ Walking Well With God

    Thanks…so tickled to be the featured writer here this week…humbled and honored! I am trying to live with more intention – love your graphic!! I need the reminder that I will not “arrive” this side of heaven, so may I have a heart that keeps on wanting to grow and learn.
    Blessings sweet friend,
    Bev xx

    • You are such a blessings. A joy to share your words!

  • Sherry Thecharmofhome

    Above all consult with God! I wish I had learned that a long time ago! Thanks for hosting!

    • Still learning here, Sherry! xo

  • Great encouragement to live my one and only life doing what I am called to do. Love your daughter’s birthday list. I am assuming she was missing a few of her wishes when her birthday came around? LOL Ahh, but can’t we dream. I’d love to see the throne of clarinets and bones!

    • She’s got quite the imagination. Keeps us all on our toes.

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  • Susan

    Every single thing in this post touched my soul. I am fifty years older than your Lydia (my aunt’s name and I love it) and the paragraph with this as a beginning “I want my wee little blip” is my mantra. I want every moment to count – we live a busy life and I want that busy-ness to matter. Live like there’s no tomorrow! xo

    • Susan … Your life is making such a difference. Such. A. Difference.

  • What a beautiful reminder about the fluidity of time. Somehow we think we can grasp it, grip it tight between our fists. But the reality is that it slips through like water. We are much better to live it full with our hands (and hearts) wide open.

    • Rebecca, Grateful for your voice and wisdom in the comments this week. xo

  • Alyson

    Hi Jennifer, This very thing has been on my mind because my 88 year old Father-in-Law was in the hospital last week. He’s home now and doing much better, but when that happens you start to mull over these things. You summed up my thoughts better than I did with: “I want my wee little blip on the screen to blink boldly for a King.” That is my desire, too. I think you hit on the key to no regrets.

    • Thank you, Alyson. Hope your father-in-law is recovering. Thanks for sharing.

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  • Pam Ecrement

    So beautifully well said and true. Last year that little boy who won my heart the first time I held him turned 50 and this year his oldest daughter (our oldest grandchild) graduated from college. Learning to fly is a must! Living each day and discovering one thing each day is a privilege and an opportunity that we cannot pass up! Each season has its ups and downs. It’s important not to keep wishing for the next one and miss the one we are in (whether difficult or easy) because He has something He wants for us in each season. Blessings on your day!

    • Thank you, Pam! Keep soaring for Jesus!

  • Summer

    Love your beautiful story, your daughter’s writing, and your instagram graphic. Wow! I just shared it on Instagram. Oh, you serve us so well. Thank you for your hard work and your thoughtfulness!

    • You are so kind, Summer. Your words warmed my heart today! It’s a privilege to serve in this way.

  • You have a beautiful daughter, Jennifer! And I love your view on motherhood and growing older. I am struggling a bit in both areas. Maybe it’s due to the holidays or the approaching–sigh–birthday near the end of November, but it’s great to hear you talk so glowingly of both. Thanks for highlighting sweet Bev too! She’s a gem!

    • Thank you, Beth. I am so privileged and happy to be the mom of two amazing young ladies. Just this morning, I was praying with Anna, as we drove to the bus stop, and I said that the most important prayer we could pray is to become more like Him. The years with the girls are going fast, and I don’t want to neglect an opportunity to share with them what TRULY matters.

  • at 65 I’ve been noticing age more, and intentionality, and the fact that I’m on my way out. so, going with a burst of energy except when huffing and puffing, and spreading the truth in love, as long as i’m asked to do so. unasked for advice can be an annoyance… I don’t want to be that old lady.

    • Wait. 65? That’s a typo right? I thought you were my age! I love your energy and Jesus-Sparkle!

      • Ha. Knew I️ liked you! Got it from my mom who lived til 95 so maybe I’m not completely on my way out. But the view is better from here.

  • “My only fear would be not really living the life I’d been given.” This is totally my fear. I get so busy doing “good” things sometimes I forget to laugh and enjoy the life I have.

    • Maree … I have so often been struck by that same fear. One of the things that truly helped me was writing “The Happiness Dare.” The book was one that I had to truly LIVE before I could write it. And I have carried those lessons with me. I’ve been able to be so much more intentional in my everyday moments. Some of the lessons I have learned are in the graphic I included with this post. xo

      • Your timing for your reply was perfect. I am adding your book to my wish list for Christmas right now.

  • Rachel Lee

    ALL THE FEELS!!! My eyes are raining. I am a mother of many (8 to be exact), and although I still have a baby at home, I’m watching as my clan grows before my very eyes. My oldest is 22 and married with a baby of her own, and my 2 oldest boys…well, can I even call them boys anymore? I cherish these moments.
    I couldn’t agree more with you- I don’t want to waste my life on “good” when God has “better” for me. You said it so beautifully, “I want to reach out, lean in, look up, and bow down.”
    Thank you for sharing, and making this ol gal cry! 😉

    • Oh Rachel … What a beautiful family. I am so encouraged, in my heart and spirit, to know that these words blessed you. Carry on, Warrior Mama. You are amazing. xo

  • Nancy Ruegg

    Your words today create just the lift of encouragement we need for learning how to fly. And that paragraph about blinking boldly for our King offers inspired ideas for focusing our energy where it counts. I’m copying it into my journal. Thank you, Jennifer!

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