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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Monday 22nd April 2013

Need Hope? It’s A Stone’s Roll Away

The rocks are spread out on the laundry room floor this morning — all those stones scrawled with the hurts and burdens of a hundred women.

I turn the rocks in my hands, weeping for all the ways that we cast stones at ourselves, making ourselves believe we’ve never been good enough, and we never will be.

Maybe these are your burdens, too? The ones that boss you around, hold you back, pin you down, make you hide? These were words, written on rocks, and they touch such a tender place in me:

“I am afraid that I’ll disappoint God.”

“I’m not special.”

“I’m not pretty. I’m not enough.”

“I have stupid ideas.”


“Others say it better. Who the hell cares about me? I’ve got nothing.”

“Discouragement because I don’t know anyone who would endorse me.”

Self-accusation is like dirty laundry. And dear Lord? Can you help us  separate the lights from the darks?

Soul-brave women dropped their rocks into wicker baskets on Saturday night at the Jumping Tandem retreat in Ashland, Nebraska. I stood up front, a nervous wreck with a microphone and a shaky voice, telling a room full of God-sized dreamers about the rough-hewn burdens I’ve carried, burdens that have tried to keep me from laying hold of God’s best for me. How I’ve been a fear-a-holic, an approval seeker, a people pleaser.

I confessed how I have to lay down rocks every day.

And the women in the seats nodded their heads, making me feel brave. Because they are like you and me: They have had enough of being bullied by fear, discouragement, comparison, unbelief, and a hundred other “Not Enoughs.”

We were a room full of people, stubbornly saying this: We’ve had Enough of the “Not Enoughs.”

And that room full of sojourners named the bullies that shout on the inside. They wrote the names of the bullies on the rocks, then pledged to talk back to the bullies when they try to pick fights again.

There’s something very courageous about calling out the bullies of fear and regret and self-disqualification. 

It’s like saying, “Hey fear, I’m onto you.”

Our shoulders were not made broadly enough to carry burdens alone. We need soul-sisters and soul-brothers to help us drop our burdens at the feet of Jesus. Emily and Holley and Lisa-Jo helped me carry the rocks away, because they were too heavy for me to carry alone.

“I was scared to let my rock go,” one woman told me afterward. “I was scared because I’ve been holding onto it for so long. I didn’t know how to let it go.”

I reached a hand up to brush a tear from her cheek. I nodded. “I know. I know. But we can do this together. I believe in you. Because I believe in Jesus, who lives in you.”

On Sunday afternoon, I hefted that bucket of rocks into the back of the car, next to the suitcase. I carried home a bunch of lies, and my husband carried them in to the house.

This morning, I laid them out on the laundry room floor, and thanked the good Lord that He still moves stones.

And one of these days, when the snow stops flying here in Iowa, the girls and I will take those rocks here:

And we will throw every one of them in the lake, letting them sink to the bottom.

Dear friend on the other side of the screen:

Jesus is not intimidated by a pile of rocks.  He might just ask you to use a rock to slay a giant. And He’s been known to roll certain stones away.

Maybe you need Jesus to roll some stones away today, to resurrect a few things for you. How can I pray for you today?

(Rocks in basket photos taken by Diane Bailey and Sandra Heska King)

Other photos from our retreat (taken by Laura Rath, Laura Boggess and Nasrene Fynewever):



  • Joan Marie Shepherd

    …”you will never get anything done”…”your life is one big hoarded up mess”, “it will always be ‘something’ that interrupted you or kept you from doing it” (words out of others’ mouths)…but the stuff I have saved are things connected to moments, memories, – to ‘relive’ and put into scrapbooks, memory books…because while they were happening in real time, I was racing to meet the expectations and ‘script’ of someone else, not the unique one that God put in my heart…I did not give myself permission to follow what was important for me…now, after emptying the home of my recently deceased, ‘way too young to go’ single and youngest brother…I mourn the loss of my own ‘younger life’ with children, whom I ‘mothered as a stay-at-home, homeschooling Mom’ while loaded down with burdens and responsibilities that truly were not mine to carry…lacking the support, encouragement and appreciation that I, in error, expected and sought from the wrong source. I do not want to live in ‘regret’ so I am slowly and steadily, in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, allowing Him to ‘roll away the stones’…. I will carry the women represented by your ‘baskets of stones’ in my earnest heart prayers… <3

    • dukeslee

      Joan Marie, And I am praying for you, dear heart. Your words found a tender place with me today.

      • Joan Marie Shepherd

        <3 Thank you, Jennifer…I just saw your reply and it means so much to me…<3

  • This? This is what I prayed for? You and that big old pile of rocks? Awesome!

    So wish I could have been there. I think if I had a rock in front of me I’d write,”How can I dream big dreams when sometimes it’s just so hard to get through the day in front of me?” There. I said it. Want to toss that into the bottom of your lake? I’d so appreciate if you would.

    • dukeslee

      Nancy … I seriously cannot thank you enough for your prayers. You are such a gift in my life. Yes … You prayed for a very big pile of rocks, and you prayed for an even bigger God to move them. Keep praying with me? … I hear your heart, about getting through the day. We talked about that a lot, too, during the weekend. I so wish you could have been there. Deidra put together such a worship-filled, Jesus-focused event. It was beautiful. God is good. And faithful.

    • So relatable…and brave!

  • Yet another reason to love you like I am learning to….because you lead me to love and see Him more and see me better through His eyes. I’ve been letting go of some rocks here lately too; that yoke? That burden? Easy and light….easy and light.

    • dukeslee

      Lorretta, Thank you for referencing those verses about the yoke and burden. Just perfect here today! Grateful for your words in this space. And I’m praying right now, for you, Lorretta, for God to help you let go of those rocks.

  • I’ve noticed my “rock” coming up in my mind since the retreat, and I can actually stop and say, “Oh no you don’t! I’ve thrown that away, and I’m not going back!” So glad for this concrete reminder.

    • dukeslee


      “Oh no you don’t” is exactly right! Well done, my friend. What can I do to spur you on and encourage you? For starters, I’ll pray…

  • It not always the “not enoughs” that get in the way; it is, for me, the “more than enough” and the guilt that comes with plenty. And not only the guilt, but the lack of a desperate need that causes reliance on God above all else. I suppose that I would have written on the rock “too much.” It doesn’t really matter “how much” I have because I dig in and make it enough. But that is an illusion, a facade (pride). I often am resigned to a lesser life than God intends for me to live. I don’t move toward learning or growing and taking more of God’s abundance. Because really would I be a better person for it? Or have a believed a lie that keeps me from God’s table of plenty?

    The most transformative times in my life were times I found myself in great need. I need to be needy. Does that even make sense?

    • dukeslee

      Ah yes … What a thought-provoking comment, Dea. It does make sense. You’ve completely turned this on its head, and I love what you say about taking MORE of God’s abundance. Beautifully put, my friend. Thank you.

  • See if you can make mine skip. It probably won’t for the sheer weight and ugliness of the word I wrote on it.

    Thank you for being so wonderful.

    • dukeslee

      Duane, I will give it a huge toss; I promise. It was an absolute joy to meet you at Jumping Tandem. It has been exciting to watch how God is working in you, and through you. Keep it up, Duane! You’re making a difference. You matter to God, and you matter to people. (And you matter to me!)

  • Floyd

    Outstanding post! How we know the truth but won’t accept it… “You were not born with the spirit of timidity…” I believe when we revere the world more than we do our Father we have no chance of peace and joy. When we throw those lies in the lake and eventually the mud we can see the truth of our Father. Nothing exists without His having caused it or allowed it. Our rest is in Him… Scribble “pride” across a stone and toss one in for me… please…

    • dukeslee

      Floyd! I will absolutely do that. It’s a privilege to pray for you, with you. Thank you.

  • Lynn Morrissey

    Jennifer, if you were fearful, it didn’t show. If your knees were shaking so hard that you thought you would rock the room, they didn’t! I whispered in your ear on Sunday that your talk was God-anointed, and I will write it here now. He has made you to write, to speak, to throw stones. I wanted more stones on which to write, b/c I had a ton to release. But you know me; I don’t shy away from holding back words in tight spaces, so I wrote smaller than I normally would and listed several stones on my little stone (Oh no! Don’t read the multi-labeled stone! 🙂 But I realize that, for me, when it comes to my dreams (particularly resurrected ones), it will take Jesus to remove all the boulders I’ve painstakingly and painfully erected. I’m not a one-stone woman (unfortunately). But He is a multi-stone-removing and resurrection-improving God. He longs to replace my stones of burden with Ebenezer stones of grace and Joshua stones of remembrance for all His power and purpose in my life. I want to thank you from my heart for being a part of that process through your sweet encouragement in so many ways! I can’t wait to hear the stone-throwing splashes of your pond party with your girls in Iowa! You girls rock! And, Jennifer, I think a lot of women will *feel* the ripples from that stone-laden pond for a very long time to come! You’re wonderful.

    • dukeslee

      A multi-stone removing God. YES! And just so you know, Lynn, most of the rocks have multiple words on them. It was a delight to hand you your clear stone on Sunday morning. An absolute joy to meet you in person, Lynn. You’re even lovelier than I imagined!

  • Pingback: When Jennifer Dukes Lee writes before I have even carried my bags upstairs | ~Nasreen Fynewever~()

  • Beautiful. Thanks for weeping for us and and thanks for leading us. Keep on story-telling, friend.

    • Lynn Morrissey

      Hello Nasreen…..lovely to see your face here, but nicer in person. You helped my friend and me with our room/bathroom, as a reminder to you of who I am. Thank you for your incredible graciousness and hospitality, and all your hard work! Such a special weekend. God bless you!

      • Lynn, grace giver and hope dweller, I am better because our lives intersected. Thank you.

    • dukeslee

      Nasreen … You. YOU!!! So in awe of the ways God works through you. Thank you for coming by today, beautiful lady.

  • I am so touched by this. And honored that you will hold my rock in your hands, and throw it into the water to be washed clean. Thank you.

    • dukeslee

      Amanda … I’m going to give your rock a big ol’ heave. But not before praying for you. …

      So. I’m going to gush for a sec. I want you to know what an inspiration you are to me. You’re beautiful, inside and out. You’re funny. And girl… you can WRITE. If ever we are in the same place again, can we please-oh-please sneak away for a conversation? Grateful for your words on Saturday night. Made my heart feel warm.

  • It was such a powerful exercise, Jennifer. Thank you for your beautiful words that night. For making me laugh hard with you–the way sisters can be silly together. You know what, my friend? You are a safe place for me. For so many. Because your heart is so big it makes a beautiful shelter.

    • And you are a safe place for me. Let’s climb Jacob’s ladder together, toward the God dreams. Love you.

  • Just, thank you. For being you.

    • Being with you? An absolute highlight. How I love you.

  • Wow! What a powerful illustration! And won’t you and the girls have a good time emptying those baskets of burdens for everyone. You do a little of that every day that you post for me. Thank you, Jennifer. Blessings to you and yours.

    • Kim

      This is from Kim in Kansas. Didn’t get my name in the right slot. Oh well!

    • tbird … We are very much looking forward to getting rid of those rocks, praying over each one. We need the snow to stop here in Iowa, so we can head out to the lake. 🙂

  • Yes Lord Yes! Than Thank you Jennifer for the invitation to open my hand, to release my doubts, my pain, my sins, my fears, and to know that you and your sweet daughters will be plopping them into the deep of the lake….to the bottom they go…deep unto deep. Yay Jennifer!

    • Celebrating with you! Keep those hands free! Let’s keep reminding each other that our hands weren’t made to hold those stones. Take care, Kelly.

  • Looks/Sounds like it was an amazing time at the Jumping Tandem retreat. And what a powerful exercise! An excellent way to face our fears and then let them go. No God is not intimidated at all…in fact, His perfect love casts out fear. I did Lisa-Jo’s Five Minute Friday on Jump…and it led me to confront my fear. Just in case… http://www.ourstoriesgodsglory.blogspot.com/2013/04/go-ahead-and-jump-anyway.html

    • Hi Elise! We had a fantastic time. Did you know that Lisa-Jo spent the weekend with us too? She delivered a very powerful message on Sunday morning about fear. Thank you for sharing with us about the ways you’ve confronted fear!

  • I love you. I really, really do. You rocked my world with your message, caused me to cry the ugly cry, and had me weeping into my pillow alone in my hotel room hours later, as God took your words of truth and massaged them deep into my heart.

    • Elizabeth … My heart is still full. And my hands are still empty. … So grateful that God touched your heart. Know how deeply you are loved and cherished. I’m also thankful that we had time to connect over the weekend. I love what God is doing in your life!

  • Laura Rath

    Love this Jennifer! Even just last night, after getting home from the retreat, I heard the enemy lying…trying to squish a dream I’d been encouraged to keep dreaming. I saw him right away and he got none of my time. Not tonight Satan. If it’s God’s dream, He’ll make it happen. So get out of our way! 🙂

    • Laura, I am praying that God protects your heart and mind from the enemy, who wants to squash your beautiful dreams. Let me know how I can encourage you. (You’re dear to me.)

  • It is so good to hear the stories and the take aways from the Retreat, it feels a little like being there. And when you said “He might just ask you to use a rock to slay a giant”, I thought, that’s it right there.

    • Tammy … We had a great time together. Would have loved to see your beautiful light shining in that place!

  • Lori

    I love this idea with the rocks/stones. I have a heavy bucket of stones that I am carrying around and need to get rid of them. Sadly, I use these stones to throw at myself. I cannot seem to stop from doing this. Due to thyroid, adrenal and hormonal issues I’ve put on 50 lbs and cannot lose them no matter what I do. I am finally seeing a doctor that I think can help me but she told me that the first thing I need to do is stop being so mean to myself. Ouch. I don’t even realize I’m doing it. The giant I face is my weight and myself really. I have my nieces wedding this coming weekend and I ordered 4 dresses online to try on at home because I could not get myself to go into a store. Out of embarrassment and being so ashamed of myself. Doubling in size in such a short time leaves me with not very many clothes to wear. It took me 3 weeks after they came to try them on and when I did I sobbed uncontrollably. That was 6 weeks ago and finally today I tried them on for my daughter and she took pictures and sent them to my other daughters. It took all that was in me and a lot of prayer before hand to try them on today without crying and acting ridiculous. I had silently hoped and prayed to have lost at least some weight by now. Having a weight problem like this is so new for me because I was thin my whole life but it has shown me how very vain I am. I keep going to God with this and I do know he is doing a work in me. I’ve decided that since I can’t change my size between now and Saturday, that my focus is going to be on all my children coming home for this wedding and just enjoyed each of my children and grandchildren and extended family. At least that is what I am saying. 🙂 I need prayer that I can follow through with this and not waste precious time by being self focused and feeling sorry for myself. I think I am going to do something like what you did at this retreat and as soon as our snow is gone go to the lake and throw them as far as I can!

    • Joan Marie Shepherd

      Lori, lean into the grace that is so freely YOURS…enjoy the special time of your loved ones gathered around for the wedding and trust that God allows them to see YOU, the same YOU that has loved them all along…the work is being done within, and Jesus said ‘it is finished’ … I will pray for you, and for wisdom for those treating your medical issues, and believe that the Lord will give you your specific path of healing for your body…also that He ministers sweetly to your spirit and soul and gives you a peace and joy that passes all understanding…so that you can flow in His grace and love, focusing on the blessing you have in your loved ones and that you are to them…<3 You are His Princess!


    • My heart hurts for you because I’m someone who has sat at home and cried rather than go to a party I was looking forward to because I’m ashamed of my size. I hate clothes shopping, I have a wardrobe full of loads of different sizes and nothing feels or looks nice.
      I wish I had something profound to say that would help but this is all I have:
      Jesus Christ died for us. We are precious daughters of the living God, and He sees beyond the big dresses and the self-hatred. He knows us better than we know ourselves and still, miraculously, He loves us more than we can imagine. He isn’t ashamed of us.
      Praying for you, my sister. Praying for a wonderful time with your family.
      Praying that God rolls some rocks away.

  • Jillie

    Oh, Jennifer…SO wish I could have been there. It would be so amazing to meet you in person. To hear you speak. To glean from you. I hope you will be writing more about the retreat AND showing more photos too.

  • I’ll say it again: that was quite an altar call Saturday night. Between your name-it-and-let-it-go rock ritual, and the progression of worship on Sunday morning, I was able to set some big heavy baggage down and truly feel the lightness of being forgiven. Thank you.

  • It was an amazing exercise. Maybe amazing isn’t the right word, but it’s the only one I can think of. Your talk, your presence were incredibly moving. Thank you for sharing your gift with all of us. And thank you for encouraging us to write our fear it on the stone. And thank you for tossing it away!

  • the images of stones that you used here made it even more poignant for me.thank you friend.

  • I’m not sure any of us will look at rocks the same way again. The ripples of your message will continue beyond this weekend. Thank you you for your faithfulness Jennifer, what a memory I will always treasure.

  • man i love that! i so wish i could have been in the crowd at Jumping Tandem!
    this hit me square between the eyes. thank you for showing me that i can throw stones away!!

  • Deb

    Jennifer, thank you for this. I have found me a stone and I know exactly what to do with it. Bless you.

  • Your words move me and I am so thankful for the reminder to lay down my stones…the ones that say my words are unread, my platform too small, and that my dreams can’t come true for me. Thank you for reminding me that He may ask me to slay something with a stone and that He rolls stones away making room for miracles and resurrection moments. I SO wish I could have been there at Jumping Tandem and am so thankful for your words and your sweet spirit that inspire me and lead me to Him. Blessings to you Jennifer…

  • Oh my goodness. This post just came out of nowhere and tears are rolling down my cheeks.
    There are so many stones I need Him to roll away. I nearly said ‘too many’ but I know that He is able to do things that seem impossible.
    Thank you.

  • He still rolls stones away…. YES!!!!! Such a joy in my heart as I rad your posts. He is the God of hope for each one of us.

  • I wish I could’ve been there! But so excited to see my sweet friend Diane there snapping pics. Isn’t she the BEST? I’m so excited to get with her and hear all about it. Maybe next year!

  • Upon first glance at that idyllic lake scene, I thought, “That’s much too pretty a place for those nasty rocks!” Then I realized: those rocks will be in the murky, muddy depths. They’ll never see the light of day again. Meanwhile, above the surface, fear can be (symbolically) replaced by peace, the ordinary by extraordinary beauty, depression by the joy of creation, etc. That lake IS a fitting place.

  • Thank you, for telling us the truth. For being brave even with shaky knees. For smiling big and making everyone feel brave right alongside you. Thank you for taking the stones and for reminding us we don’t have to carry them. You make the burden lighter, friend.

  • Amy

    Chills. I have them all over. For the power of the tossing into the pond. Simply remarkable grace here.

    Amen! and Hallelujiah!

  • Did you find the one that said “I’m too old?” Yeah, that was mine.

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  • I am just now commenting, but you *know* what I think of this, Jennifer. It is 50 shades and every shade in between of awesome. And so are you, and so much more beautiful. And even more beautiful is our glorious Father who calls us forth, who calls things out of us we didn’t even know were there, and He used you. He. used. *you*. I love, love, love you. You have no idea. <3 That you are taking my rock–my fear, my unbelief, and throwing it in, to sink in the deep to be found no more–ah, where are the words for that? Always yours.

  • Sweet hallelujah for being a co-bearer with Jesus of these rocks, for casting them into the deep waters, for embodying hope and courage for us. Thank you, Jennifer, for pointing the way to the one who carries each burden and cleanses us of every lie. I am eternally grateful.

  • I wasn’t able to make it to Jumping Tandem, but I think I’m will go ahead and call out those ‘bullies’… thank you for sharing such a powerful post. Slaying the giant with a stone!

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  • Beautiful, beautiful description of those ugly, sharp rocks Jennifer. I will consider mine thrown into “the sea of forgetfulness” and remembered no more. You inspire me…you really do.

  • That retreat sounds so amazing! Someday I hope to meet you in person, maybe at an event like that. Until then I will soak in your posts and continue to share my heart with others too! Blessings to you Jennifer! Love, Rachael @ Inking the Heart

  • amy

    This was so powerful. Honestly, I wouldn’t usually be honest or feel free enough to write something like this on a rock. But you were sincere, the moment was real, and I released with the green pen a small list that had felt unknowingly heavy to me. Thank you for sharing our burdens and helping us all release them. Loved meeting you. Your words resonated in a way I’m still considering. Thank you.

  • Having my rock listed and seeing it in a picture brings me to tears again. I’m seeing it thrown into the water in my mind’s eye and holding my stone of remembrance instead! Thank you for this post!

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