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 10th July 2012

New Friends, Jittery Nerves, and The Prospect of Making a Fool of Yourself

I remember the small panic attack I had before I met them.

For a whole hour, my stomach churned. My heart thumped. I fussed at my reflection, sucked in my gut, imagined the dumb things I would say. I played out scenarios in which I would make a fool of myself in front of two women who were so poised and talented.

I checked my teeth for spinach.

I had known Michelle and Deidra for several months — online, through our blogs. Miles away from one another, we had each crammed our hearts into pixels and paragraphs week after week. It’s true: you can get to know a person like that, by reading the words that spill out of a soul and onto a computer screen.

But I was still scared they would be disappointed when the pixels became a person.

What if the woman they thought they knew in this place wasn’t the woman they met in real life? I’d only and always wanted to be true and authentic. But … what if I my actual voice sounded goofy? What if I embarrassed myself? And, I wouldn’t be able to use my delete key if I said something ridiculous.

But here I was, in their city, waiting for them to show up.

I walked down to the hotel lobby, knowing they would arrive any minute.

I sat up straighter than usual on the upholstered chair, fidgeted with my cross necklace and prayed a small prayer: “Dear God, Don’t let me be a doofus.”

The two of them walked through the door, looking radiant and shimmering, just like I imagined.

But they were also just people — regular people with real smiles, warm handshakes that quickly turned to hugs, and hearts swollen with Jesus.

We laughed. We threw our heads back. We moved straight past the small talk, and let ourselves be our real selves — without the delete key. I think my voice did, in fact, sound goofy. I probably was a doofus. And I’m fairly sure I snorted when I laughed. But a really cool thing happened when we met each other face to face: we spoke love right into each other’s lives, just as we’d been doing with vowels and consonants for months before.

As it turned out, they had their own sets of insecurities.

Fast-forward two years: 

I dial Deidra today, because I need her advice. It’s not the first time I’ve done this. Before I call, I scroll back through my Facebook messages and find these past remarks to her:

“OK. So I have a confession.”

“I need to be talked off a cliff edge. :)”

“I’m freee-kiiiiing out!!”

“I think I could faint.”

But also this:

“We’re in the process of becoming — from cradle to first step in Heaven.”

“You make my heart happy. It’s good to be loved.”

“I’m praying for you.”

And this:

“I love you so.”

So, like I said, I call Deidra–

“Deidra,” I ask. “What were you thinking before we met?”

“I was freaking out!” she tells me.

So that’s the thing. Most of us aren’t out to dazzle; we’re just scared that we’re going to disappoint. We ache to be real, but we’re not sure if anyone will approve of the Real Us underneath the good posture. But in order for Real to get rolling, someone’s got to make the first move.

Over the phone, Deidra’s voice travels a couple hundred miles north to find me in my kitchen, looking out over these Iowa fields.

“The thing is, ” she says, “people just want to know that it’s O.K. to be real, authentic and true. If I say I believe the only thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love, then I have to put myself out there.”

Deidra tells me that people everywhere have one thing in common: “We are all just trying to figure it out, you know?”

And, she says, people mostly want to know that they are loved. Genuinely loved.

We talk a bit more — about writing assignments, kids, a recent doctor’s visit. We laugh, because in some crazy-cool God-incidence, Deidra and I are now work colleagues. Before we hang up, we tell each other, “I love you.”

I don’t think I snorted when I laughed this time.

But I do know I was a doofus.

And both of us were perfectly fine with that.


(More meetups with friends like you…)

Do you know how often I think of you — marvelous, wondrous you? I pray for you as I write. I read your emails, your stories of heartbreak and pain, victory and freedom.

Regularly, I speak from the bare-soul places, because I know that you’ve “been there” too. And you want to know you’re not alone.  I want the same thing. Like Deidra says, we do this as a way to express our faith through love.

And I really do love you.

Grace and peace,






 We write in community every Wednesday about the God-Things that make you go, “Hmmm…”

Some call them coincidences. We call them God-incidences. And those goosebumps you get sometimes when you know the Holy Spirit is at work? Yep. They’re God-Bumps.

Want to join the chorus of words for our God? Pick either button above, attach it to your post, tell your story. Then, link up right here!


  • So, I just began a blogpost different than what I normally write. It was on my heart — but could barely type a sentence. So, I saved it as a draft — which means put it on a dusty shelf. Maybe it was my own idea, not God’s, I thought.

    Then I come and read your post and I am just floored — if I can say that 🙂 Just amazed! Your post has served as my, why, as if God has answered the question.

    Here is the verse that prompted my own post just a few short moments ago.

    “I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to write it with pen and ink. For I hope to see you soon, and then we will talk face to face. ” 3 John 13-14

    I need to take it off the shelf, before it gets dusty 🙂

    • Oh Michele-Lyn! I am hearing you! That’s the same thing that happened yesterday when I called Deidra. I was stuck. Could barely type. I talked to her, heard how she shared some of the same feelings, then was able to sit down and really write.

      This online world really reminds us that we are not alone.

      I’ll be over soon to read your post!

      (I love that verse.)

  • Thanks for this…I have been here less than a year…never, never could have imagined me being here, let alone staying. I must say how surprised I am by the connection one can feel through a screen…and how my heart can rejoice…or weep with words from a “stranger’s” heart. I am still getting comfortable here…but there’s plenty of people I would love to meet IRL…and you sure would be one of them:)…thanks so much for this place of love~

    • I would so love to meet you. Someday? Please?


  • Love, love, love this!

    You really do invite others into your heart when you write, friend. You have been such an encourager in the blog world.

    Thanks for *being real* — snort and all — and for letting Jesus shine through all the cracks. 🙂

    • Kelli … Bless your sweet heart. So good to know we’re loved, as-is. 🙂

  • The thing is, so far I haven’t been convinced, via the blogosphere, that people want what’s real and true (unless you’re talking about Jesus, who is of course real and true). I guess I mean to say: I think people want what’s good and lovely. They don’t seem to want honesty unless it’s been sugar-coated. They don’t want to know that things haven’t been ok unless you tell them there’s been a turn-around…or that you have faith that there will be a turn-around. They don’t want to know that you’re stuck, or bleeding. Also, they want you to buy into everything they have to say; they don’t want you to push back. If you do, you’re black-listed. You’re perceived as dangerous. I remind myself daily that my goal in blogging is to record my thoughts for my kids: not for anyone else. If I don’t do that, I get discouraged and want to quit. I love that you’ve connected w/ Deidra, Michelle, and so many other bloggers IRL and had positive experiences. I’ve been blessed to meet a couple of people through blogging, also, and it’s been all good. People are just people, whether they sugar-coat or not.

    • Sometimes life gets pretty raw and ugly, doesn’t it, Brandee?

      • I think it’s hard when, year after year, there’s no resolution to something you’ve begged the Lord to fix. In my experience, also, a person doesn’t necessarily move through the stages of grief without circling and looping back; I find myself all the way back at denial, sometimes, but “anger and bargaining” and–most recently–“depression, reflection, and loneliness” have been my sweet spots. I know it’s b/w the Lord and me, and I tend to do better when the hard thing in question is my only hard thing. When other hard things happen, though, I find myself easily overwhelmed. Nobody has an explanation or resolution to offer, so I get answers like: “God has a plan” and “There’s a reason for everything.” Sometimes I get Romans 8:28, which is my favorite answer and the one to which I cling, personally, but none of the answers satisfy completely. Because who cares what’s beyond the veil if we’re seeing darkly? If we have no idea why? I told my mom, yesterday: I can’t even be sure that–if the Lord fixed everything right this minute–I wouldn’t be angry, anymore: so much suffering.

        • Oh, Brandee. Are you interested in an email conversation about any of this? If so, I’d be open. dtrautwein at gmail dot com. “Why” is a tough, tough question – and often not even the right one to ask, though it’s the go-to one for most of us, most of the time. I am sorry for the anger…but wonder what’s underneath it. I’m guessing both hurt and fear…that’s the usual cocktail. Praying for peace in the midst of the uncertainty and the frustration. And encouraging you that you are NOT alone – and that no matter how ‘dark’ you feel about yourself and your situation, all of you is welcome in the presence of God and in the presence of many, many of us out here. We may not go there in blog posts, but we live this truth. Yes, we do. There is so much to celebrate in this life we’re given- but there is much that is hard and mysterious, even overwhelming. So please believe that you’re not going to be black-listed just because you’re struggling or less than perfect. Take a look around you – there isn’t one of us perfect out here. Not one.

        • I’ve got nothing to add to these words, Brandee. I’m just sending a hug over the waves. I think I know a little of this grief and loss that you speak of–maybe—and, yes, anger, too. And when finally prayers were answered–sort off, through the back door–they brought a whole new batch of pain. I can guess at reasons, think perhaps that I’ve been saved from other sorrow. But I don’t understand. Not really. And all I can do is trust.

          Love to you.

          • Physical suffering, I think, especially for years and years, especially for a relatively young person…a Christian person…is a hard thing to behold. When there’s no relief, but you know God can still perform miracles…

    • Brandee … I am here listening, and I think I am understanding what you’re saying here. I think this is not only a blogosphere problem, but a problem with the church in general. Maybe?

      I have these words underlined in an old Beth Moore study, “Breaking Free”… Page 167 in the workbook:

      “The best of our churches tend to welcome those captive … at first; but if they don’t ‘fix’ pretty quickly, they will probably soon be despised. We like success stories–powerful testimonies.” … I think that gets at a piece of what you’re saying. As a people we want to get to the happily-ever-after, the perfect ending, wrap it all up in a tidy bow. And if people don’t “fix,” well then … 🙁

      People want other people to be real, but when they are, sometimes, people don’t know what to do with it. I’ve experienced that on both sides.

      Praying for God’s grace and mercy as I move forward each day, Brandee — that I can not only say the words I write here, but live them as well. That I would be real, and accept the “realness” of others. That I would be graceful and merciful to those who are “real” and hurting in my midst. And that they would offer the same … So grateful for the example of Christ. And Brandee… I so appreciate you, your honest words, your heart. Sending hugs through this screen to find you on the other side.

      • Absolutely. A church problem. I do find the blogosphere a reflection of the church, and I do, often, feel overchurched. I remind myself to go back to the Original Source in prayer and Word b/c it can be tempting/easy to allow what’s reflected of Him, through others, to be my dose. You’re very kind, Jennifer; thank you.

      • Jillie

        Beth Moore was bang-on with those words. I’ve seen it in the church–those who don’t ‘get fixed’ within a certain length of time are labeled “whiners who don’t depend on God enough.” People avoid them. Sad, and just not right to treat others that way.

  • I’m so glad to hear Jennifer that I’m not the only one who freaks out about meeting someone face-to-face that I’ve only known from a distance. By the way, I’m still hoping you get to Kansas City sometime to see me or I get up to Iowa to see you. Blessings! 😀

    • That would be great, Daniel! I love Kansas City. One of my sisters used to live in Liberty.

  • “Most of us aren’t out to dazzle; we’re just scared that we’re going to disappoint.”
    This is so true!
    What a beautiful post!
    Linking up for the first time 🙂

    • Suzy! Yay! Glad you’ve linked. I am looking forward to reading your post. I try to make it around to as many as possible each week. Your stories bless me so.

  • Jennifer, this is so real and so relieving–knowing that you, beautiful, talented, amazing you feel this way too makes me feel like so much less of a doofus!! How I would love to meet you and Deidra and Michelle and so many others of the bloggers I have come to know and love. That picture of the three of you–“beautiful” doesn’t even begin to touch the glow you give off!! Love you, Girl!!

    • Oh, thank you for the grace of your words. Sweet Shaunie … I look forward to a meet-up with you one day.

  • Oh wow! Some of my favorite friends from the blogosphere all together in the same pictures! How cool is that?

    I loved this: “Most of us aren’t out to dazzle; we’re just scared that we’re going to disappoint. We ache to be real, but we’re not sure if anyone will approve of the Real Us underneath the good posture.”

    So true!

    Thank you for the words of love and encouragement, Jennifer!

    • Really grateful for the real-life connections we make online, even if we don’t meet each other in person. But meeting in person is such an added blessing, to hear the voices you’ve come to know, to hear the laughter. Most of my connections have been through TheHighCalling.org, which has done a great job of building community and relationship “IRL” for many years at Laity Lodge in Texas. And now THC is doing the same thing online.

  • I’m meeting up with Michelle next week:) I can totally relate to this post!

    • She Speaks, I presume? Praying for you gals.

  • “But they were also just people — regular people with real smiles, warm handshakes that quickly turned to hugs, and hearts swollen with Jesus.”

    I love this, and I love when online community meets real life.

    • Thank you, Thelma. It’s been a great pleasure getting to know you. I owe you an email … coming soon. 🙂

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  • All just trying to figure it out. Yeah, that.

    And friends like you and Deidra help me do that. I’m grateful. 🙂

    • Back at ya, friend. Ax murderer. 🙂 … Or is it, axe? heh, heh.

  • Love those talks you have with friends after you get to know each other. “So what were you thinking…?” I have a good friend (we’ve been friends for over 20 years) but when I first met her I couldn’t stand her. We laugh about it now!

    • That is HILARIOUS! So glad you can laugh, and that you have dear friends in your life, Eileen. I’m always so sad to hear how many lonely women out in the world are craving real friendship.

  • Kory Graham

    Love this and am inspired by it! And I know you really do read each and every comment and really do think about all of us. Still amazes me sometimes that you sent me an email to reply back to a comment I had made from one of your other posts, truly a gift for me and your words meant so much. Thanks! Make it a blessed day!

    • Honestly… the pleasure is all mine. You’ve blessed me so, Kory. Really grateful for you.

  • This is my first time visiting! I kept seeing your site and link-up all over, so I decided I needed to visit. Glad I did. Look forward to coming here regularly!

    Mary Beth @newlifesteward

    PS: I’m a doofus too, and I think my voice sounds weird too. 🙂

    • Welcome, Mary Beth! Doofuses unite! <---- is that the plural of doofus? Or are we "doof-i"? 🙂 I look forward to connecting with you over at your place soon.

      • Jillie

        You two are crackin’ me up! Can I join your DOOF-I fellowship? “The Fellowship of the Doof-i!” I’m a snorter too.

        Loved this post today Jennifer. We ARE ALL really just the same. Some just hide it better than others.

        • Love it! The Fellowship of the Doof-i. Indeed.

          Smiling big here, Jillie. xo

  • “Crammed our hearts into pixels and paragraphs” — I love that, Jennifer! So neat that you guys got to meet. Love it.

    • It’s been great making these face-to-face connections with online friends. Would love to meet up with you one day, Laura!

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  • Oh, how I love the way God ties our hearts. And lets us love each imperfections and all. There are SO MANY beautiful sisters in Christ I’ve met only through “pixels and paragraphs”- dream of the chance to share a cup of coffee face to face and delight in Him together.

    • Yes, Alicia. It is God tying hearts. Some may use online time for evil, but God is using it for good.

      Bless you, sister.

  • Love, love, love these examples of God-given friendship. Makes me smile real big!

    • Smiling with you, and sending a hug straight out my front door, over these fields, across Nebraska, to find you in Colorado. I want to bring a REAL hug there someday. Love you.

  • I absolutely love this divine real connection amongst friends. This is so beautiful…

    • Thank you, Joan. A meet-up with you someday would be a treat!

  • I wonder, sometimes, if I’ll ever get up the nerve to meet some of my online friends.

    I get this. I really do.

    • We’re –what? — five hours apart? I’ll be your way soon. I-90 is near you, yes? Wish I could stop by on my way to Wisconsin! I will wave “hello.”

  • Thank you for this! You address just what has been plaguing me. It seems so silly, and yet it is so real. Thank you for the encouragement to step out and into the genuineness God calls us to with each other. Your blog is a blessing!

    • Hi Becca … So glad we can step into our Real right here. Thanks for coming by!

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  • Radiant. 🙂

    • I was sooooo hoping you would see that word. That was just for you, of course. 😉

  • oh how i long to meet all of you in person one day!!!

    • Let’s make that happen, e.

      Love ya.

  • So glad to find a new community of writers. I remember first coming across your site…”God bumps? Love it! I once wrote “I do not believe in luck. I do not believe in coincidence. I do not believe in horoscopes. I do, however, believe that God speaks with many voices, and if you are present and paying attention, you might very well be surprised by from whence a message comes.” I think I’ve found my people.
    Peace,good, and abundant blessings to you.

    • Welcome, Chelle! Yes, you are among your people. 🙂 You belong.

  • Chief doofus over here – so nervous about going to Laity last year, I could hardly talk. Writing provides a bit of a cover – voices and bodies do not do so well. :>) Thanks for this reminder that we’re all in this together.

    • How I love you, Ms. Chaplain of the Internet. If you’re a doofus, then I definitely want to stay a doofus! You’re dear to me, Diana. Thank you for being here today.

  • I love you too, Jennifer! With the Holy Spirit shining through you, you could never disappoint!
    God bless,

    • You are so sweet, Laurie. Thank you, and sending love out the front door, down our dusty country lane and straight to YOU!

  • I will be part of the doof-i club at Laity Lodge in September when I can actually put skin on these names and words on the screen. It’s making me nervous just thinking about it. Love this post and love all of you. You make this blogosphere a wonderful place to be.

    • Oh Shelly! How I wish I could see you in September! I won’t be there in September. 🙁 … But several others will. I am so thrilled that you get to experience Laity Lodge. You will love, love, love it. Give the Frio River a kiss for me, K?

  • Oh, Jennifer! I always fret I’m a dufus. And yet, I trust He has linked us all for such a time as this–to experience His magnificent grace and pure love. I am so glad to know both you and Deidra…and I love you both!

    • I can’t wait to meet you in person, Amy. You’re a gift to my heart.

  • Oh, Oh, Oh! It’s the hands photo! (Gosh, my hand looks so old.)

    Deidra has talked me back from a cliff’s edge more than once. And you did it at my birthday.

    • I was hoping you would see the hands. 🙂

  • Squeeeee! I know these hearts. And I know these faces. Except for Michelle and Big Mama–yet. I feel family. And love.

  • Yep, that would be me, checking for my spinach teeth, only to realize the others were just as nervous 🙂 Would love to meet all some day…

  • You hit a home run with this one girl… It really is about touching the other regular people that God has chosen to be irregular, even though we struggle to believe it.

    With this many comments I don’t usually leave a comment that will get stuck in outer space, but this post deserves my heart, even if only my heart hears it. This is us… the family of our Father, the God of that is…

    When I met with Dan Black last week in CA. while I was on vacation, it gave me a chance to live this post out in real life… and it was good… He is my brother who I had never met.

    I also met today with my friend Audra Krell. What a wonderful gift to sit across from the small table at Starbucks and share our lives… She leaves this Saturday on a mission trip to Mexico with one of her sons… She has proofed query letters for me, guest blogged on my site what is arguably the best post ever written for parents facing our children leaving for college like my wife and I have now twice. Ane my heart is with you in this miraculous journey…

    My sister… if you ever get near Arizona, my wife, and if you get here soon our youngest, will greet you, your husband, and daughters with open arms…

    God bless you.

    • And Floyd’s sister Audra will be on the welcome wagon too. Praying for that day to come! You just gotta meet Floyd….

  • You and I did it the other way around. We were IRL friends who got to know each other better through our blogs.

    That’s neat you got to meet your blog friends in real life. Written words are wonderful but it doesn’t give you the sound of their voice or their inflections or mannerisms. “LOL” doesn’t begin to compensate for the sound of a friend’s laugh. Now when you read their words you’ll hear their voices in your head.

  • You girls just have too much fun! How I would love to meet you and your friends. But, every time we make a connection and share our hearts with each other I think, we will be friends for ALL eternity! Now won’t that be glorious! When you were talking about Heaven a while ago, I thought about all of the fun times all of us would have being together. I believe God gives us some kind of incredible job when we are in heaven. I want to work with you and your friends, Jennifer! 🙂

  • These days I am a home body. Perhaps it is my age, but crowds of people make me nervous. Instead I fellowship at home with my Bible, the internet, my wife and my dogs. Very good company!

  • Those pictures make me so happy. Feeling jealous of both you and Deidra! I want to talk with both of you :). My son knows how to do that speaker phone thing on his cell. Maybe we should do that sometime. 🙂 Love you, Jen. You are always in my prayers.

  • Awwww, this is so sweet, and so real, Jennifer. I was nervous, too. I’m always a wreck when I meet writer/bloggers in real life. And then they turn out to be even better in person! You and Deidra are HUGE gifts to me. I thank God for you both, over and over again.

  • This is really great, Jennifer! I love social media “love” stories!! thank you so much for linking up and Deidra is a personal favorite (and hero) of mine. =)

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