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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Wednesday 15th January 2014

#TellHisStory: Fire Your Editor, and Bring Your Story

I used to think the secret to a great story could be discovered by following all the rules:

Avoid passive voice. Use strong verbs. Make your point quickly. Stick to the facts.

The rules served me well in the news business, where deadlines looked like clocks with fangs.

Hard-nosed news editors made you shove your story into a shrinking news-hole — which was not unlike trying to squeeze your postpartum self into your Chic jeans from sophomore year of high school. (I think I just dated myself, but I digress.)

Yeah. Rules are made for news stories — but not for the “you” stories.

What’s your YOU story? And what would it take for you to tell it?



Did you know that the most vicious editor might be the one who lives inside of you? She’s the one who, if left unattended, might convince you to edit out the parts of your story that feel risky to tell. She’s the editor who wants you to stubbornly answer “I’m fine.” Especially when you’re so not.

Your inner editor is the one who wants you to red-line the painful parts, to excise the smudged parts, and to flat-out compose some fiction over the polluted parts.

Afterward, when you look at your story, you’re all like: Who’s story is THAT? Because your heart got edited out.

Consider firing your editor. She’s not the boss of you anyway.


The other day, I got an email from a woman who asked for my “professional opinion” on whether her story was good enough to share publicly.

She wrote that she “felt it in her heart” that she had a story to tell, but she had a question: “Jennifer, you are a professional writer. Do you feel I have any ability at all?”

This is what I told her. Which is what I’m telling you. Which is what I’m telling me: We need your story, not your “ability.”

Fire the inner editor, with her unreasonable demands for your “abilities.” Instead, bring your story with its beautiful vulnerabilities.

“What you feel in your heart is real and true,” I wrote her. “Tell your stories from that place. Yours is the only heart quite like yours, and you can trust it. That’s where stories are born. I want you to know how much your story matters. It matters to people, and it matters to God. Your life is a testimony to God’s faithfulness. And the world only gets one YOU to tell that story.”



Friend, we need your stories, so we know we’re not alone. Your story gives hope to the rest of us, who are each fighting our own inner editors.

I have come to learn something really important about stories: the best words a person could ever say will probably never make it to the front page, might never make it between the covers of a book. They are the words you speak to God, to your children, your best friends, your neighbors … and to your very own self.

The most important words are written, not on newsprint, but on human hearts.

And you? Are this era’s storytellers.

You, the preacher.

You, the kindergarten teacher.

You, the Instagrammer.

You, the grocery store clerk, and the traveling saleswoman, and the grandma.

You are the chroniclers. And we are your people. We are your grocery-store customers, your grandkids, your neighbors, your Facebook friends, your blog readers, the people in your dentist chair, the weary women who get your well-timed greeting cards in their mailboxes.

So give us your poems, and your laments, and your narratives, and your hearts-spilled-out-in-the-living-rooms. Give us your Instagrams and your one-liners and your laugh-til-we-cry mama-confessions. Give us you. We are hungry for more heart in this world.

God is making an extraordinary story, out of your ordinary moments. And the only one who can tell that story?

Is you.


Hey #TellHisStory! I am delighted to have a small part in this.

This here? It’s exactly what we’re about at #TellHisStory. And I am delighted to join the crew over at {in}courage, in inviting you to tell your story. (Click here if you can’t see the video in your email):

For more information, visit {in}courage. Registration for the (in) real life webcast is now open. It’s FREE!


So, what’s your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.

You’re invited to tell that story right here, in community with us.

Share your narratives, your poems, your Instagrams tagged with #TellHisStory, … your beautiful hearts. You are the chroniclers, the people who help others make sense of the world with your words and your art.

Story is how we know that, no matter what happens, we can get back up again.

Visit someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Then, Tweet about your posts, and the posts you visit, with the #TellHisStory hashtag. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.

A final note: This is a safe place to tell your stories. You don’t have to be a professional writer or a grammarian to join us. Story is built into every single one of us. Your story matters, because it’s part of God’s story down through history, not because you punctuated everything correctly. Deal?


For more details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here.


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  • Mia

    Dear Jennifer
    Oh, I just cannot tell you how much I agree with you. Not only our stories, but also our unique way of writing is what matters. We can both have experienced the same kind of abuse for example, but there is only one you who can relate your heart and the way God has worked in your life. He has an individual way working with each one of us and healing us. Words without the heart are sort of dead, in the same way that the Bible without the Holy Spirit is just a book!
    Blessings XX

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  • Natalie

    I get caught up in the rules sometimes and I worry, but then I remember that I’m not in class anymore and sigh with relief. Thanks for the challenge to fire the inner editor and bring story with vulnerability.

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  • I laughed at this as I’ve thought about sending you a similar email, but you have mentored and encouraged me to tell His story for His glory. I desire the telling to be the best it can be and always appreciated (or perhaps sought the approval??) of the teacher’s ‘grading’ my words. I could write a ‘perfect’ essay, but my heart was often missing. I pray God’s heart will be in my telling of His story.

  • Thank you for your always encouraging words, Jennifer! I’m not familiar with this conference. Loved the video! I will definitely check it out.

  • Any time I get the chance to tell anyone, “You’re not the boss of me,” even if only to myself–well, I consider that a good day 🙂

    Thank you, Jennifer, for continuing to open up this space and for reminding us all that our stories matter. Now I need to hop over and read SHK’s precious words 🙂

  • KristinHillTaylor

    The former reporter and recovering perfectionist in me get these words of yours and NEEDS these words. Thank you for being a champion for real-life storytellers everywhere.

  • Amy Hunt

    YES to this! YES! For when we do, we are living worship . . . we are bringing an offering.

  • Ann Kroeker

    Good words to embolden us. You can always hire someone to help with verb tenses; only you can tell your actual story.

  • This is so encouraging! Yes, the best words are written on our hearts and shared from that place. You do this, friend, and inspire courage in the rest of us to open up our hearts and share – to be brave and show what God has already done for us, and how He will never give up on us. Thank you, Jennifer, for your beautiful heart full of Love.

  • IfMeadowsSpeak

    Tears here, when you said, “Fire the inner editor….and bring your story with its beautiful vulnerabilities.” Yes. this. I’m so thankful for your encouragements.

  • I needed these beautiful, encouraging words this morning! Thank you so much for sharing, for having a heart for all of us word-girls, and for inviting us to join in 🙂

  • Caryn Jenkins Christensen

    Oh Jennifer! Seriously reduced to tears because the editor in me is LOUD. Right now. Today. She’s telling me my story is too big. Too much. Too hard. Too serious. Too, too, too. Heading over to write a pink slip now.

    • Oh Caryn. Me, too. That editor has been on my case somethin’ fierce. I’ll pray for you. Will you pray for me?

      • Caryn Jenkins Christensen

        Yes! Praying now. And I’ll share the Pink Slip to My Editor. Feel free to use it at will.

  • Constance Ann Morrison

    Thanks so much for the encouragement, Jennifer!
    “This is a safe place to tell your stories.” These are words I needed to hear. Even though there are wrinkles and white hair on the outside, I’m still the embarrassed 5th grader reading her story to the snickering class on the inside.

  • Karrilee Aggett

    How much did I LOVE seeing and hearing you on the (in)RL video promo? Oh so much! You… you invite us in to tell our stories all the time and I am so very thankful for the community that gathers here, my friend! (And I have not yet ruled out playing Bingo!)

  • MsLorretty

    <3 Thanks for this safe place.

  • soulstops

    Thanks, Jennifer, for your beautiful heart to encourage us with this truth:”The most important words are written, not on newsprint, but on human hearts.”

  • THIS. This is one of your deepest heart messages, I believe. And I love it. You champion others, and by doing so, you quietly affirm the dignity and value of the whole of humanity.

    No small thing, this.

    (Oh, and I’m swooning over these pictures … ah, the memories. 🙂 )

  • We need your story, not your “ability.”

    That’s a powerful, powerful truth, Jennifer. As is the video. I love encouragement to be vulnerable, to be real, to trust God with telling our story. (And I love the necklace you had on. :))

  • We never know how our words can impact others, whether they are well-dressed with adjectives…or not. But it is the heart behind those words that has the power to pull in another one’s brokenness and offer something not before entertained or given…hope.

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  • Thank you for the encouragement Jennifer! Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in perfectionism and wondering if everything sounds just right and we forget to just tell our story! The power of words is powerful and strong and we all need each others stories.

  • Lisha Epperson

    So grateful for this space Jennifer. Your words this week helped me make room for a difficult story. Thank you.

  • “Fire the inner editor, with her unreasonable demands for your “abilities.” Instead, bring your story with its beautiful vulnerabilities.”

    I need to post this somewhere. Like between my eyeballs.

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  • J Stults

    I cannot tell you how much I needed to hear this today, my first day back writing after a month-long break. It would be so much easier to not write (at least not publicly), but He compels me. And you so beautifully remind me that it’s not about me at all, but about Him and the stories He gives to tell. Thanks.
    Jen 🙂

  • Beautiful as usual, and inspiring! I particularly like: God is making an extraordinary story, out of your ordinary moments. I really believe that!

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  • Thank you for creating this space and allowing us to come and tell our stories. Thank you for this post.


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