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 12th March 2014

#TellHisStory: When You’re Tired of a Photoshopped, Airbrushed, Instagram-Filtered Existence

Dear Daughter,

You stood in front of my covered mirrors, as I fumbled with my flat-iron, to fix my hair without looking at my reflection. And of course, you wanted to know why I did such a crazy thing — to give up my own reflection for 40 days.

I think you knew why.  Kind of.

Then again, you’re only nine years old.

You did know this:

You knew it was Lent, and how some people have this practice of giving something up during the days leading up to Easter. You knew that I wanted to give up more than my dark-chocolate indulgence. You knew I was giving up mirrors. You knew I was giving up a heart indulgence.

And you knew that we’ve been saying this one word around the house for two years now: “preapproved.” We’ve been telling each other we’re preapproved, that we have nothing to prove, and that we’re already approved in Christ — no matter what anyone else says about us.

You’ve heard that word again and again — preapproved. You’ve heard it before you take tests, and when friends don’t invite you to slumber parties, and when you’re feeling somehow … less than.

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So it was no surprise to you that my bathroom mirror was plastered with that one word: preapproved.


“But why the mirrors, Mom?” you asked. “How does that make any difference?”

Because, honey, I’m tired. That’s why.

I gave up my reflection for Lent because I’m tired.

I’m tired of the self-degradation that we do as women, that we’re either not enough or too much — which all depends on whether we’re looking in the mirror (not enough) or staring at the numbers on the bathroom scale (too much).


I’m tired of women seeing themselves as a series of disconnected parts, rather than a whole, preapproved creation of God.

I’m tired of girls worrying about “thigh gaps,” or lack thereof.

I’m a mama who is tired of the photoshopping and the airbrushing.

And honey, I’m tired that girls your age begin to fret over their curves — even before they begin to learn cursive.

Listen, daughter. I’m going to put my hands on your shoulders while I tell you this:  Little girls who think they’re not enough/too much … grow up into women who think they’re not enough/too much.

So many women despise what they see in the mirror, but once their fingers touch the computer keyboards, they pretend otherwise: 

On Instagram, every day is a good hair day. Nobody has pimples or eats the last three spoonfuls of macaroni-and-cheese straight out of the pan.

I’m tired of that. And, I’ve been guilty of that. I love Instragram filters more than I should. I love the way that a good filter can take five years off my face. I’m sad for all the ways I preach “preapproved” to you girls, but use filters for the World Wide Web.

I’m done with that. So, then, this:

(The no-peek, no-filter selfie of the day…)
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Daughter, I want to stop obsessing about what’s in the mirror, and I want to stop stressing about what’s on the scale, so I can start professing who I really am:


On Easter morning, I want to stand before our mirror, knowing soul-deep that my pouched middle means that the gift of motherhood stretched me. I want to know that the fine lines are marks of the years who’ve made me who I am.

A couple weeks ago, when I was gone on that trip with your grandma to New York City, I nearly cried tears of joy when I saw a woman standing outside the TODAY show studio with this sign.

What woman does this?

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We need more women who are proud of who they are, not trying to hide something. We need more women who will hold up some kind of sign, as if to say: I am preapproved. I am good, as is. I am done with “not enough.” I am done with “too much.”

That’s why, dear daughter. That’s why the mirrors are covered. That’s why you see me struggling and fumbling and laughing with my flat iron, in front of a covered mirror. That’s why you see my hair winging out the side of my hat in the hairstylist’s chair (bless her heart for covering the mirror):

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Because I want to live what I believe. And I want you to live it, too.

But maybe you did know if after all. Because you came to me, sweet daughter, and you said you wanted to do the same thing. Because you didn’t want your mama to do this alone.

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And so we do this together.

I wonder, dear daughter, what beauty we’ll behold on Easter morning, when our Hope rises so gloriously — our Hope telling us that we’re preapproved beyond our wildest dreams …



Join us at The Love Idol Movement by clicking here. 




Click here to print the preapproved cutouts. Place these where ever your Love Idols have lurked! LoveIdolPrintable_pink

Preapproved printable: to frame, to put on your refrigerator, to give to a friend. Click here to print. My gift to you, brave soul!



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 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.


  • This is precious, Jennifer! To think she is so in tune with this. The lessons you are teaching her will resonate throughout all her years. She will never forget this! Thank God, we are pre-approved by Him, regardless of what we look like, how much we weigh, who likes us or who doesn’t, how popular we are, or any other measure of humankind. I love this thought!

    • She IS! She is in tune. Of course, the poor girl has no choice. All the mirrors are covered now. 🙂

  • “I want to live what I believe. And I want you to live it, too.” Yes! Isn’t that at the very core of casting off all these Love Idols? Actually purposing to LIVE what we BELIEVE? Thank you for this! A priceless gift to yourself, your daughter, and this beautiful community…but I think the one who is blessed the most is the Only One who truly matters. How God’s heart must be brimming over with love for all his daughters who are finally accepting the gift of “Preapproved”he’s always given.

    • So glad you’re here, Becky. Grateful for the sisterhood of preapproved hearts.

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  • I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around all those mirrors being covered up and it just astounds me that you are doing this Jennifer. I’m inspired and amazed — and now your girlie too — wow!

    • Our family is in a hotel room in Des Moines tonight, and let me tell you … it’s hard work not to see our reflection here. Mirrors, mirrors everywhere! I’ll have the carpet pattern memorized before we leave here. Trying to keep my gaze downward. 🙂

  • This has been powerful reading what you are sharing during your Lenten practice. Thanks so much. I am printing this out for my scales sharing this on Facebook!

    • Thanks for sharing, Jean, and for your kind words.

  • MsLorretty

    Yes. So tired, so exhausted. So willing to lay it all down. Glad for all this wonderful company!

    • We’re in it together, babe. It’s a #loveidolsmackdown, as Sandra Heska King likes to say. 🙂

  • Love those Lee girls! Way to support your mama. 🙂

    • They’re pretty good kids. 🙂

  • KatieKump

    Well, here I am, crying in public. Thank you, Jennifer. I’m 26 and my friends and I are mostly getting pregnant now or soon, Lord willing. I’m not yet, but I’m watching a friend fight to not gain *any* baby weight and it’s devastating. I could so easily be in the same, self-destructive place in the next year. Praying your words might be an encouragement to her as they have been, preemptively, for me. So grateful.

    • May you embrace and adore every new curve, every pound … knowing that each one is part of the miracle.

      I am so glad you’re here. A joy to connect with you today Katie. God bless…

  • Alyssa Santos

    It’s a sneaky, sneaky idol – our image idol. My daughter, who lives in a dorm (can you imagine the non-stop rush of self-criticism that happens in the morning there?) posted this on her Facebook page the other day. I thought you’d appreciate the words: “i stopped examining myself in the mirror to compare myself to the perfect beauties of movies and magazines; i decided i was beautiful–for the simple reason that i wanted to be. and then never gave the matter a second thought.” -isabel allende
    It is a choice, you’re right. And what a gift that as Christians, we can seek the truth of our beauty in the pages of the Word, in the suffering of Christ and in the reality that he looks upon the heart. On the heart! And even my heart He beautifies when I’ve allowed him. Praying for you this Lent. So excited to see the movement moving hearts toward Jesus.

    • That daughter of yours is one smart cookie.

  • Lisha Epperson

    Deep, deep sigh over here…because I know this song. I had a conversation last year, with my then 10 year old daughter, about body image and self confidence. She was concerned because the girls in her class were already starting to worry that their still young bellies, stuck out a little too much in their figure skating costumes. It broke my heart to have her think of herself as anything less than preapproved. We’ll keep having the conversations and I’ll model my own preapproval and point her to the only opinion that counts. Save me a scoop of that mac and cheese, Jennifer. I like the corner.

    • Modeling our own preapproval…. Yes, that’s it. How many times, I wonder, have the girls seen me scowl at my own reflection, suck in my gut, and so on…

  • Oh, I cried when I saw the photo of your sweet girl covering her mirror. Love it! Last night we were struggling with our son as he was doing his homework (perfectionist tendencies are definitely inherited!), and afterward he came to me to apologize for his attitude. I told him again that his value is not wrapped up in his performance, that he is God’s chosen and already has His approval. And he just beamed. Where a month ago he wouldn’t even listen, now his heart is softening to the truth. I have the fridge sign posted where all our kids can see it, right by where they charge their iPods – given how many times a day he checks his for HayDay updates, I’m willing to bet he’s read that sheet over dozens of times now!

    • I wish I had three thumbs right now. I want to give three thumbs up to this comment. Thank you, Andrea, for sharing this with me.

  • That did it. I’m just puddled here. And Grace at 11, she’s worried about body image–she’s too big here, not big enough there, forehead’s too high, can’t wear those dress pants for the band concert because they look like boy’s, can’t get the hair to fit nicely into a “hot bun” without bumps and stray hairs … so exhausting.

    I so love what you’re doing, who you are, just as you are.

    • Thank you, SHK. Our girls struggle with some of the same things. And we’re all just trying to work it out. I hope we all feel differently on the other side of this experiment.

  • Beth

    I just love you. You are changing lives friend. You are changing mine. Praise God for how He is using you.

  • Oh man. I’m crying too hard to leave a proper comment. Beautiful Lee women. Wow.

  • WOW! Jennifer, how did you know that I needed to read this and read this TODAY? EVERY DAY! I am 66 years old and have lived this way for much of my life, with very few periods where I accepted myself the way God made me. I grew up without the precious words that you have set before your daughter. Praise God for you and others who help to shape beautiful young women.

    I have allowed the world to define my shape, especially my shape, by the standards of those others who they consider “perfect”. I am PREAPPROVED! Yes, I am!

    Caring through Christ, ~ linda

    • I love your beautiful, one-of-a-kind, preapproved heart, Linda!

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  • A great message to tell our girls AND our boys. It’s funny, for the first time in a long time I actually looked in the mirror yesterday (Im’ a man, okay!) . And i was shocked that I had a wrinkle I had never noticed. Wha? Where did that come from? Then I remembered your pledge, and just walked away. It might a while before I revisit a long look in the mirror again.

  • Megan Willome

    Girlfriend, covering your hairdresser’s mirror is the ultimate in commitment! (Speaking of which, I need a hairdresser. I’m wanting to do something bold, but I’ve avoided forming a relationship with a good hairdresser. Yeah, I’ve got issues!).

    • SHE is the one who covered it. She’s awesome. She follows my blog and wanted to make sure had things covered before I sat in my chair. Pretty sweet.

  • Alia_Joy

    I love your mama heart and your girl’s precious spirit. May it never be broken by the lies of this world of not enough and too much. Let her be firmly planted in truth. Walking together in truth. That’s gospel right there.

    • Everything’s better with two or more gathered. 🙂 Thanks, Alia.

  • Elisa Pulliam

    So I tried to cover my mirrors. Yes, I tried. But my girls balked a bit, especially at the one cover in the kitchen, because it’s the one they use right before they leave the house. I tried to explain the whole purpose and what it meant for me…without confessing that I wanted this to be an all or nothing journey…and why I still hadn’t covered my own bathroom mirror.

    But before I could explain or get to covering all the other mirrors, I realized a precious gift.

    By God’s grace, somehow my girls are not nearly as obsessed with their appearance as I was at their age. They aren’t primping and fussing when they look in the mirror. They’re not criticizing or plucking or popping what they see. They’re just making sure food’s out of their braces and their hair is not flipping out of control.

    Their reflection is unmarred by the criticisms that made me want to hide at their age. They’ve been spared. And maybe encouraged just enough by me to live out their identity in Christ and not by the words of this world.

    So I uncovered the kitchen mirror to honor their plea, but left one mirror covered in the hallway — the one I criticize myself the most in right before I leave the house. I love how God is now using it to remind me that I’m preapproved. This truth is sinking in…in a whole new way…as I look at my life through the Word and also through the eyes of my unmarred daughters…who don’t need covered mirrors to be reminded of their worth.

    • This is really, really beautiful, Elisa. If you decide to write about this on your blog, do let me know. I’d love to share your story on the Love Idol Movement page. Just drop me an email at jennifer@jenniferdukeslee.com… Or tag me on FB. I’d love to read more about your journey, and share it with the community at large.

  • KristinHillTaylor

    Earlier today, I sat on the couch and had a hard conversation with my 6-year-old daughter about her friends at recess, about how perfection isn’t going to happen, about how I want her to stop trying so hard, about how her daddy and I will always listen, about how some days are hard, about how we can always whisper prayers to God. And then we prayed for her to let go and let God. This love idol business starts early and I’m thankful that even on this week that’s been mentally exhausting (um, yeah, it’s only Wednesday, I know …), that I have words like this to encourage me and my girl. We are preapproved. I love the way you’re sharing this message – and praying my heart continues to soak it up so I can pass it on to my girl.

    • Oh Kristin… I am right there with you. We are daily preaching gospel to ourselves in the Lee house. Keep up the good work, mama. I can be exhausting at times, but the rewards are huge. Your girl will have such a clearer identity in Christ, because you’re taking the time, early on, to let her know who she really is…
      Love to you…

  • Laura Risser Moss

    Oh my. *choking back the tears* 3 of my 4 girls would’ve done the very same thing your precious girl did…and reading about your desire to be congruent and walk out the word you’ve been speaking is about the most beauty-full thing I can imagine. Just think of the ripples your mirrorless 40 days are creating. So. Very. Powerful. <3

    • Thank you, Laura! When Anna joined the mirrorless Lent, it became a whole new ballgame. Opportunities opened to talk about body image and appearance in a way that we really hadn’t addressed in such an in-depth way. Thanks for coming by, Laura.

  • There is something about not doing it alone. Strength in numbers. This weekend at a tween/mom retreat, I challenged the moms to pray the armor of God over themselves every day for a week and then journal about how their lives changed. Then, I told them to teach their daughters the armor of God and pray together for a week, then journal. And finally, when we were all together, I told the daughters about the challenge for their moms. Cuz kids are really good at keeping their parents accountable!

    • Oh, I love that, Jen. And you’re right about kids keeping parents accountable. Lydia is a fantastic accountability partner. Every time I fret over something related to approval, she says to me: “Mom, remember what your book is about!”

  • Power of Modesty

    This is beautiful. A real testimony of two hearts, one leading the other to womanhood, through the traps of teenhood, an example a true beauty, heart and soul

  • I LOVE this! That beautiful Anna will never forget this. What a gift you are, Jennifer.

    • So glad you dropped in. Wish you were closer. You could tell Anna and I if we have spinach in our teeth. 🙂

  • Elizabeth Stewart

    I think you are the best kind of beautiful…inside and out!

    • ((Elizabeth))) … Love to you, friend.

  • This made me cry. As a mama who has believed for too long that she’s not enough, who is raising daughters, and who one has said out of her own mouth, “I don’t like…..”, this really moved me. I never had anyone tell me that I was enough, and now, years later, a mature Christian who writes to encourage the hearts of women, yet often don’t believe my own words, this sinks deep. Thank you!

    • Barbie … I am nodding in agreement. I know this. It frustrates me when I know the spiritual answer for someone else, but have a hard time believing it for myself. Let’s do this, together, Barbie. We’ve had enough of the not-enoughs. Amen?

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  • Jennifer, I am so glad I came by. This piece brings tears. Tears of joy for mamas who are dedicated to teaching this, tears of happiness anticipating your book release, tears at remembered pain . . . Thank you for this, sweet sister.

  • pastordt

    Oh, so lovely, Jennifer. And you know that I just adore that Anna girl of yours. You told this perfectly, my dear. Really, truly.

  • JViola79

    Jennifer – this is beautiful! May God seal in your daughter’s heart each & every lesson she learns in this journey for I think there may be many. And may each lesson further nail down the truth, that she is preapproved, deeply in her soul. Looking at my sweet granddaughter (21 mos. old) and praying over her for her to learn this lesson young as well. Love all that you are sharing with us! And loving you!

  • Brenda Lynn

    I don’t have daughters, but I have girlfriends, and I have me. And I have the woman at work with hurt painted all over. I think it’s way beyond time we started seeing ourselves through the eyes of our Father who created us- precisely how He wanted us. Perfectly unique and perfect. Beautiful. Beloved. Just as we are. And then, as woman, we need to encourage and uplift each other. Be our own pep squad. Believe our best in each other so we can learn to believe it in ourselves.

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  • Nancy Ruegg

    Thank you, Jennifer, for leading the way down a new path for us–a pathway cleared of all the lies about what’s beautiful, what’s praiseworthy, what’s enough. WE ARE GOOD, AS IS! WE ARE PRE-APPROVED BY THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE! And THAT is more than enough!

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  • Kelly Greer

    Jennifer – I love what is going on in your home with your girls. They are so blessed to have a Mom who gets it and gives it. I look forward to watching these girls as they grow up, reflecting all that you have poured in and allowed them to see of Jesus, pouring out into the hearts of others. Life changing, world changing stuff.

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@jenfulwiler You model this well, Jennifer. Loving Jesus and serving him boldly with your gifts.