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 29th April 2013

What It Means to Let Go and Let God (A Letter to Daughters)

Dear daughters,

We were never meant to carry our burdens alone. That’s what it I thought when I watched the two of you to carry that pail of rocks to the shore. You were two little girls, wanting to help carry the weight of someone else’s world for a few hundred steps.

I hope you never forget how heavy those burdens were.

Fear can weigh a person down, girls. So can comparison, unbelief, worry, loneliness, addiction, approval-seeking, and pride.

That bucket was filled with one-hundred rocks, bearing the words of the weary and the broken. They wrote their burdens down on a Saturday night in Nebraska, and I carried them all home in the trunk, with a promise to pray. You said you’d help.

You girls said the words written on the rocks were like demons. That seemed about right to me. And you wanted to listen to that Phillip Phillips song all the way to the little lake north of our house, the song that told us to “pay no mind to the demons.”

We blared the song through the speakers, and we belted it out in our hearts. I saw you girls, in the rear-view mirror, looking out the windows while that song played, while rock-burdens bounced around in a bucket in the back of the Acadia:

Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Sticks and stones can break your bones, but names really can hurt, too.

Girls, you can outgrow the school playground, but still carry the same old rocks when you’re 32 or 45 or 68 years old. You can, but you don’t have to.

I pray you don’t.

Here’s the truth: Some of the the worst names are the ones we call ourselves. A lot of them start like this: “I’m Not Enough.” How many rocks did we see with those three words scratched onto the surface?

My chin quivered when I listened to you pray over those rocks. Tears rolled, for a thousand ways that women see only what they aren’t. And for all the ways I have felt the same way.

Girls, you have felt it at times, too, on soccer fields and in classrooms. And that’s why you didn’t have to ask me what “not enough” meant.

I pray that your Dad and I never made you feel that way. I’m sorry for the times we might have. We want you to know this one truth, more than your arithmetic or spelling lists — we want you to know that you really are enough, that you have nothing to prove to anyone.

Did you know that some people can go to their graves carrying the weight of regret?

We don’t have to.

Throw the rocks of regret away now, daughters, and keep letting them go if you have to. Toss them far, far away. Keep your hands free. Because you can love better with empty hands.

And believe the truth that you are loved.

Walk with the others. Stop for the ones who are hurting. Don’t run on ahead,  now. Help carry a friend’s burden to the place where they can let them go for good, and for God. Cheer them on when they walk away lighter.

Stay close to the cross, girls. That’s where you can always lay a rock down.

I heard the prayers that you said before you threw those rocks into the water. You picked each one up, one by one.

“It’s OK to make mistakes,” you prayed.

I heard you quoting from Matthew and Jeremiah and 2 Timothy.

Anna, I heard your hearty “High-YA!” I saw how you cupped your hands around your mouth, like a megaphone, to shout out across the waters: “Stay at the bottom of the lake!”

Believe those words for yourself, dear children. I’d like to tell you that you won’t feel the hurts in the bucket someday. But the truth is, you may need to throw a few rocks of you own in a lake from time to time. I’ll go with you, if you want.


And when you do get free of the rocks? That’s when you begin to really live, and to really love.

We emptied a whole bucket of rocks. Then, we walked with our heads held high, all the way back to the car, with the late-afternoon sun warming our arms.

We pulled out of the parking lot, gravel crunching under our tires. I steered the car over top of the dam. That’s when I remembered it–

the stone in my pocket.

It was my stone, the one with the words, “Approval of Others.”

When I found it among the other rocks, I shoved it in my pocket. Thought it would be okay to keep my own rock in my pocket awhile, you know, in case I needed to remind myself from time to time.

But then I knew it: I needed to let it go.

I stopped the car, right at the top of dam, and put the car in park. I walked to the edge of the dam, and threw that rock far, as far as I could.

Truth is, I’ve carried that one rock around for a good long while. It felt good to watch it sail out of my hand like that, and then watch it cut through the glassy surface, until it rippled out, out across the lake. Until it was no more.

And we drove back home, listening to that song called Home.

And we’re gonna make it, girls.
We’re gonna make it home.

Your mom


A video of the girls praying and getting rid of burdens, tossing pain and regret deep into the water. (Email subscribers can click here to see the video.)

Daughter Lydia is writing about the experience over here, on her blog:

  • ro elliott

    And when you do get free of the rocks? That’s when you begin to really live, and to really love. so true…and may we turn and help those coming behind us..to come and walk right beside them…helping them clear their path…removing the rocks as they go…tossing them aside…not picking them up to carry. Just a beautiful picture of God’s cleansing love and forgiveness.

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Ro. It was a beautiful afternoon, and I pray that the girls never forget. As they grow older, I hope they continue to speak boldly against the “rocks” that stand between us and our fullest life in Christ Jesus.

  • Kim

    You made me cry again, Jennifer. What a wonderful lesson you are teaching your girls! Now, if we can all just keep those “rocks” deep in the lake and quit picking them back up when we’ve laid them at the feet of the Lord and He’s covered them with His Living Water. Blessings to you and yours, Jennifer.

    • dukeslee

      It’s so tempting to pick them back up again. Some of us have heard the lies about ourselves for so long, that we hardly know how to live without speaking them over and over to ourselves. Praying that all the women and men who wrote on those rocks can leave the rocks where they lay … for good!

  • My fears are written on one of those rocks, down at the bottom of the lake. But how did you know? How did you know that this morning, of all mornings, I would be suffocating under them once again, as if I scribed them on rocks and tucked it in my own pocket (how perfect!) or carried a copy back in my heart. As if you can let go again and again only to pick up and carry out of habit when you’re not looking.

    “When you let go of the rocks, that’s when you start to really live…” I’ve lived that truth these past days and weeks, and yet, it’s the living that catches your breath and steals your joy if you’re not careful. It’s the life that stops you from really living, if you focus on it too long; and not on the One who gives it. Tears streaming again (yes, Kim! Me too!), today I’m off to try and be brave one more time, to try and reach out once more, to take one big monster in the room and tackle it long enough to know I can persevere a little longer. And perhaps in that moment longer, I will find my Stronghold again, my personal Bravery and Strong, High Tower, Who will life me up on wings like an eagles, and soar high above all this, or at least help me wade in the deep.

    Thank you for the reminder, for the beautiful promise fulfilled, those rocks unleashed, prayed over and sent flying. Thank you Lydia and Anna for your prayer and participation. It was just what I needed to try again.

    Love you, ladies. <3

    • dukeslee

      Jessica. … I know the feeling. I know it! We want to pick up those bad boys again, believing the lies that they tell.

      I think that’s why we have to remember that the Gospel isn’t just for evangelizing someone else. We need to evangelize our very own selves! Let’s keep preaching the Gospel to our very own hearts, sister. Keep preaching to our own hearts, all the way Home!

  • Thank, you…thank you Jennifer, for sharing this with us….

    • dukeslee

      My pleasure, Cari.

  • you, my friend are raising up warriors of light and truth. Oh dear Lydia, your prayers spoken in faith, your claiming of scripture, your launching of our fears into the depths…thank you so much dear girls, and my dear Jennifer, for doing this beautiful thing, this cleansing and powerful thing. There are no words to describe what i feel, as tears flow down my cheeks as I feel his mercy and grace. Thank you friends, you are loved and you ARE his Love to each of us.

    • dukeslee

      It is a privilege and honor, truly, good sister. We feel freer and lighter, and we pray the same for any woman anywhere who carries burdens that they don’t have to carry. Love to you…

  • Thinking on the cross, the lake, and stones we carry. How when we look to the cross, cast our burdens into the lake of His love, there are ripple effects. What was meant for our harm Jesus turns to rivers of living water inside us and it bubbles out to touch others. Can’t get over that Jesus in me changes me. I can let go and be. Oh Jennifer how this touched a deep place inside me today. Thank you!!

    • dukeslee


      I love the way you see. Thank you for pointing the way to Living Water. Bless you, friend.

  • Beautiful in every way I can think of. Thank you, Jennifer, Lydia and Anna.

    • dukeslee

      It is our privilege. Truly. We are grateful to the 100 women and men of Jumping Tandem (And the 270 of the Beautiful Life conference) who allowed us to take these burdens to the King. What an honor…

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  • Thank You Jennifer. How often do I try to carry my own burden, not wanting to trouble others with carrying it for or with me? Thank you for reminding me it’s what the body does…it’s what Jesus longs to do. Oh how he longs to carry our burdens for us, if only we would let go. How long will the lie “you are not enough” be allowed to play in my mind before I throw it and leave it there?

    • dukeslee

      Praying that you can toss that burden far, far away…. I’m holding your hand, sister. Right there with you. We can do this…

    • Love you, Sharon!

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    • dukeslee

      You are so welcome, my dear sister. Missin’ you!

  • Lynn Morrissey

    Oh Jennifer… OH! I read at Lydia’s today, and thought that a little child really will lead them. Believe it or not, she gives me courage that if God can use a child, He can still use me, if I will but remain childlike and trusting. And I said this to her, “Sometimes we’re too weak to do it ourselves and our friends help. Thank you, young friend Lydia, for all your help and encouragement.”…..and then I read your statement. that we were never meant to carry our burdens alone. How wonderful that your girls know this and choose to help others, even those they don’t know, even those older than they. We all bear burdens, and we all need a helping hand at carrying and disposing of the weight of those. Thank you so much for your beautiful talk that night and for including us all in such an experientially profound way. Thank you for helping us let go our burdens and to lay them at the foot of the cross, at the bottom of the lake, to be remembered no more. Interestingly, I have on my desk a string of stones, my stones of remembrance, that are the opposite of stones of burden. These, ala Josh. 4, are a powerful reminder to me of God’s faithfulness–the faithfulness of my Rock and Redeemer; I have gathered them at various junctures in my life when He has powerfully delivered or ministered to me. The key is knowing the difference between a rock burden and a rock of blessing, and knowing that our God gives us the power to deal with one and appreciate the other! I surely love you, Jennifer. You are one rock-solid lover of Jesus!

    • dukeslee

      Profoundly beautiful, your words here, Lynn. Thank you. I love the idea of having stones of remembrance lined up like that. Thank you, also, for encouraging Lydia on your blog. You are such a blessing to mother and daughters!

  • Tears are streaming down my face but I’m pumping my fist in the air!!!!! Thank you. Please hug your girls for me.

    • dukeslee

      Pumping a fist with you, Barb. It was so empowering for the girls and I to take those rocks and pitch them, one by one, into the water. I was a weepy mess. Still am. … We hold on to so much. Feels good to walk freer and lighter today.

  • Just noticed the double meaning of the video title. Prayer rocks.

    • dukeslee


  • Gwen

    Jennifer, I read your blog all the time, but have never commented. Today’s letter to your daughter might be the most touching thing I’ve read here…and that’s saying a lot. Bless you.

    • dukeslee


      I’m so glad you commented. Your thoughts are always welcome here. I’m so encouraged by your words, and touched that you took the time to share your heart. Bless you.

  • I love, love, love this idea! What a beautiful story! I’m thinking this would be a wonderful thing to do down at our bridge ministry for the homeless. Would you mind if we used this idea some day? We could all stand on the bridge and after praying over each other’s rocks, we could throw them down into the river. I think it would be powerful! Thank you for sharing this with us~

    • dukeslee

      Kristin … I would love if you took the idea and blessed our homeless friends with it! I would be honored… If you do, please share the story with me. I’d love to hear about it!

  • This is so powerful. wow.

    • dukeslee

      (((Sharon))) … Praying with you, you know that?

  • Way to teach the next generation, by allowing them to throw away the trash from our generation! The girls are beautiful, Jennifer. Miss you!

    • dukeslee

      We felt a whole lot lighter after tossing all those burdens aside. I hope you’re feeling lighter, too, Diane! xo

  • You and Lydia have brought me to tears today. While I did not personally write my fear on one of those rocks- I saw a picture of one who shares that same fear. You and those young women your raising are amazing. Thank you for a much needed reminder that we don’t have to carry those stones of fear and regret around.

    • dukeslee

      Hi sweet friend … How I wish you could have joined us at the retreat. Know that on Saturday, Lydia and Anna and I prayed for women everywhere who are dealing with these same issues. Not every person had a chance to write on a rock, but we felt moved to pray for anyone who has been held back by fear, regret, worry, indecision, comparison, and the like. Thank you for your kind words about the girls. Love you.

  • Thank you for these words and the grace in them. They ministered to my heart today.

    • dukeslee

      I’m so glad, Susan. Glad you’re here today. Bless your heart.

  • That was the sweetest thing e-v-e-r. Those precious girls speaking truth over lies. I love the relationship you have with your daughters. It is priceless. – xo

  • Do you have any idea how loudly i crank up that song in my car while singing out those words at the top of my lungs? Don’t pay no mind to the demons they fill you with fear!

    And what you are teaching those lovely daughters of yours! I can’t wait to see who they become. thanks for giving me these glimpses.

  • What a beautiful way to bring the message “home” to your girls…and to us. Jennifer, that letting go was such a opening up experience for me, and I know for so many of us. Hanging on to those rocks is in no way profitable. God wants so much more for us. Thank you for recording the experience of not only letting them go but watching them carried, prayed over, and buried deep into the lake. You all bless me.

    • And Lydia! Thank you and thank Anna for praying for us. Your prayers spoke to my heart and your wisdom is beyond your years, wisdom from God. You are treasures!

  • BraveGirl Stacey

    Jennifer, I’ve been reading your blog for about 5 months. Even though I didn’t go to the Jumping Tandem retreat, I wanted to let you know that reading today’s post and watching that video, (at the beginning of what is a VERY difficult week for me) gives me HOPE and STRENGTH to lean in and be BRAVE and TRUST all the more in YAHWEH! The King of Kings who created me and LOVES me and in whom I give all the glory! Thank you for the good healing cry Jesus! Thank you for touching me through Jennifer! Thank you for your obedience Jennifer! ( and your beautiful baby girls who prayed over those rocks) He makes ALL things NEW!

  • Bawling…like a baby all over again. Especially when I heard your daughter pray over what I KNOW was my rock, my burden. “And a child shall lead them…”. Jennifer, I love that you put your rock in your pocket (for remembrance) ~ I would’ve been tempted to do the same, but realized in the end that you needed to cast it away, along with all the others. Your girls are so very blessed to have a mama who SEES them. They will never forget this. Guaranteed.

  • I sat in Bible Study last week and listened to Beth Moore say: “When satan figures out who we fear we are most, he sets about confirming it.” It is such a powerful truth.
    I am with you Jennifer. I sometimes feel He is yanking that need for approval of others “plant” out of my heart. I feel the firm pull and the resistance of the roots – and I long to be free of it. Pray for me?

  • Approval of others. Oh, me too. It’s the stone I can’t seem to pry from my fingers. It’s all connected to shame and pride, mostly pride… I’m praying that Jesus can pry it from my hand for me because I know I’m not strong enough. I’m so glad I found you today!

  • What a powerful example of God’s redeeming love for all of us. Just beautiful. I’ve carried a rock or two in my day. Thank you for this.

  • Jillie

    Oh Jennifer…I am in tears here! I trust you will continue to remind your girls of who they are, and Who He is. They are so beautiful and have such potential for good in this world. The video brought me to tears, as the sight of a praying child always makes me cry—so honest, so pure. And the way Anna caressed that rock in her little hands with such a look of compassion in her old-soul eyes, as Lydia prayed. Your girls are wee warriors for the King! I know my fears and insecurities were written on those rocks, even though I wasn’t at the retreat. Thank you for the prayers, all of you.

  • GrammaT

    Just what I must have needed tonight:) you always touch me in the deepest corners of my heart. This one went waaaay deep. Love you and those two precious little souls. We are so blessed to have you in our lives.

  • Kim Hyland

    “Tears rolled, for a thousand ways that women see only what they aren’t.” Profound. Thank you for speaking bravely and giving us courage to see all that we ARE, Jennifer. How awesome to read here how the rock I wrote on lies at the bottom of that lake. With your precious girl, I say “High-YA! Stay at the bottom of the lake!”

  • rkrumpe94

    Beautifully powerful! Letter, pictures, music, video and all. Thanks Jennifer!

  • Precious, precious.

    You, your daughters, your faith.

  • Getting my rock out of my pocket now. Thank you for this beautiful picture, Jennifer, and for teaching your girls to pray and carry one another’s burdens.

  • Love this post. I wrote a post about rocks, grace, and the goodness of God a while back. Here is the link.
    I think that you will find that our God is faithful.

  • Have to add my “Amen” to what others have already said: 1) Throwing our heavy rock-burdens into deep water creates a powerful, attitude-changing image. 2) Your daughters will surely remember this experience always. They’re already learning that burdens can hold us back from all God intends for us. And you’ve given them a strategy for dealing with them–throw them beneath the Living Water of Jesus’ forgiveness and restoration. Thank you, Jennifer!

  • I love this post! We did the same thing on Saturday at Bloom/inRL with Ann Voscamp. It was so neat.

  • just so, so powerful, friend… i love how you mother your daughters.

  • Thank you, again, Jennifer. Thank you to your girls as well–what a privilege to know that we were prayed over by those two little prayer warriors.

  • I am truly inspired by the way you are raising your girls to be warriors for Christ. This is powerful, all of it. Thank you Jennifer.

  • Oh, your girls—- the way they love and pray and live in His strength- it’s beautiful. And inspiring. Can’t wait to see how God unfolds all of His big dreams for those two. And love the way you’re living His dream for you, Jennifer. Thanks for letting me peek into this special moment. WIsh I’d had a rock in there.. think I’ll go round up a few and toss them in the lake across the road here in Pella. And pull the kids along, too!

  • Completely undone here. Knowing that those girls held and prayed over my rock–and then threw it away. Tears… nothing but tears.

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  • Oh this is the one I’ve been waiting for. Heart beating hard imagining your daughters casting all these mama’s worries on Him, into Him.

    love this so much

  • Kelly

    This is so amazing, gave me chills!!! Thank you for sharing this, faith and love in action!

  • Sarah

    Much needed. Hurling some rocks today.

    Be crazy blessed,


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  • Straight from the heart… May every daughter sense your love. And be changed.

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Tonight, hear Jesus speak these words over you: "It is finished." In whatever difficult situation you found yourself in today, pause and remember this: Jesus has the final say. If you felt shamed or rejected today, remember: Jesus has the final say. Yo… ift.tt/2DusT48 pic.twitter.com/NluYYphMuk