#TellHisStory: Letting Go

February 13, 2013 | 38 comments

Today, we begin a new journey here, a writing community called #TellHisStory.

I believe in the power of story, because Jesus believed in the power of story.

Each Wednesday, I will share a story — a tale from my own life — that grafts into the greater story of God at work in the world. And I invite you to do the same, by linking up below:

(Subscribers: If you want to share your stories, you will need to click through here to link your blog or to share your story in the comments):


I stood at the feet of a dying farmer, his crooked toes peeking out from under the white sheet of a hospice bed. These were the feet that carried one man through our family’s farm fields and through Vietnam jungles and straight into foxholes. They carried him down a carpeted aisle toward his bride, and into hospital delivery rooms three times – once for the boy who would grow up to be my husband.

In that one moment in a hospice house, with the January sun slanting in through the glass pane, I reached for my father-in-law’s foot.  It seems silly now, perhaps, but there you have it :  I wanted to hold on to something. I grieved, and I held on, to grieve a good man, a fine farmer, and a thousand moments he would never see.

He was the only one who ever called me Jenny.

I had to grieve every mud-pie tea party he’d never have with our daughters, and those stories we’d never hear again, and his awful jokes, and the sad truth that he wouldn’t be there for the milestones.

It was time to let go — to let him go. But I’ve always been stubborn about holding on too tight, too long. 

I held onto one dying man’s foot a while longer.

It was my husband, firstborn of the children, who leaned over his Dad’s chest, with all of us gathered around. My farmer-husband leaned in close and spoke really loud, because he wanted his Dad to know: “It’s OK Dad, you can go. You can go now. We want you to go…”

The firstborn rubbed his father’s arm, and this palpable longing for Heaven wrapped itself around a son’s next words–

“Dad … Dad, I wish I could see what you’re seeing now. I … I wish I could see it.”

And just like that, in a room with the curtains opened and light streaming in, the old farmer slipped out of his skin and left us for Home.


That was four years ago, and every year at the beginning of Lent, I remember the moment vividly – the slow letting-go of a precious life. Except that it wasn’t slow, now that I think about it. It went so terribly and unfairly fast.

Like a vapor. That’s how the Bible compares our lives. Vapor-like.

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Those are the words Pastor Rich will say tonight when he puts an ashen cross on my forehead.

And in that moment, I suspect that I will think about all the big and little letting-go’s that are required of us. And I suppose I will think about my father-in-law. And I will think about how hard life can be sometimes, on this side where goodbyes and doubts and regrets consume.


Today we begin a Lenten journey toward the cross, we begin our very own letting go, a slipping out of our little selves. And though we may not die a physical death this year, we may just die a thousand little deaths along the way.

But that would require some letting go.

I need to die again today – a different kind of death.

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” ~ Matthew 10:39

 This Lent, I’ve got nothing to lose. And I’ve got a lot to lose — a lot that I need to lose. 

Dear God, Help us, because we really do want to give up, to put our hands up, and to woman-up to the call You’ve placed on our lives:

I want to give up on not-enough and my compulsion for man’s approval and that one question ringing in my ears: “What will people think of you?”

I want to give up on the inner critic that bruises, and the mirror that accuses, and the mental playback that oozes with bad history.

I want to give up on mediocrity and the notion of merely surviving, in exchange for more of abundant, life-giving You.

I want to give up on anything that tells me that my one life doesn’t matter much — or the reverse: that’s it somehow all up to me.

I want to give up on my own selfish plans, my penchant for self-criticism and my silly notions about pleasing God.

For Lent, I want to give up me, and give in to God.


I had lunch today with my friend, Vicki, and we leaned in close, right over our soup bowls. We talked about that coming day, that One Great Day, when we will fall at His feet. Jesus will tuck our loose strands behind our ears, cup our chins in His hands, and see our empty hands, empty of all that we held.

Our small words over soup-bowls felt big – like they were wound around this palpable longing for Heaven. And I remembered it again, just then, how the son leaned over his father and bid him, “Go!”:

“Dad … Dad, I wish I could see what you’re seeing now. I wish I could see it.”

And the son let go. And the old farmer let go.

And I want to let go.



As a part of #TellHisStory, an author, editor, poet or other writer will join me right here each week, to encourage those of you who are writers or storytellers. First up: Billy Coffey. I’m thrilled to have Billy here. Long, long ago, Billy and I became blogging friends, and for a stretch there, I think he was the only visitor in my comment box. It’s been a joy to watch Billy’s writing career soar, high and unto the Glory of God! Meet Billy …
[big_title title=”#TellHisStory Weekly Writer’s Tip” subtitle=”A Writer’s Purpose by Author Billy Coffey” icon=”screen”]

In many ways the difference between a good writer and a great one depends on this one principle—how well you understand what it is you’re doing every time you sit with pen and paper.

I don’t mean how to structure a plot or draw a well-rounded character. I don’t mean specific nouns or active verbs. Those are the muscles of writing and can be learned and exercised well enough. No, I mean the bones of what you do. I mean your purpose.

It says much for the power of writing that God did not wave His hands to fashion creation. He used words instead, three of them over and over. Let there be, He said, thereby turning work into art and us into story. As a writer, that is your purpose. To continue His art. To add to His creation.

What you’re doing is volunteering to stand in the breach of shadow and sun and hold a mirror to the dark places of the world. It is to shine God’s light such that your words do not tell the world how we are all different, but how we are all the same.

ABOUT BILLY: I’m a writer of two novels, Snow Day (2010) and Paper Angels (2011), with two more on the way by Thomas Nelson. That may make me sound smart and/or wise. Neither is particularly applicable. I count that as a blessing, because the great thing about wandering around in the fog is you never know what you might run into.

You can find Billy on Facebook here. And on Twitter here.


So, what’s your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God. From now through Easter, I encourage you to consider stories that center around our Lenten journey, as we move toward the cross and resurrection of our Savior. (However, you are free to share any story that God is speaking into your life this week.)

To participate in the #TellHisStory linkup, simply:

1. Write your #TellHisStory post, from your heart, straight onto your blog. A #TellHisStory is any story that connects YOUR STORY into the story of God. What story is God telling in your life this week? (Optional Writer’s prompt this week through Easter: The Lenten Journey.)

2. Link here and invite friends to join in by posting the #TellHisStory badge on your post.

3. Copy the permalink of your post.

4. Using the linky tool, paste your link in.

5. Find someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment.

6. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.

Your words matter to God. They matter to people. And they matter to me!


[badge url=’https://jenniferdukeslee.com/tell-his-story/’ title=’#TellHisStory – a community of God/’s storytellers’ image=’https://jenniferdukeslee.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/tellhisstory-badge.jpg’]

by | February 13, 2013 | 38 comments


  1. Lynn Morrissey

    Thank you for such a beautiful, poignant story about your beloved father-in-law, Jennifer. It brought tears to my eyes. Your father-in-law knows now what we all long to know experientially–that in the paradox of letting go comes the greatest gain. Oh, yes, imagine what he sees! And just think: He will never have to let go again! And during Lent (and at any time), we can have the courage to let go of what Christ asks, because He will never let go of us. May the Lord truly bless you during this beautiful, reflective time of year, as you prepare for Easter, Jennifer.

    • dukeslee

      Because He never lets go … NEVER. Amen, Lynn. Thank you for that.

  2. Danise Jurado

    In those moments of letting go… you are so right we not only let go of what was but we let go of what never will be. We reconcile that with our hope and faith in the One who always sees what we are unable to. When we intimately touch the moment a love one lets go, we are faced with our own mortality and somehow empowered to let go of our life in many new ways.
    Thank you sweet friend for sharing your story…
    I am looking forward to writing together with you as we #TellHisStory

    • dukeslee

      Danise, Yes. You’ve captured something important about grief here. How, in these moments that we say goodbye, we are releasing a bit more of ourselves and acknowledging that one day, we’ll slip away from the world too.

  3. 3dLessons4Life

    Oh, I just let out a nice, deep breath. Your post has given me a nudge in His direction, and my heart is feeling more “ready” for the season that starts tomorrow. Thank you! I love that you say we need to “woman up.” 🙂

    This sentence will be hanging out in my heart tonight as my head hits the pillow: “I want to give up on mediocrity and the notion of merely surviving, in exchange for more of abundant, life-giving You.”

    I will definitely be reading this post again in the morning.


    • dukeslee

      Let’s woman up, my friend! We’ve got this. With God’s help, we’ve got this! 🙂

  4. marty

    Wonderful words…and perhaps a fuller picture of Lent and not just about what we give up because we love Jesus.

  5. Alecia

    Beautiful words to start off Lent. I’m still praying about what I can let go of to offer up as a sacrifice to prepare my heart. But I have a feeling it’s me. I think He wants more of me like I need more of Him.
    Love your new site and series!

  6. lorisprayercloset

    Reading your story….I remember how my sister in law slipped away and I wish I could have been there. I do wish I could see what see is seeing how too. This was so beautiful Jennifer, so beautiful. Lori

  7. Amy

    YES! This. It’s worship. Truly. The acknowledgement of our need for Him, first. Then, the willingness to let Him take us beyond ourselves, our fears, and into His arms.

    • dukeslee

      I love how you always find worship. … Your heart shimmers with Christ!

  8. Linda Chontos

    It isn’t simply that you write so amazingly well, it is that you put words to the things so many of us feel. It is uncanny the way your words give expression to the deepest yearnings of my heart.
    Thank you for sharing your story. I’m going to try to tell mine a little later today.

    • dukeslee


      You are so good to me; you make me think these words in this little place matter. Your encouragement keeps me going, my friend!

      I am very much looking forward to your story.

    • dukeslee

      I can’t even imagine. Can.Not.Imagine what he is seeing. And now his mama finally made it home. She died about two weeks ago.

  9. Summer Gross

    I love your remodel. I love the fact that you always lead us straight to Jesus. I love your wrestling and your realness…and your hunger for humility. Thank you.

    • dukeslee

      ((Summer)) … Thank you for all the love. I’ve missed all of you ladies. I’ve been so busy sprucing up this place and getting the new community together and finishing my manuscript, that I haven’t been around the blogosphere much. It’s so good to see your sweet face.

  10. Megan Willome

    When we let go unto death, there is hope, and it’s all over this piece. When we let go unto life, well, for me at least, that’s a lot scarier. Absolutely anything can happen.

    • dukeslee

      You articulated something, there, that I was thinking last night. It was appalling, really, when I considered how much I cling to the things of this life. With Paul’s passing, I had no choice. But when I’m given the choice, I choose to hang on to so much.

  11. Donna Bostick

    WOW!! Thank you for an amazing read! Speechless! Love it and thanks for sharing!

    • dukeslee

      I’m glad you are in community with us, Donna! Thanks for being here.

  12. Michelle DeRusha

    Such a beautiful story, Jennifer. I am really feeling it today, as we approach the one-year anniversary of my father-in-law’s death this Saturday.

    {I hope it’s okay that I linked up my post about the Lent devotional – it’s like 47 mini versions of His story!}

    • dukeslee

      Yes, Michelle! I’m so glad you linked your devotional. You are so generous to share it with us. By all means — friends here in comment box — don’t walk, but RUN to Michelle’s for her free devo! 🙂

  13. Dolly@Soulstops

    sigh…such a touching story…I linked up my post for Holley because I felt like in it I had to die to my self desire to get more done, and obey God’s call to rest…Thanks, Jennifer 🙂

  14. simplystriving

    Yes. this.
    I want that too…
    Here’s to letting go and letting God…

  15. Kris Camealy (@KrisCamealy)

    I love this. I love how you point me always to Jesus. Free-falling in my mind, right into His arms.

  16. Laurie Collett

    What a beautiful story, and a wonderful community you are hosting. Thanks for both & God bless!

  17. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Thank you, Jennifer.
    For this story. For this space. For Billy’s bit.

    For sharing your heart so freely. You are something, you know that?

  18. David @ Red Letter Believers

    I’m digging your new digs!

    I remember being with my dad the last few days of his life. And i was struck with the incredible irony of my prayer that he be healed. It was selfish of me to ask that prayer. It just so that I could enjoy him for a few more days or months. And meanwhile, i was robbing him of eternity and freedom from pain. At that moment, I prayed a freeing prayer — letting go.

  19. ro elliott

    I was with my father in law as well at he passed from here…watching someone slip into the hands of God is a holy space…and I too want to let go…let my self continually slip into the loving arms and presence of the Lord. beautiful story…thanks for sharing~

  20. Rebekah

    Jennifer, I am new here and found you link via another blogger.
    Your words, your story gripped me right away. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.
    I linked up an older post of my story – one that I struggle with every day and always found it not worthy to tell. Thank you for your encouragement. I look forward to reading more of your stories and to find the courage to share more of the story God has written for me.
    And as we look to the cross, we remember how we deserved to die but instead have died and been born with Christ and it is for His glory and by His amazing grace that we share this Gospel of Love and peace and living hope.

  21. Emily Wierenga

    wow, friend, i LOVE your new look. you are STUNNING.

  22. Janis Cox

    Another wonderful idea – God’s nudging I am sure. I have a link I started at Wednesday’s Word where I encourage others to tell what they have heard from God that week.
    Blessings to you,
    I loved “your story”,

  23. Susan DiMickele

    What a blessing this community is. Wow. I can’t wait to be a part of it going forward.

  24. Nancy Ruegg

    What a powerful story and thought-provoking post, Jennifer. I’m fighting back tears, as my heart and soul resonate profoundly to your premise: Letting go is key. Thank you for the labor of thought, prayer, and composing you put into each post.

  25. Laura Brown

    “I’ve always been stubborn about holding on too tight, too long.” Have you done this with relationships? I’m examining ways I have done this, because I want to stop.



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