#TellHisStory: When You Need Help Navigating Through Uncertainty

May 15, 2013 | 34 comments

It’s spring, finally.

So Dad’s here on the farm again.

Which means that his grass-stained New Balance shoes are pushed up along that jagged shoreline of footwear in the mudroom. His enormous shoes are like these two canoes anchored next to the girls’ flip-flops. Even my shoes look small, moored next to his boats.

Dad’s always been bigger than life like that to me.

I can’t see him as anything other than the man I walked with every Sunday as a little girl to church. I took two steps for every one of his. We always held hands on the way to the church, Dad and I.

I can’t imagine him ever NOT being here. You know what I mean?

Yeah. You know. You’re mortal, too. You don’t want your people to ever die.


Dad comes to the farm every spring now, and again every fall.

He first showed up to work on the farm a few seasons ago.

He came to fill an empty tractor seat. The seat used to belong to my husband’s father. But a few months after the last grain-wagons were emptied in 2008, my father-in-law passed away. The cancer spread fast.

His last orders to his son, before he left for the hospice house, were scratched on a scrap of paper: “Scott needs a hired man.”

Now, we playfully call my dad “The Hired Man.” Maybe it’s a way of being sure that each of us remembers whose request we’re honoring here. I type out notes to the Hired Man in the “Hired Man’s Quarters.”

I hope I get to write these notes to the Hired Man for years, but we never really know about these things, do we? A few months ago, doctors said Dad had a “close call” with his heart.

He has a pacemaker now. Dad said he’s feeling a bit lucky to be here this spring.

I don’t know if I’ve ever appreciated those New Balance shoes by my door more than I do this spring.

We’re all born and raised in this lap of uncertainty. Or maybe this is the lap of God. If we’re honest, most of us have been known to confuse the two laps.

Maybe that’s what C.S. Lewis meant when he said: ““We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

Life on Earth is painful. And it’s utterly splendid.

Life is a daily jumble of agony and rejoicing. Scroll down your Facebook feed if you don’t believe me. Look what’s happening to your friends, to your world.

This week, someone I know died much too early, at age 25. I weep.

But this! Two friends are winging their way to Haiti to meet their baby, Gracie.

Over the weekend, I hugged my Mom, who’s in her seventies. On the flipside, a mother I know grieved the anniversary of her child’s death.

And of course this: We rejoice over the freed captives, but anguish over anyone who could commit evil for ten years, undetected, right in the middle of the neighborhood. 

The world is a hard place to live, and it’s an astonishingly lovely place to live.

Pardon me for the cliche, but the cliche is true and repeatable–

We don’t know what tomorrow holds. So we’ve simply got to trust the one Who holds tomorrow. Call me simple-minded — I probably am — but I believe that Someone Else has. it. under. control, even when every ounce of life appears out of control.

I throw my hands up in the air a lot of times. I do. I ask God to help me navigate the agony, to trust Him in the sorrow. But I also thank Him in those blissful moments, and utterly praise Him for his forever love.

Tonight, I went to the mudroom to straighten shoes on that footwear-shore.

And there they were: those grass-stained New Balance tennis shoes — those canoes by the door —  making my mind stay fixed to the truth.

Two grass-stained shoes — bigger than life — felt like an anchor.


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

For details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here. Be sure to find someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. 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!


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by | May 15, 2013 | 34 comments


  1. Dea

    So thankful those New Balance shoes show up on the farm with your Dad in them. I am trying to embrace uncertainty as a gift —and the key to that last statement is I am trying, And no, I could imagine life without my dad. I really can’t.

    • dukeslee

      Just last year, I sat on the tractor with Dad for a few rounds of cultivating, and we talked about how life goes so fast, and how each spring here together is a gift. And we had the very same conversation yesterday morning. For me, the planting season has a way of reminding me that we’re mortal, but that hope springs eternal.

  2. Helen Murray

    Oh. This made me cry. My Dad died eight years ago the week before my first baby came along and those empty shoes…
    My 82 year old Mum lives with us now and she does my ironing and the children love to curl up on her sofa, and we go for lunch on Wednesdays and…and how do you hold the precious lightly, and trust God, when I just want to grab tightly and never let go?
    He knows my heart and He loves me anyway.
    Thank you for this superb piece of writing. Long may your Dad fill those shoes and be your Hired Man. Wonderful story-telling. Thank you.

    • dukeslee


      I feel my heart squeezing inside my chest, hurting over the loss you must have felt. And still do…

      The empty shoes…. yes. Scott’s Dad’s shoes are still sitting by their back door.

  3. Rebekah

    “got to trust the one Who holds tomorrow”
    This is the word: ‘trust’ that my soul has underlined this week!
    Beautiful heart of a daughter secure in her Father’s love! Radiant!

    • dukeslee

      Underlining the word with you, Rebekah. Without trust, only fear.

  4. Lisa notes...

    My dad was always bigger than life to me, too. It made his death seem so unlikely, and even now, 3 years later, it’s still hard to grasp at times.

    Oh, that C. S. Lewis quote! It reaches down deep and speaks for me. Life is painful…and splendid. (I’m actually tracking with you–just published a similar theme in my own post today! And even mentioned Lewis. Love when that happens.)

    I’m so thankful with you that God is in control. A God bigger than us. Thanks again, Jennifer, for always inspiring!

    • dukeslee

      I look forward to reading your reflection, Lisa. Thanks for being a part of #TellHisStory.

  5. Eyvonne Sharp (@EyvonneESharp)

    Jennifer, we’re thinking so along the same lines today. Appreciate your words and perspective, friend. I’m right there with you.

    • dukeslee

      Oh good! I love to be where you are, Eyvonne. I’ll be over soon to read your thoughts. 🙂

  6. jerralea

    “The world is a hard place to live, and it’s an astonishingly lovely place to live.” So true! Which makes me remember something Bro. Callis used to testify in my little home church, “This world is not my home, I’m just a stranger traveling through.” Take the beauty that you find while you live here, but don’t focus on the bad – this world is not your home.

    • dukeslee

      Thanks for the reminder, Jerralea.

  7. 3dLessons4Life

    Your relationship with your dad is a picture of God’s love for us to me. Beautiful. 🙂

  8. Being Woven

    I loved this, Jennifer. I have recently lost my Mama yet know that she is with the God Who knew all along that she would be with Him and at what exact moment. I lost my Daddy 53 years ago so this precious relationship with your father is beautiful to me and makes me miss mine very much this day. BUT…the realization of God’s control is what matters. Thanks for your encouragement and love felt through your words. Caring through Christ, ~ linda

  9. Dolly@Soulstops

    Oh, the image of your father’s tennis shoes…what love…and that C.S. Lewis quote…hmm, yes…Bless you, Jennifer 🙂

  10. Floyd

    The pain and the joy point to the sovereignty of our Father.

    I have my dad’s old golf hat sitting on top of the world globe on my desk. It’s a little cluttered, kinda like my mom keeps things nowadays, but I like it… I miss the days of him being underneath it… God used my dad to instill much wisdom… it just took a little longer for it to seep through a hard head… Three years ago this month…

    What a blessing for you and an even better blessing because you realize how precious this gift called life is…

    • lynndmorrissey

      Floyd, I’m so grateful to your father–for the godly example he set and the wonderful way you turned out, and how you share the love of Christ and the lessons from your dad at every turn. I lost Daddy in May too, so let’s pray for each other, ok?

  11. lynndmorrissey

    Jennifer, this post touches my heart at a deep level, not just because of the wonderful relationship you have with your father and the beautiful way in which you express it, but because I lost my beloved father six years ago this coming May 27th. Funny you should use the “boat” image, because I wrote about this in a poem ten days after Daddy died. Here are the “shoe” lines:
    “Your big, black shoes (size thirteen)—you called them boats!—
    anchored your once-six-foot frame to earth,
    as you lumbered cumbersomely along,
    your cold-steel cane flanking you, too.”
    Everything was larger than life about my father–his mammoth hands, his bear hug, his basso profundo voice. Of course, to little girls our Daddys will always be bigger and the best to us. Your father, from all I read here and from what you have written before, is one very special gentleman!! I recall the honor it was to speak to him briefly when I called him at his hospital room, here in Missouri, when he had the heart incident, and I wished he’d been a little closer to pay him a visit. But my! Despite all *he* was going through, all he could do was to talk about YOU! Oh that more fathers would have daughters just like you! I am so glad you are writing to your father. I wrote Daddy what I call a “transcendent thank you letter,” which transcended any I had ever written to him, because I thanked him in great detail for his lifetime contribution to me. Mother said he said it was too long and that he had to read it in individual sittings! Ha! That sounded just like him. But I know he really appreciated it, just as your father no doubt treasures these letters from you. And I hope that he will write a letter to you, if he hasn’t already. I begged my dad-of-few-words to write to me, and he finally did. It is only five small note-pages long, but I treasure it more than anything. I read it last summer for the first time since the night before his funeral…..and all the emotion came flooding in. But I am soooo glad that I have it. Wow! Forgive me, Jennifer! I didn’ t mean to ramble on for eons, but I am just so happy that you have such a wonderful father, and thank you for reminding me that I did too!

  12. Simply Darlene

    (i’m not real good with comments lately, but just wanted you to know i was here)


  13. Sandra Heska King

    I just had to go pray some eucharisteo over my husband’s New Balance shoes–the ones in the back kitchen that he wears to town and sports events–and the dirty, grass-stained ones on the back basement stairs–these same shoes that I sometimes trip over. So grateful for shoes that cause me to trip.

    My mom was 20 years older than I. That doesn’t seem like very long. It’s less time than my son has been alive. My mother-in-law was only 10 years old than me when she died. But then… we don’t know if any of us has even tomorrow.

    Please give your dad and Mama D hugs from me. And hug yourself, too.

  14. Laurie Collett

    Life is so short! May we cherish those we love while we are still blessed with their physical presence. Thanks for the beautiful post & for hosting, & God bless!

  15. Beth

    My father just had a pacemaker put in…I know he is so grateful for it. Your words hit home. With aging parents (my mom is finally retiring at the age of 70) and my husband’s father also reaching his mid-80’s, my husband and I have been making more efforts to spend quality time with them. Life is too short. As my husband prepares to go off for training with the Army and a deployment later this year I’m reminded greatly to not take our time together for granted. Thank you for your beautiful and inspiring words. Blessings.

  16. Mia

    Dear Jennifer
    Your love for your dad reminds me so much about something that happened a few months ago when we were visiting my brother, his wife and their little baby daughter. When she woke up the one morning and came to us in the living room on her wobbly baby legs, my brother scooped her up in his arms kissed and hugged her, telling her the whole time how much he loved her. It was beautiful and I had to tell him that his little one will never have a hard time believing that her Heavenly Father loves her. Well, your dad seems like the same kind of guy!
    Blessings and love

  17. Cindy Hamilton

    Yes, Jennifer—
    Life is so confusing. There are so many times this last year that I’ve asked, “why”? Why am I here and someone we’ve been praying for is now with God? I definitely concur that we don’t know what tomorrow brings, but can only hold on to the One who brings the tomorrow. I’m going to write that one down!

  18. Nancy Ruegg

    These words caught my attention: “I ask God to help me navigate the agony, to trust Him in the sorrow. But I also thank Him in those blissful moments, and utterly praise Him for his forever love.” Those verbs are powerful ones to hang onto: ask, trust, thank, and praise. They will get us through the valleys and over the mountains of life. Thank you, Jennifer for another poignant post.

  19. Mary @ Woman to Woman

    Jennifer, I’m sitting here with tears, so thankful that you have this precious dad-time. Life is wonderful and devastating and sometimes at the very same time. My dad ran into the arms of Jesus in November. It was so hard and yet, I rejoice every day that he came to know his Savior in the last years of his life. Really, how cool is that?!
    Thank you for always spurring me on in the faith…
    Blessings and love ~ Mary

  20. oneblessednana

    So thankful that you appreciate your daddy so much! I lost my sweet daddy almost 19 years ago when he was 58 years old. I miss him so much but today I took great joy in reading the love that poured from your pen for you sweet father!

  21. Kathy Schwanke

    I love this. Your expression of beauty in our bittersweet life on earth.

    The foyer of heaven holds so much…and then when there is no bitter in our forever there? Wow!

    “Life on Earth is painful. And it’s utterly splendid.” ~Amen!

    I love your heart-full of glory Jennifer!

  22. Donna

    I love your post. Those shoes are so much more than shoes at your door. What a blessing that your Dad is there to fill them.



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