It’s Official. I’m Clueless. (But That’s Okay)

May 16, 2017 | 31 comments

Several years ago, a mom’s group in California asked me to deliver a message about letting go of our need for people’s approval. They proposed having me deliver my message via Skype to 150 mothers, instead of flying me from Iowa to California.

I said yes, because I know the kind of pressure moms put on themselves to have it all together. Good grief, we moms beat ourselves up over a gazillion not-enoughs. I saw this as an opportunity to send a little love and hope their way.

We “met” on a weekday morning. I sat in my office in Iowa, and delivered my message through the computer. As I spoke, my face and voice were projected, live, onto a giant screen at Menlo Church in Mountain View, California.

After I waved goodbye, I ended the Skype call, then I promptly called my husband. This is what I said:

“I am never, ever, ever, EVER doing that again. That was awful! Horrible! Promise me you’ll never let me do something like that again.”

Here’s why I freaked: The entire time I was speaking, I couldn’t hear anyone on the other end. Nor could I see their faces. Because of the way the technology worked in the room, they could see and hear me loud and clear. But I heard nothing — not even crickets. My view was only a grainy video of the backs of heads.

I can’t begin to tell you how difficult it is to speak to a crowd when you have zero clue if the message is connecting.

The only real movement I saw was this: Women getting up to leave. They were likely mothers, headed to the back of the room with whimpering and hungry babes-in-arms, but I assumed the worst. The assumption: I am failing.

I held it together for the full 45 minutes, while clinging to the Holy Spirit for words and guidance. Inside, I felt like an utter failure.

I received a very kind email after the event from the organizer, telling me how the women were impacted by the message. But I didn’t believe her. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had bombed it. I trusted my eyes and my ears, more than I trusted my heart — more than I trusted God.

My eyes saw what they saw: people standing up and leaving. My ears heard NOTHING.

All of that negative self-talk was so loud that I couldn’t hear the voice of God.

Fast-forward to May 2017. I sat in an airport, ready to fly to Menlo Church in Mountain View, California. Yep. SAME CHURCH. Had they forgotten about the Great Ministry Disaster of 2014? Maybe they believed in second chances?

While I waited for my plane, the eyes and ears part of me asked myself, “Can you believe they’re actually paying good money to fly you out there?”

But the God-hearted part of me just said: “Shhhhhhhh. Peace. Be still.”

I walked in, welcomed and enfolded, like an old friend. Like a sister.



Then, I stood in front of those 150 moms and delivered a message. while looking into their actual eyeballs and hearing their actual laughter and watching them wipe away actual tears. I connected with their beautiful hearts.I saw women leave their seats while I was speaking, but now I could see why: They were heading to the back of the room to bounce their crying babies.




Afterward, I hugged those mamas, listened to their struggles, shared in their joys and cuddled their sweet babies. Then, two moms came up and said that they needed to talk to me. They said they heard me speak during that Skype session back in 2014!

Uh-oh, I told myself. Brace yourself. This isn’t going to be pretty. 

And then they told me about what happened in their hearts that day. How it was just what they needed to hear. How someone at their table eventually became a follower of Christ. Other women came with similar stories. I was floored.





This is what I learned that day.

We have no clue. We really don’t. We have no clue what God is doing in places we cannot see. We have no clue what happens to the seeds we plant. We seriously have no clue. 

I learned that we can’t always trust our eyes or our ears. Some days, I can’t even trust my own heart.

Here’s the truth: When we can’t see the evidence of God’s hand, we can still trust his heart.

God gave me a sweet gift that day — a chance to see the faces. Before, I’d seen only faint, grainy shadows. But we don’t always get the privilege of seeing what sprouted from the seeds we’ve planted. There are times when we may have to wait all the way to heaven to really know.

Faith isn’t about sight. It isn’t about physical proof. “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

Where do you need that kind of faith today? What seeds have you planted lately? What words have you spoken that you feel have fallen on deaf ears? What hope have you offered with no evidence of fruit? What fervent prayers keep you up at night? What feels like a failure? What can you not see today? Do you hear only silence? Do your eyes betray the reality?

Wait. Hear him whisper in your ear: “Shhhhhh. Peace. Be Still.”

He is working in the silences. We really don’t have a clue.

That’s why I have come to believe that my main job is to simply obey.

Everything else is up to God.

Today, you cannot see “everything else.” But someday, I believe, you will.

All photos by Two Leaf Photography. Used with permission.

Journey Together


Today, I am overjoyed to share a FREE online event I’m confident you’ll love – The Journey Together SummitJune 5-8.

I’m joining hands with 34 leading authors with the sole mission of helping you discover new bravery. Whether you desire to be brave at home or at work, in your marriage or with your children, in ministry or in the mess of the day, dealing with a surprising life or just organizing it – this is the event for you.  There is something for everyone with over 34 topics of fear covered (wait till you see them all!).

We’re also featuring an awesome line-up of authors who will give your practical, relevant and biblical tips for stepping into peace, purpose, and passion.

This is an event you won’t want to miss! Afraid you can’t “be there”? Don’t worry! The 2017 Journey Together Summit is a FREE, VIRTUAL online conference!

You don’t have to travel – we bring the interviews to you! They’ll be broadcast over the web, so you can watch from the comfort of home.

What’s more? It’s FREE. See the agenda by clicking here.

So what are you waiting for? Join me and 34 other experts at the 2017 Journey Together Summit. Grab your FREE ticket today! And, if you can’t attend June 5-8, we have you covered. Get the All Access Pass and you’ll be able to watch the videos post-event.

I can’t wait to see you there!

Your sister on the journey,


My first book, Love Idol, on letting go of the need for people’s approval.

My second book, The Happiness Dare, on pursuing your truest, most satisfied, and most faith-filled self.

The Happiness Dare Manifesto, a FREE download here. 

I’ll send you The Happiness Dare’s FREE journal and discussion guide download, if you subscribe here. 


Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there!

Our featured writer this week is Katharine Barrett. As a child, walking home from school was a difficult experience. But then along came Beverly… The beauty found in walking each other home is a story you don’t want to miss. Find Katharine here.

To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. xo Jennifer


by | May 16, 2017 | 31 comments


  1. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    So, so very encouraging Jennifer. I love how God uses what you think are goof ups and they turn into glory.
    These lines really spoke to me as I ‘plant’ in my own corner of the world:
    “We have no clue. We really don’t. We have no clue what God is doing in places we cannot see. We have no clue what happens to the seeds we plant. We seriously have no clue.”

    • dukeslee

      It’s like the seeds that Scott is planting out back in our farm fields. He spends weeks preparing for springtime planting, and then doing the actual planting, but when it’s done, all he can do it sit back and wait. There are no immediate results, and there are so many other factors that have to come into play — rain, sun, no hail, etc. Like Scott always tells me, “God’s Got It!”

  2. Nancy Ruegg

    Thank you for the powerful encouragement, Jennifer–something we need reaffirmed often while ministering to our children and spouses, the family next door, the checkout lady at the grocery store, etc. etc. Thank you for the energizing reminder to just keep planting, and leave the results to God!

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Nancy. It’s so often the little things, isn’t it? I got an email from someone the other day thanking me for some words I spoke over them years ago. I don’t even remember the words, but she did. And then SHE planted a seed that sprouted something beautiful. Let’s keep planting.

  3. Lisa Appelo @True and Faithful

    “He is working in the silences. We really don’t have a clue.That’s why I have come to believe that my main job is to simply obey.” Amen. So be it, Lord. May we be found faith-full. <3 I'll be carrying this sweet testimony in my thoughts today, Jennifer.

    • dukeslee

      So grateful to have you here, as always, Lisa. xo You are such a blessing.

  4. Dee

    Hi Jennifer (hope I can call you by your first name),
    Thank you again for letting God use you to speak to me. I have been struggling in the past few days with the usual – Why is God not doing anything about my prayers…Maybe its me…Maybe I am not doing something right…Maybe I have really messed up and there is just no remedy for my type of person….Maybe I am not worth it etc (I could fill a page but you get my drift).
    The issue is this – I know I have been blessed by God. I am healthy, married to a good man who loves me and have 4 healthy beautiful smart children. I shouldn’t complain and I feel guilty for wanting more. My main headache in life – the issue that keeps me awake at nights, tears on my face and headaches during the day is my career. I graduated exactly 10 years this year summa cum laude but I have not been able to get a job in my filed of study. I am working in another related field and I am enjoying t but my heart is still in my original field of study. The crazy thing is that every other person in my class is established and doing well but I for some reason can’t seem to get started. I feel frustrated and I have pleaded with God to help me let go of the desire for this career and continue what I am doing currently but I am not sure I have been answered. Most times I feel stupid for not being able to get what everyone else has gotten 3 – 10 years ago. I feel like a person who has lost all bearing and is wandering in a strange place directionless. My favorite psalm as a college student was Psalm 25 and particularly the part about God promising to direct the steps of the one who trusts in Him. I honestly thought I did but now I am not so sure. Maybe I didn’t trust Him then hence my current situation.
    But I digress. Thanks for reminding me that its possible that God is doing something in the background that I am not aware of.

    • dukeslee

      Hi Dee — I am so glad you shared. (And yes, my first name is just fine, new friend!)

      That is terribly frustrating to have a dream that never seems to grow wings — even harder when we see others get what we want.

      I sense that God is weaving a beautiful story within you, and also has you in a place where you are sorely needed. I don’t know any of the details, but consider spending some time this week reflecting on the lives you’ve encountered over these last 10 years — lives that you wouldn’t have intersected with in any other way. Meantime, don’t give up on those dreams. God is working, Dee. xo

  5. Michele Morin

    It’s so sad that our default is always to the “not enough,” “what-a-mess-I-am” message when God looks at us in love and has so many good things in His plans for us. I’m so thankful and happy for you that you had the opportunity to go full circle with that lovely group of women!

    • dukeslee

      Thanks, Michele. I guess that message of “not enough” goes clear back the Garden. Let’s stick close to one another and remind each other that Jesus is enough for us.

  6. Becky Keife

    Spirit chills reading this, Jennifer. We really have no idea. And yet by God’s lavish love and amazing grace He gifts us with glimpses of His work just when we need to see it. Thank you for sharing this! Much love, friend.

    • dukeslee

      It was a great reminder for me, Becky, of the ways in which God works ahead and behind us. I seriously thought about NOT going to this event, because of my feelings of having blown it. I would have truly missed out on meeting an incredible group of women, and learning something really important about obedience.

  7. Mary

    We are our own worst enemies. We talk ourselves into believing lies about ourselves due to not seeing the whole picture. Your story of grace and redemption rings true as we know the truth of who God is and not what our weak minds want us to believe. Thank you for sharing the rest of the story.

  8. Leslie

    Jennifer, this is really powerful. It’s so true – our main job is to just obey. It’s a hard lesson to learn. I needed the reminder that He is working in the silences. We don’t have a clue at all, but He does! I really appreciate you for sharing this part of your story. I had my first speaking engagement Saturday and this post was well timed for me. I found it very encouraging!

  9. Barbara H.

    That would definitely be hard! What a vivid reminder that we don’t always see the “results,” but we can always trust that God is faithfully working, sometimes “behind the scenes.”

  10. Sarah Geringer

    What a great story, Jennifer! God’s hand is always at work, whether we see it or not. I learned that today in a conversation I had. Also, I signed up for the summit. Looks like a GREAT lineup!

  11. Debbie Kitterman

    Jennifer – I completely understand how you feel. It is so hard to know if you are even connecting if you can’t see those who you are speaking to. I am so glad you got to speak to them a second time in person and hear the impact your first message had. God is so good. thanks for hosting and sharing your story.

  12. Tiffany

    You are such a GIANT blessing. Thank you for always sharing your heart with us – even the whispers, messyness, and doubts. You always make me feel that I’m not alone in mine. xoxo

  13. Katharine Barrett

    Thanks so much for the feature Jennifer! I love this story, and your heart. He is always enough, and so faithful!

  14. Betsy Cruz

    Oh Jennifer, I have MISSED your blog. 🙂 I love this story. Right now, God has me in a ministry where I SEE little fruit, but you’re reminding me I don’t have a clue! 🙂 Oh and now I’ve remembered one book I REALLY want to read with an Amazon gift certificate I just received: The Happiness Dare! 🙂

  15. Leah Adams

    Thank you for the reminder to simply trust God’s heart. For months I have been planning a retreat for women that will help them develop a more intimate relationship with Jesus. God CLEARLY ordained this retreat. He has confirmed it over and over, yet it is so easy to allow fear and faithlessness to creep in. Will women attend? Will they feel it is a great value for their money? Will their hearts be drawn to Jesus? and so many other questions. Yet, repeatedly I am reminded that God ordained it and my job is simple obedience, leaving the results to Him. Thanks for being part of that reminder to my heart.

  16. Susan

    Jennifer, I cried toward the end! We really NEVER know do we? Occasionally I will get an email from someone on my distribution list, one who never comments, never “likes” – and she will tell me that my words have changed her. Of course I know what she means – the Lord allows me to deliver LIFE words into women’s hearts and that will never, ever get old or stale. Bless you sister.

  17. Jana

    Jennifer – I so agree about our job being obedience, His being everything else. I have (mostly) learned this lesson in regards to ministry, but today, your words reminded me to trust God as His work in my adult son’s life is completely hidden from me. Thank you for sharing this!

  18. Ginger Harrington

    You are so right–we are clueless about what God is doing when we share our hearts. Whether speaking, writing, or just conversing, I’m encouraged to trust God with His Words rather than wonder if they were effective.

  19. Sue Donaldson

    I”ve been on that Menlo Park stage a few times – and women still walked out w/ their babies and babies tried to walk up on that stage with me and I too felt like, oh, my – is anything worth happening happening?? (I”m chuckling) and still needing the reminder that yes, I obey, and God does any real work anyway, sue donaldson! You’re adorable.

  20. Laura Thomas

    Jennifer, thank you SO much for this! What a huge dose of encouragement to those of us who wonder whether our words, written or spoken, ever actually reach the hearts of others. Such a great reminder that God is in control (as much as we would really, really like to be…) and He knows best. Always. We need only listen and obey. So appreciate your awesome vulnerability 🙂

  21. Julie Loos

    Jennifer- thank you for this encouragement! It’s providence right here, right now for me. This week I celebrated 1 year blogging and I didn’t think I was making a difference or being heard. I’ve had so many message and email me about what I’ve given them this past year. Me? I’m awe-filled and greatly humbled on how God is using me right here. I thought I had nothing to offer, but He sees deeper than I can.
    This post of yours warms my soul so much!!
    Thank you sweet sister of Christ!

  22. Trudy Den Hoed

    Thank you so much for sharing so honestly, Jennifer. Those lies can get so strong in us. This is so encouraging – “When we can’t see the evidence of God’s hand, we can still trust his heart.” Amen! Thank you for this reminder! Love and hugs to you!

  23. Lynn Mosher

    Thank you, sweet Jennifer, for this. I always feel like such a lone voice in the vast land of human wilderness. Discouragement has been hounding me for some time. I’ve wanted to give up on writing. But the Lord called me to this. And I KNOW I cannot give up. I must be obedient. Even if only one person is touched by what I write, I cannot give up. God knows those who need the words He gives me and I cannot give up one them. I always love what you write, though I do not always comment. You are a true blessing to sooo many. I pray the Lord continues to bless you with those wonderful words that touch the hearts of many and blesses you continually with encouragement. Big hugs, dear one! ❤

  24. Janis Van Keuren

    Jennifer, thank you so much for this encouraging post! I can’t tell you how many times my eyes and ears and thoughts have told me I failed, especially in delivering the message of God or in serving Him. To hear you say that has happened to you, a strong and godly woman of God, has given me hope that this feelings are just that–feelings.
    And I love how you told us we “are clueless” as to God’s work in the situation.
    Thank you, again.

  25. Donna Reidland

    Jennifer, I needed to hear this today! Thanks for sharing your beautiful testimony. Thanks, too, for your linkup.



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