About the Author

Jennifer Dukes Lee is the author of several books, including Growing Slow. She and her husband live on the family farm, raising crops, pigs, and two humans. She’s a fan of dark chocolate, emojis, eighties music, bright lipstick, and Netflix binges. She wants to live life in such a way...

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  1. It does get really stuffy inside those boxes. Thanks, Jennifer, for blowing back the lid with your words today. May we find courage to embrace the genius of “and” –and to push back against the tyranny of “or.”
    Blessings to you!

  2. Jennifer,
    Your new head shot is gorgeous! And so is your Hello Kitty wet hair head shot! God made you beautiful inside and out. They both reflect the wonderful, caring, REAL person inside – who also has a great sense of humor. I believe we are ALL paradoxes walking around. We want to appear one way yet feel completely another. We are made in God’s image, yet we are fully human. It’s the age old struggle: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do. But what I hate, I do.” (Romans 7:15). We struggle with not feeling good “enough” when Christ’s death on the cross said, “It is finished. You are officially good enough.” Oh how the boxes squeeze us in. God made us. He is big enough to understand that we won’t always fit into the perfect example box. In fact, He needs weak, flawed, yoga pants wearing, real humans to do His work so that He can be glorified. Excellent post and right on the mark!! Sharing in your joy in your success. You are the little engine that could!!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    • what a shame i waited 70 some years before i found out it’s ok to be what i am—others put you in boxes and it is scary to try to get out because when you change no one gets it. trying to please everyone is not a smart move–believe me. so enjoy what time you have here and thank God for it.

  3. This is an awesome post, we need to be told this more often. I have a friend that says cookie cutters are only for cookies.

  4. Oh, the beauty of being able to hold two truths at the same time! I tell my therapy clients, it’s the power of “and” and the stink of a “but”. Don’t squeeze in a “but” where it doesn’t belong. That usually gets a few laughs. I love, agree, and appreciate every word of your post, Jennifer!

  5. FOR SOME REASON I WOKE UP WAY TOO EARLY THIS MORNING AND FELT THE NEED TO GET UP. NOW I KNOW WHY! I NEEDED TO READ THIS! IT SANG TO MY SOUL! THANK YOU!

  6. I just loved this….exactly what I needed to hear this morning as I wrestle with the boxes. Made me laugh quite a few times! So important to remember we are all “both/and “ daughters of God. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  7. This is a concept that God has really been pressing into my heart for a while now. Like almost 7 years now…. I just turned 40 last year and it was a difficult birthday on so many levels. It was not so much about getting older. It was more like a deep grief took me over regarding my life, what was gone, what God was trying to remove, and what the next 40 years were going to look like. I am not young and fresh anymore….things are starting to decline. I have RA and those symptoms have gotten progressively worse over the past 5 years, I have gained a ton of weight, and I am not sleeping well and my hands are in constant pain. And yet, God has plainly told me that THIS is my promise time. By faith and not by sight has never meant more to me than it does at this time. 40 has such significance in the Word of God…. it is a number of completion as well as one of new beginnings. One of closing the door to the past, and opening it up to the promised land. I grew up in a home where nothing less than perfection was required. Where what was going on inside of a person was to be kept locked up tight if it was deemed “messy” or “emotional”. You put your best face forward no matter what was going on. There were no melt downs, no room for mistakes, no place for real life. Put on the lovely outfit, perfect makeup, perfect hair, say all the right things, and then go home and break down by yourself in the privacy of your room. God is quite literally deconstructing me. He is “unboxing” me, so to speak. And it is terrifying and thrilling. Amazing and sobering. I have never felt so weak and uncertain, but comforted and strengthened all at once. Messy and grace filled. Raw and lovely. For the first time in my life… I feel real. And that is something that I cannot put a price tag on.

    • Michelle, God also wants you to share your story. May His Armor be glorified as you do so, and may so many hiding souls be freed because of your courage. Prayers for your amazing journey and His amazing grace ~

      • Jeannie….thank you. I have had a morning of confirming encouragement, and you are the sprinkles on top! I receive those prayers and am tucking the treasure of this encouragement into my heart.

    • Hi Michelle,
      May you welcome the ‘deconstructing’ and embrace the changes that God is making in your life. I, too, have been through a ‘deconstruction’ through ill health for many years and looking back there is NO WAY I would change the path God has had me walk. I am so thankful for the changes He has made in my life – and the only way He could enable me to make those changes was through ill health and losing of ‘ability’. How sweet the peace and freedom is that comes from Him when we let go of the reins and give it all to Him. Yes, it is a struggle and it takes time. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to change in God’s timing. Don’t try to run ahead of Him. All change (whether positive or negative) takes time. We all want to ‘get it right’ instantly, but that is not God’s way. Praying for you.

    • Michelle, Popping in here with Jeannie and Ruth to give you a hug and encouragement as you surrender yourself to this Glorious Unboxing. It’s beautiful on you, sister.

    • Michelle,

      Hugs & prayers for you as you embrace the “unboxing God is doing in your life. You have a story to share with other women. They need to hear of your struggles & know they are not alone. Embrace this time in your life & glorify God.

      Blessings 🙂

  8. I am joining you in saying “no” to boxes. There was a time that I felt comfortable in a box and letting go of the familiarity was hard. But God doesn’t call us to stay closed in. He has such beautiful plans for us and they will work better when we tear down those walls.

    I love how you share the “real” you. Whether it is through pictures, words or both. You are not too much. You are “you” and that is enough!

  9. What an amazing message with which to start my day! I forgot my concealer and shimmering base today. I’m flying home in a few days to say goodbye to my dad, but I’ve been told in advance my mom doesn’t want me there. Yet, here at work I lead my team and was recently thanked by my boss and H.R. Director for my work ethic and integrity. Slapping on a big ol’ “AND” today for my mess and my mastery, and letting Him put all the pieces together! Thank you for these words of encouragement. Be blessed today!

    • Hi Vicki. I’m so sad to read your comment, and just wish I could jump through the screen and give you a hug. Mom and Dad texted me this afternoon, asking if I’d seen your comment. I had missed it, so I am popping back in here tonight to let you know that I’m thinking of you — and not just me, but my parents, too. Much love.

    • Vicki,

      So sorry for the loss of your dad. Praying for peace during this time. Wishing I could give you a big ol’ hug. It is hard when you work & live away from your parents. You can’t always be there for them. Praying all goes well. God will get you through this.

      ((((((((Hugs))))))))

  10. I just left a long comment and it disappeared! 🙁 Thank you for always being “real” and approachable. I describe you to other people this way. And I am joining you by getting rid of my box once and for all.

  11. I so related to your post! Thanks for the encouraging note! We are so very complex! So complex yet Wonderful!
    I think your beautiful no matter what! And I am starting to believe…..so am I! Thanks again! Lauren

  12. Jennifer – THIS IS ME TOO!!!!!!!

    Thank you for putting into words what I have been feeling for most of my life but just couldn’t verbalize!

    The Proverbs 31 devotion this morning was about being present in what God has for us in the moment. For too long I’ve spent those moments wondering if I’m good enough, what is next, what if …..

    No more! Climbing out of the box today and putting it out with the recycling.

    Have a blessed day!

  13. This is the most honest refreshing thing I’ve read all day. You speak for 99% of women I know! Just wow…I loved every word! May we all find the freedom to step into and embrace who we REALLY are!

  14. Thanks. It is refreshing to know that I am not alone. Each day I rise with the intent to be my best self. Most days I love my jeans and T-shirts, but on the days that the dress and heels call I am equally walking in who He created me to be. The authentic me draws the lost to a Risen Savior – the anointing can’t find the person we pretend to be.

  15. What bravery to embrace both sides. For too long I’ve been so disappointed with the unfolded laundry, PJ loving side of myself. But I get to be both organized and indifferent to laundry washed without sorting the colors! Thank you 🙂

  16. Thank you so much for this. It was food for the soul. I feel like on a certain level I’ve accepted that I am “both/and,” but I still try to keep my “messy” side behind a closed door that I try not to let anyone see past because of how it might affect their view of me. I appreciate your candour, honesty, and encouragement.

    • Thanks, Subi. Sometimes, I’ve hidden that messy side, but I think I’ve personally been especially guilty of hiding the parts of me where I excel, where I truly shine. There’s probably some weird false humility in there somewhere, if I dig around in my soul, but in the meantime, I’m going to continue to work on letting my fullest, truest self step out of the box … and into the light.

  17. Jennifer, thank you. So right on! I loved both your pics – I relate! You are brave and beautiful.

    One time I went to a parent teacher conference and didn’t have time to put on make-up. The teacher wasn’t bothered and she knew me since I helped in her class weekly (WITH make up!). But out of my discomfort I apologized, and said looking good wasn’t on my to-do list that day. Lol

    Hearing those words out loud helped me realize how I’d ascribed far too much value to trying to look any certain way. But it’s hard, isn’t it? It’s counter cultural to just be the best versions of ourselves that we can as God remakes us…

  18. awesomesauce…i love this! thank you for posting this and reminding me that i am a beautiful mess!!! perfection is overrated and it’s too hard to maintain. being me in all my imperfect glory is so much better (and less stressful). in my profession, i teach people about the power and purpose of AND. perhaps i need to remind myself to practice what i preach!

  19. Jennifer I love your words. Truth spoken well, letting me know I’m not the only one. Letting us all know both/and is real, it’s beautiful, it’s messy sometimes and it’s ok. I truly am thankful for those of you who have the gift of words mixed with grace, love and kindness and take the time to write it all down. You’re courageous enough to be transparent and give us this gift of letting us know it really is ok to be real. You are beautiful. When I read your words it’s like you wrote down a description of my life and how I feel ! Thank you !

  20. Can’t even express how much I LOVED this article!!! Just perfect in every line (and picture) 🙂
    Thank you so much!!

  21. i stumbled on your face book post and about cried , im all the things you describe , i am struggling with a bout of depression ,and flash backs from childhood abuse , i am stuck not Feeling God nor hearing him , i need help

    • Nancy, I am praying for you. Not feeling God or hearing Him is so hard isn’t it? He is there even when Satan tells us He is not. I can’t imagine the horror of childhood abuse so am at a loss for words other than to say I care and will pray that your depression turns into feelings of joy and the flashbacks take you to a time where you felt safe, happy and loved.

    • Nancy, God is near you right now. He hears your cry. Please call your doctor for an immediate appointment. Tell (don’t ask) a family friend to come over. The Lord will walk you through this. You are not alone.

    • Thank you for being real and encouraging me (and everyone) to throw away those boxes! I related to your story on more than one level and am putting on some lipstick and embracing where I am without guilt or shame. Thank you for this blessing!

  22. Wow, thank you, Jennifer. I needed to be reminded that the me that feels like such a mess (inside and outside) this morning is not all there is to me.

  23. Thank you for being real and encouraging me (and everyone) to throw away those boxes! I related to your story on more than one level and am putting on some lipstick and embracing where I am without guilt or shame. Thank you for this blessing!

  24. This message was right on point. I feel as if you turned a mirror on me. Thanks for sharing and letting us know it’s ok to share as well.

  25. I can’t stop crying! I hate feeling not good enough. One minute I am fine the next I question everything that I say and do. What is wrong with me? I know that Jesus Loves me and that is all that should matter. I just want to feel good about who I am, but who am I? I am a child of God I know that, but sometimes knowing that isn’t enough. I want to be successful in my side business too, but I don’t want to come across as pushy, or salesey, because I completely believe in the product that I sell. I would use it even if no one else did. How do I get past this feeling of insecurity that I have fought my entire life? I hate it that I care so much about what others think. Sorry to go on and on, I just felt compelled to start typing.

  26. Jennifer – YES! and Amen. I am a both/and girl myself. I love your post and your authenticity. As I am sure you can tell by all the comments already, that this has struck a chord with the many who have read it so far. No- one belongs in a box. We were not meant to be contained and neither was God. So love it this post. thanks for sharing the glamour shot you and the freshly showered, hello kitty robe version of you too! 🙂 Blessings

  27. I have asked God to show me what I need to see . . . His sweet, sharp message through your so succinct words . . . thank you, thank you, thank you!

  28. This is one of the best -if not THE best- posts you’ve ever written Jennifer! It stroke straight to my heart!
    And iam joining the club with women all over the world that loudly say “no” to boxes! Let’s free ourselves and find happiness!
    Thank you so much for your words! ♥

  29. I am both/and. I thought I needed balance but I’m coming to a slow realization that I need to enjoy the moments instead of worrying I’m not enough. I am multi-dimensional. Thanks for saying exactly what I needed to hear. You’ve already begun as my #surrendermentor. #surrender2018.

  30. I COULD! NOT! love this more. This speaks to me big time. I have never been a good box fitter-inner and I have always felt the press of people wanting me to be one thing or the other- and the STRESS of being a people-pleaser and just plain not being able to fin in someplace like folks are so hoping I will. But God doesn’t deal in either/or. The need for us to be one thing or the other is so completely an “of this world” thing, imposed on us by fallible humans who like things clear-cut and predictable, not by the God who is ALL THINGS and whose image we reflect! Us being #allthethings, the AND things, is totally a reflection of our God. Thank you for this pep talk to find the courage to buck off the world’s boxes and run after ALL I’m created to be.

  31. Cannot tell you how much I loved this. I am still working on the realization that I am both/and and that perfection is NOT required. Thanks so much!!!

  32. Loved it and loved it!!
    Shared it and shared it (Facebook and Twitter)!!
    Thank you, Jennifer! Love you – both/and you!!

  33. All I can say is “WOW”, I just cant explain how I feel, you said everything I am and how I think. Thank you letting me see a glimpse of you and me.

  34. Thanks for sharing the good, the bad, the real. We share similar boxes; although, I am not as eloquent as you with words. Thanks for your willingness to share and helping me keep my boxes tethered to Truth

  35. We can’t breathe in boxes. Amen and amen! I love headshot you and bathrobe you! I so relate to many on your both/and list. I love the way you encourage women while preaching truth to your own heart!

  36. Oh sweet mother of all that is good and holy, thank you!! This was a fantastic and extremely timely post! Not to mention it is all so, so true and we would all be better off remembering that on a daily basis. Blessings to you and your family!

  37. Oh PRAISE JESUS for this post! I literally just pushed “send” on a job application online. One I know with no doubt I am qualified for but which I fear I will not be able to sell myself on…because I think I need to be either/or. Either confident or humble. Either creative or smart. (As if those two are mutually exclusive.) Either wise or too old. Agh! Thank you for listening to God’s prompt on your heart to write this beautiful post. I want to be both/and. Most importantly, I want to REMEMBER to be both/and. Not apologetic or pompous. But confident AND humble. Creative AND smart. Mature AND wise. Thank you, thank you Jennifer! (And great headshot btw.) Many blessings on your week ahead!

  38. I love this brutally honest post! It blows the cover off my boxes and gives me freedom to be me! Thank you! Every picture you posted is the real you and I have those kinds of pictures too but now I won’t apologize for the ones that aren’t just so! It’s still me! And that’s a good thing!

  39. Awesome word!!!! You nailed it! Thank you so much for letting me and many others know we aren’t the only ones!

  40. Jennifer! This post spoke VOLUMES to me!! You are SO BEAUTIFUL in both photos! You are SO REAL!! I LOVE THAT!! I have struggled my whole life with an image of what I am supposed to be, where I fit in, how I should look, what I should be doing! I have lived inside of boxes to the point of suffocating myself! I KNOW in my heart that God loves me no matter what I look like or even if I fail over and over again hundreds of times! He understands my anxiety, depression, lack of self esteem and yet I still keep doubting Him! Why??? As I write this, I am on the beautiful island of Maui trying to enjoy a two week vacation with my husband. I say “trying” because the enemy is attacking me from all sides!! I’m 63 years old and my body isn’t what it used to be. I’m hesitant to put on a swimsuit and go to the pool or beach because all I see are women with better bodies! I also see ones who are not perfect and admire them so much for stepping out of their boxes and enjoying life with their families! I’m always feeling “not enough” and so weary of it! Not just comparing myself physically but what I’m supposed to be doing with my life now that I’m older! I need direction and courage to break down the boxes and allow myself to sit at the feet of Jesus instead of letting the enemy break me! I can’t THANK YOU AND GOD enough for your wise and true words today! You have encouraged me so much that I just promised my husband I WILL go swimming (and leave this condo without my makeup!) and I will even try snorkeling even if I make a complete fool out of myself stumbling around in those fins! Ha! My husband reminded me to watch the little kids having so much fun out there on the beach and in the pool! They are simply enjoying their lives! No boxes allowed around them! God bless you for this much needed post!

    • Dear sister go put on the suit and swim!! I just turned 40 last month and I have totally felt some of the same feelings you just described. I decided this month to wear shorts after 15 years of not wearing them because I was ashamed of my legs. Say what? For who’s sake?? I had to take a step back and get over myself and realize that I’m living for an audience of one and He loves me, because He loves me, because He loves me. Legs and all! It’s a gift from the Lord to be able to enjoy life and the fruits of our labor. I say put on the bathing suit and give him praise!

  41. I love this I love this truly this is both of me, thank you so much. I want to dance, sing aloud, walking around in my pyama and sing praises to my King and Savior. Yep that’s me

  42. Amen amen and amen! Thanks for sharing this post! So beautifully put, so true and so hard to remember in the everyday… Love the both/and!

  43. Whoo boy. After all the (in)courage readers see this post, the recycling bins across the country are going to be FULL of boxes! 🙂 Thank you, Jennifer, for your continuing encouragement to us to drop the pretenses and just be US–messy and miraculous both.

  44. This really touched my heart today. As a church receptionist sometimes I have such a hard time letting people see the messy, silly, loud side of me. Due to the the box I put myself in.

    I am Quiet and Loud.
    I am Tattooed and Modest.
    I am Silly and Serious.

    I am Both/And.

    Thank you for this

  45. Thank you Jennifer, as I sit here hiding from the world – again and only God knows why. Your words are so inspiring! The fears of not being perfect can be such a handicap that it was great to hear from you today – God put you right there in front of me to remind me that I am not alone in the messiness of life. I do believe Jesus is with me every moment but sometimes He needs people like you to remind me that others care. Thank you again.

  46. Jennifer – this was just what I needed! Struggle so much with some crazy view of perfectionism that is really neither desirable or achievable. I need to focus on the me God has created me to brand to embrace the work He is doing to chip away at my imperfections!

    Thank you! And I love both pictures!

  47. I’m great at apologizing for who I am… I need to remember I Am God’s Child. No apology necessary. Remember the time I stopped over to apologize for “hurting” your feelings. ( I laughed about that on the way home). Last Sunday at service I was apologizing for not making pies, pleading with Paula that I don’t know how. So blessed for all of my women warriors that walk the walk with me. I could not do this in my box all by myself. Love you Jennifer.

  48. Wow! Jennifer, I am speechless!! Well, maybe not, lol!! You have totally described me! I have been so busy all spring with so many different life events, that my house looks like it’s been through a tornado! Every time I try to make my way through it, I get so overwhelmed that I start one thing, only to leave it to start another. It’s driving my husband crazy (a type-A everything has a place and everything should be in its place kind of guy), but actually he’s been pretty understanding with everything going on. But my point is, I feel like I don’t want anyone to come to my house…because I can’t stand the way everything looks, and I don’t want to be put into the “honey, you don’t have any children at home any more, why can’t you keep a neat house?” box. So I am going to climb out of that box, and invite my new girl friend over that God has just recently given me! He is so good, and He knew I needed this both/and post!!

  49. Hey Jennifer, I’m like that too. I just read in the Psalms this morning, 89:14, ,”mercy and truth are before Your face” (God’s face). I had to stop and think, because sometimes the truth can be hard to face. But then God shows up in His mercy! And I stayed in my jammies and housecoat all day! But today I got up and put on my shoes and went to work.

  50. I have been struggling with these very things recently. I strive to teach my own children and my students to love themselves as they are and preach their worthiness, but was not listening to those words myself. Thank you for sharing your “and” perspective! Your words struck a cord with me in so many ways!

  51. Thank you for being so real and so on point. I’ve spent my life as Her Majesty, Queen of People Pleasing. Would love to take off my crown and take that ratty box straight to the trash bin.

  52. Whew! Really? It’s really okay to be me, “just as I am”? Thanks so much for this, Jennifer. I just melted with each example you shared. I’m a writer of young adult fiction and I have nice head shots–but will it be “enough” or will my potential readers take one look and put the book back? Should I leave the photo off? Hmm. Not sure, but as long as I know I am enough–it won’t matter! Thanks again.

  53. What a GREAT and much needed post. Thank you, Jennifer!! And I absolutely love both of your pictures and how you are BOTH. (The Hello Kitty robe is wonderful by the way! 😉 )I want to carry this truth with me the next time I try to cram myself into some stupid box. FREEDOM. That’s what this is, what you’ve shown me…all of us. What a blessing to break out of the box and just be who God made us to be…imperfect, lovely daughters of the King of Kings who don’t have to squeeze into a one-size-fits-this-type sort of box. Whoo hoo! I’m excited. Thank you, thank you, thank you. 🙂

  54. This is so needed for me to hear this message. I am so guilty of staying within the confinements of my little square box. Afraid to let others see the broken me, the ugly me, and the messy me. Truth be told, we all are like this and if we just learn to accept ourselves as Christ had done so for us, think of what this world would be. We would be more accepting of each other, loving on each other and able to be that light for others, even if it means opening up the door in our bathrobe. Come as you are, Jesus said and yet we act as if Jesus cannot read our mind and we put on our fake attitude, fake smile, fake heart. Lord, Thank You for loving me even when I clearly do not deserve it. Thank you for sharing.

  55. I was just talking about this concept with a friend and coworker about how difficult life can be, stuck in someone’s mind as a caricature. This is a timely and appreciated word!

  56. thank you for this post, because I just out away clothes that have been staring back at me for the past two weeks and I thought to self – you are not enough! What potential husband would want that? I thought- you need to fix that because – well- its just too lazy and terrible…sigh… the worst kind of boxes are the ones we wrap all by ourselves.

    Beautiful article. I smiled when I saw your article sitting in my email!

  57. Hello. As I read this, I realized I could have been the author of this story. I am 50 years old and my eyes welled with tears as I continued through each line feeling overwhelmed that someone was writing about me without me knowing. I panicked with anxiety…sounds crazy but it true. I give thanks that your story made it to my inbox and today was the day I finally opened the email to read. And today I know that it is ok for me to leave the confines of the box I made myself fit and stay in. God Bless!