Jennifer Dinning does not consider herself a writer but felt prompted to create a blog to share the tender mercies of the Lord in her life. She hopes to inspire others to recognize the Lord’s tender mercies in their own lives as well.
Can you give us a little background on your life?
I grew up in Utah and after high school, I went to Ricks College and served a mission in Sendai, Japan. When I returned home, I went to BYU Provo where I met my husband. We got married and moved to Colorado where our first two children were born, then moved to Ohio where I had an ectopic pregnancy and our two other children. Then we moved to Texas for ten years and recently moved to Utah, after 23 years of being away.
Will you explain how your project Tender Mercy Moments came to be?
I love all that has transpired. There’s some background. After the birth of our youngest child, which was 15 years ago, I received a very distinct impression that our family was complete, and the Lord was preparing me for something else. At that time, I didn’t know what it was, but the inspiration was distinct, and it stayed with me. On a regular basis, I thought, “What is it? What does He have in store for me? What is being prepared for me?” And it was eleven years. In that time, things came up and I thought, “Is this it?” I would go for it but then after some time, “No, this is not it. This does not feel right.”
When we moved to Texas, I helped as a copy pal at the elementary school where my kids attended. I went to the school to help the teachers, so they could focus elsewhere – the volunteers would make copies for them. I eventually became the copy pal liaison and had interactions with the administration, the teachers, all the parent volunteers. I scheduled the calendar to coordinate between teachers and parent volunteers to have copy pals for each grade level. When my youngest was in fourth grade, I received the impression that it was time for me to turn it over to someone else. He still had one more year in that school but the impression was so strong and I knew, “This is it. This is the time.”
I didn’t know what the “something else” was yet but in the fall, I turned over the school liaison position to someone else who would cover it. In January of that school year, four and a half years ago, in the night I received divine inspiration to do a blog.
That was interesting because a blog is all about writing and I am not a natural writer at all. When keeping a diary or journal, I would start something and then you see a gap for a long period of time before I wrote again. I’m very detail-oriented, so when I shared something in my journal, it would take me a very long time to write big, long pages. And I didn’t have that kind of time. I have spaces and gaps of my life that are not written down. So when that inspiration came to do a blog, I thought, “Wow, okay.”
Going back – when my kids were young, I went to a talent show at a church. When you think of talent, it’s music or art or something you can showcase on a stage. Those are not my gifts. And I wondered, “What is my talent? I don’t know what my talent is.” It came to me then: “Your talent is spiritual in nature, and that’s not something that you can showcase in the same way on a stage.” But what do you do with that? When I think of talents, I think about singer-songwriters – they can sit down at the piano and a song just comes to them. In my mind, they’re natural at that. But I am not a natural writer. Writing has always been a struggle for me my entire life. I’ve worked really, really hard with anything I had to write in school.
Anyway, so here I was being inspired to do a blog. I wrote a welcome letter that night and the words just floated, like a singer-songwriter, just in those minutes. I was so grateful because I do need Heavenly Father’s help. This is not something that I can do alone and He has been by my side the whole time. My desire has been to align with His will, whatever that is, and having the courage, the strength, the faith, trusting in Him as I go forward. So it all came to me. The next day, I shared with my family, “This is what I’ve received, and I’m moving forward.” That was January 2018. It was not until August of that year that I stepped out of my comfort zone to share with others. So it took all that time for me to push that invite button for others to see my blog.
There were two things I saw when I looked at different blogs – blogging was about content and rebranding. I said to Heavenly Father, “I don’t want to rebrand. I don’t have technical skills. I’m not good at it. I need something that will be long-term, that I’ll never have to change. So whatever the title is, that’s what I want. And I don’t want to come up with content. What am I gonna put out today? What do I put out tomorrow?” That’s really hard.
I spent six weeks trying to figure out the name of this blog. I was throwing out names left and right and settled on Tender Mercy Moments. When I looked up domain names, that had not been taken. And I was wowed. Where I first heard and connected with the phrase was Elder Bednar’s talk, “The Tender Mercies of the Lord” (April 2005 general conference). I understood the concept of tender mercies, and maybe that was part of the preparation – that I was given something I already understood. The domain was not taken and it answered both concerns. I will never have to rebrand the domain, never have to change because miracles haven’t ceased and they never will. They are constant, consistent, always. The content is the tender mercy moments, miracles – the Lord’s hand in our life is 24/7. He’s there and we just need to see what’s right in front of us every single day. You may see one tender mercy, you may see multiple in the day, there may be so many you just can’t get a handle on it because they just keep coming. I mentioned the big time gaps in keeping a journal, but over the past four and a half years, I’ve been recording tender mercy moments on a daily basis.
You said that you struggled with writing before, so have you been able to do that consistently since beginning the blog?
I can see how important it is to have a personal relationship with Heavenly Father. When life is chaotic and hectic and crazy, who do I listen to? There’s one truth, the direction from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. Having a relationship with Heavenly Father is so critical, especially right now. It fascinates me that this began four and a half years ago, before COVID, and now here we are, and life is getting that much more crazy. And now it’s even more important to have that connection with Heavenly Father and to know that He is mindful and aware of us individually, uniquely, personally.
So even though writing a blog is super hard for me, I do it because it’s about the one. That’s another prompting. It’s not about the followers. It’s not about the likes. It’s the one – if one reader reads the posts that I’ve published, and what they read draws them to Heavenly Father and a connection with Him, that’s exactly the purpose of the blog.
The blog starts with a personal experience I had. I’m a very private person so there’s a vulnerability for me in opening up about my own personal experiences. But at the same time, it’s not about me. It’s about connecting the reader to their own tender mercy moment that maybe they haven’t recognized yet. So you get a published post from me. At the end, it asks the question, “When have you experienced something in relation to what I’ve just posted?” It draws you in to reflect and ponder, “Have I had an experience like that? Wow, I have, so cool.” That is Heavenly Father’s awareness and mindfulness of each of us individually. It is a tender mercy when He shows up in our life. And do we see it?
As you’re telling the story, I’m seeing the tender mercies and inspiration that led you to this point. I heard once that it’s important to not only feel the Holy Ghost, but to recognize that’s what it is. It’s amazing that you were inspired and knew something was coming and had patience for eleven years to wait and be prepared when it came. When you said the world is chaotic, so busy and loud, you’re right. There are so many tender mercies every day in our life that so many people miss or don’t see, because they’re so focused on something else. I’m excited to look for tender mercies more for myself. As the blog has grown and people are following you, what are stories and feedback that you’re getting from them?
I haven’t put myself out there other than to friends who may share with their friends. I don’t know who’s reading it and there haven’t been many responses. All I know is when I post something, I felt inspired to post that story. I don’t know about other people, but I do a lot of reading that I don’t respond to. I feel the Spirit and I’m grateful for what they’ve shared, but I don’t comment. So I believe that there are many, many others like me that are reading. I don’t keep track of the whole technology aspect of it. I have no idea. I just know that I am inspired which things to post, and if it’s helping just one person, that’s great.
I get some responses on the blog here and there, and they’re amazing. Someone reads my blog and pulls out a completely different experience that they’ve had. It doesn’t have to be identical. I share the experience of having a flat tire and what happened, and somebody will pull out of that storyline something of their own experience. I am truly amazed at the stories, the personal experiences that others have recognized in their own lives and also their excitement to share with me.
The key is staying on top of it. You get excited and say, “I see the tender mercy moment! It’s right there!” As I’ve been doing this, I get excited every single day, because I look for them. I acknowledge them, write them down, and express gratitude to Heavenly Father. I love seeing His hand in my life. I’m so grateful to be an instrument in His hands to help others recognize and see that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost are mindful and aware and recognize us where we’re at. As we seek them and look for Heavenly Father’s hand in our lives, he’s there all the time.
Has there been a shift in how you’ve managed this project? Have you written daily blog posts all this time?
The struggle has always been in writing, but one day, I was inspired to put a Tender Mercy Moment cue on Facebook. I didn’t have to write a story or share an experience. I put a question up for readers to ponder and draw them into the relationship they have with Heavenly father and recognize His hand in their lives. It has been a tender mercy for me that I can still be an instrument in His hands but take off some of the pressure and struggle I have with writing. The blog is still there, but it has tapered to one post per month instead of over twenty posts in a month. So I am grateful for that.
I was then inspired to connect the project of recognizing tender mercy moments to doing a retreat and bringing in hosting, and I love every aspect of that. This has background too. When we lived in Colorado, the Relief Society sisters hosted a progressive dinner at Christmas, going from one house to the next, to the next. I love Christmas and while I was in each home, I felt the Spirit and I said to myself, “I’m going to do something like this.” We moved soon after that to Ohio, and in our new ward, the geographical boundaries were huge. There was a need for the sisters there to come together, so they formed a monthly girls’ night out. There was a calendar going around, asking who wanted to host the Christmas girls’ night out – I’d had that experience in Colorado so I signed up for it.
The following year, I waited for somebody else to sign up for Christmas but nobody did so I did it again. I was so giddy and excited. I would make homemade gifts and they got pretty amazing. It was about giving to those who came and I loved it. I spent nine years in Ohio, hosting the Christmas girls’ night out most years.
When I got to Texas, it was a different time and season. In 2019, after the divine inspiration to start the blog, I hosted a Christmas tender mercy retreat, similar to the girls’ night out in Ohio. During COVID, I was inspired to host a virtual tender mercy moment sweet mini retreat. That brought people from different states in to participate, and I called it the pilot program. That was in February 2021. I knew there would be a break for the retreat while we moved from Texas to Utah, but it would pick back up. We moved into our new home at the end of March this year (2022) and my first retreat in our home was in June, and I’ve done one per month since.
It’s called “Uncover your very own tender mercy moments.” The first part of the retreat teaches the definition of a tender mercy, because that’s something not everybody understands. Then we look for tender mercies, reflecting, “Where is the Lord’s hand in my life?” After pondering, we acknowledge by writing it down and expressing gratitude. It’s very interactive and the participants are involved. The second part is utilizing the five senses to uncover your very own tender mercy moment. It is very much about the individual. It is so cool. I love it. When attendees first arrive, they may be reluctant and apprehensive, but also curious. They walk away with the understanding to go out and see for themselves, and they will find the tender mercies.
We talked earlier about you having a spiritual talent, and I had the thought that what God asks of us is to give our time and our talents to building up the kingdom of God. This is something that He has blessed you with, and what an amazing opportunity that you are willing to share.
Talents are unique to each individual. I love authenticity. I am not about comparison. There was one year in Ohio that I wasn’t able to host the Christmas girls’ night. There was hesitancy and reluctance, but the woman who did host that year was incredible. Her individual gifts and talents. I am all for whatever your talent is, whatever your gift is – pursue it and be authentically you. Go for it, be you. I love it.
I am not about perfection. That can really hinder somebody and their ability. I know that firsthand with the blog. When I’m ready to post, it marks up the grammar. I’ve got some struggles, but you know what, this is me. This is my style. It’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. That’s what I love about it, you get the authentic me.
I think that’s so important because we see so much on the internet that is made to look perfect. We compare our every day to someone else’s highlight reels. I think it would be life-changing for so many people to see God’s hand in their life every day and know how much He cares for them. How would that influence how they react and live and treat others?
God’s awareness and mindfulness of us individually is amazing and wonderful. I hosted a retreat last night and was reminded it’s not about the masses, it’s about the one. I invited many people but most responded that it wasn’t going to work for them that night but they would like to come another time. As it got closer, only three people confirmed for last night. It’s discouraging when everyone says No, they’re not going to make it. But I was reminded it’s about the one, so I moved forward, I wasn’t going to postpone it because there were only a few. The three came in all about the same time, and I felt such joy! I recognized Heavenly Father is completely aware, I felt it, I knew it. We came to find out that the three people who came are very quiet. If they had been a larger group, they wouldn’t have talked. They would have just listened to others and not shared their own experiences. They felt safe. They didn’t know each other but that combination was perfect for them.
I give some little gifts throughout the retreat presentation and I had only three of a particular item. I didn’t know when I would use them, but they were perfect for last night’s retreat. Heavenly Father heard my prayer. He knew. It was a tender mercy for me to be able to give the right number of gifts, and a tender mercy for them to be in such a small group. It was for them.
I’m someone who does not count my chickens till they hatch. I don’t get overly excited if I don’t know what the outcome is going to be. But I will say this – there is opposition to everything that is good. I have received opposition as I have begun these retreats. There is also the tender mercy of having greater spiritual power. Heavenly Father has assured me, “This is what I want you to do right now, this is for you.” That has come through very sacred experiences and I am grateful for that power and strength that is greater than the opposition.
I don’t know where this will lead to and what’s in store. I do know the importance that each of us individually have a relationship with Heavenly Father to recognize His hand in our lives, that He is mindful and aware of us. He will provide a way.
At A Glance
Name: Jennifer Dinning
Marital History: Married 27 years
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom and blogger
Schools Attended: Office Education degree from Ricks College, Family Science degree from BYU Provo
Languages Spoken At Home: English, occasional Spanish
Website or Social Media You Would Like Featured:: http://TenderMercyMoments.com
Interview produced by Darcey Williams