I love to make announcements. I certainly chose the right profession, because basically my job includes announcing things for hours each day while children are expected to give me their undivided attention.
A few Sundays ago, I made a quick stop in Port Huron to spend the day with my sweet family. My family is used to my announcements and really nothing I say brings any amount of shock value with it. Nothing I say surprises them anymore. Over a pancake breakfast, I waited for the perfect moment to deliver a deep and moving statement:
(in total seriousness) “Guys, I found myself again.”
My family erupted into laughter (my brother in law more-so chuckled because he isn’t allowed to fully laugh at me yet).
“STOP LAUGHING THIS IS SERIOUS!” I exclaimed.
“Jenna, there is no one like you in this entire world,” says my mom (not meant as a compliment)
So my pancake breakfast declaration fell onto the deaf ears of a tough crowd, desensitized after hearing 25 years of announcements from me. But maybe you, reader of my blog, will listen to these words and take them seriously. Crank the cheesy meter up to 10, and prepare yourself for the overly-cliché, yet painfully true lesson I learned this past year about myself.
Before you have the ability to truly love someone else, you have to love yourself.
Not love yourself for who you are.
But love yourself for who you are IN the One who created you.
To love yourself because He loves you.
So, I fell in love at 24.
I love how we all say “to fall in love.” Falling is fast and exciting: a whirlwind. Flashes of color. You free fall into this unknown territory. When you fall, you lose total control, head first, sometimes reckless. In my experiences with falling in love until this point, these descriptions are pretty accurate.
But this time it was different.
“But Jenna!” you say. “As an avid reader of your blog and overall fan of your life, I remember that you went through an excruciating breakup this year! How can you say you fell in love?”
This time, falling in love happened in a totally different way. It happened by falling out of love. Falling is the absolute worst word to describe letting go of love. It should be crawling out of love. Trudging out of love. Or fading. It isn’t fast and it isn’t filled with bright lights and beautiful colors. It is dark and slow and painful. I made this choice because it was absolutely the best thing I could ever do for myself.
It was a decision of love for me.
As I went through the healing process this past year, I was loving myself in the most extravagant of ways. In my heart, yet sore and broken, I knew this was God’s plan for me. To let go of what I thought I wanted and trust Him enough to hang on through the storm. As I healed, I learned to love myself again.
I don’t know if there was a point I stopped loving who I was, or if I just never did to begin with. Either way, between striving to be 10 pounds lighter, a little less loud, and censoring and changing who I was based on who I was with, the real Jenna had been sitting in a box somewhere. Closed up. Trapped.
So this year, I got to know her again. For a grad class, we had to take a Brain Dominance Test to learn about how our brains work and how we learn. Many of the students in my class were strong in one or two areas, but were pretty balanced. The majority of people will have one area they are strongest in, and some “supporting” quadrants. There were a few really high numbers where some were largely in the “logical/factual” category. Others were high in the “Structure/Detail” quadrant with a good representation of Quadrant D. Some were a little of everything.
Not me. If you test 113, you are an outlier.
I tested 131 for the “feelings” quadrant.
I am emotional. I am Spiritual. I am interpersonal.
I didn’t need this test to tell me who I was. I already knew these things. But I fought these things. For a long time, I tried to change who I was. I should be more reserved. I shouldn’t speak my mind so much. I should change my morals to avoid conflict in my relationships.
I didn’t let myself be me. But to see the “data” of me as a person, a “diagnosis” of my personality, I had to laugh.
Anyone who knows me well would answer “YUP” to all 5 of those ‘outlier’ personality traits.
At 24, I stopped fighting who I was and started embracing it. I learned to love myself again. It has been the most freeing year of my life.
This is not to say I don’t have things about myself I want to improve. I am a work in progress (stole that line from a friend, thanks). But instead of beating myself up for who I am, I have learned to love myself first, and the “improvements” I want to make feel a lot more gentle when they come from a place of love.
Thank you to all the amazing people in my life that have made year 24 the most challenging, yet rewarding and healthiest year of my life. For every friend that held me as I cried, for every prayer my family has said for me, for every word of encouragement, comment on a blog post or mid-week hug. Thank you for not letting me call myself fat. Thank you for delivering me coffee and buying me presents for Valentines Day. Thank you for sweet notes. Thank you for loving me unconditionally- through the good bad and the ugly. Thank you for not judging me on the bad days. For reminding me that a bad day or one wrong decision does not define who I am. Thank you to the amazing God of the universe that is patient with me through this journey I have been on. I’m not there yet. But I am closer than I was a year ago.
I fell in love at 24. And it was awesome.
Blessings, not chins
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