The Old Has Gone

 

On rare occasion I get into the type of mood that can only be described as the “Perfect Storm.” I am overly caffeinated and faced with a large chunk of time to myself (which is why this is so rare) , when suddenly it’s like all the clutter around me becomes unbearable.

All at once, instead of seeing specks of dirt, I see mountains of grime and skin cells and coffee rings. The crumbs on the floor come to life and speak to me, taunting me for eating pretzels in bed again. The laundry I haven’t put away turns into accusing shouts that I am the worst person in the world because I own FAR too many clothes and wear none of them.

The piles around me begin to close in and the room spins and traps me in my own personal nightmare (not to be dramatic).

95% of my life I live in the land of piles.

Piles in my bathroom. Piles in my car. Piles in my classroom.

Piles are THE BEST because you can make things look neat and organized, but truthfully under the stack is an old kleenex, a magazine for 2007, last year’s tax return and 30 days worth of junk mail. Piles are the perfect tricksters to make people think you have things under control.

Every 2-3 months, my roommate will gently move my beautiful piles into my room, forcing me to confront the issue.

Tonight, in that mood, I decided it was time to get rid of everything and anything I didn’t need anymore.  This was project 1 of many, as I simultaneously texted Max that I wanted to open a new credit card and then rearrange the furniture in my room. He is trained to recognize and talk me down whilst in these moods, so he lovingly told me I needed to focus on one thing at a time. So I went after the piles with a fiery vengeance.

I started shredding mail that was lying around, filling up garbage bags of trinkets and broken phone chargers and sticky notes.

It felt so good to get the clutter out- the stuff I just didn’t need that was taking up so much space.

Then I went into my closet and stared at a pile that has been bothering me for awhile.

On the top shelf of my closet sat eight colorful journals, pages filled with the documentation of my life up until about a year ago.

I haven’t journaled much this year; maybe a few pages, and ironically, the last 12 months have been the healthiest, most life-giving, blessed, beautiful redeeming months of my life, yet I couldn’t bring myself to open the pages and begin to write.

They are the stories I have waited my whole life to tell- full of love and growth and laughter and grace- but I didn’t tell them.

This year was the result of surrendering my life to God and submitting to His plan for me. This year was beautiful. But I didn’t write.

This year, I couldn’t bring myself to journal because I didn’t want to remember where I had been.

Those old journals are pages filled with self-doubt, cycles of sin, destructive relationships, life crippling  anxiety, body image issues and wrong decisions.

Part of me thought that opening those pages again would somehow erase the work God has done in my life the past year. I feel SO totally different than the person I used to be, that even the same process of journaling was too close of an association.

So I kept them hidden.

Seeing them up there would many times trigger a physical anxious response in me.

Opening them meant re-visiting a me I wish I never was.

They have been a pile haunting me for awhile.

Those journals represent darkness, but that’s no longer where I am.

I am walking in the light.

Tonight I decided it was time to let them go.

I stretched up to the top shelf of my closet and I lowered the heavy pile of floral journals.

I thumbed through a few pages and immediately regretted it as I flashed back to situations and memories I wanted to forget. I put them next to each other and I began to reflect on who I am now and from where He has brought me.

He brought me from brokenness and restored my heart.

He showered every dark situation from my life with his beautiful, bright light and forgave me and changed me and made me whole.

He gave me a new standard for living, a new understanding of His word and His law, and transformed a heart hardened by fear into one overflowing with His love.

Back then, I wanted instant change  and relief from my struggles, but instead the past  year I  have begun to understand the slow, steady,  painful process of sanctification.

I’m not sure why I kept those journals. I guess I never even considered the idea of getting rid of them. It was my past and I am stuck looking at it and being reminded of it- the punishment fits the crime.

But I am not who I once was. I struggle still and I have hard days. I battle insecurity, but no longer do I live in bondage and fear. Visiting those pages was like reading the words of a stranger. I do not need to keep those memories as proof of God’s redeeming work in me.

The proof of His redemptive work is in every breath I breathe.

I will sing of His glorious transforming power until the day I die, but I don’t have to live  in the past anymore. I don’t have to punish myself with flashbacks in order to measure my growth.

I loaded up the bags of trash to take out to the dumpster. Typically one for pomp and circumstance, I usually would want some dramatic ceremony to celebrate being free from the past and this giant step in moving forward.

But God’s work in me was not flashy. It wasn’t always pretty. It usually didn’t feel like a celebration. It worked into the top layers of my heart until it penetrated the innermost parts of my soul.

I took a deep breath and I flung the bag of journals into the dumpster.

And I walked away.

Thank you Jesus for setting me free.  I’m never going back.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. 

Jenna

 

 

 

**Also, if you are in a junkyard and happen to find a bag of flowery looking journals, please either burn them in a bonfire or turn the plots of the journals into a made for TV movie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Support Someone Who is Hurting

I can be a bit of a handful. I was talking to one of my guy friends from college on the phone a few weeks ago, catching up and swapping stories about life (he told me if he ever makes my blog, he wanted me to use the alternate name “Crosby*” for him.

*name has been changed to protect identity

We both had a lot going on and share many similar  personality characteristics, outgoing, highly communicative, and I busted a gut laughing when Crosby said to me,

“Jenna, whoever ends up loving us is in for a wild ride.”

You’re right, Crosby. It will be fun and adventurous and exciting , but it will be a wild one.

From befriending random strangers at the airport, to the ups and downs of functioning in everyday life (struggling to remember the rules of driving, facing my daily battle with portion control), my life is truly an adventure.

On more than 15 occasions someone has said to me, “I feel like this is only the kind of stuff that happens in a movie.” (You can read about such events in my book coming out in *unconfirmed* but most likely year of 2020.)

I’ve learned a lot of lessons in my life, specifically about relationships, but I found the bumpier my life is, the shakier I feel, the more I forget those lessons and tend to make the same mistakes. Ones that I swore I wouldn’t make again. Ones that I learned painful lessons from.

The last month or so has been challenging for me. I have been wrestling with God, struggling to trust Him,  feeling stuck in old patterns and in a sense, feeling like a hypocrite as I am failing to take my own advice of “closing the door” and “getting out of the past.” Day to day it changes, feeling shaky in one moment and solid in another.

I am usually not one to shut people out, but I have found myself building up walls to hide my own insecurities.

I’m a tricky one.

But any time I have gone through hard seasons in life,  I have been wrapped up in so much love and support. There are no words to emphasize the importance and difference a close “tribe” of family and friends makes.

Today was a rough day for me, and a friend made a joke to me about needing to have someone there to emotionally support me (this used to be a full-time position, but now it is more seasonal and on-call/as needed shift #progress).

I said that all I needed was arms, ears and Starbucks.

And over the past few weeks and in every tough season of my life, that is exactly what my amazing support system has been for me.

I don’t pretend to know true suffering. I make that a point to say consistently as I talk about pain or heartache. My circumstances are microscopic in comparison to what millions go through, but to a lost or hurting person, pain is pain.

So what do we do for those who are hurting? How do we support the people we love when they go through tough seasons?

I think I have the answer to this huge question, solely because it has been demonstrated to me in amazing, unbelievable ways:

Arms, Ears and Starbucks.

Arms that welcome openly, without judgment.  Arms that protect with strength but  are gentle in grace. Arms that don’t push away, but pull in. Arms that hold tight, support and even lift on occasion.  Arms that let go when space is needed, but squeeze tighter when it’s not. Arms that carry in the darkest, heaviest times, and nudge you forward when it’s time to start walking again.

I’ve had so many literal, and figurative arms around me in every tough season of my life. Since my last post about struggling with my faith, I have received SO much support and love from more people. Without judgment. Without condemnation. I’ve had the arms of friends around me as I cry on their shoulders. What is more beautiful than that?

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One of my favorite pairs of steady arms.

 

 

And then there are ears.

Ears that really listen. Ears that hear what is being said and allow processing before responding. I have been blessed with incredible listeners lately, who listen to my questions about God (or read, as I am known to send about 17 texts in a row) and just be there. Who don’t respond in order to hurt, or belittle, out of anger or bitter resentment, but out of grace and love.

I have seen the power of listening lately. To my huge questions about God, there really aren’t any answers that I haven’t heard. So my mentor listens to me. My small group leader lets me vent. My mom lets me wonder. My friends acknowledge and validate my questions.

I need to learn the mastery of a  good set of ears. I’ve got a mouth that works like I have two of them, (math has never been my strong suit), so I know what I need to work on.

So often I have much to say to “fix,” but am in awe at the way people have listened to me and all that has meant.

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An example of a ‘conversation’ I had today about my wrestlings with my spiritual mentor and close friend. This is commitment people.

And then there is Starbucks.

Again with the literal and figurative symbolism.

Quite literally, I have had friends put Starbucks (& Biggby, equally as loved) in my hand during seasons of pain. There is little that cannot be made at least a little bit better with Starbucks. It doesn’t fix everything. But it doesn’t hurt anything.

What  coffee is to me could be a million different things, and is different for every person. Little pick me ups, thoughtful text messages, reminders of prayer, surprise gifts from coworkers- these “little things” make SO much difference to someone who is going through a tough season. It’s not enough to make everything better. No coffee is that strong or powerful (still perfecting the water to beans ratio), but it’s enough to make SOMETHING better. Even for a moment.

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I think we all naturally want to fix everything. Fix each other. Fix the hurt. Fix the situation. Right the wrong.

But sometimes life sucks and people hurt and we just need to be there for each other- with arms, ears and Starbucks.

Thank you to my “tribe” who has been all of those things to me and more for my entire life. I am blessed beyond words.

Blessings, not chins

 

Jenna

 

 

 

No Matter Where You Are On Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s 2009: Went to Pizza Hut on a double date, saw “He’s Just Not that into you” and promptly broke off the relationship the next day (got back together 5 days later)

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Brittany and Ryan. And Pizza Hut Pizza. #valentinesdoubledate

Valentine’s 2010: Young and in love- Went to a banquet where no dancing was allowed so we just took pictures

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I had just learned how to curl my hair. Amazing.

 

*As I was going through pictures, I realized that I was pretty much always with my college roommate, Brittany around the Valentine’s holiday. Since I obviously am not going to post pictures from my own relationships, (that is a WHOLE new level of Taylor Swift), I am having pictures of me, Brittany and Ryan tell the stories. I don’t technically have permission to do this but I just group texted them letting them know.

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**Brit just texted back: we are all good

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Valentine’s 2011: Young and in love- celebrating a 2 year anniversary and all things Valentines in Chicago

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Cookies and coffee circa 2011

Valentine’s 2012: Heartbroken, country playlist on repeat for the remainder of 2012

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February 2012 with my roommate. Pretending to be happy but slowly dying inside.

Valentine’s 2013: Still kind of heartbroken, but back in the game

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Starting to feel bad that I spent pretty much every Valentine’s weekend with her….Sorry Ryan #needyfriend

 

Valentine’s 2014: Got into an argument over dessert, made Valentine’s dinner with the peel still on the shrimp so had to spit out the skin onto napkins. Ordered iHop for breakfast the next day to make up for the fight.

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Pancakes fix everything

Valentine’s 2015: Reeling from a breakup 4 days before. Worked in the church nursery, went to Applebee’s at 11pm with a friend. Was in email communication about of buying  $800 hypoallergenic cat to fill the empty spots in my heart

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A picture of the  actual $800 kitten I almost bought myself

 

Valentine’s 2016: Absolutely, totally content 5 days a week. Need reminders about God’s plan and encouragement from friends 2 days a week. Loving and appreciating contentment in this stage of my life. Thankful for amazing friends, the most precious nephew, and an incredible family. Crazy about my job. Happy. On a sugar high from Valentine’s cards from the kiddos:

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Thanks, kids.

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The strongest romantic feelings I have currently are about lipstick. And that’s fine with me.

 

Over the past 7 or 8 years, I have experienced pretty much every emotion about Valentine’s Day.

 

Hating it.

Loving it.

Indifferent to it.

Feelings are temporary. Rough patches don’t last forever. Broken hearts mend,  time passes. God heals, friends encourage.

Wherever you are this Valentine’s Day, take it for what it is. A day in a season of your life. A day. Not a day that defines you. It’s not even a day that says anything about you at all.

It’s a 24 hour period that may evoke some emotions within you, and that’s okay. Because before you know it, it’s over and nothing has changed. This is a moment in the timeline of your life.

I never thought I would be where I am this Valentine’s Day of 2016. But over the years, I have learned that some of my most intense disappointments have been God’s biggest blessings.

It has been a journey of ups and downs: Pizza Hut and cats and Applebee’s and pancake breakfasts. But you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Happy Valentine’s Day, no matter where you are on your timeline.

xoxo

Jenna

 

 

 

Heart on My Name Tag

Some people wear their heart on their sleeve.

I wear my heart in bold on a name tag.

I am certain no one has ever looked at me and said, “I just wonder what she’s thinking.” They already know. Sometimes I forget the  proper social order of things and announce how I feel before even greeting someone.

“I AM SO DEVASTATED RIGHT NOW OMG. Oh, hey Em, good to see you.”

For awhile, I went through a phase where I wanted to be super mysterious. I wanted to be the quiet, mysterious girl that kept to herself and everyone wondered about. It didn’t last very long and my tongue hurt from biting it so much. It was a health risk.

I live my life as an open book. The surgeon who removed my wisdom teeth was up to date on my girl’s weekend that I was about to have, I have announced breakups at staff meetings and I love sharing my life with other people. I write long notes to waitresses and have met more friends in a grocery store than I care to admit.

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Would have missed out on a short-lived, but full relationship with Zac Efron if I wouldn’t have put myself out there.

There are amazing benefits to living life with your heart open and exposed to the world:

1. Simple things in life are richer: errands around town turn into short but sweet conversations with strangers that leave you smiling. Why would you stand in the check out line silently when you could compliment the girl’s bag in front of you and get to know her? I try to talk to a stranger a day. Terrible advice for children but great advice for trying to make the world a happier place

2. Relationships are deeper and more fulfilling: I don’t have any surface level friendships. To me, what’s the point? My friends feel comfortable being vulnerable with me, because I am open and vulnerable with them. I have 25 best friends, but not because I am the coolest person ever, simply because each and every one of my friendships are deep and meaningful. Work friends, church friends, school friends, gym friends; what an amazing blessing I have because of my willingness to be open. I have most likely cried into the arms of 20 of my closest friends.

3. It’s more fun: I love my job. I am incredibly emotionally invested in my job. When my students succeed, I cry. The students don’t even react anymore. They are used to it. I love them so much and I am bursting with such joy when they do amazing things, I just cry. The emotional rollercoaster is good for them (actually, I really don’t know, ask my friend Aimee, the Social Worker). Laughter is deeper and conversations are richer. Life is amazing out here.

4. You don’t have to spend your life wondering: I don’t have anything, not ONE thing, I could look back on in my life and wonder, “What if…?” What if I would have told him? What if she didn’t know how much I loved her? I take chances when many people would let fear of being hurt stop them.

I would rather live with the sting of rejection than the sinking feeling of never knowing what might have been.

As incredible as it is out here with my heart on the line, I would be a liar if I said there weren’t any negative implications to this life. It isn’t for everyone, and if you tend to live life a little more closed-off and guarded, I would not advise diving head first into this world I live.

As I get older and experience more in life, I am learning that there are times I need to retreat a bit. Contrary to my previous beliefs,  not everyone NEEDS to know everything about me all of the time.

While most people have to learn to open up and let people in, I am learning that I have to, in a sense, keep some people out.

I wouldn’t trade this way of life for anything, but living your life out in the open is so, incredibly risky. For me, the benefits outweigh the bad, but I know that some people just couldn’t handle the hurt that comes along with being so emotionally vulnerable.

I am essentially always vulnerable to rejection and being hurt. Whether it is someone not receiving your nice words at the grocery store the way you wanted them to, or someone not reciprocating the same feelings you have shared with them, there is incredible risk to the open life I live. The safe thing to do is not tell the stranger what an amazing haircut she has, or to keep your feelings to yourself. It’s so safe. No risk.

This blog is a risk. While I certainly censor the details and really personal information about my life on here, I do share my heart and my feelings with the entire world. 99% of my experiences with this have been the most amazing blessing of my life.

However, that other 1% is tough. I recently received a string of text messages attacking my blog, my character and my relationship with God from a person who knew me for less than a moon cycle. Although in my heart I know vengeful words say more about the person saying them then they do about me, it is still hurtful to not be liked and to be judged by someone who doesn’t truly have any idea who I am.

It’s hard when someone has a problem with me.

It bothers me when someone doesn’t agree with me.

It hurts when someone doesn’t feel the same way.

But, living out here in this world, you learn to bounce back quickly.

I never stay down for long. My heart is a little elastic rubber band. When it hurts, it hurts deeply for awhile. I feel it, I let it happen, and then I bounce back.

I am not saying that my way is the best way. In fact, it’s probably not. But I would encourage anyone who tends to live life closed off to open themselves up to trying parts of my world (Not all of my world; remember I have had 25 years of training being myself. The Surgeon General warns against immediate immersion into this lifestyle)

I love people. I love connecting with them and loving them and hurting with them and understanding them and walking alongside them. If I leave one legacy in this life, I want it to be about the way I love and how I put myself out there, unafraid.

The way I take the love Jesus has for me and turn it into love for other people. The love I am able to give doesn’t even come close to the perfect love given to me, but darn it if I don’t spend my whole life trying to imitate it.

Blessings, not chins

Jenna

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Chose this picture for this post because it shows me at my most raw, real self. Air dried hair, not a drop of makeup, in my dad’s baggy sweatshirt and forcing my nephew to watch the musical I wrote for him over and over. Jenna in all her glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Wheel Diaries

I have mastered the art of third wheeling.

I am in this weird, happy, content stage in my life where I am not actively looking for a relationship and just truly enjoying this part of the journey. I say “weird” because that is weird for me and something I don’t think anyone thought would ever happen. I’m just content.

As happy as I am Ridin’ Solo, the reality is, the majority of my friends are married or in serious relationships. For most people, this severely limits the amount of time and types of things you can do with your friends, because they obviously need couple time and have to nurture their relationship frequently by doing boring married things like stay at home together. But if you follow these 6 strategies, you won’t have to only meet your friend for after work coffee or a quick-rushed dinner.

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1. Choose your couples carefully
This is perhaps the most important piece of advice. There are simply some couples you will not have third wheel chemistry with. Let them go. You have no future with them. Move on. You can still be friends with half of the couple, but sometimes that other person just grinds your gears. There are tons of other couple pairs that are a perfect match for you. There is an exact science to third wheeling, but that science cannot be explained. You feel it. If there is no chemistry, then move on.

2. Get the perks of the relationship, without the drama

I just finished drinking a Sonic Milkshake with Oreos that my roommate’s boyfriend brought us. I shot him a text and said “Hey can you bring us ice cream?” Last weekend, I had dinner with my best friend Sami and her husband, Josh. The couples will usually feel like total jerks if they buy their own dinner and make you pick up yours on your own, so I typically get my meals financed by the couple. I also bring my car to Belle Tire about once every 3 weeks for Josh to fix. He loves this and so do I. I only have to clean up after one, have all the benefits of being single and independent, but also get taken care of as if I am in a relationship. I actually think my friends’ husbands are probably more ready for me to meet someone than I am. I’ve got pretty sweet deal currently.

3. Shake things up

If possible, make one of the people in the relationship feel as if THEY are in fact, the third wheel. Sami and I do this really well by talking about things that her husband doesn’t know about or have any interest in. Many times, it feels as if Sami and I are the couple, and he is the outsider. I know for a fact, other significant others of my best friends have felt this way, as well. (Sorry Eric…love you!) This secures your spot with them, because then you have that position of power and suddenly they might start thinking that you are, in fact, a part of their relationship.

4. Find a common interest
There will be some couples you feel so at ease with, you are able to lounge around and do nothing and have fun. Other times, you will need a common interest to break the ice and keep things lively. Baseball? Boats? Food? A genre of music or movies? Find something you all can share together that will unite you as a wonderful trifecta.

5. Keep them entertained
Sometimes I think my married friends only keep me around for the stories. They remember the days of being single, and they THRIVE on the stories of dating and complex love triangles. It is not just the wives, either. Plenty of the husbands enjoy being involved in the ups and downs of my dating life, knowing the key players by name and giving their two cents and advice. If you stop being entertaining, they might not want to keep you around anymore, so keep the stories coming.


6. Know the limits

You must master the art of knowing when you have JUST ABOUT overstayed your welcome in their relationship, and leave right before they realize it. That is key. You don’t ever want them to get to the point where they realize it is time for you to go home. Beat them to it.

In all seriousness, thank you to my AMAZING friends and their INCREDIBLE, LOVING husbands and boyfriends that treat me with love and respect and put up with me crashing their houses, telling unreal stories and eating their food. Me and my future husband will babysit for you, all the time, for free.

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Look on the bright side 😉
Blessings not chins
Jenna

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A little bit brighter

I am no Gandhi. I have more in common with a hurricane than I do with Gandhi. My natural self is impatient and selfish and ornery and always hungry and prone to complain. I think about my needs and my wants first. I cry over anything or anyone who has wronged me. Irrational and anxious and hot headed and stubborn. That’s me without Jesus.(line up boys!)

And at my worst, I am those things still. I am human and sinful. But then He swoops on in and polishes up my heart, makes it shine and makes me tolerable and even pleasant to be around.

Because of Him, I pray I won’t be remembered as those first descriptions. (well, definitely the hungry one..no denying that). Because of His grace, I hope when I am gone and people talk about my life, they are able to say, “She just made things a little bit brighter.”

That’s all I want to do. In His name.

2 boxes that make a smiley face.

2 boxes that make a smiley face.

My favorite thing in the world is making new friends at Walgreens (or insert random local place here). Shooting the breeze with the elderly woman in the elevator. Bonding with the couple next to me at the movie theater. I love people. I connect with people on any occasion possible. My friends get exasperated when I spend 15 minutes talking to the Check-in guy at the hotel (Shout out to Sayeem at the Mariott in Detroit). My family loved to go on cruises when I was young, but my favorite part was talking to the workers on the ship. I like to write long letters on the back of receipts at restaurants. That’s just me.

But life isn’t always, or even usually, this bright, bubbly explosion of happiness. Watching the news is like this nauseating experience where I try to come to terms with horrible, unfathomable tragedy happening somewhere. To people. To people I don’t know, but I bet I would love them if I knew them. And then to people who I do know, and who I love fiercely. I struggle with the fact that all around me, in this exact moment, someone is suffering beyond my ability to even understand. Yet my life goes on. I bounce back and forth between feeling unbelievably blessed and terribly guilty, as I try to balance appreciating the incredible life I have while walking alongside those who suffer.

So what do we do? Pain and anguish and cancer and suffering and death linger around us. How do we come up against and change those things? We don’t. I can’t change a diagnosis. I can’t take away your pain. I am helpless in so many ways. But there are things I can do.

There are ways to make life a little brighter for others.

Like I said, I am no Gandhi. I do grumpy REALLY REALLY well. I have real bad days. And on those days, I might not bring the sunshine. It is impossible for all of us to bring the sunshine all the time. Life happens and hurt happens and sometimes you need to be the person that absorbs the light from others.

6 months ago I wasn’t shining. I didn’t have brightness to give. Others lit the way for me as I stumbled down a dark, scary path full of unknown. But then you make it, and you light up again and you do the same for someone else. What a beautiful circle. I just want to encourage everyone to find simple ways to shine into others’ lives. Not huge gestures or life-changing decisions; just small choices we can make as Christians to brighten this place up a bit.

Here are some simple ways to let our light shine:

1. When you think something nice, say it

A woman was looking at vegetables at Meijers. “I like that scarf” I thought. So I walked up to her and said, “hey I really like your scarf.” I gave her a little smile and walked away. Simple. I didn’t change her life. She is not sitting at home thinking about the strange blonde girl that approached her today and what a difference it made in her life. But it made her smile for a second. It brightened her day just a little. At Arby’s this week, (don’t judge) the older man at the counter was incredibly welcoming, positive and kind. As he was ringing me up, I thought how nice it was to be served by him and treated so well. So I told him how much I appreciated his great attitude and how refreshing it was. (and somehow accidentally upgraded to a larger size).

Why do we keep nice things about other people inside our heads where they don’t do any good? What do we have to lose? Let’s build people up. Pour into them. When someone is doing something well, even a random stranger, tell them. Be bold. You know what? Sometimes it will backfire and you will look like a total creeper (I have embarrassed my friends in public many times), but the majority of the time, it will mean more to the recipient then you will ever know. Even if it is just for a moment.

2. Go deeper

I am a relationship girl. I don’t mean dating relationship because clearly that hasn’t worked out in my favor. I mean I love people. I want to be best friends with everyone. The doctor that pulled out my wisdom teeth could have given you a detailed itinerary of my girl’s road trip coming up: (shout out to Dr. Maribelli…4 years post-op and doing great) I become emotionally invested with the mechanics that change the oil in my car.

We interact with hundreds and hundreds of people. But how many of them do we connect with? You don’t need to follow my lead and write a 2 page letter to the gas-station attendant because you spilled your coffee on her…(true story), but take time to ask questions and smile and care about people. It isn’t about sharing your life story with the UPS worker (you can save that stuff for me), but it is about being INTENTIONAL in ALL of our interactions. Showing people, even those we interact with in passing, that they have value through how we treat them, is powerful. Returning things at the store is an opportunity to be a light for Jesus. Every single human interaction is a chance for us as Christians to be a light.

3. Show your own darkness

Opening up to people is hard, and while it may seem counterproductive “shining” to reveal some of your own darkness, I have found that the more I have opened up in my life, the deeper, brighter and more fulfilling the relationships become. Many of us are scared to show our weaknesses, even to our closest friends and family. It’s hard to admit we are in counseling, struggle with body image, or wrestle with doubt and anxiety. We cover up with filtered instagram pictures and mask our pain. Even in our deepest relationships, we as humans as a tendency to hide.

Some people have told me that they think I am brave for “having the guts” to share some of my struggles publicly. But do you know how freeing it is? I don’t think it’s brave. I think knowing the freedom I feel now, I couldn’t imagine life any other way. Life pretending isn’t for me, and not because I’m strong, but because I am weak. I need people to help carry me sometimes, to support me and pray me through. We all do.

We hide our darkness for a million reasons. Shame and embarrassment. Pride. Fear. But I truly believe the more we open up to each other in our close relationships, the brighter this world will be.

There is not much I can do that will change the world. But loving others well feels like a start. This passionate love that I have for people creates this constant yearning and tension inside me to love deeply and genuinely. It is our calling.

It’s risky.

I cry a lot.

I love hard and get hurt hard.

But it’s so worth it.

Let’s go make this world brighter

Blessings not chins,

Jenna