What God Does in the Discomfort

Patience and perseverance are not two of my strongest qualities.

Unlike some of the Olympian greats, I prefer not to work hard, push through tough circumstances or wait extended periods of time to arrive at what I want.

I prefer instant results with the least amount of work and discomfort possible. (Someone write this on an inspirational poster.)

Max and I have been working out together lately, and I am fairly certain he has started to realize that getting me from the parking lot of the gym to actually being inside the gym requires much more emotional and physical energy than the workout itself. The 100 yards from the car to the gym doors require a mental toughness and the patience of a practicing Monk.

The monk and me in happier times.

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Last week, we had to run into the store before working out, and I told him I wished I would get caught shoplifting and taken to jail so I didn’t have to work out.

*Disclaimer: I do not steal and have never stolen. This simply illustrates the emotional turmoil I experience the minutes before working out and the lengths, in that emotional state, I feel I would go to avoid it

I came up with many ideas of things we could do besides work out: eat, snack, lay around and watch TV; all of which sounded much more appealing than the gym and would feel much better in that moment.

On the walk from the car to the gym, I can come up with 10,000 reasons not to enter it.

I’m too tired.

My brain hurts.

I have other things to do.

I hate it.

Sadly, there have been many times I literally arrive at the gym, pull in the parking lot, park and then turn around and go home. No thank you.

But Max held firm to our scheduled work out, knowing full well that in one hour, when the workout was over, I would feel energized, happy and proud of myself for being physically active. It would be worth it for me.

We get into the gym, change in the locker room, and I meet him by one of the machines to begin the experience of physical activity. After just a few minutes, I whisper

“How much longer until this is over?”

Max just looks at me.

However, without fail, as I begin to put in the work, break a sweat and get active, I feel so much better. The endorphins start flowing, and all of a sudden I announce how much I love working out and how maybe I could even train for a marathon or do one of those 30 day cleanses to purify my system so I could be a spokesperson for healthy living.

Again, he just looks at me as I have gone from one extreme, preferring prison over the gym, to sudden motivation to push my body to the highest level of athleticism.  He knows we will go through the same emotional roller coaster together in 2 days. He continues lifting.

If I have learned anything over the years, I have learned that my emotions and my feelings cannot be used as tour guides or directors for arriving at what is best for me.

In the past, some of the best paths the Lord has placed me on felt like way too much work and  and way too painful.  Many of the best decisions I have made were often the most terrifying and the most uncomfortable. Choosing another way would have felt so much better at the time.

Looking back now, Praise Jesus I fought through that pain and held on. His greatest blessings came through my biggest disappointments and challenges that felt horrible.

Look at the stakes in this tree: I bet that tree is pretty uncomfortable. He wants to be free of that discomfort and stand up on his own. All the other trees look big and full and healthy, and these stakes feel as if they are getting in the way of that. But those stakes are designed to support, protect and make the tree stronger in the long run, allowing roots to grow. He will feel full and healthy when he makes it through this. Although momentarily painful- enduring this season is important for this tree if he wants to withstand the winds and storms that are coming his way. His roots have to be developed and strengthened. It’s not his time yet.

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While making decisions based on  feelings may satisfy short term discomfort, like the stakes in the tree, long term joy and fulfillment comes when you push through tough situations, do the hard, but right thing, and hold fast through the discomfort.

Unfortunately, most times in our lives, the results are not as instantaneous as how we feel pre-workout and post-workout.

A lot of times, like the tree, you may have the uncomfortable stakes in place for years before you can see why they were necessary in the first place.

How many times in my life have I thought I knew what was best for me?

I can actually answer that question by saying almost every single day.

Almost every day of my life, I could believe that what is best for me is what would make me feel good at that moment.

What quick decision or step could satisfy this longing, desire or discomfort?

In the case of right and wrong: agreeing with someone and not standing up for something I know is Biblical because it feels yucky and offensive.

In the case of friendship and relationships: holding on to bitterness because forgiveness feels so much harder.

The hard conversations that would be easier avoided.

In the case of the gym: going home and laying down with a jar of peanut butter.

Clearly I am using the gym as a deep and academic metaphor for the times in our life where God is using a little bit (or lot bit) of discomfort to achieve a purpose bigger than us.

Something where you know God has you there for a reason, but it would be super easy to take the escape route to avoid the pain.

 

But what is God doing in the discomfort and the stretching?

What purpose or lesson is God teaching me or using me for in that season?

There are many situations in life that feel so uncomfortable at the time, but prove to be the very things that shape us and grow us and mold us.

Throughout my life, I have done everything in my power to manipulate circumstances to quickly achieve whatever the desired outcome was. God usually takes longer than I prefer, so I have been known to take a step before the path is ready.

The results are usually faster, but never, ever better than the outcome God had waiting for me.

Like clockwork, my premature actions trying to band-aid and quick fix my momentary discomfort results in a messy explosion, me laying my plans at His feet and Him ultimately having His way in me. His better way.

My human tendency is going to always be to try to weasel my way out of discomfort to get momentary relief, or an illusion or cheap substitute of what I want.

To take off the stakes that are supporting me and developing me. To leave the gym as soon as I get there because I’m in a bad mood. To leave a situation before God is finished working on it.

 

I’ve been on a journey the past few years to stop letting my ever-changing emotions make decisions for me.

The walk from the car to the gym can be a long one. You want to turn around and take the easy way out. The stakes might be uncomfortable. You want to remove them.

But I’ve learned, and am still learning, to grow in the discomfort, push through the things that don’t always “feel good,” and believe that when it’s all over, I will look back, stronger, happier, healthier and so very glad I didn’t go home to snack the night away on Schuler’s cheese (with a hint of horseradish) and crackers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking School: 4 Reasons to do it less this year

I speak 3 languages. English, Spanish and School. I am a Trilingual educator.

“Talking School” is a teacher phenomenon.  Teacher-ese if you will. Do not underestimate the tiny crevices into which  school talk can leak.

 

I have talked school floating in the pool. (I do not like it, Sam I am!) On a beach in Jamaica. On top of a pile of snow. At weddings. With strangers. On airplanes. At Bachelorette Parties. At the doctor’s office. At the car wash. With family. With any living being with ears (and the occasional inanimate object).

You may think you’re safe until the beautiful red of a setting sun reminds you of the day your “tough kid” got all Green Traffic lights until the very last section where you had to color it in red due to a certain throwing incident. Clearly, I need to text my friend about this memory and lament how I had only used 67 strategies with her that day when I could have used 70. Nuts! I missed the sunset.

You’re drifting off to sleep camping and feel a weed by your feet in your tent. All of a sudden you remember the failed seed growing experiment in your classroom because you forgot to water them over the weekend. So you ask the person next to you, “Am I the worst human being in this world?”

Teachers have this uncanny ability to bring up work in the most random of situations.

“School talk” forms immediate and comfortable bonds with other educators who genuinely and totally understand. If you are engaging in School Talk with someone who is not a teacher, for example, your spouse, cousin or 7 year old you are babysitting, you might lose them when you start name dropping Marzano and Danielson like they are old friends.

This school year, I am setting some goals for outside of work: not so much school talk.

Now, before I explain why I want to have less “school talk” this year, let me first define school talk as conversations about work in social settings that have no relation to school.

I am not proposing we stop collaborating, discussing ideas or brainstorming solutions to problems as teams of teachers. Obviously, during the school day, school talk IS my life.

I breathe lesson objectives (and pencil sharpener dust).

I drone on about schedule changes.

I ask for advice on specific students.

I share stories with colleagues.

I email my team.

There is no end to school talk. And that’s how it should be.

Just like workers at Papa John’s talk about pizza making and delivery routes.

Like Librarians talk about missing books and check-out times.

Like Starbuck’s barista’s discuss how they are angels sent from the Lord above who deserve eternal rewards for their contributions to society, and specifically teachers.

During the work day, I am devoted to my job. Heart and soul (except for Monday mornings…I will admit that sometimes my heart just isn’t in it then. Okay and Friday afternoons and days before break.)

But when I close up shop and walk out of room 15 this year, I need to remember that a whole other life awaits me outside those walls. I forget that sometimes. But I CAN leave school stuff at school. Here are 4 quick reasons why I am trying to do that this year

  1. It tends to turn negative

I LOVE my job. More than I feel like a job should be loved. However, get me chatting with a couple of teacher friends at the beach and even with the best of intentions, the conversations can turn south quickly. I don’t want to be a part, or the cause, of negative talk or gossip that involves colleagues, policies or things happening in my place of work. The less “outside” teacher talk, the less chance I will put my foot in my mouth and say something I shouldn’t say.

2. It’s annoying to those who don’t speak the language

A normal amount of talking about jobs is good and healthy. We spend lots of time at our work and I think if you are married to a teacher or love a teacher, it is important to hear a bit about what happens in the classroom. Sharing highs and lows of the day, funny moments and frustrations is wonderful and wildly entertaining for others.

However, when the conversations become obsessive or to the people you are talking to, you might start losing the crowd. My dad, who works at the Post Office, loves to hear about the happenings of my classroom, however if I go on a rant about the new state requirements  and the online educator system glitches, and how I am exhausted of tracking data on a particular student’s behavior, I might hear some deep breathing and the occasional snore. My dad can sleep anywhere.

3. We have other things going on

Hey. My life is so exciting. I have SO many awesome things going on to talk about. Okay, a little bit of sarcasm, but for real, there is more to me than being a teacher.

I can talk about being a Christian, a friend, a daughter, a writer, or even talk to you about my love of snack food and my favorite kinds. My teacher friends have families and pools (amen amen) and health issues and famous people sightings and cool things happening. Maybe I will learn some new things about coworkers this year if I talk to them about those things at the Christmas party instead.

If teaching defines me as a human, if the ups and downs of my classroom dictate my persona, then I advise everyone to run far away from me any week of a full moon, or the week before and after Halloween. Those kids be crazy.

It is normal to celebrate successes and lament tough days with others, but there should be a healthy balance, and I am learning that more every year: that I can let things go.

4. You need a break

You just need a break. You’re tired. Between the 7 hour school days, 8 extra hours of meetings, before and after school prep, writing sub plans and extra commitments like conferences, don’t you think you talk school and think school and breathe school enough?

 

Don’t get me wrong. As the new school year is just days away, I truly cannot wait to get back into the classroom and “talk school” until I am blue in the face at work. I am only saying that I want to make a more conscious effort this year to not lose the other areas of my life that tend to get buried between the months of September-June. Outside of the freshly cleaned hallways and newly waxed floors, lives a 25 year old  with more knowledge about frozen yogurt than anyone I have ever met. I need that side of me to make more of an appearance this school year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Summer Break Acceptance Speech

Greetings to all who read this.

I am used to having an audience of about 27 little humans, so being here on stage to accept this award does not faze me in the slightest. When you have asked  students to tell you if you have chocolate on your face or not, it takes a lot to feel embarrassment anymore.

Summertime is here.

I can tell you that there were times I didn’t know if I would make it. I didn’t know if we would make it.

Specifically towards the end of October. And then March. And then again today.

Yet we have reached the end of another school year, and entering summer break with this acceptance speech is my utmost honor.

I have many people, food items, and inanimate objects to thank for reaching this point.

Let me begin with the most important. First and foremost, I would like to thank coffee for everything it is to me and everything it will be.

You might be thinking, “Jenna, as a devout Christian, shouldn’t you being thanking God first for helping you through the year?”

God made the coffee. And He and I have it worked out. He understands. God is everywhere. Even in an elementary school. He knows.

Not only would i like to thank coffee, I would like to thank everyone and everything associated with coffee.

Thank you to the coffeemaker in my kitchen that rings a sweet glorious sound when the coffee is ready. Thank you to the filters for allowing the water to run through it in a way to make the coffee juice taste good without getting grounds in it. Thank you to all the workers at Starbucks and Biggby who have my order memorized. Specific shoutout to the worker who poured me a new coffee when I spilled mine all over myself.

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notice the coffee spilled on my desk. and the general mess.

 

Thank you to every colleague who has brought me coffee in moments of distress, or out of sheer kindness. Thank you to the coffee farmers in every remote area of the world. I love you and I thank you.

Now I would like to thank the Lord. He heard my 1pm prayers and 6:50am cries as getting out of bed became harder and harder every day in May. He got me up. He reminded me at the perfect times why I love my job. He brought amazing people in my life that makes the job even better. He made coffee. And it was good.

Next up is the Teacher’s Lounge. A resting place. A time of solace, laughter, or sometimes silence because it’s only Tuesday and it feels like Friday a 4pm.

That brings me into my teaching family. From the amazing staff who clean my classroom each day, to my teaching partners,  to parapros to secretaries and lunch staff. We are a family. Sometimes a dysfunctional one, like families can be, but we love each other in the mess and we make the best out of it. So much love to you people.

You have saved the day and covered for me so I could go to the bathroom.

You have brought me kleenexes when I am having an adult meltdown.

You feed me snacks.

You people are some of the best parts of my job and I genuinely love you.

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Next, I would like to thank bandaids and water fountains. Bandaids and water fountains cure 95% of all student ailments. Magic.

“My head hurts.”

“Okay honey, why don’t you try a drink of water and see if that helps.”

“Ms. Wiley, I’m bleeding”

*uses magnifying glass to find microscopic speck of red*

“Okay here is a bandaid.”

Bandaids and Water fountains- the MVP’s.

 

 

I would like to extend a thank you to each of my fabulous little students. We have our moments. They give me grace. I give them grace. We laugh. We cry. We learn together. It’s a great gig. Thanks for everything guys. I loved *almost* every minute with you. It was awesome but now teacha needs a break. Thank you for bringing in Hawaiian leis and celebrating the end of the year with a Karaoke Party in my room yesterday after school. Kids rock.

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Karaoke Parties are the best way to celebrate the end of the year.

 

Thank you to the yoga balls on which my students sat this year. You let them move and wiggle and bounce and be all hyper while letting me still teach. I got a little motion sickness at first, watching the ups and downs in rhythmic form. But I got used to it.

 

Thank you to my friends and family outside of work. The ones who understood if it was a “bad day” and listened to me vent as needed.

Thank you to my Spring Break vacation. I needed you.

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Me and my nephew enjoying a relaxing dinner in Florida. Turns out caring for an infant isn’t vacation.

Thank you to the substitute teachers who literally saved my life by filling in for me on days I was out.

Thank you to antibiotics for the 2 times I got bronchitis.

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Thank you to the teacher I share a classroom with one day a week. Your healthy life tips are appreciated. I am a hoarder. Thank you for dealing with my piles everywhere.

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You could have played iSpy with the stuff I found in there.

Thank you to the people behind “treat days.” Seeing random treats in the lounge for no reason at all gives you a perfect excuse to binge eat the stress away. Carb loading on donuts did come with a few consequences, but in the end, totally worth it.

It was an amazing year.

An exhausting, happy, emotional, fabulous, insane year.

As you see, I never could have done it alone. So with great joy and little to no pride (I have none left after some of the  lessons I have taught this year), I accept summer vacation.

Congratulations to all who made it. Your trophy is sunny and sandy.

And to anyone who thinks it’s unfair that teachers get summers off:

actually, never mind. I honestly don’t even have the energy to debate with you.

Happy Summer

xoxo

Jenna

2lynfdf

 

 

Why I Don’t Want a ‘Normal’ Job: 11 times teaching is the best, even when it isn’t

About 39 times a year, I question why I went into teaching.

It’s a crazy life. A life that one can only understand once in the trenches: tying the shoes and wiping the tears and teaching the words.

There are some days where on my way home, I am convinced that I am never stepping foot back into my classroom again. It can go on without me. You can find me working at an animal shelter under a heap of  puppies. I will just be laying there, arms stretched as puppies and kittens bound across me and lick my face. That is what I will do.

But alas, I wake up the next morning and I walk into my classroom and I tie the shoes and I wipe the tears and I teach the words.

Today was a bit of a crazy afternoon and to be honest, a crazy week for me, but amongst the chaos and tattles and peer arguments, my head started to fill with all of the reasons I could never do another job right now (except maybe the aforementioned job where all I do is lay on the ground and get tackled by baby animals).

I grabbed a sticky note and started jotting down some of the reasons that this is the best job there is. Even when it isn’t.

Maybe in the future when my life circumstances change, I won’t be in a classroom anymore. But right now, a classroom is home to me.

With all of the stress that comes with teaching, I think it’s easy to forget all the amazing things I experience as a teacher that would NEVER be the status quo in a “normal job.” For example…

  1. Small chores being done for you

I can’t remember the last time I filled my own water bottle or walked across my classroom to retrieve the coffee from my desk. When I ask the little students to do small chores for me, you would think I am bestowing upon them the grandest honor of all. Students take pride, and gloat shamelessly to their peers when they are selected to complete basic life tasks for their teacher.

Beaming, they wipe off my table, as though the most important job in the world. For some reason, I think this would be an issue in the corporate world if I expected all of those around me to wait on me hand and foot.

“Steve, can you run across the office and rinse out this cup and fill it with water for me?”

“Margaret, I spilled my tea. Could you grab me paper towels and jump up and down on the spill so it all absorbs?”

“Dan, can you come here and open my window halfway? I’m a little warm.”

Something tells me I might struggle to develop healthy coworker relationships.

2. The compliments 

My classroom is pretty much the only place I am considered “cool.”

Small children love to lavish compliments. With my specific job, I have over 700 students in and out of my doors per week, so the compliments reach incredible heights as I get a new group of kids each hour.

A new group of kids to comment on my outfit, lipstick and shoes. Though I should probably take them with a grain of salt (many children still can’t tell the difference between me and the building art teacher), I let them go directly to my head.

Why not? If you had tiny humans lavishing affirmations upon you all day, you might get a little pompous, too.

Compliments from children are also contagious. If Maddie compliments me, and Ginny hears it, Ginny will try to one-up the previous compliment with an even better compliment, until I am fending off compliments with quick “thanks, honey, but you need to go sit down.”

Again, that same something tells me that I couldn’t expect this kind of praise in a “normal” job.

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My first year of teaching, students rolled a red carpet to my desk.

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Me, drawn as a queen on her throne. (Those are puffy sleeves).

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This was written to me by a Kindergartener who was moving away at the end of the year.

 

3. But yet, they keep you humble

While this may seem conflicting after pointing out how children make you feel like a million bucks, it should be noted that young children are brutally honest. I was sick yesterday and was struggling through the morning. Students, concerned and confused asked me, “Did you forget to put makeup on today?” “Why does your face look like that?”

Just when your head is getting a little too big, they are there to humble you with their innocent and honest observations about your appearance.

A few months ago, upon returning from Florida, I was rocking’ a deep, dark tan. I was flaunting my sun-kissed skin and basically using my classroom as a runway, when one 10 year old boy took one look at me and told me I looked like a “burnt hotdog.”

Extra points for the creative simile.

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thanks?

 

4. The Weirdness

If I had to manage adults for a living, I think the turnover rate at my company would be alarmingly high. I am very, very weird . I can’t help it. I was born like this. I love that kids GET my weird.

All of the following are statements that would make perfect sense to almost all of the students that walk through my doors:

“If you aren’t going to bounce like a baby kangaroo, you will sit on Broccoli Island.”

“You guys are only giving me a Parmesan Cheese level of participation. I need to see more Sharp Cheddar.”

“Ms. Wiley, can we dance to this song ‘Spicy Nacho’ style?”

“Guys, you know that while Cottage Cheese is still expected behavior, you make me happiest when I don’t see any of it at all!”

(yes, there is a cheese scale for attitude, engagement and participation in my room).

“Are you at Belly Button University right now?”

Need I say more?  It sounds even weirder in Spanish.

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Me pretending I am lost in the Amazon and need to be rescued. #weird

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Agreed, kid. Agreed.

 

5. The camaraderie with other teachers

While teaching is definitely about the kids, the relationships and bond I have with my colleagues is one of the highlights and most treasured parts  of my job.

Teachers have a look they give each other in the hall when they pass and when they can’t audibly say “I am about to pull my hair out if I hear my name one more time…”

Work friendships are amazing. This morning, a colleague, and dear friend, brought me coffee. I frequent the classroom of another dear friend to break into her stash of 3 year old gum balls when I need a rush of sugar. I know where the chocolate drawer is in most of my teacher friends’ rooms.

Those small interactions, encouragements and moments with my amazing teaching family  keep you sane and keep your caloric intake high.

The most comforting thing of all is when you have another adult, like a beautiful, priceless Paraprofessional (God bless you, wonderful people) in the room with you and something insane happens and you can look at each other and say “Are you seeing this???” “Is this our life right now?”

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Cheering on a teacher friend as she runs a marathon!

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I have an open coffee tab with most teachers in my building.

6. Shake Your Head and laugh moments

I am sure most careers have funny, memorable moments. But oh, if the walls of Room 7 and Room 22 could talk. There are moments in my classroom where all I can do is laugh.

Hilarious, unbelievable moments.

I have a kiddo who is fiercely protective of me. I have had him for years, and we have a very special bond. If this student ever perceives someone isn’t treating me well or I am in ‘danger’, he comes to my rescue like a flash of lightning.

A few weeks ago, I was eating an apple and teaching. That combo has never typically worked out well for me, but that day I was confident I could do it.

I had choked a few times and cleared my throat, but finally after the third time I choked on a piece of apple, I exclaimed, “Uh! This apple is trying to kill me!”

Upon hearing this, the student immediately snatched the apple out of my hand and threw it in the trash can forcefully. There was NO place for an ‘evil apple’ in my classroom.

With every bone in his little body, he was protecting me from that apple. It was the most precious thing I have ever seen.

Once, first graders were having a discussion amongst themselves about why I wasn’t married yet. Before I could chime in to encourage them to change the subject, a passionate 6 year old yells “Don’t rush her guys! She’s not ready yet!”

Those types of moments are ones that keep me coming back, day in and day out.

A more concise list…(I am getting wordy. And if you are a teacher, you should probably be grading, lesson planning or doing 17 other things right now, so allow me to wrap this up.)

7. Pajama Days

These are the best. There is nothing left to say.

8. Birthday treats

It’s always some kid’s birthday. Except for when I go on a strict diet (2x a week), birthday treats are the reason I make it until 3:45pm.

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This was ONE day’s worth of birthday treats. #summerbirthdays

9. Summer vacation and Snow Days

Duh.

10. When you watch students “get it” right before your eyes

This is a magical, inexplicable moment. When you have a breakthrough with a kid and try not to cry and then they laugh at you for being so emotional.

11. It’s always an adventure.

No day is the same. You can try your darnedest to ensure an airtight plan and seamless routines and transitions: but EVERY day, something unplanned will happen. Every. Single. Day. You roll with it. You get really good at that.

Just when you think you aren’t making a difference, a kid’s flip flop breaks so you tape paper all the way around it  so they can walk home with their shoe still on.

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#changinglives

 

I don’t want a ‘normal’ job.

I want this crazy, exhausting, hilarious, stressful job.

I wasn’t born to be normal, anyways.

Here is to the last few weeks.

Jenna

jennawiley@yahoo.com

 

Hearing from you is pretty much my favorite thing. Love to hear teacher stories and connect with people all over the world. Shoot me an email or follow my blog on Facebook.

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10 Things We Can All Agree On in a Time of So Much Arguing

Online arguments are the bane of all human existence. They are also like a train wreck; no matter how much you know you should look away, sometimes you just can’t stop reading long comment threads of people fighting and debating and laying their dignity on the line.

To my knowledge, approximately zero people have changed their minds due to someone on social media lending a countering opinion. I have read a LOT of online arguments, and not ONCE have I read,

“You know, Steve, all of your statistics and sarcasm has totally changed my outlook on immigration, so I agree with you now. Thanks, friend. ”

Have you?

Listen, I am all for healthy debate. I am all for freedom of speech. But people, stop yelling at each other online. If you want to post your opinion, fine. I think it’s great that people have an outlet to express themselves, but when I see some of the people I hold SO much respect for get into it on Facebook, even Pastors, I just can’t look at them the same.

People are reading.

People are watching how you’re treating and the way you are talking to others.

So, in attempt to unite us all during a time of intense political division and varying opinions about the circus that is currently happening in our society, I have compiled a list of things upon which we will ALMOST all universally agree.

1. Burning your tongue is terrible

The pain of burning your tongue both as it happens and after it happens is terrible. Once I burnt my tongue on Hot Chocolate the MORNING of Thanksgiving. That is like spraining your ankle the day before the Olympics. I had to go through the whole day barely tasting the food on the biggest day of eating of the whole year. I have never met a person who enjoys having a burnt tongue.

2. It’s so weird when you take a drink of something and it’s not what you
expected

You know what I am talking about. You go to take a huge chug of water and it’s your sister’s Sprite. All of a sudden it’s like the equilibrium of the world is off. You don’t know anything for a moment. There are so many confusing sensations happening.

3. Leaving work on Friday is the best feeling

I love my job. But that sweet freedom of a Friday afternoon might rival the high of recreational drugs (do not know this from experience.) It’s a spring day, the sun in shining and you just walked out of work and the weekend awaits you. Tell me you don’t like that.

4. When you unexpectedly run into someone you know at the airport- it feels like worlds are colliding

Traveling is an exciting experience, and people watching during traveling is even more exciting. I have often observed groups of people run into each other unexpectedly at the airport and EVERY TIME it’s like this incredible reunion with shrieks and hugs. Even in “real life” if those people aren’t necessarily close, the airport makes you vulnerable and connects you.

5. People with accents are cooler 

We are pretty much all intrigued by people with different accents than us. Yesterday I was on the last leg of a five hour drive, and this woman with a thick Irish accent was doing a broadcast on the radio. I couldn’t turn it off. Her voice was so beautiful and different and I hung onto her every word. I also decided I am going to learn to speak with an Irish accent.

6. Your song sounds better on the radio

You might have bought your favorite song on iTunes and listen to it obsessively every waking minute of your life, but when it comes on the radio unexpectedly, it is the best 4 minutes of your life.

7. You probably have googled “Is it normal…”
Maybe you haven’t googled it, but you have thought it

8. Puppy bellies are the world’s best texture

If you disagree with me on this one, please just delete me from your life.

9. You do really embarrassing things when you’re alone

No need to get into details. You do. And I do, too.

10. You have your opinions because you think they are what’s best.

We all have views and opinions based on what we see is best. We can’t all be right. But we all think we are right.

Chances are, you’re wrong about some things. Chances are, you are also right about some things.

None of us knows it all. None of us is right about everything.

Let’s stop arguing over everything that’s different, and remember that at the end of the day, we all want what’s best and we are all in this together.

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

 

 

 

Finding Your Patience Instead of Losing It

I know some really patient people. I have a hard time understanding their kind. You beautiful, foreign creatures. You fascinate me with your superpowers.

Just about anything can and will annoy me. I am impatient, easily irritated and the littlest things can send me into a frenzy. (Don’t I sound lovely?)

I don’t like the way “thought” is spelled.

Annoying.

This tag is itching me.

Irritating.

This person is driving 3 miles under the speed limit.

Rage and fury.

It doesn’t take much to make me lose my patience and become annoyed. (By the grace of God alone (okay and obscene amounts of coffee), I thrive as an elementary school teacher).

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If I am not intentional about my reactions, annoyance and impatience would suck the joy out of my life. It is one of those nagging little emotions that can be triggered by the smallest thing, yet snowball into a huge release of emotions. (Road rage, anyone?)

I love people. However, one of the least favorite lessons I have learned in my life is that I am unable to control them, therefore, believe it or not, on occasion, people annoy me.

If I allowed everything that could potentially drive me nuts to actually drive me nuts, I would waste my life irritated and in a state of constant annoyance. I wish being patient and understanding came naturally to me, but it doesn’t so instead I intentionally have worked on being patient, especially with other people.

Here are some of those ways:

1. Benefit of the Doubt 

Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is a game-changer when it comes to dealing with people. I used to always think the worst in situations- my coffee tastes weird so Jill at Starbucks must have not even put an ounce of effort into it.

She probably just dumped in the ingredients without even looking. She probably saw me and wanted to make my day horrible by ruining my coffee.

Naturally, I tend to jump to worst-case scenarios, but when you give someone the benefit of the doubt, suddenly the situation doesn’t seem so bad. If my coffee was totally gross and I paid $4.00 for it, I am going to bring it back to Jill, but the difference would be my attitude.

If I taste my coffee and it’s gross, instead of assuming Jill hates me and wants me to die a slow, caffeinated death of misery, I can choose to think she really tried to make this a good cup of coffee, but something must have been wrong with the machine. Someone forgot to clean out the espresso pull, and that’s why grounds are in my drink.

Who cares if it’s true.

2. Think of what COULD be happening behind the story

Something I have done lately to take the edge off impatience is create stories for why people are behaving the way they are. Maybe this is childish, or naive, but I have found this takes the judgmental edge off me very quickly.

For example, I was grocery shopping awhile and an elderly man was taking forever looking at the bananas.

I mean, FOREVER. I treat grocery shopping like an olympic event timed for speed, so I cannot be bothered with this type of disturbance.

As I watched him move slowly towards the bananas, I felt myself begin to get annoyed.

But then I thought…

What if his wife recently passed away and this is the first time he has had to grocery shop by himself. What could he be feeling right now? Imagine what he is going through.

People have stories that we will never know. Maybe the person that cut you off just got horrible news about a family member in the hospital. There could be an emergency creating a situation where you are on hold for 35 minutes.

People still do annoying things without good reasons. But isn’t it worth it to feel empathy for other humans just in case? We never know what people are going through.

3. Remember all the annoying things you do

I refuse to shut the lids on things all the way. I think it’s pointless. I just set the lid of the peanut butter on it and don’t screw it tightly. It still closes and keeps it fresh, but limits the work I have to do next time I grab the jar.

Believe it or not, some people find it annoying when they pick up a jar by its lid (which they shouldn’t do anyways) and it falls to the ground open.

My roommate has to hear me baby talk my nephew via FaceTime every night at 8:30 while he plays in the bathtub.

I shake my legs so violently while watching movies, that the entire couch trembles and all my friends feel like they are in an earthquake simulator.

I am an annoying human being and I want people to extend grace to me. Therefore let’s extend grace to others by showing them patience and love.

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I break most things I tough. #staffroom

4. Keep it in perspective

In the scheme of things, is this worth it? Your show got recorded over. Will this really matter in a month? If you got a phone call that changed your life tomorrow, that totally rocked your world, would your mind even come close to being upset about the button that fell off your favorite sweater when your sister was wearing it? Is not making this green light worth this level of anger?

Putting things in perspective is the quickest way to come back down from the high horse of annoyance. What really matters? Focus on that.

5. Take care of yourself physically and spiritually

When I am rested, well-fed and have spent time with the Lord, I am SO much more likely to overflow grace and patience.

When I let the Lord fill me up with HIS grace and love, only then can I extend supernatural amounts of grace and love to other people. Even the difficult ones.

When I am starved spiritually, I find it impossible to be the person Jesus calls me to be. We are sinful and naturally selfish, so my first instincts are to become angry and impatient.

It will be awhile before I consider myself a patient person, however with these tips, I am at least able to fake it until it comes naturally (or supernaturally) 😉

 

Blessings not chins,

Jenna