All posts by Jennie L

About Jennie L

(Prose Board) is from Salt Lake. Teaching high school English has taught her many things, including how to sing the parts of speech, and break up hall fights, but perhaps most important, spending her days with words and writing continually reinforces their power. Give her a beach, some dark chocolate, friends and family and she'll be one happy girl.

My May Day Challenge

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 3.07.23 PM

You know you’ve made it big when people turn your name into a verb. As in, “I’ve been Marie Kondoedor, “I see you’re going all Kondo in your house”. Like many of you, I jumped on the Marie Kondo bandwagon and read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to see what all the fuss was about.  My wannabe minimalist Zen self hoped to find motivation to whip the materialistic and cluttered part of me into shape.

I listened to the book as I drove to work, put away laundry, and while starring at my small closet gorging at the seems. But somewhere along the way I checked out. Probably between the talk about giving books away and how to fold socks. I know I have a problem – I have old clothes galore and random piles of shoes I can’t part with. I’m not to hoarder status, but it bothers me and gives me guilt at the threads of materialism running through my life. When I’m stressed or worried or feeling not enough I’m pulled to the sweet intoxicating lure of TJ Maxx, Target, and Nordstrom. So much for being Kondoed I thought.

I can appreciate Kondo’s concept, and boy do I admire those who don’t have attachment to crap and the highs of shopping, but I knew I had to take it down to a more realistic level than what Kondo suggested. I needed a larger why- a bit more personal introspection as to how to apply some of these concepts realistically. As I sat on my bed eyeing the mix of books and sweatshirts, I grabbed my phone and watched Brooke White, blogger and social media maven, take me on a Snapchat tour (yes, Snapchat can be used for more than teens snapping questionable pics of themselves) of her closets and piles of clothes and have a heart to heart ala social media about buying things she doesn’t need. I wanted to reach into the phone and say, me too! I especially liked how she likened the discipline she sought to fasting in our church. Something clicked. She mused on how we fast not to just resist for the sake of it, or to be extreme, but to find clarity and peace. To meditate and be still with a desire that the temporary elimination of x,y,z brings new insights. As Brooke took viewers around her house, she told us her spending fast plan. With her permission, I’m sharing her action strategy for the month:

  1. Get in touch with what you have
  2. Take inventory
  3. Shop the closet (use / reinvent what you have)
  4. Stay outta the bar (mall/target/social media)
  5. Be accountable to someone / commit
  6. Groceries and necessities only
  7. Be honest
  8. When feeling bored / sad / discouraged work it out and have a backup plan
  10. *my addition: Journal / write about the frustrations and insights along the way

I’m taking the spending fast challenge using her 9 rules, but these could easily extend to other applications. What in your life could use a little fast-perspective to reconnect you with your values? Will you join us?

Sticks and Stones

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 1.19.27 PM

When I was in elementary school, a lady the next street over watched me after school. Most days there would be some kind of fight between friends or the three boys in the family.  When tears or tattle-telling ensued, the mom always parroted the saying “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I didn’t know what this meant, but I knew I didn’t like it. Why wouldn’t she just talk to the mean kid and tell him why we don’t call someone a butt-face?

The other night I had dinner with two friends. Amid the conversation, three stories came up that we had experienced the last week that had us stumped and frustrated.

  1. A Young Women’s leader told a 14-year-old girl to go home and change. The girl had arrived to church with a tank top dress.
  2. At another church gathering a man in the ward spoke of his concern for a teenage girl wearing jeans with holes on the thigh stating, “it’s just such a temptation to these young men.”
  3. A sister missionary returned home early from her mission for health reasons and worried how she would hang out with her gay friend, stating, “I’ve spent months preaching that the behavior is a sin, so how can I be around her?”

My friend who listened to the young missionary asking for advice about her gay friend had a response I loved. My friend said, “well it’s a good thing you’re not in charge of her behavior. You only have one job – to love her.” In trying to untangle what bothered us about these events, it came down to shaming behavior instead of love and leadership. Shame will never change behavior. Period. End of story. I do not have this practice down perfectly, but I pray I will always be aware enough to spot destructive words disguised in standards.

We hear too many of these stories, and I know too many young men and women who have felt ashamed and embarrassed at church functions by church leaders. I choose to believe that the intent of the leaders or offenders is good.  That naiveté or lack of experience explains the famine of discussion or hurtful rhetoric. But we need to do better.

Ezra Benson’s words, are a touch stone I circle back to when I need to remember where true change come from. “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ would take the slums out of people, and then they would take themselves out of the slums.”

We can’t use our values as sticks or stones against others. Worth is not connected to shoulders being covered or how a boy or man chooses to view a young woman. Let’s give men some credit by the way. I can hear the other point now, “well what about standards and modesty?” In Michelle’s post, Stupid Skinny Jeans, she explains it beautifully.

“Yes, we need to work to be righteous and modest and of good report, but the greatest of these is charity. Before I was Young Women’s president I had all kinds of ideas about modesty, but once I sat among those beautiful (and often fragile) girls, I never said a word. I didn’t want a single girl avoiding Laurel class or Tuesday activities because Sister Lehnardt would notice her too short skirt or skin tight jeans. Modesty isn’t as simple as it sounds– some of my girls had no money for clothes, weight issues that made once-loose tops quite revealing and/or parents with different values. I wanted them to know they were loved and adored by me and by their Heavenly Father no matter what they wore.”

Over identifying worth with external markers we deem appropriate is dangerous. I believe it’s not what Heavenly Father would want for our young members. Or any members.

I want to be in tune enough to know to explain and ask essential gospel questions surrounding why we choose to obey and follow commandments. To expose ourselves to doctrine that fills souls, not depletes them.

What are ways to teach correct principles free of judgment?

Assembly Required

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 11.20.00 PM

Two days after I told my boss I would be working somewhere else the next school year, the first school I taught at had a wrecking ball rock through the walls.

The building was across the street from my current school, and as I walked from the copy center or library, I could look out the window and see the different stages of rubble.

There was something sad about that pile to me. People would always stand and stare. Occasionally there would be echoing booms where you could almost hear the dust roll and find a place to land. It was a spectacle for a few weeks, but then people stopped talking about it.

But I thought of those bricks and walls. Old chalkboards and the ghostly wonderful bits of age-old buildings. The walls and bricks saw thousands of students, where leaned against, drawn on, and witnessed the sacred, unholy, joy-filled, awkward moments of teen age school days.

Yards away, the shiny new school began to take shape adjacent to the old school. All the times I viewed people looking, they were staring at the old. The rubble.

There are moments when I feel the shiny new building. In progress, not complete, but hopeful with some potential.  But mostly I relate to the rough bricks and smell of crayons and mysterious cleaner in plastic spray bottles. It’s familiar. They hold memories.

The great tear down reminds me of all the parables of the refiner’s fire, and tearing down walls, and letting Christ build us up, by sometimes tearing parts away and cleaning out wounds.

I look at the rumble and think it’s sad and beautiful and C.S. Lewis’ words ticker taped through my mind, “He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominable and does not seem to make any sense” That’s the thing with construction sometimes. “You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace He intents to come live in.”

And He is living in all the stages and seasons. I think it’s important to remember we are building, assembling along side though. It’s not just simply old or new, even right or wrong sometimes, but the process of creation with the master builder present and aware through all the ruins, rebuilds, and shiny new buildings.


And Yet

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 11.00.12 PM

I had a clenched jaw smile moment at work the other day. I stood next to a coworker and tried to make friendly conversation. Like a good game of tennis, we volleyed questions back and forth covering the usual points of work and weather, then the game amped up to family life. I learned she had two kids, and had the first unexpectedly in her late teens. She then asked me how many kids I had. As a single adult, I have had a decent amount of practice with this question. I usually say something like, “oh, I don’t have any kids.” And so, I did, to which she said, “did you just decide you didn’t want any?”

Now I realize this may seem like a fine or benign response, but it bugged me. I was not mad at her; I didn’t think her rude, just – maybe unaware? Her statement held finality in my mind. It implied that my story in the having kids department had somehow ended without me knowing. That here I was waiting for my page to turn and people already knew my ending.

I used to tack on yet at the end of the sentence, but I lost that word somewhere along my way. And the truth is, I still could have kids. I’m not in my 20s, my window is closing, I’d be an “old” mom by Utah standards having kids in my mid to late 30s, but gosh dangit, I’m going to say yet. As much as I tell myself I’m not fazed, I am fine in my situation, that my life will be full if never becomes a reality, and that I have a perfect brightness of hope, it bothers me.

I think I, we, the single, the motherless, really anyone who feels like they may have to bury or surrender any kind of righteous desire has muddied emotions of faith, anger, and apathy. But the last thing we want to feel from someone is pity. And in that moment, it wasn’t my coworker who pitied me, but I who pitied a part of my own story – and that made me cringe.

As a teacher, our department had a rule: don’t accept “I don’t know”, or “I can’t”, or “I’m not good” statements without prompting the student to say yet at the end of the sentence. That one little word can change the story and narrative completely. You see, yet is a very important word that holds layers of the unknown and faith. That one little word can change a narrative or add wonder to someone gazing into any trial. It’s a phrase that almost demands some reliance and a good old ‘to be continued.’ So the next time you’re tempted to end your situation with finality, add a yet or an and yet, and leave it at that and just see what happens.

How does language affect your faith?

Things that Grow Underground

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 12.28.15 PMIt’s that time of year. Goals are made, diets started, enthusiasms sparked, and there’s not a treadmill in sight available at the gym. And then January 13th hits and it unravels. Or maybe I’m the only one familiar with this pattern, but somehow I doubt it.

I’ve had years where I was serious about my goals. They were typed, put in categories, and really looked after.  I planted things those years. Studied, started new habits, and in short, just really showed up to life for the most part.

Not this last year.  I didn’t have a list of goals, but… I did start noticing themes in my world in 2015.  Looking back, I would say they were small whispers and still movement in a direction.

I fell in love with a short quote sometime last year. It was from Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, and the line was, “I am rooted, but I flow.” The square piece of paper sat on my nightstand for the better part of the year, and this was the theme I noticed myself centering around. Not numbered lists or miles ran, but just an idea and thought in the form of someone’s words. I found myself thinking of those lines, and rooting them inside. I noticed I did more yoga. I made more effort to think of my life as continual. I had imagery of roots and water in my days at times.

So I started to wonder the last few weeks, what if we choose feelings over tasks in the new year – or what if I choose a quote or idea for the year instead of numbered lists?  Don’t get me wrong, I am a list girl and see the value in goals, but choosing the content instead of a pretty frame (or list of goals) seems to breed something more.

I started seeing words and ideas I was drawn to that lead me to my chosen theme this year: THINGS THAT GROW UNDERGROUND.

My approach this year is being settled and patient.  I don’t want measurements and outcomes, but need to plant for the harvest I’ve used up. And what that will entail and how this will direct my focus, and make my heart change is yet to be known.  But here’s what I do know. The following quotes resonated and the Spirit washed over as I came across the following quotations and talk, and it is as simple and complex as that.

“And don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It’s quiet, but the roots are down there riotous.” -Rumi

“The winter solstice is a time to look at seeds you’ve planted in the previous winter that have come up in the summer.  For this winter solstice, look at those seeds. which ones have you harvested that you want to replant, and which ones do you want to grind up and use as compost?”  -Ana Forrest as told by Sarah Britton here

This talk: For Whatsoever a Man Soweth, That Shall He Also Reap” –L.Tom Perry

So here are my 2016 words as I send you on your way to yours. Happy New Year.