Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year In Review

2015 has been a good year. A year full of change and adventure. 


*I decided to apply for an "educators only" trip to Finland. It was a last minute decision, mainly for the fact that if I got it I would need to get a passport and that would fulfill something on the #my26by26 list. Best spur of the moment decision ever. 

*Right after coming back from Christmas break, drama at work hit the roof. 7 other teachers decided to give early retirement notice (including every teacher on my team) which prompted me to start applying for every single opening for an elementary teacher in the state of Utah. By the end of January I had turned in 9 applications and that number would continue to grow by the end of February to over 20. 


*Remember that application to Finland I turn in at the last minute? I was accepted to the program!!

*Usually Valentine's Day isn't my favorite (you know, the whole being single thing puts a damper on it sometimes...) but this year my best friend and I had tickets to the Glorianna concert in Ogden and had a blast.


*Another spur of the moment decision to go to Logan for the last Aggie Basketball game of the season- Stew's last game. They lost, but that is one of those moments you can't get back. 

*My birthday rolled around which meant the end of #my26by26. When I made the list of 26 things to do in a year before I turned 26, it was just a silly list. By the end, my life had come to revolve around it. It grounded me and made me grow in ways I never could have foreseen. After my birthday, the first few weeks felt kind of empty, like I had no direction, nothing to guide me. 


*Easter is always one of my favorite times of year. The Saturday before Easter is a long standing tradition with the Jensen/Gardner clan- picnic- rain or shine!

*I accepted a 4th grade teaching position in the Canyon School District. (I would later give that up, but at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.) 


*May started off with a trip to Logan for graduation. I am so thankful that this cute girl and I were roommates 5 years ago. I am SO thankful that we have managed to stay best friends even though most of our friendship has been spent living more that 100 miles apart. I am so proud of her for graduating and becoming the best kindergarten teacher in Davis School District. 

*I was talked into applying for a district level job mentoring interns and students teachers. By some miracle I got the job, packed up my classroom, put most of it into storage, and jumped into the unknown. (I love it by the way.)




*Just a few days after getting back from Finland, Jessi and I headed back east to spend 10 days with Tiff and Curtis. As much as I hate them living so far away, it was fun to go back and spend time with them. 

*Because my great-uncle passed away, my family made a quick and unexpected road trip to southern California. Even though it was a sad occasion, it was great to see extended family and spend some time together as a family. 


*Camping! I love spending time outdoors with my family. 

*Because of the crazy job situation I ended up moving out of Provo. And it is wonderful. 


*Daphne and I went to a Bee's game. This may not seem like a big deal to most of you, but I missed this girl so much while she was on her mission. No one understands my love of baseball quite like she does. 

*Dad's moose hunt ended opening morning with the perfect hunt. 


*Dad's big event as fire chief was purchasing a new ladder truck for the Tooele City Fire Department. Growing up in a fireman household, this was exciting for all of us!

*Deer hunt weekend comes in a close second to Easter weekend. I didn't have a tag this year, but for the first time in a long time we filled multiple tags.


*While I have loved my new job as a CFA since I started, I really came to LOVE it. I have settled in and kind of know what I am doing now. It has also led me to apply for graduate school in administration. 

*Thanksgiving this year was wonderful this year. Aunt Jamie has moved back to Tooele and so the whole family is together a lot more often than it has been in the past 20 years. This picture is over a year old- at the time it was one of the only times we had all been together in a LONG time. Now it happens almost monthly and I love it. 


*I was called to work with the young women in my new ward and it is fabulous. The decision to attend the family ward was a difficult one, mostly because its not what "young singles" do in the church. But it has been such a good move- for the first time in a long time I feel like I am going to church to build a testimony, not to find a husband.

*Christmas. I love Christmas. I love the spirit around Christmas. I love the lights and the decorations. I love shopping for Christmas presents. I love Christmas break. I love it all. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Women in the Church: Part 3

Just in case: Part 1 and Part 2

I hope many of you caught the themes in my previous posts. Part 1 was based on the Young Women theme and standards while part 2 was taken from the Relief Society Declaration. As I thought about my beliefs about women and our place in the Gospel and in the Kingdom of God, I realized that everything I felt was based on those two documents as well as The Family: A Proclamation to the World. It was important to me to share my testimony based on these inspired words and the hope, purpose, and vision they give to me each and every day. 

The following is MY opinion, what I think, what I believe. I am not asking you to change your views. I am not asking you to convince me I am wrong. I am simply sharing my thoughts.  If you agree with me, great. If you don't, great. However, most of what I see readily available to the world, through blogs and Facebook posts, are not in harmony with what I believe. I want to provide another voice, another viewpoint, another testimony to those out there who might be thinking the same things I have thought. 

The world today would have women believe that in order to be of worth, to be important, to be valued we must have what men have, do exactly what they do. We must be "equal." Can I tell you a secret? I hate the word equal. Equal belongs in math problems and that is where it should stay. None of us are truly "equal." Each one of us has a different personality, a different background, and different viewpoint to everything in life. Each one of us are different by divine design. That is how we were created. Each one of us has a different purpose on this earth, a different mission to fulfill. 

Along with the word equal, I am not a fan of the word "fair," at least as many people use it. Every year at the start of the school year, my students and I would have a little chat about the word fair. Most children (and most adults for that matter) equate the word fair with the word equal, or the same. Guess what, fair is NOT equal. Fair is NOT the same. Fair is getting what YOU need to be successful. 

Is it fair that I wear contacts and my sister does not? Absolutely. I am blind without my contacts and she has 20/20 vision. When I wear my contacts I can see just as well as she can. Fair, but not the same. Fair, but not equal. 

Is it fair that Joey gets to sit at the front of the room all year long while Sally only does once? Absolutely. Joey needs to be close to the teacher to receive the help he needs. Sally is capable of working on her own and does not need constant supervision. They both are able to succeed throughout the year and show improvement. Fair, but not the same. Fair, but not equal. 

When I was at Utah State, the semester I was student teaching one of my roommates was required to take an anatomy class. I remember many nights the two of us spent together, her anatomy book and notes open studying her little heart out, while I sat across the table with the Utah Core spread out in front of me, crayons, construction paper, popsicle sticks, etc writing lesson plan after lesson plan. Is it fair that she spent hours studying while I hardly studied for anything? Is it fair that I spent hours creating anchor charts and worksheets and fun activities while she didn't? ABSOLUTELY. We were each being PREPARED in our education for what we wanted to do in our lives. Fair, but not the same. Fair, but not equal. 

Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? Why was this earth created? "God's whole purpose - His work and His glory - is to enable each of us to enjoy all His blessings. He has provided a perfect plan to accomplish His purpose... Under the direction of the Father, Jesus Christ created the earth as a place for us to live and gain experience. In order to progress and become like God, each of us had to obtain a body and be tested during a time of probation on the earth... Our purpose in this life is to have joy and PREPARE to return to God's presence." (Preach My Gospel, Lesson 2: The Plan of Salvation)

Let's go back to my example of my roommate and I- we took different classes, had different assignments and tests, but our end goal was the same. We both wanted to graduate with a degree prepared to enter the adult world as a working, contributing member of society. How does this apply to our purpose on earth and our reason for being here? My end goal, after this life, is to return and live with my Heavenly Father, to receive all the blessings He has promised me. Hopefully, having followed the commandments and made the necessary covenants, to become like Him, having an eternal family. I am pretty positive my brothers ultimate goal is the same- return to Heavenly Father, become like Him, etc. Will we take the same path to get there? No. He served a full time mission. I did not. (Although many sisters in the Church choose to do so, good on ya!) He went through the Boy Scouting program and received his Eagle Scout award. I did not. I went through the Young Women's program and earned my Young Women Recognition award. He did not. We have held different callings, participated in different programs. We were both baptized at 8. We have both gone through the temple and received our own endowment. (He went through first, I might add, even though he is 4 years younger than I am and we went through under very different circumstances.) We are both currently single. He attends the local YSA ward, and occasionally the Spanish Branch. I attend my local family ward. Fair, but not the same. Fair, but not equal. 

At the age of 12, he received the Aaronic Priesthood. At the age of 12, I entered Young Womens. Between 18 and 19, he received the Melchizedek Priesthood in preparation for his full-time mission. Between 18 and 19, I left the Young Women's program and started attending Relief Society. Fair, but not the same. Fair, but not equal. 

How is it fair that he had the priesthood conferred upon him by someone who had the authority to do so but I have not, and will not? We need to receive a different education in this school of life. He needs the priesthood in order to fulfill that special mission, in order to progress, in order to learn. I do not. I have a different mission to fulfill. I have a different mission to accomplish. "By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners." (The Family: A Proclamation to the World) Our different roles require us to do and be different things. No where does it say that one is better or more important than the other. It specifically states that we are to work together to accomplish these roles. 

So is it fair that I don't have the priesthood? Absolutely, BECAUSE I DON'T NEED IT. Just like my sister doesn't need glasses, like Sally doesn't need to sit at the front of the class, my roommate didn't need to spend hours writing lesson plans, and I didn't need to spend hours studying anatomy. 

As long as we each strive to follow the commandments, follow the prophet, follow the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and strive to fulfill God's individual mission for each of us (even if only revealed step by tiny step) we ARE in fair circumstances. Fair, but not the same. Fair, but not equal.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Women in the Church: Part 2

I am a beloved spirit daughter of God, and my life has meaning, purpose, and direction. I am  devoted to Jesus Christ, my Savior and Exemplar. I am a woman of faith, virtue, vision, and charity.

I will continue to increase my testimony of Jesus Christ through prayer and scripture study. I know that I can speak with my Father in Heaven. He hears me, he answers me. It may not be the way I want. It may not be the way I expect. But He will answer. I have the gift of the scriptures, the Book of Mormon, the Old and New Testaments, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Each one holds treasures of knowledge and guidance. Each one contains answers to those prayers. 

I will seek spiritual strength by following the promptings of the Holy Ghost. As I live the commandments and keep the covenants I have made, I qualify to have the gift of the Holy Ghost. I will strive to act upon its promptings. 

I will dedicate myself to strengthening marriages, families, and homes. I will work to strengthen my own family. I will continue to prepare myself for my future family. I will strive to strengthen those families around me as a teacher, a member of my ward, and a neighbor. I know that families are the main unit of the Plan of Salvation, and I will do everything in my power to support the family unit. 

I know the importance of and find nobility in motherhood and joy in womanhood. There is no higher calling in this life or the next than that of mother. As Elder Holland stated so eloquently in this past General Conference, “Today I declare from this pulpit what has been said here before: that no love in mortality comes closer to approximating the pure love of Jesus Christ than the selfless love a devoted mother has for her child.”

I find delight in serving others. There is no faster way to forget one’s problems and struggles than to serve those around you. I will look for ways to do good around me and leave others better than I found them. 

I will continue to love life. There is so much good and happiness in the world. Some days I have to look a little harder to find it, but it is there and I will enjoy it. I will continue to love learning. I know that there is so much knowledge in this world. I will find ways to continue my own education and learning. 

I will stand for truth and righteousness. I will bear my testimony. I will stand for what I know is right, even when it may not be convenient or popular. I will strive to be an example of Christ and His gospel. 

I sustain the priesthood as the authority of God on earth. I sustain President Thomas S. Monson, his counselors, and the Quorum of the 12 as the only men on Earth who possess all the keys of the priesthood. I sustain local leaders as those called to minister in my little corner of the Kingdom. I sustain my father as the priesthood leader in our family. I sustain my future husband as the priesthood leader in my home. 

I REJOICE in the blessings of the temple. I strive to attend the temple regularly to remind myself of the covenants I have made there. I understand my divine destiny- as a member of the Church, as a woman of God. And I strive for exaltation.

(Part 1 in case you missed it)

Friday, November 06, 2015

Women in the Church: Part 1

My name is Jessica. I am daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, and a niece. I am a teacher, a friend, and a neighbor. 

I have faith in my Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His Atonement for me. I have faith in the Plan of Salvation, and the personal plan Heavenly Father has for me. I have faith in the Book of Mormon, its origin, and its teachings. I have faith that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, that he talked with them face to face, that they called him by name, and that the Father bore witness of His Son. I have faith in our latter-day prophets and apostles and their ability to communicate Heavenly Fathers will for the Church and its people. 

I know that I have inherited divine qualities as a spirt daughter of God. I have a purpose on this earth, a mission that is unique to me, that only I can fulfill. I will continue to work towards becoming more like my Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. I will use that divine nature to become the person they want me to be. 

I have individual worth in the eyes of my Father. I am known to Him personally. He hears my prayers and answers them. He loves me more than I can comprehend. I am of infinite worth to Him. 

I know that I have come to this earth to gain knowledge. I am here to learn and to grow. It is my responsibility to gain knowledge, and to pursue an education, both spiritually and temporally. The knowledge I gain in this life will be used in the next. I know that we are to “seek…diligently and teach one another words of wisdom…even by study and also by faith.” (D&C 88:118)

I know that I have free moral agency. I have choice. I can choose good over evil. I know that I do not have the right to choose the consequences for those actions. It is my responsibility to accept what may come because of the choices I make. I also know that all people, regardless of religious beliefs, race, gender, or culture have this same right to choose. 

I know it is my responsibility to serve others. I have covenanted with my Father to mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and help bear others burdens. I will build the kingdom of God through righteous service. 

I will have the courage to stand for what I know is right. I will “stand as a witness of God at all times, and in all things and in all places.” I will make my actions consistent with what I know is right and what my Father in Heaven wants me to do. 

I know that a virtuous woman is priced “far above rubies.” I will keep myself temple worthy, make choices that keep me clean and pure. I will base my thoughts and actions on high moral standards. I will live as an example to others, helping them live virtuous lives. 

My name is Jessica and I am a daughter of God. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

#jessbrain 4.0

Can we talk about how much I love my job? The #1 question I get from people about this job is if I miss the classroom. Honestly, not as much as I thought I would! It has really surprised me. I love that I get to watch these new and prospective teachers learn and grow and mature. When that intern has that grand classroom management moment or teaches a really great lesson, it is just like watching little kids grasp that math concept that has alluded them for so long. I love that I still get the chance to model teach every once in a while. It isn't quite the same as having your own group of kids but I get to teach everything from 2nd to 6th grade. But most of all, I love that I still get the love from the kids. As I was leaving a room the other day, one of the more difficult students in the class ran up and gave me a hug and said, "Bye, Miss Jensen! I can't wait until you come again!"

I overheard my brother the other day say, "Families that hunt together, stay together." It has been on my mind ever since. When you ask most hunters why the hunt the automatic response is always something about meat in the freezer, which is true, that is definitely an added perk. However, for our family, I think there is more to it. As far as looking forward to something, the 3rd weekend in October comes in a close 2nd to Christmas, even if I am not the one with the tag. There is something about spending all weekend together with family. Deer hunt weekend is about more than hunting. It's about supporting one another and their success. It's about late night card games and puzzles. It's about inside jokes and stories that will be told for 20 years. It's about spending time together in the truck, hiking together, enjoying the natural beauty around us. It's about family.

Do you ever hear a song and instantly fall in love with it? I don't even know where I heard this song of the first time, but it has quickly become my new favorite. The band that sings it isn't very popular. (This may be their only single...) but I love it. 

In other news, Fall has flung!! (Is flung a word? If not, it is now.) My favorite season is officially here and in full swing. The colors, the cooler temperatures, the smell, sweaters and boots and hoodies!! It is all wonderful. Seriously, how can you not love this??

Friday, September 25, 2015

Progression and Patience

Have you ever been cruising along in life and all of a sudden you start having this internal, personal struggle with something that you haven't ever really struggled with before? Well, I hadn't...until now. There have always been the ups and downs of life. There are the constant things that come around (work, dating, etc.) but all of a sudden, something that has been so easy all my life has become this giant stumbling block. And I don't really know what to do about it.

A few weeks ago, I was attending church with my family and the speaker asked this question, "You may be righteous, but are you progressing?" That really stuck with me and has been on my mind. I feel like for the most part I make pretty good choices in life. I try to be obedient and do the things Heavenly Father would want me to do. But, am I doing them in a way that will move me forward in an eternal sense? Where do my actions fall on the good, better, best scale?

I was contemplating this while scanning Facebook the other day and a friend had shared this wonderful quote from Elder Richard G. Scott and it hit me like a ton of bricks:

Ok... apparently I am ready to grow. So what? I had my scriptures sitting on my lap, but I just wasn't in the mood/mindset to open them up. (Does that make me a bad person?) I started thumbing through all the notes and handouts I have kept in the front cover and found one that simply said, "Patience, Neal A. Maxwell 1979" Turns out (with some help from Google) that it is a talk he gave at BYU in 1979. As I read through this talk several different parts stuck out to me.

"Patience is not indifference. Actually, it means caring very much but being willing, nevertheless, to submit to the Lord and to what the scriptures call the 'process of time.'" 

"Patience permits us to cling to our faith in the Lord when we are tossed about by suffering as if by surf. When the undertow grasps us we will realize that even as we tumble we are somehow being carried forward; we are actually being helped even as we cry for help."

"Patience is always involved in the spiritual chemistry of the soul, not only when we try to turn the trials and tribulations into joy and growth, but also when we use it to build upon the seemingly ordinary experiences to bring about happy and spiritual outcomes."

But the one that struck me the most was, "Sometimes that which we are doing is correct enough but simply needs to be persisted in patiently, not for a minute or a moment, but sometimes for years."

I don't know why this problem is my problem right now. But, maybe that's not the point. Maybe the point isn't why, but how. How well will I deal, patiently, with this trial? How can I cling to the Lord as I am tossed about? How can I turn this trial and tribulation into joy and growth? How can I patiently (not indifferently) use this trial to progress?  

Friday, August 21, 2015

Making Other Plans

I don't think I really understood what John Lennon meant with those words until recently. If you had asked me a year ago where I would be and what I would be doing right now, I would have told you I would be teaching 4th grade at Provost Elementary, probably living in the same apartment, attending the same ward, etc. I wouldn't say that I was unhappy at the time. But I wasn't happy either. During the next 12 months, life would happen.

Almost exactly a year ago, a colleague sent me an email early one Thursday morning encouraging me to apply for a different position at a different school in Provo (a non-teaching position, more of a leadership role) but my application needed to be in that morning. Somewhat impulsively I applied, had an interview the next day, and after an excruciatingly long weekend, I found out I did not get the job. This was somewhat of a relief considering the school year had already started and I know now that things worked out the way they should have. However, this one act of applying for this one job was the catalyst that changed my future. 

I soon realized that maybe it wasn't the job that I needed. It was the fact that I was ok with applying for the job. I was open to change that I had previously fought against. Something changed in me that day. I knew my time at Provost was going to be shorter than I originally thought. I didn't know what was coming, but I knew it would happen. 

Fast forward to spring time. After several long months, and I mean LONG months of problems at work, struggles with new co-workers and the leadership at the school, I knew I had to start looking for a new job. I didn't know where I was going or even where I wanted to go. I started to apply for every single open teaching job in the state of Utah. And I mean every opening from St. George to Logan to Roosevelt to Blanding and everywhere in between. I had several interviews and several job offers, but none of them seemed quite right. I couldn't get my head and my heart to agree. I eventually accepted an offer in Sandy. I liked the school. I liked the principal. It seemed like the perfect fit. Things were falling into place. But, yet again, life would happen. (Looking back I know I should not have accepted this job. It never felt wrong so I went with it, but it never really felt right either.)

About a month after accepting the job in Sandy, I got another email from this same colleague encouraging me once again to apply for the same position I had applied for 8 months earlier but at a different school. Once again, I applied and didn't get it. This time it hurt a little more. The timing was better. I felt better prepared and more qualified than before. 

Soon after, my colleague asked me to trust her one more time. This job was more of a long shot than the other two had been, but it couldn't hurt to try. It was a whole new position- working with BYU interns and student teachers. I had never done anything like this before. I didn't even go to BYU so I didn't even have the student perspective. The first question in the interview was "What experience do you have with the BYU education partnership?" The only answer I could give was, "Practically none," and right there I knew I wouldn't get it. Why would they hire someone with no experience and no knowledge of the partnership? But they did. "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans." Never in a million years would I have planned for this. 

In the middle of this job mess, I was accepted to join a group of teachers on a trip to Finland to study their education system. It was one of the most unique and wonderful experiences of my life. It is not often you get to travel with 30 other people (most of them strangers) who share in your passion for education and teaching to another continent and through 4 countries learning from and growing with them every step of the way. I learned so  much, not only from the people of Finland, but from the people I was with. They are each such strong and gifted people. They affected me and my life in ways they will never know. 

I had the chance to spend 10 days with my best friends in New Jersey/New York/Philadelphia this summer. You know you are best friends when after spending every waking minute together for 10 days you don't want to kill each other and still don't want to leave. Sometimes I feel sorry for Curtis though... the only boy in the group, the only non-teacher... He puts up with a lot from us. 

My family made an impromptu road trip to California for my great uncle's funeral. When you picture road trips with family, I am sure most people picture fighting and not getting along after being stuck in the car for hours with your siblings. Not me. We have never really been like that. I love road tripping with my family. It has been a long time since we have done a true road trip and I think it was much needed for us. Plus, Marcus and Katie got to go to their first MLB game and we got to reconnect with family we hadn't seen in a while. 

 It has been a year/summer of changes and new adventures. Somewhere along the way I think I changed. I morphed into someone that was ready for all this change.