Prone to Wander

This weekend, I attended a funeral. The service was sweet and uplifting, as funerals tend to be in the LDS church, and a feeling of hopeful peace permeated the chapel as each family member got up to speak about the cherished lady who had passed on to the other side, and the reasons they loved her.

The message that struck me, though, was one given by our bishop at the end of the service. He was speaking about the resurrection of the Savior, as found in John 20. In these verses, Mary Magdalene goes in the dark of the early morning to visit the Lord’s tomb, and she finds Him missing. She’s distressed, as are Peter and John. They’re confused about what’s happened and have forgotten that He told them he would be resurrected. Right now, all they can see is that He’s gone.

   11 But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,
12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.
13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto the, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.
14. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest though? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.
16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

I have heard this story dozens of times, before, and know the details of it by heart. I have often wondered at the strangeness of Mary’s inability to recognize the Savior–someone whom she knew, personally, and could call her friend–when He appeared to her. Was He disguised? Was she not really looking at Him? Was she blinded by her grief? How could she not see the Savior of the world, whom she loved and was so distressed by losing, standing right in front of her?

I still don’t know the answers to those questions. But on Saturday, the power of this detail moved me: His voice. She knew Him when she heard His voice.

How often do we not see Him, figuratively, standing right in front of us and offering his aid and comfort? How often are we unwilling to turn around and look for divine guidance? How often do we kind of know someone’s there, but mistake Him for the hired help?

And yet, I realized, even when we forget to look for Him, He still waits patiently for us. He doesn’t turn around and leave. And sometimes, to help us to turn and recognize Him, he tenderly speaks our names and calls us to Him.

My favorite hymn (if you would like to see me sob like a toddler, just put this on) has a section that reads,

Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

How grateful I am for the truth of this principle. More than once, I have found myself, like an idiot, wandering away from what I know I ought to be doing and just…choosing to do whatever the crap I want. I know darned well what’s best for me and what God would rather I do, but instead, I think I’d rather do something else, thanks. (Super smart, right?) Worse, sometimes I find myself telling my Father in Heaven that, yeah, I know what the right choice is, but this is what I want right now so I’m going to do it. (Seriously, Jennifer? Yes. Seriously. Eyeroll.) The astounding thing, in retrospect, is that He has the power at His disposal to stop me. But He loves me enough to allow me to choose what I want.

Even more miraculously, each time I choose to behave like the rotten teenager I seem to be, at heart, and get near a point of unmitigated catastrophe, there has come some small moment of stillness. In that moment, I have been able to hear His voice. It has not always been an actual voice, but in one way or another, He has very clearly reached out to me and stopped me from going just that one step too far. He has quietly, lovingly sought me out and rescued me from danger on more than one occasion, and every time, I am so contrite and shocked and so grateful. It is a humbling thing to know that the God against whom you rebelled and struggled is still willing to come and find you and bring you home.

Yesterday, President Dieter F. Uchdorf said in General Conference,

Our Savior, the Good Shepherd, knows and loves us. He knows and loves you. He knows when you are lost, and he knows where you are. He knows your grief, your silent pleadings, your fears, your tears. It matters not how you became lost: whether because of your own poor choices or because of circumstances beyond your own control. What matters is that you are His child and He loves you. He loves His children. Because He loves you, He will find you. He will place you upon His shoulders, rejoicing.

I’m so grateful that He always knows where I am, and that when I lose my way, He calls to me and brings me home. How grateful I am that I have still been able to recognize His voice. I know I have felt myself carried, and have felt His love for me imprinted firmly on my broken soul. I am certain that, even when we do not see Him standing right in front of us, He is there, waiting, with His arms outstretched, to help us. I know that He knows me. I am so grateful He loves me.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
Seal it for thy courts above.


This morning, I sat across a breakfast table from two of my oldest and most beloved friends, and I realized just how much I have taken for granted all these years.

Katie and I have been friends since I walked into a new school on the first day of fourth grade. She introduced herself to me that day, and she’s been a part of my life ever since. Sometimes Katie and I go for spurts where we don’t talk for a year or two at a time, but she’s that friend I know I can pick right back up with, and it will always seem like no time has passed all. After all these years, Katie and I just get each other. Together, we’ve weathered it all–mall bangs, junior high bullies, SAT prep, awkward notes to boys, car wrecks, marital wrecks. It’s because of Katie’s friendship and support I managed to survive all of those things. She’s keenly perceptive, compassionate, upbeat, and quick to laugh, and her ability to see the humor in an awkward situation has always helped me to do the same, and laugh at my own weird self. How amazing is it to have a friend like that for almost thirty years?

Kristal came into my life in either seventh or eighth grade, and shame on me for not being able to remember. She moved in right next door to Katie, which was awfully convenient for me, since I lived about 200 yards away. Kristal has always been the sweetest person I know–honestly, the sweetest, and not in the way people overuse that sentiment. She is bright, instilled with a deep desire to help others, and extraordinarily loving and forgiving. She is one of the best listeners I’ve ever met, and that’s a more rare quality than it should be. We spent time at each other’s houses after school all throughout high school, doing homework, watching movies, and talking about our families, friends, religion, the future–the big stuff. Kristal is the friend who will text out of the blue just to make sure you’re OK. She’s that person. I am so grateful for her.


Kristal, Katie & Me in Sept.

I sat across the table from these ladies this morning  and thought about all the years I’ve spent feeling like I didn’t really “get” women–like I didn’t have girlfriends. It’s true, I didn’t run with a pack of girls in school like some teenagers do. I was more of a floater type, who didn’t have a set group of friends. Instead, I had a lot of acquaintances. I spent a lot of years (a lot) feeling like I had never really fit anywhere, and that I just must not be much good at friendships with other women. But I’ve realized, over the last several months, that I have had it all completely backward: While I floated, and enjoyed the association of all those acquaintances, I was grounded by the friendship of a few girls who really cared about me. They were always there for me, when I floated back. I realized today that I have have taken for granted just how important these friendships have been to me, both in my adolescent years, and now, in my adulthood.

I don’t think it’s any secret that the last several months have been difficult for me. Things have been in upheaval in my personal life, and I can’t always talk about what’s going on. I’ll say honestly that I’m not always handling that very well. I feel isolated, sometimes, by my circumstances, and some days I’ve been extraordinarily lonely. For whatever reason, each time I have a day when I feel like I cannot handle the crushing burden any longer, a friend reaches out to me. Each time, it’s a woman I respect and admire. Each time, it’s someone who doesn’t really know much or anything about what’s going on with me, but I believe each of these women knows me well enough to see that maybe I need her help. Each time, her kindness has saved me in some small way.

The other day, I was driving to pick up my five-year-olds from school, and the song “Team” by Lourde came on the stereo. I’ve heard it dozens of times, but this time, it made me burst into tears. As I listened to the chorus, I was suddenly struck by the thought of these women who have reached out and lifted me, supported me, carried me:

We’re on each other’s team
And you know we’re on each other’s team
We’re on each other’s team

Something about that idea finally clicked for me; these ladies were my team. They hadn’t, I’m sure, talked to each other about me. But they were on my team. They were my team. They were there to support me, even if they didn’t know why.

How grateful I am for the friendship of other women. It’s an idea I’ve taken a long time to warm up to, though I’ve taken advantage of it my whole life. As I sat across the table from my wonderful friends this morning, I realized just how widely woven the web of my team is–it spans the country, and stretches continents. It gives and pulls to allow us to stretch and grow and go our own separate directions, and then come back to each other when we need support, or just a really good laugh.

If you’ve been on my team, these last several months, thank you. You have made my burdens lighter, and things have gotten better. You are part of the reason I’ve survived the worst. I love each of you for that. Thank you for loving me enough to care about me and reach out to me. Thank you for being my team.

My greatest fear.

Today was awkward. I found myself standing in a room full of people who were all looking at me while I was staring down the barrel of an embarrassing situation, and I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it. In fact, I had to stand there and allow it to happen. I wish I could describe the mass of feelings that washed over me in three short seconds. It was not unlike the time I hit a deer with my car: the sickening drop in my gut, the feeling that things were happening in slow-motion, the knowledge that things might end horrifically, the deep need to fix everything somehow, and above it all, utter helplessness.

I’m not a girl who’s used to feeling helpless. I have flaws, and they are many, but I’m a resourceful kind of girl. I’m good on my feet, quick to adapt, and generally able to turn most situations around in a way that makes things work. But lately, I find myself in awkward situations like this every few days. It’s not that my abilities have escaped me; I still know how to make the best of things. It’s more that, for once, my abilities aren’t really of much use in my environment. Of late, It’s more useful for to me to stay silent, to allow the situation to wash over me with as much grace as I can, and wait to see how everyone else reacts. So far, it’s worked: “everyone” has been so kind, and not a soul has said a word about anything that might make me feel uncomfortable. I’ve been in awe of this small miracle. Whether it’s true ignorance, or a blind eye, I am deeply grateful.

And yet, I still feel distress every time I’m put in one of these situations. The thing I struggle with most on earth–my greatest fear–is feeling vulnerable, and the idea that people might see me in a weak moment is so difficult for me to deal with. Every time it happens, I feel chafed–rubbed a little more raw–by the thought of being so emotionally exposed, and I immediately brace myself against showing any weakness. It’s an attempt, I suppose, to try and be a little stronger.

I was thinking more about this today, and the idea of chafing. Anyone who runs knows how terribly painful chafing can be. It can cause even the most seasoned runner to have to take a break and heal, rather than risk further damage to such tender skin. Areas that are prone to chafe will really only improve if they’re properly protected, or if the skin builds up a tolerance to it–gets stronger, so to speak. As I thought about emotional chafing, it seemed like the logical answer to my distress would be to either

  • protect myself from ever experiencing any emotional distress (haha someone tell me how?!), or
  • try and build up some kind of tolerance to embarrassment.

That second one doesn’t sound like such a bad idea, until you understand that I’m the kind of person who is already prone to shoving down all emotions in order to “be strong” and then they all just stay under the surface for literal years until I feel like I can’t control all the things anymore. I’m at least self-aware enough to know that that option’s no good for me, either. Almost as immediately as I lighted on the idea, it felt wrong.

But something else occurred to me: I have felt the deepest peace and sweetest acceptance in the moments when I have allowed myself to be the most vulnerable. As difficult as it is for me to allow these awkward, embarrassing moments wash over me and not “handle” them, I have found a brave new freedom in the moments of letting go. I’ve discovered a profound sense of reward in the kind of love that comes from a friend who has witnessed me at my most vulnerable, and still loves me and laughs with me in exactly the same way as before.

There is freedom in vulnerability. I am learning that believing I had control over a situation meant that I was affecting all parts of the outcome, whether I realized it or not. I always felt that I knew certain things, but it wasn’t until I let go of the reins that I discovered how things would truly behave.

Sometimes it’s not until you learn to just let things be that you see things as they really are.

Vulnerability Brene Brown | Fefferknits

I’m definitely not great at it, yet, but I know I’m going to try and be OK with being a little more quiet. A little more graceful under fire. A little less in control. A little more vulnerable.

Ever feel like you’re so far behind, you might as well just start over?

That applies to so many different parts of my life, right now. This blog, for starters. Has it really been nearly two years since I last updated it? Am I really that behind? Is there any point in trying to dust it off and clean things up and add to it, now? Should I just call it a loss and start something new? Should I bother with anything, at all? Do I even have the emotional currency for it, right now?

The blog is just one of many things that have fallen by the wayside, of late. I’ve spent the last several months feeling buried alive, emotionally, by the things I have piled upon myself, and I’ve been a little unsure where to begin digging out. At times, it seemed like it might be so much easier to just drop everything–really, everything–and walk right out of my own life and start over. Try again, with a fresh life, where I hadn’t already added the dead weight of emotional baggage, or oppressed myself with stresses I didn’t need. It seemed like a lovely and somehow attainable fantasy, though I knew, logically, that that would not work–that wherever I went, “I” would still be there. And yet, I considered it.

But I’m still here. Sometimes, being an adult means making the brave choice. And sometimes, the brave choice is picking up that shovel and digging out, one little shovelful at a time.

There is nothing easy about making the brave choice. It sounds noble, sure, and once in a while, it even feels noble. But it’s also frustrating and painful and scary. Sometimes, the brave choice means staying silent when you want to shout. Sometimes it means walking into a room full of people you would rather not face. Sometimes it means sharing everything in your heart when you would rather protect it. Sometimes it hurts, and sometimes it’s lonely. But for the first time in a long time, I know I’m doing what is right and best for me, and that’s freeing. And then, there are moments when I feel virtuous and strong and pleased with my efforts and really, truly, for the first time in a long time, happy.


And so, here I am. I’ve updated some pictures. I’m going to clean things up around here, a little. I’m so glad to see you all! I hope you’ll stick around. I think I might post more. I’ve missed writing, and I think I finally have the mental space for it. I’ve started knitting and sewing again, and I have some projects to share. I also have MAJOR weight loss progress to share. I’ve been working hard! If you have questions, feel free to post ’em below. Thanks for sticking around all this time. And consider yourselves hugged.

My Grown-Up Christmas

Driving home just now, Michael Bublé’s Grown-Up Christmas List came on, and I burst into tears. That song has always gotten to me. A few years ago, I discovered it while making a slideshow for my parents, and I came across this photo:

Jen Christmas 1980

Something about pairing the two, even just in my head, now, makes the tears start flowing. It’s something in that first line: Do you remember me? I sat upon your knee. I spoke to you of childhood fantasies. That little girl? She loves her parents completely. She depends on them for everything she has and needs in the world. She knows they love her and that all is right in the world, and that Christmas is wonderful.

She didn’t know that her parents scrimped and saved, and felt badly, sometimes, because there were (in their opinion) meager offerings under the tree. She had no idea how to compare with what others might have been getting, or even any thought in her head to do so. Instead, she was simply thrilled that Santa came, and that he, and her family, loved her enough to give her anything to unwrap.

Last year, our boys turned ten, and while one of them was clearly only hanging on to the idea of Santa because he wasn’t quite sure it was OK to let go, the other was still completely sold. As little as I wanted to take anything so sweet from my child, I worried that kids at school would do it for me, and less kindly. Justin and I decided that we’d write a sweet letter explaining Santa, and put it in our boys’ stockings. I agonized for days over the words—how to explain to our sons the reasons we had perpetuated, in essence, a lie, but express the beauty and magic of it? How to help them understand that so many other things we taught them, which were wrapped up in similar hope and belief, were still true? It was small, but one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to write, and I poured my heart into it. We printed it on parchment paper, and wrapped it with a velvet-strung bell, so they’d remember the message of belief they’d learned from the book The Polar Express.


I found myself in tears as my boys read those letters. The face of my son who still believed, in particular, was a mass of deep emotions as he came to terms with the truth. This week, as we were cleaning out their bedroom, I noticed that he still had my letter posted on his bulletin board. Those words I had agonized over are on his wall, where he can see them daily.

As I listen to this song, I can’t help but think of my son, his precious faith, and that other carefree little girl in her sweet innocence. There is a tenderness about her that I miss more and more, as I age, and sometimes I feel I’m missing a bit of that magic of Christmastime that only children really capture. But today, I think I realize what the beauty of Christmas is as an adult: it’s parenthood.

It’s loving a child so much that you’ll sacrifice to try and provide whatever you can from their list.
It’s spending time wrapping books so you unwrap one a night and read them together.
It’s rolling out cookie/cinnamon/clay dough to make ornaments or treats as a family.
It’s making special meals or those traditional foods you always have, even when you’re tired after a long day.
It’s combing Pinterest for weird crafts to make together, because they grow up too fast.
It’s watching your husband make snowmen with the kids, and having it turn into a huge snowball fight.
It’s having your Christmas tree undecorated for five days, because the kids really want to help decorate it, and school and activities have kept them too busy all week. Even though you know you’ll just have to move half the ornaments anyway, because they always put them all in one big clump.
It’s singing hymns around the piano together.
It’s driving around and looking at Christmas lights, just to see the wonder in their eyes.
It’s staying up until 2 a.m. to put that playhouse/kitchen/bicycle together, and then getting up again to open everything at 6.
It’s the beauty of knowing that your children, someday, will have photos just like the one at the top of this page. And they’ll be able to look back and remember that you, like my parents, loved them more than they ever could have known.

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Merry Christmas, everyone. Enjoy the season, and your families. May you feel the love and influence of the Savior in your homes at this time of year, and always.❤

A Birthday of Olympic Proportions!

Because I married The Most Creative Man in the World, when the whispering and weirdness starts around my birthday-time, I always know I’m in for a treat. This morning, they finished up their preparations (“Uh…Dad needs this box, Mom. Um, for work!”) while I was sequestered to my bedroom for a couple of hours. They were at least nice enough to allow me my laptop, so I got some prime Pinterest time in.

I was finally freed around 10:00, and handed a white sheet, a gold laurel crown, and a “torch,” while the Olympic theme blasted from downstairs.


This picture is so flattering! Hahaha.

So, clearly, I was in for something spectacular.

The backyard was all decked out for Olympic events!


Archery (with Nerf dart guns)


Discus throw (with little Frisbees)


Relays and a long-distance run, in slow-motion, complete with Chariots of Fire soundtrack.

Oh, and check out my official team number:


Not pictured: beanbag shotput, paper airplane javelin throw (my only gold medal!), equestrian races, cycling, and basketball. My mom, one of the foreign dignitaries, was even able to make it before things wrapped up, and she lasted quite a while in the basketball event. I think my kids were impressed!


The closing ceremonies involved gifts and Olympic-decorated cupcakes! Yum. My family were good to me, as usual. I got all kinds of running gear I asked for. It was a fun morning!

Watermelon Jam

A thing of beauty is a joy for my tummy

A thing of beauty is a joy for my tummy!

I first heard about watermelon jam last summer, via Pinterest. The picture looked fantastically summery and wonderful, and though I didn’t have the energy to get around to it just then, I filed it away mentally for later.

Last month, I got my chance. I pulled that pin back out, and read up on everything watermelon jam-y. The recipe in that post is based on one from another blog, and after reading them both, I was ready.

Let me just say that that experience was horrific. The recipe calls for boiling until the mixture reaches 220 degrees. At my house, that took at least 30 minutes, and by that point, the whole mess smelled strange and tasted worse. The point of the boiling was ostensibly to ensure that the jam would set, but when I poured it into my jars, it was SO thick that it could have been used to apply wallpaper. Once it had cooled, it tore through toast. We won’t even talk about the flavor. It was just terrible. (I should add that I used 4 cups sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice, like Blondie suggests. Don’t.)

This week, I picked up a sweet and fabulous watermelon, and I decided it was time to give it one more shot. I have a strawberry jam recipe I love to pieces, and I figured just following that might do the trick. Turns out I was right! Thank you, BHG. Here’s the winner, kids:

Watermelon Jam
Based on recipes from Food in Jars and Better Homes and Gardens You Can Can


6 cups watermelon puree (about 1/2 large seedless watermelon)
1/3 cup lemon juice (bottled is fine here)
1/2 tsp butter
1 1.75-oz box pectin
5 cups sugar

5 pint or 10 half-pint jars


  1. Place jars, rings, and lids in dishwasher on sterilize or rinse/dry cycle.
  2. Fill a big, flat-bottomed pot with water, full enough to cover jars, and set it over high heat. You’ll want it boiling and ready fairly soon.
  3. While jars are sterilizing, cut watermelon into chunks and puree using food processor or smash with a potato masher or food mill. You can strain the puree if desired, to get rid of any little seeds, but I didn’t bother. Continue adding puree to make 6 cups.
  4. Check on your jars. They should be about finished in the dishwasher. When they are, leave them in the hot dishwasher, but remove the flat lids. Place them in a small saucepan with just a little very hot water. Place that pan over high heat to simmer.
  5. In a large pot (it can even be the one you plan to process your jars in, if it has to be, but then obviously remove the water), mix puree, lemon juice, pectin, and butter and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.
  6. Add sugar all at once. Return to a full rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim off foam with a metal spoon.
  7. Ladle immediately into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ empty space at the top. Wipe any drips from the rims so that they’re absolutely spotless. Using tongs or a magnetic wand, remove a lid from the hot water in the small pan and place it on top of each jar, and then add a ring, screwing on loosely. The rings don’t need to be tight yet.
  8. Place as many jars as desired in the big, flat pot filled with water (it should be boiling softly by now–if it’s at a rolling boil, turn it down. You just barely want water movement). Once you’re finished adding jars, your water level should be at least an inch higher than the top of your jars.
  9. Allow the water to boil very softly for 10 minutes. Then remove jars from water and let them cool on a wire rack.
  10. The lids will pop if they’ve sealed correctly. Sometimes they pop while they’re in the water bath, sometimes right after being removed, and sometimes not for up to a few hours later. If it’s been 24 hours and one hasn’t popped, something bad happened–stick it in the fridge and eat it right away.
  11. After the jars have cooled, tighten up the rings and store at room temperature for up to 1 year.

Note: there was some discussion in the original recipe about how this could take up to a week to set. Obviously, that wasn’t the case with my first attempt. We’ll see how it goes this time. I’ll update you when I find out!