Friday, December 16, 2016

Bow Tie Wednesday (on a Friday?)

Teaching 6th grade is probably the most fun job in the whole wide world. This year has been a blast, and I'm learning to set up my weeks with set events to look forward to. One of my favorite traditions in BOW TIE WEDNESDAY. Every Wednesday, my teaching teammate and I encourage all our kiddos to wear bowties and we get fancy.

Now, thanks to Tiecoon ( we were able to surprise our kids with sharp new bows for a new year! Thanks Tiecoon! In the words of some very excited 6th graders, "THIS IS SO LIT!"

Bonus: The bowties came in purple and black - perfect for our Taylor University themed team!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Not-So-Supermoon and Other Disappointing Nature

I’m back. Yes, I guess this makes me a travel blogger. I’m embracing it, and you’re welcome to join me. I’m in England, and I’ve unpacked my bags and am plopping down here for a bit to finish my student teaching.

This is a big week in England. First, and most obvious, they have received me. Additionally, exciting space things have been happening, at least in theory.

I LOVE SPACE THINGS. They don’t even have to be exciting ones. One of the ways Jesus let me actually know for the first time that He is real and loves me is through studying outer space, fifth grade style. It’s all just so impressive to me. I love stargazing. One of my favorite (or should I say favourite) places in the whole wide world is near Lake Monroe – a place where I’ve never seen another person that I didn’t bring with me. I love to climb out of the light pollution of IU’s campus and stare at the stars and trying to find shooting ones. I’ve been known to do this at temperatures down to 30 degrees. Fahrenheit. Because in Celsius, that would be super unimpressive.

I love marveling at the sky any time of day, any configuration of clouds, yelling frequently “LOOK AT THE SKY,” to inevitably hear in return, “Look at which guy?” I even love getting made fun of because apparently I get way too excited about moon halos which are SUPER IMPRESSIVE. I just think it’s cool that out of all things, God chose to make SKY, a monstrous stretch of ever-dynamic artwork that, no matter what we as humans destroy, is still all over the place.

I know you may think it’s cool to be a Debby Downer about Indiana. First of all, it isn’t. Secondly, there are lots of reasons why it isn’t, not least of which being the entirely rad sunrises and sunsets. I have been #blessed to do lots of traveling, and in my travels, I’ve seen a great deal of wonders and beauty. On the flip side, I’ve also seen some very unimpressive sky stuff.

Example 1: I wake up at 4:30 in the morning to watch the “sunrise” on the Charles Bridge in Prague and end up watching the sky turn gradually lighter gray. My least favo(u)rite color at my least favo(u)rite time of day.

My paining collage of a rain cloud.
Example 2: THIS WEEK. Let’s do a walk-through, shall we?

THE “SUPERMOON”: Unlike its close relative, the superstar, this celestial phenomena doesn’t sing or dance, but it does show up in the sky SUPER BIG, and it was supposed to do this last night. But guess what. Too cloudy. Rushed out the back door. Clouds. Rushed out the front door. Clouds. The only thing worse than no stars is no moon.  And the only thing worse than no moon is NO SUPERMOON when you’ve been promised one.

THE “ECLIPSE”: This morning, after reveling in the fact that I’ll see an eclipse (the first of this magnitude in the UK since 1999) while my friends and family at home are asleep in the dark and sitting through videos and DON’T LOOK AT THE SUN speeches with my Year 3 students, the sky got maybe slightly darker. Maybe. Thanks again, clouds.
Student A: It’s the eclipse.
Student B: No, it’s going to rain.

THE “SPRING EQUINOX”: Fine. It’s actually the spring equinox. But I’m bitter, so it gets quotes, too. I had to google what exactly a spring equinox is. I know about the winter one – when you celebrate that it’s only uphill from here, and the summer one – when you celebrate that it’s the longest day of the year and push the fact that it’s only downhill from here deep into the darkest, bitterest corner of your brain with that memory of a missed supermoon during your study abroad. But apparently there’s a spring one, too. It means that day and night are the same length. And honestly, I don’t care. Though maybe I should because that means that we will get more light than dark from here on out. But in comparison to a SUPERMOON and ECLIPSE, this is routine, boring stuff.

So there you go. Your first post in ages, and it’s just little old me, ranting. (Please do know that everything is going well, and I’m enjoying life.)



Friday, August 15, 2014

The Final Camp

As I am sure you guessed, our third and final camp of the summer was amazing. Each time I sit down to update you lovely individuals, I am at a loss for what to say, simply because there is so much. I went into the week expecting to teach beginner level English speakers. If you are anything like me, you may have observed a pattern in the universe where things do not go as planned. Given the distribution of students, we needed more teachers of advanced English, and since I had done that at the previous two camps, up to a university class I went, and that class was such a blessing.

We sang, we danced, we dressed up as pirates, we hiked, we cooked sausages over a fire. It was a lovely week. I will share with you a couple of my dearest memories, one more serious than the other.

Story #1: On hike day, we hiked to a lake where a few of us swam and the rest of the group (if you read that as “party poopers,” I wouldn’t argue) rested. In what was perhaps an over-ambitious move, I swam across the lake, to the Shore of Grazing Sheep and an old man who informed us that swimming there was prohibited. By the time I drug myself back to the group, a crisis had occurred. My dear friend and teammate Petrunda had lost her nose ring at the bottom of the lake and had, in its place, a giant pearl earring.

I knew all too well the pain of losing a nose ring. Just a month prior, my piercing had come out, and while the hole in my nose closed up, a hole in my heart developed in its place. When we got back to the camp facility (after Petra took a little nap on the concrete, as only she could), I found my nose ring. After much prayer, time, effort, and skills of a seasoned nose ring wearer, my nose ring found a new home in Petrunda’s nose. It’s the classic story of sacrifice, friendship, and life coming out of death. If it isn’t in my nose, there is nowhere I’d rather have my star-shaped stud than walking around the Czech Republic with my pal Petra.

Story #2: At English Camp, we have strict bedtimes. Students come to learn, and as many years of standardized testing have taught us, the keys to learning are a healthy breakfast and a good night’s sleep. The last night, however, there is no curfew, for there are no more English classes. Since it was my last night at my last camp, I endeavored to stay up all night.

In this process, I drank my first ever cup of coffee. It was tolerable. I also "swam" in six inches of cold river water, watched YouTube videos of screaming goats and punk rock bands, and participated in karaoke. I took a walk at 4am, ending at a picnic table where I played Heads Up with friends and listened to the horses and roosters waking up. The best part of the night, though, was the sunrise. The rising of the sun itself was nice, but not all that. However, I got to watch it with two camp friends who had both decided to follow Jesus that week. We got to talk about our faith and the significant week behind us and if the sun was ever actually going to rise above the trees. I can usually be a bit of a grandma when it comes to bed time, but that was the most worthwhile all-nighter I have every pulled (out of all approximately three of them).

Here are some of the lovely faces from our third term camp team.

After camp, we had time to debrief and a few final days of fun and team time in Prague. It was an amazing summer. I saw beautiful landscapes and wonderful people and cultures. I slept in 15 beds in 10 weeks, never staying in a city for more than a week at a time. I laughed and cried and laughed until I cried and learned and danced. I saw God answer prayers about weather, about nose rings, about travel logistics, and about human hearts, including my own.

“And there are many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.”
John 21:25

Love always,

Jenna B.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

English Camp, Round 2

In just about every way, our second camp was different than the first, while still following the same structure and still being great. 

Our American team was much smaller at only 3.5 people. I know in math when they teach you about counting they say that people are to be counted in whole numbers, but that is overly simple and this is not math class; it is my blog and I pick the numbers. That being said, 0.5 is a lovely missionary from the American church living and serving with the church in Olomouc, hence making her half a person for each team. The Arkansas team was composed entirely of graduated from college adults and they already had strong connections with the Olomouc church. Because the American team was small, we got to work with intern Team Lenhardt, our Ostrava roommates and beloved other half. 

I got teach with Chuck, the youth pastor from Arkansas, and we had a lot of fun co-leading discussions and English lessons. Our group spoke good English and we got to focus on learning new vocab and conversations. In our group of 9 students, all were Christians, which is a super rare environment for this part of the world. We were able to spend sweet time talking about our faith and encouraging each other. 

On our hike day, we were blessed with unexpected and beautiful weather. Since we were only about 5km from the border, we hiked to Slovakia, which was way cooler to the Americans than Czechs, and which may not sound cool to the many back home who still have yet to recognize that Czech and Slovakia are separate countries these days. 

The trail and view at the end were beautiful, and there was only one berry casualty. They warned us about how seriously berries are taken, but I never imagined they would require a dear fellow intern getting four stitches. Dan tripped in his excitement to run and share, holding tightly to the blueberries rather than breaking his fall. 

This church has been doing camp for years, but this was their first time doing it with JV, so we got to introduce new tools and structures. It was a great week filled with unity and fun between our intern teams, awesome conversations, lukewarm fruit tea (always the lukewarm fruit tea), and a rad dance party. 

We are now at training with our short term team from Chicago for our third and final camp. Time is flying these days and dragging us along with it. 

So there is just a glimpse of what I've been doing. I hope to write to all y'all very soon about more details, fun stories, and the many things I've been learning. 

Much love,

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Camp 1

What do you write about one of the most amazing weeks of your life? That is the question I've been sitting on all week, and here I am, still unsure, but feeling I owe it to you to try to answer it.

For our first week of camp, we partnered with a church from Hradec Kralove and a group of 3 leaders and 10 high school seniors from California. I got to live in a mobile home. Though my feet didn't fit on the bed and the mornings were near refrigerated, the living room was a great, homey space for English class.

The students and translator in my English class (pictured below) were all around my age and all spoke excellent English. Their wish for class time was to have opportunities to talk, since in school they spend class reading and writing. This was a perfect fit for me, since talking is a gift of mine. We got to do all kinds of fun activities and games. Our English class was also our discussion group. After a Christian evening program, we got to talk about life and faith and God together. The theme for the week was about how Jesus presents a lot of ideas that are "Upside Down" and invites us to be part of an Upside Down Kingdom

Throughout the week, we had other team building opportunities. The 8 of us went by "Team Punishing Train" due to our signature dance move (as displayed in my FaceBook cover photo) and rocked the hula dance contest at the Hawaiian party and a dramatic reading/acting of "Friday" by Rebecca Black at the talent show. 

I got to have great one on one conversations with some of my group as well. We talked about faith, family, partying, eternity, Jesus, and all kinds of things. I got to share what I believe about a God that loves us all SO MUCH and listen to other perspectives. It was a blast.

In addition to English classes and evening programs, we played sports, did ice breakers, went on a four hour hike, made friendship bracelets, played forest games, and did other very camp appropriate things. I got to talk with students who knew English and smile at and just enjoy the presence of those who didn't.

It is crazy to think that I'm more than half way through my summer here in the Czech Republic and exciting to realize we still have two more camps!


Sunday, July 6, 2014

When You Give A Mouse an Offer

Team VW finished our first English camp of the summer! You may rightfully have some questions about how that went. But first, I have a very important story from my evening. 

Tonight, after consuming about 4 pizzas among the four of us, we watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower. All of the feels. Then, to lighten the mood, a mouse ran across the floor. As big brave missionaries, none of us panicked at first, but then Andrew wielded a broom and tried to smack the creature dead. At this point the three of us girls started yelling appeals on behalf of this rodent that suddenly became the most valuable being in the room as our nurturing natures kicked in. 

Andrew set down the broom and we sat by as the mouse scampered by several more times, eventually going to the hall. When that location shift happened, Andrew and Petra went outside and seized a local cat that hangs about and trapped it in the hall with the mouse. However, walls and doors mean nothing to mice and before we knew it the mouse was back in our presence. 

Andrew, who will be sleeping in this room tonight, had had enough and again determined to slaughter the beast. "No!" we begged. "We will capture it! At least give it til we leave." He graciously conceded and went to Skype in the other room. 

At this point I had used several trapping tactics. First, obviously, I let the mouse know that I was on her side. I told her, "I know how bad this looks, me here with this plastic bag, trying to trap you, but I really want the best for you." I sang her "I Can Be Your Friend" from the classic days of Veggie Tales. I even rewrote the parts that didn't make sense so that she would understand ("if your skin is bald or furry/we can have lunch, I'll share my curry"). Along the way, Alyssa had joined my efforts and we realized that this mouse probably didn't even speak English. 

Petra popped in through the window for long enough to tell us the Czech word for mouse (which we shall call miš, pronounced mish, even if that is not quite correct) and for not long enough to help any more. Thus we took to calling our small friend Miss Miš. We had her confined to the back hall/room and bathroom area, which was progress, and I prayed for boldness to catch this mouse panicked and went into crisis mode and began misquoting the scripture about "becoming all things to all creatures so that by any means possible we may save some."

Eventually the elusive Miss Miš escaped to the bathroom and we hurriedly closed the door. Jumping up and down in excitement, I knew this quest was about to get real. We trapped ourselves in the bathroom with Miš. After cornering her 7 million times, Alyssa and I had Miš trapped between the shower, a trash can, and two bags. I saw my opportunity, yelled at Alyssa to hand me her bag, and watched in unbelief as Miss Miš RAN INTO THE BROWN PAPER BAG and I scooped her up, yelling in excitement. 

I closed the top and ran barefoot to the park alone yelling "I'M SORRY, I'M SORRY, I'M SORRY!" and dumped her by a bush in the middle of the park. 

VICTORY IN JESUS, Miss Miš is saved!


(This is the only photo I got in the whole 30+ minute intensive capturing extravaganza.)

Friday, June 27, 2014

He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul

Hey dear ones!

I know it's been a while. Terribly sorry. Unless you felt like you needed a break from my frequent updates. Then you are so welcome. 

Since I've last written you, dear general public, I've been up to all sorts of shenanigans, as I'm sure you can imagine. 

Between shenanigans, however, I've had quite a bit of free time. Being the hyper, adventure-hungry extrovert that I am, this has been a bit of a challenge for me at times. One of the biggest things I'm learning this summer is to exchange restlessness for rest. 

During my down time, I've gotten to spend lots of time getting to know other beautiful souls. I've also gotten to spend lots of time getting to know my king, Jesus, reading his love letter and talking with him. I'm learning to recognize that time spent building relationships isn't wasted. This is what I was made for and these are the things that impact eternity. 

(Here are some places I've found rest on the past couple days)

The first half of this summer has been less about doing and more about being. Don't get me wrong, I've been privileged to do some amazing things, but the pace has allowed for so much rest. It has allowed me to daily offer myself as available and flexible to do what needs to be done and smile when plans change. I looked back at my journal from the beginning of summer at intern training. My team had shared things we had learned on the amazing race that we wanted to remember. One of these insights was that "God uses walking." The first day of the race, we had pushed ourselves, trying to run everywhere. Quickly, we found that this wasn't sustainable or enjoyable, and adopted a slower, but still intentional pace. This is a beautiful picture of the last month, working together, walking, being intentional. I am so full of God's love and overwhelmed with his grace and faithfulness. 

Tomorrow is a turning point. Tomorrow the campers come, and this summer will never be the same! Life is about to pick up speed and may not slow down much til I am on the flip side of this internship. I am so excited to spend my energy teaching, learning from, talking with, and playing with students. And I am so grateful to be so rested going into it. 

Glad that God uses walking and ready to run full speed ahead into camp,