Welcome to episode thirteen of the Real Life, Real Passion podcast. Today our guest is one of Evolve’s contributors Miss Jennifer Wise! I hope you enjoy getting to know her better.
Miss Jennifer has been a contributor for Evolve since the very beginning! I just love her.
She has been a consultant with Heritage Makers for over twelve years and she is our resident memory keeping expert with her #FamilyHistoryFriday series. In addition to her vast knowledge of preserving and sharing family memories she also has a fun life story and some beautiful perspectives about her purpose in life and why being true to your true self is so important. My favorite piece of advice she shares is to remember that, “You are the expert.”
Click the link above to listen to the podcast.
Jennifer was born on the island Guam. She was not in a military family. Her dad taught English as a second language, and was teaching at the University of Guam. They left the island when she was six months old.
From there her family moved to Iran for a few years. Her dad had accepted an assignment to teach at the University in Shiraz. After that, her parents decided that they wanted to raise their family back in the states. They moved back, and all of Jennifer’s childhood memories are of living in the United States. She is the oldest of three children.
Jennifer completed a bachelor’s degree in Humanities with an emphasis in English Literature. After she graduated from college, she accepted a call to do missionary service for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She served for a year and a half. Her assignment was with the deaf, which she absolutely loved because she had taken three years of American Sign Language while in college.
Since then, no matter where Jennifer lives, or where she goes, she always seeks out a new deaf friend. She wants to keep up on her ASL, and she loves signing. It’s one of her passion and she loves the language.
Jennifer is married and has three kids. She’s been able to stay at home with her kids since her first child was born.
When her kids were still little, the company her husband then worked for bought an Israeli company and they moved to Israel for a couple of years. It was a crazy and interesting experience. And it was while they lived in Israel that she developed her addiction for traveling. Her family lives in Colorado now and she loves it there.
Travel is definitely something on Jennifer’s bucket list. She usually finds a place in the world that she wants to go and obsesses with that place for a few years. It’s hard to narrow down one particular place she wants to go. For a long time, she wanted to go to Italy. She was able to visit when they were living in Israel so although she would go back in a heartbeat, it’s not on her bucket list any more.
Then Jennifer really wanted to go to Greece. Lately, she has really wanted to visit to Grand Cayman. Regardless of the destination, traveling is definitely at the top of her bucket list.
The feeling that Jennifer is doing good in the world is what brings her the most joy.
She is a mom, a wife, a friend—she lives in a lot of different capacities. It doesn’t matter where she is or what she is doing, “When I feel I am doing good and I’m making a difference, that is really what brings me joy.”
Over the years, Jennifer has learned that her calling is to teach and serve and help.
Those three things come very naturally to her. She has a desire to serve others, she wants to help, and she loves teaching. She feels like if she follows those things that come naturally to her, then she is staying true to her calling.
“We have passions for a reason. We have talents for a reason. Going with the flow and following those is our calling.”
Finding your talents is something that happens over time. It is a lifelong process to truly figure out what all of your gifts and talents are.
Over time, she has learned that one of her talents is being intuitive. When she listens to herself and her instincts, she is usually right. She has put that to the test the last few years, and has learned to trust her “gut”. When her instincts feel right, she can count on them and they don’t let her down.
Jennifer has also found that when she has alone time in a quiet place where she can connect with herself, it is easier to pay attention and learn new things about herself. She knows that the answers to her questions are there inside somewhere, and she can succeed if she takes the time to seek them out and listen to what is there.
One of the big turning points in her life was a few years ago. Jennifer has always known things about herself and would discover new things about her personality, but sometimes she couldn’t really put her finger on what exactly it those things were.
Her sister-in-law introduced her to the Myers-Briggs Personality Test. Taking that test was a life changing experience for her. Getting a written personality profile after taking the test helped her start to make sense to herself.
Since taking that test a few years ago, she has learned that the truer you are to yourself, the happier you are. If you can learn about yourself and embrace who you are, you will be happy. Doing that has made a huge difference in her life.
Quiet Time is Valuable
Before learning about personality profiles and before really learning more about herself, she remembers sitting in a rocking chair with one of her kids. As she was feeding her baby, she relished the 15 minutes of quiet she had to herself where she could just sit think through some things. She had a few insights and was inspired to take action.
Sometimes you have to take those little quiet times, even if it’s only 10 or 15 minutes. Those few minutes while you are waiting in the car to pick up your kids can be the moments that really help.
It can be hard to use those moments productively these days, since it’s tempting to just pull out your phone and scroll through Facebook or whatever. But “taking any time that you have when you are a young mom can really make a difference.”
Hillary weeks, is a singer and pianist. She said that some of her most creative times come in those little 15 minute blocks. She doesn’t have hours to sit and create, she makes the most of the little blocks of time that she has.
Jennifer has been with Heritage Makers for over 12 years. It all started when she was living in Washington. She was there minding her own business, while in Utah, there was a lady who wanted to tell her grandfather’s story to her kids. They lived far away and her grandfather was her hero. She wanted connect her kids with her grandfather and make sure that her kids had the opportunity to know him. So, she wrote down his life’s experiences in a storybook. Then, she went looking for a publisher and had a hard time finding one. At the time, most publishers had minimums and wanted to publish several hundred books. She just wanted to print the one book.
The person who wrote that book, Candy, is who started Heritage Makers. Candy’s mom was good friends with one of Jennifer’s best friends from high school. And her friend became the very first Heritage Makers consultant. Right after her friend started in the business, she invited a few of Jennifer’s other friends to join her. Within about a week, all three of them had called her because they thought it would be something Jennifer would be great at. In fact, one of her friends said, “this is a company made for you.”
At the time Jennifer had all three of her kids and her youngest was nine months old. She thought, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I’m not actually looking for anything to do.” But she couldn’t get Heritage Makers out of her head. She kept coming back to how powerful preserving a story really is, and how putting a name to a face can make someone who isn’t near you real.
She loved that there were so many possibilities with the business. You can tell a life story like Candy did with her Grandpa, but you can also touch hearts. You can bring people together and make connections through photos and stories.
Scrapbooker or Non-Scrapbooker
At the time Jennifer was a scrapbooker. She was very good about taking pictures and making the time to preserve them and record all the details. She didn’t feel like she needed another avenue or a different way to do that.
But the thought that kept returning to her was that many people don’t do that. Many people don’t scrapbook or preserve their memories in any way. “I just kept thinking this would be good for everyone. This would be something everyone can do.”
After about two days she signed up as a consultant without having ever used the program. She hadn’t done anything with it yet, but she knew it was going to be something she could share.
Go with Your Strengths
Jennifer is introverted and not a sales oriented person. “it was a little bit, or a lot bit of a leap of faith for me to actually start a business.” She had to figure out how to be salesy without being salesy. It took her a while to learn how to do that, but it happened when she embraced her strengths.
She loves teaching and helping. When she discovered that she could utilize her strengths instead of trying to do what everyone else was doing, she was relieved she didn’t have to be the stereotypical direct salesperson. She could do it her own way.
Jennifer teaches and helps people. “That’s why I love what I do, because I can really make a difference in people’s lives and I can help them find tools and solutions and give them ideas.” She started over 12 years ago and she’s still doing it because it is something she truly loves.
Develop Talents by Learning from Others
One of Jennifer’s talents is photography. She admits that she learns a lot from her daughter. Jennifer will look at a moment and want to hurry and take a picture so she can remember the moment, right there and then. Her sixteen year old daughter is teaching her that sometimes if you wait a moment for the sun to move or stand in a different way that it can make the picture better.
Where Jennifer is more about the moment, her daughter can make the moment artistic. Learning from other people is a good way to help develop your talents. It is important in both your personal and professional life.
“There’s always new things to learn, and there’s always a different way to look at something.” Be open and willing to learn from other people and be willing to try new ways of doing things.
Philosophy About Self-Expression
“I really believe that self-expression is our humanity.” Self-expression is what makes us who we are. It is how we leave our mark in the world. It can also be how we fulfill our purpose.
Because Jennifer is interested in the arts, she often thinks about self-expression as being artistic, but it doesn’t have to be in the arts. “I really think that self-expression is truly whatever we’re passionate about. It can be whatever we’re good at or talented at.”
Jennifer’s best mode of self-expression is writing. She has to write. You know when people ask those questions about what you would take with you on a deserted island? Jennifer would take a pen and paper.
Writing is how she expresses herself the best. She says Flannery O’Connor described her perfectly when she said:
“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” – Flannery O’Connor
It’s worth the time to discover how you express yourself the best. It could be painting, or writing, or anything. However you see the world best is your mode of self-expression. When we learn what speaks to us and how we express ourselves best, we are also given an insight into what our talents are.
Finding Your Own Talents
To really figure out how we express ourselves best, we have to try new things. To discover your talents, you have to look for them. You have to try.
Think about those things that come naturally to you and then try new things. Jennifer has been surprised in her life about some of the things that she is good at. Take teaching for example. She had no idea that she would enjoy it, or that it would be one of her talents until she had done it over and over and over. Now teaching is a very natural thing for her, and it’s probably because it was always in there somewhere.
Another suggestion for finding and developing your talents, is to ask other people what talents they see in you. Sometimes we don’t see our own strengths. We are conditioned not to look at ourselves too much and it can keep us from recognizing what our strengths are. It can take a bit of practice and sometimes another person can see things we can’t.
Sometimes when something is easy for us we don’t even realize it’s a talent. It can take someone else to point it out for us. It can be easy for us to overlook things that we are good at, in part because they come naturally. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, until you realize that not everyone can do that – it’s a talent.
Once you discover your talents, don’t ignore them. “You have to use them in order to grow them.”
Someone You’ve Looked Up To
Jennifer finds herself drawn to people who have courage. She admires people that have the strength and wisdom to do what’s right. Their bravery is touching and impressive.
Abraham Lincoln was a quiet and wise, courageous and honorable person. He did some things that were hard, and right. He even lost a child during his presidency. He had a hard life but he did what was right anyway. He was a good person despite hardships and opposition.
Another person that comes to mind for similar reasons, is Sir Thomas Moore. He stood up for what he believed was right regardless of what the consequences were. “That inspires me and gives me courage too. If other people can things that are hard, then maybe I can do things that are hard.”
“They were just people. We look at them now, and can say he was the President of the United States, or he was the friend of the king, but they were just people. They were just two men. Two men who chose to be extraordinary.”
It’s a choice. We have the power to choose.
Ancestors are another great place to find inspiration. Jennifer loves learning about her ancestors. She draws inspiration from what they did because of their beliefs and the actions they took because of what they knew was right. Many of her ancestors had very hard lives. For example, you can look at a family who had 14 children and had only six who lived. What a devastating thing to have lived through. You can draw inspiration from their stories and feel courage to do hard things because they were able to.
A previous guest on “Real Life, Real Passion,” Kerry Peck, said, “family stories can help you do hard things,” and they can.
That’s one of the reasons Jennifer is so passionate about family history, because when you realize that “that was great grandma who did that, and I come from that stock,” it makes a difference. It can be inspiring and meaningful.
“Success is doing the best with what you’ve been given.”
In some circles, success might mean fame, or a big house, or a big car, etc. But true success is really doing the best with what you’ve been given. We all have a plan for our lives, and then life happens, and things don’t go according to plan.
We are all different, and we all have a different path. Success will mean something different to every person.
“I also feel like that’s why nobody can judge another person.” We really can’t judge each other, because we have not been given the same things to deal with. We have been given very different and individual problems that we need to overcome. Success is doing the best that you can with whatever your individual circumstances and challenges are.
“I honestly think that some of my biggest challenges come from myself.” I think that is true for many people.
Jennifer is very sensitive. She feels deeply and thinks deeply.
In the TV show Monk, the main character has OCD. He says that it’s a gift that’s both a blessing and a curse. Jennifer feels kind of the same way with her sensitivity. She feels blessed to feel deeply all the time, but it can also make things hard for her. She worries a lot, she tends to overthink things, and tends to take everything seriously. She feels everything and it influences every area of her life. So, although it is a gift, it is also a challenge.
There is a lot to be learned here. “Sometimes problems just happen, but sometimes we make our own problems.” The two things that help Jennifer get past her challenges is to be spiritually grounded and to turn inward.
The three things Jennifer does to get spiritually grounded is to pray, read the scriptures, and to serve. Those things help her regain perspective. Often when she is stressed out about something, it can be traced back to a loss of perspective. Being spiritually grounded helps her re-frame the situation and calm down.
Because Jennifer is an introvert, one of the keys to overcoming challenges for her, is to turn inward. It is very healing and rejuvenating. “Basically, if I can just spend some time with myself, I feel better. I can find some solutions to overcoming my struggles.”
She likes to read her old journals because her old journals are another source of perspective. She also likes to write. She expresses herself and thinks through things best by writing.
Learning things or reading something inspiring is also very helpful. One of the reasons she loves Evolve, is because there is something in every post to take away and apply in her life. There is a great quote, or a great thought that she can feel inspired by.
Advice for Others
Jennifer knows from experience that sometimes when you’re in a dark space, and feeling depressed, it’s hard to do the things that you know in your head will help you get better. “You’re just frozen. You think, I should be doing this and this and this and this, but I just want to sit here.”
Jennifer’s best advice for getting out of a dark space is to laugh. She has a few favorite comics that she watches on YouTube that gives her a chance to relax and laugh and get into a better place. Friends and family can help when you need to laugh, too.
Once she’s feeling a little better, then she can write, and read inspiring things, and serve other people. Getting out of your world and getting into someone else’s life can be beneficial. It can be helpful to you and the other person.
Sometimes, it is easy to get caught in a negative cycle. One negative thought will feed another and another and another. You have to find a way to interrupt that cycle, and laughter is a great way to do that. Once the cycle is broken, then you have the choice of what you will think about. You don’t have to be stuck, and laughter is a great way to get unstuck.
Best Advice Jennifer’s Ever Been Given
When Jennifer was a young mom, she felt so much responsibility about her role as a mother. She felt like the calling to be a parent was the most important thing she would ever do in her entire life. And it stressed her out.
On Mother’s Day, a friend had sent her a little video. It was a montage of mother’s who had written advice on poster boards and held it up to the camera. There were ones like: take care of yourself, make sure you get enough sleep, read good books, and other advice you would give to new moms to encourage them to take care of themselves. But one of the ladies held up a sign that said, “You are the expert.”
She thought, “No. That’s why I’m so stressed out about this. If I were the expert, I would know everything to do.” But the thought struck her, and over the years she has come to appreciate that truth.
“I have my children because I am the one who can care for them. I’m the one who can figure out what to do for them… I am the expert.” As we struggle, it’s important to remember that we are the expert for our own life and for our own family. We will figure it out and it will be OK.
Jennifer’s oldest turns 20 this month, and she still sometimes doesn’t feel like the expert. Life is still hard, all the time. “But I feel like if I can have that attitude that I am the expert, that I’m just believing in myself.” She knows that she can do what she will need to do.
Even if we don’t have the answers right now, we can figure it out. We have tools, we have resources, and we can try again tomorrow.
It’s easy to get caught in other’s people’s expectations. It can feel like everybody has their two cents and they feel compelled to chip in about what you’re doing and how you can do it better. Remember, you are the expert. You know your family and your situation better than anyone else.
Jennifer remembers seeing a little onesie on Pinterest that said, “My mom doesn’t need your advice.” She laughed so hard, and wished that it came in teenager sizes. “My mom doesn’t need your advice.”
We are quick to judge when we really have no place. Our lives are so different. And even when we have similarities, people are still different. We have different outlets, we have different problems, we have different ways of learning things, and different things that we are learning. We need to remember not to judge each other, and to not live your life in the box of someone else’s expectations.
You are the expert.
Jennifer has collected quotes since she was in middle school and she has a lot of favorites. But one quote that she always comes back to and that has been really impactful in her life, is from the book Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the rook and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of—throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.” – George McDonald
That is one of Jennifer’s all-time favorite quotes. Life hurts sometimes, and sometimes you wonder what the purpose is to all of it is, and this perspective has helped a lot.
We have a small and limited dream of what we want for our life, but there is something bigger. Something completely different that we can become, and the experiences that we go through will teach us what we need to learn.
“Life is a process of becoming. It can be difficult when life goes in a path that we aren’t expecting. We may think it was supposed to be easier, but actually, maybe it wasn’t supposed to be.”
Tools and Resources for Life and Happiness
Jennifer has found that understanding personality has really helped her find more joy and happiness in her life. When she learned more about her own personality it helped her discover more about who she was and embrace it. It has also helped her be more understanding of other people too. It has helped her realize that people do things in different ways. People’s brains work in different ways and that’s OK.
Using your talents is another way to find happiness. If you don’t know what they are, keep working. Keep searching for them and keep discovering them.
Another great and often overlooked tool for happiness is compassion. And not only compassion for others, but compassion for yourself. It is important to be nice and to have compassion for other people, but we need to have compassion for ourselves too.
Jennifer read a book awhile ago that was all about self-compassion, and this idea has really changed the way that she thinks about herself.
For example, imagine that your best friend was standing up and giving a talk in front of 500 people. Her voice was shaking and you could tell she was nervous. She dropped her notes on the floor, and she left out a part she was going to talk about and she felt like a failure. How compassionate would you be for your friend? How kind and loving would you be to her? Now imagine that you were the one giving the talk. What if all those things happened to you instead of your friend?
Why are we so less compassionate to ourselves than we would be to our friends?
Self-compassion is a big key to happiness. Give yourself a break. We are in this human experience and we are going to do things wrong. It’s OK. Everyone else is going to do things wrong too. Life happens.
We can only go forward from where we are right now.
- Secondary to the scriptures, Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis has been one of the most influential books in Jennifer’s life. He talks about spiritual things in a way that is both inspiring and logical.
- Other books that haven’t been quite so life changing, but are fun to read and she likes anyway are the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. Book 7 is her favorite, and that is probably because she is drawn to people with courage. Harry had the courage and did what needed to be done. Her favorite character in the series is actually Hermione. Because, even though it was Harry’s choices and courage that mattered in the end, he never would have been there without Hermione’s help. If she didn’t have a love of learning and if she hadn’t been in the library reading all the time, he would never have gotten to where he was.
- The last book she would recommend was originally titled the Color Code, but has recently been rewritten as The People Code by Taylor Hartman. It is a dive into personality. It is all about what makes people who they are. She thinks of it kind of like a precursor to the Myers-Briggs personality test, it’s a little different, but is more the beginner level concepts. It helps you understand that you work a certain way, and that other people may work a different way and that’s fine. It can help resolve a lot of tension and conflict.
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman is a book I love for the same reason Jennifer loves The People Code. What you need and what speaks to your soul may not be the same for other people. This book gives insight, and helps you not feel compelled compare yourself to others. It can also help you not get as frustrated, because the book highlights the fact that others might need something else or look at things in a different way. We all understand differently.
“I love Evolve for how inspiring it is. I love it for how uplifting it is, and to be honest with you, I love it because I can share it.”
Have you ever read a really great post online and then there is some language or something else thrown in that you don’t really feel comfortable sharing?
“I love that Evolve is such a wholesome uplifting inspiring place to be.” She benefits from everything she reads and loves to share it. “Reading it just feels like you’re with friends. It feels like you’re at home. And I really really love that about Evolve. I’m so completely thrilled to be a part of it.”
As a contributor, Jennifer is able to share her love of memory keeping, which is something that she is very passionate about. Pictures really do make a difference.
Many people are in the habit of just taking a whole bunch of pictures and then leaving them on their phone or computer. But when you actually make the time and put in the effort to get them into physical form, it makes a difference: you can write your memories and you can make connections.
Jennifer loves sharing what she has learned. She loves giving ideas, sharing solutions, and inspiring others to preserve their family treasures and memories. Evolve gives her an opportunity to reach out to people across the country she has never met and share the amazing benefits of memory keeping and of telling family stories.
Every post brings awareness to a problem and is accompanied by a solution. It brings the intention together with the action; it solves real problems. Jennifer helps people find a way to do things better and make connections.
Jennifer recently went on vacation with her family to Yellowstone. now she is looking forward to putting her photos into digital scrapbook pages. She is looking forward to getting that done and going through the process.
Some people want to skip the process and just have everything magically end up in a book. While a photo book is better than leaving them on your phone or computer, there is magic in the process of preserving the story with the pictures. Taking the time to sit down and be involved with the photos brings the memories back to life.
She can relive the traffic slowdown on the road in Yellowstone, where everyone looked out their window and saw two elk. Then realizing there was a black bear a little further on. Reliving those memories and recording them makes sure that those moments are still fun when her family looks back through their book five years from now or ten years from now. They will remember what a fun experience it was.
That is what she is looking forward to, reliving her entire Yellowstone trip as she is recording it.
Recording family memories “literally brings happiness.” You bring them into your life through these little products that give joy to the whole family.
When you feel and experience joy it brings more joy. And joy will bring a peaceful feeling which helps you feel grounded and happier.
- Heritage Makers. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.heritagemakers.com/jenniferwise
- Hilary Weeks. (2017). Retrieved from https://hilaryweeks.com/blog/
- Life Tales Books & Personal Publishing. (2017). Retrieved from http://lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com/
- Monk. IMDb. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0312172/
- The Myers & Briggs Foundation. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.myersbriggs.org/home.htm?bhcp=1