Monday, September 12, 2011

Remembrance leading to reconciliation

The typical question surrounding September 11th is 'where were you?'

As the anniversary date has approached and I've reflected, I have come to this realization: where I was when I learned of the attack is not nearly as important as how I have been shaped by it.

Looking at life ten years later, it could be assumed that not much has changed. Look deeper, though, and there's more depth. September 11th woke me up, in a sense. I was an idealistic youth. In the past ten years, my idealism has been jaded; my false sense of security shattered - and then rebuilt; my worrisome side feared the future (though that wasn't really due to September 11; I worried about the future before).

I still love America. Like many of us, the politics of the last ten years tend to jade us. There is this conflicting view of America - the America of the history books, the 'two Americas' of John Edwards, the tea-party America of personal financial freedom, the liberal America of personal moral freedom - and the bickering in Congress makes you wonder just who "we" are.

On September 11, 2001 in four dramatic, tragic events - those petty bickerings erased. America was us - all of us. America was again, the beautiful, inspiring dream. America gave birth to this reality that we, as human beings, are 'created equal and have a right to life, to liberty, to the pursuit of happiness.' Individually, we may define these differently - but when this was taken from some of us, we rose up - as one.

In ten years, a lot has happened. We responded, reacted, sought revenge. We bickered. We fought. We disparaged each other.

Every time September 11 rolls around, we were jolted back to that day. The day our world stopped. The day we wondered what the next day - week - month would bring. The day we cried. Prayed. Hugged. Called. Loved. Stopped.

Yesterday, we remembered. We memorialized. We thought. We cried. We prayed. We hugged.

What about today? How will this next decade lived in remembrance be shaped?

As I prepared for church yesterday, I told God about what I was feeling and thinking - and asked him to lead me, teach me through these emotions.  His word spoke truth into my heart:

Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Should a man nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?
Should a man refuse mercy to another, yet seek pardon for his own sins?
If he who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins?
Remember your last days: set enmity aside.
Remember death and decay: cease from sin.
Think of the commandments: hate not your neighbor;
of the Most High's covenant: overlook faults.
Sirach 28:2-7

The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion.
Psalm 103:8

Peter asked Jesus, "Lord, how many times must I forgive the offenses of my brother or sister? Seven times?"
Jesus answered, "No, not seven times, but seventy times seven."
~Parable of the Unforgiving Servant~
Jesus added, "So will my heavenly Father do with you, unless you sincerely forgive your brothers and sisters."
Matthew 18:21-35

Mercy. Justice. Forgiveness.

I am not claiming to have the appropriate response to September 11th - then or now. I simply realized that September 11th caused us to remember something greater than ourselves. Remembering this should lead us to reconciliation. Reconcilaition with our family, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow Americans who think, act or believe differently.

Showering mercy, grace and forgiveness to all honors those whose lives have been lost - before, on and after September 11th. It honors our heritage as Americans - and God.

God has blessed America - whether we have always responded perfectly is not the issue. He has blessed America - and we have, in turn, been blessed. The issue is our response. When we have been blessed, we in turn must bless.

May our remembrance lead to reconcilation and our reconciliation lead to action.
May Americans bless....

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Every experience God gives us,
every person He puts in our lives
is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.

~Corrie ten Boom

Last week as I prepared for another interview, hoping it'd be my last, I thought about the infamous question: How does this position fit into your career plans?

I hate that question. I've never been one of those people who has my life 'figured out'. Sure, I knew what my college major would be at age 16 - but not my career.  After all, for that 16-year-old, the college major was the vehicle to the career of marriage. Yes, my career goal was to obtain my MRS. For real. Even in the 21st centurt, we still existed. :)

So, 'stumbling' into an my position as a Talent Search Advisor was really a blessing. God provided me with a career path!

I think even as a college freshmen, I knew I'd like advising. As a college senior, I wrote out what types of jobs I would love to pursue - they were something like this: college women's ministry, college advising, college teaching, leading study abroad trips for college students, and public gardens' education programs. See any type of theme emerging?

What's funny about life - and God's provision - and God's timing - is that we never quite know what to expect.  While that theme obviously points toward investing in college students' development, obtaining an actual job in your dream area requires a) those jobs being open, b) qualifying for said job, c) the search committee believing you're worthy of an interview, d) said search committee actually choosing you for the position.

I thought the perfect job for me was one that I didn't get. (Those who follow this blog know what I'm talking about) While I love the college campus environment, I wasn't sure if that was where I'd end up getting employed. I'm also pretty passionate about non-profits and community programs - so I applied to those programs. My temporary position has been in such a program. I've enjoyed it - but....

So, last week as I prepared for this latest interview for a position advising pre-majors and teaching a communications course, I thought about my crazy little career path. I realized that my life - and career path - are like the game Classic Concentration.

Little pieces of my life are slowly being revealed to show the bigger puzzle. I'm not sure what the step after this one will be - but I know that God is revealing a greater picture though each of my experiences - and maybe one day, I'll figure it out.

For the time being, though, the newest picture revealed is that I have a new full-time job as an Advisor in the Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Arizona - which is one of the most forward-thinking, progressive college departments I've encountered! VERY EXCITING!

These are the words that I'd used to describe the Norton School: responsive, progressive, perceptive.

Just as I was really wondering how God would provide for our needs, and the day we asked for His provision - He provides a job. My oh my - what a God we serve!

(I hope this post makes sense.... Dan and I have been celebrating with some Michigan State champagne!) 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

You're So Vain...

You probably think this post is about you. Well, it's not! It's about me.

Today, I curled my hair for church - for the first time in about three months. (I've been blow drying it straight, lately.) I wore my new $6 khaki-with-silver-threads skirt with a white tee and a chunky necklace. I felt like a little desert princess. I looked good.

We got to church early, and one of the priests was making rounds and greeting people.  When he got to us, he said, "(muffled by background noise) extraordinary this week." My response, "Thanks!" Dan's response, "I was...."

The priest looked a little baffled. I asked what he said, and he replied, "I asked if you were extraordinary this week."

I said, "I thought you said I looked extraordinary this week!" Before I could say much more, he walked on.

UM. Yeah. I'm so vain that everytime I do think that song is about me.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Last night, I had another wedding dream. The focus this time, though, wasn't on Dan and me - but my family, specifically, my young cousins.

The setting was the reception. Zachary, our ring bearer, asked me to dance. As we started to dance, he just hugged me - I was about to correct him about 'proper dance space', when I looked down and saw that he was crying. His dance with me was his chance to communicate love and say good-bye.

I love that Zachary. He is full of spitfire - a little unpredicatable at time - all boy, lover of sports - and thirsty for victory. He can be a bit much, at times, and there are times when you need to teach him at the rules of the game are not "Zachary wins." BUT, I love this kid because he also has a very soft and tender heart. He doesn't show it to a lot of people - unless you can recognize it in his disappointment at losing. It's there, though.

Spitfire: Zachary publicly displays his feelings toward MORE pictures....

Sweetheart: this was his idea. Our photographer asked him to take my bouquet (as in stand next to me and hold it) - he got down on one knee to present me my bouquet. It was so precious.

Zian (older brother to Zach- on the right) and Hunter (on the left)- were the official 'noisemakers' - responsible for handing out the noisemakers to the guests.

The last person that I danced with was Hunter, cousin to Zian and Zachary. He is such a special boy. He is quiet and soft-spoken, a total outdoorsman like his dad and grandpas, and a teachable little soul. I remember that I had to coax him to dance with me. The next thing I knew, as we entered the dance floor, he aged five years and was a 14 year old - with facial hair and looked just like his Uncle Mark! I was just in disbelief. Where was my little boy? Where was little Hunter and who was this man - with a beard  at age 14?? (I guess this dream demonstrates how much of a Kies, he really is!)

Oh dreams...sometimes, you make no sense. But one thing is clear - I love my family...and I miss seeing them change and grow up. (Okay, I know it's only been 3 months...but they change so fast!)

Friday, September 2, 2011

How Do You Like Arizona? Follow-Up

Beyond the "my best friends are in the Midwest" aspect, here's one challenge I've found to living in Tucson: the lack of summer.

"Say whaaa, Jessica?! Isn't it like sunny 90% of the time and 105 degrees?"

Yep. Exactly what I mean.

I'm used to summer being the time I spend outside. Soaking up sun, searching for eateries with outside patios, walking all the time, throwing open a few windows (when you get those cooler days, of course), playing sand volleyball or slow pitch softball, grilling out, having outdoor parties - you know! When it's above 100, you don't really want to be outside much, you know?

So, getting used to spending summer indoors has been a process.

But you know what will be awesome?  In a month-ish when I can do all of these things for the next nine months while my peeps back in the Midwest enjoy the cool, brisk fall weather (k, I'll miss the colors - and that first 'fall is officially here' day - but I'll enjoy weather like that all winter) and then dig themselves out from snowstorm, after snowstorm, after snowstorm. :)

Yeah, we'll take visitors....

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How Do You Like Arizona?

Whenever I meet someone new - which is essentially everyone - and they find out that I moved here three months ago from Iowa - which is the response to the first question asked (where are you from/when did you move here?) - the follow up question is always: "So, how do you like Arizona?"

Most of the time, folks are referring to the weather. That's when I get to tell them how much I have enjoyed the monsoon season because of the humidity (which almost always elicits shock and disbelief). I don't mind the 'dry heat' - which does exist, folks - until the mercury stays up around 107 - 110 for several days on end.

What I don't tell people - since most are making conversation and don't really care - is that while Arizona is fine and I enjoy my life here, I miss having friends. I feel so blessed that I have family here; so blessed that I have a college friend here who is a friend and colleague to both Dan & I; in fact, I even have a high school classmate here! (we did have some classes together; technically, she was a year younger).

I miss my close girlfriends, though. I'm thankful for the last year to hang out with you (all)...just wish you were here, in person, sometimes. I know you'll visit. I know some of you have already planned your visit. I am so thankful for you. Just want you to know - you're missed.

How do I like Arizona? I like it.

Is it home? ...sort of? That part will come...I have faith. :)