Friday, December 25, 2009

A Good Ol' Fashioned Christmas Down On the Farm

For those of you who are fans of Garfield's Christmas special, you'll recognize that title from one of the hit songs of the show! For those of you keeping up with me on facebook or via phone, you'll recognize that title aptly describes my current Christmas!

About 3:20pm yesterday, we lost power. About 4:45 pm, Christmas Eve service was cancelled.
As Mom and I waited out the loss, we gathered up candles, found some flashlights and tried to keep busy. I read a little while there was still light. Mom and I spent some time praying. Then, I decided to start working on a baby blanket. With candles ablazing in the dining room, Mom and I set to work lining up fabric and batting. It was little dark for detail work, so we opened one of Matt's Christmas presents early. Mom bought Matt a clip-on LED lamp for a cap. I put on a Hog Slat cap, clipped on the light and set to work. It was very handy! While I worked, I kept thinking about Psalm 27:1, "The Lord is my light & my salvation, whom shall I fear?"

Dad also got to open a few presents early. He purchased (yes that's right - for himself) a Mr. Heater bunson-burner heater that was hooked up in the farrowing house to keep one of Matt's sows and her 4-day old litter warm. Dad also got himself a flashlight (which is more like a spotlight) with rechargeable batteries, so he could see in the darkness which was soon settling in.

Dad finally came in about 7:30. Supper soon began: Block & Bridle summer sausage, cheese, whole-wheat Club crackers, apples, oranges and 1.5 liters of wine. It was quite the meal! :) We read the stories of Jesus' birth from Matthew & Luke and reminsced about Christmas pasts. After Dad declared it could be days without power, I said, "No! Mom & I prayed." About ten minutes later, we had power! Praise the Lord!

...some time in the night, we lost it again. "The Lord gives & the Lord takes away; may the name of the Lord be praised!"

It was chilly this morning - but the house was only down to 60. We spent some time huddled under blankets. Dad did some chores, checked out the damage...and hooked up the generator! It was so nice to have hot coffee, eat a warm breakfast, take a warm shower - have heat flowing! Praise God for heat!

Mom & I have decided that we would not be very good pioneer women. Mom said this morning, "If I was a good pioneer woman, last night when we had electricity, I would have filled up all the water bottles, pitchers, buckets. My mom would have." If I was a good pioneer woman, I wouldn't be upset about the weather putting a dent in our holiday plans! :)

So, this Christmas, Mom, Dad and I are hunkered down at the farm...waiting for electricity and the snow plow. Matt & Jess are in Osceola at her parents - where there's little snow! Dan's in Ames where there's some ice & fog, but not much snow. It would be so wonderful to be together and celebrate, but that's just not wise or possible.

While family is important today, and the feast is delicious, and the presents delightful...none of those things are Christmas. We celebrate Christmas because of what God gave us - His Son. God sent His son into this world, so that we could be saved. Not just temporary salvation like from the weather or time of trial, but eternal salvation from sin & death. His coming brought us light and life - eternally in heaven & purposefully & joyfully on earth - no matter the circumstances.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Greatest Gift of All

Well, I write this post with a very humbled heart.

I just learned that one of my friends' child has been diagnosed with anacephaly. He is currently 20 weeks along. Anacephaly is a disease where the neural tube doesn't close at the base of brain stem (I think), which results in the brain and skull not fully developed. It is 100% fatal.

He is my friend's first baby - and he is a miracle. She isn't able to get pregnant and the fact that she got pregnant naturally was a miracle in itself. She and her husband have had a name ready for him for awhile: Benaiah. It means God has built this.

You know that verse in Psalm 139 about God knitting me together in my mother's womb? It's hard for me to imagine God knitting him and building him, imperfectly. Shouldn't a healthy baby equal perfection? Aren't God's works perfect?

As I just typed this, I remembered the way God described his works in Genesis. Not perfect, but good...and very good in the case of us (humans). Only He is perfect.

As I prayed for them, I prayed for a miracle - that little Benaiah would suddenly be healed. Because, I confessed to God, that's how I would see Him working this situation for good. However, God may choose to work a miracle in a completely different way - and it will still be good. Because His works are good - and He promises in Romans 8:28 that he will work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

Sometimes, I feel like God is trying to shake my need for the ideal out of me. Why shouldn't he? I equate ideal = perfect...and I create standards of idealism that frankly, He has never imposed upon His people.

Today, I am humbled by the gift of life. It is quite frankly, the greatest gift that we have been given...and how do we spend it? God chose that WE should have life; He chose that WE should be able to breathe in and out, and do things, and know people - and love others & experience their love. How do we live this gift? Do we squander it? Do we numb ourselves from the feelings of life? Do we separate from the things that are hard and don't come naturally? Do we complain about the short-comings of those in our life because they aren't perfect and they're not like us?

Today, as I grieved over my sin and my own wretched self-serving heart, I felt incredibly humbled that God blessed my parents with a healthy baby girl 30 years ago...and I felt the need again for a Savior to save me from my sin so that I could live the life that He has imagined and planned for me. This Christmas, I want to be emptied of myself and filled with His Spirit so that I can love fully and deeply.

The Lord has given; the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised!

Monday, December 21, 2009


I think I use my blog as a source to rant about my the ridiculousness of my students.

Well, not today. Today I just want to brag a little bit about my students at South Tama.

First of all, my sophomores worked so well on the PLAN test! They followed directions; they were quiet; they worked efficiently - they were great! I was so proud. (Such a difference from the day before, let me tell you what.)

What I'm really beaming about today, though, are my 7th graders. This year, we are focusing on motivation and decision-making. Specifically, why do some people choose to go to and graduate from college, while others do not? We approach this as social scientists (you know, like psychologists and sociologists). First, we have a question. Then we brainstorm possible causes and develop a hypothesis. Now, we are in the research stage. They will be interviewing two people: one who went to college and one who did not. This month, we wrote interview questions. I did a little coaching and explained about the importance of asking open-ended questions. If they did ask a closed (yes or no) question, they needed to ask a follow- up. (After reading them, it appears I should have also talked about asking leading questions. If they were lawyers, I think a few of them might be objected!)

Here's a sampling:
Was going to college an option?
Has anyone else in your family gone to college?
Name some reasons you didn't go to college.
Did you want to go to college? At what point did you stop wanting to go/change your mind?
Who influenced your decisions?
What did your parents think of your decision?
How do you think your life would be different if you had gone to college?
Would you encourage your children and grandchildren to go to college? Explain.

Here's some of questions for those who went to college: (after a few of the more obvious - where did you go, what did you major in, what was your favorite part)

How did you benefit by going to college?
What motivated you to finish?
Why did you push yourself to graduate?
Where did you go for help?
Was it a difficult task? Did you ever want to give up? Explain.
What would your life look like if you hadn't finished?
Did you ever doubt yourself?

Seriously, I am PROUD of these kids! Days like this give me some hope & encouragement. They are getting it! They are smart kids! They do think college is more than parties! =)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Downfall of America

The downfall of America is not going to be caused by a lack of government-funded healthcare or bailing out industries x, y and z. The downfall of America is going to be caused by the laziness of our citizens - namely, our youth. I realize that I sound like a stodgy, old crumudgeon, but hear me out.

While searching for scholarships today, one of my students exclaimed in disgust, "WRITE A 500-WORD ESSAY? This says that you have to write a 500-word essay to get this scholarship!" My response, "Yes, that's pretty typical for a scholarship application."
"Yeah, but an ESSAY?! Are you kidding me?"

Nope. Not kidding. I know, how ridiculous that you might have to do a little bit of work to get free money. That is just the craziest thing I have ever heard!

Maybe the era of hand-outs & bail-outs is having an effect on our young people....

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Morning Thoughts

1) Did you check out the sunrise this morning? Wow! I caught a glimpse as I walked to the bus. Gorgeous colors! Sometimes on a brisk winter morning, God paints the most beautiful skies.

2) I am very thankful for my genes. My Grandma Ellen is practical; her rule for fasion is that it be functional. So on days like today that are below freezing, she would wear multiple layers, a coat to her ankles, a hat that covers her entire head (yes, with ear flaps and all!), a scarf and mittens/gloves. In the vein of Grandma, I have multiple layers on, wool-blend socks & snow boots. My mother is fashionable; her rule for fashion is that it looks good. So, not only am I functional, I am fashionable. My hat goes with with my coat & my mittens, too. Grandpa Herman was frugal. So not only is it important that I am warm & look cute, I also don't want to spend too much. Warm coat is not only cute, but was also on ridiculous sale last year.

3) Girls on the bus: there is a sign that asks you to hold your bags on your laps for a reason. It is so other people can sit down on the bus. Please mind the sign next time.

4) Have you ever noticed that "Staff Appreciation Day" spells SAD? I bet Michael Scott would. That's why he would call it something cool like, "Guys Afternoon In."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Daughters of Eve

Maybe some of you wonder why I never blog. Well, because I really prefer to blog about my thoughts rather than my happenings.

Anyway, here's something that I've been thinking about: the effects of the fall. We really are sons of Adam and daughters of Eve and we can't help it.

Genesis 3:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" And the woman said the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, les you die.'" But the serpent said, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of hte day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, "Where are you?" And he said, "I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself." He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" The man said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree - and I ate." Then the Lord God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me and I ate."

To the woman the Lord God said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

Okay, so, I've been really emotional lately - and at the heart of my irrationality was fear. Fear that God would hold out on me - that He won't provide for my future, that He doesn't have a plan for me, that it's not good. I've been doing a Bible study on Esther by Beth Moore and she writes that, while the devil can't have us (because we're God's), he can still try to rob us of any victory, freedom, hope, etc. For me, this seems to happen by preying on what I fear. I fear a few things: disappointing people and apparently, the future.

So, how does this all tie together? Well, for starters: Eve doubted God. The serpent got her to sin by implying that God was indeed holding out on her. That He wasn't telling the truth. That He didn't have her best in mind. Eve believed him because she doubted. What is doubt, but a lack of trust? When I worry about the future, I don't trust that God will provide. When I fear people's opinions, I'm not trusting the Holy Spirit to guide me and follow His plan - regardless what other's think.

I want assurance. I want a big plan all laid out with the step-by-step detail. Why? Because I don't want to trust. I don't want to walk by faith - I want to walk by sight. Trusting God is hard! Trusting people is hard! ...and, apparently, we women haven't been good at that since the beginning! Thank God for the Holy Spirit! Thank God that we can develop the spiritual muscle of faith and hope! (Maybe this is why Mary was chosen - because she believed God right away! Elizabeth even says of her, "Blessed is she who has believed God.)

Regarding the curse of the fall, God said that our desire shall be for our husband, and he shall rule over us. We're all familiar with "boy crazy," right? In my opinion, this desire for a husband and it ruling over us, is the root of "boy craziness." Without Christ (and honestly, even with Him), this desire can become consuming. We get all crazy, over-thinking, jealous, sensitive, etc. And, I don't think any of us are immune from these irrational behaviors. They're just part of our emotional DNA.

Oh, and don't even get me started about how this translates to our relationships! a) not trusting God can cause us to not trust our man. b) we can get needy...which apparently men don't appreciate it.

As much as men don't appreciate it, we don't either. I hate it when I don't make sense. AND I hate when I feel things that don't make sense; that aren't grounded in fact/reality. I've been feeling it a lot, recently. As a feeler, it's difficult to not trust feelings; but when feelings don't mesh with reality - then it just gets confusing.

When God came near to them in the garden, they hid. I realized that while I've been feeling emotional & irrational, I haven't just been honest with God or let Him search my heart. I just try to put on the brave face and act like I'm not crazy. =) But in the meantime, I still get hurt and hurt others, while acting in Eve-mode.

I realized this on Monday night. This past week in our Ester study, Beth asked us how often we put our hope in others and not Christ. Well, lately, I've totally been putting Dan into the God category and not the boyfriend category. I've been wanting him to be my all-in-all, to be the all-knowing, ever-providing, all-loving. I think all that I've done is wear him out. (Oh yeah, and did I mention that this when he already is stressed out? Wouldn't that be the best time to be irrational and emotional? Oh yes.) And I have been sinning.

Man! I am so human and so far from perfection. And in my Eve-ness, I haven't been trusting God to lead him. Ugh! The thing I have wanted most from others is that they trust me and the work that God is doing in my life - but, I can't even do that. Because I'm a daughter of Eve. The original meddler. The original doubter.

But, I am also a daughter of the Lord God! I have this great privilege of repenting of my sin! And when I repent, I am forgiven. And, He has given us this great resource, this great power - the Holy Spirit - living inside us, so that we don't have to live under the power of our Eve-ness. We can overcome our craziness...but it is especially helpful when the men in our lives give us an immense amount of grace and understanding. And, imperative in that is we also extend an immense amount of grace and understanding to them - because, after all, they are sons of Adam.

Friday, December 4, 2009

You know it's time...

to cut your nails when you have a conversation like this:

9th grade student: Miss, why do you have crack nails?

Me: [silent thoughts in italics; spoken thoughts in bold]
Wow! I knew they were starting to chip/crack - which has been a concern but has not yet prompted me to cut my nails; I can't believe he noticed that.
You know, I'm not really sure why.
I'm taking my calcium supplements, but maybe I should actually be drinking milk....

9th grader: No - Miss - you know what I mean? CRACK nails!

Me: Oh! Right! The drug crack! Riiight.

9th grader: Yeah. So, why do you have crack nails?

Me: Well, because that's what I do. [sometimes I can't help but be sarcastic when students ask me SUCH ridiculous - and disrespectful - questions.] You know, to get through the day after working with juvenile deliquents - like YOU - I load up on crack. This is what my life has come to.

I still haven't cut my nails. But I will be soon because they are crackED...not because of my drug problem.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friends in Low Places

Or perhaps, friends when we're in low places. Not to say I'm in a low place...just keep reading.

I met with my "major profesessor" this morning. After that, I stopped by my grad school office to see my friend Nav. As I walked back to my 'real' office, I had this thought, "Friends are there to remind us of who we are and who we desire to be, when we can't see that in ourselves."

Perhaps you're wondering, "Jessica, what in the world are you talking about? Are you okay?"
Yes, I am. But, for those of you who know me, you know that I can be very good at recognizing my short-comings. (Maybe stress the 'can' - Dan would probably tell you that I can be very good at seeing my superior-comings.) And for those who know me, you know that when it comes to big decisions that highly impact my life or the lives of others, I don't decide things flippantly. I agonize over the possible consequences and people's reactions; I worry; I fret; oh, and then I remember to take them to our Father in Heaven. (Hey, I'm trying to be better about doing that first; but, I still go back to square one.)

...and I wonder if I'm enough. I've thought this week about the cost of loving someone when it hurts, when it's scary, when life hits you. When love becomes real and not just chocolates and flowers. This week, I had a great conversation with my cousin Amy. As I wondered if I could really do that (knowing my own selfish desire for the easy stuff), she pointed out, "Jessica, you already do that. When Dan had his seizure scares, you could've very easily decided after that to go. But you didn't. Jessica, you have what it takes."

Today, Nav was asking me about Dan and he said, "He must be a pretty good guy." I smiled and said yes. Then he said, "No, pretty good is not good enough. Jessica, he must be an excellent guy for you to have allowed him close to your heart." Later, he said it again, but added, "Jessica, you are good person and God-oriented, you choose good people to be your friends."

It's nice to be reminded that people can see who we are and long to be when our own fears and doubts cloud our view. Above all, I love that God sees us as His new creation, His children with full knowledge of our short-comings and the areas where we lack strength. I love that He desires to meet us in those weaknesses that His power my displayed more fully.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My "Twilight" Rant

After a long hard day working with middle schoolers, I have one thing to say: If I hear one more teenage girl gush about the Twilight series, I think I might puke!

...which is essentially what I updated my facebook to status to convey.
...which was, of course, commented on by a teenage girl saying, "have you read the books? AMAZING!"

Have I read the books? No. Do I want to read the books? Honestly, no. Just like I didn't want to read the Harry Potter series when everyone was raving about them; or the Dan Brown books (Da Vinci Code, etc.)...or even any of the Francine Rivers' series. [Granted of all of the aforementioned series, I would probably read the Francine Rivers series. I did watch "Love's Enduring Promise" on the Hallmark channel and really enjoyed it.]

Why? Because...well, really - they're about vampires. And I know that, "I need to get beyond that because it's a really beautiful love story." Trust me, teenage girls, I have been told that numerous times in many different ways. But, really? A beautiful love story? Edward is ADDICTED to Bella because of her scent. If he wasn't a vampire, we'd call him a CREEPER. Boys that tell girls, "Your scent is like a drug to me," we would classify as having a problem with lust. And we would subsequently tell the girl to stay away from that creepy boy. 0 points, here.

BUT, he's a vampire. He can't help it that he's drawn to drink her blood. And really, we should praise him because he chooses not to drink her blood. Okay, well. You got me here. Edward does exhibit tremendous self-control in not drinking Bella's blood. He does not succumb to his primal urgings. Okay, Twilight: 1 point.

I did watch the movie. My roommate did tell me that the movie in no way comes close to the book. Well, that's good because I couldn't see that creating much of a phenomenon.

Really, in the end, it's hard for me to wrap my head around the vampire/werewolf/human love story. It's great that it's encouraging teen reading, and all...but, have you seen the spin-offs? There are other book series about Vampires (Thirst and others); there are new TV shows about vampires trying to make it in the world. And now the vampire phenomenon is even moving to the demon world.

I wish they were as excited for Elizabeth Bennett, Emma, and Jane Eyre as they are about Bella, Edward and Jacob. Talk about characters with real...character, grace, courage, and wit. Ah, well. I'm a sucker for the classics.

Friday, September 11, 2009


You know the song, "Have You Forgotten?"

Well, to be honest, I have. There's so much focus on tomorrow - the ISU/Iowa game - that I forgot about today being the anniversary of September 11th. If you check out facebook, everybody's remembering today & where they were - just as I'm sure people continued to do on the anniversary of Kennedy's death, or Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Woodstock :), etc. But, tomorrow, will they still remember?

Not like they did today. Tomorrow will come and those in Iowa will be crazed with Cyclone or Hawkeye Fever. Sunday, we'll be focused on church, God, and family. Monday, our minds will be filled with work. And so it will go for the next 365 days until 9/11/2010.

Today, people ask questions like, "I wonder when we'll catch Osama Bin Laden." Tomorrow, they'll be back to complaining about the military and unnecessary war. Tomorrow, they'll be wanting us to go easier on those convicted of terrorizing our nation and advocate for closing down Guantanamo.

This summer, I went to New York City and actually stayed in the hotel once known as the World Trade Center Marriott. Now, it's referred to as the Marriott - Financial District. As we drove to our hotel, I thought we were driving through a construction zone...then I realized that it was the site of destruction - where 3000 people senselessly lost their lives. This is what I thought in June:
Our hotel (formerly known as "World Trade Center Marriott") was about a block from the site of the Twin Towers. As we drove by, I thought we were driving through a construction zone. As I looked to my left, I realized that, no - we were driving through a de-struction zone. Three years ago, our program brought students to NYC. We saw the site then, which was just five years since 9/11. Now, it has been eight - and NOTHING has been done. There is still a giant hole in the ground, cranes, rubble. The buidings surrounding the site have been repaired - but, still, no memorial. This blows my mind. The Pentagon has had their memorial prior to 2004. But the site of the most destruction? Nothing. Maybe New York City still feels like it's an open wound, but I think it's time for healing. I think it's time to remove the rubble - the shrapnel, if you will - and allow some green space to cover the gaping hole. Let it be green, and rolling - a place of peace and honor.

Now, I wonder if they haven't done anything because New York is somehow pleading with the rest of us to not forget.

Food for thought, I guess.

And yes, chances are, tomorrow I will go on like it didn't happen. Is that what moving forward looks like?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I heart WY

You know all the things that you never thought you'd say in life?
Well, I never thought I'd say that I heart WY - as in, Wyoming.

I'm currently in Fort Collins for a work training and today the ETS/UB crew headed to Cheyenne, Wyoming. As we crossed into Wyoming, standing high upon a hill was a giant buffalo. (Okay, it's not real.) Now, from a young age, I've had a fascination with buffaloes. Well, I don't know if fascination is an accurate term. But, buffaloes captured my imagination. Literally.
In kindergarten, when all the other girls were chasing after the boys to catch them and kiss them, I was creating this giant "spear" out of these plastic, colorful blocks, so that I could hunt some imaginary buffalo roaming the O-M gymnasium.

Continuing the buffalo-hunt, last summer while in Colorado, as I gazed out at the giant plateaus, I mentioned to my friends that the Indians used to chase the buffalo off of those cliffs in order to kill them. They all laughed. While gazing at the landscape earlier this week, I just couldn't help but think about chasing buffalo off the edge.

I digress. Back to Wyoming.

All I can tell you is that when I'm in Wyoming, my whole heart breathes deeply and freely. There's just something about this place that causes one to feel freer, more adventurous, more connected to the past and believe that the future will be beautiful. I'm not sure what it is - but I think it has to do with the light, the space, and the land.

I LOVE the way that the sunlight illuminates the hills of Wyoming. I love it. It makes my heart sing. Several times this evening, I got to witness the sunlight breaking through the clouds and illuminating the hills. I *think* I captured some of it on film. (If I did, then maybe you'll see some of them soon.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Just some thoughts

I read this post the other day from a friend of mine: As you may know, this particular post spoke very directly to my life. I'm dating a great man who cares deeply for me, who reveres and honors God, and is a Catholic. And he loves being Catholic!

As we continue to date and grow closer, there is of course that question of where we'll go to church should we get married. Would I consider going to the Catholic church? Yes. I would. Does that shock people? I'm sure that it does. Honestly, had you told me three years ago that I would seriously consider that, I would've thought you were crazy. Why? Because, I, like a lot of those in the 'Evangelical realms' (as pointed out in Jess's blog) have had this notion of putting Catholics into an "other" category.

Am I proud of this? No. Not at all...especially when some of the most sincere and faithful people in my family are Catholics. When Dan told me about how kids in his high school wrote off his faith because he was Catholic, I shuddered. In my heart, I knew that I'd done that when interacting with my own friends before...because they didn't pray the same prayer I prayed or whatever.

I think that we humans gets so caught up in wanting to be right. We are convinced that because this church fits us then it must fit all people; or that because God reached me at this time in this manner, that's how He does it for all people. I love that in the Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan never appears to the children in the same place or the same manner because "He's not a tame lion - but He is good." He's not on command from us and He's not a formula that can be figured out. There's not a certain ritual you can do, prayer you pray, song you sing, or an order to your service that ensures God will show up or answer you. It's the honesty and sincerity of your heart in performing that, and the goodness, mercy and grace of God in answering you how He pleases - His time, His way.

As I've thought about this, the conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well has come to mind. She is a Samaritan, only half-Jewish; long ago, the northern kingdom Jews disobeyed God's law and intermarried. Therefore, the Jews didn't allow the Samaritans to worship in Jerusalem, so they worshipped at Mount Gerizim. She asked Jesus, "You Jews say that we must worship in Jerusalem; our fathers worship at this mountain." Her question: who is right? Jesus' answer: the Jews have worshipped what they know, you what you haven't - but a time has now come when you won't worship the Father at this mountain or in Jerusalem - but in Spirit and in Truth, for God is Spirit." Earlier, in chapter 3, Jesus likens the work of the Spirit to the wind - you can't see it, but you can see the effects.

As I have had more of an open-mind toward Catholicism, I've been surprised. About nine years ago, I prayed that God would do a revival and awaken people in that church. I'm realizing now that He has been - and He was way before I prayed that. He desires that His children would know Him and worship Him in Spirit and Truth - and so, He is always at work - in a variety of churches, homes, colleges, high schools, nations in many different methods. There's a lot of depth and richness theologically to the mass that I never understood before.

Honestly, I think it's beautiful that God has given us so many avenues to express our worship to Him. Regardless of the church, what matters is that our hearts belong to Him - that we worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. A friend and I were discussing churches in June, and ended up talking about Revelations when all nations, every tribe and tongue will worship Jesus. I'd never thought about it as all denominations coming together - but it will be. Now, we see in a glass dimly, but then we shall know fully, even as we are fully known.

As I have gotten to know Dan, I am impressed by his reverance and humility toward God. He has much more of an attitude like Job, "Shall we accept good from God and not hardship?" Whereas my attitude is more, "Really God? Seriously? You're gonna throw this at me?" He's a lot less self-centered than I am in that regards. He looks to God to handle the big things and takes it upon himself to handle the small things. I look to God to handle small things and can get overwhelmed by the big.

I agree with Jess. Let's allow God to take care of His churches and focus on being attentive to the way His Spirit leads us to influence others.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pictures of New York

Here's some pictures from Friday...

Knockin' Heaven's Door (St. Patrick's Cathedral):

Trump Towers (riding the escalators):

FAO Schwartz:

Eating the street-vendor pretzel!

The Perks of Central Park

The two other times I've visited this great city, I had never visited Central Park.

As Lisa and I researched the spots of the Park, one site in particular caught my eye: THE CAROUSEL! You know how Elf loves Santa? That's how I love carousels.

If you have visited Central Park, you know that it is CONFUSING!!! Holy cow - Lisa and I were following all of these paths trying to get to the Carousel. I'd read somewhere that it closed at 6 - and we were closing in on 6. It would've been such a downer to find out that when we finally found that carousel that it had just closed. I'm not joking...I would've been really upset.

Finally, we saw a sign indicating the Carousel was close at hand. I was so excited that I started to speed walk. There were butterflies in my stomach just at the thought of riding this carousel - and also at the fear that we were going to get there as the last ride of the day was going. So, naturally - I started walking fast! I would've started running, but Lisa was already laughing at me.

We weren't too late! We got to ride the Carousel! It was glorious! They played a bunch of songs about New York...but I specifically remember "Downtown."

After the carousel ride, we set off to find the castle. Yes, really. A castle in Central Park! Along the way, we came upon a 'revival' - an African American preacher (think T.D. Jakes) was preaching and there was worship music. It was pretty cool. We also came upon a pond with a GIANT fountain. It was breathtaking!

Finally, we came upon the castle. You may notice our lovely parasol props. It rained every day we were in New York. We didn't take our umbrellas, we bought lovely $9.95 "parasols" from H&M.

After the castle, it was time to meet Jena. However, this meant getting OUT of Central Park! The castle was on the east-central side of the park...we wanted to get to the west side, so that we could get on the right subway. Well, we got there...but not at the "exit" we wanted. Seriously, I was following the map! But the roads aren't straight!

Anyway, the best part of the visit came at this point. While walking, I looked to my left and saw a racoon. (Remember the theme?) Along the lines of Elf, I squated down and walked toward it with my arms outstretched, "Hey buddy! Hi! Hi! How are you? Oh, do you need a hug? Looks like somebody needs a hug...." Then I had to explain the scene I'd just acted out to Lisa! Seriously, you have a couple kids and you just stop watching funny Christmas movies! However, that wasn't the best part. The best part was yet to come. Approaching us was a family of 4 from Asia - all wearing "dust" masks. Obviously, these people were concerned about their health...and probably not looking for a walk on the wild side. As they came upon us, Lisa says, "Hey! There's a racoon up there!" The father responds hesitantly (and probably in fear), "Uh, okay...thank you."

I looked at Lisa - not sure what to make of that statement. Was she trying to warn them? Because...why? I mean, the racoon was NOT interested in people - he totally turned and walked away from me during my Elf routine. So, I asked her, "Why did you just say that?" "Well, I thought maybe they would want to see it! I mean, my kids get to see racoons all the time - but I bet they don't!" they don't. And I bet that family walked on the other side of the road to avoid that racoon.

While on our journey to the edge of Central Park, Lisa looked at me and said, "You know what we didn't do? We should've ran like Phoebe!" Seizing the opportunity, I took off down the road, running like Phoebe. However, Lisa wasn't ready with her camera - so I had to do it again! ...and this time my parasol shot open while running. It was crazy spinning everywhere. A couple weeks later, Lisa's 4-year-old daughter looked at me and said, "Did you go with my mommy?" "yes." "I saw you running on the TV. Why were you running on the TV?" I thought to myself, "Oh, Madie. God only knows...God only knows...."

We did eventually make it out of Central Park and to Jena. We ate at Johnny Utah's - the oldest New York restaurant with a mechanic bull! Those city boys rode the bull holding on with both hands. They weren't real cowboys.

That night we enjoyed a 'SummerBrew Patio Party' at Jena's apartment. It...was...interesting....


(Sorry for the delay, faithful readers. We had no internet at home!)

Now, for the long awaited Saturday in New York update.

On Saturday, Lisa and I decided to trace our ancestors' steps by visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. And in continuing with our TV theme: today it's Reading Rainbow! You know, the episode about Ellis Island? Where they play Neil Diamond's "Coming to America"? Yeah! That one! Well, Lisa got to hear the chorus, "They're comin' to America! (Today!) They're comin' to America! (Today!)" quite a few times throughout the day. Lucky for me, she thinks I'm funny.

While on the ferry, it was amazing to look at Manhattan Island and see all of the skyscrapers located in the Financial District...and remember when the World Trade Centers were there. Twenty years ago, I saw them standing tall and blue, glinting in the sun. There is a gaping hole there - and you can see it by finding the cranes. Lisa said, "You would think that if they really wanted to strike a symbol of America, and a symbol of freedom, they would've hit the Statue of Liberty - not some skyscrapers." I responded, "But, they weren't trying to hit a symbol - they were starting a war. Because hitting the Statue of Liberty would've been upsetting - but it wouldn't be terrorism. It wouldn't warrant a retaliation. It wouldn't justify a war. But killing innocent citizens would. ...and it did."

Here are some pictures of us and Lady Liberty...and a few people who wanted to resemble our fave lady!

From there, we headed to Ellis Island. It was fascinating. My great-grandpa, Wilhelm Rohrig, came through Ellis Island in 1902. A year later, my great-grandmother, Katherine, and my great-aunt (who was then 2) came through. I think that they were detained for a few days because they were sick - but I'm not certain on that.

People only spent one day on Ellis. While there, they went through medical inspections (including getting a needle in the eye!). An immigrant needed about $25 (or more) to be admitted - and shouldn't have a job - but should have good prospects of getting a job. You see, America didn't want migrant workers - they wanted people who were going to stay and become an American citizen.

We watched the 45-minute video about the history. It really amazes me to think about what people endured to come here. Even more mind-blowing is to think about where they came from - most from countries where they couldn't trust the government or police - to America, where the people admitting them were truly concerned for their welfare - offering them meals, beds, and even medical care. Only 2% of the people who came to Ellis were not allowed to enter - due to medical concerns or legal issues.
I think my favorite part was the 3rd floor museum. There were artifacts of first-generation Americans - wedding dresses, shoes, quilts, traditional dress, Bibles, hymnals, lace, dishes. I loved finding pieces from Ireland, Denmark, Germany and the Ukraine and imagining that my relatives owned and used similar items. ...I love history. I love tradition. I love family.
Here's some pictures - of 1) Ellis Island; 2) the main hall where people waited in line for hours; 3) some immigrants waiting for admission to America.

Once back on Manhattan, we hit up Wall Street - well, technically Bowling Green. We just wanted to find the "Wall Street Bull." There were so many people waiting to get their picture taken with his head...and not as many with his hindquarters. So, guess where we headed?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Friday in New York

On Thursday, Lisa asked me what the theme for this trip will be since last year's trek to Colorado Springs took on an "Oregon Trail" theme. My first response was...a little to complicated...the reverse of our ancestors trek to America. Today our trip proved that the theme would be "Favorite TV shows" - as we re-enacted or encountered some of the favorite things of NYC TV.

Our day started bright and early outside of the Today show. The Friday concert series was featuring "Black Eyed Peas." The front area is reserved for special guests of the show and artists - not us. And, I wanted to sleep in (you know, till 6!) - so we didn't get "super close" - but we were right outside of Dean & Deluca's...which was recommended as the spot to watch according to my travel guide. It was a fun show and we had a great time with the ladies right in front of us! We had a great view of the back of the stage - the keyboardist, drummer, dancers.... If you check out Lisa's facebook, you can see a video of me dancing.

After that, Jena went to work for the day and we started our day on 5th Ave. We checked out St. Patrick's Cathedral, Nine West (where I got an amazing pair of heels for an even more amazing price!), Tiffany's (looking for Lisa's birthday present) - as we entered we renacted the scene from Sweet Home Alabama, one of the many Trump Towers - where I realized that TWENTY years ago I was in the same place - and where we also rode all the escalators trying to take pictures of ourselves in the many mirrors (cheap fun, okay? money is time!)...and then we hit FAO Schwartz. It was AMAZING! Multiple levels of fun!

It was after noon at this point, and I was feeling a little famished. So, we took my cousin Dave's advice and hit up a street vendor for a pretzel. Good advice about the mustard, Dave! Without it, it would've been really dry. At that point, we realized we were on the edge of Central Park and in front of the Plaza Hotel. But, Central Park wasn't on our list that day, so we headed back down 5th Ave. to Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building and the NY Public Library.

When I say "headed down," I don't mean that GCS was near FAO...we walked about a mile to get to FAO and at least another mile back to get to GCS. Remember: money is time! :) And we weren't gonna waste any of our money, so we had to spend our time (and energy!)

Grand Central Station was really cool. It has amazing architecture. It's really hard to take in the beauty of Chrysler Building when you're underneath it - so, not so impressive. We did shop more, though - hitting up an Ann Taylor Loft and this little handbag shop where Lisa got a heckuva deal.

The New York Library was just 2 blocks from GCS on 5th Ave. I'm gonna say this folks: ignore the "25 things to see" book and just look from the outside. It is a beautiful building; it is also "home" to a lot of homeless during the day. We had quite the encounter with one gentleman in the video room.

By now, the day was getting pretty long. Our NBC tour with Jena kept getting pushed back, so we just kept pushing on. We were hoping for comfy couches at the library and instead got a sockless homeless guy. So, we kept walking and came to an Ann Taylor - where I found a great dress - again, for an even better price!

Finally, we got our NBC Studio tour - and it was worth the wait! We got to see the NBC Nightly News as it was being filmed (from the outside - they don't have a live studio audience); Jimmy Fallon was, like 30 feet, from us because they'd just finished filming his show (so we didn't get to see the studio - but we got to see him!); AND - my highlight - the SNL studio & dressing room. Again, we didn't get to be on the set because they were having a leadership symposium. It was so cool! They had pictures up from skits past lining one hallway and the opposite had pictures from this year's skits. Even better, though, were 3 costumes on display: Jane Curtain's Conehead, Dana Carvey's Church Lady, and Molly Shannon's Mary Katherine Gallagher.

By day's end, we were shot. The TV shows/movies covered today: What Not to Wear (the shopping spree part), BIG (FAO Schwartz), Sweet Home Alabama (Tiffany's), the Today Show and CBS Early Show (which films on the plaza outside FAO).

Here's us with Matt Lauer (I guess he really is this tall in person):

New York, New York

I've been informed that I need to update my blog. Touche.

So, I decided to start with the New York trip - I know it was like 3 weeks ago that Lisa and I were hanging out in the Milwaukee airport. But, as they say - better late than never!

Thursday, June 11

Destination: NYC

We left DSM about noon. Dan drove me to the airport. (Insert "Aww" here.) (After we got to the hotel, Jena asked if Dan drove me to the airport. I said yes and smiled. ...and promptly got made fun of!!)

Lisa and I flew Midwest Airlines. The main reason? Cheap prices, yes - but FRESH CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES! (I know, I'm a sucker for a good deal.)

Our flight to New York was delayed just over an hour. However, when we landed we were informed it'd be a 2 hour delay; later on, it was almost 3 hrs. Then, about 4:55 as Lisa and I were going to grab some dinner, I checked the departure time. It was leaving in 25 minutes! And we had to go back through security!

We made it to the gate with no problems and enjoyed TWO cookies on this flight. Which totally tided us over since we didn't get dinner.

We landed at LaGuardia about 8:20pm. It really reminded me of landing in a foreign country. There were people everywhere (and most didn't look like us), it was warm & humid, and the bathroom signs reminded me of Heathrow.

We actually booked a Midwest Vacation - packaging airfare, hotel and a shuttle to the hotel. Handy, yes. Cheap, yes. Ridiculously long wait to actually get to the hotel? Yes.
But, you get what you pay for. And, time is money - which proved to be the theme of our trip. Maybe if we had more, we would've spent less time getting (waiting) around. :)

We finally got to the hotel at 10:30pm, after a ridiculously long phone conversation with the front desk, seeing a lot of the city (we checked off the United Nations, the New York City post office, Times Square - though, we'd be back, and a lot of other non-descript hotels and apartments), and a lot of laughter. (Jena had been waiting for us around an hour. )

We set off for food - and found a cute little deli/grocer a quick jaunt from the hotel. As old friends do, we spent the next two hours catching up, talking, laughing and munching on puppy chow. :)

All in all, we turned in after 1 am...and Lisa set the alarm for 6!

Our hotel (formerly known as "World Trade Center Marriott") was about a block from the site of the Twin Towers. As we drove by, I thought we were driving through a construction zone. As I looked to my left, I realized that, no - we were driving through a de-struction zone. Three years ago, our program brought students to NYC. We saw the site then, which was just five years since 9/11. Now, it has been eight - and NOTHING has been done. There is still a giant hole in the ground, cranes, rubble. The buidings surrounding the site have been repaired - but, still, no memorial. This blows my mind. The Pentagon has had their memorial prior to 2004. But the site of the most destruction? Nothing. Maybe New York City still feels like it's an open wound, but I think it's time for healing. I think it's time to remove the rubble - the shrapnel, if you will - and allow some green space to cover the gaping hole. Let it be green, and rolling - a place of peace and honor.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I almost called this post "the beautiful letdown," but I didn't...because that would imply that coming home is a letdown from the trip. It's not. I am SO glad to be home; I love Iowa- the space, the sky, the greens and blues and the sunshine...our rural traditions; I love being able to see Dan again; so, it's not a letdown. But, there is an adjustment.

Adjusting back to "real life," to the work schedule, to everyone who didn't just see and experience everything that I did is a process. And for me, part of that process is reflecting back on everything that I saw, felt and did. So, get prepared for some reflective well as the hilarity of our NYC trip.

I had such a wonderful time with my good friends from grade school - Lisa and Jena. We've been classmates since kindergarten; my friendship with Jena really started taking root in 2nd grade and with Lisa in 4th grade. Why do I know this? (Because I'm me)...and that's when I invited each of them to my slumber parties. For me, that was when a person made it into my group - when they passed my friendship test to get an invite to the slumber party. From 4th grade on, our group of friends became the "Regular 6" - the group to be friends with in our class.

We were the smart ones, the jocks, the involved ones, the officers of our class, NHS, FFA, student council...and people wanted to be in the group. People resented us (at times) that they weren't; and after high school, people still felt that we did "Regular 6" things.

What is weird to me is that a) I never felt like I was in the popular crowd; it's not like the "Regular 6" were at all the cool parties ('cause we weren't - in fact, I think only one of us ever actually ended up at a real "party" in high school - and that was the one that got busted!); it's not like a "Regular 6" was the student council president, senior class president or even Homecoming Queen (although, we did have 2 on court - but, seriously, not one of us was keeping track of this stuff as a "regular 6" clique type of thing). In fact, in high school and even junior high, we were friends, even better friends with girls outside of the 6.

...but there's something about us that keeps us together...that binds us.

I don't know what it is; it's not a pair of magical pants that keep us bound to each other. I don't know what it was - the Dirty Dancing dance sessions, the years of shared laughter, the time we spent together in Sunday school/youth group/confirmation, the time on the sports fields or sporting FFA jackets...and even in those moments, we weren't always together. But The 6 are tight. We know each other - even after months of separation we pick up where we left off and we make new memories. We are an amazing friendship group. Throughout the years, our friendships with each other ebb and flow. Sometimes I'm closer to Jina or Jena or Lisa or Lindsay or Allisha understands what I'm going through better...individually, we ebb and flow. But as a group, we are tight. As a group, we are strong. As a group, we survive and support each other.

It really is amazing to me. How blessed I am to have my group! I am so thankful for God's amazing provision of friendship to me through this group of women. Who knew twenty years ago that we would last like this? This group who knows me, accepts me, challenges me and loves me faithfully and loyally. It is such a gift from God. Oh, I hope that whenever, if ever, I have a daughter (or more) that she is blessed with such a group from an early age.

Oh, how I love them! How I long for the next time that we are together! How I miss them when I touchdown to my real life. ...and then I get back into my life and forget to call or write; until the next time when we pick right back up.

Ah, God is so good to us.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tupelo Honey

I'm a big fan of Van Morrison, right now.
I'm especially fond of "Tupelo Honey."
I just love the lyrics, the relaxed beat and his soulful voice.
Ah, it's nice.

When I was in Savannah, I saw a store that sold Tupelo honey.
They also sold honey lattes, which I am a big fan of.
Alas, I did not get one. I guess I'll just have to enjoy the song for now.

She's as sweet as Tupelo honey;
she's an angel of the first degree;
she's as sweet as Tupelo honey -
just like honey, baby, from the bees.

(this post is a lot like a deep thought by Jack Handy)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Seize the day!

So, I had my first experience ever visiting someone in the ER today.

It all began when I got a call in my office from the Animal Science Department secretary.
She had Dan's dad on the line; he wanted to speak with me. At first I thought, "What? Why would he want to speak with me? And why would he be patched from Animal Science? Maybe he's calling about misquoting him in my editorials to save Extension. Crap. I should've asked him." (Man, I had a lot of thoughts.)
Then he began, "Hello, Jessica. Dan is in the ER."
"What?" Talk about a sentence to call you from "your" world and "your" potential problems.
"Yes, he apparently passed out in the lab and he was taken by ambulance to the ER."

Uh, okay. His dad was very calm on the phone, which caused me to not freak out. (Yea Dean!)
I mean, he was conscious now.... In fact, his dad was so relaxed that I wasn't really sure if it was necessary for me to go check on him. However, if the tables were reversed, I would definitely want Dan there - no matter how trivial. (But, really - how "trivial" is a trip to the ER?!)

So, the story goes like this: Dan was working in the lab and felt light-headed. He made a strange grunt/groan - alerting the only other guy in the lab that something was wrong. He then slumped over and fell to the ground (but it sounds like it was sort of slow-motion). He bit his tongue (hard - but not in half as his dad feared) and was out for 15 minutes.

Weird, I know. Anyway, he appears to be fine; his CT scan and bloodwork were all normal. Praise God! Thank God for his protection - Dan could have been at the farm...and then no one would've seen it; it could've happened at 6 when he first got there - and then he would've been alone.... But, he wasn't. Please continue to pray for him. He meets with a neurologist tomorrow. The doctor today didn't seem to think anything was really wrong; sometimes, this just happens. Let's pray that this is just a one-time thing!

It was really neat to see how concerned people in the An Sci department were. So many people showed genuine concern and helped out...or stopped by...or called. It was nice.

We just never know what a day will hold.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Too much

You know what's hard about life? Living. Caring. Loving. Giving.
You know what's scary about life? Living. Caring. Loving. Giving.

Why? Because it requires us to give ourselves. Not our money. Not our time. Not our intelligence. (well, it does actually require all of those things) But to the greatest extent, it requires our hearts. To live: to care, to give, to love - we've got to expose our heart to the scariest thing of all: death, rejection, hurt, wanting something so much and not getting it.
But if we don't, we risk never living. Never experiencing the greatest thrill of all...being cared for, receiving, being loved...being alive.

I don't consider myself to be a brave woman by nature. But, by the grace of God, through His power, may I live unafraid...staring fear in the face and going for what will require all of me.
I don't want to get to the end of my life and say, "You know, I really wish I would've stood up for what I cared about. I really wish I would've spoken when I had the chance." I don't want to say, "Sorry; but, what could I have really done? My one voice didn't really matter much. Who am I to speak? Sorry, God, but I didn't realize you created me with power." Rather, who am I not to?

At church this weekend, I was approached by two older women who read my editorial. (my letter to President Geoffroy) And they both say, "Jessica, what can we do? I can't believe that this happening in Iowa - and it makes me just sick. Will your letter really make a difference?" After getting President Geoffroy's response, I don't know that it will make a difference. I wonder if all my passion and zeal to "save Extension" is just hot air and ridiculous...and I hear these women ask in earnestness, "What will it do? What can be done?" And I can't believe that no one will listen to them, to me...that nothing can be done. That we can have something so important ripped out of our hands without any one standing up.

It just can't be the end. ...and I am so afraid that it will be...that the effort will be in vain.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I feel as though I've needed an outlet to express what I've been learning or found interesting. Truth be told, I haven't had a "people" outlet to discuss novel things in the Word - and I miss that. (Yes, I've got Connection group and 180 - but I'm referring to things learned "on my own time.") I learn by discussing, so here's me talking:

Last night at 180, we were discussing the choice you will make: will you choose to either serve the Lord or the gods of your forefathers/the gods of the Amorites? (Joshua 24) Joel used the 3 chairs illustration: 1) born-again, on-fire believer - hot; 2) a "Christian", but has one foot in the world and one foot at church - lukewarm; 3) wants nothing to do with Christ - cold. As he continued, though, he said that Chair 2 isn't an option. In life, you can't be Chair 2 - it's either hot or cold. Lukewarm isn't an option. Then he took us to Revelation 3:15.

3:14 - 18: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 - 20: Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
21: To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Honestly, lukewarm is an option. I think our students confuse the chairs with whether you are in Christ or not - saved or not. And you can't be half-saved; you either are or you are not. ...but you can be lukewarm. The church in these verses has become lukewarm because it no longer is dependent on Christ; it's become trusts in its abilities to provide for itself and acquire wealth/prosperity. It has lost connection with the Head - with Jesus. Who among us hasn't wandered into this area of unbelief in our walk?

"You don't reliaze that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." Did this church become self-righteous? Yes. Do I become self-righteous? Oh, more than I would like to admit! More than I would like to admit! If dating Dan has revealed to me only one thing about myself it is that I am self-righteous. I so want to elevate myself - into what I have done or not. In v15 Jesus says, "I know your deeds - but you aren't hot or cold." So, it's not that this church wasn't doing anything (good or bad) - but, that isn't the point. Jesus wants our heart not our works!

In v18, he counsels us to buy from him gold refined in fire - so that we may be rich; to buy from him white clothes - so that we could be clothed; salve - so that we could see. He is asking us to go deeper in our trust, in our walk with Him. He is asking me to spend more time with Him and to ASK. To ask for the refinement - which will come in the form of a trial, most likely (1 Peter) - but the result is that we will be rich!

He is asking to come in to our hearts. (v20) Jesus loves the lukewarm church - that is why he is spitting them out of his mouth. He wants them to recognize that they need Him! And they don't need to work harder(v15) - they need to open the door of their hearts (v20). He is asking for us to surrender and let Him be the God of our lives, the Lord of our heart.

As I examine my life, I need to open the door more. That's the deal with this lukewarm-business, I don't think it's a one-time thing. It is a continual process where we submit to Jesus. The promise, though, is the right to sit with Jesus on the throne! Can you imagine? We, who were lukewarm - who were going to be spit out - we get to sit on the throne if we only surrender to the Lord Jesus.

That's pretty awesome.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


I am having a profound, "What the crap?!" moment right now. In fact, that statement doesn't even come close to describing the sadness and anger that I am experiencing right now. Not even close.

I just received a notice from my county Extension director that her job has been eliminated.
And not just her job - no, ALL ONE HUNDRED county Extension director positions in the ENTIRE STATE OF IOWA have now been ELIMINATED. In addition to the loss of 100 Extension directors are 5 area directors. There will be additional cuts across the board to state staff and programs. The five focus areas will be reduced to three.

I am pissed off right now. Why? Because Extension programs made me who I am; because the woman you know as Jessica Rohrig was shaped by Extension programs; because I know that I would not be where I am today without the support, encouragement and guidance provided to me by my County Extension Director. I am not over-exaggerating these comments. I know who I was, and I know who I am.

Without 4-H, I would not have stepped out of my shell. Yes, 4-H is a local program...but without our county council, I would not have stepped out into leadership positions. Without Deb Hall, there would be no Speak Out For Agriculture program where I could interact with youth from other counties to plan educational (and fun!) career-based experiences, as well as develop the confidence to approach professionals working in the agricultural industry. Without Deb Hall, I would not have applied for area and state awards. Working with Deb Hall, I had the opportunity to ensure the continuation of the Southwest Iowa Area Council - an avenue which further increased my confidence in who I was and what I had to offer as an individual and as a leader. Without Deb Hall, I would not have pursued my Master's degree... I most certainly would never have chosen my intended field as Ag Education with an emphasis on Extension, if I had not had the opportunity to learn from and alongside her.

Deb Hall changed my life. She saw potential in me that I could only have dreamt of existing. She put in countless hours molding and shaping me into the leader that I am today. I know that she would never to make such claims and would be humbled by my boldness to assert that she is the reason. By the grace of God, He allowed me to know her. By the grace of God, He gave her wisdom and insight to know when to encourage the timid girl that I was.

Why am I pissed off at this decision to cut ALL Extension directors? It is not because my mentor and friend is losing her job. It is because my heart breaks that future 4-Hers will not have the opportunity to experience this same thing. I know that I am not an exceptional case. I know that in every county, there are countless stories of youth growing into expectional men and women, leaders in their counties and state because an Extension director invested in their lives.

I am mad that our society values the investment in our youth so little. I am mad that we will spend billions to "stimulate the economy" and pour billions into the auto industry and Fannie Mae and Freddie mac, while the future of our state quietly gets cut from the budget. People say over and over again that the youth are the future. Well, why don't we start investing in what works for change? Why don't we invest in people? Why don't we allow what has worked for over a century to continue to do so?

Land-grant institutions were created to bring education to the people - to the common folk - to the farmers and the housewives. Extension was the primary vehicle for this delivery. It makes no sense to remove the state's connection to the people - the County Director - in order to save a few dollars. It is the people who live in these counties who know how to best serve their people. It is the people at the state level who are disconnected. Extension was a beautiful picture of grass-roots...and recently, this has been marred by a lot of top-down, beaurucratic decisions.

Today's announcement says that more control will go to the counties. No, it won't. Today's announcement promises to be good for Iowa and for the future. Well, it will be good for high population centers. But, for those of us growing up in rural Iowa - for those of us who live in counties where the population is diminishing - well, we'll see diminished service. So much for growing the economies or the populations in these areas. So much for serving ALL of the people. Tell me, how will that be good for Iowa? How will it be good for those youth?

What the crap.

While a sophomore in high school, our county was working to pass a referendum to increase the property tax by $0.01 to support Extension programs. Alongside many volunteers, I helped to promote this effort by going door to door, talking to people and handing out stickers. It was from this effort that I began to value grass-roots efforts. It was from this endeavor that I learned that people can bring about positive changes - that people have a role to play in what happens to them - that people have power! FROM EXTENSION! As a 16-year-old, I learned that I have a responsibility for what happens to me...and some adults have yet to learn this.

Something has to be done. We cannot just sit back and allow a small committee to make a decision that essentially affects the entire state of Iowa. I don't know what can be done or even where to start - but I know that we can - and must - do something. This is our time to speak up. If we don't, no one will. We are the ones who have been shaped and changed by Extension, we must stand up to preserve it. If you're interested in joining me, let me know.

Monday, March 30, 2009

When March Went Mad...

Did you know that March "Madness" officially began 30 years ago?
Until dating Dan, I had no idea. It all began when the Michigan State Spartans faced off in the championship against the Indiana State Sycamores. Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird. April 2, 1979.
The most-watched championship game (at that time)...

I've gotta say that one of the most fun things (for me) in dating Dan has been getting back into sports again. For those of you yet to meet him, let me give you a quick intro: he loves sports. LOVES MSU and all things Spartan. (and it's really not an understatement) ...and he likes the Cyclones. And when it comes to random sports trivia, facts about players, mascots of various colleges and in minor & major leagues of sports...he's got a mind like a steel-trap.

Back in the day, I loved watching basketball. In upper elementary, middle & high school, and into college, I watched March Madness like it was going out of style. I remember the Chris Webber foul-up when he called time-out with none left, the Grant Hill to Christian Laettner pass resulting in his turn-around jumper (mainly because I was at the Lilly's and said, "That sucks." Debbie Lilly promptly reminded me that we don't use that kind of language.) ...watching ISU men play with my loyal Cylcones Jina & Allisha (and eating some make-shift puppy-chow with granulated sugar instead of powdered), watching the ISU women beat UConn to advance to the Elite 8 while spring-breakin' it at Lake Panorama, and even making an effort to watch ESPN in Costa Rica in 2000 when our men made their storied journey to the Sweet Sixteen. (which was ended, interestingly enough, by MSU. But whatev, no hard feelings now, right?)

And then I stopped. Cold-turkey. I'm not sure why; probably because I didn't have friends that valued watching sports. Plus, I probably thought Jesus didn't want us wasting our lives on sports. (Which is partly true; I mean, "It is seek first the kingdom of God" not "the kingdom of sports.") However, when you know that sports isn't life, but understand that sports can make life enjoyable & interesting (oh yeah, and that life is about God & oriented around Him first) - I think it's all right to partake in some Madness, now & again.

And, you know what? I like it! and I really like following the games with Dan. So, I will cheer my little heart out tonight for the Cyclone women as they take on Stanford & I'll be cheering like crazy on Saturday night for the Spartans (especially Goran & Lucious!).

I am SpartaClone. GO STATE!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I think I'm in love....

Wait for it...
wait for it....

Nope, it's not what you're thinking. =)
I think I'm in love with northwestern Wyoming. I'm in Powell, Wyoming for my second-cousin Julie's wedding. And I LOVE IT!
I am surrounded by mountains on three sides and wide open spaces stretching as far as I can see. My heart breathes out here. Big, deep breaths of satisfaction, wonder and peace.
The last two mornings I've stepped out of the house where we're staying and drank in the golden sunlight illuminating the plains contrasted against a gorgeous blue sky.
Beyond that, this is one adorable little town. I've been working on my research proposal in a coffee shop the last couple days...and I'm love with this place, too. =) I've sat in front of a big front window with a table all to myself while people come and go and chat around me. If you know me, this is my ideal study environment!
Have I mentioned the friendly people? This morning while preparing to begin work, I had two great conversations with random strangers. One guy even gave me a free personality assessment. After our short conversation, he said, "You're outgoing; you're still figuring out what you want in life; you're smart. I can tell by your handshake that you don't like two things: B.S.ers and liars. I also know that you know how to establish boundaries and you don't let just any one come in too close to you."

Yeah, I could live here. =)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Daylight Savings

Daylight Savings time came to Orient on Sunday, March 8, 2009.
Daylight Savings time came to Sabrina Elizabeth (my car - the Fusion SE) on Sunday, March 8, 2009.
Daylight Savings time came to Rachel's house on March 8, 2009.
Daylight Savings time did not come to Jessica's room on March 8, 2009.
In fact, it barely came on March 9, 2009!

I went to bed like everything was normal last night. I set my alarm for 6:15 and thought nothing of it. When Rachel got up at 6:15, I thought to myself, "Good for Rach! She's going to work out!" Instead, she started getting ready for work. I thought to myself, "Good for Rach! She's going to work early today! ...kind of a bummer for me because I still have to get ready."
I went downstairs (thinking that it was 6:25) - when in fact, the stove said 7:25. I honestly thought, "Huh, the clocks are an hour ahead." I really truly thought that we had gone backwards for a moment! ...then the truth hit me. As well as the truth that I was now under the gun to get into work on time!

I got here by 8:25. That included making the bus by 8:06 and stopping at Caribou for coffee & a bagel. The really good news? Caribou is offering free shots of espresso in EVERY drink today & tomorrow!

I think I'm a fan of Daylight Savings time. least until the caffeine buzz wears off. =)