TWENTY!

Twenty years ago you and I begin this journey together and here we are with you entering a new decade of life.  As we sat at the table this year and I remembered your birth story I thought about how afraid I felt.  Scared that I would mess you up, that I wouldn't be enough, that you wouldn't be proud to be my daughter.  I remember sending your Dad a page when I was headed to the hospital.  I drove myself and checked in and he came running in shortly thereafter.  We sat in that hospital room unaware of just how much your little six pound self would impact our lives.  I can say with confidence today that in that moment that you made me a Mama I have never felt more.  More everything.  The feeling has been multiplied but never the same.  We became a family that day.  Thing 1, I hope you know just how proud I am of you; That I love you more than you will ever know or understand.  I am certain that I have made mistakes, messed some things up and hurt you.  I also know that you are a gift from our heavenly Father and you are His before you are mine and there is peace in that for both of us.  So as we move into this year of 20 let's recall all the ways He has been faithful in your year of 19.  

A graduation from Kairos in Seattle.  A solid 6 months of new and change and learning how to navigate that.  New jobs.  It took a couple that didn't quite fit to find just the right one.  A venture into the collegiate world at Nashville State.  Two semesters in and dare I say that you have enjoyed learning in a new way?  A new car.  Purchased all on your own.  More adulting and weighty decisions made.  You are becoming and unbecoming all at the same time.  An avid researcher and seeker of knowledge.  Pushing boundaries and testing the waters, crafting words to share and teach.  Moving beyond the surface in your own way.  Looking for justice and mercy in a world that doesn't always look like that.  You've been reading all manner of books and underlining pages and that brings your word loving Mama such joy.  You have a way with little ones and it is evident in the stories you tell about your "boys", the two that you nanny.  You're never one to shy away from speaking the truth and offering a different perspective.  You love the urban life, you crave art and creativity and diversity, and you enjoy adventuring to find those things.  All characteristics that have shown through more so this past year.  Keep being you, no one else can.  Again I say what a holy privilege it is to witness as your Mama.  Always and forever your biggest supporter.  Always and forever your champion.  

Here is my prayer for you in this upcoming year, a gift in and of itself.  Don't forget: You are loved and adored by a creator who knit you together in my womb, knew you before you entered the world, numbered your days and knows exactly how many beautiful curls are on your head.  As always I pray for wisdom and discernment as you make choices and decisions moving forward.  I pray for your heart, that it is guarded and protected, held carefully, yet I pray you love in big and small ways. I hope and pray that when you don't know where else to turn you press in heavy to Jesus.  Even when He seems silent or distant, He is there.  Always.  Waiting for you, pursuing you and loving you first.  I pray for truth tellers and Jesus lovers to walk into the doorway of your life.  I hope for your strong friendships rooted, deep and steadfast.  I pray for opportunities to have courage and be brave.  Taking a risk for the kingdom is always worth it.  I pray that when the cost is steep that you still say yes.  I pray you know when to say no and that your motivation is pure.  I pray 20 is the best year yet.

You, beautiful daughter of mine, made me a Mama and I thank you for that gift.
Happy 20th birthday my Sunshine Girl.


Israel...Day Five

And now for the most physically challenging day in Israel.  Masada.  The snake path trail.  The students had been gearing up for this for a few days.  Mentally preparing, sharing pep talks and placing bets, or maybe challenging one another according to capabilities.  Have I mentioned how hot it was while we were there?  I have lived in Arizona and the heat we experienced was oppressive.  Not to mention we were scheduled to be climbing a mountain.  Not too long before our trip a young tourist had fallen off the mountain and had a horrific accident due to the climbing conditions, namely the extreme weather.  The authorities were quite cautious and for a few brief moments we were actually told we would not be able to climb.  Our trusty guide, Aahron, was able to speak with the powers that be and we were allowed to hike.  Here is such a metaphor for my life.  Maybe you can relate?  We began our walk to the beginning of the trail, part way up the small-ish hill we realized that we were going the wrong way.  Thankfully not too long of a detour but a detour nonetheless.  Quickly down the hill and towards the start of the path we went.  I was laughing to myself all the while thinking, why didn't we see the sign?  How did we walk right past that?  Who is in charge here?  Where was the guide?  Oh wait, I was the guide.  Or something to that effect.  I let the group down.  We laughed about our mishap but it was one of those where you think to yourself, "I should have known better".  Essentially it was not a huge ordeal but after the fact, since I've had time to process I know there is something more there.  Similar to the experience the day before at Bethsaida.  Around every corner a lesson waiting to be learned.  Blaze a new trail.  Do not fear.  Pay attention.  Go your own way but know that I will redirect you how I see fit(as heard in my best Jesus voice).  Wink, wink.  So here we go, the hike.  My darling Thing 2 ran ahead with her buddies, racing to the top in break neck speed.  I had aspirations of being there with her, side by side but the Lord had an alternative plan.  That was in the back of the group, bringing up the rear.  Hmmm.  I morphed into a cheerleader of sorts.  Shouting my best "you can do it's" up the hill to the young ladies in front of me.  Offering water and encouraging us to make it up the next set of steps before we paused for a break and photo op.  This was tough.  The heat was oppressive, I worried about those in my charge and I just prayed.  And then when we were close enough to the top I heard voices.  No, I hadn't lost my mind.  Students that had already completed the path were at the top shouting down words of praise and encouragement, championing their peers.  This will go down in the books as one of my most favorite memories.  That was a picture of a generation rising.  Celebrating each other, rooting until the very last one crossed the finish line and holding one another up when they weren't able to make it on their own.  Wow.  I was floored.  Surprised and moved to tears.

On the way up.

We did it!

Israeli Flag, tall and proud.

Me and my Israel roomie, happy to be at the top! 

And again, what are we doing with our hands?  I'm just not sure, either way, we climbed Masada, enough said.

That was the climb.  From there we walked the "stronghold", that is the Hebrew translation for Masada and it is the place where David fled Saul.  I can certainly understand why.  The view is something otherworldly.  Overlooking the entire valley and secure, hidden and seemingly safe.  Until it wasn't.  We had quite the view of the Dead Sea.  Here are a few stats regarding the Sea, in case you are unaware as I was;
1. the sea is formed from the Jordan River and other small streams
2. it is 50 miles long and 10 miles wide
3. it's shores are 1300 feet below sea level
4. the deepest point of the sea is 1300 feet
5. the fresh water evaporates, thus leaving the salinity and mineral content at 25%
6. the water in the sea is 30% heavier than ocean water
So there's that.  Thus explaining the health spas and resorts that have begun to spring up around the area.  There are supposed health benefits in the mud and waters here, not to mention the area is pollen free.

Alright, moving on the En Gedi Springs and Oasis.  We rode the bus down the road to the oasis that David wrote about in the Psalms.  Unassuming and hidden from plain sight one would not know that there were water falls, lush greenery and a welcome respite from the heat behind the rocks and hills.  I heard the rushing water before we actually saw it.   The Psalms began to take shape, assuming a life of their own and it was breathtakingly beautiful.  I dipped my head in the waterfall and it was more than refreshing.  It was such a welcome reprieve from the oppressive heat and demanding environment.

The Springs.

And Israeli soldiers, standing guard.  There were loads of soldiers at En Gedi and my girl in particular was quite intrigued by them.  She boldly walked right up to them and asked for a photo.  Of course.  Then the other girls joined in too.  Because soldiers.  

On our way to En Gedi.

Our day was not over just yet.  From the desert oasis to the tent of Abraham.  What a journey.  An educational tourist site and the place where I would ride a camel, not once but twice.  Also the place where I experienced one of the most memorable meals while in Israel.  The intent of this special place is to transport it's visitors back to the days of Abraham and Abraham himself welcomes you once you have dismounted from your camel.  He opened his tents to us, brought in the best food, the most comfortable pillows and we sat around his tables.  Listening to his stories, viewing the desert surrounding us all while I allowed the sounds and smells to carry me to another time.  The food.  Oh the food, it was a feast for the senses.   It is safe to say that we all had quite the appetite after our hike that morning.

The feast in Abraham's Tent.

Camel riding buddies.

My first camel ride with Jessica.  

And my second camel ride, with Laura, my roomie.  

Well hello there.

Our bus ride to the hotel was a quiet one that afternoon.  Everyone processing the days activities and sights.  We entered Jerusalem and made our way around the windy streets to our hotel, home base for the next few days.

Post dance party in the hall.  Just the three of us, myself, Laura and Thing 2.  We celebrated Anson's 18th birthday and when the room cleared we returned for an after hours dance party and booty shake. Needless to say we needed to be hydrated for said activities.  It was a good, good day.  

Israel...Day Four

Today began with a morning run through the city streets of Tiberias.  Again, I watched the city wake up.  On the docket today, a wooden boat, which reminded me somewhat of the smaller gullets we saw in Turkey.  The waters were calm that morning and our captain attempted to cast a net and retrieve fish from the water.  Similar to how Jesus and His disciples would have done it so many years ago.  I walked along the benches on the boat, pausing to peer over the edge, trying to look down into the water and imagine.  I allowed my mind to float away and picture Jesus on this very water.  Calming the waves.  Reaching out for Peter.  Standing on the water.  Alive.  Here, in this very place.  I mean, how does one even begin?  It was here, around this water that Jesus’ ministry began.  Tiberias, Capernaum, these cities were the hometowns of Peter, James, Andrew, John and Matthew.  They are described at great lengths in the Gospels.  And me, well I was able to walk there too.  I swam in the water.  I ran the modern day roads built upon these historical places.  When we crossed the lake, we went on shore at a museum, one that housed a boat they believe to be dated to Jesus’ time, over 2000 years old.  It had been found buried under water, completely preserved.  The entire process to excavate and rebuild the boat took over 9 years.  Remarkable.  And we were able to see it, walk around it and watch a video on exactly where this important piece of history was found, how they went about dating the wood and then the preservation of the vessel.  From here we traveled to the Jordan River where some members of our group were baptized.  I dipped my toes in the water and mostly just let the tears flow as I watched.  Never fails.  I was in the singing mood today, on the bus and at the river, I hummed worship tunes and clapped wildly as our friends emerged from the water a new creation.  We traveled to Best Shean, the place where King Saul was beheaded, a town where excavations have unearthed eighteen different cities and the place where in 749AD an earthquake completely destroyed the city.  We walked the streets, shouted in the amphitheatre and imagined what life would have been like with the shop fronts restored and open, the mosaics intact and the pillars standing tall.  Or at least that is what I did.  And I watched.  I watched the young adults run from ruin to ruin exploring.  Lunch was served by a small falafel stand nearby and today I distinctly remember ice cream treats following said lunch.  Maybe because it was especially warm this day or maybe because I love Magnum bars, either way it was enjoyable.  Again we had a bus ride to our next destination, Qumran, the desert mountains that hid the Dead Sea Scrolls until their discovery centuries later.  Never mind the heat, we saw the exact place where they were brought up into the light.  Let the weight of that sink in just a bit.  And then the Dead Sea.  Our hotel was gorgeous, more of a resort than a hotel.  Gorgeous grounds, a pool, gym and access to the Dead Sea, not more than 100 steps from door to sand.  The salt mounds that collect in the sea could be seen on our drive but I do not think that any justice was done to this body of water.  It is unlike anything I have experienced before.  Salty, yes, but the water was this mesmerizing shade of blue-green.  I stepped in and then turned and floated.  Yes, floated in knee deep, rather warm water.  Mud from the "floor" was strategically placed in buckets and quickly became something like war paint and then once photos were taken washed off and the floating continued.  This afternoon was filled with down time and journaling, quiet time and pool antics, a work out and moonlight walk.  It was this night that I witnessed an Israeli fighter jet pass over. Actually I heard it before I saw it and by the time I looked up I was just an afterthought.  At home I've heard it said that the sound of the fighter jest is the sound of freedom, here I'm not certain what the people would call that.  Later in the night I would be visited by Thing 2 and a group of her friends performing a Jewish dance in our hotel room.  That is something I won't soon forget.  Seems they made friends at the hotel and wanted to share in their joy!  And isn't that a piece of travel as well;  Experiencing life with the locals, learning about their lives, their celebrations, their routines and rituals.  I do believe so.  

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."
Hebrews 6:19

View from the boat

2000 year old boat, excavated from the Sea of Galilee

Jumping for joy at the Jordan River

Beit Shean

Qumran

The Dead Sea...as seen from the bus

Floating!  

Moon rise over the Dead Sea


The Baby is 15: This One's For Him

You've done it.  My boy has gone and turned 15, had another birthday and grown a few inches taller.  Five to be exact.  You're catching up to Dad.  Reminding me of your height at every opportunity.  Picking me up bending down when you give me my morning hug.  Tall and more man like than baby.  Shaving for the first time this year.  Camping out alone in the woods.  Landing a job at the local rock climbing gym.  That story is one for the books.  You were being you and helping a younger than you kiddo.  Your kindness was noticed and the next thing you know the  manager was handing you an application and scheduling an interview for you.  Well done.  That is character shining through.  This summer you were baptized.  In a lake at JAM camp.  An opportunity was given to you for a tryout with Sporting KC youth academy in Kansas City.  We spent almost a week there while you trained with the team, walked the locker room and stretched in the weight room.  Experiencing all the amenities of a top notch program.  In the end there wasn't an opening to be filled by you on the squad but you held your head high and allowed the experience to motivate and spur you on.  I'd be lying if I said my Mama's heart didn't feel that defeat every bit as deep.  I see you come alive on that pitch.  Leading and encouraging.  Learning.  I saw loads of that while you played your first season with Middle TN Fire.  Whenever I saw your teammates huddled with arms draped over each other's shoulders I knew you were learning a lesson far more important than any footie match could teach you.  I'm grateful for those moments.  Those boys that lead and taught you.  New friendships have been made in this last year.  You joined a new youth group, began a new discipleship relationship and started high school.  Still home schooling, for now.  Still training in the mornings, only now you drive away with a friend often times.  There are moments when I can not wrap my brain around that one.  You learned some magic tricks this year and at every family gathering you would perform for us.  Cards, straws, coins, you name it and it became a prop for your slide of hands.  I even considered giving you school credit for your newly learned skills.  Mostly due to the amount of time you invested in learning said tricks.  You also traveled to Cali for your week with Poppi and Nani, where you spent the week surfing, deep sea fishing and making memories with family.  14 was a big year for you.

Baptism with Pastor Travis- Summer 2016

On the pitch in Savannah, GA - Fall 2016

And yet, you are still just as tender hearted and silly as ever.  Thing 4, I pray this year of 15 is full of hope and wonder.  Adventures rooted in Jesus and chasing hard after His call on your life.  I pray for humility, you do know that is the mark of the best kind of leader.  I pray for love, big and bold and an attitude of gratitude for this one precious life you've been given.  I say it every year, it is a holy privilege to be your Mama.  Truly.  Fifteen holds so much for you, I believe that.  Let's walk this journey together. Sharing.  Communicating.  Laughing.  Finding the magic in the everyday and being present together.  Praying big prayers.  Standing in the messy and hard side by side, finding strength in Jesus.  You don't always like our reasons or answers but I promise there is reasoning behind it all.  Especially the "no's".  Our words hold weight and when we speak them I pray they bring life to you.  Encouragement.  Courage.  You are stepping into man-hood.  I pray that you understand the meaning of that.  You have had some great examples to witness.  I pray you know that it is healthy to cry.    Healthy to feel deeply.  Healthy to allow others to see that in you.   I pray that you live out Jesus' definition of man and not the worlds.  I pray fervently for your future.  For the responsibilities you have now and those that lie ahead.  I pray that you understand the value of every person you encounter.  I pray you know how to say no and when to say yes and you respect others' decisions for the same.  I pray that you bring peace and unity to your generation.  I pray that your strength continues to flow from the Holy Spirit within you.  I pray and prophetically speak discernment and wisdom to fill you.  At all times.  I pray for forgiveness and grace for you.  I pray that when you make a mistake you admit it.  When you fail, you remember that it is just the beginning.  And I pray your ears are open and your mouth closed when necessary.  I pray this year of 15 is remarkable in an unforgettable way, Thing 4.  I love you so much more than you know.

Happy, happy birthday Thing 4!

Machu Pichu xo

Israel...Day Three (but really day 4 and also Father's Day)



(I must state here that my order of events may not be accurate, as in we were on and off the bus so many times, for so many days, I am simply rereading my journal entries and phone notes and trying to compile the best of my memories and take aways from this beyond amazing trip, thanks for your grace.)

This morning was nothing short of magical.  We woke early, like before the sun early in hopes that God would be showing off for us over the Sea of Galilee.  No surprise, He did.  I witnessed our group of students gather together on a concrete jetty, the very one we had jumped off of the day before, and worship our Creator.  That sun rose, big and bright over the horizon.  Casting a glow on the body of water below it.  Ombre pinks and yellows lighting up the sky before us.  And meanwhile we stood there mouths gaping and in awe of the sight.  It was worth fighting the sleepy eyes to witness this.  



Students.

Barely peeking over the horizon.

 The Mount of Beatitudes.  Walking on to this holy site caused pause in my soul.  We took time to reflect, read through the passage and pray, allowing the Holy Spirit to invade us with His presence.  And that He did.  Other than the sounds of nature surrounding us, there was only silence.  No faces behind phones or cameras, no small talk, no lecturing or scripture references, my Bible open, the hills in front of me and quiet.  Stillness and space to process just how sacred Jesus’ words are, in the place where they were delivered.  Our time in that place set a tone for the rest of my travels throughout Israel.  If I could only remember to call upon that holy place and allow the spirit to invade me as he did there.  While sitting on a bench overlooking the valley below I read and reread the Sermon.  I squinted my eyes shut and maybe even rocked back and forth.  I know, I can't even imagine what that must have looked like.  I was not concerned with that or anything else.  It was me and the Holy Spirit and Jesus up there on that hill.  Communing.  I didn't journal or type or take a picture.  And then I walked, alone, and prayed.  This.  I tried to ignore the Catholic church that was built there.  Looked past the people I was passing.  Shut everything out but His words and I felt them.  To my core. This was a sacred space.  



Mosaic and my toes.  Proof.

I could have stayed on that hill for the rest of the day, but no, there was more to see, more places to go.  So we did.  Onward to Tel Dan.  A nature walk through the Northern most city of Israel in the Old Testament.  This city runs on the headwaters of the Jordan River and is beautiful, filled with plant life and archaeological surprises around every corner.  Again, a recent discovery of an altar built to offer a golden calf for worship by Jeroboam stood waiting to tell it's secrets.  Around the corner, city walls, made of basalt stones, from approximately the 4th millennial.  Just think about that for a moment.  I stood staring, mouth wide open I'm sure, at exactly what was before me.  I am certain we could have spent all day dissecting these walls and all they represent.  


Entrance to the Reserve.


City Gate.

Onward.  To Caesarea Philippi.  The northern most site of Jesus' ministry and a site that had a heavy atmosphere to it.  A population of Druze live in the area, an off shoot branch of Islam.  Previously this land had been used as a place for sacrificial offerings to Baal. When the Greeks took the land they dedicated it to Pan; The god from which the story of Peter Pan was taken.  Caesarea was not my favorite place.  I walked alone on the grounds and wandered off the paths.  And while it was beautiful a sense of darkness hung over the structures and I couldn't shake it.  Enough said about that.  


Looking up into the hills.

Now Capernaum; The center of Jesus' ministry and the hometown of Peter, James, Andrew, John and Matthew.  The city itself is an open air museum with a reconstructed ruin of a synagogue dating from the 2nd-4th century AD.  It's importance during Jesus' time was mostly due to it's access to the Via Marais, essentially the main trade route.  To the east there Gentiles and on the West the Jews.





Bethsaida was yet another stop on our itinerary and one of 350 villages in the Galilee area.    It is on the West side of Tiberias and the hometown of Peter, Andrew and Philip.  A blind man was healed here, as told in Mark 8:22.


Our last stop of the day was the Church of Peter of Primacy.  There is a chapel on site that was built in 1933 to mark the place where our Risen Savior appeared to His disciples.  It is the place where Peter was commissioned to go and feed His lambs.  We sat on the concrete steps and listened to the students read a selected passage, we walked into the chapel and along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. I imagined what it most have felt like for the disciples to see Jesus, with piercings on his hands and feet, walking towards them.  Or Peter, being asked how much he loved His master.  And then the way Jesus answers.  Profound and telling of  three different kinds of love and the response necessary.  This church also happens to be the place where I left my Bible.  All because I was attempting to get the best angle for our group photo using the Sea of Galilee as our backdrop.  I didn't realize it until we were boarded on the bus and ready to head out.  Surprisingly I did not feel remorse about this, no angst or sadness.  I knew it was left behind for a reason.  For someone else, hopefully.  




And that marks the end of this day.  Back to the hotel on the Sea of Galilee for the night.



Scraped Together...(Some lost thoughts from a couple years ago)

Some thoughts here that I've been attempting to piece together for a while.  Lots of journal pages and chicken scratched notes laying around.  Tucked in my Bible, scribbled on the back of receipts.  Reeling through my mind on walks and runs and bike rides.  Waking me up when I'm asleep.  Being wrestled with and crossed out and re-worked.  And most likely still not making sense but still weighing on my heart.  Knocking on the door, wanting out.  Wanting a space of their own.  This happens to be that space.  Here goes.

A few weeks ago a dear friend and I sat in a room, waiting to hear a speaker at a women's event hosted by her church.  First off if you know me then you know "women's event" is not necessarily my cup of tea these days.  I went strictly because of the speaker, Sarah Bessey, author of
"Jesus Feminist".  No shame here people. Anyhow, we sat.  I scanned the room several times taking in the generations represented.  The ease at which everyone moved about the room.  Stood in line for coffee or passed the chocolate around the table.  At our table  I knew not another soul.  With the exception of my friend next to me.  There was a graciousness with which I hadn't been treated to before and it made my heart smile.  I shared small talk with a younger than me woman  when we discovered there was no more caffeinated coffee available.   I laughed as the musician, a young man, joked and made light of his gender amongst all the women present.  Then I cried as he sang the words to a most captivating song.  When it was time for the speakers of the evening to take the stage, I became mesmerized.  Filled with anticipation and ready to experience an authenticity
I had merely read of in her book.

When the words, "You are too..." were spoken I bit my lip and winced.  That statement struck me in a way unexpected.  How often have I said, "you are too much", "I am just too...", whatever that blank may be I have been on both the receiving and giving end of that one too many times.  That was how it all started.  Simply sharing her testimony, being defined as "too much" or not enough.  The label plagues us.  It creates in us a stronghold to lies.  I am thinking mostly of my daughters here.  To the lies the culture tells.  What is spoken into their lives by a society that is as confused about feminism as the Christians are.  Here's the truth people, "Biblical womanhood is not any different than Biblical personhood" as Sarah Bessey was quick to remind us of that evening.  If it seems as though I left a gaping hole in the connection, let me attempt to connect the dots here. 

The message can be deceiving.  Whether females are told they can do anything, or they were created for a supporting role.  One or the other.  Not both and certainly whichever you choose.   As for gender roles we are categorized typically by being too much.  Too much drama.  Too much emotion.  Too much too handle.  Too loud.  Too quiet.  Too meek.  Too fit.  Too organized.  Too angry.  Too bitter.  Too bubbly.  Too stupid.  Too smart.  Catch my drift?  Never enough.  And never who we were created to be.  And that is where the enemy is given the reigns.  He doesn't deserve them and he will not be the one to tell us otherwise.  We were created in God's very own image.  Amen?  So if that is true, which I do believe it is, than how can we be too much of anything?
The answer is simple, we can't. 

Furthermore, being a Jesus feminist is leaning into the One and Only and what He created you to be.  Not the politically correct, breaking glass ceilings, I can do it all on my own, feminism that has really done us all a disservice, both past and present.  To do that, to know who you are, you must know the one that created you.  Healer, King of Kings, Emmanuel, Father of the fatherless, friend.  And I suppose this is where I step on or off my soap box.  Early on in my roles as wife and mother I felt as though I had something to prove.  Being a teen mom left me with a chip on my shoulder the size of the state of Texas.  It affected my marriage and mothering.  More over it took it's toll on my soul.  Creating separation between Jesus and me.  I took it all on my own.  Lesson learned, right?  Well friends, I am a work in progress.  I won't claim to be an expert and I haven't been to seminary but I am in fellowship with my Creator.  That does not mean I have the answers now.  Simply put, I lean into Him.  And when I feel distant, or in the wilderness, as I call the current season I am in, then I lean in a little harder.  Push a bit further.  Hoping that He reveals Himself to me while I try to understand the silence.

Feminism doesn't have to be a scary word.  It isn't really.  Being created a woman, given the privilege of living life in this skin is just that.  A gift.  Thank you Jesus that I am able to choose, to serve, to create, to be exactly who you intended me to be. And all the while changing and growing and learning.  Being a Jesus believer doesn't make me less of a feminist or woman, just as understanding that I need a savior doesn't make me dependent or weak or insignificant. 

Israel...Day Two

To say we hit the ground running would be some sort of cliche, maybe an oxymoron but oh so true.  After a much needed sleep I woke early to run sea side.  I love running in a new city.  Watching the place wake up, locals walking their dogs, the sounds of morning activities and crashing waves.  For me, it was the best way to start the day.  And then it was on to the bus and time to travel.  Today began at Caesarea Maritime.   A port built by Herod the Great and at the center of Israel.  We sat in the theatre and gazed out at the artificial harbor that Herod had built.  Sure, some of the stone had been replaced but there were original stones there, remains of pillars and grandeur that once existed.  This place was a bustling port during it's time and also the same city where Peter was sentenced to prison, where the Apostle James was beheaded and the port from which Paul sailed to Tarsus after his conversion.  In the very theatre we sat in Paul pleaded his case after his arrest in Jerusalem.  Water had eroded and covered most of the city until it was discovered by airplane pilots flying over.  They noticed a black-ish coloring beneath the surface and with that excavations began, uncovering an important city with a theatre, city streets, marketplace, aqueducts, temples, baths and homes.  We wandered around and then down to the water.  It was there with my feet on the stone, watching fisherman stand at the water's edge, atop the ruins, that a certain awe overtook  me.  Thing 2 and her friend were navigating the stones and venturing further out, fearless and perhaps unaware of the significance of the place they were standing; What it once was.  What it meant to have unearthed such a treasure key to our faith.  The moment was not lost on me and as I took their photo I snapped a mental one for me.  One to lock away and remember forever.



My shell, just a little keepsake from the day.


Thing 2 and Adventure Buddy.

And then on to Mount Carmel.  A lush mountain range overlooking Haifa.  Baal was worshipped at this site, grand statues and monuments erected in his honor, until the people ceased to worshiping their little "g" god and the God of the universe answered Elijah.  Worth taking note of?  Yes.  Our God does not fail.  He is not crushed or scared or intimidated by the false idols of His people.  He always prevails.  Megiddo was our next stop, or more commonly referred to as the setting of Revelation's Armageddon, (Revelation 16:13-16) and a battlefield like no other.  Numerous wars have been waged in this valley, a Canaanite city was found here, and today it still is one of the most contested territories on the Via Maris.  We were able to walk around the site, taking in the wells, the walls and even descending underground.   There was an outlook to view the Jezreel valley and across the valley Aaron called our attention to the mountain in the distance.  He claimed that was Deborah the Prophetess' mountain.  Such a sweet moment for me.  I have studied Deborah.  Read her story and been intrigued by her.  She was a judge, approximately 200 years after Joshua had lead the people into the Holy Land.  Deborah lead the Israelites in a battle over the Canaanites and brought peace to her people.  Her song is a testimony to God's power and might and is still sung by the Jewish community today.  Deborah is considered one of the seven mothers of the Jewish faith, quite a feat for a woman and an example for me.  From taking in Deborah's mountain to taking selfies with recent high school graduates.  Just a day in the life here in Israel.


The Jezreel Valley, Deborah's mountain in the distance.


Underground at Megiddo


The Group!


Our last site for the day was "Nazareth".  A village that had been constructed to depict how it would have been in Jesus' day.  Nazareth, the place where the angel Gabriel announced the birth of Jesus to Mary, the place where Jesus grew up until moving to Capernaum, the place where He taught in the synagogues.  Here we went on a journey of sorts, staring at a cross that would have been most like what Jesus was hung on.  We traveled through time to see Lydia (Acts 14), weaving with royal purple  wool, dyed by rare Mediterranean snails.  The land was littered with almond, cypress and olive trees, every which way.  There were donkeys working the land, an olive press and so much more to take in.

With our day coming to a close we boarded the bus for our destination for the next few days, on to the Sea of Galilee.  No time to waste once arriving, we jumped into our bathing suits and headed to the water.  Our hotel was on the Sea, a most breathtaking view.  My roomie and I jumped off the concrete block into the water and I let the rush of blood and adrenaline take over.  I felt 10 years old again.  Giddy as could be and completely in the moment.  Other tourists looked on and a couple joined in.  There we were adults and kids and foreigners all squealing in delight and swimming together, in the Sea of Galilee.  Let me retype that, because I do believe I wrote it twice in my journal.  I was swimming in the Sea of Galilee.

Olive tree in Nazareth


Lydia

The Sea of Galilee, moon rising.