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.  


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


The Sea of Galilee, moon rising.

Israel...Day One

So much to share about this complicated land.  More pictures, more words and more thoughts than I know what to do with.  Enough history to keep my nose in the books for years and still I'm not able to wrap my head around this sacred place.  The chosen people called Israel home.  Our heroes of faith walked within her borders, or just outside.  And yet, I walked those roads too.  Stood on the Mount of Olives, walked in the Garden of Gethsemane, climbed Masada, felt the water David spoke of in his Psalms and dipped my finger tips in the Sea of Galilee.  I mean, come on.  Tell me how to process the weight of these experiences.  Months later and I am still reeling from my ten days spent there. 

I'll start the best way I know how.  With pictures and notes from my journal.  Then we'll probably continue that way.  Like in time thoughts as I took in and meditated on each day's events.  Before all that I must comment on what a holy privilege it was to travel with Thing 2.  To venture to Israel with a group of recently graduated high school students that had been preparing for this trip for months, studying, memorizing scripture and note taking during lengthy lectures, was nothing short of incredible.  I did not know many of these students well but I can say that I witnessed a generation rising; And that my friends should be encouraging to us all.  They were a special group, offering their gifts to the masses, overcoming their fears and walking as a royal priesthood where Jesus Himself walked.  It was a beautiful experience.  So here we go.  We'll start at the beginning, not including the travel day escapades, but in Tel Aviv.  Day one as noted in my journal.

We landed in Tel Aviv and hit the ground running.  Through customs and onto the bus that became sort of a home base for us as we trekked across the country.  Our bus driver, Eli, greeted us with a smile and our tour guide, Aaron as well.  On board we were welcomed, and as we drove the city streets the low roar of excitement surrounded me.  With no sense of where we were going I looked out my window and tried to follow the road.  Looking for people, for signs of a long ago story.  And then, once we unloaded at our destination, there it was.  A stone whale, a new addition to the city but nonetheless a tell tale sign of what had happened here.  Marking the port where Jonah was swallowed up.  Beautiful buildings with overflowing window boxes lined the streets.  The Mediterranean Sea bordering us.  Cobble stone roads and hidden alleys every which way.  And the sound I remember the most, the waves crashing on the sand.  I inhaled the salty air.  We walked and talked and ate at a local cafe where again my olfactory senses were on overload   Spices and fermented cabbage and delicate meats, oils for the fryers and deliciousness.  I do remember how delighted I was to hear we would be walking to our hotel in stead of boarding the bus again.  Fourteen hours of sitting in small spaces had begun to take it's toll on this body of mine.  There was a trail along the sea and we followed the winding path, passing play grounds and flying para-sailers, locals sitting down for a snack or smoke break, Mamas walking their babies in strollers and tourists heading down to the sandy shore.  Once room assignments were given no time was wasted.  Upstairs to change in to bathing suits and down to the sea.  I couldn't wait.  I watched Thing 2 and her friends jump the waves and I listened to their squeals each and every time the water came crashing down on them.  And then the squeals took on a different tone as they realized jelly fish surrounded them.  A few stings didn't slow them down though.  The water was a welcome excursion, an introduction of sorts to this foreign land we would be exploring and getting to know over the next week.  I laid back in the sand and closed my eyes.  I felt my limbs relax, all control lost as I melted into the grainy ground beneath me.  Was I really here? My mind was mush.  Possibly from the travel and time zones and general exhaustion of the undertaking but I didn't want to miss anything.  I wanted this first experience to be the marking of the week ahead.  And it was.  The day ended with an after dinner walk through the city center and ice cream from a corner shop.  Stories and lives beginning to be shared and memories being made.

The whale. Or fish.  You decide.

The view from our walk to the hotel, it's one of those tall buildings in the distance.

Cornetto cone-she was a happy girl!

The Fabulous Fourth

Our fourth of July in photos.  But first a recap of the weekend's activities.  We spent the weekend at Pappo and Grammy's house.  The place where there is a garden, that is really more like a small farm, loads of toys for kids and adults alike, a pool with a volley ball net and diving board, horse shoes and rafts and a hammock, countless umbrellas and tables for lounging around and coolers filled with icy cold beverages, again for kids and adults alike.  This place is special.  It's special because Pappo and Grammy are and they welcome everyone in with open arms.  Don't get me wrong, you have to pull your own weight. No free rides are given.  There is grilling to be done and dishes and taking out the trash.  Everyone does their part so Pappo and Grammy don't have to.  They are the most gracious hosts.  Really.  We made some pretty fantastic memories this last time around and we are so grateful they provided us the place to do so.

Uncle Aaron photo bombing!  Classic.

Husband Jared grilling and hungry kiddos waiting.  
Many meals have been shared around this poolside table.

Sparklers in the drive way.

Aunt Maggie joining in the fun!

Thing 2 and Cousin Emme!

The fam bam... Our attempt at a family photo.


Playtime in the pool.

Thing 4 and Cousin Colin.  The boys!  

We played volleyball, floated on rafts, jumped off the diving board, flipped off the diving board, had water gun fights, lounged in the comfiest poolside chairs, and fell into bed happy, played out and exhausted in the very best way.  Thankful for the time to be with family, and for our freedom which was hard earned! 

Family Time Magnified...Including Thing 2's Graduation

The latter part of May and the first half of June had our little house humming with houseguests and visitors alike.  It all began with Nani.  She came out ahead of Poppi and we spent a few days practicing yoga, visiting coffee shops, preparing for the grad party, celebrating Grandpa Ron's birthday with a cookout at the pond and watching some footie.

Coffee shop stop #1.

3 v. 3 Tournament

Grandpa Ron and Autumn on the dock.

Then Poppi arrived and more fun was to be had.  We planned a canoe trip on the Harpeth River.  Poppi helped with the party planning.    We had our end of the school year ice cream party too.  Then the Stuck Family arrived and the Olivitos, both the Greats and Uncle Tony and Jen.  

Poppi doesn't want to believe that she is 16 years old and can feed herself. 

Let's take a look at our day on the river first.  The Things discovered a rope swing and we made a u-turn in order to take a go at it.  We also witnessed a herd of cows making their way to the water for a drink and cool down.  It might have been a bit unnerving to have these massive creatures so very close to us while we were in a flotation device that was easily tipped.  

See what I mean?  Close.  So very close.  

Rope Swing 101- Poppi even saved a little girl from sliding down the little hill.  She was frightened and unsure about the swing and when she changed her mind, Poppi was there to catch her.  What a guy!  


Leaders of the pack.

Before the adventure.

Our river crew!

We found a shore line area and parked our water vehicles for lunch and some exploring.  Then on to the finish line, if you will.  It was a fun day, a perfectly Southern summer day. 

With the family's arrival we spent the day preparing homemade pasta, sauce and readying the house for our influx of house guests.  First up, Jen, Tony and Tucker, Grandpa Sam and Grandma Sharon.  We sat around the table that night in our usual manner, toasting and praying and thanking God for this wild gift of family He's given to us.  Thing 2 arrived home to hoots and hollers, after all, they all made the trek to TN to celebrate her.  It was quite the reception.  

Dinner table shenanigans!

The next day was the Farmer's market, donuts for breakfast and a field trip to Olive and Sinclair, a local chocolatier in Nashy.  We had a tour of the factory and the best part, we were able to taste their creations.  Everyone went home with some yummy treats!  We were quite a sight to behold, I'm sure.  Then on to another favorite place to nosh, Edley's on 12th Ave. South.  Yes please!  Proper Southern BBQ was enjoyed by all.  Home for more party preparations and cuban sandwiches for dinner.  Oh, how could I forget, in between all that we took a trip to the airport to pick up the Stuck family!  Our table was particularly full that night, just the way I like it.  Everyone ate and laughed and then we all decorated with the grad. Party day was only one sleep away!

Coffee at our fav, Honest, after the farmers market.

Chocolate tour group.  

Magic show at Edleys, following Olive and Sinclair.

Graduation Fiesta day had arrived!  It was all hands on deck in order to ready ourselves for the open house that awaited us.  The piƱata was hung, banners waving and cacti ready for their appearance.  And our sweet graduate was ready to greet all her guests. We couldn't have asked for better weather, well maybe a tad cooler would have been helpful, the popsicles stayed frozen though so that was a bonus!  Friends and family alike congratulated and loved on our girl, stopping briefly for a photo opp in our booth, complete with props!  Fun was had by all.  Our girl was the star of the show and even sweeter was our impromptu family cook out that evening.  The weather cooled for us, Husband Jared grilled and we all sat soaking in each other's presence.  At the end of the meal we went around and shared a blessing or wish for Thing 2.  Listening to the words spoken over her, the encouragement, the love, the affirmation, I was reminded once again of the power our words hold.  No doubt Thing 2 will carry that memory with her and call on that love as she journeys on.  

Party day prep and bubble distraction for our littlest guests.

All hands on deck and ready to help!

Party table prep.


Our Six!

Thing 2, Autumn, Gianna, Gemma and Olivia, incognito.

Thing 2 and Madison, these girls have been friends for 10 years, sweetness.

Thing 2 with Poppi and Nana, some of her biggest fans!

We were all in need of a recovery day following our night of celebratory activities.  Monday was slow and easy.  A little boot shopping for our California visitors, lunch at Mitchell's Deli and farewells and see you laters said to the the Olivitos.  

Nani had requested a family photo session with all her grandkiddos so that afternoon we all got gussied up and made our way to Harlinsdale farm in Franklin;  A historic horse farm that provided the most picturesque back drops.  The littles cooperated briefly and a few magical snapshots were captured.  Poppi bribed us all with the promise of Mellow Mushroom and Sweet Ce Ce's for dessert.  What more could we have asked for?  While my Things are all big and silly and jumping on each other's backs and doing back flips off the rocks my nieces, Gianna and Olivia, posed sweetly, holding hands and smiling and tossing their hair in the wind.  How contradictory and yet beautiful are the seasons of life?  One of my favorite photos from the day was Thing 4 tossing his cousin in the air.  You can almost hear the squeals of delight in their smiles.  Precious.  That's what that is.  


I can't even remember how our last day as 12 was spent.  I am positive that it was good and loud and full of cheer.  Until the airport trip arrived, anyways.  Like I've said before, Poppi and airports do not mix.  Next time an Uber or Lyft for him?!  My goodness, how could I have forgotten.  We went to the Grand Ol' Opry, woo hoo!  But first we went out to a fancy grown up dinner.  That was fun!  On to the Opry, and tourists and tour buses and crazy fans, and screaming girls.  Weird.  Although, the history surrounding the place is quite significant and the stage and those that have graced it, impressive.  My favorite performer of the night was Chris Jensen.  Who knew?  He shared his story and sang his songs and I was all googly eyed and teary.  I can not even tell you the last time I stayed up this late, it was well past midnight when we arrived home.  Party animals.  That's what we are.  And any of you that know me are laughing right now!  Anyhow, that was the last night together.  My big Things watched their little cousins and had a ball.  Just a little side note there for you.  Then we all woke up way too early and began the celebration for Olivia's birthday.  Donuts and donut shop coffee, courtesy of Poppi and Uncle Jason, lunch at Chick Fil A and pajammies at the house.  It was a good birthday filled with all of her favorites!  Back to the airport.  Which means you can feel free to insert the tears here.  We were thankful for the time together and thankful that we had the Stuck four for a little while longer.  

Birthday donuts and presents for the birthday girl! 

The birthday girl! 

Grown up night at the Opry!  

Target- somethings never change! 

First meat and three experience for the Stucks!

Our days with them were spent exploring.  Hunting for crawfish in the stream.  Visiting the park.  Eating yummy food.  Playing in the back yard and catching fire flies.  Oh and we had a day trip to the First art museum where there was an Italian car show happening.  Thing 4 was in his element.  Inspecting the vehicles, spouting off random details and facts and talking paint and speed and all that car talk with Uncle J.  We spent an evening picnicking at Arrington Vineyards.  Running in the grape vines, rolling down the hills and listening to music.  There was a Sunday morning church service and Pharmacy Burger for lunch, more running wild and exploring and snuggling and playing all manner of games.  I can not even tell you the joy that filled our home having those little girls with us.  Seashells became telephones, baskets were hiding spots and blankets turned into forts.  Is there anything more breathtaking than watching a child's imagination at work?  And then when its a teenage child getting in on the action.  Whew!  I just love it.  Our last morning together was Husband Jared's birthday.  There was one last meal around the table, breakfast of course.  Highs and lows of our time together, singing happy birthday to Uncle Jared and writing on the table.  That brought our week together to an end.  Let's not even mention the airport again.  My heart can't take it.  Especially when I don't have an airline ticket booked for the next visit.  Too much emotion.  Moving on. 

Ellie's Donuts at Franklin Farmers market

Painting at The Frist Art museum

Sprinkler in the backyard

Life imitating art

Prayer wall at Philanthropy in downtown Franklin 

The Factory

Family sundaes at the table

After church lunch at the Pharmacy

Leaving their mark on our table

That was our June.  Or at least the first half.  I'll continue with Husband Jared's birthday and the Strand family arrival.  Birthdays.  I love birthdays.  Mine, yours, complete strangers.  What better reason to celebrate than being alive?  So, of course we celebrated Husband Jared's day with all his favorites.  Family dinner and chocolate-chocolate cake, singing and all the fan fare we could muster.  Which really is not his favorite but what can I say?  We showered him with presents and almost blinded him with the candles.  I think he liked it in the end. 

New shaving gear.  

Singing the happy birthday song to Uncle Jared.

Birthday cake, always chocolate, always.

We moved quickly on to packing up Thing 3 for her trip with Royal Servants and prepping for mine and Thing 2's trip to Israel.  All of us left the same morning so thankfully Husband Jared needed to only make one trip to Nashy.  Thing 3 was off for 8 weeks, ouch.  It snuck up on me and I wasn't the least bit prepared for another goodbye, even if I did have her return date on the calendar.  We prayed her off the night before and she couldn't have been more ready, this time for her leadership role on the Nehemiah Team.  A total honor!  Thing 2 and I met up with the Minnesota Grace Church group in NYC and then it was off to Tel Aviv for us.  More on that trip later.  There was so much to process and take in.  I'm still not sure I've quite wrapped my head around the place we call Israel.  

Early morning flight out.

The packing, the prep work, all the zippies.

While we were away, Husband Jared, Thing 1 and Thing 4 were at home to greet the Strand family.  They flew in from CA for summer vacay!  There were fishing days and cook outs and cousin fun had before Thing 1 flew to MN for a visit with her friends.  Wowsa, my brain hurts as I'm typing this.  June was a whirlwind.  In all the best ways and the most exhausting.  The good type of tired.  From when you've had too much fun.  Or ate too much cake.  Or stayed up too late talking and forgot to even look at the clock.  That kind of tired.  

Strand-Hanson fishing expedition at Gpa and Mema's house!  Welcome to TN Strand family!

With that I will end.  What a glimpse into our month.  Almost as if we had a peep hole in the dining room and you were right there with us for it all.  All the family.  All the friends.  All the celebrations and toasts and prayers.  The packing and preparing and hugging and snuggling.  Next time join us.  There's always room for more.