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.