Friday, May 18, 2012

Our Performing Girl

 Gabriella has been counting down the weeks for this week to arrive... the week of her end of year preschool program and her Dance Recital. She performed beautifully, smiled beautifully, and was just down right beautiful to look at. She was one happy girl and we were thrilled to be able to share these moments with our girly girl!

Melia and Gabby before her preschool program

On stage with her classmates
 Performing in the Princess and the Pea Ballet show. Her costume was something she could have only dreamed up! She was in heaven!

In her element... tapping!

Flowers from Mom and Dad for the dancer!

We love our sweet darlin'

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Last full day in Israel

Our last day in Israel we spent around the Sea of Galilee. It was a beautiful place to spend the day and was a great culmination of our trip to spend time walking in the footsteps of Jesus. We were able to go to many ancient sites that are not inhabited today so it felt more like we were seeing things as Jesus did than it did when we were in modern cities.

Matt and his "twin" Scott in Galilee. People kept mistaking them for each other the whole trip - I even did it a few times!

We stopped at a cove called the cover of the sower because when Jesus told the parable of the sower, he was out on a boat close to shore in a cove. The layout of the land make it like a natural amphitheater and you are able to hear someone speaking from the waters edge all the way up on the hill. Todd did not shove out in a boat, but stood out at the tip of the land and (when there were no cars coming down the road) we were able to hear him speaking as he read the parable of the sower to us like Jesus had done. It was an amazing natural phenomenon and really showed us how Jesus could have easily addressed large crowds in an area such as this one. In the picture above, you probably can't even see him, but our leader Todd is at the tip of the land in the center of the picture and we are up on the hill above him.

We were also able to spend some time in Capernaum that day which is where Jesus lived and did most of his ministry. Above Matt is standing in the synagogue at Capernaum which was built in the 4th century. It was however, built right on top of the synagogue from the first century where Jesus certainly taught.

  • Mark 1:21-39, 2:1-12, 2:21, 31
  • Matthew 8:5-13
  • John 6:29-71

4th century synagogue on top of the 1st century synagogue (darker stones)

We were also able to see the remains of what is traditional held to be Peter's house (above)

Some of my traveling buddies Susan and Jenny!

We were also able to visit a boat from the first century that was preserved under water and was discovered when the water level was really low in 1986 and then carefully removed and soaked for 10 years in a solution that replaced the water that was soaked into the boat with wax so it would not turn to dust in the open air.

We were dropped off by our bus at the top of the Mt. of Beatitudes and were able to walk down it. We were encouraged to walk down in silence and it was a good time of reflection over the past 2 weeks in Israel. Amazing to see the views of places we have only ever read about.

After that we headed to the dock in Galilee and took an hour long boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. The weather was gorgeous and it was a very pleasant ride getting to look out across the region of Galilee. We landed and went to a restaurant on the waters edge where most people were able to have St. Peter's fish (your truly chose pasta). I was very happy with my choice too when the full fish, eyes, tail and all, were served up to my fellow diners :) Also, while we were sitting there, the beautiful weather turned suddenly stormy only a few minutes after we had gotten off the boat. The waves started getting higher and all boat traffic was called off. We were so thankful we had gotten to take our ride and were also intrigued to see how quickly a storm can blow up on the sea like it did in Jesus's time as well!

Matt on the boat!

We stopped at the Jordan River and were able to reflect on the many things that happened here;

  • Israel crossed the Jordan with Joshua
  • Elijah and Elisha crossed on dry land when Elijah was carried off
  • Jesus was baptized here
  • Naaman was told to go wash in the Jordan by Elisha (2 Kings 5)

Our last stop of the day was at Beth She'an - which was around during the time of Saul and was also a city of the Decapolis in the time of Jesus and was called Scythopolis. It was a huge area of ruins that we were able to explore. It really gave a good feeling for what a major Roman city was like during the time of Jesus.

After this stop, we headed back to Jerusalem for our last night in Israel. For our last day, we were able to visit the Israeli Museum and see some truly amazing artifacts (no cameras allowed) and also spent some time walking around the city one last time. We headed to the airport that evening around 8:30pm to begin our LONG trip home. I was able to sleep on this flight (thanks to two Advil PM) and lasted pretty well through the hours and hours of waiting at the Ben Gurion airport in Israel and going through customs and security again at JFK in New York. Bleh.

Matt and I were SO happy to finally be home with our kids!  It was such a sweet reunion - my heart was just so full being with them again! They were all happy and came out to meet us when we were walking up. I loved that moment. Melia was just happy and talking up a storm. Gabby was very sentimental saying lots of "I missed you's" and the like. Oli let me hug him and kiss him a lot. And he was happy too in his own way. It truly felt like home and there was no where else in the world I would rather be.

We are so thankful to God for the blessings he poured out on us, our fellow travelers and our family while we were away. It was a life-changing trip and has inspired me to read the Bible like never before! Thank you LORD!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lower Galilee and Northern Approaches

It's been once again a very busy few days! I got a little behind in my updates but wanted to send another one now!

We started out our day in Nazareth! We got a great lookout over the Jezreel Valley from the North first thing and were able to orient ourselves and see the village of Nain across the valley where Jesus raised a widow's son to life when he came upon the funeral procession

We also got to visit a place called Nazareth Village which is a portion of land in downtown Nazareth that has been transformed into a village representative of the 1st century when Jesus was growing up here. We saw small herds of animals grazing here, an olive press, an original wine press, a synagogue, and many other structures. Almost everything was a reconstruction but it was done very well and we learned a lot about what life was like in the 1st century.

Donkeys grazing

Olive press

A man working as a carpenter and creating chairs using only first century tools

A woman weaving a blanket using a loom. It takes her a week to complete each blanket.

At meals we have seen some pretty extraordinary things, but to me, the bright magenta colored food takes the cake. This is a picture of bright yellow cauliflower and magenta... we don't know what. Matt tried some and it was EXTREMELY salty. Not natural.

Also in Nazareth I got to go inside of the Church of the Annunciation where Mary was spoken to by the angel Gabriel. It's not for sure that this is the spot, but since Nazareth was a small village, it couldn't have happened far from here. It is a first century house thought to belong to Mary's family.

That afternoon, we headed up to the top of the Arbel Cliffs for a climb down. This was a great place to view the Sea of Galilee and get an introduction to what we would be seeing there. We climbed down some very steep cliffs! Thankfully they had a cable attached to the rock face and some steps also attached so that made it doable for novice climbers like me! I was nervous going into it, but it turned out to be not technically difficult and was quite fun! I didn't get any pictures because I left my camera on the bus so I would have two hands available, but others did so hopefully I'll see some soon.

We ended the day at the En Gev Holiday Village on the Sea of Galilee... a beautiful place where our back door opens up to the sea. We took a swim that night and it was refreshing and not too cold.

The next day, we headed up almost as far north as you can go in Israel - right on the border of Lebanon. It was beautiful and green and we got to see some amazing country.

We stopped at the remains of the town Chorazim. These remains date later than Jesus's time but we do know that this city existed in the time of Jesus because in Matthew 11 he denounces the city and condemns it as one in which "most of his miracles have been performed" and yet the people did not repent and believe. There were also two other cities that Jesus condemned in this way: Capernaum and Bethsaida. These people saw Jesus perform so many miracles yet they did not repent and believe.  It was a stark reminder that we do not need to be seeking an "experience" from Jesus as that is not what is important. What is important is that we believe.

Me sitting in the wild barley outside of Chorazim.

We also visited the ancient site of Hazor which is the largest Tel in the country and was a city of significance in the Old Testament. In Joshua 11, Joshua defeats that alliance of kings that was against Israel - the head of the alliance was the king of Hazor. Above is a picture of the stables from the city.

This is a picture of the gate to the city with the watch tower on the end.

We visited the city of Dan - often mentioned in scripture when defining the border of the Israelites territory - "from Dan to Beer-sheba." Genesis 14 mentions Dan when Abraham chased Lot all the way to Dan. Above is a mud brick gate from the time of Jacob (around 1800 BC)!

We also visited Caesarea Philippi an the location of one of the sources of the Jordan River. Also, this is a likely location near where Peter proclaims Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mark 8:27-30).

We then headed to an overlook of the country of Syria. There is a Demilitarized Zone between the two countries where there is a UN base established to help patrol. Here is a picture of the U base. There were literally dozens of Israeli soldiers sitting at this overlook.

We also learned a little bit about the Druse people who live in this area of Israel. They believe that the Messiah has not come but that he will be born to a man. So the older men of this culture wear these special baggy pants so that if the Messiah is born to him, the baby will not fall on the ground unexpectedly!? (see picture above)

We spent the evening back at the En Gev Holiday Village and had a great time sitting on the beach talking as a whole group and saying out with a smaller group reflecting on the life of Jesus and enjoying thinking and talking about him as we prepared for the following day in the region of Galilee where he did most of him ministry. Here are some pictures Matt took at dusk looking over the Sea of Galilee.

One more day of teaching and then a free day in Jerusalem and then it is back home! We have learned so much but are physically and mentally exhausted and are ready to be home with our kids!!