Last night, John said to me, “I bet when you married me, you didn’t know how crazy our life would be!”
Well, no, I guess I didn’t. Who could? There have been many times I’ve been glad that we can’t see the future, but I’m so thankful that the Lord does. The truth is – we had almost 30 years of not too crazy…almost 30 years of me tightly embracing my non-adventurous, homebody, introverted tendencies. But then, over the last couple of years, God seemed to be opening up a lot of doors (in a lot of other places) and beckoning us to walk through them.
And here we are, on our 31st anniversary, with an adventurous, (far) away from home, definitely out-of-my-comfort-zone open door right smack in front of us!
In April of 2016, just as John and I were about to step on the bus that would take us on our return journey to the airport in Tel Aviv, our friend and travel agent Lindy Lazarow, who lives near Jerusalem, asked if we would consider house-sitting for her for two months during the summer of 2017. (I think she may have failed to mention that it also entailed cat-sitting the five indoor felines and countless neighborhood cats that she coddles…but that’s beside the point.) I imagine we looked quite comical, with our heads swiveling back and forth looking at each other and at Lindy, mouths hanging open, stumbling over ourselves in our haste to say YES, of COURSE we WOULD consider that! Never mind those trivial details, like – can we get the time off? How can I stand not seeing Jackson for TWO MONTHS? How will we afford the tickets to return to Israel? What about our house? Will our families be okay without us? And the REAL dilemma: can I live without Hazelnut Coffee-mate and Sonic ice for two months?? But we filed those away in the back of our minds, like Scarlett O’Hara, to think about “tomorrow”.
Some of the details worked out in unexpected ways. Within a few weeks of our return, John got a phone call that ultimately led to a change in our work and ministry, allowing us not “time off” but instead, time on site – with the added blessing of allowing us to incorporate it into our work. While there, we will be able to continue the work of the Bible Land Passages video series with added study, additional camera footage, and deeper investigation into the ancient sites that have so many lessons for us to learn today. John even has a new
toy piece of equipment for these projects, called an “Osmo” – a stabilizer for his iPhone camera. I think I’m going to have to make peace with it, because these days we don’t leave home without it, and this is my view of John these days:
We hope to put together more of the short “Pathways” videos, like the one in this link showing the trek up Masada’s snake path, and several other informational videos that we will upload as we go along. We know that most people, realistically, will never be able to personally visit the land of the Bible. We feel truly humbled and so abundantly blessed to be able to see so much of it, and we sincerely want to be able to share the reality of the land and make it more tangible and personal for people at home.
Another goal that I am prayerfully approaching is to spend my time there focusing on writing a book. I have always loved to write, and I am fascinated by the ancient sites that correspond with the stories I’ve read from the Bible all of my life. These sites are real places, and they were real 2000 years ago when Jesus walked these roads, and for centuries before that. My brain knew, of course, that Israel was a real place, and the Bible stories were real accounts of the real lives of real people. But as a child – places like Jericho, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee and Nazareth seemed more to me like a dream world. And now that I’ve seen these places, I feel like puzzle pieces are falling into place. Locations and directions and elevations and descriptions all make sense. My faith has been strengthened and I fell in love with the land. Now my heart is more fully involved, and my eyes, ears, fingers – and even my nose- are itching to share some of the thoughts and impressions and lessons that I continue to learn. I would ask for your prayers regarding this – I’m sure someone else can and will do a much better job than I someday, but I would like give it a try!
One more dream that is becoming reality – we have a four day layover in Rome on our way to Israel. Last spring, before any of this had become a possibility, Jacob (our son) convinced us to apply for the Chase Sapphire credit card. He told us all about the bonus points and air miles and travel dollars we could accumulate (and I suspect he received some bonus points when we signed up!) We’ve used it for our normal expenses ever since, for groceries, gas, health insurance, cellphone bill, etc. – always paying the entire balance every month – and without spending any extra money we had enough travel dollars to cover the expenses for the Rome excursion, with quite a bit left over. And our only expense for the Israel trip is our airfare and food and gas while there.
On a side note: living financially on support, rather than on a “salary”, comes with some difficult feelings. While I imagine I’m being overly sensitive to this, it’s easy to feel like the money we are spending doesn’t belong to us. And that is true – just as the money spent by others, who earn a salary, doesn’t belong to them, but to God. We are all stewards of the “talents” – financial or otherwise – that God blesses us with. John and I are acutely aware of the trust that is placed in us when others choose to support us financially. We never want to abuse or take that trust for granted. So we feel compelled to give account for the things we do and for the way the money is being spent, and we don’t want our supporters and friends to think that we are living frivolously or simply vacationing. I don’t doubt that we will enjoy being in Rome and in Israel (in fact, I practiced enjoying eating pasta today) – but we will be doing our very best to use our time wisely and in a way that we pray will benefit others. We are working on a detailed itinerary to make the most of our time, to get video and documentation that we will be able to use in the Bible Land Passages series.
To answer some questions we’ve been asked:
Yes, Israel is safe. As safe as we are anywhere else on the planet. One of our tour guides last year said “Israel is just a nice little country in a bad neighborhood!” Yes – it’s surrounded by not-so-nice countries, but Israel’s defense systems are superior. Not once have I felt afraid while we’ve there. Things happen there, just as they do everywhere. To be completely honest, once my kids were old enough to not truly need me any more (yes, I know they still *need* me, but they’d be okay without me…) I stopped worrying about airplane crashes and terrorism and such. If something happens to me here, there, or anywhere else, I’m going to a better place.
Where we will be staying and what we will be driving: Lindy lives in a community called Tzur Hadassah (you can google it), about 15 miles south of Jerusalem. She has a nice, 3 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath townhouse with a beautiful little gated yard with lots of flowering trees (that the aforementioned neighborhood cats freely roam in and out of…) Her car is (if I remember correctly) a modern four door Toyota Camry style. Most of the time, when we are going into Jerusalem, we will drive to Yad Vashem (the holocaust museum on the outskirts of Jerusalem) and park, and get on the light rail that goes into the city, then walk wherever we want to go from there. It’ll be easier to not have to drive and find parking in the city.
We will be worshipping with the church in Nazareth – about a 2 hour drive from where we will be. They are a group of Arab Christians. Incidentally (and providentially, I believe) a few weeks ago when we were in Tiberius, a man got on the elevator with us, and I noticed the name on his name tag. It sounded familiar to me, so I googled him, and sure enough – he was a Harding grad professor who had lived as a missionary in Nazareth for a number of years. He is the one mentioned in this article. John stopped him and introduced himself, so we have a contact who was able to give us help and information about the church there.
There is a market not too far away from Lindy’s, but I’m not sure about a grocery store like we know. I’ve never seen one like ours. We did visit the “Shuk” (the Mahane Yehuda Market) last time we were there – a busy marketplace where you can buy anything from souvenirs to fresh vegetables and meats. It was insanely busy that day though, Friday morning – just before Shabbat. I doubt we’ll be grocery shopping there!
Their fast food is usually a falafel stand, and you can find chicken schnitzel and hummus and shawarma everywhere. I like all of that – but not every day. There are McDonalds and KFC’s everywhere, and lots of pizza places (though most of them are kosher, so they won’t have meat and cheese together on the pizzas.) We will use Lindy’s kitchen as much as possible – just baking chicken and potatoes and making salads for supper, and hopefully just taking peanut butter sandwiches or something similar with us when we are out during the days. The drinking water is great there. Israel is a very modern country, so we will have everything we need. Although I did hear Lindy say she didn’t drink coffee, so we will have to go find us a coffeemaker ASAP!
Israel is 8 hours ahead of Central Standard Time. For example, it’s 12:45 a.m. here in Texas right now, so it’s 8:45 a.m. in Israel.
Almost everyone speaks English in Israel. Many times people will speak Hebrew to me…I guess my dark hair makes me look Israeli – but as soon as they see the deer-in-the-headlights look on my face, they switch to English. I know “shalom” and “schnitzel” (and I think that word is German…) and that’s about it. I hope I’ll learn more.
We will have our phones there, with an international data/talk/text plan, and Lindy has WiFi at her house, so we will have internet access. My email address, if you want to email me, is firstname.lastname@example.org and John’s is email@example.com.
One of my biggest fears is that others will see us as boasting, or being prideful about what God is allowing us to do. I’ve prayed often that we will not be perceived in this way – and that we will not become prideful, but always be humbly grateful, and in that all that we do – we only want to be His servants and to bring others to Him, in whatever way He will use us. I hope and pray that comes across.
We ask for your prayers in this endeavor. My words may seem melodramatic to some, but as much as I am looking forward to this venture, I am terribly sad to miss my family and, yes, especially Jackson. We will be gone from June 22 – August 30. We will miss Jackson’s first birthday (and Jordan’s 28th), and Micah’s first day of his sophomore year of college. In some ways we feel like we are leaving Micah during a time he needs our help with important life things, although he has been so supportive in encouraging us to go. We can’t help worrying about leaving our parents. I know it may seem silly to some who have left their families for much longer periods of time and in desperate circumstances – but I think most of you can understand how I feel.
There are some unknowns ahead of us. But in the words of songwriter Lauren Daigle, “there’s not a day ahead You have not seen,” and “there’s not a place where I’ll go – You’ve not already stood.” We’re holding on to that knowledge, and holding on to the peace that the world doesn’t understand that only comes from Him.