our final weeks in jerusalem. june 2014.
We left Jerusalem just a few short weeks ago but it's still hard to find the words for my feelings. We are so grateful to have made so many dear friends from all over the world: Cheryl and Joy and Marion from Australia, Sam's family and Kaeson and many others from Korea, Monica from Estonia, Christa from Finland, Noami from Belgium, Una from Ireland, Susie from Scotland, Adrién fom France... and the list goes on. We adore you all and are so blessed to have shared this season with you!
Of course we met lots of great folks from the US too, several of whom are from Seattle. And at dinner one night at our friends' house next door, we ran into Valerie... an old friend of my family! It was not by accident. Valerie was really the turning point for me while in Israel. The first few weeks were bliss, but the moment I shrugged my shoulders and wondered aloud why I'd thought living in Israel would be tough... well, it got tough. And by tough, I mean wow. But Valerie helped to take me from basically threatening (The Music Man) to leave (with Little Buddy in tow), to really resting into being in what is just a really hard place to be. I mean, let's face it -- both currently and throughout history, Jerusalem, Israel, and the Jewish people are all about as I-don't-quiet-know-what-word-I'm-looking-for-here... but it's as much of it as it gets. Should I say contended over? Should I say persecuted? I mean, is it just me, or does it seem like over the centuries all manner of non-Jewish countries and peoples have basically just been pissed that they weren't God's chosen people? Favored by God, though sadly not by man. I'm so optimistic that somehow at least one of us is at least a little Jewish that I'm tempted to go get DNA tests... but even if we're not Jewish, it has been an incredible honor to spend focused time praying for the peace of Jerusalem while living in God's favorite city. There is a marked place on the Temple Mount which they say is the center of Jerusalem... which they say is the center of Israel.... which they say is the center of the very world. We may not be there again for a while, but we can still participate, all of us can, in praying for peace and revelation... for Jews, for Palestinians, for pilgrims. Anyway, there we were living smack dab in the center of the neighborhood where the vast majority of uprisings originate in Jerusalem... I mean, if you want to get stoned, our hood was the place to be! And from what little I've seen of the news, there has been plenty of trouble and sadness there since we left. Suffice it to say, Little Buddy and I were always home before dark.
Enter Valerie... precisely on the one year mark after losing our baby, and it was a sad time for us. Valerie and a few of her friends swooped in and prayed for me -- it was brief but such a sweet moment. She was heading to Jericho and invited me to join her. I was too sick to go. She called soon after and told me she'd made arrangements for me to go to Jericho the following week with our mutual friends... she said to go to Elisha's spring and bring my salt shaker from home -- that there was healing for me there. I love this lady... and she is crazy (which is one of the things I love most about her). A week later a bunch of us piled in the car and drove out to the River Jordan and then Jericho. I arrived at Elisha's spring with salt shaker in hand. What was I doing? Why was I doing it? I didn't know. Friends were watching, wondering, not asking... same as I. I sprinkled a little salt in the water and dipped my feet in. Long ago, the bible tells of the prophet Elisha, who sprinkled a little salt in that same spring and the waters, which had been too bitter for the people to drink, became sweet.
Was I doing it right? I didn't feel anything. It was anti-climactic, at best. I felt ridiculous... how stupid! We were hanging out downstream from the spring... you know, with the locals, which we usually prefer. A young Palestinian mother asked if we had a lighter... she came down to the spring to smoke a hooka with her kids and forgot to bring fire. We laughed (but not out loud).
I felt pulled toward the source of the spring, which required payment to enter. We all went. The closer I got, the greater the sense of anticipation I felt. "Maybe the salt doesn't go in the water," I told The Music Man as we walked ahead of the others, "maybe it goes in me?" It felt right. It made sense. We filled our bottles from the headwaters and stepped in and splashed our faces, and I tasted the salt with my tongue and washed it down with sweetness and prayed a silent prayer. I didn't feel anything really, except a sense of satisfaction.
Within a week or two, many things shifted. My angst died down. We settled into a routine. We knew our way around town. We found our niche. Our time in the prayer room came much more naturally. We were much more at ease.
New neighbors arrived: the sweetest family from South Korea. Mother Miriam and Heaven, an 11 year old girl, who is not like any young person I have ever met, came first, followed a week or so later by Father Sam and Grandmother. Heaven is rightly named. She has a deep love for God and a profound understanding of His ways, plus a true gift for music (especially the drums). She's a very special girl and I am secretly hoping Heaven and Little Buddy are either mates (best friends) or mates (you know what I mean) some day. Little Buddy was absolutely enthralled with Heaven, which of course made parenting him in an already extremely challenging and complex scenario (and in an especially-not-childproofed-environment) even more complicated -- BUT it was so beautiful to see him form his first deep and meaningful friendship that was all his own. Heaven was surprisingly good with him, and was so understanding and gracious when I needed to whisk Little Buddy away or take some space in order to help him stay calm (against all odds) and move him in the right direction: naptime! The kids had lots of fun together going on walks around the City of David, and climbing around at the Tombs of the Kings (which we called the Rock Garden) with The Music Man, and making play dough, and playing Legos, and eating popsicles, and dancing around while we all sang.
Each week we'd walk over to the artistic colony to worship at Saccat Hallel with our new buddy, Steve. He and his wife, Taffy, are from the Seattle area, and are living in Jerusalem with their three children. These kids are absolutely amazing -- and Little Buddy fell in love with them (and I think the feeling was mutual). One of the coolest, most inspiring things we saw in Jerusalem was this family making music together... all five of them! It makes us feel excited for what is to come with Little Buddy... who can carry a tune with remarkable accuracy and who is obviously a drummer. Elliott, Steve and Taffy's youngest boy, played drums with his dad the last time we saw him, and he actually gave Little Buddy his drumsticks as they were saying goodbye -- and what a gift! Those sticks have been a great outlet for him and in some strange way, that loud, incessant banging noise has helped all of us stay sane! He's been able to get out some energy and he's honing his skills and he's able to participate when we are making music together anywhere and everywhere. Amazing. Bless you, Elliott! And bless you, Steve, for sharing your beautiful music and your beautiful family with us... we hope we get to connect with you guys when you are in Seattle next.
While we didn't do everything we wish we could've during our stay, we did do a great deal, and intentionally left a few special things for next time. It does feel like there will be a next time...
Our last few weeks there were our most eventful and most beautiful. Prayer and worship was even more meaningful than before. We celebrated. We feasted with friends. We crammed as much of the city in as we could manage.
We had a truly wonderful experience living with Art and Julee, who showered us with so much love and acceptance and grace. Looking back at our time together, I can see all the ways God used them to continue moving me from isolation to intimacy -- intimacy with Him, intimacy with my boys, and intimacy with my friends and family. (And I want to say a warm thank you to Erika for giving me such a good start with this -- my heart is filled with gratitude and love and respect for you.)
It is hard to leave... much harder than expected. We say our sad goodbyes, most of all to Art and Julee, and all our dear friends send us off with a big beautiful bang. And for once we manage to make it to the airport on time, only to discover that the absolutely imperative wheels for Little Buddy's car seat do not, but that's another story...