I left 2 days after Christmas. I was to go on a 10 day trip to The Holy Land, amazing right? Incredible correct...what timing? It was the perfect time, right after Christmas, my first one without Steve. The children all knew it would be a difficult time for me. They all encouraged me to go, to take this amazing trip. They knew this was a trip Steve and I had planned to take 15 years ago but, that trip was cancelled due to unrest.
"This will be perfect timing, God's timing, go it will be a wonderful experience for you." It was Brent's idea to take Steve's ashes, "Just a small amount, Mom, that way you can spread them in all the places you know Steve would want to be. You will be taking him with you in spirit." That sealed the deal, I was in. Again, it was Carolyn who had invited me to go along a day or so after Steve's death. "Go to Israel with this group that Margi and I are going with..." Again found myself quickly saying, "I'm in."
Much like New York before Christmas, I found myself dreading this trip as the time grew near. I simply had too much to do at home.
A week before leaving, our home sold to some of our wonderful old neighbors. No, it wasn't on the market, but they had heard I was going to sell and came to me. My new home won't be ready until some time in February..."no problem, we will close whenever it works for you." A string of other events followed, and all I could hear was Steve saying to me time and again before he left this earth, "Janet, make this as easy on yourself as possible, don't try to make a fortune, just make sure the buyers are people you can trust.
God continues to amaze me and, as always, met my expectations in a far greater way than I might have ever imagined. Thank you Father for taking care of the smallest details of my life.
I still had cold feet about the trip. Exhausted from Christmas (physically, mentally and emotionally) my heart was simply not beating wildly about this pilgrimage. But then, look at what happened to us in New York (an older blog entry), God was going to move in some mighty way, right? So my expectations of what God had in store for me began to take root.
I prayed for him to "create in me a new heart, and renew a right spirit within me." I wanted God to speak clearly to me on this Holy Land journey. I was ready for transformation, healing from grief, an anointment from God himself. Was the answer to my prayer that I was about to have a life changing experience because I was going to walk where Jesus, Peter, Paul had all walked before me? Oh thank you precious Heavenly Father for this incredible opportunity! I still didn't want to go, but now I knew, I expected, God to work in me...I was filled with anticipation. How, what, when would this Godly connection change my life?
When will I learn that God's plan is so much more intricate?
The flight over was long and we were all weary arriving about 22 hours after we had left San Antonio. It was late, we were more than ready for a real bed.
The next day was full of stops. Caesarea, incredible, as we sat in the amphitheater where Peter and Paul had been, where Jesus had spent much of his time. It overlooked the Mediterranean Sea, I scattered Steve's first ashes there. I had gone off by myself, away from the group to spend some time alone and in remembrance of my husband, who I so longed to have by my side at that moment. The beach was full of shells, and as I bent to lay his ashes in the water, I picked up a few small shells to take home with me.
|Sweet Sue Minor|
As I stood, Sue Minor came toward me with such purpose. Sue was one of my first San Antonio friends. Our paths and lives have lead us in different directions, but Sue is one of those kindred spirits that I will forever feel a bond with. God would enable our paths to cross on rare occasions during Steve's illness. I would look up and there would be Sue in HEB with hugs, tears and words of support, always, it seemed, at a low tide in Steve's and my journey. Here she was again, open armed walking toward me on the shore of this Holy land. We hugged, cried and she suggested I say Steve's name aloud in each place we stopped, allowing his spirit to fill the space around me...thank you Sue, Steve Boswell's name has been spread throughout Israel.
Our days were hectic and full. So much history, so much emotion. Some of my favorite places were the shores of the Sea of Galilee, so calm and peaceful when we arrived early our second day. The beach made of finely silted black lava. Fishing boats were out casting their nets early that morning, not much different from 2000 years ago.
|Sea of Galilee|
|The Sea of Galilee|
We went to Tabgha, the site of the loaves and the fishes, we walked up to the Mount of Beatitudes. I will never read those passages in scripture the same way, now that I can invision this beautiful area.
We walked through the old City of Jerusalem New Year's Eve night after dinner. It was dark, locked down. The Israeli Army was out walking the streets, boys with their uzis. A sadness kept through me as we made our way to the brightly lit Wailing Wall. There a tall white limestone rock wall stood, people from all over the world praying, weeping, worshiping. As I grew nearer, I saw in cracks and crevices in the stones that created the wall, the small shreds of prayerful offerings to a merciful God. I had always heard of these prayer offerings, but to see the thousands of prayers, what a memory. Silence and awe filled us as we walked back that evening.
|Young Man of the Israel Army|
|Old City of Jerusalem|
Megiddo was beautiful, it's ruins of 16 centuries of civilizations lay in striations for us to see. Even powerful nations will eventually fall. Will lessons of human kind ever be recognized? Will we ever learn God yearns for us to be faithful, not powerful?
That may well have been my AA-ah moment... Will I ever learn that God's plans for my life are so much more intricate than I could ever imagine? Could it be that I was led here because God didn't need to perform some life changing miracle within me? Instead, maybe his intent was to teach me that he continues to walk before me, with me, and often carry me during the difficult periods of my life? What was I expecting God to show me by placing me on the banks of the Jordan River or by standing in what is thought to be The Garden of Gethsemane?
Hasn't God always been by my side? What would it take for me to open my eyes and my heart and realize God has been and will continue to pull me out of a raging storm, or keep me upright on two feet without sinking in deep waters? When will I stop questioning that he will fill my nets until they will brimming with the desires of my heart?
Did my prayer that I will experience God in new and different ways happen on this trip? No, I don't think so. I do think going to The Holy Land and seeing and visualizing the life of Jesus will forever change the way I see scripture, and for that I am eternally grateful. Has it changed my life? Only time and God's grace will tell how this experience will shape and mold me.
I do know what I have always known, there is an innate kindness in people. I know that God's hand placed this group together. I have come to know and love and have such a heart for these 32 incredible individuals.
I had some extremely emotional moments during these 10 days. Not only was I experiencing scripture come alive, I was able to live my faith in a very physical way. The spreading of Steve's remains became a sacred and very emotional experience for me each time I felt I had found the right place.
I made an effort to try to take a small handful of his remains to inconspicuously spread away from the group, not wanting to call attention, but to have a personal time with him and say a brief prayer. God knew my needs and never failed me. Carolyn or Margi made sure they were standing quietly close by, behind me, allowing me to have my time, and at the appropriate time, they would silently appear by my side. The gift became greater however, because almost every time I performed my small private ceremony, someone in the group would come to me later with warm embraces, tears and words of how this testimony to Steve had touched them as well. Oh how God met me in those holy and sacred places.
Getting off the bus after many of our group had been baptized in the Jordan River (what an incredible experience for all of us) Iyad, our Israeli tour guide, quietly said to me, "I saw what you did when you spread your husband's ashes in the river. You chose the perfect spot as this is our symbol of being resurrected into new life." Thank you Lord for this Godly man that you placed in my path.
|Baptism at The Jordan River|
One of the places I chose was the base of a thorn tree on the Mt. of Beatitudes. Debbie, a new friend and special woman, came and placed a rock in the shape of a heart in my hand. She had seen me when I thought no one had...thank you Father for always knowing my needs before I do.
There was never a moment when those waves of sorrow and grief would suddenly overwhelm me, that God didn't place someone in my path to comfort me, and share my loss.
I had prayed for God to speak to my heart, oh how he answered my prayers. This group of fellow "pilgrims" became my body of Christ. They met me, just as Christ had met hundreds of the people following him 2000 years ago and we stood on this holy ground and they were my Christ incarnate. We worshipped together, laughed together, rode camels together, floated in the Dead Sea together and drank lots of really bad wine and ate multiple cans of Pringles together.
Yes, again God had answered my prayers in far greater ways than I might ever have imagined.
|Our Group Walking the Ruins|
|Kristen & Sue Minor|
|Women at the Wailing Wall|
|Really Bad Wine on Tap...Really Bad!|
|Pringles, just had to be there...|
|Beginning of our 24 hour trip back|
|Religions of Israel|
|Food & Work in the Old City of Jerusalem|
|The Beauty of The Holy Land|
Ephesians 3:20 "Now glory be to God who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of, infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts or hopes."