Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Garden

We were able to stay with my parents while we were in Israel.  They volunteer 6 months of the year at the Garden Tomb.  It was neat for us to wake up in this incredible spot every day!

On Thursday, after we got back from the tunnel tour, we took a tour of the garden with my dad.  He was leading a group (that had friends of Mike and Jessica's from Germany ... small world!) and we just joined in the group.
My dad ... ready to do his thing.  We are so thankful that God has allowed this desire of his and my mom's hearts.  He did it in such a way that it was truly His desire for them too!
My dad was sharing about the garden ... how it came to be, why they believe it COULD be the place where Jesus was buried, and why he is there doing what he does.
I had already listened in to quite a few of the tours, but it was a first for these two ... they already loved the garden, but after the tour, I think they loved it even more!

At some point in the tour, my dad talked about Golgotha, which means place of the skull.  It was a spot where public deaths would have happened ... it was a spot outside the city, and yet close enough that many people could have been a witness.

After he shares that, he shows the group "skull hill" ...
... which gave me goose bumps when I first saw it 20 years ago and still gives me goose bumps today.  How like God to give us a reminder of what He did for us.  Is it Golgatha?  I don't know ... but, I know that Jesus was crucified and risen again in a place near here.
We know that Jesus was buried in the private tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.  We know he was wealthy and that his tomb was in a garden.  When the land for the garden was purchased, a man was trying to plant an olive orchard on the property.  He sold the land because he couldn't find a source of water.  He was looking in the wrong place ... because this is what the garden tomb people found ... an extremely large cistern.  Which proves there was a garden here at one time and the owner of the garden would have been wealthy.
Into the cistern ... a long way down!
A very large wine press is also on the garden property ... further proof there was a garden here in the past.
A replica of the stone that would have been used in the track in front of the tomb ... a very small replica.
The tomb.  The reason we are free.  The reason we love this place so much.  It was thrilling to be able to share this with Torrey and Dean ... to see them fall in love with it as much as I did 20 years ago.  We all continue to talk of our trip and what we saw and all that we learned ... and long to go back again.  

I know for my parents, their being in the garden has been a special gift from God, but I can't help but think how neat it was for them to watch 4 of their 6 grandchildren walk through the gate of the garden.  They loved sharing their homeland with the kids!
And, just in case you are wondering ... the tomb is empty!

The Trip Goes On ... And On ... And On ...

On Thursday morning, Chuck Swindoll arrived in the garden with his group of over 600.  He spoke and they had communion together.  We stayed in the garden in the morning to listen to him speak.  Amazing.  One thing he said that has stuck with me (maybe because I teach) was that we need to be teaching our children Bible verses and hymns ... because some day if we are the ones in the camps it will be all we have.  Foretelling?  Perhaps.  True?  Oh, yes.

In the afternoon we had a reservation to go to the Western Wall tunnels, but we thought we would have time to go to the Temple Institute to view the items they have prepared for the new temple.  Not enough time ... which is another reason we have to go back!

As we walked up the stairs to the Temple Institute, Dean was stopped by this jewish gentleman who asked if he could pray a blessing over him.  We will never say no to a blessing!
As soon as he was finished praying over Dean he asked him for some money to help the rebuilding of the temple.  Dean gave him some shekels that were coins ... he said paper money would be better!

While we were waiting for our time to go on the tunnel tour, we went to the wailing wall.  Torrey and I went to the women's side.

Inside the cracks in the stone, people put prayers.  Twenty years ago I pulled one out ... I put it back.  Torrey took one as well ... hers was in Russian or some other strange language.  She did not put hers back!
We then headed under the buildings beside the Western Wall to follow the wall that would have been part of the Temple before it was destroyed in AD 70.  Fortunately the Romans pushed the wall down from the top, thus preserving much of the bottom wall for future generations.

At this point we were under the Muslim quarter.  There were points of the tour that our guide would tell us we were in the basements of the houses above.
Our guide is showing us one of the keystones of the temple wall.  It is tremendously long and tall.  Which leads to the question ... how did they get it there?  With no crane.  With no big equipment.  How?  Looking at it was one of those goose bump moments ... we had many of them on this trip!
Here you can see Dean and Torrey walking beside the stone.
This is the spot where they believe the Holy of Holies was in the temple .... behind the wall.  You are allowed to come to the wall to pray and there were a few people praying at this spot.  You can see prayers in the wall at this spot as well.
In some parts of the tour you felt like there was a lot of room.  Others were more like here ... close quarters.
There is one in every crowd!
Well, in this case there are two!  Guess who she takes after?!
These aren't just any stone.  They were part of the road from the Roman times.  This was part of the marketplace outside the temple area.
We enjoyed our times in the tunnel very much.  We will do this again when we return!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Bit Melancholy

It has been a bit since I last posted.  Well, more like a long bit.  I still have more pictures from our trip to post.  There are pictures from graduation to post.  There are pictures from the 8th grade dance that show a too grown up Torrey that will pain me to post.  And, I can't.

Because I've been a bit melancholy lately.

It's that time of year again.  It always hits me like a mack truck ... seemingly out of nowhere and yet I know it is coming.  Some years I anticipate it's coming like Christmas morning.  And some years I dread it terribly.  This year I dread it especially.

Tomorrow is the last day of school.

For the past 6 weeks I have asked myself these questions.  How?  How do I give these littles away?  Have I done enough?  Were my words always kind?  Was I everything they needed me to be?  Do they know how much Jesus loves them because they saw Him living in me?

Ava asked me the question that has been on their hearts lately.  "Will our First Grade teachers love us?"  I assured her they would.  "You promise?"  With my whole heart.  

Lord, let it be so.

I had to look away when Gracie told me that "next year they would be all scrambled up."  It saddened me to think that our little family would never be the same again.  It makes them sad, too.

Serick gave me a picture of him crying, because next year he would miss me so much.  Serick, who has kept me in stitches most of the year, reduced me to tears.  

These last days have been spent remembering fun things that happened this year.

Like when the butterflies hatched and I spilled the water and each kinderfriend carried a butterfly cupped in their hands to the playground.  I close my eyes and I still see them ... in a line, giggling, walking slowly, carrying their precious cargo.  How thankful I am for a spilled cup of water and drowning butterflies!

We remembered our field trip to the beach and the long bus ride there.  And back.  They asked me over and over again if we were almost there.  Makes me smile now.  Not so much then.

We have promised to be friends forever.  They have promised to come back and visit just like all the past kiddos.  I have promised to give lots of hugs ... and to chase and kiss those that think they are too big to stop and say hi.

I am sad to say that this years class has taught me more than I have taught them.  I am a different person today than I was on that first day in August.  After a difficult year last year, they were exactly what I needed.   And, I am thankful.

Thankful for 16 littles who were mine for a minute.  Thankful for 16 littles who love Jesus with their whole heart.  Thankful for 16 littles who love each other for exactly who they are.  Thankful for 16 littles who will change the world.  Thankful for 16 littles who changed me for the better.