Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day

It is July 4th, Independence Day.  Growing up this meant going to my grandparents home with my family, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.  It meant food and fireworks.  It meant homemade ice cream.  I think some years there were so many flavors we could have given Baskin-Robinns a run for it's money.  I loved running around my grandparents yard with bare feet waving my sparkler and watching the bright colors lighting up the sky.

As I grew older the 4th continued to mean all of the above, but it also meant parades, festivals, and BBQ.  One year it meant I had the opportunity to get in a tethered hot air balloon and go up about 50ft.  I cried.  It was a moment I will never forget.  I love hot balloons and I loved the 4th. It also meant singing Lee Greenwood's "G-d Bless The USA".

As an adult it means watching fireworks with my kids and maybe them writing their names with a sparkler.  It means swimming and it means summer. It continues to mean singing Lee Greenwood's "G-d Bless The USA".

In all of this celebrating the reason was weaved throughout the day. I have explained it to my kids. 

Independence Day is the day commemorating the Declaration of Independence in 1776. We were no longer part of the British Empire, but our own nation, the United States of America. It is the birthday of this land we call home. We have this summer holiday, because countless people fought for our independence.  We owe our independence, our freedom, our status as a nation, and the continuation of it to the ones who sacrificed then, the ones who have sacrificed since, and the ones still serving our nation.  Thank you to those countless men and women. 

I learned more about celebrating this holiday when I was in Israel.

I was in Israel for Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel Independence Day.  It is proceeded by Yom Hazikaron, Israel's Memorial Day.  This is a beautiful picture as the nation transitions from a day of national mourning to a day of national celebration.  The state of Israel knows that they owe their existence to G-d and the soldiers who have laid down their lives for it. They too have BBQs, fireworks, and celebrations.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

The holiday began with about 15 of us gathered in a hotel room to watch a program celebrating Israel's 70th anniversary.  After the program a small group of us enjoyed a walk around our hotel.  This bridge was beautifully lit for Israel's Independence Day.  We briefly saw a concert and fireworks.  It was much like things we would see in the states.

The next day continued the celebration of Israel's Independence day with a visit to a place called Latrun, an armored corps memorial site and museum.

This is my friend Gidon with a picture of  the symbol of the unit he served with.  Thank you for your service.  

We ended our celebration of Independence Day at the Ayalon Institute.  This was an underground bullet factory that was disguised as a laundry service and bakery. It was impressive.  It was secretly created in less than a month. I suggest you google this place and read up on it.  It is really incredible.

Thank you to Israel for sharing your day of mourning with me and your day of celebration.  The three holidays I spent in you country taught me so much.  I am so grateful. 

There were many similarities in the way we celebrate Independence Day in the states and how Israel celebrates.  I loved being able to visit sites that dig deep the reminder that the nation exists because of the men and women willing to fight for it, to protect it's borders, and to protect it's people.

Today as we celebrate the birthday of America with food, fireworks, family, and friends we may not have the opportunity to visit places that drive home the fact that our country exists because of the men and women who have sacrificed and are willing to continue to fight for it, by may we take the day to reflect and remember. 

In the words of Lee Greenwood, "I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
And I'd gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today.
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land! God bless the U.S.A."

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day

Three different holidays occurred while I was in Israel.  One of those was Yom Hazikaron or Memorial Day.  It is Israel's official remembrance day dedicated to fallen soldiers and has been extended to civilian victims of terrorism.  It is a national day of remembrance. Places close, ceremonies are held, candles are lit, and flags lowered to half staff. 

In Israel the new day begins at sunset.  The start of this day of remembrance began with a siren heard throughout the land that lasted for one minute.  In this one minute everything stops, cars driving on highways, people walking, it all ceases and the people stand in silence commemorating lives lost.  This one minute was followed by a service where stories where told about the lives of soldiers who were being remembered, names and pictures were shared of many who gave their lives for their country. These services were held all over the country.

The next morning cemeteries were filled with people attending ceremonies and gathering around the graves of soldiers.   A two minute siren was heard throughout the land and again everything stops, everyone stands, and silence is given as the nation mourns together for the many lives lost in service and terrorism.  There were songs, prayers, and tears of remembrance.

 Stones are seen on the graves, placed there by friends, family, and visitors. These stones, according to Jewish tradition, are about much more than just marking a visit. I witnessed stones being placed as the country collectively cried for the sacrifices made.   

While solemn, observing this day along side my Jewish friends in Israel, was beautiful to behold.  Israel honors these men and women on Memorial Day so much better than we do in America. 

Today my daughter asked what Memorial Day was about, I explained.  Her response, "then why is everyone BBQing and going to the beach?"  

I confess my lack of commemorating Memorial Day and
 for that I am sorry.  To Israel, I say thank you for showing me the error of my ways.  To my daughter, your wisdom is inspiring. 

This morning, I was blessed to attend church with my grandfather. The entire service was dedicated to honoring Memorial Day.  There was no siren, but there was a moment of silence.  There were songs, prayers, and stories of lives willing to sacrifice. There were no stones, but there was remembrance.  I was filled with pride that this small church got it right.  

Today let us not make this day about mattress sales, food, and beaches.  Today may we remember  those who sacrificed their lives. May we learn from Israel and mourn together. Maybe in lieu of flowers, we place stones that will not wither, stones of remembrance.   The pastor this morning stated each life "gave up two lives, they one they lived and the one they would have."  This giving up was so you and I may live in the land of the free.

Memorial Day
Remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice


Friday, May 25, 2018

How I Ended Up In Israel

I like road trips.  I don't like to fly, in fact I am fearful. Until this year, I had not flown in 15 years.  I rarely travel.  I have been out of the state I live in only a handful of times.  I never had a passport till I turned 40, which was in 2017.  However, in April of 2018 I embarked on a journey completely out of the box for me.  I went to Israel!!! It wasn't a journey that I would have planned, but G-d invited me and He began that long before April.

I believe the story began in 2014 when my family began attending other churches from the one we had been attending.  During the time away, I received messages from someone at the church inviting us back, which continued into 2015 a few times.  In 2016 we did go back to the church briefly, but left again.  That same person continued to invite us back.  In these years we only visited a few churches and stayed at a couple for a good length of time, but we never felt those congregations were where we belonged.  The messages I received and brief conversations that I had with this person, G-d used to bring us back to the original church we left.  We visited again in January of 2017 and have not left!!

It was at this church that I frequently heard my pastor, Trey Graham speak about Israel and a fleeting thought would run through my mind that it would be cool to go. That thought was never seriously entertained.  I knew Israel was important. I knew that the Jews were G-d's chosen people. It was a basic head knowledge. That drastically changed in February of 2017.  Our pastor had a guest speaker named Dov Lipman share his story of  making aliyah.  His story impacted me so much.  I would now say it changed my life.  Little did I know, this was the night the Lord began preparing me for my first trip out of the country. This man was used by G-d to light a fire in me to learn about Israel, the Jewish people, and Hebrew.

Shortly after this guest speaker, my pastor began a sermon series titled "A Walk Through the Holy Land".  It was incredible.  It increased my hunger to learn more.  During this series I was challenged to run a half marathon, this challenge was inspired by how much Jesus walked in the land of Israel.  I also ended up changing jobs. The founder of the organization I now work for has a deep love for Israel, the Jewish people, and Hebrew.

In May of 2017 I was asked to help with a prayer ministry for Israel and in the email it was stated that I had not yet gone to Israel.  At that point, I wanted to go, but yet I didn't.  I didn't want to fly and I didn't think it was possible for me to go. But those words stayed with me.

In August we had two more speakers from the land, both inspiring me to keep learning.  I had already began studying the letters, these speakers increased my desire to learn more. I absolutely love Hebrew.  It is incredible. My pastor began teaching us about Jewish holidays and I was blown away.  In October I was told about the upcoming trips to Israel, but they were not official.  I was also told about a conference regarding Israel I could attend. I loved every moment of the music and the learning. My pastor and Rabbi Lipman began a podcast, called the Lonestar Podcast,  that I now listen to weekly. They discuss news, events, and Torah.  In November I read a book by Don Finto titled "Your People Shall Be My People" and it drove deeper my love for this land, this language, and this people. I began asking people questions from the book, even strangers.  The Israel trip for April was officially announced on November 21.  I mentioned on social media the trip sounded amazing and the co-host of the trip stated "I personally guarantee it."  This man runs Root-Source, another resource where Jews teach Christians. I signed up for that to learn more.  Now I wanted to go, but with other circumstances, fear, and money I didn't know how.  In December the how was figured out. The Lord provided. I just had to make a decision.

My one word for 2018 is trust, but on December 26, 2017 I had not made the choice for my word.  I had a conversation with a few friends about Israel and trust came up. After this talk I read Luke 7:50 in the CJB version,  "Your trust has saved you, go in peace".  While the story leading up to this verse is different than making a decision to fly out of the country, the verse spoke to me.  I felt G-d was asking me to go and let trust be my word for 2018.  I had never left my kids for this long, but I wanted them to see faith.  I wanted them to see obedience. I wrestled with the choice, but finally said yes on January 9, 2018.   I lost sleep over the choice.  I felt anxious. The night I found out the plane tickets were booked, I lost sleep again. We began a 40 days of faith series and in my book on 1-22-18 I heard from the Lord and wrote "stop being so fearful." On 1-26-18 I listened to the Lonestar Podcast and took notes when I listened a second time, because it spoke to me about going on the trip.  I heard Pastor Trey and Rabbi Lipman speak about faith and ask questions and say things such as, "Will I trust Him to protect me?", "If the Lord says go, we go. Act of faith". I knew I would regret not going.  Despite trust being my word and these messages I struggled some, but as April of 2018 drew near I also had a peace that I was saying yes to what the Lord had invited me to do. And that is how I ended up in Israel.

I can't get over how much this has taken root in me.  I wish everyone understood what I am learning. The meanings and structure of the Hebrew letters, the traditions, the land....all of's incredible.  I read the Bible with new eyes.  My faith has grown.  I have made many new friends because of this journey.  I am extremely thankful.  I look forward to sharing the trip with you soon and maybe a post about all the learning resources I have used and books I have read.

For all of this Baruch Hashem.  

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Yad Vashem

I recently went to Israel for the first time.  In a series of upcoming posts I will be sharing the story of what led me to go and stories about my trip.  In the mean time, I wanted to share about my visit to a museum while there.  When I was in Israel three holidays occurred, the first was Holocaust Memorial Day.  I had a few moments outside of the museum to write down a few words.  I wrote the following on social media:

We just visited the Yad Vashem, the Holocaust History Museum.  I process through writing, I would have loved more time to write, but only had a few minutes.  A few of my thoughts:

I wish I had time to really process the feelings and thoughts about what I just witnessed. I am so thankful there was light at the end of the tunnel. There was hope. Walking through at times, I just felt like I needed a hug because of the emotions overwhelming my heart and soul. The display of the shoes drew me in. Where had the feet that fit in those shoes walked before these evil events took place? What was the person like? I saw only saw beautiful faces. They were like you and me.
 People who did nothing wrong and yet it was their shoes staring at me. It made me so mad that people who claimed to be Christians took part in this, putting fear into the lives of these people, creating a great chasm. And yet here I stood, seeing this in Israel, where G-d invited me to be, learning about His people, His land, and bridging the gap in some small way. I am blessed to do that, because these are G-d’s chosen people. I am blessed to do that because they persevered, fought, and held on despite the copious amount of loss, despite what they went through. What strength my Jewish friends have. I saw a picture of a young man, he was skin and bones, barely clothed, but he survived. At first I didn’t think it was a full smile, but after looking again, it was, his eyes were gleaming. I wanted to know his story. I may never know that, but I know he taught me about survival, about joy even in sorrow. Never forget.

There were various parts to the museum.  At the main building, which was like a tunnel, you entered one end and went through rooms that told the horrific tribulations of the Jewish people, however towards the end it told stories of how so many survived, how so many fought.  When you exited the exhibit after a very dark story, this is a picture of what you see. This was the light a the end of the tunnel.  Hope is expectation, hope is an optimistic outlook, hope is what you saw, and hope is what you see throughout Israel and in the faces of the Jewish people. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

I Saw The Movie I Can Only Imagine

I have been wanting to see the movie "I Can Only Imagine" since before it came out, I finally took myself to see it today and it moved me.  Tears ran down my cheek.  I almost skipped going to the movie because I needed to workout and my to-do list is a mile long, but I went and I am thankful I did.

As I watched the story unfold I was reminded how powerful words and music are.  I am in a season where I could use the power of words.  Words help me process.  I have been reading many words and singing them, but I have not done much of my own writing, rather it be on my blog, my computer, or my journal. Writing is one way I hear Jesus and I find rest.  This story was used to remind me of that.

On the screen I watched as negative voices screamed into the head of the actor playing Bart Millard and I sobbed.  #metoo   I have let negative voices scream into my own head.  Sometimes they are from my own doubt and fear and sometimes from others. I see this happen to my girls.  It is hard to do the thing we are being called to do with those voices invading our thoughts. Those voices can keep us from changing the world, however the stories that come from those places can be used by Jesus to change us, to help someone else, and do what He has called us to do...what He has gifted us for.  I have also learned that those voices, they can be replaced, replaced with truth. And sometimes we have to do thing despite the negative voices. 

During the movie I thought about one of the books I am currently reading that I am on the launch team for.  I am barely in, but it is incredible. It is called Raising World Changers in a Changing World by Kristen Welch, you can read more about it and pre-order here.  I finished chapter 1 last night and read questions that I could ask my kids, their answers were exactly what this movie depicted.  One question the author poses is "What do you think being a world changer means?"- My youngest stated "make people be inspired by you", my oldest said "be yourself, do what He wants, and you can change people by the way you interact with them".  So much wisdom in those statements.  I am grateful Kristen Welch has written a book full of stories to help me raise world changers and I am grateful that Bart Millard and Mercy Me are inspiring people through the telling of this story and their music.

Go see the movie and order the book.  Lets inspire each other and be world changers.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

Another year, brings another word.  In fact it will be my 5th word.  Five years of praying about and focusing on one word has been more impactful than any New Year's resolutions I have ever made.  I never seemed to keep resolutions, but walking with a word for a year, it changes you.  G-d uses it to sculpt and mold me.  He uses it to teach me and guide me.  He uses it to speak to me and love me.  Every year with every word has been so meaningful.

In 2014 I chased what matters.
In 2015 I wanted to be
In 2016 it was transform.
And in 2017 it was courage.

I knew why I needed to focus on courage when 2017 started, but I had no idea how G-d would have me work through it.  There were many circumstances that despite my fear and doubt that G-d used the word courage to see me through.  It was there in learning new things, growing my faith, in my parenting, in dealing with personal "stuff",  and of course as I conquered doing the impossible (AKA running a half marathon). In frequent moments of anxiety and fear He used the running challenge to build my courage and remind me that He is with me.  A year with this word has helped me fight for myself and at times with myself.

I think my biggest take away with this word was something I wrote in my blog post about completing the half:

"Being obedient to this doing the impossible challenge helped me embrace my one word for the year, courage.   Courage does not mean no fear or no risk.    It's realizing the presence of danger, fear, or difficulty and still taking action.  I was unsure of my ability to follow through with this training due to asthma and my knees. 

But G-d. 

I was sure of Him.

Obedience over feelings."

This foundation of courage has led me to my word for 2018....Trust.

While I am sure of Him, as I went through 2017 and the word courage, I was able to to see gaps in my trust.  I saw gaps in trust of myself, others, my journey, my ability, what G-d wants me to do, my parenting, and much more.  I see hesitation to say yes and say no, because of struggles with trust.  Doubt creeps in.  In 2018 I want to fill those places with expanding trust and see what the Lord will do in my weight loss journey, in my faith, in my home, in my new found love of Israel, the Jewish people, and the Hebrew language, and in many other areas He has laid on my heart.

I think courage and trust are intertwined and that makes trust a perfect next word. 

One Word.

One Year.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I Did The Impossible

November 12, 2017 I became a half marathon finisher.

Looking back,  I believe G-d knew I would on March 27, 2015.

It was on this date that I posted the following picture on social media:

At the time my swagger wagon only had one car magnet....a 5k one. Someone placed this 13.1 magnet on my car while my family and I were inside a movie theater. When we walked out there was some confusion about this being my van.  At the end of the post with this picture I wrote: "Cracks me up that someone put this on my swagger wagon!! Maybe they are telling me I should do 13.1???"

Running wasn't even on my radar in 2015.  My last and third 5k was in 2013.  I had meniscus surgery on my right knee in 2012, my left knee in 2013, and other health issues in 2013.  I was trying to keep fighting on my journey despite feeling defeated, but running was not apart of that fight! In September of 2015 I had to have thyroid surgery, which led to an asthma diagnosis and months of getting that managed.

I was able to do other workouts, but run no way.  I was slow when I ran in 2013....with all the stuff that hindered me, I would be even slower, so I stuck to what I could do and enjoyed
and I did not run.

But G-d. 

He asked me to do the impossible.  I said yes.

 Obedience over feelings. 

Being obedient to this doing the impossible challenge helped me embrace my one word for the year, courage.   Courage does not mean no fear or no risk.    It's realizing the presence of danger, fear, or difficulty and still taking action.  I was unsure of my ability to follow through with this training due to asthma and my knees. 

But G-d. 

I was sure of Him.

Obedience over feelings.
All of the work led to half marathon day.  On one hand it was just another run, but on the other hand it was so much more.  I had so much support and encouragement and for that I am grateful.  I had many who allowed me to ask questions and gave me their tips....including tips for running in the rain.
 During training I always skipped days that it rained and made it up later.  On race day, I could not skip.  I don't know how long it rained at the start, a few miles maybe, it wasn't a down pour, but it wasn't a sprinkle either, and boy did it spike up the humidity! I was gasping for air by mile 9 and had to have help getting my inhaler.  The air also seemed to make me loose electrolytes faster. During training my knees never hurt, but on race day, I became worried that something was wrong and I would not be able to finish.  I just kept going.  I knew G-d called me to this, and He would see me through.  Throughout my training I used an app I love that helped me know my mileage and my pace,but while participating I used a different app, and it did not match the mileage signs on the route nor inform me of my distance between miles and I felt lost many times.  I often wondered where I was and how far I had to go.  I was asked by a gentleman checking on runners in a golf cart, if I was ok several times and asked once if I wanted a ride.  I must have been a sight! (The rain that began again at the end wasn't helping matters.)  I told him no, I would finish even if they shut down the finish line.  I finally made it to the last drink station, so approximately mile 12 and was blessed by two amazing ladies who asked if they could run in with me. (During this mile, I did ask a cop driving us in to arrest me, but the ladies would not let him.) I even had another volunteer run with me for a minute at a previous station, who joined us right before crossing the finish.  I was used to running and walking alone, it is how I trained, but having support to finish that last mile was a blessing.  Crossing the finish line made me smile from ear to ear and cry. 

Obedience over feelings.

Impossible became possible.  I conquered 13.1 miles.  I completed a half marathon. Really G-d did it.  He called me to it and met me in every step of every mile.  I am so humbled by that.  I am so grateful that I obeyed and experienced this journey with Him. He knew I could do it on November 12, 2017 and knew I would on March 27, 2015.  He also knew why He was calling me to it.  He knew I needed this journey at this time.  The work that He and I did for the last 6 months has equipped and empowered me. It has helped me grasp a deeper meaning of endurance and perseverance.  This challenge has been hard! I have wanted to quit....but I kept obeying, enduring, and persevering. I have grown stronger physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Obedience over feelings. 

Half marathon finisher.


On Sunday I was given a gift for my running shoes:

Hebrews 12:1 says "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witness to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.  And let us run with endurance the race G-d has set before us."

Whatever your race is, it may seem impossible, but G-d. 

Obedience over feelings.  

You can do it my friend.  And He will meet you in every step of every mile.