Part 3 – Memories made, Lessons learned

It’s been 8 months since we visited the Holy Lands, and it still feels like a dream. Except I can still see it, and smell it, and hear it, and taste it… I have treasured those memories. My fellow travelers hold such a dear place in my heart. Those places and people have changed the way I read and come to Scripture. I am so grateful for the ways God provided for us both before and during our journey, from the funds to get there, to safety, to good health and good weather, to the best tour guide we could imagine – we could see the hand of God working all things out for our good. It was truly the trip of a lifetime. Over the course of our travels, I would collect several things: souvenirs, rocks, 6000 pictures (that is not a typo!), but the thing I treasure most are these lessons.

In Isreael we learned: Jesus is more than a flannel-graph. 2015 was a year that I found myself returning to the book of John a lot. It was the focus of a Bible study I was a part of in March, and the scripture and stories stuck to me for months after. Traveling through Israel, especially Jerusalem, I found those stories, those people, coming to life in a whole new way. I could smell the wine in Cana, I could see the blind man begging, I could hear Jesus shouting for Lazarus to come out of his grave, I could feel the hardness of the stones as I sat next to a well. However, the part of John that seemed to ring the truest was John 1:14 – “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us”. He is real. He came. He taught. He healed. He loved. He saved.

In Israel we learned: how to be a pilgrim and not just a tourist.

Our friend and fellow traveler, Dr. Jeff Peterson, wrote a fantastic blog about our journey to Israel together shortly after we returned. It is wonderful, and is a great summary of what we did and learned. His article is probably the second biggest reason I haven’t blogged about it before now (the first being, oh you know, growing and birthing a baby). He speaks to our desire to be more than just tourists in this place, and instead pilgrims with a purpose. I think he articulates this thought better than I can, so you can read his thoughts HERE.

In Israel we learned: how to be a disciple.

DSC_2237Probably the greatest blessing of our trip was our beloved tour guide, Anton Farrah. Eddie had been on tours with Anton before and managed to work it out with the tour company to secure Anton for this trip. Anton was humble, strong, gentle, and people loved him (someone stopped to say hello and tell our group how lucky we were to have Anton as a guide at almost EVERY stop! We are pretty sure he trained every tour guide in Israel). He truly had scripture written on his heart. He recalled stories and people as if they were friends, and events as if they happened last week. He never quoted chapter or verse, because the bigger Story was written on his heart. Anton uttered phrases like “come” and “follow me”, as tour guides all over the world do. But they took on
a different meaning here. You really wanted to follow him. He was magnetic, and we hung on all his words, knowing we’d be richer for it. In those moments, I got a better understanding of what being a disciple means, and how the disciples felt. Until now,
I couldn’t understand how they could just “drop their nets and follow me”. But now I get it… At one point on our trip, Eddie said, “May we remember WHERE we walked, but also HOW we walked.” I thought that was so appropriate as we followed Anton. We had no worries, we just trusted and followed our teacher. May we remember to be as gracious to our Savior in following as we were to our guide.



{In case you are curious what Anton sounded like, HERE is a video of him from Youtube on a prior tour. Skip to the 1:44 mark. He has a great accent!)

Cary and I were the youngest people on the trip by a decade. As I mentioned before, this was a trip I never imagined going on any time soon. As I thought back over these sites and these lessons, I kept thinking how fortunate I was to be going on this trip at a fairly young age. I’m so grateful that for the rest of my life I will be able to look back on these ten days and remember the sights, sounds, smells, and mostly the lessons. I do not think I am better because I took this trip, but I do know that I am better for it.


Israel: Where Jesus Walked, Part II – Oh, the places you will go!

Several weeks before our departure, our tour company sent us an itinerary in the mail. Cary and I went out to dinner that night, and I took it along so that we could pour over it together. I really should have known better… A trip I’d been dreaming of for years + pregnancy hormones = weeping into my French fries… I read places like “Bethany – tomb of Lazarus” and “Jacob’s Well” and “The Garden Tomb”, and simply couldn’t contain the tears. But one thing we learned very quickly on our trip was that we would need to hold that itinerary very loosely. Our tour guide, Anton, and our bus driver, Haleel, were very aware of what were safe sights that day and what were not, and it changed daily. We had to learn how to trust them and simply follow where they were leading (more on that later). Every single day was very full – I can’t imagine doing even one more thing. Anton knew that our time was brief and he really did a fabulous job at helping us see the absolute most we could. Our first five days were spent in Judea (with the first four of those in Jerusalem), and the last half we spent in Galilee. We never made it to Samaria, because those sites were simply too dangerous.

Here is the run down of what we ended up doing and seeing every day. I’ve included links to a few Wikipedia articles if you want more information on these sites. I also picked one site each day to highlight as my favorite part of the day (and boy, was that hard to narrow down!!)

Day 1 – October 21, 2015

  • traveling day, arriving in Tel Aviv.
  • Journey to Jerusalem by bus
  • The Hebrew University of Jerusalem with views over the “old City” and the Temple Mount

    DSC_1756We were weary after a long flight to Israel, but yet so alert (thank you, adrenaline). We were actually here. Israel. We had a panoramic view of the whole city of Jerusalem. It was the perfect introduction to this country that we would soon grow to love. I was simply overcome. I was also so thankful. I kept looking at Cary – he had made my dream come true (and he did it when I was 29 years old!). I was so thankful to be in this place with these people at this time. I would have simply been undone if I had known what the next week would hold… 

Day 2 – October 22, 2015

  • Western Wall at the Temple Mount
  • The Temple Mount
    Today was the first full day of site-seeing, and we started off with a bang! Our first stop was the Temple Mount. Jewish people are not allowed up on the Mount, so the Western Wall is as close to the site of the temple as they can get – which is why it is such a sacred place for them. The Temple Mount is now occupied by Muslims, and 2 mosques sit here – the most famous/recognizable being the Dome of the Rock, with it’s large golden dome. But what I found most interesting what the sites where the old altar would have been for animal sacrifices, and where the Holy of Holies would have been. Near there, we stood on stones that they believe were original stones from Solomon’s temple. We were literally standing on stones that Jesus might have stood on or touched. That was pretty cool. I was also really struck by how quiet it was. There were a few people walking around, but it was mostly folks sitting around in circles having quiet conversations with one another. 

    • Dome of the Rock
    • Site of Temple Altar
    • Site of the Holy of Holies
    • Stones from Solomon’s temple
  • Pool of Bethesda (John 5)
  • Saint Anne’s Church – birthplace of Mary, mother of Jesus
  • Bethlehem
  • Herodium – palace of HerodDSCN0070
  • Drove past, but didn’t stop:
    • Field where Judas died
    • Catholic cemetery where Oskar Schindler is buried

**Well, I can’t stick to my own rule… I simply can’t pick just one from days 3&4. These two days were my favorite, and the most meaningful for me. I’d love to share just a few stories**

Day 3 – October 23, 2015

  • Mount of Olives / Palm Sunday Road
    • Church of the Ascension 
    • Church of the Tears – where Jesus wept over Jerusalem
    • Garden of Gethsemane
      This olive grove was simple breath-taking. There were some olive trees that experts are dating almost 2000 years old. Their trunks were 5-6 feet in diameter! It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It was also when I felt like we were truly walking in the footsteps of Jesus. Oh, if trees could talk!! There is a marker in the garden where they believe the disciples were left to pray, and just a few steps away, within the Church of All Nations, is the rock where they believe Jesus prayed. I had always pictured it a much greater distance in my head. This was a recurring theme of our trip – changing the picture I had in my mind to a much more accurate image. 
    • Church of All Nations and the Rock of Agony – where Jesus prayed before his arrest
    • Pater Nastor
      Church of “Our Father” – Lord’s Prayer written in hundreds of languages all around the perimeter of the courtyard. This is Anton reading the Prayer in Aramaic and Hebrew.

      • P1000221 caves where Jesus slept
        I have read the words “and Jesus retreated to a solitary place” before hundreds of times. But those words never sunk in until today. While we were on the mount of Olives, we saw some caves. These caves were the ones, or very siDSC_1886milar to the ones, where Jesus would have spent the night (he couldn’t stay inside the city without posing a risk to his hosts) when he did not go back over the mountain to Bethany. They would have been the place of his solitary retreats. Jesus did not go off and frolic in a meadow of daisies. He was in the desert, so his retreat was a cool cave. This was a sobering place for us to rest.  
    • Garden Tomb
       When I think back on our trip, this is the first image that always pops in my mind. And one of the best experiences of “heaven on earth” that I have experienced in my short thirty years. The Garden Tomb is one of only a few sites that still holds some plausibility of being the location of Jesus’ death and resurrection, although most will state that the most likely site is the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. But while the Church is crowded, ornate, and loud, the Garden Tomb was simple, beautiful, and peaceful. When we walked in the gate, I could hear a chorus singing “How Great is Our God” in another language. I both saw and smelled the beautiful flowers, and I thought, “I just got a glimpse of Heaven”. It literally stopped my in my tracks. We took a short walk where we saw a hill with erosion that mimicked a skull. We saw the foot of the hill where public stonings would have taken place (even perhaps Stephen’s). We heard our guide, Bertyl’s, eloquent and convicting testimony. We then took a short walk back and were led to a tomb in the side of the hill. It had a track for a rolling stone, it had the place of two burial beds, it had the layout described in scripture. It was empty. It was beautiful. Many wanted to take pictures, but I simply wanted to “be”. Never have I longed to just stand and “be” as I was in that instant. There are hardly words. Regardless of where the actual site is, this is how I want to remember the tomb of Jesus – simple, beautiful, peaceful, and empty. Hallelujah.

      • Golgotha
      • Empty Tomb
      • Wine press
    • Israel museum
      • Holyland Model of Jerusalem
      • Dead Sea Scrolls
    • Upper Room 
    • Site of house of Caiaphus
    • Church of Denial/ Church of St. Peter
      • Traditional site of Fireplace where Peter denied Christ
      • Dungeon where they may have kept Jesus overnight11700858_10103531407083787_5678295443155328807_o

Day 4 – October 24, 2015 (Shabbat)

  • Bethany – Tomb of Lazarus
    Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Two sisters and a brother. That is a character line-up I am familiar with. I have always loved this trio, because throughout the gospels, you can read of their deep, real friendship with Jesus. He was their Lord, but He was also their friend. In the stories of scripture, I often find myself in their living room. I like to think we would have been friends too. Martha and I would have had a ball making a little Noah’s ark out of a melon, and little animals out of cheese… Anyway, Bethany today is a town of unrest. Anton said we could go, but we HAD to be out by 10am. We were on a mission – get in, get out. Bethany would have been a relatively short walk from Jerusalem, it’s just on the other side of the Mount of Olives. But because of a LARGE wall that has been built, we had to drive about 30 minutes, around the valley of the Shadow of death, around the large wall, to arrive in Bethany. Once there, we trekked up the hill to the site of the tomb of Lazarus. I always pictured this as a hole in the side of a hill with a stone, like the tomb Jesus was laid in, so I was surprised when the entrance to the tomb was in the ground.12185185_10103531413650627_4919684163412858343_o It was a burial vault that you had to climb down in. Anton told us that Jewish people believe the spirit remains in the tomb with a body for three days, which is why they believed it was beyond hope when Lazarus had died – he had been in the tomb FOUR days. It was little facts like this from our Shepherd that really made the Word come to life this week. It makes those miracles even that much more… well, miraculous!
  • Drove past Valley of the Shadow of Death
  • Old City of Jerusalem – Christian Quarter
  • Church of the Holy Sepluchre DSC_2051
    • Calvary
    • Tomb
    • Rock of Annointment
    • Tomb where Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea buried
  • Old City of Jerusalem – Jewish quarter
    • City wall of Nehemiah from first temple periodDSC_2085
  • Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
    Maybe it seems obvious that this would be a highlight, but in case it isn’t – remember, I was 18 weeks pregnant! There is something really special about being pregnant and making a pilgrimage to Bethlehem. I know 18 weeks is a lot different than poor Mary at 40 weeks, but with all the hills, you wouldn’t have had to twist my arm into taking a donkey up to the Church! The line to see the cave where Jesus was born was very long, and we had quite the wait in a toasty room, but being there was still really special.The flannel-graphs and nativity scenes always portray Christ’s birth in a barn, so I was surprised to find a cave (although after four days you’d think I’d get the clue that the flannel-graph is nothing but LIES! I jest…kind of…). My only regret was that our time was very short (but I’m so thankful we got in at all – they shut the doors for the day right after our group!) and I would have loved to have time to just stand and soak it all in. The group joked that I was their “Mary” on the trip, and I was again so grateful to be there, especially with my “Joseph” (Cary, obviously), and my “Elizabeth” (my sweet friend, Lee Ann). 
  • Western Wall at Night
    We were able to get a tour of the tunnels under the Western Wall, and because of that, we were down at the wall on Saturday evening, the end of Shabbat. This was a really sweet time where we were able to join the Jewish women at the wall and pray. I prayed thanking God for this whole experience. I thanked Him for being a Sovereign God. I petitioned Him on behalf of our sweet baby. I praised Him for the way He is working in our world – in the little ways and the big ways. And then I left my little written prayer tucked into the cracks in the wall, standing in silence, in awe at the thousands who had stood where I stood wanting to feel close to God, and knowing I didn’t need a wall, but still grateful for it in that moment. IMG_5243
  • Rabbi tunnels under the wall

Day 5 – October 25, 2015 – Old Testament Landmarks

  • Beit Shemesh – Philistine camp and place where Ark of the Covenant rested before going to Jerusalem (1 Samuel, 2 Kings)
  • Village/ birthplace of Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father
  • The Valley of Elah – site where Israelites camped before David’s battle with Goliath.
    Today was a travel day, with little stops all along the way and lots of landmarks seen out the windows. We were able to stop at this point on our journey for a small hike. A few of us hiked across some farm land down to where a stream would be if they weren’t in drought season. Anton said that this would have been the stream where David came to select his five stones for his battle with Goliath. We learned a lot about stones from Anton this day. I always imagined David getting some big, flat rocks, but Anton said that the stones would have been small and round (they fit into the slingshot better that way. We tested this theory out, but all we proved was that we are TERRIBLE at slingshots!). In Anton’s words, “The smaller the rock, the bigger the faith.” He asked what killed Goliath, and we of course replied “a stone to the head” and he said, “No. God’s power killed Goliath, not the rock. It’s not the size of the stone, it’s the size of the God.” And we serve a big God! 
  • Hezekiah’s Well at Tel Lachish (in Judah)
    • 905966_10103531423151587_4452048719395220596_oDeepest man-made well in Israel
  • Tel Be’er Sheva / Abraham’s well
    • Where Abraham left with Isaac – 3 days walk to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice Isaac
    • Site of covenant between Abraham and Abimelech
    • Discovery of a horned animal sacrifice altar
  • Tel Arad
  • Sodom near Sodom and Gomorrah
  • Dead Sea
    It was raining for the last part of the afternoon/ early evening. As we came into the area of the Dead Sea, there was a beautiful rainbow over the sea. But what I found even more striking was the little waterfalls that were forming in the ground on the out the windows on the other side of the bus. The Bible mentions “streams in the desert”, and I got to see actual streams and waterfalls in the desert. The ground was so dry that the water just rolled down, creating these little streams all along the way. 

Day 6 – October 26, 2015 – Journey to Galilee

  • late day at the Dead Sea (we FLOATED!)
  • drove past place of John the Baptist beheaded
  • Masada – fortified palace of Herod and location of mass Jewish suicide
    I had never heard of Masada before this trip, and was so intrigued by it. I couldn’t get enough of the stories. Every room we went into, I thought of what happened there and all that happened as those Jews were under siege. There was an excellent video we watched before ascending up the mountain, and I was grateful for that information, and also anxious to read up on it more later that night at the hotel. Also, it was clearly a magnificent fortress! 
  • Ein Gedi, where David fled from Saul and wrote Psalms
  • Qumran, caves where dead sea scrolls were discovered (cave #4/11), too crowded to go into12185121_10103531423321247_8719103699977451129_o
  • Drove past Mt. Nebo, where Moses died
  • Jericho
    • Zaccheus’ tree
    • House of Rahab

Day 7 – October 27, 2015

  • Tiberias
  • Cana (John 2)
    “Jesus didn’t ask the servants to make the wine, He simply asked them to go get the water. Our job is to get the water, His job is to turn it to wine.” – Anton Farrah
  • Nazareth
    Mary was from Jerusalem and Joseph was from Bethlehem (both in Judea). The Romans were causing trouble in Judea, so many people fled to Galilee for a better life. That’s how Mary and Joseph ended up in Nazareth.
  • Zippori – capitol of Gallilee
    Jesus would have probably worked in Zippori because it was a bigger town than Nazareth (and very close geographically). At the time of Jesus, Nazareth would have only been about 35 families. Anton noted that Joseph and Jesus were not really “Carpenters” the way we think with lots of wood, but more like “furniture maker”, working with both wood and stone (more stone than wood) DSC_2355

    • roads where chariots drove (wheel imprints)
    • Carab trees (pods were what pigs ate in story of Prodigal son)
    • Where traditionally Jesus worked before Ministry
    • Buildings from Byzantine period with mosaic floors
  • Nazareth Village” – recreation of Nazareth of Jesus’ time
    I loved our time at this little recreation. I believe they said it was an old YMCA that they turned into a working farm. The tour took us all around the farm and the village, seeing the olive grove, complete with costumed workers (they actually harvest the olives and sell the oil in their shop!), the olive press, the old kitchen with clay pots, the wool spinners house, Joseph the carpenter’s workshop (with tool demonstration!), and finally a synagogue. I really felt like I was stepping through a village in Bible times. As a visual learner, I really appreciated all the little touches they had to make the whole place feel as authentic as possible (as the fighter jets flew over our heads).
  • Tabor / Church of the Transfiguration
    • View of Valley of Jezreel – site of battle of Armegeddon

Day 8 – October 28, 2015

  • Mt. of Beatitudes, site of the Sermon on the MountIMG_1054 (1)
    This was a very brief stop, we simply got out of the bus for about ten minutes, but looking out over the hillside is a memory I hope to never forget. I could almost see the people sitting all around, hanging on every word of the Master.
  • Golan Heights
  • Caesarea Phillipi (Matt. 16)
    • Temple of Pan, “Gates of Hell”
    • Origin of Jordan River (COLD!)
    • Confession of Peter
  • Tel Dan
    • Strongest headwater of the Jordan River
    • Ahab’s Temple
  • Tabgha, where Jesus fed 5000
  • Capernaum
    • About 1/3 of the gospels center around area of Capernaum
    • Home of Matthew
    • “house of healing”, Peter’s Mother-in-law’s house
  • Bethsaida
    • Home of Peter, Andrew, and Phillip (possibly James, John, and Thaddeus as well)
    • Remains of Peter’s house
  • Sea of Gallilee / Jesus Boat
    What a special way to spend an evening as we were nearing the end of our journey. We boarded a recreation of a fishing boat from Jesus’ time and spent the evening sailing on the Sea of Galilee. I could see why Jesus loved being out there. I could picture Peter getting out of the boat to walk to Jesus. I could imagine the crowds forming along the shore. I could understand the fear of a storm. We could not have asked for better weather or a prettier sunset that night. Sweet, sweet memories. 

Day 9 – October 29, 2015

  • Bet She’an
    • One of the cities of the decopolis
    • Focused on entertainment
    • Discovered the “vomitorium”
  • Tel Jezreel (home of Ahab and Jezebel)
  • Tel Miggido (site of battle of Miggido and Armegeddon)
  • Drove through Menassah to Mt. Carmel
  • Carmel (Elijah and the false prophets)
  • Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean Sea
    There’s something special about just being on the water. This stop was not significant to me because of what had happened 2000 years ago, but instead special because of what had happened over the last eight days. Our time on the Mediterranean provided space to reflect on the things we had seen and the people we had grown to love. DSC_2917

    • Peter visits Cornelius
    • Paul imprisoned
    • Aquaducts
  • Jopa / Jaffa
    • Peter has his vision
    • Jonah
    • “cedars of Lebanon” arrived at this port for Solomon’s temple

From there, we spent one more night in Israel and then departed the next morning for America. We were exhausted (did you see that list??), but our hearts were forever changed.


Israel: Where Jesus Walked, Part I – The dream that became a reality


I don’t know when the dream originated, but as far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to go to Israel. I remember reading the Bible in late elementary school and thinking that if I could just see these places, if I could just walk where Jesus walked, it would all be that much more real. I would stay up late at night looking through my dad’s Bible encyclopedia, where I could find pictures of modern day Israel (kids these days don’t know what they have with Google). I recognized this desire deep within me, but I also knew even then that that part of the world had a lot of problems. I always thought that maybe ONE DAY the fighting would stop and THEN I’d go to Israel (I was a very naïve kid/teen/adult).

When Cary and I were first getting to know one another, he came to Austin for a friend’s wedding and I took him to the old Kerbey Lane on South Lamar the night before in hopes of getting to know each other better. I was so nervous, and know I probably talked non-stop, but one thing I distinctly remember telling him was how Israel was one of my dream trips – really the only dream trip. And not just Israel, but Israel with Eddie. I had been going to University Avenue for a little over a year at that point and had grown to love Eddie and Annette Sharp. They had become mentors and friends, and I just thought (and still hold this thought) that Eddie was one of the smartest Biblical scholars I had ever met. I knew that to see those places with someone like him, both a friend and a teacher, would be life-changing. When Cary flew back to Manhattan, I don’t know what all he knew about me, but I know he knew how much I wanted to go to Israel!

Fast forward to 2011, Cary and I were newlyweds who had just sold our house, quit our jobs, and moved back to Austin. During one of my Monday Night Bible studies, I found out that there was a group of folks from church that were planning a trip to Israel! Eddie was leading it and my dear friends Lee Ann and Gary were two of the folks signed up. But the trip was well into the planning stages, and we were both unemployed still, and I just knew this was not the trip for us. I was a little heartbroken, knowing that those people wouldn’t be going on another trip to Israel and really wanting to experience it with them. As the trip got closer, a few people had to cancel, and there ended up not being enough folks going, and the whole trip got canceled. I made sure everyone knew that if they planned to go again, I wanted in on it!!

Fast forward again to one year ago, June 2015. I was at Lee Ann’s for bible study and found out again that another trip was happening! The folks from the first trip still wanted to go, and the timing worked out, and a trip was happening. It wasn’t really publicized, so I think folks were just finding out about it through word of mouth, but it was scheduled for October of that year. With only three months to go, I just assumed it was way too late to join, and was again heartbroken. Somehow, I had missed out again. But then Lee Ann said these magic words, “There’s still space. We still have spots to fill.” Suddenly, my head was spinning. I had the tiniest glimpse of this thing happening, and was all in. I immediately bombarded her about all the important details / facts. She gave me the brochure, and I have to confess, I didn’t hear anything else all night. I couldn’t concentrate on our study. All I could think was “Can I find a way to make this work? Could we really get to go to Israel?”fowler brochure

Cary was in Brazil the night all of this happened. He had been traveling for a week and a half with our Let’s Start Talking Teams. So, obviously, he was a little hard to reach. But in my excitement, I called him before I even left the Thornton’s driveway and told him about the trip. As expensive as it was, I felt like we needed to jump on it immediately if it was going to happen. Thankfully, I married someone who isn’t quite as impulsive as I am, and we decided that he would talk to Eddie about it when he returned to Texas. There were so many factors that we had to consider, so many details to iron out -we needed to pay for it (this is a trip people need to SAVE for), I needed to get off work (you usually have to request it six months in advanced if you want any shot at a whole week), Cary would have to make arrangements for LFC (the trip fell right in the middle of the fall semester – a busy time for him), I would have to feel well enough, the conditions in Israel needed to be deemed “safe enough”, etc., etc. I always kind of just assumed I would go when I retired, or at least when I was a lot older, and now the trip was presenting itself, and let me tell you, I was straight up overwhelmed for about a week just thinking of it!

Well, I could bore you with even more details, but I’ll just say that all of those little factors seemed to providentially work out. Everything was finalized in late July, and we were officially going to ISRAEL! We mailed in our forms and I sent off for my passport. I was so excited, giddy, and nervous that I spent almost every morning throwing up. Oh wait, maybe that wasn’t because of the trip. Did I mention I was pregnant? Yup, that’s right, we finalized our trip because we had tried for a year and a half to get pregnant and it wasn’t happening, so hey, let’s fly across the world… and then the stick turns pink. But we got my doctor’s blessing because I would be past my first trimester, but still early enough that the flying and walking wouldn’t be risky. Before I knew it, August and September had flown by and I woke up SUPER early on October 21, 2015, and my 18-week pregnant self boarded a plane in Austin with my best friend and twenty fellow pilgrims for our ten-day adventure in Israel to discover “Where Jesus Walked”.


Next time: Israel: Where Jesus Walked, Part II – Oh, the places you will go!

If I were on a podcast…

Guess what I discovered in the last few months? PODCASTS! I know, I know, have I been hiding under a rock?? I guess I’ve heard about podcasts for several years now, but I never truly understood them, or how they worked. Well, with all my time off recently for a wrist injury and then maternity leave, I was spending a LOT of time watching Netflix (Hello, 11 seasons of Grey’s anatomy). But as I started on Gilmore Girls for the third time (first as it aired, second on DVD, third when it came to Netflix), I realized I needed to test the podcast waters and find some new content to ingest. Because I love sticking with themes, I waded out by starting a podcast called “Gilmore Guys” (more on that later). From there, I got in a little deeper with my friend Mitch’s film-review podcast. And then about a month ago, I took a plunge and went all-in with a podcast that inspired this blog resurrection – the Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey.


I first met Jamie last March at a Bible study led by her friend, Jennie Allen. Jamie helped MC the nights and helped Jennie with announcements, introductions, logistics, etc. The whole experience was one of my 2015 highlights, and I’m very hopeful about the publication of the study so that I can share it with all of my friends! One of our “projects” was to create a new memory – something you’ve never done before – so I took my whole family to Walmart for Jenna’s birthday for a round of “Walmart Bingo”. Jamie was pretty intrigued by the idea, and I offered to take her family to play (Jamie, if you read this, the offer still stands! Just name the time and place!). Shortly after the study ended, I got involved on Jen Hatmaker’s book launch team for her book For the Love. Jen and Jamie are in Supper Club together, so every now and then, her name would pop up in discussions on our FB group. Then, several months ago, I started seeing her name/podcast EVERYWHERE. She hosted a LIVE event at her home in Austin, and I think that’s when I started hearing more and more about her podcast. Finally I decided to check it out, and not even half-way through the first episode (or last – I started with the most recent), I was hooked.

If you listen to the podcast, you know already know how fun it is. If you don’t, go subscribe right now. But essentially, the premise of her show is that she sits down with girlfriends for an hour each week and “they chat about the big things in life, the little things in life, and everything in between. Topics include marriage, faith, children, parenting, sorrow, grief, joy, justice, books, what they are loving, plus so much more.” ( Each episode is a different based on the guest, but there are some threads that remain the same through all the episodes (at least the 20-30 some I’ve listened to). Towards the end of each episode, Jamie usually incorporates some questions that all the guests answer. One of my launch team friends wrote a post where she pretended to be a guest and answer all the HH questions. I thought it was brilliant and a fun way to resurrect the blog. I won’t answer all of the HH questions, but here are four of the most prominent ones she asks:

What are 3 things you are loving right now:

  • Being a mom. Life as a family of three is really awesome. When my doctor told me she wanted to induce me, I cried the whole way home because I loved our little family of two and knew life would never be the same. I was scared that this baby was going to ruin that (a fact Cary still teases me about when I start getting weepy over Maddie). Little did I know that it would be THIS good. I really don’t even have words. I just know I love our little punkin more than I thought I could love anything. I love the way she looks when she’s sleeping, her sweet little smiles, the way she holds my hand when she’s eating, and all of the snuggles!! I love to dress her up (our friends and family were very generous with the cute baby clothes). I love watching her discover things for the first time. I love that I can see a personality forming. My favorite thing right now is watching her take delight in playing. She has a little play mat with a piano and hanging toys, and you can really see JOY on her face as she discovers a new piece of it everyday.


  • Maternity leave. I’m really blessed by a good job with a good company, surrounded by the best coworkers and best boss. I had to stop work a couple weeks before Madeline was born because I had TERRIBLE carpal tunnel in my scanning hand. My coworkers were so understanding and supportive of my decision to stop working and rest. I was afraid that those weeks would cut in to my maternity leave, but my awesome boss went ahead and approved me for the full three months. This is time that I have truly cherished. I’ll be honest, the first month was rough, and I didn’t really love it. I just hurt a lot. My body really needed that time to heal. And when I tried to do too much, my body let me know! But over the last several weeks, I have moved into a phase where my body is healed, I feel like I have gotten the hang of some things like pumping, diapers, bath time, and nail-clipping (the WORST!), and Maddie has found SOMEWHAT of a routine. Our days are spent having a lot of quality time, and finding some adventures. I have three weeks left, and I am trying to make the most out of each day. I’m trying to fit in as many adventures as I can, trying to do things I don’t normally have the time for (like blogging!), and trying to spend time with as many people as I can. Mostly, I’m just soaking up my time with my daughter, literally watching her grow. Because I get very sad thinking about going back to work and leaving her, I choose every day to be thankful for this time. Thankful to my husband, and to my work for this sweet time together. I don’t want to take a single second for granted.

  • Roasted vegetables. This is not nearly as significant as those other two, but I’m WWH (writing while hungry), so this gets #3. There was a lot of love for us after Madeline was born that manifested as food. Our family cooked for us, stocked our pantry, and stocked our freezer. Friends from church delivered hot food three times a week! It was AWESOME! I want to be the first one to sign up on a friend’s calendar now because I know first hand what a blessing these meals are! One item that showed up in a lot of our meals was roasted vegetables. I’ve never cooked veggies in the oven before, I either ate them raw, steamed in the microwave, heated up on the stove, or grilled them. But suddenly, we were eating a lot of roasted vegetables and I discovered that I LOVE roasted vegetables. It’s now officially my favorite way to eat veggies. Since then, I have tried my hand at broccoli, butternut squash, zucchini, sweet potatoes, yellow potatoes, and even Brussels sprouts!! If you have a favorite recipe for roasted veggies, please pass it on! I’d love to add some solid ones to my book!

What is something you’ve read, watched or heard recently that you cannot stop recommending to other people? Answer one or all three.

– Reading: Launching For the Love last year was a really fun adventure and led to a great new circle of friends. Since then, there have been other launch teams that I’ve heard about, but the timing was never right, and I didn’t feel right about signing up for a team that I couldn’t truly participate in. But recently, an author I really enjoy reading, Sophie Hudson, announced that she was releasing a new book this summer and needed a launch team. This happened to correspond with maternity leave, so I signed up and was accepted.gue.png Giddy Up, Eunice appeared in my mailbox several weeks ago, and I couldn’t put it down. It is SO good. And I’m not just saying that because I’m launching it. It is truly a great read and a wonderful reminder that us women need each other! She uses three relationship examples from the Bible (Mary/Elizabeth, Ruth/Naomi, and Lois/Eunice) to point her readers towards greater intentionality within our relationships with one another. You will love it!

-Watching: baby videos of Maddie. She’s the cutest.

-Listening: podcasts – they are great for pumping/feeding sessions, or on our car rides to Houston. Here are the ones I’m currently subscribing too:

  • Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey, obviously
  • The Starving Critics – my friend, Mitch, and his friend, Rachael, talk about all things “Movie”.
  • Gilmore Guys – two guys (one super fan, one GG virgin) watch each GG episode and provide commentary.
  • Longhorns for Christ podcast – Cary posts the recordings from Uplift here, so I can catch any lessons that I miss, or play some of my favorite worship songs that the band records.
  • The Popcast – This one has been recommended by a lot of people, so it’s on my list, but I haven’t listened to any. I’ll start on these once I’m caught up on the others.
  • The Story team – another subscription that was recommended (Jamie talks about this one a lot on HH), but I haven’t started quite yet.

What’s a specific app, gadget or piece of technology that you cannot live without and why?

I don’t know about “cannot live without”, but one App I am really enjoying more than usual these days is INSTAGRAM. I love posting pictures and seeing pictures. I have a much smaller list of followers/following than on facebook, which makes it feel more manageable and less overwhelming most days. I’m also dabbling in Bible illustrating, so I’ve really enjoyed seeing what others are creating!

Bonus App that I love = Baby Connect. If you are expecting or a new mom, I HIGHLY recommend this app. I can track her feeding schedule, her diapers, her sleep, her medicine, and my pumping schedule all in one place! It helps me figure out what all those cries might mean (“is she hungry? Well, she just ate 20 minutes ago so maybe it’s her diaper.” Or, “my boobs really hurt…. Oh look, it’s been five hours since I’ve pumped.” TMI? Sorry. Just keeping it real.)

IMG_8609Gadget = Auto Rock and Play by Fisher Price. Maddie doesn’t have full-blown reflux, but she does spit up a lot after she eats. We found that when she was super fussy at night, the thing that makes her happiest was rocking in her car seat. The auto rock-n-play solves both of these problems. It rocks her to sleep, while keeping her slightly elevated so that she doesn’t spit up (all while providing some nice white noise). It has been a life-saver for us, and has kept the colic to a minimum.

What’s a dream that you had when you were young that you’ve had to let go of?

First off, this has nothing to do with Indiana Jones. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t allowed to watch those movies as a kid, and never did until I was a senior in college. Anyway, I remember sitting in our middle school classroom at church when I was in the sixth grade discussing Solomon’s temple and the Ark of the Covenant. Someone asked where the ark was today, and the teacher commented that no one knew. I thought then that one day I would go to Israel and find the ark. I knew if I just read the Old Testament and find out where it was last, surely I could find it (hey, it worked for finding my shoes!). I finally let go of the dream of finding the Ark, but I never let go of my dream of going to Israel. This past year, with the help of my husband and some really great friends, I got to make that dream a reality! I’m planning on doing some blogs about that trip very soon (yes, it has taken me seven months to process it all and report back) so STAY TUNED!

I have a hard time editing, so that was a lot. I’m sure it wouldn’t fit in to an hour long podcast, but if I were at happy hour with Jamie, these are the things I would say and the stories I would tell. Until next time, be kind, love Jesus, and go make some memories.

1218 Armstrong Court


For the last 28 years, 1218 Armstrong Ct. has been our home. Even when we went to college, got married, and moved to a different state – Derby, KS has always been “home” and the people there, family.  And now, a new chapter in our book is about to be written as mom and dad are moving to Houston. I’m not supposed to post anything about it on Facebook (as mom and dad are of the private nature), so I’m pretty sure I’m going to get into lots of trouble for this, but I just can’t let this transition go unmentioned because it is not an easy one for them to make. My parents are so sacrificial. They are the most selfless people I have ever met, and would do anything for anyone… and I’m sure for the majority of the readers today, I am not telling you anything new. But I think this move definitely tops the charts for their selfless nature. Sure, dad might tell you they are moving because Boeing shut down and he’s out of a job – but don’t let that fool you. They are moving because they have generous hearts, and their kids need them in Texas. We need them for support and we need them for memories (and for lots of hugs!). We love doing life together as a family, and they know how much richer that will be without the separation of 2 states. You see, I think I have the world’s best parents. They are simple wonderful, and I love spending time with them. And as great of a mom and dad as they are, they make an even better Grandma and Papa. I love watching them love on my nieces and nephews. They breathe joy and love into those kiddos, and I can’t wait until they can do the same for my kids.

cam and momdadd and jenna   mom and molly2dad and mason use!cuddles

But even though we know that there is SO MUCH GOOD coming from the move, it doesn’t make it any easier, because mom and dad are leaving behind some really wonderful people.

I love hanging out with my parents’ friends and I love hearing about all of their wild and crazy adventures (yes, they really do have wild and crazy adventures). I have learned so much from their friendships – how they are always there for one another and are so supportive in everything. They laugh a lot… and their laughs are CONTAGIOUS!  I truly cherish those who have stood by my folks and our family as we have walked through all the various seasons of life.

So to Tom, Randy, Scott, Steve and Cathy, Sam and Connie, John and Merolli, Linda, Brad and Barbie, the quilters, the xray school gang, East Pointers, Armstrong neighbors, Uncle Den and Nga, Grandma, and the COUNTLESS other friends and family: Thank you.  Thank you for loving them, and for loving us, so much that saying good-bye is this hard.  I promise that we won’t take this move for granted. Katie, Adam, and I know that it is a great sacrifice for mom and dad to leave such special people. Please know that there is ALWAYS a room ready for you in Texas! Come see them and us!

And now, a picture tribute to some of our friends (courtesy of our wedding photobooth):

mom cathy linda haas tom atkinsons with connie

 Mom, I know you will read this, so these last few are for you. A glimpse into all the fun that is in store. We love you so much! Now, please stop crying….


I’m a Little Sister Big Sister

Yes, I know it’s been almost a year since I last blogged. And no, I didn’t get my whole 23 in 23 list finished – but I had a lot of fun and I’m proud of the ones I DID accomplish. Hopefully I’ll wrap that series up in the future, but for now, I want to talk about big sisters.




I have been blessed with GREAT big sisters. Katie, Tiffany, Heather and Nicole are all wonderful woman who teach me so many things in so many different ways. They are all wonderful moms and I know that my future children will be blessed one day by the example that these four have shown me. I also have non-family big sisters. They are too numerous to number. These are the ladies from my time in high school, college, and life in Austin that have been my mentors and my friends. They are the ones I laugh with and the ones I cry with. They encourage me in my faith and are examples of the kind of woman I aspire to be. But there is one that has had to put up with me a lot longer than the rest of them…

580101_3835881829485_326252051_nThis is Katie. She’s my big sister (affectionately referred to as SEESTER). Katie and I are four years apart in age, which has brought both challenges and blessings to our relationship. When we were little, we shared a room and played together a lot. When Katie got into middle school (and moved into the room in the basement) and early high school, we drifted apart a little – we each had our own interests and our own friends. But when I was in middle school, and she in high school, Katie became my protector. She was always looking out for me and always giving me advice. When I went through my awkward teen years and sometimes didn’t know quite where I belonged, Katie stepped in and always let me hang out with her. She invited her friends to be my friends. She never made me feel like a tag-along (even though most times, that what I was). And then she left for Texas A&M. I was so proud of her and couldn’t wait to go to college. She called often, and I even got to stay in the dorms with her on a few occasions. And when I was on the fall homecoming court my senior year, she drove all the way from college station so she could sit in the stands and cheer me on. She was there for me when I went off to college, moving boxes into my closet-of-a-dorm room and assuring me I’d survive in this strange and unfamiliar place. She was the one waiting in the car after MANY job interviews. She was the first one I called when heartbreak came my way, and she was standing next to me when I married the man of my dreams. We can’t sit next to each other in church (or at family funerals) because we usually end up giggling about something. She’ll sit with me for HOURS listening to broadway tunes and crafting. She gives me the advice I never want to hear, but never, errrrr, RARELY says “I told you so.” She’s my big sister.

I’ve always felt like I got the really good end of that deal. She had to learn all her lessons the hard way, while all I had to do was watch her. Being the little sister rocks, but it seemed like being the big sister was kind of like drawing the short end of the straw. She had to be the responsible one, she had to figure everything out first, and all I had to do was wear a few hand-me-downs. But today, my thinking changed……

I think being the big sister feels pretty cool. Over the last year, Cary and I have been on this AMAZING journey of campus ministry with Longhorns for Christ. Today, we are celebrating our graduates. While it’s a bittersweet time for us, it’s the nature of campus ministry, and we are waiting in hopeful anticipation of what the next school year will bring. God has been so good to us and our ministry this year! It’s amazing how fast the year has gone by, and how much God has changed and softened my heart through the love and friendship of our LfC family. And that’s exactly what they feel like — family.

The college ministry was in charge of a good chunk of our worship service today. As I was standing in the back of the auditorium as we prepared for communion, I stopped to look around. I saw those who were preparing to help serve, those sitting in the pews, and remembered those who couldn’t be with us in person this morning. My heart was quickly overflowing with joy and pride. Standing there, in that instant, hearing our students share their hearts with the congregation and watching them serve, I felt like the world’s proudest big sister. The group of students we have worked with this year are just extraordinary. They have set a tone for the ministry that will deeply impact it’s future and our work at UT. I am just so grateful for each of them. And so, like any good big sister, I will continue to brag about them.


Thanks for a great year, LfC! I love you guys, and I can’t wait to do it all again NEXT YEAR!

They Aren’t Kids

I work with college students. It’s what I do almost every day of my life. I’m fascinated with the college lifestyle, the college years, the college culture, and most of all, what happens in college students personally and spiritually. College students are many things: they are unpredictable, they are dramatic, they are thoughtful, they are passionate. They are learning more about more things than they will at any other point in their lives.

But there is one thing they are not.

College students are not kids.

They are full-grown adults. And it’s time we start calling them that.

“College kids.” It’s rarely ever said spitefully or with condescension. I don’t think I’ve ever heard college students called “kids” to belittle them. It’s simply a part of the normal vocabulary of most people. It’s even the regular language of many campus ministers I know. So I assign no ill motives to anyone who uses such words, I just want it to be made known that we need to stop doing it. We need to stop it now.

Leadership is the art of setting expectations to which people find themselves aspiring. It is a well-known maxim that people will, on the whole, live up to the standards that the leaders in their lives inspire within them. When leaders set these levels in a high but obtainable place, and then help them get there, people begin to think of their own identities in the terms of these standards. It’s how really good self-help authors and motivational speakers make millions by doing essentially nothing more than telling people “you can do it.” Inspiration to achieve greater things can often come through the expectations communicated through simple language.

Here’s the kicker: normal people like you and me do this every day, often in subconscious ways. And the combined effect is often powerful and influential. Even on huge socioeconomic scales: some have suggested that the cycle of poverty is persistent in some populations simply because they only have the language and expectation of being poor. Likewise, success is attained in others simply because the latent expectation and language of achieving is prevalent.

I believe the same is true of our college students. If we expect them to be adults, we treat them like adults, we respect them like adults, we give them the freedoms and responsibilities of adults, and, yes, we call them adults. It is then that we start to have college students that truly are adults.

This is all the more important as emergent culture and helicopter parenting are enabling adolescence to extend well into the late twenties and even the thirties. Many young adults are not being challenged to take up the mantle of adulthood and bear the responsibilities of carving out their own identities and establishing their place in the world. And why should they, if they are still “kids?” Problem solving. Overcoming huge challenges. Dealing effectively and fairly with others. Standing up for yourself. Learning to navigate your environment and the systems and people around you. Managing relationships maturely and wisely. These are the things that mark adulthood and are what we should be expecting of college students. They are not children – they are adults – young adults to be sure, but adults nonetheless. Help them to realize this by calling them that. You may be surprised at the results.