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  • Writer's pictureChristina

Israel Tour

I was supposed to fly to Israel on Saturday night, on a trip with my church. I expected that there might be issues, because I had never traveled through a local agency on a group tour. I didn’t expect that war and closure of all the tourist sites would be the reason I couldn’t go. So Saturday night, instead of our red-eye through Addis Ababa, we are at my friends house singing Christmas carols about Bethlehem.

Sunday morning we would have arrived and traveled around Joppa, Tiberius, and Mount Carme.  Instead, I go to church and take communion with a group of believers, singing and worshiping God that he came in the flesh during this season.  I go to my friend’s house after church and enjoy her garden and her tea selection. I spend time reading through the books of Matthew and Ezekiel, thinking of how the old prophecies and the incarnation fit together.

Monday would have been our first full day in the Holy Land.  We were supposed to go to Capernaum and the Jordan River and the Mount of Beatitudes. I read more through Matthew in my little prayer room, wondering how the beatitudes could be so familiar to me and yet so confusing and far from my actual practice.  “Blessed are the meek…blessed are the peacemakers…love your neighbors…do not worry…do not judge…”  I think about how many people say Jesus was a good teacher, but how are we as students. Did they really listen to his sermons? Do any of us really understand these difficult things he is teaching?

I wanted to be intentional about the time I would have been away. I wanted to honor the preparation I had done for this spiritual journey, but by Monday life encroached.  But we woke up before 5 am, unable to sleep because of an interview at 6.  We ate and ran after that, but it was just the beginning of a wild day.  It was the due date for abstracts to the American College of Preventive Medicine, and I had facilitated 5 of them and needed to hear from half a dozen other people and submit them.  We also heard back from the American Journal of Public Health over the weekend, and our team needed to mobilize for to discuss new directions on an article. It was the first day for two intern researchers I was leading this month. And there was an opportunity to meet with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine about a grant.  I had meetings from 4pm to 9pm, and a lot to prepare before that.  Knowing that it would be a rough day, I penciled a long break in the middle.

We took an hour to walk in the forest, a green area next to the river at the Lilongwe Wildlife center. We haven’t seen animals there recently, but it was a nice break, really lifted my mood. We take along a young friend and stop for lunch on the way home.  It wasn’t the best meal, but I got an ice cream bar afterward and it was nice to get out.  We come home and I work and work, finishing at 9:30 and clocking less than 11 hours for the day. At the time, I considered it a win that I didn’t work more. But it was hard to rest and go to bed after all that, and I was disappointed that I didn’t have more time for reflection.

Tuesday Greg left early for a training group and I had a colleague over for a working meeting by 8. I tried to reflect, I tried not to work too much. That was the day we would have gone to Nazareth and Cana. I read more of Matthew and try to take a nap before afternoon clinic. I listen to the book of Ezekiel as I make my lunch. I never realized how much it summarized the corruption of the ideal for God’s people. Never saw before how much it reflected towards the Christ.  Work in the clinic was busy. We meant to go out to dinner, it’s 19 years from our first date and I like to celebrate that. But I’m just too tired and catching up on emails takes most of my energy.  We eat leftovers and I finish my Bible study by 10.  At least I only worked 8 hours today.

Wednesday would have been our day to visit the Dead Sea and the Mount of Olives. I take time in my prayer room, reading through more of Matthew. We run and then have a friend over for tea. We talk with her about plans to talk to a group of youth from the Anglican church later this month. It’s a nice meeting, exciting about things moving forward, but by the time we finish with logistics and plans, it’s already late into the morning. We go to the grocery store, get some takeaway meals, and pick up a friend on the way back. I am tried and try not to work too much, just reflecting on some things. I get a quick massage from my neighbor, I like supporting her cosmetology training as much as I like the feeling of a good shoulder rub, and then we go off to Bible Study. I’m leading again this week and I like the subject material. We weave together ideas of prayer and the foundation of our faith and rightly handling the Word of God.  We finish in good time, with a little rain in the background. I get home and I don’t have meetings, just some emails to follow up on. By the end of the night, I’m writing bullet points instead of sentences, my brain is just so tired. I wonder, how did this week become so busy? I wanted to leave free space for reflection and spiritual growth. I’ll be honest, I had felt a voice inside me nudging me towards doing less, achieving less, but it was hard to let things go.

I wake up Thursday, still exhausted.  This would have been the day that we saw Bethlehem and Jerusalem, Calvary and the Western wall.  I catch up on emails first thing, then drink some tea and walk the dogs with Greg and a friend.  It’s an easier day, but I don’t start reading my Bible until 11 and I have work in the afternoon.  I want to be more intentional about creating space. I plan to bring a book to clinic in case there are no-shows. I hope to finish Ezekiel while cleaning my room tonight.

I read through Matthew and I reflect. Tomorrow is Friday, and the only plans I have are to go out to our belated anniversary meal. We have a coupon at an Italian place. I’m hoping for no house visitors, no tasks for work, just resting. I’m already 11 hours over a 40 hour workweek.  Tomorrow is the first day of Chanukkiah, the day I was excited to celebrate Shabbat and the welcoming of Sabbath while in Jerusalem.  I didn’t get to go on the trip, I filled in my days with an incredible amount of over achievement and social events.  Did I miss out on the spiritual transformation I was hoping for? Maybe I missed out on peace during this time because I was trying to cram work and spiritual transformation together in limited time.

It wasn’t the week I had hoped for. I had planned to rush through tours of the places Jesus abided. I wanted to be mindful about what I had prepared for. Instead, I rushed through life while trying to think about where I would have been. It wasn’t the trip I had anticipated. But I learned some things about me and my relationships with goals and what I need to take a breath and what it takes for me to rest. Having learned these things now, having prepared myself now, maybe I’ll be better positioned for a trip to Israel next time, when things are more settled with the war in the Middle East and with the struggles in my heart and mind.

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