Marriage and Gratefulness

I have been thinking again lately about gratefulness and marriage.  We’ve been journeying with some dear friends who are separating and I am again struck by how blessed we have been.  There are no guarantees in life and marriage despite how hard people try sometimes and I am humbled by the realisation that “by the grace of God go I”.  Despite this awareness I’m always astounded at how quickly I can become negative, anxious and cranky about such insignificant stuff really.  Anyway, in thinking about this I read over the speech I wrote for our ten year anniversary and I thought I would put it here as a reminder to me to focus on gratefulness and for anyone who didn’t make it who might be interested.

In the lead up to this party we have had many discussions with people about why we chose to put on such an event for our anniversary.  It may just be that we like parties and dancing – we met in Peru and in Peru they party and dance for everything – but mostly we want to give thanks.  Marriage is such a privelege.  I was very lucky to meet someone at all who actually wanted to marry me (and that I was allowed to marry) but that he has daily chosen to love me, be faithful, mostly kind and stay with me, I have more and more come to recognise, especially in my current line of work, is an enormous privelege.   And thus I am here with no sense of victory (for ten years is really just the beginning anyway) but filled with so much gratitude and a deep sense that by the grace of God go I.

Over the years we have been married, I have read lots of books about marriage and spoken to people about how to make a marriage work but by far the best advice I have heard is to be grateful – to daily give thanks for your partner.  It easy for all us to forget to give thanks, I don’t do it nearly enough but anniversaries are a reminder to everyone to give thanks so we decided to put on a party.

I met Martin when I was 20 and we were married two years later.   I didn’t make a lot of good decisions when I was young and many people, myself included, thought that maybe this would be another one of my bad decisions but thankfully it was the best decision I ever made.  When I think about who I was at 20 and how the last ten years could have gone I realise I should actually give thanks for Martin 100 times a day.

I also want to give thanks to all of you.  Our marriage has always taken place in the context of community, and you have all supported us immensely.  Marriage is not always easy and we have had our fair shares of failures but we have received so much support.  I believe as a culture we are not always as good at supporting marriage as we are at showing up at weddings but in our case it has not been like that – you our friends, family and community have shown up for us in the good and bad times and we are eternally grateful.  And you have shown up tonight, many have travelled a long way so thank you especially to those of you who have made the long trip from Sydney and  Melbourne, we are so happy you are here.  We wish that family and friends from Peru could have made it too, they have been a huge part of this journey.   Unfortunately they couldn’t but I want to acknowledge them, for it is hard for us and them to be so far away.  I am so happy that Erika could be here, Martin’s cousin from Peru to represent the whole family.

I also want to acknowledge a few others.  Firstly, my family, mum, dad, Keith, Gem – wow what could I say.  You guys are simply the best, you have listened to so much ranting about the hard stuff and made so much of the good stuff possible.  You have always accepted us as we are and again I more and more realise what a rare gift that is.  Thank you to Jo, Jem, Tom and Ryan who lived with us in a community house in Enmore in the very early days of our marriage, it was such a formative time for us all as we explored community together and worked out our values and how we wanted to live our lives.  Martin and I were a bit of a mess then as we worked out what it meant to be married and Martin to live in this country so thanks for putting up with us.  Thank you to Libby, Ryan, Xanthan, Ben and Fi who have lived in community with us here at Honeymoon Gap.  You have all been such a support especially with Nina and Clayton and have made life here such a joy.  Again acknowledge mum and Keith for making it all possible.  And thank you to John and Marilyn and the beautiful Cavanagh girls who also live here with us and have shared their lives, their wisdom and who inspired us to move here in the first place .  And now John and Marilyn what an adventure we are on as we share the care of Clayton – how grateful we are to you for allowing us to be part of his life in this way.  Thank you to our new friends in Alice you all make life richer.  I’ll resist the temptation to name you all as I realise this is getting tedious and the most important thank yous are still ahead.

Nina and Clayton.  Thank you.  You two are by far the greatest gift we have ever received.  I would like to say that you always get the best of us, you certainly deserve it, but you don’t always so thank you for putting up with us and teaching us how to be more patient, reminding us how to play and be in the present moment and showing us the deepest love we have ever known.

And finally, thank you Martin.  Thank you for loving me and rarely trying to change me, you truly accept people as they are more than anyone I know.  Again you deserve the best of me but unfortunately you often get the worst so thank you for your graciousness.  Thank you for your kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and generosity, by just being you, you have pushed me to places and people that I never thought I’d go.  Thank you for all the adventures we have had from Peru to Sydney and now here to Alice, it’s all been richer with you by my side.  It hasn’t all gone to plan, we are not where we thought we’d end up but thank you for trusting and being willing to change and grow along the way.  Your courage and enthusiasm through it all has given me strength to do the same.  Thank you for being the best dad ever.  I really love you and give thanks to God for you, our family and our life together, that despite the hard stuff has been truly blessed and has been infinitely more than I could have asked or imagined.


This prayer was also written for church, the reading was Mark 6: 30-34, 53 – 56.

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”  So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognised Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried those who were ill on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went – into villages, towns or countryside – they placed those who were ill in the market-places. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Dear God,

Sometimes we feel tired.  Like the apostles we feel overwhelmed by all the people coming and going.  There are days, that turn into weeks then months that we do no stop to listen, to hear you say, “come with me by yourselves to a quiet place ad get some rest”.  How as individuals and a society we need rest – not zoning out in front of screens rest but true Sabbath rest, that enables us to be present to you and your creation and enables you to be present to us in stillness and in silence.  We invite your presence now – to dwell with us and to challenge us and our society that is over worked, over consumed and over committed.

God, sometimes we are afraid that stopping is selfish, that it’s bout looking after ourselves, not others.  But we see in Jesus this is not the case, his rhythm of Sabbath, of taking time alone with you enabled him to be gracious when interrupted and compassionate with others.  God, we pray we can be more like Jesus.  Fill us now with his graciousness, compassion and love.  God, forgive us.  Forgive for all the times we’ve been too tired and busy to notice someone hurting or the beauty around us and forgotten our first call to care for it.  Forgive us all the times that in our weariness we have been quick to speak words of anger and slow to speak words of thanks.

God, we ask your forgiveness and compassion that granted us a day of rest.  May we discover the healing power of rest.  May we be like the people coming to Jesus 2000 years ago in faith, believing that simply reaching out to you is enough.  With this faith we pray for all those in our families and communities who are grieving, who are sick and who are searching for you.  We pray for healing for our governments.  If only they would stop and really listen to your voice calling out throughout the ages for  compassion, mercy and justice for all those who are oppressed in our nation especially for our indigenous brothers and sisters, refugees and women living in the cycle of violence and abuse.

God, may this time we take this morning to be present to you, to give thanks and praise, to ask for forgiveness and offer hope filled prayers for healing, be not just an act of individual piety but our witness against injustice, our cry out for liberty and our hope for a world in which you are fully known and your will is fully done.



I prayed this prayer on Sunday at church.  People were very gracious in their response to it so I thought I would share it here.  The reading was from Mark 4: 35 – 41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea,“Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

I have found myself in a bit of a storm lately and I have been saying things to God like, “I can’t do this” and “are you going to let me drown?”  I have been praying that God would wave his magic wand and get me out.  But this week, God, speaking through the ages with the words of Mark asks me instead, “why are you so afraid, do you still have no faith when I have never let you drown?” And I realise that he hasn’t, here I am, my head still above water.  I have wanted healing to appear with a bang.  It hasn’t appeared as such but grace has arrived as it usually does, in a more quiet way through the text of a friend that said, “would you like me to pick up the kids today” or my neighbour dropping by to see how I was going.  I realise that this story from mark, like my own story, isn’t about a storm, it is about something bigger and that is Jesus and his faithfulness to us.

Let us pray.

Dear God,

We come to you this morning bringing to you the stories of our lives.  We give you thanks for all that is good.  For our families and friends, for warm beds to sleep in on cold winters night, for our church and the praising of you that happens here and the cups of tea we share.  We give you all that is hard.  We ask you to be with us in the messes we make of our lives.  We ask you to be with us when we feel alone, overwhelmed, afraid and unsure of ourselves.  We ask you to grant us the wisdom, love and healing we need to journey on.

In the storms, in the darkness and in the daily messes of our lives it is so easy to miss you.  Forgive us God, our lack of faith and strengthen it in us.  Let our struggles and muddling through as much as our victories give glory to you.

God, we give you today people weathering greater storms than ours.  People we know struggling with poor health or grief.  People in our town living with oppression, violence or just trying to make ends meet.  People in our country who have come here seeking asylum, peace and a place to call home but instead suffer rejection and fear.  People in our world who are fighting wars and natural disasters that never seem to let up.

God, we pray for them and for ourselves with the hope that we are carried by your grace and held by your love.  That you never let us walk alone, through the calm and through the storm you never let us go.  You are faithful, you are good and your perfect love is casting out fear.




Happy 7th Birthday to Clayton

Today is Clayton’s 7th birthday and what an amazing 7 year old he is.  He is caring, courageous, inquisitive, earnest, compassionate and totally gorgeous.  He has come into our lives and turned my world totally upside down.

I am conscious that I have said little about this.  As opposed to when Nina came into our lives and we celebrated with ceremonies, people brought gifts and we filled albums and our social media pages with endless photos and anecdotes.  When Clayton moved in with us for half his week 10 months ago he snuck in quietly, which is very much his style.  Apart from sharing with close friends and family not much was said and he just became part of our lives.  So much so that sometimes I just feel he belongs with us.  But I am also aware that he belongs to another family and that is as it should be and this is only the first birthday I have celebrated with him.  I had being thinking about this a lot – how do I honour this and celebrate?  Yes there are things about the situation that isn’t considered ideal but what situation is and who decides that anyway for there is so much about Clayton and his unique situation that is wonderful and life giving to all of us.

Then yesterday, I took a cake to Clayton’s school to celebrate with his class.  His nanna, my dear friend, with whom we share care, and the gentlest and wisest woman I know was with me.  We were told parents usually share a story about the child.  As I was over thinking this as I am known to do, she began a story by telling the class that Clayton had a big family – akgnerre anthurre”.  She said that Clayton’s dad was her son but that he also had other parents – Martin and I.  She has said that Martin is also her son and thus as his aunt and uncle we were also his parents.  She talked about her family and Clayton’s family and their connection to this land.  The children chimed in with words like humungous to help describe it and I was filled with such gratitude to be included in it and to be in their lives.

Yes it is a complicated situation and much remains uncertain but this I feel certain of.  God has blessed us with two of his precious children to care for, for this time, but neither really belong to us.  For them and the different ways they came into lives we are grateful.  Today especially, I give thanks for and pray for Clayton.  If you are that way inclined please remember him and us in your prayers today.

barunga festival

This post is mainly for my mum but feel free to read on if youre interested. Im sitting by a fire at home under the central aus sky. Im typing on phone which is something of a juxtaposition of ancient meets modern but thats our world i suppose. Anyway this last week i had the extraordinary experience of attending the barunga festival. This was it’s 30th year and this festival has a long history of being part of the indigenous struggle for equality. Back in 1988 it was where bob hawke promised a treaty that inspired the yothu yindu song and which aboriginal people are still waiting. This year paul kelly played and gurrumul as well as a suprise performance from Peter garrett. It was all pretty special but more than that i enjoyed simply being there amongst aboriginal people who were so strong in culture and so proud of their community.  A local band called blakbulla mujic played and they were my fave. Their songs challenged people on issues such as drinking and violence and people loved it. I have to be honest in my line if work i dont always see strength, pride and what is really working for people so it was especially inspiring.

It was also wonderful to explore some more of the top end. I am falling more and more in love with territory as a whole. Late night swim in thermal pools in mataranka, sunrise over an inland lake near elliott as the extraordinary bird life woke were highlights but just the freedom of the territory and just throwing a swag down anywhere is so renewing.

I went without the kids and martin I missed them but it was a much needed break and so great to share with amazing people -tarn, rachel, rosie, di, ryan, ben and fi. We talked endlessly about life, travel, god and the things that excite me.  I feel so blessed to gave had such a trip.

Nina’s eye surgery – grateful and hopeful.

Nina had eye surgery again last week,  I wrote a bit of a story and prayer about it for church reflecting on Acts 2: 22 – 47.  I have decided to share here.

This week, Nina, my 4 year old daughter had eye surgery.  I held her in my arms as they put her to sleep and it was pretty stressful to say the least but in the midst of of all the machines beeping and he medical staff running here and there I found myself giving thanks.  Having held Nina in hospitals in countries with far scarcer resources I felt grateful for the abundance of of Alice Springs hospital.  Having heard recently of a friend’s 15 year old daughter with cancer I felt grateful Nina was not having chemotherapy or anything equally as serious/  Having spent time this week with women who do not have their children in their care I felt grateful I could hold her at all.  Having turned on the TV numerous times in recent days and watched mothers in Nepal, Syria and Indonesia weep over their children I felt grateful for her life.  And after the surgery I felt grateful for the nursing staff, who cared for us.  I felt grateful for our community who sent us message, prayers, gave us pie and allowed me to debrief endlessly.  I reminded me of something of the early church described here in Acts.

And while it may be too early to say, it  seems the results of the surgery were not as we had hoped for but as I read this passage from Acts about the promises of God – promises not always fulfilled as  David experiences as we imagine they will be – I realise the journey of faith is one of hope.  In the midst of uncertainty we trust that God will be faithful to his promises, that his Spirit will be with us.

Let’s pray.

Holy Spirit, moving amongst us, to you we pray this morning.  We thank you for your presence here – in our songs, words, prayers and in this bread to be broken.  We thank you for this church and you graciousness to us as we stumble to bring something of your love to the people in our lives.  We pray to be guided by the vision of the early church to be a place of sharing, community and grace.  We also thank you for other churches and people around the world who are also trying to follow and find you in the struggles of their lives and communities.  We pray they will be fled with love, wisdom and hope and will be provided with the resources they need for their work.

Holy Spirit, how we have felt your presence in the Spirit of our children here.  We pray for each of them and all the children of Alice Springs and the world.  We pray for the young people who aimlessly wander our streets at night, we pray for children who have lost parents and parents who have lost children.  We pray for children who are sick, lost or have become adults far to young through work or caring for others or over exposure to an adult world.  We pray for schools, organisations and friends who walk with them, that they will be patient, wise and non judgmental.  We pray for parents, especially mothers, this mother’s day, that they will hold them close and somehow find that elusive balance of firm yet gentle.  For that we need your spirit to give us wisdom, grace and hope.

So we thank you for this time to pray.  While sometimes prayer and faith can be a struggle when things are uncertain we know that it can change us and connect us to you and the world.  And as we read the stories of old – of slavery to freedom, persecution to liberation and share new stories as we have today of helplessness to empowerment we pray in deep faith that our prayers for ourselves, our families, our communities and our hopes for a better world will be heard by you and your promise of resurrection from all the crucifixions of our live will be fulfilled.

in the name of Christ, Amen.

Israel – final week and reflections

We’ve made it back to Jerusalem.  Can’t really believe the journey we have been on and the rich experiences we have had.  Certainly we have seen some amazing places especially for me the Biblical sites.  I have read about these places so often and I have found it hard to believe I’m actually here.  Although, while it’s been great to be in Jerusalem, Nazareth, Capernaum etc I haven’t really got into all the stuff about this is the place the angel appeared to Mary or this is the place that Jesus ascended etc.  Anyway, what has struck me most is the people we have been able to meet.  Our guides, people Gem has befriended and people we have just met on the street who have invited us for coffee or tea.  Their warmth continues to challenge my prejudices.  It seems people really do want to share their stories and hear others if you have an open mind and spirit.  When praying the other night I was thanking God so much for the opportunities he is always giving us and that I can stay open to them.  It’s such a complicated place and of course I still do not have any answers to age old conflicts but I least feel I have more understanding than I did when I first came.

Anyway, here’s where we have been since I last wrote:

Day 16 North Coast (Haifa and Akko) – After we left our little apartment on the Sea of Galilee we headed west to the port town of Akko.  This was also the crusader capital and was full of crusader ruins.  They were pretty cool especially the underground tunnels and I was excited to get a crusader tunnel for the Scav Hunt.  From there we headed down to Haifa where we spent the night in a Stella Maris convent.  We watched a beautiful sunset over the water, which is always exciting as doesn’t happen on east coast of Australia.  Haifa is mostly famous for it’s Bahai Gardens.  Blocks and blocks of the most pristine lawns and flowers you’ll ever see.  It seems Israel is Holy even for the Bahai’s.

Day 17 Ne’ve Shalom:  After the gardens we traveled south again to a place called Ne’ve Shalom.  Just west of Jerusalem there is a community of Jews and Muslims (and a small number of Christians too) living together.  The community truly is peaceful.  Gem has been trying to volunteer there (they actually have a place in May so still might happen) and because she has met some people while visiting previously we were lucky enough to spend a few hours talking to some community members about their experiences there.  While I have only been here for such for a short time I still am very much aware of the conflict and the hostility that exists here and so it was really helpful to hear stories of people living together.  It’s not perfect and of course there are still issues but people are trying.  We hear a lot in Australia about  two state solution for Israel and in some ways that does seem more viable but people we have spoken to here seem to be saying they actually want one Israel in which all its citizens, Jewish and Palestinians have equal rights and opportunities.  Who knows how they could happen or what it could look like but I sure am inspired to really pray for this for the people we’ve met and are trying to hold onto hope.

Day 18 – 19 Jerusalem: After spending the night at Ne’ve Shalom’s hostel we headed back into bustling Jerusalem.  We stopped on the way to see 12 stained glass windows designed by Jewish artist Marc Chagall.  He is a favourite of mums and she was determined to see them.  Despite mum’s love of art I often find it hard to fully appreciate it but these windows were truly breathtaking.  One each depicting the 12 tribes of Israel.  The colour of these windows and the light pouring through them, I can’t really describe the beauty.  It was a spiritual experience as well.

Back in Jerusalem we visited the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea scrolls are now kept, as well as other more recent Biblical scrolls are kept.  Gemma loves scrolls and seeing them I can see why.  In the evening we met up with a Jewish couple who mum started chatting to on the bus on our way in here.  They have some accommodation they rent to students so we managed to line some up for Gem.  Another grace from God.  We are leaving in 3 days and she had no idea where or what she was doing next unto May when she can go to Ne’ve Shalom.

Today we spent the more relaxing in our convent hostel in the old city.  It has the best views over the old city from the roof top balcony.  I could have sat there all day but the Dome of the Rock is a must see  so off we went.  It’s open for two hours but we waited in line for an hour to get through the checkpoint and then they shut half an hour early so we only really got fifteen minutes there but it was pretty memorable.  A holy place for Muslims (where they believe Mohammed ascended) and also a holy place for Jews as it is on the site of the original temples where the Ark of the covenant was placed  so it is another place of conflict and it’s hard to know what to do with all that but is very spectacular that’s for sure and so huge.

Day 20 Tel Aviv:  Tomorrow we are off to to Tel Aviv for a night and then home sweet home.  Well after another epic day and half flight.  I am very much looking forward to being home on Saturday and seeing my family again.  Cannot even begin to describe how hard it’s been to be away from them.  Also looking forward to being a place whose customs I understand and whose language I speak.  Traveling sure can be exhausting and I think Israel especially so.  So many customs, religions and holy places to look out for and certainly we have had to deal with a lot of hassling from me on the street.  I have been trying to challenge some of my stereotypes, I hope one day the stereotype about Western women will be challenged.  it sure will make travelling easier for us all.


Israel, Palestine and Jordan.

I have been wanting to write this post since we got here but limited internet has been taken up with Skyping my family (who I miss desperately), Scav Hunt and responding to emails and facebook.  Anyway, I finally have some time.  Mum and Gem have gone for yummy felafals and a little walk and swim in a national park but the contemplative in me is desperate for some time alone and to reflect a little so I have opted to stay home.  I’m also hoping to have a quiet chat with my lovely husband who is working tirelessly at home to make this possible for me.

Israel would have to be one the most fascinating places on earth, not to mention spectacularly beautiful.  The “Holy Land” for Jews, Muslims and Christians one really is constantly aware of religion, as well as, unfortunately all the conflict and divide this has caused.  Anyway, I have written our itinerary so that I can remember it.  It’s long but if you are interested read on.

Day 1 – 3: Jerusalem and West Bank – We arrived here at 6am after a 30 hour journey so we had to spend first morning sleeping but ventured out at lunch time for our first in a long run of truly delicious hummus, felafel etc.  The food here makes me not want to eat anything else again.  After we sat at Western Wall for a bit.  The Wall is the one part left after the destruction of the temple and the most holy sight for Jews. It was a cool day but we had a sunny spot so we sat for ages enjoying the sun and watching people praying prayers and reading their Holy Scriptures.  While I have had an ever present awareness of the division and conflict places such as these seem to cause and thus often a discomfort at them  I was moved. We then walked the “Via Dolorosa”, a trail marking the 12 stations of the cross culminating at the church of Holy Sepulchre where Jesus is said to have been crucified.  It was very crowded and chaotic but I kept having to pinch myself none the less that I was actually here, walking in places that Jesus have may walked.

Our second day in Jerusalem we took a tour to the West Bank.   In the 90’s Israeli’s and Palestinians signed the Oslo agreement that was supposed to give Palestinian people sovereignty of the West Bank but still today walled Israeli settlements are being built there which is the cause of much of the continued conflict.  We visited a place called Hebron.    In Hebron there are 500 Israeli settlers and 3000 Israeli troops there to protect them.  The town is divided into areas for Palestinians and areas for Israelis.  As Israelis want to be able to get around they have control of much of the main roads making it very difficult for Palestinians to get around.  People who lived and worked in these areas were forced to leave their homes and business making these streets feel like ghost towns with the occasional person walking down it.  We were allowed to walk down some of these streets as “internationals” but as we walked the Israeli settlers became quite aggressive asking us to leave.  It was a very bizarre experience. Hebron is the resting place of Abraham.  Seen as the father of Jews, Muslims and Christians it is a contested area.  Around his tomb there is a mosque and a synagogue, Jewish people and Muslims used to worship there together but since 94 when an American Jew massacred 29 Muslims during prayer in Ramadan it has been divided into two.  Both have a view of the tomb but there is a bullet proof shield blocking one from the other.  Muslims wishing to enter their Mosque must undergo lengthy, security checks.  I felt very sad there and couldn’t help but wonder what Abraham would think of it all.  We had lunch in the home of a Palestinian family who made a truly delicious meal.  Their story of losing their land and olive trees and thus their livelyhood is tragic as well as their daily humiliations and difficulties of living in occupied land. They do however remain hopeful and peaceful and this was very inspiring. I apologise if all this sounds a little bias, I really do wish to remain nuetral.  Firstly, I’m a little unsure if all this is my business to comment but also I do believe if we want to be peacemakers we have to remain nuetral.  In saying that I have been deeply moved by the stories of the truly amazing Palestinian people we met juxtaposed with the aggression we experienced from the Israeli settlers.  And the one thing that was asked of me by the people was to hear their stories, believe they are not all terrorists and share these stories.  Of course I am just talking about the situation on the West Bank not Israel as whole.  We have met some really good Israeli people too and I am told two thirds of them also disagree with the settlements.

Anyway, day 3 we were back to being everyday tourists.  We visited the Garden of Gethsemane, with it’s ancient olive trees and beautiful basilica.  Despite what happened there I found it a very peaceful place, a place to pray.  How I would love to pray as Jesus did, “not my will but your will be done.  Gem also took us to her church in the old city and again the people were enormously welcoming to us.  In the afternoon we braved the public transport system and visited the Holocaust museum.  Our family obviously enjoys intense experiences and as said I do wish to hear all the stories.  It is a complicated place and there really are no easy solutions but that’s stating the obvious.

Day 4 – 5: Dead Sea (Qumran and Ein Gedi): We left Jerusalem on day 4 and headed south to Ein Gedi, a town on dead sea.  On the way we stopped at Qumran where the dead sea scrolls were found.  The dead sea scrolls are the oldest biblical texts and Gem’s been studying them for a few years now.  It was a fascinating place as well as beautiful and good to be there with Gem, even if she struggled with the inaccuracies of the info given.

We spent 2 nights at Ein Gedi exploring the national park, a spectacular oasis in the desert where David was said to have hidden.  We also floated in the dead sea and covered ourselves with mud as we tourists in this area do.

Day 6: Eilat and Masada – Our sixth day we travelled to Eilat, stopping at Masada.  Masada was a castle fort built by Herod to protect himself from many enemies.  It ended up being taken over by Jewish poeple and was the last stand of their rebellion around 70CE.  It’s built on top of mountain so you have to take a cable car to get there.  The views at the top are one of the most breathtaking I’ve seen and the ruins and stories really interesting.

We spent the next morning in Eilat at a place called Dolphin Reef.  A friend of mine’s sister lives in Eilat so we contacted her for breakfast.  Turns out she worked at this Dolphin Reef so she got us in and we had a lovely breakfast with her on the Red Sea watching dolphins jump around.  Good to hear more stories from her.  We then snorkeled around watching dolphins swim and the coral was pretty nice too.

Day 7 – 8 Jordan (Petra and Wadi Rum)  At Eilat there is a border crossing into Jordan where we spent the next two nights.  We visited the ancient city of Petra.  It was wet and freezing, even snowed a little but didn’t stop this city taking our breaths away.  It also meant we enjoyed the Turkish bath we indulged in even more.  We hired a guide who showed us around who was one of the warmest people I’ve ever met and he organised for his cousin who is also a guide to drive us back to the border the next day via Wadi Rum.  I had never heard of this place so it was a total unexpected blessing to drive through this incredible desert valley.  We got bogged for awhile and we were all a bit worried our guide may have tipped his car onto a rock which was bit precarious but it all worked out in the end. The guide was also so warm and generous.  It made me aware of some unconscious prejudice I have held about Arab people and I am so glad to have my prejudices challenged by these wonderful people.

Day 9: Mitzpe Ramon: Back in Israel we began the trip North spending the night in a Negev desert town called Mitzpe Ramon.  There is crater there known as a maktesh that is pretty amazing.  To be exact, 38 km long, 6 km wide and 450 meters deep

Day 10 – now: Galilee area (Sea of Galilee, Nazareth and Safed) Day 10 we traveled almost the length of the country which surprisingly to us Australians only takes about 5 hours.  We have been staying in a little place with views of the Sea of Galilee since.  It’s been amazing to just stop for 5 nights and take things slow, I was getting tired.  We have visited the Mt of Beattitudes where Jesus is said to have made the Sermon on the Mount.  One of my favourite parts of the Bible and also one of my favourite places on this trip.  A truly beautiful and peaceful place.  We also visited Caperneum and Nazareth, as you can imagine there are lots of churches there and places for the Christian pilgrims to visit.  I have read so much about these places it was hard to believe I was really there.  I have really appreciated this trip for helping me understand my Biblical geography.  Something I realise I was pretty ignorant of really.  In saying that I have not had some sense that this place is any more “Holy” than anywhere else or that God is more present to me.  I have been more aware of Him and that is good but he, I believe, is everywhere equally.

Yesterday, we visited the Golan Heights National Park right on the border with Babylon.  Some people say this may have been where the garden of Eden was.  I find it hard to believe they could know that but I can understand why they may think it.  With is running streams and waterfalls, endless natural fruit trees, flowers of all colours and a clearer green than you could imagine it sure is beautiful enough to be.  There is also an archeological site there said to be from the time of the divided Kingdom, definitely the oldest ruins I’ve seen.

There you go.  Travelling sure can be hard work, constantly dealing with the language issues and cultural issues that you are never fully sure if you are getting right.  Particularly hard here as such different things are expected of you depending where you are.  I have also found been away from my family very hard and I cannot wait to see them but I do  feel so blessed to be having such a rich experience here and to be sharing it with mum and Gem.  Thanks be to God.


Unexpected blessings

Life is a funny thing.  Last week I was posting about how awful it was in Alice Springs at the moment but this last week has been very blessed.  With tops of about 32 and lows of 18 it’s been truly delightful to be outdoors again during the day and snuggling up with a blanket at night.  Not normal for this time of year at all.

I have also had some unexpected news on the job front.  After the interviews I was feeling pretty confident about the teaching job.  One of the people interviewing me practically offered me the job and was talking to me like I had it saying things like, “you will sit here” etc.  The shelter job I enjoyed the interview but was feeling less confident.  I knew they needed people but they were interviewing lots of people too so was unsure.  On Tuesday the teaching job called to say I didn’t get the job.  There was part of me that was kind of relieved I hadn’t particularly wanted it but it felt pretty awful.  I felt a bit silly for assuming I had it, I felt a bit worried as I wasn’t sure I’d get the other one and I also just hate the feeling of rejection.  Thankfully on Wednesday the shelter called to offer me a job so pretty quickly felt less worried and a bit better.  This outcome was not what I expected but I am pretty happy about it.  Now I don’t have to make a choice between the two and  really feel working at the shelter is good fit for me right now.

I have also been teaching this week with Batchelor again.  I was pretty anxious about it but it turned out to be a lovely week of teaching and really restoring for me.  I had been feeling like I really didn’t like teaching and was terrible at it for a few months so it was good to have a positive experience.  I also was pretty burnt by the organisation but it was actually lovely to be there in that environment.  Then my old boss offered me a two day per week job. Nothing confirmed and I think I would still find working with her very challenging but the job itself sounds like a good fit for me and two days isn’t a lot of time and it means I could do it and work at the shelter as well.  It feels like a good opportunity to keep my foot in the door there while I work out what I really want to be doing.  Not sure what I will do but I feel blessed to have some options.  Nothing starts until April when I return so I have time to sit with it.

Life is a constant reminder to me that we don’t ever really know what will happen but I do feel God’s presence very strongly with me in all this.

There are times in Alice Springs when everything is so divine I wonder why the entire world doesn’t want to live here.  This has not been one of those weeks.  In fact this week reminds me why in fact only very few do.  While it has been hotter, the humidity is making 37 degrees unbearable, with the desert winds blowing dust everywhere and unsettling us all.  If that weren’t enough to keep us inside the flies on there own sure would and the ants that make it impossible to stand still anywhere.  Bring on March I say.  Off to Israel and by the time we are back it’ll be almost April when the weather is almost perfection.