Easter in a ‘Foreign’ land

As most of you know, we are followers of Christ, family that living in a pre-dominantly Jewish country (Israel).  While there are a number of Christians here in Israel, and we are blessed enough to be friends with some amazing ones, Easter is a different story here.  The feeling of Easter and Holy Week in the air, that typically personifies our typical celebration, can be hard to find in Israel, but perhaps that focused this year’s Easter on more of an internal search and celebration that sometimes can be difficult in a commercialized one back in the U.S.  This Easter will definitely go down in the Manrrique Family History, specifically because of the location, location, location.  We didn’t get to attend the typical Easter services we are used to, from Ash Wednesday through Good Friday, as our church here does not have those services and so we had to focus our celebration at home, where we as a family made the dedication of spending more time in the Word, Devotions, and prayer time.

Once Maundy Thursday came, we sat and did more readings at bedtime of the evening that changed the world, then came Good Friday (which happened to be Devin’s 10th birthday, as he thought it was pretty amazing to have a birthday on the day Christ gave His life for him) Again, we didn’t attend a service anywhere, so our family continued to do our own family devotions and readings.

And now, comes Easter morning. Our church booked a tour bus to take us, very early (4:30am early) to Jerusalem to the Sunrise Service at the Garden Tomb.

I just couldn’t believe we were going to be at the site that Jesus was buried and resurrected (also, note…possibly not the original site, but hey, it could be possible and its a beautiful garden today)

I was so humbled while we drove the hour or so to Jerusalem, I just sat and prayed and looked out the window in awe that we get to do this for the year+.

Once we arrived, a little later than expected, the crowds had filled in all the seats and it became standing room only, in the very far back.


The only family picture we have at Easter service



This at first I was anxious about, but once the music started playing and ALL starting praising the song by Hillsong “Mighty to save”  SERIOUSLY!!?!?! One of my favorites!  Me thinking to myself “There, all is ok,” Then I heard His voice, I knew nothing else mattered except this exact moment!  The mood, the atmosphere, the people, the sun coming up and starting to lighten up the beautiful garden, all of it!! I just stood there as tears rolled down my face, while I tried my best to continue singing. I got a short video clip, I really wish I would have taken more pictures and video, but I was just so wrapped up in it all.

We continued singing some of the best praise music ever, and had the common Easter service scriptures and a sermon. It was a beautiful message, given by a very kind British man, who gave the “typical” Easter message because, well, it was a large audience, of people from all over the world

We heard the Pastor say toward end, “I know you want to come closer and maybe take pictures, but please don’t, there is another service and we need you to leave as quickly as possible, don’t worry, the Tomb is EMPTY!”  Oh man!  We have never been to the garden tomb and I wanted better pictures; kinda wanted the typical family Easter picture, but this didn’t happen, oh well we will have to visit again:). Hopefully soon! Where we can just sit in the garden and take it all in without the “show”

We went to a great lunch at the American Colony hotel, then headed for a new museum in Jerusalem called “The Friends of Zion” I highly recommend!! It was a hour tour of a very modern, high tech museum that made you walk through the lives of fellow Christians that helped build Israel and helped make it a Jewish Nation.

Next we started for Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity.DSC_0424DSC_0427DSC_0429


We toured the Church of the Nativity (again, its our 3rd or 4th time I think) It always brings a mixture of emotion when we go to these churches here, we can talk privately someday about it if you would like, OR just come out and see us!  It was nice getting to hang out with some of our good friends from Church and also getting to see a few Arab Palestinian Christians, whom we now call friends (who owns one of the olive wood shops, we have really gotten to know him and his family, amazing man)

Next we headed up to the top of Mount of Olives. Mentioned in several scriptures from the Old Testament and the New Testament

The Old City behind us


The most amazing thing is the view from up here, and no wonder Jesus will return in this very same spot, where THIS was His FINAL ascent into Heaven to be with the Father. John 19-20

Then we walked down to Gethsemane, where there is a Olive Groove that is the most beautiful area in the world.   These trees up here are dated back over 2,000 years ago, could this be the exact place Jesus wept? Where the disciples fell asleep when Jesus asked them not to? Is this where they came and captured Jesus to take him to Pilate? So much history, so much truth, so amazing to stand here!


This is the sealed Eastern Gate, This is the gate was sealed 1,000 years ago to prevent Jesus from walking through them when He returns and fulfils Ezekiel 44:1-3’s prophecy and Matthew 23:37-39!


Then we boarded the bus and headed back to Tel Aviv, a completely different world, back to life.

We will remember THIS Easter in a whole different way!!!





Upper Galilee/Golan Heights July 2015

So it’s time to start my blogs on each adventure.  I have delayed LONG enough!!

This is first of many posts of sites, this is Upper Galilee trip.  I have stewed and stewed over my external hard drive, my old laptop, my new laptop and several other locations, but I just can’t seem to find ALL the photos we took when we spent 4 days in the Upper Galilee (from the Nikon camera) This serves me right for not doing all photo downloads and blog/journaling right away!! This has left me in tears, but also smiles of “well, we just have to go back to these sites, oh darn” Believe me, its just THAT beautiful!!

So, there are over 50 National Parks in Israel.  Once you buy a yearly family park pass, which is only about 100 bucks or so, you have access into these parks with your pass.  Some of these parks can be just a quick day trip being only 30 mins away, all the way to about 2 hours away.  We spent a few days at a Zimmer (a rental home, happened to be a cabin this time) where we drove to about 4 or 5 parks with in a few minutes drive from one another.


This post is about Nimrods Fortress, a Medieval Muslim Castle, its located in the Golan Heights on the Southern Slopes of Mount Hermon. It was built with the purpose of guarding a major access route to Damascus against armies coming from the west.  Built in 1229. Enjoy reading more about it here.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nimrod_Fortress



This was taken from the Northern section of the castle, looking south through the Golan


This castle sits on the borders of Lebanon and Syria. In the far north region of Israel.


That is close enough. Lebanon border

This Castle is huge (some 420 meters in length and 150 meters in width!)  to roam around and see the wonderful sites.  It was also so nice to have a beautiful breeze since it was pushing almost 100 degrees in all the other areas we were hiking.


The northern section of the Castle behind us. Met a lovely family from Chicago here, who took our photo for us!


Driving away you see this amazing site and see how massive it really is!

We also took a day to Raft down the Dan river, a tributary to the Jordan river. It was a very warm day, but the temperature of the water was a stable 63 degrees! This was a fun time, the river was in its low stage, so it was just a relaxing raft float, with one tiny man-made “rapid” which the kids screamed and giggled the whole way through the 2 foot drop of waterfall!





We visited Tel Dan next. Which we went back twice in one day because we missed a major section! Tel Dan is the northernmost city of the Kingdom of Israel, which the tribe of Dan relocated to after abandoning their granted allocation of land from God.  This Tel has so much history, so below is a short description if you would like to read, because I am no theologian and I seriously am learning and reading and studying scripture at every place to go to, reading and seeing is a whole new ball game!!

Read on if you really want to…🙂

Bronze age:According to the Book of Judges: prior to the Tribe of Dan occupying the land, the town was known as Laysha (Judges 18:7 and Isaiah 10:30, לישה) or Laish (elsewhere Judges 18) – which root the Hebrew poets applied also to the lion (Job 4:11, Proverbs 30:30 and Isaiah 30:5). The Egyptians cursed Laish in the Execration Tablets; later, Tuthmosis III conquered the town “ra-wy-sa” along others. In Joshua 19:47 it is called Leshem, which means “jewel”.

According to Judges concerning Micah’s Idol, the Tribe of Dan did not at that point have any territory to their name (Judges 18:1), and so, after scouting out the land, eventually decided to attack Laish, as the land around it was fertile, and the town was demilitarised.

Tel Dan – Excavation and reconstruction of the Eastern Bronze Age gate

The Bible describes the Tribe of Dan brutally defeating the people of Laish and burning the town to the ground, and then building their own town in the same spot. The narrative states that Laish subsequently became known as Dan, after the name of the tribe, and that it housed a sanctuary filled with idols, which remained in use until the time of captivity of the land and the time that the house of God ceased to be in Shiloh.

The excavators of Tel Dan uncovered a city gate made of mud bricks on top of megalithic basalt standing stones, estimated to have been built around 1750 BC. Its popular name is Abraham’s gate, due to the Biblical story that Abraham traveled to Dan to rescue his nephew Lot. Genesis 14:14:

“And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan.”


The gate was restored in the late 2000’s



The Tel Dan Stele; Within the remains of the city wall, close to the entrance of the outer gate, parts of the Tel Dan Stele were found.


Standing in the gate

The basalt stone bears an Aramaic inscription referring to one of the kings of Damascus; the excavators of the site believe that the king it refers to is Hazael (c 840 BCE) A small part of the inscription remains, with text containing the letters ‘ביתדוד‘ (BYTDWD), which some archaeologists agree refers to House of David (Beth David in Hebrew.[19] In the line directly above, the text reads ‘MLK YSR’L’, i.e. “King of Israel”. Hebrew script from the era is vowel-less), which would make the inscription the first time that the name David has been found at an archaeological site dating before 500 BCE.

 Dan suffered in the era of expansion by the Aramaeans, due to being the closest city to them in the kingdom of Israel. The several incursions indicated by the Book of Kings suggest that Dan changed hands at least four times between the Kingdom of Israel and Aramaeans, around the time that Israel was ruled by Ahab and the Aramaeans by Ben Hadad I, and their successors. Around this time, the Tel Dan stele was created by the Aramaeans, during one of the periods of their control of Dan. When the Assyrian empire expanded to the south, the kingdom of Israel initially became a vassal state, but after rebelling, the Assyrians invaded, the town fell to Tiglath-pileser III in 733/732 BCE.


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Waterfalls of Iyon Stream just north of Metulla. We didn’t get to do this full hike, it was close to the end of the day and we had pushed the kids for 2 days straight, that and the 100 degrees temp made us stop after a short hike to one of the falls. We plan on going back and seeing the Spring time here, which we have heard is simply beautiful with miles and miles of flowers.

Hermon Stream Nature Reserve is a site that has multiple trail options to do, we did Banias Springs and the Crusaders City.

Banias is the Arabic and modern Hebrew name of an ancient site that developed around a spring once associated with the Greek god Pan, in the vicinity of the town of Caesarea Philippi. The site contains a spring which is located at the foot of Mount Hermon, north of the Golan Heights, and constitutes one of the main sources of the Jordan River. Archaeologists uncovered a shrine dedicated to Pa n and related deities, and the remains of an ancient city founded sometime after the conquest by Alexander the Great and inhabited until 1967; the ancient city was mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark by the name of Caesarea Philippi.




I can’t say it enough, this whole opportunity has been so amazing already. We have done so much in the short 6 months we have been here and I am already begging David to see if the Air Force can somehow let us stay in Israel a few more years, because 18 months is NOT enough. Although, trust me, there are days I want to crawl into a box and ship myself back to the states for multiple reasons (the biggest stress is Israeli drivers!!)

So, again, this was a trip we took over 5 months ago and this is proof I need to write our adventures right after we take them!

More to come!!

A month already?!?

Taken in Jaffa, with Tel Aviv in the back ground

Leaving Frankfurt to TEL AVIV!!!

Our 5 hour flight to Israel went well, we all took more naps and the kids loved getting more airplane food.  We got picked up at the airport and made our way to our apartment with our sponsors waiting for us.  The Embassy has been extremely gracious to us, they have set us up with sponsors (a family who lives in our area) and set us up with a “welcome kit” with all the needs of living before our stuff arrives.  We were only allowed to ship 1,000 lbs by air and 4,000 lbs by boat.  So the Embassy also supplies all of our LARGE furniture, which isn’t quite my style, but I am able to go to Ikea and spice it up a bit, or at least trying.  We got meals provided by some Embassy families a few nights the first week. That really helped! We also got our car about a week after we arrived, it’s a Mazda 3 (Israeli style, a few dents and scratches, but for $2,000 we didn’t expect much and it’s in really good shape!)  Our apartment is beautiful with plenty of space and storage, and a Mediterranean Sea view! (For all my friends and family reading this, I will post pictures of our place on FB, I do not want pics of our place being out there for the whole world. I take my FB very serious when it comes to safety as well) We are very thankful for the storage and space, as apartment living in DC really go to us. And we are reminded by lots of Israelis, that storage and space is very hard to come by. We have done LOTS of walking and exploring our neighborhood, which you can throw a rock in any direction and find a park, so the kids are thrilled about that. Parks, the beach, grocery stores, lots of shops, restaurants, and bike paths (although the teens riding at a high speed on their electric bikes are quite terrifying) are dozens within a short walk. Also, kids here are free to do whatever they want by themselves, even as young as Kindergarteners. So this has been a good growing lesson for Devin. He has gotten to head out by himself a few times, Joycelyn, not so much. That girl NEVER looks for cars, here in Israel the parents teach their kids at a very young age to ALWAYS look and then cross (Israel drivers may be quick to honk and cut you off, but they really obey their lights and crosswalks, everywhere!) So, Joycelyn won’t be going out on her own much, okay…NEVER.  Tel Aviv is a very safe place, this city is always so alive and people don’t every stay home! After work the markets are packed, streets are packed, beaches and running trails are packed, and parks are FULL of kids and families…everywhere, ALL the time!! It is kind of a wonderful thing, in America everyone goes home around 7ish to get their families washed up and put to bed…NOT here!! Crime is very low, in fact, the only crime that has a problem here is bike theft. People will steal bikes in broad daylight, especially those very pricey motorized ones! Not too worried about our Walmart bikes, in fact, our bike locks have probably cost more than the bikes themselves!

We have met with our new friends who we met back in January, who have jumped right in as an Aunt and Uncle position. They also have introduced us to some a new family with kids the same age as Devin and Joycelyn. We are trying to make those connections, it is hard at times, but we know that doors like this will open for us when its time. We have also met a family who were kind of passed onto us by the past 2 Tel Aviv families. Wonderful people as well, and we look forward to making many memories with all of our new friends!

David is completely free until August when Ulpan (language school) starts then college courses in October. Which we have never had him home so much in our lives!! He does LOTS of studying but he is home!! It’s been wonderful, compared to all those dozens of deployments we have been through in the last 11 years. Since the kids don’t start school until August as well, it has allowed us to take a nice 4 day trip up to the north. I will post about that in another post.

I can’t think of any other way to describe some stuff, so I am going to just make it into a bullet format with subcategories. This should be fun J

Things we have learned about moving overseas. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful that we have most of the stuff we need to live off of, it’s just the feeling of “home” I truly miss

  • When you get to ship 2 separate shipments pack MORE of what you will really miss for several months. Like: clothes hampers, ALL my kitchen stuff, my plates, my knives (oh, I miss my knives) BIG coffee cups (the embassy supplies very tiny, almost 2 sip coffee cups) my crockpot (BAD!! It seems I have been to the grocery store at least once a day since we have arrived and I still can’t come up with a recipe to cook dinner, other than frozen pizza, spaghetti, frozen schnitzel. I just seems I have forgotten and I am SO lost in the grocery store with Israeli products, and just because I can read the Hebrew word, doesn’t mean I know what it says!) my OWN bedding, MORE kids’ toys (we failed at that one) my Swiffer mop,

Things that we have learned so far in Israel

  • People everywhere ALL of the time!
  • Don’t go to the grocery store in a bad mood, I swear I have a small target on my back some days that says “Yes, I am an American, no, I do not know enough Hebrew, but I know you can speak English, sure, cut me off in line and give me stink eye throughout the store”
  • When you get to know a local, they are truly the nicest people you will ever meet!
  • When you go to a park expect to see children peeing in the bushes, sometimes near a trash can, sometimes just where ever they want. Even saw a kid pooping with the mom pointing to the spot he should use, and no it wasn’t in a “private” spot
  • Kids under the age of 5 can swim in the Sea naked!
  • Nobody likes to pick up their dog poop on the sidewalk, I have no idea why, there are trash cans EVERYWHERE that they could throw it into. It makes it for a tricky walk to the parks, especially when devin has the ball at his feet dribbling.
  • Bottled water EVERYWHERE!!! I hate it!! Sometime places refuse to give us tap water to drink with our meals. The tap water is fine to drink, as we have been drinking it for a month straight. Downfall is no fluoride in the water here. I JUST wish everyone would buy themselves a reusable bottle.
  • I need to read EVERY appliance before I plug into an adapter, I thought the alarm clock and Joycleyn’s sound machine would be ok to just plug into an adapter, NOPE…fried them both
  • Fruit and Veggies are SO cheap!! It’s the cheapest thing here, very fresh too. The cheapest place to get them is at the Shuk (HaCarmel Market in downtown Tel Aviv) but I will NEVER ever ever, go again on a Friday (that is a day off for Israelis and it’s the day before Shabbat) I also will never go to the regular grocery store on a Friday! SO, ALWAYS be prepared to have everything you need until Sunday (Saturday/Shabbat, most places are closed)
  • The other cheapest thing here is cell phone coverage, the only downfall is that you have to buy your phone outright. No contracts, we literally pay $30 US dollars for both of our phones (10 GB and Stateside calling!) BUT when huge lesson learned. (well, David said we would have to pay to have them unlocked online or something, but I was very antsy to get a phone up and going) When Verizon says your phone is “unlocked” for international, it is a LIE, all companies lie about this. You must buy the unlock code to officially unlock it (although we learned this AFTER we sold both of our brand new phones and had to buy iPhone on Amazon)
  • David says about his Hebrew skills (although I beg to differ) Your Hebrew language skills are never as good as you wish they would be, but never as bad as you might think.
  • Cats, CATS, CATS!! Stray cats everywhere, they are fed and given water all throughout the city. We have now had to have “that talk” with Devin about the boy cat going around and making kitties with the moms all throughout town.
  • Always pay attention to those stop lights. They go from Green, to 3 flashes of green, to yellow then red. Then when it is your turn to go on green the red light turns to yellow then green. IF your foot is NOT on that gas pedal by the time it goes from yellow to green you will get honked at, no matter what! It’s actually quite comical. They will honk even if you are the 5th car and can’t go.
  • No such thing as American coffee. Don’t go to a place and order coffee, it is not good, they drink either instant, which is very fine powdered coffee (and actually we have grown to kinda like) or they drink espressos or cappuccinos (and not the ones you get in America from a gas station with a pound of powder, it is pretty much an espresso with steamed milk. Add one pack of sugar and I am good to go!) We are missing our regular coffee some days, so we use our French press and my girlfriend Jill keeps me pretty stocked up on coffee from Hawaii🙂

Sydney and Matan took us to Jaffa to explore the city one Saturday. It was a beautiful day and to look around at this ancient city and walk around and get to know new friends is really surreal. They took us on a boat ride out on the Med Sea so we could get a good look at the whole city and Jaffa. The kids loved looking over the boat at some really big moon jelly fish.

Sydney and I with Jaffa Port behind us
BEST restaurant in Israel!!! This is for a 4 adult meal only!! The service carries all the dishes back out on ONE trip in ONE armful!!
Jaffa, The Old city

So we fill our days with trips to the beach and to the Embassy pool. Or just hopping in the car and exploring the country in just a little drive. So many amazing historical sites to see. No wonder EVERYONE wants to live here or vacation here, Israel is the size of New Jersey and you can drive from the most northern point to the most southern point in 5 hours and go from Mountains, to Med Sea, to the Dead Sea, to the Red Sea, to the dessert all in ONE country!!

We Sea Glass hunt every time we go to the beach and we have TONS now. The kids and I are planning on maybe making jewelry out of it. We’ll see how that goes🙂
Our “new” car and David feeling right at home with his defensive driving skills and Israeli parking!
One of the thousands of parks here

We took a small day trip one Saturday to Caesarea, which happens to be only about a 45 min drive from Tel Aviv. We got a National Park pass so we an explore any of the National Parks throughout Israel (which is like 150 parks!!)

Anyways, David and I explored this beautiful 25th BC port built when Herod the Great ruled, when we came in January. So we planned to explore AND snorkel. The sea was very rough that day, so we knew that snorkeling was going to be out of the question so when we got the ancient pool where King Herod would have fresh water pumped into his pool, we decided to climb down and explore closer. Pictures explains what happened next…

Kind Herod’s ancient pool

Just seconds after I snapped this pic, J (her and I took our sandals off, BIG mistake) she sliced her foot on, we believe, a piece of very sharp glass.
A very deep slice on her heal. Local park employees threw some Iodine on it and wrapped it for us. J also have a very weak stomach to blood, she kept passing out on us, here she is “sleeping”

Needless to say, we didn’t go snorkeling. We heading home and got her cleaned up and for the next 8 days she did NOTHING, no park, no beach, no pool. It healed without stiches (although it think it could have been glued to help heal faster) She healed just fine and it is now a good story to tell!🙂

So right now as I type this we are in a waiting period to get the rest of our shipment, really hoping this will happen next week!!

We are looking forward to our next trip.

I hope this blog can help keep our friends and family informed of our lives and travels, I also hope and pray it will open your eyes to what an amazing country Israel is and how misconstrued it is.

Good bye America, Hello….Germany?!

Well, my apologies for not updating this sooner. One, I am not a very good writer, and secondly I don’t know how much I really want to share with the world nowadays with the insanity of the internet.

That being said…here is a an update for those interested. THIS post will be followed up by the first month in Israel. This is our trip to Germany, in route.

We got to spend our last evening in America with wonderful friends and their son. They were also so very kind to take us to the airport at 10:30pm! We packed pretty light, we each had one large bag, one carry on and a backpack. We did the great “hurry up, to wait” We were flying AMC (Air Mobility Command) this is a overseas flight to Germany that has all military on it, either they are PCSing or they are vacationing.  I got the run down from our friends and David that this may be a very uncomfortable flight, as it could be a very old jet, with uncomfortable seats and absolutely no service (slightly worried since I had hyped up the experience to the kids about the snacks, dinner and movies on the planes) Well, we didn’t have to board until 2am, yes, 2 am and we were at the airport at 10:30, we found a space, semi quiet, off in the corner by the windows to try and get some zzz’s. I plugged my phone in and turned on my white noise app on full blast and place it between the kids’ heads and said “lay here and try to sleep” Well, this is the most wonderful things about being a kid, you can pretty much sleep anywhere and be ok. As for David and I, not so much. I had brought Joyceyln’s “lovey” blanket, a light zip hoodie for myself, both kids has their light warm up jackets, and a beach towel I happened to pack in our carry on rolling suit case to pad my camera and other expensive gadgets. So, we set up camp, laid down with the kids and 20 mins after I feel asleep I woke up in a deep freeze. The AC was blowing SO cold onto us, so we wrapped the kids (UGH, what we do for our kids sometimes, well more often than not, becomes a huge sacrifice for us, haha) in what we had to spare and David and I ran laps and jumping jacks in the hall to stay warm and stay awake. We were desperate, so much so that we both contemplated stealing a whole roll of paper towels from the bathroom to use as a blanket. Don’t worry, we didn’t, we shivered and dozed off, and shivered and dozed off, and woke up with purple lips. But the good news is, the kids got to sleep for a solid 3 hours!

At least kids got to sleep a little
DELTA!! Yeah baby!

It was time to carry 2 very tired kids to the gate. We looked out the window and found that our jet was a United 747 jet. My heart leapt for joy!!  I was at the point that I didn’t care about the movie, dinners or anything, I just wanted a comfortable seat with a blanket.  We finally got on the jet, set in our seat at about 3am. Lots of long naps, games, books, coloring, and at the end of the last 2 hours Joycelyn just roamed around the aisle back and forth bored. And about 9 hours later…We landed in Germany at about 5p.m. in that time zone.

Heading to Germany first

We left the good old USA at the very beginning of June and got to spend a few days inprocessing in Germany.  We rented a car and did what we needed to do on base and then went full force exploring! Germany is AMAZING!! There is so much you can do and so many beautiful cities & towns to see, there is no way we could do it in a few days, therefore…will someday hope to go back!
Our hotel alone was simply the cutest place! The kids got to sleep in their own little room (with our rooms adjoining by a small hallway) but they thought this was the coolest thing ever. It sat in the middle of a mountain and at the foot of a castle! You don’t get to do something like that in America!!


Morning tea on my birthday with Joycelyn

We took a drive to Trier, Germany first.  This city is the oldest continuous city in Germany and was founded by the Romans in the late 1st century BC. I urge you to just read a little about this city here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trier because I can’t even describe to you the history here. We walk a lot this day and made a pit stop to bribe the kids to keep going with fancy hot fudge sundaes.  We don’t usually bribe (what parent has ever said they have never bribed, if they have told you they don’t, they lie) so, we don’t USUALLY bribe, but when it comes to a 9 and 6 year old and making them walk miles and miles and teaching them about the history and the sites, it can get very exhausting. Pit stops at random parks and candy and ice cream here and there works when you have been site seeing for 6 hours!

Protestant Church!
A fortified city!!
Roman Bath house.
The Amphitheater

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I am absolutely in love with my wide angle lens, but sometimes there is a time or two that I would like my 35 or even zoom, but my there is no way I could have gotten some amazing pictures of these places if it wasn’t for my wide angle. The inside of the church’s we visited was too dark for my lens and of course, my batteries died in my external flash.

Our car ride back lead to more cat naps for the kids (and me) which doesn’t make for good jet lag, but the long car rides are boring, and when you are exhausted its very hard to stay awake! I have an amazing husband who always lets me and the kids sleep on all of our car trips!! He powered through like champ!

Always falling asleep! This went on for about a week, falling asleep where ever they could

We went to dinner with some of our wonderful friends from Pensacola and their 4 kids. It was such a special evening getting to catch up with them and also finding out that we got to also toast to a promotion!! The AF life has brought some amazing people in our lives and we are so very thankful that God has placed such special people in our paths!!  I also had Jagerschnitzel every single evening while in Germany, but it’s ok, Israel has Schnitzel everywhere too!!

Our next day adventures we went to Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. So awesome that it gets to be it OWN country!! Yes, this I never knew. I married a history and geographic buff, me…not so much, and I am learning more and more everyday!!
Anyway… A Roman Era city, that was again, once fortified. Read about it here


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This day I was feeling my worst with my allergies (once I stepped off the plane in Germany I started sneezing) but this day was bad. This land is so beautiful and lush with gorgeous tree and flowers, but I am allergic to it all, apparently.  One of the coolest things about this area was walking INSIDE the fortified wall, called the Casemates. Then when you step outside and walk around and back up to the top, you see the grandeur of it!! Just spectacular and absolutely stunning!

Once we left Luxembourg we decided to do the 35 min drive north to see the Vianden Castle. I know I am pasting all kinds of Wikipedia pages, but I didn’t know if any of you would like to learn something new today :)  and this castle and the fortified old city that surrounded it were breathtaking…Highly recommend this!

Getting hot and tired!
The Dance hall
Those Tapestries!!!

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What a sight this castle was!! The kids were about DONE, you know it because they just don’t have that fire in their shoes like they have the last 6 hours. So we made the castle exploring fun by pretending to live there and Joycelyn was the princess while David and Devin had to fight for her.

Our last day was meant for Frankfurt where our flight left the next day.  Our plans were to do some sightseeing and Devin really wanted to visit some Ann Frank museums (He is also a history buff like his dad) but by the time we cabbed it to our hotel and discovered the location (next to the Frankfurt Zoo) the kids begged us to do the zoo. Well, that was slightly short lived, it was nothing like what they have been used to in Omaha (because NOTHING can compare to Omaha Zoo!) and it happened to be a VERY hot day in Germany. Actually we were very blessed with beautiful weather our 3 days there, NO rain and it was in the high 70’s. But the day of the zoo happened to be almost 90. We were all very hot and tired from still jet lagging (remember those naps, they are actually horrible for your body when you jet jag)
So after the zoo David just had to try an authentic Bierhaus, so we ventured out with our paper map (no phones for google maps) and 2 exhausted hungry kids. Not a good combination, but we made it (after about a mile walk) and it wasn’t as it was advertised, a little let down, but good food overall! Afterwards found a place to get the kids MORE Kinder eggs, to cheer them up! More bribery, slightly…

Got to the hotel, showered up and headed to bed knowing our cab was picking us up to take us to the airport at 0630.  Well, our hotel room had 1 king bed, which isn’t bad. We have done that before, they did leave us a pack and play for Joycelyn, who seriously wanted to sleep in it! And Devin got the cot, well, as I said before, it was a very hot day that day, and the AC in the hotel was only allowed to go to 28 degrees C (about 82 degrees F) and the unit would shut off after an hour!!! Well, if you know my husband AND my kids they are always HOT. So every hour we would strip off more clothes and either David or myself would get up (EVERY hour!) to turn the AC back on. We eventually all slept as much as we could in our undies and I found David on the floor, desperate for cooler air. And yes, I called the front desk to try and get a fan, they had no idea what I was asking for and even tried to describe what a fan does (you know blows air, electric, etc) to no avail. NO Fan..
This made for a good laugh now, but man, at the time we were all ready for the morning to pack out and just head to Israel!!

Our first evening in Israel. We can walk to the beach from our home!

Our wonderful “familiarization” trip to our new home

David and I headed to Tel Aviv, Israel on a very long 2-stop plane ride for a brief 5 day trip to explore our new home land and to get what we can done before we move in June.


We got to meet with Tel Aviv University and meet with the Registrar for David’s program, although its too early to register for class in the Fall, but at least this was a way to explore the campus and to help the administration staff see a face when David goes back to enroll and test. TAU is a beautiful campus and only a short walk from where we will be living. Getting to hear David speak Hebrew (I thought pretty fluently, since it’s the first time I have actually heard him speak it for a length of time) I would say, I am SO proud of him. He is taking this opportunity and running with it with full effort!


After visiting the university we were able to explore Jaffo for a day, the weather was wonderful and the food was even better!! The mix of different fresh salads are delicious, and of course so are the falafels and hummus!! There are also cats everywhere; and they are very cute, but when they stare at you so innocently for food, its kinda heartbreaking, but don’t worry these cats are not starving, there is plenty of food for them, either dumpster food or even the cat food people leave out for them.055

This cat was tired of staring at me and yawning to prove it.

Joycelyn is going to flip out when she sees them all!



Jaffo with Tel Aviv in the background, simply stunning!

We also explored The Shuck Ha’Carmel of Tel Aviv, AKA the market. Just another spot we fell in love with. The spices, the colors, the kind people all around, kids after school sharing their shekels for candy, just won our hearts

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We did a lot of walking, a lot of eating and lots of “just soaking it in.”  The Tel Aviv Promenade (tayelet)” is being transformed into an even more beautiful, family friendly, beach boardwalk. It is nearly completed and we were able to walk along it one evening at sunset. There were so many people just out and about, kids riding bikes, kicking soccer balls against the walls, running, working out, eating at one of the many cute, delicious beach cafes, having a local Goldstar beer, a group of kids getting a lesson of how to sail boat or paddle board or playing Matkot (racquet paddleboard game played at the beach, it is the national beach sport in Israel) which is very popular among locals, we of course, bought some and are hoping to get some good practice in before we move. Devin and David are already pretty good at it!

We got to take a tour of the kids’ school campus and meet with the registrar. Then we drove up to Caesarea. We were so lucky to have one of warmest days since we arrived, it was close to 74 degrees!! We toured the Roman Theater, Hippodrome, Aqueduct, in addition to simply walking throughout the ruins which date back approximately 2000 years when it was the provincial capital of the region.  It was stunning now; so I cannot imagine how beautiful it would have been then in its full glory. To walk on the same grounds as what we have studied and read in the book of Acts was simply incredible and so surreal.

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We ate lunch at a wonderful place on the water and then discovered the old port where we could walk out on. I found some beautiful pieces of sea glass and we took a few fun pictures. Saw some people snorkeling, so next time we will bring our gear!!

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On our last day we traveled to Jerusalem to visit another Olmsted Scholar, Jenn, who has been in Jerusalem for 18 months now, so we not only wanted to meet her and get some good info about moving to Israel, but also to have her take us around her city for a day.  This is where the New Testament came alive before our eyes, its hard to explain unless you have been there, but let me know if you want to talk about his more😉
We explored the Old City and the “typical” Jerusalem churchs. We are thankful she spent the day with us and we can’t wait to see more of her and her fiancé when we move.

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We literally only spent 4 full days in Israel, and with those 4 days we fell in love with our new “HOME”
Again, can’t believe this is happening and again, we are SO thankful to the foundation for allowing us this opportunity!!!

Pressing onto Israel

I wanted to write and submit this post to help everyone understand that while the Middle East (not just Israel) is in a state of turmoil, we will still be moving to Tel Aviv in the coming year, and truly have little fear in doing so. In all honesty, I/we believe that living in a large city in the United States is just as dangerous as living in Israel right now; despite the constant rocket warnings that they undergo daily. Yes, Israel is living in war right now, but we have done a lot of praying and talking about our own situation and understand that life itself is a blessing and that it can be taken in any moment, whether here or abroad. We do not want to live our life scared or fearful, God has placed this in our hands and we will do our best to live up to what God has called us to do. The situation that is going on in Israel (in addition to those other countries across the world) is one that is heartbreaking. In America, we watch the news and listen to the newscasters tell us what they “think” is going on. Depending on what news station you watch often means what political side is being taken, in addition to a constant blame game. Be aware of what they are saying, then compare and research. If you haven’t read much into the Middle East conflict and what Israel, as a country means, then I strongly encourage you to study up and learn the history…which is simply a miracle in itself.

We are so very grateful that the Olmsted foundation has chosen us (ok, chosen David) to represent the USAF abroad as a student and a scholar of Tel Aviv University. This opportunity is an opportunity of a lifetime and we plan on making the best of it and fully immersing ourselves into their culture in the holiest place in the world.

The one thing that I ask from my family and friends: please don’t hesitate to speak to us about what concerns you, and/or questions or opinions. We (David and I) have our strong opinions on the conflict and this blog is not the place to discuss that. Secondly, please pray for Israel, the Gaza, in addition to all of those being persecuted for their faith throughout the Middle East and around the world. We often take for granted living in the United States, where we have the opportunity to gather and express our faiths and opinions without fear of reprisal, imprisonment or even death.
John 15:19-21
“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.”

Pray that eyes will be open all around the world.

My Lighthouse



So, I woke up this morning, after 2 days of over 7 hours a day at the soccer fields, with hope in my heart and one of my favorite songs on my mind. You may think I am crazy, but I wake up every morning with a different Christian song in my mind. It’s been going on for over a year and I absolutely love hearing God talk to me through these songs. Anyway, this song by Rend Collective – My Lighthouse. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPtIv2lnkTY ) It goes like this:

“In my wrestling and in my doubts
In my failures You won’t walk out
You’re great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea

In the silence You won’t let go
In the questions Your truth will hold
Your great love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea

My lighthouse
My lighthouse
Shining in the darkness I will follow You

My lighthouse
My lighthouse
I will trust the promise
You will carry me safe to shore
Safe to shore

I won’t fear what tomorrow brings
With each morning I’ll rise and sing
My God’s love will lead me through
You are the peace in my troubled sea
You are the peace in my troubled sea

Fire before us You’re the brightest
You will lead us through the storms”

These lyrics speak right to me, last week I had a realization, that I can’t do everything as I want or plan. “I WON’T FEAR WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS”  I have to trust that God is leading us and I HAVE to put my full trust in him that things WILL work out how they are supposed to, it just may not be as smooth as my Type A personality will like. So, I “gave up” on trying to get things slightly organized and prepared and just went about business and prayed, and prayed and prayed. I even had a good friend take Joycelyn all day for me to get “stuff” done and I still found myself unloading a tote at The Redemption Store (our church’s thrift store) and I stayed to “work” for 3 hours!!! Thankful for good friends’ that have amazing, giving hearts!!!

 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

So, from the beginning of this post, I said I woke up with Hope in my heart. Well, David called this morning saying we have been “approved” to go to D.C. and orders are on their way!!!  Devin’s minor medical conditions were slightly the “problem” So our “plans” can resume. I have found us an excellent apartment in Arlington and started the paperwork today. We can MAYBE slip our trip back home to Iowa/Illinois/Nebraska in the middle of June, because we will more than likely not be able to visit family and friends before we go to Israel.
We spent Mother’s Day weekend in Fairhope, Alabama at the Mobile Bay Spring Classic Soccer Tournament. David’s/Devin’s team (U9 Strikers-PBFC) got First place in the Gold division!! David has been coaching these kids for about a year and to see the end of the season with this kind of a win and getting to watch how much these kids have progressed and played with all heart and soul, has been amazing. We will miss our soccer family!
We also got to write a small section in our Church’s newsletter about our adventure and about how much Perdido Bay United Methodist Church has meant to us in just a short 2 years. I will write more about our Church in a later post, when we say our official “good-byes” because right now, honestly, I am not quite ready to say good-bye to them yet.

We also had our first “I will really miss my friends” cry with Devin. He is 8 and has developed so many special friends within our Church family and soccer. He is afraid they will forget about him. We went to Target after school today and bought a journal for him to ask his friends to write their information down (mom and dad’s email, address, phone number, facetime name..etc..) so he can keep in touch with them.
If you are reading this and have been a BRAT or have a BRAT of your own, or just have a suggestion what else we can do, it would be greatly appreciated. He knows what a blessing this opportunity is for us, but sometimes that just isn’t enough.