I never see it coming – spring. Winter makes you forget that Spring exits. Long days of wet chill, layers of woolly sweaters and achingly cold fingers, squeezing my jacket into the coat closet when I come home and racing into the warmest room of the house. Everyone is there already, rosy cheeks that match the flannel blankets they are under. This year winter in Jerusalem was navy skies, blistery wind and lonely days.
In those lonesome days of winter, I ached for Austin. I ached for familiar friendship that could warm my heartache with heaping spoonfuls of inappropriate laughter. I missed being at Ann’s house with her dog Janie and the cutest cat in the world, Potter. I might have even missed Zorba – but typically I don’t miss man eating animals. I missed all of us being there together on her black couches, lounging around after a good meal. I missed hearing Michelle laugh at Janie chasing me through the house, I missed Frank making shocking comments that kept Ann furious and Alysa thrilled with mischievous delight. I missed Chris and his thoughtful articulate conversations with Peter. I missed Angie giving us reality checks for our reckless remarks and Kristen’s easy laughter. I missed this. I missed you.
Out of nowhere, I realized it had been weeks since I pulled my coat out of the closet. “When was the last time I used it?” I wondered to myself, squinting in the sun, making my way through the crowded street market. I wish I could have marked the last day I wore it with a little celebration, “Today is the last day I will wear this coat this year!” but, I never saw it coming. Spring crept in and I never even noticed that I put my coat away.
We drove north, to our home in the Galilee. We were there to help host a small workshop. On the drive, I couldn’t believe the blooms on the Almond trees. Almond trees are the first tree to bloom; the sight of its delicate white petals are a reminder that winter is almost over. I saw endless fields of almond trees in blossom. It was breathtaking. I wished that Michelle could have seen it. The poppies were also abundant. Brilliant red flowers moving gracefully in the wind, tucked in between green grass and bright sky. Seeing this, I was inspired to let spring sink into my heart; to let go of winter’s aching loneliness.
I’ve heard it said that it takes six months to get used to living here. This seemed pretty accurate. Almost to the day, the 15th of February, I felt a reckoning inside of me that said, “Okay, this is where I am, I am choosing to be present in this place.” Seems so obvious doesn’t it? I know, but the heart takes longer to teach than the mind. Spring happened inside my heart, and my soul finally put its winter coat away. This understanding has brought with it a few insights.
The first insight, came from a new friend. She said to me, “Everyone comes to Israel with big plans, big goals, but sometimes God has a way of purifying those plans by delaying the fulfillment of them.” Ouch, that hit a nerve, a big one. The recording studio was a huge plan that Peter and I came here with. The first five months, Peter poured every ounce of energy into the studio only to find out that after finally finding the perfect location to buy, it was sold out from underneath us. Pretty devastating, to tell you the truth. We were so close, only to get shut down through underhanded negotiations. RED TAPE. Israel has plenty, trust me. Did you know it can take up to eight months to close on commercial property here? Did you know that many sellers are biased against selling to non-nationals?
In all of this, Peter and I turn our hearts to the Father and cast our bread on the water. We ask God for grace and strengthened hearts, for wisdom and understanding. We ask God to help us seek Him first, and trust that all these things will be added unto us. And to be honest, as Peter and I stand on this seven month precipice of living here, I feel a bit like we have nothing to show for it. I feel that we owe it to those of you that help keep us here that we have something to show, you know, good fruit and all. But instead, what we have cannot be seen, it is an inward growth – the kind that only God can see. We take heart and trust that God’s purposes are not always shown through accomplishments. We do recognize God is refining us, and we trust that in His time the recording studio will be a reality. Please keep praying for Peter and I to stay dedicated despite discouraging circumstances.
What You Resist Persits
The second insight came from Peter, “What you resist persists.” There has been a part of my heart that resist the constant hosting that is required here at the House of Peace. I remember crying one night because I couldn’t remember the last time I had a chance to sit and be alone anywhere. I was in the throes of feeling sorry for myself. I was just so sick of people, feeding people, talking to people, cleaning rooms that people stayed in, cleaning toilets people poo-ed in. Ugh. I was not a happy person. I didn’t even like me anymore.
That evening, mom and I prepared dinner for a team of six people staying with us, pastors and youth pastors and wives. I sat there at the table, empty of all friendly chatter and worn out from cooking the large meal when one of the pastors started asking Peter and I questions. Real honest to goodness questions about who we were, what we did, what we loved. This man, this team, wanted to really go to know us. They were sincere, they were genuine and they were interested in us. This touched my heart in a way that I can’t really describe. Too often people come here, and they are gone in three days; it’s a whirlwind of strangers coming and going and this aspect is hard. But when this team of pastors expressed authentic relationship towards us, I felt renewed towards giving again. I know that God used them to help me remember to take time to get to know people. Through relationship, even brief attempts, a grace to serve is given. So, I’m learning that it helps when I take time to sit, talk and listen. Somehow, this small deed makes all the other stuff go down easier.
Here’s to putting the winter coat in the closet…
With love and grateful hearts,
Joy (n Peter)