Enjoying a beautiful Seder meal with friends.
April was a busy month for us. Not only was the House of Peace booked solid the entire month (all the way through June) but Succat Hallel, one of the organizations we volunteer with was hosting a large indigenous (Christian Arabs and believing Jews) youth conference called “onething” with over 500 youth in attendance. Peter and I were involved in helping out with the conference. I was mostly doing graphics and behind the scenes work and Peter was practicing with the bands he was playing with for the conference. We were also set to host the VIP room of the conference – which was a private room set aside with good food, quiet corners and comfy couches for the speakers, musicians and tv/sound crew. But just two days before the conference my family had some frightening news.
Update on my Sister
My older sister, Alysa, who lives in Austin, was hospitalized for blood clots in both her lungs. She is very young, just 32, so this was bad news. My mom and I dropped everything, we gave explicit directions to peter and my dad about keeping the house (since it was still booked solid) and we left the next day for Austin, Texas. After a 15 hour flight, mom and I arrived in Austin, Texas. We were greeted at the airport by my amazing friends, Ann, Michelle and Frank (thanks guys). They took us to Peter’s and my old apartment (where my sister and friend Angie now live). This was so bizarre, being back in my old place, seeing all my furniture, my old bedroom with my bed still there, trust me when I say, that I got emotional seeing what I left behind. All the women reading this will understand.
After we set our bags down we went straight to the hospital to see Alysa. Another emotional moment for us. I think we were all on auto pilot till the “Little” ladies were able to be together, once we were all in that room, piled on my sister’s hospital bed at 1am – we let the tears fall. We hugged and cried and thanked God that Alysa was ok. She’s still has to take blood thinning medication and have her blood checked weekly, but the worst is over.
Alysa & me
Being in Austin for three weeks was bittersweet. For one thing, it was the first time Peter and I had been apart for more than a few days. So three weeks was tough. Although, It was amazing reconnecting with all my friends in Austin. What a breath of fresh air. To laugh till it hurt and eat pizza at the parlor and drink cheap Texas bear and swim at the pool on Sundays, shop at Target and drive without people honking every moment. Plus, it was also a chance for Peter (while in Jerusalem) and me (while in Austin) to prayerfully consider our future – what was next for us.
I was able to be in Austin for Ann’s Hawaiian themed 30th birthday party!
Michelle, Angie and me at Ann’s B-day party.
Time to Decide
Since we had both given ourselves a year “try-out” time in Jerusalem, we knew we were coming up on the time to get it all figured out. So it seemed appropriate that we would have three weeks away from each other to see what was uniquely inside of us. I’ll be honest here and say I was more than ready to come back to Austin. I even went so far as to find an apartment for Peter and I to move back into in July. And beyond that, I had registered at Austin Community College to finish my degree and even applied for loans. I was ready. Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, Peter was taking all of my hasty steps in stride. He wasn’t convinced that we had accomplished what we set out to do here or what was meant to be accomplished in our hearts through serving here was done yet either. We had never been on such opposite pages. This was a new dynamic in our relationship.
Recording our Past, Recording our Future
When I arrived back in Jerusalem, Peter and I packed up a couple small bags, all our instruments and personal recording equipment and headed north to the House of Peace’s guest house in the Galilee. We had arranged earlier in the year to spend about 10 days there working on own recording project. We had no idea when we planned that time to record and be alone, how pivotal it would be for us. Peter and I desperately needed to be alone together, to talk face to face about our concerns, our hopes, our prayers, our relationship and how the future looked for us with all of those dynamics in mind. We took long walks around the neighborhood of Poriya (which means fruitful). We held hands and watched the sun set over the sea of Galilee. We recorded night and day, (in the bomb shelter ironically) wrote new music together, gained deeper understanding and respect for each others gifts. These were breathtaking moments of clarity for us. Jerusalem has so much activity, stress even, and the Galilee is open land, slow drivers and rambling roads. Just what we needed.
The Sea of Galilee. A view from one of our evening walks in Poriya.
Peter and me in Poriya with the Galilee behind us.
On one particular evening walk, we passed a neighborhood park. I noticed a litter of puppies wobbling all around yipping for their momma. Someone told me that the pups had been there all day and that one uncaring person had dropped the litter off and left them to whatever might be. I could tell these pups were barely six weeks and still need lots of TLC. So I looked at peter with pleading eyes and we rescued all six of those puppies. I became nurse and momma to tiny little puppies. They were blanketed in fleas and tics, filled with internal parasites and starving for some warm food. When word got out the we had rescued puppies, young visitors came knocking on our door several times a day to play with the pups and to convince me to let them take them home. “Not until I talk to your mom or dad,” I would say. I wasn’t born yesterday. Eventually we found five puppies safe new homes. Finally, at the end of our stay, all the puppies were adopted but one. The next day, Peter and I had to leave for Jerusalem. So we did what any kind hearted fool would do. We took her home with us. We’ve officially adopted “Nutmeg” a little terrier mix who is full of love and joy and has been life for my road weary soul. I think God knew that if I wasn’t going back to Austin that a little puppy would make living in the Middle East feel more like home.
Neighborhood children fascinated with the puppies getting their first bath.
Yep, so Peter and I decided to stay longer here. We looked at the past year. Counted our roadblocks and our failings against our successes and our growth. We shared long serious conversations, asked hard questions of each other and of God and eventually came to agreement about what was best for both of us. And right now, that is staying here. We can’t leave just yet until we see a glimmer of what we came here to do. To serve the Kingdom, to foster relationships and exist as a voice reconciliation; to help help young musicians have a voice. A voice of joy, a voice of gladness…
The voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say, “Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, For the LORD is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting”; and of those who bring a thank offering into the house of the LORD. For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were at first,’ says the LORD. Jeremiah 33:11
About the our recording project…we’ll let you know when it’s is done we’re shooting for the fall. We are so very excited about the project. It’s filled with new songs that peter and I wrote since being here. It’s uniquely us and we can’t wait to share it with you. So hang in there.
Peter playing at Succat Hallel.
Also some good news. Peter has been recently working as a sound engineer on an indigenous recording project here in Jerusalem. As I write this he’s working with a local Israeli believer editing tracks for another Israeli artist’s first recording project. Peter has also been asked to help set up a recording studio in Ber Sheva for a local ministry – their desire is to also help use music as a tool for reconciliation. He’ll be leaving in a few weeks to go finish the set up of the studio and train young people to use the equipment.
You won’t see this in Texas!
All of this work also translates into modest income for Peter and I. Which is an honest answer to prayer. One of the conditions that Peter and I set for staying here was that we would have our own place – we just can’t live in a bustling guest house anymore and keep our personal lives intact. Thanks for you love and prayers
With love and hope,
Joy (and Pete)