Thursday, May 29, 2008

Being Human.

Take joy in the un-rushed living.
In the unfolding.
It takes time to...

- - -

Words from about a year ago.

How much life takes you and spins you around into places, relationships, and events you never could have imagined. I wish I could peg the best of those moments. Because it always escapes you; the good moments escape you because you can't always see them when they're happening. Was today, this day, a good moment? Was this a memorable day? Not particularly, I think.

But maybe, just a few weeks down the road, I'll remember today for some reason and smile. The clear, breezy night splattered with beautiful stars? The hailstorm that sent the dog cowering under feet? Or maybe the quiet morning of sun and reading the Word as windchimes echoed beneath the holy words and stories.

Take joy in living unrushed and fully.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


letting go

I'll spill out the words to bring my freedom:
You don't need me,
and I don't need you.

You are the confusion I leave in Cairo.
You are the sand wiped from my eyes in the desert.
You are the stone I throw in the Kineret.
You are the paper in the Kotel that is given to God.

I am leaving you
in the ways I only know how -
I am learning to be free
in a place that isn't home.
With great pain comes great choice:
to hold on...
or to let go.

I am releasing.
And I am reaching for the wilderness -
for the places that leave me with nothing and
Parched and tire,
I find a spring for my soul.
Oh Lord, Elo'im
my heart you have redeemed.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

flowers for nagwa.

On a walk through town, I wave to many people. Later, I see some boys on Brent and Matt’s street. They ask my name, and one of them proceeds to do cartwheels all over the street, singing, “Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!” in between each turn. It was quite the circus.

I give him a high five, which he gleefully responds to. Then I make my way to the flower shop to pick up a bouquet for my host mom. The florist talks with me for a little while, and she throws together a beautiful bouquet for Nagwa. I walk back, carrying bright red and yellow flowers amid a faded, gray street.


(Beit Sahour, West Bank)

Sometimes, things are not what they claim to be.

Friday, February 15, 2008

kitty quake.

Around 12:30 today, there was an earthquake, apparently. I felt shaking because I was sitting in my bed. Didn’t think about it until the second time when it lasted about thirty seconds and some cats screeched below the house. I don’t know why, but I seriously just thought there was an animal under my bed.

“Jenny, my bed is moving! I think there’s a cat under my bed…”

The thought made absolutely no logical sense. But I’ve never felt an earthquake before. She said she felt it, too. Later we found out, yes, it was an earthquake. My first earthquake…. and I thought it was a cat under my bed. Good grief.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love Day

The final week of living in Beit Sahour/Bethlehem is here, but the excitement certainly has not fizzled out. Today, as you know, is Valentine's Day. (And I wish a very happy one to allll of you!)

On any other Valentine's Day of the past, the thoughts I have had would seem quite trivial in comparison to today's experience in 2008. Other Valentine Days were spent thinking about baking cookies, giving cards, and the "horrors" of being single on such an occasion. This Valentine's Day, I have examined the heartcries of the people all around me - Palestinian, Israeli, American, and even Native American. (a group of 5 Native Americans who have joined us the last few days. They have built relationships and found many similarities between the Palestinians and what has transpired on US Reservations. They are here in Palestine for about a month)

Funny how all should accumulate on this day meant to celebrate the love for one another in a place thick with both great love and great hatred. Love, at its roots, is loyal to the point of destruction, yet on the other hand, can redeem and restore and build. In a location where nothing is simply explained, love is not exempt. This is Valentines Day in Palestine for me.

Beit Sahour has been the grounds for such examination of the world, people, and myself. In the past three weeks, I have visited Palestinian cities Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem, Jericho, the Jewish settlement Ephrat, a refugee camp, and more. I have been disappointed by human ability to inflict pain of every dimension upon another human being. I am frustrated by things that both US and Israeli and Palestinian governments do on behalf of self interest... representing a whole people though actions that do not communicate its constituents true heart. But I've been pulled in by the resilience and hope, too, especially the hope of Christ. He is definitely the firm foundation for this time of personal worldview shaking and changing.

A Valentine's Party is on schedule for tonight, so I should leave. I hope that this wasnt too depressing... but I pray that all of you are doing well and constantly living each day to its full :)

Happy Valentines Day, I love you all.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


We visit Beit Aribiya, the home and peace center of a family whose home was demolished four times, rebuilt five times. Because of the trauma, his wife no longer speaks. His child temporarily lost sight. Their spirit was struck again and again. His resistance is strong, but it is heartbreaking and traumatizing for him and his family. Demolishing. Traumatizing. Robbing. Damaging mind, body, and spirit. This is not the way a human being should treat another human being.

Later in the evening, as I walk home, I pass the house where I rescued the crying little girl a week ago. The grandmother and mother are there cooking hubez (bread) on the outdoor woodfire oven. I say hello, and they beckon to me and answer, “Hubbez! Tfaddal.” Bread! Please.” They offer me some of the hubez. I accept it, shake hands, and try to make conversation in the best Arabic I can muster. I say my name and “beit” (home). I meet a little boy and shake his hand. The family was so warm! I thank them and say, “cheroffna” (my pleasure), and head back, eating the best bread I have ever tasted.

I hold the generosity of this rejected family in my hands, and I could almost cry. Their smiles are maybe what make this bread so good. It was by far the best and warmest welcome I have received yet. I do not know if they can afford what they gave to me. It stirs up my heart. I will never forget their smiles, the broken attempt at communication, and the warm bread in my mouth as I savor their generosity and welcome.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

out of power.

Tonight, the power is out for about a half hour. The whole hill lost power, which is sort of neat to see. The stars are even clearer. Nagwa dances around the house, swinging her hips and singing in Arabic. Raneen is annoyed at her, as any fourteen-year-old would be. It makes me smile from the inside out.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Throwing Rocks.

We throw rocks today! Linford asks the owner of “Field of Nations” Daud (David) what makes him so hopeful and firm in his vision.

“Faith,” he answers.

He is a light for Christ in these circumstances. Everything he says is encouraging. It is so different from many others we encounter. He strongly believes Palestinians and Israelis should be pro-active, not re-active. His focus is not “Look what they have done to me!” but rather “You have done wrong, but I will stand with my hands open for a just and peaceful ends.” I was so impressed with him, so aware of God’s presence and peace in this man. It was so refreshing.

The soil we worked in today was mostly rock piles. I thought about the parables of Jesus in Matthew 13, and now I understand “rocky soil.” I can see that it takes great effort to make things grow here. But just as we threw those rocks off the land, surely the effort to do the same for belligerence in the heart is of great benefit. Surely there are rocks in my life that can be hurled off the soil so growth can occur! I pray that this trip would continually help me to throw off some rocks.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Nablus wakes this morning with new excitement, I feel. Tony Blair, the ex-prime minister, is visiting, so the city is alive and filled with policemen. When we entered Nablus yesterday at dusk, I was under the impression that little eisted here – that I would walk among downcast prisoners and closed shops. But I am pleasantly surprised today by the smiles, open shops, and constant bustle. These people are not defeated.

I cannot even fathom the reality of this city. Bullet holes litter walls, even the walls of the hotel we are staying in. Israeli soldiers guard the entrances at night. Guns are held to held, and bodies are used as shields. Families live in fear at night. I live so comfortably… so safe. Observing these people and hearing their stories breaks me because they are so incredibly resilient and determined. I am unsure I would prove to be courageous or hopeful in such circumstances.

As we walk through the city, I hear a sweet song erupt from the walls of one shop. It is a small, yellow bird singing in its cage. I am reminded of the poem “I know why the caged bird sings” by Maya Angelou. Alicia Keyes answers, “…only joy comes from song.” In Nablus, the cage is occupation. But, the cage does not rob the beauty of the bird’s color or its sweet song. If it did not sing, this bird, I would never have known it was there, sitting in the cage in a tiny space in a wall.

We leave Nablus through the checkpoint. After standing a while, we are ushered through ahead of the rest of the crowd of men, women, and children. I feel awful, squeezing past the people who had been waiting. I cannot look them in the eyes. It does not take them too much longer than us to get through, but it does not change the fact that we went through differently. I feel ashamed. I feel foreign emotions I cannot even explain.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Nablus: nighttime.

I feel numb as I step into this place. Before Linford even says anything, I feel and know this place harbors pain and despair. Nablus is a city of limited movement in and out. Israeli control has severed the vessel for lifeblood in Nablus. I hit a place of despair, feeling hopeless and frustrated. But tonight, some of us pray and sing for about an hour. It lifts much of the burden, and I am reminded that God is sovereign, even in the hurt. He is sovereign in good and bad.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

the contagion.

Kevin pointed out that today was a 10.5 hour day with ATG. It was such a draining day. I think the reality of life in Beit Sahour is beginning to sink in and stick. I feel as if there must come a tipping point for all the history, stories, emotions, and everything we’ve encountered up to this point. There have been points in the day when my heart has briefly sunk, my eyes feel tears, but my self wills this emotion away – not now, in the middle of a lecture. Emotion must be released, I realize, but it is difficult to be so vulnerable in a new environment with new people.

There is real pain here – so much more than I have ever experienced, I’m sure. We watched a documentary tonight called “Arna’s Children.” It reveals the pain, anger, and hatred of extremists. The refugee came Janin was a hotbed of retaliation four years ago. Amidst it, a camp was started, to provide a creative outlet for the children through song and acting. Hatred is seeded in their hearts so young. And why wouldn’t it be? Their homes are destroyed, friends are murdered, and little girls die in your arms. Hatred grows in these circumstances like invincible weeds. There is no remedy – the trauma and reality these kids face will not change unless the environment changes. Unless the cycle of hatred and violence changes.

Halfway through the film, I feel sick. I do not want to watch any more. The kids, the men – they all speak about death. They prepare for killing, protecting, and the loss of sensitivity. I feel numb at the thought that this is so present all around. I am numb thinking that violence is and excuse for some, and an answer for many. Why?

Tears come as I watch the end of the film. Children gather and sing a retaliation song: “Another martyr will be replaced by another.” I feel I have no right to cry. These are not my relatives or friends. I am not Palestinian. But I am broken by my disappointment with humanity, with the world. My frustration is in the broken spirit. Love, hope, grace, and forgiveness provide such freedom. Why do people reject it so violently? Hatred tears away the soul of a person and a community. It is contagious and relentless.

For the first time, I feel physically vulnerable and fearful. The last place I should fear is sitting in a cushy chair at ATG. I should feel fear when a settler is following behind us with a big gun in Hebron. But not here… not in this safe space. The uncertainty and unpredictability of violence is what shakes me. Anything can occur. And here I sit, in the West Bank. My naivety is great, but I am not ignorant of the unrest that lies everywhere. Even so, I am strongly convinced that the Lord is sovereign, even in the crazy, confusing world.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


On the way home from church, we pass a house with three children playing. An old woman sits nearby. I say, “Marhaba” and keep on. But I see one little girl crying; she seems stuck between two metal bars. It appears she has been playing and hanging on the bars, only to find herself stuck in the narrow space between. She is holding herself up between the bars - arms trembling - and crying. I ask Raneen if she is okay. She shrugs and keeps walking, so I turn around and jump down to lift the crying girl, not more than 3 years old, out of her predicament. At first, her arms hold firm, but then I lift her up and out of the trap. I rub her back and immediately she stops crying and waddles down the slope. Her little naked butt peeks out between her shirt and oversized pants.

Raneen tells me two women live in this house . They are thought to be crazy because there is no father. “See!“ Raneen exclaims, “the woman does not even care about the child because she is crazy. Nobody talks to them.”

It breaks my heart a little. We live just around the corner from this family. And how would that little girl have gotten down? Fallen? Got further stuck and injured? I’m not even sure how to process this – choosing to ignore the “crazies.” Would anyone from the neighborhood stop to help? Raneen didn’t even seem phased.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

men of snow.

It snowed in Beit Sahour today.

Apparently, Raneen had never seen snow fall in Beit Sahour before. She could not wait to drag us outside to make a snowman and have a snowball fight. So, we bundled up and attempted to make a snowman with an inch or two of snow. We used a tree to support the body. The scant amount of snow meant our “snow”man was half dirt. But Raneen wanted him to be white. We tried our best in the muddy olive grove.

We used olive tree branches for the mouth and hair. Upon their placement, Raneen exclaims, “He says, ‘Peace for Palestine! Freedom for Palestine; go away, Israel.’ Why does Palestine not have freedom? All other countries do – Israel, Egypt, Jordan...”

I never suspected making a snowman would become so political.

Monday, January 28, 2008


(View from our window at morning, Beit Sahour)

Just when I’m beginning to think that the days cannot possibly get any more packed, the next day comes. Not just comes, though; it marches in and tramples the following day.

We wake up this morning and raise the shades to a beautiful grove of olives, oranges, lemons, and tangerine trees. Incredible - this house, this family. Nagwa serves us tea with mint, eggs, pita, and the most delicious fig and apricot jam you’ll ever taste.

Our day begins with storytelling at ATG. Kelly Smucker was locked in a bathroom while her mother sang, “The Wheels on the Bus” to comfort her as they knocked down the door. It’s amazing to hear the stories already pouring out of the families. Incredible hardships. My own host family has deep pain. Nagwa and her husband were married in ’68. She and her husband left Kuwait in ’67 so that he could manage his women’s clothing factory. He left due to the Gulf War. They had 3 girls, and Awad was about 5 years old. So they re-entered Palestine. They lost everything in Kuwait, Awad says.

Sagee is Awad’s close friend from childhood. He has a great fervor for life, talking, and singing along with Lebanese pop singer Elissa. He was born in Syria, and he now lives in Palestine illegally. His papers/visa expired, and he has no ID. So basically, he is quarantined in Bethlehem. He wants out so much. I can’t even fathom living in a restricted area. I am privileged to move about nearly everywhere – the States, South America, EMU, and oh, yes, the Middle East. How is it that I have all the freedom in the world and do not use it or even ask for it… and a young Palestinian yearns and longs for it, asks for it, but cannot even touch it for himself?

Seeing that massive wall – 5 people high – humbles me. I want to injure the wall in some way to make it crumble. We were not meant to live behind fences or walls, of that I am sure. Even as a child, I could not understand my neighbors with fences. Fences meant less room for us to play. It made the neighbors seem haughty, snobby, and unfriendly - like they wanted us to go away. All fences seemed good for was to keep a dog in or to use the fencepost as our soccer goal.

(the wall, Israeli side, Bethlehem)

Monday, January 7, 2008


Our first day of Orientation was TODAY! All of us were kinda jumping around; we're only slightly excited. :)

Lindford opened up by reading "Oh, the Places You Will Go" and playing a beautiful song, although I don't remember all the lyrics or the name of the guy who wrote it.

Linford talked about making "home" wherever you are in the moment. In all honesty, he noted, you cannot fully live and grasp every opportunity with vigor in one place if your mind is somewhere else. Being in school has already warmed me up to the elusive "home". When I am in Harrisonburg, I long to be "home" in West Chester with my family. But when I'm in West Chester, another part longs to be "home" at EMU. But if all attachment is found apart from current experience, it cripples ability to embrace with both arms the excitement, challenge, and growth right in front of me.

I'm exhausted, excited, intrigued, giddy, and anxious all at once. This trip will be incredible, and I'm excited to share what I can along the journey. :)