The Tree

tall tree with leafy branches
Photo by Shivam Patel on Pexels.com

The phone rang, I wasn’t going to pick it up. It was 9am and Sammy was just about to start his homeschooling. I then thought I had better do so, as I didn’t recognise the number.

I was in total shock and didn’t quite understand what was being said on the other end of the phone? My ex mother-inlaw had just dropped dead. My daughter’s two grandparents, divorced but amicable, had died in two months.

I spoke with Neil, and realising we live in the ever present world of social media, it was decided I needed to ring both the girls at work and get them home. As if grieving their Poppa (my ex father-inlaw) whom they were both very close too, wasn’t enough, now Nana had made her exit smack bang in the midst of Level Three Lockdown here in the greater Auckland area. There would be no rushing down to be with their father, no being with their relatives. No funeral, no memorial. Nothing. Covid rules need to be obeyed…..

The grief we feel is palpable. I was still very much part of the Hornell family, as is Sammy & Neil; we are a big blended ex inlaw/outlaw bunch who fight and love and have each other’s back at the end of the day. Things are day by day at the moment, but we hold fast to Yeshua, our rock and strong tower.

My last great Aunt died too. Level Four Lockdown. Her daughter is stuck in Australia and can’t come back at the moment. My Aunty Tuppy was like a surrogate Nana to me. In fact she was the younger sister of my Nana, and when my Grandpa died, her and Uncle Fred made a solemn promise to be there for us and be the surrogate grandparents. They did so well in that role. The only thing that bugged me about Aunty Tuppy, was she insisted on calling me Sarndra. I allowed it out of respect, even though my actual given name is Sandra. It was her term of endearment for me, and I understood that.

So yes, three deaths in three months, all in different levels of Covid19 Lockdown.

Poppa Ken and the kids

Poppa Ken, insisted on calling me his ‘Number One girl’, namely because I was the first daughter inlaw. We had the most amazing chats, he was a great conversationalist, who had big dreams, a grumpy temperament and so much untapped potential. He was gruff and hard at times, but never with me. I could get him crying easy! I loved him, and I miss him so much. He would turn up in his beat up old four wheel drive, and just beam with joy when he saw me. His health had given him what for the past decade, but that smile always came out when he was with us. He didn’t believe in God like I do, but he sure did believe in his love for us. He saw things very differently to me, but he taught me a great deal. He had the biggest, bushiest eyebrows I had ever seen! They grew so wide and deep, he longer had to wear sunglasses 🙂 Typical Ken, it was always his way.

Nana May

Nana May, well she used to scare the daylights out of me! She was a hard taskmaster of a woman, who seemed to live most of her life hiding. Again, I managed to reach in and hear the heart of a woman who had been deeply misunderstood and so incredibly broken. I ended up being the only one who knew she had a heart condition, and that has puzzled me. She had three sons whom she adored, and yet no one but me knew. I found that out the day of her death. Again, so much untapped potential and dreams locked up in a woman who lived mainly alone, later in life, and who didn’t allow people deep into her heart. I guess I am fortunate – for I know some of those precious secrets.

I pulled up the family tree on the MyHeritage website, and with tears streaming down my face (what else is new?!) I put in the three recent death dates.

Ah, this year really has been shite for breakfast, hasn’t it? I don’t think there could be a living soul out there that would say 2020 has been a true blessing from Heaven. No one would believe them if they did. But what I am learning to do is seeing things from both a Heavenly and an earthly perspective. Some areas just aren’t as black and white as we’d like them, but they’re not meant to be. Yeshua reminded us, our Kingdom is invisible, not for this earth, and therefore as my tagline says, we are just Pilgrims passing through. We can’t make this world the be-all and end-all because it’s not. This is just a mere vapour, and one day soon, we will all be with Him, forever. Until then, we must occupy until He comes, and share our Beloved Yeshua with this cold dying world.

So yes, as I said a couple of blogs back, I had been feeling spent, until the Lord showed me the word ‘grief’. There’s no time limit on grief, and I’m not one to walk away from a challenge, so moving through this with the family in tow, is quite the journey indeed.

Beit She’an

Beit She'an
The Lone Dancing Tree

This place has fascinated me for years. It’s something of a mystery that was still covered up in the 1920’s with only a few excavations done around then and in the 1930’s. It is currently in the Arab village of Beisan, at the junction of the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley.

In the Biblical account of the battle of the Israelites against the Philistines in 1 Samuel 31:8-12, the bodies of King Saul and three of his sons were hung on the walls of Beit She’an. In the Roman times this was the leading city of the Decapolis, a league of pagan cities.*

It remained buried for so many centuries, and yet when you see the vastness of it, you are quite shocked! Those Roman columns are extraordinarily tall, and it blows my mind to think that only a few stuck out of the ground, and yet the Arab nomads just farmed their herds here, with no digging or wanting to know what these things were sticking out of the ground! My archaeological mind would have going into overdrive 🙂

When you first enter the Regional Park of Beit She’an, you’re first shown a very large model of how it would have been set out.

Beit She'an
Part of the model shown of how this city would have been back in Roman times.

If you are lucky enough to have the place to yourself, as we were, then you can all spread out and go where you like. Interestingly, it was the only time that it rained for us: we didn’t mind, even though it was October, it was still mighty warm! After allowing us to take off, our tour guide Hilik, reigned us all back in and started to guide us through this ginormous complex. The vanity sets, the large red columns which seemed almost white until the rain bought out their beauty, the rooms where there would have been steam like saunas, even alcoves carved out so you could go and do your business! This is such a phenominal place.

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There also is a very large Roman ampitheatre on which I did burst out in song at the behest of my girlfriend! I just didn’t get good enough shots of the entirety of the theatre, but there are plenty online.

My advice is to not rush through here. The beautiful craftmanship is still abundant here, the detail, the tiles and mosiacs. There is plenty to wonder at here, and I cannot wait to go back and show my children!

Be blessed and I’ll see you soon.

Sandi 💜

*Wikipedia.

Israel Part Five – The Camel Ride!

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Neil and I had a deal:  if there were camels to ride, we’d do it together.  Back in 2013 when we had the option, I was recovering from getting food poisoning at Masada.  Me+Camels=No!  I was dead keen to get on the camels at Genesis Land until I saw Taylor being bucked from here to kingdom come and back again.  Nope!  No camel for me thank you very much.  How rude!  So instead, Neil shared the camel with Paula, and I walked along dodging all the camel poo.  Screeches of laughter were heard, birthday songs to a camel, you could feel the excitement in the air.

I’m such a plonker.  I should have gone on the darn thing….

We spent the better part of the afternoon being entertained by the Genesis Land crew, who were fabulous.  Very entertaining, very knowledgeable, all round great time had by all.  The food, the history, the setting, the costumes and that million dollar view – it’s definitely worth going and partaking of it all.  I can’t wait to go again next time and share all this with my family.

Next we were off in our bulletproof bus to Shiloh.

I didn’t stand and listen to the narrative – too much to see and photograph!  There’d been so much more dug up and uncovered since last year, so I was very keen to get moving and have my own expedition.  It was a pity that we didn’t get to go into the Museum this year, they have amazing artifacts and findings in there.  The movie, I find enjoyable and informative, and to some was deeply moving.  Leaving the theatre and going on the gangplank to see the unearthed urns with the large bowls of burnt raisins was rather spectacular!  Imagine bringing those back to life, lol 🙂  Shiloh, is steeped in deep Spiritual and archaeological history – a must for those of us who have faith.

Next stop – the recently crowned Capital of Israel, Jerusalem.  Such a hoshposh and eclectic array of history, religion, new, old, politics, archaeology and wonder.  The smells, the sounds, the amazing views, the old buildings, the ruins, the bulletholes from the reformation of the Land, the pavingstones, the tales this city could tell of it’s own life.  Jerusalem is not for the faint hearted.  It’s stark, it’s beautiful, it’s bustling and it’s dangerous.  The different religions all squeezed into such a small area.  The narrow roads which double as walkways – hmm, not the best idea there!  And yet this is the very place Our Lord is going to land one day.  My mind boggles at the thought.  Kind of hilarious the Muslims walled up the gate and stuck a graveyard infront of it.  That’s supposed to stop the Lion of Judah??

Back on the road, we encountered Mt Gerizim and Samaria.  Nothing to worry about, just because we are heading to what is called on the news the Westbank, and it’s apparently incredibly dangerous….hey, we’ll be fine!

I was proposed to at the Samaritan’s Museum.  The guy didn’t really measure up to my current husband, mainly due to the fact that he WASN’T my husband!!  What a dick.  Seriously, if they have to import women into the community, maybe submissive (good luck with that) and UNmarried would be a good start?  To be  honest, I was quite shaken by the experience.  But it was actually my own fault.  I foolishly though the dude was a guide in the Museum, and because the Cohen and his utter ‘menstruation fascination’ was driving me insane, I found myself having a nosey around down the back by the models.  Said dude took me around the corner to show me some tiny baby coffins that had been excavated.  Good ploy?  Not so much.  Neil had come looking for me, he knows what I’m like – oooh, pretty shiny and she’s off!  So after a quick prayer, and hand held firmly in grasp, I was good.

Mt Ebal – Joshua’s Altar.  Never shall I forget the image of Phil running downhill past us, chasing after a bunch of schoolboys!  I’d dare say it was the Carlton Beer he bought at the Samaritan Village for eight shekels that kicked in 🙂  His face ruddied red, mischievious grin, loose metal flying everywhere, and us ripping with snorts of laughter.  Oh bless him, he’s a good sort!  It seemed amazing to me all the ruins that lay below the altar, and a Shepherd riding his donkey, herding his goats.  All very normal of course.  Sitting there declaring, ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’  This place is beyond time.  It’s of such importance, I dare not write any more here.

Going down and seeing the uncovered City of David.  Wow.  I took a video basically of me squealing and sent it to some friends and family right then and there.  Some moments you have to catch, otherwise they just fade into the memory bank.  But sometimes you need to record the smells, the sights, the colours, the feeling – praise God for senses.  My favourite Psalm is Psalm 51.  I should imagine that David was somewhere in these uncovered ruins, lamenting of his sin to God.  Begging God not to take the Holy Spirit from him.  Begging for a clean heart.  Yes David and I have much in common….

I cried mercilessly during our visit to the Friends of Zion Museum.  I couldn’t control nor contain myself.  I’ve wondered was it the memory of my Uncle & Grandpa that fought in World War II.  Was it their capture and subsequent incarceration in not only a POW camp, but also a Concentration Camp?  Was it too personal, too real?  Was it having read so many books, based on fact and actual people who lived through it all?  I don’t have the answers.  I know the Zionist movement is huge and not all together based on true scripture, but something of this place moved me.  Make of it what you will.

And then.

The itinerary said we’d have free time.  We grabbed a taxi, went back to the hotel and freshened up, and then thinking we had plenty of time, found our way back.  We actually were a little early, but no, everyone was there!  I must say, the people who plan these itineraries cram far too much in one day. I think that’s why so many of us crash when we get home, or get sick upon our return home. Our bodies and minds have been exposed to such great extremes, and rest doesn’t really happen. The farewell dinner was a supreme disappointment. The food was undercooked and most of us at our table couldn’t finish the meat. I felt ill after dinner, so again we prayed, and I took some probiotics too. Some individuals took off and didn’t say goodbye, so I found their bus, yelled at them and hugged them big! Like you can leave and not say goodbye.  No.

To finish off our last evening, Neil and I spent time with an effervescent young man. Or should I say, we ripped through the hotel trying to find a business card so we could call someone who left their purse on the bus. Or the lady who was worried beyond belief that she didn’t have enough money for tipping so we escorted her up to the ATM machine a few minutes up from the hotel. She hadn’t PIN numbered her credit card (who doesn’t do that?) so she couldn’t withdraw cash. We then crashed in the lounge bar and indulged in the Divine Israeli wine, before heading back to our room one last time.

The morning saw us saying goodbye and farewelling everyone off on the Jordan part of the tour. Most people thought we were going as well, but alas that will suffice for next time. Our time in Jordan five years ago we’ll keep in our hearts until we go back and have a good look, minus the food poisoning or the Jordanian guards trying to make a pass at me!

Well here ends my blog on the Tour of Israel. I have some more personal thoughts and photos that I will share at some stage, but for now, that’s all folks!

Content and photos copyrighted by Sandi Wilson 2019