Christmas Gift Guide for Little Girls

I have been finishing up with Christmas shopping for my girls this year (I start pretty early) so I thought I would share with you all, a little gift guide.  Some of these things I actually bought for my girls and some I didn't but I still wanted to add a few more things that I think would be great for under the tree!  I will start off by saying that some of these things are on the pricy side but we really don't buy our girls a ton of toys throughout the year so I really like to focus on a few really special things during their birthdays and Christmas.  We really believe in quality over quantity and also in things that are going to stretch the imagination.  This also really helps keep our house from being overrun with toys haha! 

one - We already have the book, Gaston and love it but the companion book, Antoinette recently came out so I had to grab it!  If you don't have either the Gaston & Antoinette box set is so perfect! 

two - One brand that we have really come to love in our household is Maileg!  Everything is so unique with a beautiful whimsical spin.  This little cat and mouse comes in a shoebox that turns into a ballet studio.  I just think it is the most precious thing ever and I can just see my four year old loving it too! 

three - You can never go wrong with hair bows!  This would be a great stocking stuffer! 

four - This is Little Pig, Baby Bacon and I got this for our youngest, Hadessah who will be turning one very soon.  I just see her snuggling up to this cutie and I secretly hope that she sleeps with it until she's 25.   

five - We won't be getting our girls a dollhouse this year but I just had to share this, even though most of you probably already have the lo down on the new Magnolia collection for Target!  This dollhouse is just so darling and I love that it's wooden and minimal in color and style. 

six - If you have a baby one or under it can be kind of hard to decide what to get them since they are so little but why not get them something practical?  You can still get the experience of them opening (probably with a little help) a gift but it will also be useful.  Raise your hand if you feel like teething lasts a lifetime!  You can never have enough teethers, I found this one from Happy Hadley Handmade and I thought it was really unique and feminine.

I really hope this was helpful for any of you girl moms out there.  Thanks for reading and happy shopping! 


Crossing into Jordan

If you read my last post you will know that I recently spent some time in Israel but before coming back home we actually spent a few days in Jordan as well.  From Jerusalem we drove to the boarder to go through customs and then off we went to Mount Nebo.  Mount Nebo is where Moses viewed the promise land, since God had not permitted him to enter in due to his disobedience.  I LOVE this story even though at first it seems a little harsh for God not to let Moses enter into the promise land after a lengthy escape from Egypt and an even lengthier wandering in the desert.  But the first reason is because of God's tenderness towards Moses in his death.  God HIMSELF buried Moses.  The burial process is such an important process weaved into the human existence and what a tender act of service and love we see displayed in our God.  He loved Moses with such a fatherly love and he extends that same love to us.  The second reason is because no, Moses didn't enter the promise land, he entered eternity.  We know this because in Matthew 17 during the transfiguration, Moses is seen with Jesus.  How amazing is that?  Even in a moment of loss, God had something more in store for Moses, the loss was ultimately temporary.  What a special thing to hold on to!  You can read more about Moses on Mount Nebo in Deuteronomy 34. 

It was really hazy, windy, and dusty this day so we really couldn't see very far but on a clear day you can see, of course, Jerusalem!

After Mount Nebo we drove about three hours to our hotel outside of Petra.  During our few days here we spent a lot of time driving and let me tell you, you really get a sense of what it would have been like to wander around in the desert for 40 years because Jordan is just that, desert!  Before we checked into our hotel we went to the site where Moses struck the rock (reason why he couldn't enter the promise land, Numbers 20).  This was a really interesting site because the stream of water literally just flows through town next to modern day streets and shops but it was cool to get to see it!

Before leaving for this trip I read a lot of things about the people in Jordan being some of the kindest people and I can now attest to that!  Our first night there some of us went out at night and walked around a little bit.  Sand art is a really big thing there, where they create scenes with sand from Petra in bottles, it's amazing! Anyways, there were a lot of artists out working and they just invited us to come and watch them and they would explain to us their craft, it was just so cool to get to interact with these people.  Anywhere I went in Jordan I felt so welcomed!

The next morning we woke up and we made our way to Petra!  The first thing I was surprised to find out is that you can actually ride a horse or even a carriage down to the siq, which is the main entrance of Petra.  I wasn't going to take advantage of this at first but then one of my friends convinced me to do it and I am so glad I did!  I had never rode a horse before and I can't think of a better way to first experience it!

To enter into Petra you have to enter through a siq also known as a narrow gorge, which a little less than a mile.  It is really quite amazing that there is an entire city hidden at the end!

The whole history of Petra is pretty extensive so I will leave a link here for those of you who are interested in reading up on it!

The first official glimpse of Petra at the end of the siq is the Treasury.  This was such a breathtaking experience, I have never seen anything like it!

Before visiting Petra I had mostly seen pictures of the Treasury and the Monastery so I really had no idea how big this place actually is.  You really need at least a solid two days to see everything.

 Inside there are locals with donkeys, horses, and camels everywhere so we of course got a chance to ride them, which was so much fun!  My dad also dared me to kiss a camel and I took him up on it but I am really glad I went in for the kiss slowly because the camel was not happy about it and he warned me good and well before I got too close!  I loved seeing all of the local people do their thing inside Petra.  It was a really cool cultural experience.

I won't lie, it was a pretty crowded place but at one point I looked around and took in the crowds and the people riding camels this way and that way and I tried to imagine what it would've been like to live there thousands of years ago.  It really would have been something else!

After leaving Petra we went for lunch and the restaurant had such an amazing view but the most amazing thing is that Petra is located in those mountains in the distance.  Can you believe that such a huge city is hidden in there?!  I guess that is precisely the reason why it is famously known as the Lost City because to the untrained eye you could pass by here a thousand times and be none the wiser!

I can't wrap this trip up without introducing Masie the Mouse aka my guardian angel.  It was really hard for my to leave my girls to go on this trip.  I knew without a doubt they were in capable and loving hands with their dad but I just missed them so much!  When they and my husband dropped me off at the airport I cried like a baby!  So I decided to bring along Masie, their little mouse friend to keep me company.  She went everywhere with me every single day and it was such a lovely reminder of my girls.  It reminded me that they were perfectly loved and safe and that I could enjoy my trip in peace!  My daughter, Ezrah still talks about how her little mouse went to the Middle East.  I think a new travel tradition has begun!

So now that's my trip to the Middle East in a nutshell!  I had so much fun visiting these two countries.  I learned so much, met so many lovable people, and the memories will go with my fondly forever.  If you are thinking of visiting Israel or Jordan or both I could only recommend it to you about a thousand times and I really hope that someday, you do!

My Trip to the Holy Land!

Hi everyone!  I know it has been a couple weeks since I have posted anything but that's because I have been out of the country visiting Israel and Jordan!

Almost a year ago, my grandpa (Boppa), posted on his Facebook that he was taking a group from his church to Israel and not even a week later I found out that my parents were taking a group from their church as well.  I jokingly brought it up to my husband, Bryan that I wanted to go with them and for about three months the idea of me going was exactly that, a joke.  Until Mother's Day.  Bryan called from work and told me he had something really important to talk to me about when he got home but he wouldn't even hint to what it was.  So I patiently waited and when he got home he sat me down to tell me that he was sending me to Israel and that he would take the leave to stay home with our girls while I was away.

I immediately went into tears and even now, sitting here writing I still can't keep them away.  My Boppa and Nanna are established world travelers and I grew up looking at pictures of their time in Israel (this was their fourth time going) and my parents had just been there the previous year.  To get to be able to get to go to on such a trip with these four people, I could have never even imagined it, I have never, ever received such a gift as this!

In the end, I don't even really have the words, I just know that I am one lucky woman!

So with the introduction aside I just got back a couple days ago and thought that I would share with you some of my favorite moments from our trip to Israel.  I wish I could share all of it but if I did we would be here for a long time, as we did and saw so much but I hope you can get some sort of glimpse into why I have fallen so in love!

It's hard to choose a favorite day but if I was forced I would have to say the day we sailed the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias to Capernaum.  The boat ride took about an hour and there was dancing, singing, laughter, and prayer!  We got to see how they would have fished during the time of Jesus and we also got to see different places on shore where Jesus interacted with his disciples.  This was such a joy for me!

The same day we went to Mount Beatitude, where Jesus gave his first sermon, known as The Sermon on the Mount.  The actual location where Jesus was standing wasn't accessible but we were able to view it.  Here is the cool thing though , Jesus gave his sermon facing a natural amphitheater, which means that we were standing in a location where we would have been able to hear him had we been there that day.  Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is one of my very favorite places in scripture so this was a special experience! 

You can read The Sermon on the Mount in the book of Matthew, chapters 5-7.   

We visited Cana and the Church of the Wedding, where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine.  I loved this day because some of the couples on our trip renewed their wedding vows here.  It was such a sweet moment to watch, there were tears, smiles, and so much much love! 

Look at that grin on my Boppa's face!  He is so happy to be here! 

Another notable day is the day we visited the Jordan River.  If you know me then you know that I love baptisms!  There is just something about a person declaring their faith that just really touches me.  I have been baptized before but to have both my dad and my Boppa baptize me in the same river where Jesus was baptized was just something that I will cherish forever! 

This day was also exceptionally hilarious and for the sake of this person I won't go into to much detail but... 

What happens when a white robe gets wet? You guessed it! 

So I'll just end it with this:  There is a man from our group who on that day forever earned himself the nickname, Peaches!

The Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall was an extremely interesting experience.  I know I am not going to do our tour guide justice by explaining this but I will do my best.  The western wall is the last remnant of the Holy Temple (found in the Old Testament).  The temple is of course, no longer there, as it was destroyed in 70 AD.  The Dome of the Rock now stands where the Holy Temple once stood.  The Western Wall is extremely important for the Jewish community because they believe that because it is the closest thing to the Holy Temple that still remains that is blessed by God.  They go here every single day to read the Torah and pray for hours.  And because they believe that the wall is blessed you will often see men and women speaking to the wall, leaving there prayers in it, and even kissing it!  This was a fascinating experience in a lot of different ways but the biggest take away for me is that there is so much freedom in Christ! 

And since I love books so much I had to mention this.  There is a Torah pictured above and when I first looked at it I thought it was upside down, but then I remembered in the hebrew language they read from right to left and not from left to right.  I just think this is the coolest thing ever! 

This is at the top of the Mount of Olives where you get the best panoramic view of Jerusalem. 

I love this city so much! 

The Garden of Gethsemane is a place where Jesus went often to pray but it's true significance lies in the night when he was betrayed.  On this night Jesus was filled with the agony of the wrathful cup that he was about to drink on our behalf in the form of crucifixion.  He petitioned the Father twice to remove his cup but ultimately surrendered to the Father's will.  Later on in the night Judas would betray Jesus with a kiss. 

Visiting the Garden of Gethsemane was so amazing because some of the olive trees within it are thousands of years old reaching back to a time before Christ.  This can only mean that these very trees would have witnessed Jesus' agony in the garden!  How amazing is that?!  

The olive tree is also a symbol of peace because of their strength and endurance.  I love that you can connect it with Christ's experience among the olive trees.  Despite his agony He endured the cross for us and now our Prince of Peace reigns forever!  I am so grateful for his loving submission to our Father!

You can read more about Jesus in the garden in each of the four Gospels. 

One morning we went and visited the Garden Tomb, which is a possible location of Jesus' crucifixion and burial, although archeologists can't be 100 percent sure.  Here we got to view the inside of the tomb and then we all sat down together and had a short time of worship and communion.  During this time I couldn't keep the tears from rolling.  I think that I just felt so blessed to be where I was but at the same time I was just overwhelmed with gratitude that our Jesus is no longer in his tomb but he is risen, seated at the right hand side of our Father, acting as our atonement forever!  It was special to be where we were at that moment but the best part is that the story is true every single day, even in the mundane and because of that I am so grateful! 

Another favorite place of mine was Masada, even though the cable care ride up there was torture for me!  Masada is an ancient fortress set on a plateau, which is about 1,300 feet up.  The ride up felt like forever but once we got up there I was so glad I got over my fear of heights, the ruins are fascinating and the view of the surrounding Judean Desert and the Dead Sea was incredible!  

It would take me forever to go into all the details of Masada but the one of the most fascinating events of it's history is the siege of Masada by the Romans in 74 AD, which ended in the mass suicide of 960 people living within it.  It was kind of a "give me freedom or give me death" moment.  Archeologists even discovered lots with people's names on them.  It is believed that on the final night of the siege as each name was drawn that person would be killed.  The last remaining name would have to fall on his own sword.  When the Romans finally reached the top of Masada everyone was already dead.  The only remaining life was a woman and five children who had previously hidden themselves in a cistern. It's really quite a harrowing story.  To read more about it's history, click here

We went to Qumran Caves where the Dead Seas Scrolls were found.  There are a total of 12 caves in which they were found.  The first set was discovered by young Bedouin shepherds and eventually over 15,000 fragments were found in total.  You can read about the significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls here.

If you are wondering, yes, we did get to swim in the Dead Sea!  We slathered our entire bodies in mud and then went for a float.  This was seriously one of the coolest things I have ever done.  You really do float with zero effort!  It was also super hilarious to watch everyone else freak out over the sensation as well, I will always look back on this day and smile! 

The Pools of Bethesda was another highlight.  This is the place where Jesus healed the lame man on the Sabbath.  You know what I love about this story?  Here is a lame man laying beside the healing waters of the pool and no man has enough compassion to help him in.  And then Jesus comes along, merely speaks and the man is healed and on the Sabbath of all days.  This story really opens my eyes to the compassion of our Jesus and the example he has set for us to emulate.  He's not concerned with the Sabbath or the rules of the law he came to love, to heal, and to set free! 

The Pools of Bethesda are located in a sort of courtyard and it was so beautiful inside complete with gardens and a church.  By this point we had been to A LOT of churches and this way by far my favorite.  It was small and simple but it had amazing acoustics and at one point a group came in and started singing praises in another language and it was absolutely stunning  It brought me to tears, I just kept thinking of how every nation and tongue will declare Christ as our king! 

Fun fact:  The Pools of Bethesda is actually a French territory (if you look closely to the top of the church pictured, you can see the French flag), which I found interesting because a lot of the windows, doors, and gardens reminded me of being in Paris! 

Last but not least, I LOVED being in the Old City of Jerusalem!  It's divided up into four quarters, The Jewish Quarter, Armenian Quarter, Christian Quarter, and Muslim Quarter.  Every quarter has something unique to offer in the way of spices, jewelry, tapestries, antiques, the list goes on.  It's such an immersive cultural experience and I loved every minute of it.  

Some Trip MVPs: 

1. Our tour guide, Sam.  He was so incredibly knowledgable and I mean with a capital "K", which made the trip so much richer because he was able to put a lot of things in to perspective for us.  He also put to rest many myths and misconceptions to help us see things in a different light.  And most of all, he was extremely patient in answering A LOT of questions, sometimes more than once!  Israel is a complicated country when it comes to history, religion, and politics so if it is your first time going I would highly recommend a guide!  You can do all the research you'd like before leaving but it wouldn't hold a candle to someone who has a lifetime of experience living in Israel.

2.  The food!  Let me tell you something, they feed you in Israel. I feel like our trip motto should have been "Buffet Everyday!" Every morning and night at our hotels they served piles of food, almost to the point where I felt overwhelmed.  My favorite foods from the trip were falafel, bread (I ate so much bread..soooo much better than America), shawarma, hummus, baklava, and what takes the cake is a cereal that I discovered.  One morning I poured myself a bowl of chocolate squares only to find out when I bit into them they were filled with Nutella!!! Best. thing. everrrrr! 

New life mission:  How to get this cereal to America.  

One of the biggest take aways for me after visiting Israel is that because of Jesus, the Father is present with us wherever we are.  Here's what they have done with almost every single "Jesus sight" in Israel, they've built a church either directly on top of it (and I mean that quite literally) or directly beside it.  They have taken these places and elevated them to something that they are not.  You know what the Christians living in Israel call themselves?  The living stones.  I love that, it's exactly what we are, we are the living, breathing church of Christ, not the locations, and not the buildings.  Don't get me wrong, I loved seeing the Bible come to life by visiting these places.  I loved getting to see the places where Jesus walked and ministered but he is just as present in your small home town as he is at the foot of the Mount of Olives where he agonized in the garden.  

Seeing these things ever deepened in my heart the fact that there is so much freedom in our Savior.  When he died the veil was torn so that we no longer have to approach our Father through temple doors but instead through our hearts.  There are a lot of people living in Israel and all over the world who are still living outside this freedom.  My prayer is that God's grace would woe us all continuously to the victory of the cross! 

Whenever I have traveled in the past I feel like I have left a piece of myself behind but with Israel, it feels especially so.  Maybe it's because I still have my head up in the clouds but I am head over heels in love with this country and I am already counting down the days until I can return, hopefully next time I can share this place that I love with my husband and maybe even our girls! 

"Next year in Jerusalem" is a phrase they use in Israel in lieu of saying "goodbye"

So, I'll be seeing you, Israel, next year in Jerusalem!