The Real Deal

When we went  into the Old City on Christmas Eve I got an olive wood nativity set from Zach, an Arab believer who reaches out to Muslims all over Israel. He just happens to work with Tikkun International, just like us, which means we want to support his store and his ministry even more.

I was giddy all day as we walked around with this nativity set. It is gorgeous and simple and reminds me of the many hours I spent playing with the white figurines in my mom's nativity. I always thought they were so delicate and special and I loved moving the angel, wise men and animals around in celebration of Jesus. 
 The whole set is carved out of the same piece of wood so it has a similar color and grain. The wood has to cure for two years before the artists in Bethlehem can begin to care it. We got the log "house" separately and I really love how it houses the family.
 Jesus sleeps in a heart-shaped bed. Awww...
 Look at the fancy wise men, each with their special gifts.
I got a cow, some sheep and a donkey with the set, but Tom really wants a camel. Perhaps we'll go back and get one, and also an angel.
As soon as we got home I put it out on the coffee table and Cassidy started playing with it. I have to remind myself that this wooden set is more durable than my mother's waxy characters, so if Cass drops one every now and again it will be all right. This is what creates memories. I feel so blessed! 


It's the little things

I'm pretty exhausted, so this will be brief. We spent yesterday in the Old City with our friends Rod and Lois. While we were there we bought a beautiful nativity set (you better believe I'll post photos of this gorgeous set) and ate bagel sandwiches and ice cream. It was a very enjoyable and non-traditional Christmas Eve for us.

Today we woke up and celebrated Yeshua's birthday with a delicious breakfast, fun presents for Cassidy and several FaceTime chats with family. We also analyzed the story of Yeshua's birth, trying to figure out what is tradition and what is truth. We had a wonderful day together, just the three of us, and are so very grateful to have a time set apart every year for extreme amounts of joy and thankfulness for the gift of Messiah.

I want to share some of the "extreme amounts of joy" I mentioned. Just about every gift was greeted with squeals and smiles, but here is one that I think you'll really enjoy. I got her several sets of jewelry but this is the first one she opened. They cost two and half shekels; that's not even 75 cents. It doesn't take much to make this girl happy.
Merry Christmas friends. I hope your hearts are filled and your smiles are big because we all have a great reason to be joyful: JESUS!


Christmas Time's A-Coming

We are continuing to celebrate the Light of the World in Jerusalem: Yeshua's birthday is only a few days away! Right after Thanksgiving most people in the States put up their Christmas decorations, and I have to admit, it was hard looking at facebook and seeing everyone with their lights and trees and coziness. When we packed for Israel we did not pack Christmas decorations and last month I began to rack my brain on what Cassidy and I could do to make our home reminiscent of my childhood Christmases.

Well, it is Jerusalem, and I'm pretty cheap when it comes to decorations, so I got online and searched out home-made Christmas decor (much like I did for Hanukkah). I also kept my eyes open as we walked around town. My heart leaped a few weeks ago when Cassidy pointed out huge pine cones on the side of the road. Pine cones! In the past I used to get a big bag of pine cones and greenery from Tom's folks so this felt like a wonderful gift from the Father. posted a paper nativity to color and cut out and things began to come together.
There weren't any shepherds to color, so Cass created her own.

We decorated empty salsa jars (a gift in itself) to make votives and cut out paper snowflakes. These aer such simple things, but they've helped us anticipate His birthday so much more. If you or your child love to craft I highly recommend these activities, or any others. Cassidy's excitement about each of these crafts was beyond measure and I loved seeing her joy and participating with her.
My one dilemma was where to put the presents. In the past we've enjoyed the tree. It's very nostalgic for me; my family always went out and cut down a tree and I loved every aspect of a live tree (I didn't have to pick up the needles or water it). When all the kids moved out my parents wanted to go with a fake tree creating quite a stir amongst us children. We finally conceded, and my mom decorates it beautifully, although it lacks that Christmasy smell. Tom liked the tree because it gave him somewhere to put his fancy LGB train. Watching him teach the kids how to control the speed and seeing the excitement on Wyatt's face is a great memory. But even if we had packed Christmas decorations, the train would not have made it into the suitcase.

I know I could get a tree somewhere here in Jerusalem, but where? And am I really going to bring it home on the train? And is this really where I am going to focus my energy this Christmas? So while processing all of this with the L-rd I felt Him make a simple suggestion...a star.
עמנואל, Emmanuel
Yes, I thought, that is perfect. It reminds us of the star that showed the wise men the way to the newborn King, where they presented their gifts of gold (for a King), frankincense (for a Priest), and myrrh (for One whose death was going to be as important as His life).
So we re-used our stars from Hanukkah and cut out some bigger ones which we then colored and glued together. We hung them by our patio door and have started putting presents underneath them. I am so thankful to the L-rd for this idea: it represents His guiding light and His very Light and now we have a great tradition of decorating the stars together. As time goes on I'm sure it will change and improve, but this year I am thankful for this new tradition that points to Yeshua and helps us celebrate His life.
ישוע, Yeshua
Every craft has brought a lot of joy to Cassidy and we've been able to see her creativity grow and encourage her artistic side. We're so blessed to have a little girl who loves to sit and draw and sing about Yeshua. She has as many songs for the L-rd as there are crayons in the box. We pray He will continue to fill up her spirit with His love and truth so that she will shine His light here in Israel. I hope you all have a joyful and beautiful time celebrating Yeshua, his brave parents and the grace that G-d poured out on us that special day.

First Night of Hanukkah

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah (and our first night of Hanukkah in Israel!). We are happy to celebrate the Light of the world and the faithfulness of the Jewish people and the G-d of Israel.
Cass really wanted to give Abba a gift so she painted a dreidel for him and then made him a special card, filled with all of the things she loves about him. Some of the things she loves: playing on the bed, playing cards (like Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious), his hugs and kisses. She also said she is proud of how hard he works and how happy he makes her. She could not wait to give him her present and card and insisted that he open his stuff first!
We're doing presents each night for her, nothing over the top because toys here (like everything else) cost so much. I went to the equivalent of the dollar store here and got her mostly arts and crafts items because she spends most of her free time drawing, cutting, gluing and painting. 
I labeled each present with a hanukkiah and she gets to open a different present according to how many candles are 'lit' on the package. She was more than excited to open her first present:

 I love how easy she is to please. She has such a thankful and generous heart. She makes it hard to not want to give her more because of her thankfulness, but since she is so grateful I know that I won't disappoint her. She is such an easy child to raise and love.
 I lit the shamash candle, known as the helper, and she lit the first candle. She was very nervous that the flame or the wax would burn her but she did a great job. Soon she'll be singing all the blessings in Hebrew by herself before she lights the candles.
Then we started reading the story of the Maccabees, with all the gory details of the Torah observant men and women being brutally killed and the flight of the Maccabees to the wilderness. Cassidy listened closely as she worked with her new stickers and paper. She kept asking, "What does that mean?" When Tom read about the mistreatment of the Temple or the Jewish people she said, "That's not good". She may not understand all of it but she engaged with the story and I'm excited to see her reaction as the story progresses and she hears the victory of Judah the Maccabee and his brave comrades.

Tom and Cassidy played dreidel while I wished my wonderful friend Maasen an early happy birthday via FaceTime. We could hear their laughter and squeals in the other room as the dreidel landed on gimel. Happy Hanukkah, friends. It's a beautiful thing to celebrate. Check out this post for more details on why everyone should celebrate this holiday.


Winter Visitors

One of our favorite things to do, now that it's cold (usually) and wet (sometimes), is look for snails on our walks to and from the train. They vary in size and Cassidy considers this one that is pictured to be a grandpa-sized snail. There are some that are so small you can barely distinguish them from rocks. We've seen several that met their demise as they tried to cross the sidewalk and Cassidy holds out hope for them. If we see a crushed shell in the morning she'll say, "Maybe he'll be better later". But sure enough, on our way home that afternoon the shell is still there, even more smashed and definitely not on its way to getting better. We're very careful where we walk, looking out for their slimey trails and camouflaged homes, but unfortunately not everyone walking or riding along cares as much for these little guys as sweet Cass.

And this is what Winter looks like in Jerusalem...