Saturday, June 25, 2016

Endings, Beginnings, Adventures

What an amazing week! So many good things, such great stuff. Saturday was an enjoyable Sabbath. That morning I was released from being the 2nd counselor in the Branch Presidency, only to be put back in as the 2nd counselor in the Branch Presidency a few minutes later. President Fellows is moving, so he was released and the presidency was dissolved. Andrew Lily was called as the new Branch President, and he asked me to resume my same position. He asked David Heiner to also remain in his position.

President David Heiner, President James Fellows, and me

I will miss President Fellows, he is a great man and I have truly enjoyed him and had a great time with him. I will really miss him. President Lily is also going to be wonderful to work with. After the block of meetings we were set apart, and then we had his family down to our apartment where we gave them some food. My kids took care of his kids and our wives visited while we went upstairs and had a meeting. This is going to be a great presidency, I look forward to it.

Brother David Beesley, President David Heiner, President Andrew Lily, and me

The next morning was Sunday, my day off, but it wasn’t a day off this week. Instead I taught my last session of Old Testament. This is the last one ever at Jerusalem, or at least for a decade I would guess. Class went very well, but it was sad. I love these students so much, and will truly, truly miss being with them.
The nice thing was that it was Father’s Day. Part way through class, at the class break, Tashara came and gave me a Father’s Day gift. She had gotten a really nice water bottle, that can stay cool and everything, and had cut out vinyl letters that said “tears of my students” on it. Since they are about to take my final, it was somehow fitting. But it also worked as we all cried together when class was over. It is sad to see it end.

Some of my gifts on Father's Day
My Old Testament Class. I love them!
The rest of the day was wonderful. I got home and found a wonderful breakfast waiting for me. They spoiled me, giving me an incredible breakfast. Then they gave me wonderful gifts. We spent the day relaxing a bit. We played games together several different times. I can’t think of a better Father’s Day than to just spend the whole day having fun with my family. It was a day of peace, harmony, and fun, and was one of the best Father’s days I could imagine.
My Father's Day Breakfast

The day ended with the Center talent show. Skinner, Allred and I did the Mule Skinner Blues again, and it went over pretty well. I think everyone enjoyed it. Our family did a spoof we found on Bieber’s “Never say Never,” but we did “Nebuchadnezzar”. Jacob did beat box, I did a bass talk-along, Kaleb did the rap, and Julianne and the girls did the singing and dancing. It went really well, I think it was a big hit. Alexia played her viola and Kaleb played the guitar. He forgot some of the words (to “Let it Be”), but he made it funny and pulled it off well.

Mule Skinner Blues
Alexia on Viola
The next morning I got up at three am and met with a bunch of people to watch the last game of the NBA finals. It was an amazing match-up between the Cavs and Warriors. This was one of the best games I have watched. With just a few minutes left the game was tied and the entire series was tied, each team had scored 699 points for the series. It was a nail biter, but Lebron and the Cavs pulled it off. It was worth getting up for.

Then I came home, got breakfast ready, got the kids off to school, and took a little nap. The rest of the day was pleasant. I got some stuff done and enjoyed time with my family. That afternoon Tashara’s friend Eliana came over and the two of them got ready for Prom together. Several of the girls in the Center came and helped them do hair, nails and makeup. It became quite a big thing. Tashara had borrowed a dress from her cousin, Aspen, which Julianne had brought over from Utah a few weeks ago. It was fun to see Tashara and Eliana all dressed up. They both looked beautiful, and they got paraded around the Center a bit so that everyone could see them look so nice. Then off they went. They had a nice time at the Prom. This is not a Prom where people take dates. Instead they just all ate and danced and visited. Julianne and I picked her up much later that evening. Everyone else was leaving to go to clubs and drink, but Tashara just came home. She is a father’s dream. And I think she had a great time. She looked like a billion bucks, but was even more beautiful inside than she was out.

Everyone in the beauty parlor
Pedicure ahoy!
Tashara and Eliana
Beautiful Tashara
The next morning we got the kids ready and went up with them when it was time to leave for school. We met the other teachers and spouses there and together we all went to Galilee. We went to Huqoq, where Matt Grey is excavating along with the UNC team. We have several students there this year. They showed us the site, which was quite enjoyable. They found some more really cool stuff this year. I wish I could write what it is, but they have asked us not to say anything about it until they announce it, and I am happy to respect that. But it was cool, and I loved seeing it and being there. It was a great time.

From there we went to the Horns of Hattin. This is where the great battle was fought by the crusaders and the Muslims under Salah ed-din (Saladin), where the crusaders were beaten and much of their control of the Holy Land was truly lost. We explored where it happened and how it worked. It happened on a July 3rd/4th, so only about two weeks later than we were there. It was over 100 degrees when we were there, and everything had turned very brown. Part of the reason the battle happened the way it did is because the crusaders got dehydrated in the heat, and then a fire was lit that burned all the brown grass so quickly that it dried them out and heated them up even more. We could very much picture all of that happening. It was a cool place, and I could really understand the whole story better as a result. After this we had a nice dinner, and finally got home. I sure enjoy the other faculty families. What great people to spend time with, I really love it!

Hiking up the Horns of Hattin
The area where the battle (and the fires) started
The Sea of Galilee from the Horns of Hattin

Sadly I had to deal with some silly problems with work back home. The emails kept me up too late.

The next morning I gave my exam to my Old Testament students. I spent a little time finishing up business emails, and then worked on my commentary while they took the test. After I had most of the tests in, I started to think to myself about how I would handle the fact that some people would be disappointed with their grades since the policies here force us to make the tests ridiculously hard. It is important for my students to know that I am satisfied with what they have learned regardless of their exams. So I looked at the name on each exam. As I looked at the first few names I could think of specific things about them that let me know what they were learning and becoming. So I took the time to write something about each person on their test. When they came back so that we could correct it together they were able to see the comments that I had made. After we finished correcting it, I talked to them about how I knew each one of them, and I knew what they had learned and what they were becoming and who they are and something about who they will be. I told them that I am so very, very pleased with all they have done and become. I meant it. I told them, with full feeling, how much it has been a pleasure to be with them and to do what we have done together. I meant it, and they could feel it. I think most of us teared up a bit. It was a hard, but wonderful, ending. 

The rest of the day was nice. Jacob had some friends over, and that was a bit crazy.

That evening we went to the Anglican Schools graduation. Tashara and Alexia were given awards of academic excellence. It was fun to see the good aspects of the school, the camaraderie and friendship. In many ways my kids really don’t like that school, but in many ways it has been good for them and they seem to have gotten a lot out of it.

Alexia getting her award
Tashara getting her award
Alexia and her award at the Anglican School
Tashara and her award at the Anglican School
Nick Fellows playing bass at the Anglican School
The next morning we got the kids off to their last day of school. It is hard to believe that this day has arrived. When they left Julianne and I had a long, long discussion. It didn’t start out as a warm and fuzzy discussion, I think we were both a bit frustrated. But it became a wonderful, uniting, uplifting discussion that brought us both together. We talked about ways we can improve our relationship, and ways we can improve as parents. We also talked about some things we can do differently to change some of the problems we see our children have. And we made plans for how to make this a good summer for the family, how to encourage our children to become better and get along well during the summer. It started rough, but because my wife is so genuinely good, and because she makes me want to be so good, we both moved to a place where we were guided by love and the Spirit and we by the end I felt closer to her than ever. That was a nice experience.

When the kids got home from school we celebrated a bit. They were so glad to be done, yet a bit sad because they would never see most of their friends ever again. In particular it was hard for them as they said goodbye to Nick and Louisa Fellows. They have been great friends, and we will all miss them. There were some tears about parting with them. They also had a bit of fun after school gathering all their school stuff and throwing it away.

I spent a lot of time getting handouts and other things ready for going to Jordan. It is not long before we go, and it will be a lot of fun. I found out that the Skinners aren’t going, and they were the ones who were going to be with me. I sure love being with them, and learn so much from them. But at the same time, sometimes I really enjoy just doing it on my own, we can have a lot of fun that way! Then, in the evening, we got together with the Allreds. We have spent the year slowly working our way through the tv series called White Collar. We also got the Allreds into it. And so we watched the last two episodes together. It was fun. I sure enjoy them.

During that time we got some emails from BJ. They were great emails. I got it right when he sent it, so I responded, and then he responded, and we had a nice time. He is doing really, really, really well. I could not be more thrilled! He has opened himself up to getting as much out of it as he can. He has put aside anything that could be a problem and is just rockin’! I am so excited and proud of him. I also got some emails about a conference in Oxford, that it looks like I will now speak at, and then more good news about it came in, and some other good emails. On the whole it made for a great night that ended with a great feeling. It is nice to have that after a rough night last night.

The next morning we let everyone sleep in. First day with no school! Fortunately I didn’t have to teach early either! We made a special breakfast. We found a waffle iron, and it was the first time we have had waffles since we got here. They were great waffles. Julianne made a strawberry sauce, and found a condensed cream thing that was tasty. We had a great breakfast together, and just played with each other. It was a really fun morning.

Then I got ready for my New Testament class. Just after lunch I taught my first New Testament class. It is weird to begin my last class here. They seem like great students (I already know most of them quite well). I feel like it went pretty well, but it was not spectacular. Hopefully I can make it even better in the future. I have no doubt we will have a great class together. This was pretty good, but it wasn’t my best. I’m not sure why.
My New Testament class
We had a nice orientation for going to Jordan. Kaleb and Alexia came with us, since they are going to Jordan with us. I am getting excited, I think we are going to have a great trip. We went with the Skinners and Allreds to look over at the Temple Mount and watch people as they did their prayers at the end of the day and broke their fast as part of Ramadan. It was a nice experience. There was a couple there who were breaking their fast. They insisted that we eat some of their food. It was nice of them. I have so much fun with the Skinners and Allreds. I really, really enjoy them.

Throngs of people at the Dome of the Rock for Ramadan
People eating at the Dome of the Rock just after sundown at Ramadan
Then Julianne and I watched a movie together. It did a great job of really getting you to think about how difficult things are between the Palestinians and Jews. What a difficult place to live. I am so glad that we find a measure of peace in this war-torn land. Fortunately, despite the many things that swirl around us in so many ways, because of my family’s relationship with each other and our relationship with God, we can always find islands of peace. I am grateful for that.

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