Saturday, June 11, 2016

Goodbye to friends and family

I am glad this week is almost over. Not because it has been a bad week, but because it means Julianne is almost home. We have done just fine, all has gone very well, but I miss her a lot.

Sabbath was very nice. The testimonies were very sweet, and several students talked about epiphanies they had in my class. That is always nice, it is good to know that class is actually making a difference in their lives. After church we had a nice meal with the Trees, and then we went out to see some things. We went to Gibeah and talked about the Saul, Johnathan, and David stories. These are such incredible stories. To begin with Sabrina had a pretty bad attitude about going, but soon she and Teagan Tree started to really hit it off, and then she was happy she came. It was nice for Teagan too, who had not been enjoying things so far.
Then we went over to Nebi Samwil. I feel like they appreciated the stories about the Crusaders that we went over there, but they really resonated with the stories about Gibeon. I think they were able to really picture and feel the story about the battle with Joshua and the sun and the moon standing still. And I think they could picture God coming to Solomon and granting him wisdom. While we were there a huge asp went past. Crazy. We also enjoyed going inside the synagogue. It was strangely empty, especially for a Sabbath. But it was nice.

Then we had another nice dinner and visited for quite a while, and finally everyone got to bed.
Alexia, Sabrina, and Teagan Tree having fun with biblical Gibeon behind them
The next morning we had breakfast with the Trees at their hotel, and then we were off on an adventure. We went first to the City of David. It was fun to hear my kids tell their kids about things they were going to see, it helped me know that they are listening and learning about these places. Kaleb went with them in their car, and taught them things as they drove along. That made me happy to. We learned about all sorts of cool things at the City of David, and then we went through Hezekiah’s tunnel. The kids always, always love that. I think they had a great time.
From there we went to Bet Shemesh. We had a little picnic there, and went over the Samson story, and also the story of the Ark of the Covenant being returned to Israel. I think everyone had fun.

From there we went to the Valley of Elah. I quickly showed them where Shocoh was, and then we went off-road to go to some of the new places we have figured out about the Valley of Elah. My kids have never been to that part before, and I think they enjoyed going there. I showed them where I think the most likely place is for David to have come down the hill, which also gives us a most likely place for his collecting stones from the brook. Of course I can’t know, but the more I looked at it, looked at the story, the geography, the archaeology, etc., the more I felt like there was a very, very good chance that this was the right spot, this is where David came through. It was fun. Then we drove to a different part of the brook and got stones and slings and had a great time slinging. I think everyone really enjoyed it.
When that was over we parted ways. The Trees went to the Dead Sea while we came home and got ready for school the next day, doing homework, etc. They got home too late to do stuff with them, so we just saw them the next day.

Jacob slinging stones in the Valley of Elah
Sabrina slinging stones in the Valley of Elah
Alexia slinging stones in the Valley of Elah
Tashara slinging stones in the Valley of Elah, with Britton Tree behind her
The group in the Book of Elah, slinging stones
Kaleb slinging stones in the Valley of Elah with Tim Tree nearby
I got my kids off to school, and then I joined the Tree family. We went to the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall. It was the first time I had been up next to the wall during some Bar Mitzvahs. It was nice to see the young boys reading scriptures and praying there, and how excited the families were. It is a great family experience and tradition.
A booy reading from the Torah at his Bar Mitzvah a the Western Wall
The Tree family at the Dome of the Rock
Another family celebrating a bar mitzvah at the Western Wall
From there we to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Pool of Bethesda. There we ran into some of my students who were singing in the church and we were able to enjoy their singing there. We also had some nice moments going through the story of the healing of the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda. From there we walked to the Garden Tomb and had some nice time there. Then we walked back through the city, hitting lots of little highlights that Tim wanted to see. We finally ended up at the Upper Room and Dormition Abbey and Tomb of David. From there we went to St. Peter in Gallicantu. We ended the whole thing by looking at the steps that I think were probably the steps the Savior took as he went to and from Gethsemane. It proved to be a very nice note to end on. I feel like it was a good tour for the Trees, and that they were able to have a good experience.

the Tree family at the Garden Tomb
We came home and had a fun dinner of Mac and Cheese with them. They had brought some boxes over so that we could eat it with them. It was great fun. The kids played together for a while longer, and then they left. Our kids all had a lot of fun together, it was really wonderful to be with them again, and I think the whole thing went very well. Afterwards we just made sure the kids were ready for school the next day, and finally got ready for bed.

I have been talking with BJ and Julianne a little bit. It has been a bit hard, they have so much going on. But the moments I have been able to talk with them have been wonderful.

The next day the kids went to school, and I had a nice class. This group is really good at asking questions that get us into meaningful discussions, and I feel like we have an almost unending string of deep explorations of what the gospel means in our lives. After class I was able to start working on my Old Testament commentary. This is going to be a time intensive, but fun project. It is taking longer than I thought it would. But I am enjoying it. My time working on it was interrupted by going to school to get Tashara, but I really enjoy that bit of just Tashara/Dad time that we get to have together. She is a remarkable girl, and so enjoyable. Later the kids got home, we cleaned like crazy, had dinner in the Oasis, kids went to scouts, etc., the Young Women came to our home to make cookies (hence our cleaning so much), I had Branch Presidency Meeting, and then we all went to bed.

I went to bed very early, knowing I was going to have to get up very early. But I got texts and phone calls a few hours after I went to sleep, and it woke me up enough that I just couldn’t go back to sleep for a long time. I finally did about an hour before I had to get up. So I got three hours of sleep total. But it was worth it. I woke everyone up (it was 4 am), and we got on skype, and were able to be part of BJ being set apart as a missionary. I was able to say the opening prayer, and the setting apart was beautiful. I think BJ is a little nervous, but the setting apart was powerful and I am sure he is going to be a great missionary. After about 45 minutes, after the kids had fallen back asleep, I was able to talk with BJ and Julianne for a long time. It was fun, I really enjoyed it. I will miss BJ. He will be a great missionary.

Soon it was time to get everyone ready for school. We are all fasting today for BJ’s entry into the MTC to go well. The kids are doing great to go to school and do PE, etc., while fasting. My lesson went okay, though I was extremely tired. I took a long nap afterwards. I tried to work on my book a bit, but wasn’t able to do very well, I was so tired. When the kids got home there was lots of bickering, etc. Everyone was tired and hungry. But we had a nice dinner and I think soon people were feeling better. We had a nice night together.

Well after I would have normally gone to bed I got back on the phone/face-time with BJ and Julianne. I was with them as they took pictures outside the temple, and then stayed with them as they drove over to the MTC. I said goodbye to BJ and watched as Julianne did too, and as he entered into the MTC. I will never forget being able to be part of these moments, the farewell talk, the setting apart, and his going into the MTC. He was nervous, but he is going to be great. I am excited for him, and very, very proud of him.

Then I chatted with Julianne for quite a while. I got to start chatting as she came back to the room where they had been staying. She looked around at all the stuff he loved so much and had left behind, and she started crying. It was good I could “be” with her then. We talked for a long time, and it was comforting for both of us. We got an email from BJ right while we were chatting. It was to give us his email address and let us know he was doing okay in the MTC. He had been there about an hour. It was nice to hear from him already. I wrote an email for him and sent him a letter on Then I bid my bride goodnight as she went out to lunch with her friends, and finally went to sleep. She was blessed to have friends that took her to lunch and talked about their own experiences of taking sons to the MTC, and just supported her during a time she needed the support.
We haven’t heard from BJ since, but we have both sent him a few emails and letters. We have also heard from a few people we know who work in the MTC who have seen him, and they say he is happy, having fun, and doing well. That is a great comfort. We miss him. It is hard to imagine that we won’t see him for two years. But I am so very confident that the Lord will bless him.

In the meantime, I taught more and the classes went very well. Some of these classes have been really great as we talk together about how to make sure we are truly worshipping God, and God only, with all our heart. I have gotten quite a bit done on my commentary, but it really is going more slowly than I thought it would. Part of this is because I am doing some of the more difficult sections first. I have had some fun with the kids, and they are doing well. I have also finally been able to visit extensively with Julianne. I sure miss her a lot. I have especially been able to spend some nice time with Tashara. I have been blessed with extraordinary kids. I stayed up really late again on Thursday night, trying to get Julianne the best seats possible on her flights. She is coming home soon!

Friday afternoon I was able to travel up to Tel Aviv for some Priesthood Leadership Training with Elder Gary Price. I drove up with some students, and it was a nice time to visit. The meeting was very nice. It was more business than anything, but there were some nice moments, and the Spirit taught me some things about ordinances and the place of the Holy Ghost. It is interesting to note how baptism and confirmation, washings and anointings, and the parts of the sacrament, all parallel each other and what that can teach us. It was a very nice time. I had another very enjoyable ride back with our students. Then I spent just a bit of time with the kids before I had to make us all do some cleaning, and put Jacob and Sabrina to bed. Then I watched a show with my other kids, visited with Julianne as she was in the airport, and finally drifted off to sleep. I am so glad my sweetheart is on her way home. We have gotten by just fine here without her. I can run the household just fine on my own, I can take care of the kids just fine, but I can’t run or take care of my heart very well without her. I have not been sad, but I have missed her and am glad she is on her way home.

I am so very grateful that she was willing and able to go take care of BJ. I am glad he had some time with her, and that through her he could know how much we all love him, support him, and want to take care of him. I hope that through her he could feel like we were all with him, for we all were. I am so grateful she is an inspired mom and was able to be for him what he needed. She is an answer to so many prayers. In this way she truly is an angel of God.

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