I have come to fall in love with teaching in Catholic schools. What are YOU in love with?...

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything." - Pedro Arrupe

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wednesday Wars FTW

Of all the kids in the seventh grade at Camillo Junior High, there was one kid that Mrs. Baker hated with heat whiter than the sun. Me.

Thus begins the roller coaster (emotions-wise) ride of a novel, The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt. Holling Hoodhood (no, that's not a typo) is the book's protagonist, living in the time of the Vietnam War (1967) in an upstate NY city divided (literally) with Jewish families to the north and Catholic families to the south.

The story line that weaves the book together is that on Wednesday afternoon the students who are Jewish go to prepare for their bar and bat mitzvahs, and the Catholic students go for Catechism. Well, poor Holling is a Presbyterian, so he's stuck behind as the only student in class each week on that day. For awhile Holling just does chores (like eraser clapping - ah, the good ol' days!) and such, but as the school year progresses (the book's "chapters" are the months of the year), his teacher, Mrs. Baker, gets him to read Shakespeare, and he even ends up as a fairy (yes, complete with yellow tights and feathers on his rear end) in a local Shakespearean production. Things come into play involving the NY Yankees, classroom pet rats, fresh cream puffs, the school's cross country team, and more. At some points of the novel, the reader is left nearly in stitches, yet in other parts the reader is left with a sinking feeling in the stomach (e.g. when Holling's father is out of touch (constantly) with his children).

I highly recommend this one, especially for middle school classrooms. It's definitely going on our read aloud list for the year. It was one of the best books I've read in awhile...(I even added it to my Book List 4 Life!)

Reading, Reading, Reading...That's All I Seem to Do These Days...

Haven't been blogging recently, this is true...but I have been reading up a storm. Check out my most recent reads!

(And I'm currently reading The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (it was recommended by one of the teachers at my school) - the book is told from the perspective of a 7th grade boy during the Vietnam War. From the very first sentence of the book, I knew it would be a good one for my 6th graders as a read aloud next year, so my partner teacher and I have put it on our lists. It's going to be awesome.)

Hope you've been enjoying some summer sun and some reading too!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Final Countdown...

Till one more mini vacation of summer! Crazy how time flies.

Since pictures always say it better than I ever could hope to, let's just leave it that we've been enjoying some beautiful weather and views at Notre Dame this past week. Summertime...and the livin' is easy...:

view of one lake at sunset

sun setting on the lake

and the clouds roll by...

and the ducks swim by...

a view of the dome and basilica from moreau seminary

another view from moreau

the grotto (fishbowl camera effect)

the grotto - take #2 (fishbowl camera effect again)

alumni candle and prayer candles at the grotto (fishbowl camera effect)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

There's Something About Mary

When Marisa and I returned to campus tonight after having dinner with a friend/ACE classmate who lives in South Bend, I had a strong urge to go to the Grotto. I can't explain it - we had already been there this morning (before our jog), but I felt the need to go to Mary. And, as far as this summer goes, I've gone to the Grotto daily because it's pretty and because I promised I would - there hadn't been that burning desire yet...

And it was good to go. So welcoming. So peaceful. In fact, the only person there was a gentleman cleaning up all the candles that had consumed their wax and wicks.

There's something special about Mary. In the words of St. Anselm, "There are many graces that we will not obtain if we ask them of God. But if we ask them of Mary, we will obtain them, not because she is more powerful but because God wants to honor her in this way."

Tonight and always, let us remember to lift up our hearts and minds to the mother of God.

Mary, Our Mother, pray for us.

(Note, I have collected a number of pictures of Notre Dame's Grotto over the years - the photos below are ones I have taken during various stays/visits to campus, as I have yet to take photos at the Grotto this summer...)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Eyes and Smiles

I read an article this morning from the "God in All Things" blog that really  hit home - it talked about how humans rarely make eye contact because it makes us vulnerable. And I thought to myself, well, I usually don't make eye contact to people passing on the street, but when I give Communion (at Church & Ministry of Care), I do. Sometimes, we even exchange a smile.

And it makes a difference. It makes a difference because, as the article pointed out, it is in that moment and within that gaze that we see God in another person.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ready, Set, Plan!

I've had quite a bit of time these past couple of days to dedicate some thinking to setting up my classroom for the 2014-2015 school year. (It's hard to believe I started teaching in 2008-2009, but it's true. Good old ACE was definitely a few years ago...) While I realize that in teaching 2 separate subjects and 3 different grade levels will prove much more of a challenge this year than last year (1 subject = religion, 3 different grade levels) in terms of setting up my physical classroom space with bulletin boards, seating, related items/resources, etc., it's a challenge I am eager to meet.

My thinking has taken me down a path of possible themes/frameworks for my 2 Religion classes, which I have narrowed down as follows:

8th grade = Living out the Catholic Faith Through Catholic Social Teaching (& By Modeling the Saints)
7th grade = Fostering an Attitude of Gratitude (& How This Reflects in Our Daily Lives)

(Okay, so the "titles" (if I can even call them that) need tweaking, but I think the ideas are there. I just need to plant these "seeds" and give them time to grow over the rest of the summer. Side note (somewhat related) - this reminds me of a quote I came across today: "We like a microwave; God prefers a crockpot." These things clearly take time...)

Ooh, and I have also started to transfer my units/curriculum overview for 8th grade Religion into the ACE course curriculum template. I hope that by the end of the year, all the units & respective LPs will be in there. Woot!

The farthest I've gotten in planning for ELA has been to decide on my first read aloud for the year (The Phantom Tollbooth!) and to organize my ELA Pinterest Boards, of which I now have 8 related to reading/writing/language arts. That's not too successful, but in all honesty, I need to discuss things with my partner teacher (we each will have a section of 6th grade ELA) before putting any ideas into more concrete plans...

Summer's good for something, right?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Phantom Tollbooth, Standing the Test of Time...

To keep myself sane in the midst of unit performance assessment grading, I turned to one of my favorite hobbies: reading.

And I didn't just read any book - I turned to an old favorite, The Phantom Tollbooth. With countless puns (from the Island of Conclusions you get to by jumping to Dictionopolis where you literally eat your words) begging to be laughed at on every page, the novel is brimming with whole-hearted fun and opportunities for belly laughs. But what makes this book a true classic (in my humble opinion) is the many messages/themes Milo (the main character) comes to understand about spending time, being creative, and seeing what's in front of you with new eyes. (Think Wizard of Oz "no place like home" theme.)

Bottom line - I can't wait to read this aloud to my 6th grade ELA class at the start of the school year, for I think it was during my own 6th grade year when I first fell in love with it. (I'm glad some of my tastes (especially in books) haven't changed much since then.)

There is so much to be learned from books - we just have to put the "right" ones in each student's hands...

Tonight, I leave you with a few Phantom nuggets of wisdom:

P.S. Did you know they made a Phantom Tollbooth movie? I've only watched a bit of it so far, but it seems pretty close to the book. Check it out on YouTube.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Let's just say my 7th graders loved hashtags - juxtaposing them next to pretty much any word or phrase, especially on creative assessments/projects. #ItDoesntGetOld (apparently)

But that's not really the point of what I want to get at right now. No, the heart of this blog post and tonight's homily message at Mass is gratitude. Fr. Sean illustrated this idea through a simple, true story - allow me to retell it here as best I can:

There was an ACE grad a few years ago who shared her story around graduation time - it was a story in which she started out by saying around November of her first year of teaching she almost quit. She called her mom on the phone, expressing her feelings of failure and despair. As their conversation drew to a close, her mom said, "I'm not hanging up this phone until you tell me one thing you're grateful for." Silence. And the mother repeated herself, "I'm not hanging up this phone until you tell me one thing you're grateful for." Silence, yet again. Finally, the ACE teacher told her mother that she was thankful for the school bell at the end of the school day. Her mom replied, "Well, that's a start."

The ACE teacher called her mom every night for awhile, each conversation ending with her mom insisting that she would not hang up the phone until she said something she was grateful for. Soon, the ACE teacher found gratitude for things like students raising their hands, a community member helping her out, and more. The conversations slowly dwindled down to the normal weekly occurrences, but the seed had been planted: Her mother had helped her cultivate a new disposition filled with gratitude, and her whole outlook had changed. In fact, years later, she described that time of her life as when her vocation was saved.

Pretty powerful stuff.

This was the perfect time to stop and think, how do I practice gratitude in my own life?

Funny coincidence...

At the end of my school year in June, two students gifted me with gratitude journals (one of which I gave to my sister), and each day has a space (and sometimes a prompt) for me to record simple things for which I am grateful each day. It's a good habit to have. (Students seem to always know the best gifts...)

Tonight's entry will include the following things for which I am most grateful today:

- The opportunity to meet and have dinner with an ACE teacher who will be teaching at my ACE school (4th grade!) in Phoenix these next two years
- A few texts with my ACE housemates checking in and making plans to catch up via phone soon
- The eagerness of the second year ACE teachers to constantly and earnestly seek/accept feedback in efforts to become stronger teachers in the fall
- The gorgeous, cool weather that settled on the Midwest today
- Ideas to go along with my first planned read aloud book with my 6th grade ELA class in August
- Pierogies in the cafeteria at lunchtime (Best. Lunch. Ever.)

Yes, it's the little things. But gratitude is so important. We need to say thank you and mean it. And when we do, we will watch our outlook on the world change...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Give me your tired, your weary...

Tonight at evening Mass I was taken aback when, during the spoken-from-the-heart intercessions that all are encouraged to share, there were many intentions for people who are hurting and broken. I was surprised because on the outside, everyone around here always seems to be smiling and positive. I was surprised because no one ever seems truly sad.

And then I was reminded of the words of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati: "You ask me whether I am in good spirits. How could I not be so? As long as Faith gives me strength I will always be joyful!"

These intentions I witnessed were offered at Mass, the very foundation of our livelihood and faith. No wonder these people carry on (and carry on so with joy) - their eyes are completely on God. How beautiful, how true.

Thank you, God, for this special insight today. May my eyes remain directed towards You above all else. Amen.

Unrelated but worthwhile reading (2 short articles of note):

A) Cardinal Dolan on recent immigration issues

B) "The Virtue of Unread Books"

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Chicago-ation - Food, Friends, and Fr. Barron...

Spent the past weekend in Chicago - I guess I ended up being grateful that Marisa needed that haircut...

We made the quick trip home from Notre Dame on Friday afternoon, getting in early enough to grab dinner (at a place I'd been dying to try) with two friends (who happen to be sisters) from Church. One had been on a recent trip with others from the Archdiocese to Kenya, and the other sister has been busy with summer school around town. When it came time to order, it was variations on a theme, let me tell you - we all got the chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries, but we all had slight alterations - no onion, no sauce, no cheese, no cheese or onion... The waiter probably got a good laugh for the night...

Marisa and I had planned to run on Saturday morning, but, as luck would have it, we had quite the thunderstorm. Nothing like snuggling up with a good book (yes, I continue to get my fill of teen literature) and a cup of coffee instead, eh? (I also watched part of the #Potterhead marathon on ABCFamily, no big deal.)

Around lunch time, I got the urge to go to Michael's craft store - Can we say BLOWOUT SALE?? I got quite a few nice items for the classroom and made it out of there for less than $30 (using my teacher discount, of course). As my stomach reminded me of how good lunch would taste, I decided to go to a local bookstore (right around the corner) first. It turned out to be Chicago's Independent Bookstore Day - who knew? 10% off - I'll take it! I also entered a raffle for a tote bag. (On Sunday, I got a call I had won - and, wouldn't you know, I also got two books thrown in. Sweet!)

I finally got around to lunch, which I brought back to my apartment and ate while watching more of the Harry Potter marathon. (I don't think it ever ends...How many hours are all the movies together, anyways?) I read some more of my book, and then it was time to meet up with some ladies from Church for sushi. (Let's just say I spent a lot of money on food this weekend. I can't wait for the end of summer when I can start cooking again... My Pinterest recipes are really starting to pile up...) After sushi, we ambled over to the park to see if they were doing Movies in the Park - but, apparently, it had been rained out. However, we were not about to let our visit be cut short! No, my dears, we found our way to the nearest Forever Yogurt, where we sat and chatted for a little more time.

When I woke up this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the forecast had changed to "cloudy, giving way to sunshine later in the day", so I was able to squeeze in a short run before Mass. Now, for the record, it was not just any Mass - it was presided by Fr. Robert Barron

And (as if that was not enough, right?), it was the parable of the sower and the seed. His homily touched on a few points, but the one that stuck with me was that seeds were a commodity - we're talking precious stuff! And Jesus tells his listeners to scatter the seeds (of the Father's love) lavishly, not caring where they fall - letting the seeds fall on every (and any) thing/one. Reach out to everyone. Be prodigal with God's love! (It was also neat, I might add, to imagine Jesus on a boat on the Sea of Galilee - we were right there! I also imagined myself as a fisherman on another boat, looking over at Jesus and the HUGE amount of followers, wondering what the heck was going on with so many people...)

After Mass, we made sure to go and speak with him. [I told him that his Catholicism series and YouTube videos provided excellent points for discussion and opened doors for my eighth grade students this year - whenever they asked a particularly tough question, I would a) go to my friend in the seminary with the question(s) and b) go to YouTube and see if Fr. Barron had anything to say about it. He saved my life more times than I can count on my fingers (and likely my toes, too).] 

Well, Fr. Barron was such a good sport, that he posed for a picture with us - I am SUCH a fan of all his work/reflection:

Mass (at which we ran into many fellow Holy Land pilgrims) was followed by lunch with two of Marisa's coworkers (such a great visit!), and then it was time to say goodbye to Chicago (for now) and head back to Notre Dame.

I find myself so uplifted and energized by all of my encounters and visits this weekend - it really was incredible... Thank you, God, for putting such special and faith-filled people in my life...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

You. Did. It. For. Me.

Mass at Notre Dame's Grotto - it's pretty incredible in and of itself, sitting in the shadow of the Basilica on a breezy summer evening.

Tonight, though, was pretty phenomenal, as we were blessed with the presence of the Bishop of Connecticut (at least, I think that's where he was from). He was a dynamic speaker, starting off his homily with a story about Mother Teresa and then circling back around to her at the end of the homily by sharing with us what she shared with many a priest and sister when they questioned whether what they were doing was enough or if they were making a difference: She would take his/her hand in her own and trace from where the nail mark of Jesus would have been to each finger, one for each of these words - "You. did. it. for. me." He reminded us that while our students may not remember what we taught them, they will remember us - how we loved them, spent time with them, encouraged them.

When he finished speaking, many of us had the urge to clap - it was as if we had just heard a motivational speech.

You did it for me. What a good reminder for why we do what we do in Catholic education.

Let us not forget this simple yet powerful message, and let us allow it to daily shape our attitudes and actions in the classroom and with our colleagues.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Little Wednesday Free Verse Poetry

Notre Dame, how I've missed thee.
I find my days here are always filled
With friendship, renewal, and prayer,
With love and with hope.
I am grateful for opportunities such as these
To spend time with people -
People who are passionate about education -
Catholic education.
Summer will soon draw to a close,
But my eyes must remain open,
And my heart must remain overflowing.
It does no good to only feel this way here -
The experience is meant to be shared,
Just as my pilgrimage experiences are meant to be shared.
"Don't come back unchanged,"
Someone said to me before my trip to the Holy Land.
This message rings true -
How have I changed,
Yes, that is an important question.
But, perhaps more importantly,
how will this change affect the way I interact with others?
We are all called by God,
And once we accept that call,
We can never be the same...

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Independence Day 2014

Sometimes pictures say it better than words...Happy (belated) 4th! (These pictures were taken on the lake on which my grandpa's best friends live - it was a wonderful visit & fireworks display.)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Coming Back Home (Sunday, 6/29/14)

Sunday, 6/29/14

Airport it is – only one small hiccup for our group getting to our destination this morning – Bede’s wake-up call didn’t work. But we made it! (And she wasn’t too frazzled!)

It’s good to be going home, but it will be difficult to leave all of these wonderful people in our group. Yes, most of us live in Chicago, but it just won’t be the same when we get back…

One of the things that surprised me the most was how long our trip actually felt – usually trips seem to fly by, but this one didn’t. Michael pointed out that while we were staying at the Scots Hotel that each day seemed like 2 – excursions during the day and time by the pool/dinner at night. (So relaxing!)

One of the things I liked the best was how you could just pick up a conversation with anyone – on the tour, in the pool, on the bus, at dinner… Everyone was just so lovely and open. This trip was truly a pleasure.

There is a lot for me to think about in the coming weeks (and for the rest of my life). My heart will never be the same…

For one thing, I think the Gospels will be more alive and meaningful when I hear them at Mass or Bible study. To imagine/visualize the Sea of Galilee or walking from Gethsemane to Caiphas’s house – wow! To also remember where we were celebrating Mass together here in the Holy Land when I hear specific readings will be special too. Hearing the Easter readings in the Crusader chapel at the Holy Sepulchre and the Beatitudes outside on the mount – memories for a lifetime…

I think my favorite thing, though, will be the Christmas carols – I will never hear/sing those the same again. The words have taken on new meaning, if only I remember to listen…

Back to airport reality: everyone seems to be finally waking up. (And considering we all started our day at 3 a.m., that is pretty impressive.)

I don’t think anyone stayed up too late last night. Personally, I shared in wine and conversation with Mary, Marisa, Kim, Sylvia, Katie, and Megan. (And we were upstairs by 9 or so…)

I’m pretty sure we’ll be boarding soon. Here we go…

Almost Done...(Saturday, 6/28)

Saturday, 6-28-14

Last night we had dinner in a Bedouin tent restaurant – it was air-conditioned, and we sat on small benches with cushions and coverings (much like they would have lounged in the times of Jesus). The view was stunning, though of what city, I cannot be sure. I sat with a lovely group of people – Kim, Tracy, Marisa, Kristen, Michael, Ryan, and Karen. It was very pleasant (food- and people-wise), and we had some thought-provoking and reflective conversation.

It still amazes me how much knowledge and insight everyone brings to the table. For example, Michael and Kristen took an online archaeological class that covered Masada and Qumran before coming on the trip. And Mary & Fr. Ken (and our guide, Youssef) are like walking encyclopedias, in the best sense! We are all so very blessed to be here…

And thus begins our final day…

- - - - -
Post-excursion/Pre-dinner Reflection:

I have to keep this short because we need to be down to dinner in a few minutes. Today was our last day, and emotions are mixed (understandably so!)…

We began our day at the Mount of Olives and the Pater Noster (Our Father) chapel. It was neat to see so many different inscriptions of the Our Father in many different languages (much like the Magnificat and Benedictus) – Youssef said there were over 160 languages!

Then, we walked the Palm Sunday Road down to Dominus Flevit (“the Lord Wept”) – we could look out over Jerusalem (incredible view of the Dome of the Rock!), and below us were many many tombstones – the Jews believe that when the Messiah comes the final judgment will begin at the entry of the Beautiful/Eastern gate (which was just opposite us). It remains closed because it will be opened at the Final Judgment…

While up there, Youssef showed us the tree with the type of thorns that would have been used for Jesus’ crown on Good Friday. Karen touched some of them, noting that the dried out ones were very sturdy and hurt to touch. I can’t imagine them cramming that on Jesus’ head!

The Garden of Gethsemane was breathtaking and powerful. The olive trees (some of them) were over 2,000 years old – therefore, they would have been around at the time of Jesus. Youssef called them the “silent witnesses” – I thought that was meaningful image.

We had Mass at the Church of All Nations – it was designed and built by Antonio Barluzzi to appear from the inside as if it were always nighttime (to simulate Holy Thursday evening). For example, alabaster was used for the windows to block out some of the sunlight.

I was blessed to proclaim the Psalm – it was a little intimidating, though, because behind the divider of where we said Mass (around the stone on which Jesus asked God to let the cup pass from Him), other visitors and tourists had gathered to watch our Mass. (I just stayed focused on our group – that made it better/easier.)

Time to cut this short – off to our last dinner in Israel…

Saturday, July 5, 2014

That's Because It's Friday...Sunday's a comin' (Friday, 6/27)

Friday, 6/27/14

Last night, it felt so good to clean off after having spent time in the Dead Sea. (But what an experience that was – we actually floated!)

A small contingent of my fellow pilgrims ate dinner early and then went to the German Quarter to watch the USA v Germany soccer match. (A few of us got there in time for a beer and the second half.)

After the game was over – we lost 0-1 but that’s okay because we move on to Round 2 anyways! – our group split up. Some went back to the hotel, and some stayed to talk, Fr. Ken included – it’s so great to see him come out and be with us. He is a wonderful listener, and he is full of stories, wisdom, and humor.

I wanted to try to write down a few things here before I forget – we talked about why we came on this trip (of which there were many varied reasons!), the meaning between literal and biblical, places to see in Jerusalem, the gift of St. Francis of the stable scene and Stations of the Cross, and more. My head/brain would not shut off last night when I got back, so I couldn’t fall asleep.

I spoke about how I came because I really grew in my own faith this year by teaching middle school religion and how I came because I wanted to be better so, in turn, I could be better for my students. Selfish, I know – to which Joanne responded, “That is the least selfish thing I’ve heard.” I guess I hadn’t thought about it like that.

Well, I guess we need to get to breakfast. I will try to fill in more later…

- - - - -

Finally remembered to thank Fr. Ken today. He responded, “It’s been my pleasure.”

I honestly wish I would have gotten up last night to write down my thoughts because I know I’ve already forgotten many of them – from things like ideas in the classroom (names on shards of pottery/slips of paper to reenact Masada, etc.) to thoughts on how it will be like to pray the Stations of the Cross and sing Christmas carols with my students next year, etc. Wow…

- - - - -
Afternoon reflection:

Back from a pretty hectic day – yet, even in all of the busy-ness, there were moments of peace & reflection…

We started at St. Anne’s Church, the birthplace of the Virgin Mary. It was also the pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the crippled man. It was beautiful, inside and out. (Plus, it hadn’t gotten too hot yet.)

We then began the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross) – it was quite different than I expected it, and we didn’t really pray the stations because we had only time to stop briefly at each one before moving on. When we got to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we did the last 5 stations after Mass. (More on that later…)

In following in the footsteps of Jesus, we remembered Jesus’ death an passion: “We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.”

[We started our journey at 9 a.m. and today is Friday. (Pause for effect.) When we left the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it was about noon. Pretty cool (biblical) timing, eh?]

When we arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (which is MASSIVE!), Youssef reminded us that the Greeks call it Anastasis, meaning “Resurrection” because they want to remember the tomb is empty. (Fr. James Martin had pointed that out in his book too.)

When we went down to Mass, we had to wait a few minutes because there was a group ahead of us. We held Mass in the Crusader Chapel. (Marisa was very happy about that.)

As we began, Fr. Ken made a few connections – the Holy Sepulchre is under constant repair, which gives hope because we are under constant repair too. He reminded us that we are all Simon, helping to carry each other’s crosses. And, we are all Veronica, wiping each other’s faces. All are such beautiful images! Way to go, Fr. Ken!

As he read the Gospel (readings from Easter Sunday today!), he emphasized THIS tomb, reminding us that we were where Jesus died and rose from the cross to save us.

By this point in the trip, I think it’s important to note that I had been feeling as far from a pilgrim as possible – I was completely a tourist today, pushing through the streets, taking pictures, etc. So maybe the beauty and weight of everything related to Jesus’ passion hit me at once, but as we sang “You Are Mine” at the Preparation of the Gifts, I started to cry. And we’re talking big drops, snot and all. (At least I was quiet about it.) I continued to cry through most of the Eucharistic Prayer as Fr. Ken read the words of sacrifice of the Mass. It was all just so real, so amazing. Jesus died for us. We belong to Him. (Best moment of the trip so far!)

After Mass, we rushed to the line for the empty tomb of Christ – it was a long line but only a short visit inside the small room. We also touched the stone of Holy Unction (where they laid Jesus to prepare Him for burial) and the stone on which Jesus’ cross stood.

Later at lunch (falafel, yet again – but I’m definitely not complaining – it was delicious!), I couldn’t help but realize that we are all here on the same trip – we are not only experience the same things as each other but also the same things as millions of pilgrims for thousands of years. And yet, it is a different experience for each of us as well. Everyone has found different parts moving or meaningful or memorable. Pretty cool if you think about it…

Post-lunch, we went to the Wailing Wall – I had a few additional intentions to lift up in prayer this time…

Then, we all split up. I ended up with Kelsey, Kim, and Marisa (and later Linda and her dad) on a trip in search of ice cream, which we eventually found. (And it was delicious and refreshing!) Good conversation, shade…yes…

And our day is not over – tonight we head back to Bethlehem for a farewell dinner (Mary is leaving early). Our itinerary says it will be in a Bedouin tent-style, so we’ll see what that means…

But, all-in-all, today was a very good day. I rarely have those moments when I am truly moved to tears (though I always want them!), and that happened today. God is so good, often coming to us when we least expect it…