Don’t let planning overshadow the reason for the trip

Dec 7 2011 - 6:46pm


My family and I are currently cruising around the Mediterranean Sea on a leisurely world adventure. Today was another leisurely flu-filled day at sea (two family members down, four to go). It was also the Sabbath, but keeping it holy isn't easy when you're surrounded by gluttonous buffets of pretty darn good grub.

As the afternoon came into focus, I found myself with a moment alone. I walked up to level 9, filled a plate with pizza and made my way to a small table by the window for some much needed personal reflection.

Frankly, I don't sit around with my thoughts very often and it was almost uncomfortable to put my feet up and stare at the waves without engaging my body in busy work.

Soon my mind turned to the Holy Land. We disembark tomorrow morning and will be spending the day around the Sea of Galilee, including a few sites like Nazareth and Mount Tabor (the mount of Transfiguration, one of my personal favorites).

As I started thinking about Israel, I was overcome with a horrible sense of panic. I'm not ready. We have had two months to plan and prepare for this trip and here I am, 14 hours out, realizing that I've been so busy getting ready for the Holy Land that I forgot to get ready for the Holy Land.

My packing was impeccable. We have enough of absolutely everything and I was even proactive enough to remember the forgotten essentials like Miralax and two kinds of perfume. I'm organized and prepared for just about any child-induced catastrophe, but in the midst of so much planning I have forgotten why I was packing to begin with.

I'm going back to Jerusalem and I'm not ready. It's been 13 years since I lived and studied in Israel. What have I done to prepare my heart?

Throwing down my pizza crust, I ran back to my room fueled by dread (and pizza). I tore out my Bible and frantically began checking to see how fast I could read the New Testament.

"Children!" I called, "Quick, come sit around Mommy, we need to ... read something!" My husband was looking at me like I had lost my brain or perhaps found Jesus for the first time.

"Honey, are you OK?" he asked.

"I just ... we need to study the New Testament. Come on, turn to Matthew..."

I know what you're thinking. How could someone who knows better be so negligent in their spiritual preparation? How could I let the time slip away from me without planning fantastic devotionals and family musical numbers centered on the life of Christ to prepare us for this truly monumental pilgrimage?

I started searching frantically for something that would apply to tomorrow's site list, reading a random verse here and another there. My anxiety grew and I felt foolishly like a virgin who was low on oil.

But my friends, I have to tell you that as I was reading I felt a calming presence place a gentle hand on my soul.

Perhaps we haven't watched enough National Geographic episodes on Jerusalem or talked as often about Christ and his miracles here on the Earth as we should have in the past few weeks. But every time we kneel in family prayer, every day when we read from the scriptures together (don't ask me why we haven't been hanging out in the NT), every song about Jesus and every successful family devotional, I am preparing my family for the Holy Land.

I am ready to go back tomorrow. Whether or not people in my family are puking or pouting or pooping their pants, I know the spirit will burn in my heart and remind me once more why I do what I do. Jesus once was a little child and I can't wait to show my children where it all went down.

Annie Valentine is a wife, mother and columnist. Readers can contact her at or visit her blog at

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