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Time Away Strengthens Faith and Family

Portrait of Yael Eckstein

March 13, 2014

Shalom,

This past month has been a special time for my family and me, a time filled with rustic elephant rides in the jungle, beautiful sunsets on the beach, and most important, family bonding. Taking a three-week-long unplanned vacation forced me to step away from my daily routine, a new challenge for me. But the level of growth and inspiration that I have experienced from this trip is unprecedented, and I’m grateful to God for giving me and my family this opportunity.

From the time my eldest daughter was born seven years ago in the divine mountains of Jerusalem, I have been basking in the joys of motherhood. Balancing work, home, and family is definitely challenging, yet juggling it all with faith is what gives my husband and me the strength we need to succeed. Like everyone else in this stage of life, we have created routines that help our family function and thrive. Yet a few weeks ago, we realized that sometimes it is important to break out of familiar, comfortable cycles in order to grow closer as a family and stronger in our faith.

With excitement and wonder – and with just two weeks of planning – my husband and I stuffed our suitcases with kosher frozen cheese and meat from Israel, threw in some clothing, and traveled to Thailand for three weeks with our three children.

As I sat in the airplane on the tarmac in Tel Aviv awaiting take off, I must admit that the idea of having no school, work, daycare, or structure for three weeks was daunting. “This will be a new journey that leads to new growth,” my husband said as he saw the slight panic in my eyes – and indeed, he could not have been more correct.

But I found that traveling through Thailand and experiencing new things was simply amazing. The breathtaking sunsets that we witnessed daily brought to mind the beautiful words of Psalm 113:3: “from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of God is to be praised.” The exotic animals, plants, and wildlife that we observed reminded me of God’s limitless creativity and divinity, and experiencing a new culture and people clearly spotlighted how unique and different God has brilliantly created everyone.

Yet it was not the sunsets, the encounters with amazing animals like monkeys, visits to the local market, or incredible snorkeling trips that impacted me the most. What transformed and strengthened me was the simple act of being together as a family for three weeks straight. All of the things that worried me about our trip – being without structure, school, or work for such a long period of time – were exactly the things that I enjoyed the most.

The highlights from my three weeks in Thailand were waking up with the kids and cuddling on the couch, sitting together on the beach and laughing, and making family decisions about what to do each day. For the first time in seven years, I turned off my cell phone, did not check my email, and focused entirely on my children. The level of bonding we did as a family was unprecedented. I truly felt God smiling down on us.

What I have learned from my trip is a lesson that I hope to always keep with me in my heart. I have clearly seen that facing unfamiliar situations with openness and faith enables us to grow in ways we never imagined.

I feel blessed to have had such an amazing experience with my family, yet it also feels great to come home to the Holy Land. I pray that the lessons that I have learned will stay with me forever, and that God will give me the strength and wisdom I need to integrate special family moments like these into everyday life.

With blessings from the Holy Land,

Yael

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