Findings: the Parent Circle, the gifts, and the simpler thing


Being in Israel and hearing stories from about a hundred perspectives was like picking up teeny tiny puzzle pieces. We left every morning at or before 9:00 a.m. and by the time we got back every night after 10:00, I would throw the puzzle pieces on my side table with no time to try to fit them together.

So here I am at home, jet-lagging big time, and all I can put together are big sweeping statements that won’t accurately portray the complexities of genocide, politics, parenthood, war, religion, theology of place, and heritage.

From the get-go, I knew the lesson wasn’t for me to learn if I couldn’t bring it home – into my journal, into my heart, into my love for my sons and my husband and my church. The lesson isn’t for me if I can’t bring it home to my enemies.

IMG_5485So for now, forgive me if I speak in generalities, like Messiah is the only answer here.

Forgive me if my love for the church, for Palestinians, and for Israel aches like a hurt foot.

Forgive me in my hope makes no sense at all.


Right now I know the entire thing was a gift. When groups of women walked ahead, and I lagged behind, it was a gift. When I felt like a square peg among star and moon shaped holes, it was gift.

When our meal at Shabbat of a Lifetime reminded me of this song and made me sing, “I finally found Shabbat of a Lifetime,” that was a gift.

Thanks to my small world with the Haines Boys, I am not familiar with many people I probably should be. When I didn’t know someone’s last name and so didn’t know who she was, I didn’t approach her as a fan (though I guess I would have had I known). Instead, it was gift of gentle sisterhood.

When someone patiently explained her theology to me because I needed it decoded, it was a gift that helped me love. The friendship of strong women is something I never expected to have at all, so I hold in the palm of my hand, fingers outstretched. I have no grip and call the conversations, embraces, intensities, and laughs absolutely nothing but rarest hints of glory. I looked in my palm and saw the gift of friendships like this in my real life. Longing for old friends – that, too, was gift.

The friendships I witnessed between strong women were powerful markers for me.

When women stood together in front of us as dear friends but introduced themselves as past enemies, it was a searing concept I had never seen like that with my eyes. So many sensual experiences gave me ground for the imaginings of my heart. The wall, the land, the wailing, the synagogue, and the jam, it all gave me a backdrop for my faith that I didn’t know was missing.


Much of our time was all go-go-go, and if we were sitting, we were hearing stories, or I mean, we were drinking from a fire hydrant. So when we got the opportunity to go into a kitchen with Israeli and Palestinian women who had found common ground and made peace through the shared experience and pain of losing a child, something happened that superseded the realm of language.

They are called The Parent Circle, and in the kitchen, they had on their bossy skirts. We made big vats of jam with them, and I seriously couldn’t understand a word they were saying, though they never stopped trying to explain things for even a minute. We managed to make some good jam, and we managed to laugh. I had been so talked-out that when I got the chance to do dishes, it wasn’t even righteous work. It was selfish. One woman stood behind me while I washed, and she petted my back and fixed my shawl. She didn’t say a word.

IMG_5527 IMG_5529

Sometimes it feels good to not have to know much, only that you love the people you’re with – only that you pray like a begging that the love is transforming the ones involved.

It feels good to scoop up the strawberry jam and to ogle at it, thinking: oh man, I love strawberries. I know that I was changed by a simpler, holy thing that day.

It may take me a while to tell you about the trip as a whole. The puzzle is still in the bottom of my backpack.

Check out The Parent Circle, and think about how crazy it is.

Have a great weekend, and you’re welcome.

About me


What do you taste?
November 08, 2016
Women Set Apart
February 23, 2015
Embrace the Awkward
April 09, 2014
It is My Passion That You Know This
January 08, 2014
Begotten: Notes from The Creed
October 15, 2013
Want to go in on a van with me?
September 12, 2013
A Haines Home Companion: Jars of Clay
April 12, 2013
Let the Game Changer Change the Game: Part 1
April 10, 2013
You are as Valuable as the Orphan
April 04, 2013


Reply March 13, 2015

I'm so happy you made it home to your boys. Thanks for this beautiful reflection on our trip. I, too, am still struggling to put all the pieces together.

the Blah Blah Blahger
Reply March 13, 2015

I want to sit with you and hear all of these stories, but we're far a part, so reading will have to do (for now). Please don't hold back from sharing what you saw, learned, and experienced...I want to devour each and every one of your stories and see how this experience moved you!!! XO!

Diana Trautwein
Reply March 13, 2015

waiting patiently for more

Marcie Porterfield
Reply March 13, 2015

You are a fantastic person and writer. Can't wait to hear more...

Jody Lee Collins
Reply March 14, 2015

Amber, I assumed (wrongly) when Seth mentioned you were out of country in Israel that you were touring the steps where Jesus walked sort of tour.....
Thank you for opening my eyes to the Parent Circle and for sharing your puzzle pieces here. It will take awhile to put things together--I'll be back to read more.

Reply March 14, 2015

Anxiously waiting to hear more about what you learned on this trip, although we seem to be so much alike that I know it will take you a while (and that's a good thing). Praying you through this crockpot of a journey.

    Reply March 15, 2015

    Oh my goodness, Alysa. It is taking me forever to process, and it's frustrating me! I wish I could write my gut out about it right now, but it's good to know that you get the crockpot thing.

Ashley Hales
Reply March 15, 2015

Beautiful Amber. And I get it -- the needing it all to come together, hoping and praying it does and yet, fearing it won't -- that all the puzzle pieces will stay heaped in a pile. But they won't. God will meet you in the processing too as he has evidently met you so beautifully in jam and rocks and walls and friends. Thanks for giving us all a glimpse of your trip.

Reply March 17, 2015

And this the most holy... "One woman stood behind me while I washed, and she petted my back and fixed my shawl. She didn’t say a word."

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