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JWRP Trip to Israel: Lesson on Love & Marriage

JWRP logo

Two weeks ago, when I stepped off the plane at St. Louis Lambert Airport on a Wednesday afternoon, my husband Scott didn’t know what to expect, other than I would be a little jet lagged and probably tired of drinking iced coffee and shopping (impossible). He knew I did a lot of praying, learning, sightseeing, female bonding, and falafel eating, but how would my trip change me as a wife, a mother, and a woman?

  • Now that I’ve been on a spiritual journey to my Jewish homeland, would I make my family go to temple more often than on the high holidays?
  • Would I start keeping kosher?
  • Would I dress more modestly, and practice Tzniut, by wearing a fashionable headscarf? (No more bad hair days, it’s tempting).
  • Would my Hebrew vocabulary expand beyond “Shalom” and “Boker Tov” and “Toda Raba?”
  • Would I want to sell our two-story house in the burbs and live on a kibbutz?
  • Would I slave in the kitchen and cook Jewish delicacies, such as matzo ball soup, freshly baked challah, and homemade ruggalah every single Shabbat? (He wishes).

The truth is, I have changed, especially when it comes to my attitude and actions towards my husband. The thing is, he doesn’t even know I’m making a conscious effort to be nicer, more appreciative, and calmer about petty things that used to bother me. Shhh, it’s a little secret between you and me, and besides, he never reads my blog anyway.

Let’s face it. If I were HALF as sweet to my spouse as I am my toy poodle Luci, my marriage would feel like a honeymoon after almost 20 years. Instead, like many marriages, our lives get busy over the years and our priorities shift from each other to our children. My biggest fear is that by the time we become empty nesters, we won’t even know each other anymore. Scary.

So, I had to travel 6,000-plus miles to Israel on the JWRP mission to learn the secret of a successful marriage: BLING (and a little jewelry doesn’t hurt either).

To me, in a nutshell, BLING is:

B: Don’t put an obstacle in front of a BLIND man when he can’t see what you see. Don’t expect him to change. You be the change, and give him a clear path to understanding. And don’t push his buttons and then focus on his negative qualities.

L: Learn how to LOVE each other again, sharing the pleasure in the ordinary, whether it’s pulling weeds in the garden, cleaning out the garage (that’s pushing it), or enjoying a glass of wine. Love being together.

I: Temporary INSANTIY. We’re entitled to loose our mind, say things we didn’t mean, get angry. It’s only temporary, not permanent, and we can ask forgiveness when it’s over.

N: NOTHING is worth fighting over if we can’t even remember what we were fighting about a year later, or even a week from now. It’s not worth it to make something out of nothing.

G: Remember to keep GOD in our life. God is on our side, rooting for our marriage to work, plus our husband is an image of God, just like us. There must be a reason we’re together, beshert, so when things go wrong, try to GET the message and GROW from it.

Thousands of years before Oprah invented the “Grateful Journal,” the Jewish people received the Torah that taught us to recognize and appreciate the blessings in our lives. When we express our gratitude sincerely and on a regular basis, it comes back to us ten-fold. After my Israel adventure, I learned that this gratitude starts with my husband because a strong, healthy marriage is the core of family values.

So when I was at the Kotel, I said a prayer that would help me let go of the things that have hurt me in the past and asked for the strength to move forward and love deeper.

I shoved a piece of paper with my prayer on it inside an empty crack. I hung around the Wall for several minutes, waiting for a revelation. Nothing. Then I noticed a grey pigeon and what looked like a white dove nesting inside a rock. I know it sounds corny, but to me they represented lovebirds even if they weren’t side by side.  And another thing surprised me. The birds pooped on this ancient, holy place like it was just another park bench. That’s when I got my revelation: Marriage is still sacred, like the Wall, even when things get a little messy, (which, by the way, is the clean version of that analogy).

Wall dove and pigeon

Birds in the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

So, fast forward….

I know Scott and my two teenagers Jack and Sari missed me while I was gone because they all picked me up at the airport in the middle of the afternoon. Not only that, Scott declared my return home as an “Ellie holiday,” and he even took the day off work.

While many moms came home to a sink full of dirty dishes and piles of laundry from summer camp, my house was spotless and orderly (then again Scott is OCD when it comes to housekeeping).  Even the dog bowl was filled with food and water. What can I say? I’m married to a very capable guy. For example, while I was relaxing in a kayak on the Jordan River, he was waiting in hour-long lines with the kids at Universal Studios in Florida, in the pouring rain. I know, I owe him one.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t wait to unpack my overstuffed duffle bag and give everyone their presents. For Scott, I picked out a sterling silver Chai because he actually asked for a new necklace, something Jewish. Shocker! I even wore the piece of jewelry around my neck for a few days while I was in Israel so that it would contain my positive energy when I gave it to him. He smiled when he opened the tiny box, and I helped him attach the hook on the back of his neck. He hasn’t taken off the necklace since then.

The other gift that I brought home—besides a St. Louis Cardinals tshirt with Hebrew letters, candle sticks, a CD, honey dates, books, Jerusalem stone, and more jewelry, was a hamsa wall hanging. Together, Scott and I looked for the perfect spot in our house to display our new piece of artwork. Watching him lower and raise the hamsa on the wall, made me feel special because I knew he wanted to make me happy.

As he pounded the nail in the wall by the front door, I startled him when I came up to him from behind and gave him a tight hug. He probably thought I was going to criticize him for hanging the picture in the wrong spot.

Instead, I said, “I just want you to know how much I appreciate you taking care of the kids when I was gone for 10 days and having the house so clean when I got home.” He looked at me like I was crazy.

So I guess my big take away from my JWRP mission is make your marriage a priority and always work hard to treat each other with mutual love and respect.

I guess a little BLING goes a long way.

chai necklace