In 1984 I was a few months shy of twelve years old. My favorite thing to read was a National Geographic magazine with a cover story on the archaeological excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the aftermath of the A.D. 79 eruption of Mount Vesuvius. I carried that magazine with me everywhere, reading the article over and over again and poring over the poignant images of artifacts and human remains. I was utterly fascinated. Always interested in dinosaurs, the Civil War, house museums, and the First Ladies’ gowns at the Smithsonian, I found a new love in the pages of that magazine, and less than ten years later I embarked on my own career as an archaeologist. And I still have that magazine.
I have participated in many archaeological digs over the years and although I am now primarily a stay-at-home mom, my love for the process, the science, the art, of archaeology is with me still. For me, my very best experiences in the field were at Ashkelon, on the Mediterranean coast of Israel. Carrying out archaeological investigations in the Holy Land, the land of the Bible, was, for me, a devout and devoted Christian, the proverbial dream come true. Born into the church of my parents and grandparents, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t attend Sunday school. I used to hang on every word of my teachers, of my ministers, of the liturgists, as they uttered strange and unfamiliar place names that fired my imagination. There was a poetry and a mysticism to the words of the Scriptures, to the names of the locations of the births, and deaths, struggles and miracles recounted in the pages of the Bible. Galilee was a beautiful name. Jericho sounded imposing and grand. Gethsemane was peaceful, yet sad. Jerusalem, Judea, Calvary, Bethlehem . . . so far away and so unattainable. They didn’t seem quite real and I was certain these were places I would never see.
I was wrong, and happy to be wrong. Spending time in Israel is still one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. Helping to uncover evidence of civilizations that predate the birth of Jesus by hundreds of years was humbling, awesome, and something I regard as one of God’s precious gifts to me. Just one year after the publication of the National Geographic article was the very first season of the Leon Levy Expedition, in cooperation with the Harvard Semitic Museum. I didn’t know anything about it at the time, but it was that same expedition that I was to join up with later, as a fledgling archaeologist. It is strange and wonderful how God directs our footsteps, how His plan is perfect and leads us exactly where we are meant to be.
I find myself now in a time of waiting for Him, a time of uncertainty as I watch and wonder and pray. I am full of hope for my writing career, for my as-yet unpublished novel. I often feel doubt, and even despair. But then I remember that God’s will is not mine, and when He answers my prayers, even when the answers are not the ones I want, He is never wrong. And so I pray, and I wait. And in the praying and the waiting my faith is strengthened. Are you struggling now? Are you waiting for His perfect time? Be calm and full of joy and rest in His promise. Above all try not to worry, He has not forgotten you. For I have plans to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.