It's Christmas, and there's no better time than today to share my adventures of being in Israel last week. My dad and I got to go on the trip together, and we visited so many places from the biblical history, most signifant for today: Bethlehem and the spot where Jesus was born! I got to sit in the cave where Mary and Joseph rested with their baby. It made this a very special Christmas.
Through the loudness of Israel, there is a message of peace that is constantly whispering to ears who will hear it. Here's the story of what I saw and experienced. At the end, read about my #1 favorite spot in Israel and what this place means to me, especially this Christmas season.
We were stuck at the Israeli border for four hours due to protests.
After spending a week in the extremely stable Kingdom of Jordan, I could already tell visiting Israel would be a little bit of a different experience. (So many posts about Jordan coming soon!)
The plan was to wake up at 5:30 a.m., leave the hotel at 6:00, cross the border around 6:30, and get to Jerusalem before 8:00. However, we were taken to the wrong border crossing, and after three conversations in broken English and a lot of pointing around, we learned that the whole border was closed. No one was getting in or out of Israel until 12:00! In four hours.
Finally, the border crossing bus came to get us, and in a flash, we were in Israel!
Our first stop in the country was the Jordan River baptismal site of Jesus. It was a great place to start the adventure because it looked exactly as one would envision it: palms, water plants standing tall, and very biblical-looking muddy water. It was FREEZING cold! Icy to the touch, but I couldn’t help but put my toes in such an historical body of water.
From there we went to Jericho (the very one from the Book of Joshua), where we explored the ruins of the city. And we drank water from the same water source in 2 Kings that was undrinkable until God used Elisha to miraculously transform it into healthy water for the people and land of Jericho.
On the way to Jerusalem, we stopped by the mountain where Jesus tempted and fasted in the desert for 40 days, and we saw the exact sycamore tree Zacchaeus climbed to see Jesus above the crowd in Luke 19.
All of these stories I read about growing up were coming to life in front of me. Seeing them in person fulfilled me so much, I would have gone home happy right then and there; but that was before I knew how eye-opening Jerusalem would be.
Because the protests delayed our arrival so much, we got to Old Jerusalem (where most of Jerusalem's biblical historical events happened within the modern city of Jerusalem) at twilight. We met a guide who took us through all of the sights.
Old Jerusalem is one of my favorite places I’ve seen. But it’s not because it’s where I saw a lot of places where Jesus walked (which does feel really surreal!). In Old Jerusalem, there are four quarters: the Christian quarter, the Armenian quarter (which is also Christian), the Jewish Quarter, and the Muslim quarter. The way they work together while reaching for what they view as holy makes this city so special to me. Read more about that at the end of the post, when I share my #1 favorite spot in all of Israel.
THE UPPER ROOM
We went in the Upper Room where Jesus and his disciples had the Last Supper, where Jesus returned to his disciples after coming back to life, and where the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost. The room was redone by its Crusader discoverers, but the stone floor was original and the floor that Jesus would have walked on.
Many Jews have wanted to be buried on the Mount of Olives because of Jewish tradition (based in the biblical verse Zechariah 14:4) that when the Messiah comes, the resurrection of the dead will begin with those burried on this mountain. (See the solid white on the left side of the mountain? Those are all graves.) There are so many cool things that happened here throughout history. But, to me, the most significant was Jesus' time there the night he was captured. The Garden of Gethsemane rests toward the foot of the mount. According to Acts 1, Mount Olives is also where Jesus ascended into Heaven.
KING DAVID'S TOMB
I am so happy I was in Jerusalem during Hanukkah and Christmas, as I learned so much about Jewish holiday traditions! This photo was taken right after watching a group of singing, clapping men light this menorah! It was so brilliant to watch this and other fun Hanukkah festivities for the first time.
King David's tomb is in a small room, and is divided by a wall as men and women cannot touch while praying.
JESUS AND THE CROSS
This church's courtyard is where the trial of Jesus occurred.
Inside the church, the spot where Jesus’ cross stood in the ground is marked, but I feel it’s not something that should be through up on a blog. This tiled sun lays right in front of the spot, and though I touched the gold circle where the cross anchored into the hill, even just standing this close was moving too. Some of the original rock, the ground of Golgotha, around where the cross was is preserved, on either side of the gold circle, in glass casing. It’s continuously surreal to try to comprehend.
WHO HAS THE KEY TO THE CHURCH?
There are two Christian quarters in Old Jerusalem, the Christians and the Armenians (who are also Christian). They share parts of the Church over where Jesus was tried and crucified. However, every morning there is a ceremony of unlocking the church and every night, a ceremony of locking it up. But if there are two Christian groups, who has the key (or control over the church)? The answer is so fascinating. They gave the key to the Muslims to keep things fair and avoid conflict! I thought that was brilliant. I am consistently in awe of how the four religions work together.
THE WESTERN WALL
We walked to the Jewish Quarter where the Western Wall stands. The Western Wall was built by King Herod and is the location where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac, where Isaac went to pray before meeting Rebecca, and where Jacob dreamed of a ladder reaching to the Heavens.
On the other side of the wall, part of the Temple Mount, is the Dome of the Rock, a sacred mosque for Muslims. But where the mosque stands today, the Jewish people used to have their Holy Temple. So the Western Wall is the closest they can get to the holy ground where their temple stood. The wall is also known as the Wailing Wall for this reason.
People write their prayers or wishes on a paper, and stick it into crevices of the wall. I got to do it, which is still so crazy to think about. I signed mine “Elisabeth Huijskens” to make sure God really knew it was me.
Going to Bethlehem during Christmas time was so special. We got to go to exact spot Jesus was born, marked with a gold ring again, and I sat in the cave where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus rested and received the travelers who ventured to welcome Jesus.
On the right side, you can see some of the original cave exposed.
Above: The view of Old Jerusalem, standing on Mount Olives.
Below: Walking down to Old Jerusalem from the top of the mountain, the route that Jesus walked.
The Garden of Gethsemane
BACK IN OLD JERUSALEM
Walking around the Jewish quarter, I got hungry and delightfully ate some yummy chicken shwarma. And then there were these donuts that are particularly enjoyed during Hanukkah. (The Jewish quarter has the best food!)
ABOVE THE FOUR RELIGIOUS QUARTERS
My favorite place in Israel is standing on a rooftop above where the four religious quarters meet. I spent at least a couple hours there, just sitting and soaking it in. It is so incredibly interesting to me how the four religions and their history intertwine and layer together throughout the city. The way they, at times, lean on each other and respect each other to ensure the social ecosystem of their shared city is fascinating. I have felt so heavy this year from so much division raising up all around. It has creeped up from all the sides of my life and has been one of my least favorite parts of 2017. If I let it, it would make 2017 one of the worst years I've experienced. But I don't like giving power to things that I don't add goodness to our world.
God knew how I needed to end this year: in a place where there is tension, there is opposition, but there is also jaw-dropping co-existence and respect. I was beginning to doubt that was possible anymore and needed to see it with my eyes and feel it in my spirit. I have believed for a long time now that the answer to many views of this world is "yes" and "and" rather than "neither" or "or". (I cannot stand "us" vs. "them" language.) When we say "yes," "and," "welcome," and "thank you" to the opposite side, the chasm then closes, the opposite side becomes our side as well, and we realize we're all just humans looking up for Someone bigger than ourselves. And that's when we find Her, because that's where Love lives -- in that closing chasm, where the quarters meet.
Recently, I realized I had given away some of my favorite Trades of Hope pieces and needed to restock my accessories at home! Rather than going to our product development team, I went to our beautiful website and ordered them so I could experience what you experience when Trades of Hope goodies are sent to your home!
Watch this video to see what I got! The products are linked below so you can shop and change the world, too!
Evangeline Set: http://bit.ly/2is8Mqp
Sea Glass Necklace: http://bit.ly/2Ayvl4V
Beloved Necklace: http://bit.ly/2jUcWYa
Western Studs Trio: http://bit.ly/2jgZRsw
Northern Light Studs: http://bit.ly/2As4klz
You guys, I'm going to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan in ONE WEEK! What?! It doesn't feel real. Making sure I'm all set to travel to a part of the world I've yet to experience has been exciting to master. However, I had a hard time pinning down everything I knew I was going to need (and everything I knew I was going to forget), and there wasn't really anything out there to help me feel I was really ready. So, in typical entrepreneur fashion, I MADE a tool that has put me 100% at ease. And I am sharing it with you all for FREE!
This "I've Totally Got This" Guide (Traveling Edition) has me feeling like, well obviously, like I've totally got this trip to the Middle East! There are multiple schedule-making tools and checklists in here that put all my crazy thoughts on paper. And I wanted to make sure my fellow world travelers could have a pleasant planning experience as well.
Whether it’s a road trip to the countryside, an escape to the city, or an adventure to a new culture, enjoy the anticipation of your trip with this collection of planning tools. Stay organized and prepared for what’s ahead (instead of too stressed to look forward to your travels). Using these sheets (digitally or printed) will keep you in constant awe of how much you’ve “totally got this”!
Click the small, white downward arrow to download my PDF of guides of checklists to keep travel planning FUN!
the GAME PLAN: by day
Use this page to write down notes about what adventures you’ll go on each day of your trip. You can make note of where you are staying that night and what you plan to wear. The blank “Day ___” number space allows you to print off more copies of this page and fill in what day of the trip it is. Use one page if your trip is 5 days or under. Or print more if your excursion is a little longer!
the GEAR check list
If you’re like me, you bring a lot of gear to document your trip. This is one of the more burdensome parts of being a photographer, but this list makes it a little easier! There is space for you to write specifically what you are bringing, a photography/videography section, and an “everyday tech” section for you light travelers!
the DON’T FORGET check list
Before this list, there were always tiny details I forgot about. And how about those things you need to use the night before so you forgot them when you ran out the door? I know I’m not the only one who has bought a tooth brush in the airport! There are 2 lists on this page to make sure you don’t need to sweat the small stuff!
the TRAVELING PET check list
Whether your pooch is a frequent flier or if you’re leaving your furry friend at home, this list will keep you organized and your pet’s tail waging!
the OUTFIT planner
This list is my favorite! When I don’t plan out my outfits, I bring WAY too much. I can’t stand the mess or wasting time figuring out what I’m going to wear during my trip. This makes planning ahead of time a breeze! Here’s to being able to fit everything you need to look and feel awesome in a carry-on. Whoop, whoop!
For those of you who tried this PDF on for size, if you have something that you think would be additionally helpful in this guide, let me know, and I might add it! I would love to make this as impactful as possible for you. Also, if you post/share about this free tool, tag me so I can get in on all the traveling-fun!
Most of the life lessons I’ve gained, I didn’t ask to learn. Today, I do a lot of things afraid, alone and with little direction for the future. As negative as that sounds, it looks a lot like this video! I documented my first month living in D.C., and I’m so excited to share it with you! Along with sharing this beautiful city and the journey of how I made a new place my home, I open up about living alone and taking on adventures solo. During my second week in D.C., I was driving home discouraged when this song came on the radio and the Washington Monument rose over the horizon. And I was swept away in how much good there is, regardless of if we asked for it, if it’s easy, or if it’s safe — it’s SO GOOD. Check out this
FREE PERSONAL SHOPPER POST: Not only am I sharing three of my favorite fashion trends for Fall 2017, but I am providing you direct links to specific pieces you can buy to add the trend to your wardrobe -- FOR FREE! Making your Fall a little more stylish and easy is my goal. There are pieces from so many stores (from Target to Anthropologie), options for every budget, and sizing from "petits" to "plus size" and every where in between!
There are waaay more than three trends that I'm gushing over right now (shout out to my collection of berets!), but these are EASY to work into your everyday style. I also picked three trends that compliment every woman, whether your style is more relaxed or if you've trained your feet to walk in heels all day like I have. This list is for every woman to feel proud of her fashion game this Fall! Let's do this!
01. Japanese floral patterns
The Japanese florals! Florals? In fall? YES! The vintage patterns nod to Fall's love of tradition. Think these are a little too "out there" for you? Absolutely not! (Style tip: try new things in pant or skirt form! Keeping it away from your face will make it less overwhelming while trying a new trend for the first time!) I went super bold (per usual) with my favorite heels to call out the color in the blooms. I did this only because my top was a classic, simple ivory (always have one "supporting" piece so your statement piece can be the focal point!). But black heels or some discrete flats would set the stage for the Japanese florals beautifully!
Also, you may have seen some Japanese floral, satin button downs. This is often referred to the "pyjama trend" (no reference to Asian culture). So many people are against it, but I LOVE it! Bold and oh so comfy! Click through the photos below, they each link you to its product page to buy pieces that fit this trend!
02. sweaters with flair
Guys, this one is EASY! Sweaters with a little (or a lot) of flare is in, in, in for the rest of the year and into early Spring! Ruffles, bows, bell sleeves -- oh, my! Here, I'm wearing some subtly puffed sleeves from Anthropology (got it on sale, sorry!). This trend is so exciting because you can choose how big or small (literally) you want to go! I'm including several examples that you can click through and buy below!
03. Relaxed Business Attire
I just made up the trend name "relaxed business attire" but, regardless of what else it could be called, I'm catching the trend! This could also be described as "masculine fashion for women" -- which is super in right now, too. Call it what you want, but the button downs, striped dress shirts, slacks (or in my case leather pants), and loafer shoes are 10/10 this season! It's a favorite because it's "relaxed" but still put together! (PS - I LOVE CAPES!) There are so many ways to bring this trend to life in your wardrobe, and some pieces are linked in the slideshow below!
I have a few more Fall and Winter fashion blogs lined up, but let me know what YOU would like to see (fashion-related or not) in the comments below or on my Instagram, and I will be happy to cover it!
Hope you are loving everything that comes with this Fall season!
Every time this alluring season comes around, I wonder what it is about this time of year that unites most of us in anticipation and enthusiasm. What makes us gush over leaves? What is it about about autumn vegetables that possesses us to put them on our coffee tables and mantels? How can shortening of days move us inwards to new depths of reflection and creativity?
As we stand at the threshold of a new season, the earth is drawing back into itself, accepting change, surrendering to what needs to be in order to become what it was destined to be. There is a development happening; and though it looks like death and an end, it is actually growth for a new beginning. And even though the earth comes back to this place every year, and it seems to endure the same battering process, each time is an evolution forward. Returning to a similar place does not a hopeless indication.
I wonder what it is about this natural phenomenon that causes us to mimic what creation is doing around us. Turning inward. Developing ourselves. Reaching within. Enduring refinement into order to reveal more of who we truly are.
Fall captures me because it gives me permission to go through that process, to trust the process of life, of human existence, of ups and downs. It reminds me that there is so much beauty in change, so much to behold when you trust, and so much security in believing confidently that more light and new life always, always, always is restored like never before.
That is why I love sweaters, leaves, apple cider, and pumpkin spice everything -- because they're traditional, comforting reminders that even in this season, where everything appears to be ending, the stage is truly being set for life like we've never seen it before.
The earth is filled with signs and reminders and comforts whispering, "What you're going through, it's okay. It is a part of this life. We'll give you proof that hope always comes. Trust that where you are right now is a beautiful part of the process."
This week was pivotal for me, a crucial turn in the story.
I had the honor and privilege to meet with five congressmen and their staff on Capitol Hill as I defended the rights of companies like Trades of Hope and the rights of women who join them to earn a flexible, fun income! In every meeting, I found my self in an out of body experience, watching myself discussing issues so close to my heart with our country's law makers. With each persuasive word from my mouth, I felt pieces of myself falling into place. Founding Trades of Hope was the best gift and caused me to grow up quickly, leading me to feel out of place at times. But moving to D.C. has felt like filling an Elisabeth-shaped hole in the world that has been waiting for me my whole life.
Watch this fun recap video to learn more!
My goals were threefold:
1. Show my support for HR 3409, a bill to end pyramid schemes to protect the work of ethical companies like Trades of Hope.
2. Protect the rights of women who join these companies as independent contractors, so they can keep being their own bosses!
3. Share with congressmen how direct sales is a beautiful opportunity for Americans to easily be entrepreneurs and for our economy to thrive!
Thank you to everyone who has been so thoughtful and supportive as I moved to D.C. and have been able to have unbelievable, new experiences!
This event was organized by the Direct Selling Association (DSA). #DSAhillday2017
There are things in life that, at first, have repulsed me because I didn't know anything about them. But when I familiarized myself with the background and benefits of that thing, I felt so silly for avoiding it for so long!
I have experienced these feelings with trousers and Kylie Jenner.
Confession! It's Saturday, and to procrastinate doing my grad program homework, I watched a new show (which is already odd, because I usually re-watch the same 4 sitcoms or British dramas). To take the abnormality a step further, it was a reality T.V. show, which I don't think I've ever watched voluntarily. I watched Life of Kylie. (Yes, as in Kylie Jenner. Yes, as in the Kardashians.) To convey how foreign of a territory this is for me, I just spelled it "Kardatian." To be honest, I used to shy away from Kylie Jenner. I didn't get her. I don't get anything about her, from how she looks 28 when she's 19 or why people like her so much. So, even though I felt repelled by how much I didn't think her celebrity fit into my life, I watched her new show to follow a trend.
And I don't regret it! Is it my favorite show? No. Is it a guilty pleasure I'll probably revisit? Uh, yes. But I'm not so intimidated by Kylie Jenner now because I've learned more of her history and things that make her relatable to me and my life.
Trousers are like this. Many people shy away from them because they don't know if they can pull them off, don't know if they're too masculine, or don't know what to wear with them. But let me tell you, when you familiarize yourself with trousers, you will thank me. They are comfy, chic, and an instant upgrade in your fashion game. Below, I've got a quick history of trousers (you can love anyone(thing) when you know their story), trousers that you will see this upcoming season, and how to pair a top with those free-flowing, high-waisted pants.
If there's something I like more than fashion, it's fashion magazines. If there's something I love more than magazines, it's fashion history. People often used the terms "trousers" and "pants" interchangeably. However, trousers refer to tailored garments with fitted waistlines. For our Western society, French designer (there is so much to thank the French for) Paul Poiret (1879-1944) was one of the first to design loose-fitting, wide-leg trousers for women to wear in 1913. In the 1930s, multiple photographs of Marlene Dietrichand and Kathrine Hepburn wearing trousers eased fashion-conservatives' worries about how leaving dresses behind might negatively change women (what?). In the 1960s, long trousers for women were introduced as a fashion item, leading to the era of the pantsuit and designer jeans and the gradual erosion of social prohibitions against girls and women wearing trousers in schools, the workplace and in fine restaurants.
Trousers for Fall 2017:
Trousers are popping up everywhere for fall in a myriad of colors, fabrics, and textures. Fall 2017 fashion is leaving its mark on trousers this year with color pops, Japanese floral patterns (which I just bought today and cannot wait to share on an upcoming post!), and short, flared bell bottoms (don't fight the bells, ladies; embrace them!).
"But What Will I Wear?"
Here are some free style tips to help you wear trousers:
You won't regret adding trousers to your fall wardrobe. Take a break from those jeans, and step it up from those sweats. You've totally go this, girl. Any questions? Comment below. I read and reply to every single one! Don't forget to click those social media buttons. I share only a select few on here as there's so much more to be seen on my Instagram and Pinterest. Fall is upon us, people!
Photography of me by Joshua DeSouza
Inspiration Photos from my Pinterest
I've always been a girl with high regard for seasons. In every stage of life, there has always been a reverence deep in my heart for those that have passed and the new season ahead. While leaving a season, there is a sense of reflection, gratitude, sealing in the lessons learned, celebrating what grew, and mourning what is no more. While standing at the brim of a new season, there is expectancy, maybe fear, hope, a sea of unknown that is filled with possibility.
In June, I moved my life to a D.C. flat, quickly to have traveled back to Florida to for work, putting on a conference for 500 women in Nashville and directing the creation of our Spring 2018 fashion catalog. Five weeks later, and I'm going back to D.C. this week. I'm very excited to borough my life into D.C. and all she has to offer me, to grow me, to reveal more of the world to me. But this transition back does have me reflecting. I thought spending time in Florida the last month or so was just a practical decision for work; however, it was so much more. It was like a boot camp for inner growth: forcing me to face some fear, opportunity for loving confrontation, and directing my eyes to larger goals for the future. I love so many people here, and this summer in Florida as been a gift.
As I lift my foot to step into a new season, I have spent time this week reflecting on some of my life’s past seasons of change and transition. I have revisited full journals, skimmed old letters, and reread past blog posts. There are three truths that repetitively resurface, and I’m holding onto them dearly these days:
Making intentional decisions with aspects of life we can control makes it a lot easier to weather seasons when life throws us something out of our control.
For me, this has looked like making a list of things I have always wanted to do (traveling to a specific place, reading a classic book, watching a popular movie I’ve never seen) and doing those things within 3 months (a standard time frame for each of our earth’s seasons). Making that intentional decision of how I will spend my time, money, and awe allowed me to feel a sense of control. Recognizing what parts of my life are still dictated by myself (what I eat, what I wear, what I schedule) has brought me peace when everything around me feels chaotic.
Your experiences are yours to label and no one else’s.
Nothing needs to be justified or summarized. (It can’t be, the experience just is.) And that’s wonderfully okay and enough. Social media makes it easier than ever for people to have an opinion about your life. But your life change and how you decide to handle it is only fully known by you. It is your experience. Trust it. Own it. Claim it.
“Who do I want to be regardless of circumstance?”
I always ask myself this when change is spinning me in circles. The great thing is, because my answer to this question is a list of characteristics, I can start working on those things now. Character is separate from circumstance. I don’t grow in a linear progression – no human does. So I’ll fail sometimes at developing these traits during hard days. But as the saying goes: “calm storms don’t create skilled sailors.”
Some change is brought on by ourselves (just like my transition at hand), some change is brought on by another person (been there), and some change is amazingly circumstantial. Regardless of how you got your new season, there can be peace in the chaos, resilience in the fear, and possibility in the mysterious unknown.
Minimalist's Transitional Style, Summer to Fall 2017
This is one of my favorite summer-to-fall transition outfits. (Your girl doesn't jump from bikinis right into PSL. I need a few transitional steps.) It’s super easy to throw together and wear. The light sweater offers the cozy feel without sweltering outside. And the linen pants (bell bottoms and all) lengthen the legs in true fall fashion, but remains upbeat with the bright white fabric. They’re very comfortable but, as most white offers, still look refined.
Sweater - Thrifted
Pants - Banana Republic Factory
Shoes - Nine West green mules from TJ Max
Accessories - Trades of Hope: Northern Lights Studs and Chelsie Necklace
Photos by the gifted Joshua DeSouza
With relentless ambition + passion I live intentionally to take my dreams from plans to reality + empower other women to do the same. I'm a Trades of Hope founder, public speaker, and designer living in Washington, D.C. When I'm not following fashion trends, catching airplanes, or playing with my redhead pup, I'm offering up fashion shortcuts, life lessons I'm learning, and free wallpapers to remind you of how much you've got this.