Welcome to 2014!

Happy Monday, and (belatedly) Happy 2014! Justin and I got back from Israel a few days ago, and I'm starting to get over the jet lag and get back in the swing of real life. This week, I'm officially diving back in—to my regular workload, to dance classes, and to writing. Yup—now that I've finished my revisions on THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND and the book has gone to copyedit, it's time to jump back into my next manuscript! I'm a little nervous, like I am each time I haven't first-drafted in a while, but I'm also excited. I woke up yesterday morning thinking about an important scene and wanting to jot down notes to myself. I can't wait until I hit that point where it's all I can do to get the words down fast enough! (I hope I get to that point soon!) So here goes…with updates to come, I'm sure.

In the meantime, I wanted to share some of our photos from Israel! We took SO MANY, so this is just a sampling, but I think it captures many of the amazing things we saw. We spent one night in Caesarea, where we saw the ruins of Herod the Great's seaside palace and city; three nights in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee, where during the daytime we toured all over northern Israel—Megiddo, Zippori, Capernaum, Dan, Beit She'an, and many more; one night at the Dead Sea, with stops at Qumran, Ein Gedi, and Masada; and four nights in Jerusalem, where we toured all over the city as well as crossing the border into Bethlehem, in the West Bank. We saw so many Canaanite and Israelite and Greek and Roman and Byzantine and Crusader ruins with so much historical significance that it was hard to process how amazing it all was after a while. We climbed rolling green hills and drove through harsh deserts and floated in one of the saltiest bodies of water on earth. We ate so much hummus and falafel and shawarma and shaksuka (a new favorite: eggs poached in a rich tomato sauce). We ate so much delicious dessert—guilt-free, because of all the walking up and down hills. And we were introduced to Turkish coffee, which is wonderful and strong, basically French press without the press.

All in all, it was a pretty fantastic trip, and we hope to get to go back at some point in the future! Click past the jump to see the highlights (and if you're not a "look at other people's travel photos" person, feel free to come back later in the week when I blog about something else!).

At Herod's theater at Caesarea

Herod the Great's swimming pool (and the Mediterranean Sea)

Mosaic floor from the 5th century depicting the zodiac wheel, in an ancient synagogue at Tzippori

The "Mona Lisa of Tzippori," a 3rd century mosaic floor

Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee, at Tiberias

Preparing to set sail on the Sea of Galilee

On the trail at Tel Dan National Park in the north of Israel

View of an ancient fortress in Syria, from Tel Dan

Justin kneeling by the Sea of Galilee on New Year's Day

Angel mosaic in the Church of the Transfiguration at the top of Mount Tabor

The excavations of the Roman city at Beit She'an

Standing on the actual ancient Roman mosaic road at Beit She'an

Driving south through the Jordan Valley

The Jordan River - and that's actually Jordan on the other side!

At Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered

Hiking at Ein Gedi

At Ein Gedi - that's our intrepid Israeli guide, Ami leading the way.

View from the cable car up to Masada

Looking down at a Roman encampment from Masada

View from our hotel room at the Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea!

Back where it's green - Tel Lachish

In the Bell Caves at Bet-Guvrin/Maresha

The view from Khirbet Qeiyafa, a recently discovered fortress overlooking the Valley of Elah, where David killed Goliath

We reach Jerusalem! First glimpse of the wall around the Old City.

Looking toward Jerusalem (see the Dome of the Rock behind us?) from the Mount of Olives.

Inside the Church of All Nations at the base of the Mount of Olives.

Heading to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Me on the ramparts of the Old City walls

Justin on the ramparts.

The Western Wall in Jerusalem - with my prayer tucked in between the stones.

Justin in the excavated tunnels underneath the Western Wall.

The Israel Museum has a cool scale replica of Jerusalem at the time of the Second Temple.

The cool dome inside the chapel at Shepherd's Field in Bethlehem.

The view from the Herodium - Herod the Great's final resting place.

Walking through the Old City at night.

Looking out over Jerusalem's Old City from the Tower of David Museum, which is in an ancient Citadel.

Still with me? Not feeling like I'm that family member who always wants to show you a slideshow of old vacation photos on an actual slide projector? Good! Because I honestly didn't mean for this post to get this long, but I wanted to share some of the adventures we had. I promise, next week, I'll talk lots about writing, writing, writing. Or something.

So Happy New Year, again! Here's to a 2014 full of excitement, adventure, momentum, and joy.