I sniffled a little as I drove off and left the kids with doting grandparents to meet my husband at the airport where we would embark on our much awaited adventure to Israel, ten long years after our first visit. As I drove to the airport I thought that there were still so many things that could go wrong that would prevent us from leaving. I had to find a place to park somewhere in the city and take a shuttle to the airport, hauling both my husband’s and my own luggage. I had to make it through security not totally sure if I had even brought along the correct paperwork for our paper-less tickets. I had to find my husband somewhere past security, assuming his connecting plane to meet me hadn't gotten delayed.

Finally I was standing in line at the ticket counter, feeling intimidated and overwhelmed because being such an infrequent flier I have never checked myself in before. The airline checker-inners looked so unsmiling and unfriendly, except for one, and I found myself asking God, "Couldn't You please time it so that I end up in her line?"

The next thing I knew she had climbed over the luggage counter and walked over to me, still several people back in the line and said, "Are you ready to check in, ma'am? Please follow me."

Anyone who makes it to Israel does so only by special invitation of the Almighty.

That’s when I remembered a beautiful thing I heard in a class once: anyone who makes it to Israel does so only by special invitation of the Almighty. It's His place. Not just another state on a happenstance piece of soil. The state is a separate miracle, a story of kindness in its own right. But the ground itself – that space – maybe it's some kind of different spiritual dimension and you can't just buy a ticket and go. You have to be invited. At that moment I felt as if a cosmic Caretaker said, "It's ok, I've got this. Just sit back and enjoy the ride." I felt as if I was handed a gilt-embossed invitation...and that He even sent the limo to pick me up.

I floated through security and chirped to TSA that I would rather a pat-down than walking through the machine that makes you glow in the dark and two uniformed female agents led me to a private room and gave me something that honestly felt like a pre-flight massage while we all giggled about babies and pregnancy. I found my husband, found our gate and the trip was as smooth as could be.

Thanks to the convenience of a rented car, we jetted around to our heart's content. We went to Safed and walked up and down its stairs and hills until our calves burned. We hiked down Mt. Arbel, camped in the Aravah, and sloshed through Hezekiah’s tunnel in the City of David. Our time was limited and we knew it, but there came a moment when I just needed to stop and breathe. It was a great vacation...but if I was here by invitation of the King, then what did He want from me?

Rosh Chodesh and the Western Wall was packed on the women's side. I wriggled my way as close to the wall as I could and prayed the evening service one row back. When a space cleared, I stepped up and there I was, feeling suddenly lost for words amongst so many women who seemed to know just what to say.

"What should I say? What do you want from me? The last time I stood here – ten years ago, before I made a serious commitment to my Judaism – I was so full of questions and confusion and I felt then like this Wall was here to keep me out."

"And this time?” I heard a voice ask me. “What is the question in your heart now? What presses against all the seams, wanting to burst out?"

"I want to know why You invited me here. What can I get here that I can't get anywhere else?"

A quiet moment and I lay my forehead against the smooth stone. Maybe I'm not here to get something at all. Maybe it's to do something for Him.

Then everything and everybody faded away and I felt a gentle whisper resonate through my whole body: "I'm glad you came to see Me."

The last time I stood in that spot, I had no idea how rich and full my life would be the next time I returned. My mind suddenly exploded with pictures of the countless gifts He has given me, of all the restless questions that have been gently put to rest, of all the ways He has taken me by the hand and guided me through adventure after adventure. And then the tears came. I smiled and sobbed and stroked the wall with my fingers, feeling love oozing out of all my joints as I was squeezed back in some sort of cosmic hug.

That's why I'm here...I just came to tell you thank You!

"Thank You...Thank you!" I must have said it a hundred times. "That's why I'm here...I just came to tell you thank You! And I love You! There's no way I can repay in in my whole lifetime all the gifts You give in just one minute. And You give without questions or conditions. Just from love. You are so kind to me. I wish I could become like that..."

And we just stayed that way for a while, pressed together, full of affection.

Unfathomably Kind

In the pursuit of a godly life, it's easy to begin to measure yourself by how well you perform...and to imagine that God decides your worth using the same criteria. Life can become a never-ending treadmill of "doing," and even praying becomes more about adding to your own merit rather than whispering to God in the way that you would to a beloved – saying something just to see them smile. In my so-grown-up way, I've fallen into the trap of thinking that all of the favors that I receive from God must be paid back in a similar currency; I've to got to do Him so many favors in return.

But maybe He's not really looking for that. Maybe it's more like I feel after I've made dinner for all my kids and of course I'm not looking for them to say, "Add it to my account, Mommy. I'll pay you back one day." What gratifies me the most is when they get so excited about what they see that I've put in front of them that they jump up from the table and come around and kiss me and say, "Thank you, Mommy! I love this food! You are the best Mommy ever!"

Maybe God does all these tremendous favors for us not because He's looking to get it all paid back with interest, but because He loves to see us turn to Him with shining eyes, with a heart that wants nothing else so much as to come closer to Him.

The last time I stood at the Kotel I was so consumed with myself and with the distress of knowing that when it came to performance I fell woefully short. I found it hard to believe that He would want me there, unworthy as I am. This time, from the moment I began the journey to Israel, through every step I traversed in the country and especially that moment at the Kotel, I was slack-jawed and stunned by how extravagant God has been towards me. The King of all Kings wanted me to come and see Him, to be at His house! And not because of any merit of mine... just because He's so unfathomably sweet and kind and giving. Because of that, I realized that unlike last time – when I stood at the Kotel with so much to ask for – this time I came to say thank you.