Sunday, March 30, 2014

Happiness

Many think that happiness is something that they reach when they buy a new car, or when they pay off their debt, or when they get married...or or...
Happiness is not a destination, it is a way of living. I have been able to see that the only way to be happy is to be obedient to God's commandments; to love and serve others. It is very simple: when you do good, you feel good.
But, there is more to that...If we dig deeper we will see that the author of happiness is God, our Heavenly Father. "Men [and women] are that they may have joy." Happiness and joy are the reason for our existence on the earth. Heavenly Father wants us to be happy and He is the one who can help us be happy, IF we live after the manner of happiness (i.e. according to His laws). He provides us with the Holy Ghost, the third member of the Godhead, who can dwell in us and help us be happy. The Holy Ghost provides feelings of peace and joy than no other method on earth can provide. These feelings can't be taken away from us; adversity, death, sickness and other trials can't take them away.

When I look back at my life, the times I have been the 'happiest' were actually the hardest times in my life.  That is because it is when I needed Heavenly Father most and that is when He has been by my side most. Those were times I felt strongly the presence of the Holy Ghost giving me comfort and strength.

My uncle Fawzi passed away last week. He was the last living uncle I had on my father's side. His death was so sudden and his health got worse and worse really fast. Last Saturday he was walking and talking and doing well. On Sunday he had problems breathing and died on Monday from liver failure. Shocking and strange how someone's life could end so fast! Yet, as his daughter told me the day of the funeral of her father: "When you think you won't be able to handle your loss, there comes this power from above and gives you strength...you are then able to endure and feel comforted."

This power comes from a loving Father in Heaven who knows us and knows when we need His comfort. I again felt the Holy Ghost with me during these difficult times. Heavenly Father never leaves any of us alone. He has not sent us to earth to be alone. He will be with us every step of the way if we but let Him.

We can be strong, stand tall and be happy even though we are surrounded by thorns...




If we look for the good in life, we will find it...(can you see what is in this picture?)



Below is a view of Wadi Al-Quff. My brother took us there with him. It felt so good to walk in nature and enjoy the beauty away from all the roads, cars and people. 



On a happy note I want to mention again that Heavenly Father does answer prayers. Even though sometimes what we want seems too difficult and we dare not hope for it or even ask Him for it.
A few years ago I was struggling to go to church in Jerusalem because there was no LDS church anywhere in the West Bank that I could go to and we are not allowed into Jerusalem...I asked Heavenly Father to help me go to church.  I was given a job with UNRWA and was able to go to Jerusalem anytime I wanted because of the permit UNRWA helped me get...but Heavenly Father didn't stop there. Because that job was not permanent, Heavenly Father made it so that we could have church meetings in Bethlehem. And today, March 29th, the Bethlehem branch was organized. An official church branch in the Savior's birth town of Bethlehem!! 

6 years ago, if someone told me this day would happen, I would have laughed and said 'no way'. When I asked Heavenly Father to help me so I can go to church, this was not what I had in mind. Nor did I even dare ask for it...yet, He knows the desires of our hearts and gives us blessings that are too amazing for us to even imagine.

I am grateful for a Father in Heaven who loves me and loves all His children. He lives and He is real. And even though many try to move away from Him by worshiping other things, He remains constant, the only true, living and loving God.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Journey Matters

We celebrated Mothers' day here in Palestine on Friday. Here Mothers' Day is on the 21st of March, the first day of Spring. Yesterday seemed like it was the first day of summer though because it was so hot.  

I hope all the mothers out there realize how important their job is. Motherhood is the most important thing you could be doing in your life right now. God has entrusted you with His spirit children. In a troubled world what you teach your children is SO important. 

My mother taught me so much about service and about giving. I must say that I am not a great daughter, but I am trying hard to be better. Amazingly enough when you look at my mom over 40 years ago and now, she looks almost the same...(and ya I was a chubby baby)


My sister Suhair invited us over to lunch yesterday for Mothers' Day. She made many yummy salads and then we had Zarb (chicken in a stone oven).  We took the food and ate at my nephew's new home.  They have a big back yard and the kids enjoyed running around outside, but they were all hot after a while and came inside.  I guess with new homes you don't have big enough trees, so not enough shade. Luckily our brick homes are nice and cool, so sitting inside was nice.

After lunch we had a bunch of desserts made by Vera who always makes excellent desserts. Below is a picture of my nephew's daughter Talya and my niece's daughter Yara enjoying eating dessert on their own.



Mom is on the far right along with some relatives:




I have taught primary (lessons for the kids at church) for 2 weeks only. Last week's lesson was on the plan of Salvation. This week our Sunday School teacher was sick and the Sunday School lesson happened to be on the Plan of Salvation and the role of Jesus Christ. I offered to teach the lesson and we combined primary and Sunday School. The only child in church today was Martina, so it worked out. I am amazed at how simple Heavenly Father's plan is, that little children can understand it. I explained it to the kids for 10 minutes last week, but did not know how much they understood. Today during Sunday school I was asking questions and little 4-year old Martina kept answering them. She knew God is the Father of our spirits, she knew we used to live with Heavenly Father before we came to earth, she knew that Jesus Christ created the world for us, and she knew what we have to do to return back to Heavenly Father. I am so grateful for the Gospel and for the knowledge I have and for the blessing of teaching that to others.

Last night I had an interesting dream.  You don't need to read it, but if you are bored and would like to listen, here goes...
Thanks for listening by the way...So, I dreamed that I parked my car somewhere and was trying to get to my car and was so lost. I was trying to go through checkpoints and roads and ask for directions.  All through the dream I kept asking people to tell me how to get to my car.  I was getting more and more frustrated as people kept doing other things or telling me things that were not relevant or showing me things.  I started to yell at them saying: "Now what does this have to do with my car?" At the end of the dream some guy was telling me about the situation here and explaining it to me while another guy was asking me questions about the gospel and about Jesus Christ. And I was getting frustrated because neither of them was telling me where my car was!  Then all of a sudden it dawned on me and I understood the whole meaning of the dream (while dreaming). I realized that I was too focused on where I wanted to be and what I wanted to accomplish that I had forgotten what's important. What is more important is the Journey itself! Who we meet along the path and how we treat them and how much we help them. How we get to where we are going is essential, and who we become is also.  I realized that I need to enjoy the journey more and treat others kinder and be a better person. I should not be focused on the end result. 
I have been too focused lately on my life. Where will I go, what will I end up doing? What is important is actually here and now. I am here in Palestine and how I live each day is more important than where I will be in the next year or so.
I hope we all will be kinder today...The only thing we can do about the past is repent and the only thing we can do about the future is hope...and the way to make that hope a reality is work at it today.
The journey is great! The path is green and full of flowers and not only because it is spring! 
I hope we all can learn to enjoy the journey and live a full and happy life helping others along the way.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Just keep breathing!

It has been a difficult week. I almost decided not to write this week because I don't like to write things that are not positive.  Nothing bad in particular actually happened, but a lot of frustrating things around me. 
It also has rained almost all week. It was good for the plants because it really has not rained at all since I got back from England. We've actually never had this much rain in such a short time. I think the weather was thinking "oops, I have only a few days left of winter, so I better use them well." It rained and rained and then rained some more. Drains in the street are not that good here, so we had rivers of water running down the streets. It would have been better to ride a boat instead of a car, but oh well. Today was finally sunny and warm, yay!

I have not slept well for the last few days because of mosquitoes. It was freezing so I was too lazy and did not want to get out of my warm bed to find them so I can actually sleep. I just kept hoping they would go away and they didn't. I finally killed two of them today. Hopefully tonight I will be able to sleep. Last night I did not sleep at all but mostly because my mom was not feeling well and she kept me awake. She is better now.

I applied to two positions at BYU and then emailed one of my old professors at BYU who basically told me that there is no way I would get those jobs or any other jobs at any universities.  The reason, he said, was that I don't have many publications. It suddenly all made sense to me. I have mostly applied to universities and can now see why they would not want to hire me. I actually feel that it is very unlikely that I will find a job in the USA. That is fine with me though, whatever happens will be ok.

I went to a meeting with my brother the other day. It was for a group of young students (high school) who were learning more about the Palestinian cause and how to answer questions about Palestine. I was actually so impressed with a lot of our youth here. Most of them speak excellent English and know so much and can actually talk about Palestine to others.  My sister-in-law and I acted like Zionists and asked the students questions and they had to respond. They did well for the most part.

I've actually been thinking a lot about the situation here and feeling bad because there seems to be nothing to do to resolve the conflict. I watched the movie 'Omar' and that was kind of depressing. It is our sad reality mostly and many Palestinians are victims like those in the movie. If you have not seen the movie, I highly recommend it. Here's is a picture from the movie as Omar (the star of the movie) gets ready to climb the separation wall:




I watched the movie Cast Away again the other day. (I seem to be watching a lot of movies lately, don't you think?) When he tries to kill himself because he thinks that he lost all hope of being saved from off the island.  He then says that he decides that even though there is no hope of someone saving him, he would just continue to live and breathe. He said he would continue to breathe until that thing that seemed impossible becomes possible.  I kind of feel like that sometimes. Not because I feel I am on an island and feel miserable, but because I feel that right now all I have to do is breathe. I think all of us Palestinians should also just keep breathing and pressing forward.  Until one day that thing that seems impossible becomes possible.  It seems like I and many Palestinians are waiting for a miracle, but miracles do happen and I believe in them! (The second picture is actually of my brother, Mazin)






 (showing he is not wearing any explosives)



Monday, March 10, 2014

Random Stuff

I actually can say I had a busy week. Yay...But, I much rather have nothing to do =) I am so tired!
I went to Ramallah for a couple of days and spent the night with my cousin at the Grand Park Hotel. It was a nice change...

My sister-in-law and I have visited a few students who have applied for financial aid in an attempt to evaluate their status. It has been interesting to find all the houses. Of course we have no addresses here (at least in the way people in the US do). We have no street names, or house numbers. Yet amazingly enough we are able to find the homes of those students just fine.  We went to Jericho yesterday with just a name of a neighborhood and we were able to ask people and find the house. Everyone knows each other here so if you get to the general area you can find the person you are looking for!

We met with a family yesterday...The mother was intentionally run over by an Israeli settler when she was 16 years old. The Israeli man tried to hit her and her friends with his car. She was not as fast as those with her and did not manage to avoid the hit. After that the driver backed up and hit her again.  The accident broke her back and she is in a wheel chair.  She got married to her physical therapist, and they had 3 kids. But, sadly her husband passed away 2 years ago. Now her children are all in their teens. Her girls are so smart it seems. One of her daughters invented a device for testing the blood sugar level through breath. Another daughter is studying dentistry and she is the one we wanted to interview. The cost of tuition for dentistry students is high, so we will see if the scholarship can cover it.
The mother told us that her brother was killed by the Israeli soldiers a while ago. She said after they killed him they tied him up to the back of their car and dragged him on the ground. She seemed passionate about the Palestinian cause and wondered why things have now gone down the hill.  Palestinians are so divided and Israelis basically do what they want and no one stops them.  
The family lives in a small home with little ventilation and no sun light. Of course going outside is almost impossible for the mother because our streets are not made for wheel chairs. Her strength is gone, probably due to lack of exercise and lack of sun light.

We started having primary and Sunday School after church this week. I taught primary for the fist time on Saturday. The kids that come have never been to primary and know nothing. I started really basic by teaching them they are children of God. It went very well, and they were really good in class. My experiences teaching primary in the past were different. The kids would not sit and would not listen, and it was a challenge. I really hope this nice behavior will continue. Hopefully I can make the lessons interesting enough that they would want to listen and continue to come.

We finally had some rain yesterday. It rained and rained. Well, here we have horrible drains in the streets, so there were rivers and ponds all over the place. It was nice though to see it rain.

I made this last week for a friend of mine. If you are trying to get your kids to help around the house, this is a good idea. Each treat has something written on it and you only get the treat if you do what the paper says.  Her 6-year-old actually cleaned the bathroom so as to get the treat.


Below are some pictures from our trip to Jericho. We had lunch at an expensive restaurant, but it was so worth it. The restaurant is on the water spring and we took our shoes off and walked in the water. It was so refreshing especially since it was so hot that day. My nephew's girls absolutely loved the water and wanted to stay in the stream and play forever.

In the first picture: Vera (nephew's wife) with her kids. This is inside the restaurant!



Just a nice cactus plant with a flower by it:




Saturday, March 1, 2014

Are you bored yet?

I hope I don't bore you to death with my posts. 
Still spring here (well, feels like summer even today) and we are starting to give up on any rain fall in the near future. 

Our green almonds are starting to ripen. They are small, but in a week or so we will be able to eat them. Green almonds are the best, if you have never had them. Sorry the picture turned out fuzzy, the almonds are fuzzy to begin with.



Yesterday I met with a group of tourists and spoke to them for a little bit about the situation here. I shared with them my testimony and how we can find peace living in a place of conflict like here.
We sat in Beit Sahour on the rocks in the valley. It was right next to the old fig tree that grows out of a cave. The same place my grandmother, Milia, used to take me and my cousin Rana when we were kids. She would take us there and we would sit on those very rocks and eat fruit while she tells us stories. We would pick flowers from the fields and take them home. Those were cherished moments for us. Yesterday we sat with the tourists and read the Christmas story in Luke and sang Christmas carols. It was nice. There was even a shepherd there with his sheep. One of the sheep left the flock and came up to us and started saying "Baaa" and kept doing that for a while. We could not figure out what it wanted.

Yesterday we visited my mom's cousin who is sick with cancer. His cancer started with a small dot of skin cancer, now it is all over his face. It is so sad...Had they tested it at the start they could have removed it, but they didn't know it was cancer at the beginning. 

My uncle Fawzi has 3 sons and he has been waiting for a male grandchild for so long. Here each person waits for an heir. Someone to carry the family name.  Finally his youngest son got married and last week his wife had a baby. They named him Jude. He is really adorable. There is no reason he won't be because my cousin is actually very good looking.


My sister's brother-in-law invited us to his son's wedding. The wedding is today. On Thursday was the Hinna. Many wear the traditional Palestinian dress from the Hinna celebration. They mix the Hinna (hair dye) and dance around in it. Then the bride and family of the bride comes (or they go to their house) and they have her dye her hand in the Hinna (that has been modified to her just touching it). It is an old Palestinian tradition that has been passed on from generation to generation. I think it is nice that we keep these things going to remind us of our culture and ancestors. Usually the mother of the groom mixes the hinna (pretty messy as you see). Then they put it in bags and see if people want to take some home. Some people still use it to dye their hair as it is very healthy for your hair. 



They used to pass out handkerchiefs stuffed with candy, but this evolved to something more practical (see below). Those almond stuffed candies are the best!



My sister Suhair who has been mourning for her husband for almost four years now finally decided to wear makeup and get dressed up. I am trying hard to help her overcome her grief, but it is not easy for her. I hope she won't mind me posting her picture here...Fake smile, but a smile non-the-less. 



I helped my brother a little bit last week. He is starting a Natural History museum here. I glued some plants of different kinds and classified snails. I have not done much else. 

I am thinking I am going to get a visa and come to the US this summer for a visit. Since I don't have a job here it may be hard for me to get a visa to the US since I can't prove that I will return home. So, I thought maybe someone in Utah could set me up with a speaking assignment and send me a letter of invitation. This would really help. Let me know if anyone is willing to do that. Email me at my yahoo email if you can do that (if you don't have my email address write a message in a comment and I will email it to you).

Also, as strange as this may seem, I am not against meeting anyone while in Utah (assuming I come). If there are any eligible bachelors in your wards, please set me up =)