Sunday, December 27, 2015

Happy new year from Utah

I didn't want to have a week with no post. But I am using my I-pad so it is hard to type, and I can't post pictures.
On Tuesday, my friends heather and Joseph and their family came over for dinner. It was SO good to see them. I have not seen them in over 14 years. It was good to catch up and meet their wonderful kids.
I had a nice quiet Christmas. My cousin Rana is still here. We went to my friend Danae's house on Christmas Eve. We brought musakhan and gato with us and had a good meal with the Romrells. (the below picture is of Danae's nephews and nieces opening the Christmas gifts we got them.
Christmas Day we stayed home and watched Christmas movies. 

We had planned to head south to Utah on the 23rd, but it just snowed and snowed and snowed for two days straight.
We finally drove down to Utah today (Sunday). This morning was the coldest we have had in rexburg so far (-13 F or -25 Celsius). My car did not work well and then I found out that all the fluids are frozen and I just needed to let it heat up.

We got to Utah and Emily prepared an amazing meal for us, and even made mutabaq. It was so so good. I am so full.

We stayed at a nice hotel in Utah and it was so nice to swim and sit in the Jacuzzi...very relaxing.
 My brother and his family are home in Palestine visiting. I am so sad I am not there to spend Christmas with my family. Sadly my visa and the complicated situation at home make that impossible.

My cousin Peter and his new wife Amanda went from Ohio to Jordan and wanted to enter the Holy Land through the bridge. The Israelis would not let Amanda through. When she asked them why they are not allowing her, an American, into Israel, they said if she pays them $20,000 they would let her in. Then they made up a lie and told Amanda that it was the Palestinians that were not allowing her in. My nephew insisted on going back to Jordan with his wife and they would not let him. Peter finally told them that they would have to shoot him before he lets his wife, who does not speak Arabic, go back to Jordan on her own.

After one day of staying in Jordan Peter and Amanda were finally allowed to enter. But Amanda was forbidden from going to Israeli areas. She can only visit Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities. Here is an American who has paid so much money to visit the holy land and she won't be allowed to go to Jerusalem or Nazareth or Galilee. I am not sure who gives Israel the right to do this to people!

I will post a few pictures once I get my hands on a laptop. I'll add them to this post.
Happy new Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Merry Christmas

2015 has been a great year for me. I can't thank Heavenly Father enough for all the blessings I received this year. 
In 2013, I felt I should quit my job and go on a mission.  After returning from my mission in January of 2014, I started looking for a job in Palestine.  I could not find one...

Last year, I came to the United States in order to take an exam and then get a job with the UN in New York. I was happy that I finally found work after being unemployed for almost 2 years.  I was sad that I failed the exam and therefore was not given the job. I complained and did not understand why Heavenly Father would let that happen to me. I paid a lot of money for the ticket and my savings were quickly running out.

After staying in the US for a few months and trying to find a job, I gave up hope. I got discouraged and booked a ticket to return home to Palestine.  A few days before my departure date, I had a job interview at BYU-Idaho.  Acting in faith, I cancelled my ticket (losing all the money) and stayed in the United States hoping that this job would work out.

I was offered the job and my papers were done only days before my tourist visa expired. 

This year taught me an important lesson. Heavenly Father has a magnificent plan for me, and I should not ever doubt that. He has an amazing plan for all of us and when He closes a door, he opens another (leading to a better place). When I was trying to decide if I should quit my job in 2013, Elder Porter of the seventy laid his hands on my head and gave me a blessing. I was told that I should trust Heavenly Father and that doors will be opened to me and I will be blessed. During those long months of searching for jobs, I doubted what I had been told and did not see how it was going to work out.

I started teaching at BYU-Idaho as a visiting faculty in April. It has been a wonderful adventure to say the least. The students and faculty at this university are amazing. I have been welcomed and loved by everyone in the department and feel right at home. I applied for a permanent position last month and have been selected for an interview (I'm one of 5 candidates). I think I have a big chance of being selected especially since I have the home court advantage (since I already teach here)...we will see how that goes. I will have the interview in Jan/Feb and won't know the final decision until April or May. 

My mother's health has been good and even her liver tests show that the hepatitis she had is somehow gone or diminished. She is very lonely, but my sister Suhair goes out of her way to take care of her and visit her EVERY day. I feel bad being away and leaving my mom, but I do feel the Lord wants me here (for now at least).

Teaching has been hard, and I continue to struggle, as I give my all to help my students. I didn't think I would be so busy, yet I am always busy.  However, some letters from my students make all the work I do worthwhile...Such as, "thank you for teaching me humility and love as well as math".

My cousin is visiting me and we are going to go down south for Christmas. We thought we would go to St. George for a few days and maybe to Vegas. Hopefully, we can have some warmth.

The weather here has been amazingly well...temperatures rarely dropping below freezing. It did snow a few times and we now have snow on the ground. So, I still have not seen the harsh Rexburg winters everyone tells me about. But, I am sure they will come.

At this time of the year, my heart turns to Heavenly Father in gratitude for all that He has given me. As I look at the snow, I am reminded of my Savior. The fresh white fluffy snow makes everything seem quiet and peaceful. This is the kind of peace that I felt in my heart as I decided to follow the Savior over 20 years ago by walking into the waters of baptism.  A kind of peace that I never knew existed.  A peace I was able to feel while living in Palestine, through turmoil, conflict, and hardships.  

The whiteness of the snow reminds me that my Savior gave His life for my sins, so I could be cleansed if I repent...if my sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow...

I thank Him for coming to earth, for choosing Bethlehem (close to where I was raised) as the place of His birth.  He chose a troubled place to show us that real peace can come only through Him, the Prince of Peace...He said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." (John 14: 27)

I thank a loving Heavenly Father who was willing to give His only begotten son, the best gift ever given on Christmas. As we each exchange gifts this Christmas, may we remember Him who is the greatest gift of all, our Lord and Savior, our Redeemer and our King. May we follow Him and, like the Wise Men, always seek Him. May we this Christmas give Him our hearts and lives as a gift.

Here is a nice video about the Savior: Click here for video

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Let Him in...

As Christmas draws nigh, I see many rushing to do their shopping and get everything set up and ready for Christmas. I feel that sometimes we make ourselves too busy buying gifts during the  Christmas season and that distracts us from focusing on the real gift that was given during Christmas, God's only begotten son. 

Elder Maxwell is right, I hope that this Christmas we can focus on the real gift, our Savior. My friend gave a lesson last week and mentioned how when Adam and Eve made the choice to partake of the fruit, with that choice came the following hardships: Death, sickness, pain, sadness, difficulty, depression, sin...etc. So, without Christ, Adam and Eve's choice would sound like a bad choice. But, with Christ we can overcome all those things. He carried our burdens and our sins and broke the bands of death.

I hope that we all can have time to be still and contemplate the birth, life and atonement of our Savior. And to ponder the blessings that we each have because of Him and what He has done. 
The creator of the world, who had His choice of where to be born, chose a small town called Bethlehem and chose a stable to be born in. He is the actual lamb of God, there is no better place for a lamb to be born than at a stable. I testify that He is the Messiah that many prophesied will come to the earth. He is the lamb of God who left His throne above to come to earth as a babe born in a manger to fulfill His mission and give His life for us. 

On a personal note, my cousin Rana came to visit me. We have been doing some fun things, but not enough. I am so busy this time of year with grading, writing final exams, and doing grades. We still have one week left before school is out...

We went to a hamburger place (supposed to be the best in Rexburg) which turned out to be in an isolated area away from town. It was good though...really big burgers and huge drinks!

Yesterday we attempted to make spinach stuffed rolls. It did not go well to say the least, but we enjoyed doing it and laughed so hard.

We also went to a Japanese restaurant and had fun at the hibachi grill with our cook doing a demonstration for us..

My friend told me about some hot springs close to Rexburg. So, we took a drive to go there. The roads were covered in snow and we were driving in the mountains hoping we don't slip and end up going down hill. Rana opened the window to take a picture only to have the window button stick and the window refusing to go up. She was freezing and we could not get the window to close. We finally got to the hot springs only to find them packed with people and children and decided it was too cold to get wet anyway. We turned around to go back. Luckily after turning the car off and on the window went up!

We made it back safely, thank heavens for snow tires ;-)
I am mostly done with my classes, just doing a review next week. My students did not do well in their last test, so I hope they do well on the final. I had good students this semester...One of them gave me a Santa hat and wanted me to wear it in class, but I didn't.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Remember the good Shepherd

I had a good week, but it seemed too long. This semester has gone by so fast...however, the last two weeks are going by soooo slowly for some reason. 

I finished my 4th exam for one of my classes and still have two  exams for my other classes this coming week. I am trying to write my final exams and get them done, but I am having the hardest time making up test questions.

I love my students this semester, they are great! I am really going to miss them when the semester is over...
After thanksgiving I decided to put up the Christmas decorations. I bought a little tree and some decorations. It is not great, but it is better than the Christmas tree I had last year which was 5 inches long! Here is my new tree:

I have also been doing some Christmas shopping this past week. Here is a picture of me at the mall. I love the Christmas decorations.

We had our ward/church Christmas party on Friday and it was really fun. The food was amazing! And I took some left overs home because they had so much food left. The primary kids sang for us and we also sang some Christmas carols. 

Yesterday we had one of our Christmas concerts at the university. It was simply amazing. The Choir did such an amazing job and the setting and lights were perfect. 

I love Christmas time and all the decorations and lights. I love the spirit of Christmas and how many people focus on the Savior during this season. However, this is also a sad time for me as I would love to be home and in Bethlehem during this time of year. The celebrations in Bethlehem are unique and you won't find anything similar anywhere in the world. Christmas is also about family and it is very hard to be away from my family this time of year. I wish I could have gone home, but my current visa situation and also the short break between the semesters make that impossible at this time.

I am trying to post something about the Savior in each blog post this month.  I hope you all can know how grateful I am for the Savior and for what He has done for me. Sometimes I am not grateful enough and get too busy and forget to express my gratitude.

When I lived in northern Palestine, I had a neighbor who was a shepherd. He would take his sheep (about 40 sheep or so) to the fields every morning. On some mornings I would notice that the shepherd would forget something in his home and would need to go back to get it. He would leave his sheep in the street.  The sheep would line up on the side of the road (away from the cars) and they would stand there and wait for their shepherd to return. There was a field right next to the side of the road where they stood (only 3 feet away) that was full of tall green grass.  The hungry sheep would not go eat of that grass, but they would sit there and wait for their shepherd trusting that he would take them to a better place.

I hope we can also trust our good Shepherd, even Jesus Christ. We should trust in His love and know that if we follow Him, He will lead us to green pastures where we will find nourishment to our bodies and spirits. When you see a candy cane this Christmas, let this remind you of the Savior. Remember that He is willing to lead you to happiness, joy and peace if you only follow Him and be obedient to His commandments.