Sunday, February 28, 2016

Trip to Jackson

There are sometimes days when I get discouraged and wonder what I am doing here...But, Heavenly Father reminds me again and again that this is where I need to be at this time. 

I hope that somehow, somewhere I will make a difference in someone's life. But, maybe being here is so I can change my own life and become better. Our Ward conference today was about becoming and changing...I love this quote by Elder Oaks:

"Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts--what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts--what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become."

My cousin leaves to go back home in a few days. I have not been a great host and have not taken her to see anything exciting. Well, that is what you get when you come to Rexburg in the winter. Snow, snow and more snow. The weather is finally improving and most of the snow has melted now that she is ready to leave!

My colleague Danae told me she would be willing to drive us to Jackson so we can see it before my cousin leaves. The road to Jackson across the mountains can get pretty slippery in the snow, but we saw that the weather was supposed to be good on Saturday so we decided to venture and go.

The minute we entered Wyoming (literally right after this sign) it started to snow. 

It was not that cold, but having heavy snow when we arrived made us worry about being able to go on those mountain roads. We had a quick lunch and took a lot of pictures in Jackson and left. It is a cute little town with lots of touristy shops and places. 

The below arches are made of real antlers. Apparently moose shed their antlers every year and so people just collect them here and put them to use. The store we visited even made chandeliers from them. 

Never seen so many dead animals in one little store. It is kind of sad actually...too many heads on the wall. But, Danae told me that people kill those animals and eat them (well not the bears), so hopefully it was not just for fun.

So, the reason for our drive so we can see the mountains. It was so cloudy and snowy that we did not really see the mountains. We could see the hills ;-) They were really nice, but really the drive in the mountains made us all feel we were heading to the north pole. It was a pretty drive though. We hoped to see some animals...we caught a glimpse of some dear and saw an eagle eating a dead dear, but that was about it. We got to see a lot of dead animals though!

We stopped and took a picture of the largest potato in Idaho. Notice who is driving the truck ;-) I actually never thought that there could be a difference in how a potato would taste, but Idaho potatoes are simply better. I have had the best fries here, even those at fast food places!

Susan and Danae stopped in and got us a Huckleberry shake. Up until yesterday, I didn't know what a Huckleberry was. I had never seen one or tasted one. The shake was really good I must say! I also got some Huckleberry honey...It was so good! Looking forward to going to pick wild Huckleberries in the summer with Susan.

The mountain pass was bad on our way back. There were cars that were stuck unable to climb the hill because the roads were slippery. I am so glad Danae was willing to drive in her 4-wheel drive truck. We would have never made it there in my car! 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Another week in my life...

Time is going by so fast. I can't believe we have passed the middle of this semester already. 

I just finished my second exams, and graded them...Sadly some of my students did not do so well. I'll have to see what I can do about that. I have been so busy and have not devoted enough time for my students.

Yesterday my cousin and I drove to Pocatello and went to Red Lobster. It was really good food, but too much food...we were full after the appetizer and the salad. Our nice waiter was nice enough to show us how to eat crab legs. It was easier than I thought to pull the meat out and really good.

I know we should have taken a picture before we ate half the food, but it is still ok.

We found a little Egyptian market in Pocatello and were able to get some good olives and a few Middle Eastern groceries. It is nice to know that I don't have to drive to Utah in order to buy some things. I did like Pocatello (mostly since it didn't have any snow!).

It actually has been pretty nice here too (above freezing) and snow is melting. I can't wait for is so beautiful here when everything starts to bloom. Just because of such long winters, some green is always a wonderful sight to see.

My mother finally sold her birds. After starting with very few love birds she ended up (in a matter of months) with over a hundred or so of them in our basement at home. It became a great effort to clean their cages, but she still refused to sell them. Last week my mother was going downstairs when she fell and dislocated her toes (I didn't quite understand what it was that was dislocated, but she said her feet were facing the wrong way). Amazingly enough, this 84 year old woman got up, put them right in place and walked up the stairs! I am still amazed at her strength and good health in spite of her age. I am grateful that Heavenly Father watches over my mother while I am away. 

That fall convinced my mother to sell all the birds. That makes me and my sisters happy because that many birds in one little place was just too much to handle.

I am trying hard to figure out how to file my taxes. It has been an interesting process, but has not been that bad so far. Hopefully I can figure it out and not make too many serious mistakes doing it.

Our teacher in Sunday School today asked "What has Christ done for you?" Many made comments some to the effect of "What has he NOT done for me? He has given me everything." I contemplated what He has done for me personally, other than the obvious things like the resurrection and eternal life.

For me, the Savior gave me life, not just eternal life or life after death, but basic life. I had a great childhood, but once I became a teenager I lost my happiness. I did not see a purpose in life and was so miserable. The Savior helped me see life differently. He helped me enjoy and love life. He helped me find peace and joy and purpose. He also walked beside me, guided me and lifted me every step of the way, and He still does. He is my light, my shepherd, my redeemer, my comforter, my strength, my peace and my joy...

Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Happy Valentine's day

I hope you all enjoyed Valentine's day. I guess when you are single, you don't really think about this day or treat it as a different day. However, today was a bit special for me. I got to contemplate more the love that Heavenly Father has for me.

I went to the temple yesterday and pondered the amazing blessings Heavenly Father has given us, His children. His love for us exceeds any earthy love we can imagine. He loves us each regardless of who we are and what we have done.

I shared this 3-D image with my students this past week and told them how we should all strive to see in others what Heavenly Father sees in them. If we look carefully, we can see others as children of God and love them as He loves them. 

Last night, I got a call from President Gilbert (the president of BYU-Idaho). He said Elder Rasband was in town and wanted to see me. He told me to come to the 'green room' at the BYU-I center to meet with Elder and Sister Rasband. It was so good to see the Rasbands and spend time with them this morning. Elder Rasband told me to post this picture, so here goes...

I also stayed and listened to the stake conference that he spoke at. It was for married students and so I was probably the only single person there, but there were some really good talks there.

I remember when I met with Elder Rasband in his office at the end of 2014. Elder Kacher and I spoke with Elder Rasband as he did his best to help me find a job here in the US. When we walked out, Elder Kacher looked at me and said: "Wow, did you feel that?" It is true, I had felt it. I felt Elder Rasband's love and concern for me. I am grateful to know this amazing couple and I know the Lord could not have chosen a better apostle to represent Him in the Quorum of the twelve.  Those leaders in the church love each and every one of us. They pray for us, they think about us, and they do their best to serve us to the best of their ability.

Elder Porter and Elder Kacher are now serving in Russia. I got to hear the talk they gave in Turkey yesterday to the Turkish people. The message was in Turkish (translated) and I was actually happy that my Turkish was still good enough to understand it.  The church seems to be getting stronger in Turkey and nothing could make me happier because I just love the Turkish people and their amazing spirit. The first Turkish female missionary (I think) just got her call to serve in Germany. I still remember the great experience I had a few months ago to talk to the missionaries in the MTC who are going to Turkey.

I hope each of us can take this valentine's day to ponder and remember the love that Heavenly Father and our Savior have for us. President Uchtdorf said:

Think of the purest, most all-consuming love
you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount— that is the measure of God’s love for you.
God does not look on the outward appearance. I believe that He doesn’t care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous or forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, He loves us perfectly. Though we may feel lost and without compass, God’s love encompasses us completely.”

P.S. Thanks to whoever left this valentine's jar of chocolates on my door. My cousin says you scared her to death because you knocked and ran ;) But I am grateful you are thinking of me!



Sunday, February 7, 2016

What I have come to know...

I conducted a survey with my students and had them guess my age. I was grateful some of them guessed that I was 32 years old...There were guesses that were more than 55, but that is ok, I do look old!

My birthday marks the day I came to this earth. My birth in Jerusalem was rather interesting because my mother had a bleeding and almost died while giving birth to me. Every April I celebrate my birthday but I also celebrate my mother and her life. I am eternally grateful that Heavenly Father listened to her prayer and allowed her to live these many years to raise me and be a strength to our family.

This past week I celebrated another type of birthday.  February 4, 1996 was that day. This past week marked 20 years since I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I still remember that cold day in February of 1996 as Jessica and I walked to the Joseph Smith building in the snow. We were late in arriving. By the time I changed and we took pictures, everyone had been waiting for quite a while (but none of them left). 161 people were there and I felt that was the happiest day of my life. 

I grew up in Palestine and spent many of my teenage years living through conflict, bombings, curfew, oppression, travel restrictions, and injustices along with the sadness and depression that came from that. Those days back in 1996 were the days that I experienced peace for the first time, and true joy for the first time in my life. 

A colleague the other day made the analogy about how everything seems so much clearer when we get glasses for the first time. I remember that feeling when I got glasses for the first time in high school. I was finally able to see the black board, the leaves on the trees, and the birds in the sky. It was a remarkable feeling! Joining the church, for me, was like getting new glasses. I was able to see things differently. Having an eternal perspective and being able to see others through the Savior's eyes made a big difference in my life.

Our Sunday School teacher today challenged us to write something to leave to our posterity. Since I probably will never have children, I can leave something to those that will some day read about my life. Relatives, friends or anyone.  If there was one thing I want everyone to know it is how much they are loved by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Knowing I was loved and cared for was the one thing that kept me going and helped me overcome the challenges I faced in my life.

When we were children, we did not know why we had to eat our vegetables, go to bed early, do our homework...etc. We thought our parents were being unfair, or we thought they were simply trying to make us suffer when they would ask us to do certain things. We now have eyes to see and can clearly understand why our parents did what they did...they did it because they love us and wanted what was best for us...

The same is true about our Father in Heaven. He wants what is best for us. When He closes a door, He opens another. When He pushes us off a cliff, He either catches us or teaches us to fly. There were many moments in my life where I felt I had reached the edge of a cliff, but every time I was caught, lifted and strengthened...and, yes, sometimes taught to fly.

 That faith keeps me going...Knowing that He loves me, watches over me, and knows what is best for me.

I hope that each of you will know that you are important and that you matter to Heavenly Father. Please know that no matter how difficult your situation is, that it is part of a plan, called the plan of Happiness. A plan made by a loving father for his children. It is designed to help you grow and learn and become the best person you can become. It is designed to help you find the highest degree of peace and joy in this life and in the next.