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.