Sunday, March 27, 2016

We are all equal in God's eyes

It is late in the day and I have a lot of mixed emotions, so I am not sure what to focus on. 
Obviously it is Easter here in the US and so I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter. I hope you all will remember the Savior and what He has done for you this Easter season. 

My heart is full of gratitude for the Savior and for His sacrifice..that He willingly gave His life for me. 
Someone in our sacrament meeting was speaking today and saying that she was a nurse and she said that, physically, a person can bleed from every pore. Christ had a physical body so He suffered all of this as a mortal would. What is truly amazing about this, is that while His body suffered, His divine nature could have stopped that suffering. What is amazing is that He could have said "I am done, I don't want to suffer any more and I want to make it all stop." And it would stop. Yet, He willingly gave His hands to the crucifies so they can put the nails in them and He willingly stayed on the cross until 'it was finished' and all has been fulfilled. It must have been so hard to go through all that pain and to not stop it. But, He did...for us.

I invite you to watch the below video from from Elder Holland.

Click to Watch: None were with Him 

I watched a different version of this video yesterday, but I was not able to put that one here.  I saw it many times before, but what touched me yesterday is the look on the Savior's face. As He was being beaten, He looked at the soldiers and I saw love on His face. He died for those soldiers as well. He loved even the person that mocked Him or beat Him or crucified Him...and He died for those people too. His atonement was not just for the faithful, it was for everyone. He gave His life for all, He carried the sins of all and He loved all people.

As I watched the Choir in the Women's session yesterday full of refugee sisters from all over the world gather together and sing "I am a child of God...and Love one another" I was touched. 
I don't know why we often label people and value lives differently. 

An explosion in Brussels killed many the other day...It is really sad that some people could just kill another soul without thinking twice about it.  Recently, there was a similar terrorist attack in Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey. Did you know that? Those people killed in Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey were Muslims...yes Muslims were targeted by these explosions. Here, Muslims were the victims...Muslims are not the terrorists...Terrorism has no religion.  

The great thing about Easter is that it will all be made better. All those who died during these attacks and similar ones will be made alive one day. Because the Savior walked out of that tomb on the third day, they will too.  Whether those killed were Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Atheists, they will rise again one day. That is the glory of the Atonement, that is the majesty of God's love. It is not dependent on religion or skin color or origin, it is unconditional! 
However, even though the resurrection is a free gift to all, in order to obtain the greatest gift, eternal life, we must have faith in His name. We must believe in the Son of God and in His power.

I hope we all can learn from the Savior...I hope we can learn to love as He loved and to be welcoming to all people. I heard in conference yesterday that there are 60 million refugees worldwide. That is a lot! Over 5 million of those are Palestinian, 5 million are Syrian, but there are many others...

May we all allow the Savior to teach us to love others and to see them through His eyes. May we all reach out to help those around us who may be refugees in status, or others who may simply need to feel our love the support. 

Happy Easter! He is risen...Indeed He has!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

Last week's blog was about my father, and this one is about my mother.You are all probably thinking now that my next blog post will be "my sister"...Probably not, but it just happened that last week was my Father's birthday and this week it is Mother's day.
Palestinians celebrate Mother's day on March 21st which is also the first day of spring. The reason they do that is because being a mother is about giving and nurturing others...It is about beauty and simplicity. and that is why Mother's day is in the Spring (no offense to those who celebrate it in May ;) May is still spring, right?)

I do want to pay tribute to my mother. This woman who raised me and taught me so much about service and love. I learned the importance of selfless service from her. I grew up seeing her give gifts and help those in need.  When I worked she would cook for me then set the table and then wait...she would often wait hours without eating so she can eat with me when I got home. 
When she was on a hospital bed about to die as she gave birth to me, her biggest concern was  "Who would raise Sahar?" I am glad her determination and faith helped her survive and raise me and bless my life.

Happy Mother's Day mom! I love you!

Distances separate us today. It is really hard to be so far away from my family. Especially during such occasions. 
My niece just had a baby boy on March 18th. They called him Kinan. Again, I wish I were there!

I do miss home, especially during the spring. Spring here does not come early, so it is still cold and dry and brown outside. I see pictures from home and see the wild flowers and grass and miss the nature and the beauty of the hills of Palestine during spring.
There is no place like home!

The semester is almost over, two more weeks and then finals. It has gone by so fast, well except the last few weeks don't want to pass!
I have been really busy and can't wait to take a break, even though the break is a week long only. 

I am busy translating for general conference. It has been a great experience and the talks have been amazing so far. Make sure you watch it.
I have a conference that I have been asked to participate in at BYU in Provo. Sadly, I will miss one day of classes, but I am looking forward to the conference because it is such an essential topic. It is about the refugees and I hope I can add to the topic.

I am also giving a youth fireside on the 10th. I am looking forward to that as well...I just hope that between finals, classes and translation I will be prepared to do that...

My friend and I went to a banquet the other day where they had dinner then a presentation/discussion between Muslims and Mormons. It was kind of interesting and I learned some things about Islam that I didn't know.  Two people sat at our table who were from Turkey, so I got to practice my Turkish a little bit. 

Two days ago I found a letter in my mailbox. It was from the Quorum of the twelve apostles!! My first thought was: "Oh no, what did I do now?" The letter was actually from Elder Oaks. He asked me to be on a committee that I would rather not mention the details of here. It was an honor and a privilege. 

I continue to be blessed being here. I will find out about the permanent BYU-I position next month. Sadly, the Board of Education did not make a decision in their March meeting and they will make a decision in April instead. So, by mid April or so, I should know. I'll keep you posted of course.

My friend Emily also just had a baby boy...
So, to all those who are mothers, I want you all to know how important what you are doing is. Being a mother is a holy calling from God.  He has trusted you with one of His spirit children, a helpless child who will rely on you to feed and nourish him/her spiritually and physically. The Lord will strengthen you and help you in your efforts.  

I hope that each of us can express gratitude and love to our earthly mothers and have patience with them when they get old and serve them with all our hearts, just as they have done for us during the many early years of our lives.
Happy Mother's Day! and Happy Spring! (I hope Spring will come to Idaho soon!!! can't wait!)


Sunday, March 13, 2016

My Father

I have been thinking about my father lately. Tomorrow would have been his birthday. He would have been 87. Happy Birthday dad! 
I miss him so much. He was the strength and stability of our family. He always had a way to make things right. He could always fix things, even problems. He just had a way to make everything seem brighter and better.  I'm the chubby baby in my father's arms ;-)
I wish I could again feel his strong arms around me.

I still ache inside as I think of how much he had to suffer during the last months of his life. During the final stages of his cancer, he suffered much pain and was unable to speak or move. When he died I was somewhat relieved that he didn't have to suffer any longer, even though the pain of not having him around was too much to handle. 

I think of my father a lot during Easter. The reason is that I know that just as my savior walked out of that tomb in Jerusalem over 2000 years ago, my father will walk out of his tomb one day. I thank my Savior for His atonement and for making the miracle of resurrection possible.

As our loved ones suffer or as we suffer we may ask Heavenly Father "Why?" "Why must we go through this trial that seems so hard to bear?" 
I contemplated today during church the enormous suffering that our Savior had to go the garden of Gethsemane and later on the cross. I can't begin to imagine the pain He must have felt. Yet He willingly took it all upon Himself for us.

I shared this video with my students, and I want you all to hear it also...

Click here to watch the video about a boy named Logan 

Heavenly Father stood and watched as His beloved Son suffered and died. He could have stopped it, but He didn't. The Savior had to die because without His death there would have been no resurrection. Just like Heavenly Father told Logan: "You know, Logan, my son was special too, but He died for a purpose."

It is the same for each of our lives. We often need to suffer for a higher purpose that we may not be aware of. We must trust that our Father in Heaven knows best.

I am grateful for my loving Father in Heaven who gave His beloved Son for me. I am grateful for a Heavenly Father who loves me...His loving strong arms have lifted me and strengthened me many many times...especially when my earthly father's arms were not within reach.

I testify that the Savior lives and because He lives, all of our loved ones who died will too. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Puzzle Piece

I have thought about what to say, and I often feel I disappoint those that read my blog because I don't have an interesting life. I think I should have kept a blog while I was living in Palestine. Over there, every day is it's own adventure...You never have just a normal day there. However, I do appreciate those of you who read my blog and leave sweet comments. 

My cousin left after staying with me over 3 months. It was nice to have her come home from work every day to a yummy dinner every have someone to go places with. I am back to my routine life...Maybe it actually won't be so routine this month. I have postponed things I have to do too long. I am going to be so busy this month, grading tests, writing tests, preparing for next semester and translating for conference. I guess busy is good when you don't have much else going on in your life.

I went to the Escape house yesterday with a group of friends. They put us in a room and we had to solve a mystery. They told us that this guy Gary was killed and we had to find the treasure he hid before he died. There were too many of us in that dark place with flashlights looking for clues. Each one of us found a piece of evidence and we finally worked together to figure out how all those clues fit together to lead us to the treasure. It was fun...I thought the best contribution was from the person who finally found the light switch so that we don't have to search in the dark. Here is a picture of us holding the treasure (we found it with 16 min left!)...

My cousin and I did a lot of puzzles while she was here. I didn't think I would enjoy it but it actually helps me relax as I take my mind off other things and focus on making the puzzle. Someone gave us a few puzzles for free as well one day. When we made one, we discovered it was missing some pieces. I felt that my effort of making the puzzle were wasted. How could one piece out of 500 pieces make such a difference? Well, it can because the puzzle is not complete without it.

In our lives, we each hold a piece of a puzzle. We don't quite know where it fits sometimes since we don't see the whole big picture. Heavenly Father guides us and tells us where to place that piece. Each of us is important and needed, as without each of those pieces the picture will never be complete.

I sometimes questioned why Heavenly Father is asking me to place my piece in that particular place. When I was wanting to place it somewhere else or not wanting to place it at all.  Heavenly Father has allowed me to step back and see the whole picture once or twice in my life. I was able to behold the finished image and I knew why my piece was needed in that particular place at that particular time.

When I felt impressed to go home after graduating from BYU, I wondered why Heavenly Father wanted me to go back to Palestine when I wanted so badly to stay in the United States...In Palestine, as I was sneaking in to get to church and facing all kinds of hardships living in a place of conflict, I still wondered 'why am I here?' But, now I thank my Father in Heaven for placing me in Palestine during those hard 12+ years. Those trials were exactly what I needed to grow and to develop the testimony that I now have.  He has also shown me how my testimony has helped and lifted others and I am eternally grateful for that.

A few years ago when I was told to quit my job with UN and go on a mission, I actually didn't question His commandment. Because my life has taught me to trust Him and to trust that He knows what is best for me. I trusted that my puzzle piece would be needed in England. This time, however, He actually didn't allow me to step back to see that picture. I don't know why I went on a mission, and may never know. But, I trust my Heavenly Father, He knows!

I hope each of you will know how important you all are in Heavenly Father's plan. Each of you is loved and each one of you has a skill and ability that is unique. Without you, the picture will not be complete.   I hope each of us can pray to know what Heavenly Father wants us to do, whose life He wants us to touch, whose knees He wants us to strengthen...then to go forth and act on those promptings, serving, loving and lifting others.