Sunday, December 30, 2018

Happy New Year from Warm Arizona with pictures

I am having a great time in Arizona. The best part is being able to see green grass (yes even in the middle of the desert) and plants and trees with leaves. It has been one of the coldest weeks they have here, but it is still 30 degrees warmer than Rexburg.

I was able to see some of my old friends from BYU days. Some of them I have not seen in over 20 years. They still look the same! 





Bryce (my friend who baptized me) also came to Gilbert and we went to the temple together. It was nice to see some old friends and catch up. The Gilbert temple was beautiful.



I am staying with Bob and Sue Allen who I knew from the Jerusalem center. They are still as amazing as I remember. I love this couple, they just serve others every day of their lives. They have done everything in their power to make my stay here enjoyable. They planned a fireside for me to speak and they have been bragging about me to everyone they see. Even the people in the street who they don't even know. 

On Friday, they took us to a Lebanese Restaurant. It was amazing food and great company. We got to watch the belly dancer also. The guy was playing live music and kept playing Fairouz (my favorite singer) and it made me feel like I was home!
 


My sweet friend Meridith drove me to Tuscon where I met with my cousin Rana and her husband. It was nice to see them and spend time with them.
Who knew the desert could also be beautiful sometimes...Only when it is not too hot.
 



We went to Christmas lane to watch the lights...sorry not great pictures:
 



And we fed the fish that seemed so full and spoiled...
 


 Wait, a waterfall? In the desert?



I finally got to go to the 'Giving Machine'. There are very few of those in the world. Our Church started these and it has been a great success. They partner with various charities around the world. Our church pays all the fees of getting the things and so all the money we donate goes directly to the people in need. I got to donate: two chickens, a fish farm, and clothes for refugee children.
 




It was so easy to donate using these machines that I had to walk away because I would have kept buying things.  You could donate vaccines, school supplies, air fare for refugees, food, ...etc. I almost bought the goat and donated that, but the chickens were cheaper. 

This morning the Allens had a baby blessing in their home for one of their great grandsons. They have a very big family (9 children and 50 grandchildren-almost). We had 70 people over at their house and it was nice to see everyone. We will see how many names I remember by the end of this trip!

I hope that this new year will bring you and your family blessings and happiness. I promise you that as you follow our Savior, you will find an increase of love and joy this coming year. I see the difference in families that have the Savior at the center of their lives and those who don't.  And His name shall be called wonderful, counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting father, the Prince of Peace...and that He indeed is! He brings peace and joy into our lives.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Merry Christmas

Christmas came fast! I had a lot to do before, but I didn't have time to get everything done. I really didn't want this season to be very busy, but that is almost impossible.

I got many gifts from people, neighbors and friends. Thank you all for remembering me and reminding me that this season is about giving and loving.

I even got a gift or two from my students. And the one that gave me the plant below was not really trying to get extra points because she already had an A in the class. She was so sweet to think of me.


I got to meet a young woman yesterday who has a testimony of the gospel and wants so badly to join the church. Sadly, she needs her parents approval and they won't give her permission (at least not yet). She has a strong testimony and knows in her heart the gospel is true. One of her family members beat her really badly just because she was wanting to convert to Christianity. He broke her back and arm. Yet, she is still determined to seek after this new faith and she dreams of getting baptized one day.  

I hope that we can learn from her example and defend our faith and stand as witnesses of Him who came to earth as a humble babe and grew up to be our Savior and Redeemer. 

As I look at beautiful sunsets (even this one that happened at about 4:30 pm on the shortest day of the year) I am grateful for our creator who made this beautiful world. He coordinated all the colors to make everything so amazing and magnificent. 


 I went to the temple the other day. The ordinance worker looked into my eyes and said she felt how much Heavenly Father loved me. She didn't have to tell me, I knew how much He loves me. I am so blessed. Every time when I reflect on my life I see His hand in it and see how He has walked with me every step of the way. 

I am grateful I have a family that allowed me join the church and practice my faith. My mother is a great example to me of service and love. When I talked to her the other day she wanted to make sure I was taking my vitamins and was worried what would happen if I slipped and fell since I live alone. I assured her that I have neighbors and friends here that watch over me.

I still miss being with family during the holidays. My sister had a little party today and she distributed the gifts I sent to her grandchildren. It was nice to see them smile and enjoy the little gifts I sent. But, my heart longs to be there...I am now thinking that I should go home for Christmas instead of the summer so I can celebrate the holidays with my family. But, I wish the trip there did not take 3 days. It makes our 2-week break too short to go back and forth. I am thinking it is about time science invents a machine that can transfer you anywhere you want to go in the world. Don't you think we need that?

I am grateful for the Romrell family who has adopted me into their family. I spend Christmas with them almost every year and it is as close as I can get to spending it with my family. Even the 94-year old grandmother sent me a card with money the other day for Christmas. When I called her to thank her, she said she sends money to all her grandchildren for Christmas. She said: "I used to have 31 grandchildren and now I have 32!" 

Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you will enjoy this season. But, I hope that in our busy time as we try to buy gifts and cook and travel that we don't forget why we have Christmas. I loved this message my friends sent me for Christmas. They said that all would be lost if it was not for the Savior. And they mentioned the hymn "away in a manger" and said that if we add a space we will understand that because of Him there is "a Way in a manger". He provided a way to save us. Without Him there would be no resurrection, without Him there would be no salvation, no joy, no peace, no hope...He is the way, the only way. The babe in the manger is the way.

Here is a video that I wanted to share at the end...
Click here to watch the video

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The end is in sight

A few more days and the semester will be over. This has been a good semester, but it was more busy than normal and I will be so glad when it is over!
I am getting less and less interest in my blogs. I am thinking of discontinuing it and starting one in Arabic instead. 

Things are starting up again back home and innocent people are again being harmed. I hope there can be justice and peace someday in my land. I watched a video that made me sad about all the Palestinian children being held in Israeli prisons. I don't know how a child would be mentally ok after being interrogated and staying in jail for months. Once this is all over, IF it ever does, someone will have to fund massive psychiatric help for the Palestinians.  
 
The weather here has been cold, but not too cold. It is not in the negatives (Fahrenheit). I am so close to becoming a local. Because I already don't think freezing temperature is cold. I don't think it gets cold until it is about -10 or so Celsius. I even find myself saying to myself "it is 32 F (0 C), no need for a jacket". 

I guess you know you live in Rexburg when you see your neighbors using a snow mobile on the road and skiing on the road. And when hilly roads are used as ski slopes. And when you see people in T-shirts and shorts when it is 32 degrees F (0 C). Actually, people here seem to wear short sleeves even in -10 degrees. I'm not there yet and don't know if I ever will be. But who knows.

We have finals this week then graduation on the 19th. I will have to grade a few exams and then we will be done. I am looking forward to having a few days to rest before I head to Arizona.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

People are Good

I am surrounded by good people here. I can't believe how kind and good some people here are. The world is not that dark after all. There is light all around us, but sometimes it is hard to see.

Last week we went to a humanitarian center. People there volunteer their time and money all the time. The person in charge actually said that they require reservations because they have so many people wanting to volunteer. They make quilts, toys, clothes, ...etc. and donate them to the poor and needy all over the area. We got to work on a quilt which was not necessarily my favorite thing to do, but it was nice to be able to help in a little way.

These are jump rope handles that people make out of wood and paint them. Then they braid fabric (I think) to make the ropes.


Here are some of the quilts we worked on:



There were even little children volunteering to color wooden toys that were going to poor families.

Yesterday, I tried to go to Walmart early before it starts to get busy. Sadly, it was already busy...but it was good because I got to watch the 'shop with a cop' program. This is where kids from families who are poor are given a chance to go to breakfast with a police officer then go with them and shop for Christmas gifts. All of the money for the gifts are donated. The children can choose anything they want. There were bikes that were bought, dolls, toys...

I also heard from my friend the other day that there is someone who donates 250 thousand dollars every year. This money is split up and $10,000 donations are given to families who need it. Last time they gave it to a family who took in 4 orphans after their parents committed suicide.

Americans are busy, they fill their lives with many things and end up with so much to do. Sometimes more than they can handle. But, as I see all the good that is being done around me, I am filled with gratitude. I'm grateful I live in such a place where there are good people who serve and give of their time and money to help those that are less fortunate. 

I always complain that the temple is busy when I go...but the other day I sat down and just looked around me and was again filled with amazement. People who are SO busy would take time to come to the temple to serve even those that are dead. 

Today our ward was split. It is always sad and exciting at the same time. We got a new bishop (but he's amazing) and we will probably have a bunch of new callings. I will miss many of our Young Women who will end up in the other ward. I am hoping I will get to stay in my YW calling. I do love serving with these amazing young women. I guess we will see what happens in the next few weeks.

The temperature finally dropped to the negatives (-3 F or -19.5 C). I feel it is too soon for that, but winter is here...And it is here to stay.  It did get warmer this week and the snow was even melting today.


Last week they had a live nativity in the center of town. They had a donkey, camels and people to do the Christmas scene. Sorry it was dark and there were so many people in front of us that it was hard to get a shot without having people's heads in it. I loved how in the end Santa came up to the manger and took off his hat and knelt.







I struggled with my Christmas tree this year. I was not too fond of my tree nor the decorations. I did my best this year to make it look better without spending too much money. I bought every possible decoration from the stores and kept trying them until I found something I sort of liked. I am glad I can return things here because nothing would quite match what I had already. I finally ended up making my own bow and doing my best to make it look nice.
 


Monday, December 3, 2018

Make a Difference

I got busy yesterday decorating my Christmas tree and I did not have time to write a blog post. I'm still not sure what to do with my tree to make it look good. I am so bad at this decorating thing. I am trying ribbon this year and am going to see if that makes a difference. I did not like what my tree looked like last year. I don't want to buy a new tree. I think I will buy one when they are on sale AFTER Christmas. But, for now I am going to make the one I have work.

I am writing a short post today to encourage you all to try to 'Light the world' this month. Sometimes I only do service to others during December, but it is better than nothing. I think what you do does not have to be organized, you just have to do something for others. Our church suggested the following order, but so far I have done only one thing to 'Light the World' and quite a few for "lighting my community".  Sometimes what you do is as small as sitting and listening to someone share their problems. Or giving a hug to someone and telling them they matter. Or giving a Christmas gift to someone you just met who really needs to be lifted.

Week 1: Light the World.
Week 2: Light your community.
Week 3: Light your family.
Week 4: Light your faith.
 
I have noticed that little things we do make a big difference. I guess this African proverb makes you understand what I mean: "If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven't spent a night with a mosquito." 


Last week, I got up and was late for work, but found out I have a few inches of snow on my driveway.  My snowblower would not work, no matter how hard I tried to get it running. So, I tried to shovel enough space to get my car out. Since I was trying to do it fast so that I am not late for work, I got really tired and my back started hurting. I left for work and had a really long busy tiring day. And all day I kept thinking about all the snow that I had to shovel when I returned home from work and how I was going to get my snowblower fixed.

I got home to find that Don Romrell (my friend's father) had come from Sugar City and shoveled all the snow from my driveway. Then after that he spent two hours trying to get my snowblower working. When he couldn't, he took it to his shop and fixed it and brought it back! I was speechless! There were a few times when someone's service has brought me to tears, but this one did because I was just so tired after a long day at work.

I have learned that things we say can also make a difference. They can prevent someone from ending their life, or giving them hope. One of my students who was trying to take his own life told me that a friend told him something that made a difference and made him change his mind about committing suicide. We don't know what people are going through. They could be THAT depressed and we would have no idea.

I gave a talk the other day, and one of the women in the audience came up to me and with tears in her eyes told me that what I said seemed to speak to her heart and that she really enjoyed my talk. I get people that say that sometimes and that really makes a difference to me.  But, this was the only time I have seen someone actually make a change in their life because of what I said. That is why what she said the following week touched me.

The same lady I mentioned came to my office the next week, and this is what she said:

"After your talk, I went and bought your book and was reading it all day. I could not put it down. My 6-year old daughter asked me what I was reading and asked me to read the book to her. I told her it was too difficult for her to understand, and I started just telling her about it. She said: 'No mommy, just read it.' So, I read to her the part where it talks about how you knelt down to pray to know the Church is true. My daughter looked at me and said: 'Mommy, I never prayed to know if the church was true, can we pray?' They both knelt down and prayed. After that they decided that before they ask, they should read the book of Mormon. So, they have been reading the Book of Mormon together every day." 

I am grateful for her and for her faith and for taking the time to come to my office to tell me that. It really meant a lot to me.

As I mentioned, the little things you do for others don't have to be big. Just let your light shine. That light within you does not come from you. It comes from the Savior who is the light of the world. The more you follow Him and are obedient to His commandments, the brighter that light becomes.

 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Fun Times

I did not do much during the thanksgiving break. I planned to work, but after working for 3 hours I was done.  I know the last weeks of the semester are going to be busy, but I'll survive.

I had a great thanksgiving. The Romrells are always so nice to have me over. I planned to go somewhere else for Thanksgiving, but it did not feel like family. The Romrells are as close as I can get. 
 I have been missing my family a lot especially during the holiday season.  It is hard when everyone gathers with family and I am alone. I talked to Alexa a lot on Wednesday just to feel I had someone to talk to (no, I'm not going crazy) at least not yet.

We did our craft project on Friday. It took longer than normal (well because I did two projects it took extra long). One project the 'HOME' blocks took forever. Then the one below, took a short time and turned out so cute. They are wooden blocks that we paint or stick paper on top of. We are really crafty! But, I think I have no place to put the blocks so I have to stop and do a different type of project.




   This is the one I did last year..



This may be the extent of my Christmas decorations. the block nativity is one I did last year as well. I am not too fond of my Christmas tree. I am thinking I will either invest in a new one, or just not put it up. The wooden Christmas tree on the left is one I also made. It is kind of ugly though since all they had was either gray paint or brown paint. Who does a gray Christmas tree? that's just depressing!
 

Here are a few pictures from Thanksgiving. Do you think we have enough pie??
 

The kids had fun with the little toys I got them...


I wanted to share the below pictures that my cousin sent me. I thought they were quite interesting. My cousin's wife died last week as I told you. These pictures are of the clouds right above the cemetery that day.

 A close up of the picture above...


 And this one too...This reminded me of the 3 wise men or of the shepherds. But, maybe 3 angels coming down. It's cool. By the way, these were the only clouds in the sky that day.
 
  
I will be in Arizona at the end of December. I am actually heading south for the winter (the goal is to get away from the snow for a little bit), but as a bonus I get to visit with great friends and family. I will be there from Christmas to new year's. I am giving a fireside in Gilbert on the 30th of December.  I would love to see you there if you live in the area. Please come and invite others.



Sunday, November 18, 2018

Gratitude

There is no way I could express how blessed I feel and how grateful I am for my many blessings. I hope that we all can reflect on the many blessings we have been given this week.

I am blessed to live here in this county. I spoke about Gaza to my students this week. Gaza is a city of 2 million Palestinians, the majority are refugees. It is densely populated (about 15,000 people per square mile). They have no electricity for half of the day, 90% of the water sources are not clean. Gaza is under siege by the Israeli soldiers. No one is allowed out, and very few supplies are allowed in. Many of the people there are without homes because their homes were destroyed by the Israeli attacks. The people there find reasons to be happy and grateful for what little they have. 

Are we grateful? For our clean water, our freedoms, our safety, for electricity, for our homes and for the ability to travel freely? If we forget to thank the Lord for these things, we should be.

I am grateful for my friends Blaine and Linada Gunther, who took the time to drive up from Utah this weekend to see me. It was so wonderful to see them and spend time with them.

We visited the Jones' family who entertained us by playing the piano for us and fed us breakfast. They also introduced us to their cute parakeet Demetri (I think that was his name). So, my mom had 450 love birds (same as Demetri) and I had no idea what great pets they can be. We kept them in cages and did not communicate with them. Amazingly, these birds talk!! I had no idea. I guess when you have 450 of them talking at the same time in one room you can't really hear what they are saying. Demetri said "thank you very much". He flew around and landed on everyone's shoulder. Luckily he didn't use mine for a bathroom. 




I have become famous and I actually have people come to see me and ask for my autograph and ask to take pictures with me. It is quite weird I must say.  But, I have been blessed by meeting so many people and learning from them and making new friends. I have given 3 talks this month and still have one more to give. The blessing of that comes from one individual (even though I spoke to over 200 people this month)...Someone like the sweet sister I met last week who said "your message was especially for me. I felt the spirit so strongly." I can't expect to change everyone's life, but if Heavenly Father gives me the privilege of touching 'one' person and making a difference in one person's life, that is enough.

I decided to go to Arizona for Christmas. I will be there between Christmas and New Years. So, I'm heading south again for the winter to have a break from the cold weather here in Rexburg.
 
I am grateful for my Savior and looking forward to celebrating His birth soon. I love this painting in the BYU-I center. He came to earth as a helpless little child for me and you. The words He taught helped me so many times. He died on the cross for me and you. Today He lives. He lives to guide me, comfort me, strengthen me and be my friend, my Savior and Redeemer.



Sunsets are so pretty here. The sun never sets without rising again, and because of Christ, no one dies without rising again. My cousin's wife just passed away from Cancer. She was an amazing woman. She too will rise again one day...because of Him...
 

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy lots of good food and pie...and Remember your blessings. Remember to thank your Heavenly Father for the gift of His Son.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Eating good and being good...

Ok, the title of each blog post is the hardest thing for me! It's hard to come up with a title to a bunch of random stuff!
 
I finally got my LDS living magazine. I feel famous now! Not that I didn't before. 
I went to a book club the other day and really felt famous because people were saying: "Can we take a picture with you?" and "you are my hero." 

I got an email from Elder Rasband today. He sent me some pictures, one of which is this one which I didn't have a copy of. He said he was looking through some old pictures and ran into those...

  
What a memorable meeting in Bethlehem that day. Here is another picture, which I did have...What a tender moment that was when sister Rasband asked all the children to come up and sing "I am a child of God." in Arabic. Our Bethlehem branch has more children than adults. There is so much hope in these children.



I had a busy week. We had interviews for new positions, we had to review applications and interview people over skype. 
I also had an exam that I had to grade. My students surprised me because they got the hard questions right and the easy questions wrong.  But overall, they did better than I expected. 

On Friday we went to the Cinderella play at the high school. Some of our young women were participating and we went to support them. I was so impressed at how good the acting and singing and dancing was! Those young men and women did an amazing job! We had two of our young women also play in the orchestra. The music was so beautiful. 

I went to a concert the other day in which my friend Danae was playing. Before we started the orchestra was practicing and each was playing on their own and it sounded horrible. Then after they start to play together, the music was amazing. How powerful is unity in creating a masterpiece. I hope we all can be unified like that because when we all work together under one conductor (the Savior Jesus Christ) amazing things happen.

I missed Palestinian food so much that I made some Mazza the other day. It was SO good. Well, not as good as the one at home, but it still brought a flavor of home. And all these salads too me half an hour only to make (See, I can be fast like my sister). The bread here is horrible and that does not help.




Today I missed Turkish food, so I made Borek. Well, without the right dough or right kind of cheese it was not as good. But, it was not that bad.

So, I tried to push BYU-Idaho into starting an Arabic class again. I was both happy and sad that they agreed. Happy because I want more people to learn Arabic and sad because they want me to teach the class!! That scares me because I have no idea how to teach languages and I am freaking out. But, I'm still excited that we will have Arabic classes back. They will do a trial first to see how it goes. 

I think more people need to speak Arabic. This helps them understand the culture and hopefully prepare people to teach the gospel to the millions of Arabs in the Middle East.
See maybe now I can make my book required reading, ha ha...

Our church talks today were amazing. Br. Meredith talked about how sometimes the little things we say can change people's lives. He spoke about how he encouraged his friend to join the Church and his friend ended up going on a mission and baptizing hundreds of people. His friend was told that the people would 'call his name blessed' and they did. 

Alternatively, sometimes when we ignore promptings and don't say what we should say to others then that could have bad results. He said his friend started drinking and gambling. He felt he should say something to help his friend, but he didn't...until one day when he heard that his friend died in a car accident because he was drunk.

We need to be nice as sometimes even the smallest things we say could change someone's life. We can be peace makers and influence people for good.


Sunday, November 4, 2018

It is going to be exciting...

I didn't have many kids come trick or treating this year. This is because our ward had something at the church building. I ended up with some candy left...and the rest I ate. I sat waiting for the kids to come and kept eating the candy. Some of the costumes were pretty creative. 

The kids that came did not pay attention to my cool light show, they just wanted the treats. I thought it was cool though to project those on the wall. 


Last week we had a stake activity for the youth where we gathered donations for the family crisis center. I could not believe how many donations came in. They filled a couple of truck loads or more. We went to gather things from our neighborhood then took it to the stake center and all the wards did the same.

So, my article finally came out in LDSLiving Magazine this month. They had initially approached me 7 years ago about doing a cover story on me. We went that summer to Salt Lake and drove in the middle of nowhere until we found a place near the lake that looked like the dead sea. I don't know if you can tell from the background. It took them hours to set up and take a few pictures. Then on the way back, we ran out of gas. There are no gas stations out there and there were none for miles. We felt we would run out of gas and get stranded there. We even had no cell service to call the other car that was with us. We simply said a quiet prayer and all of a sudden we found a gas station coming up. Our car continued to run for miles and miles without any gas. So, it was quite an adventure. I am telling you this so that you appreciate this picture on the front cover!


In case you don't physically get the magazine, below is a link to the article online...
Peace for a Palestinian Article - LDS Living Magazine

I actually didn't get my copy yet (still waiting), but I proof read the article so I am familiar with what they said. I should get some copies here soon. 

I spoke to my attorney yesterday. She is working on my green card case. I asked her if there is anything we can do to speed up the process. She said the only option is to get a senator to talk to them. She said since April of this year everything has been a mess. They have been denying cases and delaying cases like never before. She said I am one of the lucky ones who even got through the first steps. They have been asking for birth certificates from everyone, even she was asked for her birth certificates. She said a green card case was denied for a mother of 3 kids who has been in the US for a while now...and she has to return home.  She said that it has been so hard and she works late hours and is thinking of retiring early. Too much stress with all the new immigration procedures.

After hearing what she said, I decided to stop complaining and just wait. I am hoping my green card comes by next summer, but if it doesn't I am going home anyway. I am fasting and praying that I will get my green card by next summer. But, I am really not concerned because I feel this is where I am supposed to be and nothing will happen to prevent me from being here. It will all work out.


Here is a nice quote by President Nelson that I want to end with:
"We are witnesses to the process of restoration. If you think the Church is fully restored, you're just seeing the beginning. There is much more to come. Wait until next year, and then the next year. Eat your vitamins, get your rest. It's going to be exciting!"


I imagine that during the last days we won't have a usual year. Every year something will change...I am surely excited for the days to come.  I actually can't wait for the second coming. I had a dream about it once, and even though it was horrible (to see the destruction and natural disasters), seeing the Savior is worth every trial, every pain, and every loss that you may go through in this life...The feeling you have in your heart when you see Him again will erase every heartache, every sorrow, every tear, every doubt, and every despair you have ever felt.  I live for that day!