Sunday, October 6, 2019

General Conference fun times

This post will be short. I just got back from Utah and I am tired.
I like Utah, but I am grateful I live in calm Rexburg. Traffic in Utah is insane especially around conference. I am grateful I didn't get stuck in traffic that much though.

Conference was amazing. I would say this conference impacted me most. I feel I need to change. We live in a time where we can't just switch to cruise control and move along. I feel that is what I have been doing. I go to work, go to church and do the bare minimum to survive. I need to be working on making my spirit grow and improving and serving. 

I am so grateful for a loving prophet. I love President Nelson. He surprised us (the translation team) by announcing the temples in the women's session. As he gave his talk (which I translated), he did add the part where he said he wanted us all to be part of his family. This was not in the original talk. I loved how Akram interpreted the talk. It was the most powerful talk in Arabic and English. Akram even said he was moved almost to tears as President Nelson spoke. He said he felt the prophet's love for the women of the church. 

I am so amazed that there are women that feel left out in the church. I mean it was clear from the prophet's talk that we are powerful beyond measure.

I have had a cough all week and chest pains the last few days. I went to a doctor and he said nothing is wrong. I am actually mostly fine if I don't have to speak. I have had such a hard time teaching on Thursday and Friday. It hurts to speak and I feel tired all the time. 

I was worried about interpreting for general conference. I don't think they want someone coughing as they interpret. I did Ok for most talks, but when I did the women's session, my voice died. Well, I did the conducting for sister Jones, then the prayer, then sister Aburto's talk...then by the time I had to do sister Cordon's talk I could not speak. I feel I ruined her talk. I have to go listen to myself in Arabic and see how bad it really is...And her talk is amazing and important for me since I serve in Young Women. I translated her talk and got to memorize the YW theme before anyone in the church even saw it. 

Anyway, she was speaking super fast and I could not keep up. And I kept wanting to cough and drink water and could not pause. I was going to die towards the end.  I have decided to write a letter to Elder Rasband and complain about the fast speakers!! Why can't everyone speak as slowly as Elder Rasband, or president Nelson??! I mean imagine someone standing up in church and reading a talk so fast. This is what it feels like we do when we get a fast speaker. Like we are reading super fast and the talk loses it's meaning.

Elder Bednar's talk was interesting. I loved it, but the translation team had a nice conversation about the Arabic words for some of those animals. It felt like we were doing National Geographic!

I got to see a few of my favorite people during conference. I saw Sharon Eubank and Susan Porter...and of course our amazing translation team. I also got to say hi to Elder Gong and take a picture with sister Craig. You run into people when you have dinner at the church office building I guess.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

A dustpan at a time

I am discouraged and think maybe I should stop writing every week. Not many read my posts anymore and I honestly don't have much to say. I sometimes feel like this is my journal and I write weekly, but I feel I don't share too many personal things here and I do need an actual journal.

I was just reading my journal from 1996. Wow, the amount of pressure my parents and family put on me to leave the church. The constant criticism, mocking, threatening and yelling. And worst of all, the silent treatment where they won't speak to me at all. Telling me to leave the house. Not letting my friends come to visit me...and when they do come they would get in arguments with them about religion. This went on every day all day. 

There were days when I doubted my belief. Days when the persecution got to be too much and I didn't know what I believed anymore.  I was sick for days, physically and spiritually. Yet in my journal I talk about how, even while sick, I got up and served my family and helped around the house. Somehow I kept going.  I would get up and listen to my parents complain then I would go to church anyway, then after church I would run to work (I had to teach in Hebron on Saturdays that year). Then I would come home and grade papers and work in the house while listening to constant criticism and mocking. 

One day my father needed help to clean our well. No one was willing to help him, but I was. To clean the well, we had to haul all the remaining water from it and scrub it. On bucket full at a time. But, when there was little water left, I remember using a dustpan to get the water out...Hundreds and hundreds of dustpans of water. I made a comment in my journal saying that I realized something that day "you can accomplish much by doing a little at a time". It is interesting that a seemingly impossible task (lots and lots of water) could be accomplished using a small dustpan. 

There was one day in 1996 when I felt so tired. I was sick and pressure from my family was more than I could handle. I went in to talk to my branch president, but I couldn't tell him what was going on. I tried to talk to some friends from church about it, but they all seemed busy and so I felt alone. 

What kept me going that day? and every day? Well, I took it a day at a time. Every day, even the darkest day, had a split second where I saw Heavenly Father's love. Where I felt His spirit. I would reflect on my baptism and I knew that I knew then...Like the dustpan these little candles in my dark world brought me light and hope and kept me going. 

My strength sometimes also came from my family themselves. The same family who made life difficult for me at the time. When a sweet sister would make herbal tea instead of regular tea so I could join them and drink with them...when a brother would say that he was proud of me for standing up for what I believed...or when a member of the family would stand and defend me.  Those little moments meant the world to me. 

I hope that we never underestimate the effect we have on others that are struggling. Sometimes a simple word we say or a smile can be a lifeline to them to keep them going.

And if it is you who is struggling, then I say take life a dustpan at a time...If you can survive today, don't worry about tomorrow. Take small steps and eventually you will get there. The reward at the end of the road is great and it is worth it. You don't have to get there today or just have to keep walking, keep fighting, keep praying, and know that you have a Savior who loves you who is right next to you holding your hand (even if you can't see Him).

Sunday, September 22, 2019

He knows us...

Sorry for the short post...This happens when you have a crazy week at work and don't have time to do anything other than work.  Actually, I taught young women today. And I honestly did not have time to prepare a lesson. Between speaking assignments, translating conference talks, preparing for classes, and other things I felt like I was drowning. So, I said a prayer about my lesson and the instruction from the Lord came, 'have them teach'. So, I did.

I had the young women work in groups to prepare a short lesson about the Book of Mormon. They shared scriptures, quotes, and bore testimony of the Book of Mormon. I was instructed and fed spiritually. I love those girls!

The first week of the semester is over and it was fun. I have enjoyed meeting all the new students in my classes. I was so happy to have only a few students this semester, but in the last minute decided to add an extra class. So now I have a lot more names to work on memorizing. 

I am having a blast teaching Arabic. It is a lot of work, but it is fun. I hope my students are enjoying it as well.  I am not a language teacher, but I must say it is more fun to teach languages than it is to teach math. 

On Friday I spoke to the Relief Society sisters in a stake in Ammon. We had about 170 sisters come and it was fun to spend time with them and get to meet some amazing women. I often wish my brain could process all the names of people I meet and that I would remember everyone. I can't! I do meet a lot of people. I mean, at least 200 students every semester and over 200-300 a month because of my speaking assignments. 

I sat and visited with the sisters before I started my talk. After visiting with one sister for 10 minutes, she looks at me and says: "I heard the speaker is supposed to be amazing!" 
After telling her I was the speaker, she was embarrassed. She was, however, grateful she didn't say anything bad about the 'speaker'.

The focus of all the talks I have heard recently from prophets and apostles were similar. The main focus is that we are children of Heavenly parents who love us and want us to succeed and return back to them. The Savior knows us and He died for us. They know each of our names and know everything about us. They know what experiences will help us grow and become our best selves.

I just watched a story about a 9-year old girl. Her father told her to call 911 because he was having a heart attack. The ambulance was 2 minutes late! She says that if they were only two minutes early, she would have had her dad to raise her and would have spent her life happy with him. But instead, she was left alone, an orphan.
This girl spend her life learning about the heart and how to prevent heart attacks and how to predict them. She had a great influence in medicine and helped save many lives.

Some may think that it was a bad thing that she lost her father. But, her trial made her who she is. Her father was not meant to live, she was meant to learn from this experience and become the person she became. Heavenly Father knew that and He loved her and strengthened her through it all.

I have had a lesson each week from missionaries in the MTC who are learning Turkish. Yesterday they contacted me last minute. The missionary that taught me knew exactly what I needed to hear. Even in his broken Turkish he motivated me to become a better person. The three messages I got from the missionaries were:
1. Pray with purpose.
2. Repent every day.
3. Read the scriptures ever day.

It is clear to me that God does want to speak to us. We are His sons and daughters and if we seek to receive revelation, it will come. I need to be better at listening and acting upon revelation.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Lord's Work

I finally feel mostly ready to start the new semester. I am excited to teach Arabic. I feel the language needs to be learned and I am glad to have part in teaching it to the students at BYU-Idaho.

It has been great to be back in Rexburg. I do miss the food from home. I believe it took me 5 years to get used to fruits and vegetables that has no taste and now I have to start all over again. 

I had the opportunity of talking to the missionaries at the MTC who speak Turkish for the past two weeks. In their broken language, they were able to teach me great truths. It is amazing how much the Spirit can teach through someone who is simply willing to open their mouth and speak. Often words don't come out right, but the Lord fills in the blanks.

I have learned a lot from the general conference talks I have already read. I only read 5 and translated 2, but they were awesome as usual. I am glad that I got some early so I don't get stressed at the end of the month. I love general conference and the chance we have to be taught by living apostles and prophets. As the world around us gets more and more crazy, there comes the comforting knowledge that we will be OK as long as we stay close to the Lord.

I met 3 returning missionaries in the Salt Lake City airport. One of them served in San Diego and the other two served in Korea. My layover passed pretty fast as we talked about their mission and they shared with me the amazing experiences and faith they had.

At the same time in Salt Lake, I met a girl (well woman I guess, but she seemed so young).  Her name was Megan. She was about 18 and carried, in her arms, a cute 6-month old baby boy. She left the church when she was 13 and lived with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend was abusive.  Now, five years later, Megan had the courage to say enough! She took her baby on her own and left her past life.  She said she was going to start going to church as she lives with her parents for a while. 

Of all people, who did she run into at the airport? Well, 3 missionaries and me. She asked if we would pray for her, and we did, right there in the airport. 

I admire Megan and her courage.  We all need to look at our lives and say, "what do I need to change? How can I bring myself closer to the Savior? What major steps of faith must I take?"

Abuse is real.  I have suffered agony for the past month over one woman from my home town.  Her name is Isra'. She was beaten to death by her family.  The video recorded by a nurse of Isra' screaming while getting hit won't leave my mind. She came to the hospital the first time with severe bruises and a broken back. Yet out of fear I guess, she told people that she fell from the balcony.  A little while later, her family beat her some more causing her death. Why was she quiet? Why did she not go to the police after the first time?

For those of you who are suffering from abuse, I hope you have the courage, like Megan, to stand up and stop it. You are a child of God and no one, no one has the right to treat you badly. Please know your worth and know how much Heavenly Father and your Savior, Jesus Christ love you, no matter what.

We recently had a training in the church about how to protect children and youth. Some of the measures the church sets are extreme, but they are absolutely essential in a world of confusion. Heavenly Father loves His sons and daughters and He does everything to protect them. 

If you have been a victim of any sort of abuse, remember that the master healer is the Savior. No one else can make your pain and suffering go away. Turn to Him and let Him heal your wounds.

Tonight, I am speaking to a small group of missionaries about why I believe. There are many reasons for that. But, the main reason is that the Savior's healing hand has touched my heart. He has transformed my heart from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. He changed my life from darkness into light, from despair into hope. He is the reason...I'll end with my favorite song...
His hands song

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Where do I belong?

I was reading in my Journal from 1996 how one day I heard the Palestinian national anthem and it created feelings of belonging for me. I mentioned in my Journal how when I hear the American National Anthem,  I feel nothing. 

Back in 1996 I felt that I was Palestinian to the core. Every drop of blood in my veins was connected to this land. My roots, my family, my life, me...I felt loyalty to my land and felt there was no other word that can describe me. I proudly identified myself as "Palestinian". Whenever I heard a song about Palestine or saw our flag raised, something in me awakened. I read in my journal how we walked around town and saw people we know, and how we visited each other every day more than once. We were connected to each other and to this land. We traveled to other towns and so we even felt connected even to Palestinians from other cities. 

For some reason many of my people have lost that. Everyone seems to care about their own interests and no one else's. You have to have 'Wasta' to get anything done. If you don't know anyone and just wait in line like normal people, you will have to wait for hours. Cheating has increased, lying has increased and somehow many seem to spend hours staring at a small phone all day.  What is happening to my people? I guess this is also happening all over the world!

Luckily there are still some good people here. When I sat at the Jerusalem center the other day overlooking Jerusalem and thinking of all the hardships and the injustices going on in my country, I thought of Christ as He sat often on the mount of olives. I remembered Him saying that there will not be a stone left upon another here as He prophesied the destruction of the city of Jerusalem because of the wickedness of the people then.

I heard myself say: "Heavenly Father, are you going to destroy this city again?" I almost heard Him say, "No, there are still good people here." I saw in my mind the righteous good Palestinian mothers and others who are trying to do what is right.

I had an internal struggle on Saturday on my way to church in Jerusalem.
It mainly started at the checkpoint. I went through the maze of fences and wires and revolving metal doors and got to the counter and presented my magnetic card. The soldier waved me through. 
Here is a short video walking into the checkpoint through the doors. 

The same soldier that let me through denied entry to a Muslim woman about my age. She stood there crying and pleading with the soldier. My heart went out to her and I wondered, "Why me? Why was I allowed in and not her? Is it because she is wearing the veil? Is it because she is Muslim?" I felt guilty walking away. What made me different? And am I really different?

So, during the entire way to Jerusalem, I kept asking myself, 'Who am I? Why don't I feel like I belong here anymore?' It seems like I started to lose that sense of belonging to this country. I don't feel that I quite belong in the United States either. Why don't I feel the same way I felt in 1996? What happened to me? Am I becoming American?

I feel the United States has sided with Israel for many years and feel that the situation my people are in is partly the fault of the American government. 10 Million dollars per day get donated from the USA to Israel and Israel uses that money to buy weapons that are used against my people. Millions of US money was also used to build the separation wall that has torn our lives apart.  It caused my people to not be connected or unified anymore. Do I want to be American? 

I have struggled to belong all my life. I don't feel I belong in Palestine or in the USA. Where do I really belong? And who am I?

I thought a lot that day and also cried a lot. I had a mix of emotions that I never had before. As I rode the bus towards Jerusalem I looked around and saw all the houses that used to be Palestinian homes and now are Israeli homes...I felt that our fingerprints have been erased from many parts of this land. Have mine been erased as well?

I got to Jerusalem, the city of my birth and could not hold back my tears as I felt a lack of belonging. I felt like an outsider. But, then I discovered something that linked it all...

I walked towards the garden tomb, where Christ was buried. I pictured Him walking down the streets of Jerusalem, silent (like a sheep being taken to be killed), walking willingly towards the cross on which He would die. It was as if I heard the people yelling, mocking Him. Christ didn't belong! He was born here, grew up here, but He NEVER belonged. He did everything differently.  And He actually didn't need to belong!! He was the Son of God, and this was the world.
The tomb where Christ was buried:
The skull hill:

I found my connection to this land. But, it was not anything like my thoughts in 1996. My connection to the land was not the fact that I was Palestinian. My connection to this land was that I am a child of God. My connection to this land is that my Savior was here...that He created this earth, that He walked these hills and that, here is where he willingly walked towards the place where He would be crucified and die for me.

I am Palestinian because my Savior was also Palestinian. But, I also discovered something that connected me to America. In Provo, Utah I got to know my Savior. I learned about Him and His Gospel and discovered my identity. I love America because somehow it connected me to my Savior. So, I'll be happy to say I am American one day (when my citizenship papers are done).  
The Jerusalem Center:

Jerusalem Center Chapel overlooking the old city:

We sometimes find ourselves in places that seem different. We struggle to blend in and feel a sense of belonging. For those who do feel that way, I say: Once you belong to Christ and you put your life in His hands, you will feel that sense of belonging.  This world was created by Him. It does not matter where you live, His hand is there. The trees you look at every day, the hills, the clouds and the skies were all made by Him. He is there and is in every part of your life. 

The truth is, none of us should feel we belong in this world. The world has become wicked. We don't need to blend in with those that commit sin. We should stand out and be different. Our Savior was different! He stood out and rose above the world...We also need to take His hand and walk with Him and be different. My life belongs to Him, my heart belongs to Him. He is my Savior and Redeemer...the one who shed blood for me in my beloved Palestine.
Here are some of His words from the book of Matthew. Words that show that the Lord's ways are not the ways of the world:
"It hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy...But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you..."
"Whosoever shall smite thee on they right cheek, turn to him the other also..."
"Ye have heard it was said...Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."
"Ye have was said, Thou shalt not kill, But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement." (Matthew 5)

This song along with the Palestinian dancers at Gaza University says it all... Click HERE to listen.
"According to my covenant and my religion, on my land you will find me, among my people to whom I will sacrifice my blood is Palestinian."

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Orphaned people

Many would say we are an orphaned people. I didn't understand the depth of this until I saw the Qaisiyah family all alone beside the ruins of their home. This is the third time the Israeli soldiers have demolished their home. Their house and restaurant was built on a hill overlooking the beautiful hills of Beit Jala (a town near Bethlehem). They own the land, but according to the Israeli soldiers, they have no right to build on their land. 

Click HERE to watch a video of the demolition

The lawyer who the family hired to defend their case was bribed by Israel and left the case. The new lawyer was able to get a new court order to stop the demolition, but the soldiers did not listen.

The father (owner of the property) decided to take everything out of the restaurant and burn it. He did not want to give the soldiers the pleasure of taking it from him. Initially we see him opening a bottle of champagne acting really crazy during the demolition. When we visited he was lying in his bed (in the outdoors) under a tent suffering from high blood pressure and not feeling well due to the trauma of the whole thing.

The flowers and landscape seemed beautiful until you see all the family's furniture piled on top and the once beautiful home and restaurant (you can see that at the start of the video) as a pile of rubble. Here are some pictures I took there.
View from the restaurant:

I actually felt guilty taking pictures of the remains of this family's life. Their clothes, toys, dishes, couches...etc were scattered everywhere. And they were sitting in the heat of the sun outside in disbelief. 

When my brother Mazin offered to help, the family seemed to have little hope. They kept saying, no one will stand by us. It is the same every time. Even the Palestinian Authority wanted this to happen. But in between their many hopeless words they kept repeating: "We are going to rebuild, that is the only thing we can do!" 

I honestly don't know how someone has the motivation to rebuild their home 3 times! But, they keep doing it. It is their land and they believe they have the right to build in it.

I don't think I have been this hot in all my years in Rexburg. I think this will surely help me appreciate the cold weather. I seem to soak in sweat almost every day. 
I go home Tuesday morning. I have enjoyed spending time with my family. I ate all the foods I missed for 5 years. Today my sister and I had breakfast at Afteem restaurant (the best falafel in the country) and tonight we will have a BBQ at my nephew's house. 
We also went out to eat a lot. This was a fun day with my sister Suhair, her daughters and daughters in-law. Great seafood!

Family makes this place priceless. Even though it is so hard to live here, there is something here that does not exist anywhere else: Family (and good food)...

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Home sweet? home...

I meant to write a blog post on Sunday, but for some reason I forgot. Don't ask me what I do all day, somehow each day keeps ending without me doing anything productive. 

I spent a lot of time going through my stuff. My old clothes, papers, books, and other things. I donated 13 bags full of clothes. Who knew I had that many old clothes and shoes. There is still so much more to go through. 

It has been good and painful at the same time to look at old memories. I want to keep all of it...I want to take it with me to the US and keep it forever. All of these memories are a piece of me. But, I can't take it...there is so much. I used to keep everything when I was at BYU. All these notes people left me, all the pictures and fun things we did.

I am also taking pictures (scanning) of my old Journals. I used to be good at writing in my Journal. Now, I do my blog and call it good. It is fun to review old memories and how our lives used to be. I may share some Journal entries here at some point. I would like my journals typed, but after doing half of the first one, I realized it is a project that has to wait until I retire and have nothing to do.

Last Monday I went with my sister to get a 'magnetic' card. Israel started allowing Palestinians to pass through the Bethlehem checkpoint using that card without the need of a permit. It was a day I will never forget. It reminded me what it is like to be a Palestinian!

We got there at noon, even though some people were there since 7. The machine that gives numbers was broken. People decided that the only way to get in is to line up by the door. Well, line up isn't quite the word you can use to describe what they were doing. The room was small, maybe 15 by 10 feet. There were at least 300 people in the room. 200 of them lined up by the door. The temperature inside was over 110 degrees. The only way to get in was to squeeze yourself between the people. There was literally no space between you and the persons behind you, in front of you and to your sides.
We stood in that position for 3 hours. Every half an hour, the soldier, would come out and yell at us and tell us to get a number (not understanding that the machine does not work). Every hour the soldier would admit maybe 5 people. But, after two hours, he stopped admitting people and said "I won't let anyone in until you go back and sit". Obviously, the first person in line was not going to leave their spot and go sit on the chairs. 

After the soldier yelled a few times my sister and I got out of line. Then nothing happened and we lost our place in line and had to line up again. I almost passed out two times because there is really no air and it hot and you are getting squeezed and pushed and shoved. People kept yelling at each other and fighting. Two people actually fainted, and because they did the soldier let them in. That was sweet of him!

Then the soldier came out and started admitting people who were not in line. People who just walked through the door got in before us. I finally squeezed myself with some of those people he was admitting and got in.

Inside there was some air conditioning so it was not hot. I waited in there for an hour before my turn came. When I came up to the window to submit my application, the Israeli soldier inside decided to take a break. I literally stood at the window while she ate a whole bag of chips, drank, chatted with fellow soldiers, and texted on her phone and completely ignored me. Then she finally decided to come take my application.

I finished and got my magnetic card and my sister and nephew were still in the horrible line outside. They finally came in and I waited for them to finish. The worst 5 hours I have ever spent. 

On Saturday I had to go to Jerusalem to try the magic card! The checkpoint was like a maze. Airport security x 1000000. But, they let me through! One hour and I was in Jerusalem. 

It was nice to be at the Jerusalem center again. I missed it so much. It was great to see some familiar faces. Because even though this is my old branch, there are so many changes and people coming and going that I end up not knowing people. I guess now if someone asks me if I am 'visiting' I won't be shocked. 

I went to renew my drivers' license last week as well. I have been in the USA too long and forgot how things work here. There are like 10 people that work there, each of them has a specific task. You can't go to one person and get everything done. One person takes the picture, one person collects the money, one person fills the form, one person stamps it. We transferred the ownership of my car to my sister and that also took so many people. We got maybe 7 stamps on the application, each from a different person and we had to go back and forth so many times. We were there 2 hours even though we had the manager helping us and we skipped all the lines. 

The bank is the same way. I went to transfer my money to my US account. There is someone who converts currency and someone who gives you a price for conversion and someone who actually transfers the money and someone who you can withdraw money from.  I had to keep going back and forth from one agent to the other. No wonder they never get anything done.

The number of cars in my town has increased dramatically. There are so many cars in the streets that you always get stuck in traffic. You can't ever get anywhere if you are a polite driver. You have to force yourself in the road otherwise no one lets you in. And I feel I am going to die every time I am on the road.  This is what happens when you have population growth for 5 years with a wall around your city. But, also more people are buying cars. I'm glad I don't have a car while here!

I have mixed feelings about being here. It feels like home, but at the same time it doesn't. I am glad I came because I now realize I can't live here. My body just can't handle the stress of it all. 
I walked to the garbage can at the end of the road the other day carrying three heavy bags of trash. My arms felt like they would fall off...I saw my cousin on the road. He said hello. He didn't talk to me much (I have not seen him in 5 years!) or offer to help me. If I was in my street in Rexburg carrying three bags of trash and walking I would have everyone offering to help me.

I love my country...the food has been amazing. Thanks to my sister Suhair who insists on feeding me every day and my mom who keeps insisting that I eat fruit. I love the land, the olive trees, our grape vine, the fresh air...But, I am sad to say I can't live here. Life here is hard. 

I need my hot shower in the morning. Today the water didn't even get warm (it is usually warm). It was freezing cold. Yes the weather is hot, but freezing water is not something I want to jump in early in the morning. I don't want to dust every hour (because there is so much dust). And I am getting so sick and tired of sweating. The weather cooled off a bit, but I am so glad I don't have to go anywhere. I am glad my sweet sister drives me everywhere. It is just too hot to walk and go places.

And our 50 year old house is falling apart. Our fridge is so old and rusty and my mom refuses to let me buy a new one. Our sinks don't work (I'm getting someone today to get them somewhat functional). And our lemon trees are dying because there is no water. We have had no running water for almost a month now! My mom bought some water and filled our well. the volunteers next door were coming and showering at our house for a while because they had no water.  Our back yard looks horrible. Everything is dead...

I am going to stop complaining...This is all good for me, it helps me realize how blessed I am to be living in Rexburg. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

I'm home

I had a fun week with my brother Maher and his wife. We went to YellowStone, went to Mesa Falls and floated a river. Here are some pictures.

Yes, that is Elk...We saw some buffalo too. My brother complained and said he wanted to see deer too, but he saw some on the way home (so mission accomplished).

 Sad that my sisters didn't get to see this place which I think is the nicest waterfall in YellowStone. I am glad my brother got to go. Even though he was tired and wanted to go home.

We went to the Idaho Falls temple visitors' center. My brother can always give the missionaries their hardest mission experience.

Finally found the perfect spot for putting his feet in the river:

And we got to sit in the hammocks even if it was for 30 seconds before we had to hurry and grill the meat before the rain storm:

We could not start the coals on fire fast enough to cook the meat and corn (and we forgot to bring a lot of things). But, we lucked out because we had time to eat it and pack up everything before it poured rain on us. Camping is not fun in the rain when you don't have a trailer. But, this mini-trip was the closest to camping we could get. I just chose poorly on the day. I didn't know it would rain.

We floated the river on Monday. I am glad we didn't go on the fast river. This was a sloooow relaxing river float, but too short. My brother wanted to go down the river again, but we were already hungry and we couldn't figure out how to easily repeat the process. 

My brother left on Tuesday and I left to go home on Thursday last week.
After a long 40-hour long trip I arrived in Palestine. I had a 7-hour lay over in Paris which was quite interesting. I did not sleep on the plane at all and could not sleep in Paris because the airport was so busy with no comfortable chairs. The the airline kept switching gates on us. They switched the gate at least 6 times. It was funny as all the passengers kept going back and forth from one gate to the other. People were not helpful. Apparently, the only person that could give you information about which gate your plane will take off from is the person in charge of that particular flight (who comes to the ?? gate right before the boarding starts). You can't ask another Air France employee, you can't ask someone who works at that gate unless they are the ones assigned to your flight. 

They don't have TVs that show departing flights except outside the terminal. So, the Air France guy wanted me to go to all the gates in the terminal and check each sign (the TV by the gate) to find out which gate my flight is taking off from.  I am not sure what kind of system they have there, but I thought an Air France agent can look up flight information online! I guess not in Paris. I have their airline APP and that was confusing me too because it did keep switching gates there too. I even had two seats assigned to me! weird...I used to like Paris airport. Now I hate it. No wonder they lose bags. I mean if their agents don't even communicate with each other, how will they ever accomplish anything!

Sadly, I am stuck flying Air France a lot because Delta is the only airline I can take right out of Idaho Falls. I do like Delta, they have been nice and their planes are good. I guess I get stuck with their partner Air France whenever I want to go home.

I left my house in Rexburg at 11 a.m. on Thursday. I arrived in Jordan at 1 a.m. on Saturday. I went to a hotel and slept from 2:30 a.m. until 6 a.m. I had a quick breakfast and headed to the bridge. I paid extra money ($110) to enter the bridge through the VIP fast service (well, it wasn't fast this time). I waited 3 hours hoping that my name would be called and it would my turn. We finally got on a car and headed to the Israeli bridge. On the way we passed 10 buses of people going the 'normal' non-VIP way and passed long lines of people waiting in 110 degree heat outside. So, paying extra was worth it.

I arrived home at noon on Saturday.  There was a flight leaving from Paris to Tel-Aviv. If I could have gotten on that flight, I would have made it home way sooner. Sadly, I am not allowed to fly into Tel-Aviv. I actually don't know if I want to. I remember the extensive search and interrogation that I used to go through in the 90's when we would fly out of Tel-Aviv. And waiting for your permit that only comes last minute and being unsure if they are going to let you leave. Too much stress.

The country is the way I left it. Well, except there are many more cars and the drivers are even more crazy. I am glad I am not going to drive here. It was nice to see all the family. All my sister's grandchildren are so big now. Some of them didn't even exist or were so little when I left. It felt good to see everyone. My mom has aged a lot in the last 5 years. She is weak and struggles to walk and do certain things. I am so grateful I got to see her again.

I went to church today in the Bethlehem branch. People kept commenting on how many were attending church today. I guess many people don't normally come to church (except to see me ha ha). 

My sister and I are going to go get a magnetic card tomorrow (that is what we call the Israeli security card). I think it is basically a card that says you are not a trouble-maker according to the Israeli military. We will be waiting long hours in line in order to get the card. People tell me that now if you have that card you can enter Jerusalem without the need of a permit. So, I really want one. 

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The Gospel Shall roll forth...

I worked a few days this past week trying to set up my Arabic class for Fall semester. I finally have a basic structure which makes me feel such a relief. I can add things and improve as the semester goes on.

I went camping with Danae on Thursday. We went for a walk in Herriman state park which was nice aside from the mosquitoes. But, I guess you can't avoid those this time of year.

I will post some pictures below:

Although this guy below looks cute, my friend was telling me the other day that she got a university van to go on a trip....and a rock chuck went inside the hood and chewed up all the wires in the car. they had to come tow the car away. They couldn't even make him get out of the engine area. The mechanic was not trained to remove rock chucks apparently.

Why do you go camping people ask me? it is not convenient. You don't have the normal conveniences of life.  That's true (even though camping in a trailer gives you a lot of the conveniences). It did feel good to take a shower after two days of camping. Camping makes me appreciate those things we often take for granted like electricity and hot showers. No, I don't go camping to learn more gratitude although that is a good part of it. I go camping to relax. Camping takes me away from my daily busy life to a place where I can't sit on my phone or computer all day, a place where I get up and walk in nature, where I can enjoy the beauty around me. 

My brother Maher is coming to visit on Thursday and then a few days after that I go home. I am so excited and can't wait. I still have a lot more shopping I have to do though.

Some friends of mine came to visit tonight. I invited them to dinner and we talked a lot about the church in the Middle East. My friend told me about some amazing things that are happening with church growth among the Arabic speakers. I think with the way things are going the church may really start to spread in the Middle East soon.

My friend referred me to the chapters about the sons of Mosiah and their mission to preach among the Lamanites. This relates to the Middle East. I mean when they went there to preach to the Lamanites, everyone thought they were crazy. They all thought there is no hope. But, they brought many to the knowledge of the Savior.

In Alma chapter 27 we read:
"3 Behold, I answer for you; for our brethren, the Lamanites, were in darkness, yea, even in the darkest abyss, but behold, how many of them are brought to behold the marvelous light of God! And this is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.
Behold, thousands of them do rejoice, and have been brought into the fold of God.
Behold, the field was ripe, and blessed are ye, for ye did thrust in the sickle, and did reap with your might, yea, all the day long did ye labor; and behold the number of your sheaves! And they shall be gathered into the garners, that they are not wasted."
Once the gospel starts to grow in a certain area, there is no hand that can stop it. It will spread fast and many will come to the knowledge of their redeemer, the Son of God.
I am so excited for these last days before the second coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I know bad things will happen (they already are), but I also know amazing things will happen. As president Nelson describes it "it is going to be exciting!".

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Yay the long semester is over!

I am so glad this semester is over. I think the last month in the semester was a year long! I finished the material early so I didn't have class on Thursday and Friday this week. But, I had plenty to do with grading and answering students' questions.

I had the best group of students in my Math221 class this semester. I don't know what made this group so different. I don't know if I said something or did something to make them work harder and understand the material better. But, whatever I did, I want to do it again! I feel sad because I will miss their enthusiasm and energy. Sadly, I don't get that every semester. 

We have graduation on Tuesday then I am off school until beginning of September. I do need a break, I'm tired! 
I had a long week because we had 4 people on campus to interview for a position in our department. We went to lunch with them and dinner with them and had meetings to decide who to hire. After going out to eat 5 times in three days, I could not do it anymore. I guess there is a limit as to how much food you can eat. 

I am amazed as I look at the faculty we have at BYU-I and how each of them are amazing and perfect in their own way. Each of them adds a unique skill to our department. I am so blessed to work with such amazing people. We involve the Lord in making decisions about who to hire and He guides us. It is just different and special. One of the people we interviewed did well yet I specifically felt we should not hire them.  

One of my students was talking to me the other day and telling me I could easily get a better job with a PhD in Statistics. I told him that I can't (maybe I can get higher pay, but not a better job). This is the best job I ever had.

My brother Maher and his wife are coming to visit next month (well, in 10 days). Then after they leave I will head home! Yay!

I had the opportunity to volunteer to clean the temple last week. I am always busy when our ward has a turn to do it. But, this time I was not busy and decided to do it. Everyone says the temple is so clean and they feel that they are not really cleaning. Well, I think one of my jobs was to clean something that was not really clean - the bathroom floors. I scrubbed, but felt I didn't have the right tools to make it super clean (and this is after using a high tech machine and a scrubbing broom). Some of my other jobs was to clean the doors (and yes, those were clean so I felt like I was not cleaning much), and lockers, and walls (??). 

It was amazing how detailed the instructions we received were. We are specific about taking care of the house of the Lord. Everything has a certain way it is cleaned and you have to follow instructions. It was fun though. I was so tired and sore afterwards.

I also got to clean the church building yesterday. I often wonder why so many people (even young girls and boys) are willing to come to volunteer to clean their church? It helps us appreciate it more and take care of it more. The church could easily hire someone to clean it. But, that takes all the blessings from the members who come to do it.

I had pain in my leg the last two days. I don't know what it is, but it is not the kind of pain I used to have (it is a little different). I hope it gets better. I have a hard time walking and have been slightly limping today and yesterday.  I think doing 3 hours of yard work and cleaning the temple was too much. I probably just need to rest. I'm glad I am not doing much in the next few days.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Revelation from God

We had girls' camp this past week. I went on the last night, but it was fun to spend some time with the young women. I loved to see how they serve each other and care about each other. They really had a good time (except when they were being bitten by mosquitoes and horse flies). 
I have enjoyed my calling; serving with amazing leaders and girls. My lesson today in Young Women was about receiving personal revelation.

One girls shared how she felt a prompting from the Holy Ghost to serve a mother and her baby in an airplane and others shared how the Holy Ghost prompted them to be in a certain place to help someone.  

I had often thought that we have a silent God who hears prayers, but would never speak to me.  I discovered and learned later on, throughout the years that the more we listen to Him, the more He communicates with us.  Having a parent that is quiet all the time is unusual. What if you always speak to someone and they never respond? God wants to speak to you! He is your Father.

I want to share a favorite quote from President Russel M. Nelson:
"Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknessesyes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will grow into the principle of revelation.
Does God really want to speak to you? Yes!"  

What I like about that quote from Pres. Nelson is that we can become better at receiving revelation. We can learn to be better at listening to God.

I often don't listen carefully enough to hear what God has to say. I say my prayers and I go to bed right away, or go about my day. I don't wait to hear what He has to say.  He speaks to us through feelings in our heart. And even sometimes in dreams. I heard His voice, it is real and it is clear. We just need to listen.

I had the girls talk for 20 seconds during the lesson. As they talked, I told them 3 things. None of them heard what I told them. "Wait, you said something?" a lot of them commented. We need to be still and quiet to hear God's voice. We need to be still to hear the still, small voice of the Spirit.

We have a Facebook page for those that are interested in our Church. The other day I saw a comment on there that I found interesting. The comment was from a Muslim man from Iraq. He said that he saw a few dreams in the past, and then his dreams started coming true. He said that in 1990 he dreamed about the war in Iraq and it did happen. He dreamed about other things that ended up happening too.

Then he said that he had a dream in 1990 about the second coming of the Savior. He said he believes the second coming is close because the events he saw happen before it are already starting to be fulfilled. He said he saw that there were many following the Savior, but many were not. 

He said that ever since his dream in 1990 (for almost 30 years now) he has been looking for someone who looks like those that were following the Savior. He said they looked different, and so all his life he has been looking for someone who looks like them.

He said he finally found someone the other day! He found out that this person is a member of our church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). He did not learn much about this man because he only spoke English so they could not communicate. But, he found our Facebook page and is interested in the church because of his experience.

Now, I don't know if this person really has visions. And I don't think that is the point I want to make. What I am trying to say is that God is real, He does speak to everyone if they listen. 

The second coming is closer than we all think. As the time gets closer to that amazing event, things will get worse. We need the Holy Ghost to comfort, guide and direct us during these difficult times.
Here is another one of my favorite quotes from Pres. Nelson's talk:
"Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory. But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost."
I include the talk at the end here if you want to listen to the whole thing: (I think I listened to this talk 10 times and still find new things in there)

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Brief Post

I don't have much to say. The semester is almost over and I am so grateful for that. I can't wait to get a break from teaching. I have a lot to look forward to this summer. Some of my family members are coming to visit then I am going home in August. I am so excited to be able to go home.

I spent July 4th working on my garden and planting flowers. I avoided the parade just because it is always so crowded. I meant to go to watch fireworks, but after I was done with yard work I was so tired I could not even move. So, I stayed home and watched some of the fireworks my neighbors did.  It seems like the US spends 1 billion dollars on fireworks during July 4th! Strange! That is a lot of money. 

We had class on Friday, the 5th. Many of my students didn't come to class. I understand that they all want to be with family on this day...I wish I didn't have to go to class either :)

I left after work on Friday and went camping with my friend and her family. 
The weather was perfect...and other than a few mosquito bites, it was a perfect camping trip. There is nothing more relaxing than sitting in the hammock looking at the trees and sky.  All your stress dissolves as you listen to the birds and watch the tall trees bending with the wind.

How do such tall trees manage to not break in the strong Idaho wind? They bend well I guess.  They are so tall but they are not thick. Sometimes bending when trials come is an important skill to have. When the wind is too strong we bend and get on our knees and pray for the strength to be able to survive our storm.

Meanwhile in the town where my cousin lives in California they had two major earthquakes. I have never been in an earthquake, nor do I know what to do when one hits.  It is scary that things like that can happen when we don't expect them. Thankfully my cousin and her husband are fine. We need to always be prepared. And just like the trees, we need to reach for the heavens and stand tall and look upward. So that when hard things happen, we will be able to survive them.

Here is me in my hammock: