Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Spirit of Christmas

So it's Christmas. That means lots and lots of finals (BAH!!!), food (gain 10 lbs), family (:D), and fabulousness in general. Too bad I'm stuck in the endlessness of finals. I feel like I can't really focus on the wonder and spirit of Christmas because all I'm doing is studying (and writing blog posts apparently). How can I get the spirit of Christmas into my life without impeding on my studying? Or do I just need to not study as much and focus completely on Christmas? Your thoughts?

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Comedy of Errors

This week has been just that, a comedy of errors. So many different things have happened that I don't even know where to begin.

First off, Hollie and Taylor (my sister-in-law and brother) had their baby on Monday! After 14 hours of labor, Cadence Alyce Irving is the most perfect child I have ever seen, and I'm not biased either. Even though she was two and a half weeks early, she is absolutely perfect. I went to see her on Tuesday night, and as I sat there and held her I realized how precious life is. I realized that this little girl just barely came from our Heavenly Father. I mean, literally hours ago she was in heaven. How absolutely crazy is that?!?! She probably still remembers Heavenly Father and everything that happened there. It also scared me because I know that she is going to lose that innocence, she is going to screw up, and she is going to have a lot of hard stuff to deal with in this life. But I know that if her parents teach her correct principles, she will make the right choices and be able to return back to Him one day.

Second, my iPod got stolen! At BYU! At work! While it was on my desk! I was completely blown away when I realized it. I mean, we're at BYU for heaven's sake. Isn't there something called an honor code? Haven't we been taught our entire lives to be honest? I mean, who steals these days? Really? Ya, I stole something when I was like 5, but honestly, we're adults now. Let's grow up. At least I have something substantial that I can put on my birthday list now... (which is in 27 days by the way.)

Third, I wrecked my car. And yes, it was completely my fault. I went to the gym yesterday morning with only half of my windshield defrosted, and I ran into a cement light pole in the Gold's Gym parking lot. The tow truck guy thinks I may have broken my axle. Great... Luckily, my dad has been an absolute GEM! When I told him about it, the first thing he asked was if I was okay, and that's all he cared about. He even offered to pay for the damage because he always says it's his car anyways. Man, my dad is the greatest for those of you who didn't know. Seriously, the greatest. So, it's getting towed up to SoJo as we speak, and I guess we'll see what the damage is in the near future.

Fourth, my family's computer completely crashed! I mean, we lost everything, all our music, pictures, files, EVERYTHING! We are going to recover it (somehow, I don't really understand how), but it will take about 3 months. But hey, at least we get it back and my dad gets the new computer he's been wanting forever!

So yes, a comedy of errors this week. But, through it all, my entire family has kept very level heads. We just laugh about all of it now, and that's all you can really do. They are just material possessions that don't mean anything really. Ya, our bank accounts are gonna take a hit, but that's life. Come what may and love it!

"I know why there must be opposition in all things. Adversity, if handled correctly, can be a blessing in our lives. We can learn to love it. As we look for humor, seek for the eternal perspective, understand the principle of compensation, and draw near to our Heavenly Father, we can endure hardship and trial. We can say, as did my mother, Come what may, and love it.'"-Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin

Life is so good, and I have nothing to complain about. I know that everything will work out, and life will return back to 'normal', or whatever that is. Overall, I'd say it's been a great week. :)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Socializing and Suffering

This past month has been one crazy ride for me. I have had so many things to do that I can't keep my head on straight most of the time. Most of this craziness is due to my major. I am a dietetics major, and it is uber time consuming. It doesn't seem like there's much to do, but almost every class we are told about something new. We like to joke that we are just running - we don't really know where we're going, but if we just keep up we'll make it somewhere eventually. And apparently this is what the program is like for the next two years. Great...

Another reason why I feel like I'm running with my head cut off most of the time is because I am out socializing during much of the week. I know, for those of you who have known me for a while, this is not like me! I am usually study, study, study, study, study all week long, and then maybe, sometimes, not usually, take a break at the end of the week. Well, that has flown out the window this year. About three weeks ago, I was out every single night doing something with my friends. These past couple of weeks haven't been much different either. I am just turning into a social butterfly it seems. :)

However, one drawback to my having fun-ness is that my grades are suffering slightly. I mean, I'm not really sure how much they are suffering since I haven't even looked at my grades, but I just feel like I'm not as on top of things like I usually am. I wait until the last minute to do assignments (like two days ahead which is way late for me), I don't do my reading (most of the time), I am getting bad scores on quizzes on a consistent basis, and I just feel out of my element.

The question I pose to you, my few and faithful readers, is whether or not my new sense of adventure and fun is worth the price I'm paying in my grades. I don't really see my new habits changing in the future because I am having way, way, way too much fun to give it up now, but if my grades do drop, should I consider it? Or should I keep on the same way and screw my grades? Who needs medical school anyway?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Overcoming Life

Today was one of those days when you say to yourself, "And I fought in the heavens to have a hard life? Really? Are you sure? Promise?" So many different things didn't go at all how I planned. Work was utter craziness, I was late to class, my parents drove all the way from Park City to eat lunch with me and they ran out of food, did horrible on my in-class quiz, and I got the worst test grade that I've ever had in my life. Doesn't today just sound like a winner to you? Oh, let me tell you, it was one in a million.

I am taking Mission Prep this semester from Brother Bott, and he gave some great advice of how to overcome the downs that accompany mortal life.
Step 1: Early recognition. Yep, I recognize that I am feeling pretty crappy right now. It's kinda hard to miss.
Step 2: Have a preplan, something that you know will bring you out of your depression. For me, that usually includes some sort of physical activity. That will happen later tonight around 9:00 pm if I have time. I better have time.
Step 3: Get outside yourself and serve others. Hmm... Let me see. What can I do that will get me serving and yet still give me time to study? I need to ponder upon this one.
Step 4: Avoid all negative self-talk. Avoid all pity-parties. I am definitely struggling with this one. I know that I could have done much, much better on that test tonight. I should have rocked it! I should have been on top of my game. What went wrong? But, I know that I become what I say I am. I need to stay positive, keep telling myself that it can only go up from here, things can only get better. I know they can, I tell myself they can, I just need to believe they can.
Step 5: Go to your sacred grove, a place to get away and refocus. I haven't found my own sacred grove. Maybe I'll go explore tonight while I run. If not, I think I might just go on a drive and make that my sacred grove.
Step 6: Count your blessings. Name them one by one. Let's see... First off, my family. I was able to spend the entire weekend with my whole family, and it was glorious! We are all so close, we enjoy being together, and we have fun! I couldn't ask for a better set of parents or siblings. Second, I have the gospel. Uh, hello? Best blessing ever? I can't imagine my life without the gospel and the blessings that I receive from living its principles. Third, I got to go to Jerusalem. My life would be so different if I didn't have that experience. I am so much closer to my Savior, and I more fully understand my role in this world. Those are just a few.
Step 7: Get a priesthood blessing. That will be done this weekend when I go home. Check.
Step 8: Reread your patriarchal blessing. That will be done before I go to bed tonight. I love my patriarchal blessing, and to read it is on my list of goals for this week, so it will be a double check off. Score.
Step 9: Write a totally positive letter and then reread it a couple of days later. Hmm... I might not have time to do that, but in case I do, I will do it.
Step 10: Call the mission president if all else fails. Well, I don't have a mission president, but I do have a mother. And that is already accomplished.

So after I complete this list, I should be depression free. I'll try it and report on the results. Ready, go.

Monday, August 30, 2010

School Days

I figured that I should be like everyone else and post some sort of blog about returning back to school.

But I am avoiding school at all costs, so I refuse to even think about the subject. Even though my first class starts in two hours. That backfired a little bit eh?

I'm just not ready to get back to school. I've only had two weeks at home after having the best summer of my life, and I need more time. Please BYU, can you just give me one more week? That's all I ask. Just one more week and I will be ready. Or not. Probably not. Ya, I wouldn't be ready.

Why am I so apathetic towards school this semester? Maybe it's because I have to live 'real life' instead of 'fake life' in Jerusalem. Maybe it's because I am the only person in my family living in Provo now. Maybe it's because I have to be an adult and make important life-changing decisions. Maybe it's because I'm starting my program and I'm not sure it's what I should really do for my undergraduate degree. Maybe it's because I don't have any more countdowns in my life.

But I promise there are good things about school too. I have five fabulous new roommates who are so full of fun that a little bit of it will rub off on me. I've heard my ward is fantastic, even though I have yet to experience it for myself. I get to see my family every week and call them multiple times a day rather than just communicating through email and occasional calls. I am starting my major to become a dietician, something that I would love to do with my life. I will be one year closer to medical school and becoming a surgeon. I don't know what the future holds, and even though that scares me to death most of the time, it's also a bit exciting!

School can be crappy, but it can also be great! It's all about the attitude.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Last Days

I’m home! Even though I came home this week, I want to share with you the beginning of my week before I left the Holy Land because it was one of the most uplifting and inspiring couple of days of my entire life. And hopefully that can rub off into this email and into your lives.

Last Shabbat, August 7, we had a program called the Triclinium. The triclinium is the way that the table was set up for the Last Supper. It’s basically a U-shaped table, so three sides and two of them face each other. Basically the program was just reading John 13-17, having 3 musical numbers, hearing our District President (who is also the academic vice president for the program) speak to us, and then personal time. I definitely wasn’t expecting any sort of drastic personal revelation or anything, but I had one of the most intimate and personal experiences with the Holy Ghost. During my personal study time I just had such an amazing experience. Here’s what I wrote I my journal afterwards: “I prayed to Heavenly Father that I would be able to fee His spirit during this experience, and I think that it worked because I’m crying (multiple tears were falling down my face) which never happens. I read my document of ‘The Living Christ’ to see if there was anything that I could add to id. I couldn’t really think of anything until I read my patriarchal blessing. I just had the strongest impression (while I was reading it) that Christ is my advocate. He will do everything in His power to bring me home to my Father. I have a feeling that it’s gonna take a lot of work on Christ’s part, but I know it can happen. I don’t know how, but as long as I try my hardest it can happen. It kinda astounds me that I had this strong of a spiritual experience after I asked for it, but I guess that’s an answer to prayer.” Basically I just had a really strong impression from the Holy Ghost that Christ is my advocate and that He will do everything in His power and never give up on giving me eternal life. I know that I have to do my part, but as long as I try my hardest, Christ will get me everything I can. I think the other really cool thing about this experience was that I asked Heavenly Father that I would get some personal revelation during the program, and it came like a flood! I was astounded at how strongly the spirit hit me, but I was so pleased and happy to know that my Father heard my prayer and was kind enough to bless me with that revelation. I just want to testify that our Father knows us. He sees what we’re going through, hears what we ask for, and wants so much to give us every little blessing He can if we ask for it and are righteous. Anyways, it was a pretty amazing program for me personally.

Sunday August 8 I went to Tel Aviv! It was one of our free days, and a big group of us decided we wanted to go to Tel Aviv one last time and play on the beach all day. So yes, I had no worries such as homework or anything, so I just sat on the beach for six hours, played in the water, slept, read “Dear Lovey Heart, I’m Desperate” (a book about a love advice column in a high school newspaper. It was pretty epic. :) ), and just had a great day by the beach. One of the best things that came out of that day was an amazing tan. When you all see me you’ll understand what I’m talking about. I got a really good Middle Eastern tan while I was over there. I am pretty dark, and it’s amazing. :) Haha. Anyways, the day in Tel Aviv was amazing. The water was super clear again, and the sand is still the softest sand I’ve ever felt at a beach. Who wouldn’t be utterly happy with that?

Monday August 9 was the first day of the Last Week of Christ’s Life. Background: in two days, we visit every place that we know that Christ visited in the last week of His life. We started early that morning in Bethany which is where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived. We went to Lazarus’ tomb (or the traditional site of it). We talked about how Christ raising Lazarus from the dead was the biggest and most impressive miracle that Christ ever did, and as such it started His downfall – within a week He would be hung on the Cross. We learned that the reason why this was the catalyst for the Pharisees and Sadducees to really start working on killing Christ because so many people were starting to follow Him and they were losing their power base. Anyways, just in case you wanted to know.

Our next stop was Bethpage which is where two of Christ’s apostles were sent to get a colt for Christ to ride in on. We learned that a colt is a baby donkey that has never been ridden or broken. This was significant because Christ was riding a perfect donkey without any blemish (just like He was without blemish), and it was also miraculous that He could ride an unbroken donkey. His triumphal entry into Jerusalem begins His walk to Gethsemane, Golgotha, and the Tomb, and we talked about how sometimes the hardest thing to do is just start something. But we know that our Father is looking over us, and if we just trust in Him once we start it usually gets easier. Next was the Church of the Ascension, and then Dominus Flevit which is where some believe that Christ wept over Jerusalem, but while we were there we also talked about the Olivet Discourse given in Matthew 24 about the 2nd Coming. I can’t even explain to you how much I learned about the 2nd Coming from that chapter on that Mount. We also read from D&C 45, so that’s another good resource.

Anyways, our lunch stop was at the Orson Hyde Garden which is run by and paid for by the Church, but we aren’t allowed to go in there usually because less-than-reputable people are usually in there and they cause some trouble with us, especially for the women. Anyways, while we were there we talked about Orson Hyde and his mission to and dedication of the Holy Land. Our teacher proposed the idea that Orson Hyde essentially started the Zionist movement and the ability for the Jews to acquire land in Israel. Okay, we ate in the garden, and then we were off to the Upper Room. We talked about the Last Supper and Christ instituting the Sacrament. We learned that breaking the bread is literally like the tearing of Christ’s flesh during the Cross by the nails, while He was flogged, etc. Our teacher bought some real bread, and each of us had the chance to literally break a piece of bread and eat it in the Upper Room while thinking about how the sacrament is so symbolic of breaking Christ’s body. Let’s just say that this day was completely amazing, and I couldn’t even imagine that they next one would be even better. Anyways, that night we had our pre-departure meeting just telling us about how to get home and how to check out of the center and stuff.

Tuesday August 10 was the rest of the Last Week of Christ’s Life. We left that morning by walking in silence down the Kidron Valley, through the Orson Hyde Garden, to the Garden of Gethsemane. While we walked we listened to my teacher’s LDS mix on his ipod. That day we had Brother Brown with us. Let me just give you a little background on Brother Brown. He is the District President and the Academic Vice President of Academics over the program. He is a retired BYU professor, and he is the most reputable man I know. He was one of the 5 editors of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, is the foremost authority in the church on the book of Luke (he’s writing a 1000-page commentary on Luke as we speak), and did an entire film series called “The Messiah, Behold the Lamb of God” (which is actually coming out on DVD this week at Education Week). So ya, he’s a pretty amazing man to say the very least. And one of the coolest things is that he was the one who wrote the entry on Gethsemane in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. I learned that Gethsemane literally means olive press in Hebrew. Christ came there and was pressed by the weight of our sins that it made Him bleed from every pore. (Another little random fact – olive oil is red when it is first pressed. Coincidence? I think not.) Brother Brown also suggested that the temptation came to Christ at that time to release His own life because He had that power. For us, it would be like the temptation of suicide. Christ took upon and felt EVERYTHING in that Garden so that He could help us through what we’re feeling, even suicide. Another thing we learned from Brother Manscill (my New Testament teacher and my mentor) was that when Christ took upon Him our sins, He became guilty and that’s why the Father had to step away from Him and let Him do it on His own because He was no longer ‘worthy’ to have the spirit because He was experiencing the guilt and pain of the sins. And yes, this was all taught right where it happened. Next we walked to St. Peter Gallicantu which is where most people think was Caiaphas’ (the Jewish High Priest) palace. At this place we talked about the arrest in the Garden and the three Jewish trials – first by Annas (the former High Priest), then Caiaphas (the current High Priest), and then part of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish legal court). While we were there we discussed how at least 6 or 7 things about these trials were illegal according to Jewish law, but nonetheless they condemned Christ to death. The charge was blasphemy because He was claiming to be the Son of God, even though that is completely valid and not blasphemy at all. Next we walked to the Church of the Flagellation which is where scholars believe was Pilate’s home. When the Sanhedrin brought Christ to Pilate, they changed the charge from blasphemy to treason against Caesar because Christ was claiming to be king of the Jews. Both Pilate and Herod Antipas found no fault in Christ during all three trials because Christ said that His ‘kingdom was not of this world.’ Pilate really wanted to release Christ, and he tried three different ways for the people to have compassion on Christ. First, he tried to get them to release Christ as the Passover Scapegoat, but instead they chose Barabbas. Plan B was to scourge Christ and beat Him up so that they would look at Him and have compassion on Him, but that availed nothing as well. The thing that finally got Pilate to condemn Christ was that the chief priests said basically that they would tell Caesar that Pilate wasn’t his friend. At that point, Pilate gave in and condemned Christ to be crucified. I really think that Pilate had good intentions, but when it came down to it, He couldn’t withstand the peer pressures. At that point, Christ walked with His own cross (until He couldn’t do it anymore) to Golgotha where He was to be crucified. Our next stop that we walked to was the Garden Tomb. There we talked about the Crucifixion and even more importantly the Resurrection. I learned that all of the pains of the atonement suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane were again administered while Christ was on the Cross as almost unimaginable as that is. After our discussion in the Garden Tomb there was time to bear testimony, and I definitely knew that I wanted to. This is what I wrote in my journal after this experience: “I was able to just bear testimony in the Garden Tomb. I basically just testified that I know that Christ is my Savior. As we’ve been walking the path that Christ took, the reality of the pain and suffering that He endured just got to me as I bore my testimony (I was crying again – don’t worry, this is not normal at all for me). But it was just confirmed to me that Christ did all that and suffered all that because He loves me and cares about my eternal salvation. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I’ve hd to come here to the Holy Land and learn more about my Savior and have my testimony strengthened. I think I can say that my resolve to do good and be a follower of Christ has never been higher. I love my Savior.” That night we had a closing fireside. We had 9 students speak about how they’ve grown closer to Christ or learned more about Him or something like that. The thing I loved most about this was that every single person did grow closer to Christ or learned more about Him, but what every person learned was completely different from everyone else. That just shows you the power of the Holy Ghost and how personal it is for each of us. This was probably one of the most spiritually uplifting days of the entire program.

Wednesday August 11 was our last day in Jerusalem, and we had it completely free. Jane, Jared, and I hit all of the major sites in the city. We started in Gethsemane,

then went to the Western Wall, then the Dome of the Rock, then the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and then the Garden Tomb. We also had some interspersed last-minute shopping in there. This day was great just because I was with my two best friends going to places that most people in the world would kill to see. I mean, they are the three most holy sites in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. And I visited each of them in about an hour.

The Gummy Stand - Delicious!

The rest of the afternoon I finished packing, and that night we had a closing dinner and memories slide show. We also gave out paper-plate awards, and I got ‘Most Angelic Voice’. That made me happy because we have some great singers. :) That night I just stayed up and watched movies because we were leaving so early that it was pointless to try to sleep.

Thursday August 12 was the longest day (literally) of my entire life. We had breakfast at 2:00 am, left at 3:00 am from the Center, and our first plane to Vienna left at 7:00 am Israel time. To make it short, I traveled for 32 hours to get home, and I didn’t get home until 1:00 am Friday morning because a couple of our planes were delayed. It was a very long and exhausting day, and it felt good to be home and see my family.

These past couple of days I’ve just been trying to reorganize my life and see everyone I want to see. I thought I was ready to come home, but once I was home I was ready to go back. Friday afternoon it just hit me that it was all over. It happened SO fast, way too fast for my taste. I felt so alone because I was used to being surrounded by my 80 siblings. No one really knew how I was feeling, but they did. I miss my new family so much! Don’t get me wrong – I was completely ecstatic to see my family in SoJo, but I am just so close to those kids. Let’s just say that one good thing about school starting in a few weeks is that I’ll be able to see almost everyone again! This entire experience is something that I will remember and cherish my entire life. I can’t imagine how comparatively boring and unfulfilling my summer would have been if I didn’t go on this trip. This has completely changed me and my testimony for eternity. I have never been so fully immersed in the gospel and the spirit as I was in Jerusalem. I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for blessing me with this wonderful opportunity. It was much, much more than I deserved.

Since this is my last email, I just want to bear my testimony to you all and let you know that I know that Christ is my Savior. I know that He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, took upon Him all the weight, sins, pain, anguish, grief, sickness, temptation of the world just so that He would know how to succor us and bless us with peace when we are going through our small, seemingly insignificant trials. I know that He endured hours and hours of pain because He loves us so much and wants to give us the chance to return to live with Him and our Father again. I know that if we will use the atonement – both its cleansing and enabling power – keep our covenants, and endure to the end, the dream of exaltation will become a reality. I know that the Holy Ghost is a true and powerful force in the world, and I know that He testifies of Christ and His mission. I know that our Father in Heaven knows each of us so personally that He even knows when seemingly bad things are the best things for us in the long run. He hears our prayers and is so willing and quick to reply if we have the faith and patience to listen. I know that Christ is my Advocate with Father, and He will argue my case until His lips turn blue because that’s how much He wants me to be with Him. I know that Christ lives, that He overcame death and sin, and that through Him we can be given all things. I testify to you all that these things are true, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thanks everyone for keeping up with my journeys in the Holy Land. I hope that you have been uplifted and inspired by the things that I’ve shared with you. Keep the faith!

It's Almost Over...

Can you believe it?! I for sure cannot believe that I have been gone for three and a half months and will come home in just five days! I don’t know how fast the time has gone by for you all, but it seems to me like it has just flown by. The days are getting longer and longer as I anticipate leaving, but I’m sure that I’ll be home before I know it. Anyways, I have done a lot of stuff this week, so I’ll give you those details!

Last Sabbath, Saturday July 31, we had a great fireside. Our Relief Society president gave it on charity through conflict. Our president is a Palestinian, and she is the only Palestinian member that is allowed to pass through the check points and wall in order to come into Jerusalem to come to the meetings. She has grown up her entire life in Palestine, and she decided to come to BYU to get her Master’s Degree in statistics which is how she found the church. After she got her degree she returned to her home to work, but like I said she wasn’t able to get through the check points to come to our meetings for many years. She would often have to sneak in, and she risked her life many times in order to come meet with the saints and take the sacrament. Luckily, she got a job at the UN which gave her a pass into Jerusalem, so now she can worship with us. Anyways, she is an amazing lady who is completely converted and dedicated to this gospel. She talked about having charity for your enemies. She said that to have charity for those who harm us we need to pray for them, forgive them, and love them. I have definitely learned about this concept while being here in the Holy Land just because of some people who have harmed me. I’ve applied these three things to my life, and I want to testify that it works! I love this person so much, and I just pray that they have peace and the spirit in their life. Overall it was just a great fireside that helped me realize that I have learned (in a very small way) to have charity and love everyone regardless of how they treat me.

Sunday August 1 was one of our last free days here in the Holy Land. On Saturday I made a list of everything I wanted to do before I left Jerusalem, and a few of my friends and I outlined our entire day so that we could fit everything in. We woke up early in the morning to go to the church services that are held at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher every Sunday. Because the building is shared by three or four different denominations, they have to share the space for their services. We were able to watch two Roman Catholic services and also an Armenian service. It was super interesting to see how others hold their services and worship the Lord. They were very different from what we do, but they were good in their own way. After the services we came back to eat breakfast and then go paint a mural at a school for disabled children. Every semester the students sketch out a mural and paint it during the last week. We were the first group to go, and I got to paint a purple crocodile and a blue giraffe. It was such a fun activity, and we are making that learning environment much more enjoyable for the kindergarten class that will meet there in the fall.

That afternoon we went into West Jerusalem and hit up Domitian Abbey. This site is supposedly where Mary lived after Christ died and where she is buried, but it’s also a memorial to all of the women in the bible. They have this huge plastic dead Mary that lies over her supposed tomb which is just so funny. After that we went into the Old City and finished up some shopping that we wanted to do (yes more shopping). I got an oil lamp that the virgins would have used in the parable of the ten virgins, and I also bought some frankincense and myrrh. I’m excited to be able to use these things when my family acts out the nativity for every Christmas to come. The next site we went to was the Sisters in Zion convent. The name is deceiving – I don’t know if there’s actually a convent there, but underneath the building there are stones that were from the original Roman road during the time of Christ. So basically this is the place where they think Christ walked from Pilate’s to Herod’s and then back to Pilate’s trials. You can even see some of the games that the Roman soldiers would have played still carved into the stones. That was our long and hot day, but I got done almost everything on my list done! All I have left is to buy slings, go to the garden tomb one more time (which I’ll do on Tuesday and Wednesday), buy a schwarma, and go to Tel Aviv (which I’m doing tomorrow). Things are definitely winding down!

Monday August 2 was one of the most interesting days of the program and by far the hottest day of the entire semester! We left very early in the morning to drive down about 3000 ft to the Dead Sea. Our first stop of the day was at a place called Masada. Masada was the last hold that the Zealots had during the First Jewish Revolt in 70AD. These Zealots were so against Roman occupation that when they knew that they would be overrun by the Romans the next day, the entire community committed suicide on one another! They think that about 9,000 men, women, and children were all slaughtered that night. Kinda gruesome, but I guess it shows how devout they were to their cause… Anyways, after that we actually go to go to the Dead Sea! It is such a weird experience to be in that water. It hurts so badly if you have any cuts or your skin is open in any way. I even just had dry spot on my skin and I was in so much pain! But as soon as you get in an immerse yourself you float! There is nothing you need to do to float – even if you try to sink you can’t.

I also covered myself in the Dead Sea mud (which is used throughout the entire world to soften skin), and I can vouch that it works. My skin was as soft as a baby’s bottom afterwards. :) Haha. When getting into the water it feels like you’re swimming in a hot tub of lotion just because the water is so hot and thick due to the salt. We figured out that it was about 115*F which is a little toasty. After we got done swimming (and I was in and out of the water after about 5 minutes), we went on a little nature hike up to a waterfall at a place called En Gedi.

Our last stop of the day was at Qumran which is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Overall the day was really fun and interesting even though we were all drowning in our own sweat. One super duper nice thing that the administration did was allow us to wear shorts! I can’t imagine how hot it would have been if I would have had to wear long pants. I was actually quite pleasantly surprised at how well everyone handled the heat. Pretty much everyone had a really good attitude about it so everyone had a great time. That night I started studying for my three finals that I had this week. Oh joy.

Tuesday August 3 we had class in the morning, and that afternoon I just stayed in and prepared for my Ancient Near East final. Well, we were supposedly studying, but we probably took more breaks than we actually studied. That day the BYU Arabic students also arrived. If you are an Arabic major, you have to do a semester in Cairo in order to get your degree. The students that have been in Cairo this past semester are here for this coming week. It’s kinda fun to have new faces around the Center. Otherwise, that’s all I really did that day.

Wednesday August 4 we had our last class of the entire semester! We had two hours of New Testament with Brother Manscill. I have seriously loved, loved, LOVED learning about the New Testament from this man. I have fallen in love with really studying, cross-referencing, and hearing the words of the prophets about the concepts taught in the scriptures. As I studied for my New Testament final that day, I was actually having so much fun because I was learning so much about my Savior, His teachings, and His life. My teacher has had a lot to do with my falling in love with the New Testament. He is such an amazing man who teaches and testifies with such power. I look up to him so much, and I know that I could go to him with any question or problem and he would do everything he could for me because he sincerely loves each of us so much. And like I said his lectures are great. I got his lecture slides from him, and I went through each one, pulled out the quotes that I liked, and started compiling a document with awesome quotes that I can use later on in life. It’s up to 8 pages so far, and I’m sure it will be getting even bigger as time goes on. I told my teacher that even though I am really concerned about getting all As, I would be okay (not fine, but okay) with getting an A- or something in his class just because I have learned so much that it’s worth it to me! That really shows you how much I love that class. Anyways, I studied most of the day again which I completely loved.

Thursday August 5 was my Ancient Near East final. I’m not sure what my score was, but I’m sure I did just fine on it. It’s always good to know that your hard work pays off in the end. That afternoon was again filled with studying which I again loved. I know, I know, I am such a nerd and I completely admit it! I don’t feel as nerdy admitting that I love studying for a religion test so that makes me feel a little bit better. My friends and I did go out for a few minutes that afternoon and got some treats at the corner store right outside the lower gate to the center. It wasn’t a long outing, but at least I left the compound! That night I spent probably two or three hours going through more of my teacher’s slides and pulling out awesome quotes. Again, so nerdy, but so worth it!

Our Private Study Room

Yesterday Friday August 6 I had my New Testament final at 10:00 am. I think I told you that his midterm was completely ridiculous! I think he saw that we needed a little bit of help in our grades because this test was much, much, much nicer. Again, I know that I did really well even though I don’t know my score. So yes, I am planning on getting a 4.0 for both semesters even though my grades won’t be out until I get back home. But, still, I know that I did well which I am very thankful for. Heavenly Father has really blessed me in that area which I completely recognize. We also had our New Testament field trip exam that afternoon, but I didn’t even start studying for it until about an hour before, and I only studied for about 15 minutes. Let’s just say that it is a pass/fail class, and even so I got 100% on the test. To celebrate our victory over this summer’s classes a group of us went to West Jerusalem to find some sweet challah bread, but unfortunately all of the bakeries were either out of bread or closed for the Sabbath. Some people got ice cream or gelato instead which I think is way better than bread anyways. :) Haha. After that we went into the city, did some shopping, and then came back to the center. Last night we had the Community Outreach Concert which is a concert performed by the students for the members of the community to show our appreciation to them for their love and acceptance. Jane and I sang the song ‘For Good’ from the Broadway play “Wicked.” For those of you who don’t know, it’s basically about how certain people in our lives completely change us make our lives so much better. It was a very poignant and pertinent song for this entire experience. We apparently had most of the students tearing up which was what we were going for.

Later that night my roommates and I all just stayed up talking in our beds in the dark for like two hours. I love my roommates so much! We all get along so well, and there has been absolutely zero drama which is almost unheard of for an apartment of four girls. They are so much fun, and I can’t wait to be friends with them in ‘real life’ back at school.

Today Saturday August 7 was our last Sabbath in the Holy Land. It is also our Fast Sabbath, so tons of students got up and bore their testimony in our meetings today. It was such a great opportunity to hear my friends bear their testimony of the Savior and tell about how it’s grown so much over these past few months. We are all definitely different people who are more focused on the Savior and being like Him. Elder Holland gave at talk when he came here last October, and he said something like, “If you go back home the same person you came you are a disgrace to me. You are expected to be something more and better than you were when you came.” And yes, he used powerful words like that. I feel like I have changed a lot since coming here, and I pray and will try with everything I have to keep what I’ve learned and become here a part of who I am back home.

My Roommates and I Outside the Center on the Sabbath

That’s been this past week for me. You will all be getting one more email of this adventure sent from me when I get home this next week. Thank you all for reading these, and hopefully they’ve given you something that you needed that day. I can’t wait to see you all in a couple of days!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Petra and Jordan

Hello there everyone! Yes, it’s that time of the week again, time for me to flood your inboxes with my doings in Jerusalem. Here’s this week’s update.

Last Sunday, July 25, was another field trip day. We were able to go into the Old City and see Herodian Jerusalem, or the Jerusalem during the time of Christ’s life. Since that time, the city has built up numerous times so the actual streets that Christ walked on are feet below the streets today. But we went to a museum and an exhibit that had all of those things unearthed so that we really could walk on the streets that Christ walked on. We also got to take a tunnel underneath the City that got us from the very south end to the very north. It was much more convenient rather than trying to walk through thecrowded city streets. If only we could use that every day… :) I also got to see and be taught on the actual steps that led up to the temple that Jesus would have walked on. It’s just really cool to be so immersed in the Lord’s life and see everything He saw.

These are the stones of Herod's Temple that was destroyed in 70 AD.

After our field trip, a couple of my friends and I went to Hezekiah’s Tunnel again. If you don’t remember, this is a tunnel that provided water for the Jerusalem during the time of king Hezekiah. Basically it was just a really hot day and we wanted to cool off so we went into the tunnel and walked through the cold water. The activity definitely fulfilled its purpose. :) Haha.

That night there were so many fireworks lighting up the sky! The Arabs are always shooting off fireworks, usually to celebrate a wedding. I have a prime view of the sky from my balcony, so I get a fireworks show almost every night! It’s absolutely amazing. Random fact, but just in case you wanted to know. :)

Monday July 26 was the day we set off for the country of Jordan! We left pretty early which was good so that we could drive during the hottest part of the day. Right after we crossed the border into Jordan (it’s only about a 45 minute drive from Jerusalem to Jordan), we went to Mt. Nebo which is where Moses saw the promised land and where he was supposedly ‘buried’ (even though we know from Latter-Day revelation that he was actually transfigured). We then did a stop at a place called Madaba. The only thing significant about Madaba is that there is a church from the 300s or so that has a map of the entire Middle East on its floor in mosaics. It’s a super cool mosaic that gives a lot of detail to what the land looked like at that time.

The Madaba map is in the background, behind the creepy boy. :)

We then drove for about three hours to get to Shobak Castle which is basically a ruined castle that we could just explore and play around in.

That night we stayed in a hotel in Petra. I was going to get a Turkish bath, which is basically a massage and steam rooms and stuff, but unfortunately my group got screwed up so I couldn’t get one. It was good though because I was completely exhausted from the day that I just got to relax and get to bed early.

Tuesday July 27 was a very long and hot day, but totally worth it! We left at 5:45 am to get to the entrance of PETRA! For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t know until I was actually there), Petra is basically a valley made of sandstone. Into the sides of the valley there are huge, humongous, enormous, magnificent tombs carved! There are a couple of huge ones like that, but most of them are just regular tombs. But the huge ones are amazing. They are probably the size of a six-story building or so. I mean, they’re huge. I was just so boggled as to how people all the way back then could make such magnificent buildings! Petra is known as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and it’s in the top 10 cities that everyone should visit before they die. Anyways, we started our tour at 6:00 am because again, we wanted to stay out of the sun as long as possible. We were there for a total of about 9 hours, and in all that time we probably walked about 8-10 miles, depending on what each person did with their free time. By the end of the day I was exhausted again, but this time it was a satisfying exhaustion.

After we left Petra, we had to drive about 3 and a half hours to get to Amman which is the capital of Jordan. That night we just had free time, and I decided to go to a little food court mall place. They had some good American fast food restaurants, such as McDonald’s, and I bought a brownie sundae. I know, McDonald’s isn’t good fast food, but in a foreign country after three months, McDonald’s is amazing! Anyways, they also had a DVD store in this mall. In Jordan, pirating DVDs isn’t illegal, so of course we all bought pirated DVDs for very cheap. I bought six movies for $9! I mean, that’s $1.50 a piece which is as expensive as going to the dollar theaters, and I get to keep the movies! Seriously best deal ever. So let’s just say that that day was one of the best of the trip. :)

Wednesday July 28 we went to the remains of a Roman city called Jerash. This city is the best preserved Roman city outside of Rome itself. This place was almost up to par with Petra. I mean, they had a huge amphitheater, hippodrome (which is where they did chariot racing and gladiator fighting and stuff), a huge cardo (a main street lined by columns and side shops), two temples (one to Artemis and one to Zeus), and a ton of other stuff. I got to sing in the amphitheater again. This time I sang “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, and this performance went much better than the last one.

After our tour and free time we went to a show in the hippodrome. We got to see how Roman soldiers of the day dressed, what weapons they used, and how they fought. We also got to see how gladiators fought. The best part of the show was when one of the members of our group came out as a gladiator! He is huge, just huge, and they pulled him aside and asked him if he wanted to be in a part of the show! Oh man it was so funny. After the gladiators we got to see some real chariot racing. Overall the show was kinda cheesy, but way fun and exciting. We even got to take some of our pictures with the ‘actors’ afterwards.

This is me with our own JC gladiator! :) No worries, we're just friends.

That afternoon we had a meeting with the Amman District and Branch presidents. They basically just gave a fireside on the growth of the church in Jordan. About 1/3 of the branch members are local Jordanians which is so great! Unfortunately we aren’t allowed to openly proselyte, but the leaders think that it could happen any day now. That night was again a free night. I had heard that there was a bowling alley close by our hotel in Amman somewhere, so a group of us just started walking and looking for a bowling alley. Well, we walked for about two hours and we never found it, but instead we found an Arab circus! Haha. We didn’t actually go to the show because they were charging about $12 for a back row seat, but it would have been fun. It was just so random because we’re in the middle of this huge city of Amman and there is a circus in some random field. Haha. After we got back to our hotel we had a girls night and watched “The Last Song.” Now, for any of you who have already seen it, don’t judge me, but I loved it! And for those who haven’t seen it yet, it’s a great chick flick if you’re at all interested. Anyways, that’s my randomness that day.

Thursday July 29 was our last day in Jordan. That morning we went to the Abdullah Mosque. We’ve been to other mosques before, but this one was different because all of the women had to put on black ‘death eater’ robes in order to be modest in their eyes. Haha. We got some good awkward pictures in our awesome robes. And man, we looked hot!

After the mosque we went to the old archeological site of Amman where they have some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. So yes, I saw the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Copper Scroll to be exact! Check off the list of things I must see. After we toured those two sites we started our drive back to the Israeli border. Before we reached the border we stopped at Bethabara which is the site where Christ was baptized. It’s on the east side of the Jordan River which is in Jordan’s territory, so that’s their claim to fame in the Christian world. We were allowed to actually get in the water and wade which was SO refreshing because it was probably 110*F if not hotter.

Anyways, after that sweaty adventure we drove to Israel, went through the border, headed back to the JC, and I even had time to work out and shower before dinner. Of course I also called my mom as soon as I could that night. That’s a no brainer. :)

Friday July 30 was a ‘recuperating’ day. We had breakfast and class an hour later than normal which was nice (even though I got up at the same time because I went running). However, we did have almost four hours of class which was very long. We had a free afternoon, but Jane and I decided to just stay in and relax because we were so tired. We actually watched “Eclipse” (the Twilight movie that’s still in theaters) on my laptop. Yes, we both bought it at the pirated DVD place. Oh man the quality was horrible, but I still got out of it what I wanted for about $6 cheaper than it would cost in a theater. Totally worth it. That evening we got to go to the Western Wall again for their Shabbat services. We got to do this about the second week we came to the Holy Land, but we just got to do it again. It was completely packed with Jews worshipping, dancing, and enjoying themselves.

When we got back I watched some of the boys play basketball. I usually watch them every time they play. I think I told you all that they have a team that competes against a semi-pro Palestinian team. Anyways, they are always playing in the gym, and as their team mom, I watch them ‘practice’ all the time. Well, I decided that I wanted to play with them instead of just watch last night. I was completely terrified because there are some guys that are like 6’6” and just mean when they play! Luckily I was given the easiest person to guard and I didn’t even go near the big guys. I even made a couple of baskets! I mean, I missed way more than that (my percentage was probably around 20%), but still, I did contribute to the team. Oh man it was so fun, and I will definitely be playing a lot more over the next couple of weeks.

Today, Saturday July 31 has been a great Sabbath. I went to the Garden of Gethsemane this morning before our church meetings to study my scriptures and some other stuff. It was actually really ironic because I was reading my New Testament for my classes this week, and the block of reading was about the atonement. How random and very cool. I just sat there reading it and thought, this is where the most pivotal event in the history of the eternities happened! Not a big deal really. ;)

The Garden of Gethsemane

Anyways, we also had great church services today. I want to share with you all this great quote that I heard today about sacrificing: “ Tonight we have a fireside and then I’m sure we’ll watch some epic movie.

Overall I am doing so well! I want to let you all know that my health is improving. I took a break from running for a week to get my body back to normal, and even though it’s not all the way there, I am seeing some improvement. However, one of my best friends here isn’t as fortunate. Cameron has had really bad intestinal problems since the first week of being here. They have really been trying to figure out what’s wrong with him for the past week, and they haven’t made any progress. He went to the ER and then was admitted to the hospital last night. We had a special fast for him today even though our fast Sabbath isn’t until next week. He was supposed to go home tomorrow, but now that he’s admitted he won’t be able to. Anyways, I just ask that you guys keep him in your prayers if you remember at all. On another note, I come home in 12 DAYS! CRAZY! I only have 3 more class periods, two more free days, three finals, one more Sabbath, and then I’m basically home. I hope you’re all excited to see me because I am very excited to see you all! Have a great week, and I’ll see you all soon!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bells, Archeology, and the Nativity

Family and Friends-

Hello again from the Holy Land! I am grateful to be writing you again this week. It’s been another exceptional week here, and I would love to share my wonderful experiences with you. And yes, I am currently sitting in the Garden Tomb, where a few believe Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected, as I write this.

Sunday July 18 was a free day in the City. I was able to go to the local YMCA and play the carillon bells with the organist from the center. I played the hymn “Sweet Hour of Prayer” just because it is one of the easier hymns to play. We are not allowed to proselyte here in Israel, but this doesn’t ‘count’ as proselytizing because no one knows the hymn tunes, and if they did they are probably already members. Most people just think that it is a nice melody being played by someone. A large handful of us were able to play at least one song, so our hour up in the tower was used quite well.
And don't you love my shirt?

After we were finished being musical geniuses my group just came back to the JC to prepare for our New Testament midterms that we had on Tuesday. That night I also went to the Jerusalem Center Concert Series. This concert was again, like so many of the others, completely amazing! It was a string quartet of two violinists, a violist, and a cellist. They played a Mozart piece and a Schubert piece. I seriously felt like I was living back in the 1800s like in ‘Pride and Prejudice’. It was such a great concert experience. I seriously love music!

Monday July 19 was an optional field trip day. That morning we went to an archeological dig at Gath. The biggest reason why people know Gath is because that is where Goliath was from. The cool thing about this dig was that you could see about 3500 years of history being uncovered right in front of our eyes! We saw a civilization from before Abraham, about 2500BC, and there was also the remains of a Crusader fortress built in about 1000 AD. I never thought that something like that could really interest me, but surprisingly I was quite surprised and intrigued by what I was learning at that site. Maybe I’ll change my major to archeology. Haha. Not likely, but it’s a good thought right? That afternoon I came back to the center and just took a nap for like two hours! I studied more for my test that night and that was pretty much my day.

Tuesday July 20 was the big day for our test! I did pretty well on it, after the curve! Before our teacher curved the test, the average was 72%! No one would have gotten an A if it wasn’t for the curve. Oh man, we didn’t do very well. After the curve I did get an A however which was very nice. After our test and another two hours of class we had a blood drive. I tried to give blood, but I wasn’t able to because my hemoglobin levels were too low, drastically low. That afternoon I went out and did some shopping with some of my friends. I decided that I am now an official shopping addict! I would honestly much rather go out into the city and shop rather than site see. That is so horrible, but it’s so fun! Hopefully this addiction won’t follow me back home to the states because I don’t have the money to be spending! Haha. That night I took a break and watched a movie after my long day of tests, class, and shopping.

Wednesday July 21was our ‘Christian Jerusalem’ field trip. Within the Old City, there are different quarters for the different religions in the Holy Land. There is a Christian quarter, Jewish quarter, Muslim quarter, and Armenian quarter. We went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, and St. Mark’s Church. The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer was simply amazing! It was a huge vaulted ceiling, white-walled, simple church. I loved it mostly because it was so simple and didn’t distract me from worshipping. Even though I have been to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher a couple times before, it was really cool to actually know what I’ve been looking at for the past three months. One thing that is so funny about the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is that there was an edict made in the late 1800s by the Ottomans that said that nothing could ever be changed in the Church from that point forward. So the Church has remained in the exact condition that it was in when that edict was made – the same lamps, layout, everything! Even with its abnormalities, this Church is the most holy site in the Christian world because it is where most believe Christ was crucified, taken off the cross, and buried in the tomb. A little overwhelming? Only slightly. I asked my teacher if it was where he thought it all happened (compared to the Garden Tomb), and he said archeologically yes. However, he feels the spirit and can worship at the Garden Tomb. So we don’t really know where it all happened, but the Garden Tomb is definitely much more conducive to the spirit and just has a greater feeling of peace. St. Mark’s church is one of the contending sites for the Upper Room where the Last Supper was held and where Christ appeared to Thomas after His resurrection. I don’t know how much I believe that that was the site, but it was cool to think about. After the field trip I just came back to the Center again because my knee has been bothering me and I didn’t want to aggravate it any more than needs be.
These are some of the skirts that we had to wear in a church in order to be 'modest' enough. Awesome.

That evening I went to a basketball game! Haha. A few of the boys here formed a basketball team that plays against one of the semi-pro teams in East Jerusalem. We were lucky enough this time to be able to go and watch them play. We even have official shirts. :) Unfortunately we lost the game, but it was a fun experience to see our boys play against some ‘real’ players.

Thursday July 22 was a great day! That morning I had to go to the doctor’s to get my blood tested for my hemoglobin and hematocrit levels. It was a quick and painless blood draw, and I was back before breakfast was even over. I found out later that day that my hemoglobin and hematocrit levels in my blood are very, very low. Basically that means that I’m not getting enough iron (which is what carries the oxygen in the blood), and therefore my blood cell level is extremely low as well. As a result, I have been really tired and haven’t had as much energy as normal which I didn’t really realize until I found out I had the issue. But I’ve gotten some iron pills to get me back into the normal range, and I’ll pursue the problem after I get home. So no worries, I am on top of everything and am doing just fine. Anyways, that morning we had our Jordan orientation! I get to go to Jordan on Monday for four days and three nights. We get to see Petra and Amman which will be great! I don’t know much about Petra, but I’ve just heard amazing things about it, mainly from people’s watching of Indiana Jones apparently. Haha. Anyways, that afternoon we had another field trip! We have been packing them in because we only have 2 and a half weeks left! Anyways, we went to one of Herod the Great’s fortresses, and then to Shepherd’s field.

Pics from Herod's Fortress

This place is a field overlooking Bethlehem. Each group goes there every semester and reenacts the nativity scene. We had Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and sheep, three wise men, and an angel chorus. I sang the song ‘O Holy Night’ in a quartet. This whole experience was probably one of the most spiritual that I have had thus far in the Holy Land. For some reason the Spirit just spoke to me so strongly that everything I know concerning the gospel is true! I know that Christ lived, died, and lives again! I just wanted to shout from the rooftops that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the World! I think if I would have done that I could have gotten in quite a bit of trouble because that would break my non-proselytizing agreement with the government of Israel. :) Haha. But seriously, one of the best experiences that I’ve had so far while studying here.
View overlooking Shepherd's Field
Jane and I being angelic :)

Friday July 23was a typical Friday: four hours of class in the morning, lunch, humanitarian service activity (our last time! We made 11,000 kits this semester!), then out into the city in the afternoon. I went to get some pizza from the Old City and to interview the pizza place owner for an assignment for our New Testament class. I didn’t get any pizza, but I got some for my friend who couldn’t come out into the city with us that day instead. My friends told me it was spectacular however. Then last night was the informal talent show, and oh my goodness it was amazing! I’ve never seen so much preparation and effort go into a fun talent show like this. We had skits, funny songs, jump roping, a time lapse video, and a ‘creeper slideshow’ which had creepy pictures of all of us taken at random times. The best part of the slideshow was just the fact that it poked fun at a lot of inside jokes and events that have happened this past semester. I know that I say this practically every email, but I love these people so much! I can’t believe that in 19 days it’s going to all be over! Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to be coming home to see you all, but this has been such a wonderful experience. I have never felt so close to the spirit and had so few distractions from doing righteously. This is probably the closest anyone could ever get to living in heaven because everyone is trying to grow closer to their Savior, there are very few distractions, and we basically live in a temple. I definitely don’t want to leave the feeling of holiness that I have with me basically all the time, but life must go on I suppose.

Saturday July 24 has also been a typical Sabbath. We had church meetings this morning which focused on keeping the commandments and being the Lord’s Hands here on the earth. That’s one thing that I’ve been trying to work on the past week or so is looking at what I can do to be God’s Hands and bless others’ lives through me. I didn’t feel like I had really done anything that merited me being God’s hands, but as I sit here and think about it I did have a few experiences that I didn’t even notice. First off I was able to do the humanitarian project which provides better hygiene for thousands of people in Israel. Second I brought some food back from the city for some people who couldn’t get it themselves. It wasn’t even a burden to me, but I was able to help them out I guess. I love how little acts of service can seem so insignificant to those doing them, but to the receivers they are worth so much. Anyways, and now I’m just sitting her e in the Garden Tomb contemplating Christ’s glorious resurrection at a possible site of where it actually happened. Overwhelming? Completely.

I hope that you are all doing well and enjoying your lives back at home. Keep me updated with what’s been going on in your lives! I’ll see you in a few weeks!

Much love, Chelsea

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Coming to Know the Savior in Galilee

Hey ya'll! This past week has been so amazing! The rest of Galilee was a blast, and I really came to learn more of my Savior. Here's the details.

Last Saturday's Sabbath was absolutely amazing! It seems like I am always getting some sort of revelation here. I love it! Before we went to our sacrament meeting, we stopped by the Jordan River at a site where hundreds of pilgrims every day come to be baptized or rebaptized to show that they are recommitting themselves to their faith. It's kinda weird their thinking, but I guess they have good intentions.
On the way to our sacrament services we sang primary songs like "A Child's Prayer", "Army of Helaman", "Book of Mormon Stories" and others. It really struck me that even though these are 'little kid songs', they are the basics and teh most important things. It was just a cool experience to share with 80 of my best friends. Also, as I told you last week, I was having a hard time with some personal trials that I was going through. A talk given in sacrament meeting was about the atonement and the enabling power of it. What really struck me were two certain steps to help us expend our best efforts in using the atonement. The first was to pray, but specifically to pray to change yourself to be strong to bear the burden rather than the situation or trial that you are going through. This was a really good concept for me to learn because I had been praying earlier for the situation to change rather than for me to be strengthened. But now, I have been praying for that and it's been so much better! The next step was to set goals. I have always been a goal setter, but I haven't been working on this as much lately. This week, however, I made some goals and prayed every day for me to keep to them and remember them. Let's just say that this week has been much better now that I had that insight and inspiration. Oh how I love the gospel!!!
This was Sabbath morning on the Sea of Galilee

Sunday July 11 was another class day. We had class that morning and had all afternoon to swim and sit in the Sea of Galilee. I really made some much stronger friendships that day. I think that is one of the best things that I got from Galilee. Everyone grew so close. We really are best friends now. I consider them my family, and I would do anything for any of these people. I love them all so much! It was a great day to just relax and continue my 'summer vacation' on the beach.

Monday July 12 was one of the best field trip days thus far. That morning we went to an old Roman city that had so many different things. The best part of the day was that I got to sing in an old Roman amphitheater for my class! Oh man it was so embarrassing! My teacher asked me about two minutes before I he wanted me to sing to do it. So I had to go get an ipod and then sing 'Popular' from the musical Wicked. I mean, it wasn't horrible, but I didn't feel like it showcased my talents very well. But at least I can say that I sung in a Roman amphitheater right? Kinda cool.
We then got to go swimming in some natural springs! They were so gorgeous and so refreshing after being in the sun for long, hot field trip days. After that we went to Mount Tabor which is the traditional site of the Mount of Transfiguration.
This was a gorgeous mountain with a beautiful church on top. After we got done having our class time, Ricki (the boy who I sang in the talent show with) and I took the time to go to a side chapel and sing hymns acappella. It was such a sweet experience to sing such gorgeous hymns in a place with great acoustics with a voice that completely blends with mine. We were trying to be quiet so as not to disturb other people, but apparently it didn't work because afterwards everyone ran up to us and told us how gorgeous it sounded and how it totally added to their personal scripture study time. I feel so blessed to have a talent that I can use to bless other people's lives.

Tuesday July 13 was sweet. That morning we went to a few archeological sites. The coolest one was the tel of Dan because it was so fertile and green. In Israel there isn't much greenery, especially in Jerusalem. So it was really nice to have this 'tropical forest' type place where we walked through and just did a little hike. Later that day we also went to a waterfall.
Our next stop was Caesarea Philippi which is where Peter proclaimed "Thou art the Christ." We had a great talk about our own testimonies of Christ and how they ahve grown since we have been in Galilee. It was a great time to reflect and think about my relationship with the Savior.
Next was at a place called Nimrod's Fortress. It was a fortress built by the crusaders on top of a hill to defend themselves against the Muslim invaders. We just go to explore this huge fortress for an hour which was fun.
That night we had a class bonfire with scones, popcorn, and smores. Delicious.

Wednesday July 14 we went to the city of Akko. I honestly don't remember much about what it was or the significance of it. I know that it was a crusader city and that at one point it was the richest city in the world. Other than that I zoned out. I do know, however, that they had some great shopping because I bought two purses and two pairs of earrings. Haha. That afternoon we were able to have the time to just sit at the beach again since it was our last night in Galilee. As always, so fun and awesome. That night we had another bonfire but with everyone this time. We basically just had a testimony meeting which was great. It was really cool to hear my peers and best friends testify of how they have grown to know our Savior and the experiences that they have had this past week. That night I got to my room early so that I could pack to leave the next day.
The sunset my last night on the Sea.

Thursday July 15 we went to a city called Zippori which is where one of my teachers (who is the foremost authority on the Gospel of Luke in the church) believes that Joseph worked and taught Christ to work. It was basically another archeological site but it was cool to think that Joseph and Jesus worked to build that city. After that we went to Megiddo where the final battle of Armageddon is supposed to begin.
Overlooking the valley of Megiddo
It was so weird to think about. Umm, other than that we just basically went back to the Jerusalem Center for dinner and the evening.

Friday July 16 was a free day to recover from our long trip and do laundry. I did the humanitarian project again, and then I went out into the city to do some shopping. I bought a ring with my name in Hebrew on it, and I bought another purse. So yes I am up to six purses. Haha. I never knew that I was a purse person until this trip. I also studied for my New Testament midterm which is Tuesday.

Saturday July 17, today, has been good. I slept in, went to my church meetings, had enrichment about journaling, and then read for New Testament this week. Now I'm writing you guys.

So overall, my week and a half in Galilee was absolutely AMAZING! I learned so many things. First, I learned that the atonement is for so much more than sins. I grew to understand my Savior and His atonement so much better than I thought it would. I also learned that the Holy Ghost really does work! This trip really showed me that the Holy Ghost can prompt me, comfort me, bring me peace, and tell me what I need to do to be happy and so on. I also learned about forgiveness. I learned that forgiving others asap is the best possible thing to do. I had to forgive some of my friends for losing some things of mine that really meant a lot to me. But I realized that their friendship is so so so much more important to me than any material thing. Material things can be replaced, and they are definitely not worth losing a friendship over. I also learned that we are never really satisfied with what we have. The food at the kibbutz we stayed at wasn't the best. While it made me so much more grateful for the food we have here at the JC, I'm still not satisfied with the food. I guess I'm just getting used to it and want more variety in my life. Haha. That's random I know. I also learned that I am not good about taking pictures anymore. After going to five archeological sites that all look the same, I just don't care and am too lazy to take more pictures. Next, I also learned that the heat SUCKS, but it's all about your attitude on whether the day becomes miserable or not due to it. It was super hot on the field trips because we were right by the sea which makes it humid, and we were also out in the blazing sun all day long. Even though we all got nice tans, we were hot. But it wasn't that bad because no one really complained about it. We couldn't change it so why complain? I also learned that once you know people it doesn't matter what you look like because they see you at your worst and your best. We all treated this trip pretty much like girls camp because none of us really did our hair, our makeup, or looked nice. The best thing was that we didn't care. We were all comfortable enough with each other already which was great. I love not having to feel like I have to look nice all the time. Haha. Next lesson: don't judge people. I really got to know some amazing people on this trip that I didn't take the time to know before because I thought they weren't my 'type' of friend. Oh man was I wrong! I learned that I can get along with most everyone as long as I get to know them. I seriously love everyone here so much more now! I am so excited that we all grew so close. I loved this trip!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Here's My Week

Hello family and friends! I know that I say this every time, but I cannot believe that another week has passed and it’s time to write you all again! Actually, as I am typing this to you, I am sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane, contemplating the Savior and His infinite sacrifice. I have been given such a rare opportunity to study here, and I am so grateful for the experiences that I’ve had thus far! This week has been especially full of spiritual moments and awakenings, so this will probably be long. :)

Let me start out with last Saturday, June 19. After I wrote you all, we had a fireside by an area authority 70, Elder Kacher. His devotional was amazing, and one thing that he said really got to me. He said (essentially) that we have to have the faith and courage to say “Thy will be done.” As I said, this struck me. After I wrote that email a couple of weeks ago about not going on a mission, I just had this little tinge of guilt that I hadn’t asked yet. I have been avoiding asking about whether or not I was going to go for the past few months just because I didn’t want to get a yes! After the devotional I called my mom and just started crying because I felt so guilty that I hadn’t asked and scared that if I did I would actually have to go! The more I talked it out, I decided that I just needed to ask, to have this done forever, and just know whether or not I was going to serve a mission. I really pondered about my feelings, and that night I took my question to the Lord. I basically told Him that I didn’t want to go on a mission, and I felt like it wasn’t the right thing for me but I needed His approval before I could move on. I asked for His guidance and spirit to be with me so that I could know His will for me and have the courage to do what He has planned for me. I ended my prayer, and then I decided to read some scriptures. I randomly turned to 2 Nephi 9. The first couple of scriptures I read basically told me that I had the choice and that the Lord knew the feelings of my heart. I felt very comforted at that. And then I read some scriptures towards the beginning of the chapter. Those said that our days should be spent serving God, and that there is a great importance to brings these words to all the earth. Let’s just say that I was super confused! I felt like I was getting mixed messages, so I decided to just go to bed and think about it the next morning. The next morning after my run I read those scriptures again, and it just all clicked in my head! I do have the choice of whether I want to serve a formal mission or not, but whatever I do I just need to make sure that my first priority is serving the Lord. As soon as I had that realization I just had this wave of peace rush over me – it was probably the most powerful peace that I’ve ever felt. I was so touched by the Spirit and so grateful that I now knew what the Lord wanted me to do. That night I also got a blessing from my home teachers, and everything that I had felt that morning was completely confirmed. I was told that God is pleased with my decisions and that I will be blessed with confidence to do the Lord’s will. Therefore, I FOR SURE will not be serving a mission at this time, but it is so nice to just know and not second guess myself about what the Lord has in store for me. I am so grateful for personal revelation and the ability I have to know God’s will for me. It was a great start to the week.

Sunday June 20 was our field trip to Yad Veshem which is the Holocaust Memorial here in Jerusalem. It was a very poignant and sad experience. After the tour, I was very sad and a little burdened by the pain and suffering of the people that I had just learned about. I said a little prayer just asking my Heavenly Father to bless me with peace, to know that there is still hope in the world. As soon as I ended my prayer, I had this thought come to me that I had never ever thought about before: Christ suffered EVERYTHING that those people went through, not only their physical suffering of hard labor, hunger, and death, but also their emotional hurt from losing their families, watching their children be torn from their sides, knowing that they will never see their families in this life again. Once I had that realization the atonement took on a whole new meaning and aspect for me. I am so grateful to know that Christ willingly suffered for each one of us so that He knows how to succor us and bless us with peace. I’m grateful that I was able to learn about the Holocaust and to know that even though it was a horrible time in the world, there is hope through Christ.

This is the Hall of Faces within Yad Veshem. It shows 600 faces of people who died in the Holocaust. They got their pictures from the concentration camps themselves.

Monday June 21 was our free day. I went with a small group to the Dome of the Rock again which was cool.

Every single time I go I am still amazed and how civilizations praise their god and build monuments to Him. I also got a package from my mom that night which was so great! It’s always great to get stuff from home. :)

Tuesday June 22 we had class for seven hours in preparation for our finals this coming week! I have two on Tuesday, two on Thursday, and one on Friday. I should be able to do fine especially because I have started my studies fairly early. I’m feeling pretty ready, but any of you ever think about or pray for me, just pray that I can do well this week. :) That would be so wonderful! Anyways, that night we got to hear a story from a Holocaust survivor!

His story is very different from other survivors’ stories because he was in 9 different concentration camps! He was a worker that just got moved from camp to camp for 5 years. His entire family died in the Holocaust, his dad from starvation and the rest of his family by mass extermination by firing squad. The thing that really impressed me about him is that he is still so happy and positive about life! It would be easy for him to be bitter about what he went through, but he really does accentuate the positive and make his life as best as it can be.

Wednesday June 23 was also full of class and studying, but that night we had a forum from a British journalist who is foreign correspondent over in Jerusalem for a number of newspapers/magazines such as Time, New York Times, Boston Chronicle, Newsweeks, etc. He was hilarious which made the evening fun.

Thursday June 24 was also full of class, but that morning we had our Galilee orientation!

In about a week and a half I will be on my way to the Galilee to lay on the beach for 11 days while learning about my Savior and His ministry there. Super awesome. That night was also our seder meal. Seder is the Passover meal that Jews have every Passover season.

We had a very authentic meal – my teacher said that our meal was probably way more authentic than most Jewish families do. It was really cool to see how this event corresponds to the Lord and how it relates to Him, even though the Jews don’t believe that Christ was the Messiah. Anyways, it was a cool cultural experience that I will probably never have again.

Friday June 25 was a fun day. We had class that morning and then that afternoon I did that service project again. That’s always fun. Later that day a small group of us just decided that we needed to get out of the Center and not study for a while. We randomly went to a place called Absalom’s Pillar which is mentioned somewhere in the scriptures. After that we went to the Church of All Nations on the Mount of Olives. This church claims to have the actual stone that Christ bled and suffered the atonement on. Pilgrims come from all over the world, lay down, and kiss this stone. Some of them were very emotional, and they were just weeping as they were kissing the stone. Even though I don’t personally believe that that exact spot was where Christ suffered, and I also don’t believe that I should really pay tribute to Christ by kissing a stone that He suffered the atonement on, but the ‘tourist’ or ‘pilgrim’ in me got me to lay down and kiss the stone.

That may be irreverent, but it was a cool experience. After that we went to a place called Dominus Flevit which is where they say that Christ looked over Jerusalem and wept. Again, I don’t know how historically accurate that it, but it does have a great view of the Old City and I could totally see Him looking over Jerusalem from that point.

We were only gone for about an hour and a half, but it was a very productive afternoon that took me to some sights that I hadn’t been to yet.

Today, Saturday June 26 has been a great Sabbath, as always. We had a great lesson in Relief Society about the scriptures based on Elder Christofferson’s talk this past conference. It really got me thinking about my scripture study and my testimony of the scriptures. Let’s just say that my testimony of the scriptures grew a ton after my experiences earlier this week. And now I’m sitting in the Garden of Gethsemane writing this to you all. Like I said, Sabbath is always a great day. :) I love being able to totally focus on the gospel and Christ and everything that happened in this land. I am so blessed!

Well everyone that was my week! I hope you’re all doing well! Keep the faith and be good! :)