Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Evolution of my Testimony

Although I have been home for almost a month, today I find myself reflecting a lot on my time in Jerusalem. I have written my feelings in my journal over and over again, but I think I just want to share them with people. 

I don't know if I will ever go back to Jerusalem, which is what made it so hard to leave. But today I feel overwhelmed with gratitude for the memories I will always have of my time spent there: memories of the friendships I found, the different cultures and diverse religions I learned about. Memories of absolute beauty-- beauty in nature, beauty in the city, and beauty in the sincere eyes of the people in Jerusalem. Memories of long field trip days that somehow flew by, and memories of studying long into the night. Memories of time spent with the locals, and long conversations with friends. Memories of hard lessons learned, and funny moments shared. Memories of added confidence and renewed motivation to follow my dreams. Most of all, however, I am grateful for the gift of a strengthened testimony, which comes from the memories I have of the spirit I felt in Jerusalem. 

During our last few days in Jerusalem, we walked through the last week of the Savior's life. We visited the Garden of Gethsemane, did the Via Delarosa walk, and went to the Garden Tomb. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with love and gratitude for the Savior at each one of these places. 

I know. It's funny, isn't it? I think I can recall a few times where I wrote on this blog that the spirit in Jerusalem was nothing like I thought it would be. In fact, a lot of times, I don't think there was even a spirit to speak of. However, looking back, I can see that each place we visited from the life of the Savior gave me a more real sense of his life and his love for me as an individual. 

There have been times in my life when my testimony of the gospel has been very weak. It was during these times that I felt like I was floating. I felt pretty much numb to any feelings. In retrospect it seems almost like I had given up and I was letting the currents of life carry me wherever they may. Going to Jerusalem snapped me out of this. In the last few months my testimony has evolved. 

Part of one of my favorite quotes says, "I am finished and done with low living, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tainted visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarf goals." This quote, which I had hanging on my bulletin board at the Jerusalem Center, gave me renewed motivation to get outside of my comfort zone and take control of my life. This quote (in full) pushed me to strengthen my relationship with the Lord. Up until recently, I have viewed the life of the Savior as a sort of story. Being in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, and Jerusalem (getting to walk through His life as we read about it from the Bible) helped me understand the reality of Jesus. He was real! He lived on the earth like I do. He had friends and parents like me. He felt the pain of betrayal just like too many people today experience. He felt sadness and joy like everyone does. But he was no ordinary man. He atoned for the sins of the world. He died for me, and he was resurrected. He has made my happiness possible and your happiness possible. And that is miraculous. 

He is real! I have a testimony of that. 

Shalom Ya'll 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Galilee, Sweet Galilee... All These Pictures are Killing Me

I can't believe how many pictures I have... It's ridiculous, and I know readers probably mindlessly scroll through them after looking at the first five... but this blog is more for me than for you, so feel free to look. Or don't look.

I went to Galilee for ten days and it was the funnest thing ever. The most fun thing! I loved it and was so sad to leave! 

First we went to Nazareth and went inside some churches. We were given some free time which I spent sitting on a bench outside of a church and talking to Rachel and Tess. It was the perfect afternoon.
Me and Spencer
I liked going to this church because it helped me picture Jesus as a boy running through the streets of Nazareth and being parented by Mary and Joseph.
The next morning we woke up early and went on a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. We had a devotional and read scriptures about Christ walking on the water and calming the Sea. It was so peaceful and probably one of my favorite parts of the trip. 

Friends on the boat
Me and Tori
Some look out point. Very pretty.
Sara at the church that commemorates the story of the 5 loaves and 2 fishes.
After that we went to Capharnum
I sat in the ruins of the synagogue and read about all the miracles that Christ preformed there. Also notice my trusty pink sandals. Those things cost me four dollars and are quite possibly the best purchase I've ever made.
After that we headed to the mount of Beatitudes where we had another devotional. I love Matthew 5, so it was fun to sit and think about Christ teaching the Sermon on the Mount in or around that very area. 
It also looked like Hawaii... which is always a plus.
Walking down the Mount of Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee

Later that night we made it to our amazing resort hotel on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and headed to a restaurant for dinner and a night on the board walk. Luckily I didn't get the fish this time. That one was just a little to fishy for my taste. 
The sunset that night (and every night) was gorgeous. 

Me and Tessi got friendship bracelets. It's official now I guess. 
We got to go to church in the Tiberius Branch. It was amazing to be there and see the church work just like it does anywhere else. Even though there are only a few members in the area, they are all so strong and testify of the same things people do all around the world. Through out my time here I have realized how unified the world can be in Christ. It was cool to see all the different cultures within this little branch in Tiberius. There were four different languages spoken, and we got to hear the sacrament prayers given in Hebrew. It was neat to think that that was something like what it would have sounded like when Christ first taught about the sacrament. The spirit throughout the whole meeting was very strong, and I felt so lucky to get to be a part of that strong little branch for the day.
I also had the privilege of going to a baptism for a little girl in our primary group at the Jordan River. It was beautiful and really cool to see a baptism there. I missed out on a hike with the group to go to the baptism, but I had no regrets. It was really cool.
OK... This is not the most flattering picture, but on the way home, my professor's son, David, finally decided that he liked me and was very persistent in making sure that when we got home I would go play on the beach with him. It was actually perfect because pretty much everyone else was gone on the hike, so we had the whole beach and the whole afternoon to do whatever we wanted to do. It was a little stormy, so no swimming, but Emily and I sure bonded with the faculty kids.

Me and Abby. This girl has melted every student's heart at the JC. She is in my sunbeam class and has the cutest personality you will ever find in a three year old. I'm going to miss her. 
The next day we went to Hazor. Yay for that! It's a big deal. Me, Sara, and Tori

After that we went to Dan, which was actually one of the prettiest places we've been to. 
Then we went to Nimrod's castle and I thought about Marie. She used to call us Nimrod when ever we did something stupid. I love that lady.
Chloe and me

Best Galilee roommate ever! 

Then we went to this place that had significance, but all I remember is that it overlooked the road to Damascus and it reminded me of that talk that I think President Uchtdorf gave a few conferences back. Speaking of President Uchtdorf. He has become one of us here at the JC. :) More on that later.
Beautiful view. 
The next day we went to the Mount of Transfiguration where Peter, James, and John received the keys from the Lord, Elijah, Moses, and John the Baptist. This little boy had the best poker face I've ever seen. We tried speaking to him in english, spanish, arabic, and hebrew, and he would not hardly even look at us. Here's Kara giving it her best shot... nothin', We learned right before we left that he spoke arabic. Obviously he didn't want to talk. 
John and I and the Church of Transfiguration
Emily and I entering the grotto that is said to be the actual spot that these events took place.
From there we went to Megiddo. I was so excited to take this picture because I thought my cousin took the same one when she was here, but it turns out she was actually in Caesarea, not Megiddo. Too late to go back now. 
That night the sunset was really pretty again.
AND.... We got to celebrate Chloe's one year mark for joining the church. I love that girl! 
Later that night our prayers were answered and class was canceled due to a mix up in the room reservation... so we got to try our hardest to get conference to stream. The internet in the basement was not that great, but due to the masterful work of Spencer and Matt piling a computer on a box on a table on a table, we were able to hit just the right spot to get the connection going. Sort of. It was very slow, but we managed to get through one session of conference. 
The next night, we got really ambitious and found a projector to display conference on the side of a shed on the beach. We all vowed that we wouldn't get on the internet so al the power could go towards getting conference to work. It was dark and a little chilly ouside, but such a memorable experience to listen to the prophet and apostles speak while sitting along the shores of the Sea of Galilee-- a place where Jesus himself loved to be and teach. Galilee was mentioned a few times in conference, and at one point, the speaker even asked that we imagine it. It was cool that we didn't have to imagine. We were there in real life. What an experience!
There was a girl in our group that sent our story into the Church News and we got a little blurb. To read it go to this link.
The next day we went to Chorazin and talked about stuff. Our devotional was on not judging and the story of the mote in the eye of one person while you have a beam in yours. I have always loved that lesson. Anyway... here is me not quite ready for a picture. But if you look really closely you can see that I am holding a mote in my fingers. It's a tiny stick. 

Latter on we went to another place that I can't really remember...  but that the Mediterranean behind us. 
That night the sunset was THE prettiest. This wasn't even the high point.
We had a little get together with everyone. At this point it was really setting in that our time together was coming to and end. We spent the night playing football, volleyball, playing the guitar, and roasting marshmallows. We also met a christian group from Master's College who lives in Jerusalem and are doing the exact same things we are pretty much, They were super cool. And some very attractive. 
The next morning we packed up to head back to Jerusalem. It was sad to leave our little hotel room. Heidi, Emily, and Lexi were great roommates. We had some good talks, as well as singing and dancing lessons. Great memories there. 
 On the way home we stopped at a few sites. 
This cemetary was amazing. Three LDS people (some missionaries) were buried there and we had a devotional that highlighted each of their lives. One of them happened to be an ancestor of a girl in our group, which brought an added reality to the experience. Another is the man that converted Jacob Spori the man that the Spori building at BYU-Idaho is named after. They gave us free time after that to walk around. I have always had a sort of fascination with cemeteries. I love walking around and thinking about each person's life and wonder about their story. I could have spent hours there. 
Next we went to Caesarea. My site report site!! That means I wrote a research paper on this place and had to give a short presentation on it. I had to do one of these at the beginning of the semester, and I was a mental basket case. This time I got up and said, "Welp. Everything I wanted to say about this place was already said, so I have nothing else to add. But I do know that Caesarea is home to the largest and only full sized golf course in Israel." Totally irrelevant, but it got people to laugh. YES! The two girls in this picture are the other two that were assigned to present, and they also kept the mood very light-- one of them even presented in a British accent. We were told later that ours was the only site report presentation that everyone listened to all the way through! SUCCESS! 
 Here I am advertising water. Or something. 
We had a piggyback ride race in the hippodrum. I was laughing so hard and Kari was struggling to get off my back so much that I fell collapsed becuase I was laughing too hard. If you notice I'm in the very back. This was taken moments before. I should point out that our "fall" was not the worst. Jacob and Sawyer ate it pretty hard. And we have it on camera :)
Me and Sara finally got our fist Magnum Bars. Yay for being cheap! It was delicious! 
The Mediterranean
We went to the aqueducts on the beach and they let us play around for a minute before getting on the bus and heading back to the Jerusalem center. 
Me and Spencer 

It was a really great trip all together. This blog post barely skims the surface. But there's no way I could share the things that touched me most on this blog. 

I have a lot to post before I go home in three days. So check back soon.

Love you all.