Have I ever mentioned how fun it is that when we walk around, everyone knows exactly who we are? And how everyone seems to have a special Mormon student price just for us? And how (thankfully) we seem to have a pretty good reputation as nice people? Well, it’s fun.
Have I ever mentioned how fun it is to meander, and stumble across churches, shops, museums, and incredible people? I have had so many faith-building experiences that could never have been planned, all because we happened upon people or places or things that tell amazing tales.
The director of the center warned us about “JC LDS,” or “Jerusalem Center Last-Days-Syndrome.” People start to get frantic and want to visit EVERYTHING they haven’t seen. I can honestly say that I feel pretty good about what I’ve done here! I’ve spent all the time I could out in the city, I’ve tried to participate in every activity, and I’m sure I’ve seen more than 98% of tour groups will ever see. (It’s just a matter of having 4 months versus one week, you know?)
This week we’ve done a lot of what we call “meandering.” We have destinations, but we are very open to detours. We have shopping lists, but they change every time we see something new. We have sack lunches, but falafel and shawarma just call your name sometimes.
We’ve also been studying the New Testament extensively. I simply can’t get over how amazing it is to sit on my patio, read the New Testament, and look out at the very places it all happened. In. Cre. Di. Ble.
At this point my photos can’t adequately portray how I feel about this amazing city! But to save you from reading any more sappy nonsense I’ll just show them to you anyway.
Like I said in post #1 about Galilee, I absolutely fell in love with the area and was sad to leave. (That’s how I feel about the Holy Land in general, but I try not to talk about the fact that I’ll have to leave soon).
But Galilee was pivotal for me because I had a breakthrough. I’ve always believed that deep down inside of me there existed a morning person, and I think I’ve finally found her! It helps the cause a little bit to have a gorgeous beach where you can wake up and write in your journal as the sun rises, and go for a jog and see towering palm trees every way you turn. I got in the habit of waking up early while there and I hope to continue. Especially because I have heard a noticeable number of people quote President Hinckley about this over the past few weeks and I think it is a direct message to me about what I should be improving: “If you go to bed at 10:00 and get up by 6:00 a.m., things will work out for you.” There’s an article that cites this that I found very motivating if you want to read it. (I’ll be honest, I didn’t read every word. Gotta keep a tight schedule so I can go to bed at 10! Lol. I have a test tomorrow. Should I just test it out and go to bed even if I don’t finish studying? I doubt the promise applies if you’re spending all your time blogging . . . hm . . .)
Anyway, now that you know I’m on the path to becoming one of those nutty people who wakes up early every day and exercises before attending to their mundane responsibilities, here are the rest of my photos from Galilee!
I found out last week that the “SEA” of Galilee is actually a freshwater LAKE!
I can’t say this was actually disappointing to me, I just wanted to make this dramatic.
Anyway, I fell in love quickly with the Galilee area, and was just as sad as the next guy when my 11 days there were up. But more than anything, I’m happy and grateful for the experiences I had up there!
Out professor encouraged us to think ahead of time about what we hoped to get out of our time in Galilee, and I wrote down a couple of ideas. One of them was that I wanted to have a favorite miracle story from the Savior’s earthly life. Why does this matter to me so much? I don’t know. I guess I just wanted to have one I could refer to as my favorite. Know where to turn in the scriptures when I need a boost. Know myself better by knowing what I relate to and am affected by.
As unimportant as it may have seemed, it was accomplished. When we read the story in Mark 9 about a father who wants his son healed, it struck me (like it always has) and I can now say that it is my very favorite. It’s the story that Elder Holland spoke of in a talk a few years ago: “Lord, I Believe.” Because when the Savior says all things are possible for those who believe, the man says “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”
I have always been pretty sure of my testimony. That’s never been much of an issue. But I find this story so real and relatable because it is a reminder that we are all imperfect and sometimes we don’t have perfect faith. But when times are difficult, and we are struggling to overcome challenges, where do we turn? If we turn to Christ, as imperfect as we are, rather than turning somewhere else, it shows we have at least some measure of faith in him. And we are blessed for that, and our faith grows as we see the blessings from our Father in Heaven.
Since I already wrote one paper (for my New Testament class) about this story, I’ll leave it at that. Here are about a milllllion photos. Come on, 11 days, 8 of them involving field trips, all centered around some of the most historically and religiously amazing places in the world?! How could I NOT have a gazillion?! (Actually, I’m going to split this up into 2 posts. I just can’t bring myself to put that many in one post).
I love Christmas.I love the 4th of July. I never thought I’d get to have the two together!
On Monday, July 4th we went to Bethlehem, so we celebrated the 4th by singing Christmas hymns all day and talking about Christmas stories. It was a fabulous day. (Plus, we got to celebrate the 4th in pure America fashion by having burgers and hot dogs the night before).
I have always adored the Christmas hymns. Imagine how surreal it was to sing “Silent Night” overlooking a shepherd’s field right under Bethlehem. I felt such a sobering peace in that town, especially as I reflected about the humble life of the Savior.
We only celebrate the beginning of his life so much because of what happened at the end of his life. He did what no one else could do for our sake, and we would do well to humble ourselves and remember that fact more often. I can’t say that I’ve become a completely different person here, or that I’ve changed in every way that I would like to yet. But I have been humbled time and time again and I have become more deeply and sincerely grateful to God for all he has given me.
I’ve become more grateful to live in the United States, as well. I even got emotional when on Sunday night we sang the national anthem together. All you back home know how much I LOVE America. I go all out for the 4th of July, my “bald is beautiful” bald eagle long-sleeve tee is one of my most prized articles of clothing, and I have been known to begin a “U-S-A” chant on more than one occasion. But this was deeper than all of that. A feeling of gratitude that I live where I have opportunities, safety, resources, and most importantly, religious freedom.
So, yes, I think you could say that celebrating Independence day and Christmas together was pretty much the greatest double whammy of all time.
The rest of that week was excellent as well. I keep thinking it can’t get any better, and then it does. We keep discovering new places and meeting new people who have incredible stories to tell. I’m fascinated by every church, every historical monument, and every person here. I’m starting to feel a sort of urgency, pushing me to take advantage of any and all free time I have here, because there is just so much to see and so much to learn! I’m grateful we have more free afternoons and infinite ground to cover.
I’ve gotten behind, oh no! A couple weeks ago (yikes) we went to a cute part of Jerusalem called Ein Karem. It’s supposedly where John the Baptist was from and there is an impressive church there commemorating his being born there. It also has some of the best ice cream we’ve had while in Jerusalem, amazing stained glass windows in a hospital (which we had quite an adventure hiking to and finding), and great views from hilltops (like all of Jerusalem). It was a lovely day and we only got lost trying to find things a few times, ha ha.
OK I should tell you something: I’m not really Indiana Jones! And neither is anyone in my class.
But we went to Petra and some other INCREDIBLE places in Jordan this week, so we basically feel like him. (We even watched the movie in preparation. At the part where Indiana and the others are riding their horses into Petra, we all cheered).
I don’t know if you remember me talking about how asleep I was during the whole Egypt trip we went on, but this trip was better as far as alertness goes. I don’t know why, exactly, but I had more energy. We also had a lot more free time to explore, take photos, etc. which made it really fun. We even set a record for the longest time to get through border control coming back into Israel—four hours! A small price to pay for such an incredible time.
Well, I turned 22 and only listened to the song “22” about 1800 times. (Or maybe like 3? The line gets blurry after the first one because it gets stuck in your head anyway). Some friends here had already been planning a day at the beach in Tel Aviv, so I decided to tag along and consider it my birthday celebration. And. There is a really good Mexican restaurant in Tel Aviv. And. You can rent bikes there. So. Pretty great, in my opinion.
Yes, you may have noticed that I borrowed some of T-Swift’s lyrics for my title. It’s because my birthday was basically the exact same as her music video for that song.
See what I mean? Literally the same thing. Went to the beach, partied with my friends, and rode bikes! OK so there were just a couple minor differences: my shorts were definitely longer than hers, I ate a burrito instead of cake, and I rode a bike by myself instead of with some guy I met at a party. Also, we didn’t really party (I should probably clarify that for the sake of my reputation and just in case someone who could kick me out of Jerusalem reads this) (now it sounds like I said that to cover up even though I did party but let me assure you I did NOT party), except for listening to our favorite jams on the bus ride to Tel Aviv.
Why “miserable and magical”? Well, it was magical. It was everything I wanted on my birthday (though I missed my family and people at home, of course). I even got to eat a pork burrito! Have I talked about that enough yet? I don’t think I can talk about it enough. Also, the beach is the best medicine I know for a finals-worn-out soul. What about miserable, though? Well. It was MISERABLY HOT. You know how I feel about heat. I was sweat–ty. I also got sunburned, which I didn’t think was possible after slathering yourself with SPF 70 multiple times, but there you have it, folks: my skin never ceases to amaze.
Despite finding all those things to complain about, I’m so glad I got to celebrate my birthday in such a wonderful place with such wonderful people! I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling . . . well I don’t feel much different from 21, but what the heck, I AM FEELING 22!