Best double whammy of all time

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.

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We tried to dress up and options were limited. All I could think about was my gigantic AMERICA sweatshirt I left at home.
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Just a little sneak peek of the amazing barbeque
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We wreaked havoc on all that food. It’s not the 4th if you don’t eat way more than should be humanly possible, right?
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I didn’t get there in time, but our awesome chefs made an American flag cake! And it was GOOD.
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On the way to Bethlehem we went to the Herodium(n depending on what language you’re speaking. Do I sound like a historian yet?) which was one of Herod’s palaces. This place was CRAZY HUGE. He also may have been buried there but who really knows.
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View from the top of the palace
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Inside the church of the Nativity. It’s under renovation right now so we couldn’t see much. Here’s my motivation to come back someday . . . 🙂
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The chapel adjacent to the Church of the Nativity

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The Milk Grotto, where tradition says Mary stopped to nurse the baby Jesus and some milk spilled on the ground. Women who are having trouble getting pregnant, etc. come here seeking a miracle. It was such a special place to think about the importance of mothers and Mary’s special role in the Savior’s life.

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They told me I couldn’t buy it cause it “wouldn’t fit in my suitcase.” Whatever, joke’s on them, I don’t even have enough money for something like this anyways!!! (Just kidding. I already bought one about a 200th of this size and that’s good enough for me).

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Sunset over the shepherd’s field
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Ellie was trying to photobomb me but it ended up being cute, OF COURSE.

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The selfie struggle is REAL
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Look at this luxurious taxi we were in, WOW
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The last stop on one of our field trips. These are the steps from Herod’s time that went into the temple. We can be quite sure that the Savior walked up them. What a special place to be! He loved the temple so much. We always talk about him cleansing the temple as an example of when he was stern instead of loving, but I think it’s just yet another example of his great love. It shows how much he cared about the sacredness of his Father’s house, the ordinances performed there, and that we show respect for it.
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Meet Harry. He makes beautiful Armenian style pottery and gave us a tour of the workshop. We call him Harry Potter 🙂 hehe
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One of my favorite ceramic tiles from Harry’s shop. Ha, um, really though why would you want to hang this in your house

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Jerusalem tour train!
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Christ Church. The more we learned about it the less I was able to decisively say who goes here, but I think it’s currently a meeting place for Messianic Jews as well as Palestinian Christians. Talking to the guides there was fascinating because they both considered themselves to be Jewish, but believed in Christ. One never believed in religion whatsoever until he moved to the Holy Land because his mother had been living here. The other was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family and stopped practicing altogether as a teenager. Then he started learning more about Christ and the whole thing just made a lot of sense to him.

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