All posts by waitimnotdunne

From Jordan to Tel Aviv!

This is going to be a long entry because I haven’t written a blog post in weeks and A LOT has happened…SO, I’m going to divide it into sections and you can scroll around and read whatever catches your attention. The sections are as follow:

  • Jordan
  • Finals & Elder Oaks
  • The Red Sea/ Eilat
  • Western Wall Underground Tour
  • Bethlehem
  • Cat incident
  • Tel Aviv

JORDAN:

One of my biggest dreams, for years, has been to go to Petra. So that was pretty much the HIGHLIGHT of my experience in Jordan!! There were also some other really amazing sites we visited, but that was the one that stood out to me most.

The day we left for Jordan, we took a bus to the border, passed through border control, and then took another bus from the Jordanian side of the border. We went to Mount Nebo first, where it is believed that God showed Moses the Promised Land as well as where he raised the serpentine staff for the Israelites to look upon and be healed from their poisonous snake bites. It was a BEAUTIFUL view and also a pretty special moment to be there.

After Mt. Nebo, we went to this super good restaurant that was mostly outdoors, decorated with rugs, tapestries, and pillows. It was so beautiful and gave off a pretty cool, indie vibe. The food was WAY good and the pita was fresh, so that was a good experience.

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Then, we went to Machaerus, where John the Baptist was both imprisoned and most likely beheaded!! We ran up the mount to the top where the ruins of the structure and prison are. It overlooked the Dead Sea and had a gorgeous view, but at the same time it was kind of a somber place to be because of its reason for being infamous.

Following that visit, we drove the rest of the way South to Petra where we were greeted by a group of men dancing and singing! It was THE COOLEST. OH, and some really delicious smoothies. The hotel we stayed in is located right inside Petra, which is in the middle of canyon-like rock. So, later that night we walked straight down from the Hotel to the most famous tomb of Petra which was featured in Indiana Jones! It has been my DREAM to come here at night!!! It was just as I’ve seen in all the pictures, and MORE! There were bags full of sand and candles covering the ground in front of the tomb. We all gathered in front of it and sat down while locals played music on their flute and another stringed instrument I don’t know the name of. As we listened, a man came around with a tray of hot herbal tea, which really hit the spot. IT WAS JUST SO MAGICAL! Anyway, I’m going to move on now because I still have like three hours more of writing. Hahahah

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The next day, we explored PETRA! We went to the same tomb we did at night, and then we went through the rest of Petra—first, to the Monastery. LET ME TELL YA, that was a challenging hike. I don’t know if I’m really thaaat out of shape or what, but it was A LOT of stairs, it was hot, and I was in pants, not shorts, because modesty is so important in these countries… We finally made it to the top and just chilled on these chairs for an hour, which was so nice. Then we explored different ruins and ended at the Kings Tombs!! These were HUGE and so beautiful and full of vendors (well, everywhere was full of vendors…), but it was just really colorful and cool! I was with a group of people and we went into one of the tombs and sang some hymns and it was so beautiful and special, and people crowded around us and took pictures even, which is something that’s never happened to me before so that was a pretty cool experience! Oh, we also made a little friend named Mohammad who should be in like second or third grade, but instead of going to school, he sells postcards all around Petra to tourists. He saw me take a jumping picture and got super excited, so we took one together and then he followed me around forevs. I asked why he’s not in school and he kept telling me he’d just go tomorrow instead. Also, the restaurants here are very interesting because when we ate lunch, there were people smoking inside the building…which is something I’m definitely not used to.

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THE NEXT DAY WE WENT TO JERASH!!!! This was one of the Decapolis cities of the Romans. It was insanely beautiful!!! It’s a mixture of Roman architecture/ruins and lush, scenic landscape. There were rolling green hills, and sheep, and arches, and columns, and an amphitheater (where we heard some people play music for us), and just SO. MUCH. BEAUTY. This was another one of my favorite places from this trip!! We spent a lot of time there, just exploring and taking in the views.

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Following Jerash, we went to Pella. Pella was another Decapolis city of the Romans and had been newly excavated, so that was really exciting because it was so fresh! We found a lot of Roman glass, and I licked one of the columns…ayyy? When we first got there, I felt like I had been woken up from my nap a little too early, so I was in a pretty bad mood. Then, I looked out the window and saw these cute little Bedouin boys running towards the bus with yellow flower leis and I thought “that’s happy…that’ll make me happy.” So, when we got off the bus, I paid him a dollar for it and I was in a better mood. Yayy! Driving back from Pella was some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in my life—tying only with Baños de Agua Santa, Ecuador!! There were some beautifully-formed rolling hills, and the sun was shining through the clouds perfectly, and there were palm trees everywhere…I don’t know guys, but it was breath-taking.

We went to Amman next, where things were a little more chill and I taught my professor how to play MASH. Hahahah it was a very good bonding experience for all of us. I went to McDonalds in Amman and it was way nice and delish. We also went to a beautiful mosque where the people were very nice and they gave us free Korans and free earrings after our visit.

We ended the trip on a really cool note by going to “Bethany beyond Jordan” where Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist. When we got there, there were a lot of people going in and out of the water as they were baptized, and it was a really pretty sight to see. We also sang some hymns and I felt the Spirit in those moments. I waded in a little bit and tried to imagine the Saviour walking into those waters and giving us the perfect example of what we should do, although He was without sin. He showed us that we need to be baptized by someone with authority of God, or the Priesthood, as well as the importance of baptism by immersion at an age where He was accountable for His own actions. The ordinance and covenant we make with God during our baptism allows us to start over, and is the first step in the direction of living with God again. It was a beautiful feeling to be there and take time to ponder His perfect example. Very good ending to the trip.

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FINALS AND ELDER OAKS:

So, this actually happened before Jordan…but we had one of the 12 apostles and his wife come visit us at the Jerusalem Center!!! It was kind of a stressful week because we had finals all week and I also had to get a lot of assignments done before our trip to Jordan and I also had to somehow be put together and not sleep-deprived before an apostle of God came..! But, God works miracles and I somehow pulled my act together before he got to the center. At dinner, I sat behind him and it was pretty crazy because you always see the front side of the apostles because they speak to you at conference and everything and they’re always on the stands facing you…but this time I saw the backside of him and I don’t think it really means anything, but it was just cool to see him from that perspective I guess. Hahaha. After dinner, we had a forum where he spoke with his wife and some other leaders of the church. First, some friends from the Jerusalem Center sang and it brought me to tears!!! Then, they spoke and the Spirit was just so strong. It was also SO CUTE to watch Sister Oaks speak because she loves her husband soooo much and included him a lot in what she was saying. She’d ask him to get up and add something to what she said, or just stand there, arms linked, for support as she spoke. At one point, Elder Oaks went to sit down and she said “Where are you going?! You’ve gotta stay up here with me!” and he said, in kind of a whiney voice, “But I’m tired…” and then sat down. It was so cute. And he laughs SO MUCH. They just showed me how I want my future relationship to be throughout my marriage—silly and fun, laughing all the time, while still have the Spirit strong and supporting each other in righteousness. BEAUTIFUL NIGHT!

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(I’m in the same row as Elder Oaks all the way to the right, one in.)

THE RED SEA: ELIAT

WE TOOK A TRIP TO THE RED SEA! It was around a four-hour drive in bus each way, and it was really cool to reflect on the distance, actually because of what we know about Lehi and his family. In the Book of Mormon when Lehi is told by God to leave Jerusalem before it’s destroyed, he leaves with his family and goes all the way down to the red sea and even a little further south from the northern-most part. After they get there, the Lord tells them to go back and get their scriptural and genealogical records from Jerusalem…so they have to go alllll the way back up to Jerusalem and then back to where they set up camp at the Red Sea. Then ONCE AGAIN, they have to go allll the way back to Jerusalem to bring another family with them, and then walk alllll the way back down to the Red Sea area. I CAN’T IMAGINE WALKING THE DISTANCE FROM JERUSALEM TO EILAT EVEN ONCE! It would take FOREVER! It testified to me even more about the sacrifice it was for them to be so obedient to the Lord and travel so much.

When we got to the beach, we snorkeled!!! The water was SO CLEAR and turquoisey. (I’m making that a word.) we hopped in and –BOOM!—We were surrounded by purple jellyfish. They were all over the place and it was so scary and I swallowed so much water trying to get away from them the first half hour. Ahhahaha AT ONE POINT—oh my gosh, this is sad!! –AT ONE POINT, I was treading water and felt myself smack something…I go underwater….and THERE WAS A JELLYFISH SHREDDED TO PIECES!!!! I felt SO BAD because I didn’t want to hurt them!!! But I didn’t even see it…anyway. Other than jellyfish, there were parrot fish I think and some other colorful fish I don’t know the names of. AND WE SAW AN OCTOPUS TOO!! Pretty cool. I’ll be posting a video on my Youtube Channel of it soon (hopefully).

Western Wall Underground Tour

This was a pretty cool tour, guys!! So, the Western wall where everyone worships in Old Jerusalem is where Jews go because it is closest to where the temple used to be before it was destroyed. There is only a portion you can see because of the houses and structures that have been built up against and around it. SO, there is a way to see MORE of the wall if you go underground—Which is exactly what we did, folks. We saw the wall from underground tunnels that were used as cisterns. Cisterns are very important in Israel because it is a very dry land with little water. Their main source of water, aside from rain water, is the Sea of Galilee. So, anyway there are a ton of cisterns throughout Israel because it was the best way they could have water before figuring out how to transport it from other sources, or if there wasn’t the option of a well available. Wow, I just geeked out on a tangent. Sorry. Moving on, we walked through the tunnels and it was pretty cool to see the original stone that was used to build this ancient and super historic wall! We ended up walking a part of the wall that was closest to the Holy of Holies which once was located in the temple, too! At this spot, there were women worshiping and I joined them briefly by saying a prayer at the wall. I like the feeling of being surrounded by other religions and feeling unified in purpose through praising God.

 

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Bethlehem

YES, YOU READ THAT RIGHT!!! We went to Bethlehem, which is actually located in the West Bank. For those of you who don’t know, the West Bank is actually in the East of Israel. It’s called the West Bank because it’s on the west bank of the Jordan River. This is an area that is populated more by Palestinians, and they live in very humble circumstances. It is definitely a sight to see going from West Jerusalem, where the streets are paved nicely and there are actually restaurants and malls, to going to the West Bank where everything is run-down and people are in great need of food and shelter.

We went to the Church of the Nativity. This is a church that was built over the location most believe Jesus was born. It is owned by three different churches so the architecture and art differs within the church building. The main attraction of the church is where you walk down stairs to this cave where Jesus is said to have been born. Normally, it is pretty hard for me to feel the Spirit in a church that is so adorned with gold and fabrics and decorations because I feel like my mind is as cluttered and crammed as everything else in the church—I feel kind of stagnant with all of that combined with strong incense smells…but when I got to this spot, I tried to imagine Jesus laying in a manger, with His family, friends, and angels surrounding Him. I felt the Spirit so strongly that I was brought to tears…Jesus Christ really was born to save us, He really does live today, and He will come back again.

This church had another area that really spoke to me as well. In a different part of the church, there is a cave you walk down into and there are many different nooks within the cave. One part of it was where the graves of children Herod killed were located. It was so sad to think that Herod was so intimidated by Jesus’ power and presence that he caused so many innocent children to be killed. To the right of that area, there was a secluded cove where ST. JERÔME lived 35 years of his life and translated the Bible into Latin (The Vulagate) for the first time ever!! I felt a deep appreciation for the dedication and sacrifices he made in order for there to have been progress in translating the Bible. It’s also special to think that he picked such a sacred area to translate it…he must have felt the Spirit strongly while he translated the Bible near the birthplace of our Saviour.

After the seeing the church and having some reflection time, we went to the Shepherd’s mount that overlooks Bethlehem. This is where people believe the shepherds saw the star marking Jesus’ birth! We sat there as a class and sang some hymns, played some music, and then shared our testimonies. It was a very touching moment for all of us to be testifying of Christ in the same area shepherds, thousands of years ago, were testifying of the same Lord we all share who was born to save us all. It’s truly amazing how He is spoken of in the past, present, and future by people from all over the world…always!!

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                                                Cat Incident

This is just a funny story. I had to hang-dry some of my clothes outside so I hung the hangers on tree branches, which I’ve done in the past. I guess by the time my roommate came home, some of my clothes had fallen onto the ground. She noticed a nasty lil cat was laying on my sweatshirt, so she slid the door open to go scare it away. Instead of scaring it, the cat got territorial and PEED ON MY SWEATSHIRT BEFORE PRANCING AWAY. Right as she walks inside, laughing, and thinking of HOW she was going to bring that up, I WALK THROUGH THE DOOR. Through her laughing she manages to get out that a cat peed on my sweatshirt so I bolted outside and SPRINTED after the cat. Hopefully it will never come back, but MAN, GUYS! It was a BYU Jerusalem sweatshirt I had JUST BOUGHT and washed for the first time…I HADN’T EVEN WORN IT YET! And cat pee is SO potent and does NOT come out of clothes—back me up, people—SO…I left it outside before coming here to Galilee and who knows what’s going to happen to it. Hahaha I didn’t have time to wash it and try out strategies of getting cat pee out before coming here.

IF YOU KNOW OF ANY SOLUTIONS, PLZ MESSAGE ME. SOS.

Tel Aviv

AHHH, GUYS!!! It’s been really nice this past week because right now I’m on the shore of Galilee, the week before I was on the beach of Tel Aviv, and the week before that I was at the shore of the Red Sea!! I LOVE and have MISSED the beach and sun!! I am so sorry for all of my Utah friends who are toughing it out through the snow…I am wayyy grateful to not be going through that weather right now.

Anyway, TEL AVIV!! I wish I had come here SO MUCH MORE during the semester! It’s gorgeous. We started off the day by biking along the boardwalk (idk if you can call it a boardwalk though) and we stopped by this park and climbed all over stuff and then stopped at a beach where we laid out. Well, actually, everyone else laid out because I didn’t bring my towel, hahaha, sooooo I just walked around and picked up sea glass and shells and swam a little. After that, we walked further down the beach to these sand volleyball courts and played! It was WAY FUN and there were bleachers of people watching us, which was hilarious, ridiculous things kept happening. Like people getting the ball hit to their face, and after it hitting their face we somehow managed to keep it up and over the net, etc. It was a HOOT and we all ended the game with a smile on our face and sand in our mouth. Yayy!!

We swam some more after that, and then we went to a MEXICAN RESTAURANT! I have missed non-kosher food so much so it was a lot better than I expected it to be. I got a burrito and esquites, which really hit the spot. Then, we rode bikes back to where the buses were going to pick us up and SHOOT lemme tell y’all about this experience! So, the bikes we rode are those city bikes you pay for with a card and then ride them to wherever and leave them at the closest station to you. So, we rode the bikes back only to find that there weren’t enough spaces for the amount of bikes we had. So some of us had to ride to the next bike dropoff station, which wasn’t too far. However, those racks were full TOO! We had 9 minutes before the buses were going to pick us up…so me and two other people found out where the next station was and BOOKED IT up this hill, but my gears were broken and I had to stay on 3rd gear (which does NOT make going up hills easy…). So that fiasco happened, but we kept pushing through and winding up this cobblestone hill until—YES!—We found it! AND there was enough room for all of our bikes. Then we basically parkour-ed it back to the bus. It was so thrilling and fun even though it wasn’t the ideal situation. Being in a dress didn’t help the matter either. Hahah It was great though. Then, we made it back home on time and slept like none other.

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Right now I’m in Galilee and I thought about including some insights today, but this has taken me four hours to write hahahah sooo, I thought I would do it a different day. I hope you enjoyed reading about my experiences! Let me know if you have any questions!!

If you’d like to know more about my experiences here in the Holy Land, follow my instagram @waitimnotdunne and check out my Youtube channel “Madison Dunne” because I post a lot more frequently on those social media platforms.

Don’t forget your worth!! You’re all so important to God and He’s happy when you’re happy. So don’t forget to turn to Him when you miss that comfort and love. 🙂

HAVE A GREAT WEEK!

Mads

You Want Peace?

HELLO!! I hope everyone is having a super wonderful week!!

I haven’t written in a while because of many reasons, so I apologize. A few big things have happened within the past few weeks. Among many, some are:

  1. I donated blood FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!!! I was feeling pretty nauseous the whole time, and definitely shed a tear (yes, only one) …but it was so worth it! I’m not sure if I would do it again…but I felt good after donating.
  2. I had finals and midterms and came out of it still emotionally stable. Some of our classes, like Arab & Muslim studies, Jewish studies, and Arabic ended this last week (so sad!!). So we had finals for those and midterms for our other two classes. I was so sad to be done with my Arabic class…but it’ll be okay 😥
  3. I went to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo!! IT WAS SO FUN AND BEAUTIFUL!!! I’m working on a video which will be posted soon.

 

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it for the highlights because I have already forgotten a lot of what I’ve done…whoops. Does anyone have advice on how to keep up on my journal while still having a busy life? I used to be so good about it…

Anyway, I am so, so grateful for life, light and truth and that we have a God who is intimately involved in our lives!

Within the past few weeks I have learned more about how Christ should be a bigger part of our being every day. I feel comfortable saying that I strive to emulate Christ’s attributes each day by treating others kindly. However, it is not enough to just live a life being good to others, and I think I have gotten caught up in this perspective.

I teach an 8-year-old to 12-year-old class at church about Jesus Christ’s Gospel and it’s helped me recognize where my testimony is at. It’s one thing to feel the Spirit and know something is true, and it’s another to pair that feeling up with knowledge and be able to teach it in a clear way. This experience has reminded me that if we are not moving forward, learning more from the scriptures each day, then we are going backwards.

The Lord teaches us that we must love God as well as everyone around us. However, He also teaches us to act on our beliefs and modern-day prophets have taught us of the importance of continually learning in this life.

This week I took some time to ask myself how knitted Jesus Christ is into my being. I feel Him, I know He’s real, and I strive to be like Him. However, if I am not putting in the effort each day to learn of Him through the scriptures, then I begin to forget the simple truths and life lessons that I once knew so well.

The Lord’s Atonement is both infinite and intimate!! He knows us SO WELL, and we must put in the effort to get to know Him better so we can become more like Him as well as recognize Him when He comes again.

 

Being in Egypt was such an eye-opening experience for me. I felt God’s love and saw His hand so obviously prominent everywhere I went; I saw how SMART He was in building the Nile in a way that the wind could take boats south and the current could take boats north—and how every year it would flood at a predictable time in order for agriculture to flourish!! Or how people were living in such humble circumstances and seemed to be some of the happiest people I’ve met; people who didn’t let stereotypes, politics, or race keep them from smiling, lending a hand, or communicating with strangers. Or how golden sunrises sparkled over the Nile each morning and shimmered reds, oranges, and yellows at sunset. Or how the breeze blew my hair gently as the sun beat harshly down on me. Or how the spongey bread melted into my mouth after craving a good, filling lunch.

Joseph found refuge here when he needed to protect the Saviour of the World. He felt safe there, and so did I. I felt a greater connection with those of ancient times. Those great leaders of the ancient world truly did magnificent things and I feel honored to have witnessed both their accomplishments and their failures.

 

These great leaders created legacies that lived on for hundreds of years, and structures that have lasted for thousands! They created languages, government, sciences, and art! They conquered other kingdoms and kept theirs fortified and strong! And even with all of these historic accomplishments…you are still worth JUST AS MUCH to God as they are. He still loves you the same and sees the same potential and worth in YOU. YES, YOU!

(sidenote: I made a class video about our trip to EGYPT! Check it out: https://youtu.be/PQH8JdAg6QA )

That was something that stood out to me these past few weeks. Tomorrow, I’ll be in Jordan. JORDAN, PEOPLE!!! I WILL SEE PETRA!!! It has been my DREAM for SO MANY YEARS to go to Jordan and see Petra as well as its culture, archaeological finds, religious buildings, and everything in between. I was reviewing our trip schedule for while we’re over there and it brought me to tears thinking that I will actually be there!! Now, I am not saying this to brag in any way. I am just documenting my excitement!!!

I hope to cherish every moment while I’m over there and soak in enough of the experience to last me a lifetime.

I think the countries on this side of the world are so beautiful and so unique compared to the American and Latin culture I’m so familiar with. It’s very comforting seeing how people and cultures seriously differ in MANY WAYS unique to each country, yet somehow we all have SO MUCH IN COMMON it’s ridiculous!!

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These past few weeks I learned more in-depth about the Israel-Palestine conflict and it was very enlightening. I won’t go into detail about what I learned on this platform, however, I have to say that my paradigm has changed thanks to this program. I have a Jewish professor who teaches Jewish studies and a Muslim professor who teaches Arab/Islamic studies. Learning about this conflict from both perspectives taught me so much more than news channels or websites have been able to teach me regarding this conflict. There is something unique about learning from people actually involved in the conflict.

I feel that this is crucial in order to fully understand conflicts nowadays. We cannot trust the news because who knows where those sources come from, and who knows how much these people actually even know what they’re talking about. Understanding situations from first-hand sources allow us to see into the true feelings associated with conflict as well as what is actually happening compared to what the media assumes is happening.

I feel so much love for both the Israelis and Palestinians because I understand where each group is coming from. I’ve talked to people from both sides of the spectrum, and just like any other good human being, their desires are usually genuine and peaceful.

There is a good quote I read once that says:

 

People say “I want peace”.

Take away “I” (ego)

Take away “want” (desire)

And you are left with “Peace”.

– Satya Sai Baba

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I think this is true. We want peace? We must give our best effort to understand those around us; especially those who seem to oppose us in belief or action. Peace comes when we are loving, understanding, and genuine with others.

We are advised not to talk to people on the streets here, but this week I noticed this woman across the street from me looking at me and smiling. So, I yelled “Marjaba!” (hello) to her and she yelled it back, still smiling! I asked how she was doing and she replied that she was doing well! She ended up crossing the street later and actually talking to me and the people I was with. She was SO KIND and SO excited to talk with us. She spoke very little English and I speak very little Arabic, but with the little we both know we were able to have a conversation about where we’re from, where I study, where she lives, and what we did that day. I felt God’s love for her and I felt the kindest intentions from her as well.

I sometimes get frustrated because I wish I could speak every language in the world so I could learn from everyone and understand their lives and perspectives better. I think there is a lot of beauty and wisdom in learning from people different from you. God’s love and Plan of Salvation becomes even more real to me as I learn from those different from me.

 

WHAT A GLORIOUS GOD WE HAVE!! One who loves all! One who takes care of all! One who is all-knowing and ever-willing to share that knowledge with us!!

I hope I could strengthen someone this week with this post. If there is anything you want to know about my experience here, let me know! Go talk to a stranger this week and learn about their life! It’s amazing the effect that will have on your week, and even possibly your life!

Peace forevs,

Mads

Egypt + Perspective

HELLO!! I hope everyone is having a super great day!!! If you’re not, I hope you can appreciate something from this blog post and have a better day!!

So, there were a few very interesting things that happened within the past two weeks, both good and not-so-good. So, I would like to share some of the good experiences first, talk about what I did, and then we will move on to the not-so-good things! (scroll down to the ** if you want to start from the not-so-good story)

So, last week I WENT TO EGYPT!!! It was amazing!!! I have so much I want to say about it. Basically, it was NOT how I pictured it at all, but it was BEAUTIFUL. From the textbooks I’ve read on Egypt throughout high school and the pictures I’ve seen of Egypt in the news, I did not have a good sense of what Egypt is really like; I expected the Nile river to be lined with reeds and papyrus, the Pyramids to be far away from any cities or towns, and everything to be very modern and clean!

I was very, very surprised when I got there because nothing was how I pictured it to be; The Nile is lined with rocks, streets, bridges, and some plants. The Pyramids I visited were only about 15 minutes away from the core of the city of Cairo. And, all of the buildings and houses I saw were in a very run-down state.

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I stayed in Cairo for the first few days and we saw a bazaar in the center of Cairo, The Great Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, The Egyptian Museum, Memphis (where Rameses II had a lot of statues of himself), many tombs and hieroglyphics, and a dinner on the Nile River where a man did traditional dances for us where he spun the entire time while twirling around plates and skirts…IT WAS SO COOL.  (I will be editing and posting a video of this trip to my Youtube channel hopefully soon!! Youtube: Madison Dunne).

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The Egyptian museum was also REALLY interesting!! They had such ancient and fragile artifacts, and many of them were not protected by glass or anything so people were touching them…but our tour guide said we were not supposed to touch anything (as is the rule in pretty much every museum…), but there was hardly any security monitoring the place. hahaha, so that was pretty interesting. We saw the Merneptah Steele, which is a tall stone full of hieroglyphics where the first mention of Israel as a people is engraved! It was amazing to see in person!! The Rosetta Stone should have been there too, but SO MANY of Egypt’s precious treasures are located in the Louvre, the British Museum, or in Rome…laaaame. OH! They also have an exhibit with all (or most) of King Tut’s treasures!! The reason we know so much about King Tut is because his tomb was built underneath another Pharaoh’s tomb, so his was never found in time to be raided!!

This only encompasses the FIRST FEW DAYS! We were going NONSTOP!! What I loved about this trip was being able to connect Biblical stories to historical events where evidence still stood as a testimony of their existence. Seeing structures that were even ancient to Moses when he came to Egypt was absolutely soul-shocking.

After those experiences, we flew down to the south of Egypt to the city of Luxor. Even though Cairo was breath-taking, I think I was in even more awe of Luxor!! We stayed at this super cute hotel that had a nice pool and view of the Nile right outside our windows! OH, AND HOW COULD I FORGET THE FOOD?!?! Egypt’s food is DELICIOUS! Their breads, pasta, ice cream, sauce/rice/meat combos, vegetable everything…IT WAS ALL GOOD.

So, while I was in Luxor, we saw the Luxor and Karnak temples…THEY ARE INSANELY HUGE and I felt such a feeling of power while being there…it is hard to describe. I also am SO grateful for my professors who accompanied us and the tour guide all day and taught us the Biblical connections to everything; these places had a much deeper meaning to me since I could understand the purpose behind such structures and hieroglyphics. We also went to the Valley of the Kings, where numerous Pharaohs were entombed. This is when they stopped building pyramids because they were obvious tombs and were raided too much, so they began to build them into hills. We saw incredible mosques and synagogues too.

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We also took a sailboat, or felucca, down the Nile River to a neighborhood where we rode camels!! It was pretty surreal moment…I realized how absolutely amazing this whole experience is and how God works through other people to cheer us up. Why did I need to be cheered up? Well, here is the not-so-good news:

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**Before we went on the feluccas, we went to a few destinations in the morning, including the tomb of Hatshepsut. Quick background story, cuz it’s super cool– Hatshepsut was pharaoh for a time and she disguised herself as a man to everyone because Pharaoh was never supposed to be a woman. She had all of her statues built portraying her as a man, and even had herself depicted on the walls of her temple as having a divine birth and therefore qualifying as a demigod herself. Her son, once he was old enough to reign, was so mad at her for faking everything that he took over the kingdom and had all of the fingers of her statues chopped off. This made me realize that a lot of things we may look at and assume are due to erosion, are actually purposefully chipped away or removed. There is another example of this in some of the scenes depicted within the Karnak Temple! There are some people who are purposefully chipped out of scenes, and others who have obviously been plastered over. This is how people changed history and erased individuals out of the minds of others–very interesting.

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Anyway, I got way off topic and geeked out so y’all can educate yourselves cuz knowledge is power and these things are IMPORTANT!!! So anyway, back to the not-so-good news. We get to the tomb of Hatshepsut. We go through security. I get my phone out to play music, and my GoPro out to record. (I was making a music video for our class) I sat on the trolley-type thing that took us from the entrance to the tomb. I recorded some more while on the ride, and then got off. I catch up to the group to listen to the tour guide and–WHAAA?? My phone is not in my fanny pack. It is not in my backpack. It is not in my pockets…my phone was GONE. And so was the trolley deal. I ran up to my professor and told him what happened. He got some people to start looking for my phone and notify the police as well. I continued on the tour as I held back tears, and tried to enjoy the tomb I had looked forward to seeing in person for SO LONG. But, I got nothing out of it because my mind was racing, trying to remember where I had misplaced my phone. I couldn’t help but think about all of the videos and pictures I had lost…all of the notes I had taken on these life-changing places…all the voice memos I had of live music I loved to listen to so much….THIS SOUNDS SO DRAMATIC….but it was, folks. It’s not the phone that I missed. I could use my laptop for whatever. But those memories I cherished so much were now GONE.

I had faith that once I got back to the entrance, I laugh with the security guards about it, they’d hand me my phone, and I would say a prayer of thanks and relief before moving on with the tour. Nope. Not so. Not today. No one knew of it. My professors helped me lock my phone through Find My Phone, and we left. There are a lot more details that involve crying and friends *cough* Ana *cough* being there for me…but we’re gonna skip those details.

So, fast-forward: here I am again, on this camel ride, being reminded of God’s love for me. I pass children singing, neighbors laughing and eating together, kids racing each other on bikes, a four-year-old leading the camel behind me, trees gently blowing with the soft breeze, dirt swirling as the camels walked, my camel shepherd responding to my broken Arabic, light accentuating the details in leaves on trees, and the peaceful Nile river flowing right next to me. Life was still beautiful and life was still rich with blessings and joy. Sure, I had lost evidence of those memories, but I had at least LIVED them and they were imprinted on my heart.

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I can remember one in specific. The day before, I went to this mosque that is dedicated to Mohammad Aly–He helped Egypt break free as its own state, so everyone loves him. Inside, there are hanging lights EVERYWHERE and carpeting and colors that really hit me hard as I explored the sacred house of prayer. As I admired its beauty, a group of Muslim girls ran up to me and asked to take a picture, so we took some pictures together. They were all SO beautiful and sweet. I walked around a little more, and then I saw this family smiling at me. I smiled back, and they asked if I spoke Arabic. I responded by introducing myself and asking how they were in Arabic, and they excitedly responded back! However, that is pretty much the extent of my Arabic skills so far, so we continued to have a conversation in broken English and Arabic, as well as a lot of hand motions and body language. We took a few pictures together, and then the mother handed me a stuffed camel. I wasn’t sure if she was trying to sell it to me, so I said I didn’t have money and handed it back to her. Then, she pushed it back to me and said “for you!!”. I hugged them and then they left. This was something small, but very significant to me. Everyone I had come into contact with in Egypt was very, very kind. I really admire their joy and kindness they share with strangers.

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So, I reflected on this as well as many other experiences as I rode the felucca back from the camel ride. I was surrounded by good, supportive friends as well who approached me and sympathized with me throughout the next few days.

It has been frustrating still, but I have appreciated everything else that God blesses me with every day. In the end, I still have what’s most important.

A few days ago, a man messaged me over Facebook and found my phone. He refuses to give my phone back because he already sold it, but he is at least willing to send me my photos. It has been a long, creepy, confusing, weird, and stressful process communicating with him…but at least he is cooperating for the most part. It may not be unravelling exactly how I want it to, but God is at least blessing me with what I missed most.

I don’t really know where to go with this because the end of this phone story isn’t finished and I also didn’t want this post to focus so much on my phone…but whatevs. Since I’ve been back in Jerusalem, I have had three midterms and a lot of scripture reading to do so that’s why I didn’t post earlier. But I have been more aware of how God is working in my life every day through the people that surround me.

I have very mixed emotions for this next week because we will be visiting the Holocaust museum. After the visit, we will have a 99-year-old (he turns 100 at the end of this year!) Holocaust-survivor speak to us. He only speaks Hebrew and Spanish, so I will be translating, with a few other people, his story. I am so nervous but very humbled by this opportunity to learn from him and the wisdom he’s gained.

If there is one thing I’ve learned this week, it’s that joy can still be experienced during times of sorrow thanks to Jesus Christ’s Atonement. Applying His Atonement to my life doesn’t always mean that I am experiencing it through repentance, or forgiveness. I also experience it through seeing others as God sees them. I experience it through having a greater hope for the future and focusing on what brings me true, lasting happiness, rather than temporary, materialistic happiness. I experience it through having joy in others’ accomplishments and joy when I am not so happy with my own experiences. I experience it through knowing there is always something good awaiting me in the future.

I hope we can all go through this life joyfully regardless of what happens. It is okay and necessary to mourn our losses and feel sorrow, because that allows us to experience an even greater joy afterwards. However, we should never let ourselves get stuck in a rut of sadness when we have Jesus Christ so eager to pick us up.

That is all for this week! Help someone out this week and focus on the joy it brings both of you! There is nothing better! Have a great week!!

Madison

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Knowledge is POWER and Life makes SENSE

Márjaba!!!

This week has been pretty fun and a little more laid back than past weeks because we’ve been getting reading to leave for Egypt TOMORROW! (actually we leave in like 11 hours) I have been told that there will most likely not be wifi or I’ll at least have to pay for it…and I’d rather live in the moment than be on my phone, so I probably won’t be posting on social media for another week.

ANYWAY, this post will be shorter than the past two because I need to go to bed since I’m getting up at 2am.

This week we went to the area of what was originally Gad when Israel’s territory was split into the ten tribes of Israel. That is where David courageously beat Goliath and we had the opportunity to throw rocks with sling shots in the valley of where they fought! It was a pretty cool experience. We also saw these beautiful bell caves that were caved into soft limestone from the top down, so they have holes in the top of the cave here and there and the caves are surprisingly ENORMOUS! It was a pretty fantastic thing to see.

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Here are some of the deeper thoughts I had this week that impacted me most:

In my Palestine class, we learned that Muslims believe that faith and behavior/action is the same as belief. If you don’t act, then you don’t truly believe. VERY COOL PERSPECTIVE. If you truly believe something, you should live it. Rather than defining a Muslim by what their beliefs of doctrine are, they define themselves by action. They set themselves apart from others by their behavior and actions and that shows what their beliefs are. We should do the same with our own beliefs! If we truly believe in becoming like Christ, we should be making the effort to act like Him! If we truly believe in keeping the commandments, we should be making a greater effort to do so!! Temptation is never too strong for us to handle if we understand where our intentions are in following Christ and if our testimony is something we really live up to.

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Muatazila (chief advocates of free will) (followed Abbasid caliph Mamun who reigned 813-833AD) saw reason and revelation as complementary sources of guidance from a just and reasonable God. So, not only do we have the scriptures to edify us with the pure word of God, but we also have them to help us make better decisions every day. The scriptures enlighten our minds in a way that we can see life clearer, with a more eternal perspective. The more frequently we read, the more history, doctrine, and gospel principles make sense to us. THIS allows us to more profoundly incorporate these teachings into our lives as we understand scripture on a deeper level and it is more frequently embedded into our thoughts. I have seen this change in my life since I’ve been here–the more I understand about the Old Testament, the deeper my understanding of Christ’s role in my life has been. I understand the context of where He lived better and I understand the symbolism as well, which has opened my eyes to a whole new reality of life and God’s plan for us.

Later this week, we went to a synagogue and worshiped. It was SO beautiful and the singing was so touching. I think it’s beautiful that they sing their scripture because I feel like scripture coupled with song is a very powerful combination and allows us to worship with even more of our souls.

My Jewish teacher, Ophir, who took us to the synagogue explained that in Jewish culture, they have a story that helps people see the importance of the Sabbath that goes like this: The Sabbath is talking to God about how each day of the week has a partner, but she’s the odd one out. Once they talk it over, God tells her that her partner will be the Jews. I really liked this perspective because it made me reconsider how I view the Sabbath. I need to dedicate all of my time, thoughts, energy, and activities to focusing on the Sabbath. In change, God will strengthen, nourish, and rejuvenate my mind and heart.

During the worship service, there’s a part where everyone is singing, welcoming the Sabbath, and we all faced the door as if she was walking into the service to join us. It was such beautiful symbolism!!

All in all, the cultures and religions here are strengthening my faith so much and I can’t put into words the amount of love that fills my heart every day. Today we fasted (since it’s the first Sabbath of the week), and it was the first time I’ve fasted without asking for anything!! I only fasted thanking God for His mercy and this life-changing experience with life-changing friendships because I honestly tear up every time I talk about how grateful I am to be here. I hope everyone can have the chance to learn about the historical, cultural, religious, and geographical aspects of Israel at some point in their lives because all of them put together is seriously like putting a puzzle together and LIFE JUST MAKES SENSE NOW!

I don’t know if that last thought made sense to most of you, but my point is that ignorance is NOT bliss. The more you learn, the more you grow, and the more life MAKES SENSE. So, hunger after knowledge because it truly is empowering.

HAVE A GREAT WEEK EVERYONE! Love,

Madi

 

Jericho, Dome of the Rock, Negev, Western Wall

HELLO!!!! It’s been WAY TOO LONG.

It is a lot harder to keep up on my blogs than I expected it to be…there is SO MUCH going on here! I feel really strongly that I need to share everything I’m learning with as many people as I can, but there isn’t even enough time to tell my parents over the phone or write in my own journal for that matter. So I’ll be sharing the most important and exciting things each week. Well…HOPEFULLY each week. I’ll try to make more time to write here.

Scroll down two paragraphs if you wanna get down to the nitty gritty. Scroll to the “Negev desert” section for some spiritual thoughts!! (also, if pictures are up-side-down and whatnot, I’m sorry.)

So, over these past two weeks I have had a lot of super enlightening classes, beautiful adventures, and I feel like I grow spiritually each day more than I expected to! The professors here are INCREDIBLY qualified and are seriously experts on the Old and New Testament, geography of Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, and experts on their culture and traditions…I guess it’s only logical though since they all have doctorates. I really admire the professors I have here. Since we’re with them all time in classes, all meals, and all field trips, they’re not just our professors–they’re our friends. I love it.

I’m trying to take advantage of every possible opportunity here so I don’t waste any time! So, I’m in the ward choir and a “cathedral choir” where I’ll be singing with a small group of people from the center in different cathedrals throughout our time here. I’m also part of the Exercise and Fitness committee and I’ve taught a Samoan dance class as well as a yoga class!! It’s SO MUCH FUN and the people here are so down-to-earth and fun so they make it even better. I’ve also been following through with my goal of working out every day, so I’m pumped about that. I’ve been sleeping better too and that, coupled with working out every day, has given me a new energy and drive to be more diligent with my time each day. Going to bed and waking up early seriously has improved my happiness, diligence, level of energy, level of spirituality, my memory, productivity, and my overall health! Ten out of ten, highly recommend.

IF I DON’T STAY ON TOP OF MY BLOG AS MUCH AS I WANT TO, FOLLOW MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL AND WATCH THAT INSTEAD. 🙂 My Youtube Channel

So, highlights of the week(s):

JERICHO: Oldest City in the World! I thoroughly enjoyed this trip because it was amazing to me to see the oldest man-made structure in the world (AROUND TEN THOUSAND YEARS OLD!!):

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We also saw the remains of what may be the fallen wall of Jericho that fell after Joshua’s Israelite army surrounded, marched, and blew trumpets around its walls. SUPER COOL. IMG_2763.JPGIMG_2759.JPG

Jericho is called the “City of the Moon” because it’s surrounded by a crescent-shaped mountain range. This range also includes what is traditionally known as the “Mount of Temptations”, where Jesus was tempted by Satan to turn stone into bread while He was fasting for 40 days.

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This is a monastery called St. George’s Monastery.

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This is my friend, Ella. AYYY

Check out my vlog about Jericho: JERICHO

The Garden of Gethsemane: IMG_2278.JPG

It was kind of hard to focus on feeling at peace while I was here because this garden is right next to a main road and there are a lot of tourists who walk through the garden. However, I found a more secluded area where I prayed and it was a very special moment for me. I know that Christ truly did suffer for all of our sins, pain, and sorrow. I know that somewhere around this garden He truly did atone for us so that we have the ability to repent and be forgiven of our sins. He wants to help us be pure, feel peace, and return to God’s presence again. Never forget that.

Something cool I learned is that Gethsemane comes from the Hebrew words that mean “oil press”. Just as olives need a lot of weight and pressure to become oil, Jesus Christ took on the weight of the world and He bled from every pore. Oil was very precious during that time, just as Christ is to us then and now.

Also, these are my friends Allie and Ryan. AYYY

I’m so short on time, so I’ll make this quick:

The Dome of the Rock: IMG_3076.jpgIMG_3083.jpgIMG_3073.jpg

I didn’t have much time here because it was time for the Call to Prayer, but I’ll be going back. Its calligraphy and architecture seriously amazed me!! It’s just so beautiful and I can’t wait to get a better look. Also, this is my friend John. AYY

The Western Wall: I already talked about it in my last post (shout out to my last post…check it out) So, here’s a picture of it from when I went back this week.IMG_2474.JPG

Tel Arad: This was one of my favorite places too because we saw one of the communities that the King of Jerusalem put as a look-out fort so they could keep invaders from going straight to Jerusalem. Here, there was a temple where they worshiped and gave sacrifices to God at an altar. They also had a room where only the High Priest could go called the Holy of Holies. IMG_2641.JPG This is me in front of it (yayyy). Further down from that area, there were more ruins from a Canaanite community that had been there and already left before the Israelites got to Tel-Arad. It seriously got butterflies when I walked around those ruins because 1. I FREAKING LOVE ROCKS and 2. It was an amazing feeling to imagine a group of people actually walking, breathing, laughing, crying, playing, working, and praying in that area thousands of years ago. IMG_2645.JPG

Last place for this blog: Negev Desert: IMG_2583.PNGThis is the desert that the Israelites wandered in for 40 years. FORTY YEARS, PEOPLE! It is very, very beautiful but I would prefer not to live there for 40 years. I understand that it was a hard time for them, even though God still took care of them and gave the manna and water to live off of. Sometimes, God gives us opportunities in life where we don’t understand the “why” behind our suffering. What I learned from this story is that God not only gives us time to learn and grow from these experiences, but He also helps us through them. As He helps us, if we decide to trust in Him and be grateful despite the hardships we face, we will strengthen our relationship with Him more than we imagined possible. Through suffering and struggle, God strengthens us and we can know Him on a deeper, more personal level because He is all we have.

I have so much more I want to write but it’s almost 11 here and I should go to bed…To finish, I want to share a thought I had as I read in Judges chapter 2. The Lord advises the Israelites to get the Canaanites out of Jerusalem so that they don’t corrupt the generations to come. However, since they didn’t listen to the Lord, generations later the Israelites “didn’t know the Lord” and “didn’t know of His dealings with their fathers” (or they didn’t know about the miracles He had performed with their ancestors). Because of this, they also worshipped different gods, which “angered” the Lord. So, the Lord sent them afflictions and tribulations so they would remember to turn to Him. However, He also sent them judges to teach them the truth so they could be taught about Him.

Here’s the deal, the Lord loves us. Why would He punish us if He loves us?

Welp, let’s read verse 18: “And when the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the Lord because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.”

The Hebrew root for the word “repented” here means “to be sorry”, “moved to pity”, or “have compassion”.

The Lord doesn’t like being harsh with us in order to turn us back to Him, but He has to sometimes because of our stubbornness or ignorance. He may have sent them tribulations, but He sent them a way to learn about Him and change their lives so that they worshipped Him and lived the commandments. When He saw that they suffered greatly, He even let off a little because He felt so much compassion for them.

God is the same “yesterday, today, and forever”. If He loved his human creations back then, He still loves us now. When we go through troubles, let’s remember that He LOVES us and only desires for us to return to Him. Sometimes we get stuck in our ways or don’t have the courage to get out of a spiritual rut, but the Lord prods us along with both good and “bad” experiences.

Let us look to God with more loving eyes and understand that He only wants us to have eternal life and salvation at His side. I know that He lives and is very aware of our wants, needs, sorrows, secrets, happiness, thoughts, and even our deepest desires.

I hope this strengthened someone this week. Keep pushing forward with faith in Him and love for both God and everyone around us!! Use your time in this life for GOOD and keep making the world a better place!!!!

LOVE, MADI

pictures:

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overlooking The Valley of Elah, where David beat Goliath.

IMG_3144.jpg This is me with super creepy eyes in the biggest dove-raising cave in Israel! (housed around 2,000 of those babies!)

IMG_2611.JPG Kenna, Sam (my roomie) and myself chillin at some ruins

IMG_2729.JPG Christine, my roomie, and myself chillin in Jericho (also, when i say “chillin” i mean it literally because everywhere is so windy and chilly…)

IMG_3197.jpg me with a statue that looks like…well, we all know what it looks like.

IMG_2356.JPG My Nike Pals: (clockwise from myself…) John, Jake, Matt, Chrisine. #NikeCrew

IMG_2917.jpg signed my name under the Jerusalem center w/everyone else.IMG_2907.jpg hardhats or nuthin’.

IMG_2923.JPG Tried this pizza thing. Wasn’t all that good, but usually the food here is seriously good!! (especially the pita bread, hummus, persimmons, and dates!!!)

IMG_3127.jpg Inside this HUUUGE cave (this isn’t even a quarter of the size of the cave) called “bell caves” where settlers found that limestone underneath the first layer was super soft so they built these enormous caves. They started by carving a circle and then making it a progressively bigger opening as they got deeper…INCREDIBLE!

For more pictures, videos and updates keep following my blog. Also check out my instagram: @waitimnotdunne, occassionally SnapChat: @waitimnotdunne and Facebook.

Shabbat Shalom!!

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(If you want to get to the stories, skip the first three paragraphs! Key lessons learned this week? Skip to the bottom!) ;D

THIS WEEK HAS BEEN ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!! I feel like I’ve been in shock all week because I cannot believe I’m actually here!!! I am making it a goal to take more pictures and videos next week…I will be putting some kinds of vlogs/videos together and uploading them to my Youtube channel (it’s just “Madison Dunne”). This week I didn’t take as many because I really want to be present during these experiences and not be living this through a lense.

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To start off, I’m 9 hours ahead of Utah time (Brie) and 10 ahead of Oregon (the rest of my family), so it’s been a little rough to communicate. Also, the wifi is only available every once in a while so I can’t be as connected as I usually am…but it’s a nice break!! I feel a lot more free and I feel like I’m really soaking up Jerusalem and every little experience I have.

The first day I got here, we had a lot of orientation meetings and we were all jet lagged out of our minds so we nodded through most of it. The next day, it was basically the same thing. Except, we got fed!! hahaha They give us breakfast, lunch, and dinner here and it’s SUPER nice because they have some yummy, “cheat” food, as well as a lot of healthy, delicious food!!! There is always a salad bar and everything is fresh. There is also a fruit bar–THE BEST–as well as a pita bread area with spices and oil to put inside and then toast!! I LOVE IT ALL! Moving on from the food, the Jerusalem Center is INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL!!!! Its architecture is amazing and it is north west of the MOUNT OF OLIVES and the GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE and has a beautiful view of Old Jerusalem!!! I wake up every day and I wonder if I’m every going to get used to this…I honestly don’t think I will!

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So, after days and hours of orientation/safety meetings, we were given a quick tour of Old Jerusalem. We live in the Palestinian part of Jerusalem, which is Eastern, so as we walk into town, we are surrounded by Arabic and Palestinians for the most part. There were SHAWARMAS and FALAFEL and BREAD on the streets that looked delicious. Every woman I’ve seen wears a Hijab and everyone I see are ALL SO BEAUTIFUL!! I have not yet seen anyone wearing a burka, but I’m told I’ll see more women wearing them when we go to Egypt. According to what I’ve been told, it is the woman’s choice and/or the preference of their husband as to whether they wear a hijab or a burka. 🙂

As we walked through one of the gates to Old Jerusalem, the setting began to change. Different quarters of Old Jerusalem are divided into the Jewish section, the Christian section, the Muslim section, and the other I forgot what it is. hehe… So, as you walk around the different areas the stores are catered to those different religions and there is a pretty obvious difference.

There is a lot I could say about what I saw, but I don’t have time to write everything because it’s getting late here and I still have a lot to say. The one thing that impacted me most, though, is that there is a section of the road where you can walk on the stones that Jesus Christ Himself potentially walked on!! The current roads within those walls are actually 30-40 feet above where Jesus actually walked because Jerusalem has been destroyed, rebuilt, reconstructed, and over time materials have continued building up. So, after digging a little, archaeologists decided to pull some of those stones up from the time of Roman rule, when Jesus lived, and put them on the road once again so we could experience that.

Since then, I’ve had an Old Testament class which was AMAZING and I’m learning SO MUCH and LOVE it!!! For example, when Genesis mentions the city of Salem, it is most likely referring to Jerusalem (jeruSALEM)!! 😀 Little things that others might have already known, I am just learning now and it’s changing my life! I never thought I’d see the day I actually understand the Old Testament. hahahaha There are a lot of other things I’ve learned, but again…I don’t have a lot of time.

FRIDAY WAS THE MOST SPECIAL DAY FOR ME SO FAR. IT. WAS. LIFE-CHANGING.

Jewish people celebrate the Sabbath once the sun sets on Friday. Many of them celebrate the Sabbath by worshiping at the Western Wall. This wall is sacred because it is the closest they can get to the temple that once was there. We had the privilege of taking part in that practice. We entered the gate of Old Jerusalem and went to the Western Wall. On the Sabbath, you’re not supposed to use electronics or take pictures or write anything because it is seen as breaking the Sabbath. So, unfortunately, I couldn’t take any videos or pictures. Here are some pictures of other parts of Old Jerusalem, though:

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So, at the wall women and men are separated by a barrier because they want to be completely focused, without distractions, on the wall and worshiping God. I went up to the wall and observed for a while. Most women were either singing or mouthing the sacred words of the Torah and rocking back and forth. They rock back and forth because they believe that we should worship with all of our heart, mind, and strength! Everyone took turns going up to the wall, touching it, and either praying or reading out of the Torah.

When I got up to the wall, I put my hands on it and began to pray. It was a really special moment and I can’t put into words what I felt when I spoke with God. It hit me in that moment that I really was in Jerusalem, and that I was touching the very stones that were there when Jesus Christ walked within those walls. I felt at peace and I felt so much love for all of the Jewish people around me and their devotion to God.

Once I finished with that, I heard some people singing and chanting and decided to join them! Not only were they singing and chanting, but they were dancing with their arms around each other or holding hands in a circle. It was one of the most beautiful moments that night other than when I actually got to touch the wall. They were all filled with SO MUCH JOY. They included everyone. They were CELEBRATING THE SABBATH DAY! They were EXCITED for the Sabbath to start. They feel BLESSED to HAVE A DAY TO WORSHIP GOD!!!! HOW INCREDIBLE IS THAT?!?!?!

We should ALWAYS be this excited about worshiping God, centering our lives on Christ, and having A WHOLE DAY to thank and praise God!!! HE GIVES US EVERYTHING!!! BECAUSE OF CHRIST, WE CAN BE FORGIVEN AND SEE GOD AGAIN! Seeing their joy and gratitude inspired me more than I can put into words.

I left those walls with tears in my eyes and a renewed desire to sanctify the Sabbath with greater dedication and purpose. Heavenly Father deserves it. I am eternally indebted to Him.

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Today, Saturday, we celebrated the Sabbath. I went to choir practice and then Sacrament meeting and it was breath-taking!!! Our Sacrament room has huge windows that overlook all of Jerusalem, so not only were the messages powerful, but the view was as well!

After some encouraging and nourishing words of God, we walked into the Old City and saw the tomb where people believe Jesus Christ was laid after His Crucifixion–which is also the place He resurrected!! 🙂  It was also a very inspiring and humbling moment. I imagined the people who had to go through the anguish of seeing the Saviour of the world crucified and then lay His limp body in the tomb, with all of their hope…not knowing He would resurrect once again. And then imagining Mary outside of the tomb, weeping…Just playing out all the stories I’ve heard and read my entire life and knowing they could have possibly taken place in that very tomb on those same stones in that same garden…I was able to truly put myself in their places and understand how they may have felt. It became even more real to me.

If there is anything I’ve learned this week it is these key points:

  1. Jesus Christ truly is the Saviour of the world and HE LIVES TODAY. He truly did suffer for us and because of Him, we will resurrect as He did.
  2. The Spirit of God works in powerful ways when we have the desire to learn, grow, and align our will with God’s.
  3. All religions are working towards strengthening their relationship with God and becoming better each day. If we open our hearts to learning from others’ beliefs and practices, we will be able to strengthen our own faith as well and appreciate and love others with more depth.
  4. Getting to bed by 11 and waking up by 6:30 truly makes you a HAPPIER person and you get more done every day!!!! YAY FOR HAVING A MORE DISCIPLINED SLEEP SCHEDULE FINALLY!!!!!

 

This is all I have time to write today, folks. I’ll write more next Sabbath. DON’T STOP SMILING! Share goodness and happiness and FEED off of UPLIFTING things so you can be a more powerful instrument in God’s hands!!! HE NEEDS YOU!!! So change the things in your life that will allow you to better serve Him and make others happy!!! 🙂 WE ALL NEED EACH OTHER AND WE SHOULD ALL LOVE EACH OTHER AS CHILDREN OF GOD!!! 🙂

 

Love, MADI! 🙂15995846_10210607227248230_1389665231_n.jpg

I’m off to Israel!

dbe36311a14a6b7d893d87be41e00284.jpgToday I’m taking a flight from SLC to JFK and then all the way to Tel Aviv!! I still don’t feel that the day has really come. It’s definitely been an adventure getting here, but I’m happy everything played out as it did.

So, what the heck am I going to do in Israel?!

I will be attending the BYU Jerusalem’s Near-Eastern Studies program. Here, I will study the Old and New Testament more in-depth, and then get to see-IN PERSON- the places I’ve read about my whole life!! Aside from that, I’ll also be learning about surrounding culture and history! I will also be able to learn some Arabic (hopefully I can catch on before the 4 months fly by!)

More information on this program is found at: https://jerusalemcenter.ce.byu.edu/info

ANYWAY, I just have to say I feel extremely grateful and everything still feels very surreal. I can’t wait for everything to be a reality finally tomorrow afternoon! (I’ll be flying until tomorrow around 2ish Israel time).

I will not be able to use social media a whole lot, from what I’ve been told, but I’m hoping to share my pictures and thoughts on here and Instagram somewhat frequently! I will not be writing a ton about everything I experience, however, because everything my phone and laptop send, receive, or post will be read by the Israeli government! (Or so I’m told..) So, if you want to hear about some of those more special experiences, you’ll have to HMU in person AFTER I get back 😉 hahaha

However, I WILL be writing about some of the most sacred experiences of my life so I hope you can read my perspective with respect and curiosity and discover some of your own spiritual experiences as well!

I hope you enjoy the insights and stories I share and that they can strengthen or uplift you in some way!! Never stop smiling!!!

Madi

 

Royal Role Models

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This weekend I volunteered at the Christmas event for the BYU
library as Cinderella. Yes, Cinderella. Usually I’m not into “princessy” things (except for Tangled, of course) but this sounded fun! I looked like a princess, I talked like a princess, and I autographed many papers as “Cinderella” for a solid two hours. Although my cheeks ached from smiling, and my throat felt funny from speaking in a perky, higher-pitched voice, I thoroughly enjoyed watching these children’s’ eyes light up as they “met Cinderella”.

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I remember one interaction, in particular, really touched my heart. Everyone had been coming up to me with “princess papers” to simply get my autograph, but this girl came up with a notebook. She bounced on her way over to me, and took a deep breath before exploding with excitement. “Cinderella!! It’s a pleasure to meet you in person! I am your…I AM YOUR BIGGEST FAN!! And…and…I was just wondering…if you could write me something! I love your movie and I just love you so much!!”

She told me her name, and I wrote her a short note about being courageous and following her dreams, signed Cinderella.

Later, I reflected on that experience and realized that this applies to all of us; We all have some kind of role model or person we look up to as an example for guidance throughout our lives. When we feel loved by them and we receive words of wisdom from them, we tend to cherish them; they motivate us to work harder towards doing good and being better than before.

This is my experience with Jesus Christ. He has too many attributes and did too many good deeds for me to mention all of them and express how each event has impacted my life. However, I will say that I truly cherish The Holy Bible and The Book of Mormon because I can learn more about Him and who He is. Those sacred words give me strength and motivate me to be better. Those inspired words give me courage to stand up for what’s right in times that it may be difficult or unpopular to do so. His divine words have allowed me to understand my potential and strive to be more like Him.

Have you ever thought about how you may be a role model for someone else? Have you ever taken into account the impact your words and actions have on others? Think of who you are. Who do you represent? Are you a Father? Daughter? Aunt? Brother? Citizen? Doctor? Teacher? Mother? American? Swedish? Hostess? Gardener? Businessman? Cook? Video Gamer?

Above all, are you a disciple of Christ? Or in other words, are you a follower of the Living Son of God?

If you are, do you think you put into practice His teachings? Do you feel the Spirit change your heart each day? Do you treat others with love in person, as well as in your thoughts?

If you cannot say ‘yes’ to all of these questions, that’s okay! That is why we are here in life–to work on these things one at a time, while simultaneously experiencing JOY! However, it is important to recognize that if we do not recognize that we represent a true follower of Jesus Christ, let us consider how that can be changed!

Remember how our role models inspire us? Through their words and their actions. READ THE SCRIPTURES DAILY! THAT is how you will learn and feel of His love! THAT is how you will receive motivation to push forward and keep striving to be better! THAT is how His perfect example will rub off on you; you must FEAST upon the words of Christ so that you may be FILLED by His love, which ultimately changes your heart. And by your heart changing, you will have more righteous desires and your interests will be more aligned with those that are found in Christ’s Gospel and example!

Your circle of influence is greater when you are striving to be an example EVERYWHERE you go. Strangers can have the desire to make someone’s day better because you smiled at them. They may decide to call a loved one because they miss them after hearing you talk nicely to a family member. They could be inspired to be better citizens and neighbors because you picked trash up off the sidewalk and threw it away. Or they may even feel inspired to care more for others simply because you held the door open for someone!!

Don’t stop diving into the scriptures and encircling yourself with Christ’s love, life, words, and example. He really does empower, strengthen, and motivate us even when we’re at the lowest of lows in life. He never gives up on us even when we give up on Him. Keep trying and keep TRUSTING in Him; He knows and loves you perfectly.

Be the role model others need in their lives! 🙂

Have a great week,

Madi

PS– check out mormon.org for the 25 days of Christmas challenge! In an effort to #LightTheWorld, there are characteristics of Jesus each day and ideas of good things we can do each day to make the world a better place!!

We are not alone in being alone.

Lately, with the recent negativity circulating all over social media platforms, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how hard it is to make a stance nowadays without getting criticized for it. Now, this is NOT a political post, so don’t lose interest quite yet.

With this negativity, I felt alone at times in my religious, political, and moral stances. I felt attacked and disrespected, as many others have recently as well. Now, this is NOT a “poor me”, “i’m offended” post either, so don’t get ahead of yourselves, folks.

These experiences caused me to reflect a lot on people who have felt alone while standing up for what they believe in morally, politically, and religiously. There are many brave souls who have faced this same solidarity and rejection we do nowadays that rose above the negativity, courageously, standing firmly for what they believe to be right and true!

The man that stood out to me most while reflecting was our Savior, Jesus Christ. Now, without going into too much detail, let’s put His situation into context:

He came to this earth to be the Savior and Redeemer of ALL MANKIND; to suffer for ALL MANKIND whether they liked Him or not, because He loves EVERYONE. He entered into a very complicated society to be proclaiming to be the Son of God Almighty and inviting others to follow Him. The Jews had always been loyal to their beliefs and had recently undergone some very hard times; Hellenism had taken over their temples and they were forbidden to worship God or they would be killed. After enduring this oppressive time, they gained back and purified their temples once again through the Maccabean revolt. They were overjoyed to have religious freedom and their holy temples back once again! They were not looking for someone to come and tell them to change their beliefs again!

Then, there were Pharisees who believed in the scriptures liberally, therefore being open to new ideas and change. The Sadducees were adamant about having strict obedience to the Mosaic Law. So, here, we can see that there was a lot of conflict because some wanted to keep traditional Jewish beliefs, while others wanted change.

Now, if there were people fighting to keep religious tradition whilst others were more concerned about power, do you think either of these groups were going to gladly receive Jesus Christ as the Son of the Omnipotent God (therefore having a great amount of power, affecting the current political situation), and teaching practices different from the Jewish ones at the time (deviating from traditional Jewish beliefs)??? I don’t think so!

Jesus Christ knew His purpose and although He was a perfect being, He still had times where He must have felt very alone in a society that turned their backs on Him. Now, let’s understand that these people were only defending the most sacred beliefs they had grown up living. They were doing their best to protect their religion, politics, and morals! They had good intentions.

We all have good intentions when we defend our beliefs. But, wouldn’t we love each other more if we approached  differences in belief with open hearts and minds? If we opened our minds to the possibility of others having good intentions behind their beliefs, wouldn’t we all be a lot happier? Wouldn’t we be more accepting? Wouldn’t we learn from each other and work towards a more loving and understanding society? Wouldn’t we hate less? Wouldn’t we incorporate more good into our lives?

We do not have to agree with everything that others believe, but it is important that we strive to see the good in their paradigms! It is important that we respond with understanding and respect rather than refusal and disgust. All of our opinions matter and when we approach conversation with open minds rather than having the mindset of the other person “being wrong”, we will find that humanity is a lot better than it is portrayed to be throughout the media.

Jesus Christ was followed by few and hated by many. Those who followed Him were also hated by many. However, given the circumstances some still faithfully stood firm in those beliefs and practices Jesus had taught them. They risked being alone. We risk being alone too when we stand for what we believe in, but we have to be courageous! We have to be the good in the world! We have to actively treat others with love and respect and recognize that usually people have good intentions behind their religious, moral, and political stances.

Don’t let politics divide you from good people! Don’t let religion keep you from strengthening your faith together with others who belong to different religions than you! And don’t let differing moral beliefs keep you from loving someone and treating them with respect! The world will only become a better place when we open our hearts, eyes, and minds and truly work together for good!

Have a really great week and remember that you are not alone in feeling alone! Stay strong and inspire others to do good!! The world needs more peacemakers.

WITH SO MUCH LOVE,

Madi

P.S- I want you all to know that I respect Jewish beliefs and think they are great people also striving to do good! I only used this circumstance as an example to show how Jesus was mostly alone in preaching His Gospel. It also emphasizes the fact that we are all striving to do good, just in different ways! And sometimes we may not understand a group different from ourselves simply because we don’t take the time to learn about their beliefs.

 

Knowing God Gives us Courage

“The ability to TRUST God comes from KNOWING God.” –Henry B. Eyring

When we are given so many decisions to make in life, we may be hesitant to make them on our own because we want God’s support. Some might not even realize that as we consult with God about our decisions, we can achieve a greater sense of purpose and courage to move forward with such decisions. But, why would we feel more secure of our decisions?

Let’s understand God a little better…

God is omnipotent…He is all-powerful. He has the power to make anything happen. He has the power to do more than we can even imagine because we cannot even fathom the extent of His abilities, as He is a perfect and eternal Being.

God is omniscient…He knows and sees everything. He knows all that has happen, is happening, and WILL happen in the future!! He knows our thoughts. He knows our intentions. He knows our deepest, most private acts and thoughts. He understands who we are perfectly. He understands how culture, religion, society, family, friends and everything else has affected us and made us who we are today! He understands what is hard for us and what seems impossible. He comprehends our needs and knows perfectly how to help us.

God is omnipresent…His love, blessings, mercy, and power are available to everyone everywhere. We can never get too far away from God that we are not in reach of those things. His qualities are present within us when we strive to increase the light of Christ by living the Gospel!

When we come to understand the God KNOWS US perfectly, is a PERFECT Being, and LOVES us, we will learn to trust Him more.

Think about it.

What if there was someone (and there is) who knew you PERFECTLY?

What if they knew what you needed to experience, knew what jobs would benefit you most,  and knew who you needed to learn from as well as those who you needed to help?

What if they knew everything you’ve thought, felt and done and what you will think, feel and do…AND STILL LOVED AND ACCEPTED YOU PERFECTLY??

Would you NOT trust them?!

Despite being a mistake-prone human being, God still LOVES YOU and still HELPS you. He protects, guides, strengthens, comforts, and LOVES you like no one you have ever met in this life. He still TRUSTS you completely to make the right decisions in order to return to His Holy presence!!

Once we are able to begin to fathom this thought, we can begin to trust our lives in GOD’S hands and stop thinking we know what’s best. We can communicate with Him through prayer and He will seriously answer us. Trusting in God is NOT a hard thing to do when we are consistently learning about him.

How can we learn about Him and believe in Him though when we may feel He isn’t even there?

  1. The scriptures are GOD’S words relayed through prophets chosen by the Almighty God Himself to guide us. As we read the scriptures, we will feel a special spirit and know that they are divine words of wisdom.
  2. We can pray and ask God Himself if He exists! (Which may seem like an odd thought) However, if you have even the slightest desire to know if He exists and truly hears you, try believing He is there and talk to Him! While you’re at it, pray about the scriptures and ask if they are true!
  3. TESTIFY OF HIM. Say out loud that God is real, and feel The Spirit confirm to you that what you’re saying is true! You will feel deep in your heart that it is something you’ve known all along and you will feel strengthened.

“…the Holy Ghost…is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men” (1 Nephi 10:17) THEREFORE, “feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you ALL THINGS what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3).

“Pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul” (2 Nephi 32:9).

You will live happier and perform better if you trust, follow, and consult with God all throughout life’s experiences!! NEVER FORGET THAT HE NEVER FORGETS YOU!!

Now, take courage and know that God lives!

HAVE A GREAT, COURAGEOUS WEEK AND KEEP STRENGTHENING YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD!

Madison

P.S– check this out to learn more about our relationship with God!! 🙂 https://discover.mormon.org/en-us/topics/god-our-heavenly-father/