Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Holy City and thunderstorms

I remember as a child being mesmerized, almost frightened by the sound of a really good rainstorm outside. I usually felt unsettled by a lightening flash through the windows followed by a crashing thunder. Some good family friends of ours had their house burned to the ground due to lightening when I was young. For many years it affected how I felt during a thunderstorm. I remember doing what most kids probably do - I would stand at the window to see if I could capture what the wind and rain were doing to my little outside world. But it was always hard to see the whole of a storm through one little window.

Today's thunderstorm was such a contrast to those thoughts and feelings I had as a child.

During sacrament service every week, we have the privilege of looking out huge panoramic windows that overlook the Old City while we renew our sacred covenants. These windows go from ceiling to floor, from one side of the auditorium to the other. They even wrap around both sides so you're surrounded by the bright green shrubbery and trees that decorate the outside corridors. It's easy to imagine the Savior once walking in old Jerusalem when you have a full view of it from where you sit.

The musical numbers today were amazing, and the talks brought in the Spirit. Throughout the meeting we heard one thunder crash after another, and saw the pouring rain drench the thirsty city. I never thought something could look so gray and wet, and so beautiful at the same time.

Then came the closing song, Nearer My God to Thee, and we sang all five amazing verses. The Spirit continued to fill the room as much as the rain filled the puddles outside.....

"Though like the wanderer, the sun gone down. Darkness be over me, my rest a stone. Yet in my dreams I'd be, Nearer, my God to thee...."

The further we got into the song, the louder we sang, and the harder it rained outside. The roaring thunder only heightened our sense of the power of God.

"Or if, on joyful wing, cleaving the sky. Sun, moon, and stars forgot, upward I fly. Still all my song shall be, Nearer, my God to thee, Nearer, my God to thee, Nearer to thee!"
It was almost as if the sky sensed the presence of the Spirit of God in such a holy place. Many of us wiped away the tears. The majesty of the storm, coupled with the majesty of the Holy Ghost, the very member of the Godhead, was enough to make a heart burst. I wouldn't have been more sure of the reality of my Savior in that moment if He were standing right in front of me.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I have a confession. My little boy isn't even 18 months yet, and he is ADDICTED to kissing. He can't get enough. The good thing is, Tom, Joni, and I can't get enough of Jackson's kisses, either. And once he gives one kiss, he hunts down the next person, then the next, then starts over. He'll go around the house with a big pucker making a "mmm" sound. He has to kiss each of us several times before he's satisfied. He does this several times a day.

Please tell me that if he gets it out of his system now he won't want anything to do with it at 16!?!

I honestly don't know if I could say "no" to that face if you paid me!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bible Lands Museum

Last week we went to an amazing museum that covered the lands of the Bible. Tom was DROOLING. He was about as giddy as I've ever seen him. And I was amazed at how quickly and easily he could explain pretty much anything. Each little room had corresponding scriptures from the Old Testament that explained what time period the relics would have come from. For instance, there is a chapter in Genesis 14 about how Abraham fought in the battle of the kings. They had a whole room full of weapons that would have been used for that specific battle. It was a LOT of information, and Tom took about 100 pictures, but I'll just post a few....

Here is a scene of an Athenian marriage ceremony (similar to something we've seen before?? Hmmmm).

This was exciting for Tom because he studies this (I call it chicken scratches) every day. It's Sumerian written in cuneiform. This is a brick from the Ur 3rd period (not that people even know what that means, but if I don't include it, Tom will croak), and was taken from the foundation of a temple (approx. 21st century B.C). Are you asleep yet? Tom also wants me to say that the current king was Amar-Sin, because if I didn't include that you would lay awake at night wondering, right?

Here is the cute little Jojo standing in front of an "anthropoid sarcophoagus lid" a.k.a. dead person's coffin from Egypt and it is OLD. Dates back to 1391-1196 B.C.

This is a brick from one of Nebuchadnezzar's temples. 7th century B.C.

Once you're done admiring my adorable 4 year old, who was very well behaved on this excursion I must say, look at that sweet statue behind her. It's a statue of Ramses II. We're talking the one during Moses' time. I found that pretty amazing, but I didn't drool. I left that for Tom.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Jackson loves peanut butter sandwiches made with pita, but when he's done, he either starts throwing pieces of it all over the room, or he has an arts and crafts hour on his face. Can you tell which one he has chosen this time?

Someone get the poor kid some finger paints and some paper! (talking to myself, here)

(I just realized after watching it on my computer instead of my camera, that he has tons of peanut butter stuck to the top of his mouth and that's why he's talking so funny, not to mention he seems to be a little concerned about it. What a goof!)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Souk

A market here is called a souk (sounds like "sook"). For Tom's sake, I'll also let it be known that it can be spelled "souq". He insists it's more Semitic. In fact, he'll probably be irritated that my title has it spelled with a "k". He's funny like that.

ANYway, there is an awesome souk here in Jerusalem that is huge. Our branch president from church and his wife took me and the kids there last week because we had no idea where it was. I loved it so much I took Tom there yesterday (we walked for almost 4 hours straight - holy freakin' moly we were tired). It has a dizzying supply of fresh and dried fruit, nuts, oats, breads, kitchen supplies, meat, spices, and fish. It goes on for many city blocks, and is in a big tent-like structure.

Just a side not, Joni kept saying, "This place smells FUNKY!" She was tired but it sure made us laugh.

I'm wishing now that I would have taken a lot more pictures. These just don't cover it. So I'll have to post more next time we go.

See how it goes on for forever? Seriously cool.

Large mural just outside the souk (Joni is at the bottom left so you can see how big it is).

And for your viewing pleasure, I even took a quick video. I feel like it helps you get a better "feel" for it.....

Who is that handsome devil on the left at the end of the video? Oh, yeah, it's my incredibly good looking husband (he pays me to say that).

Speaking of Tom, when I had him proofread this, he started out, "Okaaaaay, the souk, with a 'k'". He was totally annoyed. See, I told you.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Weekend in Review

Friday was a very special day for Tom and I. It was our 6th anniversary! But the problem with your anniversary being on a Friday in Jerusalem is that not much is open after lunch time, and Tom had a final in the morning. So we thought we'd try out a new place we had heard about called "Yummy Yummy" which is run by Arabs, so it was open on Friday night. I just have to say, they could not have picked a more appropriate name. It was DE-LISH! They even had CHEESEburgers, people! We're talkin' meat and cheese in one delicious wrapper and seasoned fries. Oh, sweet heaven. And that's not all. They had plasma tvs everywhere, so we sat and watched an episode of American Idol. I don't think I could have wiped the smile off of Tom's face if I had tried. Despite Joni's out-of-the-norm need to go to the bathroom about 100 times, we had a great night at Yummy Yummy. We stayed there way too long. Oh! And I have to mention all the sweet Arabs that were there. One family bought Joni some gum out of the little candy machine. Then when Jackson decided to kick (yes, kick!)the trays across the table and knock Joni's beloved Sprite crashing to the floor, the workers immediately got her a brand new one and brought it to her. And then as we were leaving, the workers also brought out a nice toy for each of the kids. I know I make a big fuss anytime someone is nice to us, but it really is a big deal to us.

They even had a big play-place for the kiddos! It was the first one we've ever seen here. The balls were nothing short of disgusting, but hey, the kids were happy, so whatev.

Tom eating a CHEESEburger! And Jackson.....uuuh...I'm not sure what he's lookin' at, but that kid is so cute, I even find the back of his head adorable. You should, too. :)

I fully recognize how cliche it is to gush about the hubby on your blog when anniversaries roll around, but I don't care. My husband is the best, so y'all are going to have to hear about it. So here's 10 things I love about Tom:

1. He knows the scriptures inside and out. Give him any name from any book of scripture, and he knows the whole darn story, the symbolism behind it, and how it can be applied to everyday life.
2. He cleans all the time and never complains about it.
3. He's nothing short of a genius. I would tell you how many languages he knows, but I have a hard time keeping track.
4. He is very considerate of me. As the last 6 years have gone by, he has gotten better and better at thinking of me and wondering what he can do to make my day, or my life, better.
5. He has an amazing testimony of the Savior. When I wonder how I can better use the atonement, or draw closer to Christ, I turn to Tom as my example.
6. He wrestles with the kids every chance he gets and they practically worship him for it (even though it's not uncommon for it to end it tears. Ha!).
7. He can push a stroller with two kids and many bags of groceries up huge Jerusalem hills faster than I can walk without pushing anything. What a stud.
8. He lets me drive because he knows I like it (when we have a car, that is).
9. He laughs at my jokes and tells me I'm funny.
10. Very often the thing he wants to talk about when we go to bed at night are ideas he has of how to be a better dad the next day.

Really my friends, do they come any better than that? I could go on, but it is after all a "weekend in review" so I am forced to move on.

The next day at church I'm pretty sure the teachers of Sunday School and Relief Society taught the best lessons I've ever heard. And if that wasn't enough, Presiding Bishop H. David Burton came and did a fireside for our little branch that night. It was amazing. He had us all spellbound. It was one of the most spiritually nourishing Sabbaths I've ever had.

This week is Tom's last week of school for the first semester, and then he's on a little bit of a break for the rest of the month. He'll have to write some papers, but we're hoping to go do some fun things, so stay tuned for our upcoming adventures.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Gethsemane Part 2

We took a trip to Gethsemane on my birthday and I've been dying to go again since. After going last time I kept thinking, "Did I really take in where I was? Did I take the time to really absorb the importance of that place?" So we went again today and it's hard to describe the feeling you get there. It's such an amazing part of mankind's history, yet not too far off there's a bustling city full of people who seem to be completely oblivious to the sacred spot that is so close to where they walk every day.

How can I put into words what it's like to walk where the Savior has likely walked? How can I express what I feel when I look at these old olive trees? I sit here staring at my computer screen, trying to think of a way to talk about it, and I can't quite do it. The Savior of mankind gave and suffered everything for us here. What happened in this garden is what makes our very happiness possible.

I love this small carving in the stone.

Isn't this tree amazing?

This church is next to the garden. It's absolutely breathtaking inside. I wanted so badly to take pictures but they were actually starting a Sunday service while we were there. I love the cute little monks and nuns. They may believe differently than me, but they are giving their lives to Christ with the knowledge that they have of Him. I can only learn from their example of devotion.

This is taken from just outside the front doors of the church. The wall in the distance is the wall of the Old City. That small dome poking up over the edge on the left is the top of the Dome of the Rock. Just outside the wall are graves of people hoping to be near the Messiah when He calls up the dead to be resurrected.

I took this next picture to remember the kindness we sometimes find among the people here. Joni was starving as we got done so we thought we would take her up to this little cafe just up behind the garden. It turned out to be a very humble little place run by one Arab man who basically just had Coke in the fridge, some popsicles, and some "cheese sandwiches". We asked right away if he took a card because we had no cash. He apologized that they didn't but that we could just eat what we wanted and come back and pay him another day. He was so nice. While we waited for him to toast a couple huge hoagie buns with some meager pieces of cheese inside, he gave each of the kids a little treat. We waited on his couches and watched Arab tv. I'll be honest, the cheese sandwiches were less than impressive, but Joni loved them, and I loved the genuine kindness and humility of the man who owned the place. I think we'll be heading back to the "All Nations Cafe" again. :)