The streets were still, that Sabbath morning, as our tour bus carefully made its way up a steep hill toward the Mount of Olives.
I gazed out the glass windowpane toward the heart of Jerusalem - the light of the early morning sun reflecting off a gold dome in the distance.
I looked in wonder, soaking in every detail of the surrounding streets and people: from the fancy fur hats of the Hasidic Jews, to the various items displayed on a run-down, roadside food stand.
Half a world away from home, I left the comfort of my apartment to discover the Holy Land. A place I had learned about in Sunday School lessons my entire life and always dreamed I'd see. I wanted to walk where Jesus had walked and to see what he had seen, in order to find out more about a peculiar man from Galilee. And today was the day I had been waiting for.
About 20 minutes later, walking down a narrow, cobblestone road on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, I was surrounded by beggars, dressed in rags and reaching out their feeble hands toward my purse.
My feet were numb from the cold air, and my poor flats were no match for the rough roads. We weaved through hundreds of tourists, all pilgrimaging toward the same spot.
We entered a gate, surrounded by towering walls. Inside the courtyard, there was a small block of grass, filled with twisted olive trees, stones, and flowers, blocked off by a fence.
I continued to move my feet back and forth, as we stood next to the fence and took pictures of the tiny garden, wrapped around by tourists doing the same. I blew on my hands and tightened my jacket, in a feeble attempt to warm my frozen body.
As I looked around the grounds, my frustration began to increase. After all this time and anticipation, I tried not to allow myself to feel disappointed, but deep in my heart, I felt sorrow because it was nothing like I thought it would be.
This beautiful, holy place had been desecrated by tourism and commercialism. For the people laden with cameras and talking loudly, it was simply an attraction, like the Grand Canyon or Disneyland. And my heart ached that they did not understand how important and crucial this place was to their lives and everything else.
As some of our group made their way into the neighboring church, I remained behind with a few others, making my way over to the spot next to Krista, who was sitting on a ledge listening to her iPod.
As I looked across the garden, I felt something move near my ear, and as I turned, I saw Krista giving me her other ear bud, prompting me to listen as well.
It took less than a second for every negative, frustrated feeling I had to melt away. The masses became invisible, and for a few brief moments, the traffic behind the walls and the chaos of the world around me faded into the nothingness, and everything become perfectly clear.
The words sunk deep into my heart, "I know that my Redeemer lives. What comfort this sweet sentence gives. He lives, he lives who once was dead. He lives, my ever living head."
Krista would never know that that song, that particular version, was my favorite. And in that moment, I knew that God was with me.
As I sat there on the ledge, looking out into the olive trees and contemplating the great significance. In a way, my life flashed before me. I could see God with me through all of the hard times I had ever gone through. I could see myself lying in my bed crying, with the Savior enveloping me in comfort. Taking away all of the pain, and somehow, somehow making it possible for me to move forward just one day, and make it through one more long night.
Slowly, the tears started falling, and I was grateful that my sunglasses were covering my free giving emotions. I could not hold it back. I was astounded and engulfed in awe, that here I was in the one place that literally changed my life forever.
The Savior suffered for my sins and gave his life, so that I could live, so that I could be forgiven, and so that I could feel peace in my pain. So I could have meaning, purpose and hope. My perfect brother, who loves me perfectly, came to this spot to forever change the world and save all of those who wandered the paths, whether aimlessly or on purpose, together or alone, with hope or no hope at all, throughout all time and for all people - regardless of race, age, gender, or belief. Because he loves us all.
And here, in this garden, thousands of years later, I could no longer feel my cold feet - but rather, I felt God's love for me so intently, so fervently, and so overwhelmingly, I knew, once again, without a doubt, that it was all true. There was no denying it. Christ did live. Christ did die. And Christ did rise again, so that I could live with him once again and for all eternity.
Later that afternoon, I stood just outside the garden tomb, and my heart jumped in my chest, as I thought about what it was going to feel like to walk through the opening, just a few feet ahead.
Covered in stones and surrounded by a beautiful, spring garden, covered in flowers. I thought about Mary Magdalene, and what it would be like to come to the empty tomb that fateful morning. What it would feel like to realize that the Savior was gone, and then to realize that he was once again alive. To realize that it was not the end, but a glorious beginning.
I stepped carefully into the tomb, thinking again about the Savior, and knowing again that this place was a holy, sacred place. I knelt down close to the bars that encased the spot where the Savior was laid, and I feel a supreme gratitude for the atonement of Jesus Christ, and for the testimony that I have of it.
A few minutes later, as I got up to join my group outside, my eye caught the sign that hung on the door to the tomb, it said, "He is not here - for He is risen."
The thought came powerfully and firmly to my mind: "You didn't have to travel half way across the world to find the Savior. He's been with you all along."
For thousands of years, billions of people have searched for Jesus Christ and questioned the validity of his claims. Men have searched the ends of the earth for a sign or proof that he was, in fact, the Son of God and the one chosen to save us all. Hundreds of tourists search Jerusalem each day, looking for their master.
That day, sitting in a garden and wandering through an empty tomb, I came to realize that the places do not matter - but the relationship we build with God in the every-day choices that we make.
Through the personal decisions I had made throughout my life, I continue to have a personal, intimate friendship and relationship with my Savior, and I can feel his presence in my life.
And it was the same feeling I felt as a small girl when I sang hymns, how I felt when I was baptized, and the feeling I get when I say my prayers. It's the overwhelming power that fills my life when I realized that we are not alone in this world. That our lives do not go unwitnessed - because God is our witness, and he cares about the details of our lives and every beat of our hearts.
It's in the quiet moments of life as you strive to draw closer to him, that you will find that he is there. It's what you feel when you have faith and put all of your trust in him - even when you feel like there is no longer a reason to hope. It is there and open to all of us. Christ is there for us - the only key is to allow yourself to reach for his reaching. To allow him into your life, and you will find him.