Sunday, August 15, 2010

Look at this Studly Piece of Man!

He is so hot! I am a very lucky lady. Adam is a wonderful, loving husband and father. We love him and are so proud of him. He is in his second round of interviews as we speak for his dream job. Hopefully, we will finally know this week if the job is his!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Faith Quest 2010

Where, oh where, do I begin?
Last Monday at 5 am all of the youth in our stake boarded four tour buses and headed for Salt Lake. We did a quick tour of the Church History Museum and watched a video in the basement called "Only a Stonecutter" which was beautiful and touching. We then headed across the street to Temple Square and watched the film "Legacy" in a large theater. The kids all seemed to enjoy our time in Salt Lake. We then got back on the bus and drove to Ogden where we stayed in a hotel for the night and listened to a direct descendent of James Willie, Captain of the Willie handcart company, that evening during a fireside.
Adam and I were asked in February to serve as a Ma and Pa of a group of eight kids--Sam, Lorenzo, Ted, Dorothy, Sarah, Kate, Talon, and Zach. We were a bit nervous and excited for our great adventure with these kids. By the end of the week, we had grown to love them like our own and truly felt a familial bond with them.
Going into this, I was afraid that it just wouldn't be the same as my first experience walking 200 miles by handcart in 1997. Much like reading the scriptures again, one gains a different insight each time one reads. Faith Quest was much like a rereading of the scriptures. Because I am at a different place in my life, I was able to have a completely different insight into the pioneer experience. In 1997, I was only 20 years old, single, self-centered and self-absorbed, still a kid in so many respects. This time, I was a wife and mother of two young children and a mother of eight children on the trail. I can not even begin to imagine how terrifying it would be to bury my husband and press forward alone with my children. Or to bury my husband and half or all of my children and continue on in faith. Or to watch my little children crying from starvation, bloody and frozen feet, and feeling completely powerless to alleviate their sufferings. I can't comprehend somehow dragging my dying husband into our handcart and pulling that dreadful cart over Rocky Ridge for 15 miles in a blizzard by myself. Or giving birth one night and getting up the next morning and walking 13 miles with only 4 oz of flour in my body. It is a miracle that any of them survived and remained true and faithful. Tears sprang to my eyes readily on this trek as I thought of families struggling to survive in brutal conditions.
Back to Faith Quest. We got up very early Tuesday morning and headed for Martin's Cove, Wyoming. When we arrived, each family was assigned a handcart for the day. We watched a video at the visitor's center. We trekked about 6 miles that day, pausing at Dan's Cove, Martin's Cove, and the Sweetwater River. We also saw Devil's Gate not far in the distance. At Dan's Cove, we heard several pioneer stories. We then walked further up the trail to Martin's Cove where the missionaries talked to us for a few minutes about the sacredness of the area. They said that when President Hinckley visited the site several years ago he said that Martin's Cove was one of the most sacred areas in the entire world. Talking was not allowed in the cove, only whispers, as we walked through the cove and tried to picture the pioneers huddled there, nursing the sick, aged, and dying men, women and children.
We then moved on to the Sweetwater River where we reenacted the rescue of the Martin company. Everything was done in silence. The young women sat down by the side of the river while the teachers, deacons and pa's pulled the handcarts across the river. The priests then carried each young woman and adult woman across the river. There was a very special spirit and I was so impressed with how seriously the youth partook in the reenactment. When it was over, the missionary standing next to our 'Captain' turned to him with tears in his eyes and said, "I have witnessed 10-15 river crossings a week for the last two years and that was the most reverent crossing I have ever seen. The Spirit was so strong." It really was one of the spiritual highlights of the trip. As we were organizing and preparing to head down to the river, we gathered in a large group and our Captain had all of the priests form a group in the middle. It brought tears to my eyes just watching them stand there, knowing that several of the rescuers were their age, just 17 years old. I saw the same youth, strength, and optimism in our priests. They were quite a sight! One of my daughters afterward commented, "I felt the Spirit so strong I was shaking." It was amazing.
We made it back to the buses just as a thunderstorm swept through the area and then two beautiful rainbows appeared as we were pulling out. The kids were so excited.
We drove a ways to our campsite, set up camp and ate dinner. Our family had a good spiritual discussion about spiritual starvation as we ate. I also talked to them about the Atonement and how Christ is our Rescuer and suffered for everything that pioneers went through and all that they (our kids) go through in their lives.
The next day we trekked 10 miles with our handcarts. One of our kids, Sam, was struggling right from the beginning. It was HOT as we pulled in to stop for lunch and have a devotional.
After lunch, we had a silent women's pull where all of the men stopped helping and the women had to pull our carts to the top of a hill. That was pretty emotional for me as I thought of the pioneer women who miraculously pulled their carts alone, many of them carrying their sick and dying husbands. I was struggling with three other girls and I had a stomach full of food. It is a miracle they were able to survive. Just as we reached the top of the hill, dark storm clouds moved in and the wind became fierce. We tried to have a spiritual moment but lightning was fast approaching and the rain started pelting us hard. We cut our meeting short and headed back down the trail. The lightning got closer and closer and I was getting more nervous by the second as we were on top of a hill and literally the tallest objects out there. There was only two seconds between flash and thunder and FINALLY we hear our leader yelling to us to scatter and crouch down. There we were, spread out all over the trail crouching in a lightning storm. I was scared but tried to keep it together for the kids' sake. We crouched for a while until the lightning got further away. It was exhilarating to be out there in the elements and feeling the power of the thunder right over our heads. It was truly awesome and one of the best parts of the trip.
Meanwhile, back at camp, the wind was so strong that it blew away half of our tents and picked up a picnic table and tossed it 20 feet. The Ma's were picked up and driven back to camp to try to clean it up and dry out tents and sleeping bags before the trekkers got in. It was quite a mess.
That night we ate dinner and a missionary came as Ephraim Hanks and told us his story. Absolutely amazing! I really want to read his biography now. That man is my hero. He had such great faith and because he was spiritually in tune, he was able to help rescue the beleaguered handcart companies.
After that we square danced and the kids had a great time. In fact, I think they were disappointed that it ended so quickly. Kids are so funny. They were turning their noses up at it a few months ago when we had to practice but then on the trail they were having the time of their lives. It was fun to watch them having so much fun.
Our last day on the trail we hiked the infamous Rocky Ridge Trail. We were excited but a little nervous about how hard it was going to be. Several miles of steady, steep climbing then evened out a bit for a total of 15 miles. We went through several waist-deep mud/manure holes and a couple of streams. It was HOT again and it was a long, hard day for the kids. We started walking at about 9am and pulled into camp around 5pm. The kids were drained mentally, physically, and spiritually. I was so impressed with them. I never heard anyone complain or whine. They knew why we were there and they were more than willing to finish what they had started. Our family carried a girl the last couple miles because she was so spent emotionally and physically. She was crying as she walked and we were able to get her into our cart and get her into camp. Our family was practically running the last few miles and I had to jog to keep up with the cart. So impressive!
I love the kids in our family. I was constantly amazed by their acts of service and spiritual insight. Zach, only 13 years old, gave his rain coat to his 'sister' during the lightning storm. He was soaking wet and shivering but did not want his coat back. No one prompted him to do it either. So proud of his selflessness. Dorothy, our 'big sister' was ready to go out looking for her little 'sister' Kate when she got up in the night to use the bathroom. Kate told me about it in the morning and said, "I actually felt cared for." I love that story.
Ted, our 'big brother' was such a good example to the younger kids in our group. He was spiritual and kept the kids in line when they started to get off track during devotional times.
Lorenzo just never, ever gave up. He was either pulling or pushing the handcart the entire time and did so happily and willingly. He reminded me of what I pictured James Kirkwood to be like. Selfless and giving and kept going and going and going. Kate and Sarah, who seemed to be the most sensitive and vulnerable, never gave up. They walked almost the entire way and never complained. They were upbeat and boosted our morale. Our family would have been incomplete without them.
Sam, well, we never thought he would be able to finish Rocky Ridge. He had a pulled muscle and some other issues going on the previous day. He walked EVERY STEP of Rocky Ridge. I knew he wanted to give up and I knew he was struggling and in pain but he did it and I could not have been more proud of him. I don't think he thought he could do it either starting out but I know he was proud of himself when he was done.
Talon was tough and strong. He never even mentioned he had blisters until almost the end of Rocky Ridge. Then he admitted he had quite a few but he never even said a word before that. Tough, tough kid.
Our camp that night was right on the Sweetwater River. I was the first to jump in. It felt so good to clean the layers of dust, sweat, sunscreen, and bug spray from my skin and hair. I just sat in the river for awhile watching the kids play and feeling the cold water rush through my pioneer dress. It was a sweet moment.
After dinner, we all walked a short distance down to Rock Creek Hollow for a fireside. We passed a marker where 13 people were buried in a circular grave and then passed by two more marked graves. People who had somehow managed to survive the brutality of Rocky Ridge in a blizzard but then died of exhaustion and exposure when they reached camp at Rock Creek Hollow. People like Bodil Mortensen, only nine years old, Neils Neilsen only six, and James Kirkwood the hero big brother who carried his four year old brother the entire 15 miles over Rocky Ridge and died as soon as he reached camp. You could feel the sacredness of the area.
I'm so thankful we were invited to participate in this experience. I have no doubt the stake leaders were inspired to ask us and were also inspired to place the kids we had in our family. I'm so thankful for those faithful pioneers who sacrificed everything in order to raise their children in the gospel and to be sealed to their families.