Saturday, June 28, 2014

Summer night with friends

A dear friend of mine is moving far far away. My heart aches a little, maybe a lot...

while she was busy packing I had the privileged of watching some of her kids and having a sleep over. These kiddies are loved dearly by my kids. We had a somewhat magical evening together soaking up a summer night and friendship. 

See for yourself.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Swimming class 2014

As soon as we arrived back from Trek the boys swimming lessons started.
This year was so much better than last year.
 Last year was hard for Jack and me, you can read about that here

This year Jack and Lucas had classes at the same time.
 It was delightful to watch them grow in confidence.
We walked to class and walked home while Jack tried to 
"catch as much sun as possible" to dry his wet clothes. 

Cute stuff!

Can you spy  Jack and Lucas in their classes?


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Pioneer trek: Day 3

The last morning...

Wow, we really were at the end of our trekking experience. It was to be an early morning so Ben and I were up ready to awake our wonderful company. This time I yodeled and Ben "Ba ha'd" back. The previous day Ben had shared with the youth his "Ba Ha!" It is basically a sound that I imagine a dying horse makes; it's loud, obnoxious and completely crazy. So at either end of each tarp I yodeled and Ben "Ba Ha'd" back. There were several girls that jumped out of their skin; it was a very effective way of waking people:) As we were walking away from waking people I heard a girl say "they are the cutest craziest couple ever... they are totally perfect for each other!" Ha!

The morning was busy, busy. We got dressed, cleaned up, put the tarps away, cleaned the porta potties and loaded everything in our handcarts. Then breakfast. Then the youth had some time to write a letter to their future selves and then it was time to trek back to get on the bus. 

BUT before we had to get GROUP pictures!!!!


Everyone being CRAZY

And all the girls as we forgot to get an all girls picture the day before... and YES in the back of our silly all girls pic there is Ben and Sal photo bombing us; totally epic.

Trek was fantastic!
 It was a most unforgettable experience. 
I feel blessed to have been apart of organizing it and attending it. 
There were many personal miracles that happened during this experience. 

Ben and I were totally the goofy couple yodeling, "Ba Ha'ing", singing while trekking, having head stand contests, accidentally breaking rules and letting everyone swim in the river but I hope that our youth remember that we have testimonies of God. 

I hope they remember that we know that God lives and loves us dearly, 
that Jesus Christ is our Savior 
that we can return to live with them one day. 

I hope they remember what the pioneers did so we could enjoy our religious freedom today,
I pray they remember and never forget.
I pray that they choose to walk in the light.

D&c 50:24
  That which is of God is light
and he that receiveth light
ndcontinueth in God, receiveth more light
and that light groweth brighter 
and brighter until the perfect day.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Pioneer Trek: Day 2

Day two Ben and I decided to wake everyone with yodeling at the tops of our lungs. We sat at each end of the tent/tarps and yodeled to one another and then moved to the next group of sleepy heads. Most enjoyed our method of waking some did not:)

Breakfast was different the second morning. Ben and I headed up to the amphitheater with our breakfast. All the kids slowly followed with their hungry bellies.

We talked about the amazing dinner we had the previous night and what a blessing that was! We discussed what the pioneers were living off by the time they were trekking through Wyoming; 4 oz of flour. They sometimes made it into little biscuits over a fire in a dutch oven but more often than not they were too tired or didn't have the resources for a fire so they mixed in water a bit of salt and ate their ration. 

We told them we were going to eat our 4oz of flour for breakfast. Some people looked disgusted and horrified, others were excited to try what their ancestors had eaten. 

 (Pictures by another awesome leader of Ben and I handing out flour)

To be honest it was awful! As I chugged the horrid combination down I thought 
"How blessed I am!" 
"Ho can I find reason to moan with so much in such abundance?!"

My testimony grew again... knowing that all they hard to fuel their bodies was flour and water and understanding the physical demands of their daily struggle they only way they could have done it was by the power of God. Oh how he lives!

Luckily for the youth when they got back to camp their was an amazing breakfast waiting for them...

After breakfast was cleaned up we got our hand carts ready and started hiking. This was the day we would learn about the Martin handcart company. This group of saint left two weeks later than scheduled and got stuck in a place known as Martins cove during the freezing blizzard. Little did we know at the beginning of this day the ways our spirits would be softened by our learning of these faithful pioneers.

Look at the Majesty! It really was beautiful and green.

After resting after our hike it was time to hike in to Martin Cove. This is where the Martin Handcart company stayed during the horrific blizzard. About 56 people died during the two days they stayed there. We hiked to an amphitheater where we were greeted by the sound of "Abide with me" played on a French horn and trumpet. Immediately my heart softened. I thought of what sacred ground we were going to walk upon, ground where men, women and children died for their pursuit for religious freedom. 

One of the leaders sang the hymn "I need thee every hour" within the first line he was overcome with tender emotions, he tried with all his energy to sing on with a wavering voice, half way through the first verse the youth joined in and helped him sing this prayerful song. The rest of the song was sang by all who were present, it was very special. I thought of these youth and how moments like these with strengthen them throughout their life, when times are hard they will be able to remember the feeling they felt when God's spirit was present in such a sacred place.

After our small meeting in this amphitheater we proceeded to walk silently through Martin Cove we walked for about half an hour. I felt very close to my Heavenly father as I walked and talked with him through prayer. I tried to imagine where the pioneers would have sought refuge from the icy wind and freezing snow, where they lied down to die and where they were buried under barren branches for the ground was too frozen to dig graves. 

After walking for 30 minutes we stopped at another amphitheater and sat and sang "The spirit of God" it was so powerful. My testimony was strengthened as I knew that the pioneers were able to do what they did because of the spirit of God was with them. I imagined how my life would be different if I was as focused on following the promptings of God as the pioneers were. I contemplated all that I trade for feeling the spirit of God; sometimes I trade my anger, sometimes my laziness, sometimes my pride, sometimes my comparisons but none are worth more than having the Spirit of God. I must do better. As I sang with these choice individuals I pledged to be better to choose the spirit of God more in my life. 

After our song we listened to two short powerful messages and then we walked another mile out of the cove. Being in the cove was like being in the temple; sacred, holy and personal. I will cherish the feelings I felt there; they are mine forever. 

Later as I spoke with some girls that had special experiences while in the cove I told them to never forget it; ever! To write them down because life will get hard and people will try and convince us that God does not live and does not care about us we know better for we have felt Gods love and know we are His children. This knowledge is priceless!

Martin's Cove

After lunch we headed over to some statues of brethren. These statues were beautiful and gave a powerful message. Teenage boys can to help the pioneers when they were at their worst; they sacrificed so much for people they didn't even know but were united in their faith and love of God.

All the brethren

Another river crossing. This river crossing was silent. Before crossing we were told of a story of a faithful mother. She arrived at the river and crossed carrying her 3 year old, tied him to a tree with her apron so he wouldn't follow her back. Back she went to carry her infant across laid her on the floor and went back to pull her handcart across. She did this all in freezing water through chunks of ice. 

Crossing the river in silence was very spiritual for me. 
All I could think of was the mother in the story and my two boys. I imagined carrying them with all my might. 
When we crossed the river the water was powerful and I became emotional thinking of carrying my boys across and the faith I would need to make it across because there is no way I could do it in freezing weather, feeling starved and emotionally drained...there is no way I could do it alone.
 I want to live my life closer to God so that I would have enough faith that God would give me just enough strength and power to get across with my children. 

I might not have a physical river to cross but I do have to raise children in a world where right is wrong and wrong is right. It is a down right scary place sometimes. Motherhood is by far the hardest challenge I have faced yet. There have been times I didn't know if I could get across that metaphorical river but prayers were answered and with God's help I made it to the other side. 

There will always be rivers in life and we will always have God to help us cross. 
It will be hard but I believe it will be worth it.

After the river crossing we trekked some more until all the boys took our flags are ran up a hill representing the man that went off to war leaving their wife's to trek or died because they had given up their rations to their family. There were many women who were the only force for their family and friends. 

As the boys left the women gathered and discussed the role we plan in Gods plan. We talked about how deeply God loves us and that through Him we are able to accomplish greatness for we all have divine potential. We then proceeded with what is known as "the women's pull". This is where the women pull the handcarts up a sandy hill along with no help. The boys were told not to help the women because the pioneer women did this alone so often. It was in their challenge that they drew upon the power of their Heavenly Father. 

I heard from some of the boys that it was really hard for them to watch us struggle up the hill. As the first girls made it to the top instead of waiting they turned around and ran down the hill to help others up. 
It was beautiful and very special.

When we got back to camp we found our tarps blown down. We had to have operation  "repair tarp". 

More lovely pioneers

We finished the evening with all you can eat steak dinner, a camp fire and a powerful meeting where the youth shared their feelings about their Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and how the example of the pioneers has changed them. I was so amazed with these youth, they might be young but they are glorious. I felt honored to be in such company!

As I wished good night to the girls I lingered longer at their request and told them stories from my life growing up in England. Of course I had to share my Henry the goat stories. They all giggled and I felt privileged to have spent another day with them; it was magical for sure.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Mormon Pioneer Trek; Day 1

Trek was by far a memorable experience!!

For our church congregation the Mormon Pioneer Trek is a 4 day experience for the youth and their leaders. You dress like pioneers, camp and walk 6 miles a day pulling handcarts and learning inspirational stories about the strong and faithful early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). We created this experience in Wyoming where the saints were at some of the hardest parts of their trekking experience at Martin's Cove and Sixth Crossing. 

Along the way testimonies of Jesus Christ are grown, 
friendships are forged,
 confidence increased and love abounds.


Ben and I along with another couple arrived very late Wednesday so we missed the first half day with the youth but were ready to wake them bright and early for their first full day in the wilderness. 

I slept pretty awesome, for some wonderful reason God blessed me with a body that sleeps anywhere (unless I'm pregnant) and I felt a little bad as I may have been one of the few that got a good nights sleep. The wind Howled all night long, or at least I am told and kept many up shivering and hiding in their sleeping bags. 

 The first morning was an early and productive one as we had to get out and on the bus by 7. Ben and I were busy motivating and moving along sleepy heads with bright smiles. 

We were on the bus and headed to Sixth Crossing. Sixth crossing is the area where the pioneers had to cross the sweet water river for the sixth time within a couple weeks. The time they made these river crossings it was November, snowing and below freezing. This area was where the Willie Company were when a terrible blizzard hit. About 17 of these individuals died during the two days they were stuck in a meadow that is now known as Willies Meadow. 

Getting ready to trek. Making sure all the handcarts are filled and all the families are together. 

Our first experience of crossing the river. 
The women were not allowed to pull up there dresses/skirts as back in the pioneers time that would have been deemed as very immodest. We got pretty drenched but were grateful for the sunshine. There was a rope to hold on to. Almost immediately my admiration for these pioneers grew thinking of being in this river in below freezing temperatures carrying handcarts and children sometimes multiple times a day.

Our youth did great! I was so proud of their optimism and willingness to cross the river. 

The young man below, Irving was struck by terrible allergies. His eyes were the size of eggs by mid day. He was a good trooper but turned up the dramatics for my camera!

We all had reached the top of the biggest hill of the day and the youth recognized that below there was a hand cart left with two people laying on the  floor. Immediately the youth wanted to go and help; I sure love these kids!

We were told a story about Jens and Elsie Nielson; A most powerful love story!
Jens was a 6 foot tall man. A man who had crossed rivers for sometimes hours on end carrying and helping others cross through rivers with chunks of ice smacking his legs. His feet were no longer recognizable, the frost bite was too great, it caused his feet to be at a right angle. His body was shutting down. Elsie was short, not even 5 feet tall. They had already buried their 5 year old son along with others in shallow graves covered with grass in the frozen terrain. 

Jens could walk no more, he told his tiny wife to leave him, to go on without him. I imagine he thought the wolves would take him but that was a better option than watching his wife suffer pulling him. Being a woman of great spiritual stature she would not leave him. She pulled him for more than two weeks over rocky ridge. There are records from Jens that he knew the only way his wife could pull him and a handcart full of supplies was if angels were assisting. 

At this point of hearing the story we told the youth to run and help just as the angles helped Elsie. The youth ran with force they couldn't get there soon enough. I watched with tears streaming down my face. I was happy to hide them in the shadow of my bonnet. God truly sends angles to minister us in times of hardship then and now! 

When Bishop and Sister Garey arrived to the top of the hill with help. They shared what they felt; it was very tender. Sister Garey mentioned how there are no accounts written by Elsie and she suggested that perhaps the reason was because it was so sacred... I believe she was right. There was a powerful spirit presiding with us during this experience. 

Jens and Elise made it to Utah and became influential leaders and founded several cities. 

Oh the faith!

Each family was given a baby doll to take care of. There were many children and infants that were apart of these pioneer companies. At the end of this day each family was visited by a leader who shared stories about a pioneer widow who lost all her children while trekking across America but after arriving to Utah meet and married and had 10 children! 

They were taught that of the babies that were born while trekking there were about 60 only 1 survived. The leader then said that their baby didn't make it and then took the baby. Some of the youth became quite emotional as they thought how a plastic doll had become a part of their family and that they were sad to say goodbye and yet so many real live, beautiful, children with families who loved them died. 

I think their hearts grew with gratitude that night!

We had some fun with the tug of war rope. These youth were really awesome and great sports. 
There was a bet that if a certain someone lost a tug of war he would have his beard shaved off... the next morning we all watched Seth Dubois loose his beard, great memories!

Me with my favorite person!! 

It was such an honor to share this experience with Ben. My love and appreciation definitely multiplied during our time here. 

We ate very well thanks to our awesome cooking crew.

We finished the evening with a fireside (spiritual meeting). God's spirit touched our hearts, our testimonies strengthened and left with smiles.

As the sun went down we got in our PJs and some of the girls did yoga with me.

What a perfect day!

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