Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pleasantly Surprised

WARNING: This post is long and at times very personal. I promise I will not be offended should you decide to skip it altogether. So with that being said....happy reading!

I think I am recovered now! Sorry there are no pictures at this time. We didn’t take our camera and we haven’t got the disk with all the pictures yet. Heather you will just have to wait for the dreaded proof that I actually went on this trek and more importantly that I survived. I am just going to go through it day by day and so if you get bored please just skip the parts you don’t want to read!

Thursday: We arrived at the church at 4:00 a.m. where we loaded the bus with our 5 gallon buckets and sleeping bags. Yep, you read that right…a 5 gallon bucket is all the room you got. When the saints left for Salt Lake they were only allowed 17 pounds (for an adult) and that included their blankets. Lucky for us they counted our sleeping gear separately. From there we traveled for over 6 hours. It was a long bus ride but the scenery was absolutely breathtaking. If you have never been to Wyoming, especially up near Jackson Hole, I strongly urge you to do it if you ever get a chance. It is gorgeous! With about two hours left to go we stopped for a break and that is when we learned who would be in our “families”. Dallan and I were assigned 3 girls and 2 boys, all of which turned out to be great. We finally arrived to Martin’s Cove late in the afternoon. We unloaded our buckets from the bus, put them into our handcarts and we started walking. We only walked about 5 miles that day. For me personally this was my best day. I am not sure if you know it but President Hinckley consecrated Martin’s Cove and it is considered sacred ground. That area is still government property and the missionaries won’t share any history with you unless you ask. To me it was amazing that the government allowed the church to come in, set up an amazing visitor’s center and show anyone around who asked. We had a missionary talk to us in Dan Jones Cove and as soon as that was over we made our way to the actual cove. What was amazing to me was the spirit I felt there. It was like there was a hush that fell over our group and I truly felt the sanctity of that place. For those that don’t know this is the area where the majority of the saints died as they made their way to Salt Lake. They came across the cove as they crossed the Sweetwater River. They were out of supplies and really could go on no further. They decided to stay at the cove until the relief wagons found them. They huddled together in one part of the cove and only ventured to the other side to bury their dead. By this time the ground was so frozen they could only dig shallow graves for their loved ones. It is said that this is when they could hear the packs of wolves waiting nearby to attack their dead once they were buried. After leaving the cove we traveled to the Sweetwater River where we saw the statues of the valley boys. When the saints realized they would have to cross the river again most simply sat down and started to cry. The river was filled with floating ice and these poor people were already so cold and sick. There were four young boys who (we were told there were also others who helped) took it upon themselves to carry all those saints across the freezing river. They crossed back and forth in that icy water until all 600 saints had made their away across. From there we trekked our way back to the bus, loaded our buckets back on the bus and headed to the Willie Handcart Center, where we would be camping the rest of the time.

What I learned: As I mentioned before, the time we spent at Martin’s Cove was the most spiritually rewarding part of the trek for me personally. As I was standing in Dan Jones’ Cove what struck me wasn’t the physical part of what I was doing and how hard it was going to be. What struck me was the question that filled my mind “Are you willing to do the hard things for My sake?” For me that was the purpose in me going on this trek. It was so I could be at a place where I would listen to what the Lord needed me to hear. As you all know we have been working on our adoption paperwork and it has actually been finished for quite sometime. That is all except our birthparent letter and picture pages. I still haven’t done them. I have been putting it off for weeks and weeks, not really knowing why. It is in that cove that I realized I haven’t done it because I didn’t want to deal with the emotional roller coaster that always comes once the paperwork is done and the waiting actually begins. It has been a long time since I have felt the need to repent as much as I did in those few moments we were there. I knew with such clarity that I had been in the wrong and was withholding blessings not only from myself but my entire family. I think all of us are asked at different points in our lives to do hard things in order to grow spiritually. When I look at what those pioneer saints accomplished I am inspired not only by their physical strength but more importantly by their incredible faith. They were willing to press forward and enduring the hard things in life in order to receive the blessings our Father in Heaven had in store for them. I needed that experience more than I could ever put into words. I should have had the faith to move forward in the process. I have experienced twice once with Madelyn and again with Jackson. I have seen what the Lord can accomplish when I do my part. And even after seeing the miracle of our children making their way to our family I still put off doing what I considered to be hard. I didn’t want to be bothered with it and therefore I refused to move forward. For that one experience I will forever be grateful I was asked to go on this trip.

Friday: LET THE LAUGHING AND MOCKING BEGIN! You know me and you know I am not known for my physical prowess. Not only that but I don’t like getting dirty and I certainly take a little pride in my appearance. If Thursday’s lesson was on repentance then Friday was all about me learning to leave the vanity of the world behind! I got up Friday morning at 5:30 am and put on my second set of pioneer clothing. And let me just say one thing about that…CAUTION WIDE LOAD AHEAD! Could clothing get any more unflattering? For heaven’s sake! I seriously looked about as wide as a bus! But I took it in stride and forged ahead! We had just started our 10 mile leg of our journey when we reached several mud holes in the road. We scouted out the narrowest part and the girls began to leap across. They all made it of course. Then it was my turn. Here was the plan…I would leap and Dallan would catch me. I leaped but there was no catch. I forgot to lift up my skirt and therefore ran out of room before I cleared the mud puddle. And yes, you guess right before I even knew what was happening I was on the ground in the mud! Half of my side was covered. I was filthy and worse yet I was humiliated. I had made a pact with one of my boys that I would not complain if he didn’t complain. You would be proud that I didn’t complain one time. Yes, there were some tears shed, more out of embarrassment than anything else but I never uttered a complaint. Poor Dallan felt so bad. He knows me and he really knows how vain I am. When I started crying my poor husband started to shed a tear on behalf of my muddy state as well. What a good guy I have. He tried so hard to wipe the mud off me, but there was so much of it, that it was completely impossible (on the way back to camp the kids were teasing that maybe we would still be able to see my outline in the mud). So we moved on….mud and all. We hadn’t made it very hard when my nose began to bleed. I am on a steroid to help reduce the swelling in my nose, so the doctor can assess what is going on with my sinuses. That morning I was a little sore and so I took a couple of Advil which is also a blood thinner. I didn’t know you shouldn’t take those two things together. My nose wouldn’t stop bleeding, and I am not just talking a little bit of blood, but large quantities of it. Poor Dallan was scared I was going to pass out. So he scooped me up and carried me over the mud to a dry patch of ground. There he laid me down and then proceeded to slightly argue with the missionary who was refusing to take me back to our truck in his little golf cart (he finally gave in when realized the bleeding was only getting worse and perhaps me walking back to the truck wasn’t such a great idea)! There I was mud all over my clothes, blood gushing from my nose and if that wasn’t humiliating enough they decided the best solution for the time being was to stick a tampon in my nose. Can I just say MORTIFIED??? My nose bled for about 35 to 40 minutes. When it first happened they told me to lean my head backwards which I did. BAD MOVE! Never lean your head back when you have a bloody nose. It doesn’t stop the bleeding; all it does is allow the blood to travel down your throat and into your stomach. I started getting sick to my stomach and before you know it I was gagging and spitting up large amounts (okay they seemed large to me!) of blood. And lucky for me this all happened before I got back to camp and before I made it to the golf cart. So yes, all the leaders and all the kids got to witness this very public display of me being disgraced. The whole thing was so not pretty! I was able to rest at camp and the bleeding finally stopped. All in all I missed about 4 miles of the trek. It would have been easy for me to give up but you would all be proud that I decided to keep walking. I made it back just in time for the women’s pull. This is when the missionaries come and call the men and boys off to fight in the Mormon battalion, and the girls take over pulling the handcart. They pull it all by themselves for about ¾ of a mile all which is uphill. At the top all the men are waiting. It was a sweet moment to see most of these young boys with tears in their eyes as they watched their “sisters” pulling the heavy handcarts all by themselves. That was another favorite moment of mine of the trek. From there we made our way to the Sweetwater and were able to cross. It is June and the water was still really cold. I couldn’t imagine how cold it would have been in November. So there you have it! I made it. I walked almost the entire thing and to be honest it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was hard and I was tired at the end of the day but I was proud that I did it and even more proud that I didn’t complain one time. Food never tasted so good and laying in my sleeping bag on the hard ground had never felt so comfortable. I slept like a baby! The experience taught me a lot. It made me appreciate the sacrifices that other people made for their faith. It made me appreciate the many comforts I enjoy on a daily basis. It gave me hope to see so many youth taking part in something other than what the world has to offer and actually having fun while doing it. I am so thankful Dallan and I got to experience it together and truthfully we will remember it as one of the most spiritually uplifting things we have ever done together as a couple. And the best part was….for three days I completely escaped the pressures of life! I didn’t think of job interviews and the possibility of us moving in the next few weeks. For three days we got a reprieve from the big decisions we are making right now and it was wonderful! So here is my advice….if you ever get a chance to go…DO IT! There you have it…I CAME…I SAW…I CONQUERED! And I am a better person for having gone through it.

17 comments:

Neas Nuttiness said...

Mandee - it sounds like a wonderful experience, but I think that I will just "take your word for it" and not try it out for myself!!!
Regarding your adoption "papers" - we will keep you all in our prayers. There is a very very lucky child just waiting for the terrific home that you and Dallon have prepared.

Tiffany Jones said...

Thanks for sharing. It sounds like quite an experience.

mandee said...

Thank you for your love and support Libby! I haven't forgotten about you, it has just been a really hectic month or so! And by the way should you read this we would love it should you decide to send something to Madelyn, and I know she would love it. Everyday she asks if she got any "nail"! You saying there is a lucky baby out there means more coming from you than from most, so thank you again.

mandee said...

By the way Libby I can't access your blogsite because it is set to private. You have to send me an invitation first. I am sure Suzanne knows how if you don't. I would love to read it!

Sherri said...

Mandee, Mandee

You totlaly made me laugh out loud when I pictured your muddy, bloody and a tampon up your nose :) I am so glad you had a learning experience and was able to have some fun too. Great job!

mandee said...

Sherri I am glad I was able to make you laugh! You would have thoroughly enjoyed being there first hand to witness that most embarassing scene!

Jessica said...

I actually teared up a little. How sweet, both Dallan and your "sons." Wow, way to go Mandee. Thanks for sharing your adventure. I am glad you are home safe and sound with curvy jeans and hot showers;-).

Lexi said...

Mandee I love you so much! I find it something that when your faith is strenghtened, mine is just by being a part of your life- even from far away. I'm so proud of you (all of this is such a dumb thing for a friend to say, but I'm going to say it). I knew how much you weren't looking forward to this and I can really tell you made the best of it. How awesome of you! Really. You should be so proud of yourself.

You've done good things out there. Now move back here. Now.

mandee said...

I have the BEST friends in the entire WORLD!!! And yes, we are finished here..Phoenix anyone??

Suebee said...

I am very glad that you made the trek. It sounds like you had a great experience and I loved reading about it. Thank you for taking the time to give us such a great account. It is wonderful when we as frieds can uplift one another with our experiences and you have uplifted me.

snbjork said...

I also teared up a bit while reading this. First, because of the spiritual experiences. Secondly, because of the whole mud, blood, tampon thing! Whoa!

It was very generous of you to give so many gory details. Seriously. It always amazes me the times that God chooses to teach us the most important lessons. I am especially impressed that you were able to NOT complain for three days! I can't even imagine. Hardly 30 minutes goes by for me without a whine escaping my lips. Even if there's no one around to hear it. I'm convinced that I need to try one of these treks....too bad they just finished the one for our stake.

You're awesome. I hope hope hope I get to meet you and your family sometime soon, somehow! Stephanie only ever has great things to say about you. Sorry if I get too mushy, but I can't help it. =)

mandee said...

I like mushy!

emma jo said...

I am truly amazed--what an incredible experience! I am so sorry for the humiliation but it makes a really good story later on (and I have to say the tampon image is really my favorite!) I am so glad you and Dallan had such a great experience. And thank you for continuing to be "too spiritual"--I look up to you guys and all that you share about your learning experiences. I am so excited for your papers to be turned in and allow your family to grow!! We love you!

Andria Laws said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. I'm glad you had a good experience despite the drama-what great memories though to look back on! My favorite thing was when you said that Dallin started crying in your behalf because he had compassion for you and what you were going through. What a sweet man, you are very lucky to have him.
Thanks for sharing all the details and your spiritual lessons learned. It was so uplifting to read. I love you.

mandee said...

I know I have said this a million times but I really am very lucky to have such wonderful friends. I just couldn't imagine going through life without all of you.

Randi said...

Thank you for sharing about your experience. Not only was it uplifting and inspiring, but also super FUNNY! You have a way with words and story-telling. I greatly enjoyed it! :) Way to go!

Heather said...

Oh Mandee, this was the best story and experience! Thanks for sharing!

I loved it on MANY levels! :)