"...being commanded of God to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things." - Mosiah 26:39
Bert and I celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary last Tuesday - the 3rd. =)
Which means sometime in the next month I will celebrate the 21st anniversary of my baptism. What a great decision that was! What joy it has brought me in my life! I'm so thankful I had the zeal, the fire, and the courage to step into that baptismal font and utterly change the course of my life.
Andrew played his last soccer game of the season on Saturday 31st May. We then went to CiCis pizza with the team where the boys were given a trophy each. We're so proud of Andrew and his little trophy. =) I'm looking forward to the fall season.
Ben has been taking a break from homeschooling the past couple of weeks. It's been nice. =) He watched episode bazillion of Ken Burns' "Civil War" this morning. We'll take a break from that for a little while. I think "Transformers" is set to arrive in the next nexflix shipment. Emily's excited. =)
Emily went on Trek Thurs 5th - Sat 7th June. She dressed in pioneer clothes, some of which she'd made herself, and was driven to the Trek in Southern TN. She was nervous.
They arrived late morning on Thursday and were assigned to "families". Emily was made "Big sister" in her family. =) There were just ten children in theirs; most other families had 12. Each family piled their stuff onto their handcart, which by the time they were done weighed about 700lbs. Then they set off.
Handcarts were organized thusly: Two in the yoke. Ropes were attached to each side of the yoke; two pulled on the rope on each side about two yards apart. Right up front, holding both ropes was the guide. Everyone else pushed from behind or walked alongside. In Emily's group there were five boys, including Paul Grayson and Travis - and five girls, including Laura Schaumann, Nicole and Emily.
On the second hill, their handcart broke.
Emily said the yoke was the most difficult place. Lifting 700lbs was almost more than she could physically do...and then they had to pull it. She got blisters despite her work gloves.
They pulled five miles that day. The pioneers pulled an average of 9 miles in the morning, 8 in the afternoon.
Going up hills was so hard. They hated the hills. When the cart broke down they were at the top of the second hill. No shade. It was about 95f. They tried fixing the cart with bungee cords Emily had, but it was beyond repair, so another cart was brought to them.
They sat for an hour in the blistering sun waiting for it, as the rest of the company pushed on.
When the new handcart arrived, they put their stuff on it - Emily said they "put it together" - did they actually assemble it?
Then they had to catch up with the other group...double quick, no rest, up and down hills.
The company waited for them a little while in the shade of some trees. They got a shady break. When Emily's family arrived they continued on. No shady break for Emily's family.
They were so tired, and fell behind. They were encouraged, faster, you must go faster. You must catch up. No rest. Full sun. Up and down hills.
Emily had done her time in the yoke and was now guiding at the front of the rope. They crested a hill and all of them groaned...before them lay the tallest, steepest hill.
"Emily", called Paul, "Come get in the yoke with me."
Emily was a little confused, "I've done my time in the yoke."
"I know. Just come in with me."
Ok. Emily obliged.
Down the hill. Beginning that tall, steep one. Emily and Paul in the yoke, bearing the burden. Going up...
....and then all the boys in the entire company ducked out of yokes, let go of ropes, stopped pushing.
And all the girls felt what it was like for the pioneers when the country that had beaten, raped and killed them...the country that had forced them out...now came upon them on the trail and forced the men to leave the women and children and join the army. The women and children had to continue on alone.
Emily was in the yoke alone, pulling 700 lbs of weight uphill. The cart was sliding backwards. Emily yelled for Nicole, who immediately ducked into the yoke and started pulling.
And those five girls, alone, began pushing that handcart up that steep hill. Just like their pioneer forebears (except Emily who doesn't have any =D) had to pull and push mile after weary mile....
At first, the boys stood to the side, yelling encouragement. Emily said you could tell it was killing them to let the girls do it by themselves. Then the leaders pulled the boys behind, so the girls were truly alone.
Emily and Nicole were pulling that handcart, with the three other girls on the ropes. Her arms and legs started shaking violently with the exertion. Her back muscles started cramping.
Driving to the church to drop Emily off, we were asking each other "How did the pioneers do it? How did they do what they did?"
Emily was thinking this as she attempted to pull that handcart. She thought, with full fervency and tenderness of heart, "Lord, if you wanted me to pull a handcart all day, every day, for the rest of my life, I'd do it. It's the hardest thing I've ever done - and I'd do it. The gospel is so worth it. It's worth all this! Lord, I'm so willing to do it, but I'm physically unable to. I can't physically do it. Help me do it, Lord!"
She said the boys were pulled back behind the wagons, and she felt someone pushing. She, Nicole, Laura, and the other two girls pulled that 700 lb handcart up that long, steep hill. As soon as they got to the top the boys gratefully rushed in to take the carts and the girls collapsed. Emily was still shaking from exertion.
"Were you pushing?" she asked Paul
"No, we weren't allowed to touch the carts or help at all."
So who was pushing?
‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it. … I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay....
They pushed on until dark. For dinner they had rolls and chicken broth, with a little rice and chicken in it. Emily was lucky she didn't feel hungry, though she forced herself to eat something. Most of the youth were starving, though they'd eaten more than the pioneers had.
They camped out in a field by laying down their tarps and sleeping bags, sleeping under the stars. The field soon was covered with dew and they were soaked through. They didn't sleep much.
The sun rose...and so did they...at 4.30/5am. No point continuing to lie down - they were soaked anyway.
Breakfast was cornmeal mush. Cornmeal and water. They were lucky and were given a little brown sugar. Emily said it was disgusting, but she choked it down although she still wasn't hungry.
The second day was dedicated to pioneer activities. Emily ripped the head off a chicken and fired rifles. This blew Bert and I away. You did WHAT with a chicken? She said the idea was to grab it by its head, swing the body around, then snap it like a towel. It wasn't working for Emily so the guy grabbed the chicken's neck and body, looked Emily in the eye and said, "Are you ready?" then pulled hard and the head came off.
Makes me want to vomit.
Emily said one of the girls was freaking out as Emily was swinging and snapping the chicken. Emily...who was hot and mad by this point and doesn't suffer fools gladly even at the best of times...looked at the girl like she was nuts and said, "It's your DINNER!" Did the girl want to starve? I think Emily has "The Look".
Then Emily dipped the chicken body in boiling water (not fun in 90f weather) and pulled off its feathers. Then she eviscerated and cleaned it. They barbequed it but it wasn't ready to be eaten by the time they had to move on to the next station so they didn't get anything but a tiny piece. Bummer!
Travis was shooting a musket. Emily was impressed. Travis said "I bet you can't do it." Uhm....hello? This is EMILY you're talking to. She can do ANYTHING. So she shot three long-bore old-fashioned rifles. And perhaps a pistol, I can't remember. Yes, this is the girl that wows the guys by firing rifles, killing chickens, pulling handcarts, and driving a stick shift. Is there nothing she can't do?
The favourite station for boys and girls alike was the hair washing station. They loved it. =) They reveled in hair washed clean in cool water. And afterwards they dunked their hot, blistered feet into the rinse water. Ahhhhhh. =)
They had trail mix, apples and juice boxes for lunch. Dinner was beef stew. Emily said it was the most delicious thing she'd ever tasted. Must have been getting hungry by that point. =)
The next day was meant to be a long haul handcart day. Unfortunately, that night one of the youth from the Huntsville Stake wandered off and got lost. Also, a soldier who had gone fishing in that area was missing.
Lying under the stars, the youth again had no sleep because of the torchlights and helicopter beams. The youth were not allowed to search - the leaders didn't want to lose any more of them. So the 99 were kept in the fold while the shepherds searched for the one.
The rangers in the tiny county where they were said their resources were too stretched thin looking for the two missing people to be on hand if any accident befell the youth on the trek the next day. The rangers strongly recommended closing the trek early. The leaders concurred.
The handcarts were broken down, the gear packed, the rides starting to arrive, when the missing youth wandered back into camp. Thank goodness he was safe!
I'd been praying for Emily, and, anxious to see her, arrived at the church about an hour and a half early to pick her up.
It was sooo good to see her. She'd already divested herself of her pioneer garb. =) After complaining long and hard about her bonnet, declaring she would NEVER wear it, she admitted it was WONDERFUL and was so useful in that weather. She also said you wouldn't believe how useful bandannas were. She used hers for all sorts of things.
Emily told me about Trek on the way home. We cried sweet tears as we felt the Spirit when she talked of her testimony as she hauled that heavy handcart up the hill.
How did they do it? Day after day?
Emily said "They did it because they had to."
Because their testimony burned in their hearts. And that fire drove them over the Rocky Mountains, to home.