Sunday, December 09, 2018

Stake Conference Talk December 2018

I am Diana Sagers. I am married to Geoff and we live in the 18th Ward with our 5 awesome kids. Our oldest daughter, Becca, was sent in a body that does a great job protecting her spirit and, due to Cerebral Palsy and a hand full of other big words, provides us with countless opportunities to serve one of the Lord’s elect and elite spirits. She has two younger sisters and two younger brothers who also have incredible spirits and I am proud to be their mom. We work hard and laugh hard together.

I am very humbled to VERY recently been called to serve you as the Stake Relief Society President. Heavenly Father has blessed me so much already and I am in constant awe of all of the little every day miracles He is sprinkling in my path. My amazing counselors, Tiffany and Juli and our secretary Mikale and I have been taking our vitamins and we’re excited to serve and get to know you. Please come up and say hi and introduce yourself! Heavenly Father has drastically been renovating and remodeling my comfort zone so that there’s room for everyone!

Have you ever had someone trust you enough to share their beliefs with you? I’m not talking about a loud one-upping kind of discussion. I’m talking about a quiet back and forth sharing heart to heart talk about things that are really important. We create opportunities like this all the time in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We divide up into classes after Sacrament meeting to participate in discussions led by our friends and neighbors who spent the week in prayer and preparation. We visit each other in our homes and bear testimony and practice charity often. We reach out when we haven't seen someone in a while and we make sure they’re okay and show an outpouring of love. We live and share our beliefs on a regular, daily basis with each other. So, why do we get so nervous about sharing the gospel with people we know and love? We do it, literally, all the time.

But, Sister Sagers, you’re thinking,  it’s easy when I’m sure they want to know. They showed up to Church, we were in the same place at the same time and it was simple.

We are commanded to love one another and each of our conversion stories is different; Whether we grew up being comfortable on our knees asking for confirmation of tough questions, or we grew up with a different faith that our family participated in or whether the first time we really prayed and felt things and began building a strong belief system was when we were an adult, the result is the same; we come to Church together and continue building our testimonies. We continue to seek and we support each other in the finding.

I have been talking to friends who grew up in other faiths and have been asking a lot of questions. I haven’t served a mission yet and I love to hear people’s stories. No one's story is the same. Some start with questions and a discontent with the way things are and a desire for something new and more complete. Some left religions they had grown up in and have found new joy in Family History work among other things. Many start with friends who shine a light and draw people in. Some bring people with them; one reactivated his wife as he encouraged her to live her beliefs more fully the more he learned about it. All of them found peace, love, familiarity and joy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The things they were learning felt right and made everything click and fit together. I listened to one friend describe going to a different Church as a young girl and not feeling as connected as she does now to both people and doctrines. All of the people I talked with needed to feel loved and needed in the gospel. All of them needed friends to sit by and leaders and teachers that cared.

When families and individuals come back or join us in the gospel, they touch every auxiliary in the ward. We all ought to make sure our arms are wide open on Sunday and every other day to receive them. Never should we think, “I’m sure someone else has got it well in hand” without next thinking, “I’d love to get to know them, too” and reaching out our hand as well. I don’t know if you’ve ever been the that person who reached out, but why should they have all the fun? As soon as you learn about someone that is coming back or investigating the Church, find out more, offer your help.

What did that look like for me? When my friend’s 9 year old son started taking the missionary discussions, I asked if I could come and bring my sons who were 8 and 10 at the time. I took turns taking them individually. They were able to share their testimony and stretch and grow along with their friend. It was a wonderful experience that I highly recommend!

In the handbook we read that “All members of the Church, particularly new members, need three things to help them stay active in the Church: friendship, opportunities to mature and serve in the Church and nourishing by the word of God.” ALL members of the Church need these three things no matter how many years or hours it has been since our baptism.

First, Friendship. All of us need to see friendly, smiling faces of friends we love catching up with each week. It’s been a while for a lot of us since we have had to find a place at a cafeteria table, but we all remember the feeling. Let’s make sure we say hi to new faces in the pews and in the Sunday School, Relief Society and Elder’s Quorum chairs. We all need to feel loved and needed. The handbook also encourages us that “investigators are more likely to be baptized and confirmed and remain active when they have close friendships with Church members.” Pretty soon, they’re coming because they want to be there because it feels so great and the first anxiety we had about sharing the gospel has taken care of itself. We are there in the same place with a desire to do what’s right. By small and simple things like sharing hymn books, whispering the scripture coordinates, engaging them in the current discussion and a text or call when you didn’t see them at Church has people coming back for more.

Second, we all need significant opportunities for growth in the gospel. We need to learn together in environments where we are encouraged to ask questions and discuss the answers. As often as possible, we need to be in the appropriate classes filling up our spiritual buckets. I’m very, very excited about the “Come, Follow Me for Individuals and Families”. Our old familiar testimonies are going to grow and stretch in new and exciting ways! I can hardly wait! We need to make sure we ask and answer lots of questions whenever the opportunity arrives. I am here because of countless testimonies shared through comments during Relief Society lessons, Young Women discussions, Primary teachers who cared, and other tiny boosts of faith that really add up!

My favorite word in the third thing that we all need is “nourish.” We need nourishing by the word of God. In plants, as in us, nourishment cannot happen once in a while. It is a state of mindfulness. It is listening to a prompting and it is truly sharing our hearts with each other as we share testimony, lift and encourage others along our way. I am most happy when my spirit is well-nourished and I am able to nourish others along my way. Heavenly Father creates so many opportunities to connect with each other. We serve in callings together and participate in discussions together and meet together to find the best ways to serve each other.

During a Ward Council meeting, you may feel prompted about someone specific in your organization that could be encouraged to help reach out to someone in a family your ward is fellowshipping. A Primary teacher may see the person behind the name on his role with no check marks and make an effort to get to know him and his family. A whole family could be led to minister and fellowship a family with a similar dynamic. Spread the love, encourage charity and love to flourish in your ward and our stake and help out the brothers and sisters who hands are so often raised to volunteer. Their hearts are huge and they will love all the help they can get!

When we trust ourselves and lean into promptings we receive we will be given the things we need to say in the moment we need to say them. Sharing the gospel comes from love for the person we have had on our mind and they will feel that. Build on the Light of Christ that they already have in them. There are far more similarities in many belief systems than there are differences. Build and fill in with truth and trust that the Lord will help you. He will. And then I will be hearing things like, Sister Sagers, my friend comes to Church with me now and all I did was be a good friend. The Celestial Kingdom won’t be complete without ALL of us there. Keep loving. Keep praying. Keep trusting, and keep trying.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Christlike Parenting and Grand-Parenting

I have had a neat experience these past few weeks pondering on the life of my Savior and relating it to parenting and grand-parenting. I hope I am able to share the things I have learned and insights I have gained with you effectively. Whenever I read stories about Jesus, I love to place myself at his feet in my imagination. I have always done this; as a little girl in Primary, as a teenager in Seminary class and as an adult in my own study. The Church, through many types of media has brought those stories to life for me, also. And so, I read those stories again looking for parables and lessons on being the best parents and grandparents that we can be. I found example after example of loving guidance, gathering, serving, forgiveness, trusting, teaching and seeking truth.

Jesus often encouraged and lifted those around Him by talking about the life to come. He encourages us to lay up treasures in Heaven. He encouraged us to set our candles on a hill where they can’t be hidden. He always sees great potential in all of us as sons and daughters of God. Only when our lamps are well taken care of, well loved and used often, do we have the light and energy to light the lamps of others, including our children and grandchildren. Our children need to see us going to the scriptures to gain encouragement, insight and personal revelation. My teenage daughter came to me recently with a question about her own path that was discouraging her. Knowing that I only have a few precious years left with her at my kitchen table, I recognized that, like Christ, I needed to acknowledge my Heavenly Father in all things and teach her to find her own answer. I phrased it like this, “Well, if I had a question like that, I would pray about it. And then I would read the scriptures and conference talks. And then I would pray again.” Jesus also knew that He would not always be nearby to answer questions and give advice. He knew He needed to teach us how to find the answers. I marvel at the way this method gives us each the answers we seek in the way we most need to understand them.

I sometimes feel jealous of the disciples who got to hear His voice in person. But we are privileged to carry His voice with us wherever we go. In our pockets we have an easily searchable database of information that we can read and listen to any time we want to. Maybe instead of the tried and true method of flipping open our scriptures and reading wherever we land, we can search a word and read scriptures, Conference talks and Ensign articles all before leaving our bed in the morning. Jesus walked everywhere and sat and talked and answered questions. We need to make sure we are taking the time to ponder and search and listen for answers when we pray. He is still there, willing to send inspiration our way.

Jesus was always gathering. Sheep, sparrows, chicks, the hairs on a head; all things are numbered and known by name to Him. Just like me on a field trip to Thanksgiving Point, He is constantly counting noses and making sure everyone is safe and where they are supposed to be. My youngest, who was about 5 at the time, still reminds me about the time I lost him on one such field trip. He hadn’t followed us to the next stop and as soon as we realized he was missing, we went back and found him searching for us. A couple of minutes felt like a long time to him! We never stop gathering. Even as our children leave the nest, we gather them back to visit as often as we can. And when someone isn’t there, they are missed. My husband’s family, the Sagers, are great at gathering. We really know how to fill up a chapel for a baby blessing. And even the generations before still have reunions and I am amazed at the hundreds of people that still make an effort to gather together and make those relationships strong. Gathering brings so many blessings. We are stronger together. We can share the gospel in our families and give them a constant support group of people to struggle and celebrate with. And as President Hinckley said in one of his lessons on home and family, “Once in a while, notwithstanding all the things you try to do, there is a rebellious child. But keep at it. Do not ever give up. You have never lost as long as you try. Keep at it.” We count the sheep, no matter how many there are and we notice when one is missing. This is the way our Savior looks at us. He notices when we stray and celebrates when we return.

Before my husband’s Dad died, he did a very special kind of gathering. One by one, he called us in and laid his hands on our heads and gave us very special Father’s Blessings to last us into the parts of our lives he knew he would no longer to be a part of. He used his Priesthood to bless and comfort and leave words of wisdom that have brought me comfort time and time again. He admonished us to stay close to the Gospel and to cling to each other. He knew he was going before to save a place for us and he wants every single one of us to make it. He made each of us a record that holds a transcription of our blessing from him, a letter to us with a scripture that he chose just for us and also his testimony. These are treasures beyond value not only for us as adults, but for my children, his grandchildren. Larry is a Christlike example to me in SO many ways and being gathered as one of his own is a goal I have a great desire to achieve. Families are gathered by divine design.

A powerful image of our Savior bending down to write in the dust while a group of men roughly bring a woman accused. He listened as all of them laid out not only what she had done, but how they felt about it. They laid their opinions bare in front of each other and the Lord. In unkind language and harsh words, they told the Lord how to judge her and what her punishment should be. Jesus did not join in. He did not begin to point fingers and show shock and egg them on, joining in their collective judgement. I have glanced through comment threads on social media or underneath well-intentioned articles that have felt very much like this. Stones made of words being cast at strangers. But what if the person being accused of the mob is your child? I have not yet had an ear full of something someone heard about something one of my kids has done or hasn’t done. May I be able to clear my mind of what the world is shouting and take time to draw in the sand as I gather myself in such a way that I can talk to my child without any stones in my hands. I always want them to be able to come to me and let me help them to find their own path to repentance and forgiveness. I don’t want them to be so afraid to see my face among the stone throwers that they don’t come to me and ask for help. We were placed in exactly the right place in our families to be able to walk through this life together. Let us sit down all of the motes and beams and stones and see each other how the Lord would see us. Let us turn the other cheek and be the best chance that our kids and grandkids have of making it back to live with our Heavenly Father with us. We are not gathered into families by accident or in random ways. Heavenly Father loves us enough to plan everything for our benefit and exaltation. Let’s make sure that, above all else, our kids know that we love them and are here to help them, not to cast the first stone.

Another thing I love about this story is the tender way that the Lord talks to the woman after the mob has left. He does not excuse her from what she has done. She knows and He knows and that is enough. When he says, “Neither do I condemn thee,” the footnote says mercy. After a harrowing experience at the hands of forces she though surely would be her downfall, she is shown mercy. When we repent and take our sins to the Lord, He helps us through the steps and shows mercy all along the way. Do we show mercy to ourselves? Do we welcome the Savior into the other side of the yoke we wear and let him carry part of the burden until it is lifted? When we have accomplished all that is asked of us to repent do we sit down the burden and walk away? I testify that we can take the Lord at His word when he says, with love in his eyes,“Go, and sin no more.” Forgiveness is a powerful gift. One which we need to remember to give to ourselves.

There is so much Love in the Savior’s Ministry and the words He left behind. We are commanded to love one another, love God, love our enemies, love thy neighbor as thyself. And we are told over and over by word and example how much He loves us. Love one another as I have loved you. John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. And verse 14; Ye are my friends, if you do whatsoever I command you. When we feel loved, we obey. We had a great discussion in Relief Society last week about our homes being the basis of a righteous life. We zeroed in on a list of attributes listed in D&C 121:41–42; that we lead our families “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.” We concluded that these attributes look different in every family. For some families, persuasion doesn’t have a volume knob, but can still be kind. Sometimes long-suffering goes on for a very long time. Gentleness and meekness often means we still get to say what we mean, but in a language unique to our family that only we understand. To me, the last one, love unfeigned, wraps all of them together and gives them the meaning that we intend. When we genuinely love each other, say it often and show it often, all other communications are given surrounded by the light and love of Christ.

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know there are many different learning styles among us. They teach us the same principles over and over in different ways to accommodate the many ways that we learn. The parable of the seeds and the different types of soil comes from their experience in trying to bring about the salvation of all kinds of different people. So, when we teach each other in our families, let’s always remember that we all have a different pH, different nutrients, different seeds and different water levels. And as parents and grand-parents, let’s always remember that the same amount of water is absorbed differently and at different rates by different types of soil. I know, a Sagers giving a plant analogy, but it’s a great analogy and it’s in the scriptures! I used to think that a family was made up of pretty little flowers all in the same flower bed, all growing together in the same sunlight and rain. I am learning that as I give my children experiences and opportunities for growth, they cultivate the seeds and soil themselves and they are all different. I need to adjust the light and rain I shower down on them for their individual needs. And even as I do so, the world is trying so hard to wash that good soil away and expose the rocks and hard places. Jesus taught parables that the people He was speaking to could relate to. He speaks to us all of the time through todays Prophets in ways that we can relate to. Seeking good soil, light and rain has always been up to us.

Christ always sought the will of His Father. He always knew His mission and purpose because He asked and was answered over and over again. He glorified His Father’s name in everything He did. We, too, have the power of prayer and fasting on our side. We can know what our mission and purpose is in the roles we play in our families. We can know how best to help each other by praying about it. Prophets watch over us and give us counsel and commandments from Heavenly Father as a Church, a people. Prayer offers us one on one communication with Heavenly Father to help us to use that counsel in an individual way. Prayer and fasting allow us to open up our hearts to the Lord and allow Him to guide us to do His will for us. Sometimes we say that satan will not tempt us as directly as he did Jesus while he fasted for 40 days. But doesn’t he? He tempts us in ways that push fiery darts into our most tender and weak places. But we have the power to know what our purpose is and to know how much our Heavenly Father loves us because we can ask and He can answer. We have the power to pull out those darts, leave them on the ground and walk away because we have learned who we are and whose we are and we can pray again for that knowledge even in the lowest of times. Jesus has promised again and again that He will be there for us if we only ask. He was the greatest example of asking the will of the Father and doing it. We can ask Heavenly Father what His will is for us personally and then doing it.

For me, prayer is only half of the battle of knowing the Lord’s will for me. The other half is trust, that comes from faith, that He WILL answer my prayers. We must build our house on the rock and act in faith in order to learn that “with God nothing shall be impossible.” We know that He will answer because He has answered before. We hear the still, small voice because we have prepared and we are listening for it.

In John chapter 8, verse 12 we read, “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” When we follow the pattern that Jesus Christ left for us, we will return with our children and grandchildren back into His presence. He lived as He taught. He left a perfect trail for us to follow in His footsteps. When we do as He would do, then we lead and guide with love and forgiveness. We encourage and uplift while gathering and teaching. We pray with earnestness and act on the impressions we are given. We continue to seek and knock and ask, so that we can know the Father’s will for us and the spirits He has trusted us with in our families. I testify of the Lord’s love for us. He wants us to return to live with Him so much that he gave us everything we need in order to return and put us in families to work together towards that goal. Being parents and grand-parents are divine roles that are so, so important in the Plan of Salvation to help us to all gain eternal life while sealed together. I know this is our Heavenly Father’s greatest desire and why He sent His son to be our example and to give His life for us so that we can all continue along the iron rod together.

American Fork Stake Conference

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

2,000 pounds of Hay

I'm searching for something. Always searching. Some kind of peace. Is it something I'm doing? Something I'm not doing? I can't seem to feel settled. I reach out to people and shut down before they can even reach back. I'm rude, I think, but I don't mean to be. What is wrong with me? There has to be something that isn't. I can't put my finger on anything. 

Then Geoff wakes me up a few minute before I'm ready with a post on Facebook. Chad Hymas is a farmer from Tooele County. I've heard him speak before, a long time ago, before he started to make his living speaking. A big, round bale of hay fell on top of him in his tractor seat. It changed his life. And apparently it also takes 2,000 pounds to change mine.

The first police officer reaches under the one-ton bale of hay and attempts to lift it off of me. Of course, it doesn’t budge. He grabs his flashlight and shines it under the hay into my face. I blink. He yells over his shoulder to his partner, “He’s alive! He’s alive! Help me move the hay.”
Even working together two officers can’t move it – not a fraction of an inch. A thousand pounds each? Of course they can’t move it. 
“Cut the strings,” I whisper. My voice is weak. They can’t hear me.
I am not going to last much longer. If they will just cut the strings, the bale will break apart, and they can drag me out of here.
“Lift, Joe, lift!”
“Just cut the strings,” I mumble, “Please cut the strings.”
“C’mon harder.”
“It’s too heavy! We can’t lift it. We gotta go for help! Hang on Chad, we’ll be right back!” 

I am alone again in the growing darkness. Wonderful painless, peaceful, irresistible sleep beckons. I struggle to remain conscious. One. Two. Three. Four… Where are they? How long does it take for police, fire, ambulance, to arrive? Where is the Coast Guard? Where are the Marines? Where is that one old farmer with enough common sense to just cut the strings? 
The desert air grows chilly as the sky darkens. I grow weaker. Dizziness overcomes me and I begin to drift off into that gray space somewhere between the living and the dead. 
Help finally arrives. One of the police officers bends down so I can see his face. “Hold on! A fire engine is here. There are six men aboard.”
I do the math. Two big, strong cops and six burly firemen must move a ton of dead weight off me. That’s two hundred forty five pounds each. No way can they possibly do that – but somehow, miraculously, they do. A couple of neighbors who have arrived at the scene stand by to catch me. They lower my limp body to the ground where I lie in a broken heap.
Why didn’t they cut the strings? They could have saved a long, tortured hour. 
How heavy is hay? A piece of hay is about the weight of a feather. How many pieces of hay does it take to make two thousand pounds? Lots. That package of sixteen bazillion individual pieces of hay wrapped in a gigantic bundle is a crushing weight. But separated, it would have been nothing. I feel bad saying this, because it makes me sound ungrateful – and I am very grateful to the guys who saved my life that night – but there is a point to be made here, isn’t there?
Is it too big?
Is it overwhelming?
Cut the strings – just cut the strings!
Are you buried under crushing burdens? Projects that are too huge? Schedules that are too complicated? Maybe you are trying to do too much at once – trying to do everything instead of doing something. 
Cut the strings and cut yourself free. Do one thing at a time – and get it DOne. Move “out of the strain of the doing into the peace of the done.”

Monday, July 04, 2016

Girls Camp Talk

Eighteen years ago today, Geoff and I got married and Sealed in the Bountiful Temple. It’s been a crazy awesome adventure since then. Some of you were like 18?! Whoa! And others were like, Ah, I remember 18, 18 was nice. It feels just right to me and I try to enjoy every day as it passes so quickly. I love you, Geoff. 

Our oldest daughter Becca was born 16 years ago in Logan while we were still studying at Utah State. Her brain was damaged by a virus I contracted while pregnant which left her with Cerebral Palsy, Vision and Hearing loss, Developmental Delay and a sensitivity to the Spirit with a smile and a giggle to match. She was followed by two sisters, Emily and Grace who were definitely meant to be with her in our family. They are incredible young ladies. Our family is rounded out by two younger brothers, Landon and Ethan who bring noise and joy and dirt and happiness into our family, just as boys should.

If you’ve talked to me at all, ever, you probably know how much I love Girls Camp. I have always loved Girls Camp… ever since I was a string bean of a Beehive. I mean, I enjoy camping in general, but Girls Camp is so much more than roughing it, getting sunburned, bitten by bugs and trying to stay warm enough to sleep.

Did you know that the first official Girls Camp in the Church was held in 1912? That’s 65 years after the Pioneers first entered the Valley. Now, I tend to think that crossing the plains was like the biggest camping trip of all camping trips and I forget that what they were leaving behind was actually quite civilized. They didn’t live like that all the time. They were definitely roughing it. And that, combined with sheer distance, sickness and all other manner of trials brought them closer to Heavenly Father and cemented fiery testimonies that still reverberate today. So, in 1912, the Liberty Stake in Salt Lake picked a spot way out in the boonies of Murray to build a Girls Camp. I love imagining that Murray was “getting away from it all.” They raised money, $365.27 to be exact, and built a screened structure on a pretty little spot on the Big Cottonwood Creek. They rode a streetcar out to Murray and then hiked for a mile to get there. They had 12 cots with straw mattresses, a coal stove and even a piano out there. One of the girls, Clarissa Johnson, wrote in her journal, “Around the fires in the evenings, sat the camp girls… while they danced and sang and shouted, to music from the cabin… and they whispered and they giggled until sleep had grasped the last one.”

Nothing beats sharing testimonies around a campfire. I imagine the Pioneers did this often. It’s amazing how going out of your comfort zone flips the lens on gospel principles you’ve learned every week in Church and helps you to see them in a new way. Campfire testimonies are the glue that sticks the whole experience together and imprints it on our memories. Jesus told us in D&C 88:63 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. 

I’d like to quote from an article celebrating the first Girls Camp, A camp with the most basic and simple accommodations can become a sacred space where the Spirit of the Lord is present, where daughters of God put the principles of the gospel into practice, and the glorious blessings of nature are appreciated in happy ways.

Another favorite illustration of this was our Sunrise Hike. As with so many things in life, it began easily enough, gradually got harder and the most difficult part, with the most rocks and the steepest uphill angle came right before the greatest reward. We sat on large, flat rocks overlooking an area they call the Church Without a Roof. There’s a valley that comes in this way and another valley that way and one coming up from behind you. You can see for miles in every direction. And as the earth slowly turned, the light from the sun very slowly overcame the darkness. Everything around us slowly gained back its color and its detail. I couldn’t help but think of my Savior and how He brings light to my life… how He is the light of the world… how everything makes more sense and has more detail when He shows me His way and shines His light on it. And here’s the thing, the Sun always comes back up. No matter how dark the night, how hard the trail we’re walking becomes, Christ always comes when we call, always walks beside us when we ask. It’s amazing what you can hear in the stillness. Later on in Doctrine and Covenants, section 88, in verse 77, we read, Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. 

Sister Elaine S. Dalton said this about Girls Camp, “You learn you really don’t need much to be happy. You leave your makeup and music behind and learn to become self-sufficient. You learn the importance of a strong, healthy body so you can climb mountains… You learn that the scriptures can speak to you personally and you also experience what it feels like to be still and to listen to the song of a bird or to the voice of the Sprit, sometimes for the first time.”

In Becca’s Patriarchal Blessing, we are promised that those that serve her in this life will be blessed, not only in this life, but the one to come. We are promised that we will develop more Christ-like virtues as we reach out to her in love and tenderness, in patience and kindness. If you have ever wondered why I take Becca to camp- this is why. Not only because I benefit from serving her, I get to do that plenty at home and still sleep in my own bed. J But I always stand back in amazement when I watch your girls serve my precious daughter. When they use their strong and healthy bodies to pull her backwards in her wheelchair everywhere they go. Often Bishop Mott is yoked right beside them. We were walking up to dinner one night and Bishop turned to me and said, “Now wait a minute, where’s our girl?” The girls had taken her on their own ahead up to dinner with them. They even helped pull her up a mountain to watch them ride the horses. No easy feat! But she loved every minute… even being co-photographer as Sister Gurney captured so many smiling faces beaming down from saddles. I was on a field trip with one of my boys once and one of the girls in his class said to me, “I just feel so sorry for her. It makes me sad that she can’t do things.” First, I validated her feelings, those are real feelings. And then I encouraged her instead to be grateful for her legs that could walk, her eyes that could see, her voice that could talk. I hope that when I work so hard to get Becca there and they take the opportunity to reach out to her, that that is part of what they learn from her. If she was on this earth only for herself, she wouldn’t still be here. She got to stay to give us the opportunity to elevate our empathy and to celebrate our differences and to bring God’s plan into sharp focus.

Leaving the noise of the world behind and listening to what the Lord has to say to You and being able to share that experience with other Women of Faith and Virtue and getting to know yourself in a new light are all things I love about Girls Camp. Being out in God’s creations with no roof between we and He and knowing that we are one of His most precious creations gets me through the tough days.

I can see why, over 100 years ago and every year since then, we send our daughters (or in my case, take all of them with me) out into the wilderness and welcome them back again being sunburned and tired, but being changed and better and stronger and more able to withstand what the world throws at them. I know that Heavenly Father must cherish this time with His daughters. I know we do as their leaders. Thank you for sharing them with us. I say these things…

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Girls Camp 2015: Heber Valley

Camping with a quadriplegic (I hate this word, but it is accurate) in the mountains is daunting... overwhelming... intimidating... and even scary. I don't think I could have accomplished it by myself no matter how hard I worked. And I worked hard! Having the support of Becca's friends and the other leaders made all the difference. I love working in Young Women with all of these awesome people. We are an incredible team.

Giggling in her bunk. Mom may or may not have been tickling. ;)

When I was packing up, I tried really hard to leave my pride off the list and out of the suitcase. If I was going to be able to do this, I had to be humble. And when it comes to asking for help with Becca, I can be full of pride. I don't usually think of it that way, but let's call it what it is. There's no use sugar coating it. I have a really hard time accepting and asking for help. And just because I tried to leave it out of the suitcase, doesn't mean I didn't still have some left mixed up in the lint in my pocket.

It turns out that the girls LOVED helping Becca. Miss Rockstar must have toted her up and down the hill between mess hall and camp at least as many times as I did and when the two of us did it together... watch out! Her swimmer muscles make her really tough! Her Sidekick was often nearby to help, too. All of the girls took turns feeding her. Her tube used to intimidate me, too. She got it when she was 6 and it was such a blessing to know the calories were getting in without the struggle it was to feed her with a spoon. But these girls were 6 then too, or younger and they have not been doing it for the intervening 9 years. They are brave to do something that doesn't come natural. They were so willing and you should have seen the smiles Becca gave them in thanks! She loves it when someone other than Mom steps in... it's fun and different!

Getting sprayed during the missionary parade. I was waving so they would soak us!

The ropes course was the very first day. There were several areas. I'll have to let my Lofty Little Lady tell you about her experience there. I only got to watch them do the zipline. Some willing missionaries took us up there in their Rzr. Becca and Bishop Mott and I sat in the backseat and we bungeed her wheelchair into the back cargo area. She liked watching her friends do hard things and succeed!

While being hooked by belay to another person, they climbed up a pole that swung back and forth. Then, they had to let go and step onto a rope that was parallel to a rope they held onto with their hands. They sidestepped to a platform where a Senior (she didn't LOOK very senior!) Sister Missionary was waiting. Then she switched the belay so that they could zip across the zipline. The girls said the two hardest parts were stepping from the pole to the ropes and jumping off the platform on the zipline. They did so great! I was so proud of each and every one of them!

We needed a meadow instead of a trail for Singing in the Trees, but it was a beautiful concept. Our twinkling lanterns swinging from our hands, we headed up a trail, grouped together with our ward. We were the last on the trail so the wheelchair didn't have to go as far . They started singing at the other end and the rest of us remained quiet, straining to hear the other wards sing. We heard the 3 or 4 wards before us pretty well. It was fun to sing our song together and it created a really neat spirit to end the first day on. Here's our Song.

Tuesday was a lot of downtime. We did certifications in the morning and I'm ecstatic to report that our girls got so many things done! I hung out with the second years and we talked about purifying water and telling directions with the sun and the stars and what different kinds of clouds mean. It was fun! I'm proud of them for signing so many things off. We also did crafts.

Skit night is such a fun tradition. This year we had a bag of props and a picture of a MormonAd. Ours was an elevator button with the saying, Elevate your thoughts. Our skit was Becca on an elevator with her sister, Lofty Little Lady, and a friend, let's call her Debbie Devilish, voicing her thoughts as a shoulder angel and a shoulder-not-so-angel. Each person that got on, had judgments made about them. As the elevator went up, the thoughts got better. Let's see how many elevator patrons I can remember...

There was LLL's twin who was broken up with via text by a thoughtless boy. She was wrapped in a sleeping bag with a sleeping mask across her forehead. Besides her dramatic tears over "Bob" she got a great laugh as she scarfed her kettle corn in despair.

Three of our newBees portrayed a Grandmother and her two rowdy granddaughters. They poked, pinched and annoyed others on the elevator and even their own grandma!

Miss Rockstar and her Sidekick were the Queen Bee and crony, respectively. They only wear hot pink on Tuesdays and offered to take Becca shopping to help her with her look.

Nacho, Switchy and Blade looked pretty rough on the outside. Sagging and perfecting the gangsta swagger, they turned out to be really sweet to Becca. They shared their pocket taco with her and complimented her. It's the heart, not the image that truly matters.

Our favorite author was busy writing her bestselling book and couldn't be bothered with hygiene, but Becca's thoughts were already raised enough to conclude that her hard work would pay off and that hopefully she would be the recipient of a signed copy.

The last two were musicians. One on the guitar and one on the... funnel. They led us in "If You're Happy and You Know It" before the whole group shouted, "Elevate your thoughts!"

LLL and Debbie, the shoulder angel and not-so-angel, were hilarious! They really hammed it up and had some great lines! And we can't forget the DING! heard on each floor, announcing the elevator's ascension.

Wednesday morning we spent in the pavilion building doing humanitarian aid. Becca felt a little worn down by the constant noise. I wrote letters to missionaries next to the girls using plastic mesh to make baby rattles. Others made beaded geckos and tied fleece blankets.

They allowed an hour for the walk down to the lake. I drove the Becca-mobile with a leader and a girl from another ward who weren't able to do the hike. On the way back, we had more people join us for one reason or another.

When we got to the lake, I was hoping that the missionaries would let Becca ride on the pontoon as we had done before. When they told me no, I pulled my sunglasses back down and wiped the tears out of the corners of my eyes. I kept saying "It's fine" and I wanted to mean it, but I work so hard to include her in everything and it was a huge letdown to be told nothing I could do could include her in the fun on the lake. After a few minutes, the Sister in charge came back out and said that we could indeed ride on the pontoon. Then I cried for a different reason! I'm so grateful that her heart was open and that she could feel Becca's spirit. Lindy and I carried her on and the Bishop and a missionary carried her chair on. She wore her life jacket in her chair which probably felt pretty weird, but she didn't complain!

At first, she just stared at the light sparkling on the water. As more and more people paddled by and shouted up to her, she started looking around and enjoying seeing and hearing her friends paddling and splashing. She LOVED rescuing people, too. We would zoom over to a capsized boat, pull the dripping girls and leaders up onto the pontoon and help them get the canoe drained and back in the water. Our good friend Kyra gave Becca a soggy hug and dripped on her just for the huge smile that Becca gave her. I took about a hundred pictures with Lindy's camera.

The Stake President came up that night and entertained us with his electric guitar. It's gotta feel good to have all of those girls screaming and cheering because you're their favorite rockstar! Becca loved it! And he even played some Collin Raye! Which was then stuck in my head for 2 days... just as it should be.

I worried that doing all of the hiking AND the service project on the last full day of camp would be too much for anyone to handle. It really is a testament to how well we were taken care of that there were still smiles and great attitudes on this day. Lindy and I went on the 5 mile hike while MarKell and Bro G, our priesthood leader, went on the 3 mile hike. Becca stayed in camp with Sherri, our camp director who also happens to be married to said priesthood leader. The hikes were Gorgeous! I forgot how much I love to hike!

One of my Heroes in between two very awesome Beehives. Oh, and the hand of a compulsive photobomber. :D

Testimony meeting has always been my favorite by far. It is such a lovely way to wrap up a great week of hard work, bonding, and spiritual goodness. We started out by going around and sharing who our heroes are. It was the perfect way to bring the Spirit and to move into Testimonies. I talked about Becca being my hero. I really believe that she accepted this life as a calling. Having never been in a body before, her spirit may not have understood everything about it, but I really believe she was given the chance to accept the challenge and she did. My kids and my husband are all my heroes. They have really risen to the challenge it is to take care of their sister and they do it so well! And I couldn't do anything without my Eternal Companion. As crazy as we drive each other, we are the Best team ever! I'm so glad to be Sealed for eternity to this awesome bunch of humans.

Special thanks to MarKell, Lindy, Sherri, Jaime, Sam and Laurie! Thank you for helping me to stretch and for preparing our wonderful girls to give Becca such loving service. Thank you, Bishop Mott for your sacrifice and the love you show our family as well as all of the Young Women who adore you! Thank you, Bro. G for coming up and supporting us and making us laugh. Thanks also to Bro. H for the support and it can't hurt that you got to hang out with your daughter during her very first Girls Camp! A very special thanks to Heber Valley Camp and the inspired way they run their camp and reach out to SO many girls and leaders to truly create a Heavenly experience. And last, but not least our incredibly awesome Stake Leaders, Sisters D, K, M, T, W (and I'm sure a bunch more) who inspired, tickled funny bones and created true heroes for our girls to look up to.


The girl in the middle is supposed to be Chrissy, not Michelle. I don't remember why she is in this picture against the bathroom wall in Blue Ridge Junior High. I have looked and looked and I can't find a picture with Angie, Chrissy and I. We were inseparable for a long time and I can find no photographic proof. You'll just have to take my word for it.

We moved to Arizona the summer before I started fourth grade. One of my Dad's previous bosses had asked him if he would be interested in managing a time share resort he had in the mountains of Arizona. When we got there, my Dad hired 2 secretaries to help him. Brenda and Juanita were the greatest! Juanita's kids were older. Her brother in law drove our bus. Brenda had 2 kids. Angie was my age and Tim was younger. It didn't take long for Angie and I to be close friends. Why her gorgeous self was okay hanging out with awkward me is still a mystery, I mean, look at that picture! But we loved each other and had a great time hanging around the pool and gym at the Roundhouse Resort and at school. We can talk later about how my definition of 'resort' probably means something smaller than yours. It was gorgeous up on our mountain and I miss it a lot!

Angie moved to Colorado at the beginning of high school and I moved to Utah during my Sophomore year. We used to write letters... on paper, in an envelope, with stamps and everything! Eventually, we lost track of each other. Why couldn't facebook have been invented earlier?!

When I was a young mom, my Mom got in touch with Brenda. That is when I found out that Angie had passed away, leaving a young son behind. Pretty soon, Brenda wasn't returning emails and I found out recently, she passed away only two and a half years after Angie. When Chrissy and I reunited on Facebook, I was the one she heard the news from. It was really hanging on me how we didn't know anything except that she had passed away several years ago. I felt like a little fire had been lit in side me and I really wanted to know more about my friend and find some closure. We Latter-Day Saints tend to have a penchant for family history, so I thought I would start there. Angie, Chrissy and I were all Christians who went to 3 different Churches. So, when I typed Angie's full name into the LDS records database, I didn't think she would be there. She was! I sat there staring at her name and dates and couldn't believe I had found her there! As it turns out, her Dad's family is LDS and someone had entered her in there and left their email address on the record. I emailed the address, explaining who I was and I am now in contact with one of her Dad's cousins. 

I begged for pictures of Angie. The cousin put me in touch with Angie's aunt, her Dad's sister. After a few technical glitches, we have been emailing back and forth and she sent me so many wonderful pictures! I will not share them here out of respect for the family, but seeing her happy and as a Mom has really sewn up my heart. There were lots of sad circumstances in her family, but she was loved and she was happy along the way. 

I am so grateful to wonderful family members that were willing to share with me. If you know me, you know I live my life guided almost solely by my heart. It has done my heart good to spend time finding out about such a good friend. Chrissy and I have had a lot of fun talking things over and remembering and looking at pictures. I am so glad that she is now at peace. No more debilitating headaches. I'm sure she misses her son. I can't wait to hear that her Temple work has been done.

I love you, Angie!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Emily's Teen Trip; Day 4

California Academy of Sciences
Aquarium/ Planetarium/ Museum of Natural History

Jabba the Toad

The beach at the end of Golden Gate Park

Goodbye California! <3 p="">