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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The 24th of July

Today is the 24th of July and for those of you unaware of Mormon history it is the day in 1847 that Brigham Young arrived in the Salt Lake Valley and declared "This is the place!"  That started the largest exodus of pioneers in our American history.  For decades Mormon pioneers walked behind handcarts, drove wagons pulled by oxen or just willed themselves across the plains.  They came from every place you can imagine.  From factory workers in England, to farmers in Switzerland, they all answered a call to, "come to Zion."  Zion is what they called the Salt Lake Valley and that term was later broadened to anywhere Mormon pioneers were asked to settle.  Brigham Young was not the gentlest nor the kindest soul, but he had the perfect personality to get all those Saints west.  They needed someone tough to lead them as it is serious business to prepare a gentle dairy farmer from Norway to travel thousands of miles with his elderly parents and small children.  Brigham Young was just the guy.

Most of the pioneers made it to the Salt Lake Valley safely, of course it was extremely difficult but they got up every morning and walked west.  They were prepared with enough food and left with enough time to get to Salt Lake before winter.  But some of the pioneers were in groups that left a bit later in the year than expected and encountered the most horrible deprivation you could imagine.  They endured early snowstorms, starvation, sickness and death.  None of my ancestors were Mormon pioneers so it wasn't until the recent past that I began to appreciate the sacrifice these people made.  Their lives are an example to me, as they should be to everyone, of never giving up.  Examples of following something bigger than themselves.  You don't have to be Mormon, or even have pioneer ancestors to appreciate that.

I hope we all follow something that is bigger than ourselves.  That is how we challenge ourselves.  We never know how tall we are until we are in over our heads.  And when it becomes discouraging to keep going, to keep "walking west." we need something to encourage us.  God could have made Utah easier to get to for them, but he didn't.  It was a challenge to get there, certainly a way to measure their commitment.  Most made it, but some gave up.  I have searched for the pioneer story of the woman who simply sat down by her wagon and said, "I am not going another step. I quit, I give up.....I am finished"  I know it is there, even if it is unwritten, you know some had to feel that way, but for the most part they got up, dusted themselves off and kept walking west.  And in our own lives we have to keep walking "west" to whatever our west is.

We have examples of walking west around us everyday.  People challenged by almost everything.  God uses this fallen world to teach us who we are, because He already knows who we are and what we can do.  The problem is we don't.  We don't know how very powerful we are.  So we have this world to teach us how powerful we are.  We get the opportunity to overcome pain or disappointment which in turns teaches us how tall we really are.

By way of happy coincidence, 20 years ago today we bought our little acre of happiness.  After years of searching for our perfect place to live my husband attended a land auction on the 24th of July 1993 and bought our land.  That purchase started the greatest and hardest journey of our lives at that point.  We encountered one challenge after another as we started building our home.  We had no business building a home without a proper contractor, and our lack of experience caused lots of problems for us.  But we prayed everyday for everything. We prayed that the roofer would show up, that the electrician would do a good job, that we would order enough doors....and always that we wouldn't run out of money!!  And you know what?  The roofer finally came through, we ended up with enough doors, and even though we are convinced our evil electrician booby trapped things we haven't had too many problems.

This house is a constant example of what God can do if we are willing to do our part.  If we are willing to do things we have no idea how to do, but have the faith to try, He will make us powerful enough to do it.  Just look at your own life and the struggles and challenges you have encountered...when you believed you could and devoted your existence to that belief you succeeded, didn't you?  And weren't you scared out of your mind?  But you did it anyway.  You went back to school when all the other students were half your age, you went to chemotherapy and survived! or you started a business and that business sustained your family.  You finally found a job you loved after searching forever.  You got out of debt after this horrible recession without loosing everything.  Every story has a happy ending, you just have to have the faith that the ending is the one meant for you, just don't give up.

For us we withstood an angry seller of this land who didn't live up to her end of the contract...but that worked out.
When we were in the initial stages of getting our home started we got our plans back from the county with 36 problems on them. Our architect wasn't actually an architect but just a guy with a ruler who didn't really know what he was doing.  We were facing our own Red Sea.  But just when Raymond was picking up the plans he ran into the man who was contractor for the RV park he was building downtown.  He had a contractor for that, we just didn't have the money for one for the house we were building. This man took the troubled plans from Raymond and gave them to a woman who did know what she was doing.  She found so many other problems that we would not have known about, or been able to fix.  Her rendition of our house plans sailed through the county process in a week.
Almost every day was an answer to a prayer of some kind.  When you don't really know what you are doing all kinds of things can go wrong.....but we were protected at every turn.
Miracles all.
It wasn't easy, and it wasn't smooth, and it was the challenge of our lives, but we stayed with it and our home is a testament to us of what we can accomplish....if we remember that God can make us powerful.  We know we didn't do this on our own, because we couldn't.....but we have proof that God made us powerful one time.  And now that we have started a business, a hard and competitive business we have to remember we can be powerful and we will succeed, because we did before.  Our lives can become our scriptures.

All four of my husband's grandparents came from Italy through Ellis Island.  They came with very little money, spoke no English and had no place to live once they got here.  But they answered a call, just like the Mormon pioneers.  Like every other pioneer who came to America.  And just two generations later their posterity is numbered in the hundreds.  I am sure they didn't think they were powerful, but they did it.  God knew where he planted them, and He knew what they could do.

So today look at your challenges differently and realize they aren't a punishment, they are a way for God to show you how powerful you can be.  Marianne Williamson has a quote that I  love,

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

And then one more, from one of my favorite souls...

God is anxiously waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as He always has. But He can't if you don't pray, and He can't if you don't dream. In short, He can't if you don't believe.”

 Jeffrey R. Holland

Overcome your fears my friends, it might be the challenge of your powerful and be successful.  And never, never give up.