I have never taken a road trip longer than 6 hours which in the past has consisted of driving with family, the BFF or the ex-boyfriend. Family road trips are always fun because we play games to make the time pass, tell jokes, or just sleep since pops and mom are driving. Trips with the BFF are great because we talk about life, the past, the future and have a bunch of fun dancing and belting out to our favorite tunes - old and new. Trips with the ex-boyfriend were obligatory and more nerve wrecking than not due to the fact that we were usually on our way to see his entire extended family for the weekend and most often, filled with really bad fog that freaked me out and irritated him when I demonstrated such cowardness or what he perceived as distrust to his driving (there's definitely a reason we broke up).
For the Fourth of July weekend, I went on what would be the longest road trip this flower has ever had the power to experience. 10 hours to Salt Lake City. Oh yes. We did.
This is hour two driving back home.. but to be honest, it is probably the same as hours 3-5 boths ways...
Despite all my fears of what the ten hour road trip would do to us - whether it would bind us closer or make us more annoyed with each other - it was so insanely fun, relaxing and awesome. Andy generously offered his manly driving skills while Sky and I just sat there, trying to navigate the i-pod (which is actually really hard on the new car), munching on whatever goodies we had, dancing like rockstars and asking Andy when we could get off next so I could pee. It was like a road trip with family AND Grace - we talked serious stuff, did silly stuff, got to know one another and bonded like atoms (do atoms bond? .. sounds like it right?).
And that was only the first 10 hours.
Sky and I stayed with Andy's family in a guest room that used to be his sister's room. We got in pretty late, after midnight, and his parents were both awake anticipating the arrival of their baby boy. We met the Phillips and then quickly got ready for bed. Unfortunately, Sky and I had both not done our scripture study so for what seemed like an eternity, I tried reading while slipping in and out of consciousness and reverting to the former chapter I had just been reading (this is why I normally do scripture study in the AM!).
The next morning, I woke up early (maybe it was the adrenaline rush) to do my scripture study alone and then go for a short run on the treadmill. My destination for both activities was an entertainment room near our rooms. As I prayed and started my studies, the Spirit came over me. I was so overwhelmed to be in Salt Lake and though I had been in Provo at BYU years before for summer camp, this was my first time actually visiting the city and taking in all the history and culture that was Salt Lake City. As my heart filled with emotion, I smiled up at Him and thanked Him for such an opportunity.
As I got ready for my morning run, I looked around the room. The room was filled with photos of Andy and his family, but mostly him and his sister. I smiled. It was so nice to see that I wasn't the only one obsessed with picture frames. I admired all the photos capturing this sweet family's life - if only for a moment - and got excited for my own opportunity to do so ... one day (hopefully sooner than later). I studied each photo and tried to imagine what it was like growing up with the Gospel in your life and felt assurred that my own kids would.
Despite my awake mind, my body was fatigued so ran I did.. but maybe for 5 minutes off and on of walks uphill. Twenty five minutes passed and I gave up and resorted to some ab work. As I did, the realization that I was in Salt Lake City hit me. What was Temple Square going to be like? Would I get bored by the sight-seeing? Would I enjoy it? Did I really just leave LA for the Fourth of July weekend to go to Salt Lake? Am I really up at 6:30 AM, talking to God, after sleeping less than 5 hours?
I put all my fears aside and got ready for the day. And then I realized... Andy had my Sunday Best clothes. There wasn't enough room in our room to hang my garmet bag so Andy had taken them into his room. I texted him and waited patiently while Sky got ready. And then I was bored. ADD struck. I pranced outside to the entertainment room once more and saw a collection of photo albums on the shelf and decided to pass the time by viewing some more of the Phillips' photos. Sky soon joined me and what we thought was a photo album turned out to be a project Andy had made when he was 13 or 14. Either he had a lot of help from his parents or he was a pretty smart kid. I was blown away. The simplicity of the project's purpose was obvious but embedded within the simplicity were grand metaphors about life, the Gospel and truths I wasn't aware a 13 year old kid could grasp. It made me think about the Strength of the Youth Pamphlet. As dorky as that little pamphlet may seem at first, it is filled with so much useful counseling and guidance that I secretly wished someone had dropped one in my hands when I was younger. I always knew not to do certain things as instructed by Momma Chou, but I can't say she always gave me a reason why besides, Because I said so! I sighed inside, secretly, for the things I had missed, but then smiled when I realized, I have so much more - my own life according to His commandments, has just begun. And my smile turned into a silly grin when I realized, the family I eventually start will have such joy in their life.
That morning, we went to the Conference Center (it seats 21,000 people!), walked the grounds around the Salt Lake Temple and went inside to do baptisms for the dead. As overwhelming as it all could have been, I inhaled it like the air I breathe, so naturally and comfortably. And even though it was all new to me, it didn't feel new. It felt ... oddly familiar.
The Salt Lake Temple was beautiful. And, not to diss the LA Temple, but the experience for Sky (it was her first time) was probably more informative and helpful than that I experienced while in LA. Maybe it was the fact that there were more staff around helping. Maybe it was the fact that Salt Lake has been around longer. But probably - it was just the fact that instead of making new friends (as I did while at the LA Temple) with other girls who had done this before, there were staff from the Salt Lake temple telling us what to do every step of the way.
That afternoon, I got to see all the rooms within a Temple - which is awesome because once dedicated, are off limits to non-LDS and even for the LDS, have limitations based on your committments and covenants with God. Thus, being recent converts, Sky and I would have to wait, at minimum, a year before determining our worthiness for entry into the other rooms. We went to the Oquirrh Temple, where the lines were massive (attributed to the holiday weekend) and after 3 hours, I am happy to state, if you ever get a chance to see a Temple before it's dedicated, DO IT! It will literally take your breath away. Sky was adorable as we walked through the rooms upstairs, commenting that she wanted to go there before her one year probation period and if it was possible, and having done a lot of research on the temples via the world wide web during her investigation, skeptically asked Andy questions that she was unsure if she was allowed to ask. Though I share her excitement, I'm actually really glad to know there is a one year wait period because I want to know that I can be a good daughter of God before making more promises. Though I share her curiosity, I'm secretly glad I never went searching for truths or lies manifested on the internet. Until the time comes, it's not even about being patient rather being diligent and holding myself to higher standards and according to the Gospel until the time comes.
The Phillips graciously took us to dinner at a Thai restaurant after the Temple open house and while we were driving there, I kept pestering Brother Phillips about how him and Sister Phillips met. I always think it's fascinating how people meet their companions and remember fondly of the time my own pops told me his story with my mum during a 5 hour drive in which the story lasted about 2 hours. Yes, my parents had a rather detailed and long courtship that is pretty touching. Similar to Brother Phillips, my dad knew he was going to marry my mom early on, although my dad did have his own doubts when they had disagreements during the wedding planning. In fact, it got me thinking - how interesting if I were able to get a hold of all the letters my mom and dad wrote to each other while he was at St. Louis for school and she was in Taiwan. How interesting to see the past in its essence which is one huge reason, we should all journal more! I, myself, am guilty of rarely doing so and in fact, was reminded of the lack of personal touch so many of our interactions have these days. Gone are the letters from our parents' day and in its place, we have instant messages, text messages and e-mails! Oh my my my!
After dinner, we eagerly went to go watch the Joseph Smith movie, but it was canceled (most likely due to the holiday weekend)! Instead, we played tourist, and went in front of the Salt Lake Temple to take photos. Always a photo enthusiast, I wanted something more interactive than posed and seeing a statue of a mother with her kids playing ring around the rosies, I asked if we could do the same. And do the same we did!
And that was the first part (or first two days) of the trip to SLC. Stay tuned for part 2!!!