Yes, I just pageanated my blog entry.
So Saturay morning began with us joining the local Ward BBQ which was set up like a block party. It was so nice to meet all the friendly neighborhood locals up and about so early, sniff the fresh aroma of the homemade sausages, eggs, bacon and pancakes, hear the cackling of pop rocks on the floor, feel the love, joy and friedship among everyone, and witness the beautiful arrangements of red, white and blue adorned everywhere - in flowers, in place settings, in flags, etc! Sky and I were the newbies and were approached by many who didn't recognize us. These strangers... all quickly became our friends.
It's always refreshing to meet new faces, but it's the sharing of conversion stories that I always love the most. This seemed to be triggered in many who met Sky and I as the news that we were recent converts (Sky having been baptized for a week and myself for three) reenergized and reminded everyone of their own personal stories. Why, you may ask? Well, it's not just "converts" who have conversion stories - even those who grow up in the Church have to pray to know for themselves and decide whether or not to accept the Gospel, even if they've been given it their whole lives.
The story that touched me most was a gentleman who got my attention because of his crazy "You Know You're American If..." t-shirt. We started to talk and upon hearing Sky and I had just gotten baptized, he told us about his own story. His first wife had passed away and she was LDS. He hadn't given the religion much thought prior to her death. Subsequently, he picked up a Book of Mormon and never put it down since. As he told us his story, he held back from crying and it pained my heart to hear of such a story that was so tragic and terrific, all at once.
That afternoon, we ventured to Provo to ride the tubes down the Provo River. As we picked up more folks to join us for the adventure, I looked back at my own trips down to Provo for ballroom dance camp two summers in a row when I was in college. I wondered why nobody had offered me a Book of Mormon then, or why nobody had sought to talk more about their beliefs with me. But then I realized, I hadn't asked much. I knew about the honor code and I knew our night time activities consisted of the Malt Shoppe or the BYU Creamery, but much more than that? ... not a clue.
Would I have been ready? Probably not. Would I have listened? Probably not. Would I have read? Definitely not. Would I have prayed? Definitely not. But knowing what I know now,... it's hard not to wish just maybe... maybe someone would have tried to shared...
The river was cold but bearable. The current was calm at some times and horrific at others. It wasn't until I got a bridge area when I realized ... uh-oh! How would we get into those entry ways, separated by the base, much like four arches... without bumping into the arches?! Apparently, I knew not... because I crashed into the side, flipped over and lost my tube. In a frenzy to get back in, I retreated to my youth, sitting inside the tube instead of on top. The water was moving too quickly, the stones at the bottom of the river hit my every step and I could not fathom a way out. I struggled, laughing in between each attempt to lift myself out and realized, my legs are too long... why are my legs so long?! My knees got stuck in the hole which seemed tiny by comparison to the room I needed to lift my knees up! Everyone was supporting me and I wanted to get out... but it seemed useless. Helpless, I almost gave up and thought about floating down the river with my legs inside the now miserable and paralyzing cold river. And then, to my own surprise, with the help of Erika's encouragement and presence right next to me, holding onto my tube as I hopped over, I was back on! Lesson learned.. don't give up so easily or you might die. Okay.. maybe no need to over-exaggerate - but it would have been so easy to give up and deal with the consequential cold - or, persevere and reap the rewards (in this case.. not being numb waist down). What's even funnier is how I thought this would be the toughest part. Boy, was I proven wrong ... once we got off, without shoes, we had to truck our way over tiny stones, evily scattered on the river edge. Ouch. I'm so glad someone invented shoes but so sad I didn't have any at that point. Nevertheless, the adventure was worth it and was overall, fun and enjoyable. Stupendous, I say!
I did miss my family and friends. Though we didn't have any huge plans this year and everyone went their own ways, I did a round of calls that afternoon. I was able to reach some, left messages for others, and felt melancholy all around. There's no denying the fact that people grow up and grow apart but we still hold onto those memories from the past, the ones that make us laugh and smile fondly, but confronting such change is often difficult. It's important to acknowledge such realities and not meander about the past too long. Things change... we change... but as long as it's for the better... we should be okay.
What would the Fourth of July be without a BBQ? So BBQ we did, tucked away in the mountains, we gathered with Andy's family and friends and so much amazing food. Now whenever I am in an environment with mostly LDS folks, I always compare and contrast with my own experiences with family and friends. The only difference I really witness? Alcohol. As for family events, the difference is minimal because despite having alcohol present at every family outing, it's just a beverage option. Nobody is getting tossed, nobody is getting loud or obnoxious and nobody is even discernably drunk. The friend situations vary. Some BBQs (like our Fourth of July last year) is beyond crazy while some BBQs (Julia and Eric's famous delightful yummy ones) are more tame. It seems to fluctuate based on the time of year, group of friends, everyone's mood, and the amount of free flowing alcohol available.
We finished the night with some fireworks but upon laying in bed at night, Sky and I couldn't sleep. We talked on and on, about the changes we were experiencing, the fun we were having and it was there, I told Sky ... I think I want to bear my testimony tomorrow. I knew Sky was already planning to do so but I wasn't ready to stand in front of strangers. Furthermore, I wasn't even sure what I would say. I remember a friend telling me a testimony wasn't a conversion story. It should be simple.. that you have a testimony, that you believe, that you know. I would aim to do just that, but boy was I nervous. After deciding to go up together, we reverted back to our girl talk and giddily, Sky told me about some guy and the last I remember was asking her what she liked about him before drifting off.
We began Sunday morning with a visit to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with a special presentation at the Confererence Center. And much to my joy, they sang "You're a Grand Ol' Flag" - a favorite of Grace and mine since we were kids and a constant in my weekend as we sang it often and I even called Grace and left a message with us singing it to which .. she returned a call singing it as well!
We went to Andy's family ward that morning. Having started my journey at a family ward, I'm always really excited to go back to them! But this time... I was a ball or nerves at the prospect of bearing my testimony. I'm not sure if I was prompted to by something greater than myself, but I wanted to do it .. I just wasn't sure if I could!
I'm used to speaking in front of people. I was a speech dork in high school, I was a student rep who had to speak up during meetings with the Board of Trustees in college (or they'd strip us of our student rights!) and I've been destined to teach multiple training classes ranging from 15 to 60 participants for the majority of June... So why was the idea of bearing this simple testimony at Church so frightening? I'm really not sure.. but it was! My legs were shaking and I'm glad there was a podium to hide the jitters, and I shifted my weight back and forth so the bishopric wouldn't notice.
I don't even remember exactly what I said. I just know it felt right and the most important part was that I testify of God, of Jesus Christ, of Joseph Smith and of the restored Church.
p.s. It also wasn't as bad as I thought it would be ... although I did trip on a word once or twice. Word vomit... tastes so good, yum yum! Oh well, no pain .. no gain.