Monday, December 27, 2010


So the other day Ry said the word 'suck' about 3 times. I made a comment that we do not use that word around here and he was definitely old enough to come up with a better word. He acted like he didn't hear me but about 5 mins. later I heard him say, "Man! That really vacuums!"
Works for me.

Christmas 2010

Ryan and I celebrated Christmas a day early as he was going to Tim's on the 24th. We had our Bethlehem dinner on Christmas eve - lentils, chicken, pita bread, hard boiled eggs, olives, and orange slices. It really is my favorite part of the season. We eat from wooden bowls with our fingers sitting on the floor with candle light and the Christmas tree lights. Afterward we watched The Nativity and then read the story from the scriptures. I always feel so peaceful on Christmas Eve.

Ry is getting older - he slept in until 7:30! We have had a tradition for years of me writing him a letter and leaving it in his stocking. Imagine my surprise when I found a letter from him in my stocking. It was the best gift.

Christmas is pretty simple here - only two of us and we have simplified to 3 gifts and the stockings. Ryan got new boots which he loves, an art set w/ a sketch pad, and his dog Indy from me. Indy is a 3 month old puppy (basset hound/beagle mix) She is dang cute which is her saving grace while we continue to potty train. He also got a watch, some jerky and a Calvin and Hobbes book. When he saw the book he said, "Hey! Now I'll get my 30 mins. of reading done!"

We went to breakfast at our friends, Howard and Cheri's home and then to the movies to see Tron. I am averaging taking him to the movies about once per year or once per 18 months. Afterward, I took him to meet Tim.

Christmas day for me was a bit strange - I felt like I had time traveled a day ahead of everyone else. It didn't really feel like Christmas because it felt like Christmas the day before. I spent the day sleeping, talking to family and visiting friends.

I hope you all had a safe and loving holiday!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Born in My Heart

My home growing up was always filled with kids. When I was little, my parents were foster parents to older kids. I especially remember worshiping my foster sister Tracy. I followed her everywhere and thought her platform heels were the coolest thing on the planet. I remember her long hair and how beautiful I thought she was. She left our family suddenly but would call us collect for years after. When we moved, the calls finally stopped. Tracy doesn't know that my littlest sister is, in part, named for her. She doesn't know that my mom and I talked about her the month my mom passed away. I don't think she knows that she will always be a part of our forever family.

For a few years, Tim and I,  had the opportunity to be foster parents. Over those 3 years, 7 children called me mom. One was adopted by her grandma. One went to live with his older sister. One was adopted to a special needs home perfect for him. Two are still in the system last I heard. Two have returned to the biological mother. While I loved all, four were kiddos that I knew were not mine. I relate a lot to the song - "From God's Arms, To My Arms, To Yours" with these four. I know I was just a vehicle to get them to the arms waiting for them.

The other three... well, I'd like to introduce you to my other kids. Recently, I received a note from a friend mentioning that she had only known me post-divorce. As I thought about it, I realized, she didn't know my other kids. She doesn't know such a huge part of my life. I don't talk much about the girls. So many things you can't say when dealing with DHS and so often, there are no words. This blog is a loose chronicle of my life and would be so incomplete without mention of the girls - I still think about daily.

Shelby (the name we were going to give her) was the first. She came to us 10 months old and already walking. She and Ryan worshiped each other. She has straight brown hair that was always getting in her eyes, with just a bit of curl on the ends. She loved to wear her cowboy boots and had very little fear of anything. She liked to snuggle and some of my most cherished memories are of rocking her and Ryan together after baths, reading together the same books over and over. After 8 months, DHS suddenly decided to move her. We were devastated. It was the hardest I've ever seen Tim cry. Our joy knew no bounds when DHS called two days later saying a mistake had been made and could we take her back? She was so cute when she came home - she ran to her bed and dived in and covered up. She wouldn't get out for the longest time, instead just snuggled in and pretended to sleep. Some months later, the judge decided that she was to live with her grandmother. Walking away from her while she screamed, "Mama, Mama, Mama" at the airport was one of the hardest things I have ever done. 

It took me over a year to finish her scrapbook and mail it to her grandma. I have talked to her on the phone some and her grandma sent me her handprint. She should be in 2nd grade now. I wonder if I would recognize her? I haven't talked to her or her grandma since the divorce - it has only been recently I could even choke out the word divorced, so they do not know. I don't know if I will ever call again or if I will just visit the memories once in a while. 

My other two girls - Shaye and Dayna (as we wanted to name them), were like twins. Born 51 weeks apart, Shaye is small for her age and Dayna is larger for hers. Shaye is quiet and more serious but look out when she smiles! She has a million watt smile that makes you smile. Dayna has beautiful green/light hazel eyes which are stunning with her dark skin. More than the color, the mischievous twinkle will make you laugh every time. Both of them are so cute they make your heart hurt. 

They were bitty when they came to us - almost 1 and almost 2. I learned how to braid hair as we spent every Sunday afternoon braiding. I learned the value of good lotion and created sweet memories making lotion letters on the kids' backs after bath time. Again, the girls worshiped Ryan. They would build the most elaborate forts and pirate ships in the living room, complete with all the necessary clothing and equipment. The girls loved being first mate to his Captain. 

Once the girls got into a left over tube of diaper creme. When I found them, they were completely white from head to toe as well as the leather couch. They left little white footprint on the carpet as we headed to the tub. I wish I had taken a picture.

Other funny memories -
Soon after they arrived, Shaye was brushing my hair for me. Suddenly she said, "Mama, your hair nappy." I laughed and laughed. I have never used that word before so I don't know where she heard it, but it sure was hysterical.

Dayna was pretty emphatic about her opinion of broccoli the first time I put it on her plate. She looked at it for a long moment and then put it in her mouth. She promptly took it back out again and set it carefully on her plate and said, "That be nasty." We laughed and laughed. We still use that phrase.

Another thing I loved about these girls is how they helped tear down walls and build bridges. Once, when we were shopping at Ross, a  little girl, maybe 6, started talking to the girls. She kept looking at them and then at me, and then back to them while her mom and I visited. Suddenly she asked me if I was their mama. I said that I was. She looked at me incredulously. "But lady... they are brown!" "Why yes, they are", I replied trying to swallow my laughter. The other mother was mortified and hurried her daughter away amid apologies. I loved how strangers who would have never approached me, suddenly struck up conversations. I loved how I reached out to others to get help, especially when I was trying to figure out their hair. I loved that the walls between us melted a bit. The girls created a common ground. 

We were going to adopt the girls. We went to the termination hearing with our adoptive file in hand and the recommendation of DHS. Twenty minutes later I walked out of the court room stunned. The DA reversed positions and the girls were headed toward home. More stunning to me, was my calm in court and the words that came from my mouth but not my head or heart as I recommended they go to an aunt first to rally family support to the mother. The court listened and two weeks later, I said good-bye to them. Four weeks later, I understood why the Lord kept them from my arms - Tim filed for divorce. There was a peace for me about the girls. I knew they were safe. I knew they were loved. I knew the Lord loved them more than I did and I trusted he would care for them. I begged him to keep them in the hallow of his hand. Actually, I still do. 

Soon after we arrived in Oklahoma, we discovered that our last chance with medical insurance of having another baby had failed. It was one of my darker days. That weekend I went yard sale-ing and found this print - 
Mary Cassatt

I fell in love with it and paid $7.00 for it. Ironically, the girl you can see looks exactly like Shelby. Seeing the two girls together, reminds me of Shaye and Dayna. I see the print daily and think of each of my girls. 

Many have said to me that they could never do what we did. That fostering is too hard. I agree. I didn't do it by myself. I have felt the Lord beside me every step, every joy, every heartache along the way. I know the Savior in a way I had never understood before fostering. I believe with all of my heart that I made covenants with these beautiful kids to be there when they needed me. I believe I will see them again. I will squeeze them and laugh with them and introduce them to each other. I will always love them. They are the children born in my heart, forever mine. 

November is National Adoption month. I have never adopted or given away a child. I do know this - Children are to be cherished. Fostering, adopting, they are both about LOVE.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

From a Pint Size Perspective

One of the advantages of my job is hearing things from kids perspective almost daily. The following two happened this week:

One boy looked right at me and in perfect English said, "I only speak Spanish."

One day this week, I ended up on the playground with just my own students for a bit of time. I started swinging with some of the kids and they started talking. I've noticed that many times kids this age (8-10) will bring up religion on their own. They are curious or want to share what have learned and it is very interesting to 'see' from their perspective. One little guy shared with me as we were swinging that his previous church (they just moved to the area) had showed him a picture of God. "Did you know Ms. Mills, that they took God and put him on a plus sign and put thumbtacks in his hands and feet?"

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Nauvoo, Sunday, July 4

Sun. July 4

A day of rest! We slept in and it was wonderful. When I did wake up, I spent a couple of hours recording these memories in my journal and then leisurely got ready for church. Today was Fast and testimony meeting – I loved seeing the chapel and overflow areas filled to overflowing. I loved how the members of the Nauvoo ward welcomed us with outstretched arms even though we are so many. There was such a feeling of welcome, joy, and excitement. The testimonies were sweet and tender, powerful and uplifting. One of those meetings that could go on for hours until everyone had a chance to share. But it didn’t. The Sunday School lesson was on David and Bathsheba’s story – again, I wished that the lesson could go on. So many made brief comments that I would like to have followed up on. The Relief Society lesson was on mercy and the atonement. A few sisters shared some personal experiences where they felt the tender mercies of the Lord.  My step- mom Sandy said that it was one of the best Relief Society meetings she had ever attended. I concur.

The core cast has another show that they do as an outreach to the outlying communities. Each Sunday they travel a few hours and share the show – “Our Story Goes On”. The very first Sunday in July they perform the show in Nauvoo. Tonight it was held in the outdoor theater and it was wonderful. It is a sweet show of the circle of life and love. Afterward, I visited with a few people and then spent some time alone. Ryan went with the Birdsalls and I took the time to walk through the Relief Society Gardens. The Relief Society gardens are one of my favorite places in Nauvoo. The gardens have circle paths surrounded by tall trees making them private and secluded from the bustle of life. There are a dozen or so bronze life size sculptures reflecting women and their lives. Late at night, all of the sculptures were lit and the gardens deserted. I walked from bronze to bronze, touching them, learning from them, applying them to my life. I could have stayed forever soaking up the beauty of the night, the smell of the flowers and summer evening, the faint sounds of life drifting by on the breeze.


I ended the evening by meeting up with Ryan and the Birdsall family where Parley Street meets the Mississippi as we watched the fireworks from two cities across the river. As good as the fireworks were, they could match the magnificent lighting show that we could see in the distance.

The Dripping of the Sponge

They say that kids are sponges and absorb everything around them. Case in point: The other day one of the teachers heard the students talking about a game their were playing at recess. None of us had ever heard of it before, so we made a point to observe and learn the rules. What is it you ask? Border Patrol Tag. 

The participants are divided up into two groups, Border Patrol and Wetbacks. The goal for the Wetbacks is to get to the safety zone behind the border patrol. The Border Patrol team shout "Get back! Get back!" and can tag the Wetbacks as they are running toward the safety zone. Once tagged, the Wetbacks have to put their hands behind their back and are escorted to a tagged zone. Any Wetback that has made it to the safety zone can come back into the game and free Wetbacks from the tagged zone and then both try to make it the safety zone.

Never say that recess is not educational. It is when we fit in current events...

The Rest of the Story

After reading my friend Kim's comment on my previous post, I asked Ryan a bit more about the "say ur prayers" message on his cell phone. Turns out that the YM first counselor/Scoutmaster mentioned it to the boys and they took him up on the idea and programed the message into their phones. I am profoundly grateful for inspired leaders who love my son. My mother's heart is so grateful when they can see past his 12 yr. old antics and love the young man that I know. Especially since the divorce, I pray for the men in Ryan's life almost daily, that the Lord will provide the inspired testimonies to be the second witness now missing in his life.

For all of you working with youth, Thank you! Thank you for making choices to keep the spirit close and for following promptings. Thank you for your testimonies in action. Thank you for loving kids not your own.
A Grateful Mother

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I so need to be correcting papers right now or writing my class newsletter or drafting lesson plans for next week or watching the training video on the new reading program or... well you get the idea. Instead, I need to take a minute and record a couple of precious moments.

I have been getting up early this school year and the other day happened to be in the living room when Ryan's cell phone alarm went off. I picked it up to turn it off and saw this message - "say ur prayers". My eyes misted a bit as humility and gratitude for this kiddo washed over me. He is so much stronger in the gospel than I ever was at 12. Sometimes I forget his age and expect his testimony and decisions to be that of a mature 30 something. I forget his faith, his understanding beyond his years, his genuine goodness, his desire to be good. I am so grateful for his example to me.

Tonight I watched a friends kids for an hour. I love these kids. They have been a tremendous blessing in my life. They will never know how much good they do with their conversations and wisdoms, their butterfly kisses and lightning quick hugs, their acceptance and love. And I am truly grateful to my friends who let me love their kids. Thank you.

I love being a teacher. I love being a bilingual teacher in a school almost 50% hispanic and a class 80% hispanic. My kids are amazing. I wish I could tell you all of the sweet, wonderful things they do everyday. Or the ways they make me laugh. Or the ways they achieve things I was told by more experienced teachers our students wouldn't and couldn't do.  I don't know how long I will stay in teaching but I am forever grateful for the blessing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rumor Has It I Have Moved

Sunday, a sweet older sister asked me, "Julie, where did you move to?" A bit confused, I said I hadn't moved, I was in the same house I moved into 2 1/2 years ago. A few minutes later I asked her why she thought I had moved. She flushed a bit and said, "well, I drove by your house and saw how tall the grass and weeds were and I thought you had moved."

Where are all the emo-icons for this - embarrassed, roll eyes, sigh, smile, cry...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Book Reviews

Alliance by Gerald Lund
Good, easy read. Great book for family discussions about agency and why it is a gift. I've added it to my "Agency - Must Reads" list (along with Ella Enchanted and Tuck Everlasting) that are great for reading with kids 10ish +.  I had to buy this book online as I couldn't find it at the library or even at the church bookstore.

The Hobbit by JR Tolkein
I finally read this classic! I enjoyed this book, especially Bilbo. I love how he is a average hobbit and how he changes over the course of the book. I especially loved Gandalf and how everything he shares about the future is vague and subject to personal agency. My favorite part is when Bilboa faces the dragon in the castle. I did enjoy this book and I am glad that I have read it, but I was ready for it to move along. Excellent writing, I just wanted to get to the conflict a bit faster.

Sarah's Quilt by Nancy Turner
Sequel to "These is My Words". I loved rejoining Sarah's life again. The first book takes place over 20 years. This one takes place within a year or two which in my opinion is its major weakness - it looses a bit of credibility. I appreciated the story, especially Sarah's journey through grief and learning to move on again. I always learn from Sarah. Enjoyed the book, glad I bought it to re-read at times, loved the first one more and am looking forward reading the next one in the series.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Ryan and I listened to this one on cd. Ryan was funny - at first I had to make him listen to it but by the end, he was begging to finish. We both enjoyed it. Great fantasy read, especially for boys. We watched the movie after and like most, the book is WAY better. The movie is fine, it just doesn't compare to the book.

If I only didn't need to sleep...

I might be able to get everything done. And it is highly frustrating to finally lay down in bed knowing the alarm will go off in 4 hours, feeling exhausted, yet not being able to actually fall asleep.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Had to's vs. Got to's

Sorry I've been gone lately. Not that I am under the delusion that many are waiting with baited breath for my every post, but I do feel like I left Nauvoo hanging out there. I actually have a ton of posts written waiting for me to attach pictures and post. Soon, I promise.

I just wrote a long post on all of the things I had to do today. At the end, I thought what a wonderful list of got to do things. Here is the re-vamped list~

*I watched my tween stumble to the bathroom trying to wake up this morning.
*I had an awesome family prayer this morning
*I taught kiddos all day long. I laughed. I read Beatrix Potter's "Jemima Puddle Duck" to them.
*I spoke Spanish today
*I watched Ryan play football
*I stood up for myself in a conversation
*I cooked dinner - huge feat on a school night! ;)
*I watched a movie
*I got to be a mom, a sister, a teacher and a friend today.

Not bad.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Monday, when I got into my car, the temperature gage said 108. Tuesday, when I got into my car, it said 78.

Yes, I slept in sweats Tues. night.

Friday, August 20, 2010

First Day Back

Yesterday was my school's first day back. It was rough - my roughest one so far. It was more my issue than the group of kids I have. They seem really good and I am looking forward to the year with them. The day felt so disjointed and I was trying to incorporate some of the stuff I learned over the summer that is now required and it just felt awkward. And then two previous students had some major problems getting home. The bus routes have all changed and everything was a mess. Ugh.

I have one kiddo who doesn't speak a lick of English. I had the class fill out a form about last year, the good and the bad to prep for a goal activity for today. I translated it for kiddo and he was so funny. On the question - "What is one thing you would change about last year", he wrote I wish they had taught me English. :) I did have him logged on to the computers and working on some English programs before lunch. That is huge because in past years it has taken me a month or two to even get my computers up and running.

I get so emotionally vested with my students. I truly love them all so much. It was a great day to see so many of them come find me - even ones who are now in 5th grade. I end up being an advocate for so many of them, even after they leave my class.

I was absolutely exhausted after school. I had to drive to pick up Ryan from Tim and I was so tired I had to stop at a rest stop and sleep for 20 mins. We came home and both crashed.

But I am feeling much better this morning. I love my kids, I love teaching, and I am looking forward to today.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Only Me

I am the only person on the planet that can give myself a goose egg loading a case of copy paper onto a dolly.

Lots of long days at school right now. Meetings, meetings and more meetings liberally peppered with presentations that I have had to do and long nights getting my classroom ready. But things are looking sooooo much better than they ever have. The peaceful feeling that comes with decluttered, organized, and clean is worth all of the late weekends and nights over the last two years!

Meet the teacher is this afternoon and then school starts tomorrow!

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I have been too busy living life to sit down and record life lately! I will finish sharing about our trip to Nauvoo and my trip to the beach soon. For now, here is the last few weeks of summer in review:

*walk at the lake - early morning and sunsets
*shopping - school clothes & errands
*yard work - I gathered a colander full of tomatoes today!
*lemonade stand
*swimming, swimming, and more swimming
*crafts (post coming soon)
*library, books, and books on CD (reviews coming soon)
*sand castles (recipe coming soon)
*Court of Honor (Ry is now a 1st Class Scout)
*sleeping in
*homecooked food
*phone calls to sisters
*late night talks with friends
*Ice Cream (post coming soon)

It has been a bit warm here lately. Don't you love how books stay with you forever? I keep remembering the description of the first week of August from "Tuck Everlasting" and the descriptions of the southern summer heat in "To Kill a Mockingbird"- I have felt like melted frosting a few times lately.  Love both books and if you don't know what I am talking about read these books! Both are excellent August books.

Take a few minutes to soak up the sun, enjoy the sunsets, and swim until you shrivel.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Nine years ago today

View from Mom's grave

I said "Goodbye, I love you and I will see you when I get back" to my mom for the last time on earth. We were living with my parents at the time. Tim had taken the Oregon bar exam the day before and I was knee deep in Cub Scout Day camp. My dad happened to be home that Thurs. which was such a sweet blessing as he spent the day sitting next to my mom in the hospital as they both dozed holding hands while she got two blood transfusions. We all met up at the house about the same time and figured out the evening. She looked good - the blood transfusion had put some color in her cheeks. I hooked her up to the dialysis machine and said my quick good bye before rushing out the door to drop Ryan off with a sitter and have an anniversary dinner with Tim. A bit after dinner my cell rang. It was my dad. 

The next few days and weeks are to tender and sacred to write about, even now nine years later. Maybe next year. I miss her now more than I did then. I feel her closer now than I did then. I understand her more now than I did then. I love her more now than I did then. 

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
Forever and ever,
Your kiddo I'll be. 

I love you Mom. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tender Moments

Sat. July 3

Today we met at 8:00 to fine tune a d few spots and run through the show. I must say the weather has been beautiful! With a faint breeze to cool off the sweat. J Joseph Smith calls Nauvoo “the loveliest place on earth” and I couldn’t agree more.

We broke for lunch at noon and they cancelled the afternoon rehearsal! We spent the afternoon relaxing at the lodge – I slept while Ryan and Heather watched “Flywheel”. After the movie, we went to Nauvoo Suites where the kids met up with the Marshalls and the Birdsalls and went swimming. Since there isn’t a public pool in town, Nauvoo Inn & Suites opens their indoor pool to the public. It was wonderful! Best $2.00 I’ve spent. Ryan and Heather had a ton of fun and I spent an hour browsing their very fun gift shop and reading books.

Tonight was our first dress rehearsal. It took some time to get my hair done and get all our layers on. I am using compression nylons to keep the swelling out of my ankles – the angled stage is murder on ankles. So today’s current layers – compression nylons, socks, bloomers, petticoat, skirt, double bodice, shawl and bonnet. We met in the grove next to the stage and it was so cool to see everyone gather. It felt like I traveled back in time just a bit. We spent some times talking about the gathering of the saints then and today, then broke into districts to discuss some goals for the show dress rehearsal. And then with the sound of the bagpipes fading, we ran the pageant.


We had an audience of 50-75 people which really made it feel real. The show went well – we had to stop once to fix a couple of lighting cues. I missed the King Follett funeral scene because I was changing clothes. Ryan has to change pants then as well so we were still buttoning his suspenders as we went on. I am going to look over the blocking book and figure out a better way to make that work. We weren’t the only ones working out kinks – Charles Makepeace had some costuming problems and didn’t make is entrance. King Follett and the men/boys on stage that are digging the well and ditches just kept digging. We all joked how the well just about got finished on stage tonight. 

One of the core cast ( Charles Makepeace) had some problems with his costumes (couldn’t find his clothes). The re;ult, king Follett and the men and boys digging the ditches ened up dinging for a long time. They just kept digging while people were helping Makepeace backstghe. ON stage, King is digging a well. The joke is that he just about finished the well!

After the rehearsal, we sat on the stage and talked about the great moments and how it felt, what we learned, what touched us. The new Artistic Director is Paul Walstad. He has played Parley P. Pratt in the pageant for the last 5 years and tonight was the first time that he has every seen the pageant with lights, props, sound, costumes, from the audience. He wept. This pageant is so filled with the spirit. We shared some tender & fun moments together. We were all hot, sweaty, tired, but oh so full of joy, love and laughter.

Afterward, I went to talk to the audience – most of them stayed during our post show meeting and wanted to talk to us. We talked of the power of the pageant and the feelings. Everyone I spoke to after the show was touched by something in the show. Many are touched by the little, unscripted things. I talked with a former core cast member from last year who had never seen the show before from the audience. She talked about how she teared up seeing a little 4 yr. old boy carrying a mallet to work on the temple.

A few special moments for me – backstage each district has a circle of chairs they can leave coolers gather when they are not on stage. I took a few minutes in the show tonight to sit in our district circle by myself. I could see a million stars above and see so many people that I loved around me all while listening to the pageant continue on. I spent some time thinking and talking with Heavenly Father. So peaceful. So assuring. So strengthening.



Another moment was the Relief Society scene. I am a part of women who are gathered sewing shirts for the men building the temple. Tonight Sherri Birdsall and I visited. Her mom passed away 4 years ago, mine 8 years ago. We shared how we both felt them so near us during the pageant. The veil feels so very thin here. Both of us teared up and shared such a real, tender moment together. The pageant is not acted – it is real. The relationships are real and the friendships are forever.

Relief Society sewing shirts. I am second from right and Sherri is far right. We are watching Joseph Smith play stickball with the children. 

We left some time around 11:00 and went to Annie’s Frozen Custard. Other cast and crew were there and I had an opportunity to visit with Chuck and Jennifer Baker. Chuck is the band director. He shared some of the miracles that brought him to the pageant 5 years ago. You definitely gain a testimony of the hand of the Lord in this work. Every person here has a story of how the Lord brought them here and provided for them. Individually, they are touching stories but collectively, they are a monumental testimony of the power and love of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

And the last moment of the night – we drove past the stage on the way home tonight a while past midnight. Again, my heart was touched to see the core cast, directors, lighting and sound crews all going strong perfecting the sound and lighting. Once again, a tender witness of the dedication of the saints when building something for our God.

Goodnight ~

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mission Language

Fri. July 2, 2010
I slept in until 7:00 today! Nauvoo has a lot of late nights and early mornings for sure. We met in the grove next to the pageant stage at 9:00 and talked about the language of our mission. We read from Preach My Gospel and talked about how everyone will hear the gospel in their language. Then we discussed the language of our mission – how we communicate through our bodies. We discussed the amazing gift our bodies are and the many miracles that they can do and how that gift is to be treasured, appreciated and embraced. We shared how our bodies can be a blessing and how to move with joy. I thought of stretching and extending myself – physically and spiritually. I have always loved Willowtree sculptures and bought myself one a year ago. This week I bought this beautiful angel –

I love the extension, the joy, the embracing of life. Interestingly enough, she is entitled “Courage” which made me think of Nauvoo as well. How much courage it took for me to apply and come by myself with Ryan, how much courage it has taken to walk the single life road again, how much courage it takes to share the gospel with others and even more to ask for a referral. This angel will always remind me of Nauvoo and the many lessons I have learned here.

At 10 we met in our districts and discussed setting goals and our plans to reach our goals. I loved sharing together. I have really missed like-minded goals and discussion and felt like I was soaking it up.
Ryan paying attention in district meeting. He keeps telling me that he listens better if he is doing something. Right. :)

After district meeting, we ran the show again, practicing our mission language. Amazing the difference it makes in communication when you can’t speak and have to find other means to communicate. I feel my testimony in a different way. It has made me think a lot of how I can use my body to share my testimony. How I carry myself, express myself. It has given me much to ponder.

Alex leading the mission language discussion.

After the run through, I ran to Keokuk to the Walmart to pick up a couple of things. Adam Bohl is the work crew young man in our district and it is his birthday today – he is 23!  Everyone signed a card for him and we got him a tie tack of the Nauvoo temple. One of my keepsake memories is walking past the backstage a while after we gave it to him and seeing him in all of his harness (he works the light towers) sitting on a pioneer trunk reading everyone’s comments. It struck me – the little things in life do matter.

Upon my return from Keokuk, I ran to the gym (and AC – yeah!) for our afternoon rehearsal. Today was the Powerpoint run through – where we sat in the gym and ran through the entire show in a power point presentation with our individual blocking books. We were able to discuss problems – entrances, exits, props, bottlenecks, and find solutions together. A couple of things about this- first, I love that everyone kept the challenges to themselves until we sat down to work it out together. No one brought it up in the middle of a run through but waited until we could all sit down together to work out the kinks. Secondly, I loved how every problem was phrased with a solution attached and that all were open to helping each other. People were constantly volunteering their efforts to make the way smoother for another. There were no accusations, only solutions. Loved it.

Youth playing Kung Fu - ask Ryan how. They played it a lot both years now. 

Susie Geersen, the costume director, talked to us about how to wear our costumes after the powerpoint run through. The costuming dept. of Nauvoo really underscore so many of the lessons taught in this experience. Amazing attention to detail. Again, the little things matter. Not only do they outfit all of us in costumes, we all have multiple costumes. We start the pageant in our darkest costumes and through out the show change one piece at a time until we are in our lightest costume at the end. And each of us have varying degrees of dark to light. Why? Why go to so much work for something that most will never ‘see’ in the show? The costuming is symbolic of the sanctification of the saints. That is amazing to me. We share our testimonies even in our clothing. I appreciate the layers of the gospel, the layers of refinement as I added and stripped various layers of costumes. Occasionally, someone will comment on how the lights get brighter at the end of the show. They don’t. They intensity of lighting never changes throughout the show.  It is each individual person loosing their dark layers and putting on their lighter layers. The sanctification of the saints. The sanctification of each individual. 

We had a longer dinner break as they wanted us to run the pageant in real time which meant that we had to be at the stage at 7:30 to run the bagpipe parade and then the show at 8:30 with lights and sound. With the break, I ran to the Laundromat and caught up on all of the laundry. Even this turned out to be a lesson for me. There were a few of us from the pageant in the laudromat and a couple of others. Suddenly, I realized how easy it would be to visit with my pageant friends. We love each other and had much to talk about. But suddenly I remembered that we were set apart at “special witnesses of Christ” and that my purpose was to invite others to come to Christ. I decided to strike up conversations with others in the Laundromat. I met a sister from the Philippines.  And a couple moving to Maine. And then I met Laura. Laura and her husband Adalalberto are natives from Mexico but they have lived in Arizona for years and are now moving to Florida. On the way, they decided to detour and see as many church history sites as possible. They have 6 kids – four boys (Helaman, Zenif, Amulek, and Ammon) and two girls (Gwendolyn and Wendy). They toured all the sites in Missouri and then came to Nauvoo. They had a hotel for two nights but then realized that they had miscalculated and were going to miss the pageant. They didn’t have enough money to extend their hotel stay so instead, they let the hotel go, drove to Walmart and bought a pup tent for 4 and a camp stove and were camping 8 days so they could see the pageant. I couldn’t believe it. She wasn’t complaining – she was happily doing laundry for her family of 8, talking about how excited they were to see the pageant. Tears came to my eyes. I realized that not only have the cast made sacrifices to be in a show honoring the sacrifice of the early saints, many of the audience have made great sacrifices to be there as well. It was a tender moment. I hugged her and invited all of them to the run through that night.

We met at 7:30 and practiced the bagpipe parade with the pipers. I LOVE the pipers. They are sweet, wonderful people that work very hard for very little recognition. The play throughout Nauvoo and before every vignette. They play during the Frontier Country Fair and during the pageant. It was so much fun to all walk the parade route behind them and the flags and end up at the stage. I love how the bagpipes sound like so many sounds blended together to create a harmony. I love how they are throughout the entire Nauvoo experience. 

We ran the opening (the anthem and prayer) so we could get a feel for the timing and just have a moment of prayer, and then we began our first run through with sound and lights. We had an audience of 30-40. Afterward, some of us went out to talk to the audience and I made friends with two brothers from Arizona. They gave us a referral but we had to search to find anyone with a referral card. What a nice problem to have! I must say that I was following Ryan’s lead. He went out to talk to the audience right after the show and struck up a conversation with them first. I love how kids are great examples of doing the right thing. 

I titled this post Mission Language. Today, I have learned so much about the language of disciples of Christ. I've learned how I can use my body and even my clothing to testify of Christ. I have found Christ in the average and mundane, like clothing and laundromats. I've learned of the common language of sacrifice, music, and love. With those thoughts, I leave this quote by Pres. Thomas S. Monson:

"There is one language... that is common to each missionary - the language of the Spirit. It is not learned from textbooks written by men of letters, nor is it acquired through reading and memorization. The language of the Spirit comes to him who seeks with all his heart to know God and keep His divine commandments. Proficiency in this language permits one to breach barriers, overcome obstacles, and touch the human heart."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


July 1
This morning began at 7a.m. for all of the men as they learned how to build the temple on set. The rest of us met them at 8a.m. where we spent the morning fine-tuning scenes and dances. At 10a.m. we had district meetings in the grove. Today we discussed serving each other, what that looks like and how we can be more observant of serving opportunities. Also, the importance of attitude – it makes all of the difference. It is Heather’s Birthday, so Dad and Sandy brought tons of cookies and we handed out cookies to everyone and sang to her.

After District meeting, we ran through the entire show. It was wonderful! So many mistakes! One thing I have learned in this experience and that we talk about often is that Zion is not the perfect in heart, rather Zion is the pure in heart. Zion has mistakes but Zion has such a wonderful, sweet, pure joy – a pure heart. As we have learned this show, there has been so much laughter, so many dear friendships. So much love.

This is my second year in the pageant and both years have been incredible experiences. I truly feel like I’ve seen Zion – I know what it looks like, feels like, sounds like. It tastes good. I’ve thought a lot about what makes this experience so good, so wonderful. I’ve come up with a few elements or principles that have contributed to the making of this experience.

  1. Family – Family is always first priority in the pageant. First of all, we experience this as a family, which is rare. I know one family applied for pageant a second year because one of their sons was on a mission the first year and they felt so strongly that the pageant was such a huge experience for their family that they had to do it a second time so that he could experience it. Secondly, parents are requested to take care of the family first ALWAYS. The directors not only do not mind if you need to miss a rehearsal or cue to take care of your family, they truly want you to care for your family first. As big as this production is, the family always is the first priority. Family support (wonderful women who provide games and activities for the kids) is offered but never required. Lastly, everything we do on stage, we do as families. We stand near each other, dance together, pray together, and testify together. This experience has really taught me how important families are in Zion and to our Heavenly Father. It has taught me how to organize a huge project and still honor individual families.
Douglas family (minus Easton playing at family support). They are blue cast and I was their mentor for the first two days of stage rehearsals. 

Family support tent

2. Sacrifice – every one of us has sacrificed to be here. We pay our own way and the sacrifice of time, money and other opportunities truly makes this a special experience. Even if someone offered to pay my way, I don’t think I would accept. Sometimes it is an honor to sacrifice and this is one of those times. There is a lot of sacrifice once we are here as well. Cramped quarters, living out of suitcase for two weeks, disrupted sleep schedules. One brother got up very early to walk the 5 miles into town today to make the 7a.m. rehearsal so that his wife and kids could have the car. Yet, for some reason it doesn't feel like a sacrifice. It feels empowering, strengthening. 

nap time in the gym

  1. Genuine Love – I have been amazed at how well the staff, directors and core cast have been at knowing us by name from the very first. We are not just a face, a number or “red cast”. They all know us by name and who our families are from the very first. We are known. There is so much power in knowing someone by name and realizing the many hundreds of people that they are working with each summer, compounds that blessing. In addition to knowing us, I have learned the power of inspiring rather than requiring. I know many will not believe this but in 2 casts, each with over 150 people ages 18 months to very old, with one week to teach an entire 75 mins. show, I have never heard a single negative comment or criticism. Never.  All the comments are focused on what we did right and how wonderful that looked. Many times individuals will be highlighted to share something they did particularly well and by the end of the pageant, all will have been highlighted. Everything is framed in how we can help each other, support each other, lift each other. We are constantly invited to stretch ourselves. 
Ryan with Lamar Gimmeson & Kimball Leavitt

We took a break for lunch and returned to the stage at 2p.m. where we ran through the dances. Because of the heat, we finished early and had a bit more time for dinner which was great for us as we had invited the Strickland family over for dinner. We grilled hamburgers and hotdogs with apples and carmel dip and ice cream for desert. They have 4 kids and we had a great time talking, laughing, and playing together.

After dinner we returned to the stage for an evening rehearsal which felt so much cooler compared to the afternoon rehearsal! We spent the evening rehearsal fine tuning building the city and then ran a full run through. It was so much fun. Much laughter. Even more love.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Of Prophets, Temples and Testimonies

Wed. June 30

The temple as seen from the stage

It is getting harder to accurately express our pageant life. Today started at 8:00a.m. at the stage as we learned more blocking. I don’t even remember which scenes – morning feels so long ago.

This afternoon was something exceptional. We spent an hour and a half reviewing the music of the pageant with Bro. Brad Thompson. He is amazing. First, we would sing a song and we sounded much like a fairly decent ward choir. Then he would ask us what thoughts we had about the song, experiences relating to that subject, how those emotions look like and sound like. He asked us the purpose each hymns – why was this hymn chosen? Why was this verse chosen? What is going on while we are singing? Our sharing almost became a testimony meeting. And then he would say, “O.K. Let’s sing that.” And suddenly that ward choir sounded like angels from above. Every eye was glued to Bro. Thompson’s direction and every cheek wet from the trail of tears.

I am just understanding this but Nauvoo Pageant isn’t about the Pioneers. It is about each one of us. Every part of the pageant is our story. Our story of family, love, loss, healing, and joy. It is our testimony of Joseph Smith and the gospel of Jesus Christ.  As we sing each song, we are thinking of our individual stories, singing our individual stories, not acting the Pioneers’ story. 

In the evening, we learned the blocking of the Martyrdom and building the temple scenes. First, they had myself and two others share our feelings from last year as we learned this part of the show. We each talked about the powerful witness we each felt that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. Then, without any instruction, we ran the scene. As we formed the walls of the jail, we stood as silent sentinels as Joseph and Hyrum Smith walked to their deaths. The spirit profoundly witnessed that Joseph was a prophet of God. Everyone was silent, even the children. Tears trickled down our cheeks. The Spirit was so thick I felt like I could physically touch it. The moments were powerful ones that I will never forget and forever lean upon.

From the martyrdom, we immediately turn to finishing the temple. The temple on stage is a sacred. It takes all of the men on stage and another 15 young men underneath to build the frame. 

Then the sisters bring out the fabric panels that make up the face of the temple. The panels are treated as sacred, partially because of what they represent but also because of the sacrifice and dedication that was given to make them. The following is an article printed in the Ensign about the Nauvoo Temple project.

Nauvoo Temple: One Stitch at a Time
By Karol Jean Kasteler Miller

Late in April 2005, I received a phone call from a friend at Church headquarters, asking if I would like to do a big project: design and sew a 25-by-40-foot fabric representation of the front of the original Nauvoo Temple. It would be used in a new Nauvoo pageant. It was an exciting challenge for which I would use an architectural drawing of the temple as my guide. The deadline to finish the project was in six weeks.

Using the blessing of e-mail, I gathered help from women in my family, lifelong friends, and various stake and ward members. They included local Chinese, Laotian, and Thai sisters. My family garage served as our workshop.

Eighty women helped sew, embroider, crochet, and cross-stitch the panels over 30 days and nights. Ten women sewed the temple tower over the next 10 days and nights. Many supportive family members also helped at home.

Sometimes sisters would clutch their sewing bags and say, “I just don’t want to go. Can I come back tomorrow?” The sisters felt an urgency to complete the sewing so our temple would be built by the deadline. We had one goal in mind—completing the temple in time.

We felt a connection with the building of the original Nauvoo Temple and the early sisters in Nauvoo. As we sewed, we reflected on their tremendous sacrifices. We sensed that we understood in some small way the feelings of those pioneer sisters as they labored hard to assist in completing their temple. We pushed harder.

We felt creative blessings multiply as the project progressed. I was blessed with good health and amazing strength, despite getting very limited sleep during those six weeks. Countless sweet and powerful prayers were offered. We met our goals with grateful hearts. I believe all of us who participated understand more now about consecrating time and talents to the building of the kingdom here on earth, and so much more of the magnitude of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s vision.

Every time we use the panels, they are very carefully folded, placed in special baskets and kept tucked away when not in use. We strive to never let them touch the ground. This year I am a runner that carries the panels past the sisters to the brethren who attach them to the bar that hoist them into place. Last year I was a sister with my arms outstretched keeping the panels from touching the floor. No matter my job, it is such a privilege to build the temple. As the temple goes up, we stand back and gaze at it and every time, the Spirit wells up. Ryan comes over and joins me and some of my best parenting memories are these nights standing together gazing at the temple. 

I struggle to express the tender feelings of the day, the many witnesses and confirmations I’ve received, the waves of blessings. In addition to what I have shared, there were so many wonderful conversations, friendships built, laughter, jokes, hugs and joy. My words do not do this experience justice. My pictures cannot record it accurately. I am so grateful to have this experience and wish every person could feel and experience and know what I have felt, experienced and know. My heart is full of the good news of the gospel.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Nauvoo, Day Two (longest post ever)

Tues. June 29, 2010

This morning started out with a Missionary fireside in the chapel. Many of the most powerful moments of this pageant experience will not have a single picture to record them. This is one such moment. It was inspiring. Edifying. Tender.

The Nauvoo mission president and his wife spoke – Pres. and Sister Ludlow. Sister Ludlow’s talk especially spoke to my heart. She spoke of not postponing joy. How many times do I find myself saying things like, “it will be better when…”  or “I’ll be so glad when ______ happens” ?  She reminded us that all of us have trials and challenges. Moments that become our story, moments we will remember and tell over and over again with much laughter. Why wait until then to laugh about them? I felt a personal challenge make laughter part of the story in the first moment. Later, the stories will be that much richer as I remember the adversity and the laugher.

The Nauvoo Temple President and his wife also spoke. They spoke of the hand of the Lord in restoring the Nauvoo temple. The Saints were commanded to build a temple and many were hesitant. They had built a temple in Kirkland, Ohio, only be leave it behind as they moved to Missouri. In Missouri, they began two temples only to be driven out. You can imagine their thoughts at the idea of building another temple. But after that initial hesitation, build it they did. They dedicated one day in 10 to the temple quarry or building site. The temple is built on the bluff over looking a large bend of the Mississippi river. Today, the temple is striking. In the 1840’s it was breath taking. Amazing. Stunning, easily the most beautiful edifice along the Mississippi. When the persecution intensified, so did the pace of construction on the temple, until workers were working around the clock to finish it. It became a monument of their faith.

The Saints were forced to abandon their homes, farms, business and most importantly, temple in the winter of 1846. I strongly believe that the memories and covenants of the temple strengthened their shoulders to face the hardships and sacrifices ahead of them. A few years after the Saints left, the temple burned to the ground in an intensely hot fire. A tornado flattened the parts of two walls that were remaining shortly after the fire. The foundation stones remained, sleeping among the grass and weeds for over 100 years. And then the Lord started the work to restore the symbol of testimony of so many. Missionaries unknowingly met up the grandson of William Weeks, the original architect who gave the church the original plans found in an attic. A lithograph was found of the original temple. Through various miracles, the church was able to re-buy the 6 original land parcels. And 150 years after the saints turned their faces West, the announcement came that the temple would be rebuilt. Today, it is 98% exactly as the original.

The Temple Pres. made a comment that Joseph Smith saw the temple finished in a vision. Joseph also knew that the Saint were heading west and had begun plans to take them west. Joseph was murdered before it was finished. The temple Pres. said that he firmly believed that the temple that Joseph saw in the vision was the temple as it is today and that Joseph knew it would be rebuilt. I had never thought of that before.

The music- the fireside opened with the core cast singing to us – it was amazing. It gave me tingles. After a few talks, the work crew – 15 young men ages 16-25 stood together and sang “We are as the Army of Helaman”. The spirit was so strong. Then we came to the final hymn, “I Stand All Amazed”. Brad Thompson, the musical director, came to the microphone and asked us to sing our testimonies, to let our emotions for the atonement be expressed in our singing. Oh I wish I could some how share with you the hymn we sang. Tears poured down my cheeks as we sang our testimonies through that wonderful song. It was beautiful. During the closing prayer, you could hear sniffles throughout the congregation as everyone was deeply moved.
After the fireside, we moved to the grove next to the pageant stage and had a safety meeting. We have a lot of medical ability in our cast, which is always comforting. After the safety meeting, we broke apart into our districts. Our district meeting focused on this quote by Brigham Young:

“If you feel evil, keep it to yourselves until you overcome that evil principle. This is what I call resisting the devil and he flees from me…When you are influenced by the Spirit of holiness and purity, let your light shine; but if you are tried and tempted and buffeted by Satan, keep your thoughts to yourselves – keep your mouths closed; for speaking produces fruit, either of a good or evil character…you frequently hear brethren and sisters say that they feel so tried and tempted, and have so many cares, and are so buffeted, that they must give vent to their feelings; and they yield to the temptation and deal out their unpleasant sensations to their families and neighbors. Make up your minds thoroughly, once and for all, that if we have trials, the Lord has suffered them to be brought upon us, and he will give us the grace to bear them..But if we have light or intelligence – that which will do good, we will impart it…Let that be the determination of the individual, for spirit begets spirit-likeness; feelings beget their likeness…If then we give vent to all our bad feelings disagreeable sensations, how quickly we beget the same in others, and load each other down with our troubles, and become sunk in darkness and despair! …In all your social communications…let all the dark, discontented, murmuring, unhappy, miserable feelings – all the evil fruit of the mind, fall from the tree in silence and unnoticed; and so let is perish, without taking it up to present to your neighbors. But when you have joy and happiness, light and intelligence, truth and virtue, offer that fruit abundantly to your neighbors and it will do them good, and so strengthen the hands of your fellow beings.”

Emphasis mine

This principle is powerful and so applicable today. I love that he uses the word vent twice. How many times do we vent and leave a trail of bad fruit in our wake for others to pick through? To me, the most powerful teaching is what to do with our own bad fruit, because we all have moments of frustration, disappointment, offense, trial, and irritation. This week we have learned that it is how we react in those moments that makes us saints, those are our defining moments. So if we are not to give vent to those feelings, what should we do? Ray, our artistic director, made me laugh last year when he said, “You don’t swallow bad fruit. It will make you sick!” So if we don’t unload it on others, if we don’t keep it inside, what do we do with those feelings? I love what Brigham Young said – you let it “fall from the tree in silence and unnoticed.” You let it go; let it roll off your back. You share the good and let the bad go.

We have become good friend with Shanti Rose, the cast member who plays Emma Smith, who shared with us the phrase, “Drive-by fruiting”. Sometimes in life, people make a negative comment to us and the natural man wants to say something back. It has been so wonderful to recognize those comments for what they are – a drive-by fruiting, and let them go.

Today in district meeting, Jeff (plays Joseph Smith) likened others’ comments/fruit to Shanti’s grapes –  one grape was good except for a tiny spot of bad. I thought of how easily and often I have eaten the good half of a grape and tossed the bad. Suddenly, I realized that is how I should handle conversations, especially when bad fruit is present. Let the bad comments fall to the ground unnoticed and focus on the good. 

I have loved seeing us work on these principles. We have laughed at ‘drive-by fruitings” and have worked hard to frame everything in the positive. We have cheered when asked to run another part of the show again even when we are hot and tired and sore and the cheer has made all the difference. Ryan worked really hard to figure out a way to express his feelings for his cravats in a positive light – he came up with: “I love this cravat so much that I will wear it on the performances only so I don’t get it dirty.”

After District meetings we met on the stage for our first stage run through of the dances. The Stage is a raked stage, which means it is at a steep angle. Even walking becomes a challenge on an angle. Lots of laughter as we tried to remember what we had learned the night before, squish it all into the stage space and run it on an angle. The fact that all were laughing and no one was injured was a huge success. We did get to start fine-tuning it a few more times.

After a 2-hour lunch break, we headed back to the gym and air conditioning where we worked on the evening dance. And then after dinner, we headed back to the stage where we learned the blocking for the healing scene, the laying out the city and the parade. I really loved how my “family” – Ryan and I and a grandpa and his granddaughter, really came together in the healing scene. I felt bonded to these people I only just met as we worked together to tell our story. Ryan is the sick one in our family and I think back to my feelings when he was born and spent a few days in the NICU. The worries, the prayers, the peace, the overwhelming joy and gratitude as he got better and came home.

Over and over, we keep talking about that the pageant is our story. Every single one of us has experienced a miraculous healing. Everyone one of us have experience times we desperately needed the Savior. We are not acting on stage. We are telling our stories, out testimonies. We just happen to wear pioneer costumes as we tell our stories.

 Love you all!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


The internet & cell phone service is shaky at best here, but lately it has been non-existent. I keep falling asleep while writing each night and I will post as much and as often as I can. Love you all! Julie

Welcome Dance practice in the gym. Ryan is on the left, Alex McKenzie (one of our directors) is in the red shirt and I am right behind Alex. 

One Hundredth Part

Monday, June 28, 2010 11:30p.m.
This is where it gets hard. How do I record all that happened this day? Morning feels like a decade ago. I’ll try-

We arrived at the school at 8:45 along with everyone else. Packets to pick up, sign ups for temple sessions, costume fitting times and the cast talent show (my talent is applause) and pictures for name badges. It was wonderful to see so many familiar and loved faces. So many hugs. And then the energy and buzz of excitement from everyone, new and old alike.

Costume check-in. Notice the tables of bonnets on the left and the bagpipers- they rock!

Ry and I were one of the first for our costume fittings. This year we are “merchants” and wear shades of deep red / brown  costumes. I have pantaloons, a petticoat, 2 skirts, 2 bodices, 1 shawl and 1 bonnet (less than last year). Ryan has more costumes– 2 complete outfits and a cravat! He can now add cravat tying to his list of skills.
Miss Claudia in one of the 4 classrooms full of costumes

Trying on bodices

Ry's first costume - notice the cravat tying skills! 

They put me to work ripping out hems.

Costume fittings post cravat tying lesson. Love the shades. The costume ladies did let him know that sunglasses were not part of the 1830's fashion. 

A word about the costumes. I wish pictures could somehow convey the enormity of the costume department and their attention to detail. There are over 10,000 pieces of costumes! The department takes up fully half of the middle school. The ladies are amazing. My tailor made notes to clean the Velcro on my dresses today! They are completely outfitting almost 200 people in two and three costumes each and they are going to take time to clean my Velcro. Two things happen right off the bat in costuming – first, you start to feel a part of something really, really big. You start to catch a glimpse of the army that make this happen. It is exciting and humbling at the same time. Secondly, we really start to get to know each other as we are learning together and helping each other into the costumes. And the laughter starts as we novices try to navigate 19th century clothing.

Current cast costumes awaiting alterations.

Just one corner of the alteration room. These sisters are AMAZING!

 After our fittings, we returned to the gym and joined in various orientation meetings. We discussed the Frontier Country Fair, it’s purpose and goals, logistics and responsibilities. We sang hymns – The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning and Praise to the Man. The hair stood up on my arms and tears came to my eyes as we sang. The music we sing on stage and off stage is amazing.

We shared our expectations of this experience and why we came. A few meaningful notes for me:
  1.  We are not hear to “act” like a gathering of saints, we are a gathering of saints. A saint is something we each become, develop; something we are, not something that can be scripted or imitated. It has made me think about how much this life isn’t about what we do, but instead what we become.

  1. We have many opportunities to demonstrate who we really are.  Everyday we have multiple opportunities to be inconvenienced, offended, or even hurt by someone else. The saint part happens in those seconds between the offense and our response or reaction. Those moments of decision when we are wronged.

After lunch we met the core cast and they performed one of the vignettes – the one about missionary work in England. It was tremendously moving and again, I felt part of something so big. Truly a “marvelous work and a wonder”. I felt a kinship with the early saints that I haven’t felt before – a kinship of purpose. Their goals, desires and very lives were dedicated to bringing others to Christ. That is my goal. It felt like I had found some kindred spirits from across time and heaven felt very close.

After the vignettes we met as districts. Ryan and I are in the Joseph Smith District. Jeff Dickamore (Joseph Smith) and Shanti Rose (Emma Smith) are our district leaders. There are two other families and one sister in our district. We met each other and then discussed a few things. Jeff pointed out that we can’t invite someone to come to Christ if we are not there. We don’t say ‘go to Christ’, we say ‘come’. Come to where we are, where we are striving to be. As we shared our reasons for coming and our goals, I suddenly realized that we are serving a mission and inviting mostly members to come to Christ. 90% of our audience will be members of the church. All of a sudden, I saw things in a different light. The church spends thousands of dollars and innumerable man-hours and resources and the goal is the members.  As I thought about why, I suddenly started connecting the dots. We are called as missionaries. We are inviting others to come to Christ. We are asking them if they know anyone who would like a free gift of the pageant cd. We are asking them to share the gospel. It has made me realize how sharing the gospel and coming to Christ are tied together. I am not sure that I can come unto Christ without sharing the gospel.

After distrct meetings, we had a 3 hour break for dinner and Family Home Evening (a time each week for families to spend together usually with a short lesson, thought &/or scripture and activity.) We met back at the school for our first dance practice. We learned the whole welcome dance and almost half of the evening dance. So much joy, laughter, and fun. As the directors introduced what we were going to do, they talked about the idea of moving joyfully. We were not going to be dancing; we were going to move joyfully. By 9:00 we were all hot and sweaty, but we were also laughing.

It was a joyful day! So much more than I can ever share. Love you all!

Front - Ryan
Back - my dad Tom, Step-mom Sandy, me, and my step-sister Heather

Step by Step

Day 20 Stumbles - Temptations - For a while I've wondered about personal temptations. It has felt like Satan wasn't really worri...