Sunday, January 31, 2016

Keep on keepin' on

Not many things can pull me out of bed at 4:30 in the morning, you know.  But last Saturday you could have found me hiking up a desert mountain in the darkness of 5AM with an incredible bunch of young women, their parents, and their leaders.

It was New Beginnings... a yearly event for the young women in the church (aged 12-18) aimed to help kick off the new theme of the year and to welcome all the new girls who will be turning 12 and aging into this awesome, inspired organization we call Young Women.  And since McKenzie is going to be turning 12 this year (this week! (what?!)) she was one of the special guests of honor.

The theme this year for the youth of our church throughout the whole world is 'Press Forward'.  And some of the older girls in our own ward, along with the leaders, thought that a perfect way to introduce that theme would be to Press Forward up a steep mountain as we watched the sun rise to symbolize our own New Beginning.  And what a beautiful beginning it was!

Along the way we stopped to talk about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and about how important it is to Press Forward in Christ throughout our whole lives.  The whole morning was filled with beautiful moments, both inside my heart and outside all around me.

This is kind of an accident picture that came about because I was telling someone about the cool feature on my phone where I just have to say the word 'cheese' and it will take a picture.
"Wait," she said. "Hold it up. Let me try... Cheese."
And voila... the awesome picture above was captured.  This feature came in totally handy since my freezing fingers were layered in gloves - and even though I didn't look at this picture before or even after I took it, I was happy to find this surprise once I uploaded everything onto my computer.  I'm in love with the paths leading down the mountain to the city below.  Also the sunrise. And the pink clouds. I'm in love with the pink clouds, too.  Too bad it's not a little more straight... but perhaps that's part of the charm?

If you look closely along the rim, you can see four bighorn sheep standing around on that bump.  Sheep all over (always in the distance) would pop their heads in and out from behind rocks, watching our group traverse up the mountain, laughing, I'm sure, at the clunkiness of our way.  Those sheep know how to move on those mountain slopes!  I took a picture of another group of sheep along a different ridge and pointed them out to my new friend standing beside me.
"Look!" I said just before I pointed my camera in their direction.  "Do you see those sheep?!" *click, click*
"Uh... well... I hate to break it to you," she said back, "but that is a trail sign and a couple of park benches."
Oh.  Cool.  I knew that.  And, also, I'm new around here.
But those guys up there in that picture?  Those are sheep. I promise. Unless park benches have started grazing and moving around recently.

Eventually the sun did make it all the way over the mountain ridge in the distance.  So that was cool. 

We all stopped to watch it (and the sheep (and to listen to another great devotional)) before continuing on our way.

And shortly after that, at around 7AM, we made it to the top.  Freezing, tired, and happy to smell the sausage and hash browns in the air.

I am SO excited for McKenzie to start this new chapter of her life.  I almost wish I could be a Young Woman again.  They will help me teach her so many great things about how to live a life closer to Christ.  About how to be kind, and how to find a love for the scriptures. About how to build faith, and testimony, and charity.  About who Christ is, what He has done for us, what He continues to do for us, and how we can serve Him.  About the powerful power of prayer.  About recognizing the promptings of the spirit, about the importance of courage to follow those promptings.  

The scripture that inspired the the youth theme this year is found in 2 Nephi 31:20: "Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men.  Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life."

Can you imagine how beautiful the world would be if everyone spent an entire year with this as their focus? 

Kenz, you're going to love this...