Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Beauty of the Uphill

I LOVE mountain climbing. There is something so healing and thrilling about standing on top of a 11,000 or 12,000 ft peak, and knowing you walked every step to get there. I love being on top and looking out across the variety of surroundings, seeing other peaks, tiny houses, lakes and a multitude of clouds. For me, it is so healing.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a family who was constantly climbing peaks. I began climbing local peaks around my family's home in layton in elementary school, the Middle Teton at age 12, and haven't stopped since. I think what I enjoy the most about climbing, even more than summiting, is a moral lesson I always learn somewhere along the trail.

Two weeks ago, my husband and I, along with my parents, decided to climb Lone Peak, via the Jacob's Ladder trail. I had been somewhat warned before hand, that this trail was steep, and it was steep for awhile. I don't think I truly understood what this warning was all about until the easy trail branched off into an intense almost vertical trail up the side of the mountain, the Jacob's Ladder part.

My calves and quads and lungs were all burning, screaming at me "Oh please, please stop doing this to us!" "Why are you even doing this?" The breakfast I had eaten at 6am was now long burned off, and I could feel my blood sugar dropping. I felt myself wanting to give up, and saying along with my burning muscles, "why am I even doing this?" "Is it even worth it?" I think I even said, "I hate this."

But, giving up isn't in my nature. So we pushed on, and eventually made it past the really hard steep stuff. Then the climb became quite fun and adventurous for me, scrambling over big boulders up cliffs and along beautiful gray and green granite. I fell in love with the mountain. And oh, I cannot even say enough about the view from the top. It's a skinny rock on top, but a fellow climber convinced us (I required no convincing) to take jumping pictures from the top. I found myself thinking, "This is the best hike ever."

It wasn't until the following Sunday that I found the moral lesson I had been seeking from the Lone Peak climbing trip. It came as I pondered my mission, and the time that has elapsed since. On December 1st, it will be one year that I have been home. For me, that is so hard to believe. It seems like just yesterday, but also, like a lifetime ago. So much has happened, so much of me has changed.

After reaching the top of Lone Peak, coming back down was quite fun, and equally beautiful. I found myself noticing so much more beauty that surrounded me, that I had so easily missed on the way up. How did I not see these beautiful leaves? How did I miss that exquisite meadow? I was too focused on the pain, too focused on how much I hated what I was going through. As I thought about this, how I walked through the meadows and the changing leaves the first time, not even seeing them, I realized I had also done this in my life since coming home from my mission.

After returning home, I kicked and I fought and I cried and I pleaded for all of those bad experiences and feelings and pain to just be over. I didn't understand why I was going through what I was, or why anything had even happened. Mentally and physically I just wanted to give up, I was exhausted.

But giving up is not in my nature. So I kept pushing on. Now I am at a place, walking through the changing leaves and the beautiful meadows and realizing how easily I had missed God's hand in my life this whole past year, leading me to the beautiful place I am now. I have been richly blessed with experiences that have changed me. I have been showered in an abundance of love from my family and people around me. I have had many opportunities to reach out to others who too were struggling. But I was too focused on the pain to notice the small miracles. Too consumed with the dark to appreciate the overflowing of light. Sure, the path was very difficult, as was Jacob's Ladder, but there is so much beauty in the uphill. And if we are not careful, we will miss it all.

Now, I am not saying I have reached the top of my peak. I am sure there are MANY more peaks, many more hard experiences and difficult situations to come, but I have learned a powerful lesson. God is so aware of us, and He loves us enough to sometimes give us trails that go straight up the mountain. It may be more than we think we can bare, and without Him and his love, perhaps it would be. But I know he can and will help us push on. He can help us open our eyes and see the beauty that surrounds us, even when the trail is steep.

Don't give up. Even though the trail seems endless. Keep pushing. You are surrounded by love and beauty, even in the uphill.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Rain, Bullets and Eternal Prospective

Hi fam, I had a pretty slow week. It rained a lot and flooded a lot. We were on tornado lock down for one of those evenings so we were pretty bored. I have been enjoying this rain a lot. I just wish that I could go hiking in it or something. I have been wanting to go fishing in the bayou right next to our area but my comp inst very interested in that kind of stuff. I learned how to rig my line for Alligator gar and hope to one day try it out. There are so many opportunities down here that a lot of people don't get anywhere else... I don't want them to pass me by.

So this week I got a good laugh. We went to this old guys home and it seemed like he wanted us to stay and chill with him because he kept asking us if we wanted to see all kinds of his different toys. Once he was done showing us his HAM radio set up he asked us if we wanted to see his guns. We said of course and he turned around and started opening this huge safe that was in the room (the man cave). He started showing us all kinds of guns from WW2. After that he showed us all of his assault rifles and some long range rifles including a sniper rifle that he built from a kit. After that he showed us all different varieties of hand guns. When I thought he was all done with them he turned around facing his closet with a small hand gun and cocked it back to see if it was empty. After looking at the empty chamber He let go of the top of the gun causing the firing pin to come down and BAAAAM!!! hahahha he set a round off in his house straight into his floor. He jumped in the air with surprise and looked at us with a look of shock on his face. He then looked down at the hole in his floor and rambled off a few cuss words haha. The bullet was all ready in the barrel and he couldn't see it. I was sitting there not knowing what to think of the situation and trying not to show any body language that I found it somewhat amusing. His wife came into the room screaming at him hahah.. Get rid of that stupid gun!!! We are lucky he didn't shoot one of us or himself but hey.. all you can do is learn from it now haha. He was done showing us his toys after that and drove us home.

We went on exchanges this week. I was in Baton Rouge with the Zone Leaders because I also had a Doctors appointment there. It was the most amazing thing that I have ever seen. I walked in late to my appointment because of traffic and I didn't even wait in the lobby. They put me in a room right away and the doctor came in 5 minutes later. Louisiana fast! The doctor had a young Med student that he was training so he was going out of his way that day to show him how to get the job done and do it right (made all the difference). He checked me out and sent me over to a different appointment that was a physical therapy place for the LSU baseball team on that same day and time. I went over there straight from the doctors and they were awesome there... SO much better then the last place I went to. The owner there was such a cool dude and I had a lot of one on one time for him to help me out. They put me on a machine that diagnosed my muscle strength within 15 minutes of me working out on it and He gave me what I needed to do for workouts and a lot of things that I have been wanting to hear. I know that I am blessed and that god is constantly giving me tender mercies. My shoulder is fine but I am trying to build it to its full potential. 

I am sorry to hear about the loss this week of Uncle Vernal. It made me think of a young man that we prayed with this week who had lost the person who raised him as a kid. He was crying and didn't want to let her go. I am glad to be here as a testimony of an eternal prospective. I taught on the Atonement this week at church also and I said some similar things. Every person strives to better themselves in some way either big or small. We as imperfect human beings have that characteristic. God views us as foolish and short sighted at times because God has an eternal prospective and knows what is best for us when we do not. We get ourselves in debt every day with our actions but an eternal life offers us the opportunity to change and to grow. This is the message of Jesus Christ (The Atonement).

I have had a good week and am holding in there. I hope y'all are doing well. Love ya!
Elder Cooley