Monday, April 29, 2013

This Is My Quest . . .

It seems that we all get bitten by the genealogy bug at some point in our lives. (Note: My mother will deny this fact. She purposely assigned out the 4 main branches of our family tree to her four children in the hopes that we would take care of this "tedious task.")

I'll admit that I didn't really get into the family history adventure for several years. Being a wife, a mother of three active boys, a frequent YW leader, camp director, etc. not to mention the tendency to dabble a bit in the writing world occupied most of my time. Then one night I experienced a vivid dream--something that would draw me deep inside the realm of genealogy.

In this dream, my mother led me to a building and indicated that I needed to venture inside. When I did, I met a woman who was dressed in the traditional pilgrim attire. She was tall, slender, blonde, blue-eyed, and beautiful. She told me her name (Mercy Young) and shared that she was one of my ancestors. I stood there in a slight state of shock, wondering why I hadn't taken after her side of the family. (My sense of humor often carries over into my dreams. Yeah, I'm weird like that.)

As the dream continued, she told me some things I needed to know concerning a situation I had been praying about. Then she gestured to several people who were hidden in the shadows and told me that I needed to find them.

When I woke up, I was filled with a burning desire to discover if this dream was on the mark. I called my mother and asked if there was a Mercy Young on her side of the family tree. She replied that she had never heard this name before and didn't think so. A bit discouraged, I continued my research  . . . and eventually discovered that Ida Mercy Young was my fifth great-grandmother. I also found that she was on the branch of the family tree that I had been assigned to tackle.

I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed by this discovery. Mercy Young was real . . . she truly was one of my ancestors. After that, I began thinking about the advice she had given me in the dream. I took it to heart and did exactly as she had instructed--and things fell into place, just as she had promised. After that, I began trying to return the favor by researching her family lines, desperately seeking those who were in the shadows.

Several years have passed. I have two large files filled with information, pedigree charts, family group records, and a 15-generation chart that begins with Mercy Young. Through the research that I have completed on her line, I have discovered several pilgrim ancestors, and a few Native Americans from the Wampanoag tribe. Yep, we had ancestors sitting on both sides of that first Thanksgiving table.

It has been a fascinating journey discovering who these people are. I have found stories of courage, devotion, and humor. (Yes, one of my ancestors [John Howland] had the misfortune of falling off the Mayflower. This explains my lack of grace upon occasion. It seems to be a family trait.)

I found out that one of my ancestors was a gypsy, sent from England to the New World as a punishment for some minor infraction of the law. Because of who he was, he wasn't allowed to date any of the pilgrim daughters. Instead, he spent time with the Wampanoag tribe and eventually married Mary (Little Dove) Hyanno, the granddaughter of the chief.

William Brewster, one of the religious leaders of the Plymouth Colony, is also one of my beloved ancestors. His example of perseverance and courage has touched my heart in many ways. He stood firmly for what he believed throughout his life, and though he often paid a high price for his convictions, he never shied away from what he knew was right. 

I could go on and on . . . but I will spare you further details of my ancestral "peeps." Instead, I will challenge you to seek out your own--if you aren't already doing so. I can promise that it will be one of the most fascinating journeys through history that you will ever experience. And weird things will happen, like the book one of my cousins happened to mention to me during a family reunion last year. This awesome book contains biographies of several of my ancestors, and I didn't even know it existed until last summer. It has helped fill in some of the missing pieces to the family puzzle I'm still trying to assemble.

The other perk I've noticed is a love that develops between yourself, and your ancestors. I will always be grateful to Mercy Young for the "boot to the head" moment we shared during that brief, but unforgettable dream. And I hope someday, when my adventure of a lifetime is finished, I can meet some of these people, knowing I have done my best to bring honor to our family name.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Steering Past the Iceberg

A few months shy of twenty-five years ago, I was sitting in a doctor's office trying to keep my emotions under control. I had just been informed that I was expecting our third child, and things were going horribly wrong. I was told it was a combination of health issues: the fact that I was a Type 1 diabetic--which can cause all kinds of complications, and I had suffered through a miscarriage two months before. Still hemorrhaging from that heartbreaking adventure, it looked as though I would be facing a similar outcome this time as well. The specialist who had handled my previous two pregnancies smiled kindly and said, "It would be a blessing if you miscarried this child--he or she will never be normal. There will be severe birth defects and your life will be on the line." He went on to say that if I didn't miscarry, I should consider having an abortion since my life was at risk.

Understandably, my heart shattered over this verdict. I was sent home to think about the situation, and I'll admit, I cried during most of the trip back to Idaho. (The specialist was in Utah.) After prayerful consideration, my husband and I decided that regardless of the outcome, I would see this pregnancy through to the end. I had been given a priesthood blessing and I was promised that this child would be born healthy and strong, according to my faith. Wow . . . no pressure. ;)

The following months proved to be extremely challenging. I learned to take each day as it came, and did my best to keep blood sugar levels under control, something that is a challenge during any pregnancy. I saw the specialist nearly once a week for the next couple of months. Each time his opinion was grave--he was convinced I was a human Titanic, heading directly toward a massive iceberg. He made it a point to list every possible thing that he was convinced would go wrong with my baby, and me. We fought a battle of wills as I stubbornly held my ground and refused to budge. I would not terminate this child--by then I had received a strong spiritual witness that I needed to trust in the Lord and see this situation through.

I suspect we all face trials of this nature. The situations differ, the heartaches vary, but we are stretched beyond what we think we can survive. And just when we think we can't take one more thing, if we'll open our hearts, we can receive added strength from a heavenly source. I testify this is a real blessing that can come into our lives compliments of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We've all probably heard the story of the small child who desired a bicycle. He worked very hard and saved every penny earned, but he was only able to come up with a small portion of the actual cost. The story goes on to say that the father of this child made up the difference, making the purchase of the bicycle possible. So it is with the Atonement. Not only did the Savior suffer for our mistakes in the Garden of Gethsemane, but He also endured every pain and heartache we would face. (See Alma 7:11) As such, He knows best how to help us heal, and how to make up the difference when we have given all that we can, and still face an overwhelming cost.

I will stress that sometimes, despite our best efforts and heaven's help, the answer is simply "no." We are limited in knowing why that is on occasion, but we are promised that someday, all that was lost will be restored in a better setting. It is once again a test of faith and endurance, but we are never left alone to face those agonizing moments of growth. Even when the answer is "yes," it can be an uphill battle against challenging odds.

This past weekend, I tearfully sat through a graduation ceremony at BYU-Idaho as my third son accepted his diploma for a Bachelor degree in biology. He is planning on going onto medical school to become a physician. As he walked across the stage with his beautiful wife, Emily, who also received her bachelor degree that night, I marveled over the morning he was born, twenty-five years ago in April of 1988.

It had been an extremely rough pregnancy, just as my doctor predicted. I spent the final two weeks pretty much bed-ridden since my blood pressure plummeted each time I stood up. It dropped dangerously low just before the c-section, nearly taking my life. The operating table had to be tipped sideways for the c-section so that my blood flow wasn't hampered during the surgery. It was all very scary, but so worth it in the end. I'll never forget the look on my doctor's face when Devin was delivered and he held up my son for me to see. "He is healthy," he said repeatedly, the tears rolling down his face. "I don't know how this happened, but you have delivered a beautiful, healthy baby boy!" I knew how it had happened, and I've always known Who to thank for that miraculous outcome. Not only had this Titanic been carefully steered past the giant iceberg, but I had been drawn into a safe harbor, and given a precious gift I've always treasured--a wonderful son, and the knowledge that no matter what I face in this world, I will never do so alone.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Making the Journey

About two weeks ago I was asked to speak and provide a musical number for a Relief Society celebration in a ward in our stake. As the day approached some thoughts came to mind and I was able to polish a little ditty I had written about four years ago. Feeling I was somewhat prepared, I didn't stress over this event. Then the day in question arrived, and everything seemed to hit the fan.

I have a form of rheumatoid arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis. (Yes, that is a mouthful to say.) This lovely disease tends to attack my lower spine and hips with a fury, making life entertaining. As with most people who endure arthritis, I've noticed that barometric pressure changes inspire flare-ups. This was one of the whammys I experienced that day.

When an arthritic moment from hades tries to disrupt my life, I usually do my best to push forward. For me it helps to keep moving. As such, I went on with my day, striving to accomplish the list of errands I needed to complete.

I managed to keep up fairly well until about an hour before the speaking engagement. Then my body decided to show me who was boss yet again. My blood sugar plummeted to 54, something that often happens when I'm in a bit of pain. As a Type 1 diabetic, this is not an unusual occurrence. However, unlike most insulin reactions that I endure on a regular basis, this one didn't want to go away. Thirty minutes later, despite my attempts to bring that level back to a normal range, it refused to budge. So I brought out the big guns, since I was supposed to head to town for the Relief Society dinner in a few minutes. This time I guzzled Gatorade, which usually helps to balance things out. As my blood sugar level ricocheted the other direction, I felt ever so lovely. Ignoring the nausea, I changed clothes, grabbed my guitar, and headed out to the car to drive to town.

By the time I arrived at the church house, my blood sugar was in the high 300's and I felt like the last chapter, so to speak. I punched in a dose of insulin on my insulin pump to bring my blood sugar down to a normal level for me (I try to keep it around 120-150) and I hoped for the best.

Since that level was so high, I just sipped water while the other women ate their dinner. I sat by a good friend who happens to be in that ward and she offered sympathy over my plight. We walk together quite often and she understood why I couldn't eat the delicious looking chicken salad with a tempting raspberry sauce. A few minutes before I was supposed to provide the program, I slipped out to do a final check on my blood sugar. It was now in the low 400 range--adding to my discomfort. I punched in more insulin, offered a quick but sincere prayer for help, and returned to the Relief Society party.

As I've seen in the past, when something is important, and I've done all I can to prepare, heavenly help is provided to get me through. It was the case that night. I stood before those women, feeling quite horrible, then the quiet peace of the Spirit slipped inside my heart, and I knew I wasn't facing this challenge alone. During the time I spoke and performed the musical number, I was sustained in a heavenly fashion. I was granted strength beyond my own and was able to convey the inspired message our Father desired his daughters to hear that night.

When it was over, I was amazed by the help I had received, and I knew who it was I needed to thank for that divine intervention. The nausea, headache, and arthritic pain returned, but an inner glow softened their impact as I gathered my things and drove home.

It was a nice reminder that no matter what we're facing, we are never as alone as we sometimes think we are. And despite overwhelming odds, we can rise above the obstacles in our way to become instruments in our Father's hands. The extra help we need is provided as long as we are willing to humbly ask for it, and possess the faith to make good things happen. It isn't always easy, and I will admit that there are times when I feel like curling up in a corner, refusing to take one more step because it hurts too much. Those are the moments when I need to push the pain aside and rely on the healing power of peace that is available for anyone who desires to keep moving forward on life's journey.