Monday, May 13, 2013

Our Mother's Day Bike Adventure: Delirious, Stranded, and Blessed!!

In my previous post, I wrote about my excitement to go on an adventurous bicycle ride with Abe and all 6 kids.  It would be 35 miles one way; and although it would be a challenge, this was what I really wanted to do as a family for Mother's Day.

On our way to the trail head, the rain came down hard, and the weather was very chilly... in the 40's.  We were leaving 3 hours later than when we wanted.  I kept telling the children that we could get really cold and wet if we still went.  I asked them over and over again if they still wanted to go; they assured me that they did.  I told them to pray with all the faith they had because the weather was looking pretty severe.

When we arrived at the trailhead, there were a few people who were finishing up a fund-raiser.  The man in charge looked at me and said, "I have to warn you... there is some ugly weather coming in."  I said, "I know, but there's no lightning, right?"  He said, "No, but let me check again."

He pulled out his phone and looked closer at the screen.  He looked up at me and said, "Wow!  That's strange.  It looks like the storm must have turned up north!"  It was still drizzling at this point, but I was so grateful that the bigger storm miraculously made a turn!

I put Juliana on the seat behind me and Jayden in the cart trailing me.  In the cart, I also carried gatorades, sleeping bags, extra clothes for rain, food, and emergency kits.  I had at least 100 lbs in tow.

Abe borrowed a friend's bike... it was a Cruiser- just a little fyi:  A Cruiser is not the kind of bike you want to take on a 35 mile bike ride!  What a special memory Mariah will always have riding behind her daddy for an entire day.  Jackson, Tyson, Jordan, and Mariah carried their own backpacks of extra clothes and a few of their own waters and snacks.  Their bags were heavy and bulky... but they were on an adventure and acting very, very brave.

Before we left, the man gave us some parting advice:

"An adventure isn't an adventure if you know how it's going to turn out in the end, so...

GO HAVE AN ADVENTURE!!"

I love adventures, but my first thought was, "I pretty much know how this trip is going to turn out in the end because we have everything all planned out."

Oh the surprises and miracles that would await us!

We got on our bikes prepared for the worst.  Our first surprise/miracle was that the rain completely stopped just as we were getting ready to leave!!





We started down the trail, and I couldn't stop talking about the beauty surrounding us.


After riding for only about 15 minutes, it got even better... 

The clouds actually opened up to blue skies!!  I yelled out, "Blue skies?  Guys!!  Are you kidding?  Do you see those blue skies?"  The blue skies were actually reflecting off the water!  Blue skies were definitely not in the forecast!!  We knew this was surely a message and a miracle from God that HE was with us. That knowledge of God's presence would prove to be a CRUCIAL source for our faith in our upcoming trials.


After only 5 miles, 7 year old Jordan saw a sign that read, "28 miles."  He shouted excitedly, "We're almost there!  We've gone 28 miles!"  I hated to break the news to him that we had more than 28 miles to go!!

The Wind Storm

We were traveling at a decent speed until the path opened up to farm land right at the moment when a wind storm hit.  I couldn't believe how hard I had to push to barely even move a few feet.


We were laughing hysterically at how difficult it was to bike.  I heard everyone yelling, "What's happening to us?"  It was such a strange feeling to not be able to move.

Tyson yelled out, "The wind is defeating me!!"

Jackson shouted wildly, "What is this?  Kansas or something?"

I hardly had any energy to encourage them.  I had to stand and put all of my weight on each peddle to barely move forward.  I was concentrating so hard on moving my 100lb trailer that I didn't see poor Jordan.

I finally looked back, and this is how I found him...


The wind had completely blown him over!  He had rolled over trying to stand up again with his heavy backpack.  I couldn't stop laughing!  We took a 5 minute break after the wind storm to eat some snacks and to recharge all of our poor bodies.

Songs, Prayers, and Animals

After riding for a few hours, I looked over at Abe and said, "You're not smiling very much."  (Mind you, he never wanted to do this bike ride in the first place- he was there to lovingly support his wife.)  

Taking my comment well, my cute husband started to sing his heart out; and in turn, his bicycle tandem partner, Mariah, sang her heart out too.  They sang songs from musicals, and Abe taught her some Elvis songs.  They sang boisterously for several miles!!  

As they sang, I went ahead and traveled alone for a while... I began to pray and to thank God for such a beautiful adventure.  As I took that alone time to talk to God and feel his peace, the pain in my legs went away.  The thought came strongly to me:  "Even though everyone was tired, all would be ok... there were great lessons to be learned and felt."

After my time of pondering with God, I raced ahead to check on the boys... A few miles previously they had been moaning about their backs and legs that were in pain.  I said, "Boys, are you tired?"  They replied, "No, but did you know that if a cheetah runs more than 200 meters, it could die?"  

I couldn't help but laugh.  My family was doing just fine... singing, praying, and talking about animals.  The babies were AMAZING!!  They just talked jibberish and hummed most of the way.  I traded their positions after a while and put Jayden in the seat behind me.  I felt like the angels were by their sides because they were so happy... hour after hour after hour!

Delirious

At around mile 25 or so, we all started to get really tired again.  We had been biking on rough terrain with heavy bags for over 4 hours.  

Out of the blue, an old lady with doingy butterflies bouncing off her hat, drove down our bike path in a small motorized vehicle.  She drove straight toward us, and Jackson rode his bike straight toward her.  We all yelled at the top of our lungs, "JACKSON!!!!  GET OUT OF THE WAY!!"  He quickly swerved away at the last second.  I said, "Jackson, what were you doing?  Why didn't you move?"  He just kept saying, "There aren't supposed to be motorized vehicles on this path!"  I think he was just REALLY delirious and had entered another world of thought.

Soon after, I watched Jordan turn his wheels off the path and ride straight into the woods!  I was weak from laughing.  We all yelled again, "JORDAN!!!!  WHAT ARE YOU DOING??? "  Once again, I think delirium was the cause.

We decided to take a short snack, drink, and... a potty break- Mariah was taught the ways of the forest by her mother. :-)  As we pressed forward, Tyson informed me that his peddle had broken off about a mile previously.  He had been riding on only the rod that protrudes! I don't know how, but he said he didn't notice he had lost it until about a mile too late.  I felt so bad for him. 

Exhausted, we saw a hill coming up.  I yelled up to the kids, "I CAN DO HARD THINGS!!!"  They yelled back, "I CAN DO HARD THINGS!!"  We repeated this over and over again until we made it to the top of the hill.

Stranded

As we continued on, we were energized by the beauty of the sun setting and shadowy forests.

We had brought two head lamps, but the extra batteries were left in the car.  I was the only one with the head lamp that worked.  Abe was the caboose and reminded the children often:  "Keep your eyes on Mommy's light."

We were getting so close, and everyone anxiously anticipated each announcement of a mile conquered.  "How many more miles?" was a question I heard at this point about every 5 minutes.  We had already seen one set of beady, glowing eyes in the woods.  We assumed it was a deer, but we pressed forward a little faster anyway.

I called the lady at our campground to tell her that I thought we were about 3 miles away.

From our conversation earlier that day, I was told that the campsite was at the end of the trail off Blue Star Highway.  She told me I couldn't miss it.  I was told there would be a sign pointing the way to go.  She said it was 2/10ths of a mile off the trail at the end.

After we road our bikes another 3 miles and under a highway, I decided to call the campsite again.  It was now 10:20pm.  I told her where we were, and she said nonchalantly, "Oh you passed us 5 miles ago."  

There was no way we could all ride another 5 miles!  We thought we were done!  Our bodies ached, and we were exhausted.  We wouldn't arrive until 11:30 if we were to go back to the campground!  The kids started to cry, and I told them how sorry I was.  Jordan comforted me assuring me that it wasn't my fault.

The only way to the nearest hotels would be to ride along the highway.  That would be entirely too dangerous, so that was not an option either.

Abe took over, put the head lamp on, and led us through a muddy passageway to get to the edge of the highway.  He called hotels and taxi services trying to find a shuttle.  Nobody had anything that could transport all 8 of us with our bikes!!  

Then, with tears dripping out of his little eyes, Tyson said, "Mommy, this isn't a miracle." 

Oh my heart broke to hear him say this; but at the same time, hearing his perspective, I knew that this was exactly where we needed to be.  If everything had gone exactly as planned, there would not have been an opportunity to teach my children that God is still taking care of us even when it seems like everything is going wrong.  

I reminded Tyson that God showed us blue skies when we started our journey to let us know that HE was watching us and taking care of us.  I taught him that this was the perfect opportunity for him to put his faith in God, and I encouraged him to keep watching for God's miracles. 

It was cold.  It was late.  It was dark.  Coyotes howled in the distance. We didn't know anybody close by.  We had been on the trail now for over 6 hours, and here we were standing on the side of the highway trying to come up with a solution... but we knew that God was with us, and we would find a way.


Blessed

 One of our apostles, Elder David A. Bednar, said this in the October, 2007 issue of the Friend magazine:

"One of the primary purposes of mortality is to learn- to gain knowledge and intelligence.  Doctrine and Covenants 93:36 states, 'The glory of God is intelligence.' ...The real value of learning is that it enables you in any situation to be resourceful- to figure out what to do when you have no idea what to do!"

The best thing we knew how to do at this point was to pray.  We gathered together as a family, and Abe gave the most beautiful prayer for our family.  

I suggested that we call someone from our church.  Our church has a website (www.lds.org) which gives us the local leaders' phone numbers.  We did not even know the leaders here, but we called anyway.  We're a worldwide family in Christ ready to help each other- members or not.  

Abe called the 2nd counselor to the Branch President.  His wife answered a little warily- we were calling after 11pm after all.  Abe explained our problem, and they promised to come right away to rescue us.  

As we waited, I felt an overwhelming love for my champion, Abe.

I was overjoyed to know that help was coming.

Happy little Jackson never complained about anything.

Sweet little Tyson's tender heart was trying to find his hope again.

Tough little Jordan rode his bike like a champ and was completely exhausted.

Beautiful little Mariah laid down to rest while we waited.  She smiled knowing that help was coming.

Cute little Juliana- so cozy in the cart- had no stress in the world.

...and precious little Jayden slept ever so soundly- oblivious to the happenings around him.

After about only 15 more minutes, we saw the happiest sight!  Two cars- after the hundreds- pulled over to the side of the highway.  The counselor, his son, and his son's friend came to help us.  The kids and I went with the counselor, and Abe traveled with the 2 teenage boys in their car to return to get a suburban for our bikes.  

When the kids and I entered the hotel, the manager passed out treats and drinks to all of my children and informed us we would have a free, hot, big, all-you-can-eat breakfast in the morning... that was MUCH better than our campground had to offer!  She had lowered the price of our room to be only 5 more dollars than our cabin would have cost.

Jayden, Juliana, and Mariah literally bounced around the hotel room with excitement while the older boys collapsed on the beds and floor.  Abe returned shortly after with all of the bikes and the rest of our luggage, and by around 1:30am we all finally got to sleep.  

The Miracles Continued at Church


I lay in bed Saturday night and mulled over all the options of how to get ourselves home the next day.  I knew the kids were too exhausted to make the now 37 mile bike trip back home from the hotel after such a late and extended trip. Tyson's pedal was gone, and their bodies needed more sleep.  I told Abe I could ride back by myself and get the van.  It didn't think it would be as hard on the return without the trailer.  He refused that idea.  I considered calling friends with big vans who we could pay to come pick us up... but we didn't want to bother them on Mother's Day.

Finally, I told God that I was having a hard time asking for more help because I was the one who caused this mess.  I asked HIM to help us solve our problem again.  I was awakened the very next morning with a phone call from the 2nd Counselor offering a solution.  He had been in a meeting already that morning with other church leaders.  He wanted to take us all to church that morning and then take Abe to our van in Kalamazoo after Sacrament meeting.  He insisted on helping and offered with so much love in his voice that I couldn't help but humble myself and accept his help.  

We ate our wonderful, hot breakfast and all went to church in our sweatsuits.  We tried to be inconspicuous in the back, but the Branch President welcomed us and asked Abe to stand.  Because of Stake Conference the week before, it was testimony meeting. 

Jackson, Jordan, and Mariah all walked to the front of the church in their sweats to bear their testimonies.  Then, I felt the Spirit speak deep within my heart, and I knew that I, too, needed to stand and bear my testimony.  

I apologized for my attire and watched the reassuring smiles from several members letting me know that they were just glad we were there no matter what we looked like.  I cried as I shared the miracles from God.

During the Sunday school class, a brother made a comment that he knew we were supposed to miss our turn to the campground.  He proceeded to say that there was a particular family that needed to hear our testimonies that day.  They were learning about the church, and this was the 1st Sunday they had come in almost 2 months.  Then, with all the faith in the world, this brother approached me privately and said, "When I said that this family was supposed to hear your testimonies, I felt the Spirit very strong, so I know it's true."  

Then, the wife and children of the 2nd Counselor told me how valuable of an experience it was for their teenager and his friend to have that opportunity to serve.  The friend, who does not go to church, kept asking the counselor, "Now, how did they get your phone number?  Who are these people?"  These boys followed the perfect example of charity that this father set as he served complete strangers in the middle of the night.   And the counselor's son??  Well, he is leaving to be a missionary in Chile in only 2 short months.  He will serve his Savior well.

Amazing Lessons Learned!!


On the way home, I asked each of the children what they learned from the experience:

*Jordan said, "I learned to just keep going and never quit!!  Call the church!  Even when you're stuck in a tiger's cage, call the church!"

*Tyson said, "I learned that God has his hands in everything, and I learned to keep going no matter what."

*Jackson said, "I learned to not mess with mother nature."

*Mariah said, "I learned to keep going; and even though I hurt, I can keep going."  

Would these children have learned these lessons so deeply if all had gone as planned?  Absolutely not.  Was the extra exhaustion worth the opportunity that we had to exercise more faith?  Most definitely.  

I have learned and accepted that more often than not, things do not go as planned, but we can count on the fact that God is ALWAYS working miracles in our lives.  HE sees the grander picture.