Emily Belle Freeman
IMG_0901ed.jpg

THIS IS MY JOY

AND MY GREAT REJOICING

Rocky Ridge

IMG_2521 It rained on Pioneer Trek. The kind of rain that pelts your skin, soaks to the bone, chills you through.

It came down hard and fast, the dark clouds splitting open, unleashing torrents of rain.  At first it was a reprieve from the blistering sun.  But it wasn't long before it drenched our clothes adding extra weight to the journey.  Shoes, once a means of protection, became a danger for blisters.

I walked against the rain.  Head down, bonnet protecting my face against the fury.

IMG_2752

At one point I lost sight of the goal, putting just one foot in front of the other, focused only on the path ahead of each step…nothing more than that.

And I wondered how many days the pioneers walked like that.

Head down.

Focused on the path ahead of each step.

What was it that pushed them forward on those days?  That thought occupied my brain as the rain fell down, step after step until the answer finally settled in my heart.

The simplicity captivated me.

A prophet.

A book.

A temple.

That's it.  That's what they clung to.  When the rain soaked in, when the snow seared through blistered and bloody feet, when hunger gnawed relentless.  Up rocky ridges, across frozen rivers, against the biting winds of Wyoming.

A prophet.

A book.

A temple.

It was what they held onto.

IMG_2818

On the last day the sun inched its way up over the horizon.  We stood at the base of Rocky Ridge determined to walk the trail we had heard so many stories about.

They call it the trail of blood.

In ninety degree weather it was hard to imagine below zero, snow obscuring the trail, bare and bloody feet slipping over sharp and frozen rocks.  To think of cracked and frozen hands grasping to the handle of a cart filled full of belongings, filled full of loved ones, filled full of a burden you no longer have the energy to bear.

I closed my eyes and tried to imagine as we started off, and then I opened them and looked up to the trail ahead.

IMG_2807

You see them walking there?

It is more than 150 years since that November night, and yet they know what it is to bear burdens.  To struggle in the battle between God and mortality.  To fight against the challenges of our day …not snow, sleet, or rocky passes that seem unsurmountable, but challenges that are just as hard to pass through.

God knows how to refine a soul.  He knows the battles that will besiege us.  Our generation?  We walk the same rocky ridges as those who went before.  Ours may have different names, but the burden that exhausts…it is the same.

For each it is a struggle that has the potential to destroy us.

And yet, God is there.

And he sends rescuers to walk with us.

To strengthen us.  To guide us.  To protect.

I wonder, when Ephraim showed up with the buffalo meet if there were any who said, "No thanks"?

The thought seems preposterous.

But how many of us turn our backs to those who reach out a hand of rescue instead of leaning in, finding strength there, holding on.

It was when we reached the top that I studied these three boys.

IMG_2839

Mine has been the privilege to watch over them for many years.  I have seen them there for each other every time the path has gotten rocky.  To lift, to strengthen, to pull each other through.

They know what it is to rescue.

Even more important, they know what it is to be rescued.

And through the process they are coming to know God.  All three learning in to Him.  I see them pushing through…sometimes with head down just one step at a time…focused only on the path ahead.

And clinging.

To a prophet.

A book.

A temple.

Sometimes they come to me, holy scriptures clasped in humble hands, and they read verses and teach me truths I would never have come to understand unless I saw them through their eyes.  And in those moments I know, in the deepest part of this heart of mine, that they will see this journey through.

IMG_2764IMG_2766

IMG_2784

IMG_2777

IMG_2790IMG_2855

 

 

 

Emily Freeman