A woman from the ward my in-laws recently moved from knew about my books (basically because my mother-in-law brags about me almost as much as my own mother does . . . it rocks) and that they were about the Utah temples. When she was put in charge of Girls Camp, she felt that I should be the person to come speak to the girls about that topic.
My mother-in-law put us in touch, and I agreed to go with them on a hike, where we'd eat lunch, and then I'd give a talk about temples using some of the research I've done. This was scheduled a couple of months ago.
We had to do some tricky arranging because I have two children with birthdays this week and other busy, crazy stuff, but it all seemed to be working out, largely thanks to my sweet in-laws who stepped in and made it all possible.
But then, about a week and half before I was to speak, I got a flu-like virus. (People keep asking if it was swine flu. Could have been; fit the symptoms, but the doctor never tested for it.)
I rarely get sick. Yes, I have my daily, chronic headaches to deal with and then migraines, and I have various ways of dealing with them.
But sick sick is something else, and this flu knocked me upside down and inside out. I felt like something in a WWF ring hit with a metal chair, and it left me lying like a lump of mashed potatoes.
For days, I couldn't stand to be vertical for more than about ten minutes. I have a headache calendar I'm supposed to be tracking my headaches for my neurologist . . . and during that time I had NO CLUE what to write on it, because my entire body ached so intensely the entire time, I couldn't separate what was headache and what was flu.
Worse, my husband caught it too. We were a lovely pair lying around with aches and pains, groaning and moaning. Our poor kids were pretty much ignored. Fortunately, they're old enough to forage in the pantry and take care of each other.
By the time the trip came around, my energy was pretty much back, but I had one lingering symptom: a hideous cough that just wouldn't go away. The day we packed up, the more I ran through the house getting ready, the heavier I breathed, the harder and harder these racking, nasty hideous, bone-shattering coughs came out.
And I worried.
How was I supposed to go on a hike breathing heavily and then (surely hacking up a lung) speak for an hour to these girls about an important topic?
How would I be capable of bringing in the Spirit and touching these girls' hearts so they felt in their souls that God loved them, that He wanted them to come home to Him and that the temple was the path to get them there?
How could I tell some of the stories I'd uncovered in my research of Logan, St. George, Salt Lake, and Manti, and relate them to their lives without messing it all up by gagging and hacking every three seconds?
As things stood, I couldn't. That was simple fact. I was coughing. All. The. Time.
I will admit that as an author, sometimes an appearance is about ME. At book signings, I want to look good. Maybe even if I teach a workshop, I want to make sure that not only do the writers in the room learn something, but they leave with a good impression of me.
But this was NOT one of those times. I didn't care one snit if anyone in that group ever bought one of my books. This wasn't about me. This was about about something so much bigger. This was about youth learning important truths and learning to feel the Spirit.
And I needed help.
Before we went to bed that night, and because I'm a grown-up who frankly lacks the faith of a child (and who believes that children's prayers sometimes have more power than those of grown-ups), after I gathered my four kids around me for family prayer (husband had stayed home for work), I asked a favor of each of them: before they went to bed, to say a little prayer for me that during the hike and my talk that the cough would go away. They all promised and gave me big hugs.
Before going to bed, I personally prayed hard and long. I had a difficult time getting to sleep because of the coughing. There was a really bad episode around midnight. It was so bad that one of my daughters whispered from her bed, "Mom, were you throwing up?"
My MIL and I left early the next morning, and I was still coughing. I was nervous, but I clung to the fact that I'd done everything I could: I loaded up on cough drops (I didn't take the prescription syrup, because that would make me drowsy--not good for driving), I'd prayed and kept praying, and my kids were praying for me. I'd prepared for my talk the best I could. The rest was up to the Lord.
I had a warm welcome by the Girls Camp leaders and girls. They were awesome. They even gave me a great gift: a red camping chair that they'd all signed. My cough had somewhat abated (meaning I no longer sounded like I was ready to lose a lung), but the hike was yet to come.
I'm not in bad shape, but for someone with a cough, the hike turned out to be much steeper and rougher than I'd anticipated. My breathing was hard. I was terrified. More than once I worried that if it went on much longer, I'd collapse into a coughing fit. (Oh ye of little faith . . .) I coughed three or four times during the hike, but to my surprise, not much.
We arrived at the devotional site and sat down. I popped in probably my fourth cough drop of the day, said one more mental prayer, and began.
Over the next hour, I cleared my throat a couple of times, but I don't remember coughing more than lightly once or twice.
I do remember saying a few things I hadn't planned on. I remember certain faces lighting up at various stories. I remember smiles at others. I remember a warm feeling in my own heart. I had several leaders come to me later with thank yous and gratitude and other words that touched me.
It's hard to read the faces of youth, but I hope some of what I said hit a chord with a few of them. If eyes are any indication, a few of the girls "got" it.
Afterward, I had a bite to eat then headed back down the mountain.
Not three minutes into the return hike, my cough returned with a vengeance, and I've pretty much been hacking like a banshee ever since.
I know that coughs can take forever to go away completely. Last night, my voice sounded awful, and this morning, the cough was really ugly again. You know what? I don't really mind.
For a few hours, when it did matter, my cough was held back, I believe, by a divine hand.
It's a small thing and it may sound silly to some, but for me, it was a miracle. I am deeply grateful that I was able to hike and speak, cough-free, for the sake of the message I was there to deliver to those sweet young women. .
If any of the Young Women who were at Tony Grove read this, thanks again for the great experience. You're the best. (And Shannon, thanks so much for inviting me!)