Sunday, July 21, 2013

If things were now as they were then – we’d be in Nauvoo

Our family was privileged to be members of the City of Joseph Cast for its last two years (2003 and 2004). Our oldest son, Jamie, was also in the cast in 2002 as part of the Byron Hogan family. The pageant is now just another part of Nauvoo history. But we have reminisced over the past few days – wonderful, poignant, treasured memories. So my blog for this week is about Nauvoo and how the Lord helped me prepare Jamie to go that first year.

But first a little backstory -

My ancestors, Lindsay and Elizabeth Brady joined the Mormon Church in Kentucky and moved to Far West, Missouri and later settled in Nauvoo, Illinois. While there they purchased property, built a house, and buried three children. As part of the Mormon Exodus, Lindsay and Elizabeth left Nauvoo headed west in the spring of 1846. After crossing the Mississippi River by ferry they sat down on the Iowa bank for a picnic dinner. They untied the oxen to let them graze and didn’t realize their mistake until the oxen walked into the water. The animals were headed home, back across the river.

This was a terrible tragedy for the Brady family. Without the oxen they couldn’t continue their journey west. If Lindsay tried to swim the river to retrieve the oxen and drowned, the family would have no means of support. While they were discussing other options, the three teenage sons stepped forward and volunteered to swim across the river and get the oxen. Elizabeth was very much against this idea and begged her husband not to consider it. But it was getting dark and the animals would soon be lost and their trip west ended before it started. So Lindsay agreed to let the boys try. Elizabeth sank to the ground, weeping as her sons waded into the water.

The boys swam across the river, got the oxen and brought them back, so the story has a happy ending. But when I read this for the first time, I wondered why Lindsay and especially Elizabeth had to be tested to such extreme lengths. They had already given up their comfortable home, their property, and they were leaving the graves of three children to follow the saints west. Why did they have to risk their three living sons as well? I tried to imagine myself in that same situation. Watching in terror as my sons walked into the deep water, then seeing them return in triumph, protected by the hand of the Lord.

It seemed like more than one person or family should have to bear, but sometimes the Lord has to lead us to the very edge of our endurance. Because it’s on this edge that we develop spiritual maturity and strength. Where we truly learn to know God.

In the summer of 2002 when Jamie was in his first City of Joseph Pageant, he was at a critical time in his life. He needed faith promoting, testimony building experiences. I was thrilled that he had the opportunity, but in order to participate he had to have a costume and I don’t mean just any old costume. He had to have authentic drop front pants and a frock coat with tails and a work shirt and a vest and a white fake shirtfront (to cover up his work shirt) and a top hat. I had to submit material samples to the pageant costume director for approval. Then she sent me homemade patterns with handwritten instructions like ‘cut out the pattern pieces’ and ‘sew the coat together’.

The pants were one of the hardest things I’ve ever made and when I got them done, they were too small. I considered having a nervous breakdown, but instead I bought more material and put 2 ½ inch inserts on each side. The costume director was very particular and I knew there was a good chance she wouldn’t even let him wear them, but it was the best I could do. The vest didn’t have a lining and seemed flimsy, but the shirt was relatively easy. Then on the Wednesday night before he was to leave on Thursday, while the rest of my family slept, I started on the frock coat.

There were pattern pieces that weren’t mentioned in the instructions and I didn’t know what to do with them. They didn’t even look like they fit and I wondered if maybe two patterns had gotten mixed up. It was too late to call the costume director so I sat there in my quiet living room and thought that I was going to fail. If I didn’t get the coat made that night, Jamie couldn’t go to Nauvoo. But I didn’t know how to make the coat. I cried for a little while. Then I prayed. Then I sat and stared at the stupid coat pieces. And then I got an idea. It didn’t make sense, but I did it anyway. And miraculously – it worked and soon all the pieces were assembled into a frock coat.

Exhausted but encouraged, I started on the fake white shirtfront. I made a mistake early that left it looking like a Catholic priest’s collar and I thought I was going to have to start over. Then I got an idea. What I did broke every rule of fine sewing, but it worked. When I went to bed in the wee hours of Thursday morning his costume was completed. I don’t think I could do it again. But that night, with the Lord's help, I was able to make the pieces fit together.

I certainly wouldn’t compare my sewing experience to sending sons into a river to face possible death. But I do think that in our own trials and struggles today, sometimes we are pushed to the limit of our faith. And we grow. So as bad as that night was – I’m thankful for it.

If things were now as they were then, I hope I would have been courageous like Lindsay and Elizabeth.

And while I wish that we were in Nauvoo right now, sitting in the auditorium at the old Academy, listening to orientation, singing the pageant songs, and visiting with friends we only saw once a year, I've accepted that sometimes good things - even very good things - come to an end. Now  we have to be content with our memories and be grateful that we were there. Although I doubt that any of us will ever be able to think of a place we’d rather be . . .

Recipe of the Week
Easy Apple Turnovers
2 tbsp butter
3 medium apples, peeled and finely chopped
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla
1 pkg ready made pie shell (or make your own)
Vanilla ice cream

¼ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp melted butter

In a large skillet melt butter over medium heat, add apples and cook for 5 min. Mix in brown sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Cook and stir for 7-8 minutes until apples begin to caramelize. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice and vanilla. Cool.

Preheat oven to 400. On a lightly floured surface roll out pie crust to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out 5 inch circles. Re-roll until dough is used. Put about 2 tbsps of filling in each circle. Moisten edges of pastry with water, fold over and press closed with a fork. Transfer to lightly greased baking pan. Prick each turnover with a fork. Bake for approx. 20 minutes until lightly brown.  Allow to cool slightly. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with combination of sugar and cinnamon. Serve warm or at room temperature with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

This recipe is so good and easy enough for kids to do!


Stephanie said...

I love pioneer stories. Thanks for sharing!

And I laughed out loud at your last Walmart experience. Have a great day!

Lynn Bodily said...

Betsy - I couldn't help but feel those feelings of warmth and a bit of sadness as I reminisced the memories of our time spent in Nauvoo. I remember looking at all those names on applications and wondering if those chosen would feel about Nauvoo as I did and if they would be willing to follow along with creative ideas we wanted to try. Yet, sometime on the first morning of rehearsals all worries seemed to melt away as I could remember names of people that earlier I was not able to, (even my own name can escape me at times), but I felt that unconditional love and support from a cast that I loved and wanted to take home with me after the experience we would have together. That spirit of love is felt to this day as I walk the paths of memories in my mind and agree that there is no place I would rather be. I love you and your family - always. Lynn Bodily

Cathy said...

What a great post-the girls love wearing the pioneer clothes you made them. I guess by the time you sewed them, you had gotten pretty good at it! The recipe looks delicious too!

Patti said...

I wonder if we are related. I have a Lindsay Andersen Brady- does your Lindsay Brady have a middle name of Andersen? (or it could be Anderson- not sure of the spelling- I just know that's his middle name.)

Patti said...

I asked my mother (she's the genealogist in the family) if that story was about the same Lindsay in our family. She said it was. So, now I can call you "cousin." My mom's maiden name is Brady. Small world, cousin!