In April of 2003 I was enrolled in an anatomy class at UVSC, a prerequisite class for my nursing program. This class was extremely difficult and challenging for the majority of the students. Many students were struggling, including myself. Our professor chose to give us an opportunity for extra credit. A race. a sixty-five mile canoe race along the Green River in Southern Utah. Just for entering, we would receive extra points, but if we won, we would get even more additional points.
I was very excited. My dad had been a river guide when he was a young man and while we were growing up, he would take us canoeing on the Snake River when we would go on vacations to the Tetons in Wyoming during the summer. He taught us how to read the river and how to steer the canoe. My brother, Seth, was pretty experienced. I asked him to enter the race with me. I love my brother so much! I have always looked up to him. He treats me so well and with so much respect. I always have so much fun with Seth. I was so excited when he said that he would run the river with me. We felt very confident in our ability and our physical strength. We knew that we had a good chance of winning the race. We then traveled down to the Green River in Green River, Utah, believe it or not. We were in my little white Plymouth Neon with the big honkin’ canoe on top. Quite a sight. We started that race that Saturday morning at 8 AM. We were fresh and confident. We love doing this kind of stuff. Once we were on the river, we decided that the Green River is pro ably the slowest river on the face of the planet! It moved more like a lake than it did a river. But we were excited to spend a day on the river together. I love to be outside and active especially with my brother.
Because the river was so slow, we had to paddle constantly if we were going to get anywhere. But we were having fun and enjoying the beauty everywhere. Time passed and so did the miles, slowly. We never stopped paddling. We were determined to get to the finish line as fast as we could. The only times that we stopped padding were for a lunch break and a couple of 5 minute breaks. After six hours or so, we were starting to get tired. The wind started to blow and unfortunately, not to our benefit. It was pushing against us. It would be easygoing and then you’d turn the bend and the wind would be overbearingly strong. There were many stretches of river that were very hard to get through. We had to paddle hard! But we would get through them and move on. We kept paddling and hoping that the end was coming soon. But, it didn’t. It’s hard to measure miles in a canoe. We had no idea how far we had come or how much farther we had to go.
At about the tenth hour, we were doubting that there was an end at all. We were so tired. But we never complained because we knew that it wouldn’t help anything. It’d just make it harder. We tried to lift each other up and encourage each other. But we were tired. We were frustrated. There was nothing that we could do except to KEEP PADDLING! Our once fearless confidence and strength began to slacken.
I remember specifically one stretch of river where the wind was unbearable. It was so strong that if we would stop paddling, it would literally push us backwards. We were so tired but we paddled with all of our might! Our muscles were cramping and we were painfully fatigued. We were discouraged and worried. We had no idea how far we had to go or what might lie ahead of us. Our bodies were about ready to give up. Equally fatigued was our mental stamina. It would be so easy to give up and just stop paddling. But, that wasn’t an option. We wouldn’t get anywhere or reach our goal.
We decided to say a prayer. We thanked the Lord for this opportunity. We told him our situation and prayed for strength, mentally and physically, so that we could finish the race.We prayed that He would help us not to have bad attitudes and be discouraged, but that we could be optimistic and have a good attitude, that we could help each other. We prayed that we could finish safely. We had faith that Heavenly Father would hear our prayer. We were tired, alone and scared on the green river, but we knew that our Heavenly Father was watching over us.
There is sacred power in prayer. After the prayer, our situation didn’t change. The wind was still blowing and unbeknownst to us, we still had four hours of hard paddling ahead of us. The darkness and cold were coming on fast but we received new strength to overcome. We still had to work hard, but something had dramatically changed.
I don’t know if Seth had the same experience that I did, but there was an immediate change in me. A beautiful feeling suddenly came upon me. I felt this strange feeling of complete Joy! I couldn’t stop smiling. Faith replaced my doubt. Peace and love replaced my discouragement and fear. I felt so happy and excited. I was full to the brim with love. My physical pain had vanished. My muscles stopped cramping and my fatigue was replaced with new strength. I felt brand new, like I had just started the race. It was a physical and mental transformation that I had never before experienced. A true miracle. Never in my life have I felt so strong, physically and mentally, as I did at that time.
We still had many miles ahead of us, but we had new hope! God was with us! He literally strengthened us. We were optimistic and we knew that everything would be alright.
It was a very profound moment in my life, taught to me in the perfect way. Heavenly Father is mindful of me. He knows me. He loves me and He cares so much about me.
Still paddling in the cold moonlight, I looked up at the abundance of magnificent starts with a new understanding. I am His daughter! The beauty of the stars in the deep black sky and the moonlight coming over the silhouetted canyons, reflecting on the river, filled my soul with light, joy, hope and love.
On the fourteenth hour of hard paddling, we saw the end of our journey. We finished our race! Relief and rest encompassed us! Hooray! We had just fun a sixty-five mile stretch of river, that most people do in three to five days, in fourteen hours.
We pulled our canoe to shore and got out. Seth took his first step out of the canoe and collapsed right into the water. Now he was really cold. WE were proud of what we had just accomplished. It was one of the most physically strenuous things that I had ever done in my life and I’m a pretty tough girl. We were one of the fastest groups. I think that we were the fastest co-ed team. But we didn’t care! We finished and we did our very best! That was all that mattered. We didn’t give up. some groups were on the river for twenty-two hours and one group even had to stay overnight with no supplies. It was a hard race but deep in my heart, I knew that it was much more than just a race. It was a lifelong lesson that I will never forget.
My life is a canoe race along the Green River. It’s full of magnificent beauty, biting cold, darkness and sunshine, fierce head winds, twists and turns, ups and downs, challenges, struggles, excitement and adventure, fear of the unknown, frustration, fatigue, laughter and learning, growing and becoming stronger. It’s a long journey into the unknown, never knowing what lies in the future. But we are not alone on this journey. We are blessed with people who can strengthen us and lift our spirits. We have a choice to look at the good or to dwell on the bad. We can complain and be discouraging, bringing others and yourself down, or we can be optimistic and have faith. Are we one who will look for the bright side of things? One who encourages others and lifts them up? Even when life is hard and seemingly unbearable we can choose what our attitude will be and if we will be happy and find joy in trials. We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control what our attitude will be towards it! Go forward with FAITH! We must never stop paddling, moving forward, overcoming trials and obstacles, working towards our goals and our eternal goals! It’s our promised land! It’s worth it. We have been promised blessings that are far beyond our understanding! “Happiness that hath no end” if we endure faithfully and keep moving.
It takes a daily effort. Our commitment is best manifested when we try to do our best every day. It isn’t easy and at times it is very discouraging. We are faced with trials, temptation, heartache, fatigue and frustration. We may feel that we don’t have enough strength to keep going, but I testify, if we will turn to the Lord and stay close to Him, praying for strength and relying on Him daily, we will receive new strength to overcome any challenge, any struggle and any heartache. He will not take the challenge away but He will strengthen us. He can five us a new perspective and a new attitude. In the midst of trials, we can be filled with joy, love and light. We can be filled with peace and hope. Where do we receive the strength to endure the day-to-day struggles? Only the Lord. With Him, we can do all things! We can have strength to overcome and endure.
He is mindful of us personally. He is so intimately involved in the details of our lives. He loved me enough to see me in my situation with Seth, alone, scared and tired on the Green River. He heard and answered our prayers immediately. Heavenly Father has infinite power! He is the God of the whole universe, but it’s amazing to know that He is my father. He will stay with me in trials and strengthen me. He will never abandon me! The journey is so much easier with His help! Have faith in Him! He has faith in you.
My life is a canoe race along the Green River.