Witnessing the temple construction and soon to be dedication of the Gilbert Temple has been a landmark experience in my life. Everything from participating in teaching music to the youth for the cultural celebration, to watching the cranes and the Angel Moroni being put in place, has left a mark on my heart.
I'm not going to lie, though, there was a moment that was hard for me in all of this. That moment came after the visitor's trailer was closed and the temple was completed. One morning my kids wanted to drive past the temple, which was a normal thing for us to do - we had gone so many times over the last few years that we quit signing the visitor's book & and quit keeping track of our visits. We even quit taking pictures on some of our trips, because it had become "our spot" and we knew that this was "our temple" and this was "our normal". Finally, the "No Visitors Past this Point" signs were removed and the road was extended around the temple and church building. We were excited about this new development and wanted to see where the new road would go around the property of the temple - we were just as excited to see the special road as we were when we saw the circle windows going in, or the stone panels being secured in place, or the grass being installed. However, on this particular day, the very place we had been so familiar with as frequent visitors became the very place we were turned away.
I pulled onto the road, following a little car, and a large vehicle like a garbage truck was behind me. I saw many cars parked up and down this road that I was on. I noticed there was now a median and each side of the median had a one-way path to drive on. I was about 20 feet past the gate when I saw a security guard, and she asked me what I was doing. I told her we were just driving by the temple. She alerted the person above her in command, "Oh no! We have visitors. I'm sorry ma'am, you can't drive any further." I told her that wasn't a problem and that I would quickly flip a U at the first available spot, which was about 30 feet farther. "Oh no! I can't let you do that. You have to back up." I was like "What?" That's when Emmett piped up from the back seat, "This was a bad idea!" She literally made me pull forward about 15 to 20 feet to parallel park in order to let the work truck behind me move on through, and even though I was that much closer to the spot that I could U-turn, she stopped all other incoming traffic, walked into THE MAIN ROAD ON GREENFIELD and halted traffic as I BACKED OUT the way I came, apologizing through my open window to the other security guard who not-so-sympathetically shook his head, and pulled out in reverse to join the main traffic. I couldn't even say thank you as I shifted into drive, because she was telling me to hurry along. In case you didn't catch how hysterically comical it was, let me say this one more time: THE TRAFFIC ON THE MAIN ROAD GOT HALTED JUST FOR ME TO BACK OUT OF THE GATES! I was so confused! Even now it makes me laugh! If a news truck had been there they would have reported: "GILBERT TEMPLE SECURITY BREACH: MORMON MOM AND KIDS IN A MINI-VAN TRY TO SNEAK A PEAK!"
There were no tears, or ill will, not even anger or sass because they should have had the No Visitor's Sign still up.
I just experienced a little shock and mortification. That is all.
Later I found out there was a large singles conference, and many special people were in town; even though the Open House hadn't started, there were scheduled VIP tours happening - hence the heightened security. I also found out some friends I know got to drive golf-carts that would escort the VIP's and the elderly. That's when I was tempted to feel little. There were all these "Big Time" people kicking off the temple tours and in a strange turn of events I had simultaneously become apprehensive about driving anywhere near the temple in case my picture and liscense plate were now listed in the security files. Haha!
As I discussed these things with my dad, he listened. Then he shared his own feelings about how there was a part of him that was anxious for all of the hoopla to be over so he could just have his own special moment in the temple, but he knew that wouldn't come until well after the crowds of people and the dedication was over. I guess you could say that his wish was to have the temple to himself so he could think and feel, and I guess you could say that my wish was that I wanted to feel like a "Big Timer" or a VIP, and that I didn't want to feel "little" when it came to going to the Gilbert Temple. We also discussed who the people might have been that got to go in early, and without a doubt, every person we imagined who might have been allowed in was someone we thought deserved a special tour - hands down. For example, I am not sure, but I think the famous blogger who was burned with her husband in a tragic plane crash was given a VIP tour. I respect her and truthfully, there's no way I would ever choose to trade places with her - she has had so much struggle to endure, and she has had a very difficult path to tread. I respect her so much, because she has endured her trials well and has inspired millions and millions of people to live better lives - ABSOLUTELY she should have had a chance to see the temple while she was in town. Other people we imagined who might have been on the early tours were general authorities who dedicate so much time, service, and sacrifice to the people in the church, and lead clergymen from other faiths who were so supportive of us - my heart is full that they would accept an opportunity to have a temple tour and in effect support us in our faith as fellow Christians with an inter-faith camaraderie. I later read some press releases from journalists who were invited to tour the temple early, and I'm telling you, they did so much good by the reports they've written to unify the community of believers in regards to our common faith in Christ - I am thrilled that they and everyone else who were given that privilege were able to have that experience. Basically as I sifted through what I was feeling, I knew I wasn't upset that there were VIPs and that I wasn't one of them. But even though it's a unique experience to have traffic on the main road halted solely for your lonesome little self and not many people can brag about that, it STILL wasn't EXACTLY what I had in mind for my own special temple memory.
I knew I just needed to be patient for January 18th when I had my own temple tour reserved.
The public tours finally came, and without a doubt, I know the Lord pays attention to the details of our lives and that He knows the desires of our hearts.
A few days into the open house, my parents were able to take two of my younger siblings on a temple tour in the morning. My dad says he doesn't even know how it was able to work out this way, but when they were in the temple, for whatever reason, there was a space in front of them and a space behind them, and he said it felt like they had the entire temple to themselves. They were able to take their time, feel peace, and enjoy their very own special moment that ended up being more than they had hoped for. And it was powerful - I could feel the Spirit of their experience when I happened to arrive at their house shortly after they returned from their tour. They brought home with them peace, and strength, and longing for things eternal.
Come to find out, I would have my inner most desires fulfilled, too! At the end of our very first temple tour with Mitch & the kids on January 18th, would you believe that there was a golf-cart sitting at the end of the side-walk leading to the parking lot? Yes, a golf-cart that was intended for VIPs (and the elderly...but we're not elderly). We were going to walk past it when the kind man sitting at the wheel said with a smile, "Would you like a ride?" My boys were so excited, and this time I had a little shock of a different kind. Mitch told me to pile on with the kids and he grabbed the camera and chased after us to make the kids laugh.
That was the ride of a life-time - the wind swirling in our faces and through our hair, happy smiles all around, and the peaceful feeling inside reminding me that to God, ALL of His children are "Big Time". I was so caught up in the beauty of the moment with my family, that we only had a chance to say thank you to the driver before he zoomed away. We tried driving back to where he was to ask him his name, but we couldn't catch him as he was busy shuttling off another cart full of VIP's to their vehicles.
I just wanted to tell him that of anyone I've ever met, he's my definition of someone who is "Big Time" because he makes others feel important and special. I know he was an instrument in the Lord's hands that day, as the Lord spoke to me in His very own way.