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The Iler family chasing sun rays in Zion National Park.

My daughter recently had the spelling word “awestruck.” She asked me the meaning of the word and I tried to explain it to the best of my ability. I said it’s when something is so grand, or beautiful, or amazing- you are left speechless. She said “ok” and went on her merry way to her next spelling word.

Two weekends ago, the entire Iler family was awestruck. We had the opportunity to camp in Zion National Park and the sheer massiveness of the rock formations, the sunlight casting shadows on the faces of the rocks, the moonlight glistening on the Virgin River, the Golden aspen trees billowing in the wind, well. . . it left us all speechless.

My daughter said “Oh, this is my spelling word. I now know what awestruck means.”

I am not sure how I have gone 43 years without seeing this natural wonder, but it was one of those moments that was life changing when I looked up at the Patriarchs of the Court- one of the hiking trails that led to massive rock formations.

This natural beauty was so encompassing, it truly almost brought tears to my eyes. I have heard many times people say that they have had a spiritual moment, or a healing moment in nature. This was definitely that moment for our family.

Finding beauty in nature is always refreshing.

Scott and I have noticed how loosely the words “awesome, full of awe, glorious” are used in everyday language. I have been known to respond to a text message with “awesome” followed by a heart emoji.

However, the meaning of awesome is “extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear”- Oxford Dictionary

I clearly have not been using this word or its synonyms correctly. I wonder how many of us have become a bit desensitized to true awesomeness, beauty, or grandeur.

With technology at our fingertips, we can google or youtube virtually any subject and “experience it first hand.”

So, we think we are experiencing all of life’s beauty but in reality, it’s been through a filtered lens.

I have also experienced awesomeness back in the city. Rebecca, our daughter, has had this urge to help our homeless community.

During Covid, she was unable to be on site at the Unity Center. She could help from afar but was unable to really get into the trenches of helping and serving. When the invitation came in the mail this year to help with the Thanksgiving food drive, Rebecca immediately said yes.

So, this past Saturday morning, while the rest of our family was still snug in their beds, Rebecca and I drove at 7:15 am to the Center. I was a bit tired myself and secretly wished I could just sip a hot cup of coffee. But, as you know, being comfortable never leads to growth.

Although I was shivering and a bit uncomfortable waiting to check in at the Unity Center, when we walked behind the main building and saw all of the pallets of produce waiting to be bagged, I was, once again awestruck. There was so much work to be done, and so many volunteers waiting to serve. We were directed to a table with 4 other volunteers and our job was to bag apples. . . hundreds of apples into groups of two, and inspect for bruised apples. There were groups who were organizing celery, sweet potatoes, onions, and so much more. . .

Even though I was taken back by the amount of food, what truly left me in awe was the beauty that emerged around this uncomfortable issue. We were preparing bags of food for the homeless community.

But, it didn’t matter our age, our culture, the language we spoke, our socioeconomic backgrounds, we were all there to help and that is where raw beauty shone with radiance. I met a lovely lady who shared with me how to use bruised apples in an Asian soup, I learned the difference of Cantonese, Mandarin, and Tagalog, I learned how it is easier to work on old cars vs. a fancy new car from a mechanic, all of these individuals were placed in a group with me.

Most importantly, I learned that teamwork can truly tackle a daunting task. When the last bushel of apples were bagged, we all cheered and gave each other high fives. And when I looked at my daughter sharing with the Boy Scout Troop how to properly inspect for a “bad apple” my heart felt happy. Rebecca and I showed up to the event a bit tired and uncomfortable, but we left with our heads held high and that we had accomplished such an important mission.

Iler girls finding awesomeness in their home town.

So, two different experiences led to a moment of feeling awestruck.

When was the last time you were out in nature? When did you watch a sunset or sunrise?

When was the last time you served others, void of payment? When did you truly give of yourself?

At the end of this season, I truly hope you have the opportunity to walk in a state of awe. It could be watching the moon rise over a mountain peak or it could be sacrificing some of your holiday treats for a family that is in greater need.

Regardless of the experience, may you find this grand state of bliss.

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