March 23, 2011

this is special. (part 2)

was the suspense too much?
are you just itching to know what the sequel to my previous post will be?
i thought so.
good thing we have things like gold bond and free slice wednesday to cure that insatiable itch.

as previously blogged, i loved efy. some of you may be wondering what about it was just so gosh darn lovable. (you may also be wondering why i was so chubby..but i won't be addressing that issue in this post.) so i'll break it down for you. as you may or may not know, i am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. EFY is based in this faith and is designed to strengthen the youth who attend in spiritual and emotional ways. Each day is scheduled and filled with opportunities for growth and learning like scripture study, classes and devotionals. but since we try not to be a peculiar and boring people, there are fun things to do also. like free time each day, two dances (complete with sappy, generic lyriced songs that seem to have been around since the dawn of time...or the dawn of dances, at least. also, in case you were wondering...i was not about the spend the best week of my life sitting on the side lines. i danced. danced like it was my day job. danced like my mother's life depended on it. let it be known.), a games night (complete with cheer off and banner making) and a service project.

i would have loved efy if it was nothing but what i just explained. but i got so much more.
you see, i was somewhat of a loser in high school. i had friends, yes. but i was different. peculiar.
i lived the standards of my faith and it set me apart. i was not like everyone else. i did different things. i thought different things. i wanted different things. and consequently i had a different life. and so my weekends were nothing special. a movie night with my parents. babysitting. more often than not i would sit in front of my mirror and try different makeup techniques. (that paid off, huh?) but i didn't often hang out with friends. i didn't ever go to a party. it was boring. sometimes, it made me sad.
sometimes, it made me cry.
a lot of times, i felt incredibly alone.
it was a sacrifice.
but it was a sacrifice i wouldn't change even if i could.

sooo you can understand the absolute joy that swelled within me at the thought of one week spent with kids who were just like me. kids who had the same standards and wanted the same things as me.
because while i was there i was me. the real me.
and i was the happiest i had ever been.
and you can understand the absolute devastation i felt when those weeks came to an end and i knew i would have to wait another year to be that happy again.
those weeks were the best ones of my adolescent life.
i wouldn't have traded anything for those weeks.
because there was no party i could have gone to or date i could have gone on that could have ever held a candle to the things i felt, the people i met or the strength i gained while i was at efy.

have you ever realized that you know who you are?
i have.
and that is one incredible feeling.

i would venture to say that it's a slice of life. (because, boy i tell you what-it is) but that's not what this free slice wednesday is about.

you might be asking yourself what could possibly be better than all of the afore-rambled blogging.

there's not much. except being able to witness others experience everything i did.

the summer after my last year (as a participant) i was granted the opportunity to work as an efy counselor. (that means i got to be a "leader" over incredible youth who felt the same way about efy as i did when i was their age.)
i was barely 19. i was overwhelmed with responsibility.
i was scared out of my mind that i wouldn't have the same kind of impact on them as my counselors had had on me.
but i took everything i knew and everything i had and i put it into making those weeks as amazing for my youth as it was for me.

i can't fully say if i has as much impact on their lives as i hoped to have.
but i can say that they had more of an impact on me than i ever imagined possible.
and i will never forget the things i learned from some of the most incredible youth this world has ever known.

summer of 2007: Power in Purity
day one of counselorhood: me and kaycie.

my first group of girls. love them so dearly.
our whole group. they made me so proud.
counselors. in orange.
a few of us together. we won the spunity award.
spunity=spirit and unity.

second week group. loved them too.
remembering the dancing declaration i made? well, i did it as a counselor too. sweeaaty.
shelley and me.
my third week group. so much love.
same group. just looking fancier.

week four boys. they loved me. obviously.

end of the four weeks counselor group shot.
we were tired.
Summer 2008: Steady and Sure
remember sexy bod man? we. are. cool.
kaycie, brittany and me.
friendships like this don't come around every day.
my first group that summer. my 14-15 year old group.
sugary sweet, those ones.
games night and cheer off. so much fun.

shelley and i had matching shoes that year.
they matched our efy polos. sweet, right?

my second week girls. goofy.

kaycie. me. brittany. sweat.

proof of ridiculous dancing.
or maybe this is just proof of ridiculous creeping.
check me out. (ashley and kaycie dance, too.)
third week group. it rained on us at games night.
shelley. the best field coordinator eeeeverr.

i took so many pictures. it's hard to weed through them.
if i'm being honest, it's harder to look at them.
i miss those days.
i love where i am now.
but i miss those days.
i miss staying up late with my girls.
i miss hearing my girls share their comments and thoughts every night during our devotionals.
i miss watching how respectful the boys were to the girls.
i miss the constant feeling of the spirit.
it really was like a fire burning in all of us.
it's not a feeling you ever want to let go of.

i miss my groups. my girls especially.
even harder than leaving as a participant was leaving as a counselor.
i wished i could shrink them all and put them in my back pocket so they wouldn't ever have to go back to their hardships and trials. i just wanted to be with all of them all the time. i wanted to protect them.
but i couldn't do that.
i had one week to give them everything i had and the rest of my life to hope it meant something to them.
i've never felt so much love for so many different people so instantaneously.
and i feel now like my words do them no justice.
so i will let them speak to you.

(notes taken from thursday night testimony meetings.)

"when we love others like the Savior did we find a greater respect for ourselves."
"i cannot wait to go on a mission. we're so lucky to be members of this church."
"we are born kings and queens. we cannot let good enough be good enough"
"when we decide to make a change the Savior will succor us. He will run to us."
"even if you are alone, you can always know that Heavenly Father loves you."
"...that thought is with me with every decision i make. is this hurting the Savior who atoned for me?"
"i can't wait to take this home and have the spirit with me the whole year."
"we can go back into the world and show them how strong we can be."
"nothing can make me not believe. i'll never stop trusting in the gospel of Jesus Christ."
"we can take our testimonies back into the world and change the world."
"this is a gospel of hope; a gospel of repentance."
"it's really hard. really hard. but it's worth it. really worth it."
"i'm going to make a change and be a testament to the truthfulness of this gospel"
"it took just one person to offer a prayer to make this gospel possible.."
"there's no greater thing than being in a place where the spirit can say it's true."
"can you feel it? can you feel the love the Savior has for us?? i can't wait to serve a mission. i want to teach my brothers and sisters. i want to shout it . i want to give the world the same spirit i have felt here."
"i can not deny it. i know it is true."

i am in awe of them.
they are stronger than we know.
stronger than we give them credit for.
i love them.
they changed my life.
i hope they know how much they mean to me and how much impact their words had on me.
i hope they know how proud i am and how blessed i feel to have had them in my life.
for just one week.
those weeks were a slice of the best life i've ever lived.

all of my love,
katie claire.

lyrics: shine on, shine on for the whole world to see. hold on to the gift of believing.

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