Thursday, June 28, 2012

Girl's Camp..... Not What I Expected

Yep.  That's right. It was nothing like what I had expected.  It was BETTER.  I had the privilege of being asked to speak to 130 young women age 12-18 at their annual Young Women's Girls Camp this week.  This is a time when the girls get to go camping for 5 days, each summer, with the peers in their church within their community, and are able to bond with one another, while at the same time, learn valuable skills of survival in the outdoors, as well as draw closer to their Heavenly Father while basking in the creation of this beautiful planet.  They are also able to have leadership responsibilities as well as opportunities to be an example to each other of Christ-like living.  It really is a wonderful opportunity for them to learn and grow and define who they are. And what they are, is amazing.  I witnessed that first hand.

I was asked to speak on a particular subject, in what is called "Destiny" where the girls, in small groups at a time, come to hear words of inspiration on many different facets of life.  This particular time usually takes place in a secluded part of "camp" where they can be within nature and hopefully feel the presence of their Heavenly Father whispering to them that they truly are Daughter's of God who hold such potential in this increasingly difficult world to grow up in.  The topic I was assigned to speak on was, "True Strength Comes As We Oppose Wickedness and Stand For Truth And Righteousness."  I was given this subject several months in advance,  so I had plenty of time to ponder the subject and research, and pray for guidance on how to, hopefully, inspire the girls to stand strong in this ever-shifting of values world that we live in.  I had a few concerns though..... I don't have teenage daughters, and haven't really been associated with too many of them for years.  Where I serve in our church is with the children age 3-11, so I felt a little out of touch, and worried that I would not be able to understand fully how to relate to these girls.  I also had not attended girls camp for 26 years, and when I did attend, as a young teenager, there wasn't anything like "Destiny", so I was unfamiliar with how it went, and knew that the majority of these girls had been to them before and would probably have expectations that I was afraid I could not meet.

Funny thing though, about inspiration; if you follow it, you will be guided on how to approach them and relate.  And that's exactly what happened.  

I am a reader. I LOOOOVE to read.  I gathered the majority of my information from books I had read that had many experiences I could relate to the girls that I had hoped they could grasp on to.  Another thing I love to do.... sing! I love singing.  I found a song that went perfectly with the topic, and although I found the instrumental music for it, had memorized it, and was excited about its message, I was afraid my nerves would get the best of me.  No matter how many times I sing, I still get very nervous.  I decided to let the spirit guide me to let me know if I should sing it, or let the song be sung by its artist.  I am glad I listened to the spirit confirm to me that I needed to sing it.  

What usually happens to me, when preparing to speak or give a lesson to the children, youth, or adults, is that when I am preparing the topic, I am the one that is learning the most. It seems to have been for my benefit more than for the listeners.  This was no different in preparing the assigned topic for these girls.  What I learned from these young ladies is far more than anything I could have related to them.  They are MY inspiration, and as a mother of two young daughters, it gives me hope for their future.

What DID I learn? I learned that.....

*  These girls are hungry for knowledge
*  They WANT to feel the spirit
*  They are smart
*  They are (for the most part) very polite, very grateful, very kind to their peers
*  They WANT to do what is right
*  They want to be leaders, to be an example
*  They want examples to learn from
*  I need to be more like THEM

This generation of youth are fighting a much harder battle than I did.  The temptations that come their way are increasingly more deceptive, more enticing.  One of the things I touched upon in my talk was defining the "Beautiful Wickedness" as described by the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz.  When the witch was melting she exclaimed to, and about Dorothy.... "Oh what a world, what a world.  Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy all my beautiful wickedness!"   The girls defined the things that are beautifully wicked in ways I had not even considered.  I have hope!  I'm not as worried anymore as I used to be.  These girls, our youth HAVE to be stronger these days, and they ARE.  They have been poised to become so.

When I saw the posters in the girls' locker room at the local middle school that read, "Stand up for what is right, even if you have to stand alone" I was shocked. I never expected to see such a declaration in our public schools. But I'm not complaining. I'm thrilled to know there are youth out there willing to take a stand, even if they have to do it alone.  I am more confident than ever, that our youth WILL make it.  And what a blessing it was for ME, to have witnessed a little bit of that, by attending one day at Girls Camp. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Woman in Oahu.... Who I Want To Be Like

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Oahu has nothing to do with the sun we soaked up on the sandy beaches, or the many beautiful sights we partook of. Strangely enough, it had to do with meeting a young mother of two small boys. It was also one of those instances where we realized, yet again, what a small world it truly is.  But meeting this particular woman, had a great impact on me and my husband. And she will forever be in our prayers, as well as the other many individuals out there who are now living the same life she is, who are dealing with the same cards that have been dealt to them.

It was our last night in Oahu, the boys were swimming in the pool, which was about to close.  As we were about to leave, this young lady and her two boys were entering the pool.  My husband, the social bug that he is, introduced himself and asked where she was from. She replied, Northern, UT.  We said we had lived there too, and told her where.  John then mentioned that he had a friend that lived in Logan, UT, he said his name, and this gal, whose name is Amy, was so excited, because she knew exactly who he was.  Small world, huh?  Two people meeting on the island of Oahu, know the same person way back in Logan, UT.  Somehow, at the beginning of their conversation, Amy mentioned that her husband died in Iraq 3 years ago. My heart sunk. I saw those two boys, now aged 9 and 7, and this young mother, now a widow.  The boys were 6 and 4 when their father died, oh so young. Their father had died the day after one of the son's birthday's.  

We proceeded to express our condolences, but what can you really say? There are not enough words to express how you feel at such a terrible circumstance.  However, Amy possessed such a terrific attitude and was by no means uncomfortable speaking about her wonderful husband who she still dearly loves, and mentioned that he is a daily part of their sons live's still.  This would have been their 10 year anniversary, where they would have spent it.  I'm so glad she still came and shared it with her boys.

Her husband was a 5th grade school teacher, and decided that he wanted to serve his country. He joined the services ( I cannot remember what branch, either Army or Marines) in January of 2008, and was killed in Iraq February 2009.  He had a safe, comfortable life in Northern, UT, but felt impressed that good men and women should join the military and serve their country, and he knew he was one of those men.  He made the ultimate sacrifice.  What a hero. What a truly wonderful example for his boys to look up to and strive to be like.

Amy told us that while she and one of her sons were swimming in the ocean that evening, that her son told her, "Mom, I bet daddy is looking at us right now and is happy we are here."  She replied by telling him, "I know he is happy we are here."  

I finished reading the book, "Lone Survivor" by Marcus Lutrell, while in Oahu, before I met Amy. What an amazing story of the Navy Seals, the commitment they make, the training they go through to be who they are, and endure what comes upon them. I came away feeling so much more respect for ANYONE that serves our country.   We truly do not fully grasp all that they go through to protect our freedoms.  They are to be revered, and not mocked.

Although we only spoke with Amy for about a total of 20-30 minutes, I felt like I learned a great life lesson.  Her attitude about her current situation was so positive.  She was so patient with her boys, who seemed very well behaved anyway. She spoke of her husband in the present tense.  She knows she will see him again someday; THAT she is sure of.  She had a smile on her face the whole time we spoke.  I could tell she knows who she is, and she knows where she is going.  Are there hard times for her? I'm sure there are.  But her countenance showed me that she is a stalwart woman, determined to make the best out of a horrible situation, and to teach her boys that you CAN get through anything that life throws at you.  

I wish we had met her at the beginning of our trip, but I am so grateful that we did indeed get to meet her.  She is an example to me that we can endure the trials of life WITH a positive attitude. We lost our first our baby, I know what that kind of pain feels like.  But I did not lose my spouse, who I want to grow old with, who I want to help me raise my children. It's a different kind of loss, so I cannot understand what she is going through.  But just knowing her now, and having had that little time spent with her, has changed my attitude about life, and trials and tribulations we encounter.   

Thank you, Amy, for being who you are, for being a shining example to me.  May God ever bless you and your boys. And I thank your husband, for his service to our country.  I hope we are all grateful for these men and women who sacrifice so much, and sometimes don't get to come home to THEIR children and spouse.