Sunday, July 12, 2015

here am I: EFY 2015 + photo dump

EFY this year was absolutely amazing. This being my second year, I wasn't as nervous going into it. Mostly just full of excitement.

I went to the 2nd session of San Antonio this year, just like last year. Because of this, I saw a lot of familiar faces, including some people from my company last year. I even saw my old counselor, Tabetha! I went with my brother, and also my friend Sierra who was my roommate. It was her first year of EFY, even though she's older than me. Oh, AND I ACHIEVED ALL MY GOALS! I branched out, participated in the musical program, AND I bore my testimony.

There were some awesome highlights of EFY. This is going to be a really long post, so I apologize. I wish I could write about all of them:

1. The classes taught by amazing teachers. I prayed before EFY and during EFY that I would know which classes I needed to go to in order to hear the message God wanted me to hear. It was easy at first, going to whichever class I felt strongly about. I didn't know any of the teachers, so it wasn't like I felt any biased judgement. However, there were these two teachers who ended up being my favorite; Brother Young and Brother Butler. Brother Butler ended up being such a hilarious teacher, that his classes actually filled up to the point where people weren't allowed to go in anymore. This happened to me once, where I got turned away and had to go somewhere else. It got to the point where it was Wednesday, during the panel discussion. After this, it was going to be the last class of the week. Brother Butler had just spoken, and as always, he had captivated the crowd with his bubbly personality. I kept trying to rationalize in my head, "You can go to his class, I mean it will be your last chance. You already went to like three of Brother Young's classes." However, I kept getting this feeling that I had to go to Brother Young's class on "Never a Bad Day to Share Your Testimony." Finally, I went to Brother Young's class, and oh my gosh, I don't regret it. That class spoke to me. He also promised that if we shared our testimony, it would grow. For most of the lesson, I took fervent notes and just laughed along with his jokes. But then it got towards the end, when he shared a story on his best friend Tod who was not a member but spent his whole life basically indirectly asking Brother Young to share it with him. He always went over to his house, changed the radio station to more appropriate music when Brother Young got in the car, etc. They were such good friends that Tod even asked Brother Young to speak at his wedding. It was all wonderful, and the entire class was waiting for the moment when he would tell us how Tod was baptized. But then, it all changed. "One day I got a call from Tod's mom. She told me Tod had just died in a car crash, and asked if I could speak at his funeral." A hush fell over the class. And then, he told us his third reason why we should bear our testimonies; "So you can have their gratitude here and their everlasting and eternal appreciation in the world to come." His friend Tod had been waiting for him, and now it was too late. Brother Young then said something that broke my heart, "I know what Tod will tell me when I see him on the other side. 'You knew the whole time. Why didn't you tell me?'" It hit me then, that because Brother Young hadn't given his friend Tod a Book of Mormon in the 20+ years they knew each other, Tod couldn't be sealed to his family. He couldn't have the highest celestial glory. I didn't want that to be the case with ANY of my friends. I couldn't look at Brother Young's face after that until the class was over. I was afraid I would just start crying. I got up, my heart numb and a tear on my face, and got in line to take a picture with him. Sierra and I ended up being the last in the line. After the picture, he looked us in the eyes and said, "I don't tell this to a lot of people. You girls are sweethearts. Don't settle. Do you know what that means? Don't settle for anyone less than you deserve. There is a worthy Priesthood holder out there for you. You girls are worth it." I started crying and said, "Something told me to come to this class." He smiled and said, "I'm glad." We thanked him for the great class and left for Musical Program rehearsal, as tears stained my cheeks.

Sierra and I with Brother Young after his class
2. Musical program. I participated again this year, and I even tried out for a speaking part and got it. It was great singing with everyone, and it really brought the spirit. I got to cut in lunch, too! We spent every ounce of free time before Thursday to prepare for the program, and when it came around, I was so nervous. I am so bad in front of a crowd. My stomach was so upset that I couldn't eat, and most of my friends kept telling me I was going to puke when I got up, except for my friend Richard. He was very reassuring. I can always count on him to make me feel better! Ugh I was so nervous, though. And I didn't even have a solo! All I was doing was reading a script! I felt so weak sitting in my seat. I prayed over and over that my stomach would calm down, but it wasn't. Finally, when we got up to get on stage, my butterflies went away and I felt better. The songs were so powerful, especially when we sang "I Know That My Redeemer Lives." It was great. Then, on Friday, when I actually had a FREE free time because no musical program, I wandered around lonely the entire time because I couldn't find anyone. Until I ran into (figuratively AND literally) a guy I had met earlier in the week who I hung out with and talked to for a while. Good times...

(if you are wondering why I am so upset about the mayonnaise, it's because I was super nervous about my speaking part in the musical program, which was right after dinner. And I was upset that not only had they run out of mayonnaise for my fries, but also SOFT, CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES!!! To say the least, I had a massive case of butterflies in my stomach.)

3. Meeting the people there. I realized there that we aren't that different than others. We are all sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. I got so close to some of the people there, which is crazy considering I was only with them for less than a week. And I decided that when I'm older, I'm not going to settle for anything less than a worthy Priesthood holder. I learned that not all boys are like the ones at school. They can be nice and respectful, and show emotion. The guys at EFY compliment the girls all the time, and it is SINCERE. I don't think I've ever danced every slow song at a dance before, either. Actually, usually I'm only asked a couple times. I truly felt beautiful at EFY, even though I wore t-shirts and it was blazing hot. I also developed a super strong love for and a sense of honoring those with the priesthood. When the guys sang their part in the EFY was so powerful. I got a glimpse of the eternal perspective of things.

My company before the dance on Friday! Last day :(
4. Thursday. Holy smokes. I think it was my favorite day. We had a Young Women group activity in the morning where we studied The Family: A Proclamation to the World. I gained a bigger understanding of my role here on earth, and that as daughters of God, we are naturally meant to be beautiful and magnificent. I am unique, and an individual with a destiny beyond my comprehension. I have a divine role. I have unlimited ability. I can shape lives and make a difference. I am confident. Unstoppable. I have an influence. A mother's work is God's work, and He trusts us to raise HIS children. God is our Father, and I'm His little girl. I also learned that it is so, so important to love others. If you want to love someone, you'll serve them. And if you serve someone, it's because you love them. It goes hand-in-hand. I also learned during the session director morning side that we are all miracles, sent straight from heaven. He had to let us go, but we are all individually one of His many miracles. At the fireside, even more things stuck out to me. Whatever God asks us to do, He believes we can do it. I gained a better understanding of the Atonement, and exactly how much Jesus Christ loves me. The number #55 has a new meaning to me; hope. 

I'd like to share my testimony, which was strengthened immensely thanks to EFY. I know that Jesus Christ lives, that he is the Son of Almighty God, and that Mary is His mortal mother. I know that He bled from every pore and suffered for ALL of our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane so that we may be able to return to live with our Heavenly Father again. That act of pure love and selflessness, in itself, testifies to me of the love Jesus had for all of us. I know that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ, and I have felt and recognized the blessings and comfort that come from reading and studying the scriptures, especially this past week. I know that Jesus loves me, and I know He loves all of us. He is there for us, to help us bear up our burdens. He will not leave us comfortless. Singing in the Musical Program, learning about the Atonement, and singing the EFY medley with everyone that day at EFY, the love Jesus has for all of his brothers and sisters hit me with such an assurance. I know He is there for us.

I love EFY. I learned so many great things this year, met so many amazing people, and changed a lot. It really has been a blessing to go to EFY. It has helped me better understand myself, and stand up for what I believe in. I truly love what I believe in. This church gives me happiness. The importance of studying the scriptures, ACTUALLY studying them, and praying, came to my realization. I changed this week, but it will only matter if I continue to change and remember the things I learned. I want to be a difference maker. 

So thank you to those who made my EFY experience the best it could be. Thank you to those who are my friends, and who love me for who I am. You make a difference to me.

Richard, me, and my roommate Sierra

Sierra and I playing "pterodactyl"

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