Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Faith and Fireflies

I just returned from YW camp last week.
It was......a growing experience.

We had 19 girls and a few who had attitudes which made things much harder than they needed to be and I needed a few days to just recover from the physical and emotional toll it took on me.
I don't know if I was a good leader or a crummy one, but I know I met some amazing kids that I will never forget and I would not have met otherwise.
I met girls who touched me so deeply and my heart grew last week.

I've written a couple of blog posts, but none of them felt quite right.
I needed to wait until I had my head and heart (and body) back to normal. 

Instead, I'll write about the most important experience at YW Camp- at least for me and my daughters.

The final night of camp involved a Faith Walk. 

The girls walked down a trail, where there was a pair of leaders every few yards, with a mirror with quotes about their self-worth, and they were given a charm for a bracelet at each stop. The spirit we needed to carry ourselves in was that of being in the temple- reverent, happy and aware of the purpose.

Tara and I were one of the first stops, and the very first girl to cross the bridge and come to us was my Little Romy.
As I saw my girl read the words of President Uchtdorf, and she looked up at me, for guidance on what to do next, I took the charm and placed it in her hand and whispered, "I love you" and guided her on to the path. She smiled and whispered "I love you, too, Mom" and went on. 
As each girl came to us, some skimmed through the words and opened their baggie for me to put the charm in, but I took each girl by the hand and said "I love you" and placed it in their palm.
It made a couple of girls stop and pause and I saw them walk down the path with a different look on their faces.
some girls just took it and scurried on, eager to join friends down the path.
Some girls took the time to let the words they read fill their hearts and let the moment we shared be that of a precious gift being shared with them. Some of the reactions got me crying. 
Seeing my Jane and my Kate, absorb the words, the spirit and choose to experience the gift they were being given was wonderful to me.
 I put the charm in Jane's hand and said "I love you, Jane" and she said "I know. I love you, too Mom."
When Kate came, we both started to cry. "I love you, Katie." and she said "Oh Mom! I love you! and gave me a hug and went down the path, eyes gleaming.

At the end of the walk, the girls met and gathered in a circle, where they were each given a mirror and markers. They wrote their names on the back of the mirrors and they turned the circle outwards, so that they faced the outside and sat and passed the mirrors down, each writing a quality that the mirror's owner possessed. 

As the darkness grew, the leaders took lights and we surrounded the girls, so they could see.

I stood next to a young woman who had a very difficult time in camp.
She was not active in the church and really only went because her parents made her. She'd brought clothing that was not appropriate with church camp and when asked to cover up, got into a public fight with the leaders. 
"I don't believe in your church standards, I don't believe in your stupid church!" she had yelled as she angrily stormed off and made plans to leave camp.
She'd packed her things and arranged a ride home, when one of the leaders saw her, with her bag, headed to the road and stopped her.
They had a long talk and the girl expressed embarrassment towards her behavior but reluctance to being part of the group of girls with a faith she found too stifling and backwards. She was told that it was okay that she didn't feel that way, that she was there to just have fun and figure out who she wanted to be. If she wanted to leave, she could, of course, but running away was not the way to do it.
She had chosen to stay and the day after the outburst, she had been surprised to find that nobody was mad, everyone treated her just the way they had before she had been so angry and it was okay.

As we stood, darkness falling, some of the leaders began to sing. I stood, shining light on the girls and watched this once angry young woman cry as she sang the words:
"I am a child of God, and so my needs are great. Help me to understand his words, before it grows too late. Lead me, Guide me, Walk beside me. Help me find the way."

When she started to sing I stand All Amazed, I could not hold back my tears as she sang from her heart:
"Oh it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me...Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me."

As darkness grew,  the fireflies came out.
If you don't live in a place with fireflies- oh you are missing out!
They fly through the air and suddenly there is a flash of light that lasts just a second or two, and then it is gone. 

I could see my daughters, in the light of the flashlights, notice the fireflies. 
I saw Kate stop writing and take a moment to look at the starry sky and the glow of the fireflies and the joy on her face was something every parent hopes to see in their child.
I saw Romy, do the same thing. She was writing and then, she looked up, saw the glory of her surroundings and lit up as the fireflies added their own light to the evening. Her face was serene and happy.
Jane's back was to me, but I saw she was looking out at the fireflies, too. 
Some girls never looked up, never saw how beautiful it was, never noticed the amazing moment they were in, that would never happen again. They focused on writing funny notes on mirrors, on writing quickly so it would be finished and they could do something else, they picked at the grass- all while the twinkling lights of sky and nature surrounded them.

The girl in front of me also looked up. 
She put out her hand as she tried to get a firefly to land on her.
Her face was covered in tears and her eyes were wide with wonder.
Ah, she got it.
She chose the better part.
 In spite of how she had been seeing herself, of her feelings of self hate and like she wasn't good enough- she chose the better part and I knew that she would be okay, and she had the capacity to not only be happy, but to bring happiness to those in her life- because she recognized when she was in a holy place, when a miracle was happening around her. 

All of the girls are good girls, they all have weaknesses and they all have challenges, but they are all good girls. Not one did a single thing negative- they all chose good things. 
It was just that there were a few, who chose the better part. 
That choosing to look up, to take in all that they were being blessed with and to make it a part of their souls, it made all the difference. 

 We are all so blessed and we are never alone in our trials. 
Things can get so hard that they bring us to the ground and we see so much suffering, we experience so much- but if we will lookup- we will see that we are living amid constant miracles. 
Stop what you are doing, even when you are counting blessings and look up. See the whole picture, the picture that your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have created and know that it is there for you. If you were the only person on Earth, they'd have created that same vivid, amazing world for you and your tender heart alone. They love you so much, more than you realize.
Look up.
Light comes in many forms and it is all around you, if you will just look up and seek it. 

That is what I will take from camp.
 I will take the reminder that if I will stop what I am doing- even if it is a good thing- and look up, that the fullness of the blessings I have been given can come into my life. 
I will take the humbling knowledge that my daughters have learned this, and that they see God's hand in the everyday.
They found the Savior in the fireflies.


  1. Cool post! It's good to have you back. I just realized I was enjoying the fireflies at the exact same time while working in the yard. That makes me smile.

  2. I love this post. I am missing Young Women camp this week. This year, it's on a stake level and they only wanted two leaders from each ward to go. I asked Coreena Sudweeks and Melina Moore to go, because their daughters are at camp, too, and I thought they would love the chance to be at camp with them. Several of the girls asked me if I was going, and it hurt my heart to tell them I wasn't. One of the girls even told me it was my duty as YW president to go no matter what the stake wanted. That made me smile. I reminded them that next year it would just be our ward again, and all of the leaders who could come would be able to. I love that camp helps everyone who goes, regardless of where they are on their path in the Gospel: wondering if they should even put their feet on the road, just starting out, or solidly heading in the right direction (for now).

  3. My girls were telling me that they only do it as a stake in Utah every other year, interesting. It was always done on a stake level when I was a Youth. Our ward provided most of the leaders, some units just didn't have adults to spare.
    Here, we have kids who have never left the city before and we need to have them in cabins- that's as much roughing it as they can stand, and even that is a challenge.
    I'm sure Melina and Coreena will have a great experience with their girls. You made a sacrifice to let them be the ward reps, I know you wanted to be there, too.

  4. When I was a youth, Girl's Camp was always the full stake each year, too. It was called rough-out camp and for just 14 and older because the Beehives went to Oakcrest (another Beehive-only camp like Brighton). I never went on to the stake camps because they were always the same week as Granite Youth Symphony tour or a big family trip.