Especially for Who? (and a giveaway, too)

Some of you may be familiar with the Especially for Youth program. It’s a week-long LDS youth conference where teens can socialize, learn, interact, and set goals, all in a “For the Strength of Youth”-focused setting. I’m kind of a fan (except I wish it were free). I was a youth counselor for 5 years in the 90s (shut up), and I’ve been teaching at EFY sessions since 2006.  Each year the program theme focuses on the theme scripture that the young men and young women’s programs have selected.  So for 2012, the theme is:

“Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations” –Doctrine and Covenants 115:5

I have a confession to make. I was kind of a super-cheesy Mormon teen. Every day after school, I would drop my backpack on my bed, pop in my Janice Kapp Perry (or similar goopy inspirational) cassette tape into my boom box (again, shut up), and study to lyrics like, “Walk Tall, You’re a Daughter of God.” Once I grew into adulthood, I found that my appetite for that kind of music had been pretty much saturated.  Even now, I can’t really listen to it without feeling a tad bit nauseous.  BUT. The new music, like what they put on the EFY CDs nowadays, is much more modern and palatable. I actually quite like it, and it’s not just for Sabbath music. Some tracks are upbeat, and different songs have different vibes. Did you know you can buy the EFY CDs at your local LDS bookstore?  They’re not just for youth, and I’m suggesting you might like them. I’m all for playing music in the car that my kids can like and it’s totally SAFE.

You can listen to samples of all the tracks here. So, Do you WANT ONE? I have two, yes TWO copies to give away . . . if you don’t mind that my curious children actually opened up one of them.

I will tell you that I particularly like to put on track one, “Arise and Shine,” to wake my kids up in the morning.  They just love it when I belt out the words ARISE AND SHINE while lifting them out of their beds and shaking their sleepy selves. Truly.

How to win a copy? Just tell me you want to. And I’d love to hear confessions of the cheesy LDS music you used to listen to.  I promise this newer stuff is SO much better. I’ll announce winners next Monday.

(small print: These copies were given to me by myldsradio.com for a giveaway promotion that I volunteered to do. CDs can be purchased at http://www.yourldsmusicstore.com/)

The completely non-essential mid-week report

I taught at EFY this week and got back tonight.  The first day of teaching was kind of intimidating because there were only 3 teachers, and the other two besides me (him and him) have both published books and talk tapes and fancy stuff like that, and I– well, I have a blog and I can teach a mean FHE lesson . . . ugh.  Plus I had some technical difficulties with my slide show, and when mentor #1 gave me constructive feedback for my first day of lessons (which I asked for), what he said was absolutely true and stuff I already knew about my teaching style (99.5% doctrinal, .5% entertaining), but because I was already feeling a little insecure, I interpreted it to mean .5% interesting.  I worried that I wasn’t holding the kids’ attention.  He told me today he had a dream last night that I was offended by his feedback and didn’t show up for the second day of classes.  I wasn’t.  I appreciated it.  And I showed up.  It helped me tweak a couple of things for my last two classes that I think made them better.  I bought a smokin’ new outfit to wear for that first day of teaching (smokin’ modest of course).  I loved it until I actually started teaching.  The cute hot pink blouse happened to fit under my armpits in such a way that it was like a giant receptacle for nervous sweating and I had the hugest, wettest armpits all day long which was all kinds of not awesome.

Day two went much better.  I made sure to wear about five levels of clothing plus a blazer to contain my failing antiperspirant.  I taught about two of my favorite topics– missionary work and the Atonement.  The morning devotional given by the aforementioned mentor was about not comparing ourselves to others, which frankly was a tender mercy for me and helped me re-establish my confidence in myself. I was a little more emotional than I like to be (I came home with one of those cry-headaches), but I just can’t help myself when I start talking about stories from my mission, and hello, who can be all straight-faced and emotionless when you’re testifying about the doctrine of the Atonement and how much the Savior loves us?  I got some neat feedback from some of the youth and was able to walk away knowing the Lord had helped me to answer some questions and build some testimonies, so I felt good.  I’m always traumatized by the EFY experience; it stretches me a lot in a good-but-hurting way.  I tell myself that if one or two youth were improved by something I said then all the worry and angst was worth it.

So that’s it.  I will now recover by loading up all my children in a pop-up camper and retreating to the mountains for four days.  Yeah right, if recovery equals taking a worn-out body and mushed-up brain and making them worse.  It’s okay though, some good memories will be made and Matt will let me take a nap every day.  Right, honey?

Thanks for tuning in to the completely non-essential mid-week report.  Carry on.

My children didn’t even miss me.

I’m told that when Matt drove home and they saw that my car was not in the garage, Grant said, “YES!,” and then he got out of the car and held his hands up in the air and yelled “FREEDOM!”

Um.

Whatever.  He’ll appreciate me when he’s 24 and I don’t tell the girl he’s dating that he used to wipe boogers on the wall.  A lot.

EFY went well.  I think I’m getting more used to the nerves since I didn’t throw up this time and I only took 3 Excedrin Tension Headache capsules in the two days I taught.  And I didn’t even worry about the evaluation forms they were filling out about my classes.  I had some great experiences and can say that I know some of the youth were able to feel the Spirit and learn new things and set new goals.  So I felt good about that.  One thing that I love about EFY is that it renews my faith in the youth.  They are good and they love the gospel.  They want it.  We never give them as much credit as we should.  I have always loved this quote from J. Reuben Clark and I try to let it guide the way I teach:

“The youth of the Church are hungry for things of the Spirit; they are eager to learn the gospel, and they want it straight, undiluted.  … they want to gain testimonies of their truth; they are not now doubters but inquirers, seekers after truth. … You do not have to sneak up behind this spiritually experienced youth and whisper religion in his ears; you can come right out, face to face, and talk with him.”

Anyway, they’re great, and spending time with them made me feel good.  And of course, sharing my testimony a lot always makes me feel good.

Natalie missed me.  She gave me a hug today and said she was glad I’m back.  She told me later she thought I went to jail.

???

Thank goodness my children don’t do evaluation forms.  There’s just not enough Excedrin for that.

The dawn of summer. I think I’m ready now.

So we went camping in the rain anyway (no plan B, remember?), and it turned out fine. The weather was dry when we left town, and it only ended up raining one afternoon. Luckily I’d packed a lot of “in case it rains” items, so we spent the time reading, playing games, having coloring contests, etc. (Only slightly-snarky side note: Matt spent the time napping.) Otherwise, we hiked, played, toured, and canoed on the river. I will not go into the canoe experience because I have an unnatural fear of rivers and lakes and all of the unseen dangers and probably creepy things lurking in the water that is not transparent. and nightmares of my children being swept away in the current while I pathetically paddle in the wrong direction trying to save them. My stint in the canoe was a tiny bit shorter than the rest of the family. I tried, but I probably should have been medicated first.

I’m headed out today to teach at EFY, which always makes me excited and a little bit on-the-edge-of-throwing-up nervous. (Last year, I actually did.)   I’ve taught two of my talks/classes before, and two are new material, and I’m just hoping no one throws tomatoes at me.

I am now getting a grip on my summer master plan and, when I get back from EFY, I’ll share more of the details with you. (Since I know you’re just sitting on the edge of your seats wondering “Whatever in the world could Stephanie be doing with her days this summer?” I know. The suspense is unbearable.)  It’s an attempt to find a happy balance between scheduled and flexible.

Anyway, in the meantime, I started reading a book by Camille Fronk Olson called Mary, Martha and Me. I’m not too far into it, so I can’t give a full recommendation yet, but I wanted to share a quote I really liked:

“Jesus Christ is the one needful thing.  What does that mean amid chaotic daily agendas and anxious uncertainty for the future?  The world urges us to strictly follow step-by-step formulas to achieve success.  In striking contrast the Savior taught, ‘Come unto me.’  In my life of never-ending responsibilities, I do not need another checklist (derived from scripture or anywhere else) to define the Lord’s role for me.  I need Him.  I do not need competition that scrutinizes my productivity versus another’s efforts to make me a valuable employee; I need His strength., His wisdom, His grace to perform work that will make a difference.

… The message of Mary and Martha is not a generic, black-and-white answer to align me with one or the other of them.  On the contrary, they give me confidence to ask God directly what He wants me –specifically me– to do.”

And, p.s., the summer gods are smiling on me today because it is 7:45 a.m. and my children are still asleep. Yep, you heard right, we passed the threshold of 6 am. Praise be. I just heard beds squeaking upstairs. Party’s over.