Friday, October 31, 2008

EFY Junkie

Okay, so I really want to catch everyone up a little bit about what I did this summer after the mission before I start blogging about all the current stuff going on in my life. The basic nutshell version is:
  • I came home from Spain and spent an entire month with my family in good ol' Las Cruces. (I literally spent all my time with them and it took me several weeks before I even started looking up all friends.)

  • I travelled to Tucson for the weekend to catch Whitney's amazing senior recital.

  • We went as a family to our annual week vacation in New Port, California. (The first time that I had worn a bathing suit or swam in 20 months). I just love the beach and we went deep sea fishing which was a blast!

  • Whit and I then went to Scottsdale to spend a few days at a resort there with uncle James, Kristen, and Katie plus all our little cousins.

  • Whit and I then headed with some of her friends (which are now my friends) to Havasupai in the Grand Canyon. We back packed 10 miles in, spent a couple of days jumping off of waterfalls, swimming in gorgeous blue water, and just having an awesome time. I then backpacked the 10 miles out at midnight so I could drive with a couple of friends to Utah to be there in time for my EFY training meeting.

Yup, EFY. When I was a participant during high school I had decided that I wanted to be an EFY counselor someday when I grew up. Well, the summer after the mission seemed like the perfect time to fulfill that dream. While I was still in Spain my dad applied for me for the job, but because I was still on my mission I was unable to have an interview for a position. When I got home in April they told me my only option to work with the EFY program would be to be a volunteer counselor in Salt Lake. So there I was in my 1st training meeting for what I thought would be my one week of EFY couseling experience. My plan was to do one week to say I did it and spend the rest of the summer selling baby clothes at my uncle's store. During that first night I was a little bit nerveous just because I still hadn't really been forced to be "social" since the mission and you know those recently returned missionaries have a pretty bad rapt of being socially inept.

Well, long story short. During that 1st week of EFY I fell in love! In love with the kids, the programs, the other counselors, the teaching, the testifying, the blue and green polos, the games night, the variety shows, the dances, the devotionals, and not to mention what we call EFC (especially for counselors). I felt like I was as close to being back in the mission as I could be without actually being a missionary again. I just felt good all the time. I felt like I could make a difference, and it felt good to know that I was literally just donating my time for what I considered a worthy cause. Well, one week turned to two weeks. Two weeks to three, etc... and the next thing I knew I had volunteered for all 6 weeks of EFY in the Salt Lake area and then the summer was over. It was just a blast though and I loved every minute of it! I spent my spare time visitting all my Utah family and just trying to live it up (including going on dates and stuff again which is definitely an adjustment from mission life). Nothing got me more excited though then starting a new week with the Sunday night counselor training meeting. I literally was addicted to EFY and I couldn't get enough. I was and still am an EFY junkie!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Best Decision of my Life

So this next week is the 6th month mark of me being home from my mission in Madrid, Spain. It makes me so sad to think that I have really been home such a long time, but it is true that not a single day has gone by when I have not thought about my mission and my experiences there. I must admit though, my mission now feels like some strange wonderful dream, something from a past life, something that was not quite real. I think that is mainly due to the fact that a mission is such a different world then the world that we live in during our daily lives in just so many ways. My mission did really happen though and I am so eternally grateful that it did.

I really never planned on serving a mission. As a young girl in elementary school I did think I would serve, but only if I got sent to some really cool place like Brazil so I could take the Gospel to all the primitive natives living in the Amazon Rain forest. (I mean that would be really cool don't you think?... I imagined myself wandering around the jungle in sandals, wearing colorful cloth skirts, and eating lots of crazy raw meats and bugs and stuff). Well, as I got older and became more involved in my studies the idea of a mission seemed like something that just wasn't for me. I saw myself as a musician and a student who had a passion for humanitarian work and travelling, but I could not picture myself being the type of person who could ever serve as a full time missionary. People often asked about my plans when it came to serving a mission and my answer was always the same. "If the Lord wants me to serve, when I'm 21 he'll tell me." Well, I turned 21 one and life continued as usual. I will be forever grateful though for that moment which is still so vivid in my mind when I knew that I was suppose to serve. No questions about it. There were a lot of different emotions and tears, but I happily put my papers in within a week's time. One week after that I flew off on a plane to backpack Europe for 6 weeks with some girlfriends.
I know it wasn't a coincidence that the first place we traveled to was Madrid. The Lord actually has a sense of humor too considering he called me to serve in the place that I had decided would be my last choice as far as places I would ever like to serve (lets just say I didn't have a very good impression of Madrid my few days there). The Lord knows best though and 3 weeks later while in a train station in Vienna, Austria I called my brother from a payphone and he read me my mission call and I was shocked but knew instantly that Madrid was where I needed to be (mainly to redeem myself from the judgments I had placed on the people there). Now looking back I know more than ever that Madrid, Spain was the perfect mission for me.

I also ended up spending 4 and a half months of my 18 mission visa waiting in Texas which I also knew was the place where I needed to be at that time. Denton and Hillsboro, Texas will always hold a special place in my heart. Honestly, Hillsboro was like a foreign country to me. I have never been in such a small town with such southern culture before in my life ( I even had to learn how to understand what they were saying in their super strong accents and southern vocab). I loved every moment of it!

I really wish I had a way to accurately describe what my mission was like and what it meant to me, but that really is impossible. All you need to know is that I love the people of Spain (especially Madrid) with all my heart and the Gospel more than ever. I loved my mission President and his wife and I could not imagine having serving under the inspired leadership of anyone else. My companions were all wonderful and I have made so many new eternal friends. I have never felt like I was in "my element" more than while I was serving as a missionary. Although it was at times challenging, it felt like something so natural to me. I knew that's where I belonged. It were as if all of my life's experiences up to that point were preparing me for that year and a half. The hardest thing I have ever had to do was leaving Madrid, but I know that since the 1st day I arrived in the MTC I have changed in so many ways. I brought home with me a wealth of treasured memories, knowledge, and understanding. I gave all I could while I was there and yet still feel like I received more. It has been hard picking up where I left off here in the real world, but it has been worth all the sacrifices. Like I said, serving a mission was the best decision of my life.