Tuesday, July 31, 2012

the person I want to be.

Life is like a box of chocolates. cake
Forrest Gump

I have had the amazing opportunity to attend a lot of efy classes in my life. a lot. I have seen a lot of different teaching styles, and heard similar topics shared in completely opposite ways. I have sat through classes that are "painful" and others that seem to change my life.

Today I went to my favorite class I think I have ever been to at efy, and that is saying a lot.

He didn't try to be funny, yet he was entertaining and held his audience's attention. He used the scriptures, and had the kids searching and learning for themselves, yet directed their conversations. He was an amazing teacher- but what he taught was even more amazing.

the amazing cake my sister-in-law made for my sister's wedding.
He compared life to a cake. (he had the kids attention at the mention of cake, especially right before lunch) A cake has multiple ingredients. Some are some sweet, and some are bitter. Yet, when it is all baked it is sweet in the end. He talked about how hard times will come, but that our cake isn't "baked" yet, and it wont be until the end of our life- but with those bitter times we know it will all be sweet in the end. 

He talked about his daughter. He told a story of her when she was a little girl with this lamb they had gotten her who was completely rotten, and how sad she was when she found out he was most likely going to be killed after the fair. He then went on to tell how she was in a car accident. She was rear ended and the gas tank exploded and she burned to death. He shared something from her journal where she talked about the person she wanted to be. He challenged us to do the same, who do I want be? What do I want people to remember me as? You are remembered for the way you live your life, not the way you die. So here is my short, and public, explanation of the person I want to be (with a much more personal list to follow in my journal).

I want to be the person that loves everyone no matter what. I never want a rough day that I am having affect those around me, especially those I love. I want find joy in the small moments, and not let stress rule my life. I want to be the person who puts the gospel before everything else in her life, and that everyone knows loves the gospel. I want to be the person who is friends with those who are lonely, and is always serving those around her. I want to be the person my heavenly father knows I can be.

I left his class, and literally bawled to the BCs about how wonderful the class was. I wish I could have recorded it to put here for all to enjoy, words cannot adequately describe this class.

So I went back to his class after lunch for his second class of the day. It was wonderful, I didn't necessarily bawl afterwards, but he made me think of how I can be better. He shared a quote, that I thought fit perfectly with his first lesson.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
-Marianne Williamson

So- there is no excuse to not be the person you want to be. You have the choice. We can always come up with excuses, but why? We are the only ones limiting ourselves...

So I will start now, and I will be the person I want to be. It is not enough just to try. He made the comment that if when you get married your husband says "i will try to love you forever" that you should say- "sweet, try with someone else" we make commitments all the time, and success without commitments are impossible. So I am committing to be that person... wish me luck.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

blog vs sleep

This is a constant battle in my life.

Do I blog or do I sleep.

Here is my Pro/Pro list... Pro/Con lists are silly, because the cons of one are the pros of the other, so when making a choice...pro/pro lists are the only way to go...

Pros of Blogging:

  1. quickly write down memories so I can remember them in months to come
  2. help my family to stay updated on my life
  3. get random musings out of my head

Pros of Sleeping:

  1. I am more rested
  2. happier during the week
  3. I can stay awake while driving
  4. You get to have exciting dreams
  5. more energy
  6. Im not as grumpy
  7. I can do my job better
Sleep tends to always win. I have 2,390,823 blog posts in my head that I haven't found time to actually write out...they are coming, hopefully... but for now my bed is calling my name for a quick nap before more meetings and a trip to the airport...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


week 7. Bowling Green, Kentucky

I can't believe we are already to week 7, but at the same time it feels like we have been here for an eternity. Last week was the low point. The week where I just wanted to go home. There was no air conditioning, no cell service, Morningside started at  7:30 rather than the normal 9:30, we were all tired and slightly grumpy.

I'm not sure what changed. It could be the cold rooms to sleep in, or the extra hour of sleep because of a time change. It might have been our cheer on Monday morning. I'm not sure what it was but this week just feels so much better, we are all... refreshed.

our cheer. it was epic. Thank you Shmidtty for the amazing lights...
we made it the night before and I was literally on crack. I have been in a funk of late and as we all helped choreograph it (main credit goes to James and Shae) we all just kept getting more and more excited. Funk gone. Seven year old Ellie, back. 

EFY is draining. It is amazing but draining. It literally takes over every part of your life. Even on your days "off" you're not really off because you are travelling to the next session and getting everything ready for another week. A life back home seems like a distant memory, and trying to maintain relationships with friends is tricky, to say the least. (This is my public apology to Jenna for failing at calling her every time I say I will, and the forever long game of phone tag). You crave normality, independence. I remember at the end of last summer the highlight of going home was being able to go to the bank by myself. To run an errand. I was so happy. So by week 6 it is understandable that one would start to get a little stir crazy.

There is something about Kentucky. This campus is magestic. We are in a beautiful, newly renovated auditorium, with the most amazing lights and sound guy. Our site office is perfect, with leftover cereal from mingle for those mornings you don't make it to breakfast. Orientation ran like a dream. Everything has just been nearly perfect. 

James and I came to the realization that we don't have enough fun with our BCs. Our meetings are quick so we can get to bed, but it doesn't allow for them to de-stress. So last night we got little tiny things of Ben and Jerry's. We told them how we loved them and how we saw a difference from last week and how much we appreciated and what the do. Mary raised her hand, "can you be more specific, that's pretty broad and I want to know what we can do to get more ice cream." it was amazing, and hysterical.

While last week I found myself wishing the summer would come to an end, this week I have found myself saying I have the best job in the world. While it is hard at times, and we have to deal with not fun things (like mean parents at check in, mistakes from the office, discipline, and all the other not-so-great things), we also get to play with our friends and learn about the gospel. Where else to you get paid to sit in classes and learn, or sit and listen to your friends as they practice singing "I Feel My Saviors Love"- this really is the best job in the world.

I'm not sure what I am trying to get across in this post, it's mainly an update and for me to remember that I really do love what I do. The moral of this story is that this week is different, and I am excited for the next two weeks and what they bring!

Friday, July 20, 2012

small town USA

i have fallen in love with small town USA.

its real.

we are in Hiram, OH this week, and I am almost certain we doubled the population when all the kids got here. and it is beautiful.

if you asked me Saturday or Sunday I would have said something along the lines of "I COULD NEVER LIVE HERE!" it was a 30 minute drive in any direction to the nearest walmart, and the walmart we went to had a horse and buggy parking lot for the amish people that live here. (okay, I loved that! but i wouldn't want to live here)

Somehow in between the long drives to kirtland, lack of sleep, and running a special edition... I fell in love with this town.

Some of the reasons...

Everywhere you drive it is absolutely beautiful. green pastures. rolling hills. tall trees.

there is one police man on duty. one. and we have become best friends. story. (yes. police officers are becoming a common occurrence, i promise im not a felon) on monday morning we woke up to find parking tickets on all of our cars. surprise during the week you cant park on the street from 4am-6am on weekdays...who knew? the signs coming into town, not on the side of the road..thats who. So being the loving coordinator I am I had them turn them into me and went to hopefully work some magic. I went down to the police station. no police man. There was a nice lady though who informed me that he was out. "Do you know when he will be back?" she responded. "nope, it just depends on whats going on...you can just look for his car and then you will know he is back." I smiled, gave her my number (even though I didnt have service) and she told me she would give me a call. Well luck had it that I was driving by right when he got back. I went in and instantly became best friends with my favorite police officer Dave. I explained what had happened and he explained the no parking on weekday rules. He then took the stack of tickets (probably 10) and gave me a hard time. "So you are all felons?" my response. "Yes." (he looks at me...) "I mean, no. well yes, we all got tickets, but we are all good people I promise!" he laughed, took me in the back telling me he was going to have to "book me" and then simply told me not to park there again and sent me on my merry way. I have never left a police station feeling happier. I came back and told the story to James while sitting at the solutions table. Not long after our good friend Officer Dave showed up at the solutions table. Just to check that everything was going okay. This was the biggest thing going on in the town. He talked to us for a while and made us laugh. This week has been full of random check-ups and waving from his patrol car. I LOVE HIM! and I have never felt more safe in a town.

People know one another's name. I was at the post office and the worker called the woman in front of me by name. I want that. I want to live in a small town and know everyone. I want to walk into a store and say "Hi" to Gary the checker on aisle 4, and go see Susie the baker who helps me come up with new recipes...perfection

Everyone is soooo kind. A little boy helped me carry boxes into the post office when he saw me struggling. I loved him, and it literally made my day.

They have one stoplight. one. and then a blinking "yield" light. at night the town is dead. it is perfect for late night walks, and just everything...

in case i didnt adequately say this before it is BEAUTIFUL!

today as I drove to a different town to the post office. "Makes me Wanna Take a Backroad" by Rodney Adkins came on and I thought to myself that life couldn't get any better. That was the moment I was completely sold. I want my small, humble, full of character home, in a tiny town in Ohio... where I know all my neighbors, and the police man and I are old chums, and everyone is friendly.

yep. that is the life i want some day. im sold.

also thank you to mary and shawn for the post below.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

my side is in stiches...

I am not a huge "laugher", especially in movies. I get this from my mom. I am much more a chuckler or giggler- and I usually laugh at unfortunate events (not kosher at all- but its always so funny). But this summer I am definitely becoming more of a laugher. To the point where at one point it was a disruption at the end of a morningside.

Here are the things that leave my side in stiches

1. Watching the firework video over and over again. We found at 2:24 that one of the counselors turns the wrong way and runs straight into another counselor. It was the funniest thing ever!!!

2. Mary's Birthday. I don't know what made it so funny, but decorating balloons and her door was hysterical. We were all on the floor dying laughing trying to make no noise at all. We heard Shae and Lexie in the stair well and tried to spy on them by jumping to see through the window- she was going to scare us and tried to open the door, too bad Indiana was fort knox and she had forgotten to use her key to unlock it. This resulted in even more laughter.

3. In Cincinnati, OH a parent came up to me at the solutions table. She went on to request we teach the kids how to get out of the building. They had spent 10 minutes trying to get out because every time they came to an exit it was an emergency exit, and in case of an emergency the kids would need to know how to get out. I held in my laughter as I explained to her that in the event of an emergency I am sure it would be okay for the kids to use the emergency exits, but that I would make sure counselors show their participants the way out. I was DYING inside.

4. Shawn was attempting to get her backpack that was on the other side of this plastic fence. All of a sudden we hear "help." James and I looked over to see her falling over the white picket fence. James and I just looked at her confused. How in the world did that happen, to which she replied "really guys, I need help" oh the laughter than ensued.

5. In the hulabalu of having no session box at check-in. and the post-it madness that followed. we sent shae on an important mission to make copies of release forms the university needed from all the participants. we had him make 200 to be safe. we have 150 left.

6. walking down the hallway after a long night I saw a counselor. We had a brief conversation about his week while I waited for the elevator- the elevator came and as he walked away I said lovingly, "ryan your are a (ch)tramp" Somehow in my tiredness my "ch" came out as a "tr" so instead of calling this wonderful counselor a champ is came our as a tramp. He stopped. looked at me. and we both busted up laughing as I hurriedly got on the elevator to escape my mistake.

7. In Kirtland, things did not go as planned. correction. things weren't planned. the schedule they gave us allowed 10 minutes to make a 90 minute drive and an hour to travel just down the road. We did all we could to rework a schedule that would make everything still work, however, it meant that breakfast was at 6 30, and morning side would start at 7 30. So James at the end of FHE got up to explain how the next day would work. I have never heard anyone make waking up, and walking up big hills sound soooo enjoyable. I was in the back literally laughing out loud as he told the kids they would get to partake in a "nutritional experience." I have never been so grateful he was my co.

8. our new favorite game as a BC team is the "haha" game where you lay on the floor with your heads on each others stomachs. we all immediately start laughing. it normally stems from us all being exhausted and laying down on the cold tile floor as seen below.

I could go on an on listing the funny moments that are making this summer so enjoyable. It has been great, and I am sure more funny moments are on the way...

Friday, July 13, 2012

thank you mr. police man..

this one time i got pulled over. twice. in one day.


i would like to justify my actions.

1. it was a SPEED TRAP. that sneaky little police man. i was going 54. 54 on a free way, it didnt feel fast at all. I was confused when i got pulled over. Officer Exile (i thought it was funny because he was "exiled" to traffic) walked out in the middle of the road, pointed to me and to the side of the road. While I sat there I thought maybe I had a flat tire as he looked at the car... wishful thinking. I was going 54 in a 45 which really was a 55 but because of construction, and it was changing back to 55 in 100 yards! mary and I laughed. i felt slightly depressed thinking of how much it was going to cost, and then realized there was nothing I could do so I continued driving using cruise control and not speeding in the slightest. so as he hands me my ticket what comes out of my mouth... thats right "thank you"... i thanked him for giving me a ticket...who am i? my politeness didn't pay off, and I now have a hefty ticket to pay. sneaky policeman.

2. i was overly careful all day. no speeding for me anymore. no sir. so we have had a four hour meeting to set up the session, driven forever and a half away for dinner and to find a walmart. (side note: ohio is amish country! it is the best thing in the world... they have signs saying "please share the road" with a horse and buggy on it. AND they have horse and buggy parking lots. life complete!) we came back, dropped something off at the Hiram Inn and then we made our way the two blocks to our dorms. I came to the turn, turned on my blinker, slowed, saw a police car waiting to come out onto the road and then turned. I wasnt speeding.. no problem. FLASHING LIGHTS. what the. Meet our non automatic lights that I always forget to turn them on for the first three blocks- which presents a problem when you only travel two. the policeman was very nice and we chatted, and I explained, and he simply looked at my ID and gave me a warning. the whole time mary is DYING in the seat next to me.

so I have given up driving. no more. oh wait, mary lost her license so she cant...so i am stuck with a sign on my forehead saying 'pull me over' and no one else to drive. bahumbug.

this post sounds way grumpy. i promise it was funny. and that im not grumpy.

oh yes, and happy friday the 13th.

and congratulations to my brother Jonathan, who defended his dissertation today and PASSES!! we officially have a doctor in the family...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

three degrees of separation.

why i love efy. not for the friends you make, but the youth. it might be because at times I still feel like I am a giddy little teenager, or because I remember how hard it was to be in high school and have to try to live the standards while the rest of the world went the complete opposite direction.

being a counselor was the best job in the world. i remember walking down the sidewalk one day with my youth and thinking I would pay to do this and they were paying me. it was the best summer job in the world. I was just one degree away from the youth. I was a part of their life. I saw them change throughout the week. To hear them bare their testimony at the end of the week about what they had learned and what they now knew to be true was the most satisfying thing in the world, and would bring so much joy into my heart. I was there. I was making a difference in these youth's lives. My life had a purpose, it was validated. I was adding something to this big world.

meet year two. no longer am I a counselor, but a BC. I had major withdraws. I couldn't decide if I hated being a BC or if I liked it. There were things I liked. I liked being part of the BC team. I loved our meetings, and getting to know them better. I loved the added freedom, and learning how to plan a variety show or games night. but I missed the youth. a lot. but I still had my counselors, and I could see the difference I could make in their life. And as I made the effort I was able to meet certain youth and have some great conversations with them. My summer did not leave me with the same gratification as the year before, I didn't feel like I grew as much as I had as a counselor, and I didn't feel like I had made that big of a difference. A few months after EFY I got a letter from a participant thanking me for a conversation we had had, and suddenly it all seemed worth it. Even if it was just for her, the summer was a success.

meet year three. now i am not a counselor, or a BC. but now a coordinator. that is THREE degrees of separation from the reason I love EFY. THREE. It has been an amazing learning opportunity- don't get me wrong. I am learning a lot about parenting and marriage. however, I don't feel like what I do impacts the youth at all. True, I get to teach on Wednesday, and true, a few people will come up and thank me for what we talked about...but I dont see the change in their life. I dont know their story. I feel like any other person could fill my role and the program would run smoothly. Fix housing. Conduct a meeting. Make sure people are doing what they need to be doing. Make sure everything runs. Deal with problems. Its not too hard. (Okay, it has its moments, and can be very stressful..but it's mainly logistics.) I hate being so separated. James and I have talked about how being a coordinator is the loneliest job, and in many ways it is true.

this week though has been a tender mercy. those degrees of separation somehow dissipated.

example one. its tuesday night. i just sat through a counselors devotional. we sat talking about how they could more effectively teach and how their week was going, and other very important things like their dating history. As we sat there talking another counselor popped their head in, "Ellie, I need you." I ended things with the former counselor and followed this very concerned counselor. She took me to her youth, who was standing in the hall. "She wants to go home." Why? We talked. and talked. I watched as the clock signaled the start of the meeting I was supposed to help conduct, it seemed so trivial and unimportant as this precious girl sat in front of me. We talked about her life, she was a convert. We talked about why she wanted to go home. She didn't feel like she fit because she was shy. We sat and talked, we talked about her heavenly father's love for her. I talked. A LOT. and cried. i missed having youth of my own. She decided to stay, at least for one more day and promised she would tell me her conversion story the next day at lunch. I saw her at my lesson, she smiled. Her smile is the most beautiful thing in the world, and seemed to only come out every once in a while. Today. Today she was smiling ear to ear as she walked around the dance with a group of friends. Something had changed. She had stayed all week and was happy- I had made a difference and I could see it.

example two. i feel like the logistics make it possible to have a climate of revelation, but they are not what is most important. if something doesn't work out just right it wont ruin the growth of these youth. There are many parts of my week that feel like they have no impact on the youth and their spiritual growth. Meet the solutions table monday morning. This is James' least favorite part of the week. We were COMPLETELY full for boys. They had actually over-filled some spots and a counselor had to move out of his room and in with a BC to make space. There were 3 16-18 year old boys that wanted to come. They put their name on a list and kept their fingers crossed that someone would drop out. One of the women that had brought two of the boys came up to us- "I know this makes no difference, but both these boys come from really hard situations and could really use efy." She left and James and I turned to each other. We didn't care that it would give efy more money, or make our life a little tricker- we wanted these boys to be here. A few phone calls, a moved counselor, and new door tags later we had been able to get all three boys in. I saw two of the boys throughout the week and they said thank you and it was great to see them having a wonderful experience, but what made the summer worthwhile was Friday night after taking it home. On of the boys, who was a very "tough" looking guy (i think he could bench press me) came up to me after I dismissed their company. He looked at me and gave me a huge hug as he said thank you one last time. It was the most sincere thank you I have ever heard. He left and I just cried. My logistical, non-important position had made it possible for him to be here, I had made a difference. It made it all seem worth it. The lost social life, personal time, family bonding, anything close to a dating life. I would give it all up again to be there again, to meet Richard, and to make it so he could spend the week at efy.

I think Richard did more for me than I did for him. He put my summer back into perspective. He helped me remember what it is I love about EFY. It can change people, strengthen people... but its not the program that does that, the program gives them a place where they can feel the spirit and that is what changes them. Sitting in his groups testimony meeting on Thursday night, he said something that was for me- I grabbed my pen and jotted it down. "His love overpowers fear any day of the week." perfection.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously 
that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.”
― J.K. Rowling

fear. that nasty little four letter word that plagues my life. when I was little it didn't exist. My father has often told me how he though I wouldn't make it through my childhood because I had no fear of getting hurt. We would go skiing and I would point my skis straight down the hill and zoom down as fast as I could.

Somehow over the years I have let fear creep into my life, and I don't like it. It seems like the more I experience life, and the more I know- the more I know can lead to pain, so I fear. I fear failure, or the unknown. I fear pain, emotional and physical. Fear can be paralyzing. I love the quote by J.K. Rowling above- you can live so cautiously, and avoid pain at all costs, but then you haven't really lived.

This summer is a summer of overcoming fear. I have no idea what I am doing as an EFY coordinator, but I am learning as I go.  Each unknown session brings a fear of failure, but I am trying to let faith overcome fear. Can I just say it is NOT easy. It is amazing though how everything works out for the best. The lessons you learn from failure or pain are necessary- while not always enjoyable. Looking back on my life and times of pain or hurt I wouldn't take them away because they have made me who I am today. So it seems silly that I would live so cautiously as to avoid those moments that make me better and refine me.

Right before this summer of EFY started I remember thinking to my self. "What did you sign up for? What were you thinking?" I just wanted to stay in Provo. I loved my life there. I had amazing friends and I didn't want to leave them, even if for only 10 weeks. I knew what I was doing, and I was good at it. I had a schedule. Life was comfortable. Leaving stretched me, I wasn't comfortable. I didn't know many people. Every moment of every day was pretty much spoken for. I remember not wanting to come, but I have been amazed at the lessons I have already learned only three weeks in. The close friendships I have built. I have learned more about myself and what I am capable of. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity!

So knowing what I know- I shouldn't have fear in any part of my life, right? Every experience I have is making me better, and making me more like my Heavenly Father. Like it says in Ether 6:5- the winds always blew towards the promised land. Just like the scary things in my life. So...

Dear fear,
Please go away. I dont like you, and you are the dumbest.
Sincerely, Ellie

This topic of fear has been on my mind a lot lately, and tender mercy... we watch a mormon message as a BC team every Sunday right after church before we have a quick meeting with what needs to get done for the day. Today Chris was in charge of picking the video. The video he shared was just what I needed... enjoy.