Today began like any other hectic Sunday morning. Sophie woke up sad that she wasn't a mermaid. She said that she had made a wish and it didn't come true that she could be half girl and half mermaid. I gave her a pep talk about how Heavenly Father had sent her to earth to accomplish things that only SHE could do, and that she could only do as a GIRL...but alas, the pep talk didn't cheer her up at all. Then, because he was so sleepy, Weston wouldn't get out of bed. So Jason, with alarm in his voice, rousted Weston by telling him that he had been asleep for 5 years and that he was now turning 12! He told him that Sophie and Brighton were actually his new little sister and brother, Summer and Hammy (don't even ask), and that Sophie and Brighton were at church practicing for a primary program. Sophie thought it was funny and started calling herself Summer, while Weston grumbled but did at least get out of bed and get dressed.
Fast forward to church. Someone is giving a baby blessing. In the middle of the blessing, Brighton digs into the diaper bag, finds a container full of cheerios (an envied snack only to be had at church) and somehow figures out how to open the tupperwear. Mid-blessing, I am frantically trying to pick up all the cheerios while he manages to stuff at least 10 in his mouth. It turns out that was too many to eat at a time, so he spits a few out (some half chewed and slobbery, mind you) and then tries to re-eat them. Because today was a big day for me, I am trying to pay really close attention to what the bishop is saying.
Before we get to the part I dread (where I am released as young women's president), he says he has an award to present, and calls me out of the congregation to help "present"the award. Turns out he had an award for me! That did soften the blow of my aching heart, but I still braced myself for my last lesson to the girls. I had prayed and worried all week about what I would say to them. Thankfully, the words came out right. Thankfully, I was able to speak from the heart and tell them what I knew I needed and wanted to say to them.
There are literally no words to express how much they mean to me. I have treated them as an extension of my own family, and loved them, in some ways, as I would my own children. I have prayed for them every day, laughed with them...and heaven knows I have worried about them! I have spent many hours each week preparing to teach, guide, and plan terrific activities with and for them. I have reminded them of a million different assignments, and they probably wished at times that I would stop reminding them so often! We have had so much fun together and also many spiritual experiences...and they have taught me so very much. They are a part of me and always will be. I hope that just as my own young women's leaders left a lasting impression on me, that I have left something on them - my testimony, my belief in them, my faith in Jesus Christ. I hope that they are better because of our association. I know that I am better because of them. I am so thankful to have been chosen to serve them for a time! I would by lying if I said I wasn't a little (or a lot) broken-hearted about leaving them.
Today when Sandy had her moment to tell them good-bye and share her testimony with them, she said that she hopes her daughters grow up to be like these girls. I feel the same way! There is also a special bond that you forge with people you work so closely with on such a regular basis. I have been able to serve with some of the most incredible women I know. And I will miss that, too. Ultimately, I know that the young women will still be a part of my life. I will see them for a few minutes on Sundays and ward activities, and maybe I'll get them to go out to ice cream with me, or come over to hang out from time to time. But I will miss seeing their bright and shining faces on such a constant basis, miss their cute stories, their inspiring faith, their energy and zest for life - all the goodness that they radiate! And of course, all the love that they have shown me. I think I forgot to thank them for accepting me and showing me so much love. How could I have forgotten?
I used to be distressed thinking about the world that my kids would grow up in - afraid all of the rotten, degrading mess that our society as devolved to and the deplorable, crass influences all around them. But when I see these radiant young women - women of faith and strength and beauty - I know that as long as I teach my kids well, they still have a future full of bright possibility. They, too, can be a light in this darkening world.
I'm not sure how long it will take to get used to this "new normal." It is amazing how much you miss something the second that you no longer have it. I know that is a weird thing to say because a calling isn't something you have to keep. It is an opportunity to serve in a certain capacity for a certain time. But when you come to love people, you are never the same, and you don't want to let go of them! I know I don't have to let go of these cherished friendships, but I also know that it won't be the same...and that is the hard part. It is, in some ways, how I feel when a cherished friend moves away. The friendship remains so dear and precious to me, but I ache for their company and constancy in my every day life! I've had a few of those kind of major aches in the last year - the loss of my mom, of course, being the worst. But now I must focus on gratitude, and fill my heart with thanks for incredible bonds of love that have filled, and will continue to fill my life with rich joy!
Here are just a few pictures from a few activities over the last few years...