The Blau crew went to Minnesota this year (I was asleep when this decision was made), because it was the only thing that fit into our busy schedule where Savannah, Spencer, and I could go together. I loved going with my brother and sister this year. It was such a bonding experience! Savannah and I actually got the chance to be roommates for the first time, which I loved. We are already roommates at home ... in fact, I think the only difference was that at EFY we slept on different beds.
There were crazy awesome highlights for me at this EFY:
1. On Wednesday, it was pouring buckets outside. For those of you that aren't familiar with EFY, Wednesday is generally the outdoors game night. It's super fun because participants put on their white shirts and run around like nut cases on campus. Since it was raining, it was doubtful whether or not we would be able to play our games, but we prepared our cheer just in case. I really took a leadership role during this process and it felt AWESOME. People were listening to me as I delegated tasks and made speedy decisions. I really felt empowered and a part of the group, which is something that I haven't really tapped into in my life before. I am perfectly content with just staying in the background, but I saw that this was a perfect chance and I took it. I hope it doesn't go to my head (I think it has a little bit already).
2. I am a huge proponent of participating in the various activities at EFY. I love, love, love the musical program. As a five year (six time!!) participant in the musical program, I was beyond excited to be in this one. During these programs and the various practices (we practice during every free moment to prepare for the program on Thursday) I realize how talented people really are.
It always kind of intimidates me because I am inclined to think the best of others and think a little less of myself. It's not an unhealthy obsession with my flaws, but it's just the way I am. I would much rather praise others. Because of that, I hardly ever volunteer to do things like solos or speaking parts. Others are much more capable than I am. This year, however, I was determined to just give trying out for a solo a try. After all, this was my last EFY experience as a participant and I wanted to live it to the best of my abilities.
When they called the participants that wanted to audition for a solo to come from the group, it seemed like the entire choir stepped out. My heart got little butterflies ... there was NO WAY that I was going to be impressive enough to stand out from this crowd. I said a little prayer in my heart that I would be able to do my best and feel good about my audition and then joined the crowd. We went to the back of the auditorium and looked at the music that we would be singing. To my surprise, we were singing one of my FAVORITE church songs ever called "I WILL" by Hilary Weeks.
This is my favorite song for several reasons, but the main reason I love it is because it was the song that my first EFY counselor, Annalaura sang at EFY. It was on my first EFY CD and got me through my first year of high school. I really, really feel a connection with it and the lyrics. It kind of describes my attitude about keeping the commandments even when it is super hard. As I was sitting there with the crowd, I realized how bizarrely full circle the situation was. Here I was at my very last EFY. I had made it through the rough parts of my teenage life and now I was ready to go forth and serve. I started to feel a little hope in my heart about the audition. After all, I was already familiar with this song and I could put a ton of emotion and personal experience behind its words.
Anyway, I'm rambling. I auditioned and I felt really good about it. I still wasn't sure that I would stand out, but I said a prayer after the audition that really calmed me down. The next day, they announced the people that they selected for the solo ... and I WAS ONE OF THEM! Out of the thirty or so people that auditioned, there were five girls picked. I was so full of gratitude at that moment. The counselor that was picking us out obviously didn't know who I personally was, but I believe that she was prompted to pick me because it was such an important thing to me. I sang with these super talented girls during practice and then during the musical program. It was like a dream ... and, like I said, totally full circle. I felt like I had reached some sort of nirvana ... If I believed in that kind of thing, anyway.
3. On Friday, we had a little bit of free time. Before Friday, my free times are always occupied with musical program, so it's fun to see what the rest of the cool kids do with their time. I hate to admit this ... but in Minnesota, there really isn't anything that is cool to do. You can sit around and get stung by mosquitoes ... or you can walk around and get bit by mosquitoes ... or you can play ultimate frisbee. My company was standing around trying to think of something to do when one of our counselors mentioned that we could play hide and seek somewhere around campus. That was a WINNER idea. None of the buildings were actually opened ... but that didn't deter us. We basically went from door to door until we found one that didn't latch. Was that necessarily the right thing to do? No ... but we weren't causing any serious damage.
The building that we broke into, ahem, entered was one that we had had classes in earlier in the week. It had an ampitheater type thing with a network of tunnels beneath that were made for playing hide and go seek. Playing with my company was such a fun, fun bonding experience. At one point, the counselors left and they put me and James (another 18-year-old participant) in charge of making sure nobody died. I had so much fun being a "leader." I seriously cannot WAIT to be an EFY counselor. I'm sure it is a great experience.
4. My EFY session director was stinking awesome. His name is Brother Bowman. He is an artist, an expert Monty Python impersonator, and a super rocking spiritual stud. I loved his lessons and insights throughout the week. He talked a lot about chastity (which is kind of a strange EFY subject), but I totally learned a lot. He also talked a lot about the atonement. I love learning about what my Savior has done for me because the more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn.
Another super awesome teacher I had at EFY was Brother Janson. A highlight for this year was during one of his classes when he was talking about using technology wisely. At one point, he picked up his hardback scriptures and said, "I LOVE my hardback scriptures!" He then placed his cheek on it and started to purr. It was pretty much the funniest thing that I have seen in my life. A serious contender for funniest thing I have seen in my life happened during that same class when he started to worship his iPhone. I loved Brother Janson.
I love EFY. Uplifting and encouraging the youth of the church is definitely one of my passions. I learned so many wonderful things this year at EFY and met so many wonderful people. I really have been blessed to go to EFY so frequently and to have such wonderful experiences. It has definitely helped me to stand up for what I believe in and to LOVE what I believe in. I really love being a Mormon. It is my happiness!