Thursday, July 14, 2011

Confession of a Slacker

Yes, I'm a procrastinator.
Yes, I have an embarrassingly messy room.
Yes, I don't exercise enough.
Yes, I don't get to bed a a reasonable hour.

but I always get things done.
but I know where everything is.
but I do exercise, and that works pretty stinkin' well. I am healthy.
but I always get to my appointments in the mornings, and I enjoy the occasional sunrise now and then.

But I'm working on it, everyday.
And that's what matters.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Jubilant Acolytes :)

ju*bi*lant - adjective
feeling or expressing great happiness and triumph.

ac*o*lyte - noun
a person assisting the celebrant in a religious service or procession.
- an assistant or follower.

The last... six months I suppose, have been filled to the brim, past it's tipping point, and then splashed madly into every aspect of my life with Jubilee - a celebration of the restored gospel, and righteous youth. Our beloved Prophet Thomas S. Monson asked us to put on a production that would
1. Provide our youth with an opportunity to have a memory for a lifetime.
2. Allow the youth to mingle with other youth with the same standards.
3. Use the event to "Proclaim the Gospel."
Those were the outlines, and our leaders went from there. They got Jubilee approved by the Prophet, and have been working towards last week, the 23-26 of June, for two years. They have been faithfully dedicated to this calling, enduring everything to the end and beyond. They love the Lord that much. Jubilee included everyone in the Dallas, Texas mission, so that meant all of the youth 14-18 in the stakes from Plano, Allen, Carrollton, Dallas, Dallas East, Frisco, Gilmer, Longview, McKinney, Richardson, and Tyler. That's about 1,800 youth. Our theme was "Standing Together As One For Truth And Righteousness" -- and that is exactly what we did. Jubilee was a combination of a youth conference and a production - like sometimes people put on for a dedication, or a re-dedication of a temple, except we weren't dedicating or re-dedicating a temple, we were celebrating the gospel, and doing exactly what the Prophet wanted (and God wanted) us to do. It encompassed everything from dancing (3 two hour performances), to a youth conference with speakers from all over the great state of TEXAS! We stayed strong, we endured, we performed, and we rose victorious and powerful. Over ourselves, over the adversary, over all that we choose not to do.

2 Nephi 2 : 27"Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself."

That's the real-deal. That' is what I have to say. If I've got that down, and truly understand, then I've got nothing, absolutely nothing to worry about. There aren't very many things I can say that about. This is rare and precious.

On Thursday ensambles practiced, and our Opening Ceremony was shown to the world! The Opening Ceremony was done by the youth, for the youth. There were about 140-ish youth in the Opening Ceremony, and we've been practicing for months. We started from scratch, so we put our hearts and souls into making it all it could be, all we dreamed it would be. Seeing those youth from there, on the arena floor like that - and by "like that" I mean in the exited, joyful, wonderful spirit that they carried - was unique, in that not everyone got to see that. Not everyone gets to see that at all, ever. I am so grateful for the fantastic youth that we have here in this time, especially the ones in this charming land called Texas.
also, after the Opening Ceremony, and a few short talks by our area authority and a youth, we had a dance! A dance with 11 stakes, and 1,800 kids - can you imagine?! It was so much fun, and because Gemini (the same people that did the lighting for the Superbowl, including the half-time show) was doing all of the lighting for the entire show, they agreed to do it for the Opening Ceremony and the dance. It made it just that much better. It was almost surreal, being there. We (or I) had heard about it so much, I had worked toward this so much, that being there, at Jubilee, at the dance that we'd talked about for months!! It was amazing. The dance was awesome. If you want to see pictures, just go to my facebook, and there'll be a few shots from the dance there.

On Friday we (the youth) spent our time at the local high school (which we had rented out) for half of the day (half of the youth were there), and the other half rehearsing the show. At the high school there were speakers assigned to present certain principals to us youth. We heard talks on Modesty, Prayer, Choice and Accountability, The Divine Nature of Womanhood, The Power of the Priesthood, and much, much more. Depending on who you are, you would have heard different things at the workshops. Whoever we were though, we learned a lot. Everyone did. I don't think it was possible not to learn. Everyone took away a special message from God, just for them, presented by our wonderful speakers.
On Friday we also performed a service project! We had the missionaries come over (they performed in one of the numbers), and while they were here, they worked on helping us with our service project, which was personalizing Books of Mormon. Each of us got 1 Book of Mormon, and while we had time, we highlighted certain scriptures that we really enjoyed and found worth-while (the Elders had a few suggestions just in case we couldn't think of any), and wrote our testimonies on a slip of paper that was then tucked into the front of that wondrous book. It was fantastic, in every way, and oh so powerful and inspiring.

Another plus about this whole extravaganza was the food! They gave us super yummy food while we were at Jubilee - Mexican, Subway, Papa Johns - they really went all out for the participants of this. Which was great. :)

Also on Friday we had an all-cast dress rehearsal, which was great because it gave us an idea of what to expect. And then I knew.

On Saturday we performed. Three times in fact. Once at 10:00 (which was probably our sloppiest show, not to say that it wasn't wonderful, jaw-dropping, inspiring, incredible, stirring - it just wasn't our best. It was our first show. There, enough said), and then another time at 1:00, and then once more at 7:30. Between shows we cleaned up, prepared for the next show, ate, a lot, and uplifted each other. Between the 1:00 and the 7:30 we gathered 'round and sang hymns in the gym of the high school. We spent some time (a lot actually) singing, and listening to the message of Elder Lesuier, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. It was wonderful!! Being there, in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing, was awesome, and feeling God smiling was the best feeling ever. I know that God was there with us every moment, that He was and is with us always, the whole time, and that He's mindful, aware, and watchful of all of us, as incredible as that may seem. It true. I know that it is, with every part of me. I know He hears every word, and He know just how I feel, and I can pray for answers, I can turn to Him for peace... or just to be heard. He hears every word.
Aside from the Zion that we created together while we were there, our performances went splendidly! All of the numbers were a hit, and all of the them went according to plan. phew! One thing about this Jubilee, that I haven't seen anywhere, ever, is the miracles. I have never noticed so many miracles, or seen them as plainly, as obviously as I did with this Jubilee. One of my best friends Diana, hurt her shoulder while she was practicing for the Opening Ceremony, and we were both really worried about it, so she got a blessing, and when the time came for the Opening Ceremony, she was able to perform as well and she ever had, as if the injury had never happened. When the number was over, the pain came back, but for every performance, she was healed. She was able, somehow, to perform and do things with her arm and shoulder that would have been excruciating if not for her blessing. That injury would've taken so long to heal. And yet, in the midst of Logic, there is the Gospel, and the miracle of the Priesthood - the Power of God. Another miracle is our music. For Jubilee we couldn't have live music because the center that we were using only allowed for two microphones (legal reasons...), so we prerecorded all of the music. I was privileged to be a part of the recording choir. What a blessing! One blessing, was that I was able to sing. I was able to sing with a voice that was far and beyond better than my own, and when I went Home my angel voice would linger for a time, and then retreat until the next practice. I have not seen that voice resurface since that time (the time of the recording choir) except with the ward choir, and in church now and again. And in the Opening Ceremony. Seeing, and feeling angels helping our little choir become all that it was, was an incredible thing, and I knew - I know - that God was with us as we sang for Him and His glory. Another miracle performed was in the recording itself. The recorder, mixer, whatever-you'd-like-to-call-Him guy was a blessing. He was called up because of his reputation for excellence, however his phone voice sounded a little bit... dull. I was told my either Sis. Erikson or Sis. Poulson (the two ladies heading the whole project) that he was very monotone, and extremely... agreeable?
"This is what we want to do..."
"And this is what we'd like you to do..."
" and we would like to do it on this date"
"and this and that and the other"
until she told him who we were-
"and we're from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints"
"Oh really!? I love you guys!! I worked with some of your youth a while back, and..."
which led to a 50% discount. Woo-hoo!! This guy (I wish that I'd caught his name) still had his doubts though. We, as a choir, could only meet for the recording once, because of the distance between all of us. We went to a few practices, but we only had the means for one actual recording session. This guy (lets just call him Steve) told us that it wasn't possible. For that many songs, for that period of time, for singers as inexperienced as us; well, it just wasn't possible according to Steve. Even professional singers would go flat at the end he said. It was our money though, and if that's what we wanted, then that was what he was going to do. The day came, and we were all exited. We warmed up, and sang. We sang our hearts and souls into those songs - we sang our testimonies into them. They sounded great from where I was standing. After the last number, Steve said he wished that we could all just hear what he heard. As we were leaving, someone (I think it was our choir director, Bro. Schultz) found Mr. Steve in another room, crying quietly to himself. He said that that - what we just did - was a miracle. He said that that shouldn't have happened, and it did.
As he was editing it all, he called one of the Sis. up (either E or P) and told her that he couldn't, he absolutely couldn't charge anything for this recording. Mr. Steve said that it blessed his life so much more than he could bless ours, so he gave the recordings to us, free of charge.

Another miracle came with the fabric that we needed for Jubilee, because we needed a lot of it. Sis. Erikson, or Sis. Poulson, or maybe both! were searching for a warehouse that had a price for the amount of fabric we needed that was in our price-range. They were searching and searching, and came up with nothing. They felt impressed to visit one warehouse in particular, so they went there, and found out that the guy that ran the place was LDS, and he actually was responsible for some of the fabric that was made into either temple clothing, or garments! So he gave us a huge discount, and we were able to make it.

One more miracle before I move on to Sunday: The entire stake needed matching tee-shirts for our stake number, so Bro. Crandall stepped in and helped us out. He sent the order in to a company that he's worked with, and they charged us only the cost for making the shirts. Bro. Crandall said that they didn't make a dime off of that order. A miracle!!

One thing that I forgot to mention about Saturday was that I was in the ensemble number "Praise The Man" (which I was able to be in, among others, along with the Elder and Sister Missionaries) about Joseph Smith, and the Restoration of the Gospel. The practices for that number were so powerful, and so, so inspiring. We could feel the Spirit so strongly - all of us in the number could! The performances went awesome, but it wasn't until I was riding Home with Dad that it hit me - Joseph Smith really did see God, and God really did answer the earnest prayer of a 14 year old boy from New York. He heard Joseph, and farm boy with little education in the country, but strong faith in God. He answered this boys prayer - He must be mindful of all of us, that are, have been, and will be. He really heard Joseph, and He really answered him, in a way that changed the world forever. The fulness of God's truth was now on the earth, or was in the process of being brought to pass, and the world grew more and more ripe for the knowledge every moment. It still does. The Priesthood is restored (the power to act in God's name was restored, and the authority to do so)! It hit me them, with a power that it had never before used, or I had never before felt at least, and I cried inside for joy! It's true! God loves me! He hears me! I felt these truths burning inside me, and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was all true. I know that God was there with us every second, that He always is, and that He loves me so much more than I can understand. I know that there is no limit, no boundary to my God's love, and that it is never, ever too late to turn to Him, even in the face of mistake. I once heard at efy that the mistakes you make don't define you, they refine you, but that's only if you let God into our equation. Into our problem, and into our life. I know that my God (I feel so joyful writing that - "my God!") loves me, and will do, and has done everything that can be done for me, and every last one of my brothers and sisters in Heaven, and on the Earth. He reaches beyond to the farthest corners of understanding and makes the awesome power of - frankly - everything so simple. He loves me, and wants me to come back to Him. He sent my older brother, His son, Jesus to die for me, so that if I chose to, I could return to live with Him again. In Heaven there was a war or words, a war of opinions. It was the first war we had ever seen between good and evil. This war was over choice. Satan, then a brother, wanted us to be automatic. We would be good, and come Home. Every last soul. We would not choose, we would just be. One third, one third of the children of God chose that plan, and rejected Jesus and his sacrifice, and God's plan of choice and accountability. Now, we are on the earth; we are choosing. The score isn't yet tallied, and it is never too late to join God's team again, because that's where our spirits want to be - our divine nature dictates that goodness equals happiness.

Alma 41:10 "Do not suppose, because it has been spoken concerning restoration, that ye shall be restored from sin to happiness. Behold, I say unto you, wickedness never was happiness."

And that's the Gospel. It was lost, and now it is found. Faith, hope and charity are Godly, so they are essential.

That is what I learned at Jubilee.

On to Sunday!
The entire experience of Jubilee was awesome, in the gazing at the mountains and wondering at the stars kind of way, but it didn't really impact me that much except for those few moments in the car, and the miracles that I saw. It was just a cool thing. On Sunday, our youth had a testimony meeting. All of the youth that participated had an opportunity to bear their testimonies, and what they learned at Jubilee. Wow. I have never in my life felt the Spirit of God so powerfully as I did that night. Everyone was crying, and everyone was hugging, because when we were that filled with love, we just needed to share it. We felt God so perfectly, so poignantly, that we all couldn't take it with a solemn face. We were too joyful for facades. We saw each other plainly for what we were - children of God. Brothers and Sisters in the faith, and in Heaven. We all created friendships and strengthened older ones with the power of that experience. Enemies embraced, and testimonies were created. Some of us could hardly speak as we bore our testimonies, because of the poser there. I've never been one to cry or blubber, but that night I couldn't help it. I haven't cried that much since I was a baby. Seeing my friends bear their testimonies made me so so grateful for them. My friend Lizzy, that I've known since she was 3 months old and I was 6 months, bore her testimony, and cried. In all of the years that I've known her, I have never once seen her cry, even when her sister died. My friend in my ward bore her testimony, and as she did I was so proud of her, for how far she's come, and how far she has to go! She is truly a walking example of conversion. From avoiding church, to bearing her testimony to all the youth in the stake! She is going to enjoy so much the journey ahead. Almost all of my friends bore their testimonies, and I was filled with the Spirit as I felt God, and soaked up the truth of these youths words, and witnesses. I feel like nothing can stop me. That feeling when you come out of a really good meeting? X that by 1,000 and you'll know the power of the Spirit we felt. The Spirit we continue in now; the power of testimony that invited such a Spirit. Sometimes someone would go up, and they would just say their name and ward, and I would be a mess of tears! The Spirit was more powerful than I thought was possible, than I ever dreamed it could be, and I have had some large dreams. All of the practices, all of the chaos, all of the late nights and early mornings, rushing and running for Jubilee - they are all worth it, if just for that meeting. That meeting was the whole purpose of Jubilee, and because of it, I am stronger. I am more powerful. I know that God hears me. I know that God loves me. I know that my God restored His truth through Joseph Smith on September 21, 1823, and that nothing can stop the power of God, and His work on the earth today. We are so blessed. We only need to see it, and we'll see the charmed lives of a chosen people. Chosen people, chosen for this time, to bring God's truth to all of our brothers and sisters on the earth today, listening and watching, waiting for the truth. I know that Thomas S. Monson is a true and living Prophet on the earth today, and that he really does receive revelation from God. I know that the work done in temples is sacred. I know that the only way to live, is though God. I know that God has instituted authorities throughout the world through the church for the benefit and betterment of all mankind, and that we will always, always receive an answer from God if we ask in faith, believing sincerely that we'll receive an answer to our prayers. I know that the Book Of Mormon is the word of God. I know that the truths in that book of scripture are inspired by God, and that everything in that book is there for a reason, for a purpose. I know that God is always mindful of us, and will always return if we offer a broken heart, a willing heart, and a contrite spirit - a spirit willing to love, and to soak up the spirit of God, even when our lives, and our hearts, and our minds don't believe it's convenient. I love God. If I know nothing else, I know that He loves me.

This is what I learned at Jubilee. This is why I will never forget Jubilee, and what it has done to all that have participated.