Monday, March 12, 2012

a big change

When I was asked to serve as the young women's president in our congregation a year-and-a-half ago I cried.

It wasn't that I didn't want to work with those girls.

And it wasn't that I didn't think that it would bring blessings to our family.

It was because I was overwhelmed with life in general and I didn't think I could ever be the kind of leader those girls would need. Plus, I was comfortable behind the scenes. I couldn't lead the scenes for crying out loud!

When I talked to the outgoing president she cried too.

She didn't want to let it go.

I looked at her like she was a crazy person.

I was sure she had grown accustomed to the demands involved and that she had certainly had some incredible experiences. But had she forgotten about the time and life she was getting back in letting it go? Did she realize how much her family would benefit from having her be "theirs" again?

I told myself that on the day I would give up that calling to someone else down the road I would skip merrily on my way.

I know that sounds horrible. I mean, really, it's an incredible honor to be able to work with the youth. But as I sat there pouring over the files and supplies and instructions I had been given there was a black cloud over my head. How would I ever, ever be able to do this? And how would I ever morph myself into the kind of leader the girls would need?

Time passed and I forgot about my insecurities and woes. The black cloud thinned out and turned into a rainbow.

And I fell head-over-heels in love with those girls.

It turned out the girls "led" me instead of me leading them. And I got to bask in their "light" each week.

Sure, it was an even bigger time commitment than I had braced myself for. It took every ounce of energy I could give. And yes, it has certainly taken me away from my family. A whole bunch.

But what I didn't realize in those first incredulous days is that serving in a position like that has the power to strengthen your family. My girls (and even my boys...including Dave:) have been blessed in countless ways over this period of life we have shared with these shining, vibrant young girls. And so have I. More than I can ever explain.

Fast forward to two weeks ago when I was released as the young women's president.

I knew when we bought our new house that it meant this day would come. I mean, we're moving into a different neighborhood which means we will meet with different people at a different time on Sundays so everything changes.

I figured I could make it until after girls camp this summer and pass the reins over after that.

But as Dave and I contemplated the unknown time frame of when we will actually move and counted up the amount of times I will be out of town for various things on top of the time it is going to take just for sheer house planning, etc. etc., I realized those girls need someone who can focus on and be there for them more and Dave and my kids need something more than an eyes-glazed-over-from-lack-of-sleep crazy lady who couldn't so much as glance at house remodeling possibilities without wanting to cry.

As much as I selfishly wanted to hold on to those girls, in counseling with Dave and our church leaders we knew it was time.

I knew that I had the perfect person serving with me who would be able to take over as the new president without batting eye. (If you don't believe me watch this "flash-dance" she made up for our New Beginnings program...I knew from the moment I met her she'd be perfect.) So we set the ball rolling for some changes.

I anticipated that the change would be sad, so each week that a change didn't happen I wore a little secret smile on the inside knowing I got to soak up these girls for that much longer. But a couple weeks ago I got a call from the overwhelmed but excited newly-called president and the change was made that next Sunday.

As I handed her over all the stuff I could hardly stand letting go of the silliest things...the papers, the scribbled out thoughts of things to remember and do, the quotes I wanted to remember to share...

Although I knew it would he tough to let go, I never anticipated breaking down crying when they made the announcement or looking at Claire bawling down the isle or a couple of my laurels a couple rows over. Then that got me going even worse.

It's gut-wrenching to say goodbye to life as you know it being surrounded by girls who teach you so much....and bring out part of you you never knew existed.

Sure I'll still see them at church each week. And sure, I can always get a hold of them at a moment's notice. But it's just not the same. I told a few of them they can't understand how much I love them until they get to work with Young Women some day. It's just a kind of love and concern that is indescribable.

But man oh man as sad as it is, it's also a celebration. What lucky girls they are to get their new leaders who are all so outstanding. I told them it's going to be like Disneyland with a spiritual twist in there with all the fun they are going to have going on, and I think they know it :).

I'll miss these Laurels like crazy (and the others who weren't there that day), and the Laurel leaders who I have spent so much time with.

And oh how I will miss working with all the leaders including this presidency. I have learned so much from them.
But I will be with my family and we will be moving on :(

On the first Wednesday night I didn't have any reminder texts about activities to send out and I let myself relax with my family they dropped by to give me some flowers....

...and a book:
...filled with nice notes and fun memories.

How I will treasure it.And how I will always treasure my time with these girls. I hope they know how much their "lights" have changed mine, and that I'll be forever thankful for them.

As I sat there with tears rolling down my cheeks in my pew that Sunday, I remembered the tears of the outgoing president before me. And I smiled to myself that I had learned her secret despite myself. I had learned that the sacrifice of doing what I've been doing has changed me for the better. It's changed my family too.

We have all given pieces of ourselves and received bounteous blessings in return. How grateful I am for that opportunity.

25 comments:

  1. Oh I know how you feel! I was YW president for about the same amount of time as you! My husband was then called to the bishopric and they felt it would be too much for our family... I cried and cried. I LOVE those girls!I have never ever been so sad to be released from a calling as I was from that one!

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  2. I've been lucky enough to be the YW president twice (LA and Boston). It might be my favorite calling.

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  3. I can relate to this 100% right now! I've been teaching seminary for the last 1.5 years and have cried several times already knowing I won't be teaching next year (due to a new baby arriving soon). It's been the toughest thing I've done - physically, emotionally, balancing everything... but I bawl my eyes out at the thought of not having those highs next year that come from being with the youth and their "light" and not being forced into the scriptures as I've been while teaching, etc. DITTO to everything you said!

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  4. I can see how it was just impossible not to bawl your head off! Those flowers and that book? Dropped off at your house? Incredible girls for sure. You will always treasure that role Shawni, and no doubt come back to it someday or be very involved in that in other ways (you have all those daughters!) but it's hard when we are pulled in so many directions to feel like we are giving everything its due. Its brave to know and then make the right decisions for your family.

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  5. What a lovely post.
    I can imagine what an amazing YW president you have been to those girls. I struggle so much with anxiety and I wish so much that I could be more outgoing so others could really know how much I care.
    You are such a great example of that. Thank you for your loving service to these young women. Best of luck with your move.

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  6. You had me in tears as i read this! I see the love you have for them and they have for you in return. I hope that one day, if I'm called to that position, that i can emulate that same love and light. They were so lucky to have you! I still envy all the leaders i had and I'm grateful of the things they taught me. Good luck in your next journey!

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  7. Oh boy, this was hard to read! I've been the YW president for just over a year and when I'm released I'll just fall apart. Hopefully I still have some time...

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  8. you have me in tears and yet I have never had the opportunity to serve in the YW program. I am in primary and have been for pretty much my entire marriage. I think it is wonderful that as women we can form relationships like this.

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  9. What a beautiful post. You will remember those moments for a life time. I am so greatful for great memories.

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  10. Gosh, I just had to close the door to my office at work because I'm crying! I was reminded of my days as a YW and what an amazing time that was in my life with incredible girls and equally as incredible leaders. Oh how I miss those days. Wishing you all the best with what is to come! :)

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  11. those darn yw posts - glad they're over because yes i cried again. love you shawn.

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  12. I've been the yw president in my ward for almost 4 years. I'm silently praying for just one more year of girls camp... just give me a little more time... I know it's going to kill me when I get released.

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  13. I know just how you feel.

    When I was 36 years old and pregnant with my 4th child I was called to be the RS President. Talk about overwhelming. I served for three years as the president (and a year before that as a counselor). Oh how I loved those ladies I served! I was ready to be released, or so I thought. I cried too. I physically felt the "mantle" being lifted from me. I don't know if anyone can understand this (I am really not some kind of super-spiritual person), but I felt at that moment the help that I had been given from Heavenly Father be released from me. I even felt a bit depressed and "lost". I had to beg the Bishopric to please give me a new calling very soon. I have been the 14 & 15 year-old SS teacher ever since (for 3 years now) and I love it.

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  14. Know how you feel, I have been YW president for 3+ years and a month ago the Bishop told me they were re-organizing our presidency, like you I knew it was time. I can honestly say in my 34 years in this Church this has been my favorite calling. There is something special about teenage girls, my daughter graduated last year and is now in college, but it was so fun being in YW with her, I hope you get that chance with your younger girls. I am glad to get my Wed nights back, no more stake dances, no more temple trips, no more girls camp, yep, I am going to miss it, but on to other callings, that is the one thing you can count on in our Church!! Good luck!!

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  15. Can I just repost your thoughts when I am released? I was called about a year ago and was so overwhelmed... but LOVE it now. We just found out we will be moving at the end of the summer and I refuse to let them release me... I love those girls way too much! They are mine after all. ;)

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  16. beautiful post, sounds like you did a wonderful job.

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  17. This was a wonderful post! It makes me remember how well our Heavenly Father knows us and the calling we need. Thank you for this!

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  18. I was tearing up reading this bc I felt the same way a few months ago when I was released. I cried for days about it. It was my "dream" calling and I loved it!

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  19. I so understand your feelings-
    Looks like you were loved...tender moments.

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  20. I had the same thoughts when I was asked to be Relief Society President. I was totally overwhelmed and thought how can I do this. When I was released 18 months later I cried for days and wished it never had to end. I loved the sisters in our ward so much and felt such a loss afterwards. Life can be so funny sometimes. I'm grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who gives us such wonderful growing opportunities! Good luck with your move and your next calling!!

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  21. I so needed to hear this. My husband was just called into the bishopric and I am being released, as Primary President, this Sunday. I, too, have been expecting the change, but sooo glad it's taken them a few weeks to do it! I have been dreading it. I just love Primary and can't imagine serving anywhere else. But I know that it is time for me to serve in a different auxiliary and I know the next President will be fabulous. Thank you for sharing your insight- I really, really appreciate it!

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  22. I thought the exact same thing when I saw my mother so distraught when she was released as stake yw president and I laughed a little on the inside at the previous president when I was called. But low and behold there I was bawling my eyes out for weeks when I was released after just 18months. I just wasn't ready. I dreaded the day I would be called to yw but in the end I loved it so much!!

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  23. Thank you so much for this post. You see, I've been the YW President for two years now, and I find myself still feeling overwhelmed by the burden of so much time away from my family.

    I do love the girls, but they are a needy bunch - so many come from families that aren't setting a great example, and the girls are on the fence. And I have a group of counselors who are SOOOO GOOD with the girls, but have legitimate circumstances that prevent them from bearing the burden of chaperoning the dances and the youth conferences and the camps and, and, and...

    So I've been overwhelmed, and since I read your post the other night, I've felt that burden lifted. I've remembered the "why" of all we do, and I've been strengthened. Thanks :)

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  24. oh, my heart goes out to you. I LOVE working with the young women! I love that group shot outside the church...reminds me of the one I took of my Mia Maids recently in my "I'm a Mormon" post here: http://kristendukephotography.com/?p=7535

    Love your thoughts!

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  25. Being released as Primary President has been most difficult. After serving for 2 years as president with 7 different women it has been frustrating, exhausting and thrilling at the same time. My favorite part of Peimary is the children when they are singing. Sometimes I can see tears well up in their eyes as they sing about Jesus. It is almost as though they can see Him and are singing to Him.
    My most frustrating complaint is setting up the new year for 120 children and a secretary that could not help with that and councilors that were way too just to help much either and then the new presidency change everything after just 6 weeks into the new year. This to will pass....right?
    Thank you for this opportunity to read all your stories. I know I am not alone!

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