Called to Serve

My talk with the Bishop has born fruit already. He did listen to me and take me seriously! Since then, late August, the ward has gotten CES missionaries for the first time, started Institute classes, started monthly family home evening, and the Bishop has called me twice just to check up on me, missionaries have dropped by, and I had a home teacher visit. Very, very impressive. On top of all that, he has also given me a calling (a volunteer church job), because I asked for one. (Singles, go talk to your Bishops! It works! They really have no idea what we need.)

Well, when he said he wanted me in Young Women (program for teenage girls), it made me cry. Being the nursery babysitter is the only calling I wanted less. The last time I was in Young Women, I went inactive because it overwhelmed me. So I tried to talk him out of it. I told him how much I disliked the program. I also explained that the girls look up to you and I don't feel worthy. He said he had faith in me and gave me a blessing. Ok, I did ask for it. But now, so has the ward . . .

The program seemed so weird and silly when I was a teenager. My high school friends were doing lots of drugs, having lots of sex, and literally trying to kill themselves, someone was always being sent to the ER ... My parents hated each other and lived on opposite ends of the house. I wanted to die and had to fight to go on each day . . . "and now it's time for our Mia Maid Class! Gather around girls, we've got the pretty table cloth and fake flowers ready. Now lets look up at the pink posters and chant our values". . . I remember the jarring discontinuity between the YW lessons and my life. They were always about marrying a Return Missionary, serving your family to keep everyone happy, and remaining virtuous. Everything was about 'eternal marriage,' 'temple wedding', 'families are forever' . If you had asked me then, I would have told you that sounded like a nightmare to me. (I was a very angry child.)

My other problem: I feel like a hypocrite teaching the girls to follow the standards in 'For the Strength of Youth'. Honestly, I don't follow most of them myself. I prefer to use my own judgment, which has kept me straight so far. But that's not going to fly. I can see it now:
  • "Girls, never let boys touch your bo*bs! Even though I might have let so-and-so do it last night. But you shouldn't until you are married!"
  • "I know I have a collection of rated R zombie movies in my house, and yes, I went to the 6 hour horror festival, but you should only see movies that are rated PG."
  • "Yes, that is a pen*s (google-blocking the pervs) in the Picasso print hanging over my bed, but it is art! And my Jesus picture is next to my mirror."
  • "Hey! I did not come here for you kids to judge me! I'm a 31 year old virgin, if you're a virgin at my age, then we can talk, until then . . ."
Tsk, tsk. Not pretty.

It did occur to me that this is my chance to clean up my act, a do-over.  But, I like the way I am. We'll see what happens.


Emily M. said...

If you want to pass along your favorite life skills, go for it. It's good to be real with the girls.

But I have to say that for me, the most valuable things I learned as a teenager in the church were 1-a deep sense of the abiding love God has for me, and 2-the power of reading my scriptures every day. All the other stuff, some of it fluffy, some of it annoying, has kind of faded away. I don't really recall any of the life skills they tried to teach me. But I still cling to that deep sense of God's love for me, and I still find strength in the scriptures. And I get all misty thinking about the YW leaders who loved my prickly teenage self. They taught me about God's love for me because they loved me too.

Joe said...

Being a male convert, I had no experience with YW. But I've always found it interesting, in my life at least, how the callings we receive tend to give just as much to us, if not more, than those we serve.

I always used to think it was odd that someone like me, who isn't particularly social, would get called repeatedly to the Activities, Dating, and Communications committees in my ward. And now, I've moved to a new area, and once again have been called to the activities committee. Obviously the message being passed to me hasn't stuck yet and I have a lot more to learn.

That's the beauty of the Church though. A calling to serve is almost always bigger than or beyond our capacity. That fact forces us to put our trust and faith in Him whom are truly serving.

I think that you, JL, especially from what I've read over here, have a lot to give these girls. Just ask the Lord for guidance as you prepare the lessons, turn to the scriptures, and you'll be a wonderful YW teacher

Eddie said...

What Joe said.

And, if you do begin to feel overwhelmed by the calling down the road, go talk to your Bishop about it. He obviously cares about you and he'd want to know if it isn't working out.

Kitti said...

delurking to say -I think you'd be great with YW. If you're doing things at 31 one and telling the YW not to, well, you are 31 and they aren't yet. Nothing wrong with that.

PS, I love your blog. Thanks for being willing to share this part of your life.

Mommie Dearest said...

Wow, you're single and they called you to YW? I'd take that as a compliment. Or maybe your ward is small and needs workers? Whatever the reason, it's out of the ordinary to me. In our ward they want YW leadership to be as Molly as they can get.

I was never called to YW in all the time I had daughters in it, except for the one year I was a specialist in charge of the monthly Combined Activities with the YM. Having a non-member DH and dad knocked us out of the Molly category. Don't misunderstand that I aspired to be called to serve there. I appreciate the improvements made to YW over the years from what I had as a teenager growing up, when it was not effective for me. I really like the YW motto they have now, but in our ward the theme was Getting Married in the Temple. My daughters were good sports about it, but they were bored sometimes. They are out of YW now and one is inactive and the other is floundering as a college student in our family ward.

I have worked in the Scouts for years, it's my invisible calling. I marvel at the way the scout program can be made to fit almost anybody. (By a good scoutmaster anyway.) I always thought if I was called to the YW, I would mine those scout merit badges for ideas for interesting and useful character and skills-building things in which to involve your girls. (There are about 120 different ones)

I hope you'll forgive this if you think it's an intrusion. I admire your commitment, and enjoy your blog. Anyone with your guts can make something real and holy out of any calling.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I read your blog often. I was a 31 year old virgin called to be YW's president a few years ago. I couldn't do the whole marriage/family thing with a lot of conviction, but I could relate to the girls about the pressures of not having sex. I related to them on a different level than the other women did. Be honest, but not purposefully shocking. I think the absolutely best thing I did was to love them unconditionally. Teach them that God loves them no matter what and teach them to be strong, independent women. It'll probably tick some people off, but the girls will appreciate it. The truth is, a lot of people aren't going to have the RM/early marriage with kids, seeing a role model of a woman who is trying her best to stay close to God, and create a happy life for herself may be exactly what some of your girls will need. I cherish my memories of my time in YW.

Suzie1 said...

I totally know what you're talking about! When I was YW secretary the girls and I traded music that dropped the F-bomb. And we listened to Hollaback girl in my car on the way to activities. "This my sh!t, this my sh!t." Nice. Really, when it comes down to it, I don't think it's about being a perfect example. I think it's about being somebody the girls can look up to and see that you're still trying to do what's right even though life is hard for you too. I think it's especially important for them to see single women because it shows that you won't shrivel up and DIE if you wind up not getting married.

Good luck in your calling! You will get to love those girls whether you want to or not. :)

Anonymous said...

Teach them to be obedient to the Lord, not to some butt grabber with a lot of smooth talking lies.

Anon Girl said...

I am jealous. It sounds like you have a great bishop who genuinely cares about you and your well being. I think you will be great in YW's because you haven't lived the cookie cutter life. You know BYU, married at 19, 3 kids, etc.

JessyB said...

I really relate to a lot of your writings. I've never fit into the typical Mormon mold. I subscribe to the religion, but not to the "culture of Mormonism". They are two different things entirely.

In response to your concerns regarding your YM calling, the most valuable lesson I learned in YW was my own self-worth, through the love and mentorship given to me by my leaders. My personal life was sometimes hell. To have strong women to look up to was seriously something that helped me to cope through the difficult period of my adolescence.

Just as we are encouraged to "liken the scriptures unto ourselves", you have the amazing opportunity to take basic principles and customize them to the needs of the girls you teach. Your own life experience will be a wealth of information and knowledge that you can draw upon.

You don't have to be perfect, you just have to be real. The fact that you felt uncomfortable when you were in YW will help you to identify and connect with girls who need extra support. I'm sure you'll be amazing!

Anonymous said...

If you have doubts that YW is flowery table cloths, lolly-pops and sunshine, things have changed. I encourage you to get on LDS.org and read thru some of the lesson manuals, or if you have one at home, start reading it. Things are very different now, than when you were a YW. The lessons are very realistic and straighforward on life, living and how to make it as a Latter-day Saint in a less than saintly world.

If you don't have a testimony of For the Strength of Youth, then pray to get one. That book is inspired, the things that it teaches bring happiness. Obedience brings happiness, that's a gospel fact.

It is important to impart your wisdom and life experience, but be careful about sharing too much. Please let the spirit be your guide as you teach, look to the YW pres and the bishop for guidance and don't assume that just because you had a horrible life that life is horrible for everyone else.

Kevin Barney said...

JL, I'm a big fan of yours and I think you'll make a terrific YW leader. You have an inspired bishop.

Chelle said...

I really like your blog!

I think that it will be really great for those girls to have someone like you, a different kind of example, someone who can be real with them. I would have loved to have had a single YW leader growing up, I think it would have given me an idea of another type of person I could become, if I didn't get married at 19, and start having kids right away (which I didn't, still single at 30, thank you)
It's always the callings that I didn't want that I learned the most from too.

JL said...

Thank you for all the great comments. They will be helpful. If anything interesting happens with the girls, I'll post it here.

Michael said...

When the Smiths showed up from my itunes shuffling my music it made me wonder how you're doing. I hope things are going well, I think you'll be a great young women's leader.

kathleen said...

Honestly I wish I would have had a single woman or a woman who had gotten married later in laurels instead of the woman who got married 3 weeks after graduating high school. I don't understand the archaic attitude in some wards that only a married woman can be a good example for teenage girls. Some of them need to see a single woman attending church and being their leader as an example to them because they may be a single woman someday.

AzĂșcar said...

We had a mix of single and married women in the Young Women's that I served in until April. Our president is a 50 something single sister and is awesome.

When I was called, I felt a sense of...dread? No. Karma? Yes. I was so rude and pushed really hard in my Young Women's program. I felt like it wasn't realistic when I was growing up (craft night? Again?) I knew that being called to YWs meant it was my turn to get as good as I gave.

To my surprise, it's been my favorite calling so far. It helped me make peace with the Personal Progress program. I think the calling allowed me to talk to the girls realistically about life, but keep an emphasis on the truth of the gospel. The girls are so sweet, even the ones that aren't just really need someone to look up to. They became my girls, and I got to see them grow into women.

I would not trade my experience as a leader in Young Women's for anything.

disillusioned said...

I read your blog often. I am 30 and celibate in a different city. I think you've been called to this calling just for the reason of giving skills to these girls. I remember one leader my younger sister's age. I believe she probably felt the same way you did because she got pregnant before she got married. She later got sealed to her husband and oldest son. But, she told the girls "I don't care where you are, or what you're doing--if you EVER need me to come and get you, you call me!" She gave them her phone number--and even when she moved out of the ward later--she gave them her number. Believe me--it's what those girls needed. I totally wish Young Woman's had prepared me better for the reality of not getting married. Luckily, it did prepare me for a career though--and NOT in humanities. I totally, totally agree with you, though! In this day and age, it is far more important that woman learn to trust in themselves and God! And to know how to keep themselves safe (from the evils of the world) which means, they have to know what those evils are, rather than being hid from them. I actually believe that at some points there will be a need (sometimes wish it was sooner than later) to be a more organized, better young men's program--not just based upon scouting. Cause if young woman's doesn't meet all girl's needs, young men's doesn't seem to meet anyone's needs in some wards--especially if there aren't leaders to lead. Hope that doesn't sound sacreligious.

So, keep giving that good advice. Oh, and I'd like to add: Girls need to know how to scream, yell, and be street and Internet smart so they aren't taken advantage of!!! They also need to know how to protect themselves (in more ways than one), and they need to know that their worth as a person is NOT based upon their size! Young men need to be taught this too!!!!!!!

Liz said...

I read your earlier post about the talk with your bishop. I cried, because I used to feel the same way, totally ignored in church. I don't know what changed, but I think it was me. I started putting myself out there, I started talking to people. I decided that it didn't matter if I felt no one knew me, I didn't go to church for them. I go for me. I go to feel the spirit, I go to learn from the lessons, I go to take the sacrament. And once I decided that it didn't matter if anyone talked to me... people started to.

I can't count all the times I left after sacrament meeting and cried all the way home.

In Boston there are two singles wards and a "University Ward." The University ward is all the young kids. The other two wards is everyone else. People with kids, divorces, older people (35, 40, I don't know...). No one gets kicked out when they turn a magic age. At least, I don't think so. In the two wards there are about 150 people.

I have a great visiting teaching companion and two fantastic teachees. I have home teachers (who have 6 people to teach every month. Because, of course, there are more women than men), but they still come to my home. I have visiting teachers to. Our Bishop has asked for 100% home and visiting teaching for Nov and Dec and I think it's because he doesn't want people to be lonely for the holidays. Most of us are far from home.

We have so many dang activities it makes my head spin. FHE, Institute, a tutoring program in the bad part of town for high and jr high kids, free Spanish and Sign language classes, dances, firesides, concerts, service projects.

Come to Boston. I know you don't know me, but stay in my guest room. You're more than welcome and it sounds like you could use a break.


Anonymous said...

My family was less than ideal when I was growing up, but YW was like a place for me to escape. I had second mothers, friends, and things to do. Perhaps you could use your calling to help YW who might find themselves in situations that are difficult as well.

Anne Elliot said...

I just found your blog and had to share my feelings on singles and the young women. I can't tell you how many times I have wished that I had a single young womens leader growing up. My ward was in Utah and had a large newlywed population. All of my leaders were the young girls that got married way before 25. I grew up thinking that was what you did - and planning on just that. Now that I am 29 and "gasp" still single - I wish there was someone who had taught me how to find joy in being single, and that being single didn't mean you were a failure or less of a person - it has taken me the last 10 years to figure that out on my own! What a WONDERFUL opportunity to teach those young women self worth - regardless of marital status and faith in the Lord's timing.