I just returned from a long weekend of late nights with the youth from our church at Youth Conference while Steve held down the fort at home. I generally feel like I’m a young and energetic leader. But after two nights of staying up until 2am I realized just how old I’ve become! The thought of having to run to the store at 1am to grab snacks is well beyond my years, but I did it and pulled through. Oh to be young again…

We spent three days at Eastern Arizona College with our focus being the Gila Valley temple (pronounced Hee-luh):

We joined hundreds of youth in service, learning, enrichment and fun.

We started at the most depressing cemetery I had ever been too. We cleared weeds, cleaned up debris and beautified it the best we could. Have you ever seen a cemetery without grass or even a bush or a tree? I always envisioned my dead body resting underneath a shady tree, not under some river rock. And it’s not as though this is an old cemetery – one headstone I saw had someone buried in 1997. I suppose that’s what you get when you’re buried in the desert!

The heavens were obviously smiling down on us as we cleaned headstones and we were left with a beautiful sunset!

We participated in dance-offs, skits, firesides, classes, temple work and dancing. Lots of dancing. We danced on stage. We danced in the courtyard. We danced in the car. We danced the weekend away. We sang a lot too.

I couldn’t get enough of these girls and I truly had the best time with all of them – on my combined nearly 10 hours of sleep for the weekend!

During our last night dance extravaganza in the courtyard, I was surrounded by youth; some of which I knew, others I did not. I had the most nostalgic feelings engulf my body. It took me back to my life not too many years ago and my mind was racing with great memories. To be young is fun and life is full of possibilites and opportunities.

All these teenagers are on the brink of major life decisions that will change their lives forever. Yet in those moments of dancing you could see they didn’t have a care in the world. The world was their playground and they were loving it, the music was loud and their bodies wouldn’t stop moving. I wanted to shout all of my thoughts to them. I wanted to shout to them to remember these moments. Life is not always this carefree and it tends to beat you down. But life is good and there is simple joy in all of it. Remember this happiness and energy, carry this memory in your pocket.

But instead I smiled. I smiled as I admired each one of them and I danced right alongside them. It was a simple joy and a great reminder for me. It brings me so much joy working with these young adults, I have so much to learn and a weekend is just not long enough!

One very important thing that I learned: Miami, AZ has the most delicious cheap mexican food. Don’t be confused that they named their restaurant the “Burgerhouse”, they’re burros are to die for!