I grew up in a tiny inner-city branch (averaged 30-40 members at church each week). My 2 sisters and I were the only regular, consistant young women. And at times we felt we didn't get as much attention from leaders as the kids in the bigger wards or the converts. [Except when our mom became our YW president, of course! :-)] At the time I thought it was "so hard", not having any LDS friends at school, or any friends that had similar standards, and having people think I was "weird" because they didn't know/understand my religion. All they knew is I couldn't go to sleepovers or parties, and couldn't have a boyfriend. Oh, and I had to wear sleeves and knee length dresses to the dances. hahahaha
But now that I'm older, and more mature, hopefully :-), I realize it was a blessing to be that close to my sisters and have similar experiences. We are now all best friends. What more could you want?? And also, being older, you realize the social aspect of High School doesn't really matter much. It's okay that I never got to be that close with friends there, because I went on to college and met wonderful girls who are still today my BEST friends.
So back to my feelings on YW. This past week I got over my "chip" completely. And realized that was really silly to think these girls don't have their own struggles, insecurities, etc. They have similar feelings as I did as a teenager to want to "belong" and feel included. Even though there are lots of other LDS kids at school and church. These girls are trying to develop testimonies for themselves. I remember that. I remember being about 12 when I prayed for the first time to know for myself if Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and if President Ezra Taft Benson was the prophet during that time. I remember truly reading the Book of Mormon for the first time, even though it was kind of hard to read/understand. I remember my first testimony meeting at the end of my first Temple trip. These experiences are still some of the strongest experiences I've had in my life. Being 12 (and 13, 14, 15, 16+ too!) is a really important time and it's important to have good influences around you. It's special and it's a time to begin to learn who you are and know/feel for yourself your testimony.
So I've been feeling overwhelmed (in a good sense) of how important my role in YW is right now. I want to be a good example, and I want to help these girls, and bear my testimony formal and informal as much as possible. And to be a friend and let them know I care. They are all really sweet girls.
My oldest sister Jessica started doing a "Flashback Fridays" blog post series and I've been loving it and it inspired me to get out the old photos, ya know... the non-digital kind. I found a few from our Young Women days together...
New Orleans Uptown Branch Young Woman (guessing 1996?)
This is when our branch met at the Jewish Community Center while waiting for our church building to be built.
Guessing our ages here, too: Sarah (12), Jessica (16), Sister Dearden our leader, DeLisa, Me (14)
At a Stake Conference, with Sister Cutler, one of the cool YW leaders in the big N.O. ward.
Uptown Branch YW circa 1998 or 1999. We were meeting at a Jewish Synagogue at this time (still waiting on building) - and that is why there is Hebrew alphabet in background. Jessica already left for college, so it was me and Sarah.
I found a picture of a school dance! I was a freshman, and invited my friend Julia (in red) from school to come along with me, my sister Jessica (a Sophmore), and our friend in our Stake, Anna Nagel. Nice sleeves, ay?
And one more of us sisters! Jessica, Me, & Sarah. The 3 amigos! LYLAS!!