I'm so happy to be home from Las Vegas. I LOVED the time I was able to spend with my mom while I was there...really loved it, and I'll have to write a more detailed post on that later, but oh, Las Vegas is SO not for me. Dimly-lit casinos with no windows and no clocks. The constant ching-ching-ching of slot machines. People milling around everywhere with no real purpose but to move to the next machine. The haze of smoke. Girls with nearly nothing on. Free drinks.
My mom is light. She carries that with her. Even in the dingiest, smokiest casino, she smiles, connects, and uplifts. It was such a joy to follow her around and to know that she is where I come from and that I have been blessed with a similar handful of super powers. We walk the same way. We talk to everyone the same way. We are so similar it's shocking sometimes.
But despite the wonderful feeling of bonding with my mom for three days, I couldn't get over the emptiness I felt in those hotels and casinos. On Saturday evening, when I got off the plane in Dallas and jumped into a van filled with teenagers who wanted to talk to me, I breathed a sigh of relief. Even though there were no neon lights in my house, no fireworks when I got home, no live music and no money falling from the sky, I was so happy to be back there with my little family.
On Sunday, I felt a similar feeling. I walked into our sparsely decorated, unadorned church building on Sunday morning and felt love and peace and contentment. I could see everyone clearly because it was well lit and there was no smoky haze. I heard the familiar, discernible words of the hymns we sang. I looked at the happy faces of people I love and listened to them share their heartfelt testimonies and I knew we were all connected.
I found the contrast so stark it completely surprised me. Las Vegas is larger than life. It's sparkly and gilded and dripping with money and beautiful people, but I couldn't feel the Spirit there. When I walked into my house on Saturday night, though, and into the church building on Sunday morning, I felt overwhelming love and gratitude that those are the places I get to spend my time.
The theme for the youth this year is Stand Ye in Holy Places. This trip reminded me of the difference between being where the Spirit is and being where it isn't. I have been in places before, both spiritually and physically, where the Spirit was NOT. And I am grateful to know the difference between the way each of those places feels. I'm grateful for quiet places to pray and listen for answers. I'm grateful to be surrounded by people who long for a similar feeling. And I'm grateful for the experience of standing in a not so holy place so that I could better recognize the wonderful, holy places that are around me everyday.