Monday, December 29, 2014

White Christmas?

It's not quite like "Christmas Eve in Washington" America's hometown. Wow I missed hearing that song this year!

Everyone kept saying how strangely warm the weather had been this year. Just last week it was still raining because it wasn't cold enough for snow! That is so not like Utah! The end of December and not having a significant snowfall?? So last week we asked our beloved weatherman, Kevin Eubank, what the chances were of having a white Christmas.

I had never had a white Christmas in my entire LIFE, and I was really hoping we would get one!

He broke into weatherman mode. He told us that the statistics are as follows: 58% of winters in Utah have snow already on the ground on Christmas, but only 24% of Christmases have snow falling on Christmas. That doesn't sound like good odds. Especially on a weird weather year. But. He told us that there is this weird pattern that every 7 years it snows on Christmas. He asked us to guess how many years it had been... 7 years!! He then said, "Sisters, if you have faith, it will snow on Christmas!"

Christmas eve rolled around though. And it was still warm. No sign of a storm approaching. We doubted.

Christmas morning we woke to snow on the ground! And snow falling!! I was like a little child. We got about a foot of snow that day! It was incredible!! We apologized to Brother Eubank for our lack of faith when we saw him that afternoon - he kindly opened his home for us to Skype our families! Sister Cox said, "This is all based on Brother Eubank's faith! Because we DOUBTED!!!" I gave Brother Eubank a snowflake ornament that I crocheted. 

I had also doubted the white handbook. The white handbook is a missionaries "rule book." It has a lot of helpful advice and tips and clarifies some of the rules that we should live by while serving. (I have a hard time resisting the Pirates of the Caribbean perspective of, "They're more like guidelines than actual RULES." :) The white handbook says that holidays are PERFECT times to visit people because they are all home with their families. 

Yeah. But who wants a missionary in their home on a holiday?! 

Sister Cox and I got creative though. We got permission to take her guitar caroling and sang a version of "Silent Night" that we had arranged. (By we I mean she - she's so talented!) On Christmas eve we visited so many people that we haven't seen in such a long time! It was the most successful day we've had in this area since Sister Haddock was here 2 months ago! Many, many people thanked us for our visit and said that it helped to bring some holiday cheer into their lives. It felt so good to be able to provide that. 

Probably the biggest miracle happened with the Barkers. Irene was just baptized a few weeks ago, and we had planned on going to temple square with them on Christmas eve to see the lights. When we arrived she came outside and said that the family was all fighting and that we wouldn't be going that night. We were bummed. We asked if we could instead sing to them, and they agreed. So we sang "Silent Night." Almost immediately the feeling in the room changed. You could feel the heaviness when we entered the home, but while we sang M. began to cry. (He's such a big Teddy Bear - for people that know my family, the Barker boys are like the Taylor boys. Super tall and large, but gentle giants. :) At the end of that song we felt like we needed to keep going. So we asked them for their favorite Christmas hymns, and Sister Cox whipped out a guitar part on the spot. You could just feel the peace wash over the room. They are having a hard time right now, but it was so good to be able to help lift their spirits in such a way! They also thanked us for bringing the Spirit into their home on Christmas eve. I love that family so much! I'm a little sad that I never got to Temple Square, but that impromptu caroling visit was so perfect and exactly what all of us needed. 

This week we were so loved and so cared for. And we shared our love as much as we could! We had wonderful meals, and even got to spend time Christmas day with some families. It felt so nice. I had thought that I'd want to ask for permission to go home early next year to be there for Christmas, but I LOVE that I get to have two Christmases as a missionary! 

Speaking of - if I've calculated correctly, and if I really do go home an entire transfer early (for school) then I will be headed home one year from today. Wow. Can't believe how much time has gone by already! 

PS! Don't send me any mail this week! There is a very strong possibility that we may be moving in the next few days. 


This week I started medication for my depression. It was a bit of a bumpy week but I think we're going to start seeing improvement. I sometimes get very depressed around Christmas, and especially on the 28th. Yesterday marked 10 years since my friend Caitlin passed away. I really am learning how to be patient with myself and to recognize what I am capable of and what things I can just not worry about. Last week I met with my mission President and he reminded me of the scripture in Mosiah 4:27, "And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order." 

I have often remembered and contemplated the line "it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength." That is good counsel for us all! I am SO PRONE to overdoing things. (I said that to Bishop Pierson and he sarcastically responded with, "No! You're kidding!!!" Ha. Oops... definitely need to learn to pace myself...) But this week as I studied that verse I came to realize that it's not just about slowing down, it's about pushing on. Be diligent. Don't try to do things that you're just not capable of! A refusal to give up, no matter how much I want to is what this means. And I'm not just talking about giving up in terms of the mission - I am honestly praying and doing my best to consider what the best course would be for me. Some people need to go home early, and I may be one of them. That is real life, and it's nothing to be ashamed for. However, I need to continue making good choices! I need to continue doing my best! I am also so prone to "turtling" as the Pierson's call it. I have spent days, weeks and sometimes months of my life sitting on the couch not doing anything but watch tv and make something. Those times are good sometimes, but really being a depressed mess is no way to live a life. I am learning that being diligent is THAT kind of refusal to give up. Sitting on the couch watching tv or reading a book would be the easy way to endure a depression episode. And, as stated, we all have days and days are allowed. But I'm really grateful that now I am learning how to cope with depression and still be a human being. One day I will be a mom, and my kids deserve more than me checking out of life until my head is back in shape. 

So. Have realistic expectations. But still try to be a little better tomorrow than I am today. That's what I'm learning. :) 

I love you all! I hope you had a Merry Christmas and are going to have a fantastic New Year! We will be in by 5 and spend the evening watching Frozen and Ephraim's rescue with our District. Can't wait!! 


Sister Tipton

Monday, December 22, 2014

THAT Has Totally Happened

LIFE IS AWESOME.
I got a new companion this week! Her name is Sister Cox. She's 20, she's been out for 15 months and she's Gilbert, Arizona. FINALLY a companion who will lament the cold with me and rejoice in the warmth!!! All of my previous three companions LOVED the cold. I don't know what's wrong with them. :)
I think I realized awhile ago that mission companions wouldn't be what I had always envisioned... that like any other relationship they would take hard work and patience and lots and lots of prayers. :) I recognized how ridiculous it is to put two complete strangers together, tell them to not only share their lives but to spend EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY glued to each others hip, and NOT think there would be problems. :) I realized that I may, if I am lucky, once in my mission have that companion where we just click instantly and become besties at first sight.

THAT HAS TOTALLY HAPPENED.

She's so laid back, and I'm so laid back - in good ways. We have a comfortable friendship and a fun existence. We are "co-senior" companions, which means that the mission even recognizes that we are equal in absolutely everything we do. We are both so GRATEFUL to be co-senior because it's just so NICE to share the burden with someone else. (I wasn't *technically* senior companion for the last transfer, but I absolutely was...) ("acting senior" I guess. :P) (and being senior with a companion that doesn't want to work is HARD.)
Also MUSIC. I never realized how important music was to me in my life until Heavenly Father started giving me all of these companions that are so ridiculously passionate about music! Sister Cox wants to go into composition, and she definitely has the talent to do so! She was given permission to have a guitar on her mission, and we have been given permission to discreetly use it for caroling purposes this week! We came up with a version of "silent night" to sing (a few others as well - but silent night is our favorite!) and we started practicing on the Ward Mission Leaders and Bishops that she has to meet. One of them said, "You've only been together FOUR DAYS and you came up with this??" Uh yeah... We're awesome. :)
Sister Cox and I play music all the time. We love the same types - she is so floored that I love MoTab (The Mormon Tabernacle Choir.) Apparently I'm her first companion that likes MoTab! We've been listening to my Sissel MoTab cd in the car (thanks for finding that for me Sister Haddock!) And we have my Steven Sharp Nelson (cello guy from the Piano Guys) cd on in the apartment all the time. (Thanks Sister Haddock's mom!!!) Another thing Sister Cox and I have in common is that we never get tired of listening to the same thing over and over. :)
We both love herbal tea, and I have been sharing my Herbal Chai with her (thanks Kellie!) I am one of the few companions that she has had that understands her humor. And we both like dipping our french fries in mayonnaise! (It's a celestial sauce. :) All white and clean and pure!) We already have so many inside jokes and it's just so good.
I love Christmas. Last week we had our mission Christmas party (only it was 3 parties since they decided not to get everyone together...) At the party we were able to hear from an area authority named Elder Chidester (sp?) and he and his wife spoke about Christmas. :) One of my favorite parts was when they talked about the symbols of Christmas. We have all of these traditions that we keep and sometimes we don't really know why!
A Christmas Wreath - is a perfect circle and symbolizes eternity. Eternity that we will get to live because He came to us!
A Christmas tree - the trees that are used have pine needles which all point upward (never knew that!) The symbol is that the needles are pointing up to heaven. :) 
A Star - the star that appeared to announce the birth of Christ.
A Candy Cane - is shaped like the staff of a shepherd, and shepherds were some of the first witnesses of the newborn Savior.
The colors red and white - symbolize the atonement of Christ. Red for His blood, white for the cleansing purity of His love.
Candles - (and other forms of light) He is the Light of the World. He is our light and hope!
Angels - the Heavenly Host that sang praises to announce His birth.
Life is hard sometimes. For every single one of us. There is so much that is imperfect and fallen about this world. Even when you are making good choices and doing your best to do the right thing you can still face trials. Sometimes you can't sleep, or you have a hard time waking up or you feel foggy and sad, or you have a panic attack before church starts, even though everything is so good in your life. Sometimes you just miss home darnit! But I am so grateful to be here now. So many choices I have made in my life because they felt right - I can't explain it other than the feeling that I had was so good that I really had no choice but to follow it. But now that I'm here I feel as if I am getting the chance to really grow closer to my Savior. I am getting to know Jesus Christ in a way that I never was able to before. I trusted Him and I loved Him, but I didn't really know Him. I didn't really understand the depth and significance of His atoning sacrifice. I still don't. :) But I am learning and it is wonderful!
Above all else, I feel a burning within me that wants to shout from the rooftops. Jesus IS the Christ. He IS our hope. He is our peace. He is our life, and our love. He is Christmas, and HE is the Gift. I know that with my whole soul.

I love Christmas. :) I hope you all have a happy one. <3
Love always,
Sister Tipton

PS - sorry for a lack of pictures. I have temporarily misplaced my camera cord. I'm sure it will turn up eventually... Sister Cox and I are also both a tad bit messy in our living spaces... so maybe when we clear the clutter. :D

Monday, December 15, 2014

I'm Staying!

I'M STAYING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I love Bountiful Utah with absolutely all of my being. It reminds me so much of Columbia. And I am SO incredibly happy that I will be staying for another transfer! 6 more weeks! 

So I'll tell you a secret - I was a little worried that I'd leave. I actually knew last week that ONE of us would leave. Logic would say that I would be the one to be transferred since I have now been here for 3 transfers and Sister Alaiasa has only been here for 1. But nope. She's going to Mueller Park and I'm staying!!!!! (Don't feel sad for her - that's the stake that President Eyring lives in! If I ever leave Bountiful I really want to go to Mueller Park. :) 

Yesterday I had an interesting thing happen. On Sunday mornings we have 20 minute correlation meetings with each individual ward mission leader. These meetings are back to back and usually pretty stressful - they never end on time, we're always running late, and it's HARD to try to get everything done and to make them feel like you really care about them individually when you're 10 minutes into the next meeting. Skills, I'm learning skills friends. :) During one of our correlation meetings with one of the twelve ward mission leaders in our stake, he decided to take the time to focus on how offended he was over something that he thought we did horribly wrong instead of on the missionary work. You know. In front of the senior missionary couple AND the two high-councilors in our stake. It was a little bit mortifying until I realized that they didn't blame us at all. Brother Eubank - who I respect a lot and who is very VERY eloquent in speech (much more than I am) - jumped right in to help smooth over the situation. 

I somehow maintained my calm. I somehow managed to not yell at him for being so ridiculously prideful. I really REALLY wanted to tell him to suck it up and to get over himself. (He was upset that we invited someone other than him to a lesson with an investigator. Seriously?? You're the ward mission LEADER, not the only option we have for member present lessons...) But I didn't. I somehow managed to be in control of myself and my emotions and to handle the unfounded criticism like a responsible adult. 

After he left though, the stress of the situation came out. His temper tantrum caused us to be 15 minutes late for the next meeting, which meant that we had one ward mission leader who had been standing out in the hall waiting, and another whose meeting was supposed to start in 5 minutes. I felt the anxiety hit though and started pacing after he left the room. You know, again, in front of everyone. Brother Eubank was so kind! He told me that I handled that situation really REALLY well (which meant a lot, coming from him...) and he basically reaffirmed that the claims were unfounded, but that I had to pull it together because, well, work. He and Brother Burningham made a quick executive decision - this day only - to take one of the ward mission leaders that had been waiting into another room to correlate and we would take the other. This way it didn't make us late for the REST of our meetings that day. The point is for them to correlate with the missionaries, but this was the best thing for this week. I was very grateful for that leadership and quick problem-solving! And I was able to pull it together again.

After our correlation meetings though, I asked our two high councilors for a blessing. Sundays are actually are most packed high-stress days (irony, right?) I was feeling okay about not being the one to blame for what that ward mission leader was accusing me of. But it had destroyed my calm enough that I knew I would need help to make it through the day. Blessings always bring such peace and calm and affirmation into my life! This one promised me that like Alma, my burdens would be made light. God wouldn't take them away, but I would be able to bare them with ease because of the atonement. What a wonderful promise! And it was absolutely true. I had so much strength and energy for the rest of the day, and it's bled into today as well! We had a wonderful event last night in our stake where 150-200 nativities were on display for people to come and see. It was so wonderful to see all of these depictions of the Christ-child! Such a wonderful Spirit in that room! We estimated that 1000 people showed up! It was an incredible experience - I never could have made it without the blessing though. :) 

In case you missed it - I TOTALLY got a blessing from the weatherman! :) I'm working on that autograph for you Deborah! I was at a ward Christmas party on Saturday and ended up at a table with the current stake President, two former stake Presidents, and another weatherman (they're everywhere!). They said they'll make it happen! :D 

Love you all! Have a great week! 

Sister Tipton


Monday, December 8, 2014

OH My Goodness! That's My Home!!

Holy cow! Can you believe that another transfer is about to end?? Where the heck did the time go?! 

Oh sorry. We're not supposed to say things like that. "Replacement" curse words are apparently still curse words. Oh dear. Our mission loves rules. And I am quite the rule follower... but I gotta say. Even I'm having a hard time keeping track of them all! 

So if you want to send me letters, please wait until next Monday so we can find out if I'm staying in Bountiful or not. 

I hope I stay. It would be incredibly lame to leave right before the holidays. ;) 

Okay, awesome things this week. First off, I.  GOT BAPTIZED! Her new husband  was able to perform the ordinance. And there was great ward support. The evening was really just so beautiful. We sang "A Child's Prayer" and watched the new video, "He is the Gift." Her family friend gave a talk on Baptism, and her father in-law talked about the Gift of the Holy Ghost. The feeling of love was so strong in that room! I was completely unprepared for how overwhelmed I would feel. The joy was indescribable. I've been able to see plenty of baptisms at home, but really it was so wonderful to be able to be a part of her story. We had time allotted for sharing testimonies, and I got up and bore mine. As I stood there I realized that the single most important thing to me that I wish I could express clearly to everyone in my life is my love for the Savior. HE is the gift! He is the reason we will have the opportunity to return to live with our Heavenly Father. Through Him everything. EVERYTHING that is wrong with this world can be made right. I know this with all of my heart, and thinking of it makes my heart ache it is so full! Seeing Irene baptized wasn't a "woohoo! Look what I did! I convinced her to bend to my will!" No. That's not why I'm here. I'm not here to persuade, bribe or convince anyone to do anything they don't want to. I'm not a salesman. I am here because I love my Savior so much that it wouldn't matter to me if everything else in my life fell apart. It wouldn't matter if everything else in life was taken away from me, because I know that He has already overcome it. He has carried it so that we don't have to. He has promised that we will have everything restored to us. He is my joy and my peace and my hope. I didn't do much for Irene but share these things with her... and the joy of seeing her embrace this great hope was overflowing. :) I now understand the phrase "my joy is full." 

We were also able to see that same day the baptism of a little girl that we had taught. Her family doesn't really attend church, but they wanted her to be baptized at 8. She has 4 older siblings in a "yours/mine" family so some of them are more active than others. These kids though. Two are completely active, the other two are returning to activity, and then there's her. :) It's kinda crazy sometimes how kids are such a good example to their parents. 

So I mentioned that "He is the Gift." This is a video that you should ALL watch! And share it! We have hundreds of pass-along cards that we are supposed to hand out over the month of December. It's hard to find people in Bountiful that aren't members of the church, but Sister Alaiasa and I are showing our faith by deciding to walk each day, and we've had the opportunity to pass out a few! There are still hundreds though. ;)

Funny story though - last week we walked to the church building. (WE WALKED TO THE CHURCH BUILDING!!!!!! There are actually THREE buildings within walking distance that hold a total of 9 wards. Utah is crazy. :) We were just about to turn around to walk home - just a 15-20 minute walk or so - when I saw a person sitting on the ground by the bowery. (Another Utah word... means pavilion.) I couldn't tell how old he was, and I couldn't even tell at first if he was alone or not. I thought, "Well, we're running late, and we've been able to hand out a ton of cards today, and this interaction would probably be really awkward, so I'm just going to go home." Then immediately I had the thought, "Turn around and go talk to him." Done. I literally did an about-face... my poor companion was so confused! As I approached it was clear that there were two people - a boy and a girl - who were very tightly wrapped. Well the second he saw us he sat bolt upright and said in a slightly annoyed voice, "Sisters!" Yep. That's us. They were so young! I asked if they were in school. She said that she was in college. He said that he wasn't right now... he just got back from his mission the day before. Oh really? Where did you serve? Maryland.

WHAT.

As in, Maryland Baltimore?

Yes?

With President Richards! Yes.... 

OH MY GOODNESS THAT'S MY HOME! 

He was not nearly as excited about this as I was. :) This was Elder Martineau. I don't know if I ever officially met him, but I sure heard about him a lot! He served in C2 for awhile last year, and I remember the missionaries from our ward mentioning his name sometimes... It was clear that he wanted us to leave just so he could snuggle his girl some more. So we showed him our cards and said, "Well then you probably know all about this?" Yep. He did. He took a card to share with someone, and then we disappeared. 

Good times! Life as a missionary is so awkwardly hilarious sometimes!!! 

Ok ok. Now for those of you that hung in there for all of my missionary talk. Here's something fun. Christmas parties. Christmas ward parties. Christmas ward parties that do really cheesy lip syncs that have Jon Schmidt!

Well Jon didn't do a lipsync. Darn. :) But we had a pretty neat interaction! (And yes. Here I am. Talking about Jon Schmidt again!!!)

So we arrive at the party and I remembered that we were supposed to contact the Schmidt's about a lesson that we were going to teach at their home on Sunday. I found Michelle (his wife) and asked her my missionary-totally-acceptable-reason-to-be-talking-to-the-Schmidt's question. To which she responded, "Sounds good to me! Go check with Jon. Tell him I said it's okay with me if it's okay with him..." "Okay... Wait. Jon your husband, or Jon your son?" "Jon my husband, he's right over there." Yeah thanks. Like I didn't pick him out the second I walked in the room. And you want me to go talk to Jon Schmidt?!? Okay!!! 

So I go ask Jon my missionary-totally-acceptable-reason-to-be-talking-to-Jon-Schmidt question and he responded that he thinks it'll be okay... he just has to check his travel itinerary. Right. Famous musician. Travels the world. No big deal. 

Then I kinda got absorbed in the conversation at the table. He was talking with a guy that I will refer to as "computer guy." Here is what happened. 

Jon Schmidt: (to computer guy) You're only 28?? 
Computer guy: Yeah...
Jon Schmidt: But you're too smart to be 28! How'd you get so smart?
Computer guy: I'm not that smart....
Me: So what are you smart with?
Computer guy: I work with computers...
Jon Schmidt: This guy is like a genius!
Computer guy: I'm knowledgeable. Not smart. 
Me: Hey! I know how that is! I'm studying chemistry... people always tell me how smart I am, but the more I learn, the more I learn how much I don't know!
Jon Schmidt: Hey, chemistry. That's impressive. I studied really hard and could only pull C's. You must be smart too. 
Computer guy: But see, I'd probably pull C's in music.
Jon Schmidt. Okay... true. 
Me: See... I'm just REALLY good at following directions. I can play music... as long as I HAVE music.
Jon Schmidt: You play the piano?? 
Me: Yeah actually, I teach it too!
Jon Schmidt: Right on! (then he fist-bumped me.)
Brother Fisher (our Ward Mission Leader for that ward who is AWESOME): She said that she's better than you Jon!
Jon Schmidt: I believe it. I'm waiting for my lessons.
Me: Pretty much. I played in your ward a few weeks ago. Sorry you missed it.
Jon Schmidt: Aww man!
Brother Fisher: Yeah. She got up to the pulpit and said, "This is for YOU Jon Schmidt! Jon Schmidt?? He don't know JACK Schmidt!!!" (That trash talk Brother Fisher put in my mouth still makes me roll with laughter. :)
Jon Schmidt: Hey! That was a good one! I always knew I couldn't name my son Jack...
Me: Yeah. I'm actually trying desperately to learn one of your songs right now, so I'm not as awesome as you... yet.
Jon Schmidt: Well thank you for that! Which one are you working on?
Me: From the Christmas book - "Good King Wenceslaus"
Jon Schmidt: Ah yeah... 
Me: I sometimes have to cheat and listen to the cd to make sure that I have the rhythm right...
Jon Schmidt: Well thank you for playing our music!! (He says that so sincerely!)
Me: Thank you for writing it! I especially appreciate the "do this for small hands" comments.
Jon Schmidt: How small? (Then he held up his hand so we could compare hand sizes. His is TWICE as big as mine!) Woahhhh!!! Can you even reach an octave??
Me: Yeah! I can reach a 9th! (I'm proud of my small hands. :) 
Jon Schmidt: Impressive.
Me: What can you reach?
Jon Schmidt: Oh... I think like a 13th or something...
Me: What?? So when they put 12ths and such in hymns, people can actually play those??
Jon Schmidt: Yep! I can hit them. 

And then we had to stop talking to watch the fun lipsync. Which was really SO FUN. Though when the Relief Society did a goofy song that used rubber chickens dressed up in Christmas costumes, and the Elders quorum laid upside down on the edge of the stage and wore a goofy costume that had eyes on their chins and a little puppet costume on their heads, I really couldn't help turning around and saying, "Mormons are SO WEIRD sometimes!!" But they're my people! I love my people. :) 

Okay, last thing. Last night was the Christmas Broadcast from the leadership of our church. It was all so incredible, but Elder D. Todd Christofferson shared a wonderful message about how Christ descended below all things so that He could rise above them. Doesn't it make sense then that we should descend below SOME things so that we could gain experience? So that we would know how to succor each other? So that we could rise above? It was exactly what I needed to hear. I am truly doing much better this week. Life has all sorts of ups and downs, but the downs make the ups that much sweeter. And the downs make it so that we can help others. I was able to do that this week, and I am truly oh so grateful for all that I have endured just to be able to be the strength that someone else needed. 

There is a song that is on one of our cd's that really resonates with me. It's called "We all need saving" By Jon McLaughlin. The version we have is sung by Vocal Point - a LDS a capella group. And it's incredible. :) My companion and I sing it all the time! 

Alright dear friends, thank you so much for all of your love and support! I hope that you all have a great week, and find something that will bring you joy! 

Sister Tipton


Monday, December 1, 2014

I Was His Hero!

Good morning friends! 

Today, per advice from our favorite Bishop Pierson, Sister Alaiasa and I decided to walk to the Family History Center to email. It was a great idea! It's not too cold (though I'm pretty sure it started to snow on the way) and it was a great way to get the heart rate up and to just be OUTSIDE. We've decided that we're going to start doing our companionship study while walking around. I have no idea if that's even allowed, but you know what? It's better than not doing it at all. 

It may sound a little ridiculous, but with depression sometimes the hardest decision of the day is whether or not to get out of bed. Usually I wake up and then immediately start thinking about everything that I have to do that day and then I'm just paralyzed and unable to move. Back home that was never a problem because I wasn't on as much of a schedule. I knew the very last minute that I could stay in bed until in order to throw on jeans and a t-shirt, brush my teeth, and race out the door for my first class. Sometimes (depending on the class) I would even skip it. I managed okay... but I'm usually a much better student when it's not winter. I can't really afford to do that as a missionary though. I HATE not being able to get up and study! But I spend long minutes, and sometimes hours, talking myself through what I have to do. Getting up isn't just getting out of bed. It's getting dressed, which means I have to pick out my clothes. Sometimes that's even too much to handle. I get overwhelmed by this simple choice that feels too big at the moment. And then there's getting showered, brushing teeth and making my bed and finding something to eat. And that's just the little things! Depending on the day I start to run through lists of people to call or lessons to prepare or whatever other stressors exist as a missionary. It may seem ridiculous, but depression (and anxiety I guess... I'm probably definitely facing some anxiety too...) makes all of those really little things seem so huge. And so I stay abed much longer than I should. Occasionally texts to Bishop Pierson have helped me to break it down and take life one step at a time. 

I had been feeling guilty about leaning on Bishop Pierson until he told me that he had contacted President Lake (the stake President in the area that I'm serving.) President Lake said that his instruction from President Hansen (our mission President) has been to be an extension of the mission president, since the mission president is stretched so thin. President Lake said that if they are able, it is part of their responsibility to help the missionaries through times like these. I have been reminded constantly by these good Priesthood Leaders that I'm not the only missionary who has ever struggled. It's a good thing to be reminded, to be honest. :) It would be easy to feel like a failure. President Lake actually called me into his office this week to talk about maybe getting more help. He said that it's remarkable how well I have been able to function so far, and that he's really impressed with how well I am functioning, but that there's no reason to suffer unnecessarily. 

There's a lot of pressure as a missionary to not be a burden to those that you are supposed to serve. I think a lot of missionaries struggle in silence because of that. It's hard enough when you're in a place where you need help to even consider asking someone for help. It's hard to find people to trust when your companions switch every 6 weeks or so, as do the rest of the missionaries that you serve beside. But one thing that I've learned about service is that it is a REALLY great thing to serve others. It helps you get out of yourself. It helps you to become more Christlike and to feel God's love more abundantly. Seriously. The love that I feel for the people here is unparalleled... because I'm serving them. I spend the majority of my time thinking about others and looking for ways to help. I have rarely felt such deep love! But because service is such a great thing for all of us to do, it does mean that sometimes we have to be humble enough and accept help. 

Kellie - you have a wonderful quote on your wall that I don't remember perfectly. Something about us being His hands? That we feel His love through others in this world. That is so true. So while I'll admit, life has been HARD, I have learned a great deal! I may be a missionary, and my life may be dedicated to service right now, but God still knows me. He's still proud of the person that I am and the person I am becoming. I am still a child of God and He is still concerned for me during my trials, and I am still worthy of receiving love from others! The people here have been so good to me, and Bishop Pierson insists that I am not a burden to anyone. Humility, diligence, patience... all Christlike attributes that are pretty easy for me when life is easy are things that I am learning on a deeper level. After all, if life is easy, then how do you ever learn? There is no growth in a comfort zone, and no comfort in a growth zone. 

I'm so blessed to be here now. :) It feels good to do hard things. And it feels good to make decisions that I can control. If getting out and walking will help with the depression and help with the companionship, then so be it. If I have to shower at lunch or pick out clothes the night before to help make mornings less terrifying, then okay. 

Thanksgiving: We had more dinner invitations than we knew what to do with! First we attended with a family in the 16th ward. It was a bigger crowd than I'm used to! Three of their children and those families all attended. One man is a Bishop in Idaho, and he's a crazy good pianist. We all took time after lunch to show off our talents. They had me play (which was before he did - thankfully!) (Ok, I know I'm pretty good too... but I have a lot of respect for those that play by ear and make up their own music on the fly... he was more of a blues/jazz player and he played some great music!) They found a way to make poi balls for Sister Alaiasa to play with. One woman was a really talented dancer - I can't think of the style of dance that she did... some type of jig. It reminded me a little of Irish stepdance, but more American. Maybe early 1900s style? It was fun to watch! Then before we left the children all gathered to sing to us a medley of a bunch of children's hymns. The Spirit was so strong! It made me cry - good tears! That was such a wonderful, fun family to visit with! We were grateful to be there!!! 

They had also invited two sisters from temple square (our stake hosted all 180 or so of those sisters for Thanksgiving!) It was really neat to get the chance to talk to other Sister Missionaries! These sisters are called to a very small proselyting area, and their missions are very different from ours. It was neat to talk to them! One sister was from Russia, the other from California. The sister from Russia is a District Leader!!! What?! Female district leaders! Also female zone leaders and assistants to the President. No Sister Training Leaders. ;) They don't need them! They don't have ANY Elders in their mission, except for the mission President. They also never have to plan because they're just handed a schedule every week or so to follow. Very, very different. 

Our next meal was with the Cawley's. I love visiting the Cawley's - I have that wonderful connection to home through them. They are the grandparents of two of my piano students - their daughter is a friend of mine from Maryland. Also. Sister Cawley. Best cook EVER. Seriously dinner with them was so delicious! We wouldn't have missed that one for the world! We had some fun times visiting with them, and seeing their sons in the super girlie aprons that they were wearing. They are just so fun! Then they gave us an entire pumpkin pie. Good times!

Our last meal was with a new family that we just met last week called the O.s. They had family visiting them from Mueller Park (the super wealthy people that live on the other side of the temple... President Eyring is there! If I ever have to leave Bountiful Heights, I hope it's only to go to Mueller Park. :) We had a good time with them as well! More good food, more good pie. :) They're a very spunky, sarcastic family, and I fit right in. I'm trying to teaching Sister A about American humor... she has a hard time following still. :) 

With all of our Thanksgiving dinners we shared a new video called "He is the Gift." This is a wonderful new video about the best gift of Christmas! You should all go to christmas.mormon.org to see how you can share this gift with others. :) 

The last great thing that happened this week was Sunday. Sister A and I were invited to speak in the Ward Canyon Ward - 15 minute talks each, on whatever we wanted! I had been feeling prompted to speak on "Hope." But seriously? How am I supposed to write a talk about hope when I feel so hopeless?? With the help of the Spirit of course! I was really super honest in that talk as well, and I think it was really great! I felt so good as I wrote it. Maybe one day if I have time I will type it up for you all to read. :) After my talk, dozens of people came up to me to thank me. Maybe it touched someone. People asked me for the scripture references that I used, and that made me happy too. :) Then Jon Schmidt (I GAVE A TALK AND JON SCHMIDT WAS THERE!!!) told me that I was his hero! WHAT?! I'm HIS hero?! He said it's because I made the choice to be baptized and to stand alone. He said to Sister A, "You and I had it easy - growing up in the church. We had it easy. You converts are the real heroes." That made me feel really good inside. :)

When we saw Bishop Pierson he asked me how my talk had gone (he maybe had helped me through some anxiety over writing it...) and I told him, "Really well! Jon Schmidt told me that I'm his hero! And, AND! I now have a church program with my name and his name on it!!!" And then Bishop used his mocking teenage girl voice and said, "Ohhhh! Did you ask him to sign it??" No... but that's a really good idea!!! I'm such a fangirl. :) 

Love you all! Thanks for your letters!

Sister Tipton

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bountiful Before Thanksgiving

It SNOWED yesterday. It was only like an inch or so, but it was actual snow. Before Thanksgiving!! I know that's actually not that strange for Utah... but I've barely ever seen snow before Christmas back home! 

It was funny, we spoke to Brother Eubank on Saturday about a meeting that we were going to be running on Sunday. (For those that don't remember - he's our stake high councilor over missionary work, and also the weatherman on KSL.) It was rainy and nasty on Saturday, so after our business talk I asked him for a weather update. Because, why not? We don't get to see the news, and weather is important! ;) So he gives us the report and tells us that it'll snow that night. 

I really kinda didn't expect it to though... so on Sunday after our meeting I shook his hand to thank him for his help and then said, "Hey, good guess on the whole snow thing." To which he responded with mock outrage, "Guess?! We don't guess!!! That was a calculated report!" "Brother Eubank, I come from a state where we have a love/hate relationship with our weathermen. Especially when it comes to snow... because they're usually wrong." "Well, we strive very hard to not be." Ha! He's an awesome leader. He is a good motivator, super in tune with the Spirit, and he's not afraid to reprimand when necessary. He's very powerful! But I love that on top of all of that, that he'll tease. He's not uptight, but he's very concerned about doing things the right way. It's an incredible combination, and I love that I get to learn from his example. 

I'm starting to see why my trainer Sister Haddock would always say that two types of missionaries get sent to serve in Utah: the future leaders, and the basket cases. The leaders to learn... and the basket cases to keep an eye on. I hope I fall into the former category. ;) I really am learning so much from serving here! Yesterday the meeting that we ran with Brother Eubank was with ALL of our ward mission leaders, their ward missionaries and the high councilors assigned to each of those wards. As I looked at the crowd gathered I realized that in my first area I have already worked and associated with more leaders than most missionaries do in their entire missions! 12 ward mission leaders, and 16 bishops so far (because of splits and bishopric reorganizations) Not to mention the stake presidency and a plethora of high councilors. Really if you wanted to learn leadership skills, there's no better place! I'm so blessed. :) 

I accidentally saw him on the news this week too. :) The family that we live with called me upstairs to get my mail (longest letter EVER from the wonderful Tammy Norris!!! Made my LIFE!) and they had the news on and he was giving his report. Seriously I think my jaw fell to the floor and I was so excited! I just kept saying, "That's Brother Eubank!!" I'm usually pretty good about looking away when the television is on, but I just couldn't! It's one thing to know that someone you know is the weatherman, and quite another to see it! Especially after 4 months of serving with him. So I texted him afterward about it and he said, "Accident, huh? Do you really want to stick to that story??" I plead the fifth. :) Seriously. Love the teasing. 

Speaking of leader men that tease... On Thursday we attended the Young Women of Excellence meeting in the 24th ward. Partly because it's my favorite ward, and partly because we're actually working with a few young women that would be there. Thursday was a hard day though, and Bishop Pierson knew it. So he decided to make a public example of me! Again... I am ALL FOR being teased for the sake of lightening the mood. In his talk to the young women, Bishop Pierson pulled out a burr puzzle that he had shown me the last time I went to his house. I solved it once in about 10 seconds which he was really impressed with... but he took it away from me after I couldn't solve it a second time. I was so sad! He pulled it out as part of an object lesson to the girls - each piece of the puzzle is exactly the same externally with just a few minor differences inside. But each piece isn't very impressive by itself - they all have to be working together to make something beautiful. But if even one piece falls away, the whole structure falls apart. This ward is still new - it's two halves of two former wards that have been meshed together, so I suppose that part of it was to encourage the young women to reach out and envelope everyone in this new ward with love. It was a good message. But the teasing! When he pulled it out he said, "Now, this is something that Sister Tipton will recognize." And I whispered a little too loudly, "YES!!!" So when people looked around I said, "Sorry... I got a little excited..." And Bishop said, "It doesn't take much..." Then he made me stand up and turn around while he solved the puzzle because he didn't want me to see how it was solved. LAME! Ha! As he put it together he teased me about being obedient and there was lots of bantering to distract from the fact that it was taking him a little while to put it together... I think I said, "I solved it in 10 seconds once." "That was an accident" "It was pure genius!" I don't know if the families in the ward thought we were as funny as we did, but heh. Whatever. :) When he finally put it together he demonstrated how pretty it was and made the point about one piece falling away causes the whole structure to collapse. Which it did while he said, "And it would take Sister Tipton 3 days to put it back together...." Afterward he let me play with it, and I solved it. Again. :) Then he showed me how it really works while saying, "Your technique is a little poor." It's true... I could put it together, but it's actually a really cool puzzle! 

And that teasing just made my life feel so much better that day too. It was good times! 

My light therapy box arrived this week! I love it so much! It makes your eyes reach maximum relaxation in good natural light, which makes happy eyes and then happy people. The things that I've been doing to cope really have been helping a lot. It's clear that I still have depression because I am still so much more impatient and easily frustrated than usual. But I guess it's good for growth. My companion and I go back and forth between getting along really well, and then just being really exhausted from being together. Our personalities are very different and it makes things hard. And I'm super annoyed at myself because if I was in my NORMAL state then it would be so much easier to be patient and charitable and long-suffering with her! But if it was easy then I wouldn't grow. Sometimes it's really tempting to think about all of the things that annoy me about her... and so I've started to try to catch myself in those moments and pick out 5 things that I like. It's not easy! But I realized that I do have SOME control of my thoughts. (Also, disclaimer, please don't read this and think that I think that she's a horrible person. I actually don't... it is just HARD to be glued to someone 24/7, and it's even harder when you're two very different people... what I'm trying to explain is actually my own faults here. I'm not a perfect person because I'm sometimes allowing myself to get annoyed by little things that don't matter, but I'm trying to change that...) 

I asked Bishop Pierson if it made me a bad person on those days when I'm not very good at controlling my stress and being kind to her at the same time. He said, "Not a bad person, just a bad companion." Ha. Thanks Bishop. (Another Disclaimer: He in no way meant to belittle me, and I did not feel hurt or accused by his honesty.) And yes well, it's true. But I, like so many millions of us, am a work in progress. I don't LIKE being a bad companion, and it's not EASY to change, but I'm trying. I don't know that I'm always doing my best, but I am making an actual effort. In our second lesson we talk about repentance. Repentance means "change" to become more Christ-like. Christ is perfectly patient, perfectly charitable, and perfectly long-suffering. Even when He was hungry or stressed or overwhelmed by the amount of people that needed Him. I could stand to be more patient, more charitable and more long-suffering when I am hungry and stressed and overwhelmed by the amount of people that need me. :) The worth of every soul is great in the eyes of God. And that includes my companion. It includes me! He loves us all even when we're imperfect, but He loves us even more when we recognize our weaknesses and attempt to refine them. 

So in a way, I'm glad to be in the refiner's fire. :) 

Sister Pierson (Bishop's wife) taught me some things to help manage the depression. One is called "yogic breathing." Bishop Pierson, always a tease, sometimes refers to this and the essential oils as "voodoo" and keeps calling it things like "How's the yoghert breathing going?" Or "Go do your yoda breathing..." Oh dear...

Then something I said caused him to quote Rocky Horror. It was a really off the wall quote (like most of that movie....) and I said, "Was that Rocky Horror?? No... similar though." And he said, "Yeah, it's cleaned up..." "That was Rocky Horror?! Seriously??" "Um. How do you know that?" "Well Bishop, I was a bit rowdy in my youth as well...." Good times. :) 

Sorry the email is kinda all over the place this week. :) So we started teaching the boy who showed up at church a few weeks ago with the Schmidt's and bore his testimony in fast and testimony meeting... even though he's not a member! We dropped by the Schmidt's on Wednesday to try to coordinate a time to teach - we have to coordinate with Michelle Schmidt to make sure that there's an adult female home, with Jonny Schmidt to make sure that he's there with his friend, with  him,  and with the Elders that serve in his area since he doesn't live in ours. That's lots of talking. :) But when we stopped by on Wednesday the door was answered by a half-naked teenage boy that I didn't recognize. That's happened a few times out here (once a few months ago with a Bishop's son from the 34th ward!) and it's SO FUNNY how embarrassed the boys get when they see the sister missionaries standing there! I was laughing so hard I could barely ask if Michelle was home. The boy who answered the door was a friend of the Schmidt twins, and he called for Michelle. Then Jonny Schmidt peeked from the kitchen to the doorway, in his boxers! He quickly hid behind the wall again. Seriously... laughing so hard. Then Michelle came to the door and invited us in. One of her sons protested saying, "Mom! We're naked!" But ha, didn't faze her! And it didn't faze them either. Silly boys. :) We had a good chat with her, were able to accomplish the business that we needed to, and then helped her clean up her kitchen after the storm of teenage boys blew through. It was a really satisfying and fun visit. 

Then when we went back to teach on Sunday (yesterday) she very excitedly pulled out a People magazine saying, "I don't even know if you're supposed to see this, but I don't care because I have to show you!" The piano guys had made it on the top 12 list of things to watch or listen to! They were ranked #6. She even excited showed us One Direction... ranked #8. "Piano Guys beat out One Direction!!!!" It was cute how excited that made her. I love this family. :) 

Ok, so now for some news about the area! Irene had cancelled both of our appointments with her last week, which made us super sad because she's scheduled to be baptized in less than two weeks and we still had a lot to teach! But she rescheduled for Saturday and we caught back up. All is well now. :) I'm getting kinda nervous about her baptism though... It's scheduled for December 6th. I don't really know what to do! It's my first one! I don't know what we're expected to do and plan, so hopefully it all works out okay. J. in the care center is also preparing for baptism! She's scheduled to be baptized on December 20, and told us this week that each time we visit she feels more and more sure of her decision. I think she'll be solid. :) Her baptism will be a little different though, since she's hospitalized. We have to reserve a therapy pool that has a ramp for her baptism so that we can roll the wheelchair in. I have no idea how that one's going to work either... but it'll be good! 


Anyway, this report is lengthy enough! Have some pictures! The first two are from our temple trip last Monday. The third is a picture of my poor companion trying to use a fork the way that Americans do. (She usually turns it over and puts food on the back of it like the English do!) 

I'm halfway through my third transfer here. That's crazy! Time seems to fly by sometimes. :) Thank you all for your love, letters, and prayers! 

Happy Thanksgiving friends!

Sister Tipton




Monday, November 17, 2014

Serving With Depression

Dear friends, 

Winter has officially come to Utah. We had a very prolonged fall, for which I was very grateful. But in the last week I have had to start wearing gloves and boots and scarfs and coats. I keep forgetting to leave early enough in the morning so that we have time to scrape the ICE off of our windshield. :) And it snowed! The mountains are turning white. It's magical really! Brother Eubank - our stake high councilor over missionary work and the KSL weather man - said that we can expect 5-8 inches of snow by December. 

December! That's just a few weeks away! So ready or not, here comes the cold! And with the cold and the short days and the darkness begins my yearly struggle with depression. 

Depression is hard to describe. Sometimes I feel perfectly fine! I am laughing and working hard and enjoying life. Other times the biggest, hardest decision I make in my day is whether or not to get out of bed. Some days start out fine, and then I hit a mid-day slump and want to curl up and not do anything for an hour or so. Bishop Pierson and his wife have both been very kind to me - he's given me two more blessings this week, and she got permission (from him) to work her "voodoo" with me! Essential oils are a really popular thing out here, but Bishop Pierson calls it voodoo... with the addendum of "well if it helps, it helps..." I've only used it a few times so far, and I don't have sufficient data yet to report on its effectiveness. :) But it smells good! And that makes me happy, so hey. What do I have to lose? 

The other missionaries in our district have also been kind. The sister training leaders keep asking what they can do to help, and the zone leaders were patient when I snapped at them for asking for the same information for (seemingly) the hundredth time. :) 

Brother Eubank even gave us money and told my companion to go buy a pair of boots (since she has none) and told me to go buy a light box. People are really too great out here. :) I love Utah!

(I can also see that my dear YSA Branch and you gracious Marylanders are being so KIND and helping financially as well! So far I have not had to pay for my mission at ALL. I did not expect that, and I'm not sure that I deserve it since Heavenly Father has already so abundantly blessed me. Please know that it is greatly appreciated! Though I am facing struggles, I am still loving every minute of my mission, and I can't imagine being anywhere else in the world right now...)

Some days I feel like I am in a fog. My emotions feel dull. It's hard to feel the impressions of the Spirit. Sometimes I feel like I am just going through the motions, and I wonder if the testimony I bear or the things I say has any relevance at all.  We've been asked to speak in church the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The topic is actually our choice, though they suggested that we talk about something like Gratitude or some Thanksgiving theme. The talks will be 15 minutes each... I keep feeling impressed to speak on hope, but I'm not quite sure yet how to when sometimes I feel such a lack of it. 

Some of the hard things about serving with depression:
-The schedule! It's hard to get going, it's hard to be places on time. It's hard to have a schedule when you move so much slower.
-Having a companion. Glued to you for 24/7. Poor Sister Alaiasa has to bear this as well. No, I don't take it out on her. But I'm sure she feels pretty helpless. I'm sure it is hard for her too when I am just SO not fun when we are alone. It's also a hard thing when social anxiety is considered. After we teach or spend time with other people I just need to veg for a minute. Or twenty. I need people to not talk to me, not touch me, and not require explanations. But when you have a companion that's not always an option.
-Standing as a representative at Christ at all times when your temper is markedly shorter. I am usually a patient, easy-going person. Depression brings out irritability, and impatience. I get annoyed so much easier than I usually do, and it's a struggle to not take it out on the people around me. (Thus the snapping at the zone leaders.) (But they did kinda need to be told to not treat us all like unruly children, so I only feel slightly guilty for that one. ;) 
-Praying
-Teaching about praying when you don't feel like praying
-Teaching about the guidance of the Spirit when you don't always feel the Spirit
-Trying to determine what you are actually capable of accomplishing, and when you need to take time for yourself. 
-Trying to explain it to people. I'm actually not stressed. I don't have issues that I need to talk about. This isn't depletion depression... There's literally nothing in my life that would trigger this - other than the chemical imbalance that occurs every year. I really AM okay, and there's not really much that others can do... other than pray.  

There are some really good things too though. I have always talked candidly about my depression, but now I am forced more than ever to be honest about the emotions and feelings that I face. And that's actually a really good thing. I hate it when people ask "are you doing okay?" but I appreciate their concern all the same. Likewise though, if you ask that question, I'm not going to lie to you. Life is hard, but I'm gonna make it. It's good that others know what I am facing because it helps me to turn inward less. It's good to explain how I feel because others don't always understand or sympathize when you say, "I have depression." And it's good because I'm relatable. 

Depression is something that so many people today struggle with. I think it's the biggest cause for missionaries to go home early. I won't be one of them. As much as I sometimes think "I want to go home" I also recognize that I'm not ready. As much as I love my home, there's nothing for me there right now. So I can struggle with Depression as a missionary, or I can go home and do the same thing. At least here I'm being productive with my life. :) 

But I also won't be one of those missionaries that suppresses everything and puts on a pretty mask for the world to see. Bishop Pierson says that I'm "peppy" which is good I guess. :) So I'm not totally the boring lump that I perceive myself to be. I won't be the missionary that speaks sweetly about prayer and scripture study as a cure-all. I want to be real with people. And for me that means, "You know what, you're right. Life is pretty rotten sometimes. But these things HELP. Praying to a Father in Heaven, even when you don't feel like it, HELPS. Studying your scriptures fills up a spiritual well that your soul so desperately needs when times are hard. I can't promise that things will instantly be completely cured, and that your problems will go away. But I can promise that you will have the strength you need when you choose to trust in Christ." 

Yesterday in church we were reminded of a story that Elder Bednar told at General Conference last April. A man who purchased a new truck wanted to justify the purchase, so he drove up into the mountain to cut firewood. As he drove into deeper and deeper snow, he soon found himself to be helplessly stuck. However, choosing to complete his task rather than worry about being stuck, he filled his truck up with wood that would warm his home. It was only after his truck was full of the heavier load that his truck was able to get the traction that it needed to return home safely. "It was the load." Elder Bednar said, "It was the load of wood that provided the traction necessary for him to get out of the snow, to get back on the road, and to move forward."
(Bear Up Their Burdens With Ease by Elder David A. Bednar https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/bear-up-their-burdens-with-ease?lang=eng )

Likewise, our loads can be the very thing that propels us forward. Sometimes we may feel helplessly stuck, but if we choose to do the things that we know we should, we'll find eventually that we have traction once more. 

I'm not perfect, but I'm doing my very best, and I'm content with that. :) 

So to give you a little update on my wonderful area since it really is very great! We have another person on date for baptism! J.  from the care center has decided that she wants to be baptized the week before Christmas! So we're trying to teach all the lessons before then. :) Irene and Michael are still strong - they have been smoke free for over a week and a half! Irene can't even stand the smell anymore. The power of the Priesthood is REAL, friends. Faith + Priesthood blessings = miracles. :) Irene is such a wonderful real life example of turning your life around and embracing Christ. That family is incredible. And the S's are due to have their baby in the next week or so! We spend a lot of time with the Solipos - a mostly active member family who are actually related to Sister Alaiasa and are from Laie in Hawaii. They feed us a lot :) It's impossible to not have good times when you are with Polynesians! They've adopted me in too, and Sister Alaiasa says that it means that if I ever need anything for the rest of my life that they'll do their best to help me. We even got a new teaching referral from them this week! A random girl was at a family gathering that we were invited to (which I agreed to attend, even though it meant two dinners! ;) She started asking us all these questions about serving missions, and then about the church. It was just natural to say, "So would you like to learn more? We can come and teach you." And she enthusiastically responded, "Yes! I've never really stuck to anything in my life... I really want to learn!" Seriously, who does that?!

Today we were able to attend the temple, and it was really such a wonderful experience. I will have to send pictures next week. 

I love you all. Hope you have a great week!
Sister Tipton


Oh PS... One of the Polynesian foods I tried this week was "poopy" chicken. They all thought my reaction to the name was pretty hilarious... until Sister Alaiasa explained, "It's spelled 'Pupi'" Ohhhh! Okay! I'll gladly try some then! It's SO GOOD. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Still in Bountiful!!

Sorry my email subject titles are so boring. :) 

I'M STILL IN BOUNTIFUL! And I've decided that I'm never ever going to leave. Seriously leaving this place will be the saddest thing ever. The people here are so much like my friends back in the Columbia Stake. When my mission president placed me here he told me that it was going to be a hard area, but I haven't found that to be true. I love it here. 

And now I have to say something that I never ever EVER thought I would say. I would move back to Utah. Uhhgh! Excuse me while I choke! :) But seriously. I love Maryland, and that's where my family is so I think I'll stay there for awhile yet. But if Heavenly Father needs me to come back, I absolutely would. In a heartbeat. 

At the very least I think I'll be visiting this wretched state more than I thought I ever would. :) You may all commence with "I told you so"s. :)

This week was actually quite hard, but still wonderful. Last Monday when I emailed I was so heartbroken. I wanted nothing more than to go home, to be honest. After a lot of thought I realized that Sister Haddock had become a rock for me out here. It's the weirdest thing ever to be dumped in the field after time at the MTC. You go from being surrounded by 3000 other missionaries, to being alone with you and your companion. The only time we see other missionaries is on preparation days, and at district meetings. We only hear from home once a week, and as much as my wonderful friends have been sending letters and emails, it still broke my heart every Monday to have no emails from my family. So, like it or not, she became my whole support out here in the wilderness. ;) When we found out that she was being transferred I felt like I was totally alone again. It was just as hard to say goodbye to her as it was to my friends and family back home. And on top of her leaving, I suddenly felt the weight of carrying the responsibility for all of the people in this area that we love, and I was terrified that I would forget someone. Actual sobbing. I was seriously despairing. At that moment all I wanted to do was go home. 

I had been upset for awhile leading up to transfers too though. We both had a feeling that she might be leaving, and it broke my heart. I was hoping that after she actually left on Tuesday at transfers that I would be okay. My new companion was so nice to me, and it was good in a way that she's coming from an area where she just spent 6 months, and had her last companion for 4 and a half months. She was sad too. By Tuesday night I knew that I had to do something though. I HATE not being able to control my emotions - I understood the point of transfers logically, but I just couldn't embrace them emotionally. I was having a hard time sleeping. It took forever to fall asleep at night and when I did I would wake up again after a few hours and not be able to get back to sleep. On top of that I had no appetite. I was eating at every meal because I know that I'm supposed to, but I wasn't eating very much. I know myself and I knew something was wrong and that I had to do something to regain control of myself. The first two things that came to mind were to get a blessing or to fast. I decided that I would ask Bishop Pierson (the best Bishop ever) when we saw him at our quilting group the next day for a blessing. I thought I might wait a day or so to fast - at least until I was eating normally again. :) 

So after quilting we had a conference with Bishop Pierson. We talked about the work in his ward and what he would like us to do. Then I asked him for my blessing. Have I mentioned that he's the best?! In our church every worthy man can hold the Priesthood, which is the authority to act and speak in the name of God. As such they have certain responsibilities in the church which all involve service. One of the acts of service is to give blessing to those in need. A blessing is given to an individual for comfort or for healing and is dependent upon the faith of the person receiving the blessing. The words that are said within are not the words of the man giving the blessing, but they are the words of God to the person being blessed. I have had many blessings since I was baptized nearly 6 years ago, and each one has been individual and precious. When I asked for the blessing he asked simply, "What's going on?" Before long I was sobbing about all of the things that were hard for me in that minute. Some things, like "I just can't control my emotions!" were met with very straightforward responses like "Well yeah, you're a woman." that just made me laugh. Just chatting with him raised my spirits a ton and helped me to remember how capable I am, and also how normal my feelings really are. When I told him that I was worried about forgetting someone he laughed and said something like, "Welcome to the club." I don't know how Bishops do it. Especially when they work full time and usually have families to raise at the same time. Bishop Pierson gave me a blessing - he anointed my head with oil (I didn't know they could do that without a second Priesthood holder) and blessed me with a plethora of blessings, starting with "God knows you, and He knows the things that trouble you and cause you to struggle." I began crying again then, but now they were good tears. :) Among the many blessings I received I was promised that I would be able to be in control my emotions and have the strength to complete my work here. 

And I have been. 

Transfers were probably one of the hardest things I've done yet. Every missionary's experience is completely different, but since I've been serving and teaching for so long in the church I knew that the work wasn't going to be the thing that was hard for me. And it's not. For me it's leaving the people. But since I received the blessing on Wednesday I have felt SO much better! Even that day I felt lighter - as if a weight had been lifted. Nothing about my situation had changed, but I was better able to bear it. And that's one of the blessings that we receive from Christ's atonement. :) 

Anyway. I don't know if that came out as clear as I would have liked. :) I learned so much from that experience but I can't quite verbalize it well. I must say though that I am grateful for trials. We grow so much throughout them. This week has flown by. And we've done a lot of great things! 

I need to tell you about Irene Barker! I asked this wonderful woman if I could have permission to write home about her, and she agreed, so we don't need to remove her name this week! Irene is one of the most incredible people that I've met! Her family was the last family that Sister Haddock and I taught together. We taught about the Book of Mormon - what it is and the blessings we are promised from studying it. Usually we use the first paragraph and the last two paragraphs from the Introduction. Read those and test it - I promise that you will receive a testimony of this book! Typically we teach a lesson and then leave a commitment - something for them to do that will strengthen their faith in Christ. With the Book of Mormon it should make sense that we ask them to read from it every day. But, as the Barkers typically are, they said "Oh yeah, we've already started. I read a chapter every day, and we've started studying it as a family too." Seriously, where did these people come from! Heavenly Father has absolutely worked with this family. When Sister Haddock first arrived in this area 6 months ago she was told not to go by this home because the Barkers weren't interested. It's truly incredible how much has changed in the last few months! It's incredible to witness their fire and excitement for the gospel. It has very little to do with me and any talent I may have as a missionary, and it's all about the Savior. They are determined to not return to the lifestyle that they led before and they know and understand that the best way to leave it all behind is to turn their hearts toward Christ. 

They are absolutely amazing. 

On Thursday Sister Alaiasa and I taught another lesson to the Barkers. This one was a quit smoking program that we teach. It sounds like a gimmick, but it is a 15 step program that helps smokers to rid their body of nicotine and turn off the triggers to grab a cigarette. It's simple things like brushing your teeth after a meal, having healthy snacks handy, and loading up on the Vitamin C. It was developed after lots of study, fasting, and prayer from some Elders serving in Ireland in the '80s. And it's incredible! At that lesson, they admitted that they had already QUIT and were on Day 2 as non-smokers. What?! Who does that?? So we taught the program to help them. :) For half of the steps they said things like, "Oh yeah, we're already doing that." Their kids - 11, 13 and 15 all sat in and have been a great support for their dad and step-mom. We had invited a lot of fellowshippers to learn about what they had to do so they could be a support. So we had a two-doors down neighbor (who is in the Relief Society Presidency), their old home teacher, and the new elders quorum (one of which is their new home teacher.) Each of us arrived in waves though, so they kept getting a knock on the door and laughing each time. :) Finally at the fourth knock the BISHOP walks in. Ha! He actually wasn't planning on being there for this so he left, but we all thought it was hilarious. There were many jokes about the next knock being the Stake President. :) Each time the kids scrambled around trying to find more chairs. It was so fun! 

At the end of the lesson the whole family received blessings. Irene and her husband Michael both got healing blessings and were promised that they wouldn't even like the taste of cigarettes anymore. The Spirit in that room was so strong, and it was one of the most incredible things that I have had a chance to witness as a missionary. I am so glad that I'm here now, and I'm so glad to be able to help them! They barely need any help at all - they are speeding down the right road. They have now been smoke free for 6 days. Please keep this wonderful family in your thoughts and prayers. 

This week we also had another wonderful experience - we got to see M.  Twice!! We finally caught him at home and he agreed to let us come back to teach on Friday! We were teaching this man when I first arrived. He had made some poor choices in his life, but he was really changing. He's a less active so he's been raised in the church. But then after my first few weeks he started cancelling lessons and quit responding to our texts. He had a job that caused him to work on Sundays and so he hadn't been able to go to church. It's crazy how quickly that little choice draws you away. When Sister Haddock and I stopped by a month ago, his mom said that he had relapsed. It was very sad. So when we saw him on Friday he admitted to making bad choices, and that he had gone back to old friends. But he said that he had stopped hanging out with those friends again and was trying to do good things. He's agreed to let us come by and teach him lessons, and to have people over to read the scriptures with him once a week! I'm so excited. Definitely pray for this man!

Okay, so SUNDAY. Sunday's are our craziest days ever!! I somehow managed to guide my new companion through our routine, and to not forget anything. Sister Haddock and I had scheduled a musical number in one of our wards, even though we told the ward that one of us might leave before then. This ward just happens to be the ward that Jon Schmidt goes to. ;) Sister Haddock and I had so many fan girl times and we were so looking forward to playing in that ward; it seriously broke my heart when I had to start thinking about what I was going to play without her. I was able to find a violin player from another ward who played a Celtic Hymn Medley with me (If you could hie to Kolob and Adam Ondi Ahman.) And honestly, I was kinda glad that Brother Schmidt was gone - touring Europe with his mad piano playing skills. :) I was less nervous for one thing, and for another - that was supposed to be mine and Sister Haddock's thing. So it hurt less too. :) Even though we only had a day of practice, we did a pretty good job. And we kept getting compliments!! THAT meant a lot, to get compliments on my piano playing in a ward with such talented musicians. (Jon Schmidt isn't the only one! He's just the only famous one... ;) My favorite was from Sister Schmidt! She told me that I am a very accomplished pianist! Seriously?! I mucked it up and said something like, "Well, not as good as your husband" which she actually couldn't deny. So I texted later and said something like 'I'm working on accepting compliments, and what I meant to say is that it means a lot to hear you say that I play well when you're so used to hearing such wonderful music! So thank you!' She replied with, "You are so welcome and you deserved the compliment, so drink it in and give thanks!!!" Seriously, that made my life. :) 

My companion wasn't feeling well yesterday, so she napped during lunch while I prepared a Gospel Principles lesson that we were teaching at the 8th (mid-singles) ward. They had a non-member from China attending church for the first time and wanted a class that would be simple and straightforward enough for her. (Um. WHY is it so dang hard to have a simple Gospel Principles lesson?! If you want to delve deeper or talk about more obscure things, go to Gospel Doctrine! Sheesh!!) I was suddenly SO grateful for the year and a half that I taught Relief Society... and for all of those times that I procrastinated to the point of preparing a lesson the same day that I taught. ;) It definitely made this experience much more fun and less stressful! :) So I taught the lesson, and we had a great discussion - about 10 people had been invited to this class so that the Chinese woman wouldn't feel singled out. The points were simple, but the discussion powerful. The Spirit was strong in that class, and nearly every single class member thanked me sincerely as they left. Saying things like "That was a REALLY good lesson!" And "Well planned! Well done!" I didn't do much - other than follow the manual, follow the Spirit, keep it simple and ask questions. :) But I was grateful for the compliments all the same. 

Once I finally stopped moving yesterday the stress and burden that I had been carrying all day finally hit me. I took Bishop Pierson up on his offer to text him any time I needed - even if it was late at night. He's such a good man. Really, have I mentioned that he's the best? :) He told me things like, "You always struck me as really confident" and "You know, you really are doing a great job." I like that he noticed. He's so Christlike! Sometimes it feels like there is so much to be done and that there's just not enough of me... it's good to remember that Christ - and the leaders here in Utah - don't expect me to run faster than I have strength. 

I love Bountiful Heights. Best place ever. :) 

This morning I studied the exact scripture that I needed today. Alma 26. This chapter is all about Ammon rejoicing in his God. From the moment I read it today, for the first time in a few weeks, I feel like my heart is singing with joy! Among all of the praises that he sings, and the discussion of the trials that he has faced and overcome with the help of the Lord, he says "Who can glory too much in the Lord?" I laughed out loud. Really, we cannot praise God enough! He HAS been so good to me! I've realized now that though serving a mission was never in my plans, and though a big part of me really didn't want to come, that I LOVE IT here. I wouldn't trade these experiences for the world. I am so glad that His wisdom is so much greater than my own! 

"Now have we not reason to rejoice? Yea, I say unto you, there never were men that had so great reason to rejoice as we, since the world began; yea, and my joy is carried away, even unto boasting in my God; for he has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful Being, even unto salvation, to those who will repent and believe on his name." Alma 26:35

I love you all. I am sorry friends that I am not a better individual letter writer. I so appreciate all of your love and support though. It means the world to me each time I receive a letter or email. I love you dearly, have a great week. 

Love always, 
Sister Tipton

PS - I can't believe that I learned to love Utah! What is WRONG with me?!? ;) 

PPS - Here is a picture of me and my new companion! Her name is Sister Alaiasa (Ah-lie, ah-sah) And she is from Hawaii. She is part Samoan and part Maori. So even though she was raised in Hawaii she has a cool New Zealand accent that I tease her for. :) Just this last week I helped teach her how to properly pronounce the letter 'z'. :D She kept saying it "zet" It was really hilarious when she learned this though. We have leaders that are called "zone leaders" but that we usually call "ZL's." She's been on a mission for a year, and thought that everyone was calling them "CL's" all this time!! Hilarious! She and I have good times... and we have a tendency to stay up talking too late. I miss Sister Haddock, but Sister Alaiasa is awesome too. :) 


And just to rub Sister Alaiasa - this picture is in front of an American flag! :D She likes to pretend that she's not American... hahahaha, silly girl. :) 


We did a service project on Saturday morning where we went around with the youth from one of the wards and raked as many lawns as possible! (It's so cute how few leaves they have here... ;) We loaded the leaves into a trailer, and then all climbed in to crunch down the leaves and drive to the next location (since we're, you know, on a MOUNTAIN, and it would be too hard to hike up and down the roads when we can drive there in a minute. ;) If you know Utah, we started on the houses just below the 'B' and worked our way down. It was super fun!!! The Spanish sister missionaries in our area came to help as well. :)



Monday, November 3, 2014

Transfers!

This week has been very very sad. Both Sister Haddock and I had strong impressions that we weren't going to be together this transfer and we were right. It's SO super sad because she only has one more transfer of her mission. I'm sure this will all be for our good, and I'm sure I will love my new companion too, but change is always hard. Especially when this change really does end a chapter of my life. She and I will never again be missionary companions, but I'm sure we will remain friends. 

The GOOD news is that she's just going to the next zone over. Even though I'm serving in the Bountiful Heights stake in the city Bountiful, we're actually in the Farmington zone. Sister Haddock is going to the Bountiful zone, and she's still serving in Bountiful. And the BEST part is that her new companion is Sister Hano - my MTC companion! I was praying so hard that if Sister Haddock had to leave that at the VERY least she would go to someone who would be nice and kind and love her. She and Sister Hano are going to be awesome together. I'm jealous. :) 

My new companion is Sister Alaiasa. All I know is that she's from Hawaii and she's been out nearly a year. And I'm staying in Bountiful Heights!!!  We were right about the driving thing though - when the APs called to ask if I had driving privileges they wanted to make sure that I could drive because she doesn't have a license. AND I'm finally finished TRAINING, which makes my life so happy. 

I'm nervous about the change - it's been comfortable living with Sister Haddock these last 6 weeks or so and I know it's always tricky when you put two new personalities together, but I'm sure it will be good. 

Bountiful is awesome right now. The other reason we were sure that one of us was leaving (and the reason why we felt it was Sister Haddock, because this is the story of her mission) is that the work is just EXPLODING. We had ANOTHER person call us this week and said that they had a friend that wanted to take the lessons because they want to get baptized. This was at the care center and we were able to teach her last week, with plans on teaching her again this coming week. 

Then yesterday in church, for fast and testimony meeting, a teenage boy who is a non-member stood up to bear his testimony! He talked about having met with missionaries before but that it wasn't until after he saw "Meet the Mormons" and really connected to one of the stories (the story about the missionary mom and how she changed her life) that he really decided that he wanted to change his life too. He's friends with the Schmidt's twins (the piano guys Schmidt's. :) So yes, I totally got a referral from Jon Schmidt. It's a little iffy about whether or not we'll be teaching this boy though - he doesn't live in our area, but the Schmidts do, and he wants to take the lessons at their home. He lives in our current District Leader's area, but Elder Crow and his companion are BOTH getting transferred (seriously, tons of changes this week. I hate it. :P) Elder Crow said that it would probably be best if we taught him, but we have to call President Hansen to see what he thinks. Either way, the situation is pretty dang cool! 

One of the women we visit is totally not interested in learning anything about the church, but she's happy to let us visit her. She was baptized decades ago, and her family is all active, but she doesn't want to be (right now...) Last week she came to an activity at her ward to help out - it's a "Single Sister's Luncheon" and is mostly widows. She LOVES the "old ladies" because she feels like they don't judge her as much. She kept telling them though that it's crazy what has happened, because she normally doesn't let missionaries in her house at ALL. We've been by several times, and she was definitely upset when we told her about transfers. We had a funny conversation with her after the luncheon though! 

Me: "Do you wanna come with us??" 
Her: "To do what?"
Me: "Teach the gospel!"
Another woman at the luncheon: "tell them to take a Valium." 
Her: "Take a Xanex girls, it's not gonna happen!" 

Ha! 

Ok, the only other super exciting thing that happened this week was Halloween. During the day people kept asking us if we were real missionaries or if this was our costume. TOTALLY why they lock us in on Halloween night! ;) The night before Sister Haddock curled my hair and it looked so cool. :) And on Halloween, Holly, the daughter of the people we live with (who also lives here) came downstairs and we had a party and ate lots of junk food. 

And then Holly "cleansed our emotions." Weirdest thing ever, but kinda fun! She "released our trapped emotions." Ok. We ended up staying up a little too late, and the next day when Sister Haddock and I were talking about it we both agreed that we had thought we should go to bed at 10:30 (like we're commanded to!) but Sister Haddock said, "We were enamored by her priestcrafts." HA! It's true. Totally sucked in. :) The other funny thing she said that morning was, "We still have a tea party on my desk!" 

Anyway, this should be an interesting week. I made a promise to myself 6 weeks or so ago that I would always do my best to love my companions from the beginning, but I'm really nervous transfers. I just really REALLY don't want things to change, but I suppose that's just life. 

I love you all! Thanks for all of your letters. I'm sorry that I'm a little backlogged on my letter writing, but I love you all dearly and can't wait to see you again. 


Sister Tipton

1 - Curly hair! Also, Jesus photobombed us. 
2 - Dracula teeth - these are some pretty cool gummies that Mendy et al sent me. 

3 - HALLOWEEN! Partay!!!
4 - Sister Haddock and our skeleton decorations! Also from Mendy. :)
5 - Holly pouring drinks at our tea party! We had some naked juice. :) 
6 - Pretty sunset!