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

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.


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.


As in, Maryland Baltimore?


With President Richards! Yes.... 


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 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