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!