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Thank you for visiting our Christmas Service Blog. We welcome comments from visitors.
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Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas Cole, Dixie, and Leland!

Our service to our cousins this year was that during the month of December, we all completed the "I Can Light the World This December" challenge from the church. Our primary gave us a "kid friendly" version with lots of service activities that we completed everyday. On Christmas EVE eve (December 23rd), we had a special family home evening where we went through every day and made sure we had completed everything.

Madison said, "doing the light the world brought me closer to Jesus Christ during this Christmas season. It helped it understand the true meaning of Christmas. Merry Christmas Cole!"

Reagan said, "it made me feel really good that we could give toys to kids to those in need so they could have toys for christmas. Merry Christmas Dixie!"

Brooklyn said, " doing the light the world makes me very happy and feeling the holy ghost. Merry Christmas cousin Leland!"

Love you all and miss you all. Hope you have had a wonderful Christmas season.

Notice the paper has some well worn use. :)

Char the Cheerleader; Char the Coach; Char the Hand-Holder

We all have had experiences where, upon reflection and spiritual thought, we later realize how so very much this world and the world beyond the veil intersect at times and divine intervention influences and blesses our lives in ways that, at the time, we would not have imagined possible.  While dating Tiffany I had several such experiences.  I know that it was not by chance that Tiffany and I met and courted, one of the many fruits of such divine intervention is now being a part of an incredible extended family, with parents (I do not consider Ed and Kriss "in-laws" - they are so much more than that) and siblings (including spouses!) who are no less than amazing and have from the very beginning welcomed my daughters and me into the Gates clan with unconditional love.  Thank you all!

My very first thought and impression of Charise when I first met her was, "This woman is the queen of positive thought!"  She is always upbeat, cheerful, positive, encouraging, and it is impossible to not feel those emotions and qualities when you are with her.  Her spirit is contagious and infectious. Tiffany readily explained to me that Charise had been a cheerleader in high school.  Charise continues to be the cheerleader of the family.  She is always cheering us on, providing encouragement when times get tough. With her there is always a silver lining no matter how bleak the clouds or how threatening the impending storm may appear.

While I attempt to put into words my thoughts and feelings of the experience I have had this year in doing service in Charise's honor, I am reminded of the words of Alma in Mosiah 18: 8-9 (where Alma, while at the waters of Mormon, is speaking to those desiring to be baptized into the fold of God), "... and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those who mourn; yea and comfort those that stand in need of comfort[.]" I have seen Charise in action providing the proverbial (and sometimes literally) shoulder to cry on.  I have seen her help bear another's burdens, mourn with those who mourn, and comfort those who stand in need of comfort.

So this year, when I received Charise's name in whose honor I would be providing service, at first I was at a loss for ideas as to what I could do that would be, in my opinion, worthy of Charise and her undying and unwavering positiveness, ease and ability to bear other's burdens, and Christ-like love for others.

Due to my profession, education, experience, and training as an attorney, I am many times in a position where I am asked to assist others resolve specific legal issues and problems that are quite burdensome.  One particular client comes to mind.  I represent an older woman who came to me seeking assistance with a trust and incapacity documents.  Her husband has advanced dementia and Alzheimers. Due to his medical condition, he has no legal capacity to execute the necessary legal documents that would give his wife the authority to make financial and medical decisions on his behalf. At first, my client was distraught regarding the situation.  Upon investigation (and a lot of telephone calls!) I was able to locate previous legal documents that had been created and executed by her husband many many years ago with another attorney that gives my client the much needed authority to take care of her husband.  If we had not been able to locate these documents, my client would have needed to go through the burdensome court process of creating a conservatorship on her husband's behalf. This client and her husband have a special place in my heart.  My paternal grandmother had advanced dementia and Alzheimers and it was heartbreaking to see her medical deterioration and eventual passing due to such a vicious disease.  Tiffany and I frequently talk about grandpa and grandma Bodell and how lovingly grandpa Bodell cared for grandma until her passing.

In our bedroom, Tiffany hung some of my favorite pictures from our wedding.

Underneath the three pictures I hung a small plaque containing one of my favorite scriptures.  For me, this scripture contains many of the qualities and characteristics that I wish to have in my marriage with Tiffany.

"And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail -- But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him." Moroni 7:45-47.

One of my personal goals this year has been to increase my understanding of Charity, my capacity to have charity, and be charitable, especially within my relationship with Tiffany and our children.  I especially have focused on learning to be be more patient and more humble.  Not the easiest things to learn, but I tell Tiffany all the time that I am a work in progress.

As part of my service, I wanted to be able to have a charitable experience, that would help me be an example of the Savior and his charitable love.  So, a few months ago, while still seeking an opportunity to give service in Charise's honor, Tiffany and I were out for the evening walking around the Spectrum and doing a little date-night window shopping and running some errands.  Tiffany received a text from one of Charise's very good friends, Julie Bostrom.  For those who do not know, Julie lost her husband, Craig, a little over a year ago.  Craig worked as a station electrician for the the City of Riverside.  Craig retired on a Friday after a long career with the city.  The following Monday morning, Craig passed away in his sleep due to heart failure.  Julie's life came crashing down around her. Her and Craig's dreams of retirement life vanished that Monday morning. Upon finding out about Julie's situation, Charise immediately flew out to California to be with her friend.  Charise without hesitation came to mourn with Julie and to help bear Julie's burdens.  "... and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those who mourn; yea and comfort those that stand in need of comfort[.]"

So while we are out on date night, Tiffany received a text from Julie asking if Tiffany knew an estate planning attorney who might be able to help her with some legal issues related to Craig's estate.  I immediately called Julie and talked with her about what I could do to assist her.  Coincidence that I had Charise's name this year for service and that Julie texted Tiffany for a referral, I think not. Divine intervention occurs when we least expect it.  I had been looking for an opportunity to help bear someone's burdens.  Julie was the perfect candidate.  What better way to provide service in Charise's honor than to give service to one of Charise's best friends. A few days later Julie and I were able to meet together and talk about the struggles that Julie has been through. Like many people whom I encounter in my law practice, Craig and Julie did not have the necessary legal documents to help Julie be able to navigate the complicated and difficult waters of probate (a legal proceeding where court intervention and oversight is required to administer and manage the estate of a family member or loved one after they have passed away) and estate administration.  We talked about what was needed to help her with Craig's estate.  We discussed the probate process and what she should expect regarding such process.  I also discussed with her what we can do to help her children avoid having to go through the same process in the future should Julie become incapacitated or at the time of her passing.  We came up with a game plan to wrap up Craig's estate through probate and to help Julie put together the necessary documents (trust and incapacity documents) for herself and her children. She asked how much this would cost.  I told her there was no cost.  I told her she was like family and there would be no charge. This would my pleasure to help her.  Before I met with Julie, she was able to take care of a few of Craig's estate matters.  But she still has a few matters with which she needs assistance. I am currently assisting Julie with these outstanding probate matters regarding Craig.  Unfortunately, probate is not a quick process and we still have a ways to go, but hopefully Craig's estate will be wrapped up soon in the beginning of next year. So Charise, in your name and honor, I present this gift of service.  Char, I know that if it were possible, you would take away all of Julie's stress, pain, anguish, heartache, and loss that she has experienced since Craig's passing.  Assisting Julie with her legal issues is but a small way that I can lift her burdens.

Love ya, sis.  Merry Christmas.



To Dillon....From Savvy

To Reagan from Zetta

I remember when Reagan cut her hair.  It was so cute.  My hair was very long.  It needed a trim.  I decided just to cut it all off like Reagan's and donate the 10 inches to a child without hair. Thank you Reagan for being a good example and a fun cousin.  Have a very Merry Christmas!

To Brighton From Tara

For the secret service, I had Brighton. Brighton is very good with little kids so I babysat Cora for my mom mainly once every week when my parents went on date night. I tried very hard to be patient like Brighton always is with little kids. Hunter loves Brighton and Brighton loves being with Hunter. It is not just Hunter, Brighton is good with all little kids including Cora. I love Brighton and I love being around him because he can be so gentle and kind.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

To Darcy from Chuck

To sacrifice 18 months of your life to be a missionary serving complete strangers requires a lot of love for your fellow man. I often struggle with feeling Christlike love for people, so I often pray for help in loving all of God’s children. I ask for help in understanding the struggles of those with whom I am frustrated and finding opportunities to serve them individually. When serving God’s children, we often hear about serving “the one” after trying to understand them as an individual. Making a difference in someone’s life may be a small act on your own part, but it may make a big impact on someone. The important thing to remember when serving “the one” is to follow the Spirit to know what they need.

Often times being a missionary will force you outside of what may be your normal routine and outside of your comfort zone. As a missionary, people will consistently fall short of your expectations and hopes for them, but you will be blessed with the gift of empathy to love them anyway. Missionaries who seek the gift of empathy will see the best in those that they meet. They can look at others and see the potential of who they can become.

When Ashley was called as Relief Society President, she was given a blessing that she would love the sisters of our ward. As the husband of the Relief Society President, I often struggle in that area. It’s very difficult to see your wife unfairly criticized for following the inspiration and doing what is right. So, I have begun praying to feel more love – and less judgment – for the sisters of our ward.

The details of the service that I did in honor of our missionary Darcy is not something I should share because of the sensitive nature of those involved. I have sent Darcy an email with some of the details of my actual service for an individual sister in our ward. But I can say that I was blessed with an opportunity to serve a sister who is struggling. I am especially humbled (and relieved) that when the opportunity arose, I actually found it very easy to serve her. Clearly, the Lord’s hand was with me that day, as I only felt compassion for this sister.

I love you Darcy and are so grateful for your desire to serve the Lord as a missionary. And as you now are going through the trials of health that are impeding you from the (so-called) normal mission experience, I pray that you will know that what matters most is your willingness and worthiness to serve. I pray that everybody in your life will choose to smother you with love and support.

Thank you for the wonderful example you are to all of your cousins.

Jesus wants me for a SUNBEAM!!!

My little sister has done an amazing job magnifying her church calling this year. Amy has gone all out in her efforts to engage the primary children in her ward and to help them feel important and loved. I am so proud of her hard work and her extra efforts to include all of the children, whether they are 3 or 11!

In honor of Amy, I have done my absolute best to be an amazing primary teacher. We have eight 3 & 4 year olds that come every Sunday.

Our little Jason only speaks a few words of English. It is such a joy to see him light up when he understands what we are teaching. Henry is our class clown. He is funny and sweet, and knows the teachings of Jesus in surprising details!

We have 4 little girls, and they are all wonderful!! Callie and Anna are silent 98% of the time.... but when they know an answer, they explode with words, rushing one after another.  Isabelle and Kendall are never silent! They dance and sing throughout the 2 hours of primary each week. All four of the girls are a delight and a joy to have in our class.

Max is our little spitfire. His brother Kolin and he are perfect when apart, and crazy when together. They are both in our class, so they are a full time bundle of energy! They are "new brothers" and so we are getting to see Max learn how to be a "twin" to his new brother his same age. Kolin came to his new family as a 4 yr old, not able to communicate at all. In just a few months, he has become happy and is able to chat and talk and is progressing so quickly.

This year, instead of just doing a "whatever" attitude for our lessons each week, I have instead tried to go all out. I do lots of research on age appropriate activities, I have worked hard to get to know lots of details about every little child we get to teach, and I have taken the time to pray for each of these tinys. I don't want my Primary President to have to worry at all about our little class.

When these children started Primary at the beginning of the year, they would cry and just want to stay with their mommy's. This past week, four of the children have brought us a little gift and their parents have said they absolutely LOVE coming to primary each week. They even said that their child would be so upset when they went on vacation or were sick because they would miss Primary class that week. They love Primary and coming to learn about Jesus.... That is what we were going for!!! Mission Accomplished!!

Put Me In Coach!

Hock, two things I know about you are your devotion to your kids and wife.

For service in behalf of Mike, I thought of how he is the one who spends all the time with the kids trying to teach or coach the kids.  This year I have volunteered to sub every Sunday in primary (including when I was visiting the McBrides).  This helps both the kids and my wife (as she is Primary President).  I am grateful for the example Mike sets in building people up and the effort he makes to get know people.

I like doing service, but not particularly writing about it, that is why this is so short.  Merry Christmas Brother.

Wayne, the magic man

To my wonderful, caring, sweet sister Ashley...

Our Ashley, oh how I love you so much. So many times in my life do I think and wish how we lived closer, so we could spend more time together, and our kids spend time together. My heart aches to be by you. :) I've thought a lot about you this year and tried to think of the great perfect things I could do for you. It wasn't until the Fall that I found what I could do.

First, Ashley is really good about being healthy and sets a good example to her family about exercising and eating well. At the first day of school, Zelda's teacher asked for volunteers. One specific volunteer position that she didn't have any parent volunteer for during the first week was someone to do PE with the kids every week, at the same time. I told her I would love to do it, but that Gates would be with me. So, from the beginning of the year, I have volunteered in Zelda's class every Thursday, and I do PE with Zelda's Kindergarten class. I bring Gates in the stroller and spend 1.5 hours on Thursday mornings doing rotations of PE groups. :) I have such a great time seeing the kids get physical and exercise. They love when they see me come in as well and get excited that it's PE day and it is so sweet. Thank you Ashley for helping your family be healthy.

Another way I served Ashley is a way that I never would have imagined. It might be more of a selfish way that I served, but I do feel like it was serving her as well. And serving all our family. In July of this year, after we moved into our house, I started feeling not so great. Or actually, I guess I started not feeling at all. As months went on, I began to not care about things. I was becoming numb to everything. Come September, for Ryan's angel anniversary, I wasn't doing so hot, and that month I began to decline even more. I wasn't living life. I was just going through the motions just to get through each day. I wasn't living. I was just surviving.

Now, in the spring, in about March, I was diagnosed with Post Partum Depression. I pretty much knew that it would probably happen, just because of everything I had gone through, and what I was dealing with. Grief, blending families, dealing with "extra" things that caused me to have major anxiety and feel anxiety attacks for the first time in my life. Just everything in life overwhelmed me.

But then, in July, I started feeling worse. I have a widow friend who in August wrote about her personal struggle from Clinical Depression. When I read it, I was just astounded. I was reading exactly how I was feeling! I'm going to use some of her words because she described it so well... She said "this debilitating disease has nearly taken life from me..... for the past 2 1/2 years I have been battling with the more common kind of depression. The one where you learn how to wear the "I'm OK" mask and push through hard days, enjoying the good ones as they come. I had many days where I could enjoy life where my heart and my mind would connect. Then, for seemingly no reason, the dreaded dark cloud would come and suck joy, excitement, interests, passion, drive, and positivity right out of me, leaving just enough so I could still carry on and function. There were many days where my kids feel like burdens rather than gifts, and then there were days where I just couldn't get enough of them. Sounds pretty common to you moms out there, RIGHT? But for me, even during the days where I enjoyed them, I still didn't feel like myself and I knew I was struggling when I would actually find it painful to smile as they shared with me something silly that happened..... I soon had more bad days than good.... I crashed and entreated into the deepest depths of a new kind of depression... I turned into a completely different person and literally broke. My body broke, my mind broke, my heart felt like it was breaking over and over again, and all I could do was scream in agony day after day and night after night, 'Help me God, help me....My family came to the rescue and helped." I want to mention here, that my sweet Garrett has always been here by my side. Supporting me, loving me, unconditionally loving me when I was not there. When the woman that he met in November 2013 and married in February 2014 was gone, he still stood by my side and vowed to help me.

I started to feel this way in September, and I got to my low low low point in mid October, and got to my breaking point in November, a little after Gates's 1st birthday. I realized that I didn't enjoy my sons first birthday. I didn't care about it. I didn't WANT to live it. I didn't want to do anything. It was bad. In October, I called my therapist and set up an appointment for the first available appointment, which was mid November. When I went into that mid November appointment, I was not doing well. I had a bad episode the night before, and at my appointment, after taking the intake questions that you do every time you go in, my therapist was worried about me. Very much. Very, very, worried. So worried, that she said "Tiffany.... it's time to take care of yourself. You need to work on YOU! You are doing so much for your family and keeping it all together for them, but it's time you worked on YOU and get YOU BETTER!" She told me I needed to do an Intensive Outpatient Program (which I will call IOP for the rest of this post). It is a 2 week course, Monday-Friday, from 9:00am-12:00pm everyday. When she said this to me, I thought "Lady, you are crazy... My husband has a job he has to go to everyday, I have 5 kids, including a baby, there is NO WAY I can do that!" But that's when she said "You need to work on getting YOU better." When she said that something clicked in my head. I knew she was right. I had to fix me first. And when I am fixed, my family can be fixed and can be taken care of.

So, the Monday after thanksgiving, I started this 2 week IOP program. Garrett helped some days, and I hired a babysitter some days. Some days I would tell Garrett "I feel like I would do much better if I just took a 3 hour uninterrupted nap." I would laugh slightly, also thinking that was true, but I would still go to my class. And I would enjoy it. I learned a lot. I learned how to better take care of me. I learned how to deal with certain anxiety, depression, and anger situations. I learned coping mechanisms that have really helped me. After 2 weeks of this class (and a trip to my psychiatrist where I upped my meds), I really felt so much better. I was no longer just living each day to get through it. I was living it and feeling more. I was smiling more, I was laughing more and I was enjoying my family more. I learned that I was also suffering from something called Anhedonia. Anhedonia is the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable.This was finally when it clicked. It was day 3 of my IOP class when the facilitator mentioned this and when she did, I raised my hand and said, "um, I have that! What do I need to do to make it go away and make it better!?" I was so so so truly grateful that I had come to this class and made this realization. This was when they said going to this class, upping some medications to get some hormones back in balance, and learning how to cope will help me feel better.

I am happy to say that December 9th was my final day of my IOP program, and I was so grateful I went for those 2 weeks, everyday. It really helped me. I also am seeing my therapist twice a month and will continue to do so for a long time. Ashley- I know this might be a selfish service to you, but I want to thank you. Thank you for helping me realize this. Thank you for being an inspiration to me. Thank you for being a wonderful daughter of God. I wish I could express more of my feelings, thoughts, and love for you. But know that I love you, and if not for having you this year, I wouldn't have taken the time to take care of myself. Merry Christmas my sweet sister Ashley. I love you.

What would Zetta do?

                  I have an awesome cousin, Zetta.  I was really glad I had her because I had just spent a mouth with her during Thanksgiving. For my dear Zetta, while I was doing Light the World on December 3, it reminded me of her because almost she always tells me about a friend she has served and not even knowing it.

December 9 was, "Jesus visited the lonely and so can you."  I remember every time I would visit Zetta if any one was alone or sitting by themselves, she would go sit with them.  At school there is a girl who surfers from depression and she was my partner for science class.  As soon as I sat down she went on and on about how every one said that she was dumb, stupid, or ugly.  I did not know how I was going to be her partner, I asked my self, "What would Zetta do?"  Zetta would keep smiling and try to be her friend and that is what I did.  If I had not asked my self what would Zetta do, I would probably have a zero in science.  I feel that when I visited the lonely Zetta was there with me every step of the way.

December 5 was Jesus held the sick and so can you.  My parents always said that when ever my Dad was sick I would be his little nurse and be there right by his side. While I was at the McBride's house Uncle Mike was sick and when ever he needed something Zetta was right there.

I'm so happy I got Zetta and Merry Christmas Zetta and thanks for being a great cousin.

Merry Christmas Maddie!

Dear Madison,

I had the privilege to serve my ward and quorum in your honor Maddie.  Although I am not in the presidency, I volunteer to help a lot.  

I served my ward by running a Santa booth.  We had Santa in a room and me outside the room to let 1 family at a time to talk to Santa followed by photos with Santa.  I also served my quarm by setting up for a  stake dance (which you can start attending soon, they are awesome).  I also help the quorum think of ideas for activities, camping and service projects.

I am fun, active, believer, friendly, kind, awesome, and last I am a Mormon.

Love: Dillon Dittbrenner

Fall Leaves and Turkey Dinner

In honor of a hard working great husband I decided to serve my own hard working great husband. I decided that on one day I would do a project that Chuck has been wanting to do, but unable to because of travelling for work. Chuck likes to work in the yard, but just hasn't had time. I decided that I would spend the day cleaning up the leaves in our yard. It was hard work! I used the lawn mower to mulch most of the front yard leaves and dumped them in the beds around the bushes. It then got really difficult in the ditch, so I raked them onto a tarp and hauled them to the back yard to our compost area. Luckily, by that time the girls were home from school so I had some help with the tarp.

I only was able to get the front yard cleaned up that day. I had worked for about 5 hours on the front and did not know when I could get to the backyard. While I was working a guy from a lawn service came to my neighbor's house to give her a quote on cleaning her leaves and saw me working. When they came back to do her work a few days later, he came over and asked if I needed any help doing more leaves. I negotiated with him and got a good deal on his guys to come finish the backyard for us.

On the same day I was very ambitious and decided to cook Chuck his favorite meal - a full Thanksgiving turkey dinner. We went on a last minute vacation this year for Thanksgiving, so I did not cook our usual dinner. I made a whole turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, candied carrots, and homemade cranberry sauce.

It was a great day to totally devote to Chuck in honor of Mike McBride.

Story time all the time

Dear Lucy Luba!!

First of all, soon as I got Lucy, I was super excited because shes my type of girl, whether that be her love of history, books, or her impeccable taste in clothes I love all of her! I have myself been very into reading lately so I decided to go down that path and think of service involving reading. However, a few of my aunts and uncles know that I love writing as well, because whenever I am relaxing in there houses I will be writing. So I wanted to incorporate both aspects of literature; reading and writing. The idea came to me when I gave the kids I babysat often (pics of them below) journals that they can write a story in during their bedtime process, then give back to me so I can write in it and continue their story. I would then receive their stories back every Sunday where I will then return it with an even longer story. Now these girls would always want me to take them to primary and whenever I did they would be so excited and tell all their class that this is Dixie our babysitter. There class mates would ask me, why do they like YOU??  I decided then to give multiple primary kids journals so every Sunday they could partake in the same fun that I did with these kids, some of then would include pictures with there stories! The service part was not only the giving of the journals but also working with them when they wanted me to read what I wrote because some words were to hard for them to understand, practicing better writing flow, and how to make a story interesting. Reading their writings every time made me think of awesome Lucy Luba and how much shes loves literature.Though you may live on the other side of the country know that I love you, and I wish you a Merry Christmas! 

By day Garrett, by night Gmon, our superhero.

Gmon, when I think of you, you bring peace to my heart.  A few years ago our family had a gap.  We were missing part of the puzzle that makes us whole.  We had no idea how we were going to move forward with that hole.  Little did we know that gap was filled by a wonderful dad/husband plus two.  You have helped complete our family.  Most men in your role would not want to look to our past, but you are above the rest...you look at the past as something that we can add to, not replace.

When I see this family photo, the first thing I feel is joy and happiness...then I notice what is at the center of the photo, that green bracelet.  Then I feel more than joy and happiness, I can't describe it because I can't seem to fin the right word, something like "Epic" there is more to it.  When I looked up "Epic" at thesaurus.com it says, "Heroic Poem," Gmon, you are writing a Heroic Poem in our family.

Now how can I put this into an act of service?

On Nov 4th, I received an email from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Introducing Light the World

I knew I wanted to be involved in this program help others to be involved too.  As primary president I was given early access to the advent calendar which gave 3 suggestions of how we can follow the Saviors example.  As I read them, I saw how wonderful they were.  I decided to make a paper chain for every primary child in my ward, all 78 of them.  1,950 strips of paper later, I had a plan.  

I gave each primary child a red and white bracelet to help remind them of their Light the World thing to do that day. 

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving I gave each of the 78 primary kids a packet of 25 strips, coordinating, red, green and white.  I also added a child option for each day.  

It has been my favorite Christmas Season as every night we paused and thought about how we can be more like our Savior.  You can see our chains on our tree.

Thank you Gmon for being our Superhero...love you, Amy 

To Connor from Charly

For my service I am learning to play the piano. I have taught myself with a little help from Leland how to play “Away in a Manger”. Connor likes to play the piano and he is good at teaching himself new things. Knowing able how to play the piano can help bless others.

Here is a video of me playing my song.


To Denim from Leland

                For my Christmas Service, I took extra care of Ernie. Denim is the youngest in her family, and Ernie is the youngest in my family. I change Ernie’s diaper, played with him, and cuddled him while Mom and Dad napped, worked, etc.

                I also met a new friend and got to know her. Denim has had to move several times in the past. I would find it hard to make and keep close friends when moving a lot. So, I tried to make a new friend. I sat by Ava every day at lunch, when I could. I talked to her, and I eventually invited my other friends to come and sit with Ava and me at lunch. I found out that Ava also had to move a lot for her mom’s work, and that she had never been in one place for more than two years. Ava and I are now good friends, and I am looking forward to getting to know her more.

To Brooklyn from Lucy

To Brooklyn

                For my Christmas Service, I made a special gift for my old bus driver’s wife. My old bus driver just passed away and Brooklyn’s dad died a few years ago. Our family went to my old bus driver’s memorial service and I made a card for my old bus driver’s wife and sons.  The card I made we put in a frame. The card said “Because Someone We Love Is In Heaven, We Feel Heaven In Our Home”. We have a sign like this in our living room that was given to us after Uncle Ryan died.

"Following in my Footsteps"

Let me begin by saying how great you all are for keeping this up. I feel it's as hard to think of what would be an appropriate service for the particular person we are given as it is to write about it.  I remember last year I promised myself that I would start out nice and early this year,well that did not happen..however when we finally got our call to go on our next mission I thought I can just serve all year long and write it up and it would done right!!?

So this is my story,.."when we were given what our responsibilities would be I was to just be bring spirit to the project site. I was not to give out any directions to the workers, just tell them how great it was to work on a temple!
However, soon after we got there that changed drastically. I was now to be the church inspector!... and to help direct the workers.

So I have tried to do my service for the person I was to serve!

The past 3 days we spent in Alaska with the Dittbrenner's , where I was able to pair up my service with the person whom I was given.  While we were there, we went to the temple where Wayne was serving as a temple worker. Later that day he commented that he was following in my footsteps,1st he was able to learn from me all about construction and now he was serving as a temple worker!  Every one that is in construction and is a member would love to work on a temple. I have served for the past 8 months for you Wayne and perhaps some day you can follow me once more?  Now that I know people are following in my footsteps, I will try to be a good example.

I love you, Wayne, and at this particular time "you are my favorite son in-law" 😅😀😇!
Love Elder Gates 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words so you all can keep reading!

 Two old men doing doing what like to do

First time I have worn a hardhat on a job!
Daily greeting the men.

Conducting daily prayer meeting.

It is not a coincidence ...
that we are here!

I'm grateful for our President

Here we are again. Excited to hear about the heartfelt actions dedicated to that specific loved one. I am very grateful for my recipient this year. We have shared a lot of bonding time as well as some growing pains together. She seems to be doing what she can for other people and never has a ‘what am I getting out of this’ attitude.  My person this year is Mitzi.
Mitzi seems to always have a lot going on. Sometimes more than she would like. Because of this, I was always on the lookout for opportunities that I could lessen or speedup her needs. Because she was Primary President there was A LOT of opportunities.
Every Sunday morning there was always a teacher that wasn’t there. I would see her scrambling around trying to find a substitute. This was on top of her regular duties of being President. I asked her if there was anything that I could help her with. She would grab my arm and look at me with huge thankful eyes and say, “YES! Could you teach a class for me?” What I was thinking inside……uuuuuhhhhhhhh. I was not prepared to TEACH a class. However, I said sure. Where do you want me? To my surprise she said I just need you to be the second person in the class.

Because this happened every Sunday, I became her goto person. I enjoyed being with the children. But better was the look of relief on Mitzi’s face when she saw me and she knew her problem was solved. When I was at church, I looked for Mitzi so that I could try to make it easier for her to focus on her cute Primary kids.
Mitzi is so great with little kids. She always does cute crafts with them. She makes it a priority to know all their names as well. I see Mitzi going beyond a calling. She treats it as a privilege and takes it and runs.
Then Charise and I got a calling to teach the Sunbeams. I was excited because now I could try and give those kids the love and fun that Mitzi did. By this time Mitzi had moved so I steered my efforts toward Sister Hartman who is now the Primary President. Now lets be real, it is Charise who is the fun, loving one. But I did my best to make those kids feel like Mitzi would. These pictures are from lessons that I planned.

I know you may not have all the support you need every time. But through your behavior, your glowing attitude is contagious to everyone. It was very fun to help out our Primary President thinking about all the hard work and great ideas that you put into your calling. Even though you are a brat, I still love you.

To Savannah From Connor

This year for my secret service I got Savannah Johnson. I have 3 sisters all in Irish dance classes and they LOVE it! They say it is there favorite activity they have ever been in. But of course it comes at a cost. Since I know that Savvy loves to dance I have decided to pay for my sister Cora so that she can learn how to Irish Dance. I earned the money by doing chores like vacuuming and shoveling the snow. (something I did NOT need to do in N.C!)

To Dad I LOVE YOU, Mitzi

Merry Christmas!  This year I have dad for reals...I think! ;)  It's kind of fun to think about dad all year.  It made me fell just a tad bit closer to him while he was way off in Africa.

Growing up, dad was not a very touchy feely kind of guy.  I mean, I knew dad loved me but the words were not said out loud very often.  We brought this up a few times.  One year dad decided to make it a new years goal to tell mom he loved her every day.  I remember there being lipstick on the mirror once.  I remember little notes being left and I think he wrote it in the sand once.  This year, I decided to take a month and tell Mike I loved him every day.  For the most part I would make sure I said it out loud sometime during the day.  There were a few nights in a row that we would say our evening prayers together and I would remember that I hadn't said it yet and so I would tell him I loved him after the prayer.  The first time I don't think he thought much of it.  The third night, he looked at me and said...."ok...?"  So I decided I needed to up my game.  I left a note on his pillow...

I wrote a note in the snow....

There were many other times I thought of this man this year...

I was going to take a treat to visit some friends.  What to take??  How about black licorice?  Introduce them all to the finer points of life.

Of course it needed to be hard candy!

When I think about Christmas growing up one of my favorite memories is buying a second beautiful tree each year.  We would take it to a family in need.  In addition to donating to a family in need.  When the #lighttheworld campaign came out, I thought this was a perfect opportunity to think of dad daily in December.  The kids and I have had a great time enjoying our acts of service. My favorite day was feed the homeless.  We put together 8 homeless kits.  They had non perishable food (ie: beef jerky, apple sauce, goldfish crackers, water bottles, hard candy, gum)  Socks, Gloves, hand warmers, toothbrush and toothpaste.  We put the packets in our car and each time we pass a homeless person we hand them out a kit.  We have given out 4 or 5 already. 

 Another strong memory of my father is how diligent he was in his callings.  They never turned a calling down and always magnified it!  This year I was asked to help serve on the Christmas Party committee.  I had a great time preparing, setting up and even cleaning up.  My dad was always the last one to leave and clean up at a party.  It was fun to be the last one of the last 3 walking out of the church thinking of my hard working dad!

I love you daddy!  Thanks for always being a good example to me!  I am proud of you!

Love you,