Sunday, August 31, 2014

An Attitude of Gratitude!

     A couple weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a mission reunion. Something Sister Anderson (My mission president's wife) said has really stuck with me ever since. In quoting Luke 12:48 she said, "On your missions, everything was given to you. Now, everything is required." How true that is; everything is basically handed to you when you are serving the Lord with all your heart, might, mind and strength. Sure you must work hard and sometimes experience disappointments when something doesn't work out as planned, but you are still so richly blessed!

     It's fair to say that while I was undergoing medical treatments, there were times in which I was less than positive. I felt that I should have been working and the Lord should have let me work but there was much more for me to learn. One of those important lessons was to be grateful for what I do have! In the oft quoted 1992 General Conference talk "An Attitude of Gratitude" President Thomas S. Monson said,
"We can lift ourselves, and others as well, when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude." 
That quote became so real to me as I sat in the realm of negative thought on my mission.

     I decided I would start counting my ever so abundant blessings. To make it even more real and cause myself to consciously acknowledge them, I started "Elder Millett's Gratitude Journal" to record them in. I made sure that I didn't go to bed without writing at least 10 things in there. They including such things as, "I'm grateful for an understanding companion" or "I'm grateful that I was able to teach a lesson today" or "I'm grateful for the member that brought us food today". As I thought of each thing that God blessed me with that day, I realized how they truly were blessings and even miracles literally handed to us.

     I was never perfect at it and still struggle with it from time to time. Especially now as a regular member, I forget to acknowledge everything that God gives me. Such things as, "I'm grateful that I'm able to attend BYU" or "I'm grateful for loving and caring parents" or "I'm grateful for amazing roommates" can be easily forgotten, but are nonetheless gifts from God. I know that as we do as President Monson says and acknowledge our blessings, we really will lift ourselves and in turn lift others, just as the Savior is always there to lift us up in our hard times. While sick, he never left me alone. He never leaves us and never gives up on us.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Guilt of Coming Home Early

     So it appears that it's been quite a while since I last posted. I guess there have been so many feelings to work through this time that I just haven't been ready to blog about them yet. The first time I came home, I was so open because I knew what the plan was; I was so focused and ready for the future. This has been a whole different ball game!
     So the other day, I was talking to one of my good high school friends and he asked a pretty broad question, "How do you feel about coming home early?" I took it to mean, "How do you feel about what others think about you coming home early?" Do I feel like I'm being judged? Do I get looked at differently? Am I treated wrong? They are all questions I actually get asked a lot and I guess for good reason. We live in a very wonderful Mormon society where it's expected to serve a full term mission and so many do. Being different or going against the norms of any culture definitely gets a second glance from others. Do I feel that I am being judged because of it? Not in any sense! Upon arriving home, I have been greeted with nothing but warm embraces and good wishes! So many friends and ward members show great understanding in what has occurred and what is to come. I haven't been met by anyone without having the best intentions.
     No, nobody has made me feel guilty or shameful for not being able to serve, I make myself feel guilty. I explained to my friend, "The only guilt I feel is self-inflicted." I have ever too often had thoughts of 'What if I had just had more faith' or 'What if I just had endured a little longer'. They wear you down and create self doubt, feelings that Satan loves to have in your heart! Guilt is actually a tool that God gives us to help bring us down to repentance but where none is required, it's a tool used by the adversary to keep us from accepting the grace and mercy of our Savior. While such guilt has eaten at my soul for a while now, there are three things which have brought peace to my soul and understand to my mind; which have helped me to accept the love of our Father in Heaven more in my life.

1. My Missionary Call Letter

     It's kind of an odd thought that the thing which is causing grief can also solve it. When I read through my letter, there is one important line which sticks out to me, and was actually skipped quite often! After it names all the awesome stuff about where you will go and which language you speak it states, "It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of ____ months." There is that keyword - anticipated - and it is on every call letter; male or female, young or old. To me, it doesn't say required or expected of you to serve because the time isn't the important thing. They anticipate that you will serve that long and that's what they are planning on, but that doesn't determine what kind of missionary you will be or returned missionary you are.

      As the prophet continues on in that letter, it states the expectations of worthiness and obedience to the commandments and your purpose as a missionary because that is what is important. A missionary who can go out totally focused on his or her purpose to invite other's unto Christ will accomplish so much good. The missionary tool Preach My Gospel states,

 "Your success a missionary is measured primarily by your commitment to find, teach, baptize, and confirm people and to help them become faithful member of the church who enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost."

 Notice the word commitment because that is what matters. What determines your success is where your heart is. President Brigham Young said,
"If you go on a mission to preach the Gospel with lightness and frivolity in your hearts, looking for this and that, and to learn what is in the world, ... you will go and return in vain ... Let your minds be centered on your missions."
 The quality of service rendered means much more than the quantity given.

2. "When a Missionary Returns Home Early"

     The other day, I was reading an article called ,"When a Missionary Returns Home Early". There was a wonderful analogy shared about military service. "If soldiers rush into battle and are wounded on their first mission or 50th mission, they are treated the same. They are given medals. They are applauded for their service, no matter how long. Their brothers and sisters at arms risk their own lives to rescue and restore those soldiers to their homes. No one looks at them differently. No one says, “Well, you didn’t really help the war effort, did you?” or “Toughen up, man. It’s just a bullet.” These brave men and women are honored and respected for their service." It doesn't matter how long one served, but that they did serve; that they were willing to sacrifice so much to help others.
     So many of the Lord's Soldiers go out these days and return home because they were wounded in the
service. Whether because of anxiety, depression, injury or illness, they still served honorably. I recently looked through my Facebook friend list and counted 21 people who I know that have returned home early from their mission. Not one of them should be determined by what they didn't do, but what they did. They were still willing to give a good 2 years or 18 months to serve the Lord and that is admirable. Someone told me once, "Well hey! Very very few people in the world can say that they were willing to give God even the nine months that you did." How true that is. Even those that could only do a little, still gave so much!
     I know I shared it before, but one of my favorite scriptures, D&C 124:49 says,
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings."
 The Lord will accept even the small offerings! He accepted the widows mite and He sure will accept mine!

3. The Faith Not to be Healed

     While I was out, my brother sent me a transcript of a CES Devotional by Elder David A. Bednar entitled That We Might Not Shrink". In the devotional he shares the experience of visiting a couple in the hospital. The couple were young and had been married only three weeks when the young man John was diagnosed with bone cancer. He underwent many surgeries and treatments for the aggressive cancer. When Elder Bednar went and visited, they asked if he would give John a blessing. Elder Bednar agreed but wanted to ask some questions first. The questions that came out surprised even the Apostle. He asked, "John, do you have the faith not to be healed? If it is the will of our Heavenly Father that you are transferred by death in your youth to the spirit world to continue your ministry, do you have the faith to submit to His will and not be healed?"
     That especially hit me when I read it. This article came to me at a time when I had undergone many different tests and treatments and had received many Priesthood Blessings. I was starting to wonder why the Lord wasn't answering my pleas to be healed so that I could serve Him more. I then had to ask myself, "Elder Millett, do you have the faith not to be healed? If it's not the will of the Lord that you become well and serve the rest of your mission, can you go home and hold your head high, relying on the Lord to help you through?"
     That is when it all came together. My view widened to understand that it wasn't just the illness that was my trial, but what would come after. My faith wasn't weak nor was my resolve loosened, but my goal had then become changed. It wasn't just to be the best missionary I could be, working as hard as I could; my goal was to be the best disciple of Jesus Christ I could. Come what may and love it! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hump Day Already???

     Exactly one year ago yesterday, it being the 23rd of June, I was giving my farewell talk. In one year from
It just so happens that on my hump day,
I would run into a camel!
today, I would have already been home for about two weeks if not for the illness. That being said, this would be about my hump day! Let the camels abound!
     It is totally unbelievable to think that it has already been one year and so much has happened! Having my farewell; going to the MTC; getting out of the MTC; entering the field; my sister Courtney comes home from her mission; so many doctors, appointments and tests; getting sent home; Mom's stay in the hospital for a couple days; Courtney gets married; I go back to the mission; more doctor's appointments; getting sent home again! It seems as if one thing after another happens to throw me off! I honestly just wanted to be a normal missionary with normal missionary problems! 
      My whole life, everything seemed to have gone pretty well. I mean I took the classes that I wanted. I had the jobs that I wanted. I was in the musical groups that I wanted. I did fun things like the Hill Cumorah Pageant Work Crew, like I wanted. I went on a mission right after high school, like I wanted. I my mind, I was doing the right things and so life should have just turned our perfectly right? I didn't realize that I was only doing what I wanted. The Lord understood that I needed something to happen that I didn't want if I was to learn a little more. 
     All growing up, I was told to be humble. Being the prideful teenager I was, I always assumed that it meant to not think I'm better than others and that is probably what others meant. Through my recent experiences, I came to learn a little more about what it means to have humility. To be humble is to truly submit to the Lord. To say, "Ok, I can't do this on my own. Lord, what will thou have me do in this time." It is to turn to Him willing to go through whatever He wants. Now I thought I was being pretty humble since I didn't have much of a choice in what happens. I couldn't control the effects of being sick just as much as I can't control the weather. But then I learned something a little bit more!
     In the Book of Mormon, we learn of the people of Alma. He and his followers were put in bondage to the Lamanite ruler, Amulon. He caused them to work and took away basic rights including the ability to pray to their God, so the people of Alma continued to pray in their hearts. In Mosiah chapter 24, we read that the Lord did comfort them and He strengthened them in their afflictions. He eased the burdens but He didn't take their burdens from them. The people continued on and "they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord." They showed forth true humility not by merely carrying on with what they were already doing, but by becoming more positive in what was happening for they knew the Lord was with them. 
     So often in our difficulties and hardships, we pray and ask for a change in circumstances. We want someone's actions towards us to change or what is required of us to be altered. We may even ask that our illnesses be taken away from us. All to often, however, we forget that it would be much easier to ask for a change within; that the Lord will strengthen us to meet our tasks; that we may carry on cheerfully.When we turn to the Lord and ask him to change us through the Atonement, we become more capable to do whatever it is that He desires of us. We become true disciples of Jesus Christ and will more ready seek for and accept His will, however hard it may be.

Monday, May 26, 2014

There and Back Again: An Elder's Tale!

So there are about 80,000 missionaries. 2% or 1600 will return home early. Of them 1% or 16 will return to their missions. So how many of them will again return home early after all of that? I feel super alone in that number! That's right, I am home again. After returning to Florida to finish out my mission, I became super sick again. After not being able to work like a missionary should, the decision was made and I returned home even again.

It is quite different coming home a second time. When I came home in January, I was pretty well filled with confidence about the future. I knew that I came home sick, was going to get well, then would return to Missionary Service. Well this time, I have no clue what's happening. I don't know what will happen next and what to do. My deferment at BYU is now void and I have to reapply for admission but the application deadline is past. I don't have a job. Most my friends are on missions. It's kinda like I just don't know where I fit in. Satan will always try to have us dwell on the negative so that our future seems dark and seemingly hopeless. While it may seem dim up ahead, the Light of Christ always continues to shine.

This surely isn't what I wanted. I have waited my whole life to go on a mission. I wanted it so bad that I returned in a second attempt to serve. Sometimes our righteous desires go unanswered so that we can learn an even greater lesson. What that lesson is, I haven't quite figured out. I just know, I have to try my hardest!

Before I returned home Saturday night, two of my dear friends from the mission, Elder and Sister Sommerfeldt came over and shared a scripture that has brought great peace to my heart during this time. In D&C 124:49 it states:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings."
While I of course desire to be out serving the Lord, I know that He understands. He knows my heart more perfectly than anyone and He knows that I tried my best. He has accepted my offering.

There is one thing that doesn't change; one thing that I haven't lost which will not leave me and that is what I know to be true. I know that God lives. I know that He is always going to be there for us. I know Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer. I know that through the Atonement, we can gain peace in this life and salvation in the life to come. I know that they appeared to Joseph Smith and through him brought forth The Book of Mormon. Through that holy scripture, we can draw closer to God than by any other book. It truly does testify of Jesus Christ and will more powerfully invite the influence of the Holy Ghost into our lives. The gospel is still true. Nothing can take this knowledge away from me.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Heading Back To Fort Lauderdale Today

At the airport, heading back to the Florida Ft. Lauderdale Mission today!  YEAH!!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Being an Early Return Missionary

     Have you ever googled, "Early Return Missionary"? It's really not the most uplifting experience. The web is filled with articles and studies of missionaries that return home due to mental or physical illness. Unfortunately most outcomes of such stories online are not that great. They all seem to end with young Elders and Sisters that go inactive and suffer guilt and pain. Since returning home, I have never felt so loved and supported by friends and family and ward members, but being an ERM, I know where that pain comes from.

     I would say the worst day of my life would be Friday, January 24th. I had just finished my third round of truly terrible antibiotics and still wasn't feeling better. It was about 9:30 pm when my mission president called. "Elder Millett, we feel it would be better for you to return home to receive further treatment. Your plane leaves Monday morning at 10:30." Totally not what was I was expecting to hear. I can't say we didn't see it coming but it's just not a call you can actually prepare for. I have never felt so devastated in my life.

     Monday morning arrived and the AP's came to pick me up and take me to the airport. Final goodbyes between companions were said and I left. Dreading what was coming, I asked one of the Assistants who was leaving the next week if this was what it felt like to leave at the end of the full two years. He sat there for a moment then said, "Probably not. I've been able to serve two years and you still have a lot ahead of you. I'm able to leave feeling resolved and prepared to leave, but yours departure is very sudden." That's where the pain came from for me. I had planned on so much more happening on my mission. Don't get me wrong; I had an amazing 7 months, even if I was sick the whole time. Having plans to do so much, and having those plans cut short was hard.

      I arrived home totally unprepared for the next few months just as i feel any ERM would. We begin to feel completely lost. It's easy to feel as if everything is lost. I felt that I didn't have any control, I didn't have a plan. I didn't know where I fit in. I felt as if I failed because I didn't "push through it and keep working". Many people told me I needed to have more faith and everything would be OK; therefore I felt as if I had none. Satan tries to pull us down! I mean, this is his opportunity while we aren't serving to keep us from doing our best. That is where I believe so many of the unfortunate ERM stories come from. I felt all those feelings and more.

     What ultimately makes the difference is hope. It is hope that kept me going; a hope for a happy future I . There is a reason we need faith, hope and charity. We know that we are nothing without charity, and that we must show faith in Jesus Christ. But without hope, we can easily fall into despair. I'm not perfect and many times felt such despair and self-doubt but it was in such moments of darkness that our truly gracious Heavenly Father reminded me to have hope; that all will be well. In the depths of pain and anguish, our Father will always be there. couldn't see but knew was possible through Jesus Christ

    No matter the trial that we pass through, the pain we experience or the anguish we bear, we must always maintain hope. In 2 Nephi 31:20 it says, "Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope." I love that word, brightness! When we have hope -- when we have trust in the Lord that all will be well -- there is that light. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. We are able to find joy in the darkness of trials for we know that it is only for a moment.

     It it with that hope that I am able to return to my mission in Florida! I have been cleared by my doctor to return to service and am working on getting out there, hopefully within a week! They say that 2% of missionaries return early, and only 1% of them return back to the field. That means that out of the 80,000 missionaries, 1600 will come home early and only 16 will go back! I am that 1%!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Beginning: Mission in Florida

     Hey everyone! What better place to start, than with the reason for the blog! To get going, we need a little backstory!

     Many of my friends know that I just recently returned from serving an LDS Mission in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I had served almost 7 months when I had to return to take care of some medical issues. Soon after I entered the Mexico MTC in July, I developed the normal stomach issues that most new people to Mexico find themselves bogged down with. The only difference is that after arriving in Florida, the problems didn't go away, they actually worsened. Doctors appointments commenced and testing started. After a couple months, the doctors finally found the problem, and infection called Clostridium Difficile or CDiff for short.
     CDiff is an infection that takes over the digestive system causing the infected to become super sick. Typically, it is a bacteria that everyone comes in contact with but doesn't actually cause infection. There are millions of little bacteria (good and bad) that live in your digestive tract so the CDiff doesn't actually get a chance to grow. A serious case of "Montezuma's Revenge" or a broad
spectrum antibiotic will clean out all of the good bacteria and allow space for the CDiff to grow. Don't worry, it's actually pretty rare to get the infection; it is most common among those of the older generation that spend a great deal of time in hospitals or nursing homes.
     Well, I haven't spent time in either place nor do I consider myself to be of a "mature" age =) It turns out that there is a newer kind of super strain of CDiff that they are calling "Community CDiff" It's still pretty rare but it is infecting healthy young adults. It also seems to be stronger since it doesn't have to clean out the good bacteria first, it just takes over. This strain has an even stronger hold making it tougher to get rid of.
     The tricky thing with CDiff is that it is pretty tough to get rid of and it has a high recurrence rate. There is actually a list of steps to do when the treatment fails. The first time, they give you this medication; the second a different; the third in a different way and so on. After you "beat" the CDiff, you are on a constant watch and almost a fight to keep it away. The reason it is tough is because the infection will create a kind of "shell" around it that keeps the medication from killing it. Instead, the meds will keep it from reproducing and growing and you hope that the existing infection will die off during that time. After treatment, you can feel really good and think you're over it but then it will come back in a month or so.
     There was actually a good month that I felt I was over it, but it came back worse. After three failed attempts at treatment and over a quarter of my mission spent sick in bed, the mission decided to send me back home to receive the rest of treatment and make sure I don't have another recurrence before I return back to serve as as Full Time Missionary, inviting others to come unto Christ!

     So here is the purpose for the blog! I don't share that whole story as a cry for attention or pity; in fact, I can honestly admit that on the mission, you don't even think about the fact that you are sick. You just keep trucking along and find great joy in what you are doing. I have never been happier in my life! Sick or not, I loved it! That is where this blog comes in. If I learned anything on my mission so far, it is to find the awesome, the amazing, the wonderful in whatever you do. No matter how hard or discouraging something seems to be, you can always find awesomeness in it! That is what I hope to do, to share the amazing experiences that occurred, continue to happen, and will come for we can always find joy in the journey. Just as President Thomas S. Monson said, "Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family." (Finding Joy in the Journey - President Thomas S. Monson Nov. 2008 Ensign)

     Throughout all of this, I have learned that God has a plan for us. I remember talking with a man that told me that he believes that God created the world and us in it, then left it on its own -- that God doesn't intervene, speak, or deal with man. I'm glad that we do have the freedoms to believe and think what we want but I couldn't ever believe that. I have seen the workings of God in my life and I know that He is there. He never leaves us alone. Everything that happens is part of a great plan. "All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (Doctrine & Covenants 122:7)