Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Worst Two Years...

Two elder missionaries with white shirts, ties, and shoulder bags, standing in a street and writing in small white planners.
Name an RM that hasn't referred to their "best two years". No really, I dare you! You can't. It's pretty much a requirement to preface your mission stories at least once by saying, "Well during the best two years of my life...". Those aren't words that slip through my lips. On the contrary, you may hear me refer to "the worst two years of my life", the two years after my mission.

Now I don't mean to shake you too much; we all know I'm a sucker for a good title! I mean, just look at my past posts: A Failure of a Missionary or The Guilt of Coming Home Early. This one was just too good to pass up as today marks two years since I returned home early as a missionary from Florida. And honestly, I can't think of any two years harder than these two. I've never mentioned anything of the sort I'm about to discuss in this post, but why not start now?

Since returning home from my mission, I've been dealing with a large amount of anxiety related to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. I've met with professionals who've helped me to understand what happened on my mission and what's occurring now. I've come to better see the situation I was in in Florida. At the ripe age of 18, I contracted a potentially life-threatening disease that I fought for 7 months all while feeling completely alone. I felt rejected as others tried to understand but fell short. I went through scopes and scans, drugs and tests. I laid in bed unable to move, and still managed to lose more than a pound a day. I was in pain, and thought that nobody cared. As a teenager, I wasn't ready to handle all that.

I know I need to move on and take a step forward, but this chain of anxiety keeps pulling me back. I never understood anxiety before. Let's be real, I still don't! I manage to stop myself and logically think about my situation (let's remember I'm a neuroscience major). I cognitively process what's happening in a way that makes complete sense, but can still be filled with dread inside. It somehow makes everything I do all or nothing. It makes my life so busy so that I don't have to take time to think about it. It's managed to destroy relationships and turn my future upside down and I still can't seem to figure out how!

A little bit ago, I finally cracked. I broke down to my Heavenly Father. I described how no matter what I do, it's never good enough. I always seem to miss the target. At this rate, I will never make it. I seem to have no control over my situation. My life is in pieces and my heart is broken. I asked God to take my broken heart and heal it...

It was then that everything seemed to come together. Our Heavenly Father has an amazing plan for us. He can see perfectly who He would like us to be. He has the power to make us who we need to be in order to reach our fullest potential. There is just one thing that stands in His way; Us.

As we try and build up our lives and follow our own will, we leave God little to work with. We use all the space in our hearts to create what we think He would have us be, and then turn it over to our Heavenly Father and expect Him to use us to help others. Unfortunately, that isn't how it works. For us to turn our heart over to Him, sometimes, it has to be in pieces. Then, through the Atonement, He is able to put it back together again, just as it should be.

That doesn't mean I don't deal with anxiety anymore. That doesn't mean my life is now back to normal or going the direction I want it. I can't just get rid of anxiety. However, I now have one thing that I didn't quite have before; that is hope; an understanding that God needs me broken so that He can make me something better. This may have been a very hard two years where it would seem life has fallen apart, but I don't need to approach life with despair. With the hope of God's light, I'm able to better recognize all the blessings and miracles I've received during these two years and in the end, all will be well. This is simply one necessary step of thousands it will take to make it back home.

Elder Jeffery R. Holland brought this to light in his talk, Like A Broken Vessel. He stated, "Though we may feel we are 'like a broken vessel,' as the Psalmist says we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter. Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed." What a beautiful statement! There truly is nothing that our all-powerful Savior can't heal.

There is nothing that He can't do.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Damaged Good

In recent months, I've come to realize that I'm not alone on the path that I've thought the Lord set
forth for me. A few months ago, a close friend of mine named Ben returned home from his mission in Texas due to a serious lung infection. He spent some time in the hospital being pumped full of some cocktail of drugs, hoping that things would finally be cleared up. After spending a decent amount of time at home,  he returned to his mission in Texas only to be sent home another few months later with the same infection (sound a little familiar?).

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Ben's homecoming. While he and his mother shared their testimonies, my mind continually reflected on one thought, "He stands where I stood one year ago." My heart began to ache knowing what he and so many others are going through at this difficult stage. Rememberance of all the feelings of doubt and shame and worthlesness filled my mind and I wanted nothing more than to shake Ben and say, "It will all be ok!" But in all reality, it won't be ok, it will be even better! 

Returning home earlier literally installed in my mind the thoughts that I was "damaged goods" or worth less to God than I used to. I put on my blinders and focused on my seemingly now apparent imperfections. 

In a talk by Brad Wilcox, he describes a piece of marble he kept in his office. It was a beautiful polished egg or something of the like. He said it wasn't beautiful because of the shape of the stone or the smoothness of the finish; it was beautiful because of the streaks in the stone. The imperfections didn't ruin the stone, but instead made it unique and valuable.
While is seemed so hard for me to see my new "imperfection" as a blessing that is creating the  Priesthood holder I'm meant to be, I have come to understand the reasoning behind why the Lord called me home early. He truly has a plan for me.

Looking back at the year I've had, I now stand amazed at all that the Lord has blessed me with! Because I was sent home, through a crazy series events, I now have a job as an audio technician which has led to other amazing opportunities such as Vocal Point and private gigs! I'm involved with the presidency of the neuroscience club along with other service organizations. I was led into research, allowing me to design and create a study and lab to treat a condition affecting 20 million people! I have met many individuals I'm sure will be life long friends that I wouldn't have met in any other situation. I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of amazing youth as an EFY counselor and see their lives changed by the Atonement; something I couldn't have done if I didn't come home early.

My life is nothing like I planned, but more than I could have hoped for! Through what appeared to be tragedy in my eyes, the Lord has created many tremendous miracles. In the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, "Don't give up, boy. Don't you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead--a lot of it--30 years of it now, and still counting. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come." I testify, that that is true. There are good things to come. God will never leave us hanging. In the times that we feel utterly alone and completely helpless, He will be there.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Welcome Home Elder!

Matt's home-coming
June 11, 2015. The day that Elder Adam Millett was scheduled to come home. If all had gone as planned, I would be arriving in the airport to all of my family. There would be balloons and banners and plenty of tears. I would come home and have my favorite food, most likely my mom's Apricot Salsa Chicken. (That stuff is to die for!) I would be playing with my nephews--one of whom I wouldn't have met yet--and meeting my new brother-in-law. I would head over to the Stake President's Office and be released from my service as a full time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This coming Sunday, I would be reporting to the Stake High Council then giving a home-coming talk in my family ward.

Courtney's home-coming
Instead, here I sit living a life I didn't imagine. Instead of celebrating with my family tonight, I'm working as a sound tech at BYU. Instead of being released from being a full time missionary, I was just released from serving in the Elder's Quorum. Instead of getting my way, I've been thrown down the Lord's Way. There weren't balloons; There wasn't any party; I couldn't even eat my mom's chicken when I got home. There isn't a picture of me coming down the escalators at the airport like every other missionary. I didn't give a home-coming talk. But you know what? I wouldn't change that for the world!

I would have loved to stay in So Flo and teach the gospel! I prayed very fervently to stay and I couldn't imagine doing anything else during that time. However, the experiences I have had being home is something I never could have gained in the field. I wouldn't be the person I am today if I
didn't come home.

Recently, I was speaking with a friend of mine that was undergoing some very tough times battling depression and anxiety. We sat together as he shed tears of pain, not knowing how he could go on. He expressed his feelings of loneliness and describing the many times that he had prayed for help but didn't feel like the Lord ever answered his prayers. He didn't feel like he had the faith to receive an answer to his prayers. At that time I felt like I needed to put my arm around him and tell him that God did care. In my mind came a very distinct impression. "Sometimes we don't need the faith to receive an answer, but the faith to see how God has answered our prayers."

A very real feeling that I and many other missions who return home early due to illness experience is that we didn't have the faith to be healed. I mentioned in an earlier post how it wasn't faith to be healed that I needed, but the faith not to be healed. I needed the faith to be able to continue forward, doing the will of the Lord no matter what happened. Having that faith is what helped me come home. Now, my view is a little different. While I strive to "have the faith not to be healed," I also now seek to have the faith to see how God has answered my prayers. There were three things that I specifically prayed for over and over on my mission. I always thought that those prayers went unanswered. Now, as I continue to strive to have that faith, I understand how he has answered those prayers.

1. Please bless me to be whole. -- Well it's safe to say that I'm not infected anymore! While my body still has a hard time every now and then, I'm still able to get up and go! I'm even training for a half marathon on Halloween. (I guess now that it's public, I can't back out right???)

2. Let me be able to work -- Oh I'm working, probably too much! I'm involved with campus service groups, research projects, sound engineering, volunteering at the hospital, callings, musical groups! I wouldn't mind a little break now!

3. Let me stay and serve -- Well, I didn't get to stay, but at least He let me keep serving. This past semester, I was able to serve as the Elder's Quorum President. I can honestly say that some of my most amazing experiences this year have been as a result of that calling. Because of that calling, I have learned things I couldn't have learned in the field.

Nearly 25 years ago, Elder Richard G. Scott said, "If you feel that God has not answered your prayers...carefully look for evidence in your own life of His having already answered you." (Learning to Recognize Answers to Prayers). I now understand that truly, God does answer our prayers, just in ways different than that which we imagined. As we open our eyes in faith to the miracles that surround us, we will recognize the responses to our private pleas; we will come to recognize just how present God's hand is in our life.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A Failure of a Missionary

     I was speaking with a friend of mine recently about why it was hard to come home. There are such feelings of failure from letting others down. There are also greater feelings of personal failure; of not being the person we believe we are supposed to be. I felt a great personal failure myself because I felt my faith was too weak. I believed that if I had just a little more faith, I would have been healed and wouldn't have come home early. I failed because I lacked sufficient faith.

     The night before I flew home, I was in tears believing that I was a failure, that I was a screw-up, that I was hopeless. I believed that it took all 24 months for a missionary to become the spiritual giant that we all believe all RMs are. I remember listening at homecoming talks and hearing how much so-and-so changed and how much Elder Someone really grew up on his mission. I remember hearing people say that boys needed to serve missions to really mature and become responsible husbands and fathers. I came home without any hope of being one of those grown up and mature men.

     I came home and pretty much felt the exact same as when I left! I can honestly say that I have a much stronger testimony; that I now know and not just believe! However, I'm not really that different of a person. I wish I was more charitable, more humble, more patient, but I'm not. Just like any missionary, I planned on being better, but in my eyes, I again failed.

     As I was studying one day, I came across Mosiah 5:2. King Benjamin was concluding his great discourse at the temple and the people spoke saying, "...Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our heart...". Once I read this verse, everything clicked.

     In my mind, the mission changes people. The mission causes one to develop a stronger testimony, better faith, more charity. I didn't know how, I just thought it did. I realized my entire thought process was wrong. It isn't the mission that changes someone, it's the Spirit. It's the spirit that enters your heart and helps you develop charity and strengthen your faith. It's all about the spirit. That's why so many do change on their mission. It's a time that you are constantly and consistently trying to draw closer to God. Because of the spirit that's present on a mission, a missionary will change.

     Becoming the spiritual giant that one would hope to become on their mission is possible at any stage of life as long as we involve the spirit. Whether we weren't able to serve, came home early, or served a full 18 or 24 months, we can still end up at the same place because of the merciful gift of the Holy Ghost. By drawing closer to the spirit, we will cause our hearts to be changed and we will become the sons and daughters of God. (Mosiah 5:7)

     A good friend of mine from the Florida Fort Lauderdale Mission once explained how. He described us all as imperfect molds that characterize who we are. The mold of Jesus Christ is quite perfect and it just so happens that the Holy Ghost fits into that mold. As we invite the spirit into our lives, He will try to fit into the mold that we are and will shave off all the uneven bumpy edges that we have until He fits perfectly; until we are just like Christ.

     We must always be trying to invite the Spirit. Through the basic truths that we were taught in Primary, He will come and change our hearts. As we attend the temple and our other church meetings, pray fervently, study the scriptures and serve others, He will come. Our hearts will change, and we will become a new person. We will become sons and daughters of God.


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.