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!