Category Archives: Mormonism in My Life

The 25th Anniversary of Starting My Mormon Mission…

It has been 25 years, today.

mtcprovoJuly 3, 1991…I was 19 years old and my parents and brothers and I were at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, saying our goodbyes. They were going to drive off and leave me there…

I had never lived away from home up to that point since my first year of college was spent at a local college. I don’t think I had been east of Utah in my life. Being the oldest, our family had never sent a missionary off. I was nervous. I’d imagine my parents were nervous. This was new territory. After a short presentation by the staff and leadership of the MTC, I hugged everyone, cried, and walked into a hallway with hundreds of new missionaries while my family walked back to the car with hundreds of families in similar situations.

First thing I learned as a missionary: I loved my family.

Then I hauled my bags to my room. Then I met Elder Evans who I would grow to love like a brother. Then I met the other missionaries going to my mission, and a few others going to other missions. I spent about three weeks in the MTC, learning, studying, playing basketball, eating (and immediately using the restroom), praying, praying…And eventually traveling to Texas where I served as a representative of my family, my church, and my Savior in bringing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone who would listen.

It has been 25 years since I embarked on that adventure. I served for two years. I’ve had 23 years to think about it. Here are some of the things I learned:

I learned that I could get along with anyone. I didn’t have to just stick with my friends like I thought I needed to do in high school. The mission president could stick me with any missionary companion and it wouldn’t be long before we were laughing and joking and working together. I even had one companion who didn’t speak any english (and I didn’t speak his language). We got along great!

I learned that I could work hard. I didn’t grow up on a farm or as an olympic athlete. It is doubtful that I would be remembered in high school as any other than an average worker. But very quickly I learned that I could go all day, so to speak. We were up at 6:30 AM, out the door by 9:00 AM, and gone all day until 9:00 PM that evening. And I liked it. I really enjoyed it. It was tiring, and could be discouraging, but we found ways to enjoy just working.

I learned that my intestines didn’t like 32-Bean-Soup.

I learned that my Samoan companion punched a lot harder than I did.

I learned that when you sense that a dog is going to try to bite you, it is because it really is going to try to bite you.

I learned that not everyone likes Mormons.

I learned that there was beauty and truth and great people in every religion.

I learned that there were incredible people who weren’t religious at all.

I learned to enjoy the friendship that developed with other religious leaders.

I learned that I enjoyed attended the Jewish Synagogue, Catholic Mass, and Baptist worship meetings.

I learned to let rejection, disappointment, and frustration bounce right off of me.

I learned that I could choose to be happy regardless of my circumstances.

I learned to get off of my bike, get out of my car, and get out of my routine to help strangers with no expectation of repayment. A person didn’t need to listen to our message to receive our help.

I learned to follow those quiet promptings, impressions, and feelings that come from a loving Heavenly Father.

I learned that obedience isn’t limiting or oppressive. Following the council of leaders doesn’t require that I become un-thinking or un-feeling. Just the opposite. And blessings and protection seem to follow.

I learned that Joseph Smith did, in fact, see God the Father and Jesus Christ. And that there was a lot to learn about that experience and from that experience.

I learned of the power of the word of God and the special relationship between the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

I learned that Jesus Christ really did live and die for all of us. He was resurrected and lives today.

I learned that God knew me very personally, and knows me today.

There’s certainly a lot more. Lessons were learned everyday. Over the last 23 years, since returning home and moving on with life, I’ve also learned that those two years as a missionary were not the best two years of my life. They set the stage. The mission ended up teaching me the patterns I would need to understand to make the next 23 years wonderful.

I will forever be grateful for parents and church leaders who encouraged me, but didn’t force me to serve as a missionary. I could have not served in that way and everyone would’ve loved me just fine. I had friends who didn’t go as full time missionaries and they were loved as much as me. So I learned that being a missionary didn’t make me any more special or loved by others or God.

But I’m grateful I went. I would go again. We’re encouraging our children to serve as missionaries because of the blessings and lessons that come. Those two years were critical in becoming who I am today.

Be encouraging…

BJM

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Why I’m Not So Ready to Give Up My Anxiety Quite Yet…

anxietyLet me start by saying that I don’t think my anxiety is like anyone else’s. Therefore, my experience isn’t meant to be a pattern for anyone. If the following is helpful, wonderful… But it may not be.

I remember thinking that I’d give almost anything to get rid of the anxiety. I would see people who seemed unaffected by turbulent events and I’d just wonder what in the world that felt like. I was pretty envious. No. I was really envious. And sometimes desperate.

But I feel a little different now. If I could magically get rid of my anxiety, maybe I would and maybe I wouldn’t. I think I see a few benefits wrapped in the pounding heart and pitted stomach. Let me explain.

First of all, here’s been my experience (the best I can describe it):

  1. I’d be laying there in bed, sometime after 11:00 PM
  2. I’d start a little “what-if” game about a situation that was unpleasant
  3. It wouldn’t take long before my mind would go to the “worst case scenario”
  4. I’d begin to kind of obsess this worst case and replay it in my mind over and over
  5. The worst case became the probable-scenario
  6. My heart would beat and my mind would race as I tried to figure out how I’d solve this nearly-unsolvable situation and the worry and dread would seep in
  7. I’d look at the clock and think, “Oh great. It’s 3:00 AM and I haven’t slept which means tomorrow is going to be terrible…and also, I have cancer or I’m going to get ax-murdered or my children are going to get abducted” or whatever the worst case scenario was
  8. Knowing that what just happened was irrational and that the thing I was anxious about was not, actually, probably going to happen, my mind would not let go and my heart would continue to race and, therefore, I couldn’t sleep
  9. It would happen again the next night…

And take that list and change it a little and add feelings of being overwhelmed, no desire to be around others, stomach and digestion issues, loss of confidence, etc.

Now, truthfully, much of that has relaxed a bit. I made one visit to a therapist and he was very, very helpful. I changed a few things, physically. Things have definitely eased up in this department, for which I’m very grateful. And I also know that my experience is just mine and how things have eased wouldn’t work for someone else, I suppose. But I still have little episodes here and there. I think I’m just a little better equipped to deal with them than I was five years ago.

With all that said, I can trace a list of blessings back to anxiety. And I don’t think I really want to give these blessings up:

  1. I’m almost never late. In fact, if I have a speaking engagement, I show up 30 minutes early or more (I like to see everything and solve any problems before they become problems, and pace around a little, nervously)
  2. I’m almost always fully prepared for whatever I’m doing. If there is a chance of something going wrong, I prep for it. And my imagination can think up plenty of things that can go wrong so I get really prepared.
  3. I think, a lot, about how others feel. Empathy comes much easier than it did a decade or two ago. I assume others are bothered or stressed or nervous or in some kind of emotional distress. I think maybe I’m a little more kind than I used to be (maybe others would say otherwise)
  4. I’ve learned to listen to my brain and body a little more carefully. I can feel stress and anxiety rising and am better at addressing it. I am better and going to sleep and working out and eating differently.
  5. Being in a good mood is a very “on purpose” thing for me. I choose it more directly now than ever. I know what helps me feel happy and I go do those things. It is kind of a pre-emptive strike against unneeded negativity. That has become like second-nature at this point. I feel genuinely happy almost all of the time.
  6. I’ve established a habit of not worrying about past things. I spend almost no time regretting things, no matter what they are. Learn a lesson and keep moving.
  7. I’ve had just enough experience in life to now see that things generally work out and turn out or get figured out. I’m seeing a pattern. If you address problems, get appropriate help from others, and trust the Lord, the worst case scenario is almost never what happens.
  8. Maybe the most important blessing is that I have practiced relying on the Lord more fully and trusting Him. That seems to help ease anxiety when it is coming.

Honestly, I slept on the couch a few nights ago because my tossing and turning would surely keep my sweetheart awake. I was worried that our basement would flood. I checked the sump pump numerous times, tested it, checked the weather (on three different apps), prayed for a dry basement, and spent a little time imagining what our flooded basement would look like. I talked myself out of it, then worried myself back into it. But then I realized that, due to my anxiety, we had built our home a little higher in the ground than I would have otherwise and we had a sump pump that was working properly. I also decided that a flooded basement would be miserable and maybe expensive, but that there were worse things. And I went to sleep. It was about 1:30 AM, so not too bad…

The anxiety isn’t gone completely. But things are better. I wish I knew how to help someone else, but I’m not sure my list applies to everyone. I do know that there have been blessings that have come because my anxiety hasn’t been taken, removed, healed or any of the other things I used to pray for. In fact, the best description may be this:

And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.

And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord. (Mosiah 24:14-15)

The anxiety isn’t gone, but I feel better about shouldering it. And for that I’m grateful.

Be Encouraging…
BJM

I’m Brian Mickelson and This is How I Work…

How I WorkI’m copying here. Total copycat. But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then my message is clear. I love the Lifehacker’s “This is How I Work” series of articles. No, I mean, I love these articles. I found them through the blog Art of Manliness, where Brett McKay did a similar thing and then linked me to Lifehacker’s posts. I completely fell in love with this series.

You may be asking what this series of posts is about and you may also not want to follow the link to see for yourself. Here is their last paragraph, which is the same in every post in the series:

The How I Work series asks heroes, experts, and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more. Every other Wednesday we’ll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips, and tricks that keep them going.

I’m none of the above. But I’ve been reading these posts and putting together the trends, patterns, etc., that seem to cut across the board with these people. The more I read, the more I got interested in analyzing my own “work life”. So I copied the questions from the site and answered them in a Google Doc. The more I’m finalizing the answers, the more interested I became in sharing them here.

I’m not sure why you’re still reading, since I’m not an overly-productive fellow. But, you’re certainly welcome to stay. Or go. I won’t be offended…

I’m Brian Mickelson, and This Is How I Work

Location: Northern Utah

Current gig: Husband, father, Institute Instructor, blogger, photographer, family history guy, crappy but interested gardener…

Current computer: iMac (OSX 10.9.4) at home, PC laptop at work (but I hope that will change at some point…)

Current mobile device: iPad mini, iPhone 4 (with a much-needed upgrade coming in a month, and pending the announcing of the iPhone 6)

One word/phrase that best describes how you work: Balanced and in intense bursts

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

I can live without anything I suppose, but here is the list of apps, software and tools that I love:

Ipad Mini: I use this thing for everything but power-stuff. I don’t want to type out a 2000 word document on the screen very badly, but I study, research, read, watch Netflix, study scriptures, etc., on the iPad mini and use it everyday, all day.

Google Docs: I love having access to lessons I’m working on, talks I’m preparing, and my personal journal no matter where I go or what device I’m on. Using Google Docs for my journal has made it so much easier to keep a consistent journal. I love it. At this point, I prepare all of my lessons on Google Docs.

Reminders: I know there are a ton of great apps out there for listing what I need to accomplish, but Reminders is simple, hooked with Siri, and easy to use. If a todo app isn’t easy to use, I won’t use it, I’m sure. I used to use ToDo and quite like it.

Calendar: I use Apple’s native Calendar app on the iPhone for the same reason I use Reminders. I know there are better ones. Don’t care.

Evernote: I’ve used Evernote off and on for a couple years, but recently realized how great it is. I take all of my notes from the various meetings I attend on Evernote, keep track of recipes I want to use, keep track of restaurants that Janese and I like, and keep track of the family history research I’m almost always in the middle of. More will come. Evernote is wonderful.

Pinterest: I’m a highly visual person, so I love keeping photography ideas coming using Pinterest. Plus, I find a lot of recipes I like here as well.

Pocket: New to me as well, but I’m using it a lot. I do love to read articles in my spare time.

Notebook: I almost always keep a notebook close by when I’m working on project. There are some notes I just need to hand-write and I don’t need access to them later. I use the Norcom 100 page composition notebook (9″x7″) and the Staples Composition Book Polypropylene College Ruled (5″x7″) 80 page. I just keep one with my laptop and one by my home computer. When I’m doing family history research, there is always something I need to write down and keep in front of me while I’m looking up related. When I’m preparing lessons I like to make simple outlines of gospel principles and ideas before I start typing.

LDS Gospel Library: There are a lot of LDS scripture apps and christian scripture apps that do so much more than LDS Gospel Library. What I love about the LDS Church’s app is that it syncs in the cloud and I have access to everything on my laptop as well. This app just makes scripture study and annotating painless and a natural part of my daily scripture study.

Twitter: I don’t spend very much time on news sites anymore. I just follow the feeds of any new organization I want, as well as interesting people, entities, and friends. I love Twitter so much more than Facebook right now. So very much more…

Swell: This is the best podcast aggregator available. Hands down. (Apple shut it down for now. Not happy.)

What’s your workspace like?

I just had a change in my employment and currently have two offices, as well as a workspace at home. My office in Brigham City is still a mess since I don’t do as much preparation work there as I do in Logan. I have two desks in Brigham, one I don’t use very much while the other is very simple: it supports my laptop, scriptures, iPad mini, and whatever books I’m using. My bookshelf is full of books and I’m referencing those periodically.

My second office is in Logan and I love working there. I have all kinds of bookshelf space, and two books… Most of my research is based in the scriptures and the words of the prophets from General Conference, so I just don’t need much. Any other book I need, I just get out of the institute library. What I love about this office is that, even though it may be the smallest office in the building, it has a window. I work so much better where there is natural light.

At home, I don’t have a personal workspace, per se, but a family workspace. In the kitchen. Like every other family. But there is where I do my photography editing. The iMac’s screen is glorious and makes editing a pleasure…

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?

I don’t know if this qualifies, but it works: I accomplish a lot between official work sessions and I watch very, very little television. Put those two things together and I can get quite a bit done. I typically work certain hours. But between those spaces of defined work, I accomplish other things that interest me. For instance, I get a lot of podcast listening to done in the car from home to work and back. In the morning, when I’m eating breakfast, I often do family history or write blog posts. When I’m exercising, I never listen to music. I listen to General Conference addresses or podcasts. I edit photography while I’m correcting work for BYU-Hawaii (I help with some of their online classes). I never, ever just turn on the TV to see what’s on. I’d rather be doing something. If I want to relax with the TV, I am very purposeful and use Netflix or the NFL. And this is pretty limited. I would imagine that I watch about 2 hour of TV during the week, tops, which leaves me a lot of time to accomplish other things, even non-work-related things.

One final life hack. I’ve turned off all notifications on my phone. I don’t see when someone tries to contact me on Facebook or Twitter. In fact, my iPhone is on “do not disturb” more than half the day. This allows me to focus in very intentionally on projects I’m working on, and makes my effort all directed at the matter at hand. I used to hear my phone vibrate every time anything on social media happened or when I got a text. Now I control when I am contacted by someone else. I love it. Totally frees me up.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Again, not much I can’t live without. Other than my digital stuff, I really love our Blendtec blender. My wife won it at a race she competed in and we’ve never looked back. I also purchased a little Gerber Curve knife that hooks to my keychain. I bet I use it at least once a day. Sharp, small, and has a few little tools to boot.

I love my composition notebooks. I’ve never found a better note-taking device. I’ve seen better note managing and organizing devices, but nothing better to scratch out notes quickly and in whatever level of detail I need.

The last gadget is my garage. I could live out there.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else?

Honestly, I’ve never been that guy. I’ve never, ever been better than everyone else at anything, ever. Doesn’t matter the size of the group of people we’re looking at, I’m never better than everyone. I gave up on that a long time ago.

But, with said, there are some things I’ve gotten pretty good at. I’ve really focused a lot of energy and effort on encouraging others. I’ve also developed the habit of accomplishing a lot of things between official work sessions (as noted above). And finally, I have an inborn ability to become very passionate about something and driven to become adept enough to get the benefits. Once I develop an interest in something new, I’ll spend a very intense period of time studying, practicing, and developing. It can drive people crazy but my energy level rises when I’m in the middle of this intense time. Add to that the fact that I get interested in a wide variety of things: bird-watching, podcasting, family history, fly-fishing, cooking, blogging, gardening, tech stuff, writing, etc. I get to do a lot of things…

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Apple’s Reminders app. Simple. Linked with Siri. Alarms. It is the only manager I use and I have no complaints. I used to use ToDo by Appigo and really liked it.

What do you listen to while you work?

While at work, I either listen to nothing, with the door closed, or I use Pandora and use the Baroque Radio channel or the LDS Hymns channel. That fits what I’m usually studying. When I’m editing photography, I listen use Grooveshark and listen to just normal top-40 embarrassing stuff. Or, I like to listen to Peter Breinholt….

If I’m doing mindless stuff like organizing the garage or doing dishes or driving or exercising, I listen to podcasts. I think if I had to only listen to one thing, I’d choose podcasts and would work in silence when I didn’t want noise. My favorite podcasts: RadioLab, This American Life, Car Talk, Conversations, and 99% Invisible. I used to use the Swell podcast app which was perfect. Then Apple bought it, shut it down, and will probably come out with a version I don’t like as much as I like Swell.

What are you currently reading?

I study the scriptures every day (outside of work) and have since 1990. So I’m reading the scriptures every day. I’m currently also reading endless articles online. I just finished Orwell’s 1984, and in the middle of Bushman’s Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, and have been working on a few Hemingway books which I haven’t loved. I recently started getting back to some of the classics in literature and have enjoyed that. I’m starting Lord of the Flies, Grapes of Wrath, and probably a few other books that everyone read in high school.

I recently finished Christensen’s How Will a you Measure Your Life, Oaks’ Life’s Lessons Learned, am always in the middle of Les Miserables, Wells’ Successful Home Gardening, and Sibley’s The Sibley Guide to Birds. I’m also slowly studying Preach My Gospel again.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

The question makes it sound like a person is one or the other. I doubt many people are. I’m probably an ambivert. And a lot of this depends on how much sleep I got the night before. I really enjoy being in the classroom and have no qualms about being in front, teaching and discussing, etc. I like small get togethers with other couples. I like being with friends in small groups. And I get a lot out of small group collaboration. But I really gain energy from time alone doing tasks and being in the quiet. I think I need both. I’m rarely the loudest in the room.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I get to bed by 10p-ish and read or watch a show on Netflix and try to get to sleep between 10:30p or 11:00p. I almost always wake up just before 6a, with or without an alarm. With teenagers, I don’t always stick to the bedtime, but my bladder is set to 5:45a…

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.

Clayton Christensen, Elder David A. Bednar, Harmony Holmgren, Steve Jobs (this one is unlikely), Bobby Lewis, Stephen R. Covey (again, unlikely). There are others. I love this series of questions and learning about how others get things done.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

This is an unfair question, as I’ve received a lot of great advice, and have read a lot of great advice. Here are three:

President Gordon B. Hinckley stated that “you can get a lot done if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, NIV)

When I first started teaching, one of the most experienced teachers shared with me that I should have interests outside of my work life that I could be passionate about and spend time thinking about. Over the years I’ve found that having a list of non-work related things that I like doing with my family and by myself has made my work-related efforts better. Wish I could remember who shared it with me!