Monday, November 10, 2014


This week. Oh, this week! There aren't even words. I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful last week as a missionary.
I made it!! So it seemed appropriate to spend my last p-day on the arch of Triumph
District meeting!

Last ever.
Our very last meeting with our ward mission leader in his classy office in Paris.
La Famille Tshinemu. They both served missions and they just run this ward. They're amazing. 
I met a miracle. Her name is Elizabeth. One night we had about 15 minutes before we had to be home so we decided to get off at a random tram stop and contact there for a few minutes. We contacted for about 10 minutes... but nobody cared. So at about 8:55 we started walking back to the stop to go home. As we walked past a restaurant, we looked over and saw a girl standing on the street corner. As we began to walk towards her, she started walking away from us. But then stopped as if she was uncertain. We contacted her and she immediately was so interested and open! She asked so many questions about why we're here and then asked us where our church is. Before we could even invite her, she said "I'm sorry... I can't come to church this week. I didn't know I was going to meet youand I already have plans. But next week!" We talked some more, set up a RDV for a day later, and then left her with a prayer. Right before she walked away she said "You know. I have no idea why I was standing on that street corner. I just got there and all of a sudden I felt... uncertain. So I just stood there. For about 5 minutes. Then when I tried to start walking I still felt strange... so I stopped again. I think it's a sign. I think it's because I needed to meet you tonight. I think you have a message that God wants me to hear." JAW ON THE GROUND. So a day later, we meet her again and she takes us up to her apartment... and her sister Naomi is there! She seems pretty apprehensive at first, but quickly opens up and we have a beautiful first lesson. They share so many beautiful stories about how they have seen God in their lives. Then Elizabeth turns to Naomi and says "Did I tell you how I met these girls?" And tells them how it all happened. Naomi just sits there in awe and then looks right us and says "You are from God." And I just sit there in utter shock. So prepared. It blows me away. I just love them. They are on their journey.
Elizabeth and Naomi! Our new friends.
On another note, Tuesday night Soeur Hawkes had to come into Paris for legality and guess who she stayed the night with? ME! It was the first time I had seen her since Tours. And I think God planned that one. Because she is exactly who I needed my last week in France. Soeur Hawkes is a beautiful soul. I just want to be exactly like her. She is the most humble person I have ever met. And everything she said just healed my soul. I love her.

Well, this is it. I can't believe it. These 18 months are coming to an end. Did it really happen? Did I really pray with these beautiful people on the streets and knock on doors with the most humble and noble souls behind them? Did I really get to testify every day of my God and Savior? Did I get to help these French people catch the vision of their glorious eternity? All I can do is weep. A part of me aches to be back in that tiny classroom in the MTC with my entire mission in front of me. But I feel peace. I know it's time. I know the best is yet to come. Everything I have learned and experienced is preparing me for what is yet to come. And as I look back at all the beautiful things I have witnessed and the miracles God let me be a part of and how much I have changed, I am filled with awe. God is just so good to me. I'm just so grateful. So grateful He let me come.
I found myself in France. To me, my mission is sacred. France will always be holy ground. Pieces of my heart are scattered throughout the sunflower fields of Nancy, the cobble-stoned streets of Lille, the riverbanks of Tours, and the metros of Paris.
The Paris Opera House! 
I had forgotten how stunningly gorgeous it is.
Winged Victory of Samothrace! The most beautiful thing to see in the Louvre.
I am blown away by what a different person I have become. I have changed in so many ways, but I think the biggest change I see in myself is this: LOVE.
Aurelie! Our sweet less-active friend. :) 
I remember sitting in my mission prep class a few months before I reported to the MTC. We had a lesson all about love and charity and how they are completely central to missionary work and I just remember sitting there thinking "Well... shoot." Then a few months later, I sat in the amphitheatre in the MTC, watching Soeur Monson's funeral. I just sat there and wept. My heart ached to be like her. So loving. So kind. But I could see how far I was and it seemed impossible. I just wasn't a giver at heart. Then not long after I got to France, I met some terribly hard persecution from someone of another religion. And as I walked away, in the pouring rain, it all began to click. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." (1 Corinthians 13) And God began to say to me "My work must be done this way. By this shall men know that ye are my disciple, if ye have love."
And I promised God right then that I would love.
Mme Su. Our albino African amie. I ADORE HER.
And since then God has taught me so much more about love. Because you see, it's all about love. It's the reason for everything. The reason God created this plan of happiness. The reason our Savior performed the Atonement. And if God, the creator of the universe and everything in it, puts love behind everything He does... we probably should too. Because love changes everything. When you make love your motive, it sanctifies your actions. It transforms the mundane into the majestic. It magnifies your small acts of obedience and service into holy acts of consecration and rescuing. Love lifts life to a higher level. It changes not just a few details, but its very quality and character. Love can never be used selfishly. You can't use true love for personal gain. It just doesn't work that way. That's the beauty of love. Love is for its own sake. It works only as a gift, never a reward.
And Love is who we really are. All love emanates from God. And as we are the children of God, we are the offspring of this love. Every one of us is born with the desire to love and be loved. It's part of our very being. We were made for love and to give love. Whenever I feel love, it awakens something inside of me that cannot be denied. When I feel love, I feel eternal.
This is why my mission has set me free. Because, to steal a line from Les Mis, "To love another person is to see the face of God."
It wasn't a perfect year and a half. I had times where I really struggled. But I can say that I tried to love everyone God placed in my path.

Love has set me free. I can't thank you all enough for loving me. Especially when I didn't deserve it. Your love has changed my life in extraordinary ways. I love you so much I can hardly breathe. I will see you on Thursday. I can hardly wait. :)
Love, Soeur Autumn Bradley 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Awake My Soul!

This week was... slower. But strangely really wonderful at the same time. Soeur Brazeal and I were talking about it last night and how we felt so good and satisfied with our week... even though we didn't have much physical evidence to show for it. We just feel like we worked and worked and tried and tried and did all we could, so now we have to leave the harvest to the Lord. And even though nobody wanted to stay and talk with us... there were countless instances of us getting to help and serve and visit and invite. Life is beautiful.
The Pantheon! Where a great number of France's heroes are buried.
Voltaire. Pierre and Marie Curie. Louis Braille (Invented... Braille. haha).
Jean Moulin (Freedom fighter during WW2). and Victor Hugo.
Look at this unreal view of the Eiffel Tower from the steps of the Pantheon. Oh la.
The Cluny Museum, or The Museum of the Middle Ages.
Built into what used to be the Roman Baths.
The Luxembourg Gardens! We had a really eventful P-day... haha
So grateful Soeur Brazeal is an avid adventurer.
We just got a new ward mission leader and he is a BOSS. He is from North Carolina and been back from his mission for about two years. And he is SO good at getting things rolling and getting us into the member's homes and helping the members step up. He came up with this idea for a missionary board to help the ward get to know us all a bit better.
My picture will only be up there for... not very much longer... but hey. haha
We had to walk up this HUGE hill to go pass by a referral last night.
And on the way back down we realized we had a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower...
and it was sparkling like it does at the top of every hour.

On Sunday there was a new member at church. She is a woman from Tahiti and she will be living here for a few months. She had come to church with someone but they couldn't take her home, and she didn't know how to get around on the metros and buses, so we got to take her! Little did I know it was such a tender mercy from God. We talked a lot about Tahiti and I mentioned that I had served with Soeur Lai and she knew her. Then I remembered that practically all of my friends from the MTC went to Tahiti, so I asked her if she knew my friend Soeur Taylor. And she stopped in her tracks and said "Oh, of course I know Soeur Taylor. EVERYONE knows Soeur Taylor. They call her the miracle of Tahiti." Then she told me a story I will never forget. Soeur Taylor and her companion were riding bikes one night and a drunk man driving his car hit Soeur Taylor. She was badly injured and hung in the balance between life and death for several days. All of Tahiti came together and fasted and prayed for her. And she miraculously began to get better, but couldn't continue as a missionary and had to go home to fully recover. And the man who had hit her... was devestated. He was wracked with grief over what he had done to this poor religious girl. But a few months later... Soeur Taylor went back. She went back to Tahiti to finish her mission! And she went and found the man who had hit her and told him that she forgave him and that it was all ok. And the man? He just wept. And then he said "I want to meet with the missionaries." Isn't that BEAUTIFUL? When she told me that story I literally wept. Stood on a street in Paris and sobbed. God is great. Soeur Morgan Taylor is my hero.
 Joelle! She is from the Ivory Coast. Cote d'Ivoirians are BEAUTIFUL and always just so wonderfully kind. She is going to finish 1 Nephi this week. Pray for her! 
This week wrapped up another great lesson in my life. A lesson about apathy.
God does NOT want an apathetic people. I believe God wants a passionate people. Go look up apathy in the bible dictionary and then search all the cross references. Zeal. Ferver. Valiant. The scriptures are filled with examples! God doesn't want us to be luke warm about anything (Revelation 3:16). After all, He has commanded us to love Him with all of our heart and soul and strength. That's not exactly a request for half-heartedness.
Sometimes I am tempted to be apathetic because it seems less risky. I try to shield my heart from hurt by not caring too much. If I care too much, it means I'm vulnerable. Sometimes it seems easier not to care too much about anything rather than to risk how it feels when I cared too much.
A beautiful example I have always loved is from Anne of Green Gables. Anne writes a story that she wants to be published with all of her heart. She sends it in and waits and anticipates and fills herself with hope. Then the manuscript comes back... unpublished and rejected. She sits on the porch and tells Marilla what happened and Marilla asks her why she let herself care so much about it. She tells Anne it is better to walk calmly along and do without flying... and therefore do without the thud. And then Anne says something perfect: "I can't help but fly up on the wings of anticipation. It's as glorious as soaring through a sunset. It pays for the thud."
As Marilla says, if you want to go without one, you have to go without the other. You can't soar without risking a thud. But the only other option is a risk-free way of living and a heart fully protected... and a life half-lived.
So, as Nephi and Mumford & Sons say, "Awake my soul!"
I want to live and live well. Fully and deeply. I want to take a line from Henry David Thoreau and my Mother and "Suck all the marrow out of life." I want to be like Jane Austen and "have no notion of loving people by halves." I don't want to be afraid to be the one who cares or loves the most. Even if I risk looking foolish or vulnerable or weak. It's the only way to be able to look back on my life and say that I truly lived.

Soar in those heights. Live meaningfully. Love deeply. Care profoundly. It pays for any thud.
"The heaviest burden is to exist without LIVING." -Victor Hugo
Love, Soeur Autumn Bradley

Monday, October 27, 2014

Shoulders and Wheels and Standing Still.

First and foremost, I would like to dedicate this next paragraph to my beautiful and inspiring and HILARIOUS companion, Soeur Brazeal. Seriously. This week we did work and taught so many new people and just had a beautiful time. It was one of the happiest weeks of my whole mission. Soeur Brazeal comes from a tough background, but she doesn't let it stop her or define her. She is one of the strongest people I have ever met. And she just does her own thing and has her own sense of humor. (Which I find ridiculously funny). She inspires me so much. I love her.
Muriel, our sweet less-active.
I was walking down a street in Paris... and I ran into Soeur Mackay who has been home from her mission for a few months. She is here visiting for a few days. Perfect timing. I love this girl.
Last p-day and the Tuileries gardens in front of the Louvre.
Soeur Hale's dramatic picture of me in front of the fountain.
L'Orangerie. I was so devastated you can't take pictures inside, but that's ok. I have my memories and lots of postcards. This is the museum with the huge wall-sized paintings of Monet's water lilies.
And they. are. beautiful.
 We got to see Darren a lot this week, and so much of her story came out. She is so cool. I really want to be like her. She is brave and thinks she can do anything in the world. She is gutsy and bold, but at the same time she is so sweet and deeply good. I love her. We had been feeling like she is ready, so during one of our lessons we asked her if she would get baptized on a specific date. And she. went. off. It was one of the most dis-heartening rants I have ever heard. She listed off every reason why she couldn't and her issues with authority and on and on. But as she ended, we just smiled and tried to work our her worries calmly and with lots and lots of love. We tried to see things from her perspective and tried to be patient and then asked if we could see her again soon, help her with her English, and take pictures with her because she is our friend and we always went to remember her. She reacted so well, and opened up a little more, and then told us an interesting story. Years ago, her Father died back in Syria. She went home for the funeral for just a few days, and when she came back, she brought three loaves of special bread. This bread is bread that is specially baked for the family of the deceased person. When she got home, she gave the bread to the elders (elders in a different mission years and years ago) and asked them if they would please use it for sacrament the next day. She said it was a tradition in her homeland to share the bread with everyone in the church. The bread was sacred to her, a reminder of her Father. The next day she went to church... and the elders didn't use the bread. And gave her no explanation or anything. And she was hurt, but decided to ignore it. Then the next day the elders came over and seemed very impatient. They very bluntly asked her if she would get baptized and she gave them the exact same response she had given us. And the elders were so mad. They promptly left her apartment and said "Call us if you ever find any faith." And she said she would, and that was the end of it. Years went by and many missionaries tried to contact her, but she would have none of it. Then she moved cities and one day the sisters (before I got here) called her and she felt like it was time. And as she was telling us all of this I realized "Oh my gosh, that was a test. She just wanted to see how we were going to react. Oh my gosh... this is why love matters. Wow, we would've lost her." And some advice that President Poznanski gave me went through my head "Love makes you bold." There is such a huge difference between boldness and straight up rudeness. And love helps you tell the difference. And ever since? Darren is doing amazingly well. She came to church! For the first time since either of us have been here. And we are seeing her again tonight. :) She is turning into one of my best friends.
Darren! Oh Darren. She. is. my. favorite.
And... Darren again... 
We also got to teach so many new people this week! In one day we got to teach a Jew, a Muslim, and a Catholic. Only in Paris. :) I love it here.
 Street crepes. Oh, I will miss them so much. And Soeur Gordan, one of the girls I live with.

This week God kind of stamped His divine seal on something He has been teaching me my entire mission. It is this: God cares more about the shoulder than about the wheel. So be still, and just know that He is God.

The Saunders couple. My second set of mission parents (the Chastons being the first, of course). They just ended their mission this week.

In the past year and a half, there has been more than one occasion where I looked around at my meager offering of a mission and felt just so... confused. It was so apparently strewn with my weaknesses and shortcomings and utter humanness. And sometimes I thought "God, really? Why did you send me out here again? You remember I'm 20, right? You remember how I don't have ANY of these missionary strengths, right? Some people are just meant to be missionaries... but I think I got shuffled into the wrong group by accident. What if I mess everything up!?"
A few weeks ago I was sitting in Relief Society and having a discussion about family history work. Many sisters were expressing their concerns and feelings of being overwhelmed at the prospect of finding ALL of their ancestors. It's just so daunting so getting started is hard. But then one sister said something inspired "You know, God has all of the records. It's not like we are doing this for God. We are doing this for us. We get the blessing of drawing closer to our families as we work hard to find them and do their work."
Everything we do in the church (missions, building temples, family history, etc.) is for US. We are the reason. God has all of the records. He knows the name of every single person who has ever lived on the earth. He can command the elements, and surely move great temple blocks and assemble them in an instant. He can send legions of angels to preach the gospel, or at least an army of much more skilled and eloquent and learned men. But that's not the purpose. The purpose is US. God asks us to sacrifice to build temples. He asks us to search and seek for many hours to find names to connect our family trees. And His army of missionaries is made up of mostly inexperienced 18-20 years olds. God does not need us to do anything for Him. He doesn't need us to push that wheel. But we need to push that wheel. The wheel is how we are strengthened. The wheel is how we are moved to come unto God.

I do not know all of the reasons God sent me as a missionary to France. I know some of them, but I think I may never see any fruits or know the reasons for others. But I do know one reason. And to my great surprise, that reason is


Before my mission, I did not handle stress well... at all. Anxiety. Lack of ability to function or think. Big black clouds around my head. I was weak. I was impatient. I was not very kind. And missions are a life time full of stress and stressful situations packed into a few months. It is the hardest and most heart-wrenching thing I have ever done. And at the beginning it seemed impossible. But little by little, God has taken me and strengthened and me and changed me. And I am still so far from perfect. But looking back at who I was the day I stepped foot in France, I can only marvel. I don't even know that girl anymore. I am the biggest miracle of my entire mission. Who would have thought?
My mission scripture has come to mean more to me than I ever would have thought. Cheerfully do all in my power, and then stand still. Don't worry. Don't stress. Trust God. Know He's God. Everything will be ok.
La Madeleine!

Right before this transfer started, I got a blessing that was so inspired. And in that blessing he blessed me not to be concerned about things that are out of my control. To just focus on blessing other people, and that if I did that God would bless me for the rest of my life.
This mission is the best thing I have ever done. It has blessed me more than I could have ever imagined.

I'm so grateful God let me be a part of it.

xoxo Soeur Autumn Bradley

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Love! Joy! BEAUTY!" (See George Emerson's crede from A Room With A View)

Felicia moved to Romania this week. So much sadness. After Felicia walked away, Soeur Brazeal and I just stood there and cried. Felicia is a magnificent soul. I think she is nearly perfect. Those Romanian missionaries are so lucky. I can't even believe how much love God has poured into my heart for this woman I just barely met! I am so blessed to have been able to be one of the guides on her journey home.
Our last time teaching Felicia. :( She made us bookmarks. She is the kindest.

I have this thing with cemeteries... especially really old ones.
We went to this amazing one on Montmartre and saw the graves of...
Edgar Degas
Alexandre Dumas 
 The grave of Marie Taglioni! The first woman to ever dance on pointe! I have admired her for ages and had no idea she was even buried here until last week. Dreams coming true.
On another note, Best. Exchange. Ever. Seriously life-changing. I got to go to my very first ville and spend a day with my companion from the MTC, Soeur Berge. Wow, so much has happened since I last was able to talk to her! It was really amazing to see how much we have both changed in these past 18 months. We just laughed so much and taught some incredible lessons together and prayed with people on the streets of Nancy. Soeur Berge is AN INCREDIBLE MISSIONARY. I was changed after spending just one day with her. She has so much enthusiasm and love for this work. She just makes you feel good. We will have to remain friends and hang out after the mission because I stinking adore her. During studies together, she pulled out this scripture which talks about how Alma feels when he first sees his friends, the sons of Mosiah, for the first time in a long time: "Now these sons of Mosiah were with Alma at the time the angel first appeared unto him; therefore Alma did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord." This scripture just makes me cry because this is us. We went our separate ways to go out and teach the word of God, and near the end of our journey we were able to come together and see how much we have changed, stayed strong, and made it! And she's still my sister in the Lord. :)
EXCHANGES!! In my bleu ville. :)
Soeur Berge and me in Place Stanislas. Best Exchange of my whole mission. :) LOVE THIS GIRL.
 Ice cream from Parc Pepiniere!
I LOVE PLACE STANISLAS. Nancy is the best.
The sweetest Albanian family we taught at the church in Nancy.
Being back in Nancy was surreal. It was one of my favorite days I have ever lived. I felt so sentimental walking around and seeing how everything was exactly the same. But at the same time... everything had changed. Because I have changed. Sometimes I wonder if I have even changed at all, but walking back a year later through the ville I left when I was barely starting this adventure just confirmed that I have changed so much. I feel different than that girl who walked here then. God has blessed me so much since then. I have seen so many miracles. God has stripped away some of the unnecessary layers that were cumbering my soul. I have changed. Nancy is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen and can see it even more now.
The magic store I used to live above. I miss that Celtic music during lunch hour.
My address! Used to sit here all the time.
The Rue in France where I contacted someone for the very first time. :)
Rue Blondlot. Sigh.
This week I thought a lot about a lesson I have learned that is not very typical. I have never heard it discussed in Sunday school. But it's something so undeniable that has changed everything. It's something God has shown me over and over again my entire mission. I rank it right up there with love and joy.
It is this: BEAUTY.
My BEAUTIFUL Montmartre and Sacre Coeur.  
Ok, now don't get me wrong. I am not talking about fake, worldly, cheap and base and shallow physical beauty. I am speaking of REAL beauty. Beauty in nature. Beauty in art. Beauty in Music. Beauty in architecture. Just real beauty. Beauty that changes you. (My favorite things I have read on the subject are 'Our Refined Heavenly Home' and 'The Contemplation of Beauty: An Avenue to Communication with God.' Read them.)
What I have realized: the nearer you get to God, the more easily your spirit is touched by beautiful things. And vice versa. Something undeniable happens to my soul every time I hear a symphony or an opera. Every time I gaze up at a cathedral or an exquisitely carved stair case or stained glass windows. Every time I confront an oil painting or a sculpture. Each time I find myself in nature, gazing down from the top of a mountain or gazing up from the base of an enormous tree. Each time I read a line of poetry or words that have been so skillfully strung together in inspiring ways. Each time... something in me changes. I can feel it. I walk away more determined to live a more beautiful life. A more peaceful life. To be more loving. To be better. Something inside of me wakes up.
I believe this is so real because surely heaven is beauty absolute. God and angels are described as glorious and beautiful, beyond description. I imagine heaven is filled with art and music, good books and breath-taking views. Heaven must be the most beautiful. And we are of the race of gods, far from our heavenly home, but learning to practice heaven here. And so I believe that the more we look for beauty, the more we progress towards the Author and Creator of all things beautiful, who is God.
I was raised by exquisitely refined parents who taught me to love and appreciate beauty. They raised me with great literature and music. I was taken to countless museums, art galleries, and concerts. I was taken to operas and on hikes and camping. And I liked it... but just didn't GET IT. It took something more dramatic to make it all click. And that thing was a mission in France. I think France is the perfect place to learn about beauty. It is the most drastic mix of the base and the beautiful. The most vulgar and ugly and dirty, but also the most breath-taking and inspiring and gorgeous. This is why I love France. This is why France will always be home. Because it is here that I came into communication with God in another way. A deeper way. All of this beauty has stirred my soul to the very depths. Beautiful things take my breath away, because it is there that I come into communication with something so eternal inside of me. It's when I am surrounded by beauty that I catch glimpses of who I truly am, who God is, and my eternity.
This is so real, but something you can't really describe. It's something personal and you have to feel it yourself. But go take your scriptures with you sometime and read them in the middle of a field. Turn on O Mio Babbino Caro on your iPod when you are standing in front of a marble sculpture. Hike to the top of a mountain and quote Invictus at the top. It's real. It's beauty.
"We thank thee, O Lord, for our senses by which we can see the splendor of the morning and hear the jubilant songs of love, and smell the breath of the springtime. Grant us, we pray thee, a heart wide open to all this joy and beauty, and save our souls from being so steeped in care or so darkened by apathy that we pass heedless and unseeing when even the thornbush by the wayside is aflame with the glory of God." -Walter Rauschenbusch
Have a beautiful week.
Love, Soeur Autumn Bradley