Well... I don't mean to be dramatic... but hardest week of my life.
Exchanges with the Torcy Soeurs! Soeur Pulupuna, Soeur Rhondeau, Me (in case you forgot what I look like), Soeur Huntsman.
Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. It was crazy. For the first time in my life I could feel a tangible force working against me. It was real. It was hopelessness.
But luckily, God is on our side. There are more with us than there are with them. And I always step out of trials amazed at how much I have learned. This week was like that. It was hard. But, wow I'm grateful.
The saddest part of this week? Half of our French class had to move to Luxembourg. That's right. Our beloved Albanians. I couldn't believe it. From cruel chastisement said non-chalantly, to severely depressed amis, to being mocked for being "a typical love-is-the-answer-to-everything sister missionary," and now our best friends who need each other are moving and being separated?
Saying goodbye to the Albanians at the train station.
The Albanians have lived by each other their entire lives. They are all best friends. This is the first time they've ever been separated. My heart broke for them. We went to Paris for exchanges with the Torcy soeurs, and then came back right in time to say goodbye to Domeniko and Ketjon. We got off the train, saw Marjana, and she just started bawling. We sat outside the train station for an hour saying goodbye and comforting. Marjana in tears. Ketjon in tears. Soeur Rhondeau in tears. Me in tears. One of the Elders trying to pretend he's not in tears. Saddest day of my life. I asked Marjana if Ketjon was her best friend. She tearfully said "Yes. The best cousin. The best friend. Ketjon is special."
That night Soeur Rhondeau and I went home and I couldn't believe how heartbroken I was. I couldn't believe how much I was crying. I couldn't believe how much I love these Albanian people. I can't believe that before my mission I was ever worried about loving the people. It really seems like such a silly thing to worry about now, but before my mission it kinda stressed me out. I knew that love was the heart and core of missionary work, but I just didn't know if I had enough love in me. But Heavenly Father smiled down on me and opened up this whole other section of my heart. I have never loved people so much in my life. I love my family more. I love my companion. I love all my amis. I love complete strangers. I JUST LOVE EVERYONE.
I was talking to Soeur Rhondeau and realized something: I couldn't believe how much I loved these people partially because I thought for a long time that I was such a mean person. Soeur Rhondeau gaped at me. WHAT? WHY?
Found an old alley with doors and hotels built in Shakespeare's day. NBD.
I thought about it and realized that most of it stemmed from someone's comments years ago.
Almost 3 years ago, I moved out of my parent's home and moved to Provo, Utah. I wanted to get some responsibility and get my own two feet on the ground. I wanted to learn to be independent. I was a scared little wide eyed 18 year old with shattered self esteem and high hopes for new friends. I entered Provo very eager to be loved.
I moved into a little apartment with 5 other girls and soon made friends with all their friends and tried so very hard to be likable.
But one boy soon started coming over less and less. I wondered why and asked my roommate one time. And the response was that he didn't want to come over anymore because I was "so mean he couldn't stand being around me."
I should've stepped back, realized that boy wasn't my favorite person, knew nothing about me anyways, blown it off and moved on. But I didn't.
Instead I let it eat at me. I must be the most awful person in the world. I must be a terrible person and I think I'm being funny but everyone around me must just think I am SO MEAN.
So I let it stick. Convinced I was just so mean, I let it define me. I was constantly terrified of saying or doing anything out of place for fear of people thinking I was mean. I couldn't be spunky. Or sassy. Or ridiculous. Because that was just me being my mean self.
I couldn't have too many opinions or defend the ones I did have. Because that was me being mean. I couldn't stick up for myself. Because that was me being mean.
When I was talking to Soeur Rhondeau and realized that so much of the way I perceived myself stemmed from some silly boys cruel comments, I was horrified.
First time at the Eiffel Tower! Kinda made up for all the hard stuff this week. :)
But the thing is... this isn't just me. I think the way a lot of people see and define themselves is determined by the labels others place upon them.
SO PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE BE CAREFUL.
Honesty is no excuse for being casually cruel. You can say anything in the world, if you say it with love and respect. But be so careful. What is your motivation for saying it? If it isn't love and respect, don't say it. Is the thing bothering you just their personality? Let it go. Is it not even really affecting you? Let it go.
This week I found out something so interesting. There is a sister in the mission who is not very popular and I have heard plenty of people say mean things about her. Well, turns out this poor girl is a refugee from Columbia. Her parents fled, and now live in France. She has had a harder life than I can even imagine.
You have no idea about the trials people are quietly facing.
John Whittier said "Deem it not an idle thing a kindly word to speak. The face you wear, the thought you bring: a heart may HEAL or BREAK."
I hereby vow to treat everyone like they're a refugee from Columbia.
Go find someone to whom you can say a kind word. Don't do it for me. Do it for Christ.
I love you all so much it's unreal.
LOVE, Soeur Autumn
P.S. HI RHONDEAU FAMILY! Soeur Rhondeau told me you all read my blog. :) That means so much to me! Soeur Rhondeau has told me hundreds of stories about your family and I think you are the BEST PEOPLE IN THE WHOLE WORLD! I feel like you are these long lost relatives. I seriously LOVE you all. Thank you a million times for encouraging Soeur Rhondeau to serve a mission. She has changed my life! She reads me sections of you letters and e-mails and I just laugh and cry and can't wait to meet you. :)