Monday, January 6, 2014

Crooked Sticks

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!!! :D I'll be thinking about you on the 10th. And I really hope someone spills to everyone at Scandia that it's your birthday this year since I won't be there to do it!
We were leaving a RDV and we walked past a door that had all of these Christmas decorations!
[Translation: "Merry Christmas.  Peace on earth to men and women of good will."]
 We just could not pass that up, so we knocked on their door and sang Christmas carols for them. They were this old, Italian couple named Mariessa and Luigi. They turned out not to be interested at all, but it was just so nice to spread some cheer!

For some strange reason... Europeans are all OBSESSED with these hanging Santas.
They. Are. EVERYWHERE. We passed a home the other day that was covered in about 15 of them.
I don't get it. Maybe I just don't have very European humor.
Our North Dakota friend Emma. She spent new years day with us in Paris.
At the beginning of the 20th century, all the metro entrances in Paris were fashioned in the
 'art nouveau' style. Now, there are only two left. So of course I had to go get a picture!
This week equals nothing short of completely magical and marvelous.

God just led led led and we found found found.

First, we were porting in this (what we didn't realize then...but came to find out later was a) pretty sketchy part of town. After spending not too much time there and only running into Muslims everywhere we went, we started to feel not so good about it and decided to go find a new place to go adventuring. As we were walking back to the bus stop, Soeur Lefrandt and I started talking about all of our old Asian amis in our old cities and how much we miss them. Soeur Lefrandt is Asian and my dad served his mission in Japan, so we both feel this connection. Soeur Lefrandt finally says "I just want an Asian!" And lo and behold, we are at the bus stop for about 5 minutes when this Asian lady appears out of nowhere and starts walking towards us. And Soeur Lefrandt grins from one ear to the other and says "BONJOUR! You can sit by us!" And her name is Chen Li-Ching and we got on the bus with her, talked a lot, and got her number!

Envisioning who we wanted to meet had worked so miraculously the day before, so we decided to envision the next person we were going to meet and look for them all day. We both thought of an African mother. With a stroller. Two kids. Believes in God. Then we went about our day as normal. Then we got back to our home neighborhood from a RDV at the very end of the night and we have 30 minutes left. We look around, and there is not a woman in sight. Soeur Lefrandt says "Let's say a prayer!" And just as she's about to begin I say "Is that a stroller?" And way in the distance there is something shining in the street light. And it's slowly getting closer. And it's an African mother. And she's pushing her baby in a stroller as her other child toddles next to her. And we walk very quickly towards her. And to make a long story shorter, she gave us her number. And she has huge belief in God. And actually her best friend growing up was Mormon. Huh, what a coincidence.
Tha Lasas! They are CRAZY. And we LOVE them!
Everytime we go over, Soeur Lasa pokes us in the stomach and says "Eat! It's good to get fatter! Eat! Eat!" And it's peanut butter chicken and fried plantaines. Which are my weaknesses. And it's so bad!
The Lasa family!
They took our plaques and grabbed Bibles and Books of Mormon and told us to take a photo!

And then later...we set up a RDV with someone else. And they never show up. So we decide we might as well knock on all of her neighbor's doors. And Soeur Lefrandt asks me what my favorite number is. And it's 9. So we go to the 9th floor and knock on the first door. And a teenage girl answers. And we sing her Silent Night. And then her Mom comes out with a huge smile on and asks us why we are there. And her name is Angele. And she let us sing and pray with her and is going to see us this week!

Then walking away from that miracle, we meet Gorethie. She came around the corner singing with absolutely no shame and we just couldn't pass that up. So we asked if we could sing with her, and all three of us stood on the sidewalk and sang Christmas songs together. Then we prayed with her and taught her right there on the street. And she was so eager to give us her number and see us again!

Then Sunday came, and we were feeling so overwhelmed with gratitude already, and God just blessed us again. And we met Erica. There is a lady in our ward named Barbara and she speaks a very little English, but told her American friend Erica that there are English speakers at our church and invited her to come. And she walks in and we say hi. And she tells us we have American accents. And we say it's because we're from America. And she gets all teary eyed because she is SO HAPPY to see Americans! Turns out she is from California, but has lived in France for 15 months with her handicapped daughter. She had moved here for a boy who used her and left her, and now she is struggling to get her life back in order. And she is one of the bravest women I have ever met. And we testified about how the God is our Heavenly Father, he wants nothing but our happiness, and we can find that peace and happiness no matter what the world throws our way. And we're all crying and hugging. And we teach her a little and give her a Book of Mormon. And she tells us that last year she made a new year resolution to read the whole bible... and she did. So this year, she is going to read the Book of Mormon. And she says "I love the bible, but I just feel like maybe there is just something missing." And it's all so beautiful. And she just keeps thanking us for being American and being here in France. And I say "I know God sent these two American girls here for YOU." And I don't even know why I said it. I hadn't planned it or realized it... until it came out of my mouth. And the holy spirit told us all it was true.

And the best part about all of these amazing miracles is that absolutely none of it was us.

I found 'your mom'  [ta mère] graffittied on a wall.
And it was the happiest moment of my entire life in Europe.

This whole past month I have thought a lot about something that culminated this week. And it's this: God can draw a straight line with even the most crooked of sticks.

In Doctrine & Covenants 3 it says:
"The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught. Remember, remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men."

The work of the Lord WILL go forth. I will either be an instrument in that work, or I won't, but the thing is... I can't mess it up! No matter how weak or ridiculous or just plain flawed I think I am, God can use me. If I am struggling and striving and desiring, God can somehow use me. 

I remember reading a blog post right before my mission that was very harsh, blunt, and grew a big fat rock where my stomach used to be. It basically said "Don't come on a mission if you don't know what you're getting yourself into. This is the hardest thing in the world and you won't make it if you come out here weak or with a head full of dreams."

I know that blogger meant best... but I think I completely disagree. And I say COME. Come on a mission! I opened my mission call exactly a year ago yesterday, and I can honestly say that this is absolutely without a doubt in my mind the BEST decision I have ever made. COME. You're gonna make it. You really are. This isn't survival of the fittest. This is the all encompassing and merciful Atonement making up for your utter humanness. Yes, the mission isn't about you. But God can use you! You think you're too prideful? Too weak? Not loving enough? Not a hard enough worker? COME! Give your heart fully to the Lord. He will change you. He will lead you.

1 Timothy 1:12 says: "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry."

The Atonement of Jesus Christ can enable you to do things that are so far beyond your natural ability. God can use you.

I'm proof. Because I am the crookedest of sticks.

xoxo Soeur Autumn Bradley

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