Sunday, September 21, 2014

I glory in my weakness.

Happy Birthday, Andrew! Last time I saw you... I don't even think you were walking. Wow. So excited to play with you this Christmas!
Thank you all so much for your prayers! This week we had our best ever lesson with Chantal. She is slowly beginning to understand and see how this all clicks into her life and her personal problems. But... slowly. We have to be so so simple and repeat things to make sure she understands. This week we were finishing teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and then paused and asked her if she had any questions and if there was something that didn't make sense. And she just smiled and said "Oh no, I get it! God created this plan... and how we can begin to follow it is by having faith and then acting and repenting. Then we get baptized, make promises and God gives us His spirit. Then we just have to keep doing that for the rest of our lives until we die. Yep, got it." It all clicked. And the spirit poured into the room and we could literally feel the power of the prayers. Our prayers, all of the members prayers here in Tours, but also all the prayers of those who are praying for me and these people I love from across the ocean. THANK YOU. 
Whenever my soul needs a beauty fix, we go contact people along the river.
Thanks for the sweater, Mom. ;) Finally got cold enough for me to wear it.
 The sunsets here are UNREAL.
Ok, so the Moroni thing. AMERICA! This week the Elders were out of town but a man was coming to spray their apartment (because sadly, they have bedbugs) so we got to go hang out in the Elders apartment until the man showed up. Elders apartments are ridiculous. And you always find lovely things like this. Moroni, the original American. :) 
Soeur Hopkins has this obsession with redheads. Red-head stalking is a daily activity.
The branch here in Tours is pretty small so there is no ward mission leader or gospel doctrine teacher. So... the missionaries get to teach the lesson every week! We switch off with the elders, and yesterday was our turn. We always have the funniest mix of languages in each class, and it always amazes me how we can all end up understanding each other and feeling the spirit anyways. We asked everyone some questions about the Savior, had them write down their answers, and then watch the film Because of Him. ( We watched it in French and then in English. Class ended and everyone began filing downstairs, and this Russian man came over and began to speak with me. He was baptized in Moscow, but came and visited our branch because he works between France and Russia and travels a lot. He asked me if we happened to have the film in Russian. And crazily enough, I did! Of all the random languages to have on my flashdrive, for some reason I had Russian. And so I turned it on and this sweet man just stood about 2 feet from the screen, completely captured by the film. When it was over, I asked Him what he thought. He just stared at the image of Christ frozen on the screen and said "Wow, you're right Sister. That is... *sigh* incredible. Just... magnificent." Beautiful.
I am obsessed with rivers! Sorry for all of the random pictures. 
Something that has been very hard for me my entire mission has been simply... my weaknesses. It has been a battle of not despairing over them, and instead trying to hand it all over to God and letting him magnify my weak and simple offering. God has shown me again and again that He doesn't need me to be a superhero or invincible or incredibly strong and fearless. He just needs me to trust Him and be humble and rely on Him and then let Him work great things through me. But sometimes I still just feel so weak. I forget to rely on Him and try to do it all myself, and then feel overwhelmed by how flawed I am. And then I am tempted to think "Wow, what in the world am I doing here? What did God think He was doing sending someone like me out here?!"
But this beautiful and life-changing week, God taught me something simple yet so profound. God only gives us weakness for two reasons. One, to keep me humble. Ether 12:27 says 'I give unto men weakness that they may be humble.' The end! God didn't give me weaknesses so I would go around mourning and wallowing in them all the days of my life. He gave them to me so I would NEED to rely on Him. So I would realize that I simply CAN'T do it all alone. 
Second, God gave me weakness to teach me compassion and empathy. 
"Since everyone has his struggles, his better days and worse ones, his good impulses and less worthy ones, his arguments inside himself; Since all of us need understanding, forgiveness, encouragement, all of us would well give compassionate consideration to others. One quality of character most needed in this world is compassion for other people. One of the urgent lessons of life is to learn how to live with imperfect people - including ourselves. And if we are not altogether pleased with us, it should be easy to understand why we are not altogether pleased eith others." Richard L. Evans
Wow. I had just never thought about it like that before! Sometimes my own weaknesses and sufferings teach me far more about compassion than anything else ever could. God doesn't want me to be hard on myself, He just wants me to be gentle with others. Better able to understand others, because I struggle too. Better able to empathize because I have been there. Better able to love.
SONIA!! :) We FINALLY got to see her again this week. She is a noble soul. 
Yesterday, we got to go see Sonia! She was moving and got a new job so we haven't seen her in so long, but she now has sundays off so yesterday was the day. We spoke a lot about how the gospel can help her personally, and she said something so beautiful. "When I was much younger, in Africa, I was in a terrible car accident. My face was completely destroyed, and my legs were mangled. My parents moved to France so I could get better medical care, and after many many surgeries, I am miraculously alright! I know that God healed me. I shouldn't have a face. I shouldn't be able to walk. But I am perfectly ok with just a few scars. And because God gave me this unbearably hard trial, and got me through it, I want to help others in return. I can be compassionate because of all I went through. The thing I want the most in the world is to be a healer. I just want to help God heal others. I am so grateful God let me go through these things so now I know how to help others." Beautiful. This incredibly selfless girl knows that all she went through was for a reason, and what her calling is in life. I love her to the moon and back.
This morning I was thinking about all of this and especially the words empathy and compassion, something about those two words wrung a bell and I pulled out my Patriarchal Blessing. And I realized the most wonderful thing: Just as God has given me my individual and unique blend of strengths to bless others and fulfill my purpose here, He has also given me a unique blend of weaknesses to do the same. And God promised me in my blessing that my weaknesses and overcoming them is the very thing that will enable me to use my strengths and prepare me for the mission God has for me on earth.
I get it. I finally get it. I get what Paul was saying when he said 'I glory in my infirmities.' I glory in my weakness! Because God gave me weakness to teach me compassion and empathy.
I LOVE willow trees. Every time we pass one I "swing" through the branches. 
Once again, love. Love changes everything. I glory in my weaknesses because they are how God is teaching me love.
xoxo, Soeur Autumn Bradley

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