Monday, September 1, 2014

the earth is crammed with heaven.

Allo allo allo,

Last week we visited the old part of Tours and found this famous old place filled with ancient, crumbling buildings that belong in a Shakespeare play and cafes and ice cream parlors.
It was pure magic.
So... we were passing by old amis homes this week and as we were searching for a road on the map, my little eye did spy an interesting name for a road nearby. (Wow, that was great accidental rhyming.) So I used my most persuasive methods to convince Soeur Hopkins to go take a picture of me with it. The name of the road is BEAUTIFUL GIRL STREET. Too good. Too good.
 When Soeur Bingham was here she asked to look through my pictures and I had several of Rhondeau and me in our sunflower field in Nancy last summer. She also noticed all of the sunflower drawings I had on my wall. So when I complimented her sunflower blanket she had brought, she asked me how much I loved sunflowers. And the answer was A LOT. So she gave me this sunflower blanket! I know this is something so simple, but I am seriously the happiest girl in the world! I wrap myself in a sunflower cocoon every morning during studies. Life is beautiful. And I am devising a plan to transport this blanket home with me this fall.
This week... we were running out of food. We had been to Paris and had to eat all of our meals out and about in the most expensive city ever. We also live really far out of Tours in a forest, so going home for lunch and dinner is such a bother and wastes so much time. So if we have too much to do, we don't bother and just stay in town. But often it's spontaneous because RDVs don't work out or we feel inspired to change our plans so we didn't bring anything with us. So, long story short: Last week we had zero money and practically zero food. But at church last week the Devincks gave us that HUGE zucchini and we felt so blessed and completely content. But we had no idea what was in store! The Taylor's brought us some eggs from their chickens, and we thanked them so much and told them what a miracle they were and how inspired. Then Monday night, the Taylor's were driving us home from FHE. And as we got out of the car, they hurriedly opened their trunk and handed us two bags of groceries and another thing of eggs! Miracles. All of our food worries gone. What inspired people. My heart is so full of love for them and their generous spirits.
  Food miracles!! We are so blessed.

Chantal is doing so well! She came to church yesterday and loved it. Multiple times I got sucked into conversations with members, and then would panickingly turn around and search for my amies and hope they weren't standing alone somewhere. But everytime I turned around, Chantal and Bich were surrounded by members and laughing and talking. The best feeling in the world. Chantal also said her very first prayers this week! She doesn't come from a very religious background, but the little bit of religion she does know is Catholic. So we have been trying and trying and trying to explain prayer to her for so long and devoted entire lessons to it and showed her examples and tried to talk out all her fears and... nothing. She didn't get it. She was too scared and uncomfortable and didn't get that it wasn't a poem or memorized. But this beautiful week we sat in her living room and asked her to give the prayer and she gave her usual excuses and then paused. And we just looked at her and with our last bit of hope asked her to try. And something clicked. And she did it! She said the most beautiful, simple prayer. She just talked with her Father the way she talks with us. First prayers just make my heart burst with pure joy. Someone just tapped into the source. Someone just had their first talk with God. Oh, I am so happy.
We ran into Bich one day as we were walking through the center of town. We ended up eating dinner with her and walked her back to her apartment. No coincidences.

Oh, and Bich. Bich! Soul friends. Real and eternal ones. This week we had the best. lesson. ever. She just poured out her heart to us and I just sat there bawling. She is a noble soul. She just wants to do what is right and be happy and help others. She has been slow progressing because she is Buddhist and honestly wasn't super interested in learning about Jesus Christ, but this week as she told us about the aches in her soul we just knew God had sent us her way for a big reason. And we just told her that. Told her how much God loves her and is looking out for her and wants her to be happy. Then we told her that's why we keep talking about Jesus Christ. Because we want her to be happy too because we love her so much. She stopped, looked at us, and said "I want to come to church this week." WHAT?! And so she did! She came to church for the very first time. And she LOVED it. We decided to watch finding faith in Christ during the amis class, and Bich just sat there bawling. (Yep, we're totally soul friends. Happy? I cry. Sad? I cry. Any sort of strong emotion? I cry. Strong emotions all the time because I am overly passionate about everything? Crying all the time. Bich is the same way.) Afterwards, I asked her what her favorite part of church was and she told me it was the movie about Jesus. "When I watched Jesus healing all of those people and the love he had for them...something inside of me... woke up. And I just started crying and couldn't stop! I don't know why." Oh, what an open heart. And because she is giving God instant access, He is working miracles in her life.
We had exchanges this week so I got to see my favorite Soeur Richards! We have never served together, but I feel like we have. I adore this girl.
I have decided that Soeur Richards looks EXACTLY like Taylor Swift. Right? So to make sure, I pulled out my red lipstick and asked her to pose for me. Too beautiful. Can't even handle it.
My exchange was with Soeur Bingham, who was in my MTC group. It was the first exchange I have ever done with someone in my group and it was so amazing to see how much we have grown and changed, and also hear mutual thoughts about goals before going home from someone who is my same age in the mission.

This week we actually faced a lot of persecution. The first part of the week was really really hard and discouraging. We had a lady call us on the phone one day and tell us we were part of a dangerous cult and she never wanted to see us again or she would call the police. Another time we contacted a couple on the tram and they immediately stiffened up and harshly told us that we had better not talk about Jesus with them and defensively ignored us and then hurried away. And on and on it went. And by the end of the week I was feeling pretty beat. And then to top it all off I had promised to make a bunch of people cookies and Saturday night I realized we didn't have all of the ingredients! So we panickingly ran to the closest grocery store... right as they were closing their doors. And we groaned. And the lady in front of us groaned. And she turned around and looked at us. And then burst into a huge smile! She walked right over and said "I can see that you are Mormon! When I was a little girl, my parents got the missionary discussions from some Mormon missionaries. I remember they were always so nice to me and I loved when they came over. I know that what you are doing must be so hard and discouraging sometimes, but I want to wish you lots of courage. What you are doing is really tough but you are so courageous. Keep going." And I just about lost my cool. My eyes welled up with tears and love for this stranger sent to us from God. Her name is Stephanie and we ended up talking for a long time, and we finally parted ways with her phone number and promises to see her again this week. She was not only a beautiful miracle of this week, but a beautiful one for my whole mission! I have been telling myself and my companions for practically my entire mission that all the little things matter. That even if we don't get a past a contact or a first RDV or a few, that it was all for a reason and that these people will remember our black name tags and our love. It has been one of the thoughts that has kept me going my entire mission. And turns out it's true! Stephanie is proof! They'll remember. Maybe not for many years and maybe not until the next life. But they'll remember. No effort is wasted.
Albert Einstein said: "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."
I am so grateful that my mission has taught me that everything is a miracle. You might be reading this and be thinking 'Woopty-do. This girl is really really excited about a lot of random nothingness.' And sometimes I do that myself. But I have come to find that the more I give myself to God, the more He gives himself to me. The more I look for Him, the more I find Him. And He's everywhere. I was the one who was blind.
"Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God, and only he who sees takes off his shoes." (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

Open your eyes. Open your heart.
He'll give you His vision. He'll give you His love.

xoxo, Soeur Autumn Bradley

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