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

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