Monday, October 13, 2014

Real Joy.

Standing at the very very top of the Eiffel Tower.
Yes, that is a picture looking straight down. That is an angle of the Eiffel Tower I had never seen...
The view was insane.
 Champs de Mars.
Trocadero square.
Accordian School. Seriously. I passed this last night and couldn't help but just laugh.
How French. Accordian School.
Gosh, this is hard! Usually whenever I come into a new ville, I don't let myself stress about getting to know everyone and learning all of the transportation and how to get where and who all of our amis are and what they need. I know it's too much to tackle all at once, so I do all I can and just rest assured that most of it will come with a little more time and meeting everyone. But it was easier not to get stressed because I had an entire transfer to adjust and learn and knew I would be in that ville for a while. But now I have only one transfer in this ville! One tiny little transfer to learn everything and get caught up and contribute and find and search and teach and all of the other million other things you do... before my mission is over. Gah! This is incredibly stressful. But God has been teaching me to stop getting caught up in the little things and just be worthy of the spirit, work hard, and love everyone. I can do that.
I met Felicia this week! She is our amie from Romania. She is the kindest person I have ever met. Just loves God so much. She came to church this Sunday and was floored by the power of the testimonies. She was leaning forward in her seat with her gaze fixed so intently on every speaker. She is moving back to Romania this week and I am so sad! I think this is the fastest I have ever become this close to an amie. Those lucky sisters in Romania who get to sontinue to be a part in her conversion. This week we were sitting on a park bench near a cafe when Felicia told us something beautiful: "You know, when I first starting learning from the missionaries it was hard to believe what you say. I didn't understand everything and it was different from what I had been taught. But no matter my doubts... I just had to see you again! Because you have God's love in you. It shines like a light in your eyes. And I know that the devil can deceive us and fake a lot of things. But I know he can't fake love. So I know that you are sent from God." Spiritual giant.
Our WONDERFUL ami Felicia!
We also set a baptismal date with our amie Charity! She is our amie from Nigeria we have been trying to see since I got here, and this week was the week! She is so open and kind and curious. And she has the most adorable little children who try to steal pamphlets and pens out of your bag when you aren't looking.
This week was heart-wrenching in a lot of ways, but also incredibly joyful.
Zone Conference! Elder Bean and Elder Westwood. Two Elders who came in with me from the MTC. There is a good chance I will never see a lot of these people again,
 so I have been taking lots of pictures with everyone.
Soeur Tippett! She was in the same group as Soeur Hopkins.
One of the greatest lessons I have learned on my mission is JOY.
Alma 28:8 talks about the missions of Alma and the sons of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon: "And this is the account of Ammon and his brethren, their journeyings in the land of Nephi, their sufferings in the land, their sorrows, and their afflictions, and their incomprehensible joy." Sufferings. Sorrows. Afflictions. Incomprehensible JOY. Yep. That's a mission.
I have often wondered why that is. Why a mission is the hardest and the best thing? Why it is the saddest and most heart-breaking, but also the happiest and most fulfilling.?
It's because we simply cannot understand or appreciate the heights of mortality if we have not experienced the depths. Without the taste of bitter, the taste of sweet is completely lost on us. If I had never had amis not show up for RDVs or have people yell at me or throw things at me or simply walk away while I am trying to contact them or drop baptismal dates or not show up to church, I simply couldn't appreciate the incomprehensible joy I felt when Erica came up drenched out of the baptismal font. I simply couldn't appreciate the way I felt when Tonia let us pray with her on the street, or when Chantal said yes to being baptized, or when Soeur Diaz shared her conversion story with me, or when Rosalie realized she was a daughter of God, or when Anna was crying and told us she knew God had sent us to her, or when Sam realized she needed a Savior.

"Joy is an emotion of the spirit. It comes through righteous living. It is not a casual or shallow feeling, ever. If we equate fun and pleasure with happiness, we may think pain must always be equated with unhappiness. But that is not true. Joy is not a stranger to pain. We may not feel deeply enough to know joy unless our hearts have been hollowed out by sorrow. A heart may not be big enough to know real joy until it has been stretched and pulled by trials and hard things. In 2 Nephi 2:23 we find this phrase: “having no joy, for they knew no misery.” Our capacity to feel joy actually increases as we righteously endure our pain." (Barbara Workman)
This week I had one of the hardest days of my entire mission. Literally layed on my bed at night and sobbed. Discouragement. Utter defeat. But that night God and I had a long chat. And the next day was strangely one of my favorites. After experiencing the lowest of the lows, everything the next day had more meaning. Every single kind person we talked to healed my bruised heart. Every ray of sunshine poking through the trees was a sign from God telling me He loves me.
"His gift to those who testify of Him is not freedom from hard work or sorrow or stretching, but the surety that every ounce of effort in His name is an investment in joy." (Barbara Workman)
My soul has been stretched. My heart has been utterly hallowed out. But it's just made it bigger and wider expanded and so much more capable of holding all of this JOY.
Soeur Autumn Bradley

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