Monday, October 27, 2014

Shoulders and Wheels and Standing Still.

First and foremost, I would like to dedicate this next paragraph to my beautiful and inspiring and HILARIOUS companion, Soeur Brazeal. Seriously. This week we did work and taught so many new people and just had a beautiful time. It was one of the happiest weeks of my whole mission. Soeur Brazeal comes from a tough background, but she doesn't let it stop her or define her. She is one of the strongest people I have ever met. And she just does her own thing and has her own sense of humor. (Which I find ridiculously funny). She inspires me so much. I love her.
Muriel, our sweet less-active.
I was walking down a street in Paris... and I ran into Soeur Mackay who has been home from her mission for a few months. She is here visiting for a few days. Perfect timing. I love this girl.
Last p-day and the Tuileries gardens in front of the Louvre.
Soeur Hale's dramatic picture of me in front of the fountain.
L'Orangerie. I was so devastated you can't take pictures inside, but that's ok. I have my memories and lots of postcards. This is the museum with the huge wall-sized paintings of Monet's water lilies.
And they. are. beautiful.
 We got to see Darren a lot this week, and so much of her story came out. She is so cool. I really want to be like her. She is brave and thinks she can do anything in the world. She is gutsy and bold, but at the same time she is so sweet and deeply good. I love her. We had been feeling like she is ready, so during one of our lessons we asked her if she would get baptized on a specific date. And she. went. off. It was one of the most dis-heartening rants I have ever heard. She listed off every reason why she couldn't and her issues with authority and on and on. But as she ended, we just smiled and tried to work our her worries calmly and with lots and lots of love. We tried to see things from her perspective and tried to be patient and then asked if we could see her again soon, help her with her English, and take pictures with her because she is our friend and we always went to remember her. She reacted so well, and opened up a little more, and then told us an interesting story. Years ago, her Father died back in Syria. She went home for the funeral for just a few days, and when she came back, she brought three loaves of special bread. This bread is bread that is specially baked for the family of the deceased person. When she got home, she gave the bread to the elders (elders in a different mission years and years ago) and asked them if they would please use it for sacrament the next day. She said it was a tradition in her homeland to share the bread with everyone in the church. The bread was sacred to her, a reminder of her Father. The next day she went to church... and the elders didn't use the bread. And gave her no explanation or anything. And she was hurt, but decided to ignore it. Then the next day the elders came over and seemed very impatient. They very bluntly asked her if she would get baptized and she gave them the exact same response she had given us. And the elders were so mad. They promptly left her apartment and said "Call us if you ever find any faith." And she said she would, and that was the end of it. Years went by and many missionaries tried to contact her, but she would have none of it. Then she moved cities and one day the sisters (before I got here) called her and she felt like it was time. And as she was telling us all of this I realized "Oh my gosh, that was a test. She just wanted to see how we were going to react. Oh my gosh... this is why love matters. Wow, we would've lost her." And some advice that President Poznanski gave me went through my head "Love makes you bold." There is such a huge difference between boldness and straight up rudeness. And love helps you tell the difference. And ever since? Darren is doing amazingly well. She came to church! For the first time since either of us have been here. And we are seeing her again tonight. :) She is turning into one of my best friends.
Darren! Oh Darren. She. is. my. favorite.
And... Darren again... 
We also got to teach so many new people this week! In one day we got to teach a Jew, a Muslim, and a Catholic. Only in Paris. :) I love it here.
 Street crepes. Oh, I will miss them so much. And Soeur Gordan, one of the girls I live with.

This week God kind of stamped His divine seal on something He has been teaching me my entire mission. It is this: God cares more about the shoulder than about the wheel. So be still, and just know that He is God.

The Saunders couple. My second set of mission parents (the Chastons being the first, of course). They just ended their mission this week.

In the past year and a half, there has been more than one occasion where I looked around at my meager offering of a mission and felt just so... confused. It was so apparently strewn with my weaknesses and shortcomings and utter humanness. And sometimes I thought "God, really? Why did you send me out here again? You remember I'm 20, right? You remember how I don't have ANY of these missionary strengths, right? Some people are just meant to be missionaries... but I think I got shuffled into the wrong group by accident. What if I mess everything up!?"
A few weeks ago I was sitting in Relief Society and having a discussion about family history work. Many sisters were expressing their concerns and feelings of being overwhelmed at the prospect of finding ALL of their ancestors. It's just so daunting so getting started is hard. But then one sister said something inspired "You know, God has all of the records. It's not like we are doing this for God. We are doing this for us. We get the blessing of drawing closer to our families as we work hard to find them and do their work."
Everything we do in the church (missions, building temples, family history, etc.) is for US. We are the reason. God has all of the records. He knows the name of every single person who has ever lived on the earth. He can command the elements, and surely move great temple blocks and assemble them in an instant. He can send legions of angels to preach the gospel, or at least an army of much more skilled and eloquent and learned men. But that's not the purpose. The purpose is US. God asks us to sacrifice to build temples. He asks us to search and seek for many hours to find names to connect our family trees. And His army of missionaries is made up of mostly inexperienced 18-20 years olds. God does not need us to do anything for Him. He doesn't need us to push that wheel. But we need to push that wheel. The wheel is how we are strengthened. The wheel is how we are moved to come unto God.

I do not know all of the reasons God sent me as a missionary to France. I know some of them, but I think I may never see any fruits or know the reasons for others. But I do know one reason. And to my great surprise, that reason is


Before my mission, I did not handle stress well... at all. Anxiety. Lack of ability to function or think. Big black clouds around my head. I was weak. I was impatient. I was not very kind. And missions are a life time full of stress and stressful situations packed into a few months. It is the hardest and most heart-wrenching thing I have ever done. And at the beginning it seemed impossible. But little by little, God has taken me and strengthened and me and changed me. And I am still so far from perfect. But looking back at who I was the day I stepped foot in France, I can only marvel. I don't even know that girl anymore. I am the biggest miracle of my entire mission. Who would have thought?
My mission scripture has come to mean more to me than I ever would have thought. Cheerfully do all in my power, and then stand still. Don't worry. Don't stress. Trust God. Know He's God. Everything will be ok.
La Madeleine!

Right before this transfer started, I got a blessing that was so inspired. And in that blessing he blessed me not to be concerned about things that are out of my control. To just focus on blessing other people, and that if I did that God would bless me for the rest of my life.
This mission is the best thing I have ever done. It has blessed me more than I could have ever imagined.

I'm so grateful God let me be a part of it.

xoxo Soeur Autumn Bradley

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