Monday, August 3, 2015

You're Short, I'm Tall.

So, us newlyweds have officially been married for 3 months... That's like 1/4 of a year! Nothing makes me more happy then to have my Braiden by my side through every up and down of life. And yes, there can be that many up and downs in just 3 months! 

Anyways, I decided to share with you all something about Braiden and I that makes us pretty unusual and AWESOME. Some of you may have noticed already, or maybe you haven't! I thought that it would be fun to fill you all in on my thoughts and feelings about ME (6 FEET TALL) marrying BRAIDEN (5 FEET 7 INCHES) because most are probably exactly how I felt in the fact that there is just absolutely no way a girl should marry a guy shorter than her. Let alone 5 inches shorter. :) Hopefully after you are done reading this you will realize just like I did that height really does not matter, and... you don't always have to go with the norm. 

Alright, so my entire life, height was always such a huge deal to me. With me being tall, I always knew that I was going to date and marry someone at least 6'4. Yeah I know that sounds picky and ridiculously tall, but I had to be able to wear heels people! So that was it. I never even considered dating someone shorter. The thought never even crossed my mind! Nor would I let it. 

Now, lets fast forward time a little bit to the mission. I met Braiden, and like I said, he instantly became one of my really good friends.  But that was all to me. I do recall that I would think about how easy he was to talk to and how amazing of a person he was, and how I loved being with him, but then those thoughts would quickly dwindle away because he was just way too short for me! No no no. I just left it at that, and enjoyed the time that I got to chat with him. After the 9 months that I never saw him, we finally saw each other at a conference down in Laoag. I was so excited to see my favorite elder again, and I was quickly let down, when he wouldn't say a word to me. (There is a story behind why he was like this.) Anyways, he just gave me one worded answers no matter what I asked him. I was appalled! And then I went back to my area that was far away and started asking myself... Wait, why do I care if he talks to me or not? I don't even like him... Then I just came up with the reason that I could be bugged because we were good friends! Come on! 

And then I got transferred to the same area he was in... I couldn't deny that I had a crush on him, but I didn't want anyone to know because the tall sister can't like the short elder! At that time, I just wanted him to go home already! And then the battle began within myself... This kid is 5 inches shorter than I am... It won't work. That's what I kept telling myself. Oh I can't even count how many times I tried to talk myself out of liking him. After he went home, it felt better because he was never around and I could think things out haha. I remember some conversations I had with one of my companions who is not even 5 foot. Yeah, even though we are sister missionaries, we still talk about boys. At this point I realized how much I liked Braiden and I began talking my way into it. I told my companion, "Ah he has every single thing I would want in a husband besides his height. Like seriously everything, but that." She was one that told me that it would just be unpleasant to look at a couple where the girl is tall and the guy is short! So then I asked her, "Okay, how would you feel if a guy told you that you are perfect and what he wants, but you are just way too short? Or, how would I feel if a guy wouldn't marry me only because I was too tall. Which is something we can not control!" We both came to the conclusion that we would both be heart broken if someone was to say that to us. And from then on I decided that I wanted to be with Braiden and that I was going to set aside the whole height thing because it really didn't matter! But it wasn't as easy as I am making it sound. I remember praying and asking for help to overcome that because it was something I would be so uncomfortable with and something I have never experienced. Guys, it was rough! That height difference was basically against everything I believed in haha! I loved him though.

When I met with my mission president in my departing interview, the whole thing was about Braiden, and I will never forget what President Barrientos said to me when I told him my concern about our heights. He told me, "Sister Wood, it is not about how tall he is, all that matters is how tall his spirit is." Bam. Done. The Spirit really touched me and helped me feel like everything would be just fine, and it is okay to be different than the social norm!

I was anxious to see how it would actually be in person, and to see if my feelings would change about our heights. When we aren't missionaries, and we are out on a date or something. So when he came out to visit, I was so nervous. Oh my.. But you know what, it wasn't bad. Yes, it took some time to get used to! I mean it would for anyone. Everything is different! I knew that I wanted to marry him, and I didn't care about how tall he was. Of course me being a girl thought about things like, "Ugh what are our wedding photos going to look like? Cause I am taller than him! We can't do all those cute poses of me standing on my tippy toes and stuff! " Come on Courtnee, our wedding photos aren't going to give us salvation! I had to get over stuff like that quick, and I was so grateful that I did by looking at the eternal scheme of things. And like seriously, our engagement photos and stuff couldn't have turned out better! I am in love with all of them. It's all in what you make it, and it was kinda fun having to be a little more creative than usual!

Location: St. George, Utah

Obviously with time, it has gotten easier. The occasional stares from strangers in public, and the whispers we hear remind me that I am taller than him by a lot, but Braiden is usually the one that notices people doing that! We did have one experience at Costa Vida a while ago where one of the workers was laughing and basically making fun of us to another co-worker. I think that was the first time that it bothered Braiden, but I just told him to let it go! I mean look at us, we are so happy! Why should anyone else's opinion matter? They don't. :) 

Now, I have to stop and think to realize that I am taller than Braiden! It's just a part of our life. And there is nothing wrong with it at all. I love Braiden so much and I know that I was supposed to be with him. I am so grateful for him, because you'd think that for a guy, their pride would be shot if they were that much shorter than their wife. He has never once said anything about it. If it ever gets brought up it is because of me. He is such a saint and has been such a good example to me about what really matters. Totally cliche, but we were a match made in heaven. 

I was really excited to show all of you our wedding photos. Like I said earlier, I had always been nervous about they would turn out. Kailey Rae Photography did them, and she was amazing. She was so great about being creative with different shots and stuff. When I looked through them when I got them back, I couldn't have been more happy with them. There were so many that you could totally see that I was taller than Braiden. You know what, I was really glad they were like. It showed the way Braiden and I actually are! It's so real! It's so us! They were perfect, and I couldn't have been happier with them! I have learned to completely embrace who we are, and lots of times that includes a good laugh because they just don't look "normal!" 
Enjoy these too:

He is standing on the step above me in these ones. ;)


Photography: Kailey Rae Photography

I want all of you to know that we don't have to be like the world. I am not telling you all to go marry guys shorter than you, this could be for anything! Going against the social norm was difficult, but I AM SO HAPPY because it was the right thing to do! Isn't that how God wants us all to be? The blessings have been amazing! Whether it is with fashion/modesty, or friends tempting you to do the wrong things. Whatever it may be in your life, you don't need to be like everyone else. You need to be what the Lord wants you to be. I know that the Lord wanted me to marry this incredible man that's a bit shorter than me even though we might not look picture perfect to the world when walking around town! It is hard to go against what is socially accepted in our world, but through faith and courage, you can do it. I promise. And God will help us through the whole thing. I would have never imagined in a million years that I would end up marrying 5'7 Braiden, but every single day I am reminded why the Lord lead me to him. He is everything I am not! Including his height! :) I could write forever about how much I love him. 
He is Sexy.... -- (Braiden's addition to this post.) 
But I agree. What a blessing it is to be sealed to him for all eternity. 

Before I end, here's a little shout out to Filipinos, because I love them to death. When Braiden and I were on our honeymoon, we were on a cruise, and a lot of the workers were Filipino. The night of the dressy dinner on the ship I wore 4 inch heels hahaha. They all knew we spoke tagalog, so they would make comments to us. When they saw us that night, one of them said, "Ang laki ng asawa mo brother!" Your wife is so big! And then all the other Filipinos join in saying how its okay if I am taller, and that it doesn't matter, AND how alot of their parents are like that! They seriously are the most loving people and know how to make you feel good! :) And yeah, you might think I am ridiculous for wearing heels still, but I mean why not? Five inches and nine inches is basically the same thing. :) 

Courtnee Van Brunt

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Where I Am Now

Alright, before I start talking about myself, I have got to thank all of you who followed my mission through this blog. It made me feel so good to know that people were interested in what I had to say even when I was on the other side of the world in the beautiful Philippines. And, it motivated me to keep writing home faithfully about my week. So thank you everyone. I basically owe it to you for the novels of letters I now have to look back on about the best 18 months that changed my life. 
So, there may be some of you who are interested as to what I am up to now. Or maybe none of you are which is totally cool. Either way, I figured I would give an update on where life has taken me, but most importantly the plan that Heavenly Father has given me after returning from serving him full-time. It’s pretty easy for me to say that ever since I received that prompting in 2013 to serve a mission, nothing has been what I ever envisioned my life to be like. Oh my gosh, IT’S BETTER!

The story goes like this: When I arrived at the Laoag Airport as a new missionary, we were picked up by our mission president and the office elders. As I was carrying my heavy giraffe luggage over to the van, one of the kind elders approached me and introduced himself. He was Elder Van Brunt, and he offered to take my bags. Now if you were to ask him how it went, he would say that he kindly introduced himself to me, and I just told him to take my bags. Either story you want to believe, this was the first time I ever met Braiden. For him it was love at first sight. :) From that point, he was the elder that was so easy to talk to and fun to be around. I looked at him as a great friend and was so grateful that I had him to chat with! We served in the same zone in my first area in Laoag, and then I didn’t see him for about 9 months. The last 4 1/2 months of my mission I was assigned in San Nicolas where he was already serving and where he also ended his mission. I was so excited to transfer there because some of my favorites were assigned there, with Elder Van Brunt obviously being my all time favorite. :) As time started to dwindle down for him to go home, I noticed that my feelings started to grow for this Elder. I did everything I could to talk myself out of it, because he wasn't what I always imagined myself being with. That didn’t last long. Our mission president knew about it, and was ALL FOR IT. Braiden and I kept everything extremely professional and how relationships should be between elders and sisters. Braiden went home in October and his parents went and picked him up and he was released there. Yeah yeah yeah, I got to meet them in the Philippines. :) Before he went home I gave President a little letter and gift thing for him to give Braiden in his departing interview. Cheesy I know. The letter wasn’t all lovey dovey, it was meant to be hard to read and play hard to get, but Braiden saw right through that. He left me a letter that basically explained how he felt about me, along with a shirt that said, “My <3’s in Missouri.” (That’s where Braiden is from.) So from then on, Braiden emailed me for the remaining 6 weeks that I had in the field. Our feelings grew rapidly for each other and I fell in love with this amazing person. Here is some evidence of how I fell for him in such a short time, and… how dramatic I am. This was on a Monday, so I had gotten an email from him, and this is what I said about it. “Holy. Crap. Like oh my gosh! He is everything. He is everything I am not! I want my husband to be him. I know our life would be difficult, but I can’t stop thinking more about how AMAZING our life would be. There would never be a dull moment. Every day would be an adventure, and every day I would become a better person because of him. I now see what God thinks is a perfect plan for me. He IS the husband material I have always “dreamed” about. I can’t believe he even likes me. God is too good to me. I have a lot of repaying to do.” Okay Courtnee, settle down. :)

Laoag. Hi baby face! :)
San Nicolas

Six weeks later in November, I returned home and was released as a full-time missionary. That night before I went to sleep I made a late phone call to the man in Missouri, and that was the start of nightly phone calls for the next couple of weeks. Soon after that, he had made plans to come out to Utah to visit family, (or visit me), and he spent 11 days with my family and I. I know that in his head, he already knew we were getting married, but I was being the one that was thinking it was all too fast! Even though I knew he was the one. We spent Christmas apart and then he moved out here to Utah to be with me. Though at first I was the one putting a hold on any further progression of our relationship, in the end, I was the one asking Braiden, “WHEN ARE WE GOING TO GET ENGAGED?” So on January 31, 2015, Braiden asked me to be with him forever and he did it in the celestial room at the Bountiful temple. I felt so blessed for the chance I was given to be with Braiden. One of the things that Braiden wrote in his letter to me when he was leaving the Philippines was that “Blessings can come instantly.” I am so grateful for Heavenly Father and the blessings he gives us. Braiden being my biggest. That night I wrote in my journal (you all know how obsessed I am with documenting things), and it says, “I’m so excited to be with him. The beautiful ring on my finger is a constant reminder to me of Braiden and eternity. I am so happy that he chose me and that I chose him. Even though our beginning started when our spirits were created, this is our beginning here on earth into the eternities and I would’t want to do it with anyone else.” 

The night we got engaged!
A shower we had in Missouri.

The 3 months of being engaged trickled by… oh my gosh it went by so slow. Over that time I fell more and more in love with Braiden and we were both so ready to be married. On May 1, 2015, 5 months after returning from the Philippines, at 3:00 PM we were married and sealed for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake Temple. It was the most beautiful day of our lives thus far. The Spirit and happiness that was felt is indescribable. I know every bride says their wedding day was perfect, BUT I MEAN IT! I remember telling my mom as she was helping me get my dress on and flowers and stuff that I would be totally content with just going home now. The experience at the temple would outweigh any celebration we would have and I would have been fine with leaving it at that. But… of course we had something afterwards. I decided from the get go that I didn’t want a reception. So after being married at 3pm, we took photos with our incredible families, and then at 6pm we had a dinner at the Joseph Smith Building. Here I go again saying how perfect it was. It was just so relaxing! I mean I don’t know how other bride’s wedding days are, but this day was so stress free, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. It all turned out beautiful. Of course my favorite part was Braiden singing “I Choose You” to me by Andy Grammar. Braiden is amazing. In every way, and I’m not being bias. ;) He has taught me how to love, and given me someone TO love! 

4 girls in my family, 4 girls in his. :)

So there you have it. This is where I am now. I am more then happily married to my Elder Van Brunt. ;) Just kidding, to my Braiden. He makes life so much fun just like I anticipated it would. I know this is a long update on my life, but just trust me when I say it could have been 10x longer. The story of Braiden and I will always be so special to me, and quite honestly I need to write it into a book. YES, there are that many details I didn’t include. What an amazing feeling it is to be married to someone who loves the Gospel just as much I do. And as we live it daily, that is where our happiness comes from. I would have to say that Braiden and I are not your normal couple. For many reasons, but don’t worry, I will be sure to write about that at some point. :) I know that God’s plan for me is so amazing! It’s the coolest thing ever. Even if it has brought me down roads I never thought I’d pass. Always trust Him, He knows what’s best. Sometimes He will even send you to the other side of the world to serve Him for you to find out what is best for your life. :)

Courtnee Van Brunt

I will put more wedding photos on in another post!
Wedding photography: Kailey Rae Photography

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Last's the Best of All the Game (IN THE MISSION FIELD)


Well, that was it. And I am so happy because this last week was seriously one of the greatest. Before I go any further, this keyboard is seriously messed up, so if this email is ugly, just correct the mistakes with punctuation. The stories and stuff will remain the same though. :) This week started out hilarious. We had exchanges which I wasn't thrilled about because everywhere we went this whole week was kinda like a last time. And it is of course better to be with your real companion, but it ended up going well. I told our STL that i should get a certificate of achievement for graduating exchanges hahaha anways, We went out to our far area, and went and taught that old lady I wrote about in a previous email. The kinda crazy one haha. She has this weird attachment to me. We taught her and then when we were done she just started balling. Like it was so sad, but so weird and awkward at the same time! I DIDN"T KNOW what to do! THEN WE GOT up to leave and she grabs me and wouldn't let go and says "HALIKAN MO AKO!" KISS ME! I WAS JUST LIKE UHHH HECK NO> I AM NOT KISSING YOU> I JUST KINDLY TOLD HER NO< WE ARE MISSIONARIES AND Can't do that hahaha. She just kept saying it and i just kept walking towards the door with her grabbing me and her head basically in my armpit cause that is about how tall they are to me. That day, 2 nanays cried that I was leaving and 3 of them said they are gooing to blow up my picture and put it in their home. Some of them are nuts, but I am going to miss them a lot. There is another nanay in our ward named Nanay Pineda. The one that made me the blanket. Haha oh my lanta. This week she surprised me with even more crocheted goodies. But one of them is a hand woven blanket that HER MOTHER MADE IN nineteen twenty FIVE. THE KEYBOARD WON'T LET ME TYPE NUMBERS. SORRY. NONE OF THE WORDS ON THIS EMAIL SHOULD BE CAPitalized. So Yeah she gave me this blanket made my her mother named Crispina Venture. I GUESS YO UCAN"T FIND A BLANKET MADE LIKE THe one she gave me anymore because the way they were made were so unique. They said it will last forever. It just needs a good scrubbin when I get home. This nanay also told me that I SHOULD DEFINITELY HAVE FIFTEEN CHILDREN if god permits and we can support them. Hahaha I was laughing so hard. And, her closing prayer was just praying the life of my future husband and I. I love this woman.
I knkow that I have said before that sometimes on a mission the week starts out good and then when sunday comes around it is sometimes a let down. Well this week was one of those that was just a pure HIGH and no let downs, no lows. We had a few FHEs with our investigators. Like the gabriel family. You can see the pictures. It was one of the funnest nights ever. Because there were so many people there! Ahhh it was the happiest thing. I think my favorite part of the whole night though was when we got there early and I sat down by elorde and norah and just asked them... "How is the word of wisdom?" And both of them looked at me and said, "I haven't drank." "I haven't had coffee." WE TAUGHT THAT THIS WEEK< AND i for sure thought it was going to be a problem. I think I may have starting screaming because I was so happy. SISTER JUST KEPT SAYING< THE MISSIONARIES SAY IT ISN"T GOOD FOR ME< SO WE WILL STOP> HOLY CRAP LADY YOUR FAITH IS THROUGH THE ROOF! THEY HAVE BLESSED MY LIFE SO MUCH AND REality set in when we left their house and I knew i wouldn't be going back... I was so sad. Man. That's all I can say to describe it. Before I left their house I pulled out the picture of the manila philippines temple that we use to teach. I put it up onthere wall and told them that when they go here, I will come back to the Philippines to do it with them. Sister looked at me in shock like REALLY? I said, I promise. And I WILL BE THERE WHEN THAT FAMILY GETS SEALED IN THE TEMPLE< BECAUSE THEY DEFINITELY WILL BE> There was just so much love there in that home with all the members, and the 2 investigator families there. Nanay Pineda even joined us and told me that she is going to write the prophet and thank him for sending me here!!!! Hahaha. Yesterday at church we had 10 INVESTIGATORS THERE... IT WAS SUCH AN AMAZING DAY. CHURCH STARTED LATE, SO WE DIDN'T EVEN GET TO GIVE THE TALKS THAT WE PREPARED.. SO WE JUST BORE OUR TESTIMONY. IT WAS GOOD. IT WAS SPIRITUAL. NO I DIDN'T CRY. :) WE HAVE A TOTAL OF 7 PROGRESSING INVESTIGATORS NOW. DECEMBER IS GOING TO BE AN AMAZING MONTH WITH BAPTISMS. I AM SO GRATEFUL THAT i got to be apart of these people's lives. i coudln't have asked for a better ending week of my mission. it literally was the best. i feel confident in  the way the area is being left. we couldn't have done without god's help. 
So along with the crazy awesome week, we also had interviews. It was a fun day. Us missionaries did the cooking... and when I say us, I mean the other missionaries, and I monitored them hahahaha. It turned out good. President met with each companionship and then each individually. We sit down there as a companionship and start telling him about the gabriel family, and stuff and then he says, "don't worry sister wood, we will send you the picture of their baptism, and then in return we will get your wedding invitation." And then he BURSTS out LAUGHING. President loves his own jokes. He couldn't contain himself. Anyways, that is about the jist of my interview as well. THe APs did  a health training thing since sister barrientos wasn't there and lets just say it was hilarious, and sister would have DIED if she would have been there. 
OF COURSE THIS WEEK HAS BEEN FULL OF SO many emotions. As I have been packing up my stuff thsi week I have been able to go through a lot of my stuff. One of them being all the emails that I have gotten from home. I read one from my mom the other day when she was saying that I ony have 129more days! (SHE has been counting since i left her arms at the mtc) haha, and now, i will see them all in 3 days. I have asked myself somanytimes, where has the time gone? Then I read my favorite email from my dad a while ago where at the end instead of putting love dad or something, ,he just put TAO PO. Haha if you understand tagalog you understand that it is so random and dumb hahaha! I also wanted to express my gratitude to all of you for the continuous support that you have given me while i have been here. i got a letter from a family that is a close neighbor to us and i was just overwhelmed with how amazing the people are in my life. I couldn't have done it without all of you. Thank you so much. 
Last but not least, on november 13 was 8 months for my miller. i wish he was here so i could tell him in person how much i owe him for the help and strength he has been in my life. i think he already knows though. :) i think about him often. i talk about him always. everyone here knows about him. my best friend. he is on the center of my last planner. i see him always! i can just imagine the things and advice and love he would be writing to me right now as i am preparing to go home. but it is okay, because i can certainly feel it. he is carrying on the work. and he has been with me the whole time as well. his name tag on the back of mine. :) he is the first boy to teach me what it truly means to love. he loved with all he had. miller, i love you. we did it. you helped me every step of the way. 
Sister Wood's name badge (front)

Sister Wood's name badge (back) Miller has been with her and close to her heart for the past 8 months

Everyone, this has been the best time for my life. I can honestly say that i can't think of what my life would be like without the experiences i have had. I truly am a completely refine version of myself. I know who I am. I know who God wants me to be. I am nervous to come home. But I am even more excited to apply and live all of the things I have learned here in the mission. I have learned to love. I love the philippines. I love the people. THEY have changed my life. 
This is my last email from the philippines. Thanks to all of those who have been with me along this journey and have read these crazy emails faithfully. I can't wait for my life ahead of me. We all have a purpose here on this earth. Lets find it. :) It's all on the field.
Sister Courtnee Wood
PS: I will post something on my blog when I get home about all the stuff I brought home. THERE ARE SOME things i am aboslutely thrilled about. Stay tuned. :) 
Reppin the Coug's
The cake we made for FHE with the Gabriel Family
FHE with the Gabriel family


Sister Wood entitled this picture. Me texting the ZL's wondering where the heck everyone is since we have interviews at 8 and no one is here. I'm so glad my Mom instilled the importance of being on time in me.