Monday, July 22, 2013

July 22, 2013-It is well with my soul

Queridos Mios! Como le va?
So mom, in answer to your question, the latest news is that I am finally feeling better. 
I haven't been able to hear very well for about a week... with all the swelling and stuff my ears are going crazy.
I started to feel a little sick again last week, but I went in and they prescribed just another antibiotic "the dragon".. que caray.
ps. I'm really sorry about that phone call. The nurse at the desk didn't really understand why I wasn't allowed to call, and then she made it sound like I had died when she called you. lo siento! 
But. I've been using oils and they've done more for me than anything else. Of course. So I actually never went and got the second antibiotic. 
I'm just pumping liquids and 3 capsules a day, and my kidneys are back to functioning I think.
The work must go on! And it will!
How is everything back home? I honestly love hearing about everything. I don't really know where to start with my week, and it's boring just to talk about myself. 
Okay, so apart from all of those technicalities. This week was absolutely AMAZING. We are continuing to learn more than we ever thought was possible. 
We found some more incredible Spanish folks hiding in the woodwork this week. And we were able to get 5 people to church yesterday! Score!
As far as investigators, Carlos is still going strong. We had a lesson this week where he asked us all kinds of amazing questions, he's progressing, reading, praying, honestly his story is incredible! He WALKED here from Honduras when he was 14 years old, and made his way by working at a pizza place until he started his landscaping company at 16. He has so much faith and a sense of purpose and he honestly has the makings of a future general authority!!
Then, this past week, we found two kids, Marcos and Briana! Oh my heart. I love them so. We tracted into them one of the first nights here, but their dad was drunk, and didn't want to talk. But then we were given a referral, a "That house looks Spanish" referral, and so we checked it out. Same family. The dad, once again, was drunk, but the kids had listened to missionaries before, and he told us we could teach them. They're 12 and 7 and amazing! They're so strong and just have this light! We invited them to church, and sang I am a Child of God, and Briana said the sweetest prayer! I couldn't help but feel that these children are raising their dad.
Saturday we went by, helped them get their church clothes clean, do their chores, and we were sitting in the kitchen, and I asked Briana if we could sing again. She said "Hold on! I want to write down the words so I can sing it even when you're not here!" She started to write and Hermana Cooley goes, you spell really well for a 7 year old." She looked up at her "Um, I'm 8." We looked at each other, "What?" "My dad probably just forgot that I had my birthday on June 6! I'm 8!" 
We went by Sunday right before church, and Briana's dad had bought her a new dress, and they were all ready to go, except for he handed me the straightener with a helpless look on his face and said "Here, you finish it." So we finished her hair, got them all ready, and we ran into the door to the church right before they started.
They LOVED church! I handed them paper during sacrament and told them to write down any questions. Briana's first question: "What is an agency and obedience?" Marcos': "If I'm obedient to what God wants me to do, will the result always come out good?"
I just wanted to kiss their little cheeks. They are so great, and if anyone needs the happiness and hope of the gospel in their lives, it's these two! 
I am so humbled every week as I meet people and learn their stories. It never ceases to amaze me the things people go through. But through it all, I know that God is so aware of ALL of his children, and he blesses them with the capacities to withstand. 
I was thinking a lot this week about spiritual gifts, and talents. It's so interesting, especially in missionary work, to see the things that Heavenly Father blesses his children with in life. Some have the gift of being able to rise above even the most difficult of situations To harness that light and hope of Christ and use it to forgive, forget, and move forward with faith. Some have a gift of wisdom, knowledge. Some are gifted with words or writing, while others are gifted listeners.
I was reminded of that book we used to read when I was little "You Are Special". How the people of the town "classified" each other based on how many stars or dots they had. Our gifts are not always as visible as stars or dots. Just like the people in the story, we all have a mix of both as we go throughout this life. But the things that really stand out are the stars. I've thought about that this week as I've met others and gotten to know them. It's so interesting to look for their "stars" to see what makes them unique, what gets them, what they need. 
I thought about how the Master in the story, Eli, tells the Punchinello that "He doesn't make mistakes". Our Maker knows exactly what he's doing. He gives us stars, and dots, too. To help us to learn and to grow. The dots in life make the stars that much brighter and more grand. We all have things to overcome, problems to solve. And we can't do it all on our own. But through the Atonement, we receive the "enabling power" to move forward, to rise above, and to turn those dots to stars. We are HIS children, He knows us so individually, His plan is so perfect, and He LOVES us.
I know this is true. I see the simple words "I Am A Child Of God" change lives every single day. It's changed my life.
I love you all so much.
Thank you for all you do and are for me. I couldn't do this without knowing of the love and support I have from each of you.

Les Quiero Muchisimo!
Your Hermana C

Hermana Cooley says I am the 50's housewife!

Yay!  Finally baked a birthday cake!

Can you say Ahhh to strep!

Thumbs up! after a hospital visit and two rounds of antibiotics without much help, the oils now seem to be helping.
The work must go on!

Adam and Gina Smart-our mission momma and papa!

The family birthday banner, complete!

Monday, July 15, 2013

July 15, 2013 - Sobreviviendo el Tempestad

Sobreviviendo el Tempestad - Surviving the Storm)
It's hard to find words to describe my feelings about this past week. 
I know that I've said before that I've had "learning experience" weeks, but this one definitely takes the cake. 
Thinking about all that happened since this time last week is incredible. I learned so much, and while there were a lot of miserable moments, I wouldn't take it back for anything. As I sit here trying to find words to describe my emotions, I can't even find where to begin. The feelings I've had this past week can hardly be described over email, but I'll try.
The week last week started out with a question, a search for a purpose/the lesson to be learned/ the reason behind all that's happened. Hermana Cooley and I prayed a lot to "Know what our purpose is here, and what we are supposed to be learning." Be careful what you pray for.
This week I learned so much about the Lord's plan, HIS will, and the reality of how perfectly he's got everything figured out. More so than ever before in my life, I was reminded time and time again: "This isn't about you." "You're not in charge." You're going to be fine." "you're stronger than you think." ".... but you're only strong in ME." 
Before my mission I often used the word "fiercely independent" to describe myself. It sounded better than "stubborn to a fault". But out here I've learned that "successful missionary" and "fiercely independent" just cannot co-exist.
I was reminded very UNgently of that this past week. 
Here's a little backtrack story for you:
 (I just realized this might be a little much for some blog readers, but you can make that judgement call)
The week had been one of our best. We were finding tons of new people to teach, we were on-the-go constantly, it was a week without tracting, and we were feeling GREAT!
Mid-way through the week I started to get sick. But I wasn't about ready to "slow down". Push through and it will fix itself, right?
So we kept on pushing. A couple days went by, and Hermana Cooley and the Smarts kept telling me "You're working too hard. It's okay to take a break. If you run yourself into the ground, you won't be helping anyone." In the back of my mind, I knew there was some truth in that. But I had told myself before my mission that unless I was on my death bed, I wasn't taking a sick day. 
The week went on, and while lessons were going great, I knew that something was wrong, and that I was going to have to face the facts and seek help. But I didn't. 
When I walked into the kitchen Friday morning, Sister Smart looked up, and said "If you don't call the mission president and go to the hospital, I WILL call your mother." Did I really look that bad? One glance in the mirror quickly answered my question. But again, my stubbornness got the best of me. "I'll be fine. And if I'm dead by Monday, then you can call President Choi." Neither of them really satisfied with that answer, I told them that I wanted to try and stick it out until Monday, and promised that if I wasn't better I would call President Choi. 
Well, we pounded the pavement Friday, and by dinner I was shaking and fevered. So we came home for dinner and I asked Brother Smart for a blessing. In it he told me that it was good to work hard, but that I needed to understand when it was time to seek help, and allow myself to rest. Hmm. Well, after the blessing, I felt a little better, and again, we went out to work.
Saturday was worse. I couldn't sleep, sit, stand, eat, or move. Every position was painful. But for some reason, I still just couldn't get over my pride. So I pretended to be better.
Sunday we had church, I "endured" through the meetings, and then we had an awesome lesson with Carlos! The guy we found on the 4th of July. I wasn't missing that! So we took a member to the lesson, and it was AWESOME! I literally forgot how terrible I was feeling for that hour.
Then, before the night was over, I wanted to go check on Guillermo. We had a quick chat with him, but as we were standing there, it hit me again, and a voice in my head said "Okay, time to go." We said a prayer, said goodbye, and by the time we got to the car, I was burning with fever, and my voice was completely gone.
We drove home, and I finally had to face it. We called President Choi and since it was Sunday, he admitted me to the hospital first thing in the morning. 
Hermana Cooley can attest, Sunday night was the longest night of our lives. Neither of us got more than an hour of restless sleep. My throat was too constricted to breathe, and I couldn't swallow, I was scared to sleep, and I honestly don't remember feeling completely "with it" for any part of the night. All I remember is praying. Praying a lot that this wouldn't be something serious. 
....Okay, so to make a long story, less long....
We spent Monday morning at the hospital, running tests, and trying our best to explain (without my voice) my symptoms and what had happened. With an unofficial diagnosis of systemic strep (that i had let become very out of hand as it had spread to my kidneys), the less-than-helpful doctor sent me home with a prescription order, and a demand to sleep, drink (if possible), and wait for the test results. 
Leaving I wasn't sure how to feel. I slumped into the car seat, feeling very defeated and broken. 1. I was upset that we couldn't go out and work. 2. I was exhausted, and too delirious to really think what I wanted. 3. I was upset that I'd let it get this bad. 4. overall I just felt like me being sick was going to hinder our "finding our purpose".
But as we drove home, our district leader texted something that made me pause and re-evaluate my attitude: "Hermana Cox, how blessed you are that you are counted worthy to stand with those who struggle and suffer for Christ! You are and always will be in the hands of God, and let not your sorrows weigh thee down to death. He will not leave you comfortless."
I immediately felt this sense of relief and guilt all at one. I was relieved by the sense of love, and understanding, but at the same time I felt a little guilty that I'd murmured. 
In that moment I made up my mind to try and understand what it meant to "struggle and suffer for Christ". 
The first scripture I opened to was 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
"And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore I will glory in my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distress for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then I am strong."
I love the scriptures! I love this idea of "taking pleasure" in the opportunity that infirmities and trials allow us to, on a very small scale, feel what Christ felt. To be able to literally stand side-by-side with him. 
Then I was led to Deuteronomy 8:2: "And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee in the humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart..." There is a wise process, sometimes we have to be compelled to be humble.
D&C 136:31: "My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom."
His glory is SO much greater than anything we ever could imagine. We're never going to get to where he wants us and say "eh, actually, I think my plan was better." no. So we need to trust in him, follow him, completely submit to him, even when we can't see the way.
The Lord never allows us to suffer without a reason. There is always a lesson to be learned, changes to be made, blessings to be had. No worthwhile change is ever comfortable, growth is never convenient. But he is the master planner, and sees us as the beings we are capable of becoming. 
I know more than ever that it is ONLY through the Atonement of Jesus Christ that we can receive the mercy and grace we need to withstand the refiners fire and shake off the chains that hold us. I have been so humbled and brought to a new level of gratitude this week for the sacrifices of my Savior and older brother. His grace is sufficient when there is nothing else. I know that He lives, and that He has the power to transform us. To "change our very natures". It is only when we truly choose to "Come and see" for ourselves, and allow his power to work in our lives, that we can truly be buoyed up by the enabling power of the Atonement and feel the saving effects of his love.
I love you all so much! I hope you're having a good week, and staying cool in the crazy summer heat. 
until next week. 
Les Quiero!
xoxox Your Hermana Cox

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 8, 2013 -"So what do I have to do to be a Mormon?"

Hola Familia!
I feel like I was just saying that. This week seriously was a blur. I'll be honest, it's really starting to hit me how short our time is out here.
This was the first official week of the NEW Washington Seattle Mission. President and Sister Larkin left Monday morning, and the new President and wife arrived on Monday afternoon, Federal Way, and Kent became a whole new mission, and everything changed as we knew it.
We had a mini zone conference on Thursday and got to meet President and Sister Choi. They are AMAZING! They're from Korea, and he's a member of the Seventy. They've been living in Utah. The minute I met them, I could just feel so much love and genuine concern for all of us.
Everyone in the Washington Seattle mission was a little bit apprehensive about meeting a new mission president (not us, because hey, nothing is really going how we expected it, and big changes are the norm.). But he was super loving and just got right down to work, put everyone in line, and he's actually really hilarious, which none of us were expecting.
This past week we had exchanges, and the sister training leader, Hermana Hill came to check out Hermana Cooley and I and the work in May Valley. She is in the last transfer of her mission, going home in 3 weeks, and talking to her about everything made me understand how it really does fly!
It was SO great to finally be able to spend some time working with an "experienced" missionary. Because, let's be honest, up to this point I literally have just been kind of creating my own "way". I learned so much from her, and I have so many new goals of what I want to accomplish while I'm out here. It was also comforting to realize that, in the most non-prideful way possible, I actually have managed to kind of figure out how to be a missionary despite my lack of training and experience. Even within the same mission, everyone's experiences are so different, and everyone has talents and skill sets that help them to get it done. That's the beautiful thing about companionship's.
This week was another one for the books. We somehow hit the jackpot with finding people to teach. We had 23 lessons this week! The goal is usually 20, which I hadn't had on my mission so far, and starting out the week, I wouldn't have thought it was possible, but miracles are SO real!  My favorite actually happened on the 4th of July. We were having the hardest time finding people at home, you'd think everyone had other things to do! We literally hadn't talked to anyone all day, but then we decided to go check on this house that someone had mentioned to us because they'd heard "Mariachi" music. Ha. So we knocked on the door, and this guy Carlos answered the door. He started talking to us in English, so we started speaking Spanish. As usual, he was a little surprised at these two white girls on his porch, but we explained who we were, and he got really excited and came out to talk. He told us that he has an aunt that's a member in Honduras, and that he has a lot of questions about the church. So we answered some of them, and taught him lesson 1 about the Restoration. He asked so many good questions, and really just was SO prepared! Then he turns to us and says "So what do I have to do to be a Mormon?"
Hmmm, well, let us tell you! Long story short, we talked about baptism, and set up another appointment, we went back yesterday with a member, and had another AWESOME lesson. He is so great! He's reading the Book of Mormon, coming to church this week, and honestly is just so ready for the gospel in his life! And, second bit of great news, he has an 8 year old son!! God is a God of MIRACLES!
It's amazing how with obedience, hard work, and A LOT of help from the Lord, we, as young missionaries, are able to make things happen out of seemingly impossible situations. My testimony of this work grows so much as I realize how every day is full of little glimpses of the Lord's hand in my life and in the lives of all of his children. He loves each and every one of us so much, and he wants us ALL back. I am amazed every day at this blessing and great opportunity I have to go out and find the "lost sheep" and help build the kingdom.
Muchisimas Gracias for all the pictures! Stop growing brothers, seriously I'm shrinking by the minute. The cabin pictures were Gorgeous! I have to say, I had a itsy-bitsy homesick moment on the 4th when we were on lock down and I was longing to be laying on a blanket in Jackson watching Mile-wide fireworks. Nothing compares. Although the neighbors nearly burned the house down, so that was a bit of a rush. 

Well, I love you all so much!
Until next week.

Les Quiero Muchisimo!
xoxo Your Hermana C

VISA waiters on the 4th!

Hermana Hill

This is our firework show from the upstairs window. Good times. 
The skies in WA are so pretty!

Monday, July 1, 2013

July 1, 2013 - "I will not forget thee..."

Hola, Como Estan? Como le va con ustedes?
How is everything? Are you all staying cool? I hear that it's been quite a scorcher there in Utah? It's been ridiculously hot here in Seattle, too. Unusually so for June, and guess what? Since they usually only have a few semi-summer days, no one has air conditioning. It's good practice for Argentina though.
I have so much to say about this week. First of all, it was one of the most "growth-promoting" weeks of my mission thus far.
On Wednesday I had one of the hardest days. I woke up and during the day just did not feel like myself. My drive was kind of lacking, and I just didn't have my usual desire to do things. Then came time for studies, and as I knelt down to pray, I had no desire, and the words wouldn't come. The longer I sat there, the more my thoughts spun out of control, and it was literally like I COULD NOT pray, or breathe.
Needless to say, the morning did not go well. Then it came time for companionship study, and Hermana Cooley could tell that something was up, this was so not like me. 
I told her how I was feeling, and she told me that she had been feeling frustrated, too. The main thing was we just hadn't had a whole lot of luck finding people to teach. The area is so spread out, and people literally "laugh us to scorn" when we tell them we're looking for Spanish people in this area. 
It's hard to go day in and day out wondering what purpose it is that you're supposed to be fulfilling. It's not that I don't have faith in the Lord's plan, but I'll be honest, my thoughts began to wander. Why am I here in May Valley, WA instead of Argentina? Why are Hermana Cooley and I, brand new missionaries, whitewashed into an area, called to speak Spanish, with no Spanish people. President Larkin basically told us this week that he "Had to get us back in the Seattle mission, and since we're both visa waiters, put us together and put us in May Valley." "I know there aren't a lot of Spanish opportunities," he said "But keep looking." Here we go back to my lack of faith moment. When your key-holder tells you that, it's a little hard not to wonder about the purpose of it all. On top of that, when we got assigned to May Valley, people kept saying "OH, that's ZION!" "You're so lucky!" And to be honest, this week, we just couldn't see it. 
So we came together and prayed, and then felt like we needed to read D&C 100. 
in v. 1-2 "Your family is well, they are in mine hands... in me there is all power" "follow me..."
v.3: "...I have much people in this place...and an effectual door shall be opened..."
v.4: "Therefore, I the Lord, have suffered you to come into this placefor thus it is expedient in me for the salvation of souls." (I am exactly where I need to be.)
v.5: "lift up your voices...speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts, and you shall not be confounded before men." (Just speak, to everyone. lift up your voice, testify, face your fears, get over what you think is "the way" to do the work)
v.6: " shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment what ye shall say."
v.8: "and I give unto you this promise, that inasmuch as ye do this the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say."
v.9: "and it is expedient in me that you, my servant [Courtney], should be a spokesman unto this people; yea, verily, I will ordain you unto this calling.
v. 12: "Therefore, continue in your journey and let your heart rejoice; for behold, and lo, I am with you even unto the end."
v. 13: "Zion shall be redeemed, although she is chastened for a little season..."
v. 15: "Therefore, let your hearts be comfortedfor all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly..."

Once again we were reminded of the perfection in the plan of the Lord and how he knows exactly what he's doing. There is always a wise purpose. I'm not just thrown somewhere to suffer. Right after that I opened to 1 Nephi 21: 14-15
"Behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me- but he will show that he hath not."
"I will not forget thee...behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands..."
I read the talk by Elder Holland this week about The Atonement and Missionary Work. I was once again completely overwhelmed by the love that the Savior has for me so individually and for every one of his children, wherever in the world they may be. Salvation isn't easy, and as such, this work isn't easy. My heart breaks at the thought of so many of God's children rejecting a message that could bring them greater glory than they can even imagine. Every day as we talk with and teach the people, in all their walks of life, I have this great love for them. And I am amazed at how quickly it comes sometimes, some are easier than others, but I've formed relationships of trust, love, and genuine concern with the most unlikely looking people.
I've realized this week more than ever how much I need my Savior to show me how to do this work. Sometimes he brings us down to the lowest of the low to lift us, his way, not by means of our own strength or merit.
As I was sitting talking with Hermana Cooley, I was reminded of a letter that dad sent me a couple weeks ago with a quote from C.S. Lewis:
"Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that these jobs needed doing, and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of- throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself."
I am FAR from being a palace. But God is the architect, and a lot of times HIS plans don't, and won't, make sense to our very human minds. But I made a promise to be the missionary He wants. And more often than not that means walking by faith rather than sight.
I love this work, and I'm grateful for weeks like this that allow me, in the smallest of ways, to feel somewhat of what the Savior feels for his children, and to be able to understand that I am never alone, never forgotten, and that these moments are just that...moments.
I love you all, and hope that you have a good week.
Les Quiero, muchisimo.
xoxo Your Hermana Courtney

July 1, 2013 Q and A's

1. What are the names of members you are living with and info about them?
The members we live with are Adam and Gina Smart. And they are FANTASTIC!! Gina is a convert, and her testimony is Awesome! And Adam is an early morning seminary teacher and super great! They actually remind me so much of you and dad! It's crazy sometimes the things that Brother Smart says, I feel right at home! And from day one he's had this total Fatherly Love overload thing. They weren't prepared to have missionaries come and stay, and were only planning on keeping us until someone else offered to take us off their hands, but as of yesterday, they told us that they love us and they're wanting to keep us around. which is good, we love them!
2. Can you just buy a reusable grocery bag at the store?  I was going to mail you some, however, the mail is so slow, I didn't want you to have to wait! Sister Smart actually gave us one, and we've just been taking a couple trips from the car to the house, it's no big deal really.
3.How does the monthly money work?  Well, since we're visa waiters, we didn't get monthly money cards like everyone else, so we're waiting for the AP, who has his hands full, to bring us our Money.
4.Could you please translate your following sentences for us.  We are just wondering each letter what it all means?(and Google translate doesn't transfer over exactly?)
Para Siempre Dios Este Con Vos = God be with you till we meet again!
Hasta Luego= (until later) see you later
Con mucho amor= with much love/all my love
Hola Mis Queridos = Hello My Darlings/Dears
Translations are kind of funny and different sometimes, not direct.
5. What day is P-day and what do you do on that day? P-days are Monday. But as of right now in my mission I've only had about 2 "regular" p-days. Crazy things are happening out here in Seattle, and with all the changes, the schedule varies widely.
6. How are your clothes holding up?  Are you good now on shoes?  Do you need any more oils before you leave the country?  OR any thing else that we can TRY and get in a package to you before you leave Seattle?
I'm good on clothes I think... Shoes are good. I'm just going to have to play it by ear. There's no way of knowing here what I'm really going to need....
7.What are you doing for the 4th of July? We're not sure. Probably just another regular day. sometimes in the past they've had lock-downs, but we don't think they will. Our new mission president gets here today, so we'll see if anything changes... it doesn't get dark enough before our curfew, so no fireworks for us. Light some for me, ok?