Monday, January 25, 2016

The last melon

Ahoy from Iowa! (for the last time...)
This past week we were supposed to go to the temple on Tueday, but Iowa weather (aka snow) got in the way. We went on Thursday instead which was way better because it was in the 20s and there was no snow on the road! I drove the whole way to Nauvoo and back. Probs over 500 miles. Among learning to love the gospel to a greater degree on my mission I have also come to love extremely long drives. The temple was perfect because naturally, I was kinda freaking out about going home. But now I'm all good. I'm super stoked for weather in the 70s and dirty tacos!
Last night I found a huge pile of snow. Climbed it. Grabbed my coat real tight and slid down! It was fun. About the biggest adrenaline rush I've had as a missionary.
Also, for the first 12 transfers of my mission I spoke in sacrament meeting a grand total of one time. In this last transfer, the big 13, I've spoken twice! I spoke yesterday to the Boone Ward. Ah I love them all so so much. Good thing someone talked real long and all I had time to do was bear my testimony, cause I might have started to shed a tear!
The truths of the restored gospel that I have come to know, love, and live have been incredible as I have served here in the Iowa Des Moines Mission. It has been insanely awesome to see the outcome of following the teachings of the spirit. Something that I am so grateful to have learned is that this life is not really about having fun, it's all about JOY! I love that word! "Men are that they might have joy." Sure, it's always good to run on huge piles of snow or have a good laugh, but there is more to us being here. Our Father in Heaven would have us experience joy by keeping His commandments and serving His children. Pure joy endures the storms of life, it is the sweet fruit of righteous gospel living. 
I have also come to know, by the spirit, that the gospel is not about convenience. It never has been and never will be. Living the gospel is not easy, but it is entirely worth it! It was never easy for Christ; it was not terribly convenient to perform an infinite and eternal atonement. If we live our lives doing only what is convenient  we will fall into the adversary's trap of complacency. We will reach only as far as we can, as we lay on the couch, watching Netflix, and eating an entire family sized bag of Doritos. To reach our heavenly potential, it is vital that we do that which is inconvenient, yet eternally important. Elder M. Russell Ballard backs me up, "there is no spiritual power in living by convenience" and Elder Neil L. Andersen is on on it too, "Life is no spiritual picnic!"
Father in Heaven's love is perfect, steadfast, and eternal. Jesus is the Christ,  the Good Shepherd, our Advocate. The Holy Ghost will comfort, enlighten, and direct us exactly as Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ would. What an amazing gift! 
I love Iowa with all my heart! I'm going to go back to California and none of you will quite understand why cold, flat, and snowy Iowa is so stinking awesome! It's ok though, just nod your head and act interested when I tell my mission stories for the first two weeks, because I'll have nothing else to talk about. 
Ok, the ramble is done (I've become an Iowa talker :/). 
Love y'all,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, January 18, 2016

Friends of Joseph Smith welcome

If you know Courtney, you know that this is no small miracle that she is bowling.

So on Sunday it didn't get above 0 degrees. The snow is so frozen that we walk on top of it. We don't kick rocks, we kick ice chunks. And I never thought I'd despise yellow snow as much as I do, it's disgusting and never goes away. (That sounded extremely negative. Not my intention!) It's a lovely 7 degrees out today! There you go. 
So this past week I participated in my last Mission Leadership Council. That was tender, and weird. I also had my last exchange with sisters. Man, all these "lasts" are making me trunky! It's a joke, don't worry. I'm working hard and having a ton of fun! Tomorrow all the departing missionaries go to the Nauvoo Temple! It's an all day trip and it should be a blast.
This past week we went out way into the country to visit a less active lady with Sister Higgs, our Relief Society President. On out way back there had been some snow, so naturally it was blowing around! It was blowing across the road so thick that it looked like a white sheet continuously being dragged across the highway. It was super cool and kinda eerie looking cause it also looked like fingers of fog running to go poison someone like a scary movie. I don't know if that makes any sense, but it looked cool to see the snow flow across the road!
I have heard from the sisters in Des Moines, that my recent convert, Sylvia, is on fire for Jesus! She has a picture of Joseph Smith on her door with a sign that says "Friends of Joseph Smith welcome!" It's the greatest! I receive letters from her as well and she just shares her testimony of the restoration with everyone! She said that it fills her with the spirit and joy. It's so true, we will have the spirit with us more often and we will feel true joy as we share the gospel freely!
Something super cool that I have learned from my mission are the principles of sacrifice and consecration. I know that like Neal A. Maxwell said "Consecration is the only surrender which is also a victory." I have learned to give my Father in Heaven the only thing that He cannot take. My will. My agency. It is a precious thing to us all, the power to make choices. But I strive to not act except under the influence of the spirit, and the results are amazing! I hope and pray that I can continue to surrender my will to my Father's. I know that as we put our agency on the altar that the Lord will make far more out of us than we can ourselves. He will mold, shape, stretch, and pound us into a masterpiece. A perfect tool in His hands!
Love y'all,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, January 11, 2016

illuminated mind in 5 degree weather

Nice warm high of 7

So this weekend was cold! Yesterday the high was 7. Yup. A windchill brought it down to -12. It's a real thing folks! We couldn't knock doors because we were close to getting frostbite. Well, we braved it on Saturday, knocking a few doors then scurrying back to the car to thaw a bit. 
On Tuesday we had Zone Conference in Des Moines which was sweet! Our skit was a fail. But at least we thought it was funny! It was pretty strange giving my departing testimony, but even stranger to have my departing interview with President and hear him talk marriage advice! We'll just leave it at that.
This past week we were at a members' house out in the country and the kids were playing rodeo! Two were cows and the other had a legit rope and they ran around the house. It was the best. Boots and buckles were included as well. 
Random side note. At home, stewing all day in our crock pot, are Little Smokies smothered in BBQ sauce. Aw yeah! Plus also, today is Zone Pday in Ames. I'm about to get on my bowling shoes and beat some elders!
Seeing as I only have three more opportunities for a spiritual rant, I'll be sharing some of my most prized bits o' wisdom that I have learned over the last 18 months.
If you don't already know, I love love!! This past week I made the connection that when our love is pure and Christlike the spirit will guide and illuminate our minds. This past week we went on two exchanges and both sisters I was with were facing trials. Both situations pretty intense, they were things that I have not faced myself.  After they had dumped their grief, I felt that I had nothing. Nothing to console or counsel. But quickly as I relied on the spirit analogies about the huge chocolate cake in Matilda came to my mind, encouraging words filled my mouth, and comfort over the phone was real as we both felt the spirit. It was an amazing experience being able to help the sisters. I love them and sincerely wish for their joy and success!
It is an insanely true principle that perfect love is the dopest vehicle for the spirit to guide and comfort. I know that when we flood our lives with charity, that pure love, that we will never be led astray. For it is the Spirit that will be our constant guide.
Love y'all,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, January 4, 2016

meatloaf and car pushing

So I forgot to mention last week, but for Christmas dinners we had some beyond classic Iowa dishes, it was the greatest. For Christmas Eve we had deer roast and on Christmas day we had two meals, both of which consisted of meatloaf! The best.
This past week was another noteworthy holiday that is not so noteworthy as a missionary, New Years Eve! We got some Martinelli's and Italian soda from the grocery store across the street, made some been dip, and created props for our district skit. It was quite the night.
This Tuesday we have zone conference in Des Moines. Usually we have a fun Christmas Zone conference when we do skits and watch a movie after receiving some training. Elder Martino came in December so we are having our fun Zone Conference for New Years instead. President and Sister Jensen never want to skip out on a little fun. Unfortunately on Tuesday I have to give my departing testimony and have my departing interview with President! It's all coming too fast! Something tells me I'll survive though.
This past week we got a bit of snow and on exchanges our poor little red Toyota Carolla got stuck in the snow. Three sister were out there trying to push as I steered when a truck stopped to help. Out jumped two young men who looked like they could be in a band and they pushed us right out of the snow. Then later in the day Sister Whipple and I stopped and did the same for someone else. It was so fun to help that guy because we knew exactly how he felt! 
It was the light of Christ that motivated those two young men to stop and help us. It was the light of Christ and the Holy Ghost that brought joy to our hearts as we pushed that random guy in his little car out of the snow later in the day. I am so grateful for the light of Christ and the Holy Ghost that always motivate and inspire us to do good continually. Pray for and seek those opportunities to do good. Your efforts and service will yield light! In turn, the same light that will motivate others to turn to Christ.
This spiritual ramble was not my best performance. Jesus loves you, don't forget it!
Love y'all,
Sister Skaggs  

December 27th, 2015

Merry late Christmas everybody! I failed to even mention the blessed holiday last week. Sorry? Here in Boone we got 3 inches of snow on Thursday so we had a beautiful WHITE CHRISTMAS! My first ever. It was the best. I really like the snow, that is of course unless I have to shovel it. 
This past week we found a new investigator who actually came to church! He's on date to be baptized, but the weirdest thing is that his date is after I go home. So strange! So pray that Marco can quit smoking so he can be baptized before I leave the frozen tundra. 
When it snows a substantial bit they pile it up in the parking lots. I sent a picture of that home last year. Well, Sister Goring and I were feeling adventurous and climbed and ran and jumped all over a snow pile that was probably a good ten feet tall. It's currently dumping 12 inches outside and blowing it every which way, so one can expect more climbing, running, and jumping. 
On Thursday we had district meeting in Fort Dodge. We drove home in the aftermath of the 3 inches of snow. It was wet snow so it stuck to everything! It was on every twig and branch of the trees, on the telephone wires, and it blanketed the fields for miles. As my companion dozed off I just watched the beautiful Iowa countryside. It was a legit winter wonderland as I drove through river gorges and under huge white trees. I thought of Dieter F Uchtdorf's talk in the general women's meeting when he said  “There is enough that doesn’t go right in life, so anyone can work themselves into a puddle of pessimism and a mess of melancholy. But I know people who, even when things don’t work out, focus on the wonders and miracles of life. These folks are the happiest people I know.” The Iowa countryside blanketed and decorated with snow truly is a wonder. How grateful I am for a Father in Heaven who provides wonders for us to adore. When we recognize them it impossible for us to not feel His love and spirit. Truly His hand is in everything and we have so many reasons to rejoice!
Love y'all,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, December 21, 2015

"well that's random"...and it's not the unicorn.

This is Courtney's Christmas pinata. 

The trio is dead here in Boone! At church people asked multiple times "oh, so there's only two of you now" and "where's the other one?" 
My new companion is Sister Goring from Logan, Utah! She's old in the mission too, 15 months, so it was nice to hear people tell her she's almost done instead of those cutting comments coming my way! Sister Goring and I have a lot of fun already. She likes quoting movies and talking in a Russian accent. She's a gem.
Yesterday we felt the love of Father in Heaven so so much! A sister in the ward told us to grab our car keys and follow her outside. We followed her out to her car and she gave us three big bags full of presents! Of course we opened them when we got home. We're stocked on candy and snacks until 2016! Then later in the day some random guy we talked to came driving by us in his car later on and forced money into our hands to "go buy a burger or something." He didn't have food to give us but he wanted us to get something to eat. Then at night in a members home they found out we didn't have plans for Christmas Eve. On the spot she invited us and our recent convert, Robert, to Christmas Eve dinner! 
I remember opening my mission call and thinking "well that's random." But no longer is Iowa a random place. Rather, it has a huge spot in my heart! I am reminded of how the waters of Mormon were "beautiful... to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer." For all we know the Waters of Mormon could have been a muddy pond in the middle of corn fields... but the place was beautiful to those people that came to know their Savior there! I share the same sentiment about wonderful Iowa as those people did about the Waters of Mormon. 
I love Iowa. It is the place that I have learned of my Savior more than I could possibly imagine. It saddens me that in six short weeks I will be in California and no one will quite understand why Iowa is so stinking awesome! I know that we all have our personal "Waters of Mormon" though. Places that will always have a piece of our heart because we have come to the knowledge of our Redeemer there.
And if you don't have some "random" place that has a special spot in your heart, move to Iowa! That spot will get filled real fast. 
Love y'all,
Sister Skaggs 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Sister Sewer Climber Skaggs

Courtney shows her love for her companions by climbing down drains.

Dressed up for a Night in Bethlahem

So President Jensen called this morning... dun dun dun. Sister McKinstry and Sister Beattie will be packing their worldly possessions and will take them to transfer meeting on Thursday as they move on to new adventures. As for myself, I have contracted leprosy and will die here in Boone. No, I will not literally die, nor have I literally contracted leprosy... but I will stay in Boone for my final transfer and figuratively die as a missionary. 
This past week we were blessed to have Elder Martino of the Seventy here in our mission. It was really crazy and we traveled a ton, but we had Mission Leadership Council and Mission Tour, and it was dope! It is always an amazing blessing to be instructed by the brethren. He got us pumped to work with members to find people to teach and his testimony of the living reality of our Savior and His church was uber powerful. It really was just what I and our mission needed. We're ready to end the year strong!
On Thursday night, after a long day going to Iowa City for MLC, we got home and we unloaded all of our personal belongings from the car. I was walking to the door of our apartment and I hear Sister McKinstry yell, "Oh no!!!" I turned around and she said, "My boot just fell down the hole!" I was super confused and she said "my boot, it fell down the drain thingy." Sure enough, her boot fell into the storm drain that was conveniently placed in the curb adjacent to the trunk of our car. After a long discussion of what to do and some pretty strong apprehension about my proposed plan of attack, we pulled off the heavy metal grate, grabbed some flashlights and I climbed down the ten foot brick sewer shaft! Sure enough her boot was sitting at the bottom, and with the help of the maintenance man, Tim, I climbed back out of the whole. All I could think was, "Wow this is the best mission story I have" and "I bet my Momma would be proud!" So there you have it, I am Sister sewer climber Skaggs.
All really good stories aside, this past week was pretty rough in terms of teaching the restored gospel to people who actually want to listen and will do something about this awesome message. Our numbers were low and last night we lamented over the fact that no one wants to come to church and how we have "investigators." But then the spirit slapped me and reminded me how blessed we have been! Robert was baptized this transfer, the sisters in the Ames stake collectively had eleven baptisms this transfer, and our district of four companionships had seven! the spirit also brought to my remembrance that a family of four I contacted on exchanges last transfer are now well on their way to all being baptized and they are beyond solid!
I tell you about these things not to boast or say "look at what we've done". But rather to prove the point that Satan would always have us feel discouraged, disappointed, and low and on the other hand, the Holy Ghost works to inspire, uplift, and encourage. Our Father in Heaven is proud of our accomplishments, he wants us to move forward in faith and build on those things that we have done well in the past. I'm excited for this coming transfer and for the miracles that Father in Heaven has in store for our area!
Love y'all,
Sister Skaggs