Monday, December 29, 2014

Courtney's Christmas Spirit

                   Delivering cookies on Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas to yall! I hope it was a good holiday with family, friends, food, festivities, faith, and fun! I had a great Christmas here in Kirksville and we spent a lot of time with members. It was such a blessing to skype with my family and see how much my nephew John has grown! It was a supper low key Christmas, a perfect one to remember the birth of our Savior and keep Him on my mind throughout the day. On Christmas Eve we went to the Davis', an awesome family in our ward. they have a tradition to turn of the lights, sit on the floor, and eat foods that Christ would have eaten for dinner by candlelight. It was super fun as we passed around fish, nuts, cheese, olives, and some pita bread. After skyping with my family the next day we went to a member's house, Sister Jenson. She is totally rad and had a craft for us to do! I will send a picture in the next week or so when it's completed. We then made biscuits and gravy for dinner from Sister Paul's family recipe. So good! We were stuffed with goodness and I slept like a baby.
Something interesting happened was that a couple of weeks ago, I was asked to lead the music for our Zone Training Meeting. If you know me at all, you know I do not have the knack for the musical talent of singing, let alone leading music in front of 20 plus people! Well that was a couple weeks ago and I managed. This week, our district leader asked me to lead music for District Meeting! "What is goin on here?!" is exactly what I thought. I got through it without losing my place or messing up the pattern in the sky, thankfully. I guess the Lord is wanting me to develop some new talents!
Yesterday at church I had a really great experience as I listened to a young twelve year old boy address the congregation. He was giving a talk on prayer and was really doing a great job as he referenced scriptures and quotes, and shared a personal story. I was listening intently and realized almost suddenly the power of the Holy Ghost. It was a strong feeling, one that confirmed the truthfulness of the message of this young and squirmy deacon. The spirit testifies of truth, whether the prophet or a twelve year old boy is speaking. I have felt the spirit in homes that have nick knacks and dog hair overwhelming the senses and in homes where there isn't a pillow missing on the couch and family pictures adorn the walls. I have felt the spirit as I have boldly testified of God's love and as I have been turned away at the door as I testify of latter-day prophets. The Holy Ghost enters in where truth is found. May we strive to find truth, embrace truth, and live the truths we know so as to receive more fully and more often the sweet manifestations of that member of the Godhead, even the Holy Spirit.
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, December 22, 2014

For unto YOU...

Merry Christmas week!! Oh man am I excited as ever, I feel like a little kid again and I haven't even thought about the presents that came in the mail a few days ago! I just love this Christmas spirit that is going around like influenza a. Seriously though, that flu is ravaging the Kirksville schools, or so we hear. Good thing I got my flu shot! And there you go, I'm rambling about local disease outbreaks. Onto more important things. It snowed last Thursday but it's gotten to a lovely climate here in Missouri, up the 40s and drizzling!
Onto even more important news, really. This past week we had Zone Training Meeting in Quincy, Illinois this past week and that was a treat cause the Assistants were there with a totally rad training on the qualifications for baptism. Moral of the story, the Lord does not have a nice little measuring stick and does not say, "oops, your spirituality and knowledge has gotta be this tall to be baptized, sorry." Nope. They are qualifications vary with everyone, that's why an 8 year old and a 50 year old with a doctorate degree can be baptized! It might be boring to you to read, but it was amazing for us missionaries to realize and it helped Sister Paul and I so much. 
There is a valuable lesson I wanna share that surrounds the birth of Jesus the Christ. In Luke chapter 2 verse 11 an angel appears to shepherds as they watch their flocks. There are so many lessons to be learned from this encounter, but in verse 11 the angel says "For unto YOU is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." The angel chose to use the word you. Interesting if you think about it. He could have said "unto the world" or "unto mankind." but he didn't, he said "you." That is a direct and personal word. The Savior, our Savior, Jesus Christ came for YOU. From his very being as a premortal spirit, to his first breath as a little baby, to his death and ministry in the heavens, He came for YOU. It is an amazing blessing and very near unfathomable to realize that one man existed for the whole world and for each and every one of us, very personally. May we remember who came to the earth for us. Forget the presents, lights, and fruit cake for a good fifteen minutes please. Or longer, which would be better. Remember Him who came for YOU, for He truly is the THE GIFT. 
God bless you all this Christmas season,
Sister Skaggs
Post Script. 
see it and share it with everyone!

Monday, December 15, 2014

learning about forgiving others

Whoa not much time left! This will have to be a quick one.
This past week was great as we went to Nauvoo for a Christmas Zone Conference! There were three zones there and it was such a good time. We heard some trainings, ate a delicious lunch, each district performed skits, and we watched the movie Ephraim's Rescue. That was an all day ordeal and then we came back to Kirksville to attend a community Christmas concert held at the church building (of course we played Dead Thing on our drive home. That game is a great way to get to know the wildlife in an area). Us missionaries were all almost falling asleep!Saturday morning we helped with the Primary Christmas activity and in the afternoon helped set up for the ward Christmas dinner! We spent all day at the church building! It was such a fun day full of service to the ward and I loved it.
Ealier in the week we met with Maria and she told us to go to the Mexican restaurant her son owns to meet him and his kids. They were totally rad and hopefully we will be able to teach them soon or have them come to church with Maria!
I want to try and explain something that the spirit taught me this week in my studies. It's about spiritual progression and one of the greatest hinderences to that most valuable progress. Simply put, holding grudges, seeking revenge, and not forgiving others is one of the greatest detriments to spiritual progression. When we do these things we are in bondage, unable to move forward because we are to preoccupied with the past to even be able to see where to take the next step. This is exactly how Satan feels. His plan in the premortal realm was rejected and so he acted out in rage. The dude hasn't gotten past it and is so obviously miserable. He is spiritually damned and because of his pride he won't ever be able to move forward. It was interesting to realize that Satan, the author of contention and misery, is holding onto a grudge and seeking revenge. Moral of the story is, move forward, look forward, and don't hold on to the past. Our Father in Heaven's nature is starkly different to that of our lost brother. He wants us to be happy, let go of things in the past, and move forward in faith on our spiritual path to return to Him. It is my prayer that we strive to be like Nephi who "frankly [forgave]" his wicked brethren as we seek for constant spiritual progression.
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, December 8, 2014

He is the Gift

Hey so this past week was a sweet one! The work is moving forward here in Kirksville as we found some new investigators, committed another to a date to be baptized (Maria), and Ryan came to church! You have no idea how big of a miracle that was. I think I've mentioned Ryan before, he's a young boy who is the son of a less active member. He is so great. Ryan's mom said they wouldn't be able to come to church because they had visits from Ryan's brother all day. Sister Paul and I were bummed again that we wouldn't have anyone at church. We walked outside to put some free limes that we had snatched into our car. I looked over across the parking lot and recognized a car of one of the friends of Ryan's family. I thought it was strange until I looked closer and there in the back seat was a little blonde haired kid flailing his arms waving at us and smiling ear to ear! We walked over to the car and he busted out of the door to the church building. He was so happy and excited to be at church and see his friends. He sat next to us and I taught him about the sacrament as it was being blessed and passed. It was such a sweet experience and a joy to have him at church!
This past Saturday we got pass along cards for He is The Gift! Sister Paul and I are so excited to use them in our finding efforts. If you haven't seen the film or don't know what it is, click on the link that should be on the He is The Gift that I just typed. I am so excited to be a missionary at this time of year as we celebrate the birth of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. I noticed that people talk a lot about the "Christmas spirit" and how everyone is so much more happy and nice and how everything is honkie dory because of presents, food, and more food. False. Everything is great because Christ's name is being said at an increasing rate as the month goes on, people are singing his name is praises, and others are setting up nativity scenes on their front lawn. The light of Christ is at an all time high on the earth during the month of December. It's not the presents, honey baked hams, and sitting on Santa's lap that is the Christmas spirit. No. It is the spirit of Christ. And it is in abundance. For that reason I am more than elated to be a representative of Him. It is an amazing blessing to be here in Missouri proclaiming and praising His name, even away from all my family and the warm California breeze! May we all catch the Christmas spirit that is centered in Christ, and be a little more kind, gentle, or helpful. Because that is what He would have us do as a gift to Him as we celebrate His birth.
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, December 1, 2014

Slip sliding away

Hey so this past week was an adventure. The weather has been crazy and everywhere. One night we were going home and it was in the 60s. I thought, "hmm I wonder if it will freeze tonight?" Woke up to everything covered in white. I think it froze. Saturday was in the 60s again and today it's in the 20s. I can't keep track of this Midwest weather! Well on Friday when a lot of the snow was melting Sister Paul and I were walking to the Salvation Army to give service (it's one of my favorite hours of the week) and I was trudging through sloshy snow and some ice. I was feeling pretty confident about my abilities. Then I took a step into the shade of a car. Foomp! My right leg went sprawling forward and my back leg came with my knee smashing to the ground. Instantly my right leg slipped out from under me and I was on my stomach in a push up position. All of that transpired in a good point two seconds. And there Sister Paul is chuckling because she knows all to well what I just went through. The Lord humbled me right quick and now I am very wary of dark places and stuff that looks like water but isn't. The worst part of it all is that I tore a hole in the knee of my tights.
These past few weeks I have learned a lot about how I have overcome and continue to overcome the trials of life. There are some that will pass and some that will never fleet in our mortal existence, but I have learned to love and appreciate my tirals by striving to do these things:

1. Control your mind and push Satan away
2. Choose to be happy
3. Count your blessings, talents, and gifts
4. Have an attitude of gratitude
5. Look for opportunities to serve and bless others
6. Recognize the hand of the Lord
7. Apply the Atonement

I am grateful for my trials. I thank my Father for them in prayer sometimes and it is weird, but I really am thankful. It is through our trials that our Lord shapes us into the people He wants us to be. It is through our trials that we can turn to Him and better our relationship with a Father that loves us unconditionally. It is through the hard times that we are stretched and strengthened. I am so grateful for this eternal truth and principle, for I am a better person today than I was yesterday because of the road bumps that have come my way.
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gringos no le gustan

So hunting season is in full bloom here in Northern Missouri. I've seen more camoflauge in the past two weeks than a city girl's eyes can bear. They like to wear bright neon orange as well, the two compliment each other nicely. Just last week a truck in front of us was pulling a trailer with a four wheeler on it. I looked closer and lodged right in between the four wheeler and the side of the trailer was a buck! Just sitting in there with his hooves sticking straight up in the air. Frozen dead deer carcas. Oh the things you will see in Missouri.
A week ago today we met a sweet old lady named Maria. She's from Mexico, has been in Missouri for 15 years and doesn't know a lick of English! Sister Paul and I talked to her in our broken Spanglish we have picked up being from Southern California. Her son owns a restaraunt here in town, the one I went to my first week here. It was nothing even close to special. Maria cooks there so I asked her why they don't serve good food like al pastor, carne asada, or lengua. She said "Gringos no le gustan." I just about had a fit! She said she makes tamales at Christmas time and I am banking on the fact that we will be teaching her then because I need some of those. We are going back tonight to teach her the Restoration with a member of our ward who speaks Spanish.
On Saturday we took our preparation day and went to the temple. It was a great experience to attend and feel the spirit of the Lord. It was neat because earlier in the week I watched a few short films about the building of the Nauvoo Temple and the things the early saints went through. The blessings of worshipping in the temple are available because of those early saints and i cannot be more thankful. I know that the work of the Lord is the work of salvation. It will not be frustrated or slowed, whether it be in the holy temples, in the mission field, or in our congregations. What a blessing it is to be alive and on the earth in the dispensation of the fullness of times! Oh how glorious is this work and the Lord's kingdom on the earth.
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, November 17, 2014

"I can't put my arms down"

This past week was a doozie, in a great way. Time for your weekly midwest weather update. The seasons change as fast as an indecisive four year old changes clothes! It is very well winter as it was a cozy 19 degrees this morning as we drove to go shopping. I had my first experience of scrapping ice off every inch of a car on Tuesday morning and I threw a few snowballs at the elders. I wear at least two pairs of leggings or tights, two long sleeve shirts, two cardigans, a heavy coat, and wool socks. Plus a hat and a scarf and gloves and mittens. If you can imagine it, I look and feel like the kid from A Christmas Story that can't put his arms down. Maybe not that drastic, but I could care less cause I stay toasty! Sister Paul and I haven't had the car for a week, but we're glad cause neither of us wanna try and drive when there's who knows what making the road all slippy. I'm glad I haven't slipped walking on ice, but i have had a few close calls and good laughs over it!
On Thursday we went to Iowa City and got Panera. Not the highlight of the day but definitely worth mentioning because it was delicious and I haven't seen a Panera Bread in four months. The main event was that we had Mission Tour! Elder Cardon of the Seventy came and spoke to us. We got to shake his had and take a picture with him, and then we heard trainings and talks for a good five hours! It was awesome and Elder Cardon spoke with such great clarity and power on gospel and missionary topics that are usually not so well said. He had us write down two questions we had before the meeting began. At the end of the meeting both my questions were answered as the speakers and the spirit taught me emensely!
Yesterday at church we had our Primary Program. It was so cute to see all the little ones sing and teach us. Of course there were some good laughs at the irreverent kids or the few teachers who painstakingly sang every word of the primary songs. The children sang a song that I had never heard before that I loved so much, it's called "The Family is of God." At the end of the program the whole congregation sang the song. The chorus goes like this:
God gave us families to help us become what He wants us to be—
This is how He shares His love, for the fam’ly is of God.
This simple but powerful truth, that God is our loving Heavenly Father and that he puts us in families to show His love, is the first thing we teach someone. The very first principle we teach to anyone willing to sit down with us. That is a testament to its importance. If we all but understood and internalized this truth, that the song so beautiful illustrates, our lives and families would be greatly enriched! As the congregation sang the song our bishop was on the stand, and he was weeping. I thought of his role of strengthening the families of the ward, and how much he prays and fasts and hopes that all the families would understand this simple truth. There is power in knowing that God is our father and that our families here on earth are ordained by Him.
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, November 10, 2014

Courtney found a best friend

Today it is a solid 59 degrees! No tights and I am loving this beautiful weather. Your girl from California is holding up great... until tomorrow when the high is projected to be 37 degrees! Snow is supposed to come next week. I'm looking forward to kicking it around for a good five minutes, but I'm scared to spend a whole day walking in it. I'll be sure to update yall on my ice and snow adventures.
This past week the Sister Training Leaders came in for exchanges from Keokuk, Iowa. They are super sweet and we got so much done! It's always good to have them in our area for 24 hours because they help us with investigators and finding new ones so much! This past week we found a new investigator named Paige. Paige is so cool. If I were not a missionary she would be my best friend, really. She met with us in sweats and a bun on top of her head, she goes to Truman and was going to play softball but her knee is all messed up. So pretty much she's sweet. After teaching her the Restoration I realized that I was sent here to Kirksville, Missouri to meet and help people like her. People talk about how you will know there are specific people you were sent to find, ones that in the pre earth life you told you were going to rescue. I am beginning to realize and recognize that more and more, and I am so excited to see Paige progress in the gospel.
I am having great experiences as a servant of the Lord. It is funny because I have had maybe one progressing investigator for two weeks the whole time I have been here. It's been tough at times to not see people grab hold of the gospel that I love so much. But I could not be happier. Seriously, I wake up everyday with a smile on my face and think "let's go spread that good word!" It's strange how it works. Living the gospel and being obedient to God's laws brings happiness every single time, no mater what. Even if you get the door shut in your face and investigators telling you to delete their number and baptismal dates are not met and people tell you you're wrong. God's laws are the only way to live your life and find happiness amidst the hardship. This life is meant to be enjoyed and it can be even through the darkest hour. Strive to be more obedient to God's laws, support your priesthood leaders in decisions they make with the Lord, study the word of God daily, turn to your Father in prayer often, and serve those around you with a grateful heart. There is no other way to live, no other way to find joy in this life.
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, November 3, 2014

What Joseph and Courtney have in common...

So I can't believe that I have already been here in Kirksville for three months and that it is already November! I calculated with my sharp math mind that I am already one sixth of the way done with my mission! What?! That was super weird to realize. How did that happen?
Anyways, this past week was pretty good. We went to Quincy again for Zone Training Meeting on Friday, and of course we played "Dead Thing." I saw some interesting things that I better not describe. But Zone Training Meeting was so great as we heard trainings from our Zone and Sister Training Leaders. Those trainings always come at the right time and teach us what we need to know and do to elevate our service. It is so amazing how the Lord inspires leaders of the church to carry out His work. Our Zone Leaders are sweet and got us all fake mustaches, which we wore for a family photo. I'm sure that was inspired as well.
Friday was also Halloween, but we didn't get home until five from Quincy and we waited to be picked up for the ward Trunk or Treat and then the person that was supposed to pick us up finally showed up at our house at 6:30 and gave us gobs of candy! She forgot to pick us up so we just ate candy and hung out in the apartment the rest of the night. We had to be in by six. Zero trick or treaters came by. Super eventful night.
On Saturday we had a great lesson with an investigator, her name is Brenda and is a sister to a less active member and the aunt of another investigator of ours, Ryan. We watched The Restoration, it's the 20 minute Joseph Smith movie. It was super cool cause as I watched it the spirit taught me something. When God the Father and Jesus Christ appear to Joseph Smith our Heavenly Father says, "Joseph, this is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" Our Heavenly Father doesn't say "This is My Beloved Son." He calls Joseph by name. Right then and there the spirit confirmed to me that my Father knows my name just as he knows Joseph's. Sure Joseph Smith was foreordained to be the Prophet of the restoration of the gospel in the latter days to prepare the way for Christ. You might think "of course God knows Joseph's name!" But I know that He knows our names too. I testified to Brenda that our Heavenly Father knows her very well, and that He knows her name just as He knows Joseph's. I have never felt the Holy Spirit of Truth testify that what I was speaking was truth more than I did in that moment. I know without a doubt that we are all sons and daughters of a living God. That our spirits are divine and in turn we are divine. Our potential is endless and we have a Father waiting for us to turn to Him. Oh how great is this truth! There is power in this knowledge as it has blessed my life and those around me.
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, October 27, 2014

"Dead Thing"---It's not Courtney's attitude!

This past week was a good one! We went to Quincy, Illinois on Tuesday for interviews. We have a nice talk with Sister Jensen and an interview with President Jenses and meet with our district as other missionaries are being interviewed. It was so great and I love President and Sister Jensen a lot. President is like your bishop, dad and grandpa all wrapped into one out here.
On the way back from Quincy Sister Paul and I played a fun game. The ride is a little less than two hours and the game is called "Dead Thing!" I made it up and it's pretty fun. There's so much roadkill out here it's rediculous! Different animals are different points and you have to yell out "dead thing" when you initially see it and then you get the points after it is identified. I know, not super missionary-like but I wanted to let yall know that I am having a good time!
On Saturday we went to two baptsims! Not for our companionship, one was for an eight year old boy and another for a convert in the other ward. It was so nice to attend those baptisms because it reminded me why I am here and what our goal is. The same exact power of the priesthood held by Christ is on the earth. I have no doubt of that because too often has the spirit of truth confirmed that to me as I witness baptisms, see the sacrament blessed and passed, and attend the temple to participate in the ordinances there. What an amazing blessing!
There is not much to report on in terms of the work, I'll let yall know when we've got some people on date for baptism and they're coming to church. As for know we are working hard to find Heavenely Father's elect sons and daughters. This work is amazing, I have never been happier, and I know without a doubt that the Lord has His hand in every piece of the work of salvation. True and everlasting joy is found in obedience and diligence in living God's commandments. No other way. If I were not keeping the commandments and staying close to the spirit this work would not bring me joy. Getting doors closed in my face, people telling me the Book of Mormon is not the word of God, investigators dropping us and avoinding us like the plague, and walking ten miles a day. It's hard. Really hard sometimes. But I am happy, my soul is filled with joy as Ammon would say. I don't understand how it works but me being as happy as I've ever been is proof of the truth that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is no other way to find peace and joy in this life and in the life to come. I know it.
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, October 20, 2014

Breakfast burritos!

So this past week was pretty crazy because we had transfers and Sister Ramsey left! So much of the two days before transfers was spent packing and seeing members she wanted to say goodbye to. On Thursday we went to Iowa City for transfer meeting, it took pretty much all day as we had to wake up at 5:00 am and we didn't get home until 5:00 pm! But the meeting was good and President Jenson told a joke that when a hair falls out of his head and he sees it, he'll pick it up and say "see ya in the resurrection!" That had all us missionaries rolling! I love President and Sister Jensen. I was last to be called in the meeting and my new companion is Sister Paul, from Garden Grove, California!! I was so excited! She is super cool and just has two more transfers so I will probably be the one to send her home. We talked about Mexican food for a good half hour the other day, then we went home and I made breakfast burritos for dinner. I think we're gonna get along!
Quick story that kinda relates to what I wrote about last week about being in the right place that the Lord wants you. Sister Paul and I were walking down the street and saw an older lady raking leaves so we decided to go see if she needed help. We started talking to her and I asked her name, she said Lois Gillum. The gears turned quickly in my head and I remembered the name, she is a former investigator that Sister Ramsey and I had been looking for! We visited with her for a little while (I mean she talked for a good two hours straight!) and invited her to church. She knows one of the members of our ward and has put it on her calendar that she is coming in two weeks, after her son's wedding! We are excited for Lois and will be stopping by and helping her rake her yard and hopefully teaching her in these next two weeks in anticipation that she will be at church soon.
The Lord puts us in the right place at the right time if we are about His work. I am realizing more and more the hand of the Lord in all we do. There is no such thing as a coincidence because the good Lord has his hand in everything good that comes about. I know that for a fact. I love being on the Lord's errand, as Ammon and his missionary buddies say, "my joy is full." There is no greater joy than to be an instrument in the Lord's hand as He works His magic here on earth!
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, October 13, 2014

Meet the Mormons

Courtney's first visit to the Nauvoo Temple

I am running out of time unfortunately so this one will be shorter. This past week we had the opportunity to go to Nauvoo, Illinois on Tuesday! It was such a great experience because we watched Meet the Mormons with all the missionaries in the stake and then Sister Ramsey and I went to the temple. I just loved Nauvoo and it was a great experience. The drive to the city is great too as you drive alongside the Mississippi River for about ten minutes, winding your way north to the city. The drive reminded me of  the drive to BYU-Hawaii from town and it was very nastalgic as the river slapped the shore and came close to the road at times. It was not as pretty as the blue waters in Hawaii because the water was a muddy brown, but it was pretty because it was the most water I had seen or been near in months. 
Everyone should go see the movie Meet the Mormons! It is like an I'm a Mormon message on human growth hormones. It was so so great as it was funny and informational and uplifting. One of my favorite messages from the movies was that we are all sons and daughters of God no matter what our background may be. There is so much power in that idea, that if we can recognize every single person as our brother or sister things will be so much better. I know it sounds all hippie and peace and love, but it is true. Happiness comes from loving others as your brothers and sisters even if your are different or have opposing views or come from a different culture. I am so grateful that the movie gives that message so poignantly.
I'm going to be vague but I learned so much this past week about my purpose as a missionary and why I am here. If you follow the Lord's will and you are in the place where he wants you to be, no matter what comes your way or arises know that you are in the right place. I'll quote a scripture to the best of my ability that is in the Bible somewhere that a general authority gave a talk on at one point.. it says "cast not therefore away your confidence." Trusting in the Lord and His plan for you is one of the greatest strengths we can have in this life. I know that me being on a mission at this time in my life is the best way I can bless the lives of my brothers and sisters here in Missouri, help my family that is back home, and become the person my Father in Heaven sees me becoming. Trust in the Lord and do not cast away your confidence, because He is always going to come through if we are keeping His commandments and following His will. 
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sister Skaggs finds a unicorn and fruit

So it's official. I scared for winter. Saturday we it was 42 degrees as we were walking to the church building to watch conference. The wind chill was probably down in the twenties and my knuckles were stiff because I made the mistake of not wearing a skirt with pockets. I wore tights for the first time since I was seven. Members joke and say "oh that wasn't even bad, wait until February when it two degrees and the wind chill is negative twenty." I'm glad it was only a tease for now and it's back up in the sixties, but I am definitely wanting fall to run a little long!
This weekend was General Conference and it was like a feast for us missionaries. Never before has eight hours of addresses flown by so fast! It was finished and I was like "no, I want more!" I am so grateful that Christ's church is on the earth and that we have a Prophet and Apostles to learn from. Their teachings are the words of God as they are inspired men. I can't wait to go back and read the talks when they come out in print.
Two weeks ago we focused a lot on finding and I even gave a training on it at district meeting. We learned a lot about it because we were doing so much of it! The number of the people we were teaching had dwindled and the ones we still had were all pretty busy or sick. It was tough that despite our efforts and focus were had not found any new people to teach. But this past week the lessons we learned in that tough week really benefited the work as we found three new investigators! We were bold in our invitations to be baptized and really worked diligently to talk to everyone we saw. I know what Moroni said is true in Ether 12:6, that often times we do not receive a witness or see the fruits of dedicated service until after the trial of our faith. It might be hard now and things may be going slow, or not even going at all, but the Lord will provide. He sees our efforts and hard work on His behalf. If we bear it with patience the fruits of our work and lessons we learn will be that much greater!
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, September 29, 2014

Courtney experiences Fall and JW's

So it is slowly turning to fall here. Some trees have lost all their leaves and others are just turning crazy colors. I know, San Diego girl experiencing seasons. I'm in heaven as I walk down the streets going out of my way to crunch every leaf I can. And it will only get better because most of the trees are still green with just splashes of red and orange! I can't wait.
This past week we had a really good lesson with an investigator. The spirit was really strong as we taught and testified of the importance of baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. We were in a members home and it was such a great setting. Then came a knock at the door. the member went to answer it and all we hear is a man proclaiming the word of God. He said, "we've got this great new website," I was trying not to bust up because it was so ironic! He engaged the member in a discussion and she took a pamphlet nicely. It was just so funny and ironic that he had come by at the exact moment we were teaching. Needless to say our investigator was not phased or swayed and the lesson continued to be very productive and powerful.
Last week at church Sister Ramsey was asked to give a talk. The night before church a Young Women's teacher asked us to teach the Beehive's class. And right after Sister Ramsey went up to the stand before sacrament meeting the Primary President came at me with a green manual asking us to teach the seven and eight year old boys the second hour! We were busy to say the least. As Sister Ramsey sat on the stand I read about Daniel and the lion's den. We acted it out and had so much fun with the three little boys! And third hour was great when we taught the Young Women. We've asked our Father in Heaven for opportunities to serve the ward members and boy has he poured them out to us! Just a couple of weeks ago I think we had seven total hours of service to members. It's great!
I was able to attend the General Women's Broadcast on Saturday night. It was such a great opportunity to hear the word of the Lord through our leaders. If you are a woman and did not have the chance to watch it, do it. We are so blessed to have a prophet, apostles, and leaders who are inspired of God. I look forward to watching all eight hours of conference this weekend! It's like a spiritual feast!
I have told yall about Sister Williams before, she is the one that is in a nursing home that we visit every week. Well we were talking about faith in Jesus Christ to her. She was feeling well that day and talking a lot. She said something I will never forget. "If you don't got faith and obedience, you don't got nothin'." That is so true. Faith is how we show our trust in our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ. With that trust and faith mighty miracles can come about in our hearts and lives. Obedience is how we show our Heavenly Father we care about His word and commandments. Without those two things we really aren't giving much to the Lord, and in turn we don't have much. I am grateful for the wise words of Sister Karen Williams. May we always strive to have faith in our Heavenly Father and His plan for us, and in our Savior Jesus Christ. And may we always strive to be obedient so that we can be worthy of all the blessings that our Father has laid up in store for us.
I love you all and am grateful for your support. Open your mouths and share the good word, the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the greatest gift we have.
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, September 22, 2014

The smells of the Midwest...smoke, mildew and cat?

 Courtney's super powers

MTC buddies

This past week was pretty sweet. No groundbreaking or crazy stories from the front here in Kirksville, Missouri besides the fact that a lot of people were mad that Mizzou got whooped in college football.

On Thursday we woke up at 5:00 am and took of to Iowa City for Zone Conference. More than half the zone was there and I was able to see a lot of my MTC mates which was really cool. Us Sisters talked about how homes in the Midwest have three distinct smells: smoke, mildew and cat, and the ever refreshing and somewhat foreign smell of freshness. We had some good laughs and it was great to hear about all the amazing work that is happening across the mission. I saw an elder and is nametag read Elder Leavitt! I stopped him and said hey my Grandma is a Leavitt! We got to talking and he is related to Sarah Leavitt just as I am! We were super excited and we were telling everyone we were cousins. I call him Cousin Elder Leavitt now. It's great to have family out here :)

Well we spent a total of eight hours in the car on Thursday because we got lost going to and coming back from Iowa City. It was a treat. But night the Sister Training Leaders from Keokuk, Iowa. It was such a blessing to be with them for a day. I was with Sister Browne and Sister Ramsey was with Sister Nye. Sister Nye trained Sister Ramsey and for any of you who have served a mission and understand mission posterity know that it was pretty cool to have three generations in the same area together! It was a fun exchange and I learned so much from Sister Browne. While with her an investigator that is supposed to be baptized in a few weeks texted and totally said she had to cancel an appointment. I was disappointed and Sister Browne said "It's alright, it's all part of the plan. Heavenly Father has already accounted for it." That though stuck with me and helped me have a great perspective when we woke the next morning to a text from the same investigator informing us that she had to cut all ties with us. I was comforted in the knowledge that I have that it is all part of the plan. Heavenly Father has already accounted for it. Such is true in life. Our Heavenly Father knows exactly what is going to happen and has a perfect plan for us. May we turn to Him in trust and in turn strengthen our relationship. It is all part of the wonderful and joyous plan that we return to Him.

Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, September 15, 2014

Rain and more rain in Kirksville

Hi Yall,
I've been here a whole transfer! I made it and the ball is just going to keep rolling faster. My District Leader was transferred to become a Zone Leader so that was sad because he was awesome. We would talk about baseball and he used baseball analogies a lot in district meetings. He will be missed.
No funny stories to report on today because it seems like a lot of the culture shock is wearing off and the things that are strange are commonplace now (like Amish people in horse drawn carriages and grasshoppers flying everywhere). This past week there was a huge storm though! It was the worst thunder, rain, and wind storm I've ever been in! It came through at night so we were safe inside but during the course of the night the wind woke me up as did two texts to our phone about severe flash flood warnings! I looked outside at one point as the rain was getting smacked against our bedroom window and it looked like the trees were going to be snapped in half! They were dancing around like those weird wind dancing advertisement things people put outside of businesses. We woke up in the morning and the storm had passed. As we drove to go play sports and we saw so many braches all over the ground and some trees uprooted! It was insane. We got caught in the rain the next day and it is raining today. Missouri is a wet place.
This past week was good in terms of the work. We had more lessons than last week when we really struggled to keep lessons and investigators. We almost had three people at church today! That seems like the eternal struggle of missionary work, getting people to church! I don't know what it is yet, but it's hard. We were blessed to have Kourtney there, she's a High School aged investigator who is just awesome! There were a couple instances in the past few days that frustrated me though. Either members were not supporting other missionaries or saying bad things about other ward members. It really had me in a strange mood as I was trying not to get mad. I remembered what I had planned to do if I was getting mad and decided to pray. And boy did I pray! I don't know how long I prayed for but it was quite a while. I prayed until my mind was clear and my attitude about the work ahead of me was resolute. I know that prayer works. Pray vocally and pray earnestly. He will hear you and strengthen you. I love that in the Bible Dictionary it says that prayer is a form of work to access blessings that our Heavenly Father is already willing to grant us. Turn to Him in prayer in those moments of weakness. It is in those times that we need His help the most! If we open our troubled or sick or weak hearts to our Heavenly father in prayer He will heal it. I know it.
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, September 8, 2014

Courtney meets a Hobo, Hindu, Pagan and a Wicken. Learns patience and joy.

Sweet recliner

Courtney's District's awkward family photo

Things are going well here in Kirksville. The weather has cooled down this week and I am so glad it is not so hot anymore! It's pleasant and a little chilly at times. Actually it feels like a nice San Diego winters day. Summer is fleeting and in a matter of weeks I'll be bundled up. I'm glad the heat is leaving but I'm a bit scared of the winter that is approaching!
This past week I met a real life hobo! He had a handkerchief around his neck and everything. He travels on the rails looking for work and is legit! He had absolutely no interest in God or anything church related, but he was respectful enough to apologize for his harsh language. Sister Ramsey asked him where he considers home and he said "America!" We also met a family from Nepal. They live at our same apartment complex and invited us over. We talked to them about religion and it was interesting to hear about Hinduism. They had no desire to become Christian because they didn't want to lose their identity. They were super respectful and nice and accepted a Book of Mormon. We also met a Pagan man this week. Wow this week was full of new kinds of people. He wasn't interested but it was a unique experience to talk to him. His fiancĂ© is a wicken. I walked away from that conversation more confused and baffled than I had been going into it. Oh the people you meet in Kirksville, Missouri!
I have to say that this past week was one of the hardest weeks of my mission. Investigators were dropped and it seemed like a lesson was being cancelled every few hours. We spent a lot of time trying to find people to teach because so many lessons were cancelled or people would not show up. In weeks previous this had made me frustrated. But I had been studying and praying about patience and I think I have developed that Christlike attribute, not perfectly but I know the Lord has helped me tremendously. I know it because even though this past week was the hardest of my mission so far, it was also the best week of my mission. Through the trials and disappointments of the week the Lord blessed me with patience and so much more! I learned so much through the spirit during personal and companionship study Yesterday and investigator, Kourtney, came to church. It was great because members of the congregation bore some of the most powerful testimonies I have heard in some time. We had two great lessons this week as well. The spirit was present as Kourtney and Toni's desire to follow Christ grew so much! It was from the experiences I had with the spirit and those two lessons that I received so much joy. So much that it made all the struggles of the week seem miniscule. I am so grateful to be able to share this gospel.
I want to share something that the spirit taught me yesterday as Bishop Wilson was sharing his testimony. He was talking about how the world views our standards. People say "You have so many rules. How do you have fun?" He gave some examples of "fun." He was comparing God's standards and the world's standards and a great thought came into my mind. This life is not about fun, it is about joy. Fun is something temporary, something that fleets as soon as someone gets hurt. Fun is fun while it lasts and you can laugh about it later. But joy is much more than that. Joy is something much deeper and longer lasting. Joy is serving others and seeing the blessings of God in our lives. Joy is learning about our purpose in life. Joy is searching the scriptures and finding something enlightening. Joy is being with your family forever. Joy is repentance and a change of heart through the Atonement. God gives us commandments so that we can have joy, not fun. With the right perspective joy is all that is important. So no, this life is not about fun, it is about joy. The joy I have felt sharing the gospel and serving others has been the greatest I have ever felt. This work is amazing as is the work our Father performs on our own hearts. Find joy and come unto Him.
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Crossing the Mississippi.....

 The brown stuff is water.  And yes I know it is sideways.

Typical Skaggs face in a picture.

Sunday marked a whole month that I have been in Kirksville! It is crazy how time flies, hopefully it is going just as fast for you all at home. It's amazing that I lasted this long without getting bit, but I got my first chigger this past week. It's a bug bite (I think) that's supposed to itch like crazy, but I like to think I took it like a champ.
This past week we got to go to Quincy, Illinois for interviews with President Jensen! It is almost two hours away and a pretty drive through the country. We went trough maybe five small towns and only one of them had more than 500 people. We needed gas and forgot to get it in Kirksville before we left, but luckily Brashear was on the way! So we decided to stop real fast at the quaint gas station there. I don't know if you remember but Brashear is outside of Kirksville about ten miles, it was the place that we almost got our car stuck and my shoes got full of muddy clay. The place where the population reads 297 on the sign, but one third of the houses are abandoned. So we stop there for gas, we go inside to pay before we pump and the lady told us to go pump and then come inside to pay. So we head back outside and start to pump the gas from this really old machine. We look at the machine and the numbers are running by! They are ticking by on a wheel behind glass! There was nothing electronic about it. Sister Ramsey and I were laughing so hard and were amazed, all while trying not to look like tourists. We went back in to pay and I overheard  two old men say "what you doin' today George?" "oh nuthin' much, just babysittin' some cows." That's Brashear for ya. I love it even though it is so foreign and people look at us like they have no idea why city girls like us are there.
We got close to Quincy and Sister Ramsey reminded me we would cross the Mississippi River! It was so HUGE! It was amazing to look at even though it was all brown and dirty looking.
I was really nervous for my interview with President but it went so well. He is so great and supports us missionaries so well.
On Thursday we went to a Relief Society activity. We invited all our investigators and some less active sisters and none of them came, unfortunately. But I did learn something really great during the spiritual thought/lesson. I shared it with the group because it was so awesome that I learned it just sitting there and listening to the lesson by the spirit. We were talking about the difference between being comfortable and having peace. Being comfortable is dangerous. It leads us to a slippery slope to complacency, where we do not progress. But peace comes in and strengthens us amidst trial or not, bringing us closer to our Father in Heaven and enabling us to progress. I am definitely uncomfortable a lot out here. But I know that is a good thing. Relying on the Lord for peace, strength, and growth is the best way to make it through taxing situations. Don't sit back and be comfortable, get out of the "comfort zone" if you are there. Obtain peace from the Lord and move forward.
Love yall,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, August 25, 2014

Kirksville #4

Hello from Kirksville once again!  Things are good here and the work is picking up a bit. It is so so hot here though! The humidity is heavy and we are in a heat advisory, I think. I don't watch the news but a member was telling us to always carry water and take breaks, especially if we're walking. We get the car back on Thursday so that will be good!
School is back in session here at Truman so there are a bunch of people in the library and it reminds me of those days for me. I don't miss those days but it's good to have a lot of people around to talk to!
A few things about Missouri. Everything is green but there is not a sprinkler in sight! Not kidding, the only ones I've seen were at the church building. Grandpa would love gardening here, because there would be no water bill! But with the rain and green comes humidity. The other night we were out knocking on doors before we went in for the night. The sun had set but it was still really hot! It felt like when you open the dish washer just after it finished a load of dishes, but not just for a few seconds. Imagine that all day. We were constantly sweating. I wiped my sweat mustache five times in ten minutes. It was lovely. But the members ALWAYS pick us up if they see us! Or if we make it to their house they give us a cup of water and a paper towel. They're great and super good to us.
Bugs out here are crazy too. The other day we were walking by some tall grass on the side of the road and I got his in the face by some big black thing! Hard! I thought my worst nightmare had come true and a bird was attacking me! Sister Ramsey was laughing so hard because she had seen the grasshopper fly out of the grass, get caught in the wind, go whizzing past her, and smack me right in the face! I was so startled but had a good long laugh about it after I realized I wasn't under attack.
On Friday we went to Iowa City, which is three hours away, for a training meeting for all the new missionaries. It was really good to see a lot of MTC friends and I'm sad I didn't get pictures. But after the meeting we went to the mall to eat and I saw someone with a  Kahuku shirt on! I thought, "no way, someone from Laie in Iowa?!" I just had to talk to them! So I did. They were from Hawaii and went to BYU-Hawaii and lived in Iowa City because he was going to school. There were two little Hawaiian kids running around and I had a great little chat with the family. Oh, and last week we ran into a Padre fan here in Kirksville! He's not even from California, Kirksville born and raised but an avid Padre fan. He said went to a game down in St. Louis last week when the Padres came. He had a big number 19 on the back of his truck! He wasn't interested in the gospel but it was good to talk him. It's kinda cool running into people I can relate really well with even though I am way out here in Missouri.
The first three weeks I was here in Kirksville we worked really hard to find new investigators but were having no luck. No new investigators the first three weeks. None. It was frustrating because we wanted more people to teach! But we just continued to trek along and work hard. On Thursday we were knocking doors with the sun beating down on us and people rejecting us left and right. I had my hair in a bun on top of my head. Professional? Probably not, but there was no other way to survive the heat and humidity. We worked hard for two hours and by the end of it I was frustrated to be honest! But then a miracle happened. A member called us, told us we should come over for dinner, and said that her friend was there and she wanted us to teach her! We taught Marcie at Sister Forbes' apartment and had a great meal. Marcie really wants to learn more and is so prepared to accept the gospel. We were also blessed with another new investigator on Saturday. We might feel like we are going through the hardest moments, and maybe we are. We may feel like our efforts are in vain. We might feel alone in our work and efforts to do the right thing. But the Lord is mindful of our efforts and will bless us. He let's us go through hardship to see if we will have faith. It is after this trial of our faith that he will pour out blessings. Remain faithful, fight the good fight, and remember that He knows your circumstances. He is laboring with us in the vineyard of life. The good Lord is there and will never forsake us.
Love you all,
Sister Skaggs

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Hi, I'm picking weeds!"

Kirksville- Letter# 3

So I've heard there is some serious unrest here in Missouri that has lead to national news and riots and curfews and craziness. I'll have you know that I am safe and well up here in Kirksville! Like i've said the people here are nice and inviting for the most part.
A few funny tidbits to tell today. The other day Sister Ramsey and I were walking down the street and we saw this older lady picking weeds on the side of the raod, not even near a house. We get closer to her and she turns around still in her crouch and exclaims, "Hi, I'm picking weeds!" She was picking the weeds down the street from her house so that they wouldn't spread to her lawn! That is some dedication to lawncare. We talked to her a bit and when she realized we were missionaries she wasn't as friendly but it was such a funny experience! Sister Ramsey and I have a good laugh with that line every once and a while. We go to the nursing home, Kirksville Manor Care, twice a week for service. We paint old lady's nails and help them play bingo. Bingo is fun if you're sitting next to a funny and snarky old lady, but when they're all quiet you could hear a pin drop in there between bingo calls. All you hear is the monotone bingo czar calling out numbers "B-19. B-1-9. Alright, clear your cards. Bueller. Bueller." I don't know how many times I've yawned or daydreamed in there! It is super funny though and sometimes I just laugh at the situation.
There is a sister that we visit at Manor Care that we love. she doesn't play bingo but she is an older sister who is too ill to make it to church. Her name is Sister Williams. She is not doing well and has a lot of hard days of being sick and not having visitors. But her smile always beams on her face when we appear in her door. She makes us happy and is a pleasure to be around. If we could we would just spend our whole day there talking and visiting with her. Last week Siser Ramsey had a great idea and we made her cards just to tell her how much we love and care for her. She was so happy to have them. I know that as we serve others and brighten their days the Lord blesses and brightens our days as well. He cannot make cards for those who need it, but we can. We are His hands here on the earth and it is through service that we can bring about His great works.
I love it here in Missouri, I know I say it every week but I really do. The heat and humidity make my hair almost unmanagable sometimes and I sweat a lot, but the Lord's work is so enjoyable and makes it worth every minute. Just fyi, at Walmart today I saw three different men wearing overalls. I love the people out here and their kind hearts even if they do shut the door in our faces.
God bless you all,
Sister Skaggs