Goodbye Old Friend – My Tribute to the Parkway Community Church Building

This past November I received a phone call from my husband, Josh, that brought instant tears to my eyes.

“I think the church is gone, Babe,” he said softly, “I just went by and couldn’t see the steeple anymore.”

Although we knew this day was coming and had been driving by the church as often as we could to take photos and reflect upon the beautiful memories there, still, knowing that it was now officially gone felt like a punch in the heart.

I have heard many stories over the years regarding myself and my relationship with the Parkway Community Church and I felt to write a tribute to the building and the dream of it, and to also write the truth, the whole truth and nothing be the truth so help me God about my days there. Since I know that I will stand before my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as the judge of my soul and He will hold me accountable for all I say, do and think, I write this confidently.

In order for anyone to have a complete understanding of my relationship with the Parkway Community Church building and all those who loved it, I must start at the beginning, which actually took place at an amazing church called the 44th Street Church of God.

For those of us in the world who were blessed to attend the 44th Street Church of God under our shepherd, Senior Pastor Bro. Hurschel Diffie, and his precious wife, Hazel, we understand exactly what the Parkway Community Church building was; a beautiful vision from God poured into the hearts of Bro. Diffie and those in the church who wanted to expand the ministry. For all those who were there at the beginning of the dream, I hope that I do this beautiful church and its story the justice it deserves.

The 44th Street Church was located on the corner of McKinley and 44th Street (which once was called Chicago Ave). For those who live in Phoenix, there is now an office building there and it is located directly across the street from the Chinese Cultural Center.

The 44th Street Church was a picturesque structure like something you would see in a quaint, small town. Its architecture would best be described as Early American, painted all white, with a lovely steeple and stained glass windows. There were a couple of small little houses beside it that had been converted into Children’s Church rooms and Sunday School classrooms, and later on, a double-wide trailer was added to the property for multi-purposes. I have much more to say about my treasured days at the 44th Street Church but will leave some of that for blogs yet to come.

I can’t really remember the first time I heard about the “new church building”. It was just something I grew up hearing about, kind of like Mickey Mouse or McDonald’s, it was just always a part of my life that moved through the conversations and prayers of the good people of the congregation and surrounded me.

The need for the new church building was clear, Bro. Diffie’s ministry was constantly growing and the 44th Street Church sanctuary just wasn’t able to meet the needs for more space. If you knew Bro. Diffie, you knew his work was never done. Although he loved his “sheep”, the people of his church dearly, his eyes were constantly focused on the “harvest” of God, those who didn’t know the good news of the Gospel and love of Jesus Christ. Bro. Diffie desired that everyone who wanted to attend the 44th Street Church could have a place in it, so there was a need for more space.

Though Bro. Diffie’s spiritual heart was one of the strongest and most beautiful I have ever witnessed in a man, as time went on, his physical heart began to trouble him and he had to retire from full-time pastoral work— though he never stopped serving as a minister for the congregation and to all that he met, not until the day he went to heaven.  Another Senior Pastor was brought in, Bro. Donald Logan and he served there for several years, continuing on the good work Bro. Diffie had started. After a period of time, Bro. Logan was called by God to another position and a third pastor was brought to the congregation. His name was Bro. Robert Blazier.

I think the most prominent memory for me where the “new church building” was concerned was the day that Bro. Blazier asked my mother, who was the administrative assistant for the church if I would design a bulletin board in the foyer of the 44th Street Church to display the architect’s painting of the new building’s design. The new church was going to be beautiful.

I was twelve, maybe eleven years old, when I happily took the task given me and designed the bulletin board to display the painting. I remember watching the people who came in the doors on Sunday morning to see the look on their faces when they saw the painting for the first time. All of those I remember expressed nothing but great joy and excitement. While looking at it, their eyes would sparkle and it seemed as if their hearts began beating faster from their joy. Some even had tears of happiness well up in their eyes as they now saw before them what they had only imagined. The dream of the “new church building” was carried and cherished by all who attended the 44th Street Church and their enthusiasm grew tremendously once they saw the design of it depicted in the painting.

This was an important moment for the people because until then, everyone had their own ideas in their minds and imaginations of what the building would actually look like. Mostly, it had just been described in words.  Now, with the painting before them, it bonded them together. They all were able to see the shapes of the structures, the layout of the campus, and seeing the little cars and people depicted in the design made me think, “Someday, that will be us parking our cars and walking inside the doors!” The painting brought the dream to life and with it hope for the future ministries that would take place there.

The main design plans for the new church would include an octagon-shaped sanctuary that would hold classrooms all around the outer edge, an administrative office structure,  a children’s preschool with a playground, a reception hall, and the Diffie Family Life Center which would have a gymnasium, other classrooms, and activity rooms. It was an amazing vision that the congregation members held in their hearts with great pride, and they were fully supporting it with their faithful prayers and finances.

Once everyone saw the architect’s painting of the entire structure, it was like a bolt of lightning struck the church with a new energy that sizzled throughout the congregation. Everyone wanted to do whatever they could to help make the dream a reality, and they trusted that God would bless their efforts and provide every need to build it.

Things began to move rapidly after that. The board began praying and searching for the perfect location. A decorating board was formed to choose the colors of the bricks, the tiles, the carpet, the chandeliers, and the style and color of the pews. With every decision that was made and presented to the people of the church, the excitement grew. If there were members who did not like anything that was being chosen, I didn’t know about it. All I remember were words of happiness and great anticipation.

When I looked at all of the selections the decorating committee had made, I thought it would be one of the loveliest churches I had ever seen. The bricks which were chosen were to not only be durable for construction but also would never have a need for paint, which would save the church having to spend money for any outside cosmetic upkeep in the years to come. The tiles in the foyer were a light gray and the carpet was to be lavender with slightly darker lavender pew cushions. I couldn’t wait to see everything put together; to walk in it, sit in it, and worship in it. It was a beautiful dream and I was thankful to be part of it. Everyone was.

Then came the decision about the location. Some wanted it to be built on a piece of land that wasn’t very far from the location of the 44th Street building on McDowell. Some wanted it to be built on a piece of land that was where the new Parkway 51 Freeway was going to be constructed. The final decision was made that the church would be built by the new freeway. The address would be 1751 E. Maryland in Phoenix, Arizona.

One day my mother came home and told me to quickly get my little brother ready because she was taking us to the 44th Street Church property. I did as instructed and she drove us to the church. When we got there, my young heart was filled will great sorrow.

My mother had discovered that the 44th Street Church was going to be torn down that day and as hard as it was, we wanted to be there with it to say good-bye. The wrecking ball had already started it’s destructive work and most of the church was lying in ruins. A thousand memories of days spent inside that building, singing, serving, praying, listening and learning about Jesus with precious people washed over me and my mother. All we could do was watch and cry. Although my brother was only a baby, he sensed the seriousness of the moment and stared quietly at the ruins of the once beautiful, powerful house of God.

My mother asked one of the workers if we could please take some bricks and the workers happily obliged. We gathered several for family and friends and especially for Bro. and Sister Diffie, who were both out of town when the church was torn down. My mother only found out because as she was driving home she saw the wrecking ball going down the street toward the church property. I am quite sure if more people had known what was happening, they would have come to be with it too. The Diffie’s found out that it was gone when they came home. It was quite a terrible shock to both of them.

As we drove home from the rubble, I remember thinking to myself, “Why did we have to build a new church? Why couldn’t we just stay in the old one? It was a beautiful, happy, church full of wonderful memories, miracles and the powerful Spirit of God. To me, it was perfect. My grief of seeing 44th Street in ruins clouded my ability to feel joy for the new building. In fact, while writing this, it still brings me to that place of sorrow for the loss of the 44th Street Church. If I had my way, it would be rebuilt just as it was and I would have my family there serving and worshipping. There never was and I doubt ever will be again, a church quite like 44th Street. I am proud and blessed to have been part of it. Though it was hard, I am thankful that my mother took me there to say goodbye and be there with it when it was torn down. I know it may sound silly, but we just didn’t want it to be alone at its end.

As we moved forward in the building process for the new church, it helped me to regain the vision and once again be part of the dream. I remember the day when we “broke ground” on the new land location. The congregation gathered together on the land, many taking the time to pick oranges as the land was once an orange grove. I remember all the women in their nylons and heels kept sinking in the dirt, and we sang several songs, read scriptures and prayed over the land and the new building to come. The pastor then took a shovel that had been painted gold and dug the first hole. We all clapped and cheered and looked forward to the days ahead. The excitement of seeing this brought a new feeling of joy to my heart, though I was still missing the 44th Street building, I was refreshed with new hope for new beginnings in the new church which had been given the name Parkway Community Church of God.

The congregation held services at Madison School, which was located just down the street while the “new church” was being built. It was a transition to learn how to manage the services each week in a facility that wasn’t our own. But it all went well.  I remember the sound men, Ralph White and James Stokes arriving early every Sunday morning and staying late every Sunday evening to unload, and set up the entire sound system for the services and then break it all backdown and load it back into Ralph’s van. These giving and dedicated servants did this with happy hearts every single Sunday for over a year.

The church office was moved into a double-wide that was placed on the northeast corner of the property. Every day that my mother worked there, she took my little brother who was now four years old. He had a special place behind her desk in the corner where he had toys, books, puzzles, and blankets so he could take a nap during the day. My brother, Nathan, was the easiest child I have ever known and so taking him to work was something that the pastor didn’t mind my mother doing. Nathan was friends with all the staff members including the construction foreman, Clyde, who gave Nathan his own hard hat and would take him for walks daily on the property.

I remember the rainy days when my mother went to work. The double-wide sat in an open dirt area and her shoes would sink in the mud while trying to get inside the trailer. Although this did not make her happy, it was something that never bothered my little brother who, like most little boys, enjoyed mud.

During the week, my mother often took her break, picked me up from school and then took me back to the property while she finished her work. I would walk the property with Clyde or sometimes by myself as long as I stayed out of the work zones so that I could see the daily progress.

My mother, brother and I watched as the land was transformed from tagged stakes in the ground and rebar, to cement foundations, plumbing, wooden wall frames, electrical, every detail all the way up to the support beams for the sanctuary roof which were put in place with a large crane. I remember thinking the beams looked like giant hockey sticks as they were unloaded from the trucks and slowly hoisted into the supports. Once the beams were in place, the work on the roof began. It all was a thrilling experience to watch and we weren’t the only ones who have those precious memories. Everyone who loved the church came to watch it be built. Congregation members made the time each week, sometimes several times a week, to come and visit the property and see the progress being made. We were watching our dream come to life!

I remember there was a woman construction worker there who was thin and not very tall and kept up with the men every step of the way. I marveled as I watched her throw wood planks upon her shoulder, then trotted up to the roof of the church, hard hat on, tool belt around her waist, to lay the planks down and go to work hammering them in place.

A beautiful memory that stands out in my mind was the day the piano arrived. A deal had been made and the church was going to get a brand new, satin black finish, eight-foot concert grand. I had never seen an instrument like it in my life. It literally took my breath away to see it as they brought it in and I couldn’t wait to hear it. The church pianist at the time was Pat White, and my mother made sure she was called so she could be there to see it arrive. As soon as it was ready, we all sat down on the stage steps and listened as she played. Pat never read musical notes, but plays with an anointed gift from God.  The melodic sounds of her music gloriously filled the sanctuary giving us chills, urging us to sing. We were all rejoicing. That was my first memory of worshiping inside the Parkway Community Church. It pains my heart to say that I was the one who made the decision to sell that piano. It no longer met the needs of the music department and took up far too much space. But I found it a wonderful home with a retired concert pianist who fell in love with it the moment she saw it. I’m sure it is still enjoying a happy life with her.

I remember the fundraising dinners that took place throughout this time and still have some of the placemats with the churches design upon them in the colors of lavender. I remember the pew sponsoring fundraiser held where people could donate the money for a pew. This was something my Papa, Samuel Boone, took very seriously. When the pews arrived, he went in, sat in several different ones and when he found the spot that he liked best, that pew is where he sat until his dying day.

When they finished the stage inside the sanctuary, everyone was excited. The entire church floor was concrete and so was the initial stage. (I say initial because, after one of my Christmas programs that included a live donkey who had a very upset stomach during the program, we extended the stage out an additional three feet all the way around to help cover the stains!)  I remember the chandeliers and wall sconces being set in place, and the carpet guys doing their magnificent work. Bit by bit, day by day, the building started to feel the warmth a house of God. For me, it felt just like home.

The day when the large copper cross for the back wall and the matching copper pulpit arrived was also exciting. The light green glass of the cross was outlined with copper and there was a light inside that had an adjustment switch so the cross could be brightened or dimmed. The pulpit was also made of copper with a wooden top and the same light green glass in the front that had an etching of a dove upon it could also light up like the cross. There was so much thought and love put into the choices for every detail of the church and with every piece added to it, the joy and anticipation grew in everyone’s hearts for the day when it would all be finished and ready for us to move in.

There were some changes along the way, one of them being the Diffie Family Life Center didn’t get built and was deemed to be a project for the future. Though there were many people who were disappointed that it had to wait, the people of the church were still very thankful to the Lord for the stunningly beautiful new sanctuary and couldn’t wait to start holding services in it.

Finally, that day came. For me, it was just as exciting as Christmas morning. I could hardly sleep the night before and couldn’t wait to get there and have the first service in the new church. It was no longer a dream. It was a reality and it was beautiful! That first Sunday, everyone was smiling and laughing so much. We all sat there with hearts full of thanksgiving. God had blessed us and through Him, the church was completed. We were ready to let the ministry begin!

I think the best way to describe us overall would be like a beautiful, big family of a few hundred of God’s children who loved each other and loved worshipping together. All were bound together with cords of love to carry on the vision of their original shepherd, Bro. Diffie, to build a new home. A house of God for all who wanted to come. A house full of the miraculous power of the Spirit of God. A house that we all believed would stand the tests of time.

The joy of the congregation members was evident every Sunday as they entered the house with rejoicing. The church began to grow, drawing in people of all ages and the services were all that we dreamed, full of the blessings of God. The first year of holidays was very special, full of celebrations, special programs, music, great sermons, and praying together at the altar.

As time went on there came a few more changes to the position of Senior Pastor which sometimes happens in the Church of God organization and Bro. Blazier went to another position. After his departure, there would be four more Senior Pastors over the course of a couple of decades who would hold the position as pastor of the church.

I always served at the church as a volunteer in the choir, helper in children’s church and of course, whenever my mother needed a hand making copies in the office. But my first work done there where I was given a specific task, was as a teenager. I was asked to direct the children’s Christmas musical, something I had been given the opportunity to do when I was twelve and the congregation was meeting at the Madison School. I was thrilled to be able to have another opportunity to direct a Christmas musical as I had written a few and wanted to see how people responded to them.

The first year went very well and I was asked to direct the children the next year, which I happily did. That program went well and before I knew it, I was being asked to pray about taking the position of Music Minister for Parkway Community Church. This was an honor I hadn’t even dreamed of having.

The history of the choir that once filled the Parkway Church with song went all the back to the early 44th Street years when Bro. Diffie started a choir. As time went on and the choir grew a director named Dorothy Brooks was given the position and she served the church diligently for decades. The 44th Street Choir recorded several records, took tours and even had their own radio show. Once the choir had begun, there had always been a choir, even in the days while the church was in the Madison School. So to be asked to fill this position was not just a wonderful opportunity for me, it was an honor to be part of the choir’s history and legacy.

Although I happily took the position, while I was there, I never took the title of “Music Minister” because I believed I needed to go to school to earn the title of “minister”. Now that I am older, I realize that I didn’t need a piece of paper to tell me that I was a minister. That title was earned through the work and experiences I gained by serving in that position.

I learned a lot about myself while working at the church. I learned that I have a great love for people, especially children, and I learned that in addition to being a musician, I am also a writer. I also learned that I loved giving and I don’t mean just my regular tithes and offerings but on a much larger scale.

I took my work at the church very seriously and allowed God to keep control of my hands and my ideas. I had been called into service by God one night in a dream. My personal goals were set on Broadway and I had been working toward that goal as a Music Theater major in college. But God had the right plan for my life and He told me in the dream, “What you are doing is fun and people will have a moment that will bring them joy, but if you use the gifts I have given you to serve Me and reach the hearts My children, you could give them more than a moment of joy, you could change their eternities.”

I woke up instantly from that dream and went to my knees. I asked God to forgive me for being so selfish to seek my glory with my gifts instead of His and I immediately knew that for the rest of my life, no matter what, I would use the gifts God had given me in music, performance, art, theater, and dance for His glory.

When I began the work at the Parkway Community Church, I had a lot of support and people came happily to join the music department. I loved the people in that group so much. They were all family to me and together we built something beautiful, something good that God blessed.

Every time God gave me a dream of a musical production, whether it be for Christmas, Easter, 4th of  July, etc. I did exactly as He showed me in the dream. I remember my husband, Josh, asking me, “How do you remember your dreams so vividly?” I replied, “I don’t. Only the dreams God gives me.” Whenever I did as God showed me, He blessed the production and anointed it. Lives were changed through the performances of the good people of Parkway. God used all their talents for His glory and people came to Jesus because of their faithfulness and trust to do what was asked of them.

It was through writing the musicals that I began to understand God had also given me the gift of storytelling. I wouldn’t consider myself a writer for many more years as I lacked proper training and knowledge in the field, but to just be able to tell the story God gave me, that was something I was able to do and I loved to do it with music.

As the years passed the music department grew. We had an adult choir, a children’s choir, praise, and worship leaders and teams, and our musician’s area grew so much we had to build an extra extension for the stage, and we had an excellent audio/visual team.

When we did the Christmas and Easter musicals, we opened up the productions to anyone who wanted to participate in them and just reserved the solos to be sung for the choir members. As far as I knew, it all worked well. Yes, there were a lot of hours required of the people to rehearse but I never heard anyone complain about it. I tried to be as flexible and understanding as possible because I knew these people were all volunteers, every single one of them and I wanted to be respectful of their time and lives.

In my opinion, it all worked beautifully and I felt that we had a beautiful music department family. One that was rich in talent, open-hearted and welcoming to newcomers, loving and supportive of one another and extremely hard working.

Serving as Music Minister of the Parkway Community Church was one of the greatest honors of my life. I was blessed to work with all of the people that I did and I loved the work we did together.

I was also blessed to be part of the great legacy of the choir that was started (at this point in time) over fifty years ago by Bro. Diffie. When I stepped into that role, I did not try and tear down what once was. I did not destroy the foundation the choir was built upon. I just took the baton and kept going with it. I didn’t throw out a single song for the worship choruses or the choir’s repertoire that was chosen by other directors. I kept all that was done previously and just began adding some new to it. I understood that you cannot take something that has been blessed with success for decades, throw it out, start over and expect those blessings to continue to flow. When you see something successful that you are handed to run, you pay attention to why it was successful and you build upon that. I tried very hard to also keep a balance with the music at the church. I tried to provide something for every age from the oldest of the elders to the youngest of the members. This was the vision of the pastor and the pastors before him and I was obedient to that vision. My service at the Parkway Community Church was something that I will always look upon with great joy. Knowing that I got to be part of a musical legacy that was so richly anointed by God for such a long period of time will always make me smile.

Then there came a shift. A false accusation was spoken against me that had spread through a certain group in the congregation. The accusation was that I did not forgive a member of the church when they asked for forgiveness, but instead, I scoffed at their request.

This was not true. This event never happened nor have I ever rejected anyone who asked me to forgive them.

Because the accusation was not true, I did not know that this story was being told about me for several months. The time the story had to simmer damaged these people’s hearts and minds where my leadership was concerned. My character, my being fit for ministry and even worse, my heart and soul were judged.

Even though my husband was present when this event took place and testified that no forgiveness was ever asked for and no forgiveness was ever rejected, it didn’t matter. We were told, “Well, they thought they asked for it.”

That was the moment I learned the life lesson that no matter how much truth you put before a person, even if you have another to testify on your behalf, people will believe what they choose to believe.

I entered a period where Josh and I were engulfed in complete confusion and chaos. I kept thinking, why is this happening? I sometimes had the usual conflicts in the music department that came from time to time, wherever you have groups of people, that’s bound to happen, but nothing like this. So why now? I had just come back from a trip with the choir to California to learn how to do two-morning services and we were making plans to record our first Parkway Choir album. I was also working on a new Christmas musical for the following year. In my mind, there was so much good work yet to do with so many wonderful people, I couldn’t understand why God was allowing this to take place. Still, I trusted Him.

Then, amidst the pain and confusion that Josh and I were dealing with came a tremendous miraculous blessing. I learned that I was pregnant with our second baby. All babies are precious miracles from God, and for us, this baby was an extra special miracle because I was not supposed to be able to get pregnant without extreme medication and surgery (that is another blog for another time!). Our first baby was a test-tube baby. Josh and I had gone through 5 years of infertility, which is a drop in the bucket compared to some, so we could have a family. I had many things wrong with me and could not conceive the natural way. We did the ZIFT procedure two times and were blessed with our first child, a beautiful girl we named Aven Salei. Then, one day before Thanksgiving 2004, I felt different and I remember telling Josh, “If I didn’t know better, I would think I was pregnant!” The next day I took a test and learned I was right. In the midst of a storm, God gave us one of the three greatest blessings of our lives, our second baby!!!

This changed everything for me.

I was already struggling with being away from Aven who had some development issues with her neck when she was born and couldn’t be left unattended until the neck was corrected. I had been seriously thinking about having more time with her than I was able to have. I hadn’t even taken proper maternity leave after Aven was born. I directed and sang in a full Easter production only two weeks after having a cesarean. Now that I knew God had given us this new miracle child, an unexpected blessing that brought us tremendous joy, I knew the timing had to be for a powerful reason… and I wondered if God wanted me to remain in the position I held in the church or to resign.

A conflict began to arise in my heart. I loved Josh and my children more than anything, still, I had loved the Parkway Community Church most of my life and had been part of the congregation that began at 44th Street my entire life. I was born into the church as was my mother before me. How could I possibly leave it? How could I possibly leave all that I have ever known? I still had so much to do, so many dreams that God had given me for future programs and projects, how could I leave?

We were right in the middle of presenting to the public a Christmas musical called “Give Him Your Heart” when all this was taking place and I remember one night before going to bed, I knelt to pray and told God, “Jesus, I gave You my heart when I was seven years old, and I gave You all of my talents almost a ten years ago, now, I give you my ministry. I know that You gave me this work to do, but You also gave me this beautiful family that I prayed so hard to have. What is Your perfect will? What do You want me to do?”

That night as I slept, I had a dream. I was walking inside the throne room of God, the Father. It was glorious. Everything around me was glistening white, and there was a brilliant light shining all around. God was on His throne and was so big, I could hardly take Him in. Bigger than the Twin Towers, bigger than a mountain, and I trembled with fear. I remember looking up at Him, He was completely white, glowing like lightning and I could not speak. I could barely breathe. I kept my gaze upon Him and placed my hand on my heart and thought what I wanted to say, “God, You know my thoughts and what I came to ask. What is Your will? What do You want me to do?”

I was standing on his left side at the edge of his feet. I still remember it as if it were yesterday, God looked down at me for a moment, then He looked out in the distance toward His right side and pointed. He didn’t speak, He just pointed.
When I woke up I didn’t know what my dream meant. I called my dear friend, Rhona Mullins, a prayer warrior with a powerful love for God, His Word, and His Holy Spirit. She is wise and has always given me good counsel ever since I have known her.

I told Rhona the dream. While I was talking to her I kept saying, “I just feel like I should go quietly.” After Rhona heard me say this for the third time she stopped me, “Angelique,” she said, “That is the third time you have said that.”
“Said what?” I asked.
“Go quietly. That is your answer. That is what God was telling you to do. He didn’t speak, He just pointed. He wants you to go quietly.”

I knew at the moment that she said it, she was right. The Holy Spirit was speaking to me through her to give me a confirmation for the answer to the question that I asked God in the dream. God did want me to leave, and to do it quietly and from the moment I had the confirmation that was what God communicated to me, I wanted it to. I did want to go quietly. I didn’t want to hurt the church. I loved it too much. I loved Bro. Diffie too much and I didn’t want to do anything that would destroy his precious work and legacy.

I talked to Josh and the rest of my family. We all cried and talked it through, but the Holy Spirit had already prepared their hearts and they knew that it was time for me to go. I then spoke to my godfather, Myron Jones, who has always been there for me and has always given me good counsel. I set it up while still in the midst of the Christmas program performances and on Saturday, December 11, 2004, I resigned from the Parkway Community Church as the Music Minister.

I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t vengeful. I just wanted to be obedient to what God instructed me to do; gently lay the work down and leave as quietly and quickly as I could. And I did. I had witnesses present when I did this and those were the exact words I used, “I want to gently lay this down and be done.”  I constructed a letter to the congregation explaining how blessed Josh and I were and that my heart was being called to stay home with my children. All of that was true. I chose not to tell the entire story because I did not want to bring the confusion, chaos, and pain that Josh and I had experienced, to the church body. Everything I said in that letter was the truth. I told the people that I loved them and the church with all of my heart, and explained that God had given me a new ministry through my family, little did I know at the time all that God has planned for us!

The night the letter went out, I went home and went right to sleep. I had another dream. I dreamt that I was carrying a huge boulder, like something that was even bigger than the ball chasing Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was a burden and I was trying to carry it upon my back. Then, I looked up and the burden began to float upward. I stood and watched as it slowly floated up through the sky, into space and then into heaven to the mighty hand of God. When the boulder reached His hand, I saw that what was so huge and burdensome to me, was nothing bigger than a grain of sand to God. I watched as it slowly floated into the palm of His hand, then disappeared.

When I woke up, I had total peace. And not just peace, but also joy. Because I knew that God had a new work for me to do and that work would surround my babies.

The hard part was saying goodbye to the choir, musicians, children and tech crew members that I dearly loved. Truly, like family, some for the length of my entire life.
We had a party at the home of two dear friends, Dan and Donna Maye, and something happened there that I wouldn’t realize for several years later, but the very last act that I did for the children members of my music department would be the first act of my new ministry– and it involved teddy bears. It was nothing but the mysterious and miraculous hand of God in action. You can read that story here: https://angeliquelafoncox.wordpress.com/2018/10/

I was packed up and gone before the next Sunday in December and my family and I took a trip to Disneyland, which for me is always a good thing and the best place I could go after saying goodbye to the church I loved.

I have learned through the teachings of Christian Rabbi, Jonathan Caan, that in the Bible, the number 7 stands for completion and that the number 8 stands for new beginnings.

On June 17, 2005, Josh and I were blessed beyond measure with the birth of our new baby girl, MaCaedyn Janei. She was then and is now a precious child with a beautiful heart for Jesus. She is full of love, laughter, and song. We were all elated and so thankful! Aven was too, she was such a wonderful big sister and she loved to play with “her baby” every moment she had. These playtimes were so creative that I began journaling them down so that I wouldn’t forget them.

It was in the seventh month that I had another dream from God.

I was writing a children’s book series about a family of bears, a bear family-based upon my family, and the stories were about my children’s imaginative adventures. The family was named The Huggabears. The day I woke up from the dream I told Josh about it and began writing the stories. That was in the seventh month of the year, July 2005. Seven months had been completed between my last work of ministry and my new one, but it would be years before I would learn that!

The next month, in August, God spoke to my heart yet again and told me that I needed to start an organization for children in need and I was to call it The Huggabear Children’s Project, Inc. I admit I was a bit concerned. I was a musician, not a business person and I didn’t know how to begin. I believe that’s why God chose us for this task. He knew that I would have to rely completely upon Him for all that I did, which gave Him the control He needed to build exactly what He wanted. He will always have that control too because I know that I am nothing without Him and I want His perfect will first. Josh feels the same.

Josh and I had gone to a service at Phoenix First Assembly of God and that Sunday, Pastor Tommy Barnett gave a sermon titled “The Power of One”. It was for us, plain and simple. I bought the CD of the sermon and still have it to this day. When the service was over, I told Josh, that it was for me and Josh said he knew it was too. God was telling us to start the children’s organization. Josh agreed, he knew it was for us and our very first project came at the end of that month after Hurricane Katrina ripped its way through the communities of Louisiana and Mississippi. We didn’t have the 501c3 in place at that time, but we still raised hundreds of dollars for churches in need and continued to do so for months to come.

This all took place in the eight-month, August. According to Rabbi Jonathan Caan, eight represents new beginnings and we were beginning our new work! It was then that I began to understand why God wanted me to resign from the Parkway Community Church. I kept thinking about John 13:7 “Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.'” 

At the time, I did not understand why God allowed the things to happen to Josh and I at the Parkway Community Church that He did, but now that I saw the path before me and the work that I would be doing, I was so thankful.

It has still been said of us that we have not given forgiveness because we no longer maintain a relationship with some who were against us. They say, “Forgiveness means relationship.” I would just have to revert back to the teachings of Bro. Diffie when he would say, “Let’s agree to disagree agreeably” on that. I have found nowhere in the Bible that instructs forgiveness means relationship.

Josh and I made a pact when we left Parkway. God would always come first and our children would always come second. Everything in our world would surround that. That we strive to protect our family and never allow the kind of confusion, chaos, and pain that we had experienced to infest our hearts, home or family again. That I would never allow my work to come before caring for our children. They were the main focus of my ministry and I would stay with them, teach them and pour the love of Jesus Christ into them daily. There are some I do not trust to have a relationship with and do not wish to walk my journey of life with, but that doesn’t mean that I have not forgiven them, or that I am angry with them, or harbor any ill will toward them in any way. I honestly don’t. I just want peace. Josh and I have found that peace by keeping to the path God placed us on fifteen years ago and I do not wish to part from it.

Another life lesson Josh and I learned through all of this is that there are going to be people that come into your life that you will never be able to please. There will always be those out there who will be looking for ways to find fault with you no matter what it is you do. You can either keep that kind of constant frustration and confusion in your life, and keep spending good energy and time trying to please them, or you can say, God bless you, I wish nothing but the best for you and your life, I look forward to spending eternity with together with you and Jesus, and then go on about your way. Having had three near-death experiences in my time, I believe life is too short to spend it trying to please those you never will. Don’t hold grudges, don’t hate, don’t be cruel or unkind in any way. Forgive others, pray for them and put your focus upon pleasing God! In all things, put Jesus first and I can promise you, He will do great things with your life! There will always come trials and tribulations, but Jesus will never leave you, nor forsake you! (Deut. 31.6)
John 16:33  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Josh and I truly hold no grudges, no anger, no revenge, no strongholds, no ill will of any kind toward anyone. We do as Christ instructed us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (Matthew 22:39) for these people through sincere prayer. We pray for all those who were against us, and we pray sincerely. We pray for their protection, their health, their joy, their relationships and families, their finances, every element of their lives to be richly blessed by the hand of Almighty God. We will look forward to the day when we are changed to be like Jesus and we will all be together in harmony in the realms of glory. Until then, Josh and I cherish the peace and joy that we live in daily and are so thankful that God brought us to this place. We live wonderful, happy lives and we wouldn’t trade what God has given us for anything else.

I will say publicly for all to read, forgiveness always was given to those who have asked me and forgiveness will always be given for those in the future. I am capable of forgiving great things. I had much worse things happen to me as a child that, through the love and power of Jesus Christ, I was able to overcome and forgive. Forgiveness is something I embrace for I know that it is more for me and my heart to heal than it is for the person asking for it. Forgiveness is also obedience so that I am able to receive forgiveness from my Savior as it is written in Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” I devote an entire lesson to the power of forgiveness in my second Intercessors book “Sword of Miracles”. Pretty much, the entire theme of the book is about forgiveness. It is a beautiful thing to forgive, it brings healing and strength. I am thankful Jesus gave us all the gift of forgiveness.

I even became thankful for the group that was against me. All they did was drive me farther into the arms of Jesus, and I strengthened my relationship with Him and His Word. The helped strengthen the bonds of love and trust that Josh and I already had. It was like we had a brand new marriage! One that we could put so much more time into daily. They helped me learn how to spiritually and prayerfully protect my children whom I am totally, completely and helplessly in love with!!! I also am doing the work that I want to do for the rest of my life and I will do it. There is no work greater than what I am blessed to do now. I absolutely love it! So for all those out there who thought you had victory over me, I have to thank you. All your actions ended up doing was blessing me with a life that was richer than I could have ever dreamed!

If I hadn’t left the Parkway Community Church I would never be writing the books, songs, musicals and movie scripts that I am now. I would never have started The Huggabear Children’s Project, Inc. and all of the projects under it. I would never have been so blessed to serve so many thousands of children through the years–and I am believing for millions yet to come! This is the work that I will do for the rest of my life!!!

There was never a time when I have regretted the decision to leave Parkway and the bottom line for the reason why I left, plain and simple was because God told me to.
He told me to “Go quietly”. I trusted Him and am so thankful I did!

Once I left, I never felt that it was God’s will for me to go back. There were only three times in which I did, for three funerals, John Weik, Bro. Diffie and Linda Knauss. Josh and I were asked to sing a song that I gave Linda to sing with the choir, “So You Would Know” by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. I had not stepped on that stage to sing in years and when it was our turn I knew there were some in the audience who were watching us closely. I also felt a bit strange in the sanctuary. The look of it had changed so drastically. The carpet was all gray, the stage walls were covered with large black drapes and the lights were kept down very low. It no longer looked and felt like the bright, beautiful and cheery church I once knew. It felt… sad and heavy. I whispered a prayer to the Lord for His strength and anointing and as I placed my foot upon that stage He spoke so clearly to me, “I taught you to sing for Me on this stage.” Upon hearing this my heart was overwhelmed by the presence of the Lord. I knew He was with us and He gave His anointing upon our song for Linda’s family. I was so thankful and honored to be able to be part of Linda’s service and to have God speak those words to my heart.

I have so many precious memories of that place. Memories of healings, and being filled with the Holy Spirit. I fell in love with my husband there and we had our wedding celebration there. Memories of my grandfather’s funeral and partings of other loved ones took place there. I went through my first pregnancy and dedicated our first baby there. All of the music we created and the amazing people we worked with, of the people whose hearts we won to Jesus, and the children we blessed and who blessed us that happened there. The list goes on and on and on.

The church felt like my home when I watched it being built and when I worked there I spent more time in it than I did my home. In fact, I had a futon in my office and sometimes, during holiday programs when the workdays were long and the hours were late, we would just stay the night in my office. It felt like home because it was home. Though it was hard to leave, God knew what was best. Always.

I am thankful for all of the memories that I have there, the good and the bad. Though I admit, it was hard to learn that I didn’t have as many close friends as I thought I did because I really did love them all. I think some of the people who were my friends while I was there were people that God wanted me to have in my life for that time, for that “season”. I’m good with it now because I know that the friends I have in my life love me and my family for who we are, not for what I do or the position I have. I wouldn’t trade a single one of them for anything in the world!

The days that Josh and I had at Parkway Community Church helped train us for what we are doing now. Our work there was within the walls of the church and those who came there. Now, we are working on a global scale with all kinds of people in countries all over the world. I am very thankful for all that I learned while there, through the trials and the victories God was teaching us, molding us, shaping and teaching us–and He is still not done. I don’t expect He ever will be until I leave this earth and go to Him in glory. Everything that happened at Parkway Community Church was according to His perfect will and plan and I wouldn’t trade any of it at all because it helped make me who I am today.

One of the main reasons why I felt led to write this blog after so many years and why I had to explain what happened to me while I was there, was because I needed to speak the truth about a matter of great importance to me and you couldn’t understand this without knowing a little about the past.

When I left Parkway, there were people who would often call me and tell me what was happening in the church. I found the negative stories painful because I loved my friends and didn’t want them suffering, especially since there was nothing I could to change it. But I also found the positive stories painful because some of the stories sounded like the people didn’t care that I was gone, like I had just been erased from the church completely which was also painful. So I had to stop allowing the calls to come and the stories to be told.

I knew that in order for my heart to have healing, I needed to remove myself from anything which would cause me more pain. Those who understood my position on this are my dear friends to this day, those who didn’t are not. Again, I trust God for all the relationships that He wants me to have and I am grateful for them.

But there came a story which I could not ignore and have felt led after these fifteen years and seeing the church lie in ruins to address. I was told by a dear friend, who I consider family, that there was a conversation which took place among some of the church leaders after my departure, who were casting blame upon myself and my husband, Josh, for influencing people to leave the church.

This – never – happened.

I never once influenced anyone to leave the Parkway Community Church, as God is my judge of all I say and do, neither Josh, nor myself, nor any member of my extended family encouraged anyone else to leave the congregation there.

It is true that there were some families that did leave and they came to where I was. I spoke with them seriously and directly asking them to please not leave because of me, and their response to me was that they were at the church to be part of my music department and now the music department I ran was gone and they wanted to come where I was. While this touched me to hear, I still was concerned that others would think I was an instigating force behind the departure of some of the members, but I was not. None of us were.

I heard that some people believed that because Josh and I experienced some hardships and trials after we left the church that we were being punished by God, but I know that is not true. God chooses the lessons He allows us to have so that He can teach us and shape us through each and every experience. Everything that Josh and I experienced while at the church and after we left the church was to prepare us for the ministry that we are doing now; to teach us not to be judgemental, to have more compassion for others, especially children, and to become better givers. Again, I wouldn’t trade any of the lessons God has allowed us to learn for an easier route. He has made us stronger, wiser, kinder, more obedient and definitely more trusting of Him and all of that is a very good thing!

I don’t know all the details about what happened to the Parkway Community Church after we left and I don’t need to. It won’t change anything and it won’t bring the church back. All I know is, I never wanted anything bad to happen to it. I loved the church very much and I had the hope that it would be able to grow and return to the thriving life it once had. When I first heard it was up for sale, I hoped a congregation would get it that would make it great again and use it to minister to the people of Phoenix,  just as
Bro. Diffie dreamed so many years ago.

When I heard that it was to be torn down, my heart grieved and so did the hearts of hundreds. I couldn’t believe it or imagine life without it. All my life the dream of that building was spoken into so many hearts, not just mine and my families, but hundreds of families who came together to pray, give, work and make building it possible. The dream of the church was so powerful, so strong. I never thought that one day it could or would be removed from the earth.

After I received Josh’s call that morning telling me that the church was gone, I went there alone. As I pulled up to the property I could see fencing that had been put up by the construction company and when I turned in and saw what was once one of the most beautiful churches in this world lying in rubble, I cried. It was a shock to my heart.

I took out my camera and recorded what was before me because I knew, though it would be painful for all who loved it to see, that there were so many people who probably had no idea that it was gone and because they loved the church too, I felt they should know.

As I filmed it, thousands of memories washed over me. Memories of healings that I and others received in the altars of the church. I could hear the voices singing and could see the dancing, and the musicians playing their rich melodies, their worship heaven-bound. I could see the faces of children as they ran around the fountain and of people as they hugged one another. I can still see their smiles and their laughter. I can still taste the amazing “pot luck” dinners that the people would cook and feel the warmth I used to feel when I walked into the sanctuary. All of us who loved the Parkway Church and were part of it’s beginning and it’s life will always have these wonderful, beautiful, memories that we will always treasure and that is something that can never be destroyed or taken away.

For those who will read this and try to imply something to my story other than what it is, or might say if I and so many other people loved the church so much why didn’t we stay to help rebuild it? My response to that would be, I had to be obedient to the direction God gave me and He told me to leave. I cannot speak for anyone else, but just because a person doesn’t attend a church, doesn’t mean that they don’t still have love in their heart for it. If I had been so blessed to have the money to save it, I surely would have. In fact, I had a friend who works for a women’s ministry and wanted to buy it and turn it into a church and home for single Veteran mothers, but they never could find anyone to talk to about buying it or even find a listing for it. Still, though it is very, very hard to accept, I believe God had to have a reason for allowing it to be torn down. Again, I trust in Him.

As I stood there, the memory of standing on the same grounds as a teenage girl watching it being “born” washed over me. I would stand in the same spot and watch it being built, coming to life, and now, I was watching it lay in rubble at its end.

While I looked at the remains of the church I felt it pressing upon my heart so strongly that I had to write this blog just to let the world know that I did not have a hand in the destruction of the Parkway Community Church. I loved it far too much to ever do it any harm.

Standing on the grounds reminded me of the memory of watching the 44th Street Church being taken down. I thought to myself, “How many people have seen two of the churches of their lives that they loved torn down?” It is a sad thing for sure. But the memory of standing on the 44th Street property with my mother and baby brother and asking the workers there if we could please take something to remember it by came pounding into my heart. So I asked one of the workers at the Parkway property if I could please gather some of the pieces of the church to take home with me. The gentleman, whose name was Kevin, was so kind and understanding. He helped me and as he did he said, “I often remind my crew that for us, taking a building down is a job, but for the people connected to these buildings, they hold precious memories and we always need to be compassionate for them.” God placed Kevin there for me that day, and I thanked him for his kindness and help.

I gathered several bricks from the main building, pieces of beams and wood, some tile fragments from the bathroom, some rocks from the rock beds and a large strip of the copper roofing. In the new year, Josh and I are going to take these “Pieces of Parkway” and turn them into a cross that will be placed on our Huggabear Farm for all to see as a tribute to the beautiful dream of Bro. Hurschel Diffie and the 44th Street congregation members that once was the Parkway Community Church of God.

The memories of it will live on in our hearts and the memory of the dream that Bro. Diffie had to reach the harvest for the people of Arizona will live on in all of us who had the blessing of being his sheep. We will keep his dream alive by spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ just as he did and he taught us to do.

There are so many stories that could be told by so many people and how much they loved the church through the years. Although we cannot understand it, God had a reason for allowing the church to be removed and in its place, homes to be built. One thing for sure, those homes will be built upon Holy Ground that still holds the anointing of God’s power.

Today is December 31, 2019. Tomorrow will begin a new year and a new decade. I will enter the new year having spoken truth that I needed to speak for fifteeen years and as Jesus teaches us in John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” With this truth, I am setting myself free, and I bring this story to an end by saying, “Goodbye Old Friend, Parkway Community Church of God, and thank you for being such a beautiful, significant, and powerful part of my life. I am a better person for having known you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“A Kite, An 80-Year-Old Prayer, and Three Christmas Blessings”

In December 2019, I received a wonderful gift from one of my dear friends, Marci Prevital. Along with the gift, she thanked me for being a blessing to her family. These words touched my heart and I told her that I didn’t feel like I did much, but she hugged me and encouraged me that I did. I then explained that because I have so many dreams of things that I want to do with our ministry in music, through my books, movies and with our Huggabear Farm, big dreams that I haven’t been able to do quite yet, it doesn’t feel as if I do much to bless others right now.

In years past, I have been able to present musicals and performing arts programs on large scales in front of large audiences, but as of the past few years, we have put our focus primarily on those in need of some personal love and appreciation.
Our Huggabear Children’s Project Performing Arts Team is the official entertainment group for Honor Flight Arizona and performs four shows a year for World War II, Korean and now Vietnam War Veterans. We have sung for children’s shelters, amusement parks, charitable fundraisers, and several times a year, we sing for seniors at a retirement community.

Marci’s grandchildren, Ashlyn and Kinsley, are very talented singers and have performed with me for several years. Everywhere we go the audiences are so grateful for our performances, still, I don’t always hear individual stories from people in the audience and how our shows impact their hearts. On December 9, 2019, I did.

My family and students had been working throughout the fall season to prepare a Christmas program for the people of Park Terrace Retirement Community. We had a lovely audience and my students and family all did a fantastic job. It was a great way to begin our holiday season.

The program was called “The Blessings of Christma” and before each student performed, I had them tell something that blesses their heart and life during the Christma season. This was very special and everyone enjoyed hearing the children’s stories.

After the program, my mother came with a lovely woman named Francis who told me that she wanted to share a story with me. I was happy to listen.

Francis had been in attendance on September 7, 2019, when the HCP Performing Arts Team had performed our show “A Night of Disney and Friends”. I hosted that show as Mary Poppins and had a few “Sing-a-long” songs from Mary Poppins throughout the program. Our finale was “Let’s Go Fly a Kite!”, the Sherman Brothers classic masterpiece from the original “Mary Poppins” movie.

I had an idea for this song to make small paper kites with tails in a variety of colors and attach them to a piece of baling wire so that when held up, the kite would appear to bob and weave in the air, just like a real kite would while being flown. I wanted all of the children in the show to have a kite, and because we love audience participation in our shows, I wanted to have some extras so that anyone in the audience who wanted a kite could also “fly” one and sing along with us.

My beautiful friend, Marci, graciously volunteered to make the kites for the show and I was more than thankful for the help! On the day of the show, Marci, along with her family, had made dozens of the prettiest paper kites and when the end of the show came, she distributed them to the children and audience members who wanted one.
Francis was given the last one.

This was the story that Francis shared with us about her and the kite.

When Francis was a little girl about 5 years of age, her father, who was a minister, made her and her brother a homemade kite out of paper. She described how beautiful she thought it was and she could remember every detail about it including the long, flowing tail that her father attached to it. Francis said she had never seen a kite before and as her father soared it into the sky, she was amazed. She thought her daddy was extra special because he was able to make out of paper and string something so spectacular.

While they were flying the kite and having a marvelous time, a gust of wind blew strong and the string of the kite broke. Francis watched with sad little eyes as the magnificent kite that her daddy made, flew away. She was heartbroken.

While she told me the story, she became a bit emotional as the described the memory of losing the kite and how it made her feel. She then explained that her daddy consoled her and told her that if she prayed and asked God to bring her kite to her, He surely would.

“I began to pray for my kite,” Francis said, “and I prayed and prayed. Every day I prayed.”

The days began to pass and then turned into years which also began to pass by. Still, Francis prayed for her kite, asking God to bring it back to her. As she grew older, this prayer for her kite began to test her faith. She wondered if God really did answer prayers, after all, her daddy had told her with great confidence that if she prayed and believed, God would restore her kite to her.

All throughout her life Francis never stopped praying for her kite. The years passing turned into decades and she found herself still praying for the kite in the latter part of her life in her eighties. Then, a tremendous blessing came to her from God. As she sat in the audience on September 7, 2019, for the “Night of Disney and Friends” show. Francis listened to me announce that we were going to end our show with the song
“Let’s Go Fly a Kite”. Upon hearing the song title her mind traveled back to the day when she, as a five-year-old girl, lost the precious kite her father made for her. She said, “I watched as they passed out the kites to the audience, and I prayed, ‘Please God, let me get a kite'”.

Even though she didn’t raise her hand to receive a kite, God directed Marci to give Francis the very last one she had made. Francis said when she took the kite and held it in her hands, floods of joy washed over her. As she began to sing with us the lyrics to the treasured song ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’, God spoke to her heart and told her, “This is the kite you have been praying for.” Francis said she started to argue, “But, God, that kite was handmade.” God reminded her, “This kite was handmade,” He told her, “This is your kite. It has been restored to you.”

Francis was overwhelmed with joy and began thanking God for His wonderful gift. After 80 years of praying and dreaming about her kite, it was restored to her!

As Marci and I listened to Francis tell us her story on December 9, 2019, we were covered with chills.

The three of us received a great blessing that night to begin the Christmas season.
I had no clue the idea to give kites to the audience was part of God’s plan. I just thought it would be something cute for the show.

Marci had no idea when she made the kites how powerful the impact would be upon this lovely lady. Nor did she know when she gave her the last one, that too was the direction of God’s hand.

The three of us each received a great Christmas blessing the night of the Christmas program, which was appropriately titled “The Blessings of Christmas”.

Marci’s blessing was to learn that something she had taken the time to make, though small and simple, could be used by God to do something big and beautiful.

I learned that even though I may not be doing the big works I dream about doing for God, He still needs me to keep doing the smaller works that He whispers to me because there are so many people out there He wants to bless through them. God also showed me that all the ideas I have are from Him and that even though I may not see how it could be used for His glory, I need to be obedient to do everything He shows me when He tells me because He can use anything and everything to bring blessings to others.

God also reminded me that being obedient to act upon the ideas He gives us is key. If I hadn’t been obedient to sing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” and have kites for the audience to fly, and if Marci hadn’t hand made the kites like she did, this event would not have taken place.

And Francis, well, Francis was blessed to be able to share her testimony of faith with us and the miracle that God did for her heart through a little paper kite. She told us that she has placed it up on her wall in her apartment where she can look at it every day and thank God for restoring her faith and answering a prayer she prayed for eighty years.

If you would like to watch the video of the HCP Performing Arts Team sing
“Let’s Go Fly a Kite” click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M99Cp8Iditw
You can see Francis in the video during the song after she received her kite. She is the lovely white-headed lady wearing a purple blouse in the second to the last row waving her kite proudly!

 

The Light of Brother Diffie

I am a very fortunate person for many reasons. One of them is because I had the blessing of being born and raised in the 44th Street Church of God and was able to call a man named Rev. Hurschel Diffie, known to those he pastored as “Brother Diffie”, my first pastor. He was the real deal. A good shepherd.

In order to properly write all that Brother Diffie did in this world to represent Jesus Christ to others, I would have to write a book… which isn’t a bad idea!  For now, I will just tell you about an incident that recently happened to me where this beautiful man of God was concerned.

In order for you to understand my story, I will share a little bit about this extraordinary person. To begin, I will share some words from his oldest daughter, Gayle Diffie Rogers, who so graciously provided me with some history of when Brother Diffie began the 44th Street Church.

‘My father went to East Washington St. Church of God in 1945. In 1946 the church bought the property on Chicago Avenue, which was renamed 44th Street. The church was mostly built by the men of the church to help budget wisely. Daddy was very conservative when it came to spending the church (and his) funds. I’m not sure when they moved into the church maybe 1947 or early 1948. I know it was after Gloria was born. He took a medical retirement in 1976. They came and stayed with us for six months to give the people a chance to meet the new pastor. After they returned to Phoenix he continued to teach a Sunday School class and preach when asked. He visited the hospitals and homes to welcome people to the church. He loved the people! In 2005, after my mother passed away, he came to Georgia for a couple weeks. He walked four miles a day in my neighborhood and told everyone about salvation. All the children in the neighborhood would come to the door to visit with Pastor Diffie. It was so sweet. People at church would ask him to pray for their healing and he did that many times over the three years. They thought that since he had been healed he could reach heaven for them. He ministered to everyone everywhere we went. His pastor’s heart never died! I took him back to Phoenix to visit in April of 2007 and he had the best time. Everyone was so kind and gracious and made him feel so loved!

Brother Diffie was a man who genuinely made you feel so important and special. When you approached him to give him a hug, his face would light up and his broad, handsome smile dazzled– and it wasn’t for show. It was genuine and real. His love for people in this world was very, very real.

When he told you he was so proud of you, his words encouragement lifted your spirit so high it made you feel as if you were not standing upon the ground but floating just above. He looked at you intently while you spoke, like you were the most important person in the world, and you could see the emotion he was feeling about what you were sharing with him; joy, surprise or compassion were always reflected in his eyes. When you touched his heart, you could almost feel his feelings coming through his skin with just the softest touch of his hand. And when he told you he would pray for you or a situation you were in, you could trust completely that he would be bowing his head to speak to his Heavenly Father on your behalf that day and in the days to come.

Brother Diffie was a man who set a human example of the love of Jesus, obedience to God’s Word, and faith stronger than any metal found on earth.

I never heard people tell negative stories about Brother Diffie or his precious wife, Sister Diffie, who served the Lord in ministry by her husband’s side until the day she died. In fact, if you mention his name to anyone he loved, they will immediately smile.

Brother Diffie was a humble man. Though he was always impeccably dressed, held his tall frame with perfect posture, and it seemed as if none of his snow-white hairs were ever out of place, he happily lived the life of a common man, always keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground, and never setting himself above anyone else in position or circumstance.  Although he constantly dealt with severe health problems including seven pacemakers and quite an excruciating battle with stage four lung cancer, he was content in the life God blessed him with and extremely grateful for every day he had.

Brother Diffie was a hard worker and would not only preach sermons on Sunday mornings but could also be found singing or directing the choir–or both, with his rich, powerful baritone voice, teaching Sunday school classes, even taking the role of janitor for the church he so dearly loved.

I know none of us who heard it will ever forget him singing, “How Great Thou Art”, “It Is Well with My Soul”, or my personal favorite, “The King is Coming!”. I count myself truly privileged because I am one of the few choir directors who had the honor of directing the church choir when he sang these songs. His voice was anointed and when he sang, the heavens opened up and the glory of the Lord came down. No joke. It was a goosebump giving experience.

I am forty-eight years old and in all my years I have never met anyone on this earth like Brother Diffie. The saying “they broke the mold after he was made” is certainly true about this man. The above are just a few phrases to describe the devoted life of
Rev. Hurschel Diffie, again, it would take a novel to tell it all.

I had another special privilege of interviewing both he and his “Sweetheart” as he always called his beloved wife for hours one afternoon about their lives, family and ministry work together. Brother Diffie’s mind was sharp and he recalled dates, names and places effortlessly. I videoed the interview and am working on making it available to the public so that those who loved the Diffie’s can be blessed by it too.

I am not the type of person to idolize someone else and put them on a pedal-stool. There are no perfect people in this world. I believe there was only perfection in Jesus and He is the example we should follow. While I would not describe Brother Diffie as a perfect man, it sure did seem like he came close.

When I first began writing The Huggabears books, I dedicated the third book,
The Huggabears – A Cold and Rainy, Wind-Whirly Day to him because it teaches about the love and salvation of Jesus. I have also written him as the pastor in The Intercessors series, and of course, his name in the books is his own: Rev. Hurschel Diffie.

At this time, he was living with his daughter Gayle and her husband, Robert, in Atlanta, Georgia. He had moved away from Arizona after the death of his “Sweetheart” Hazel Diffie. Arizona would never be the same without them.

I had been enjoying some good, old fashioned USPS correspondence with Brother Diffie after his move and sent him a set of the Huggabear books I had published at that time. I received a letter from him after he read them. He was thrilled by what I was doing and loved that I had dedicated a book to him. He then explained that he had his daughter, Gayle, drive him to a shopping center where he walked to some bookstores to show them the Huggabear books and ask if they would sell them in their stores.

Even as I write those words, to think of this precious man, in his late 90’s, with his seventh pacemaker, after battling lung cancer, walking to bookstores to do that for me, well… it brings a lump to my throat, tears to my eyes, and warmth to my heart that I can’t quite describe.

He believed in me and my work for Jesus, and the love, support, and prayers he gave me will never be forgotten.

Now, I’m going to jump to the present.  A time after Brother Diffie had gone to heaven to meet his Jesus, be reunited with his “Sweetheart” Sister Diffie and gain his glorious reward.

The other day I was sharing with my faithful friend, Gerry Dillingham, all about Brother Diffie trying to get The Huggabears in bookstores. Naturally, the story touched her heart deeply as Gerry and her family were also blessed to have the honor of knowing and being loved by Brother Diffie, and they loved him very much.

I told Gerry these exact words, “I want to shine my light in the world Jesus just like Brother Diffie shone his.” My goal was not to live my life to serve Brother Diffie. I want nothing more than to get up each day and make Jesus proud. I explained that Brother Diffie set us an excellent example that a human person can look upon. He proved that it is possible to live a life that gives the love of Jesus to others and can take Christ’s light to this dark, decaying world.

Two days after I spoke those words to Gerry, I received a message from another beautiful friend, Mary DiSalvo. She was selling a home she owned in Arizona and she had a chandelier in her dining room that she wanted to give to me. There was a photo of a lovely chandelier and this text message:

“This chandelier belongs to You!! I think I was just using it until you received it! So clear it’s yours. The prayers made under that at the dining room table by Pastor Diffie….the anointing is probably still on it!”

Mary then explained how she came to have the chandelier which used to hang in Brother and Sister Diffie’s home!! She was so blessed to have it in her Phoenix home for so many years, but now that she was living in another state she wanted to put the Phoenix house up for sale. While she was making arrangements for the house to be put on the market, she told me that the Holy Spirit showed her my face and told her to give it to me for my family to enjoy!

I was amazed and overjoyed!!!

Here, just two days prior to this, while sweeping my kitchen floor and chatting with Gerry, I had told her that I wanted to shine my light like Brother Diffie shone his light in this world and now… on the third day, I was receiving a light that belonged to him!

I am so thankful to my friend, Mary, for giving me and my family this wonderful blessing. We now have this beautiful chandelier hanging over our dining room table and it fits perfectly. No matter where we go, it will go with us. It completely fits my taste–and looks like something that would be in a Huggabear house! Most importantly, it is a daily reminder of the magnificent example which the Lord set before me and countless others of a man who allowed God to order his steps, his tongue and his thoughts in the Word of God, Brother Diffie. A man who taught and exemplified the love of Jesus to everyone he met.  A man who did not let severe complications with his health rob him of his joy, peace, or faith. A handsome man whose laughter was infectious, and who could melt your heart when he would sing “How Great Thou Art.”

I am thankful to have known Brother and Sister Diffie and to have had them as examples in my life. I am thankful to my friend, Mary DiSalvo, for bestowing upon my family such a magnificent and significant gift. As my family sits underneath this lovely light on Thanksgiving Day, I will be extra thankful and will do my very best to take the light and love of Jesus to the world, just like Brother Diffie did.

If you would like to follow the Hurschel Diffie Facebook page, you can find it here:

https://www.facebook.com/hurscheldiffie.page

If you would like to follow the 44th Street Church of God page, you can find it here:

https://www.facebook.com/44thcog/

My Experience With Estroven

Hello Reader! Thank you for taking the time to read this blog! I just wanted to begin by stating that this is a personal testimony and experience that I wish to share with you strictly for the sake of passing along knowledge that might be helpful to you or someone you know. I am in no way promoting or condemning any particular type of medical treatment or product. I am just passing along information that might be good to know for your present or future days to come. I warn you now, in order for me to share this information properly, I have to get pretty personal, so if you are shy, embarrassed easily—or frightened… ye have been warned, matey! 😊 For the sake of knowledge, I hope you will be brave and press on!

Today is Tuesday, October 29, 2019, a day that I am celebrating. I had asked God for a blessing of healing and protection upon my body and although in my heart I knew I had already received it, today I got the confirmation!

In order to explain, I must go back about five years ago.

When I turned forty-three, I began having some confusing weight gain. I had, at the same time, begun a battle with arthritis and made some good improvements to my already healthy diet by taking out the majority of gluten products. Since I rarely eat sugary desserts and like to drink water and homemade juice, I couldn’t find a place where I was adding extra calories or fats to myself. I also love to exercise and am extremely active all day long, so those extra pounds that were appearing out of nowhere were very confusing.

I went to the doctor and learned that I was entering perimenopause. I also learned that the PCOS (Poly-Cystic-Ovarian-Syndrome) condition I had was contributing to the weight gain (that story can be found in my blog “Twenty Pounds for Twenty Years”).

One of the treatments recommended to me by a primary care physician was to begin taking an over the counter, non-synthetic, “natural” estrogen supplement called Estroven. This was to help me with hot flashes (which to me were no big deal, after all, I live in Phoenix) mood swings, and weight gain. I was told that it was safe and that I could buy it at any drug store. So, I did.

I began taking the Estroven daily but I admit, I didn’t take it constantly. There was a period of time during one of my husband’s layoffs where I did not buy it because it was not something we could afford. After that time, I started doing much better, lost the weight and wasn’t really struggling so I stopped taking it altogether.

Right before I turned forty-seven, I began struggling with urinary tract infections or having symptoms that felt like them, constantly. I had one now and then throughout the years, but not like this. I was getting them almost monthly and knew that there was something wrong. (Here’s where I get open, honest and personal!) Again, I went to my doctor who told me that I was now in full-fledged menopause, which I knew, and two parts of menopause were vaginal dryness and atrophy.

Joy! Rapture!

My doctor explained that oftentimes the dryness and tightness can cause tissues to break or tear and then become agitated or infected or cause other irritations which can turn into something that feels like or is a full-blown urinary tract infection. Although I wasn’t thrilled to hear it, at least I was getting answers.

Again, the mention of taking Estroven as a natural aid to help remedy some of my dryness and other symptoms was recommended. I went out, got some, and started taking it daily. That was in May 2019.

In the month of August 2019, I began bleeding, something that I had not done for over a year and something that puzzled me. I had already scheduled an appointment with a urologist/gynecologist and when I went to the appointment, I told this new doctor everything that was going on including the strange bleeding that started up out of nowhere. That is what concerned her the most.

After answering a lot of questions so she could get a handle on my history and my present, she told me that I should stop taking the Estroven immediately. She ordered an ultra-sound of my bladder and uterus, labs, and gave me a prescription for a vaginal cream called Estradiol .01mg that was to be used daily for two weeks on the skin around the vulva and then it would decrease to three times a week. Just a tiny pea-sized application of the cream was to be used. She said this would restore the tissues, resolve the dryness, and hopefully take away the urinary tract infections.

I got the cream and stopped the Estroven. I did my ultra-sound and labs, but when I went into the office to discuss all the results, the doctor still had a concern: the bleeding that came out of nowhere. She explained that when a woman has been in menopause for a year and has not had any bleeding at all during that time, they are always concerned when bleeding suddenly occurs, which is why she had ordered the ultra-sound.

The labs all came back great, but the ultrasound revealed that my uterus lining was too thick. It is supposed to measure no bigger than a 5 on their system and mine was at a 15.

Let me also give some important information about my body’s female organs… they have never known what they are doing. It came as a surprise to my former doctor that I was starting menopause at forty-three, but it didn’t me, I said, “I think my female organs all just agreed since they don’t know how to function, it would be better to just give up.”

I had trouble all throughout my teen years until the age of thirty with inconsistent periods, often skipping months entirely, and then I went through five years of infertility treatments (which isn’t that long compared to some) to be able to have my first baby. I learned I had many things wrong with me and so when all these new troubles began, it didn’t surprise or scare me in the least. I just took it as being part of the dysfunctional female organed person that I am.

The doctor explained that she was concerned about how long I had taken Estroven without also taking progesterone with it. What? Taking progesterone with it? This information did surprise me. I know my body doesn’t produce progesterone. It was one of my complications with infertility and I when I was pregnant with each child, I took progesterone tablets daily for the entire first trimester.

I was told by the first doctor that Estroven would help my menopause symptoms and I had taken it without reservations because it was supposed to be more natural, but I was never told anything about adding progesterone or the complications that could arise by taking a natural estrogen supplement without progesterone.

The doctor explained that although Estroven is considered a natural product, extracted from a grown plant and is not like taking synthetic hormones, there still are elements of the supplement that can affect the body, not always, but it can happen. Taking the Estroven without progesterone could bring complications like the ones I was experiencing. Some of the complication possibilities she described were thickening of the uterus, bleeding, endometriosis, fibroids, and yes, cancer.

My doctor was not alarmed nor was I concerned that I had cancer. Outside of the bleeding and the urinary tract infections, which had already subsided due to the application of the cream, I felt just like I always did. My blood work had come back great. My ultrasound revealed the same old cysts on my ovary that I have had for years, but no tumors or fibroids in the uterus. I had no other symptoms, outside of the thick uterus lining that would be thought to be cancerous. Most importantly, I had perfect faith in my precious Jesus that He was already in the process of healing me. There were no doubts about that at all. I was so confident about it I didn’t even talk about this. I had prayed, asking for Jesus to heal me and I knew He heard my prayer and was working for my good. I didn’t even really think about it much either. My confidence in Christ was enough.

The doctor explained to me that taking the Estroven without progesterone could cause exactly what I was experiencing and allow my uterus lining to grow to the thickness that it was. It is important to state again that this is how I reacted to the Estroven, not all women are the same and therefore not all women will experience this. My doctor then gave me the game plan. First, we would do a biopsy of the uterus. Once the results from that came back, we would know for sure if it was anything serious like cancer, or if not cancer, perhaps it was because I had taken the Estroven without progesterone daily for so long and it was just a build-up of blood. If that was the case, she said they would give me a dose of progesterone to force me to bleed and then all should be well. As long as I only used the Estradiol cream, everything should go back to normal menopause, which now I would be happy to do.

I scheduled the ultrasound for the next Tuesday as my doctor’s office was almost in East L.A. and I could only make the trip once a week. However, the day before I was to have the biopsy, I began bleeding again. I didn’t panic. I wasn’t upset. In my heart, I believed that Jesus was giving me the last bit of healing that I needed to shed the excess blood in my uterus so the lining would go back to normal. I told my husband, Josh, that very thing. After all, wasn’t that part of the plan? If the biopsy came back normal, then all that was left to do was give me progesterone to force a bleed so that my lining would go back to normal. In my mind, Jesus was healing me and that was being done without the dose of progesterone.

I wondered, though, if a biopsy would be possible during a time of bleeding and so I called the office to find out. They said it could not be done and set it up for the next week. Finally, I went in and had it done. It wasn’t fun, but still not as bad as a hysterosalpingogram (that’s infertility talk for painful and humiliating!). I then met my family for dinner and had a lovely, relaxing evening, not worrying one bit. I had perfect faith that Jesus had healed me, that all was well, and I would be getting the confirmation of it in the next two to three weeks.

That call came two to three weeks early! It hadn’t even been a week! I learned today that all is well with my tests and since the bleeding already took place, all I needed to do was set up an appointment next year to have an ultra-sound on my ovary and keep an eye on those cysts. They have been with me for years, and although I wish they would disappear, we’ve learned to get along. I’m praying I don’t have any trouble out of them in the days to come.

My faith in God is strong. My faith in the healing power of Jesus Christ is solid. This is not the first time He has healed me; it will not be the last. But I wanted to write this blog to put this information out there. I thought I knew a lot about hormones and female organs with all that I had experienced from my infertility days, but now I have learned something new from my menopause days and I wanted to share it with you. I am not telling anyone not to take or to take Estroven. I am just recommending that if your doctor tells you to take it because it is “natural” and safer than synthetic hormones, you still need to double-check that with your gynecologist and find out if you also need to take progesterone with it.

The bottom line is to just be careful when putting anything into your body outside of food and beverages that you know to be healthy. Get all of the information you can so that you don’t have to go down this road and learn the hard– and the costly way, as most insurance companies aren’t givers but takers in the world… but I already posted a blog about that!

I wish you health! I wish you safety! I wish you many happy days with joy and blessings and I hope that perhaps I have passed along some new knowledge for you from my experience.

God bless you and thank you for reading!

 

It’s Not Fireworks – Be Vigilant, Be Prepared, Have A Plan

When I first sat down to write this article, it was August 3rd, 2019, a horrible day when two mass shootings took place in two different US cities, El Paso, TX, and Dayton, OH. Since then, there was a new type of mass shooting in Odessa, Texas, one that was mobile. The shooter traveled on a highway randomly killing 7 and injuring 22, including a 17-month-old baby girl. Some of the information in this blog will hopefully be helpful but given the fact that evil is continuously on the move and changing methods of attack, I want to remind readers that the best form of defense we have in this darkening world, is through the power of the Holy Spirit of God, Jehovah, keeping His hand upon us, memorizing and speaking scriptures from the ‘Sword of the Spirit’, the Word of God, and praying over ourselves and our loved ones all throughout our days.

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This Saturday, August 3, 2019, we turned on the tv to learn there was yet, another mass public shooting in our nation. It took place in El Paso, TX. Twenty people were killed, and many were injured. My heart was still broken for the victims of the Garlic Festival shooting in CA that happened the Sunday prior. I had been praying for the families of the victims all week and was still grieving that one… then came another… and then that night, another.

I would like to make it very clear before I go on, that I belong to no political party. I am a registered independent voter. I am a Christian Humanitarian and minister to children internationally. This is not a political blog, so for those who have given so graciously of your time to read it, please do not turn it into one.

For those of you who don’t know me, my family has a nonprofit organization called
The Huggabear Children’s Project, Inc. Our full mission statement can be found on our website at huggabears.org Our mission is to listen for those who cry out in need, speak for those who have no voice, protect and help those who cannot protect and help themselves, and take the love, peace, and hope of Jesus Christ to those who don’t know how much He loves them.

I felt very led to put forth to those in the world–especially those who live in America, that we need to make a change in how we go about our daily lives publicly.  We must change the way we think and act when we go out now. It is very sad but very true.

For a normal, healthy mind, that has respect for others and would never dream of causing injury or death to their fellow man, it is difficult for us to think that each time we walk out the door we are stepping into a world where we honestly do not know if we will come home or not. We are living in a different time and age, an age that grows darker with each passing day. An age where public shootings are becoming more and more common, in schools… churches… synagogues… mosques… movie theaters… public parks… shopping malls… night clubs…  concerts… city streets… neighborhoods… restaurants… grocery stores… libraries… workplaces… sporting events… bars… have I left anything out? I’m quite sure I have, but hopefully, you get the point. (I now am adding highways and freeways to the ever-growing list.)

Whenever I see interviews being conducted with those who survived the horrors of public shootings, there is usually one person who says, “I heard a sound and I thought it was fireworks.” This is a very true statement and many people speak it because that is what they really think is happening. Why?

In my opinion, there are a couple of reasons for this. I believe that one of the reasons “fireworks” is a thought, is because a person with a healthy mind and good heart that has respect for others doesn’t think about going into a public place and taking people’s lives with a gun. It isn’t the way normal minds and good hearts function. Those of us in the world who are not filled with evil thoughts cannot relate to a mind that is.  In essence, healthy-minded, good-hearted people associate the popping sound they hear with fireworks because our minds can’t process why anyone would be firing a gun in a public place.

The other reason was given to me by my husband, Josh. He said he believed people thought the sound they heard was fireworks, for those of us in the world who do not fire guns or are around others who do, was because we have not had enough personal experience with gunfire to recognize what they really sound like.

Although I am not putting blame on Hollywood for this, I think it is important to state that many of us have only heard guns being fired in movies or television programs, and the sounds being portrayed are not always the same. While there may be some that are similar, many commonly used guns have a popping sound, more like the smaller fireworks that give a short sudden blast of sound that is a bit higher in pitch, as opposed to a thunderous, exploding sound that is deeper in pitch and timbre like what is  portrayed in movies and tv shows. I believe this is an important reason why people who survive public shootings could become confused as to what they are hearing. I would like to encourage readers to find some YouTube videos that demonstrate various sounds of gunfire so you can learn the difference and retrain your ears and minds to what actual gunfire sounds like.

I had the honor of sitting next to Marine Veteran, Rich Karren, who has served our country diligently for decades, on a plane ride to Texas after the El Paso and Dayton shootings. I discussed this theory with him about the differences in sound that people hear in movies or television programs. Since artillery and weapons are one of his specialties, he agreed, there are differences in what is portrayed in movies and television, for the sound of gunfire. He also agreed it would be beneficial for people to gain more understanding of what real gunfire sounds like, so they can quickly identify it and help protect themselves and their families.

I want to try and help people change their mindset so that their first reaction is not, “What is that? Fireworks?” Which takes time away from their escape. Therefore, I felt led to write this blog and start a special project for the HCP Inc. nonprofit children’s organization. The Project is called “Huggabear Cub Care” and is designed to provide parents information on a variety of safety topics for their children which will hopefully assist them in living safer lives in our increasingly dangerous world.

In the 24th chapter of Matthew, Jesus told us that as time went on and we drew closer to the end of days, things would get worse, not better in the world. Friends, I think we’re there. I encourage you to not take my word for it, but get into God’s Word, the Bible, and read the 24th chapter of Matthew, to enlighten your heart and mind.

So, here we go, for my first article on Huggabear Cub Care, this is what I would like to share with you.

FIRST…

PRAY.

Hebrews 4:16  “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Before you walk out the door to start your day, whether it be to get the kids to school, for you to go to work, run errands, or any time you walk out the front door of your home, take the time to PRAY.
I’m sure for those who do not believe or understand in the power of prayer, you might want to quit reading about now, or maybe you are still reading but with an eye roll and a sigh. I would like to gently say to you, there truly is power in prayer. Jesus is always there, loving us, longing to live in our hearts and have a close walk and relationship with us. I encourage you to pray over yourselves, your family members and friends, every – single – day. Ask God to keep His hand of protection upon you all and place His angels around you all while in the car, in school, at the office, the store, anywhere you go. Every single time you go out into the world, ask God, JEHOVAH SABAOTH – The LORD our Protector, for His protector. I pray Isaiah 54:17 “No weapon formed against me shall prosper!” and I pray it in the Name of Jesus.

There are dozens of scriptures that cry out to God for His protection and one of those that I recommend reading and praying over your family is Psalm 86, again, I encourage you to take the time to look it up and read it through. It is very easy to find the right scriptures for what you are you looking for, Google is an excellent tool to do that. Just type in: Bible verses for_____________ … and fill in the blank for what you are looking for, in this case, protection.

SECOND…

Be PREPARED Ephesians 6:10-18Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

I am not a lover of cell phones. Still, I am very thankful to have such a device when I am out so that I can call for help in case of emergencies. Keeping pepper spray is a good idea and try to keep a tight grip on your keys when in a parking lot so that if you were to need them, you could at least have something to use to defend yourself. I know that doesn’t really apply to a public shooting situation, but it is good overall safety advice.

Another phrase that I hear constantly in personal interviews is: “I never thought something like this would happen here…” or “I never thought something like this would happen to me…”  We must stop thinking like that, period. Evil is what is ultimately behind all these hideous acts of violence and murder. The Bible tells us in
1 Peter 5:8 “Be sober-minded, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, prowls around, as a roaring lion, seeking some he may devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” That means anytime, anywhere, be prepared which brings me to my next point.

THIRD…

BE VIGILANT.  Luke 21:36 “But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

When our children were small, vigilance was the responsibility of my husband and myself. As our children grew, my husband would say, “Keep your head on a swivel. Don’t live in fear but stay alert and attentive to your surroundings.” This is also good advice for people when they are out and about on their own, especially young ladies. This is also very important when you are at an outdoor event. (And now, even when you are driving) I tell my children, “Have a good time when you are out, but think like a pirate and ‘keep a weathered eye open’ because we honestly never know when or where evil will strike next.”
While speaking with Marine Veteran, Rich Karren, he gave some tips about this. He explained that he always sits in a public place where he is facing the main entrance and although he is able to spend time engaging with his family and friends, he is also keeping watch over their protection.
While this kind of ability was certainly something Rich mastered while serving in the Marine Corps, this is something that we civilians need to start practicing and mastering so that we improve our tactics of keeping ourselves and our families safe.

FOURTH…

KNOW YOUR AREA AND HAVE A PLAN. Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and He will establish your plans.”

Wherever it is that you are going, whether it is a location that you have been to a dozen times or are visiting for the first time, learn where the exits are. If you are in a store, know where the exit doors and the employee doors are located. Employee doors lead to storage rooms and there are usually back exits where the stores receive their merchandise. In a life and death situation, forget the formalities and utilize these doors for your escape. Restrooms are not always the answer, they are not usually connected to exits and you could become trapped. So, when you go to a public establishment, take a moment to get to know the place you are in and have a plan in place to get out should you need it. Rich Karren had an additional safety tip that I wanted to add and that is to know what uniforms employees wear in an establishment, this helps you be able to quickly identify who is who. It would also be helpful for parents to teach their children who security guards are, what they wear, and how they can be of help in case of a crisis.

When they are of the right age, and you know your child best, include them in on your plans. You may be thinking, “How could I do this without making my child feel scared?”
I can tell you from years of experience with raising and teaching children, when you are giving them information, how you speak, the tone of your voice, the words you chose, what your facial expressions are, how you act, and the feelings you convey will be how your children will react. Your confidence becomes their confidence. Your fears can become their fears. Don’t put this information into them fearfully, but with gentleness and with the assurance that you love them and just want to always keep them safe.
I have done this with my children since they were small. I would tell them when we were getting into the car to leave, “Let’s pray and ask Jesus to keep us safe while we are driving and all those who will be driving around us.” We pray and then are on our way. I do not make them feel afraid to ride in the car. At the same time, I teach them that accidents in cars can happen, so we must pray, always wear our seat belts and pay close attention to the road.

When we would go into an establishment, I would not present my plan in fear, but I let them see that I respected their intelligence and strength. Never underestimate your children, they are like little sponges absorbing everything that is around them and they have a greater understanding of things than we give them credit for.
When I would speak to my children of my plan to leave if necessary, I did not present it to them with fear, but with wisdom and a calm spirit. They were not afraid. I simply told them there are some people in the world who are not good and should one of them come where we are and we need to leave, these are the ways we can do that. They understood.

FIFTH…

KEEP YOUR CHILDREN WITH YOU. Psalm 127:3 “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”

I believe that the first miraculous gift from our Heavenly Father is the gift of salvation and eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ. The second miraculous gift we receive from God is our children. They must be cherished and valued as the irreplaceable treasures that they are. From the moment that you are in the parking lot, you should have a hold of a young child’s hand or have them buckled in a shopping cart. I have had times when I was walking through a grocery store parking lot with my children and someone started backing up without checking their mirror. If I had not been holding my children’s hand, I would not have been able to pull them to safety in time. Also, the shooter in El Paso started in a Walmart parking lot, so start being vigilant as soon as you pull into an establishment’s parking lot. Again, don’t become complacent, thinking “It will never happen here or to me”. It can. Once inside the location, keep your children with you. Gone are the days of childhood when children could visit the toy sections of a store while the parent would shop. The world has changed, and to keep our families safe, we must change along with it.

Do not allow your children to go to a restroom by themselves, there are too many stories and videos of predators following children and women into public restrooms and attacking or killing them. It is the same for dressing rooms where people can try on clothing. If you need to check my facts, please feel free to do so. I encourage people to learn what is happening in the world their children live in so they can take precautions for their safety.

If you are in a grocery store, take the time to park the shopping cart or stop what you are doing and go with them to the restroom. The items you are purchasing or whatever it is you are doing is never more important than the safety and lives of your children. Keeping your children close to you is one of the best ways to make sure you can all move to safety quickly if a public shooting occurs. Good parents would never leave without their child(ren), so if the parent has their children with them, the moments of time they have in a shooting situation won’t be spent looking for their children, it will be in protecting them and getting them to safety.

SIXTH…

KEEP AS CALM AS POSSIBLE. Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

I know this is easier said than done, but remember, should a shooter come where you are, YOU are your immediate rescuer and, of course, the rescuer of your children. Police officers need time to travel and time will not be on your side. The shooter in Dayton, Ohio was able to shoot 26 people in 32 seconds. Try to keep calm and follow the plan that you already had in place IF it is possible to do so. Keeping yourself together will help you be able to think more clearly and if you have children with you, they will be kept calm too. Keeping calm also helps you keep QUIET which is vital. In the past, we would hear videos of people running and crying, a normal reaction for certain, but if the shooter hasn’t seen you, and doesn’t hear you, it will be a great help to your escape and survival if you are quiet.

SEVENTH….

RUN! HIDE! FIGHT! TELL! Instructions from Officers of the Law

If you are in a public place and can run, try to stay as low to the ground as possible so that you are not in the eye line of the shooter. If you have small children who cannot keep up, carry them. Do not worry about anything else. Purses, bags, phones, or whatever else you may have with you are replaceable. You and your family members are not. As you run, pray again and ask God, Jehovah Sabaoth, to shelter you, your family and those around you so that you can escape without injury.

If you are not able to run and can hide, police officers say that this is the second act of defense you have. For example, the shooter who went inside the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado had many people trapped. Some were able to run and escape, but some could not. Some of those who could not run said that they tried to hide or laid on the ground very still, as if dead, not making any sound and being very still. If by chance you find yourself in this horror with your child or children, lay down on top of the child to protect them. The shooter in El Paso shot and killed a beautiful, young mother and father and when the police moved the mother’s body, they found she was laying on top of her two-month-old son, who survived.

I will say it again if you ever find yourself in this kind of hell on earth, pray. If you are not a believer, it might be a good time to try Jesus and call out to Him for help. Jesus didn’t say that we wouldn’t have any trouble in the earth He told us directly in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Many schools are also teaching children to fight. If they are trapped inside a classroom and cannot escape or hide, they should find whatever items they possible could use to throw at their attacker: books, desks, chairs, if they were close to the shooter, to use a sharpened pencil or pen. They should look for anything that could possibly defend them from the shooter to bring him injury or distraction. Again, praying to Jesus Christ and calling out His name for help is always the most powerful thing a person can do.

If you were able to run outside of the location where the shooter is, then you can call 911 for help, but do not waste your time making that call until after you are out. Establishments are making great strides in how they keep their patrons safe. Many establishments now have systems in place which will notify the police to come. It is important that you get yourself, your children and influence as many others to follow you to safety as possible and get OUT. Do not delay. As soon as you hear shots, DO NOT ASSUME IT’S FIREWORKSDO NOT HESITATE to get you and your children out to safety.

As I sit here writing this blog, I am overwhelmed that I have spent so much time writing instructions to parents on how to try and keep their children safe in a public shooting. It is unfathomable for me. I remember when the shooting at Columbine shook the nation and we hoped we would never see the likes of it again. What once was an unbelievable incident of horror has now become a monthly, sometimes weekly occurrence in our country. An evil epidemic plaguing our nation that I am battling with the power of prayer. I wish my children could have known the world that I grew up in. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t this.

I know this blog won’t change the evil that is out there. My hope is that you will take to heart my only intention is to help keep you and your family safe. My hope is that you will talk to your children, who have probably already had as many training drills on how to handle a school shooter as they have had fire drills in their classrooms. My hope is you will teach your children the love of Jesus, the power of prayer, and how to speak God’s Word to battle against spirits of darkness that will certainly arise in the world they live in. My hope is you will teach them how to live on this beautiful earth that unfortunately has some very dark and evil people living in it. My hope is you will teach them to pray for the police officers, first responders and security guards who serve with their lives to protect our lives. My hope is you will teach your children to live vigilantly, to know their areas, make game plans, to run, hide, fight and be brave. For when you do the things you are most afraid of, especially to protect the life of someone else, you are very, very brave.

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Acts 16:31 “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”

 

40 Years of Preparation for 40 Years of Ministry

The time as I begin to write this blog is 11:00pm. Yes, I planned it that way. 😉

The date is August, 25th, 2019. At midnight, it will be August 26th, my 48th birthday.

Ever since my 27th birthday, when my Papa, Samuel Boone, passed away, I have had a bittersweet taste for the day, but tonight, I await it with great anticipation, which is why I wanted to write this blog.

Last year, as soon as I got up on the morning of my birthday, I started making my bed and was thanking God. Thanking God for the day, for my family, for a strong healthy body and mind, for all of the blessings upon my life, and I was very thankful that I had been blessed with 47 years, especially since I had three near-death experiences– but that’s a blog for another time.

While I was making my bed and giving thanks to God for allowing me to live 47 years, He spoke to me. It wasn’t an audible voice that anyone else could hear, it was gentle and sweet. The still soft voice I know so well, which guides and directs me along my way. The voice said, “I have prepared you for forty years for the ministry you will do for forty years.”

I have had God speak to me before through ideas, visions, and dreams, but there was definitely something different about this experience. It overwhelmed me in a beautiful way and I stopped making the bed and sat down upon it, taking in the presence of God and thanking Him for giving me a direct word first thing in my new year.

As the days went on in my 47th year, I learned that in the Bible, the number seven represents completion. There are many examples of scripture where this is taught. I think most people know about the seven days of creation, and the walls of Jericho falling after Joshua (I love that name!) led the Israelites to march around the city seven times along with seven blasts of their trumpets, and the book of Revelation is filled with significant sevens.

Once I learned the significance of the number seven and the meaning it held, I thought again about the Word God spoke to me on the morning of August 26, 2018. I realized the work He had begun to prepare me for the ministry I was to do for the next forty years actually began when I was seven years old. When I realized that, I had goosebumps quickly spread from head to toe because there was a very important moment of significance that took place when I was seven.

When I was born, my parents were divorced and my mother and I lived with my grandparents until I was seven years old. A very unexpected move took place and in the matter of one night, I had to leave the only home I had ever known, my grandparents, my neighborhood friends, my school and all of my school friends. Needless to say, the changes and transitions were difficult for me. Thank You, Father God, for giving me Jesus to get me through it all.

I went to a church youth camp for the first time that year in June. I was seven years old and would turn eight that August. The girl’s dorm was one long corridor with a single hallway that held rooms from one end to the other. Every night we would have a devotional time in our rooms with our counselors. On this particular night, after the devotional, our counselors told us to find a place where we could pray by ourselves. I could take you right to the place where I knelt upon the cool concrete floor in the corner of the room, by my bunk. The cover on my mattress was olive green and I had a Smokey the Bear sleeping bag laid on top of it.  I folded my hands and leaned my face down to the mattress, closing my eyes to pray.

I poured out my sorrows and struggles to Jesus, who already knew what was I was going through. God was allowing it to happen to me so that He could use my circumstances to mold and shape me into the person I am today. Back then, of course, I had no idea why all these things were happening and I just needed help.

I was praying quietly, along with the other girls in my dorm, when I felt a gentle hand upon my head. As soon as I felt it, I began to weep uncontrollably, releasing all of my sorrows, confusion, and frustration, yet, at the same time, I also began to feel a beautiful peace and calming strength. It was like nothing I had ever felt before and I remember it now, forty years later with perfect clarity.

The Holy Spirit of God had moved through the entire dormitory and all of the girls in all of the rooms wanted to share what they had experienced. Our counselors had us come out of our rooms and sit down in the long hallway.  Room by room, girl by girl, we spoke about what we had experienced.

When it was my turn to talk, I said, “I just want to thank whoever it was that prayed with me. I’ve had a lot of sad changes in my life and when you prayed for me, I started feeling happier.”

My counselor smiled, gave me a little side hug and looked around at the girls in our room, “Who prayed with Angel?” (that’s what they called me then)

No one raised their hand.

“Someone did pray for me,” I said, “They put their hand on my head. I felt it.”

Again, the counselor asked the girls in our room and other girls, “Did anyone pray for Angel?” Everyone shook their head no and began to tell where they were and that none of them had prayed for me or touched my head.

I was confused, “I know I felt someone’s hand on my head. I felt it. I did. And when I did, I started crying, but I also started feeling better,” I protested.

My counselor hugged me again and smiled, “Sweetheart, that was the Hand of Jesus that touched you on the head. He wanted you to know He is with you.”

I was amazed and I believed her with my whole heart. I believe her still. I know it was Jesus who touched me on the head and I felt it. As I have grown, I realized, no human could possibly touch me and release my pain and bring my heart healing like what happened that night. Only the touch of Jesus has the power to do that.

It was this memory that came to me when I was covered from head to toe with goosebumps. God knew that in order for Him to be able to use me for the work that He created me to do for children, I had to be prepared for it. He began when I was seven and spent the next forty years preparing me.

I’ll admit, it didn’t tickle. Jesus didn’t tell us that we wouldn’t have pain, suffering or trials in this life, but He did promise throughout the New Testament that He would be with us through everything, the good and the hard times. I think one of my favorite scriptures where Jesus teaches that is John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I spent my entire 47th year with the understanding that I needed to learn all that I could from my good and hard circumstances, relationships, and experiences. Not just those that I had at 47, but starting from as far back as I can remember. I can’t say, yet, that I am thankful for all of the experiences, but I am thankful for the majority of them and I am completely thankful that I know Jesus was with me every step of the way. 47 was a good year and I am grateful for every day of it–even the hard ones. They made me stronger in Christ.

I am also very grateful, especially in this day and age, to be alive and well! I am not ashamed of my age and will celebrate my life with every coming year! Every day of life is a GIFT and every year that a person ages is a TESTIMONY and I don’t want to take any of them for granted!

Jesus touched my head when I was seven years old and has spent 40 years preparing me for the ministry work that I will do for the next 40 years. I felt it and I know He spoke it to me directly. There is no one who will ever convince me otherwise. As I sit here writing this blog and I am just minutes away from the completion of my 47th year, I can’t wait. I can’t wait to see all that God is going to do in my 48th year! I can’t wait to be who He says I am in my 48th year as His servant, a wife, mother, singer, author, and minister to children in need.

I know who I am. My name decrees it. I am His messenger and I am ready to go forward and get started on my next forty years of service for my Lord, Savior and Friend, Jesus Christ!

LET IT BEGIN!!!!

Snappin’ Beans With Mema on the Porch Swing

Today I was washing the dishes when I came upon an old familiar friend. A colander.
I have a couple colanders in my kitchen, but this one is special. It is no ordinary colander. It belonged to my grandmother, Reba, whom I called Mema.

Mema passed away on April 1, 2009, but all of the beautiful memories I had with her remain fresh in my mind and heart. I can still hear her singing to Jesus as she did her yard work in the yard. I can see her cooking in the kitchen tasting things and calling for my Papa, “Sam! Come and make some sweet-tea.” I remember the touch of her silky fingertips that had no fingerprints. I remember the smell of Oil of Olay that surrounded her at night and the way she would curl up her front lip to give me a kiss.

My Mema poured so much love and encouragement into my life and she did it every chance she got; on long walks through the woods, while snuggling in her cabin during a rainstorm, while hunting Native American pottery shards in the wash down the hill, while cooking or baking together in her kitchen and while snappin’ beans on the porch swing.

As I held the colander in my hands, running the warm water over it, I remembered how she would prepare the beans by washing them in the colander, then taking a few paper towels and an empty bowl for the bean ends, we would go sit out on her porch swing, snap the ends off the beans and talk.

As I have grown older and developed more relationships, I have learned a very important thing… not too many people listen to me. There is only a handful, a beautiful handful, of people who have truly listened to me through the days of my life and my Mema, was one of them.

Not only did Mema listen to me, she couldn’t wait to hear what I had to say and wanted to know everything about my day. We could talk about anything, school, work, family matters, boys, vacations, I Love Lucy episodes, the latest book that she or I were reading, anything at all. But what we talked about the most was the love of Jesus.

While sitting on the front porch, the sounds of the steady creaking of the swing combined in a somewhat awkward rhythm with the snapping of the beans, Mema would pour the love of Jesus into my heart. “God has something special planned for your life, honey. Never forget that,” she would always say, “Jesus loves you so much and He is going to do great things with you. Always follow Him and you will find joy, peace, and wisdom for your life.”

I never grew tired of my talks with Mema and I cherished the moments I had. I remember as I grew older and would stop by for a visit, I loved it when I walked in the door to see she had a bag of beans ready for snapping and we would head out to the front porch.

We didn’t go out to dinner very often and she really hated shopping. I don’t have any memories of her taking me to movies or the library, amusement or public parks. We didn’t visit the zoo together or the art museum. I didn’t attend any professional sporting games with her or go to any concerts, no places like that. We did take many trips together, which were all amazing. We spent many an hour playing Yahtzee, Chinese Checkers, Scrabble and Triominos, and every Thanksgiving that she cooked, I made the time to get over to help her and she would teach me how to cook and bake–from scratch, of course.

I did have many a moment with my grandpa, Samuel Boone, whom I called Papa  (Paw Paw), and those moments are for another blog. But when I think about some of my most precious memories with Mema, it was the simple things. The quiet things, like snapping beans on the porch swing that I remember the most. Moments that I will always hold dear to my heart, moments that no one can take away. Moments that impacted my life in a beautiful, loving way, forever and that I hope will give to my children and grandchildren.

I want to tell my readers–if there are any of you out there, let me encourage you to slow down and find contentment in the simple things of life with your loved ones. Make time in this fast-paced world to enjoy slower-paced things. The quiet things, without a phone in your hand or a tv turned on, where you can sit and take in some good old fashioned conversation. Take a walk in nature, play a board game, snap beans together and just talk. Connect. Because even though those things may not seem adventurous or exciting, they are the precious memories that will linger and can matter the most in a person’s life.