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:

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

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.


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 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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.

“From Praise On a Stage to Worship While I Work – The Importance of Pure Worship”

I have been singing for Jesus ever since I was a little baby.

The first memory of singing a solo that I have was, I believe at the age of four.
I remember wearing a long light blue dress, my mother curled my hair and I sang while holding my favorite teddy bear, a panda named Strapper. I have never stopped singing for Jesus since that day.

During my twenties, I was hired as a music director for a church. I directed the choir and children’s choir did seasonal programs and led the praise and worship. When I reached my early thirties and was blessed with two baby girls, I wanted to be home and resigned my position at the church.

When I started my new job as a stay at home mommy, I was in complete heaven. I loved every day of it and never regretted my decision to lay down my ministry at the church and pick up my new and most important ministry of raising a family. Still, I struggled a bit with my singing for the Lord.  I hadn’t stopped singing, but I wasn’t out anywhere. I wasn’t up on a stage or leading and teaching others. Although I sang in the churches I attended, I felt as if I was robbing the Lord of using my talent properly for Him.

When I was at home I would sing all through the day. I would sing to my babies, I would sing with my babies, I would sing while I would cook, sing while doing the laundry, or the dishes or the dusting. Still, there was a part of me that felt as if I wasn’t doing enough because I wasn’t leading others in musical praise to God.

Then one day while vacuuming the floor I began singing,
“Without Him, I would be nothing. Without Him, I’d surely fail. Without Him, I would be drifting, like a ship, without a sail.”

And while I was working, vacuuming up Cheerio crumbs, dirt from little shoes and doll hair off my rug, the sweetest presence of the Lord filled the room and I was blessed to tears.

God spoke to my heart that day and asked me, “Do you really think your praise is more sweet to me when you sing on a stage leading others than it is right now when it is just you and Me?”

I sat down and began to laugh and cry joyful tears all at the same time. All those days I had been singing to the Lord, I was placing guilt on myself because I wasn’t up on a church platform leading others. I knew that when I worked at the church I was doing God’s will at that time in my life, and striving to please Him. But when I was singing at home I was missing the fact that I was pleasing Him even more now.

I wasn’t singing for Him because it was a Sunday. I wasn’t singing for Him because it was my job. I was singing for Him because I love Him and I was thankful for all that He had done (and does) for me and my family. I was singing because He is a magnificent God that is worthy of my praise and deserves my worship! I wanted to bring glory to His name while I was vacuuming. I wanted to exalt Him while I did the dishes and the laundry and all of my other work! I did this because it made my work time more pleasant and I love to praise my Savior, all the day long. But what I learned that day was that stages or platforms have their time and place, but when you make the time to just sing to the Lord from your heart, especially when it is just you and God, those are the times when you can experience Him in ways like never before.

God also spoke something else into my heart. Although I didn’t think I was leading others in worship or teaching others how to worship because I wasn’t in the church… I still was. I was teaching my babies who sat listening to me sing all throughout the day.
Now, they sing praise to the Lord with me, another incredible gift that I will cherish forever.

I have come to the place now, where I personally prefer to just sing for Jesus while working in my home. I will always use the talent God gave me on stages, platforms, or any other opportunity He brings me. But the experiences and blessing I have had while singing for the Lord day to day while doing the mundane things in my home is something I will never stop doing. As long I have breath, I will praise You, Lord, no matter where I am.

So friends, please remember, God doesn’t care if we are on a stage or platform, on the radio, in a movie or anywhere big and important. He wants to hear your praise and worship when it is just the two of you–and you don’t have to have a wonderful voice either! This is why the Bible tells us in Psalm 100:1 ‘Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!” God hears differently than we humans do, He hears the purity of a heart much louder than the purity of a vocal chord. When you can learn to do that it will draw you closer to Him than you can imagine and bring the sweetest peace and joy to your life that you cannot find from anywhere or anyone else.

Thank you for reading! Jesus loves you!

The End and the Beginning– At the Same Time

The other day I was cleaning out my children’s stuffies to find bears to add to our Huggabear inventory for children in need during the upcoming holiday season. I found several beautiful bears in excellent condition and tossed them in a box, but as I tossed one special bear, I heard what I believe was the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to me. It wasn’t an audible voice speaking like as a person does, it was like a statement that came into my mind that said, “You can’t give that one, it is the transition bear.”

Transition bear? What did that mean?

I had to stop and think why something like that would come to my mind.
I sat down and held the bear, staring at its cuddly, cute face to try and figure it out.

The memory of the bear was crystal clear.

When Aven was about 17 months old, I resigned my position as a music director of a church I had served in for many years. This was a decision that was one of the hardest I’ve ever made because I had attended that church my entire life as did my mother before me. I knew that God had instructed me in a dream that it was time to go quietly, and so I obeyed and left.

The last work that I did at this church was a Christmas program, a ministry performance that lasted for three days. At the end of the performance, I had a cast/crew party at the home of two dear friends, Dan, and Donna Maye, for all the volunteers who labored so hard for so many days and late hours for the program. I wanted to come together, share one more meal, allow me to give my thanks, say goodbye and have one more memorable moment of love and joy with them.

Before the party, I had gone shopping to look for a gift for all of the choir members and the children of the group. I came across some lovely white winter themed bears wearing snowflake covered hats and scarves, some wore pink and some wore blue. I knew they were perfect for the kids so I bought them, bagged them up and the last thing that I did at this party, after giving my choir members their gifts, I gave the children the bears, including my daughter Aven whose bear I was holding in my arms.

It was then that it hit me, and I had chills.

I ended my ministry work with the church by giving children bears, which was also the beginning of my new work that I would do for children. Founding our nonprofit organization The Huggabear Children’s Project, Inc. and creating The Huggabears book series was the very next ministry work I would do. The ministry that I have been doing ever since and hope to do for the rest of my life.

I was thrilled to discover this! I thanked God for revealing this beautiful message to me. I hugged Aven’s sweet snow bear and placed him on my bed so that I will see it every day and never forget what God did for me in transitioning me from my former work to my new one. A work that I cherish with all of my heart and always want to do.

Although I have never regretted the decision to leave the church, as I knew it was the Lord’s will for our family, it was a difficult and painful decision, which at the time I didn’t understand.

I thought upon the scripture John 13:7 “Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

God’s timing is always perfect and so is His wisdom. He’s always right. At that time I didn’t understand what was happening or why, but now I do and I couldn’t be more grateful. I praise God for the work that I was able to do at the church and I praise God for the work that I am now doing. I know that our family is walking upon the road that God planned for us, and for the rest of the days that we travel that road, we will be giving children bears!

20+ Pounds for 20+ Years – A Letter of Love to Women with PCOS

To the Reader…

Hello! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog. I hope it might be of some help to bring some knowledge about PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrom) that you may not have known before.

I want to make sure that all who are reading this know that I am not a medical professional nor am I trying to recommend or convince anyone to make the same decisions I made regarding their health. I know there are many who believe in the care of doctors and many who don’t. Please do not think I am trying to persuade anyone for any type of treatment. I am simply giving you the facts of my story in the hopes that there may be someone out there who can benefit from my personal experience and what I have learned. Thank you and I hope you will continue reading on!

I have always been grateful for my life and for the body that I have. I have never been upset that I wasn’t taller, being short (5′ 3.5″) makes wearing heels more fun! I don’t compare myself to other women. I have not been jealous or intimidated by other women’s sizes or figures, or beauty, nor do I judge other women for their size. In fact, I can enjoy looking at a woman and appreciate her beauty as a creation of God with no qualms or insecurities on my part. I try very hard not to judge a person by their outside “cover” or outward appearance. I keep my focus upon as much of the person’s heart as they will allow and know them by the fruit they produce.

Until I was 30 years old, I never weighed more than 110 pounds. I don’t say this to brag, just to pass along information so you will have a better understanding of my story. When my husband, Josh, and I began trying to start our family with no success for a year, I knew something was wrong. I then began going through the ever humiliating, emotionally draining, mentally exhausting and highly expensive testing of infertility. Through that process, I learned that there were a few things wrong with me, one of them being that I was diagnosed with PCOS or Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, which is actually quite common among women.

After almost four years of treatment with various doctors and having a near death experience, I went to an amazing infertility doctor, Dr. Jay Nemiro, who did more testing and discovered I had even more things wrong with me and was not able to get pregnant at all without extreme medication and surgery. Dr. Nemiro then put me on an extensive–and expensive, treatment plan. During this time, I went up to 120 pounds and really liked the way I looked. I had a bit of shape to me and didn’t look so much like a “stick person”.

After another year of treatment and another near-death experience, (which Dr. Nemiro saved me from and is a story in the infertility blog I’m working on) God richly blessed us with our precious baby girl, Aven Salei. Thank You, Jesus! After that, I was told by my doctor that my body did a “reset” and all which was once wrong with me was wrong no more. Of course, I knew that it was the healing power of Jesus Christ setting me free from infertility and making it possible for me to have more children without the costs and pains of infertility treatments.

After having Aven, I had no trouble getting pregnant–none at all. I got pregnant with MaCaedyn “a-naturelle” and was even using birth control when I got pregnant with Samuel! The Lord had completely healed me of my infertility—again, that is part of my infertility blog, still yet to come.

With each blessed pregnancy, I gained 50 pounds and would lose all but about ten pounds after Samuel was born. (Nursing, good diet and exercise do the trick ladies!)

When I reached 40 years of age, my metabolism came to a screeching halt. Though it was a new challenge for me, it taught me to be more disciplined with what I ate and to work out harder than I used to.

When I turned 43 I had a few other things change within my body. First of all, I turned positive for Rheumatoid Arthritis. From what I was told by my RA, I have no levels of that particular arthritis, but I do have the auto-immune complication and problems with my hands functioning properly. There is pain in my hands, wrists, and toes, and there are days when I hurt from head to toe, but that can improve from day to day depending upon what I do. The biggest challenge I deal with is the tremendous weakness in my hands and wrists. I have learned how to function differently and what to do to help my hands, so all in all–in my opinion, having no levels of RA was God’s way of intervening for me so the situation wasn’t worse.

You will never hear me say, “I have arthritis.” This is a condition that God did not create me to have and therefore I do not claim it. I always state that “I am battling arthritis” and to be honest, I am grateful that is all I have when there are so many people out there battling life-threatening conditions.

In addition to having this new battle for my body, I also became “Perimenopausal”, which means I was in the early stages of menopause. Now, I know you are probably thinking, “Wait, she said she was 43 years old, isn’t that too young for starting menopause?” I would answer that you would be correct, though ages for women beginning that process can vary. For me, I think that my female organs were always so confused and pathetic at functioning they decided to just go ahead and give up.

At 43 I began battling RA and started “The Change” as some call it, again, thankful that was all I had to battle. I was determined to handle all of it with the healing help of Jesus Christ, education, good diet, and exercise. I tightened up my regiment and really started studying more about the different foods out there which could assist me with handling both conditions.

It was about this time that I got into juicing. I love the documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” with Joe Cross, and I was given the lovely gift of a fantastic juicer. I began juicing fresh fruits and veggies daily, giving it to my family… accept my girl, MaCaedyn, I am still praying for the tastebuds of MaCaedyn, and I was loving every juice I made.

For two years I kept up with my healthy diet and tried to keep my exercise regiment strong. I was able to stop taking meds for the RA and only take an ibuprofen occasionally when needed, which made me very happy, but when I turned 45, I started to gain weight.

At first, I didn’t panic. I knew that I was in the beginning stages of menopause, so I visited my doctor to see if there was anything I could do to help the situation. Tests were done and I learned that my hormones were going pretty crazy and hormone therapy was recommended.

I prayed and thought about it for a period of time and decided to give it a try for a period of time. I began treatment, but after a year I didn’t see any improvement in my weight loss.

I then turned 46 and the battle with the mysterious weight gain continued–only it was getting worse. My husband and I planned a trip to celebrate my daughter MaCaedyn’s birthday at Disneyland and while we were there we would be celebrating our 19th anniversary of married bliss! That day we went to the beach and I remember being so sad because my swimsuit barely fit me and I did everything I could to keep myself covered up. I calculated that I had gained fifteen pounds over the course of the past year but I could not figure out why.

If I was eating poorly or not taking care of myself by exercising then I would have had a better understanding as to what was happening, plus due to the battle with RA, I was very careful about not eating gluten, sugars, starches, nightshade veggies, etc. But my doctor assured me that the hormone therapy was supposed to be helping my weight to balance. If that was the case, why was I constantly gaining weight and not able to shed a pound of it?

The situation was now beginning to affect me mentally and emotionally. I was frustrated, confused, tired, embarrassed and all of it was bringing me into depression. What I was doing was not working for me and I knew that something had to change. I went back to the doctor and after more tests and discussions I decided to stop the hormone therapy as I had read that can sometimes cause weight gain in some women. Even after six months had passed without hormone therapy, there was no change. The weight did not go away, in fact, it kept coming.

I for one believe that God can heal us instantly (I’ve had that happen several times) and I also believe that God can heal us over a course of time. So, instead of just trying to push this situation away from me, I wanted to see what it was God wanted me to learn from it.

As I said before, weight for me with myself or with other people was not an issue. I never judged anyone for their weight, looked upon them poorly or with disrespect. I like to look at the heart of a person and not keep my focus on the outside. Having said that, I have never experienced what it was like for people who battle their weight. I never understood how hard it was to lose weight. I never knew what it was like to dread opening the closet or the drawer and get dressed. I never knew their private pain or understood their personal struggles.

When I looked at my situation as a lesson from the Lord instead of a problem, my spirit became quiet about it. I turned my eyes from myself and placed them upon others who I knew were going through the same thing or had been battling their weight for years.
When I did, God filled my heart with great compassion. Although I didn’t know all that they might have gone through with their weight, I felt that I wanted to treat them with some extra special care and love and make sure I let them know that they were beautiful, important and loved.

This brought me great joy and although I didn’t give up trying to lose my weight, I was not angry about it.

Now, if you are anything like me, you know your body very well. I’ve lived with mine for quite some time and I know when there is something not quite right. Although I had come to a more peaceful place with this particular situation, still, I knew I wasn’t done trying to figure it out. I kept praying for help and felt led to go back to the doctor, only this time, I couldn’t see my usual doctor so I chose to see someone different.

When the doctor arrived, she had with her a nurse practitioner who was shadowing that day. They asked if she could visit me and of course, I welcomed her to do so. While discussing the situation, the nurse practitioner was looking over my doctor’s shoulder and quietly said, “I see that she has PCOS.”

This caught my attention, “I was diagnosed with that years ago,” I replied.

“Well, that can cause insulin resistance in some women,” the nurse practitioner replied.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means that instead of your sugars being burned, they are being stored as fat,” she explained.

I paused to take this information and process it, then asked, “What can be done for that?”

“If you chose, you can take Metformin, it is the same medication–”

“Taken for diabetes,” I interrupted. I knew this well as many of my extended relatives, including my mother, are diabetic and take Metformin.

It was not a hard decision for me to take the medication as I knew I had prayed for so long, asking God for help with my weight and to figure out what was wrong. As I said before, I believe God can heal us without any help from anyone, as I have had it happen many times, and I also believe that God gives us help through doctors who He has given the knowledge to help us.

I began taking the Metformin that week and the weight started coming off! The next week I set a goal for myself. My twentieth anniversary was ahead of me on May 13th and my husband had planned an incredible beach vacation for our family in Oceanside to celebrate our beautiful love and marriage and I was going to lose twenty pounds by that time.

Long story shorter (too late), I did lose those twenty pounds and so I pressed on with the weight loss, deciding that I was going to be happily married for as many years as the Lord blessed me with and so I would keep working to lose weight and get myself strong in body, mind, and spirit so that I can be with my husband, children and someday grandchildren for as long as possible. Twenty plus pounds for twenty plus years is what I decided to do and I am happily still walking that healthy road.

I am grateful for this experience for several reasons. It taught me so much more compassion for others who struggle with their weight. It taught me to never think that I have all of the answers for people and their weight loss–not that I ever thought I did, but I have had experiences with people like that and though I’m sure they mean well, their words can sometimes bring shame or embarrassment to the situation instead of support. A person who is struggling to find help for themselves should not feel shamed but encouraged. It also taught me more about the PCOS condition that I battle, and that it can cause unwanted weight gain– but there is hope!

Before closing, I would like to say—and I say this with much respect and kindness, please, if you are a person who does not believe in doctors or taking medication, please do not send me your anti-doctor or anti-medication comments. Everyone is different and people must make the choices for themselves that they feel are best. I am not trying to influence anyone to make any choices for themselves. I simply wanted to write this blog to share what I experienced and learned because I thought it might help someone else who might be experiencing the same thing and is also searching for answers. I just want to help anyone who is out there living with the same confusion and frustration that I had to know they are not alone.

I also want to encourage women out there to never quit trying to find answers if you think there is something wrong with your body. You know yourself best, so listen to your body! It also doesn’t hurt to get that second opinion. Sometimes having a fresh set of eyes upon your records and a different mind of ideas can be a good thing! And always know, above everything else, God looks at your heart, (1 Samuel 16:7) not the physical heart, (which is also important to take care of for your life and family!) but the spiritual heart. In time, the outside beauty will fade away and grow old, but the beauty of the heart can last forever!

God bless you and thank you for reading!


Becoming Angelique Jacqueline La Fon-Cox – The Journey to my Name

On April 13, 2018, I took my three children and with my marriage license of almost twenty-one years in hand, I went to the local Social Security office to change my name legally, to Angelique La Fon-Cox.

You may think that has always been my name, but it wasn’t. Legally, until now, I was Angelique La Fon.

What took me so long to do this? Well… it’s kind of a long story.

When I was born, my mother named me Angelique La Fon Sims.

Most of my life, I thought that the name Angelique came from my grandfather’s reading. He loved books by  Louis L’Amour who had a daughter named Angelique. It wasn’t until I was in my late thirties that I learned my mother actually got my name from the old vampire soap opera series “Dark Shadows”. There was a character that she liked on that show named Angelique. God had a big plan for this to be my first name and so He used a soap opera about a vampire to make sure my mother found it. We all know He works in mysterious ways, and that was one of them.

My middle name, La Fon, was my mother’s maiden name. Though the rest of her family spells it Lafon with a small “f” and no space in between, my mother had done some research on the family history and learned that it could also have the French spelling with a capital “F” and space in-between. So, she chose to set me apart and spelled my name that way– much to the dismay of some of my relatives who still claim that “I am not a true Lafon” because my name is spelled La Fon. Which is fine because I love it that way and I am creating something new.

My last name, Sims, was after my father, who had an interesting tale involving his name. According to his mother, birth, and death certificates, he was legally Robert Sims. For whatever reasons that will remain unknown to us, he told my mother his name was Michael Sims. Sims was put on my birth certificate for my last name–at least he told the truth on that one! Even though my parents divorced when I was a baby, Sims remained my last name.

Skip ahead to age 5. When I began kindergarten, the teacher thought the name Angelique was “too difficult for the other children to say” so she took it upon herself to teach the other students to just call me “Angel”. At the time, I did not like this. I loved my name Angelique and didn’t think it was too hard to say, but I had no power to stop it, and so at school and then later on everywhere else, I became known as “Angel Sims”.

After a while, I got used to this and accepted it. The only time I heard the name Angelique was when I was in trouble, so I learned to appreciate the name Angel.

When I was 9 years old, my mother married a man that I did not like… ever. His last name was hideous and I hated it with a passion. The name was “Crull”. My apologies to anyone out there who is named Crull. I do not mean to offend you, I just associated the name with the man— and the man wasn’t good. From what I was told, it was pronounced (Kr- uhll) but most people, upon seeing it, would pronounce it like the word Cruel.

My mother had a son with this man and I was thrilled for that. My little brother was the joy of my life and his name is Nathan. So because three out of the four family members were Crull, my mother thought I should be adopted and have the same name as the rest of the family. So again, my name was changed for me and I became known as Angel Crull.  Bleh.  Yuck!!

Having this name was so much fun. (sarcasm) I was constantly asked, “How come you are a cruel angel? Aren’t angels supposed to be good?” Then even better, in 1984 a movie came out called “Angel”. The catchphrase: “High school honor student by day. Hollywood hooker by night.” This one was a big hit for kids with my name. So much fun. Then there was one of my relatives that would tell me “Mexican men are the ones who are named Angel. You have the name of a Mexican man”. At the time, I didn’t understand why that was a bad thing because I am not a racist or prejudiced person, but that was also because I was young and didn’t understand the racism that some of my relatives possess, something I clearly understand and detest now.

It wasn’t until I made it to high-school that I took back the reigns on my name and started going by Angelique which thrilled my mother and confused the rest of the world who knew me as “Angel”. I’ll never forget the story my husband told me about my name. I am six years older than he is and we grew up together in church. He always knew me as “Angel” and one day someone said something about Angelique and he was like, “Who’s Angelique?”.  It took some time, but most people finally began to know who Angelique was, though there are still a few out there who call me Angel, and that’s okay. I actually am more used to them calling me Angel than Angelique so it sounds natural when they say it. You have my blessing to carry on. 🙂

Now we skip ahead to when I am twenty-four years old and my mother and her husband get a divorce. I know this sounds horrible, but if you knew the man, you would understand… I was relieved. As I said before, he was not a good man. He was very abusive, especially to my brother, and I was so relieved when he left and was not part of our lives anymore. That is another story in itself, but the bottom line for me? The very week he left, I went down and got the paperwork done to change my name.

I didn’t know what to do for a middle name, so I left it as La Fon, but instead of going back to my father’s name of Sims, I chose La Fon for my last name. I did this because I did not ever know my father. As I said, he and my mother divorced when I was a baby. I saw him once when I was 7 years old for just a few minutes and then he died when I was 22 years old. So the only father that I ever had in my life was that of my grandfather, my “Papa”, Samuel Boone Lafon. So I chose to make his last name my last name… only with a space… and a capital “F”, which didn’t bother him or my grandmother at all. They were thrilled that La Fon was legally my last name… and also my middle name.

At this point, I was legally Angelique La Fon La Fon. A little redundant, but I loved it none the less and vowed that I was never going to change it again, even when I got married, my name would remain. Never say never!

Skip ahead to 1997, one year after I change my name. I am 25 years old and fall head over heels in love with Joshua Bryant Cox; the love of my life, the man of my dreams and future father of my children. When we got married, he was sad that I wasn’t going to take his name. I remember his question verbatim. He said, “How will people know that you are mine?” I then assured him that my love for him would be evident enough that I belonged to him and that his ring would not leave my finger (which it has not). I explained everything to him about all of the name changes and frustration I had with my identity through the years and he understood. There were some who did not understand this and actually thought that I was just against his last name or family. This wasn’t the case at all. I had just had enough of having name changes through the years and didn’t want to go through it all again.

Josh then asked me, “Since you are not taking my last name, can I give you a new middle name?” Since my middle name was a bit repetitive, I happily agreed and was pleasantly surprised to learn he had selected the name Jacqueline for me. He thought that it fit well with the fluidity of my French name and he also knew that I was an admirer of the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. I loved it and the next time I had to have my picture taken for my Driver’s License, I put it down. This was interesting because I later learned that I was supposed to have proof of that name on a birth certificate or something. I did not, but they put it on there anyway!

At age 25, I was a very happily married Angelique Jacqueline La Fon. It had a good ring to it. Josh chose well for me and I loved it.

Move forward a couple years ahead and I am now going through infertility treatments so Josh and I can have a baby. I have a sometimes rebellious body that doesn’t always do what it is supposed to do and having babies at that point in time was one of them. After all that I went through to have our first child (which is another story for another time) and almost died twice in the process, I thought, by George, I am going to have my name for this baby’s last name too! I knew some families by this time that were hyphenating their last names, the men too! So our baby girl, Aven, became the first
La Fon-Cox of our family. We were creating something new and beautiful from our two family names and we loved the sound of it.

Aven Salei La Fon-Cox was the first, then MaCaedyn Janei La Fon-Cox came and finally, Samuel Braeden La Fon-Cox. Wherever we go we tell people, Mama is the La Fon and Daddy is the Cox. But what was so surprising to me was that people loved the sound of the two names together. We were told that many times. Once, an Awana instructor even announced to the whole assembly during a graduation that she loved the name La Fon-Cox.

It was right after MaCaedyn was born in 2005 that I started writing books and decided to use La Fon-Cox as my pen name. All of my Huggabear books, Intercessors series, other stories, and musicals all had the name of Angelique La Fon-Cox. Even my Facebook page had Angelique La Fon-Cox on it… but it was not my legal name.

I also had another amazing experience involving my name which I write about in detail in my blog titled “Messenger of Jehovah – How the Intercessor Series Began”. A dear friend, Marilyn Leininger, who was then a complete stranger, came up at church and told me that God told her I needed to know the meaning of my name. She had it all written down for me in Greek and Latin. Angelique means the messenger.
Knowing this changed everything for me and confirmed that I was on the right path with the books I was writing and that God did have plans for me to take His message, through my stories, to His children. It was a happy and powerful moment in my life where my name was concerned (for a change… no pun intended) and I will remember it forever.

During the past few years, God has really been dealing with me and my name… again.
I have been working very hard to build a ministry of books, music, performing arts and our nonprofit organization The Huggabear Children’s Project, Inc.
I have a million dreams of things we can do and build in the near future (Huggabear Farm!) and I have spent countless hours in prayer and fasting for this ministry to expand and for these dreams to come to fruition. I want to do it all with my children, who are legally La Fon-Cox. I also knew that in order to prevent confusion for matters in the future, it would be easier if my pen name matched my surname.

When 2018 came, I had a list of things to accomplish written down and changing my name–again, was one of the items listed. So, I went down on April 13, 2018, and finally had my name changed. Everyone kept wishing me congratulations on my marriage which was kind and made me smile, even though I have been happily married almost 21 years (May 13, 2018).

I had planned to post this blog and give Josh my new driver’s license and social security cards all wrapped up to surprise him for our 21st anniversary to show him that I was now legally La Fon-Cox and people would always know I belonged to him. But… Josh’s curiosities killed that plan. I don’t think he cares that curiosity killed the cat either. 😉
Although I didn’t get to tell him personally as I planned, I at least get to share it with the world now that I have officially and legally changed my name. There is still a lot of legal work to do to complete this process, but that’s okay. It will be the last time I do this!

I am not Angelique La Fon. I am not Angelique Cox. ‘

I am Mrs. Angelique Jacqueline La Fon-Cox…. the first!






Heartbreak and Perspective – A Reflection of Aven’s Gymnastics Career

When my oldest child, Aven Salei, was 4 years old she wanted to take ballet classes. We found a great local school and she happily began. She danced beautifully for 4 years until we began to notice her tumbling every day in the backyard and flipping around the bars of the swing set. I remember my mother watching her one day and confirming what we already thought by saying, “Honey, you’ve got to get that little thing in gymnastics. She is a gymnast.”  So just before she turned 9 we enrolled her in the beginning class at the Arizona Sunray’s gym and discovered we were right, Aven was a natural born gymnast, with no fear to try anything the coaches taught her.

I remember the coaches coming and talking to Josh or myself at different times, before the class seasons were over, “Aven needs to move up. Aven has already learned all of the skills for this level and needs to go on.” This happened until the only place she could go was to a team. We attended an orientation and decided that the best fit for our family financially was to have her go into the Excel program. This program gave students the ability to choreograph their own routines, choose their own music and advance at their pace.

The Excel program works upon levels of bronze, silver, gold, platinum, and diamond. When Aven started her bronze season we were so excited. We didn’t know anything about the sport except what we heard being spoken when watching it on tv. Aven loved every minute of it and we loved watching her. We were learning a lot about the sport and enjoyed seeing her so happy, so strong, and so beautiful. She had many dreams of what she wanted to do with her gymnastics.

At the end of that year we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the coaches wanted to move Aven from bronze to gold and skip the silver level altogether. She was so excited and so were we, but after her very first day of training for the gold level, my husband, Josh, got laid off from his job. This was the third time this had happened to Josh over the course of the past ten years so we knew how to handle this situation: by claiming the promises made in God’s Word, the power of prayer, strong faith, and constant trust. We immediately went to prayer for Josh to find a new job and for God to provide for our family. I remember the prayer I prayed about Aven’s gymnastics. It was short, direct and full of trust.

“Heavenly Father, You know the current situation that our family is in financially. You also know how hard Aven has worked to get to where she is with her gymnastics. Right now, there is no possible way for us to pay for her to continue, so if this is Your will, you will make a way for her and provide all of the funds for her gold season. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

Now, keep in mind, paying for a gymnastics season is not like investing in your average sport. It is a serious financial commitment, but we knew that if God wanted her to continue, He would make a way.

The very next day I received word from an extremely generous person who loves our family very much. We learned that they wanted to not only pay for Aven’s classes so she could press on with her gymnastics dreams while Josh hunted for a job, but they were also going to pay for our other two children, Samuel and MaCaedyn, who were working diligently on becoming black belts in Tae Kwon Do and were not too far away from their goal.

We were overwhelmed. The joy of knowing our children didn’t have to quit pursuing their dreams, the gratitude we felt for such incredible generosity which was given for our children and the compassion this person had for our situation was amazing. The blessing that God gave us of providing for the children was wonderful enough, but we also were blessed to know that God had answered us directly to confirm that it was His will for Aven to continue in her gymnastics. And so she did. Because of the loving generosity of this individual which was extended to our children for almost an entire year while Josh desperately looked for a job. It is a debt I hope that someday we can repay, if not back to the person directly, through giving to others in situations of need.

Aven went on to have a wonderful gold season, placing in several events in various meets. But before she was to compete in the state meet, I noticed her hiding her hand from me. I learned that she had broken her middle finger in a practice and didn’t tell me because she was afraid that I wouldn’t let her compete. She did compete and went on to place 2nd on floor and 4th on vault. Proving that her love for the sport and her tolerance for pain were both very great.

When Aven began her platinum season she started with some new challenges. She had a growth spurt and had grown 5 inches in less than a year. She went from being 5′ to 5’5″, with 39″ of that being in her legs. She began having some serious lower back pain and could no longer perform some of the skills which she had easily done before, such as standing back handsprings, and back walkovers. We began physical therapy for her back troubles and learned from the doctor that because of her height and leg length, her center of gravity had shifted greatly. He told her that she needed to try and stay away from the skills where she had no momentum to flip her legs over. That would help take away the stress from her lower back. Aven listened, pressed on and persevered.

Next, she began having feet woe. Her father, Josh, suffers terribly from Plantar’s Fasciitis and Aven was diagnosed with the same problem. She began experiencing pain while performing on the beam and her landings on the floor event were becoming more and more painful. But, again, she pressed on and persevered. Her platinum season didn’t bring as many places in events as in previous years, but she learned that winning didn’t always involve receiving medals or trophies. If you read my other blog titled “The Dignity and Grace of Aven Salei on Her 14th Birthday” you will understand what I mean.

Each summer, Aven would get up 4 days a week and train from 7:30am to 11:30am, then in the fall, her schedule would shift to 4 evenings a week. Not as much as some train, but still, a commitment which demanded hard work and determination. During these days, Josh and I had our reflections upon those who went on to compete on college levels or the Olympics. We caught a glimpse of the kinds of sacrifices these athletes and their families make, both in time, finances and determination. It gave us a great respect for these families and their dedication to their dreams.

As Aven began her last year as a diamond competitor she had several different thoughts and emotions. She was excited to have made it to the highest level in the Xcel program and she was so happy to have made all the friends she had through the years. This was another blessing to our family. The coaches Aven has had and the girls on her teams have been incredible. We never saw any kind of jealousy or unhealthy competition among any of the girls at the gym. They all sincerely express love for each other and support one another, displaying what true teammates are supposed to be. They have built strong and happy, healthy friendships that I’m sure will last into the years to come. The friends Aven has won are the real prizes of gold.

Aven started training for the diamond season in May and she trained diligently until January for it. We couldn’t wait to see what all she had learned and how she had grown as every day she excelled more and more. Her season began with an Intrasquad meet, which is held by her own gym for her coaches to judge and review her skills and make sure she was set for the season. That was followed by another judges critique meet that did not have recorded scores. There was another meet in California that we couldn’t make, but on February 11, 2018, she had her favorite meet of the season, The Classic Rock, one of the largest meets in the country and the one which was hosted by her gym Arizona Sunrays.  Josh and I couldn’t wait to watch her. She had a beautiful warm up and then her team moved to the vault. She did three beautiful practice vaults (which I sadly did not video) and then the team began competing.

A few girls on the team had vaulted and we were cheering them on when Josh said, “Aven’s hurt.” What? How? She just ran by us and was fine, how did she get hurt?

Apparently, while waiting her turn to vault, she was doing a drill and somehow she rolled her ankle. She said she felt it pop and it began to swell immediately. Yet, she was trying to walk it off so she could still vault. Her coach took one look at it and upon seeing the swelling, immediately made her scratch and sent her to the medic. The medic told me to go get it x-rayed, which we immediately did. I took her to the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Urgent Care on Shea Road. They told me that it wasn’t fractured, only sprained and full of fluid which would absorb back into her system, but that she could not resume her activities until she had seen an orthopedic doctor. We were extremely sad that she missed her favorite meet and also would miss her Winterfest meet in Flagstaff that next weekend. Still, we tried to be positive and were so thankful that it wasn’t broken and she would still have two meets left that season where she could compete for her last year so we could see her.

Josh made the appointment with the orthopedic doctor for February 14, 2018.

I woke up on that morning full of excitement for the day. Throughout my life I have always loved Valentine’s Day, even when I was single, I enjoyed having an excuse to enjoy some dark chocolate and watch romantic movies.

I had planned all kinds of fun things for my children and husband, starting with heart shaped biscuits for breakfast and enjoying a special Valentine’s show of The Price is Right with my kids. I had planned a special lesson for homeschool on St. Valentine with a some French, the language of love, then we did a study on our state of Arizona whose birthday is on Valentine’s Day. Josh was going to help me out by taking Aven to the doctor so I could keep working with our two youngest children, Samuel and MaCaedyn, on their school studies.

It was a rainy day in Phoenix and I was curious how long it would last… because rain in Phoenix is a rarity. I flipped on the news to catch the weather report but instead, I caught the breaking news: another shooting was taking place, this time in a high school in Parkland, Florida. I held my breath as I listened and watched the scene unfold for the world. The shooter was still at large and there was no information on how many kids or teachers had been shot.

After watching and praying for several minutes, I turned the tv off and went back to working with Samuel and MaCaedyn, but my mind was very distracted by what was taking place for so many terrified families in Florida. I couldn’t imagine what they were going through and was so thankful that I had the blessing of being able to homeschool my children.

When we heard Josh pull up in the driveway later that afternoon, I immediately got out his Valentine’s Day gift to surprise him. Josh loves cheese, rare and foreign. He calls them “cheeses of the world”, so I bought him a couple for his Valentine gift. I heard them come in the door followed by a shriek from MaCaedyn. I turned around and saw Aven was wearing a bright blue cast from her knee down.

My heart broke. I couldn’t believe it. I knew in that moment, her competitive season was over. I hugged her and began to cry. I thought about all of the hours, all of the pain she endured and fought thro was frustrated. Three different times I have taken my children to an urgent care facility for x-rays and three times I was told there was no break when in fact, they were broken. Once for Aven’s finger, once for MaCaedyn’s thumb and now this. Word to the wise, in my opinion, if you are in an emergency situation and need x-rays go to a hospital over an urgent care.

Aven immediately sat down and tried to do something positive with her situation, so she began painting her cast. Since Tom Holland, aka Spiderman, is her dream of a true love, she made herself a Spiderman cast. We were all very sad, but I told Josh, “Since we knew her doing gymnastics was God’s will, and He allowed this to happen, there has to be a reason. We have to keep our trust in Him. I hate this for her, but I have to trust in Him.”

Learning to trust God has not been an easy lesson for me to learn. For years through Josh’s layoffs, illnesses or other trials, I always had great faith that God could change the circumstance, but I did not always trust Him. I learned that having faith that God could do something was easy, but to trust Him was much harder because it meant you have to completely leave the situation at the feet of the Lord and keep your hands off. Sometimes trusting requires waiting, and sometimes, like in this case, you are just left with no clear answer as to why the trial happened and you just have to accept it. Thank God, we finally learned to trust Him or else this would have been much harder for us.

My mind then went back to the families in Parkland, FL. I turned the news back on and sank into the chair behind me when I read the words across the bottom of the screen: “17 dead, 14 injured”. In that moment, my perspective changed. Yes, Aven’s injury was real and her situation was something to be grieved, but her leg would heal and this time would pass. Aven was alive.

My heart broke for all of the families who had sent their children to school that day as they had for so many years and learned they would never be coming home. My mind went even farther, to parents who were still grieving the loss of their children due to other shootings, and even my mind went beyond the deaths that made the news to all of the parents in the world who had lost their children that day from illness, or accidents or something other unforeseen tragedy. Suddenly, I was thankful for our situation. Aven was injured, but Aven was alive. I was thankful for all of the days that I got to see her compete when so many parents never get the chance to see their child play a sport due to illness or handicaps. I was thankful that a fractured ankle was all she had and while her dreams of competitive gymnastics had ended, there were still many other dreams she had left to fulfill.

Instead of giving their children Valentine’s hearts that day, the Parkland parents were trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered hearts. Instead of planning out their children’s college days, they were going to be planning funerals. Instead of living their lives as they had with their children, they were faced with the horrifying truth that they would never see them smile again, be able to hug them, hear their voice, their laugh, their ideas, their dreams. Their time together was over.

I dried my eyes and went in to hug and kiss Aven and my other two children. I was so thankful. I knew that Aven’s dreams of gymnastics were not over, just the competing part. She still has big dreams of going on to learn more skills, becoming a coach and teaching children in need who cannot afford such a luxury. She is so wonderful with other children and loves to spend time teaching them. I know she will make a wonderful coach someday.

I joked with Aven telling her that we knew the door was closing this year to her competitive gymnastics career, it just got slammed shut more quickly… and on her ankle. She laughed.

Aven’s attitude and courage have helped us all. She has her moments with it from time to time, but those who have reached out to us during this time have brought her tremendous support and joy and the girls, coaches and staff members of Arizona sunrays have been wonderful. They have already offered her a part-time job teaching little children which she will be happy to accept when she is well. Her cast comes off on March 14th and she is determined to still try and compete in the state meet on March 22nd. We’ll have to see what the doctor says, but are inspired by her determination to never give up.

I wanted to write this story so that others can see how good God has been to our family and hopefully, if there is anyone out there who is in the same situation, if you haven’t tried Jesus to help you in your trial, I would highly recommend Him to you. I hope that other kids will also see that just because one door closes where your dreams are concerned, if you keep your head up high, trust in God and keep believing in your dreams, other great things can still happen for you.

We are so thankful to the Lord for blessing us with the strong, beautiful, courageous girl and we are more than thankful that she is alive, well and with us. Our thoughts and daily prayers will always be with the Parkland families and all of the other families who have lost children before their time, for their lives will never be the same again. May our wonderful God, Jehovah, pour out His love, strength, and peace that passes understanding upon them all. In Jesus’ name, Amen.