Tuesday, February 27, 2024

A Label of Love

For those that knew Randy Walgamuth, several thoughts probably come to mind. They're likely the kind of thoughts that end up in the comments of every Facebook post from Ink Free News that feature his name and mug shot. But for every remark and label that the general public of our community has stuck on him, there are many more that most have failed to mention. This failure is not only due to ignorance, but to the tragic reality that so many people (including believers in Christ) neglect to see an image bearer of God the way the Father sees him.
For this reason, I felt it was vitally important to give you a glimpse of the Randy that most will never know. It's the Randy that Jesus told stories about; a living example of the heart of the Father and what the Gospel is all about. He's the perfect picture of God's mercy; the one that the Lord left the 99 sheep to find (Matthew 18:12-14, Luke 15:4-7). This man taught me more about the love and mercy of God than I could ever learn from any evangelist or Bible teacher; and it has marked me for life.

I have worked at The Salvation Army since 2014. Early on, I was like most people. I couldn't understand why he made the choices that he did. Chronically homeless and addicted, he lived out on the streets and in the woods; and sometimes in the homeless shelter. I've seen so many people (and agencies in addition to ours) invest in him. I'll never get over how much personal time and resources my own boss, Ken Locke, spent on him. No matter how busy or drained he was, he still went above and beyond for Randy like he was his own brother.

Admittedly, however, I used to feel frustrated. Randy constantly made demands and expected everyone to do and give what he needed without delay or hesitation. He also seemed oblivious to the fact that even those who had to be tough with him (whether it was a police officer, judge, etc.) actually cared about him and were way more lenient than he deserved. Countless cups of coffee, food, clothing, rides, etc. were given to him by numerous people, agencies, and strangers. The time and personal sacrifices didn't seem to sink in and make him grateful; nothing about his lifestyle changed and it usually just got worse. So many times, he was in and out of jail (and the hospital as well). In all my prayers for him, I finally lost it one time as I was thinking about the fact that he got all that medical care, but I (a tax paying and law-abiding citizen) had no health insurance. God changed my heart with one phrase, "Melissa, this could be his reward in full."

His reward in full. It broke me. I couldn't get over it. If the most reward he would ever get would be all the things that he gets now, how sad and frightening would that be?! What good would it do me to be angry that he was taking so much now when I would be getting an inheritance for eternity that he may never get to be a part of? Am I really going to be mad about the fact that he got the temporary care for his earthly body that I didn't? What good is it to gain any advantage on Earth but lose your soul (Matthew 16:26, Mark 8:36)? Was I really going to be that jealous brother in the prodigal son story?

That's when things shifted for me; not just in how I saw Randy, but in how I saw everyone. It is so easy to be angry at others when they have something we don't, behave in terrible ways, and even get away with things that they shouldn't. Yet, God sees them the same way He sees us. He forgives their great debt and expects us to do likewise (Matthew 18:21-35). Randy had a record and reputation that everyone could see and judge; and yet God loved and wanted him. I realized just how truly merciful and loving the Father has to be in order to continually and relentlessly pursue this lost sheep of his. If He loves Randy SO MUCH to keep rescuing him and giving him countless second chances, how much more grateful should I be as a child of God? ALL OF US have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Who among us ISN'T a Randy? We have all sinned; and yet, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Every single one of us is a sheep that has strayed. I too have behaved in terrible ways; offending God and others. I can't imagine what my own rap sheet must look like, how great my debt must be, and how much I have truly been forgiven. God has been merciful to me and has spared me from lots of things that I deserved (both here and in eternity) and gave me mercy that I do NOT deserve. The Good Shepherd gave His life for every one of us lost sheep so that we would return to Him and be reconciled through Him (Isaiah 53:6, John 3:16-17, 1 Peter 2:25). I've accepted Christ and am safe. Jesus wanted Randy safe too and this is the verse He reminded me of every single time: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. - 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV).

Left Side Back Row: Friends, Randy and Larry, (both are now home with the Lord).
In what few years I have known Randy, I saw him soften. He even frequently attended church at The Salvation Army (and on more than one occasion, donated his cigarette lighter in the offering plate). I have watched prayers be answered; even when he would tell us outright NOT to “pray too hard” for him. We prayed all the more; and it obviously worked! I saw Randy experience the heart of God through each act of love, mercy, and kindness (even if he didn't recognize it). God moved on the hearts of so many people to share the Gospel, their time, money, and resources. Ken has always said, "No one has heard the Gospel more times than Randy Walgamuth." Every act of compassion sowed a seed; and God was even more patient than we were to see them grow. Year after year, Ken would say, "I don't think he's going to make it through another winter." We dreaded the day that he would be found frozen outside or something worse.

The "something worse" was cancer. Again, no one thought he would last as long as he did. Once more, God showed His amazing love and mercy. Randy didn't suffer alone outside. The last year or two, he was either at The Fellowship Mission, the hospital, or hospice. No doubt the staff was amazed at how many visitors Randy had these past few months. I think he finally understood how to give and receive love. For the first time, he said to me, "I love you, Melissa." I was amazed to hear him say it! "I love you too, Randy." I assured him that there were so many people that did and that God loved him even more. I asked him if he confessed and believed in Christ as Lord. He said, "Yes. Yes I do, Melissa." I don't think any of us saw some big emotional/radical change, but we all believe that on whatever level his mind could still understand, he believed and was making his peace. In fact, that is what Ken assured me of. He said that he had never seen Randy so at peace.

I have many more things I could share; and they're only a fraction of the many testimonies that I know others have. People that have known him a lifetime have told me about how much he has been through; even as a kid growing up. Pain and trauma take a toll. I wonder what his life would have been like if his childhood had been different. It makes me sad to think about what his life has been like and how he's the very last of what family he had (even his only child passed in recent years). Despite all the darkness, the light still won out. Jesus shone through so many people that Randy couldn't hide from it. God had His way. Randy couldn't tune out the knocking at the door. None of us may know for sure when/how he opened that door to Jesus, but we believe that he finally let Him in.....and that Christ welcomed Randy into heaven. We love you, Randy! Thank you for all that you taught us! Until we meet again!

Update: Click here to read an additional post of my thoughts after Randy's funeral.

Monday, January 1, 2024

My Word for 2024: Hope

I truly can't believe I'm already composing a blog post about my word for 2024! Not only does it seem like 2023 went by super fast, I also feel like I still have a lot of growing and healing to do with my previous word. My word in 2022 was the same way. Both were difficult but BEAUTIFUL words that carried a lot of growth with it. Those words have been everything for me and I am very grateful for all that God has brought me through and how I've become closer and more in love with Him than ever! He truly has been (and will continue to be) my refuge and safe place; more than enough for me. 

Given how weighty the previous two words have been, I was hoping for a bit of a break and that I would get something like Isaiah 40 (like I did in 2020) or "Come" in 2021. And there it is right there: I was "hoping." 

Last week, I had been praying, journaling, and waiting for my word. A lot of things were heavy on my heart and I was unburdening myself to the Lord. I felt emotionally drained and weary. I really needed refreshment and restoration. 

As my lunch break ended, I was leaving the sanctuary and getting ready go back to work. Suddenly, something caught my eye. The decorative bulletin board to my left had several words on it, and the one closest to me said "hope." I've seen this bulletin board many times, but for some reason, it's like it jumped right out and begged to be seen out of the corner of my eye as I walked past it. I'm like, "Hope. Could that be my word?" I had mixed feelings about it. At first, I thought it was restful, beautiful, and the perfect word for me. It made me feel good, relieved, and hope-ful! Yet, simultaneously, a part of me wanted to shut it down because it seemed too generic, cliche, and simple. As always, I wanted to be sure, so I shelved it in my mind for consideration and waited for further confirmation. I was still hoping for something that I considered a "better" word. I knew I was being a little bit too much like Red and a little less like Andy with that mindset. I had no reason to treat hope like a "dangerous thing" when I knew that true hope does not (and never could) disappoint, because it's JESUS! In fact, that verse had been coming to my mind a LOT, and here it is in context:
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. - Romans 5:1-5

When you look at those verses altogether, it would make perfect sense that "Hope" would be the word that follows "Refuge" and "Enough". All the problems and trials that I have had in these past few years HAVE helped me develop endurance and have strengthened my character. Now, I need to progress to being strengthened by my "confident hope of salvation." I want to increase in faith; being secure in Christ and comforted by the fact that I'm filled with love by the Holy Spirit. God will not disappoint me and it's ALWAYS safe to hope in Him!

Another verse that kept coming to my mind is this one: 

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. - 2 Corinthians 4:7-9

That definitely screams "hope" to me! I have been feeling every bit like a fragile clay jar. Yet, I am filled with the great treasure that is the Holy Spirit. No matter what has happened, He fills me and never abandons me. He builds me up and restores me. Always.  

It didn't take long for confirmation to come. The very next day, I was bent down and getting something from under the sink in my bathroom cupboard. When I began to stand and lift my head up, my eyes met smack dab with this jar of beauty cream on the counter: renewed hope in a jar. My gosh, you can't make this stuff up lol! I was like, "Seriously?! You've got to be kidding!" I laughed because this is so like God to do this with me; and I also heard "There's Hope in Front of Me", by Danny Gokey, playing in my head lol. I'm like, "Ok, but I still need that third sign." He was very quick about it. Again, I couldn't help but laugh because it's just too perfect! I had a stack of clean clothes sitting in a pile that were waiting to be hung up (I know! Tsk, tsk!). I took the top shirt off of the pile to wear, and what do you think I uncovered as I did so? Yep, that's right! I uncovered "hope"!! 

"Really. For real?!" I thought. Wow lol! I just couldn't get over it. There it was again; staring me right in the face! I laughed and shook my head, "Ok, ok. I get it." 

Next, something else came to my mind. I happened to think about a gift that was recently given to me by my friend, Anita. It was a cross with a word on it. "The word is 'hope' isn't it?" I said to myself. Yep, it sure is; and it has Romans 5:5 on it (as well as Philippians 1:20). 

I journaled all of it later in the day and went to to look up the word: ἐλπὶς elpis . It seemed that "hope" was indeed my word. Nevertheless, I asked God if he could make one of those verses show up somewhere in the next few days; so I could be extra sure. Or, if the number 1680 (the number in the concordance) showed up, that would be cool too. Up until today, I hadn't seen any further confirmation, and I was telling myself, "Melissa, you already know. It's 'hope.' Why are you fighting it?" I know very well why. It's because of all the times I DO hope and things don't work out. "But that's just the people and things of this world. That's not where your hope is anyways," I told myself. Yes, I know that. Maybe that's exactly why I need this word. I was reminded of this in the movie "Slumberland", which I watched this weekend for only the second time since it came out (and I highly recommend it!). You may not get the dream you want, but you're going to get the dream you need. "Hope" isn't the word I really wanted, but it's most certainly the one I need. It's basic, simple, and beautiful; and those aren't bad things. In fact, Andy is right

Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

"Hope" isn't  meant to be an overused word or cliche. True hope is much deeper than that. It's time to really rest and soak in the REAL hope. Jesus is my hope NOW and for all eternity. He is with me NOW; and I'll also be with Him whenever I go home (or when He comes back for me/us; whichever comes first). I will NOT be disappointed! All the people, things, and cares of this life will all be gone, but my eternal hope is always real and certain. 

Today is the first day of this new year; 365 days of new opportunities and each of those days that we get is a gift from the Lord! As a wonderful bonus, God did confirm that verse for me once more as I was looking back at this old post of mine about Red and Andy for this post. I also had the pleasure of seeing this post in my Facebook memories. There's no doubt about it! I can be confident of my hope, which is Christ, and look forward to all that is to come:

For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.

- Philippians 1:20.

So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. 

- Hebrews 6:18-19

Grace and peace to you, my friends! I genuinely HOPE and pray that this will be a blessed year for us all! Our "hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness." On Christ the solid rock we stand, all other ground is sinking sand! Stay anchored! He is our firm foundation! Amen! God bless you!

Sunday, January 8, 2023

My Word for 2023: Enough

I don't know about you, but I don't think anything describes the start of 2023 quite like this blinking guy meme. Do you remember 2019 B.C. (before Covid) lol? 

For me, 2019 was an exciting wide-eyed time. The last half of the year was an especially bittersweet period of pruning, growth, and revelation. God had showed me during a sermon on October 13th how important writing/journaling was: "Let's get back to that. This is how you bring my Kingdom to Earth." 

He had also made it clear that I should always "be ready." I remember there was one time I had to scramble to find a paper and pen in my purse because I was so overcome with all the things He was bringing to my mind. He was like, "I told you to be ready!" Since then, I've always carried my notebook and pen with me so I can "be ready" any time He chooses to "download" something. Sometimes it's just for me, and sometimes they are things I feel compelled to blog, post on Facebook, or share in some way. In fact, "Your Heart is Where the House Is" is a post from that October 13th sermon, and it continues to be something I think about and revisit often. 

I felt reignited and reconnected with God in a deeper way because I knew He had brought me back to what He had marked and anointed me for. That statement was a commission and I knew it. I was excited to be stepping into my purpose and destiny. Like many others, I thought 2020 was going to be a year of clear vision and perspective. I think we all had high hopes for great things. It was supposed to be the year where I was finally going to get some important things accomplished for God (specifically a book that He had been nudging me for years to put out there).

Now, we've blinked and those three years are gone. Like everyone else, my family and I have had a lot of highs and lows from 2020 - 2022. I don't think very many of us like to remember 2020. In fact, I'm not even going to bother going there lol. The past two years haven't been much better either. It's not that everything has been all bad, but nothing has been the same since Covid and it's made things harder for everyone in so many ways. 

For me, 2022 has probably been the hardest of all. I knew it would be when I got the word "Refuge" as my word for the year. Yet, it was a comforting word at the same time, because I knew that God was assuring me that He is my safe place. I wouldn't have gotten through it otherwise. There's been a lot of hardships, heartbreaks, and way too many deaths/funerals. Though, on the plus side, we were also kept occupied by a lot of celebrations. I can't remember when I've been to so many birthday parties (including my own), bridal/baby showers, weddings, and graduation parties (including my own son's). It's been a very busy year and I'm so glad that I made it through all of that; plus all the holidays and work craziness of December. 

In anticipating and praying for my new word this year, I was really hoping for something that felt super positive, encouraging, and promising. It was on November 22nd, close to Thanksgiving, that I had been journaling about how weary I was from all the spiritual warfare. I was lamenting everything I was feeling; asking God where He was and to please answer me. I know He never leaves me, but sometimes things just feel like dead air. You just need something very fresh and obvious; something that just smacks you in the face to where you know God is saying, "I'm here and I care. I love you." 

As things continued to get busier at work (and harder in my life in general), writing became less frequent than it should have been. Though, on December 6th, I had one of those days where I was writing and was particularly inspired by the daily "Give Him 15" post by Dutch Sheets: The Power of Remembering. Do yourself a favor and check out that post! It will inspire you to reflect not only on what God has done in the history of His Word, but in your personal history (as Dutch described regarding King David). When we testify to what the Lord has done in the past, we are also calling it forth for Him to do it again (watch the video or read the post here for more). I can't tell you how many times these daily posts have been just what I needed and have aligned with what God was already speaking to me (my son and I watch these every day!). Here is just a portion of what I wrote down that day in my journal:  

What is my armor? What are my weapons? This is no time to lower my shield (faith). That is my defense. My offense is my sword (Word of God). I'm in the Word daily, yes. Yet, so many times I don't take the time to go deep or to open those doors and go down rabbit holes. I'm too busy being Cinderella to be Alice; too busy to be curious. Your Word is my greatest weapon; and to use it in prayer. I don't need to war in vain and in the flesh. Battles aren't against flesh and blood. We fight these spiritual battles with spiritual weapons. I really do need to weaponize my prayers with Your Word and praise. This worry and fretting and self-pity and wailing isn't doing anything. It's time to use the Word and to testify and remember!

Even with that revelation, I still couldn't seem to find my word in December. I was frustrated with myself. I felt like one of the many things getting in the way of finding and discerning it was the distraction of being sick. Early in the month, I had battled some kind of cold/sinus junk. I got over it, only to come down with a nastier version on the 16th (and for extra fun, I also had to deal with pink eye in both eyes). In fact, I'm STILL waiting on my ears to be unclogged so I can hear normally. I'm hoping that the prednisone I was given might finally do something. It isn't very easy to fast and pray when you're supposed to have something in your stomach to take medicine (and you're hoping to fuel yourself with decent food and vitamins to get your health and strength back). It has had me feeling weak and like a failure. I had some moments where I thought that I was possibly on the right track and that something "might" be my word, but it just didn't feel like the kind of "aha" like in years past. I didn't want to just grab and settle for something. I figured the best thing to do was just rest and wait. Even if things took longer or didn't become apparent before 2023 got here, I knew God's timing was perfect and not up to me. 

Enter December 31st...

We were at Chris' family Christmas gathering when his Mom presented me with a wrapped gift that looked like it had to be a picture frame. Chris was sitting beside me and she and Scott were in front of me, and it looked like he was getting his camera ready. I had no idea what this could be; I was excited and nervous at the same time. This was obviously something special if they wanted to record my reaction. I tore off the paper and what stared back at me left me speechless and in tears. It was me; kneeling with my sword and in my armor. My gosh, it was like when Alice looked through that keyhole and saw herself and realized she was dreaming. For me, it was a dream come true; and I couldn't believe I was staring at it and WASN'T dreaming! My word was within it somewhere; and I was ready to get curious and go down the rabbit hole like I had longed for! Get ready to dive in with me, folks! 

Aside from what I shared before, there have been many times where I (and people who have prophesied over me) have seen me in armor. In fact, I've had an image of me in gold armor. I'm in a battle stance; fierce with intense eyes and my sword drawn in front of me. My blue/green hair is flowing behind me and there's lightning flashing behind me. I've often thought to myself that if I had the money, I would commission a friend of mine (who is an AMAZING painter) to paint the image for me. Though, I have often debated whether to change the armor to silver (or white gold/platinum, beskar, whatever lol) because I have always preferred it over yellow gold. Yet, I figured gold was considered more precious and valuable, so that's why God had it in my mind that way. At any rate, it was one of those unspoken desires that I don't recall ever sharing with Kathy. There is NO WAY she could have given me the desire of my heart unless God had been the One to tell her (so explain THAT to me, all you non-believers!).

Kathy said that it was after Thanksgiving when she saw this image on Facebook (which, amazingly, showed up in my own feed a few days ago on January 2nd!). She said God told her to paint this for me. She said she felt intimidated by it. In fact, when I unwrapped it, I asked her who painted it because (to my knowledge) she usually did things like florals. When she told me she had done it, I was all the more blown away and in tears. Not only did God tell her to paint this for me, but she stepped out in faith and obedience to do it. Out of love for Him, and for me, she took the time to do something she hadn't done before; because God thought of me and was using her to answer my prayers. She said "yes" to Him. She did a hard thing and took the time to do it; even though she said she was afraid of being able to do it well and didn't want to mess it up. She knew that it wasn't God giving her a spirit of fear; Satan does that. Instead, she tapped into the power, love, and self-discipline that God gives us to accomplish all things through Him. She said she knew I was such a prayer warrior and that this was me. Obviously, it has not be unnoticed by God either. He heard my prayers! He said, "Yes, I see you. I hear you. This is who you are! Remember!" 

I couldn't stop staring at it. In fact, every time I look at it, it just keeps speaking and speaking and speaking! Kathy said she felt Holy Spirit so mightily over it when it was done. There is just no doubt about it. He anointed her in her gift to do what He called her to do. Then, that gift ignited mine. What a beautiful domino effect! Who knows who will now be blessed as they read this! God multiplies! What a magnificent chain reaction! 

One of the many things that hit me when I stared at the picture was that this wasn't my active warrior pose. It communicated surrender, submission, servanthood, rest, and honor. I felt peace. I felt that it was me kneeling to my Commander; and He is pleased. I also felt like even when I feel like a weak and weary warrior, He is still my strength. I can never do it on my own. In my weakness, He is strong and His grace is sufficient for me. Because of Him, it's enough; because HE is enough. As it says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: 

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

This verse is in the context of Paul talking about the thorn in his side. Sometimes, we suffer things that don't go away no matter how much we pray. It's hard for us to understand the whys when we suffer unpleasant afflictions or circumstances. In fact, a recent episode of "The Chosen" addressed this pretty well (watch this clip if you haven't seen it!). Nick Vujicic (the man born without arms and legs), also weighed in on this and explained it just as beautifully (click here for the segment; it's worth the watch if you've ever asked "why, God?"). Joni Eareckson Tada says the same thing.

"Enough." That word seemed to echo in the moment. I had been striving so hard and hadn't felt like I had found my word. Yet, in that moment, it seemed to appear; and not from "my" efforts. He did it. He's enough. He's made me enough. 

I looked on Bible Hub to dive into the verses more. The word for "sufficient" is "arkeó" which is "to assist, suffice." It's also used in John 14:8 when Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father and that it will be "enough." Jesus answered in verses 9-14: 

“Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

The whole chapter of John 14 is full of reassurance from Jesus not to be troubled; that He is with us and that He would send Holy Spirit to be with us. Peace is with us and we don't have to be afraid. He's got us. He's enough. We have it all because we have Him; and He gives us all His power and authority to do even greater works in His Name! 

Up until now, I hadn't had a moment to sit down and process all of this to be "sure" that "enough" is my word. I was pretty certain, but I was taking note of additional confirmations over the passing days so I could piece it all together and see the big picture. On January 1st, I saw these two images in my Facebook feed that included the word "enough" (and were just beyond perfect and fitting!). Then, of course, that warrior image that Kathy had first seen showed up in my own feed on the 2nd. Then, on January 5th, Matthew 6:34 was the verse of the day in the Bible app: "so don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." Then, January 7th, my Bible reading was in Hebrews 11. Verse 35 really stood out: 

Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.

This verse triggered a memory from last year when I went to a women's conference. Amazingly enough, this Bible story from 2 Samuel 21:10-14 is something that I also recently read in my Bible plan a little over a month ago. Rizpah's sons were killed and they didn't get a proper burial. She spent her days and nights shooing away the birds and wild animals from devouring them. At this women's conference, Eva Rodriguez was telling us that as mothers, we are warriors for our children and families. We have to chase away the birds and wild animals that are trying to devour them. It must have seemed crazy to everyone for Rizpah to spend all her time doing that because her sons were already dead. But, those were her children and she wanted to preserve and honor them even in death; and she got her wish. I found an article that talks about this story even more. Anyways, we have to be the ones to fight for our own kids, because no one else is going to do it. Even if it's all over (or seems like it's over), we need to chase away anything that tries to devour and take away what remains. As the verse in Hebrews says, we can see our dead raised to life again. I will contend for my children; always. My prayers will chase the birds and wild beasts away from my family. Even if it doesn't look like the battle is being won, I know that it will be. Christ is the resurrection and the life. I know what has been prophesied over my marriage and children. Satan cannot have them! I will war until I can war no more; because I am that prayer warrior and I'm not taking my armor of God off! The painting is on the wall in my living room so I (and everyone in my household) can see it every day and be reminded of my job. 

The final thing that tops it off is when I went back to my 2019 journal to look for the entry that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Right before that entry were some notes before that. I hadn't put the date, but I assume it was from an Activ8 youth conference message because that's where I got the notebook from and first used it. There are a LOT of great notes written down, and among them are these: 

- A life spent for Jesus will be remembered and last for all eternity.

- "Who do you say that I am?" "Am I enough for you?" 

- Good things can distract from greater things. *I had put "book" in parentheses right beside this one*

- "Yes, Jesus, but..... status (scribe), convenience (bury my father), idols (family) 

- "if I had _____ I would be happy" -----> this is the idol detector.

- Heaven wouldn't be worth it if Jesus wasn't there. He is the price and reward. Is He all you want?          Is  He your treasure? Is He enough?

It couldn't be any more clear to me! In 2019, my eyes were open. I was on the right track. Then, I blinked. We all blinked. Now, our eyes are open again. We have all had to learn what's most important. We have been awakening to the fact that we need Jesus more than anything else and that nothing else matters but Him. All the things that got put on the back burner (for me, it's been the book) should be on the back burner no longer. No more excuses; even if those excuses are "good things". I've done a lot of "good things" for Jesus in these past few years, but they weren't that ONE thing; the one thing that I knew I was truly supposed to do. If I continue to be busy, distracted, or brought down by all the thorns of this world, someone is going to miss out on their Alice moment. They won't get their activation, because I haven't done the ONE THING that I'm supposed to do that will show them who they are. I need to follow Kathy's example. I need to do the hard thing; the thing that I've been scared to screw up. The thing I've thought wouldn't be good enough because I have never done it before and don't know what I'm doing. All the people I have asked for help never have time to answer me. I thought I needed them to advise me because they have walked the path before and can show me how to do it. I've been waiting on them while God has been waiting on me. I've given Him all the excuses because I didn't want to mess things up. Yet, all this time, God was just trying to get me to see that it was just ME He was talking to. He picked me; not them. I'm just going to have to go for it. I don't know what I'm doing, and it will probably be messy and imperfect, but it will be "enough." He proved it to me with the painting. He's the perfect One. We just have to be the obedient one. His grace covers it all. It's enough and it accomplishes what He wants!

Grace and peace to you, my friends! May this truly be a blessed new year! Awakening and revival is on the horizon, and we all have our part to play in that! Like I read today in Hebrews 12:1-3 (and not coincidentally, it was one of the many verses mentioned in today's amazing message at church that stunningly echoed much of what I wrote here): 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Through off all distractions and sin! 2022 and these past few years are behind us! Start fresh, and start with Jesus! Let Him give you new strength! Like Bea said in her message, we need to be good disciples if we're going to succeed in discipling others as He commanded. May that dash in-between 2019 - 2023 be a bridge. I want 2023 to be where 2019 left off, but with the wisdom and growth that came in that dash. It's time to take our places! We are warriors and we can never stop fighting the good fight; especially since we know we've already won! We don't fight for victory, but FROM victory! Jesus already won it. He is enough. We are enough! He's got this and He's got us! God bless you!