I have spent far too many nights staring into my device as if it was some magical cure for my restlessness. Every time it would disappoint.

I have tried many things over the years. Drugs, alcohol, sex, music, white noise, being close to someone, being away from someone; the list echoes the “tried that” rhetoric of a 12-step program introduction, each option more ridiculous than the last and none too effective.

Most of us just settle in our phones these days. I happen to be on mine right now at 11 pm transcribing this message to you who struggle with me.

The days are too long and never long enough. There is no resting place.

Not in this world anyhow.

I have finally found my rest in the Lord.

It has been quite the arduous journey, but Jesus has been there with me every step of the way.

He sat patiently waiting as I self medicated and attempted to exhaust myself into sleep; softly whispering that I need not struggle any longer.

Many nights I would draw near in prayer and worship and drift off peacefully, but there was always that bottle of Unisom on the nightstand “just in case.”

I clung to the worry that my anxiety would rear its ugly head and I would have no recourse. My pills never stopped the anxiety. They only hastened the exhaustion that was yet to come after a panic attack.

There Jesus sat, sorrowful at my choice to remain bound by this monster, awaiting my surrender.

Tonight He spoke more loudly to me.

Examining the bottle on my nightstand I saw that it was not my sleep aid, but my B-12 I take in the morning. I grasped a cold metal handle and tugged on it. The drawer would not open. I pulled again…

Something must be stuck.

A crystal clear declaration branded itself into my mind as I yanked at the drawer one final time;

“I WILL BE YOUR PEACE!”

My drawer slid loose and I reached inside, lifting a bottle I no longer needed as that peace swept over me. I set it gently on the dresser and chuckled to myself.

This is all I need. The presence and assurance of my Savior.

Sometimes it takes me a while to let go of things I try to put in His place, but He always leads me back. Gently, firmly… with love and peace that surpasses my understanding.

I am grateful. I pray you all sleep as well as I am about to.

Your sister,

Monica

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We don’t suffer from it but we often suffer because of it.

We are the ones who see the darkest parts of what depression does to a person. We have sat for hours in beds, on the floor & in bathtubs with it.

We have sat silent in the car waiting until it lifts so we can walk into the party with it, or even just into Target, and pretend to be normal for a little while.

“We are the most fragile and the most resilient warriors”

We have prayed under our breath with our hand on your head at night, crying out to God to save you from this evil of persistent hopelessness.

In the morning we launch into worship and more prayer. We cover you in prayer every day and many moments throughout the day.

We have ignored our own needs. At times we have told you exactly what we need.

Even when we are vulnerable enough to profess our human loneliness, we are not naive enough to think you will suddenly be capable of loving us amidst your pain.

We hate your depression, not you, but sometimes we take it out on you because it’s too hard to understand why you ignore us and don’t ever want to take us out anymore. Why you don’t seek after us.

We are the most fragile and the most resilient warriors.

We have talked you down from the unspeakable. Some of us have put our own lives in danger to save yours. To give you enough time to realize that life isn’t so bad and you are loved.

We want nothing in return, but we are in grave pain and feel like your depression might kill us at times.

But we will not give up. That was never an option.

The world might see us as the wives of depression, but we are wives of a unique breed of warriors.

We will not accept the devil’s definition of who we are or who you are. He is a liar and you will be free.

We know there is freedom.

We know that freedom is in Jesus, and we know He is faithful to complete the work He has begun. Both in you and in our marriage.

We will never leave you. Even on the days you feel the lowest, remember that we are for you.

Remember there are millions of us praying and fighting alongside you. We will never give up.

Neither should you.

Your sister,

Monica

NOTE: The images and words contained here are not meant to imply that all women whose spouses battle depression are being abused. There are varying degrees of depression, some accompanied by expressions of aggression. If you find yourself or a loved one in this situation, please reach out for help as soon as possible. It is not heroic to submit to abuse.

Over the last couple of weeks it has come to my attention that there are certain things, certain patterns, in my life that I do not possess the power to break.

Of course I am aware that without the Lord I am unable to do many things. But what I’m talking about here is habitual, patterns of sin and my frustration in not being able to overcome them.

These patterns of sin have a way of wearing us down. We battle them in our own power for so long, trying to move the mountain of self will run riot, and then give up. We decide to just “live with it”.

When I came to Christ I walked away from many things that I knew were not glorifying to Him and who I wanted to be in Him.

Other things, these habits, were not so easy to leave behind.

In fact I discussed one of these things in my last blog post. It happens to be something that many of us struggle with. Especially the moms out there.

As usual God was right on time with an answer.

No sooner had I published the blog post, than I received a solution. Sitting in my Theology and Practice of Ministry class, I listened carefully to the wise words of my teacher (a woman with twenty plus years of ministry under her belt, the type of woman we need more of in the church).

Her words, though convicting, fell like a soft embrace around my open wounds of doubt. “I know the Lord is capable, but I am incapable. Why can I not change my behavior?” I bemoaned.

“They are patterns. You must pray “God, cause me ________.”

As wonderful as this sounded and comforting as it was (because any option was better than nothing and I had exhausted them all), my hope was seasoned with reservation.

Thank the Lord only a mustard-seed-sized faith is enough!

Since that day (exactly six days ago) I have begun every morning with that prayer.

“Father, cause me. Cause me to be more kind with my words and tone toward my children. Cause me to walk in Your Will and not my own.”

Make me do it!

Order my steps in Your Word!

There was a time I hurled similar words at my earthy parents, but they were meant to be challenging rather than submissive.

I now bring that same zeal, that same stubbornness, to the Lord in my request.

I have always been rough around the edges. Unrefined, raw, and wild. I thought for a long time that God wanted me to calm down. To be pleasant, sweet and light like some of my Christian sisters. Not so. As I wrote recently in a private worship moment:

“I was wild and running from You

Never wanting to be tamed

Come to find all You desire

Is that I’m wild for Your name”

It was quite a relief to realize that I was not in sin because of who I am; I am not fundamentally flawed in some way. God has made me exactly as I am supposed to be and redeems me from sin I impose upon His perfect creation.

I was simply misusing my zeal!

He made me to be passionate, wild, and even aggressive at times. This is a reflection of Him and His kingdom!

Does this look tame to you? Because it’s the image God chose to use to describe Himself and His people are in His image…

The problem is that I kept taking the ‘easy’ way out (in hindsight it was SO not easier!) But, it was less work upfrontto throw my will and weight around than to go toe-to-toe with an Almighty God and beg Him to “make me do it” His way.

Now, I ask. And He answers!

Each day becomes easier as I press into His will and choose surrender. His yoke is truly light in contrast to the weight I was lugging around!

And the best part? I get to be me! Thereal me who is found in Him! I don’t have to sacrifice my zeal, I just have to re-purpose it. To rightly purpose it in a way that honors His will instead of my own.

Why on earth would I do that?

Because He loves me and He made me!

He alone knows the plans for my life and He has designed me specifically for each task.

You are no different.

I pray that this simple prayer is a blessing to those of you who still struggle like I have. I’m sure I will continue, as is our life in this flesh, but I pray all of us find increasing freedom with each new day.

Be who you truly are in Him. Submit that self to His will daily, beg for His intervention, and watch the miracles form from the inside out.

This, my friends, is how we change the world! One person at a time; starting with the self (which only God can change).

Until next time, may you be encouraged and conscious of the God who is always lovingly conscious of you.

Your sister,

Monica

I used to hate worship music.

This may come as a surprise to people who know me as I am today. I lead worship. My life is worship. I couldn’t see going a day without connecting to my God through this lavish response of gratitude we call “worship.”

But before I found the Lord, before I actually formed a relationship with him instead of trying to connect only through religious ritual…

I thought worship music made me sick, when it was really bringing out my pre-existing sickness.

I would squirm in my seat as I rode in the car with my older sister who loved to play Christian music… like ALL. THE. TIME. As soon as it came on the radio, I was uncomfortable. There was this foreign, sappy aura that would fill the vehicle and I couldn’t wait to get out! I never thought about asking her to change the station. Then I would be forced to have a conversation about why I didn’t want to listen to it.

I didn’t really have a good reason other than the fact that it made me queasy.

I was just avoiding the conversation because I knew I had no footing for my “logic.” I didn’t know what was going on spiritually and why I felt that way. So, as I look back on the transformation that has happened in my life and my relationship with Jesus which caused this transformation… I want to share with you some things I have learned about worship and it’s role in this fundamental change I have experienced.

1) Worship is supposed to be uncomfortable.

When I was not walking with the Lord, worship music made me uncomfortable. It was the Spirit within that music, calling out to the broken places in me that I so fervently tried to bury, that made me unsettled. In the presence of true worship the brokenness with in us is undeniable and we will never be settled so long as that brokenness exists… which it will to some extant until the death of our flesh.

When I surrendered to the Lord I developed a heart for worship. Still, it made me uncomfortable.

Now I walk willingly into those places that need healing. It is still unsettling. The difference is that I have partnered with the Holy Spirit who resides inside me and choose to trust The Lord to heal the things my flesh would rather ignore out of pride. The most powerful moments of worship have occurred when I pushed past this discomfort into full surrender to my God and His will for me. I speculate that the day I no longer praise alongside distress is the day that I have stopped worshiping altogether.

Such a God forsaken day would signal that I have forgot how to bring my brokenness to the Lord while still praising Him.

2) Worship is warfare.

I didn’t know it at the time, but just sitting in my sister’s car put me close enough to this battlefield to create in me a discord. I didn’t know what it was. I just wanted “it” to go away because “it” made my stomach flip. The memory brings to mind events of September 11th. When the planes went down, when people lost their lives, there were many of us including myself who were not close enough to see the bloodshed or hear the impact. Nevertheless, the battle was severely disruptive to our peace of mind. We were on the front lines emotionally and psychologically, without ever having stepped physical foot into the battlefield. This is the exact same thing that happened, in a spiritual sense, when I encountered praise music.

There was a battle raging right in front of me and my soul did not know how to interpret it.

The battle is still raging. Today I engage. Not only am I on the front lines emotionally, but my worship is Spirit filled. The Spirit God has given me through his son Jesus, my Savior, comforts and defends me as I walk out His will. This eternal Spirit is winning a spiritual war, one battle at a time, as I lift my hands in surrender. The Holy Spirit fights for me as I am still in His presence, surrendered to His working amid my discomfort. To be filled with the Holy Spirit during a time of praise may be the most incredible thing we can experience on this earth.I am no longer an uncomfortable, passive bystander. I am a soldier following every order of my King as we advance the kingdom.

The last and perhaps most important spiritual truth of the worship is this:

3) Worship is our purpose for being.

I recall a time as a new believer when I tried to convey this truth to someone who was seeking the Lord. Perhaps I simplified it too much… but it did not register for him. In hindsight, it even sounded to me as though I painted God as self-serving in creating us only to worship Him. This “loving” Father created human beings to serve only him? Of course that sounds selfish! My teaching was incomplete.

I failed, at that time, to comprehend and thus convey the eternal blessings and significance of serving God and glorifying Him only.

Fast-forward about six years.

Today, though I do not worship for the acquisition of blessing, I have never seen it so abundantly than when it has come to pass through the channels of surrendered worship.

If we are vessels through which the Lord works in this world, our worship of Him is the thing that clears the obstructions which may behindering the manifestation of His will in the earth.

When we surrender to Christ in us and say “I am yours. Use me as a vessel for your will; a boat to rescue men drowning in sin and uncertainty”, we become an effective warship in our worship.

So I encourage you today to do what might be uncomfortable. Try worshiping despite, and in the presence of, that disheveled feeling. Don’t back down from serving your God in the face of spiritual war. I promise you, and I know because it is His promise, that He will never leave you or forsake you. Be bold in surrender.

Be a warship that plunges into battle with the confidence that God is on your side. He is. So am I. So is your community of faith and the entire body of Christ.

We are NOT alone and we WILL see victory. May God keep you and embolden you in this day and those to come.

Your sister,

Monica

As I embarked down this interesting road of “growing a platform” in order to later get my testimony into people’s hands, I discovered the incredible world of Instagram.

It is a peculiar thing, what people put out into the world. What even is more astounding than the extremities people go to for attention, is the awkward silence that surrounds many of these obvious cries for help.

“Don’t quit”

I found myself writing this on strangers’ Instagram accounts in response to pictures that were glorifying self harm and suicidal ideation, but that were also accompanied by words of desperation and longing. I wonder why there is no online outreach to these, clearly broken, souls?

So far, every person I have reached out to encourage has replied with gratitude.

I’m not sure how or why these people got to where they are… with no one around to encourage and lift them up in such a dark time.

Oh wait, yes I am.

That was me.…

It was me who took to the razor as a tool for fighting the numbness that accompanied emotional and sexual abuse I endured at the hands of my first real boyfriend.

It was me who played depressing music over and over… and over… and over again, focusing intently on the burning sensation on my skin as I longed for the tears to begin pouring.

They seemed so impossible.

It was me who needed to feel something; to cry and mourn the loss of a part of me I had never even come to know at 15 years old.

It was me who sat in the top of my closet, drawing a line in the sand and declaring I would “never cut again” as I blended my charcoal drawing into the wall by candlelight; morbid work of art no one was ever supposed to see.

Until my mother found it

It was me who was taken to a psychiatrist, asked a short series of questions, and put on a medication that made me feel happy but didn’t fill the hole that my boyfriend’s “love” had branded into my soul.

It was me who, even after being given an incredible gift of faith in Jesus Christ, had to face down these demons while hiding in my bathroom, wallowing in loneliness, and staring into the glare of a razor blade once more.

But

It is also me who has witnessed these demons fleeing in terror at the sight of my Lord who came to protect me… from them and from myself, when I called His name.

It is me who has gone from shaking on my closet floor with a blanket over my head; hiding from the world and barely able to breathe… to shaking on the floor in my prayer room and sleeping there all night; crying out to Jesus for the panic attacks and night terrors to be stopped…

Then seeing those prayers answered.

It is me, a woman who has been the recipient of astounding grace and incomprehensible deliverance, who is writing this now as tears flow down her face.

My tears, however, are no longer for myself.

They are for those of you who have not yet found your deliverance.

I mourn with you.

I love you.

Don’t quit.

Your sister,

Monica

 

Today could have been a horrible day for me.

It could have been a horrible day for my family.

My husband has been deployed in Afghanistan since March. This opportunity has been a huge blessing in many ways, however the lack of his presence is felt and grieved by us all. It is especially interesting for me to realize today that Thanksgiving has never been the most wonderful day for me.

At best, it has been a day to prepare and eat some food, try not to get stressed out, and start again tomorrow trying to accomplish all of the normal things I put off in order to “celebrate”.

Today was different. It was different because I decided that it would be different. I decided to remember not only what I am thankful for, but Who I am thankful to.

There are two other Thanksgivings I recall with impeccable detail. Days that I was alone. Days that I felt abandoned, betrayed, and hopeless.

About 12 years ago, my Thanksgiving was spent riding the metro into DC for my shift at Archibald’s. It never occurred to me that the strip club I worked at would not be open yet. I just figured since I had no family that wanted to be with me I would head in early. The club wasn’t open yet. Being quite hungry at this point, I walked for 10 blocks up 14th St. to find a 24-hour CVS. There I purchased a protein bar and a bottle of water for my Thanksgiving dinner.

As I walked past homeless men and women sitting on the sides of the street eating their meals on paper plates, I longed for what they had.

The longing wasn’t so much that my stomach was hungry, but that my soul was hungry… for someone to care enough to want to feed me. But no one could have me around. I don’t blame them. I was that toxic person who would inevitably ruin the event to which I was invited. So I stopped getting invited.

I had never learned how to be proper. How to be sober. How to be “normal.”

My lack of stability was linked to the other Thanksgiving I recall so well. And so many like it. So many years that echoed the solitude of the holidays.

As a teenager, holidays were never enjoyable in my home. I don’t mean “never” as though I had experienced no happiness ever, but rather to say that actual joy was lacking. There is a cosmic difference between a moment of happiness and experiencing real joy. My mother was fabulous at curating happy moments.

Joy however, being a thing that one cannot create or arrange, was difficult to come by in our home.

Thus, I began looking for it elsewhere. I’m not really sure what took place the Thanksgiving after I turned 15. I only recall that I could not be in my home for a moment longer. There may have been nothing actually wrong on the surface. It could have been a regular day. But there was a void. A void in my home. A void inside of me… so I just left.

I went for quite a long walk that day. It was about 2 miles to the grocery store nearest our home. I walked all the way. When I got there nothing was open. I turned around and started walking back. I was not far from my neighborhood when I approached the entrance to another community where a friend of mine lived.

Lacking in social etiquette, I decided it would be a good time to go and visit.

When I arrived, Nicole’s parents welcomed me in. I sat down to dinner with them. This wasn’t the first time I had intruded. They always welcomed me. Still, I can only imagine what they were thinking when I showed up on a holiday that people are usually with their families, being only a child myself.

I loved that house. That family.

The environment smelled like fresh food. Fresh food that had not been burnt or cooked ahead of time and then donated. I learned how to wash and dry lettuce. I heard people laugh and saw them hug. I witnessed parents discipline their children in a way that didn’t break them. When we sat down to eat we sat at the table instead of in front of the TV. We held hands and prayed. No one argued at dinner.

I had always hated when everyone finished their food. I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to go “home.”

Reminiscing on all of this today has brought me to a place of peace and gratitude.

The addictions and the sin that once bound me (and left me more destitute than someone who was homeless) have been broken and forgiven by Jesus. My God has changed not only my life but my heart.

That home I found comfort in as a child has now become my home.

I am married to a man who works hard to provide so that my children do not have to rely on strangers coming to bring them food on holidays. We get to be the people who bless others today!

My daughter and I made homemade mayonnaise together this Thanksgiving.

When my children cried today or became frustrated, I had the privilege of praying with them and correcting them in love when necessary.

We sat at the table together instead of in front of the TV.

We held hands and said grace.

No one argued at dinner.

When it was all said and done, we visited with a neighbor who had invited us to eat with her family. My children sat at a different table than the adults. When I walked over to be sure they were settled, I saw that they had all been patiently waiting for me to come and pray with them.

My neighbor is not really the prayerful type. She’s not really into the Lord like I am.

She didn’t see any of this… but we prayed for her home and her family. We thanked the Lord for her hospitality and asked that He bless her and bring joy into her home. There is no lack of happy moments there. But because I have found the joy I have sought after, I could not help but pray that for her as well.

The greatest joy I have found, the deepest gratitude, is in the fact that our family gets to do this. We are privileged to be part of an eternal Kingdom that brings purpose to lives and joy into homes.

My prayer is that you also have experienced joy today. As much as you have longed for fulfillment, may it be granted to you today by our Lord Jesus.

When you find it in Him, because you will when you seek Him, pour it out on everyone around you and bask in the new level of joy that comes with being a vessel.

I love you all and wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.

Your sister,

Monica