Sixteen years ago I spent my nights working on a puzzle into the wee hours of the morning.

While I should have been resting for school the next day (I was only seventeen), my mind was too busy for sleep. I was carrying a baby no one knew about. No one who cared anyway.

I told him.

I told him and he didn’t believe me.

I knew something was off when I got sick leaving Woodson High school that evening.

We were supposed to be in night school. We were both there, him a legal adult trying to earn a diploma and me a recovering, lonely young girl.

I went to the True Love Waits purity conference. I recommitted myself to God. I meant it. How could this happen?

So now, each night I focused on piecing together a puzzle until my eyes were too heavy to keep open… piecing together something felt good.

My life could never be put back together.

Not with a baby on the way. I would never go to college. I would never teach like I dreamed of; like that prophetess lady told me at revival.

“I was carrying a baby no one knew about. No one who cared anyway.”

I would have a baby. Then I would struggle for years with alcohol, drugs, working in the sex industry, and ultimately fight for my life trying to leave the abusive relationship that this pregnancy commenced.

But God knew the big picture even when I was blind.

I am in college now. Only four classes from completing my diploma in theology. Will I go on to get my MDiv? Why not?

That baby I became pregnant with was a boy. Brian was born weighing in at 1 lb 8 oz and they said he wouldn’t live.

He is sixteen now. He is honest and has a strong love for the Lord. I birthed four more after him.

At this moment they lay sleeping peacefully upstairs along with my husband who basically rescued me from that horrible relationship with my ex.

And I sit here piecing together a new puzzle, recalling all Jesus has done in my life.

I hear the still small voice reassuring me that, though my desperation looks different these days, He is all I need. I hear Him tell me that it’s ok if I go alone because I am never truly alone.

I see visions of the ministries yet to be birthed through my dedication to Him. I can see it now.

I’m finally starting see the big picture.

It’s beautiful!

I hope you learn to see yours as well. Keeping our eyes fixed on the faithfulness of Jesus always helps the vision.

Till next time.

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.

Our second daughter, Evelyn, was sent home sick from school yesterday.

When I arrived to pick her up the nurse informed me she was sleeping. However, when I peeked around the curtain I saw Evelyn smiling and rolling over at the sound of my voice. She didn’t seem sick at all with that grin on her face, but I was told that she had gotten physically ill after lunch and barely made it to the trash can.

You wouldn’t know it to look at her lying there full of hope for a day home with mom.

The nurse also informed me that she would be unable to come to school to following day because she has to be 24 hours without a repeat occurrence. I loaded Evelyn up into the truck and we headed home.

I had a hundred things to do including writing a final I had lost the instructions for, laundry, church responsibilities, and all the normal mom stuff.

This morning she came to me with my notepad from the refrigerator requesting to use it. She wanted to make a list of all the things we could do or what we can get from the store “ifwe go,” she said.

The tone of her voice led me to believe she was already convinced that we would be going to said store and purchasing these things she was hoping for.

The cautious mom in me turned to her ready to speak unintentional words of death. Words that would slowly kill off her hopeful spirit over the years to come…

“Don’t get your hopes up.”

I cringe now as I recount my overuse of that phrase throughout the years. Why on earth have I been attempting to convince my children to be less hopeful?!

Perhaps this is why depression is so pervasive in our country. For decades we have been hearing and repeating, “Don’t get your hopes up!”

Can we pretend any longer to be surprised that 3 MILLION people a YEAR struggle with hopelessness, when THESE are the words we choose for our children? Why are the cases happening to younger and younger people?

We blame the schools, the pressures to achieve, bullying… the list goes on. Could it be that we are overlooking the most fundamental aspect of fighting depression?

Hope.

We have lost it and we have been demanding our children lose it as well.

We convince them to leave behind their high, unrealistic hopes and move forward with reason to attainable goals.

Ones that won’t crush their hopes.

The problem is that every goal needs some degree of hope to be achieved. It is not that the pressures of academic achievement are too high but that we are expecting the achievement while depriving our children of vital resources to get there.

I know a fifteen year old who is about to take college courses! She is the norm in her family. I have told her mother I think their basement looks like an academic sweatshop. (It does)

And yet, this girl and her family are some of the most joyful, undepressed people I know.

They smile. ALL. THE. TIME. It’s kind of creepy at first because it’s so odd for our society to see… but it’s really just a heavy dose of (you guessed it),

HOPE!

I have told these young ladies that I am grateful they are a part of our lives and great role models for our young girls. They are the most God-fearing, creative, intelligent, bold young women I have ever met.

I want our kids to be like that!

So, little Eve… dream on about your grocery store trip and whether you will purchase Mad-Libs or a journal if I drag you out of the house in the rain today.

Dream whatever dreams God has put in your heart today!

I promise not to crush them with my logic and desire to keep you safe. Then when you are grown and pursuing your own calling people will not have to tell you to “be yourself” and “dream big“.

You’ll already be doing it in the childlike way God desires for you.

This is my greatest hope for you… That you keep HIGH hopes and ignore the naysayings, even when the person closest to you is speaking death over your dreams.

May we all increase in hope today. May we be hope filled and hope speaking children of the Lord.

Your sister,

Monica

All of us have struggled with insecurity and people pleasing at some point in our lives.

We are afraid, somewhere deep down, that we will be intentionally left out, neglected, or worse… that no one will even see us.

For some of us, these things actually happen.

In our early formative years we are exposed to abuse and lies in such high doses that our fears are reinforced. We lack God-fearing parental figures that should be speaking life to our fear and telling us the truth: that God does see and love us and that He will never leave or forsake us.

We begin to form our lives around these lies, decision after decision. We spend years trying to fit in and measure up, then spend the rest of our lives trying to figure out who we really are. There has been so much compromise, however, that we rarely know where to begin.

People pleasing always leads to compromise of integrity and muddied self image.

You cannot go through life attempting to make people around you happy while simultaneously ensuring your identity and character do not suffer.

This should be a problem isolated to those who have not been found in Christ. Still, so many Christians struggle with the opinions of others and allow their desire for approval to dictate the way they behave. They allow this desire for approval to inform who they are.

The biggest issue with this behavior is that it is directly opposed to the gospel.

People pleasing stems from who we think we are, not what we do. It is a behavioral consequence to a misinformed identity.

Every human is a “being” before they are “doing”.

That is why Jesus so often discussed the state of the heart as the real issue. Who you ARE determines what you DO.

This subsequent, sinful behavior (yes, people pleasing is a sin) is a symptom of our separation from God. Paul goes so far as to say that he would not be a servant of Christ if he were going about people pleasing. This is a thing that pagans do, not children of God.

However, it is not the sin itself that is so deadly but our separation from the Lord, which is breeding ground for sin in action.

People pleasing and desire for approval of man is no different. Many people have accepted the sacrifice of Jesus and wonder why they remain at a distance from God in this area of their life…

May I propose that distance from God cannot be compartmentalized? You are either distant from Him, or you are not.

The difference between a nonbeliever who is distant from God and a Christian who is distant from God, is that the Holy Spirit is received within the believer…

Distance from the Lord as a believer is actually not possible.

The perception of that disconnectedness is based, always, on sentiment and the decision to believe a lie about who you really are.

When we neglect to continually “receive” the Holy Spirit (just admit it, we all have times we’d rather kick Him out), this creates a type of “distance” whereby insecurity creeps in and boldly declares:

“You are not enough. Prove it!”

Placating and seeking approval of other sinful humans occurs solely because we forget that we have already been justified.

To counter this, we must remember who we are in Him. Namely who He is and what He has done for us, and then allow that holy identity to dictate our actions.

The anecdote for bouts of people pleasing (and the compromised integrity that comes along with this evil perspective that man’s opinion matters any, if at all) is to be reminded that we are loved and justified by the Lord.

Not only that we are loved in the comforting sense but that we are loved in the sense that He disciplines us.

Scripture says the Lord disciplines those whom He loves. We do not limit ourselves to receiving only feel-good experiences, but we are open to receiving His correction knowing that He has paid the price and made us acceptable.We will never be rejected!

This is an indispensable facet of the issue because our whole purpose for people pleasing is the desire to avoid negative feedback; desire to avails rejection.

In the Lord, discipline is administered from a loving God who refuses to leave us the way we are, andWILL NEVER REJECT US!

Once we know we are loved in this way, forgiven in this way… man’s opinion remains just that; an opinion.

It does not become fact.

It does not become something that we need to strive every day to live up to so that we can be accepted by the world. A world, mind you, that still rejects our Lord.

We can rest in Him and find strength in the fact that Jesus endured the same struggle. Jesus said the student is not above his teacher, and God loves us just as he loves Jesus!

Jesus speaks this love when He prays in chapter 17 of John:

I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message.

May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.

I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one.

I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.

Father, I desire those You have given Me to be with Me where I am. Then they will see My glory, which You have given Me because You loved Me before the world’s foundation.

Righteous Father! The world has not known You. However, I have known You, and these have known that You sent Me.

I made Your name known to them and will make it known, so the love You have loved Me with may be in them and I may be in them.

John 17:20-26

We can be confident of these things because of Jesus’s prayer:

1) We are enough. We are complete in Him and community with one another as a reflection of Him.

2) We are loved and known beyond what we can possibly imagine. We are loved by the Father just as He has loved Jesus!

3) All glory we have is from God and rightly belongs to Him. Keeping any for ourselves is a symptom that we are believing a lie: that we have separated our “glory” from His.

So, next time you are tempted to please someone (including yourself since that is ultimately what “people pleasing” is), remember Jesus’s prayer.

Remember these truths.

When you are rejected, it is not you the world is rejecting but Christ in you.

When you are accepted, be a vessel that flows both ways bringing the glory of heaven to earth and the earthly praise back to the Father.

May you walk in truth today, knowing you are complete, loved, and accepted by the God who has brought you out of bondage to yourself and others.

My prayer for you is that you never again return to that barren place.

Your sister,

Monica

Being alone stinks.

Anyone who has had to be alone can attest that my choice of the adjective “stinks” is a grave understatement… but you get the idea.

There’s something about being alone that is unsettling even for the most stable of us human beings.

When we are alone, the parts that are still to be healed, loved, and resurrected are undeniable. Whereas, when we are surrounded by people and busied with our many activities, it is all too easy to suppress our deficiency.

Because of this, most of us just avoid being alone in the first place.

We seek out people at every turn. If we are introverts or have trouble connecting, we seek out activities that we believe will foster connection. This only exacerbates our troubles as we replace organic relationship with forced homogeneity that comes about only by claiming allegiance to the same football team.

Those of us who do this are typically the most afraid of being alone.

Making an activity the primary source of our enjoyment rather than the people we engage with, helps us skirt around the pain that inevitably follows when a person hurts us.

And they always do.

With priority set on the thing that fosters community rather than the people (who are the life of community), we can go about our activity as though nothing ever happened, simply finding other people to do said activity with, when we are hurt.

This is what is happening when people “church-hop”.

I used to do this type of thing all the time. The activity was drinking. The activity was dancing. The activity was going shopping. The activity was even sex at one point.

All of these things became crutches in my life instead of things that I could enjoy in a healthy way while building relationship.

My activities were a replacement for authentic human interaction.

I suppose one could not blame me, given all the trauma I had experienced. However, I choose to take a higher road and evaluate where I may have been in sin.

Doing so has helped me to uncover:

1) The selfishness that lay beneath my desire to avoid loneliness, and

2) The toxic actions I carried out in attempt to accomplish this impossible feat.

My selfishness was the driving factor for manipulating people into staying around me, while simultaneously being the the very thing that hindered my ability to connect with them!

Some would say this is narcissistic behavior. Perhaps if I had been tested during that time of my life I might have flagged as mentally unhealthy and, in fact, narcissistic.

All I can say is that I have recovered and then share my reflections

I am grateful to have learned the importance and the art of being alone.

No longer do I react to my emotions, which still encourage me to fill quite time with things rather than introspection and theological reflection that enhances my relationship with my Father.

No longer do I view lack of activity as inherently “boring.”

Rather, I embrace a simpler lifestyle. I have found that all my needs have already been met in Christ.

This quiet time “alone” has proven to be a gateway into a place where I know I am never alone. A divine paradox that I treasure more than any other moment. A place where I can just be with my God.

It is, after all, this connection that gives life to every other relationship.

Each human connection I steward is precious to me, but I am first and foremost a disciple of Jesus… and my Savior has a peculiar, yet perfect, way of dealing with His disciples.

Jesus spoke many things to the public.

Many good things…

He told stories that revealed the incredible power of our Father and His divine kingdom.

He told tales of people who honor the Lord, giving everything they have… like the woman who had but a fraction of a penny yet gave it to offering at the temple, nevertheless.

But these things are not explained so openly.

It is when Jesus is alone with His disciples that He explains all these things to them.

I could learn the entire Bible inside out.

I could have every story memorized. I could have every chapter and verse roll off the tip of my tongue and possess a superior command of Scripture…

Still, none of this matters unless I am able to sit “alone” in the presence of God and hear Him by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

This coming weekend, I will begin a 21 day journey of fasting and prayer, corporately with my church. I so look forward to this time with my Lord!

I would like to invite all of you join me in this fast, as you are able.

You will never find anything so fulfilling than the realization that all you need is God Himself.

That He is not only the Provider, but the Provision!

Fasting draws us deeper into this truth.

God is always capable of meeting you where YOU are. He did that very thing when He went to the cross and died for our sins as Jesus Christ. But during a fast, we are able to reach out and draw closer to where HE is.

God needs nothing but Himself to exist.

As we relinquish things we rely on for comfort and even sustenance, we move into divine territory.

We express our deepest desire to know and be known by God. We put our words of faith into action and proclaim that He IS all we need.

Will you consider doing this with me? I promise it will change your life. It has for me! Fasting and prayer is the very thing I was doing when I received the unshakable faith I have now.

Whatever you decide for how you connect this year, I pray you have been blessed by my reflections and that 2018 is a year of joyful communion for you; with God and with each other.

Be well my friends.

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