Just before Christmas I was able to squeeze in a local Christmas lights sight seeing with our youngest children. Unfortunately we spent almost an hour in traffic before seeing any displays.

We sat there as patiently as we could, my husband playing games on his phone to distract himself and the girls chatting in the backseat. A little voice came from behind me…

“I wish I could name a cloud,” Monica Jr. declared.

She was probably remembering when I shared that Peter had payed for a star to be named after me when we were dating. It was a cute idea; naming a cloud.

“Well… that’s a neat idea honey, but clouds don’t last so it would be silly to name them. They’re just vapor in the sky that floats away.”

The words I spoke were oddly familiar:

Men are only a vapor; exalted men, an illusion. Weighed in the scales, they go up; together they are less than a vapor.

Yes, even the exaltation of having a star named after me would not last. That distant ball of fire and the records naming it for me would all one day be vapor just as my earthly life and name.

Along with even the beautiful flowers of this world, I will fade.

But I have a new name.

God named me.

I have new life.

That name is as eternal as the life I have found in Him.

He named me because He has given me permanence in His kingdom; a right to reign alongside His Son, even.

What an honor!

I don’t know that I ever grasped the significance of being named by God so deeply as I did the day my toddler decided she would like to name a cloud.

I don’t know that I have ever been so grateful that my Father has chosen to call me His and give me a new name.

I pray that you take seriously the implications of such a simple, yet permanent gesture. We may not know our new names yet, but we can be sure that they are everlasting just as we are everlasting in Christ Jesus.

May you walk in that new name; in truth and in confidence of your Father this year.

Your sister,

Monica

*If you would like to but have yet to accept Christ as your Savior, I would be honored to walk with you through this step! Feel free to contact me here, and I’ll be in touch ASAP 😉

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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

I don’t understand. I made an appointment for 8:45am to have my oil changed. It’s now 9:10 and I’m just being helped…

When I pulled up to the service bay it was full on both sides, so I reversed to a location where I could see which opened first. Some guy pulled in front of the bay on the left.

I sat sour and waiting impatiently as I watched him pull in. Another car went in behind him, then another.

“I was disrupting myself, aghast with the proposition that I might be no more important than the next human.”

I felt tension building in my right shoulder as I lamented the loss of time. I already had to wait longer because my husband was called into work so now I have to shuttle home.

“Maybe I’m stuck so I can worship in my car,” I thought. I hadn’t really gotten time to before leaving the house. I turned on my Bethel Pandora station. I began so sing along to “So Will I” and then chuckled to myself as I realized my ignorance.

Poor me. I must wait an extra 20 minutes for a free oil change and sit in an air conditioned car free to relax in the presence of God.

The tears formed in my eyes. They were opened once more…

The man who went ahead. All those ahead of me, all those behind me; we are all the same. I am no better. It wasn’t the inconvenience that disrupted me. I was disrupting myself, aghast with the proposition that I might be no more important than the next human.

By the time I got to the check-in the Lord had renewed my joy. The young man helping me was grateful. He let out a relieved laugh as I told him the story.

Within 1/2 hour I have been ignorant, anxious, amused at myself, broken for others and finally restored to peaceful.

I’m so glad it’s over but I pray I don’t soon forget how common I am, and how uncommon God’s love is for me, for all of us.

Remember that today.

Your sister,

Monica

I have been SOOOOO busy!

That word even feels exhausting to say, sometimes doesn’t it? We try to lessen the blow by renaming it: hustle, grind, etc. whatever street-savvy buzz word fits the bill to make us feel better about spending less time with our families in order to advance our career or even our callings.

Fortunately, I have been busy with all the right things!

Not the kind of busy that has that negative connotation; the kind we mention silently as we pass the friend at church we have been promising to get coffee with for the last 6 months (I’ve done that too and it feels awful).

No, I have been Biblically busy.

Didn’t know that was a thing? It is.

I looked it up with the fancy search option in my Bible Gateway app and found out that there is only one place “busy” is mentioned in a positive context. (at least in the HCSB version)

Anyhow, it is a great analogy for the busyness I have been caught up in. The scripture is all about preparations for Passover and offering up burnt offerings.

Except for me the only thing burning off is that excessive sinful nature marbled through my heart.

What a sweet scent that must be to my Father!

There are days I have fallen short, WAY short, but let me tell you… I am finally hitting the stride of righteousness I have longed for!

It hasn’t been this consistent since I first realized Jesus was ACTUALLY God (go figure) and I am going to share with you the secret to how YOU can have it too, even starting today!

Ready?! Here are the 6 steps to a more righteous life!

1) Wake up (a given like writing your name on the SAT)

2) Worship (kinda weird if you’re not used to it or you are vocally challenged, but it’s what you’ve been freed for! Ps- if you can’t think of a reason to worship refer to step one)

3) Pray (same concept as worship but without musical notes and you get to ask for cool stuff to happen)

4) Read the Word (if you don’t have a Bible here’s some info on how you can get one for FREE)

5) Live it (I know, the struggle is real, but so is the Spirit!)

6) Ask forgiveness promptly when you sin (don’t worry about rejection because, spoiler alert… He already forgave you!)

That’s it!

That’s what I’ve been up to! I made it sound kind of easy, but the truth is this IS the only way.

Christ is the only way.

Wanna please Him? Me too! All we have to do is get busy following!

This is how we follow. Wake up and give God the first part of your day. Let Him have a crack at transforming your heart and filling your mind with His word before you subject it to social media or rush hour chaos. (hint: you navigate these things much better when you put Him first)

Oh, and one more thing… take naps! From what I understand Jesus took LOTS of naps.

Happy napping and righteous living, family!

Your sister,

Monica

If you’ve ever walked into a church you’ve probably been hurt by it.

It’s when the pastor’s son bullies you and no one stops him or corrects his behavior. You’re only 7 years old but you never forget.

This is church hurt; when the place you thought you could find healing brings agony instead.

The kind of pain that lingers deep inside.

It’s when you’re a lonely teenager from a broken home where you never want to be. You happen upon a church function in your neighborhood and you are hesitantly invited… but then overhear, “why is she here.”

It was said in secret so you don’t confront anyone. The pain stays.

It is when you become a teen mother because of the abyss of loneliness in your childhood home, and you overhear the pastor bashing another pregnant teen.

You feel equally shamed. The pastor said it so it must be true.

The pain stays.

But then the REAL church shows up…

The church that is all African American and accepts a young white boy with grace and love… even though he is bald, pierced and has “S-K-I-N-H-E-A-D” tatted across his knuckles.

You regain hope for the church.

The church that throws your lonely-teen-momma-self a baby shower and cooks for you and takes you shopping for appropriate young women’s clothing to wear.

The church that lets you serve in worship and lead even though you told them you’re only a month out of detoxing from a 5 year alcohol relapse/binge.

You begin to heal a little.

The church that shows up to the hospital when your child has a seizure and to your home when your marriage is falling apart.

The church that counsels and prays for that broken marriage instead of condemning you and telling you to submit to an abusive husband.

I have seen both sides of this crisis in the church.

The pain is real but so is the healing.

I have found healing in forgiveness. The same forgiveness that was extended to me, without limitation, by Jesus.

I have also had to ask forgiveness…

The sins I had minimized as “lesser” had actually created the very same deep pain as those perpetrated against me.

That is the point. We were all guilty. That’s why we need Jesus.

He is STILL the answer to all our troubles.

He is STILL our hope and healing.

Even for #churchhurt.

May you be forgiven and extend forgiveness without reservation.

May you love the church, the broken bunch we are, as Christ loves the church.

Your sister,

Monica

Old wounds heal slow sometimes.

It took me 30 years to realize my earthly father had never really been a father to me. Though I prayed and cried much and received healing, the “loss” of my father could not be mourned in one day.

Our fathers are supposed to love, guide and protect us. For me that was not the case.

I look over photos of families and dads from yesterday and my heart breaks a little for what I missed out on. Instead of images of love I recall scenes of drama and violence.

“I can choose to see him as a child of God instead of an evil man.”

Father’s Day isn’t normally hard for me because I just don’t pay much attention to it.

I grew up celebrating my mother that day because she did everything for us and so I was taught that she should get honor on Father’s Day. It was just deflecting.

No one wanted to talk about my father or the hurt that surrounded the topic of his absence.

I tried to call him yesterday. Thought it was the decent thing to do. On the other end I heard the tone for a disconnected phone. I haven’t heard from him in months, not since my brother in law passed and I saw my father at the funeral.

Everyone wanted to ignore him then too.

I couldn’t. He is a hurting human being after all and everyone should be extended comfort in a situation like that.

I had an opportunity to show the compassion I had never received from him. I sat next to him and held his aging hand. I did my best to calm everyone when he started showing out for attention. I couldn’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t seek it so much had we just shown the love he was so desperately craving.

But none of us knew how to love well as children and our parents weren’t in the position to teach us back then.

I know how to love today.

I know that I can honor my father even though, the morning after Father’s Day, I am suddenly in tears because I don’t have one.

I can choose to see him as a child of God instead of an evil man.

It is not the people of this world but the forces of another we are up against.

I can choose to hold sorrow in my heart momentarily instead of building a permanent mass of bitterness toward him.

I can share this with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and with the world and hope that you find strength for the same forgiveness if you have endured an absent or abusive father.

As Christ forgave and loved us, may we also forgive and love.

Your sister,

Monica

Last night I realized that my current favorite worship song requires only 4 chords on the guitar!!! Needless to say I spent some time worshipping and crying my eyes out because, let’s be honest… who doesn’t cry when Reckless Love comes on?!

(Unless of course you have defense mechanisms against the “feels” )

I stayed up late enough to find this out because I was having trouble sleeping. My heart was full and a bit broken at the same time (a common paradox for anyone in ministry.)

I was rejoicing in the fact that our oldest daughter and our niece were just baptized!

Rochelle’s baptism:

Jayla’s baptism:

Praise the Lord!

On the other hand, I have had some very real, very constant let downs.

I’m not one to get crushed by the big stuff. It’s the little every day battles that eventually wear me down.

Last night was one of those nights. I was depleted.

So I went to my prayer room, plugged in my phone (that was almost dead from overuse playing meaningless game apps that brought me absolutely NO peace), and proceeded to search up guitar chords so I could get right in the presence of my Savior.

Amid my sobbing a certain line stuck out to me. “When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me. You have been so, so good to me.”

Instantly I remembered that this reckless love holds a unique answer to my heartache. Not only did Jesus pursue me in a way that could not be defeated even by my worst sins, but we are to pursue others the same.

It is by loving like Him that I walk in freedom.

I must love in a way that is unrestrained and is not limited by sin or emotions or even real, unjust events that occur. Absolutely NOTHING can take precedent over the love of Christ flowing unhindered through me and into this hurting world.

This is what God calls “good.”

Still, I don’t like it.

I don’t prefer to be “the one” who is “always” patient and feeling let down. I want relief. But I’ll tell you this:

The Lord has also shown me some deep truths about Him that I may have never learned if I were not experiencing what He goes through while loving us.

“When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me.”

And THAT is the real goal in life. To know God and be known by Him.

We do this by following Jesus.

Becoming Christlike is a journey that is full of pain at times. The reality is that we are going to have pain in this world regardless of our beliefs. But, when we are redeemed and have hope in the Lord, His Spirit can meet us right in the middle of despair and comfort can begin to flow in and from that wound.

When you deny the Lord access to these places, you deny Him the canvas upon which He would display your miracle.

You may not be able to handle the darkness but He can. Open up today. Call on Jesus who is your truest friend. Pour your heart out. You won’t regret it!

Maybe you’ll end up like me… starting with agony and ending in authentic smiles of gratitude and joy.

May He heal all your wounds, even now. Even today!

Your sister,

Monica