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

Advertisements

Multicultural. It’s the thing most churches want to be these days, and rightly so.

But it seems we have run into some problems about what a multicultural church really is; and how can you become something you don’t understand?

Let’s start our discussion with what does NOT qualify as a multicultural place of worship.

What it’s NOT:

1) A church that happens to have people of color who attend sometimes

2) A church that happens to have people of color who attend all the time

3) A church that happens to have people of color who are in leadership or who use the facilities to run their own worship service

4) A church that makes use of diverse forms of worship

While some of these things may be qualities of a multicultural church, none of them in and of themselves qualify the church as being truly multicultural.

Being a multicultural church doesn’t just mean that you have other races who attend the church. It means that you honor them by incorporating their cultural ways of experiencing God into the church’s worship experience for the sake of growing together.

What it IS:

1) A church that SEEKS OUT people of color because Jesus seeks them just like he seeks white folks (not seeking them out for the sake of diversifying)

2) A church that RECOGNIZES and VALUES the unique contributions people of color bring to the Body of Christ (utilizing styles like gospel and rap in worship for reasons other than “it’s cool”)

3) A church that knows how to ASK for the perspectives of their ethnic brothers and sisters and actually LISTEN to the response

4) A church that EMPATHIZES WITH and ACTS ON the struggles people of color have in and out of their church lives (not to feel sorry for them but to walk in solidarity)

We live in a time where people need to know the genuineness of Christ more than ever. Everyone is asking the question, “Is this real?

We need to get real; be honest with ourselves. We can do all the same things and still get it wrong. You can have all the elements and be abusing rather than serving our brothers and sisters of color.

The reality is that the body of Christ is already a multicultural Church. We just spend so much time in our cozy subgroups that we’ve convinced ourselves that we aren’t diverse.

Maybe we should focus more on getting to know the other parts of the Body than trying to make our personal branch of Zion look like the ideal church.

Jesus is always concerned about the heart, and so should we be. Where your treasure is, there your heart is. Time is currency more valuable than money. Where are you investing your most valuable resource?

I hope this perspective serves to stretch you in the way you do and view church.

Your sister,

Monica

*last photo I snapped after fellowshipping with my sisters at Antioch Baptist Saturday morning. See my Instagram for additional photos and video 🙂

Weak isn’t the same thing as wimpy.

American culture would say otherwise; especially for men.

You aren’t allowed to show weakness.

To make matters worse we’ve taken to inferring weakness from normal human emotions. If you get hurt, you must be weak. If you cry, you must be weak.

Everyday life struggles are taken as a sign of weakness for the men enduring them.

Your marriage is struggling: you must be weak.

You lost your job: weak.

You’re not making enough money: weak.

Can’t send your kids to private school, take the family on vacation, have the “right” car & house, or solve world hunger…

Weak, weak, weak!

Yes, by this fallen world’s definition it may be true. But we live by a greater standard.

One that requires recognition of true weakness and ultimately shows our God strong in us.

“we’ve taken to inferring weakness from normal human emotions”

You’ll never be able to provide enough… because you aren’t the Provider.

You’ll never love your wife enough… but you can point her to the One who does.

You’ll never be void of negative emotion… and that’s a good thing because God hears the prayers of the broken.

So men, will you be our confidently weak heroes?

We don’t need you to be strong. We need you to be real so you become strong.

We need your leadership as broken, humble men who rely on Jesus; not as pompous, “self-made” fakes.

We need to walk alongside each other as husbands & wives, brothers & sisters, mothers & sons, fathers & daughters who know our failings and choose to bare them that God may be glorified instead of our egos.

Here’s to all the real heroes out there! May God strengthen you in your submission to Him.

We honor you for choosing humility amidst a world full of pride.

Your sister,

Monica

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

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.

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