I’ve been here many times. It never gets easier.

The person I look to for guidance seems to have less and less of it to offer until one day I realize they can no longer lead me.

It’s a sad thing. I develop close relationships and real affection for my leaders, and they for me. But relationships change.

I’m a hard charger and it’s not in my nature to stay long with one leader, teacher, or mentor. Even when I have tried God has an uncanny way of removing them from my life.

I’ve lost people to death, relocation, and plain old outgrowth more times than I would like to mention, but I’ve learned to have peace in these times.

“Leadership is just something we do in the interim until a person can lead us back.”

I’ve come to know, not just as a bible verse, that there is only one Teacher.

He is my Heavenly Father. He will never leave me and I will never outgrow Him.

Besides, that’s not how it’s supposed to be anyhow. We are supposed to be family. Leadership is just something we do in the interim until a person can lead us back. It’s a beautiful relationship when it works, but it only works with really humble people who can withstand the pride check.

I’ve met leaders like this, the ones who could take critique from their mentees, and grow from it. They are few and far between.

I hope you all know how special you truly are who can do this.

For the rest of us, let’s remember:

In the end all we have is One Teacher and love for one another. The world will know us by that love. Let’s focus on that more than we focus on being the “leader.”

Your sister,

Monica

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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

I’m still trying to wrap my brain around everything that happened this weekend.

How did I end up on a runway in Trump International Hotel wearing a couture gown made by designer Andre Soriano?!

The glitz and glamour of which little girls dream about materialized in the blink of an eye and here I am looking like Jessica Rabbit mingling with people this lowly trailer park girl was never supposed to hang with.

But God!

I knew He was in the thick of it right from the beginning.

My childhood friend Katherine called me and asked to meet because she felt the Lord prompting her to reach out. We bonded like never before. Weeks later she called she with this opportunity and I ran out the door in high heels to get fitted for a dress!

When I arrived I noticed a beautiful women quietly standing to the side. She had a presence about her that was even more pleasant than her appearance.

She introduced herself as Maria Magdalena. Given my relation to this biblical figure I was surprised and pleased at her boldness. I would meet Maria once again at the networking function on Saturday.

Katherine and I arrived a bit late to the function but right on time for what the Lord had planned. We chatted and made introductions.

One woman spontaneously began to pray for me and it set my course for the rest of the weekend.

I prayed for her as well.

“It is servitude without boundary that bestows true splendor.”

Nearby, Katherine was discussing her massage therapy business and demonstrated a hand massage for one woman. This women, poised and elegant, began to pour out her heart about a recent loss she had experienced.

I watched Katherine’s face change as she grasped for the appropriate response but alas there was none. I leaned in and hugged the woman.

She shared more about her grief and I asked if I could pray for her. “Yes, please!”

Before we could begin Maria Magdalena approached and said, “are you praying without me?”

“We are going to pray and lay hands on this women, would you like to join us?” I responded.

There in the middle of the cocktail party the three of us encompassed this women and prayed aloud, each as the Lord prompted.

It was magnificent! True splendor!

Following that event I was able to pray for yet another women. Morgan Murtaugh will be the youngest woman elected to Congress and I intend to pray this young lady all the way through. I say “will” because I believe in her and what she stands for. When I asked her how I can pray for her she said, “guidance.”

Right before the fashion show Morgan sought me out and asked me to pray for her once more. This girl is a gem, y’all! I am so honored to be a part of her journey!

So that is what the fashion show turned into for me. Same thing as always…

Ministry, but with makeup and hair!

The dressing up part was so much fun! I got to live out the Cinderella story for a day, but it’s like I tell my daughter Evelyn who is obsessed with princesses…

The thing that made Cinderella so beautiful was her heart.

It is servitude without boundary that bestows true splendor.

Sure, I looked amazing because I was wearing couture and had my hair and makeup styled. But I felt amazing because my heart was overflowing.

I am amazing because of the Holy Spirit and I got to remind people of that each time they complimented me!

The following day I was back to sweeping up crumbs and dirty dishes. I get to serve the little disciples we are raising instead of high powered fashion designers and congressmen and women.

But I left a glass slipper…

Only it is the example of servitude instead of a shoe, and it only fits on those who can squeeze their ego into it.

May your ego be small today and your service remarkable!

Your sister,

Monica

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

Sometime in our lives we are all the “One.”

The one God came after and left the proverbial ninety-nine in doing so.

But why? Why would He leave His people like that? Does anyone ever consider the inverse of what is happening here???

We cry like babies during Reckless Love because we identify with the one, not the ninety-nine. That group wouldn’t be bawling joyfully because they got “left”… or would they?

Let’s break it down.

A few things are going on in this “leaving” and I believe it is of the utmost importance that we as a church begin to identify with the ninety-nine more than we do with being the “one.”

This is why:

1) The “One” is special… therefore we all want to be this

Reality: if you’ve accepted Jesus as your savior you cannot presently identify as this “one.” It’s great to reflect and show gratitude that God sought you out and brought you that mighty long way, but real gratitude produces action… namely that we do what Jesus has done and go get the next “one”

2) God left the ninety-nine, but He returned

The best description of this “leaving” and what it entails can be found in John 14:23-31. Jesus has to go away. If we love Him we keep His word. We then become a “home” of Jesus and the Father along with our counselor the Holy Spirit. It is not just Christ we have but the entire trinity living with us! Jesus left and it hurt that we were no longer the center of attention but we were ultimately empowered to do what He did and even greater!

3) The Ninety-nines are supposed to leave the ninety-nine and find “ones” that become more ninety-nines

This is basically the same as my first point but necessary to keep repeating. Stop making everything about you! It’s not about (just) you! It’s about the body of believers as a whole and we are still missing body parts because some of our ninety-nine have done nothing more than trade night-clubs for church-clubs.

We are out of order.

The answer to the world’s brokenness lies within the perfect love of Jesus lived out through us. We must go.

Go love each other.

Go love the one.

Go get the one.

Jesus came to seek and save. This isn’t about attraction and marketing. It’s about getting in the trenches with the lost and carrying them out on our backs if that’s what it takes!

Please share love today. Put as much effort into loving your neighbor as you do into serving abroad in missions.

Pray for people out loud. Pray for people in public. Pray for eyes to see the brokenness on their faces.

It will haunt you and bless you, but it is our calling.

With a heavy heart for the lost I’m begging you to courage-up and get your hands moving on the plow today. I want my Sunday morning to be filled with praise reports and new faces, not the ninety-nine still trying to be the “one.”

I love you all dearly.

Your sister,

Monica

I sat in my husband’s office yesterday listening to him share about a church someone recommended to him. Being the vigilant theologian I am, I immediately knew what was off just by the denomination.

Extending the benefit of the doubt, I looked up the website anyhow. I was still kind of looking to prove myself right but I tried to be as non-biased as possible.

It didn’t take long to confirm that this church does not welcome women in their leadership.

” ________ churches are governed on the local level by “sessions”, a group of men that have been set apart by the local and regional bodies of the church”

My heart sped up a bit as I tried to convey to my husband that he had found yet another church that couldn’t get with Jesus’s position on the role women play in the body of believers.

His response? “Let’s try to keep an open mind”

O-kaaayy…

I moved on. At least I tried.

After about 15 minutes of trying to silently process what had just happened, he noticed my demeanor and asked our kids to step out of the room. He stared at me.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Then correcting myself I stated what I really believed:

You don’t want to talk about it.”

He already knew.

What he didn’t know was the pain it caused. That I could not wrap my brain around being “open minded” regarding such things.

“If the website said ‘churches are governed by a group of white people set apart by the local and regional bodies of the church’, we would immediately know something was wrong, not try to be ‘open-minded’,” I said angrily.

He asked why I was angry, assuming it had to do with what I want to do in ministry. I had to explain the greater implications of this type of discriminatory mindset in our churches.

The fact that I had to have this discussion with my own husband who loves and respects me (and whom I follow unashamedly), brought a harsh reminder that we need to keep talking about this.

The church is finally making moves to attain racial reconciliation and yet our homes are still afflicted with ignorance.

I am applauded for changing an alternator one day and the next I’m supposed to be open-minded about establishments (that are meant to reflect the heart of God) telling women that we are “valued and equal” in a tone like they are expecting to get a medal for being so progressive.

I don’t need you to tell me my value. My Lord told me who I am. Likewise, I look to Him to tell me what I can and cannot do in His Church.

I am deeply grieved by the number of women who have been conditioned to accept this treatment as tolerable and even ideal.

Women who have heard things like what I just read in this church’s belief statements:

“Doubtless the presence of women serving in positions of spiritual leadership can undermine the God ordained role of spiritual headship that their husbands (and other husbands) are to play.”

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if a women serving in a spiritual leadership role undermines your “authority” and she’s not even your wife, you’ve got some other issues that need to be worked out with the Lord.

I’m not out here trying to gain support from our brothers to speak up against this disorder. I tried that already. It was ridiculously unsuccessful. (Likely because they are unaware of how bad it really is just like my husband was.)

This article is for us women.

Let this marinate:

There is only one teacher. That is God. If you are a willing vessel He will teach through you with all authority.

One of the most interesting, yet heartbreaking things I recently learned was the history of the deacons’ white gloves in African American churches.

The purpose of the gloves was to cover their hands as they served in white churches because they were not allowed to touch white people. To this day many churches still have their deacons wear gloves and don’t know the painful history.

Women who serve proudly in churches that relegate them to “appropriate ministry roles” are devastatingly similar to the deacons who still cover their hands.

You walk around in bondage to man-made rules oblivious to the freedom that is available to you, often doing so proudly.

That’s not your fault. Nobody told you how it got this way.

It’s time to take the gloves off.

Weather man or woman, if this article got your blood pumping and you need to decry the error of what I have written… I plead with you to first fully examine your own position in the presence of God.

Come correct and we can have a necessary dialog.

Worst case scenario, we disagree and I keep speaking truth because that’s what I was made for. Regardless, I’m going to love you all anyway… because I was made for that too.

May you be broken and blessed by this today.

Your sister,

Monica

Waiting for us at the end of my husband’s year long deployment was a loving reunion embroidered with hints of tears, fears and relief.

It was also the beginning of the season of transition. A transition I had been uneasy about since I began hearing stories of other women who had husbands in military service.

The anticipation kept me awake at night wondering what might be on the horizon.

Would he adjust well?

Quickly or slowly?

How much space do I give him?

How will the kids adapt?

What will I do when I no longer have time to blog as often or I have to leave for school when I would rather be home?

What about all the things I picked up to fill my time? My book? Serving at church? How would my relationship with my kids change? What will people think when they get to know my husband? I’ve built an entirely new social life while he was away…

I was warned that there may be a power struggle between us.

We had some real issues before he left. Would it be like starting from scratch or would we carry the past hurt after all this time?

Surprisingly, the power struggle that so often accompanies military homecomings has occurred less during this transition than it had before his deployment. I still like to have my way and stomp my feet mind you, but I am more quickly inclined to pass the reigns to my hubby than I had ever been before.

Being concerned that your loved one may get blown up by a bomb on any given day tends to make the dirty socks under the dining room table look like not such a big deal.

I have a healthier perception of what is important, necessary, and considered an emergency. My patience has grown because of this.

I was more than happy to pass the leadership baton to Peter upon re-entry. He walked in saying that he wanted to sit back and ease slowly into my program. He did just the opposite.

He started leading!

Thank the Lord! Hallelujah! I have been praying for this for so long!

(Prior to now, however, I was holding the reins tightly in my own hands while screaming at him to take them)

In his absence I began to see the imbalance caused within a home when the father is not present. I saw this growing up in my own home but a child tends to block it out rather than consider the deeper effects of his absence.

I have now witnessed, as a wife and mother, the lack of direction that exists when the head of the home is away. The lack of obedience.

I give my children plenty of directions. I have plenty of vision which I share with them. I say the things that he says in the EXACT… SAME… WAY. Still, their response to him is different.

There is something about a father’s voice that in and of itself is a call to action.

Something I am incapable of reproducing.

(Which is why I don’t believe men or women should lead the church but the Father through them; only the Father has authority and we must learn His voice.)

There was a point in time where I would become very frustrated and even angry about this.

“Why don’t they listen to me?!”

I would cry out around the house as the children disobeyed and ignored me. Some days I would drop to the ground and pray, hoping to find some peace so that my complaining wouldn’t do anymore damage. As some of you know I’ve had quite a struggle with complaining and yelling. (you can also read about that here and here)

That too has come to rest. I’ve got my leader back and I know I can trust him.

It’s easier to let go of control when you have a trustworthy leader.

When Peter looks at me squarely and says “we’re not going to yell in this house,” I know that even though I still struggle I have support in this endeavor.

We are in agreement.

Sameness of vision and is necessary for anyone to grow. My husband has also decided to drop the curse-words (a thing he has always leaned on for expressing himself.) He has decided to subject himself to a similar measure of control in that regard. No more cursing. We will support each other in this and we have been for the last several weeks.

As a team we have already come farther than was ever possible as the two unique entities we kept trying to be.

I battled constantly to control my mouth during our separation over this last year. I prayed. I talked about it. I wrote about it. I did my best to exercise self-control… But absolutely none of these things were sufficient when I was lacking accountability; when I was lacking a leader who I had chosen to follow and trust.

Perhaps the Lord gives us these leaders (our men) because we need them? Following Jesus in singleness is one thing, but when we enter into family with all the messiness and crazy good insanity it brings, we need a physical leader we can see and be accountable to help build us up in Christ. (this goes both ways of course)

So I am more than glad to share with you, my friends, that the missing piece to overcoming my struggle at home has finally returned. I can, and now do, more effectively keep myself from using my words as daggers and my attitude in a controlling way.

I can “let go and let God” more readily knowing my husband is here to support me in that.

I want to encourage all of you today to look to your spouse as the possible missing piece in your battle armor. We’ve got spiritual armor for sure and YES, put that on daily! But for the everyday struggle against flesh, even if it seems to be your spouse (hint: it’s often not them) we have an underutilized resource in our significant other.

Let yourself be led in humility in your marriage, regardless of your gender, so that you may be built up in your walk with Christ.

I have found this to be very pertinent factor in my own sanctification. I pray you do as well.

Your sister,

Monica