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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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 🙂

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’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

She was so much more fun when you met, probably the life of the party.

She didn’t side-eye you when you let out a curse word or get uptight about movies with racist or heavy sexual themes. She had the same dark humor as you and a quick wit to boot.

Then this guy Jesus wrecked it all.

The girl you once fell in love with has become more concerned with making it to church in time for worship than staying up late with you the night before. She’s becoming increasingly more illogical and her joy (over seemingly nothing) is obnoxious at times. You feel like all she does is criticize you and you can’t do anything right in her eyes.

You wonder why she is even still with you. You don’t even enjoy the same things anymore.

Sometimes you wonder if she’s faking it; acting out some pious, religious fantasy of who she thinks she is supposed to be now that she hangs around all these other fake church people.

You miss the relationship you had before. You miss the fun and the passion. Her passion has been displaced from you and now rests securely in the Lord.

I’m here to tell you it’s time to get over yourself.

She’s not faking.

And this is better.

She does love you or she would have left you already… but you are not her world anymore. That’s good news.

It may have been nice when she relied on you for everything; helped you feel masculine and dependable. But I’m here to let you know that you were on track for a breakdown. Mere humans are not designed to be able to carry that kind of weight. Only Christ can.

If you are totally honest with yourself, you know that you never really could meet all her needs anyway. Something was always lacking. That something was someone… this Jesus she has found.

But you’re not useless. Your woman still needs you, just in a different way.

She needs you to pray for her. She needs you to hold her and speak life into her when she is struggling and chooses to be vulnerable with you. She might even need you to step up parental contribution if God calls her into ministry… but most importantly she needs you to find Jesus for yourself.

She needs the reassurance that you love her with an eternal, undying love that only God can give through you.

She needs to see you submitting yourself the the Lord, His Word and will, while she learns to follow you as the head of the family.

You need this too.

So yes, get over it. You’ll be glad when you come to find this Jesus she has realized in her own life. You’ll be able to celebrate with her and love more deeply than you ever thought possible. You’ll have real passion, and you’ll have it with her.

Now go pray with your “girl” who’s become a woman of God. But don’t worry if you can’t bring yourself to do that just yet. I guarantee she will be praying for you.

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

Every Christian has something in common. We chose to make the most counter-cultural move anyone could conceive of.. surrender.

This isn’t just any surrender, it is a sacrifice so extreme (a response to Christ’s extreme, loving sacrifice) that it entails becoming “slave” to our fellow man so they can be won to Christ through our example.

We are free in Jesus, but we are freed to do something. That something is to serve!

Unfortunately, many Christians accept salvation but spend the rest of their lives bearing little fruit because they stopped surrendering. That’s not what God intended for us.

How quickly we forget that the washing of feet is a call to servitude and deeper surrender!

We would rather visit Salon De Jesus for a good foot soak after we fall into sin than work out our salvation by serving others and humbling ourselves.

Servitude and surrender are inseparable.

Jesus showed us how to do both well. When we accepted Him as our Savior we were endowed with all the qualities necessary to see the mission through. It is only by serving, however, that we grow in these gifts.

Wouldn’t you love to have a greater portion of any of these?

Love

Joy

Self-control

Kindness

Peace

Patience

Goodness

Gentleness

Faithfulness

Don’t you know that even failing marriages can be restored if only we would open our hearts to serving?

Our families, communities and government are repairable. But we must learn how to serve!

So please, have a heart of humility today?

Do for someone other than your self. Don’t waste the gifting God has placed inside you. I guarantee you will be astounded by the joy and peace it brings. I have seen it! In my next article I’ll share a surrender story of my own with you.

Please share yours in the comments so we can encourage one another?

Your sister,

Monica