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’ve been falling off the devotional wagon a bit with all the hustle and bustle.

I love my friends and family SOOO much but if I don’t keep the Lord first and guard my time with Him, all those other relationships could suffer.

They need Christ in me… not the fleshy, frantic and frustrated Monica.

In light of our tendency to get frazzled this time of year, I’d like to pass onto you a great little list of scriptures for Advent to help us all stay focused on our Savior.

As always, you are each in my prayers and I love you dearly.

Your sister,

Monica

**List originally appeared here. Don’t forget to check out the other Christmas resources at Crosswalk.

December 2

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

December 3

James 1:17 ESV

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

December 4

Luke 12:15 ESV

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

December 5

Matthew 2:2 ESV

Saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

December 6

Micah 5:2 ESV

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.

December 7

Luke 12:33-34 ESV

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

December 8

Zechariah 9:9 ESV

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

December 9

Luke 2:8 ESV

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

December 10

John 1:14 ESV

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

December 11

Matthew 2:11 ESV

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

December 12

Acts 20:35 ESV

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

December 13

Isaiah 7:14 ESV

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

December 14

Luke 6:38 ESV

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

December 15

Luke 1:46-47 ESV

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

December 16

Matthew 6:33 ESV

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

December 17

Romans 6:23 ESV

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

December 18

Matthew 1:23 ESV

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

December 19

Isaiah 11:1 ESV

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

December 20

Esther 9:22 ESV

As the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and gifts to the poor.

December 21

Luke 2:10 ESV

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

December 22

Luke 1:14 ESV

And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,

December 23

Matthew 1:21 ESV

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

December 24

Luke 2:11-14 ESV

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

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

Now that the Devil’s Day Debate has simmered down, I thought I might stir the pot a little with some truth.

(How else can I excuse munching on handfuls of my kids’ candy? I need the sugars for brainpower to blog, of course!)

Yep. We “celebrated.” Let me tell you why:

1) Celebrating Halloween won’t send you to hell any more than celebrating Christmas will get you to heaven.

I figured I would go straight for the throat on this one. All the religious fanatics out there who think that someone isn’t saved just because they don’t do things exactly like you can pretty much stuff it.

This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life and I’m not giving it any more space on this blog. Sorry not sorry.

2) The devil doesn’t get a day. They’re all God’s days.

If you really believe that Jesus is sovereign in this world, then this language wouldn’t even be in your vocabulary.

I understand that there are people who celebrate Halloween as part of an unholy religion. Unfortunately for you, those people consider this day to be very holy.

It’s gonna be quite difficult for you to witness to people if you keep demonizing them once a year (they’re not all devil worshippers) while you attack your Christian brothers and sisters. I’m pretty sure unbelievers are not gonna come to you when they have problems and let you pray for them.

Stop saying this nonsense and stop damaging your witness.

3) It’s a “meat to idols” issue.

I don’t broadcast our family’s participation. It’s not the world’s business. I don’t hide it either because that’s just stupid. But since I’m open on social media and minister to so many people it’s bound to come up.

I used to be too concerned about what everyone thought; not because I wanted to please but because I take my position as a teacher and leader very seriously. The reality is I would be doing you all a disservice NOT to discuss the issue.

If you are somewhat religious you already know what I’m talking about with meat to idols. Go read it again. If you’re new to walking with Jesus, it’s a great passage to digest while navigating this new life you’ve found.

It’s gonna be quite difficult for you to witness to people if you keep demonizing them

The point is that we all have different levels of faith and God has called us two different things at different times in our lives.

Sometimes this means participating or abstaining in activities that make us look more or less set apart from the world. Trust Him to lead you through these times and for goodness sake…

For God’s sake,

Stop being so hateful toward your fellow man! Your pride is showing when you do this and it is far more hideous than any Halloween mask.

Excuse me while I polish off this candy bar and thank the Lord for it.

Your sister,

Monica

(Note: because I acknowledge that there is an unholy aspect to this holiday, my family abstains from all things that socialize realistic occult activity and I educate my children on the history of Halloween. This is not only in October, but a way of life for us. Spiritual warfare is real and certain behaviors are gateways for attack.)

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

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