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

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

Sisters, this one is just for you. For us.

First of all I want you to know how incredible you are. I pray for you all each day. I thank God for you and I absolutely LOVE hearing what our Father is doing in your lives!

I want to share some encouragement I received this past weekend when I was in Nashville, Tennessee. (HUGE thanks to NorthStar Women’s Network for making this possible!!)

There were so many incredible communicators (church lingo for ‘speakers’) that I was more than full at the end of the three day Lifeway Women’s Leadership Forum.

The moment that set the stage for me to take it all in was my first breakout session led by Christi Straub.

“We stood in our weakness and became powerful in our unity in Jesus”

Christi challenged us to walk in the life God intends for our leadership, our marriages, and our lives in general… but it wasn’t her powerful speaking that made the deepest impact (though that was awesome!) It was the unity she helped us realize.

“If you are going through a trial right now, would you stand?” she requested.

Most of us have experienced this before. A few people stand in a church service and the rest of us (those who are coasting along in the joy of the Lord, *eyeroll) lay hands on the few and pray over them.

That day the few became the many. Almost the entire room of women stood to their feet, myself included.

We prayed together for one another. Voices cracking, snivels scattered throughout the crowd… we stood in our weakness and became powerful in our unity in Jesus.

Each woman that the enemy had desired to isolate and conquer, many in leadership positions that do not afford them the liberty of sharing their struggles so publicly; each of us were strengthened by the other that morning.

I left that place changed forever.

I’ll admit that a life of ministry is not easy. It’s worth it but it comes at a cost and there are many battles along the way.

In the past I have wondered,”How can I possibly overcome this trial? I feel like this will be the one to take me out. Maybe I should quit?”

As I stood among these powerful, humble women the lie that I was ever alone became clear as day. The question now is, “How could I lose?”

I can’t lose! Ladies, WE CAN’T LOSE!

Yes, there is nothing new under the sun. Yes, Jesus is with us through it all.

Those things are true and necessary, but know this to be true as well:

Every women in leadership is battling alongside you. Every trial you face, thousands of other women have stared down in faithful prayer… and many have overcome.

The simplest truth is that we have already won. Your spiritual enemy knows this. That’s why you get hit so hard.

Now go throw on some worship music and praise the God who is faithful! Praise the God who has brought you this far! Praise the God, our Father, who has trampled the enemy and is bringing you into victory for His glory!

Praise Him!

Your sister,

Monica

(Oh… I also met *and got a hug from* my sister Jackie Hill Perry so basically everything I do is super anointed now, just saying πŸ˜‚πŸ™Œ)

(Ps- be sure to check out these other awesome Jesus followers: Dr. Lorg, Lori McDaniel, Lauren Chandler, Denise Pass, Selma Wilson, Jennifer Rothschild, and so many more I will have to post another blog with recommendations later)

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

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

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