Old wounds heal slow sometimes.

It took me 30 years to realize my earthly father had never really been a father to me. Though I prayed and cried much and received healing, the “loss” of my father could not be mourned in one day.

Our fathers are supposed to love, guide and protect us. For me that was not the case.

I look over photos of families and dads from yesterday and my heart breaks a little for what I missed out on. Instead of images of love I recall scenes of drama and violence.

“I can choose to see him as a child of God instead of an evil man.”

Father’s Day isn’t normally hard for me because I just don’t pay much attention to it.

I grew up celebrating my mother that day because she did everything for us and so I was taught that she should get honor on Father’s Day. It was just deflecting.

No one wanted to talk about my father or the hurt that surrounded the topic of his absence.

I tried to call him yesterday. Thought it was the decent thing to do. On the other end I heard the tone for a disconnected phone. I haven’t heard from him in months, not since my brother in law passed and I saw my father at the funeral.

Everyone wanted to ignore him then too.

I couldn’t. He is a hurting human being after all and everyone should be extended comfort in a situation like that.

I had an opportunity to show the compassion I had never received from him. I sat next to him and held his aging hand. I did my best to calm everyone when he started showing out for attention. I couldn’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t seek it so much had we just shown the love he was so desperately craving.

But none of us knew how to love well as children and our parents weren’t in the position to teach us back then.

I know how to love today.

I know that I can honor my father even though, the morning after Father’s Day, I am suddenly in tears because I don’t have one.

I can choose to see him as a child of God instead of an evil man.

It is not the people of this world but the forces of another we are up against.

I can choose to hold sorrow in my heart momentarily instead of building a permanent mass of bitterness toward him.

I can share this with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and with the world and hope that you find strength for the same forgiveness if you have endured an absent or abusive father.

As Christ forgave and loved us, may we also forgive and love.

Your sister,

Monica

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Have you ever wondered why some people seem to get answers to prayers more often than others?

Have you thought to yourself: How does faith REALLY work? WHY does it work? Can faith be built up? If so, HOW?

The answers are linked to identity. It is how we relate to The Father (made available through Jesus) that determines the limit of our faith. It is the level of our faith that determines what miracles we can see.

When we place no limit on our relationship with God there is no limit to our faith and likewise what can be done through that faith.

In the book of Mark the disciples allowed their fear to challenge their relationship with Jesus.

Don’t you care that we are going to die?” they shouted over crashing waves as they woke Jesus to save them. Fear led to panic which prompted confusion about Jesus’s priorities and concern for His loved ones.

Of course He cares! We are His own!

But we forget that fact when it comes to prayer for those close to us, and even for ourselves. We react in cowardice and question God instead of behaving boldly as children of the King.

After Jesus calmed the storm His disciples said “Who is this man? Even the wind and waves obey him!”

They figured it had something to do with who He is… Jesus knew it was because of whose He is. The disciples had small faith because they minimized the relationship.

Our faith is hindered when we misunderstand our identity.

We forget that we are not our own; that we belong to The Father. We forget that our children are the Lord’s before they are ours. Or perhaps we have never grasped this truth to begin with.

Who has a level of faith like that of Abraham who would sacrifice his own son? A faith like that of God?

That is what is required to see the unhindered move of God in this world. A faith that has no limitation can only exist where sacrifice has no limitation.

“We react in cowardice and question God instead of behaving boldly as children of the King.”

Can you let go completely and give your entire life to Him?

Is today the day you stop negotiating and choose surrender?

Only in complete surrender will you find the solid rock, who is Christ, upon which a meaningful, joyful life can be built. A life in which answered prayers are simply icing on the cake to the glorious love we have found in Jesus.

God answers the prayers of the righteous because the removal of our pride and ego has made space for His great miracles to be received.

They are already in place for us to walk in. He has prepared all these things for you before He formed you. It is your job to concede to His Truth in place of “your truths”… which are really the lies of this world.

Lay yourself at the altar with your prayers today. Lay your self there first.

I am believing with you that you will see the answers to your prayers as you submit completely to His will.

May you be humble and heard today.

Your sister,

Monica

We call it many different things. A “white lie”, “twisting” or “stretching” the truth, “impression management.”

The reality is that whether we are conscious of it or not, we are all telling lies. We do it daily. Entire lives are built in the sinking sand of illusions we believe and create for ourselves.

I wish I could say I am different, but I lie too.

I lie to myself when I speak negative things over my marriage or myself. I lie when I tell myself that I will not overcome obstacles to my ministry and that my timing is better than God’s. I don’t do this with many things. Only the most important. I haven’t lied about trivial matters since I was a child.

I dedicate myself to truth and yet I still lie.

Thankfully, I’m a terrible liar. REALLY terrible! I tell on myself, usually within minutes. I just love truth! I seek it, seek to live and speak it, and do so at all costs.

Last night I became less of a liar.

I identified the things I wanted to say as false before they came out of my mouth. It gave me enough time to submit those thoughts to the Lord and process them in a more healthy way.

I couldn’t have held my tongue had I not been face down praying for it.

Moments of anger and fear are like this. They turn us into liars. More accurately, we revert to things that serve us momentarily even though we know they are wrong.

“God gave me the characteristic of self-control, but I need Him to show me how to use it.”

Have you ever told someone “I hate you!” in the heat of an argument? Have you accused someone of cheating on you because you’re still traumatized from past experiences? Have you told yourself no one loves you and you’ll always be picked last?

See, we’re all lying.

None of that could possibly be true. Love is eternal so hate isn’t real because it can be destroyed. Suspicion and low-self-esteem aren’t real either. These are all lies of the enemy and will ultimately meet the same demise as him; oblivion. Interestingly, even the act of calling myself a “liar” is a lie.

So I want to share with you the solution to all this. How to not to lie. It isn’t simply to speak the truth. That is impossible to do since we are often unaware of or temporarily blinded to truth.

You must be filled with the Spirit.

There is no other way.

I’ve prayed for many things. Peace, patience, joy… but I already have these things the moment I accept Christ as my savior.

The fruits of the Spirit are fabulous but they only work so well as we choose to submit to the Spirit. God isn’t going to give me more self-control to speak truth. He gave me the characteristic of self-control, but I need Him to show me how to use it.

The only thing God can give me more of is Himself.

Not a bad deal if you ask me. I’ve had too many seasons of being distracted by the things of God where I forgot about Him and was seeking after holiness in futility and spiritual dryness.

I’m grateful that the only real solution to my problems is the presence of God.

My prayer today is that you all be filled with the Spirit. We are called to be vessels and its impossible to be a courier of something you aren’t in possession of. Chase the Lord today! Seek, knock, ask… and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Let us desire Him with all our heart!

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

Last night I realized that my current favorite worship song requires only 4 chords on the guitar!!! Needless to say I spent some time worshipping and crying my eyes out because, let’s be honest… who doesn’t cry when Reckless Love comes on?!

(Unless of course you have defense mechanisms against the “feels” )

I stayed up late enough to find this out because I was having trouble sleeping. My heart was full and a bit broken at the same time (a common paradox for anyone in ministry.)

I was rejoicing in the fact that our oldest daughter and our niece were just baptized!

Rochelle’s baptism:

Jayla’s baptism:

Praise the Lord!

On the other hand, I have had some very real, very constant let downs.

I’m not one to get crushed by the big stuff. It’s the little every day battles that eventually wear me down.

Last night was one of those nights. I was depleted.

So I went to my prayer room, plugged in my phone (that was almost dead from overuse playing meaningless game apps that brought me absolutely NO peace), and proceeded to search up guitar chords so I could get right in the presence of my Savior.

Amid my sobbing a certain line stuck out to me. “When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me. You have been so, so good to me.”

Instantly I remembered that this reckless love holds a unique answer to my heartache. Not only did Jesus pursue me in a way that could not be defeated even by my worst sins, but we are to pursue others the same.

It is by loving like Him that I walk in freedom.

I must love in a way that is unrestrained and is not limited by sin or emotions or even real, unjust events that occur. Absolutely NOTHING can take precedent over the love of Christ flowing unhindered through me and into this hurting world.

This is what God calls “good.”

Still, I don’t like it.

I don’t prefer to be “the one” who is “always” patient and feeling let down. I want relief. But I’ll tell you this:

The Lord has also shown me some deep truths about Him that I may have never learned if I were not experiencing what He goes through while loving us.

“When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me.”

And THAT is the real goal in life. To know God and be known by Him.

We do this by following Jesus.

Becoming Christlike is a journey that is full of pain at times. The reality is that we are going to have pain in this world regardless of our beliefs. But, when we are redeemed and have hope in the Lord, His Spirit can meet us right in the middle of despair and comfort can begin to flow in and from that wound.

When you deny the Lord access to these places, you deny Him the canvas upon which He would display your miracle.

You may not be able to handle the darkness but He can. Open up today. Call on Jesus who is your truest friend. Pour your heart out. You won’t regret it!

Maybe you’ll end up like me… starting with agony and ending in authentic smiles of gratitude and joy.

May He heal all your wounds, even now. Even today!

Your sister,

Monica

Six years and one day ago I was baptized.

Spiritually, I felt like the chic in this photo… but with really cold bubblescause my pastor thought it was funny to dunk us in freezing water. (Just kidding, but it was legit COLD!)

Anyhow, that baptism was the cumulation of a week of fasting for my marriage (during which I realized I didn’t actually believe the gospel), a time of complete surrender, and the beginning of this ministry journey I have been on ever since.

The realization of my unbelief CRUSHED me. It was the darkest hour of my life. In an instant everything lost its meaning and there was no hope. No purpose.

I begged for faith. I received it immediately. I went right back to scripture and read about Peter’s reconciliation with Jesus.

Do you love me?” Jesus asked three times. After the third time Peter professed his love for Christ he was instructed to “feed My sheep” by his Savior.

I had faith. I had gratitude overflowing as a result. I wanted to feed His sheep too!! So I begged:

“Let me feed your sheep!”

He granted this ability along with the passion faith had produced. I had purpose! Only, it didn’t materialize as quickly as I hoped.

This eventually frustrated me.

I’m an action person. Observe, orient, decide, act. I’m such an action person that I often skipped the other steps.

This landed me in little puddles of hot water along my ministry journey.

I needed time to mature in faith.

I kept walking in my calling the best I could, awaiting the time I might be entrusted with a larger flock. Sometimes I wanted to quit. I got tired in all kinds of ways: physically, spiritually, emotionally. Sometimes I picked up other people’s demons and didn’t know how to battle in prayer to get the suckers off my back. At one point, my marriage (the very thing that had prompted my spiritual honesty) almost ended.

I was spent. I couldn’t go another day. I had allowed myself to be isolated…

And then I found a church that felt like home.

Not only could I serve here, but I was taught how to really battle in prayer. Our family was prayed over. My marriage was restored beyond belief. Our finances were restored. (We had made quite a mess of things.)

Now, I could settle in and just be a part of instead of leading so much. After two years of serving, however, the opportunity to serve again in the way I pleaded for has presented itself. So…

What happens when everything you’ve wanted suddenly becomes possible? Will you still want it? Will you ignore the naysayers (including yourself)?

The answer to these questions may uncover if your really ever wanted it at all.

My first reaction was to recoil and not be “self-promotional”. Then I remembered a sermon one of our pastors delivered about discerning God’s will. In a nutshell, it was ‘obey God, be helpful not harmful, and include room for the desires of your heart’ (God put them there after all!)

my chicken-scratch notes:

I found myself wrestling with that top right corner. The most difficult option for me.

The option that was left after I had checked the situation against scripture, prayed about it and discerned that my preferred decision is actually very beneficial… too beneficial, because it includes benefit for me.

I have to make a decision that is what I want to do.

No matter how far I separate myself from fear and shame it seems to find a way to creep up and start tapping at the door again. Perhaps my biggest struggle is sheer unfamiliarity with the concept itself.

The concept that we should actually enjoy this life.

Without struggle or self sacrifice as an option and with my dreams in front of me wide-open for the taking, I have to choose to do something that could be seemingly selfish.

The shame I left behind when I accepted Jesus as sufficient is still beckoning me to depart from my calling.

Today I’m choosing not to listen to it. I can’t know the perfect will of God in every choice I make. When I meet Him someday it will all be clear.

Until then all I’ve got is the next best step and confidence that I have walked in righteousness the best I can. I can trust my discernment even if it happens to include my benefit…

Because He loves me and wants good for me.

So I want to encourage any of you who are struggling with similar things. Any of you who have become so adept at survival that it is foreign to see things working for your good.… I’m here to tell you that this is not how it was meant to be.

God DOES work for your good!

Whatever voices are stuck in your head: be it from parents, teachers, or simply a well intended yet false message delivered from the lips of a friend… It is time to walk away from the lies!

Step into who you are and fully into your calling. Don’t apologize. Don’t explain.

Lose yourself in mountains of prayer and praise as you navigate through these times. Hide away and stay on your knees until they go numb if you must. Seek the heart of God. For it is there and ONLY there you will find your true self your true purpose… and there is no shame in His presence.

It is only there that you can truly honor Him by being who He has created you to be.

May you walk in freedom and joy every day.

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