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 😂🙌)

(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)

Advertisements

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

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 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

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

When I was a child I lived in Fairfax county in Virginia where there were so many different cultures I never had the opportunity to see myself, or anyone else, as different.

We were all different and that gave us a sameness.

As I aged, I began having experiences with people who did not think like me and had no problem being vocal about it.

Visiting family in West Virginia one year, I experienced my first drive-in theater. It was wonderful. However, my enjoyment came to a screeching halt when I heard a young white boy use the N-word. I told him, very directly, not to say that around me. He conceded. The young black man he was speaking about could not have said what I said, how I said it, and gotten the same result.

I suppose this is what white privilege looks like.

In my young adulthood I attended a party… partied way too hard… and became pregnant by a young black man I had just met. I was barely 19 and already had one son. The young man who impregnated me was in school and leaving shortly thereafter. Abortion seemed like the perfect solution to an already frightening situation.

My friend who hosted the party drove me to an abortion clinic.

Later I discovered that she had logged into my AOL messenger (for those of you who know what that is) and had been propositioning men for sex, pretending to be me.

One of the messages this “friend” sent out invited one man to “do anything” he desired to me because “I could just have an abortion. I got pregnant before and I killed the baby because it was black .” This is what racism looks like.

I was heartbroken over my decision already. She twisted the knife. I quickly realized that

1) this young lady was not my friend

and

2) she was closet racist

I had never seen evidence in all the years I had known her. Our mothers were friends for some time and I had never known her mother to speak that way either.

Racism is often quite hidden. But only for those who are not people of color.

Whether we want to address it or not, this issue still causes division within the church.

A fellow minister and friend of mine is a pastor in a local county nearby. He just recently informed me of the “sister churches” that became divided into seperate churches, one black one white, during the Civil War and have never reunited. His church is one of many that has been touched by the depravity of racism.

“The church needs to be a light to the world and we cannot do that when we hold darkness in our hearts.”

He and I discussed ideas for bringing reconciliation between the churches. My friend has a long road ahead of him if he chooses to embark upon this task. But all of us are responsible to address this within the church and outside of the church walls, in our communities.

I grew up in a home that had many issues I identified with stereotypes of black communities in America. Most of my friends were black as a result, though I lived among many cultures. I assumed they all had broken homes, parents with addiction, and borderline or actual poverty.

Unbeknownst to me, I had used my limited exposure to part of the black community (my friends who did have these issues) to define an entire race of people.

In high school I joined the Awareness of Black Culture club. I quickly realized that my perspective had been more informed by society’s view of black Americans than by their culture and who they really are.

I lived among, went to church with, partied with, and went to school with the black community and STILL I was misinformed about their culture, issues, and as a result their value.

No let me be very direct in saying that I did not value them less than myself or anyone else. I had simply failed to recognize the contributions that they have made and continue to make to this country and also the world at large.

The one thing that I was blessed not to miss out on was the black community’s contribution to the church.

It was in a very small, historical predominantly black Baptist church where I first experienced the Holy Spirit. I witnessed and participated in worship that was truly free. I saw grown women dancing as freely as this child out of pure joy in the Lord. I heard honest testimonies of broken people that had been redeemed by the Lord.

There has always been a transparency in the black community, weather in the world or in the church, which I have greatly admired. I took it upon myself to be just like this. Always real. Sometimes real to a fault, but honest nevertheless.

I want to call you all into action on this as well.

Let us not leave the dialogue about race in yesterday just because today is not a holiday that draws attention to the power and value of the black community.

I want each of you to take an honest inventory of your own heart in relation to how you perceive people of color.

I want you to write it down.

I want you to pray over it.

You can tear it up when you’re done, or burn it… Just do it for goodness sake!

Write it all out and turn it over to the Lord so that we can truly begin moving beyond hate, stereotype, and the racist expression of these things.

The church needs to be a light to the world and we cannot do that when we hold darkness in our hearts.

If somebody like me who is so engaged in the black community could STILL have misunderstandings,then surely all of you can take a few minutes to evaluate your own thoughts on the matter.

Won’t you?

I thank you for joining me in this effort and I pray that God reveals to you places that need to be healed and forgiven if and where they exist.

It is imperative that our brothers and sisters of color know that they are not alone in this fight and that we are willing to wage war, even on our own flesh, to better unite with them. We are to bear one another’s burdens and when we refuse to, in the light of truth, we are in sin for not doing so.

I love you all and pray you have a blessed day that is full of revelation, hope, and restoration.

Your sister,

Monica