1800 Peanuts

I had been so worried about being safe, yet here I was with two guys I had never met, waiting for my college pastors to show up to what was Todd and I’s first date.

Never would have imagined.

Looking back now I am astounded at how peaceful and confident I felt.

Todd introduced me to his broken armed friend and we waited for my two to arrive. From the get go I noticed two things, 1. Todd looked straight into my eyes when we talked. He was a man of eye contact, and I didn’t feel weird looking back at him. and 2. He was straight forward.

“Are you done?” Todd asked

“Uhh yeah. I’ll take the rest home.” I replied.

“Ok good. Let’s get out of here,” Todd got up and threw our trash away.

I looked over. Our friends were still eating.

“Let’s walk outside.” He saw me hesitate, “Oh they can catch up. I just want to walk.”

I didn’t look for permission, I just went and followed him.

Our friends ended up catching up but it was obvious that Todd’s focus was on me.

We walked and Todd and I talked about all types of things. We were open. Friends. It was nice.

Like any good date we ended up at an ice cream shop.

“What kind of ice cream do you want?” Todd asked.

I looked around. “I’ll take the chocolate one, but you should know I’m extremely allergic to peanuts. Like I can’t be around them.”

Todd looked at me. “Really? Like how allergic?”

“Like I’ll stop breathing if I’m even around it. I have an Epi-pen in my bag.”

“Oh ok.” He looked really serious. “So no peanuts. Ok”

He paid for my ice cream and we sat near our friends. Naturally peanut reaction stories came up. We talked. Laughed.

“So,” Todd looked over at me. “I had a lot of fun. I’d like to hang out with you again. Would you like that?”

“Yeah, that’d be great.” I responded.

“Yeah? Ok great!”

Todd looked over at our friends, “guys, we decided we want to see each other again!”

Our friends were excited. We took a selfie and said our good byes.

Our next few dates Todd came to my area. We’d go to dinner hang and talk. A few weeks after our first date I decided to drive down to his area for the day. I was welcomed into his home with open arms. Met his family.

Todd went to grab something from his room before we were heading to lunch.

His mom looked at me with a smile and said, “You know Todd told me about your allergy. I got took out all of the peanut candy from our dish.”

“Aww thanks,” I smiled. “I really appreciate it.”

His mom looked back at me and said, “He hasn’t eaten peanuts since he came back from you guys’ first date.”

September

“Hey Monique, How are you?”

I nervously laughed and said, “Good, Todd. How are you?”

“I’m good too. I was just talking to my grandma about you. This is crazy that you called.”

His grandma? How sweet is that?

His smooth calm voice had a way of easing my nerves. We laughed a few times and started asking the real questions. You know like what’s your favorite color and all the soul mate stuff.

I walked away from that conversation excited. He wanted to keep talking. I wanted to know more about him.

Talking on the phone meant that we no longer had to message through Christian Mingle. I could hear his voice, see how he texted. I didn’t have to wait for an email and log on.

I still go back to the days where I did not know who this guy was. When I was simply moving off of preconceived ideas of who I thought he was. The feelings of not knowing still come. I spent too many hours looking for blogs, vlogs, testimonials, on if online relationships truly lasted. The fear that he would not be genuine and authentic were in the back of my mind. Yet there was a peace that stayed present with me through every step. I mean we weren’t going to be running down the aisle within the year, right? we had plenty of time. At least I thought we did.

Within a day, Todd was ready to move forward. We soon got to FaceTime during my lunch break. It was the weirdest yet greatest thing. To be able to see the human being that the words and voice had been this whole time. Facetiming brought on a new level. It made things more real. There was a man behind the messages. A man that was interested in me, and I very much so in him. Even through Todd’s steady forward motions, if I was uncomfortable, I would speak up and he respected that. Because of that, I respected him.

He then told me to think about meeting face to face. This terrified me in some ways, because 1. my family would think I was crazy for meeting up with a man that I met online and 2. because the more memories I made with him, the more hurt could be invested. But his green eyes and calm voice assured me that it could be exactly how I wanted. Friends, no friends, local, meeting halfway whatever. So I tested him, in some ways.

To be honest all of my friends were pregnant at the time and the ones I truly felt comfortable with, were my college pastors, which the husband happened to be a cop, but I left that part out.

Telling my mom was surprisingly ok. I decided to let her know a day before Todd was coming down *yikes*. She wasn’t thrilled at first but as I told her of how Todd came from another Assembly of God, how my best friend and mentor had been guiding me through this time, and how he knew the area because he kind of grew up in the valley, she calmed down, and was actually, dare I say, excited? TO the point of wanting to help me find an outfit and go to the mall. :O This excited me because my prayer is to be wise and I know that with a lot of things, the people around us that know and love us deeply can help point us in a wise direction.

Thursday came. I did not hear much from him that day until he told me that he was running late, thanks to the 405.

I drove a familiar uncharted rode. I didn’t know how this would end, but I was excited. Parking my car I exhaled, prayed, and turned my car off. The windy chill of the air hit my ankles, I should have worn socks. There was a confidence that was built in every stride. In fact I forgot that the whole point of bringing my pastors was because I wanted to stay safe with meeting someone from a website.

Todd was sitting down outside of the restaurant wearing a dark navy button up with anchors on it. That was my guy. Calm. Cool. Collected.

 

 

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ChristianMingle

It felt like the car was going to come to a screeching halt as the words, “online dating” left my mouth. My mom gripped the wheel and the tension was in the air. That was NOT the way you meet someone when you’re in my family. We watch Dr. Phil and Oprah and that was a disaster waiting to happen. But I, at 26 years old, felt that I needed to take a risk. A leap in my dating life. I had been single almost 10 years, with few crushes in between, and nothing more than thinking a guy could be the one. I was done being mad at God but I also felt that He wasn’t going to drop off an attractive male, who loved the Lord, had a job, and thought I was cute, at my door step. I trusted Him with what He was doing in my life, but felt a tug to get out of the boat. I was over trying out other churches, going to events, and frankly had too high of standards to go to a club. Not to mention I did not have time to mingle with men my age, while working and going to school, both full time. So online dating seemed like the safest yet scariest risk. I prayed about it, gave it to God, talked to my mentor and best friend, then set up a profile on ChristianMingle.

I deactivated my profile several times throughout the month of August, feeling scared that it wasn’t the wisest choice to make. Finally, towards the end of August I told myself that I would leave it up for a some time. Every “smile” and message that came through, I looked at through discerning eyes and did not reply to any, except one on September 2nd.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

I got the email saying a guy smiled at me, while I was at my older brother’s birthday party. Then a message came through. I checked out his profile. He was cute. Really cute. We both went to Assemblies of God churches, that was nice. He said he was a positive guy, very nice. Our morals online matched up, ok he gets a smile back. He then sent another message. I went to open it and the lovely reminder that you needed to pay $34.95 to respond to messages came up, investment. Hmmm The fears started coming up again. I closed my phone and enjoyed my brothers party then went home and prayed.

$35. That’s not too high of a cost. This guy seemed really legit, so I paid it. We messaged that evening, answering the basic questions. What’s your favorite color? What type of music do you like? All things that show a persons character lol. With every message, I asked God to show me if this was or was not something from Him. I leaned on Him continuously. Little things started coming out that brought peace. I found out that his dad lived in a city close by me and he had been to my hometown several times. He had mad respect for his grandmother. He worked at a legit place. He loved his church. I went to bed with a lot of excitement. The rest of the weekend we sent messages back and forth. I told him that I was looking for someone who was authentic and truly loved God. He seemed to be like that, but there was still a fear that I was missing something. He asked if we could talk on the phone, but I declined. He stayed super chill and respectful when I told him no. That was a big win for me. We continued to message for a few more days and really seemed to hit it off. Then on Wednesday a message was waiting for me that simply read, when you’re ready give me a call – and then his number. I happened to be in Panera and sat there and cried. Why? I don’t know. I guess I didn’t believe that online dating could work, maybe it was the fear of what would happen, or it could’ve been the fact that I was really tired from having bronchitis that week. lol

But I cried, then I texted my mentor.

What did she say?

Call him Monique, What are you waiting for?!?

What was I waiting for? Courage. Bravery. A carefree attitude. Or maybe I needed to remember who I was trusting.

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart. Had I done that? I think so. I went to Him instead of just living on every word this guy was saying. Lean not on your OWN understanding…What was I leaning on? I wouldn’t have chosen to meet a guy this way. I didn’t understand why this seemed to be going good. But still felt peace in it. In ALL of your ways SUBMIT to Him. Was I submitting? It was in His hands. I went to Him consistently. Then the rest was up to Him, He would make my path straight. No matter what came of this, He would make it straight, as I continued to trust, lean, and submit.

So I called him.

 

It Was Never in Your Hands

My heart was bursting with excitement as I drove to work. Thankful, loving, praise poured out of my mouth.

Faithful.

I held out my hand. Thinking I would sound super giving I said, “God I hold this with an open hand. As much as I want it, you may take it away if it’s not your desire. Help me to hold it with an open hand each step of the way.”

I then felt something well up in my spirit. It bubbled forth truth from the depths of truth

“Monique it was never in your hands. You both are in mine.”

“And he said, “May you be blessed by the Lord, my daughter. You have made this last kindness greater than the first in that you have not gone after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you ask, for all my fellow townsmen know that you are a worthy woman. And now it is true that I am a redeemer. Yet there is a redeemer nearer than I. Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it. But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the Lord lives, I will redeem you. Lie down until the morning.””

‭‭Ruth‬ ‭3:10-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Ruth had gotten the courage to finally present herself as available to Boaz. She took a huge risk and was not disappointed at first. Boaz was excited. He loved her too, but there was an obstacle in the way. Another man that could marry her first.

Too often we believe that we hold our circumstances. We believe that we are holding it in an open hand and that’s trusting God.

The early September held a pretty big surprise for me. I met a guy in the least imaginable way, for me anyways, online. The beginning of August I ventured out and talked to my pastors and best friend about joining a Christian dating site. I was scared. terrified. But I was also excited for this adventure. I was at may brother’s birthday party when I got an email saying someone messaged me on the site. I had gotten few messages before so I looked and thought the guy was pretty cute. I decided I would pray and wait to reply until I was home.  When I got home I realized I had to pay to speak to this guy. So I sent a “smile” back. Hoping somehow I could get around the whole paying thing. He then messaged me again so I caved. As we began talking God walked me through moments of trading fear for His peace.

Little things like this guys gentle pursuit. Not getting mad if I didn’t respond to him. Him knowing the area I live well because his dad lives in the next town over. Him taking time to understand how life is for me as I go to school and work full time. Taking time to explain things to me do that I understand his job more.

Little things.

Steps of peace.

I sat down with my mentors early on. I remember trying to keep the excitement down as I started telling them about this guy. As I was grabbing my keys, my mentor said, “Monique I think you are so surprised by this because you secretly thought no one would want to talk to you.”

She was right.

The greatest obstacle I have had to face as I have grown and continue to grow in dating is fear. There is a love and a safety that is there, yet there is a fear that demands my attention first. I’ve had to acknowledge it. I’ve had to confess it. I’ve have to set it out of my mind.

Truth is there is someone who finds me interesting and lovely. There’s someone who can’t wait for my affection to be set towards Him. He calls me His Beloved and I’m made in His image. If this is how God sees me why would I believe He wouldn’t allow others to see this too.

When I realize that God sees me as His and all that I am is in His hands, I can trust what He brings my way. Even when it comes through ways I never imagined.

Through the Darkness

Two years ago I️ woke up to what would intensify an incredibly hard season. Trying to formulate the words of see you later to my dad was difficult. Seeing the pain from my brother was heartbreaking. The anxiety and grief was becoming a beast I️ couldn’t face alone.

I️ remember hoping that I’d never lose a close family member or friend until I was married, so that I️ could be comforted by my spouse. Yet 2 years ago I️ was single and faced 2 great deaths. This is something I’m thankful for. The road I️ was on seemed to head to more sadness, but the hand that held mine was sure.

It may sound crazy but there are days I️ miss that season. When you trust God and can’t find even a hint of satisfaction on anything else but Him His presence and faithfulness are so evident.

People often say I’m strong yet I️ feel so weak. The strength they see is something that is beyond me. When I️ chose to forgive my dad I️ had to rely on God. When I️ hasn’t seen my dad in 9 years and I️ chose to go see him because he was dying, I️ had to rely on God. When I️ had to see not only him but my grandpa die in the same week, I️ had to rely on God.

Even in the darkest seasons. The ones where anxiety seems to rule and depression greets you in the morning. In seasons where bitterness encases your heart. When it’s hard to forgive. The secret is found in going through those valid feelings with God. The natural thing we do is try to fix it ourselves. Yet God wants us to go with and through.

I️ know I️ wouldn’t have made it through all of the without Him. Every prayer from every person doesn’t go unnoticed. Even today I’m thankful for each prayer for my family during that season. I️ know there are more times than I️ can count that they carried me through.

Dear Sojourners,

Forgiveness is possible. Redemption is real. Guidance from Our Daddy is necessary.

Dad I️ know you’re enjoying heaven. I️ miss you but thankfully one day, we will be united again.

Joy For the Season Part II

I recently posted the blog “Joy for the Season”. This blog had been sitting in my notes section of my phone for months. When I was going through my notes I felt I should go ahead and post it. Never would I have thought I’d wrote a part 2. It was just a blog. Nothing deep. An update on life in a lot of ways. Looking back I’ve grown from that mentality. I’m not angry with God. I don’t view His protection as a prison. Well I hope I don’t start to again.

What happens when you think your healing hinders you?

I know that’s a weird question. Last night I experienced an incredible moment of seeing how far I have grown from the person I was a year ago. I had a conversation with someone else that was going through similar things. This friendship between us had just started and I was excited to help them see that there is another side. I was excited to help them see that there is healing and that not all people are scared of those rough seasons. I was excited because this friendship held promises of new things.

I felt peace.

It felt good.

Things were right.

Until they called back. I don’t remember the entire conversation. I talked in slow motion as they quickly told me how things wouldn’t work for us.

Click.

Done.

I shouldn’t have shared.

I’m too much for people.

God let you go through that and you’ll never engage in healthy relationships because of it.

I guess a better question is can your healing hinder you?

Lies. I know but they feel like truth.

I dont know why I’m writing this. It’s literally fresher than a cow that just got slaughtered.

I guess I want to communicate to you friends, and more importantly to myself that I’m not too much. That my story, even the ugly parts, are good because I’ve allowed healing in. Full complete healing. I want to remember that this isn’t punishment it’s not a prison. Maybe it’s protection. Maybe it’s just what it is in this moment.

I’ve been listening to the song “I won’t Forget” by Brian Johnson. In bridge he sings, “You came in the night and tore down the walls, you held my broken heart, when all I could see lay ruined and scarred, your light shattered the dark.” I love this because it reminds me of all He did. He saved me in that season. And He’s walking with me now.

I feel challenged to not forget. To not write off my story because God did the miraculous. And if He used it to encourage this person only He knows. If He used it to shut a door because we weren’t right for each other, then ok.

I trust Him.

So here’s to another season. A season where the promises felt closer than ever. Here’s another season where I get to choose joy. Fully and completely.

This I do know. The darkness I experienced has been shattered. There are remains but I refuse to pick them up. Instead I will pick up joy.

Joy for the Season

The desires of our heart have a way of making us impatient. Waiting can be so hard, so what do we do while we wait? This past year I’ve found my self I desiring things, some silly, yet they represented so much of my heart. And when I couldn’t get it, I did what ever mature 26 year old Christian does, I threw fits. I’ve told God I was done talking to him, was angry at the people around me, and bitter towards the ones I serve. This past year has been a mess. And I was ok with staying that way.

My mind goes back to one particular moment. In the midst of this cycle, I knew I should do one thing. Text my best friend and ask for prayer. Though I didn’t want to talk to God, I also knew my perspective was skewed.

As I talked to her I realized the lie I was believing.

Sometimes God’s protection feels more like a prison than provision. Sometimes His will feels horrible.

As I asked to her about this Jesus started talking to me about the time He was in the garden.

“Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?””

Matthew 26:36-39 MSG

Jesus didn’t want to die on the cross. He plunged in agonizing sorrow. He said, “This sorrow is crushing the life out.” He desperately sought God, hoping to find another way to save us. I’m sure thoughts and temptations invaded His mind, making it hard to think yet He pursued. He knew there was no escaping this. The promise in a sense was a prison. In order to save the human race, He must die a unthinkable death. Jesus was messed up.

In this situation I stayed grumpy for a few days. Realizing the lie I believed wasn’t enough this time, because it didn’t change. I know that no matter what, if I want to remain in God’s will I must go through this season that I am in. The constant going. The grading. The testing. The writing, work that I frankly didn’t care about. I was in it. I have avoided it, but He’s always brought me back.

Plowing through life emotionless is never worth it. To be alive is to be engaged. To be able to offer hope to those around you you must be alive. Choosing to do what you’ve been called to isn’t about simply doing it while you let your heart die. It’s about answering the call and finding ways to allow your heart to live deeper. Wider. Expand. Let more people in. Give more love out. To live this way is not possible when your perspective is to trudge through life not connecting.

When I finally let go of what I believed my life should look like and held onto the hand of the one guiding is when I found love for the calling. To be in the same physical place yet an eternity away from where I was spiritually astounds me. My mindset was bratty last year, yet God still blessed me. He still called me. And He gave me the joy for the season.

Praise Be My Song

When God called me back into the classroom, I told Him I would go anywhere but the place I received my B.A. from. Just thinking about it sent anxiety back through me. I had found new freedom from dark anxious thoughts and I did not want to go back through the hallways of triggers and memories.

But God had different plans.

He brought me back and he kept me rooted in the freedom I had newly found.

After 2 semesters of 4.0’s I realized God truly had me. In December I received an invitation to apply for scholarships. I decided to fill out a few and the general application. Not thinking much beyond, “It would be nice to receive some money to help pay for my books,” I hit submit and went on with my day. Months later I received a phone call that I would be receiving the TEACH Grant which would pay about half of my tuition each year. I was ecstatic. Later that week I received another call. This time it was from the scholarship committee. They wanted to set up an interview. Nervous as all get out I got on my computer to talk to a few ladies from the University. Things went well and I was told I would know by the end of the month.

Joseph was placed in charge of the food and economy during the time of the famine. God’s favor was heavy upon him and Egypt was a place of provision because of what God was doing through Joseph. As the lands dried up, Jacob, Joseph’s dad, told his sons to go to Egypt to gather food for their family. When they got there, Joseph realized that it was his brothers who bowed before him. He tested them to see if they had changed the way they treated Joseph’s other sibling. They had.

They cared for their youngest brother.

They cared for their father.

They were in the midst of dreams that God gave Joseph coming true.

Joseph was overwhelmed with the truth that had been planted in his hear decades ago.

“Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry.” Genesis 45: 1-9
A week or so after the interview I received an email stating that Financial Aid had made some changes to my account. I logged on to my account and saw that I received a little over $500 in scholarships for the next school year. I was happy, that could take care of a book or two.
A few days later I had to get some info from my college account so I logged on. Since I was on I went ahead and checked my financial aid status again and was shocked to see not one, not even two but 3 more scholarships added. The total was now over $12,000! My entire year was paid competly for. I was beyond thankful. Knowing that I did not have to take out loans for the rest of my credentialing program was relieving. I could start paying on loans and hopefully get them down a little bit more before I started any other degrees.
About 2 weeks later I received some money from a Grant and decided to use it to pay towards loans. I went to log into my account to get the loan information and was shocked to see another 2 scholarships added to my account, both of them Alumni scholarships. They brought my total of scholarships for 2017-2018 school year to over $16,000!
The years of torment handed to me through the literature I had to read paid off. The years of choosing to have integrity and be faithful and obedient paid off. The years of believing that God would be with me through some of the hardest years of my life paid off.
Dear Soujourner,
Through the good and the bad choose to be faithful to Him. He has you. Today I look back and I am able to be astounded by the generosity and love of our God. As Joseph said in Genesis 50  “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
He is not done with you yet.
❤ Mo

Immeasurably More

My junior year I had the best English teacher. Being in her class taught me that I too could one day be a teacher that loved and inspired students. Within the public school system I knew that there were rules about sharing the gospel but I also knew that there were literary pieces that delved into morals that I could encourage my students in. That’s when I decided to become an English teacher.

My senior year I went to a winter camp with my church. The speaker was talking and suddenly called me out from the crowd. Oblivious I continued to focus on whatever held my attention at the time until my friend elbowed me in the side. He started speaking things over me about healing and the things God had for me. He also told me that I wouldn’t need to worry about college. That God had me and would continue to hold me through the years that I was in school. He told me that my voice was anointed and God was going to use it to speak life into people

I believed it.

Then I started college

To be honest a ton of innocence was shattered in college. I still remember walking into my last semester at community college. I was taking a Creative Writing class, that I was ecstatic for. The only problem was that the professor that happened to teach this class was one the well known mean and hardest professors, and he loved knowing that this was his reputation. He told us, with very expletive language that he didn’t care what we thought about him and nothing was off limits, topic wise for this class.

Que dark stories.

We were told that we had to critique our classmates stories in small groups. This included reading and discussing parts of stories. Let me be the first to say, I truly believe there are some topics that simply shouldn’t be written about. Reading for me is something I do to unwind, to learn, and to entertain myself. My imagination is one of creativity and visually sees every aspect of things talked about. It’s wild. It’s free. And sometimes it’s scary. The dark things classmates chose to write about shocked anxiety through my entire being. Glorifying drugs, partying; describing in full detail all forms of abuse and hurt, literally broke my heart.

The innocence of my mind became consumed with the corrupt acts of the human race. Fear pulsed through my body for years. It did not stop at community college. I remember talking to my mom about my concerns with transferring and she assured me that it would not be like this. I continued on my path of pursuing an English degree and was met with the same depravity for another 3 years.

Leaving college was one of the most exciting things. The scars I endured during this time produced deep shame. The thoughts and fears that plagued my mind year after year were gut wrenching. The voice that was stolen from me. I ended college with debt and chains of lies and fear that relentlessly taunted me.

And God said He would be with me… 

Towards the end of Genesis, we are introduced to Joseph and his brothers. Joseph was given dreams from God about the future God had for him. He would one day be in charge and his brothers would bow down to him. Throughout his life he was introduced to the depravity of the human race. First he was sold into slavery by his brothers. He was accused of rape and the accusations were believed even though he withstood and relentlessly chose to be a man of integrity. In jail he was told that he would be remembered,  Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” Genesis 40:23. 

Hopelessness taunted him.

Complacency looked enticing.

But God was not done.

Genesis 41: 13- 15 “And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.” Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
God kept His promise.
“Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.” Genesis 41:16. 
Did you catch that? When told that he has been known to interpret dreams Joseph corrected Pharaoh and told him that it was God that works through Him.

Joseph had a deep awareness that no matter what happened God was the one with the final say. He was the one that held His life and upheld him.

Dear Soujourners,

I don’t know what setbacks are in your face telling you that God isn’t going to keep His promises but I do know that the enemy would love for you not to reach your full potential. God has called you to a life. He has set you apart for specific purposes. Every part of your story that has taken you on different paths away from that calling can be redeemed. Every fear that the enemy uses to keep you bound can be broken. God has you. Trust Him in all that you are in. Don’t choose to let go of your character for comfort. Instead go against the grind. Against culture. Increase your integrity instead of lowering it, and stay in the game. He has you.

I’ll continue the rest of my story next week. For now know you are loved prayed for and set up for His plans.

❤ Mo

Dimes Worth More Than 10 Cents

It’s been a while. Writing has been hard. Partly because of my schedule but mostly because of my heart. I recently found myself bawling on my friends couch about the anger and pain that has intruded into my heart. Old mistakes of those close to me. Friendships lost due to choices. The constant longing for ministry yet choosing to start a career that can be tiring, and the desire of marriage that grows deeper with every bridal shower and baby announcement of each friend. It has become easy to feel, well forgotten.  Until something unexpected taught me a valuable message. 

dimes. 

a few weeks ago I realized a dime was laying on my bathroom counter as i was brushing my teeth. i’m not sure where it came from but i left it as i finished getting ready. i got in my car to go to work and as I put my coffee in the cup holder something silver caught my attention. 2 dimes. “oh, those are from the parking permit days at school,” i told myself. throughout the day dimes seemed to follow me. at target. at work. in parking lots. the following days i continued to see them. sometimes in the same places (the bathroom counter one that I never moved) and sometimes other random places. it didn’t matter if I had already seen them in a particular spot or they were in a new spot, my reaction was one of surprise. 

as the days went on i remembered a conversation i had with a girl in february. she told me about how her mom was collecting pennies for and organization and she told her mom she would collect some for her. she didn’t really believe that collecting pennies could make a difference so she wasn’t all that excited about this. she talked about how she would walk past pennies continuously but wouldn’t pick them up until one day God spoke to her. He showed her that she was neglecting to pick up more than just pennies. how He provided things for her through His word, fellowship with others, and was constantly speaking to her but as she was worried about different things she was neglecting to pick up the provision and faithfulness He was giving.  

what have i neglected to pick up?

i looked up the significance of a dime, the number 10 and tried to find anything that could show me what God was trying to tell me.

nothing. 

so i ignored the dimes. or at least tried to. 

that didn’t work either, so I started to ask God to show me. 

still nothing.  

i finally decided to look up again significance with dimes. 

on the back of a dime there are 3 things. an olive branch. a torch. a oak branch. 

olive branches symbolize peace. 

Peace. I need peace. Peace in the waiting. Peace in the wondering. Peace in the staying close when I feel like wandering and making things happen in my timing. Peace. That alone was good. I needed to pick up peace daily, sometimes even secondly. 

But God wanted to show me more than peace.

a torch. 

Hope. A word I got to know well last year. It seems in my waiting I often lose hope. I start to believe that God doesn’t care about the desires I have. That He isn’t listening to the aches of my heart. The moments I start to lose hope I gain anger. The moments I lose hope I lose my sight of who my Daddy is. The faithfulness of His being. I need hope. I need hope not in my circumstances but in my God. Knowing that He and He alone will give me the things I need. That He cares about those desires and no matter what happens I can hope in Himbecause He is good. He seems to constantly remind me not to lose hope in the moments when I want let go of all hopes. 

He wasn’t done though. 

oak branch. Strength. Steadfast. 

Oaks are known for their strength and for lasting years even centuries. Oaks symbolize strength and endurance. I immediately thought of Hebrews 10:36 “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” 

Endurance. I need endurance in the waiting. In the day after day routines. I need endurance. 

Through the waiting God is faithful. He is doing something in these areas and is reminding me to pick up what I need and He’s so graciously provided. Because of Him I can wait. Be it another day, month or 10 years. 

“Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.  And the doubling of Pharaoh’s dream means that the thing is fixed by God, and God will shortly bring it about.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭41:25, 32‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Kindness

“I know this might be a super weird compliment, but I love the way your voice sounds.” the cashier said as she took my debit card. Her words were far from weird. Too often I’ve told myself to stay quiet. That I don’t have anything worth saying. Her words made their way to my soul. Confirming more than she knew. She went on, “You just have this calming tone. It’s nice.” I thanked her and told her that she wasn’t weird. As I waited for my food, I thought about how far kindness goes.

Don’t say anything that would hurt [another person]. Instead, speak only what is good so that you can give help wherever it is needed. That way, what you say will help those who hear you. Ephesians 4:29 (God’s Word Translation)

We have all been on both sides. Hurtful words spewing out of our mouths before we even have a chance to catch them, and words slamming into our hearts from people that barely know us or even know us better than anyone else. Words can hurt. That is why the Bible tells us that life and death are found in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21) and to think before we speak (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Either side you walk away hurt. We carry those wounds with us and insecurities breed. So we walk around wounded and needing kindness yet hoarding kindness that we should freely give away.

The crazy thing is that we all have these insecurities, and we all see things differently about each other. Knowing that we ourselves feel insecure about something we should allow that knowledge to push us to see that those around us suffer from those negative thoughts too, and instead of pointing them out plant a positive seed in their mind through kindness. Through compliments. There’s this quote that has become popular lately that says, “Throw kindness around like confetti.” We should give kindness freely to those we know and those we make that awkward eye contact with when we are walking through Walmart 😉

Our insecurities don’t just keep us from sharing kindness with the people around us, but our insecurities also keep us from being who we were created to be. Think about this, the cashier I encountered noticed that my voice was calm. Knowing that she works in costumer service alone and she liked being around someone who was peaceful shows that she has been around people that are less than peaceful. I don’t know the cashier personally but, what if she goes home to a place of unrest after work. A place of anxiety. By choosing to simply be who God has called me to be has shone through this cashier and not only did she make a difference in my life but I made an impact in hers.

All week this idea of becoming kinder has bounced around my head. Today, this cashier went out on a limb, and it made a difference. She reminded me that I have a voice and that it’s a good voice. A voice in writing, in teaching, in this world. The truth is you have a voice too. You have a voice in your family, in your work place, in the lives that are in the circles that you are in. Don’t let the voices of insecurity stop you from speaking up. Don’t let the fear of kindness not being returned keep you spreading kindness around those around you. We can all be a little kinder. In our tones, in our words, and in our actions. Kindness goes a long way.

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Hope

3. Hope hōp/

noun

18Thus by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be strongly encouraged. 19We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and steadfast. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20where Jesus our forerunner has entered on our behalf.

Growing up I remember the feeling of disappointment. Whether the disappointment was from my dad breaking another promise or from one of my celebrity role models choosing a life of drugs and alcohol instead of their role on Disney channel. Disappointment was real. It sunk to the bottom of my stomach and made my mind feel like it was spinning. Why? Because I hoped that people would keep their word. That they would choose good over evil. My hope was in them. As I grew up my hope was placed in tomorrow. My mind would focus on the future. I would place my hopes in a date or a type of job. I would think about whatever I was hoping for as if the thoughts were each little wishing stars. Disappointment has still been real. Hoping in tomorrow has not been the cure of living a life with less disappointments. 
The dictionary defines hope as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. It likens hope to a wish, expectation, or desire. 
At the beginning of 2016 I knew that I needed to understand hope a lot more. 2015 had been full of grieving after losing my dad and my grandpa. Hope was something that I knew I needed. I decided that I was going to focus on hope this year. What I forgot was that embracing a word comes with embracing the fight to protect it. Hope quickly became something more than a wish. But before it can become more I had to realize what I was placing my hope in.  
Through this year I have realized that the question isn’t what am I hoping for, but who am I hoping in? Pastor Steven Furtick once said, “Disappointment is the doorway to a deeper hope.” When I heard this it struck a chord in my heart. Disappointment is not a fun feeling, but like all pain it is an indicator of something that is wrong. Too often I found myself blaming God because the things I hoped for that did not happen, yet the things I hoped for that did happen usually did not sustain me, unless the hope that was placed in something God could only do, flourished. 
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:23‬ ESV
Hope in the Bible is referred to as an anchor. Firm. Not fleeting from one idea to the next. True hope was meant to be found in the promise of Jesus being our Savior, God loving us, and the eternal future that we have been promised when we believe in Him. Hope was meant for more than a desire for a certain thing during Christmas, a date from someone in your class, or even financial break throughs. True unwavering hope is found in the promises that Jesus has given. The promise that He won’t leave us. The promises of Him being with us through it all. The promise of His unconditional love.
Through this journey of hope I have found something more. I have found that hope produces a feeling of trust. Even in times of not seeing or hearing God, because of hopes we placed in Him in the past, we are able to remember the faithfulness that He possesses and that pushes us to hope more. 
 When you trust someone you choose to stay consistent because you know they have and are doing right by you. Hope pushes you to be consistent. Hope pushes you to take care of the hard things. Hope allows you to stay grounded when the earth is shaking. 

Dear Friends, 
My prayer for you is that you would allow yourself to hope this year. That you would hold tightly to the confidence you have in Christ and that you would be able to declare that He who promised is faithful, because you have experienced His faithfulness more and more. My prayer is 2017 would be a year of hope. In times where you realize you have lost it, that you would find it in Him. 
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:35-36‬ ‭ESV

Abundant Grace

25. 25 years I have lived. I remember growing up the two things I could conjure up about my future was 1. I hope I marry young. and 2. I probably won’t make it past 16. Crazy huh? I grew up in the times where the church was heavily focused on Y2K and Jesus returning, which isn’t bad but I never understood it fully. So my aspirations for my life out of High School were limited, to say the least.

Neither of those predictions have come to fruition. I made it past 16. I didn’t marry “young,” at least not young in my perspective.

 But 25. This has been a year full of adventure. This year I have learned the ins and outs of grace. I have experienced God in ways I never expected. I spent a good portion of this year angry at Him. Struggling to understand why He gives desires but doesn’t fulfill them. In ways, I gave into my flesh. In ways, I denied myself and relentlessly obeyed. In ways, I withheld my love. In ways, I gave it my all. Perspectives have changed because through it all I have learned what grace is.

Around this time last year, I had this dream where I was driving on this road by myself. The sun was shining in a vast blue sky. I couldn’t tell if the car was rolling or the lush green hills. All of the sudden, there were 100’s of other cars around me, but the weird thing was they were also all driving by themselves. Slowly I ended up in the front of this brigade of people. Then a brown massive buffalo walks into the middle of the road. Both I and the buffalo stop moving. He looks at me. Majestic. Then I woke up.

The whole day I couldn’t get  that dream out of my head. I took the time to pray about it, but I wasn’t getting anything, except to look up buffalo. So I did. Buffalo in the Native American culture meant abundance. God then told me, “Monique, I am taking you on a road of abundance and you will help others on that road.” So I held onto it.

This past summer I had a terrible attitude towards God. There was one particular day that I was on my way to a gathering for a friend and I was done. I was bitter and angry and tired of letting things go that I wanted. I was riding along with my mentor and a friend, honestly tuning out their conversation and telling God, once again how upset I was. We were going through golden hills. The there were a few clouds in the vast sky. I looked out the window as I said the uh-huhs to make it sound like I was listening. All of a sudden my breath escaped me. My voice cracked as I said, “Guys, it’s a buffalo.” Tears filled my eyes. My mentor looked at me and asked if I wanted her to stop so I could get a picture.

Abundance.

That day we stopped. I smiled. And God once again spoke. “Monique, I am taking you on a road of abundance and you will help others on that road.”

There were five buffalos that day. I asked my friend what 5 stood for in the Bible.

Grace.

If one word ties up this 25th year, grace would be it. That moment, God made abundantly clear that He loved me. Even as I was being a complete brat. Even through the complaining and whining, and disgusting stinch of pride that arose from my mouth, as I told Him that my plan was better. I was humbled.

I’m still learning the ins and outs of grace. I still screw up in areas I thought I said goodbye to long ago. But grace is still there. He is still there. He will always be there. I’m thankful that I don’t have to say goodbye to grace like I say goodbye to another age. I’m glad that grace and I get to take on 26 together. 

Dear sojourner,

I don’t know where life has you at at this exact moment. I don’t know what shame you may feel you deserve to carry. But I do know that God is waiting for you to let it go and let Him fill you. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own. He is leading you in that road of abundance. Let him. 

💛 Mo