Unexpected Turns

Life has a way of surprising you with unexpected events. Currently if you could see me life you would find me sitting at our local park while my mom and dog, Finley, are finishing their last obedience school day. I just closed the book “Breaking Free” after it led me to tears. Tears of hope. Tears that physically explain all that I want.

In the last few weeks God has shaken my world. He has closed a season of my life where I have worked my dream job in ministry. He has taken me out of a season where trusting Him in provision financially has gone from down right scary to comfortable. Where I worked along side several of my favorite people daily. He has taken what I’ve believed is my calling and is asking me to once again trust Him. He hasn’t done this out of intentions that are any less than the best for me. To get out of the “boo box” or the box of fear that I’m not great. Not great at loving people. Not great at vulnerability. Not great unless I’m with great people. Sadly for too long I’ve chosen this mindset. I’ve chosen to allow fear and accusations to keep me bound to the lies that I’m not good.

As I sit here with the sun setting I feel compelled to answer the question, “what do you want out of life?” The answer has gone from a healthy marriage a good family and to live comfortably with some spontaneously planned adventure. Yeah I’m that person.

I found my want. I want to reach 90 years old and realize that none of my worst fears have over taken me. That I’ve stared fear in the face and have chosen to still know my name. To know that I am a daughter of the most high king. To know that I am loved by Him therefore I’m a beloved one. To know that the things I feared and some I may have to face never over took me because the one that is in me is so much greater than the taunting enemy in the world. I’m reminded that the end goal isn’t a marriage. It’s not to come out of the world with no scars or hurts. It’s not to be comfortable with my job.  But the end goal for my life is to stand before my Heavenly Father and be able to say that I loved in times of hurt, happiness, sadness, hopefulness, wander, pain, joy, adventure and misery. That I showed people Jesus because Jesus showed me who I am. To be 90 or how ever old I am when this world and look back on life knowing that I enjoyed it learned to lean on my beloved and loved people in times that were less than stellar.

No matter how unexpected the turns are in your life will you partner with me and allow this to be your prayer?

One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4

Keep traveling dear friends,

Mo Go

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Panama 

2 years ago I signed up for my very first over seas missions trip. It was the first year that I was working with the U Matter Internship and we were going to Panama. I remember turning in money that had been donated and applying to get my passport. I was so excited. This trip was special because Carlos, one of our teammates and one of my spiritual brothers, is from there and we were going to work with his sister and in the community he grew up in. Weeks later I got called into a meeting to be informed that we would not be going to Panama that year. I knew that Carlos was crushed. I don’t really remember being super upset.  Instead of flying to Panama that summer we drove  to San Fransisco to work with City Impact. 

Here’s a few facts about who I was 2 years ago:
My relationship with my dad was constantly up and down. I had huge anxieties that I would end up living a life like him or worse. 

I did not allow men into my life. There were guys around me but I never allowed them to be true brothers or father figures because they always hurt me, left me, or would end up being men that would act like they had integrity and would prove later that they were far from the character they portrayed.

I was scared. Almost everything scared me. In that my confidence in God and in myself was extremely low. I didn’t believe that I had life changing things to say. I didn’t believe that God wanted to use me because I had messed up too many times. 

All in all I believed I was disqualified. 

In the past two years I have seen the Monique that everyone knew completely shift into the woman that chooses to know who she is. San Francisco killed a lot of fears that had to do with substance abuse and the choices people make regarding that lifestyle. Though the fears of becoming like my dad didn’t fully subside my understanding of the fact that he has made choices to be in the spot he is in now started to grow. I finished college which was a huge accomplishment for me. It added confidence. I now saw that I could literally do hard things. And I could do them better than I thought. I went through a period of time of trusting different guys. Getting my hopes let down but rising up again in Guatemala. I see now why God needed that to be my first overseas trip. God kept it small. Allowing me to only really know one person who happened to be Grant. Guatemala changed my life. Simply because God took my heart of stone and made it flesh. He brought another man into my life that would help me learn what a fathers love looks like. God gave me strength to finish a half marathon with my pastors by my side. 

And finally God gave me the strength to go to see my dad when I had a long year. He gave me the love to pour out. He gave me the support to know that I was doing a good thing. 

Now two years later I am on a plane with 6 of the original people plus 7 others going to Panama!!!! Knowing that God had us wait so that he could add others is such a great feeling. Through this journey to Panama not one person on the team ever had to ask for money send out support letters or anything. God provided every last dime for us to go. He has shielded us from random attacks and has provided for us when we get knocked down. 

I expect God to move in ways that I’ve never seen. I expect a hope to ignite Panama that people will go there to become hopeful again. I expect to see dreams come true, reclaim lost dreams and dream new dreams. I’m excited for this trip. 

Taking the Glasses Off

Sitting in the optometrists office I remember him looking at my mom then me. His words surprisingly stung. “You no longer need to wear glasses!” He said with a smile. Most 8 year old girls would’ve been ecstatic. Not me. I sat there and cried. Was it because having glasses was better? Not really. I got teased even more when I had to wear them.

Last week I found that 8 year old girl again. We were filming my story for the U Matter Campaign this year. I had told my self the days prior that things would be okay. Great even. But there was still a huge part of me that didn’t want to film because I don’t like being on that side of the camera. That morning I decided to wear one of my favorite outfits that I felt comfortable in and had a millions apologies to say to Grant about how I’m just an awkward person in front of the camera and there’s not much I can do about it. (No of which I said). So I show up. I put on my extroverted mindset and try to be excited about it. I mean this is another form of adventuring right?

“So you can’t wear your glasses.” Grant said plainly. Those words kinda went straight to the soul. I reluctantly took them off but that’s when the thoughts really started going. Here I was filming about how I had broken out of the lifestyle of fear and now live in freedom yet insecurity plagued me.

This past week I found myself crying out to God telling him I feel like a mess. Most days if I allow my head to get kicked in I feel like an irresponsible 24 year old single girl who sponges off of her mom and will stay stuck in this cycle of life for all of eternity. yikes a little too personal? Maybe. But I always find that I am the only one who really thinks that about myself, seeing that I work 2 jobs pretty much full time, have kept and paid off car loans, have my BA degree, and everything else that’s done points to the inner drive of my being. A responsible person. This particular day I just told God, “I’m such a mess. I feel like everything in my hands is a mess. Ministry, finances, family, mind, running schedules, EVERYTHING”. In that moment He gently met me with, “Monique you are altogether”… Immediately mind mind finished the statement, “beautiful darling there is no flaw in thee. Ya ya I know God but I don’t know if you heard me. I’m not feeling ugly. I feel like a me–” “Monique you are all together. I didn’t make you incomplete”.

I don’t know if this even makes sense but I felt compelled to right this simply for you to know that even on your most insecure messiest unpleasant days you are altogether. Not because of anything that you have done but because of who’s you are.

To see how this story fully ends and to see the video of me without glasses, you have to come to the nearest U Matter Campaign Service or the Be More Conferene

Chipped Tooth and Confidence

Beauty

My mom just got us these super high tech tooth brushes. Over the past few days I’ve had to relearn how to brush my teeth because what I did before would no longer work with these high tech things. I have this spot on my front tooth from when I busted my lip near the flamingos at the zoo when I was five. This morning the spot seemed to be super noticeable. I always wonder if it will ever go back to being white because white straight teeth are good

Perfection

Beauty is something that our world craves. The definition of beauty and the definition of perfection have become parallel. I have had a hard time believing that I am beautiful because I don’t fit the definition of perfection. Perfect skin, perfect nails, perfect body type the list goes on and every girl has felt that pressure.

While I was in Guatemala a lot of the things I believed before were shaken and removed. It started with beauty.

And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (‭Romans‬ ‭10‬:‭15‬ ESV)

My mentor sent this verse with me. One of the most freeing conversations I had while on that trip was one I had with Grant about a scratch I got on my leg. I’ll tell the story another time because so much happened in that moment but that night I realized that I was beautiful. Not because I matched up to perfection. Not because of anything on the outside but because I deal with fear but I have a hope and faith that even in the most scary moments my Daddy is with me and He has great plans for me.

Confidence

When I returned back from Guatemala Amanda (Grant’s wife) told me that I look more confident. She could tell that I believed something different about myself and about God and she is definitely right; I just didn’t realize how different my beliefs were until this afternoon.

Believe

Today I chipped my front tooth. Yes the same one with the spot that I had noticed earlier today I chipped it. No I cannot go to the dentist to get it fixed at least not yet. To my surprise though it is noticeable but I did not get emotional. Before guatemala I would’ve had a complete meltdown. I would’ve wanted to hide in my room not tell anyone and fall off the grid until it was fixed. Today it was frustrating and I wasn’t happy but meltdowns were in the negative. No tears were shed. No depression set it. No thoughts of being ugly. But instead I was surrounded by people that spoke truth to me and reminded me that I’m okay. It reminded me that I have a confidence buried in my heart and it’s GROWN!

Earlier this year a friend of mine saw that I was getting close to the end of my journal. She asked me if she could pick out the next one. When she came back to me a few weeks later she pulled out a blue old fashioned journal that was covered in sparrows and flowers. Inside she wrote me a letter. Part of it said, ” Beauty is going to start on the inside and radiate outward because you will begin to believe you are beautiful”

I say all of this to inspire you to know that you’re beautiful. Allow your self to do scary things that God is calling you to. Allow yourself to find the confidence along the journey God has placed you on. He’s with you and as you continue to trust and want more confidence you will start to find yourself as a beautiful person chipped tooth or not.

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Julio

We arrived the in the mountains of Guatemala on Sunday night. As we unpacked I couldn’t help but focus on the dirty floor and bugs that buzzed around what would be my “home” for the next week. A giant lump formed in my throat as I asked God “Why would you have me do this?” Tears came but I then realized I needed to stop and pray instead of wallow in fear.

The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord. (‭Job‬ ‭1‬:‭7-12‬ ESV)

Within the next five minutes Pastor Joe asked that we all stopped doing whatever we were doing because we needed to have an emergency meeting. That’s when the tears really came. Pastor joe informed us that while Julio, our fantastic Guatemalan bus driver, was driving us up the mountain someone in Guatemala City where he lived had shot and killed his wife…

I have never felt so broken over someone I didn’t know.

We immediately crowded around Julio and prayed over him and his family. We were 16 hours away from Guatemala City where he left his now dead wife and 9, yes N I N E kids, one of them being in the hospital.

I was later told two huge things about Julio. Julio had been working with this team of missionaries for the past two trips that they had went on in Guatemala. When this trip was being set up Pastor Joe and Mike wanted Julio to drive them again. The missionary that lives in Guatemala informed them that he hadn’t seen Julio in a while and he had turned back to alcohol. He told them they needed to find someone else. Pastor Joe let the missionary know that he wasn’t using someone else and told him to find Julio. After a while the missionary was able to find him and asked him if he would be willing to be our driver. Julio agreed and then went to let his boss know that he was taking this job. His boss informed him that he couldn’t but Julio took this commitment very seriously. He told his boss that he couldn’t dishonor his commitment to God to take care of us. His boss said ok but let him know that when he returned the bus after our trip he would no longer has a job.

Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Skin for skin! All that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out your hand and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand; only spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (‭Job‬ ‭2‬:‭4-10‬ ESV)

After praying, crying, and thinking I realized that I was in Guatemala because God needed me to simply love people. People like Julio that’s world was so dark they needed a light.

We were told that Julio had to make a decision to either stay with us or go back to Guatemala City to be with his family and take care of things. No one would have been mad or disappointed if he had left but the next morning when we woke up, Julio was at breakfast. Through out the morning I saw the man that just lost the love of his life sweeping up the floor, talking to people, directing patients to the different doctors and frankly working harder than I I was.

Humbling.

I believe this is an important story to tell because it puts life into perspective. This man chose to make a commitment to God a and nothing stopped him from breaking it. He was told that if he drove us he’d lose his job, his wife was shot and killed and before all of that he was looked at as a man that had turned to the world and was deemed hopeless yet he kept his commitment to the Father that gave everything for him.

He does not keep the wicked alive, but gives the afflicted their right. He does not withdraw his eyes from the righteous, but with kings on the throne he sets them forever, and they are exalted. (‭Job‬ ‭36‬:‭6-7‬ ESV)

From that moment forward I knew that I was supposed to be on that trip. Thank you Julio for changing my life. I don’t know that I could have been that strong. You’re beautiful for going and loving people when your world was the darkest. I am so grateful that I got to meet such an amazing man of God and I know that he will restore everything that was taken from you just like he did with Job.

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Some People See it…

San Francisco touched every part of my heart I never thought one trip could address all of the things God has currently been teaching me. From purity to issues with my family, it left no part untouched.

On Thursday, we did meal deliveries and as I went through some of the worse building in San Francisco, a thought came to my mind, this is the life that my dad most likely lives. these buildings housed the unwanted, unloved, and the people that made too many mistakes in life. Time after time I walked up to these rooms and knocked on doors that no one would answer, either because they were terrified, high, or were just too sick and sad to answer the door. It broke my heart. The moments people would answer the door I was excited. We got to talk to few people that day but one of the biggest conversations I have ever had happened with one of my team members.

As we waited my team, Carlos, and I we looking down on the streets and just talked about how crazy it is that so many people live here. I then told him about the thought that had came to my mind about my own dad that I haven’t seen in almost 8 years. It really sucks being here and knowing that my dad lives close to this life style. I remember saying to Carlos, “I can’t help but wonder if there is anyone out there loving on my dad like we are loving on these people.” Carols then said, “Well you know Mo, God sees that you are loving on His people, and you can trust that he’s taking care of things with your dad.”

I will never forget those words. Carlos reminded me of the reassuring truth that My Heavenly Father sees the desires of my heart and He also desires my dad to be with Him too. In that moment my passion to pray for my dad was rekindled.

This morning I woke up early to call my dad. As I waited for him to pick up fear started to come up. I hadn’t talked to him in weeks maybe even months, I forget, but I just knew that he would be everything but happy to hear my voice. The phone call connected. A tired beat down voice muttered, “hello” Dad? It’s Monique I could hear his face light up, Pumpkin! It’s so good to hear from you.

I talked to my dad for about 10 minutes and in those 10 minutes I didn’t feel condemned or like a horrible daughter because I hadn’t talked to him. He was pleasant. Towards the end of our conversation he randomly said to me, ” you know some people see it earlier than others and others take longer. But your mom saw it and got out. It just took me a little longer but I see it now. You pumpkin, you’ve always seen it. You see it and help others see it too”.

I don’t know what it was that he was talking about but I like to guess that it is the meaning of life. The fact that life isn’t mine but it belongs to my Creator. That some people don’t see the meaning but when they do, they get out of the mess that they are in. My mom saw the meaning. She saw that there was more so she got out of the mess she was in and lived the abundant life Jesus prepared for her.

Empty streets?

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25 ESV)”

As I walked through the streets of the Tenderloin district on Wednesday, this verse rang in my ear. I’ve come to realize that I am a typical American. I like nice things. I have been taught that I need a college education so that I can have a good job and live comfortably. I’ve been taught that I need nice things. I figure out exactly how to spend my pay check before its even in my account and if I don’t have enough to buy the coolest new electronic or the cutest clothes I will go get my credit card. But I tithe so it’s fine right?

Wednesday night we had chapel with some of the residents that live in the TL. during worship God compelled me to remember His goodness. I started to write down reasons why He is good. As I wrote down different things about His character I realized that the only reason why I live this life is because God gave it to me. This life belongs to Him and because it belongs to Him I am okay with not being comfortable as long as I am not empty.

Since being home I have realized how none of those things bring joy. They may bring temporary happiness but the clothes I wear, the phone I have, even the places I am able to go because of my job, don’t bring lasting joy. I spent an entire week reaching out to broken people but those empty streets have shown me how empty I am. How broken I am.

In a lot of ways I have felt hopeless since being home. I have felt like I need to do so much more. But I have also had moments that I have felt so alive. These moments have come when I’ve set aside time to seek my Daddy. He is the only thing that satisfies me eternally. He’s the only one that makes me whole. I’m not empty because He is in me.

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City Impact part 2: That could be me..

I was wrecked Tuesday. After being in the Tenderloin district for 24 hours, many thoughts ran through my head. The biggest one was, “That could be me”. This statement is true for everyone, but for some people it hits a little closer to home.

When I was about 6 I moved away from Virginia Beach. My mom and dad had been together for many years, but unfortunately my dad had habits that he did not want to break. Through the years I have seen what things like drugs and alcohol can do to people. It is not pretty. I have known that, but being submerged into that world is a totally different story.

On Tuesday we had a service and we talked about how we are not higher than the residents in this district, but we should be humble and thankful that we were put in the places that we were. Throughout the day Tuesday I served people, and did different things. That night we went and did street ministry. We walked around the district and passed snacks out to the people that were on the streets, and talked to them. I have to admit I was scared. I did not like being on the streets, smelling drugs and alcohol. Most of all I did not like the way my heart felt. It was broken. As I observed my teammates loving on people, God spoke to me. He reminded me of where I came from. Of the brokenness I was born into. He reminded me how close to home this was.

Like I said, a lot of things in my dad’s life has been destroyed because of substances, and God made two things come to my mind, 1. If my mom did not have Jesus, I would have ended up on the streets. God put destiny in my mother’s life. He showed her what could happen if she did not leave my dad. He gave her courage to obey Him in raising us in a Godly home. Because of the grace of God, I am not nor have I lived in those conditions, but it is only because of Him. I did nothing, absolutely nothing to choose where I grew up. And the second thing that came to my mind, was who is reaching my dad? This broke me. I fought back tears, as I thought about how much hope was coming because of City Impact, and I wondered if there was any one that was doing the same thing for my own father.

I don’t know why people have to endure what they do. But I know one thing, If you believe in God, and Jesus as your savior, He has picked you to be on His team. That thought gives me peace. It gives me hope.  In Psalm 33:6 it says, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” That means that God breathed the stars into existence. I am a daughter of the one that breathes out stars and if He can do that He can deliver people from all of the issues they go through.

Lastly in John 17, Jesus prays for us. I would challenge you to read it on your own, but Jesus is about to go to be crucified. He prays to God and asks Him to keep His disciples, and the believers after them away from the evil one. He knows that we can not be delivered from living on this earth when we accept Him in our hearts, so He asks for protection. He reminds God that just like He was not of this world, neither are we. In the midst of a broken world, I am reminded that this place is not my home. And my only purpose for being here is to show people the love that God has for them and to show them that they too can have a better future, with the star breather. This alone gives me hope. It gives me joy.