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.”

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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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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

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.

Make America Great Again?

I wasnt going to post anything about the recent election, but I found myself in a church in LA today and what the pastor said really got me thinking. Before you stop reading, know that you will not find who I voted for and how you should have done the same thing. You wont find my opinion on the rising issues and what I “know” will fix them.
What you will find is a view that I have not seen before and it starts years ago. It starts in a nation that was in turmoil. One of their advisors were dying and the two that were the potentials of taking his place were corrupt. The nation had lost it’s hope. The ones they were supposed to  trust in were corrupt.
They were lost and abandoned.
Or was that just their perspective?
Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice. 4Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 6But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 1 Samuel 8:3-6
There are 2 sides to every coin and two parts to every story.
“7And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them8According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” 1 Samuel 8:7-9
Why was God upset? Everyone else had a leader to trust in and be guided by.
God was upset because He was supposed to be their leader. The one they trusted in. The one that guided them. But God, being a God of love and allowing His people to make choices even if it will hurt themselves and Him, He gave them their way.
10So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking for a king from him. 11He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. 12And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. 16He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves18And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” 1 Samuel 8:10-18
Hmm sound familiar?
Just in case let’s break it down:
Take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horseman and to run before his chariots. Didn’t the Israelites want a king so that the king would go before them and fight for them? Another question. Isn’t that what God says He does for us?  Ok, I am going back. God is telling them this king will make them fight for him. He won’t protect them but he will use their sons to fight for him.
he will appoint for himself commanders. The king is the one that will pick the commanders, not  you.
some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.; He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. You will work for his government and will give to him what you work for.
will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. 15He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants…The king will also take a part of your earnings. In modern day terms TAXES. Also, it’s important to remember that God already asked for a tenth, so now we are to tithe and give the leadership what they demand. Just tithing would’ve been better huh?
Here’s my point:
I find it odd that we celebrate and argue until we break down the souls of people over a human leader when God didn’t want a human leader at all. The original design EVEN after the fall was that God would lead the people, yet the people demanded a king.  God wanted to go before His people, protect them. He wanted to guide them. To judge them with His truth and mercy. But even after being warned of all this would bring they chose a person over the creator.
And here we are today.
 
I think we are still doing the same thing when we put our hope and fears in the Oval Office. The true fix to our problems is not found on this side of Heaven. In fact, the problems we so often complain about are a result of us wanting a human leader. They are the result of trusting in a man over God. So maybe just maybe our problem is humanity and our need to ignore God and pursue our ways. Maybe we don’t need to put our hope, fear, trust, or anything in people. But in God. Be hopeful because the cliche is true, the best leader is still on the throne and while we will continue to live through the repercussions of demanding a human leader we won’t have to stay here for eternity. There is better. 
Just a thought.

If He’s Good why’d He let that Happen?

“And a man found him wandering in the fields. And the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” “I am seeking my brothers,” he said. “Tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” And the man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.'” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.”‭‭Genesis‬ ‭37:15-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Once again Joseph found himself alone, looking for his brothers. They were never where they were supposed to be. They didn’t do what was right. Once again he found himself wandering. Tired. Frustrated. Isolated. But he still went. He obeyed his father and went to find his brothers. 

This was a daily thing. Joseph was highly favored by his Father Jacob. Joseph was a young man of character. Earlier in Genesis it says, “ Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.”

‭‭Genesis‬ ‭37:2-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I’ve read this story a billion times but for the first time it occurred to me that Joseph would see his brothers doing wrong and would go back and tell his father what they did. This isn’t just little brother tattle tales type of thing. Joseph constantly witnessed his brothers doing wrong. I’m stuck on this in all of the best ways. In order for someone to know that people are doing wrong they must know the difference. Not just know the difference but believe in the differences. Joseph had to have seen his brothers neglect the flock, fool around too much or even choose a life of sin and but he didn’t join them. If he joined them his life would’ve been so much easier but instead he chose to be a young man of character. He chose to be hated by his brothers. Not just one of them, no all 10 of them. They didn’t just ignore him, they couldn’t even speak a kind word to him. Ever. But he chose his character. His character was brighter than the coat his father made for him. His character was his most valued possession. 

But his character was also the thing that cost him the most in his life.

I was at a coffee shop with one of my close friends and we were talking about this idea that Joseph would go back and tell on his brothers. As you continue to read this story you find that Joseph’s brothers abandon him into a pit. My friend looks at me and says, “I wonder how many times Joseph felt like he was in a pit before he ever was physically there.”

Mindblown. 

A lot of times we read about these humans in the Bible as if we have no experience being humans. 

When my friend said this I thought about my own battle. Since I was young, character has been something that was constantly instilled in me. When I graduated high school and went on to college the potential of having bad character was always on my mind. It has  caused more sleepless nights and fearful days. My senior year in college didn’t help. I was assigned books to read that were nothing about human depravity. I spent times weeping over the fact that people used their imagination to dream up nightmares. Creating more fear in this already dark world. 

The pit. 

Alone. 

Feeling like there is no one  that had been faced with intense darkness and made it out unscathed. 

I was once told that people have a great potential for good but they have an even greater potential for evil.

The pit. 

How do you get out of the pit without it affecting you?

 Truth is you don’t. 

No one will ever make it out of this world without it affecting them. So the real question is how will you allow it to affect you.  Will you choose to believe you only have the great potential to be evil. You will only be just like your alcoholic mother? Your angry father? Your bitter sister? Your impure past? Just cycle through brokenness? Or will you choose to do what Joseph did?
One of the things Joseph chose was his character. He chose to believe he was fully loved by his father on Earth and his Father in Heaven. He chose his character. 

He chose to obey his father. He went after his brothers. He chose to know what was right and pleasing in God’s sight. He went to Dothan. 

Dothan is mentioned in the bible 2 times. This time in Genesis right before Joseph and again in 2 Kings 6:13 when Elisha and his servant find themselves surrounded by their enemies. In this situation Elisha’s servant is afraid but Elisha is calm. 

“He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha. And Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he led them to Samaria.”

‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭6:16-19‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Here God allowed Elisha and his servant to see that as they walked with God, God protected them to the point of attacking what was attacking them. 

He did the same thing with Joseph. 

“They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.”‭Genesis‬ ‭37:18-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

He allowed his brothers to attack him by selling him but He knew that He would attack the very thing that attacked Joseph. God knew that through Joseph’s brothers hate He could save generations. God knew what He put in Joseph was enough. And Joseph trusted God. 

Dear Sojourners,

I dont know what battle you face daily. Whether insecurity floods your heart and mind or fear steals your light. But I know that if you love God, you have an enemy and he hates you. He wants nothing more than to shut you up. He will make the darkness feel more powerful than it is. But there’s two sides to every coin. Know that whatever pit the enemy is setting up for you to be attacked in, God has placed character in you that will only get stronger when you stay connected to Him. He wants to overwhelm what overwhelms you. He wants to demolish what threatened you. He wants to obliterate very lie spoken over and about you. He wants to kill every once of darkness that sets itself up against you. But most importantly He wants the hateful things that have been done or said to you to bring you to Him. His word says that He uses everything for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28). Been abandoned? He will use it for your good. Been abused? He will use it for your good. Been rejected? He will use it for your good. Blatantly sinned? Repent, and He will use it for your good. No matter what. Every pit the enemy has set up whether you chose it or you were pushed into it, God will use it. 

And to that person who said, ” people have a great potential for good but they have an even greater potential for evil.” You are right. We do as people have a great potential for evil; without God. 

How else did Joseph choose his character above avoiding the pit? For that you’ll have to come back next week. Until then keep focused on the One who matters.
❤️ Mo