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.

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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.

Emmanuel 

First featured on ourwordscollaborativ.com day 19 💛

Christmas movies are my favorite. I love to sit down and put on a movie full or festive times, snowy days, and holiday cheer. 

As I’m writing this I am watching the movie the Nativity. There’s this part in the movie when a woman that Mary was working for had several children around and she is talking about the time when Elijah was hiding in the cave in 1 Kings 19. Though Elijah had just faced a great victory; lies and threats reached his ears that made him feel alone. Threatened. Scared. So what did he do? The same thing most of us do when we feel like the world, even God, is against us. He hid. He went in a cave and hid. God tried to get Elijah to stop hiding and remember that He was on his side and what He’s done for Elijah. He called Elijah out of the cave. While Elijah was on the mountain side huge winds began to whip around him. If I was Elijah I would have thought that maybe the winds were God. Maybe He was trying to physically pick me up and put me back where He wanted. Forcing me to face my fears. But the Lord was not in the wind. A fire began to fall around Elijah. If I was him I would have thought God was trying to scare me away from where I was hiding. Maybe I would choose to move back to where God wanted me, out of fear. But the Lord was not in the fire. Lastly, the earth began to shake. The ground opened up and rocks cracked all around Elijah. If I was Elijah I would have thought that God was done. That He was just going to allow the Earth to swallow me up and move onto the next person that would obey Him. But the Lord was not in the earthquake. So where was He? He said He was going to come. 
I can picture Elijah being weary. Tired. Emotionally drained. The dust around him settles. Things come to a calm. Just then a small, gentle voice speaks. It was Him. 
Isn’t that beautiful. The stillness. The small. God loves to be unconventional. 
This past November we as a family made it through the first anniversary without my dad and grandpa. They both were taken from us by cancer within days of each other the year before. It was hard. People often ask how I got through it. Truth is the threats and lies are all too familiar for me. The winds have whipped, the fire has scorched, and the earth has shaken. The answer is found in a simple identity. 
Emmanuel 
Jesus has many names to describe all that He is. Emmanuel means God with us. When Jesus came down He was with us. He walked with us, yes but He went through life as a human. Meaning He knows what we are facing and He knows how to get through it; successfully! This is huge when we are facing the grief and corruption that life brings. When our close people die; He is with us. When our families are being torn apart; He’s with us. When life hands you lies, threats, and accusations; He knows what is feels like and He knows how to get out of it. Even when the anxieties and depression hits; He hasn’t left. He’s right there with you, guiding you. 
Too often we choose to look to God like the people in the Old Testament. Questioning if it’s God that is in the winds that whip around us. Questioning if He is in the fire that burns all around. Wondering if He’s shaking the earth to get your attention. But forgetting He’s in that still small voice in you. Forgetting He’s in the gift of the Word He gave us. 
Through all of the hustle and bustle take a moment and sit. I don’t know what memories you have of Christmas time or what this past year alone has brought you, but you have made it. A friend of mine recently sent me a picture that said, “You have survived 100% of your worse days.” How true is that? You are here, right now reading this blog. You are breathing. That means you are meant for something grand. I know the feeling of not knowing how or if I would make it through the end of the day. I know the feeling of anxiety and depression holding me down, creating a whirlwind around me. But I made it. Not through the worlds remedies, but through my God. He led me through. Dear friend, God is with you. I don’t know why life has handed you the things it has or hasn’t handed you what you want but I know that He is with you. He has you. And you’re not going to just get through these times but you’ll get through them victoriously because He is with you. 

Graced Grief 

It’s been two months. Two months of chaotic thinking, anxiety, grief, darkness. Two months since I said goodbye. Two months since grief has been an everyday process. Two months of learning how to live without a father and grandfather. Two months of battles. Two months of hugs. Two months of waking up randomly and crying. Two months of talking and trusting and relying. Two long months. 

2015 was the hardest year of my life. The last 2 months wrapped it up in one giant word. GRIEF. there was so much grieving in the last year. And to be completely honest it is continuing. Losing two people has been enough but even before all of this there was grieving that I didn’t know what to do with from my own lack of trust in God and seeing others close to me go through hard times. The death of my dad and grandpa were just the cherry on top. 

This last week God has challenged me to start looking at grief through His eyes. In this season I am learning how to not see God as a being who has a stiff arm and soured look on His face when I come into His presence. He’s taught me that He is embracing me in this season. In the grief of realizing the unbelief I’ve cuddled up next to through out my life. In the grief of losing relationships, saying goodbye to passions and communities, and holding my grandpas hand as he took his last breath. He is embracing me. 

One of my favorite stories in scripture is found in Matthew chapter 14. 

“Herod had arrested John, put him in chains, and sent him to prison to placate Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. John had provoked Herod by naming his relationship with Herodias “adultery.” Herod wanted to kill him, but he was afraid because so many people revered John as a prophet of God. But at his birthday celebration, he got his chance. Herodias’s daughter provided the entertainment, dancing for the guests. She swept Herod away. In his drunken enthusiasm, he promised her on oath anything she wanted. Already coached by her mother, she was ready: “Give me, served up on a platter, the head of John the Baptizer.” That sobered the king up fast. Unwilling to lose face with his guests, he did it—ordered John’s head cut off and presented to the girl on a platter. She in turn gave it to her mother. Later, John’s disciples got the body, gave it a reverent burial, and reported to Jesus. When Jesus got the news, he slipped away by boat to an out-of-the-way place by himself. But unsuccessfully—someone saw him and the word got around. Soon a lot of people from the nearby villages walked around the lake to where he was. When he saw them coming, he was overcome with pity and healed their sick.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭14:3-14‬ ‭MSG‬‬

When people say that God knows how we feel they truly mean it. Jesus walked this earth and had a real life human experience. He experienced loss and pain. He experienced grief. But this part of His life shows me more than just His grief but it also reminds me of God’s Grace. 



“When Jesus got the news, he slipped away by boat to an out-of-the-way place by himself. But unsuccessfully—someone saw him and the word got around. Soon a lot of people from the nearby villages walked around the lake to where he was. When he saw them coming, he was overcome with pity and healed their sick. Toward evening the disciples approached him. “We’re out in the country and it’s getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper.” But Jesus said, “There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper.” “All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish,” they said. Jesus said, “Bring them here.” Then he had the people sit on the grass. He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples. The disciples then gave the food to the congregation. They all ate their fill. They gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. About five thousand were fed.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭14:13-21‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Jesus just found out that His cousin died. Not only was this a part of His earthly family but John was the one that prepared the way for Jesus. Out of everyone Jesus was around John the baptize understood what Jesus was going through to some degree. He too had been looked down upon and was responsible with a very high calling. I’m sure when Jesus heard that John had died, it hit him in the core of his body. Though the Bible doesn’t give us details of Jesus’ pain it does say that He tried to get by Himself but was met by a crowd of needy people. Many times in life I’ve tried to deal with a sudden set of emotions while dealing with others.

 This summer I said goodbye to a part of my life that I loved. Within hours of saying goodbye to an amazing set of people I was woken up with news that my grandpa had fallen. With a head full of questions I had to push through the crowd of circumstances that now encompassed me. Chaos. I’m sure Jesus felt chaotic. there were so many things out of control yet He was able to address the needs of the crowds around Him. How? Grace. Jesus stayed focused on the Father and He knew that if the Father was calling Him to heal the crowds that His Father would provide rest. 

Though this last year was full of grief I have to say it was fuller of God’s grace. I don’t deserve to have a faithful God. A God who believes in me when I don’t believe Him. A God that’s so gentle and patient when I want to hold on to old ways of thinking. I don’t deserve His peace of mind or strength but that’s the grace of God. I don’t deserve it and can’t arrive so that I do.  He freely gives His grace to those who love Him and for that I am forever grateful. 

Dear Soujourners,

I don’t know where you are in your journey as you read this but I pray that if you need to experience God’s grace that your eyes would be open to it. And if things are brighter for you today I pray that you would rely on God to help you extend grace to those around you. I pray that no matter what 2016 holds we would reach the end and see God’s graceful hand guiding us along the way and our steps becoming more secure on His path because His grace has found us just as we are. 

Until next time,

Monique❤️

 

I Prayed for You 

They say that life comes in seasons. There are times of long joyful sunny days that fade into perfect nights like summer and times of incredible growth and warmth like spring.  These are the seasons where God is everywhere. When singing and thanking Him is inevitable. When we dance before Him and go to sleep with a smile on our faces. 

If there are great seasons then there must also be not so great seasons. You know those seasons where you find yourself doubting more than thanking. Those seasons when you don’t know what’s going on but the growth is slower and the fruit starts dying. Fall isn’t that bad but things just seem off. It’s the calm before the winter  strom.  

I’ve tried to write this blog several times in the last month and a half. To say that these last two months have been hard would be an understatement. From coming home from traveling for most of the month of March I was excited to be back home and have some family time but right when things seemed to slow down is the right time for a spiritual earthquake to happen. 

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,” 

 Winter comes when family members make choices that devastate you, close ones are dying, you’re forgetting who you are and Who God is. No matter what  seeds you plant it feels like something  everything is preventing them from growing. Life then throws fears, circumstances, waves of anxiety, and you find yourself waking up in knots of dread and despair. You question your very identity. You wonder what’s wrong. God’s voice isn’t as loud as it’s been previously. You feel like you’re coming undone or worse being sifted. 

Sifted: v. to go through especially to sort out what is useful or valuable. 

The last two months I’ve felt sifted. I’ve found myself question of my God is really as good as He says? Yes. He is. But maybe it’s me. I’ve done something to take away value so now he’s sifting me, removing me from those that are more valuable. I’ve felt doomed. Seeing people I love and respect go down paths they never wanted to left me feeling like I was doomed to become someone I didn’t want to be. Like I would wake up one day a bad person. That it was fate, inevitable. I was born to be doomed. There are other people that just weren’t born with the same doom destination as I was but I just had to accept the sifting … Ever been there? 

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,” 

As much as these thoughts swirled screamed and demanded my attention there was another thought.

Hope. 

At the beginning of this year I felt that God was going to take me through this journey of reclaiming ground that I once surrendered to the enemy. This reminder sparked something that fueled me to start fighting. I realized that in these moments I believed that God was the loving Father and everything else the Bible says he is, to everyone else but he wasn’t that to me. I had believed lies for so long that God just had bad things for me because that’s what I deserved. My heart broke when I realized that when I agreed with these lies I was calling the only one who has been pure truth, love, satisfaction in my life a liar. To believe that he wanted me sifted because he was done, fed up, tired of me was to believe that everything he has ever said was a lie. I was done with self pity. So I stood up and started fighting, believing that Jesus was fighting with me. 

When you fight you have to have a weapon, not just protection

About a week ago I was walking in target with my mom and I just started crying. I remember telling my mom that through everything that has been going on, I’ve seen my greatest dream fade to my greatest fear. I found myself being afraid of something that I had desired for so long because I didn’t want to mess it up. I was once again scared that I was doomed in everything that I would try. Afraid that God wasn’t on my side. That’s when I remembered Simon. 

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” (‭Luke‬ ‭22‬:‭31-32‬ NLT)

It’s so true, satan asks to do things to us to prove to God that we are not as faithful, loving, pure, righteous, etc. he demands to have us. Too often this is at the forefront of our mind. We worry that God has lifted his hand and given us over to satan’s tactics forever. We forget that 1. satan has to ask permission from God. We see this repeatedly in the Bible. Look at Job: Satan went to God first before he took Job’s possessions and struck him with sickness. Even in Revelation 12 we see that the accuser of our brothers (satan) accuses us day and night before our God. 2. Jesus prays for us! Oh the comfort and joy found in the simple words, “I have prayed for you”. Not only do we have a Holy Spirit inside of us who knows what we need in the moments that we don’t even know but we have a savior who takes time to pray for us. How can I continue to believe that I am doomed and God is done when Jesus took time to pray for me? 

What do you need to reclaim? What are you choosing to believe about God that is not in His character? How are you choosing to fight for a new perspective? Choose to believe that God loves you so much that he sent his son to save you, give you grace, and pray for you. God loves you so much that he gave you his spirit to guide you and know you better than yourself so that he too could pray for you. You are in good hands. Your name is on the most important prayer list. Regardless of the past or the present you will thrive because though the enemy has demanded you, Jesus has prayed for you so that your faith will not fail and once you turn back to him you will strengthen those around you. 

  
Check out Revelation 12, Luke 22, John 17