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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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.

A New Days Rise

Intentions. 

He carefully walked towards the edge of the ship. His legs reminded him that he wasn’t as steady as he used to be. The frigid air stiffened his nostrils. He steadied himself with the railing in front of him. The cold air quickly proved  he wasn’t dreaming. The majestic glacier that seemed so close was really there. Not wanted to miss a moment his hands felt for his camera. Slowly he raised it up to his eye. Looking through the peep hole the massive glacier perfectly fit through his camera lens. To think that the lense could make something that big small enough to capture was mind blowing. These things are really nifty he thought. Click. He couldn’t help but grin. Proud that he captured a moment.

Perspective. 

Writing has been hard lately. More like creating has been hard.  Its been hard writing blogs because I feel like nothing is changing yet everything has changed. It’s hard to continue to live life when death has come so close. The stories I want to share seem too personal. Too fresh. It hurts sharing because sharing this seasons leaves proof that it happened. My dad and grandpa are gone. I can’t call them. I won’t see them. The last memory of them both is nothing but breathing. The anxiety and depression thickened the air daily. The dark thoughts stayed too long. The beliefs were grim. The hope was hard to find. It’s a season I don’t want to remember yet I dare not forget. 

Intentional

The season leading up to losing them I remember telling God that I was refusing to have one perspective on both of their situations. I knew that God could heal them in an instant but I also knew that healing could come through being released from this earth. I didn’t want to lose either of them and be bitter because of my own perspective so I intentionally believed whatever happened would be for the best. 

Sometimes I forget that I’m not the only intentional one in my relationship with God. I think a lot of times I look at Him as removed from my life. I mean I was lucky enough to be created but I’m not the next presidential candidate or anything big so He can just allow life to happen to me, right?

At the beginning of this year my grandma was discussing with my mom and aunt that she would like to go on a cruise. Late last year we were supposed to go as a family but with my grandpa getting sick we decided to cancel it. As they talked about destinations and costs my imagination went wild with the possibilities. Mountains, greenery, and somewhere cold. Hmm Alaska! I immediately told them that we should go to Alaska. After some talk and phone calls we decided that we would go to Alaska this June. Excitement is an understatement. I am stoked! It was cool to see that God knew that desire of my heart and he gave it to me. 

Shifting Perspective

A few months back my grandma gave me one of my grandpas old cameras. I went out and got a battery for it and started to take a few pictures. Having a camera that my grandpa once looked throu was like looking through his eyes. I took a few shots before the camera stopped working and made this long sound. I knew that sound. I hadn’t heard it in years but it was the sound of the film running out. That meant there were pictures on the film before I snapped the 3 I took. Which meant the pictures on the camera were pictures my grandpa took. 

I have never been so nervous to send something off. As I stood in line at Walmart I thought about the possibilities of what was on the film. Not wanting to get my hopes up I told myself that it could be anything. Even tons of pictures of his thumb or something silly. But regardless of what it was it would be from his perspective. I walked up to the register and filled out the paperwork to send the film in. As I slipped it in the enveloped I prayed that it wouldn’t get lost in the mail. The lady kindly told me that it would take 7 days before I would get it back. A whole week. 

I know the plans I have for you says the Lord. Plans of good and not evil. Plans to give you a future and a hope. 

Jeremiah 29:11

In June of 2008 my grandpa and grandma went to Alaska. They enjoyed their trip to the fullest. And because of the mystery film I got to see pictures that had been waiting 8 years to be developed!

To ever believe that God isn’t intentional and I am not worth His love and time, is to not know God. To think that God cares about me to the point that he would inspire my grandpa on his vacation to take pictures and not develop the film knowing that he would pass away later, put it on my heart to want to go to Alaska, speak to me about perspective while prompting my grandma to give me a camera full of my grandpas actual captured perspective on Alaska is absolutely astounding! 
Dear Soujourners,

The bible says that God cares about the sparrows and cares about you even more (Matthew 6). It says that He withholds no good thing  from those who love Him. He loves us so much that his son died for us, went to hell, and rose again. Jesus went through the pressure of living a perfect life to pay a price he didn’t deserve. No matter if it’s a good season or a rough one know that God is intentionally setting you up to see His faithfulness. Allow Him to prompt you to live this abundant life. Go on walks. Snap pictures. Write songs and sing them. Speak kindly. SMILE. In hard seasons be vulnerable. Journal. Confront lies. No matter what. In life in death choose to be confidently covered by His great love. He is for you. He loves you. You literally complete Him. He’s nothing but intentionally working things for your good even when you mess up…on purpose! 

There’s a song called Stay Alive. I’ve probably wrote about it. But there’s a verse in that song that says,”There is a truth and it’s on our side Dawn is coming Open your eyes Look into the sun as the new days rise And I will wait for you tonight You’re here forever and you’re by my side I’ve been waiting all my life To feel your heart as it’s keeping time We’ll do whatever just to stay alive”

Know that the Truth is on your side. Listen to Him. Open your eyes and look at the new days rise. 

Until next time stay alive 

❤️ mo

  

The Journey: Who Are You Waiting For?

“Our soul’s history with God is frequently the history of the “passing of the hero.” Over and over again God has to remove our friends in order to bring Himself in their place, and that is where we faint and fail and get discouraged. Take it personally: In the year that the one who stood to me for all that God was worth died—I gave up on everything? I became ill? I got disheartened? Or—I saw the Lord?

It must be God first, God second, and God third, until the life is faced steadily with God and no one else is of any account whatever. ‘In all the world there is none but thee, my God, there is none but thee.’ Keep paying the price. Let God see that you are willing to live up to the vision.”

-Oswald Chambers

For those who are waiting for that dream position who is it that you envision will “give” you that? Who is the hero you are ever so patiently waiting for? A specific person? A company? A ministry? Or are you envisioning your Creator giving it to you?

This last week I received an email that I have been waiting on regarding an opportunity to go and work at one of the churches that I look up to. Since I have been on this journey of discovering God’s greatness inside of me, I have envisioned that in order for me to be back in full time ministry I have to get the training that I need. This specific ministry and Pastor had helped me through books and podcasts. The future looked promising if I went there. But the email was being sent to let me know that I wasn’t accepted to the program I had thought would save me from this wilderness.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith,because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

We are so tempted to take our lives into our own hands. To make everything happen without waiting on God. Too often we knock doors down that were closed so that we can have what we want when we want it. There is a balance. We don’t need to sit around expecting God to bring every little thing to use and at times have to move or even continue where we are at in faith, but we also need to learn to allow Him to bring our contentment in the season of waiting.

He is the One who will ultimately bring the vision.

Today as I was reading I came across this quote by Oswald Chambers and was convicted. As I thought about who would one day give me the opportunity to be in full time ministry, to be a wife, a mom, amazing writer etc. I realized all of those dreams were reliant on a person instead of the One who gave me the dreams to begin with.

Here’s the challenge that I have found; if for some reason you lost the most important person in your life, would you still be able to dream? Would you believe that you are still called? Or would you go through a season, like I did in the last 2 months, of believing that your calling is invalid because someone is no longer by your side?

We must get to the belief that regardless of the people, companies, or ministries that accept us we are great simply because we are made in God’s image. When we believe we are accepted by the Creator of the Universe and He has huge plans for us, we don’t have to strive to prove people wrong. We also don’t have to put pressure on people to stay in our lives. We can simply enjoy a real relationship with those that God has gifted us with. Sure there may be grieving when someone leaves which is healthy but devastation doesn’t need to pour down.

When you have a chance look up Elisabeth Elliot. Her story of finding love in her 1st husband the missionary Jim Elliot is how I want to live my life. To be so anchored in love for God to see the love of your life be murdered by tribal people and then go back to those same people, not for revenge but to share the gospel with them is astounding. May we love each other with honor and grace knowing that seasons may make our relationships look different. May we be thankful to God for the moments we have working in areas that we’ve dreamed of knowing that they may be memories one day. And may we look to our Father  as our hero,” 10  the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong,firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

P.s. It’s so funny how God will show you something that adds to something you just experienced! Check out this bloggers devotions on the same subject. I just got more freedom. :] When Uzziah Died over at the amazing Two Rivers Blog. 

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Why 2014 Ruined my Life

The beginning of this year I was challenged at my young adults small groups to pick a word that I wanted to cling to and make my year about. That’s where the journey of my word believe started. I started this year simply telling God that I wanted to believe something different about myself and Him by the end of the year. In January I had an idea of what December would look like. Relationships would be great, jobs would be secure, I would be doing exactly what I wanted because simply believed God would give these things to me. Sounds like bliss right? Little did I know 2014 would forever ruin the way I lived life.

This is what the LORD says: “Babylon will be powerful for seventy years. After that time I will come to you, and I will keep my promise to bring you back to Jerusalem. I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the LORD. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will search for me. And when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me! I will let you find me,” says the LORD. “And I will bring you back from your captivity. I forced you to leave this place, but I will gather you from all the nations, from the places I have sent you as captives,” says the LORD. “And I will bring you back to this place.” (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29‬:‭10-14‬ NCV)

This past week my mom took me to Sylmar to see this owl that I read about on the Internet. His name is Zeus and was in some type of an accident that left him blind. The incredible thing about his blindness is that the cataracts in his eyes left these white dots that look like stars in his eyes. When I heard of this owl I kinda flipped out. Stars and owls are two of my favorite things. Not because they are a trend but because they symbolize so much more.

When I saw Zeus this past week, it left me with so many thoughts. Zeus has had some sucky cards dealt to him. I know your probably thinking, why are we talking about an owl? It’s an animal. But just track with me. Owls need their sight to live. They rely on their sight to see food and to see if predators are coming after them. But now Zeus is blind. Sucks right. But to me Zeus is a huge symbol for choosing to be blinded not by circumstances but instead by God’s promises.

If I look back this years circumstances it was hard. Lots of tears, lies, broken promises, having to pour out beyond measure, being exhausted. But that’s why 2014 has ruined the way I will forever live. It has taught me that I don’t have to be blinded by the circumstances but instead I’ve chosen to be blinded by the promises He has made me. When I choose to look at the strength and courage that came from hard situations I see God’s faithfulness. When I choose to look at the love and relationships that came from places of fear I see God’s faithfulness. When I look at the grueling hard times of pouring out and feeling empty continually I see God’s faithfulness.

I’m sure the Israelites didn’t like when God said they’d be in captive for 70 years. That sounds super horrible but I know there were ones that held onto the promise that he had great plans for them. I was listening to a sermon by Steven Furtick and he said,” the plans may change but the promise still stands.”

2014 has completely killed every excuse to say I was handed a bad year. It has taught me that I can be blinded by circumstances or I can be blinded by His promises for my life knowing that He has GREAT plans for my life. I hope that as you look back on this year you will see the faithfulness of God and that it will propel you choose to respond to the hard times in the future instead of react out of hopelessness. He has you even when it’s chaotic.

So let yourself dream in 2015. Let your plans be pliable in the hands of the greatest planner. And hold on to His promises with hands of availability.

I have to say I’m sad to say goodbye to 2014. It has changed my life for the better but I know the great is just getting started. Here’s to a grand year.