- Mel and Donna Carter - I didn't get to pick where I was born or what family I was born into. I didn't get to tell God, "8208 Joliet Ave. in Lubbock, TX please". But if He HAD allowed me to choose, I would have picked my mom and dad. It's so cliche, but so true, that the older I get, the more I am just blown away that God would gift me with the parents that He gave me - parents who raised me in the ways of Jesus, who showed me (didn't just tell me) that there is nothing more important than your walk with God, who have loved and supported a daughter whose life probably isn't looking exactly like what they might have imagined, a dad who has always made me feel like a beautiful daughter, a mom who has been so much more than a parent, but has been one of my best friends. Oh gosh, I could write a whole book about my mom and dad...
- Melissa Carter - I really don't think I could possibly choose another female on the planet that I would rather have as my sister. My sister is different from me on so many levels, but that's what I think makes us perfect for each other. I just feel like everyone needs to know Melissa. She has been a source of laughter, encouragement and inspiration in ways that I know I'll never be able to express.
- Jesus Family - I don't know if I've ever understood what relationships in Christ were meant to be more than I have through my Jesus Family here in Tennessee. These are my best friends in the world, the people who I can be with and just let down every guard and breathe, the people who make me laugh so hard that I physically hurt, the people who will listen to me and cry with me, who carry my burdens, who push me spiritually and call me out when I'm going the wrong way, the people for whom God has given me a love that I didn't actually know I could even have for other people. Oh, my heart is full when I think of my Jesus family.
- The Minchew Family - (of course...part of my Jesus family...) I feel like the Minchews truly deserve their own bullet-point here...specifically at this point in my life :) Not only have they forever been my "Tennessee family" and not only are they the ones with whom I'm celebrating Thanksgiving this year, they have also so very graciously allowed me to live in their home during this time of transition in my life. But more than that, they have each individually been a source of so much encouragement and support over the past 6 years of my life, and are truly four of my dearest friends in the world.
- The family at Harpeth Community Church - God led me to this family of believers almost as soon as I moved here, and these have been the people who have been my source of strength and support through life's post-college journey. I was blessed beyond words with the opportunity to minister to the youth at this church for six years - an experience that changed me forever and brought more joy into my life than I could have ever imagined.
- My HCC small group - I had a Thanksgiving meal with my small group last week and on my way home, I just couldn't stop thinking about how thankful I was for those people in my life. God has given me friends who aren't just the greatest/funnest people to be around, but who also encourage and challenge me spiritually every week and who have been the most wonderful people to walk this journey with. Greatest friends I could ever hope for.
- Hilary Boucher and Melanie Sutton - I have been meeting with these two women each week over the past couple of months, two women who have always been dear friends of mine, but who are now becoming partners in the gospel, sources of intense encouragement and inspiration on the darkest days, voices of truth when the lies are attacking, prayer warriors, and people with whom I have shared some of the hardest of tears but also some of the hardest of laughs. Sisters in Christ, just as I feel He desired it to be.
- Proverbs 19:20 - I am so thankful that the Lord's purpose is always the one that prevails in my life, no matter what plans I may make. If my "plans" had come to fruition in my life, it would look quite different than it does now. But there is not an ounce of doubt in my mind that my life is more full of purpose and passion and joy and fulfillment because the Lord, in His mercy, took the reigns in my life and led me to people and places that I could NEVER have planned for.
- Romans 8:28 - There has never been a time in my life when I could look back and say that God wasn't faithful in not only working things out, but working things out for my BEST. In some of the most frustrating and hurtful experiences, He was at work shaping me and moving me in a way that now when I look back on those experiences, I actually look at them with joy and thanksgiving. That can't be explained outside of Him. He is forever faithful.
- Jeremiah 29:11 - As I mentioned, this has been one of the most insane years of my entire life...maybe the most insane one ever. And I will NEVER understand why, but in His grace, God has chosen to form in me a specific passion and has given me a vision for where my life is headed that I just don't deserve. He has been weaving things together and putting people in my path and is truly at work. Although the final picture is beyond unclear, I believe that the path is sure. And for whatever reason, He chooses to use me to work in His Kingdom, to be His hands and feet, to be a vessel of redemption and freedom and truth. This is a blessing that I couldn't feel more unworthy of, but for which I am overwhelmed with thankfulness.
- Jesus - No words do this one more justice than...
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
"...it actually gave me chills when she told me. Absolutely have 100% support from me. It’s sad that the world forces us to be politically correct so that we would avoid any religious issues in the work place. I really don’t like that. You should also know that along with myself, you all will have the support from the rest of the Executive Team! We will be more intentional here b/c I truly feel that it is what He wants for us and for this company. "
Monday, September 5, 2011
I really don’t dream much. Or if I do, I rarely wake up from them and I rarely remember them. Last night I had possibly the worst dream I’ve ever had in my life. It wasn’t like any other dream I can remember…it was vivid. It felt completely real. And it was really long. So there was never a point in it that I remember thinking, “This is a dream”. It was one of those dreams where when I woke up, I literally rejoiced in my bed upon the realization that it wasn’t real.
To get to my point, I have to share a little about the dream itself. Warning: this may be a tad graphic…sorry. I’ll spare you all the details, but basically I was in a big city and was taken by a gang (after watching them kill my dad) and most of the dream consisted of them taking me to different places and doing awful things to me...awful things…I won’t go into the specifics, but let’s just say that there were multiple times when I was begging them to just kill me.
Anyway, the POINT of me sharing this is that there was one part of the dream where they took me to a church and had me tied up. I can’t remember what they were actually doing to me, but I remember very clearly that there was a church service happening and they had me right in the middle of the sanctuary where everyone was meeting but nobody was paying an ounce of attention to me. I’m tied up and bleeding and crying out to everyone for help, but it was as if I was completely invisible. No one was even looking at me, much less attempting to rescue me.
And it wasn’t until I was describing the dream to some of my friends this morning that it all hit me.
I once heard Christine Caine (of the A21 Campaign) speak about the horrific things that are happening in the world around us today, but we just keep “playing church”. There are horrible things happening to innocent people today on our watch as the Body of Christ. And I would think that if these things were happening right in the middle of our church building, we would do something about them. But since it’s happening outside of our walls and in places where we can’t see them, it is easy for us to turn a blind eye.
I was reminded of our visit to the castle at Elmina in Ghana, West Africa, a few weeks ago. This castle is the biggest and oldest standing slave castle remaining in Africa. After touring the castle and hearing about the horrific acts of injustice that took place within those walls, we were taken to the top of the castle where there was a church. We were told that the church would actually meet there every week while right below them, people were getting raped, beaten, starving to death or dying from sickness because they were laying in their own waste. And the church would be only feet away from these people…just “playing church”.
It’s easy for us to look back on them and think, “How could the church know that this was happening right below them and not do something about it?! How could they just stand there knowing what was happening right under their noses???” But I wonder…what will future generations say about us?
"How could the church just stand by when they knew there were 925 million hungry people in the world? How could the church just stand by when they knew 27 million people in the world were held in slavery? How could the church just stand by with 143 million children living as orphans? How could the church just stand by while 1 million people were trafficked across international borders every year? How could they just keep playing church while they knew those things were happening?"
I am again brought back to what I said in my last post: it is the CHURCH that was not only called, but empowered, to set the captives free, heal the hurting, feed the hungry, BE THE HANDS AND FEET OF JESUS in this hurting and broken world. And it is only the church that has been given the authority to attack the gates of hell. Heaven help us if we choose to simply “play church” and forget the reason we’re on the planet!
So as horrific as that dream was last night, it was like God giving me this tiny little glimpse into what it must be like to be suffering and dying at the hands of another person, while the “hands and feet of Christ” turn a blind eye and just keep playing church. God, give us Your eyes so we can see!
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Learning all these things has done nothing but intensify the stirring in my heart for teen girls ministry, overseas work, and reaching out to hurting young women, particularly those being rescued from human trafficking. There were innumerable things that happened this past week that encouraged me or that answered questions that I had.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Of course Scripture tells us in Ecclesiastes 3 that there is a season for everything – to laugh, to mourn, to dance, to weep, to search, to give up, etc. But what I’m realizing is that usually when people (present company included) say, “it’s just a season”, that’s usually code for: “I don’t like how life looks right now, and I know that it won’t be like this forever, so I just have to get through this and hope that things will change.”
I write this post for those who find themselves in that place – discontent, frustrated with life, frustrated with God (or maybe outright angry with Him), impatient, fearful – or at the very least, anxious – about the future and the unknown. These are all places where I’ve found myself over the past few months. Everyone’s “seasons” are going to look a little different, but here’s, for example, what my season has been looking like:
- God called me out of a job that I loved, that I was comfortable in, and in which I had developed innumerable deep relationships. But he called me out of it without giving me a clear picture of what was next. It was the whole Abraham “I’m-not-gonna-show-you-exactly-where-you’re-going-but-I’m-telling-you-to-move” call. This has proven to be really difficult.
- Over the past few weeks, He has given me these small tastes of what He wants to use me for in the Kingdom and has shown me what makes me come alive, when He is most at work through me, but I haven’t really seen them come together or come to fruition yet. These “small tastes” have done nothing but intensify my desire to be able to spend my time and energy in them while also intensifying my discontent in doing anything less.
- There is a heaviness in my heart for all the chapters in my life that are closing and the relationships that are forever changing as a result. I am so thankful that He has given me friendships that have turned into “family”, but many of those people are leaving as permanent fixtures in my life.
- Various circumstances continue to remind me of unrealized desires in my own life as most of my friends are all married and now having children. I am becoming the only one in my “circle” not building a family, and the possibility of this dream never being realized is continually difficult for me to try and accept.
- I have been blessed with a free home to live in and in all honesty, if I were to hand-pick a family to live with, I couldn’t find one more wonderful than this family. But to be in my late 20’s living in someone else’s home with most of my belongings in storage is another thing that feeds into this dissatisfaction / unsettled feeling during this season.
This was when God gave me a powerful reminder that it is in this place that I have no choice but to rest in those things that I KNOW are true and are constant: that God is faithful. God is good. God is at work. He will never leave me. He will never forsake me. He will finish the work He has started in me. He has not forgotten me. He is always out for my good. With ever-changing circumstances all around me, with all of the unknowns and all of the questions, I can know that He is still God. He is still on the throne. As one of my favorite songs says:
I am thankful that in an ocean full of questions and unknowns, there is a rock on which to stand. And at the end of the day, this is all I can rest in. This is what allows me to stand in this season. I have to pray daily for the grace to rest in what I know that I know that I KNOW is true.
God brought back to mind a lesson that he taught me on a trail back in Febuary of this year. I didn’t even realize at the time how desperately I was going to need to understand this lesson over the coming months.
I was walking on a trail at Tims Ford State Park. The first half of the trail was paved and close to the main park road. The second half of the trail, though, was not paved and went down into the forest of trees. There was NO ONE out there.
There were these moments while walking when I would look down ahead of me and couldn’t see a path at all. I would start to worry that once I got up to that point, the trail would just stop and I would have no idea where to go and would be lost in the middle of the woods. It happened a few times. I would look ahead, not see a trail, and start to freak out a little bit inside. But it never failed…once I got up to that part that I was so worried about, there would be a path – it’s just that I couldn’t see it earlier from my vantage point.
Eventually, every time I would look too far ahead and start getting worried, I would literally have to tell myself, “Melanie, stop worrying. There will be a path.” And then I realized that if I would just stop trying to look so far ahead, I wouldn’t even be tempted to worry! So I had to start telling myself, “Just focus on the next step or two ahead of you, enjoy the scenery around you, and there will be a path.”
So God has again brought me back to that place and reminded me to stop trying to look so far down the path, because from my vantage point, I can’t see the whole thing. It’s ridiculous to try to lean on my own, limited understanding. I just need to focus on the step or two in front of me and enjoy the scenery, enjoy the journey, enjoy HIM, and trust that He will make my path straight. And I’m trusting in something much more reliable than a trail in a park; I’m trusting in the Almighty, ever-faithful God.
These are the things that are helping me survive “the season”. And I pray that they might be an encouragement to those of you who find yourself in a season as well. When life is not what you want it to be, is full of questions, or is full of fear, you have to stand on what you know that you know that you know. Trust in He who is same yesterday, today, and forever.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
I am sitting in my dorm here at Bluefield College after being blown away ONCE AGAIN by Him…and it’s prompting me to write. The past week-and-a-half has been an amazing experience at Impact Virginia camps. Impact travels around the state of Virginia each summer putting on service camps for junior high and high school students. My good friend, Dana Jorgensen, asked this past spring if I would be willing to speak for a couple of weeks of Impact this summer…and my immediate thought was that he meant I would come and maybe speak at a session or two….nope… I would be the one and only speaker for the camp, so I would be teaching each and every night. This was not something I had ever done before. My “speaking engagements” in the past have been to groups of 20-40 students, most of whom I know personally. This was going to be standing in front of 150 – 200 kids (and adults) who don’t know a thing about me.
That’s when the fears and the lies started sweeping in. I was hit with just about every one in the book:
- What if they don’t like me? They’ll be stuck with me for a whole week!
- What if I’m boring and I look out and everyone’s asleep?
- What if I try to crack jokes and no one laughs?
- There are so many speakers better than me that could do this.
- I can’t communicate to a large group in a way that would be inspiring.
- Why would they ask me?!
- I’m not equipped enough.
- I’m not wise enough.
- I’m going to get on stage and freeze up.
Yeah…and that was only the beginning of them. Lie after lie and fear after fear. I very reluctantly took them to God and He did what He does best and just started squashing those lies and those fears with His truth.
First of all, “you’re worried about what they will think of you?!” That’s when I received a swift kick in the rear with Isaiah 26:8 that says “Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts”. This has nothing to do with Melanie or Melanie’s name. I realized that if those students left camp not remembering my name, but remembering the name of Jesus, that was going to be victory. This was so much bigger than me.
So on to lie #2…”you don’t think you’re equipped or wise enough to do this? You’re right! In and of your own power, you don’t have the ability to do this.” And then, the next kick in the rear: 1 Cor. 1:27 – “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”
He reminded me that this has everything to do with Him, His power, His name, His glory…and nothing to do with my own. So…I had no excuses left or reasons to say no. I agreed to do this, with a mixture of excitement, anticipation, and anxiety. (Not gonna lie…as I was driving to Virginia a week-and-a-half ago, I actually had a vision pop in my head of me getting on stage and literally freezing up and having to just walk off stage.)
Fast-forward a week and a half and I have just been floored by the way God works. I had to learn a lesson early on in this experience. On the first night of the first week, I had a short session that was mainly just me introducing myself and the theme for the week…it actually went pretty well and I was feeling good about things. I got laughter to my jokes and felt like I received a warm welcome. So going into the second night (which was really our first official teaching session), I was feeling pretty confident. Problem: I was feeling confident in myself.
So I get up to speak the second night and I’m feelin’ good. I think it was a total subconscious thing, because I don’t believe I would have been able to verbalize this to anyone, but I just had this “I-got-this” attitude happening and I think I said a short prayer right before I got on stage, but I was feeling pretty good in and of myself. There was no desperation for God or the Holy Spirit’s work that night.
So the teaching begins that night and I’m telling you…I was NOT feeling it. I felt like nothing was really sinking in, the room felt empty of power, and I just felt like I was talking to a wall. I didn’t experience any of that feeling when you know that He is working and speaking through you. It was discouraging…and it brought me to my knees in my room that night. I would find out (over a week later) that the session that night actually went well and was impactful, but it’s almost as if God would not allow me to experience it. I had gone in with a self-reliant attitude that night, and thankfully God did not allow me to get away with that.
I realized how very foolish it was of me to go in thinking “I got this…”. Did I not remember the
lessons He had taught me coming into this?! This was bigger than me. I was going to need His presence and His power with me every step of the way and in every word that came out of my mouth. God took me to John 15 and reminded me that it was not just a good idea, but it was vital for me to stay connected to the vine, because “APART FROM ME YOU CAN DO NOTHING”.
Every night since then, I have found time before the worship session to go away by myself and just get on my face before Him, begging and pleading for Him to work and to move and to change hearts and to pour out His Spirit on that room…to do all of the things that I cannot do. And I feel like He’s just been showing off ever since. He has been taking the little scraps that I’ve been offering to Him every night and working in ways that literally cannot be described outside of Him.
It’s honestly been a little difficult accepting the words of encouragement and the praise and the thanks from the people at the camps – the “what-you-said-really-impacted-me” type statements – because every part of me just wants to grab these people by the shoulders and be like, “I’m telling you. The words may have come out of my mouth, but I have NO power in and of myself. Those words were HIS to YOU and that was the Spirit of GOD impacting you and inspiring you and changing you.” The reality is that I can’t exactly do that to everyone who comes up to me, because I think I would start freaking everyone out around here. But I just want to shout from the rooftops that I cannot do anything outside of Him…I am literally nothing in my own power.
Last week, there was a man (a grown man, mind you…not a student) who came up to me late Tuesday night (long after the worship session) and handed me a two-page document and asked me to read it and give me his thoughts. He said he hadn’t written anything in probably 10 years, but was inspired to write, because God had moved in him that night. It was his testimony – a testimony that ended with “tonight, sitting on the back row and listening to Melanie speak, I realized what my purpose was…” I could do nothing in that moment but just fall on my face and praise Jesus. He ended up sharing his testimony with the whole camp later that week.
Now we’re at a new location and last night after the worship session, one of the older students here asked if he could share his testimony at some point. So this morning, he got up in front of the 200 students and adults and shared about how his mother had died last year from cancer and how He had run away from God, but this spring, God brought Him back. He then said that “It was last night, listening to you speak (pointing at me) that I realized why I’m here and what my purpose is…” And I could do nothing but just utter with my lips, “Praise Christ”.
This is not the stuff that can be manufactured by man. I do not have the ability to change hearts. I don’t even have the ability to change my own heart! God. God alone. He alone can change hearts. He alone can take lives and turn them around.
It’s crazy, because the more I am seeing Him move and the more fruit I am witnessing, the more desperate I am for Him. It’s another one of those amazing paradoxes. He fully satisfies the thirsty, but always leaves them thirsty for more. I am so thankful that He brought me to my knees last Monday night, reminding me that I am nothing and can do nothing apart from Him. It makes me wonder why I don’t go into every single day with this desperation for Him to move. I wonder how much more we would all experience of Him and how much of a difference He would make in our worlds through us if we chose to walk in His power every single day. I wonder…
At the end of our days and at the end of our lives, may there be nothing left to say, but “Praise Christ”!
Saturday, June 11, 2011
- There are approximately 300,000 trafficking victims today in the U.S. ...yes...right here (and if there are 300,000 victims used 30-40 times a day, how many men are participating in buying women and children? Do the math...)
- There are only 50 beds in safe-houses for these 300,000 victims. (My good friend and I have been continually praying about the possibility of opening a home for victims in the states...this fact just encouraged/inspired us even more)
- Every minute, two children are forced into sex trafficking. That means that in one full day, 2,880 children have been forced into this horrific world (if I did my math right....)
- Sex-trafficked children are raped 8-30 times per day
- There is $32 billion in total yearly profits in human trafficking
- "Pimping" is an art...good grief, it blew me away. These people are highly skilled at what they do (and are actually able to share their skills through various pimping books and conferences held nationwide).
- The average cost to "de-virginize" an 8-9 year old is $50K (the younger they are, the more expensive they are)
- The vast majority of prostituted children in America are American girls (most people think that the majority are girls from other countries that are shipped to the states)
- For you Tennesseans, 78 out of the 95 counties in TN have had some form of human trafficking in the last two years
- I just want to continue to be part of raising awareness of this horrific issue in the world.
- I want to challenge you to ask God to break your heart for what breaks His. As I said earlier, there are countless ways that our enemy is attacking in this world. By no means do I expect people to be passionate about this issue. But I pray that God would give you eyes to see the broken and the hurting and give you a fire in your gut about something out there, whether it be a heart for the sick, the addict, the poverty-stricken, the broken family, fill-in-the-blank.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
In October 2008, I met Jenna Monforte who lives outside of Atlanta, GA. Jenna and I hit it off like none other and quickly realized that our hearts were totally in tune with one another on so many levels. In January 2009, she asked if I would like to come down to help with a teen girls event she was putting together called InsideOut. I led a small group and also spoke at one of the main sessions at the event. I will never forget that first InsideOut weekend. There was this thing in me that just came so alive around that event, something that went crazy in my spirit! The weekend was truly amazing and Jenna and I started dreaming of what it might look like if we “packaged” the event and took it to other communities and other churches. We knew that God had given us a fire and a passion for reaching young women and speaking truth into their lives. I started praying like crazy that He would put other women in our lives who not only shared the vision, but were willing to invest their lives into it.
Simultaneously, God had really been breaking my heart for what was happening outside my little world. I particularly was broken over the issue of human trafficking. There were few things that broke my heart more than the thought of children and girls and women being traded and used as sex slaves. He also started to develop in me a real passion for the nations and a desire to be involved in missions and reaching those who were not being reached around the world. I spent a month in Uganda, Africa in November 2009 and my experience there only intensified that stirring.
We had over 80 girls attend the first Franklin InsideOut in January 2010, and the girls really seemed to love and get a lot out of the weekend. We did another InsideOut in February 2010 in Georgia, but with the busy-ness of our own respective ministries, Jenna and I were not really able to explore the possibilities of doing more with InsideOut. However, I think there’s still always been something in mine and Jenna’s hearts that have never stopped dreaming about that possibility.
In early summer 2010, I met a girl named Ashley Morales while doing some volunteer flood relief in East Nashville. Ashley worked with teenagers through YoungLife, and she told me she had been dreaming about putting together a teen girls weekend event that she could take to Hispanic communities. Her heart behind the vision was everything that we had envisioned for InsideOut, and we had the same heart-to-heart connection that I had with Jenna when I first met her. We exchanged info, talked about getting together, but never actually did.
Also, in the summer of 2010, I was invited by my friend Melanie to a girls event in Franklin called Girl Talk. I was amazed to find that Girl Talk was almost a spitting image of what we did with InsideOut. It also re-ignited that passion in me for InsideOut and all that we had dreamed for it.
The emcee for Girl Talk was Hetti-Marie Barroll. She was incredible, and I thought of how awesome it would be for her to be part of InsideOut that year, but honestly thought there was probably no way that I could get her. A week or so later, I was at my office job and got a text from some of my junior high girls. They said, “Do you remember Hetti-Marie from Believe? She is here at Harpeth with her kids for the summer movie day and she said she would come and do something for us any time we wanted it!” I could hardly believe it. It was like God was saying, “You want her? You got her!” So of course I told them to get her info, and when I got to the church office later that day, there was a note written on a napkin from Hetti-Marie with her phone number and e-mail, saying that she would be willing to come “talk to the girls” anytime.
In early fall, I spoke at an event at Franklin Christian Academy where they split up the guys and the girls. I soon found out that the other speaker coming was Monique Zackery, the founder of the Girl Talk event I had gone to in the spring! I got to meet Monique and we talked about getting together, but weren’t ever really able to connect.
In October 2010, I was at the Catalyst conference in Atlanta, and during a prayer after one specific session, I unexpectedly started feeling that can’t-breathe-heart-pounding-out-of-your-chest kind of feeling and I truly believe that God said to me “it’s time.” I didn’t know what it meant, but I sensed that He was saying it was time to MOVE on the things He had been stirring in my heart for the past couple of years. I knew that my life was about to take a massive turn.
I spent a few weeks praying and fasting and continued to be confirmed that God was calling me into a new season. I researched organizations that were working with sex trafficking victims and also started talking with Shawn and Linda Tyler, who have been leading a mission team in East Africa for almost 30 years. After much prayer and thought (and realizing that at some point, I was going to need to make a decision and move forward), in November 2010, I made the decision to move forward in working with the team in Mbale, Uganda.
There was definitely a part of me that started immediately mourning what I was going to be sacrificing by going. I realized that my dreams for InsideOut were going to have to be laid on the altar before God. I knew that I would be able to minister to the young girls in Uganda, but it wasn’t going to look the same. This was an extremely hard thing for me to lay down, but I knew I was going to have to.
Meanwhile, 2011 was approaching and plans were underway for what I believed was going to be my last InsideOut in Franklin. Hettie-Marie and I met for lunch on Oct. 19, and during the middle of our lunch, the door to the restaurant opened, and Monique Zackery walks in! She saw us, came over, and said “HEY, how do you guys know each other?!” Little did I know that Monique and Hetti-Marie were good friends!
Re-connecting with Monique that day reminded us about getting together, so on November 12, Monique and I met for lunch. We talked for almost three full hours and it was incredible to talk with someone who shares the same vision, same passion, and same heart. All of a sudden, I started realizing, “Wait, women like Ashley, Hetti-Marie, and Monique are who I have been PRAYING for two years to meet!” Monique shared her heart with me not only for teen girls but also her heart for the issue of human trafficking. I told her that I had also forever had a brokenness in my heart for that very issue. We also started planning on her (and her husband) speaking at InsideOut.
InsideOut Franklin quickly arrived and I was so excited about having Monique and Hetti-Marie involved in the event. We had about 60 girls come, and it was an amazing weekend. And after hearing some of the things the girls had to say hours (and days) after the event ended, it was obvious that GOD HAD MOVED and hearts had been changed. There were innumerable moments throughout the weekend where I felt that “jump in my spirit”, where I just felt like I was right in the middle of the zone of what I was created to do. I felt like I was experiencing God’s pleasure, and there’s nothing – NOTHING – like that.
In February, I spoke at a women’s event at the church, and even that morning with a demographic I didn’t typically speak to, I got that same “jump in my spirit”. After the event that morning, three women came up to me and said, “We have no idea why we’re coming to tell you this, but God has been laying so heavily on our hearts the idea of putting together a weekend event for women.” One of them said, “We know you’re leaving so there’s really no way for you to be involved in this, but for some reason, God was just telling me while you were speaking that we should come tell you.”
That was the final straw for me. There had been innumerable things happening over the previous weeks, and I couldn’t ignore it anymore. God was quite obviously trying to get my attention, so I just had to call a “time out” on everything. Why would these doors start opening for me NOW? Was this Satan trying to pull me away from what God was calling me to? Was God just waiting for me to fully surrender those things to Him so He could work and bless them? I was thrown for a total loop and had no idea what to do. I talked to a few very wise people in my life and they all agreed that the way things had been unfolding over the past few weeks were quite notable and encouraged me to explore them and be open to God steering me in a direction that I maybe hadn’t expected.
I immediately contacted Monique to see if she could get together. So on February 11, we met and I told her everything that had been going on. I asked if she had ever dreamed about Girl Talk being more than what it is right now. And I had no idea what was coming next.
Monique said she had actually been praying for months about what was next for this ministry. She told me about overseas teams in Ghana, Sudan, and the Ukraine who have been asking her to bring Girl Talk to them. She said she dreamed of taking Girl Talk to other communities in the states and using it to minister to girls who had been pulled out of sex trafficking.
Monique told me that a few weeks ago, a friend of theirs from New York had contacted her and told her about this girl that she needed to meet named Ashley Morales. And my jaw dropped. I said, “Ashley Morales that lives in Nashville?” I just couldn’t believe it. I told her that I had randomly met Ashley that previous summer working flood relief! It was getting pretty impossible to believe that all of our connections with one another were coincidental. Monique said that after meeting with her, she started thinking about how much better it would be for them to link arms and do this girls ministry together as opposed to building two separate ministries!
She had already been meeting with some consultants about the possibility of having a non-profit umbrella that would encompass Girl Talk, potentially Ashley’s Hispanic ministry, and then other things as well – including missions (taking Girl Talk overseas) and even the possibility of opening a home in the states for young women being brought out of sex trafficking.
Monique also mentioned that a publishing company in the potential that might have the potential for being a “backer” for this. She said that she had thought about putting together teen girls curriculum, including a Bible study that the girls could do with leaders from their church after the event. Once again, I could hardly believe my ears. I told Monique that three years ago, I started writing a Bible study for teen girls. It was just one thing after another.
I told Monique that I had come to this point where I felt like God was asking me to lay down those things that I had dreamed about. There is a “yes” in my heart for teen girls, a “yes” in my heart for teaching, a “yes” in my heart for music and worship, a “yes” in my heart for missions, and a “yes” in my heart for those who are victims of sex trafficking. She said she didn’t believe that God gives anyone multiple passions and gifts just to make them choose one. There is no reason that God can’t take every one of those things and weave them together in something that will allow me to say “yes” to every last one. He is orderly. He is creative.
The calling in my heart that I received in October to “go” was real. But looking back, what I clearly believed I’d heard God say at that moment was: “It’s time to move on the things that I’ve been stirring in your heart for years.” I automatically assumed that meant I was moving overseas. But is it possible that maybe I just wasn’t clearly seeing exactly what that calling was going to look like? Proverbs says that men will plan their lives, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. I feel like the call to “go” and to “move” were very real, but I believe that God is steering me in a direction that I completely did not expect and was certainly not seeking out.
I don’t know for sure what to do with all of this. But I know this: when God seems to be moving and orchestrating and stirring passions and weaving people into each other’s lives, it’s hard to imagine walking away from that! Not when you KNOW that it is those very things that make your spirit come alive. That is something that cannot be ignored and cannot be cast aside.
For a few weeks now, I have been continuing to pray and ponder, asking God to throw a boulder down on this thing if this is not His BEST for me. But there have just been continual confirmations in my spirit that I must pursue the things that God seems to be weaving together in front of me. I have no idea what this looks like a year or even 6 months from now, but it seems almost foolish for me to see God moving so evidently and not follow. So that is where I find myself. And who knows…it may be that two years from now, I will find myself living in Uganda doing the very thing I had originally thought. At the end of the day, I just want to be living and serving in the place where I can be MOST effective for the Kingdom in using what He has given me to its fullest extent. And so the journey continues…