You Belong Here
My name is Monique and I was born and raised here in Dallas and grew up with both parents. I have a small family, a brother and a sister and we didn’t really have much faith in us. I was raised in a Catholic home, but I will say this. I went to a Catholic church, but I didn’t really, I just took up space there. I didn’t really have knowledge of God at all.
So growing up, I kind of just made my own decisions and did what I wanted. My dad was strict and gave me a set of rules, but never told me why to do things and or why not to do things. He was a Vietnam veteran. He was a funny guy. So I get a lot of my personality from him. My mom was a good mother. She’s still with me. She lives with me. So she’s a good mom, she helps me. My dad has passed on. He, I left this part out, I’m sorry, he was an alcoholic and he had a lot of abandonment issues and dealt with a lot of rejection. Although he did the best he could, as a father, he dealt with a lot of unresolved hurt and pain.
Growing up, I saw a lot of things that I shouldn’t have. He was very loving towards me. He did the best he could, but he didn’t show me what sobriety looked like. So I thought that was normal growing up. I thought that alcohol was a part of life. And so at every function, that’s all I would see, you know, day to day, there was always alcohol involved, no matter what, there was just always alcohol involved. He’d wake up, there was a drink. He’d go to sleep, there was a drink. So that’s what I remember. I don’t mean that in a dishonoring way, because my dad raised himself, basically. He never had a mother and his own father just rejected him. So he did the best that he could and he, yeah, he was very loving.
At a very young age, about 16 years old, being that I was so rebellious, I got involved with an older boyfriend and I ended up moving out of the house very early. So by 16 I moved out of the house, and I moved in with an old boyfriend. That was sort of a blessing and a curse because I settled down but at the same time I was doing things that a 16 year old should not be doing. So it was almost like in a marriage, I was living as if I was married. But of course, I wasn’t married, and I was unsaved. I just didn’t have any kind of structure or faith or just anything.
So that [relationship] lasted about seven years and during that time of seven years, you know, I was working. I was living what I thought was an okay life. You know, I financed my first home, I was working in banking. I thought, Okay, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m living a normal lifestyle. In between that time, I would attend the occasional happy hour. I would, you know, go out sometimes. But I would look at friends who were partying and drinking and just doing things that 20 year olds were doing and I wasn’t doing that, I was living with a boyfriend. So I thought, Okay, I’m doing okay. But then that relationship ended and I got involved with someone that I had actually known when I was younger, during my much more rebellious years. That’s when, when my life really changed, and it wasn’t in a good way. That’s when I really think that a lot of the things that I experienced when I was younger, or I saw when I was younger, I think those things were kind of what I call “dormant” and then they all came to surface.
I got involved in a very toxic relationship and he was just not a great person. He lived sort of a criminal lifestyle and I went from a person who was very honest, who had a very good job, who had my own house – I was single, no kids – and I just started partying and drinking and was exposed to a lifestyle I wasn’t used to. I was attending strip clubs and after hour bars. I mean like, when I say partying I mean, like, all night long till 5, 6, 7 o’clock in the morning, the next day.
Of course, I ended up losing my job, I ended up losing my home and I ended up pregnant with my first son. I thought that maybe having a son would slow my lifestyle down. But I was too busy trying to keep up with the person that I was with and I just couldn’t. And he wasn’t a person that wanted to settle down. He wanted to live a fast paced lifestyle. So I couldn’t keep up with him. I couldn’t and I was being torn down.
When I say criminal lifestyle, I mean drugs. Also, he was a thief. And it’s hard for me to talk about this, because for a long time, I couldn’t. Because my father didn’t raise me this way. But, I didn’t have discernment and God wasn’t in my life at that point. Or, He was there, but I wasn’t open to Him. I started to follow his footsteps. So I became just like him. And I don’t blame him because he was blind to it, but I became just like him. So I became a thief just like him. So that was like the way I earned my living because I didn’t have a job. I went from a person who was so honest to a complete, dishonest person and I ended up for the first time, I remember I ended up in jail.
I remember I hadn’t even gotten a speeding ticket before. I thought to myself, How did I end up here? My dad, who was this honorable veteran, who served his country…How, how? If he was here, how would he feel about the things that I was doing, the lifestyle that I was living? He would be so upset with me. And my family was so upset, nobody could believe the way that I had turned out and the person that I had become. I was so lost and in just darkness. I just couldn’t find myself and I had nobody there to pull me out.
I ended up in jail more than once. I actually ended up in jail quite a few times. And then finally, I just said, “You know what, I can’t keep up with him anymore. I can’t, I can’t keep doing this. I have to separate myself.” But I kept living that lifestyle. I kept trying to keep up with that lifestyle because I was addicted to that. I was addicted with partying with drinking. It started with drinking and then I ended up getting involved with drugs. I became a full blown alcoholic. I would drink while I was driving. I would drink while my kids were in the car. There were times I would wake up and I wouldn’t even remember how I got there. I just know now, looking back in hindsight, that God was there. He saved me and He saved me from hurting other people.
I remember the last time that I ended up in jail, I’d never spoken to God. I just said, “God, I’m so tired of this life. I’m so tired of what I’ve become and I know I don’t deserve this, but if You’re real, I need Your help. I need You to help me. I know I deserve to be here and I’ve done everything that you can imagine that’s wrong. But if You’re real, I need You to help me because I cannot do this by myself.” and it was sitting in a jail cell. I remember telling myself specifically, “I deserve to be here.”
That evening I went down to the population area where the inmates have a meal. I sat down with a girl, and she had a Bible. She wasn’t speaking with anybody. She wasn’t sitting with anybody and she kind of had an intimidating face on her. She invited me to sit down with her. So I sat with her and she asked me where I was from, and asked me a couple of questions, and she just looked at me in my face and she said, “You don’t belong here.” And in that moment, I just said, “What?” And she said, “You don’t belong here.” When I had just said to myself in the cell upstairs, that I belong here. It was almost like the voice of God, telling me that I don’t belong there. She didn’t know in that moment the things that she was breaking off of me.
She said, “I’m going to write your name, I’m going to put it in my Bible and you’re going home because you don’t belong here.” She must have repeated it a few times. And I just kept thinking, Why does she keep saying that? And I remember there were girls in there that kept waiting weeks and weeks for court dates, and court appointed attorneys. They were just waiting to be seen so they could go home. And within a week, not only did I have a court date and a court appointed attorney, but I got sent home.
I saw the mercy of God through my whole court situation and judges. I should have received prison time, and instead I got probation. It was just like, I kept seeing these scenarios, and I kept thinking, like, Where’s this coming from? I didn’t know God, I didn’t know anything about anything that He can do. I didn’t know that He was revealing Himself. I didn’t know anything about His word. I hadn’t even read Scripture yet. So for me to have my experience of God in jail tells you who He is. That He doesn’t, He’s not afraid to go into the darkest places to find you. And that’s what I love about Him. Sometimes I sit back, and I wonder if she was actually real. What she said was too prophetic. In my cell alone! No one knew what I said, But God. So for me to say, I belong here, and for her to speak and literally say the exact opposite. I know that’s God. I wondered to this day if she was actually real, or if she was angelic.
I do believe that the Lord sends His angels to not only watch over us, but to speak over us. And so for her to be that specific, she had no idea, or maybe she did, but I had no idea ,should I say, the things that she was breaking off of me in that moment, the lies of the enemy that she was breaking off on me in that moment. I felt like, even now, I can look back now, I had no idea at that moment, the strongholds that she was breaking off of me. And I won’t say that it was like a moment where it was just, you know, that was just immediately life changing. And I want to emphasize that, because I know for some people that it’s immediate, like when they receive salvation, or maybe they receive the presence of God and they’re immediately changed. And for some people, it’s not.
For my process, it was not. It was not. There was still so much that I had to go through, to change. There was so much. I mean, there was so much pruning, and so much crushing. It took years and years, but it was for good, and I don’t resent any of it. It was not easy. Some of it was so painful. I was wired one way for so long, that I literally had to be rewired a different way. So that took time.
I was in church for two years, and I don’t want to say anything bad about this place. I’m not even mentioning names. But I was in a mega church for two years and I remember I still felt lost. I asked God, I said, “I need You to plant me in a place, because I know there’s more, where I can be discipled.” I didn’t even know what that word meant. I kept hearing, I kept watching sermons, I remember, like on YouTube, and I said, “I need to be in a place where I can be mentored, I need help. I need help.”
So He sent me to this place, a much smaller church. I remember when I walked in, I used to be so guilty and so filled with shame and condemnation. I’m covered in – I don’t know if you can see. – but I’m covered in tattoos, both arms completely sleeved. Everywhere I would go, I would always cover up, all the time. I mean, I’m covered up now because I’m cold, but everywhere I would go I was covered up, especially in church.
I remember the first time I went to the church that I’m in now, my pastors, he saw that I kept doing this thing with my sleeves, and I can cover it myself. He looked at me and he gave me this face. I thought, Oh my gosh, I’m gonna be embarrassed somehow. And he said, “You don’t have to do that here. What are you doing?” He’s like, “You don’t have to do that here.” And I knew in that moment, Okay, I think I found a place where I’m welcomed and I’m gonna, I’m gonna find good people here that are going to help disciple me. Immediately he connected me with our associate pastor.
She was gifted and just not only healing, but just how to show me how to connect with Holy Spirit. I sat down with her and I shared. I was so afraid that if I shared with people what I had done, the lifestyle that I was living, with people, they were going to look at me like I was a criminal. They’re going to be afraid. They’re gonna hide their purses and their wallets. They’re gonna think, I was a thief, or I was an addict, or I was an alcoholic, they’re not going to be open to trusting me and loving me. But she was just the opposite. She loved me, she embraced me, she discipled me, she helped me. I thought, Oh my god, this must be how God sees me. This is how He accepts me, this is how He loves me. She literally showed me the love of God.
From that moment forward, I knew I wanted more of this. I want more now. When I wake up, I think of Him. When I go to sleep, I think of Him. He is on my mind all the time. And I know that may sound silly to some, but God’s face literally is on my mind and on my heart all the time. I think of Him. He is my Father, my Lord. He’s everything to me, every, every need, everything I want. I can honestly say that I am happy in life, that my heart is full. Whatever He has in store for me, I’m fine. It literally is well.
I went from such an angry, bitter person who was just, I was mad for so many reasons, for allowing myself to become a criminal and an alcoholic and all those things. I was even mad because I was a mother raising kids alone. And now I see what God saved me from and even what He allowed in my life.
I used to be all about myself. About me, me, me. He has put such a heart in me for people because I know what it feels like to walk alone, not belong. I know what it feels like to be labeled a certain way, an alcoholic, a criminal. I know what it feels like for people to judge you. So when I walk in a room now – I’m not saying that it’s me. It’s because the Spirit of God that I have in me. – I bring joy to people. I look for those I know that I can bring joy to.
I love to make people laugh. I love to seek those that need God in their heart. They need something different. I look for those outcasts that were just like me. They’re trying to hide. They’re full of shame, full of condemnation, and are afraid to speak up. I look for those who are just like me, because I’m thankful for those that did the same thing for me. So where I fit when I found my church family I knew that this was home. I knew that these were my people. Finally, like, here I am. I’m planted here. These are my people. We are family and that is the truth. I belong there.