“God’s Plan is Bigger Than My Dream”: Coffee with my friend Monica Bates

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This past weekend I had coffee with my fierce friend Monica Bates…I say fierce on purpose and you will find out why when you read on.  I don’t have time to explain the details of how Monica and I crossed paths and became friends but I can tell you this…I’m blessed it happened, and I am forever changed.

Currently, Monica is the coordinator for Intimate Life at Gateway Church, married to the amazing Brandon Bates(who is a crazy wise man of God…and friends with my hubby), and has three beautiful daughters Kalin, Jaden, and Gabrielle.

Monica is strong, stable, and safe.  I am not sure why three “s” words came to mind…but they did.  I was so affected by her words and the time she took to pour wisdom into me that I had to park in a parking lot afterwards to go have a moment with the Lord and cry it out.  I’m serious…it shook me….in an oh-so-good way.  Honestly, I hope it shakes you too.

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Me:  If you could have coffee with anyone, who would it be with?  Dead or Alive.

Monica:  Just one person?

Me: You can do both….one dead….one alive.  (chuckles from both of us)

Monica:  You know…this is probably the craziest, but I would have coffee with Oprah.  Seeing her story of abuse and seeing her story of recovery and seeing her story of how she has come to where she is….there is a mindset that she has had and a focus that is phenomenal and you don’t see it in many people and you don’t see it in many women…so she is one person that I would just say….okay….and honestly before I got saved it wasn’t just Oprah but Whoopi Goldberg.  I would watch Whoopi before I was saved….I didn’t get saved until I was 30….and I would think to myself in a situation….what would Oprah and Whoopi do?  Because I saw their strength and their tenacity and boldness and I would think how would they handle the situation.  They probably wouldn’t take this off of this person or they probably wouldn’t just sit in this situation…so that kind of boldness and tenacity…..I’ve always wanted.  I always wanted to learn about it.  Then…..um….I am thinking about Peter in the Bible…because he is radical too.

Me:  He is radical.

Monica:  And I think….I know I have that in me.  I think I am very radical and I hide because sometimes I get afraid….

Me:  Like Peter.

Monica:  Yeah.  God has given me this justice thing in me…where I stand up for the justice of His daughters and for His people.  So yeah….it would be Peter and Oprah.

Me:  Together.  That would be amazing!!!

Monica: (Chuckles at my crazy vision) Yes…together.

Me:  Okay, so….I want to know about your heart.  I want to know what makes you sad.  I want to know what makes you happy, and what your passion is.  So…what makes you sad?

Monica:  What makes me sad is seeing people not walking in their destiny and who they are.  What makes me sad is seeing people not know their identity.  Because when people….I call it walking along side themselves…..they are so lost.  I feel like it is a ride at Disney World where the car is in the water and there are these bumpers…and God kind of gives us this way to kind of go back and forth…they are His boundaries for us.  But so many people don’t work within those boundaries they work outside of them and it causes so many problems.  Like if you stepped outside of those boundaries on that ride you would probably die…or you would get hurt.  When people are not walking in their true selves and how God wired them, that makes me sad.  And even in the work that I do…I realize…that is what makes me really sad….seeing everyone broken.  They are broken because someone broke them….broke their heart….broke their soul when they were young…seeing that…I don’t like that…at all.

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Me:  What makes you happy?

Monica:  What makes me happy….um….again…seeing people walking in their identity.  But really…my family…my girls…my three daughters.  They’re such a blessing to me….um…they give me such a hope…because um…part of my testimony is that my parents were married when I was born, but they divorced when I was 12.  My sibling was…um…at that time they called them hyper active but it was more schizophrenic and Asperger’s Syndrome.  And when my parents divorced we became latch-key kids…my mom was a single mom.  We grew up that way in a suburban area in Maryland.  My sibling always had violent outbursts and violent things that they would do…from punching holes in the walls to breaking windows when they would be upset and not get their way….so I saw that pattern growing up.  I know there was a time when we were home alone and it was after school, and I was on the phone downstairs and I saw this smoke coming from our light….I’m thinking “Why is that light smoking?”  Then it started smoking more and more.  I go into the hallway and I go up the steps and there is black smoke everywhere and I am screaming for my sibling…and they run out saying, “I’m so sorry…I’m so sorry.”  “What do you mean?  What did you do?”  The house is then filled with smoke.  They had set something on fire and put it in their closet and our whole house was on fire.  I had to get them out, run down the street to a neighbor…and it was just like this total chaos.  I walked away from that thinking, “If I…had not been on the phone…If I would have not…..it wouldn’t have happened.”  And I took all this responsibility for my sibling which I shouldn’t have had.  This is why I am happy…..I’m getting to the happy part.  What has brought me to this is that….I got accepted to school…I was excited…my mom was excited.  That first semester my sibling and my mother got into an altercation and my sibling killed my mom.  From that point my life just spiraled downward.  I stayed in school for about a year and a half…actually it was longer than that….I stayed in school long enough to graduate…but I didn’t graduate.  I had 132 credits and I didn’t graduate because I just….I pushed and pushed and never got any help.  Like healing…for me.  So….fast forward to the birth of our first daughter in 2000 having those girls gave me such a hope and it brought joy back into my life.  Because prior to that…I was pretending to be happy.  Having those girls showed me how much God loved me, and how much He loved us and to work through us to have these three amazing…I mean they are just dynamic.  They are unique and funny and talented and creative…and they love God.  It just blesses my life so much.  Every time I see them it makes my heart happy…and it lets me know that God is real.  You know?  There’s hope.  Redemption.

Me:  Wow…I will get to passion in a second….I think I want to know about your story.  I want to know about your story more and I’m sure your passion will come out of it.  And also…how you got to the Lord?  Where was He this whole way?

Monica:  Well, I think for a long time I just saw such brokenness in women….I didn’t like women….because of what women had done to me….or what happened to the one woman in my life.  I realized that I had this thing with women and so I became kind of….not kind of…I became controlling.  So I thought…you know what?  I am going to use myself to do whatever I want to do.  I drank a lot…I slept around a lot….but I was in control.  It wasn’t about relationships.  It wasn’t about a heart connection.  It was about…okay…this is what I want to do.  So I think that is what I walked through trying to find an answer.  Growing up my dad would call me princess and he still does to this day, but I didn’t feel like a princess.  As time went on…Brandon and I got married.  Brandon and I actually dated in high school for like a hot minute.  But we were friends and stayed friends for all those years and we stayed in touch.  We reconnected through a cousin of mine who was in plays with him in High School.  I would go visit her and see him in plays.  That’s how we built our relationship…just friendship.  Fifteen years later that same cousin was dating a guy who is now her husband and living in San Francisco.  I was living in DC and flew to San Francisco on a business meeting, and I connected with her and she reconnected with Brandon and we all talked and hung out together for the weekend.  Brandon and I knew that we were supposed to be together.  Ten months later we get married….we’ve been married twenty years now.  I say that to say that when we got married he was in L.A. and we went to a church in L.A. called Oasis with Philip and Holly Wagner.  We got really connected there and Holly and Philip became…close to us.  They just helped us work through some things.  Holly’s whole teaching on God chicks…I was really involved on her God chicks team for eight years.  I helped with all the technical arts side of it.  Holly’s whole thing is being a daughter of the king.  I felt that God redeemed that those years I was with Holly because I started to learn who I was.  In spite of everything that happened, I really understood that God really loved me and that He was my Father.  So I think that was a pivotal piece for me learning about being a daughter of the king.  I realized that all of these women (women of her past) acted this way because they didn’t know who they were.  I felt like God put this justice thing in me and He said…no…let’s raise the sword…lets fight the fight…let’s go to battle and let’s get everyone back into their proper place.

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Me:  So that brings me to your passion…What IS your passion.  That fire in your belly.

Monica:  Really….I don’t like seeing injustice.  I want to see people healed and whole and set free.  And to see them empowered to walk out their path…whatever that is.  People need to know who God is to them and how He wired them.  It is so important.  And for people to be in an environment where that is being drawn out of them and it can be applied and they can use it.  I think the most frustrating thing is to know who you are and not be able to use it and be in an environment that is not acknowledging it and helping you fulfill your dream.  I was just reading today that God’s plan is bigger than my dream.

Me:  Okay….I’ve got to munch on that one a bit….God’s plan is bigger than my dream.

Monica:  God’s plan for my life is bigger than my dream.

Me:  That is so awesome.  What is that from?

Monica:  Christine Caine.

Me:  Oh I love her!!!  If I could have coffee with anyone it would be her.  Oh my goodness…God’s plan for my life is bigger than my dream.  I love that!!!  Okay.  What is one of the greatest lessons that you have learned?

Monica:  I think one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that God is in every detail….and to be aware of that…and practicing His presence in EVERY single detail.  In scripture where it says that He never leaves us nor forsakes us…He is in every detail.  He is here now sitting with us.  He is with us when we are driving in our car.  You are never alone, and I think that is so key.  Jesus just wants to partner with you in everything you do…it is so real.  I share that with my girls…and that God is with you every step of the way.  A friend of mine showed me our ten fingers…she calls it the “Ten Finger Hold” on everything that we do.  (She looks at her hands and begins to count each finger down with the following phrase.)  I. Can. Do. All. Things. Through. Christ. That. Strengthens. Me.  When I say that…my middle daughter is playing flute…and I said Jaden, “You’ve got to think about while you are playing the flute that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  And she plays beautifully…she picks up songs and I am just like….man.  I’ve been sharing that…He is with us in EVERYTHING.

Me:  That is amazing!!  I felt Him last night at the Messianic service.  (Gateway has a Messianic service the first Friday of every month…you should go.)  You know how you feel someone when you are worshiping?  Like someone is coming in late and that you need to move to let them in.  I felt that and I looked and nobody was there.  I kept worshiping and then I felt it again and nobody was there.  Several times I moved out-of-the-way for someone to come down the aisle, and then Jesus said, “I’m sitting right next to you.”  I mean…it was palpable.  He was right there…so yeah what you are saying is hitting home with me because He was sitting with me last night at the Messianic service.  And He is right here right now.  So…can you tell me about Him?  Can you tell me about Jesus?

Monica:  Jesus is so tangible to me….um…and it may sound crazy but He manifests Himself to me in a lot of ways.  I can feel Him…like you were saying.  I can feel Him next to me.  I can feel Him with me.  My safe place is on the beach with Him….I can close my eyes and I can be on the beach with Him and He is talking to me.  The love of God….and I am realizing that He uses people…and one thing that He has been doing lately in my life and it is blowing me away….is that His love radically chases us down….and He uses people to literally chase me down to give me a word…to give me a hug…to give me a word of encouragement.  Sometimes it is random people…like I had a woman the other day…she walks in and she says, “How are you doing?”  I said, “I’m good.”  She looks at the other women and says, “You need to take care of her.  You just need to love on her extra now.”……That’s God.  That’s God.  I mean I have seen Him work in people’s lives in an amazing way.  He uses people to love me.  When I am praying and I am hearing His voice…and writing down what He is saying….this whole past 9 months….He said “Be still and know I am God.”  It is Ps. 46:10.  Every single day…be still and know.  People will come up to me and say…I have a word for you…Oh really?  Yeah…God says don’t squirm.  What?  The other word He gave me was anchor…just anchor in Him.  I’m thinking…anchor in a person?  Anchor in a thing?  And He is like…no…anchor in Me.  He told me that 7 months ago and when I went through a storm now I know why He said anchor in me…because everything is whirling around and it doesn’t feel comfortable…doesn’t feel good…but He is like…I got it.  He is so real.  His word is so real.  When He speaks to us….its real…and He means it.  No one can ever tell me that Jesus doesn’t exist.  I’ve experienced His love too much.  I’ve experienced His protection too much.  It is amazing.  It is amazing.

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My Gleanings

I recorded Monica for only twenty minutes, but continued to talk story (both of our stories) for the next hour or so.  I think we had coffee for a total of about 2 hours.  In this she told me about how she later led her sibling to the Lord and that 3 years ago Monica, Brandon, her three daughters, her father, and her sibling all sat down and had Thanksgiving together.  She said she just sat there and looked around on that day and just thanked God.  It was also an answer to the prayer of her grandmother who had passed.  One of her prayers was that Monica and her sibling would be reunited….and they were.  That is true forgiveness, reconciliation, and redemption.

You see…God is amazing.  Just like she said.  I am receiving and gleaning that I am a loved daughter of the king on all fronts in this season of my life and I am getting it again from Monica.  I’ve talked about it before on this blog…but it begs to be repeated over and over again.  I could spend the rest of my life talking about it…and I will.  This is my passion….our identity in Christ.  Yes…that’s it.  Without this knowledge…we are useless to the Kingdom.

The other day I asked the Lord for a life verse…a verse that really just deposits in me what fires me up…my calling….my passion….what He designed and created me for on this earth.  My Daddy God showed me more than a verse but a passage.  It was Mark 4:13-20.

13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” (NKJV)

I asked Him what He meant by that.  He said, “Will you help my people to be good soil?”  I thought…How do you do that?  How can you teach ANYONE to be good soil if the seeds that are sown to make them good soil are taken away or die off?  But here is the revelation…you can’t teach it…seeds don’t change soil.  It doesn’t matter how many scriptures, sermons, podcasts, blog posts, and encouraging words you throw out at people…in other words, sow….it won’t change their soil.  What is the soil?  Their identity…how they view God and how they view themselves.  This is my passion.  People need freedom, healing, deliverance, and wholeness.  When I meet with people with the same passion…like Monica, it gets me even MORE fired up and just drives in even more that it is so important.  SO IMPORTANT!!!!  I feel a sermon coming on but I will continue on to further gleanings.

“God’s plan is bigger than my dream”…thank you, Christine Caine, and thank you, Monica, for sharing.  I haven’t really completely digested this one but this is what I have gleaned thus far…He loves me and He has got this.  You see the Word says that He will do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.  I could sit here and imagine all day long the greatest possible dream that I could dream for my family, husband, and destiny but His plan will always be bigger.  His plan will always be bigger.  Hold on…His PLAN.  It is a plan….like a tangible blue printed plan.  The creator of the universe…the king of kings…my Daddy God….has a plan….for me.  I am not quite sure the words that I type can completely encompass just how intimate that statement is.  HE has a plan for ME.  I will be digesting this all week…probably longer than that.  I know the Lord has some more gleanings from this for me and I will press in and find out what they are.

However, this is the final gleaning I take away from this and it is Monica’s statement, “No one can ever tell me that Jesus doesn’t exist.  I’ve experienced His love too much.”  Yes…and Yes.  No one on  this earth can tell me that Jesus doesn’t exist.  They can try…but it doesn’t make it true.  He is real.  He is tangible.  He is amazing.  He is good….and always will be….no matter what.

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