Love is a Funny Thing

Love Written in the Sand

I’ve never had a move I was ready for. Maybe when I went off to college. But who knows if you are really ever ‘ready’ to leave the nest.  After all, I was leaving behind every person who had loved and nurtured me since birth. I know I was excited to go. But I was certainly nervous when my parents drove away as I stood on the sidewalk in front of that SMU freshman dorm. With all of my moves, I’ve been a little excited about what is to come, but scared too.

I spent my first 18 years in Columbus, GA. And I planned to spend the rest of life there post-college. Since the day I left home in 1997, I have lived in five states.  Six if you count our summer in NYC. I have yet to have a move that wasn’t a blessing. Every city in which we have landed has been wonderful in its own unique ways.  And every city has people who think they live in the best place in the world. And they all do.

God gives us gifts in unexpected forms. Often, we don’t ask for them. I didn’t exactly ask God for any of our moves. As a matter of fact, I prayed to not have to move the last two times. But hindsight is 20/20, and I am thankful for each opportunity I have had to explore new places, gain new perspectives, put down roots in new communities, and love new people. The cities, the local cuisine, the churches, the mountains, the beaches – they all wooed me and gave me new appreciations. But, it’s the people who stole my heart along the way. And lots of them still have a piece of it.

And my closest loves – they’ve been by my side the whole time. My dearest husband, my best friend…each and every new place is home because he is by my side. Our four littles light up our world wherever we are (and simultaneously make me crazy no matter where we are). Our immediate families, even from thousands of miles away, have stood right by us, supporting us with unconditional love.

And my God, my ever-consistent and loving God. He pursues me in all places. For all time. Ryan and I have landed in some pretty amazing places – New England, Colorado, Santa Fe, Southern California. These locales have made us happy. But, as I heard in a sermon a couple of weeks ago, our story is not one of happiness. Our story is one of God’s faithfulness. Of God’s relentless love. The sermon encouraged us to define who we are, not by our circumstances, but by His love.  And one of the many ways I feel God’s love is when it shines through people.

The love of all of the friends we have made in each city over the last 13+ years fuels me. Each time we are about to move, I think that I have plenty of friends and don’t have the capacity to love any more friends like the ones I have – I just want to put a cap on it and enjoy my peeps. But it’s no different than having the capacity to love one more child when you think you can’t possibly love another like the last. And God has put some really amazing people in my life. He might just even decide to do it again here in SoCal. I’m getting open to that idea. I might take the cap off.

Because you know what…love is a funny thing. If you’ve read my blog much, you may know that music inspires and energizes me. For the first time ever yesterday, I heard Jason Mraz’s song, Love Someone. It’s just awesome.

Love is a funny thing
Whenever I give it, it comes back to me
And it’s wonderful to be
Giving with my whole heart
As my heart receives
Your love…
…When you love someone
Your heartbeat beats so loud
When you love someone
Your feet can’t feel the ground
Shining stars all seem
To congregate around your face
When you love someone
It comes back to you

Love is a funny thing. Not only does my heart beat louder when I love someone, but it feels so good when it comes back. The investment is worth the return.

My dear friend, Toni, shared an observation in her blog, beWARM, that caught my attention:

“When we have the joy of experiencing of deep connecting to others – and ultimately to God – we begin to wonder why life can’t be more of that.”

God’s deep desire to connect with me brings me a baseline of joy and love to work from. I guess God is just blessing me with opportunity to connect with lots of ‘others’ through our moves. But of course, you don’t have to move to connect deeply with people. There are opportunities to ‘love someone’ at every turn. Take a moment to let Jason Mraz inpire you and give some love away today. Maybe to your spouse or best friend. Maybe to a friend you haven’t connected with in a while.  Just love someone.  You may find that it comes back.  And you probably will wish that life could be more of that.



Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God… -1 John 4:7

…On Beginnings and Endings


Well…when you ask for God to reveal His plan…you better be ready for an answer! In Don’t Take the Boat to Tarshish, I expressed anxiety over what God had in plan for our family. And in Leaning In, I shared more fears about the unknown. I reminded myself that fear is not from God. Instead, he asks us to put our hope in Him…leaning in and seeking His strength.  Easier said than done.

Our family of six, (formerly known as the ‘CO McMonagles’ and most recently known as the ‘NM McMonagles’) is becoming the ‘CA McMonagles’. We are moving to San Diego. I’ll be honest; I’m very sad to leave our life and dearest friends and family here in Santa Fe. I do believe, though, that San Diego is not going to be rough. I started praying for a miracle last fall…a miracle to keep us here in Santa Fe. My friend, Lois, tells me that miracles don’t always look like you think they will. Throughout the last year, I have slowly stopped digging my heels into Santa Fe and honestly started asking God to make me open to His plan. That’s a miracle in itself. So God gave me hope in the meantime. Hope is one of those fuzzy/hard-to-define words. But hope is worth grabbing and holding onto. Hope lends sanity to the everyday.

“…in a big, loud world – we hold on to Hope. Hope for the impossible, hope for the unlikely, hope for the unexpected, hope for the improbable — because hope is nothing else but the spine of faith…for Hope in [God] is the anchor of our soul.” –Ann Voskamp

An anchor to our souls…how awesome is this little nugget of truth from the Book of Hebrews?! It is in great hope that I am trusting that God has heard my prayers and is showing us miracles, no matter how unexpected the form. I have real hope that God has our family in his hands as we launch off on this great new adventure.  Saying goodbye to our friends in Santa Fe is going to be difficult. But a new start doesn’t demand closure.

“Everyone now wishes for ‘closure’. This word is unfortunate; it is not faithful to the open-ended rhythm of experience.” John O’Donohue, An Abundance of Blessings

For a girl who thought she would live in Georgia her whole life, it’s kind of surreal to think that I’m moving on to my fifth state since I left my childhood home. I’ve learned that with a move, real closure isn’t necessary. I have taken a part of each city and my dear friends in each place with me. Life truly is an open-ended experience.  Rather than an ending in Santa Fe, I’m focusing on a new beginning for the CA McMonagles. In his meditations on endings and beginnings, O’Donohue continues,

“A beginning is ultimately an invitation to open toward the gifts and growth that are stored up for us.”

Lois also recently shared with me a beautiful song that I might have listened to three hundred times in the last few weeks – Hillsong United’s, Oceans. It’s worth a listen and pretty fitting for our move to the Golden Coast.

“You call me out upon the waters. The great unknown where feet may fail. And there I find you in the mystery…For I am Yours and You are mine. Your grace abounds in deepest waters. Your sovereign hand will be my guide…”

Uncertainty is, no doubt, unsettling. Answered prayers and miracles rarely look like what we would have expected. But it’s in the deepest waters, deep in the mystery, where grace abounds. Are there places in your life where you can ask God to make you more open to His plan?  Some areas of life where allowing more hope will give you more peace in your days? I encourage you to seek the mystery in the deep.  Because the grace is so sweet.

So here’s to new beginnings…especially when they don’t have to dictate an ending. Santa Fe will always be a part of our lives. Watch out – the McMonagles, in all our chaos, are about to take SoCal by storm. There is part of me that thinks my Toyota Sienna mini-van is going to instantly turn into a jeep without a top the minute we cross the California state line. And speaking of songs…I’m trusting Katy Perry and Snoop Dog that like the California Gurls in their song, I’ll instantly become fine, fresh, fierce, tone, tan, fit, and ready – and basically just lay under palm trees sipping gin and juice all day. Who’s gonna watch the kids?!  I’m in.


“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” –Hebrews 6:19

Leaning In

Living with Uncertainty…And Seeking God’s Plan, Part 2 of 2

In Don’t Take the Boat to Tarshish, I considered how and why Jonah fled from God…and how we can personally relate.  Jonah was directed by God to go to a new place, and that kind of calling can be daunting to me.  Jonah set a pretty good example of ‘what not to do’ in seeking God’s plan during times of uncertainty.  In an interesting twist of mercy, after hearing Jonah’s prayers and cries of distress, God made the whale ‘vomit’ Jonah onto dry land.  You know you’ve had a bad day when the best thing that happens to you is that a fish vomited you up.

Uncertainty can hang like a clouded haze over the future.  Anxiety and fears can overwhelm me.  But allowing anxiety about the future to take root in our hearts robs us of the joy in the now.  I write these words, not to tell you that I have conquered anxiety and doubt, but as a reminder to myself.  Fear is not from God.  Instead, God promises to be with us and grant us peace.  He asks us to put our hope in Him – to lean in just a bit more.  And in the midst of hope, He can provide strength to our feeble hearts. “Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.” –Psalm 31:24

As I continue to wonder about God’s plan for our family, I am thankful for our good health and the love of amazingly supportive family and friends.  These blessings, I will never take for granted.  But the uncertainty and possibility of moving away from our lives here in Santa Fe does bring me sadness.  I am tempted to be a Jonah and seek my own desires above God’s leading.  But then, I am reminded of another well-known figure in the Bible.  Joshua provided a better example for us to follow.  God told Joshua, “Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

“God originally spoke these words to Joshua (Moses’ successor as leader of the Israelites) while presenting him with a new opportunity.  Joshua’s assignment was to lead more than two million people into a strange new land, claiming it as their promised territory…What if Joshua had allowed the unknown to keep him from saying yes to God?  What if he gave insecurity and doubt permission to keep him firmly within his comfort zone?  Joshua would have missed out on the blessings.  He would have missed his calling in life.  He would have missed the adventure with God.” – Leah DiPascal

Gosh, Joshua was called to lead more than two million people to an unknown land. If we leave Santa Fe, we’ll only be leading 4 young (and extremely flexible) young children to a new place within our own country. Just like Joshua, we can’t allow fear of the unknown to keep us from saying yes to God.  God’s command to Joshua to be strong and courageous doesn’t end there either. God’s commands are not empty.  God goes on to assure Joshua that the LORD our God is with us wherever we go. And from Psalm 31:24 quoted above, we are reminded this same God provides strength in our hearts as we face uncertainty and are placed in new circumstances.  Another promise I am grateful for.

Where in your life do you need to rely on God more?  Would your heart feel stronger if you put your hope in God and leaned in a bit more?  Mine would.  More than 100 times in the scriptures, God commands us to not be afraid.  I think He’s made His point.  But will we take Him up on the offer?  I need to take a bit of my own advice from Taking Up Too Much Space and remember that there is much to be learned when we step out of our comfort zone like Joshua did.  Perhaps, God is calling our family to learn that lesson again.  If not, He’s got my attention…and I’m leaning in.