She is a self-proclaimed “work in progress” but as I listened again through our interview I said to myself, “she doesn’t even know how far she’s come.” Monique Woodland is a proud native of Washington, DC hoping to one day leave a mark on the nation’s capital in the form of a quaint coffee shop. She is a woman who left behind the comfortability of a well-paying job to chase her dreams. She is a woman whose greatest desire is to show her one-year old nephew that there is another way of life than what he sees around him. She is a woman who left behind the allures of the world and its ways to pursue a life rooted in Christ. This month I wrote in my online diary about answering the call of God. I wrote about the life experiences that draw us near to the Lord when nothing else can bring us peace. When deciding on what women’s interview I wanted to share this month, God said share Monique’s story. I realized during the transcription of her interview why He said that, Monique is a woman who answered the call of God. As she stated during our interview, “I had no one to talk to about it, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing with others. The only person you can talk to in those situations is God. That’s how I knew I was going into the direction that I needed to go because I knew it was the only thing that was going to pull me out of this darkness and get rid of this cloud.” Monique is a woman after God’s own heart; following His path for her life and refusing to compromise the standards He has called her to follow. She is a woman who followed God’s plan for her life and it led her into a head on collision with her purpose, destiny and the passion that brings her great joy. She is a woman who simply put, got it! Her life is a reflection of one who simply gets it, that in this life we are nothing without God. In this life, if we simply surrender to God and do all that He requires of us, the blessings will overflow. He will heal us. He will reveal who He designed us to be. We shall land smack dab in the center of His will for our lives and our purpose. Chef Monique is a woman of God and for that reason and many others, she is my April 2016 W.C.W.
D. Almaroof: First I want to get into Monique the person, then I want to dive into Monique the business woman.
Oprah once said that one of the hardest questions she had to answer was “Who is Oprah?” Who is Monique today?
Chef Monique: That is a hard question. Who is Monique? Monique is a daughter, a friend, a child of God, a fighter, broken but strong. Monique is diligent. Monique is a survivor. Monique is a hard worker. But yet broken. Monique has a story. A story that is still being written.
D. Almaroof: That actually leads us right into our next question. We all have a story, a story that most people wouldn’t believe from just looking at us. What’s your story?
Chef Monique: I’ve always been that person who tries to please everyone and I found myself losing myself, trying to accommodate and please everyone. I completely lost myself trying to fit in and do what everyone else was doing. It wasn’t until I lost who I was and started having conversations with God that I began to find myself. Who am I? What am I supposed to do? Where am I supposed to go? I finally had an epiphany. God said, “Look this is what I want you to do but are you going to follow these steps? I’ll show you the way if you’re willing to listen.” During this time is when I decided to go back to school and I put myself through culinary school. I knew I could not afford it but I talked to and prayed to God about it. I even got to a place where I kept testing God, “If You do this, I’ll do this.” I knew I couldn’t afford school but, “If You provide a way then I will go.” With no question, He provided, I had the money to go; not a fraction of the money but all ten thousand and six hundred dollars. Now mind you I already had school debt because I went college. I worked in the hospitality industry, I’ve done medicine; all these careers paths and experiences left me unfulfilled. I was so unhappy. I just never felt like I found my niche. Cooking was something I did on the side, it was where I found peace and I could be myself. Once I enrolled in school I encountered another obstacle, I knew even if I went to school I would have to continue to work. So I went to school and continued to work full time. Yet again, I kept testing God, “If I get into this school, if I get accepted, I’ll put everything forward, bust my tail and give my best.” So of course I did, I graduated with honors. I was exposed to several top chefs and celebrity chefs in the city; and this was based on my first externship. I came out of school working for Wolfgang Puck, not one but two of his locations, I worked for his catering company and his restaurant.
From this I began to realize that obviously God is the way to go. So I came to a place where I had to pull back and have difficult conversations with my friends, explaining to them that I was headed in a new direction and I could not continue to cater to everyone else life. It was now time for me to cater to myself and do what makes me happy. Some of my friendships aren’t the same and that’s okay because everyone is not meant to go with you where God is taking you. Now it’s just a matter of staying the course, staying focused and doing what Monique needs to do for Monique.
D. Almaroof: I find it interesting when I talk to other individuals who came into an intimate relationship with God later in life. That was my experience and everything that you stated you experienced post your encounter with God, is similar to my experience. Especially when you decided to make that shift, the people around you respond to that in interesting ways.
Chef Monique: They don’t understand it and you find yourself trying to make them understand it because you want to bring people with you, but people aren’t always as willing to go. So it may take a little bit more for others but when you know God has already talked to you and He’s like, “Look! This is what you need to do and I’m telling you and I am also showing you. You may lose others but I am bringing you what you need.” I remember I prayed and prayed and prayed for women in Christ, who were walking in Christ, and I found Queen Esther Ministry. It was like, okay! No more testing, I am convinced, I surrender and this is the direction that I am going in.
D. Almaroof: Yes! And I think it’s one of the, no thee best decision you can make in your life.
Chef Monique: All my friends are like, oh Monique you’re so different and you’re so this. I’m like, it doesn’t have to only be me! I just want them to see what I see and know that things can be totally different. Pastor was just saying in church today, “the same blessings and favor that God has for me, He can have for you too but you have to be willing to surrender and follow the steps just like I did.”
D. Almaroof: Okay so my story; how this interview series, my business, everything I am doing now was birthed out of heartbreak. That’s my testimony, that’s my Christ moment, drenched in the blood moment. In the past when people would view me, say on Instagram – when people see you on social media, they get a glimpse of the life you live and they think you have it all together. They don’t think you have pain or have life experiences that you have overcame. I’ve authored two books and my first book was my “pain book”. I believe that God used that book to show others that everyone has pain and in your pain and uncertainties know that you are normal. I believe that if we all stop living behind these facades, like everything is so perfect and we don’t have anything going on, more women could heal and come into a place of wholeness. I say all this to lead into my next question.
What was your greatest pain in life and how did you overcome it? What was the greatest lesson you learned from this?
Chef Monique: That question is actually current, something that I am dealing with now. Without really touching on it, I can still touch on it. I came to a place where I had gone through some things in life and that’s where my walk with Christ came from. I found that I couldn’t talk to my friends or my parents about it. So I fell deeper into depression and the only person I had left to talk to was God. At that point it was either I was going to keep dealing with depression and these thoughts, and these thoughts that turned into suicidal thoughts. It was either these suicidal thoughts or this bible. Which way do you want it to go? Luckily for me I chose the bible. I am still overcoming a lot of my pain but – and I still have days when I get low and I cry but that’s when I turn more and more into prayer. I talk to my Queen Esther sisters and they hold me accountable. My advice for anyone dealing with anything is to stay in the bible, stay in your word, stay in communication with God; that is what has helped me. The greatest lesson that I’ve taken away from this is – not that God punishes you but He uses situations to bring you closer to Him. Other things may not have worked but so sometimes the extreme is what’s needed. T.D. Jakes said at revival, “He spits and He touches.” In certain situations where I wasn’t being obedient, when I wasn’t listening and when I wasn’t following God; I thought I was okay, I thought life was good. I had a great job, money, a house, a car but I had no communication and no relationship with God. When this situation happened, it stripped me of everything that I knew as normal. I started falling deeper into depression and at the same time I’m still going to school and working full time. I was losing relationships and losing friendships, and for me it was as if my whole world crashed. I had no one to talk to about it, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing with others because I didn’t want to worry about people judging me or the whispers. The only person you can talk to in those situations is God. You go in prayer and you stay in your Word. That’s how I knew that I was going into the direction that I needed because I knew it was the only thing that was going to pull me out of this darkness and get rid of this cloud. So again the lesson that I learned from that is lean not on your own understanding. You have to surrender absolutely everything to God. Everything that happens, whether good or bad I wholeheartedly believe God has signed off on it. God knows about it and I don’t care how bad it was, He signed off on it. There was a reason and whether you choose to learn from it or not, there is a reason behind it.
D. Almaroof: My way of explaining it or my tag line for it – some people answer the call and some people don’t. So He called you, He used that situation to call you and you heard. My same situation, I heard and some people don’t. And honestly it’s not that they don’t, I believe some people make the choice to ignore the call. Sometimes people waste their devastating experiences and never gain that lesson or blessing like you said.
Chef Monique: Oh you preaching right now!