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5 minutes with Monika

Tell us a little about you I am a highly sensitive, over-thinking introvert, who loves to delve into the deeper meaning of life and who values relationships above most other things. My academic pursuits have been in psychology, English literature, gender studies and politics, including notions of identity and the politics of power. I have worked in the areas of social policy, parliamentary research, family and domestic violence counselling, and as a conciliator for the Anti-discrimination Board. I am a feminist, a survivor and a Christian. And I am a daughter, sister and wife, and first-time mother in her forties who is currently acclimatising to her new identity and role as parent. Though I often fail, I am always learning. What's your favourite bible passage & why? I have two. Firstly, I love the whole of Romans 8:31-39, but particularly the reminder of God's love no matter what we might be experiencing and how alone we might feel:

'And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow - not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below - indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord'.

Another passage, which equally blows my mind, is Galatians 3:28: 'There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus'. The dismantling of class, race and gender hierarchies, replaced by an equal and unified identity in Christ is truly radical.

How do you keep your eyes fixed on Jesus?

Amidst life’s busyness, I need to deliberately set aside quiet time to seek, pray, read, reflect and listen for God’s voice. (And I should do this far more than I do!). I also benefit from seeking and learning from the wisdom, love and experience of others around me. What would you like the next generation of Christian women to know? As women, we may often struggle with (internal and external) judgements of our legitimacy, worth and relative status in the world. But I would say to the next generation of Christian women, as individuals: Don’t be afraid to take up space. There are spaces within which you are meant to be in the world, even if some others may not like it. Don’t be afraid to use your unique, God-given voice. Though it may be hard to speak, there are those waiting and needing to hear you. We may not all speak in the same way but that’s the point. Don’t wait until you ‘feel’ worthy or courageous enough to speak, act or love. Remember that your value is judged by Someone greater, including a God who has experienced the most grave injustices on this earth and who shares in our suffering.

Let your passions and convictions guide you rather than the pursuit of status or public recognition. You do not require external validation in order to contribute something of value.

Your character is the closest proof of your identity.

You cannot change or save others no matter how much you might want to.

Value solidarity with women rather than seeing them as competition.

Our sole purpose remains loving God and others. Trust that God is greater than all of the barriers standing in our way as women. Seek wisdom. Know grace. What's one thing that you love about your church? After moving states and locations a few times, I am yet to re-connect with a local church institution. However, my current form of church - or ‘community of believers’ with whom I’m connected - consists of life-long Christian friends who are scattered across Australia and overseas. Over the years, we have acted as mutual sources of love, support, encouragement, truth and accountability for each other, albeit often by phone! I have also carefully sought out an online community of Christians in ministry, voices I have selectively invited and have allowed to speak into my life (after learning the hard way about the need for spiritual discernment).

My adopted place of spiritual solitude and reflection is a local Benedictine Abbey, a place that God led me to in one of the darkest periods of my life. I stumbled across the Abbey when I was physically lost, driving through some unfamiliar hills with a broken GPS - so this place will always be special to me. Despite all of this, I hope for the day when I am able to know, and be known by, a local church community again.

Nevertheless, I love how God's definition of Church surpasses our own definitions and past traditions.

What did you learn about God at a time in your life you found hard? I learnt about God’s abundant love and grace in the most tangible way. That in my darkest moments - when life as I knew it ended, when I felt abandoned, alone and a failure - God was ever-present, loving me, healing me and leading me to a better place. Though we may feel hopeless, ‘the end’ can lead to new and better beginnings when we walk that journey with God. For me, on a practical level, this meant starting a new life on my own in a different state, and on a personal level this meant experiencing a transformed heart and mind (like being 'born again' again!). What are you passionate about? So many things: friendships, personal growth, identifying and addressing social inequalities, elevating the voices of the marginalised including those who have experienced domestic violence and spiritual abuse, exploring intersections between social justice and the Christian faith, moving towards a more authentic experience of faith beyond institutional and denominational boundaries, learning how to strike the right balance between truth and love, speaking truth to power, and trying to raise my little boy into a man who loves and respects others and ultimately reflects Christ’s heart and character. (Oh, and bantam chickens!) What do you enjoy doing when you rest? Experiencing the beauty of my natural environment, connecting with friends and family, seeing the funny side of things, photography, reading, tea, chocolate and trying new food.

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