He Makes Me Dignified: Stacey Monaco’s Story

“I am the woman at the well.”

About 35 EFree women were gathered at the Landing on that Wednesday morning for a study of the book, Emotionally Healthy Woman.   And while they were reading and studying a book, they also heard snippets of how Women’s Ministry Director Stacey Monaco was a living example of that woman who has been transformed.

People-pleaser, check.

Overwhelmed by guilt, check.

Lost a child, check.

Depressed, check.

Widowed, check.

Divorced, check.

Rock bottom, check.

Stacey isn’t shy about her story, the story that only God could write.  During her college days, she asked her boyfriend, “Do you think there is a God?”.  And shortly after, people around her began following Jesus.  She was given a copy of the New Testament on campus and read it through.  After Stacey had gotten married, God was calling her and her first husband Darren to Himself and even though their marriage was in shambles, God put the two of them back together.  They were discipled through a small church in Pasadena where they stayed for 15 years.

The two of them were raising five children together and working together, writing articles and books and taking photos for the travel and scuba industry.  Darren was an expert scuba diver, leading expeditions to shipwrecks.  It was on one of these deep dives that a fatal accident occurred that claimed both Stacey’s husband and her oldest son, Jeremiah.  She became a widow at 34 and a single mother of four young children.

Stacey, however, did not make time to grieve her losses, which led to her walking away from God, suffering a nervous breakdown and becoming hospitalized.  “I was the foolish woman who tears down her own house,” she said.

It was at this low point that God brought “a trail of women” who walked with her and became part of her restoration journey.  She received counseling from Christ Church of the Valley (CCV) in San Dimas and also attended services there.  “I had the firm belief that Jesus loved me, but I believed in my heart that I needed to sit in the back of the church,” Stacey said.

The healing truly began when a woman in leadership at CCV noticed her and began to meet regularly with her. She walked with Stacey through her failures.  “She was Jesus with flesh on.  I could confess all my sins to her…and she started to call out my gifts. Whispers of ‘it doesn’t matter what you have done’ came to me.  He is continually forming us.  His blood covers our sins, past, present, and future.”

God continued to connect her with more women in leadership, which was a transforming experience because when Stacey was younger, she didn’t prefer the company of women.  Her perspective changed through walking with them.  “I fell in love with the gender of women and how good they can be in each other’s lives.”

After several years, Stacey started speaking at women’s retreats, leading women’s Bible studies, and then sensed God calling her to go to Talbot School of Theology to obtain her master’s degree in women’s ministry.  Through all the women who have come alongside her, she realized her desire is for women to authentically pass their stories onto others.  There are women who are hiding and covering because of shame or guilt.  They are kept captive and that is the work of the enemy.  Recently, when a woman found out Stacey had experienced an abortion, Stacey was able to share with her about her own process of crying for that child.  “Our wounds heal each other when we are authentic about them.”

Whether it’s through speaking, writing, or creating beautiful environments, Stacey wants to equip women to embrace the dignity God has bestowed on them, to find Jesus, to find freedom, to be redeemers.  “My hope for the Women of EFree is that their lives will become so integrated that it will allow them to function in their gifts, very organically sharing Jesus wherever they go.  The more we use the gifts that God gives us, the more contagious we become and it starts to overflow out of our lives.”

Besides ministering to women, Stacey loves to spend a quiet evening with her number one supporter and husband, Joe.  They also enjoy traveling, trying new foods and playing with their grandkids.  If she’s not at home, you might find Stacey at a local coffeehouse, a place familiar to her because she was a former Starbucks manager and it’s where she met Joe, but all that is a story for another time.

Written by Lisa Wong

She is Dignified

Dignified.  A single word that often feels reserved for a person like Mother Theresa or a woman we would like to be.  A woman who is highly respected, honored, and esteemed in all areas of life.  Does such a woman even exist?

Yes, she does and she stares at you in the mirror everyday.

The Essence of Who You Are

As women, we are created in the image and likeness of God!  The Lord of the entire universe did not just make you as He did all of creation, but He had a specific plan for you and that is for you to bear His image and His likeness.  For there to be a distinction between you and the rest of his creation.  For you to be unique not only among creation, but individually unique among everyone else.

Out of absolutely nothing ­He made the very world we live in and the life we know. Nothing could exist without Him.  From chaos He fashioned order and beauty.  Yes, beauty – God enjoys and creates beauty.  We get to relish and be in awe of His beautiful creation and we are His beautiful creation.  Man and woman are the crown of creation and the only ones to reflect His image.  Dignity was given at creation.  It is the very essence of who you are – you are dignified.


Less Than Dignified

Now let’s be honest.  There are many moments when we feel less than dignified.  Oftentimes, our actions do not reflect the image of God, and those closest to us are far too eager to agree.

But we hold onto an even richer truth ­– the work of Christ.  The gospel is many-splendored, and one of its deepest beauties is redemption.  Redemption is the process of restoring what God created.  We were given dignity at creation and it was redeemed at salvation.  It is bestowed upon you through grace and cannot be lost through works (or lack of works).  Since you are in Christ, nothing you or anyone else does can take the dignity that was freely given to you.  So regardless of how you feel or what less than reputable stories your family can share ­– you are dignified.

Real Life Dignity

But now what?  The reality is that this is who you are, but what do we do about it?  We all want to be a “Proverbs 31 Woman.”  [You are] clothed with strength and dignity; [you] can laugh at the days to come (Proverbs 31:25).  This is not who we strive to be.  This simply is who you are.  Each and everyday, we wake up covered in the strength and dignity of Christ.  Through the grace and work of Christ, we are strengthened in our weakness and dignified in our shame.

What false identity do you hold onto?  Do you define yourself by your shortcomings and weaknesses?  This is not who you are.  In those moments of doubt and insecurity, remember who Christ has made you to be.  Look to the future with joy and peace instead of fear and anxiety.  Your identity, your future, your life is secure in him – you are Dignified.

Written by Tamara Turner

Get to Know the Writers Behind ‘Dignified’

Christine Hu | Editor-in-Chief, Website Manager

Christine was born in Southern California and grew up in Diamond Bar.  She was named after a fictional character (Daaé, not the car) and her birthdate was made infamous by famous writers, Will and Taylor.  She was pretty much destined to either write or act.  She chose writing while dabbling into acting and went on to receive her BA in English with a creative writing emphasis from the University of California’s Irvine campus.  Part of her degree was earned during an unforgettable stint at the University of Cambridge.

Christine loves seeing lives transformed for Christ!  In her five years at EFree, she’s had the joy of serving in almost every ministry.  She’s especially passionate about disciple-making, outreach, and missions.  She leads a life group and teaches in Emerge, EFree’s Young Adults ministry.

An introverted extrovert, Christine is always ready to leave her footprints in new cities. The introvert part of her will find the cutest cafés in those cities and people-watch with her girlfriends over iced macchiatos.  She also enjoys long brunches, soaking in Vitamin sea, and chasing sunsets.  Those who meet her are always surprised to discover that she loves watching the beautiful game (aka soccer).

Tamara Turner | Writer, Social Media Manager

Tamara is excited to serve alongside She is Dignified as an exploring writer and social media manager.  She is currently enduring the long road of self-discipline (and no sleep!) as she completes a Masters of Divinity at Talbot School of Theology.  She also works full-time at Haven Ministries as an Executive Assistant.  But all is not discouraging, because Talbot introduced her to her charming fiancé.

She grew up throughout the Inland Empire and now calls a “vintage” condo on the edge of Corona home.  She is innocently blissful to the many transitions that this new season of marriage will bring and eagerly awaiting the opportunity to grow a family with the man she loves.  When she is not daydreaming about her new life, Tamara spends much of her time studying, speaking for StoneCroft Ministries, and loving her adorable nieces and nephews.

Tamara has been part of the EFree Diamond Bar community for 6 months after being involved in a number of capacities at New Beginnings Community Church in Norco, CA for 13 years.  Her heart and passion is to share the hope of Christ in all aspects of life.  She doesn’t have it all together and knows she never will, so she continues to lean on the strength and redemption of Christ.

Lisa Wong | Writer, Photographer

Lisa views the opportunity to write and take photos for this blog as an answer to prayer because she has been desiring to get more involved at EFree.  She loves writing and reading so much that she’s been teaching those skills for the past 14 years at the high school level.  But only God knows what’s in store for her this next season as she and her husband Doug expect their first child this upcoming February.

Both of them have been a part of Efree for about a year and their experience can be summed up as “new beginnings.”  After a painful period of witnessing their former church close down, they were seeking a home to root themselves again and they have found a life group full of love and authenticity, a community intentional about reaching others, and people who passionately follow Jesus.

Lisa identifies herself as a SoCal girl, growing up in the SGV, hiking mountains and playing beach volleyball, all too familiar with boba and rice rockets, experiencing culture shock when she studied at Biola, spending her single days in North OC, and finally settling down in Diamond Bar, trying to learn how to fully embrace her dignity as a daughter of the King.