Stumble and Bumble

There is something so deeply satisfying about stumbling into something and realizing it’s totally a God set up. Takes off so much pressure. But that’s always been my cadence—just follow the clues God drops in my path, take lots of risks, and He backs me up.

I’ve had to deactivate so many of my Type-A tendencies and controlling mechanisms that helped me to survive when I was a child, in order to learn and grow into how to flow with the spirit. And I don’t regret ANY of my growth process—the good, the bad, or the uglies. Because God is faithful and He’s bigger than my mistakes. And failure should be normative anyway.

But if I lived in my bubble of self-protection for the rest of my life, I’d never have any fun. And I don’t want to reach the end of my life and realize I held back out of fear. I don’t want to talk face-to-face in person with Jesus one day and have him tell me that He deposited so much more in me then I actually unpacked. That would totally suck.

And so on I stumble and bumble along…into God’s will…into God’s presence…into His pleasure.

💙

Nova

Foretaste of Heaven

I had an intense dream last night that felt like a taste of Heaven, and when I woke up after the dream, I couldn’t stop crying. They weren’t tears of sorrow. They were tears of joy because of the foretaste and the hope that I’d just experienced and the craving for more of the same in the near future.

In the dream, I was journeying with a large group of friends. We were all heading together towards a specific destination, but we were just enjoying the journey and each other’s company along the way.

It was like we all had singing parts, like we were part of a broadway musical, and a good friend of mine began to sing her solo. (This friend in real life is someone who lost her daughter to a brain tumor about 5 years ago; she KNOWS deep sorrow.)

But in the dream, my friend began to sing with such joy and gaiety and gusto. We were all watching her as she sang, enjoying her song, and delighting in her beautiful soul. And as she came to the end of her song line, she lifted up her voice in a sort of lilty, silly, lyrical way. It was on purpose. She was deeply enjoying the glory of the song moment and she held nothing back. She had a HUGE grin on her face, reminiscent for me of her more carefree college days.

Her silly ending just caused the group to dissolve into deep belly-laughing joy. One friend in the group just plunked down on the ground right then and started laughing. I grabbed onto a nearby wooden post and began to laugh and cry simultaneously (a sign for me of a deep, deep joy experience).

But what stood out to me in that moment of laughter and joy was the COMPLETE absence of any internal or external dissonance. There was no sorrow. No insecurity. No awkwardness. No self-doubt or condemnation. And no rushing onto the next thing. JUST a deep joy, enjoyment, and a richly-satisfying camaraderie as each of us delighted in each other’s beautiful souls, and partook of the joy and laughter that was found in that moment.

Each of us was present in a way in our spirits, souls, and bodies that I have never experienced before on the earth. And I just kept thinking, “There is TIME for joy. SO much time for joy.”

And the joy was tangible, visceral, and that dream moment implanted a deeper hope in my spirit for eternity than I’d ever had before. That dream felt like coming home, felt like a reunion with old friends and people that I loved. And even though the joy was palpable, what surprised and struck me most was the complete lack of sorrow, dissonance, or any other negative emotion.

And now that I know what that tastes like, it leaves me wanting more. I feel a bit homesick after waking up. But the truth and hope that there IS a deeper experience of life up ahead for those of us that know Jesus–Powerful. Life changing. And it makes me want to pursue my destiny with even more gusto now, to bring as much Heaven to Earth that I can. To be a light that leads others. To show people the way to Him.

❤️

Nova

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4)

Hearing God

What I love about the concept of hearing from God for other people is how simple it really is. It really does take childlike faith and trust though, and practice—but that’s it. Anyone can do it.

And stepping into those situations that God lines up for you is so fun once you can get past the fear and just trust.

I’ll share an example that God set up for me today to minister to a hurting person so you can see a picture of how simple it is to live in a naturally supernatural way of doing life.

There was a home nearby that I’d seen for sale for a reallllly long time. For some reason, God put it on my heart. Each day that I’d drive by it, I’d think—I should somehow talk to these people and give them my friend’s number (my friend is a realtor who also stages homes for free as a service to her clients). That’s the back story.

Here’s the God set up:

Today as I drove by this home, I saw the occupants outside. I had never seen them before. So after a quick prompting in my spirit, on the way home from picking up my kids, I pulled over. And I walked up to these people and asked about how their house sale was going. Turns out escrow was almost done. They didn’t need a realtor.

But during the convo, they told me how the buyer had been a jerk and had totally manipulated them, and had ended up unjustly taking things that weren’t in the original contract. And the owner was a sweet widow who had just lost her husband.

In that moment, I knew God wanted me to pray for her but I also wanted her to know that God saw her pain and was with her. So I asked Him for something to give her. He showed me a brief flash of a picture of flowers. I asked her if I could pray for her and she said yes. I prayed for God’s justice, restitution, and restoration for her family. I asked for God’s light to shine. She was crying after the prayer.

And then I just took my childlike faith that what God had shown me was from Him. And I asked her if she liked gardening. She said yes, that she loved her roses (which weren’t visible from the front yard at all so I wouldn’t have known). And then God showed me the rest of His encouraging word for her in that moment. “God is gonna heal you through your gardening, as you garden,” I told her. “Keep gardening.”

We chatted another minute or so, but by then my kids were yelling, “Moooom!!” from the car. So we said our goodbyes and I drove home.

Simple obedience. Stepping into a moment that God sets up. Using childlike faith to ask God for a word for somebody and then giving it.

God is the one that waters the seed.

Sometimes the simplest word can transform a heart. Just letting someone know that God sees them, knows their story, and is with them is the most powerful thing we can give people.

💙

Nova

Mommy Martyr

IMG_1902

Sometimes I get depressed and cynical from being under the continual daily stress and pressure of my normal mom life. In those times, I feel a lot like Elijah when he was sitting under the tree and moaning to God and wanting to die. I don’t have any huge Jezebels in the form of people in my life, but having a big family of six that constantly monopolizes my time and relies on me for a bazillion tasks often feels very controlling.

I start to feel like a robot. I feel like I lose myself. I feel like I am drowning in other people’s expectations and demands on my time. Not to mention all the mundane tasks that relentlessly devour my days and make me want to pull my hair out—like finding crusty dog diarrhea this morning on the carpet behind the couch.

I KNOW I was made for more than this—is my usual internal cry.

One of these days hit me just yesterday. And at the end of that long, exhausting, and anxiety-ridden day, I actually said to my husband, “Well, one more day of our lives used up. I hope we lived it well.” I wasn’t in a great mood (if you can’t tell). It had been one of those beastly days that felt like it almost took me out.

“Kind of morbid, don’t you think?” He responded.

“Well, it’s one day closer to eternity,” I said. “Our end game, right?”

Yah, it had been brutal.

Sometimes it all just feels like TOO much though. Like God, I CAN’T do this. I can’t keep juggling all these things that you have entrusted into my care. My family. My writing. My ministry. It’s too hard.

Some parts of my life are honestly just more thrilling than others. And I know I’m not alone in humanity here. I’m sure that most moms can agree that spending hours chauffeuring cranky kids, running to appointments, cleaning up never-ending messes, and being social-kid coordinator is somewhat disillusioning to the heroic and cavalier ideal we first started out with in our vision of parenting.

And some days, those precious parenting moments that I savor so deeply are just completely nonexistent.

Sometimes it seems like weeks of the endless routine go by before I have even one tiny flicker of a fulfilling mom moment. When they do come, they feel glorious. Those are the moments that seem eternal. Moments that seem etched in heaven.

They are the deeper parenting moments that incorporate healing, deep connection, or mentorship in some form—times when I can be spiritually life-giving and reveal God’s heart to my four strong-willed and otherwise-distracted children. But quantitatively speaking, I spend SO much more of my time drudging around in the mundane rather than soaring in those ethereal heights.

And it gets wearying.

I talked to another mom just last night about some of her recent struggles and she said the same thing about her situation, “I just feel weary.”

I get it. I REALLY do.

And when the mundane and the wearying continues to wear on and on with no end in sight, I crawl back under that Elijah tree and just tell God to take me now. Like Elijah. Like Enoch. I can feel my adrenals tap out, my emotional coping mechanisms shut down, and even my spirit take a hit as my soul beats it up with self-defeating thoughts:

Why did I even get a Master’s degree if this is all that my life is about? Why did I think that being a stay-at-home mom was a good idea? Why did we want so many kids again? Why don’t we have family nearby?

And on and on it goes.

Yet on the other side of that futility picture is a different reality. Because there ARE parts of my life, calling, and stewardship that feel extremely fulfilling on a regular basis if I allow myself space for them. And those parts of my life bring such a countering, restorative, and hopeful balm to all the other areas of discouragement, despair and discontent that I struggle with on a daily basis.

They refuel my tank with the passion and perspective that I need to keep on moving through the monotony. They fill me with hope that there IS more to my life than just the mundane.

Like the times at church when I am praying for somebody that God shows up BIG, and I see the person walk away with God-Encounter Stars in their eyes. Or the times when I hit that spirit flow in my writing and a post just seamlessly writes itself. Times spent out in nature where I meet God in beautiful contemplation. Times when I get to let loose and dance.

Or my favorite—just getting in the car and driving with no specific destination.

And I’ve come to realize over time just how absolutely necessary these things are because they are core parts of who I am. So I’ve become more purposeful in leaving space for them because they are the things that keep me going and help me not to give up. They are things that I was created to do. And they are the things that I have to fight to maintain, even in the midst of all the loud and demanding, never-ending pressures and commitments of daily life.

I told my hubby the other day, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

He didn’t get the movie reference but the principal remains:

Too much of anything for too long makes one feel a little bit crazy. We gotta leave room for those fulfilling areas of joy.

Nova

Unexpected Assignment

savingPNG (11)

So I thought I was just going to buy some chairs for my kitchen table today, but turns out God had a different assignment for me. And as I showed up to the house where I was going to buy these awesome, used chairs, I realized I was walking up to a family in the midst of a breakup.

I could feel the anger, the distrust, and the hate swirling around. I could feel the reactivity. And as I stood there, looking at those chairs, debating whether to buy them, I realized the teenager standing beside me to sell the chairs was the real reason I was there.

The chairs were dirtier than mentioned on the listing–even though I had specifically asked about staining. I figured I could probably get the food stains out, but I decided not to buy them more for the fact that they had so much of the hateful environment imprinted into them. I was concerned about bringing that into my home.

And as I stood there, chatting with this senior in high school that I’d probably never see again, I asked God for something to tell him. And God gave me two words for him. I shared the words with the teenager and as I did, God expanded the word for him, and I was able to encourage him that that was where God was taking him, even though he was coming out of such a hard environment.

And the beauty of this kid was just humbling–and that God would use the perfect chairs (which I ended up NOT buying) to get me to drive to another city to share His heart with a struggling teen who was on His heart. AMAZING. 

Nova

Assumptions, Advice, and Other Stupidity

savingPNG (10)

Getting older does have its perks. Like the change in wisdom and perspective. And one of my all-time favorite and ongoing revelations is how incredibly stupid and UNHELPFUL the giving of unsolicited advice actually is—not to mention the assumptions and judgments that are usually bundled within those advice packages.

Because unsolicited advice USUALLY comes with presuppositions.

And if a listener goes straight from hearing information to advice without passing GO (aka asking any sort of clarifying questions), then the listener has already indubitably stepped into some form of judgment. You lost them somewhere along the conversation. Their brain actually segued away from being present and landed instead at some label, diagnosis, or other assumption. And assumptions are the worst.

We all know what they do, right?

In case you happened to miss out on learning this particular colloquial gem, here it is for your reading pleasure:

“Assumptions make an ass out of you and me.”

Get it? Try spelling it out if you still don’t see it: Ass-U-Me.

I proactively taught my kids this particular saying a few years ago when they all hit middle and high school age because I figured they were finally old enough to be accountable for their assumption stupidity. And now when we are at home (not in public), I’ve started a new family mandate when I see assumption occur. When any of the kids start a roaring fight because of some assumption or another, they now have to apologize to each other with these words:

“I’m sorry for assuming and for making an ass out of you and me.”

True story.

Because I actually have a visceral reaction whenever I’m talking to someone and they go straight into assumption or advice. I’ve learned over time to moderate the outward display of emotion, but I’m for sure doing an internal eye roll.

Uh huh. Uh huh. Okay, thanks. I need to get going. Good talking to ya.

I sometimes slip into advice giving and not being present too. But I’ve learned over time that it’s usually because I am either uncomfortable in the situation, extremely tired, or I’m just trying to close the conversation loop. And sometimes I do need to end a conversation. Because being an empathetic listener tends to magnetically draw me people in pain with long stories.

But in general, my heart’s intent IS to really understand and listen to people’s stories. It is to really give each person dignity through my attention and listening ear. But advice does just the opposite. Advice basically shoots a person in the heart, tells them you aren’t really listening, and tells them they aren’t smart enough to figure out a way forward themselves.

Like the wisdom that God has given the listener supersedes the wisdom that God has given them. Pulleeease. Cue eye roll.

It’s that junior holy-spirit complex all over again.

Now when someone does actually ask for feedback or advice, that’s a whole different story. In that case, the person is purposefully seeking out new information. But when someone is sharing pain or processing from their heart and the listener opens their big mouth and starts dumping out advice in the sacred space of story, I just cringe.

When someone does it to me, I automatically shut down and they have just lost the opportunity to hear any further details of my heart or story. Because advice tells me that someone isn’t listening to understand, they are listening to diagnose or to fix—neither of which I want.

In all honesty, I thrive on vulnerability and authenticity. But the harsh reality is that I can’t be vulnerable and transparent with every person in the world. It’s not wise. There are times to share and times to refrain. Sometimes sharing is like casting pearls before swine and God warns us:

Not all people are safe.

God tells us the heart is sacred, that out of it flows the wellsprings of life. So even though I try to be authentically me everywhere that I go, the depths of my heart are NOT for common use and they should be shared with those who have earned the trust and the access.

I learned this the hard way through sharing pain and story with the wrong people, but I wouldn’t change my experience. Because it was only through risking vulnerability that I could find out how to find the right people to begin with.

Because the right people DO exist. There are those who CAN be trusted with pain, those that know how to create an atmosphere of safety and trust for vulnerability and story to flow. An atmosphere where judgment and advice are absent.

I’ve met a TON of people that are emotionally disconnected (Christians included) and sadly these people aren’t usually safe for entrusting with deep pain or sacred story. And then I’ve met a plethora of others that just haven’t learned the skill of listening through the lens of curiosity yet rather than through the lens of diagnosis.

Assumptions are stupid.

Advice is counterproductive to connection.

Judgment is stepping into God’s shoes.

But giving someone a listening ear and our undistracted attention?

That’s healing. That’s holy. That’s a gift.

Nova

In The Name of LOVE and Bullying

savingPNG (9)The other day I took some heat from someone who was upset with me for stepping into a conversation turned debate and trying to shut it down. It was one of those conversations that was going nowhere. And I actually raised my hand in the middle of our group meeting to interrupt and ask everyone a simple question:

“What was the original inquiry that started this whole thing again?”

Because about ten minutes into the group conversation, I was seriously confused as to what the topic even was anymore. And at some point in the back and forth discussion, I realized that our usual culture of having an open forum for idea sharing with concurrent value for individual viewpoints was nowhere to be seen.

I saw that the conversation had turned a bit nasty and had progressed into a right or wrong discussion, which basically meant that no one could win this particular argument. Because if someone actually won the debate, it meant the other one would lose.

And it was two against one, which was so uncool.

I might not have stepped into that moment and attempted to throw the kibosh on the debate had it not been a good friend of mine sitting in the actual hot seat. But it was and I did. And looking back on the situation now, I’d do it all over again because my heart’s motivation in that moment was love.

The truth was that I cared about my friend and I didn’t like to see her getting verbally pecked at like a woodpecker by people trying to make their point at her expense.

Not to mention the fact that it was me that had asked the original question that started this whole circus parade. And my question was meant to just be a casual check-in on my friend’s wellbeing because I had noticed she’d gone radio silent.

But the whole thing just sort of blew up.

I felt somewhat responsible for the verbal tornado that my inquiry caused, even though I knew that technically it wasn’t my fault. I knew I couldn’t control another person’s need to be right or point-proving agenda.

I knew I wasn’t that powerful.

But I did know that I had the right as a human being to step into the flow of conversation and say that I thought we needed to end the meeting because it wasn’t going anywhere. I knew that I had the right to try and help extricate my friend out of an increasingly awkward situation.

Because I didn’t like bullies.

And even though there was no physical pushing or shoving, the verbally-forced control of the conversation was enough. And no one should have to sit in a stream of verbal questioning that feels accusatory and attacking of their belief system and opinions. Debating in my opinion is ungodly anyway, because it is never motivated by love or an attempt to understand. It is always motivated by an attempt to be right.

Jesus told us people would know us by our LOVE—not by our ability to have a roaring good debate or dogmatically attempt to prove right or wrong.

And so looking back, I have no regrets about how I handled the situation. Even though I didn’t do it perfectly. Even though I took some conversation heat for it later from the same person who proctored the initial debate who now wanted to pour some shame on me and convince me that I had control issues.

Even though I cried about it on the drive home because of the emotional toll it took on me.

The reality is that I am not a badass conflict-management person by nature. I’m a peacemaker. I’m a healer. I love pouring love and mercy into broken people. But bullies are another story. Bullies can’t be coddled or appeased or they will never change. And people who use manipulation, intimidation, shame, religion or passive-aggressive behavior to control others are in essence bullies.

They need to be stood up to.

So even though I’m not great at it yet, even though it still feels scary, and even though it’s taken me a loooong time to get here, I’ve finally grown enough spiritual balls TO START to stand up to them.

And I’m proud of myself for being brave in the name of love.

Because I’m not just pushing back against a bully when I do, I’m also pushing back against my learned passivity upbringing—where the only conflict coping mechanism I accrued was how to freeze in the midst of it all and become invisible.

So God has been intentionally building and strengthening my stand-up-to-bullies muscle.

My knees still wobble when I do it sometimes. And that’s okay. I know it’s all part of the journey and I don’t have to do it perfectly.

But when I stand before the throne one day and Jesus asks me if I learned to love, I want to be able to say YES:

Yes, I showed kindness and mercy to the broken.

Yes, I stood up to bullies in the name of advocating for others.

Yes, I learned to yield to love.

Nova