Moving Past BS To Find The Treasure

Somedays I forget I’m a person. Seriously. A lot of days I get so sucked into the crazy mom shuffle that I forget I’m supposed to also be a human being. Most moms will get this: the days when you just feel like a Mom ATM. Yep. That’s me: Mom ATM. What do you need? Taxi Driver? Social coordinator? Listening ear? Conflict resolution? That’s usually how I feel. But not yesterday. Yesterday, I got to be something different:

I got to be a real person again. 

Yesterday, I got a quick break from Mom ATM mode and I had an opportunity to sit with some new friends and share my heart. They actually wanted to know more about me. Like who was I? What was I all about? I got a chance to share some of my passions, my dreams, and my quirky God life and the way He walks with me.

It invigorated me. 

It wasn’t the attention so much but the permission that refreshed my weary soul. The permission to remember who I really was. To remember the ME apart from the kid attachments and the stay-at-home-wife identity. For a few hours, I got to remember what made me, ME.

And I REALLY liked being me again—even if only for a few hours.

Most introductory meet-and-greets or initial get-to-know ya’s for me usually include questions related to marital status or number of children, or the inevitably awkward “What-do-you-do?” question—which I seriously hate. 

I know one person who bypasses all the external BS and extraneous details and just asks: “Who are you?—and don’t tell me what you do for a living.”

I LOVE that question.

I wish our culture would begin to adopt a more internally-oriented focus like that. I would love to see society as a whole start to move past the introductory questions that are geared towards social or economic productivity—and instead try to identify a person’s design.

Like “Who are you INSIDE?”, “What makes you, YOU?”, “What lights you up and makes you come alive?”, “What is the FIRE shut up in your bones?”

As for me, I actually asked God a similar question recently:

“Father, who am I REALLY?”

His internal answer came as a soft voice spoken inside my spirit. He answered me simply with two words: Worshipper and WONDER-er.

He nailed it.

It’s so true. I do and like a lot of things. I’m pretty eclectic by nature. But the satin thread that weaves its way throughout all of the interests and timeline of my life are those two things:

I AM a worshipper. And whether I’m writing a blogpost, laughing with my kids, praying over somebody, walking down the street, cleaning my house, or singing on my guitar—I am worshipping Him.

AND

I AM a wonder-er. I constantly marvel at all of creation—hawks, dragonflies, mountains, the ocean, wind, rain, motion, colors, rhythm, light. I was made for WONDER. I was made for AWE.

That’s who I am inside—everything else is just playing field.

Who are you?

Who are you REALLY?

We all have TREASURES and a SPIRITUAL DESIGN inside of us that are God-given.

It’s time we start looking for them.

Nova

No Boundaries Can Kill You

IMG_0108Clearly I’m in denial that I have good boundaries with my children. This was brought to light the other day when I felt near the brink of a panic attack. I couldn’t figure it out. What was going on? Why was I feeling SO horrible?

I even texted my husband—“Please pray for me. I’m feeling anxious and panicky.”

My brain had been feeling glitchy and was having trouble focusing, my body was suffering with inflammation, and my adrenals had been maxed out for weeks. I was living in a state of perpetual fight or flight survival mode. But fight or flight mode was only designed by God to be a temporary survival mechanism to help in times of danger.

I wasn’t actually meant to live in this place for a month and a half straight. I wasn’t in any physical danger.

I started out the summer with high hopes. I’m SUCH a visionary at heart—but the day-to-day implementation is my greatest challenge. My high hopes included planning fun activities for my four children—while also setting healthy limits for them, as well as teaching them how to incorporate a healthy balance of work, rest, and play into their lives.

I had only recently experienced the epiphany that OVERACTIVITY was my family’s drug of choice. My children were addicted to it. I had learned it in my own family system growing up and had taught it to my kids. I realized that I had fostered their addiction by the pace of life that I set early on in their childhoods.

My SUMMER MISSION was now to detox our family from this addiction and teach them a healthier life equilibrium. 

But there was only one problem: I was JUST now learning and implementing these things in my own life. Yet I knew this was God’s heart for my family: Teach it as you learn it. It doesn’t matter if you just learned it yesterday—teach it today. Teach it messy. Teach it not perfectly. 

Just start.

I had also planned during summertime to set aside some consistent time for my writing and study—not just for my own pursuit of growth, but also to make sure I retained some SANITY. I knew myself. I knew that I needed LOTS of alone time to regroup from constantly being around kids.

That was the plan anyway.

So my summer boundaries started out optimistically, but basically just ended up sucking. I let the constant need of the moment set my pace. I communicated some boundaries, but my kids continually beat me back into submission to their desires. I gave in. I felt bad. I didn’t want to shortchange them. So I scheduled more activity. More play. I let the other important variables of rest (regrouping time) and of work (chores) fall through the cracks. My ME time disappeared.

I spiraled down until the day that I hit that panic attack threshold. I felt overwhelmed and unequipped to deal with the rest of the demands of the day. I still had more errands to run, lawn work to finish so the HOA didn’t fine us, kids to feed, and carpool to drive.

But God intervened and threw me a life preserver.

In the middle of my panicked state, I received two separate text lifelines from friends. Neither friend was local, but both felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to reach out. Neither one knew I was close to reaching for a Xanax. But God did.

I’m so thankful for the Holy Spirit—aka my rescue line.

Both texts included links to articles about boundaries. One article highlighted the importance of teaching our children healthy boundaries. The other focused on how to effectively deal with any anger pushback that comes from those who fight our boundaries.

Man did the Holy Spirit READ my mail.

And by that second text, God’s gentle voice finally hacked my chaotic firewall. I heard God’s caring message within the text lines of the articles: “SLOW DOWN. ENFORCE better boundaries. Get STRATEGIC with how to respond to the anger push-back. Quit killing yourself because you don’t want to disappoint.”

God’s rescue.

And then I remembered something else: God had given me a head’s up warning dream before the start of summer, where a wise counsellor told me to slow down and stay safe within boundaries.

In all of the summer’s chaos, I had forgotten that God actually WANTED me safe and protected. He was advocating for a healthier pace in my own life and family. He was on my side and was cheering for my boundaries and freedom. And even when I forgot His precautionary warning, He sent me another reminder.

Because He’s just THAT good.

It’s tough work moving from compliance to healthier boundaries, but I know that I can do it with God’s help.

Contending for More Freedom with God on My Side,

Nova

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

Not Enough Milk in My Cereal

 

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I cried over my milk last night. Not because I’d spilled it, but actually because of a much more important reason: there wasn’t enough milk in my cereal.

I was sick of partially-submerged cereal. I’d been a milk martyr for far too long.

When my servant-hearted husband brought me the cereal in the first place and I realized it didn’t have enough milk for my preference, I felt crushed. Didn’t he know? Didn’t he know how much milk I needed after 15 years together? My first feeling was one of sadness and resignation—I felt I should just be thankful and eat what was given to me. My next feeling actually came as a spark of anger—This was unjust! I was wronged!

This flip-flopping of emotions was exhausting and launched me next into feelings of self-accusation and condemnation. Just get over it. What’s wrong with you? I was tempted to stuff the pain and ignore it because I was also tired. But the Holy Spirit nudged me gently into a different direction:

“Pay attention to this. Pay attention to what your heart is saying.”

So I took a minute and just sat with the feeling. I tried to probe deeper into my emotions. What was going on? Why this extreme reaction to a very minimal event in my day? It was just a bowl of cereal for goodness’ sake—not some massive family crisis. But I knew enough by now to know that an extreme reaction like this was usually masking something much deeper. What was it?

And then BOOM!—there it was. It hit me like the BRIGHTEST freight train ever:

I’d NEVER had enough of what I needed.

The quiet introspection had paid off. I finally saw the root of an issue that had plagued me for years but I could never quite figure out. Like a newly-receded tooth, I felt like the root issue was totally obvious now.

How did I not see this before?

After discovering the emotional root, various memories began to scroll before my eyes like a movie reel. I remembered how much neglect had played a part in my early childhood years. Both parents always gone. Childcare provided by a mushpot of nannies, dysfunctional family members and sexual predators.

I remembered the emotional starvation—how often I was forced by authorities to accept less than what I really needed. Crucial emotional ingredients like attentiveness, active listening, emotional connection, healthy physical touch, and even safety were few and far between. Inconsistency had been my biggest childhood companion.

I realized that neglect had taught me not to expect too much from others or even life itself. I learned that what I needed didn’t matter. I learned that “What you get is what you get—and you don’t get upset.” 

I also remembered the abuse—times when authorities actively pushed against my own boundaries and needs. Like being forced to eat liver and oysters as a young child and almost puking. Like being forced to swim down powerful river rapids that almost drowned me. Like having a parent chase me and barge into my room when I just needed space and privacy. Like all the years of hidden sexual abuse that continued on unnoticed by the people who were supposed to be protecting and keeping me safe.

I realized that the abuse and disrespect of my boundaries had taught me that authorities got to make all the decisions. I learned that I did not get a choice. I learned submission, victimization, and powerlessness. 

I realized that I had learned a lot of things but I had NEVER learned how to get my needs met.

And now here I was: a married woman with four children who didn’t know how to ask for more milk—who didn’t think that she even DESERVED more milk.

So I did something I hadn’t done in a long time. I went downstairs and added some more milk into my bowl. I FLOODED that cereal. And then I sat in my favorite chair, ate my cereal and cried. And I invited God into that space to clean out the pain and heal me.

It felt wonderfully reconciling. I was finally grieving. It was a new experience for me but it felt so timely and God-orchestrated. The backlog of suppressed pain was finally finding its channel to be released.

These grieving tears felt so much different than self-pity tears. Self-pity tears never resolved anything. They were always an endless revolving-door of pain.

Grieving tears made me feel lighter. They were tears of release and self-acceptance. I was releasing the pain. I was accepting myself and reconciling to the story of my past. I could own the truth of my story now: so much of my childhood had majorly sucked. I didn’t need to lie to myself anymore. I didn’t need to accept the script any longer that others had fed to me over the years. I finally believed myself. 

And as I cried, a lot of the pain got out. It was like I could feel God wiping away my tears. I didn’t need to wait for Heaven—He wanted to do it now.

A bowl of cereal. Who knew? 

God will use anything to bring healing.

Trusting in the Great Redeemer,

Nova (newly-redeemed milk martyr)

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes…” (Revelation 21:4).

God’s Presence in the Chaos

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I heard the lady curse as she reached the bathroom door. F*@#!, she said. She had only just realized, as I had a brief moment before, that the public beach bathroom was now closed for a quick cleaning and that she would have to wait.

I was standing nearby in the sand. My eyes were closed and I was listening to the roar of the waves and the children laughing in the nearby distance. I wiggled my toes in the cool, silky sand. I was KEENLY aware of the pressure in my bladder—but I was even more aware of something much more important:

I was present in this waiting moment for the first time in forever and I felt SO thankful.

It was the day before Mother’s Day and I was already exhausted by the time I finally stumbled up to the bathroom. The usual 1-hour drive to the beach had taken 4 hours. We hit major stop-and-go traffic. And that combined with the 5 food/ bathroom stops along the way, plus the kids’ endless chorus of whining and my now lingering carsickness had left me pretty well spent. It was after we finally crash-landed onto the beach at 6 pm that I realized my need for a bathroom trip.

The day had not gone as I had expected.

So here I was: tired, nauseated, headachy, and waiting near the bathroom with my toes dug deep into the sand. I felt uncomfortable, but I also felt luxuriously happy. I could feel God’s presence as the wind whipped through my hair and caressed my shoulders. A wave of joyful emotion rushed over me that almost brought me to tears. This is real life. The crazy and the sacred all mixed together. I’m so grateful.

I thought back to the earlier morning. My husband and I had such high hopes for a fun early mother’s-day celebration. But then the dog pooped blood all over our carpet and we had to make an emergency trip to the vet. Thankfully, the news from the vet was promising and we ended up back at home with an exhausted dog and an antibiotic. It could have been worse.

We decided to still pursue our earlier beach plans.

But then my favorite coffee shop messed up my latte and as we were driving away with my gross drink—I got some disappointing news on my phone. My happy mood was shot. The bad news plus my marginal coffee seemed to be the cherry on top to an already crappy day that finally pushed me over into the grumped-out zone.

Come on, get it together. You’re bigger than this. Don’t let this steal your joy.

I tried to self-encourage but it wasn’t working. I knew I had to get myself out of this funky mood before it spiraled down even more. I started having second thoughts about our destination and thought maybe we should just go home.

“What are we going to do if we just go home? Work around the house?” my husband asked.

He was right. I knew the potential for family fun was still there if we could just push through a little bit more and make it to our destination. So we did. Four hours later we arrived on the beach, suits on and towels in hand. It was FREEZING. The fact that it was now evening and the lifeguards had already gone off-duty plus the local shark sightings meant we were pretty much beached. We only lasted an hour.

The kids had fun anyway. The Olders made meatballs out of sand and sang goofy songs. The Littles played on the playground adjacent to the beach (because we apparently have NO playgrounds back home). I watched the water and the seagulls. I closed my eyes and listened to the waves. I tasted the salty-sea spray on my lips. And it was enough.

And that epiphanous moment at the bathroom ended up becoming my mother’s day gift. Because as I heard the lady curse, I realized just how far I’d come in my own life and healing. I remembered how conditioned I used to be to the busy maze and pace of life, where the waiting had become more inopportune than the rushing. Life had gotten flipped somewhere along the way. I knew that I too used to be a reactive person that missed out on the joy of the moment.

But not anymore.

I was back.

And this moment was a gift that I savored. It was a time when I could just BE rather than DO. And I purposefully chose to engage in that moment with God.

My Mother’s Day gift: Being present. Being purposeful. Being with Him.

In His Calming Shalom Presence,

Nova

Landmines of Pain

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Have you ever accidentally stepped into a memory from your past that sent you reeling? Yep—me too. A few months ago, I stumbled onto a painful landmine of unhealed pain in my heart.

Trauma triggers are like that—so unexpected. You’re just walking along and then…BOOM! PAIN!

It happened not long after I started attending a new community of believers. My spirit was so refreshed in this particular community that I was FILLED with massive hope and expectation for the future. This place felt like home. I loved it.

I couldn’t wait to see what God would do. I knew I could thrive in this place. I knew my spiritual DNA would fit. So I purposefully gave it my all and dove right in. I’ve never done anything half-heartedly. I began to attend every event and activity that I could—trying to meet people and make new friends.

And then that one fateful conversation began with a person who looked strangely familiar…

“I remember YOU…”

And suddenly there it was: INSTANT pain.

In that one moment, I was flung back into the past without my consent. I realized now why that individual had looked so familiar to me. Ten years ago. It was almost ten years ago that I had spent some time with this person among a group of other believers.

It wasn’t a good experience for me.

I actually remember liking this person. But the situation? Not so much. And any of the small amenities from that short time were vastly overshadowed by the painful shut-down that followed. My pursuit of spiritual community had been majorly hijacked. I basically crawled into a six-year hole afterwards.

It felt like a lifetime ago. In a way it really was. I had travailed and triumphed, contended and grown, and healed and thrived so much since those days.

I was a different person now.

But in that split-second, all the pain came back. Scene after scene replayed before my eyes: the rejection and isolation. The purposeful exclusion. The public humiliation. The shame.

I did NOT want to be back in that place again—nor did I want to be reminded of it every time I saw this person.

It was a horrible memory to revisit—a significant pain point in my Christian journey. I was obviously not quite as healed as I thought I was. It was one thing to forgive the wounding parties from afar. It was quite another to see someone on a regular basis that had witnessed the whole thing. I had been so thankful for the physical distance between myself and everyone involved in that experience. Besides social media, our paths rarely crossed over the years.

And yet here I was—in close physical proximity to one of the people who had seen my heart get publicly crucified. I wasn’t sure if I could handle the frequent reminder. I actually thought about changing course. Despite all of this community’s innate goodness and tangible Jesus saturation, I debated just leaving.

Because that’s what pain does. It wants to hide. It wants to forget. It does NOT want to revisit.

Yet even as that warm wash of fear and insecurity poured over me, the strength in my spirit rose up with a fierce tenacity that I could NOT deny. I felt empowered with a spirit knowing in the midst of my soul’s internal chaos:

God’s redemptive fingerprints are ALL over this. My Father is up to something good.

This VERY situation felt reminiscent of so many other times when the Father purposefully brought me into awkward situations in order to facilitate my healing. What is laid down in pain can often only be accessed again through pain. I knew that I was no longer a victim that needed to run and hide. I was victorious through my identity in Him.

I knew that EVERYTHING was in the process of being redeemed.

So I settled into the reality that I could trust Him with this—even though I didn’t have the healing closure that I wanted in the moment. It was in spiritual community that I was shut down and it was in spiritual community that I was being restored. The redemptive ways of God take my breath away. Yah, there are still some spiritual logistics to work out. Healing and forgiveness are like an onion—so many layers sometimes. But my end game will always be breakthrough and new freedom in my life. And I’m ready. I want it.

Trusting in the Great Redeemer,

Nova

Pursuing the MORE

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I know this will be mommy blasphemy to some—but being a mom was NEVER my end-all goal in life. Neither was marriage. I’ve always wanted more than just a home with a white picket fence, children running around in the yard, and me cooking meals inside for my family.

I wanted my full spiritual inheritance and destiny.

For one thing—I HATE cooking. I think I could have actually excelled at it if I’d been willing to put forth the effort. When I was younger, I didn’t have the energy or time. And now that I’m older—I just don’t care. The cooking responsibility somehow shuffled to my husband during my four back-to-back pregnancies, nausea, and nursing. And by the time I was finished being a baby factory—my earlier desire to be Susie Homemaker was completely gone.

Don’t get me wrong; I still liked the idea of a beautifully-decorated, up-kept home and a mom that made homemade meals—but I just wanted other things MORE. I knew I couldn’t do everything perfectly if I wanted to reach other goals. After having four children, I recognized the need to be more strategic with my time if I wanted to run and finish my entire life’s race well.

I felt this pent-up fire to pursue the other areas of my spiritual calling in addition to motherhood. I realized it didn’t have to be an either/or proposition. I COULD do both.

When I was first a new mommy, I read books about the importance and mission of motherhood—all of which I completely agreed with and endorsed. But even though I understood the importance of my mothering stewardship, I knew I would one day stand before the throne and be accountable for more than just my parenting mentorship and wifehood.

God had entrusted me with other gifts and abilities.

But like what happens to so many new mommies, I got sucked into the all-consuming mommy black hole. I shelved so much of what mattered to me during those early mommy years. I sacrificed myself willingly in favor of meeting everyone else’s needs. It happened slowly at first out of sheer baby necessity. But after many years of repeating this behavior, I realized it had become an unhealthy dying to self. I had given myself no nurturing; no soul-care time to grow, thrive, and develop.

I had inadvertently buried and was ignoring the other gifts that God had placed inside of me. I was being like the steward in the parable of the talents that buried what he had been entrusted with—rather than investing it for the good of his master.

To whom much is given, much is required; and the gifts and callings of God in a person’s life are irrevocable—they don’t ever go away.

As for me, these irrevocable talents became like spiritual irritants in my life—lying just beneath the surface and scratching me for years. Reminding me of their presence. I was like the princess and the pea. No matter how much I tried to ignore them throughout the busy mommy years—I could still feel them.

My spiritual DNA was crying out to be noticed and fulfilled.

I finally listened. I finally took the time to stir up and attend to the other gifts and callings that God had placed in me long ago: Writing. Ministry. Community. Prophetic Outreach. I moved past my fearful arguments of inability and agreed to partner with God’s other deposits in my life.

It hasn’t been easy but it’s totally been worth it. It has taken a lot of work and creative re-shuffling of responsibilities to accomplish. And my consistency with taking small, daily steps has paid off and brought new areas of growth into my life.

It has also been an interesting process. My perfectionistic tendencies have had to die—I can no longer be all things to all people. I have to say no to a lot of opportunities and I have to make sacrifices. Those sacrifices usually include a house that looks like a kid fraternity party when I take time to write. I also miss out on family time when I attend classes or outreaches, and I’m behind on laundry ALL the time.

But when I stand before the throne one day—I want to hear my Father say:

“Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!” (Matthew 25:21)

From one heavenly steward to another,

❤ Nova

You Cannot Hide Your Light

IMG_6478It doesn’t matter where I go—people think I work there. It’s been this huge inside joke that I’ve shared with God for years. Like—what’s up with that? But it’s true. People just approach me everywhere I happen to be. They think I know stuff.

They think I can help them.

I notice it a lot when I’m shopping in stores because I often get bumped out of my internal reverie. Like what happened today. This morning I was approached for help by two different men—one of them a shopper wanting me to help him price-check his bread under a scanner: “Excuse me, Miss? MISS!”

The guy basically chased me down in the aisle when I didn’t hear his first inquiry.

Granted, I think I’m pretty readable by others to be a helpful and understanding person, but I think these occurrences actually highlight a deeper and more powerful truth than just my empathic type of personality:

A person’s spirit recognizes LIGHT.

After DECADES of these interactions, I’ve come to the conclusion that these people are actually drawn to me by a KNOWING in their spirit man. They are drawn like moths to God’s LIGHT.

Each one of us is a BEACON—broadcasting light from within our spirit man. It’s a spiritual reality. And everywhere that we go, we pull others into that light. Even unintentionally. People don’t know WHY they come. But they DO come. I see this happen time and again as strangers ask me for help with piddly little things:

Can you give me directions to ______?

Have you tried this brand of beans?

Can you help me scan this bread?

It’s taken me years of watching people make a beeline towards me for me to finally understand what is happening. Now when these moments happen, I feel an internal tug in my spirit and I just KNOW: they see my LIGHT. They see Jesus. They know I can help them. Their spirit is curious and knows that I really do know something that they need:

That something is TRUTH.

And even though their soul may be absolutely clueless about the real reason why they approach me—their spirit is not. The surface requests for help are irrelevant—the soul just needs a socially acceptable reason to approach. But if their soul could find words to language the DEEPER feeling, it would probably go something like this:

“I see something in you that I need. What do you know that I don’t know yet? Please tell me.”

God’s light is attractive and a person’s spirit recognizes it.

I feel those internal tugs on my spirit at other times too—like when I can feel someone watching me. I used to hate it when I could feel someone watching me, especially men. It felt creepy and it usually triggered me into a fearful place. As a woman, I am always aware of my need to stay safe. But the closer I grow with Jesus, the more my spiritual discernment grows. The deeper my union with Him, the more I operate out of my spirit knowing instead of the emotions of my soul. The result?

I can tell the difference now between people’s looking intentions.

I can feel the difference between a creepy person watching me and a person watching me because of a curiosity in their spirit. The difference is night and day. So I no longer walk in fear during these unexpected interactions. I consider them now as invitations from Heaven—inviting me to partner with God and purposefully shine my light.

Nowadays, when I FEEL someone watching me (which is also spirit knowing, by the way)—I purposefully try to step into that moment. I glance up and meet the person’s eyes. I smile. Many times the person and I don’t even talk. But it doesn’t matter. A spiritual transaction takes place.

Science has proven that data is electrically transferred through eye contact. So even if we aren’t speaking, we are relaying our internal message of God’s light and truth. And if it happens to be an interaction that involves an actual conversation or helping—that just means we get an even longer opportunity to shine truth into their world.

I’m not talking about evangelism or preaching the Good News here. That’s another topic for a different day. I’m simply talking about loving another person by shining the light that you already have.

The sun doesn’t have to tell you that it loves you for you to be affected by its presence. You FEEL its warmth on your skin. God’s light is the same way. When a person encounters God’s light—it is transformational no matter what.

I think there will be many people in Heaven one day that meet God because of purposeful believers who shine their light well.

Every time we shine His light—whether through our presence, eye-contact, or intentional conversations, people walk away changed. We should never discount the power of a life well-shined.

God IS LIGHT.

Your spirit carries His light.

Shine it well.

❤ Nova

“Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

“For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true” (Ephesians 5:8-9).