Me Too



Sexual abuse is pretty much the worst thing ever. If you want to strip someone of their identity, confidence, and ability to navigate life and adulthood well–sexual abuse is definitely the easiest way to get the job done.

I’ve walked that road.

I remember one of the first times sexual abuse popped up on my family’s radar. A relative was sharing his opinion with me about the effects that sexual abuse would have on a young child we knew. We had just found out she had been molested by a family friend. The child was three. My commenting relative happened to be a doctor.

“It’s better if they just stop asking her about it. She won’t remember it later anyway.”

I felt ambivalent and torn by his response. His opinion felt WAY wrong–but what did I know? He was the medical expert. I usually trusted him regarding physical health. But emotional health? I wasn’t so sure. And as I would discover in the years to come, he was pretty much a COMPLETE ignoramus about this particular topic.

I would personally come to realize that sexual abuse is NEVER actually forgotten. It just gets buried. I would learn firsthand that even if the brain can’t access the play-by-play memories, the body’s senses and emotions will carry and remind you later of the details of the trauma.

The body remembers.

That particular opinion was only ONE of many future expressions of naiveté that I would hear voiced from within my family circle. In subsequent years, more abuse revelations would come to light regarding incest that was perpetrated by my extended family members. And the clueless family commentary that followed was paramount and very telling as to why the abuse was FIRST able to happen and THEN allowed to continue on unnoticed for many more years.

Denial and ignorance thrived in our whitewashing family system.

My own perspective shift on the subject of sexual abuse began once…well…once I realized that it had happened to ME TOO. And not just once…

I had a long road up ahead.


I started having concrete memories when I was in my late 30s. I had plowed straight through grad school to marriage and then popped out four children in the first six years.  I began working from home as a writer in between my mommy duties. More and more responsibilities kept getting added to my plate, especially as the kids got older.

I think the constant pressure and intense activity load just threw me over the edge. I could no longer repress the memories. My body started telling its story. Health issues sprang up from out of nowhere and hit me hard.

I don’t remember all the physical specifics now. I was sprinkled with so many diagnoses over the years that I kinda lost track. But as multiple specialists scrambled to figure me out– complicated migraines, depression, an immune disorder, ruptured ovarian cysts, and a mini stroke were just a few of the titles they threw my way in lieu of an explanation. Then I launched straight from years of insomnia into being inundated in my sleep by buried memories finally resurfacing.

The flood of dreams poured in by the hundreds. 

I had always been a prolific dreamer in the past, but these dreams were different. They carried a sexual overtone and a lot of them included demonic torment. Sometimes the demonic realm would paralyze me from within my dreams. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t wake up. I couldn’t even call out to say the name of Jesus. Something was terribly wrong that I didn’t understand.

A handful of times I even woke up gagging and gasping for air. 

At the time, I reasoned away the dreams as a spiritual attack. But they were just TOO dark and too many. I couldn’t break through into any freedom. Why wasn’t my spiritual authority working? I needed answers. What was happening to me?

FINALLY, I got the revelatory breakthrough that I needed through one of those intense dreams. God had prompted me to start writing down every dream–no matter how jacked up it appeared. I had also been studying biblical dream interpretation. And as I began to combine these two tools–I finally broke through the denial.

When two guys in a dream started harassing the childhood me, mocking me and threatening rape, I finally figured it out. It pretty much had to be spelled out for me before I could finally believe it:

Sexual abuse was buried in my childhood past and it made SO much sense.

Daytime flashbacks began to follow the dreams. My life dots began to connect from that point forward. I felt massive relief. All the years of missing childhood memories. The weird sexual triggers. I finally began to feel NOT crazy. 

I started counseling around that point and embarked on the long journey of detangling my past. At least now I had a target. The years of NOT knowing filled with mysterious emotional triggers had felt brutally insane.

So I trudged through. Learned the psychotherapy rhetoric. Did the work.

But I felt really alone…


It took months of counseling before I felt strong enough to start telling other people. That evolved slowly. It actually felt easier to tell friends at first. My family didn’t feel safe. And when I finally progressed to telling family members–I found out why. I had one empathetic cousin, but not much else in the way of support.

The rest of my family’s responses sucked to varying degrees. I got both sides of the spectrum. On one side I got doubt, the questioning of my memory, and the actual trying to talk me out of it; and on the other side, I got over-emotional reactivity, smothering support, and some probing for details. Nothing balanced and in-between–and I certainly didn’t need any MORE people to emotionally triage. I was enough.

I realized I would be on my own in this healing journey. Me and God, that is. 

When I’d occasionally interact with my more probing relatives and their questions, I was so tempted to throw out Jack Nicholson’s line from A Few Good Men: “You can’t HANDLE the truth.”

It was true. The things that had happened–they couldn’t emotionally handle hearing.

My personal sucky favorite was my own father’s response. I felt it epitomized the family’s complete oblivion: “Why didn’t you tell me?”, he challenged. I remember feeling so shocked by the utter stupidity of his question that I was left speechless.

I don’t know–maybe because the abusers knew where I lived, told me they were watching me, and threatened me with personal harm, the harm of my parents, or sending the police after me if I told. 

How was I supposed to answer that question?

Should I try to explain the effects of violent trauma on the brain and the often-used coping mechanism of disassociation? Do I start with the fact that a young child doesn’t have language or understanding to describe this stuff? Or should I just tell him specific details like the fact that sometimes I was so heavily drugged prior to the abuse that I couldn’t even open my eyes to see WHO was doing what?

In retrospect, I wish I had responded with the more logistically-obvious answer: “You were NEVER home, you abandoning JERK! How dare you think you knew anything that happened in my life!”

So yah, there was that.


In general, my family members acted SO surprised like–“HOW could this have happened?” or  “WHEN could this have happened?”

I think the real question here should have been: “How could this NOT have happened?” There was absolutely nothing normal or stable about my early childhood.

Our family made an easy target. Simple. It really shouldn’t be ALL that shocking. I had parents that were mostly separated or divorced. A father that was always working and gone. A mother who left for days at a time for her job.


So who exactly WAS watching me? A very good question. It was a crockpot of character–that’s for sure. A disgusting college student hired off a message board. A molesting grandfather. A dysfunctional grandmother who shirked responsibilities and left me with her pedophile friends. A handful of benign others.

I was left alone without safe parental supervision during my most vulnerable and defenseless years. By the time my upbringing became more stable and consistent, the damage had already been done.

But the ignorance and naiveté didn’t stop there. Oh no. My family just wasn’t the brightest judge of sketchy character. Like maybe you shouldn’t have let me play ALONE at the neighbor’s house. You know–the friend whose father dressed up as a FLASHER at Halloween. HELLO! Was anyone paying attention?

Did that really set off NO parental alarms?

What about all of the visitors who slept in the bedroom right next to mine–WAAAAY down the hall and on the other side of the house from my parent’s bedroom? Not the best idea. Or how about the cocaine-snorting family addict who LIVED with us for a year in that same bedroom?

Hearing his voice for years afterwards would terrorize me.

You’d think the family lightbulb would have come on when a teenager in our family came forward with sexual-abuse allegations against a certain relative. What happened, you ask? Well, it got a little bit of family circulation but was then shut down and sealed like it never even happened. Abuser NOT confronted–and still allowed into family gatherings.

That incident went into the vault of family secrets with all the other coverups.

(I would eventually cut off contact with previous abusers and cover-up enablers in the family tree. The other main perpetrator in the family just died off while I was still a child–thankfully.)

Basically–at the time of my sexual-abuse disclosure, my family’s incredible whitewashing ability was operating at full throttle. They lived mostly in a reality of clueless oblivion. The few times I tried to hint at specific details, I could see their eyes glaze over into denial. I was done trying. But I wasn’t going to let them drag me down.

I realized I could STILL heal even if they stayed forever in their hypnotic trance of denial. But I wouldn’t be there. I was determined to break out of generational patterns. I was done with coverups, secrets, and denial.

The truth truly WILL set you free…if you let it.

I couldn’t talk about any of this with most of my family, but I did have one ally in the bunch. Another Me-Too survivor–a relative who shared a similar abuse memory with the same perpetrator and sexual-abuse infraction.

Once this revelation surfaced, I felt extremely validated for the first time in forever.


Earlier on in my healing journey, everything kind of came to a sudden family head. My counsellor had informed me that she was legally required to report one of my childhood abusers: a distant relative, because he was STILL around children. So I had to make the responsible calls, giving the head’s up to certain people. Awkward. I still remember one close relative’s reaction:

“But are you SURE?”

It was a huge blow at the time. It was especially destabilizing for me because this person also happened to be a licensed therapist. Shouldn’t she know better than to ask something like that? Like I hadn’t already wrestled with MASSIVE doubt and denial as it was? Like denial and minimization hadn’t been THE manipulative tools of choice used by my abusers to confuse me?

And speaking of Denial…

Denial had actually been one of my longest and most protective of friends. He had served me well for decades–but I was finally tired of his pathological lying. “It probably wasn’t THAT bad” was one of Denial’s favorite mantras to throw at me over the years. The next runner up would definitely be: “It probably only happened a couple times.” And every once in a while, Denial would slam his judgmental gavel down with the LOUD decree that “NONE of this actually happened. You’re making it all up.”  

But the years of dream memories, flashbacks, and painful triggers with no other explanation SCREAMED otherwise.


So I started paying attention to my own reactive clues. Like my panicky habit of always waking up to check the door to make sure no one was entering my room. Then there was my obsessive fear of someone walking in on me in the bathroom. Or my trouble talking to sixty-year-old men and the forced compulsion I felt to smile and look them in the eyes. That was a BIGGIE.

I just held all older men in that 60’ish age bracket as suspect pedophiles. I thought they should be quarantined. And anyone that winked at me? Yah, they ended up in that suspicious category as well. That felt WAY too familiar.

The blanks in my life began to fill in.

I had to be my own private investigator most of the time, piecing together the clues. So many haunting dreams that left me with more questions than answers. And a life full of triggers–which was probably the hardest dynamic of the journey to navigate. 


Triggers saturated my senses. I saw, heard, smelled, and felt them everywhere. Seeing knick-knacky decor from my grandparent’s era made me feel panicky. Catching a glimpse of a man with an overhanging belly nearly sent me into tears. Certain guy smells triggered my gag reflex. Getting startled from behind made me feel RAGE. I’d freak out if my head or neck were ever held in place. And spontaneous favors or surprise gifts? These were met with dismay and suspicion–I was ALWAYS leery of strings attached and hidden agendas.

Pro quid pro was a social contract I knew sadly all too well and now cynically expected.

Then PTSD entered into the scene. Loud sounds became troublesome. They were infamous for bumping me into fight or flight. I’d feel like a caged animal that needed to escape. Crowds became really difficult for me as well. I’d feel surrounded by danger.

And then there were just the NORMAL parts of life that felt abnormal. Things that most people take for granted. Things that should have been fine–but for me they’d gotten SO warped and distorted by the trauma. Like someone telling me they loved me or missed me. How dare they?! Or someone trying to kiss me–even on the cheek. No thank you.  Anything whispered became synonymous with diabolical intentions. And I NEED YOU was definitely high up on the Richter Scale of panic.

And as if those weren’t ENOUGH to deal with, some previous strengths then morphed into new weaknesses. Like talking to men. 

I used to interview and interact with a lot of men during my grad school years. But at some point along my trigger-laden journey, I became a bumbling idiot talking to guys. ESPECIALLY new acquaintances or friends who hadn’t yet proved themselves safe. One-on-one conversations were the WORST and were usually doomed to fail. I’d become awkward and incoherent. Say stupid things and be mad at myself afterwards.

Thanks to my childhood abusers’ perverse indoctrination, I began to FEEL like talking to any guy communicated sexual desires and intentions. And if I reached a panicky point in the conversation, I’d often just cut and run. Most. Embarrassing. Thing. Ever.

I’m STILL working my way out of the bumbling idiot trigger and it REALLY sucks.

Feeling trapped and feeling powerless were probably the biggest perpetual triggers in my healing journey. Those two feelings popped up EVERYWHERE. Waiting in long lines or sitting in heavy traffic were just a couple of the daily normals that could trigger them. Enclosed water slides and other claustrophobically-small places worked too.

Then there were the spiritual triggers–bringing God into the sexual-abuse mix was seriously pure evil.

One of my stupid abusers had lied to me and told me he used to be a pastor. He told me he could tell me more about God (I was really little at the time and LOVED learning anything about God.) He called me over to him with a deceptive line like “Let’s talk about God”, then grabbed me so tightly I thought I was breaking, and then sexually abused me. Yep. I remember my utter confusion and devastation. For years, I had trouble looking ANY pastor in the eyes. It was an instant shame trigger.

Actually–direct eye contact with pastors or men in general is sometimes still hard. 

(Nowadays during conversations, I just try to give myself eye breaks as a trigger workaround.)


Mysterious triggers eventually became a healing game of sorts. I’d curiously pick them apart to see if I could find the traumatic threads to figure them out. Making store returns was one such trigger that initially seemed bizarre until I did some digging. I’d experience tons of guilt, shame, and fear (a common abuse trio) every time I tried to make an exchange or want my money back.

I now know that it was partially because I had to ask for help. There was a reason why I lived most of my life in self-sufficiency. Trauma taught me many lessons–like TRUST NO ONE and DON’T ASK. It’s just NOT safe, so figure it out yourself.

But even bigger than that, I had EXTREME difficulty answering questions that felt interrogative, where I had to explain myself or prove that I was right. The return situation could trigger this–depending on how simple or complex the scenario. Anytime I had to explain or defend my actions, reasons, or truth, I’d start to feel panic and fear.

I’d feel like THEY DIDN’T BELIEVE ME and thought I was lying.

It seems like a pretty logical assumption here that I DID TRY to tell my family about the abuse when I was young. BUT THEY DIDN’T LISTEN TO OR BELIEVE ME. It makes me wonder: how many times did I try to tell but got shut down? How many times was I dismissed by an adult because of the inconvenient interruption? How many times was distracted-parent brain a part of the equation? My dad was infamous for pretend listening.

People NOT listening to me had always been a BIG point of reactivity. 

Each clue eventually fit somewhere. I had a lot of unexplainable floating guilt and fear during the first few years of the healing journey. Those feelings eventually subsided and became way more manageable. But the shame triggers remained a LOT longer. I still battle them. Sometimes the shame would waft in like the wind and just shake me up a little bit. Other times, it would slam me down hard like a wrestler on a mat:

Don’t even try to get up. STAY DOWN.


Having kids brought a whole other slew of triggers in addition to my own. I became obsessively suspicious. Men working in church childcare freaked me out. Going on dates with my husband was tricky because I only trusted a couple people to watch my kids. And when one of my daughters was assigned her first male teacher in elementary school, I watched every compliment and pat on the back that she received. I was absolutely terrified of any possible grooming.

Any affection from anyone became HIGHLY suspect.

Then my paranoia spread to include even trusted family members. I remember the time my youngest daughter and visiting father went in another room together. I eventually noticed that the door was closed and started to freak out. When I threw the door open, I found them seated quietly inside playing the board game Pretty Pretty Princess. My father had a crown and earrings on. All was well–and quite precious, actually, but I felt near to hysterical tears.

I couldn’t keep living like this. It was unbearable.


After the initial sexual-abuse-in-my-past discovery, my life seemed to get a whole lot worse for a long time before anything started to improve. Paying for counseling was expensive. Think $50 a week for say–oh, four years. (In case you’re not near a calculator–that’s over $10,000.)

Taking time away from my family to actually GO to counseling and do the followup work was time-consuming and even brought conflict. My husband and kids hated it. I felt like I was betraying my family. And detangling from a codependent marriage in the midst of my own individual healing posed a whole different set of challenges. I wasn’t even sure it was OKAY to take the needed self-care and inner-healing time. So I had to battle my own learned mindsets and codependent upbringing as well.

It was really hard–but I kept at it.

The journey was pretty ugly at times. Messy. Non-linear. I didn’t have a lot of support. Counseling massively helped. Books helped too by filling in the gaps. Beauty in nature supplemented my healing. I tried to take trips to the beach and go for walks outside.

Self-care became a REALLY core component of my healing process. 


Living in a perpetual state of survival for so many years had done me a huge disservice. So I had to learn a completely new way of living–not easy after decades of hyper-vigilance. Instead of my escaping from current experiences into my own ruminating mind, I now had to focus on staying present with myself and others.

It took a lot of work JUST to learn how to stay in the moment.

Some days were better than others. I had to learn how to tune into my own body and emotions again. But as my self-listening increased, I found my others-listening likewise improved. I eventually transitioned out of hyper-awareness to my environment and moved into a better balance of self and others awareness. And when I began to stay present in the moment, I felt way less overwhelmed in general. Experiences and details got imprinted correctly. I felt more aware and in control.

I began to feel like I was actually LIVING my life, rather than just struggling through each day.


As I healed from self-martyr mode, I started leveraging enjoyable elements of my life again that I’d previously pushed away as luxuries. Things that brought me peace and comfort like baths, aromatic candles, meeting friends for coffee, and listening to music became mandatory in order to survive the harder parts of my journey.

I learned to trust the miscellaneous pieces that worked for me. Like music and movies. 

Different bands became useful in various seasons of my healing. I listened almost exclusively to Metallica during a long stretch of time when I was trying to reawaken the fighter within me. And I found that listening to really passionate songs were great for a good cry. Otherwise, I had a hard time tapping into my swirling emotions. 

Watching movies about overcoming underdogs was helpful too. They gave me hope.

My emotional default for decades had been to stuff all negative feelings. So I knew it would take some purposeful effort on my part to retrain my brain’s autopilot. To build new neurological pathways. And PTSD needed safety, consistency, and time to heal.


Another crucial part of my healing process included learning how to love myself. Love your neighbor as YOURSELF. To love others well, you FIRST have to love yourself. And to be honest, I didn’t really even LIKE myself much when this whole thing started. My self-image and self-confidence were horrible.
That had to change.

I thought I had been GREAT at loving others for years, but eventually I realized that a lot of it was just disguised enabling. My intentions were good, but I gave too much of myself to others almost all of the time. I was a nice, helpful doormat. I had learned it growing up through the abuse–and because I had also been the family caretaker.

I didn’t have ANY boundaries. And I didn’t know how to be direct in communication. These two missing life skills thwarted my plans CONSTANTLY, so I had to take the time to learn them. It took some serious hard work, but the payoffs were immense.

My time became my own–and my family’s again, rather than everyone else’s. And I learned how to ask for what I wanted.

Then I discovered that self-kindness was KEY to healthy self-love.

Rather than defaulting to self-condemnation, criticism, and hate; I had to learn to exercise mercy, grace, and compassion towards myself instead. Self-kindness became the radical fertilizer. All the other healing tools worked quicker and deeper in my healing soul when kindness was also in play.

Eventually, I reached a breakthrough in my ability to love myself. When mysterious triggers floated my way now and again, I began to default to self-kindness, understanding, and coaching myself through them. Self-hate was leaving my life.

I was changing brain patterns and renewing my mind.

I also had to let performance die. It was one of the last things to go. But my perfectionistic goals and expectations had been killing my soul and exhausting my body for far too long. So I began to embrace transformation–rather than perfection, as my ultimate destination.


I meant it when I said that sexual abuse was like the worst thing ever. Because the damage isn’t just about the physical acts done to the body. It’s about all the long-lasting COLLATERAL damage that affects the rest of life from that point forward. My own experiences with sexual abuse affected me for decades before I even REALIZED it. I just thought I had a lot of weird idiosyncrasies. At times I felt crazy–but I WASN’T. Every effect has a cause and my life actually made incredible sense. 

That knowledge itself brought freedom.

I experienced more than just sexual abuse throughout my early years–as is usually the case. I know all too well what emotional, verbal, physical, sexual, and even spiritual abuse feels like. Neglect too. Rather than purposeful harm, neglect is the lack of the good things that are needed for healthy growth and development of an individual. 

Each experiential piece of the abuse pie needed my intentional healing attention. But as my understanding of my past grew, I could then reconcile to the history and move into the healing.

It was a workable sequence.

I hope I made it sound horrible–because it was. I want to do horrific justice to the wide range of possible experiences on the sexual-abuse spectrum. But I also want to impart HOPE. Because if a person can find hope, they can make it through to that eventual light at the end of the tunnel.

That light DOES exist. And God is willing and waiting to walk with each person through the tumultuous tunnel in between–if they will invite Him in….

My intimacy with God is now my biggest prize from the healing journey.

I wouldn’t have come to know Him so deeply if I hadn’t needed Him so desperately. When no other horizontal relationship can understand your pain, it drives you to go vertical. DEEP pain can either drive a person to bitterness against God or it can drive them into deep intimacy with Him. We each get a choice.

I chose intimacy.

God didn’t cause the abuse to teach me some lesson. He is a GOOD God–who has innumerable other ways to mature us that don’t include subjecting us to brutal torture. But He WAS waiting to redeem it all, turn it around for my good, and make me a dangerous force against evil. So that’s my plan now–transformation and becoming dangerous for God. I’m not where I eventually want to be in my healing journey, but I’m definitely en-route.

And compassion is my new superpower.



Just Call Me Jacob

IMG_0123I’m gonna be brutally honest—I’ve ALWAYS been really good at striving. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been awesome at figuring out ways to finagle life to get what I wanted. And that biblical picture of Jacob grabbing onto God’s heal is my metaphorical picture for the way I used to live my life.

I carry that symbolic picture with me now in my mental wallet—a reminder of what NOT to do. It’s the picture of the old me, the old man, the one that wrestled and struggled through life SO afraid.

I used to wrestle with God—just like Jacob, trying to take the blessing from Him that He already wanted to give me. Striving. Stubborn. Holding tightly to people, pursuits, and agendas that I just couldn’t let go of and entrust into His hands.

My fingers were wrapped SO tightly around everything: marriage, parenting, friendships, finances, etc. I was desperately afraid to trust and let go. Anything that I couldn’t control felt wildly unsafe.

Nothing was left untouched—striving’s fingerprints were everywhere.

I didn’t understand the concept of RESTING in God. I couldn’t rest because I had never learned TRUST. And I couldn’t trust because I wasn’t FULLY settled that God’s intentions for me were logistically good.

My mindset was that I had to make things happen. 

I truly believed (though I didn’t see it at the time) that if I didn’t fight and strive to get what I wanted, then I would be left deprived and all alone. In the most basic cells of my belief system, I didn’t believe that God actually WANTED to be involved in the dailies of my entire life.

I didn’t know Him then as I do now—as my Destiny Creator and Facilitator. It took me a while before I came to understand that He was MORE invested in my destiny than even I was; and that He actually carried the heavier load to bring it to fulfillment.

So I spent a lot of years toiling unproductively in various pursuits. Working hard by the sweat of my striving to put into play what God was already offering.

Performance and perfectionism saturated my life. Grace was thrown in the mix somewhere. But the waters were just too muddied by so much law-mindedness.

Indoctrinated into perfectionistic behaviors at such a young age, I was completely blind to the reality of my own belief systems. Performance was the only language I had known. So when I met Jesus, I just transferred these works-based mindsets and behaviors over into the world of Christendom.

I lived with a dualistic mindset for decades. 

On the one hand, I passionately believed and proclaimed the existence of a loving God who provided for His children. But on the other, I wasn’t actually seeing the fruit of my own belief system—so I would step in to MAKE SURE things happened.

I grabbed at God’s (and others’) heels every chance I could get.

I wouldn’t say that I was a total parasite or user. But I definitely used to live with a lot of hidden motives and agendas. And even though I’ve since reconciled with myself and others for my past behaviors, I still cringe when I think of some of my striving snafus that hurt other people.

Some of those people still view me through a Jacob lens—even though I believe I’ve moved onto my Israel identity. I’m not the old me anymore. And I’ve had to surrender the responsibility for my reputation over to God.

It’s one of those sticky striving traps to think that I can carry the weight of that one on my own.

And during my LONG season of striving, my belief system as a Christian didn’t do me much good because I lived pragmatically—solving problems through logic and reason. I was double dipping.

I didn’t SEE much supernatural fruit in my life because I was still living from a humanistic, secular orientation. I ate mostly from the Tree of Knowledge.

But my entire life began to shift when I started to pursue intimacy with God instead of performance. I began to invite Him into my situations and partner with where He was going, rather than trying to figure things out by myself. THAT was when the supernatural fruit began to fall in my life.

I found that the fruit from the Tree of Life was much sweeter.

In God’s wooing pursuit of intimacy, the scales of performance and striving eventually melted away. I found myself changed in name and nature in the light of His presence and love.

Striving had served me well as a child in order to survive. But it was a mask. And as an adult, that mask actually hindered my relationship with God. He wanted to know the true me behind the mask.

Some may still call me Jacob—but I know what my true name is in Heaven.

You have a true name as well.

❤ Nova

“Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have overcome” (Genesis 32:28).




I remember the first time I ever had a panic attack. It came from out of nowhere. It was so far off the grid of my experience that I didn’t even know it had a name other than torture.

It all started when I decided to take a driving shift on the roadtrip back home from Colorado to California with my husband and four kids. We were on our way back from visiting friends and had decided to drive straight through the night to avoid kid interruptions. It was almost entirely black throughout the mountain range—save our headlights. My husband had taken the first shift.

It was now my turn.

My kids were already fast asleep and as soon as I started driving, my husband quickly followed suit. The two-lane highway was narrow and windy, with a cement divider on my left and what appeared to be an open chasm of death off to my right.

I felt a little nervous driving, but I was doing okay navigating the narrow twists and turns of the highway until another car zoomed up right behind me and started tailgating aggressively. He tailed so close that it felt threatening and dangerous.

The pressure and danger combination mounted together into a highly-reactive panic trigger for me. These two things would remain consistent in my future episodes. They were my specific “recipe” for a panic attack.

The first thing I noticed was the tingly fear that crept up my entire body until it constricted around me like a tight blanket. I felt frozen and wrapped in fear—unable to move. My arms became fused to the steering wheel with a paralytic death grip. I was afraid to breathe, much less call out to my husband for help. I broke out into a cold sweat. 

All of a sudden, the lane appeared much narrower. I felt terrified that if I veered even one inch in either direction, we would all die. Either I’d crash into cement or careen off a cliff. Neither one appealed to me in my desire to live. I couldn’t speed up to get away from the tailgater because I couldn’t guarantee control, but I couldn’t slow down either— I was afraid he’d smash into me. He was SO close. I had ZERO margin for error.

“Oh God, oh God, oh God”, was all I could think to think.

The whole episode probably only lasted about five minutes before the road shifted into three lanes, and the other car floored it to maneuver around me—but I felt like I’d just made it through Hell. The rest of the details are still a blur. We didn’t die. We eventually made it home. I didn’t know it yet, but this episode was about to change my entire life. It would become a trigger that would affect my life for many years to come.

That was almost 9 years ago. 

Immediately after the road trip through Hell, I remember being hit by a rush of euphoria. From my optimistic perspective of a great storyline, I thought I’d query a magazine or two about my death-defying adventure. I thought certainly I could find some venue from which to share my amazing testimony about staring death in the face and surviving.

But I didn’t. 

Instead, in a cruel twist of fate, I spiraled down into an even worse season filled with many more panic attacks and new pop-up fears—including a fear of heights, fear of mountain roads and freeway overpasses, fear of enclosed spaces, fear of finding parking, and a fear of big social gatherings.

Life got worse, NOT better.

My idealized testimony morphed instead into many more mocking reminders of my current limitations. It was like an ever-increasing revelation of incapacity.

The panic attacks continued—sometime major, sometimes minor. The fear usually manifested in an either quick or slow spread of terror throughout my body. My whole body would then feel almost suffocated by the tight blanket of terror that restricted me, coupled with the fear-induced paralyzation. One of the panic attacks was SO intense that it actually dried up my milk supply and I could no longer nurse my son.

I continued to spiral down.

I couldn’t drive on mountain roads, bridges, or freeway overpasses for years. Even being a passenger on mountain roads left me with the shakes. I had to close my eyes and pray under my breath just to survive those drives—which made it tricky to visit my in-laws who actually lived in the mountains.

I lived in a place of constant fear, wondering what would trigger me next.

Many beach trips and misc outings had to be rerouted due to bridge overpasses. It became inconvenient and humiliating. One time, I accidentally ended up on some mountain roads with a friend. When I realized my mistake, I decided I would just have to power through by the sheer force of my will. Except that I couldn’t. My will was not strong enough to overcome the neurological and emotional components of my PTSD-ravished brain. Trembling, sweating, and barely able to breathe, I found a mountain turn-out and defeatedly drove back down.

Life became really hard for a LONG time after that initial drive in the Colorado mountain range. 

Xanax couldn’t touch my fear or panic at all. Antidepressants didn’t accomplish anything other than my weight gain. I already struggled with insomnia. Sleeping pills didn’t work either.

I felt like a zombie, technically alive but dead inside as the fear, panic, and insomnia swirled around inside of me—trying to finish me off for good.

I lived in that dreamlike state for years, unable to engage with much. Life was all about survival—not enjoyment. My spirit’s will to live and my desire to raise my children were the ONLY reasons I stayed alive.

Somehow I knew that there HAD to be a light at the end of my tunnel.

Years of counseling and the unravelling of my past would then enter into the scene of my life. Everything would change after that. My panic, fear, and PTSD would slowly lessen. My understanding would massively increase. I would receive lots of new information and tools. And the natural outgrowth of all of these eventually brought me my breakthrough.

I remember that VICTORIOUS day when I finally decided to try and drive over the 91 Freeway Overpass on my way out of town. I felt the Father’s gentle nudge of confirmation—“You’re ready. You can do this.”

And I did.

It’s been two years since the day I conquered that overpass. My freedom has continued to multiply into other areas. I’m no longer afraid of bridges or overpasses. I don’t get parking anxiety anymore. I actually attend a lot of social gatherings without emotional pushback. I even went through an enclosed waterslide the other day. My previous triggers have become a non-issue. 

I made it through Hell. You can too.

Don’t ever give up.

Two steps forward—one step back is still moving forward.

Love, Nova

Not Enough Milk in My Cereal



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).

Landmines of Pain


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,


Ministry or Codependency?


I used to have a savior mentality when it came to helping other people. Call it codependency; call it what you like. But it became overwhelming and incapacitating. I completely emptied my tank helping other people and I got to the place where even simple text requests for prayer would almost send me over the edge. Everywhere I looked, people seemed to be looking to me to fulfill their needs. I felt like a cow with 50 teats and an empty tank.

My body and soul began to break down from all the performance anxiety I felt—ESPECIALLY with the spiritual stuff.

I liked helping people, but it all felt dependent on me. If I didn’t pray for a person, I unconsciously thought bad stuff would happen or that I was letting God down. My perfectionistic tendencies reared their ugly heads. If I didn’t help every person that made spiritual requests of me, I’d feel horrible and worry about how their situation would end up.

I ended up feeling like a spiritual puppet. I had no boundaries when it came to the God stuff.

I was getting yanked around like crazy, and I was headed straight for burnout and emotional shutdown. I wasn’t getting my own spiritual tank filled enough to attend to every crisis in these other people’s lives. I was on empty, yet I still answered their texts and various requests.

God had to intervene to cut me free from these spiritual puppet strings—this issue had become a stronghold in my life and I just couldn’t see it.

(Strongholds are blindspots in our spiritual lives. They are areas of our lives where we are operating out of false mindsets or lies. And unless we get revelation from God or have wise friends that point them out to us, we usually don’t see them.)

My root issue in this stronghold wasn’t one of pride or legitimacy—I didn’t help others because I thought I was THAT amazing or because it defined my identity. My root issue was one of false responsibility. I was picking up other people and burdens that I was never meant to carry—and all in the name of God.

I learned false responsibility in my own family system from the time I was very young, so I didn’t even notice when it transferred over to my spiritual life.

And with each request that I fulfilled—whether praying for a friend or offering counsel to an acquaintance, I began to sink deeper and deeper. I walked away from most interactions feeling more burdened in spirit and mind.

Where was MY freedom in all of this?

I had mistaken my role for God’s. I had not understood the verse that tells us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. And because I was the first believer in my family of origin, no one had ever taught me how to DAILY walk free throughout the nuances of my spiritual life.

I had to discover through trial and error what brought freedom and life and what brought oppression and death.

The more time that I spent in God’s presence, the more I was able to recognize when something didn’t have God’s stamp on it. My discernment grew. I started to recognize the difference between God’s gentle leading and the enemy’s incessant driving.

I discovered that it is the enemy that is the cruel taskmaster. He loves it when we don’t take time for ourselves to refuel. He loves milking us completely dry. He is thrilled when we run around like crazy chickens with our heads cut off.

But that’s not God’s way.

Even when God leads us to help a certain person, there is grace that coats the way. If we feel overwhelmed or full of dread, it’s a sign to check in with God: “Father, is this an assignment from you or am I taking on something that I am just NOT meant to carry?”

God leads us by His peace in all things. And God’s heart is never to throw us into an arena with a bunch of needy people and say, “Okay, now let them suck you dry.”

His heart is always to protect us and to be life-giving to each person involved: receiver AND giver.

So when we feel that sense of chaos in a demanding moment, it’s great to take a few minutes to assess the status of our heart. Are we trying to do too much? Is the task from God but the timing is just off? Maybe we need to take an hour to downshift and rest, and then we will have what we need to answer that phone call or request.

Or maybe the request doesn’t lie within the boundaries of our jurisdiction. We don’t have the ability or grace to meet that particular need. I’ve encountered these times when I’ve had to tell someone, “I don’t know the answer to that. Have you considered talking to a counsellor or a pastor?”

Knowing our limits and personal boundaries is important.

Even Jesus had boundaries. Jesus walked towards certain ministry situations but away from others. He was very familiar with the needy, and He is our ultimate example in how to lead a spiritually-balanced life. He navigated all those nuances and we can learn from Him.

Jesus also modelled how important it is to take time alone in the Father’s presence to regroup and be filled up before we pour out onto others.

As for myself, I came to realize that operating out of a place of lack when it came to helping others was a recipe for self-destruction. So I became better at waiting to help people until I’d had my own spiritual regrouping and soul-care time. And sometimes, I just had to tell the person that I didn’t have time to chat that day but that I would pray for them.

I became better at navigating the balance of spiritual and natural tasks.

Another huge breakthrough for me came once I started releasing each person to God after I was done with my small part. So after I offered my listening ear, my prayers, or my spiritual counsel to another, I would literally and symbolically hang up the phone. I had to leave the requests and any heaviness that I felt in God’s hand.

If I didn’t, I ended up taking their warfare and burdens with me throughout the rest of my day—and that wasn’t my cross to bear.

I got good at praying: “Jesus, I release these needs and burdens to you. I’m not strong enough to carry them and your cross has already made provision for each of these things.”

I found visualization was also HUGELY helpful in releasing these things over to God. Because some things were just so heavy on my heart that my prayer alone wasn’t enough to lift the heaviness. I needed to actually see Jesus take the burden before I would feel that release of mind and heart.

So I would close my eyes and visualize myself handing the burden over to Him. I would see Him take it. And then I would ask Him what He had for me in exchange.

Making a divine exchange here is key.

When God removes something from us, He always LOVES to give us something wonderful in return. It’s that whole principle of God cleaning house. Once He cleans and empties out the negatives from our lives, God wants to fill those recently-vacated places with more of Himself.

And He always gives us good gifts.

This tool of making a divine exchange is now something I utilize on a daily basis to keep myself free from spiritual heaviness and burdens.

Just the other day, I felt incredibly burdened for Israel. I wanted to pray but I just felt consumed by grief and worry for their people. I knew in that moment that it wasn’t a time for prayer; it was a time for release. If I had prayed from that place of worry and fear, I wouldn’t have been praying from God’s heavenly perspective. I recognized that I had inadvertently taken a burden on myself that I needed to release.

So I visualized myself handing Jesus the entire nation of Israel.

It was a beautiful moment. After He took it, I saw Him place a tiny box in my hand in exchange. And when I opened the box, it was fully of tiny little things that brought me joy and made me laugh. His playfulness and comfort surrounded me in that instant. I would pray for Israel later when I was in a better mindset.

His yoke really is easy. His burden really is light.

I’ve found SO much freedom in this particular journey. My boundaries are continuing to get better. And I walk with more spiritual awareness now—especially in recognizing when I’m carrying any heavy yokes or burdens.

The God stuff is enjoyable for me again because I let Him do all the heavy lifting.

I pray you find the same freedom.

~From Glory to Glory

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit”
(2 Corinthians 3:18).

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30).

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17).

“But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

Re-Discovering Life

fullsizerender-8Living by sheer willpower no longer works for me. When life first became overwhelming, it forced me to find an alternative way to live. It launched me on a journey that eventually led me to discover a deeper well of life.

I’m not sure which factor became the last straw that finally launched me onto this journey.

Maybe it was my hormone and neurotransmitter levels being out of balance. I have the test results to prove this. Or it could have been my 20-year-old brain injury flaring up again. Maybe it was my sleeping issues or my soul’s ever-undulating emotions as I continued to heal from past trauma. Or maybe it was just because of the insane pace of life that a six-person family brings with it. “Jane, get me off this crazy thing…”

The reality is that ALL of these factors actually play a part in my well-being. My spirit, soul and body are a completely interdependent ecosystem, and each part of my triune being affects the others.

All of these factors ping-pong daily around my life, quickly exhausting my natural reserves of physical and emotional energy. I often short-out because of system overload. And having four kids? That’s just the cherry on top. If the younger ones aren’t fighting, then one of the teenagers is probably having an emotional crisis. Sometimes I just want to crawl into a hole where no one can find me.

I have actually hidden in my closet on multiple occasions for a quick break. On purpose. No shame.

Years ago, I used to be able to coast longer on my own strength. Pre-kids. When I was single and felt maxed out, I would just withdraw from community, do some healthy soul care and I’d revive pretty quickly. But these days? Well…my discretionary time margin with kids is basically nonexistent, and I carry a lot more responsibility now—so my coping tank is often blinking on empty.

I feel like I’m usually in the red.

Having four children that constantly pull on me to meet all of their needs is exhausting. I start to feel trapped and suffocated when my kids push past my spoken or physical boundaries to demand more than I’m willing or able to give.

They usually won’t take no for an answer.

The physical exhaustion and emotional badgering together ends up feeling like the abuse I experienced early on in childhood. I reach a sort of panic threshold—that completely overwhelmed place—very quickly. My body’s fight, flight, or freeze mechanism gets activated; and my kids’ normal developmental emotions often trigger my own emotions, which completely empties whatever is left in my tank.

I am just not strong enough to cope by myself.

Somewhere in the midst of all this life chaos, I finally had to concede: God, I can’t do this alone. I knew I no longer had my past luxury of self-sufficiency—where I could rely on my own abilities, giftings, or body strength to get me through life’s challenges. I couldn’t even do like a half-caff strength thing: half of mine and half of God’s. The bricks that I had been carrying around for so many years were too heavy and had finally crushed whatever was left of my own strength.

I was not only broken down; I was like a well that had finally run dry.

I realized that if I didn’t find another well soon, stress-paralyzation or self-implosion would probably follow. I knew I had to find a different way to live or I would be taken out.

It was then that I became truly desperate in my journey.

I’ve heard Author John Eldredge say that “Until you are desperate, you won’t seek God. Until you absolutely need His help, you will take His counsel as optional.”

It’s so true.

The trauma of life made me desperate. But desperation became the door through which I re-discovered life in a new way. I was re-introduced to grace: the lifeline of God’s enabling strength. And once we shook hands again, we entered into a new and stronger partnership.

I accessed a deeper place in God where I hadn’t been before.

In this place, grace transformed from being a mere Christian accessory to becoming my new lifeline and way of living.

I came to experience in the depths of my soul that His strength TRULY was enough to get me through any day or challenging situation that arose. Grace was no longer relegated to an ambiguous church cliché. It became a powerful force that now fueled my life.

Tapping into this deeper well and partnership with grace gave me new strength for the journey. It didn’t happen arbitrarily or overnight, but I eventually found it.

Desperation, tenacity, and spiritual hunger led me to it.

Hunger is the escort to the deeper things of God. Are you hungry?

Do you want to find the deeper well?

I believe there is a general grace that flows over each believer’s life that feels much like rays of sunshine. A broad coating of His goodness in our lives. I lived under those pleasant grace rays for many years. But when life piled up on me and I reached that place of desperation, I needed something MORE. The rays weren’t enough. I needed like a massive IV transfusion.

I found that more is ALWAYS available to those who want to go deeper in their experience with God.

The MORE that I personally discovered came through this new lifeline and partnership with grace, as well as discovering the place of abiding. Finding the secret place under the shadow of His wings and staying there—hidden in Him.

God’s deeper reserves of grace await each one of us in that secret place of abiding.  Abiding is the door that accesses the deeper experience of all-things-God.

The truly desperate often discover its secret location and empowerment; the content apathetic will usually miss it. But to every seeking and thirsty soul it calls out to discover.

How about you?

Will you let your hunger or desperation lead you to this deeper well of life?

Will you let your spiritual discontentment with anything status-quo propel you into the MORE that God has designed specifically for you?

God always fills those who hunger and thirst after more of Him.

The deeper experience of life awaits you too.

“He that dwelleth in the SECRET PLACE of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91:1,4).

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

“I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in SECRET PLACES, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name” (Isaiah 45:3).