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).

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

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

Everybody Serves Something

img_6181Getting free from idols is so much harder than not picking them up to begin with. Just saying.

The younger me thought idols were just a bunch of mute statues collecting dust up on a shelf. I couldn’t believe people in biblical days had worshipped a golden calf, much less any idols made with wood or stone.

I was SO much smarter than that.

I thought people must have majorly evolved from their stupidity since biblical times. I had zero context for what idols could look like in today’s society—much less knowing that there were common idols within even the church that continued to thrive and be served by multitudes of sincere believers:

Religious Idols: of church performance, activity, programs, disciplines, and martyrdom

Idols of Appearances: being diligent in service or devotion, looking good, and having everything together

Idols of Being Right: having the “correct” doctrine or residing in the “best” stream of the faith

Idols of Importance or Control: being the “knowledgeable” or “gifted” one or the person with “power and position”

I fell victim to serving many of these church idols myself. But I didn’t stop there. I was apparently REALLY good at taking just about anything and making an idol of it. And a lot of my resources got sacrificed to these various idols—whether idols of perfectionism, performance, being in control, being right; or those devoted to relationships, community, addictions, or codependent behaviors in general.

Idols always require sacrifice.

I obviously didn’t sacrifice any of my children to Baal in a fiery furnace; but I sacrificed my time, energy, and money in pursuing appearances and legitimacy that weren’t based in God. I sacrificed and compromised my unique personality in certain settings in pursuit of approval and acceptance.

I also sacrificed numerous passions and the pursuit of my destiny for many years in favor of serving productivity, the accomplishment of the moment, and an organized itinerary and house. I sacrificed much to the idols of guilt and manipulation—allowing myself to be used by others.

I even made idols of my husband and children—sacrificing too much of myself on the altar of marital and parental martyrdom and putting God on the back shelf.

That’s the thing about idols—they are SO covert.

They are usually good things that just get tipped too heavy on the scale of our heart’s devotion and sacrifice. They are not bad in themselves.

The church has its own specific flavor of idols; but honestly—everything becomes fodder for idols if we aren’t careful. Nothing new under the sun, remember? And the enemy is happy to keep us distracted with any and all misplacements of our hearts’ devotion. He doesn’t care if we are serving alcohol, television, or church martyrdom as long as we remain stuck, UN-transformed, and UN-yielded to God.

YIELDING our hearts is the secret place of transformation.

A yielded heart is dangerous to the enemy.

A yielded heart is a powerful force that destroys the works of darkness.

And when we finally stop enslaving ourselves to people, religion, and all the Lesser Loves of our Heart (as John Eldredge describes them)—it is then that we can follow Jesus whole-heartedly into the fullness of our destiny. It is then that we become world changers.

We are meant to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength FIRST.

THEN we love others.

When God has top position in our hearts—EVERYTHING else flows smoother and finds its proper positioning in our lives.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23).

From glory to glory in Him,

❤ Nova

Heaven’s Hug

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I felt the familiar fear and panic rising up within my throat as I heard the sound of screaming and loud banging and thumping sounds. My 8-year-old son and teenage daughter’s clash of the titans had just erupted and a new screaming match started in the stairwell outside my room.

Each of their angry footsteps pounding up the stairs felt like an electric shock to my chest and abdomen. Their hateful screams became the mirror-image trauma to my ears that the raging footsteps were to my core.

Not again. Not now. I just can’t.

I had just laid down for the first moment all day—and that was only out of sheer necessity. I felt dizzy and like I was going to pass out. I’d pushed my body and soul to the max yet again—forgetting lunch till 3pm and then using every last ounce of my energy to clean my messy house and attend to the kids’ thousand questions and demands.

My heart was now racing with the aftermath of pushing my adrenals too far. My kidneys were feeling achy from too much coffee and not enough food. And my stomach had somewhere decided to join in this chaotic body symphony by now punishing me for my lunch choices.

I just can’t be a parent right now.

I felt angry, scared, and like a little girl again—hiding from raging family members. I just wanted to stick my fingers in my ears to block out the sound. Maybe it would all just go away if I waited long enough.

But it didn’t.

It got louder and more volatile. I knew I had to intervene but I had no idea what to do. I wasn’t cruising in my adult brain at the moment. Instead, I had been traumatically flung into animal brain and flight mode—I actually just wanted to run away. I had zero strategies floating around.

The only thing I found enough energy to do was shoot up a desperate SOS prayer as I shakily stood up from where I had been lying on my floor:

Jesus, I can’t do this…

I walked out into the hall and quickly surveyed the damage of the moment. I had emerged just in time to see my 12-year-old daughter charging up the stairs with fiery hate in her eyes. I knew I had to act fast. My son was standing 5 feet away from where she would emerge with a clock poised in his hand—ready to throw it at her.

Stupid yard sale clock. It’s so ugly. Why didn’t I already put that in the donations bag?

That’s where my exhausted, trauma-triggered brain found itself. No strategies were surfacing—just thoughts about how much I hated that clock and questions as to why I had even let my daughter buy it in the first place.

I felt like I was in the middle of a war zone. Chaos dominated.

Emotional shrapnel was flying everywhere and I didn’t know how to contain it or where to direct my efforts. Two of my kids were visual at the moment, but I had no idea where the other two were. Were they hiding around a corner, also waiting to engage? I didn’t know how many soldiers were involved in this particular battle.

I was just hoping for the least amount of casualties as possible.

I walked over to my son, since he seemed to be right at the centerpoint of battle and I placed my hands gently on his shoulders: “What’s going on?”

I could tell he wanted help. But before he could even answer, my daughter emerged from the stairs and started hurling more emotional missiles at him.

My son cried out loudly in response, dropped the clock, and ran off to his room—slamming the door as he sought solace in the only place he knew to hide. Wrenching, angry sobs immediately followed—broadcasting from behind the door.

Oh my God. Was I raising another emotional isolater?

I felt devastated at the thought. That possibility in itself added another layer of fear and trauma to my own heart. I knew that I had spent an entire childhood isolating whenever I felt emotionally or physically hurt. Was I now perpetuating this same behavior onto my children? I couldn’t handle the ramifications.

Just then my second teenage daughter emerged from a nearby bathroom, where she had clearly been hiding from my son’s wrath. The participating soldiers and battle issue was now becoming clearer to me: One little boy pitted against the snarky world of teenage harassment.

I felt a rush of adrenaline and anger course throughout my body. Why couldn’t they just stop pushing his buttons? And why couldn’t he just ignore their lameness?

My anger then transferred over to my own injustice. I felt persecuted in my own home. I felt completely desperate and alone—even though I was supposed to be in charge. I had my own issues to work on. But this constant emotional barrage of triggers launching from my children’s immaturity was just making everything worse.

If only I could cry to get some of this out—but I couldn’t. I had learned long ago to stuff my emotions in favor of survival and not rocking any boats.

I was at the end of myself here. I had nothing left to give my kids. The fear, anger, and adrenaline that had just coursed through my body as a result of the screaming and loud stomping around had left me like a deflated balloon.

But I had to do something:

KNOCK, KNOCK.

“Don’t come in!” my son cried out.

“It’s Mommy. Can I come in?”

“No!”

“Please? Can I come in?” I asked—cracking the door open a tiny bit.

And there he was—sitting all alone and bereft in his chair. When I first opened the door, I still had the anger and adrenaline rushing through my veins. But as I saw him sitting there, something majorly shifted within me. Anger melted away and my heart just broke. It was like Heaven’s veil parted and I saw my son with supernatural eyes.

My entire being was illumined with God’s love and compassion.

In that moment, it didn’t matter how many times this kid had put me through the emotional fire or how many times he had triggered my own issues. I saw him now in his humanity through the eyes of love. He was irresistible. I just had to love on him.

“Can Mommy come in? Can I just hold you?” I asked him.

I didn’t know what I was doing other than following the prompting within my own spirit. My soul had been taken out through the earlier emotional barrage. It was totally benched. But my spirit stepped forward in that moment and reassured my soul: “I got this one.”

My son let me come into his room and pick him up into my arms.

It had been a while since I’d held him. He was so much bigger and heavier than he used to be as a toddler—when I’d held him all the time. So I transitioned to sitting on the floor and holding him in my lap.

He was sobbing and angrily talking all at the same time.

Story after story poured out of him. All of the day’s injustices. All of his life’s injustices. I just let him cry. I let him say everything that he wanted to. I knew somehow not to ruin the time by inserting explanations or any type of logic.

The anguish in his soul needed to get out.

I interjected a few times with various affirmations: “That sounds awful”; “I’m so sorry you had such a rough day”; “That sounds so frustrating.”

But mostly I just listened.

The whole time he was talking, I alternated between holding him tightly to stroking his face and arm to calm him down. I knew one of his love languages was physical touch, and I wanted to make sure he left our time together having his love tank majorly filled up—even if I couldn’t solve his sibling rivalry problems.

And as I sat there just holding Him—I also felt God holding me and loving me in the exact way that I needed to be loved.

It felt surreal. It felt holy.

With each new pain that my son voiced and I affirmed, God was also affirming me at the same time: “This is how I hold you. This is how I listen to you. This is how I comfort you. My arms are always open.”

God poured his love and comfort into me the entire time that I was pouring into my son.

My body may have been a deflated balloon but my heart was soaring. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. God streamlined his love to and through me at the same time.

Heaven’s Hug.

My son continued on for about ten more minutes, switching back and forth between his sobs and angry discourses. But slowly the anger started to dissipate. The sobs lessened. Pretty soon he was telling me all about his new video game and how well he was doing in conquering it. He was beating all of his sisters, he said. He actually smiled.

My God—could it seriously be this easy?

Yes.

Heaven’s Hug.

When we come to Him as little children—we will find Him.

He will always embrace us if we let Him.

That embrace is life-changing.

❤ Nova

“And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:3).

“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’” (Matthew 19:14).

Ministry or Codependency?

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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).