Mother’s Day Mayhem

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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.

❤ 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).

How Do You Love? (Part One: Receiving)

 

img_4196What is the blueprint for loving? Can you ever love too much? Too little?

What is the proper distribution of love?

I believe so much of life is just about redefining the priority and positioning of love in our daily lives. We are told to love God with our entire beings and to love our neighbor as ourselves. But how do we walk that love out in a healthy way?

How do we know WHEN we are loving well?

The reality is that we all love something. God is love and we were created to love. Loving is in our DNA. We can’t help but give our heart’s devotion to something—or many things. But where and how we choose to love is where the battlefield and many misunderstandings lie.

Love can be mismanaged, misused and manipulated. We can love others in unhealthy ways. We can even love God wrong, depending on our motives.

Motivation matters in love.

I’m sure we all know people who tend toward extremes and who love others in unhealthy ways. People love others for all sorts of reasons—usually to meet a deep need inside themselves that they may not even know exists.

We are all motivated throughout life by our needs.

That is why it is so important to pursue the inner healing of our hearts. The more that we receive God’s cleansing love in the channels of our hearts, the purer the love flow that then pours out onto others.

The sequence of loving is so key to that pure flow.

God actually gave us a roadmap of how to love long ago:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

We are told to love God first BEFORE we are encouraged to love others. And then when we are exhorted to love others, it is highlighted to do so in the same way that we already love ourselves. This adds a hidden second to this 3-part sequence:

Love God. Love ourselves. Love others.

But wait…because we cannot ever give something unless we have first received it, we can actually look at this commandment as a 4-part love sequence:

Receive God’s love. Love God. Love ourselves. Love others.

He has already told us that we love Him because He FIRST loved us. We learn even as babies that receiving comes before giving. A newborn baby can’t feed or clothe himself. He has to first learn to receive way before he is ever able to give back to the world.

God uses these natural principles to mirror His unseen spiritual realities. These parallels are supposed to synonymously teach us about God’s ways as we also figure out our way through this natural world.

We were designed to receive His love WAY before we ever pour it out again. Unfortunately, many of us were not loved well by our parents or other caregivers, and that polluted perspective on loving transfers over to how we expect to receive love from God.

But if we never learn to receive God’s love for ourselves, we will always love others with a handicap.  We cannot give something to someone that we haven’t already received ourselves. Natural love will always fall short.

Until we receive, we have nothing to give. Until we learn to receive God’s love, we will be loving others from a place of lack rather than fullness.

So we start the journey of loving well by first attending to our own relationship with Love Incarnate. We choose to let God love us. We purposefully invite Him in with this goal of letting Him love us. It doesn’t matter how long we have already known Him; God always wants to fill us with more of His love.

God is a gentleman and will never force Himself on us—but He is always waiting at the door. We need to let Him in because we desperately need the FULLNESS of His love to empower and bring life to our hearts.

Receiving His love is not a one-time event when we first meet God. It is meant to be a lifestyle. We need to have the expectation that God is going to continually douse us with His unconditional AGAPE love.

His love is a consuming and contagious fire.

It is in receiving the fullness of this love that we then transform into holy-love machines. His agape love becomes the catalytic force that empowers us for all other loving. Without this catalytic love propelling us forward, the embers of our own natural love will eventually burn out.

Loving that flows from our spirit is different than loving from our natural strength.

The world doesn’t teach us healthy ways to love and be loved. The world teaches self-indulgence, using others, and giving in order to get. So we have to partner with the SOURCE of love in order to learn how to love from our spirit.

Sometimes God will lead us into seasons of time alone with Him where we can reconnect our damaged receiving lines and rediscover how to receive His love. Don’t rush these times. Allow yourself to be fully saturated and immersed.

The deeper the reservoirs of His love that take residence in our hearts, the deeper the places in Him that we are then able to lead others.

Being able to receive from Him is crucial to our entire life’s journey. It isn’t a luxury; it’s a NECESSITY. Everything else in our lives will be built from this very basic spiritual building block. He IS our source for all things. If we don’t look to Him, we will forever be looking to man or stuff to fulfill our longings and needs. And they never will.

If you haven’t figured this out yet, it’s crucial to take the time to do so. Focus on the first part of God’s love sequence. Develop your foundation of God’s love first—it is the basis of all other loving.

Learn to receive His love.

Let Him love you.

That’s it.

“We love him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

(Stay tuned for Part Two of How Do You Love?)

Do You KNOW Your God?

yadayada2The other day, I walked into a highly-triggery situation that totally could have gone south. But instead, it turned into a powerful God encounter. I came to KNOW Him in a new facet of his nature—as the Prince of Peace.

So many triggery variables were floating around in that environment and the whole time I felt safe in the eye of what could have been a bad storm, completely at peace.

I knew going into the situation that it was WAY out of my comfort zone, so I simply told God, “I trust you.” I’m not going to overthink this or work myself into a tizzy worrying about all of the things that could go wrong. “I know I’m safe in you.”

This was a HUGE change of direction for me.

I’m usually the queen of overthinking and planning ahead for unexpected contingencies. I love to overanalyze and plan backup strategies for just about everything. But I didn’t this time. Instead, I chose to enter the situation through a different door: Trust.

I had no backup plan.

Trust is not an easy option that a person can choose by sheer will. It is an experience-based belief. It is grown over time through an intimate relationship. And KNOWING God’s nature and character enough to trust Him takes time—as does any other relationship in our lives.

The key to knowing God in this way is found in the Hebrew word YADA.

YADA means experiential knowledge. It denotes intimacy. It takes time. It takes a daily experience of walking with Him to find out what He is like. It’s a lifelong discovery process.

“The people who KNOW (YADA) their God shall be strong and do great exploits.”

It isn’t those that know ABOUT their God. It is those who YADA (experientially know) their God. It is those that have a history of spending intimate time getting to know His nature and character.

But how do we know that we KNOW God in that YADA way?

I believe we begin to know God experientially when we can recognize His voice and heart in just about any given situation. When we are able to differentiate the truths of His nature from other falsities and dissenting voices.

Let me paint a different picture for you.

Let’s say you are talking to an acquaintance and he brings up a mutual friend—someone you dearly love and have known well for years. And he mentions something that your friend said or did that doesn’t ring true to you. So you question it, “She said THAT? She did THAT?”

Because you just know: “No way. This isn’t accurate. Something is twisted here because I KNOW my friend and she would NEVER do that.”

This is what it is meant to look like in our relationship of knowing God. We are meant to KNOW Him in such a way that we recognize in any situation what IS and ISN’T of His nature.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep KNOW me.”

I used to be a little irritated by this verse, because it seemed to imply an automatic ability that a person received upon first meeting God—one that I didn’t seem to have. But it’s actually not instantaneous. The word Ginōskō is used here and it means “to come to learn, know, recognize.”

We come to LEARN His voice over time.

Meeting God and letting Him into our hearts just means that we have opened the channel for that communication to flow. We still need to quiet ourselves to listen and learn. We are all surrounded by so many voices that beckon for our attention. And His is the quietest voice. It will take some fine-tuning to hear His particular frequency.

So much in the Christian Culture today cries out for microwave results. I want to do this NOW! I want to hear Him NOW! I want the fruit of the spirit NOW!

But fruit is grown. Seeds are grown. The importance of process is highlighted all throughout Scripture in multiple metaphors, because God uses ovens more often than microwaves in our spiritual journeys. He likes things to bake a while.

KNOWING Him takes time.

Lately, God has been taking me through all sorts of odd situations that are outside of my comfort zone, just to show me new aspects of His character. Each one causes me to YADA Him in a new way. My experience base with Him continues to grow. The partial becomes fuller.

Another example recently transpired with my mistake in a social situation that brought me some heat. I was embarrassed and publicly shamed in front of a bunch of people for an accidental breaking of a rule. But in that shaming moment, I actually felt God take the heat on my behalf. I didn’t experience my usual shame storm. The physical responses of the warm wash of shame and fear that my body usually manifests didn’t happen. And I got massively set free in an instant from a deeply-embedded childhood fear.

It was a beautiful moment of freedom and new YADA knowing.

I came to KNOW God in that moment as my Rescuer, my Protector, the One who has my back no matter what. And He explained the situation to me this way, “Are you willing to let me throw you in the fire so that you can see that I will protect and rescue you?”

God wanted to set me free from something that had plagued me for years. But it took things heating up 7x to set me free from those particular chains, and to YADA Him in yet another facet of His nature. It reminded me a lot of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

It was a holy moment that I will forever treasure in my heart.

God is an opportunist. He will use whatever challenging situations are in our lives right now to bring us to a greater understanding of Him. And with each new piece of the pie that we assimilate into our YADA God database—we will grow stronger.

We will grow stronger.

We will do great exploits.

So which piece of the God pie is missing from your life? Where are you lacking in your YADA knowledge of Him?

As Father? Deliverer? Counsellor? Protector? Provider? Prince of Peace? Lion of Judah?

Ask God for eyes to see which aspect of His nature He is revealing to you in your current situation.

Because no matter how long we have known Him, none of us has arrived in our YADA knowing. We live in partial times. The fullness is yet to come.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

“But the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits” (Daniel 11:32).

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…” (John 10:14)

“And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12).