Next on the blog is my birthday buddy and style icon, Vanessa Nowell. Vanessa is a Mississippi girl through and through even though the beginning of her childhood was spent in California. She and her family moved to Mississippi when she was ten years old. She met the love of her life DJ while attending Mars Hill Pentecostal Church. They started dating when she was 14 and tied the knot when she was 19. They have two daughters: Minnie who is 8, Lyra who is 2, and they are expecting a baby this November! Vanessa and her husband are chicken farmers, and she is building an online business. I know that you will be inspired by her words and story.
What is a piece of advice that has affected your life?
I tend to be a perfectionist or think that I have to be. A piece of advice that I received early on that helped me was “It’s okay to not be okay.” I’d like to camouflage things to make them appear to be better than they were, and then I realized that it is okay to not be okay. It’s okay that things are messy and aren’t perfect.
What is a great piece of advice you were given as a mother?
No two children are the same. In the beginning of my motherhood journey, everyone gave me advice. They would tell me to read books and do all this. But my first child, Minnie, is nowhere by the book. She never slept, she was very stubborn, she was not affectionate, and she didn’t like to be touched. She and I are such polar opposites that I didn’t understand her, and actually I’m still learning a lot about how she is. Minnie is strong willed, independent, and unique. Those are the things that God put in her and I wouldn’t change a thing about her.
Is there a boundary in your life that is non-negotiable?
I would say, as far as organizing my time, nothing comes before my family and church. A lot of things have tried to take precedence and creep in, but I’ve had to make sure that if it’s family time or church time, nothing comes before them. Time with church and family are absolutely nonnegotiable.
What scripture have you stood on in your life or has meant the most to you?
Before my childbearing days, I was going through a lot. I believe God revealed the scripture Exodus 3:14 to me and it was absolutely revelatory for me. In this scripture, Moses is asking God, “Who do I tell them sent me?” God responds to him, “Tell them I Am.” That quickened to me that no matter what I need, I don’t have to even identify it, but God is that. I don’t have to know the words exactly or even know what I need at that moment. I just have to know that He is. I have clung to that. Even when I can’t really figure out what to pray, I just remind myself that He is. He is exactly whatever I have need of.
14 And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.
Where do you pray? What are your study habits?
This is crazy but I pray a lot at our chicken houses. We have two chicken houses with 23,000 chickens. In each house there is about 12,000 and you have to walk through and pick up eggs that are on the ground or dead chickens, things like that. It takes a while to walk and it has become a very private time for me. I pray out loud in there or sing, because there is no one else in there. So, my work time or farm time is my prayer time. As a mom of young girls, studying for me happens in the breaks like naptime. That’s when I find the time to pray and study.
What do you think makes a strong woman, and is there a woman who embodies that quality to you?
A strong woman is a woman who has balance: someone who can balance family, church, and just life. I have always looked up to DJ’s grandmother because she seems to prioritize with God and with family. I have walked in her house at night when she was getting ready for bed and she and her husband still kneel beside their bed and they call every one of our names in prayer. She goes down the line and calls the names of everyone in her family. It amazes me. Even with a huge family, she still manages to make every person feel important. When you walk into her house, you know that you have walked into the house of a prayer warrior. I know if I need anything at any time that she can reach God. I want to be that. I want to have that balance of being a wife, a mother, and yet a prayer warrior.
Do you make free time for yourself? If you have free time what do you do?
I really don’t. Honestly, very seldom do I even go to town without a child. Lyra is very attached. So I don’t get a lot of free time, but I also don’t feel like I really need it. If I do need it, DJ is very good to take the girls and go for a ride on the side by side or something to give me a little quiet time at home. If I have free time or quiet time, I would just rather be at home. I do like to get massages. I know I did that sometime last year.
Besides Christianity and marriage, what was the best decision you ever made?
Moving to Mississippi was one of the best decisions in my life. I guess that wasn’t my own personal decision but at the time I thought it was the end of the world. I remember being in school and saying goodbye to my friends and being heartbroken. I would never be where I am spiritually, I don’t believe, if I had not moved to Mississippi. I’m sure there is, but I don’t know of an Apostolic church around where I lived in California. I don’t know where I would be in any aspect of life, but definitely spiritual, if we had not moved. The move to Mississippi really transformed everything in my life.
Was there a season in your life that contributed to your strength?
In 2012, the year that Minnie was born, I found a lump in my breast. At that moment, I thought it was a clogged milk duct, but it wasn’t. When I found out it was not, they immediately told me that I needed to go to a cancer doctor. When I went to a specialist the next day, he pretty much told me and DJ that he went all over the country for things like this, that he was not naïve in this, he knew what it looked like, and he wanted me to be prepared. I have faith for everyone else, but when it comes to yourself sometimes it is really difficult. When I got home from the hospital, there were 16 people from DJ’s family in my living room ready to pray for me. The next day I was scheduled to have surgery to remove it. However, the next day when the doctor called me he told me that he had already told his wife that he was trying to figure out how to tell a 27 year old that she had cancer, but that he didn’t know what happened and my test came back benign! That season of my life completely changed my view on faith and strength for myself. I had strength for other people, but this taught me to have strength for myself. I still have to go back to the doctor every single year because they want to do tests because they just don’t understand what happened. That season built my faith. It showed me that what God can do for other people, He can do for me.
Strong women are fierce.
I have always admired Vanessa. She has this unique ability to make you feel like the most important person when she speaks to you. Not only is she beautiful outwardly, but her spirit is just as beautiful. On a more carnal note, if I am ever shopping with my mom and she says “That looks like Vanessa” rest assured I will be purchasing it. Believe me when I say when she told me that her doctor was talking to his wife about how to tell a 27-year-old that she had cancer, I was almost in tears. What a powerful story that many can likely relate to. It’s easy to believe for other people, but it isn’t always so easy to believe for yourself. That’s why it is of the utmost importance that we surround ourselves with the right people, people of faith. One of the things that stuck with me from her interview was the scripture she held to. In Exodus chapter 3, Moses is speaking to God through the burning bush. God is telling Moses to go and deliver His people out of the hand of the Egyptians. Moses responds to God, “Who am I that I should go unto Pharaoh and deliver your people?”. Moses missed the point. It never mattered who he was, who he had been, or what he could do. It only mattered that he was obedient. God doesn’t give us assignments because we fit the qualifications. He gives assignments and tests so we can step out in faith and obedience and believe on Him. And believe that whatever we have need of, He is. What a powerful truth that Vanessa has clung to and that we should too. Everything we need, whether we have the words for it or not, God is. Jesus said in the book of John, “Before Abraham was, I am.” That means before you ever had a problem, Jesus was already the solution. Before you ever needed healing, Jesus was already the healer. Moses had a testimony that God was a deliverer because he relied fully on God. Vanessa has a testimony that God is a healer because she relies fully on him.