How many stars are up there, Aurora?
Too many to count, Stella.
More than a million? You should know. I’m just the big mouth.
Okay, maybe a billion. You’re not that loud, Stella. And you’re six months older than me.
Hey, seventeen is seventeen.
Sometimes I wish I was a star. And everything was a restart.
Sometimes I wish I hadn’t been born.
Stella don’t say that. Hey, can I tell you a story?
Once upon a time, high in a tree, in a small park in a big city…
So begins the camping adventure and inner quest of down-to-earth Aurora, who grew up in the foster system, and quirky Stella, raised by her grandfather.
A cast of characters—real and inanimate—influence them as they answer questions like: What does self-worth mean? What are positive self-talk and body image? Self-love for young women?
A story of coming of age, Nova explores community, friendship, and faith, and how thinking differently about the past can build a meaningful future.
Hold your vision, Stella. Text me every night and ask me how many stars are up there.
Because, when you ask, you’re holding me.
Nova: The Courage to Rise charts the exploration and inner growth journey of two seventeen-year-old girls: down-to-earth Aurora and quirky Stella. Both grew up without her mother—Aurora in the foster system, Stella raised by her grandfather. Their search for mothering messages in the stars while they’re on an inner-city camping adventure is sparked by a torn bit of a discarded research paper. A quest is initiated.
Aurora and Stella discover self-love and self-worth while learning the value of being part of a community working toward a greater good. When they can’t afford to recharge the data on their phones, they’re surprised to find deeper connections with themselves, each other, and those around them. They learn about the importance of empathy and kindness, authenticity and trustworthiness, positive self-talk and body image, new ways to think about faith, and that they can choose to think differently about their past to build a meaningful future.
While they’re questlisting, a surprising encounter helps Aurora answer questions about what happened to her mother—answers she’s not sure she’s ready to hear. And Stella’s journey puts her on an unexpected path: that of being a leadership resource for other young women just like her who are searching for themselves and a better life.
Greatness is not found in possessions, power, position, or prestige. Beauty is not found in following a brand whose message drains you. It is discovered in goodness, humility, service, and character. Goodness to yourself and then to others. A breath for yourself, then a breath for others.
Like Stella, my grandfather played a huge role in my upbringing. My grandmother too. When I was eight years old, my grandfather loaded up his van with sacks of groceries and invited me to come along for the ride.
We stopped in front of the tiniest house I had ever seen. As we made our way to the front door, sobbing and crying filled the air. My grandfather knocked. I stood, frozen, unable to conjure up an explanation for the misery I could feel oozing through the cracks under the door and through the thin walls.
A small girl, perhaps three years old, opened the door. Her little face was streaked with fresh tears. When she saw our arms filled with sacks of groceries, she stopped crying, wiped her eyes, and said, “Food?”
Inside we found four children, the oldest a girl who appeared to be about nine. There were no parents present. The wailing stopped as each child in turn saw the goods we’d brought—canned beans, powdered milk, cereal, dried soups, pasta, rice, pasta sauce, and canned tomatoes.
I had never witnessed hunger or poverty like this before. It changed me forever.
In the basement of my grandparents’ home was a bedroom-sized room that we called the pantry. The walls were lined with shelves which were filled with food. They did this for one reason: when someone knocked on their door and asked for help, my grandparents had a stock of food to give. They were, in those years, the equivalent of a successful outreach program. A non-denominational, not-for-profit, humble organization of two people who loved others unconditionally.
My grandparents are the reason I pursued my passion for serving those who need someone to listen, a shoulder to lean on, a friend to support an idea, funds to restart, a wall to bounce a thousand balls of ideas off.
I've had the honor of getting to know girls just like Aurora. Girls who may not have had the connection they wanted from a mother, or parents, for a variety of reasons. Some of these girls have come through the foster system, some living with other family members, and some simply in a home with parents too busy working several jobs just to put food on the table or dealing with issues that eclipse their ability to parent effectively.
When I came up with the idea for this book, it was to find a way to help girls like Stella and Aurora—and you—learn to see the potential in themselves and their futures. To learn that you already have what you need, whatever your circumstances or your past. I hope you may find the inspiration in Stella and Aurora’s Questlisting to embark on your own quest and that you discover, in the process, that there is indeed beauty in everything, we just have to make a choice to see it.
And speaking of beauty in everything, that’s the name of my foundation: The Beauty in Everything Foundation. Here, we are committed to the development of girls and young women by giving them access to resources and the tools girls need to thrive.
We are obsessed with showing girls they are amazing, they are warriors, and to help them dream big dreams. Then we give them the tools to achieve those dreams. We are a group of passionate, driven, hard-working, and generous women who won’t stop until we inspire and empower a group of girls (a large group of girls, an insanely large group of girls) to be passionate, driven, hard-working, kind, and courageous. That is our goal. Our goal is to inspire and empower girls to think they breathe fire. Fire like Aurora’s streaming, flaming, gorgeous hair and Stella’s new-found burning desire to share with others what she discovered by speaking into her reflection in the spoon and turning that into a podcast.
Ready for your own quest? Go forth and breathe fire.
Nova: The Courage to Rise would not be what it is without the expertise and guidance of John and Boni Wagner-Stafford with Ingenium Books. They made this large and sometimes daunting process of writing a book seem manageable through their leadership and encouragement.
Check out my Ingenium Books Author Page here!
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