The Unexpected Garden: Look Up Child

Have you ever been digging and planting in a particular path? Have you seen blooms in the forward moving garden you’ve been planting? Have you added rows and depth to the field you have been given? Perhaps you have even seen the fruit of your labor. This is the good stuff life is made of.

When I speak of the garden, I am speaking of our lives. We pursue the calling that God gives us. We listen, learn, study and practice. We measure risks and take steps of faith. We do our best to direct our energy in areas that serve eternally, valuable ends.

Occasionally, however, we get so focused on the planting and digging that we forget to look up.

And then, abruptly, without notice or knowledge, the bougainvillea you planted rises as a palm tree. The herbs you planted come up as daisies. The roses you planted grow up the wall as lovely vines.

God has done a very unexpected work.

You had been working so hard digging and planting the path that you missed the work that the Creator’s hand was forging. He was composing a different, yet beautiful path.

Yes, we can become so focused on the planting and digging that we forget to look up. I guess I am saying that we can have our head in the dirt. Good, fertile dirt. Nevertheless, garden dirt is hard to see through and it doesn’t provide much of a reflection.

The Moon over Montana

This summer, I stared out the window into the dark Montana night. I watched the full moon glow as it traveled across the sky. Until it was no longer in my view. The moon was my companion that night. I tend to think that the Covid pneumonia was setting in at that time. While there was no solace in my body, the moon was a reminder that he is with me in the dark.

The moon is a reminder that even darkness is light to him.

Inspired by Psalm 139:12.

Since the spring of 2020, the glowing moon in the dark sky has been calling me. The glow has brought my gaze up and away from the fields. The moon has been asking for my attention. The moon has acted as a stable focal point calling me to less and calling me to rest. The moon helps me see the big picture.

What is your big picture?

If you can respond to God’s call to you with a soft heart, you will know the big picture of your life. You may miss the message if you are digging in the dirt of your garden more than gazing at the glow of the moon. You may miss the call to shift or shed if your heart is bent towards the planting more than it is bent towards the awe.

So, what happens when the bougainvillea rises as a palm tree? Or, the herbs come up as daisies? Roses as vines? I am guessing that your answer is the same as mine. Nothing makes sense. The garden plans must be revisited from the perspective of awe, rather than good works.

When nothing makes sense, awe and stillness make sense.

The awe has shown me rest and less. It’s my nature to opt for more. It’s my nature to broaden the horizon rather than narrow the possibility of it.

What’s your nature? In what ways do you veer from God’s path for you?

The awe has shown me to weigh and measure the short term value along with the long term view. I truly love to spontaneously, whole heartedly serve in the here and now; often spending more resources than I have. I later find myself burning the candle at both ends to serve the purposes that were meant to be at my forefront.

For most of my life, I glanced at the moon, heard its message of rest and less and carried on with field work. Until the landslide. Until the palm trees, daisies and vines were full grown in my immediate view. Until I was so awestricken that I dropped the map and stared at the moon.

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts. Enter into his rest.

Hebrews 3 & 4

Striking the Balance

James conveys to us the perfect balance of looking up and digging and planting. As you read the verse below, focus on the importance of hearing the word and doing the work. When we engage in both, we are blessed. Hence, do the garden work and look up to Jesus for truth and direction. This way, our perseverance in our work will live in congruity with the perfect law of freedom.

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. Because if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like someone looking at his own face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what kind of person he was. But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer who works – this person will be blessed in what he does.

James 1:22-25

It’s Okay to Let a Few Things Die in the Garden

These past few months, I let some big and small dreams die. Some of the dreams were for myself and some were for others.

Let that settle for a moment.

We are allowed to let dreams die or let them live on without us. We are allowed to reset in the light of the glow of the moon. Such an act of death or abandonment of a God inspired dream seems counterintuitive. The ways of heaven are sometimes counterintuitive.

I hesitate right about now. The hesitation is 50% fear of vulnerability and 50% commitment to confidentiality. I will be both vulnerable and confidential.

God knows I love to teach and encourage women in small groups. I had the desire to shift fully from my law career to something entirely new in range of my passion and calling. In my efforts to shift, I came to realize that the handful of women in my life love me and believe in me so deeply that I don’t have to make a full shift to live out what I love. My dream of a career shift has died a decent, honorable death.

In light of confidentiality, I can share wisdom but not details of the second dream. I had a dream for someone else. That dream was snatched away in practically an instant after years of hope and pursuit. The wisdom of the palm tree-daisy-vine garden is that sometimes the big dream overshadows the hidden dream that was quietly being sown in silence and humility by Jesus himself. Perhaps silence and humility grow the best gardens. Counterintuitive, but true.

The Season of Shed

Sister, shed. Shed, and shed some more. Look up. Take a break from the garden digging to find the awe of the stillness of your Father who is a constant source of light.

Sister, be soft hearted. Embrace the palm tree-daisy-vine garden and don’t lose heart when dreams die. For new dreams form when we are soft hearted.

Sister, be still with awe. Drop the shovel and the map long enough to see what he’s been growing under your nose. The roots are strong. The smell is sweet. And the fruit is tasty.

SHED CHALLENGE

Can you relate to the analogy of life as a garden?

Have you stared at the moon lately?

In what ways do you veer from God’s path for you?

Do you have a soft heart when nothing makes sense?

Is your heart bent towards planting more than it is bent towards awe?

Read the book of James. It’s short and full of wisdom.

Info Overload: More Things I want to share with you

My mom and I have a fall cookie project. My mom has a professional photoshoot next week, but I had to share today! You get these gorgeous cookies & fun filled cards from me including the Fall Bucket List, Gratitude List, my mom’s secret pumpkin cupcake recipe and a Fall Photo Challenge for you and your people! You can preorder by clicking here. The order process is a little rudimentary on my blog, but you will get your stuff! Email me at sasha@sashaakatz.com with any questions.

I am part of Ruth Chou Simons launch team for her new book When Strivings Ceases. Do you think I am a little excited to read this book during my season of shed? Yes! Check out the book and preorder. It comes out on October 12.

Last thing is kind of the first thing for me! It’s fall my friend! Woohoo! If you like my seasonal bucket lists, here is it girlfriend! Get to it and share your pics with the Fall hashtag #Fallbucketlist and tag me @sashakatz. One winner will receive Ruth’s new book (see above) and a Fall cookie box from my genius baker mama!

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After the Landslide: This is the Season to Shift

Last week, I left you in the midst of my story of the changing landscape. The landslide has brought me unprecedented stillness.

Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.

Psalm 46:10

Stillness is not sadness. This stillness comes from inexplicable joy or unprecedented pain. Stillness comes from something much bigger than yourself. Stillness flashes out of the unfamiliar and brings the promise of peace. Stillness comes from raising white flags and embracing the fullness of surrender. You receive this humble mercy not because you chose it, but because it chose you.  

Love chases us. God changes the landscape to bring forth in us quiet reverence. The stillness dawns awe. World stopping awe. You acknowledge that you are too small, too loved, to have control. A humble, restful environment forms in your mind and spirit as stillness and awe collide. The landslide does its work as you realize that every right step you have taken is a wilderness in comparison to the Creator’s hand at work.

This is the soft, gentle, raw space where you graciously relinquish your wearwithal. The view of oneself as a resource shifts to a God who is the source. You stop and acknowledge that even your own breath is an act of God. The urgency that once existed to run the race well is replaced with a desire for slow growth amid a God that is the author of good timing.

The Backstory

My landslide came through a landscape that I believed was good. And it was. Practical, reasonable plans and hoped for outcomes that were years in the making. Effort, time, money and care towards specific ends. Love, prayer and consideration of the best paths for my kids, myself, my family.

We all do this. We ask for help to see our gifts. We develop skills, use resources and take the next step with discernment and care. We celebrate wins and we seek understanding in disappointment. We pursue godly things with clean hands and a pure heart.

But then comes a shift. God chases us. If we are not intentionally soft hearted, love chasing us may be interpreted as havoc or axe throwing. In the stillness, however, we can experience awe.

For the Lord your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great and mighty and awe inspiring God.

Deuteronomy 10:17

Interlude

I will stop here for a brief moment to share some hard-earned wisdom through the voice of the great Aslan.

Child, said the Lion, I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.

The Horse and His Boy, C.S. Lewis

I had three shifts in a row. March, early June and the rest of the summer. In some ways, I would like to share the story of March and of June, but they are not my stories to tell. Almost two decades ago, I was offered forgiveness for revealing someone else’s story. Moreover, my profession is grounded in confidentiality. I do my best to pull the reins in when the story is not my own.

Hence, I can’t include all of the details of the landslide. In brief, the landslide shifted the path of my daughter, son and my husband each in different ways. I will share some of my shift.

The Summer

In June, we landed in Utah for a road trip in four states. I found myself sick with Covid the day after we arrived. It’s hard for me to know what to share about my experience. Foremost, some of you have lost precious loved ones to Covid. You are still grieving. Second, this virus is highly politicized. Our opinions are as wide spread as a swinging pendulum. My goal is to share my experience for the purpose of emphasizing God’s chase after me in order to shift my mindset; for the purpose of encouraging you to examine yourself and ask God for any timely shifts.

At the point of my sickness, I had already experienced the disappointment of March and June. On our trip, I was isolating in hotels and cabins getting sicker and sicker as the days passed. As we left the beauty of Idaho, we passed into Montana. Eric and I walked into the emergency room in the first town that had one. After an exam and a chest x-ray, they released me with meds. By the time we reached Wyoming a few days later, I could no longer breathe well. I called 911 from a cabin in the middle of the Grand Tetons National Park.

As I lay in the hospital in Jackson, Wyoming with Covid pneumonia, bronchitis and an oxygen tube up my nose, I felt the extent of my disappointments of the last few months. I felt the power of His hand as it wiped away my plans and designs for my life and my kids. I grieved. I had been crying in desperation from being so sick over the last week. The realization of the grief came to pass in the hospital.

The Realization

I no longer wish for my own plans or even to make them. I no longer wish to take the reins or take the lead. I simply want him to see my utter surrender and let him design and plant the garden. I simply want to walk the path as he speaks it.

This is the miraculous beauty of stillness and of the landslide. The space in which we live our lives opens up. The land in which we walk becomes a field again. We return to sacred words. Your plan is better than my plan. Your ways are higher than my ways. Your love is greater than my love. Isaiah 55: 8-9. We can melt into the new landscape and simply wait for him to plant and grow what he, the “I AM”, chooses. 

Spiritual Shock

My stillness initially was spiritual shock. I had been digging and planting on a particular path. I even saw blooms in the growing garden of my life, of my family’s life. But God prunes even the most beautiful blooms. Let that settle for a moment. God does in fact prune beautiful blooms. The things you hold precious or valuable may be cut down or off, moved or changed, by the greatest Love we have ever known or will know.

I don’t know all the answers, but I’ve had a few good conversations. The roots of the tree need to be bigger than the tree. God moves among the less. The shears may be coming at you, but you can move with them. The Father is a good gardener who knows best. (Jo Saxton and Christine Burnett)

Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear as in “the bitter uprising,” that time of wilderness testing! Even though they watched me at work for forty years, your ancestors refused to let me do it my way; over and over they tried my patience. And I was provoked, oh, so provoked! I said, “They’ll never keep their minds on God; they refuse to walk down my road.” Exasperated, I vowed “They’ll never get where they’re going, never be able to sit down and rest.”

So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as God’s still calling it Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.

These words keep ringing in our ears:

Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear as in the bitter uprising.

Hebrews 3:7-12

Once the landslide has come

The stillness resides

What was before is no longer

You can fight against the surrender with a hard heart

Or you can receive truth with a soft heart.

Shift Challenge

Can you relate to stillness and awe? Read Psalm 46.

Do you see yourself as a resource more often than you see God as the source? Read Isaiah 55. In light of that verse, can you trust God as your source?

Examine yourself and ask God if he is asking you to shift.

God prunes even the most beautiful blooms. Is there anything you are holding too tightly? Is there anything that you need to let go of, even if it feels impossible to do so?

How will you respond to the landslide? Once the stillness comes, will you respond with a hard heart or a soft heart? Read Deuteronomy 10:12-22

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A Time for Everything: This is Season to Shed

What a journey the last six months has been. Well, maybe the last year and a half. But this is a post and not a memoir.

In the last six months, a few important things shattered.

The shatter became a landslide in which new days were born.

Over the next few weeks, I am sharing with you what I have learned when life stops. Consider the job of a door stopper. Or, the contraption that shreds your tires if you pull in or out of the parking lot through the wrong entrance. Both cause you to stop or to slow way down. This is what God did in my life. He stopped me in such a way that stillness and surrender were the only avenue to grace.

Of course, there was an alternative. I could have kicked against the series of events. Jesus says to Saul before he’s Paul, why are you kicking against the goads? I could have chosen that.

As you read this, it would mean a lot to me if you considered whether you’re a kicker. I didn’t find awe and stillness because I have the gift of humility. I didn’t kick because I was so desperate with nowhere to run that I just gave in to awe of the starry, moonlit night sky where he met me. It’s hard to know if you’re a kicker. Kickers usually don’t think they’re kicking. But, you my dear sister, I know you will seek him vulnerably to check your kicker rating.

The Beginning

SHED

My word for the year.

My annual journey began with a few phrases.

In early 2021, I began to think closely about these three phrases.

Shed the Overwhelm.

Shed the Need for Stuff.

Quit the Things.

Do any resonate with you? Are you tired from overwhelm? Have you had enough of stuff? Are you sure the things you are doing – the things you are currently committed to – are the things you are supposed to be doing? Are you burnt out by the rules you are living by that don’t equate to freedom?

Shed the Overwhelm

You and me, soul sister, we have a great desire to live a God honoring life full of love and service. We are passionate, thoughtful, present sisters. We don’t want to miss a moment of time here so that we can truly look in his eyes with peace and transparency there. This is a good motivation and a holy pursuit. We are blessed beyond measure to run the race and also to have a place prepared for us once that race has been won.

In my holy pursuit, I filled and filled up my life with good things. One good thing toppled upon another. I became tired from the overwhelm that was my life. I made the mistake of seeing my life as a race without a finish line. The pace of my life wasn’t a pace that my soul could thrive in. I had simply forgotten that seasons come to an end. I missed the loving writing on the wall of my wise brother Jesus.

There is a time for everything . . . a time to scatter stones and a time to collect them.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 5

Obedience?

The stillness of the first few months of the pandemic brought this revelation to me. But I wasn’t obedient to the kind directives he spoke to me at that time. I liked what he said, but my pace was so entrenched in my routine and my worth that I didn’t have the skill or the courage to regroup and change. God asks less of us than we think he does. He is pleased with small, silent slow growth within us. Think about that.

In pursing his calling over our lives, many well meaning voices will catch our attention. What voices are influencing you? Are the voices louder than the simple, life giving words Jesus is speaking to you?

Overwhelm takes root in our lives when expand or add to the simple directives Jesus has given us.

Ask Yourself

Have you taken a few wrong turns in your holy pursuit to live a well done, good and faithful, servant life? Of course you have. So have I. That’s what shed has meant to me. Consider your life. Is there anything that you are putting energy into that may not have an eternally valuable end for the life God has given you to live? Not someone else’s life. Your life. If you are committed to something that appears good on the outside, but it’s not part of God’s long term plan for your life, it may be time to shed it.

Shed the Need for Stuff

Consumerism is way of life in America. I no longer want to live out a mentality of constantly adding things to our life. I have a desire to reduce our family’s carbon footprint, be kinder with my purchases and pursue a mentality of more than enough is what we already have.


What if Jesus was actually right? What if more stuff really just means more anxiety and stress and distraction and discontentment and global oppression and slavery? And what if less stuff actually equals more happiness? What if “life does not consist in an abundance of possessions”? (Luke 12v15)

– John Mark Comer, The True Cost

Click the button below for a list of how our family has been shedding the need for stuff.

Quit the Things

I hold tightly to the pursuits God sends me on. My nature has a tinge of obsessiveness and my past points to the unpleasantries of perfectionism. When it’s time to close up shop, I light a candle and keep going. This has proved useful in many ways in my life. But this season is for shedding. Not press on. Lord knows I don’t know how to quit. It’s awkward and intense for me. Potentially letting God down and/or others down is the thorn in my side.

My wise therapist and friend Dan recently gave me an eleventh commandment. This is the one that cures burning the candle from both ends.

Thou shall not do anything unless it’s holy spirit motivated.

– Dan Houmes

Do you need to live by the 11th commandment? It may lead to quitting some things. I have done that recently. I quit books that I don’t really like even though it’s against my nature not to finish. I quit working when the night comes even when my work is not done. I quit or defer roles if they don’t fit the season. I quit trying to figure out stuff that God isn’t answering or delivering at the moment. My life is not becoming boring, empty or worthless. Instead, I feel his creativity and service in me more than I have in a long time.

Ask yourself, what can you quit?

SHED

I was fully prepared to follow his lead and shed. With the Lord, however, we rarely know how he is going to work out his will in our lives. But we can count on his love. As the last six months unfolded, I felt the shatter. One piece at a time. Until the stillness ran so deep and the eye of the needle so small that everything in me stopped in the silence of who he is.

That silence has found its was to joy and even to freedom. A younger me would have felt abandoned by my father. But the daughter I am slowly becoming is learning to defer to the landslide. When it’s time for the landscape to change, only he has the wisdom to know what to scatter and what to build. I thank him for that.

Shed Challenge

  • Are you a kicker? Score yourself and meditate on Hebrews 3:7-12 & Deuteronomy 10:12-16
  • Do you feel overwhelmed? Is there anything you know needs to come off your plate? Start to pray about your next step in obedience.
  • View the Top 10 List of shedding things and pick something to try yourself.
  • Do you need to live by the 11th commandment? What will you quit?

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SEVEN WORDS TO HELP YOU FIND YOUR WAY TODAY

Last week on Instagram, I wrote about SEVEN WORDS over SEVEN DAYS with Hopewriters all over the world.

Before I share my seven day journey with you, take a few minutes to think about each of these words. You don’t have to write about them, but think about what memories, thoughts or stories form in your mind for each word. If you are having a hard time with this exercise, skip down below for a few helpful thoughts.

  • Many of you are so busy that you haven’t given your mind a moment to freely swim through a thought that isn’t part of your daily tasks or responsibilities. Will you challenge yourself to take two minutes per word to freely welcome creative thoughts?
  • Some of you are holding trauma, loss and grief in your heart and on your shoulders; so much so, that you may need an outlet to let it all drip out through a few tangible words. Will you grab a scrap of paper and write the first thought the comes to mind with each word?
  • Some of you drown out the notion that your story, the good parts and the embarrassing, shameful parts, makes up the beauty of who you are. Perhaps a few words are the starting place you need to gracefully tell your story. Will you talk through each word transparently with a trustworthy friend?
  • A few of you may even be physically ill. You are suffering. When health doesn’t carry you, not much else matters. Even in this weak state, embrace a few words of life. You will not be here forever. It’s okay to gently embrace dreams of the future and memories of the past. Will you draw an emoji or write a name or place next to each word as a reminder that life will be full again?

Below is my seven day journey. I choose transparency because I have learned that vulnerable community is the path to growth, freedom and healing. You can also check out the series on IG where I initially posted it.


Do you remember when you first found your VOICE?

During my senior year of HS, we watched a documentary on Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall who was a lawyer and civil rights activist. He was key in overturning laws that enforced racial segregation.

As I watched, justice rung loudly through me. I wanted to be whatever Justice Marshall was. That’s how I decided to become a lawyer.

So many years later, justice is a thread that runs through my life. Trafficking, poverty, foster care and at risk women and girls have been my causes. Thanks to the day I found my VOICE.

When did you first find yours?


Today’s @hopewriters writing challenge word is REFRESH & that was France 2018 for me.

10 days of cycling through the Valley of Loir & driving through Switzerland with no cell phones or a worry in the world (minus Eric’s monumental bike wipe out on the countryside).

It’s hard to unplug, even from the stuff we love the most. I’m not sure if it’s really possible without being half around the world without a phone! But, truly, I will continue to seek it out on the lounge chair in the backyard with my blanket and my books!

What REFRESHES you?


Today’s @hopewriters writing challenge word is STORY.

The STORY of this picture is a reunion of three women destined to be lawyers and best friends through two decades and counting.

This is our first reunion in 2014 after these two besties left me in Florida while they ventured off to new places with their families. Their leaving gifted me with the challenge of making brand new friends as a 30 something.

I often write and talk about friendship. Their leaving allowed me to share with new friends who they helped me become. These two taught me so much about loyalty, confidentiality, forgiveness and trusting your gut when your friend can’t verbalize her own needs.

Here’s to my STORY of friendship! I love you @natswitzerland & @chris_vargh@lifesations


Day 4: @hopewriters writing challenge word is REMEMBER

Unlike the other days, this caused a pause in my heart.

REMEMBER brings me to the things God has shown me that I’ll never forget.

🌸 I’ll be growing up for the rest of my life. Welcome with love the person I become as the seasons change.

🌸 Tears do stop. I just need some help with that sometimes.

🌸 Lay down the idol. Follow the path. Don’t look back.

🌸 Nothing is actually, really forever lost. Redemption is a promise. Graciously wait for it.

🌸 Whatever I can’t understand belongs in the hands of God, not mine. It’s better that way.

🌸 A mustard seed of hope is all we need. This little truth has carried me through my darkest days. Keep hope alive.


The beginning is exhilarating and scary. The end is bittersweet but exudes with confidence and closure.

But the MIDDLE.

Can’t go back. Can’t speed forward. Sometimes feels like quicksand. Sometimes like speed skating. Most of life is here. Many times over.

IN THE MIDDLE: May we embrace uncertainty with our best next step. May we settle into the still and move with the wind. May we not give up in the middle.

To all my sisters who know the MIDDLE all too well. Keep going, for the end of a thing is better than the beginning.


It’s never too late to ask yourself the QUESTION

What are you grateful for?

#aprilgratitude

🌸 strength of my body to hold my mind and spirit
🌸 grace for when family get togethers go south
🌸 advice when I can’t make a decision
🌸 my son‘s recovery from shoulder surgery
🌸 transparency of my Bible study girls
🌸 leadership and kindness of Priya and Reuben
🌸 new friends like Diana
🌸 seeing my daughter find her voice
🌸 growing huge mushrooms in the wine fridge
🌸 gatherings at my home
🌸 reminders on my vision board to keep growing!
🌸 The joy of cooking for my family
🌸 the word of God pointing me forward
🌸 meeting wise women who care and love deeply
🌸 God’s creation of both day and night
🌸 learning how to sacrifice like my mom
🌸 learning to welcome changes
🌸 learning to let go instead of be stuck
🌸 loving God‘s path for me and nothing else
🌸 pouring out what I have been given


Last Day of @hopewriters writing challenge: PURPOSE

A few years ago, when I taught my first class in @kristingreep beautiful living room, my mom shared a vision with me.

A circle of women living in peace with their eyes set on their calling filled with assurance of who they are in Christ.

There have been some ups and downs the last few years when it comes to pursuing God’s purposes for my life.

I’ve learned wholeheartedly that the circle of women in my mom’s vision are the women right in front of me, all around me.

We don’t have to go far and wide to live out our purpose. We aren’t required to make a living from our purpose. But we do have to give it our all.

Purpose is a lot less about measuring success and outcome. Purpose is a lot more about knowing how much you are loved and then passing on that love in only the way you can.

May each of us follow our calling in only the way we can. 🙏🏼


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Hospitality: How to be Radical with Food and Friends

My purpose in sharing parts of my life with you is to encourage you to do the same. More openness among women. More authenticity. This is the road to personal change and freedom. Authenticity is part of the path for wounds to find healing. Eventually, this same road leads to action and service in the name of love.

I did something fun this week.

I led a book review with an amazing, welcoming group of women called the Salt Book Club. I reviewed a book called The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in our Post Christian World by Rosaria Butterfield. (My husband says every book I read is the same. Whatever.)

My friend Melissa came along with me to the book club. She has an open front door and is an all are welcome kind of girl. Covid slapped her in the face when it came to one of her spiritual giftings – hospitality.

At the book review, she openly shared her reasons for bunkering down for almost a full year. She shared her conversations with her teen about how doing what’s right isn’t something you can see the full picture of when making the sacrifice. And, she shared how God gave her the opportunity to share her home with her brother, wife and two kids after he was furloughed from his job in Texas.

God always provides a way for us to share our giftings and live out our callings.

The author Rosaria leads a pretty radical life in the way of hospitality. She has an open door policy for dinner every single night. She wakes up at dawn for her devotion. She puts on beans, soup and rice and bakes bread. She homeschools and does all the stuff moms do throughout the day.

Around 5:30pm, her “stakeholders” (i.e., girlfriends, soul sisters . . .) plus their families and dogs come over with more food and welcome whomever shows up that night. They invite people who would not step foot into a church and the neighborhood families through the Next Door app.

This is radical to me – plainly because it’s Every.Single.Night.

This book has a few stories running through it. You will learn that Rosaria was previously a professor at Syracuse University, a feminist, intellectual and outspoken lesbian in a committed relationship. You’ll meet her neighbor Hank and his pit bull Tank, whose home is raided for the manufacturing of crystal meth. You’ll get to know Rosaria’s birth family with themes of mental illness and alcohol. You will hear Rosaria’s view on gender roles and how safety should not be the aspiration of believers.

It sounds like a good book, right? It is.

After reading her book and listening to her bible study on Right Now Media, here are five tips on hospitality that you can glean from this book – – and you don’t even have to read it! Nice!

  1. Find your own rhythm of hospitality. God gives us the grace we need for his commands.
  2. You are needed. God uses us in our mess. Be hospitable, even in your weakness.
  3. If you are hiding sin, you won’t practice hospitality. Check yourself! Ouch!
  4. What idols are holding you back from hospitality? Social media? TV? Alcohol? Middle class ease?
  5. Learn to be a host and a guest. We need both to form relationships.

Love you girls!

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Happy Mother’s Day: My Tribute & Your Challenge

60 Minutes with an Old Friend

A few months ago, I sat with an old friend at my office conference room table. There is a lot I did not know about my old friend until recently. Having worked with a wholesale fine foods company for years, he has made many friends with chefs and restaurant owners. He has access to organic, artisan ingredients. You should see his IG posts of his creations that he makes from scratch at home. The colors are gorgeous, and his organization and creativity are impeccable.

From there, our conversation moved to his loss of 40+ pounds through 4am work outs and changing his overall mindset. He talked about some of his closest friends who he is there for and who are there for him. He admitted that he was a really good friend but has been a terrible husband, twice. That brought us to his single dad status and the parenting of his curly red-haired spitfire.

My Friend’s Great Question

He asked me a great question about parenting. He asked me to tell him my core values when it came to parenting. He knows my 17-year-old boy pretty well and he asked how we helped him turn out so well. I gladly would have accepted the Quinn compliment alone. But he gave me a platform right there in my conference room to talk about my parenting style.  I didn’t know I had such strong core values.  They started flying out of my mouth one by one over the next fifteen or twenty minutes.

The rest of this post is about the values I shared with my friend. It’s also about reflecting upon your values this Mother’s Day week. It’s about challenging you to talk to your people about your values and how they are blooming (or maybe hiding) in your own life.

This Post is a Tribute to Mothers, Biological, Spiritual and Adoptive Alike.

To clarify, if you don’t have biological or adopted kids, I am sure that you are a mentor or an auntie to some chubby toddler or awkward tween that needs you. You too are a mother, and this post belongs to you.

We each have our core values and varying parenting style, whether we are mentoring biological, spiritual or adoptive kids. I suspect that much of what we bring into this role comes from our own mothers, aunties and female mentors. Much of what I am going to say comes from my mom (and dad) and the rest comes toppling out of my own life experience.

My Intention is to Help You Reflect this Mother’s Day.

Before I lay out what I shared with my friend, I will tell you in advance my intention. It is my hope that you will take the next few days leading to Mother’s Day to think about your core parenting values. Jot a few of your core values down. Let them swim in your mind. Maybe write down another one or two or revise one of your earlier thoughts. You will eventually be satisfied with what your have reduced to writing. I am confident of that.

Challenge No. 1

Once you have that part done, I challenge and encourage to reach out to one of your mother figures or mother. Share with her the parts of your parenting that you graciously account to her blood, sweat and tears. This is a gift to her in and of itself.

Challenge No. 2

Next, I challenge and encourage you to share with your biological, adoptive or spiritual kids what matters to you and ask them if they can see that in your life. This could be a bit risky on a day where you are not really hoping for any surprising feedback. Nonetheless, this conversation will bless you and help you grow (one way or another).

Here goes, soul sisters.

Value #1 – Follow Your Dreams

My mom cheered each of us as if we were the most likely person to succeed. She helped us try lots of new things and provided the best tools within her reach. She let us go as far as we desired when it came succeeding. The world does a good job of knocking you down and chipping at your self-esteem. But I’ve always had just enough faith to keep going because of my mom. Even at the rock bottom, dark night of the soul, my mom has been there to encourage me towards hope.

Part of the Follow Your Dreams value is that race, ethnicity, economics or gender is not a reality strong enough to limit our dreams. I was the first on my mom’s side to go to college. Her parents were the kid’s of first generation immigrants. I was one of the few girls in the DECA business club in high school. I made it through college and law school, often times, by counting change.  

In my own experience, I understand the hardship of being a woman and not having a lot of financial resources to work with. I also acknowledge the privileges I was afforded. But that wasn’t what my mom’s value was all about. It was about not allowing limits to define your future.

The last part of this value was that it was not just for us. My mom and dad taught us to see and treat others with the same limitless value. Of course, I didn’t grow up colorless or genderless or classless. But we were taught that dreams are limitless for ourselves and dreams are limitless for others. This value had a direct impact on how we viewed and treated others – with respect and value as a person who had limitless dreams too.

Value #2 – Help Others Right Where You Are

My family had a strong ethic to help others. Back in the day, the Sun Sentinel ran an annual article around Easter time with a list of local families you could help. Clearly, privacy laws were not intact thirty/forty years ago. My mom would pick a family from the list. She would contact them directly and ask them what they needed. We would bring gift cards (or whatever it was back then) and Easter baskets and visit the family most of that year.

It was awkward going into neighborhoods and homes we weren’t familiar with. The food looked and smelled different. The little kids pulled at and played with my hair. But my mom always had a connection with the mother or grandmother. We all, the family and us, smiled and laughed through the awkwardness.

This is just one example. My mom has mentored neighborhood kids. Hired women just out of jail. Helped women educate themselves. Poured into countless homeless men and women. She took us along with her for the ride and hoped we would do the same in our own lives.

Value #3 – Give Them Wings and Let Them Go

Part of the freedom of growing up as my mom’s kid was that she was clear that her job was to give us wings so that we could fly on our own. She poured into us deeply but not in such a way that exhibited control or dependency on either part. We knew well that we were revving up to go out into the world. That created a sense of ownership and drive to move forward even if we were a little scared. She provided a foundation of care that created confidence to take steps in our own direction.

Value #4 – Maintain your Character at any Cost

By no means did I learn this on my own, but it could not feel more personal. As I reflect on business ownership over the last 16 years. As I reflect on friendships over a lifetime. As I reflect on marriage. As I reflect, Matthew 16:26 comes to mind.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?

In a very competitive business field, where kickbacks and shady incentives are all around me, I’ve had to lean into this verse. It’s not so much that it’s been difficult not to make such an offer in exchange for business. It’s that others ask it of me. It has been fairly easy for me to say no. However, a few years ago I lost 30% of my business because I clung to Matthew 16:26. It was a very scary day when that happened. But it has never been clearer to me that character is worth the loss when and if that happens. I hope my kids see that in my life.

Value #5 – A Spark of Hope is Enough – Just Keep it Lit

My mom says that panic, anxiety and depression were never part of my personality or who I am. It was circumstances that ushered in and cracked the joy and freedom inside of me. In the years leading up to 2016 (when I crashed), I knew that from time to time, I felt a sadness; a lack of control of tears; and an endless feeling that “everything was lost.”

When friends, family and others think of me, I hate to think that this part of my story rises above the beauty that God has made from the dark times. That’s what parenting value #5 is about.

A spark of hope is enough.

The light does become dim sometimes. There isn’t necessarily an hourglass to tell you when the sun will reach noon again. But I do know that during these times, just a spark of hope is enough. It’s the mustard seed or yeast effect. If you can place your speck of hope in the hands of the Trinity, they will keep the light lit just long enough for the sun to come out again.

In these dim times, I ask the Holy Spirit to come in to break down walls and throw the enemy in the lake of fire for a swim. I let myself feel the cheek of the Father next to mine as I allow Him to give me rest in the night. I trust that my brother and savior Jesus – who has a full understanding of who I am and streets I walk – will lead and teach me through all that I lack.

This is what it means that a spark of hope is enough. This is how I’ve learned to keep it lit. This is what I hope my kids see and turn to when the full sun is hidden from them.

Biological, Spiritual and Adoptive Mothers alike. This post is for you.

Mothers, it will have been a miracle for you to have finished this piece in one sitting. I hope you’ve read it in pieces at red lights, as you dosed off to sleep, as you’ve waited at the doc’s office with your aging parents, at lunch or on coffee break. I hope that you’ve taken just enough time to read for your own core values in parenting to spark.

I am including the challenges below again for you. What a pain to scroll up to find them!

My Intention is to Help You Reflect this Mother’s Day.

It is my hope that you will take the next few days leading to Mother’s Day to think about your core parenting values. Jot a few of your core values down. Let them swim in your mind. Maybe write down another one or two or revise one of your earlier thoughts. You will eventually be satisfied with what you have reduced to writing. I am confident of that.

Challenge No. 1

Once you have that part done, I challenge and encourage to reach out to one of your mother figures or mother. Share with her the parts of your parenting that you graciously account to her blood, sweat and tears. This is a gift to her in and of itself.

Challenge No. 2

Next, I challenge and encourage you to share with your biological, adoptive or spiritual kids what matters to you and ask them if they can see that in your life. This could be a bit risky on a day where you are not really hoping for any surprising feedback. Nonetheless, this conversation will bless you and help you grow (one way or another).

Happy Mother’s Day!

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