Welcome 2021: The Good Work of New Beginnings

Whoosh! And the month of January is almost at its end.

January represents some of my favorite themes. I’ve always been madly in love with fresh starts and new plans.

For me, 2020 brought into focus the meaning and pursuit of rhythms in my life. I welcomed back the word intentional when it comes to rhythms.

Intentionality has been overused in my opinion.

Be Intentional. Blah, blah, blah.

If you don’t actually put some power behind the punch of intentionality, it’s just an intention. Intentional gets washed away with every distraction, moment of exhaustion or stressful season.

When I hit bottom physically, emotionally and spiritually almost five years ago, I started from scratch. I began to rethink the meaning of time. I rescripted the physical part of my life to be kinder to my mind and soul. I figured out what made me tick in a healthier way and moved toward my giftings. I began a different journey because the old ways were crushing the person that God made me to be.

I am going to share some of the key areas I hit on this January. All three will lead you to rhythms that ground you and stand as your safety net as you intentionally become more of the woman God made you to be.

Daily Calendar

Word of the Year

Your Vision

My purpose in sharing is for you to consider what hits home for you. My purpose is to encourage you to begin a godly pursuit in the areas that spark your heart. There isn’t anything you can’t accomplish if you are utilizing your daily calendar with a purpose and a vision.

By accomplish, I specifically mean, pursue with grace, as your anthem.

Daily Calendar

Your daily calendar holds the key to becoming who God made you to be.

It’s January. Ask yourself a few questions. If you have been checking in on me on Instagram, I’ve been offering up journal questions to help you move into the new year.

Your answers fuel and speak into your daily calendar. If there’s a disconnect between what you think, who you are and how you are living your life, then sitting down with your calendar is your next step.

When I hit bottom, one of the tasks my counselor gave me was to write out my weekly calendar including the stuff he was suggesting for me to do to get healthy again.

When your brain is scattered and your heart is broken, writing out a life-giving calendar is not easy. But I did it. I now check myself with this exercise when I feel lost or when my purpose feels foggy and dim.

There is a lot we don’t have control over in this life. But I honestly believe that we have more control over how we spend our time than we think.

Try the exercise and you will find a viable path to God’s plans for you this year.

Side Note: Have you heard of the bullet journal?

It’s basically merging your journal, planner and daily rhythms into one notebook. If you like artsy things, but aren’t quite the Picasso you’d like to be, this is a great creative outlet.

I started strong week one of 2021 (with the bullet journal), but I realized that it would take more time and effort that I was willing to give. So, I used my favorite planner and added the bullet journal style to it. Less time but still serving my creative outlet.

Here’s my hybrid bullet journal. Do what works!

Word of the Year

I love quizzes and tests. Isn’t it fun to learn about yourself? To get to the bottom of why you need so much alone time. Or why you are uncomfortable with conflict. Or why it’s hard to ask for what you need. Yes, so fun.

I discovered a word for the year a few years ago when Dayspring offered a quiz. I later ran into Lara Casey’s awesome end of the year blog series which includes finding your word (and goals) for the year. The Dayspring quiz is quick and Lara’s series is long. Try either one or my version below.

It’s not that having a word for the year changes everything. The value is in the time it takes to consider the themes God is speaking into your life.

If you haven’t landed on a word yet, here are some clues to help you reflect.

  1. Look at the photos in your phone categorized by the twelve months of the previous year.
  2. Page or scroll through your 2020 calendar.
  3. Do the same with your journal.
  4. Write down the books you’ve read and the bible studies you’ve completed.
  5. Bullet your successes and failures from the past year.
  6. Anything else you can think of that allows you to review the past year.

What are the common threads? What is God speaking to you through your reflection? What were your blind spots? Hopes? Dreams come true? Things you’re still waiting for?

All of these arrows will lead you to a word or phrase. Go ahead, give yourself the freedom to reflect.

It’s okay to cry as you reflect if you feel it. Angry? That’s okay too. Grateful? Some years are abundant even in loss and grief.

Let it out and then let it grow into something fresh and new for the new year.

My word for this year is Shed and here are the reasons why.

Shed the Overwhelm: There is really only one voice that matters.

Shed the Need for Stuff: We don’t need more than we already have to do the will of God.

Quit the Things: Your Calling has a finer focus than you think.

SHED: Live.Move.Breathe. In What He Has Already Provided.

Seek God. He is not far from us, for in Him we live, move and have our being. Acts 17:28

Vision Boards

I believe strongly in visual inspiration for the things God is leading us to. A vision board is a daily visual reminder of your goals. It’s not the place to write the goals or the place to execute them (i.e., daily calendar). The vision board is a place to articulate your dreams through images and words.

I have a ton of fun with boards with the ladies who take my Follow Your Call class. We create idea boards as we brainstorm God’s call over each woman’s life. But I’ve never done it for myself at the beginning of the new year. Here’s mine.

My board rests on the window sill at my desk. I look at it every day.

Here are the tools to create your own vision board. I hope you will grab your girls and do it together.

Whoosh! And the month of January is almost at its end.

Even so. It’s not too late to embrace fresh starts and new plans.

Go ahead. Be intentional. With your Calendar. Your Word for the Year. Your Vision.

When the distractions come rolling in. When the occasional exhaustion sets in. When the unexpected, impossible circumstances arrive. Your time. Your words. Your vision. These God inspired truths will be your safety net.

When your brain is scattered. When your heart is broken. When your purpose feels foggy or worthless. Your time. Your words. Your vision. These God inspired truths will ground you. These truths will cast you back to hope. There is no greater weapon against the darkness than hope.

All Along You Were Blooming
– Morgan Harper Nichols

You can always return to the good journey. The path that is fertile ground for a healthy mind and soul. The path that honors and refreshes your body. The steps that lead you toward your giftings. You can always reset. You can always choose to become more of who God made you to be.

Embrace The Good Work of New Beginnings!

Until next time, my sweet friends.

Continue Reading

Meaningful Book List of 2020: Read One!

If you check in on me on Instagram, I posted my 2020 book list. It is the perfect time of year to share such a list. I humored myself by writing that I won’t be sharing my 2021 book list in January. Simply because I am not that organized and far too emotional about my book choices to have a preselected list.

Cheers to imperfection!

So, why share my reading list? In some ways, the books we read are like the photos we take, the events we go to, the people we meet. What we read impacts us. For me, books help me grow and they spark my imagination and actions in a godly way. I am guessing it is the same for you, with whatever good things you enjoy.

Here we go girls! Enjoy the list and, if you don’t read or listen to books on a regular basis, this is one of my 2021 challenges to you!

One more thing, I placed them in the order I read them. It’s not a best is first list. And definitely don’t judge them by the length of what I wrote. Length varies but not my positive journey with each book.

Obviously. For two reasons.

First, I’ve spent the last five years growing and learning though seasons of depression, anxiety and panic. Tools, counseling and community have been my remedy. This past February, I used one of the methods in this book to talk myself down on the way to speaking on a panel. I was doubting my value and was sure the other panelists were more accomplished and successful than me. I followed the steps in this book on the way to the panel and got out of my own head. Woohoo!

Second, I love the vision of Jennie Allen. I ran across IF:Table online several years ago on a road trip home from NC. It led me to IF:Gathering which I have been a part of for the last four years. The message of discipleship and community has ministered and empowered me to grow and help other women to do the same.

Margaret writes like you are sitting in the living room with her. I completed this 52 week devotional in seven weeks. I even colored the spectacular coloring pages. I started this at the height of the quarantine which probably explains the coloring and the daily commitment, but fun nonetheless!

Margaret is a cancer survivor, bible teacher and outspoken, loving sister.

She authored a study on my bible boyfriend James that I may put on my desk for January.

I read this book alongside Get Out of Your Head because of the similar themes. The books are very different in style but address the truth which is: Identify the false beliefs in your mind and talk back with the truth of Christ.

I met Hayley at the Meet the Authors tent at Nest Fest. She wrote in the book: Sasha, He is mighty and bright in you! Keep going!

Side note: If you are a millennial, I think you will especially like this book.

This is one of the two guy authored books I read this year. Ann Voskamp wrote the forward which is how I found the book. I’ve realized over the last few years that daily rhythms and spiritual disciplines supersede the day’s agenda. I used to and often still revert to running off performance, the needs of others and the demands of the day, but I’m getting better at prioritizing rhythms and disciplines. The neat part of this book is that the author, for each discipline or rhythm, provides philosophical, biblical and historical context, plus a good story. Pastor Shigematsu includes intimate journal questions after each chapter – I answered each and every one.

You will like this book.

I can’t think of strong enough words to lovingly share this book of community. I only pass one or two books on to my mom each year and this is one of them.

I will simply say, Take your shoes off and walk with the author to places you wish you would go but don’t. Must Read. Especially if you want to walk like Jesus.

We moved one summer ago, and I used this book to decorate our master bedroom. I also used it to canvass what I had already styled in our new home. The book has beautiful pictures and gives a step by step process for styling each room. Cool, right?

Cozy Minimalism is a mindset that helps you get whatever style you love with the fewest possible items. You set your home up for true connection and rest without using more resources, money and stuff than needed.

This book taught me how to use the things I love like vintage, handmade and sentimental pieces in a way that does not clutter up the space.

In the spirit of CoMi, Myquillyn hosts an annual event in NC called the Nest Fest. Two years ago, my friend Steph and I had the best time ever. It’s all about banjo music, food trucks and creative vendors. I’m hoping to go again in October 2021.

I read this book just before it became impossible to get a copy. If you’re light skinned and admit you live in a bubble, read Latasha’s story and, with truth and love, assess your beliefs about racism in our culture. Latasha wrote a lament at the end of each chapter, similar to a spoken hymn.

As a white, middle class person, it was sometimes hard for me to read out loud the lines of repentance for collective racism. But I think that is just one of Latasha’s calls to us as a country.

I highly recommend checking out bethebridge.com to see how you can be part of the dialogue.

There is so much depth here. Few books stun me.

Dr. Thompson’s description of the Trinity’s creation, love and vulnerability towards us moved me to seeing God for who he actually is – closer to my humanity and kinder than I have ever imagined. And, I already believed God to be infinitely kind.

I will oversimplify and say that shame may be keeping you from releasing good into the world. This book will help you understand why and overcome the shame in your story.

My friend Suzanne gave me this book a few years ago. She doesn’t have time to read but she knows I will. If you do life with a group of authentic, transparent sisters, this is your anthem. If you’ve been hesitant about pursuing real community, this is your instruction guide. For more of my thoughts on this book, read Let’s Do It: Choose Real with Two Questions.

Alia preaches:

Your gift may be your weakness, and in that place, you may show yourself to be strong.

The author’s story and biblical perspective is eye opening and empowering.

She shares nakedly about growing up in poverty, the love between she and her husband, her darkness suffering from mental illness. She uses a language of hope and grace that only someone who has experienced weakness can know.

We read this book in my bible study together. The resulting conversations about poverty, racism, births of our kids, mental illness and imposter syndrome were rich and needed by all.

This is my first year commemorating Advent. It’s so strange, but I am not ready to talk about Advent yet. I am a little behind on the daily devotion, but that’s not the reason for me not being ready to talk.

Can you think of a time when you tried something new, but lack context and experience?

Like the time I took a course called Performance Theater and didn’t know why we started with Aristotle. Yes, duh, he is responsible for the way we analyze and create format for productions. So, with Advent, I really haven’t reached my Yes, duh moment.

Advent is more than the cultural, commercial push back. It’s sort of like letting yourself be solemn so that you can prepare to usher in the birth of the King in joy. I may circle back to this in another post, but I will be back to Advent again next year.

Enjoy the list and, if you don’t read or listen to books on a regular basis, this is one of my 2021 challenges to you!

Love,

Your Soul Sister

Sasha

Continue Reading

Thoughts on Friendship: We Need One Another

I grabbed my phone from my bedside table Wednesday morning and considered the options. Despite the appeal, I know better than to start the day with social media. As I scanned the apps on the screen, I became curious about the verse of the day on You Version.

The early hours can sometimes be the better hours for letting scripture sink into your mind and soul. The haze of just waking up lends itself to some imagination.

The verse began, Jesus said to her.

I didn’t recognize the rest of the verse. I am her too and I must know the context of this story. I could not resist Jesus said to her and clicked Read the Full Chapter.

It was the story of Jesus, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, when the latter was raised from the dead.

It’s a Story about Friendship

It’s a story about many things, but Wednesday morning, the friendship among the four of them resonated. I imagined the helplessness and loss the sisters felt as Lazarus became sicker. They sent a message to their friend Jesus to come.

We need each other. We call to those we love when we need nearness for whatever life may be serving that day. We so need each other when hard things hit. We need proximity, care and comfort from the people who reach for us without asking a question or saying a word.

We need the people with whom we have made mistakes in front of and have been forgiven. We need the friend who has laid her head in our lap for comfort amid hard things. We need the friends who have wiped tears from our cheeks and put our hair behind our ears.

We need friends who understand brokenness and emptiness and desire to fill it in only the way a friend can. These are the same friends who know your best recipes (or that you can’t cook) and what to bring you for dessert. These are the friends that empathize, show up and be present with us. This was the friendship among Jesus, Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

Jesus was a person, not only God.

I think about how I share my life with my friends. How I talk to them, text them, make plans with them. When I think about Jesus as a person, as a friend, I ask myself if I really can imagine in my heart of hearts that he is just like my Susie, or Stephanie. My Melissa or Sonia. My Christina or Connie. My Suzanne, Sharon or Sils. My mom. My Nathalie.

Do I embrace him like I embrace them? Do I think up ways to bless him like I do them? Am I concerned that he knows I love him and am there for him like I am concerned about them? Do I wonder what he is up to like I do when I call or text them?

This isn’t a test of love. It’s just another way to think about your Savior.

Jesus said to her. He spoke to her as a friend. He told her the things that only he could know. Your brother will rise again. He did the things that only he could do. Do you believe me Martha that those who believe in me will never die?

When she wept, he wept. When she reminded him of death, he reminded her of life. When others looked onto the friendship among the four, many believed in Jesus. When others look on to your friendships, does the idea of having Jesus as a friend crackle in their mind?

Jesus said to her.

Four little words that keep me running towards my friendship with Jesus.

For more thoughts on Friendship, you can read about what my friend Steph taught me about shame or how to be an authentic friend.

Continue Reading

Do you hate to look back?

Until very recently, I would say, I hate to look back.

Let me qualify what I mean by I hate to look back.

I am speaking of pain and shame. The sound of those two words alone are enough to send you running forward and not back.

My girlfriend Steph journals, reads her devotion/bible and prays all before the sun comes up. Her journals are dated and organized over the years. She has a spiritual practice of going back to read journal entries to mark her growth. In other words, she looks back.

Steph values vulnerability and, with courage, reads the psalms she has written in the darkness. Often times, her practice becomes a celebration of how far she has come – – even though many of her circumstances remain difficult.

Steph’s vulnerability is a testimony of the powerlessness of shame if we are willing to narrate a different story – namely, one built upon communion with God and community with others.

Shame was not part of my vocabulary until I read The Soul of Shame by Dr. Curt Thompson. I used to think of shame as something bad parents do their kids when they make a mistake or hurt themselves or others. Think humiliation tactics or intended embarrassment. Awful, right?

I had never expanded my understanding of shame to a big picture perspective.

It turns out that shame is an emotional weapon that evil uses on us. Evil’s intent in this regard is to corrupt our relationship with God, isolate us from community and prevent us from using the gifts we have been given as image bearers and light carriers in this world.

Heavy, right? It’s like pointing a flashlight down a dark tunnel where you have not seen the other side until now. You know: the tunnel you were afraid to walk down before you knew you had the power of the light with you.

Could shame be a stumbling block to knowing God and being known?

Could shame be preventing you from living out your God given calling?

I am not really talking lofty change the world calling (although it could be). I am talking about wholly and fully bringing goodness and light into this world.

To both questions, the answer is yes. The greater shame we feel, the greater the temptation to isolate. The more we isolate, the stronger the hold of the lie becomes about who we are and what we are capable of as image bearers.

For most women, the narrative sounds like – I am not good enough for one reason or another.

I hear it in my own head, heart and soul. I hear the language of shame in other women’s stories also.

It sounds like

  • I am not smart enough, experienced enough, educated enough.
  • I am not thin enough, pretty enough or wanted.
  • I don’t have enough money, time or other resource.
  • I have failed too many times. I’m not disciplined enough. Or, I’m not worthy.
  • I am broken from abusive relationships, questionable choices or an embarrassing past.

Shame’s purpose runs deep against God’s love for us and his great desire for us to live out our gifts so that we can contribute to goodness here on earth.

I started with my friend Steph’s spiritual discipline and my extensive dislike of looking back.

While there are uncountable layers of understanding shame, I’m going to land on this little, but powerful spiritual discipline of looking back and the obstacle that prevents us from it.

There is no doubt in my mind that, to one degree or another, we all struggle with a voice that tells us we are not good enough.

I know that – You are Enough – has become an inspirational slogan for women, but there is truth here. The narrative of not good enough – a form of shame – is your obstacle to growth.

Pinpointing Shame

When it comes to shame, you probably can pinpoint your hot spot by thinking about the thorn in your side. The thorns in your side are the battles that exist in the past, present and future. They morph and change and so does your response to them. Nonetheless, the thorn has become a loud, side show to your story line.

Think about something that feels permanent or is permanent. Maybe a physical or mental illness that stays with you long term. Perhaps the thorn is a relationship you are not able fully to distance, end or heal from. It could be something hard about your job or career.

Maybe you have overcome addiction but you fight for your freedom every day. Perhaps it’s a moral failure that feels like a scarlet letter. Or a loss that just can’t be fully redeemed until heaven.

The thorn is part of your story, but it does not have to take root and remain as a disruption or interruption to your worthy narrative.

My Shame Story

I am going to crack open one of my summer revelations. Truly, I am shoveling through ten feet of shame to share. I have learned, however, that vulnerability is the exact step that evil wishes for me to hop over.

I grew up on a very tight budget. My step dad suffered from mental illness and demons of sorts, so he didn’t work regularly or consistently. That put the pressure on my mom to parent and work much like a single mom. I suppose that is where my tense relationship with money began.

As I headed into adulthood, working, saving and spending money, a narrative began to take form – a deep longing for security. Security that waxed and waned between dependence on God and dependence on what my work ethic could accomplish.

Work became a way to create security, but it also morphed into a way to make myself valuable, even to God. There began my walk with shame.

Shame told me that, when I worked very hard and for long hours, I was valuable and worthy. This pattern eventually resulted in burn out, neuralgia, boils in my nose, anxiety, panic and depression.  Now, there were other influences contributing to this awful state I found myself in, but my narrative of shame was a powerful fuel to the fire.

For years, I didn’t know that I had a shame story impacting my life. I just hit a bottom that forced me on a different journey.

Most of us don’t recognize our shame narrative and that is exactly how Satan would like it to remain.

What is to be done about shame and the role it plays in your story?

The opponent to shame is cultivating a deep friendship with God wherein he helps you sort out your side show of shame. This is a great act of vulnerability for both you and God. We can remember, as we give our thorns to God, he also takes chances in pursuing us. Some of us reject him and some of us enter in. We can be brave by remembering that God practices vulnerability too. Dr. Thompson’s deep thought, not mine.

The opponent to shame is a life giving community that hears you, knows you and helps you scorn shame and turn away from it. This also is a great act of vulnerability. It certainly takes time to find your people. You can read more about that in This is a Messy Post about Authentic Friendship.

Community is your armor against shame.

The opponent to shame is looking back my dear sisters. I don’t really like to remember the days my step dad abandoned us by refusing to get help. I don’t like to admit that I used work as a debt to pay so that I felt worthy of love, rest and peaceful living. I don’t like to think about some of the moments and memories I missed out on because I was at work overtime night after night.

But.

I can be like my friend Steph and battle shame by looking back. I can choose to break down the shameful aspects of my narrative and replace it with truth. When I do that, I begin to look like the image bearer God intended. I begin to see my value and contribute wholly and fully to goodness here on earth.

I no longer hate to look back.

Amen.

Continue Reading

Peace Collection: My Gift to You on Election Day

Hey my sweet friends,

I shared on Instagram today that it has been a long season of processing thoughts and listening to people I trust share their thoughts. I voted and I am at peace.

Peace comes from a source & peace is a choice.

I have a peaceful gift for you on this election evening.

Peace Collection: Five Days of Scripture and Prayer

From Wednesday to Sunday, you can find your peace from a reliable source. From my own scripture journey of the last three months, I’ve collected for you five verses with a prayer and meditation. The sole purpose is to help you choose peace for the rest of this week.

If you’d like to share the gift with your friends, forward this link:

https://sashaakatz.com/

Much love,

Your Soul Sister Sasha

Continue Reading