Summer Discovery: How to Find Beauty Again

Week 3 of my Summer Devotion is titled The Pathway to Desire. My inspiration came from the book The Soul of Desire by psychiatrist Curt Thompson, MD.

It’s a challenge for me to summarize the science that makes perfect sense in the book. But I understand and feel the truth of his words.

What I Learned About Beauty

From his book, I learned that it’s human to desire to be known. Part of that desire is to create beauty in the world. However, when we are strung out, burnt out, exhausted, bitter, lost or broken, beauty and desire become far off worlds outside of our reach.

This week’s Summer Discovery Questions (click or see below) are important because they are an invitation to gaze at beauty. The questions help you to find space for imagination and creativity. Gazing at beauty will help you believe again that Jesus’ words are true: Beauty can come from ashes. As you gaze at beauty in the presence of God, beauty and desire begin to do their resurrection work within your soul. My journal entry for Week 3 Discovery Questions are at the bottom of this post.

Jesus’ words are true: Beauty can come from ashes.

My response to the Discovery Questions:

There is so much more beyond the worries and limitations in my mind and in my life. This season of one event after another will eventually pass. I have designated September 2022 as my Best Yes (resign/decline/rest) month. I am passing my concerns into the hands of the Lord. I am asking him for favor for the things of which I don’t yet know the outcome. I will be proactive and timely, but not beyond the leading of the holy spirit. This way is not easy for me.

I will remember that my mind is clear when the sun is soaking into my skin and the ocean blue is within sight. I will continue to carve out space for this A1A walking. I will continue to carve out space for the dim room of Vinyasa. There is healing for me here.

I will remember to go where the beauty is. I will remember that I am most fully known when I am sharing. Consistency is better than perfection in this season. I have a spark in me to know what may be on the other side of consistency. I have a weed of doubt too. Even so, I will walk with God toward the beauty.

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Summer Discovery: What To Do When Winter Snows Down in Summer?

July/Week 2 Download The Devotion

Yes, that’s what happened last summer. In my favorite season of the year, the snow came down upon my summer, my life. God invited me to decline, resign and wait for a while. A year later, I feel rather peaceful about the whole thing. Last year, however, it took mighty strength to be obedient to the call of winter.

Had I not entered into my winter season with a sense of awe, the stillness probably would have etched away at my value and worth (i.e., decline in productivity=decline in worth). Melting into the take away hurt. Moving into this new way of living opened up space I didn’t know I could have.

In the stillness. In a different pace. I leaned into a simple truth of the Christian faith.

Spiritual disciplines.

Or as Jennifer Dukes Lee calls it, living the ancient way of Jesus.

I chose to live calmly. I took seriously what I call The Four S’s. I decided to stop spinning the globe with Jesus. If fact, if I had to say there was any sin or untruth I was living before winter came, I was working hard to be the conductor of my life and the ones I care so much about. While I may think I am good at globe spinning, God has higher and better plans that I don’t yet know about.

What’s your sense of season this summer?

Is it a vibrant, hope filled, energetic season? Is it a shade of winter? An earth tone feeling? It’s okay to be in winter during summer AND it’s okay to be in summer during summer. Let God show you.

You can read much more about the season of winter in my Summer Devotion. The rest of this post includes my responses to the Summer Discovery Questions for July/Week 2. Next week, I will continue with July/Week 3 discovery questions. Download the 12 Week Devotion if you’d like to join us.

Discovery Question One

Where are you from? Did you experience seasons growing up? What about now? What is your favorite season and why? My answer is in the Devotion.

Discovery Question Two

Pick one of The Four S’s (Sabbath, Silence, Solitude and Sleep) that is most appealing to you. Google the word and come up with one or two practices you can adopt in your life. Write your thoughts and plans below.

To be authentic, I am struggling with sabbath which I am associating with attending church. We all know this is not the same thing. I am going here anyway.

I had already begun watching church online prior to Covid. The pandemic sealed the deal. Now, I can’t decide what to do. I’ve lost a good habit of in person church and I am not sure if I’ve replaced it with an equally good practice or not. Ponder. Ponder.

Discovery Question Three

How do you feel about the reality that the earth can and will spin without your efforts? Look into the mirror that James speaks of and let God help you choose something you can let go of. Journal below.

This is a hard question. Surrender is hard. In term of letting go of globe spinning, I would like to further cultivate the relationship between “doing” and “being” on the path of God’s will. Lord, help me walk that out every day. Help me be proactive and timely and equally sensitive to the Spirit’s leading.

Discovery Question Four

This week, meditate on Hebrews 12:28-29. If you can, memorize it in your own words.

I wrote this verse down as my mantra this past February and it will remain. It’s a reminder to rise up. Gratitude and awe is where I wish to rise up from. In his fire is where I wish to be.

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Summer Discovery: How to Revive Your Heart in the Sunshine – 12 Week Devotion For You!

It’s Summertime!

There is no other season that tells you it’s time for rest, relaxation, and renewal.

No other season gives you permission to choose a different pace.

This season tells you to take off somewhere. To have fun.

No other season welcomes a break from the grind without condition or guilt.

This is your summer! This devotion will help you reflect on your gifts, feel the warmth of God’s love and help you grow beyond where you are today

Each week for the twelve weeks of summer, you will be inspired to

  • Create a collection of summer memories
  • Soak in the sun with a good read
  • Share a simple homemade summer recipe
  • Be Grateful with a monthly list
  • Read 12 weekly devotions
  • Topics include discovering your convictions and God’s timing, stepping back and finding your desire again & choosing a mindset of abundance over scarcity.
  • Every devotion is scripture based and includes Discovery questions and Growth exercises

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Feeling Disappointed? How To Live Between Conviction and Calling

When you were knit together in your mother’s womb, each part of you was meant to come alive.  Certainly not all at once. But in steps and curves. Over mountains and through valleys. With one foot in front of the other (sort of), each part was made to come alive in its season.

You may have a very old longing in which time hasn’t offered an open door yet. You may have a new longing that you are trying out in bits and pieces. In other areas, well, you are an expert.

Being a beginner isn’t always encouraging. Being an expert may hold a lot of pressure. Having something dormant in you may be a surprise.

Think about your life. What is your soul speaking to you that you haven’t heard in a while or maybe ever? Does being an expert feel stale? Is being a beginner causing you to want to quit?

What’s in your crate?

A few years ago, I read the book Imperfect Courage by Jessica Honegger, Founder and CEO of Noonday Collection. In the first few pages of her book, Jessica shares that her friends in Uganda asked if she was interested in selling a crate of bags, scarves and jewelry – – all crafted by Ugandan artists who sought to provide for their families through their art.

Jessica can tell you the full story in her book. The long and short of it is that the party she hosted in her home to sell the goods in the crate was actually the launch of the “largest fair-trade jewelry company in the world” in only five years. It is a miraculous story mixed with hope, risk and grit. You will love it if you decide to read the book.

I became laser focused on page four where God offered Jessica a crate to sell to benefit others. I wrote in the margins in turquoise ink all over pages four and five.

The gist of what I wrote is that the Lord has a crate for me, for you. The crate is full of really good things to bless others with. At that time, I pondered what may be in my God given crate. I think I may be closer than I was a few years ago to knowing the contents of the crate. But still, it’s not crystal clear.

  • What is inside your crate?
  • What is keeping you from seeing the contents of the crate?
  • Do you feel like quitting because you can’t figure out what to do with the contents of the crate?
  • Are you terrified that the crate may put your destiny into motion?

These are hard questions.

Let’s first answer the easier question.

What do you NOT do with gifts God offers to you?

  • You don’t put light under a bowl. Matthew 5:15
  • You don’t dig a hole and bury your gift. Matthew 25:26
  • You don’t walk away in exchange for the path of least resistance. Ruth 1:14

Consider Moses.

Moses began his journey as a baby in a floating crate. With desperate faith, his mom released him to the current of the River Nile so he could live. Moses was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. He grew up as a privileged insider while the rest of his family, his people, remained outsiders. Despite his regal upbringing, Moses had a conviction. He saw the pain and suffering of his people as slaves in Egypt.

Moses recognized that he had something within him. Moses realized his convictions. Conviction remains in your mind’s eye. It’s a discovery that travels with you. No matter how close or far you are from discovering the mystery of the contents of the crate, convictions remain.

Convictions remain and remain and remain until they have an outlet.

As a young man, Moses saw an Egyptian kill an Israelite and he in turn killed the Egyptian.

Conviction and opportunity collided for Moses. But it was very much unlike Jessica Honegger’s offer from her missionary friend in Uganda. Jessica’s offer came at a time when she was confident that work was a way out of poverty. She also was in the middle of seeking to adopt a child from Rwanda and needed money to continue the process. That’s a good collision of conviction and action. It’s so important to know, to discern, when the crate has come from the Father or when the crate is just a crate.

Moses missed the red flag that day. He acted on his convictions prematurely. God hadn’t called him yet. Moses hadn’t received any direction or plan from God and I doubt God would have called him to revenge any way. Moses had the right conviction but he lacked the character he needed to follow his calling.

For Moses, it wasn’t time to move from conviction to action. God put a holy burden in Moses but he didn’t release him to his calling yet. Moses’ character hadn’t been formed in the way God planned as of yet. Sometimes your conviction and calling do not have the open door you are yearning for.

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth.

Ecc 3:1

Just Wait

My friend Connie was ready to shift careers. The Lord lovingly pressed her to acknowledge the change he was awakening her to. She slowly moved out of her comfort zone. The new position didn’t work out in the timing she anticipated. She stays put in less desirable circumstances. She waits with a soft heart, with conviction.

I have another friend whose role at her job keeps shifting. Job security doesn’t always feel present. She ponders what the Lord may be calling her to with her skill set. There is a spark of mystery and excitement. In the meantime, she does life where she is at. She does it well and also keeps the spark alive.

There are a few things I think I want to do. I see better now than I did before the picture God is framing. I have some growing to do. I have my people to serve. There is more pruning to be done within me.

Disappointed?

Sometimes your conviction and calling do not have the open door you are yearning for. But God doesn’t remove the conviction. He wants to cultivate the light in you. He wants you to take joy in the talents and gifts he placed within you. He wants you walk alongside him in hard places so that your character can be pruned and molded.

In some seasons, the look and feel of how you are living out your conviction and calling aren’t what you hoped for. You are allowed to be disappointed. God’s timing sometimes hurts. His timing often results in doubt. We doubt our capabilities. Ourselves. Even Him.

In the disappointment, waiting and wonder, we can learn from our brother Moses.

Taking action on a conviction before it’s time may be the ugly version of our calling. The ugly version may feel better in the moment. The premature action may feel better than doing nothing at all. While that may be true for a moment, self willing God’s timing will eventually lead to shame.

After Moses took revenge against the Egyptian, his Hebrew brother, having knowledge of the killing said:

Who made you the judge and do you plan to kill me too? Exodus 2

The backlash came from the one he planned to protect.

Eish. Cutting. Brutal.

But if you roll forward a few verses in the story. Don’t you wish you could roll forward a few verses to see that God’s plans are always good?

If you roll forward, you see that God had a family waiting for Moses in a new town. Imagine that. The story includes a hospitable father in law, a committed wife, a job he didn’t have to apply for. Eventual children.

Sisters, we get to live in the in between.

We get to settle into uncomfortable places where we find we are needed and loved. We get to gain character while we wait. We get to serve and love right where we are. We get to be a part of what others are doing with their calling. We get to sweat and love. We may even start to forget that we are waiting.

After a long time, the King of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned because of their difficult labor; and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their difficult labor ascended to God. And God heard their groaning; and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and with Jacob and God saw the Israelites; and God knew. Exodus 2:23

God hears. God remembers. God sees. God knows.

God knew the time came for relief, for healing balm, for freedom.

God heard the cries.

The person to share in the deliverance is you.

You are no longer a person with an elementary understanding of justice. God no longer is concerned that you will come up with a shallow, temporary plan to live out your conviction. God engages with a mature you.

The angel of the Lord appeared to [Moses] in a flame of fire within a bush. As Moses looked, he saw that the bush was on fire but not consumed. So Moses thought, I must go over and look at this remarkable sight. Why isn’t the bush burning up? When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!” “Here I am,” he answered. Exodus 3:2-4

From there, Moses learns his assignment. Conviction intersects with opportunity in a holy way. Moses deeply cares about deliverance of the Israelites. The Israelites had a need for freedom. Moses had the tools, character and support to live out his calling. Finally. Perfect. In God’s timing.

He hears. He sees. He speaks.

We have conviction and a calling. We also need the character for the job. God holds the timing in his hands. He is not absent minded or distant. He hears, remembers, sees and knows. And then he speaks.

We are living the lives he has given us. We are needed and loved. Right where we are. We gain character. We serve and sweat. We love. We start to forget that we are waiting.

One day, we find that we are standing on holy ground. We are a little afraid because we see that the flame God put in us has not been consumed by time. God tells us that he has some work for us to do unlike what we have done thus far.

We feel unworthy because we finally have the character of humility. We still are afraid, but God promises to be with us. I AM WHO I AM is the confidence we live by.

We now understand:

There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth.

Ecc 3:1 (Read more on this in my blog post)

We now understand:

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

We now become grateful for this truth:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-10 (Read more on this in my blog post)

We now understand:

Be doers of the word, and not hearers only . . . the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

James 1:22-25 (Read more on this in my blog post)

QUESTIONS WITH CONVICTION

Define conviction in your own words.

What are your convictions that may lead or already have led to a calling?

What may be in the crate of gifts that God has for you?

Do you relate more to the Moses that acted prematurely on his convictions or the Moses who was overwhelmed by his calling?

Do you believe that you are a person God has chosen to share in the deliverance of someone else? Why or why not?

What is your favorite verse mentioned above and why?

Photo Credit to my friend Silsbee Philo who blesses me with her art.

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Why Having a Bucket List Will Do You Good

My dad was a traveler. He was an expert in his field of martial arts. That brought him to teach, judge, coach and compete all over the US and internationally. I remember taking weeks to look through all the gifts he brought me back from faraway places like Japan. It was long before the rise of Hello Kitty in my world. I discovered the round-faced cat with tiny pens and plastic pouches from a cardboard box in my dad’s room. That was fun.

Over the years, my dad continued his travels. He told me and my brother that he wanted to see the seven wonders of the world. He was doing a pretty good job checking off his bucket list. Yes, that is my first memory of the bucket list! Of course, neither he nor I called it a bucket list. But that is in fact what it was.

There began my love of lists of all sorts.

My mom made her lists for the week and month at the kitchen table. She planned her days and checked the list items off. I watched her. She was diligent, resourceful and had plenty of time for us.

There began my love of calendars and planning.

I am not alone. Most of you love these things too. It’s hard to resist a good list with a good pen and a good plan.

If I am losing a few of you, here is another version for you: Lists are mini dreams for your day just like vision is big plan for your life. So whether you are drawn to lists or larger than life vision, you understand the idea of taking time to make it all happen.

Crossroads excite me.

When life puts you at an intersection, I want to be there with you. I want to be there to help with the decision that leads to the glory of your Father. I’ve learned well that outcome doesn’t belong to me or us. But unknown outcome does not take away from the truth that God loves the heart, soul and effort we put in deciphering and following his will.

If you read the blogs of my summer revelations (Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3), you know that God in his sovereignty wiped out (floored, removed, pulverized, with nothing left but dust) my plans.

By God’s grace, I didn’t run to anger and bitterness. I stood in awe and silence of his majesty, wisdom, kindness and love. I stopped my life for about two months (in part because I was too sick to do otherwise). Then, I unraveled my life to a place as close to a beginning or a start over as I could.

Once the dust settled and shiny objects stopped calling to me, a few things remained.

  • My love for others.
  • My need to learn to love myself as God loves me.
  • My need to learn to better care for myself.
  • A massive desire for creativity.
  • Great joy in spending time with people through gifts of hospitality.

Hence, the bucket list materialized.

My bucket lists are intentional guides to help you live out love, self-care, creativity and hospitality in every season.

Today, I’m sharing some pics and notes from my Advent Inspired Bucket List. I know that you really don’t want to see remnants of Christmas in February. Perhaps my timing will work out better next year.

Truly, I worked on this list through December and January and am putting it to bed (mostly) after today.

I say (mostly) because I have not made the red velvet pancakes with the natural dye I bought just for that bucket list item. I figured time has been kind to me since red goes well with Valentine’s Day.

These are the kinds of things bucket lists teach you.

If you can’t get to the garden with your friend, share your hopes for the New Year over the phone. Thank you for sharing that with me Stephanie.

Be flexible.

If your people are too busy to go to the Farmer’s Market, go with your mom instead.

Be resourceful.

It’s okay to frame a new pic rather than an old one. You still hit that bucket list item.

Don’t make a list a rule. Life is more than lists.

I didn’t bless a foster kid this year, but I went to Mexico to serve kids who really needed it.

Take the opportunities as they come.

Dear sisters, be intentional with your life. Let these bucket lists guide you.

Enjoy the New Year Bucket list!

New Year Bucket List

My love to you always,

Sasha

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Life is a . . . Bowl of Cherries or Chair of Bowlies?

Do you remember Mary Engelbreit? The vintage artist who shared images and quotes decades before it became a thing? I loved her art and phrases as a teenager. A few of my favs were

When life shuts a door, open it again. It’s a door. That’s how it works.

Bloom where you are planted.

Whatever you can do or dream, begin it.

All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my mother.

And my all time favorite:

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

There is a theme here. Think about that for a moment. Realistic Optimism laced with Gratitude?

On the other hand, there were a few phrases I didn’t quite get as a teenager.

This morning, as a series of thoughts and connections flooded through my mind, one of her quotes came to mind, and finally made sense: Life is Just a Chair of Bowlies

What the heck does a seventeen year old know about the balancing act that will ensue as a young, optimistic woman grows into a working woman, married woman, mother, adult friend. Not that much, I think.

The best I could do at seventeen was figure that I liked cherries and maybe lots of bowls of them in my future life would be a good thing.

At almost forty-seven, the image of the chair holding all the bowls represents my mind holding all the thoughts.

What will I do with all these bowls, she thought?

What will I fill them with, empty them of?

How will I organize them?

I have one life to live. One God to serve.

Dear Mary E. Dear Jesus. Will you help me with this?

This week, I am holding a lot of bowls. I am suffering from some sadness, raw emotion and old shame this week.

The verse that comes to mind is

Be cleansed by the washing of the word.

Ephesians 5:26

I authentically share with you because, in community, sadness morphs to meaning and intertwines with joy. Raw emotion finds its place among strong hands and wisdom. Old shame curtails its way to truth, redemption and hope.

I am sad because one child is on the springboard to adulthood. He is my primary source of compassion and lives out deep kindness towards me. How will I move forward without that present in our home come summer and Fall?  

I have some old shame that rises again. This shame points towards regret regarding my career choices. I have always felt that I could have used my intellectual gifts in other areas of the law. In some ways, my gifts have been underutilized in my particular career. That has led to comparison and a narrative of “less than/not enough.”

I realize that I have not fully recovered from the trauma of being seriously ill with Covid last summer.

I have some regrets about my parenting. Did I unknowingly let them see too much when I fell into the darkness of depression? Did I say too little about what was happening on the inside?

Bowls and bowls. Bowls and more bowls.

The point of communal authenticity is to morph raw emotion into meaning: My son growing up is not the end of God’s expression of compassion and kindness in my life.

To pursue wholeness is to enter into joy, warmth and wisdom: Life’s journey is not over even in death. Some of the best things are yet to come here on earth and on the other side in heaven. That even includes gifts and career regrets.

Seeking truth is to redeem shame.

Hope is the gift of Jesus.

Finally, I have one more bowl to share with you.

I am reminded by God, my friends and the Word that we are more than our many bowls piled upon bowls.

We are the image of our Father. Our identity is in our Father. Our Father takes great joy in us. He is among the bowls. Pouring out. Pouring in. Offering to organize and prioritize if we let him.

May this be inspiration for your life.

May this letter be evidence that you are not alone with your thoughts. Not just because I too am thinking bowls of thoughts. But because your Father lives among you and in you. Your Father is the author of good things. Every good and perfect gift is from him. James 1:17. All of your bowls lead to good gifts when you pass them to him.

As my beloved friend Trina says (that’s beautiful Trina up above), He is not just the giver of good things, He is the giver of good things that just keep getting better.

My love to you always,

Sasha

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