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.

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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.

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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

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Let’s Do it: Choose Real With Two Questions

Hey my sweet friends, it’s Tuesday. The day I can’t resist reaching out to you.

It’s an odd thing writing in the evening. I had all my words planned.

And then life.

My true friend lost a loved one last night. I found out mid-morning.

As God would so well plan, I got to sit in my car with her to hear her story of the last few weeks. Her life was entangled in love and frustration with her loved one. This is how relationships often go.

There is no such thing as squeaky clean when it comes to true love and care for one another.

Coincidentally, I am finishing up the book that my friend gave me awhile back. She doesn’t have time to read but she knew I would. She had connected with the author online and the book was mailed directly to her as a gift. I had it in my purse as we sat in the car together.

After reading the book, this author is the kind of girl that would have been sitting in the car with me and my friend. Listening and hearing. Putting time aside for a while.

In this way, the air becomes sacred. The holy spirit is present. We listen and hear one another.

We bear the weight and then let it go over breaths of air, soft smiles and with promises sewn into the heart.

My original plan was to share some words from Turning Outward, Chapter 12 of Choosing Real by Bekah Jane Pogue, with you. My plan stands, but perhaps with more meaning.

The crux of the chapter are these questions. [I am paraphrasing.]

Will you shut yourself in and paralyze your soul? Or will you choose to turn your loss outward and use your story for a redemptive purpose?

Will you succumb to your circumstances or turn your feelings outward to be available to how God wants to use your imperfect situation?

There is a crossroad some days, if not every day.

You can choose roads of bitterness or self-absorption, or self-pity. Or, you can reach out to connect and serve another soul – just as broken and in need of a friend as you.

In this process of turning outwards, we find ourselves. We find the things that we were made for. We may find, like the author, that we are good at the ministry of chocolate chip cookies.  We may find that we minister by writing words. We find that, among thousands of gifts, we were made for one and one was made for us.

The author says:

Start where you are with the gifts you have. Do you feel alive speaking? Painting? Designing? Opening your home and putting out brownies and helping people experience a sense of belonging? Your ministry doesn’t have to start big or become monumental; your God given purpose may start with a prompting of His Spirit and a willingness to be present, to be obedient, to offer joy . . .

This is what I want to say to you today:

We are in world where our to do list can wrap about the galaxy ten times. We are in a culture that asks us to put ourself and our own first. We are at a point in history where picking and choosing sides is valued over entering in.

It is in this world that we are offered the choice to cling to isolation and the false pretense of self-preservation or open our eyes to God’s redemptive purposes.

The people that will be impacted by our daily choices are all around us. They are people waiting to be noticed, heard or sat with. Just like you. There are heart connections waiting to be made. The same kind you yearn for within.

This is where your calling, your gifts, lie.

Your hidden gifts yearn with potential to change someone’s day or even season. You have the gift of you that only you can give.

As we approach the season of gratitude and giving, let it become so very clear – – may you know how you were made to give in they way only you can.

I pray that you would pause in your routine and in busyness of your day. I pray you would ask yourself these questions and, with intention, write your answers.

Will you shut yourself in and paralyze your soul? Or will you choose to turn your loss outward and use your story for a redemptive purpose?

Will you succumb to your circumstances or turn your feelings outward to be available to how God wants to use your imperfect situation?

When you are ready, write out how you will live outwardly every week for the next nine weeks. I’m on week twelve of sending one postcard or card to a friend each week.

What is God calling you to? Do that and do it well.

Ah, yes, one more thing, I just updated a page on the blog. I took a workshop on writing this page and I’d love to hear your feedback! This is the link. Shoot me an email at sasha@sashakatz.com.

Love,

Your Soul Sister Sasha

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Part Two: Five Things Strong Women Don’t Do

Hey girlfriends, last week I covered Five Things Strong Women Don’t Believe. Below is the recap.

  1. I am not a leader
  2. I am disqualified in some way
  3. I am too busy to impact my world
  4. My weaknesses define me
  5. I am not good enough.

You can read the whole blog here.

In this post, I am covering Five Things Strong Women Don’t Do.

Like I said last week, this is good medicine.

Consider where you may need to step it up. I find that the more space I put between the thing I need to do and taking an action step to do it, the worse I tend to feel or the greater the procrastination sets in.

So, take the medicine and move on to what’s next. This is what strong women do.

1. Minimize My Standing as a Daughter of God

Let’s look face to face, eye to eye, and speak truth to one another.

When you are a daughter, there is nothing that you can or can’t do to eliminate your standing. In other words, God celebrates your wins with you and He pours out grace the rest of the time. Most of life is lived in the “rest of the time.”

Most of life is lived in the simple moments of commutes and dishes. Discerning when to speak up and when to let it go. In filling water bottles and coolers with snacks. Talking to God in the dark when no one else is present. Understanding the meaning of tears. Gently giving patience when your emotions call you in another direction.

It is here in these simple moments that we are living out our daughtership. Probably with more depth and meaning than when we are standing out and being recognized for the good we do in public.

Your daughtership is as much about what you can do and can accomplish as it is about your daily weaving in and out of glory. 

God always anticipated both. He greatly desires to live with you in and through both because you are His daughter. End of story. Amen.

2. Ignore Care for My Physical Health

I’m going to keep it short and simple. Please do at least these three things:

Annual Visit to the OB/GYN

Annual Mammogram

Annual Visit to your general practitioner with blood testing.

Please know what you need to know and address what you need to address. Don’t hide from your health. There is a big difference between prevention, treatment and past the point of both. If you can’t bring yourself to do it for yourself, do it for the people who love you.

3. Ignore My Mental Health

If you know my story, you know that I’ve been down roads of depression, anxiety and panic the last five years. These illnesses came about during times of intense, prolonged stress.

When you are going through hard stuff, don’t assume you will just get through the hard stuff.

We have complicated brains and emotions and so does everyone we interact with.

Keep a good counselor on hand. Go before you really need to go.

I’ve learned over the years to catch myself before the free fall. If I find myself unable to make decisions on a regular basis, I probably need to talk through the decisions or figure out the reasons why I can’t proceed. If I feel sadness hovering over me and I can’t push back, I probably need to spend some time with my therapist. If I am afraid in the night and can’t get enough sleep, it’s time to find my center again with some help.

If you can’t afford to go to counseling, there are so many local resources. Two of my favorites are Spanish River Counseling Center and Sheridan House.

4. Allow the Fear of Appearances to Hold Me Back

Last year, I listened to the testimony of a woman who bravely battled her addiction to masturbation and pornography. She told her story with grace and truth to a live audience of thousands.

I remembered her when I thought of the trap of appearances.

Most of us are not willing to share openly the battle we experience on the inside, especially when the battle pertains to appetite and desire. Is there something you won’t do or share because you are afraid of the impression it will make on others? Maybe you think a person or people will walk away or judge you?

Shame and isolation are a dangerous combination.

The fear of appearances strongly influences what we won’t do or won’t share about ourselves. Most of the time, this fear will hold us back from freedom, connection and calling.

Can you and I choose to take one small step forward? Is it body image? Rough back story? Tough set of current facts? Will you share one piece of your shame to one other safe person?

Shame is only safe in isolation. Darkness wins until you step into community. While the step forward may be scary, the outcome is probably beyond your current expectation of God’s goodness. Strong women don’t let the fear of appearances hold them back.

5. Allow Comparison to Stunt Me

Whether you find yourself on the side of better than or less than, comparison will stop you from living out who you were created to be. When you find yourself in the comparison trap, acknowledge that appearances are exactly what they are.

Don’t assume her story. Remember that God has a good, long-term plan for you.

Moreover, begin to walk in gratefulness for what you do have.

There have been times in my life when my grateful list sounded pathetic to me. So be it. This is where we begin when we are walking out of comparison.

Finally, be inspired by others. Instead of taking a critical view of the person you are sizing up, take a few mental notes on how you can be inspired by her.

Sweet friend, strong woman, get moving with your best life. It’s your calling to make the world a better place, not to judge what someone else is up to.

I am going to leave you with Joshua 1:9.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

GOD’S WITHNESS WILL GIVE YOU EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO BE A STRONG, FAITHFUL WOMAN OF GOD.

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Part One: Five Things Strong Women Don’t Believe

Girlfriends, this was meant to be a short post. Sort of like the type of conversation you have with your teenager when you have three or four minutes of attention to change the course of their life (okay, their day). As it turns out, each section is short and sweet; likened to the teenage conversation. But the whole post turned out to be long.

In an effort not to clog up your brain or your day, this post is split in two. Today’s post shares 5 Things Strong Women Don’t Believe. Next week will share 5 Things Strong Women Don’t Do.

This two part series isn’t about self care, although I love the topic of caring for your body, mind and soul. Think of this as good medicine. It’s a check up for where you are at with your beliefs about yourself and how you may be limiting yourself as a woman of God.

If you get stuck on a statement, reach out to a friend to discuss. Google verses on God’s truth in that area. Take a small step towards growth. Remember, small steps are worthy and honorable.

If you find that you “scored” well in all areas, give it a day or two and revisit the list.

I find that we sometimes don’t acknowledge a growth area because we need new eyes to see first. This recently happened to me when it came to some cantankerous thoughts I was having. Who knew that it was time for a check up in the area of comparison? (That topic is in part two of this post).

I am going to begin and end with Joshua 1:9.

God’s withness will give you everything you need to be a strong, faithful woman of God.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

1. I am Not A Leader

You may not see yourself as a leader. There are hundreds of reasons why you may not. The culture you were raised in. Your religious upbringing. The limiting label someone of authority placed on you. Maybe you just feel like the space you can fill is predetermined or your voice is stuck in a sound proof room.

Let’s look face to face, eye to eye, and speak truth to one another.

By design, you are an Ezer. Yes, this is the Hebrew word that God chose when He created the first woman in Genesis 2:18.

The Hebrew definition of Ezer is to rescue, to save and to be strong. Ezer is a warrior who has the capacity to defend, protect, surround and cherish. She is both proactive and vulnerable.

There is no doubt in my mind that you can relate to one or more of these words. You have probably lived out most of these words in your lifetime thus far.

You were created to be a leader and you are leading well now. Think of yourself as a leader.

Allow your intended design of Ezer and the multitude of women who have gone before you to help you redefine yourself as a woman and lead in the way God is whispering you to lead.

2. I am Disqualified in Some Way

Do you believe you are ineligible for a role or activity because of a past mistake or failure? Or maybe you’ve ruled something out because of your race, gender, education, status or wealth?

Some of the answers to these questions are hard. Personally, I feel shame about my shortcomings; especially when the circumstance, past mistake or characteristic is beyond my control.

How do we recover from disqualifying ourselves?

Christine Caine talks about her birth mom giving her up without even a name. The hospital assigned her a number. When she learned her story for the first time, she shares that she felt unknown, unnamed and unwanted.

Disqualification results in the same feelings about ourselves.

Christine goes on to say that she had a choice to remain unknown, unnamed and unwanted or believe what God says about her.

When there is a fight between your heart and your head, experience has taught me that the best thing to do is pick up your Bible and remind yourself of what God says. – Christine Caine

Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called you by name. You’re mine. When you are in over your head, I will be with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re in a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end . . . I paid a huge price for you . . . That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell the whole world to get you back, trade creation just for you.

Isaiah 43: 1-6

There is no doubt in my mind that, when we rule ourselves out before the journey ever begins, we are shutting the door to redemption, love, healing and adventure.

3. I am Too Busy to Impact My World

Many of you have described the last six months with words like:

Flexibility. Healing. Less control. Togetherness. Simplify. Cohesive. Thankful. Healthy.

Slow down was mandated. Busy will return with a vengeance.

Now that you can see with new eyes the outcome of slowing down, there is no excuse for Too Busy.

Even with the roles, demands and responsibilities of family, work, home, community and church, you now know the value of staying still. As busy returns, cling to quiet, still hours. This is the time and space where God exponentially speaks life into you. This is the supernatural power that leads you to impact your world for good.

4. My Weaknesses Define Me

When it comes to weaknesses, my oldest tells me, “God can do something with nothing.”

Ann Voskamp says, “What you always need most is need.”

“Weakness is God’s opportunity to do a new thing,” says me.

Practically speaking, weakness is your opportunity for growth. There is a lot to be said about taking steps to grow in your weak areas. Some of your greatest moments or memories may be the intersection point of growth and the supernatural power of God working in your weakness. Your weakness is just one part of your journey. Let’s not negatively amplify what God intends to masterfully use for your glory, His glory and for the glory of others.

5. I am Not Good Enough

Do you believe you are unsuitable because there is just something about you that’s not good enough?

Not good enough permeates our perspective, literally, on everything. It’s like a distorting lens we see life through. It also falls on the list of things we don’t like to talk about or admit out loud. Ugh.

For me, the more challenging life becomes, the more I am sure I am not good enough to achieve it, accomplish it or do it well.

Frankly, we will remain stuck if we continue to move in the space where it is up to us.

We can’t do this life without help from others or the Holy Spirit. Some of us are really good at some things, but none of us arrive without help and practice.

Whatever you are sure you are not good enough for, create a reasonable plan to try it out. Whether it’s a skill or job or new friendship or relationship, get advise from an expert. Remain humble. Grab a friend if you can. Try and fail and try again. That’s the model. You are good enough.

I leave you with where we began. Tune in next week for Part Two: Five Things Strong Women Don’t Do.

God’s withness will give you everything you need to be a strong, faithful woman of God.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9
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