When Your Legacy Lives On

“How can you understand him?”

This is what my friends used to say about my grandfather when I was a teenager. My grandfather, or “Papa,” as we affectionately called him spoke several different languages. He was a self-taught linguist. When he spoke, sometimes he used English, German, and Russian all in the same sentence. This is why my friends often asked me,

“What did he say?”

I was accustomed to it and I really didn’t even notice. I could understand him perfectly when he spoke to me. After all he was my Papa.

My Papa left me more than his secret language only family members at times could understand.

He gave me a legacy. A godly heritage in which I have awfully big shoes to fill with my own grandchildren.

From the time I can remember the name Jesus fell off my Papa’s lips like an old friend he saw everyday. He brought God to life for me.

I saw God as my helper as he told stories of the hardship in communist Russia that his family experienced before they immigrated.  He described with every detail what it looked like escaping soldiers that were chasing him, or waiting in long lines for bread to feed his starving family.

I saw God as provider when I watched Papa pull out of his pockets whatever money he had to share with someone who needed a tangible reminder of God’s provision.

I saw Jesus as a great listener when I heard my Papa pray. He prayed as though Jesus was sitting at the table next to him sharing a cup of coffee and a favorite donut my Papa loved.

I saw God’s heart through my Papa when he played his favorite hymns on his pump organ bellowing out his love for Jesus from his soul.

He introduced Jesus to me as a friend, a companion and a God I could trust with my deepest needs and desires. Papa often told me that the best decision I could make in my life is to follow Jesus.

Today marks my Papa’s birthday and I am remembering his life and legacy as I see his face in my mind. I remember his broken English speaking of the faithfulness of God and encouraging me to do the same. I am certain he is celebrating in heaven telling stories of the goodness of God. I believe he is watching along with my grandmother, as Hebrews 12:1 says,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

I know have big shoes to fill. And yet I know by following my grandparents example I will continue the legacy they started. I believe they are cheering me on to run the race to the finish line!

Happy Birthday Papa, I miss you.

When Mother’s Day Is Enough for Everyone

The days leading up to Mother’s Day can be a struggle for many women. Expectations are high largely in part to everything we see in the media and our local shopping malls. It has become one of the most financially successful holidays for businesses.

This year I did a little research wanting to understand the history of Mother’s Day and what I found was fascinating and yet disturbing. Mother’s Day has a darker history then we might realize.

A woman named Anna Jarvis, who had no children of her own was inspired to create Mother’s Day as a celebration to honor her own mom who was a social activist.

Her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, organized Mother’s Day Work Clubs before the Civil War to help improve sanitary conditions and infant mortality and when the war started helped with wounded soldiers.

Anna’s intent in creating the holiday was simple, to honor her mother who died in 1905. She intended the day to be an intimate celebration which was officially put on the calendar by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914.

In the years that followed her intimate holiday turned into a commercial landslide for consumerism which disturbed Anna deeply. She fought most of her life to reverse what it had become and as a result died penniless and in a sanitarium. She loathed what it had turned into.

I have to agree with Anna, although it’s nice to receive flowers, chocolates or a gift, I believe as women we have been set-up.

We are set up to believe what the media and commercial stores want us to think.

That our happiness and value as a woman comes from what we receive on Mother’s Day.

If we don’t receive flowers from our children, a card or a gift we must not be appreciated.

If we don’t have a special gift from our husbands we must not be valuable to the family.

If we can’t celebrate the day living like a queen, there must be something terribly wrong.

Not to mention all the women in our world who aren’t mothers, or have struggles relationally with their mothers, or women who have lost their moms. What do they do with all those messages thrust in their face?

In part, Anna Jarvis was correct. Her desire to celebrate the one person in her life in an intimate way who had been an example of loving others well and giving kindness was crushed by the greed of our culture. She fought her whole life against the rising commercialism of this day.  It has taken over and launched expectations that are nearly impossible to meet and clouded the simple joy of taking a day to appreciate the women in our life who have influenced and nurtured our souls.

I am not allocating to stop giving cards and gifts and making the day special. It is good to honor our mothers. I LOVE PRESENTS AND GIFTS! LOL.

I like Anna, am advocating that we take a step back and readjust our perspective for the day, strip off some of the commercialism and don’t buy into the lies that we hear leading up to this holiday.

For me, I don’t want to put expectations on my family that create the kind of pressure that feels like obligation. I know I have in the past and I am looking at the day with new eyes. I am secure in knowing I am loved by them and that is enough for me.

In recent years, I am coming to grips with the people in my life, they will never be enough for me.

Not ever.

They will disappoint and let me down and I will fail them.

My hope is in the truth of understanding only Jesus can be enough for me. That is worth all the fine gifts I could ever receive. He is the one who dictates my worth and my value. I don’t need the sentiments of cards, jewelry, chocolate, a nice dinner to tell me I am valuable. God says I am enough because He is enough.

Do I like to be remembered? Is it nice to receive a card from the children I birthed? Is it nice to be taken out to a lovely dinner? Of course, three times over! However, it isn’t going to be what I need tomorrow to fill me up to overflowing. God does that first and then the rest is just that, extra blessing, extra joy to make me smile.

To read more about the history:

http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/mothers-day

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/05/140508-mothers-day-nation-gifts-facts-culture-moms/

 

 

Why I Practice Lent

I can remember the first time I decided to practice Lent. I was working at Focus on the Family Canada, and our whole department agreed to participate. I didn’t want to feel left out so I got on the band wagon and we all picked our vice.

I chose CHOCOLATE, and it was the first thing that came to my mind.

I am not sure I understood what I was doing.

It was more of a Let’s all do this together and see if I can stay away from having a piece of chocolate every single day, not to mention chocolate cake, brownies, ice cream and more.

I remember finishing and not feeling any different.

What did I actually accomplish by abstaining?

Nothing.

Why?

Because my heart engaged for the wrong reasons.

It wasn’t about taking something away to embrace a more intimate relationship with Jesus; it was proving I could actually do it!

Now I am sure God didn’t hold it as a sin against me, but I missed the point of the exercise by a long shot. I didn’t become a noticer, an observer or reflective, I was just a on the side participant.

The last several years as I have practiced Lent my heart has grown bigger. This year, in particular, my soul has enlarged more than ever, and I think I finally am beginning to get the point. As I have traveled the past 40 days on the journey crossward of Jesus life, the windows of my soul have opened up. I’ve noticed things I didn’t grasp in the gospels before.

I realize the depth of my own sinfulness.

It isn’t a condemnation realization, it is more of a how much I really need Jesus MORE every moment of my life!

To do otherwise would create a separation from what God desires for my life.

In my pilgrimage, this is what I have discovered…

There is no Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane in the book of John.

WHAT? How did I not see that before?

It is nearly embarrassing after loving Jesus for decades and reading the Bible. My daughter-in-love Julie encouraged me when I confessed this to her. She told me we tend to look at the harmony of the four gospels and see them as one instead of individual books. Bless her for trying to make me feel better. I am not sure it worked. Note to self: If I am going to be a Bible teacher and writer, I need to be a better student!

When I scrambled over to read in the book of Mark Jesus prayer to God in the garden, I saw something I hadn’t clued into before. Alicia Britt Chole in her brilliant book 40 Days of Decrease: A Different Kind of Hunger a Different Kind of Fast, helped me to see this in a new way.

Jesus asked God three times if there was another way for him to accomplish the mission. I learned it isn’t about being unwilling it is about being obedient. Jesus surrendered his desire to do it another way, and that’s what obedience is. God doesn’t hold it as sin for our unwillingness but whether we will obey or not. GRACE pure grace.

Lastly, as I traveled with Jesus to the cross, I realized how complacent I could be at times and take for granted the sacrifice God made for me. However, this year because I chose to engage, be a noticer, observer, and reflector and this is what happened to me…

I genuinely grieved as Jesus rode on the donkey into Jerusalem knowing what was to come and how people can turn on you at any moment.

I agonized with Jesus in the garden and empathized for what he had to do and how his own friends couldn’t watch and pray with him. Where would I be in the garden? Asleep?

I wept and wrestled with Peter’s denial in the early hours of the morning as he was asked three times did he know Jesus. I cried because I wondered if I would do the same.

So why is this year different for me?

My heart has softened because I see my own terrible brokenness in a new light and the only one that can help me is Jesus. The cross is the pathway to being forgiven, and the resurrection is the power that lives in me because of the cross. This is the promise:

I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 1:19,20

Ironically, today is Good Friday and my birthday. Somehow the mingling of my birth and the remembering of Jesus sacrifice moves me profoundly. It causes me to be grateful on a whole new level.

And by the way, I gave up chocolate and desserts. But it’s different this time. And I am grateful God is so patient with me after all these years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grieving, Freedom, and Why I Wrote Live Unveiled

I am hands down a melancholy personality.

I vacillate between the Winnie the Pooh characters of Tigger and Eyeore. Sometimes, I even take on the insecurities of happy go lucky Piglet.

Sigh…I’ve been a bit dark on the blog lately due to deadlines, the death of our sweet mother-in-love and prep for speaking events. It’s a season of God ramping me up and taking me seriously on my word for the year DARE.

All I can say is WHOA and try to keep up. It’s been a year so far of leaping by faith from one big jump to the other and been exhilarating. But now I am a little tired, just a smidgen God. Not ungrateful, just trying to keep up. Can I get an amen?

I reminded God today again how much I need him to give me exactly what I need (2 Peter 1:3) to complete the assignments. Today, it meant prepping for speaking this weekend at the NW Ministry Conference, and I am over the top excited about it but with some mixed emotions.

Here’s the reason why, on March 25th, I am launching the revised study Live Unveiled: Freedom to Worship God, Love Others and Tell Your Story. It is a 10-week Bible study based on 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 which talks about reflecting God’s glory and turning to Jesus so our veils are removed, and we can walk in greater freedom. When I wrote this study years ago, it was a reflection of my journey of ripping off masks that were super glued into my soul. Lies and more lies were keeping me from embracing God’s freedom and reflecting His purposes for my life. As I tackled the lies of performance, secrecy, anger, and depression one by one, God met me in the center of my fears. For the most part, I have experienced victory since then, but now and then it creeps back in.

Several months ago I felt a gentle push to revise the study and release it with a new name and a mission to launch the study in a Facebook Group. I want to help remind women how much God desires for us to flourish and how these nasty masks can get in the way.

The response has been overwhelming. I had no idea! That’s what I love about God’s word, it is timeless, and nothing about our struggles change until we submit and do the hard work. As I’ve been getting ready, I’ve sensed a sadness wash over me, a deeper grieving. At first, it surprised me because I am anticipating God to do more profound work in myself as I lead others and we dig into His word, and I am truly excited!

What I have discovered in the past few days is a fresh grieving of how much the enemy wants to keep women and hide their influence of reflecting God’s glory. He wants us to settle in and give up. It makes me spitting mad! In response, I am gearing up and saying out loud every morning Ephesians 6:10-20, putting on my armor for God’s glory so I can reflect him in the way he is calling me to every single day. I long for all women to sense God’s freedom and unfathomable love so they can flourish.

I am inviting you to join me and the other women who have signed up on April 5th, to tackle our masks. Join our Facebook Group, Live Bold~Leave a Legacy and get ready for a time of teaching, sharing and studying the truth and experience the freedom God intends. You can purchase the study either on Amazon or until March 23rd you can receive a 30% discount from Redemption Press  using the code CYNTHIA.

I would love it if you could join us, and remember because we are in a Facebook Group you can post whenever it is convenient for you all week! 

She said, “I will always be with you…”

Today we woke up to a phone call at 5:00 am that our dear sweet mother had graduated to heaven. She is in truth my dear mother-in-law, but I call her my mother-in-love. The label mother-in-law often gets a bad rap. And I have nothing to contribute to that often misunderstood idea. I had a wonderful relationship with my ‘other mother’ and she is leaving a huge hole in my heart. I am happy she is no longer suffering but my heart aches with just how much I will miss her.

The one virtue I will treasure above all else is that she was a woman who left a legacy of love and joy. She loved us in generous ways. She had so much joy in her heart despite weathering  storms that many of us will never have to face. The stark truth is she knew how to turn her tragedy into living a joy filled life punctuated with gratitude. She has been so brave through many years of physical suffering. I take comfort in knowing that she will always be with me and our family cheering us on as the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ in Hebrews 12:1.

Around her 90th birthday she was failing and I wrote this post when we came close to saying goodbye to her six years ago.

I Will Always Be With You….

Do you ever wonder what the statement means

“I will always be with you?”

When someone knows that soon they may be graduating to heaven and they look you in the eye and speak those words? I was hit full force tonight by those very words as I kissed my beloved Mom-in-love goodnight in the hospital. She turned 90 yesterday, and we had planned a big celebration. Her heart and spirit wanted to cooperate but her body would not. Out of her control she had undergone a critical surgery a few days earlier and had to spend her 90th birthday in the hospital.

We collected letters and pictures from family and friends and presented it to her in a scrapbook.

We read aloud our tributes. We told her as she lay frail in that hospital bed what a difference her life has made. We shared memories, our love but most of all we honored the Jesus we have witnessed through her life.

You see she knows that this life is not all there is. She knows that this life is just a dress rehearsal for something greater, something grander, something beyond what we could even imagine.

And so she waits.

She is ready.

But we are not.

We don’t want to let her go because we love her, she has a place in our hearts that can’t be replaced.

So we wait, we hope, we pray she gets better. Instead she whispers to each of us as we left this evening, “Remember, I will always be with you.”

Jesus said a similar statement in Matthew 28:20. Before he left this earth he commissioned his disciples and then told them he would be with them always. Words to empower and words of comfort. I am sure the disciples had mixed emotions as they watched Jesus leave them with those words ringing in their ears,

“I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I guess when I stop to reflect tonight, my sweet mom-in-love was doing just that. She was reminding us that we will be together for eternity with our Jesus. Her life and love we will carry in our hearts until we see each other once again in the presence of our God. We don’t know when her exact graduation date is, but she clearly wanted us to know that we need to be ready to let her go.

As I left her room tonight a flood of tears overwhelmed me. “I will always be with you” echoed through my heart as I walked out the hospital doors. Thank you Jesus for a godly mother who is looking forward to heaven.

When Doing What You Love Terrifies You

I have blocked off my calendar all day today to do what I love.

Write.

But I have to admit it terrifies me!

I know from the core of my being that I am called to write and yet my mind plays tricks and tells me twisted lies that I can’t do it or it won’t be good enough, who wants to read what I write as the little minions continue their rant.

When it comes time for me to sit down and actually write, a few things sabotage me. I can so easily get distracted! I am like, oh look, a squirrel! And off I go.

Today for instance, it took me two hours to get to my desk.

YES! TWO HOURS!

Not because I wasn’t at home or I have an office somewhere else but rather from the lower level of my house to my upstairs writing space there were a myriad of distractions.

So what did I do? I cleaned, not a bad thing! After all, I don’t want to live in a pigsty.

I finished putting away the last of the Christmas decor. Yes, it all needs to be organized.

I made granola, yes of course because we were out, and I did a load of laundry so my dear husband wouldn’t have to wear his underwear inside out tomorrow.

These are all good things but they are distractions when I need to work on my book. I actually have a deadline, not self-imposed, but a legitimate-I-signed a-contract-with-a-publisher deadline.

Here is the irony. I love to create words on a page to encourage and yes even challenge, yet it is sometimes difficult to posture myself in a space to write. Anyone who believes that it’s easy is grossly mistaken. Most writers I’ve talked to don’t just sit down randomly to create a project that gets put into a book.

It can be agonizing and feels like I am hiking up a mountain in 120-degree weather with a 100 lb. pack on my back. There are moments where the climb is easier but it is still a push to move forward with sweat and yes, even tears!

The exhilarating part of the climb is reaching the top of the summit. When I get there and the project is moving along and then finished, it is like standing on the highest mountain peak looking out at the magnificent panoramic view with gratefulness of being able to climb and reach the top.

It truly is a gift, a miracle each time I hold a finished project in my hand and I thank God for the honor of bestowing the gift even when it’s hard.

Whether you are a writer, speaker, leader, teacher, coach, whatever you’ve been gifted and called to do, if we are honest, living out expressing our gifts can be terrifying.

Here are a few things to encourage you and what I am learning on the mountainous journey.

The gift isn’t about ME.

The gifts I have, and in this case, I am writing about writing.

It isn’t about me! It’s about God. He is the giver of the gifts.

I don’t write to bless me, I write to bless others!

My hope is that in someway the stories and thoughts will transform the reader and move them forward in a way that is life changing. My dream is that it will draw people closer to the heart of Jesus and living lives that are intentional and purposeful. These are the reasons I write.

I don’t have to do it alone.

I can ask for help.

God expects us to walk and live in community. That means we don’t have to do things all by ourselves.

Being a strong independent person, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not asking for help. I don’t mean asking that someone actually sit beside me as I write, it means finding a tribe of people who can support, pray and encourage you and I on our path of exercising our gifts.

I have an amazing group of women who do this for me, they pray, give me encouragement and inspire me as I learn from those who are just a bit further down the road than I am. It’s way more fun to have companions on the journey. And when you get to the top, you have people to celebrate with you. That is the best part of all!

Who wants to party all alone?

Remember that God wants us to succeed.

After all He gave us the gift in the first place! You and I are responsible to unwrap the gift, take it out of the box and actually use it!

God didn’t give us gifts for them to sit on a shelf or to hide them in a closet. He gave you and I gifts for a purpose and He is our biggest cheerleader!

It’s a NEW Year with new doors that are waiting for us to walk through with fresh opportunities. Take that gift off the shelf that you have been hiding because maybe like me you’ve been a little afraid to actually start using it.

Let’s stop whining,

put on our packs,

start climbing,

and ASK God to do what He does best, helping us put one foot in front of the other even if we are terrified.

He promises to help us every step of the way as we seek to honor Him with the gifts and the call He has entrusted to us.

Hey, I will see you at the top of the summit to celebrate!

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3

 

 

 

Resolutions: When You Blow the First Day of the Year

New Year. New beginnings. New start. New chapter. New Resolutions. This is what the first few days of a new year represents or at least is what we traditionally talk about and think about on the first days of January.

I’ve made some serious strides this past year to move my phone away from arms reach before I go to sleep so that when I wake up in the morning it’s not the first thing I grab to start my day.

It had been ruling my life for too long and I made some intentional choices to make 2016 different. I’ve been doing pretty well and wouldn’t you know it, today the first day of 2017 I failed.

I blew it. I went backwards instead of moving forward.

I couldn’t believe it! I wanted a do-over immediately.

I had left it too close to my bed and I unthinkably made the choice that I didn’t want to. Sigh… it happens.

For several few moments I was berating myself as I talked to God and wondered how I slipped so quickly. I had a flash of genius, and the word GRACE came to mind. I could start again in a moment. Whew! The day could be redeemed, the year can start over. I am grateful.

January often is a chance to reflect and make some changes and many of us chart out goals and resolutions. I’ve preferred for many years now to choose a word rather than make resolutions because as I just demonstrated resolutions don’t seem to work for me.

I don’t know who started the trend but choosing a “one word” has caught on like fire and it has given purpose and direction for those of us who have abandoned the resolution making.

Facebook and Twitter is strewn with others sharing their chosen word for the year and it is inspiring to read. Choosing a one word for me has been about “being” rather than “doing.” When I make resolutions it becomes more about doing than creating a momentum of purpose of who I hope to be. I’ve been a human doing rather than a human being more than I’d like to admit.

My one word has become not just a theme for the year but also a pilgrimage. God has surprised me many times as I’ve watched the word we’ve chosen together come to life and intersect with my journey.

I’ve been thinking for a few weeks about my word for 2017 and have had many conversations with God about it not sure I want to pick this particular word. It challenges my comfort zone and scares me at the same time. I’ve made the decision to go with it because it won’t go away and when I pray it pops up over and over.

The word is (drumroll) DARE!

What I discovered as I intentionally dug into the word DARE the definition is: to have adequate or sufficient courage for any purpose; to be bold or venturesome; not be afraid; to venture. (Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary)

When I mined just a bit deeper, The expression to dare in the Scriptures never has the meaning of “to defy” “to challenge” or “to terrify” It is always found as the translation of tolmao “To manifest courage(International Standard Bible Encylcopedia)

My spirit soared as I read these words and I cross-referenced the many places in the bible “dare” is found. I cling to the thought “to manifest courage.”

I can do this.

DARE can be my one word for the year.

I have many new ventures ahead and am not sure all what or how my one word will cross over, but I am trusting that this is the word God has chosen for me for 2017.

I am confident He will help me “manifest courage” for each assignment. I believe God will empower me as he directs my steps. Right now, that means finishing my second book of which the deadline is creeping up and I am having to dare to make schedule changes and saying no more often to hunker down and write.

To not leave my “one word” out there all alone to take on an ambiguous meaning, I like to choose a Bible verse to punctuate my yearly one word. I’ve been studying 2 Timothy and here’s the encouragement that Paul gives to Timothy in the first chapter.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

The Message Bible says it this way,

God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible.

That seals it for me. God will help me “manifest courage”

As I dare…

to live intentionally and purposefully.

to grow spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically

to equip and empower others.

to share my faith more in 2017.

to live in humility

to judge less and give more grace

to forgive and be kind and compassionate

to love well

and that I would trust God dare to so much more.

Will you join me and the many others in choosing a word for the year? For inspiration and help you might want to check out oneword365.com It’s a great site to get you going.

I DARE you!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Christmas Makes You Sad

As Christmas is hours away, I am reminded that many people are struggling with keeping their joy. My heart breaks for them and I wish it could be different. In the last few days in my world, I’ve received sad news from friends of loss and grief, plans that went sideways and unexpected turn of events.

Sadness can drape over Christmas like a heavy blanket threatening to suffocate the hope and message of Christmas.

As I listened to a friend the other day, I heard the deep overwhelming sadness in between tears of trying to adjust to her new reality and new normal for her life of being a widow for the second time.

Although I am not facing anything close to similar that my friend has had to experience, this Christmas I have my own pockets of sadness. Relationships in my extended family that are struggling. The exhaustion of trying to do the right thing with no results to build bridges with people in my life that matter. Rejection and the realization that I can only control my actions and I can’t make others or even reason with them when they won’t choose to reconcile.

Sadness, our last member from the family of emotions is something we often can’t control and plainly said, it stinks! Or as my boys used to say when they were teenagers..it sucks! Sadness can land on us unexpectedly and submerge our joy. People, events and circumstances can trigger sadness, especially this time of year. Sadness can turn into despair because of very real disappointments and then that can lead to depression.

Some of the reasons people on my FB survey said they were sad around Christmas were because of these reasons…
Not being invited to a holiday event or gathering
Families fighting
Separated from loved ones
Those no longer with us
Tragedies in the world
Traditions no longer celebrated
Not able to give gifts because of lack of resources

Rejection. Deep relational strife. Disappointment. These are the companions of sadness.

Many of what people wrote on my FB wall, made me so sad! Some sent me private messages because they didn’t want to feel judged if they contributed to the survey openly. One single Mom wrote that she was just wishing that she could blink into January and miss Christmas because of all the expectations she couldn’t fulfill for her kids and the expectations of work parties, family and extra gifts she couldn’t afford.

Most of us learn that we can’t control what happens in our life with unmet expectations, grief, sadness or loss. I truly believe that God makes a way for us to not just to get through Christmas but to actually receive the gift of Christmas he wants us to experience…

Unspeakable joy,

Supernatural joy that surrounds us with peace and comfort.

Indulge me for just a minute. Can you think of just one thing that gives you joy at Christmas? Maybe this list will help you get started.

Joy is…
Being together with family and friends
Traditions
Lights and Trees
Sharing with those less fortunate
Christmas songs
Candles
Hot Chocolate
Christmas Baking
Hallmark Movies

I am like a little kid when it comes to Christmas lights and these are the warm fuzzy things that we can pull out of our memory banks. The emotions that lie dormant in our sub-conscious come forward and give us those warm fuzzy feelings and can bring forth a sense of joy and happiness. But it is just that, warm feelings, and they are temporary, they don’t last and it isn’t true joy.

Here is the good news I want to remind us (and myself!) as we are just moments from stepping into Christmas. Joy is more than just a feel-good feeling, it is the result of connection and it is with that little baby in the manger that we are celebrating, Jesus Christ. This is the good news that can helps us manage the sadness we might be experiencing.

The angels reminded the shepherds that holy night,

Listen! I bring good news, news of great JOY, news that will affect all people everywhere. Luke 2:10

The kind of joy that Luke is talking about is the kind that impacts people not from what we conjure up from our memory bank, but joy as a person, Jesus.

Jesus represents hope, love and joy for yes, even the hard things in life.

For the messiness, hurt and brokenness.

For those facing cancer and sickness.

For unmet expectations, and shattered dreams.

Broken relationships and fighting families this Christmas.

He came to bring that relational connection back to Himself. To bring the joy that he created us to experience with Him.

God came down humbly and simply to meet us in our sadness, our mess and muck for one reason, He longs to let us know that He loves us. He is over the moon about you and me. He craves relationship with us. His faithfulness beckons us over and over again despite our imperfections and failures. And yet He still pursues you and I for relationship.

This is where the manger intersects the cross.

Receiving his sacrifice on the cross is where the gift of Christmas begins. And even in the midst of life, the hard and yuck, if we have Jesus we can have joy because He is love. His one true gift has always been love for the redemption of creation.

John 3:16,17, from the Message Bible reminds us of this when it says,

This is how much God loved the world; He gave His Son, his one and only Son. And this is why; so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.

Did you hear that? A whole and lasting life, with Him for all of eternity wiping out the sadness and replacing it with Himself, joy, Jesus, Prince of peace, Immanuel, God with Us.

As you finish your last preparations for Christmas whatever that may look like, if you are fighting off being sad and just trying to get through, remember…

The little baby in the manger is your gift,

your joy,

your hope,

your salvation and most of all He is your creator God who loves you.

Special note: I’ve written a short devotional book on my own journey of depression called Under the Broom Tree. You can download it for free when you subscribe to my blog by signing up at cynthiacavanaugh.com. Even if you don’t want to continue receiving blog posts, you can sign up and then unsubscribe later. I’d love for you to be blessed and encouraged, but most of all know that there is hope in the midst of the darkness. Merry Christmas!

When Christmas Makes You Mad

Ever notice the closer we get to Christmas people get a little grumpier? Everything seems on wind-up frenzy as the day grows nearer. Are we ever close! This is Monday, just a breath away before Christmas arrives this weekend. YIKES!

I was at one of my favorite stores, Home Goods, and it was absolute mayhem. I could sense that people were trying their hardest to be jolly and have that most wonderful time of the year attitude, but it seemed a little artificial and controlled. The manager kept coming through the line assuring us we would be helped as soon as possible and that she had every register open for customers. I thought to myself, she is very intuitive and realizes a riot might break out soon.

Christmas can bring up even the ugly emotion of spewed anger as we might get tipped over the edge from exhaustion, overcrowded stores, restaurants, unruly relatives, coffee lines, and well just plain too much and too many people and overwhelming tasks. It’s not pretty to talk about it, but it is a reality.

Back to the FB survey from my earlier post. This is what people said about when asked the question, “What makes you mad about Christmas?”

Christmas makes me mad because there is…

too much work
too many people
too expensive
too much travel
too many people I don’t like
too many dishes
too much shopping and not enough money

These were a few of the most common responses.

Have you ever meet some truly angry people around Christmas? I don’t necessarily mean the grumpy ones we might bump into, I mean the really angry ones that seems they are out to rob everyone’s holiday cheer?

If we stay mad then we might move into looking like the character ANGER from the Disney Movie Inside Out.

Does he make you laugh or bring out a teeny tiny bit of resemblance in your own heart? I’ll be honest, I have felt like my hair was on fire just like in the movie.

These are the things about Christmas according to the survey that can really make our hair on fire…
Kids getting too whiny
Uncle Harry getting drunk
Aunt Hilda gossips
No one says thanks
House gets left a mess
Getting cleaning supplies or a blender as a gift
Having to be a cooking and cleaning always with a smile machine

The emotion of anger can put us over the top to the point of no return without any possibility of recapturing our joy. The anger keeps us padlocked, battened down, dark in the dungeon of our frustrations.

Dr. Caroline Leaf who is a brilliant writer and speaker, says this about our emotions…

Every thought we have has an emotion attached to it. How we react to events and circumstances of life will determine our stress levels, the state of our physical being, how our mind is functioning, how we are coping with life, and how we are expecting to cope with life in the future.

This has been incredibly helpful for me. What I hear her saying is that no matter what, we can control our thoughts and therefore guide our emotions to recapture our joy. Yes, that even means when our tempers flare and anger threatens to set our hair on fire and put us in an over the top stressful state.

Many times I get grumpy around this season and it can move into blow-up anger because of one reason.

I AM OVERTIRED!

AND

I am trying to do TOO MUCH.

It took me years to figure this out. I’ve come a long way, but when I find myself headed down this path I stop and take a breath and ask myself,

Why am I so angry right now?

Then I try to simplify and reorganize AND pray! Praying first is really the best of the best ideas. Let me give you a disclaimer here. This is what I want to do, pray and simplify. But my emotions sometimes get the best of me and I have to regroup and give myself a little grace too!

You’ve heard me say that I am a recovering perfectionist and it’s taken me years to get this one thing,

Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect!

I am creative and love to decorate, give meaningful gifts, set a beautiful table and well, you get the picture.

But it has killed me (and my family) at times and any kind of joyous atmosphere in my home just because I was wanting it all to be “just right.”

I learned the hard way and still am working on simplifying so my joy stays intact.

Christmas before last, we had a houseful of people and lots of little people. I had creative grandiose plans and most of them went out the window because there was just too much chaos.

I had bought a glittered initial for each person to put on the table around their napkin for Christmas dinner. Guess what, in all the commotion, I completely forgot! And the best thing about it was I was okay. I didn’t miss it at all because as I looked around the table, my heart was grateful to have all our children and grandchildren together in one place to share the blessings we have. I simplified in the middle of it all and you know what my children said?

They felt it was one of the best Christmases we have had as a family. I am growing! Yahoo!

Christmas can trigger many emotions for us for a number of reasons and if we let it, unchecked anger can be simmering right under the surface. Anger is a God-given emotion and it isn’t wrong, but it’s what we do with our anger that turns it into ugliness and spews over those we love and others we encounter everyday in our world.

In the Christmas story after Jesus is born, the Wise Men come and visit Jesus. But before they did, they had been summoned to King Herod in Jerusalem. He had gotten the news of Jesus birth and was bubbling with anger because he felt his throne was being threatened by this little baby. He pretended to be interested in worshipping Jesus and sent the Wise Men to Bethlehem to find out exactly where he was, “So, that I too may go and worship him” (Matthew 2:8).

The Wise Men didn’t report back to Herod on their way home and his hair lit on fire with anger to the degree that he gave orders to kill all the baby boys under two years old in Bethlehem and the surrounding region. He tried to destroy Jesus but as the story goes, an angel had warned the young family and they fled to Egypt.

Here is my own personal solution for keeping my anger in check this time of year and so I make space in the busyness and don’t deceive my own heart:

1. Make space in the busyness by spending time each day talking to God and having him sort out my priorities. Don’t cheat my time with God. Keep my heart in the right place.

2. Take a nap! Even if it’s only 10 minutes. If you are a Mom of small kids I get that this might not be possible, but try and carve out a few minutes in the chaos to even just sit down and let those toddlers play around your feet. Get enough sleep and rest, don’t push too hard.

3. I try not to  eat too much sugar. It wreaks mayhem on me and makes me cranky.

4. Simplify the big plans I have in my head. This year, I have too much on my plate so I am not sending out Christmas cards for the second year in a row. It’s okay! I want to bake this year so I made space to make memories baking with my children and grandchildren.

5. Participate in doing something in my community for people who might not otherwise have a Christmas.

Our anger can be destructive if left simmering too long and can take out our joy, I’ve been so guilty of this one too many times and it makes me sad. Ephesians 4:26 has been my saving prayer when I feel those emotions of frustration bubble up.

And don’t sin by letting anger control you.

This is the caveat for me, remembering I can be angry but stopping it in my thoughts before it controls me and leaks. My joy then can be recaptured!

Stay tuned for next emotion up at Christmas…

When You Are Afraid Of Christmas

“I just wish I could blink into January,” a friend who is a single Mom wrote me a personal FB message last year because the season was feeling overwhelming and reminding her of everything she could and couldn’t do because of her limited resources.

The most wonderful time of the year can ramp up emotions such as these as we slip into the week before Christmas and sigh…

ANOTHER CHRISTMAS.

The days of December can cause us to fall into the vortex of losing our Christmas joy rapidly if we aren’t careful. We know in our heads that this should be a celebration of that tiny precious baby coming humbly to a manger to bring hope, peace and love, and yet somehow Jesus and the joy of the celebration gets lost.

We are by nature emotional human beings, and those emotions are more heightened around Christmas, or so it seems. Which brings me to talking about a  movie that I saw last year.

Did you see the movie Disney film, Inside Out? It’s a story of emotional characters taking place inside an 11-year old girl who has to move across the country and all that she experiences. In the story you meet her emotions of fear, anger, sadness, disgust and joy. The story stirred up all kinds of emotions for me and it made me cry, laugh and be sad as I watched.

As we approach December 25th, I’d like to share how each of the emotions that they identified in the movie can impact our feelings about Christmas and how we can recapture the emotion of joy. But first, I want you to know that I did a high-level survey across hundreds of people. Okay, I did a simple FB survey asking women to describe what makes them afraid about Christmas, mad, sad and disgusted.

For starters let’s meet the character FEAR from the film, can you relate?

This is what surfaced about being afraid at Christmas from my FB survey…

People won’t like what I made

People won’t like what I give

I’m afraid of not being enough

Not making people happy

Not having enough

Not going to have time to have a break

Do you know that fear creates exhaustation? According to the experts, fear is learned and shaped by our experiences. Fear can then become control. Did you know that controlling people are driven by fear and in order to stay safe they are driven to control because they are afraid of something? They might lose it!!! Ring any bells in the house? ME…GUILTY!

I am a recovering CONTROL-FREAK around Christmas time. Why? Because of many things I just listed. I felt I needed to control Christmas because of how I thought things should look, taste, feel and experience for my family and my friends. And then the fear caused me to really lose my joy and anger would seep in, but we will talk about that later.

As I write this, according to the xmasclock.com Christmas is 7 days, 15 hours, 50 minutes and 55 seconds away. And with that comes the ramping up of these kind of emotions at least from what I have observed for one specific group…women.

Can I get a witness?

The frantic and frenzy,

the pressure,

the anxiety,

the relatives,

the cooking,

baking,

shopping and more.

So between now and Christmas day, I want to talk about these emotions that can creep up and rob our joy. Instead of dreading it and getting emotional hives because of the pace, I am hoping that by the time Christmas Day comes we can experience and recapture the joy that God intends for us to have. I know we only have a week, but are you up for the challenge?

Back to our first emotion, fear. How do we then overcome the fear of not being enough or the people-pleasing trap we can fall into?

We can take our cue from the shepherds receiving the message in Bethlehem the night they were told about Jesus birth.

But the angel said to them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Luke 2:10

God addressed their fear first before He gave them the good news. He told them they didn’t need to be afraid because Jesus had arrived.

He wants to address yours and mine.

We have to acknowledge first that we are afraid. But we have slow down long enough and name it. Grab a piece of paper right now and write down.

What are you afraid of this December?

Get it out, write it down, tell Jesus, tell a friend, ask for prayer.

Ask God to help. Because if we let the emotion of fear take over than our need to control will take-over like a run-away train and we will be miserable. Take it from me; I’ve done it so many times I’ve made not only myself miserable but my family too!

We can’t miss the second part of the announcement. The angels told them what they could find it they let go of their fear.

The angel also told them where they could find JOY. Because JOY is a person, it’s not just the warm fuzzy feelings we might experience over Christmas.

It was in the good news that Jesus the Savior was born in Bethlehem and they decided to go and see. That is joy.

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about. Luke 2:15.

The next verse said that they hurried to see Jesus. I want to hurry to see Jesus and not hurry to be in a hurry this Christmas season.

My fear this Christmas is that I won’t have enough time to get everything done that I’d like to get finished. I was away for three weeks and just got home December 10th. I was fairly organized before I left and yet I am reminded daily from the intranet, television and the media just how many more days are left until Christmas arrives.  So in order to make sure that doesn’t happen, what I really mean is lose my cookies in the process, I am purposely choosing to simplify a few things this year. Just one example, I did buy Christmas cards before I left for our trip fully intending to do them while I was away. It didn’t happen, I was sick for a week on our trip and I came home and said, “Oh, Oh!” as I opened card after card from the mail. I took a deep breath and said, “It’s not going to happen this year.” I’m okay with it and I’ve let go of some other expectations that I have put on myself and feeling kind of free actually to enjoy more than stress.

As we step into these last few days before Christmas,

let’s name our fears together,

let them go,

and hurry as the shepherds did to spend a few moments to see Jesus.

I believe that our joy will be recaptured.