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! 

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 You Can’t Let Go

Today I am wrestling.

Dark thoughts.

Hard stuff.

Disappointments.

Yesterday, I listened to my two of my grandchildren sing along with that infamous tune, Let it Go, from the movie Frozen. So innocent, so sweet, and unassuming of what that phrase truly means.

To tell the truth, I am not sure, I fully understand what it really means myself!

And yet, it resonates over and over with the pile that has been amassing in my heart of past hurts and disappointments. There are certain dates and times of events and encounters that sneak into my heart reminding me, “This time, last year, or five years ago, or ten, this happened and this is what was said or done.”

I am a master at rehearsing and it can ruin my day, corrupt my attitude and make my soul sick unless I “Bring every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ.” as 2 Corinthians instructs us to follow. But even as I attempt to do that, and ask Jesus over and over again to help me, I still can get stuck and I don’t like that and that’s when I have to go outside of myself and ask others for some help. Some encounters are easier to let go of, ones that have worked out. But others linger like garbage smelling up everything because I’ve worked so hard to get rid of it, but the lack of mutual resolution keeps it alive.

This past month has been unpredictable and a little testier for my soul. January felt new and fresh and I made plans on how to embrace my one word for 2016 LIVE BOLD. Then February slammed in with an assortment of disappointments and it hasn’t quit. Did you notice I didn’t post a single blog in February? UGH! More disappointment and guilt.

What do we do then when we can’t let go?

Get back under the covers and hide? It’s tempting, let me tell you.

What do we do when most of life is par excellent but the lingering pieces threaten to capsize the rest?

For me the guilt piles on because I have an infinite amount of things to be grateful for in my life.

Here are seven things of what I am learning lately that are helping me to put it all in perspective and I am hoping it will help you if you are in this place. They aren’t rocket science and pretty simplistic but sometimes you just need simple.

  1. Life will never be exactly what I hope it will be. Life brings both disappointments and times that are exhilarating and purposeful making us smile large. This life on earth is temporary. Readjust and place HOPE in a person, Jesus, rather than people or situations.
  2. People are unpredictable and can change. Give grace. Love them where they are at and adjust the relationship (i.e. how much you invest, spend time with them, etc.) if necessary in order to move forward.
  3. Don’t live with a disguise. Many of us learn to live with disguises, as I just heard from a guest speaker at our church this past Sunday. Don’t be one of them. Continue to be authentic even if it is uncomfortable for others. Telling the truth is always best. We can’t control outcomes or responses of our truth-telling.
  4. Practice gratitude continually. Every night I try to list at least three things I can be thankful for the past hours of my day. It helps to overcome my dark thoughts and is the best sleeping aid ever.
  5. Pray always and keep alert with perseverance. (Ephesians 6:18) I mean really, Cynthia, do you pray always? All through the day? I am such a wimp and desiring to be better at this. Some mornings I just sit in front of my prayer wall and say, “God, here I am, help me because I’m not very good at this prayer thing sometimes.” He meets me right there as I sit, sometimes for just five minutes, sometimes much longer, but the point is, He meets me where I am at and honors my efforts.
  6. Laugh. Invest in things that give joy and renew the weariness of the soul. For me, it is creating whether writing, drawing, sewing or working on a project. It gives life.
  7. Reach out and bless someone else who is facing struggle and disappointment. And writing a quick note on FB or pushing a heart LIKE on someone’s post doesn’t count. Social media has lured us into the false reality that we are connecting with each other in community online. It just isn’t true and doesn’t mean as much. A handwritten card sent in the mail, taking someone out for coffee or tea, taking a walk with a friend with face to face human contact conveys true and meaningful relationship. Don’t hide behind social media, it is isolating and isn’t authentic community.

The answer to the question for me of why it is harder to let go sometimes is because I lose perspective. I am short-sighted, I have good intentions but can get mixed up. I want to frame life differently so I can embrace this gift of life rather than stay stuck in the disappointments.

So here’s to singing….LET IT GO, LET IT GO, LET IT GO!

The Emotions of Christmas ~ Part 4

photoAs 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 today, I heard the deep overwhelming sadness in between tears and sobs of trying to understand a new reality and new normal for her life.

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!

Inky Night of Depression

photo 1I gasped in disbelief yesterday when I heard the news that actor/comedian Robin Williams had died.

An even greater sadness washed over my soul like an inky blanket when I learned he committed suicide. My heart mirrored the all too familiar path of the pain of depression.

I quickly went from sadness to anger when I watched the journalist report of his demise driven to despair because of his struggle with depression and addiction.

Something rose up in me to be angry with DEPRESSION. Mad at the debilitation of how depression comes in like a thief. It robs people of joy. It terrorizes one deep in their soul. It leads one to believe the insidious lies in a sea of darkness to snuff out the light of their life.

Depression isn’t something I personally like to talk about mostly because people seem to think that if you admit you struggle with depression that there is something fundamentally weird about the core of who you are. I wrote candidly about my own journey with clinical depression in a post last year, The True Facts About My Depression. I took another step and unmasked a weakness that I have struggled with up and down since I was a teenager. I also publicly wrote about a more difficult season of clinical depression in my book, Unlocked: 5 Myths Holding Your Influence Captive.

I wanted to talk about it now in light of what’s happened this week surrounding the tragedy of a beloved funny man, Mr. Williams and to let people know that this is a very real struggle that isn’t easy to overcome.

I will not judge.

I will not speculate.

I will not seek to provide answers to the many questions of, Why? Because I’ve been there more times than I can count.

I’ve sat in the dark inky hole clawing to climb out and make sense of the how and why of depression lingering in my soul. Robin Williams through his movies was for several times a lifeline in my own depression because he made me laugh, belly laugh. Laughter is cathartic for someone suffering with depression.

I have found some answers through counseling, reading and a great support system. I do know I have to keep vigilant to work at it constantly and ask God to help me when I am on the slippery slope of disappointment and despair.

I don’t know what circle of support Robin Williams had, but we do know he was working at his struggle even recently. I am sure his family and friends might be asking themselves at this moment, what else they could have done to be there for his troubled soul. They might even be blaming themselves.

The reality is, when you wrestle with depression, sometimes you can feel very alone even if you have a strong support system. You can feel like your soul is disconnected from the person you really are and want to be with others.

I know this to be true, and I’ve found my soul resonating with the raw conversations between David and God in the Psalms. I don’t know where I would be without God’s promises of hope, hearing my laments and Him whispering words of comfort from those pages.

If you are marked with depression, please know that you are not alone, and there is hope. Even if you don’t struggle with depression, I hope you could see yourself throwing on a cloak of kindness to others who suffer. Don’t try to deeply analyze, understand or diagnose, but just work to be fully present with a person in your life who might be at this place in their journey. Those of us who wrestle with depression need people not to feel sorry for us, judge, or write a spiritual prescription, but rather throw us a lifeline of hope and patient kindness.

I’ve included this excerpt from my book to tell a piece of my depression story in hopes it might encourage you or someone else.

And so my story…

My journey with depression began early in the spring of 1997—that’s when I had been officially diagnosed with clinical depression. The long days and weeks of care giving for my grandfather had taken its toll. Blackness and despair sought to submerge me. The diagnosis of depression, though, was difficult for me to digest. I could swallow a diagnosis of arthritis or diabetes, but depression? In my mind depression was for weak people and weak Christians who didn’t have enough faith. I argued about the diagnosis with God, my counselor, pastor, and doctor, all people who were trying to help me. “I am a visible leader, a Pastor’s wife in the church. What will people whisper about me behind closed doors if they know,” I worried. The lies flooded my mind and I was overwhelmed at being exposed.

As my desert of depression continued over the next few years, I discovered that the depression wasn’t just from the losses I had experienced the past several months. Nor was it from my physical exhaustion. Actually I learned it was from deeper issues that had been tucked away-issues that God was beginning to bring to the surface. Some of those issues included false expectations and a warped perspective of needing to perform in order to be lovable. Those lies were sabotaging me and had plunged my spiritual and emotional being into the black hole of depression. I started to learn that performance had a stronghold in my heart, life and ministry that God in his faithfulness desired to root out of me. Through my counselor I realized that the depression I was experiencing was a symptom of something deeper, something below the waterline that I needed to face in order to be a whole person again.

My good friend who was also my counselor helped me significantly when she used this illustration:

If I had a broken leg, would I lie on the sofa, not tell anyone and just hope it would heal? No! I would go to the doctor immediately to get treatment. The same must be true for depression: a person often needs professional, spiritual and medical help to overcome their extreme feelings of despair and hopelessness. Through professional help, they will be able to explore the root of what is causing the depression so it they once again can lead a life of joy and fulfillment! That is how I came out of hiding into the realm of living in freedom and authenticity.

I can remember struggling at first alone because of the fear of rejection, failure or being told, “If your faith was stronger, you wouldn’t be depressed.” (Believe it or not, I was told similar statements!) I know that I have been more fortunate than some and was blessed mostly to have a body of believers who came around and supported me. I thank God that the churches I’ve served at as a leader in that season didn’t see my depression as a sign of weakness or spiritual failure. Rather they sought to help me to a path of healing.

The undeniable reality of being in that black hole was both devastating and yet opened the door to living in emotional health and freedom. It radically changed my life and ministry approach and defeated the lies of rejection. In fact, it triggered the opposite. As a leader, it cultivated a leveling place of humility in experiencing God’s abundant grace. It has built bridges with hundreds of people and provided opportunities to help others recognize that God wants to use their past to shape their future. It has opened the door and allowed me to be a cheerleader for others who thought that God could never allow them to lead.

This dark night of the soul was exceptionally a long season in my life. Partially, there were some root causes in issues I needed to face and honestly, I can’t fully figure out the other part, but it’s okay.  I’ve come realize that every path of depression is different. Sometimes it is how we are wired, events of loss and trauma, or our family of origin can pre-dispose us to depression and other physical and/or personality traits.

For me, I am just a plain ol’ melancholy person. My wiring immediately can place me crossing that line into disappointment and despair, I think myself to death at times. I have gained the resources and tools how to monitor negative thoughts and replace them with gratitude and godly truth.  I also have a family background of depression, that too can play into it. It is a weakness and yet I have made progress and have lived for several years since that episode in great victory managing the dark thoughts and turning them into a flourishing well of life as God intended.

I have had shorter relapses in the years that have followed but I am not undaunted. I remain vigilant to this day believing that it doesn’t define who I am but rather is a part of my story and the influence I can have with others. I receive it, embrace it and even welcome it believing that it has helped to shape who I am and cultivate a very meaningful intimate relationship in understanding the unfathomable grace of God.

Excerpt from Cynthia Cavanaugh, Unlocked: 5 Myths Holding Your Influence Captive, New Hope Publishers 2013 

Quote in Picture from Beth Moore