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 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

 

 

 

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…

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep with Gratitude

The past several months I’ve decided that I needed to cultivate gratitude. I found too many negative thoughts swirling around from situations I couldn’t control and certainly wasn’t going to be nominated to be the designated fixer any time soon.

Life is overwhelming, the world seems out of control and sometimes my heart just hurts from all the sadness and brokenness in our planet.

I realized that I could be a Negative Nelly if I’m not careful.

Ouch!

This isn’t who I really want to be AT ALL!

Months ago my cultivating turned into a nightly ritual. Being a visual person, I like creative ways to be intentional especially when God has gently prodded me about something I need to change.

As I slip under my feather comforter each night, I posture myself to touch each of my five fingers. Moving over each finger on my hand, I name what I am grateful for that day. As days have turned into weeks and weeks into month a subtle slow transformation has taken place in the crevice of my soul. Negative Nelly and her thoughts have been shoved out and replaced by a new resident bringing a thought of thankfulness.

I find myself looking at the world differently.

Even on a hard day, windows of opportunity present themselves and gratitude seeps through built on previous days of practice.

It’s amazing when gratitude makes it way from an occasional moment to a ritual where you can’t go to sleep without naming at least one or two things to be grateful for. It is like taking vitamins for the soul. It keeps us healthy and changes our perspective.

I’ve read realms about how gratitude can change us, change physical and emotional health, change a perspective and well, change just about everything when it comes to how we approach life. Here’s an article to prove I am not exaggerating.

Gratitude is the sweet balm to a broken heart and that is exactly what I’ve discovered.

Part of the journey of healing is detecting that embracing gratitude to the fullest is the best pathway to wholeness.

There was a time several years back that I believed my heart could never be whole again.

It was too bruised, too wounded, too betrayed and too weary.

Jesus has changed all of this as I’ve surrendered slowly and unwilling at times allowing Him to be my teaching healer on the journey. His ways are perfect and his timing is impeccable.

As we approach American Thanksgiving this week, my heart is bursting with gratitude and it has taken me by surprise of how it is trickling out in the moments of my day. I believe it is because the ritual of gratitude has transformed me with the notice that my heart is healing.

I don’t know what circumstances you might be facing right now and to be reminded to be thankful might just bounce off a heart of cynicism.

Don’t worry, it’s okay. I’ve been right there.

And don’t hate me for this next sentence… but gratitude isn’t an option if you are a Jesus follower. We are instructed to be thankful.

Always.

Yes, always, and in everything, and it’s true.

Does it mean we live in denial or delusion? Of course not! Somewhere in the midst of our circumstances we have to find a place to hold gratitude in our heart besides the good, bad and the ugliness of life. The only way I know how to do that is not by myself. I have to ask God to help me.

If he has commanded me to be thankful then He will make a way to do the impossible even in a hard situation. If you heart is cynical, try Him. Ask God and see what happens.

In the meantime, I pray that there will be a moment this week in between family gatherings and chaotic Black Friday shopping where thankfulness catches you and inspires you to want more gratitude in your life.

I encourage, no, I challenge you to give daily gratitude a try for 30 days every night. You can borrow my ritual or create one of your own and I guarantee that your tired heart will be different at the end of 30 days and you won’t want it to end. Here is some inspiration to start and Happy Thanksgiving!

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

The Second Seed

The last few days, have you noticed the evenings have been cooler? The leaves have been drifting off our trees in the front yard. My flowers are showing signs of the falling of summer stress. The sunflowers have died and all that is left is the seeds.

It is the sign of the end of summer and the beckoning invitation to enter autumn.

My summer has been jam-packed with events, trips, friends and family and has been far from “the lazy days of summer.” It has been a whirlwind of both surprises and even some disappointments, but it’s been a fabulous time. And yet, I would say there is a pivotal space of reflection bringing in some new thoughts with the catalyst for a little bit of change.

Yes, at times I think too much because I am a melancholy. But this summer has helped to clarify stirrings in my heart and here is my summer summary if you will.

I moved into June feeling like my words for the year “Live Bold” wasn’t seeing too much action. I wondered what it might look like for the remainder of the year. What is God asking of me? Something was brewing underneath all that thinking and between what I experienced from trips to relationships, I finally got a glimpse of the bigger picture.

TD Jakes said it best when I heard him at the Global Leadership Summit the beginning of August. He is embarking on numerous projects and Bill Hybels in an interview asked him as a leader if it is wise to spread yourself in so many different directions.

His response intrigued me and caused me to think about my own word for this year, Live Bold.

He talked about how each gift that God entrusts to us is a seed and that within the seed there are other seeds and we need to pay attention to those second seeds. He was referring in particular to the second half of our journey of life.

Many seeds are developed in terms of our gifts and yet there are seeds within the seed that are part of our responsibility to do something.

I started thinking because that is what a melancholy does and came up with these questions to ask myself.

What seeds lie dormant inside the seeds of my gifts that God has entrusted to me?

What do I need to start to water so that seed within the seed will grow?

I started with a list to answer these questions a few weeks back and have been adding to it. I am not sure what those little seeds will look like just now, but I am watching and praying. In the meantime, I am making room for those new seeds to develop by rearranging some of my priorities for this fall.

I can’t help the second seed grow if I don’t make some room for it to flourish. I am setting some boundaries for myself to work at helping these second seeds grow. Instead of rolling from the summer into fall as usual, I believe those stirrings in my heart are to get my attention. It’s easy for me to just step into the familiar and make a plan for a new season.

I think God asks more of us at times.

He wants us to listen in the midst of the familiar because he wants us to grow deeper.

Isaiah 43:19 has long been a favorite,

Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak, and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert; Waters will flow where there had been none.

I’ll keep you posted but in the meantime, I am watching closely. You might want to give it some thought. Are there seeds within your seeds that need to start to grow this fall?

 

 

 

 

 

When Toxic Thoughts Take Over

I am not typically your jump out of bed greet the morning with a smile kind of person. I am what you might call a slow wake put my feet on the ground get my tea first or else be cranky individual. I’ve tried all sorts of things to turn into a morning person but my hard wiring is fundamentally not to be fresh in the morning. Having children however forced me to work on being a morning person. I just had to get up earlier than they did in order to be somewhat cognitive and pleasant.

Because I am not a morning person, it is life or death for me to organize my thoughts in the right direction. It sets the tone for the day and my relationships. If I am worried or stressed without surrendering those leftover thoughts from the day before it becomes catastrophic for the remainder of the new day and those I bump into. I can exercise a bit of self-control but I still leak unless I am intentional about dwelling on what is in my brain space.

Lately, I have been working on those leftover toxic thoughts that have unconsciously taken over certain parts of my life. Dr. Caroline Leaf, author of Who Switched Off My Brain says this, Whatever you think about grows. Don’t focus on what you are going through but what you are going to. I’ve been relearning a common truth that if I keep dwelling on toxic thoughts they will grow and then those thoughts grow into habits and habits grow into toxic words and behaviors.

So what do we do when toxic thoughts takeover?

There is a reason that book of Romans says, …but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. In the front end of Romans 12:2 the writer says to not conform to the patterns of this world. In other words, to think like everyone else is thinking, to change the way we think by renewing our thoughts. Renewing has the implication of changing from something from the inside out as John Piper says in his writings on The Renewed Mind and How to Have It.

Resisting those leftover thoughts and then making a conscious out loud decision to do something with those nagging critters is the solution.

Surrender them to Jesus.

Give them up, write them down and tear it up.

Each time they threaten to sneak under the door of your mind, have a plan of what you will do to not chew on those leftover thoughts. Really, leftovers are only good for a little while then you eventually have to throw them out!

If you and I aren’t intentional about this every single day, toxic thoughts can…

BLOCK OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD – the further I move away from surrendering my thoughts to God the farther I stay away from God believing the lie that He can’t or won’t be able to help me.

ROB OUR JOY – the toxicity can block our perspective of seeing even the little things in life that can make us smile.

POISON RELATIONSHIPS – no matter how hard we try and keep it in, that poison from toxic thoughts can leak into small barbs or unkindness to those around us.

KILL PRODUCTIVITY – allowing those toxic thoughts to continue growing eventually blocks our creativity. I know for me, it has paralyzed me from moving forward.

DIMINISHES OUR INFLUENCE – our influence is our greatest asset and when toxic thoughts reign over our life we limit our ability to positively influence others.

CAUSE DESPAIR TO REIGN – continuing to think and obsess over situations that we can’t control or ones that we have a measure of controlling destroys our trust in God. The enemy sneaks in with his secret weapons…disappointment, discouragement and despair to rule over our minds.

All of the above I have experienced when I’ve chewed and chewed on my leftover toxic thoughts. It’s a habit that I want to break and I am praying that God helps me to continue to change from the inside out. I have allowed pain and wounds to paralyze me to the point of developing unhealthy thinking patterns and I am so done! I won’t lie to you, it hasn’t been easy to re-wallpaper my mind with God’s truth. I’ve created some pretty strong ruts in my thinking. But there is too much at stake not just for each of us but for those lives we influence to get stuck in toxicity of the mind.

Will you join me? God so wants us to flourish in every area of our life like a tree growing with bountiful fruit. He wants to embed his truth both in our heart and our minds. Let’s make a strategic plan to make sure we reclaim this ground in our mind for good!