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/

 

 

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 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

Cinderella, Redemption and the Noise of the Election

My father has affectionately called me his Cinderella for as long as I can remember.

My story unlike the fairytale Cinderella, is not a tale of servant girl to living happily ever after with her prince. Rather it is a tale of experiencing brokenness to understanding redemption and what it means to walk out what the word redeemed means everyday of my life.

Part of my understanding of redemption is what you might call coming of a mature “spiritual age.” In other words, it has taken me a long time to get it. And still, I don’t do it perfectly or like Paul said, Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)

I long to live the concept of Jesus redemption to the rest of the world.

This isn’t going to be a weighty post or a deeply theologically one that would make you hit the share button. But rather a reflection of redemption in contrast to all the noise that seems to be quite deafening lately.

It’s been really hard to not jump in and join the rants and raves on social media with our own country days away from a historic election. I’ve read and listened, watched and prayed on what seems to have imploded. It makes me sick and sad all at the same time and I wonder, just wonder what God sees when he watches.

Today, was a fresh reminder of that as we had our windows repaired and the two men who came to the house. One had an accent and I asked him where he was from. He hesitated and said he was originally from Mexico. As we began to talk, he shared with me how he loved his job but he was sensing hate and fear recently when he showed up at various homes. It made him nervous he said as lawns were littered with signs of campaign supporters that he knew were disparaging about his own heritage. It made me sad and I assured him he was welcome to his own thoughts and opinions in my home.

And so today, as the noise continues to try and crowd out learning what it means to live walking out being redeemed in Jesus, I offer these thoughts.

God is in the process of redeeming all of us with the noise and madness of our world.

It signifies just how patient He really is. I actually struggle with God’s patience at times. And yet, I know it is a part of the narrative that is being written of redemption.

I ask you, can we walk as redeemed human beings and to our very best ability practice the virtues that reside in the hallows of our own personal redemption?

Can we in our bantering back and forth choose carefully to state our opinions with both courage and yet let them be sprinkled with kindness?

There is a line in the recent remake of Cinderella where at the end of the story her prince discovers his mystery princess and asks,

Who are you?

She steps forward and says,

I am Cinderella, I’m no princess I have no carriage, no parents, no dowry and I don’t even know if that beautiful slipper will fit. But if it does, will you take me as I am?

For some reason as I watched this, the word beautiful word redemption came to mind in the midst of all that is screaming at us. And I saw myself presenting myself to the Prince of Heaven asking the same question.

Will you take me, as I am each and every day? To which He whispered yes and I pursued His promises later in the day to fill the ache of not feeling at that moment redeemed.

You are my treasure. Exodus 19:5

I rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

When you are serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed. Jeremiah 29

As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart. Isaiah 40:11

One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes. Revelation 21:3-4

This is the redemption God longs to give to us through His son Jesus as we present ourselves with all of our flaws and failings so that we may give back in our world.

He longs to redeem us to Himself and create in us a new person full of all the virtues that His redemption represents every single day.

There is a catch.

We have to be willing to admit our need for redemption and choose to live it out with His truth and grace.

Redemption then comes full circle and each day we can wake up with confidence believing that our lives matter and our own realization of our redemption in Jesus can make a difference to all we encounter. Yes, even in the messiness of what’s taking place, we can bring the essence redemption.

 

When You Leak as a Leader

Hang with me for just a moment while I tell my…

Take-forever-to-get-somewhere-whiny-traffic story.

It took me nearly 3.5 hours to drive 36 miles last week. I was a bit frustrated and out of whack because I couldn’t do anything about it. I sat there dead stopped on the freeway and had no choice but wait for it to clear.

My frustration level ran to an all-time high as I was taking my students to the morning of the Global Leadership Summit by the Willow Creek Association. I had relayed to the students the importance of being on time. And here I was unable to get there until after it started. They graciously understood and we did end up having a great morning.

Although, I have to say that after getting settled I realized how I had let a little episode like a traffic jam completely unravel my sense of peace.

I whined to at least three people from the check-in person to the book table to the coffee station. I was leaking words and phrases that revealed what was going on in my heart.

When I leak it is not good.

About halfway through the morning, the leak continued to drip. I was tapped on the shoulder and there apparently had been a misunderstanding of how many sessions we were allowed to take in as we had received free morning passes. I left my seat determined to make sure we would be allowed to stay.

I would like to tell you that I handled it with grace and the maturity of a leader who has lead for over three decades.

NOT! I completely and aggressively defended my position and demanded that it was their error and not ours and we weren’t leaving.

Sigh…REALLY? Cynthia?

This moved from a slow drip to a gush on an innocent person who was trying to serve us.

As I slid back into my seat a sense of guilt and regret crept over me.

What was going on? What was wrong with me? I don’t respond to people like this!

I realized that my world was incredibly full and I was not handling my emotions and responses well.

This could mean one thing and one thing only. I need to take a step back and re-evaluate.

The month was full of multiple speaking events, teaching class, working my job and some over-the-top stresses that were happening in my personal world. It was time to take a soul check and make some adjustments because my tongue was definitely out of control.

I was not just leaking I was flooding.

Too often we as leaders find ourselves in this place. As a verbal processor I have to work harder at keeping my tongue under control. Some leaders I know are able to exercise much greater restraint for they are reflective introverts, but for those of us who are the opposite and who literally “talk for a living” it can be disastrous if left unchecked.

I decided that I couldn’t push on any further and something needed to change. Here’s how to stop the leak if you find yourself in the same place.

1. Step back and take a breath. When we are busy and stressed we often don’t breath very well physically and our brains need oxygen to be able to function. Go for a walk, leave your desk, and just breathe.

2. Check the calendar and see what you can shift in order to build in some restoration time. For me, if I keep going when I leak then I am going to be a train wreck and take some significant people I care about down with me. Breathe, look at the calendar and make some changes.

3. Make some “restore-me time.” I don’t know about you but when I am under extreme pressure as I have been the past several weeks, I have to get back to refueling. It’s different for everyone. Taking an afternoon and walking with my favorite playlist of music is restorative for me. Working on something creative with my hands that is totally opposite of my day-to-day routine also restores me. Whatever it is for you, take time to not only discover what that looks like but also make it a part of your routine.

4. Disengage from the Internet for a morning, afternoon or a whole day if you can. The constant noise from email, social media and responding can add to the already stressed situation. Take a break and be intentional.

5. Talk to someone. It’s a given for me because I am committed to following Jesus and that means I spend time in prayer talking to God and reading the bible. It is also helpful for me to have someone I can wholly be myself with and lean on them for encouragement and counsel. We aren’t meant to do life alone, and as a leader we don’t get better by isolating ourselves.

I didn’t get it right this week and felt like beating myself up. Instead, I reached out to the staff person I leaked all over before I left the event. She was incredibly gracious and we ended up having a meaningful conversation about leadership. Whew…averted a complete character meltdown. She thanked me for being vulnerable and looked forward to connecting over coffee at a later date.

I am grateful that I can have a do-over and since then, I have made some changes to stop the leak from continuing to spill over.

The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.          Proverbs 10:19

What Do I Do When the Big One Hits?

My sister and I were waiting in the ferry line with the wind howling and rain pelting my small SUV. We were on our way to Vancouver Island where I was going to be the speaker for a women’s weekend  at Camp Qwanoes.

We both had to go to the bathroom and wanted to wait to see if there would be a break in the storm. The loud speaker kept reminding us of the obvious – extreme winds, the BIG storm that was moving in and the ferry which would be delayed, again and again, and again.

Finally, after we couldn’t stand it any longer we braved getting out of our car in the high winds and blowing rain to go to the ferry terminal to take care of the bare necessities and grab some dinner. Once we’d practically been blown off the asphalt strip weaving in and out of cars we found shelter inviting us into the warmth and bustling terminal with other passengers who had the same thing on their minds as we did, bathrooms and food.

The ‘BIG ONE,’ the storm of the century was supposed to hit the island with predicted 100 mph and we seemed to be heading straight into what they were calling was yet to come, the aftermath of a typhoon in the Pacific Ocean. I had told my husband before I left that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to which he replied, “You have to go, you are the speaker!” Oh right, I forgot. Sigh…I gathered my courage and remembered God was the God of the storm and this was my assignment and headed to the ferry terminal with my sister who was as nervous as I was.

The weekend started and as Friday moved into Saturday morning and the morning moved into the afternoon and the afternoon moved to the evening, we noticed that the weather seemed calm and mild at the camp. Funny, where was the storm?

What was going on?

We soon learned at dinner that something miraculous had happened.

The camp staff had fervently prayed all week that nothing would interrupt the women’s weekend.

They prayed specifically that the ferries would run on Friday and Sunday for the women to arrive and depart.

They pleaded heaven’s doors that the power would stay on and that God would do what He does best breaking down walls and transforming hearts through worship and His word.

They prayed believing that God wanted to do above and beyond what we could even imagine.

And God moved.

He destined that the camp would be the eye of the storm.

We heard reports that the ferries stopped running on Saturday due to the magnitude of the storm. The power was cut-off in the cities around the camp, but the small community where the camp was, the power never even blinked once.

As I listened to a camp staffer, Gretta, relate the miracle, I couldn’t help but have spiritual goosebumps.

God did something significant for all of us on the weekend.

In the sessions we talked about storms in our lives and how they can cripple our influence. We spoke about being misunderstood and harboring unforgiveness and the need to let go and lean in because we don’t always have control when a storm moves in.

God gave us a physical in our face visual reminder that as we surrender to Jesus in obedience there is one place and only one place we can be safe. Jesus, who holds us in the very eye of the storm, He is our shelter.

And when the BIG one hits we are to do just three things.

1. DON’T PANIC – RUN to the shelter which is Jesus – stay close for He is the eye of the storm. Listen to worship and feed on God’s Word. Lean in close and listen for the next steps.

2. DON’T TRY TO FIX IT – TRUST – only God knows the big picture and He always, I mean always has the last word! Stay in the eye of the storm and don’t get distracted by the chaos. Just like the meterologists this past weekend who were dumbfounded that their computers weren’t accurate with this supposed “storm of the century.” God knows. He sees. He knows the outcome. He can do anything!

3. DON’T BE TEMPTED TO GIVE UP – BELIEVE and don’t lose hope. Keep praying. He is our refuge.

The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord do not abandon those who search for you. Psalm 9:9,10

As my sister and I drove home from the camp to catch the ferry we saw a rainbow like no other. I couldn’t help but thinking how God sheltered us on the weekend and how His promises are faithful and true and that’s the reason I know I can run to Him, trusting and believing that He is in control over even yes, the storms in my own life.

 

 

5 Ways to Kill a Team

Every Tuesday morning I show up at a university campus to teach leadership to international students who mainly come from China and the surrounding region. We have a fascinating time as we merge Eastern thought about leadership with Western ideals.

This semester we are discovering the group dynamics of teams and most of our work is experiential learning in class. My students are hungry to learn how to create effective teams for optimum results and I love watching the interaction. Working as a team with shared ideas is new for some of them. They are used to the idea of autocratic teams instead of teams that are more collaborative.

I’ve noticed one thing that stays the same between our cultures and it is the bottom line. We all want to have an effective successful team to reach common goals. We are learning together some important steps to maximize our effectiveness as teams. And yet, we still fall back on our human nature striving for performance and falling into leading only task driven. And as much as the leadership theories we learn help us, our humanity can get in the way and lead to what I call – The 5 Team Killers.

There are ways we can unintentionally easily kill a team in our efforts to be effective. As a leader, it can become a team blindspot. In my experience with teams I’ve served and lead, this is what I have learned (the hard way) that can cause a team to lose it’s effectiveness.

1. Task First Think Later

As a young leader in my 20’s and 30’s, I thought organizing a team meant putting together a group of people to get the job done.  It was all about TASK! And I was the one as the leader to call the shots.

Partially true?

Maybe.

I had little regard for what others on the team might think about what we were doing TOGETHER.

I soon learned the hard way through some crucial conversations that I wasn’t the only one who had the best ideas on how to get the task done.

In fact, sometimes my ideas weren’t good at all!

Thinking together as a team was a slow learning process for me. As we thought things through together, the team actually improved.

I am not advocating group-think in this instance but rather fostering an open-minded atmosphere where everyone’s thoughts about getting the tasks accomplished lead to the best results.

2. Choose Not to Collaborate

Part of what makes a successful team is leveraging everyone’s strengths on the team. When we choose not to collaborate and don’t make it a priority to understand the strengths of each team member, true collaboration can’t take place. Don’t be afraid to collaborate. No one person has all the skills to lead an effective team and no one person on the team can get the job done well all by themselves.

3. Using People Instead of Relating to People

If you really want to kill a team fast, the best way to kill a team is to not care about your people. People will follow the vision and goals for awhile, but when stress starts to play in, if we as a leader don’t genuinely care for those on our teams, motivation will diminish. We don’t want people to feel they are being used. We want them to not just know we care but that we really care about them beyond what they can do for the team.

4. No parties, No celebrations

Teams need to celebrate successes and especially small goals.

Celebrating as a team creates more motivation to reach the end goal.

We often just celebrate the end with a big splash as we cross the finish line.  I have found that when we celebrate small goals it brings the team together and provides encouragement. Every team will reach an obstacle at some point that can bring discouragement. Celebrating along the way helps to keep everyone moving forward toward the goal.

5. Enforce Accountability

There are many different ideas of how to hold team members to account. I have found that the best way to hold a team accountable is to empower others by working intentionally as a leader to motivate team members.

Lack of motivation can kill accountability.

When a team loses momentum due to lack of motivation, members can slip into the “just doing enough to get by.”

I believe the key to accountability is to keep the team motivated as a whole. When everyone on the team is energized there is less chance of  those on the team falling into the slacker category.

These five team killers aren’t rocket science and yet they bring awareness to highlight what is really important when it comes to functioning as a healthy team.

When my students share how to create a dream team, their passion emerges on how their greatest wish is to help others and leave a lasting imprint in their realm of influence.

As we reflect together in discussion on these and other theories, one common goal surfaces in discussion. We all want to be the very best leader we can be to create a working team that makes a difference!

If everyone is moving forward together then success takes care of itself. Abraham Lincoln.