5 Ways to Lead from your Legacy

Cuddling new babies, making cookies, meals, cleaning and sharing family birthdays and memories has been the order of the day recently. In the short span of 30 days we’ve added two new family members~sweet baby girls, a book launch~a dream fulfilled, we’ve celebrated a first new home for one of our kids, and had the opportunity to love on, serve and spend a great chunk of time with each other.

It the legacy I choose. Family.

It’s what I value and what is important. Family and relationships.

It’s what I am praying and hoping will be the inheritance my children and grand-children will recognize as a faith builder in their lives.

As a leader I’ve come to realize over the years that at the end of my days the greatest influence I will have is within my own family. It will become my legacy ready or not.  If I forget the gift that I’ve been entrusted to with these precious relationships, will anything else I do really matter?

There was a time as a young Mom that I just wanted to hurry up the years of raising my children.

I wanted to get on with life, with ministry, with having an impact as a leader, and I wanted them to cooperate.

The rewards were more significant as a leader than as a mother back in those days.

Driving the carpool, being the short-order cook, wiping snotty noses and being the homework gestapo didn’t get much applause.

God pretty much had to lovingly smack me on the side of the head and helped me to realize, that my family was my ministry! The life lessons I learned within the four walls of my home were the catalyst for deepening my gifts of ministry. At that season, it was the assignment that was primary, my children. Yes, there was time for ministry, but the greatest growth spurt as a leader were in those routines of being a faithful follower of Jesus and committed Mom. It changed my life and taught me how to be a servant leader by loving on my family and learning to be fully present.

Here are 5 things I learned about Leading from my Legacy and faithfully being committed to my primary calling as a Mom.

1.  BE FLEXIBLE: Things don’t always go as planned ~ Life interruptions happen and we need to be flexible. Our attitude reveals itself when things don’t go the way we hoped they would. A leaders attitude in the midst of a shift reveals our character. Life is unpredictable, have a prepared response and ask yourself what is the worst that can happen if the plan falls apart? Be ready for a Plan B. As a mom, many, many, many, should I say it once more MANY times I had to resort to Plan B! Oh it was frustrating for this Type A, recovering perfectionist, always having to have the perfect plan type of person, but it broke me down to realize LIFE HAPPENS and it doesn’t always turn out the way I hoped.

2. WATCH YOUR MOUTH: People are listening to what you say, how you react, and how you respond. Ask yourself the question, do I react or respond in my leadership? Many times, I blew it as a Mom, I reacted instead of responded. My kids helped me to rethink how to grow up in this area. I learned this when I realized that I became a mirror for how they dealt with circumstances by watching me react or respond. It doesn’t sound so good when a 5 year old is mimicking their Mom’s less than mature reaction.

3. BE QUICK TO BELIEVE THE BEST IN ONE ANOTHER: Preconceived ideas and assumptions can kill a relationship. Ask yourself the question, why would a reasonable person act this way? It’s easy to allow our emotions to catch us and think we know how the other person feels. I learned to ask questions of my children. Using the why, where, how and what questions helped me to believe the best in them and wait for their heart to speak. When we assume the best in people, it breaks down walls and defenses and builds bridges of greater trust.

4. DON’T PUSH TOO HARD: Having a vision is noble. Pushing people beyond their limits for the sake of the cause is unhealthy. Know when to take a break and encourage those you lead to rest and restore emotionally, physically and spiritually. Growing up with the idea that ALL work must be finished before we can rest or play has caused me to drive myself too hard, my family and others. It worked until in my mid 30’s I crashed and suffered a five year depression as a result of not paying attention to a healthy rythym of work and rest. Knowing your limits as a leader and helping those you lead understand this concept will bring a greater sense of well-being and health to your team.

5. CELEBRATE SUCCESSES BOTH SMALL AND BIG: So often we focus on celebrating the bigger accomplishments. People expect them. It’s natural.  But what about celebrating the small steps? Little reminders of progress help to keep going and to reach the finish line. I often wrote notes of encouragement to my family and put them in all sorts of fun places for them to find. Sometimes, it was just going to the store to get a doughnut for a good grade on a spelling test. Everyone needs encouragement. A hand-written note, yes you heard me, not an email but a note that you actually write out can make the world of difference to someone. A phone-call to say “Hey, I was just thinking about you and had a thought for you”…yes, a phone-call not a text, where someone can actually hear your voice. These are small but not insignificant ways we can celebrate others.

What have you learned about leadership from your legacy?


What Do You Believe About Leadership?

Over the years I think my definition of leadership has changed with each season. In my rookie years of being a leader, I am ashamed to say that……

A sense of entitlement and importance marked my leadership.

I deserved to be a leader because I could tell people what to do and was good at it.

I was superior and therefore you should follow me.


Writing those words makes me want to crawl into a closet and hide from sheer embarrassment. As I matured, (Whew, thankfully!) I grew up and my definition of leadership changed and so did my focus. It became more about God, more about others and less about me. In the last several years it has morphed into…

Much more about God.

Way more about others.

And much, much less about me.

Philippians 2:1-8 has become my benchmark for leadership.

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. (The Message Bible)

You might call it my theology of leadership. What I believe about leadership shapes my thoughts, attitudes and the way I walk it out~my leadership theology. Everyone has a theology of life, leadership and living. It’s what we think about God and truth. I had to answer that question in a class that delved in deeper to discover what my personal theology of leadership actually was. I came to the conclusion that Philippians 2 would be the bedrock of my leadership and here are a few thoughts and conclusions that I arrived at.

1. Don’t do it alone. 

I believe that God never asks us to function in isolation.

The past few years I’ve been in the learning lab of defining moments~hurtful excruciating turn your faith upside down type moments. The temptation has been to abandon community and go it alone. It’s too hard. Isolate. Hide out. But that is not the answer, because part of my own theology of leadership is that we don’t do life alone.

I have been blessed to have many influential leaders in my life that are part of my community. Some have mentored me~up close or from afar. Some have been friends, family, and ministry partners. I need them, I need you. I need community.

I get into trouble when I try to function alone.

2. Don’t rush character development

Not rushing the process of development in my own character by learning to embrace the journey of God’s sovereignty in my life can be gut-wrenching. Waiting is hard. We aren’t in control of life or of other people. Like a fool I think I am, but I am not. Lean in, trust and hang on, I have found God knows what he is doing.

3. Find a tribe. AKA be a part of a team.

Jesus had his core discipleship team~the twelve. He didn’t do it alone. Jesus balanced relationship with task in working with his disciples. He understood them, embraced their quirks and most of all loved them. He invested personal time with them, accepted them in spite of their weaknesses and as a result they followed him because he loved being with them and literally gave his life for them in the end.

4. Invest in others

I try and make it a priority to invest personally in the lives of those I lead. I have found this to be extremely rewarding, and somehow, the business always gets accomplished and we have a blast together! Learning, loving and serving the people God wants me to be in relationship with will become my legacy.

5. Be real

Being real is being human. Nothing is worse than fake. I am committed to being authentic as a leader. It is a risk. You might get burned. I have several times but it’s worth it. I’ve found that people like a leader who is real.

These are some of my thoughts about my theology of leadership. If you haven’t had the chance to think it through. I would encourage you to grab a pen and paper today and just start.

Write what you believe about leading. Where does it come from? The Bible? A book? Or both? What’s important to you? What’s your DNA of leadership and who you are?

This is not an assignment but rather an opportunity to figure out what you believe because at the end of the day, it does drive the way you lead.

My personal theology of leadership is…….now you fill in the blank!


Lazy Days of Summer?

SummersunsetThe lazy days of summer phrase doesn’t seem to apply to me this summer. It has been crazy, crazy, busy. I’m not sure I have had a day let alone an hour to actually apply “the lazy days of summer.” It has just happened that way for 2013. Not that I am complaining mind you, it really has been an amazing season with new grand-daughters, the dream of the book, Unlocked being released and all that surrounds new adventures.

Now that we are soon headed into autumn, I am not sure I am ready. What is being ready for the next season look like anyway? How can I be ready for something I don’t even fully know what it will look like? I have plans, because I am a planner, but there are still some fuzzy places. So I go back to my trusted resource, the Bible and I find in Proverbs 16:9, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (NLT) Hmmm…so let me get this straight, I can make plans as best I can, but it is God who will actually determine what the steps to that plan will look like. Listen to this version from the Message Bible, it puts an entirely different twist on this verse in Proverbs. “We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it.” At the end of the day, or season or year, what really matters is living out our days, hours, minutes and seconds because God makes us able to live it!

I don’t know about you, but I just felt the tension leave my tired body! He knows the kind of season I’ve had, it’s been a roller coaster high, but now I have to come down the track off the thrill of the ride and I realize I am tired. A good tired. That’s okay. It’s perfectly alright to be tired before the next season. So how do I gear up for the transition feeling tired? Funny, I was just reminded this past Sunday of Psalm 46:10. “Be still, and know that I am God.” If you read the chapter in its entirety, there is a lot of chaos going on and this little itty bitty phrase comes at the end of this psalm reminding the reader that all we have to do is be still before God. Do you know what follows that profound phrase at the end of the chapter? “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” I don’t think I ever quite read it like that before. The take away for me is that in the midst of trying to regain my strength, I need to be still and know that He is God but also know that God is with me. More release….sigh…pressure off……….sigh.

I am tired, it’s been busy. Fall is coming, it will be busy, maybe even chaotic. I have lots of plans, but God will determine how I will get there. The key is for me to rest, be still and believe that God knows, He sees and He will carry out His plans in my life as I acknowledge his presence by being still! Doesn’t that take off the pressure? What release of pressure do you need to acknowledge to be ready for the next season?


20,000 Days and Counting

20,000 Days CoverI have been alive 19,852 days since entering the world. It’s sobering to think that my days are numbered and my life is finite. I won’t live forever.

I was reminded of that this past weekend when my own sweet Dad was admitted to the hospital unexpectantly. He is okay, they are running more tests, but it gave all of us a scare. I love my Dad, I want him to live forever, but the reality is, he won’t and everyone else I love won’t either. The same weekend my Dad was in the hospital, my cousin lost her Dad as he also ended up in the hospital. Today is the memorial service. He was so young, my Dad is much older. I am so sad for her, but it made me think of what Psalm 90:12 says “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” I want wisdom to live each day don’t you? And yet so many of my days just happen randomly with no purpose or plan. I get tired, I get discouraged and the highs of yesterday turn into a reality check of life just plain hurts sometimes. That’s how I feel today, kind of blah, blah, blah. I know I am tired, it’s been crazy busy lately. How do you and I move past those thoughts and feelings living each day no matter what with purpose? God created us for a purpose and His delight is for us to live intentionally every single day!

Robert D. Smith in his book 20,000 Days and Counting gives insight into developing wisdom by measuring our life in days rather in years. He says this, If we learn how to die, we’ll know how to live; if we learn how to live, we’ll know how to die. Wow, that hit me hard. What he says in this short poignant book is that we shouldn’t wait until we have a crisis or trauma in our lives to live life with intensity, we should prepare right now. Knowing our purpose helps us to live life with intention. There are a great number of resources available to help figure out your purpose but I want to give you a simple one just now from his book I finished reading, because it only takes about 20 minutes.

He suggests you grab a blank piece of paper and just start writing, everything that comes to mind and repeat it until you get the answer that gets you excited or makes you jump up and down. That is the start. Everyone has a purpose, you weren’t created to just exist and go through life aimlessly. Even our mundane routines of life have purpose, they make up the bigger picture. It’s how we live out those routines and our attitude approach that makes the difference of living with intention. I am so learning this the past few years.

If you want to go further, find a life coach, grab this book 20,000 Days and Counting or one of the many others available resources by seasoned authors whose mission is to help others find their purpose. If you need some suggestions, I’d be happy to point you in the right direction. By the way, helping others find their purpose, is a passion of mine, it is part of the purpose I know God designed for me. If you go to the coaching part of my website, you can fill out a coaching questionnaire and I offer a free 30-minute consultation to get your started. Then you can decide where you want to go from there nothing more. It’s the message I am passionate about~living life with intention and purpose. www.cynthiacavanaugh.com/coaching/

We have no excuse people. We can choose to live with purpose each and every day. I am preaching to myself RIGHT NOW, because I woke up this morning feeling rather discouraged even when I have a lot of amazing things happening in my life right now, the ugly stuff seems to take over and put a black cloud over it all that keeps me being excited about this day, right now, right here. Tomorrow it will be my 19,853rd day of life. Am I up for the challenge? I hope so, okay, YES I AM!! Will you join me? What step can you take today to move into “carefully numbering your days to develop wisdom in your heart?” What is your purpose?




The Lingering Truth of a Black Eye

Here’s the deal. I ran into the door last week. I got a black eye. A week later the pain is gone but my eye looks worse! Why is that? I decided to Google it and I found out that bruises around the eye get worse before they get better. It can take up to three weeks.That explains it, so I have another two weeks to go. Sheesh! I need more makeup.

At the risk of sounding overly obsessed with this phenomenon of my injury I’ve experienced, it has given me some more food for thought about letting go and releasing hurts. I got hurt running into the door last week, but it will get better with time. Pretty soon my eye will look normal again. Along the same line, I have never liked the saying about healing takes time because it feels like we are minimizing the initial impact. The reality is, when we get hurt trying to do the right thing it takes time to heal and it can hurt for a long, long time. The bruise is still ever present. When relationships are involved the bruise can go deep. Letting go, releasing and most importantly forgiveness is the path of following Jesus and understanding the cross. I have no other choice if I am going to be obedient. I have to let go.

Andy Stanley says in his book Enemies of the Heart, “Whenever someone hurts you, there’s a sense in which they’ve taken something from you.”

I’d never quite thought of it in that way before. When I get hurt, somebody has taken something from me. Sigh…

Andy says in his book that most of us skip a very important step when we are trying to let go and forgive. We know what they did to hurt us, but can we identify what actually was taken as a result of the hurt?  What did they take? What do we feel they owe us? We need to name what we think they owe us so we can be ready to fully release it and forgive. He goes on to say, “General forgiveness doesn’t heal specific hurts because you cannot cancel a debt that you haven’t clearly identified.”

Ouch! That quote slammed into my heart today. I realized I have missed this step in fully releasing some hurts in my life. I’ve been focusing on what’s been taken from me and didn’t even realize it. I hadn’t named it and it has kept me from cancelling the debt for good. I hadn’t completed the full cycle. I was making myself crazy because I felt I had followed the steps of letting go and forgiving but I was generalizing it seems. The missing piece became clearer today as I asked myself the question, what exactly has been taken from me in this hurt?

I’ve come to the conclusion, there are many layers to the heart. It’s complicated. God is patient. God is merciful towards me and you as we try and figure it out. He knows I want to do the right thing.  He knows that I desire to choose to forgive because I’ve been forgiven. Really, let me say it again, nobody owes me anything!

I’ve learned alot from a simple bruise on my eye. It will be around for a few more weeks, but when I look in the mirror the next 14 days as it heals, it will remind me of the truth.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32




How to Get a Blackeye

Blackeye1No, this is not a bad makeup job, this is a blackeye! I’ve never had one, so it was an experience. As you know if you’ve read my blog, we’ve had a flurry of excitement this past week. I was on call to head down to the hospital for baby #2 to be born. My bag was packed, it was late, I received a text to be ready. They were going to call.

My tired hubby was already in bed. The room was dark, the house was silent. I slipped out of bed to retrieve the phone, I tip toed to be quiet so I wouldn’t wake the tired hubby. The fan was on the left so I knew not to walk into that, but what I didn’t anticipate was the door being half open. You guessed it, I ran right smack into the door face first, foot second with a loud crash the sound of a tackle at a football game. Now the tired hubby was up and on his feet looking at his wife covering her face and trying to hobble back to bed. I was reeling from the thunder and lightnening sensation that reverberated through my skull when I hit the door. I finally got into bed and hubby administered ice packs to both wounds~head and foot. I did finally get to rest that night and the baby, Norah Lily decided to wait another day to arrive. What a thoughtful granddaughter!

This experience reminds me of trying to lead with good intentions, do all the right things and have a plan with carefully outlined steps for success. Everything can be going according to plan, it seems smooth and steady when we crash into an unknown obstacle and we get hurt. This happened to me several years back. I hit the door with one of my team members planning an event. We worked closely together. I had her back and I thought she had mine. I thought I was doing the right thing, but we ran face first into the door, an obstacle. I had good intentions but the more I tried to reconcile the issue the worse it became. I even called in back-up~wise counselors to help me, I tried everything, and it didn’t work, it wouldn’t resolve no matter how hard I tried to be humble, empathize and be gracious. I finally I had to let go, but it hurt. It hurt like crazy. I like my relationships to work, I like to think I work hard at validating others and encouraging them on my leadership team. But it didn’t happen and I felt like a failure. Not only was my heart hurt from the unkind things that were said about me but because I couldn’t fix it, I felt like I failed as a leader. And the worse part was, I had to pick up with the team and move forward without full resolution. We did the best we could as a team, it was a loss not just for me, but for the team.

What do we do when we get a blackeye as a leader? It certainly doesn’t go away overnight. This picture is a few days ago, and today my eye is blacker and bluer than it was yesterday. The appearance of the wound is prominent even though the headache has subsided, but the mark of hitting the door is still evident. That’s what hurt does, it leaves a mark on us, but it doesn’t have to define who we are. It should make us stronger and wiser.

What could I have done differently that night? I could of turned on the light, or used my iPhone as a flashlight, but even then my tired hubby would of been disturbed. So what can I learn from this? That is what I had to ask myself when I hit the door several years ago and got hurt trying to do the right thing. I finally came to the conclusion with a quiet whisper from God to just let go. I surrendered. I stopped trying to figure it all out and make sense of it, I released it and trusted God that He in his wisdom would make sense of it for me. By letting go, I received God’s peace.

Leadership is messy sometimes, it doesn’t always go according to plan. There are doors half open in the middle of the night that impede our journey. It’s what we will do after we encounter the obstacle that is the most important lesson of leadership. We take responsibility for our own actions. We trust. We let go. We learn. We leave it for God to sort out.

What has been a blackeye of leadership for you?


When It Rains, It Pours!

I am overwhelmed, and was flat on my face this past Monday night thanking God for pouring out such an abundance this week. I feel like I’m riding over a waterfall of blessings with all the events and new beginnings. My first grand-daughter was born this past Sunday, Codi Joy. I can hardly contain my excitement after 30 plus years of boys and more boys. I have revelled in being a mother of boys but have looked forward to the day we would have a girl in the family! Watching my kids flourish and start families of their own, my heart is so blessed. Another one is on the way any moment now, a second girl is coming. I am just waiting for that phonecall to go to the hospital. She already is like a typical girl, taking her time getting ready to come!

On Monday, my new book Unlocked:Five Myths Holding Your Influence Captive was released and with it came thoughts and feelings of gratitude to God of a life-long dream fulfilled. It all started when I was in fourth grade. I wrote a book for a class project entitled. “Irene and the Big Ballloon.” It was a simple story of a little girl and an adventure to dream big and to travel. She built a balloon and went far and wide in her adventures.

As I was thinking about that first literary work when I was just 9 years old, I had an epiphany. The dreams and desires planted in my little girl heart back then aren’t that much different today. I still have many of those same dreams, but now it is wider and deeper. I have a dream to encourage others to embrace their significance as God has made and designed them. I have a dream to help others make a difference in their world. I have a dream to impart hope to the hopeless. I have a dream to love well, and for my life to be a fragrance that lingers with the love and mercy of Jesus. I have a dream to live boldly and leave a strong godly legacy. I am still dreaming and will until I draw my last breath! I know it might sound funny that I am describing dreams in this context, but I am really using it as an adjective and believe what Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” For me, dreaming is aspiring to, reaching towards and thinking of attaining something. Not something impossible, but a tangible ideal that will transform my realm of influence. Let me ask, what are you dreaming about these days?

To use a well-worn phrase, it’s been an amazing week! Not all weeks are a flood of emotions as this one has been, but once in awhile it’s great to have a down pour~especially if you have experienced a drought! I am reminded of one of my favorite verses. “When you walk through the valley of weeping there shall be pools of blessings after the rain.”  Psalms 84:5,6

More info on Unlocked and to read an excerpt: http://www.newhopedigital.com/2013/08/unlocked/


My Addiction with Cookie Butter

Cookie ButterThis is going to be a totally frivolous post. I am just warning you.  Tomorrow I have a surprise and some newsy items, and will give you the “real” post. But today, I thought I would share with you my love affair with COOKIE BUTTER!

I first was introduced to this sinful and wicked delight when I was on a trip this past year. I had seen it many times in Trader Joe’s, but for some reason passed it by. It just sounded weird! Now I am the one who is weird because I have become addicted (OUCH!) to this delectable treat, so much so that I had been stalking Trader Joe’s for over a month. They ran out. How dare they! They were only getting a case a day and every time I showed up, in the morning in the afternoon, in the evening, I got the same answer, WE ONLY HAVE A CASE AND IT’S ALL GONE! I was tempted to blame my shopping neighbors to the North for stealing all of it, but I confessed. They were entitled to the addiction as much as I was. Sigh….

I finally gave up asking, and last week I was running an errand and I sent my hubbie to TJ to pick up a few items. Guess what he came back with when he picked me up? Two jars, I couldn’t believe it! I told him we had to go back and get more, what if they run out again? He looked at me with that look that says, “I’d better do what she says because she has that wild look in her eye.” So we turned around and we went back. I quickly made my way down the aisle and there it was, rows and rows of Cookie Butter. I just stood there and stared, blocking the path of anyone who would dare to reach over me to grab a jar. I quickly calculated how much I really should buy. What if there was another shortage?  I decided on another two jars. I thought I’d better share and not stockpile. Four jars would take care of my problem for awhile. When I went to pay for it, I told my saga to the cashier, equally she was happy for the many customers who thought they had been deprived for so long.

So you might ask, what is Cookie Butter? It is kind of a sweet and spicy spread made from Speculoos Cookies. It has the consistency of peanut butter which means it is great on toast, to dip with fruit, or on ice cream. The best way is to just take a spoon and dig in and savor it. Nasty stuff, don’t look at the calorie count, but a treat for someone weird like me!