When You Sense Your Anxiety Meter Rising

On a flight coming home from Nashville a few weeks ago, I found myself stuck in the airplane bathroom. I tugged and pulled at the folding door. I panicked. I yelled and banged on the door to which the flight attendant on the other side said, Just a minute and I will let you out.

After I was safely outside, she quietly told me so the crowd standing near me couldn’t hear that I needed to unlock the door.

How embarrassing!

How could I not know the tiny little truth of sliding the lock the opposite way? Well, it was early morning, and I hadn’t had my strong cup of tea just yet, that’s my excuse!

After a good laugh with my hubby, I realized the assumption is the door was unlocked, but I still felt stuck. Anxiety swarmed all over me at the moment, and I couldn’t even think straight.

The truth is, I wasn’t trapped, I thought I was.

Here is the dilemma many of us face. We just turned the calendar page to November, and I wonder how many of us sense the anxiety meter rising.

We feel trapped by expectations and stuck with fears of unmet expectations only to find ourselves robbed of peace and joy.

The temptation is for us to get all tied up in knots of what we think we have to do and be this time of year.

Good news!

There is a solution, and it is right in front of us.

Gratitude.

Ann Voskamp says, “The answer to deep anxiety is the deep adoration of God.” (click to tweet)

This includes the practice of gratitude.

Gratitude takes the focus off of ourselves and places it on God.

Ever wonder why Thanksgiving precedes Christmas? It’s the training ground to get our hearts ready for Advent to receive the joy of Christmas.  (click to tweet)

Because I sense my anxiety escalating already, I’ve created a journey  21 Days of Gratitude and Prayer and I am inviting you to join me.

If you’ve been following me on FB and Instagram the past several months, you know that it’s been a crazy and beautiful year of travel with my cousin, Andrea Tomassi, the co-author of  Live Bold: A Devotional Journal to Strengthen Your Soul.

We have a FB Group Live Bold Series, and we’d love you to come along and walk this 21 Days of Gratitude with us. Together, I bet we will find encouragement as we practice gratitude.

Let’s determine to capture pure joy and escape the madness in our minds of the holiday season.

Here’s how to join the 21 Days of Gratitude and Prayer journey:

Download your FREE PDF 21DaysofGratitude2018 that starts this week on Wednesday.

Each day has a daily promise to prompt reflection on the truth of gratitude and then a place to write a brief sentence of thanksgiving.

I’ve also included some other suggestions on how to expand the gratitude journey and engage as much as you like. We will be sharing along the way in the FB Group, so invite a friend and come along!

Lastly, request to join the FB Live Bold Series Group and become a part of the Live Bold community.

I hope to see you there!

Cynthia

 

 

 

 

 

When You Are Living Two Weeks Behind

Ever feel like you are living two weeks behind schedule?

Hard to catch-up?

Take a breath?

I love summer and usually I find it is a season to push the reset button.

I’ve been waiting for a few weeks now to do just that–regroup, reset, renew, refresh and all the rest of the “re” words that define rest. And yet, I feel as though I am two weeks behind hitting reset because I’m still running. Read more

Changing My Image of Prayer

When I was a little girl if I was in trouble, I often heard the phrase,

“Wait until your father comes home.”

Because I heard this phrase continually, I would withdraw and hide from my Dad.

By projecting the image I had of my own father I learned to see God as someone who was mostly angry with me and waiting to get me.

I realize even now at times, I hide from God when I am afraid, or think he won’t accept me or forgive me.

I built a false image of God in my heart that keeps me from praying.

Once I released that image, I learned I could come to God as the writer of Hebrews tells us to—“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God” (Heb. 4:16 NLT).

Albert Haase says in his book, Living the Lord’s Prayer,

“Our image of God is one of the most, if not the most important aspects of our spiritual formation. Our God image shapes and colors everything about our personal spirituality, from why we pray to how we understand personal suffering and evil in the world.” (click to tweet)

Maybe you too have created a false image of God that keeps you from the rich intimacy of prayer with God. Look at this list and circle any false image of God you realize you’ve adopted.

Arbitrary dictator

Divine traffic cop

Chess master

Puppeteer

Divine trickster

Warden

Tyrant

Controller

Now that we’ve identified our false images of God, how can we be free of that image so we can enter into communion and prayer with God?

The answer might surprise you.

Pray!

To correct the false image of God we have constructed in our minds we need to pray the truth over the falsehoods. (click to tweet)

The Bible has treasures of promises of the true image of God. Once you start digging to find them and praying these verses, it will begin to shape a new image of God in you and change the way you pray.

Since today is the National Day of Prayer, I thought I would share the above excerpt from a new book  that I wrote with my cousin Andrea Tomassi

Live Bold: A Devotional Journal to Strengthen Your Soul.

The book is divided into 12 themes that encourage the reader to live bold daily for Jesus Christ. It is a 52 week devotional that focuses on a theme and includes an action step for the week and a bible verse related to the theme to meditate on throughout the week. We also have a Facebook Community Live Bold Series and for the month of May our theme is prayer. Please consider joining us as we focus on prayer this month and learn to pray bold prayers for Jesus!

To learn more about the Live Bold Community go to www.livingbold.org

Live Bold is available on May 15th and available now for pre-order

Copyright ©2018 all rights reserved

Finding Questions to Help in Loss and Grief

I’ve been swimming in grief of losing my Mom and trying to carry on my daily responsibilities.

There isn’t always space to stop and reflect because lately my schedule has been full. I know I have to let grief have it’s way and not ignore what’s happening in my heart despite the busyness. I wanted a place to write down the deeper questions I am grappling with right now.

I created a page in my bullet journal entitled, questions to ponder and reflection. I am trying to capture the moments of God whispering to me in the pain as I am walking this new path.

Some of the sweet end of the bitter this year has been traveling with one of the sponsors, Redemption Press at the Women of Joy Tour. I am smack dab in the midst of having the opportunity to hear godly teachers and participate in rich worship while working at a job I love!

Bible teachers such as Lisa Harper, Sheila Walsh, Ann Voskamp, Babbie Mason, and others have been speaking truth into my fragile soul. The truth is a healing balm to my soul and God has met me in the promise of Psalm 34:18, that he is, “close to those who are broken-hearted and saves those crushed in spirit.”

This past Friday, in Branson, surrounded by 4200 worshipping women, we sang, It is Well with My Soul.

I said, “God I can’t do this, I am in the front row.”

This song has been a generational favorite of my grandmother’s and my Mom’s. I did what any woman does with roller coaster emotions.

I gallantly bowed my head and let the tears flow as I sang the phrase over and over again,

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Why? Because it is.

God meets us in our brokenness.

God comes to us in our hurting places.

God waits to embrace the mess and reassures us with his overwhelming love.

God met me in those five minutes of worship and rescued me.

He reached down in my lonely grief and gave me his outrageous grace of healing.

I realize I won’t always be in this space and I know I don’t have to have all the answers, but I can think about the questions that God puts before me.

Questions such as,

Am I motivated by my pain or passion to serve God? (Sheila Walsh)

Do I recognize my need for God in my desperation? (Lisa Harper)

Can I fathom that Jesus prays for me? (Babbie Mason)

If Christ bears scars, how can I despise my scars? (Ann Voskamp)

Grief softens the soil of our heart to receive truth in ways we might not have invited in the past. (Click to tweet)

I am recording my list of questions and thoughts asking God to speak to these questions in the loss.

What are you facing?

Do you have questions of truth that God is whispering to your wounded soul?

Write them down and make them a part of your conversation with God. He is waiting like the best friend you’ve ever had to give you comfort and peace in your storm.

 

 

Learn how you too can be anchored in the storm. www.cynthiacavanaugh.com/anchored

Making Grief Your Friend

I boarded a plane two days after I learned my mother graduated to heaven.

I had an assignment.

For months, two monumental events were planned that took place this past week. Anchored: Leading Through the Storms was released with a book party at our local bookstore. The Women Of Joy Tour started, and I was heading to Tennessee where my cousin Andrea and I were featured authors with Redemption Press for our new devotional Live Bold, which was also making its debut.

The day after I received the news my Mom had passed, I wondered how I would garner the strength to finish the week. I was already hanging on by a thread. I was emotionally spent and had many restless nights anticipating the news of my Mom’s death. I know God doesn’t make mistakes and it is no accident that all these events converged.

I decided to forge ahead with the plans not because I was ignoring the grief in my heart or trying to be a super saint, but because I believed with everything I am that God was in the center of this storm.

It wasn’t a surprise. He knew before it even took place.

I believe he wasn’t inviting me to lie down in the boat. Rather, he was asking me to trust him with my fragile heart and hang onto the boat’s wheel, and he would help me navigate the wind and the waves of grief.

I chose to go into the weekend with grief as my companion and friend.

My greatest fear was that I wouldn’t be able to contain my emotions and it would impair my ability to function.

I sensed God whispering to me to surrender my roller coaster emotions and trust him. I wrestled with the many what if’s and doubts.

Gently, he reassured me this was his plan, and he would uphold me with his right hand. The songs my Mom loved such as the old hymns, In the Garden and It is Well with My Soul, flooded my mind as the weekend approached.

They gave me comfort and Psalm 11:15, Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants was like a warm blanket covering my soul.

The day we left I woke up with a renewed sense of strength. I felt carried close in God’s arms, and I was able to choose joy in the midst of my grief.

I allowed grief to become my friend by not shutting it out.

Grief met me in the songs the worship leader, Babbie Mason sang and reminded me that my Mom is praising Jesus and is whole and free.

Grief led me to see the truth in God’s word as the speakers spoke the truth that Jesus prays for me, loves me, and extends mercy and grace in the midst of grief.

Grief extended love to me through the prayers of strangers and kind words from new friends.

Grief allowed me to empathize and enter into other’s pain and pray for healing and restoration.

Grief leads me to Jesus because he understands every runaway emotion I experience and allows me the space to rest even when I can’t make sense of my thoughts and feelings. (click to tweet)

Grief encourages me to claim Jesus as my anchor because he understands what I can’t fully understand.

I am holding on to everything I know to be true about my God because he is the best captain of the boat in the storm of grief.

Find out more about being anchored in the storm. www.cynthiacavanaugh.com/anchored

The Joy and Sadness of Writing

I’ve been a writer since I was in 3rd grade and wrote my first book Irene and the Big Balloon. I even illustrated it myself. It was a single copy meant to engage an exclusive audience of two…my parents!

They fostered the creativity by buying me a red gold leaf edged diary with a lock and key. I would wander off to my secret place on the side of the wooded hill in the back of our house and write. I dreamed of writing a book someday that would go beyond the confines of my little world to impact others.

I am incredibly grateful that this dream has been realized more than once Anchored: Leading Through the Storms is being released today. It is an exciting time planned with a book launch at my local bookstore and other events over the next weeks and months.

And yet the excitement is mingled with a sense of sadness.

My Mom is moments away from entering into heaven and today is possibly the day.

God isn’t surprised and he knew the contents of this book and the converging of these events.

A few months back when we first learned of my Mom’s cancer, I was rereading the first few chapters of the book before I went to sleep. The tears rolled down my cheeks as God encouraged me through the story of the disciples on the lake with Jesus in Mark 4. I might add, IN MY OWN BOOK!

That’s what happens sometimes, as an author. You write a book not just for an audience of readers, but write it for yourself because it is a part of the big picture story that God is writing in you and me.

I said goodbye to my Mom a little over 10 days ago. I had the chance to read her a few chapters and she encouraged me just as she did in the 3rd grade.

“This is really good, and I can tell it comes from the heart.”

Her words meant everything to me in that moment. I read to her the story of Job and the anchors he placed in his life before his catastrophic storm hit when he lost everything. The anchors held him steadfast as he walked through a valley of immense suffering.

My Mom, like Job has cultivated her strong anchors to face the storm of this insidious illness. She confessed in her suffering that she knows God is present and holding her close. She sang with us her favorites in her weak condition holding onto her assurance of hope that she will soon be pain-free and with her Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

I am grateful for the legacy of faith my Mom taught me, that even now as we let her go, I find myself anchored in Jesus in this difficult storm of loss.

One anchor I am holding onto is…

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. 2 Peter 1:3  (click to tweet)

This is what I hope the reader will find between the pages of my new book. Hope and encouragement from God’s Word and anchors to help  stand strong in the midst of a storm.

Find out more about being anchored in the storm.

www.cynthiacavanaugh.com/anchored

Special Purchase on PUB DAY WEEK

https://www.newhopepublishers.com/shop/anchored/

 

 

 

Living in Uncertainty

One of the things I love about being a life coach is helping people clarify their purpose and find their stride. Most of us, if not all of us, find several times throughout our lives of living in uncertainty. Change can be disconcerting and even frightening. But instead of dreading change we can see it as a window of time that provides a chance to see the broader landscape. It is often in these moments God moves us further onto His agenda.

When life is sure, the temptation is to get too comfortable. We are creatures of habit, and we like our routines. It works after all, so why break the cycle?

Living wholly surrendered to God means our lives are not our own. We give the Creator of the universe permission to mix things up and move things around even if it means taking us out of our comfort zones.

The undoing of a leader is thinking uncertainty is the enemy. (click to tweet) Rather I find uncertainty is a God opportunity to help shift us to the next level of leadership and more accurately into the next level of character He is building in us.

Living in uncertainty can be like watching a cyclone off in the distance. We see those winds circling and wonder how they will impact us. We aren’t sure how and where the storm will hit.

It is in the waiting with God where we find peace in the eye and center of the storm.  (click to tweet)

When I work with leaders who are facing transition I often take them through a basic process on purpose. Why? Because it is good to revisit who we are and where we see God in our lives and assess our experiences and abilities. I call it the “What do I know to be true about me?” exercise.

I help them evaluate their values, strengths, and weaknesses and create or revisit their mission statement. Staying true to who you know you are in Jesus helps you not fear the uncertainty of the winds even if they are within striking distance and feel too close for comfort.

There are things that happen as a result of uncertainty.

Sometimes we doubt our calling.

We question whether or not we heard God right.

We wrestle.

We ask questions.

We flip back and forth analyzing our life and experiences.

Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. Thinking critically in a time of uncertainty and using discernment is wisdom. If you find yourself in a place of uncertainty, ask the hard questions.

Why am I doing what I am doing?

Have I experienced any defining moments of affirmation along the way?

Am I focused on my primary gifts for maximum impact?

Ask others around you; find people in your life who will let you ask the hard questions and not just tell you what you want to hear. (click to tweet)

Other times we see uncertainty as the end of something we thought was good. But change or the end of one assignment doesn’t necessarily mean there is not goodness ahead.

Remember, God is good all of the time, not only when things are going well, ministry is soaring, and you see incredible results.

God is good in the valleys.

God is good in the crisis.

God is good in the uncertainty . . . all of the time. (click to tweet)

I challenge you to think of uncertainty as an opportunity to bring closure to a chapter in a book while anticipating a new chapter ahead.

God is the one writing your story, and he often writes our story in chapters. There is, however, a measure of mystery, as Paul David Tripp writes in his book, New Morning Mercies,

There will always be a mystery in your life. God will always surprise you with what he brings your way. You will always be con-fronted with the unplanned and the unexpected.  All of this is because you don’t rule your life and you don’t write your own story.

Start anticipating. I dare you to embrace uncertainty. Watch for the surprises God has for you and worship in wonder as you wait.

 

Excerpt from Anchored: Leading in the Storms

Find out more about being anchored in the storm.

www.cynthiacavanaugh.com/anchored

All rights reserved. Copyright 2018

Thinking Clearly in a Storm

I am an overachiever, overworker, overperfectionist, and overthinker. These dysfunctions in my life have come as a result of analyzing too much and not taking my thoughts and filtering them through God’s Word and direction.

I’ve had to work hard to retrain my brain so when I am in a storm, I can make a choice to confess my faith in a way that leverages my ability to see God and rise above my circumstances.

It has been a long, arduous journey, but to date, my faith is rooted deeper.

I live in Psalm 1:2–3:

“His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.”

My prayer is that I will be planted deep in Jesus by the river so when the floodwaters rise I will not only survive, but I will flourish and thrive.

The more I practice detoxing my thinking and focusing on God’s Word the more I can rise above the obstacles. (click to tweet)

I move from being paralyzed, stuck on the riverbank watching the hopelessness of a rushing river, to a place of confident faith.

I have come to understand a few things about my thoughts.

First, my thoughts are real, and they are a result of what I observe, feel, and experience.

I can’t dismiss them and simply wish them away.

I must deal with recurring negative thoughts or they will deal with me.(click to tweet)

I need to, as Dr. Leaf says, “replace it with the correct information.”

Taking the random thought and vetting it through Philippians 4:8 is a good place to start.

 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

And we can’t forget verse nine, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Want peace from toxic thoughts? The only way to achieve the God kind of peace in a storm, is to filter our thoughts through his Word.

Excerpt from Anchored: Leading Through the Storms

All rights reserved. Copyright 2018

Find out more about being anchored in the storm.

www.cynthiacavanaugh.com/anchored

How to Sleep in a Storm Under Stress

I have always been a good sleeper. When all my friends talk about their tossing and turning and taking melatonin, I tune out. I can fall asleep nearly anywhere. And naps? I relish my Sunday afternoon naps.

Tomorrow is National Public Sleeping Day.

I wonder if that’s the day Jesus fell asleep in the boat during a storm on National Public Sleeping Day. Okay, NOT! Just kidding!

Seriously speaking, here is the scene, the account of Matthew in chapter eight which says, “There arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves, but he was asleep.” (Matthew 8:24)

How can that be? Jesus asleep in a fierce storm? The disciples were probably dumbfounded that Jesus was asleep in the storm, They panicked and woke Jesus up.

He must have been sleeping pretty hard with all the wind and waves pounding against the boat. Never-the-less, Jesus, replied “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”

And we know the rest of the story. He commanded the wind and the waves to cease and all was well.

To get the full context of the story you have to read the few chapters before and after. Jesus was just plain tuckered out. He had preached the Sermon on the Mount and went straight to healing the masses that followed him.

After the episode on the sea, it was more of the same. He needed to restore and renew. The storm didn’t seem to bother him and the exhaustion coupled with the noise of the waves lulled him to sleep, at least we could picture it that way.

Sleeping in the middle of a storm seems kinda crazy doesn’t it? When we have a strong wind and rain storm at home, even though I am a great sleeper, it can keep me awake. Imagine being in a boat! The racket would be louder than ever. But here we find Jesus sound asleep.

Jesus asks his companions why they are fearful and chides them for their lack of faith. He doesn’t seem to be concerned about the circumstance they find themselves in the boat and the storm.

Why? Mostly, because he is God, the creator of the water, the waves, and the wind.

There is another lesson for us besides recognizing the power of Jesus in a storm that brings calm and peace to a raging sea.

There is something lodged in between the lines of this story that we would be wise to pay attention to.

Another part of trusting God in a storm, is realizing God sees the bigger picture. (click to tweet).

If the storm doesn’t bother him and he is orchestrating our lives, we can let down our anxiety and actually rest.

Peacefully.

We can take care of ourselves physically and emotionally. Why?

Because the stress of a storm can drain us dry. Leaning into the stress and running crazy letting anxiety and fear keep us from resting is a recipe for disaster. Sleep is important all of the time, but when we are under greater duress it is even more critical so we can cope with what is happening.

Here’s how you can know if you aren’t able to sleep in a storm. Your answer to these questions is your clue.

Do you find yourself not being able to rest because your anxiety level is over the top?

Is stress ruling your mind in the storm so you can’t even take a little nap when you know that’s what you need?

Bingo! How did you do?

Jesus gives us a simple visual we can follow. When our boat is being swamped by waves, we can rest, we can sleep, we can nap, if we believe God is in charge of the wind and waves. He is our anchor. If Jesus can sleep in a storm, we can too! (click to tweet)

Speak to your fear and anxiety this week.

Trust God.

Take care of yourself and take a nap.

You’ll be glad you did and when you wake up, things just might not look as bad. Go ahead, sleep in the storm because Jesus is handling those waves that might be trying to swamp your boat.

Happy National Public Sleeping Day!

Find out more about staying anchored in a storm, cynthiacavanaugh.com/anchored

A Checklist to Take Care of Yourself in a Storm

Storms can knock the stuffing out of us.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is about Elijah and the storm he faced on Mount Carmel in I Kings 18. He came to the end of himself after his great victory when the prophets of Baal were defeated. After that event he found himself running for his life from Queen Jezebel. She was determined to have his head after he killed all of her idolatrous prophets.

After running for his life, Elijah sat under a tree, ready to die. His exhaustion caused him to forget the faithfulness of God. He was cranky, tired, and hungry and he worried about Jezebel coming to get him. So God sent an angel with some food to restore him. The state of his soul was in disrepair, and he needed to sleep, eat, and get some perspective so he could start trusting God again and stop worrying.

Elijah was just plain tuckered out and wanted to be all by himself. Maybe that’s why he left his servant. He wanted to be miserable all alone. He had been working day and night for God, and all the emotional energy he gave at Mount Carmel defeating the prophets of Baal did him in.

The words of Queen Jezebel elicited fear and doubt, and he decided to tell God he had enough. You notice the Lord didn’t respond to his lament and request to end his life. Instead, God sent him something to eat to strengthen him. Not once but twice in between Elijah’s naps. When the storm takes more than we bargain for, God knows what we need.

He doesn’t beat us up and whip us to get back out and serve. “He knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust” (Psalm 103:14 NLT).

Sometimes to gain a fresh perspective in our lives is to do as Elijah did.

Take a nap.

Eat something.

In other words, take care of ourselves.

God probably chose not to answer Elijah because He knew he was at the end of his reserves, and no amount of convincing would stop his whining until he got some rest.

This holds true especially when we are battling the wind and waves in a storm. We have to recognize when we are at the end and pay attention to our warning signs of being completely done.

When Kevin and I were in the darkest part of our storm, the one statement my counselor and those I was accountable to asked me over and over again, “What was I doing to take care of myself?” I was so caught up in trying to withstand the battering waves that I would forget what taking care of myself even looked like because I was so emotionally exhausted.

I don’t think it has to be all that complicated. We can use this story of Elijah as a basis for creating a checklist of what we should do when we find ourselves on the edge of having a meltdown and being done.

  • Don’t leave your friends behind. Though we don’t know the reason Elijah left his servant behind, it’s never a good idea to isolate ourselves when we are in a storm.
  • Don’t take yourself so seriously when you are empty. ?When you are tired and have pushed yourself past the point of no return, you can’t take yourself too seriously. Your emotions can run away, causing you to worry, fear, and have a pity party. Bundle it up, speak it out, and then let it go.
  • Take a nap! ?Yes, you heard me. When we are sleep deprived nothing works well. We have to make space in our lives for our bodies and our minds to restore.
  • Nourish yourself. ?When I am stressed out to the max—I know this will sound weird—I forget to eat. When I remember, or ?my stomach reminds me, I don’t always choose the best foods. I am working on it even as I am walking through some stressful days the past month.

Seems fairly basic, doesn’t it? Sometimes we make the idea of recharging too complicated. We think we have to run to another country, sit on a beach, and do nothing for two weeks. I am not trying to be too simplistic here, but I believe much of our exhaustion could be thwarted if we paid more attention to our soul and what it is saying to us. Our physical bodies and our emotional and mental states are all connected, and we would be wise to listen.

Once we have gone through the checklist, we then can discover what the voice deep inside of us is trying to communicate and put ourselves in a better place.

Excerpt taken from: Anchored: Leading Through the Storms

All rights reserved. Copyright 2018

Find out more about being anchored in the storm. www.cynthiacavanaugh.com/anchored/

TWEETABLES:

When we are battling the wind and waves in a storm, we need to recognize when we are at the end and pay attention to the warning signs of being completely done.

I was so caught up in trying to withstand the battering waves that I would forget what taking care of myself even looked like because I was so emotionally exhausted.

Don’t leave your friends behind.

Sometimes we make the idea of recharging too complicated.