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.

 

 

When You Have to Wait in a Storm

The word wait has been interrupting my world lately.

In South Carolina last month, I had to wait several hours in an airport because I was one of the hundreds of others caught in a snowstorm and stranded.

I had a stack of boarding passes from being rebooked several times. I nearly sat down and cried at one point because I was weary and wanted to get home. It took two days to make it back home. Fortunately, my good friend Edie, graciously drove an hour and half  to pick me up to spend the night and wait until I could fly back home.

Since then I’ve waited for…

The news from family regarding the health of a parent,

Approval for a massive project I’ve been working on,

The weather to change at the airport last week due to another snowstorm when I was visiting my children,

And nearly 30 minutes waiting on the phone to solve a mix-up online order.

Waiting is a part of life, and yet we despise waiting in our culture.

It sabotages our plans.

It threatens to submerge our joy when we have to wait longer than 5 minutes in a drive-through for our coffee.

We are spoiled and impatient because we don’t like to wait for anything.

We need answers today and solutions immediately.

Unwillingness to wait breeds an anxious heart, especially when we are facing a storm. Uneasiness sets in and paralyzes our hope when we can’t have the answers we need to move ahead. Honestly, I hate to wait, and God brought this to my attention again this morning as I read these verses.

I pray to God-my life a prayer-and wait for what he’ll say and do. My life’s on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning, waiting and watching till morning. Psalm 130:5,6 (Message)

I’ve noticed in the Bible that when God repeats himself, it’s like putting a stop sign in the middle of the highway for us to pay attention and wait because we are moving too fast. Waiting and watching till morning is repeated for a purpose. To slow down and not just practice waiting, but also to watch.

The two storms I encountered at the airports caused me to wait and watch. I had no control. I couldn’t make anything move faster. I was forced to wait and watch until something changed so I could get to my destination.

Snowstorms are unpredictable, and they also change radically bringing the unexpected. Storms in life are also uncertain, and they cause us to wait and watch, wait and watch.

We can’t watch for anything if we don’t stop to wait. To slow down and settle into the wait can heighten our anticipation and watch for the answer. Being still and waiting sets us up to watch for God to reveal his will in our situation.

One of my granddaughters stands on the couch and waits by the window to watch for her Nana when we’ve planned a date together. Her parents tell me when I arrive how long she’s been waiting and watching. She knows I am coming and because she is nearly three she doesn’t fully understand the concept of time. So she waits and watches, waits and watches.

When we believe that God holds the answer to our problems in a storm, we can wait and watch just like my little granddaughter because we can believe by faith that he is faithful. He won’t fail and we can trust that what he says is true because he has the best track record.

The next time you are facing a storm, wait and watch, wait and watch.

God is coming, he is never late with the solution, and he promises if we invite him he will come alongside and wait with us, as we wait and watch.

TWEETABLES:

Unwillingness to wait breeds an anxious heart, especially when we are facing a storm 

Being still and waiting sets us up to watch for God to reveal his will in our situation.

God is coming, he is never late with the solution, and he promises if we invite him he will come alongside and wait with us, as we wait and watch.

An Invitation to ~ Anchored: Leading Through the Storms

Let’s face it. Life is hard and full of storms. We can’t escape them because they are inevitable.

My artist friend Staci Frenes, has written a song, Storms. I had to listen to it several times before I could catch the real message of the song. It’s because most songs about storms we hear direct us to find comfort and hope in a storm. I love those kinds of songs.

But I found Staci’s song different in that it is an invitation to not fear the storms in life but rather invite them.

She sings…

I wish you storms,

beautiful storms,

the kind that break you and make you,

more tender than before.

The song goes on to talk about surrendering to everything in the storm because there is a purpose. Beauty can emerge from difficult places in life.

Storms threaten to break us or change us for the better. Sometimes they do both!

I was in this very type of storm that broke me and transformed my life. The darkness gave way to a deeply intimate relationship with God.

I learned what it meant to stand strong in a storm when life rages all around. Jesus became the one sure anchor to hold onto. And yet it brought me to the place I am today and I am grateful.

Which brings me to my invitation to you…

Part of my story of the storm I encountered has landed in my latest book, Anchored: Leading Through the Storms. I’ve lived most of my life in roles of ministry and leadership. My desire in telling my own story and the stories of others, is to bring a message of hope to other ministry leaders and influencers of how to stand strong in adversity and keep your integrity.

Anchored is a book that will equip all believers with biblical and leadership principles necessary to maintain influence and courageously remain anchored to the Rock-Jesus Christ.

I would be so honored if you would consider praying about joining the Anchored Book Influencers Team.

Although it will require some strategy to get the message out, I promise you we will also have some fun!

Spaces are limited, and if you are interested check out:

www.cynthiacavanaugh.com/anchored/  

You can find all the details and fill out a brief application to be considered for the Anchored Dream Team.

My publisher will be announcing the Anchored Influencers Team on February 12th. And a few days later you will receive an advance copy in the mail before the release date on March 19th.

If you can’t join me, you can participate in the party online when you see a post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Just sharing a post or two helps get the word out.

I will also be doing a series on my blog with free resources on this topic so stay tuned!

How to Let Go, Let God and Choose Joy This Christmas

Panicky thoughts overwhelmed me yesterday as I was about to finish up everything for Christmas.

It’s what happens to me each time I approach a deadline about anything. And even though I try to plan well and organize my time, the moments still come.

It’s a mystery. I can so easily get caught up in the frenzy and the rush around me.

We are mere hours away from celebrating Christmas and I am working to practice what I’ve been writing to you about, embracing the gifts of imperfection this Christmas. These are the questions I am asking myself as I ponder the why’s and the how’s of my crazy emotions. I ask them of you too….

Can we embrace the fact that our lives are messy, our families aren’t perfect, there are problems, money, relationships, jobs? Can we stay out of the pit of denial and just get that life is messy?

Can we let go of the need for perfection for gifts – what is the perfect gift anyway? Who needs anything? Does it really matter if we get the wrong gift for them? If you and I can shop for our loved ones embracing that attitude we can actually enjoy the process.

Can we let go of the need for perfection in our relationships? Wanting that Uncle or Mom/Dad, brother, sister, child to act appropriately so we can all enjoy Christmas? Can we just accept the fact that our family is messy and just not let it rob our joy? Let that relative be cranky and set a boundary? I know it’s harder than we can imagine, but if we can embrace the imperfection, we won’t be disappointed as much.

Can we let go of the need for perfection of having the perfect home at Christmas and that it’s not going to even look close to the commercials we see on television?

Can we embrace the imperfection of the beauty of what we have to be festive with our own creativity in our house? If we can do that, we will see Christmas through a whole new lens.

Can we let go of the perfection of expecting others in our world to act with kindness and joy when we are out and about? Instead can we embrace the imperfection in our society and instead seek to offer a smile or a kind word when someone is being crabby because they think we stole their place in line, or picked up the last toy they wanted?

Can we be kind to ourselves and be self-compassionate so we don’t have remember like my grandkids sucking the daylights out of the straw to get what we want? We really don’t have to suck it up to feel good about ourselves or guilty because we can’t seem to find the joy and peace we need. If we just embrace the imperfections, we will experience the joy, peace and love we so want to during Christmas. Even if it isn’t perfect!! In fact, right now, let me tell you, it won’t be perfect!!

Mary had no choice, there was imperfection screaming all around her in every way.

Mary was probably only about 14 years old and yet she was a young girl wise beyond her years.

Can we follow her example and with humility ask for help when we need it this year?

Can we accept what happens even if it isn’t in the plan, and keep our hope in believing God for the future no matter now messy our lives are?

Can we practice self-compassion?

Can we treat ourselves the way we love to treat others?

Lastly, can we receive and accept the Jesus that was born in an imperfect barn and died on a rough imperfect wood hewn cross for us?

Can we receive the gift of His love for us this Christmas?

God came near.

That is what Christmas is all about. God reaching down into our messy, unruly and broken lives to touch our weary soul with the kiss of His love.

Receiving the gift is so easy. It is acknowledging our need for him, that we are imperfect, that we’ve made mistakes, we’ve failed, we’ve sinned and we just plain need him in our lives, every waking moment!

Can we take a few moments and “be still” inviting the Prince of Peace into our frenzy?

Letting go and being still calls me to remember that phrase from an old song~

”Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”

It starts with my heart, inviting Jesus to bring rest to my busyness.

It calls me to unwrap the gift of choosing joy in the midst of how hard I try to keep up with expectations for Christmas.

Let go,

let God,

and choose joy.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dispelling the Myth of the Perfect Christmas: Part 3

I’ve always wished I could of witnessed first hand when the angel came to visit Mary. Here was an ordinary teenage girl experiencing the supernatural phenomena of the messenger from God Himself. I can’t hardly wrap my brain around it let alone conceive how I would respond if I were her.

And yet Mary’s response captivates me.

When she got over the shock of the news, she worked through her confusion and questions with the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true. Then the angel left.”

Brilliant response.

Faith-filled and a heart that held TRUST as a core value.

She didn’t cower or run in fear, she believed and pressed into the experience. That alone speaks of her immense faith. Is that why God chose her because of the strength of character and belief demonstrated by her life?

As I read the story I focus in on three gifts she seemed to embrace. They are all imperfect, but yet they were the gifts that set her course.

The first gift was humility.

She acknowledged that she was God’s servant and knew she couldn’t do this by herself, she couldn’t orchestrate how it would all happen, she had to rely on God, she had no choice. It was all faith or nothing.

The second was acceptance.

She was willing to accept the imperfect process of how God was laying it all out. The day the angel came, her life changed forever. So many questions unanswered. She confirmed to the angel she would trust and believe God would indeed bring it about. She let go of any control.

The last gift she embraced was the gift of faith.

She had the faith to believe in something bigger than herself by hoping everything the angel said would come true.

Mary embraced the gifts of her fragile humanness and her imperfections. Those around her, the heritage of her people the Jews, expected so much more.

In some ways they demanded their Messiah to come in pure perfection, royally and splendidly.

But Jesus trumped the expected and came unexpectedly.

He arrived in a smelly barn, with dung and hay and poverty.

He was perfect, but he came to an imperfect world.

Jesus was a huge disappointment in his arrival to the nation of Israel because he turned everything upside down. No wonder they had a hard time embracing who Christ was. His calling card was less than perfect.

In the same way, Christmas can come as a disappointment to us in its arrival because of our own expectations.

In the days leading up to Christmas, I don’t think we start that way. It evolves because we have so many other voices and vices that dictate what it should look like.

We expect this time of the year for everyone to behave themselves and be holly and jolly.

Why should they, really?

Just because it’s Christmas?

Why would all of a sudden those cranky relatives turn up at your door-step transformed? When will we get it?

We are an imperfect people and when the stress elevates it heightens our behavior. Each and every one of us have a default switch when stress shows up on our doorstep.

How do we avoid slipping into that mode and flipping that switch? We follow Mary’s example. We embrace the three gifts of humility, acceptance and faith. Here’s what I think it looks like.

We don’t try to do everything all by ourselves.

We set limits.

We ask for help.

When we are tired, we readjust.

We practice humility by letting someone help us that might not do it ‘our way.’

I have a confession to make. I didn’t exercise humility when we put up our Christmas lights a few days ago. I got impatient. I had a vision in my head and expected my husband to read my mind. I was cranky and had to apologize later. Who wants to help a cranky person anyway? No one. Be humble, let go and share the diversity of making Christmas happen.

We accept the imperfect days leading up to Christmas.

We surrender to sitting and practicing ‘being still.’

We listen to that small still voice and remember that people are more important than anything. That includes the person who wants to steal your parking place at the crowded mall, or the person who cuts in line when you’ve waited and are next. We surrender unruly emotions and turn them into kind acts of service and words.

We accept imperfect all around us.

Lastly, we believe.

We choose to believe that Christmas is bigger than us.

It isn’t about you or me, presents, lights, dinner, relatives, a clean house or a perfect Christmas program.

It’s just about Jesus. God coming near to our brokenness, our failure, our emptiness and offering His incredible love wrapped up in a song of hope and peace.

 

Dispelling the Myth of Perfection at Christmas: Part 2

There are 12 days, 15 hours, 32 minutes and 18 seconds until Christmas arrives.

How are you doing?

Are you giving yourself room to be imperfect?

Are you tuning out some of the bombarding messages that the stores and media are sending to us?

I am more aware of this since I wrote about it and had a twist of events that only helped me to check myself.

I ordered my Christmas cards a few years ago for the first time with a new company. I was early that year and so proud of myself! I was planning to get them out ‘perfectly’ by December 2nd or 3rd.

The little orange package arrived.

I ripped into it like a child opening a long awaited Christmas present.

I couldn’t believe what I found. Perfect strangers on those cards, an adorable family, but not us! It was a mistake.

Sigh…now I wouldn’t get my cards out when I wanted to. It wouldn’t be, are you ready for this?

PERFECT!

That thought actually crossed my mind! It actually made me laugh after I hung up the phone to correct the mistake because I had no choice but to adjust my expectation of getting those cards out. December was starting out imperfect already and I was faced with choosing to embrace it and let it go.

My grandkids have an expectation when I take them out for lunch. They have a favorite restaurant that have a tankful of fish that match those in the movie Finding Nemo and the best chocolate shakes in town.

Each time we go, it’s comical to watch them as they try to get the shake up into the straw and into their mouths. Their little cheeks suck in so hard like the fish they are watching in the tank as they work the straw. The shake is so thick it takes them awhile. Nearly every time I have to tell them to swirl it around, wait a little until it melts and be patient because then the goodness of what’s in the glass will come up eventually. They don’t realize they wouldn’t have to suck it up so hard if they would wait.

Here’s what I think we do around the holidays. We get so overwhelmed by all the jam-packed things that need to happen that we push down all the goodness that is waiting for us in the glass. We keep sucking it up and sucking it up until we make ourselves crazy. We never get the good stuff like joy, peace and love because we are trying so hard to make the perfect holiday. Instead, we should be waiting with anticipation through Advent and embracing the imperfections.

Jesus mother Mary, had no choice but to embrace the imperfections while having the greatest favor ever to be bestowed on a woman. She had to embrace the imperfection of being ridiculed because she was pregnant knowing she was a virgin and not married. In Jewish times, it was cause for her to be taken outside the city and stoned.

She had to embrace the imperfection that she couldn’t even give birth in her home town, in the comfort of her own home, with her mom around or her family. Instead she had to travel miles away and not even know where she was going to lay her newborn son down to sleep for his first night on earth.

She had to embrace the imperfection of giving birth in a smelly dirty barn with strangers all around.

Mary had to embrace the imperfection of knowing she was the mother of the coming Messiah and Savior and not knowing what lie ahead, her future uncertain.

Did she know, her baby boy was to be the savior of the whole world? And one day he would actually be beaten, tortured and then suffer an agonizing death to bridge the gap of sinful man so we could live a meaningful life in freedom and have life eternal? Did she know all of this? Did she try to control the circumstances and make everything perfect? Did she know how hard it would be? I venture not.

She had no control, so she made a choice to embrace the gifts of imperfection so she could experience joy, peace and love that was offered to her in the gift of being Jesus mother.

As we continue to approach these coming days before Christmas, let me ask.

What ‘perfect’ do you need to let go of to receive all the divine goodness that God wants to give to you this season?

Like my Christmas card mistake, where do your expectations need to be adjusted? Can I encourage you to choose joy and gratitude right now this moment and revel in the wonder of anticipating the celebration of Jesus?

It shouldn’t be that hard so why do you and I make it so? Just like those little boys with their chocolate shakes, choose to swirl the goodness around, be patient and wait in anticipation for the joy and peace to come!

Dispelling the Myth of Perfection at Christmas

There are exactly 20 days 13 hours 4 minutes and 40 seconds left until Christmas, or as my grandkids would say 20 sleeps left! I don’t know about you but right now as that clock is clicking down it makes me go into a cold sweat and break out in hives.

How about you? Knowing that there are only 20 sleeps left before Christmas hits your doorstep.

Maybe you are feeling a little…

Panic

Anxiety

I want it to be over

I don’t want to think about it

Rush

Relatives

What is it that happens at this time of the year that causes us to freak out and turn into women that we normally don’t seem to be the rest of the year?

I was trying to explain this to my husband and he said,

“I don’t think people struggle with that as much as they used to, I think that it’s just a few people like you.”

Now he wasn’t trying to be mean or heartless, I think it is because most men just don’t get everything that goes into Christmas. Not because they don’t want to, but for them, they pretty much just show up for the holidays like a guest. They might do a few things at our request like help clean, cook, wrap some gifts and wrangle the kids together but most of it seems to fall on us.

My husband has always been a tremendous help and asks frequently what he can do especially when my voice gets higher and stressed!

Here’s a side tip, nothing to do with where I’m headed but it will help make Christmas smoother,  Be sure and give your husband kudos of appreciation when he jumps to your side this Christmas in the prep. I know that sometimes they see us stressed and don’t know how to fix it, and when they jump in be appreciative as much as you can without any cranky remarks. I am preaching to myself right now!

To help Kevin out a bit when we were having this discussion, I nonchalantly pointed this out when we were watching a movie and there were several Christmas commercials.

I said, “Look, look, see it’s all women!”

Most of the commercials were about women getting things ready for Christmas. The houses were perfect, the tree was spectacular, presents were wrapped exquisitely under the tree and everything looked like it was in perfect order.

“There!,” I sighed as I moved my hands up and down towards the big screen to prove my point of helping him understand how we get caught up in the madness of perfection.

Now, before I set some of you on edge or sound like I am stereotyping or men bashing, I know this isn’t true for all men, I do know some men that actually take care of the whole meal for their families, shopping, cooking and everything. I have a friend whose husband wraps ALL their gifts. I know of another guy who actually decorates not only his house but where he works and helps friends do the same. But generally speaking, Christmas does or doesn’t happen mostly because of the women. And then if you are a single parent, that’s a whole other story…everything falls on your shoulders to make Christmas happen!!

No matter how much we try and disconnect and tell ourselves it doesn’t have to be like what we visually see in the stores or on the television, we are thrust with images that portray perfection EVERYWHERE!!! Even the scripting of the commercials reinforces it with, “find the perfect gift” “set the perfect table” and to top it off everyone looks so happy together as relatives arrive and the warm sentiments of the Christmas season. Enjoy Christmas perfectly if you shop our stores and buy our stuff, that’s the underlying message. One of my favorite magazines had on the cover “395 Ways to Dazzle Your Friends and Family.” No wonder we struggle!

You and I both know how hard it is to actually find the perfect gift, keep a perfect house, tree, food and are you ready for this, really PERFECT relatives.

Now you might say,  do we have to talk about this?

Can’t I stay in the cave of denial and just get it over with?

I would say, let’s for once get gut honest and talk about this Christmas chaos and what it does to our psyche. We all to some degree struggle with this in our lives, whether or not we do a lot or a little for Christmas. It stirs up all kinds of emotions for us as women and seems to magnify the reality and heightens our awareness that we don’t have it all together no matter how much the media or retailers try to help us get it all together. AND we have messy families, cranky relatives who show up and that alone can create extra trauma around the season.

We buy into this ‘perfection’ whether consciously or unconsciously. We try so hard only to be utterly disappointed and exhausted at the end of the season eating ourselves into oblivion to cope with the stress that accompanies the holiday season. Then we feel worse because we’ve gained weight and our clothes don’t fit, we make New Year’s resolution we don’t end up keeping and we do the self-talk and the cycle continues. Is anyone out there that can relate? Whether it is a 15 on a scale of 1 to 100 or a 85 because of cranky relatives we all face it at some point.

I am hoping that this Christmas, the anticipation of what is to come that we can embrace something that can’t be bought or given, and that can help ease the stress…..something that can’t be put on a credit/debit card and shopped for. I would like to give you the one gift you can give yourself~the gift of imperfection.  Brene Brown has written a book, The Gifts of Imperfection on this very subject and I have found it liberating and enlightening. She gives these definitions when talking about the need to put on the perfection.

Perfectionism is not the same things as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. 

Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance.

It seems to be all about having to be perfect because we are worried about what other people are going to think more than striving to do the best. Who will raise their hand with me that we are of so guilty at times?

Here is what became my ‘aha’ moment when I was reading her book. She said that, Perfectionism hampers success, in fact it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis which mean we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect.

 WOW! Having the need to be perfect at Christmas or any other time actually hinders my success, my ability to actually enjoy life, and especially to enjoy Christmas. This was huge for me. We all want to experience the love, joy and peace of the Christmas season, so here is what I think the solution is….receiving the gift of imperfection! We will continue on and discover what that looks like over the next few blog posts. So in the meantime, here’s a tip of what I am trying to practice for the next

20 days, 14 hours, 4 minutes and 40 seconds left until Christmas~ANTICIPATION.

I am creating a space of anticipation that invites

slowing down,

being still,

enjoying the moments,

being present,

choosing gratitude and

speaking it out loud daily and writing in my journal.

Creating this space looks like intentionally sitting each day in my favorite cozy chair curled up with a cup of tea and the devotional “The Greatest Gift” by Ann Voskamp and my Bible. It’s only Day Four and my heart is making space for Advent, the true meaning of waiting to receive the greatest gift, celebrating Jesus. The noise, the fanfare, the chaos subsides within me as I am choosing to submit to a ritual of being still and pondering as Mary might of done when she received her news that she would be the mother of the Son of God. It is causing me to break out in worship.

It doesn’t come easy for me, it has come slowly and it is growing each day. Will you join me on this Advent journey?

 

When You Move from the Wilderness to a Traffic Jam

Yesterday, I was stuck in a nearly 2.5 hour traffic jam on my way home from doing what I love~teaching at the university. I had a few moments of “arrrgh” to “I hate this commute” to a quiet whisper of a reminder that being pinned between hundreds of cars moving like turtles has a purpose.

As I complained and whined to God, I was gently nudged to a memory nearly five years back of wondering when I was ever going to get out of the mess. My days were empty back then and were filled with lots of questions having emerged from a painful wilderness season and hanging on to all the hope I could get.  My life had unravelled and I was on a slow crawl through the desert of healing and restoration. Being confident in God’s call for decades, I found myself straddled between the memory of what once was and the uncertainty of what would be.

Then God showed up with more promises.

He planted one smack on the forehead of my mind.

Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert. Isaiah 43:18,19. 

I focused on the question, Don’t you see it? Honestly I said, No, God, I don’t see it! And yet a hint of anticipation took seed in my heart as I began to choose to trust God as he made a road through my desert.

Now sitting in the traffic jam yesterday, I laughed because here I was life brimming with all the “something brand-new” God has been doing for the past several years. I can hardly keep up to tell you the truth. When God gives a promise he delivers. God has brought me out of the wilderness season to a life so full of purpose that my heart is overwhelmed with worship.

What do you do if you find yourself still waiting in the desert? Here’s our cue from Isaiah.

  1. Forget about the past – This doesn’t mean it won’t creep up and bite you or me, it just means that if God is to move us forward, at some point we have to stop going over old history. Whatever the past is, hurt, loss, or pain, work through it, grieve it, get help, recover and ask God to help restore. He is in the business of renovating our hearts!
  2. Be alert and present – When we dwell on the past and and keep whining we aren’t able to be present in the moment. We can’t see what’s ahead if we are sitting in the desert complaining. Yes, complaining! At some point we have to get up and keep putting one step in front of the other trusting Him to leads us through the wilderness.  When we are present and alert we can anticipate, look up, be ready, and watch for what’s around the corner.
  3. Open our eyesThe promise is, I am about to do something brand new, it’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? If we look up and not down and around our circumstances, we will see what God wants us to see. He will give us glimmers of what’s ahead, but only if we keep our eyes open. Our response is to say, Yes, God yes, I can’t see it all the way, but I trust you to see it. If you can’t see it all the way, believe it!
  4. Stay on the road – If God says he will make a road through the desert he means it. Don’t wander off that road in search of escaping the wilderness on your own. God will provide in the rough place and gives exactly what we need for the journey. Follow His lead and He will bring you through.

In my experience, I have found that rarely does a promise happen in an instant.  God’s economy of time and ours aren’t the same. Sometimes it is weeks, months and even years. And yet I believe God gives us a promise ahead of time to infuse hope in our hearts to keep trusting Him and to wait for Him to act.

So get ready, God is about to do something wildly brand new in your life! It’s my story and I’m sticking to it because God is faithful and He always comes through.