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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

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

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.

 

 

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!