Posts

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!

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.

 

 

 

When You Leak as a Leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I leak it is not good.

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

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

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

Sigh…REALLY? Cynthia?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was not just leaking I was flooding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Ways to Kill a Team

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

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

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

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

1. Task First Think Later

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

Partially true?

Maybe.

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

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

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

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

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

2. Choose Not to Collaborate

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

3. Using People Instead of Relating to People

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

4. No parties, No celebrations

Teams need to celebrate successes and especially small goals.

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

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

5. Enforce Accountability

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

Lack of motivation can kill accountability.

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

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

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

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

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

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