Michele CushattMichele Cushatt http://www.michelecushatt.com making peace with an imperfect life. Wed, 21 Sep 2016 17:12:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 In Defense of Human Dignity http://www.michelecushatt.com/in-defense-of-human-dignity/ http://www.michelecushatt.com/in-defense-of-human-dignity/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2016 10:00:11 +0000 Michele Cushatt http://www.michelecushatt.com/?p=13236 I saw her petite profile in the mirror while my hair stylist worked magic on my hair. She wore a gray crown of thinning glory, skin weathered by time, and a perfect taupe handbag clutched neatly in her lap. While her stylist enhanced her gray in a chair right behind me, mine tried to cover mine up. Something that requires more and more time. But I digress.

Copyright: khatsko / 123RF Stock Photo

I guessed her to be somewhere near eighty years old. Still going to the salon to get her hair done, just as I watched my grandmother do week after week for her entire life.

For you young’uns, back then a woman didn’t wash her hair every day. Instead she scheduled a salon appointment once a week during which her hairdresser (and friend) washed, curled and styled it to a beatific glory. No self-respecting woman missed her standing hair appointment.

This is what I thought when I glanced in the mirror at the woman sitting behind me. I saw a woman much like my grandmother displaying a grace and beauty that conveyed a wealth of life.

About the time my semi-grey crown had been covered with enough foil to communicate with alien life forms, something changed. I could sense it. Being that my back was turned, I couldn’t see what was happening. But her stylist was helping the older woman stand and walk.

That’s when I noticed the smell. And after my early years of being a nurse and the following years raising children, I knew: God bless her. She’d had an accident. A bad one. Right there, fully clothed and in the middle of a hair salon.

Chances are you’re experiencing some type of visceral response right about now. It makes sense. It’s the automatic human reaction to sense-overload. Repulsed at the thought, you may have pulled back. Perhaps you frowned or scrunched your nose. Or maybe your hand went to your heart in a gesture of sympathy.

That’s pretty close to what I did at first, with one exception: I felt a painful stab of empathy.

You see, there was a time not all that long ago when I was so sick I had a similar experience. Not the same, but close enough. I’ll spare you the details, but trust me when I say it was, hands down, one of the most humiliating experiences of my life. It’s a horrible and helpless thing to discover that your body no longer does what it’s supposed to. And when it misbehaves publicly? Well a girl would rather die.

As I pieced together what was happening, I felt her shame. This sweet woman left her house an hour before to get her hair done, something that should have left her feeling beautiful, attractive, valuable. Instead, her sense of significance likely disappeared somewhere between her salon chair and the bathroom door.

Within moments, my stylist led me to the sink, removed a good 75 square feet of foil, and proceeded to wash my hair. As she did, I closed my eyes and prayed:

God, show me what to do. Say something? Say nothing? I want to give her dignity. Show me what I can do to make her feel beautiful and worthy again.

It pains me that an opportunity never presented itself. By the time my hair was shampooed, I walked back to my chair with a towel-draped head to discover the older woman was gone. Left for home. With hair still wet and heart undone.

That’s my reason for writing this post. Not to expose her humiliation, God help me. You’ll never know her name or what she looks like or the exact day this scene took place.

No, my purpose isn’t to diminish her worth. But restore it.

Every day we run into people in dignity-stealing situations. The homeless man on the corner. The boy who wet his pants in the park. The alzheimer’s patient who can’t remember her first name. The teen girl eight months pregnant. The elderly gentleman who asks you to repeat what you said a half-dozen times because he can’t hear. The chemo-sick woman who throws up in the parking space next to yours.

In every case, shame steals significance.

I say, let’s steal it back. Let’s be the kind of people who see those moments of unparalleled humiliation as merely a painful-but-universal experience of broken humanity. And let’s become warriors and fighters who ruthlessly defend the dignity of those who’ve think they’ve lost it.

Our first response may be to cringe, scrunch up the nose or even pull away. But let’s make sure a well-planned second response trumps the first one. It’s uncomfortable. And it’s awkward. And there will be a measure of pain and embarrassment when we step into theirs.

But that’s love. Doing the hard things because they’re also the right things. Pursuing another’s comfort at the expense of our own. And becoming dignity-givers and value-restorers because one day we’ll be the ones needing both.

And to the beautiful older woman clutching the lovely taupe handbag, there’s so much I want to tell you.

First, this.

I’m so very sorry. I know you’re probably replaying the day, trying to close your eyes against the reality of what happened. I understand more than you know. And I’m sorry.

But you need to know: When I looked at you I didn’t see a mess to clean up. I still don’t. I see a beautiful and courageous woman. One who walked into that salon at eighty years old determined to live, and one who walked out with even more grace and courage than before.

Please, please. Don’t stop showing up. We need you. And you couldn’t be more lovely to me.


Question: What is one way you can restore a measure of dignity to someone you encounter today? Name it. Then do it. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

[Image Copyright: khatsko / 123RF Stock Photo]

http://www.michelecushatt.com/in-defense-of-human-dignity/feed/ 35
ANNOUNCING: The Inspired Life Mastermind http://www.michelecushatt.com/inspired-life-mastermind/ http://www.michelecushatt.com/inspired-life-mastermind/#comments Thu, 15 Sep 2016 10:00:20 +0000 Michele Cushatt http://www.michelecushatt.com/?p=13214 People often ask me how I ended up a writer, speaker and consultant. Good question. Simple answer: By accident.


I started out a missions major at a small Christian college at 18. Somewhere in the first three semesters, I knew I needed some kind of professional skill to serve overseas. So I transferred to a state university where I got my Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing degree.

But then life happened (like it always does, yes?). I ended up a divorced mom of a toddler. How was I to navigate single motherhood while working twelve-hour nursing shifts?

So I changed careers, started working in sales for a mega data-networking company. I configured switches and routers and put together multi-million dollar deals for massive telecommunications partners in the pre-September 11th technology boom. I enjoyed my job, was thankful for it. But in between the 7 am to 5 pm work day and all the rigors of single motherhood, I dreamed of doing something that was more than a job, more than a means to paying my mortgage and buying my little guy pants without knee-holes and shoes that fit.

Fast forward a couple years. I remarried, acquired two more boys, quit my corporate job, and started a home studio business teaching private piano lessons to as many as 24 students at one time. This was my first entrepreneurial venture. It was my hope to build a business that used my unique gifts and still allowed me to be a fully invested wife and mom.

Then, to add a splash of spiritual sanity, I thought it would be fun to lead a women’s Bible study at our church. I loved it, and I loved those women. Soon that Tuesday night small group grew from 8 people to somewhere around 80.

As a result, I starting sending regular emails in an effort to stay engaged with the many women I couldn’t connect with on Tuesday nights. Those emails eventually turned into blog posts, and then magazine articles, and finally, years later, the writing of all those words turned into books.

Thus my career as a writer, speaker and consultant became a reality.

That’s the birds-eye, broad-stroke view of the last two decades. Now let me give you the close-up reality:

It was work. No, really. As in countless hours of of blind, painstaking, tear-causing, finance-sucking, self-esteem crushing, rejection-multiplying, seemingly fruitless HARD WORK. Most of the time, I had no idea what I was doing. For years, I invested in countless books, products, conferences, trainings, and webinars. I walked into writing retreats hoping to stumble upon the “one person” who would finally believe I had what it takes. I attended speaking conferences with the dream of being “discovered.” I wanted to be a word-weaver, and I tried all the well-worn paths to give those words the best chance of being able to fly.

But rather than success, here’s what happened: I wore out. And I got discouraged. And I doubted and second-guessed and almost quit (at least a thousand times).

If that’s you right here and right now, I get it. Boy, do I get it. Which is why, in 2017, I’m launching and leading The Inspired Life Mastermind.

Simply, the Inspired Life Mastermind is a faith-based mastermind for women in business who want to enjoy life and expand their influence—at home, at work, and in relationships—to the best of their ability and to the glory of God.

You can find out all the specifics here. But in this post I simply want you to know the 3 REASONS WHY the Inspired Life Mastermind will be one of my chief priorities in 2017:

  1. YOU. So many of you have written emails, asked to meet for coffee, or have pulled me aside at speaking events. You deeply want to honor the gift of your one life by using it well. You want to use your gifts, respect your responsibilities, and give away as much of yourself as you can. But it’s anything but easy to discern how to make those things happen. The Inspired Life Mastermind is my answer to your struggle. I truly believe coaching in a collaborative environment will help you know how to steward what you’ve been given and soar.
  2. ME. After years of angst fighting for life and wrestling with my purpose, I feel a burning desire to invest more intentionally in a small group of women. I want to connect more tangibly, love more intimately than I can through a blog post or on a platform. I can’t do this for everyone, but I can do it for twelve women.
  3. THE YOUNG ONES. For four years I’ve been working with Hope House of Colorado, a residential program for teen moms with the goal of helping them to become self-sufficient. I believe in their heart, their mission, and I want to be a part of creating opportunities for these young women to thrive, personally, professionally and financially. The Inspired Life Mastermind will help to further those efforts.

I’ll leave it at that, but there’s so much more. Interested? You can get more information and complete the application here.

For now, know this: I’m excited. And apprehensive. Only God knows the women he will bring together to share this one-year slice of life together. But with all my heart, I believe whatever He has in mind will be exceed any and all of my wildest dreams.

Yours too, by the way. Yours, too.


Question: What is your greatest need in business and life? What could being a part of a mastermind make possible for you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
http://www.michelecushatt.com/inspired-life-mastermind/feed/ 7
A Different Beautiful http://www.michelecushatt.com/a-different-beautiful/ http://www.michelecushatt.com/a-different-beautiful/#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2016 10:00:30 +0000 Michele Cushatt http://www.michelecushatt.com/?p=13158 PLUS a 5 Book Giveaway!

Today’s guest post is by my friend, Courtney Westlake. Like so many of us, Courtney has quite a story, and is the author of newly released book A Different Beautiful. She lives in Illinois with her husband Evan and two children, Connor and Brenna. After Brenna was born with a severe skin disorder, Courtney began chronicling family life and experiences raising a child with physical differences and special needs on her blog. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

When my husband, Evan, and I found out we were expecting a little girl, joining her big brother Connor in our family, we had a vision of pigtails.


We pictured a little girl toddling around the house chasing her brother with blond pigtails bouncing on the sides of her head.

But on the afternoon of Brenna’s birth, four weeks early, that image of pigtails was torn from our minds. There was complete shock in the delivery room when Brenna was born; Evan almost fainted at the sight of her, and the medical staff frantically called for a neonatologist.

Brenna was covered in plaques so thick they almost looked like armor, which were split by deep fissures. Her eyelids were flipped inside out, her fingers and toes were short and clenched, and we could barely see her ears. Brenna was rushed to the nearby NICU and diagnosed with a very rare, very severe genetic skin condition called Harlequin ichthyosis.

What her condition essentially means is that her skin has trouble doing the jobs for her body that skin typically does: it doesn’t hold in moisture, it doesn’t keep germs out of her body – so she can get skin infections very easily – and her skin has a difficult time regulating her body temperature. She can’t physically sweat, so high temperatures are dangerous for her, and she gets cold very easily.

Brenna’s body recognizes this error in her genetics, so it tries to make up for that error – by making more and more skin. She produces skin around 10 times faster than we do, and she can’t shed it quickly enough, leaving her with an appearance of a severe sunburn all over her body.

Interestingly enough, another effect of making too much skin is that this kills off her hair follicles. When she was born, we could see clumps of dark hair grown into her thick plates of skin, but as those original plaques of skin began to peel off, they took her hair with them.

However, as Brenna got older, little strands of white-blond hair began to emerge from her scalp around the back of her head. And her hair has continued to grow in, little by little, with small tufts on top and longer around the back.

One evening when Brenna was nearly three years old, I prepared as usual for her post-bath routine while Evan completed his scalp care. He was taking longer than usual to finish up bath time, and just as I was about to ask if he was almost done, he called out to me from the bathroom with a laugh: “Look at this!”

As I entered the bathroom, I peered into the tub to see him gently twisting tiny curly hairs near the base of Brenna’s neck.

And there they were: our blond pigtails.

We laughed, and we took pictures, and we exclaimed to Brenna how beautiful her hair looked as she proudly patted her head. Suddenly, fashioning pigtails into our daughter’s hair became so much more special than we ever imagined.

We often have expectations about what our lives will be like, what our families will look like, and who our children will be.

Sometimes, when something is different than we anticipated or hoped for, it leaves us disappointed, confused or even grieving a kind of loss. Too often, we see things for what they aren’t – how something doesn’t look, how something didn’t happen.

When Evan and I first thought about our daughter’s pigtails, the thought certainly didn’t cross our mind that she may not be able to grow much hair. And there was a time that we mourned the loss of her hair, along with the loss of many other things we expected about adding a little girl to our family that were changed with her lifelong diagnosis.

Yet, that one evening, when two tiny twists of hair emerged on her head to form pigtails, it wasn’t the kind of pigtails we imagined…. It was so much more beautiful.

Through these challenging years of raising Brenna and Connor, motherhood for me has become a journey of letting go of my own expectations so that I can truly understand and accept who my children are as God created them. Motherhood means the privilege and joy of discovering the child that has been gifted to me and getting to encourage and bring out the best version of who that child is, rather than pushing them to become the person I might have envisioned them to be.

What an incredible opportunity we have to get to know our children as they grow up, to learn who they are as God created them – with such unique talents, abilities, and purpose – and help guide them toward Him.

Sometimes, pieces of our lives look so different than what we expected that we don’t even notice how remarkable they actually are or how much they have actually changed us for the better. Motherhood doesn’t often end up like what we had planned, but when we can see the beautiful in the unexpected and in the different, we can start to celebrate the joy of what is, instead of mourning what isn’t.

I found that when I began letting go of the loss of my own expectations and plans, it was then that I was able to begin more fully living in the extraordinary life that God has planned for me… like the incredible beauty of tiny twisty pigtails.


Question: Does your life look differently than you imagined? If so, what ‘different beautiful’ has this made possible? Answer this question in the comments below to be entered to win 1 of 5 copies of Courtney’s new book, A Different Beautiful! You can leave a comment by clicking here.
http://www.michelecushatt.com/a-different-beautiful/feed/ 30
The Expertise We Desperately Need http://www.michelecushatt.com/the-practice-of-forgiveness/ http://www.michelecushatt.com/the-practice-of-forgiveness/#comments Wed, 31 Aug 2016 18:14:45 +0000 Michele Cushatt http://www.michelecushatt.com/?p=13106 Discovering the Beauty & Brawn of Forgiveness

You could say it was my fault, and I wouldn’t disagree. Let me explain.

Copyright: alexytrener / 123RF Stock Photo

It happened in the middle of a tough season (doesn’t it always?). One of those chaotic stretches of unlimited responsibilities and limited capacities. Between my personal and professional life, I was stretched as thin as slip of floss. I knew this, which is why “Keep it together, man!” became my regular mantra. My standard pep talk when I fear I might break.

(Oh, you too?)

Then, in a moment of maximum vulnerability, IT happened.

A friend hurled a spiky jab my direction. Okay, maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as all that. Truth is it was a few words meant it as a joke, a playful attempt at sarcasm.

Only, in my thinned state, the words landed sharp.

Thus, being the grownup I am, I retaliated. Snapped with a harsh reply. It all happened in mere seconds (doesn’t it always?). Then, we stood there. Stunned. Camaraderie swallowed up in less time than a latte.

What had I done? I apologized. Then, days later, an apology over email. A month after, an apology-ridden phone call.

“I forgive you. No sweat. It’s over.” That’s what she said, every time.

Only it wasn’t. I felt it. Then, a year later, I discovered quite by accident that she’d shared my blunder with a few mutual friends.


I’d apologized, hadn’t I? Didn’t I do my best to make things right? Thus, I once again responded. No, I reacted. Instead of words, I withdrew. Shut down. Chalked up a lawyer’s list of reasons for “boundaries.”

In short, I justified my unforgiveness with hers.

This scenario happened several years ago. In fact, it’s more a reflection of multiple scenarios rather than any single one. You see what I’m getting at, don’t you?

We may claim to embrace grace, but we sure don’t know how to live it.

I’m not talking about the grievous wrongs, the illegal and immoral crimes committed against the innocent. And I’m not talking about turning a blind-eye to patterns of dysfunctional and destructive behavior.

Instead, I’m talking about the daily digs, darts, oversights and unappreciations. The easy slips of sarcasm, selfishness and snap judgments. The criticisms and jumping-to-conclusions.

And, yes. The harsh words. The withheld absolutions. And the unforgiveness in retaliation for unforgiveness.

Dare I say it more bluntly?

We’re terrible at forgiveness.

No, really. We’re terrible at it. We think far too much about ourselves, our wounds and how wrong it feels to be wronged. We nurse it, coddle it, examine our hurts like a jewel in the hand, then show them off to our friends.

But rarely do we stop to examine the wounds we deliver and the wrongs we exact.

We didn’t mean it! we defend.


But neither did they.

For years I’ve been working with leaders, while trying to be a leader myself. In that time, I’ve learned about personal development, time-management, setting goals and pursuing priorities. I’ve explored spiritual disciplines, productivity practices, creativity prompts, and wellness regimens.

But I can’t recall one time when I dug deep and invested all of myself to master the art of forgiveness. Not one time when I spent weeks working to release wrongs, once and for all. Not one time when I set out to discover the beauty and brawn of a devout and daily forgiveness practice.

And? Rarely have I encountered anyone else who does.

1 Corinthians 13:1 adds some potent perspective: “If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter how intelligent, determined, and articulate we are if we don’t develop a tolerance for human imperfection. If we don’t learn how to love.

Because as much as you and I want to lead well, we will always be leading people with a propensity to screw up. And we’ll always be leaders with the same inescapable flaw.

Years ago, I heard pastor and teacher Chuck Swindoll share his secret to a staunch forgiveness practice. Although his sermon was on authentic love, he urged us to remember there is no room for a God-sized love without radical forgiveness. Simply, every time you and I are faced with the temptation to withhold love for a wrong done, authentic love requires that we remember the ABC’s of forgiveness:

A = I accept you as you are. No conditions.

B = I believe you are valuable.

C = I care about you when you hurt.

D = I desire what is best for you.

E = I erase all offenses.

It’s that simple. And that hard.

Want to lead well? Want to be the kind of person who changes the world with powerful words?

Try “I forgive you.” Mean it. Then live it. Your influence and impact grows from there.

Question: What are your secrets for doing the work of forgiveness? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
http://www.michelecushatt.com/the-practice-of-forgiveness/feed/ 21
The Mistake You Can’t Afford to Make http://www.michelecushatt.com/the-mistake-you-cant-afford/ http://www.michelecushatt.com/the-mistake-you-cant-afford/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 21:28:30 +0000 Michele Cushatt http://www.michelecushatt.com/?p=11945 Grabbing my car keys, I hollered a “goodbye” to my high school son as I headed out to the garage. I had fifteen minutes to make it to my appointment, more than enough time. I climbed into my parked car, buckled up, and put the car in reverse.

Copyright: enki / 123RF Stock Photo

One teensy-weensy problem. The garage door wasn’t yet open. In progress, yes. But I hadn’t allowed enough time for it to finish its ascent.


Stunned, I slammed on the brake.

I’d hit the door, the brand new garage door my husband installed months before, with the family car we were trying to sell.

No. Please, no.

“What happened, Mom?” The teenager poked his head outside, took in the carnage, shot me a look of shock.

Humiliation complete, my head dropped to the steering wheel.

What’s wrong with me?!

Yep. Those are the first words that flew through my mind. Followed closely by What were you thinking?! and Why can’t you do anything right?!

A day or two later, I’d see the waste of those questions. But in the moment of my crisis, my brain threw accusations faster than a ruthless clique of junior high girls.

I felt nothing but shame. A garage full of it.

If you ask my friends and family to name my one fatal flaw, they’d likely tell you it has something to do with unrealistic personal expectations. I’ve long been too hard on myself. I expect … excellence. Every moment of every day. As a mother. A wife. A friend and business owner. And yes, as a driver. I can’t afford to make mistakes! Which is why I gave myself a verbal lashing and grounded myself to my bedroom where I sobbed about decimated garage doors and my utter worthlessness.

Super helpful.

After twenty-four hours of funk, my eighteen-year-old son shook me out of my self-loathing with a few wise words:

“Mom. Accidents happen. Let it go.”

Ugh. I hate it when my kids are right.

We do this, don’t we? We talk a good talk about grace, but in the heat of a failure, we can’t seem to find a shred of it. Truth is we expect quite a bit from ourselves. We expect to juggle a thousand responsibilities and not pay for it with exhaustion. We expect to navigate illness and not require rest. We expect to show up, smile, and work hard, day in and day out, juggling our multiple roles, while maintaining a near-flawless performance.

Sooner or later, however, we rediscover our humanity. A missed appointment. An impatient response. A blown diet. A damaged relationship. A misspoken word. An obliterated garage door.

Faced with our failures, we plow right through grace and truth with our weapons of mass expectations.

What’s wrong with me?!

Other than asking the wrong question, nothing. At least, nothing grace can’t cure.

My friends, Jesus didn’t exit heaven for earth just so you and I could kill ourselves trying to be good enough for him and everyone else. He came so his death and life could cover us, free us, once and for all. It’s an insurance plan with no deductible, price paid. For our unintentional mistakes—i.e. destroyed garage doors—and the intentional ones.

Imagine! No shaking fingers. No disappointed glares. Instead, grace.

What failure are you lugging around? What mistake can’t you forgive? What wreck are you refusing to release and restore?

You may need to do damage control, make right some wrongs, offer an apology. You might even need to invest some time to rebuild.

It won’t be the first time a human needed to do the like. How do I know? Because it turns out the garage-door repairman who showed up at our house does the same thing forty hours a week. He fixes garage-door-sized mistakes.

Accidents happen. Let it go.

Don’t let your self-talk cause more damage than your driving. That’s the real mistake you can’t afford to make. Do what you can to fix it. Then, let it go.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. —Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

What is one failure you need to forgive? Name it. Then let it go.

Image Attribution: enki / 123RF Stock Photo

http://www.michelecushatt.com/the-mistake-you-cant-afford/feed/ 10
Suffering & God’s Sovereignty http://www.michelecushatt.com/suffering-gods-sovereignty/ http://www.michelecushatt.com/suffering-gods-sovereignty/#comments Wed, 17 Aug 2016 10:00:30 +0000 Michele Cushatt http://www.michelecushatt.com/?p=13054 {A Video Interview with Insight For Living}

Without a doubt, suffering is inescapable. In the Bible, Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33). It doesn’t take many years to discover his words were, in fact, true.


However, when hit with unexpected, inexplicable suffering, the struggle to make sense of it is enormous. The vast majority of the time it doesn’t make sense. It appears random, cold, and ruthless. As a result, we feel victims of chance, and often turn bitter, cynical, withdrawn.

If you’ve ever wrestled with doubt, questioned God’s reality or goodness, and wondered if this oft-hard life has any true meaning at all whatsoever, you’re in good company here. My faith has taken a beating more than once over the course of my life, and at times I wondered if it would stand. You will find no judgment or shame from my tiny little corner of the world.

But I hope you do find companionship and a friend who understands, at least a little bit.

A few months ago, I sat down with Colleen Swindoll-Thompson of Insight for Living’s “Reframing Ministries.” This is perhaps the most comprehensive interview I’ve given regarding my health journey and the faith struggle that resulted. Her purpose? To have an honest and unafraid conversation about some of the tensions that arise when people of faith encounter impossible circumstances. A few of the questions she pointed to me included:

  • How have you struggled to accept what God has allowed to happen to you?
  • How has God revealed Himself to you through this journey?
  • Why is faith in Jesus Christ essential when we encounter trials?
  • How does Scripture define comfort, and how does the Bible’s definition differ from how we usually think about it?
  • How has your cancer journey given you a new perspective on God’s grace?
  • How did people help you when you were recovering from treatment?
  • While you were recovering from treatment, what things did people do that wasn’t helpful for you?
  • How has your cancer journey changed your prayer life?
  • How has God used your cancer to bring about positive changes in you?
  • What encouragement can you give someone who is going through a difficult trial?

If one or more of these questions resonate with you, I think you’ll find a safe haven of conversation in the video below. And, if we didn’t cover a question you have, don’t be afraid to post it in the comments. I won’t have all the answers, but it’d be my honor to sit with you in the not-knowing.

Undone, by Michele Cushatt

Where have you struggled to reconcile your faith as a result of unexplainable circumstances?

http://www.michelecushatt.com/suffering-gods-sovereignty/feed/ 9
For the Love of Something Sweet http://www.michelecushatt.com/for-the-love-of-something-sweet/ http://www.michelecushatt.com/for-the-love-of-something-sweet/#comments Wed, 10 Aug 2016 10:00:27 +0000 Michele Cushatt http://www.michelecushatt.com/?p=13025 Her name was Alexis. A sweet young thing, she couldn’t have been more than twenty-four years old. Old enough to be opening the store on a Sunday morning, but young enough I could easily be her mother. Let’s not go there.

Copyright: jirkaejc / 123RF Stock Photo

Moments before, my friend, Cheri, and I had walked into Alexis’ donut shop in downtown San Jose. Because, hello. DONUTS.

{Save the hate because I don’t care. I heart donuts.}

So there we stood, Cheri and I, one of us drooling on the glass. We were the only customers perusing Alexis’ offerings while she busied herself folding boxes and fulfilling orders.

“Are you ready?” she asked when she looked up.

“Yes.” I smiled. Who doesn’t smile when looking at donuts? “We’ll take two buttermilk bars.” Please note I said “two” and not the “twenty-two” my heart was begging for.

She moved to get our order. And then I remembered:

“Please.” I cleared my throat. “I forgot to say ‘please.’ Sorry about that. We’d like two buttermilk bars, please.”

It was a silly little thing, really. Perhaps the Good Manners Fairy showed up because I was contemplating the sweet buttery confection about to enter my mouth. Alexis didn’t reply, and I doubted she’d heard me. She continued to do her thing, bagging our treats and moving to the register. I pulled out my card, signed the receipt and smiled a “Thanks!”

That’s when she spoke.

“Thank you for saying ‘please,'” she said, looking me in the eye. She’d heard me after all. “No one says that anymore. Ever. It means a lot.”

For the next couple minutes we exchanged handshakes and first names, and I did my best to look her in the eye, smile, and make her feel seen, valued. But I couldn’t help but wonder how many times I’ve stepped over kindness to get to my donut or next appointment. How many times I’ve neglected connection because I was too busy or preoccupied or wrapped up in myself to see the sweet face standing and working only eight feet away.

Our interaction involved little time and no more than a couple dozen words. But I haven’t stopped thinking about it for over a week.

I miss the simple kindnesses of strangers. I miss the expectation of manners, of doors being opened and groceries being carried and kind strangers shaking my hand, looking me in the eye, and remembering a first name. We’re all so suspicious, so careful. Maybe we have good reason for it. Then again, maybe it’s just easier. Maybe smiling and connecting and saying “please” have become too much of an effort.

It’s a shame, really. As it turns out, twenty-something girls named Alexis notice the absence. Which means (brace yourself), maybe the lack of kindness and manners isn’t a problem of the younger generation only, but ours too.

Here’s what I think: We spend a great deal of time waxing poetic about being “world-changers” and “influencers” and “making a difference.” We want to live a grand story and leave behind a legacy that will outlast us. Noble desires, every one.

But perhaps the best way to change the world starts by simply changing someone’s day. By being a sweet taste of kindness that causes someone to look up, smile and exchange first names.

In other words, maybe I need to spend less time planning grandiose strategies and more time practicing everyday ones, such as saying simple words like …

  • “Please.”
  • “Thank you.”
  • “Here, let me get that for you.”
  • “I appreciate you.”
  • “Can I help you with that?”
  • “What’s you’re name?”
  • “It’s so nice to meet you, _____________!”

I’ll stopping preaching now, though you should know I’m still preaching at myself. Perhaps these are little things, inconsequential things, no bigger than a donut in a glass case. Besides, I’m sure you could come up with a few solid reasons why this won’t work or nobody cares.

But I care. And my new friend Alexis cares. And perhaps we could all use a little something sweet to start—or finish—our day.

When is the last time a stranger’s kindness delighted you? When’s the last time you delighted someone else?

http://www.michelecushatt.com/for-the-love-of-something-sweet/feed/ 28
A Manifesto http://www.michelecushatt.com/manifesto/ http://www.michelecushatt.com/manifesto/#comments Tue, 02 Aug 2016 10:00:43 +0000 Michele Cushatt http://www.michelecushatt.com/?p=13013 You remember the movie Jerry McGuire, yes? Tom Cruise. Cuba Gooding Jr.. “Show me the money!” Jerry’s problems started with a surge of late night inspiration, followed by a passionate drafting of an all-office memo. The next morning, he distributed his revelation. By the end of the week, his world turned upside down.

wiratgasem / 123RF Stock Photo

Call this my late night memo. Manifesto, even. But rather than turn my world upside down, my world finally turned right.

The idea took shape slowly, like a mountain obscured by clouds but revealed in time. The more time, the more the clouds lifted. The more the clouds lifted, the more I considered it. The more I considered it, the more I wanted to climb it.

Even so, the idea seemed foolish, extreme. So I put it off. An entrepreneur who makes her living as an author and speaker can’t afford to disconnect from the Internet, at least not entirely. The Internet is her bread and butter, the online business card to connect with readers and events, publishers and coaching clients. To disconnect means to die a slow and sure business death.

Everyone knows this, I thought. Heck, I know this.

What made it worse was the timing. I’m a few short months away from a book launch. I should be redoubling my efforts and hyper-connecting. A book’s success is all about marketing diligence and careful preplanning, right? I didn’t want my baby to go south before its birth. And surely a complete disconnect from a writer’s primary interface with readers would mean a failure of massive proportions.

And yet the idea became more compelling, beautiful. In spite of my attempts to disregard it, I couldn’t deny it.

I need this. Not “Entrepreneur Michele” or “Author Michele.” Just me.

That girl who can get swallowed up by all the pressure and pursuit and lose sight of what matters most in the achiever-driven busyness of a business.

Thus, mid-June, I disconnected. Completely. I didn’t write fresh blog posts or recycle old content. I allowed the blog to sit dormant, neglected. As a result, traffic dropped by half. Maybe more.

I deleted all social media apps from my phone and devices. At various points, Facebook enticed me emails, showing me my (dwindling) numbers, urging me to reconnect with my “fans.” I changed all passwords to something I couldn’t remember (NOT hard to do). Then I logged out of every account from my browser, making it impossible to reengage without significant effort.

But I didn’t want to go to the effort. I knew this respite wasn’t just good, it was necessary. Besides, I suspected there was something within this one decision that hinted at a complete reorientation, a longterm refocusing and commitment to contemplation, deep work, and rest.

I was right. Today is August 2, 2016. I’m not offering you a nice and neat “3 secrets to a meaningful life,” nor will I legislate my process or force you to swallow my spoonfuls of life medicine. We each must find our own way, discover the right balance of work and rest, connection and disconnect. It will vary based on season and profession and personality.

But I now know this about myself and my path: If I’m going to do what I love to do—what I’m uniquely equipped to do—I can’t be hyperconnected all the time.

My calling—my passion—is to do meaningful work and equip others to do the same.

To lead more complicated conversations around authentic faith and real life.

To tell powerful stories in a way that inspires us to live differently as a result.

To invest deeply in individuals and organizations by identifying and developing their unique message.

The problem is, I cannot source my own well. The fuel for what I do is sourced in my relationship with a real God. In consistent rest. In reading and contemplation, wrestling and writing. If I spend the majority of each day’s hours scanning social media or responding to vast amounts of email, I dehydrate. Just as a well’s bucket must descend to have anything to offer, I must disconnect to dive deep and drink.

In short, I can’t allow the “how” of my calling to eclipse the “heart” of it.

Consider this: Is it possible we’ve confused the two? Is it possible that we’ve poured ourselves into the “how” of what we do to the neglect of pouring into what we do and why we do it?

There is nothing wrong with writing blog posts, connecting with new friends on social media, and developing a solid business strategy that knows how to leverage the powerful tool of the Internet. That’s good business practice.

However, my calling is not to be an Internet Jedi Master nor build a Facebook Dynasty. My gifts are not to churn out products or posts or build a World Domination Email List. And my life’s work is not to be the Forever Champion of Email Inbox Zero.

At times, those tasks are productive means. But they are not the ultimate end. And if the means grow to overshadow the end, then we’ve lost something of the heart of who we are and what we’re called to.

This won’t be the last time I disengage. In fact, I believe you’ll see me do it more often. Not because I care little for what I do, but because I care so much.

At the same time, I don’t plan to abandon blogging, social media or email. I see great value of utilizing those opportunities to the best of my ability.

But they aren’t my “heart.” They’re simply my “how.” And I commit to doing both in proper proportion.

What about you?

{Image Copyright: wiratgasem / 123RF Stock Photo}

http://www.michelecushatt.com/manifesto/feed/ 38
Rest. http://www.michelecushatt.com/rest/ http://www.michelecushatt.com/rest/#comments Wed, 15 Jun 2016 10:00:56 +0000 Michele Cushatt http://www.michelecushatt.com/?p=12971 In the late 1940’s, on a train from Illinois to Texas, a preacher named A. W. Tozer penned words burning in his heart. Throughout the night he wrote, and by the time he’d arrived at his destination the next day, the rough draft of a book was done. In it, he said the following:


Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations, and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all. —A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

And here we are more than 65 years later, and Tozer’s words couldn’t ring more true.

For that reason, because of the conviction of the shallowness of my own heart, I am taking a self-imposed sabbatical. For years I’ve watched the rare person take a spiritual step away from their ordinary life with a mix of both longing and envy.

Oh, how I wish! I wish I could take a month away. Away from the to-do list, away from the frantic day-to-day scramble to get it all done, away from the constant, merciless pressure to do all, be all. If only …

Then again, who says I can’t?

I get to choose (as do you). The past years of working day and night to write, to speak and coach and grow a career were something I chose—choose—to do. I enjoy it, oh how I enjoy it! But I can also un-choose it. For a time. To disconnect for the sake of connection. With my God, my family, and my own heart.

For that reason, I’m shutting it all down. The blog. The social media posts. The phone calls and meetings and emails. Other than a few prescheduled posts and commitments, I’m blocking my calendar for the next four weeks. I will not be checking blog comments. I will not be perusing social media. Every temptation can be deleted from my phone and laptop easily enough.

Instead, I’m going to rest. To read and think and pray and write. And I’m going to allow creativity and wisdom and the God of both full access to my focused attention.

You’ve likely heard me say this before: I’m not the same person I was before 2014. And part of this new me needs more space away from the noise and on my knees. And although there’s yet a part of me—the driven, Type-A, business-lover side of me—that’s afraid to disconnect and miss something important in the process, I’m far more afraid of what I might miss if I don’t.

I’ll be back (barring some burning bush revelation). And I hope—I pray—I’m a better woman, writer, friend because of it.

Have I mentioned how much I love you?



http://www.michelecushatt.com/rest/feed/ 16
Cheeseburgers, the Internet, and Jesus http://www.michelecushatt.com/cheeseburgers-the-internet-and-jesus/ http://www.michelecushatt.com/cheeseburgers-the-internet-and-jesus/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 10:00:17 +0000 Michele Cushatt http://www.michelecushatt.com/?p=12946 Originally, this post began as a post on my Facebook page. I didn’t think much about it, merely thoughts I’d been pondering spilled out over the course of a minute or two. Little did I know. As of today, well over 33,000 people have viewed this post, and hundreds liked, commented and shared. The response is telling. Thus, the reason I’m bringing it to you. Regardless of where you fall in the whole “religion” question, I believe the conversation is a worthy one. Thanks for taking a risk to have it with me. With love for you, Michele

When Troy and I settled into our overnight flight home from South Africa, we planned to watch a movie and fall asleep. What we didn’t expect was the brief conversation with the young woman sitting next to us.


With a few exchanged words, we discovered she attended a Christian school located only a few miles from our home (what are the chances?!). She’d been in SA on a mission and was returning home like us. We chatted for a minute, then settled in for the long flight. When we arrived in London and stood to leave the plane, we asked her if she planned to do any more mission trips in the future. Her answer stunned us:

“No. I had a bad experience at that Christian school. I don’t really want to have anything to do with religion anymore. I’m done with it.”

Caught in the rush of hundreds exiting the plane, we told her how sorry we were but could say little more. Within minutes, we went our separate ways. Now, nearly two weeks later, I’m yet haunted by her words. How I wish I could go back and listen hard to her story! I can only imagine the pain that led her to such a decision.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard the like. Truth is, I get it. I’ve endured a few painful “religious” experiences that made me question the sanity of sticking with it. Even thinking back on those dark days tempts me to pull away.

But as I’ve thought about that girl and prayed for her aching heart, I keep coming back to this one thought:

When it comes to bad experiences, we often throw away faith far quicker than anything else.

For example, if I went to a local McDonald’s (or Burger King, Wendy’s, etc.) and had a terrible experience—everything from the customer service to the quality of the food—I may never go back to that McDonald’s again but I won’t disavow cheeseburgers. NOT ON YOUR LIFE. Why? Because I love cheeseburgers, even if a group of ridiculous humans can’t figure out how to serve them up well.

Or …

How about Internet Service Providers? I’ve lost track of how many horrible experiences I’ve had—at least a half-dozen in the last two weeks. And yet, you and I both know that I’m not likely to walk away from the Internet forever simply because organizations can’t figure out how to deliver it well.

All I’m saying is this:

First (1) We’re wounded, you and I. Our church interactions have left us bleeding. However, this isn’t all that different from our experience with families. I know of no one who hasn’t been hurt by someone they call mom or dad or brother or spouse or child. It’s the nature of human interaction. Thus we shouldn’t be surprised when the same happens within the greater church family. (NOTE: When those “wounds” turn gross abuses, accountability and consequences are necessary. The film Spotlight shown a bright light on this.)

But, (2) We also desperately want to believe—need to believe—that our God is bigger, better, and more beautiful than our experiences with His creations. We ache to know a breathtaking Faithfulness, a staunch Trustworthiness, such that our hope is restored that things won’t always be this broken.

My friend, if you’ve been hurt, you’re in good company. I know of no one who has invested her heart in a church family without it getting wrenched a time or two. Find a different church if you need to. Or a different school. Or a different group of Jesus-followers to hang out with. If one church has broken your heart, find another that will help you heal it.

But whatever you do, don’t throw away cheeseburgers altogether. Jesus is the prize, the worthy object of your affection. Not the gathering of people who try (miserably) to follow Him.


How can your church experiences—both positive and negative—deepen your faith?

http://www.michelecushatt.com/cheeseburgers-the-internet-and-jesus/feed/ 16