When you hear the word “relentless,” does it have a positive or negative connotation for you? Some of us hear it and think of persevering, continuing no matter what is in our way. Others of us think of wave after wave of challenges in our lives.
In this week’s episode, Kathi sits down with Michele Cushatt, one of her besties and author of Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves, to discuss how to hold onto hope when life feels relentless in its difficulties.
Kathi and Michele give real-life examples of ways life can feel relentless and how we try to cope with that chaos. In this episode, you’ll also hear:
- Two unhelpful extremes that we try to “fix” chaos in our lives and two helpful ways to cope.
- How we can find an anchor outside ourselves and our circumstances to keep us from being tossed about.
- How relentless challenges and God’s relentless presence can coexist.
If you want to go deeper in learning about how to hold on to hope, check out Michele Cushatt’s book Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves, available on Amazon.
As a special treat we are giving away a copy of Michele’s book, Relentless, to two lucky listeners. If you’d like to enter to win a copy, comment below and let us know:
What situation are you going through where you need to be reminded of God’s unshakeable presence?
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Transcript of Clutter Free Academy Podcast #382
Read along with the podcast!
Clutter Free Academy Podcast #382
Holding On to Hope
Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our heart is to help you become clutter free in every area of your life. Today I have one of my best friends, and the author of the new book, Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves. Michele, welcome back to Clutter Free Academy.
Michele – Thank you! I love that I get to be with your Clutter Free peeps! I also love, and I’m going to sound like a junior high girl, that I’m one of your best friends.
Kathi – You are! I’m sorry if I’ve never said that.
Michele – I know! A girl likes to hear that.
Kathi – You know what? it is nice to be confirmed. You’re like, “I like them. Do they like me?”
Michele – Maybe it’s because I have a twelve and thirteen year old girl right now, so I get to hear stories like, “She’s my best friend. Well, she’s not my best friend anymore. She used to be my best friend, but she’s not now.”
Kathi – There’s not a million dollars you could give me to go back to that nonsense.
Michele – Oh my Gosh! This is my everyday reality, and I’m like, “Oh, for the love!” So, when you said best friend, I’m like, “Hah! I can go to my girls tonight and say, ‘I have a best friend!’”
Kathi – I love it. It makes me super-happy. I know! We’ll get BFF bracelets.
Michele – Maybe a necklace, you know? ‘Cause that’s not cheesy at all.
Kathi – No. Not cheesy at all.
Michele – You have half of it and I have the other half.
Kathi – There we go. There will be interlocking hearts. There we go.
Michele – Maybe we can put our photo on the back, just to take it up a notch.
Kathi – There we go. And we’ll sign each other’s yearbooks first. I’ll give you a whole page.
Michele – A whole page? I’ll use permanent ink.
Kathi – Permanent puffy ink. Okay, so I want to talk to you about your title, Relentless. I think, for a lot of people, Relentless has a great connotation. If you’re a runner, you’re that kind of person, Relentless. You’re persistent. Constant. Continual. Those are some great words. Can I tell you what Relentless means to me? It’s like the relentless tide of stuff coming into my house. The relentless whine of my children. The relentless pounding of noise in my life. So, I think it’s really interesting. This is one of those words, depending on who’s saying it and what their intention is, can be such a compliment or a curse.
Michele – Exactly, and that was intentional. It was intentional to be a play on words. The whole heart behind it is, many times, it feels like our circumstances are relentless. It’s just one thing after another. You wake up optimistic, and before nine AM rolls around, fifty things have gone wrong, and you’re like, “Oh my Gosh!” It’s like the buzzing mosquito in your ear that’s relentless. You can just never seem to get ahead of the vehicle.
Kathi – You and I were taking of-air, ‘cause we haven’t talked in a while, which is crazy for best friends.
Michele – Good thing I have the necklace.
Kathi – That’s right. And the puffy paint! The thing is, I was telling you, I’ve had a really good year, but there has been one thing after another. Nothing has been catastrophic, but it gets to a point, and it’s too much.
Michele – It’s too much.
Kathi – Just recently, I’ve really come to this place of understanding. Overwhelm is a couple of things. It’s loneliness. It’s feeling like you’re alone in this situation. Clutter, often times, we don’t feel like we can rely on other people, so it’s all up to us. It’s that feeling of loneliness. This relentlessness of it comes every day. There’s no place to take a breath. So, when you talk about a relentless God, I know what you mean by that, but I want to talk more about when you feel like life is relentless. How do you get through the day? I happen to know for a fact that clutter is not your thing. It’s not your issue. But God’s given you enough other issues.
Michele – I was going to say: I have plenty of other issues. Clutter just happens to not be one of them.
Kathi – Which is okay, ‘cause we can still like her, friends, because she has a lot of compassion and mercy for those of us who struggle.
Michele – I have kids that are hoarders, so I do have that aspect of constantly fighting it in my kids’ bedrooms.
Kathi – You guys think she’s being cute when she says that her kids are hoarders.
Michele – No, they really are.
Kathi – They’re little magpies. They like little versions of me. There’s something shiny and they have to own it, even if it’s a gum wrapper.
Michele – A gum wrapper, restaurant menus, napkins with a picture on it. That comes from their history of early childhood trauma and abuse. When I say they’re hoarders, they really are. We have to go in and clean things out, because it’s bad.
Kathi – I feel like when life is relentless, humans tend to go to one of two extremes. They either give up, because they just feel like the chaos is so out of control, why even bother? Or, they go to the other extreme, where they try to control everything and get frustrated when life doesn’t go according to plan. So, which one are you?
Michele – Oh, hands down, the control. I would love to say that I’m one that concedes, gives up and lets the chaos take over my life, but I try to convince myself that if I just exert a little bit more control, everything will come under my dominion.
Kathi – How’s that working for you?
Michele – It’s not working so well. I’m pretty exhausted.
Kathi – So, I’m more of the “Hey, I’m just going to let go and let God.” I’ll say ridiculous things like that.
Michele – Is that how it’s done?
Kathi – I’ll say ridiculousness like that. But even in my abdication, I still want to have control. I still want to know that things are going to go according to plan. So, when we’re in that space, where life is just coming at us, and I’m not just talking about clutter, I’m talking about all the things. Those family dynamics. You talk a lot about that in Relentless, where you don’t get to have a lot of control over how the other people in your home, in your life, behave. So, what do you do in those situations, Michele?
Michele – Are you asking me on a good day, or a bad day?
Kathi – I want to hear both. Let’s talk about the bad day first.
Michele – Yeah, the bad day, because it’s so spiritual and mature. On the bad day, when this happens, I just lose it. When I’m just trying so hard to keep all the balls spinning, and keep everything in order, and then the people in my life, it feels like, they’re working to oppose it. They’re doing the exact opposite. For example, I follow behind my son, and have him pick up his stuff, and all he does is pick it up and drop it at another place in the house, right? You do this a hundred times before you eventually lose your cool and yell, “Oh my Gosh! Just put it away!” So, that’s on the bad days. I just keep upping my game, right? I just get louder, and more controlling, and more obnoxious and more of a bull in a china shop, trying to exert that control. On the good days, I realize that I have to find an anchor within the chaos. In terms of a boat on a lake in a storm. It’s going to be rocked everywhere. You can try with all your might to row your way through it, but you really have no control over the waves. The key to a boat in the storm is, you have to have an anchor. You have to have a dock to tie yourself to. It has to be external to yourself.
Kathi – Okay, so talk about that. It has to be external to yourself. So, it’s not just grit your teeth and bear it.
Michele – That doesn’t work. It works for a time, I should say. I’m a very determined, persistent, persevering person, so gritting your teeth does work for a time, but sooner or later, and this is what I talk about in Relentless, your circumstance, your reality, is going to be beyond your ability to bootstrap through.
Kathi – When you’re dealing with pain, which you’ve dealt with a lot of physical pain over the past several years, when you’re dealing with relational pain, the gritting your teeth and bearing it, just trying to ride it out. You can do that for a time. It doesn’t matter what the pain is. The pain of a house in chaos. The pain of a relationship. You can do it for a certain amount of time and then you’re going to have to find something outside of yourself. So, if we’re the people who are used to bootstrapping it, what is our first step? Whether it’s clutter, ‘cause I know so many of you, as we’ve always talked about, is a physical manifestation for what’s going on inside of your heart. Some people work on the heart first. Some people work on the clutter first. There’s no right way. Both of them need to happen. But for that person who’s like, “I’m just overwhelmed and I just can’t do it anymore.” What is that first step in finding that outside anchor?
Michele – The first step is to simply acknowledge the emotion. What is going on? Too many times we act very reactively to what’s happening, but we never really stop to check in ourselves and say, “What is it, exactly, that I’m feeling right now?” Whether I’m buying a bunch of stuff, or controlling my environment, both of those are ways to numb the emotion that’s happening. So, what we need to do is check in with ourselves and say, “Why did I just go buy fifty Rubbermaid tubs? What’s the reason for that?” Or, for me, “Why did you just spend hours cleaning and picking up, and doing these obsessive compulsive kinds of activities?” I’m trying to distract myself from something. I’m trying to numb, so that first step is simply to stop and check in with yourself and say, “What’s the dominant emotion here? What am I feeling that’s causing me to do this desperate kind of behavior?”
Kathi – I love it. So, I love the acknowledging part. I think, for so many of us, we feel like, “This is just my reality. I can’t change it.” What I love in your book, is you talk about believing that God is present, even when there’s pain. I don’t want to minimalize the pain that so many of our listeners are going through. The pain of feeling out of control and disorganized. But you went through such tremendous physical pain, how did you anchor yourself to believe that God was there?
Michele – Well, it’s been a long journey. That’s part of the book. I really doubted it. I really doubted God’s nearness. When you feel pain, when you’re living in chaos, whether it’s clutter of physical suffering, whatever it may be, we equate the reality of our pain and chaos with the absence of God. “Since I’m experiencing pain and difficulties and trials, God must have abandoned me.” Or worse, “He’s not real at all.” They can’t co-exist. That’s a pretty natural human response to any kind of challenge or difficulty. So, you have to acknowledge it, but then you have to remind yourself of truth. This again, truth has to be external to our emotions. When everything’s chaos, it’s pretty loud. Chaos is a very loud thing, whether it’s physical chaos, or emotional chaos, or spiritual chaos, it screams pretty loud. So, somehow we have to come up with truth that can pierce that noise. So, for me, eventually, I had to sit down, and write some clarity of what God says is true about His presence. So, I could butt that truth up against the lies I was believing, that God must have abandoned me. So, it’s as simple, for me, as writing some of those verses down on a notecard, and carrying them around with me. Some of those notecards, I’ve been carrying for about seven years.
Kathi – Wow. Guys, first of all, I want you to get this book. I really do. I don’t normally say that just so directly. Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves. I’m going to have it in the notes. There’s probably a friend, too, that needs to go through this with you, with a gentle guide. We’re going to be giving a couple of copies away. I would love for my listeners to get vulnerable and put in the comments, just what is the situation you’re going through. You can just say, “It’s personal.” That’s fine. Maybe it’s the overwhelm of stuff in your house. Maybe it’s overwhelming circumstances. Maybe it’s overwhelming relationships. If you are looking for a way to be reminded that there is a God who doesn’t leave; who doesn’t abandon, even when you feel alone. I’m going to really encourage you to pick up Relentless: The Unshakeable Presence of a God Who Never Leaves. Michele, thanks so much for being on Clutter Free Academy.
Michele – Thank you, my friend. I love your peeps, so thanks for having me here.
Kathi – My peeps are pretty awesome. They really are. And friends, you awesome people, thanks for listening. You’ve been here at Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free life you were always intended to live.
*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items
Meet Our Guest
As an experienced communicator, Michele Cushatt speaks internationally to a wide variety of audiences including Women of Faith, Life Today TV, Compassion International, Ziglar Family, Family Life Blended, and Focus on the Family.
A three-time head and neck cancer survivor and parent of “children from hard places,” Michele is a (reluctant) expert of trauma, pain and the deep human need for authentic connection. She and her husband, Troy, share a blended family of six children, including biological children, stepchildren, and foster-adopt children. They live in Denver, Colorado.
Learn more at michelecushatt.com/
Loved this podcast. Suffering can be relentless but God is more relentless than we could ever imagine. In the last two years my young 13 year old son has been arrested and not been able to live at home. We have been on a unrelenting journey of advocating for him, trying to get the right therapy, the right placement situations and to bring him home. His autism combined with past trauma has him stuck in anger and hurt and it is a daily battle to trust God one day at a time. In times of extreme suffering I find that just focusing on today is the best I can do. I know today. God is with me today. And he will go ahead of me and take care of tomorrow.
Congratulations, you are a winner. Please check your email for more details. ~Kathi Lipp Giveaway Team
Right now, I just have too much on my plate and feel overwhelmed. I am trying to learn to say no and find more time for the things that really matter.
At this point in time, I am just feeling overwhelmed and have concern for an adult child who is making choices that are not in her best interest.
I am struggling with feeling like I am not good enough. I need to feel God’s unshakeable presence and unwavering love in my life to work through this.
I have a definite love/hate relationship with the word relentless. I often swing wide the connotation pendulum of relentless, depending on my current circumstances and mindset, as well as whether they are behaving like allies or foes. I would claim to be a relentless person by way of persistence and determination. Much like the Isrealites in the wilderness, I have seen the mighty redemption of God in many life situations. Yet, somehow, also like the Isrealites, I have wavered between the perceptions of certain victory and hopelessness when it comes to overcoming the results, domino effect, and chaos of a cluttered life built through years of cluttered thinking and clutter habits. Sometimes I feel like I live in a relentless state of overwhelm and analysis paralysis from the inevitable, resulting avalanche of these decisions. Due to my current circumstance/mindset combo this podcast was particularly timely. I am grateful I serve a God of relentless love. Michelle, I especially appreciated the analogy of the anchor. I listened to this podcast a few days ago and have been processing since. God’s presence and his strength in my weakness is the anchor I need to persist. Thank you for your relentless persistence and faithfulness to your calling so that you can encourage us.
What a great intro for this book!
It will be a fantastic read and a blessing to share with our prayer group and the lovely women who use our small public library. I live in a town with only 204 residents.
Thank you for being a great blessing to so many.
Congratulations, you are a winner! Please check your email for more details. ~Kathi Lipp Giveaway Team
Such a good message.
The part about trying to have patience when picking up after her son and then hitting a breaking point feels like me on a daily basis. I am struggling with this with not only my son but husband as well. Add to that the stress of my husband recently being downsized at work and him while I am still working now as the sole provider, still managing the household, menu planning, grocery shopping etc and trying to hold it all together under the stress of it all. My faith is defiantly being tested as I go through this storm and have a hard time seeing my way out.
I really needed to hear that God is our anchor outside of myself since I don’t know what to do in my current circumstance with a husband that is suffering from a condition not many can relate to. I have almost given up on our marriage several times in the last 3 years.
We have 3 young children and I just pray that I can be strong enough to let God be my anchor in this struggle.
In this season I am 48 and raising my 9yr old grandson. I just changed jobs to have a better schedule and home life but now I’m going stir crazy behind a desk all day!!! …I got married a year ago and we have been struggling between our financial differences, poor communication, and trying to have a relationship putting God first but seem to be under attack at every turn…overwhelmed with balancing, work, home and all of the above!!
We have 4 children. Our 2 boys are just so lost and as their mother I am so mentally and physically exhausted this week. Prayer and positive thoughts are helping me cope. We will get through this. God is our healer ?
Today was the day my husband got his test results back and it’s been so scary wondering and not knowing… He still has more tests to come before a final diagnosis and plan can be made. I want to just fix things and I can’t. I saw the title and knew God sent this episode TODAY for a reason.
The waiting and not-knowing has always been the hardest part for me. May our God drench you with His presence and peace, today and tomorrow and the many days following.
My family is struggling to deal with the decision of a teacher in our area. He chose to wear blackface on Halloween, as part of a costume. My husband is African-American and my kids are half. I do not share their ancestry, but I am still offended and hurt that this is happening in 2019, and that people do not always think about how the history of an action adds meaning to what they do. As a colleague of my husband, how the district handles this may affect whether my husband is comfortable working in a place he has loved. That makes me very sad and discouraged. I want to see God working something good out of this.
Oh, Erin. I’m so sorry for the insensitivity. You have every reason to feel hurt.
I cannot begin to tell you how much of a God sent thing your podcast was for me today. For the last while, I have been and still am facing one thing after another that is hard, even impossible. From dealing with a family member who is an addict, possible significant job changes, having two teenagers- one of whom has begun to date and that situation is driving a wedge between us, having someone lie about me, health challenges and the financial challenges of being a single mom, I feel like the attacks of the enemy and the “hard” things of life have been so very relentless. In the past few days, I have felt very overwhelmed and really alone and heartbroken. So- thank you for this. My only wish is that it could have gone on for an hour or two!! Thanks also for the chance to win this book!!
Karen, I’m so glad our conversation encouraged you! You are carrying such a heavy load right now. But please know you are NOT alone! We’re with you, sister!
My personal struggle is mental illness – I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, severe recurrent depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and hoarding disorder. It is easy to become discouraged and hopeless. On top of this, my parents and sisters think that I am crazy to believe the doctors and that it is all in my head. My sisters won’t talk to me and I have only limited contact with my parents, so my kids have very little opportunity to know my side of the family even though we live only an hour away from them. It grieves me deeply to see them miss so much. I’m thankful that my husband’s family embraces me and our kids but it is hard to trust that God knows what he is doing when there is so much pain on my side of the family.
Throughout my life I have dealt with ‘weird’ health issues. If the doctors say there’s a 1% chance it’s_______, I’m the 1%. Shortly after having my first baby, my health took a nosedive. It took another 12 years of doctor appointments to finally be diagnosed with late – stage chronic Lyme disease. I have been treating Lyme unsuccessfully since. I have yet to find a treatment that helps – despite trying almost every treatment out there and adding several autoimmune diagnosis to my ever-growing list. This has put a huge strain on many aspects of my life – especially my marriage & our finances (most Lyme treatments are not covered by insurance). My husband and I have often struggled with where God is in all of this? How can a loving ever-present God allow such suffering? How can we hold on to hope?
Oh, Sue. I’m so very sorry. Your losses are significant and your pain and questions are valid. May our God meet you there with Himself. And may He provide the healing for which you have so desperately prayed. I’m praying for you now.
I recently was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. So as I readjust my expectations for my current season of life and learn to relate to God and think of the future in a different way, I waver sometimes between hope and giving in to feelings that “this can’t be fixed.” But I have to trust that the dreams God has given me and my hope for the future are not lost, even if they may be delayed.
It is SO hard to adjust to a body that no longer works the way it’s supposed to. I get it, Heidi. May our God strengthen you with His presence and show you how to offer yourself grace for this season.
This is timely for me. I’ve been struggling with traumatic childhood memories and depression for several months now. Thank you for sharing this resource. So much of this process is having the energy and courage to face it and explore where the hurt is coming from. It seems the more I realize it’s (negatively) impacting my present life and those I love and care for every day, the more motivated I am to dive in and do the work. At the same time, the depression/anxiety the memories cause hold me back. Always a battle.
Yes, that’s it exactly. Finding the courage to face it is half the journey. The good news is that God’s never-ending love gives us both the safety and, thus, the courage. So we dig in deep with Him, and trust Him to carry us through to the healing. With you, sister.