It was so sudden. In late January she was vibrant—co-leading a retreat for fellow authors and
speakers—but a month later, the diagnosis was Stage 4 cancer. I stood next to my friend’s bedside in Wethersfield, CT, thanking her for the major investment she made in my life and the lives of many other Christian communicators.
Through tears, I prayed over her, knowing my voice represented many others who had been
greatly impacted by a life well-lived. One day later, Lucinda (Cindy) Secrest McDowell had
passed from the ravages of a disease-ridden body into the loving arms of the One she loved and served. I can hear the echo of her welcome into heaven, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Cindy was one of our much-loved faculty members at the Speak Up Conference and she had
already submitted the title for her 2023 breakout session: “When God Takes You on a Different Path” (how to follow God’s plan when it’s not what you hoped).
She wrote: “What happens when my vision for my writing or speaking doesn’t line up with my current reality? Though tempted to despair, I have discovered that such times can eventually
bring me to a deeper place of joy and significance. Join us for some lessons on pivoting,
provision, and purpose.”
Did she have a premonition that her life would be shorter than expected? I found myself searching for wisdom in her book, Life-Giving Choices.
Cindy wrote: “One choice each day. That’s all it takes to change your life.” She reminded her readers, “Don’t settle for the good when you can choose the best.”
As she began her lifelong quest to find what brings life, joy, and meaning, she landed on five key choices that can make a major difference in the way we speak, write, and lead:
- Be empowered to simplify and focus on the essentials.
For much of my life I’ve concentrated on doing too many things at once—and on doing
them too perfectly.
- Identify challenges you face in juggling responsibilities.
As God multiplied my opportunities for writing and speaking, I was trying to please too
many people. I needed to schedule carefully when faced with writing deadlines and the
necessity of having messages prepared for upcoming conferences.
- Find freedom to release the pressure of striving to do it all.
Cindy’s mentor was Elisabeth Elliot and she worked in her home when she was a student at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. Elisabeth wrote: “If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to Him and ask Him to indicate which items we must delete.”
- Learn scriptural truths reinforcing your identity as God’s beloved. Try memorizing
“…I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with unfailing
kindness…” Jeremiah 31:3
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called
children of God! 1 John 3:1
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
- Begin daily steps to pursue specific action.
What is the “one thing” God wants you to begin? List the daily steps it will take to
complete the project in a timely manner.
How can we honor Cindy?
Lucinda Secrest McDowell invested her life in equipping Christian writers and speakers. It
would bring her great joy to know that memorial gifts in her memory will be used toward
scholarships for emerging writers and speakers, enabling them to attend this year’s conference.
Please click here to make your tax-deductible gift in honor of Cindy. In the comment section,
please write: Lucinda Secrest McDowell Memorial Fund.
Question: What is your favorite memory of Cindy McDowell? I look forward to reading your
About Carol Kent
Carol Kent is a bestselling author and an international speaker for women’s conferences and retreats. She’s the executive director of Speak Up Ministries, which includes the Speak Up Conference, an event committed to helping people develop their speaking and writing skills and Speak Up MasterMind and Intensive Coaching Groups for speakers, writers, and leaders. Carol and her husband, Gene, have founded the nonprofit organization, Speak Up for Hope, which benefits inmates and their families. If you’re working on your signature keynote presentation, check out the Speak Up Speaker Certification Course.
I originally met Cindy at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference back in 2017. She was such a joy and encouragement. On awards night we both were wearing a lace dress and took a picture together.
But my favorite memory is from Speak Up last year because she encouraged me not to give up even if I didn’t fit the mold and even if I was tired of being rejected. I never got to tell her that I’m finally publishing my book with Credo House Publishers. She would have been so proud of me!
Thank you for your uplifting words, Christy! Cindy was the ultimate encourager. How THRILLED she would be to know that your book is being published by Credo House Publishers. The Speak Up Tribe is cheering for you!
Oh Carol, what a beautiful friendship you and Lucinda had. She was a gem the moment she said hello to me at the Communicators’Collective retreat. She exuded the joy if the Lord and her presence was one of warmth and love. I was looking so forward to a new friendship in Lucinda. But God had different plans. I will be forever marked by her life and love for Jesus. Although, the interaction was brief, it came with a lifetime of impact. Love to you as you grieve the loss of a dear dear friend. Love Jessie
Dear Jessie…your comment said it so well. Within moments of meeting Cindy, people felt like they made a friendship for a lifetime. She was generous with her time and loved encouraging emerging authors, speakers, and leaders. She was a woman of prayer and loved sending hand-written notes with gifts of encouragement–a bookmark, a tea bag, or a package of flower seeds. I’m so glad you were able to meet her!
Oh, I have several favorites of Cindy-she was gem. How God orchestrated a personal introduction. After attending a workshop I was personally introduced through our mutual freind, Cathy Day. Through Cindy God taught me – He directs our steps. During a coaching call she taught me to write/speak for my audience, not to them. Through Cindy God taught me humility-still a work in process. My last encounter with her she gifted me a copy of Courage to Write and encouraged me not to give up that my story needed to be told. Through Cindy God taught me to persevere. Such a gift to have known her. The ultimate encourager!
I love your comments, Tracy, and I’m so glad Cindy gifted you with the book she was passionate about–“Courage to Write.” Your words are a beautiful tribute to an amazing woman of influence for God’s glory.
How blessed you (and all of us) are to have been with her in her last moments on Earth. How provident that God filled her with such wisdom that she then shared in her published writings. No doubt Jesus greeted her on her day of glory with “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
It was a sacred honor to pray over our precious friend before she left us for heaven. Thank you for your comment.
My starkest memory of Lucinda is from the 2022 Speak Up Conference when I approached her after one of the main sessions. Lucinda was my mentor for two rounds of quarterly Learn On mentoring a few years before. When I approached Lucinda I expected to have to reintroduce myself. Instead, she greeted me by name with a giant bear hug as though I were her daughter returning to the family home. Lucinda’s smile and the lavish hug she gave me sealed the deal and I regarded her as a mother in my writing journey from then on. Lucinda, I still see your blue eyes looking into mine and cheering me on.
What a beautiful tribute to the life and legacy of Cindy McDowell, Kimalea! Thank you so much!
Carol, thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to Cindy. She was a special person and her words were just what I needed today. “Be empowered to simplify and focus on the essentials.” May God continue to use her words and influence for His glory.
I need to focus on the same thing, Debbie–simplify and focus on the essentials. I appreciate your comment!
I never met Cindy in person but contributed to a couple of her books & found we had some things in common, including a child with special
One of my sweetest memories was when I posted on AWSA that my husband had gone to heaven only 17 days after a diagnosis with pancreatic cancer.
Cindy wrote a note to AWSA ladies, “And she just lost her daughter!” And that was true. My daughter died 30 days before my husband. I found it so sweet that Cindy actually remembered the grief I was already experiencing when my husband died—an enormous grief. She didn’t know me personally but she remembered. It touched my heart.
Louise, what a lovely tribute! Not only was Cindy encouraging, she was compassionate. Thank you for sharing this beautiful memory.
Thank you for your tribute to Cindy. Her given name “Lucinda” means “light,” and she was that to me as well as many others. I first met her about 1980 at Wheaton College when she was taking a few classes between ministry assignments and where I was in the graduate program. About a half dozen “grad” women decided to meet weekly to prayerfully support each other and do a Bible study (we did Daniel!). Doesn’t that sound like her…scripture and encouraging fellowship? All these years we kept in touch. It was through Cindy (who helped me prepare my first speaker one-sheet) that I learned about you, Carol. We also connected on book compilations. Cindy liked to focus on powerful words in her writing. As I write, these come to mind for her: Prayerful, Personal, Prodigious. I’m grateful that you, Carol, could prayerfully encourage her in her last hours. That personal touch is “you” and is teling of how YOU have blessed thousands in YOUR ministry.
What a memorable “Cindy story,” Jeanne! I love hearing that her name, Lucinda, means “light.” How meaningful! She definitely lived for things that will outlast her life–and I’m so glad she introduced you to me. One day we’ll all have a glorious reunion in heaven!
My favorite memory was how intentionally she showed love to other writers and speakers. I can recall the first time Carol invited me to share a keynote at the 2020 virtual Speak Up Conference. Minutes before my presentation I got a text from Lucinda praying the sweetest prayer of encouragement. Over the years I got many more pre-event prayer texts from her along with handwritten notes of encouragement during book releases. It’s rare to find someone so accomplished to share their love and time so freely. She will be greatly missed and leave a legacy of encouraging writers and speakers to follow in her footsteps.
Saundra, I greatly appreciate this beautiful description of the way Cindy encouraged fellow speakers. There was never any feeling of competition–only collaboration, combined with lots of prayer. By the way, we’re looking forward to having you speak at the in-person Speak Up Conference on July 13-15 in Grand Rapids, MI!
Thank you for this beautiful tribute Carol. For certain, my favorite memory was the first time we met face to face. She lit up like a Christmas Tree as if we’d known each other for decades. (She was one of my faculty mentors for my virtual Speak Up in 2020). She was uniquely encouraging, a one-of-a-kind soul who didn’t know a stranger.
The picture I posted asking people to pray for a peaceful home-going looked like we were sisters. Indeed we are and she has now gone before us, taking that radiant smile with her but leaving behind the legacy of enduring love through Jesus.
What a meaningful tribute, Jennifer! We will all miss Cindy so much. Yesterday I was thinking that this was her first Easter in heaven. What a celebration!
Thank you Carol for this tribute. All of us at reNew were reeling from Cindy’s sudden departure but o confident of her new address. We have our retreat in lessthan 2 weeks and I can’t believe she won’t be there! Thank you for being there to pray.
Thank you, Nancy. The entire reNew Writers Retreat team is in my prayers. Cindy loved opening doors for Christian writers and mentoring those who needed coaching and encouragement in their writing journey. We all miss her so much!