Lessons From a One Handed Piano Player

Have you ever needed help, but didn’t know it?

I had a close call recently that taught me a few lessons I hope may be of help to you next time you wonder about God’s interest and activity in your life.

The Thursday evening before Memorial Day, I was slicing an avocado.  After several unsuccessful tries of removing the stubborn pit, I unwisely (but with great enthusiasm!) stabbed the pit with a steak knife while holding the avocado half in my left hand.  (Did I mention I’m a pianist who happens to be left handed?) The pit split and the knife went into my hand at the base of my ring finger.  Please, no judgement. Believe me, I know better than anyone else how foolish my actions were!

Off John and I went to the emergency room.  Some 17 stitches later, we were done.

I have colorful pics, but will spare you the details.  Instead, here is this cool avocado slicer I received as a consolation prize.

I limped through the Sunday music at the keyboard and on Monday was playing a Memorial Day concert.  I mentioned to my friend that my finger was numb and that I wondered how long it would be before the feeling came back.

What happened next was nothing but divine intervention.

He said, “You need to see a hand surgeon.  My son works for a hand surgeon and he will call you within the hour.”

A hand surgeon?  I just needed a few stitches, I thought.  Besides, the ER didn’t mention any need for follow up.

After talking with me, his son said he thought I may have severed the nerve.  He got an appointment for me and by Wednesday, the surgeon confirmed it and I underwent surgery the same day to have it sewn back together.  Who knew that was even possible?

I learned there is a window of time before the nerve begins to retract, making the surgery more complicated, involving nerve grafts from the back of the leg or even from a cadaver, if necessary.

Why am I telling you this story?  Because there are times in our lives that God takes over for us when we don’t even know to ask Him.  Maybe you need to know that today.

Three things I want to share with you:

  1. God is going to get you where you need to be.  I needed surgery quickly and didn’t know it.  Maybe you’re in the throws of a big decision, trying to make the right choice, maybe a little concerned about missing God’s will.  The saying is wise: “Do your best and forget the rest.”  He will find you.  Even in your seemingly wrong choices, He will intervene and cause you to be where you need to be, put you in the right place at the right time.
  2. Your set backs are for His set upsHe will cause your pain, your disappointments  to be used for your good and His glory.  How?  I don’t know.  But we have wonderful examples of those who had terrible setbacks and God used that very thing to work for great outcomes.  Joseph would never have become second to Pharaoh and saved his family and people without first being betrayed by his brothers.
  3. Let his working in your life refresh you with gratitude.  Sometimes almost losing something (or losing something for a while and then getting it back) is like a gigantic reset button.                                                                                            After surgery, I wore a cast from the tip of my fingers to my elbow.  Then I graduated to a smaller cast for another couple of weeks.                                             When I got out of the cast, I could hardly move my left hand due to atrophy and swelling.         A few weeks and several therapy sessions later, I was playing the piano for an event.  I began to play the song “Give Thanks” and suddenly the song I’d played a million times was fresh with new meaning.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity to praise God through making music.  The result of my avocado debacle has been a fresh infusion of joy over the miracle of surgery and the body’s ability to heal, the beauty of music and the privilege of making it.  What close call have you had when you didn’t even know to ask God for help?  Ask Him to show you his involvement and activity in your life…and let it fill you with gratitude.

By the way, National Avocado Day was yesterday!

To celebrate,  I think I’ll go slice up a juicy one…

carefully…

and with my new childproof safety avocado slicer.

 

 

Letter From an Old Soldier

Happy Fourth of July!  I hope you’re enjoying time off with family and friends to celebrate our nation’s freedom.

With that in mind, I’d like to share with you a note my husband received today from a fellow soldier and friend from Vietnam days.

“As each year’s Fourth arrives, I am again reminded of the privilege I enjoyed to serve in our Army with you guys.  Band concerts, fireworks and other celebratory events are appreciated, but being fortunate enough to experience serving in our Army and treasuring the honor of knowing and serving with y’all tops any other Fourth considerations, far and away.  Yes, America and her freedoms are the true foundation of understanding the Fourth, but serving in our Army gives it the special meaning for me.”

These guys know a thing or two about freedom.  In September, 1966, John led the Tiger Force and two platoons of B Co. in a raid on a North Vietnamese prison camp high in the mountains west of Tuy Hoa.  They freed 27 South Vietnamese prisoners, one of whom weighed less than 80 lbs. and didn’t survive the descent down the mountain.  Here are four of the freed prisoners.  No one on that mission will ever forget it. The prisoners were so overjoyed with their freedom they couldn’t keep quiet during the night, even though silence was critical in avoiding the North Vietnamese.

I will never fully understand the bonds of brotherhood forged in the jungles of Vietnam.

(Not ever dreaming of a reunion 50 years later!)

Tiger Force Reunion 2016.

I will never know the extent of the sacrifices made, the fears that were faced and for some death itself.  But I have listened to the stories of these men.  Some stories have made me laugh, like the time my husband wrote to the Schlitz Beer Company.

“To Whom it May Concern:

Your advertisement says

‘When you’re out of Schlitz, you’re out of beer!’

Gentlemen, The Tiger Force is out of beer.”

A few months later, a palette of approximately 50 cases of Schlitz beer arrived at their 101st Airborne base camp.

My husband John on the right.

Other stories have caused me to choke back tears.  I have stood quietly beside my husband at the Wall as his fingers traced the names of friends and he told me about each one.

On this day, I am particularly grateful for all those in every branch of service who have defended our country’s freedom.  May we be quick to listen to their stories, to give honor, and, most of all, to say “thank you”.

Three Steps to Create Positive Change in Your Life (From a Really Bad Guitar Player)

Do you long to create positive change in your life, but like many, feel frustrated and downright STUCK?  Then please watch my video.  You’ll see my horrible performance on the guitar (I have no shame, y’all!) and the valuable insights I’ve gained while learning something new.

I’ve played the flute since the age of 10.  I no longer think about which combination of fingers press which keys to sound a particular note.  Frankly, when I hear a melody, I’m able to recreate it instantly on the flute.  Making music on the flute has become somewhat effortless.

I’ve played the guitar since, well, last month.  It’s crazy. Just when I think I can remember how to shape a chord, I forget, and have to look at the chord chart again.  It’s slow as molasses, not a pretty sound, and doggone it, my fingers hurt!  In other words, learning to play the guitar is downright uncomfortable.

Do you long for positive change in your life?  Allow me to share three significant life lessons have come bubbling up through this humbling experience of learning something new that I believe can be of help if you’re ready for a change.

1. Reframe the discomfort.  When we get uncomfortable, we mistakenly interpret that feeling as our instincts telling us not to be brave…not to put ourselves out there.  We pull back.  We stop moving forward.  Essentially, it’s tempting to quit on ourselves.  Whenever you’re creating positive change in your life, whether learning a new skill, developing a new habit or letting an old one go, it’s uncomfortable.

But scientific, medical research tells us we’re actually creating new neuro pathways in our brains, literally altering our bio-chemistry.  We’re forming new habits, new ways of thinking. We’re keeping our brains young and fighting Alzheimers.

So re-frame the discomfort as a good sign.  In fact, celebrate that discomfort.  When you go to the gym and the next day your muscles are sore, that’s a good thing!  It means your body is getting stronger.  When you are frustrated with a new skill, that’s a good thing! It means your brain is staying young.

All of my adult life, whenever I heard someone play the guitar, I said to myself, “I wish I played the guitar.  It’s too bad I didn’t learn when I was younger.”  As if I’m 98 years old and on my death bed.  What’s up with THAT???

It’s not too late to learn something new.

2.  Face your fears.   Between you and me, I never tried the guitar, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be any good.

And then it dawned on me.

WHO CARES?????

I want to play the guitar for my own enjoyment!  It’s such a friendly instrument to sit in a circle with kids and sing a song together.  And if they can’t stand the way I sound, then please refer to the previous paragraph:  WHO CARES?  I’ll just play for myself!  And enjoy the fact that my brain is staying young!

3.  Stick with it.   What’s the difference between the effortless music from my flute and the painstaking music from my guitar?  Time spent.

That’s right.  Nothing magical or dramatic.  Just good old fashioned time and elbow grease.

I applaud and celebrate YOU for every new, uncomfortable habit or skill you are trying to develop!  Celebrate the discomfort, face your fears and stick with it!

I don’t know what new arena you’re facing, but I want you to know I believe in you.  Most importantly, I want you to know that God stands ready to help you.  Philippians 4:13 tells us we “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.”

I’d love to know what new thing you’re trying.  Leave me a message below.

Remember: Reframe the discomfort, face your fears and stick with it!

P.S. Know someone who is feeling stuck? Please pass this along! And share with me in the comments below what new thing you’re learning.  Beside the fact that I love hearing from you, others come here each week for insight and inspiration, and your story may help someone else have a meaningful breakthrough.  Thanks for adding your point of view!

With so much love,

Connie

The Incredible Freedom of Saying Yes to Less

To me, life is one big cafeteria line.  And it all looks good! When presented with requests for my time, I often hear myself responding, “Yes, I’d be delighted to do that!”  But just as we can get to the end of the line with too much on our plates, I have sometimes found myself loaded down with more responsibilities than I could handle well.  And it was my own fault.

Have you been there?  If so, you know the feeling. You say “Yes” to something without fully  thinking it through.  It takes more time and energy than you anticipated. You end up feeling frustrated, secretly resentful, and too zapped for the things that really are important to you. And when it’s all over, you regret your choice.

I keep this magnet on my fridge as a reminder.

You’ve lost time you can’t get back! Time you could’ve spent on higher priorities like your personal goals, building your business and especially spending time with your family.

I’ve been saying “Yes” to Less lately.  And the result is greater freedom, joy and room to focus on the things I actually feel called to do.

So if you’re truly ready to stop living in a constant state of overwhelm, do this:

  1.  Give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all.  Realize that everything you say “Yes” to means you’re saying “No” to something else…something that might be higher on your priority list.
  2.  Let “No” be your first response… until you’ve had time to consider the cost.  Rarely say “Yes” on the spot, unless you are double-dog sure it’s something to which you want to commit.  Instead say, “Thank you for thinking of me.  I’ll think it over and get back with you by Monday.”
  3. Say “No”, not just to others, but also to yourself. In other words, say “No” to hours of TV or social media or other non-profitable drains on your time.

One of the things that stops us from saying “No” is not knowing how to say it, especially to friends we love.  And by the way, I’m not talking about saying “No” in a mean way (after all, it’s a compliment to be asked to do something!), but saying “No” strategically, deliberately and with kindness.  Here is a simple formula for saying “No” with grace and elegance.

“Thanks so much for thinking of me.  I’m going to say ‘No’, but please know how honored I am to be asked. “

Another option:

“That sounds like a wonderful project, but I am going to pass.  Thank you so much for thinking of me.  I wish you the best with your project!”

Now, what often happens next is something like this:

“Oh, but you’d be PERFECT for this position/job, etc.! The nominating committee was talking and everyone agreed, we just don’t think we can do it without you!”

My friend, do not cave.  Do not say how stressed you are, or how your husband doesn’t want you to take more on right now, or how on second thought maybe you could fit it in your schedule.  Just say this:

“I’d rather not, but thank you so much for thinking of me.”

Why is this so important?

Because saying “Yes” to too much leaves us exhausted, resentful and overwhelmed.  And besides the fact that it’s no fun to feel that way, you can’t do your best work or make your highest contribution to the things to which you are truly called.

But when you say “Yes” to Less, you get more time, margin, freedom, creativity and energy to devote to the things you love.

I believe in honoring commitments.  But moving forward, let me ask you:  what pending invitation do you need to decline?  Leave a comment…I’d really like to know.  And if you have a friend or loved one who is feeling tired and overwhelmed with too much on her plate, please pass this along.  I wish you freedom, joy and energy as you tackle the things you value most!

 

How to Rock Your Day: 3 Reasons Why Your Attitude Matters

At a local lunch place in my town, there’s this bus boy.  His job?  To clean tables after customers leave, making the table ready for the next customer.

But each time I’m there, I watch with fascination the effect he has on others as he takes bussing tables to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL.  This restaurant is the kind where you tell them your name, they announce when your order’s ready and you pick it up at the counter. You take your cup to the drink station and get your drink, napkins, straws, etc.  It’s a self-serve kind of place.

fullsizerender-20

But if Carlos Slaughter is on duty, that’s not what happens.

Instead, he greets you with a dazzling smile, remembers your name from last time and declares, “Have a seat!  I’ll bring your lunch out!”  Quickly, cheerfully and with a bit of flair, he brings lunch to the table.  “Here you go, Mrs. Connie.  Got enough to drink?  Need some salt or pepper? Alright, you ladies enjoy.” The other customers’ faces light up as he does the same for them.

You would think he was the owner and master chef of an expensive 5 star restaurant!  But  he’s just the busboy.

Just the busboy?  More like a shining ambassador for his place of employment.

Every time I see him, I’m reminded:

It’s not just about WHAT you do, it’s about HOW you do it.

Here are 3 reasons why your attitude matters.

  1.  Your attitude is contagious.  The energy you bring to your meeting, your classroom or home spreads to others and they are affected by it.  I’m told we have “mirror neurons” in our brains that make our emotions catchable.  So take responsibility for the energy and mood you’re spreading to others.
  2. This moment makes your future moments. How you do what you do impacts how people respond to you and very often, the results you get.  I give The Busboy a better tip than many other servers and I suspect other customers do, too.  The way this young man treats others and the excellent way he does his job is sure to open doors for him in the future.  Decide that you will WOW other people with your genuine caring and attention to detail, and watch to see whether you get a different response than usual.
  3. You can make a difference in this world no matter what you do for a living. Busboys are not known for making millions.  Working in the service industry (I’ve been there) can be frustrating.  Customers are in a hurry, in a bad mood, don’t expect to see you again, etc.  It can be tempting to tell yourself, “If I had a really important job, my attitude would be better.” But whatever your job is, don’t miss this truth: YOU IMPACT OTHERS.  Yes, YOU! I can’t begin to tell you the positive impact this young man has on me and every other customer.  He literally makes my day.  He makes my friends and me want to eat there.  He’s the best advertisement this restaurant could have.  Let’s learn from him!  Start infusing everything you do with love and enthusiasm, realizing that you can impact others for good, no matter what you do for a living.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently put it:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (credit: biography.com)

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (credit: biography.com)

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music…Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry.  Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: “Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

You can hear that speech here.

Think with me here.  What’s an example of HOW someone did something that wowed you?

And what area might shift in your life if you focused on HOW you do something?

Leave a comment because I’d really love to know.  And if you have a friend or co-worker who’s caught in a negative loop and could use a little encouragement, share this with them.

Remember, It’s not just about WHAT you do.  It’s about HOW you do it!

Thanks for reading!