How to Be Ready for the Storms of Life

Here in central Georgia, I-75 North bound is bumper to bumper with Floridians heeding advice from their Governor and the National Weather Service.  I know this, not only from the news report, but because John and I needed to be in Atlanta yesterday for business. What usually takes 90 minutes to travel from our town to Atlanta took 4 and a half hours. In spite of the inconvenience, we were glad people were taking seriously the call to evacuate.

Evacuees from Florida preparing for storm.

Even though we will not experience the worst of the hurricane, we’re preparing as well.  We’ve stocked up on gas, groceries and flashlight batteries.  We have coolers with dry ice  in case the power goes out and we need to empty the freezer.  Outdoor furniture has been stacked safely underneath the carport.  We have cash on hand in case stores are unable to take credit cards for a couple of days.

We’ve done what we can do to be prepared.

All this prep work reminds me that there are other storms that come our way.  And unlike the warning of the Weather Channel, these storms come with little to no warning. One thing is certain: by God’s design, at some point in time, we all find ourselves in a storm. By that I mean we will be in a season when life’s troubles are simply more than we can handle.

The death of a loved one.

A job loss.

The doctor’s report saying it’s cancer.

The betrayal from a spouse.

In those devastating moments, we want to know:

Where is God?  Does He see me in my storm?

Why would a loving God allow this to happen to me?

How can I remain steady and balanced in a storm that threatens to derail the very core of my faith?

Okay, forget “steady and balanced”.  How do I just get through this?

I believe we can do more than just get through.  We can be prepared for our storms.

Photo credit: China Daily

So how do we do that? Here are a few dos and donts to help you be ready.

  1.  Don’t be shocked.  Do realize this is a fallen world.  “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12)
  2.  As tempting as it may be, Don’t ask, “Why did this happen to me?” Don’t get me wrong.   It’s healthy to ask yourself if you’ve contributed to your problem. For example, if you’re in financial crisis because you’ve been irresponsible with your money.  But generally, the question “Why? Why? Why?” only leads to depression and a victim mentality that gets you nowhere. Do realize that life isn’t easy for any of us.  We all go through storms. You are not alone.
  3. Don’t swallow the lies of the enemy.  For example,  “I’m not going to make it”, “God is getting me back for some past sin”, “I will never be happy again”, etc. Do feed continually on the truth of God’s word concerning His ways. I love what John Piper says: “We must preach to ourselves because the enemy is always preaching to us.”  If we simply go on “default” setting, the lies of the enemy are always there to pull us down into depression, doubts, hatred and self-pity.  The afternoon I found my father dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, I immediately was reminded of words I had heard from a speaker just the day before:  “We don’t have to fall apart when troubles come.  Instead, we know this very moment we get to discover all that stuff we’ve been talking about in Sunday School for the past 40 years is true.”   There was no quick, easy fix.  It wasn’t overnight.  But I found it to be true as I proactively trusted God’s word rather than the lies of the enemy concerning my storm.
  4. Don’t pretend you can handle this on your own.  Do tell God the truth about your feelings. If you think you can’t handle your problems, congratulations!  You’re right!  If you could handle them, who would get the glory?  You.  God leads us into desert-like situations so He alone can be our sufficiency.  Then the glory is all His.
  5. Do look for reasons to be thankful.  Do look for God in every detail.  Ask Him what He wants to show you in this storm.  Then LOOK. Storms are like Easter Egg Hunts.  When you were a kid and you went to an Easter Egg Hunt, did you hand them your basket and did they fill it up for you and say, “Here ya go!  Thanks for coming to our Easter Egg Hunt!”????  NO.  You had to go HUNT for those babies.  (That’s why they call it a HUNT.) In the same way, you have to HUNT for the beautiful golden nuggets that God wants to show you in your storm.

It’s been said that we are always in one of three places: in a storm, just coming out of one or about to go in one.  Friend, the subject of remaining steady in the storm is dear to me because I have been there.  A storm is coming, and I want you to be ready.  My book “Falling Up” deals more in detail with this subject.  If you or someone you know is struggling in a storm, I hope you’ll take advantage of the things God shared with me.  He truly brought me out, stronger on the other side, and I know He longs to do the same for you.

Until next time, sending you love!

Connie

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.

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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!

How to Become a Super Ager

I read a fascinating article recently from the New York Times that discusses how some people over 65 experience the usual forgetfulness of old age, yet others somehow manage to remain sharp.  My mom, who will be 89 this month, assures us she is falling apart.  “Getting old is not for sissies!”, she reminds me.  Not gonna lie.  She has limitations.  She is diabetic, doesn’t drive after dark.  Yet, for her 82nd birthday, then again for her 87th, she climbed a mountain.  She plays bridge a few times a week, plays the piano (beautifully), drives (in the daytime), texts like a teenager and downloads games with her I-phone, is active on Facebook, lives in her own home and has a sense of humor to make you laugh so hard your sides hurt.  She’s a Superager.

Top of the Mountain

“Superagers” (a term coined by the neurologist Marsel Mesulam) are those whose memory and attention isn’t merely above average for their age, but is actually on par with healthy, active 25 year-olds.  For those of you who have a penchant for scientific details, I suggest you read the article, but if you’re like me and love a good bottom line, here it is: How do you become a superager?  Research shows: work hard at something.  The article says many labs have observed that the critical brain regions increase in activity when people perform difficult tasks, whether the effort is physical or mental.  So you can keep this part of the brain working well through vigorous exercise and mental effort.

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Here’s the interesting part, however. When you increase the activity in this important part of the brain, you feel worse, not better, in the moment.  Think about the last time you wrestled with a mental problem or pushed yourself physically.  This is a great life lesson:  Hard work makes you feel bad in the moment.  It’s afterward that you feel good, whether emotionally or physically.  Many a morning I have groaned as I laced up my tennis shoes for a walk or workout. Yet, NEVER, and I mean NEVER have I regretted the time spent working out!  Perhaps you’ve felt the same way, too.  Whether it was digging in with a mentally challenging problem or something physically challenging, it feels so good when you are done.

I love what the Marine Corps says: “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

Superagers are like Marines:  They push past the temporary unpleasantness of intense effort.  Studies suggest that the result is a more youthful brain that helps maintain a sharper memory and a greater ability to pay attention.

A fact: brain tissue gets thinner from disuse. The old saying is true:  If you don’t use it, you lose it.

We all love to be happy.  But sometimes, the greater happiness comes, not from indulging in inactivity, but in pushing through the hard thing and enjoying the benefits afterward.

This year, challenge yourself mentally.  Learn a musical instrument.  Learn something new on the computer.  Try a new sport or hobby.  Work your brain.  You’ll be glad you did!