As a kid, didn’t you LOVE surprises? Like when your parents surprised you with your first bike!
Later, as an adult, maybe the dishwasher broke. And flooded the kitchen. Surprise.
Some surprises are great! Some not so great. Many of you may know the very unexpected news I received a few months ago. It came by way of a phone call. But my surprise was good–incredibly good. Let me tell you about it.
My side of the story begins while perusing Facebook one evening. I watched a video of my cousin Bruce from Texas singing and playing the guitar beautifully. Since I’m a musician myself, I was intrigued. I didn’t know this cousin at all and I certainly didn’t know he was a musician. I sent him a private message. “Bruce! This is your cousin, Connie! Wow! Loved your singing. I wish we lived closer and could make music together sometime.”
Instantly, a reply: “Are you going to the family reunion in April?”
“Maybe we could do something together then.”
Wow. How fun would that be?
We messaged back and forth for a week or so, discussing songs, key signatures and ranges. “May I call you in the morning?” he asked. “Sure!”, I responded, thinking we’d nail down a song and key signature. Bruce added, “And I’d like to tell you a story about our family.”
“Great! I love family stories!” Little did I know how Bruce’s story would change my life.
The next morning, Bruce shared with me that on his 50th birthday, his mother (my Great Aunt Nita), revealed to him that many years ago, while she and Bruce’s dad were separated, there was a relationship with her nephew by marriage, Bill. (OK, folks, Bill is my dad.)
Bruce shared that his mom told him that the result was….well, Bruce. Mind you, now, this is long before my mom and dad ever knew each other.
There. That cleans it up a little. Right?
Surprise! I have another brother! Well, after we talked some more, Bruce and I decided it might be best for me to tell my brother, Mark. When I asked Mark how he felt, he said, “Strangely happy”. “Me, too”, I said. “Why are you strangely happy?” “Well, I always wanted a big brother!”
“Wait. Are you saying my piano recitals weren’t enough for you?”
My new brother, Bruce, has taught me a thing or two about how to handle surprises. So what do you do when life hands you an “Uh oh”? Something totally unexpected? Four suggestions:
1. Keep it simple and find the good. When my new brother of five minutes asked how I felt, I asked, “Bruce, how do you feel?” His response? “I’m thrilled. My daddy David raised and loved me as his own. In addition, I always looked up to Bill. I have 2 wonderful siblings. And I am hopeful about the possibility of getting to know you and Mark. I don’t understand why this happened, and I’m not saying it was right, but as a result, I’m here…and I am the person I am because of it. I’m grateful for life.” Bruce set the tone for Mark and me by this wonderful perspective. He could’ve said it had ruined his life, that his life was a lie, that the circumstances of his birth were less than honorable. But he just doesn’t get involved in too much navel gazing. He seems to understand this great truth: Some things are beyond our understanding. As the Bible puts it: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us…” (Deuteronomy 29:29). It seems the happiest people are those who know the difference between what God chooses and doesn’t choose to show us. Knowing the difference and resting in it can bring such peace. We must be willing to live with mystery.
2. Refuse the regrets. The “If Onlys’ are always waiting in the wings for us. Maybe they call to Bruce, too, but he just doesn’t answer the door. He refuses to be a prisoner of past experiences. How about you? Here’s what I mean: “Boy, those were the good old days. If only this or that hadn’t happened.” Are you missing out on what God has for you today because you’re consumed with yesterday? Instead of looking back and wishing something had gone differently or regretting that something is over, don’t miss out on what He is doing right now.
3. Have courage, with discernment. Bruce could’ve kept the secret to himself. And he would’ve avoided the risk of rejection, but we all would have missed out on the gift of our new relationship with one another. Yet he wasn’t impulsive in sharing his news. He considered it for many years, weighing the possible consequences. When the time felt right, he made it clear he didn’t want to intrude on Mark’s and my life, but thought we deserved to know. I marvel at the courage it must have taken to make that phone call, and I’m so glad he did.
4. Be flexible. My mother and Bruce’s siblings have shown great flexibility and generosity in sharing us. Bruce’s long time siblings have been gracious to us, sharing Bruce and inviting us to be part of their family. And my mother has opened her heart to Bruce, giving Mark and me freedom to do the same. They’ve all been great examples of generosity and flexibility.
May I ask what “uh oh” you might be facing in your life? Maybe your cousin isn’t your brother, but perhaps you’ve received a less than good report from the doctor. A husband who said he’d be there forever is now gone. A job loss. I don’t know exactly what you may be facing, but do know this: unexpected moments like these are inevitable, but are often the gateway to equally unexpected blessings. The difference is how we deal with it and the perspective we choose to have. For me, I’ve gained a precious brother and my life has been immeasurably enriched.
Last year, my Christmas CD was delayed due to a copyright issue. But because of that delay, it turned out that Bruce was able to sing with me on my CD. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of telling our story at my CD Release! (On the left is my new brother, Bruce and on the right is my long time brother, Mark.)
Then we sang “Amazing Grace, My Chains are Gone” together.
I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place.
This holiday season, there may be an “uh-oh” waiting for you. Remember, unexpected moments are inevitable, but are often the gateway to equally unexpected blessings. My brothers and I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of gratitude for life’s unexpected blessings!
And by the way, my new Christmas CD, “Simply Christmas”, is sure to get you in the holiday spirit! Available on conniecarey.com/shop and coming on iTunes this week!