Holiday Stress? A Simple Tip from Me to You

The countdown is on!  Just a few days till Christmas, and, if you’re like me, there’s still much to do!  A simple tip for beating the stress: remember to reward yourself.  Here’s what I mean.

Last week, after several musical presentations, shopping, cooking, errands, etc., I was feeling the stress of the season. My day hadn’t even started, but I was tired, just thinking of what needed to be done!   I was tempted to skip my walk with the dogs; after all, it was cold, damp and dreary outside.  But I donned my sneakers anyway and off we went.

John and I usually walk them together, but today I had both by myself.  Because they are big dogs who have a terrible habit of pulling, soon I was walking faster than I would’ve chosen.  Up steep hills, down hills, it didn’t matter to them.  They lunged at a cat, requiring all my strength to keep from sailing across the road.  We lingered a moment at the bus stop where a few 2nd and 3rd graders wait.  They shrieked with glee like they do every morning at the sight of the dogs.  Lots of petting, laughing and tail wagging, then we were on our way again.

As the sprinkling picked up, so did our already fast pace.  Now we were jogging and blood was pumping.  Sprinkling became steady rain.  Steady rain became a downpour.  The three of us were in a race for home.  Cold, stinging rain on my face, heart pounding, thighs burning.

Why was I laughing?

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Up the driveway, to the shelter of the carport, soaked to the bone.  I fed the dogs, took a hot shower and got on some dry clothes.  I sat down with a cup of hot tea, and that’s when I realized it: all the stress, irritability and fatigue were gone. In their place? Renewed energy, a more “alive” feeling and pure gratitude for a warm house!  In addition, the tasks before me now seemed more do-able.

This can be a hectic time of year.  I sometimes find myself so busy taking care of day to day activities that I can forget to take some time for myself.

Rewarding ourselves is an important part of maintaining a balanced life.  With the hectic pace that the holidays can bring, remember to reward yourself.   It may not be a run in the rain with crazy dogs, but whatever it is for you, find some time for yourself this holiday season and beat the stress!

From my heart to yours, I wish you a stress-free, healthy and blessed Christmas!

How to Leverage Life’s “Uh Oh”s for Greater Happiness (4 Strategies from My New Brother!)

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?”

“Yes!”

“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?”

Anyway.

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.)

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Then we sang “Amazing Grace, My Chains are Gone” together.

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I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place.

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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!

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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!

 

 

 

ChrIstmas CD Release!

I know, I know…we’ve just gotten past Labor Day and you’re hearing from me about Christmas? But I want you to be in the know…I’m so excited to share with you that my friends and I have just finished in the studio and my new CD “Simply Christmas” will soon be here!
Middle Georgia ladies, please help me celebrate with a Ladies Night Out and CD Release on Thursday, October 27 at the beautiful, new Pierce Chapel at Wesleyan College. Cost is $20 and includes music, merriment, munchies and your very own CD!  Register here: Christmas with Connie & Friends! For my friends far away, the CD will be available soon at iTunes and on my website, conniecarey.com.

christmas with Connie & FriendsMy talented friends, Dan Darden (guitar/vocals), Katie Trotter (violin), Sandra Chandler (piano) and Bruce Mercer (vocals) have joined me for some of the very best Christmas classics in a fresh new way and I’ll be sharing tastes from our rehearsals and studio time in the weeks to come.
In the meantime, here’s a little peek into a fun rehearsal of “Sleigh Ride” with dear college friend Sandra Chandler.  Enjoy!

 

And don’t forget to register…it wouldn’t be the same without you!

Four Practical Steps for When Devastation Hits

We all face times in our lives when things are so intensely difficult, it’s almost too much to bear.

Whether it’s the loss of a job, a loved one or an unexpected devastation that shakes you to your core (like the senseless tragedy in Orlando this past week or the tragic death of the two year old child at Disney), the pain is sharp, deep and very real.  The problem is that most of us have little to no training in how to deal with these challenging times or this level of pain – emotionally, intellectually or spiritually.

In this video I share my perspective on what it takes to turn our tears into triumph.  It’s a lesson I learned not overnight, but slowly in the aftermath of my father’s suicide.  While your particular situation might be different, the principles dealing with sudden and devastating loss are the same.

If you or someone you love is experiencing one of those deeply challenging times, I invite you to watch this video and share with others.  Even if you’re not in a particularly rough time, you know those times are coming.  It’s been said we are constantly in a storm, just coming out of a storm, or about to go into one.  And I want you to be ready the next time one comes along.

If you find this helpful and would like to learn more, (for example, what to say and what not to say to someone who is grieving, how to replace the “if onlys” with truth, confidence and hope, and how to fight back against despair and depression), my book Falling Up, is available on Amazon.

"Falling UP"“A powerful resource for anyone facing grief and loss.  Connie’s story will bring encouragement and healing through practical steps and solid Biblical truths.  A must-read and must -share!”  SANDRA STANLEY, NORTHPOINT COMMUNITY CHURCH, ATLANTA

 

With God on our side, we can do more than just survive grief and loss.  We can make it to the other side…stronger in our broken places.

Love,

Connie

D – Day Thoughts

Our visit to the museum at The Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden a couple of years ago transported me to the year 1944-1945 when the world was at war and the powers of good and evil hung precariously in the balance. The museum pulls no punches, graphically showing the sinister and devastating impact on people and history by Adolph Hitler and his deranged cronies. Photograph after photograph chronicle the human misery incurred from the rise to the fall of the Third Reich. The early photographs of Hitler and his ascent to power show tens of thousands of ordinary smiling people, saluting him with unabashed patriotism and admiration. We kept asking ourselves how that could happen, especially after they had to have known of the terrible atrocities committed at the numerous concentration camps spread throughout Germany and Austria. The photographs taken at the end of the war of those who once smiled and saluted now showed the despair of disillusionment.

Beneath Hitler’s beautiful resort compound were carved many eerie tunnels, such as the one below, connecting each structure.

Hitler's bunker

Hitler’s bunker

What a difference a year made (1944-1945).

" The Fuhrer Has Fallen"

The year before at this time we walked on the Normandy landing beaches. We saw the ensignia below not only at the Normandy museums, but also gratefully displayed in the towns’ restaurants and taverns. This D-Day, we find ourselves in Berchtesgarden, and see the ensignia again.

101st Airborne Division.

101st Airborne Division.

 

The 101st paratroopers who jumped into Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944 also liberated Berchtesgaden and seized Hitler’s mountaintop retreat, a symbol of his power, less than a year later.

(As an aside, that ensignia hangs on my den wall as my husband John had the privilege of serving with the same division in Vietnam.)

On this day, we are grateful for all those who participated in ending the terror and misery inflicted upon mankind by Hitler and his Third Reich.

The brave young soldiers who fought that day are few and fading.

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But the memory of their heroism need not fade.  If you are fortunate to know one of them, thank them.  Listen to their stories.  But above all, thank them.