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.

 

 

A Simple Secret for a Great 2017

Hello, there!

With just a few days into the new year, it’s pretty common to have a regret or two about the past year as well as hopes for the new one.

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Perhaps your noble intentions fizzled.  You tried your best, but it wasn’t enough.  Or maybe you flat out made a bad decision with really unfortunate consequences. Friend, I have been there.

I often hear this phrase: “If I could just have a do-over”. In fact, I’ve said it, myself.   But you know, regretting and wishing we could undo past mistakes takes a LOT of energy and brain cells, and never makes us very happy anyway!

The truth is, we simply don’t get to have do-overs. You see, it’s impossible to undo that wrong choice, un-say those unkind words, un-eat, un-drink or un-skip that workout.  We can’t un-spend, un-lie, un-cheat or un-fail to do something we meant to do but didn’t.

Which is why I’d like to share a different approach to this new year.

Rather than be consumed with debilitating, depressing, and useless regret, skip the self-accusation and line up your behavior with your goals…yes, One. More. Time.

That’s what Oprah Winfrey says has helped her lose 42 pounds in the past year.

As successful as Oprah is in other areas of her life, she has failed repeatedly to reach and maintain a healthy weight.  But she didn’t let it stop her from trying one more time.

As you and I think about past failures, there’s a lie that calls to us: “It will always be this way”.  But we must remember that that’s all it is: a lie.

What’s the truth? If you want to feel better, then do better.

Wow.  That sounds so simple.  But it really is true. Consider these timeless words of wisdom:  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” Isaiah 43:18-19.

But, I have wrong doing in my past that haunts me, you may say.   “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9.

My friend, don’t spend another second consumed with regrets about the past.  If there is something about which you feel guilty, confess it to God, do what you can to make it right with others, then trust Him with your future.  Thank Him that you still have breath in your body and time to make new choices.  And do better, moving forward.   In other words, make better decisions starting today.

Remember, if you want to feel better, do better.  With God’s help, you can!

I’d love to hear from you about your dreams and goals for the coming year!  And if I can pray for you about that or anything else, I’d count it an honor.  I send my best wishes to you for a great year!

Georgia Author of the Year Connie Carey is the author of Falling Up, a step by step guide for moving beyond grief and finding joy again.  Click here to claim your copy.

 

 

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!

 

 

 

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

How Letting Something Go Gives You Something Better

My friend Jayne recently discovered a spot on her leg.  What began as a spot was discovered to be a rare, aggressive cancer and within weeks she heard the doctor say, “The leg needs to go.”  Our town’s premier wedding planner was stunned at the news.  Jayne is a vivacious, positive thinking trooper, but this was a devastating blow.  The doctor admonished her, saying, “You will die if you don’t have the leg removed.  And soon.  Now don’t you be stubborn about this.”  “Stubborn?!” she exclaimed in her beautiful, way southern drawl. “I’ve got livin’ to do!  Set the date!”

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My friend David tells the story of having his second leg amputated.  Due to diabetes complications, the first had been removed years earlier.  Then the fevers came and the second leg burned hot with infection.  There was much more David wanted to do in life. But in his thinking, to be completely without legs and stuck in a wheelchair would make him an invalid…of little use to God or others.

So for seven years, he held on to his second leg.  Then sitting in a fast food drive-through line one day, David came to a place of surrender…a place of letting go.  “I was exhausted from recurring fevers caused by the infected leg”, he explains.  The encounter with God he had was undeniable.  He heard God ask,”Why are you holding on to a seven-year anchor?”  Suddenly he wasn’t afraid.  Immediately he made the phone call to set up the surgery.

Sometimes we need to let go of something so we can move to the next good thing. 

Maybe your spouse has left and you never thought you’d be here, starting over.  Maybe budget cuts at your company have caused you to lose your job.  Maybe a dear loved one has died and your life is suddenly far different than you imagined it would be.

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I don’t know what you’re facing, friend, but it seems to me in each of life’s storms, there is a common denominator…something we need to let go of.  And though our circumstances may be different from one another, the thing we need to let go of is the same. What is it? Control.

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As you relinquish your sweaty death grip on your circumstances, something beautiful begins to happen.  You are freed from the burden of trying to be God!  You realize that God is doing something in your storm…something you may not fully understand.  And you begin to sense that He’s at work for a good purpose in your life – and in the lives of others. It may not be the way you wanted your prayer answered, but there’s real comfort when you remember that His great love for you was settled on the cross.  And because of that great love, He’s working for His glory and your ultimate good.
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It was a Wednesday night at choir practice.  Hearts were heavy with the knowledge that David had lost his second leg that morning.  As the choir director, I asked, “Has anyone spoken with David today?”  A hand went up. “How is he?”  I’ll never forget the sagging shoulders, the downcast expressions as I scanned the room.  Everyone there loved David. The choir member replied, “He’s busy deciding how tall he wants to be.”

A gasp…then a collective hilarious belly laugh from everyone in the choir.

The evening of Jayne’s surgery, I dialed her number with a heavy heart.  “How are you, friend?” My beautiful, spunky, life-loving friend’s response? “I’m cancer-free! I traded my broken-down leg for LIFE, and before you know it, I’ll have a new, state of the art leg!” If I was stunned at the news of Jayne’s leg amputation, I was even more stunned at her victorious insight. Turns out the wedding director has a very important wedding coming up…that of her niece…and she is NOT going to miss it!

David and Jayne are two people that recognized it was time to let something go so they could move forward into something better. As David and Jayne each live life in their own bright, winsome ways, people walk away with this thought: “If someone with that kind of devastating loss can find hilarious joy in this life, maybe joy is possible for me, too.” They are making an impact for great encouragement in the lives of all who come in contact with them.

When David and Jayne relinquished control, they each lost a leg.  But they gained LIFE. And ministries that reach all kinds of people in all types of situations.

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David Duncan and Jayne Smith

I’d love to hear from you: What are you holding on to that God may want to exchange for something bigger?

Copyright 2016. Connie Carey is the author of “Falling UP”, a resource for grief and loss. You can reach her at http://www.conniecarey.com.