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

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.

David and Jayne

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.

Beauty from Brokenness: The Marvelous Mosaic of Your Life

Built in the early 1900’s, my church’s building is a throwback to the days of tall arches, pews and stained glass windows. In the 1950s, a tornado shattered every one of those gorgeous windows.  Replacing the irreplaceable must not have been in the budget at the time, so the priceless stained glass was replaced with simple white, opaque glass.

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But that’s not the end of the story.

From those jagged shards, one inspiring, breathtaking window was created.  A masterful mosaic of extreme beauty!

At the right time of day, brilliant sunlight shines through, lifting the eyes and heart, reminding all that from brokenness sometimes comes great beauty.  

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What about you? Are there some painfully broken shards in your life? Does something from your past cause you hurt and sorrow?   Ask God to give you a glimpse of His perspective.  Then, try running the situation through the grid of Philippians 4:8.  Here’s how this works for me with the thoughts I have regarding the loss of my dad to suicide.

Whatever is true: True, my dad was broken and flawed.  But it’s also true that he is no longer! I choose to picture my father, not in the confused, tormented state he was in just before he died, but as the whole, healthy father he is now (Revelation 21:4).

Whatever is noble: I did not fall through the cracks with God.  His Word comforts me that “all the days ordained for me were written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 138:16).  “No plan of His can be thwarted” (Job 42:1).  His plans for me are good, even when it doesn’t look like it (Jeremiah 29:11). What comfort to live free of the “if onlys”!

Whatever is right: To dwell more on my dad’s final moment than his whole life would be wrong, and a dishonor to him. I have many hilarious, tender and proud memories of my dad.

Whatever is pure:  Even in the midst of darkness that overcame my dad, God’s light triumphed in his soul.   I am one happy girl to have learned just weeks before his death that his trust was in the Lord Jesus Christ! It may have been the faith of a mustard seed, but God assures me that it is enough (Matthew 17:20).

Whatever is lovely: To realize that I don’t have to have it all figured out is very lovely indeed.    What joy to know that He holds life’s mysteries for us. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God… (Deuteronomy 29:29). His thoughts are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9) and one day I’ll understand (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Whatever is admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy: Through this, God has birthed in me a desire to bring comfort to others with what He’s done for me. “…[He] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4).

Slowly, God took the shattered pieces of my soul and piece by piece created a mosaic in my heart – one of restoration, healing and compassion for others.  I am the person I am today in part because of the wounds of the past.  I’m not a fan of digging up past hurts for the sake of wallowing in them.  But I do believe that if they are held up to the light of God’s truths, those very hurts become a window through which His glory can shine, for our healing and for the good of others.  Much like Joseph’s words to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done… (Genesis 50:20)”.

I know I’ve only scratched the surface of the very complex issue of emotional pain.  But a good start is to hold up the pieces of your life to God to let His truth shine through and create a fresh perspective on your life.

If you do, I’ll bet my church’s beautiful stained glass will pale in comparison to God’s marvelous mosaic in your life.

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"Falling UP"

If you or someone you know is struggling with grief or loss, get a copy of my new book, Falling Up, Lessons Learned on the Way Down, here.

“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, North Point Community Church

Special Offer – Today Only!

I’m so excited to share with you what you and I are doing together.

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Here’s a little more info about “Falling UP: Lessons Learned on the Way Down”.

This is a great book to give away, have as resource to use now or have in your library for those challenging days of life.

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