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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Rest (8)


How to Encourage Your Friends in Dark Times

Elizabeth Van Tassel cares about people who’ve faced loss, and wants to help individuals and families who are walking in the midst of turbulent times. And she has a big soft spot for teens and tweens. In this Spiritual Lifestyle UPGRADE, she focuses on helping ourselves or friends in the midst of a season of change.

“Living with intentionality after a loss is really critical for finding a successful path that not only leaves your family secure, but really gives you a sense of strength that exists despite our circumstances,” Elizabeth says.

“Whether you’re a writer, a busy mom, or a caring friend, it often takes time to really give yourself room to heal and find lasting joy again.”

It’s been a few months since some of the recent natural disasters, and I (Dawn) agree that it’s important we remain sensitive to what our friends—or we and our relationships—may need as time moves on. Perhaps we’re proceeding at a slower rate of healing.

Elizabeth continues . . .

This week I was at a writer’s conference in San Francisco, California, and met a lot of interesting people. I spoke with some survivors of the wildfires in Santa Rosa, Napa and Sonoma, and my heart was tender to where they are in their recovery process.

This year marked our own ten-year anniversary for losing our home in a wildfire in Southern California.   

It was almost like I could finish their sentences while we visited.

Me: Where are you in the process?

Them: Inventory purgatory. (Picture high stacks of paper around a desk.) Tears at having to relive losses so often, researching what’s gone.

Me: I know it’s more about memories than stuff.

Them: Yes, things that belonged to generations are now dust in the wind.

Me: What are you struggling with the most?

Them: Staying encouraged and realizing there is life beyond the constant insurance paperwork.

Me: What does your community need?

Them: Hope beyond circumstances.

Since there are so many areas of the country that were affected by devastating situations like floods and hurricanes as well as fires, I thought the UPGRADE we may all benefit from is how to find that encouragement in dark times.

The Psalmist is very intentional about focus during trials:

I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber (Psalm 121:1-4, NASB).

Where we focus, or what we focus on, we give power to.

I can choose to focus on little things in the midst of my challenge or trial to keep a flicker of hope alive.

The Psalmist continues:

The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever (Psalm 121:5-8).

Although we wish the Lord would rescue us from adversity, sometimes in the midst of that weariness we can glimpse special moments of the depths of His love.

We may not be able to explain why something is happening, but just knowing He loves us, and focusing on that, is a balm and leads us deeper into relationship somehow.

Here are some practical points to apply if you—or a friend—is recovering:

1. Be sure to take time out of your surroundings, giving yourself a visual break from damaged areas.

Staring at loss constantly is very draining, so make times for a picnic or something RESTFUL to focus on.

2. Dwell on beauty.

It could be a pretty flower arrangement or driving by spring blooms in an area, but get a watchful mindset for something that brings BEAUTY to the forefront for a while.

It will give you a vision beyond yourself and your current set of challenges.

3. Play games with kids.

This may sound silly, but getting in touch with your child-heart is so dear and can REGENERATE your sense of wellbeing.

4. Offer to help with practical things like getting groceries, childcare or planning an outing.

People in recovery have been haunted by many levels of decision making and often just run out of “gas” for planning things.

Just the gift of planning something pretty or taking them out is really a RELIEF.

5. Sit with them while they make their inventory.

There’s nothing more lonely than dwelling all day on things that are gone.

A FRIEND helped type into a spreadsheet while I imagined each room. There was much coffee and tissues involved, but we’d laugh and take a break now and then.

It was super helpful to have her organizing while I recalled the details my insurance company required.

6. Plan a birthday outing, or other kind of celebration.

It will seem like every holiday should just stop and slink away, but what you’ll regret later is not taking each day’s joy and making the most of it.

One of the biggest losses is time—time away from kids if you’re writing for insurance, time from projects and dreams washed away, time from growing relationships and being thoughtful is spent on just surviving and getting by.

MAKE TIME for important things and relationships, too.

Which of these areas would help your friends or even yourself today?

Elizabeth Van Tassel writes compelling middle-grade fantasy and nonfiction to spark hope after loss. She brings her knowledge and expertise in the field of gemology to the page and infuses her love of folklore into modern adventures filled with mystery. A wildfire survivor who lost every possession and her home in the 2007 Witch Creek Wildfire, Elizabeth understands both the power of loss and the power of hope. She shares her story of resilience, and provides tools for rebuilding at public speaking events and on her blog. Learn more at Live a Resilient Life.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.


The Big Break

Wendy Hamilton is an inspirational, everyday life writer who loves to tackle the daily tough stuff with truth and grace. In this UPLIFT encouragement, she encourages us to give ourselves a break in more ways than one.

"I sat across from my new friend aware that this was the first time in a long time that I was on this side of the table," Wendy said. "Usually it was me telling other women to take a break, rest, create fun in their lives or for their families, and not overdo." 

Wendy made me (Dawn) sit up immediately when I read that. Resting has been one of my big issues, one of the reasons my body fell apart and my ministry suffered. As Wendy points out here, sometimes we're our own worst enemy when it comes to rest.

Wendy continues . . .

That day it was me weary and undone. Everyday life felt like an overwhelming burden. I managed my day on autopilot, living that day much like I had lived the day before with little hope that tomorrow would be different.

“You can’t continue at this pace. You are headed for burnout. You need to rest,” my friend cautioned. “Take the rest of today and rest. You will be better for it.”

Her advice seemed counter-intuitive. I had so much to do.

Deadlines loomed. My house looked in many ways to be one more pile of clutter or laundry way from perfect for an episode of "Hoarders." Yet, I knew her advice was the truth.

“You are right," I confessed. "I’m not going to get anything done in the way and at the level I want to when I feel this tired.”

I thought back to scriptures I studied earlier that week. 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).

Both of those verses reflected an attitude and posture much different than what was reflected in my current pace and to-do list.

God’s good for me was a quieter pace.

His expectations for me did not require that my house look ready for a magazine feature or even “company ready.”  His expectations for me were to walk with Him, be with Him and rest with Him.

What God models reveals a way of life that keeps us ready to love Him and others, and allow us to be rested and not fatigued. God never is a tough taskmaster with an impossible to-do list. That method is you and I at work, not honoring who God created us to be the way God designed. 

The way of life God models is designed for us to know that we do not walk life alone. God promises:  “Never will He leave me and never will He forsake me” (Hebrews 13:5).

When I create the impossible pace in my day and in my life, I forget that I do life with God. 

I make myself and my talents, abilities and strengths an idol, and I place "me at work" above God at work in my life. I live life focused on what I should do instead of living in the victory of what God has already done.

The result of such heavy self-imposed burdens is weariness.

God knows our tendencies to rely more or ourselves than on Him. That is why He calls us to receive His comfort, love, faithfulness and presence.

God draws us to Himself through scripture and stillness so we can take a break and have a break. 

What He asks of us leads to more life and more freedom. We don’t get tired of what God gives us when we function in everyday stillness and get to know Him more. What God has for us as we listen to Him speak in scripture and in our everyday lives is “immeasurably more than all we could ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

What God designed is our big break and rest.

Where is God calling you to rest and take a break? What areas of your life does God want you to surrender to Him so He can give you more than you could ask or think?

Wendy M. Hamilton is a writer and songwriter from Dallas, Texas. When she is not ministering with her church family at Valley Creek Church, a multi-site mega church, she is volunteering at The Salvation Army or teaching and encouraging others to minister and lead with their art and bring inspired ideas to life. Wendy and her husband, Mike, are the founders of Inspired Life Ministries, and they love living a messy, busy and fun life with their 4+1 kids. Her most recent published song compilation, "Here We Go," is included on Compass, the new Valley Creek Kids Worship CD released May 2017 from Valley Creek Worship.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Lightstock (free download).



A New Year's Resolution Makeover

Nali Hilderman is a smart, successful college professor, but she knows how to make truth practical. In this New Year's UPGRADE, she points us to seek God and allow scripture to speak to our hearts.

"As we turn our thoughts from the outgoing year and focus on the new," Nali says, "I propose we have a makeover in any resolutions we make for the New Year."

Nali's suggestion intrigues me (Dawn), because I've made many resolutions over my lifetime, and so few of them lasted. Maybe a "makeover" is exactly what I need.

Nali continues . . .

As women most of us tend to enjoy the idea of a makeover. Be it a make-up facial, a weight-loss plan, or someone cleaning or organizing our house, we love the idea of a new, fresh perspective on something ordinary. 

I don’t know where the tradition of New Year’s resolutions began, but it seems that most of the time they tend to focus on us and what we want out of life. 

I do not necessarily think that is a bad thing, but as believers, we don’t live life solely for ourselves— WE live life for the Lord! 

What if, this year, you turn your focus to Christ and ask Him for His resolutions for your life instead of your own resolutions! 

I have been doing this for about five years now and it’s been amazing to see how each year has had a God-ordained theme to it. 

For 2016, the word that kept coming to my heart and mind in prayer was “rest.” For the first several months, I assumed that it meant I needed to rest physically and emotionally from a very busy and fulfilling job as a professor. 

Yet, as the months of the year progressed and God walked me through some painful personal and family issues, I realized His notion of rest was much deeper than I thought. Over the past several months, I was invited into a deep, soul-level rest of the knowledge of who Christ has made me to be and to find my identity in Him. 

This theme has challenged and guided me as I’ve navigated things this year. I know I am different now for it, and am grateful to see His hand at work.

I am excited for YOU to try this New Year’s Resolution plan. Here are a couple of simple suggestions on how to do this:

1. Remember God as your "Ebenezer."

In the Old Testament, God was Israel’s Ebenezer. Ebenezer means "stone of help." 

God commanded the leaders of Israel, through Samuel, to set up memorial stones in public places to commemorate how God had provided for and rescued the children of Israel (see 1 Samuel 7, especially verse 12). 

Take time to think about and write down how God provided for and blessed you LAST year.

A joyful and grateful heart for God’s blessings in 2016 will go a long way towards seeing Him as protector and provider in the New Year. 

2. Make time for a Retreat and ask the Lord for goals for the New Year.

This does not have to be a “long” retreat; even just a few hours of concentrated time will suffice. But think through and ask what things the Lord might have for you in the coming months and year. 

Ask if there are any passages of Scripture that might serve as a guide. This can provide a clear vision for how you are to invest your time, finances, resources and energy—and is usually far more exciting than “spend two hours at the gym every day”!  

You can do this for yourself personally, but you might also want to try doing this with your spouse and/or children. One year, my friend and her family decided they were going to focus on "being generous." That was their focus word for the year. So they set aside a part of their earnings each month and looked for people that God wanted them to provide for.

Note: if you need further help on how to do this check out a simple book called One Word. It teaches how just one word can impact you. 

3. Enjoy the New Year!

The best part about the New Year is that is a chance to restart, refresh and realign. 

Taking time to examine your life can be an exciting thing, especially if you walk into the new season with a renewed sense of purpose from the Lord. God is at work in you, my friends!

"For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10, ESV).

The Lord has work for you to do—exciting work, faith-building work, challenging work, difficult work.

Will you make a goal to remember Him as He worked in 2016, and join in asking Him to guide you purposefully in 2017?

Nali Hilderman is a professor of American history at San Diego Christian College and Director of the college’s Dr. Henry Morris Leadership Program. She studies women’s history and Christian theology, trying to make sense of how to be a confident, successful Christian woman who does not buy into the secular feminist mentality. She attends Journey Community Church in La Mesa, CA.


Well Done or Burnt Out?

Kathy Carlton Willis knows a lot about living under pressure. I've followed her and her husband during a difficult year, and she focused on the Lord to keep her faith strong. Kathy also knows a lot about the stress of burn-out, and in this Spiritual Life and Self-care UPGRADE, she shares wise counsel.

"Sometimes I wonder if my efforts will lead to me hearing 'Well Done' or being burnt out," Kathy said. "Let's look at the recipe for finding the balance."

I (Dawn) think this is such a vital topic in our busy, busy world. Several years ago, I almost totally lost my ministry because of a health issue related to burn out. Loving friends did question all I was doing at the time, but I wish someone had pulled me aside and asked tough accountability questions about my priorities and why I was doing what I was doing.

Kathy continues …

In most recipes, the difference between making a crispy creation and a delightful dish is in two variables. Time and temperature. (Just like the old phone service you could call for that information!)

Getting the best out of life for God’s BIG glory without burning out requires those same two variables. Let’s take a look at them.

1. Time

  • How long do you spend on the things that require your attention during your waking hours?
  • How long do you sleep and rest between periods of busyness?
  • Do you have time to add something new to your schedule, or do you need to delete something before you add anything else?

2. Temperature

  • How hot does your passion burn for your specific projects?
  • How consistent are your efforts before you need to take a break?
  • Do you get bored easily with the project?

Oftentimes we evaluate the ingredients of a recipe to determine if it will be a success, when the real issue is to make sure we have the time and temperature set correctly.

It’s wise to ask God to lead in adding to or taking away from your workload. Seek Him to reveal what activities tickle your taste buds. And follow His lead when it’s time to take it easy for a bit.

If it’s been a while since you had a day you could label BLESSED REST,  then you probably need a day like that!

Overdo or overdue?

Are you on the verge of burning out? I realized it was time to slow down and relax when I wrote the following paragraph to my mom:

“I want one day to relax and do what I want, when I want.

I haven’t had one of those in a LONG time. Overdo.

Sort of my Merry Christmas present to myself!”

See the problem? I spelled “overdue,” overdo. And that was the problem.

I was overdoing it—rest was overdue!

We rarely will admit we’re burning out until it’s too late. The toast is already burnt. We’ve pushed the time and temperature too long, too hot. 

And you know what happens when you let the toast burn? It stinks! It stinks when we push ourselves too hard, as well. We’re no good for anyone, at that point.

Let the toaster cool off and add more bread. You rest, then decide what God wants you to add or subtract from your life schedule to fuel your passions and feed your purpose without overdoing it!

Burnt Out?

And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (Galatians 6:9 KJV)

Well Done?

His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little, I will put you in charge of many things; share in the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21 AMP) 

When you seek Jesus to be Lord of your life (Master) and are faithful in His instructions, seeking to be effective for the success of the Kingdom and not merely personal success, you will hear Him exclaim about your work, “Well done!”

Where are you headed—to hearing “Well done” or being burnt out?

Kathy Carlton Willis shines for God, reflecting His light as a speaker at writer's conferences and women's retreats, and as an author - contributing to three books and writing hundreds of columns and articles online and in print publications. She wrote Grin with Grace with AMG Publishers and has several books releasing over the next few years. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.


Rest in the Midst

Author and teacher Ava Pennington loves to focus attention on our Father God and His Word, because she knows that changes lives. In this Attitude and Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she offers tips to help us rest in the Lord.

“A-a-a-a-h. Nothing like a bit of quiet rest after a long day or a tough week ... at least that’s what I’ve heard,” Ava says.

Like Ava, I (Dawn) am a busy writer on top of my regular job. I love the busyness of what God calls me to do, but I need to seek Him for rest cues so I won't get overwhelmed. I appreciate Ava's perspective.

She continues . . .

Actually, moments of quiet rest are rare in my life. Apart from my time with the Lord in the morning, most of my day is filled with activity and noise. Even when I’m in the car, often the first thing I do is turn on the radio.

But there’s something to be said for settling into an oasis of rest where my senses are not bombarded. And summer is the perfect season to seek those times.

So, in anticipation of summer, I’ve been looking optimistically at my stack of to-read books. I even purchased an outdoor lounge chair for that purpose.

Sadly, both the chair and the books are leftover from last summer. Clearly, I needed a different approach.

What does biblical rest look like?

Turns out, I needed to upgrade my understanding of R - E - S - T.

R - Release

Biblical rest is often misunderstood to mean sleeping or taking a break from work. But when Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV), the original word for rest in this verse refers to refreshment while we work.

Resting in the Lord doesn’t mean we ignore our circumstances or run away from them. True rest comes in releasing control of those situations to the Most High God who is greater than any problem.

Besides, we’re really only releasing the illusion of control, since we were never in control to begin with!

E - Enjoy

After walking with the Lord for a lifetime, King David wrote these wise words in his old age: “Take delight in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4 NIV).

Delight in the things of this world is temporary. We were created for fellowship with God. Delighting in Him will last for eternity. We are able to rest when we know the source of true enjoyment that will last forever.

S - Stay

In John 15:4, Jesus reminds us to remain in Him. Using the illustration of a grapevine, He said, “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (NIV).

Some days it’s easier for me to “remain” in Jesus than others. But the grapevine illustration reminds us that branches cannot attach, break away, and re-attach themselves at will. They need the continual flow of life-giving sap to live and produce fruit. True rest comes from a commitment to stay, or remain, in Christ, regardless of what life brings.

T - Trust

One of my favorite verses is, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5 NIV).  

It’s difficult to trust someone we don’t know. That’s why I’ve been drawn to the names and attributes of God in Scripture. The more we know what God says about Himself and experience His expression of those attributes in our own life, the easier it is to trust Him. True rest flows from that trust, despite our situations.

I’m still looking forward to sitting in my lounge chair and enjoying that stack of books this summer. But I’m also anticipating the refreshment that comes from resting in Christ in the midst of the work He called me to do. How about you?

In what area of life is the Lord calling you to rest in Him?

Ava Pennington is a multi-published author who has also written numerous magazine articles. She is a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers (AWSA) and a board member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN). Ava also teaches a weekly Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class. She is a passionate speaker who engages audiences with relevant, enjoyable presentations. Visit her at

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at