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Entries in Strength (3)

Thursday
Mar012018

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.

Thursday
Feb152018

Strength for a Mama's Heart

Fighting pneumonia, Wendy Hamilton still wrote this UPLIFT post. She is leaning hard on God's strength, and she wants us to do the same.

"'Strength.' This word has been on echo for weeks," Wendy says. "As the holidays blurred and company came and went, 'Strength' was the word God whispered."

I (Dawn) know what Wendy means. Sometimes, weary and frazzled, strength drains from my lives. It's a good thing I know the source for new strength. As does Wendy. Though nothing may change outwardly, operating in God's strength makes our burdens seem lighter.

Wendy continues . . .

As a new school year began and our kids entered the last semester before high school, switched schools for a more personalized and creative approach to schooling or returned to college many states away, God spoke: “Strength”.

As illness seemed to invade every corner of our world affecting every friend and their families and all members of our family, God promised, “I am your Strength.”

Through those difficult times, God breathed the word “Strength” over my mama’s heart.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him (Psalm 28:7).

As projects went awry and I struggled to be me in my everyday life, God reminded me of who He is, who I am and what I am created to do as His beloved daughter.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26).

When life doesn’t always look, feel or seem to be going in a positive way, it’s easy to believe the lies of the enemy that God has forgotten about us, doesn’t hear us or really has nothing good for us.

I know among myself and my friends I saw the weariness creep in. Our struggle was real.

It is easy in those moments to focus on the “My flesh and my heart may fail” feelings and never counter those thoughts with the greater truth that “God is the strength of our heart” and He is all that we need all the time, every time, no matter what.

Think for a moment about what is not going as planned in your life.

Where are you going through difficulty or a situation you would rather avoid or never experience at all?

1. Write out what is going on your world that weighs heavy on your heart.

2. Write beside each item, "God, you are my strength and you are all I need.”

The sum of God’s strength far outweighs all difficulties in our everyday lives.

Strength is who God is. HE IS our strength and HE IS our shield. He helps us.

Because of who He is, we can trust in Him. Our mama’s hearts can leap for joy even in the most difficult of days—days filled with anything from toddler tantrums to adolescent antics to those tight, soul-trying moments where we may believe that we don’t have all that we need.

We can praise God for the songs He gives us, especially for the songs that reveal His strength for us.
[One example is below *]

Where is God telling you that He is your strength?

Wendy Hamilton is the co-gounder of Inspired Life Ministries, a creative arts freedom ministry. She teaches writing to moms and teen girls through Inspired Moms and Inspired Teens.  She is a songwriter/writer for Valley Creek Church and serves with her husband, Mike, and their kids in a variety of ministry areas across multiple campuses within her church family. Her devotional for moms, 30 Verses to Heal a Mama’s Heart, is available on Amazon.com, Amazon Europe and other online and offline bookstores and retailers. You can find out more at 30Verses.com. 

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

* An encouraging song to listen to today, "Everlasting God (Strength Will Rise)" by Chris Tomlin.


Thursday
Sep072017

Upgrade Your 'Roots' for a Harvest of Hope

Pam Farrel is a first-class encourager. I've seen her in action and enjoyed her encouragement myself! In this UPLIFT post, Pam encourages us to consider how we might reap a greater harvest of hope in our lives.

Pam says, "We all want to be blessed by God, right? But, do we desire to place ourselves in line to receive the blessing?"

I (Dawn) know that's true. So often I WANT the blessing, but I'm not intentional about preparing for it!

Pam continues . . .

I have decided I want to be like mint. Yes, that lovely tasting green leafy plant.

Its smell is unique and recognizable. Its taste is smooth, fresh, sweet, tasty and comforting.

Yes, if you love mint, your mouth is already watering with the thought of soothing, fresh mint in your tall glass of ice cold tea on a hot summer’s day; that sweet yumminess of mint chip ice cream at the end of a hard day’s labors, or that romantic kiss that happens right after a minty spray.

Yes, we love the impact and affect mint has. But how does mint get to be, well, mint?

Last spring, after the sale of our home, we went to live on our family’s vineyard. On that property is a beautiful garden. My sister-in-law loves mint, like I do, so she planted some in cement buckets buried in the ground.

But she did not know the power of mint!

That mint broke through those containers, spread throughout the entire garden and when it was beginning to break up the asphalt driveway, she knew we all had to take action! I volunteered to take on the challenge of mint removal.

Wow! I had no idea of the strength and power of the mint!

  • First, I tried to chop at the roots. Nope—iron clad!
  • Then I tried to yank at the roots. Forget that, not even weight-lifter could budge this hard cord mint!
  • Finally, I decided to try to out-smart the mint. I investigated the power of the mint. Here is the secret to its strength—the root system.

That cute little green plant you pick in bunches have roots that sink yards deep into the ground and are interwoven and braided into one another in every direction!  

I began to truly admire the tenacity of mint!

Upgrade Your Roots

Standing in the field of mint, in awe of the deep, intertwined root system holding the fragrant mint secure, my mind jumped to Psalm 1.

See, for the past two years, I have been submerged in the Psalms, writing  Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Biblical Experience.

Psalm 1 begins with that word we all hope for: “Blessed.” We long for the fruit of being blessed; and we desire to be a tree that “yields fruit” and “prospers.”

Verse two reveals the key that unlocks such blessing: “his [her] delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Sometimes the fruit people see in my life and family is like that sweet fragrant scent of mint. People often ask me how I have overcome traumatic family of origin issues or how my husband, Bill, and I have formed a lasting marriage and successfully raised children who love and serve God.

My response is always the same: “The power is in the Word.” It is not me, it is the roots God has grown in my life through HIS power!

As I studied Psalm 1, I pondered what it would mean to be a tree planted by streams of water with leaves that NEVER wither.

Following the research trail, I discovered that the “rivers/streams” mentioned are irrigation canals common in the Middle East. Fruit trees, especially the nutritious and delicious date palms, were planted near these waterways to ensure prosperity.

To grow my roots a little deeper, I continued doing word studies on “tree,” “planted,” “yields fruit,” and “prosper.”

  • I responded to God with prayer and praise.
  • I penned a poem in my own psalmist-like way.
  • I prayerfully savored the fruit of these studies on walks down my tree-lined driveway.
  • I sketched a tree with deep roots.
  • Into my Journaling Bible. In short, I sat in the shade of this Psalm 1 tree and reflected on my life.

Then, in God’s perfect timing, a tree on our property fell. It was not a strong wind or a raging storm that toppled it—no, it was a beetle that can do its damage only in drought conditions.

In California, we’ve been on strict water rationing because of a nearly decade-long drought.

The tree appeared healthy, but because of lack of water, it was dead inside.

It was a vivid reminder of what kind of tree I did NOT want to become! And the “living water” of the Word would be the difference!

So, friend, let’s do make it our goal to grasp that blessed life by growing roots that can stand strong no matter the storms life may send.

Or BE MINT, with roots interwoven with others who are also deeply rooted in the Word. Your deep roots will produce a sweet and fragrant life!

Turn on the soaker hose, pull out the sprinklers, and get out your watering can by reading, memorizing, worshipping, meditating on, and creatively responding to the verses God is placing along your path.

Daily study will deepen the roots of your life and help you find and hang on to hope.

And as for that field of mint on our family farm? We decided to let it stay since it is so deeply rooted there so I am thinking of writing a cookbook on 1001 Recipes for the Mighty Mint!

Pam Farrel is the author of 45 books, an international speaker, and relationship expert who seeks to breathe life into people’s most vital relationships through the ministry she runs with her husband, Love-Wise. Today’s blog is adapted from her newest book, Discovering Hope In the Psalms: A Creative Biblical Experience. (Co-authored with Bible teacher  Jean E Jones and artist, Karla Dornacher ) For more Bible study tips and tools to help your roots grow down deep in the Word and your hope to grow sky high, see www.DiscoveringHopeinthePsalms.com

Psalm 1 Graphic adapted, artwork courtesy of artist, Karla Dornacher; Mint photo from Pam Farrel.