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Entries in Struggles (9)

Thursday
Apr122018

Three Keys that Unlock Breakthroughs

Kathy Carlton Willis has experienced more in a few years than many people experience in a lifetime, and in this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she tells us how she’s experienced some personal breakthroughs this year. And we can too!

Kathy admits, “For the last few years I’ve been circling a holding pattern waiting for a landing strip.”

Kathy has personally coached me (Dawn), and she certainly shines the light on issues that hold us back. Her insights on what to do when we feel stumped are sometimes uncomfortable, but always on point.

Kathy continues . . .  

What I felt like God wanted for my life wasn’t materializing, and it seemed like others were living the dream I thought God had for me. What was I doing wrong?

The more I tried to fix things, the bigger mess I made. But now as I look back, it wasn’t a mess. It was a process.

This year my dreams are starting to materialize. Now I’m in a position to look back and identify the keys that unlocked my breakthrough.

As I study Scripture, I see a similar process for others who had a wilderness before a Promised Land, so I think I’m on to something.

There’s just one problem. This process includes THREE KEYS we all try to avoid. Now I’m seeing they are necessary parts of our journey.

Key #1—WAITING

I would prefer instant answers, but sometimes it takes time for everything to come together. It takes time for God to mature me into the person He needs me to be to fulfill the purpose He has for me.

No fine design before its time.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12 NLT).

The Message paraphrases it,

“Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around."

Life thrives like a tree when dreams come true. When we give up too soon, we miss out.

Key #2—SUFFERING

Did I have to include suffering as a key to unlocking breakthroughs? Why couldn’t I pick a more enjoyable process? Maybe involving chocolate!

But no—suffering is necessary. It is what prepares us for the desired end goal.

I remind myself when I go through trials (like illness, extreme weather, rejection) that it will be worth it all when I see Jesus bring about His best outcome for my situation.

“In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation" (1 Peter 5:10 NLT).

Key #3—OBEYING

Okay, now I’ve just gone to meddling. Obey? Me? But I am woman, hear me roar!

I resist the word obey. I wanted to put the word trust in its place.

Same idea, but a more positive spin on the concept. Yet God nudged me to keep the word obey. Why? Because part of the process toward breakthrough is realizing I can’t go it alone, and it’s not about what I want, it’s about what God wants.

I show God I can trust Him with the outcome, when I also trust Him with the process.

Even when it seems the next step doesn’t propel me toward the goal. In fact, sometimes His direction goes in a completely different trajectory.

For example, a few months ago, God led me to invite Mom to come live with us. This took a big step of obedience.

Each day are little steps of obedience as I choose to care for her needs rather than advance my own goals. But I know God is in it because every day we have new reasons to grin together.

Psalm 28:7 says, “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” (Read Psalm 112 for additional inspiration.)

I mentioned at the beginning of the article that God is starting to bring about the desires of my heart.

  • After a dry period of feeling like we couldn’t find a place of service at our new church, we were invited to lead a new small group in our home.
  • A regional ministry invited me to speak for a women’s event.
  • All of a sudden I’m starting to meet new friends, after a year of aloneness.
  • The largest Christian writers conference invited me to be a primary faculty member.

Breakthrough!

Are you looking for a breakthrough? How do these three keys influence your attitudes and decisions?

Kathy Carlton Willis, God's Grin Gal, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with GraceHer popular blog, Grin & Grow with Kathy is featured on CBN. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of LoggaWiggler at Pixabay.

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.

Tuesday
Feb272018

4 Steps to Dealing with Disappointment

I have no doubt Kathy Carlton Willis is qualified to teach us on the subject of disappointment in this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE. I was on her prayer team last year when she experienced what she calls, “back-to-back-to-back disappointments.”

"I started the year in the hospital for a post-surgical infection," Kathy says. "It required additional surgery, going home with a PICC line, and a change in plans to allow time for recovery."

I (Dawn) think most of us would struggle with just that, but Kathy's tale of struggle and disappoint went on and on. And so did her commitment to deal with those struggles in a "grin with grace way.

Kathy continues . . . 

I was so disappointed in how that impacted my year. I had to cancel contracts with clients and postpone a writer’s getaway.

My diet and exercise plans were on pause, too. Everything just felt off kilter.

Then, when I finally got back in the swing of things, I had four disappointments hit almost simultaneously.

  • I developed a urinary tract infection that wouldn’t go away.
  • The antibiotic I took for it caused a tendon injury.
  • Hurricane Harvey hit.
  • And if that wasn’t enough, it flooded a home we had in contract.

Notice I said, “had.” Harvey nullified the purchase.

Oh, and somewhere in all of that, I received a book rejection from a publishing house.

I’m not going to bore you with all the other commonplace disappointments, but these were the biggies!

You’ve had years like that, right? How did you handle the disappointments? Maybe you are going through a frustrating setback right now.

I’ve learned it doesn’t work to ignore the loss, and it’s not healthy to stay stalled out.

Each disappointment requires a process.

Here’s my 4-Step Process for Dealing with Disappointment.

1. Rightfully MOURN the loss.

Joy has left our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning. (Lamentations 5:15 NLT)

Disappointments stem from losing something we had or not getting something for which we hoped. Either way, we experience sadness.

Grieving is a painful process, but if we try to avoid it, we only manage to delay healing. When we mourn, the sadness subsides, and we are ready to move on.

2. Receive more of God's COMFORT and peace.

Look up the words "comfort" and "peace" in the Bible and you’ll see it is the Holy Spirit’s role to soothe your soul. Don't feel guilty for needing it—we all do!

Will you invite God’s Spirit to embrace you, rock you, and sing songs of consolation?

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NLT)

3. Ask God’s DIRECTION for something new or something to renew.

Once you’ve received God’s comfort, it’s time to look around to see what God has next for you, rather than continue self-reflecting.

It’s possible He will use your story to help someone else.

God helps you gain closure from your hurt so the pain no longer blinds you from your purpose.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT)

4. Move on with a RENEWED passion or project in something bigger than yourself.

There’s nothing like a new project to keep me going despite the let downs!

I anticipate seeing God at work, producing lightbulb moments.

That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT)

These are my four steps to deal with disappointment. Which step are you ready to take?

God’s Grin Gal, Kathy Carlton Willis, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with GraceShe’s a bi-monthly columnist with CBN and a devotional writer for Todd Starnes. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jan232018

Bounce, Don't Break

Deb DeArmond is passionate about family matters, and she encourages healthy interactions in all kinds of relationships. But in this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she helps us deal with recurring struggles and trials.

"Returning struggles. Just when you think you've cleared the hurdle, they present again," Deb says. "They can sap your strength, shake your confidence, and cause you to question God. How to manage? Bounce, don't break!"

I (Dawn) just dealt with a recurring struggle in early January. "I thought I'd already dealt with that," I said. It made me feel weak as I reeled in confusion. But I attest to what Deb is saying. Resiliency as we trust in Christ enables us to move forward.

Deb continues . . .

I could see her out of the corner of my eye. She was watching me. Again.

She wasn’t a creepy stranger on the street, but a trusted colleague. Her intentions were good, but it was uncomfortable.

Carrie was one of a handful of co-workers who knew of my heart problem. She’d been with me—on the road two years earlier—when it began. I knew she was concerned; our work assignment this day brought heat and elevation into the equation. Both could create issues for me. And they did.

After my initial diagnosis, I had surgery that corrected the problem.

The doctor was sure it would not re-emerge. He was wrong. A year later, a second surgery and more assurances felt less certain for a permanent solution. I felt great for five months, and then it returned.

And now Carrie, and a handful of others, made it their personal mission to watch me like a hawk.

I never questioned their motives, but the fact they felt the need to monitor me made me feel old, frail, and weak. I am none of those things. But there are days, I work hard to convince myself of that truth.

Returning struggles.

Just when you think you've cleared the hurdle, they present again. And whether they're health problems, financial struggles or any recurring hardships—they can sap your strength, shake your confidence, and cause you to question God.

So, what's the key to keep moving forward with peace and confidence?

BOUNCE—don't break.

B — BELIEVE.

Our confidence is in God's faithfulness.

He loves His children and strengthens us for the situation, even when He doesn't remove it. I've discovered new levels of certainty that He's ever present.

O — OFFER

Offer thanksgiving and praise for the solution.

Faith is trust in God that doesn't demand He deliver on our timetable. Honor Him by trusting His Word.

U — UNDERSTAND

Understand you may not understand.

As toddlers, our favorite question was "Why?" As adults, we are just taller two-year-olds—with an overwhelming need for an answer.

Sometimes God provides us that insight; sometimes He does not. Be okay with not knowing.

N —NAVIGATE

Navigate your new normal.

  • Curb spending on restaurant meals.
  • Consider how best to invest your energy level each day.
  • Accommodate changes that minimize the impact of the issue.

C — COMMUNICATE

Communicate with family and trusted friends about your circumstances, especially when it's health related.

The colleagues I travel with know what to do if I have an issue. They know how to access the information on my phone and are clear about the details that would be needed in an emergency.

E —EDUCATE

Educate yourself in the promises of God's Word and the issues you face.

  • Financial problem? Take a class on financial stewardship.
  • Health issue? Ask your physician for information and suggestions for books or articles that can help you learn about your options.

What does the Bible say about struggles?

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” James 1:2-4 (ESV).

Blessed are the FLEXIBLE, for they shall not break!

What can you do to bounce into action?

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her first book, Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming the Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships explores tools and tips to building sound relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Book #2, I Choose You Today, helps couples strengthen their marriages. Deb's new book on marital conflict, Don't Go to Bed Angry, Stay Up and Fight! was co-authored by her husband, Ron. They live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her "Family Matters" site.

Tuesday
Jul112017

Your Life Makeover: Are You Ready?

Wildfire survivor Elizabeth Van Tassel garners encouraging real-life stories and creates fantasy for kids with one goal in mind—helping tweens, teens, and adults find RESILIENCE amidst the most challenging times in life.

     

In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she encourages us to be open to life makeovers, so God’s touch will be evident in our lives.

“I didn’t ask for this season of great change, but I knew there was a whisper of something more packed into the move," Elizabeth said. "There’s a moment when you decide to either live a life of calling or of complacency. I didn’t want any regrets."

I (Dawn) think we can identify with seasons of change—expected and unexpected. But how we approach those changes makes a huge difference.

Elizabeth continues . . .

My husband looked stunned at the out-of-town, unsolicited job offer he’d received. It was an amazing opportunity for him, but I hesitated at first.

Our infant son’s third word was “box,” because our family had moved six times in two years.

Those were awful, unplanned and emergency-tinged after losing everything we owned in a massive wildfire years ago.

So, the word “move” provided a real challenge for me.

But the experience of giving everything to the Lord, and watching Him build a life for us again also freed me to invest in hope.

I said yes, and jumped.

Right now, we’re living in boxes in temporary housing, and breathing in the moment of trust daily.

  • Where will we live? Not sure yet.
  • Where will my grocery store be? Must remain flexible.

It’s like the TV show where they show up and dump your old clothes and take you on a shopping spree for a whole new look.

Are you open to His leading when this happens? Where does your life need transformation?

What if you’re cruising along, pretty content with life in general, and then a great change arrives?

Are you ready to be receptive to that ‘still, quiet voice’ prompting you to be open to something new? What could you miss if you’re not listening? Can dark times of loss and recovery actually make you MORE resilient?

Here’s what David had to say in Psalm 36:7-9:

“The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.”

Your ability to be RESILIENT, or flexible enough to bend rather than break when pressures rise and life brings more stress, is to be able to UPGRADE as you do three things.

1. Nestle in closer, even when you don’t feel safe.

It’s all right to realize you’re a bit fragile. Ironically, those brittle moments are when we can uncover a new relationship with Christ.

Share your dreams and feelings. Give yourself time and permission to hang out in the Word and in conversational prayer. It can bring connection and healing. Perhaps those moments when you need “refuge” will bring you even closer to Him.

2. Look for abundance in unexpected places.

When your life situations shift dramatically, there will be losses. Friends, or homes, or even jobs may change.

But in that season, what new doors are being opened?

Is it a caring friend who unexpectedly shows up to help?

Are you developing a new skill?

You never know how God can use your situation.

Be open to new lessons.

Where there’s growth, there’s a chance for Him to retool something; because He LOVES makeovers—those of the heart—the most.

3. Search for a river of delights.

So many people, perhaps hundreds, have asked me how we stayed positive, our marriage survived, and our children have coped with so much change. We found a way to be intentional with our time and our activities, and even planned more fun into our priorities—thanks to our kids’ perspective!

Time slows when there’s loss or death or depleted resources. Eventually, after some healing, you’re ready for significant questions in uncovering how to live a life of calling rather than just getting by.

You’ll find that river of delights when you sit quietly and ask Him:

  • For refreshment.
  • For the next breath.
  • For deliverance.
  • And for acceptance.

So, are you ready to take a breath, listen more, and learn from painful moments? Can you pack your own boxes? What’s holding you back?

Elizabeth Van Tassel, resilience expert and fantasy writer, has really lived a life with diamonds, wildfires, and miracles. A wildfire survivor and gemologist who lost every possession and her home in the 2007 Witch Creek Wildfire, she winds tales of wondrous gems and destructive loss into fantastic fantasy for the next generation and beyond. She also speaks, writes nonfiction, and blogs weekly for adults and kids about living a resilient life. Learn more about Elizabeth here.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Ron Porter at Pixabay.