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Entries in Tough circumstances (3)


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.


Get Better, Don't Get Even

Author Charlotte Riegel asked some of the questions we ask when we’re boxed in by tough circumstances. But she helps us remember why we should take off the boxing gloves in this helpful Attitude UPGRADE.

“Feeling overwhelmed by our circumstances and unable to concentrate on the sermon being delivered, I quietly slipped out of my pew and left the building,” Charlotte wrote.

“Feeling overwhelmed” … have you been there? I (Dawn) have. And in those times, I’ve discovered I often require an attitude adjustment.

Charlotte continues …

The beautiful spring morning beckoned my enjoyment as I wandered the streets surrounding the church. Turning onto a pathway through trees in a nearby community park, I began sobbing, unable to contain the grief, anger and confusion seeking an outlet.

My husband, Stan, had recently been told his teaching contract would not be renewed, and with four children to provide for, I struggled with “Why?” and “What now?” questions.

We had managed to survive the three years on “below the Canadian poverty line” wages because of frugal living patterns taught by my husband’s parents who learned these life skills during the Depression. We had no savings.

Stan was angry about the dismissal and considered what reprisal actions he might utilize.

The administration’s reasons for not renewing his contract seemed very shallow. He loved his students and they often told him how much they appreciated his instructions. However, they did not sign his pay check. He worried about how he would provide for his family.

A glance at my watch forced me to put a stopper on the tears and head back to church before someone came looking for me after the service ended.

It was the Easter season. On my walk back to the church, I remembered Christ’s sacrifice. 

Jesus knew the grief of rejection, yet He said nothing. He did not fight back.  He did not call “ten thousand angels to set him free,” but instead He died, alone.

I knew we were being called not to retaliate, but to trust God for what lies ahead. Jesus is our example.  


Sometimes like Christ

We stand condemned

By just, or unjust means.

Then we must die

To rise again

Liberated and free.

Aware that retaliation would only bring us more stress and possibly more grief, we silently adjusted our life direction and started down a different path. A new job was found without major distress, and it paid considerably better, thereby helping us care for our growing family with more ease.

“Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it” (Romans 12:17-19, The Message).

When are you tempted to retaliate? How can you respond more like Jesus did?

Charlotte Riegel is a freelance writer living in Rosebud, Alberta. She can be contacted at Follow Charlotte at her blog.

Graphic in text, adapted - Image courtesy of hin255 /


Faith Steps: Knowing God Is in Control

Kelly DeChant has always struck me as a woman of faith, but my respect for her increased when her faith was tried in the crucible of tough circumstances. Her strong testimony can help us Upgrade our faith!

“In 2007, yielding to the petition of our mortgage company to refinance one more time,” Kelly said, “we succumbed to their leading and entered into the refinance that would put us over the edge and change our lives forever.”

I remember when Kelly went through that scary time. My heart was heavy for my sweet friend and her husband. Though I’m sure there were many temptations to give in to fear, her faith in Jesus kept shining through!

Kelly continues …

With thousands of other families, we fell victim to unscrupulous business dealings—trusting in their professionalism versus realism—and entered into an area without researching, blindly signing our financial future away in one fell swoop. 

I learned important lessons and took faith steps as I asked myself three tough questions.

1. When faced with life-changing decisions, which will you choose—panic or prayer?

Was this is a surprise to God?  I think not! 

I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you, not for calamity but to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

When faced with the reality in 2008 that we were facing foreclosure of our home and the fact that we were well over $120,000 upside down, bankruptcy also loomed desperately in our future.

We had a choice to panic or pray! Panic would bring us fear, prayer brought us peace. Through that peace we sought wise counsel, and the solution was to sell the house before foreclosure took the house. God was still in control. 

2. Will you relinquish your plan for His purpose?

I could have never imagined leaving our little house where our children grew up to go to an unknown destination. It was not in our plan. But it was in His. Taking a deep breath and leaving our future in His hands, we prayerfully embarked on selling our little home in a short-sale transaction! Short is a relative term; there was nothing short about it! 

Within one week of our house being on the market, we had an investor willing to pay cash within $60,000 of what the house was worth at the time, and we felt hope. The process actually involved five different buyers over 12 months and two threats of foreclosure; but His plan was fulfilled as our home released through closed escrow. God was still in control.

3. Will you praise or pout? 

With our dreams of being long-time home owners dashed, and a subsequent move to a local mountain community, we chose to praise God in the midst of much uncertainty. Our new location lasted only two years before we were notified that this house was to be sold to lighten the homeowner’s load.

At this time, we had a huge decision to make. We again chose to pray versus pouting, and God shook us to a new level of release—this time, releasing possessions. Moving required down-sizing from a 2,700 square-foot location to a mere 670 square feet. Yet again, we embraced His leading and relinquished our control.

We sold most of our furniture, pictures and various household items to the impending buyer and thanked Him for it! God was still in control.

He is still in control today!

Leaning on Him and relinquishing control, we are certain that His purpose has guided us to His perfect plan for our lives! 

And it’s certainly easier to move now. Our load is so much lighter—in more ways than one! 

Panic, our plans and pouting … or praying, God’s purpose and praising Him. We all have a choice in our circumstances. And I’m so glad we chose Him!

When faced with tough circumstances, what is your tendency – panic, pouting, prayer or praise? Do you want God's plans, or are you still clinging to your own? How does Jeremiah 29:11 speak to you today?

Kelly DeChant serves as the Ministry Coordinator for Women’s Ministries at Shadow Mountain Community Church (SMCC) where her passion is to equip women for their life’s purpose through discipleship and mentoring. Kelly coordinates the Evangelistic Outreach events—Girls’ Day Out and Girls’ Nite Out—bringing the Gospel message to unsaved friends and family of the SMCC women. 

Graphic in text adapted: Image courtesy of phanlop88 at