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Entries in Struggles (13)

Tuesday
Mar262019

"You Is Strong!"

Kolleen Lucariello always has a story and a fresh take on Christian living. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she reminds us where the source is for our strength to overcome.

“His little three-year-old arms rose for the fifth time hoping this might be the time his Mimi would surrender to his request,” Kolleen says. “With four words he was able to get what he needed because it gave her what she needed.”

I (Dawn) was so charmed by this story about Kolleen and her grandson, Nolan. She reminds us to be careful about the voice we listen to and the thoughts we think, and most of all, to respond to the One who has the power to help us.

Kolleen continues . . .

Fresh snow lay on the ground to the delight of our two Virginian grandsons who had come to spend a few days in Central New York with Papa and Mimi. 

They waited as patiently as a three- and five-year-old could, staring out the front window for their cousins to arrive. 

We’d had a fresh eight inches of snow fall the night before, adding to the already 18” on the ground; and so, feeling adventurous, I promised we’d all go outside for a walk in the woods.  

Four pair of snow pants, winter jackets, hats, gloves and boots later I sent the grands outside and then prepared myself for the cold.

Once outside, and after a few turns sledding down the stairs off the deck—it’s the best hill we have—I asked them if they were ready for our walk. With glee, the older three took off running for the woods with three-year-old Nolan trying hard to keep up in the deep snow. 

After a few steps he looked back at me and lifted his arms. “Up” he said.  

“I’m sorry buddy. Mimi isn’t strong enough to carry you with all that snow gear on.”

 A few more attempted steps and the arms went up again. “Up.”  

“I’m sorry, Buddy. Mimi isn’t strong enough to carry you. Let me grab a sled.” 

Once we had the sled, Nolan decided he’d try lying on his belly. I picked up the rope, took a step forward, and felt the weight of the sled change dramatically. 

Turning around, I discovered Nolan face down on the snow. We tried several different approaches, but his gloves were so thick it made it impossible for him to hold the handles. Every shift of the sled caused him to slide right off, either to the left, or right.

This led to numerous repetitions of his “up” and my “I’m not strong enough.”  

We hadn’t gone very far when I heard “I want to go inside.”

So did I. The adventure had been exhausting. 

I called the other grandkids and told them it was time to head back to the house. Immediately, Nolan’s arms shot up as he blurted out, “Mimi! You is strong!” 

You know what?

Instantly, Mimi became strong enough to carry the tired, frustrated little boy—snowsuit and all. 

It’s amazing how strong one can become when they collide with a voice reminding them of who they are, and believe they are able.  

I had been convinced I was not strong enough to carry him, and the belief made me unwilling to even try. Sound familiar? 

Is there a heavy load needing to be picked up, but you’re convinced it’s beyond your strength to carry?  

It’s easy to believe we are incapable when, often, the loudest voice we hear is the one shouting, “You can’t do it. You aren’t strong enough.” 

Perhaps the voice has you convinced you don’t have the strength to carry the heavy load it will take to: 

  • overcome the addiction,
  • reconcile your marriage
  • or forgive “seventy-times-seven” (Matthew 18:22).

It’s hard to restore hope to the depressed soul when the voice you listen to says you can’t.

That is not, however, the voice God intended for us to listen to. He has a different opinion of what we are able to accomplish; and while it does take effort and courage to hear, He’s the One whispering,

I believe in you because I created you with a purpose. 

We upgrade our spiritual life when we determine to apply these four “T’s.”

1) TUNE in to the right voice.

Shut off the negative I can’t voice. Become acquainted with the One that says—with Him—you can do all things (Philippians 4:13). 

2) TAKE thoughts captive.

You control your thoughts. Make them obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

3) TRUST His power within you to help carry the load.

God promised He would strengthen us, help us, and hold us up with His victorious right hand (Isaiah 41:10). 

4) and TRY!

When confronted by hard circumstances remember this:

You Is Strong, and the Lord rescues! (Psalm 34:19)

What burden or struggle are you reluctant to pick up or face today? Consider these four “T’s” and move forward into victory.

Kolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, is the author of the devotional book, The ABC's of Who God Says I Am; and as a speaker, she speaks into women's lives "one letter at a time." Kolleen and her high school sweetheart, Pat, reside in Central New York. She's a mother of three married children and Mimi to four incredible grandkids. For more information about Kolleen, visit her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Robin Higgins at Pixabay.

Thursday
Mar142019

What My Sick Dog Taught Me about Trust

Debbie W. Wilson is one of my heart sisters. We met on Facebook and we both desire to align our thoughts and behavior with the Word of God. But her Spiritual Life UPGRADE is especially dear to me, helping me to better receive God’s will at a difficult time in my own life.

“I felt like a traitor luring my standard poodle into my vet’s lab room,” Debbie said.

I (Dawn) so understand that. We’ve done that with our maltipoo, Roscoe. But it was for his good! I love how Debbie expresses this simple-but-profound truth.

Debbie continues . . .

I did it to save his life. But Max didn’t know that.

Did he think I was heartless to let the vet draw blood from his thin leg—again?

For months after we learned Max has Addison’s disease, the vet had to draw his blood to check his electrolyte and hormone levels.

One week, Max refused to go with the technician. So instead of handing her the leash, I followed her—and he followed me.

Max’s trust in me made me consider the conditions I’ve put on fully trusting God in painful situations. I’ve thought if only I knew the purpose of my pain then I’d be able to trust God better.

But was that true?

Imagine me explaining Max’s condition to him.

  • I could read him the symptoms off the Internet.
  • I could show him his lab reports.
  • I could remind him how he almost died.

But would that help Max have his blood drawn?

I understand the treatment of Max’s illness better than he does. I know the pain of the needle is brief and the benefits are lasting. How much more does God understand my trials?

Sometimes God allows me to see the benefit of my pain. But some 'whys' remain unanswered.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says,

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (NIV).

The difference between my thoughts and my dog’s is so much less than the distance between God’s thoughts and mine.

If Max can’t understand why I have his blood drawn, do I think I can understand why God takes me through pain and loss?

But God has not left me without assurance.

He has promised:

  • “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17 NIV).
  • “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18 NIV).
  • “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5 NIV).

Life on this planet is a vapor. But how we live here affects our eternity.

Pain, loss, and confusion are opportunities to trust our Master.

The hurt is real, but if He allows it then we know it is to benefit us.

As God’s child I can’t shed a hair without God noticing.

When I see Max romp across the yard without a symptom of Addison’s, I thank God for blood tests and shots. I remember how sick he was without them.

He doesn’t understand the connection. He doesn’t need to. Max only needs to know that I take care of him.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31 NASB)

What pain or disappointment has God allowed to touch you? What would trusting Him look like for you?

Debbie W. Wilson aspires to connect people’s hearts to God and help them discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband Larry founded Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible teaching ministry. She enjoys exploring new places, reading a good mystery, and laughing with her two standard poodles. Share her journey to refreshing faith at debbieWwilson.com.

The photos with those two gorgeous poodles are from the author, Debbie.

Thursday
Mar072019

When Life Throws a Curveball

Dianne Barker speaks clearly and wisely about many of the issues women face. In this Perspective UPGRADE, she writes about the inevitable curveballs in life.

Dianne prayed: "I didn’t see that coming! Lord, is this from you?"

I (Dawn) understand curveballs—believe me. A recent unexpected medical diagnosis sent me reeling!

Dianne's wisdom about life's curveballs is excellent.

Dianne continues . . .

I thought we’d agreed on plans. Still celebrating a national bestseller, Twice Pardoned, I asked the Lord. Where do we go from here?

Without giving Him a chance to answer, I responded to my own question.

I’ll just continue writing bestsellers, of course.

Then I got this curveball.

Being a fan of baseball, I researched the meaning of curveball and learned it’s a slow pitch causing hitters to be off-balance and swing too early. An experienced pitcher using a curveball can impact the game.

You’ve seen a hitter, anticipating a fast ball, scrunch his face and sling his bat after being tricked by a curveball he didn’t expect.

The ink was barely dry on Twice Pardoned when God began leading me from a very public life as successful journalist, speaker, and bestselling author to what I now call a shrunken life.

Caring for my parents and my husband’s parents as they declined in health kept me out of the publishing loop for fifteen years. No bestsellers.

I believe in the sovereignty of God, and He used that time to draw me to himself.

Looking back, that hard place was a sweet period of my life.

During that time, I discovered a simple explanation of the word sovereignty while having a conversation with my son who was home from college for the weekend.

I don’t remember the discussion, but I must have been bombarding him with concerns and fears. He made a comment that changed my life.

“If God isn’t in control, who is?”

What I know about sovereignty:

  • God IS in absolute control.
  • Everything that comes to me is filtered through His loving hands.
  • Whatever touches my life, He will use it for my good and His glory. 

That’s what I know. And that’s truth to trust in when life throws a curveball.

When that happens, I say to self:

God must have a lot of confidence in me to trust me with this challenge.

And after sufficient grieving, I manage to praise Him in spite of my questions and fears. I don’t know the outcome, but I know the One who controls the outcome.

And He loves me.

“…I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31:3).

“But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand...” (Psalm 31:14-15).

Life is unpredictable, but my response to curveballs can impact the game.

I choose to live by this decision:

“I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High” (Psalm 7:17).

I don’t welcome curveballs. But I’m certain the Lord will lavish me with love and use my experience for good while gaining glory for Himself.

Knowing that replaces my fear with expectation.

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him” (Psalm 62:5).

Let me ask:

How do you respond when life throws a curveball?

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host, and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, and Christian Women in Media Association. Visit www.diannebarker.com.

Wednesday
Nov212018

"Thank God!" (Even When Life's a Struggle)

As I (Dawn) wrote this Thanksgiving UPGRADE, I was so aware of people I know who are struggling this year. How can they be thankful? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us it is God's will that we be thankful IN all things—in the midst of them—not FOR all things. (1 Thess. 5:18)

I think this is an important distinction, because frankly, sometimes life stinks. Pain. Loss. Confusion. Offenses. Desperation. Suffering.

Yet we can learn to be grateful in the midst of it all.

I remember the Thanksgiving after America’s 9-11, with the destruction of the Twin Towers and so much suffering. The grief was overwhelming.

And then stories came out that warmed my heart. People were searching for something good in all their pain.

I remember friends struggling last year in Texas with the flooding after Hurricane Harvey.

And yet some reached out to bless others. (I have a personal story of a flood “victim” who turned her loss into a victorious opportunity to help my family in another state!)

I think back to a time of deep personal pain, and how friends and family gathered around my husband and I to help us move forward in so many ways.

Their kindness helped us embrace the future, and I thank God for them.

I think about the wildfires California has experienced in recent years and especially this fall. Homes lost. Deaths. Incalculable pain. So many questions.

And then again, in the midst of calamity, stories of kindness and hope.

While I’m no Pollyanna, I do try to search for things to be grateful for when I hurt—a solidly biblical approach to life’s struggles.

I believe there are times for legitimate lament as well as celebrations.

If you doubt that, search out the Psalms of lament, or even the book of Lamentations. Part of learning to grieve well is getting a biblical perspective on all the pain. It doesn’t erase the pain, but it helps us bear up under the suffering with a sense of hope in God.

Ask God to help you see His good hand and loving heart in your circumstances.

I think this Thanksgiving Day I will meditate—as many others are this year—on some of the things we can be grateful for even when life is tough and confusing.

For that, I go to the solid, unshakeable rock of scripture.

1. "Thank God!"—He is always good. Even when life seems unbearably bad.

Psalm 31:19 - His love is abundant, stored up for those who take refuge in Him.

Psalm 34:8 - Taste and see ... He is good.

Psalm 59:16-17 - God is our fortress and refuge in the day of distress.

2. "Thank God!"—Our lives find meaning when we are centered in the Lord.

Philippians 1:21 - He is the center of our lives and, in Christ, even death is gain.

Philippians 3:7-8 - Even if we suffer great losses, nothing can compare to what we gain in Him.

Philippians 4:11-12 - He teaches us how to face great abundance and great need.

James 1:17 - Every good gift we have is from the Lord.

3. "Thank God!"—Even though tough things happen (because we live in a world cursed by sin), our Father has a big-picture plan of redemption.

Heb. 12:10-11 - Our most painful struggles discipline us and yield the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

James 1:2-4, 12 - Our trials produce steadfastness and cultivate maturity.

I Pet. 5:9-10 - We may suffer, but the God of all grace desires to restore and strengthen us.

Rom. 8:28 - He redeems His children's circumstances, creating something good.

Jer. 29:11-13 - He desires to give us a future and hope so we will seek Him with all our heart.

4. "Thank God!"—Suffering won’t last forever; but in the meantime, there are opportunities for blessing even in our suffering.

Psalm 71:20 - God will "bring us up" from our troubles and calamities.

Jer. 31:13 - God turned His people's mourning and sorrow into comfort and gladness.

1 Peter 3:13-17 - When we suffer for righteousness' sake—for doing good—God will still bless us.

5. "Thank God!"—There is always hope, because we can go through anything in the Lord's strength.

Phil. 4:13 - We can do all things—everything we need to do—through strength in Christ.

Psalm 18:28-29 - God lightens our darkness and gives us His power and strength.

6. "Thank God!"—We can experience Him—His help and healing—in His many attributes.

One thing is certain: This side of heaven we will all face trials and struggles sooner or later.

In time, we will all feel physical, mental, emotional, social or spiritual pain at some level. 

Thank God, we can learn the truths of scripture now—to prepare our hearts for when troubles come.

Which of these "Thank God" truths can help you most today? Are there any scriptures you could memorize to "store up" for difficult times?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator the blog, Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Julie at Lightstock.

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.