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Thursday
Apr262018

3 Simple Steps to Setting Boundaries

Kate Hagen, a counselor and businesswoman, loves to share helpful information that can help women thrive in their walk with the Lord. In this Choices UPGRADE, she sugests three things to do to set wise and loving boundaries.

"It’s not rude to set boundaries," Kate says. "In fact, it’s one of the kindest things you can do."

I (Dawn) agree with Kate in concept, but I don't always know HOW to set a wise boundary, so I truly appreciated Kate's insight here.

Kate continues . . .

Traditionally, I have not set boundaries with my friends. It has seemed unkind or rude to tell others how to treat me.

Honestly, it’s felt too hard. What will they think of me?

But I'm beginning to understand that healthy boundaries derive from love, not fear; kindness, not rudeness.

Perhaps the most useful piece of information I've gained about boundaries is this:

Discovering and communicating my boundaries will be uncomfortable and possibly hurtful in the SHORT RUN, but it will save me a LIFETIME of pain, hiding and resentment!

Here's are three steps that have helped me set life-giving boundaries:

1. Decide what your core values are.

Who are you? What do you value? Figure out what, exactly, you're comfortable with and what you aren't.

I made a list! One for general core values and one specific to my business. If you've never done this, I highly recommend it.

It was eye-opening to me.

Now that I have a list, I know WHY I should say no at times. If something is in contrast to my core values, I can confidently (and kindly) say no.

Even though Jesus probably didn’t have to make a list of his core values, Luke says Jesus “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16).

He didn’t let himself get burned out with healing people; He took breaks and got close to Abba Father again!

2. Stick with your boundaries.

This is not easy for me. I am prone to say one thing and do another.

Sadly, this is one way to quickly get someone to question your character or authenticity. I am deeply convicted by this and so grateful to have God changing me.

It's helpful to think of there being only two options: YES and NO.

"Yes, I want to do this!"

or, "No, that doesn't feel right this time."

This helps me stick to my boundaries when I narrow it down to these two options.

Jesus says to let your yes be yes, and your no be no! (Matthew 5:37)

3. Clearly and kindly communicate your boundaries.

If your boundaries haven't been communicated to those around you in a way others understand, it won't matter much that you have boundaries.

I find it's easier to communicate boundaries when I approach it as honoring my values.

For instance, if someone asks me to do something Monday night, I know my answer. I say, "I would love to hang out with you, but can we choose another night? I have reserved that night as family night, and that's something we really value and honor in our house."

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

These three steps are simple, yet have had a profound impact on my life!

Remember that discovering and communicating your boundaries will be uncomfortable and possibly hurtful IN THE SHORT RUN, but it will save you a LIFETIME of pain, hiding and resentment.

It’s not rude. In fact, it’s one of the kindest things you can do!

Which, if any, of these three steps is a struggle for you? Do you agree that setting boundaries is a kind and loving choice?

Kate Hagen spends most of her time teaching, knowing and loving her three kids in their beach community of Leucadia, CA. She has a Master’s Degree in Biblical Counseling and has written, spoken and counseled women about mothering, body image and health. She runs a small essential oil business from her home, and usually smells pretty good. At her website you can read her journey of grieving and laughing as her mom passed of cancer, as well as her thoughts on the Bible and body image. 

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Jill 111 at Pixabay.

Thursday
Apr192018

What's Up with Sheep?

Becky Harling is funny and insightful, and always shares fresh insights for timeless truths. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she writes about sheep and their shepherd. But don't miss this fresh take on a common Christian theme.

"Throughout the scriptures, we are compared to sheep," Becky said. "Have you ever wondered why? I mean, what’s up with sheep? Right?"

I (Dawn) used to think, "Oh, how sweet. God describes His children as adorable little lambs." But there is much more to that picture, as Becky describes here.

Becky continues . . .

I did a little research and discovered some random facts about them that help me understand why God used sheep to describe us so often in scripture.

1. Did you know that sheep are fearful and easily panicked?

Who knew? Can you relate?

In our humanness, most of us are fearful. In fact, that is the number one concern I hear from women and men as I travel the world.

If panicked, we do stupid things, and you know what? So do sheep.

An entire bunch of sheep is easily prodded into a stampede. They have a mob mentality.

But here’s the thing, when sheep know the shepherd’s voice, His voice calms their fears and settles their panic.

This is why Jesus said, “I am the Good shepherd” (John 10:11). He also said His sheep "follow Him because they know His voice” (John 10:4).

Friend, if you want to calm your fears, get to know His voice.

2. Did you know that sheep get jealous easily and push for dominance?

Sound familiar? Maybe this hits too close to home, but it’s so easy for us to become envious of others, isn’t it?

This is the cry behind “That’s not fair!”

Our human tendency is to want life to be fair. If our friend has a beautiful home, we want one too. If our co-worker gets a raise, we want an increase as well.

Here’s the thing: according to the parable of the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), our Christian walk was never meant to be “fair.” If it was fair, we would all deserve hell, right? Praise God that isn’t the case!!

One of the most convicting stories of Scripture is when Jesus sits on the beach with His disciples after His resurrection. After He re-commissions Peter, He tells Peter how he will die.

Peter looks at his friend John and wonders if his death will be easier—he blurts out to Jesus, “What about him?”

Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21:15-22).

Ouch! I love this story because it reminds me that I must never sink to comparing my life to another.

In Jesus’ kingdom, life may not seem fair, but it is good.

Our quest for fairness will rob us of the abundant life Jesus promised His sheep (John 10:10b).

3. Did you know that sheep are creatures of habits and they are resistant to change?

Many of us are creatures of habit as well. When God calls us to shift our thinking or embrace change, we panic or pout.

As our Good Shepherd, Jesus knows if we are going to live life to the fullest we must keep being transformed.

The truth is we can’t be transformed without change.

Friend, understanding our similarities to sheep can help us focus on Jesus as our Good Shepherd.

He’s the One who laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16).  

Which of these random facts about sheep best describes you today? How can you better relate to or trust in your Shepherd?

Becky Harling. Authentic. Passionate. Funny. Insightful. Becky is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and other venues. She is the author of Who Do You Say That I Am?, Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom from Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge and The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents. Becky is married to Steve Harling and has four adult kids and five grandkids. Visit her website and blog!

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Tuesday
Apr172018

Walking a Loved One Eternally Home

Joanie Shawhan writes words of encourgement to those touched by cancer and other painful struggles, writing from her own experience and wisdom to encourage us in this Grief UPGRADE. Joanie writes about a phone call she received:

“'I have stage 4 cancer,' my sister Tracy said. I groaned as I tightened my grip on the phone."

I'm sure you would agree with me (Dawn)—this is one of the most painful phone calls we can receive. But what do we do with that information?

The Lord says, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints" (Psalm 116:15); but what choices might we have in the days before they go to their eternal home?

Joanie continues . . .

How could this happen to my sister? She goes to the gym everyday.

As a cancer survivor and a nurse with an oncology background, I was familiar with stage 4 cancer. But a few days later, my heart sank.

God had whispered in my spirit, “Walk her home.”

How do I say goodbye to my sister nine years younger, nine hours away and nine years old when I left home? We had rarely visited or talked with one another between crazy schedules and multiple states.

How DO I walk my sister home? How do we WALK our loved ones home?

With God’s help, I discovered ways to walk Tracy home. 

1. Pray.

  • Ask God how to pray for them.
  • Ask our loved ones for their prayer requests. My sister wanted prayer for the pain.

2. Encourage. Share encouraging words, scriptures and songs.

I sent my sister a Bible, but would she feel well enough to read it? I created daily memes with scriptures of God’s love, comfort and faithfulness.

3. Listen.

Some people want to talk about dying. Tracy did not want to talk about cancer, death or anything negative.

4. Respect.

We need to respect their choices.

Tracy had a rare bladder cancer resistant to both chemotherapy and radiation with a life expectancy of three to six months.

She did not want to live the rest of her days sick from chemotherapy. Instead, she chose two weeks of alternative treatment in Mexico followed by a home regimen.

5. Contact. Call, text and send cards.

I discovered that Tracy was more receptive to conversations starting with “What’s up?” rather than “How are you?” This gave her the option to talk about things other than cancer.

She preferred to text when her breathing grew labored.

6. Gifts.

My sisters and I sent flowers, Polish pottery, tea, books, DVD’s, and hand-knitted socks and blanket.

7. Meals.

Tracy’s co-workers ordered food from a local restaurant when they heard family were in town. There were so many leftovers that she invited her co-workers for dinner the following day.

8. Finances.

A devastating diagnosis can drain the family’s finances.

Tracy’s treatment in Mexico was expensive and not covered by insurance. One of my sisters set up a Medgift * account for her.

9. Visits.

Visits from friends and family can be great distractions from sickness and pain. But they can also be exhausting.

Some days our loved ones may feel better than other days.

Call or text to see if they would like a visit.

10. Outings.

Movies, shopping trips and walks provide wonderful distractions.

11. Serve.

Offer specific help such as childcare, housekeeping or lawn care.

  • Tracy wanted help taking down her Christmas decorations.
  • As part of staging their house, my brother painted and laid flooring.

12. Prepare.

Prepare for the loved ones left behind.

Help videotape messages, sort photographs or write cards for special occasions. Tracy and I sorted through her childhood photos.

13. Celebrate.

My brother-in-law brought Tracy into town for an old-time family dinner. Fourteen of us gathered around the table set with china that hadn’t been outside of a hutch in over twenty years. Wisecracks, laughter and family stories mingled with the aroma of roast beef.

For a little while we could forget that this weekend would be our last time together.

14. Hope.

Allow hope.

Between staggered breaths, Tracy had said, “We’ve had lots of miracles in our family. I hope there is one more miracle for me.”

My sister still clung to hope despite starting oxygen and entering hospice.

On Good Friday, Tracy’s husband texted, “Her condition has worsened. I don’t know how long she has.”

My Mom, sisters and I arrived in town to be with Tracy during her last days. We enjoyed Easter together, Tracy hooked up to oxygen, swinging on the patio and soaking in the sun.

Early the next morning, Jesus received her—eternally home.

I am sure she would say along with the psalmist David:

“When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied” (Psalm 17:15b NLT).

How would you lead a loved one eternally home?

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy. She also speaks to medical practitioners in the Survivors Teaching Students program. Visit Joanie's website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Kaz at Pixabay.

* MedGift is a non-profit with resources and tools for those facing a health-related hardship or need.

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.

Tuesday
Apr102018

5 Steps to Organize Your Closet Like a Pro!

If I could give someone a crown for best-organized, it would be Marcia Ramsland. There are so many areas she helps people get organized, but in this Organization UPGRADE, she tackles one area where all of us can use some steps for improvement.

"Have you organized your closet recently?" Marcia says. "Spring and fall are ideal times to organize your clothes."

I (Dawn) was able to organize my closet a few years ago. What fun ... and what a relief. And I just re-organized it last week! I think we can all use a fresh tweak when it comes to closets.

Marcia continues . . .

My client Debbie recently did her first annual closet organizing and carried FIVE bags off to charity!

She said, “I didn’t realize how much had accumulated. Now I’m happier and getting dressed is so much easier.

"My teenage daughter is so impressed," she said, "and we’ll do her closet next!”

Every spring and fall, I find “donations”—which means with a twice annual clean out, you can, too!

Be generous and share. You’ll dress better and feel better with fewer well-chosen outfits.

What’s the Best Way to Organize a Closet? *

Here are the 5 steps I recommend to all my clients and course participants. It can be done in just one day or 10 minutes a day as you get dressed.

Step #1 – Get Ready to Organize

  • Make your bed so you have a flat surface to do any necessary sorting.
  • Designate a bag or box for “giveaway” clothes, plus two others for “fix” and “dry clean.”
  • Now get ready to organize your closet by hanging categories together—blouses, slacks, skirts, dresses, etc.

Step #2 – Sort Hanging Clothes

Sort one section a day or sort it all on a weekend. Start at one end of the closet rod and sort the hanging clothes.

Pull out each item and ask yourself these two questions:

1. Do I like this?
2. Do I wear it?

If the answer is no, place the item in your “giveaway” box.

If the answer is yes, then rehang the clothes by categories, such as long-sleeved tops, short-sleeved tops, slacks, and jackets. 

Step up your organization by arranging each section from dark colors to light colors, like a rainbow. Often you will find too many of the same color or style, so keep the best and let go of the rest.

Step #3 - Organize by Categories

Finish by using matching hangers about one inch apart.

  • Place the front of the clothing items toward you so you can easily see what it looks like.
  • Place your most used category of items closest to you.
  • Hang items from light to dark like the rainbow colors. That way you’ll see if you have too many white blouses or black tops—that’s what you donate.

Step #4 - Keep Your Best and Donate the Rest!

Note that I said, “Keep YOUR best and donate the rest.”

If you never wear the most expensive item in your closet, it’s not “YOUR” best. It’s pricy clutter that someone else could be wearing.

So give that away and think of how happy someone else will be to wear it!

It’s a "win-win" helping someone else and gaining space in your closet.

Step #5 – Deliver Your Donations within 24 Hours!

The most important step is to bag up and deliver to charity all the things you’ve weeded out!

This must happen the same day to leave the house. Otherwise, you’ll be tempted to put it down the hall or in the garage, and it will never leave you.

It must go to another very worthy person right away.

Keeping your closet organized reminds me of Matthew 25:23:

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

* BONUS: DOWNLOAD a Free Closet Inventory Worksheet to “Organize Your Closet in 10 Minutes a Day!” With this worksheet you’ll have a clear plan how to organize your closet by doing one small section a day!

Marcia Ramsland is well known as The Leading Online Organizing Coach, a Business Productivity Expert, and author of the Simplify Your Life: Get Organized and Stay that Way book series, which has sold over 100,000 copies. Marcia regularly teaches online courses, has over 8,000 email subscribers, and coaches individuals and organizations to be highly productive personally and professionally. She believes anyone can become more organized and productive - even YOU!

For courses and coaching, visit www.organizingpro.com.