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Lina AbuJamra

Sue Badeau

Dianne Barker

Twila Belk

Gail Bones

Harriet Bouchillon

Mary Carver

Pamela Christian

Lisa Copen

Erin Davis

Diane Dean

Deb DeArmond

Kelly DeChant

Danna Demetre

Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Melissa Edgington

Pat Ennis

Morgan Farr

Pam Farrel

Renee Fisher

Sheila Gregoire

Doreen Hanna

Holly Hanson

Debbie Harris

Paula Hendricks

Nali Hilderman

Cathy Horning

Kathy Howard

Priscilla Jenson

Lane P. Jordan

Rebecca Jordan

Ellie Kay

Maria Keckler

Debby Lennick

Kathi Lipp

Kathi Macias

Melissa Mashburn

Dianne Matthews

Cindi McMenamin

Kathy Collard Miller

Lynn Mosher

Karen O'Connor

Arlene Pellicane

Ava Pennington

Laura Petherbridge

Gail Purath

Marcia Ramsland

Rhonda Rhea

Vonda Rhodes

Charlotte Riegel

Cynthia Ruchti

Julie Sanders

Deedra Scherm

Judy Scharfenberg

Stephanie Shott

Poppy Smith

Stacie Stoelting

Jill Swanson

Janet Thompson

Janice Thompson

Leslie Vernick

Laurie Wallin

Julie Watson

Joan C. Webb

Cherri Williamson

Kathy C. Willis

Jamie Wood

Dawn Wilson


Keeping to the 'B-word'

In this Financial UPGRADE, Ellie Kay, known as “America’s Family Financial Expert,”® gives us some timely information on how to be better stewards of our resources through budgeting.

"The only real failure in budgeting is to do nothing at all," Ellie says.

Budget! I (Dawn) used to hate that word. I saw it as restrictive ... no fun! But the Lord showed me the value of budgeting, and how it could free me up to do the things I really longed to do.

Ellie continues ...

Families usually have favorite restaurants, movies, and even special songs that reflect the character and tastes of the family. Your budget will be just as unique as your family. It will be based on variable factors, such as your family’s size, geographical location, debt load, and income.

One of the reasons Bob and I first set up a budget, is because we wanted to be better stewards of our finances. We remembered Luke 14:28, a passage that talked about the fact that a wise man counts the cost before he builds a tower. We wanted to build a Biblical financial legacy for our kids and realized that both of us wanted to have healthy finances.

We also realized that we didn’t need to go overboard by pinching our pennies so tightly that it strained our relationship and took all the enjoyment out of life. So we allowed for an occasional indulgence, implemented budget-cutting techniques slowly, and modified our plan as needed.

There are a few problems that can throw your budget off in a matter of seconds, sending it toward disaster. But the only real failure in budgeting is to do nothing at all.

Here are a few tips to avoid these common pitfalls, and a few reminders to keep trekking at this budget thing:

Debt or Credit

Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” We knew we wanted to get out of debt and we chose to adopt a cash-only policy when it came to our budget, setting up an envelope system where we placed the budgeted amount of cash in envelopes marked “food,” “entertainment,” “gas,” and so on.

When the money runs out, you stop spending until the end of the allotted period (generally one to
two weeks, depending upon how you are paid). A regular peek at the amount of cash left in each envelope is a vivid reminder of your budget commitment. If credit has become a habit, then you might even do something drastic, like cut up your credit cards. also has a great, free app to help you track your budget.

Impulse Buying

Nothing busts a budget like impulse buying. If this is an area where you struggle, it’s important to be proactive and address the issue before you take action.

If you don’t drive to the mall and go to your favorite department store, you won’t be as likely to spend unbudgeted money. So determine to practice the habits you’ve been learning every day so you will have to internal motivation needed the next time you are tempted.

Comfort Spending

Many couples indulge in comfort spending on clothes, sports equipment, expensive restaurants, and excessive entertainment, to name a few. This unhealthy habit of throwing caution to the wind just to live in the “now” is a budget buster that will keep you living in debt. However, most of us do not reform our unhealthy habits overnight.

At the very least, begin to modify and become more intentional about these comfort indulgences. Even cutting back on some of this kind of spending can add up positively.

What is one thing you can do this week to stay on budget?

Ellie Kay is a regular expert on national television with ABC NEWS NOW’s Money Matters and Good
Money shows. She is also a national radio commentator, a frequent media guest on Fox News, and CNBC, a popular international speaker, and the best-selling author of fourteen books including her newest release, The Little Book of Big Savings (Waterbrook, 2009). For money savings links, or to view Ellie’s blog, go to

Graphic in Text, adapted, Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at


How to Turn 'Tough Things' into Treasure

Lisa Copen has lived for nearly 21 years with degenerative rheumatoid arthritis. Out of her struggle, she created an entire ministry to help people cope with chronic illness. I wanted her to encourage us in a Life UPGRADE.

“Living with illness,” Lisa says, “is like sitting on a pottery wheel as a soft lump of clay,” Lisa says.                             

I (Dawn) think Lisa’s insights about illness can be applied to all of our lives, no matter our circumstances. Whatever our "tough thing" in life, God can transform it into treasure on His potter's wheel; He delights in redeeming us and making us "new" (see Jeremiah 18:3-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:5).

Lisa continues…

“It doesn't matter how long we sit on the pottery wheel or what shape we are, as long as the hands of illness keep touching our life, we will be reshaped into something new.”

Here are the top things I have learned through 21 years of illness:

1. Do it – whatever your “it” is – even when you don’t feel well.
There will be a million times it will be tempting to cancel. Don’t. Learn to push through.

The memories of the times I said “yes” and did something despite pain are the joys I treasure.

2. Utilize tools to live as fully as possible.
Whatever your limitations are there is likely a tool that can help. Don't use the tools to compare who you once were with who you are now.

Be grateful someone came before you and was determined to not let their limitations stand in the way, making it easier for you.

3. Get out of the house.
We all need a change of scenery. Seeing the same dirty dishes and dingy walls can quickly send you into depression. Walk outside and sit on the patio. Go to the local coffee house and check your email. Go to a movie, even if it’s alone.

Will it cure everything? No, but it will put you back into the world and make your bed look even more appealing at the end of the day.

4. Practice communication.
No matter how wonderful you think your relationships are, there is room for improvement. Facing day after day of pain can make any relationship tense, and people make be reluctant to talk to you about your attitude or how you constantly speak of your symptoms.

We can easily blame our circumstances for our temper, attitude, and outlook and expect people around us to just accept it and cater to our needs and moods. This is a perfect storm brewing. Ask close friends how you can improve your friendship. Make sure your marriage is safe from underlying resentments that are buried that can one day shatter the relationship.

5. Practice taking care of yourself.
The more you do it, the easier it will become.

Pride, shame, and not wanting to be a burden by asking people to accommodate our needs gets in the way of our well-being – both physically and emotionally. As you accept yourself for who you are, others will do the same.

6. Determine the purpose of your life and what you will rely on.
Obviously this is a big one! But what is going to hold you together when you have little support of friends, your body is falling apart, and all the feel-good-tips no longer work? For me, it is my faith. I have great faith in God and I believe He not only has a purpose for my life, but I have seen how He has used my disease in many ways.

This has given me the strength to hold on when there is no reason to hang on. It gets me up out of bed each day, and without it I would quickly wilt on my own strength. You are going to need a foundation of strength. Start seeking now.

7. Consider what you want your legacy to be.
What kind of person do you want to be, and what do you hope people will recall about you someday? Were you one who was always sighing and complaining about how no one understood your circumstances? Or did you show grace and character that taught those around you how one can be faithful through the fires?

Rather than overcoming your circumstance, make it part of your character.

My illness is intertwined with every part of who I am. Yet, life is good. I must choose to make it that way each day.

The words "chronic illness" don't bother me. I embraced them long ago, because I don't see them as a curse, but rather as the largest chisel in my life that will determine who I am.

Some days, it isn't so pretty. I am hopeful, however, that at the end of this life my legacy will be, "She fought to live each day with so much joy... and encouraged others to do the same."

How can these suggestions help you develop the tough things in your life into the treasure it is meant to be?

Lisa Copen began Rest Ministries to encourage those who are chronically ill through daily devotionals, small groups called HopeKeepers, and other support. She is the author of a variety of books including Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend. She has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia for twenty years and resides in San Diego with her husband and son.

Graphic in Text, adapted, Image courtesy of dan at


12 Keys to an Extraordinary Marriage - Part 2

Dianne Barker shared six helpful keys for UPGRADING our marriages in her last post; here are the final six.

"What did a nineteen-year-old bride know about marriage…pleasing a husband…pleasing God? Not much," Dianne said. "But I had big dreams."

I (Dawn) think Dianne expresses the hearts of many women. Do we really understand what marriage is all about when we walk down the aisle. We may read, we may prepare; but there's always so much to learn!

Dianne continues...

I’d never told James my childhood dream—riding away with Prince Charming in a shiny car, “Just Married” written in shaving cream on the windows, colorful streamers and noisy cans dangling from the bumper.

James didn’t understand such dreams.

To prevent that very thing from happening, on our wedding day he hid his prized car at an uncle’s house and borrowed one to drive to the church. When friends badgered him to reveal the hiding place, I nagged him to tell so I could live my dream.

As we stuffed wedding cake into each other’s mouth, he frowned his disapproval and said, “You’re my wife. You’re supposed to be on my side.”

His buddies guessed the location and decorated his car, which secretly pleased me. My dream would come true! James drove straight to the car-wash and washed away my dream before the first mile of our honeymoon.

Although we agreed on important matters of life and faith, we approached most issues from opposite perspectives. How would we ever achieve harmony?

The Lord provided a mentor, a gracious older woman who lovingly pointed me to Jesus. When I’d complain about my exasperating husband, she’d quote Proverbs 16:7. “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”

I had only one assignment: pleasing the Lord.

What pleases the Lord in marriage? Ephesians 5:33 Amplified gave me a job description: “…Let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband [that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly].”

Time, maturity, and following Christ made amazing changes as the Lord quietly worked, doing his typical Ephesians 3:20, “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.”

The two essentials for a flourishing marriage:

1. A conviction God has a standard of conduct for our lives; and

2. A desire to live that way.

“So shall you heartily accept My commandments and conform your life and conduct to them. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 22:31 Amplified).

You can have an extraordinary marriage! [Six marriage keys were shared in Part 1; here are six more.]

  • Be kind. “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31: 26).
  • Repay evil with good. “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
  • Choose a Christ-honoring response. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
  • Trust God to meet your needs, freeing you to meet your husband’s needs. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
  • Believe nothing is too hard for God. “Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17).
  • Expect God to do something mighty. “For the  eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him….” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

A final question: At the end of the day, we’re accountable only for our life of obedience. What action can you begin today to change the climate in your home?

Dianne Barker is a conference speaker, freelance journalist, radio host, and author of eleven books, including the 1986 best-seller Twice Pardoned. Her 2014 book, I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life, won the Christian Authors Network Golden Scrolls third-place award for non-fiction book of the year. This post is adapted from her forthcoming book, Help! I’m Stuck and I Can’t Get Out! The Maximum Marriage Maintenance and Repair Kit, which will be available at

Marriage Graphic in text, adapted, Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at


12 Keys to an Extraordinary Marriage - Part 1

I asked Dianne Barkermarried almost 50 years—to share a Marriage UPGRADE with us. There's much wisdom here for all of us.

“What was I thinking," Dianne said, "leaving that man alone in the yard with pruning shears!”

Now, knowing my husband's propensity to prune with abandon, I (Dawn) couldn't wait to read Dianne's story!

Dianne continues... 

I went outside just in time to catch my husband mutilating our shrubs … again. I like sprawling new growth—he likes neatly cropped. That’s one of many different perspectives adding interest to our marriage.

Occasionally when he’s away, I use my trusty scissors to give the shrubs a gentle trim, knowing James will soon follow with a drastic cut. This time he got to them before I did.

It will take years for those shrubs to recover!

“I’ve got a surprise for you,” he said, giving me an innocent grin. Looking around, I spotted a bundle of leafy stems—sweet potato plants for our little garden! For years I’d asked him to grow sweet potatoes for me, but he insisted they were too much trouble.

Knowing my husband would choose to inconvenience himself for me drained my anger before it spewed all over him. Thank goodness!

I’ve learned the hard way if I don’t say it, I don’t have to clean up the mess.

James and I have been happily married forty-nine years … happier some days than others. We are, in fact, happily incompatible with opposite personalities causing us at times to irritate each other nearly to death.

What were we thinking when we vowed “till death do us part?” We’re stuck in this marriage and we can’t get out!

We married young with no counseling on building relationships or teaching on how to make a marriage flourish. Being as opposite as two people can be, we needed an instruction manual for this marriage to survive.

I searched the Scriptures for a quick list, “Ten Commandments for a Successful Marriage.” I never found that list—but I discovered numerous relationship principles that would impact my marriage … if I chose to put them into practice.

What a surprise to find putting God’s instructions into practice in my life had nothing to do with my husband.

If you want an extraordinary marriage, begin here:

  • Guard your speech and thoughts. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
  • Choose nourishing communication. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your  mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
  • Forsake anger and bitterness. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).
  • Live in a state of continual forgiveness. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
  • Forget the past. “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13).
  • Practice covering love. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

One person in the relationship willing to obey God can, by His grace, change the relationship. Will you be the one? Love covers.

The shrubs will grow. Now … if James just doesn’t power-wash my Boston ferns again!

Which of the extraordinary marriage "keys" could use some work in your own relationship? [Dianne will share six more Keys in Part 2.]

Dianne Barker is a conference speaker, freelance journalist, radio host, and author of eleven books, including the 1986 best-seller Twice Pardoned. Her 2014 book, I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life, won the Christian Authors Network Golden Scrolls third-place award for non-fiction book of the year. This post is adapted from her forthcoming book, Help! I’m Stuck and I Can’t Get Out! The Maximum Marriage Maintenance and Repair Kit, which will be available at



Why Go to a Christian Women's Conference?

Why should you go to a Christian woman’s conference? In this Spiritual UPGRADE, I want to tackle that “why.”

Women go to women’s Christian conferences for a variety of reasons.

 They might go …

  • for some light entertainment,
  • for a deep worship experience,
  • to rub shoulders with or hear Christian “celebrities,”
  • for a “camp-out” experience—rooming with women for some “fun and fellowship,”
  • to open up to and learn from their girlfriends,
  • to add to their understanding of themselves—seeking a giant self-help opportunity,
  • for a change of pace (maybe some activity or some time to sleep!),
  • to search for answers to a problem,
  • to “escape” something “back home” for a while,
  • because they have a free ticket… or free airfare! (in other words, a financial incentive),
  • etc., etc., etc.

Some women avoid “women’s seminars” like the plague! And I do the same sometimes. There are some Christian women’s conferences you couldn’t pay me to attend. I consider them an enormous waste of time. They are either unbiblical, all about self-help, or do not help me in my walk with God.

Others are OK ... but not for me. They're just fluff, crafts and soft-pitch stories. There are many ways to “dress up” a conference or seminar for fun or to pull at the heart-strings. And don't get me wrong, I love crafts, stories and other "fluffy" things.

But what I’ve heard many women saying includes: 

“I’m soul hungry – I need more than warm fuzzies” … “I need to refocus with less thoughts about myself and more time with God” … “I’m so tired, and I need refreshing in the Word” … “I want solid truth - more than the self-help messages the world has to offer … “I want some encouragement for my ministry” … “I need biblical solutions for real problems.”

A woman (at a conference) told me recently,

“I don’t want silly stuff, and I don't want to be ‘blasted’ with heavy stuff. I just want to know how to live out what Jesus already accomplished for me ... the life-changing stuff!"

Amen, Sister!

A women’s conference or seminar should offer some milk for new believers, but also plenty of meat for the more mature. It must go beyond sentimental stories to a greater agenda: helping women better grasp the Good News—the most important story of all—and the implications of the gospel in practical living.

So … WHY GO to a Christian women’s conference?

1. To see your great need of Jesus. He came for sinners, and He is the Author of abundant life for all who place their faith in Him. (Luke 5:32; Acts 3:19; John 10:10b)

2. To understand the power of the cross, embrace the resurrection, and learn how to apply both in life, family, church and ministry. (1 Corinthians 1:18; Philippians 1:21; Colossians 3:1-4)

3. To learn how to identify with and abide in Christ. To understand your identity, security and dignity in Him. (Romans 6:11; 8:29; John 15:5).

4. To see Jesus in all His glory—the One who is all-sufficient for our needs. (John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 3:5)

5. And to do all this in the context of biblical, edifying speakers (2 Timothy 3:16; Ephesians 4:14; Romans 16:17-18; Galatians 1:8-9; Romans 14:19; Ephesians 4:12) and encouraging Christian sisterhood! (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:24).

That’s the kind of conference I love. And that’s the kind of conference I will always seek out and promote. (I have some friends who are powerful conference speakers.)

At the moment, I am in the middle of the True Woman ’14 national conference, an outreach of Revive Our Hearts. It is so worthwhile. I'm already hearing powerful testimonies. God is opening women’s eyes and changing their hearts.

You can JOIN THE LIVE STREAM of the conference messages here, October 9-11. (NOTE: I will be commenting on the Live Feed! Tune in!)

What is the last women’s conference you attended? What did you learn that you still practice today?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Ministries, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade bwith Dawn. She is the President of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn is the co-author of LOL with God and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.