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Thursday
May262016

I Did Not Plan for This

Kaley Rhea co-hosts a TV show with her comedian mom, but that doesn't mean Kaley lacks depth! In this encouraging "UPLIFT," she shares how the Lord taught her to hold her plans loosely.

"Tell me if I’m the only one," Kaley says. "But sometimes I get an idea in my head about how my day is going to go. I’m not even a to-do list kind of person or a details kind of person or an itinerary kind of person.

"Yet somehow I’ll have these moments where someone calls or something pops up that throws my preconceived idea of today, of right now, off by a few millimeters, and all my brain alarms go wild and my insides announce, loud-speaker style, 'Error, error. Please return to regularly scheduled life-having.'"

Yeah, you're the only one, Kaley.

No, seriously, I (Dawn) am such a planner, that almost never happens to me. But when it does, I get the same blaring alarms. Sort of a "Danger, Will Robinson!" thing. (But Kaley's probably too young to know about young Will.)

So let's let Kaley continue . . .

To be clear, this is a ridiculous phenomenon I’m talking about.

  • “I didn’t realize the trashcan was full, and now I have to take the trash out, and I wasn’t planning on taking the trash out right now. Ugh, worst.”
  • And “Oh, my friend is calling, and I love talking to her, but wait, we didn’t plan on talking right now; what is she thinking?”
  • And “Child, why have you vomited on the carpet? We are on our way out the door; I’m not prepared for this!”

That moment of internal, irrational pushback I feel when something has intruded into my schedule, into my plans, and something—even something small—is required of me.

I’m confessing here. Sometimes I live my life with a perspective set about two inches from the end of my nose.

I guard my time, my words, my efforts with a sharp eye, unknowingly fixed on only spending them where I see fit.

And I’ve met me. So believe me, I know exactly how insane that is.

Of course, while ruminating on these things, I thought of Jeremiah 29:11:

“‘I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘Plans for welfare and not for evil. To give you a future and a hope.’”

I feel like we pass this verse out like candy, and I’m glad we do because these words are sweet and so important.

Any moment spent remembering that my God knows infinitely more than I do and has made infinitely better plans is a good and necessary moment.

But I also couldn’t get the Gerasene demoniac out of my mind.

Of all the people in the Bible, he’s where I landed. Luke 8:26-39 talks about this man who had been possessed by an entire legion of demons and was living this absolutely wrecked life. Jesus cast them out of him. Healed him.

So the man made this plan to go with Jesus. It seems like a perfectly legitimate reaction to what had happened. A good, appropriate response. So he asked, but Jesus told him to stay. To proclaim the name of Jesus where he was. And the man did.

It’s a convicting thought for me. Jesus has done a miracle in my life, rescued me from my sin.

I think sometimes I have this attitude like, “No, no, Jesus, I’m going to serve you this way and in this place and on this timetable."

And I miss out on opportunities He lays right in front of me to serve Him and glorify His name.

In ways that are simple. In ways that walk right up to me. And instead of thanking Him for these opportunities, in my heart I’m selfishly thinking,“Could you please step aside, opportunity? I’ve already scheduled my God-glorifying for 2 p.m., and it’s only half past ten now.”

Lord Jesus, wake up my heart. Help me see the things I miss when I focus on my own plans and my own understanding.

Holy Spirit, give me kindness. Help me see people the way You see them because I love You.

Defeat the selfishness inside of me and replace it with Your love.

Help me hold my plans loosely and always ask You to shape them into whatever You will. I trust You with my time and my desires.

Are you trying to put God in a box? How might you be making your plans without His wisdom and missing out on what He might have planned? For you!

Kaley Faith Rhea is the co-author of Turtles in the Road, releasing soon, with two more novels in the works. Along with writing and teaching at writers’ conferences, she co-hosts the TV show, That’s My Mom, for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. Check out a sample here! Kaley lives in the St. Louis area.

Graphics adapted, courtesty of Pixabay.com.

Tuesday
May242016

Bless Your Spouse with Some Guilt-free Time

Kathi Lipp is a project-oriented gal with a lot of wisdom, whether she’s speaking and writing about marriage, personal development or a host of other things. In this Marriage UPGRADE, she encourages us to reconsider our spouse’s “just got home” need.

“When Roger and I got married, we each contributed two teenagers to the mix; but I came with the bonus – Zorro, the cat with attitude,” Kathi said. “Zorro’s main challenge in life is that he doesn’t get along – with anyone.”

What’s a cat got to do with marriage? I (Dawn) wondered. Turns out, a lot. At least for Kathi and Roger!

Kathi continues . . .

Zorro was condemned to a James Dean existence – a “live fast, die young, and leave a trail of wounded kitties in your dust” kind of legacy. That is, until I met Roger.

Roger is not a cat lover.

Roger and Zorro became roommates by default, and neither of their lives has been the same since. You see, Zorro is in love with Roger. My cat’s favorite part of every day is when Roger comes to that front door.

Zorro’s whole goal is to get Roger upstairs and lying down on her bed so they can catch a 15-minute nap together.

It really is a little weird.

But what Zorro figured out long before I did was that Roger needs that quick lie-down to transition from work to home. While I know my husband could do without the cat in his “catnap,” that crazy kitty helped us discover a great transitional routine that leads to a relaxed Roger.

I do my best to protect Roger and his 15-30 minutes. I make it a priority for him to transition. And he does the same for me. While my time doesn’t involve snuggling with the cat, I usually need something from Roger. Once he’s had a few minutes to decompress and wind down, my husband is so much more equipped to meet my needs.

In most homes, I know it’s a tense standoff where everyone is working hard and all the adults are tired at the end of a very long day. This is where it’s critical to put our spouse’s needs above our own.

It’s imperative to not just focus on how stressful our day has been, but to imagine what our partner has gone through in his or her day.

Have you ever been in a conversation with one-upman? You know the type. It doesn’t matter how bad your day was, this person’s day was just a little bit worse. If you stub your toe, he broke his. If your husband barbecued, her husband went out and slaughtered the cow.

Let’s leave the martyr at the door.

That’s one of the benefits of being married – having a soft place to land at the end of a long day. But in order for that to happen, I must be willing to lay down some of my rights and expectations so I can be that soft place for my spouse.

Romans 12:3 says:

"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”

We need to recognize that whatever role God has called us to, our spouse has a role as well – just as important, just as needed in the body of Christ. And at the end of the day, much is required from each of us.

The surest way to bring peace to everyone in the household is to give just a little by putting the other person’s needs in front of our own. How?

Get creative!

1. Ask your spouse what he or she needs.  

Asking what your partner needs will avoid the counterproductive situation of assuming what is restful and rejuvenating to you is the same thing your spouse is dreaming of.

2. Sometimes quiet is not what your love is hoping for. Maybe he wants some uninterrupted time, just with you. Be sure to ask.

3. Are you home with the kids when your mate gets home? If it won’t interrupt nap or dinner routines, what about taking the kids with you to run some simple errands and give your spouse some quiet time?

4. Don’t be offended if your mate does enjoy a little quiet reprieve; it’s not about getting away from you. Promise.

How can you bless your husband with 30 minutes of guilt-free time today?

Article adapted from Happy Habits for Every Couple by Kathi Lipp (Harvest House Publishers).

Kathi Lipp is the author of 13 books, including Clutter Free: The Get Yourself Organized Project, Happy Habits for Every Couple, and I Need Some Help Here: Hope for When Your Kids Don’t Go According to Plan. She’s the host of “You’ve Got This! With Kathi Lipp. She is a well-respected national conference speaker and has been featured on Focus on the Family, POPS International, Crosswalk.com and Nickelodeon TV’s Parent Connect. Kathi and her husband Roger are the parents of four young adults in San Jose, California. More about Kathi here and on her blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of gustavobelemmi, morguefile.

Thursday
May192016

Moving Beyond Mediocre

Sharon Jaynes is an internationally-known speaker and Bible teacher and her writings never fail to inspire me. This one ... what can I say? This Biblical Thinking UPGRADE touched me deeply.

"If we would grasp and make our own what Jesus has already done for us, and what He had deposited in us," Sharon says, "our lives would look very different than the tepid faith of the average churchgoer."

If you are like me (Dawn), you want to move deeper with excellence in your spiritual walk with Christ. While we can't change without God's power, He still asks us to cooperate.

Sharon continues . . . 

I was alone, or at least I felt that way. Women huddled in happy clusters chatting about first one thing and then another. Some propped babies on their hips. Others clutched Bibles in their hands.

Most wore smiles on their faces. I wore one too. But it wasn’t a reflection of what was in my heart. The upturned lips were simply the camouflage I wore to blend in—to avoid being found out.

What I really wanted to do was run and hide. On the outside I was a well-put-together church mom with cute shoes and snappy jeans, but on the inside I was a little girl cowering in the far recesses of the playground hoping no one would notice me.

What’s wrong with me? I wondered.

Why don’t I feel the joy these other women feel?
What holds me back from experiencing the confidence and assurance they seem to experience?
Why do I continue to act like the same old me, struggle with the same negative emotions, and wrestle with the same old sins?

The problem was I was stuck.

Yes, I had professed Jesus as my Lord and Savior. But I had a niggling feeling He meant something more than heaven when He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Have you ever watched a circus performer on a flying trapeze? The aerialist swings out, swings back, and then usually on the peak of the third swing he takes hold of another bar or performer. That’s when the fun begins as backflips, somersaults, and triples twists wow the crowd.

But what if, when the trapeze artist took hold of the second bar, he refused to let go of the first? He would be left hanging in the middle. Stuck.

That would not be the greatest show on earth.

And that’s where many of us spend our lives … stuck … dangling over “life to the full” but never quite letting go of what holds us hostage to a mediocre “less than” faith.

I know it’s where I spent many years … until God challenged me to take hold of the truth and make it mine.

Paul wrote, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12). And in order to take hold and make our own everything that Christ has taken hold of for us and placed in us, we need to let go of everything that keeps us from doing so.

If we would grasp and make our own what Jesus has already done for us, and what He had deposited in us, our lives would look very different than the tepid faith of the average churchgoer.

God’s power, provision, and purposes are for “who so ever will” (Mark 8:34 KJV).

Will what? Will let go of all that holds you back from experiencing the abundant life of the adventurous faith and take hold of truth that makes it so.

So here’s what I’m challenging us to do:

  • Let go of insecurity and take hold of your true identity as a child of God.
  • Let go of the scarcity mentality that says that you’re not enough and take hold of God’s abundant promises that say you have everything you need.
  • Let go of crippling bitterness and take hold of radical forgiveness.
  • Let go of shame-filled condemnation and take hold of grace-filled acceptance.
  • Let go of weak-kneed worry and take hold of sure-footed confidence.
  • Let go of comparison to others and take hold of your God-fashioned uniqueness.
  • Let go of debilitating discouragement and take hold of your next assignment.
  • Let go of timid reluctance and take hold of bold believing.

And that’s what God wants for all of us. So today, let’s ask ourselves if we’re hanging on to something that God is calling us to let go of.

Shame? Resentment? Condemnation? Unbelief? Ingratitude? Bitterness? Unforgiveness? A false sense of who we are?

If He brings something to mind, let it go, move forward, and live bold.

The faith you’ve always longed for is just a decision away.

Look back over those "let go" "take hold" statements. Which is the hardest for you to do? Why? Can you make these choices by faith?

Sharon Jaynes is an international speaker for women’s events and author of 20 books including The Power of a Woman’s Words and Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe. Today’s post was adapted from her latest book, available at Amazon: Take Hold of the Faith You Long For. To learn more about Sharon’s ministry and books, visit her blog/website

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Tuesday
May172016

Making Family Moments Count

Deb DeArmond's passion is family relationships. In this Family UPGRADE, she reminds us how quickly time passes—it's time to capture some memories now!

"The month of May includes a day set aside to recognize the “cutters and pasters” among us," Deb says. "'National Scrapbooking Day' is an annual celebration to draw attention to what’s become a popular hobby and a beautiful way to memorialize life’s special occasions."

With the best of intentions, I (Dawn) have boxes of photos separated out by families, but I have yet to actually get them "scrapbooked." Deb's words encourage me ... memories are more than those on a page.

Deb continues . . .

Long ago I was a scrapbooker.

I wasn’t driven by the desire to capture my sons' third grade photos or their Little League glory days. I didn’t even begin until they were adults. Grown men.

I started late because I’d been too busy when the boys were posing for gap-toothed school pictures—we had little photographic evidence of their young lives.

Many of my friends were creating perfect “mom monuments” for every event, activity and celebration. I felt inadequate as a mother.

It’s not that I didn’t care. My husband and I lived the “sandwich generation” life. Born to parents in their forties, we raised children and cared for aging parents simultaneously. My days might include a kid’s orthodontist appointment and a hip specialist for dad. Moments for cut and paste were non-existent.

But life shifted when my parents were gone. Time opened up.

I began chronicling special events going forward. I captured birthdays and engagement celebrations. I selected wedding photos to combine with embellishments and beautiful paper for backgrounds. Each required focused attention. And lots of time.

Then life seemed to speed up and time was once again in short supply. Grandbabies came at dizzying rates, six total—with the youngest four born in a two-year span.

So I upgraded my efforts.

I turned to online scrapbooking – less hands on, less time intensive, but still beautiful books, now in hardback volumes.

The annual DeArmond Year in Review became a treasured gift for each of us. Our family. Proudly captured. I felt validated as I displayed them on my bookshelves. We pulled them out often and reminisced as we looked back on our ever-growing family.

Then life shifted once more. God tapped on my heart, asking me to write books of a different type - authoring Christ-centered books about family and marriage relationships. I never saw it coming. And with it’s arrival, extra time departed, along with time for scrapbooking.

Then – a treasure.

A photo taken at our 40th wedding anniversary celebration. Eight adults, six grandboys. Everyone’s smiling, all eyes are open. No babies are crying, drooling or picking the nose of a child nearby.

Perfect.

Is it displayed in a beautiful frame? Nope. It’s on my phone. It’s with me always, and sealed in my heart. I’m okay with that.

I love the Psalmist’s declaration: “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart,” Psalm 119:11 (ESV).

Their testimonies, not my photos or scrapbooks, but the memories my kids carry on to their children and their children’s children.

A Few Tips for Making Memories:

1. Gather the tribe.

  • Schedule a monthly supper or brunch. No guilt for those not present.
  • Pop some corn and view home movies or photos together. Creates great trips down memory lane.
  • Day trips, vacations, concerts in the park with food truck dining - all great get-togethers.

2. Be creative.

  • Create a family Facebook page (open only to invitees) to share pictures and updates.
  • FaceTime with your far-away kids often, so the grandbabes know your face and voice.

How can you make memories that last a lifetime – and beyond?

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her 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 moms and the girls who marry their sons, and her new book, I Choose You Today, helps couples strengthen their marriages. Deb and her husband, Ron, live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her "Family Matters" site.

Graphic adapted, image courtesy of PubliKado, at pixabay.

Thursday
May122016

Upgrade Your Finances: The Family Road Trip

Ellie Kay is known as “America’s Family Financial Expert” ® and in this Financial UPGRADE gives us some timely information on taking the family on a road trip this year.

"I remember my dad stuffing all of us kids in the back of a VW bug and traveling from Texas to Indiana, making about 600 miles per day," Ellie says. "It was a daring adventure!"

I (Dawn) traveled a lot too, in a military family; and I can attest that Ellie's financial tips are all helpful and wise!

Ellie continues . . .

That traveling tradition continued with my own military family as we took time in the summer to carve our own road trip.

Here are some ideas that will make your family trip a lot more fun and affordable.

1. Begin With Prayer

My husband, Bob, and I liked to begin our family vacation planning process with prayer.

James 1:5 says that if any of us lack wisdom, we can ask God. Well, we asked Him early and often and He answered! We feel that He gave us additional insight as to what would be best for our family and our budget.

Then, before each day’s drive, Bob had the whole Suburban full of kids bow their heads and he prayed for safety, for unity and for a spirit of fun.

2. Healthy Eats and Treats

One of the greatest expenses while traveling is for food on the road. Not only does it get pricey, but these purchases can also take a toll on health by eating fast food on the road.

When we traveled, we packed a lunch for the first day on the road and stopped at roadside parks. It’s easy to plan these stops by locating parks through the Roadtrippers app.

To save money on snacks, pack some healthy options in individual bags for each family member – such as carrots, grapes, cherries, pretzels or trail mix. Bring along extra snack-size baggies so you can split other treats you buy on the road – such as fresh popcorn, fruit or beef jerky from a roadside store.

3. Busy Hands and Happy Hearts

One of our main challenges as a family was keeping the kids occupied, and this is the number one concern I hear from parents.

Older children can use a tablet or game to stay busy, and everyone enjoys movies on the way. But even these options can lead to inevitable boredom as kids start to get restless. I think this is where creativity comes into play.

When we had a long trip (or a military move), I shopped ahead of time for small games, books, activity puzzles, little toys and other trinkets I knew they would like. Then I’d wrap these “surprises” in gift paper and put each child’s name on it. At the top of every hour, we would give them their individual present. You can also go to Travelforkids to find other alternatives.

4. A Place to Stay 

There are creative ways to save money on a place to stay on the family road trip. You can go to vrbo.com to find vacation rentals by owners.

Suite hotels that offer extra rooms are also an option such as the ones found at hotels.com, orbitz.com or cheaphotels.com.

Another option is to try a family camp. Google “YMCA family camps” to find one that meets your needs. You can enjoy a cabin, horseback riding, canoeing, and other great family activities for 40% off the cost of a conventional resort area. 

5. Food and Entertainment

Be sure you make use of Yelp to find the best restaurant at the best prices and bonuses such as free appetizers or desserts.

I also recommend entertainment.com where you enter the zip code of where you will be traveling in order to preview their entertainment books for that destination. Be sure you download the app RetailMeNot to find codes on everything you’ll need on your vacation, whether you are shopping for souvenirs in a store or eating at a restaurant.

At restaurant.com you enter the zip code to get gift certificates for half price and while you’re there, see if they have any sales. I recently bought $25 gift certificates at that site for only $4 when I applied a coupon code.

6. Save on Gas

AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator helps plot the most efficient route. Just enter the year, make and model of your car and it will compute what you’ll spend on gas.

Get the GasBuddy app and find the cheapest price for gas along the way.

We also use the Waze app to find real time road conditions, the most efficient route, and the best gas prices along the way. On more than one occasion, it has saved us 30-45 minutes by avoiding a crash or slow down.

7. Prayer of Thanks

Begin and end your family road trip with prayer, thanking God for his protection, wisdom and safety.

Some of the best family memories you may ever have can be found on the road if you purpose in your hearts to make them with the ones you love.

What kind of a family road trip will you have this year?

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of fifteen books including Lean Body, Fat Wallet, and Heroes at Home. She is a Toastmaster Accredited Speaker as well as a popular international speaker and media veteran who has given over1,200 media interviews including appearances on ABC, CNBC, CNN and Fox News. As a popular columnist, she writes for six national magazines and has been a Subject Matter Expert for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post. Currently, Ellie provides financial education to military members through her “Heroes at Home Financial Event” sponsored for USAA. Ellie is married to LTC Bob Kay and they have seven children.

Graphic of picnic table, courtesy of Morguefile.