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   and Founder:

   Dawn Wilson

 

Saturday
Feb172018

Who We Are and What We Have—In Christ

Sometimes we forget who we are. And forgetting can have sad, even devastating consequences.

When I realized who I am and what I have in Christ, it revolutionized my thinking. And the more I focus on these truths, the more freedom, peace and courage I have in my life and ministry.
There are three things I discovered in my study. In Christ, I have a new identity, absolute security, and God-given dignity.

Let me unpack those for you here:

I. In Christ, you have a New IDENTITY

II. In Christ, you have Absolute SECURITY

III. In Christ, you have God-given DIGNITY

I encourage you to study each point, and rejoice in who you are and what you have in Christ.

Which of these categories of who you are and what you have in Christ speaks to you today? How will you allow it to change or encourage you?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and 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.

Thursday
Feb152018

Strength for a Mama's Heart

Fighting pneumonia, Wendy Hamilton still wrote this UPLIFT post. She is leaning hard on God's strength, and she wants us to do the same.

"'Strength.' This word has been on echo for weeks," Wendy says. "As the holidays blurred and company came and went, 'Strength' was the word God whispered."

I (Dawn) know what Wendy means. Sometimes, weary and frazzled, strength drains from my lives. It's a good thing I know the source for new strength. As does Wendy. Though nothing may change outwardly, operating in God's strength makes our burdens seem lighter.

Wendy continues . . .

As a new school year began and our kids entered the last semester before high school, switched schools for a more personalized and creative approach to schooling or returned to college many states away, God spoke: “Strength”.

As illness seemed to invade every corner of our world affecting every friend and their families and all members of our family, God promised, “I am your Strength.”

Through those difficult times, God breathed the word “Strength” over my mama’s heart.

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him (Psalm 28:7).

As projects went awry and I struggled to be me in my everyday life, God reminded me of who He is, who I am and what I am created to do as His beloved daughter.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26).

When life doesn’t always look, feel or seem to be going in a positive way, it’s easy to believe the lies of the enemy that God has forgotten about us, doesn’t hear us or really has nothing good for us.

I know among myself and my friends I saw the weariness creep in. Our struggle was real.

It is easy in those moments to focus on the “My flesh and my heart may fail” feelings and never counter those thoughts with the greater truth that “God is the strength of our heart” and He is all that we need all the time, every time, no matter what.

Think for a moment about what is not going as planned in your life.

Where are you going through difficulty or a situation you would rather avoid or never experience at all?

1. Write out what is going on your world that weighs heavy on your heart.

2. Write beside each item, "God, you are my strength and you are all I need.”

The sum of God’s strength far outweighs all difficulties in our everyday lives.

Strength is who God is. HE IS our strength and HE IS our shield. He helps us.

Because of who He is, we can trust in Him. Our mama’s hearts can leap for joy even in the most difficult of days—days filled with anything from toddler tantrums to adolescent antics to those tight, soul-trying moments where we may believe that we don’t have all that we need.

We can praise God for the songs He gives us, especially for the songs that reveal His strength for us.
[One example is below *]

Where is God telling you that He is your strength?

Wendy Hamilton is the co-gounder of Inspired Life Ministries, a creative arts freedom ministry. She teaches writing to moms and teen girls through Inspired Moms and Inspired Teens.  She is a songwriter/writer for Valley Creek Church and serves with her husband, Mike, and their kids in a variety of ministry areas across multiple campuses within her church family. Her devotional for moms, 30 Verses to Heal a Mama’s Heart, is available on Amazon.com, Amazon Europe and other online and offline bookstores and retailers. You can find out more at 30Verses.com. 

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

* An encouraging song to listen to today, "Everlasting God (Strength Will Rise)" by Chris Tomlin.


Tuesday
Feb132018

3 Ways to Recapture Your Husband's Heart

Pastor's wife and author Cindi McMenamin encourages women in their walk with God and relationships, and in this Marriage UPGRADE she offers wives a good challenge for Valentine'sDay—and every day.

Cindi asks, “Do you ever wish you could turn back the clock, erase the baggage, and have your husband see you the way he once did?”

That question struck home hard with me (Dawn) when I read it. Physically, I've been working on my health, weight and appearance, and it makes me smile that my husband has taken notice! But I've also wondered during my Quiet Times with the Lord, "Is there something in my spirit that has changed (for the worse) since our marriage?" Cindi has good insight for me... and all of us.

Cindi continues . . .

I’ll never forget the day I was cleaning through my top dresser drawer and found a treasure.

I almost threw out the stack of aged, yellowed papers, weathered by time and slightly torn on the edges. When I unfolded the papers and read through them, I instantly realized why I’d kept them all those years.

They were love letters from my husband—written nearly 30 years ago—that included phrases like these:

  • “I love you beyond expression.”
  • “You complete me like no other.”
  • “I love you desperately.”

As I read through them, my eyes teared up.

And then my heart dropped.

I haven’t had a letter like this from him in years.

All of the letters dated back to the first few years that we were married. And they all described the captivating woman he saw me as—the woman I had hoped in my heart of hearts that I still was.

How I would have loved to believe that I hadn’t changed a bit through the years. How easy it would have been to believe that he was the one who had become distant, more critical, less interested and less passionate than he was the day we married.

It was a little tougher to put that magnifying glass up to myself and ask if I was the one who let resentments build up or baggage get in the way.

I realized if I was to be the cherished wife who receives another letter like that one day, I would have to BECOME that woman my husband wrote to so many years ago.

Here are a few of the steps I took to remove the baggage, rebuild love, and recapture my husband’s heart. And I am confident they can work for you, too.

1. RESPOND to Him Like a New Wife.

When I asked myself what it was I was doing to make my husband write letters to me like he once did, the answer was simple: I was responding to him like a new bride. 

Remember when you were a brand new bride?

  • You couldn’t wait until the two of you got off work so you could be together again.
  • You constantly checked your voicemail messages to see if he had called during the day.
  • You had a special sparkle in your eyes when you talked of him and a spring in your step when you walked alongside him.

What would it take to get back that loving feeling for him?

If you’re waiting for him to do something different, I guarantee he will when YOU start responding to him like you once did when you were a brand new bride.  

2. REFRAME What You Say to Him.

Most of the baggage in marriage comes from words the two of you have said to one another.

Careless words. Accusing words. Hurtful words.

Many times we didn’t even intend for those words to sound the way they did. That’s why we must learn to reframe what we say to our husbands.

Ephesians 4:29 instructs us toLet 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.”

So, instead of saying, “Are you going to wear THAT to dinner?”—say instead, “I’d love it if you’d wear that new shirt you look great in.”

And instead of saying, “Why don’t we go out on dates anymore?”—try instead, “I miss spending time alone with you.”

Ask yourself, before the words exit your mouth, “Am I saying this in a way that will encourage him?”

3. REFUSE to Dwell on the Negatives!

Every married couple has experienced wounds that are best left in the past.

Negative thoughts and memories of old wounds may assault you at times, but don’t let them run rampant in your mind.

Instead, practice 2 Corinthians 10:5, which instructs us to take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Capture that thought and kill it.

And then remember why you fell in love with your husband in the first place.

  • Was it his tenderness?
  • The way he made you laugh?
  • His dependability and faithfulness no matter what the circumstance?

Focus on his positive qualities—even ones that you believe are no longer there—and you just might start noticing them again.

Which of these three steps can you begin taking today to recapture the heart of your husband?

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author of 16 books who has been married 30 years to a  pastor and introvert. Her newest book, 12 Ways to Experience More with Your Husband, released Feb. 1 from Harvest House Publishers. For more on her resources to strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Alexas Fotos at Pixabay.

Wednesday
Jan312018

Create More Opportunities for Margin - Part 2

In Part 1 of the Self-Care UPGRADE, “Create More Opportunities for Margin,” Dawn Wilson, explained the importance of creating more “spacious opportunities” in our lives to counter the busyness and mindlessness that can lead to stress, over-commitment and exhaustion.

To repeat from Part 1: We won’t have wonderful, spacious opportunities unless we're purposeful in making room for them.

“Margin,” said Richard Swenson, M.D., “is the space between our load and our limits.” We want to intentionally fill that space wisely, even if it means “not filling” by allowing more space to grow.

In Part 1, we considered the need for more margin in our home, calendars and budgets. In Part 2, let's tackle four more areas: Health, People, Mind and God.

4. Create more space in regard to your HEALTH. For the Christian, this is important not only for ourselves, but as a testimony to others of the power of God working in our habits (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

How do we create margin for better health?

  • Leave more time at nightfall for quality sleep. Work toward a healthy nightly rhythm that leads to better and deeper rest.
  • Think: healthy eating! Stop stuffing your body with multiple snacks and processed foods. Give your stomach “room” to function efficiently. Intermittent fasting can be beneficial. So is mindful planning for a weekly caloric budget and sticking to it.
  • Carve out time to move your body with whatever exercise you find most enjoyable. Think in terms of freedom of movement and building core strength.
  • Practice deep breathing! Breathe in through your nose, hold that breath, and then exhale slowly through your mouth.

One of the strongest voices helping me create nutritional margin is Lysa TerKeurst in Made to Crave, especially her devotional based on the book. Also, Lean Body, Fat Wallet is a double-whammy for health and finances, writen by Ellie Kay and Danna Demetre. Danna is one of the founders of Ageless Woman Living.

5. Create more space for PEOPLE, especially for family and friends. Our office files can’t hug us, and the television won’t give us love. Creating margin for relationships is even far more than social media, although that can play a small part.

Time is limited, so aim for true connection. Quantity time AND quality time.

Shut things off and turn up the volume on face-to-face connections. These times together will feed our need for emotional growth, and they will help us understand how we can “spur on” family and friends “toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

We need one-on-one time to practice the "one anothers" of scripture.

Our busy lives leave us less than satisfied. God’s Word and people, it is said, are the only two things that last from earth into eternity; and that should give us a sense of what is truly important.

There are so many good books available on this topic. Just be sure their relationship counsel lines up with scripture truth. I learned a lot from Mary Kassian's Conversation Peace; Shaunti Feldhahn's book, The Kindness Challenge; and Gene Getz' book, Building Up One Another. And "Relationship specialists" Bill and Pam Farrel at Love-wise offer many, MANY books on building relationshps.

6. Create space for your MIND … time to think, ponder and meditate.

If we don’t want our brains to become mush, we need to feed them with truth and wisdom (James 1:5; Psalm 90:12). We need to renew our mind so we can know and do the will of God (Romans 12:2).

Spend time with a good book. The Bible, of course, will train our minds (2 Timothy 3:16); but biblically-based books or books of wise principles that do not contradict scriptural truth will also challenge us to think better. Or planning a social-mental “spacious opportunity” in a Bible or book study with a group of friends (Proverbs 13:20)

Think Biblically! (edited by John MacArthur) helped me think with a Christian worldview; and Lies Women Believe (updated/expanded edition) by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth helped me zero in on some foolish, unbiblical thinking. (Note: Lies Men Believe, written by Nancy's husband Robert, will come out in August 2018.)

7. And this is most important: create a greater margin of time for God.

  • We need space to pray and worship without distractions.
  • We need time for the Lord every day (Psalm 55:16-17) to feed our spirit, train our responses and calm our hearts.
  • We need to “Be still” and listen—to get to know our Father’s heart so we’ll know how to make wise choices (Psalm 46:10; Proverbs 2:6).
  • We need to live with eternity in mind, walk by faith, and aim to please the Lord (2 Corinthians 4:18; 5:6-10).

A life filled to the brim with a crowded or misguided schedule will never allow time for the Lord to fill us to overflowing with Himself.

By far, the book that helped me understand the need to create a daily time with the Lord was Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Wolgemuth) and Tim Grissom; but Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby also built that relationship.

Notice the word “create” in each of my seven points about margin.

Be creative. Be intentional.

How can you create more spacious opportunities? Ask the Lord what would be best eliminated or pared down in your life so you will have more room to breathe and grow.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices TodayLOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and 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

Tuesday
Jan302018

Create More Opportunities for Margin - Part 1

More and more, people are talking about “margin.” Dawn Wilson tackles this topic in a Self-Care UPGRADE in a two-part post to encourage those who find themselves stressed and over-committed, exhausted and near burnout.

Marginless living is the story of millions of Americans today. That’s part of my story too. I desperately needed more margin.

In his book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives (NavPress, 2014), Richard A. Swenson, a medical doctor, points out the lack of margin in American society in spite of all the “progress” we have made.

“The disease of marginless living is insidious, widespread and virulent,” Dr. Swenson said. “We live with unprecedented wealth and all it brings. We have leisure, entertainment, convenience and comfort…. Yet stress, frustration and oftentimes even despair unexpectedly accompany our unrivaled prosperity.”

His book is an excellent study of the reasons for marginless living, and he offers wisdom for every area of life. (I recommend it to stretch your thinking.)

But even before I read his book, I was thinking about the reasons for my own stress. Here’s what I discovered.

When some people think about margin, they envision the word “boundaries”—the need to not let others overrun the priorities in their lives.

I totally understand that. It’s important to have biblical priorities and values for our lives and families. We have to learn to say no to others’ expectations when they don’t understand, or when they either intentionally or unintentionally try to push past our boundaries.

But I think that’s only one side of margin.

My version of margin includes freedom. It focuses on space and freed-up time.

I like to describe margin as “spacious opportunities.”

In other words, yes, we need to establish firm boundaries so people will not take advantage of our kindness and desire to serve. That’s a necessary part of healthy relationships.

We want to live in a sacrificial way, but the Lord still may direct us to say “no” to some intrusive or unnecessary things so we can say “yes” to other things that fit our calling and biblical priorities (Colossians 4:1-2).

But we have to be sure we’re creating space for those “yeses.”

If we don’t, we’ll simply be piling good things onto other good things and causing over-commitment and stress.

We all need positive space to think, create, and breathe. But our lives are so busy, we won’t have wonderful, spacious opportunities unless we're purposeful in making room for them.

There are some things we can’t (and shouldn’t change)—the priority of a relationship with God and the priority of our key relationships (Matthew 6:33; Mark 12:30-31).

But beyond that, we need to see and embrace opportunities for margin throughout our lives. It’s a wonderfully positive approach.

There are at least SEVEN WAYS to create more opportunities for margin—for what really matters.

1. Create more empty space in your HOME. We don’t have to stuff every closet and fill every shelf. It’s OK to leave some empty space. Even healthy and freeing.

Part of the Titus 2:4-5 mandate for women, even those who have careers, is to work at home—to manage the home well. It doesn’t have to be a duty or drudgery. Make it fun. Create a freeing space to minister to people in your family and neighborhood.

Join me in creating that freedom! Evaluate your “stuff.” Go through one room per week with a big box or bag. What can you find to give away? Ask yourself:

  • How many of these do I have?” (Why do you need 12 pair of scissors—and they aren’t even crafting scissors? Learn to practice contentment: Hebrews 13:5a)
  • Why am I keeping this?” (An out-of-date college textbook. A 10-year-old jar of face cream, probably rancid.)
  • “Do I really need to have this object to keep a memory alive?” (A photo might suffice.)
  • “Is this a legacy item—and does my family want it?” (And usually, our millennial kids don’t.)
  • “Do I really need this?” or “Might someone else need this more than me? (Consider a homeless person, a struggling single mom, a low-paid teacher, etc.)

I have often used some of the home and office organizing techniques I've learned from "Organizing Pro" Marcia Ramsland in her book Simplify Your Life.

2. Create more space in your CALENDAR. Just as our homes can be cluttered with stuff we don’t need, sometimes our lives are cluttered with activity and our schedules need some paring down.

We need to plan “down time” as carefully—and with as much joyful anticipation and dedication—as work, event and activity times. Part of making “the best use of your time” (Ephesians 5:15-17) is understanding the Lord wants us to know when to stop working, to stop pushing… to just stop!

Plan breaks and times of refreshing on a regular basis: daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. God wants His loved ones to get “proper rest” (Psalm 127:2).

Again, Marcia Ramsland can help with her book, Simplify Your Time.

3. Create more space in your BUDGET. Rather than thinking, “How much do I have left to spend?” think, “How much can I save?” or “How much can I invest?” Thinking we have money to indulge our every whim is seldom wise.

Rather than letting covetousness rule, give money its proper place and think in terms of faithful and wise stewardship.

When we plan wisely, we will feel more secure (Ecclesiastes 7:12); but remember the true Source of your security. Even so, it’s still smart to create sufficient financial margin—sometimes called a “cushion of funds”—to carry you over in times of stress or crisis. Financial experts may not agree on the exact amount, but they all agree on the necessity!

For financial wisdom beyond the scriptures, I seek out people like "America's Family Financial Expert," Ellie Kay and The 60-Minute Money Workout. I also learned so much from Ron Blue and Jeremy White's Faith-based Family Finances, Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover and Randy Alcorn's Managing God's Money.

How can you create more spacious opportunities in these three areas: Home, Calendar and Budget?

Part 2 of this post will appear on January 31st,  with four more areas needing margin.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices TodayLOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and 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.