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Wednesday
May202015

Upgrade Your Integrity

Pam Farrel is on a mission to help people grow with God’s truth and godly wisdom. In this Character UPGRADE, she focuses on the priority of integrity.

“Sin leaves a wake,” Pam says. “Behind every selfish action is a sea of hurt and pain.”

My (Dawn's) husband used to say, "It's not a matter of whether we're selfish, but rather how selfish we are." Selfishness can erode the strongest marriage!

Pam continues . . .

Bill and I are known as relationship specialists; experts on love and romance. This means is we need to live out our love! We need to make every effort to get along, work through issues, and give plenty of mercy and grace to protect our marriage.

Because our love—and yours—is about living and leaving a family legacy.

Protect Love and Legacy: the Bible tells us this is a priority:

“Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump...” (1 Corinthians 5:6-7).

“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

The “A Priority” is to guard our life and protect the gift of love God gave.

God will bless your choice to keep your vows:

“He who walks in integrity walks securely…” (Proverbs 10:9).

“He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity” (Proverbs 2:7).

“For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; The upright will behold His face” (Psalm 11:7).

 “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

In my newest book, 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success in Keeping It Together, I share that on my desk are several items to remind me that it pays to walk in integrity.

On my desk you’d find:

1. Photos of me with Bill as well as photos of our children, grandchildren, mentees, parents—all those whose lives I would undermine if I cheated on my vows.

2. A compass given to me by a wise mentor in leadership who said, “Let God’s voice be your compass”

3. All my Bibles. Looking at God’s Word all day, every day, reminds me to be in it—and to let it impact the way I live.

4. A barnacle attached to a stone as a reminder that a barnacle cannot live apart from the stone just as I cannot survive apart from Christ, the Rock of my Salvation.

5. A frame with verses about living with integrity visible on the front, and stories of the harmful wake others left when they wandered from Christ and His plan for committed love.

6. A heart paper weight to remind me to have a whole heart for God.

7. A figurine with an umbrella on it, reminding me that life is best when lived under what I call “God’s umbrella of blessing.”

For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord, You surround him with favor as with a shield” (Psalms 5:12).

8. A turtle, because if you see a turtle on a fence post you should ask, “How did that turtle get there?

Turtles can’t climb, so someone placed the turtle on high. In the same way, God gave each of us a legacy, a platform, so God can take us down a few notches—or elevate and bless us—depending on our choices. 

“Be humble in the Lord’s presence, and he will honor you” (James 4:10).

Integrity may not be easy—but it can be SIMPLE. Guard your heart, your life, your love and your legacy.

What will you place on your desk to remind you that “those that honor God, God honors”? (1 Samuel 2:30

Pam Farrel and her husband Bill, are international speakers and authors of 40 books including their two newest: 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman and 7 Simple Skills for Every Man, each designed to help a person, using simple skills, to create a life that he/she will love to live, and a way to love those in his/her life. Find them at www.Love-Wise.com, where they are helping people in all their most vital relationships by intersecting God’s wisdom with people’s desire to be loving. 

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

Tuesday
May192015

When Women Wonder If They Can

In this Attitude UPGRADE, Liz Cowen Furman, an author and artist who also runs a motel in Wyoming, tells how she overcame her fear and blew the doors off their new business.

“I didn’t know the first thing about running a motel,” Liz said, “But I knew we had to make it work or lose it. I was determined to NOT QUIT.”  

Do you identify with her words, like I (Dawn) do? Have you ever had something God placed in your life and you wondered if you were up for the challenge?

Liz continues . . .

After several bad managers, our family decided that if we were going to keep the seasonal motel in the family, like my Father-in-love instructed before he passed, we were going to have to run it ourselves.

Actually, my husband has a career in Denver and the motel is in Dubois, Wyoming, near Yellowstone, so that meant I was going to run it—initially with the help of my three teenage sons.

In the four years since we started, we have grown 87 percent. Several things helped us to succeed.

1. Pray!

I prayed without ceasing that God would open doors for us to use the motel to glorify Him. I prayed our guests would feel as if they were visiting our home. And I asked others to pray.

One night, alone at the motel—other than our guests—I was particularly discouraged. Dave and the boys had gone home for school to start. Missing my family, I prayed for God to show me if we were really supposed to be running this motel in the summers.

Next morning, a guest hung around until everyone left and then asked, “Liz, do you have a minute? I seem to have come to a lonely, desperate place in my life. I took this trip to see if I could figure it out. If not, well then … I am thinking of ending it."

“I noticed last night that you have found hope through your faith in God," he said. "Can you share with me how you did it?”

Holy Smokes, I was so excited! It was as if the answer to my plea was answered by this man’s question. Purpose!

We make s’mores nightly with the guests. The water bubbles by and the fire crackles low—the perfect place for meaningful conversations.

It is a bit like being a bartender. Folks will share their life story.

2. Seek wisdom.

I am on a mission to learn how to do everything better.

With my degree in plumbing from YouTube (ha ha), the classes we have taken from Wyoming Small Business Administration, and the books I have read—you must read Andy Andrews’ The Traveler’s Gift and The NoticerI am growing my knowledge of how to run a business, how to share my faith and how to trust God more.

3. Always be in motion.

It is amazing how much a person can get done when she doesn’t stop doing.

One day a fisherman asked, “Liz, I have been appointed by the regular guests to ask you a question, can I ask you now?”

“Shoot” I replied from the ladder where I was working on the gutters.

“Do you ever sleep?”

“What?” I said.

“Well, you are out here when we come out in the morning and when we go in to sleep. We just don’t think you ever stop.”

I laughed.

The days are long in the summer. I leave my home in Denver a size 12 and come home a size 8—another perk of running your own business.

Every spring I make a list and all summer I just do the next thing.

Whenever I feel overwhelmed (sometimes daily), I go back to the list and tell myself, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

What has God put on your heart to do for Him? Will you persist without exception to get it done? Will you seek wisdom? Will you pray?

Liz Cowen Furman is an author, artist, encourager, mentor, teacher and speaker. Writing is like the balm of Gilead for Liz. When she is not working on a book, she is writing articles and blogging. She has published three books, is a member of AWSA (Advanced Writer Speaker Association) and a graduate of Christian Communicator’s Conference. She has written humor for The Christian Pulse magazine and for AWSA’s Suicide Blog. Liz’s new Bible Study, Trusting God in Everything: A Bible Study for Women Who Wonder If They Can, releases May 20, 2015. Find it on Amazon.

Thursday
May142015

How to Stop Being an Adrenaline Junkie

Joan Webb’s intentional living so aligns with my desire to make wise choices. I invited her to write this Attitude UPGRADE because she puts her finger on a big issue with so many women.

“‘You really love this, don’t you? You’re so animated when you’re busy working.’ Although my client meant this as a compliment,” Joan said, “I gagged when I heard her words.

OK. I (Dawn) will get totally honest here. Joan pegged one of my huge struggles. I live with the stress of busyness, and some of it is self-imposed. Oh, how I needed to read this! Maybe you do too.

Joan continues . . .

To me, my client’s words represented a lifestyle I’d tried to ditch. Anything that reminded me of my excessive behavior felt like a punch in the gut.

I get a high when rushing, working and finding solutions. I am an adrenaline junkie. 

What do I mean by “adrenaline junkie”? 

Experts say action-addiction is both a process and a substance addiction. We get a high when we over-do, over-rush or even over-help. As long as the chemical keeps flowing, we medicate our past or current distress. 

Incidentally, some action-addicts appear motionless at times, but their minds are racing.

Normally, hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline release when we sense there’s a threat to our well-being. It’s the “Fight or Flight Response,” and it produces a shot of energy, giving us strength to cope with frightening situations.

With this response, heart rate escalates, digestion slows and blood flow forces to our muscles. Our bodies return to their natural state of relaxation when the real or perceived threat passes. 

When we’re addicted to action, we remain in chronic stress-mode, causing damage to our bodies. 

Initially, symptoms are fairly mild, like chronic headaches and lowered resistance to colds. Eventually we can develop depression, panic attacks, gum disease, unexplained weight gain, diabetes, stomach problems and even heart disease. 

Who wants THAT?

Doctors agree there is a pandemic of action-addiction in our world today. Author Anne Wilson Schaef writes:

“What belief have we accepted that suggests that, if we are not rushing and hurrying, we have no meaning?” 

An often-effective treatment for action-addiction includes identifying and modifying our negative thought patterns. For example, modification of the above misbelief can become: I am a valuable person, even when I quit working and helping to relax.

This all reminds me of something the wisest man who ever lived wrote: "Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:6).

When I continually run, chase, rush after stuff—even if it is very good and helpful stuffI whiz past tranquility in the pursuit.

What are some wise, practical things we can do to shake hands with tranquility again?

1. Pause to breathe deeply.

Slow down. Breathe. Give yourself time to think and feel again.

2. Pause to enjoy God.

Reflect on who you are in Christ! He invites you to come and find rest. (Matthew 11:28-30.)

Pray—have an unrushed conversation with the Lord. Soak in His love; meditate on what He’s said.

3. Pause to enjoy yourself … and others (without trying to fix them).

Honor who God created you to be.

If you’re an introvert, schedule a re-energizing alone-time activity. (Maybe just to soak in a hot tub. Perhaps to enjoy an overnight personal retreat.) If you’re an extrovert, schedule a re-vitalizing activity with friends, uninterrupted by to-dos and work.

And repeat these steps at regular intervals!

Ahhhh. I can feel my shoulders relaxing and that constant adrenaline surge diminishing.

What helps you become friends with tranquility again? 

Joan C. Webb is a speaker and author who has written thirteen books including The Intentional Woman (co-authored with Carol Travilla), The Relief of Imperfection: For Women Who Try Too Hard to Make It Just Right and a four-book devotional series for children. As a Life Coach who specializes in working with writers and communicators, Joan helps set people free to become who they were designed to be and from what holds them back. For more information about becoming an intentional woman, visit Joan's website

Tuesday
May122015

Changing the Way We Do Change

Julie Sanders' life is in flux right now with many changes, but in this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she explains how she stays grounded.

"One thing is certain about every woman’s life; it will not stay the same," Julie says. "Instead of being tormented by transitions and shaken by shifting seasons, sojourners learn how to change the way we do change."

Having experienced many seasons of unexpected change, I (Dawn) agree with Julie. We need a biblical perspective on change.

Julie continues . . .

Regardless of our time of life, status, or circumstances, we are all positioned for change. You may be coming out of a season of upheaval, in the midst of massive change or getting ready for transition. Still, we are taken by surprise, as if we hoped to escape it.

We fear it. Dread it. Try to avoid it. Yet, it comes.

Change can shake our foundation relationally, emotionally, physically, professionally and spiritually. How can a woman survive the waves without being overturned?

Every woman faces change, because every woman is “a sojourner on the earth” (Psalm 119:19). As someone who lives temporarily in a place, we stay for a time on our earthly home. Our lives reflect that transience in regular transitions.

Revolutions often include our loved ones, bodies, homes, professions and identity. We are sojourners and sojourners face change.

We can approach seismic shifts with three actions when the ground shakes and we feel it deep in our hearts.

1. Hold to what doesn’t change.

The Psalmist leaves no doubt about what deserves our trust:  

"Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens" (Psalm 119:89). 

God’s Word is reliable and unchanging, so we can hold to its truth when evaluating decisions and shaping plans. In God’s inspired Word we find comfort for the raw emotions of upheaval and confidence for boldness to move forward into new territory.

When all else feels foreign and uncertain, God’s Word is familiar and secure.

2. Look to the answers God provides.

Change surprises us, making feelings overflow in hot waves. Our own emotions are hard to trust. Well-meaning voices offer advice, but no one takes the place of our all-wise God who remains the sames.

His word is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). It helps us sort through opinions and urges.

A job change, geographical relocation, new church or empty nest begs answers from our loving Father. Instead of downcast feelings, we can hope in the God our salvation (Psalm 43:5).

3. Run to God’s plan for you.

Grief, regret and questions often accompany transition, threatening to paralyze the sojourner with an overwhelmed heart. To press on, let lesser things fall away and reach forward to God’s good plan (Jeremiah 29:11). 

Determine not to turn to the left or right (Proverbs 4:27). Instead, when facing opposition or confusion, cry out, “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!” (Psalm 119:32) 

A sojourner may feel uncertain, opposed or weary on the journey of change, but at those moments, sojourners can take the next right step with a heart that says,

“Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it” (Psalm 119:35).

Know what will not change, look to God’s answers for your feelings, and do what God has marked out for your journey.  

We are sojourners, and sojourners face change.

What change are you experiencing in this season of your life? Are you coming out of, in the midst of, or leading up to a change? How prepared are you to sojourn through it?

Julie Sanders is a sojourner who just moved from the sweet tea South to the desert Northwest. The change collides with gaining an empty nest and leaving a professional ministry she loved. Everything will be different! She is grateful for her unchanging God and His hope-filled plans in a new season. Julie's devotional, Expectant, encourages expectant moms with truth and practical wisdom. Discover more about Julie at her blog.

Saturday
May092015

Honoring Your Mom & Mom-in-Law This Mother's Day

Melissa Mashburn is known for "keeping it real" in home and ministry. In this special Mother's Day UPGRADE, she encourages us to consider gifts for our mom and mother-in-law that can't be bought at the store. 

"In this busy life we lead, it’s easy to just run right by Mother’s Day with a few flowers, chocolate and a homemade card and then check off the box that it’s handled," Melissa says. "The hard part with that is, there’s so much more to Mother’s Day than the gifts we give our moms and mother-in-law."

I (Dawn) think a key word there is "handled," as if Mother's Day is something to deal with and move on.  Melissa is encouraging us to be more intentional, respectful, thoughtful and loving.

She continues . . .

The hard part—and I’ll be the first to admit it—is that I want to claim Mother’s Day as “my day.” Chances are you do too.

Listen, we work hard all year long and need want a day for ourselves. There’s no doubt in my mind that we deserve it; but can I let you in on a secret. Your mom and your mother-in-law want that too.

It’s easy to get sucked into our own chaotic world of motherhood.

There’s the class projects, deadlines at work, carpool, practice for sports—and don’t forget the bottomless pit of laundry that miraculously seems to reappear just as you finish your last load.

Trust me, I know it’s not easy to add “one more thing” to the list. But let me share with you as a mom who is on the edge of the “empty nest” season:

Your mom and mother-in-law have been there, done that and have the t-shirt too.

They get where you are and also have an idea of what’s right around the corner for you.

Not everyone has a loving relationship with their mom or even their mother-in-law, but whether that relationship is easy or challenging, we should show honor to these important women in our lives.

One of my favorite stories in the Bible is about Naomi and her two daughters-in-law. You can read their whole story in the Book of Ruth. What I love is, in their story there’s redemption, hope and love shown,  as well as deep honor between the woman, Naomi, and her mother-in-law.

“But Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God" (Ruth 1:16 NLT).

There’s so much we can learn from Naomi and Ruth, but today I wanted to take a few moments to share with you three simple ways to honor your mom and your mother-in-law this Mother’s Day.

1. Pray for them.

They are in a different season of motherhood, and it might seem like it is easy for them since they don’t have little ones running around, but chances are they actually miss it.

2. Spend time with them.

Be available to talk, have lunch, grab dinner or just spend time with them doing regular, everyday things.

3. Listen to what they have to say.

Your mom and your mother-in-law have the gift of wisdom that comes from time. Hear what they have to say, and even when you don’t always agree, show respect for their opinions.

Gifts are great and always lots of fun, but it’s not really about the gifts for your mom and mother-in-law. They probably already have everything they need anyway, so instead of rushing out for those flowers, chocolates and cards this year, why not try something different.

If you are crafty and creative, you can package it up pretty—there’s probably something crafty on Pinterest—and give her a gift straight from your heart.

What are some other ideas you have for showing honor to your mom and mother-in-law this Mother’s Day?

Oh, by the way, this post wouldn’t be complete with a great big shout out and huge hug to my own mom, Regina, and my awesome mother-in-LOVE, Brenda.

These two women bless me, encourage me, challenge me and inspire me more than they’ll ever know. I love you two! 

Melissa Mashburn passionately pursues God daily, taking her ordinary life and placing it as her offering to Him. She is an author, speaker, mom, pastor’s wife and trained communicator through CLASSeminars, with extensive background in Women’s, Kids and Volunteer Ministry. Her passion is helping women “keep it real” in their lives and ministries. Melissa is married to her best friend, Matt (22 years) and they have two adult sons, Nick & Bailey. She loves to relax with a great book and giant cup of coffee. You can find her at Melissa Mashburn: Real Women. Real Life. Real Faith.

Photo Credit © Photographerlondon | Dreamstime.com - Female Holding Potted Plants With Mother And Grandmother Photo