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Lina AbuJamra

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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

Mary James

Priscilla Jenson

Lane P. Jordan

Rebecca Jordan

Ellie Kay

Maria Keckler

Sylvia Lange

Debby Lennick

Peggy Leslie

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

Teri Thompson

Brittany Van Ryn

Leslie Vernick

Laurie Wallin

Julie Watson

Joan C. Webb

Cherri Williamson

Kathy C. Willis

Jamie Wood

Dawn Wilson

 

Thursday
Apr232015

Parenting Wisdom from the Garden

Sue Badeau (and her husband Hector) share a powerful story about adopting and raising 22 children. Sue has a lot of experience and wisdom to share, as she does in this positive Parenting UPGRADE.

"I do not have a green thumb," Sue says. "I can’t even keep a cactus alive and cactuses barely require any attention! If I can’t nurture plants to bloom and flourish, how can I do it for children, especially those with special needs? Have you ever felt this way?"

Yes, Sue. Every parent faces challenges, and there were times I (Dawn) wished I had a special button to push to make my children immediately blossom into godly, productive human beings. Though Sue doesn't have a "fix-it-quick" solution for all your parenting issues, but she does offer wise counsel.

Sue continues . . .

When I was a child, my Papa had a huge garden. I loved spending time watching him there.  Being a pesky little kid, I peppered him with questions:

“Papa, why is this one in the shade?

“Papa, why do those need stakes to hold them up, but the others don’t?”

“Papa, how can you tell the weeds from the good plants?” 

And on . . . and on . . . and on!

He always patiently answered me.

I’ve learned that being a mom, particularly to children with special needs, is a lot like being a gardener. You prepare the soil, plant and water. You fertilize, weed and prune. Most of all you pray, watch and wait.

Some flowers need lots of light; others need a cooler, darker place to grow. Water this one every day— that one only once a week. This one needs rich soil. This one does better in a sandy base.  

So much to keep straight.    

You have no control over the elements—sun, rain, wind. Early frost, squirrels, vandals. You pray, watch and wait.  

Some children are like zucchini. They grow and thrive anywhere. Some are like hot-house flowers—all conditions must be "just so" for them to reach their full potential. Some require so much more work than others, it's exhausting! 

When a bud appears, I rejoice and marvel in wonder at its beauty as it unfurls. When one begins to bow or break, I carefully provide extra supports and TLC.  

Sometimes, my best efforts are not enough.

And sometimes resilience, in spite of all my mistakes,  amazes me. 

Here are three top parenting tips I learned in Papa’s garden:

1. Learn as much as possible about each child’s unique needs.

Learn about temperament, learning styles and more so you’ll know how to provide the right amounts of "sun and fertilizer" for each child.

2. Forget about being "fair" if your idea of fairness is to treat each child the same.

Children bloom best when treated as individuals. All children will squawk about fairness; don’t let this tempt you to treat them all alike.

3. Pray, watch and wait.

There is much you can't control as a parent, just as there is for a gardener. Stay faithful in prayer, and wait expectantly for God to do a good work in each child, remembering: His timeline may be different than our own.

My children are not zucchini. 

But each one is a magnificent addition to my garden.

"Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness" (2 Corinthians 9:10).

Which of these parenting "garden" tips speaks to you today? Is there something you need to do to tend your family garden?

Sue Badeau is a nationally known speaker, author, and child welfare and trauma expert. Sue and her husband Hector are lifetime parents of twenty-two children—two by birth and twenty adopted. They wrote the book Are We There Yet: The Ultimate Road Trip Adopting and Raising 22 Kids. Learn more about Sue at suebadeau.com and badeaufamily.com.

Tuesday
Apr212015

A Friendship Wake-up Call

Sylvia Lange is a talented, compassionate singer and speaker. But she's also the kind of woman you'd want to call "friend." In this Relationship UPGRADE, she shares her journey into real friendships.

"Years ago over coffee," Sylvia said, "a friend slapped me in the face. In public. Well, maybe not a physical slap but she sure got my attention when she quietly murmured, 'You know, it isn’t always about you.'”

Talk about a wake-up call! I (Dawn) don't know how I would have responded. But I'm glad Sylvia took the high road and responded Godward so she can give us biblical insight.  

Sylvia continues . . .  

No one had ever spoken to me like that before.  My initial indignation quickly morphed into embarrassment as I wondered who else thinks the same thing?

A review of my roster of friends revealed that the majority of my social connections were pretty superficial. With few exceptions, I had surrounded myself with people I could either control or from whom I could get something.

I had very few equals and certainly, no true heart friend. I needed an overhaul.

Someone once said in order to have a good friend you must first be a good friend. I soon realized I really didn’t know how, so starting on that painful day, I got busy.

I began spending time with authentic Christians who practiced a lifestyle of service. They helped me understand that although I am “made in the image of God,” I am no better than anyone else. In fact, I needed to just be a “worker among workers.”

I began to create some space between myself and people who didn’t share my core values. 

"One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a sister" (Proverbs 18:24).

I zeroed in on those who believed in me, recognizing that anyone functions at their best when they have their own private cheerleading squad.

I also started to emulate people with strong friendships of their own. Although many actions were initially awkward, over time, behaviors that were once foreign became automatic and the impact on my relationships was immeasurable.

That was twenty-five years ago. And although I will always be learning, I have picked up a few truths:

1. Real friendship isn’t about you.  

Let’s face it: it is rarely convenient to truly attend to someone at their level of need . . . not on the level that’s convenient for us.

True, deep friendship requires intentional effort, can cramp our comfort, impinge on our time, and sometimes even cost money . . . but the payoff is priceless. 

Today, my friendship quiver is full of a variety of unselfish, loving people who put their money where their mouth is.

2. Friendship plays to each other’s strengths and celebrates its differences. 

My long-time friend and ministry partner Billye and I recognize we have no natural chemistry and agree that our friendship has been the most challenging either of us has ever had. In our early years we often brought out the worst in each other, but over time, we have learned to value our differences and recognize that together, we’re stronger than on our own.

3. Friendship leaves its ego at the door.  

 My good intentions’ only go so far if I don’t notice how my friend needs to be communicated with, served and loved, regardless of how I need to be communicated with, served, and loved.

4. Friendship is trustworthy. 

A trustworthy friend keeps her promises, is reliable and would never do anything that would compromise the security of her friend, no matter how she might gain otherwise. 

What is your definition of real friendship? And to what lengths should a person go to be a real friend?

Sylvia Lange, a popular women's ministries speaker both on her own and with her duo Crimson Bridge, is  known for her infectious candor that invites listeners to know more about the God to Whom she owes her life. Whether blogging, speaking for a women's ministries event or sharing from one of her five albums, she speaks with Spirit-propelled authority to those who don’t yet know Christ and those who have forgotten Who He is. To book Sylvia or purchase her music, visit www.sylvialange.com. Sylvia is also committed to Compassion International, an outreach to starving, diseased children in the 3rd World.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Thursday
Apr162015

Alike, But Opposite

Peggy Leslie, a Bible teacher, speaker and author, is first and foremost a Christian, wife and mom. It’s her “mom” role I wanted her to write about here, in a special Parenting UPGRADE.

“'Opposites' are supposed to be two different things. Right? So, how,” she asks, “did I get five opposites in my five children?”

Some years ago, Peggy told me (Dawn) about her special times of interceding for these five “opposites.” I loved it and asked her to share with UPGRADE readers.

Peggy continues . . .

Our first three children were born in less than three years. Even before the first reached kindergarten, I observed that from the beginning each one, though in many ways like the others, was different from his or her siblings.

Karen, our firstborn, had a beautiful Sunshine Girl smile and could be very entertaining. Yet overall she was somewhat reserved, definitely not a chatterer.

Chuck, on the other hand, was one of those outgoing children who never met a stranger. We said he was “born talking.”

Scott was the observant one and the one most likely to share deep feelings. One day little Scottie came to me and said, “Mommy, I feel sad.” None of the others ever did that voluntarily.  

The differences continued as Kate (the sweet little “ham” and born teacher) and April (the sensitive musician) came along.

In the beginning I knew nothing about studies on temperaments, A-B-C-D “types,” or birth-order. But as I observed—and dealt with—each child’s idiosyncrasies, I concluded that to a point, each of my children was “born that way.” 

God had designed each one with a unique, inborn make-up that Gene and I needed to recognize.  

Here are a few things I learned along the way—some of which I wish I’d figured out sooner!

1. Pray, pray, PRAY to know how to “Train up your child in the way he should go . . . " (Proverbs 22:6)—which will usually be quite different from his siblings!

Gene and I have always prayed for our children, but for a long time in a kind of haphazard way, and usually individually. Many years ago, we came up with a plan. We call it SPD—Special Prayer Day.

With seven in the family, each gets his or her own SPD (Sunday: Gene; Monday: Karen ....; Saturday: me). On that day, I usually contact that one by phone call, text or email and ask, “Do you have any SPRs [Special Prayer Requests] today?”

I cannot count the number of blessings and answers and special moments that has brought to our family.  

Come up with you own plan. Just be sure to pray!

2. Observe each child so you’ll recognize differences and know the way that one should go.

3. Celebrate each one’s uniqueness.

Don’t try to force one into an area he’s not good at (sports, music, drama, etc.).

Don't expect, or try to make, one child like another one.

4. Encourage talents or skills God put there by providing ways to enhance them (sports sign-ups, music lessons, etc.).

5. Discipline when a child uses those talents and skills in inappropriate ways.

To me, those last two hints envelope the meaning of Ephesians 6:4b: ...bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

6. Pray. It bears repeating!

Do you rejoice that your children are alike, but opposite? How do you pray for them?

Peggy Leslie is a long-time Bible teacher and international speaker. She and her husband Gene, married 51 years, are the parents of five grown children. They love to spend time with their 12 grandchildren and are blessed to have all of them living in San Diego County. She and co-author Donna Jeremiah have published two Christian mystery novels: Storm over Coronado and Intrigue in Coronado.

Tuesday
Apr142015

How to Minister When There's 'No Time' for Ministry

Melissa Mashburn's insights into Ministry and Leadership are refreshing and practical, as is evident in this UPGRADE.

“I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date,” Melissa says.

Does that sound familiar? I (Dawn) always used to feel pressed for time and often—to my shame—cut out ministry opportunities. Thankfully, the Lord showed me some of the wisdom Melissa talks about today!

She continues . . .

Do you remember the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland? You know the one, he was always running around in a flurry of activity. I can remember being put off that this silly rabbit who was always dressed up and looking so sporty. Within a blink the rabbit was off to wherever else he needed to be at that moment. He left and along with him a rush of anxiety passing right on by as well.

In the busyness of ministry, we can sometimes find ourselves stuck in a vicious cycle of running.

Hoping, dreaming and praying to be purposeful and effective in our ministries, we need to stop and remember we can’t do everything for everyone, but we can do something for one.

Everything was a whirlwind when rabbit was around, and yet, if we are honest for a moment, there are probably a few of us who are just like rabbit. Oh, we don’t mean to, of course, but the demands of ministry and family life can keep us bustling about our days just like that rabbit.

You look at the calendar and see it is overcrowded. Then you get a call from a woman who needs someone to talk to about a crisis in her life. The next “free” minute on your calendar is two weeks away and you're left in that space of “what am I supposed to do now, Lord?”

Oh, my friend, how I can relate to this. I have been in this very spot many times in my fifteen years of  ministry, and I want to share a few things I’ve learned along the way.

Here are three things to help you to minister when there’s “no time” for ministry:

1. Always first, go to God in prayer and ask for His help.

"Hear my prayer, O Lord;  give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!" (Psalm 143:1, ESV)

There is no way for us to be able to make sense of our already crazy schedules on our own. By seeking His guidance and mercy from the get go, we release ourselves from trying to “fix it.”

2. Ask God specifically what the next step is for you.

"The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives" (Psalm 37:23, NLT).

When frazzled by the demands of ministry, I have to stop and ask Him very directly and clearly, "What is the next step?"

What’s the most important thing God wants me to donot what I like to do or what I’m good at, but what has He specifically planned for me.

3. Do for one what you wish you could do for all.

 "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,  you did it to me" (Matthew 25:35-40, ESV).

Listen, ministry is not a nine to five job. We both know that. It can be demanding and overwhelming, but it can also be incredibly simple at times.

Do for one what you wish you could do for all is simply this . . . be fully present where you are at that very moment.

If you are:

  • at the grocery store, be a friendly face to the cashier.
  • in the lobby at your church and you see a new face, go up and introduce yourself—welcome them.
  • in the carline and someone cuts you off, let it go and let them get in front of you.
  • get an email from someone who is hurting, stop and pray for them right that moment.

Ministry doesn’t have to happen the way we always think it should. Sometimes we just have to be prepared to slow down the crazy rabbit in our lives and let God show us what’s next.

What can you do today to minister to others even though there’s not always time for ministry?

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 Womens, 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.



Thursday
Apr092015

Turn Guilt into Growth

Poppy Smith is full of fun and passion, but it's her commitment to biblical truth that makes her a fountain of wisdom. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she encourages us to use guilt in a positive, life-transforming way.

“Guilty feelings happen,” says Poppy. “Guilt is a universal emotion that’s built into people. But as followers of Jesus, God doesn’t want us wallowing in self-condemnation. Instead, He calls us to receive His mercy, forgiveness, and power to move forward and start afresh.”

I (Dawn) was one of those "always guilty" kids. I always thought I'd done something wrong, even when I hadn't. Later in life, I learned to distinguish between real and false guilt, but it still took me a while to recognize the power of God's grace. So I can't tell you how much I appreciate this message of hope from Poppy.

She continues:

During a stop-over in Singapore several years ago, I had the opportunity to witness a Hindu festival.

Streams of men marched by their faces skewered with long, thin, metal rods. Some rods went through their top lip, tongue, and bottom lip. Others pierced through both cheeks. Small metal hooks, inserted into the men’s backs and chests, supported elaborate wire cages decorated with feathers and flowers.

This annual festival, called Thaipusam, celebrated the victory of Lord Murugan, the son of Shiva, over evil. Shiva’s devotees willingly underwent this painful ritual to express thanks for blessings received, gain special favors, and to atone for their sins.

Believers in Jesus Christ don’t have to atone for sin through the pain of skewered flesh! We’ve been set free from both the power and penalty for sin by the atoning death of God’s Son on the Cross.

The apostle Paul writes, “Since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us” (Romans 5:1, NLT).

Even knowing this truth, we too often allow our failures to drag us down emotionally and spiritually. But this doesn’t have to be the outcome. Instead, our guilty feelings can help us grow in honesty, humility, and hope of transformation. 

Here are three truths that have helped me in my trip-up, get-up journey with Jesus:

1. Deal with Guilt.

Don’t hide from guilty feelings, shove them under the rug, or pretend they don’t exist.

Simply respond with gratitude and humility knowing that “If we confess our sins, He (God) is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

2. Delight in God’s grace.

Speak words of grace, not condemnation to yourself. No matter how you’ve failed, God promises to continue to work in you (Phil.1:6).

God doesn’t deal with us according to what we deserve but, instead, invites us to rejoice in His ever-flowing grace—unearned and life-transforming.

3. Discover where you need to grow.

Dr. Charles Stanley counsels, “Glean a lesson from your failures, but don’t frame them and hang them on the wall of your emotions for constant viewing.”

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways” (Proverbs 14:8).

Whatever your particular weakness, be honest and acknowledge it. Ask the Holy Spirit’s help to see what’s behind your wrong attitude or action, and where you’re vulnerable.

Don’t let failure discourage you. We are human and in a life-long growth process.

Instead, recognize that every stumble is an invitation to come closer to God, to know ourselves more deeply, and to celebrate the fact that He has atoned for our sins—and we won’t ever need to skewer ourselves to win His favor!

How do you handle feelings of failure and guilt? What do you need to do differently to grow through this experience?

Poppy Smith is a former Bible Study Fellowship lecturer who speaks and writes out of a passion to make God known. This article on turning failure into a learning experience is adapted from her book, Reaching Higher: Ten Dynamic Truths from Abraham that Will Transform Your Life. Follow Poppy on her blog, Inspiring YOU to Thrive!

Graphic adapted: Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.