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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson

 

Thursday
Jul192018

Connection 101: Girl-friendship Is a Gift

Deb DeArmond cares about relationships—all kinds of relationships. In this Friendship UPGRADE, she offers insight to help us cultivate our friendships with other women.

It’s the test," Deb says, "of any friendship: the vacation without husbands, kids or other friends to cushion the shock of 24 hours together. On the ocean. In a cabin. For seven days."

That sounds heavenly to me (Dawn), but I'm sure there could be challenges. It's important we learn to grow up in our friendships.

Deb continues . . .

It was a bit on the early side of the Alaska cruise season, so Cindy and I landed an incredible upgrade with spacious digs, attentive staff, and a week of total luxury.

Fabulous meals, beautiful ports, and interesting folks on board.

And a lot of togetherness.

Girl-friendships, even for Christians, have often been challenging.

“Am I her favorite? Does she like me best?”

Remember in third grade, when the “new girl” was introduced to the class? We eyed her nervously, concerned she’d replace us in our bestie’s heart. We worked for that position and protected it fiercely. 

Step back, newbie. She’s mine.

We may be adults, but women still compete for that top spot—and the enemy will try to use these relationship needs against us if we’re not careful. 

I’m blessed to say it’s something Cindy and I have not struggled with.

Why not?

She and I are an unlikely twosome. Californians, now living in Texas. Close in age, married 40+ years. Adult kids and grandbabes. But that’s about it.

We’re wired differently, choose different hobbies, and we think differently; our needs and preferences are dissimilar. We’re an odd couple.

But that doesn’t mean we aren’t compatible—we both love God and His Word fiercely.

God created us to need others.

  • Read Genesis. Even though God was with Adam from the start, He saw the need and created Eve.
  • The disciples numbered twelve, but three—Peter, James, and John—were those Jesus held close in the best and worst of times.
  • David and Jonathan.
  • Ruth and Naomi.

It’s a biblical pattern. We need relationship.

Cindy and I discussed our friendship on the cruise. That it’s risen to the level of importance it holds in our lives is surprising.

Here was our Alaskan epiphany: we don’t compete. With one another or for one another’s affection, time, and that all-important top spot in one another’s life.

We’re never fearful the other is “cheating” on us with other friends.

We have other friends. Close friends. And we’re grateful for each of them: colleagues, neighbors, quilting buddies, and writing partners.

We don’t see one another as often as we’d like. But we do life together, just not usually in the same place.

We don’t live in one another’s pockets. We can’t. She recently moved three hours away, but the distance has deepened our relationship.

We’re more intentional about staying connected.

So maybe that, too, is a gift. If we need one another—for any reason, day or night—we’re available and fully present.

We’ve confided in one another, knowing it’s “in the vault.”  Trusted. No judgment. A genuine gift from the Lord.

How do we do it? Here are three tips we discovered.

1. We have healthy expectations of one another.

She doesn’t need me to provide what only God can deliver. I’ve not made her the center of my emotional well-being—that’s His job.

Sometimes when women are lonely or need encouragement they turn to their bestie instead of God. Not in addition to God, but instead. If that one gets mixed up, it’s a quick trip to trouble.

2. We rely on one another—for companionship, truth telling when needed, mercy (always needed) and the joy of experiencing life with one who helps to make the other better.

I can count on her to sharpen me, challenge me and pray for me. She depends on me for the same.

3. We are champions for one another.

Because we don’t compete, we can genuinely celebrate the other’s success. Everyone needs a cheerleader!

God expects us to grow up, and that includes our friendships.

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11 NLT).

I’d like to have the energy and youthfulness I had in third grade or the calorie burning ability of days playing hopscotch. But I’ll take grown-up God-given relationships over those schoolyard alliances any day!

Which of those three tips need improving in your own friendships?

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her first bookRelated by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming the Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships explores tools and tips to building sound relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Book #2, I Choose You Today, helps couples strengthen their marriages. Deb's newest book on marital conflict, Don't Go to Bed Angry, Stay Up and Fight! was co-authored by her husband, Ron. They live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her "Family Matters" site.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of RawPixel at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jul172018

Finish Summer with a Flourish

Talk about getaways, and Letitia Suk's your resource! In this Rest and relaxation UPGRADE, she suggests ways to not regret one summer day. Finish this season with a flourish!

"Summer’s not over yet but in a few short weeks, the kitchen calendar will rapidly fill up again," Letitia says. "How can you still check off at least a few items from your seasonal bucket list before the leaves begin to fall?"

I (Dawn) don't want to end up on Auguest 31st with adventures left undone. I'm glad Letitia reminds us to be proactive about each special day.

Letitia continues . . .

Throughout what feels like the endless Midwest winter, I entertain myself with thoughts of summer.

None of the other 266 days of the year seem to hold as much possibility as the 99 days of summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The words of Ecclesiastes 8:15 (NIV) seem especially apt for this luscious season: So, I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.”

So often, though, half way through the summer, I realize most of my "looked-forward" items are in the “yet to do” category.

Without some intentional planning, they'll never happen.

How about you?

  • Read your summer novel yet?
  • Flagged down the ice cream truck?
  • Had a glass of iced tea on the patio with a new magazine?
  • Visited an al fresco café for lunch?

Maybe you’ve got that all covered. But in case you need some ideas, here are ten ways to SAVOR the last half of summer.

1. Take yourself out for breakfast and fantasize how you would like to spend the rest of the summer.

Don’t worry about it being realistic! That part comes after the brainstorm.

2. Grab your calendar and set up a couple play dates just for you. 

Lunch with a friend? Art gallery or flea market? Get the invites out now.

3. Plan to prepare easy meals and eat outdoors as often as you can.

Everything tastes better when dining outside in your back yard, front steps or wherever you can find a spot.

4. Change up your usual reading to something lighter.

Try a new-to-you devo or Bible reading plan for early summer mornings.

5. Plan an enjoyable adventure like a long bike ride, an afternoon of hiking, paddling a canoe.  

It's OK to invite the family to join you!

6. Find an outdoor concert and pack or pick up a picnic to bring along.

Live music seems to show up everywhere in the summer. It’s fun to bring your husband or friend but going alone works too.

7. Watch a favorite movie outside at a park district venue or on your laptop in your own backyard after the kids are down for the night.

8. Take an excursion to a local farmer’s market and try a new recipe with the vegetables you bring home.

Salsa anyone?

9. Play in the water with or without a child at the beach or local pool and just enjoy the sensation of the water, sights and sounds.

10. Plan something to look forward to in the fall just for you.

The anticipation will help sustain you when the fall frenzy is about to begin.

When we are filled from life giving pursuits, we can draw on that reserve for the mayhem and meltdowns down the road.

What starts off looking like self-care ends up as other-care as the spillover from time well spent easily fills into those around us.

How do you savor summer? What summer-only event or activity can you add this week?

Letitia (Tish) Suk, invites women to create an intentional life centered in Jesus. She is a blogger and author of Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat and Rhythms of Renewal. Tish is a speaker, personal retreat guide and life coach in the Chicago area. For more information about Letitia Suk, visit her webpage.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Jill 111 at Pixabay.

Thursday
Jul122018

The Pulse of Prayer in Grief

Sally Ferguson writes with clarity and sensitivity, and this post is no exception. In this Grief UPGRADE, she shares how prayer is the lifeline for believers who grapple with the devastation of grief.

"I curled up next to my 95 year old grandmother, as we contemplated how our lives had turned upside down," Sally says. "Her only child, my mom, had died suddenly of heart failure."

I (Dawn) think every loved one's passing bring's grief, but the sudden loss is especially hard. I remember my prayers when my daddy passed unexpectedly into eternity. I felt like I mumbled prayers only the Spirit of God could understand; I was in so much pain. Sally understands this and has a good word of encouragement for us here.

Sally continues . . .

Facing the loss of his business partner and wife of 54 years, my dad entered no-man’s land of mental collapse.

I felt like I had not only lost one parent, but two.

The ensuing months of doctor visits with Dad, hospital stays and tests brought a diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimer’s. His ability to function was enhanced by a multitude of drugs, and his subsequent move into my home was brightened by the presence of my toddling granddaughter.

In the worst of times, I saw my grandmother and my father rely on the Lord. That night cradled next to my Gra’ma, I glimpsed a window into heaven when I heard the most intimate prayer of a child relying on her heavenly Father for her needs.

In days when Dad was not able to express much else, he could respond with prayer that made more sense than a lot of the words I’ve uttered.

What is it about a lifestyle of prayer that ingrains a habit so deeply in the heart and enables one to call out to God, even in the midst of the unthinkable?

On my friend’s deathbed, her practice of prayer was still a priority. But it was for others, not herself.

At 54, her body was ravaged by cancer, but her mind still held on to the promises of God found in Christ. As different ones visited in her hospital room, Jodie bowed her head and lifted an earnest request for each one gathered around her bed.

Her pleas for their protection and guidance were fueled by the urgency of her own mortality.

I met with my 91-year-old writer friend, Bea, the second week in December. By the third day of January, she was gone.

Bea and I had prayed over many manuscripts and life needs, and each time she prayed, I knew she was talking to a Friend.

Memories are sacred treasures we hold in our hearts.

I walked through the deaths of four prayer warriors in a little over four years.

Mom, Gra’ma, Jodie and Bea left an indescribable void.

I am still observing my dad’s reverent conversations with the Lord and the miracle of his mental health being restored.

Is God still there? Does God still care? Absolutely!

As a young adult, I heard my pastor say, based on Matthew 6:8, “He knows and He cares.” I have continued to see that truth play out in my life as the Lord has walked me through suffering.

Living in the shadow of death, it helped to know God worked in the lives of others who were familiar with pain, and He would be there for me, too.

The trauma of grief is one each one of us faces in life, yet the pulse of prayer runs through our veins with hope in the Resurrection of Christ.

From foxhole to hospice care, we all return to prayer in our greatest need.

Our Creator installed that default mode, so we would know how to call out to Him.

Indeed, Ecclesiastes 3:11 says He has placed eternity in our hearts. The link of prayer may be more noticeable in crisis, but it is available every day of our lives.

When we pray, hard times cannot crush us, because we know Who to lean on.

I have not yet reached the other side of my crisis, as we continue to grapple with my dad’s health. But I am stronger for the journey.

Faith in God was modeled for me and proved true as He held on to me through the devastation of loss. On the days when grief covered me with a blanket of despair, my heart still knew to call out to God, my Safe Tower.

Suffering also earns you the right to be heard.

People listen, because there is respect for one who suffers.

Grief hurts. But compassion for others rises out of vulnerability.

What would I want others to learn from my journey with grief?

  • Life is precious.
  • We have a legacy to leave to those who come behind us, and the mantle of responsibility for that heritage has been passed on to us.
  • When loss is devastating, my heart’s desire is to let others know God is always there and He always cares.

We find Him in the pulse of prayer.

How have you modeled prayer for your family?

Sally Ferguson loves organizing retreats and seeing relationships blossom in time away from the daily routine. Her coloring book, What Will I Be When I Grow Up? (Warner Press) and ebook, How to Plan a Women’s Retreat are both available on Amazon.  Stop in for a chat at www.sallyferguson.net

Tuesday
Jul102018

Making Space

Kathy Carlton Willis is a highly-motivated woman with resilience and vision. She has come through many tough experiences and shares lessons from her heart. In this Priorities UPGRADE, she writes about making space for what matters.

“I learned how to make space for what’s important.” Kathy explained. “It’s not about stuff, but people.”

I (Dawn) thinks this is a lesson all of us need to learn, and Kathy shares the truth about "space" in the most personal and appealing way.

Kathy continues . . . 

One of my big life lessons is regarding how I fill my existence. My time. My relationships. My home.

Do I cram it full or allow space for margins?

My husband has always liked our home to be neat and orderly. More stuff equaled more stress, especially if it was out of place. I guess you could say he has a disorder with disorder.

On the other hand, I come from a hoarder background, and have to put the brakes on wanting more of everything. More seemed to equal happiness and prevent feeling deprived.

But I was wrong.

It took a series of situations to show me the peace of less.

We went from having a 4,000-square-foot home plus a two-story carriage house to finding happiness in just 550 square feet. Once we adjusted, God gave us our forever home—a spacious 2,300 square foot Mid-Century Modern home.

During the early part of the transition, we said goodbye to most of our belongings to pare down.

Do you know how odd it is to watch your possessions going out the door with someone else at your living estate sale

“I called to the LORD in distress; the LORD answered me and put me in a spacious place” (Psalm 118:5 Holman Christian Standard Bible.

Now we have room to fill back up, but we don’t have the desire to acquire.

Instead we want to fill our home with people.

That’s what it all comes down to. Whether it is our home or our lives, we make space for people, not stuff.

  • My mom moved in with us.
  • We started a small group who meets weekly in our home to do life together.
  • We carved out extra space in our schedules, not to do more, but to do life more—especially with others.
  • We set up our home to be a welcome haven for others.

This transition has also caused me to evaluate and eliminate unnecessary demands on my time and energy. It allowed me to regain focus on what really matters.

We don’t take our stuff to heaven with us when we die, but we do take the effects of how we spend our time with others.

People matter, not stuff.

How can you go through a similar reduction in order to fill up with what’s really important?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is my goal with minimizing stuff, reducing debt, or lightening the demands on my schedule?
  2. What do I want to make space for?
  3. What causes these things to keep piling on?
  4. Is there something I need to say “No” to, in order to simplify?
  5. Is there something I need to sell, in order to minimize?
  6. Is there a stress I need to let go of, in order to find greater peace?
  7. How will simplifying my life make space for what I want—and more importantly—what God wants?

One way I make space for what matters is to live healthfully.

This means a balance of wellness for heart, soul, mind, and strength. Eliminating what detracts from that goal.

A simple life is a satisfied life.

Mom had a funny experience of too much of a good thing recently at a cafeteria-style restaurant.

She requested carrot salad. The server scooped on a big heap of the salad, but then started pouring what she called “the marinade” over the carrot salad. It wasn’t a flavorful marinade or a dressing. Just a watery mess.

The server thought she was doing mom a favor by adding more and more. Instead, there was a spill on the way to the table, and things went downhill from there!

Just because something is good doesn’t mean more of it is better.

A perfect example of the cliché, LESS is MORE!

How will you make space in your own life for what really matters?

Kathy Carlton Willis,  God's Grin Gal, writes and speaks with a balance of whimsy and wisdom. She graduated with honors from Bible College and has served for 30+ years in ministry. Kathy shines the light on what holds you back and inspires lightbulb moments. Over a thousand of her articles have been published, as well as her Bible study, Grin with Grace. Kathy and husband Russ share their mid-century modern home with Kathy’s mom.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Brimstone Creative at Lightstock.

Tuesday
Jul032018

The Strength of a Nation

In this Independence Day UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages us to focus on our homes, the heart of our nation.                

President Abraham Lincoln said it well, "The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its people."

My heart is heavy for the homes of America.

We have forgotten God, the One who built this nation.

Psalm 127:1 says, "Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain."

Without the Lord, our "building" is fruitless.

We need the strength that comes from building on the solid Rock. As the old hymn says, "On Christ the solid rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand."

Look around at the confusion and chaos in our nation. Selfish agendas and godlessness reign.

We desperately need the wisdom and peace that comes from intimately knowing the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 3:15).

Won't you take a minute in your INDEPENDENCE DAY celebration—today or tomorrow—to CRY OUT TO GOD on behalf of our homes, our churches and our nation?

Let this Independence Day be an awakening to the presence of God, and fresh DEPENDENCE on Him.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator the blog, Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Heartsand 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.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Entab at Morguefile.