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Lina AbuJamra

Sue Badeau

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

Debbi Eggleston

Pat Ennis

Morgan Farr

Pam Farrel

Renee Fisher

Liz Cowen Furman

Sheila Gregoire

Doreen Hanna

Holly Hanson

Becky Harling

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

Yvonne Ortega

Arlene Pellicane

Ava Pennington

Laura Petherbridge

Gail Purath

Marcia Ramsland

Rhonda Rhea

Vonda Rhodes

Charlotte Riegel

Cynthia Ruchti

Julie Sanders

Deedra Scherm

Judy Scharfenberg

Laurel Shaler

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



On-Purpose Thankfulness...in the Midst of Reality

Joan C. Webb and I have joked that we must have come from the same blueprint. We both care deeply about making intentional choices. In this special Thanksgiving UPGRADE, she encourages "on-purpose" thankfulness.

"When a holiday like Thanksgiving rolls around do you ever ruminate too much?

     Over what you did or didn’t do at the last family get-together?
     Or how your house or cooking skills don’t measure up?
     Or how others don’t help like they should?

"Perhaps different concerns bother you when you lay your head on your pillow at night," Joan says. "Like others (myself included) maybe you’d like to hush your racing mind and relax."    

Uh huh. Describes me (Dawn) perfectly.

Joan continues . . .

As a child I memorized Philippians 4:6-7:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

 It seemed like such a wise way to live. I liked it.

Yet, I never dreamed how challenging it would be to pray, ask, thank, and experience peace. All while trying to manage relationships, hormones, major life decisions, job and financial challenges, health issues and inevitable disappointment.

What was Paul really saying to the people in the Philippian church (and you and me) in these verses?

After studying the original Greek, I think he’s encouraging us to—when we’re feeling annoyed and anxious about what happened yesterday or will happen tomorrow:

  • Take full advantage of the grace-gift of prayer, available to us because of Christ’s rescuing work on the cross.
  • Admit both unpleasant personal and corporate needs to God.
  • Pause and slow down, offering the bold combination of requesting and gratitude as an act of worship.
  • Do this intentionally with active, on-purpose thanksgiving.

But sometimes we wonder how to do this?

Here’s a practical habit to cultivate: Develop a Gratitude Journal.

1. Buy a simple spiral notebook.

Start slow—with one journal entry per week. You can expand to additional days later.

2. Name one thing you did recently that you’re thankful for.

This is a vital step in your gratitude process, yet you might find it the most challenging. It is for many.

We ask God to help us grow to be more like Christ; to be healthier emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically. Then, when there is evidence that God is working in us and we’re responding in obedience, we shrink from acknowledging the progress for fear that we’ll become too self-focused. Yet we negate a part of ourselves and who God is when we refuse to thank Him for what He’s doing in us.

You might write something like: 

  • “I acknowledge that I’ve been working hard with preparations and need to rest. Thanks that I took time for a nap this weekend.”
  • Or “I recognize that I finished this report early. I’m grateful.”
  • Or “Thank you that I was honest with my spouse about my thoughts/feelings without yelling.” (Maybe for you, it was “without withdrawing,” because that—not yelling—is your normal non-helpful style.)

3. Then jot down one thing that someone else did that you’re grateful for.

This will be enlightening if you’re used to ruminating on how your boss, sister, spouse, parent disappoints or irritates you.

4. Last, list five things for which you’re grateful.

Your friend’s encouraging text. Last night’s rainbow. The new supplement you’ve started. That you had a headache-free day.

Will you exercise these intentional gratitude steps during this holiday season 2015? Maybe you’ll want to keep it beside your nightstand. Watch for signs of an increased sense of well-being and peace. And then thank God for that, as well.

Joan C. Webb is a speaker and author who has written thirteen books including The Relief of Imperfection: For Women Who Try Too Hard to Make It Just Right, The Intentional Woman and a devotion titled, It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life. 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 her books, services and teaching, visit www.joancwebb.com

Graphic adapted, young woman with book, Pixabay.


Share the Harvest

Dawn Wilson says, "Whether it's sharing a Thanksgiving care basket or a large sack of groceries, one of my favorite things to do at Thanksgiving is to Share the Harvest."

Our traditions of sharing the harvest in America go back to the days of the Pilgrims.

But sharing goes back much further than that. 

In Acts 2:46, we see the early disciples meeting together to break bread in their homes and eat together with glad, generous hearts. They were sharing the bread of harvest as a sign of their love and commitment to each other and the Lord.

And it goes back further than that.

After the exiles returned to Jerusalem (Nehemiah 7:1-5a), when Nehemiah was the governor and Ezra the priest and scribe, Ezra read the Book of the Law of Moses from morning until midday (Nehemiah 8:1-8); and the people understood the law and wept. But the priests told the people, "Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:9-11).

That day was recognized as a special holy day for God's people and they worshiped and celebrated in booths—temporary shelters—at The Feast of Booths (Nehemiah 8:13-19). The Levites had already encouraged God's people to eat and celebrate and "send portions" of food to those who did not have food as part of their own celebration! (Nehemiah 8:12) They were to share their harvest!

And it perhaps goes back further than that.

Many people believe the Puritans' celebration of the harvest springs from the Hebrew Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), as taught in Leviticus 23. "For the ancient children of Israel, thanksgiving was a time of feasting and fasting, of praising God, of singing songs," one pastor writes. "It was a rich celebration...."

Perhaps their feasting might be considered sharing the harvest too.

Today, we have many opportunities to share the "harvest" in our pantries and refrigerators. 

1. We might share with and serve at a local soup kitchen;

2. Or take food to our church food pantry to help locals in need;

3. Or take a care package to a friend or neighbor;

4. Or invite a friend or family member—or a stranger-now-friend—to dinner in our home.

5. And if we don't want to share actual food, we can share cash or a check so a college student, young single mom, or needy family can enjoy buying their own special dinner.

At one time, I didn't even think about sharing my food. It wasn't that I was being selfish; I just assumed  everybody I knew had what I had in my kitchen pantry.

I didn't realize how privileged and blessed I am.

There is always someone with something more ... but far too often, there are MANY with far less.

It's not only a matter of good stewardship, but of Christ-like love. Thanksgiving leads to Thanks-living.

As we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, we must see the needs around us, and if we have the means to help, it's our responsibility, joy and blessing to share.

So how will you share the harvest—YOUR harvest—this Thanksgiving?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the Director of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn is the co-author of LOL with God and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.


God Can Refine You in the Ocean of Life

Debbi Eggleston is one of those creative ladies who blesses so many with her beautiful projects. Months and months ago, we discussed how she makes lovely things from cast off "sea glass." I asked her to write this Spiritual Life UPGRADE. 

"God can take you through the ocean of life, tumble you and smooth out the rough edges," Debbi said. "Do you have a sharp edge that appears just as quickly as you would like it to disappear?" 

Sharp edges. Rough edges. Yes, I (Dawn) have a bunch of them. And I praise God He will never be content to leave them alone. He has a beautiful plan.

Debbi continues . . .  

I grew up in Orange County, California, and rode my bike to Huntington Beach every chance I got. I would like to say that I collected shells and sea glass, but I was 16 and collected boys!

My love of the ocean has continued and I am overwhelmed at the beauty of the waves and what they can churn up! I started a business four years ago using sea glass and old jewelry, and I love to make something new out of what I find.

As I was thinking about the process of finding my treasures, it seemed to relate to my walk with the Lord.

1. First there is PREPARATION.

Do I have all the necessary tools with me? I bring a bag, sunscreen, sunglasses, water, a jacket and i wear comfortable shoes.

Application: When I start each day, do I prepare with God’s Word and have it close in my head and in my heart? Am I ready to find what God has prepared for me in advance? The Psalmist says, "My voice You shall hear in the morning, Oh Lord. In the morning I will direct it to you and I will look up" (Psalm 5:3).

2. Then there is ANTICIPATION. 

Some colors of sea glass are rare—like red and blue—but most glass found is brown, green and white. You are always looking for the next “best” piece. Will I pass up the broken pieces or the ones that are not quite as pretty? 

Application: When I am out for the day, do I look with excitement for opportunities that the Lord will place in my path? It may be a homeless person or a weary cashier, a friend or a stranger.

Jesus does not overlook the lost, broken or “not so pretty.” There are a multitude of needs, and sometimes a caring smile is all they need.

I’ll never forget a 10-minute trip to AMVETS that turned into an evening of discovery. I dropped off a box of older Christmas items after hours. A small group of homeless people started admiring the items and wanted to decorate their carts.

I ended up going to McDonald's and sharing burgers and fries with about 10 of them. I was able to share God’s love and pray with a gal who had lost her job and apartment—encouraging words like Psalm 118:6, "The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"

3. And then there is the FIND. 

Depending on where you decide to look for sea glass, it can sometimes turn into a long day with no sightings of glass but plenty of sea gulls! Another day can end with a bag so full, you wonder how you are going to be able to carry it.

Application: With God, every day is an adventure because no two days are the same. Some days may be quiet and just perfect for prayer and study. Another day, you might be the face of Jesus to someone.

I love the new trend of “paying it forward.” You can pay for coffee or groceries and bless the person standing behind you! He or she might be going through the refining stage of their life and being tossed and barely keeping their head above water. I remember Isaiah 58;7a: "Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out....?"

4. And finally, there is the RESULT.

When I find a piece of sea glass, it is hard to believe that it started as trash.

It was not valuable to anyone or useful. It was thrown out with rough edges and then refined and made beautiful by being tossed by the sea.

Application: The Lord does that with us!  We are lost and tossed by the world’s waves.  We may be rough, dirty, depressed and feel alone. We may wonder if this is all there is. We are born, live a life and then die. The world can seem cold and cruel.

God can change our life. He can give us purpose and make sense of everything.

We can become grounded and He can take the rough waters and make them calm. He can smooth our rough edges and make us feel beautiful in His eyes. All we have to do is acknowledge Him as our Lord and ask forgiveness for our sins and invite Him into our heart. He will take care of us! (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Now, what do I do with my sea glass creation? Do I put it on a shelf and look at it every day? Or do I share it with others?

Be open to the will of God and see what He has in store for you.

How has the Lord has refined you? How has He smoothed away your rough edges to make you more like His Son and a blessing to others?  

Debbi Eggleston and her husband Kevin have been married for 43 years. They serve as missionaries with Bibles and Literature in French. She makes creative, one-of-a-kind jewelry at Designs by Debbi from items she finds around the world.


How to Make Friends in New Seasons

I've watched from afar as Julie Sanders made a difficult transition to a new state and new role, and I've admired her willingness to step into this new season of life. In this Friendship UPGRADE, she shares encouraging words for all of us seeking new friends.

"When we’re the unknown new girl, we need friends," Julie says. "How do we make a new life better by making a new friend?"

With a dad in the military, I (Dawn) often had to make new friends in new places. It's not often easy. Julie gives us helpful tips.

Julie continues . . . 

Friendships ebb and flow with life transitions like shifts in marital status, geography and employment. Change can thrust relationships into upheaval and leave us feeling friendless.

Whether firmly rooted in your hometown or freshly planted in a new neighborhood, you may find yourself needing a friend.

God fashioned us to walk through life with the fellowship of friendship.

Multiple translations of Proverbs 18:24 offers insight to improve relational health and help us find friends when we need them most.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (ESV)

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother. (KJV)

Suggestions for making new friends in new seasons of life:

1. Focus on a FEW.

 When events like the loss of a loved one or a major move finally crash on shore and retreat, silence follows. A longing for the familiar or a desire to quiet the loneliness may result in temptation to gather a crowd of people around us.

As ruinous as complete withdrawal, surrounding ourselves with a swarm of companions may lead to a layer of life where we are barely known and marginally valued. Instead of jumping into the rushing rapids of relationships, Proverbs cautions that having too many friends is dangerous. Since we are fashioned to walk through life with the fellowship of friends, we’re more likely to find true friendship in a few.

Scheduling coffee or lunch with every new, available woman we meet at church, in the restroom, and at the grocery store is tempting.

Instead of letting the tide take you away to avoid the tension of transition, ask God to give you a few places to invest.

2. Force yourself to be FRIENDLY.

If you’re not eagerly noting contact information when a friendly person makes eye contact, you might be the lonely woman tempted to withdraw. Solitude might feel like the safer sanctuary. After all, you might have dragged painful baggage into this season of life. Isolation might feel easier than finding friendship.

Solitude has a place in life change, but forging new relationships requires a decision to be friendly, even when we might not feel like it. 

  • Make eye contact.
  • Smile first.
  • Introduce yourself.
  • Talk to people of different ages.
  • Keep an open mind and heart. God wants us to find the fellowship of friendship.

3. Don’t Forget your BEST FRIEND.

For whatever reason, you find yourself in need of a new friend. It’s a good thing to hope and pray and look for.

When you find that longed for companion, she will be delightfully imperfect, unable to meet all your expectations and beautifully flawed like you.

She will not make your life complete, and that’s okay. Someone else is the perfect friend.

No one takes the place of Jesus. Times of loneliness and longing lead us back to remembering the sweet security of friendship with Jesus. No matter what season or circumstance, He will stay with us and be our BFF.

As you show yourself friendly, focus on a few relationships and experience the friendship of God in a fresh way. God fashioned us to walk through life with the fellowship of friendship.

Look around your life. Who is a potential new friend given to you by the sweetest Friend of all?

Julie Sanders—as an empty nester and new girl in town—is making friends around her new home in the Inland Northwest. Her local and global ministry to women has given her a passion for the issue of human trafficking.  She believes life is better when the lives of women are interwoven. Visit Julie’s blog, “Come Have a Peace.”

Graphic Adapted, Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.


3 Habits to Help Us STAY Organized

Marcia Ramsland, the Organizing Pro, helps people organize their home, office, files, holidays—just about everything! In this Organization UPGRADE, she shares about three habits that can make anything more organized.

“As I speak on organizing,” Marcia says, “the comment often arises, ‘I get organized but then it all falls apart. How can I stay organized?’ Good question.”

I (Dawn) am a pretty organized person. The Lord is a God of peace, order and harmony—not "disorder" and confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33); and I think He wants us to reflect that in our lives. That said, I have one area in my home that always disintegrates into disorder, so I was eager to read Marcia’s wisdom for organizing.

Marcia continues . . .

Here are three habits that can take you from frustrated to fantastic. Anyone can practice them. It takes one new action at a time and persistence.

1. Practice the “Two Minute Pickup” All Day. 

This means before leaving in the morning clean up the kitchen for two minutes, before lunch spend 2 minutes clearing out emails, before dinner spend 2 minutes organizing desk papers into a To Do list.

You’ll always come back to “order.”

2. Set up a Weekly Schedule. 

A simple 3 x 5 card posted near your computer will remind you: 

  • Monday - send staff email
  • Tuesday - clean out one file
  • Wednesday - send your blog post ... etc. 

Or at home, post it in the kitchen:

  • Monday - wash clothes
  • Tuesday - get groceries
  • Wednesday - vacuum ... etc.    

If you want to improve any aspect of your life, set up a weekly schedule. Test and adjust it until it works.

3. Use an Email or Phone Reminder to Create a New Habit. 

If you want to be on time for work and your drive is 20 minutes, set a reminder to ring 30 minutes before arrival. That gives you a 10 minute cushion to leave.

If you want to remember to exercise more, set a reminder 45 minutes before you need to be at the gym.

Why does a Two-Minute Pickup, Weekly Schedule and email/phone Reminder

Because they create regular habits to accomplish things you need to do daily.

These aren’t “To Do” list items. They are routine habits that will build a successful day!

A Personal Application: 

The retirement home in Florida wondered how I could remember to call my mother Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 4 pm every week. Simple – My phone rang 15 minutes before the time in California and I called my 88-year-old Mom.

When she passed away I had no regrets and lots of good memories. It was a good time habit.

What would be the best thing to set a Time Reminder for yourself?

Marcia Ramsland is The Virtual Organizing Coach for Business and Life Success. Her books on simplifying the holiday season have encouraged many. "Turn Seasonal Stress into Holiday Success," she says. 

For helpful holiday resources, or to download your FREE Holiday Calendar and get your Holiday Book Planner, go to www.organizingpro.com.

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