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Tuesday
Oct032017

When You Don't Like Your Life Season

Janet Thompson is a mentoring expert who deeply cares about women's spiritual growth. In this Mentoring UPGRADE, she encourages us to consider how God might use each of us in our current life seasons.

"We’ve all heard, 'You’re just in a season, it will pass,'” Janet says. "But what do you do until then . . . or worse . . . if it never passes?"

I (Dawn) felt "stuck" in a season a few years ago, and I heartily agree with Janet's prescription for how to move forward!

Janet continues . . .

Good and pleasant life seasons are wonderful and it’s easy to think God couldn’t possibly want what we perceive as a bad or unpleasant season for us. Right?

Yet, Ecclesiastes 4:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”

We try so hard to hold onto those feel-good seasons, and there’s nothing wrong with that—we should have times of joy, dancing, laughing, loving, and peace.

But when the not-so-good times roll, we need to remember that God hasn’t left us. He’s walking right beside us through the mourning, weeping, uprooting, and war seasons.

God never abandons His children—a message we need to share with each other and with the culture, especially during today’s challenging times.

Reasons for Not Liking our Life Season

Usually we don’t like a life season because:

  • It’s painful or uncomfortable.
  • We’re jealous and like what someone else’s life looks like more than our own life.
  • We’re living with the consequences of our, or someone else’s, behavior or decisions.
  • We’re discontent or discouraged.
  • We’re not sure if God still cares about us.

What would you add to the list?

We all have difficult seasons we just want to end. Or maybe we’re in a wonderful season we never want to end.

Most seasons we have no control over, even though advertisers set us up to fail by assuring if we just drink, eat, use, own, the right products, or meet the right people, every season will be heavenly.

The aging clock will stop and somehow God made our life to be different from everyone else’s life.

But that’s a lie and those who buy into it will never be content because everything God lists in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 is a season everyone will experience.

What to Do

1. The first thing to do when we don’t like our life season is ask God how He wants us to deal with it, and then listen carefully to how the Holy Spirit answers.

It’s that still small voice we hear guiding us when we cry out to God. We might not know how to get through the season, but God does. So often, He’s talking but we’re not listening.

Someone asked a Christian friend how he knew what God wanted. Did he have a direct line to God? I thought, Yes he does!

Every Christian has a direct line to God the world doesn’t understand, and one we don’t use nearly enough: praying to Jesus who hears every word and the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us even when all we can do is groan.

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

2. Next, seek out a Christian woman who has experienced this season in her life and can mentor you in how she made it through like only someone can who has been-there-done-that.

Incredible comfort comes from spending time with a mentor who understands your painful season!

God doesn’t want us going through any season alone; but He also doesn’t want us listening to anyone who isn’t giving us biblical wisdom.

That’s why in Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness, every season has Scripture for the mentor and menteeor for any two womento study together that applies to the various issues they might experience in any season.

Being a mentor doesn’t mean you have all the answers or the Bible memorized. It simply means you’re willing to share your experiences, search God’s Word, and pray together with another woman.

Then one day, she can reach out and help lift up someone else going through a similar season.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

Who are you mentoring and who is mentoring you?

Janet Thompson is a speaker and author of nineteen books, the founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring and About His Work Ministries. Her latest release is Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness. Visit Janet at www.womantowomanmentoring.com where she writes a weekly blog and monthly newsletter. 

Graphic adapted, courtesy of geralt at Pixabay.

Thursday
Sep282017

Your Position in the Family

Kolleen Lucariello is a gifted writer who greatly desires to help Christians understand their identity in Christ. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she encourages us to "live loved."

"When I was seven-years-old my parents adopted a little girl from Korea who bore the name of Park Sun Duk," Kolleen says. "I remember scanning over the pictures of children provided by the adoption agency until the face of a little girl captured our attention. It was love at first sight!"

I (Dawn) always wanted to adopt a child; the Lord didn't have that in His plans for me. But adoption has always been dear to my heart, and I love the picture of God adopting us into His family. So I appreciate this powerful encouragement.

Kolleen continues…

In early April, after months of waiting, our family of five piled into our borrowed grandfather’s car and took off for the eight-hour-trip to the Chicago airport soon to become a family of six.

I only remember bits and pieces of the trip, but one thing I recall is how extremely excited we were to meet our new sister.

When she finally appeared, I could not take my eyes off of her. She was the cutest baby I had ever seen, and boy, did we show her off.

Once she was placed in my mother’s arms, a new name, as well as a new life, awaited her. She was now Kara Louise, a member of the Okerlund family. I loved her instantly.

Of course, like most families—I won’t say all, as there actually may be some families who never experience sibling stuff—but like most, we had our sibling squabbles. As the baby of the family, she could drive me crazy; as cute as she was, she was also just as stubborn. But I loved her. 

Throughout the years, we’ve clashed and had our share of disagreements, but I never stopped loving her. We’ve had moments of contention and seasons of silence, but through every emotion and every moment, I’ve continuously loved her.

The funny thing is, regardless of how loved she was, she never fully believed or accepted the love of her adoptive family.

It didn't matter how much we spoke it, tried to show it, or showered love upon her, she just had a very hard time living life loved by us. Simply because she was adopted.

She had moved in, but continually struggled to fully accept that our parents’ love for her was the same regardless of the origin of her birth.

Because of this struggle, she never completely felt secure in her identity as an Okerlund.

I imagine Father God’s heart breaks for His own adopted children who fail to experience the fullness of His love.

Many move in, but continue to live in doubt, wondering how God could love them. We refuse to accept His perfect love based on our simple understanding of love, not His.

Through faith we've been adopted into His family, yet, for some reason, we struggle to feel secure in our new identity as a believer in Jesus.

What a tragedy to reject this kind of love.

In June my sister slipped from her earthly home into her heavenly one, and I believe her struggle to live loved finally ended.

Now, in the presence of Jesus, she is fully aware of the extent of what real love is.

While my heart always broke for her battle here, it now rejoices for her as she finds rest in the fullness of God’s love.

But, why wait? Trust His love is for you, now.

You UPGRADE your life when you:

1. ACCEPT your new identity in Christ!

“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT)!

Your new identity awaits you. Change your name. You are now a child of God!

2. BELIEVE the celebration is for you!

Jesus said there’s great rejoicing in heaven over the lost sinner who returns home (Luke 15:7).

Share in the excitement. Rejoice in your salvation! Let Him show you off!

3. CLAIM your position in the family!

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” (Ephesians 1:5, NLT).

It doesn’t matter where you’ve come from, when you move in with Christ, you are home.

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29, NKJV).

You’ve captured the attention of God. Now it’s time to move into His plans for your life.

What thinking must you overcome to accept, believe and claim your position in the family of Christ and live loved?

Kolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, is the author of the devotional book, The ABC’s of Who God Says I Am. Kolleen and her high school sweetheart, Pat, reside in Central New York. She’s a mother of three married children and Mimi to four incredible grandkids. She desires to help others find their identity in Christ, one letter at a time. Read more from Kolleen on her website.

Family photos from Kolleen.

Tuesday
Sep262017

How to Kick Regret to the Curb

Counselor and Bible teacher Debbie W. Wilson encourages women to cultivate vital faith, and in this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she advises us to deal with mistakes biblically and "kick regret to the curb"!

Debbie asks: "Why would Eve trade paradise for the knowledge of good and evil? Why do I swap peace for worry?"

I (Dawn) can't count the times I've allowed worry to control my life. When I make a simple mistake, I let the enemy play with my emotions until I'm a total mess. But God's Word has solutions for that problem, and Debbie shares a powerful truth.

Debbie continues . . .

Eve and I share a common problem. We've both allowed the desire for knowledge to rob us.

Choosing fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil made her miserable. My desire for the knowledge of good, better, and best has stolen my joy.

Maybe you can relate.

I bought a neutral-colored jacket I thought would go with everything. But after I brought it home, I couldn’t find anything I wanted to wear with it. The time to return it ran out before I realized my purchase wasn’t as smart as I’d thought.

“If only I’d thought it through better,” I moaned.

That’s when the Eve analogy struck me. The serpent told Eve that if she ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she would be like God (Gen. 3:5).

  • Was my “If only I’d known,” an echo of Eve’s obsession with the tree of knowledge?

  • Was I trying to be like God—all-knowing?

  • Is my desire "to know" a way to replace my need for God?

Have you let decisions you’d like to do over with the knowledge you’ve gained from time and experience steal your peace?

Even though God’s Word and Spirit guide us, we still learn as we go.

Even young Jesus “grew in knowledge.”

Where did I get the idea errors are catastrophes? I've felt worse over a mistake than over sin.

I knew God forgives sin, but I felt I had to pay for my mistakes.

Here’s some grace and help to avoid or handle REGRET.

1. BEFORE a decision, ask God to lead you.

That may mean asking Him to help us want His will. God’s will is always perfect. Ours is shortsighted and inconsistent.

I practiced this during a visit to Chicago. A pair of boots captivated me. They were a timeless style, fit like a glove, and gorgeous. It was snowing outside (I needed them). I peeked at the price. Gasp!

The store held my size to give me time to decide. A battle between why they made sense and why I was CRAZY to think about them ping-ponged through my mind. The next morning I asked God to guide me.

I opened my Bible and read out loud. “Spare no expense!” (Is. 54:2 NLT).

Ginny and I laughed out loud. “Mom, you turned there on purpose.”

I hadn't, but it assured me God would lead me.

When I tried the boots again, they rubbed my heels. I walked away without feeling deprived.

2. BEFORE and AFTER a decision, exercise thanksgiving.

God causes “all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28 NASB).

Even when a decision doesn’t turn out like we’d hoped, we thank Him that He will use it for our good.

Maybe my jacket is meant for someone else or for another season. Perhaps it’s a reminder God’s bigger than my shortcomings.

3. LIGHTEN UP!

God created us to need Him.  

Joy comes from experiencing Jesus, not from avoiding mistakes.

There were two trees in the center of Eden. Satan diverted Eve away from the tree of life to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Jesus is “the life” (John 14:6). Let's not let a decision draw us away from Him.

Before we left Chicago a pair of ankle boots grabbed my attention. Cute, comfortable, and affordable!

What pending or past decision wants to steal your peace?

Debbie W. Wilson, drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, speaks and writes to help others discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband, Larry, founded Lighthouse Ministries in 1991. Share her journey to refreshing faith at debbieWwilson.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of kconnors-Morguefile.

Thursday
Sep142017

Draw Close to Jesus through 'Abiding'

Kathy Collard Miller teaches biblical truth in practical, life-motivating ways. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she shares how she has come to "abide" in Christ in fresh ways.

"In John 15:7, Jesus says: 'Abide in me, and I in you.' What is abiding," Kathy asks, "and how do I abide?"

At first, I (Dawn) thought, "Everybody knows that." But do we? Really? How do we know?

Kathy continues . . .

For more than two years, I’ve been specifically meditating on what abiding is and how it can draw me closer to Jesus.

At times I think of abiding as spiritual antennae sticking out of my heart, acknowledging God is there to do His work.

I’ve found four specific ways I’m living it out.

1. Faithful fixing my eyes on Jesus.

Hebrews 12:2 assures us, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

Jesus is the one who invites us to abide, so we can be confident He wants us to. And whatever He wants for us we can know He’ll provide the means.

We never have to wonder, “Am I supposed to do this?” And the wonderful thing about abiding, is that it’s always appropriate.

It’s a fundamental work that is available for every single minute of our waking day.

2. Steadfast seeking.

Abiding is not a one-time decision, nor something we do and then forget.  

Abiding is seeking God moment by moment, over and over again.

It’s a continuing journey of learning how to abide more and more often.

I never abide every moment, but I don’t have to be afraid God is upset or disappointed.

Philippians 1:6 encourages us saying,

“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

The Lord understands every part of Christian growth is a process. Therefore, it’s not an “all or nothing” arrival—that “now I’ll always abide.” No, we learn it more and more.

And we’ll abide more at different times for different reasons. But God is inviting us over and over again to “seek Me again.”

He’s continually taking our spiritual face and gently turning it back to seek Him. It's like a child who won’t look at us; we sometimes take their face gently in our hands and say, “Look at me now.” Their eyes become focused on us and we know they can hear us and more easily understand.

That’s Jesus’ invitation to abide. Seek me again.

3. Accepting ambiguity.

It’s easy to think that if I’m abiding, I’ll know everything, be perfectly guided, and never make a mistake.

No, even as we abide, not everything will be clear.

That doesn’t need to discourage us. Only Jesus did everything right in obedience to His Father. But even then, He had to spend lots of time with His Father.

4. Alert awareness.

Abiding tunes us to the wavelength of the Spirit’s prompting.

Ephesians 6:18 tells us,

“praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”

Even in the midst of busy daily activities we can abide.

  • Through prayer we turn our attention to Him. “Help me, right now, Lord.”
  • Through memorization of Scripture. “Lord, Philippians 4:13 tells me you strengthen me, and I believe you’ll do that right now.”
  • Through rehearsing God’s faithful loving work in the past. “Father, I remember when you provided what I needed two weeks ago, so I believe you’ll provide now.”
  • Through asking, “God, where are you right now in what’s happening? You promise you are everywhere. Open my spiritual eyes to see you working.”

I suggest wearing a rubber band on your wrist.

Each time you look at it, turn your spiritual antennae to:

Fixing on the Lord, Seeking, Accepting  Ambiguity, and Being Alert.

Your ability to abide will grow.

What can you focus on to abide more?

Kathy Collard Miller’s life is filled with the joy of family, writing, and speaking. She has over 50 books published and has spoken in over 30 states and 8 foreign countries. Her latest book is a women’s Bible study Whispers of My Heart: Daughters of the King Bible Study Series. Visit Kathy's website.

Graphic of rubber band, courtesy of mconnor at Morguefile.

Graphic of heart, courtesty of Krzys16 at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Sep122017

10 Steps to 10 Get-It-Done Goals

Retreat guide and life coach Letitia (Tish) Suk loves to help women get a fresh start on their goals. In this Goals and Priorities UPGRADE, she suggests a unique way to move into September with a goal-oriented perspective.

Letitia says, “Ready for the REAL New Year? Create a winning plan for the next 90 Days.”

I (Dawn) have to admit, I thought: REAL New Year? What could she mean? But then I read her unique approach. You don’t have to wait until January!

Letitia continues . . .

Beach towels are stashed, picnic baskets stored away, and flip-flops relegated to the back of the closet. The dramatic page-turn from August to September has occurred and the empty calendar spaces from now until Christmas are rapidly filling up.

Most of us are ready for a fresh start this time of year.

In fact, The JEWISH NEW YEAR comes around every fall and the rest of us would do well to observe a similar time of renewal.

In between stocking up on Halloween Candy and starting on those home-made Christmas gifts, try taking a chunk of time and planning for what could be possible in the next 90 days.

I love the blessing in Psalm 20:4:

“May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”

Without some intentional reflection time, we may never be clear on what the desires of our heart or our plans are.

Ready to make some plans?

Life Coaches like myself and others offer an exercise to shape this process called “10 Goals in 90 Days.”  This plan is always my go-to when a new season comes around, especially in the fall when my energy level seems at its highest.

Before the flurry of fall hits, here are ten practical way to bring some measurable change to your day to day life in the next three months.

10 Goals in 90 Days!

1. Set aside a chunk of time like at least an hour when you won’t be interrupted. Ideally, this is a place away from your home like a coffee shop, a park, or better yet, a personal retreat! Check out my book Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat for some ideas. 

2. Write down all the ideas that come to mind for what you could accomplish in the next 90 days. Once you get going, it is hard to stop.

This is the fun part, just imagining what might be possible.

3. Pick out a few that are easy and might take just a short time.

We all have these—like cleaning out your junk drawer, scheduling that medical appointment you have been putting off, answering five emails you have been ignoring.

The immediate gratification of crossing those off will feel great!

4. Add some one-time items you have been putting off or waiting for fall.

Invite your neighbors over, visit a friend you’ve been missing, take a class or attend a day-long event for training of some sort. Pick apples before they are all on the ground.

5. Tack on a couple more that are do-able but will take longer, even the full 90 days.

Redo your resume, start a short -term Bible study, write the first chapter of your book, get your finances in order.

6. List these 10 (or less) goals and pull out your calendar. Set aside time for each.

7. Make sure they are very specific goals (i.e. S.M.A.R.T.).

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

“Walk More and Eat Less” do not qualify as specific!

8. Decide which form of accountability will be the most effective for you.

If the list stays on your desk pile or in your purse nothing will happen.

9. Enlist a friend, your small group or a Life Coach to check-in with on how you’re doing.  Review your list often.

10. Pray over your list each day and get ready to see progress!

90 days from tomorrow is December 13. By the time you get through the holidays, you will be ready to repeat the process!

How Can You Start Today?

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

Graphic adapted, courtesty of moritz320 at Pixabay.com and free-printable-calendar.com.