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Tuesday
Aug012017

A Remodeled Life

Julie Gillies encourages women to know and believe God's Word, and share the stories of how God changes their lives. In this Uplift UPGRADE, she says we all need do-overs, and the good thing is, God is in the transforming, remodeling business!

If you’ve ever lived through a major remodeling project,” Julie says, “you probably have a serious appreciation for the hard work involved.

Oh, don't get me (Dawn) started. While landscaping our front yard in the hot sun last month, my husband sweat buckets! Remodeling anything—a yard, a house, and especially a life—is MAJOR! But the results are worth the effort.

Julie continues . . .

The way I see it, anyone can move into a brand-new house. Zero sweat equity. Instant pretty.

But remodeling takes a willing investor with a keen eye for potential—someone prepared to put a lot of hard work into a far-from-perfect building.

Done right, the results are a gorgeous old home with character, yet filled with all the new stuff you wouldn’t want to live without. The before and after photos are remarkable, and no one who visits your house can believe that it ever looked like that before.

It's truly a labor of love.

My husband, Keith, and I were crazy enough to take on such an endeavor back when we were newly married, young, and willing to invest some serious elbow grease. We had purchased a tiny two-bedroom, one-bathroom, stinky, old, sorry excuse for a house, mostly because it only cost us $55,000.

Its flat, gravel-topped roof needed replacing, the jalousie windows had to go, the scary carpet reeked to high heaven, and the hot water heater needed to be moved out of the kitchen. Add in a garage, new electrical wiring, and paint—lots of paint—and it would be habitable.

Did I mention I was pregnant when we began?

We ended up knocking down walls and adding some extra rooms. It was almost a total do-over. For seven months, we stressed, sweated, and toiled, working far too hard and sleeping far too little.

Then we watched in amazement and great satisfaction as our smelly, rinky-dink place was slowly shaped into something beautiful.

God does this very thing with us.

The Lord deeply values us, His daughters, and sees the potential that others (and often we ourselves) cannot.

He deems us worthy of His investment. His Holy Spirit pinpoints areas in our hearts and lives that need loving restoration, and He gently coaxes us to believe, surrender, and cooperate with Him.

Some of us have sagging foundations. Some of us are a slapdash paint job on rotting boards. Some of us have broken windows where thieves can crawl in.

All of us need a complete do-over.

Like the hot water heater standing awkwardly in the middle of my kitchen, we often recognize when things are out of place. We know when parts of us are broken, and yet we aren’t really sure how to change. We are powerless to make changes apart from Christ.

As the psalmist puts it, Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted” (Psalm 127:1).

Unless we partner with God by surrendering to the work He is doing, cooperating with His promptings and discipline, and doing our part by saturating our hearts in His Word and spending time with Him in meaningful prayer, our house will remain in the same sagging, sorry shape.

He’s willing. Are we?

Are we willing to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Him through the intimate intricacies of deep inner heart work? Will we submit ourselves, hearts wide open, to the One who is able to renew and restore?

Because that is God’s heart for us. He knows the things that have stripped us of our hope, our trust and our dignity. And He is well able to replace all the enemy has stolen from us (Joel 2:25).

Jesus is willing to beautifully restore the years spent languishing in hurt, the broken areas we cover and attempt to hold together on our own, and the dreams we think are irretrievably dead.

When we allow God to have His way by surrendering to His process, reading His Word and truly believing it, and investing in some serious prayer time, we will live an overcoming life—a life that is not held back by issues that once plagued us. Our lives will become testimonies to those around us.

The more we allow Jesus to do in us, the more His glory is revealed. And that is His ultimate goal: a world full of regular people whose hearts and lives have been utterly transformed and radiate His unmistakable image.

Though it can be a long, arduous process, Jesus, with His keen eye, restores us to better than new. He makes us whole. We wind up beautiful, yet functional, and filled with His character.

When we share our amazing before and after stories, no one can believe that we ever lived like that before because our hearts are all sparkly and fresh and new.

It's truly a labor of love.

What area of your life do you need to surrender to the Lord so He can “remodel” you afresh?

Julie K. Gillies is the author of From Hot Mess to Blessed: Hope to Propel Your Soul and the Promises that Change Everything and the devotional, Prayers for a Woman’s Soul. Healed from a traumatic childhood, Julie’s message helps women pray, know, and believe God’s Word. Julie is the joyful wife of Keith, mom of two soldiers and one civilian, and Grammy of four. Find FREE resources and connect with Julie at www.JulieGillies.com .

Graphic adapted, courtesty of Pixabay.

Thursday
Jul272017

Organize Your Life - Part 2

In Part One of “Organize Your Life,” Kathy Carlton Willis covered several helpful organization tips along with spiritual applications. She explained how we can have less stress in our homes and our hearts as we get organized. In this article, she continues the topic with 4 more tips.

I (Dawn) think one of the biggest consequences of disorganization—whether in our homes, our workspace or our heart—is stress. I'm glad to see Kathy addresses this.

Kathy continues . . .

There are several ways we can take life hacks and use the same principles to straighten up our spiritual lives, too.

Here are a few more tips as we continue the article started here.

5. Loaded is Bloated.

What slows down an electronic device? When there are too many programs or documents loaded to it, or too many apps open.

The only way to make it faster is to lighten its load or to add more hard drive or memory.

Spiritual Life: What slows me down? When I have too many burdens I’m trying to carry around. I have so many tasks going at once I’m not multi-tasking, I’m maxi-tasking. I have to let some of it go in order to have enough white space in the margins to think straight. Then I give God room to work in my life—His strength is my hard drive and His Spirit is more memory.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1 NLT).

6. Do It When You Think of It.

The older I get, the more I realize I have to do things when I think of them, otherwise, out of mind is, well—out of sight!

Spiritual Life: What do I do when I’m reminded of my sin? The best time to deal with it is as soon as it comes to mind.

7. Handle It Once.

Don’t handle the same piece of paper twice.

  • If it’s trash, throw it out.
  • If it’s a bill, pay it.
  • If it needs to be filed, file it.

Spiritual Life: Am I holding on to chronic guilt? Once I’ve asked God to forgive me, it's time to receive that forgiveness and move on.

The longer I hang on to the guilt, the harder it is to get rid of.

8. Take Five!

It doesn’t take an hour or half-day to organize.

  • Use the five minutes it takes to make a cup of coffee to pick up clutter or empty the dishwasher.
  • When commercials come on the television, deal with a pile of papers.
  • Five-minute work-bursts add up fast, and keep you from being overwhelmed.
  • Take five minutes before leaving the house to straighten up.
  • Before bed take another five minutes to pick up items that didn’t get put away. Prepare ahead for the next day.

Treat five-minute work-bursts as a race, and you’ll be surprised what you get done!

The bonus? Once you get going, you’ll extend that five-minute challenge to longer work sessions, because once you get started you feel up to tackling more.

Spiritual Life: Am I putting off having some quiet time with God until I find an extra hour in my day? I need to grab five minutes when I can get it to talk to God or read His Word or listen to His Spirit. And the more I spend time with Him, the more I want to.

How will you get organized to have less stress in your home and heart?

Kathy Carlton Willis—God's Grin Gal—shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with GraceShe’s a bi-monthly columnist with CBN and a devotional writer for Todd Starnes. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of geralt at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jul252017

Organize Your Life - Part 1

Kathy Carlton Willis would love to see women escape the chaos of their lives. In this Organization UPGRADE, she explains how we can have less stress in our homes and our hearts as we get organized.

"Lately, a phrase has been stuck like a song in my head—'Don’t put it down, put it up!'" Kathy says.

"Every time I think about putting something in the wrong place, that advice nags me and I'm reminded it doesn’t take any longer to put something in its designated spot."

I (Dawn) am a firm believer in "a place for everything and everything in its place," but Kathy takes this one step further and I agree: Conquering the chaos in our lives begins with a more ordered perspective and a change of heart.

Kathy continues . . .  

Realizing this simple organizational tip might be a good reminder to others as well, I started collecting other helpful tips to share. Each one ended up also triggering a spiritual reminder to me.

Isn’t it interesting that the same things that help us get our acts together help us get our lives straightened out?

Let’s look at some.

1. File It, Don’t Pile It!

I admit it. I’m a piler. It’s a good thing Russ and I are minimalists because it minimizes the number of piles I can create!

But every so often I get into a sorting mood and I force myself to either file it away, scan it in, or pitch it.

Spiritual Life: What do I allow to pile up before I deal with it? Hurt feelings? Disappointment? Anger? Sadness? Time won’t shoo away what I’ve stockpiled. It’s time to address the mess going on in my life.

“But be sure that everything is done properly and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40 NLT).

2. Clutter Clatters.

I’m a messy cook. I tend to dirty every dish I own. And then I’m too exhausted to clean up.

But it doesn’t take long before I’m back in the kitchen washing, organizing, putting everything away. Why? Because the clutter is so noisy, it clatters. Such a distraction!

When everything is straightened up I sense a quietness—peace.

Spiritual Life: Is my day cluttered with so much busyness that I have neglected my quiet time with God? Does the clutter clatter so loudly I can’t hear God’s still small voice? It’s time to roll up my sleeves, put away the clutter and let the cleared space make room for God’s peace.

3. Less is Best.

I used to own a 4,000-square-foot fixer-upper and set out to fill it with stuff. Then a life reversal forced us to have a living estate sale before moving into an 800-square-foot rent house.

I learned to hold on to my stuff with a loose grip.

Now I love a more minimalistic approach to my belongings.

When I don’t pack my space full, I have enough white space to give my chaos a break. Peace.

Spiritual Life: I need as much white space as my house. When I cram every hour with to-do lists, obligations, chores, and busyness, there’s no margin for relaxation. By allowing space in my day for contemplation and meditation, I can handle the rest of the day with more resolve and clarity.

4. Don’t Give in to the Pig Pen.

It’s tempting once things are a mess, to not even try. Why bother? Why put this away when it won’t make the rest of the mess look any better?

It’s a downward spiral toward the pig pen.

Spiritual Life: It was in the pig pen, where the prodigal son realized the enormity of his messed-up life and desired to go back to the father, thinking even his father’s servants were treated better than what his life had become.

In the middle of my mess, when it’s tempting to keep making poor choices because I’m already stained with sin, the Father wants me to leave the mess and come to Him for rest. He will repair the damage and make all things new.

What needs sorted out in your house and in your heart?

(PART TWO of “Organize Your Life." is published here.)

Kathy Carlton Willis—God's Grin Gal—shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with GraceShe’s a bi-monthly columnist with CBN and a devotional writer for Todd Starnes. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of geralt at Pixabay.

Thursday
Jul202017

3 Ways to Keep Summer Sane

Women's ministry leader Cathy Horning loves the Word of God and making biblical truth practical. In this Summer UPGRADE, she shares three ways to keep the summer months sane.

“I love summers! I love long days of sunlight, warm evening walks, and so many other special summer delights,” Cathy says. “However, I also hate summer.”

I (Dawn) read that and thought, "Huh?" Who could hate summer? And why?"

Cathy continues . . .

I hate summer because as much as I like to imagine I am an easygoing, carefree, and flexible person, in reality, I thrive on routine, order, and schedules.

And every year, I am reminded how summer time, pretty much, throws a wrench into the regular rhythm and predictable plans in which I flourish the other nine months of the year.

This summer is no different. I have been out of town nearly every weekend since May.

My husband and I have attended out-of-town birthday and anniversary parties, graduations and weddings, as well as helping our daughter move into a new apartment in Los Angeles. When we happen to find ourselves at home, we enjoy time with those who come to visit our beautiful beach community, or being Grammy and Papa to our ten amazing grandchildren.  

Summers are crazy—full and busy!

However, unlike summers past, this year I hesitantly took a step of faith which, surprisingly, has kept me a little more sane in the craziness of this season.

The step I took was to accept an online invitation to become part of a group of ladies who would go through a book called 40 Days to Healthy Living, by Danna Demetre.

When I first saw the Facebook post, I thought, There is no way I can add this to my summer.

Yet, the day before the group began, I decided to order the book and jump in. And, I am so glad I did!

This book and the group have helped me upgrade my life and bring order to three vital areas that often suffer in the chaos of summer.

1. Make Time for God’s Word

As a Bible teacher, I love spending time in the Word of God. Still, with the busyness of  company, travel, and all the fun of summer, I confess my priority of spending intentional, daily time in God’s Word can slip.

Danna’s book begins each day with scripture. And, always, what she shares about the passage is a good reminder, or brings fresh insight, that I can apply to my life during these long, lovely summer days.

2. Make Time for Healthy Eating

Every year, I grow in wisdom regarding my diet, but with the many celebrations and lack of routine in summer, I find it extremely difficult to eat the right foods, as well as the right proportions.

The "40 Days to Healthy Living" group has given me daily nutritional tips and challenges that I discovered are guiding my food choices during these wildly-full summer days.

3. Make Time for Exercise

Finally, one of Danna’s strong recommendations is to simply eat less and move more.

Going through the book motivated me to be more diligent to use my Fitbit. It doesn’t happen every day, but most days this summer, I am hitting 10,000+ steps, sometimes by only adding little things like parking further away, taking the stairs, and choosing the long way to get where I am going.

1 Timothy 4:8 NLT says, “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”

I love summer! It is my favorite time of the year.

However, I also hate that summer can rob me of investing in my spiritual and physical well being.

What a nice surprise it has been to discover help in this area from the 40-day devotional, plus the support and encouragement of other women online.

I have a feeling this may be my best summer yet!

What are you doing this summer to upgrade your spiritual life and health and keep summer sane?

NOTE from DAWN: I do not normally do "book promos" on this blog, but Cathy and I were both part of the group she mentioned, and I wanted to share how encouraging Danna's book was to me personally too. If you're looking for a new devotional book that will encourage your health as well as your heart for the things of the Lord, this is a good one.

Cathy Horning has been a women’s ministry leader, Bible Study teacher, speaker and writer for more than 25 years. She loves the Word of God. Nothing brings her greater joy than sharing with others how very precious, practical, and powerful the promises and truths in God's Word. Married for 34 years, Cathy has four grown children, 10 grandchildren, and many spiritual sons and daughters. She loves long walks by the bay, a good book or movie, Starbucks ice tea, and especially family get-togethers. Read more by Cathy at her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of rwalsh623 at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jul182017

Singleness and Our Desire for Family

Nali Hilderman is one of the most radiant young women I know. She's single-minded toward the Lord, and that colors her attitudes about living as a single in this stage of life. I invited Nali to share about her growth in this Single Christians UPGRADE.

"As singles, the desire for a family of one’s own can be strong," Nali says. "Yet we are stuck in a weird in-between which is not fully the past, and definitely not the future."

I (Dawn) still remember traveling across America as a single woman and longing to have a husband and children and settle down. Nali's right; the ache was strong. I wish I'd had this wise counsel back then.

Nali continues . . .

One of the main things I hear from singles, and struggle with myself, is the loneliness that comes from not having a family of one’s own. 

As I’ve wrestled through this, here are three things that have helped me navigate that desire for husband and children. I hope they’re an encouragement to you as well!

1. Be your Own Family.

Several years ago I sensed the Lord asking me to step out in faith and live my life AS THOUGH marriage and family might not happen. What I sensed was that he wanted me to live my life to the fullest and “stop waiting” for life to begin once I crossed the altar or had my first child. 

The Lord has told us that He came to give us life abundantly (John 10:10b) and that remains true regardless of your marital status! 

So, I bought a house (a huge blessing), and slowly I’ve made my home my own, and begun my own “family” activities. I decorate for Christmas, I have special traditions, that are unique to me, not my family of origin and hopefully they’ll be something that I can share with my own family, one day.

2. Think Outside the Box About Family.

While I was in that season, I also distinctly felt the Lord telling me that my singleness had a purpose, which was to invest 100% of myself in my work—which, as a professor, is investing in the lives of students. (Note: That's Nali, bottom left in white, having fun with some of her students.)

I realized if I had a family of my own, there was no way I’d have the time or energy to impact these young adults the way I do as a single woman. 

While you may not have that same “built in family option” at your workplace, I guarantee there are youth groups and Sunday school classes that would LOVE your help and your investment made in the lives of the kids.

The Bible tells us in Titus 2:1-5 to mentor others and pour into the next generation.

3. Find or Join a Friend’s Family.

You probably have many friends with families of their own, and one of the greatest joys is to join their family activities. 

I’m not talking about babysitting.

I’m talking about doing life with them—meal time, play time, nap time, activity time—simply join them in whatever they’re doing. 

When I do this, it blesses me and makes me feel like I’m part of a family; and I know it blesses their parents to have the “adult company” and also someone else to invest in their children. 

One of my favorite things to be called is “Auntie Nali.”

To hear my sister’s kids (pictured, right) and my friend’s kids call me that fulfills my deep desire, for now, to be called "Mom."

I know that the desire for your own family can be overwhelming and you wonder when, maybe if, it will ever happen. (I know I do.) But let’s try to focus on the things we have right in front of us and use this precious time we have now to learn to invest in the lives around us. 

If we are faithful in these things, we’ll be even more prepared to invest when it’s our turn.

Psalm 37:3 says, “Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” How can you dwell in the land (i.e. season of life) and cultivate faithfulness in your desire to have a family today?

Nali Hilderman is a professor of American history and Political Science at San Diego Christian College and Director the college’s Dr. Henry Morris Leadership Program.  She studies women’s history and Christian theology trying to make sense of how to be a confident, successful Christian woman who does not buy into the secular feminist mentality.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of stevepb at Pixabay.