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Lina AbuJamra

Sue Badeau

Dianne Barker

Twila Belk

Gail Bones

Harriet Bouchillon

Mary Carver

Jeanne Cesena

Pamela Christian

Lisa Copen

Erin Davis

Diane Dean

Deb DeArmond

Kelly DeChant

Danna Demetre

Melissa Edgington

Debbi Eggleston

Pat Ennis

Morgan Farr

Pam Farrel

Liz Cowen Furman

Gail Goolsby

Sheila Gregoire

Doreen Hanna

Holly Hanson

Becky Harling

Debbie Harris

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

Kolleen Lucariello

Kathi Macias

Paula Marsteller

Melissa Mashburn

Dianne Matthews

Cindi McMenamin

Elaine W. Miller

Kathy Collard Miller

Lynn Mosher

Karen O'Connor

Yvonne Ortega

Arlene Pellicane

Ava Pennington

Laura Petherbridge

Gail Purath

Marcia Ramsland

Kaley Rhea

Rhonda Rhea

Vonda Rhodes

Cynthia Ruchti

Julie Sanders

Judy Scharfenberg

Deedra Scherm

Laurel Shaler

Joanie Shawhan

Stephanie Shott

Poppy Smith

Susan K. Stewart

Stacie Stoelting

Jill Swanson

Janet Thompson

Janice Thompson

Teri Thompson

Brittany Van Ryn

Elizabeth Van Tassel

Leslie Vernick

Laurie Wallin

Julie Watson

Joan C. Webb

Shonda Savage Whitworth

Cherri Williamson

Kathy C. Willis

Debbie W. Wilson

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Jamie Wood

And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson



Goals to Dig Deeper in Your Faith

Almost from the moment I met Cathy Horning, I knew two things about her: She loves the Word of God, and she is a powerful encourager. In this New Year's UPGRADE, she encourages us to dig into the Word and grow our faith.

“Happy 2018! It’s a New Year, and my very favorite holiday,” Cathy says. “A time to remember. To reflect. To look ahead. To refocus. To prioritize. To set goals.”

That sounds like a big order, but I (Dawn) think Cathy knows how to fill that order!

Cathy continues . . .

I was surprised to discover, as the holiday season ramped up this past fall, a yearning in my soul. A quiet ache. A longing to go deeper in my faith.

In the flurry of activities, I realized I was being swept along the river of life by the relentless currents of an extremely full and demanding schedule.

If you have ever been river rafting, you know what I mean.

One of my fondest memories is riding an inner tube on the Salt River in Arizona. On hot, summer days, my friends and I kept cool as we were carried down the river by the strong current. Occasionally, we were even pulled into an eddy along the way, and were forced to paddle our way out to keep from being stuck there or, worse yet, being pulled under.

Floating down a river is great fun! But, it’s not a place you want to stay!

So, as the new year approached, I knew I wanted off my raft of busyness—to paddle away from dangerous eddies, to swim out of my river, and to plant my feet on solid ground.

I needed a plan:

  • to stop being swept along by the currents of busyness,
  • to avoid the dangers of a spiritual eddy,
  • to be intentional, and
  • to stop drifting along.

Instead, I wanted to be firmly planted on fertile soil, and to go down deeper in my roots of faith. 

The New Year seemed the perfect time. Although, to some, it is simply the next day on a calendar, to me the New Year is very special. It is an opportunity to begin again. To start afresh, with a clean slate.

And in my own story, it has been a time of momentous life changes.

It is the holiday when I surrendered my life to Jesus at a midnight church service, 39 years ago. Then four years later, it became the holiday when I walked down another church aisle and became a new wife.

So, for me, the New Year is a time to celebrate not only a clean slate, but also new life.

For four decades now, my faith and my family have grown! Each year has brought many changes like children, moves, teenagers, college, weddings, travel, grand-babies, aging parents, and so much more.

However, with the changes have come challenges. And the challenges of the past few years have found me in survival mode.

You know, going through the motions. Doing the right things. Getting by.

My faith remained steady, yet my soul was not satisfied.

Thus, the longing to go deeper, instead of simply holding steady or just staying afloat.

This year, that is going to change. I will no longer be swept along or, worse yet, become stagnant and stale. As I prayerfully considered my goals, I chose ways to dig deeper in my faith. In order to achieve this, I came up with three simple goals.

In 2018 I choose to—

1. Spend More Time in God’s Word

  • I will spend more dedicated time in God’s Word, reading, studying, listening to, meditating on and memorizing it.
  • I will reserve set times for social media, because, honestly, it is one of the strongest currents which robs me of going deeper.

2. Pray Bigger and Bolder Prayers

  • I will take each worry and turn it into prayer.
  • My prayer requests will be bigger and bolder.

I will not allow myself to get stuck in an eddy of worry. Instead, I will ask, and praise God, for audacious answers which will bring Him glory!

3. Listen To and Follow My Shepherd More Closely  

  • I will more intentionally seek to listen for the Lord’s direction throughout my day.
  • I will follow His lead, even if it is contrary to my own plans and inclinations.
  • I will not be swept away in the currents of routine and order or by the imagined urgency and needs of others.

“Now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him. Let your roots go down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7 NLT).

Dear friend, this New Year, let’s be on our guard against being swept along by the currents of life. Or, worse yet, getting stuck or pulled down in an eddy.

What goals can you make and what intentional steps can you take to dig deeper in your own walk of faith?

Cathy Horning loves the Word of God. Nothing brings her greater joy than encouraging women how to walk in His ways. She is a popular speaker, blogger, and writer, as well as a beloved wife, mom, Grammy, mentor, encourager and friend. Her first two books will be released in 2018. Learn more about Cathy here.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Marboon at Pixabay.


More Than a Resolution: A Personal Retreat

What I love about Letitia "Tish" Suk is her intentionality. Choices make a huge difference in our lives. In this New Year's UPGRADE, she urges us to focus less on resolutions and plan a personal retreat to begin the new year refreshed.

"What if a simple day away could transform your life?" Letitia asks.

There's something about that phrase "a simple day away" that makes me (Dawn) yearn for rest. I'd like to be intentional about that!

Letitia continues . . .

Like many of us, I love to review and sometimes re-design my schedule, my priorities, my goals all under the umbrella of “New Year’s Resolutions” or sometimes labeled, “Intentions” if I’m not sure about the resolving part. 

Lately, or probably all my adult life, while I love all the celebration events starting with Thanksgiving (or Halloween?) seems like they squish out the opportunities for rest, quiet and open spaces of time which such reflection requires. To do it right, anyway.

I sometimes resort to quickly scribbling a few lofty aspirations in my journal for the new year and call it done. Done it is but nothing really changes.

What if instead of designing resolutions, you designed a retreat?

No, not one for your church’s women’s ministry, but one just for you and God?

A chance not just for a few minutes or an hour but an actual “Getaway with God” for a chunk of time to ask him what’s HIS plans are for you for the upcoming year?

Before you reject the notion due to not enough time, money, or creativity, think of how you would respond if your spouse or BFF asked you to come along for a getaway night or weekend? Maybe with a bit more enthusiasm, right?

For the past forty years (yikes!), I have been taking getaways with God: AKA personal retreats at regular intervals.

These times away have defined the trajectory of my life.

Think of it like plugging your soul in for a long recharge just like you do with your phone each night. Taking a personal retreat is just that. Stepping aside for a day or more to deeply rest, listen to God, and plan your next steps (or years) can have the same effect on your soul as plugging your smart phone in for a long charge.

Time after time, year after year, I come away filled with:

  • a renewed sense of purpose,
  • clarity of vision,
  • trust in God’s ability to untie all the knots of my life, and
  • overwhelming sense of being loved.

There’s nothing quite like a retreat to provide that much restoration in such a relatively short amount of time. Many of us are familiar with the relationship boost a getaway with your spouse or family can provide, and a getaway with God has the same results for our souls.

Before you get lost in the disclaimers—“I don’t have time, money, energy, or inspiration for this type of thing"—consider the invitation of Jesus:

“Come away with me by yourself to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).

The invitation still stands today.

If you are looking for details, ideas and plans for what to do there, check out my book, Getaway with God.

Let me give you a few suggestions now.

1. A personal retreat can take place just about anywhere, apart from your own home if possible. Too many distractions and to-do’s all around.

I have retreated in retreat centers, convents, public gardens, the beach, hotels, bed and breakfast inns and a friend’s home while she was at work. Sure, some of these venues had costs, others were free. Regardless, it is an investment in your spiritual life which has a direct spillover into all the other aspects of your day to day as well.

2. While you are away with God, you can rest, nap, pray, read, plan and walk.

3. Staying off social media helps with the focus.

4. Stay for as long as you can, overnight is a plus.

5. It is your retreat to design as you wish. And if you ask him to help you with the planning part, He usually does.

I know how easy it is to wait until “the perfect time” for something like this but don’t let another year get away. Trust me, you will need it after the holiday hoopla is over.

Make it your Christmas gift to yourself.

Before you get too caught up in the calendar pages of 2018, can you consider scheduling a retreat?

Letitia (Tish) Suk, invites women to create an intentional life centered in Jesus. She is a blogger at Hope for the Best: Chasing the Intentional Life, 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. Contact her here.

Graphic adapted from photo at zinemo, Pixabay.


Before You Enter the New Year

Becky Harling often encourages women to forget about "performance" and take time to seek  God and find refreshment in time alone with Him. In this New Year UPGRADE, she suggests taking a day for personal reflection.

"Every year between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I take a day for prayer and personal reflection," Becky says. "Honestly, it’s become one of my favorite days of the year!"

In all the busyness of the holidays, I (Dawn) have found I need a quiet place of rest and reflection; so I appreciate what Becky is sharing here today.

Becky continues . . .

By creating the space to be alone with God I am able to refresh and revive. As I spend time alone with God in prayer and praise, the Holy Spirit brings my spirit into alignment with His.

  • During that day, I spend a lot of time listening to God—I want to know what His desires are for my life as I enter the New Year.
  • I also reflect back over the past year and consider my relationships and different aspects of my life.
  • I then ask the Holy Spirit to speak into that area how he wants me to grow in the coming year.

I turn off my cell phone and take a break from my computer. It can feel scary at first, but it is so freeing to unplug and simply luxuriate in God’s presence.

Rather than setting a tight schedule for my day of prayer, I include certain elements:

1. Praise music to help me settle down in God’s presence.

Worshipping God on my knees sets my focus for the day and brings my heart into alignment with God’s heart. (At the end of this guide you will find some new and wonderful praise songs that I recommend for your praise time.)

2. Scripture

God speaks through His Word, the still small voice of His Spirit and through others. 

I often read through a passage like John 15. Then I underline and circle whatever phrases seem to jump of the page at me. As I read, I look for specific patterns. I ask the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to what He wants me to see in Scripture. 

I then choose some key verses for the coming year and commit those to memory.

3. A Journal

As I read scripture, I record principles that I believe God is speaking. I watch for patterns or phrases that keep reappearing. I may look for one word to focus on in the New Year.

4. Silence

My world, like yours, is filled with noise: cell phone, TV, social media, etc.

In many ways, I’m addicted to noise.

I love people. I love music. I love the adrenaline rush of lots going on.

But, my soul needs quiet to re-calibrate and connect with God.

Rarely do I hear God’s voice in the chaos and cacophony of daily noise.

I have to be intentional. I have to pull away and do as Jesus invited, “Come with me, by yourself to a quiet place” (Mark 6:31). There in silence, I listen for the quiet whisper of God’s voice.

5. Beauty

I believe God created our souls to enjoy beauty. As part of my day of prayer and reflection I incorporate beauty.

Depending on where we are in the world, I might take a walk by the beach. Or, I might go for a walk in the snow, or by a river. Or, I might simply spend time gazing at the mountains.

Beauty reminds me of the majesty of my God.

6. Reflective Questions help me to understand what’s going on in my heart and what the Holy Spirit might want me to surrender or embrace.

I ask myself questions like:

  • What do I want to see God do in my life in the next year?
  • Which relationships do I need to focus on more closely?
  • How well am I listening to those I love?
  • Do I need to do a better job with self-care this up coming year?
  • Is there a specific cause that God is inviting me to join in the upcoming year? If so, what steps do I need to take to get involved?

Friend, here’s the thing. Without intentionality you won’t find the space to spend time in reflection, so I encourage you, pull out your calendar and mark the day that you’re going to spend with God. Then gather the tools I mentioned and find a quiet place where you can retreat with the Holy One.

Here are some recommended songs for your quiet retreat:

1. "Abba (Arms of a Father)" by Jonathan and Melissa Helser

2. "There is a Cloud" by Elevation Worship

3.  "I Believe" by JJ Heller

Which of these songs best helps you reflect on the Lord?

Becky Harling. Authentic. Passionate. Funny. Insightful. Becky is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and other venues. She is the author of Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom from Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge and The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents. Becky is married to Steve Harling and has four adult kids and five grandkids. Visit her website and blog!


How Ready Are You to Celebrate Christmas?

Yvonne Ortega writes a lot about broken people, and to be sure, there are many broken people who struggle during the holiday season; but God desires to do beautiful things in their lives. In this Christmas UPGRADE, she asks us to examine our hearts before Christmas arrives.

“On a scale of 1–10, with 1 the lowest and 10 the highest," Yvonne says, "how ready are you to celebrate Christmas?”

I (Dawn) am one of those "ready early" kinds of people at Christmas, because I want Christmas week to be as peaceful as possible. But having a ready heart is not the same as a ready home.

Yvonne continues . . .

I’ve had people tell me, “I’m all set for Christmas. I bought the gifts in August, decorated the house, trimmed an artificial tree, filled the Christmas stockings with small treats, and mailed the Christmas cards.”

Others have told me, “I’m ready as can be. I did everything over the Thanksgiving weekend. Now, I can sit back and enjoy the Christmas lights, programs, and parties.”

From an earthly perspective, the person appears to be ready. However, as Christians with a heavenly perspective, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Our readiness to celebrate his birth has nothing to do with Christmas decorations, a trimmed tree, gifts for family and friends, stockings filled with goodies, or Christmas cards.

These three steps will help you decide how ready you are to celebrate Christmas.

1. Have you forgiven family members, friends or co-workers who hurt you?

You don’t want anything standing between you and God.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (NIV).

Do you still feel unforgiven for past sins? Are you burdened with shame and guilt?

If you’ve confessed your sins, God forgave you. He didn’t make a mistake when he did that. You can do no less.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

2. How often do you read your Bible, pray, and go to church—especially during the Christmas season?

If you do these things, how do you do them?

Do you do them on the run with an eye on your watch?

Do you do them grudgingly or cheerfully?

My late mentor often said, "You make time for what’s important to you."

In Matthew 22:37, Jesus said the greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (NIV). You show your love by how much time you spend with the Lord and get to know him.

Make time for the most important relationship in your life. It is one that will last for eternity.

3. How comfortable would you feel if your family, friends, and coworkers evaluated your trust in God?

Perhaps you’ve lost a job, a car, or a home. Maybe you received a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness or have a prodigal child in the family. You may have suffered a serious injury or lost a loved one. Any one of these situations can cause turmoil in your life.

It can also result in your questioning your faith and God’s character.

Rate your confidence in his promise in Philippians 4:19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

As I wrap up, I ask you the same question I did at the beginning:

“On a scale of 1–10, with 1 the lowest and 10 the highest, how ready are you to celebrate Christmas?”

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a bilingual professional speaker, and the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward (paperback, Kindle), Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer (Kindle), and Moving from Broken to Beautiful through Forgiveness, all available at She not only survived but thrived after a domestic violence marriage, breast cancer and the loss of her only child. With honesty and humor, Yvonne uses personal examples and truths of the Bible to help women move from broken to beautiful. Find out more about Yvonne at her website.

Graphic of candle, courtesy of Pixabay.


We Rejoice with Them!

Kaley Faith Rhea tackles our "Bah, Humbugs" with a biblical perspective in this Christmas UPGRADE.

Kaley asks, "During the Christmas season, does there come a point when you feel like if you hear one more cheery chorus of 'Deck the Halls,' you know you’ll punch a wall?"

I (Dawn) can't identify with that. I could listen to Christmas songs all year long; but there are some Christmas cheer things that drive me up a wall.

Kaley continues . . .

Maybe it’s not that bad. Maybe your “Bah!”s are not followed by “Humbug”s. Maybe you’re not that one friend who feels Christmas is “over-commercialized.”

  • But maybe this year you find yourself trying to force your way into Christmas cheer like it’s last year’s shrunken sweater.
  • Maybe your smiles and greetings feel a bit false, a bit stale.
  • You may even feel like, of all the Whatever-Your-Name-Is-es in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.

Read Philippians 4:4-7 with me:

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus."

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always tended to read the “rejoice” of Philippians 4:4 as like a hands-in-the-air, celebrate-good-times-come-on, party kind of vibe. Like I could hear D.J. Paul screaming it into the mic as the crowd goes wild.

And don’t get me wrong, we can and absolutely should celebrate and revel in who Jesus is.

But I’ll be perfectly honest:

Life doesn’t feel like a party a hundred percent of the time.

Even at Christmas.

But the word we read as “rejoice” here is the Greek word chairo—which from what I can tell means to be cheerful, calmly happy or well-off. It’s the same word, actually, that’s used in Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

When my four siblings and I were growing up, any time one of us got pouty because someone else got to have something or do something the rest of us didn’t, my parents would ask the same leading question: “What do we do when something nice happens to someone else?”

And each one of us knew exactly how we were supposed to answer in our rolly-eyed, sulky, child’s voices: “We rejoice with them.”

Usually with a distinct lack of rejoicing, heh.

I’m so grateful for that lesson, though. What I FEEL in my me-moments of selfishness or shortsightedness does not change what is true and does not change my call to be obedient. And what’s more amazing is how much happier I was, even in my childhood days, because of that lesson.

Starting with truth instead of starting with what I feel is a million times safer, a million times better, a million times reasonable-er.

Seems like it’s easy for me to feel like I have a responsibility to be falsely cheery through cheerless circumstances. To force a party smile on over a feeling of frustration.

It’s even more apparent around the holidays sometimes, I think—when there’s a lot of added pressure to paste on smiles for the camera and manufacture some cherished memories.

  • You are allowed to feel disappointed.
  • You are allowed to mourn.
  • You are allowed to not feel like celebrating all the time.

But in the Lord, you can rejoice.


Not falsely, but not necessarily with party poppers.

Read those verses one more time all the way through.

Rejoicing comes from a place of security. Of contentment. Of thanksgiving. Of perspective.

Of knowing that whatever you may be facing, Jesus is who Jesus is, and that means you are not facing it alone.

It leads to reasonableness—the ability to understand that what I’m feeling does not have to dictate how I respond. Even when there are setbacks and regrets and annoyances and disappointments. Even when my instincts are to punch a wall.

My friends, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. He is your peace and safety.

So rejoice in the Lord!

I won’t say it again. Because Paul already did.

With all sincerity—rejoicing in the One for Whom we celebrate—Merry Christmas!

What makes you say "Bah, Humbug!" at Christmastime? How can you turn that around and "rejoice in the Lord"?

Kaley Faith Rhea is a co-author of the Christian rom-com novel, Turtles in the Road, with two more books in the works to release in 2018. She also co-hosts the TV show, That’s My Mom, for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. Kaley lives in the St. Louis area.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of aaandrea at Pixabay.

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