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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



Upgrade for Life's Second Half

Pam Farrel is a relationship specialist who, along with her husband Bill, shares wisdom for a wide variety of relationships.

“In my book 10 Secrets of Living Smart, Savvy and Strong, I share my need for a midlife upgrade!” Farrel said.

She got my attention immediately. Who doesn’t want a fresh start in life’s second half?

She continues …

When I was in my early forties, if my life were described as a hand-crocheted afghan, then one day someone grabbed one piece of thread and began to unravel my life.

My husband had been the picture of health, and all of a sudden his blood pressure went through the roof. This got our attention because his grandfather died of a stroke at age 47, and his father had a stroke that left him paralyzed and disabled at age 48. Bill was 45.

At the time, Bill and I had achieved some measure of success, one of our books had even hit the bestsellers list (Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti). Bill was also the senior pastor of the largest church in our city, and we were completing a new building project.

Then, one day, we were traveling and Bill wasn’t feeling well, so he went to the doctor. The test results showed Bill needed an upgrade too!

So to make a painful story shorter, through a series of events and meetings, Bill ended up resigning from the church he’d pastored for over 15 years. At the time of the life transition, all our sons were teens. I was trying to keep one kid in college and prepare another’s send-off for his education, all during a time period where there was a huge income shift.

One week in particular sticks out to me as a picture of our life.

  • Caleb (then 13) was hit illegally in a football game and had to be rushed to Children’s Hospital. I found myself sitting with Bill next to Caleb, praying for both their lives to be spared. When we finally brought Caleb home, I had a speaking engagement that the family needed me to keep. I left Caleb in Bill’s wonderful care.
  • The first night I was gone, our middle son was pulled from his football game with a concussion and knee injury.
  • The next night, our oldest, a college quarterback, was pulled from the game with what we thought might be a career-ending/scholarship-ending injury.

When I landed at the airport, my sister-in-law was on the phone with the news that my 40-year-old brother had experienced a heart attack.

I prayed in desperation, “This family needs an upgrade!”

People cared, so they inquired. I just didn’t know how to reply when people asked, “So, how are you doing?”

I felt God impress a question on my heart, “What kind of woman do you want to be, Pam?”

“Lord, I want to be the kind of person who can look at whatever life sends her way and find joy in it. Your Word says, ‘The joy of the Lord is our strength,’ (Nehemiah 8:10)—and do I ever need strength right now!” 

I knew joy was the upgrade I needed to gain clarity to create an upgrade plan for life’s second half. I printed out all the verses about joy and hung my heart on the truth and hope found there.

And I changed my response to the question, “So, Pam, how are you doing?”

My new answer became, “Choosin’ joy!”

In the midst of your tough circumstances, how have you discovered the strength that comes from choosing joy in the Lord?

Pam and Bill Farrel are both happy and healthy and loving life as they work their new upgrade plan. They are the Co-Directors of Love-Wise. Pam has served as director of women’s ministry, a pastor’s wife and a mentor, and she is the founder and president of Seasoned Sisters, a ministry to women ages 40-65.

Photo of midlife couple: Image courtesy of photostock at


How to Keep Criticism from Crushing You

Gail Bones is an accomplished musician, educator and author. God has taught her much about dealing with criticism, and she remains vulnerable and transparent. I love that about her.

Gail shared this UPGRADE post, part of a longer article she wrote for writers and artists, but with helpful input for all of us:

I’ve been playing guitar my whole life. When I was a full-time performer, I could play guitar for six hours a day without feeling the strain. My secret? Industrial strength calluses. You get them the way oysters get pearls—by pressing through pain.

Writers are famous for having to learn how to handle rejection. We must develop a thicker skin, we are told. Even though I usually pretend to welcome it with open arms and a grateful heart, receiving even constructive criticism usually bothers me.

I don’t recoil, however, at the thought of pressing my fingertips against the hard steel strings of my guitar. As I’ve persisted over the years in leaning into the source of pain, my fingers actually have developed thicker skin.

Unless you have the courage to develop calluses, the beauty can’t flow freely from your hands.

There’s a lesson here about life.

Six Kinds of Criticism: Six Kinds of Pain

1. When It’s Right

When I joined my first writer’s critique group and started regularly seeing “wordy” written across my submissions, I didn’t believe it at first. I had to be alerted to the fact that I had this tendency and that it worked against the clarity and readability of my prose.

My critiquer was right. I leaned in to her insights, and my word counts began to drop dramatically.

2. When It’s Wrong

Not everyone who wields a red pencil gets it right 100% of the time. Don’t get discouraged; get a second opinion before you delete a month’s worth of work.

3. When It’s Gracious

Force yourself to accept that the commendations bookending the criticism are accurate.

Don’t highlight the negative and ignore the positive comments. Give yourself some credit!

4. When It’s Mean-spirited

Who knows why people feel they must spew venom when they get on the Internet. Anyone who gets that worked up, who uses capital letters and multiple exclamation points to slam someone else’s heart-felt words has issues that go beyond the scope of what you need to concern yourself with.

Just don’t go there.

5. When It’s Personal Preference.

Cross-stitch this if you need to, and hang it on your wall: Not everyone is going to love you. Not everyone is going to get you. But somebody will, and they are worth persevering for.

6. When It’s Self-Criticism.

I find I have to repeatedly scrape off the barnacles of pride masquerading as perfectionism that keep attaching themselves to my hull.

Being a people pleaser and a perfectionist will make you crazy. Being your own worst critic can sometimes be a sign that you have the discernment and sensitivity you need to be a writer. But you have to know when to silence that carping voice and let yourself believe positive and uplifting words.

The truth is, some criticism is tough to hear, but “If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise” (Proverbs 15:31).

How do you deal with various kinds of criticism? Which is the hardest for you?

 Dr. Gail Bones is a speaker, retreat leader, songwriter/worship leader,  former professor of education and the founder of CrossWise Living, an intergenerational ministry devoted to helping people navigate change. She and her husband Jeff have two married children. From the east coast but now living in San Diego, Gail says “happiness” means always having one or more of the following in her hands: a dog leash, a sailboat rudder, bicycle handlebars, a kayak paddle, an acoustic guitar, a big fat book or a hazelnut coffee. Read more about Gail at her website/blog.

Note: Guitar Photo Image courtesy of artemisphoto at


Upgrade Your Saving Power!

Holly Hanson is one of those multi-talented individuals with words of wisdom in so many areas, especially parenting and financial “smarts.”

“My plunge into motherhood almost nine years ago,” Holly said, “has taught me a lot about sacrifice.”

Anyone who’s been a mom understands that word, “sacrifice;” but I admire Holly, because she  turned financial stress into positive living with creative, productive choices. When I called her a financial expert, she said, "No, I'm not an official financial expert, just a civilian price warrior!"

She continues ...

The biggest sacrifice I made was giving up my producer job at a TV station to stay home full time. In order to make it all work and still be able to eat, I discovered a multitude of ways to be a good steward of my money each and every day.

I see this opportunity as one way to emulate the creativity and household responsibility of the Proverbs 31 Woman. In verse 27 it says, “She watches over the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”  I want that to be the way others describe me, as well.

If you can turn some of these tips into rock-solid habits, you can live a two-income lifestyle on a one-income paycheck!

1. Pick Your Time to Shop. This tip works best for major purchases.

Buy a car or a mattress on a holiday when there are sales and no tax. Buy a barbecue after Labor Day when they all go on major clearance.

If you have children, shop the clearance clothing rack at the end of the season for the next year’s sizes—your kids will definitely grow, while the price of the clothing stays small! I keep all of my daughter’s too-big clothes in an under-the-bed box. I review the inventory each season to see if anything new fits. 

This works for BOGO [buy one, get one] sales too. I buy two pairs of tennis shoes, one in the current size and one in the next size up.

If you need party supplies, shop for them after every major holiday. Heart napkins on sale after Valentine’s Day will work great for your anniversary dinner. Spring napkins/plates/decor on sale after Easter can beautify a table any time of the year!

2. Know the Menu.  When you go to a restaurant, don’t always assume the “combo” is the best deal, or that the sandwich has to be ordered the way it is described. Take a minute to review your options.

If you like lettuce and tomato at Wendy’s, you can add it to the dollar cheeseburger for free. Some Mexican restaurants allow you to add “items” to an existing combo for less than the price of a regular entrée.

We sometimes order one meal and “add on” enough to feed the whole family for much less than three separate meals! Denny’s does this with their Grand Slam breakfasts. I never get the kids’ meal when I can just add on a 99-cent item or two for my daughter!

3. Use Those Coupons! I have made it my personal mission to NEVER buy something at a store that I know I have (or can get) a coupon for. It’s amazing how much you spend on impulse items, if you can’t discipline yourself to follow this rule.

In the age of smartphones, a simple Google search can yield plenty of online coupons, many of which can be redeemed by simply showing your phone to the cashier. I’ve done this at restaurants, too, like Souplantation and Fuddruckers, when I forgot to print the email that they sent me with the offer. 

Vons also has a wonderful program called Just for U, which allows you to select coupons on your phone or computer that are instantly added to your club card. (I have even added coupons in the checkout line!) Coupons are like free money!

Don’t be foolish. Don’t waste the chance to upgrade your saving power!

Which of these helpful tips are you using now? Which would be a great new choice?

Holly Hanson is a veteran Emmy Award-winning journalist who finds her calling in her family motto: “Love God, Serve Others.” Holly has written and produced internationally for Women of Faith, Turning Point Ministries, and locally with KFMB-TV, KFMB-AM and KPBS Radio. She is married and is a mom, step-mom and soon to be step-grandma. Holly is active at Shadow Mountain Community Church, serving on the Women's Ministries Council, singing in the choir, and running Moms Inc., a ministry she founded and directs.  

Photo in text: Image Courtesty of Grant Cochrane at


How to Encourage Someone Who Is Ill

Lisa Copen has more than her share of struggles, but she has still managed - with God's help - to create a ministry to help others who suffer. In this special Upgrade UPLIFT, she explains what not to say to those who are ill, and how to encourage them.

"When friends are coping with a chronic illness or pain, our instinctive way of encouraging them may be more hurtful than helpful," Lisa says.

Ouch. I do want to be an encourager, but I haven't always known what to say.

How about you?

Lisa continues ...

"You look great. You must be feeling so much better."

"I just know God will heal you. You don't deserve this pain."

"Let me know if you need anything."

These comments sound kind and there is no doubt they are said with good intentions. For the one who is ill, however, they "feel" less than comforting.

Being told you look fine feels like the pain isn't believed. What if your friend isn't healed? Does it mean she does deserve the pain? And it is so hard to ask for help.

"Call me if you need anything" is considered a general greeting to one who is ill, like asking, "How are you?"

She will never ask.

Nearly one in two people in the USA live with a chronic illness or condition like back pain or migraines. If it is not you, odds are it is someone you love.

Most people do not have any visible signs of the pain or suffering they experience on a daily basis. And when we say "Well, you look fine," the comment is interpreted as "Since you look fine, you can't really be that bad. You are just making a big deal out of nothing."

Invisible Illness Awareness Week is sponsored by Rest Ministries, a Christian organization that serves the chronically ill. I began this week in 2002 because I witnessed many people growing frustrated about the lack of understanding of invisible illness. Despite finding peace about their diagnosis, the remarks of people around them - even at church - were planting seeds of bitterness.

Invisible Illness Awareness Week (IIAW) is September 9-15, 2013, and the IIAW website features many ways to encourage loved ones with illness, as well as teach those with illness where to find true validation.

Here are a few tips on how to communicate with an ill person:

Don't say, "I am praying for you!"

Say, "I would love to keep your needs in prayer. Is there something that is on your heart that I can pray about? Maybe something that no one else is even praying for?"

Don't say, "Call me if you need anything."

Say, "I would love to bring your family dinner. What would you prefer, chicken or lasagna? Wednesday or Thursday?"

Don't say, "You look fine."

Say, "It must be hard to be in so much pain and not have anyone realize what effort it took to get here. Thank you for coming."

Don't say, "Don't cry. God will work it all out."

Say, "If you need to cry, I will just sit here with you. I'm not going anywhere."

We have all suffered. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says, "[He] comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in ANY trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God" (NIV, emphasis added).

Take a moment to reflect on a time you suffered and what you needed.

Did you really need someone to give advice or did you just want someone to listen? Did you pick up the phone and call a friend to ask for help, or were you grateful when someone just showed up and offered comfort food or help with a task?

One of the reasons God allows us to suffer is so that we understand how to comfort others when they suffer. Rather than relying on clichés and instinctive responses, take a few minutes to consider what you wanted when you were suffering. Did you wish someone would ask you what you needed, rather than making assumption about how to help? Don't be afraid to ask a friend what they need - and then listen.

Find out more ways to encourage friends who are chronically ill at Invisible Illness Awareness Week where there are specific articles on ways to bring a friend a meal when she may be embarrassed, how to help a friend with errands, or how a church can make a difference.

Who do you know who is ill that could use some tender care and encouraging words? Ask God to show you how to use Lisa's wisdom to reach out with caring words and actions.

Lisa Copen began Rest Ministries to encourage those who are chronically ill through daily devotionals, small groups called HopeKeepers, and other support. She is the author of a variety of books including Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend. She has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia for twenty years and resides in San Diego with her husband and son.


Two Frequently-Neglected 'Vitamins' that Keep You Young & Lean

God wants us to take care of our bodies as one way to bring Him glory (I Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:17). Health advocate Danna Demetre teaches women how to stay lean for life and balance body, soul and spirit in her book, Scale Down. In today’s post, she addresses essentials necessary to help us upgrade our health, including two “vitamins” that are often neglected.

“Build wisely. Your body tomorrow will be the result of the choices you make today,” Demetre wrote. “To improve your energy, health and lose excess fat permanently, you need to address the essentials. I call them the “Nutrimax Six.”

Danna's Nutrimax Six include: (1) Water, (2) Plant foods, (3) Protein, (4) Fats, (5) Vitamins, Minerals, and Antioxidants and (6) something she calls “Vitamins Z and X.”

Danna continues …  

Vitamin Z—better known as sleep—is a frequently neglected “nutrient” that plays a much more important role in our health than people have previously realized. And Vitamin X—better known as exercise—is essential for maintaining high energy, low body fat and overall health and vitality.  [Add graphic of vitamin bottle]

Okay, okay … I know neither are technically nutrients. But if these two lifestyle factors are not a high priority, even perfect nutrition will not bring you the health, vitality and fast-burning metabolism you desire.

Vitamin Z

Sleep is the time when you get both physical and psychological rest. During deep sleep, your body accomplishes its most important cellular renewal. Even modest amounts of sleep deprivation can diminish your immune system and ability to cope with the daily challenges of life.

If you want to look younger, feel better and live longer—get enough sleep!

How much is enough? Experts suggest that most people need close to eight hours of sleep every night.

I have found that chronic fatigue is one of the biggest factors impacting an out-of-control appetite. I think the body is saying “If you’re not going to give me enough quality rest to reenergize, I’m just going to beg for sugar and calories all day long to make up for it!”

My suggestion: Make sleep a priority. Try getting eight hours of sleep a night for a full month and see the impact it makes in your lifestyle. This is best accomplished by establishing a consistent routine of going to bed at the same time each night, turning off the television and other electronics at least an hour before bedtime, dimming the lights (to increase melatonin production) and taking a hot shower or bath before bed. If you are over 40, you may want to take a melatonin supplement which also has anti-aging benefits!

Vitamin X

Exercise is an incredible energizer. The more you move, the better you feel as your body releases endorphins – the “feel good” hormones. Feeling good motivates you to stay active, and activity tends to distract you from sedentary habits that include eating. To stay lean and fit for life, we need to work toward DAILY exercise unless our lifestyle is extremely active naturally. As we age, our metabolisms decrease because we lose muscle. If we are not exercising daily, we are losing fitness. Get in a positive cycle and get a good dose of Vitamin X every day!

Do you struggle more with getting enough sleep or getting enough exercise? What change/s can you make in the days ahead to get “enough” and UPGRADE Your Health to the glory of God?

Danna Demetre is a popular retreat and conference speaker and the author of the best-selling: Scale Down, The Heat is On, Change Your Habits, Change Your Life and What Happened to My Life? Her latest book co-authored with America’s Family Financial Expert, Ellie KayLEAN BODY, FAT WALLET – explores the common healthy habits that can positively impact both your health and wealth. She also blogs regularly about intentional living, the life of a Christian entrepreneur, and “growing young” – staying lean and healthy at any age. You can learn more about Danna at