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Thursday
Jan162014

A Surprising Way to Upgrade Your Sleep

I admire author Deedra Scherm for her dedication to family and the creativity she uses to teach and encourage her boys. This post about her choice not to compare herself with others is great advice for any woman, but especially moms with young children. They need encouragement … and sleep!

“This week I had a stranger make a comment to me about my kids,” Deedra said. “It’s not uncommon. I get several each week.”

I know Deedra’s mom, Dennie, and this young “apple” doesn’t fall far from Mama Tree! They both are creative and love children. But I digress. Deedra has some simple, profound wisdom that can make a difference!

She continues …

You see, we decided to start homeschooling our three young boys (ages four, six and eight) this year. So they are with me every day. All day. All. The. Time. Don’t stop reading! This won’t be a homeschool vs. private school vs. public school debate.

I was at the store picking up a few things, when the boys asked if they could look at the greeting cards. After a morning of teaching, my to-do list, and my lack of sleep the night before due to lesson planning … everything in me wanted to say, “No!  Keep on moving!” But I try to be a cool mom. 

Soooooo, I told them “Yes!” What followed were a few minutes of grabbing cards, extremely loud fall-on-the-ground laughing, and a whole bunch of, “Hey!  You’ve got to read this!” yelled back and forth. 

There was a woman who came up behind me as I was half slumped on my shopping cart. After watching for a few moments, she said, “You must really sleep well at night.”

Yes. Yes, I usually do.

But there are nights I don’t.  And the reason isn’t a lack of tiredness. 

Have you ever had those nights where you get in bed and your mind seems to go and go, replaying all the things you could have done or should have done? Visions of how much better life would be if you could just be more organized, eat a better diet, yell less at your kids, exercise more or even dress better?

Comparison is not hard to accomplish. It’s easy to look at the pictures our friends post on Facebook and feel less than good enough. 

I see homeschool families with all their kids sitting at the table together (all at once—can you imagine?) They’re doing some amazing craft project that I could never put together. I see other mothers (who have more kids than I do) tanned and toned and dressed in a size four. I see posts of women who have traveled to other countries building wells, tending to the sick, and rescuing orphans!

It’s easy to feel less than enough. But you don’t have to stay there, in a place of “I wish I could be more like that.” 

You could do what my friend Katie does.  I had to #LOL when she tweeted, “When I feel down about myself … I just watch an episode of “Hoarders” and then I don’t think I’m that bad.” 

Funny, but there is a better way. I’d like to share with you some things that have helped me kick the habit of bad comparison.

1. Rejoice!

Yes!  You should rejoice because God has created you wonderfully!  In Psalm 139:14 it says,  “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made….”  When you feel less-than, stop and give thanks to God for how He made you. 

Just as Esther was created for “such a time as this,” you were also created for this exact moment.  God knew what your strengths and weaknesses would be, what your personality would be and the resources you would have at this time. He gave you the children, husband, job, neighbors and the family you have. God hasn’t missed one detail of your life, and you were created wonderfully for it. Rejoice that He will work it all for good!

2. Refocus! 

God doesn’t want you to focus on the business of others. I love this little tucked-away verse in John 21 where Peter ask Jesus about circumstances with one of the other disciples, and Jesus says to him in verse 22, “… what is that to you? You follow Me!” 

When you see a Facebook post that makes you feel envious or frustrated, or when you are with someone who seems to have it all together and makes you feel less-than, it’s time to change directions. When you feel like focusing on what others are doing, stop yourself and say, “What is that to me?” and refocus on what God has called YOU to do today.

3. Release!

Take a moment to release the negative pressure you put on yourself. Reflect on the fact that God is responsible for making things “perfect”…not you. Stop worrying that you have to do more or be more in order to make everything work out. Philippians 1:6 says,  “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  

Even in the midst of a struggle, you are promised that God will continue to work in you to work things out. You can trust Him! Keep recalling this verse to mind until you can release the outcome of your circumstances into the loving hands of Jesus.

Rejoice ... refocus ... and release! It might not be a lullaby, but it sure helps me sleep better at night!

Which of these three tips for upgrading sleep is the most challenging for you today? What choice can you make to change that?

Deedra Scherm lives in Dallas with her husband and three boys. Between homeschooling and writing, she's on constant watch out for "parents night out" so she and her hubby can get one of bookthose things called a date night. You can find her best selling book, The ABC Bible Verse Book,  and other books and DVDs at lemonvision.com or at  amazon.com

 

Tuesday
Jan142014

Adjusting to Change

Cherri Williamson is a missionary friend who, like most missionaries, has a life shaped by adjustments to change.

“Most of us don’t like change,” Cherri says. “I’ve had to adjust to many changes over the 37 years we served in Indonesia.”

Thirty seven years! When I went on two short-term mission trips, I got just a taste of what Cherri means by that word “adjustment,” so I know her insights are good for all of us ... anywhere!

Cherri continues …

Moving from modern conveniences to a thatched-roof house with dirt floors, a cement “squatty potty,” and no running water or electricity; and from conversing freely to speaking like a two-year-old as I studied two new languages—you’d think I’d now be a change pro! Wrong!

We recently moved to Singapore with its modern conveniences, malls, even Starbucks! But even this change hasn’t been easy.

The Lord reminds me of a few things when I go through these changes, and these reminders might help you too.

1. Don’t look back -“Forgetting what is behind and looking forward to what lies ahead” (Phil. 3:13). When looking at the past with rose-tinted glasses, present circumstances seem lacking. Focusing on the past makes acceptance of new situations difficult. Keep your eyes on the Lord today! 

2. But look back! Do consider how the Lord helped you through past difficulties.  “Remember how the Lord ... led you all the way” (Deuteronomy 8:2). Faithful yesterday, He will be just as faithful today. Remembering “the wonders He has done” (1 Chronicles 16:12) gives confidence He’ll help in every new change. 

3. Accept differences as just “differences,” not inferior or “dumb.” Having just moved to Singapore, I’m adjusting to its myriad regulations. I found myself grumbling, “This is so dumb!” But God is helping me see some benefits of these myriad regulations! (An example: I don’t have to worry about stepping on chewing gum. It’s illegal here!)

4. Ask God to change your perspective. Our first two years in the Indonesian jungle (with no stores or electricity), I complained I was “sick of eating nothing but rice, canned meat and leaves.” I’ll never forget my husband Barrie’s gentle rebuke: “Honey, maybe if you if you referred to them as ‘greens’ instead of ‘leaves,’ it would help you have a better attitude.” He was right.

5. Find your contentment and joy in Christ—not things, people or circumstances.  Missing malls, Mexican food and corporate worship at home have sometimes been sources of discontentment; but being away from family still is the hardest adjustment. I’m learning the “secret of being content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11).

When I mutter, “If only ... THEN I would be happy,” my contentment is not in Christ. 

I CAN learn contentment “...through Him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13) and I CAN choose true joy! “You will ... grant me the joy of Your presence” (Ps. 16:11b NLT). 

6. Focus on the Unchanging: Christ’s presence, His Word, and His love and grace. He’s the same “yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), He will never leave you (Hebrews 13:5b), His grace is always “sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9), and He will always be faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). 

7. Ask God to make you aware of over-looked blessings. God opened my eyes to see the blessing of living in a country free of religious strife, where I can go out alone in safety, and where great medical help is available. 

8. Delight in things He wants to teach you. In the jungle, God taught me how to can foods and make bread, yogurt, and tortillas, and create jam from unfamiliar tropical fruits. I’d never have learned those things in “civilization.” 

God allows changes into our lives to grow our faith, shake us from complacency and remind us how much we need Him.  

Paul said, “We were under great pressure ... but this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God” (2 Corinthians 1:8, 9). An old hymn says, “In every change, He faithful will remain.” Count on it!

Which of these eight “Adjustment Tips” would most help you in your current changing or difficult situation?

Cherri Williamson is a missionary with New Tribes Mission (NTM) and served in Indonesia with her husband Barrie in church planting and Bible translation for 37 years, now in Singapore. She is the mother of two—both missionaries in Indonesia—and the grandmother of seven "perfect" grandchildren.

Image in text adapted, graphic courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Thursday
Jan092014

Joyful January Resolutions

Debby Lennick loves to help women with homemaking skills and making their homes Christ-centered and honoring to God. This is a different kind of "upgrade" post, but I hope it will get us thinking about the New Year.

"Happy New Year! Is it time for New Year's resolutions? Well, yeah!" Debby says. 

Debby knows she knows how to make a celebration out of just about anything. I love it that she wants to help us upgrade our lives as we celebrate the New Year ... with two recipes!

Debby continues ...

With excitement we can embrace this New Year because of God’s words: “For I know the plans that I have for you … to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 NASV).

Many of us have like-minded resolutions for the new year, and we can support and encourage each other. Reaching goals most often means change - a change for the good. Focused commitment combined with teachability and a sense of humor are key ingredients for resolution success.

A big motivator is to intentionally think of why we have a specific goal. Two good reasons are more joy and peace in life. Meditate on God’s Word, recognizing “easy” is often not God’s way. Challenges are designed to draw us to Him. And remember ... you are one decision away from making a change!

And remember this: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). 

Just for fun, here’s a "resolutions recipe" to help kick-start your New Year.

There may be times in this New Year when you'll be busy and need a quick recipe. Here’s a simple baked chicken dish. Serve it with a tossed green salad for a lean and nutritious meal. 

Did you find Debby's first recipe inspiring? What inspires you for the New Year - a motivating "word," a resolutions list, time alone with God in prayer?

Debby Lennick taught Home Economics at Christian High in El Cajon, California, for more than 20 years. She earned a Home Economics degree from San Diego Christian College (formally Christian Heritage College) which emphasized “economy of the home” topics. Debby is committed to women’s ministry at Shadow Mountain Community Church and has a deep love for helping others make the home a Christ-centered place for everyday family life.

 

Tuesday
Jan072014

'Building' a Family

Erin Davis is a young mother with godly priorities. I always appreciate her wise perspective of the high calling of motherhood. In this post, she encourages moms to stretch their vision.

“Throughout the Bible we find stories of women who, like Eve, were not perfect but still made a difference in God’s kingdom,” Erin says.

There’s Sarah, Hannah, Jochebed, King Lemuel’s mother and many more – women who made their mark in the scriptures while they left a legacy for their children.

Erin continues . . .

In the book of Nehemiah we find a story with the power to redefine motherhood.

Nehemiah was a trusted official under the Persian King Artaxerxes. He was also an Israelite who asked the king to let him gather his people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The king agreed, so people gathered and the building began.

When the enemies of Israel pushed back against the project, pay close attention to how the Israelites defended themselves:

“Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t’ be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your bothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”…. (Nehemiah 4:13-15, NIV, 1984, emphasis mine).

Instead of using an army of men, Nehemiah urged the people to fight by family. Husbands and wives gathered their children around them and prepared to fight for what mattered.

Could they have been victorious any other way? I don’t think so. Because they were fighting for their families, they were brave enough to stare down their enemies. And because they were fighting with their families, they were strong enough to win.

Because the people of Israel fought with their families and for their families, they completed a mighty task that displayed God’s glory.

Their story reminds me of the battle we are in and the kingdom we are called to build.

The moms from Nehemiah’s days encourage us to ask,

“What if parenting isn’t just about raising good kids but about winning a war? What if you aren’t just building a family, but are building a kingdom that will endure?”

The builders of the wall join Eve and other biblical moms in pushing us to think beyond the daily chores of mothering. They remind us that so much more is at stake than what we see in the daily grind of our role.

Listen, moms!

  • You're not just raising kids; you're living your faith.
  • You're not just mothering; you are running a race before many witnesses.
  • You're not on an unclear path; you are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who endured more hardship than you ever will. 

And He endured so you and your children can join Him in heaven at God’s right hand. [See Hebrews 12:1-2.]

The Israelite families knew they weren’t just building a wall. Likewise, you’re not just building a family; you are building your part of the kingdom. Doing so has the power to strike fear in the hearts of the enemies of God and put His power and glory on full display.

It’s about LEGACY!

You’re having an impact on God’s kingdom. Keep building!

What are some ways your family works together to build walls of faith and unity?

Erin Davis is passionately committed to sharing God's Truth and is the author of many books, including Beyond Bath Time: Embracing Motherhood As a Sacred Role. When she’s not writing books, you can find Erin chasing down chickens and children on her small farm in the Midwest.

Note about photo in Text: This is not a rock wall in Jerusalem; it is a rock wall in Jericho, Israel. (Photographer unknown)

 

 

Thursday
Jan022014

Upgrade Your "DREAM" Goals

As I was thinking about the New Year, Kathy Carlton Willis inspired me with her “DREAM” acrostic. I want to share it with our Upgrade readers.

“Everyone has dreams God has planted in them,” Kathy said. “Whether they are big or small, they have vast importance in our lives. But to turn dreams into goals, we have to wake up the procrastinator.”

Kathy had me there! I am a part-time procrastinator. The apostle Paul spoke about goals (Philippians 3:13b-14) and the writer of Proverbs wrote about planning (Proverbs 21:5a), so I know God wants us to have goals.

Yet I had two goals that I was putting off planning for (procrastinating) until … when? It just seemed too overwhelming. But I’m glad I didn’t stop reading there.

Kathy continues …  

With just a little bit of planning, you can accomplish the goals God has for your life.

Set a realistic but challenging/inspiring goal. Make the goal big enough to challenge and excite you. Divide bigger goals into smaller steps so you aren’t overwhelmed.

Plan ahead. Once you’ve broken down your goal into pieces, keep a record of it on your computer or in a journal. Give yourself deadlines for each step. Otherwise, procrastination might get the best of you.

Brainstorm ideas. Wade through some silly ideas to mine the good nuggets.

Be passionate. Striving toward a goal without passion is like a fire which slowly runs out of fuel to burn. Get excited; this will only work if you love what you’re doing.

Revisit and evaluate your goals. Keep a record of your goals and make adjustments accordingly.

Consider new opportunities and options that come your way.

Ask God to show you what goals to set, and then get specific by asking Him to show you what you can do today to get one step, however small, closer to achieving your goals. Stay focused and believe in yourself even if others do not believe in you.

Set Your DREAM Goals:

D - Does it make a DIFFERENCE in your community? (Impact and Significance)

R - Can you REACH it? (Attainable and Realistic)

E - Does it ENERGIZE you? (Passion and Giftedness)

A - Can you ANALYZE it? (Track Results)

M - Does it fit your MISSION? (Purpose and Calling)

What are your DREAM Goals for this New Year? Which of Kathy’s tips might help you achieve them?

Kathy Carlton Willis shines for God, reflecting His light as a speaker at writer's conferences and women's retreats, and as an author - contributing to three books and writing hundreds of columns and articles online and in print publications. Her article today is an excerpt from Speaker to Speaker: The Essential Speaker’s Companion (Oaktara Publishing, to be released later in 2014). Kathy is also a publicist with Kathy Carlton Willis Communications. She and her husband/pastor,  Russ, live in Texas.

Image in Text: Courtesy of Grant Cochrane at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.