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Tuesday
Jul232013

Do Your Clothes Complement Your Life Message?

I asked Pat Ennis, the Director of Homemaking Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, to share from her expertise. Here are some thoughts on upgrading our appearance to the glory of God.

“What is your Life Message,” Ennis asks. “Or have you never really considered the need to develop a statement that guides your decision-making process?”

She continues…   

My Life Message is a guide that controls my decisions. As a Christian, my Life Message began when I was adopted into God’s eternal family (spiritual birth) and continues until I draw my final breath.

It even affects the clothes I choose to wear. Let me explain.

1. The central theme of one’s Life Message is to focus on passions that will have eternal value.

Perhaps the questions that I use to evaluate my life will assist you in selecting clothing.

  • With what issues do I want my name associated?
  • When my Lord calls me home or He comes for me, what evidence of your faith will others find when they sort through my belongings?
  • Will they be drawn to the One who loved and redeemed me, or will they only be impressed by my accomplishments, accolades, and possessions?
  • When I meet my Lord, will He say of me, “Pat, you chose the good part, which will not be taken away from you?” (Luke 10:42)

 2. Modesty is the foundational criterion for selecting clothing to complement your Life Message.

 Spiritually, modesty is an issue of the heart. 

In the New Testament, modesty goes beyond the adornment of clothing to include inner beauty and attitude. Modesty calls for avoidance of anything that is impure or short of biblical standards. If your thoughts are focused on the attributes found in Philippians 4:8-9, then likely your external appearance will be modest.

Your sense of modesty will be regulated most of all by your commitment to Christ. Beauty and fashion are not condemned by the Bible, but they must be expressed through the lens of Scripture.

3. The number of garments in your wardrobe is important. Too many garments can reflect that more attention is being focused on the outer appearance rather than complementing your character (1 Corinthians 12:23; 1 Timothy 2:9). Carefully selecting garments to align with your season of life and its accompanying responsibility allows you to practice the principle of modesty.

4. Quality workmanship is another key criterion. A carefully selected garment constructed with quality workmanship will serve the wearer through numerous seasons. By choosing garments with quality workmanship, the wardrobe will not require constant replenishing. This is especially true for the maturing woman.

5. Use your “Personal Shopper.” Upscale department stores frequently provide a personal shopper service to assist their clients in selecting clothing.

Christian women have the most reliable personal shopper available, the timeless Word of God. As its truth is applied to their clothing choices, they will find that what they are wearing will consistently support their Life Message (Proverbs 31:18, 21, 25; 1 Timothy 2:9-10; 1 Peter 3:3-4).

What is your Life Message?

Pat Ennis is a distinguished professor of Homemaking and Director of Homemaking Programs at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas. She is a speaker and author, and her most recent release is The Christian Homemaker’s Handbook with Dorothy Patterson (Crossway, March 2013).

Saturday
Jul202013

How to Be an Encourager

Nancy Thompson, one of my mentors and a woman I called my “Counselor Mom,” went to the Father’s house recently. She was an incredible encourager.

It’s no surprise her family found a template for being an encourager in her Bible. Her son, Tom Thompson, read Nancy’s “Encourager Concepts” at her memorial service, and I asked him if I could share them as a special UPGRADE tribute to a woman who always let Jesus upgrade her attitudes.

The concepts come from I Thessalonians 5:8-11.

1. An encourager dwells on the internal rather than externals – faith, love and hope.  Attitude is more important than looks.

"But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation" (v. 8)

Nancy focused on reaching the heart and was big on examining attitudes, knowing they can change our direction. She knew where to go to get attitudes “back on track,” and spoke about “putting off and putting on” (Ephesians 4:22-24).  The Word is “so timely, so practical,” she once told me, “no matter the changes in the culture.”

2.  An encourager dwells on grace over works (acceptance over accomplishments).

"For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him" (vv. 9-10).

Nancy was a woman of grace, though she stood firm on biblical truth. She came to understand that fine line between following hard after Christ—living the abundant life—and descending into legalism. She knew performance must always take the back seat to a sincere relationship with God.

3.  An encourager dwells on unconditional over conditional.

As far as I ever saw, Nancy loved people unconditionally, and from that love flowed all the encouragement they needed. 

4.  An encourager dwells on tomorrow over yesterday – hope over hurt, potential over problems.

"Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing" (v. 11).

Potential – that was a huge word in Nancy’s vocabulary. She seemed to see with the Father’s eyes, believing by faith that we were capable of more because of God’s Spirit within us. Nancy counseled and taught women because she knew “there is always hope” in God.

If you wonder how it was that Nancy was such a powerful, effective encourager, I think the answer is in Psalm 73:26, which was shared at her memorial.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

No matter her circumstances, Nancy could love, give, serve, counsel and encourage because God strengthened her heart and poured Himself into her life. She was a willing vessel, and her encouragement touched people all around the world in missions, within the churches where she served so faithfully and in the lives of her family and friends.

Make it Personal:  With Nancy’s “Encourager Concepts” in mind, how can you become a better encourager?

 

Nancy Thompson was born July 4, 1923 in Brooklyn, Maine, and passed into eternity on July 7, 2013, at age 90.

She will be greatly missed by those who knew and loved her, and I have no doubt many will greet her in the Father’s house someday with grateful hearts.

Thursday
Jul182013

My 5 'Rs' for a Long Marriage

A sweet young girl approached me at the book table after I spoke at a women’s event. “The woman who introduced you said you’ve been married almost 40 years,” she said. “What’s your secret?”

I’ve been asked that a lot lately, and I’ve been hesitant to answer (maybe because I have so many of my friends’ great marriage books in my library). I thought, “What more can I say?”

But I'm beginning to realize how few marriages last for four decades or more, so I decided I’ll share my own UPGRADE Your Marriage encouragement.

I think a good long marriage boils down to five "Rs."

(1) Remembrance

My husband and I remember our vows. There were no “if” statements on our wedding day, no back door escape clauses. We made commitments to each other until death. Those vows meant something. They still do.

(2) Responsibility

We took our Ephesians 5 responsibilities seriously. It started with verse 2 to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…,” and continued through the verses about sexual purity and other godly behaviors as “children of light”—we learned how to walk in wisdom and submit to one another in love  (vv. 3-21).

Out of that understanding and growth, God gave us the strength and insight to embrace our “marriage responsibilities” (vv. 22-33). My husband strives to love me as Christ loved the church, and I seek to submit to him as to the Lord. Love and humility are to reign, not selfishness.

(3) Respect

One of my guiding principles is Ephesians 5:33: “let the wife see that she respects her husband.” Respect is a man’s core emotional need. If I don’t fill up his “respect cup,” who will? That is how he feels loved. So I let that respect begin at home, and I smile at him and praise him in public – letting the world know I’m “proud of my man.”

(4) Response

As his wife, I also want to be a faithful responder. I want to respond to his masculinity with biblical femininity and to his authority in our marriage. I respond to his advice and counsel, and support his goals and dreams.

I’m careful to be modest in public, but drop that modesty in private, responding to his need for physical intimacy. I respond to his human frailties with understanding, grace and forgiveness; and I give him a safe place to share his thoughts. I respond with gratitude and contentment for his provision (while recognizing that God is my ultimate Provider).

(5) Renewal – No marriage is easy. We need constant renewal—God’s wisdom, power and enabling. God’s Spirit helps us check our hearts and motives so we won’t put each other on pedestals or trample each other’s hearts. The closer each of us gets to God, the closer we are drawn to each other, so we try to seek Him and His plans first.

My friends who write marriage books offer many practical tips that complement each of these points, but when I keep these 5 Rs in mind, the rest seems to take care of itself.

Every marriage can improve. Which of these “R” words would UPGRADE Your Marriage today?

Dawn Wilson is the founder of Heart Choices Ministries and creator of UpgradeWithDawn.com and also blogs at LOLwithGod.com. Dawn's ministry encourages, edifies and energizes women with the truth of scripture so they can better enjoy life, bless others and honor God. She lives in San Diego with her husband Bob and a rascally maltipoo named Roscoe.

Tuesday
Jul162013

Countering Five Lies about Motherhood

I met Erin Davis at a True Woman conference where she encouraged young women to live for God; but she recently wrote a book about positive, biblical motherhood.

“Why does pinpointing lies about motherhood matter?” Davis asks. “Until we know how we’ve been deceived, we can’t weed out the old lies and replace them with God’s truth.”

Davis continues (an excerpt from Beyond Bath Time) …

Lie #1: Motherhood Is a Roadblock to My Happiness.

Most moms are guilty of thinking that the responsibilities, sacrifices and demands of motherhood are a giant roadblock on the path to their daily happiness. This lie can be traced, in part, to the feministic messages that promised equality in the workplace and at home would make all women happy. Clearly, happiness does not hinge on one life choice, whether it is work, marriage or children.

God’s truth shows us we can choose contentment in all circumstances, and that the frustrations of motherhood are actually blessings if they move us to press on in the power of Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Lie #2: Motherhood Is Defined by the Decision Whether or Not to Work.

Because you are God’s workmanship, He has prepared good works for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). The frustrations of parenting might surprise you, but they don’t surprise Him. He knows mothering is tough, and He thinks you can do it anyway.

We have the choice to see our circumstances as an opportunity to do the important work that God has for us or to dwell on the lie that He could use us more efficiently if we were living a different life. The most important question is, “Will I allow God to use the circumstances of my life and my family to accomplish great things for His kingdom?”

Lie #3: The Ultimate goal of Motherhood is Perfectionism.

The lie that perfection is the goal of mothering—or is even possible—has put many of us in bondage. A part of each of us wants to forget who we are at our core—specifically that we are prone to sin and desperately need God’s grace and help in our hearts and lives (James 3:2; Romans 7:19-20).

We can find great hope when we confront this lie with God’s truth (Philippians 3:12). You cannot mother perfectly. But that should never have been the goal. You can mother with purpose because Christ has promised that where you are weak He is strong.

Lie #4: If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Remodel the Kitchen

Ultimately, this lie has led some mothers to feel justified in walking away from motherhood, choosing to leave their children to chase their dreams. You may not be dreaming of leaving your family, but do you check out in other ways? Do you spend hours online or disengaged or angry in your attempt to cope with motherhood?

God never gives us a permission slip to do whatever it takes to feel good. God’s Word says to do what is right, to rejoice always, to pray continually, to give thanks regardless, to hold on to what is good, to run away from evil, to grab the promise that God is faithful and hold on for dear life (1 Thessalonians 5:15-24).

Lie #5: Motherhood Will Make You Holy.

Being a mom, even a great mom, won’t earn you preferred parking in heaven or automatically deepen your relationship with Christ.  Only God can make you holy (Galatians 2:20-23).

Likewise, no one owes you anything because you’ve chosen to mother. A sense of entitlement can mess with your head and heart. Committing your mothering to the Lord and seeking His purposes as you mother creates a panoramic view of what you’re doing that can move you beyond your sacrifices and help you cope.

Recognize the lies you’ve believed as a mom. Then do the hard work necessary to focus on God’s vision for motherhood.

What lie do you think trips moms up the most?

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.

 

Thursday
Jul112013

Finances: Thriving or Surviving?

Janice Thompson, founder and president of Strategic Financial Solutions, Inc., says she wants women to thrive when it comes to finances, not simply to survive. In the months ahead, Janice will share some encouraging UPGRADE Your Finances insights. But for now, she simply wants to get us thinking on the right track. She asks:

“Does the topic of money trigger within you feelings of excitement, anticipation and peace of mind, or does it bring forth feelings of fear, dread or even panic?”

Janice continues:

Women often face unique challenges when planning for their financial future. Many women who have never entered the workforce or have interrupted their careers to care for children or aging parents may ultimately earn less income than men in the same age group. As a result, they find their retirement accounts, pensions and Social Security benefits are often lower.

When you add the fact that women generally live longer than men and have to stretch those resources over a longer span of time, it can become a frightening challenge to navigate through the financial maze of life.

I take great comfort in the fact that God is neither surprised nor worried by any economic uncertainties in our world.

It reminds me of when we bought our first home and decided to move our 30-gallon fish aquarium across town without draining the tank. We carefully set the fish tank on the front seat of the moving truck. As cautiously as my husband tried to drive, it did not prevent the water in the tank from sloshing violently and splashing over the sides of the tank.

What was interesting to note, however, was that while the surface of the tank was in mass upheaval, the fish in the tank had all dropped to a water level in the lower part of the tank where they appeared to be suspended in space.

They weren't in a panic; they did not appear dazed or confused. They knew what to do and calmly rode out the turbulence, unfazed by the wild ride.

Good financial principles can help you ride out highs and lows of economic growth or turmoil.

The solution to not just surviving but thriving in any economic environment is understanding and applying God’s timeless truth. As I have often heard financial author and friend Ron Blue say, “The Bible is always relevant, always, right, and will never change.”

And that is the greatest financial principle. Begin with what God says about finances. Always turn to the scriptures, because God’s wisdom principles for managing all aspects of your financial life work!

Have you ever studied what the Bible says about finances? If so, how has God helped you in the area of personal stewardship?

Janice Thompson is the founder and president of Strategic Financial Solutions, Inc., a comprehensive wealth management firm focused on biblically-based financial solutions. Janice is a Certified Financial Planner®, Certified Life Stewardship Advisor™, and serves on the Board of Directors of Kingdom Advisors.

As a pastor's wife, Jan also brings a unique professional perspective to those in vocational ministry. She and her husband, Tom, live in San Diego, California, have two grown children, and look forward to becoming grandparents this fall.