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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

Sally Ferguson

Liz Cowen Furman

Gail Goolsby

Sheila Gregoire

Kate Hagen

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



Sparkle for the Holidays

A couple of years ago, Jill Swanson helped me find my signature color and style, and as a busy woman, I love her book, Out the Door in 15 Minutes! I invited Jill to help us "upgrade" our holiday wardrobe style ... without breaking our budget.

"What a fun time of the year - Christmas programs, parties and presents!" Jill says. "So how are you wrapping yourself up this year?"

Wrapping YOURSELF up ... Hmmm... I never thought of it like that. Fun!

Jill continues ...

Stressed about getting dressed? Have no fear ... help is here! It’s as easy as “1 + 1” ... a practical and fun technique that will help you use what you buy throughout the year.

Here’s how it works:

Begin with one basic garment –  a simple dress, crisp white blouse, a solid color sweater or a black pair of slacks - then add one piece of “glitz.”

The glitz is something that can be blended throughout the year into the rest of your closet.

Here is a list of ideas to help jumpstart your holiday wardrobe:

  • Luxurious Lame’ - a gold, silver, bronze or copper scarf with earrings to match can accent a neutral sweater (ivory, beige, gray, black) and a sleek pair of slacks.
  • Ruffled white blouse – the more abundant the ruffles, the better! This holiday staple will become a “romantic go-to” for the rest of the year. Anchor it with a fitted bottom piece and a pair of “diamond” earrings.
  • Dark or black suit jacket – Separate it from its mate and introduce it to a new shimmering tank or cami and some dressy jeans and heels.
  • Metallic leathers – They remain all the rage this year. Add a purse and a pair of shoes or even a jacket to your usual business casual look and you’ll have holiday dazzle in a flash.
  • Color - Try a blaze of bright blue, gold or red in a sweater, scarf or hat. The jewel tones can be segued into the rest of your closet for 2014. If the idea of tying a scarf intimidates you – I’ve given examples of 3 simple ways on Youtube
  • Velvet - This forgiving fabric will play down areas you are self-conscious about and add an air of elegance to everyday pieces. Try it in a blazer, skirt or a jean-cut pair of pants. Use rhinestone baubles to complete the look.
  • Multiple jewels - Co-mingle a pearl necklace and one or two silver or gold chains and layer them abundantly on a solid dressy blouse. Or take a long pearl necklace, double it and fasten it together with an antique broach and wear it asymmetrical and voila - inexpensive and exquisite!

While these are fun ideas, making outer beauty is easier to come by, inner beauty is far more important during this stress-filled season. We need to take time to dress ourselves inwardly before starting our day by giving God time in the morning. Even Jesus did this (Mark 1:35).

Colossians 3:12 gives clear instructions for putting on an attractive attitude:  Therefore ... clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And in verse 14, it tells us the essential piece that completes the look and makes the outfit work: And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Go ahead, add some sparkle to your holiday look this season - from the inside and out!

Is there something in your closet you can adapt for holiday events? Are you wearing the "essential piece" Jill mentioned?

Jill Swanson is a Christian Image Consultant who works with individuals and speaks for groups/organizations on how to make the most of their God given beauty – in side and out. Her books Simply Beautiful and the newly released, Out the Door in 15 Minutes! are available at her website and on Amazon.



Who's on Your Holiday Guest List?

"As the day shorten and calendar pages are turned, thoughts of holiday celebrations begin to emerge," Pat Ennis says. "Amidst the planning I would like to pose a question: who will comprise your holiday guest list this year?"

I know exactly what Pat means. I remember the years we opened our home to college students and singles who didn't have a place to celebrate for Christmas. Have you ever had that joy? Pat has a knack for hospitality, and her thoughts on this topic can stretch our thinking and help us upgrade the way we bless others in our homes.

Pat continues ...

Before you create your guest list, consider these thoughts:

1. Holidays can be painful times for those without extended family in the immediate area.

It was October of my eighteenth year of life when my Dad stepped into eternity. As a college freshman I not only had to deal with my own grief, I also was faced with the responsibility of helping my mother adjust to a new lifestyle.

When Dad died, Mom not only lost her husband of thirty years, she also lost her circle of friends. Suddenly the married couples—my Dad was the first of their group to die—didn’t know what to do about Mother. So they did nothing. Her grieving process extended because of their withdrawal, even though she and Dad had enjoyed their fellowship for years. 

Our plight was magnified by the reality that we did not have extended family and I was an only child.  Frankly, the outlook for the holiday season appeared pretty dismal!

2. Consider expanding your "hospitality borders."

As the holidays approached, our neighbors, who embraced a different faith than my family, graciously invited us to share their Thanksgiving celebration with them. The sincere invitation, their effort to fold us into their family, and intentional conversation that focused on recounting the blessings of the year as well as looking forward to the next year turned a potentially miserable day into one of joy.

The focus on the Lord’s provision for us through the hospitality of our neighbors (Philippians 4:8-9, 19) soothed our grieving spirits.

3. Extending hospitality may stimulate others to follow your example.

There's a happy ending to my Mother’s loss of her circle of friends. A gracious southern hostess, she did not cease to extend hospitality because of the change in her marital status. In the five years she lived beyond Dad’s death, we frequently extended biblical hospitality.

Eventually our guest list included widows from the group that had earlier excluded my Mother. 

Though her arthritic condition precluded her engaging in much of the food preparation, she continued to help me hone the skills that were second nature to her. 

4. Stimulate your creativity during the holidays.

The loving hospitality extended to us on that first lonely Thanksgiving served as a catalyst for Mom and me to open our home throughout the year—especially during the holiday season!

Consider displaying biblical compassion by including some of the “others”—singles, widows and the grieving in your holiday celebrations. Who, knows, you might be entertaining an angel incognito (Hebrews 13:2)!

Here are some ideas to assist in your planning:

  • Collect and file simple, inexpensive recipes for desserts and meals.
  • Make a list of people who would be encouraged by your offer of hospitality, and purpose to invite your first guests soon!
  • Start simple. Spontaneously inviting someone home after Sunday evening church is a great beginning.
  • Pray that our loving heavenly Father will give you joy in demonstrating hospitality to others.
  • Remember that memories require time and energy to create.
  • Purpose to nurture a heart for biblical hospitality that sincerely communicates "come back soon."

Who is on your holiday guest list? Are you willing to expand that list this year?

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




Holiday Time: Keeping It Together

Like most of us, Diane Dean is a busy woman, and she understands how the holiday season adds extra stress. But she offers helpful tips for “keeping it together” as we move toward these celebrations.

“You can be organized for the holidays,” Diane says. “No kidding!”

Organized? What if a woman doesn’t feel all that organized? What if organization is foreign to her skills and gifting? Is there hope for her?

Diane continues …

Trying to get rid of never ending list of tasks? Christmas time can be fun and exciting, especially if there are children or grandchildren in your life. However, it can also be a stressful time dealing with family issues, finding time to decorate, the added expense of gifts, and a busy schedule. 

Let me share a number of things that help me stay organized and keep my sanity.

1. Start your day with Scripture
. It gives a positive mind set and peace knowing that things in this life are temporal. 

2. Pray and ask the Lord to guide your day because it is bound to change.

3. Look at the needs of others and how you can add joy to someone's life. It takes the focus on any issues you may be facing. Things can always be worse. The more you look at the lives of others, the more you will appreciate the life you have.  

4. The night before you go to bed, make a list for tomorrow’s tasks. Categorize it into:

Have to do. (List things in order of importance and, if driving, map your route so you don't back track.)

Good to do, if possible.

Can wait for another time.

A little tip: It has been proven if your bed is made and bedroom is picked up before you start your day, you will feel more organized.  

5. Plan your menu for the week. Make a shopping list to make sure you have the ingredients you need so you don't have to run to the store at the last minute.  

6. Make a list of extra groceries you need for a party or holiday dinner. When you grocery shop, add a few extras each time instead of buying everything at once. It keeps from having a large grocery bill in one trip. It seems more manageable. Using coupons makes it even better.

7. Cook some ground beef and poultry and freeze it. That gives a jump start on casseroles.  

8. Double a recipe and freeze half. It will give you a meal for a busy day.

9. Set your table when you empty the dishwasher. It looks nice and saves a step at dinner.

10. Start a load of wash at bed time. You can throw it in the dryer while you get dressed in the morning. Fold it when the dryer stops and you will feel like you already accomplished something.

11. While on the phone, dust, clean a drawer, or do some mending. I like to iron when I have phone calls to catch up on. I use my cell phone and a blue tooth so I am hands-free. It is amazing how quickly my ironing seems to get done!

12. When you bring your Christmas gifts home, wrap them right away. Keep gift wrap handy in an under the bed container and you can pull it out and wrap your gifts on the bed. (The kids aren't as likely to snoop if the gifts are wrapped!)

13. Find time for your family. Plan it into your day. If you are alone, call someone you love to see how they are.  

These are just a few ideas that will hopefully make your holidays less stressful.

Are you ready? Which of these "keeping it together" tips are you already implementing? Is there something new you can try to UPGRADE the Holiday season?

Diane Dean is a ministry wife, mother, grandmother, Bible teacher, seminar and retreat speaker, and designer for Diane Dean Interiors, LLC. Her blog, Diane's Traditions, is a potpourri of information from her personal experience and she welcomes questions. 


The Treasure of Your Child.

My friend Pam Farrel’s stories about her family have encouraged moms everywhere; and they have encouraged me. This one, a special Upgrade "UPLIFT," reminds us that every child is valuable—a precious creation of God. 

“Ever feel at the end of yourself as a mom?” Pam writes. “Yeah, me too!”

(Oh, I can’t even begin to tell you how many “You’re on my last nerve!” days I had as a young mom. I wish I’d had Pam’s resources back then.)

Pam continues …

One day, our then 8-year-old son Zach came into the house from playing outside with his brothers, Brock and Caleb. His brothers, were in tears. Zach was beating on them again! (Zach had a medical issue and a learning disability and wasn’t very verbal so when frustrated he used his fists.)

 “Zach,” I bent down and whispered intently into his face, “You cannot do this. Hitting is inappropriate. Go upstairs and I will come up to talk to you.”

Zach stomped up the stairs, knocking his brothers over in the process. He slammed the door to his room and threw a baseball at it, knocking a hole through the door as I walked in. I had bounded up the stairs just behind him.

I prayed all the way up the stairs because I had made a commitment to never discipline in anger. But I wasn’t angry. I was scared - scared for my son.

I walked into the room, bent down so I was eye to eye with him and said firmly but calmly, “Zachery, this is inappropriate. I know you are angry. I know you are upset. But you cannot use your fists to show it. You have got to learn to use words to express your feelings.”

(I was thinking in my mind, If you act like this no one will ever marry you and you are going to live with me forever! Use words!)

Zach exploded and yelled back at me, hands on his hips: “You want words? You want words? Then I hate myself and I hate my life and if God made me, I hate Him too!”

I was stood in shocked silence. I simply replied in a whisper, “I’ll be right back.”

I ran to my room in tears. I threw myself across my bed and desperately prayed to God, “Lord, I am a pastor’s wife, Director of Women’s Ministry, I write all these Christian books and I am raising a little atheist upstairs—I need HELP! I am so afraid for Zachery. I don’t know what to do. All I do know is that Psalm 139 says he is “fearfully and wonderfully made” [Psalm 139:13-14].

“I believe that. I believe there is a gift, a treasure, that You place in each and every one of us. But God, Zach is so angry he cannot see the treasure. Help me help him see that treasure!”

Then the idea came. I ran to the office and pulled out a piece of poster board. I drew a treasure map on it and a treasure chest at one end, glued a quarter or two onto the map, and marched myself back upstairs where Zach stood, just as I had left him.

“Zach, here’s the deal. You and I are going to go on an adventure. See, God has placed a treasure, a special unique­ness inside every person. There is a treasure in you, Zach!” (I said by faith!) “You and I and God are going on a treasure hunt to discover that hidden treasure.

“So here’s the plan. I am going to ask you every day to name one thing positive about your day and one thing you think you did well. Then, once a week, you and I are going on a breakfast date and we’re going to talk about what we see God is showing you about the treasure inside you. We’re going to do this for at least six weeks and at the end of that time, I am going to invest money in the treasure God has shown is in you. Zach, you are a special guy. We all love you, and God loves you most of all. Let’s ask God to help us discover your treasure.”

“Zach, what’s one thing pos­itive that happened today? Let’s write it down.”

Zach had a chronic Eyore-like attitude so he said, “It’s hopeless, it’s never going to work.”

I spoke for him, “Honey, you are alive.” (I was holding back my own frustration because I was sarcastically thinking, Yep, you are alive—because I haven’t killed you from sheer frustration, kid! But God miraculously replaced my frustration with compassion.)

I wrapped my arms around that sullen, stiff little body and whispered, “You are God’s treasure!”

Then a miracle happened. Zach started bringing me the treasure map to excitedly list off all the great things he was seeing in himself. At the end of those six weeks, we discovered that relationships were the key to unlocking Zach’s heart, so for years we budgeted funds to send a friend with him to concerts, camps, workshops, etc. so they could grow with God and make good decisions together.

Fast forward, now about 18 years later, and that same son graduated with a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science (with honors) and was hired the day he graduated as a Strength Coach for a Division 1 university. On June 22, 2012, Zach did get married to a beautiful, godly woman who values the treasure of Zach! Miracles happen when you look for the treasure!

Do you see the treasure in your child? Your grandchild? Ask the Lord to give you insight.

Pam Farrel and her husband Bill are international speakers, and authors of more than 38 books including the best-selling 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make. (This is an excerpt from that book.) Many other tools the Farrels used with their children to help them reach their potential are also included the book. Additional free relationship and parenting articles, the Treasure of Your Child Treasure Map, and other books and resources can be found at


Four Habits to Transform Your Body and Bank Account

Transform your body and bank account? How are they related?

My friends Danna Demetre and Ellie Kay explain in their book, Lean Body, Fat Wallet, how to transform (UPGRADE!) these two key areas of life.

Danna shares in this Upgrade post: “Losing weight and keeping it off. Getting fit and staying that way. Paying off consumer debt and remaining debt free. Isn’t that what we really desire – permanent, positive change?”

Although there is only one direct scripture reference in the text, the authors' biblical worldview about these practical matters is clear and helpful. I took an advance copy of Lean Body, Fat Wallet on a cruise in October, and followed their advice. To my delight, it helped me make better choices at all the cruise buffets and souvenir stores!

Danna continues …

Spending more than we have creates debt (and stress), and eating more calories than we burn results in lots of new fat storage. Yet this knowledge is rarely enough to motivate most people to change. Simple “self-discipline” is not so simple. Experts say that it we have limits on our capacity to exert self-control too long or too often. That’s the bad news.

My co-author, Ellie Kay—America’s Family Financial Expert—and I discovered that the same things that drive us to eat too much or fall into a sedentary lifestyle also propel us to spend too much and save too little; and the practices that help us get and stay healthy are similar to those which help us manage our money more responsibly.

In Lean Body, Fat Wallet, we share four habits that can transform your body and your bank account. They are:

  • The You Are What You Think Habit
  • The 3D Habit
  • The In and Out Habit
  • The Sustainable Lifestyle Habit

Habits silently influence our emotions and behaviors as if we are running on automatic pilot. The first and most important habit of all is the “You are What You Think” habit. It is foundational to the other three—my focus for this article.

You can begin to change your bad habits by changing how you think. When the new healthy habits of the mind are coupled with effective daily practices, amazing results can be experienced.

With the advances in brain science, we now understand that in about 21 days, the neuron pathways within the brain begin to physiologically change. If an old dominant message is ignored, the neuron pathway associated with that thought begins to atrophy. If a new message is repeated day after day, it will stimulate that neuron pathway to enlarge. Amazing.

For unhealthy thoughts to lose their power, you must squelch those thoughts and replace them with new healthier ones day after day for an extended period of time.

Over twenty years ago, I became fascinated with a story I read about Shad Helmstetter, Ph.D. In his personal research about high performance athletes, he discovered some Eastern European Olympians had full-time self-talk trainers that helped them develop new messages to drive them toward optimal levels of performance.

Helmstetter decided to try this method out on his battle of the bulge. He wrote detailed scripts related to healthy eating and living and had them professionally recorded in a studio. He began listening to them every morning while he shaved. Over a 10-week period, he lost 38 pounds—and never gained them back. More amazingly, his wife who was putting her makeup on at the same bathroom counter lost 25 pounds, eavesdropping on his self-talk messages!

When I heard this story, some of the dramatic changes I’d realized in my own life—both my ability to overcome panic attacks as well as the lasting victory I’d won over emotional eating and bulimia—started to make sense. I had been practicing healthy self-talk for many years without even knowing what to label it. In my case, I replaced old destructive messages such as, “I can’t stop eating. I’m losing my mind. I’ll never lose weight,” to more constructive ones such as, “I am in control of my food choices. I can eat small amounts and be very satisfied. My mind is strong and I am not afraid.”

After one year, the panic attacks were gone. Over the next few years, I gained total victory over not only bulimic behavior, but emotional eating altogether.

You’ve probably heard and even used the cliché, “Practice makes perfect.” A more accurate observation is:  Practice makes permanent. Whatever we practice continually will become ingrained in our neuron pathways.

Many people don’t know how to implement healthy thinking in a practical, time-efficient way. The four simple steps below are a great place to start to build a new, strong and positive habit.

1. Identify the lies you believe. (Follow the trail of persistent negative emotions.)

2. Take your negative thoughts captive. (Stop dwelling on them.)

3. Construct new healthy self-talk to counteract the lies. (It is well worth the effort.)

4. Repeat your healthy self-talk until new, dominant thoughts form—day after day after day.

What new habit do YOU want to build today?

Note: Have you considered what habit change would most transform your body or bank account? Leave a comment here, or on the Upgrade Facebook page to be entered into a DRAWING for Danna and Ellie’s new book, Lean Body, Fat Wallet (an advance reader’s copy). Drawing on November 18.

Danna Demetre is a former registered nurse and fitness professional with over thirty years experience coaching others toward healthier lifestyles. She’s a popular conference speaker, former health radio host and the author of several books to include Scale Down. You can learn more about her latest book, Lean Body, Fat Wallet at: