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Kathi Macias

Paula Marsteller

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Dianne Matthews

Cindi McMenamin

Elaine W. Miller

Kathy Collard Miller

Lynn Mosher

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Entries in Choices (15)

Thursday
Mar292018

My Eternal Hope

Jeanne Cesena is a woman who speaks authentically of the power of hope. In this UPLIFT story, she shares a testimony of her personal struggle, and how the Lord brought women into her life to encourage her as she trusted the eternal God of hope.

"Today is part of my eternity that began the day I was saved," Jeanne says.

I (Dawn) wish more people understood that concept, and chose to live each day in view of eternity.

What a difference it would make if we understood God's hope is for today and forever.

Jeanne continues . . .

What are your life goals? What are your eternal goals? What are you going to do today for God?

The great evangelist Billy Graham said:

"For the believer there is hope beyond the grave, because Jesus Christ has opened the door to heaven for us by His death and resurrection.”

The verse that came to my mind when I heard Billy Graham had passed away and entered heaven was: “The master said, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant'" (Matthew 25:23 NLT).

Walking a daily life that is glorifying to God is no easy task. As we walk through our daily lives, we each make choices about what we are going to think, say and do.

Our daily learning steps are for us to work out our sanctification to be more like Him so others can see more of God in us, and see more of God through us. 

In our trials we have a choice to turn toward God. When we see others going through trials, we have a choice to get involved and show God's love to others. Or not!

A life trial: My story of Hope in My Despair

ALONE.

Where does a woman turn when her husband abandons her the night she come home from the hospital with her newborn baby girl?

Not knowing what is going to happen next can be very scary.

My husband brought me home from the hospital and initiated a disagreement, an argument, to get out of coming into the house to help with the baby. Things were not going well with him that night; he was doing drugs and drinking.

My life was not turning out the way I had planned it.

I carried my newborn into our house as my husband drove away. It was a very cold house.  The heating radiators had blown and it was below zero outside.

All I could do was climb into my waterbed with my beautiful baby girl. The water was heated—the only heat in the house. I held her close as she lay in my arms, and I kept reciting Romans 15:13 in my heart until I fell sleep:

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."

Community: Eternal Hope in Action

The next day, the women from my church and my mom came over to my house. They brought things for the nursery, for my kitchen and for my dining room, and they helped me with the radiators.

That was hope in action.

These women were listening to that still, small voice of God inspiring them to take action.

They had to listen, think about what God wanted to do, talk to each other, gather the resources, get organized and then actually DO SOMETHING!

As these women were listening to God, I was putting all my hope in Him. The women became the answer to my prayers and a great encouragement to me.

We need to be open and receptive to the conversation God wants to have with each of us—to listen, learn, change and take action!

When I meet with individuals and couples, I often discuss some common communication techniques that are helpful. Here are two:

1. 1-800-God

This concept seems to have the most impact. Just like when your phone rings, no matter what emotions you are experiencing, you can choose to say a happy "hello."

You also have a change of focus. You are now listening to that voice coming from your phone. Then you have to listen, and think about what that person is saying before you speak or do something.

We can apply this concept to our everyday life.

Stop, connect with God, listen, then speak and do.

2. Represent Unconditional Love

When people look at us, they are looking at a representation of how we lived, what we have learned and our life experiences.

So we need to:

  • know how much God loves us,
  • be continuously filled with His love, and
  • seek to share this love by application of God's words through our thoughts, words and actions.

We can start by asking ourselves:

Today, what am I supposed to learn from God through this? And what should I do?

Jeanne Cesena is a strong woman, her strength built through many trials and a growing reliance on the Lord she loves. Enduring threats, abuse, abandonment and psychological struggles, she has come to see the Lord as her hope and healing. Jeanne ministers with her husband with Blended Step Families at Rock Church San Diego and is also a wedding planner and event/conference coordinator for churches and businesses. She is married, has three children—including a "bonus baby" at age 40—and has a powerful message to women about God's redeeming power.

 Graphic adapted, courtesy of Skimpton007 at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jan092018

Purify Your Heart: It's Good for You!

Kathy Collard Miller is a "heart sister." She cares deeply about our hearts—the choices we make. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she asks us to examine our hearts so we can live for God's glory.

"God placed within you a desire for pure motives," Kathy says. "He knows purity is good for you and gives glory to Him. Purity may seem impossible but God will provide the way."

I (Dawn) like that two-pronged approach to purity: "good for you and gives glory to (God)." Pursuing purity is a win-win proposition!

Kathy continues . . .

Have you ever had a sense of being motivated by true love? By wanting the best for someone? Those desires are pure motives and God wants to purify your heart because it’s best for you.

When we have muddy motives, we are like James 1:6 describes: “driven and tossed by the wind.”

But the more we release wrong motives, the happier we will be: loving, content and joyful.

God loves you so much He wants to set you free from selfishness and neediness.

Unfortunately, we are so used to acting a certain way, we don’t even realize there could be underlying selfish reasons.

Here are three questions to examine your motives, asking God to reveal your heart.

1. What do I hope to gain?

Lily grew up in a family with three sisters, and the competition to be heard was fierce. She rarely felt like her opinion was heard or important.

While in college, one teacher exclaimed, “You have a way with words.” That statement seemed to affirm her value and birthed a selfish strength to control situations and relationships with talking.

Unfortunately, her many words only drove friends away because she talked about herself almost non-stop. Plus, she really thought she was bringing glory to God by sharing all the wonderful things he was doing in her life.

Lily began asking herself, "What do I hope to gain?"

The Holy Spirit revealed her demand to be heard and affirmed. Although difficult, she began recognizing more and more God’s value for her thoughts and opinions, even if people couldn’t receive them. It made a difference.

2. What do I hope to avoid?

Mae told me, “When I was in middle school, my parents were always sleeping in on weekends because of their partying. If my brothers and I made too much noise, our parents came out and cursed at us.

"The most hurtful was when my mom yelled, ‘You’ll never amount to anything unless you learn to shut up.’ I learned to control my every move—and my brothers’. Even now, too much noise makes me uncomfortable, because I vowed to be quiet as a mouse so I wouldn’t get yelled at.

“Now, when my two sons start rough-housing, I get panicky. I yell at them to be quiet. Isn’t that ironic? I yell so they will "be quiet.”

In time, Mae allowed the Holy Spirit to help her relax more and more by seeing she didn’t need to fear someone would yell at her. And even if they did, it didn’t mean she would “never amount to anything.”

3. How do I feel threatened?

When Charlotte was a little girl, she rode with her grandmother late one evening. She has a vague memory of being in the back seat of a big Plymouth where she could barely see over the front seat’s high back.

“It must have been around the 1950s when I was seven or eight," Charlotte said. "The car was stopped at the intersection, and my grandmother suddenly asked me, ‘Is there a divided highway here?’

I had no idea what a divided highway was, but I’d learned I always had to answer a question. That was respecting my elders. So, I guessed and said, ‘No.’

Wrong answer. My grandmother drove forward and drove right into the curb of a divided highway. I still don’t know why she asked me or why she couldn’t see it, but I immediately thought, ‘I’m so stupid. I should have known the right answer.’

“Even today I have a hard time saying, ‘I don’t know.’ My intelligence always feels threatened. As a result, I jump to conclusions to give any answer and I don’t ask God first.”

After Charlotte recognized the self-imposed wound of declaring herself stupid, she repented of her motive to protect herself. Now she can say, “I don’t know.” She’s also more willing to seek God and give an answer based on what He says rather than what she thinks another person wants or needs to hear.

Try this challenge: For one or two days, ask God to reveal the motives of your heart: WHY you want to choose something.

You can be honest knowing God loves you, regardless, and is passionate about purifying your heart for your good.

Kathy Collard Miller is the author of over 50 books, her most recent Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory (Elk Lake Publishing). She loves to speak at events and has spoken in over 30 US states and 8 foreign countries. Visit her: www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of suju at Pixabay.

Thursday
Dec282017

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.

Thursday
Jun292017

5 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Victories

Victories don't just happen. In this Victory UPGRADE, Dawn shares five ways to set yourself up for some fresh victories!

When I met Joni Eareckson Tada, I was overwhelmed with the sense that this woman is not a victim, in spite of her quadriplegia. She is a victor! Likewise, Nick Vujicic, a man without limbs, has the mindset and makes the choices that set him apart as a victor in Christ.

I can't tell you the times I've nearly wept, realizing how petty my struggles are compared to theirs. But the same truths that have enabled these victors to rise above their trials are available to me.

As Nick says, "If you can't get a miracle, become one."

I've always loved that exciting moment when runners "set up" in their lanes at the starting block to run a race. To be a victor, we need to intentionally set ourselves up for the victories we so desire.

Here are the five ways I'm learning to set myself up for fresh victories.

1. Set Your SPIRIT

The first thing to acknowledge is our utter incapability to fix ourselves.

Without Christ, we are lost and struggling sinners. But in Christ, the possibilities for change are endless! The Father is making believers like His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit!

To pursue victory, we must first set our spirit on the Spirit.

Knowing we are "crucified with Christ" and that now Christ lives in us, we determine to "live by faith in the Son of God." And how do we do that? We learn to "walk in the Spirit"—to keep in step with Him—so we will not gratify our fleshly desires. We "sow" to the Spirit if we want to cultivate a life of victory over sin.

We lose many battles because we forget our struggle is not a simple flesh-and-blood skirmish. It's a tough, spiritual war. We struggle against powerful forces of evil, and we must go to battle with spiritual, God-supplied weapons.

2. Set Your MIND

Paul told the Colossians to set their minds on "things that are above, not on things that are on earth."

A focus on eternity can help us make better decisions and live a more victorious life.

Sitting in a revival conference many years ago, the evangelist's words stirred my heart: "There are only two things you can take with you to heaven," he said. "Only two things pass from this world into eternity: the Word of God and human souls."

Those words greatly impacted my perspective and priorities. When life is boiled down to those two things, it's remarkable how some choices are simplified and others eliminated.

Christian victors have an eternal perspective.

David Ring, who has cerebral palsy, explains it this way: "I'm still in the oven. God's still in the kitchen, and God's still cooking on me. And when God is finished cooking on me, God is going to pull me out of the oven, and God's going to say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'"

David is an example of a believer whose perspective is being transformed by the "renewing" of his mind. Just as we are to walk in the Spirit, we're also to set our minds on the things of the Spirit.

A person's mindset colors responses to life's circumstances.

While we may legitimately be victims of others and need to learn new ways to respond to our pain, in many cases, our victimization comes from within. We may be labeling ourselves as victims as an excuse not to change, or to receive pity from others.

Our focus makes a huge difference. For instance,

  • Victims focus on losses, while victors realize the "gain" possible in tough circumstances.
  • Victims see people conspiring against them; but victors realize we are all sinners and we're likely to wound each other as we rub shoulders--so they learn to forgive and give grace.
  • Victims wear themselves out trying to achieve elusive approval and contentment. Victors have learned to live for an audience of One.

So set your mind on heaven and the things of the Spirit, and you'll escape a lot of "victimhood."

3. Set Your AFFECTIONS

It's not only the mind that needs setting. While charging his son Solomon to build the temple, King David told the leaders of Israel, "Now set your mind and heart to seek the LORD your God" (1 Chronicles 22:19a).

David, who had a heart for God, took time in the fields as a shepherd boy to develop his heart relationship with God; and God used these experiences to develop David's character and leadership skills. Though he made foolish choices in his later life, he always deeply honored and loved the Lord.

Jesus encouraged His disciples to set their affections when He said: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart...." It's a choice.

4. Set Your BODY

Along with setting our mind, Paul, in Rom. 12:1, appeals to believers to "present" their bodies to the Lord as "a living sacrifice." He also speaks of yielding our bodies as tools of righteousness. That's an intentional decision—to set our bodies before the Lord and allow Him to use us.

Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to honor God with our bodies, and bring Him glory with our actions in the body.

5. Set Your GOALS

When we have given God our spirit, mind, affections and body, we are ready to set some goals.

The Bible gives us a balanced view of goal-setting. We're to make plans, but to plan with humility and seeking God's wisdom and will.

When making any goals, be sure your priorities are biblical. Don't worry; seek and trust the Lord

We certainly don't honor God with laziness. He expects us to use His wisdom and be diligent so we be can be successful. That doesn't mean we can be presumptuous either! James says it's better to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

Set your goals, but know the Lord is sovereign and He may change your plans.

We live in a fallen world. We will not be perfect until heaven. But we can't make excuses and coast spiritually.

Intentional, biblical choices will encourage more and more victories!

So, are you all "set" for victories? Which of these "sets" needs a little tweaking today?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Morguefile.

Tuesday
Jun202017

Avoid Drama by Choosing Your Friends Wisely

Cindi McMenamin would love to see women display more and more strength as they embrace life-changing truth. In this Friendship UPGRADE, she explains how we can have less drama and more soul-strength by choosing friends carefully.

She asks, "Do you find there’s much drama in your life? If so, it may have to do with your choice of friends."  

I (Dawn) know this is true. Today I have different "levels" of friendships—intimate, ministry-based, casual, and sad to say, "guarded." Friends are truly a blessing, but we still need to pray carefully about the people we invite into our hearts.

Cindi continues . . .

Christian women often get the idea that they must be friends with everyone. Yet the Bible tells us,

“The righteous choose their friends carefully” (Proverbs 12:26, NIV).

Sometimes you and I don’t actually choose our friends—they just find us and before we know it, we’re hanging out with someone who is either helpful or a hindrance. But if you and I want to dial down the drama in our lives, it would be wise to take inventory of our friendships.

As I was writing my book, Drama Free, I included a list of the five types of friends you and I need in our lives. As you read through this list (which is not in any particular order), you might want to take mental note of the kinds of friends you currently HAVE to get an idea of how balanced you are.

You might also use this list as a guide to praying about the friendships you might STILL need.

1. The Fun Friend

Let’s admit it. We all need someone who is fun to be with, who makes us laugh, who encourages us to set the work aside, have some fun, live a little.

You and I can’t spend every waking moment with this friend because if we did, we’d never get anything done. But if you have a friend who can balance the fun with responsibility and maturity, and encourage you to let go of work now and then and not take yourself so seriously, you have found a treasure.

Who encourages you to not take yourself so seriously?

2. The Firm Friend

I’m not talking about the woman who is constantly working out and has considerably less body fat than the rest of us. Although you and I need her too (we’ll get to her later), we need a friend who will firmly tell us what we need to hear, not just what we want to hear.

While your fun friend may encourage you to laugh it off or live for the moment, your firm friend will often remind you of what’s best for you, even if it isn’t fun or even comfortable. She does this because of her love for you and her ability to see beyond the moment to what really matters.

And if she’s able to be firm with a generous dose of grace and love, hold onto her. She is a rare gift.

Who tells you what you need to hear instead of just what you want to hear?

3. The forward-moving friend

You’ve seen her. You probably even admire her (or maybe you can’t stand her because she has it all together!).

She gets excited about New Year’s resolutions and seeks out people to join her in them each January. She talks about what she’s reading, what she’s learning in her Bible study, or the latest class she’s taking to explore something new.

Do you have someone to challenge you to be more healthy, read more books, think more deeply, hone your skills?

We all need to keep moving forward personally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Who challenges you to move beyond where you are right now? 

4. The Faithful Friend

Every woman needs a friend who will be there through thick and thin. Through the dark days, through the sick days, through the days you are having difficulty and just need someone to understand.

Not only is the faithful friend always there, but she’s loyal—meaning she would never talk behind your back or re-evaluate the friendship if she thinks she’s giving more than you are.

A faithful friend doesn’t keep track of how many times she has called you vs. how many times you take the initiative to call her.

She will pick up with you wherever the two of you left off.

The opposite of the faithful friend is the gossip or critic. Proverbs 16:28 says “a whisperer separates close friends.” Your faithful friend is the one who will never be whispering to others about you.

Who can you always depend on, regardless of season or schedule?

5. The “Faith-filled” Friend

Do you tend to be a worrier? Do you stress out when a situation seems out of control? If you hang around others who do the same, you will fuel each other’s fire of fear and doubt.

That’s why every woman needs a faith-filled friend who doesn’t worry or talk about the “what ifs,” but trusts in the Lord and helps fill up others with her faith.

When your concerns cross the line into worry, doubt, and fear, that’s when you need your faith-filled friend to remind you Who is ultimately in control. 

If you have at least one friend in each category above (or all the categories are covered by the few friends you have), you are rich beyond measure.

And if there’s a friend on that list that you don’t yet have, you know what to look for—and the kind of friend to be as well.

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author who helps women find strength for the soul. She is the author of fifteen books, including her newest, Drama Free: Finding Peace When Emotions Overwhelm You, upon which this post is based.  For more on her ministry, discounts on her books, or free resources to strengthen your walk with God, your marriage, or your parenting, see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.                        

All Graphics adapted, courtesy of Pixabay, except for the Faith-filled friend graphic, courtesy of Lightstock.