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Ellie Kay

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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

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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Choices (14)


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:

Graphic adapted, courtesy of suju at Pixabay.


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.


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."


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 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.


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:                        

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


How to Conquer Your Conundrum (Confusing Problem)

What do you do when faced with a "conundrum"—a confusing or difficult problem or challenge. Dawn Wilson suggests 10 steps to conquer your conundrum in this Life Choices UPGRADE.

We all have conundrums. They can be challenging, bothersome, scary—and all of these things at the same time! What do you do when you are perplexed and just don't know how to move forward?

Here are 10 steps that can help you conquer your conundrum.

1. Prepare

Invest time in a quiet place with your Bible and other resources—even a laptop with the Internet for research, if you don't think you'll get distracted. Just as God told His people, "in quietness and confidence" is your strength" (Isaiah 30:15b), we will find strength when we pause to reflect and prepare.

Just like anything worth pursuing, preparation will help with processing your thoughts and focusing on fresh goals.

2. Pray

ASK the Lord for His wisdom (James 1:5). But remember prayer is not just you talking to the Father.

Be willing to say, "Speak Lord. I'm listening!" Better yet, "Whatever you tell me to do, Lord, I will obey." That's where the blessing comes in (Luke 11:28; James 1:25b).

3. Anticipate

Trust that the Lord WILL speak to your heart and clarify direction (Proverbs 3:5-7). Maybe He will use His Word. Maybe the Holy Spirit will remind you of a truth you already know. Anticipate His voice and "marching instructions."

You may find a word from the Lord in a solid, biblical book, or as you listen to a sermon or message. You may even hear the Lord speaking through a hymn book.

Once, when I was struggling with direction, I flipped through a hymn book and ended up on the old song "Trust and Obey. It was like the Lord said to me, "You don't need any new information; you haven't obeyed what I already told you!" I took care of that and God gave me fresh insight.

The point is, anticipate God's direction and obey it, rather than being "wise in your own eyes" (v. 7).

4. Think

Take time to brainstorm, if there are several options available to you and you're not sure which direction to move. Weigh the facts. Think. Do your best to DISCERN what the Lord might be saying (1 John 4:1; Philippians 1:9-10; Hebrews 4:12; 5:14; John 7:24; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 2:14).

Some people even make a "pros" and "cons" list. But be careful with that. Once I had a long list of "cons," but the Lord confirmed I should move ahead. It made no sense at the time, but it was clear later the Lord had a plan I couldn't see.

5. Study

I included this one because I know human nature!

Just in case you treated #4 lightly, stop now and go a little deeper. Actually research the very best options in light of scripture. See if they align with what God has said, because He will not lead contrary to His Word.

As you study, be sure you are walking in the Spirit, because the Spirit of God "searches all things, even the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10 NIV).

6. Consider

Imagine possible outcomes. Count the cost for each one and weigh them carefully. (A biblical example: Luke 14:28).

Consider whether you are ready to move ahead and pay the necessary price. That price might not just be financial. There might be a cost emotionally, spirituallly, or to your family.

7. Learn

Seek out and listen to wise counselors. There is usually safety in a "multitude of counselors" (Proverbs 11:14: 15:22). Be sure you have a teachable spirit. Pride has hindered many wise decisions! (Proverbs 9:9; 13:18; 1 Peter 5:5).

And this would be a good time for more prayer: "Holy Spirit, teach me. Guide me in Your truth" (Psalm 25:4-5).

8. Challenge 

This is where it might feel "impossible" or confusing.

  • We may need to challenge our fears and perceived limitations (Psalm 56:3-4; Isaiah 41:10).
  • We may need to confront some lies and bolster our mind and heart with God's truth (John 8:44b; Ephesians 6:11).
  • We may be suffering from "analysis paralysis" at this point and need an encouraging, godly friend to help us see reality or seek God's perspective. Reach out and ask for help.

9. Act

There are usually two courses of action at this point.

We'll either take the best possible action with discernment; or we'll decide to trust and wait a little longer—with God's guidance. Both can be wise actions if we're following the Lord's direction (Psalm 32:8) and believing He will not withhold anything from us that will enable us to walk close to Him and "uprightly" (Psalm 84:11b).

We don't want to lag behind if the Lord is nudging us to move forward with courage; but we don't want to rush ahead—rash or foolish—for the sake of just making a decision either.

10. Rest 

We may not ever have complete peace; we are very human.

It's good to know we can trust the Lord for course corrections. And even in our missteps we can recognize God's grace. He will transform our sins and foolish mistakes for His purposes (Romans 8:28).

So after you follow all these steps and any others the Lord may give you, simply rest in Him. HOW?

  • Cast your cares on Him and release all striving.
  • Submit to His will.
  • Relax in His love.
  • Embrace Hope.

You may feel confused, but remember: Your "conundrum" has not taken God by surprise.

Which of these 10 steps will help you the most today as you ask the Lord for help with your most pressing and confusing question or problem?

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 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 Workbrite1 at Morguefile.