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Entries in Ellie Kay (14)


Create More Opportunities for Margin - Part 2

In Part 1 of the Self-Care UPGRADE, “Create More Opportunities for Margin,” Dawn Wilson, explained the importance of creating more “spacious opportunities” in our lives to counter the busyness and mindlessness that can lead to stress, over-commitment and exhaustion.

To repeat from Part 1: We won’t have wonderful, spacious opportunities unless we're purposeful in making room for them.

“Margin,” said Richard Swenson, M.D., “is the space between our load and our limits.” We want to intentionally fill that space wisely, even if it means “not filling” by allowing more space to grow.

In Part 1, we considered the need for more margin in our home, calendars and budgets. In Part 2, let's tackle four more areas: Health, People, Mind and God.

4. Create more space in regard to your HEALTH. For the Christian, this is important not only for ourselves, but as a testimony to others of the power of God working in our habits (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

How do we create margin for better health?

  • Leave more time at nightfall for quality sleep. Work toward a healthy nightly rhythm that leads to better and deeper rest.
  • Think: healthy eating! Stop stuffing your body with multiple snacks and processed foods. Give your stomach “room” to function efficiently. Intermittent fasting can be beneficial. So is mindful planning for a weekly caloric budget and sticking to it.
  • Carve out time to move your body with whatever exercise you find most enjoyable. Think in terms of freedom of movement and building core strength.
  • Practice deep breathing! Breathe in through your nose, hold that breath, and then exhale slowly through your mouth.

One of the strongest voices helping me create nutritional margin is Lysa TerKeurst in Made to Crave, especially her devotional based on the book. Also, Lean Body, Fat Wallet is a double-whammy for health and finances, writen by Ellie Kay and Danna Demetre. Danna is one of the founders of Ageless Woman Living.

5. Create more space for PEOPLE, especially for family and friends. Our office files can’t hug us, and the television won’t give us love. Creating margin for relationships is even far more than social media, although that can play a small part.

Time is limited, so aim for true connection. Quantity time AND quality time.

Shut things off and turn up the volume on face-to-face connections. These times together will feed our need for emotional growth, and they will help us understand how we can “spur on” family and friends “toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

We need one-on-one time to practice the "one anothers" of scripture.

Our busy lives leave us less than satisfied. God’s Word and people, it is said, are the only two things that last from earth into eternity; and that should give us a sense of what is truly important.

There are so many good books available on this topic. Just be sure their relationship counsel lines up with scripture truth. I learned a lot from Mary Kassian's Conversation Peace; Shaunti Feldhahn's book, The Kindness Challenge; and Gene Getz' book, Building Up One Another. And "Relationship specialists" Bill and Pam Farrel at Love-wise offer many, MANY books on building relationshps.

6. Create space for your MIND … time to think, ponder and meditate.

If we don’t want our brains to become mush, we need to feed them with truth and wisdom (James 1:5; Psalm 90:12). We need to renew our mind so we can know and do the will of God (Romans 12:2).

Spend time with a good book. The Bible, of course, will train our minds (2 Timothy 3:16); but biblically-based books or books of wise principles that do not contradict scriptural truth will also challenge us to think better. Or planning a social-mental “spacious opportunity” in a Bible or book study with a group of friends (Proverbs 13:20)

Think Biblically! (edited by John MacArthur) helped me think with a Christian worldview; and Lies Women Believe (updated/expanded edition) by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth helped me zero in on some foolish, unbiblical thinking. (Note: Lies Men Believe, written by Nancy's husband Robert, will come out in August 2018.)

7. And this is most important: create a greater margin of time for God.

  • We need space to pray and worship without distractions.
  • We need time for the Lord every day (Psalm 55:16-17) to feed our spirit, train our responses and calm our hearts.
  • We need to “Be still” and listen—to get to know our Father’s heart so we’ll know how to make wise choices (Psalm 46:10; Proverbs 2:6).
  • We need to live with eternity in mind, walk by faith, and aim to please the Lord (2 Corinthians 4:18; 5:6-10).

A life filled to the brim with a crowded or misguided schedule will never allow time for the Lord to fill us to overflowing with Himself.

By far, the book that helped me understand the need to create a daily time with the Lord was Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Wolgemuth) and Tim Grissom; but Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby also built that relationship.

Notice the word “create” in each of my seven points about margin.

Be creative. Be intentional.

How can you create more spacious opportunities? Ask the Lord what would be best eliminated or pared down in your life so you will have more room to breathe and grow.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices TodayLOL 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


Create More Opportunities for Margin - Part 1

More and more, people are talking about “margin.” Dawn Wilson tackles this topic in a Self-Care UPGRADE in a two-part post to encourage those who find themselves stressed and over-committed, exhausted and near burnout.

Marginless living is the story of millions of Americans today. That’s part of my story too. I desperately needed more margin.

In his book, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives (NavPress, 2014), Richard A. Swenson, a medical doctor, points out the lack of margin in American society in spite of all the “progress” we have made.

“The disease of marginless living is insidious, widespread and virulent,” Dr. Swenson said. “We live with unprecedented wealth and all it brings. We have leisure, entertainment, convenience and comfort…. Yet stress, frustration and oftentimes even despair unexpectedly accompany our unrivaled prosperity.”

His book is an excellent study of the reasons for marginless living, and he offers wisdom for every area of life. (I recommend it to stretch your thinking.)

But even before I read his book, I was thinking about the reasons for my own stress. Here’s what I discovered.

When some people think about margin, they envision the word “boundaries”—the need to not let others overrun the priorities in their lives.

I totally understand that. It’s important to have biblical priorities and values for our lives and families. We have to learn to say no to others’ expectations when they don’t understand, or when they either intentionally or unintentionally try to push past our boundaries.

But I think that’s only one side of margin.

My version of margin includes freedom. It focuses on space and freed-up time.

I like to describe margin as “spacious opportunities.”

In other words, yes, we need to establish firm boundaries so people will not take advantage of our kindness and desire to serve. That’s a necessary part of healthy relationships.

We want to live in a sacrificial way, but the Lord still may direct us to say “no” to some intrusive or unnecessary things so we can say “yes” to other things that fit our calling and biblical priorities (Colossians 4:1-2).

But we have to be sure we’re creating space for those “yeses.”

If we don’t, we’ll simply be piling good things onto other good things and causing over-commitment and stress.

We all need positive space to think, create, and breathe. But our lives are so busy, we won’t have wonderful, spacious opportunities unless we're purposeful in making room for them.

There are some things we can’t (and shouldn’t change)—the priority of a relationship with God and the priority of our key relationships (Matthew 6:33; Mark 12:30-31).

But beyond that, we need to see and embrace opportunities for margin throughout our lives. It’s a wonderfully positive approach.

There are at least SEVEN WAYS to create more opportunities for margin—for what really matters.

1. Create more empty space in your HOME. We don’t have to stuff every closet and fill every shelf. It’s OK to leave some empty space. Even healthy and freeing.

Part of the Titus 2:4-5 mandate for women, even those who have careers, is to work at home—to manage the home well. It doesn’t have to be a duty or drudgery. Make it fun. Create a freeing space to minister to people in your family and neighborhood.

Join me in creating that freedom! Evaluate your “stuff.” Go through one room per week with a big box or bag. What can you find to give away? Ask yourself:

  • How many of these do I have?” (Why do you need 12 pair of scissors—and they aren’t even crafting scissors? Learn to practice contentment: Hebrews 13:5a)
  • Why am I keeping this?” (An out-of-date college textbook. A 10-year-old jar of face cream, probably rancid.)
  • “Do I really need to have this object to keep a memory alive?” (A photo might suffice.)
  • “Is this a legacy item—and does my family want it?” (And usually, our millennial kids don’t.)
  • “Do I really need this?” or “Might someone else need this more than me? (Consider a homeless person, a struggling single mom, a low-paid teacher, etc.)

I have often used some of the home and office organizing techniques I've learned from "Organizing Pro" Marcia Ramsland in her book Simplify Your Life.

2. Create more space in your CALENDAR. Just as our homes can be cluttered with stuff we don’t need, sometimes our lives are cluttered with activity and our schedules need some paring down.

We need to plan “down time” as carefully—and with as much joyful anticipation and dedication—as work, event and activity times. Part of making “the best use of your time” (Ephesians 5:15-17) is understanding the Lord wants us to know when to stop working, to stop pushing… to just stop!

Plan breaks and times of refreshing on a regular basis: daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. God wants His loved ones to get “proper rest” (Psalm 127:2).

Again, Marcia Ramsland can help with her book, Simplify Your Time.

3. Create more space in your BUDGET. Rather than thinking, “How much do I have left to spend?” think, “How much can I save?” or “How much can I invest?” Thinking we have money to indulge our every whim is seldom wise.

Rather than letting covetousness rule, give money its proper place and think in terms of faithful and wise stewardship.

When we plan wisely, we will feel more secure (Ecclesiastes 7:12); but remember the true Source of your security. Even so, it’s still smart to create sufficient financial margin—sometimes called a “cushion of funds”—to carry you over in times of stress or crisis. Financial experts may not agree on the exact amount, but they all agree on the necessity!

For financial wisdom beyond the scriptures, I seek out people like "America's Family Financial Expert," Ellie Kay and The 60-Minute Money Workout. I also learned so much from Ron Blue and Jeremy White's Faith-based Family Finances, Dave Ramsey's The Total Money Makeover and Randy Alcorn's Managing God's Money.

How can you create more spacious opportunities in these three areas: Home, Calendar and Budget?

Part 2 of this post will appear on January 31st,  with four more areas needing margin.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices TodayLOL 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.


Upgrade Your Finances: Financial Freedom in 2018

Ellie Kay, better known as "America's Family Financial Expert," loves to teach people how to find financial freedom. In this Financial UPGRADE, she focuses on three steps that can help anyone find that freedom in the coming year, and she shares her "financial testimony" to make this personal and practical.

“Sacrificing for a short time helped us gain financial freedom in the long run," Ellie says.

I (Dawn) think financial freedom is a wonderful tool for growth and ministry. Why? Because, as Ellie Kay shows in her own life and teaches so powerfully, there is so much we can do for the Lord if we're not deeply in debt!

Ellie continues . . .

In Romans 13:8 it says, “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law.”

What does financial freedom mean to you?

When I think of the times I’ve felt truly free, it’s when I’m on a roller coaster, bungee jumping or on a zip line. These “adventures” are full of letting go, experiencing the moment and screaming until I’m hoarse!

Financial freedom is very similar, because it can be a roller coaster filled up ups, downs and unexpected turns. But it is also the freedom to let go of worry, live life in the moment and enjoy the adventure around the next bend.

Financial freedom doesn’t necessarily mean an early retirement, but it does mean you are financially healthy.

But that’s hard to do when living paycheck to paycheck or with excessive debt.

Conquering consumer debt can be as daunting as stepping into a roller coaster or stepping off the bungee platform . But it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience if you take a few easy steps to get started.

1. Assess Your Debt.

The first step toward financial freedom is to find out where you are in your journey and how far you need to go to reach your goal.

Start by ordering your credit report for free at annual credit report. Use this report to add all your consumer debt (for both spouses if married). Most consumers don't know how much debt they have, which is why this step is so important.

2. APR Reduction

This is where the miracle of compounding interest happens and it can either work for you or against you.

If you’ve been working on your credit score and still have high interest rates on your credit cards, then it may be time to call your credit card provider to ask them to reduce your APR. A lower APR can save hundreds of dollars a year. Just tell the customer service person you want to reduce your APR because your FICO has improved, you’ve been paying on time for many months and you could transfer the balance to a different card (outside of their company) if they can’t help you.

If you don’t get the answer you want, kindly ask to speak to a manager. Then repeat the process. You’d be surprised at how often this works.

3. Absolute Commitment

When my husband and I had 40K in consumer debt early in our marriage, we had to fully commit to getting out of debt. This helped us pay off that debt, on only one income, in 2 years.

This means all the money saved will go toward consumer debt including tax refunds, bonus checks, birthday dollars and items you sell. We even sold one of our cars, when we lived on base, and my husband rode his bike to work or car pooled for a year.

We realized that we couldn’t have debt and a lot of extras at the same time. Sacrificing for a short time helped us gain financial freedom in the long run.

What is one step you can take today to be financially free in 2018?

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of 15 books, veteran of 2800 media interviews and podcaster of The Money Millhouse. She is the founder of Heroes at Home, a non-profit organization that provides financial education to military members. She’s married to Bob and they have seven millennial children.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of stevepb at Pixabay.


Smart Women and Financial Choices

Known as "America's Family Financial Expert,"® Ellie Kay walks her own financial talk. She knows the power of following clear  financial principles. In this Financial UPGRADE, she suggests wise tips to help women become more money savvy.

Ellie asks, “Would you like to make smarter decisions when it comes to money matters? Think about the woman who ‘considers a field and buys it: with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard’ (Proverbs 31:16). She’s smart!”

I (Dawn) know the Bible has a wealth of wisdom regarding finances* and Ellie has some great tips to encourage the wisdom process too.

Ellie continues . . .

When I was a young bride, I was overwhelmed in learning how to manage a household. I didn’t even know how to cook and I remember asking my mom how to boil an egg.

She said, “Boil it until it floats.” I had no idea she was joking, and I boiled it for an hour until the water evaporated and the eggs exploded. They never floated.

Today, I have young millennial daughters and daughters-in-law who are learning to manage their own homes, and I developed guidelines that can help them a little more proactively than my mom’s advice helped me.

Here are my top ten tips for women to make better financial choices.

1. Avoid Emotional Spending.

Never shop online or in the store when you are depressed, sad or lonely because you are far more likely to engage in “shopping therapy” and overspend.

2. Show Love through Actions and Not Things.

If you have a love language of gift giving, or if you tend to show love to others by what you buy for them, then you may want to shift your point of view and save your budget in the process.

3. Volunteer Often.

Those people who have the best balance in their financial lives understand how fortunate they are by giving back to their communities.

4. Err On The Side of Generosity.

By following the principle of tithing 10% of your income, you invite God’s blessing upon your money matters and live a more abundant financial life.

If you are going to err, don’t let it be on the side of stinginess, but let it be on the side of generosity.

5. Ask Yourself, "Is This a Need or A Want?"

Most of us do not have unlimited financial resources and for every purchase we make, it’s wise to ask ourselves this question BEFORE we buy.

6. Play the Waiting Game.

In order to avoid impulse buying, when you see something on sale in the mall or online, wait 24 hours to purchase it. This helps you get beyond the impulse to see if it’s something you truly need.

7. Have A Money Buddy.

Accountability is a wonderful thing.

Every woman should have a person who can ask the hard questions about sticking to your budget, paying down consumer debt, or funding a retirement. In community, you are far more likely to keep your financial commitments towards good stewardship.

8. Become a Master Saver.

The Millionaire next door rarely pays full price on anything when they can save money. Read money savings blogs, download apps for coupon codes, and be prepared to compare prices on goods and services.

9. Become Comfortable with Negotiation.

Whether you are negotiating the price of a car or the bid on painting your house, you have to feel it’s the best deal for you.

Tell the other person, "I don’t feel comfortable with that price," and then be quiet. I’ve found that nine out of 10 times, I’ll get a counterbid that is something I feel more comfortable with; and if I don’t, then I feel the freedom to walk away.

10. Pray about Money Matters.

Recent PEW Research indicates that 80% of Americans admit to praying weekly or even daily. Even a financial expert like myself needs to pray to be make wise financial decisions, that people won’t be able to take financial advantage of me and that I’ll be able to find the best provision for my budget.

When in doubt, pray.

Which of these steps do you already practice and which ones can you implement today?

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of fifteen books including Lean Body, Fat Wallet (with Danna Demetre), and Heroes at Home. She is a Toastmaster Accredited Speaker as well as a popular international speaker and media veteran who has given over1,200 media interviews including appearances on ABC, CNBC, CNN and Fox News. As a popular columnist, she writes for six national magazines and has been a Subject Matter Expert for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post. Currently, Ellie provides financial education to military members through her “Heroes at Home Financial Event” sponsored for USAA. Ellie is married to LTC Bob Kay and they have seven children.

* Some Key Scriptures about finances: Matthew 6:24-25, 33; Philippians 4:11-13; Luke 12:15; Psalm 37:21; Mark 8:36; Proverbs 15:27; 22:7; 1 Timothy 6:6-10, 17-19; Philippians 4:19; Malachi 3:10; Acts 20:35; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Luxstorm at Pixabay.


Smart Ways to Be Generous

Ellie Kay, America's Family Financial Expert®, is both wise when it comes to finances and compassionate when it comes to generosity. She is the perfect person to share this special Christmas UPGRADE!

"Christmas is the season for giving to others in our family, community, country and world," Ellie says. "What are ways you give to others during the holidays?"

I (Dawn) like the emphasis on giving that stretches us out of our comfort zones and into the compassionate zone, so Ellie's post really speaks to me.

She continues . . .

In the timeless children’s book by Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree, the story begins, Once there was a tree ... and she loved a little boy."

In this story, the boy would daily come to the tree to eat her apples, swing from her branches, or slide down her trunk ... and the tree was happy.

But as the boy grew older he began to want more from the tree, and the tree kept giving and giving—until she gave her apples, her branches and her trunk in order to provide the boy with wealth, a home and a boat.

But in the end the tree was happy to give.

Jesus said, “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward” (Matthew 9:41).

I believe that every person can become a generous and savvy giver by looking for ways to reach out to their world and give more.

I also think this is something we can teach our kids and grandkids, too.

1. Donations to the Local Community    

You may be someone who is plugged into a local church that runs kids programs in the summers, provides food and clothing to orphanages, and sends money to victims of natural disasters.

Just as The Giving Tree happily contributed her apples to others, you could give a chance for people in your community to have employment opportunities.

For example, you may want to donate your outdated suits to DressForSuccess so that women who are struggling financially can have proper clothing to get a job interview.

Or, consider giving clothing to a consignment shop that benefits an organization you believe in helping.

Be sure to save tax receipts for all donations to any non-profit organization.

2. Don’t Fund Overhead or Fund Raising

The Giving Tree gave directly to meet the boy’s needs. You may want to do the same and probably do not want your donated dollars funding fat salaries, fancy overhead, or excessive fundraising expenses.

The Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance offers guidance to donors on making informed giving decisions through their charity evaluations, and the quarterly “Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide.”

3. Starting Your Own “Foundation”

If you are fortunate enough to have a large gain from a stock or mutual fund that you have held for over a year, consider using it to become what is essentially your own “foundation.” 

For example, if you own $5,000 worth of stock that you bought years ago for only $1,000, then you can donate the stock by setting up a Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund account. By doing this, you get an immediate $5,000 tax deduction and save having to pay taxes on the $4,000 gain.

In the years to come, as that $5,000 grows, you instruct the company that manages your “foundation” where to donate the proceeds.

Our family worked with military members for 20 years and established a Public Charity to help teach service members financial literacy. In 2016, we gave 15 presentations on ten bases across the country, giving away 3000 financial books and other resources. Heroes at Home 501(c)(3) started as an idea and became an amazing reality. In 2017, we will scale 25 events at 17 bases around the world.

4. Kid Philanthropists

It’s also important to teach our kids the value of philanthropy.

When our kids were growing up, they helped us gather and deliver food items for a local food pantry. They helped purchase modest toys and they dropped the gifts into the box at the “Toys for Tots” program.

Another option is to allow your children to manage a donation in a predetermined amount that you set aside for the purpose of teaching them to give. They get to research a variety of non-profit organizations and decide which one will receive their donation. Then donate the amount in your child’s name.

You get the tax benefit, your child gets the thank you note—you BOTH become Giving Trees.

Ten Priceless Gifts You Can Give for Free!

  • Fix broken fences by mending a quarrel.
  • Seek out friend you haven’t seen in a while or who has been forgotten.
  • Hug someone and whisper, “I love you so.”
  • Be patient with an angry person.
  • Express gratitude to someone in your world.
  • Make a child smile.
  • Find the time to keep a promise.
  • Make or bake something for someone else—anonymously.
  • Take a walk with a friend.
  • Smile.  Laugh a little.  Laugh a lot.

How will you give during this holiday season?

Ellie Kay is the best-selling author of fifteen books including Lean Body, Fat Wallet, and Heroes at Home. She is a Toastmaster Accredited Speaker as well as a popular international speaker and media veteran who has given over1,200 media interviews including appearances on ABC, CNBC, CNN and Fox News. As a popular columnist, she writes for six national magazines and has been a Subject Matter Expert for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post. Currently, Ellie provides financial education to military members through her “Heroes at Home Financial Event” sponsored for USAA. Ellie is married to LTC Bob Kay and they have seven children.