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Lina AbuJamra

Sue Badeau

Dianne Barker

Twila Belk

Gail Bones

Harriet Bouchillon

Mary Carver

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Lisa Copen

Erin Davis

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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Transformation (5)


What's Up with Sheep?

Becky Harling is funny and insightful, and always shares fresh insights for timeless truths. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she writes about sheep and their shepherd. But don't miss this fresh take on a common Christian theme.

"Throughout the scriptures, we are compared to sheep," Becky said. "Have you ever wondered why? I mean, what’s up with sheep? Right?"

I (Dawn) used to think, "Oh, how sweet. God describes His children as adorable little lambs." But there is much more to that picture, as Becky describes here.

Becky continues . . .

I did a little research and discovered some random facts about them that help me understand why God used sheep to describe us so often in scripture.

1. Did you know that sheep are fearful and easily panicked?

Who knew? Can you relate?

In our humanness, most of us are fearful. In fact, that is the number one concern I hear from women and men as I travel the world.

If panicked, we do stupid things, and you know what? So do sheep.

An entire bunch of sheep is easily prodded into a stampede. They have a mob mentality.

But here’s the thing, when sheep know the shepherd’s voice, His voice calms their fears and settles their panic.

This is why Jesus said, “I am the Good shepherd” (John 10:11). He also said His sheep "follow Him because they know His voice” (John 10:4).

Friend, if you want to calm your fears, get to know His voice.

2. Did you know that sheep get jealous easily and push for dominance?

Sound familiar? Maybe this hits too close to home, but it’s so easy for us to become envious of others, isn’t it?

This is the cry behind “That’s not fair!”

Our human tendency is to want life to be fair. If our friend has a beautiful home, we want one too. If our co-worker gets a raise, we want an increase as well.

Here’s the thing: according to the parable of the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), our Christian walk was never meant to be “fair.” If it was fair, we would all deserve hell, right? Praise God that isn’t the case!!

One of the most convicting stories of Scripture is when Jesus sits on the beach with His disciples after His resurrection. After He re-commissions Peter, He tells Peter how he will die.

Peter looks at his friend John and wonders if his death will be easier—he blurts out to Jesus, “What about him?”

Jesus replies, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21:15-22).

Ouch! I love this story because it reminds me that I must never sink to comparing my life to another.

In Jesus’ kingdom, life may not seem fair, but it is good.

Our quest for fairness will rob us of the abundant life Jesus promised His sheep (John 10:10b).

3. Did you know that sheep are creatures of habits and they are resistant to change?

Many of us are creatures of habit as well. When God calls us to shift our thinking or embrace change, we panic or pout.

As our Good Shepherd, Jesus knows if we are going to live life to the fullest we must keep being transformed.

The truth is we can’t be transformed without change.

Friend, understanding our similarities to sheep can help us focus on Jesus as our Good Shepherd.

He’s the One who laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16).  

Which of these random facts about sheep best describes you today? How can you better relate to or trust in your Shepherd?

Becky Harling. Authentic. Passionate. Funny. Insightful. Becky is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and other venues. She is the author of Who Do You Say That I Am?, Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom from Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge and The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents. Becky is married to Steve Harling and has four adult kids and five grandkids. Visit her website and blog!

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.


A Remodeled Life

Julie Gillies encourages women to know and believe God's Word, and share the stories of how God changes their lives. In this Uplift UPGRADE, she says we all need do-overs, and the good thing is, God is in the transforming, remodeling business!

If you’ve ever lived through a major remodeling project,” Julie says, “you probably have a serious appreciation for the hard work involved.

Oh, don't get me (Dawn) started. While landscaping our front yard in the hot sun last month, my husband sweat buckets! Remodeling anything—a yard, a house, and especially a life—is MAJOR! But the results are worth the effort.

Julie continues . . .

The way I see it, anyone can move into a brand-new house. Zero sweat equity. Instant pretty.

But remodeling takes a willing investor with a keen eye for potential—someone prepared to put a lot of hard work into a far-from-perfect building.

Done right, the results are a gorgeous old home with character, yet filled with all the new stuff you wouldn’t want to live without. The before and after photos are remarkable, and no one who visits your house can believe that it ever looked like that before.

It's truly a labor of love.

My husband, Keith, and I were crazy enough to take on such an endeavor back when we were newly married, young, and willing to invest some serious elbow grease. We had purchased a tiny two-bedroom, one-bathroom, stinky, old, sorry excuse for a house, mostly because it only cost us $55,000.

Its flat, gravel-topped roof needed replacing, the jalousie windows had to go, the scary carpet reeked to high heaven, and the hot water heater needed to be moved out of the kitchen. Add in a garage, new electrical wiring, and paint—lots of paint—and it would be habitable.

Did I mention I was pregnant when we began?

We ended up knocking down walls and adding some extra rooms. It was almost a total do-over. For seven months, we stressed, sweated, and toiled, working far too hard and sleeping far too little.

Then we watched in amazement and great satisfaction as our smelly, rinky-dink place was slowly shaped into something beautiful.

God does this very thing with us.

The Lord deeply values us, His daughters, and sees the potential that others (and often we ourselves) cannot.

He deems us worthy of His investment. His Holy Spirit pinpoints areas in our hearts and lives that need loving restoration, and He gently coaxes us to believe, surrender, and cooperate with Him.

Some of us have sagging foundations. Some of us are a slapdash paint job on rotting boards. Some of us have broken windows where thieves can crawl in.

All of us need a complete do-over.

Like the hot water heater standing awkwardly in the middle of my kitchen, we often recognize when things are out of place. We know when parts of us are broken, and yet we aren’t really sure how to change. We are powerless to make changes apart from Christ.

As the psalmist puts it, Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted” (Psalm 127:1).

Unless we partner with God by surrendering to the work He is doing, cooperating with His promptings and discipline, and doing our part by saturating our hearts in His Word and spending time with Him in meaningful prayer, our house will remain in the same sagging, sorry shape.

He’s willing. Are we?

Are we willing to deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Him through the intimate intricacies of deep inner heart work? Will we submit ourselves, hearts wide open, to the One who is able to renew and restore?

Because that is God’s heart for us. He knows the things that have stripped us of our hope, our trust and our dignity. And He is well able to replace all the enemy has stolen from us (Joel 2:25).

Jesus is willing to beautifully restore the years spent languishing in hurt, the broken areas we cover and attempt to hold together on our own, and the dreams we think are irretrievably dead.

When we allow God to have His way by surrendering to His process, reading His Word and truly believing it, and investing in some serious prayer time, we will live an overcoming life—a life that is not held back by issues that once plagued us. Our lives will become testimonies to those around us.

The more we allow Jesus to do in us, the more His glory is revealed. And that is His ultimate goal: a world full of regular people whose hearts and lives have been utterly transformed and radiate His unmistakable image.

Though it can be a long, arduous process, Jesus, with His keen eye, restores us to better than new. He makes us whole. We wind up beautiful, yet functional, and filled with His character.

When we share our amazing before and after stories, no one can believe that we ever lived like that before because our hearts are all sparkly and fresh and new.

It's truly a labor of love.

What area of your life do you need to surrender to the Lord so He can “remodel” you afresh?

Julie K. Gillies is the author of From Hot Mess to Blessed: Hope to Propel Your Soul and the Promises that Change Everything and the devotional, Prayers for a Woman’s Soul. Healed from a traumatic childhood, Julie’s message helps women pray, know, and believe God’s Word. Julie is the joyful wife of Keith, mom of two soldiers and one civilian, and Grammy of four. Find FREE resources and connect with Julie at .

Graphic adapted, courtesty of Pixabay.


How to Turn 'Tough Things' into Treasure

Lisa Copen has lived for nearly 21 years with degenerative rheumatoid arthritis. Out of her struggle, she created an entire ministry to help people cope with chronic illness. I wanted her to encourage us in a Life UPGRADE.

“Living with illness,” Lisa says, “is like sitting on a pottery wheel as a soft lump of clay,” Lisa says.                             

I (Dawn) think Lisa’s insights about illness can be applied to all of our lives, no matter our circumstances. Whatever our "tough thing" in life, God can transform it into treasure on His potter's wheel; He delights in redeeming us and making us "new" (see Jeremiah 18:3-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:5).

Lisa continues…

“It doesn't matter how long we sit on the pottery wheel or what shape we are, as long as the hands of illness keep touching our life, we will be reshaped into something new.”

Here are the top things I have learned through 21 years of illness:

1. Do it – whatever your “it” is – even when you don’t feel well.
There will be a million times it will be tempting to cancel. Don’t. Learn to push through.

The memories of the times I said “yes” and did something despite pain are the joys I treasure.

2. Utilize tools to live as fully as possible.
Whatever your limitations are there is likely a tool that can help. Don't use the tools to compare who you once were with who you are now.

Be grateful someone came before you and was determined to not let their limitations stand in the way, making it easier for you.

3. Get out of the house.
We all need a change of scenery. Seeing the same dirty dishes and dingy walls can quickly send you into depression. Walk outside and sit on the patio. Go to the local coffee house and check your email. Go to a movie, even if it’s alone.

Will it cure everything? No, but it will put you back into the world and make your bed look even more appealing at the end of the day.

4. Practice communication.
No matter how wonderful you think your relationships are, there is room for improvement. Facing day after day of pain can make any relationship tense, and people make be reluctant to talk to you about your attitude or how you constantly speak of your symptoms.

We can easily blame our circumstances for our temper, attitude, and outlook and expect people around us to just accept it and cater to our needs and moods. This is a perfect storm brewing. Ask close friends how you can improve your friendship. Make sure your marriage is safe from underlying resentments that are buried that can one day shatter the relationship.

5. Practice taking care of yourself.
The more you do it, the easier it will become.

Pride, shame, and not wanting to be a burden by asking people to accommodate our needs gets in the way of our well-being – both physically and emotionally. As you accept yourself for who you are, others will do the same.

6. Determine the purpose of your life and what you will rely on.
Obviously this is a big one! But what is going to hold you together when you have little support of friends, your body is falling apart, and all the feel-good-tips no longer work? For me, it is my faith. I have great faith in God and I believe He not only has a purpose for my life, but I have seen how He has used my disease in many ways.

This has given me the strength to hold on when there is no reason to hang on. It gets me up out of bed each day, and without it I would quickly wilt on my own strength. You are going to need a foundation of strength. Start seeking now.

7. Consider what you want your legacy to be.
What kind of person do you want to be, and what do you hope people will recall about you someday? Were you one who was always sighing and complaining about how no one understood your circumstances? Or did you show grace and character that taught those around you how one can be faithful through the fires?

Rather than overcoming your circumstance, make it part of your character.

My illness is intertwined with every part of who I am. Yet, life is good. I must choose to make it that way each day.

The words "chronic illness" don't bother me. I embraced them long ago, because I don't see them as a curse, but rather as the largest chisel in my life that will determine who I am.

Some days, it isn't so pretty. I am hopeful, however, that at the end of this life my legacy will be, "She fought to live each day with so much joy... and encouraged others to do the same."

How can these suggestions help you develop the tough things in your life into the treasure it is meant to be?

Lisa Copen began Rest Ministries to encourage those who are chronically ill through daily devotionals, small groups called HopeKeepers, and other support. She is the author of a variety of books including Beyond Casseroles: 505 Ways to Encourage a Chronically Ill Friend. She has lived with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia for twenty years and resides in San Diego with her husband and son.

Graphic in Text, adapted, Image courtesy of dan at


Water What You Want to Live

Some time ago, Dawn Wilson walked behind her shed to retrieve some old flowerpots for new plants. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she shares what she saw and learned.

Imagine my surprise to find a tiny red pepper growing from a "dead" plant. I didn't realize a bit of water from our sprinkler was just barely reaching the flowerpot. It was just enough moisture to give life.

I've seen something like this before: a plant shooting up in the midst of dry, cracking soil; a flower growing in the cracks of pavement. In all these cases, it only takes a wee bit of moisture to spur the growth.

When I saw the little red pepper hanging there, looking like a little heart, I smiled. It was like the Lord was saying to me, "Water what you want to live."

I thought about that for some time.

What do I want to "come alive" in my life?

I could water my dreams, hopes and plans. That's certainly what the world would tell me to do. And it's not necessarily wrong if that's what God wants me to do. I can "water" my life with intentionality, commitment and passion. And I may reap a good harvest.

But as I prayed, God spoke to me about watering His purposes in my life.

  • Watering a pure heart and godly character.
  • Watering humble service.
  • Watering wisdom and discernment.
  • Watering obedience.
  • Watering any "deadness" in my soul and seeking God for revival.

It only took a little sprinkling of water to revive my dried-up pepper plant. I wondered what it would look like if I'd consistently showered that plant with my garden hose.

It only takes a little water to bring life out of seeming death.

For the Christian, water is the symbol of God's Word applied to our soul through the power of the Holy Spirit. And Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the sources of living water (John 4:10; 7:37-39).

Spiritually, when we water what we want to live with the "water of the Word"— reading and applying scripture to our lives and trusting the Spirit to apply in our hearts what Jesus has done for us, then: 

1. We recognize that God is ultimately the One who makes things grow (1 Corinthians 3:7).

2. We daily drink in the Word. (The more, the better!) The Word gives life (Psalm 119:50) and success (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-3)

3. We surrender, through prayer and obedience, to the water's freeing, transforming (sanctifying) action (John 8:31-32; Ephesians 1:13-14; John 17:17).

4. We are strengthened in His Word (Psalm 119:28) and thoroughly equipped (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

5. We are "revived" (Psalm 119:25; 119:154; Nehemiah 9:3).

What do you need to water in your life so it will "come alive"? If you're not sure, ask God to show you what is "dried up" and needs a little sprinkling today.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Ministries, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. In these ministries and as President of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in Ministry (NEWIM San Diego), Dawn encourages, edifies and energizes women with scripture so they can better enjoy life, bless others and honor God. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.




Forgiveness Is a Personal Choice

Renee Fisher's book about forgiveness encourages us to look at forgiveness from many angles, but this focus is my personal favorite.

"The only person you have control over is yourself." Fisher writes. "The only attitude you can control is your own."

Sometimes that's tough. We hurt and wish we could make others understand. But the issue is, God wants to change our hearts.

Fisher continues . . .

We can’t control what other people do, how they act, or what they feel. We can only make choices for ourselves.

For instance, Paul knew his story was less than perfect.

Before his conversion, he persecuted Christians! But he didn’t let the sins of the past stop him from becoming a mighty Christ-follower. He received the title of apostle because he wasn’t afraid to truly let God transform him. He gave his weaknesses to God and became a new man. The former enemy of Christians became one of the most influential leaders of the early church.

For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me - and not without results (1 Corinthians 15:9-10, NLT).

When we beat ourselves over the head about our shortcomings, mistakes, and even what we assume to be failures, remember all those imperfect people who made it into the “Hall of Faith.” Remember those who have gone before us.

  • Peter denied Jesus three times.
  • Abraham slept with his servant.
  • Paul persecuted Christians.
  • Jonah ran away from God’s call.

You’ve made mistakes.

So have I.

But we can move forward.

Christ can transform you and me - just like He transformed Paul.

Proverbs 26:11 says, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.” Don’t be a fool, caught forever in the trap of the same old mistakes.

You might be weak. You might be humble. But with the power of God within you, you can choose a new life.

Just look what happened to those Bible characters.

  • Peter became the rock on which Christ build his church.
  • Abraham became the father of many nations.
  • Paul became a great missionary and wrote many of the New Testament epistles.
  • Jonah went to Nineveh and helped save the city from destruction.

What’s the similarity between these men? They all had a choice, and they chose obedience.

Remember, the only person you have control over is yourself.

Sometimes God uses sin to force us to start over. Sometimes our sufferings have nothing to do with you and everything to do with others’ actions.

Ask God to help you forgive those around you who may have hurt you without realizing it. Ask God for the same measure of grace to use on yourself for being less than perfect.

God cares about you.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

God loves you because He created you and there is no one else like you.

Don’t waste his grace today.

Do you think it’s possible to forgive someone who doesn’t ask for your forgiveness back? Why or why not?

(Adapted from Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, © 2013 Harvest House Publishers.)

Renee Fisher, the Devotional Diva®, is the spirited speaker and author of four books including Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me. A graduate of Biola University, Renee’s mission in life is to “spur others forward” (Hebrews 10:24) using the lessons learned from her own trials to encourage others in their walk with God. Learn more about Renee at and