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Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (362)

Tuesday
Dec052017

Decorate Yourself!

Jill Swanson makes classic fashion fun, so I invited her to write this Christmas UPGRADE to help us think about some special ways to decorate ourselves—not just our trees—for Christmas.

"Do you feel like you’re stuck wearing black for the holidays?" Jill asks. "Black is easy! Black is thinning! Black is boring!

"Wait, what was that? Boring? Well, yes, it can be predictable and boring."

That was me (Dawn) a few years ago. When Jill visited my closet, 50% of it was black! She helped me step outside my comfort zone and experiment with more color.

Jill continues . . .

Try adding some color and sparkle to your festive events this year.

Not sure how to do it? Here are three ideas to minimize the black and infuse your closet with some holiday cheer.

First, reacquaint yourself with the other popular colors this season: gold, dark green, off-white and of course red.

I also like the “starry night” effect of using a brilliant blue or navy. Any of these colors can easily be paired with black or stand on their own.

(Yes – it is “in” to wear black and navy together, just be sure to add some shine or sparkle.)

Second, make ensembles of what you already own and add “ornaments.” 

Start with an “elevator” outfit: a solid top and bottom in the same color—ivory blouse and ivory skirt, navy sweater and navy pants or even your black top and bottom.

(This creates a column or slimming "elevator.")

Then add to that an “Accessory Encore.”  

This is a group of accessories or add-on clothing pieces such as a blazer or vest that are unified by a common theme or color. Here are some examples:

 

 

The Encore can be added to the elevator set of your choice and rotated through your wardrobe.

Use your “romantic” Encore with your dressy clothes or take your jeans and white button-down shirt to an entirely new level!

Wear the bright red Encore in the winter with black and in the summer with white.

Encores work great when traveling too: take a pair of jeans and tee, one elevator set, and two or three Encores. Then mix and match, it’s easy and fast. Plus, they will easily fit into a small suitcase!

And finally, the simplest way to add some holiday style is to bling one thing. Wear what you would normally wear and go one step beyond. Here is a list of glitz to help you decorate with style!

10 IDEAS FOR CHRISTMAS WARDROBE DÉCOR 

  1. Lame’ anything – this metallic woven fabric will sparkle!
  2. Sequined top or scarf for some shimmer
  3. Rhinestone necklaces, earrings, pins, or bracelets
  4. A flashy belt with glitter or shine
  5. A satin scarf, shirt or tank for a classy effect
  6. A felt fedora hat and gloves for a little drama
  7. Lace scarf or top to add romance
  8. Sparkly eye shadow or lip gloss
  9. A bottle of glittery nail polish
  10. Red high heels—need I say more?

Accessorizing your wardrobe with some sparkle and shine will take your look to the next level.

Complete the look by accessorizing your thoughts with His words from Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Your beauty will shine from the inside out.

Spend a little time with Jesus each day and let his Holy Spirit infuse you with His light this Holy season.

Author Jill Swanson is a Christian Image Consultant whose mission is to help women make the most of their God given beauty (inside and out) through her speaking ministry and personal consultations.  Jill’s fashion/beauty books and Simply Scarves DVD are available at www.jillswanson.com and on Amazon.com. For more information about Jill’s online services and speaking, visit her website or contact Jill at jill@jillswanson.com. 507-250-2030.

NOTE: Jill has a FREE TIP SHEET for anyone who goes to her website and emails her from her contact page—www.jillswanson.com—with the words “lighten Up.” TIP SHEET: "24 Ways to Lighten Up for the Holidays."

Red dress in graphic from AliExpress.com.

Monday
Nov272017

Three Women Can Prepare Your 'Christmas Heart'

In this Christmas-season UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson invites us to re-read the Christmas story from a fresh perspective, through the stories of three women.

I’ve read the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke over and over again, but what struck me this year was the three women God used in the story of our Messiah’s coming and childhood.

I received the examples of these women as a gift, and their stories can help you prepare your own “Christmas heart.” Allow the Spirit of God to cultivate a heart that respond to and worships the Lord with fresh wonder.

Here are the lessons I unwrapped from these godly ladies.

1. Elizabeth - Learning to Hope in God’s Promises (Luke 1:5-25, 36-80)

The cousin of Jesus’ mother, Elizabeth played an important role of encouragement. As the wife of a Jewish priest, Zechariah, she no doubt encouraged her husband in the ministry. They were both spiritually mature, called righteous and blameless before God and obedient to His commands. But the Jewish people were getting impatient for their Messiah to come.

The Bible says Elizabeth was barren, and when we are introduced to her she was “advanced in years”—past child-bearing age. Yet God was about to do a miracle! While Zechariah served in the temple, the angel Gabriel appeared and gave them not only a pregnancy announcement, but a name for their soon-to-be son: John. The child would fulfill a special prophecy; John would be the “messenger” of God, preparing the way for the Messiah’s coming.

Zechariah doubted God’s messenger and the angel imposed a penalty for his unbelief; but at John’s birth, Zechariah showed he had grown in faith. Perhaps Elizabeth’s faith grew to a higher level too.

Six months after Elizabeth conceived, Mary heard the good news and went to visit her cousin. Mary—also pregnant at that time—experienced the wonder of her own child leaping in her womb as the cousins embraced; and old Elizabeth declared her joy about Mary’s pregnancy even before Mary mentioned it!  

Ever the hope-giver, Elizabeth encouraged young Mary for her own journey.

In due time, Elizabeth’s son grew to minister “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17) and she indeed saw the wonder of God’s promise.

This Christmas, I want to help people see the wonder of God’s promises, fulfilled in John the Baptist and our Savior, Jesus!

2. Mary - Learning to Trust God with our Future (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-52)

Young and likely still living with her parents, Mary is an example of a woman who surrendered to God’s will and trusted Him for her future. She is described as “highly favored” in scripture, meaning she fully received God’s grace; but she acknowledged her need for a Savior. An ordinary Jewish girl, God chose to use her in an extraordinary way.

She was engaged to, and later married, a carpenter named Joseph. As a virgin, she gave birth to Jesus by the Holy Spirit. She and Joseph had no sexual union until after the birth of Jesus. (They had other children later—Jesus’ half-brothers and sisters.)

Mary is an example to us of trusting God with our future, no matter how uncertain or painful.

She knew God would do a mighty work through her son, God’s “only-begotten” Son, the One who made possible the believer’s sure hope for eternal life.

Mary never received worship, adoration or prayers herself, but she pointed all glory to God alone (Luke 1:46-49).

This Christmas, I want to worship and adore the Lord, and remember my loving Father in heaven has all my tomorrows firmly in His hands.

3. Anna - Learning to Pray until the Answers Come (Luke 2:36-38)

There are only three verses in scripture about Anna, but they are rich in truth.

Like Miriam, Deborah and only a few other women in scripture, Anna was a prophetess. She was also an elder widow dedicated to the Lord. Scholars debate whether she was 84-years-old or 104 when she met Jesus.

Regardless of her age, she never left the temple after her husband’s death. She “worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.”

God's people were waiting and waiting for the Promised One, the coming Messiah.

Anna prayerfully waited too. And her prayers of faith were richly rewarded.

Simeon was a fellow-servant in the temple (verses 22-35). Simeon set the stage for an important response by Anna. After he saw Jesus and said his eyes had seen God’s “salvation”—the one who would enlighten the Gentiles and bring glory to God’s people, Israel—Anna spoke up.

The Bible says she came to the place where Jesus was being dedicated in the temple that very moment and began to “give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Her prayers, all Israel’s prayers, had been answered. The Messiah had finally come!

This Christmas, I want to thank my Father God for the Messiah’s coming, and recognize Him afresh as the Promised One ... MY Promised Savior.

Join with me this Christmas:

  • Hope in God’s promises.
  • Trust God for your future.
  • Pray with confidence and expectancy.

And rejoice! The Redeemer has come!

Do you need hope, faith, a more expectant spirit? How can the example of these three godly women encourage your heart 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 of Mary and Elizabeth, a painting by Sebastiano Del Piombo.

 

Thursday
Nov162017

Why Does Rejection Feel So Bad?

Kathy Collard Miller continually turns women to the Word of God to find truth to combat the lies they might believe. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she helps us focus in on the truth about rejections.

"Rejection," Kathy says, "hits like an atom bomb in our soul."

Boom! I (Dawn) have felt the powerful impact of rejection over my entire life. But I've learned over the years how to counter the reality of rejection and my brokenness because of it—with God's truth. That's something Kathy' espouses too.

Kathy continues . . .

Recently I felt sick in the depths of my stomach and my soul when I felt rejected.

Personal rejection can be described as someone refusing to accept what we offer them or they believe something bad about us.

We feel attacked and misunderstood. It can be a very hopeless feeling.

Here are three points for hope.

1.  We can understand where the feelings of rejection originated.

Rejection can bring up the lies we believed or felt about us in childhood. In that moment, we feel as if we’re back being that little girl or boy when we felt horrible, because we were attacked emotionally or physically.

It feels like all the resources and truth we know as adults about God are thrown out the window and we’re back to being voiceless, powerless, or without defense. The feelings are the same even though the situation is different.

In those moments, God offers hope through assuring us we aren’t the child any longer—thinking God isn’t there for us.

Instead, the truth is, God promises to be our refuge, help, protector, and give unconditional love.

We may not see evidence of that like we’d prefer, but by faith we can tell ourselves our loving Savior is “for” us and is defending us more than we realize.

2. Rejection most often comes because the other person feels threatened in some way.

Most of the time, she is reacting out of her own pain or even feeling rejected or worthless herself.

Even if we made a mistake or react in a hurtful way, she is responsible before God to offer grace because He has forgiven her for so much and He offers the strength she needs to make a wise choice.

But so many of us respond to and are responded to by others out of past wounds. Unfortunately, we take the person’s attack personally and blame ourselves.

Certainly we can take responsibility for our wrong choices but regardless, the other person is responsible for their response too. God wants to empower us to not take the attack personally but to offer an example of God’s grace of unconditional love. It is possible.

3. Rejection is the feeling of our worth and value being dismissed.

We believe the rejection is valid, because we believe the lie someone else believes: “She is worthless,” “He is stupid,” “She has nothing of worth to offer,” and many other lies.

But those are lies created by Satan against God’s beloved creation.

We must look primarily to God for who He says we are, not other people.

Not only were each of us created with God’s stamp of “good” at creation, even in our sin He demonstrates we are important and loved by Him through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. That act determines we are never rejected or reject-able by God.

In the first chapter of Ephesians, He says the opposite of rejection.

He says we are:

  • loved,
  • forgiven,
  • blessed,
  • redeemed,
  • accepted,
  • adopted,
  • and many other truths of our identity.

Only believing those truths will counteract the atom bomb going off in our soul and minds when we feel rejected.

Indeed, our audience of One—God Himself—is still seeing us “in Christ” regardless of another person’s opinions.

Jesus demonstrated that many times.

  • Jesus refused to believe the rejection of His own family who believed Him crazy (Mark 3:21).
  • Jesus didn’t respond to the rejection of the Pharisees, His own disciples, and even the betrayal of Judas and Peter.

He knew His identity as God.

Even as a human, Jesus depended on who His Father said He was.

That’s our challenge also.

Which point will you focus on the next time you feel rejected?

Kathy Collard Miller is the author of more than 50 books including Choices of the Heart: Daughters of the King Bible Study Series. She is a popular women's conference speaker both nationally and internationally. Visit KathyCollardMiller.com. Kathy lives in Southern California with her husband Larry (of 45+ years). They have two children and two grandchildren.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of comfreak at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Nov142017

Holiday Hope for Aging Parents

Including aging parents in our holiday plans can take some extra thought, but as Cynthia Ruchti shows us in this Holiday UPGRADE, it's so worth the time and effort!

"Aging parents—and caring for them—can upgrade the holidays for us," Cynthia says. "And it’s about time."

I (Dawn) like that. I like any time we can upgrade the holidays. We do it with decorations and events, but what about the people in our lives? How do we give a meaningful dose of holiday hope to our aging parents?

Cynthia continues . . .

In many families, Grandma and Grandpa once provided the setting for all the holiday memory-making.

Theirs was the groaning dining room table with a feast and decorations that revealed days’ worth of cooking, baking, preparation.

Theirs was the backyard hill for sledding and snow forts.

The presents under the Christmas tree might have crowded against each other with the grandparents’ generosity and homemade gifts.

But now, a hospital bed might occupy the spot a glittering tree once claimed.

The living room of the grandparents’ home is “decorated” with the trappings of ill health and aging—walkers, commodes, lift chairs. The sounds of Christmas music in the background competes with the sound of the oxygen machine.

Or Grandma and Grandpa are in reasonably good health, but living in a small apartment or an assisted living home.

We can change the setting for holiday gatherings. Christmas at Aunt Cheryl’s this year. Or Thanksgiving dinner at the home of Grandma and Grandpa’s eldest child.

But how do we keep our grip on cherished traditions, include rather than exclude the aging, and find new ways to “Honor thy father and mother” (Exodus 20:12 KJV) when the holidays include tasks of caregiving for aging parents?

And how will doing so upgrade our holiday experiences?

I love how God included the elderly in the original Christmas story.

Luke 1 starts not with the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary, but with Zechariah, an aged priest, who by God’s grace had a son despite his wife’s lifelong barrenness. That son—John—prepared the way for the coming Messiah.

Bookending the story of the birth of Christ are other characters of many yearsSimeon, who blessed the eight-day-old infant Jesus in the temple, and Anna, a prophet described as “very old.” She’d been married only seven years, and at the time of Jesus’s birth was an 84-year-old-widow.

Anna was among the first to Tweet the news about the birth of the Messiah.

(She “tweeted” with whole sentences, though, telling everyone she knew, everyone who had been looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem that He had been born, according to Luke 2:38.)

Zechariah, Simeon, Anna—their ages added to the encompassing picture of the Christmas story.

And so can the elderly in our families, even if their needs require special accommodations during the holidays.

  • Encourage Grandpa or Grandma to pray over the holiday meal, if that’s long been a tradition in your home and they are still able to communicate.
  • If you host the holiday gathering at some place other than their residence, consider bringing something familiar to anchor them in the new scene—a favorite afghan, their heirloom nativity set, Grandma’s good china or silverware.
  • Use double-sided name tents at each place setting to boost Grandma’s or Grandpa’s memory about the names of their loved ones.
  • Unless it’s physically impossible, include them in safe but meaningful ways in the food preparation. Some aging parents/grandparents grow restless and uncomfortable around the holidays because it’s a reminder of traditions in which they can no longer participate. Even if someone else needs to yield the knife, can Grandma arrange the vegetables on the crudité platter? If Grandpa once carved the turkey but can no longer manage the task, can he be given the honor of making the first slice?
  • Reserve time for aging parents to tell their stories.
  • Show consideration for their tolerance for noise and commotion. Plan quiet activities in addition to what was once delightful chaos for them.
  • Consider, too, their nutritional restrictions. Rather than making them bypass their favorite foods, find ways to accommodate an extra bowl of salt-free gravy or seedless blackberry jam for their dinner roll.
  • If aging parents or grandparents are confined by health needs to a nursing home facility, give the gift of your extended presence sometime during the holidays. Unhurried. Reminding them, and the staff, that they are treasured, dearly loved. If they live far away from the family festivities, bring video messages from their children and grandchildren, so they know they were thought of, remembered, cherished.
  • Even if you send Thanksgiving or Christmas greetings only by email and Facebook, take the time to send cards to the aging.

God did not tell us to honor our father and mother when it’s convenient.

Or when their needs don’t interfere with our plans.

Or only when they … and we … are young.

What does your family do to honor elderly members during the holidays? In what ways have you discovered that “it’s about time”?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-Hope through award-winning novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and through speaking events for women. Her recent book—As My Parents Age: Reflections on Life, Love, and Change—addresses many challenging and tender aspects of caring for aging parents or grandparents. http://www.cynthiaruchti.com, http://www.hemmedinhope.com

Thursday
Nov092017

Face-to-Face Friends Go Beyond Facebook

Leave it to counselor-coach Gail Goolsby to remind us to pursue real friends. In this Friendship UPGRADE, she encourages us to go beyond Facebook.

“As of January 2016, Facebook leads social network activity with approximately 1.6 billion regular monthly users,” Gail said. The average Facebook user has about 340 friends, but are they real or fake friends?”

I (Dawn) think Gail is hitting on a great truth. How we define friends has truly changed in recent years. And with that redefinition comes some difficulties.

Gail continues…

In 2010, TV talk host Jimmy Kimmel proclaimed November 17th as National UnFriend Day.

For UTube, he created humorous videos to help his viewers determine who to dismiss from their overloaded friend list on Facebook.

He playfully demonstrated that:

  • If people posted countless selfies/baby/pet/vacation photos,
  • or if they complained about their health repeatedly,
  • or sent online game invites too many times—

CLICK. They were unfriended.

Kimmel proposed social media users should reflect on what true friendship means, and how to be a better online friend with less people.

A Good Friend is Hard to Find

How do we develop real, meaningful relationships in short phrases, food and family pictures, and emoticons from a cell phone or a computer screen?

What do online friends actually contribute to our lives?

A dozen synonyms from the thesaurus for friendship include: affection, closeness, intimacy, love, understanding, alliance, attachment, company, empathy, familiarity, fondness, and regard.

Can we form a genuine attachment to people that we do not share physical presence with on a regular basis?

Can we read others’ theological debates, political rants, favorite Bible verses, daily updates and hope to become emotionally or spiritually connected?

Let’s review friendship examples and exhortations that come from Scripture and compare them to online friendship potential.

1. Job 2:11 (ESV)

Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him.

The three friends went to sit with Job in his troubles.

Are twenty postings of encouragement on a Facebook wall as powerful as a person in physical proximity to communicate support? I don’t think so.

2. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (ESV)

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

Loneliness can be challenging as well as sad. Friends together can accomplish much and share the burden of moving, repairing, cleaning, planting, harvesting, and building.

Typed words alone will not get the tasks done.

3. Proverbs 27:6, 17 (ESV)

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Online friends can be sincere or not—who would know? Compliments and likes are easy to provide with a few clicks of computer keys or adding cute faces and heart symbols.

To speak the hard truth to a friend that could really help her life situation requires a deep knowing and foundation of trust built over time and shared experiences.

People need facial expressions and eye contact to fully comprehend risky messages and to grow from the interactions.

4. Proverbs 18:24; 17:17 (ESV)

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

How many friends should be gathered, or is quality more the question than quantity?

  • Needed are the companions who stick around when cancer strikes, to tenderly hold up a friend’s weak body after chemo.
  • When divorce erupts or a child dies, real friends offer more than comforting scripture memes.
  • Friends provide meals for the family when the wife/mother cannot get out of bed as well as online prayers.
  • People need to feel a hand on their shoulder or see an empathetic expression of sadness on their friend’s face sitting across the table, not just a teary emoji in a text box.

Face-to-Face Works Best!

Should we unfriend? Forget about spending time sorting your Facebook friend list this month. Close the laptop and get together with actual friends for some real-time activity.

Communicate with the people right in front of you instead of working your fingers to talk to others in cyberspace.

Be a live, human friend, present and engaged with the important people in your life.

Facebook can wait.

What friendships have been neglected or reduced to brief digital messages that need your personal attention and care?

Gail Goolsby, MA, MEd, is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan. Gail and her pastor husband of 39 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. She counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others learn to live well. Get to know more about Gail here.

Graphics adapted, social media courtesy of geralt and Best Friends courtsy of cherylholt—both at Pixabay.