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Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (340)

Thursday
Aug172017

Pursuing Happiness? Upgrade to Joy!

Joanie Shawhan is an encourager. She helps people in desperate circumstances. Her life is full and well-pleasing to the Lord. Yet she still longed for true joy. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she shares how her understanding of joy has grown over the years.

"In the pursuit of happiness, I have filled my life with many things," Joanie says. "Some I regret, some were wonderful gifts, but none filled the void deep within."

I (Dawn) can identify with that. How easy it is to fill our lives with good things and miss the most important thing—the Lord Himself.

Joanie continues . . .

When I pursued happiness, I discovered that eventually the surge of pleasure dissipated. The negative emotions I attempted to suppress—hurt, grief, sadness, loneliness—once again surfaced, and I felt empty.

I scrambled for the next available object or relationship to fill that void, desperately hoping to restore bliss. I often based my happiness on my circumstances.

Many of us strive for contentment. We may regret some of our choices.

  • Shopping therapy may lift our moods—until we receive the credit card bill.
  • Whether lonely, tired or depressed, we know chocolates boost our spirits—until we glare at the digits on the scale.
  • Addictions drive us with unquenchable thirst that demands a fix, surpassing the previous high.
  • We get involved in wrong relationships. These derail our destinies and hurtle us down destructive paths, leaving a wake of devastation.

We look for fulfillment not only in these temporary pleasures, but our blessings as well.

  • Traveling to exotic places can be exhilarating, but once we arrive home, the sights and sounds are relegated to memory.
  • We throw ourselves into our jobs, chasing the next promotion, a different boss or more money.
  • We purchase larger houses with higher mortgages.
  • We fill them with pets whose soulful eyes beg us to take them home.

Relationships are one of the greatest gifts God has given us to enjoy.

From childhood, a girl dreams of her wedding day, gliding down the aisle clothed in a princess gown to meet her groom. Oops, the knight in shining armor has fallen off his horse. AGAIN!

Next comes the arrival of a darling bundle of joy. Ten tiny toes and fingers plunged into adorable outfits. But soon come sleepless nights, terrible twos and rebellious teens. 

We often expect these blessings to fill the deep void inside of us. But when happiness eludes us because of unfulfilled expectations, barbs of emptiness stab at our hearts.

It is during these seasons of disappointment, hurt and disillusionment that we become offended and bitterness takes root. Unfortunately, we sometimes trash relationships we once treasured.

Maybe we need to upgrade our pursuit of happiness to the pursuit of joy.

Joy is eternal. It transcends our circumstances.

Joy comes easy during our mountaintop adventures. But we can also experience joy in seasons of deep sorrow.

Joy is the fruit of the Spirit that comes from the presence of Jesus in our lives. He is the only one who can fill the empty places, heal our broken hearts and restore joy.

When we pursue Jesus and His presence, we will experience His joy.

“In His presence is the fullness of joy" (Psalm 16:11 NKJV).

How can we upgrade happiness to joy?

1. Thanksgiving 

We thank God for all He has given us, acknowledging that all we have comes from Him. Expressing words of gratitude leads us to contentment and joy.

2. Praise

Praise opens the door to the presence of God. In praise and worship, we take our eyes off ourselves and our concerns and turn our gaze toward God. We focus on who He is—His character, His majesty, His glory—and we are filled with His joy.

3. Scripture

When we reflect on the truth of God’s Word, we discover His character—His compassion, His mercy and His love for us. His promises offer us comfort, peace, hope and joy. 

4. Testimony

Reading or listening to the real-life stories of how God rescued others in the midst of their suffering restores hope and stirs our joy.

5. Helping Others

Reaching out to others takes our eyes off ourselves. We focus on the needs of another person. In our giving, we please God, the giver of life, and He allows us to share in His joy.

6. Forgive

Corrie ten Boom said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.”

Forgiveness generates joy.

In the presence of God I have been changed. I discovered that He has enabled me to do the seemingly impossible—believe, trust and forgive.

How do YOU upgrade from the pursuit of happiness to the pursuit of joy?

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes encouraging articles for women undergoing chemotherapy. She also speaks to medical practitioners in the Survivors Teaching Students program. For more information, visit Joanie's website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of dimitrisvetsikas-Pixabay.

Tuesday
Aug152017

7 Ways to Be a Woman of JOY!

Kate Hagen is a gifted and insightful writer with a heart for women's issues. On her blog, she took readers on her journey of grief, insight and joy as her precious mom struggled with cancer. In this Attitude UPGRADE, she shares part of the the incredible character that made up Peggy Leslie.

“On my mom’s gravestone it reads ‘Woman of Joy,’” Kate says.

I (Dawn) already wrote a tribute to Kate's mom last year, but as we near the anniversary of her home-going, I asked Kate to share some of the things her mom did on a regular basis that made her such a joy-filled woman of God—earning that gravestone tribute.

Kate continues...

It’s no small thing to me that I was raised by a joyful mom. 

Of course I didn’t appreciate it as a kid. Yet, as I approach the one-year anniversary of her death, I am in awe of the joy she had throughout life and throughout cancer, and I am inspired to be more like her.

Here are 7 ways my mom was a woman of joy (and how you can be too).

1. Always Be Interested in Others.

The second you walked into Mom’s house, she would stop what she was doing, grab your face, look you in the eyes, and welcome you.

And, although she often complained about forgetting things, she had an uncanny ability to remember details about everyone’s lives.

She wouldn’t just say hello. She would ask about the last conversation you had and let you know she’d been praying for you. Somehow she made everyone feel like the most important person on earth.

Joy builder: "Let each of you look no only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil 2:4).

2. Be “Game” for Everything.

The answer to all requests we made of Mom were an enthusiastic, “Yes!” She did almost everything any of her 5 kids or 12 grandkids asked her to do. She only reluctantly said no if she already had plans. Even if she didn’t feel like doing the activity you asked her do, she did it so that she could BE with and ENJOY you.

Joy builder: "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace" (I Peter 4:10).

3. Pray and Read the Bible without Stopping.

Mom was faithful in her morning routine of Bible reading, prayer and journaling.

Each of her kids had a special prayer day (affectionately called SPD) where she prayed especially for us. A text or phone call would inevitably come that day as she talked to God about us.

This was a vital beginning to her morning - a time when she asked God to help her be more joyful.

Joy builder: "Pray without ceasing" (I Thes 5:17).

4. Do What You Enjoy.

Although Mom was constantly serving others and looking to their needs above her own, she also took a lot of personal breaks.

She loved a glass of coke, Snickers bar and a good book. The two places you’d be most likely to find her were in her big, comfy recliner reading, or at her beautiful office desk writing.

Both of those things gave her joy and she made sure to do them almost every day.

Joy builder: "If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing well" (James 2:8).

5. Don’t Give Up Looking for Joyful Solutions.

Mom was never defeated!

If something wasn’t going as she hoped, or she didn’t have all the resources she needed, she loudly proclaimed, “There’s almost always something you can do!”

She was hilariously resourceful and didn’t let troubles define her; she found solutions for problems.

She looked for joy!

Joy builder: "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come" (Prov 31:25).

6. Don’t Be "Normal."

Mom was not afraid to be her unique self. She was not like other moms; she was fully HER.

I remember complaining about something strange she did, and she replied, “Would you want a mom who’s normal?” Well, yes. In Jr. High I did.

But, now, I’m so grateful she didn’t give into the pressure to be like those around her. She appreciated whom God had made her to be and she lived it fully and joyfully!  

Joy builder: "I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well" (Psalm 139:14).

7. Don’t Worry; You’re in the Lord’s Hands.

Her famous quote throughout cancer was, “I’m in the Lord’s hands.”  She literally said this hundreds of times.

As I’ve read through her journals, I see she told herself this over and over as well.

She believed, without a shadow of doubt, that God was holding her. That God loved her. That God was sustaining her. She loved Him and trusted Him so deeply. And this brought her joy.

She was not afraid of cancer or death at all. Her attitude was, “Why should I be? I’m in the Lord’s hands!”

Joy builder: "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matt 6:34).

Mom is STILL a Woman of Joy!

"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11).

I would be honored if my mom’s life and death encouraged you to become a greater woman of joy.

Let me know which of these is most difficult for you and how you hope to grow in that area. I’d love for us to encourage each other together in this pursuit of JOY!

Kate Hagen spends most of her time teaching, knowing and loving her three kids in their beach community of Leucadia, CA. She has a Master’s Degree in Biblical Counseling and has written, spoken and counseled women about mothering, body image and health. She runs a small essential oil business from her home, and usually smells pretty good. At her website you can read her journey of grieving and laughing as her mom passed of cancer, as well as her thoughts on the Bible and body image. 

Thursday
Aug102017

How Well Do YOU Listen?

Becky Harling is one of the most practical women I know, often tackling topics women need to hear like "performance" and dealing with our emotional scripts. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she asks us to honestly evaluate our listening skills.  

 

"I remember well when I asked my teenage daughter, 'Honey, do you think I listen well?' Honestly," Becky says, "I was expecting rave reviews, but what I received was something entirely different"

I (Dawn) think Becky was so brave to ask her teenager for input. But what I admire most is her desire to act on that input!

Becky continues . . .

Mental note to self: Don’t ask your kids what they think unless you’re prepared for the answer!

There was a long pause, and then Bethany said,

“Well… sometimes you listen well… but, you seem distracted a lot, you interrupt me a lot and you dive in with your own story and you give me way too much advice!

"Mom, I just want to feel heard!”

Wow!

That night in bed, I had a lot to consider and I remember wrestling in prayer.

But finally, after several sleepless hours, I prayed,

“Lord, I want my daughter to feel heard and loved. Help me to change. Show me how to work on my listening skills so that those I loved feel heard.”

Author David Augsburger wrote, “Being heard is so close to being loved that they are almost indistinguishable.”

God created us for relationship with Him and with others. And that means we need to value our relationships by listening attentively.

Relational wisdom from Proverbs teaches us, “Let the wise listen and add to their learning” (Proverbs 1:5).

Jesus Himself warned, “Consider carefully how you listen’” (Luke8:18).

Most of us are busy and stressed out, so how do we consider carefully how we listen and take steps to improve our listening skills?

It’s not as hard as you might think. It will take practice, but there are a few steps you can take right away.

Today. 

If you take these simple steps you’ll improve your listening skills immediately and those who are dear to you will feel more loved right away!

Simple Steps:

1. Silence Your Inner Fixer.

Have you noticed how tempting it is to try to fix other people’s problems? I’ll give you a secret. People don’t want you to fix their problems. They want you to listen. They want to feel heard and validated that their situation is difficult and challenging.

So next time, you’re tempted, ask a question instead. Which brings me to my second simple step.

2. Learn how to ask questions.

Any great conversationalist knows how to ask great questions. Jesus Himself was the Master question asker“Who do you say I Am?” “What do you want me to do for you?”—and it’s a pretty easy skill to learn.

Before you meet a friend for coffee, think of three questions you’ll ask so that they’re already in your head. Do the same whenever you attend a meeting where you’ll meet someone new.

Think through a few great questions and even write them on an index card. Then look at the card right before you go into your meeting so the questions will be fresh in your mind. Watch and wait for the opportunity to ask a question.

Hey, if you need help in the question-asking department, I’ve got good news for you! I’ve got a great free gift called, How to Get the Conversation Started up on my website. It’s loaded with great questions you can use in any situation!

3. Let Go of Distractions.

Don’t buy into the myth of multi-tasking. It will hurt your relationships.

When you’re with someone, discipline yourself to be fully present to the conversation.

Turn off or silence your cell phone. Shut down your computer and turn off the T.V. and simply listen to the other person. Seek to understand their heart and what’s behind the words they are speaking. 

The one way it’s valuable to multi-task is to pray for wisdom as the other person is talking. Pray that the Holy Spirit will set a guard over your mouth and help you to speak only what’s helpful.

4. Ask.

Finally, ASK.

Dare to ask at least two people you love, “How well do you think I listen?”

However they reply, don’t push back. Simply receive and then take it to the Lord and ask Him to change you!

Which of these simple steps might UPGRADE your listening skills today? Choose one, and "practice" on your family and friends. Who knows ... the Lord might open new doors to better relationships.

Becky Harling. Authentic. Passionate. Funny. Insightful. Becky is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and other venues. She is the author of 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, courtesty of StockSnap at Pixabay.

Thursday
Aug032017

10 Ways to Make Friends with Foreigners

Though she now lives in Kansas, Gail Goolsby once lived overseas and knows first-hand how to build friendships with people in other countries. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she encourages us to open our heart and home to make friends with foreigners.

“The world is shaken and people are scattered around the globe,” Gail said. “How can we connect as caring Christians with the international immigrants entering our communities?”

I (Dawn) have often heard pastors and evangelists say, “The mission field is coming to our doorstep.” It’s true! We need to know how to connect with those the Lord is bringing to America.

Gail continues . . .

According to Homeland Security statistics, over 560,000 immigrants received permanent U.S. resident status in the first half of 2017, coming mainly from Mexico, India, China, Philippines, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

Almost 40,000 fleeing refugees were admitted to our shores. The top five countries were Syria, Iraq, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Burma.

Politicians and military personnel have their own view of global wars and displaced populace seeking safety and a better life. I am no expert, but I know as private citizens we have the chance to impact the lives of some of the most vulnerable and disillusioned people with a heart of love and hospitality.

For those coming from countries closed to Christians, we may well be the first believers they meet. We can have conversation about who Jesus really is and what He can mean in their lives.

I believe God is bringing those close who used to be out of reach for the Good News.

What should be our response?

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34 NIV).

Here are 10 ways to connect with foreign neighbors.  

1. Check with the local resettlement agencies in your area for the needs they have.

Clothes, coats, shoes, furniture and household items are essential to families arriving with great needs and few resources.

2. Educate yourself on a particular people group and culture living in your location.

Find out what foods they eat to make a welcoming meal, and learn greetings in their native language.

3. Develop relationships with shopkeepers, hair stylists, nail technicians, etc., by asking questions and showing interest.

Let them see you as a friendly Christ-follower who is open to spiritual as well as practical conversation in a non-threatening way.

4. Volunteer to be an English tutor or conversation partner.

Local colleges and churches sponsor English classes to help immigrants assimilate quickly. The main qualification is being a native English speaker!

5. Host an international friends group in your home or at a local community center.

Meet regularly with others who have the same interest to help immigrants make new friends while practicing English and learning cultural information.

6. Transport immigrants to work interviews, doctor appointments, shopping trips, etc.

Here is another opportunity to practice English and show care.

7. Invite new friends to your home and share your family.

This is the most influential way to make friends. Hospitality translates through every culture as a sincere connection point.

8. Sponsor an international student from your local university.

Text, call, or take him or her to lunch or coffee regularly to see how things are going and, again, invite into your home for holidays or weekend meals.

Take students on sightseeing outings and show off America.

9. Start a Discovery Bible Study with a small group and invite new international friends.

This is not an academic, pastor-led experience, but rather people reading selected Bible passages, talking together about what is learned, and making personal applications.

10. Bring your international friend to church or other formal study groups if he or she is comfortable.

This is not usually the best first step due to large cultural differences and misunderstandings, especially among Muslim-background friends.

Contemporary religious services can appear irreverent and offensive without thorough preparation and exposure to American culture and Christian ways before attending church.

Women are POWERFUL CONNECTORS!

The women of the world, particularly the Muslim world, are often seen as second-class citizens or worse. That doesn’t mean they are uneducated or even unloved, but typically they are very restricted in the expression of their personhood.

These people are almost unreachable by men.

They are covered, they are absent, and they are culturally not to be in the presence of men outside their family.

We as women have incredible power here, ladies.

We can speak to them, touch them, embrace them, have them in our homes uncovered, visit in their homes, and share as the sisters we really are.

I have special women friends in my hometown from Iran, Jordan, Congo, and Afghanistan. We eat together, share family time, practice English, cook new recipes from our home cultures, explore pumpkin patches, play games, watch movies, and talk for hours about female concerns and interests.

The riches of such relationships give back much more than the cost to me in time or resources. This is my opportunity to make friends with foreigners God has planted in my world at this important time in history.

What foreign neighbors cross your path that you could engage to develop a relationship and share the love of God?

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.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of fsHH at Pixabay.

Thursday
Jul272017

Organize Your Life - Part 2

In Part One of “Organize Your Life,” Kathy Carlton Willis covered several helpful organization tips along with spiritual applications. She explained how we can have less stress in our homes and our hearts as we get organized. In this article, she continues the topic with 4 more tips.

I (Dawn) think one of the biggest consequences of disorganization—whether in our homes, our workspace or our heart—is stress. I'm glad to see Kathy addresses this.

Kathy continues . . .

There are several ways we can take life hacks and use the same principles to straighten up our spiritual lives, too.

Here are a few more tips as we continue the article started here.

5. Loaded is Bloated.

What slows down an electronic device? When there are too many programs or documents loaded to it, or too many apps open.

The only way to make it faster is to lighten its load or to add more hard drive or memory.

Spiritual Life: What slows me down? When I have too many burdens I’m trying to carry around. I have so many tasks going at once I’m not multi-tasking, I’m maxi-tasking. I have to let some of it go in order to have enough white space in the margins to think straight. Then I give God room to work in my life—His strength is my hard drive and His Spirit is more memory.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1 NLT).

6. Do It When You Think of It.

The older I get, the more I realize I have to do things when I think of them, otherwise, out of mind is, well—out of sight!

Spiritual Life: What do I do when I’m reminded of my sin? The best time to deal with it is as soon as it comes to mind.

7. Handle It Once.

Don’t handle the same piece of paper twice.

  • If it’s trash, throw it out.
  • If it’s a bill, pay it.
  • If it needs to be filed, file it.

Spiritual Life: Am I holding on to chronic guilt? Once I’ve asked God to forgive me, it's time to receive that forgiveness and move on.

The longer I hang on to the guilt, the harder it is to get rid of.

8. Take Five!

It doesn’t take an hour or half-day to organize.

  • Use the five minutes it takes to make a cup of coffee to pick up clutter or empty the dishwasher.
  • When commercials come on the television, deal with a pile of papers.
  • Five-minute work-bursts add up fast, and keep you from being overwhelmed.
  • Take five minutes before leaving the house to straighten up.
  • Before bed take another five minutes to pick up items that didn’t get put away. Prepare ahead for the next day.

Treat five-minute work-bursts as a race, and you’ll be surprised what you get done!

The bonus? Once you get going, you’ll extend that five-minute challenge to longer work sessions, because once you get started you feel up to tackling more.

Spiritual Life: Am I putting off having some quiet time with God until I find an extra hour in my day? I need to grab five minutes when I can get it to talk to God or read His Word or listen to His Spirit. And the more I spend time with Him, the more I want to.

How will you get organized to have less stress in your home and heart?

Kathy Carlton Willis—God's Grin Gal—shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s a speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with GraceShe’s a bi-monthly columnist with CBN and a devotional writer for Todd Starnes. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with Jazzy, their hilarious Boston Terrier.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of geralt at Pixabay.