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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson

 

Thursday
Sep262019

The Security of a Good Father

Debbie W. Wilson teaches women about practical, uplifting faith. In this Relationship with God UPGRADE, Debbie asks us to consider growing a more robust faith by trusting in our Father God.

“I woke up at 4 a.m. questioning a decision I’d made," Debbie says.

I (Dawn) have done that so often, and always wished I had more confident faith concerning my choices!

Debbie continues . . .

I’d told the designer who’d drawn out a closet plan we wanted to work with her. In my sleep I had second thoughts.

“Lord, I’m too tired to figure this out. I don’t know if we made the right decision.” 

With that prayer an Old Testament passage came to mind.

If a young woman makes a vow…and her father hears of the vow or pledge and does not object to it, then all her vows and pledges will stand. But if her father refuses to let her fulfill the vow or pledge on the day he hears of it, then all her vows and pledges will become invalid. …because her father would not let her fulfill them” (Numbers 30:3-5 NLT).

Relief filled me. I didn’t have to figure it out. Like a good father, my Abba would protect me.

“Father, you heard our words. If we jumped too soon, please rescue us. I’m giving this to You.”

I asked the designer to wait while we did more research. She understood. In the end, we chose a different option that saved us money.

Once I let go of bearing the burden of making the perfect decision and trusted my Father to lead me, I enjoyed the adventure.

I know I’m saved “by grace through faith,” but sometimes I forget I’m to live by faith (Romans 1:17). God wants me to include Him in every aspect of life.

Jesus modeled this. He relied completely on His Father (John 14:10). Jesus wants us to walk with Him the same way (John 15:4-5).

Living by faith protects us from regret, pleases God, and satisfies us (Hebrews 11:6John. 15:11).

Our heavenly Father longs to show up in the mundane tasks of life. When we lean on Him in every area, life becomes an awesome journey.

I find robust faith requires a knowledge of the Word and a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

1. The Word

The Bible says our minds are either shaped by the world or transformed by the Word. Without renewing our minds, we can’t recognize our Father's good will for our lives.

  • “Don’t become like the people of this world. Instead, change the way you think. Then you will always be able to determine what God really wants—what is good, pleasing, and perfect” (Romans 12:2 GW).
  • "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17 NIV).

2. The Spirit

God sent the Holy Spirit to help us and guide us (John 14:17). 

  • “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (Galatians 5:16 NLT).
  • "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT).

Maybe your earthly father is no longer here or wasn't reliable. If you know Jesus, you have a heavenly Father who loves you deeply and covers your back. 

  • “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26 NIV).

What wakes you up in the middle of the night? Are you learning to rest in the security a good father provides?

Debbie W. Wilson helps people live in God’s grace so they can enjoy fruitful and full lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, is to be released February 2020. She is a life coach and an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Share her journey to refreshing faith at debbieWwilson.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Lorraine Cormier and Pixabay.

Tuesday
Sep242019

Upgrade Your Homemaking with the 7Ps

Morgan Farr is a multi-talentd woman with great influence both biblically and practically. In this Homemaking UPGRADE, she applies a military concept to home skills for greater success.

“Prior Proper Planning Prevents Painfully Poor Performance,” Morgan says. This is a saying that is often posted in military circles, often referred to as the 7Ps.”

I (Dawn) think that’s a mouthful and hard to say, but it certainly drives home an important point! 

Morgan continues . . .  

I have used my own version of the 7Ps to successfully run a military garage gym ministry, and I want to share my 7Ps of Homemaking. 

I have found that almost all of my stress in homemaking has been related to not having enough time or energy for a task. With my 7Ps for homemaking I am better able to manage my time and energy.

These are the Ps that I follow: 

  • Planning and Preparation
  • Pace and Play
  • Pen, Pew and Prayer

1. Plan and Prepare

The first thing that I would recommend to anyone looking to upgrade their homemaking would be planning and preparation. These are crucial aspects of running a home well.

From planning the meals, doctors appointments, and vacations, to planning guest visits… homemakers plan a lot.

“Let everything be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).

Find a way that works for you and use it to help you plan and prepare well. 

While I am aware that there are a million calendar apps out there, I am still a paper planner kind of gal. I have a large wall calendar and a small spiral bound planner that stand between me and disordered chaos.

I use a different color coded pen for each member of the family. That way I know at a glance who has something major each day. This helps me to plan out my week and see any major issues ahead of time.

My husband and I make certain that we are available on Sunday evenings for a planning meeting for the week. We discuss upcoming events, things that need to be added to the grocery list, and anything else that needs to be prepared in order to keep the family running smoothly. 

2. Pace and Play

Once you have a plan and you have prepared to follow through on it, the next thing you should do is decide on your pace and play rhythm.

"By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done" (Genesis 2:2-3).

The Creator of the entire universe rested on the seventh day.

Be realistic about how much work you can bear at this point and create opportunities to recharge. 

There are many ways to get ahead in this area and upgrade your homemaking. I have alarms set on my phone for 1:30 pm every single day. This helps me to pause whatever project that I am working on, and take a break.

This break could mean:

  • I read a book,
  • I walk on the treadmill,
  • I sit and drink a cup of coffee, etc.

It depends on the day and the projects I am working on. If you are someone who loves the outdoors, maybe that means stepping outside to enjoy God’s creation for 15 minutes on your lunch break.

The important part here is to realize that while hard work is good, it is equally important to set a healthy pace with opportunities to play the way that works best for you. 

3. Pen, Pew, and Prayer

My final—and probably most important—recommendation is to make sure you spend time with a pen, in a pew and in prayer.

“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone" (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

I think everyone should keep a journal, no matter the season of life. This can help you avoid sin patterns, love the people around you, and understand yourself better. Even if all you can do is write in a one word entry, that can help you later to see where your heart and mind is headed over time. 

I would also strongly encourage you to get in the pew at church.

By that I mean:

  • Be a part of the fellowship and accountability.
  • Find a mentor and a mentee in your community.
  • Be a part of the body of Christ in both a physical way and in your prayers.

Sharing our burdens with other believers is one of the greatest mercies of the Christian faith. We have to be vulnerable enough to open up our hearts and share the burdens that we carry, especially as homemakers where much of the battle is unseen among mops, children, and groceries. 

God has given us the incredible ability to be keepers of our homes. It is our responsibility to ensure that we do the absolute best job of it that we can.

Taking the time to ensure that we follow the 7Ps helps us to honor God with our homemaking. 

Which of these 7Ps do you need to devote more energy to?

Morgan Farr is a Texas-loving, succulent-cultivating, book nerd. Stationed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this Army wife is working to better love her husband, develop her three small children, and learn more about homeschool. Morgan is a homemaker dedicating her time to ministering to other Army wives through Bible studies, one-on-one mentoring, and physical training. She writes about her transition out of feminism and into biblical womanhood at The Forgiven Former Feminist

Graphic adapted, courtesy of RawPixel at Pixabay.

Saturday
Sep212019

Choosing Joy in the Midst of Chaos

Julie Watson is an amazing woman. She has faced situations that could rob her of joy and peace, things that could have led to her defeat. But she is an overcomer, and in this Attitudes UPGRADE, she shares how she has found joy—and we can too.

“Decisions, decisions. Choosing joy in the midst of life’s messiness is quite the feat," Julie says, "but oh, so worth it!"

I (Dawn) have watched Julie cope with huge changes in her and her husband's life over the past few years. I can testify that she has found God faithful, and in the midst of the messiness of life, she has found God's unlimited joy.

Julie continues . . .

Ah, summer. If you’re a mom, you’ve likely just finished it. If you’re anything like me, you planned to have a great summer filled with fun activities: places to go, things to try, people to visit, etc.

And, if you’re still like me, you probably jumped for joy (to some degree) when it was over!

My HOPE is always to have the best summer, but my REALITY typically falls quite short.

I don’t know about you, but one can only take so much arguing, teasing, fighting, not listening and disobedience.

  • Behaviors get stretched to new limits when the TV and tablets are turned off because someone (or two) is grounded, and it’s too hot to go outside to play.
  • Boredom reaches new heights when Legos and Matchbox cars are the primary imagination booster to combat such yawn-inducing, brain-frying monotony.

In these instances, children often create their own “fun” which loosely translates into CHAOS for mom! And, not just any chaos, but the kind that horror stories are made of, such as: burning ants with a magnifying glass outside becomes a small brushfire (fictitious example), or a sister’s toothbrush is used as a toilet brush in a fit of assumptions, rage and revenge (a factual example from my summer).

This summer I did things differently.

Since the kids would be attending a new school, I had three whole months to work with them on the high expectations this new school has for its students.

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we worked on math (the subject everyone is scared of at my house).

Tuesdays and Thursdays, I put their imaginations to work and had them write their very own books!

Since all three of my kids LOVE to read, I thought it was time to make them the authors of their own imagination destinations. Funny enough, they really loved that idea and dove right in!

But, oh my goodness, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays just about sent me over the edge.

The frustration and tears shed are almost too hard to relive… and I’m talking about MINE!

Trying to find even moments of joy became increasingly difficult.

The longer the summer dragged on, the harder it became. I had done some wonderful studies on joy in the past, and am still in the midst of one now. So, why was I struggling so much with finding joy in this summer chaos?

Joy is a choice, plain and simple. It’s not something given, bought, earned or found.

1. We have to RECOGNIZE who the author of joy is.

That’s Jesus. By taking our place on the cross and forgiving us our horrible sins we don’t deserve forgiveness for, He created an institution of joy within our own hearts when we accept Him.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3).

(Also see Isaiah 61:10 and John 16:24.)

2. We have to CHOOSE to be thankful for everything He has done for us.

Being grateful for our abundant blessings is the fastest way to create joy in the midst of chaos.

Even being thankful for the chaos teaches us how to cling to our Lord and Savior during the most trying of times!

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

(Also see Habakkuk 3:17-18; Galatians 5:22-23; and 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18.)

3. We have to SHARE it and spread that joy with those who need it.

In my estimation, that’s pretty much everyone!

Joy spreads like wildfire when you act in love and compassion toward another.

If we could share God’s love with others and act towards them with that same love, the world would change, one person at a time.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

 (Also see Proverbs 15:23 and Romans 15:32.)

In my case, I needed to choose to be thankful for these three little lives He had placed in our home and hearts after 17 long years of waiting.

He allowed us to become parents to some pretty amazing kids who were grateful to find a home with loving parents willing to help them with their schoolwork.

But, why had I forgotten to be thankful for them this summer? 

Because I had focused too much on the temporary frustrations and didn’t choose to be grateful for my lifelong blessings!

Are you struggling with choosing joy in the midst of chaos? Is there something you’re forgetting to be grateful for that will increase your joy meter? Reach out to a sister-in-Christ to pray with you and make a better choice for yourself today.

Joy is right there for the choosing and sharing!

Julie Watson worked in women’s and children’s ministries for 10 years as a Development and Executive Director before becoming a stay-at-home mom to three beautiful children. In 2016, God created a beautiful forever family when she and her husband, Shawn, were able to legally adopt the children. Julie now helps others find hope and freedom from emotional eating & unhealthy habits as a C.O.P.E. Certified Health Coach.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Thursday
Sep192019

A Christian Response to Suicide

Note: This article is run to coincide with National Suicide Prevention MonthSeptember 2019. If you or someone youi know is in an emergency, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or call 911 immediately.

Susan K. Stewart offers practical solutions to real-world problems. In this special Health UPGRADE, she encourages people to take a biblical view of a tough issue: suicide.

"'I tried to hang myself.'

"Shock does not convey my feelings," Susan says, "when my son spoke these words over the phone."

I (Dawn) recently tried to help a neighbor whose nephew took his own life. As I shared words of hope with my neighbor and her sister, I saw first-hand the deep, stigmatized pain in those left behind. I'm grateful for people like Susan who help us understand positive, biblical ways to address suicide and encourage others.

Susan continues . . .

I am the one in the family who remains calm during a crisis, falling apart afterwards. I tried to sound calm and collected. All I could manage “Why did you do that?”

This scene came flooding back when I heard over the phone just days ago, “Judy committed suicide.”

The family member who called went on to explain the circumstances, but I didn’t hear. My mind was back twenty years when I received the call from my son.

The shock of the news; the relief my son was still alive.

While I was processing the memory, the caller made another statement that gave me pause: “She was so religious. I didn’t think she’d ever do something like this.”

Yes, our loved one was a Christian. Yes, she did rely on God. Yes, she took her own life. Does that mean she wasn’t a “true” Christian? Does that mean she missed out on eternal life?

Why is it non-believers think believers won’t end their lives?

Why will some Christians condemn Judy for taking her life and also my son for attempting?

The church I grew up in taught suicide was an unforgivable sin because it is the taking of a life, murder, for which the person is unable to seek forgiveness. I couldn’t reconcile the love of Jesus with the shunning of families whose loved one had died at their own hand.

I later learned the only unpardonable sin is the blasphemy or, as it is translated in The Message, “when you reject the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 12:31). Total rejection of God.

If some churches teach the taking on one’s life is unpardonable, no wonder those outside the church think someone who is “religious” would not do such a thing. Why would a Christian do a such thing and not be able to be forgiven?

In Judy’s case, physical pain was so overwhelming even the heavy doses of narcotic prescriptions couldn’t overcome it. Her physical pain caused emotional and mental pain for which she was seeking relief.

What can we do to help believers and non-believers through the tragedy of suicide without guilt or condemnation?

1. Treat the family of a suicide victim as we would any other family grieving.

Prepare meals, offer to sit silently, pray with them, offer a comforting memorial service.

This family is facing a double burden:

  • grieving the loss of a loved one, and
  • reconciling the act itself.

They may be dealing with the belief their loved one committed an unforgiveable sin.

2. Understand the unique nature of the death.

Suicide is different than other deaths because of misunderstandings and stigma attached. The family members may be embarrassed or angry with themselves for not recognizing the classic signs.

Some families do not want the suicide revealed. While this sets up a veil of secrecy, which in itself may be destructive, we need to be respectful of their wishes.

3. Walk through the process

Immediately following the death, a police report will be taken. Family members and friends will be interviewed.

Having someone sit in support during this process takes the sting away.

Most cases of a suicide require an autopsy will be performed. Sometimes this process can take more than a month. There will be no body to bury for a long while. For some, this is an added burden to the grief.

Often not considered is clean up. Often that clean up will be the task of the family … an unbearable task. Someone may be needed to handle the details.

If the death is in the home, immediate family may need some place to stay. The offer of a quiet bedroom or a place for children to be comfortable may be welcome and better than staying in a hotel.

4. Help find support in the following weeks and months

Death by suicide isn’t ordinary. The grief is different.

Yes, loved ones will go through the various stages, but they may get stuck in the anger stage. Anger at themselves as well as their loved one.

Unanswerable questions are asked. Loved ones need the support of those who have walked the road. If a local group isn’t available, individual support may be needed.

I’m thankful my son’s attempt to take his life was unsuccessful. Although it was painful, the experience changed me.

"As God has comforted me, I am able to comfort others" (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

It isn’t necessary to have experienced a loved one’s suicide to help.

  • Learn how to help.
  • Speak to church leaders.
  • Seek God.
  • If called, step out in faith.

What would God have you do to support those grieving a loss from suicide?

Susan K. Stewart, Acquisition Editor with Elk Lak Publishing, is a teacher, writer, and speaker known for practical solutions to real-world situations. Her books include Harried Homeschooler’s Handbook: Finding Hope in the Havoc, Preschool: At What Cost?, Science in the Kitchen: Fearless Science at Home for All Ages, the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. She brings her inspiring and encouraging messages to online and in-person conferences about homeschooling, writing, and editing. The Stewarts live in Central Texas with their three dogs, three cats, nine chickens, and a couple of donkeys. They have three children and six grandchildren. You can read more of Susan’s practical solutions at www.practicalinspirations.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesty of Richard Mcall at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Sep172019

Three Truths Depression Taught Me

Dr. Michelle Bengtson, a neuropsychologist, speaks and writes with authenticity and hope, because she has walked through some of the tough issues she works with in others. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she addresses the struggle with depression.

“Most people receive from their family certain genetic predispositions: blond hair, blue eyes, an artistic bent, or an engineering mind,” Michelle says.

“My family ‘passed down’ anxiety from one side and depression from the other.”

I (Dawn) do understand “predispositions.” I was an anxious “worry wort” like my dad. But I learned the biblical truth necessary to overcome the pit of worry, just as Michelle has learned how to cope with the valley of depression.

Michelle continues . . . 

Depression is a cruel invisible disease—one that we can’t see but can have devastating effects that hurt not just those who suffer but their families and future generations as well.

As a neuropsychologist, I’ve diagnosed and treated thousands who suffered from the invisible yet devastating effects of depression. My heart goes out to them because I remember the pain, the despair, the wondering if it wouldn’t be better just not to be.

In my darkest times, desperation drew me closest to God.

Desperation made me willing.

I see this same dynamic in my patients and in others as well.

In “Secrets of the Secret Place,” Bob Sorge says,

“While none of us asks God for hardship, we can’t deny the fact that hardship produces desperation, which in turn produces intense intimacy… the wise will seek Him with desperate longing.”

I remain grateful God gives beauty for ashes, and the oil of gladness for mourning (Isaiah 61).

No one wants to endure depression, but I’m honored God used such a dark time in my life to be a light in others’ darkness. 

While I hope I never experience such dark days again, depression taught me three things that I hope will comfort others also.

Scripture says we need faith only the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), and what’s more, Romans 12:3 tells us that God has given each of us a measure of faith.

It’s His gift to us. Yet we can choose what to do with it.

There will always be things competing for our attention and our beliefs.

We must choose whom we will serve, what we will pay attention to, and what we will believe.

When I was deep in the valley of depression, I was quick to believe the lies of the enemy, who Scripture refers to as “the accuser of the brethren.”

He delighted in repeatedly telling me:

  • I wasn’t as good as others,
  • I was unworthy of a life of joy,
  • I didn’t have enough faith, and
  • I was destined to always feel that way.

Maybe you’ve heard those same lies too.

As long as I listened to the lies of the enemy, I let depression define me.

As long as I listened to the lies of the enemy, I ignored what God had already said about me.

God was faithful to remind me that:

1. Depression doesn’t determine our worth—God did when Christ died on the cross for us.

2. Depression doesn’t dictate our destiny—when we become Christ-followers and receive Him into our lives as Savior, that secures our destiny.

3. Nothing, not even depression, can separate us from God’s love.

Once I began to recognize the enemy’s lies operating in my thoughts, my circumstances may not have changed, but I could exercise greater gratitude for the truth: Depression didn’t define me, God did.

God declared me redeemed, beloved, esteemed, renewed, adored and healed. Knowing that and believing that brought inner joy despite the sorrow of my circumstances.

I have seen God heal people of conditions instantaneously. Other times it’s a process. Sometimes He heals through prayer and laying on of hands or anointing of oil. Other times it’s through medicine, counseling, or the daily renewing and transforming of our minds.

Yet God always desires for us to seek Him in all our ways and let Him direct our paths.

In my darkest days, I clung to the promise in James 4:8—

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.”

That’s how we grow closer to Him, and He gets all the glory.

The truth is, I think situations, like depression, often drive us to a strengthening of our faith and a richer testimony of His faithfulness

And in that, there is beauty for ashes.

Have you ever gone through such trials that made you desperate? Trials that strengthened your faith? Hold on to truth!

Dr. Michelle Bengtson studied neuroscience and is board certified in clinical neuropsychology with over 20 years in private practice. She recognized a deep lack of understanding of the call to “renew our minds,” and the transformational effects a renewed mind has on one’s physical and mental health and outlook. Michelle authored Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey through Depression and the Hope Prevails Bible Study; and Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises (released September 2019, Revell). She blogs, maintains a Monday morning radio show, podcasts at GraceandTruthRadio.world, is a frequent guest on Fox News Radio, and speaks at conferences and churches internationally. Visit her website.

Graphic adapted, Pile of Ash from VermontWoodPellet.com.