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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson



Patriotism Plus!

I love America! I'd rather live here than anywhere in the world. In spite of current governmental choices I may not like, I still have basic freedoms enshrined in our founding documents. Don’t ever take our freedoms in America for granted!

Here are some ways we can all “upgrade” our expression of patriotism:

  • Tell your children and grandchildren why America is so special. Make sure they understand the freedoms we share. Read or get them books that focus on true American heroes. Encourage them to create and display “patriotic” art.
  • Read about some American heroes yourself—our Founding Fathers (and Mothers). What are the character qualities that made them great?
  • Get a flag and fly it—show your American spirit! Don’t just wait for July 4th or Flag Day. Learn flag etiquette.
  • Honor those who have fought or are fighting to keep America free. Visit the graves of those who gave “the ultimate sacrifice.” Write a note of gratitude to someone in the Armed Forces.
  • Wear the “red, white and blue” occasionally. Remember: red is for courage and sacrifice, blue is for justice and freedom, and white is for purity.
  • Host neighborhood or family get-togethers on patriotic holidays. Bake some red, white and blue desserts, or create a dish of berries and cream. Decorate with flags and stars.
  • Enjoy fireworks shows together – celebrate our freedom!
  • Read the words of America’s patriotic songs (like the “Star Spangled Banner,” “America,” or “God Bless America.”) Consider how God has indeed blessed our nation.  
  • Vacation in American historical sites.
  • Volunteer – practice the spirit of American compassion and giving. Consider working at a mission, food bank, or homeless shelter.
  • Watch a classic movie to inspire you – like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or Independence Day.
  • Cheer on Americans who strive for excellence, whether it’s the Olympics, World Cup or a spelling bee!
  • Pray for America’s leaders – even the ones you don’t agree with! (Run for office or another leadership role, if God calls you to do so.)
  • Pray for America—especially that God’s people will stand with courage. Remember that true freedom comes from Him. We love America, but God is more concerned about our hearts than where we live (Psalm 33:12-22). Seek Him!

What does “Patriotism” look like to you?

Dawn Wilson is the founder of Heart Choices Ministries and creator of and also blogs at Dawn's ministry encourages, edifies and energizes women with the truth of scripture so they can better enjoy life, bless others and honor God. She lives in San Diego with her husband Bob and a rascally maltipoo named Roscoe.


Before Your Next Date with Hubby

Arlene Pellicane offers lots of marriage tips in her book, 31 Days to a Happy Husband; What a Man Needs Most from His Wife. I'm glad she's willing to share some of them with our Project UPGRADE readers. In this post, Arlene encourages women to think through some practical ideas for "dating" Hubby.

"You know you’re supposed to go on date nights. People say it’s good for your marriage, kind of like taking a multivitamin," Pellicane says. "Yet you’re dragging your feet (taking vitamins isn’t sexy). Your schedule’s packed and dinner and movie just don’t seem that important."

Pellicane continues... 

As a mother of three young children, let me lean in closer and whisper in your ear:

Don't forget to date!

It’s critical to stay connected emotionally, physically and spiritually to your spouse. The daily grind typically doesn’t cater to that, so you have to create space to connect and have fun together. You don’t want to slowly drift apart over the years and end up as roommates. Instead, you want to keep courting!  

Here are four tips for your next date with hubby:   

1. Be playful and fun.  Date night is not the time to whip out the calendars and hash out who’s going to pick up dinner and who’s going to visit Aunt Grace in the hospital.

I love what Dr. David Clarke says about dating:

When you go out together on a “date,” it’s not romantic. It’s not playful. It’s not a time of fun and laughter. You’re going through the motions. It’s a good idea to go out on dates, so that’s what you’re doing. 

“We had a nice time,” you say. A date is not supposed to be a “nice time.” You have a “nice time” with your mother, or your Aunt Bertha. A real date with your spouse ought to be fun, stimulating, romantic and sensual. That’s why you got married!

2. Do something different. It could be as simple as trying a new restaurant or going to the mall and sampling new perfumes and colognes. If it’s always dinner and a movie, try a picnic dinner at the lake instead. 

3. Look your best. Just like you’d touch up your makeup before going to a party with friends, make sure you look attractive to your spouse. Be aware of your husband’s taste. (He may prefer a natural look or bright red lipstick, your hair up or your hair down.) My friend’s husband loves to see her in red. She doesn’t like red, but she does look great in it. She bought a few red blouses so she could go out with her husband … wearing red.

4. Heap him with praise. Date night is appreciation night! Spend the time complimenting your spouse about certain things he did that week. Hold his hand and cuddle up together. Be thinking about things you appreciate about your man and tell him all about it on date night. 

Which of these Hubby-dating tips encourages you to UPGRADE your relationship?

Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 31 Days to a Happy Husband and 31 Days to a Younger You.  She has been featured on Family Life Today, The Better Show, The 700 Club, Turning Point with Dr. David Jeremiah, The Hour of Power, and TLC’s Home Made Simple. Arlene lives in Southern California with her husband James and three children, Ethan, Noelle, and Lucy.






Passing on the Dream

Author Karen O'Connor understands the power of legacyof not only passing on great biblical truths, but also the dreams and lessons of life.

In "Winter Dream," Karen wrote:

The afternoon of my tenth birthday my father came home early from work. “Surprise,” he said as he stood outside my classroom door when the school bell rang. “We’re going ice skatingjust you and meto celebrate your birthday. It’s about time you and I used these beautiful skates Mom gave us for Christmas.”

My heart pounded! Just the thought of having my father all to myself for half a day was more than I could take in. And to think we would go ice skating together! I had dreamed of such a day for as long as I could remember. My mother knew about it. That’s why she bought us matching skates.

I waved good-bye to my friends and piled into our old tan car. Off we went to the nearby pond, now frozen hard after a week of sub-freezing temperatures. I wrapped a wool scarf around my neck, pulled my stocking cap over my long brown hair, and donned my mittens. Then hand-in-hand, Dad and I skated across the pond all afternoon. Whenever I hit a bump or felt scared, he was there, stretching out his hand to hold me up and to guide me through the maze of skaters whizzing by.

Over the years I’ve often thought about that day and how my father brought my dream to life!         

I skated many times after that but none meant as much to me as that special day alone with Dad. Then came the time when, Sarah,  one of my granddaughters, invited me to her 10th birthday party. The afternoon would include lunch at a favorite restaurant and unexpectedlyice skating at a local rink.

I said, ‘yes,’ to lunch, but ‘no’ to skating! “I haven’t skated in nearly forty years,” I told Sarah.

For the rest of the week, however, I wrestled with my decision. I knew how much it would mean to her to have me on the ice, not on the sidelines! I decided to surprise herjust as my father had surprised me so long ago.

“Oh Lord,” I prayed, “help me recreate the dream. I want to pass on to Sarah the confidence, the fun, the closeness that my dad gave me.” 

When it was time to skate, I stepped out on the ice, my heart pounding and my legs wobbly. I took a deep breath, then reached for Sarah’s hand. Off we went, and before I knew it I was skating, really skating. My earthly father was no longer there to hold me up, but I was standing tall nonetheless, because I had my heavenly father right there with Sarah and me.

Fear vanished as the truth of God’s promise in Isaiah skipped across my heart.For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” (Is. 41:13 NRSV). 

I smiled in relief. If the Lord would uphold and honor my simple dreamsice skating with my father and years later, with my granddaughtersurely he would be there, as well, for the big dreams and major challenges ahead. I knew then I had nothing to fear.

What dreams are you passing on to the next generation?

Karen O’Connor is an award-winning author and popular Christian speaker. She lives in Watsonville, California, with her husband, Charles Flowers. This story is based on a selection from her book, Squeeze the Moment (WaterBrook Press, 1999), pp. 54-56. Visit her on the web at




Praise for Hubby: 'You da' Man!'

I met Kathi Lipp on the road at a women’s event. She is funny and smart. In her book, The Husband Project, she encourages women to share “great gossip” about their husbands. Others might call that “bragging on hubby” or becoming hubby’s cheerleader.

“As cliché as it may sound, our husbands want to be our heroes,” Kathi says. “More than they want to know that we love them, they want to know that we respect them. They need to know that they’re never the butt of our jokes, that they’re the go-to-guy in every story we tell.”

More from Kathi:

Make an opportunity today to spread some great gossip about your man. It doesn’t matter if it’s one of your friends or one of his; let that somebody know how blessed you are to be married to your guy.

Some key phrases you may want to put on index cards to help you remember:

  • “I feel so lucky to have a man who knows how to do his own laundry.”
  • “You know when I knew that my husband really loved me? When he could remember my order at Starbucks.”
  • “I just love the way he is with our kids.”
  • “He makes the best lasagna on the planet.”

Steering the Ship

A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it  (James 3: 3-4 The Message). That’s what great gossip is all about.

As wives, we are often the ship’s captain, while our husbands are that huge ship. Words spoken in encouragement and love can go a long way to building our men up. But the opposite is true as well.  There is nothing that can determine the direction of our husband’s day quicker than the words that are spoken to him in the morning.

Sometimes as wives, we forget the role we play in our husband’s lives. We all remember that great line from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, spoken by Toula’s mom, “The man may be the head of the household, but the woman is the neck. She tells him which way to turn.”

OK, I don’t tell my husband which way to turn, but I do have an influence about how he navigates through his day.

I know that I need to be especially careful about my tone. Sometimes I think I am just oh-so-witty, when really it’s coming off as sarcastic and biting. It’s not enough to just say kind and encouraging words. I need to make sure that whatever words I choose only build up my husband, never tear him down.

That’s what great gossip is all about.

If you could brag on your husband to the whole wide world, what would you say?

Kathi Lipp is a speaker and prolific author, including The Husband Project and Praying God’s Word for Your Husband with Revell and Harvest House Publishers with four more books coming out in the next two years.  Kathi’s articles have appeared in dozens of magazines, and she is a frequent guest on Focus on the Family radio (named “Best of Broadcast”). She and her husband Roger are the parents of young adults in San Jose, CA. When she’s not doing laundry, Kathi speaks at retreats, conferences and women’s events.




How to Pray for Your Prodigal Child

Meet Janet Thompson: Janet's “Dear God” series of books are helpful and encouraging to women with many issues, but I asked her to write on the Prodigal today because I know it is dear to her heart and she can encourage others to UPGRADE their prayers.

“Are you wondering if you have a prodigal?,” Janet said. “Here’s my definition: ‘A child who is breaking the heart of his or her parents and the heart of God.’”  

Janet’s testimony and tips are positive and helpful:

I was a prodigal who raised a prodigal. I modeled worldly ways to my daughter, Kim, and she wanted to be just like me. When she was eighteen, I rededicated my life to Christ—I thought my daughter would follow after me. But she wanted nothing to do with this new “weird” mom.

When she announced she was going to live with her boyfriend when she left for college, I was heartbroken. I tried every way I could think of to dissuade her, but no amount of talking, pleading, or cajoling convinced her to change her mind.

Sobbing and sinking to my knees as I watched the taillights of my beloved only daughter’s little blue car disappear down the street as she headed off to college, I cried out to God: “Where did I go wrong?” “What can I do?” “Is it too late?”

Answers came in a devotional book which contained prayers in the form of paraphrased Scripture and a place to journal. Here are examples of verses I prayed for Kim, but you can take any verse in the Bible and personalize it because the Bible is your Guide for life. Make it personal and applicable:

Evening and morning and at noon I commit to pray and cry aloud for my daughter Kim. And You, Lord, shall hear my voice. (Psalm 55:17 NKJV)

I pray that my daughter Kim will know the truth and the truth will set him/her free. (John 8:32 NIV)

I started praying Scriptures for Kim:

Daily—I didn’t miss a day praying for her because I couldn’t stand the thought of her not being with me in heaven.

Biblically—Praying God’s Word back to Him kept me praying His will and not just my own will. I journaled my will.

Expectantly—with confidence that God would answer and act and in anticipation of how He would bring her back.

Persistently—I didn’t let myself become discouraged, even when I didn’t see any change in her and it seemed she moved further into the sinful lifestyle. I heard God’s still small voice that He wanted her back more than I did. So I kept on praying.

Sacrificially—I often fasted while praying.

Unceasingly—I never gave up, knowing my job as a praying parent was never finished.

Thankfully—always praising God for His answers to prayer even when they were different than I expected.

After five years of praying biblically, expectantly, persistently, sacrificially, unceasingly, and thankfully, my daughter started the long journey back to God and to me.

This past Mother’s Day, my "former prodigal" daughter Kim and I shared our story and our testimony of God’s faithfulness and grace at the Journey Churches Mother's Day Tea. (See photo, above).

Do you have a prodigal child?

Leave a comment if you'd like Janet and I (Dawn) to pray for you and your child.

Janet Thompson is a speaker and author of 17 books including “Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter: Hope, Help, & Encouragement for Hurting Parents” and her latest in a “Dear God series, Dear God, He’s Home! A Woman’s Guide to Her Stay-at-Home Man. Visit Janet at