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Tuesday
Feb052019

Shed Your Past—Shed the Pounds

Julie Watson is inspiring. In this UPLIFT post, she shares her story of how dealing with personal pain from her past enabled her—with the help of a healthy nutrition program—to lose weight and gain confidence.

“You can’t shed the extra pounds,” Julie says, “until you shed the painful experiences that put them there in the first place!”  

Exactly! I (Dawn) discovered the same thing over the past two years. I had to deal with the underlying emotional causes for my weight gain, and I appreciate Julie's honesty here.

Julie continues . . .

Last summer I set out to lose weight… a lot of weight! It’s not weight that came on recently, or even in the last 10 years. I’ve been carrying around this extra weight my entire life.

I often joke and say, “The last time I was thin was in the birthing room the day I entered the world!” 

Laughing about my weight has been my coping mechanism for as long as I can remember. But the truth is, there’s a lot of pain under that laughter.

My guess is that’s the case for most people who are obese. There’s always going to be a memory or two of the mean kids on the playground who called you, “fatty” or, in my case, my third-grade crush who called me “moose” while standing behind him in line at a Sea World drinking fountain.

I can still remember it like yesterday, and that was nearly 40 years ago!

Worse yet is when a person of authority crushes your spirit with words that are hurtful and damaging.

Such was the case with my pediatrician when I was 10 years old. I was told that I was overweight and needed to go on a diet immediately or I might get a myriad of health problems. 

Perspective for just a second:

  • I was five feet five inches tall at 10 years old.
  • I was a fully developed young woman and weighed 145 pounds.
  • I realize that’s a lot for an average 10-year-old. But I was NOT average! I was 3 inches taller than my fifth-grade teacher!

Back to the story . . .

My pediatrician sent me home with instructions for a 1,000-calorie-a-day diet and requirements to come back weekly to weigh-in. You would have thought I was the fattest person she had ever seen! That’s how I felt, anyway.

I remember crying in my room later that day. Nevertheless, I listened to her instructions and followed the plan. Of course, my mom made my food because, quite frankly, at 10 years old I didn’t know what a calorie was!

The following week, back we went. The scale read 144.5 pounds. I felt good that I had lost! But, that’s not the response I received. I got a FULL-ON YELLING LECTURE!

She was upset that I ONLY lost a half pound and needed me to understand—quite loudly—that if I didn’t lose weight, I was going to have High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, Diabetes, and would die of a heart attack really young!

I was 10—what did those words even mean? 

Traumatized, we left, and thankfully, never returned! However, the damage was done.

As I aged, I learned what those diseases were. I started having anxiety and panic attacks that I would get them.

I became a moderate hypochondriac in my teen years as the weight piled on. I used food to escape my emotions and feelings about my weight. If I heard one more person tell me, “You have such a pretty face, if only you lost weight,” I might have just exploded!

Fast forward to June 25th of 2018.

Desperate and alone I cried out to God for help!

I had self-fulfilled much of the prophecy that pediatrician had placed on me. I was in a very dark place, imagining an early death and that my family was going to have to bury me in a double-wide coffin.

God was faithful and graciously led me to an amazing, life-changing health program!

  • It broke through “why” I had a food problem, all relating to the pain compiled over the years.
  • It helped me look at the triggers, why they were there and how to be free of the pain that kept me in bondage.
  • At the same time, I learned new, healthy habits to replace the old, bad habits, one at a time.

The weight began to melt off and I began to heal from the inside out!

I learned that you can’t shed the extra pounds until you shed the painful experiences that put them there in the first place! 

I’m just about halfway in my weight loss journey—nearly 90 pounds down in just over 6 months! I have a long way to go yet, but I haven’t looked back because I haven’t wanted to!

When you feel good—really good—you don’t want to give that up! I found true FREEDOM, one directed by the Lord, for such a time as this!

When someone gives you keys to the jail door, you DON’T give them back!

Painful pasts must be dealt with so we can reach our goals! Whether it’s losing weight or another desire, speak to a pastor, counselor or therapist to work through your past and reach for your dreams!

You are worth it!

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’”  (Jeremiah 29:11).

Are painful experiences keeping you in bondage? Are you ready to shed them?

Julie Watson became an independent C.O.P.E. Certified Health Coach after finding freedom using an amazing health program that is transforming lives one habit at a time. Her husband became her first client, lost 43 pounds in three months and remains in maintenance. She loves helping others find the same freedom she found! Julie and Shawn live in San Diego with their three children and myriad of pets.

(NOTE from Dawn: This article is not meant to promote any specific program, but if you are interested in learning more about the specific program Julie is using, let me know and I will contact her.)

Graphic adapted, courtesy of MoreHarmony at Pixabay.

Monday
Feb042019

Elevate at Eleven-ish

There's one thing about finding out you have a disease. You tend to turn your thoughts inward.

Self-care is good and proper, but self-focus can hinder what God wants to do in and through you in your new adventure with God.

When I woke up at 3:00 am this morning, I couldn't go back to sleep. Lying in bed I remembered many thoughts I'd had since New Year's Day, 2019. I had so many goals for this year.

Then wham!

A diagnosis sent my thoughts reeling and my heart to God's throne of grace.

To be honest, the next weeks were all about me, me, me. How was I feeling? What was I thinking? Why was I weeping? Where would this journey take me?

But early this morning, God gave me a new perspective.

God was making me more sensitive spiritually, and I needed to do something with that sensitivity.

In recent days, I've become more aware of Facebook friends and church family who are hurting and struggling. Knowing my own upheaval, I wondered if they are facing the same temptations I am. The temptation to question God. The temptation to fear. The temptation to believe the enemy's lies.

A friend battling breast cancer. Another nauseated with an incurable disease. A woman struggling to care for her mother even as she battles her own physical weakness. A new Facebook friend who has touched my heart with her response to her own physical struggles—a true "heart sister" trusting God for each new day.

The Bible tells us to pray for one another (James 5:16), bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2) and encourage one another, building them up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). I'm good at finding practical ways to help or encourage. But when it comes to prayer . . .

I don't know about you, but—and I hate to admit this—I often promise to pray for people, saying I'll do it "whenever I think of you."

But then I don't.

Like you, I mean well. But I get distracted and busy. Or caught up in my own struggles. Then later I'm totally bummed because I forgot to pray.

Like me, do you need a "trigger" to remember to PRAY MORE for those who hurt?

I don't want Satan to rob me of the blessing of praying for those who struggle or are in pain. And I don't want to forget the power of prayer.

What came to me at 3:00 in the morning—which usually isn't a good time to start on anything new, but it worked for me—was a plan to not only remember to pray for those in need, but also to remember the God who answers prayer.

An intentional time. A focused time. A sacred time.

Now a person can choose ANY time; but what came to my mind was, "Elevate at Eleven." (I considered that time simply because "elevate" and "eleven" both start the same way.) Every day, clocks hit 11:00 twice—am and pm.

But then I thought, what if I didn't notice if it's 11:00 am or 11:00 pm? I didn't want to set an alarm, but I'm so often busy or distracted. I need a wider window of opportunity.

How about "Elevate at Eleven-ish"?

(Are you laughing at me or with me?)

I'd have two whole hours each day to remember. Surely, sometime from 11:00 to 11:59—twice a day—I'd remember to turn to the Lord for these precious people in my life.

I want to do two things in these special prayer times:

1. Elevate the Lord.

One definition of "elevate" is to raise or lift up something or someone to a higher position.

I know I can't make the Lord any more than He is. He is all in all, above all, infinitely more than I can imagine. We cannot contain Him (1 Kings 8:26-27; Psalm 139:7), because He is everywhere and fills everything; in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28a). We cannot add anything to the great "I AM."

But I can elevate God in my mind and heart. I can lift him up in praise and upgrade my worship (Psalm 103:1-4; Isaiah 25:1; Psalm 63:3-4, 7-8; Ephesians 3:20-21; Revelation 4:11). I can focus on one quality or characteristic of the Lord and praise Him for who He is and how He is working.

To elevate the Lord is also to remember He is sovereign—He is in control (1 Chronicles 29:11-12; Job 42:2; Psalm 103:19; 115:3; Jeremiah 32:17; 1 Timothy 6:15). Nothing in our lives takes Him by surprise or causes Him frustration.

To elevate Him is also to seek His purposes in our circumstances. We want to learn from our suffering and praise Him for how He will change us through our trials.

2. Elevate Others in Prayer

Another definition of "elevate" is to bear aloft—to bouy up or boost. Our hurting friends and family are no doubt praying for their own concerns, but we can boost their prayers heavenward with prayers of our own.

We elevate others when we lift them up before the Lord, taking their pain and suffering before Him and praying specific requests for them (Ephesians 6:18b; James 5:16b; Philippians 4:6-7; Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 5:14).

The One who knows the power of intercession—Jesus, who prays for us—can transform our prayers for others into great blessing.

We can pray people will sense God's presence. We can pray for His power and provision in their lives—whether in healing or in helping them endure. We can pray for their peace.

In order to best lift people up, we need to stay abreast of their concerns. We need to check in with them from time to time, because their prayer needs may change.

What does "Elevate at Eleven-ish" look like for me?

  • I now have "11" on Post-it Notes around my house ... triggers to get me started on my new prayer habit.
  • Some people may want to set an alarm for 11:00 on their clock or iWatch; or if they're at a desk a lot, they might try this Online Alarm Clock. (Personally, I don't like the intrusiveness of an alarm. There are already too many "jarring" things going off in my life—bells and whistles! But it could be one way to start a new prayer habit.)
  • I have a separate prayer list with all those I'm praying for during these specific and sacred times. But over time, I won't need the physical list. Their needs will be written in my heart.
    • NOTE:  These times of "elevation" do not replace my regular prayer time, but they enhance and upgrade it.
  • I'm asking the Lord to make me more aware of 11:00-ish times to intercede ... to stop me in the midst of my busyness, if only for a few minutes, to remember and pray. (But remember, you can choose to pray for strugglers any time.)

The whole point is, we must become more intentional about doing something we say we want to do.

Perhaps you will join me to Elevate at Eleven-ish (or any special time you choose).

If you do, please add me to your prayer list. I surely need your prayers as I enter this time of uncertainty. Yes, I want to be healed. But one thing I know for sure—one thing you can pray for that will always be God's will—I want to know the Lord more and make Him known.

Who are the people the Lord brought to your mind as you read this? Stop right now and pray for them.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator the blog, 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.

 

 

Thursday
Jan312019

Financial First Aid for the New Year

Ellie Kay is one of the people I trust to always give wise financial counsel, and in this Financial UPGRADE, her "financial first aid" kit is a good place for everyone to begin if they want to prepare for a financially healthy future.

"If you want to set your family up for success in 2019, then you may want to create a financial first aid kit," Ellie says. "It’s a lot easier than you may think."

I (Dawn) know what Ellie says is true. My own financial advisor has wisely helped set up this "kit" for us, and it really eases my mind.

Ellie continues . . .

When our youngest son, Joshua, was born, we started saying, "If he had been our first, he would have been our last." That boy had more energy and could get into more scrapes than all our other children combined.

When he was 18 months old, he stripped down to his diaper, took a plastic sword, and chased his four older siblings around the house—thus earning the nickname, "Conan, the Baby Barbarian." By that age, he had also jumped off the top bunkbed (three stitches) and "flown" off our travel trailer (four stitches).

Joshua was the reason we purchased a serious first aid kit.

Just as every family needs a good first aid kit for those unexpected accidents, they also need a financial first aid kit, or practical ways to help safeguard their financial future.

1. An Emergency Savings Account

This account is not an investment account—it doesn’t include IRAs, retirement accounts or CDs. Its purpose is not growth, but safety.

These are funds that are accessed in the event of spouse unemployment, emergency home repairs, or unexpected auto repair bills.

The best way to build this account is to establish a family budget using an app such as mint, pocketguard or YNAB (meaning, You Need A Budget). I recommend automatically transferring funds from a paycheck or checking account into a savings account every week.

A good guideline is to save three months of living expenses for dual income households or six months for a single income family.

2. Life Insurance

This is an easy ingredient in your financial kit. You will need enough money so that your dependents could invest the money and live modestly on the proceeds.

Use a QUOTE COMPARISON site—it will not sell your info, it is confidential—instead of a LEAD GENERATION site (they will sell your info). You can try insurify, Policy Genius, or Nerdwallet.

3. A Will

Here’s another easy one—as easy as making an appointment with the JAG  (Judge Advocate) if you are military or your HR department to see if your company offers free legal service for wills.

The main section of this critical document will assign a guardian for your children.

In many states, the surviving spouse may only get one-third to one-half of the assets that were in your sole name. Your children get the rest and if they are minors, a court administrator could handle their money until they become adults.

Make sure the beneficiary designations on any 401(k) plans, IRAs, life insurance and bank accounts are also up to date. 

To find a free service for a will, just type “pro bono will” followed by your state’s name into an online search engine to see about programs that you might tap.

4. A Retirement Account

If your company offers a 401k, then you could be leaving money on the table by not taking advantage of the matching part of that vital retirement tool.

Set up an automatic withdrawal to fund this account or start a Roth IRA or Traditional IRA so that you can get started on tomorrow’s retirement today. As little as $50 a month will get you started and the earlier you begin this account the more you can take advantage of the miracle of compound interest.

A good place to being with as little as $500 in an investment account is with Emperor, who specializes in helping beginner investors. Be prepared to give your social security number and bank information on the secure site and enjoy the adventure of investing!

5. A Good Credit Rating

The best way to rebuild good FICO, or credit score, is found in three steps: 

  • Pay more than your minimum payment (even if it’s only $5/month more).
  • Pay a day early rather than a day late (set up automatic transfers from your checking account to your credit card company for minimum payments.)
  • Pay attention to utilization and never let your available credit fall to less than 30% of the total credit available (for example, $2,000 on a $6,000 credit line.) 

Each year, get a free copy of your credit report by going to Annual Credit Report, or go into the base’s Family Support Center where they can also run a free copy of your report and check your score.

Do you have all these tools in a financial first aid kit? If not, get started soon to build the kit. Guard your financial health!

Ellie Kay is a best selling author of 15 books and a popular co-host of the Plutus Award finalist podcast that she hosts with her millennial daughter called The Money Millhouse. She is the mother of seven and a veteran speaker of 2,000 events. She’s the founder of Heroes at Home, a non-profit providing free financial education to military members. 

Graphic adapted, original courtesy of Gigabeto at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jan292019

S-E-T Your Marriage Up for Success!

Deb DeArmond loves to help people build sound, godly relationships. In this Marriage UPGRADE she challenges married people to boost their relationship with three important steps.

"Marriage may be easy one day, tough the next," Deb says, "But you can set yourself up to live happily ever after!"

I (Dawn) have experienced this in my nearly 45 years of marriage. Every relationship has its ups and downs, but we don't have to leave our relationships to chance. We can make choices for growth and stability.

Deb continues . . .

I’ve jokingly said I could never divorce my hubby, even on really rough days. But I could explain his sudden disappearance.

Face it, we all have our moments when it’s an uphill journey. So, let’s look at some tips to smooth out the path.

February is 2019 National Marriage Month—a good time to be sure you are S-E-T up to create, enhance or restore the health your marriage deserves.

After 43 years of marriage to my high school sweetheart—he’s still my favorite human—we continue to discover ways to be better together.

Take some time this month to S-E-T yourselves up with a few tools, tips, and tactics to make that easier each day.

S – Speak Up!

I’m grateful for the 400+ married couples who shared their stories with me during my research on the marriage books I’ve written. Surveys, focus groups, and interviews revealed info that stuns me.

The hardest to understand is the hurt, anger, or disappointment spouses experienced, but never shared with one another. Some major, some less so, but consistently damaging. They disclosed info to me they’ve never shared with one another!

When I ask, “Why didn’t you speak up?” the answers are universal:

  • It won’t make any difference.
  • He (she) should have already noticed.
  • I don’t want to hurt or anger my spouse.

Our spouses know us well, but they aren’t mind-readers.

One friend shared he was stunned when his wife filed for divorce. She handed him an exhaustive list of offenses with dates and times going back 18 years. The problem was, it was the first time he’d known about any of it.

So, find your voice and speak up. 

E – Engage Your Spouse

One way to keep communication healthy is to engage your spouse often in conversation. Draw out any issues that he/she may not have disclosed and share your own, too. The reasons are varied, but the bullets under "S" are the top three.

Ask open-ended questions designed to create understanding:

  • “The new job has been overwhelming. I need your help. How would you feel about temporarily taking on more responsibility at home?”
  • “How are you doing with the demand of the new promotion? How can I help?”
  • “You seemed upset I cancelled our plans and we’ve not discussed it. How do you feel about it?”

T – Truth Must Partner with Love

Ephesians 4:15 exhorts us:But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ” (CSB).

Truth spoken without love doesn’t land well and seldom creates the intended outcome.

Truth expressed in anger, frustration, or hurt is still truth—but comes across as an attack and rarely changes hearts or minds. It often creates or escalates isolation.

Truth is most effective when we’ve managed our negative feelings and communicated with love.

Connect to create shared understanding is the goal.

It may require we delay the conversation, but we don’t defer it indefinitely. Once communicated, we can find our way to a Godly solution together.

Don’t delay! S-E-T yourself up for success today!

Which of the "S-E-T yourself up" tips could help your marriage most right now? Why? What would be different if you implemented these steps? How might your choices contribute to positive change in your marriage?

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her first bookRelated by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming the Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships explores tools and tips to building sound relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Book #2, I Choose You Today, helps couples strengthen their marriages. Deb's newest book on marital conflict, Don't Go to Bed Angry, Stay Up and Fight! was co-authored by her husband, Ron. They live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her "Family Matters" site.

Graphic 1 adapted, courtesy of D. Williams at Pixabay. Graphic 2 adapted, courtesty of Yolanda Sun at Unsplash.

Thursday
Jan242019

Busy, Busy

Insightful and practical, Susan K. Stewart challenges women to consider what they're doing in light of God's Word. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she asks us to consider the busyness in our lives, and if there might be a better approach to goals.

"By the end of 2016, I was tired," Susan says. "I accomplished many of my goals. I had a stack of check-offed to-do list. I had been busy. Why did I feel as those I hadn’t accomplished anything?"

Oh, I (Dawn) know a lot about checked off lists. I've lived by them since I was a child. But Susan makes me think—is there a better way?

Susan continues . . .

I had accomplished a lot that year:

  • published an award-winning book,
  • spoke at national conferences,
  • taught classes online,
  • and many other achievements, which say "success".

I met my goals for the year.

That’s was the problem. I had met my goals.

Each year we are bombarded with resolutions, goals, and focus words. We are encouraged to plan out our year for success.

Midway through the year, just as we begin to think we’ve failed, more articles and podcasts land in our email boxes telling us how to pick up the goals we haven’t finished and move forward.

Even Christian material tells us how to make plans and we can accomplish them. It might be a three-step list or a twelve-step program. The point is, “make a plan and work the plan.”

This can seem like a circle of life—no, more like a race track of life with no finish line.

I needed not just a pit stop; I needed off the track.

Here are some of the ways I’ve conquered the busyness.

1. Don’t buy a planner.

If you already have one, put it at the bottom of the bottom drawer.

We can become slaves to the lists and boxes. It can steal our joy in what we do.

I choose to have a plain calendar. Once a box is full, I don’t schedule anything thing else for that day.

2. Nix the goals and resolutions.

Instead, determine your priorities for the year. And it’s fine if you have the same priorities each year.

Some people tell me priorities are the same as goals. I don’t think so.

The month of July, my priority is my granddaughter’s visit. It’s not a goal; she comes every year. Those tasks take second chair to my priority.

3. Limit the number of items on a to-do list.

I have sticky pad to-do lists. It has space for four items. That’s truly manageable, there’s no space to keep adding on.

I don’t take the top sheet off until I’ve completed the tasks on it. I do add items to the next pages, but I don’t see them until I get there.

Long term projects get their own four-item to-do lists, which I pull out only when I’m working on that project.

Without a long to-do list I don’t feel overwhelmed, and I have a sense of accomplishment with each sticky note I pull off.

These are some tangible ideas how to not be bogged down in the endless cycle of resolutions, goals, and failure. They help me keep perspective on my day and my life. I feel more in control.

But this list in not the real answer.

Henry David Thoreau said, "It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?"

I answer this question each time I get bogged down in accomplishments, when I think I should be doing more, when I’m tired of being busy. Yes, it happens even with the above steps.

Jesus was busy about doing good and His Father’s will.

  • Yes, He got tired.
  • Yes, He needed to draw away from the daily tasks to rest.
  • Yes, He needed to spend time with God the Father.

We are told by Jeremiah God has a plan for us, a plan for good.

God's plan doesn’t require to-do lists and goals, and it doesn’t leave us exhausted.

God’s plan also has hope and future. What more do we need? (Jeremiah 29:11)

The reason 2016 was so exhausting and lacked fulfillment is I was working from MY goals and plans. I was busy about busy work, instead of doing good and God’s will.

For those of us who need a final step, it is this:

4. Seek His kingdom first (Matthew. 6:33), and make it your priority.

God will add what you need to your to-do list.

Which of these action steps could help you get off the busy-busy treadmill right now? What can you do to seek the Lord and do more of His will?

Susan K. Stewart teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. She is known for practical solutions to real-world situations. Susan is senior nonfiction editor with Elk Lake Publishing, blog content manager for Mount Hermon Writers Conference blog, and has published five books. Susan lives in Central Texas with her husband, Bob, three dogs, three cats, nine chickens, and two donkeys. Discover more about Susan's ministry at www.practicalinspirations.com.