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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson

 

Thursday
Jan032019

Looking Back to Look Forward

Kathy Carlton Willis is a life trailblazer. As her bio reads, she "shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow." And so you can move forward. In this New Year UPGRADE she writes about two "looks"—the look backward and the look forward.

Kathy says, “It’s not possible to move forward while looking back, but it’s also not possible to move forward without having first looked back.

"Looking back allows you the opportunity to leave it there. The good and the bad."

I (Dawn) love the opportunity Kathy gives us to prepare ourselves for our best year ever. Lots of wisdom here.

Kathy continues . . .

The past is only baggage that will weigh you down moving forward. It’s futile to expect passion to be enough for productivity in living out your purpose for 2019 until you properly put 2018 to bed.

Do you have any annual practices as you transition from the old year to the new year? Or would you like to start a new tradition this year?

It’s a great time to look back (to learn from the past) and to look forward (to set new goals).

Some choose to ask God to give them a focus word or phrase for the year. This practice allows you to have a main purpose or perspective as you navigate the next twelve months.

One way to prepare for the New Year is to:

  • look back on the old year,
  • address any unfinished business hanging on in your heart or mind,
  • and then ask God to help you move forward, ready for what He has planned for you in 2019.

Steps to Looking Back Well

1. Be honest with yourself.

Many women tend to downplay the good things and magnify the bad.

2. Identify the positive highlights of the year.

Why do they stand out in your mind? What was your part in the outcome? How did you see God at work in the circumstance, or in your heart and mind?

3. Let go of the disappointments of the year.

What do you regret? How were you let down? How did something negative impact your year?

What can you do to move past it?

4. Repent of anything left unconfessed from 2018.

  • Look upon your sinful choices with remorse and learn from them.
  • Consider ways to choose godly options next time.
  • Accept God’s forgiveness and ask God to change any lingering tendencies that might cause you to give in to unholy thoughts or actions in the future.

5. Recall the hard times you endured that had good outcomes.

Thank God for equipping you with the endurance needed to persevere.

As you say goodbye to 2018 and say hello to 2019, take some time to grieve the losses of the year and celebrate the victories.

Do something monumental and memorable to mark this moment. This prepares you to move forward.

“Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given” (1 Chronicles 16:12 NLT.

Now it’s time to release 2018 and enter into 2019 with full resolve!

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:13-14 NLT).

Steps to Looking Forward Willingly

1. Decide what to do about unfinished projects.

What was left unfinished in 2018?

How do you plan to make room for it in 2019? Or is this a goal that you need to let go?

2. Evaluate what new thing God is impressing on you as you pray for direction in the new year.

How will you incorporate that into your plan?

3. Identify distractions, doubts and disabilities.

What limitations might impair you, moving forward?

How can you set up a plan to work around these concerns?

4. Work within your heart-core passion.

What project excites you? How can you make more room in your life for it?

5. Reserve more margin or white space in your life.

How will this refuel you?

What might you do to guard against draining to-dos threatening to crowd this space?

6. Ask God to show you the goals He has for your 2019.

  • What will help you grow spiritually, personally, and professionally?
  • What will benefit your family and friends?
  • What will put you in a place of service and ministry?
  • And mostly, what will bring glory to God?

The blank 2019 calendar represents you emptied out and ready to be filled up with God and His goals for you.

How will you fill your calendar (and your life) this year?

God’s Grin Gal, Kathy Carlton Willis, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with Grace; and she is featured on CBN. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with their adorable Boston Terrier, Hettie.

Graphic Adapted, courtesy of JakeMelara at Unsplash.

Tuesday
Jan012019

Life-changing Thinking: Focused, Fearless & Free

What I love about Becky Harling is her desire to help people move beyond their obstacles toward hope, and this is a perfect goal for the new year. Becky offers some life-changing thinking in this New Year's UPGRADE.

“A few weeks ago I was listening to one of my coaching clients, and she mentioned three words in our conversation,” Becky says. 

“I knew immediately that those were three words that God has for me as I enter 2019. My guess is they might be for you as well.” 

I (Dawn) know how important a “word for the year” can be. To have three words is a bonus!

Becky continues . . .

My three words are “focused,” “fearless” and “free.”

As I’ve been thinking about those three words, I’ve had a few thoughts about how those words invite life-changing thinking!

1. FOCUSED

Focus is crucial. It’s so easy to get sidetracked or distracted from what really matters.

The wise writer of Hebrews wrote, 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing out eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2). 

As we enter 2019, may I challenge you? Fix your eyes on Jesus.

In the Greek, the phrase “fix our eyes” means to give undivided attention. It signifies looking away from anything that distracts you from your walk with Christ.

  • If you fix your eyes on people, they’ll disappoint you.
  • If you fix your eyes on your circumstances, you’ll be discouraged.
  • If you fix your eyes on the world events, you’ll be depressed.

Fix your eyes on Jesus and stay focused on what He’s called you to do.

One of the ways Steve and I have tried to keep our focus on Jesus has been to keep a gratitude journal. At dinner each night, we list the top three blessings of the day and give thanks together as a couple for all the goodness of the Lord. Gratitude is just one simple way to keep your focus on Christ.

2. FEARLESS

I believe God is calling His children to rise up and live boldly.

Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy,

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). 

What does it look like for you to live boldly for Christ in 2019?

  • Maybe it means taking a risk and going on a mission trip.
  • Maybe it means increasing your giving.
  • Maybe it means boldly sharing your faith with your neighbor. I dare you. 

Ask God what it looks like to live boldly for Him.

3. FREE

So many of us live in bondage to what other people think of us. But Christ has called us to freedom.

He has accomplished our freedom through the cross. 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). 

May I ask you a personal question?

How much brain space do you give to worrying about what others might think of you?

Here’s the thing—God calls us to nurture our relationships, but He never calls us to worry about what others are thinking. I believe when we truly internalize God’s love we are free to love others rather than be enslaved to them.

As you stand on the brink of 2019, why not consider what it might look like for you to live focused, fearless and free this year?

What action steps can you take right now to initiate this life-changing thinking that leads to life-changing behaviors?

Becky Harling. Authentic. Passionate. Funny. Insightful. Becky is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and other venues. She is the author of Who Do You Say I Am?, 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, courtesy of StockSnap at Pixabay.

Monday
Dec242018

Christmas: He Lives!

As I (Dawn) think about this Christmas, I can't help but think of people all over America, all over the world, who are without joy and hope. Yet I am also overwhelmed by the gracious gift God gave to humankind.

The offering of salvation. The opportunity for total transformation. The power of the Gospel to change everything!

The good news is, Jesus lives.

Jesus is as alive today as He was in that manger.

That does have the potential to change everything in our lives—better than the best "upgrade" you can imagine! Our hope is in Christ, "because He lives." (Don't miss the song at the end of this post!)

Though my blog is all about upgrading our lives, I hope you understand it's not about becoming "better" to win brownie points with God (Ephesians 2:8-9).

We will never be made right with God through good intentions or works.

God's plan to save us does not encourage our comparing ourselves with others or becoming a person God never intended us to become. He has a unique plan and gifts for each of us, and it begins by receiving His free gift of salvation in Christ.

We are saved only by God's good grace; and an authentic Christian is "accepted in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).

I don't know how that makes you feel, but I know what it stirs in my heart.

I am profoundly grateful for God's mercy!

I rejoice today—

  1. Because Jesus was willing to lay aside His glory and come as a tiny babe in Mary's womb (Philippians 2:7; Luke 2:1-20).
  2. Because Jesus obeyed the Father in Heaven perfectly, even to the point of going to the cross (John 12:49; 14:31; Hebrews 5:8; 10:7; Philippians 2:8).
  3. Because Jesus died on the cross as our substitute (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).
  4. Because Jesus rose again to certify our victory over Satan and death—HE LIVES! (Acts 2:24; Romans 6:5-10; 1 Corinthians 15:54; Hebrews 2:14-15; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Revelation 20:14)
  5. Because Jesus lives forever as our great High Priest, Lord and King (Hebrews 7:24-28; Isaiah 9:7; Philippians 2:11; Revelation 19:16).
  6. Because Jesus is coming again to receive us unto Himself (John 14:3).

The truth of the Gospel message is this: Only God can change our hearts.

When God UPGRADES us, we become more like Jesus.

Though we think it all began with the baby in the manger, our "upgrade" really began in the heart of the Father long before the arrival of Bethlehem's Babe: 

"... he [the Father] chose us in him [Jesus] before the foundation of the world..." (Ephesians 1:4a).

He has blessed us in Christ and adopted us according to the good pleasure of His will "to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved [Jesus]" (Ephesians 1:3-6).

Take a moment or two today and talk to the Father.

  1. Say thank you for His mercy.
  2. Say thank you for Jesus, our Savior.
  3. Commit to renewed holiness.
  4. And take some time to praise the Lord for "his glorious grace."

We often sing “He Lives” at Easter, but I am taken by how it fits the Christmas season too!

"God sent His Son, they called Him Jesus...."

And He's coming again!

Because He lives, we can face anything.

Here is a beautiful song sung by Joni Eareckson Tada and Gracie Rosenberger—women with great disabilities, but also great purpose and joy. In “He Lives,” Joni and Gracie rejoice in the victory and hope we have in Christ. I pray this music will touch your heart and encourage you today.

Christmas Blessings to you!

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.

Graphic adapted, courtesty of Kevin Carden at Lightstock.

Thursday
Dec202018

Enjoy Your Friendships—Especially at Christmastime!

Kathy Collard Miller is an amazing writer and speaker who focuses on women's hearts—encouraging women to live as Daughters of the King. In this Christmas UPGRADE, Kathy invites us to consider our friendships at Christmastime.

"Do friendships seem more beneficial or challenging? Most likely both," Kathy said.

I (Dawn) can't tell you how many new friendships I've developed during past Christmas seasons, but even more, I've come to appreciate the value of faithful friends who continue to encourage, challenge and motivate me.

Thank you, Kathy, for reminding us to view our friendships from God's perspective!

Kathy continues . . .

Let’s see how we can be more blessed by friendships than frustrated—especially during the holidays.

Friendships are gifts from God.

That may sound very basic, but when we remember God orchestrated every human contact, we can be grateful even when it’s a challenging connection.

When we are tempted to grumble instead, let’s remember the truth about friendships.

1. Friendships are God’s gift.

Sometimes we define “good” as “trouble-free.” We can easily assume God made a mistake or is mean-spirited when He connects us with an “unlovable” person. And certainly God might lead us to limit our availability, but every person has a purpose in our lives and we have God’s purpose in their lives.

Especially at Christmas, there might be a specific talent or perspective you offer few others can offer. Look for that kind of opportunity.

Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” How appropriate at the stressful time of Christmas.

2. Friendships are an invitation to draw closer to God.

For instance, if boundaries are needed, seek His plan and don’t immediately assume you should cut off the friendship.

I remember a challenging friendship which seemed her fault. I thought of requirements for her behavior which would eliminate my uncertainty.

Suddenly, I saw my plan of not needing to seeking God’s guidance at each challenge.

I released my control and learned to be more loving and kind with God’s power.

I remembered James 1:2: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.”

At Christmas, everyone celebrates differently. That can feel stressful and we might want to withdrawn or control.

God’s power can give us a gracious perspective of honoring others and see how we depend upon God because of it.

3. Friendships are examples to encourage us.

  • Is there someone who handles stress better than you by depending upon God? Ask her how she maintains her peace.
  • Is there someone who sets up priorities more effectively than you? Ask her about how she makes plans.
  • Is there someone who makes Christmas more worshipful? Ask her to share her ideas.

Most of us resist asking for help, but we need to humble ourselves. One humble question can open the door within another person’s heart to ask for help.

4. Friendships aren’t for comparisons.

You may have a friend who decorates amazingly for Christmas and you don’t know how to make those amazing bows. Don’t belittle your lack of designing skills.

Another friend is a fabulous gourmet cook and you can’t seem to remember to take the neck and giblets out of the cavity of the turkey. Don’t apologize every time someone takes a bite of your simple meal.

God never wants you to compare with another. I Corinthians 12:5-6 tells us, “there are varieties of service, … but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”

You are uniquely suited for God’s service to others.

Be grateful for the God-given skills He’s given you, even if they seem lacking in comparison.

You have ideas others lack and are impressed by.

Use them for God’s glory.

What friendship challenge is God using to make you more holy or to give you an opportunity to help another?

Kathy Collard Miller is amazed at God’s work in and through her. She has spoken in over 30 states and 8 foreign countries. As an author she has over 50 published books and her latest is At the Heart of Friendship: Daughters of the King Bible Study Series (Elk Lake Publishers). She is a wife, mom, grandma, and lay counselor living in Southern California. Discover more about Kathy's ministry at her website

Graphic adapted, courtesy of CelebrateWoman at Pixabay.

 

Tuesday
Dec182018

Have a Merry Macro Christmas

With insight and compassion, Julie Sanders reaches out to help people in need. She seeks to see the world through the eyes of the Lord, and in this Christmas UPGRADE, she encourages us to look through a "big picture" lens.

"We don’t want to miss a single detail of the Christmas season," Julie said.

"Sometimes, we find ourselves on overload with the details we see, hear, and know. What would we see if we stepped back?"

Stepping back is something I (Dawn) do occasionally to move beyond surviving tough circumstances to thriving in them, so I truly appreciate Julie's encouragement to shift our focus during the craziness of the holiday season.

Julie continues . . .

Since the year 2000, cell phone cameras have enamored us with close-up images. Micro glimpses call us to look closely at what’s overlooked.

We’ve photographed baby feet, latte art, water droplets, Bible passages, candle flame, and flower petals.

In our effort to focus on small things, we easily forget the big picture.

The Invitation to Look Up

The greatest Gift Giver knows we have a human leaning toward small things—so much that He repeatedly invites man to look at the bigger picture.

  • Abraham, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” (Genesis 15:5)
  • To His people, “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens" (Isaiah 40:26).
  • When Stephen’s life was taken, he “looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God” (Acts 7:55).
  • The Psalmist said, "I will l lift up my eyes to the mountains”—he wanted to remember where help comes from. (Psalm 121:1-2)

Our attention is captured by a micro-scope, but we miss much when we lose the macro-view.

The Capacity to See

Today we have the ability to see small acts and needs around the world. It’s a lot to take in, and we become numb. Our exposure exceeds our capacity.

God’s capacity is infinite, sufficient to be all-seeing and all-knowing for the multitude of small things only He can be fully aware of and responding to in full. 

For us, it’s more than we are meant to see and know and touch.  Too much micro is just too much.

We are limited in our knowing and our capacity to know, but God is all knowing and able to know it all. If we look up, we see beautiful things.

The Benefit of Big Picture

As Christmas approaches the Northwest coast, ferries cut through cold Puget Sound waters from Seattle to a destination in the San Juan Islands. Outer decks empty as passengers find warmth inside around tables. 

A walk through with a broad, macro view reveals random tables where puzzles have been left for strangers and would-be friends.  Simply walking past with a “big picture lens” reveals missing pieces, matches, and images taking shape.

A big picture view reveals people gathering and making warmth, jingling with laughter and conversation.

There’s power in the big picture.

The Invitation to a Merry Macro

What if this was a Merry Macro Christmas?

Instead of Insta-posting small micro-glimpses, what if we captured wider landscapes and larger themes? What if we took steps back to scan the scene, taking in the collective gift of a silent night, decked halls, and peace on earth?

Maybe, like shepherds long ago, we would lift our eyes and see creation’s host giving glory to God in the highest.  Maybe the macro-view would reveal what hearts long to receive—the gift of love to the world.

Maybe the big picture would show mankind through us what grace looks like.

Stepping back in this telephoto time takes courage.

If we resist the urge to zoom in every time, will we fit in or be left out?  Is it a big mistake to look away from the small?

Here are five steps to start:

  1. Take pictures of whole scenes, not just details.
  2. Make your exposure match your capacity.
  3. Talk about the themes of what you experience.
  4. Limit social media details to focus on real, macro life.
  5. Physically lift your head, look up and out, and be present.

“This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name:  

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know’ (Jeremiah 33:2).

This Christmas, let’s lift our eyes from the micro-scopic and look to the macro-scope of bigger things God wants us to see.

Have a Merry Macro Christmas!

What small things distract you and hold you captive to details? What micro-scopic concerns could you let go of to invite in a bigger view?

Julie Sanders is a leader with children and families in need, where the big picture of God’s love is always the best gift. During this Christmas season, you’ll find her happy to have her family together again and doing puzzles on cold Northwest nights. Julie writes from her online home, “Come Have a Peace.”

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

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