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Entries in Intimacy with God (4)

Thursday
Nov152018

3 Steps to Joy for Young Mothers

Kate Hagen's desire to help mothers is an outgrowth of her counseling ministry; but more than that, she loves young moms and feels compassion for their struggles. In this Personal Care UPGRADE, she suggests three ways young mothers can include more joy in their lives.

Kate says, "I wish I could go back and tell myself these three things." 

Oh, Kate got me (Dawn) there! So many things I'd tell my younger self, now that I'm seeing life from a more seasoned point of view!

Kate continues . . . 

Yesterday I was reading a journal from my early years of motherhood. As I read my old entries, I was heavy hearted as I remembered all the guilt and desperation I felt—always wishing I was doing better.  

I want to go back to that Kate and give her a hug.

I want to tell her:

  1. Enjoy your kids more!
  2. Release guilt about not feeling connected to God.
  3. You're doing the best you can right now! And it's enough.

If Kate from 10 years ago could spare 15 minutes, I would expound by telling her about these three steps to joy. 

But I would make it quick, because there would be a child to run after at any minute!

1. Enjoy your kids!

How? 

Look for God's image in them. When you see them in the morning, and you're a Zombie monster due to a terrible night's sleep, look into their big eyes and think, "You are made in the image of God."

I promise, it will help! God’s loving image is there, even when they won't let you go to the bathroom by yourself.

One of the best mom verses is I Peter 4:8, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins."

Yes, my kid's sins (shortcomings) are covered as I love them, and SEE God's love in them.

Be your kid’s biggest cheerleader.

I remember deciding I wanted to be seen by my kids as a cheerleader more than a police. It was a life-changing decision that positively affected my relationship with my kids immensely.

As much as possible, be slow to anger and slow to speak, and instead be quick to listen and quick to forgive.

 These contrasting ideas will really help you enjoy your kids more. It’s a guarantee.

Have these be your rules: less talk; more listening. Don't worry if you break them. You will. But, have them be your standard. (God does.)

2. Release guilt about not feeling connected to God.  

I spent so much time and ink feeling bad about not being close to God.

It's good to cry out to God. It's very Psalmist!

But I think I often missed the joy God was trying to give me by longing for it to come the way it used to. Before kids. 

I wanted the old, deep, spiritual connection I had when I was 20 and had all the time in the world to spend in meditation. This was NOT possible during this season. 

Letting this expectation go, and enjoying the ways God WAS showing up, might have brought me a lot more joy. Looking for things to be grateful for, writing them down and speaking them aloud could have changed my joy-level greatly!  

Some of the ways God was showing up for me when my three kids were constantly needing me—and I had no time to meditate: 

  • In my baby's laughter
  • In chunky thighs (If God's not there, I don't know where God is!)
  • In sweaty hands grabbing for mine
  • In baby arms gripping the back of my neck

3. You’re doing the best you can right now. And it’s enough. 

"I'm not being the best mom/wife/friend I want to be."

That's true! Let that be true. And let that be okay.

It's really just an ego-centered thought. It's focused on you, not the other person. Feeling guilty that you're not enough isn't helping anyone! It's not a Jesus thought.

Let it come—it's ok that it's there—and then let it go.  

You're not being the best mom in the world. True! But, treat yourself the way God does. Be gracious with yourself. Forgive yourself for not being perfect.  

I'd like to go back to that old Kate, give her a hug and tell her what a good job she's doing. Remind her to constantly be looking for ways to enjoy her kids. Encourage her to treat herself the way God treats her... full of compassion, mercy and love.  

What would you go back and tell yourself?

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

Graphic adapted, courtesy of svklimkin at Morguefile.

Thursday
Jul132017

Love Is in the Air Between Us

Cynthia Ruchti's novels and nonfiction works often encourage people to reflect on life, love and change. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she helps us focus on loving our aging parents.

"Why did I wait so long," Cynthia says, "to figure out my mother-in-law’s love language?"

Oh wow. Do I (Dawn) relate to that! It took me years to discover how to relate to my dear mom-in-love. But once I understood, that relationship blossomed.

Cynthia continues . . .

Her message on our answering machine was simple but poignant: “Where are these people? Why can’t I ever reach them?”

My mother-in-law’s voice shook with emotion.

I didn’t hear her message until I returned from a long, tiring, but rewarding week-long conference. My husband had been home but hadn’t reached the phone before our answering machine kicked in. He’d quickly assured her he was there, right where she expected him to be.

But I couldn’t shake the quaver in her voice when I listened to the message after I returned home. It represented so much more than disappointment.

Her words symbolized a gap between our lives, between our methods of marking time—enough/not enough—and my understanding of her deepest need.

Although she’s almost 1,500 miles away from us, she lives on the same property as my sister-in-law, so we’re confident Mom has what she needs physically. Someone is watching out for her best interests.

But that closeness to her daughter sometimes lulls us into thinking her needs are met.

One of her felt needs is the assurance we care. To her, if we’re not present to answer the phone, we don’t care. Or we’re too busy for her.

Maybe the fact that travel is part of my job is harder on her now that she can’t physically travel, too.

Her love language must be quality time.

And neither my husband nor I considered how to honor that when loving her from a distance.

We’re not alone. Many live too far away from their aging parents to be involved in day-to-day care or to show up for often for a quality time visit.

When distance is an issue, how can we bridge the gap? How can we upgrade the way we love our aging parents?

  1. Initiate the calls. Don’t wait to be called.
  2. Call more frequently than you imagine necessary.
  3. Listen leisurely, whether the stories are stale or fresh.
  4. Collect tidbits of information your aging parent might find interesting.
  5. Call on days that are important to your parent, but also call just because.

As I wrote the recent release—As My Parents Age—I remained immersed in the subject of caring for aging parents, even though my father and mother died in 1993 and 2010, respectively. And respectfully.

I Peter 4:8 (AMP) lingered in my mind while I wrote, and returns to redirect me often:

“Above all, have fervent and unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins [it overlooks unkindness and unselfishly seeks the best for others].”

As I reviewed my list of UPGRADE suggestions, I was impressed with its connection to loving our God, who is both here (through the Spirit) and distant (not seeing Him face-to-face until well into the future).

Can I—can we—demonstrate our love in similar ways?

  1. Initiate communication with God. Don't wait for Him to have to tap us on the shoulder to remind us about our relationship.
  2. Pray more frequently than we imagine necessary. It will keep us in step with His directives and pace.
  3. Listen leisurely in prayer, but to old stories and to new.
  4. Watch for reasons to praise Him, to express gratitude, to celebrate with Him.
  5. Remember Him uniquely on His "special days," but connect with Him just because. It's a sign of a healthy relationship.

Whether it’s your parent or God who needs an “I love you and I’m thinking about you” call, when will you follow-through?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-Hope through more than 20 novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and through speaking events for women or writers. She and her grade-school sweetheart husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five (to date) grandchildren. You can learn more about her and her books here, including her recent release, As My Parents Age.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of stephiejo at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jun102014

Are You a Fence Builder or a Fence Destroyer?

Kathy Howard’s Bible studies invite women to go deeper into God’s Word. I appreciate her wisdom. I asked her to write an UPGRADE to help us encourage our hunger for holiness. What does “fence building” have to do with that? Hang on …

“Our neighbors are building a fence,” Kathy said. “They moved in several months ago, but until recently the property line between our driveway and their backyard was wide-open.”

You’ll likely agree—fences can be positive or negative “barriers.” While I love my neighbors, I [Dawn] am glad for the fences in my neighborhood. But there are some other fences I’d like to tear down.

Kathy continues …

I knew when the dad played catch with his three sons and I could enjoy the beautiful landscaping around their patio.

But all that began to change when I left town last week. The first thing I noticed when I got home was the sturdy wooden posts firmly planted in the ground every few feet between our yards. Within days, cedar fencing replaced my unobstructed view of my neighbors and their yard.

I’m not against suburban fences. This one will benefit them and us.

But watching that physical fence go up reminded me of other kinds of fences we tend to build, particularly between ourselves and God.

Our heavenly Father longs for intimate fellowship with us. He invites us to know Him fully and deeply. Yet a lack of holiness in our lives erects a barrier.

Since God is the epitome of holiness, He remains separate from everything sinful. Therefore, to experience deep intimacy with God, we must respond to His call to live holy lives. Amazingly, this call to holiness is also an invitation to draw close to the Holy One.

“LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous” (Psalm 15:1-2a).

Do you long for deeper intimacy with your heavenly Father? Remember, according to Scripture, a close connection exists between living a holy life and experiencing God’s presence.

In other words, sin builds barriers and creates distance between each of us and God. Holiness breaks down barriers and moves us ever closer.

So how can we tear down those barriers?

Only the Holy Spirit can transform us, but we must cooperate with Him to foster holiness in our lives. Here are a few practical things we can do:

1. Practice an Awareness of the Presence of God.

We know from the Bible that God is always with us. He sees everything we do and knows our thoughts, attitudes and motivations. Purposefully remembering this truth and disciplining ourselves to regularly think about Him will nourish holiness in our lives.

2. Stay in the Word.

The Creator of the universe has revealed Himself, His will and His ways to us in the Bible. It describes the holy life to which God calls us. But we cannot live by God’s Word unless we know God’s Word. Reading and studying the Bible will plant God’s truth in our hearts.

3. Be Proactive in Your Battle against Sin.

Sin takes root in our lives, growing and multiplying. To be holy, we must dig it out by the roots and get rid of it. Ask God to also help you recognize areas of weakness in your life so you can guard against potential sin.

Sweet believer, do you long to be embraced by the Holy One? A pursuit of holiness is a pursuit of God Himself.

Will you take some time to pray and ask God to show you any barriers separating you from intimacy with Him? Let’s get ready to tear down that fence!

Kathy Howard, the author of six books, helps women live an unshakeable faith for life by encouraging them to stand firm on our rock-solid God no matter the circumstances. Her newest six-week interactive study, Embraced by Holiness: The Path to God’s Daily Presence, encourages the pursuit of holiness and draws women into the circle of God’s holy, loving embrace. For information about Kathy’s studies and discipleship or leader helps, visit her website: www.kathyhoward.org.

Tuesday
Dec102013

Waiting with Purpose

Jamie Wood is a young woman with great spiritual insight. She has learned many of life's lessons through her experiences in ministry, but also through the "School of Waiting."

Can you feel the struggle in these words?

"Lord, I’m tired of waiting! What are you up to? Will it happen for me? Dare I hope for it?

Do you see me? I feel like the only one. I don’t want to start all over again. Lord?"

Have you ever prayed a prayer like that? I did as a young single woman when it seemed like God would never give me a husband or a ministry. I was frustrated with God's timetable, but God brought me wise counsel ... words of wisdom much like Jamie shares.

She continues ...

If you are a woman, if you are human, then any one or more of these thoughts must resonate with you. In my experience, waiting on the Lord has proven to be one of the most difficult aspects of my Christian journey. 

I know what Scripture says about the truth of who God is and the plan He has for my life, but living out the tension between faith and doubt has brought me to my knees on more than one occasion. I know God doesn’t work on my timetable, that His timing is perfect, but my challenge has been to learn to wait…not aimlessly or without hope, but with PURPOSE!

God most poignantly taught me to wait with purpose when I was 30 years old. I had hit a new decade and ... Still. No. Husband. Everything in me wanted to scream, “God don’t you see my lonely heart?”  “Do you care?”

I was also battling lies from the enemy to just settle, that my standards were too high. (Maybe someone reading this can relate to that?)

So, one day, as I was yet again talking to God about this area of my life, He brought to mind an acronym that helped me put waiting into perspective.  W - A - I - T.

W – Worship. And He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many shall see and fear (revere and worship) and put their trust and confident reliance in the Lord" (Psalm 40:3). Worship means to declare worth, to attribute worth. When I worship God, I am saying that God has worth, that He is worthy.  

God reminded me through worship that He is the only One who can satisfy all my heart’s desires. To put it plainly, God is enough. 

Despite the brokenness in the world and the desires in my life that may or may not be met, I can go to God in worship and be reminded that He will be enough.

A – Attitude. "The Lord will perfect that which concerns me" (Psalm 138:8). God showed me that He promised to accomplish His purposes in my life. Since that was a promise, my attitude needed to reflect His faithfulness.

I – Intimacy. I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1). God reminded me that as His daughter, He hears me. Often that’s all I need – to be reminded that I’m not alone.  He sees my desperate heart and hears my plea!

T – Trust. "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13). Trust. A hard five-letter-word. 

I had to come face to face with a hard question: Do I trust God? When that is settled in your heart, you can wait with purpose. He will come through!

I hope this helps to encourage you to wait with purpose in whatever your heart is longing for.

And just in case anyone is curious, God brought along my husband shortly after this lesson and He used Craig’s List to do it! I posted a suitcase for sale and you got it, Jeff is the man I sold it to. Little did I know I’d be inheriting that suitcase back one day!

What are you waiting for today? Are you waiting with purpose - trusting God?

Jamie Wood was born into a Pastor’s family and desires to disciple women for Christ. She has served as a conference planner for Anne Graham Lotz at AnGeL Ministries, as the Women’s Spiritual Life Director at San Diego Christian College, and on staff in the Women’s Ministry Department of Shadow Mountain Community Church. She has traveled to 33 countries and loves teaching others how to study and apply God's Word. Jamie, her husband Jeff and their baby son, David, live in San Diego.