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Nali Hilderman

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Letitia "Tish" Suk

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Cherri Williamson

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Debbie W. Wilson

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Jamie Wood

And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in New Year's Resolutions (9)


Making Good on Good Intentions

Grace Fox wrote nine books. She's well-acquainted with the discipline and perseverance it takes to buckle down and write. She also knows how easy it is to stop at "good intentions." In this New Year UPGRADE, she invites us to examine our new goals and consider how we can "make good" on them.

"You and I—and millions of other women—know it’s easy to begin a new year with good intentions," Grace says. "Following through on them is often a different story."

Following through. Yes, I (Dawn) identify with that. I can't tell you how many times my good intentions ended up being forgotten intentions. But I can choose to change; and so can you!

Grace continues . . .

A traumatic experience helped me understand the importance of making good on my good intentions.

January 11th marks the sixth anniversary of my suffering leg injuries that left me wheelchair-bound for three months. Recovery required surgery, physiotherapy, and a lot of hard work on my part for two years.

I’m embarrassed to admit that my injuries were self-inflicted. As a writer, I sat at my desk for hours every day without getting up to stretch.

Granted, I woke each morning with good intentions. I promised myself that I’d take short exercise breaks, but soon my writing projects absorbed me and I’d think, I’ll take a walk later, after I finish what I’m doing.

Later never came, and I paid the price.

I’m grateful for the wakeup call. It forced me to admit something I knew all along—that good intentions alone won’t bring the benefits of good health.

Living long and strong for Jesus requires action on my part:

  • use my gym membership,
  • eat nutritious foods,
  • track my food intake,
  • practice portion control, and
  • be accountable on a weekly basis to a small group of women walking a similar path.

The same principle holds true for other aspects of life.

Say, for instance, we want to build relationships with our neighbors this year. Our intentions are admirable, but they won’t build friendships unless we take time to talk over the fence, to listen, and to demonstrate kindness.

We may want to grow in our relationship with the Lord over the next twelve months. Our desire is commendable, but it won’t result in spiritual growth unless we create space to study His Word, engage in dialogue with Him, and obey His commands.

Perhaps we intend to become more effective intercessors. This might mean facing our fear of praying aloud in front of other people. We may have to grow willing to pause and to pray right then and there for someone who’s just expressed a concern.

The examples I listed are among my good intentions for this year. Perhaps you’re nodding in agreement because like me, you hope to become more proactive about your health, about relationships with your neighbors, about knowing God more intimately, and about praying for others.

Or maybe your list includes a plethora of totally different ideas. Regardless, here are several prayer-focused points to ponder as you think about your good intentions for 2019.

1. Ask God for FOCUS.

It’s easy to make a list of impressive intentions. Trouble is, sometimes our list is too long or lofty or misses the mark altogether.

Ask the question, “God, what are Your good intentions for me this year? Where do you want me to focus?”

Jeremiah 33:3 promises that He will answer—“Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wonderous things that you could never figure out on your own” (The Message).

2. Ask God for STRENGTH.

Following through on good intentions sometimes demands more emotional or physical strength than we can muster.

The good news is—God promises to strengthen us when we partner with Him to accomplish His purposes for our lives.

Psalm 18:29 has been especially meaningful to me as I continue my wellness journey—“In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.”

Sometimes following through on my intention to avoid unhealthy snacks is like fighting a battle, but God’s power at work within me gives me the strength to do the right thing. He’ll do the same for you.

3. Ask God for PERSEVERANCE.

We might think that making good on our good intentions will guarantee instant results.

For instance, extending kindness to a neighbor will automatically open the door to sharing the Gospel with her.

Unfortunately, sometimes our good intentions don’t yield the results we want, but that doesn’t mean we toss them aside. It means we learn to practice perseverance. We choose to hang in there for the long haul, trusting that God is at work even though we don’t see things happening.

Sometimes our good intentions are only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. We might think we know what God wants to do in and through us but in reality, He’s doing something much deeper, and that takes time.

So, my friend—what’s one of your good intentions for 2019? What actions will you take to make good on it?

Grace Fox is a career missionary, international speaker, and author of nine books. Her latest release is Forever Changed, a Bible study published by First Place 4 Health. Discover more about her ministry here. Purchase her Bible study through First Place 4 Health.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Ben White at Unsplash.


More Than a Resolution: A Personal Retreat

What I love about Letitia "Tish" Suk is her intentionality. Choices make a huge difference in our lives. In this New Year's UPGRADE, she urges us to focus less on resolutions and plan a personal retreat to begin the new year refreshed.

"What if a simple day away could transform your life?" Letitia asks.

There's something about that phrase "a simple day away" that makes me (Dawn) yearn for rest. I'd like to be intentional about that!

Letitia continues . . .

Like many of us, I love to review and sometimes re-design my schedule, my priorities, my goals all under the umbrella of “New Year’s Resolutions” or sometimes labeled, “Intentions” if I’m not sure about the resolving part. 

Lately, or probably all my adult life, while I love all the celebration events starting with Thanksgiving (or Halloween?) seems like they squish out the opportunities for rest, quiet and open spaces of time which such reflection requires. To do it right, anyway.

I sometimes resort to quickly scribbling a few lofty aspirations in my journal for the new year and call it done. Done it is but nothing really changes.

What if instead of designing resolutions, you designed a retreat?

No, not one for your church’s women’s ministry, but one just for you and God?

A chance not just for a few minutes or an hour but an actual “Getaway with God” for a chunk of time to ask him what’s HIS plans are for you for the upcoming year?

Before you reject the notion due to not enough time, money, or creativity, think of how you would respond if your spouse or BFF asked you to come along for a getaway night or weekend? Maybe with a bit more enthusiasm, right?

For the past forty years (yikes!), I have been taking getaways with God: AKA personal retreats at regular intervals.

These times away have defined the trajectory of my life.

Think of it like plugging your soul in for a long recharge just like you do with your phone each night. Taking a personal retreat is just that. Stepping aside for a day or more to deeply rest, listen to God, and plan your next steps (or years) can have the same effect on your soul as plugging your smart phone in for a long charge.

Time after time, year after year, I come away filled with:

  • a renewed sense of purpose,
  • clarity of vision,
  • trust in God’s ability to untie all the knots of my life, and
  • overwhelming sense of being loved.

There’s nothing quite like a retreat to provide that much restoration in such a relatively short amount of time. Many of us are familiar with the relationship boost a getaway with your spouse or family can provide, and a getaway with God has the same results for our souls.

Before you get lost in the disclaimers—“I don’t have time, money, energy, or inspiration for this type of thing"—consider the invitation of Jesus:

“Come away with me by yourself to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31).

The invitation still stands today.

If you are looking for details, ideas and plans for what to do there, check out my book, Getaway with God.

Let me give you a few suggestions now.

1. A personal retreat can take place just about anywhere, apart from your own home if possible. Too many distractions and to-do’s all around.

I have retreated in retreat centers, convents, public gardens, the beach, hotels, bed and breakfast inns and a friend’s home while she was at work. Sure, some of these venues had costs, others were free. Regardless, it is an investment in your spiritual life which has a direct spillover into all the other aspects of your day to day as well.

2. While you are away with God, you can rest, nap, pray, read, plan and walk.

3. Staying off social media helps with the focus.

4. Stay for as long as you can, overnight is a plus.

5. It is your retreat to design as you wish. And if you ask him to help you with the planning part, He usually does.

I know how easy it is to wait until “the perfect time” for something like this but don’t let another year get away. Trust me, you will need it after the holiday hoopla is over.

Make it your Christmas gift to yourself.

Before you get too caught up in the calendar pages of 2018, can you consider scheduling a retreat?

Letitia (Tish) Suk, invites women to create an intentional life centered in Jesus. She is a blogger at Hope for the Best: Chasing the Intentional Life, and author of Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat) and Rhythms of Renewal. She is a speaker, personal retreat guide, and life coach in the Chicago area. Contact her here.

Graphic adapted from photo at zinemo, Pixabay.


A New Year's Resolution Makeover

Nali Hilderman is a smart, successful college professor, but she knows how to make truth practical. In this New Year's UPGRADE, she points us to seek God and allow scripture to speak to our hearts.

"As we turn our thoughts from the outgoing year and focus on the new," Nali says, "I propose we have a makeover in any resolutions we make for the New Year."

Nali's suggestion intrigues me (Dawn), because I've made many resolutions over my lifetime, and so few of them lasted. Maybe a "makeover" is exactly what I need.

Nali continues . . .

As women most of us tend to enjoy the idea of a makeover. Be it a make-up facial, a weight-loss plan, or someone cleaning or organizing our house, we love the idea of a new, fresh perspective on something ordinary. 

I don’t know where the tradition of New Year’s resolutions began, but it seems that most of the time they tend to focus on us and what we want out of life. 

I do not necessarily think that is a bad thing, but as believers, we don’t live life solely for ourselves— WE live life for the Lord! 

What if, this year, you turn your focus to Christ and ask Him for His resolutions for your life instead of your own resolutions! 

I have been doing this for about five years now and it’s been amazing to see how each year has had a God-ordained theme to it. 

For 2016, the word that kept coming to my heart and mind in prayer was “rest.” For the first several months, I assumed that it meant I needed to rest physically and emotionally from a very busy and fulfilling job as a professor. 

Yet, as the months of the year progressed and God walked me through some painful personal and family issues, I realized His notion of rest was much deeper than I thought. Over the past several months, I was invited into a deep, soul-level rest of the knowledge of who Christ has made me to be and to find my identity in Him. 

This theme has challenged and guided me as I’ve navigated things this year. I know I am different now for it, and am grateful to see His hand at work.

I am excited for YOU to try this New Year’s Resolution plan. Here are a couple of simple suggestions on how to do this:

1. Remember God as your "Ebenezer."

In the Old Testament, God was Israel’s Ebenezer. Ebenezer means "stone of help." 

God commanded the leaders of Israel, through Samuel, to set up memorial stones in public places to commemorate how God had provided for and rescued the children of Israel (see 1 Samuel 7, especially verse 12). 

Take time to think about and write down how God provided for and blessed you LAST year.

A joyful and grateful heart for God’s blessings in 2016 will go a long way towards seeing Him as protector and provider in the New Year. 

2. Make time for a Retreat and ask the Lord for goals for the New Year.

This does not have to be a “long” retreat; even just a few hours of concentrated time will suffice. But think through and ask what things the Lord might have for you in the coming months and year. 

Ask if there are any passages of Scripture that might serve as a guide. This can provide a clear vision for how you are to invest your time, finances, resources and energy—and is usually far more exciting than “spend two hours at the gym every day”!  

You can do this for yourself personally, but you might also want to try doing this with your spouse and/or children. One year, my friend and her family decided they were going to focus on "being generous." That was their focus word for the year. So they set aside a part of their earnings each month and looked for people that God wanted them to provide for.

Note: if you need further help on how to do this check out a simple book called One Word. It teaches how just one word can impact you. 

3. Enjoy the New Year!

The best part about the New Year is that is a chance to restart, refresh and realign. 

Taking time to examine your life can be an exciting thing, especially if you walk into the new season with a renewed sense of purpose from the Lord. God is at work in you, my friends!

"For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:10, ESV).

The Lord has work for you to do—exciting work, faith-building work, challenging work, difficult work.

Will you make a goal to remember Him as He worked in 2016, and join in asking Him to guide you purposefully in 2017?

Nali Hilderman is a professor of American history at San Diego Christian College and Director of the college’s Dr. Henry Morris Leadership Program. She studies women’s history and Christian theology, trying to make sense of how to be a confident, successful Christian woman who does not buy into the secular feminist mentality. She attends Journey Community Church in La Mesa, CA.


Become Productive in 2016

Pam Farrel is one of the most productive people I know. I'm always amazed by what she has accomplished in her personal life, family and writing/speaking ministry. In this New Year's UPGRADE, she encourages us to consider how we're using our time, because it can have a lasting impact.

"Each day we live the legacy we want to leave!" Pam says. "Because of the ticking clock, we need creative ways to squeeze the most out of each day."

Building a legacy is important to me (Dawn) too. I don't want to fritter away my time. Pam's insights into becoming more productive can help all of us use our time more intentionally.

Pam continues . . .

Eph. 5:15-16 reminds each of us: the time we have to create and leave a legacy is short.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

People have often asked me, “How did you write 40 books, serve your church, keep a happy marriage, and raise sons who have also become healthy leaders with happy marriages and families too?”

So in 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman book, I share my 7 Simple Steps for creating time to P-R-O-D-U-C-E:

P - Plan Out the Future.

Plan each year, each month, each week, each day, and each hour. Those who fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

I like to use Outlook. (I color–code my Outlook so I can find items for family, work, social life quickly on my schedule, and I can input all important details.) I also plan who to delegate task to, or I schedule into my planner the time it will take for me to achieve the goal.  

R - Respond instead of React.  

 I don’t waste time on negative emotions.

Worry, self-doubt, frustration over delays or plans going awry are time wasters.

If I hit a really hard emotional hurdle, I will cry for a few minutes, then plan in time to better deal with the emotional fallout later.

To keep a positive disposition, I also plan in nourishing time off for favorite activities, dates with my husband, my kids, friends, ministry colleagues and days off for solitude. Time for self-care transforms into more time.

O - Optimize Multi-tasking.

I try to link easier tasks: Walk and listen to podcasts or audio books; fold laundry and watch the news; stretch while I listen to scripture songs; walk and pray through priorities or post to social media; dust or do dishes while memorizing scripture. 

D - Deliberately Group Tasks for Efficiency.

If I have to get dressed up for a meeting or speaking, then that is the day I also do other meetings, or filming for our ministry. I also link all my errands on one day.

By grouping similar tasks, I can also enjoy full days at home to be creative and comfy in my sweats!

U - Use every minute.

If I have an extra few minutes I check email, read newsletters, a magazine article or a book that can help me improve an area of my life.

I also handle small household tasks in those random five-to-ten-minute slots: clean out a drawer, wipe down the kitchen, empty the dishwasher or make a quick phone call.

C - Calendar Priorities.

I carve out and mark down time with God, family vacations, marriage getaways and date nights, our kids’ major responsibilities, activities and celebrations. These all get placed on the calendar as far out as possible.

E - Elevate My Vision.

I pray to get God’s viewpoint on my life, my marriage, my family, my ministry, my business, my friendships, my health—on all my life.

I have found it saves me time to do life God’s way.

God has great things for you to do. Enjoy seeing Him PRODUCE wonderful things through you!

Which one of these ideas will help you PRODUCE more in the next year? Or which will help you PRODUCE with a better attitude?

Pam Farrel is an international speaker and author of 40 books including her newest: 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success in Keeping It All Together.   She and her husband Bill are relationship specialists who help people become "Love-Wise."

Graphic adapted, image courtesy of


2016 - An Opportunity to "RESET"

As we enter another year in just a few days, I (Dawn) am thankful for a fresh opportunity to reset my priorities and goals. In fact, "reset" is my focus word for 2016, and the topic of this New Year's UPGRADE.

We reset diamonds, reset odometers, reset alarm clocks, but—praise the Lord—we can also reset our lives.

To reset is to "set again" or to "set differently." I'm going to do both.

In 2015, I turned 65. I'm well into the "I want to finish well" stage of life. Whether the Lord gives me 30+ more years or fewer, I want to honor and serve Him with all my heart.

"Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21). "Good and faithful servant" isn't just something I want to hear someday. It's what I want to practice being now.

This past summer, I lamented my advancing age and wondered if God could use me in the coming years. I basically wimped out, weeping, and two Christian women, Anita and Yvonne, had to "prop me up" again with truth from God's Word.

But I couldn't sleep that night. And in the middle of the night, the thoughts that came—could they have been from the Lord?—became my marching orders for the next "however many" years.

At the end of next month (Jan. 21, 26 and 28), I'll be writing more about the three fresh goals I believe God gave me for finishing well, but for now, I just want to list them because they are a huge part of my "reset":

1. Take Courage.

2. Build Strength.

3. Embrace Freedom.

I believe I need a major "reset" in all three of those areas, and I'm going to study these topics all through 2016 in Bible study, scripture memory, prayer and meditation.

But don't get me wrong. It's not about better self-effort!

I'm very aware that no lasting "reset" can happen without God working in and through my life. It's all about Him and what He wants to do ... or not do.

He may hijack my plans and send me in directions I can't imagine right now ... and that's fine with me too, because He's in charge and I trust Him. And I just need to be ready to move forward with Him.

The verse I've chosen for 2016 is Isaiah 43:19:

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." (ESV) (*See my note at the end.)

Yes indeed. We may experience dry seasons, but God gives us many fresh opportunities to reset our lives.

Think about it:

  • Some embrace New Year's resolutions as a way to jumpstart the year.
  • Some evaluate the year just past and make new goals.
  • Some, like me, choose a word for focus and change.
  • When you think about it, every Sunday is an opportunity to reset as we come together around God's Word and then listen and apply.
  • Even better, every morning—as we consider God's faithfulness to us—we can rejoice in a new day to repent of sins and reset our commitment to faith and obedience to God.

The truth is, the Father and the Holy Spirit are working within all of God's children at every moment to make the biggest reset of all: 

For many years, I've thanked God for the wonder of His grace in giving me the desire and ability to cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He changes my mind and heart. It's been exciting to see God at work.

Are you grateful too?

Thank God for each reset opportunity!

What is God asking you to "reset" this year?

* [Note regarding Isaiah 43:19 - While the context of this verse is the prophecy of God (Israel's only Savior, vv. 11, 15) planning to deliver His people from Babylon, it speaks to me in a powerful way too. It reminds me our Creator God is always doing "new things" in our lives so we can honor and serve Him even better as we are enabled by the Holy Spirit. We simply need to be alert and ready to obey Him!]

Dawn Wilson, founder and president of Heart Choices Today, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the Director of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in Ministry (NEWIM). Dawn is the co-author of a devotional, LOL with God, and contributed "The Blessing Basket" in It's a God Thing. She and her husband Bob have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe. 

Graphic Adapted: Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at