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Entries in Thankfulness (5)

Saturday
Sep212019

Choosing Joy in the Midst of Chaos

Julie Watson is an amazing woman. She has faced situations that could rob her of joy and peace, things that could have led to her defeat. But she is an overcomer, and in this Attitudes UPGRADE, she shares how she has found joy—and we can too.

“Decisions, decisions. Choosing joy in the midst of life’s messiness is quite the feat," Julie says, "but oh, so worth it!"

I (Dawn) have watched Julie cope with huge changes in her and her husband's life over the past few years. I can testify that she has found God faithful, and in the midst of the messiness of life, she has found God's unlimited joy.

Julie continues . . .

Ah, summer. If you’re a mom, you’ve likely just finished it. If you’re anything like me, you planned to have a great summer filled with fun activities: places to go, things to try, people to visit, etc.

And, if you’re still like me, you probably jumped for joy (to some degree) when it was over!

My HOPE is always to have the best summer, but my REALITY typically falls quite short.

I don’t know about you, but one can only take so much arguing, teasing, fighting, not listening and disobedience.

  • Behaviors get stretched to new limits when the TV and tablets are turned off because someone (or two) is grounded, and it’s too hot to go outside to play.
  • Boredom reaches new heights when Legos and Matchbox cars are the primary imagination booster to combat such yawn-inducing, brain-frying monotony.

In these instances, children often create their own “fun” which loosely translates into CHAOS for mom! And, not just any chaos, but the kind that horror stories are made of, such as: burning ants with a magnifying glass outside becomes a small brushfire (fictitious example), or a sister’s toothbrush is used as a toilet brush in a fit of assumptions, rage and revenge (a factual example from my summer).

This summer I did things differently.

Since the kids would be attending a new school, I had three whole months to work with them on the high expectations this new school has for its students.

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays we worked on math (the subject everyone is scared of at my house).

Tuesdays and Thursdays, I put their imaginations to work and had them write their very own books!

Since all three of my kids LOVE to read, I thought it was time to make them the authors of their own imagination destinations. Funny enough, they really loved that idea and dove right in!

But, oh my goodness, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays just about sent me over the edge.

The frustration and tears shed are almost too hard to relive… and I’m talking about MINE!

Trying to find even moments of joy became increasingly difficult.

The longer the summer dragged on, the harder it became. I had done some wonderful studies on joy in the past, and am still in the midst of one now. So, why was I struggling so much with finding joy in this summer chaos?

Joy is a choice, plain and simple. It’s not something given, bought, earned or found.

1. We have to RECOGNIZE who the author of joy is.

That’s Jesus. By taking our place on the cross and forgiving us our horrible sins we don’t deserve forgiveness for, He created an institution of joy within our own hearts when we accept Him.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3).

(Also see Isaiah 61:10 and John 16:24.)

2. We have to CHOOSE to be thankful for everything He has done for us.

Being grateful for our abundant blessings is the fastest way to create joy in the midst of chaos.

Even being thankful for the chaos teaches us how to cling to our Lord and Savior during the most trying of times!

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

(Also see Habakkuk 3:17-18; Galatians 5:22-23; and 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18.)

3. We have to SHARE it and spread that joy with those who need it.

In my estimation, that’s pretty much everyone!

Joy spreads like wildfire when you act in love and compassion toward another.

If we could share God’s love with others and act towards them with that same love, the world would change, one person at a time.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

 (Also see Proverbs 15:23 and Romans 15:32.)

In my case, I needed to choose to be thankful for these three little lives He had placed in our home and hearts after 17 long years of waiting.

He allowed us to become parents to some pretty amazing kids who were grateful to find a home with loving parents willing to help them with their schoolwork.

But, why had I forgotten to be thankful for them this summer? 

Because I had focused too much on the temporary frustrations and didn’t choose to be grateful for my lifelong blessings!

Are you struggling with choosing joy in the midst of chaos? Is there something you’re forgetting to be grateful for that will increase your joy meter? Reach out to a sister-in-Christ to pray with you and make a better choice for yourself today.

Joy is right there for the choosing and sharing!

Julie Watson worked in women’s and children’s ministries for 10 years as a Development and Executive Director before becoming a stay-at-home mom to three beautiful children. In 2016, God created a beautiful forever family when she and her husband, Shawn, were able to legally adopt the children. Julie now helps others find hope and freedom from emotional eating & unhealthy habits as a C.O.P.E. Certified Health Coach.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

Thursday
May242018

Habits for the Rest of My Life

A prestigious writer, Dianne Barker has long asked the Lord to guide her steps, so it's no surprise she focuses on what will please Him. In this Choices UPGRADE, she shares some habits that are changing her life. Maybe they will change yours too.

"I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions in January—gave that up long ago," Dianne says. "Decisions and goals work better for me."

I (Dawn) totally agree with this. "Resolutions" are too easy for most of us to break. But making daily choices that get us closer to healthy, godly goals, and cultivating life-building habits? Now that's a good thing!

Dianne continues . . .

Scrolling through journal notes, I found a ten-year-old list of decisions and goals. I’m updating the list and calling it “Habits for the Rest of My Life.”

1. Exercise daily—body and spirit.

No excuse for missing my daily quiet time.

Why settle for my feeble wisdom to navigate this life when I have divine resources for every minute?

2. See Jesus’ face only—especially when I encounter difficult people.

I’m making this decision carefully, aware that He may provide many opportunities to test me.

3. Get a grip on my self-esteem.

Still craving approval? Get over it!

My esteem depends only on God’s acceptance—not on performance or perfection.

God has poured his life into me and chosen me for a purpose.

4. Bring every thought into captivity.

Negative thoughts are defeating. Devastating. Paralyzing. A dead-end street.

Forget trivial stuff.

How many times the Lord has said to me, “You could be praying about bigger things.”

5. Learn thankfulness.

I lost a tiny screw from my glasses. How would I ever find it in my mammoth purse?

My friend said, “Let’s thank the Lord. Now empty your purse.” Found it!

Thankfulness makes sense—since my only options are to thank the Lord or grumble.

Thankfulness pleases the Lord and makes my life better.

6. Rejoice by faith.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Rejoicing is a decision, not a feeling.

Discouragement has robbed me. I choose to rejoice by faith.

7. Stop wallowing in despair and wailing about my inability, and make the most of every day.

I’m encouraged by Rahab’s comments to the two spies Joshua sent to Jericho:

"I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath" (Joshua 2:9-11).

The Lord my God is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. He is my courage!

I ended the journal entry,

“Lord, I only desire to glorify you. Don’t let me waste my life. I’ve set my heart to praise, trust and obey. Fulfill your purpose in me!”

We’re almost midway through another year—a good time to adjust our goals.

What do you hope God will accomplish in your life in the coming months for His glory?

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage TruckDown the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Christian Authors Network, and Christian Women in Media. For more information about Dianne or her ministry, visit her blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Nov222016

Count on God and Count Your Blessings

Sharon Paavola is one of those trophies of God's grace; I've seen the Lord work powerfully in her life and in the lives of those she loves. In this special Thanksgiving UPGRACEwhich is also a spiritual UPLIFTshe encourages us to be joyful on "two counts."

"My husband accepted Christ later in life," Sharon says.

I (Dawn) think it's always special when people receive the Lord, but there can be challenges when that choice comes later rather than sooner. But Sharon experienced an unexpected blessing in a lesson from the Lord after her husband came to Christ.

Sharon continues . . .

My husband accepted Christ later in life seven years after we married. 

He had not grown up in a Christian home and attended church seldom as a child. His first prayers were precious and at mealtimes he thanked God for simple things like our home, our dogs and for always having abundant food to eat.

Most of his prayers ended and still do with thankfulness for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins and the gift of eternal life. 

I grew up in a pastor’s home where mealtime thanks could become routine, but not rote.

Eric’s petitions were fresh. They were not tainted by years of hearing the same words.

I realized I had accepted a pattern of praying.

Listening to Eric brought me up short. I realized how rarely before eating I truly thanked God with my heart. 

Now our pre-meal petitions contain random praise for all kinds of daily mercy and blessings. As a result of this practice, I have incorporated thankfulness into my communication to God in new ways. Throughout my day, I find small and large situations and events to be grateful to God. 

I have also learned that:

  • Thanking Him before He has answered my prayers for how He will work brings hope and expectation, releasing the worry or anxiousness of the need.
  • Praising Him for glorifying His name leads to more faith. What joy comes then when He does answer even if it is not what I had anticipated. 

During the years I taught a Bible Study at my church, I told my leaders when a "mountain" came against us, "God knew this was going to happen. He is not surprised. He has already gone ahead of us to work out the details, smooth the path, and solve this situation. We only need to thank Him.”

I saw their shoulders drop and heard big sighs.

God remains faithful! We can count on him as Psalm 40:5 says:

“O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.”

I have often sung the hymn, "Count Your Blessings" at Thanksgiving time. It is quite appropriate in our spiritual lives daily and at mealtimes to count our blessings.

Thank the Lord even for the heartaches, the losses and the unexpectedanticipating how He will work.

We can thank God for many ways He has blessed us.

In my life today:

  • I thank God for my contacts and my glasses that allow me to see as well as I do. I started wearing glasses for nearsightedness at age ten. Now I am considered legally blind and have glaucoma and cataracts. I also need glasses for reading. I want God to know how grateful I feel to see as well as I do. I sometimes whine about my eyesight, but as I put my contacts away at bedtime, I realize what an amazing invention they are for me and am grateful again.
  • I thank Him for a comfortable bed to sleep in every night, for a mind that thinks as well as it does, and for the gift of my sweet puppy dogs.
  • I thank the Lord for my darling 10-month-old grandson. He is a miracle! Years of tears went before him, and through in vitro fertilization he was born to my daughter and her husband. That is a big thank you!
  • We thank God every night at dinner for our salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ's sacrifice.

In summary:

  1. Thank God for all things—and always for His salvation plan.
  2. Daily run a constant praise to Him for what He has done throughout those twenty-four hours.
  3. Give Him gratefulness for how He will answer our prayers, no matter how difficult or impossible.
  4. Appreciate the unexpected and how God paves the way before we even knew it would happen.

Are you joyful on two counts? Are you counting on God today? How will you count your blessings? (Can you name them one by one?)

Sharon Paavola writes a blog on book reviews and her thoughts for assisting women to find peace and healing from depression, pain and loss. She loves being a new grandmother, has been married for twenty-three years, and has three grown children. When not reading books, she sews, walks, and gardens. She helps lead a post abortion recovery Bible Study and assists at her Precepts study at her church. Learn more about Sharon on her blog.

Tuesday
Nov082016

A Thankful Heart Produces a Blessed Life

I've observed Julie Watson go through a severe testing of "waiting," and then the blessings God poured into her heart and life. In this special UPLIFT, she shares one of the things the Lord taught her during the long wait: Thankfulness.

“Whoever said ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’ must have been one difficult Mother-In-Law to impress!" Julie says. "I believe a more accurate description is ‘Thankfulness is next to godliness.’”  

The two thoughts that came to my (Dawn's ) mind when I read Julie's post today were: I think any child would want a mom like Julie; and I want to be a more thankful person!

Julie continues…

Thankfulness, gratefulness, heartfelt appreciation for all that God has blessed me with is something I think about almost every day. It’s an attribute of Christ I wish to instill in the hearts of my children. *

The words “thank you” are said in my home at least 20 times a day, or at worst, a gentle reminder to do so is given to an otherwise distracted and forgetful child.

But, let’s be honest. Having a thankful heart is hard to have on difficult days, especially when you find yourself in the midst of an unexpected life storm!

We recently finalized the adoption of our three beautiful children just a few months agoPRAISE JESUS! It was such a blessing for our family to finally be official

What a difficult, nearly two-year journey it had been. There were many days I was thankful during that time:

  • Thankful when my oldest, who was filled with anger, stopped chasing his sister around trying to rip her hair out. 
  • Thankful when my youngest son stopped hiding behind furniture when he didn’t want to talk, or more accurately, “grunt” at us for something he wanted. 
  • Thankful when my daughter, in tear-filled panicked cries, stopped screaming for me not to leave her, as her bio mom had done so many times before.

I slowly learned to be thankful for every small step in the process. In fact, it is still what keeps me in check today! 

Ultimately, seeing the huge progress my kids have made in the relatively short time we’ve had them has given me such a sense of joy and contentment.  I feel blessed!  It helps me stay focused on the good stuff and not so much on the obstacles in front of us.

However, it wasn’t always this way (and at times, I still struggle).

Between the temper tantrums, power struggles, constant lying (still working on this one), destruction of our property, issues in school with stealing and cheating, and days where I just felt completely alone with three little "monsters" ready to drive me into an early grave—I seriously have WAY more gray hair than I ever expected at this age—I can honestly say, I was NOT thankful.

Many tears were shed during my quiet times with God, begging Him to reconsider this path He had placed me on.

This Ministry of Motherhood He had bestowed upon me after waiting 17 years was NOT all it was cracked up to be! 

I remember telling Him quite clearly that He “had picked the wrong mom for this job.” And, “You’re crazy, God, if you think I can do this!” 

Looking back, I’m sure He just sat up on His heavenly throne saying, “Wait... just wait, child. What I am doing through you will be more amazing than you could ever imagine!”

That is truly where the thankfulness begins. 

Trusting in God as you wait upon Him during those hard days...  those life storms! Being grateful for each small victory and not focusing on the mountain still before you. 

Every day after that it’s simply a choice.

You have to CHOOSE to be thankful in all things. You have to PRACTICE it

You have to rely on the goodness and faithfulness of our loving Father who has something so amazing, you won’t believe it—until you do. 

A thankful heart produces a deeper, more intimate walk with Christ and a blessed life.

Here are some verses to encourage a thankful heart:

  • "O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!" (1 Chronicles 16:34, also Psalm 106:1)
  • "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
  • "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17).
  • "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6).
  • "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected it it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer" (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

Are you struggling with being thankful? Do you have a hard time trusting God to complete a good work in the midst of a life storm? Remember He cares for you and will speak to your heart if you open His Word and simply listen. Start thanking Him for some small victories today!

Julie Watson worked in women’s and children’s ministries for 10 years and as an Executive Director and Grant writer before becoming a stay-at-home mom to three beautiful children. She and her husband, Shawn know these children were hand-picked by God to be their own, and officially adopted them in the spring of 2016.  God is good!

* Note from Dawn: I had never actually thought about thankfulness being an attribute of Jesus, but it is! We see Him giving thanks in John 6:11, and in many other places in scripture He offered private and public appreciation for the good deeds people showed—He thanked the Father and He gave credit on earth where it was due—a wonderful example for us.

Graphic, adapted, courtesty of HotBlack, Morguefile.

Thursday
Aug142014

Cultivate the Beauty of Gratitude at Home

There's nothing more precious in this culture of entitlement than a grateful, appreciative child, as we can see in this Parenting UPGRADE by Dawn Wilson.

I've learned a lot about parenting from the Word of God ... but also at Wal-mart.

What I mean is, I see examples of good parenting and poor parenting almost every time I shop there!

Two cases in point:

There was a little girl in the grocery section who whined constantly that she wanted this and that, wearing down her frazzled mom's nerves. I heard her a couple of aisles away, but ran into them in the cookie aisle.

Finally, the mother gave in and got her daughter the cookies she wanted. The whiney daughter didn't even say "thank you."

And you think she'd be satisfied. But no ... she started asking for more.

And then there was an adorable boy—same store, same day—a little older than the girl. I was in the toy department, looking for a hula hoop. The boy was waiting for his mom while she priced some beach toys.

"Mom, can I get this water gun?" he asked, fingering a big, powerful-looking, high-grade water cannon.

"Honey, you know we can't afford that right now," Mom said. "Maybe for your birthday."

"Yeah, I know," the boy said as he stood quietly by the cart.

Suddenly, the mom picked up two water pistols—much more affordable. "How about these?" she said, "one for you and one for Charlie."

The boy's mouth dropped open in a huge smile. "Thanks, Mom!"

Even though I overheard these two families' conversations, I could have guessed a lot about them without any words, simply by the spirit they communicated at the store.

I thought: Man, that girl was a pain, but I'd take that boy home in an instant! What a sweetie!

There's beauty and grace in gratitude, but an unthankful heart is just plain ugly.

Certainly we are to be grateful to God (Psalm 136:1; Colossians 3:17) and in the circumstances of life (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 5:20); but we need to give thanks for and to people as well (Ephesians 1:16; Colossians 3:15). Many times this gratitude surfaces as pronouncing a blessing on others, or a willingness to repay them in kind because of what they have done for us (see 2 Samuel 2:6).

"Abounding in thanksgiving" is part of our walk of faith (Colossians 2:6-7); it should be evident in our lives.

I do believe some temperament types are more conducive to thankfulness, but gratitude can be cultivated by anyone. And parents have the responsibility to teach it to their children. To model it.

So how do we fight the "entitlement culture" and cultivate the beauty of gratitude at home?

It's E-E-E-E-E-asy.

1. Encourage appreciation for others in the home. Be intentional. Tell them why you love them. Thank them sincerely when they serve you or finish a task you've asked them to do.

2. Explain to your children how others serve them with time, effort, money and other resources. Make them more aware of things they can be grateful for in daily living.

3. Educate everyone in the family in how to write thank you notes (a lost art in modern culture), and how to tell someone "thank you" in a sincere, meaningful way.

4. Express gratitude (verbally or in a note) for the special things your family members and friends do for you - for their encouragement, counsel, gifts and other things you receive.

5. Enlist your family to create "thank you" gifts. Make small gift boxes or baskets for those who serve your family—your dentist or hairdresser, for example. (Note: Your payment is "expected" for services rendered; but you can always surpise those who serve you with "something extra.")

Create a larger basket for your pastor, pastor's wife, missionaries or leaders in parachurch organizations to share your appreciation for their ministry.

6. Extend gratitude even more ... to your children's teachers, their Sunday school teachers, community servants, people in your neighborhood, etc.

7. Empathize with those who are hurting, and notice when they "suffer well." Thank them for their godly example. (But don't stop ministering to those who hurt who are still struggling! They need encouragement, compassion and prayer!)

It's always a choice to cultivate the beauty of gratitude in our homes and in the lives of others. Who knows what will bloom in their lives!

Which of these "E"-asy tips for cultivating gratitude are you already doing? Something new you'd like to try?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Ministries, is the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is the President of the San Diego chapter of Network of Evangelical Women in MInistry (NEWIM San Diego). Dawn is the co-author of 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.