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Lina AbuJamra

Sue Badeau

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Lisa Copen

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Pam Farrel

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Rebecca Jordan

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Debby Lennick

Peggy Leslie

Kathi Lipp

Kolleen Lucariello

Kathi Macias

Paula Marsteller

Melissa Mashburn

Dianne Matthews

Cindi McMenamin

Elaine W. Miller

Kathy Collard Miller

Lynn Mosher

Karen O'Connor

Yvonne Ortega

Arlene Pellicane

Ava Pennington

Laura Petherbridge

Gail Purath

Marcia Ramsland

Kaley Rhea

Rhonda Rhea

Vonda Rhodes

Cynthia Ruchti

Julie Sanders

Judy Scharfenberg

Deedra Scherm

Laurel Shaler

Joanie Shawhan

Stephanie Shott

Poppy Smith

Susan K. Stewart

Stacie Stoelting

Letitia "Tish" Suk

Jill Swanson

Janet Thompson

Janice Thompson

Teri Thompson

Brittany Van Ryn

Elizabeth Van Tassel

Leslie Vernick

Laurie Wallin

Julie Watson

Joan C. Webb

Shonda Savage Whitworth

Cherri Williamson

Kathy C. Willis

Debbie W. Wilson

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Jamie Wood

And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Upgrade UPLIFT (7)


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.


Leaving a Creative Legacy

My grandmothers left me a rich creative legacy, and I asked Dena Dyer to share how she leaves a creative legacy in this Family UPGRADE.

"Leaving a creative legacy is something I strive for," Dena says.

God created all things (Colossians 1:16; John 1:3), and we are designed  in His creative image. I [Dawn] get sad when I see families where parents or grandparents fail to help their children and grandchildren develop creativity. It takes time and intentionality to nurture the gifts God places in the younger generation.

Dena continues

On my mother’s side, I come from a long line of “creatives.” Which is a nice way of saying our family is a little whacked-out.

My great-grandfather Pappy wrote many unpublished short stories. His daughter Nanaw was an artist and writer. Her husband Dadaw was an amateur inventor, and my mother is a talented stained glass artist, children’s music teacher and decorator.

Each of my late relatives lived life with panache and turned ordinary moments into memorable experiences.

Pappy allowed his pet parakeet to drink coffee out of his cup in the mornings. Nanaw and Dadaw danced to the Muzak in the grocery store, much to my mother’s chagrin. While they waltzed around the frozen food, she hid behind the stacks of canned goods, praying no one would see her. Their defense? “We can’t let this good music go to waste!”

Once, the stories embarrassed me. Then they amused me. Now, they inspire me.

In fact, a Dyer family motto is “Why be normal? It’s so boring.”

I long for my kids carve their own paths, instead of following in the footsteps others have forged.

I’m grateful that my husband, a professional musician, shares my philosophy of parenting, and I’m also extremely thankful for grandparents and teachers who’ve come alongside us.

My younger son’s drama teacher, who took a break from the classroom for several years, told us, “The main difference I noticed when I came back was that the kids were much less creative. They didn’t know how to use their imaginations.” She attributed the change to a rise in electronics use, overscheduled families, and school curriculum which elevates standardized instruction over discovery-based learning.

I found that incredibly sad … and disturbing.

In our family, we love our computers, tablets, and smart phones as much as anyone (and they can be great tools for both discovery and expression), but we try to balance non-creative electronics use with active play.

  • Often, creativity is as simple as changing a routine: “Put some music on while we clean.”
  • It might mean instituting a silly family tradition: “Let’s go to Sonic for a cherry limeade—in our pajamas!”
  • At times, it occurs organically—after the “b” word slips out. (My boys know that if they say, “I’m bored,” I will put them to work. So they create their own fun as a last resort, just to avoid chores.)

We’ve also arranged our family budget to include funds for art and music lessons, creative experiences, and supplies. It’s more important for us that our sons have memorable experiences than name-brand clothing.

Of course, we don’t always get it “right,” and there are times when laziness or inertia sets in. For those days, I cling to God’s grace.

In the future, Jordan and Jackson might seek therapy for the way we’ve raised them. However, they might also thank us. I’m praying for that alternative.

Luci Shaw writes, “I’m convinced that the whole world is better when we, as individuals, capture and savor each moment as the gift that it is, embrace the challenge or joy of it … and thereby transform it with the magic of creative possibility.”

I think Pappy, Nanaw and Dadaw would agree.

What are you doing to leave a "creative legacy" for your children or grandchildren ... or even some children in your sphere of influence?

Dena Dyer is a wife, mom, author and speaker from Texas. A version of this story appears in Grace for the Race: Meditations for Busy Moms (Patheos). Her newest book is Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts (Kregel), co-authored with Tina Samples.


A Mom's Extravagant Love

Rebecca Barlow Jordan is an encouraging story-teller, and I wanted her to share this special Mother's Day UPLIFT as an example of a mom's extravagant, forgiving love. 

Rebecca begins with a scripture about the greatest love of all.

"But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 TNIV).

She continues ...

Much of my husband’s childhood years he spent on a lake in West Texas where his parents and grandparents owned a fishing camp. Like all boys, Larry loved to play “buried treasure.” The sand around the camp offered multiple opportunities for realistic pirating adventures.

But one fateful day, Larry learned a powerful lesson he never forgot. Here’s his story: 

“At the fishing camp, people were always coming and going: stocking up on groceries, searching out the best fishing lures, and renting campsites nearby to set up tents. Mom kept a small file box in the house in which she saved silver dollars.

One day I spied that box and saw ‘Capt. Kidd’ and ‘Treasure’ written all over it. I opened it up and counted fifty shiny coins—not much in today’s economy, but a huge sum to my parents in those days—and definitely a realistic treasure for a pirate. I thought it would be cool to ‘bury’ that treasure box, so I took it out to an empty tent behind our house where I was playing with some other kids. We had great fun pretending we were burying our treasure inside that tent.

“But as boys often do, I got distracted and forgot about the box of silver dollars. Two or three days later, Mom asked about the box. Suddenly I remembered that I had left them in the tent. So I hurried out back, confident I would be the pirate hero and retrieve the buried treasure for the ‘damsel in distress.’

“But when I looked in the tent, there was no box. I pawed through every corner as sand flew in every direction. No box. No treasure. No silver dollars. And no pirate hero. I returned to face my fate from a mom who was now greatly ‘in distress.’

“I’ll never forget my mother’s words. She didn’t punish me. She didn’t chew me out. She didn’t take away my fishing or pirating privileges. She said two things that left a dramatic impression on me. With obvious disappointment, she said, ‘We could have fed our family for a month with that money.’ She let her words hang in the air for a moment, then reached out to hug me. Then she said, ‘But I forgive you.’

“An enemy pirate couldn’t have sliced me any deeper. Another ‘pirate’ had obviously stolen the treasure, but the responsibility lay directly in my hands.”

Through a mom’s forgiveness, she has the divine opportunity to model Christ’s own love to her children.

Badgering, abusing, screaming, berating—these are not God’s tools. They’re more like “enemy” pirate behavior. Certainly, appropriate discipline is needed when outright disobedience challenges parental authority.

But Larry’s mom wisely understood how to drive home the consequences of a boy’s foolish mistake and childish behavior without wounding his character. Her words stung, and made him realize the extreme carelessness of his actions. But it was his mom’s forgiveness that taught him the most about extravagant love.

Only God can teach that kind of love. He is extravagant love, personified.

Almost two thousand years ago, he saw the extreme “pirating” of his world. The ones he created didn’t understand their true purpose and instead chose their own way through sinful behavior. The cost to God was overwhelming. He knew the ultimate consequences of sin. He didn’t excuse it. But he took his most extravagant, expensive treasure—his own Son—and offered it as a gift to his world in distress. And with a holy whisper of grace, he said, “What you’ve done is not acceptable. But I forgive you.”

And those who still hear him and receive his extravagant love and forgiveness will never forget it. They will never be the same again.

In what ways did your mom show you extravagant love? How have you demonstrated forgiveness to your own children? How has God shown that kind of love and forgiveness to you?

© 2010, Rebecca Barlow Jordan, Day-votions® for Mothers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.

Rebecca Barlow Jordan is the author of 11 books, including the Day-votions® women’s series, and 40 Days in God’s Presence. Her book, Day-votions® for Mothers, is a great gift choice for Mother's Day or any day! She has also written over 2000 articles, devotions, and greeting cards and writes an encouraging weekly blog. As a minister’s wife she lives in East Texas and has two grown children and four grandchildren. Find out more about Rebecca at

Graphic of Silver Dollars from, used with permission.


God's Promises for Your 'What if ...'s'

Vonda Rhodes knows how to turn a scary negative into a God-blessed positive, and I appreciate her attitude UPLIFT today.

Vonda asks, “Have you ever been faced with an unpleasant circumstance and found yourself immediately defaulting to the worst-case scenario?”

Actually, I (Dawn) used to use “worst-case scenarios” to talk myself out of my fears and worries, but Vonda has a better idea!

She continues …  

“Instead of following ‘What if...’ with a negative, how about inserting one of God’s promises?

  • What if I can trust You fully?
  • What if You’re sovereign over all?
  • What if Your provision is more than enough for this situation?
  • What if You’ve forgiven me completely and I’m free from the enemy’s oppression?" *

There is more than one way to talk to yourself. You don’t have to be oppressed. Joy is possible even in the midst of trouble.

How? By renewing your mind with the Truth found in God’s Word. By getting into agreement with God and kicking out thoughts that don’t agree with His.

The God who gave you life is more than capable of handling all the details of your life. Trust Him. He is faithful!

I love the verse that says, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).  

It doesn’t say, “Keep your eyes on your problems. Think of all the things that could possibly go wrong, worry, fret, be anxious and fearful and, in the process, make yourself and everyone else around you miserable.”

No, instead of negative “what ifs,” remind yourself who you are and Whose you are. It will help turn things around—beginning with your mood and attitude.

 The devil would love nothing more than to steal your joy, because he knows that the joy of the Lord is your strength!

He would love to discourage and depress you. Don’t let him! Remember, the devil is a liar!

I remember times (before I knew better) that I would let the devil fill my mind with all kinds of wrong thoughts. It began with one thought, then he’d add another and another. The next thing I knew, I went from being mildly annoyed to completely depressed! I went from sitting on the couch to curled up on my bed and crying a river of tears based solely on the wrong thoughts I was meditating on in my own mind!

I am so thankful for revelation from God and great teaching from anointed preachers, teachers and pastors!

Remember that ultimately, all things will work together for your good, because you love God and have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). That is a promise from God! If God is for you (and He is), who can be against you? You, along with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit make a majority!

Don’t give up in defeat. Armor up and fight back in the Spirit! Know in your heart that victory already belongs to you in Christ. And while you’re at it:

Smile and give the devil a nervous breakdown!

How would your life be affected if you lined up your thoughts with God’s today?

Vonda Rhodes is a full-time caregiver who resides in Arizona with her husband. She currently gives her free time to encouraging others on Facebook and actively serving in her local church.

Graphic in Text an adapted Image courtesy of stockimages /

* Vonda's questions are adapted from the “Every Good Thing” calendar.


The Treasure of Your Child.

My friend Pam Farrel’s stories about her family have encouraged moms everywhere; and they have encouraged me. This one, a special Upgrade "UPLIFT," reminds us that every child is valuable—a precious creation of God. 

“Ever feel at the end of yourself as a mom?” Pam writes. “Yeah, me too!”

(Oh, I can’t even begin to tell you how many “You’re on my last nerve!” days I had as a young mom. I wish I’d had Pam’s resources back then.)

Pam continues …

One day, our then 8-year-old son Zach came into the house from playing outside with his brothers, Brock and Caleb. His brothers, were in tears. Zach was beating on them again! (Zach had a medical issue and a learning disability and wasn’t very verbal so when frustrated he used his fists.)

 “Zach,” I bent down and whispered intently into his face, “You cannot do this. Hitting is inappropriate. Go upstairs and I will come up to talk to you.”

Zach stomped up the stairs, knocking his brothers over in the process. He slammed the door to his room and threw a baseball at it, knocking a hole through the door as I walked in. I had bounded up the stairs just behind him.

I prayed all the way up the stairs because I had made a commitment to never discipline in anger. But I wasn’t angry. I was scared - scared for my son.

I walked into the room, bent down so I was eye to eye with him and said firmly but calmly, “Zachery, this is inappropriate. I know you are angry. I know you are upset. But you cannot use your fists to show it. You have got to learn to use words to express your feelings.”

(I was thinking in my mind, If you act like this no one will ever marry you and you are going to live with me forever! Use words!)

Zach exploded and yelled back at me, hands on his hips: “You want words? You want words? Then I hate myself and I hate my life and if God made me, I hate Him too!”

I was stood in shocked silence. I simply replied in a whisper, “I’ll be right back.”

I ran to my room in tears. I threw myself across my bed and desperately prayed to God, “Lord, I am a pastor’s wife, Director of Women’s Ministry, I write all these Christian books and I am raising a little atheist upstairs—I need HELP! I am so afraid for Zachery. I don’t know what to do. All I do know is that Psalm 139 says he is “fearfully and wonderfully made” [Psalm 139:13-14].

“I believe that. I believe there is a gift, a treasure, that You place in each and every one of us. But God, Zach is so angry he cannot see the treasure. Help me help him see that treasure!”

Then the idea came. I ran to the office and pulled out a piece of poster board. I drew a treasure map on it and a treasure chest at one end, glued a quarter or two onto the map, and marched myself back upstairs where Zach stood, just as I had left him.

“Zach, here’s the deal. You and I are going to go on an adventure. See, God has placed a treasure, a special unique­ness inside every person. There is a treasure in you, Zach!” (I said by faith!) “You and I and God are going on a treasure hunt to discover that hidden treasure.

“So here’s the plan. I am going to ask you every day to name one thing positive about your day and one thing you think you did well. Then, once a week, you and I are going on a breakfast date and we’re going to talk about what we see God is showing you about the treasure inside you. We’re going to do this for at least six weeks and at the end of that time, I am going to invest money in the treasure God has shown is in you. Zach, you are a special guy. We all love you, and God loves you most of all. Let’s ask God to help us discover your treasure.”

“Zach, what’s one thing pos­itive that happened today? Let’s write it down.”

Zach had a chronic Eyore-like attitude so he said, “It’s hopeless, it’s never going to work.”

I spoke for him, “Honey, you are alive.” (I was holding back my own frustration because I was sarcastically thinking, Yep, you are alive—because I haven’t killed you from sheer frustration, kid! But God miraculously replaced my frustration with compassion.)

I wrapped my arms around that sullen, stiff little body and whispered, “You are God’s treasure!”

Then a miracle happened. Zach started bringing me the treasure map to excitedly list off all the great things he was seeing in himself. At the end of those six weeks, we discovered that relationships were the key to unlocking Zach’s heart, so for years we budgeted funds to send a friend with him to concerts, camps, workshops, etc. so they could grow with God and make good decisions together.

Fast forward, now about 18 years later, and that same son graduated with a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science (with honors) and was hired the day he graduated as a Strength Coach for a Division 1 university. On June 22, 2012, Zach did get married to a beautiful, godly woman who values the treasure of Zach! Miracles happen when you look for the treasure!

Do you see the treasure in your child? Your grandchild? Ask the Lord to give you insight.

Pam Farrel and her husband Bill are international speakers, and authors of more than 38 books including the best-selling 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make. (This is an excerpt from that book.) Many other tools the Farrels used with their children to help them reach their potential are also included the book. Additional free relationship and parenting articles, the Treasure of Your Child Treasure Map, and other books and resources can be found at