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Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (432)

Thursday
Jan172019

What Makes Bite-sized Upgrades Work?

I have written about UPGRADING our lives since 2013, and in that process, the Lord has shown me how to cooperate with Him to upgrade my own life.

In that process I've also learned an important lesson:  

Personal upgrades can be overwhelming.

It's true no matter what we're tackling:

  • weight loss,
  • toning our bodies,
  • creating a more joyful or contented spirit,
  • moving forward without fear toward a personal goal or dream,
  • learning to be a better parent or grandparent,
  • becoming a prayer warrior,
  • making decisions that lead toward financial freedom,
  • and a host of other upgrade choices!

In a very practical way, personal UPGRADES begin with a choice toward a goal, and then we break down that goal into small (bite-sized) action steps.

Case in point: I wrote on Facebook recently that helping some loved ones pack and move motivated me to clean out my home of my own overflow of "stuff."

I decided:

  1. I no longer use or want many things that still are cluttering my shelves, cabinets and garage—why am I keeping them?
  2. I want to move forward into new adventures and new ministries, and don't want to be "encumbered" by unnecessary and distracting clutter.
  3. I do not want to leave so much "stuff" to my children to dispose of—so this became a "legacy issue" for me.

But considering this UPGRADE goal, I soon became overwhelmed with the thought of the "how" of making that change.

But then that old adage—"How do you eat an elephant?"—came to mind.

We "eat an elephant" one bite at a time!

One bite.

So what was my "one bite" for clearing out the clutter? I decided I could manage one box per week to Amvets or some other charity. That would equal 52 boxes of "clutter" and unused-but-useful items gone from my home in one year!

I am tackling weight loss the same way. Losing all the weight I need to lose is overwhelming, but I can choose bite-sized goals for each day.

I want to write a book this year. It feels daunting. But the Lord is giving me some bite-sized goals, and my "elephant" doesn't seem so huge.

Now this is not a new insight. The "eat an elephant" example has been around for a long time.

But what makes it powerful is when we take action.

Author Pam Farrel recently wrote about the many action steps the Proverbs 31 woman took that changed her life, enabled her to bless others, and earned her well-deserved praise.

Pam even wrote an action planner to encourage wise action steps.

We have to take that one bite... and another... and another.

The key to bite-sized actions making a difference is PERSEVERANCE!

We need to stick to it—or as Pam Farrel says—"Get It Done, Girl!"

  • We can't make a resolution and forget it the next week.
  • We can't make a decision and then back away.
  • We can't set a goal and then suddenly think it doesn't matter.

Perseverance is a steady pursuit of a goal or a repeated action despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

It includes tenacity, determination, resolve, purposefulness, courage, endurance and staying power.

With that in mind, I will persevere in cleaning out my home, losing weight, and writing a book in 2019.

The Bible encourages in this regard. It speaks much about practical perseverance in the Christian life.

One of the scriptures currently motivating my life is to be a "doer" of the Word and not a "hearers"  only (James 1:22-24).

A successful life doesn't grow out of hearing and nodding in agreement or even expressing good intentions.

To be a success, we must take action and persevere.

Even when it's hard.

Even when it takes courage.

The more we persevere in our walk with God, the more God teaches and blesses us, and the Holy Spirit empowers us to continue to persevere! Christians should desire to persevere and cooperate with the Spirit as He works to change our hearts and make us more like Jesus!

Ask yourself this question:

"What is God trying to accomplish in my life, and how can I cooperate with Him in complete surrender and obedience?

Then ask,

"How can I make little decisions every day—bite-sized upgrades—to persevere in that cooperation?"

It is perseverance in the right direction and with effective actions that make our intended upgrades work!

What upgrades do you want to make this year? What bite-sized choice can you make today ... and tomorrow ... and all year long?

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, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

Thursday
Jan102019

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.

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.

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.