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Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (421)



Kathy Carlton Willis knows how to turn the everyday circumstances of life—even crisis situations—into  opportunities to trust God. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she deals with the bothersome problem of worry; and it's a perfect topic for today as we think back to a crisis in America that changed so many lives: America's 9/11.

“On this day we reflect back to September 11, 2001, our country continues to experience many different types of unrest," Kathy says. "In addition, we daily fight fears of doubt and worry regarding our personal lives. To live a life of peace and joy, we need to undergo a worryectomy from time to time.”

I (Dawn) grew up with a "worrier," and I "caught" the disease of worry. I know what Kathy says is true!

Kathy continues . . .  

When I was 19, newly married, this smalltown girl had to adjust to my college town. Springfield, Missouri, was the third largest city in Missouri.

Besides taking 20 credit hours of school and being involved in youth ministry, I also worked part-time. I used $500 from a scholarship to buy a 1969 Chevy pick-up truck. I looked like Farmer Jane!

During the Christmas season, my job at Walmart involved later hours, plus we’d have to stay lafter the store closed to restock all the things that got unshelved (like the entire toy department). The drive home took me through the worst area of town.

I didn’t even know enough to be worried, but Mom worried for me.

One day my husband decided to show me how to change a tire on that big ol’ truck—in case I ever had an emergency. But what he didn’t do was wrench all the lug nuts tight once he showed me the process.

Somehow, I made it the twenty minutes to the store. Worked my shift. We got out late. Midnightish. I drove part-way home, when all of a sudden, in the bad part of town, the whole tire, wheel and all, shot off my truck!

My tall truck screeched to a halt because the hub severed the brake line. Like taking one leg off of a four-legged chair, my truck leaned to the short side. What happened?

I jumped out of the truck quickly, not thinking. I started to walk to call for help and realized—without any money, how could I use a payphone?

I prayed, and felt God lead me back to the truck.

I had peace that somehow God was going to take care of me.

Next thing I knew, a security car from that area, pulled up in front of me and offered to help. He radioed for the command station to call Russ and have him come to the scene. A tow-truck also came.

Next thing we knew, a young man on a bicycle rolled up my wheel. He found it two blocks away and said it shot out like it was in a race!

When it was all over, I thought back on the situation.

Here I was, in a bad area of town, at a bad time of night. This naïve small-town girl had no money, stuck, no phone, and God took care of me.

I was never out of His care—out of His grasp.

It was a wonderful lesson to me that when you are in God’s will, He takes care of any of the risks involved. I was just as safe and secure there as I was sitting in a church pew.

When I told Mom what happened, she admitted her worries. Relieved at the outcome, she could finally exhale.

When those worries practically strangle us, we need to perform a WORRYECTOMY.

One way to do this is to create reminder cards to read through when worry hits. Have them say things like:

  • My God is bigger than my fear.
  • My God is bigger than this.
  • Nothing is impossible with God, not even this.
  • I'm never alone. God is with me always.
  • This circumstance isn't taking God by surprise.
  • God cares when I hurt.
  • What matters to me, matters to God.
  • This is temporary!

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 NLT)

Repeating biblical concepts really helps you fight the torment of worry.

God is the Master at using hope of the future to reshape our present and overcome our past!

Through Christ, you have control over panic and fear.

Worry doesn’t have to overcome and overwhelm you unless you allow it. Don't give worry permission to mess with you!

Is it time for a worryectomy?

Kathy Carlton Willis, God's Grin Gal, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with GraceHer popular blog, Grin & Grow with Kathy is featured on CBN. She and her husband Russ live in Beaumont, TX where they just recognized the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Alexas-Fotos at Pixabay.




Upgrade Your Destiny: The Obvious Choice

Pam Farrel is a woman with much life wisdom, and in this Spiritual Live UPGRADE, she reminds us to check our level of spiritual maturity and the choices we make.

The real complications in life come when our maturity does not match our challenges," Pam says. "Simplicity will come when our maturity surpasses our challenges."

I (Dawn) think we sometimes complicate our journey with God. We want more and more knowledge and opportunities, but we may be failing to obey the "first things"—the simple things God asks us to do, and the simple, unfettered way He wants us to live.

Pam continues . . .

God’s will lead us to maturity step by step, if we will simply follow His light and His leading through His Word.

My husband, Bill, and I consistently share a simple, obvious statement to gain success:

“We make our choices and our choices make us: Healthy choices gain a healthier life.”

Healthy decisions cause growth and improvement in our lives. With each passing year, we are faced with challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities that seemingly are bigger and more demanding than the year before.

Healthy decisions move us forward step by step so that each year we are better prepared for what comes our way.

In 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success at Keeping It All Together, I share a series of tests we can use to check our choices and upgrade decision-making skills. Here is one of those tests.

Decision Making Skill 1: The Obvious Test

Ask yourself, “Is this decision so obvious that I am wasting time thinking about it?”

The reason these decisions are obvious is that God has already clearly spoken to these areas of life or they are generally accepted as the best practices. 

Consider these obvious decisions based on the best practices in life:

  • Get out of bed. Get dressed. Brush your teeth.
  • If a police car pulls up behind you and turns its lights on, pull over.
  • Get a good night’s sleep regularly.
  • If someone does something nice, say, “Thank you.”

God wants to strengthen our life, beginning with the obvious.

We all want to gain God’s blessings, yet struggle to place ourselves under His “Umbrella of Blessing”—that is, choosing to live a life of integrity.

"He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity" (Proverbs 2:7).

Just as an umbrella shades us from harmful rays of the sun or protects us in the rain, even so, obedience to God’s stated will protect us—mostly from our own misguided choices.

God’s stated will is the foundation on which we all can build a stronger, more stable life.

We long to know God’s will, yet often many of us fail to obey the obvious verses where God clearly lays out the place to begin knowing His plan for our lives.

Here are a few verses that share God’s will for our lives.

Ask yourself, "Am I . . . "

. . . Saved?"

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).

. . . Spirit-filled?"

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

. . . Sanctified?"

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2).

. . . Sexually Pure?"

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

. . . Saying Thanks?"

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

. . . Suffering for Right?"

It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:17).

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. (1 Peter 4:19).

. . . Seeking God?"

Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart (Psalm 119:2).

I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me (Proverbs 8:17).

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul (Deuteronomy 4:29). *

Start doing—or continue walking out—these OBVIOUS things that God says are His will for you and three things will happen:

  • Your heart will become more in tune to God’s heart,
  • Your ability to understand the Bible will increase, and
  • You will gain insights from God for your future.

Which is God asking you to upgrade by obeying?

For me, I keep Praise Pages in my Bullet Journal to help me keep an attitude of gratitude. This obvious habit helps me keep a positive mindset, and I make better, wiser decisions as a result.

By simply obeying God’s Word, you gain the ability to walk in God’s will.

Can you thank God today for all these “obvious” things? Take a moment to consider which one/s might need some fresh obedience in your journey with God today.

Pam Farrel is an international speaker, author of over 45 books including 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success In Keeping It All Together which looks at how to strengthen 7 core areas of a woman’s life to move it forward.(This article is adapted from the Simple Skills material)  To gain more from Pam ‘s insights, join the Living Love-Wise Community. Simply go to and click the subscribe tab and select the membership option that best fits your life.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Delanie at Lightstock.

* The 7 "obvious" verses are from 10 Best Decisions a Woman Can Make (Harvest House, 1999), pp. 142-143.


5 Ways to Impact the Abortion Crisis in America

Morgan Farr takes tough stands because she is a strong woman with a tender heart. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she urges Christ-followers: Don't be complacent when it comes to protecting the unborn.

"This summer season has been rife with discussions about abortion laws across the world," Morgan says, "but especially in the United States of America."

I (Dawn) remember years ago when Christians in churches all across our nation were moved to pro-life action, but recently wondered, "Where are the YOUNG VOICES crying out for the lives of the unborn?"

Thank the Lord, Morgan is a powerful young voice!

Morgan continues . . . 

With the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, an open seat on the Supreme Court of the United States means that the landscape of abortions in the United States could be about to change.

With roughly 3,657 abortions happening every single day in the United States, abortion is a topic that the body of Christ needs to address. But this is the point where many Christians get uncomfortable because they don’t know what to do or say.

 In fact, 57% of Millennials don’t know even the most basic facts about the landmark case Roe v. Wade[1] which legalized abortion in the United States.

So today, I am going to share my top five ways to impact the abortion crisis without relying on emotional arguments.

1. Understand the Terminology. 

There are a lot of labels that are bandied about in the abortion debate, but they all fall into one of two camps:

You either support abortion or you don’t.

The pro-life one is pretty simple, you believe life begins at conception and you are therefore you do not support abortions.

Meanwhile, the pro-choice label is really just brilliant marketing. What it means that you believe women should have the right to choose to end the baby’s life.

Pro-choice is often interchangeable with pro-woman, meaning that if you really care about women then you believe they should be able end a baby’s life. If you are not pro-choice you are almost always labeled as anti-woman.

2. Understand the Science.

The number one argument that most pro-choice advocates use is that the woman has a right to choose to end a pregnancy because the baby isn’t a person yet. The baby will, oftentimes, be referred to as “the fetus” (Latin for offspring) to help in the dehumanization.

This is the most basic way that abortion advocates have skewed the way people think about unborn children—by connecting development with personhood.

However, stage of development does not, in fact, define personhood.

Personhood is defined as "the quality or condition of being an individual person."

The exact moment when a sperm penetrates the egg, an entirely new organism is formed called a zygote, and it is the earliest stage of human development. The zygote is composed of brand new human DNA, meaning it is entirely unique. This unique zygote will develop for the duration of his or her time on earth.

The development goes like this:

Zygote, fetus, baby, toddler, preschooler, grade schooler, teenager, adolescent, adult.

The zygote carries the same completely unique DNA all the way through development into adulthood.

The person is the same unique person, with all their own qualities from conception to death. This means that in the act of abortion (whether chemical or surgical) the woman is killing a unique individual, not a portion of her own body.

3. Understand the Impact.

In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States decided in the case of Roe v. Wade that abortion is legal. It also set guidelines in place breaking pregnancy into three trimesters.

 The guidelines for each trimester are:

  • 1st trimester—The state cannot regulate abortion (due to the woman’s right to privacy) aside from requiring that the medical procedure be performed by a licensed doctor in medically safe conditions.
  • 2nd trimester—The state may regulate abortion if the regulations are related to the health of the pregnant woman.
  • 3rd trimesterThe state may prohibit abortions unless abortion is necessary to save the life or health of the mother. (This means that the state can protect the life of the unborn child because the life’s potential outweighs the woman’s right to privacy).

According to the National Right to Life Committee, there have been approximately 60,069,971 abortions performed legally since the 1973, Roe vs. Wade decision.

That means that roughly 1 out of every 4 people from “Generation X” didn’t get a chance to live.

In a recent poll, a Public Religion Research Institution survey gathered that 65 percent of 18- to 29-year-old Americans believe that abortion should be legal in almost all cases. [2]

This means that the numbers of unborn children lost to abortion will only climb in the future unless something is done to end the massacre of unborn children. 

4. Vote in EVERY Election.

In the United States of America, we have the privilege of electing the executive, legislative and judicial branches of our government. Get out and vote in every single election.

Local votes matter; midterm elections matter.

Do your own research. Find out about each candidate’s stance on abortion and vote accordingly.

Encourage your friends and family to vote. Help to get people to the polls by organizing a carpool.

5. Pray, Pray and Pray Some More! 

Prayer is the single most important aspect of having an impact on the abortion crisis in America.

 I cannot emphasize this enough.

  • Pray for wisdom for our country’s leadership.
  • Pray for those writing the laws to be convicted about the murder of unborn children.
  • Pray for the women who are seeking these abortions.
  • Pray for the men who helped to conceive these children.
  • Pray for the American people to wake up and realize that “aborting a fetus” is just a pleasant way of saying “murdering a child”.

To put it in perspective for you, roughly one fourth of my generation didn’t survive “choice”.

Psalm 139:13-16 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

  If we truly believe that the Bible is the Word of God and we are to follow His instruction we cannot stand idly by any longer as the abortion industry robs the world of its future.

It is our responsibility as Christians to stand up for those that are being massacred on the altar of sex without consequences.

How can you make a difference in the abortion crisis this week?

Morgan Farr is an Army wife currently stationed in San Diego, California, with her wonderful husband Brian and their three small children. Morgan is a homemaker who dedicates her free time to ministering to other Army wives through Bible studies, one-on-one mentoring and physical training. Morgan writes about her transition out of feminism and into biblical womanhood on her blog, The Forgiven Former Feminist. You can find her training programs, nutritional information and meal plans on her blog, Farr Functional Fitness.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Ashton Mullins at Unsplash.





Waiting on God for Dreams to Come True

Cathy Horning is a rare jewel of wisdom. The more I've gotten to know her, the more I realize we are heart-sisters with the same passion for the Lord and His truth. In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, she focuses on a popular topic: dreams.

Cathy asks, "Do you have a dream? One you have waited a long time to come true? A dream, that perhaps, you have all but given up on? Me too!"

Cathy's article came along at a time when I (Dawn) have been talking to the Lord much about dreams. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate her insight!

Cathy continues . . . 

I'd almost given up on a dream—until this summer when this nearly-60-year-old grandmother saw a childhood dream come true.  

1. God’s Timing; Not Mine!

I was 12 when I first decided I wanted to write a book. My books were going to be juicy, the kind of novels sold on racks near the checkout counter at the grocery store.

Then I met Jesus, and in His great wisdom, He tucked away my dream while He worked to grow me up and build my faith.

But one day, it was as if the Lord took my forgotten dream off of a shelf in my heart, dusted it off, and handed it back to me.

It was as if He said, “Remember when you wanted to write books for the world? Now, I want you to write books for Me.”

2. God Takes the Little We Have to Offer.

I was thrilled to rediscover my long forgotten dream. Eagerly, I began to write a weekly devotional for my women’s Bible study group.

Then, a few months later, I received two letters in the mail. Each note, from a young mom who had recently moved away, contained nearly-identical messages: “I have watched you as a mom … can you write to me about parenting?”

I cried. This just couldn’t be a coincidence.

But why would they ask me?

I prayed. God answered. And, I began to write letters—one letter a month for the next year and a half.

I mailed them to my two mom friends, then to a dozen more, and eventually to more than one hundred mamas.

In the days before social media and blogs, with four active children and my husband’s demanding career, it was the little I had to offer.

3. God Uses Detours, Delays and Busy Days.

Life got crazy, and my letter writing ended. God called us to a season of home schooling. Then we moved. Our new home soon became the hub for all of our teenagers’ friends. Plus, we kept busy with sports and hosting dinners, parties and youth events. Our basement was the place for our sons’ band, our daughter’s darkroom, and eventually, a dormitory for boys who wanted to move out, but couldn’t quite afford it.

Our lives were abundantly full.

I continued to teach Bible studies and speak at women’s events, but I did little writing.

Looking back now, there is no way I could have imagined how the Lord was using that very busy season of life to prepare, train and equip me (and our whole family) for purposes He had further down the road.  

4. God Will Give A Loving Nudge.

On occasions when I did speak or teach, I was often asked, “Do you have a book?” No, I hated to admit, I had nothing written.

However, that all changed on a flight to Arizona. The woman across the aisle recognized me from the gym, and for the next hour I had the opportunity to share with her the message I would give the following day. As we prepared to exit the plane, she called out, “I need your message. Do you have it written anywhere?”

I was utterly convicted.

So that summer, the year I turned 50, I began to write again. A book seemed daunting, so I decided to begin a blog.

Never again would I tell a hurting soul, “I have nothing written.”

5. God Rewards Sacrifice, Surrender and Obedience.

Our kids went off to college. Then there were weddings, and grandchildren began to arrive. As our family grew, our parents aged, and there were many unexpected health challenges and great family needs.

Through it all, I continued to blog as I was able. I worked to hone my writing skills, as I prayed my posts would encourage others.

Amidst all this, a spiritual season of winter hit hard. There were three long years of dying to self, serving my family, and surrendering my dreams to Jesus.

I began to believe my years of ministry were over.

Yet, as my hope waned, the Lord began to show me signs of spring. And slowly, this past year, God again opened doors for travel, to speak, and to show me that it was now time to write my book.

6. God’s Plan—for Such a Time as This.

Much to my delight, this summer—the year before I turn 60—my childhood dream came true! 

  • I cried as I held in my hands my very first book.
  • I praised God.
  • And, I dedicated it to the Lord.

You see, to my amazement my first book was filled with the parenting letters I had written twenty-one years earlier, even though I had long lost hope those letters would ever be a book.

But God knew. He had a plan that in His time and His way they would become my very first book, as He has whispered His word to me all year, “Who knows if you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

My dear sisters, do you have a dream God has placed in your heart? Does it sometimes seem they will never come true? Or, that it is too late or you are too old? 

Let me assure you, as you walk with Jesus day-by-day, in His perfect plan and time, He will bring to pass and allow to come true the dreams He has planted in your heart.

Please don’t ever give up!

What dream has the Lord placed in your heart? Which of these six points help you to trust God with your dreams today?

Cathy Horning has been a women’s ministry leader, Bible Study teacher, speaker and writer for more than 25 years. She loves the Word of God. Nothing brings her greater joy than sharing with others how very precious, practical, and powerful the promises and truths in God's Word. Married for 34 years, Cathy has four grown children, 10 grandchildren, and many spiritual sons and daughters. She loves long walks by the bay, a good book or movie, Starbucks ice tea, and especially family get-togethers. Her new book is Letters from a Mother's Heart. Read more by Cathy at her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesty of StockSnap at Pixabay.


Reasons, Not Excuses

In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson admits to her own struggle with excuses, and how a more biblical perspective has helped her grow to be more like Jesus.

"There really is no personal growth or progress until we stop making excuses for bad behavior, bad habits, and wrong choices."

As a young pastor’s wife, I remember counseling a woman and hearing her litany of excuses.

Finally, when I could take no more, I lovingly but firmly said, “Those are all reasons—maybe even valid reasons—for you to feel the way you do, but they are not excuses for your behavior, because you have the living Holy Spirit dwelling in you, and He can empower you to do what is right.”

The woman seemed stunned. She stopped talking, blinked at me a few times, and said, “You know, you’re absolutely right. They are reasons, not excuses.”

That kind of counsel is easy to give, but hard to follow.

I’ve struggled in my own life with a list of excuses—and God’s Spirit kindly returns the counsel that I’ve given to others.

When it comes to making wise, biblical choices, there is never a place for excuses after the fact.

We simply chose not to do what we knew was right.

  • We may have been motivated by lies.
  • We may have had ulterior motives.
  • We may have chosen to fear man rather than God.
  • We may have lacked faith at that moment, or hope.
  • We may have given in to our emotions rather than living by the truth of scripture.

There can be hundreds of reasons for wrong choices.

God wants us to OWN UP to our wrong choices.

Some are sins that need to be confessed in true repentance (I John 1:8-9). Other choices are simply not wise—not necessarily sin, but not the best (Proverbs 1:7).

We can’t move on to make better choices when we cling to excuses and try to justify our words or behavior.

What should we do instead of making excuses?

1. Listen to your Conversations.

What do you say when you "mess up"? Are you always defending yourself? (See Proverbs 16:2, 25.)

What do you say to others when you make sinful choices? What do you say to yourself? Not only that: what excuses are you making in prayers to the Lord? 

I'm not kidding. I found myself excusing a sinful habit in prayer because "that's just the way I am, Lord." What was I doing? I was accusing God of making me sin!

The Lord wanted me to understand my position in Christ, and not give in to the enemy's evaluation of who I am!

How often are you making excuses?  (See Proverbs 16:2, 25; 21:2).

2. List your reasons for not following through with wisdom and obedience.

Take time to sincerely consider why you do what you do. Be honest!

The person who conceals or tries to cover up failings "will not prosper" (Proverbs 28:13a).

What motivates you to make unwise choices? Call that motivation by name.

I discovered in dealing with one of my own besetting sins, I was soft-pedaling my sinful overeating. It wasn't until I named the sinful motivation as gluttony and even idolatry that I began to see some changes in my attitudes and approach to obeying the Lord regarding my health. No more excuses!

Why do you think you disobeyed? Was it rebellion or ignorance of the truth (or something else)? Dealing with a root of rebellion or idolatry is different than ignorance—and the Spirit of God will encourage you to deal with them in different ways.

Examining the reasons behind sins and failings can bring you greater understanding.

3. Learn to acknowledge any wrong, sinful, or unwise choices—quickly!

If it is sinful, confess it (1 John 1:9) and then deal with your sin biblically. The person who confesses and forsakes sins "will obtain mercy" (Proverbs 28:13b).

Run to the cross and remember why Jesus died. No sin is too great to bring to the cross!

I remember the day it hit me.

Dawn, stop making excuses, because . . .

Jesus didn't die for your excuses!

Don't ever allow the enemy to convince you that you have no other choice. God provides a "way of escape" (1 Corinthians 10:13), but we have to be alert to it, and that's harder when you're listening to the devil's lies.

Determine to take the holy escape, not the harmful excuse!

Ask the Lord to help you, then make yourself available to Him. Keep in step with the Spirit of God! (Galatians 5:16).

4. Lean in to the unchanging Word of God and the Spirit of God.

The Lord will help you as you continue to counsel your hearts according to scripture and keep in step with the Holy Spirit. Ask Him for a heart that wants to hear and increase learning, wise counsel "and the skill" to steer your course wisely (Proverbs 1:5).

Excuses are fruitless. Rationalizing and justifying doesn't change anything.

But figuring out the reasons for our failings and then dealing with them God's way—that sets us up for a life of fullness and fruitfulness in Christ.

In what area/s of life are you making excuses? Can you see how the enemy uses that? What can you do to stop making excuses and live according to the truth?

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 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 knerri61 at Pixabay.