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Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (480)

Thursday
Jun132019

Leaving & Being Left Behind: An Upgrade in Transition

Julie Sanders has a special gift for helping people find peace in their lives, work, relationships and family. In this Relationships UPGRADE, she helps us find peace during the transitional separations in our lives.  

"When it comes to leaving," Julie says, "life includes an equal portion of arrivals and departures. How can we deal with departures and help both who leave and those left behind?

I (Dawn) moved many times in my lifetime. I know the pain of separation and the process of change. I wish I'd had Julie's good advice back then!

Julie continues . . .

Sometimes separation results from our decisions, and sometimes it’s imposed on us by another. It may be the result of a long process of release, or it may be sudden.

A change in relational routines and familiar life functions may leave us feeling unsettled, insecure, or disoriented.

Since separation includes loss, there may be grieving.

Departures come with job changes, health trials, and life choices. Whether we say goodbye to a family member, co-worker, friend, or pastor, emptiness may seep in where security once lived.

What response lifts up the leaver and the one being left?

1. Say Something

When a significant person leaves, there may be an urge to explain, weigh in, or oppose it. After all, if we have a connection, it will be uncomfortable at best or painful at worst.

Sometimes the only message needed is a silent one: a smile, hug, handshake.

But if the response is audible, it helps to speak wisely. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).

Feelings rise in separations, so it pays to be alert to rotten, poor quality words escaping with emotion.

Whatever the delivery of our talk, messages should be useful, of good quality to “build up” the one leaving and those being left behind.

Positive, true words promote growth in times of transition.

Helpful messages give good will and kindness for hearts churning in change.

If life is upset by a leaving, good words will give good will. Words can give life or death. In a time of change, life is needed, “as fits the occasion.”

You could say nothing, but transition creates space and time where words of life are helpful to release the leaver to the next place and settle those who stay.

Say something, and make it good.

  • Put into words how the person influenced you and share it.
  • Consider how the person impacted your life in positive ways and state it.
  • Think about how you helped each other and say thank you.
  • Reflect on how God worked in the moving and affirm His movement.

2. Do Something

No matter if you’re the one going or staying, loss that accompanies leaving creates need.

Whether you chose the departure or find yourself caught up in someone’s choice, do what you can to be the salve in the separation.

Do something practical to meet a present need.

  • Is your heart hurting? Spend time talking to God or reading His word for encouragement.
  • Is packing needed?  Get boxes and help your significant person to do the work.
  • Is the pathway unclear? Use your skills and network to help make connections.
  • Is the departure having financial impact? Give a gift card or buy lunch.

3. Be There

There’s an undercurrent in separation that feels like rejection. It makes us wonder if we’re being abandoned for better things.

It applies to losing a loved one, seeing a spiritual leader leave, or watching a friend move away. Leaving for more can feel like not being loved anymore. In those times, it’s tempting not to be with the one who prompted the pain to begin with. That’s when it matters just to be present.

God’s path for me has most often assigned me the leaving role, instead of the one staying behind.

In one particular leaving, a wise man told me pain in departing is surpassed by sadness for the ones left behind.

From those who have loved me well, I have learned the value of saying something, doing something, and just being there.

  • Be present and be grateful to be together in silence.
  • Be present and say something good.
  • Be present and do something helpful.

Life includes departures and arrivals in equal measure. As sure as there is coming, there is going.

When those you love let you know it’s time to leave, say something good, do something helpful, and be there.

When it’s hard to let go, what do you think it says about the bond you share? What words could be expressed to lift up the one you are leaving or leaving behind?

Julie Sanders, from her home in the Pacific Northwest, is in a season of both leaving and being left behind. She is grateful to know God never leaves us, and she believes He helps us be fully present where He has us each day. In July of 2019 Julie will release a devotional guide for moms whose children leave for school, The ABC’s of Praying for Students. Learn more about Julie and her book at http://www.juliesanders.org/.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Alexas Fotos at Pixabay.

 

Tuesday
Jun112019

Clear Your Hardened Spiritual Arteries

Kathy Collard Miller writes much about the heart, because she wants people to have a right heart with God. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she focuses on the problem of bitterness, and God's solution, forgiveness. 

"Unforgiveness gives us hardening of our spiritual arteries," Kathy says. "God wants only the best for us, so he says, 'Forgive!'"

I (Dawn) know from experience the "hardening" of an unforgiving heart. I also know how forgiving my offender released me from the prison of bitterness. Kathy's personal story describes the power of living life God's way.

Kathy continues . . .  

I knew my heart had hardened toward my father-in-law. His commitment to another religious viewpoint kept him occupied when we visited, and he constantly, angrily debated his ideas with us. He could go on and on about his beliefs without ever being willing to hear anything we said.

I felt frustrated. Without realizing it, I believed I had to protect my heart by becoming bitter.

I could never think of anything he did right, only his faults whether we were visiting him and my mother-in-law or not. I focused on his lack of care for his son and his grandchildren.

Although he gave some attention to our children, I longed for him to be a patient and encouraging grandfather investing in their spiritual growth.

It appeared to me he only represented his view of God as mean and spiteful.

I knew my responses weren’t representing God well either, but I felt trapped in my bitter rehearsing of his faults.

Over time I learned three important truths to set me free from my bitterness and bring joy into our family.

1. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling.

At times, I tried to forgive him. I knew my hard heart wasn’t helping the situation and didn’t help my young children either—supposedly the very ones I was so concerned about.

I forced myself to think, “Don, I forgive you,” but later, the old feelings surfaced again. I concluded I hadn’t really forgiven him.

Eventually, I realized I had made a conscious choice to forgive him and that is forgiveness.

Feelings are fickle and will return. It doesn’t mean I hadn’t forgiven him.

2. We can be motivated to cooperate with God's call of forgiveness when we really understand it’s God’s plan for our good.

God doesn’t want us to forgive because he wants us to be hurt again.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we are obligated to allow someone to continue to hurt us. Forgiveness can involve boundaries and loving strength to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

The reason God says forgiveness is for our good is because we are set free from having another person control us.

After all, if we are constantly negatively rehearsing the way they hurt us, then we aren’t thinking about the wonderful parts of our lives and God’s love for us.

3. We can forgive because God has forgiven us far more than the hurt from another person.

We don’t deserve God’s forgiveness. But Jesus’s death made God’s forgiveness possible, because He paid the debt we owed. God’s loving graciousness declares we are in His forever family and set free from our sins. We can’t earn that by being good; it’s a free gift.

Colossians 3:13 inspires us:Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Gratitude for God’s unearned and undeserved love can motivate us to release punishing someone else.

As God continued over time to help me with these truths, my anger toward Don diminished and I could more easily make that choice to stop rehearsing his faults.

He even turned from his erroneous thinking and returned to true faith in Jesus as his Savior and Lord when he was 83. He became a different person of love and joy.

Although he never acknowledged how he had hurt our family, including my husband’s mom, we knew his hugs loved us authentically.

After he had a sudden brain aneurism at age 90 and lay in the hospital dying, I was able to read him the letter of forgiveness I’d written him.

I doubt he heard me, but I knew God had heard my heart’s cry and released me totally from the bitterness I had harbored.

I also included in the letter the ways he had loved his family, though they had seemed so insignificant over the years. Just as I fail, he couldn’t be perfect. That helped me see the good parts of our family dynamics.

Today, I know the power of forgiveness, which clears our hardened spiritual arteries.

Who is God calling you to take an initial conscious step to forgive? Ask God to help you make that decision.

Kathy Collard Miller is a wife, mom, and grandma who speaks and writes about God’s work in her life, family, and marriage. She has authored 54 books including Pure-Hearted: The Blessings of Living Out God’s Glory. She lives in Southern California with her husband, Larry, of 49 years. For more information about Kathy, visi www.KathyCollardMiller.com.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Giralt at Pixabay.   

 

Thursday
Jun062019

Overcomer or Overwhelmed?

Bible teacher and speaker Ava Pennington is gifted in being able to distill practical truth from scripture, and in this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she gives sound advice for those times when circumstances threaten to overwhelm us.

"My husband was determined to use his final months to remind Christians to look up in the midst of their difficulties," Ava says, "But that’s easier said than done."

I (Dawn) so identify with Ava's words, and this article is timely for me as Ava shares her very personal story. The enemy wants us to live overwhelmed, but that is not what the Lord has for us.

Ava continues . . .

Three months after the oncologist pronounced Russ in remission, we learned the pancreatic cancer had returned with a vengeance, metastasizing to other organs.

Twelve weeks of rejoicing evaporated in an instant.

But his response shocked me almost as much as the prognosis:

“Don’t pray for healing. Of course, I want that and I know God can do it. But this time I believe He has a different purpose for me. I need to share, as much as possible, what it means to know Jesus Christ even in the darkest times. And that has to be my focus during my remaining time.”

For the final eight months of his life, Russ shared his testimony about a different kind of healing. He reminded Christians to look beyond their trials and suffering.

How do we do that?

  • How do we find the strength to see beyond our circumstances? To not be defeated by a diagnosis. Or beaten by a broken relationship.
  • How do we become conquerors instead of conquered? Overcomers instead of overwhelmed? Victorious instead of vanquished?

This is what I saw in my husband in those final eight months.

1. Remember who we belong to

"In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory" (Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV).

Living in a sin-sick world can make it easy to forget who we belong to. Our situation may cause us to think God has forgotten us or doesn’t care, leading us to lose faith.

We can let our circumstances define our relationship with God or we can let our relationship with God define how we view our circumstances.

As Elisabeth Elliot once said, “Faith's most severe tests come not when we see nothing, but when we see a stunning array of evidence that seems to prove our faith vain.”

2. Maintain an eternal focus

"For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV).

We’re often consumed with making this life easier. More comfortable.

While those goals are not bad in themselves, they often become obstacles to what God is accomplishing in and through us.

We become focused on making this life our best life ever, rather than remembering the best is yet to come.

3. Stop trying so hard

"Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16 ESV).

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6 ESV).

Living a victorious Christian life is not about willpower. It’s not about trying harder, working smarter, and doing better. It’s about drawing on the strength of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

Our job is surrender to the Holy Spirit. He is the one who will bring the results.

4. Pray about the advice we receive

Russ’s mission reminded me of the apostle Paul’s experience:

"A prophet named Agabus … took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 21:10-13 ESV).

When life gets hard—harder than we think we can bear—our loved ones don’t want to see us suffer. But their desire to spare us pain can give rise to misguided counsel, such as:

  •  “Work off the books. You can’t afford to pay taxes right now.”
  • “You’re still in school. Abortion is your only option.”
  • “You’ve fallen out of love? Divorce him because God wants you to be happy.”

Bottom line: advice that seems good isn’t always from God.

5. Do the next right thing

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9 ESV).

Painful circumstances often cause us to feel overwhelmed.

  • What will the cancer diagnosis mean for me in six months?
  • Will I be able to manage my life without my spouse?
  • How will I pay the bills if I’ve lost my job?

But the Lord promised to care for His children’s needs.

Our job is not to worry about the future, but to obey, one day at a time.

And when that seems too difficult, then one hour at a time or even the next five minutes at a time. Don’t ask what will happen a year from now. Rather, ask what has the Lord placed in front of me today? Then do the next right thing.

We live in a broken world. It can overwhelm us or we can be overcomers.

The answer is not found in our circumstances, it’s found in our relationship with Jesus Christ. We’re victorious when we remember our circumstances are temporary, but our life in Christ is eternal.

As you face your difficult situation, how can you maintain an eternal focus? What is the next right thing your heavenly Father has placed in front of you to do?

Ava Pennington is a writer, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) teacher, and speaker. She is the author of the adult devotional, Daily Reflections on the Names of God, and has co-authored two children’s picture books. Ava has written numerous articles for magazines such as Today’s Christian Woman and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, and contributed to more than 30 anthologies. Visit her at: www.AvaWrites.com.

Graphic, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.

Thursday
May302019

Joy: The Key to Unlocking Love for Your Relationships

Pam Farrel, relationship specialist, is always on the lookout for Word-based insights to encourage stronger, healthier relationships to the glory of God. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she shares a special “key” to unlocking greater love.

Love and joy are intricately connected—like a hook and eye, peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper, or keys of ebony and ivory,” Pam says.

“Love and joy pour into each other until our life plays the beautiful melody of happiness God intends for each of us.”

I (Dawn) think this is a truly special insight. We tend to only think about love in relationships, but link that to sincere joy and an amazing thing happens. Love blooms.

Pam continues . . .

Mother Teresa said, “A joyful heart is the normal result of a heart burning with love."

And Mark Twain believed, “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.”  

During the last year, while writing Discovering Joy in Philippians, I pondered how joy positively impacts a person’s life and relationships.

Most people see Philippians as primarily a book about joy, but as I plunged a bit deeper, I easily saw some relationship best practices revealed in this short, but powerful book of the Bible.

One of the keys to unlocking health in relationships and producing more joy is revealed in a simple equation:

The more of the Word in you, the more love and joy in you AND the more love and joy you will have spill out into your relationships.

Here’s how the Word empowers us to have healthier and happier relationships.

1. Wash In the Word

To keep my attitude positive and to stay more attuned in all my relationships, I like to integrate various study techniques so the Word washes over and through me, delivering positive life improvement.

One way to gain a new mindset is to allow God’s Word to play the soundtrack to your life.

You can do this in the daytime by layering God’s Word throughout your day:

  • Play Christian music,
  • Post verses,
  • Hang scripture art,
  • And place devotionals and Bible studies throughout your home.

At any time, the transformative Word is in sight and within earshot. 

While writing Discovering Joy In Philippians—and in the next year, now that I am teaching it online—I fall asleep to the audio version of Philippians, or a play list with worship songs about joy.

By listening to God’s Word, my fears are calmed, I am infused with joy and courage, and my heart is refined.  

2. Walk Out the Word

This priority on relationships is reflected in the letter of Philippians:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (1:3).

People can tell when you feel thankful and appreciative of them.

We want to live in such a way that when people recall us, or someone even mentions our name, they light up with praise and delight.

Also, by thanking God for someone, our “attitude of gratitude” builds a sense of deeper respect, honor and gratefulness toward the person. 

always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy” (1:4).

Praying for someone is one of the greatest gifts you can give to a person.

Knowing someone is praying for you, with JOY, draws us to people because they express gladness and sincere excitement when they see us. 

“It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace…”  (1:7).

My husband, Bill, and I use this verse as the theme to our book, The Marriage Code. We love how God gives the goal of living as “partakers of grace”, then He shares HOW to do that: “hold you in my heart.”

This means we choose to NOT make a relationship about a list of behaviors.

To “hold on your heart” means carrying someone with constant love while giving the benefit of the doubt to their intentions.

When a relationship is based only on behaviors, NO ONE can stay good enough, long enough to succeed at a relationship.

Love gives the grace that trumps human imperfection.

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” (1:9).

3. Wade into the Word

Another way to gain a fresh appreciation of a verse and how to apply it is to read it in a few translations or paraphrased versions. 

I appreciate the expanded vocabulary definitions included in verses 9 and 10 in the Amplified version:

“And this I pray, that your love may abound more and more [displaying itself in greater depth] in real knowledge and in practical insight, so that you may learn to recognize and treasure what is excellent [identifying the best, and distinguishing moral differences], and that you may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ [actually living lives that lead others away from sin]” (1:9-10, emphasis mine).

I also cherish these verses in The Message as it is a wholesome challenge for how to live out love and joy to positively impact relationships:

“So, this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of…” (again, emphasis mine).

As we wade deeper into the Word, we can often gain fresh insights and anticipate God working. 

Are joy and love overflowing out of your heart and into your relationships? Of the ideas shared in this blog on how to process the Word to raise the quality of what you have available to pour into your relationships, which idea can you begin with to have to biggest positive impact?

Pam Farrel is the author of 46 books including many bestsellers like: Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti and Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience .  She also enjoys co-authoring with Jean E. Jones and artist Karla Dornacher, and their next book, Discovering Joy In Philippians: A Creative Bible Devotional Experience , releases May 2019. Pam also loves mentoring and coaching women online; and she and her husband, Bill, stay active speaking and writing on marriage, family, relationships and on Living Love-Wise.  

Graphic of graffiti wall adapted, courtesy of Angela Yuriko Smith at Pixabay.

Tuesday
May282019

Upgrade Your Move: Tips for Making Moving Smoother

Morgan Farr is an exceptional young woman spiritually and practically. She accomplishes much because she is wise and organized. In this Organization UPGRADE, she tackles the tough job of moving, and gives us some of her best tips.  

"I am about to embark on my tenth move in the ten years since I graduated from high school," Morgan says, "and I think I get better with each and every move!"

I (Dawn) moved many times as a "Navy brat" and it could get chaotic. But I saw my mom become a pro-packer! I know how important helpful moving tips can be.

Morgan continues . . .  

I am a Army wife. People know that those of us in military families move A LOT. I happen to be an expert in relocating from one place to another since only four of my last ten moves have been with the military.

Sure, moving can be a lot of work, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster or a complete disruption to your family. During each of our moves, I try to focus on creative solutions and neat living to help make things easier.

I want to solve the problem, not be the problem. 

Here are some of my absolute favorite tips and tricks to help solve common moving  problems. 

Physical Tips  

1. Use sandwich-, quart- and gallon-size Ziplock bags like they are going out of style. 

I put all of my markers, crayons, glue sticks and the like inside Ziplock bags and then they can be easily packed into boxes. When you get to your new house, get your craft area set up and just dump the bags inside when it is convenient for you.

I do the same thing with makeup, screws, nails, hair stuff, silverware and snacks.    

2. Use Glad Press'n Seal Wrap (not just normal cellophane!) for puzzles. 

Completely wrap children’s puzzles, including the base. For adult puzzles place the Press'n Seal around the open box then place the lid properly. This helps to ensure that all the puzzle pieces stay together even if they get dropped or tipped over.

3. In the weeks leading up to the move, purge, purge, and purge again.

If you aren’t going to use a particular item in the future, don’t move it. Go through your closet and get rid of clothes you won’t wear. Donate the clothing your children have outgrown. Sort out the books that  you will never read again.

You can get your kids involved by having them do things like clean out old pens and markers. Set them up with paper and your bucket of pins and markers, have them test each one and throw away the dry ones.

Sort out the books that you will never read again. This will help you to feel accomplished and will minimize the amount of things you have to pack and then move to your new location.  

4. When getting ready to move I clean out one room first.

This room then becomes the staging room—my base of operations. All important papers, suitcases, Bibles, phone chargers, and things that you don’t want packed go into this room.

This room is also a great place to crate pets so they don’t accidentally get out of the house, especially if you have movers or friends in the mix.

Then I put a LARGE and obnoxiously bright sign on the door stating that this room is off limits.

Having a base of operations will help you to be more grounded and less likely to make mistakes.  

Mentality Tips  

1. Dale Carnegie said, “If you want to conquer fear, don't sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

The best time to start prepping to move is the day you find out you are moving.

Do not fall prey to the idol of procrastination. Get up and get going on the things that you can control now.  

2. Create a master list of all the things that need to be done.

The first time you write this list, just dump it all on the paper in whatever order it comes to mind. Things you might include are: turning off utilities at the old house, turning on the utilities at the new house, getting medical records, patching nail holes, forwarding your mail and the like.

Once you have it all on the list, then rewrite the list in the order that the things need to be done. Many people want to skip this step, but I would STRONGLY encourage you not to. If it is in the order that it needs to be done, you are less likely to forget an item.  

3. Eat right.

Don’t fall prey to the idea that you are moving so now you should eat junk. Keep a crockpot out and make solid dinners in your old house and your new one.

Use paper plates and plastic cutlery. It will help you feel physically better and you will save money.  

4. Keep a Bible unpacked.

Don’t allow a move to disrupt your spiritual life.

When we move, I make certain that my husband, kids, and I have our time in the Word just like we do every other day.

Moving can be a mess, but staying wrapped in the Word of God can help you keep a proper perspective.    

Remember that your Christian witness is not put on hold because you are moving.

  • Be kind to the people helping you move.
  • Thank your real estate agent.
  • Pray before you walk into your house for the first time as a family.

Every single person that you interact with is getting a taste of Jesus through your actions… or they should be.

Let your light for Christ shine even when things are challenging. You never know who may be impacted by your kindness.  

What are your favorite tips and tricks to make moving better? 

Morgan Farr is a Texas-loving, succulent-cultivating, book nerd. Currently stationed in San Diego, California, this Army wife is working to better love her husband, develop her three small children, and learning more about homseschooling. Morgan is a homemaker who dedicates her 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 courtesy of Hitcom at Pixabay.