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Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (446)

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.

Thursday
Dec132018

Three Ways to Make This Christmas More Meaningful

Cindi McMenamin, who writes to strengthen women in their daily walk with God, opens up about how she has changed in her attitudes about the holidays, and in this Christmas UPGRADE, she offers suggestions for a more meaningful season.

Cindi asks, "Are you a woman whose goal is to survive the holidays? You go into get-it-done mode and plow through your to-do list and give a big sigh of relief on January 2nd when it’s all over?"

That was my (Dawn's) attitude for many years before God rescued me from undue stress. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one!

Cindi continues . . .

I was that way, too. For years. Then I realized I was missing something very important.

  • Special memories passed without my embracing them.
  • Loved ones came and went and I barely noticed.

Soon the Christmas Season was over and I was tired, but unfulfilled. I knew something had to be done differently.

Today, I’d like to think of myself as a woman who doesn’t just survive the holidays, but, rather, a woman who actually thrives during the most hectic time of the year.

And I’d like to encourage you to be one, too.

Yes, there are extra expenses, extra responsibilities and extra amounts of stress this time of year. There can also be extra expectations—on your part or the part of others—that can cause drama and leave you feeling like a woman on the edge.

Last year, I decided I wanted to be one who truly ENJOYS this time of year, so I started focusing on the few things that matter—and those few things helped me experience a drama-free Christmas that was memorable and fulfilling.

1. Put God First.

You’ll be a woman who is able to accomplish more if you know where your priorities are.

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, He replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

Since Christmas is when we celebrate His birth, what better gift to give Him than obedience? And what better way to show Him we are obeying His command to love Him first by giving Him the first of our day, through our time?

I can honestly say that if I don’t spend quiet time with God every day—preferably in the morning—I’m a mess. My family will attest to that, too!

Preferably, for me, that quiet time consists of at least 20 minutes in prayer and in God’s Word, letting His perspective and principles guide my life. But there are days when that quiet time consists of only a few minutes of quieting my heart before God and asking for His strength to get me through the day.

As we put God first in our day, we are reminded that His approval, His love and His expectations are more important than anyone else’s.

And at this time of year when we can become run down and therefore ultra sensitive, hormonal or just plain cranky, we can tend to have unrealistic expectations on others and be hurt if they’re not appreciating us, supporting us or showing love toward us.

When you are secure in your relationship with God and convinced that He loves you and that’s enough, you can face whatever comes your way.

2. Prioritize Your Loved Ones.

You’ve heard the saying “You can’t please all the people all the time,” right? We have to remember this one at this time of year because there are so many demands on our time.

Often those we live with and love the most get the least of us when we are trying to please everyone.

By asking yourself “What does my family need most from me today?” and then accomplishing that first on your to-do list, you won’t make the mistake of being a people pleaser and a friends and family failure.

Yes, you may be expected to bring cookies to your child’s classroom, but if it happens on the day your child is sick or your husband has a last-minute need that he forgot to communicate to you, or your grandmother is rushed to the hospital, you will have to make a choice to keep yourself sane.

You just may have to let some people down at this time of year in order to keep first things first.

No one likes to do that, but in reality, when you have priorities, it means something else (or someone else) may have to go without. Make sure you prioritize those who love you and need you the most.

Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). The ones you live with, eat meals with, and sleep next to are your "neighbors" more than anyone else.

You can prioritize them—while still reaching out to others at this time of year—by making sure their needs are met first and then inviting them along with you to help meet the needs of others. That will keep you balanced, but not at risk of neglecting those closest to you. 

3. Pursue Moments that Lead to Memories.

There’s nothing worse than a Christmas that is self-absorbed.

If it’s all about what we want—or what our children want, or what someone else wants—we can lose focus of what it truly means to give as God gave of His Son, and Christ gave of Himself. As you look around, it’s not difficult to notice so many in need—physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually.

What are the moments that lead to stories you will tell at the dinner table at night?

  • Stopping to talk to a homeless person and handing them a bag of groceries?
  • Taking your children—or your girlfriends—to a convalescent home and singing carols, or just going door to door to visit the elderly and handing them each a candy cane?
  • Taking a meal to a family at church? 
  • Going caroling and wishing well those that open the door and smile at you?

The holidays that have meant the most to me and my family are the ones in which we got outside of ourselves and touched another life, not necessarily because it made us feel good, but because it touched someone else’s life.

It showed our God that we understood a glimpse of what He sacrificed when He sent His Son to earth—and then to a cross—for us.

What will you do to make Christmas more meaningful this year—for yourself, for your family, for your neighbors, for those with desperate needs?

Cindi McMenamin is a pastor’s wife, mother, and national speaker who helps women and couples strengthen their walk with God and have drama-free relationships. She is the author of 16 books, including the best-selling  When Women Walk Alone (more than 130,000 copies sold), Women on the Edge, Ten Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom, and Drama Free.  For more on her speaking ministry, books, or free articles to strengthen your soul, marriage, or parenting, see her website

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Jill-111 at Pixabay.

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