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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (465)


Counsel Your Heart—with Truth Talk

In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, Dawn says we need to be careful what we say to our hearts. While we're surrounded by discouraging worldviews and perspectives, the right kind of counsel can be life-giving.

I appreciate these words by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: "We should not be controlled by our circumstances or by our emotions. We need to counsel our hearts according to truth."

Nancy said those words in 2016 in the midst of a divisive, confusing and polarizing election in America. But she has said the same words many times over in various women's conferences and on the radio; and I've found the concept of "counseling our hearts" powerful and helpful in making wise choices.

"We need to go back to God's Word and remind ourselves of bedrock, solid foundational truth," Nancy says.

With a recent cancer diagnosis, I've found the need to counsel my own heart especially urgent, because I have an enemy who is doing his best to sow lies in my frightened heart.

  • Lies about the goodness of God.
  • Lies about my worth.
  • Lies about the future.

Oh, how I need the truth of God's Word to permeate my mind and soul every day.

In an effort to counter Satan's lies, I began collecting scriptures and faithful Christians' comments about helpful Bible verses. I call my collection "Truth Talk for Hurting Hearts"—but truth talk is important to face every human need and frailty, not just when we're hurting.

The world tries to help.

Some people turn to religion, but religion without the Power Source in our lives—a living relationship with Jesus Christ—doesn't bring lasting change.

Many others turn to psychology for answers, but they may get only half-truths. For example, the sciences of the mind and good mental health promote proper "self-esteem" and "self-worth," and certainly this sounds positive. Who wouldn't want a good sense of personal worth.

But the whole truth is, without God, we are and can do nothing (John 15:4-5; Jeremiah 10:23; Galatians 6:3). Our worth is tied up in who He is, who we are in Him and what He says about us.

I am struck by Peter's words in John 6:68:  

"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

Peter understood the life-giving words of the Lord regarding his eternal soul. But the Word of God is powerful to speak to us in many other ways—not only about our salvation. We see this throughout Psalm 119.

When I was a younger Christian, I came to believe in the power of self-talk for overcoming bad attitudes, behaviors, habits and addictions.

But with maturity, I realized self-talk per se is not as important as telling ourselves the truth.

We can use self-talk to bolster our own agenda and get our own way. We may even lie to ourselves to accomplish our purposes. Instead—

God wants us to use "truth talk" to remind ourselves what He has said.

Here's how I've been counseling my own heart. Perhaps it will help others navigate the tough, confusing circumstances of life.

1. Discover the truth.

You can't discover—and apply—the truth of God's Word if you aren't reading it. Studying it. Meditating on and memorizing it.

We are to search the scriptures, looking for treasured truth about the Lord. If we seek Him, we will find Him (1 Chronicles 28:9; Matthew 6:33). We will come to know Him as He truly is, not as the culture misquotes and misrepresents Him.

2. Proclaim the truth.

To proclaim something is to announce it officially or publicly, to declare something is important and emphasize it.

Essentially, we act on the truth of God's Word when we respond to it, first by making it known.

We might speak it, write it, or share it in a post or meme. We testify to its power.  We leave a legacy of truth-telling.

3. Counsel with the truth.

To counsel is to share wise advice. But for the Christian it is so much more, because we are handling the Word of God. It is treasured counsel, life-giving truth and hope-filled practical principles.

We're meant to counsel not only our own hearts, but to encourage others' hearts in their times of need as well (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

The scriptures are powerful (Hebrews 4:12) and must dwell in us "richly" (Colossians 3:16). We can trust what God has told us.

Counseling our hearts is one way to LIVE OUT the truth of scripture—to rely on and practice it in our daily lives.

I recently fought a hard battle with Satan about God's goodness. 

"Why would a good God give you cancer?" my enemy said.

My recourse was to study the goodness of the Lord—my Father God's sovereign and awesome providence. I discovered deep truths about God's character, began to speak and write about those truths, and intentionally counseled my heart.

Before long, the ugly accusations ceased. Satan's attempts to make me bitter only turned into praise for God! (In other words, the devil wasn't happy.)

I know the enemy has more strategies to bring me down, but I also know the greatest resource to do battle with Satan's lies is the wonderful Word of God.

I intend to keep on counseling my heart with biblical "truth talk."

How about you? Are you struggling with a tough diagnosis? A frustrating circumstance? A disheartening relationship? An inner war that you feel you're losing? What truth from scripture can you use today to counsel your heart?

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.


"You Is Strong!"

Kolleen Lucariello always has a story and a fresh take on Christian living. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she reminds us where the source is for our strength to overcome.

“His little three-year-old arms rose for the fifth time hoping this might be the time his Mimi would surrender to his request,” Kolleen says. “With four words he was able to get what he needed because it gave her what she needed.”

I (Dawn) was so charmed by this story about Kolleen and her grandson, Nolan. She reminds us to be careful about the voice we listen to and the thoughts we think, and most of all, to respond to the One who has the power to help us.

Kolleen continues . . .

Fresh snow lay on the ground to the delight of our two Virginian grandsons who had come to spend a few days in Central New York with Papa and Mimi. 

They waited as patiently as a three- and five-year-old could, staring out the front window for their cousins to arrive. 

We’d had a fresh eight inches of snow fall the night before, adding to the already 18” on the ground; and so, feeling adventurous, I promised we’d all go outside for a walk in the woods.  

Four pair of snow pants, winter jackets, hats, gloves and boots later I sent the grands outside and then prepared myself for the cold.

Once outside, and after a few turns sledding down the stairs off the deck—it’s the best hill we have—I asked them if they were ready for our walk. With glee, the older three took off running for the woods with three-year-old Nolan trying hard to keep up in the deep snow. 

After a few steps he looked back at me and lifted his arms. “Up” he said.  

“I’m sorry buddy. Mimi isn’t strong enough to carry you with all that snow gear on.”

 A few more attempted steps and the arms went up again. “Up.”  

“I’m sorry, Buddy. Mimi isn’t strong enough to carry you. Let me grab a sled.” 

Once we had the sled, Nolan decided he’d try lying on his belly. I picked up the rope, took a step forward, and felt the weight of the sled change dramatically. 

Turning around, I discovered Nolan face down on the snow. We tried several different approaches, but his gloves were so thick it made it impossible for him to hold the handles. Every shift of the sled caused him to slide right off, either to the left, or right.

This led to numerous repetitions of his “up” and my “I’m not strong enough.”  

We hadn’t gone very far when I heard “I want to go inside.”

So did I. The adventure had been exhausting. 

I called the other grandkids and told them it was time to head back to the house. Immediately, Nolan’s arms shot up as he blurted out, “Mimi! You is strong!” 

You know what?

Instantly, Mimi became strong enough to carry the tired, frustrated little boy—snowsuit and all. 

It’s amazing how strong one can become when they collide with a voice reminding them of who they are, and believe they are able.  

I had been convinced I was not strong enough to carry him, and the belief made me unwilling to even try. Sound familiar? 

Is there a heavy load needing to be picked up, but you’re convinced it’s beyond your strength to carry?  

It’s easy to believe we are incapable when, often, the loudest voice we hear is the one shouting, “You can’t do it. You aren’t strong enough.” 

Perhaps the voice has you convinced you don’t have the strength to carry the heavy load it will take to: 

  • overcome the addiction,
  • reconcile your marriage
  • or forgive “seventy-times-seven” (Matthew 18:22).

It’s hard to restore hope to the depressed soul when the voice you listen to says you can’t.

That is not, however, the voice God intended for us to listen to. He has a different opinion of what we are able to accomplish; and while it does take effort and courage to hear, He’s the One whispering,

I believe in you because I created you with a purpose. 

We upgrade our spiritual life when we determine to apply these four “T’s.”

1) TUNE in to the right voice.

Shut off the negative I can’t voice. Become acquainted with the One that says—with Him—you can do all things (Philippians 4:13). 

2) TAKE thoughts captive.

You control your thoughts. Make them obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

3) TRUST His power within you to help carry the load.

God promised He would strengthen us, help us, and hold us up with His victorious right hand (Isaiah 41:10). 

4) and TRY!

When confronted by hard circumstances remember this:

You Is Strong, and the Lord rescues! (Psalm 34:19)

What burden or struggle are you reluctant to pick up or face today? Consider these four “T’s” and move forward into victory.

Kolleen Lucariello, #TheABCGirl, is the author of the devotional book, The ABC's of Who God Says I Am; and as a speaker, she speaks into women's lives "one letter at a time." Kolleen and her high school sweetheart, Pat, reside in Central New York. She's a mother of three married children and Mimi to four incredible grandkids. For more information about Kolleen, visit her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Robin Higgins at Pixabay.


Are You a Perfectionist? 3 Ways to Know

Marcia Ramsland is an organizer extraordinaire! With that accolade, you might expect her to be a perfectionist, but the good news is, she knows what to do with that tendency. In this Wisdom UPGRADE, she not only pinpoints the characteristics of perfectionism, she offers helpful insight to recover from it.

"Are you a Perfectionist? I have to confess I am," Marcia said. "Sometimes I’m proud of it, and other times I have to sheepishly say 'guilty.' I bet you might be a perfectionist, too, in at least one area of your life.

I (Dawn) am right there with you, Marcia.

It's taken me almost a lifetime to learn how to deal with perfectionism, so I know what you say is true!

Marcia continues . . .

3 Ways to Know You’re a Perfectionist  

One of the ways to discover you’re a perfectionist is to listen to what you say.

Have you ever said:

  1. “I’m just about done. Give me another minute.” (And it stretches into 20 minutes.)

  2. “I would have done a better job, but I had to turn it in.” (Blaming others is old school.)

  3. “I don’t really plan to be perfect, I just want to do it right!” (Is that a problem?)

Yes, perfectionists want to do it “right” in the areas that are important to them, but have trouble recognizing when “enough is enough” on a task. 

This can be satisfying to our perfectionist tendencies, but irritating to those who have to wait for us to finish.

Another Way to Know You’re a Perfectionist

Being a Selective Messie!

Another way I can tell when a client is a perfectionist is to look at what’s NOT organized in their life. For example, their home might be immaculate, but their desk is a mess!

The reason a perfectionist’s lifestyle is so black and white is because perfectionists tend to not start a project until they know how to do it perfectly! Hence the cluttered desk, man cave, garage, or kitchen.

The 3 R’s of Perfectionism Recovery

Can we stop the dark side of our perfectionism and turn it around for good? Yes, of course! 

1. Recognize where perfectionism shows up in your life.

It could be in a small area like picking up everything at home before going out the door and arriving late to appointments.

2. Recognize what it’s costing you and how it affects others.

Check your family and friends displeasure and that could be a clue where your perfectionism lies.

3. Resolve to Make a Change in One Area at a Time

Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor will our tendency that took years to develop go away in a moment of insight. Be persistent to overcome the habit.

If you have trouble stopping your perfectionism—whether it’s responding to every last email or social media comment—it’s time to look at how this habit is impacting you and those around you. It may be time to “fess up” and drop a tendency that could be holding you back.

Why give up perfectionism? Because there’s so much God has for us to do to benefit ourselves and others.

The verse that motivates me personally to give perfectionism up is:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

Here's a Tip:

Learn the difference between striving for excellence and insisting on perfection.

Pursuing perfection zaps our energy, while striving for excellence brings joy in passing milestones toward our desired result.

Are you addicted to perfectionism? Do you want to recover? Which of the 3 R's for Perfectionism Recovery would help you most today?

Marcia Ramsland is well known as the “Organizing Pro” and author of the Simplify Your Life: Get Organized and Stay that Way book series, which has sold over 100,000 copies. Marcia regularly teaches online courses and coaches individuals to be highly productive personally and professionally. She believes anyone can become more organized and live with ease - even YOU! For courses and personal coaching, visit

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Geralt at Pixabay.


11 Facets to Upgrading Our Friendships

I have admired Joanie Shawhan from afar, only getting to know her through Facebook. But I have come to consider her a friend. In this Friendship UPGRADE, she opens our eyes to the different "facets" of the gems in our friendship circle.

"Friends," Joanie says, "are like precious jewels in a treasure chest."

When I (Dawn) think of friends, I too think of precious jewels. The word "precious" means something of great value—not to be treated carelessley. How precious are your friendships?

Joanie continues . . .

Each jewel is different—a different color, a different cut, a different shape. Some jewels are hard while others are soft. Some transparent, others opaque. Some jewels are bold and brash, others muted, softer, less noticeable. Some jewels tolerate harsher climates while others need more temperate conditions.

Jewels reflect light, each one creating a various array of prisms and rainbows.

Each one of us, like jewels, reflects the light of Christ.

The light beaming from one person will not appear the same as the light shining through another, but we all carry the light. Together we reflect Christ.

As I consider my own life, I realize God has brought me the best people—the best of friends.

My friends have:

  • brought healing,
  • shaped my mindsets,
  • and provided godly examples of how to live.

As friends, we complement one another’s gifts.

We love each another despite faults that sometimes seem more glaring than the light we are meant to reflect. But we are friends.

FACETS of Friendship

1. Friends undergird one another with prayer.

My friends prayed me through cancer, chemotherapy and other health issues. They prayed me through the death of loved ones.

Persistent prayer requests remain on their prayer altars.

2. Friends correct one another.

Sometimes I need an attitude adjustment, a course correction, a different perspective. They help me discern life decisions.

My friends know my weaknesses. Their correction is given in love and concern for my welfare.

3. Friends celebrate together.

  • We celebrate birthdays, weddings, babies and retirement.
  • We celebrated when I overcame cancer. My friends rejoiced with me when I was offered a publishing contract for In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer.

With joy, we celebrate our victories and successes.

4. Friends open their homes.

For several years I lived with a family and still, many years later, we share meals together. I have enjoyed countless gatherings, laughter, and family meals in the homes of my friends.

5. Friends encourage one another with kind words.

Life is hard! Many times, I have been discouraged and ready to quit because my dreams required too much effort.

The loving words of a friend spurred me on.

Without the encouragement of friends, I would never have completed my book.

6. Friends serve one another.

Friends brought me meals and helped me clean while I endured chemotherapy.

A few years ago, my friends helped me move. Not a small task! They helped me pack, move, and even haul away my donations. Then they unpacked my kitchen, hung my curtains, and fitted my blinds.

7. Friends forgive each other.

Even the best of friends inadvertently hurt one another.

Forgiveness restores our friendships.

8. Friends believe the best in each other, covering one another’s faults.

My friends keep in confidence what I share with them. They do not gossip.

9. Friends strive to understand one another.

My friends listen to my heart and try to understand me—even when we have differences.

10. Friends share one another’s grief.

I have received the comfort of my friends when I experienced the loss of dear friends and family members.

11. Friends love one another.

We often hear I Corinthians 13 at weddings, but these verses also describe the all-encompassing love we are to have for one another.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV).

The friends God blessed me with were not necessarily the people I would have chosen.

But God always gives His best

and my friends are God’s best.

Like iron sharpens iron, my friends are shaping me into the person God designed me to be, someone who reflects the light of Christ.

“A dear friend will love you no matter what, and a family sticks together through all kinds of trouble” Proverbs 17:17 TPT).

Who are the jewels of friendship in your treasure box? How does each one reflect Christ?

Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes articles and encouragement for women undergoing chemotherapy. Publishing credits include Coping with Cancer Magazine, The Upper Room and God Still Meets Needs. She speaks to medical students in the Survivors teaching Students program. Coming soon—In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer. You can find more about Joanie at her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of 470906-Pixabay.


What My Sick Dog Taught Me about Trust

Debbie W. Wilson is one of my heart sisters. We met on Facebook and we both desire to align our thoughts and behavior with the Word of God. But her Spiritual Life UPGRADE is especially dear to me, helping me to better receive God’s will at a difficult time in my own life.

“I felt like a traitor luring my standard poodle into my vet’s lab room,” Debbie said.

I (Dawn) so understand that. We’ve done that with our maltipoo, Roscoe. But it was for his good! I love how Debbie expresses this simple-but-profound truth.

Debbie continues . . .

I did it to save his life. But Max didn’t know that.

Did he think I was heartless to let the vet draw blood from his thin leg—again?

For months after we learned Max has Addison’s disease, the vet had to draw his blood to check his electrolyte and hormone levels.

One week, Max refused to go with the technician. So instead of handing her the leash, I followed her—and he followed me.

Max’s trust in me made me consider the conditions I’ve put on fully trusting God in painful situations. I’ve thought if only I knew the purpose of my pain then I’d be able to trust God better.

But was that true?

Imagine me explaining Max’s condition to him.

  • I could read him the symptoms off the Internet.
  • I could show him his lab reports.
  • I could remind him how he almost died.

But would that help Max have his blood drawn?

I understand the treatment of Max’s illness better than he does. I know the pain of the needle is brief and the benefits are lasting. How much more does God understand my trials?

Sometimes God allows me to see the benefit of my pain. But some 'whys' remain unanswered.

Isaiah 55:8-9 says,

“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (NIV).

The difference between my thoughts and my dog’s is so much less than the distance between God’s thoughts and mine.

If Max can’t understand why I have his blood drawn, do I think I can understand why God takes me through pain and loss?

But God has not left me without assurance.

He has promised:

  • “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17 NIV).
  • “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18 NIV).
  • “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5 NIV).

Life on this planet is a vapor. But how we live here affects our eternity.

Pain, loss, and confusion are opportunities to trust our Master.

The hurt is real, but if He allows it then we know it is to benefit us.

As God’s child I can’t shed a hair without God noticing.

When I see Max romp across the yard without a symptom of Addison’s, I thank God for blood tests and shots. I remember how sick he was without them.

He doesn’t understand the connection. He doesn’t need to. Max only needs to know that I take care of him.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31 NASB)

What pain or disappointment has God allowed to touch you? What would trusting Him look like for you?

Debbie W. Wilson aspires to connect people’s hearts to God and help them discover relevant faith. She is the author of Little Women, Big God and Give Yourself a Break. She and her husband Larry founded Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible teaching ministry. She enjoys exploring new places, reading a good mystery, and laughing with her two standard poodles. Share her journey to refreshing faith at

The photos with those two gorgeous poodles are from the author, Debbie.

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