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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (421)


The Pulse of Prayer in Grief

Sally Ferguson writes with clarity and sensitivity, and this post is no exception. In this Grief UPGRADE, she shares how prayer is the lifeline for believers who grapple with the devastation of grief.

"I curled up next to my 95 year old grandmother, as we contemplated how our lives had turned upside down," Sally says. "Her only child, my mom, had died suddenly of heart failure."

I (Dawn) think every loved one's passing bring's grief, but the sudden loss is especially hard. I remember my prayers when my daddy passed unexpectedly into eternity. I felt like I mumbled prayers only the Spirit of God could understand; I was in so much pain. Sally understands this and has a good word of encouragement for us here.

Sally continues . . .

Facing the loss of his business partner and wife of 54 years, my dad entered no-man’s land of mental collapse.

I felt like I had not only lost one parent, but two.

The ensuing months of doctor visits with Dad, hospital stays and tests brought a diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimer’s. His ability to function was enhanced by a multitude of drugs, and his subsequent move into my home was brightened by the presence of my toddling granddaughter.

In the worst of times, I saw my grandmother and my father rely on the Lord. That night cradled next to my Gra’ma, I glimpsed a window into heaven when I heard the most intimate prayer of a child relying on her heavenly Father for her needs.

In days when Dad was not able to express much else, he could respond with prayer that made more sense than a lot of the words I’ve uttered.

What is it about a lifestyle of prayer that ingrains a habit so deeply in the heart and enables one to call out to God, even in the midst of the unthinkable?

On my friend’s deathbed, her practice of prayer was still a priority. But it was for others, not herself.

At 54, her body was ravaged by cancer, but her mind still held on to the promises of God found in Christ. As different ones visited in her hospital room, Jodie bowed her head and lifted an earnest request for each one gathered around her bed.

Her pleas for their protection and guidance were fueled by the urgency of her own mortality.

I met with my 91-year-old writer friend, Bea, the second week in December. By the third day of January, she was gone.

Bea and I had prayed over many manuscripts and life needs, and each time she prayed, I knew she was talking to a Friend.

Memories are sacred treasures we hold in our hearts.

I walked through the deaths of four prayer warriors in a little over four years.

Mom, Gra’ma, Jodie and Bea left an indescribable void.

I am still observing my dad’s reverent conversations with the Lord and the miracle of his mental health being restored.

Is God still there? Does God still care? Absolutely!

As a young adult, I heard my pastor say, based on Matthew 6:8, “He knows and He cares.” I have continued to see that truth play out in my life as the Lord has walked me through suffering.

Living in the shadow of death, it helped to know God worked in the lives of others who were familiar with pain, and He would be there for me, too.

The trauma of grief is one each one of us faces in life, yet the pulse of prayer runs through our veins with hope in the Resurrection of Christ.

From foxhole to hospice care, we all return to prayer in our greatest need.

Our Creator installed that default mode, so we would know how to call out to Him.

Indeed, Ecclesiastes 3:11 says He has placed eternity in our hearts. The link of prayer may be more noticeable in crisis, but it is available every day of our lives.

When we pray, hard times cannot crush us, because we know Who to lean on.

I have not yet reached the other side of my crisis, as we continue to grapple with my dad’s health. But I am stronger for the journey.

Faith in God was modeled for me and proved true as He held on to me through the devastation of loss. On the days when grief covered me with a blanket of despair, my heart still knew to call out to God, my Safe Tower.

Suffering also earns you the right to be heard.

People listen, because there is respect for one who suffers.

Grief hurts. But compassion for others rises out of vulnerability.

What would I want others to learn from my journey with grief?

  • Life is precious.
  • We have a legacy to leave to those who come behind us, and the mantle of responsibility for that heritage has been passed on to us.
  • When loss is devastating, my heart’s desire is to let others know God is always there and He always cares.

We find Him in the pulse of prayer.

How have you modeled prayer for your family?

Sally Ferguson loves organizing retreats and seeing relationships blossom in time away from the daily routine. Her coloring book, What Will I Be When I Grow Up? (Warner Press) and ebook, How to Plan a Women’s Retreat are both available on Amazon.  Stop in for a chat at


Making Space

Kathy Carlton Willis is a highly-motivated woman with resilience and vision. She has come through many tough experiences and shares lessons from her heart. In this Priorities UPGRADE, she writes about making space for what matters.

“I learned how to make space for what’s important.” Kathy explained. “It’s not about stuff, but people.”

I (Dawn) thinks this is a lesson all of us need to learn, and Kathy shares the truth about "space" in the most personal and appealing way.

Kathy continues . . . 

One of my big life lessons is regarding how I fill my existence. My time. My relationships. My home.

Do I cram it full or allow space for margins?

My husband has always liked our home to be neat and orderly. More stuff equaled more stress, especially if it was out of place. I guess you could say he has a disorder with disorder.

On the other hand, I come from a hoarder background, and have to put the brakes on wanting more of everything. More seemed to equal happiness and prevent feeling deprived.

But I was wrong.

It took a series of situations to show me the peace of less.

We went from having a 4,000-square-foot home plus a two-story carriage house to finding happiness in just 550 square feet. Once we adjusted, God gave us our forever home—a spacious 2,300 square foot Mid-Century Modern home.

During the early part of the transition, we said goodbye to most of our belongings to pare down.

Do you know how odd it is to watch your possessions going out the door with someone else at your living estate sale

“I called to the LORD in distress; the LORD answered me and put me in a spacious place” (Psalm 118:5 Holman Christian Standard Bible.

Now we have room to fill back up, but we don’t have the desire to acquire.

Instead we want to fill our home with people.

That’s what it all comes down to. Whether it is our home or our lives, we make space for people, not stuff.

  • My mom moved in with us.
  • We started a small group who meets weekly in our home to do life together.
  • We carved out extra space in our schedules, not to do more, but to do life more—especially with others.
  • We set up our home to be a welcome haven for others.

This transition has also caused me to evaluate and eliminate unnecessary demands on my time and energy. It allowed me to regain focus on what really matters.

We don’t take our stuff to heaven with us when we die, but we do take the effects of how we spend our time with others.

People matter, not stuff.

How can you go through a similar reduction in order to fill up with what’s really important?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is my goal with minimizing stuff, reducing debt, or lightening the demands on my schedule?
  2. What do I want to make space for?
  3. What causes these things to keep piling on?
  4. Is there something I need to say “No” to, in order to simplify?
  5. Is there something I need to sell, in order to minimize?
  6. Is there a stress I need to let go of, in order to find greater peace?
  7. How will simplifying my life make space for what I want—and more importantly—what God wants?

One way I make space for what matters is to live healthfully.

This means a balance of wellness for heart, soul, mind, and strength. Eliminating what detracts from that goal.

A simple life is a satisfied life.

Mom had a funny experience of too much of a good thing recently at a cafeteria-style restaurant.

She requested carrot salad. The server scooped on a big heap of the salad, but then started pouring what she called “the marinade” over the carrot salad. It wasn’t a flavorful marinade or a dressing. Just a watery mess.

The server thought she was doing mom a favor by adding more and more. Instead, there was a spill on the way to the table, and things went downhill from there!

Just because something is good doesn’t mean more of it is better.

A perfect example of the cliché, LESS is MORE!

How will you make space in your own life for what really matters?

Kathy Carlton Willis,  God's Grin Gal, writes and speaks with a balance of whimsy and wisdom. She graduated with honors from Bible College and has served for 30+ years in ministry. Kathy shines the light on what holds you back and inspires lightbulb moments. Over a thousand of her articles have been published, as well as her Bible study, Grin with Grace. Kathy and husband Russ share their mid-century modern home with Kathy’s mom.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Brimstone Creative at Lightstock.


The Strength of a Nation

In this Independence Day UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson encourages us to focus on our homes, the heart of our nation.                

President Abraham Lincoln said it well, "The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its people."

My heart is heavy for the homes of America.

We have forgotten God, the One who built this nation.

Psalm 127:1 says, "Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain."

Without the Lord, our "building" is fruitless.

We need the strength that comes from building on the solid Rock. As the old hymn says, "On Christ the solid rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand."

Look around at the confusion and chaos in our nation. Selfish agendas and godlessness reign.

We desperately need the wisdom and peace that comes from intimately knowing the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 3:15).

Won't you take a minute in your INDEPENDENCE DAY celebration—today or tomorrow—to CRY OUT TO GOD on behalf of our homes, our churches and our nation?

Let this Independence Day be an awakening to the presence of God, and fresh DEPENDENCE on Him.

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 Heartsand 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 Entab at Morguefile.


Things Unseen

Rhonda Rhea is a humorist. That means she writes to hit your funny bone while she touches your heart. But she also writes to convince people to consider the truth in God's Word—and she does so in the sweetest way. In this UPLIFT post, she encourages us to see life from God’s perspective.

“We’ve been talking about getting an invisible fence for the dog,” Rhonda said. “Then I got to thinking, wouldn’t it be cheaper to just get an invisible dog?”

I (Dawn) was wondering, “OK, Rhonda, where are you going with this one?” But as always, this girl has a point behind her punchline.

Rhonda continues . . .

Think about it. With an invisible dog—immediate reduction in food costs. And the yard clean-up? No comparison.

If your invisible dog decides to use your sofa as a giant face towel, you’re not any worse off. Not to mention, taking your invisible dog to the imaginary vet could save a boatload of bucks.

On the other hand,

  • Invisible dogs are not very effective when you try to blame them for your missing homework.
  • If they bark at intruders, I doubt you’ll ever hear it.
  • And how about having a little beast so excited to see you that it can’t stop wiggling? I think we’d miss seeing that. 

Faith is not exactly something you can see either.

But even still, it solidifies in our minds and hearts everything that is most real.

“Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For our ancestors won God’s approval by it. By faith we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible” (Hebrews 11:1-3, HCSB).

Everything we can see with our eyes has been created by the God we’ve not seen. The evidence brings faith. And the faith is more evidence.

Do you know what happens as we allow the Lord to grow our faith and use it in serving Him?

He gives us eyes to see people in a way we’ve never seen them before and to love them in a way we can’t in our own flesh.

God gives us glimpses of what He sees.

Paul expressed great gratitude to God for the people in Thessalonica. Why? “Because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing” (2 Thessalonians 1:3, ESV).

Singer, songwriter and—my favorite role of his—son, Andy Rhea, wrote a song about putting feet to our faith in the song “Drop Your Nets.”

In it, he writes,

            Lay me down, I will stay right where you want me to;

            Pick me up, and I will go. Oh, Lord, you know I’ll go.

            Break me to the ground so I’ll be face to face with all the ones that I’ve

            Stepped on, passed by—

            Missed their mute cries.

            Come on, people, we have eyes to dry.

Sometimes our call to faith beckons us to hear some cries and dry some eyes. It calls us to drop what might be most comfortable and to sacrifice.

The song continues:

            This is the call for disciples’ nets to fall down.

            This is the broken up soil; it’s time to seed it.

            This is the call for disciples’ nets to fall down.

            This is a vein full of love; it’s time to bleed it.

A “dogged” faith, if you will, is one that shows up in how we see people. And how we love them.

A key line in Andy’s song is, “Let’s lay down our nets and scream, ‘We were made to see things unseen.’”

Invisible. Yet seen.

As far as our invisible dog goes though, I’m still looking. But they’re just so hard to find.         

How long has it been since you’ve seen the “unseen” around you—people who desperately need God’s love? What can you do to get His perspective?

Rhonda Rhea is a humor columnist, radio personality, speaker and author of 10books, including How Many Lightbulbs Does It Take to Change a Person?, Espresso Your Faith - 30 Shots of God's Word to Wake You Up, and a book designed to encourage Pastor's Wives (P-Dubs): Join the Insanity. She is co-author of Turtles in the Road with her daughter, Kaley. Rhonda, a sunny pastor's wife, lives near St. Louis and is "Mom" to five grown children. Find out more at

Invisible Dog Leash at The Costumer.


Get in Line, People!

Gail Goolsby is intelligent and wise, and I'm always surprised by her fresh take on culture. In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she helps us see the wisdom of waiting in line, but she also applies it to a great biblical truth.

“Around the world, I observed first hand that most cultures do not line up,” Gail said.I found myself frustrated at the crowds pushing and cramming to the front when I knew there was a better way to wait.”

I (Dawn) have been to other countries and I understand what Gail is talking about. I've thought, "How rude!" so many times.

But I never stopped to think about why people are hesitant to stand in lines.

Gail continues . . .

In my education career and particularly as a kindergarten teacher, I spent many hours explaining and training children to line up and wait for a turn.

While wiggling young bodies struggled to stand still or move in accordance to the pace of the leader, eventually even five-year olds submitted to the queue.

Lines WORK!

1. Do Lines Enhance Culture?

The success of line practice has been studied with some conclusions:

  • Lines represent trust in the equal treatment of individuals in their home cultures.

Edward T. Hall wrote in his 1959 book The Silent Language, “To us it is regarded as a democratic virtue for people to be served without reference to the rank they hold…”

  • Lines represent willingness to practice civility.

In 1837 France, 1944 Britain and 1970s America, citizens entered into long lines for rationed goods such as bread, meat and fuel, not knowing what they might receive for their patience.

  • Lines represent the belief that first-come, first-served ideology works for all.

Industrialization and factory work schedules created crowds of people trying to acquire goods and complete personal errands at virtually the same time. Shops and businesses began the promise of fair service given in order of arrival.

When immigrants join Western societies, many countries teach the concept of lines to their new citizens.

“Lining up is seen as a universal sort of truth,” said J.J. McCullough, the Vancouver-based author of J.J.’s Complete Guide to Canada. “And if someone doesn’t adhere to them then it must be because they’re uncouth or uncivilized, rather than this is a sort of idiosyncratic tradition that we’ve internalized.”

2. Why Do Cultures Refuse to Line Up?

When I moved to Afghanistan in 2005, I was more impacted by the daily chaos than the frequent terrorist violence. As disorderly mobs pressed through passport control in Kabul airport and shoppers shoved in the marketplace, I longed for the peace of a line.

Traffic lines were completely optional, even with concrete barriers to separate lanes of cars.

In overpopulated, war-ravaged, under-resourced places like India, China, Afghanistan, and Africa, people experience starvation and death regularly. To feed their family, to arrive at work, to secure medical treatment, or to receive any type of assistance in such circumstances, citizens must aggressively push to the forefront or lose out. Any hesitation means going home empty-handed.

When necessities of life are low and lives are literally at stake, people are reluctant to trust that patient waiting will result in needed supplies or opportunities.

Desperation and lack of hope in equality of their culture prompt people to trust solely in their own effort to succeed.

3. Lines Represent a Straight Path

As Christians, we believe in the equality offered by the cross.

All who submit to the provision of Christ’s death and atonement can be united with their Creator God, secure forgiveness and life eternal. We then embark on the straight path, a line leading us to freedom from sin and becoming more like Jesus.

Those who set out on their own path—who dismiss the line of Believers—end up wandering in chaos.

They trust in their own merit and good works, not the line to the Cross.

Isaiah 59:8 (NIV) says this:

The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along will know peace.

When we realize our need for rescue, for guidance and redemption from our crazy, no-purpose life, we are on our way to the right path. We are lining up with Truth.  

Luke 1:79 (AMP) says Christ came to make a way for us: To shine upon and give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to direct and guide our feet in a straight line into the way of peace.

Even after surrendering to Christ’s love and sacrifice, we may fall off the straight path and leave the line of life.

Thankfully, we have the written Word to correct our crookedness.

2 Timothy 3:16 (NET) tells us: Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

The word correction in this verse is not found anywhere else in the Bible. It means to restore, to set right, to repair something bent, to make it straight.

In other words, studying scripture teaches us to line up our lives as God intends.

In lining up this way, we have:

  • peace with God,
  • peace with our neighbor, and
  • peace with ourselves.

Let’s all get in line and live well.

What is stopping you from joining the queue to God’s grace?

Gail Goolsby, MA, MEd, ACC is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan, and credentialed life coach with the International Coach Federation. Gail and her pastor husband of 40 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. Gail counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others learn to live well.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Wendy B. Koon at Pixabay.

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