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Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (473)


Holiday Time: Keeping It Together

Like most of us, Diane Dean is a busy woman, and she understands how the holiday season adds extra stress. But she offers helpful tips for “keeping it together” as we move toward these celebrations.

“You can be organized for the holidays,” Diane says. “No kidding!”

Organized? What if a woman doesn’t feel all that organized? What if organization is foreign to her skills and gifting? Is there hope for her?

Diane continues …

Trying to get rid of never ending list of tasks? Christmas time can be fun and exciting, especially if there are children or grandchildren in your life. However, it can also be a stressful time dealing with family issues, finding time to decorate, the added expense of gifts, and a busy schedule. 

Let me share a number of things that help me stay organized and keep my sanity.

1. Start your day with Scripture
. It gives a positive mind set and peace knowing that things in this life are temporal. 

2. Pray and ask the Lord to guide your day because it is bound to change.

3. Look at the needs of others and how you can add joy to someone's life. It takes the focus on any issues you may be facing. Things can always be worse. The more you look at the lives of others, the more you will appreciate the life you have.  

4. The night before you go to bed, make a list for tomorrow’s tasks. Categorize it into:

Have to do. (List things in order of importance and, if driving, map your route so you don't back track.)

Good to do, if possible.

Can wait for another time.

A little tip: It has been proven if your bed is made and bedroom is picked up before you start your day, you will feel more organized.  

5. Plan your menu for the week. Make a shopping list to make sure you have the ingredients you need so you don't have to run to the store at the last minute.  

6. Make a list of extra groceries you need for a party or holiday dinner. When you grocery shop, add a few extras each time instead of buying everything at once. It keeps from having a large grocery bill in one trip. It seems more manageable. Using coupons makes it even better.

7. Cook some ground beef and poultry and freeze it. That gives a jump start on casseroles.  

8. Double a recipe and freeze half. It will give you a meal for a busy day.

9. Set your table when you empty the dishwasher. It looks nice and saves a step at dinner.

10. Start a load of wash at bed time. You can throw it in the dryer while you get dressed in the morning. Fold it when the dryer stops and you will feel like you already accomplished something.

11. While on the phone, dust, clean a drawer, or do some mending. I like to iron when I have phone calls to catch up on. I use my cell phone and a blue tooth so I am hands-free. It is amazing how quickly my ironing seems to get done!

12. When you bring your Christmas gifts home, wrap them right away. Keep gift wrap handy in an under the bed container and you can pull it out and wrap your gifts on the bed. (The kids aren't as likely to snoop if the gifts are wrapped!)

13. Find time for your family. Plan it into your day. If you are alone, call someone you love to see how they are.  

These are just a few ideas that will hopefully make your holidays less stressful.

Are you ready? Which of these "keeping it together" tips are you already implementing? Is there something new you can try to UPGRADE the Holiday season?

Diane Dean is a ministry wife, mother, grandmother, Bible teacher, seminar and retreat speaker, and designer for Diane Dean Interiors, LLC. Her blog, Diane's Traditions, is a potpourri of information from her personal experience and she welcomes questions. 


The Treasure of Your Child.

My friend Pam Farrel’s stories about her family have encouraged moms everywhere; and they have encouraged me. This one, a special Upgrade "UPLIFT," reminds us that every child is valuable—a precious creation of God. 

“Ever feel at the end of yourself as a mom?” Pam writes. “Yeah, me too!”

(Oh, I can’t even begin to tell you how many “You’re on my last nerve!” days I had as a young mom. I wish I’d had Pam’s resources back then.)

Pam continues …

One day, our then 8-year-old son Zach came into the house from playing outside with his brothers, Brock and Caleb. His brothers, were in tears. Zach was beating on them again! (Zach had a medical issue and a learning disability and wasn’t very verbal so when frustrated he used his fists.)

 “Zach,” I bent down and whispered intently into his face, “You cannot do this. Hitting is inappropriate. Go upstairs and I will come up to talk to you.”

Zach stomped up the stairs, knocking his brothers over in the process. He slammed the door to his room and threw a baseball at it, knocking a hole through the door as I walked in. I had bounded up the stairs just behind him.

I prayed all the way up the stairs because I had made a commitment to never discipline in anger. But I wasn’t angry. I was scared - scared for my son.

I walked into the room, bent down so I was eye to eye with him and said firmly but calmly, “Zachery, this is inappropriate. I know you are angry. I know you are upset. But you cannot use your fists to show it. You have got to learn to use words to express your feelings.”

(I was thinking in my mind, If you act like this no one will ever marry you and you are going to live with me forever! Use words!)

Zach exploded and yelled back at me, hands on his hips: “You want words? You want words? Then I hate myself and I hate my life and if God made me, I hate Him too!”

I was stood in shocked silence. I simply replied in a whisper, “I’ll be right back.”

I ran to my room in tears. I threw myself across my bed and desperately prayed to God, “Lord, I am a pastor’s wife, Director of Women’s Ministry, I write all these Christian books and I am raising a little atheist upstairs—I need HELP! I am so afraid for Zachery. I don’t know what to do. All I do know is that Psalm 139 says he is “fearfully and wonderfully made” [Psalm 139:13-14].

“I believe that. I believe there is a gift, a treasure, that You place in each and every one of us. But God, Zach is so angry he cannot see the treasure. Help me help him see that treasure!”

Then the idea came. I ran to the office and pulled out a piece of poster board. I drew a treasure map on it and a treasure chest at one end, glued a quarter or two onto the map, and marched myself back upstairs where Zach stood, just as I had left him.

“Zach, here’s the deal. You and I are going to go on an adventure. See, God has placed a treasure, a special unique­ness inside every person. There is a treasure in you, Zach!” (I said by faith!) “You and I and God are going on a treasure hunt to discover that hidden treasure.

“So here’s the plan. I am going to ask you every day to name one thing positive about your day and one thing you think you did well. Then, once a week, you and I are going on a breakfast date and we’re going to talk about what we see God is showing you about the treasure inside you. We’re going to do this for at least six weeks and at the end of that time, I am going to invest money in the treasure God has shown is in you. Zach, you are a special guy. We all love you, and God loves you most of all. Let’s ask God to help us discover your treasure.”

“Zach, what’s one thing pos­itive that happened today? Let’s write it down.”

Zach had a chronic Eyore-like attitude so he said, “It’s hopeless, it’s never going to work.”

I spoke for him, “Honey, you are alive.” (I was holding back my own frustration because I was sarcastically thinking, Yep, you are alive—because I haven’t killed you from sheer frustration, kid! But God miraculously replaced my frustration with compassion.)

I wrapped my arms around that sullen, stiff little body and whispered, “You are God’s treasure!”

Then a miracle happened. Zach started bringing me the treasure map to excitedly list off all the great things he was seeing in himself. At the end of those six weeks, we discovered that relationships were the key to unlocking Zach’s heart, so for years we budgeted funds to send a friend with him to concerts, camps, workshops, etc. so they could grow with God and make good decisions together.

Fast forward, now about 18 years later, and that same son graduated with a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science (with honors) and was hired the day he graduated as a Strength Coach for a Division 1 university. On June 22, 2012, Zach did get married to a beautiful, godly woman who values the treasure of Zach! Miracles happen when you look for the treasure!

Do you see the treasure in your child? Your grandchild? Ask the Lord to give you insight.

Pam Farrel and her husband Bill are international speakers, and authors of more than 38 books including the best-selling 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make. (This is an excerpt from that book.) Many other tools the Farrels used with their children to help them reach their potential are also included the book. Additional free relationship and parenting articles, the Treasure of Your Child Treasure Map, and other books and resources can be found at


Four Habits to Transform Your Body and Bank Account

Transform your body and bank account? How are they related?

My friends Danna Demetre and Ellie Kay explain in their book, Lean Body, Fat Wallet, how to transform (UPGRADE!) these two key areas of life.

Danna shares in this Upgrade post: “Losing weight and keeping it off. Getting fit and staying that way. Paying off consumer debt and remaining debt free. Isn’t that what we really desire – permanent, positive change?”

Although there is only one direct scripture reference in the text, the authors' biblical worldview about these practical matters is clear and helpful. I took an advance copy of Lean Body, Fat Wallet on a cruise in October, and followed their advice. To my delight, it helped me make better choices at all the cruise buffets and souvenir stores!

Danna continues …

Spending more than we have creates debt (and stress), and eating more calories than we burn results in lots of new fat storage. Yet this knowledge is rarely enough to motivate most people to change. Simple “self-discipline” is not so simple. Experts say that it we have limits on our capacity to exert self-control too long or too often. That’s the bad news.

My co-author, Ellie Kay—America’s Family Financial Expert—and I discovered that the same things that drive us to eat too much or fall into a sedentary lifestyle also propel us to spend too much and save too little; and the practices that help us get and stay healthy are similar to those which help us manage our money more responsibly.

In Lean Body, Fat Wallet, we share four habits that can transform your body and your bank account. They are:

  • The You Are What You Think Habit
  • The 3D Habit
  • The In and Out Habit
  • The Sustainable Lifestyle Habit

Habits silently influence our emotions and behaviors as if we are running on automatic pilot. The first and most important habit of all is the “You are What You Think” habit. It is foundational to the other three—my focus for this article.

You can begin to change your bad habits by changing how you think. When the new healthy habits of the mind are coupled with effective daily practices, amazing results can be experienced.

With the advances in brain science, we now understand that in about 21 days, the neuron pathways within the brain begin to physiologically change. If an old dominant message is ignored, the neuron pathway associated with that thought begins to atrophy. If a new message is repeated day after day, it will stimulate that neuron pathway to enlarge. Amazing.

For unhealthy thoughts to lose their power, you must squelch those thoughts and replace them with new healthier ones day after day for an extended period of time.

Over twenty years ago, I became fascinated with a story I read about Shad Helmstetter, Ph.D. In his personal research about high performance athletes, he discovered some Eastern European Olympians had full-time self-talk trainers that helped them develop new messages to drive them toward optimal levels of performance.

Helmstetter decided to try this method out on his battle of the bulge. He wrote detailed scripts related to healthy eating and living and had them professionally recorded in a studio. He began listening to them every morning while he shaved. Over a 10-week period, he lost 38 pounds—and never gained them back. More amazingly, his wife who was putting her makeup on at the same bathroom counter lost 25 pounds, eavesdropping on his self-talk messages!

When I heard this story, some of the dramatic changes I’d realized in my own life—both my ability to overcome panic attacks as well as the lasting victory I’d won over emotional eating and bulimia—started to make sense. I had been practicing healthy self-talk for many years without even knowing what to label it. In my case, I replaced old destructive messages such as, “I can’t stop eating. I’m losing my mind. I’ll never lose weight,” to more constructive ones such as, “I am in control of my food choices. I can eat small amounts and be very satisfied. My mind is strong and I am not afraid.”

After one year, the panic attacks were gone. Over the next few years, I gained total victory over not only bulimic behavior, but emotional eating altogether.

You’ve probably heard and even used the cliché, “Practice makes perfect.” A more accurate observation is:  Practice makes permanent. Whatever we practice continually will become ingrained in our neuron pathways.

Many people don’t know how to implement healthy thinking in a practical, time-efficient way. The four simple steps below are a great place to start to build a new, strong and positive habit.

1. Identify the lies you believe. (Follow the trail of persistent negative emotions.)

2. Take your negative thoughts captive. (Stop dwelling on them.)

3. Construct new healthy self-talk to counteract the lies. (It is well worth the effort.)

4. Repeat your healthy self-talk until new, dominant thoughts form—day after day after day.

What new habit do YOU want to build today?

Note: Have you considered what habit change would most transform your body or bank account? Leave a comment here, or on the Upgrade Facebook page to be entered into a DRAWING for Danna and Ellie’s new book, Lean Body, Fat Wallet (an advance reader’s copy). Drawing on November 18.

Danna Demetre is a former registered nurse and fitness professional with over thirty years experience coaching others toward healthier lifestyles. She’s a popular conference speaker, former health radio host and the author of several books to include Scale Down. You can learn more about her latest book, Lean Body, Fat Wallet at:








Slaughtering the Sacred Cow of Busyness

Kathy Howard—writer of Bible studies, speaker, wife and mom. She “gets” 24/7 life.

“We’re up before the sun, pound the pavement or keyboard all day, then spend the after-work hours doing housework or homework, cheering at ballgames, and volunteering,” Kathy says. “We’re crazy busy and proud of it.”

OK … she’s gone to meddling. But I love Kathy for her gut-level honesty, so I have to listen.

She continues …

Our culture values busyness. We tend to see a “busy” person as in demand, talented, and indispensable. “Busy” is good. Downtime is bad.

The Danger of Busy

So what’s wrong with “busy?” Everybody’s doing it.

Our society encourages us to push the limits of our time, resources, and physical ability in order to do more, make more, and be more. Often, these limit-busters are positive, beneficial activities.

But over-pursuing has a price. We’re too busy for unhurried conversation with our families. Too busy for physical rest. Too busy to foster relationships.

The greatest danger of “busy” is little room remains for God. No time to soak in His presence or seek His guidance or respond when He calls. No time to develop deep intimacy with the only One who can meet our every need.

Dethrone the Idol of Busyness

I’m not saying we should shred our calendars. God’s plan for us includes good works. But God also knows our limits. If we don’t have time to rest, renew, or relate, then we’re too busy!

God desires our lives to be “full,” not busy. “Busy” is packed with activity – some purposed by God, but a lot purposed strictly by us. “Full” describes a life filled up with the plans, purposes, and peace of God. Relationships, service, good works, and time characterize a “full” life. Time to focus on things that matter for eternity.

I challenge you to tackle something that could change your life. Use the following prompts to evaluate the way you spend your time. The goal is to transform your “busy” life into a “full” life.

  1. Start with prayer - Ask for God’s guidance to bring your life in line with His best.
  2. Involve your family – Explain what you’re doing and why. Sit down together and prayerfully consider your family’s commitments, including church activities.
  3. Make a thorough list - Include any activities you and your family do on a regular basis.
  4. Wait - Let it sit for a few days. Ask God to show you what things are from Him and what aren’t.
  5. Discover your place of service - God does have a place of service for you in your church. Ask Him where He wants you.
  6. Make cuts - Cut out involvement as God directs. Unless God says otherwise, fulfill any existing short-term commitments.
  7. Set limits - Set limits on your children’s activities too. Teach them now how to live life at God’s pace, with plenty of room for Him.

Now make a fresh commitment to your relationship with God. Regular time with Jesus will help you leave “busy” behind and fall headlong into the full, abundant life He promised!

Would you describe your life as “busy” or “full?” What activity takes up the most time?

Kathy Howard helps women live an unshakeable faith for life by encouraging them to stand firm on our rock-solid God no matter the circumstances of life. Kathy, who has been teaching the Bible for over 25 years, is the author of five books. Her most recent, Fed Up with Flat Faith, helps readers discover 10 attitudes and actions to “pump up” their faith. Find out about her books and speaking ministry and get discipleship tools and leader helps at her website:



Two All Beef Patties

"Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun."

"I wrote that from memory and I imagine many of you could do the same," Gail Purath said. "Pretty amazing considering that McDonalds only ran that Big Mac jingle for one year (1975-76). And even more amazing because I didn't try to learn it."

I don't know about Gail, but I memorized things a lot easier back then.

She continues ...

Our memories are incredible. We memorize things throughout our lives without even trying—sights, smells, sounds, names, recipes, addresses, phone numbers, songs...

Sadly, studies show that:

“Put to the test, Americans recalled the seven ingredients of a McDonald's Big Mac hamburger and members of TV's 'The Brady Bunch' more easily than the Bible's Ten Commandments.”

I’ve memorized Scripture ever since becoming a Christian, although not as faithfully as I should. And I fear that my head is still filled with far more useless information than with God's life-changing words. 

So, if you're like me and need an occasional boost to get back into the discipline of memory work, let me give you a few "painless" ideas:

1. Reading Memorization: write out and repeat a verse daily. Eventually you'll memorize it.

2. Mutual Memorization: Memorize a passage a week with a buddy.  It always helps to have accountability and someone to "show off" what you learn.

3. Musical Memorization: Music helps us remember. That's how we learned the alphabet as kids and why advertisers use catchy jingles. Think how many words to songs you've memorized without trying. So why not put Scripture passages to familiar tunes, or make up your own Scripture “jingles.”

4. Retro Memorization: Find some old 1970's praise albums (or 8 track tapes? just kidding) when many of the songs were straight from the words of Scripture.  I became a Christian in the 70's and these choruses are the source of many of the verses hidden in my heart.

5. Artistic Memorization: Draw pictures and symbols, even if they are just stick figures and doodles, whatever will help you visualize the passage.

6. Academic Memorization: Tear the verse apart, identify the parts of speech; create an outline or bullet points to help you remember passages.  You English teacher-types will especially like this.

7. Figure 8 Memorization: This method based on Psalm 119:97 involves reading a passage eight times a day for eight days.

"Hiding God’s Word in our hearts" (Psalm 119:11) has far reaching benefits, and is well worth the effort, especially when we can employ one of these painless methods. 

Why not leave a comment with your favorite method of memorization so others can benefit. And please share any special stories about ways memorization has blessed you or others.

Gail Purath has been married to her best friend for 42 years, living the life of a nomad here on earth (40 homes in 62 years), looking forward to her heavenly home. Mother of two, grammy of seven, Gail writes about her joys, struggles, failures and victories in her short-but-powerful 1-Minute Bible Love Notes and shares a short Bible study each week on Bite Size Bible Study.