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Paula Marsteller

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Elaine W. Miller

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   and Founder:

   Dawn Wilson



Are You Really Addiction-free?

Surviving and thriving after numerous trials, Yvonne Ortega speaks words of wisdom to women who hurt and struggle. In this "Choices" UPGRADE, she encourages women to break free from their addictions.

Yvonne asks, “When you think about addiction, do you imagine a drunk person, who slurs his words, stumbles, and smells of alcohol? Perhaps you visualize a drug addict in a questionable neighborhood selling family possessions to buy illegal drugs."

Because I (Dawn) have faced few "addictions" of my own—like obsession with food—I know addictions can overwhelm anyone. But I also know from experience: we can break free!

There truly is hope!

Yvonne continues . . .

You may think that if you don’t drink or smoke, you are addiction-free.

  • However, you may be addicted to food, such as sugar.

Can you make a meal out of candy, cookies or cake? Do you stop at the store, buy a half-gallon of ice cream, and eat it in one sitting? You may be obese. You eat when you worry, get bored, or can’t cope with grief or some other pain. Rather than talk with a trusted friend, mentor, or counselor, you eat.

Philippians 3:19 addresses this problem and says, “Their god is their stomach” (NIV).

  • Perhaps you go shopping to cope.

Your father verbally, physically or sexually abused you as a child. You held in the anger and pain of that abuse, but turned to shopping to cope. Now if someone hurts you, you go shopping.

Until you face that pain, you will stay addicted to shopping. 

  • Maybe you’re a slave to perfectionism.

If you invite guests to your home, your house will be in perfect order inside and out. You’ll probably clean the windows too. You’ll serve a homemade meal and wear the perfect outfit and have every hair in place.

Your addiction to perfectionism won’t allow you to relax, enjoy your guests, or life for that matter.

  • If you choose unhealthy relationships, you might date an alcoholic, a batterer, or a gambler.

As one woman said, “My boyfriend doesn’t have a job, but he has a motorcycle. He’s exciting.” As she talked about the different men she dated, she said, “My parents never liked any of them, but they were fun—even the one who ruined my credit.”

She was addicted to unhealthy men and wanted to help them. She needed help to improve her self-confidence.

How can you BREAK FREE from addiction?

1. Admit that you use an escape mechanism to avoid reality.

James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

It’s not enough to admit the addiction to yourself.

Do so to a pastor, a Christian counselor, or to a Christian recovery group. Confession and prayer will help you. 

2. Establish accountability.

The devil wants you crippled with guilt, shame, and secrecy.

Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (NIV).

When you meet weekly with your pastor or counselor, you set up accountability. This is comparable to a sponsor in a 12-step group. 

3. Know who you are in Christ.

Find Bible verses about your identity in Christ, such as Ephesians 2:10 (NIV):

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

Each day repeat those verses often.

Once you believe with your heart and soul who you are, the relief from addiction won’t entice you.

What will you do this week to break free from addiction?

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a bilingual professional speaker, and the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful® through Forgiveness, Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward (both in paperback, Kindle) and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer (Kindle), all available at She not only survived but thrived after a domestic violence marriage, breast cancer, and the loss of her only child. With honesty and humor, Yvonne uses personal examples and truths of the Bible to help women move from broken to beautiful. Learn more about Yvonne at her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesty of TeeTasse, Pixabay.


Valentine Valor

A strong marriage requires good communication, and in this Valentine's Day UPGRADE, Deb DeArmond encourages marriage partners to be brave and cultivate better heart communication.

“Marriage is not for the faint of heart," Deb says. "It’s the HEART-est work you’ll ever do.”

The "heart-est" work — I (Dawn) love that! Hard work we accomplish on behalf of loving marriages is well worth the effort!

Deb continues . . .

I was recently asked by a young friend, “What’s your secret to a happy marriage?”

My response took her by surprise.

“We discovered it’s better to find the courage to fight than the strength to run.”

Let me clarify. We don’t believe stepping into the ring to take our shots at one other is the best way to come to agreement. That’s what happens when we forget Christian marriages have a very real enemy.

But it’s not your spouse.

So, we do fight, the enemy, together, for the life of our marriage—and it’s always been worth the effort.   

As my husband and I have ministered to marrieds, a familiar pattern often appears: “We don’t fight. We try to avoid conflict. It’s not healthy.”

They go along to get along, remaining silent, as they disconnect from one another, bit by bit, till there’s very little left of the love they proclaimed at the altar.

Silence can speak volumes.

Just because it’s quiet, does not mean there’s peace in the house.

And it’s not the way Jesus dealt with relationships that He valued.

My favorite example:

Jesus asked Peter three times after His resurrection - “Peter, do you love me? Then feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). Jesus confronted Peter because He loved him, and the relationship was important to Him.

He did it to restore the connection. He did it to restore Peter.

The goal of confrontation is to connect. And to make that happen, the language of confrontation must be love.

Healthy confrontation requires valor, otherwise known as courage, bravery, or audacious boldness.

What’s that look like?

Here are three Valentine’s Day opportunities to bravely step into a healthier, more intimate marriage.

1. Speak up.

Bravely say what needs to be said—speaking the truth in love. No matter how long you’ve been married, your spouse can’t read your mind.

When couples retreat into silence, they no longer have enough hope or ambition to fight. Silence says, “I give up.”

One gentleman told us he and his wife never experienced any conflict until 20 years into the marriage when she announced she’d “had enough and wanted a divorce.” He was stunned when she presented him with a list of grievances, carefully compiled, but never shared.

2. Confront courageously.

Confront the issue, not the person. Be aware of your tone, timing, and the words you choose.

“I’d like to talk about what happened last night at your folks. I was embarrassed when you . . . .” Describe your issue with the behavior rather than attack the person.

And return the favor: are you confrontable? Are you open to hear from your spouse?

3. Boldly examine YOUR heart first.

It’s easy to see the flaws in our partner; tougher to see the cracks in our own facade.

  • Do you have to have the final word?
  • Are you quick to point out your spouse’s shortcomings, but don’t see your own?
  • Do you nurse a grudge like a baby at the breast?

If you are willing to acknowledge your own flaws, God will reveal them to you. Ask Him to help you grow in those areas.

Speaking up is a risk. But the goal of genuine, authentic connection is worth chasing, even when it might create some tense or painful moments.

Are you brave enough to take that step?

Deb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship, and conflict resolution. Author and speaker, her newest book is entitled Don’t Go to Bed Angry. Stay Up and Fight! Deb’s books help readers whether newlywed, or long-time married create the life God meant marriage and family to be. For more information about Deb, visit her website, Family Matters.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.


Dressing for Love

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Jill Swanson, a talented Image Consultant and speaker, is sharing ways to freshen up your look for sweet romance with your spouse.

"It’s the season for romance and love is in the air!" Jill says. "You can smell the roses, taste the chocolate and hear the music!"

I say, "Give me all three!" But seriously, I (Dawn) know Jill personally because she revamped my closet a few years back and gave me so many helpful tips. That's why I asked her to share this special Valentine's Day post to help us all boost our appearance and attitudes!

Jill continues . . .

You may wonder – what attracts a man? What do men really want?

Thirty five years ago, my husband and I went through pre-marital counseling. The pastor required us to read, His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley. The book gives the five basic needs of a man and a woman.

While the lists differed, each had a similar “equivalent” on the other list, with one exception: the man’s need for an attractive spouse.

 My husband confirmed it.

So, what makes a woman attractive?

Here are some easy tips to freshen up your look that won’t break the bank:

1. Reflect your natural beauty.

Find the nearest mirror and rediscover what you’ve been blessed with. Study your unique features: coloring, curves, facial shape, lips, nose, eyes and hair. Repeat the shape or shade in an accessory or color that complements you.

Take a moment to carefully study these examples:

Model on the left: Her necklace mimics her curls and haircolor, and the blue blouse matches her eye color.

Model on the right: Her red lips and blouse match, her neckline frames her jaw shape, and the layered shirt repeats her layered hair.

2. Show some shape.

Focus your attention on silhouette. Make sure your clothing adds definition to one half of the body.

If you are wearing a flowy top, pair it with a slim pant; or if you wear a flouncy skirt, put it with a fitted top — as shown here:

Self-conscious about your arms? Try sheer sleeves or sleeve slits at the top of the shoulder that extend to the outer elbow, this provides definition and coverage.

A wide belt under an open jacket (no matter your waist size) will give the illusion of a great shape.

3. Polish your look.

One Sunday morning, a minister in the church I grew up in, announced from the pulpit, “Ladies, a little bit of paint on the side of the barn, never hurt anything!” I couldn’t agree more. 

A little lip color, concealer, blush and mascara can do wonders. Contact a person who sells cosmetics or head to the nearest store makeup counter, and get some free tips.

4. Check your attitude.

Being an attractive spouse has more to do with WHO you are than what you look like.

Choose to daily cast off discontentment, criticism, and complaining.

Instead use the dress code in Colossians 3:12, 14: Clothe yourself in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. And over all these things put on love.  

Ultimately, a man appreciates it when the woman looks the way he likes her to look.

Last month I worked with a woman 83 years young. Her husband asked me to do her makeup for some glamour shots. She was a model in the 1950’s who graced the covers of fashion magazines in her prime. Recently she’d fallen ill and he wanted to lift her spirits with a makeover and photo session — so romantic!

The gentleman specifically requested that I draw a long eye liner “wing” extending her lashes and apply bright red lips. I looked at him quizzically.

He then showed me her Vogue magazine cover – he wanted the same look she had in 1955. This gracious woman let him call the shots!

I obliged and he beamed with pride.

She instantly took on the persona of a poised model and transformed in front of the camera. It was the happiest she’d been in months.

She was the epitome of an attractive spouse — inside and out.

If you are married, are you dressing for love? No matter your marriage status, are there some simple, inexpensive things you might do, or some attitude changes you might make, to become a more attractive and winsome person? 

Jill Swanson, Image Consultant and Speaker, is the author of Out the Door in 15 Minutes and Simply Beautiful – Inside & Out. Jill works with individuals to evaluate, update and accentuate to their look both online and in person. For Jill’s books, consultations, or speaking information, visit her website or email her:

Graphic adapted, courtesy of jill111, Pixabay.


Love Notes

In this Valentine's Day and Parenting UPGRADE, Morgan Farr—a mom with young children who transitioned from feminism to biblical womanhood—encourages parents to share the true Source of love with their children through "love notes."

"Each day I strive to instill a good work ethic, teach self discipline, and most importantly, demonstrate godly character to my sons," Morgan says, "but it isn't always easy."

Like Morgan, I (Dawn) have two sons. I remember those challenging days when I wondered whether anything I taught and modeled was "getting through" to them. But I'm sure of one thing: they knew they were loved.

Morgan continues . . .

This Valentine's Day, I want my sons to learn more than just paper hearts and candy.

This year, I will write three love notes for my sons to read when they are older. These notes will help them to see what real love truly is as they deepen their understand the perfect love of God.

Today I want to share these notes with you.

First and most importantly, I want my boys to know that the Creator of the universe made them by hand.

"For you created my in most being; you knit me together in my mother's womb" (Psalm 139:13).

Long before I knew my boys where there, God knew. He formed each and every part of them, to His exact specifications.

Second, I want my boys to know that it is alright for them to stand strong.

"Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the works of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Many things in this world will try to pull them away from the work of God. Many things from this world will try to undercut and downplay their role as men of God.

I want them to know that they can stand firm in His unwavering love.

Third, I want my boys to know that once they accept Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are reborn with a commission—a great one, in fact.

"Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Fatger, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).

Christ has a calling for each of my son's lives. They may not have a garage gym ministry like my husband and I do. They may be mechanics, professors, senators or translators.

Whatever it is that they do on this earth, I want them to remember the real work to be done for the kingdom of God.

Charles Swindoll wrote:

"Each day of our lives, we make deposits in the memory banks of our children."

These love notes are the deposits I am focusing on this month.

What love notes will you focus on with your family?

Morgan Farr is an Army wife currently stationed at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina, with her wonderful husband Brian and their two sons. She is a homemaker who dedicates her free time to ministering to other Army wives through Bible studies, one-on-one interactions and physical training. Morgan writes about her transition out of feminism and into biblical womanhood on her blog. You can find her training programs on her blog,


What's Better than Working for God?

In this Spiritual Growth UPGRADE, Debbie W. Wilson challenges us to think through our perspective on Christian service.

"I quit working for God," Debbie says. "I hope you will too."

On the surface, I (Dawn) think that's a jarring statement. Why would anyone quit working for God? Did I misunderstand? Isn't that a good thing?

Debbie continues . . .

How could a Christian worker make such a declaration?

 Because, I found something better.

When we work for God we make mistakes. We bruise people in “Jesus’ name.” We become resentful, proud, and worn out. We may even hurt His kingdom instead of build it.

Don’t believe me? Check out these traits and biblical examples to see what I mean.

  • Misguided: Moses thought he was working for God when he murdered an Egyptian taskmaster (Ex. 2:11-14).
  • Working against God’s kingdom: Saul of Tarsus thought he was working for God when he was eager to kill and imprison Christians (Acts 9:1-4).
  • Resentful: The hardworking son bitterly resented his father celebrating the return of the prodigal younger brother (Luke 15:11-32).
  • Proud: The Pharisees and religious leaders believed their work for God put them in His inner circle (Luke 18:11).

How do those of us who love Jesus and want to serve Him quit working for Him?

We learn to work with Him.

Those who work for God ask Him to bless their ideas.

Those who work with God join Him in His plan. They look to Him for guidance and strength.

  • Moses learned to rely on God. “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here” (Ex. 33:15 ESV).
  • Saul of Tarsus was transformed into the Apostle Paul who said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20 ESV.)
  • Jesus who said, “No longer do I call you servants, …but I have called you friends” (John 15:15 ESV) also said “ I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV).

I used to beat myself up when I failed to meet the expectations I put on myself. Now I believe my job is to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. That in no way translates into passivity. It means I believe Jesus is living and working in me.

I work with Him. He works through me.

When we serve God by working with Him, He gets the glory.

His plan, through His power, and in His time, builds His kingdom.

Who do you think makes a better ambassador for Christ, the one who works for God or the one who works with Him?

How to Start Working With God:

1. Ask God to show you where you have been striving to work for Him.

2. Admit your inadequacy and surrender your will and your way of doing things to Him.

3. Ask Him to fill you with His Spirit and to teach you how to rely on Him in every area of your life.

4. Thank Him for leading you. This demonstrates faith.

It takes practice, but I’m learning that staying in sync with my Lord is better than reaching my goals—even ministry goals.

Would you rather work for God or with Him?

Debbie W. Wilson is an ordinary woman who has experienced an extraordinary God. Drawing from her personal walk with Christ, twenty-four years as a Christian counselor, and decades as a Bible teacher, Debbie speaks and writes to help others 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 in 1991. They, along with their two grown children and two standard poodles, enjoy calling North Carolina home. Share her journey to refreshing faith at her blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of DodgertonSkillhouse, Morguefile.