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Thursday
Jan172019

What Makes Bite-sized Upgrades Work?

I have written about UPGRADING our lives since 2013, and in that process, the Lord has shown me how to cooperate with Him to upgrade my own life.

In that process I've also learned an important lesson:  

Personal upgrades can be overwhelming.

It's true no matter what we're tackling:

  • weight loss,
  • toning our bodies,
  • creating a more joyful or contented spirit,
  • moving forward without fear toward a personal goal or dream,
  • learning to be a better parent or grandparent,
  • becoming a prayer warrior,
  • making decisions that lead toward financial freedom,
  • and a host of other upgrade choices!

In a very practical way, personal UPGRADES begin with a choice toward a goal, and then we break down that goal into small (bite-sized) action steps.

Case in point: I wrote on Facebook recently that helping some loved ones pack and move motivated me to clean out my home of my own overflow of "stuff."

I decided:

  1. I no longer use or want many things that still are cluttering my shelves, cabinets and garage—why am I keeping them?
  2. I want to move forward into new adventures and new ministries, and don't want to be "encumbered" by unnecessary and distracting clutter.
  3. I do not want to leave so much "stuff" to my children to dispose of—so this became a "legacy issue" for me.

But considering this UPGRADE goal, I soon became overwhelmed with the thought of the "how" of making that change.

But then that old adage—"How do you eat an elephant?"—came to mind.

We "eat an elephant" one bite at a time!

One bite.

So what was my "one bite" for clearing out the clutter? I decided I could manage one box per week to Amvets or some other charity. That would equal 52 boxes of "clutter" and unused-but-useful items gone from my home in one year!

I am tackling weight loss the same way. Losing all the weight I need to lose is overwhelming, but I can choose bite-sized goals for each day.

I want to write a book this year. It feels daunting. But the Lord is giving me some bite-sized goals, and my "elephant" doesn't seem so huge.

Now this is not a new insight. The "eat an elephant" example has been around for a long time.

But what makes it powerful is when we take action.

Author Pam Farrel recently wrote about the many action steps the Proverbs 31 woman took that changed her life, enabled her to bless others, and earned her well-deserved praise.

Pam even wrote an action planner to encourage wise action steps.

We have to take that one bite... and another... and another.

The key to bite-sized actions making a difference is PERSEVERANCE!

We need to stick to it—or as Pam Farrel says—"Get It Done, Girl!"

  • We can't make a resolution and forget it the next week.
  • We can't make a decision and then back away.
  • We can't set a goal and then suddenly think it doesn't matter.

Perseverance is a steady pursuit of a goal or a repeated action despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

It includes tenacity, determination, resolve, purposefulness, courage, endurance and staying power.

With that in mind, I will persevere in cleaning out my home, losing weight, and writing a book in 2019.

The Bible encourages in this regard. It speaks much about practical perseverance in the Christian life.

One of the scriptures currently motivating my life is to be a "doer" of the Word and not a "hearers"  only (James 1:22-24).

A successful life doesn't grow out of hearing and nodding in agreement or even expressing good intentions.

To be a success, we must take action and persevere.

Even when it's hard.

Even when it takes courage.

The more we persevere in our walk with God, the more God teaches and blesses us, and the Holy Spirit empowers us to continue to persevere! Christians should desire to persevere and cooperate with the Spirit as He works to change our hearts and make us more like Jesus!

Ask yourself this question:

"What is God trying to accomplish in my life, and how can I cooperate with Him in complete surrender and obedience?

Then ask,

"How can I make little decisions every day—bite-sized upgrades—to persevere in that cooperation?"

It is perseverance in the right direction and with effective actions that make our intended upgrades work!

What upgrades do you want to make this year? What bite-sized choice can you make today ... and tomorrow ... and all year long?

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 Crosswalk.com. 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 Geralt at Pixabay.

Tuesday
Jan152019

Happy Productive New Year

Pam Farrel is one of the most "get it done" women I know. In this New Year UPGRADE, she desires to help us be "get it done" women too!

"Achievement, attainment and accomplishment feel GREAT!" Pam says. "Completion brings a certain satisfaction and fulfillment, especially if our goals and tasks positively impact our life."

I (Dawn) have personally seen how many accomplishments Pam has made over the years. She must have some secret, I thought. Turns out, she does! And she's sharing it here.

Pam continues . . .

Our productivity has even more value when it means that other people are blessed and built up too. When our accomplishments encourage and equip others, the joy is multiplied!

People sometimes ask me, “How did you write and publish 46+ books, speak almost every week, run a ministry, keep a vibrant marriage, raise three great kids, build a wonderful friendship circle and keep your home in order?

Honestly, I was inspired long ago by the Proverbs 31 woman.

While I recognize this description of a godly woman was penned as a tribute and likely covered the accomplishments of her lifetime, while studying the passage, one VITAL trait consistently popped off the page:

The Proverbs 31 woman didn’t just hope, dream, wish or plan—the girl took ACTION!

Let’s look at this famous passage. (I have emphasized the action verbs):

An excellent wife who can find?

    She is far more precious than jewels.

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,

    and he will have no lack of gain.

12 She does him good, and not harm,

    all the days of her life.

13 She seeks wool and flax,

    and works with willing hands.

14 She is like the ships of the merchant;

    she brings her food from afar.

15 She rises while it is yet night

    and provides food for her household

    and portions for her maidens.

16 She considers a field and buys it;

    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.

17 She dresses herself with strength

    and makes her arms strong.

18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.

    Her lamp does not go out at night.

19 She puts her hands to the distaff,

    and her hands hold the spindle.

20 She opens her hand to the poor

    and reaches out her hands to the needy.

21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,

    for all her household are clothed in scarlet.

22 She makes bed coverings for herself;

    her clothing is fine linen and purple.

23 Her husband is known in the gates

    when he sits among the elders of the land.

24 She makes linen garments and sells them;

    she delivers sashes to the merchant.

25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,

    and she laughs at the time to come.

26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,

    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

27 She looks well to the ways of her household

    and does not eat the bread of idleness.

THE RESULT

And what is the positive outcome of her proactive action plan?

28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;

    her husband also, and he praises her:

29 “Many women have done excellently,

    but you surpass them all.”

30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,

    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,

    and let her works praise her in the gates.

In summary . . .

  • Her kids rave about their awesome mom;
  • her husband proclaims her strength, value, talent, and character;
  • she is held up as a role model of virtue and godliness, a woman to be praised by people; and
  • best yet, her OWN WORKS—those accomplished tasks and the character developed in the pursuit—provide an extra dose of praise!

Inspired by her diligent action, I thought,

“How can I replicate this hard-working woman’s 'get it done' style?”

In Get It Done, Girl! Maximizing Your Moments Action Planner, I share a simple acrostic that helps me plan and then take A.C.T.I.O.N.

A—Ask God.

Invite the Creator to give you a heavenly perspective. 

I begin each day asking Him to order the steps of my day. By taking the time to pray, it has helped me recall a person, an opportunity, a need, or inspired a creative thought for a book, a blog or a business.

C—Clear the “Must Do’s.”

I keep the Due Date next to each task in my action planner and also, as a reminder, on my phone’s calendar.  

I ask, “Which of the many things I have written has the worst consequence for inaction?” I mark these MUST DOs with a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in order of priority.

T—Tackle Tough Tasks.

Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day.

Your “frog” is the most vital task each day.

I try to handle the hardest things early in the day—then I greatly reward myself!

I—Invest in the Future.

At this point, I get to select the tasks and actions to make progress on. 

For bigger projects,

  • I break them down into more bite-sized portions,
  • assign due dates,
  • then select time blocks to work on these items.

I track my projects and try to make forward movement.

O—Organize Space and Personal Life.

Being organized can lower your daily stress and raise your productivity.

You can either:

  • pay a maid,
  • delegate chores to your children—which helps them grow up to be responsible adults,
  • or handle your tasks yourself.

The key to our happy, long-lasting marriage is this:

The one who has the RESPONSIBILITY has the AUTHORITY to handle that task, their way, their time, with their creative ingenuity.

And the spouse’s role is to THANK and APPLAUD their mate for handling the job.

N—Nurture Those I Love.

Just because you are a “Get It Done, Girl” kind of woman doesn’t mean you are all work and no play! 

The most productive people I know have a healthy work/play balance. Their motivation for the work is to provide, protect and bring a peaceful environment to their life and family.

A happy family is a more productive family.

And while we are talking about nurturing, treat yourself as kindly as your Heavenly Father would treat you.

How can you press in and take not procrastinate? What in this blog will help you take A.C.T.I.O.N. so those in your life arise to bless you?

Pam Farrel is an international speaker, author of the Get It Done, Girl: Maximize Your Moments Action Plannerher 47th book. She and her husband, Bill, are Co-Directors of Love-Wise. To help with your productivity, in their book 10 Best Decisions a Parent Can Make there is a list of what chores and responsibilities children and teens can handle by their age and stage of life. In Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti, the Farrels share how they divide and delegate work, ministry, home and family responsibilities.

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
Jan082019

Burning Bush?

Rhonda Rhea’s life seems to be one fiasco after another. But they are faith-building fiascos, so that’s pretty cool, actually. In this UPLIFT story to make you "laugh in" the New Year, Rhonda tells us a personal experience that certainly made me smile … and learn.

“You’re going to think I’m making this up,” Rhonda says, “but it really did happen.”

Now if that isn’t a set-up for a story, I (Dawn) would be so surprised. And given the title of this post, I figure it has something to do with God getting our attention.

Rhonda continues . . .

It was a lovely holiday party. My friend Lynn had decorated her home from top to bottom, right down to the pretty candles in the dining table advent centerpiece one of her kids made.

We left our finger foods and desserts on the table while 30 or so of us gathered in the next room to pray.

While we were praying, I noticed one of Lynn’s children came and got her. I could hear her in the dining room whispering an inordinate number of “oh no’s,” so I went to see if I could help. 

I found Lynn smacking at the centerpiece that had combusted into a little campfire in the middle of the table. I snatched up the nearest towel and started batting at it with her, but I think we were literally fanning the flames. 

Then I did what seemed most logical at the time.

I hollered.

In less than two seconds the room was filled with smoke and screaming women. 

That’s when the smoke alarm went off and Lynn’s husband came bounding down from upstairs. Our hero.

He grabbed the four corners of the tablecloth and picked up flames, food and all and took off running for the front door. 

Lynn and I put out the leftover flames on her table. Her husband made it to the door and hurled the blazing bundle outside with everything he had.

Wouldn’t you know it? It landed right on top of one of their shrubs.

It was winter so, while I call it a shrub, it could probably more accurately be described as “kindling.” It shot up in a bigger inferno than ever.

I wondered if the whole house might be taken down by one contrary centerpiece.

That’s when one of the ladies scooted out the door carrying our huge bowl of punch and flung it on the shrub. No kidding, she extinguished the burning bush with fruit juice, sherbet and a lovely ice ring.

You’re going to think I made that up just so I would have a good “punch” line, but again, it’s the honest truth.

We all stood there blinking in silence for a second, looking at the charred bush with all our smoking hors d’oeuvres lying around it. There were scattered dessert carcasses everywhere. Gruesome.

I announced, “Dinner is served.” 

Who doesn’t love dinner en flambé?

In the Bible’s original burning bush story, God used the bush en flambé to get Moses’ attention. Evidently a tap on the shoulder wouldn’t have been nearly as effective.

We’re told in Exodus 3:2 how God “appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.”

It got his attention, alright. 

Thankfully, we can talk to God with or without flaming vegetation.

In fact, I hope I never make him work that hard to get my attention.

When the Lord spoke to Moses through the bush, Moses answered in verse four, “Here I am.” He wants our prayerful attention just that way.

It’s a good thing to keep a burning passion to pray and a ready heart to respond.

A very good thing.

Incidentally, if you ever encounter any kind of home brush fire, Lynn mentioned that being well-insured is another good thing.

What has the Lord used recently to get your attention? How did you respond?

Rhonda Rhea is the author of 12 books, including the nonfiction titles, Espresso Your Faith, Join the Insanity and a new project co-authored with Beth Duewel, Fix-Her-Upper. Rhonda’s new inspirational Christian fiction, Turtles in the Road, is co-authored with her daughter, Kaley Rhea, and is a hilariously fun romantic comedy. Rhonda is a humor columnist for HomeLife magazine, Leading Hearts magazine, The Pathway, MTL and more. She is a TV personality for The Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri and speaks at conferences and events coast to coast. Rhonda lives in the St. Louis area with her pastor-hubs, Richie Rhea. They have five grown children and two grandbabies. Visit her blog.

Graphic Adapted, courtesy of Jeff Jacobs at Pixabay.

Thursday
Jan032019

Looking Back to Look Forward

Kathy Carlton Willis is a life trailblazer. As her bio reads, she "shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow." And so you can move forward. In this New Year UPGRADE she writes about two "looks"—the look backward and the look forward.

Kathy says, “It’s not possible to move forward while looking back, but it’s also not possible to move forward without having first looked back.

"Looking back allows you the opportunity to leave it there. The good and the bad."

I (Dawn) love the opportunity Kathy gives us to prepare ourselves for our best year ever. Lots of wisdom here.

Kathy continues . . .

The past is only baggage that will weigh you down moving forward. It’s futile to expect passion to be enough for productivity in living out your purpose for 2019 until you properly put 2018 to bed.

Do you have any annual practices as you transition from the old year to the new year? Or would you like to start a new tradition this year?

It’s a great time to look back (to learn from the past) and to look forward (to set new goals).

Some choose to ask God to give them a focus word or phrase for the year. This practice allows you to have a main purpose or perspective as you navigate the next twelve months.

One way to prepare for the New Year is to:

  • look back on the old year,
  • address any unfinished business hanging on in your heart or mind,
  • and then ask God to help you move forward, ready for what He has planned for you in 2019.

Steps to Looking Back Well

1. Be honest with yourself.

Many women tend to downplay the good things and magnify the bad.

2. Identify the positive highlights of the year.

Why do they stand out in your mind? What was your part in the outcome? How did you see God at work in the circumstance, or in your heart and mind?

3. Let go of the disappointments of the year.

What do you regret? How were you let down? How did something negative impact your year?

What can you do to move past it?

4. Repent of anything left unconfessed from 2018.

  • Look upon your sinful choices with remorse and learn from them.
  • Consider ways to choose godly options next time.
  • Accept God’s forgiveness and ask God to change any lingering tendencies that might cause you to give in to unholy thoughts or actions in the future.

5. Recall the hard times you endured that had good outcomes.

Thank God for equipping you with the endurance needed to persevere.

As you say goodbye to 2018 and say hello to 2019, take some time to grieve the losses of the year and celebrate the victories.

Do something monumental and memorable to mark this moment. This prepares you to move forward.

“Remember the wonders he has performed, his miracles, and the rulings he has given” (1 Chronicles 16:12 NLT.

Now it’s time to release 2018 and enter into 2019 with full resolve!

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:13-14 NLT).

Steps to Looking Forward Willingly

1. Decide what to do about unfinished projects.

What was left unfinished in 2018?

How do you plan to make room for it in 2019? Or is this a goal that you need to let go?

2. Evaluate what new thing God is impressing on you as you pray for direction in the new year.

How will you incorporate that into your plan?

3. Identify distractions, doubts and disabilities.

What limitations might impair you, moving forward?

How can you set up a plan to work around these concerns?

4. Work within your heart-core passion.

What project excites you? How can you make more room in your life for it?

5. Reserve more margin or white space in your life.

How will this refuel you?

What might you do to guard against draining to-dos threatening to crowd this space?

6. Ask God to show you the goals He has for your 2019.

  • What will help you grow spiritually, personally, and professionally?
  • What will benefit your family and friends?
  • What will put you in a place of service and ministry?
  • And mostly, what will bring glory to God?

The blank 2019 calendar represents you emptied out and ready to be filled up with God and His goals for you.

How will you fill your calendar (and your life) this year?

God’s Grin Gal, Kathy Carlton Willis, shines the light on what holds you back so you can grow. She’s speaker and author with over a thousand articles online and in print, as well as her Bible study, Grin with Grace; and she is featured on CBN. She and her husband Russ live in Texas with their adorable Boston Terrier, Hettie.

Graphic Adapted, courtesy of JakeMelara at Unsplash.