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   and Founder:

   Dawn Wilson

 

Thursday
Apr272017

Connection or Crisis: Assessing a 'Tech Attachment'

Julie Sanders often encourages women to discover the calm of God's presence, and often, that calm is disrupted with technology. In this Life Choices UPGRADE, she invites us to think about technology's influence in our lives.

"We picked it up and the rest was history," Julie said.

"When we swiped our first device, no one expected it to became tangled around every space of life. How do we know if our attachment has become toxic?"

Toxic technology? I (Dawn) think I know what that's like. Tech addiction too! But the question is, what do we do about it?

Julie continues . . .

It’s likely technology entered your life as it did mine, innocent and even benign.

Since then it’s filtered into every corner of life until it’s hard to see where technology isn’t embedded in daily life.

Tech savvy or not, our wired world is here to stay. 

Since we find ourselves with easy online access, we have the ability to be constantly linked. Vacations and no-tech weekends have helped some hold back the tech tide, but how can we know if we’ve got a problem?

It’s easy to be connected and hard to step away. 

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Luke 6:13).

One way to know

To know if you’ve reached a connection crisis, do one thing: put your tech down and wait.  Just wait. You’ll know when it’s been long enough. Wait until you can answer three questions:

  • Are you angry?
  • Are you agitated?
  • Are you anxious?

If we answer any of these with an affirmative “yes,” we have a problem. 

If we start sweating or shaking before we answer yes, we have a BIG problem. 

Some of us have already experienced relational conflict indicating our connections have reached crisis proportions. Thankfully, we’re not alone, because any adult in the developed world (and many in the developing world) understand the struggle is real. We’ve all been taken by surprise.

So in this unscientific approach to what some actually find is becoming an addiction: if you know you have a problem, next you need an honest friend.

Ask a friend, husband, or family member (or any combination) to help you identify what you stopped doing when you stopped putting your tech down.

What did you do BEFORE you carried your device everywhere? You’ve probably ignored that old thing, and it might help if you rekindle your relationship with it.

Talking to kids? Reading to kids? Having devotions?

           Exercising? Thinking? Being intimate?

         Working? Sleeping? Cooking? Laughing?

What did you experience that you can REDISCOVER? Most of the time when we adopt a new habit, we’ve let go of another. 

Replace some tech time with forgotten, but good things.

If we expect to put tech down and walk away without a replacement, we’ll probably feel angry, agitated, or anxious.

Maybe we’ve been missing out. We don’t want to wake up and realize we lived a life of missing out because we were always. . .

  • scrolling,
  • swiping,
  • sharing, or
  • scanning.

We don’t have to throw tech out with the bath water (unless we dropped it IN the bath water!). 

But we can’t have two masters: the God of the world and the wires of the world. 

If you suspect technology has an unhealthy hold on you, put it down. Wait. Answer honestly if you feel angry, agitated, or anxious.

Then dust off those things you’ve archived or deleted and take up LIFE again!

What part does technology play in your life? How are you using it in good ways to accomplish God’s priorities for your life?

Since Julie Sanders and her husband moved to the Northwest, she values connection with distant loved ones via social media and mobile devices. In their cross-cultural ministry, they see technology as a resource for encouragement and outreach. As the director of early learning programs across vast urban and rural regions, Julie sees how tech as both a tool and a trap in family life. She writes from her online home “Come Have a Peace.”

Tuesday
Apr252017

Growth through Grief

Yvonne Ortega, a woman who moved from broken to beautiful, encourages others to do so as well. In this Trials and Victory UPGRADE, Yvonne invites us to grow and thrive after grief.

“I rode an emotional roller coaster of grief because of the loss of my mother and my only child within weeks of each other,” Yvonne says. “Somehow, my losses couldn’t be in vain.”

I (Dawn) cannot imagine some of the things Yvonne has experienced, but I know her words are true. The Lord does meet us in our time of need, and He doesn't leave us without resources to thrive.

Yvonne continues . . .

After my mother and my son died, I needed to make sense of losing them. I had to do something that would improve the lives of others.

My purpose had to be bigger than learning to thrive after grief.

Leaving a legacy became important.

Six months after my son’s death, I left the counseling job I enjoyed to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time speaker and author.  

Here are THREE TIPS that will help you when you’re ready to think about a mission or purpose for your life.

1. Reflection

I reflected on what my mother did in her life. She had helped teachers, students and school districts through her expertise in grant writing. She helped 26 women complete college degrees, obtain teaching credentials and gain employment as teachers.

She left a legacy.

I asked God to show me how I could leave a legacy. I sensed His leading to do that through articles on my website and on others’ blogs. I also sensed that my educational, social, and spiritual encounters with other people could encourage and support them.

The unexpected death of my son made me understand I wasn’t promised tomorrow either. If I wanted to become a full-time speaker and author, I couldn’t put that dream off any longer. So, I left my counseling job to leave a legacy through speaking and writing.

2. Prayer

Based on what God showed me about leaving a legacy, I prayed for divine appointments and His special mentors or coaches.

I claimed Psalm 28:7:

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy,  and with my song I praise him" (NIV).

God answered my prayers. I attended additional speaker boot camps and conferences, individual coaching for both my speaking and writing, and writers’ conferences. Before each event, I prayed and asked others to pray with me that I would meet the people God wanted me to meet and work with those he chose.

God brought the most interesting and talented people into my life—men and women I would have never met otherwise.

3. Surrender

I chose to surrender my finances, time and energy to God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.

I needed to limit leisure days of sleeping in, lunch dates with friends, and shopping days at the mall. As I said no to a social whirlwind, I said yes to scheduled time on my calendar for reading, speaking, and writing. I couldn’t have done that without lots of prayer and obedience to God’s plan on how I would leave a legacy.

God’s favor and faithfulness led to my speaking opportunities and two more books.

Allow your tears to water growth and increase your ministry.

If you’ve lost a loved one, sit alone with God and ask him how YOU can grow through grief and help others.

Yvonne Ortega is a licensed professional counselor, a bilingual professional speaker, and the author of Moving from Broken to Beautiful© through Grief (out in a few months / search at Amazon/books). She has also written Moving from Broken to Beautiful: 9 Life Lessons to Help You Move Forward and Finding Hope for Your Journey through Breast Cancer. Yvonne not only survived, but thrived after a domestic violence marriage, breast cancer and the loss of her only child. With honesty and humor, she uses personal examples and truths of the Bible to help women move from broken to beautiful. Find out more about Yvonne at her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of uroburos at Pixabay.

Thursday
Apr202017

Our Stuff vs. God's 'Stuff'

As I entered Pam Farrel's two-day post about downsizing (Part 1; Part 2), I (Dawn) searched my own heart.

"Lord," I said, "Pam wrote, 'You don't own your things; your things own you.' I get that. Does my stuff have me?

"And beyond that, Lord, does YOUR stuff have me?"

It was a strange question that filled my heart that morning, but one I had to answer honestly.

I had already been dealing with the idolatry of things. All the possessions in my home that consumed my time and attention.

The things I bought that were frivilous. Trinkets.

Things that cluttered my home and inhabited my heart.

The truth is, when our lives are cluttered with the things of this world, we may be crowding out the things of God.

So we start weeding out, downsizing, simplifying our homes, our closets, our storage spaces. And that's all good.

It's good to simplify our lives too. It creates freedom. Breathing room.

But I've noticed, when we clear spaces in our homes and heart, something else usually rushes in to fill that space.

I got rid of one "collection" in my home only to replace it with another one. It still wasn't the best use of my financial flow. And soon after I started dealing with my idolatry of food (gluttony), I found another idolatry rushed into the vacuum (pride of self-accomplishment).

The Lord doesn't just want things to be deleted from our lives; He wants to fill our lives with something better.

He wants to fill us with Himself.

I started asking the Lord, "What can I add to my life that will bring you more glory?"

I wanted my "stuff" to be used for God's glory and to bless others as Pam suggested. And I wanted the Lord to fill my home and heart with more of Himself too. I wanted to be a vessel of honor, for His use.

It's not about despising our "stuff"—despising the things of the world. It's about finding our highest delight in the Creator of the world and in His Word, and bearing good fruit for Him (Psalm 1:1-3).

Focusing on God's "stuff" means focusing on the truth of His Word and responding to it in humility, obedience, and God-glorifying service.

That may mean changing our thoughts, especially any lies we believe. We muat be careful how we think, because our lives are shaped by the thoughts of our "heart" (Proverbs 4:23). We must fix our thoughts on those things that will build our lives and glorify the Lord (Philippians 4:8).  We must be renewed in the spirit of our mind (Ephesians 4:23).

But most of all, it's following the replacement principle, the dynamic the Bible describes as "put off... put on."

Without the biblical replacement principle—found in Ephesians 4:22-24 and Philippians 3:12-14; 4:8—we may be simply replacing one bad habit with another bad habit, or one idolatry with another idolatry.

We must put off (get rid of) those things that fill our lives that do not please the Lord. We must confess our sins as the Holy Spirit illuminates our heart reveals them to us (Ephesians 1:15-18; 1 John 1:9). Our sins begin in our hearts and work their way outward, so we need to start with the heart.

It's not enough to recognize the fruit of sin; we need to get to the root and yank it out.

For example, overeating was not my root of sin; the gluttony was a result of idolatry in my heart—seeking satisfaction in food rather than the Lord. THAT was the root.

We are renewed in our spirit (sanctified) when we begin to appropriate and apply the Word (John 17:17) and REPLACE our sinful desires, thoughts and attitudes with biblical desires, thoughts and attitudes (1 Timothy 4:7; Romans 6:11-14, 16-19). We allow the Word to train us!

It's not usually an overnight process, but a transformation that happens over time as we yield to the Spirit of God (James 1:21-25).

In that transformation, we put off (eliminate) some things (our sinful stuff), and put on (embrace) other things (God's holy and honorable "stuff").

For example:

But the point is, once we identify our "stuff," we discover God's "stuff"—His absolute truth about our sin—and we embrace it and do whatever we can to make the truth of His Word an active part of our lives (reading, memorization, responding in obedience, etc.). In other words, we surrender our lives to His control.

So... as I am deleting the frivilous and foolishly time-consuming things in my home that clutter and rob me of freedom or joy, I am also asking the Lord to help me delete the things that do not please Him, and REPLACE them with things that delight His heart.

Is this your desire too? Where will you begin to deal with YOUR "stuff"? Where does seeking God's "stuff" begin?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and 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.

Wednesday
Apr192017

Spring Cleaning: The Downsizing Dilemma (Part 2)

In Part One of Pam Farrel's post about downsizing, she shared two important Organization UPGRADE questions she asked when downsizing to prepare to move in to a live-aboard boat. To review:

1. Is it in good shape, does it fit, and does it work?

2. Do I love it? Does it bring me joy or turn my heart toward a relationship with God or someone I love.

In PART TWO, Pam shares three more principles. 

Pam continues . . .

3. Do I need it?

You don’t own your things, your things own you. Everything you possess has the ability to possess your time and energyand space in your home.

Look to see if you have duplicates, and give the extra away to a young couple or a student moving into his or her first apartment.

As I began to give away our things, I prayed God would send people to me that I could bless. On just one day, two womenone a young mom with a toddler whose husband left her, and the other a grandmother who had one of her children and five of her grandchildren living with hercame my way.

Each had lost a home in a fire so they needed ANYTHING extra I was willing to part with. Giving away my furniture and household items to these precious women brought me joy!

Another day, one of my friends who works with international students at a Christian University, shared about a pastor’s family coming from Africa with several children, and they each only had one small bag. I was able to give them furniture and eight bags of clothes, cleaning products, personal care items and almost an entire kitchen full of gadgets and dishes.

It was an honor to have this courageous pastor and family eat off my humble plate.  

4. Could I replace it in a fire?

My next door neighbor lost nearly everything she owned in a forest fire. And my friend, Carole Lewis, author of Give God A Year, lost her home and all its belongings in a hurricane.

Prayer-walking with these godly women gave me first-hand experience of what really was missed when all had been lost.

  • They each shared that nearly ALL furniture and household items are easily replaced.
  • But the one-of-a-kind Christmas ornaments made by your son in second grade, or your marked-up Bibles and filled-in journals are irreplaceable.

5. Is it an heirloom or an item that validates a godly heritage?

It is likely you are much more attached to many of the things concerning your children (that you have been saving) than they are!

I found my daughters-in-law were more interested in the contents of the bins I had safeguarded for years than my sons. And when it came down to selecting and taking items to their homes, they each took only about a third of what I had saved.

What stood out to me the most is that our society gives WAY TOO MANY PARTICIPANT TROPHIES!

I took photos of many items of memorabilia, then gave these away to charities.

The things that were cherished and soaked with meaning, like family photo albums and videos, Bibles, family china and crystal, or art people had been inspired to create from the messages we taughtthese were the cherished and valued pieces of our legacy.

Ask yourself, "Can I give NOW to those I love, rather than wait until after my death?"

By giving legacy items now, your words and prayers can accompany the gifts—creating yet another cherished memory.

Need, replacement and legacywhich of these factors will affect what you cherish and keep or what you release to bless others.

DON'T WAIT. Do it today.

Pam Farrel is author of 45 books including her newest, 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success in Keeping It All Together. Pam gains most delight in time shared with people she loves, her husband (and co-author), Bill and her three sons and three daughters in law and 4 young grandchildren, who soon will all be vacationing on the boat which will be moored in Southern California.  She also loves prayer walks on the beach with those women she mentors, other writers and her many cherished friends. Learn more about Pam at www.Love-wise.com.

Tuesday
Apr182017

Spring Cleaning: The Downsizing Dilemma (Part 1)

I've watched Pam Farrel in some tough patches of life, and her choices were good and godly—worth emulating. Most recently, Pam downsized drastically, and in the process learned important lessons. I asked her to share some of those lessons in this two-part Organization UPGRADE post.

"What is truly important in life?" Pam asks.

"Each day we live the legacy we want to leave. In a world overstuffed with things, it is the memories attached to those things that carry the real value."

As I (Dawn) am getting older, I have to agree with Pam's insight. Life is not about "the stuff."

Pam continues . . .

You need much, much, much less than you think you do. I know. Trust me, I KNOW!

We recently moved—not just a normal move from house to house. No, we moved radically.

We downsized 90% of our belongings and we are moving on to a live-aboard boat!

We have been helping care for aging parents, and their health has declined to a place they need help more often, and help closer to them.

We also launched our children into their lives, so we no longer needed our large home and office. We travel over 200 days a year to speak at men’s, women’s and couples’ conferences often on marriage and family, and most recently, on our books 7 Simple skills for Every Woman and 7 Simple Skills for Every Man. (Some of the principles in those resources helped us make those tough decisions when we simplified our own lives.)  

The overall principle, at the heart of all decisions, was these verses:

"Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:2).

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven …for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

While owning possessions is not wrong or evil when they serve God and do not replace Him in our hearts, I wanted a heavenly vantage point to my choices.

I prayed, asking God to put my heart where His heart was as I made each choice.

On the practical side, many people have asked how I made the decisions of what to keep and what to toss, give or sell.  

Here are the first two of five questions I asked myself—the other three will be posted in Part 2—and maybe these will help you as you spring clean, downsize or make the move to live more simply.

1. Is it in good shape, does it fit, and does it work?

If the item was not it in good shape, I either recycled, tossed it in the trash or gave it away to a charity that helps train others to work by teaching them to fix household items.

2. Do I love it? Does it bring me joy or turn my heart toward a relationship with God or someone I love?

A decade ago, I traveled to speak for the military in Germany. I stayed with a seasoned military wife, and in her modest home were beautiful treasures from around the world, but very few superfluous items.

Every closet, drawer and cupboard was efficiently organized.

I complimented her and asked how she decided what to move each time Uncle Sam called.

Her answer was, “I hold it up and ask, 'Do you love it?' If I don’t love it—if it doesn’t bring me joy, or someone in my family joy—I tell myself, If I released that, it might bring someone else joy."

For me, moving into a boat, I had to limit how much I could “love."

One of my sons offered some free storage space, as did the in-laws we were caring for, but neither storage space was very large. We calculated the cost of storage (or moving) and discovered it is often MUCH less expensive to release items—even if it meant buying later.

While I love and appreciate every gift given to me over my thirty years of speaking, as I surveyed my trinkets, decorations and books, I realized God could upcycle many of these things for MORE ministry if I would be willing to release them.

  • So I packed up four or five boxes of small goodies AWANA kids could “buy” as they memorized verses.
  • I gave each member of each of my small groups, leadership teams and networking groups one of my mugs and asked them to pray for me as they drank from it.
  • In Seasoned Sisters, my ministry to women over 40, our mascot is a FROG (Fully Rely On God) and over the years many people have given me frogs of all shapes and sizes, so I gave each Seasoned Sister a frog so she would know I am praying for her even when I might be miles apart.

Walk through your house today.

What do you have that could be released and UPCYCLED today to bless someone?

(Continued in PART TWO)

Pam Farrel is author of 45 books including her newest, 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success in Keeping It All Together. Pam gains most delight in time shared with people she loves, her husband (and co-author), Bill and her three sons and three daughters in law and 4 young grandchildren, who soon will all be vacationing on the boat which will be moored in Southern California.  She also loves prayer walks on the beach with those women she mentors, other writers and her many cherished friends. www.Love-wise.com