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Letitia "Tish" Suk

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Teri Thompson

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Leslie Vernick

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Julie Watson

Joan C. Webb

Shonda Savage Whitworth

Cherri Williamson

Kathy C. Willis

Debbie W. Wilson

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Jamie Wood

And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson



Left Unsaid: Two Perspectives

In this Relationship UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson reminds us there are words best left unsaid, but others that need to be said.

"Words, along with all the manifestations of Christlike love, are a key to good relationships," Dawn says, "but do we truly care how we use our words?"

Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us there is “a time to be silent and a time to speak,” and the wise Christian will learn when and what words are appropriate.

I. Some Words Need to Be Left Unsaid.

There’s a time to be silent.

I cannot count all the times I’ve “bit my tongue” during my marriage. Once I actually bit it as I started to say something sarcastic, then shut my mouth quickly and my tongue ended up between my teeth. My sarcasm bit me back!

Words can bless and encourage, but wisdom guards the tongue, knowing how hurtful and destructive words can be.

Words best left unsaid come from heart issues.

For example:

  • Haughty words come from a proud heart.
  • Ungrateful words come from a selfish heart.
  • Condemning words come from a jealous heart or an unforgiving heart.

James warns we need to bridle our tongues (James 1:26) or tame them if we want to live as a true Christ-follower. We must discipline the tongue, because it is unruly and rebellious.

My friend Kimberly Wagner shared 10 excellent ways to guard and tame the tongue. My favorite is to learn the H-A-L-T Principle. Learn to restrain your words—shut your mouth—and delay conversations when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. (Smart lady!)

Basically, in the flesh, we tend to spout off with "corrupting talk," but the Holy Spirit can give us the wisdom and grace to speak life-giving words (Ephesians 4:29).

II. Some Words Must Never Be Left Unsaid.

Yes, there's a time to be silent. But then, there’s a time to speak up!

Many Christians who have learned when to be silent have forgotten what it means to not be silent when speaking up is important, helpful, or sometimes even crucial.

1. We need to speak up about our greatest love—Jesus!

We need to fearlessly speak up about Jesus, because we have the promise that the Holy Spirit will help us (Mark 13:11) and His Word will not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11).

David Robertson, a minister in Dundee, Scotland, wrote that he was once a “secret Christian” because he wasn’t sure he could bear the social stigma of living in post-Christian Scotland. He says a group of Christians at his school asked if he would speak on their behalf in a debate and he reluctantly agreed.

After the debate, the head of the English department congratulated his "performance," but added, “You almost had me persuaded that you really were a Christian.” Robertson replied, “Sir, I am. And that is the last time anyone will say that to me.”

Robertson learned to speak up—what he calls “ordinary, courageous speaking”—out of love for the Lord.

“We speak up because we love Jesus and we want to see Him glorified,” he said. “We speak up, not to defend ourselves, but because we love those we are speaking to and want them to share in the greatest gift of all: Christ.”

2. We need to speak up when evil seems to prevail.

In a culture gone wild, with social norms crumbling and evil prevailing, Christians can’t sit back and “observe.” We have to speak up.

Rather than running away and hiding, we need to turn and face the enemy and speak the truth.

How the enemy responds is not our responsibility. Peter and John responded to the rulers who told them not to speak in the name of Jesus anymore (Acts 4:13-20) because they knew their culture’s only hope was the Savior.

“… we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard,” they said.

We don’t have to “win” arguments. We only have to stand up and speak up, and tell people God’s perspective as found in the Word.

It’s not about our opinions; it’s His truth.

When we speak the truth—always with the motive of love (Ephesians 4:14-15)—the Holy Spirit can use our words to make an impression for righteousness in the world and help our spiritual brothers and sisters mature into Christ.

3. We need to speak up when our brothers or sisters struggle or hurt.

Christians are meant to speak encouraging words to one another to build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), especially in times of struggle or pain.

We may think about sharing words of comfort, encouragement, challenge or hope ... but unless we act and actually speak up, how will our friends and family be helped?

Words of encouragement are sometimes like soothing oil, helping others to bear up under their burdens (Galatians 6:2). Other times they are like motivating cheerleaders, lifting people up (Proverbs 12:25) and stirring them up to love and good works (Hebrews 10:23-25).

What should be left unsaid, and what should not be left unsaid?

It might be wise to examine our hearts regularly, because we must never forget: the tongue has power to hurt and also power to heal.

"Death and Life are in the power of the tongue...." (Proverbs 18:21).

What about you? Do you need to seek forgiveness for hurtful, destructive words? Are there words someone in your circle of influence desperately needs to hear?

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 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 Prawny at Morguefile.


Motherhood: A Bumpy, Painful Road to Navigate

I've watched Julie Watson's life for several year. I saw her godly heart. Her commitment to good health and positive choices. Especially her choice, with her husband, to give three children a home where they can grow in every aspect of their lives. In this special Mother's Day UPGRADE, she shares her heart about that "mothering" journey, and offers positive principles for all of us who are mothers or who work with children.

“Motherhood.  Why didn’t anyone warn me how painful it can be!” Julie says. 

Painful? I (Dawn) thought at times, "excruciating!" Though I see now, on the other side of parenting, all the blessings that came our way, I still have memories of frustrating, trying days.

Julie continues . . .

Before becoming a mother at the late age of 45, I used to dread Mother’s Day! Year after year, I watched friends attend special Mother’s Day celebrations, receive sweet gifts made by tiny hands who revered the ground they walked on, and sip on sweet gestures from husbands who did their best to make the day special.

Each year that just reminded me that I still wasn’t a mother. My husband did his best to make my day fun, as a mom to several “fur kids.” 

But the pain was real. It hurt. And, I was not alone.

I found many women felt the same way. Those who, like me, couldn’t have children of their own, or had lost children, had pain-filled memories of their childhood, or a poor relationship with their mother. There were many reasons for the pain, but it was there. 

Fast forward 17 years!

I became a foster mom to three beautiful children.

Yet, Mother’s Day still did not feel “real” to me, because nothing is official with foster kids.

It would be another two Mother’s Days until I got my wish!

Mother’s Day 2016 was truly my first. Yes, I received those sweet little hand-made gifts, happy smiles, big hugs, and all the yummy goodness that comes with it... for about an hour.

Then, it went right back into the toils of war!

Parenthood is hard! Being a mom is HARD!

All those years dreaming of it, yet I only pictured the warm hugs, smiling faces, and Norman Rockwell moments that filled my head from one too many Hallmark movies.

I neglected to focus on the screaming tantrums, sibling rivalries, moments of sheer chaos, and the first time I was told, “I hate you,” by those same sweet, little darlings I dreamt of for years.

Motherhood is gritty and unpleasant at best most days. At least, it was for me for several years.  We are just starting to turn corners now, but every few days they remind me we haven’t really—at least not yet. 

Yes, we have lovely moments sprinkled throughout our days and weeks. I treasure those... truly!  We talk and laugh, dance and sing, watch movies, and share the love of Jesus. We’re a regular family just like anyone else. 

But my kids have a past. It isn’t pretty, easy, or loving.

It was filled with neglect, abuse, feeling unloved and unwanted for years. One can’t overcome that overnight. No. It takes years! 

And so, we wait, love them, and work through their issues together, one day at a time.  We know God turns beauty from ashes and joy from mourning (Isaiah 61:3)!

Whether you’re a biological, adopted, foster, grand, or step mother, please know there are proactive things you can do to reach your child, as well as ways to cling to God during this bumpy and painful road of motherhood.

1. Listen

Open your ears and heart and hear what your children are saying—not just with their mouths, but with their behaviors too. 

Children often can’t process their emotions because they don’t understand what they’re feeling or have experienced. Get down to eye level with them and let them talk to you.

They may need to punch a pillow because they don’t know how to handle their anger. It’s ok. They just want to be heard and acknowledged that their feelings are real and they matter.

Spiritual Counsel—Go to the Lord in prayer, and listen to Him.  He will speak to your heart and refresh your spirit. 

Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10). See also Jeremiah 31:25 and Isaiah 40:31.

2. Read their body language.

My kids always have tell-tale signs of their real feelings. I acknowledge what I’m seeing as well as what they say they’re feeling.

Then, we offer a safe space to talk about it and what it really means deep down. (For example:  they say, “I’m fine” or “I’m not mad,” yet their hands are balled up into fists.)

Spiritual Counsel—Use wisdom to decipher the truth and don’t let their fears control the outcome.

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). Also, “…let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance…” (Proverbs 1:5).

3. Speak life and positivity into your child. 

They hear so much negativity all the time. Remind them of their godly gifts and talents, and that God has a perfect purpose and plan for their life!

Spiritual Counsel—Read the Word to guide you in raising your child in a godly way. The Bible is great resource for parental guidance. 

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). See also Jeremiah 29:11.

Are you struggling today with being a mom? You are not alone. Reach out to other moms for help and support! We need to stick together, not compare or condemn one another.

As soon as we realize we are stronger together, we might just come out of this bumpy, painful journey alive and sane!

What can you do to reach out to the children in your care and speak to their deepest heart needs? Who is in your “mom support group”?

Julie Watson worked in women’s and children’s ministries for 10 years as a Development and Executive Director before becoming a stay-at-home mom to three beautiful children. In 2016, God created a beautiful forever family when she and her husband, Shawn, were able to legally adopt the children. Julie now helps others find hope and freedom from emotional eating & unhealthy habits as a C.O.P.E. Certified Health Coach.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Theo Rivierenlaan at Pixabay.


"So Let the Son Shine In"

Doreen Hanna's strength is, she sees a need and she steps in to fill it. She encourages young teens and women, but also widows and others who have experienced loss. In this encouraging UPLIFT story, she encourages readers to shine with light from the Lord.

"'So let the sun shine in, face it with a grin, open up your heart and let the sunshine in.' Humming that today, still prompts a grin," Doreen says, "knowing “who the son shine is." That leads me to then begin singing 'You are my sun shine, my only sonshine….' 

"How about you? Does the Creator of the sun—who gave His Son—brighten your day?"

Those have long been my (Dawn's) favorite childhood songs, given my name is Dawn. But Doreen is giving us a grown-up way to experience that old truth.

Doreen continues . . .

By the young age of five, I knew I was unloved by my father. He, at 18 years of age, had told my mother prior to their getting married that he was not wanting children for five years, seeking to have her to himself for a while. 

However, when Mom found out she was pregnant, days after the honeymoon, she was thrilled and embraced me and my sister—who came 2 ½ years later—with great joy.

As a typical little girl, playing outside often seemed to salve my feelings of rejection, for a little while, as I swung on the swing, often singing while enjoying the warmth of the sunshine.      

During my teen years, I found every opportunity to leave home whenever possible, as my father’s criticism seemed to grow during this season of my life. 

I loved the escape of home by going to the beach and soaking up the sunshine for that perfect summer tan.

I had accepted Jesus into my heart about that time and found myself singing quietly my childhood song. The lyrics soothed the critical words of my father that wounded my heart.  

Within a few years, I was married and giving birth to two little girls. I was soon singing that song to them—for they were the sunshine of my life, given to me by God the Father and His Son. 

The years passed, and I became "Leila" (my grandma name). What a delight it was for me on the days I would babysit and sing my favorite song to them.

Soon, when they would come to visit, they would sing with and to me: "You are my sunshine." As time passed, they too learned who truly was the “real" sunshine in that song. 

Now at this season of my life, living as a widow, I am still singing that song with joy and delight—often pondering new insights about the Sun and the Son!

When I think of the sun and its power upon the earth, I consider the amazing gifts it gives us—life, as well as light, and it even sets our time! Psalm 104:19 proclaims, "You created the moon to mark the months, the sun to mark our days." 

While the Son enlightens us, we are also warmed by the His Word with encouragement like Ephesians 1:6 "Now all praise to God for his wonderful kindness to us and his favor that has poured out upon us because we belong to his dearly loved Son."

If you haven’t already, I encourage you today, to “Let the Son shine in, face life with a grin, open up your heart and let the Son shine in.”  

Start your day enjoying the sun and then embrace the Son in your morning by being enlightened by His Word!

Do you have a childhood Christian song that still warms your heart?

Doreen Hanna empowers girls, women and men from every walk and stage of life to live life adventurously and discover their royal status and hidden treasures! She is the Founder & President of Treasured Celebrations, and her creation of the Modern-Day-Princess (MDP) programs has equipped her team to impact the lives of thousands of young people. She also empowers men to embrace the high value they possess in the lives of the girls and women in their sphere of influence. She is a Focus on the Family published author, and her speaking has expanded over 35 years to church and local community events. She is a certified women’s counselor and the first West Coast Representative for Women of Faith. As of 2018, she established It’s a New Day, a ministry to women who have suffered loss—i.e,. widows, divorcees, and other family-member losses. Visit Doreen's website, Modern Day Princess.


Memos from Mama

Deb DeArmond writes about relationships and her relationship with her mama has some great lessons for all of us. In this Mother's Day UPLIFT, she writes about communicating truth with "mama-inspired" confidence.

"Laughter," Deb says, "is the shock absorber that softens the blows of life."

I (Dawn) am sure we all have fun sayings and words of advice from parents and grandparents. My grandpa's favorite to me was, "Don't just sit there like a lump on a pickle." But Deb's mama was  especially wise.

Deb continues . . .

My head is filled with memos from mama.

  • "The only person who really likes change is a wet baby."
  • "Don't make me take you to the north forty"—the last warning before a spanking.
  • "If you had everything, where would you put it?"

My mother had an interesting and pragmatic outlook on life. And enough unusual expressions to create her own dictionary.

She’s been gone nearly 20 years, and still, I’m stunned at how often in the midst of a challenge, heartbreak or opportunity, I hear her voice.

  • Usually a soft supportive tone, meant to encourage.
  • Occasionally, a bit sharper, to help redirect my thinking when I might not get it quickly enough to make the best choice.

I can’t count the times her words have echoed in my heart and set me on the right path.

Down-to-earth, practical, and no-nonsense advice is tough to come by these days. Sometimes the facts are inconvenient or uncomfortable to address.

And it seems the older I get, the more political correctness and sensitivity training I’m exposed to. I believe it’s caused us to move further from telling it like it is—with love—and the more watered down our message becomes.

Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not an advocate for using the truth as a battering ram.

  • I support speaking up when it can advance the cause of Christ.
  • The truth is also essential when we have the opportunity to build up, encourage, or exhort others to live more like Jesus. That is what the word of God asks us to do: “Speak the truth in love...” (Ephesians 4:15a).

Truth is compelling. It has the power to touch the heart and bring our thoughts and actions into alignment with the life Jesus died to redeem.

Facts persuade. Truth transforms.

Here are three practical ways to express truth with mama-inspired confidence.

1. Pray before you speak.

Be certain it’s the truth you’re sharing and not your opinion. It’s a short hop and a skip from expressing our opinion to judgment.

Asking God’s Spirit to help us distinguish between the truth and our opinion fulfills the remainder of the verse in Ephesians 4:15—"let’s grow in every way into Christ.”

The truth is found in Christ, not our version of life as it should be.

2. Truth will set you free, too.

The truth receiver and the truth teller are blessed in the process.

When we walk fully in the truth, we are free—released and confident to share it with others, assured it will convey the message of our heart.

The ability to express our concern comes easily and communicates love, not criticism.

We can’t shame people onto the right path; encouragement and exhortation of God’s word must be the foundation.

3. Don’t over-communicate your message.

Mama’s messages spoke to my heart because they made me think.

Her truth, God’s truth, could become my truth only when communicated with love not lecture.

The battering ram rarely finds an open heart.

Jude 1:20 reminds us to build one another in the faith.

What message is God waiting for you to deliver? What’s holding you back? Fight truth decay and share it—in love—today!

Deb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship, and conflict resolution. Deb’s books help readers create the life God meant marriage and family to be. Read her at: Family Matters/Deb DeArmond.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Bru-nO at Pixabay.


Love Your (Actual) Neighbor

Letitia Suk writes about renewal and restoration for every season of life. In this Ministry UPGRADE, she encourages women to reach out to neighbors—actual neighbors—with genuine, practical love.

"We might not know our neighbor’s political leanings, religious beliefs or child-rearing philosophies," Letitia says, "but we share a sidewalk, shop at the local markets, and send our kids to the same school around the corner. It is a good start!"

The Lord recently spoke to me (Dawn) last Christmas about reaching out to my neighbors with more than the annual Christmas treats. He drove home the true meaning of "love your neighbor" (Mark 12:30-31). I know what Letitia says is true!

Letitia continues . . .  

While it may have seemed that the market was right or the schools good or you just stumbled upon the place you’re living, each one of us has been hand-picked for this time and place. The Bible says in Acts 17:26, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places that they should live.

That means our neighborhoods.

Six single-family homes, five two-flats and one multi-unit building comprise my corner of the world—and that’s just our side of the street. 

For sale and for rent signs go up and down, as do the moving vans on the street, especially in the spring and fall. A transient culture we have become, but yet, like relatives, we all have neighbors.

Whether your address belongs to one building, part of a larger complex, a college dorm, a rural lane, or a military unit, God has chosen others to share the turf with you.

Though you might end up only knowing a few of them well, they all are a part of your world.

  • Busyness hounds all of us.
  • The neighborhood community of previous generations seems part of nostalgia. 
  • Most of us are scrambling just to find more time to talk to our kids, let alone our neighbors. 

A wave on the way into the car, a summer chat over a fence, or casual conversation at a condo association meeting seems all we can manage most days.

“Love your neighbor” was God's idea.

It's part of “The Great Commandment” even non-churchgoers are usually familiar with.

Do you ever wonder what He had in mind for your block?

Here are some ways to reach out that have worked in the forty years we have been on our corner:

1. Bedtime Prayers

I read about someone who would mentally go up and down the street—when she couldn’t sleep at night—and pray for the neighbors, even the ones she hadn’t met.  That is easy to do not just in sleepless nights but on walks around the block as well. 

Prayers for blessing, health, strong families and spiritual renewal are a very effective way to be a good neighbor.

2. Feed the hungry.

A meal for a family with a new baby, a loaf of banana bread for a new neighbor, a glass of iced tea for a mutual dog walker have all been easily offered, gratefully received. 

Having something already prepared and frozen or stored can help you be ready when a need arises, and it will.

3. Lend a hand. 

Or a shovel, couple of eggs or good recommendation for a plumber! 

Often, I start the exchange by being the borrower. Asking for gardening advice or a certain spice I forgot to buy for a recipe has opened not only many doors to me, but hearts as well.

4. Share the celebration

Fun can abound in a neighborhood!

  • An invitation to a watermelon party to meet some new neighbors came our way last summer. 
  • Another friend shows movies on the side of their garage for the locals. 
  • When a lady on the block finished her graduate degree, we were all invited to celebrate with her.
  • Neighbors know they are welcome in our back yard on the 4th of July.

Most of these events did not involve elaborate food, expense, or housecleaning and were great opportunities to connect.

5. Spread the word. 

When I wanted to learn how to be a better mom, I invited other moms from the neighborhood to join me over coffee and book discussion. 

The next book we discussed was the Bible as a Biblical view of parenting emerged from the first group! A couples group came out of that one and more groups followed. 

Our kids are grown and gone now, so my hanging out on the sidewalk days are few. The mom down the street who used to push her own children around the block in an old buggy now strolls her grandchildren around. The little boy on the block now has his PhD.

Additions get built, fences added, newer cars replace older ones in front of the homes. 

In spite of the changes in the neighborhood, the command to love those in it still stands.

Much good neighboring still happens one on one. 

Often an available listening ear is the best way to love your neighbor. True stories of parents in pain, job distresses, and bad health reports have come my way. These outpourings, sometimes spontaneously offered, often lead to prayer and resulting changed lives. 

Don’t be surprised if you become the neighborhood chaplain!

How do you think God is calling you to connect with YOUR neighbors?

Letitia Suk invites women to chase the intentional life. She writes and speaks of renewal and restoration, offering platters of hope to women in each season of life. Her blend of humor, stories and grace propels audiences towards a fresh experience of God. A retreat guide and life coach in the Chicago area, she loves to walk by Lake Michigan, browse resale shops and create new family traditions. She authored 100 Need-to-Know Tips for Moms of Tweens and Teens; Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat; and Rhythms of Renewal. She and her husband, Tom, are parents of four grown children. Check out her website.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pixabay.

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