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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (421)


Singleness and Family - Part 2

Nali Hilderman is a successful single with a powerful message of hope in Christ. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she focuses on Christian singles and their relationship to the empowering, encouraging family of God.

"Last year I wrote about singleness and the desire for family," Nali says. "I had three suggestions for fulfilling the longing for family when there’s not much you can do about it, but I forgot what may be the most important “remedy” for singleness and family: The Body of Jesus—the Church! 

I (Dawn) think Nali is right! The Body of Christ came alongside me in my single days in so many wonderful ways, but I didn't think about the Church as the gift it was, at the time. I like Nali's proactive approach!

Nali continues . . . 

I was reminded of this oversight when I recently revisited a book called, When the Church was a Family: Recapturing Jesus’ Vision for Authentic Christian Community by Joseph Hellerman. 

Hellerman lays out the communal, family loyalty of the first century Mediterranean world and this cultural reality shaped the first century church.

Hellerman’s point in the book is that we ought to experience the Church and read the Bible, especially the New Testament, through the lens of "church as family."  

So, if you’re feeling lonely and desire a family as a single woman, let me encourage you with three things in that regard.

1. Rethink Relationships and See How Jesus Defined Them.

Hellerman writes* how—for those of us in modern America—we "expect marriage to be our most meaningful, intimate and satisfying relationship. We hope to find most of our emotional, physical, and material needs met in the context of the marriage bond." 

Yet, this was not the case for the first century world or early believers. In the ancient world the most important relationship was "the bond between blood brothers and sisters."

This, for Hellerman, is key to living a vibrant, communal life in the Church today. 

Sisters, understand that the strong "family ties" of the ancient world are powerful for those of us who have been adopted into the family of God.

We have family automatically in the Church!

2. Get Involved in a Local Church.

In order to tap into this communal life, the first thing we must do is actively get involved in a local church. 

Several years ago, I lived on the opposite side of the country from my parents and siblings, and it was only when I joined a local church and got involved in many activities that I felt loneliness dissipate.

We became family for each other, celebrated holidays and birthdays together, ate meals together, helped each other move, studied the Bible, and just over all did life together. 

Nearly a decade later, I look back on that time and remember the close-knit male and female relationships I had and how much I was fulfilled doing life with those believers.

3. Be Involved with All Age Groups in the Body of Christ.

A lot of our churches tend to segregate believers into "age/life season" categories.

But I challenge you to know and do life with all ages of believers—families, newly marrieds, singles, older people, children—all ages and all life seasons. It will make your life so rich!

I had the pleasure of being in a Bible study with five women in their 30s, and five women in their retired years. The Bible study was called Living Crosswise—by Dr. Gail Bones, who wrote and led the study. It was phenomenal to realize how much we women had in common, both in life and in our relationship with the Lord. 

Ladies, older believers have much to offer us, as do younger believers. Get to know them and find out what the joys and challenges are in their season of life. I guarantee it will help you see your season of singleness with fresh eyes. It will also help you find a "spiritual mom" or a "spiritual sister."

I know these suggestions do not replace the deeply-seated desire many single women have for their own family, but often life can feel so lonely and "out of our control."

We need to be active about what we can control. 

Ladies, are you involved in your local church? Do you have significant relationships with men and women of all ages and stages of life at your church? Actively seek those out and see the Body of Christ as your family— both in the interim and also for eternity.

Nali Hilderman is a professor of American history and Political Science at San Diego Christian College. She studies women’s history and Christian theology trying to make sense of how to be a confident, successful Christian woman who does not buy into the secular feminist mentality.

* Quotes from page 35 of Joseph Hellerman's book, When the Church was a Family.

Graphics adapted, courtesy of Pixabay and Lightstock.


Jesus Told Us to Shine!

In this Ministry UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson reminds us to shine for the Lord, because that will have two important consequences.

Even the secular culture knows the importance of light.

"It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."

Those words have been attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, Oliver Wendell Holmes, John F. Kennedy, Confucius and many others, although it was popularized in a sermon by William L. Watkinson in 1907.

Comic strip artist Charles M. Schlultz even referred to it. Sassy Lucy of Peanuts fame decided to ignore the saying, yelling, "You Stupid Darkness!"

Certainly, there is much darkness in our world we might "curse."

But we need a little backstory.

The truth is, all creation, including mankind, inherited the consequences of sin's curse when Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command (Genesis 3:1-19; Romans 8:20-22).

Part of that curse and the "curse of the Law" is death (1 Corinthians 15:22a; Galatians 3:13). What we see in the world today—moral depravity and spiritual darkness—is a consequence of sin's curse; and creation groans with great longing to be delivered from the effects of the curse (Romans 8:19, 22).

God's Word tells us Jesus Christ has "redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'" He redeemed us ... "so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:13-14). Those who believe in the Redeemer, the Son of God (Jesus), have eternal life (John 3:36; 1 John 5:12).

And for those who believe, this is where THE STORY GETS GOOD!

We can shine as lights in the world when God indwells our hearts!

Jesus, the Light of the World, wants us to follow Him so we will won't walk in the darkness of sin (John 8:12).

Two Reasons Jesus Tells Us to Shine

"... let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

1. We're to Shine So People Will See Our Good Works.

As we follow the Lord by faith, become more sensitive to the indwelling Spirit, and live in obedience to the Word of God, two things begin to happen.

We become more sensitive to any darkness within us.

God works in us to change our darkness into light—to "sanctify" us, or make us holy in thought, word and deed.

Not only that, Jesus wants our good deeds and moral excellence to shine into the darkness around us.

We may not affect change ourselves; but our testimony of God's mercy and grace in changing us will become an out-in-the-open tool He can use (Matt. 5:14).

We are called "out of" darkness (1 Peter 2:9); and Jesus' disciples encouraged believers to confess sin, cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light (1 John 1:9; Romans 13:12).

We can't fool God. If we say we're fellowshiping with Him but we're walking in darkness, we're lying, scripture says (1 John 1:5-6).

It's not optional; we are to walk in the light.

"Now you are light in the Lord," Paul says. "Walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8).

To walk in the light is to:

  • Follow Jesus by keeping in step with the Spirit's promptings and in alignment to scripture so we make progress spiritually and are useable for God's kingdom (John 8:12).
  • Practice discernment, reject the empty "works of darkness," and do those good works that God prepared for us to do (Ephesians 5:10-13; 2:10).

2. We're to Shine So God Will Be Glorified In and Through Us.

We cannot generate our own light; our light comes from the light of God within us (Psalm 18:28).

We need to acknowledge that.

The Psalmist praised God for His salvation. He was glad God allowing him to walk before Him "in the light of life" (Psalm 56:13). Isaiah testified that those who walked in darkness "have seen a great light" (Isaiah 9:2).

I think about those young boys and their coach who were trapped in a dark cave in Thailand. Imagine their joy coming out into the light on the surface of the earth.

Now picture in your imagination the joy of one who has lived in darkness all their lives, suddenly entering into light! The words of an old hymn come to mind: "I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see."

Light is meant to transform us and bring glory to God.

And the world takes notice.

John MacArthur wrote, "Christians who do not have changed lives have a credibility gap." Those who aren't walking in the light appear to be "fakes" to a watching world.

But I believe those who have seen the Light of Life and truly experienced His transformation cannot help but glorify the Light-giver—our Father God.

God is glorified by the fellowship we enjoy with other believers as we walk in the holiness, love and unity of His light (1 John 1:7).

God is also glorified as we share the light with others, praying the Lord might "open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light" (Acts 26:18a).

God Himself said, "Let light shine out of darkness," and He has shined in our hearts to give us "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:4-6).

A song I learned as a young child continually comes to my mind:

"Jesus bids us shine, shine to all around.

Many kinds of darkness in the world are found:

Sin and want and sorrow; so we must shine—

You in your small corner and I in mine."

I want to shine in my "small corner," or anywhere the Lord leads—don't you?

It won't always be easy. Don't think everyone will love us when we shine for Jesus.

Light is always uncomfortable to those who are accustomed to or love the darkness (John 3:20).

It's hard sometimes to "shine," but remember this: When Jesus commands, the Spirit enables.

Jesus told us to shine, and we can—in the power of Christ.

Where might your works be tainted by a bit of darkness today? How can you change that so your life will bring God glory and your testimony touch a hurting world?

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


Communicate Well with that 'Irregular' Person

Kathy Collard Miller speaks well to relationships, and especially how we get along. In this Communication UPGRADE, she offers biblical insight into communication skills we all need.

“Someone has said, ‘An irregular person is anyone we don’t get along with,’” Kathy says. “But we should remember someone may be calling us their irregular person! And maybe it’s because our communication skills could improve.”

That is so true! I (Dawn) discovered that when the Lord opened my eyes about someone I thought was too direct and a bit critical in our conversations. As it turned out, I was hyper-sensitive and reactive—something I needed to change.

Kathy continues . . .

It’s easy to think negatively about someone when there is a lack of harmony between us.

“After all, if she weren’t such an irregular kind of person, she wouldn’t misunderstand me. All my other friends understand me. It must be her."

I’ve been studying the biblical book of Proverbs and communication is an important topic in that practical book. Let’s see what insights God offers us for better communication. Maybe we are more irregular than we think.

There are always skills we can learn.

1. Talk less than you think you should even if you feel defensive.

Proverbs 10:19 urges us, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (ESV).

How true, how true. We all are able to hold our tongue and, at that point, things are going well.

But then we reach our limit and we try to defend ourselves with many words.

Most of the time, many words get us in big trouble.

The more we say, the less we are heard and understood. One temptation is adding points that aren’t relevant to the current topic.

“Oh, and by the way, I’ve been meaning to tell you also about how a month ago you….”

Our many words have now become more complicated and the real issue is harder to deal with.

Less is more in relationships, and especially with someone we aren’t connecting with well. Let’s ask God to help us speak less than more.

2. Keep your voice soft.

Of course such advice as “keep your voice soft” seems impossible, but it really is possible to learn. You’ll be motivated even more when you begin to see the advantages it brings.

Proverbs 15:1 tells us, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

At the time of dealing with someone who seems against us, we feel powerless. They won’t listen nor heed what we’re saying. Everything within us wants to be heard and by golly, we’ll raise our voice to make it happen.


It’ll be the hardest thing ever, but don’t. Instead, use the “broken record technique.” Just say the main point over again in a normal voice.

For instance, “I hear you think I said … but I really said ….” When the person raises her voice and is defensive, again repeat softly, “I hear you think I said … but I really said…” Repeat again as needed—softly!

This is extremely hard but it is possible in God’s power. As a result, you’ll see anger is less likely to be stirred up and there’s a better possibility of a positive conversation.

3. In the end, God must be the one we depend upon to protect us.

After all we’ve done, our efforts may not gain us what we want. Our “irregular” person may respond more aggressively, and we wonder what they are thinking of us. Is it even worse than before?

Our only peace must come from the truth of Proverbs 30:5: “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

Our words haven’t gained us what we wanted, but God’s Word never goes wrong. The Lord knows the truth about us and our intentions, and He will protect us according to His loving will for us.

We can trust Him.

What can I do to help communicate with the person who seems irregular to me? When my efforts don’t turn out the way I’d prefer, how can I find God as my refuge?

Kathy Collard Miller is the author of over 50 books, her most recent is No More Anger: Hope for an Out-of-Control Mom (Elk Lake Publishing, Inc.). She loves to speak at evenats and has spoken in more than 30 US states and eight foreign countries. Learn more about Kathy at

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Pasja1000 at Pixabay.


Connection 101: Girl-friendship Is a Gift

Deb DeArmond cares about relationships—all kinds of relationships. In this Friendship UPGRADE, she offers insight to help us cultivate our friendships with other women.

It’s the test," Deb says, "of any friendship: the vacation without husbands, kids or other friends to cushion the shock of 24 hours together. On the ocean. In a cabin. For seven days."

That sounds heavenly to me (Dawn), but I'm sure there could be challenges. It's important we learn to grow up in our friendships.

Deb continues . . .

It was a bit on the early side of the Alaska cruise season, so Cindy and I landed an incredible upgrade with spacious digs, attentive staff, and a week of total luxury.

Fabulous meals, beautiful ports, and interesting folks on board.

And a lot of togetherness.

Girl-friendships, even for Christians, have often been challenging.

“Am I her favorite? Does she like me best?”

Remember in third grade, when the “new girl” was introduced to the class? We eyed her nervously, concerned she’d replace us in our bestie’s heart. We worked for that position and protected it fiercely. 

Step back, newbie. She’s mine.

We may be adults, but women still compete for that top spot—and the enemy will try to use these relationship needs against us if we’re not careful. 

I’m blessed to say it’s something Cindy and I have not struggled with.

Why not?

She and I are an unlikely twosome. Californians, now living in Texas. Close in age, married 40+ years. Adult kids and grandbabes. But that’s about it.

We’re wired differently, choose different hobbies, and we think differently; our needs and preferences are dissimilar. We’re an odd couple.

But that doesn’t mean we aren’t compatible—we both love God and His Word fiercely.

God created us to need others.

  • Read Genesis. Even though God was with Adam from the start, He saw the need and created Eve.
  • The disciples numbered twelve, but three—Peter, James, and John—were those Jesus held close in the best and worst of times.
  • David and Jonathan.
  • Ruth and Naomi.

It’s a biblical pattern. We need relationship.

Cindy and I discussed our friendship on the cruise. That it’s risen to the level of importance it holds in our lives is surprising.

Here was our Alaskan epiphany: we don’t compete. With one another or for one another’s affection, time, and that all-important top spot in one another’s life.

We’re never fearful the other is “cheating” on us with other friends.

We have other friends. Close friends. And we’re grateful for each of them: colleagues, neighbors, quilting buddies, and writing partners.

We don’t see one another as often as we’d like. But we do life together, just not usually in the same place.

We don’t live in one another’s pockets. We can’t. She recently moved three hours away, but the distance has deepened our relationship.

We’re more intentional about staying connected.

So maybe that, too, is a gift. If we need one another—for any reason, day or night—we’re available and fully present.

We’ve confided in one another, knowing it’s “in the vault.”  Trusted. No judgment. A genuine gift from the Lord.

How do we do it? Here are three tips we discovered.

1. We have healthy expectations of one another.

She doesn’t need me to provide what only God can deliver. I’ve not made her the center of my emotional well-being—that’s His job.

Sometimes when women are lonely or need encouragement they turn to their bestie instead of God. Not in addition to God, but instead. If that one gets mixed up, it’s a quick trip to trouble.

2. We rely on one another—for companionship, truth telling when needed, mercy (always needed) and the joy of experiencing life with one who helps to make the other better.

I can count on her to sharpen me, challenge me and pray for me. She depends on me for the same.

3. We are champions for one another.

Because we don’t compete, we can genuinely celebrate the other’s success. Everyone needs a cheerleader!

God expects us to grow up, and that includes our friendships.

“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11 NLT).

I’d like to have the energy and youthfulness I had in third grade or the calorie burning ability of days playing hopscotch. But I’ll take grown-up God-given relationships over those schoolyard alliances any day!

Which of those three tips need improving in your own friendships?

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her first bookRelated by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming the Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships explores tools and tips to building sound relationships between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. Book #2, I Choose You Today, helps couples strengthen their marriages. Deb's newest book on marital conflict, Don't Go to Bed Angry, Stay Up and Fight! was co-authored by her husband, Ron. They live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her "Family Matters" site.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of RawPixel at Pixabay.


Finish Summer with a Flourish

Talk about getaways, and Letitia Suk's your resource! In this Rest and relaxation UPGRADE, she suggests ways to not regret one summer day. Finish this season with a flourish!

"Summer’s not over yet but in a few short weeks, the kitchen calendar will rapidly fill up again," Letitia says. "How can you still check off at least a few items from your seasonal bucket list before the leaves begin to fall?"

I (Dawn) don't want to end up on Auguest 31st with adventures left undone. I'm glad Letitia reminds us to be proactive about each special day.

Letitia continues . . .

Throughout what feels like the endless Midwest winter, I entertain myself with thoughts of summer.

None of the other 266 days of the year seem to hold as much possibility as the 99 days of summer between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The words of Ecclesiastes 8:15 (NIV) seem especially apt for this luscious season: So, I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.”

So often, though, half way through the summer, I realize most of my "looked-forward" items are in the “yet to do” category.

Without some intentional planning, they'll never happen.

How about you?

  • Read your summer novel yet?
  • Flagged down the ice cream truck?
  • Had a glass of iced tea on the patio with a new magazine?
  • Visited an al fresco café for lunch?

Maybe you’ve got that all covered. But in case you need some ideas, here are ten ways to SAVOR the last half of summer.

1. Take yourself out for breakfast and fantasize how you would like to spend the rest of the summer.

Don’t worry about it being realistic! That part comes after the brainstorm.

2. Grab your calendar and set up a couple play dates just for you. 

Lunch with a friend? Art gallery or flea market? Get the invites out now.

3. Plan to prepare easy meals and eat outdoors as often as you can.

Everything tastes better when dining outside in your back yard, front steps or wherever you can find a spot.

4. Change up your usual reading to something lighter.

Try a new-to-you devo or Bible reading plan for early summer mornings.

5. Plan an enjoyable adventure like a long bike ride, an afternoon of hiking, paddling a canoe.  

It's OK to invite the family to join you!

6. Find an outdoor concert and pack or pick up a picnic to bring along.

Live music seems to show up everywhere in the summer. It’s fun to bring your husband or friend but going alone works too.

7. Watch a favorite movie outside at a park district venue or on your laptop in your own backyard after the kids are down for the night.

8. Take an excursion to a local farmer’s market and try a new recipe with the vegetables you bring home.

Salsa anyone?

9. Play in the water with or without a child at the beach or local pool and just enjoy the sensation of the water, sights and sounds.

10. Plan something to look forward to in the fall just for you.

The anticipation will help sustain you when the fall frenzy is about to begin.

When we are filled from life giving pursuits, we can draw on that reserve for the mayhem and meltdowns down the road.

What starts off looking like self-care ends up as other-care as the spillover from time well spent easily fills into those around us.

How do you savor summer? What summer-only event or activity can you add this week?

Letitia (Tish) Suk, invites women to create an intentional life centered in Jesus. She is a blogger and author of Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat and Rhythms of Renewal. Tish is a speaker, personal retreat guide and life coach in the Chicago area. For more information about Letitia Suk, visit her webpage.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Jill 111 at Pixabay.

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