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Entries in Upgrade with Dawn (480)


"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.


Hope When It Hurts

I've read a lot of articles about hope lately, and many of them were "fluff," but Shonda Savage Whitworth's article is deep truth, because it comes from a deep rooting in the Word of God. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she encourages us to seek true hope when we hurt.

"My dreams for my family’s future shattered when my oldest son was sentenced to prison," Shonda says.

"His conviction demolished the good mother image I erected in my mind. With this image decimated, my emotions spiraled into a dark abyss."

I (Dawn) know several families with incarcerated children, and they all deal with tough issues, some struggling everyday with hope.

Shonda continues . . .

After my son began his life in state prison, my life of being held captive by guilt, shame, and condemnation started. Despair enveloped me like a heavy fog keeping the light from shining in my life.

We read in Proverbs:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12, NLT).

The anguish gave way to hopelessness, and I was diagnosed “situational adjustment disorder,” which is a classification of anxiety and depression.

My personal life stalled while the world around me moved forward.

While the life I had and the future I expected dissipated, I knew I could not remain stuck in the sorrow. My family needed me to be present in their lives.

This realization allowed a ray of sunshine to peek through the fog of despair and I encouraged myself in the Lord, just as David did when he was greatly distressed. 

Here are three ways I found hope when it hurt.

1. Praising God

In my pain, I played worship music and sang along to praise the Lord. Many times, the words to the worship songs triggered tears, so I just cried out, “No matter what, You are God.”

Dr. John G. Mitchell wrote, “To give thanks when you don’t feel like it is not hypocrisy; it’s obedience.”

Hebrews 13:15 tells us, Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (NKJV).

There are times when giving thanks out of obedience is a sacrifice, but the reward is worth it.

Through worship, my focus turned to the Lord and off of my circumstances. As a result, new hope poured into my spirit.

2. Meditating on the Word

A colleague told me, “Shonda, be sure you put your hope in God because man will fail you.” In hindsight, I realized that I put my hope in the attorney and the justice system instead of God.

To pull myself out of the darkness, I read the Bible daily and Scriptures about hope popped up. As I meditated on the word, I learned hope in God is our expectation in what He can do, not what I can do or what any other person does.

Then I came across Zechariah 9:12:

“Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you” (NIV).

At that moment,

I chose to be a prisoner of hope instead of a prisoner of despair.

As a prisoner of hope, I released my expectations of man and the system and placed my confidence in the Lord.

3. Praying

Before the tragic events unfolded that led to my son’s imprisonment, my prayer was “Lord, I ask You to hedge him in so he cannot follow his own path” (based on Hosea 2:6).

I believed my prodigal son would find his way home. Instead, he went to prison.

During the months leading up to the trial, I prayed for my son’s freedom. After his conviction, my hope dissolved and my desire to pray evaporated.

As I meditated on Scriptures, Jesus taught the disciples to pray, “Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10) And Jesus prayed, “nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

My prayers were the opposite, so I began to pray like Jesus taught and modeled. As a result, my perspective changed.

I now see how prison saved my son’s life—both in the eternal and in the natural.

In my hurt, I found hope as I offered up the sacrifice of praise, meditated on the Word of God daily, and prayed God’s will.

Through these daily disciplines,

  • the fog of despair lifted,
  • my good mother image has been replaced with knowing who I am in Christ,
  • and my life is moving forward filled with joy and peace as I know God, my source of hope.

If you’ve lost hope due to hurtful circumstances in your life, my prayer for you is from Romans 15:13:

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” (NLT).

Are you struggling with hope today? Which of these three ways to find hope when you hurt is missing or lacking in your life? How can you change that today?

Shonda Savage Whitworth is the founder and president of Fortress of Hope Ministries, Inc., giving hope to those with incarcerated family members. She is a speaker and author who connects with her audiences through her transparent testimony of personal tribulations and triumphs in Christ. Her book, Appeal to the Courts of Heaven: Prayers for Prisoners and Prison Families, is scheduled to release in the fall of 2019. You can read more about Shonda’s unexpected prison family journey on her blog

Graphic adapted, courtesy ofLechenie Narkomanii at Pixabay.


Hope for the Hurting at Easter

In this pre-Easter UPGRADE, Dawn acknowledges the pain of those who hurt during this celebratory season, but points back to the purpose, promise and power of the resurrection.

"My daddy died near Easter, years ago," Dawn says. "It was a deeply painful time for me, but also a time of great hope."

During those days I chose to breathe out the pain and breath in the presence of God. It's the only way I felt I could survive the great loss.

I remember sitting in church that Easter, weeping over Daddy's passing, but then weeping with joy as we celebrated the risen Savior. It was bittersweet on so many levels.

I've since thought about those I know who hurt during many holidays.

  • Those who lost their income at Christmas.
  • Those who lost their home to fire at Thanksgiving.
  • Those who recalled their family losses on Mother's Day and Father's Day.
  • Those who lost their health with a sudden "diagnosis" at any time of year when others are celebrating.

So much pain.

But the key words there are "lost" and "losses." Yes, losing people and things we love is painful, but the bigger picture for the Christian is the purpose, promise and power of the Lord's resurrection and how that can and should impact our lives.

1. The Purpose of the Resurrection

I have to admit, my first reaction to a friend who shared truth with me when my Daddy died was to want to choke her! "Just remember what Jesus did; we have victory over all those ugly emotions now," she said.

How insensitive, I thought.

But after I calmed down, I knew she was—at the root of truth—correct.

It was normal to grieve. I'd lost my dear daddy! But it was also right to take my raw emotions to Jesus—my risen Savior—who understood everything about me and my circumstances.

  • He came to reach out to us in our pain and separation from God.
  • He came to die for our sin and reconcile us to God.
  • He came to live a perfect life as an example of righteousness.
  • And in His resurrection, He came to conquer the effects of every evil, every false thing, every painful thing that would touch our lives.

The simple truth of Easter is—Jesus died, was buried and rose again (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). But there was so much more in God's purpose for the resurrection.

  • The purpose of the resurrection was to show the immense power of God. He is absolutely sovereign over life and death. Only the awesome Creator of life can resurrect life after death.
  • The purpose of the resurrection was also to show us who Jesus claimed to be. Because He is truly the Son of God—the long-awaited Messiah—His resurrection authenticated His ministry and the "sign of Jonah" (Matthew 16:1-4). It proved He was God's "Holy One" who would never experience "corruption" (Psalm 16:10; Acts 13:32-37).
  • The purpose of the resurrection was to forgive us and set us free from every sin (Acts 13:38-39). He can only set us free because He actually did what He said He would do—rise from the dead (Acts 17:2-3; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34).

We can rest—even in times of frustration, confusion or pain—in God's great picture purpose for the resurrection of Christ.

2. The Promise of the Resurrection

The promise of the resurrection is that God would indeed reverse the ugliness of sin and death and give us victory over the grave—there remains no "sting" in death (1 Corinthians 15:54-55). He is indeed the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).

The promise is that because He lives, we too shall live (John 14:19). He is "the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Though we hurt when loved ones pass away, we can have confidence that we will once again see and recognize all our loved ones who have died in Christ.

Why? We will see Jesus, be raised from the dead and instantly be present with the Lord (Titus 2:13; 1 Corinthians 15:12-57). This togetherness is suggested by the events in the "rapture" of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

And we can believe that the God who loves us and is faithful is working for our good and His glory.

Any loss on earth is meant to be overshadowed by our Father's great lovingkindness now and in heaven.

3. The Power of the Resurrection

Because Jesus rose from the dead and sits at the right hand of the Father (Hebrews 10:12), we get to experience the power of His resurrection.

We are to experience that power now, not just in eternity in heaven.

  • We will find power as we respond to God's grace. As we repent of our sins and confess them, embracing God's forgiveness and grace. (Ephesians 2:4-5; Titus 3:4-7; 2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • We will find power as we exchange the emptiness of "religion" for a dynamic relationship with the Lord through faith. (Romans 4:4-5; 11:6)
  • We will find power as we serve the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, "Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." This is true because it is God who gives us the "victory" through His Son (v. 57).
  • We will find power as we begin to embrace eternal priorities. (Matthew 6:33)
  • We will find power as we learn to die to our selfish desires and agendas. (Romans 12:1-2)
  • We will find power as we anticipate God working on our behalf in ways we cannot imagine, as we surrender to and trust Him. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • And we will find power as we remember God will give us new bodies (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and make all things new (Isaiah 43:18-19; 65:17; Revelation 21:5; Ephesians 2:15; 4:24; Hebrews 8:13).

When I think only about the hurts in my life—the losses and pain—life is harder to endure. But when I think about the power of the resurrection, something within me stirs: HOPE!

The power of the resurrection is our hope in God who raised His Son to new life—the same God who desires to raise us and our loved ones in Christ to new life as well.

He is the same great God who will restore all that is broken and bless us with blessings beyond our imagination. (Ephesians 1:3-14; 1 Corinthians 2:9)

That is the hope for the hurting at Easter.

Are you hurting today? How can a more intentional focus on the purpose, promise and power of Jesus' resurrection help you with your struggles?

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 vector adapted, courtesy of MKencad at Lightstock.

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