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And UPGRADE'S Founder

   Dawn Wilson


Entries in In-Laws (3)


The In-law Connection: It's Your Move

Deb DeArmond helps people improve their interactions at work and at home. She specializes in family dynamics, and in this Relationship UPGRADE, she focuses on the "in-law connection."

“I’ve known outlaw in-laws who prey on one another," Deb says. "It shouldn't be so.”

Outlaw in-laws? Oh, my. I (Dawn) have seen that far too often, and even in the church! I always admired the relationship between Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Rutha good example of in-law connection. Deb has some wise counsel for us if that connection isn't strong.

Deb continues . . .

  • When my three sons were little, I knew there’d never be a woman good enough for them.
  • When they hit their teens, I feared I'd never find a woman to take them off my hands.

I need not have worried.

They brought three wonderful young women into the family, and I am thrilled. All love Jesus and each is dedicated to my son and their family.

God was clear:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife” (Genesis 2:24a NKJV).

A redhead, a brunette, and a blonde—as diverse in personality as in hair color.

Not only are the girls distinct in their personalities, mine is the fourth in the mix. And I’m glad to report we love one another deeply, and we’re grateful God brought us together.

Friends often ask, “You’re not just friendly, you’re family. How’d you do that?”

The answer’s simple: patience, perseverance, and a desire to please Jesus on the journey.

I had to learn how to develop my relationship with each of these gals as individuals. Because what worked with DIL (Daughter-in-Law) #1 would not necessarily work with #2 and #3. 

Sarah entered our lives as Jordan’s “friend” at 13 years old; they married at 19.

Heather was 16 when Cameron introduced her to us; they married four years later.

With both of these beauties, I had time on my side, and we developed our relationships as they grew up. I witnessed their transformation from girls to women.

Bryce and Penny had a short courtship: four months. At 28, she was grown up when I met her, so this was very different.

Penny’s a runner, an avid reader, and a gifted writer. I knew nothing about marathons or writing when we met. She’s not shy, but she’s a bit introverted.

I wanted to connect, but I wasn’t sure how.

I know women who feel disconnected from their daughters-in-law.

“It’s not bad, but it’s not good. Truthfully, it’s not anything,” said one woman. “There’s no bad blood, but there’s no connection. It’s like she forgets my son has a mother, until we’re together, and then it’s awkward.”

Another friend shared her experience,

“My son married a woman with three sisters and all are close to their mother. At holidays, they all chat together, finishing one another’s sentences, and I’m excluded. I’m sitting right there, but it’s like I’m invisible. It’s devastating.” 

I hoped Penny and I might be close. I loved her from the start. So, I asked God to help me develop our relationship.

Here’s what worked for me that might work for you, too!

1. Ask about Her Interests.

Ask her what she enjoys about running or homeschooling. People love to share their passions. It was Penny’s love of writing that prompted me to get serious about mine. It’s now something we share.

2. Invite Her Opinion.

Instead of planning the holidays yourself, invite her to help. She has an opinion, so ask her to share it. You might discover how creative she is, and sharing the responsibility takes pressure off you.

Some of the best conversations with my DILs are in the kitchen as we cooked together. The shared activity makes the chatter more comfortable. 

3. Tell Her What You Value About Her.

  • Is she a great mom? Tell her, specifically, why you think she’s a rock star.
  • Good cook? Compliment her meals, and ask for recipes!
  • Successful professional? Ask about her work and let her know you admire her accomplishments.

If it’s uncomfortable face to face, drop her a note, or brag on her (in front of her) to other family members.

4. Pray for Her

It’s impossible to pray genuinely for God’s favor and direction in her life, while constantly criticizing her.

Pray, genuinely, and see how your love for her (and your attitude) changes.

If your MIL (Mother-in-law) is the standoffish one, you could use the same tactics on her.

So, it’s your move. Why not start today?

Deb DeArmond is an expert in the fields of communication, relationship, and conflict resolution. Her book on in-law relationships, is entitled Related by Chance, Family by Choice! Deb’s books help readers create the life God meant marriage and family to be. Read more from Deb at Family Matters/Deb DeArmond.

Graphic adapted - Blog owner seeking source to credit.


Love Is in the Air Between Us

Cynthia Ruchti's novels and nonfiction works often encourage people to reflect on life, love and change. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she helps us focus on loving our aging parents.

"Why did I wait so long," Cynthia says, "to figure out my mother-in-law’s love language?"

Oh wow. Do I (Dawn) relate to that! It took me years to discover how to relate to my dear mom-in-love. But once I understood, that relationship blossomed.

Cynthia continues . . .

Her message on our answering machine was simple but poignant: “Where are these people? Why can’t I ever reach them?”

My mother-in-law’s voice shook with emotion.

I didn’t hear her message until I returned from a long, tiring, but rewarding week-long conference. My husband had been home but hadn’t reached the phone before our answering machine kicked in. He’d quickly assured her he was there, right where she expected him to be.

But I couldn’t shake the quaver in her voice when I listened to the message after I returned home. It represented so much more than disappointment.

Her words symbolized a gap between our lives, between our methods of marking time—enough/not enough—and my understanding of her deepest need.

Although she’s almost 1,500 miles away from us, she lives on the same property as my sister-in-law, so we’re confident Mom has what she needs physically. Someone is watching out for her best interests.

But that closeness to her daughter sometimes lulls us into thinking her needs are met.

One of her felt needs is the assurance we care. To her, if we’re not present to answer the phone, we don’t care. Or we’re too busy for her.

Maybe the fact that travel is part of my job is harder on her now that she can’t physically travel, too.

Her love language must be quality time.

And neither my husband nor I considered how to honor that when loving her from a distance.

We’re not alone. Many live too far away from their aging parents to be involved in day-to-day care or to show up for often for a quality time visit.

When distance is an issue, how can we bridge the gap? How can we upgrade the way we love our aging parents?

  1. Initiate the calls. Don’t wait to be called.
  2. Call more frequently than you imagine necessary.
  3. Listen leisurely, whether the stories are stale or fresh.
  4. Collect tidbits of information your aging parent might find interesting.
  5. Call on days that are important to your parent, but also call just because.

As I wrote the recent release—As My Parents Age—I remained immersed in the subject of caring for aging parents, even though my father and mother died in 1993 and 2010, respectively. And respectfully.

I Peter 4:8 (AMP) lingered in my mind while I wrote, and returns to redirect me often:

“Above all, have fervent and unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins [it overlooks unkindness and unselfishly seeks the best for others].”

As I reviewed my list of UPGRADE suggestions, I was impressed with its connection to loving our God, who is both here (through the Spirit) and distant (not seeing Him face-to-face until well into the future).

Can I—can we—demonstrate our love in similar ways?

  1. Initiate communication with God. Don't wait for Him to have to tap us on the shoulder to remind us about our relationship.
  2. Pray more frequently than we imagine necessary. It will keep us in step with His directives and pace.
  3. Listen leisurely in prayer, but to old stories and to new.
  4. Watch for reasons to praise Him, to express gratitude, to celebrate with Him.
  5. Remember Him uniquely on His "special days," but connect with Him just because. It's a sign of a healthy relationship.

Whether it’s your parent or God who needs an “I love you and I’m thinking about you” call, when will you follow-through?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-Hope through more than 20 novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and through speaking events for women or writers. She and her grade-school sweetheart husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five (to date) grandchildren. You can learn more about her and her books here, including her recent release, As My Parents Age.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of stephiejo at Pixabay.


How to Bless Your Mother-in-Law

Deb DeArmond's new book, Related by Chance, Family by Choice, captured my attention. I knew she'd be perfect for this relationship UPGRADE!

“Take my mother-in-law ... please!” garnered laughs for a once-famous comedian," Deb said, "but if you tried to take mine, I’d have to hogtie you, Texas style!"

I (Dawn) call my husband's mom my "Mother-in-Love." She is truly a treasure. I know there are some Mother-in-Law (MIL) / Daughter-in-Law (DIL) relationships that are a constant struggle, but I do believe any relationship can improve if even one of the women is willing to love, be patient, forgive and render blessings. 

So I really appreciate Deb's "blessing" tips for DILs. (Read her book for the other half of the equation!)

Deb continues ...

You heard me. Unhand her. She belongs to me.

The woman who raised the man of my dreams is a gift in my life.

“Wait! Stop!” I hear you cry. “Isn’t that your mother-in-law?”

Yes, indeed. The woman who nurtured a boy into the man of God I’ve loved for 40 years is one of the great gifts I got in this package deal when we married at age 19. When you do the math, she’s been my back-up-mama for 66% of my life.

Who needs two mothers? I did, and I’ll be you do too. Each taught me so much, and each lesson was unique to the woman involved. My mom’s been gone for many years. How good of God to create this bonus plan!

Mother’s Day is fast approaching, and even if you are not as close as my MIL and I, it’s a great time to let her know you appreciate her.

After all, without her, you might have married Ernie. You remember Ernie, don’t you? So let her know you are grateful for the role she played in the life of your man.

Here are a few tips to bless her:

1. Plan a special MIL/DIL day. What would she enjoy? Pedicures and lunch at a favorite spot? A trip to a local public garden? Tea at that cute antiques shop?

Matching her interests with your plans communicates your care and interest in her.

2. Write her a note or card. Handwritten notes, not emails, were the favored way to share heartfelt sentiments among the generations before ours. The surprise of a card in the mailbox is a fun way to let her know she’s special to you.

Whether she lives across town or across the country—everybody loves real mail. And get your kids to sign some “to my Gigi” cards, too. She’ll display them proudly for her friends to see when they visit.

3. Thank her for the special man her son is.

Motherhood sometimes goes unacknowledged—especially for boy mamas. Men may be less aware of the impact Mom had in his life and forget to express their appreciation. She invested her life and energy in raising him—and then had to hand him off when he was just becoming the man she’d envisioned all those years.

Tell her what you appreciate most about him. Be specific about the qualities and characteristics as husband, father and friend she helped build. Share some examples that will make her button-busting proud.

4. Ask for her advice. When you ask someone to share their insights and ideas, you are acknowledging they’ve done a good job.

What tips might she be able to offer you about being a great wife? What suggestions does she have in dealing with your rebellious teenage daughter?

So this year, let your mother-in-law know just how much credit she deserves in your happiness! Someday, if not already, you too will be part of some young woman’s package deal.

Sow the seeds of blessing now.

So, what’s your plan to make this a Mother’s Day she’ll never forget?

Deb DeArmond’s passion is family—not just her own, but the relationships within families in general. Her recent book, Related by Chance, Family by Choice: Transforming the Mother-in-Law and Daughter-in-Law Relationships explores tools and tips to building sound relationships between moms and the girls who marry their sons. Deb and her husband, Ron, live in the Fort Worth area. For more about Deb, visit her "Family Matters" site.

Graphic in text, adapted: Image courtesy of stockimages /