How to Find Beauty in the Blunder

Since the age of eight, I have owned a camera. I enjoy documenting special events, creating colorful scrapbooks and periodically reviewing my personal narrative.Molly Totoro

It wasn’t until six years ago, however, that I began to use photography as a method of artistic expression. The camera became a means to discover beauty in the ordinary, joy in the mundane and God’s artistry in nature.

Of course I quickly learned photography is far more complex than my old method of point-and-shoot, and the more I study the craft, the more I realize I do not know.

For example, I quickly learned the significant difference between a snapshot and a photograph. And my scrapbooks are filled with snapshots.

According to Wikipedia’s definition: “A snapshot is a photograph shot spontaneously and quickly, most often without any artistic or journalistic intent… commonly considered imperfect – out of focus and poorly composed.”

In other words, snapshots are elementary and not worthy to be called photographs.

Somehow this definition morphed into one more confirmation that I am simply “not good enough.” I questioned whether my pictures (and even I) would ever measure up.

This summer our local museum hosted a special exhibit entitled:The American Snapshot: An Anonymous Art.” I knew I had to attend. I was curious how this lowly form of photography qualified as art.molly-imperfect-trio-snapshot

While viewing these images, I not only discovered the snapshot has artistic value, I learned I have value, too.

The exhibit taught me two valuable lessons:

First, the snapshot is not a substandard art form. It is not something to be ashamed of. While photography is equated to fine art, the snapshot is more akin to folk art.

Folk art, as defined by Wikipedia, “Encompasses art produced from an indigenous culture or by peasants or other laboring tradespeople. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic.”

The snapshot’s purpose is to capture our memories so we can share our stories with future generations. Snapshots may not be considered fine art, but that does not make them less worthy than a photograph. Both have value, meaning, and significance.

Here’s the thing. I like Folk Art. I’m a practical, utilitarian kind of gal. I’ve always preferred pottery to fine china. I love quilts, and the idea that each scrap of fabric tells an integral part of a family story.

My pictures may never be considered fine art, but that’s not my style anyway. I need to stop downplaying their significance and instead embrace their unique perspective.

And while I’m at it, I need to stop downplaying myself.

Romans 12:4-6 states: “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”

I lead a quiet, reserved life.  While I may never impact this world in a big way, the Lord has equipped me with gifts and talents I can use to bring Him glory. I should not belittle these gifts but instead embrace them.

As long as I fulfill His purpose in my life, I have value, meaning and significance.          

The second lesson I learned is mistakes are not failures. Some of my favorite snapshots were the double-exposure pictures. The photographer apparently forgot to advance the film, causing two shots to appear on the same negative. molly-t-overexposure

While not a “perfect” picture, I liked the idea of two stories coming together in one serendipitous moment. These images gave me reason to pause, think and imagine.

However, on occasions when I forgot to advance the film and double-exposed a picture, I considered it a failure. I berated myself for making such a “stupid” mistake, and I could not forgive myself for missing the shot.

Perfectionism is a debilitating disease. It constantly reminds us we’re not good enough; it requires us to set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and for others; and it creates strife in relationships when those expectations are inevitably unmet.

Perfectionism robs us of joy. Perfectionism prevents us from accepting Christ’s promise that He came into this world so we may have life and have it to the full. Perfectionism makes us focus on ourselves rather than Him.

Yet even mistakes, oversights and poor choices have value. If we open our minds and our hearts, these imperfections can help us change perspective, release expectations and find beauty in the blunder.

I came home from the exhibit refreshed and renewed. I no longer compared my pictures to other art forms. Instead, I enjoyed them for the stories they told and the memories they preserved.

And I no longer needed to compare myself to others. I have value because I am God’s creation. I’m learning to accept myself – my strengths and my weaknesses – and I intend to live life to the full.

©2016 Molly Totoro for GateWay of Hope

Molly Totoro is a writer who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share.” Molly helps others write their stories to impact future generations. Follow Molly’s new blog series, “How to Journal” at Revising Life after 50.

When God Endorses Change

karen-morerodI took myself to the attic and left her there.

Maybe it was because I was tired. Or – maybe, just maybe – God told me to leave her there. I’d like to think it was about obedience. But here’s how it all went down.

I had performed dramas for churches and women’s gatherings for over ten years. Exhilaration soared when I performed. Audiences varied in size. Sometimes over 100. Other times, small, quaint women’s events.

The number of people didn’t matter. After each performance, as I walked off the stage, I thought, That’s what I was made for.  

I could slip into Esther’s royal clothes or Rahab’s PG-rated costume and assume their life stories. I wrote the scripts to help their faith message come alive in the 21st century. I felt like I knew them.

Sometimes I thought I was them – at times wondering what name I should put on my grave marker: Here lies Karen/Esther/Rahab. 

Then life got messy. My dad unexpectantly passed away. Eight months later, my beloved 96 year-old aunt that I helped care for died. Within the week, Mom’s death blindsided us.

I went from being Karen/Esther/Rahab to not knowing who I was, where I fit in, or how I could take the next step.

I was tired. Sad. Grief-stricken.

In the middle of this introspection, I had forgotten I scheduled a performance for what would be five months after we buried my mom. No problem, I thought. Surely I would be recovered by then.


Anxiety built as the performance approached. Could I speak in front of people? Would I remember my lines? Could I be a believable character with everything I had just gone through?

I had made the commitment, so I started praying. I prayed through the fear. I prayed about my attitude of simply not wanting to do it.

In my car one day, it seemed as if God whispered, “It’s okay to quit. You don’t have to keep doing this.”

Maybe it was God’s sense of humor adding, “It’s time to let younger women tote around scenery, cake on layers of make-up and dress up like somebody else.

My heart shouted, “REALLY? I don’t have to keep doing this?

It seemed strange to want to release something I was made for. But, after more praying, I knew this season was over.

The last performance was well received by a warm, friendly group of women. I fought a few tears as I left the stage, but I knew this was right. And it felt good.

A few days later, I gathered all my props, costumes, and scripts. I boxed them up and took myself to the attic and left her there. Another season finale.

Changing seasons can be hard, although sometimes they are met with excitement. Either way, I know God endorses change.

He will help me – and you – through those changes. He will love on us, calm our fears, and even show us what’s on the next season’s schedule.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

©2016 Karen Morerod 

Karen Morerod lives and writes to encourage others, to point them to the One who knows and loves them more than they can imagine. You can find her on her front porch, with her family, or sneaking chocolate at and on Facebook.





Beware of Identity Theft

nancy-kay-graceNot long ago, when I checked the status of a credit card account online, I noticed a charge I did not make. After several phone calls to the vendor and the credit card company, it became clear that I was a victim of credit card fraud and identity theft.

Thankfully, this did not involve a huge sum of money although it cost time and energy to resolve. The theft happened without my knowing it. After a new card number was issued, I had to contact any merchant that had used the previous card. Nearly a year passed before the refund appeared on my statement.

Identity theft can also occur within our hearts. The enemy of our souls robs us of our joy and self-esteem by whispering lies that cause us to doubt our value to God.

When we focus on comparing ourselves to others, we lose sight of our uniqueness to the Creator. If we think anything we do must be perfect, we believe the lie that we are only as good as the last performance of a task.

Regret from past mistakes keep us from forgiving ourselves and moving forward with confidence. Comparisons, perfectionism, and focusing on past mistakes are a few of the lies that can snatch our self-identity.

When we succumb to this wrongful thinking we suffer from identity theft.

How can we prevent this type of identity theft? By knowing and believing what God says about us in His Word, the Bible. Here are a few key thoughts and Bible verses to bolster self-esteem:

God knows you personally.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

God created you.

“For you created my inmost being; you know me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14

Because of God’s unconditional love, Christ died for you.

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6, 8

Because of God’s immense love for us, we are chosen as His children.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”1 John 3:1

As someone who has struggled with different kinds of identity theft—physical through my credit card incident and personal through listening to lies about my self worth—I know I must believe what the Word of God says about my value.

Each day presents a new opportunity to look in the mirror and say, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator who loves me.”

Our self worth is stronger when we understand our identity in Christ.

©2015 Nancy Kay Grace

Bio: Nancy Kay Grace writes about God’s grace in everyday life on her blog and in a monthly e-newsletter, GraceNotes. Her book, The Grace Impact, is a devotional that was released in April, 2015. Nancy and her husband live in Springdale, AR. The have two grown children and are enjoying the new stage of life of grand-parenting to their five grandchildren.

To read more about God’s love for you, please go Nancy’s blog and website at:

Why the Pre-Step is Most Important

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

This popular Chinese proverb by Lao Tzu is often quoted to those who feel overwhelmed – whether it be undertaking a new life habit, embarking on a large project or navigating difficult emotions such as grief or depression.

When faced with these situations, it is natural to become bogged down by the details. Often this leads to thinking the effort is futile. The goal is simply out-of-reach – impossible.

Molly TotoroBut this negative thinking occurs when we are solely focused on the end result. Instead, we need to break down the process into bite-sized portions – baby steps.

For example: For years, I desired to develop a healthy lifestyle. I managed my diet fairly well, but exercise was non-existent.

I still carry around those mental tapes that scream I’m not coordinated enough, fast enough or strong enough. I vividly remember being chosen last for any P.E. team. I associate exercise with shame, and therefore I want nothing to do with it.

But those old tapes need to be replaced. I’m not trying out for a varsity sport. I’m simply wanting to develop healthy habits so I can lengthen and enrich my life.

To help me achieve this worthy goal, I decided to implement a daily walking routine. This goal required no specific talent nor additional equipment: a decent pair of sneakers was the only prerequisite.

A bit of online research indicated a 10,000 steps-a-day regimen was adequate to maintain good heart health. That sounded reasonable, until I measured my daily steps and realized my sedentary lifestyle yielded half that number.

I would need to make a conscientious, focused effort to add 6,000 steps each day in order to meet this goal. For me, that meant a three-mile walk.

While this was a bit outside my comfort zone, I knew I could do it. I was committed … for about a week. Then the excuses began: the weather was too hot/cold/rainy/cloudy; I didn’t have time to walk and shower; I didn’t want to sweat.

I had an honest conversation with myself: did I truly want a healthy lifestyle, or was I just pretending because I thought walking was something I should do?

Interestingly, it wasn’t the exercise I avoided, but the other inconveniences that came with it. Once I started walking, I rather enjoyed it. The fresh air helped clear my head, which typically resulted in a new insight or perspective on the world.

I persevered, but resistance was a constant companion. One morning I had a particularly difficult time motivating myself to get out there.

Just put on your shoes, Molly. You always feel better after you’ve laced up your sneakers.”

That’s when I realized this simple truth: The journey does not begin with the first step; it begins with the pre-step.

Before I could go on my daily walk, I had to get dressed. Once I laced up my shoes, there was no going back. I was committed. Walking those 6,000 steps was as good as done.

In reality, putting on shoes is a no-brainer. It is almost an automatic response that causes no anxiety. And yet, it was the necessary link to my success.

When I taught writing, I used the the 5-step writing process. The first step is called Pre-writing. Before we write, we must first give thought to the topic. It doesn’t require talent or even effort; just a bit of time. And yet this is the most important step to writing a well-crafted essay.

Sales training seminars advocate cold-calling potential clients, but they often warn: “The hardest part is picking up the phone.” The pre-step. In reality, a phone weighs very little; it requires no  strength to pick up. Yet that is the resistance point.

So today I ask you: what is the pre-step you need to take to start on your journey? Is it putting on a shoe? Picking up a phone? Or some other simple task that prevents you from achieving success?

©2016 Molly Totoro for GateWay of Hope

Molly Totoro is a writer who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share.” Molly helps others write their stories to impact future generations. Follow Molly’s new blog series, “How to Journal” at Revising Life after 50 and check out her blog at MyCozyBookNook.

How to Recognize Stress

depressed womanFor some of us, stress is easy to recognize. We feel a sense of overwhelm, and we know we need to either change our direction or move away from the source of the problem.

But sometimes, stress sneaks up on us and we may not recognize it so readily. That’s when we can check out these symptoms:

I’m exhausted yet I can’t sleep.

When you catch yourself saying, “I’m so tired,” you may be stressed.

When you lie down at night but your mind is racing with a million things to do, you may be reacting to stress.

When the usual methods of falling asleep aren’t working anymore, your body may be too stressed to react properly.

I keep forgetting things.

This is a scary place to be, because sometimes our minds immediately race to, “Is it Alzheimer’s? Is it dementia? Oh God – I hope not!”

It probably isn’t something as drastic as a brain problem. When you forget where you’ve laid your keys or you can’t pull up someone’s name – it may simply be an overload of stress.

But when the forgetting becomes more frequent or you forget something that is vitally important, it’s time to consider the side effects of stress.

Sometimes, all we need is a day off to reboot ourselves, but sometimes we need a more drastic intervention.

I keep getting sick.

Stress can affect the immune system and leave us vulnerable to the germs and bacteria all around us. If you’re constantly fighting a cold, you may be stressed.

Stress can come in the form of emotional and mental struggle, but it can also manifest itself in a host of physical illnesses.

When the body is physically stressed, it is in the state of dis-ease.

Stress is particularly adept at attacking digestive issues. When your stomach feels wound in knots and/or you’re visiting the bathroom every thirty minutes – your body may be reacting to additional stress.

The best way to remedy this symptom is to rest. Force yourself to take a day off from work. Find a quiet place to rejuvenate. Drink lots of water and eat veggies. Stay away from harmful carbs and the junk food that torments our digestive track.

The medical community is becoming even more aware of how stress affects us physically. Here’s an article on the effects of stress on the gut.

I’m self-medicating.

Have a craving for chocolate? Ice cream? Potato chips? Just started a nice bottle of Merlot and now it’s empty?

Stress can often chase us toward some type of coping mechanism and usually, these aren’t the healthiest choices.

And with time, our self-medicating choices will lead to additional stress on our bodies. Some of our bad choices can also lead to addictive behaviors which will of course – add even more stress to our lives.

The vicious cycle will continue and worsen through self-medicating behaviors. Then it will affect the quality of our lives and lead us into a downward spiral that takes even more energy to crawl out of.

Check yourself to see if you’re self-medicating in any form – any obsessive behavior that gives you a slight buzz for a short while, then causes a physical or emotional crash.

If this sounds familiar, you may be stressed.

I’m extremely emotional.

As women, we tend to think and react emotionally, but when we find ourselves overly emotional – crying at the simplest things – we may be stressed.

Tears are an important release and we often need to cry, to unload some of the pressure and/or to grieve in a healthy way.

But if you find yourself crying at every commercial or yelling at someone who doesn’t deserve it – check the stresses of your life.

If your emotions are normally on an even keel and now suddenly, you’re changing into a female version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – you may be stressed.

You may also be dealing with a hormonal cycle that will play itself out. So be wise and look for the root of all your emotional outbursts.

Check out this website which includes a small questionnaire about the symptoms of stress.


These are some of the possible symptoms of stress. The ways we deal with stress may determine how we overcome it and learn to function around it.

So be aware of how stress may be affecting you. And when it seems to overwhelm you, read a Psalm, phone a friend or contact us at GateWay of Hope. 

We can help.

©2016 GateWay of Hope

Why We Should Slow Down

Whoops… I did it again.Molly Totoro

I was about 95% recovered from my January accident, when I tripped over the dog in the kitchen and broke my right shoulder.

We sat down to an Italian anti-pasta dinner and a glass of Chianti, but I decided we needed plates. I hopped up from the table, took two steps towards the cabinet, tripped and fell.

In hindsight, we did not need the plates.

I love symmetry, but this was ridiculous. The break was almost identical to the shoulder break in my left arm. The second I went down, I knew I had done it again. I didn’t hear a pop, I didn’t feel the break, I just knew this was the worst possible déjà vu.

Fortunately, I wasn’t home alone. My son helped me off the floor and into the car. We drove to the ER just like we did five months ago.

While waiting for the inevitable news, I asked him, “What could I have done differently?”

His first comment was kind and consoling: it was just an accident. Then he thought for a moment and added, “Maybe you could’ve slowed down.”

Two weeks later, those words continue to ring in my ears. Out of the mouths of babes they say. They are right. My son was right. I need to slow down.

I have studied time management for years. I am an organized person by nature, and addicted to busyness. “I don’t know how she does it all,” is the highest compliment.

My daily challenge is to complete as much as possible in as little time as possible. Efficiency is the name of the game.

It wasn’t all that long ago, a decade perhaps, that I was in the thick of life. I was a full-time teacher, a full-time parent to three teenage kids, the caregiver of my aging mother. My day began at 5 AM and I collapsed in bed around 11 PM.

Nearly every minute of every day was filled with responsibility. I could barely take a step without looking at my planner. I felt as though my life were a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. My planner provided the guidance to fit each piece.

I wouldn’t run an errand, even take a trip upstairs, without taking the time to consider if I could combine activities for greater efficiency. Life was hectic, and my brain was on constant high alert.

Old habits die hard.

I am retired now. We are officially empty-nesters. I am no longer the caregiver to aging parents. Yet I still strive to be as efficient as possible. My planner is still my guide.

When I stood up from the table to get those plates, I was in a hurry. It was time to eat and I had to keep to the schedule.

Be efficient, Molly. Get it done, Molly. Don’t dillydally.

In reality, how much time did I save? One second? Five?

I’ve been looking at life all wrong. It is not the time I save that matters.

It is the time I savor that is important.

No one cared about the plates but me. We could have eaten without them. I could have taken my time to bring them to the table, and no one would have thought less of me. The meal would not have been ruined. The relationships would still be strong. And I would not be out of breath and mentally exhausted.

How much of life have I missed by rushing around trying to complete the tasks on my to-do list?

I find satisfaction in checking off the task rather than joy in doing the task itself. In fact, I’ve been known to add tasks to my list just so I can check them off.

stress - relaxWhat do I gain by living life in a constant horror of motion?

I may accomplish much, but at what cost? The accident taught me this frenetic lifestyle is harmful — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

It is time to get off the self-made roller coaster. I can no longer believe the lie that busyness is next to godliness.

Busyness, in fact, robs me of God’s peace.

There will always be chores to do, responsibilities to accept, and people to serve. God has equipped us to accomplish His purpose. But He has also given us adequate time to complete that purpose.

Each day is a gift from the Lord, and He desires we find joy and beauty in every moment. We can’t do that if we treat life as a sprint, rather than a marathon.

It is time to slow the pace: stroll a little, linger a while, take a few extra moments to savor the joy in the everyday. Saving a few extra seconds is not worth the sacrifice.

©2016 Molly Totoro for GateWay of Hope

Molly Totoro is a writer who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share.” Molly helps others write their stories to impact future generations. Follow Molly’s new blog series, “How to Journal” at Revising Life after 50.

How to Interpret the Proverbs 31 Woman

All women need hope

She is held up as the perfect standard for women everywhere – this incredible female who keeps her family together, works outside the home, keeps her husband happy and is respected by the entire community.

Many of us stressed-out ladies tend to avoid studying Proverbs 31. We know we can’t measure up to this biblical powerhouse and we don’t want to.

But maybe we’ve believed a lie.

Maybe King Lemuel, the writer of this proverb, didn’t intend for us to think we have to be this kind of woman every day for the rest of our lives.

And if good old Lem wrote this proverb as a quote from his mother – which is the indication in scripture – then maybe she’s making an important point.

She’s actually telling Lemuel to be careful about the relationships he builds with women and to look for a woman of noble character.

Then she lists some of the qualities of that woman – not telling us we all have to be this type of woman all the time. In fact, during different seasons of life, our focus may be on the family and the husband – but in another season – we’ll focus on the workplace or a type of ministry.

Surely Lemuel’s mother understood how we women need to set boundaries around our hearts and our lives so that no one takes us for granted and we don’t find ourselves stressed out emotionally, physically or spiritually.

What if Lemuel’s mother told him the following:

“Listen, son – pay attention to the women you’re dating. A woman of noble character is worth more than any amount of money.

“Look for a woman who knows what she’s good at and uses her talents and gifts well.

“Find a woman who either likes to cook or knows how to buy healthy pre-packaged stuff.

“A woman who can budget money well is valuable. She’ll help with the household monies and she might even buy herself some land.

“Hopefully, she’ll be a woman in good health, but if not – then be sure you help her out and you treat her with compassion.

“Support her gifts. If she likes to sew, buy her the best sewing machine. If she likes to knit or crochet, make sure she has the best yarns. If she likes clothes, give her a gift card to Saffee’s.

“A noble woman will research ways to be a better parent and wife, but she’ll also take care of herself. She’ll make sure she has friendships outside the home. Coffee with girlfriends is important.

“Listen when she talks, because women of character speak with wisdom.

“If she wants to work outside the home and even if she is gifted to be a leader – then let her do that. God has created her to use her gifts, so support her in them.

“Treat her with honor, cherish her all your life and be faithful to her. She’s obviously a fabulous woman.”

Maybe Lemuel’s mother was trying to make the point that women can do a variety of things, but WHO they are is most important.

So let’s not draw a box around ourselves and think we have to be superwomen or that we need to follow this Proverbs 31 woman to the land of stress.

Use the gifts you have and the time you have for whatever season you’re in right now.

For a humorous take on the Proverbs 32 man, check out this Facebook post by James Watkins:

©2016 GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

How a Basset Teaches Life Lessons

Molly TotoroI am a dog person. Dogs epitomize unconditional love, and I consider them my furry children.

We have owned Yellow Labs for the past dozen years. We welcomed three litters of Lab puppies, and maintained three Labs of our own. We know the breed.

Labs are people pleasers. That’s why they are easy to train. One cross look and a Lab will stop bad behavior and immediately try to earn back favor.

About four years ago, we adopted a Basset Hound and quickly discovered they are an entirely different breed ¾ literally. Bassets adore attention, they just don’t discriminate between positive and negative. A cross look carries no weight. And they are very stubborn. However, those droopy eyes and long, floppy ears endear them to us, no matter the turmoil.

At first I thought the Basset needed some additional exercise to wear out his puppy energy. While this helped the hyper-activity at home, the daily walk was a constant struggle. I wanted him to heel; I wanted him to obey; I wanted to walk him – not vice versa.

After a month of trying to train him, I was ready to quit. Then I had an idea.

What if during our walk, I allowed the Basset to lead. What if I allowed him to follow his nose, stop and sniff as long as he likes, and lead me, rather than me pulling him along.

In other words…what if I allowed the Basset to be himself?

While some avid dog trainers might disagree with this method, after all, humans are supposed to be the pack leader in the household, I was desperate.

I wanted joy with my dog, not constant battles. I wanted a happy pooch, not an anxious one. I wanted a peaceful home.

So I did it. For the past two years the Basset and I go for a daily walk. He is beside himself when he sees the leash, whining with delight and running around in circles with sheer joy.

He still lurches out of the garage, racing to the nearest fire hydrant, but we soon settle into a nice pace: walking a few steps then stopping to sniff and mark territory. This continues for about thirty to forty-five minutes, depending on the direction he takes.

At this point he has about five regular routes, and he always knows where to turn to lead us back home.

We typically walk in the morning, and he lets me know if we’re running late. But once the walk is complete, he is content for the rest of the day.

Maybe I can learn a lesson from the Basset.

What if I allow myself to be Molly for thirty minutes a day?

What if I do what I want to do, what I’m meant to do, without fear of others’ judgment or slavery to the task list.  What if I am simply me?

As women we wear many hats. We are wife, mother, teacher, chauffeur, cook, volunteer, friend, employee, manager. The list goes on and on.

And each role comes with its own list of responsibilities and expectations. It is easy to become the role and lose sight of the individual.

We are called to serve, and God has gifted us with talents, personalities, and passions to fulfill those roles in life.

But He has also called us to be ourselves. To be still and spend time with Him. To become the best “me” we can be.

And it is hard to accomplish that goal when so many other obligations vie for our attention. But what if we postpone those duties for just a few minutes a day and simply be ourselves?

For me, this might include a leisurely walk with my camera, taking a few photos along the way. Or sitting with a cup of tea and reading a good book. Or journaling my inner thoughts.

By acknowledging me, I acknowledge the Lord.

And just as the Basset returns from his walk, content to face the rest of the day, so too am I.

My soul is settled, my mind is at peace, and I am energized to serve others.

© Molly Totoro – for GateWay of Hope

Molly Totoro is a writer who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share.” Molly helps others write their stories to impact future generations. Follow Molly’s new blog series, “How to Journal” at Revising Life after 50.



6 Words to Avoid

number 6The voices in our heads often determine the actions we take, and while the voices may point us in right directions – sometimes they whisper words we need to avoid.

What are some of these negative words – specifically the SIX words we need to avoid?

What If …

The “What-If” questions are usually based on fear.

  • What if I don’t get the job?
  • What if he leaves me?
  • What if it’s cancer?

Some of these “What if” questions are valid responses to a circumstance in our lives. But sometimes we allow those “What If” questions to keep us from something good.

We respond to the fear generated by the “What-Ifs.”

  • What if I want to move to a new place but I’m afraid of taking the risk?
  • What if I need to see a Counselor or a Coach but I don’t want to be vulnerable?
  • What if I want to try a different job? What if it doesn’t work out?

For many of our “What-If” questions, just taking a step forward might answer the question. Most of the time, the things we fear never happen. And even if they do, we may discover more strength and faith than we ever imagined possible.

The next time you hear yourself asking “What if,” stop and examine your situation. Maybe it’s time for a change in your life that careful planning and an accountability partner can help you figure out.

What’s another word to avoid?

But …

This is such a tiny word, but it wields incredible power in our lives. The “but” response may also be based in fear, but often it’s just another way to make an excuse.

  • But I don’t want to marry again because I’m afraid he’ll hurt me just like the last guy.
  • But I’m not sure a job change is the best direction for me right now.
  • But I can’t make enough money if I really follow my passion.

If we allow too many “buts” in our lives, we may never accomplish the things we were designed to do. Or we may live our lives doing only the necessary and urgent things rather than really living the abundant life.

The “buts” of life are easy excuses and usually not valid reasons why we should make an attempt or risk something.

We can talk ourselves out of anything just by using the “but” word.

Instead, we can make a list of all the positive possibilities that might come from a particular choice and take one step at a time.

Again, it helps to have an accountability partner to help us sort through the reasons and/or excuses we’re using that keep us stuck. Partnering with a coach at GateWay of Hope can help you get unstuck and move forward.

What are the last three words to avoid?

I Should Have …

These three words have possibly caused more damage to women than any other types of verbiage. We constantly guilt ourselves with the “I should haves.”

  • I should have married someone else.
  • I should have finished my education before I had children.
  • I should have used my inheritance for more retirement savings.
  • I should have kept Mom in my home instead of moving her to a nursing home.
  • I should have stopped after one cookie.

The reason to avoid these three words are because they are based on regret and often – false guilt. They keep us from moving forward because once we are listening to the “I should haves” then we replay them into the mindset of regret.

When we constantly guilt ourselves for a past decision, we begin hating ourselves and our lives. We no longer live with joy nor can we find that abundant life we’re looking for.

The truth is:

  • Life is filled with opportunities to make a mistake.
  • We can learn best from our mistakes.
  • Our mistakes often strengthen us and give us the wisdom we need for the next choice.
  • We cannot undo the past; we only have today and this particular moment.
  • Nobody is perfect and nobody makes perfect decisions all the time.

So…stop guilting yourself. You did the best you could at the time with the information you had then. You can’t go back and undo anything. Learn from it and move forward. Stop living in regret.

These powerful six words can make a difference in our lives. So let’s avoid thinking about or speaking about the “What Ifs,” “Buts,” and “I Should Haves.”

Instead, let’s find something to be grateful for today and enjoy being the women God made us to be.

©2016 GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

How to Practice Endurance

In January I had an accident. Nothing life-threatening, but I did break my arm (now put together with a titanium rod and two pins) and fractured my hip (knitted together with three titanium screws). My friends now call me the bionic woman.

All this additional hardware required three weeks of convalescence, and then I began physical therapy. While it takes 21 days to build a habit, I discovered we regress even faster. exercise

Newton’s Law is true: a body in motion tends to stay in motion, but a body at rest tends to stay at rest.

Last summer I walked 10,000 steps a day with little effort. After the accident, twenty simple leg lifts left me winded. Typically I reserve one day a week for errands, running around town to stock up on food and various household items. But now I barely walk the aisles of the grocery store before I have to return home to rest.

The pain is manageable, but I have lost endurance.

And the longer I stay I at rest, the easier it is to wallow there. I find myself justifying the choice rather than trying to overcome it.

However, if I sit too often or too long, my joints grow stiff, my clothes feel snug, and projects go unfinished. I try to convince myself I need to take it easy, but the reality is… I’m not willing to do the work.

Rebuilding endurance takes effort. First, I must purpose to increase my stamina. This requires setting aside a certain amount of time each day to retrain. By giving time to this, however, I must give up something in return.

 What am I willing to sacrifice in order to succeed?

Second, endurance requires patience. I can’t start walking 10,000 steps a day; I must work up to that goal. This requires I begin slowly and accept temporary limitations.

I must look forward in the direction I want to go, rather than staring back at my past. I must pace myself, pushing as hard as I can tolerate, but not beyond. Trying to do too much too quickly will only result in setbacks.

Third, endurance requires determination. The effort was rewarding when I saw measurable results. It didn’t take long to increase the number of leg lifts without struggling for breath. And I was soon able to return to errand day without problem.

But it takes resolve and determination to keep on track when results are not forthcoming.

Synonyms for endurance include: fortitude, perseverance, persistence, tenacity, and courage. These words imply it is not a matter of “if” I will face challenges, it is a matter of when and how often.

And I know the greater the initial determination, the greater frequency of trials and roadblocks. I must prepare mentally as well as physically to succeed, no matter what.

After three months, I have regained about 90% of my arm/hip function. While it is tempting to accept this as “good enough” I refuse to settle. It will take another four months of sweat, inconvenience, persistence, tenacity and fortitude before I see any measurable results.

Is it worth it? Absolutely.

Don’t settle. You are too valuable in God’s sight to settle for anything less than His best for your life.

Just take one small step today and you will discover: a body in motion will stay in motion.

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

“… And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” 

©2016 Molly Totoro – for GateWay of Hope

Molly Totoro is a writer who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share.” Molly helps others write their stories to impact future generations. Follow Molly’s new blog series, “How to Journal” at Revising Life after 50.