How to Move Toward Your Dream

During the GateWay Pastor Appreciation Breakfast, we were privileged to hear a presentation from Phillip Kelley, chaplain of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Using an acrostic for DREAM, Phillip presented some inspiring ideas for how we can move toward our dreams. Although we’re adding some nuggets of text in this blog post – information we share with our GateWay women – we give credit for the original acrostic to Phillip Kelley.

D = Desire – the WHAT of your dream

Knowing what we truly desire helps us focus on the details of our dreams. Then as we focus on what the dreams entails, it can also expand into new territory.

As we focus also on God and the desires he has for us, we begin seeing him show up everywhere. When we are more aware of God and his presence all around us, it helps us confirm our dreams and move forward.

We also realize our dreams DO count for something. As the Psalmist wrote, “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4 TNIV).

R = Reason – the WHY of your dream

Sometimes we may wonder why we are so focused on an idea or why we feel a particular nudge in our hearts.

That inner voice is definitely worth listening to, because it might be the Holy Spirit urging us to listen and obey – to march forward and accomplish our dreams.

Michael Hyatt wrote, “When you know your why, you’ll know your way.”

Our “why” – the reason for our dreams – gives us the motivation we need to keep moving toward the goal.

E = Experience – the WHO of your dream

Each of us owns a personal experience story, the bumps and bruises along the way as well as the joys and exciting events that have happened to us.

God can use each one of those experiences to move us toward our dreams. Like stepping stones advancing us toward the next experience and the next goal.

How we own those experiences and how we react to them determines how successfully we navigate. We can become bitter or we can learn and grow better.

The Bible also confirms the importance of our experiences, “God comforts us in all our troubles, so we can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4 TNIV).

As God comforts us and teaches us, we learn. Then we can pass on that learning to others and use it as a springboard for our own dreams.

A = Abilities – the HOW of your dream

We have each been given talents and giftings unique to our personalities. Often, we take these abilities for granted.

For example: the stay-at-home mom who organizes birthday parties has a gift of administration and detail-orientation. She may not realize how important she is to the family unit, but that gifting becomes the ability to get everyone to doctor appointments on time, to plan for meals and to make sure everyone in the family has a fun time on their birthdays.

Think of all the things you do in one day’s time. How do those activities line up with your abilities? When you feel energized by a certain activity, that’s a good sign you are operating out of your strengths and specific abilities.

Then those abilities become the action points for moving toward your dream. Lean your life into the abilities that strengthen you.

M = Maturity – the WHEN of your dream

Throughout our lives, God is in the process of growing us up. We become mature by moving through experiences and using our abilities to make progress.

Even though a dream may be realistic and so very important to us – we may not yet be ready to see it happen. God does stuff in us before he does stuff through us.

For example: it is rare for a person who carries the dream of writing to sit down and put together a best-selling novel. Writers learn how to write by practicing the craft of writing. That dream of writing and publishing a novel may come true, but for most writers – the dream becomes reality only after many hours of trial and error, rejections and starting over.

Are we defined by our circumstances or will we allow God to refine us because of our circumstances?

We may often feel as if we’re going backward instead of forward, but we need to remember that failure does not define a person – it is only an event.

As we learn from our failures, we become more mature. Then time determines the when of our dreams.

A good exercise would be to think about your current dreams, then journal through this acrostic. Check to see how you’re moving forward and perhaps what your next steps might be.

If you need help, call us at GateWay of Hope – 913.393.4283. We help women transform their lives and find that hopeful place where dreams come true.

©2017 GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

Hope in Unfailing Love

I imagine he loved me, but I don’t recall those words ever being spoken.

My dad taught me to ride a bike, roller skate and snow ski. He bought a camper and took us on summer vacation for weeks at a time. He taught me to swim in the ocean and how to catch crabs in the bay. I loved my dad, and when he was relaxed, I enjoyed being around him.

He wasn’t relaxed very often.

As a workaholic, my father was very demanding. He had quite a temper and I never knew when his anger would erupt. The sales clerk who moved too slow and the repairman who failed to fix the lawn mower were unlucky recipients of his anger.

So were older siblings when they didn’t complete their chores to his satisfaction. I witnessed my mother enduring his verbal abuse, and I made it my goal to never be the object of his wrath.

I lived most of my childhood trying hard to be perfect. It was exhausting and brought unspoken shame.

I was embarrassed by the way Dad treated people but I would never have whispered those words to another living soul.

Even writing them now seems a small betrayal of our family. But words left unspoken, when truth is at stake, can be devastating. Family secrets can be dangerous.

The truth is, fathers are supposed to treat their families with love and respect. If their anger results in sin, they are to apologize and ask for forgiveness. If they are unable to control themselves, they are to seek help.

Fathers are not expected to be perfect. They are however, designed by God to be an earthly representation of a perfect heavenly Father’s love.

Dads are supposed to build up their families, not tear them down. They are to provide for and protect those they love.

Unfortunately, not all dads understand their role. And many do not rely on God to help them love their families well.

My experiences with my dad affected how I viewed God. One day as I was sitting at a conference, the speaker asked the audience to close their eyes and picture God.

We were asked to think about Bible verses that spoke of his love. Not a single verse came to mind. Instead, a startling image emerged – my dad, standing with a pen and a clipboard, ready to critique my performance.

No wonder I had held God at arm’s length. I believed in his existence, but didn’t believe he cared about the details of my life. I thought he was harsh and demanding, waiting for me to mess up so he could point out my faults.

That weekend I discovered God was nothing like my Dad. I learned he loved me regardless of my performance.

He patiently waited for me to ask him to heal the heartache of those early years trying to measure up to unattainable standards. He longed to speak words of love to my soul.

The Bible speaks of God having unfailing love; without error or fault. God’s love is reliable, constant, and everlasting.

Imperfect people will fail. Dreams of perfect relationships will shatter. But God’s love can be there to help pick up the pieces.

God proved his love when he gave his only Son to rescue me from my self-centered love and my sin. There isn’t anything I can do to make God love me more than he already does.

Since God’s love is a gift, there isn’t anything that I can do that will cause him to take away his love.

I don’t have to earn his love, or prove I’m worthy of it. He proved I’m worthy of his love when he exchanged places with me on the cross.

This unfailing love satisfies my need to be known and valued for who I am, not what I think I should be or what someone else wants me to be. God’s love faithfully brings peace and joy when I trust him to work in and through me, that which I cannot work in myself.

God’s unfailing love is also there for me when I am the one in the wrong. When my anger lashes out, it enables me to humble myself and ask for forgiveness, instead of withdrawing in shame.

When I fall short of loving others, and others fall short of loving me, I can put my hope in God’s unfailing love.

©2017 Cindy Richardson for GateWay of Hope

Cindy Richardson seeks to encourage, challenge and inspire women in their journey of hope through Bible studies, speaking and writing. Cindy weaves God’s truth and shares her faith with kindergartners at St. Joseph Christian School. Residing in St. Joseph, Missouri with her husband, Tom, she enjoys the friendship of her three grown daughters and loves being Nana to six grandchildren. For more inspiration, visit cindyrichardson.org.

Finding Hope Within Disappointment

The holidays have come and gone. I didn’t get the white Christmas I was dreaming of.

Unseasonably warm, it rained most of the day. Ironing my mother’s tablecloth reminded me of holidays gone by; highlighting the fact she is no longer with us.

As the morning wore on, I received texts from my three daughters each stating that someone in their family was struggling with a health issue. It seemed we would prepare our Christmas feast, only to make deliveries to our children instead of enjoying their presence at our table. Certainly not the “merry and bright” experience I had hoped for.

Memories are made every holiday season. Some I cherish, others I’d just as soon forget.

Like most, I started the season with great plans and good intentions. Then an ice storm canceled the annual cookie baking day with my daughters. I was sick and had to make two visits to urgent care.

The Christmas cards I planned to send early? They’re still in the box, ready for next year; I hope. My budget wasn’t quite enough to meet my expectations and disappointment threatened to hijack my holiday spirit.

Trying to create the perfect experience often leaves me short on hope and long on disappointment.  By Webster’s definition, to disappoint means to “Fail to meet the expectation or the hope of something.”

Unfulfilled hopes and unmet expectations often do me in, wasting energy in what should have been, instead of seeing the new potential in what could be given new circumstances.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. This year I decided to enjoy whatever came my way.

My father used to say, “Nothing is as good or as bad as it first seems.”

Trying to apply his wisdom to my holiday plans helped turn the disappointments into new appointments for memory making and holiday fun. Trying to see things from God’s perspective instead of my own, helped create hope for something better than my original plans.

The ice storm prevented my daughters from gathering together but my grandson was iced in with me. We enjoyed baking and decorating Christmas bears; not the beautifully decorated cut out cookies I’d hoped for but fun none-the-less. While we didn’t end up with 10 different kinds of cookies to share, we did make extra shapes to send home with him for his siblings to decorate.

My month long illness racked up unplanned medical bills. My disappointment in my budget turned into a divine appointment. I was humbled and surprisingly humiliated when I unexpectedly received a check in the mail to cover the cost.

Trusting God’s plan and provision came with a lesson for me on pride. Once dealt with, I was grateful beyond expression. A burden lifted created space for unexpected joy.

When the texts from my daughters came in I began to ask the Lord if there was someone we could encourage by including them at our table; a lonely shut in perhaps? Or maybe God would have us make other deliveries, not just to our family.

However, within the hour, more texts came to inform us that each family would be able to make it after all. Wishing I would have thought of opportunities to bless others before we were faced with an empty table, I tucked the idea into next year’s holiday plans.

Another year is on the horizon. Disappointments can cloud our vision for the future, or we can turn to God and find fresh hope.

The Bible speaks of a time when God’s people were taken captive.  The prophet Jeremiah lamented their troubles, disappointments, and unmet expectations. Then, he as he recalled the Lord’s faithfulness and mercy, he was infused with hope.

Alexander Pope, an English poet said “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

At first glance if seems like good advice; a way to protect ourselves from the harsh realities of life. Yet as we learn to trust God with unexpected and unwanted circumstances, like Jeremiah, we are infused with hope.

Remembering the Creator of the universe as the lover of my soul gives me fresh hope for a future filled with good things. God takes my disappointments and turns them into divine appointments with him.

©2017 Cindy Richardson – for GateWay of Hope

Cindy Richardson seeks to encourage, challenge and inspire women in their journey of hope through Bible studies, speaking and writing. Cindy weaves God’s truth and shares her faith with kindergartners at St. Joseph Christian School.

Residing in St. Joseph, Missouri with her husband, Tom, she enjoys the friendship of her three grown daughters and loves being Nana to six grandchildren.

For more inspiration, visit cindyrichardson.org.

What God Says about Sexual Assault

During the last few months, we’ve been subjected to numerous reminders of how women are mistreated, undervalued and sexually assaulted.

identify-truthWhether or not you support one political candidate or the other, the truth is still a reality – no matter who is guilty of the crime.

Women are being disrespected, verbally and emotionally abused and sexually assaulted – in every country every day.

The next time you’re in a group of people, look around at the women.

At least 25% of them have been sexually assaulted or will be during their lifetimes. One out of four were sexually abused and/or traumatized as children, according to Child Safe Education.

One out of four women will be sexually assaulted and/or raped as adults, but only one out of ten will ever tell anyone.

A majority of these women will struggle through depression and low self-esteem while every one of them will experience some type of grieving behaviors, whether or not they recognize them. They may struggle with insomnia, binge eating and/or anorexia, cutting, the loss of relationships, the inability to trust or even to make simple decisions.

One of the most debilitating results of sexual assault is the sense of shame that torments and haunts. These women have been told the lie that the rape was their fault. “You dressed too provocatively. You wanted it. You asked for it. You deserved it.”

Shame began in the Garden of Eden when Adam pointed to Eve and told God, “This woman you gave me…she did it.” Adam blamed and shamed Eve for the original sin, then refused to admit his own failure.

The stats are daunting and we believe the percentages are actually higher, because some women will never report rape or childhood abuse. Some women are hiding their memories so deep, they don’t even remember the trauma.

Then one day something triggers the memory and life completely falls apart.

At GateWay of Hope, we work to help women identify the truth, face the pain and work through it. But as much as we respect women and want to help them, someone else loves them even more.

In the book of Lamentations from the Bible, the prophet Jeremiah writes, “My eyes flow with rivers of tears at the destruction of my people. My tears will pour out in a ceaseless stream until the Lord looks down from heaven and sees us. My heart is grieved when I see what has happened to the women of the city” (Lamentations 3:48-51 Good News Translation).

These verses underscore the fact that God loves women and he is grieved with what is happening to them.

He cries with each little girl who is abused, and he takes that assault seriously. Someday he will judge those who have injured his precious daughters.

He empathizes with women who struggle through depression and grief because he knows how difficult it is to feel alone, rejected and sad.

He comforts women who have been assaulted by the people they trusted most. He promises to be their eternal husband and maker as well as taking special care of their children.

God grieves over his daughters because he knows how wonderful they are. He planted within them brave giftings that have not been respected, tender hearts that have been bruised and strong minds that have been tormented.

He cares. He grieves and he promises to make it right. “Your innocence will be clear to everyone. God will vindicate you with the blazing light of justice shining down as from the noonday sun” (Psalm 37:6 The Living Bible).

Someday, justice will be complete. God will judge those who have hurt his daughters and he will bring wholeness and healing to all the women he so dearly loves.

In the meantime, he is available and eager to comfort his daughters.

At GateWay of Hope, we help women embrace that truth and show them how to trust the God who grieves for women.

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

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.

How to Deal with Discouragement

discouragementOne of the lines in the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” presents a great truth.

Clarence, the second class angel who’s trying to earn his wings, watches a video about his divine appointment. Then Clarence asks God, “What is wrong with George Bailey. Is he sick?”

“Worse,” God says. “He’s discouraged.”

Anyone who has experienced discouragement knows it is a feeling of being sick at heart, a heaviness and a dread, almost a hopeless feeling.

We might define discouragement as a black cloud that hovers over us, stealing our joy and distracting us from the abundant life. We feel melancholy and can easily slip into a gloomy pessimism that eliminates hope.

Sometimes, as in George Bailey’s case, discouragement settles in because of the circumstances of life. George was facing the possibility of jail time and scandal because his uncle lost the company’s money. Basically, George was discouraged because he thought he was worth more dead than alive. He listened to the lies of Mr. Potter, and then considered taking his own life.

Discouragement escalated to despair.

Some of our discouraging circumstances might revolve around a financial setback, a health issue, a child who denies her faith, the loss of a job – or any number of struggles.

Sometimes discouragement is a result of how others treat us. Constant verbal abuse that tears at our self-esteem or someone who ignores us when we so desperately need to be cherished.

Any type of devaluing statement can cause discouragement. This is one reason why our words are so important.

Sometimes discouragement creates a rut of gloominess, especially when we’ve experienced a series of losses. We feel we’ve struggled so long, we can’t move forward and we don’t know how to climb out of that dark pit.

So what do we do when discouragement settles in? Can we pray for an angel, a Clarence, to come alongside us?

Yes, we can. We can ask God to send us encouragement through the presence of angels or through the kindness of other Christians. God knows the exact gift we need or the exact words we need to hear.

We can ask Jesus to pray for us and help lift us out of our melancholy. His role at the right hand of God is to intercede, to remind God of what we need and ask for divine intervention. So we can cry out, “Jesus, pray for me. Send help!

Sometimes the way out of discouragement comes through powerful music. Just listening to a song or even dancing to the music can help us feel better.

When we are discouraged, we can talk to counselors and coaches at GateWay of Hope who will help us find the root of the problem and formulate a plan to move forward.

And we can remind ourselves that discouragement doesn’t have to win.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 TMB).

What are some practical steps for dealing with discouragement?

  • One day at a time, present the discouragement to God.
  • Journal about your thoughts.
  • Check with us at GateWay for ways we can help you.
  • Stay in hope – don’t lose heart.
  • And keep reminding yourself … Discouragement does NOT have to win.

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

 

Finding a Healing Journal Method

At GateWay of Hope, we have found journaling to be a wonderful process that leads us toward hope, healing and wholeness.journal

But sometimes, we need a new way to think about journaling and process our thoughts.

In his book, “The Listening Life,” Adam S. McHugh suggests the AHEN method.

AHEN is a simple yet wonderful acrostic for helping us find clarity about situations we find ourselves stuck in. As we process through the acrostic, it might also bring up other possibilities for clarity and growth we haven’t yet considered.

So how does this work?

A = ANGER:

We may hate to admit it, but most of us have some type of anger. We may have hidden it well through the years, or we may have masked it by calling it something else such as frustration, irritability or being ticked off at someone.

The tricky thing about anger is that if it isn’t acknowledged and worked through, it can bury itself so deep that it causes depression. Because depression has so many nasty side effects, it’s best to call anger what it is and deal with it.

So make a list in your journal of everything you’re angry about – then consider who you’re angry at. That might include yourself, a parent, a child, a church member – even God.

Once you start on your anger list, you may be surprised at the emotions that surface, but keep working on it. Acknowledge that anger and then move on to the next step of the acrostic.

H = HURT

When someone hurts us, we often develop anger toward that person or that situation. None of us likes to experience hurt, whether it’s emotional, mental, physical or spiritual.

But life is often filled with hurts and again – when we discover them and acknowledge the hurt – then we begin to deal with the effects of that hurt.

For example: are you isolating yourself from a certain person? Maybe that person hurt you and you don’t want to expose yourself to more hurt. That is self-protection, a valuable tool for setting healthy boundaries.

But is that isolation caused by the hurt someone did to you? And are you angry about it?

Journal through the hurts you may be feeling and consider how they might be connected to any anger you are experiencing.

Why does it hurt so much when people say things to us or do things to us? Because of the next piece in the acrostic….

E = EXPECTATIONS

We are hurt because we have certain expectations about people, about life, even about God. When those expectations are not met, we are hurt and that results in anger.

For example: when a woman dresses in her bridal gown and marches down the aisle toward her lover, she expects him to keep the vows – to love and cherish her until death parts them.

But if he breaks that commitment, that covenant, then her expectations have been shattered. She is deeply hurt and incredibly angry. She may carry that anger for several years, into divorce court and beyond – even to the point where she loses the ability to trust.

All because her expectations were not met.

What are some of the expectations that have failed in your life? How deeply did they hurt you? Did they result in any anger? Journal through these possibilities.

Why are expectations so important? Because they are based on the next phase of the acrostic.

N – NEED

We all have deep-felt needs, sometimes so deep we are not aware of them. Our needs then feed into our expectations.

In the above example, the expectations were not met for a lifetime of love and commitment. Why did that hurt so deeply?

Because women have a deep need to be loved. They crave strong arms around them, the security of a home and the presence of the man they fell in love with – all those years ago.

They need the intimacy of someone talking and listening to them at the breakfast table, a warm body to cuddle next to at night and the wisdom of a man who knows how to fix the flat tire and the leaking kitchen sink.

They long to be cared for, to be honored and cherished, to be the only person that man loves for a life-time.

When that need is not met, when that commitment is broken, then the hurt spawns other problems.

They may look for comfort in substances, even food. They may try to find intimacy in another relationship that ends in another tragedy or a lifetime of toxic communication.

Even worse – they may cover up the need so deeply that they become bitter and refuse to ever love again.

The expectations were not fulfilled, therefore the needs surface and become a stumbling block for the abundant life.

Do you recognize some needs that have not been met because expectations were shattered?

FINDING THE HEALING PLACE

Now that we’ve journaled and worked through this acrostic, let’s find how to work toward healing by starting backwards.

Our NEEDS are great and sometimes we are needier than we want to admit. But when we base the meeting of those needs on another human being, we will inevitably be disappointed.

Our deepest needs were made to be met by the God who created us. In fact, he promises, “I will meet all your needs according to my riches of glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

So the healing place begins by taking those needs right back to God. No matter what your needs are, God is able to meet them.

Do you need some encouragement? Ask God for it and then watch for the amazing ways he chooses to meet that need.

Do you need some help with finances? Ask God to give you the name of someone who can help you.

Do you need something more concrete? Clothes, shelter, food? God knows all the resources available at all times. Tell him what you need, then be ready to receive his blessings.

When we place EXPECTATIONS on another human being, we may be disappointed. Sometimes we need to speak about what we expect so that person knows how to plan for that need.

Do you expect your children to go to college? Then begin a college fund, make sure they do their homework and talk about the value of education. Still, they may make other choices, so you may have to change some of your expectations.

Be realistic. Most of us experience some shattered dreams in life, but that doesn’t mean we have to live in despair. It just means we need to set new goals.

If you need help with expectations, consider the Coaching services at GateWay of Hope.  We can help you set realistic expectations and then work toward meeting them.

All of us are going to be HURT sometime in life, because life is hard and some people tend to be cruel. That doesn’t mean we have to wallow in the hurt or surround ourselves with self-pity.

It just means we can expect hurts. But it’s what we do with the hurt that matters.

Again, God has a solution. “Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

We can bring those hurts to God and ask him to help us forgive so they don’t dig deeply into our souls and keep us from living in peace.

Some hurts ARE going to burrow deep, just because of how intense they are. If that is your experience because of abuse, then contact one of our Counselors at GateWay of Hope. They are skilled in dealing with many types of abuse.

So we’ve worked backward and now we’re at ANGER once again. But you may find that because you’ve journaled through this AHEN acrostic, some of the anger doesn’t seem so intense.

Now it’s time to let the anger go. Think of it as a visual – a box of yuck you’ve been carrying around. It’s become a burden and you don’t want it anymore.

Let it go. Bury it at the foot of the cross. Turn it over to Jesus and let him heal you in those deepest places of hurt.

Get rid of the anger so you can begin living in joy and peace. Then you’ll experience the abundant life and become the woman God has created you to be.

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

How to Be a Martha

For those of us who are the Type A-git-er-done women, the passage comparing Martha and Mary can be a problem.stress - relax

In the book of Luke, Jesus is visiting in Martha’s home. That description itself is a clue for what is to come.

This was Martha’s home. She wasn’t living in her brother Lazarus’s home with her sister, Mary. This was her place and they lived with her. So either she was a wealthy widow who inherited the house and the grounds or she was a hard worker and wisely invested her money.

Martha was a woman who knew how to get things done.

In the Luke 10:38-42 passage, Jesus travels to Bethany and Martha opens her home to him. Obviously, she also had the gift of hospitality, and she knew Jesus was an important figure in her culture. She became a disciple and a follower of Jesus.

Because she knew who He was, she wanted everything to go smoothly. She probably ordered her servants to bring the best wine. She planned a generous meal with some extra treats – something she knew Jesus would love. She made sure the house was clean and in order for this important guest. She changed into her best tunic and fixed her hair, slipped on her best sandals and probably spritzed some type of aromatic oil on her skin. She was ready to meet the Messiah.

Because she was an organizer and a planner, she wanted everything to be just right. But her sister, Mary, wasn’t helping much. Mary was spending her time listening to Jesus teach. She was right in the middle of all the guys, sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning all she could. For a woman, in her culture, it was a gift to be included in this special teaching moment.

Then Luke records what happened next, “Martha was distracted – anxious and worried – by all the preparations” (Luke 10:40). She wanted Jesus to tell Mary to come help her.

Jesus reminded Martha he didn’t really need anything, and her worries were keeping her from the most important part of the day – listening to him teach. He reminded Martha that Mary had chosen well and he would not take that choice away from her.

Several important points can be taken from this passage:

  • Jesus is including women as disciples who can learn from him.
  • Mary recognizes this gift and takes advantage of it.
  • Martha is caught up in the worries of making everything perfect for Jesus.
  • Perfectionism is not how we honor God.
  • It isn’t Martha’s work ethic that’s the problem here – it’s her lack of balance.

Sometimes Martha is used as an example of a woman who is more concerned with the work and the appearance of her home than Mary – who is content to just sit and listen to Jesus.

Sometimes Martha – and women like her – are shamed for being hard workers.

It’s not the work ethic that’s the problem. It’s the fact that Martha has become worried, anxious and distracted.

It isn’t wrong to be a planner and an organizer. In fact, without planners, much of the world’s business would never be completed.

It isn’t wrong to care about our homes and to make fabulous meals for our friends and family.

It isn’t wrong to be efficient in our work and do our best.

The problem comes when we’re stressed, overwhelmed and can’t get anyone to help us. That’s when we’re too tired to sit down for a talk with Jesus.

Finding the balance in life is the one of the most important things we can do for our mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical health.

Stress is a killer and when we don’t set healthy boundaries around our time – the world and other people will take advantage of our work ethic.

Check out this article on the effects of stress on the body.

Even something that sounds good can be an over-the-top-stressor and we need to say, “No.”

So let’s not vilify Martha, but let’s learn from her experience.

Let’s organize our time wisely so we CAN do our work effectively. But let’s also make time for joy, for some fun and for that special time with the One who loves us most.

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

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:

https://www.facebook.com/ipastor52?fref=nf&pnref=story.

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

Comparing Apples to Oranges

I have struggled with low self-confidence since childhood. When someone compliments me, I mentally list others who do it bigger, better, grander than I.

apple tree I rarely try anything new or (gasp) a little silly because I fear what others might say. I imagine their judgmental thoughts: she’s such a klutz, such a fool, a real loser. I constantly hear the inner voice of Mom’s stern warning: What will the neighbors think?

But all this comparison and worry of others’ opinions is unhealthy. In fact, it is unbiblical.

We are called to love others AS ourselves. This means I need to treat myself with compassion, grace and mercy. And I must learn to accept myself as I am: my gifts, talents, strengths, and weaknesses.

 We bring joy to God by becoming who He created us to be.

How I must disappoint Him when I devalue my accomplishments. How I must frustrate Him when I compare my shortcomings to someone else’s expertise.

Comparison robs me of the opportunity to become my best, and it denies God joy.

In reading through the Psalms earlier this year, I marveled at the number of the times nature is used to illustrate God’s truth. And this particular word image came to mind: God creates the apple tree to produce apples. That is its sole purpose and the apple tree willingly obeys.

The apple tree doesn’t look at the orange tree and wish it could produce oranges. It doesn’t resent it is an apple tree, or harbor envy that it is not an orange tree. The apple tree accepts its role in life and is content to fulfill that purpose.

The apple tree doesn’t look at other trees in the orchard and wish it could be like them. It doesn’t put itself down. It doesn’t judge its fruit to the other, wishing its apples could be bigger, redder, or more plentiful. It merely produces the best apples possible.

The Granny Smith doesn’t bemoan the fact that its fruit is tart. It doesn’t wish it could be a sweet Honey Crisp. It is satisfied with its lot in life, and so is the Lord. God knows there is a unique purpose for each variety of apple. Think of it, without Granny Smiths we wouldn’t have the perfect apple pie filled with warm firm fruit, rather, we would have mealy mush inside a pastry crust.

Sometimes the apple tree needs a little help. If it is allowed to grow wild with no direction or discipline, it can’t achieve its full potential. The farmer must water, fertilize, and sometimes prune to help the tree become its best. This pruning is out of love and respect for the tree; it is not a form of chastisement or punishment.

And so the apple tree accepts its calling to produce apples. It derives joy from doing exactly what it is supposed to do.

Nature is teaching me to stop comparing and to simply accept who God created me to be. This lesson brings me joy and peace, even as it honors God and brings Him delight.

“…He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”          ~ Zephaniah 3:17

©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.