Unique Women of Christmas

In Hebrew, her name “Elisheva” means God’s oath or God’s promise. In the Greek, “Elizabeth” is further described as God’s abundance.

Cousin to Mary and wife to Zacharias, she played a pivotal role in the pre-Christmas story.

Elizabeth is listed in Luke chapter one as a righteous and blameless woman yet she suffered with infertility. In those days, barrenness was considered a curse from God.

But what Elizabeth did not know for many years was that God had not denied her request for a child; he just delayed the answer.

Until the perfect time…until Yahweh was ready to send an angel to Zacharias and plant His seed within a virgin.

We aren’t told how old Elizabeth was when she suddenly conceived a boy child who would become John the Baptist. But she and Zacharias were both old enough to consider their answered prayer a miracle.

During Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy, her young cousin Mary became pregnant through another miracle – a conception through the Holy Spirit, prophesied for centuries and containing the Divine.

Mary’s Magnificat, also called the Song of Mary, declares her praise to God for his indescribable gift:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”  – Luke 1:46-55

Mary traveled to Elizabeth’s house to spend time with her. What conversations they must have had – both of them pregnant, one with a Messenger – the other with the Messiah.

Elizabeth no doubt mentored Mary even while she protected her from the wagging tongues of gossips. Mary no doubt blessed Elizabeth who felt her child leap in the womb when Mary entered the house.

After Elizabeth gave birth, she supported her husband in the choice of their son’s name. “John,” she said. “His name shall be John.”

From the beginning of the Christmas story, God included women and their giftings to pave the way for His Son’s ministry.  He designated Elizabeth as a main character and a parallel element in the greatest story ever told.

We can imagine Mary and Elizabeth spending countless hours together as they watched their sons grow, taught them proper manners and showed them how to appreciate godly women.

And in the candlelight at day’s end, Elizabeth and Mary no doubt prayed together for their boys who they knew would have a major role in the salvation of mankind.

Each woman bore a son, then gave that son back to God, trusting in Yahweh’s divine purpose.

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

Finding A Word for the Year

words-have-powerWhile December is typically a festive and sometimes hectic time of year, it is also a reflective season.

Perhaps it is a residual effect of the Thanksgiving turkey’s tryptophan, or it is the anticipation of starting the New Year with a clean slate. Whatever the cause, I find myself reviewing the previous eleven months with an analytical eye.

For the past several years I have joined thousands of others in selecting a Word of the Year: one word to help me focus on a particular attribute or virtue for a full twelve months.

One year I chose the word BALANCE. I knew my workaholic life needed a major overhaul, and I thought balance would help me keep things in proper perspective.

What I learned, however, was balance is an elusive goal. Perhaps it can be achieved over the course of several months… but on a day-to-day basis, complete balance between work, family, personal and spiritual life is simply not possible.

But I was not discouraged. I reasoned my true goal was PEACE. Balance, I mistakingly thought, was a means to that end.

So the next year I focused on peace, and it was year of personal spiritual growth.

I had hoped peace would mean a year free from conflict, but I quickly learned true peace only comes from trusting Christ as my personal savior. As long as I kept my eyes on Him, I was at rest.

But if I focused on circumstances, fixating on finances or personal relationships, peace disappeared.

Last year I knew I needed to relax. I am a serious person by nature, always responsible, accountable, and hard working.

While these can be admirable traits, I take them to an unhealthy level. I wanted a word that would help me release anxiety and find joy.

After a bit of word deliberation, I settled on DELIGHT.

I loved the layered meaning of this word. Delight means extreme joy, and I wanted to focus on finding joy in the moment.

The “light” portion of “delight” can refer to weightlessness – learning to let go of things that hold me down and adopting a more carefree lifestyle.  I wanted to balance my need for productivity with a need for play – doing what I enjoyed doing simply because it brought me pleasure.

And I love how the word brings to mind the metaphor that Jesus is the Light of the world. By focusing on this word for the year, I also focused on my savior.

As I came to the end of 2015 and reflected on my year of delight, I realized it was a stepping stone to what I really needed: FUN. While I could find the joy in the moment, I was still too serious. I focused too much on being productive and too little on play.

Armed with coloring books, markers, and a resolve to smile more in 2016, I began the year with great intentions.

Then on January 10th I fractured my hip and broke my left humerus (yes… the irony is uncanny).

I kept a positive outlook, however, and healed nicely… until June 26th when I fell once again and broke my right humerus.

As my eldest recently stated, “Mom, your body literally rejected the idea of fun.”

So much for the “fun” of 2016. This weekend I began my annual self-reflection. I’m still too serious. I still work to find joy in the moment. I still struggle to play.

Which word would help me overcome these weaknesses, while at the same time focus on my need for physical healing?

At first I thought RELEASE might be appropriate – let go of my constant need to be productive and my impossible pursuit of perfection.

I then pondered the word INTENTIONAL. The second accident taught me to slow down and be mindful of my actions rather than going through life on automatic pilot.

Lately I’ve discovered self-talk is a hindrance to spiritual growth. I cannot love others because I do not love myself. I need to guard my thoughts and bring them in line with God’s love.

Words such as TRANSFORM or RENEWAL seemed to address those concerns. But ultimately, I settled on the word NOURISH.

The definition is spot on for this time in my life: to supply what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to strengthen, build up, and promote.

NOURISH is all-encompassing and I believe it is necessary to bring this broken body back to wholeness.

I need to nourish my physical body through regular exercise and nutritional diet. No excuses, no cheating. I want the time I have left on this earth to be quality life, not mere existence.

I need to nourish my mental health through accurate thoughts of God’s love for me – just as I am. God calls us to love others as ourselves, but I cannot obey this command until I learn self-acceptance. This will strengthen my spiritual health as well.

And I need to nourish my emotional health by pursuing creative endeavors simply because they bring me joy – no productivity goal needed.

NOURISH. I love the sound of the word. The long, lingering vowel reminds me to slow down and rest. The quiet “sh” at the end literally tells me to be still and listen to the Lord’s quiet guidance.

Do you have a word for the year?

©2016 Molly Totoro for GateWay of HopeMolly Totoro

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.

 

 

Love Gifts at Christmas

cindy-richardsonBreathlessly I waited as my brother opened the door to our family room to what I hoped would be Christmas heaven.

Old enough to remember the splendor of the prior Christmas, I expected more of the same. My brother would pass out the presents and we would pile them up around us.

Part of the fun was watching each other open presents; eagerly anticipating what wonderful gift might be in each beautifully wrapped package.

With one swift motion the door opened. Instead of wrapped presents under the tree, my gaze fell on clothes and a few toys laid neatly in piles. Not a single gift was wrapped!

Names were written on masking tape and placed strategically on each item. Disappointment came over me like a wet blanket. Why weren’t the presents wrapped?

It was not the Christmas I expected. Already suspecting that Santa was just fantasy, the lack of wrapping seemed to answer the question I was afraid to ask. If Santa was real, our presents would be wrapped; his elves would never forget to wrap presents.

Perhaps my crestfallen look led to the terse conversation I overheard.

“I told you we should have bought the wrapping paper,” my mother whispered to my father.

“And I told you, wrapping paper is a waste of money,” my father replied.

My childish disappointment at the lack of wrapping almost ruined Christmas that year. I had no idea declining health had led to my father’s job loss and mounting medical bills. The dwindling budget dictated the naked presents.

As I reflect back I realize my parents sacrificed greatly to give us any gifts at all. I now know they were given out of great love for us. Most of the presents were gifts we needed. Unfortunately, they weren’t appreciated as much as the gifts we wanted.

Another Christmas gift was given at great sacrifice. Wrapping himself in love, God became a human being. Entering our world as a baby, Jesus was the gift of God’s presence. Immanuel, God is with us.

Jesus is the gift everyone needs, but not everyone wants.

Joseph didn’t want the gift at first. Disappointed and worried about their reputation, when he found out Mary was pregnant he wanted to break off the engagement.

King Herod didn’t want to acknowledge the gift. Fearful of losing the power of his throne, this wicked king had all the male babies slaughtered.

Religious leaders, anxious to keep their power and prestige, didn’t receive the gift. Instead, they schemed to crucify God’s son.

Looking for a powerful earthly king, the Jews were disappointed in the humble servant leadership Jesus offered. Their unmet expectations led them to reject the gift of God’s Son.

Life can be hard. Broken relationships, financial pressures, and shattered dreams bring unbearable disappointment. Health issues, challenges in parenting, and death of loved ones can lead to discouragement and depression.

Receiving the gift Jesus came to give shifts the focus from what is lacking, to what he provides.

Peace, love, and joy despite life’s unwanted and unexpected circumstances is a gift only God can give. Knowing we would need a Savior, God was happy to give us his One and Only Son.

When I focus on disappointment and unmet expectations, like that Christmas long ago, I miss the love behind the gift. Embracing the love for myself, means I have more love to share. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

©2016 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 Cindy’s blog, Hang Onto Possible Endings.

How to Replace Fear

I’ve always struggled with the concept of denying self. It sounds so austere, like I’m supposed to give up all aspects of fun and forego any dreams of happiness.Molly Totoro

But isn’t that in complete opposition to the concept that Christ came that we may have abundant life?

Denying self reminds me of a tyrannical task master, demanding I keep strict allegiance to the do’s and don’ts of life, or suffer extreme consequences. Legalism at its best. But I am a rule-follower, so I try to obey.

Recently I read the following scripture that caused me to rethink my position:

“Don’t you realize that you can choose your own master? … The one to whom you offer yourself – he will take you and be your master, and you will be his slave.” (Romans 6:16 TLB)

I paused to ask myself: Whom do I choose as my master? And the answer surprised me.

I choose Fear.

  • I fear failure – and I fear success.
  • I fear what others think of me.
  • I fear making a mistake – I fear not being perfect.
  • I fear disappointing others – I fear disappointing God.
  • I fear rejection.
  • I fear lack of control.
  • I fear dependence.
  • I fear having too much fun; I fear not being fun enough.

And I realized… I am indeed a slave to fear!

Not only is this a miserable way to live (and contradictory to living the abundant life) but it is not biblical. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7 – NIV).

So I prayed and asked the Lord to help me reconcile these disparaging commands. How do I deny self and yet live a bold, joyful life?

His answer surprised me.

“You are indeed too focused on self, Molly. It is time to release its negative control of your life. Let go of Self-doubt, low Self-esteem, Self-consciousness, and Self-deprecation.”

At first I didn’t believe I heard correctly. I mean, denying this kind of self is not austere or punishing. It is a command filled with love and compassion. It promises a life of acceptance and purpose.

For someone who has been entrenched in religious legalism for nearly half-a-century, this is too good to be true.

Or is it?

What if I replace self-doubt with faith? Faith that God has created me for a purpose, and faith that He will equip me to fulfill that purpose in His time.

What if I replace low self-esteem with faith? Faith that God does not create junk. That He has indeed given us gifts and talents. Faith that humility is acceptance of these gifts, not denying them. And faith that God wants us to use these gifts and share them with the world.

What if I replace self-consciousness with faith? Faith that God accepts me, and He has promised to never leave or forsake me. As long as I do my best in obedience to His will, I do not have to fear what others think of me. I only need to concern myself with what the Lord thinks.

What if I replace self-deprecation with faith? Faith that God commands us to love our neighbors AS ourselves.

Faith that I am enough. I shouldn’t compare myself to others, but instead be content with whom God created me to be.

Simple faith is the antidote to legalism. We can’t earn favor with God by keeping the law because we will never succeed.

But we can put our faith in Christ who makes us righteous. This is the Good News. This is the truth.

The truth will liberate us from the shackles of self and allow us to live an abundant life.

©2016 Molly Totoro

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 Experience Guilt-Free Living

It’s always exciting to find a new book – that special topic I’ve been looking for – at a bargain price.God is not mad at you - book

Last week, I discovered the book by Joyce Meyer, “God is Not Mad at You.” In her usual fashion, Joyce speaks the truth about perfectionism, legalism, shame and learning how to live guilt-free.

These are topics we deal with regularly at GateWay of Hope. And the root to many of these struggles is the pain of rejection.

We can feel rejected because of various circumstances:

  • Losing our parents at an early age
  • The comments of children and/or teachers at school
  • Struggling through adolescence and the volatile teen years
  • Failing classes or failing at a job
  • Betrayal by a spouse
  • Comparisons to other women or even to our siblings
  • Abuse of any kind

When we feel rejected, we may try to be perfect – to reach that high bar others have set for us. And we may think we need to be perfect for God as well, which can trap us within the lies of legalism.

Then all sorts of damaging emotions can plague us, causing even more mental and spiritual problems which may lead to more rejection. And the cycle continues.

Some of these emotions may include:

  • Anger
  • Bitterness
  • A critical and judgmental spirit
  • Constant comparisons to others
  • Feeling defensive at any type of criticism
  • Distrusting anyone in authority
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • A stronghold of fear
  • Feeling hopeless
  • A poor self-image
  • Jealousy
  • Plus many more negative emotions

So how can we get past these issues, dig out the root and prevent the bitterness that leads to false guilt? How can we find freedom to move on?

In our Boundaries classes at GateWay, we teach women this truth, “I am not responsible for how someone else thinks.”

So if another person compares us to someone else or says something ugly to us – we don’t have to believe that or receive it into our spirits.

We can fight against it with the truth. “I’m not responsible for what you think about me.”

We can also learn to love ourselves and appreciate who we really are – separate from all the things we do.

As Joyce writes, “No matter how many other people love you, if you don’t love yourself, you will still feel lonely.”

Through Counseling, the support of relationships in groups and Coaching, we teach women how to be authentic, how to be honest and not afraid to be vulnerable, how to truly love themselves.

When we feel secure in the knowledge and truth of who we really are, when we accept ourselves as we are – then we don’t have to be perfect or meet the standards of someone else.

The most important path to guilt-free living is to realize we don’t have to earn God’s love. He accepts us and loves us. Period.

He won’t love us any more if we do great things. He won’t love us any less if we do nothing.

He has a special place in his heart for his daughters, and he will never abandon us, reject us or leave us alone to struggle through life.

When we truly know how much God loves us, then we can begin to love ourselves even more and stop living in the land of rejection.

And if you struggle with these issues, give us a call at GateWay of Hope. 913.393.GATE (4283). We’d love to help.

©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

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.

Giving Up On Self-Doubt

Lent: the forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday when Christians give up something they enjoy. This sacrifice helps us learn to trust God when we feel deprived, tempted or weak. doubt - success

In the process we discover we can live without vices because God is all we need.

Many Christians choose to give up something food related, like snacks or desserts. How often do we turn to these indulgences to find comfort?

While we may feel satiated in the short term, the emptiness soon returns with a vengeance, and we have gained nothing but a few pounds.

Focusing on God when our sweet tooth calls out is the way to lasting peace and joy.

Since the turn of the 21st Century, giving up social media is another popular sacrifice.  It is fascinating how we are constantly connected to the outside world, and yet feel so isolated.

We choose to check FaceBook and Twitter throughout dinner, but ignore friends and family sitting at the same table. We determine our personal value by the number likes on an InstaGram post.

Sacrificing social media not only reconnects us to those relationships we care about most, but it also helps us rediscover our true worth in God’s eyes. 

As I was debating my Lenten sacrifice, I considered both these options. However in my morning devotions on Ash Wednesday I felt the Lord telling me to give up self-doubt.

“But wait,” I argued, “self-doubt?! Isn’t that a useful tool? Doesn’t it prevent me from thinking more of myself than I ought?”

And in God’s gentle way he responded, “My child, doubt and faith cannot coexist. If you trust me and trust my guidance, then there is no reason to doubt.”

“But God,” I interrupted, “you don’t understand. I don’t doubt you. I know you are in control of my life and your ways are best. It is me I doubt. I’m not sure I hear you correctly, and I fear I might wander down the wrong path.”

I could practically see God smile as I tried to reason with Him using flimsy, illogical arguments.

“But Molly, you say you trust me, yet you don’t believe I can clearly communicate with you. You say you have faith, yet you fear wandering. You say I am sovereign, yet you have not released control.”

“Oh.”

Could it be that all these years I thought self-doubt was a godly virtue when in fact it prevented me from following God’s will?

What if I gave up self-doubt? What if I believed God’s word rather than assume I didn’t hear correctly? How would life be different?

God says I am enough. He says I cannot make Him love me any more by the works I accomplish … OR love me any less by the mistakes I make. I am loved unconditionally.

God says He has equipped me to accomplish my life’s purpose. No one has the same unique combination of talent, gifts and personality. For that reason, no one else can accomplish what He has destined me to do. I have value.

God says we are to live a life of power and love, not fear and timidity. He is always with us, ready to help in any circumstance. I should not worry what others think of me; God is on my side.

So this Lent I gave up self-doubt. I have not become too proud or boastful, as was my fear. Rather, I have learned to trust God and accept His unfailing love, mercy and grace.

©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.

Hope Stored in Heaven

“Our marriage was made in heaven, but so was thunder and lightning.”heaven - by Web Design Hot

The tapestry on the pillow said it well.  Forever the funny man, it was a gift from my husband for our anniversary. Meant to be a joke, it still rang true.

Naively entering a business deal early in our marriage pushed us to the brink of bankruptcy. Dreams of becoming millionaires by age thirty were shattered and replaced with anxiety, stress and depression.

I wanted out; out of marriage, out of life. In fact I remember praying that I would have a mental breakdown, so I could escape the pressures of our circumstances. Instead, I had an encounter with God and I was saved.

I attended church all my life and would say that I believed in God. But it wasn’t until I realized I was a sinner in need of a savior that I came to know him in a personal way. It wasn’t until we had nothing that I gained everything. And it wasn’t until I surrendered, that I won the battle with depression and anxiety. Surrendering my life to the creator and sustainer of life was a game changer for me.

We’ve certainly experienced our share of storms in the thirty plus years of marriage. Wayward children, financial crisis, lifestyles altered by health issues, not to mention the everyday stresses that can wear on a marriage.

As I look back, I find one constant in all the stress, changes and heartaches; hope. Hope for emotional healing, hope for change in circumstances, hope for my future. Colossians 1:5 reminds us that hope is stored up for us in heaven.

When Jesus rose from the dead he went back to heaven to live. Ever wonder what he’s doing there? According to the Bible, he is praying for us.

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).

Imagine, the savior of the world prays for you.

So ask him to fill you with hope; for your circumstances, your emotional health and your future. Jesus gives hope that is secure – hope as an anchor for the storms of life. Hang onto Jesus and you hang onto hope. When you have hope, you can Hang Onto Possible Endings.

Even in the middle of thunder and lightning.

©2015 Cindy Richardson

Cindy Richardson began in women’s ministry twenty five years ago through her local MOPS group. She seeks to encourage, challenge, and inspire women in their journey of hope through Bible study, 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. Visit richardson.cindy@outlook.com for more inspiration.

Photo Attribution: Web Design Hot

 

 

 

 

 

How to Hang On to Possible Endings

Judgmental responses seem to abound in the faith community. Have you ever heard one of these?

Just get over it.”

   “You must be in sin.”

   “You just want attention.”

   “You don’t have enough faith.” 

imbalanced scale - attributed to FlaticonWhen my daughter left our home to live with her boyfriend, my faith was shaken. I had experienced many answers to prayer and now suddenly – God was silent.

I didn’t know how to respond. I believed I had enough faith for God to answer my prayer to bring her home. When He didn’t, I was undone and felt myself slipping into depression.

Since the Bible says faith as big as a mustard seed (about the size of a pencil point) can move mountains, I concluded that my faith must be pitifully small. So I read the Bible, journaled my prayers, talked to a counselor, even reviewed the “Passion of the Christ.”

In the end, my faith remained the same. Unable to just get over it, I dealt with the sin the Lord revealed to me. After checking to be sure I wasn’t seeking undue attention in the midst of drama, I was left with what I thought to be a lack of faith.

That’s when I found Romans 12:12. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

My journals documented my faithfulness to prayer. But I was not patient in this affliction. And I definitely wasn’t joyful; I was a sobbing mess!

So I began to pray the Romans scripture over my life. “Lord, I hate the situation I find myself in. I don’t know what to do. I am without resource for this. But You are my source and strength. Please show me how to be joyful in hope.” 

“Hang on to Possible Endings” was the answer to my prayer. I had no idea what the future held but I knew God held that future in His hands.

It isn’t healthy to deny emotions and pretend that everything will be fine, i.e. to just have enough faith. It’s also not healthy to be ruled by emotions, because sinful responses typically result from emotional living.

Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that the man who fears God will avoid ALL extremes. I needed to get balanced.

Instead of focusing on how to get my daughter home, I focused on the One who could lead her back.  Faith combined with hope could work through my emotions.

I cried less each day. I began to trust God in ways I hadn’t before. I left the hopeless feelings in the pit and felt the delight of hope springing in my heart.

As I held onto possible endings for my unwelcome circumstance, I found that I welcomed the Lord into places in my heart that needed healing.  Healing brought freedom, and freedom initiated joy.

May the God of hope fill you up with joy as you trust Him.

©2015 Cindy Richardson