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.

How To Do Gratitude Journaling

In America we associate November with gratitude. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month, and before we dig into the traditional feast of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, we take time to thank God for His blessings in our lives. journal

In recent years social media has extended this day of thanks to include the entire month. We are encouraged to participate in #30daysofgratitude on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, sharing one blessing each day with online friends.

This corporate expression of thanksgiving has its benefits. Not only do we recognize joy in our own lives, but there is a contagious cheer that spreads through the community as we acknowledge the blessings of others.

In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown explains the necessity of incorporating gratitude into our daily lives.

She first discusses the distinct difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is a fleeting emotion linked to a specific circumstance; joy, on the other hand, is tied to spirit and gratitude.

But often gratitude must be cultivated and “Gratitude without practice may be a little like faith without works – it’s not alive.” 

Several months ago, I began a gratitude journal. It was a time of angst and division in my family, and I had lost sight of joy. I promised myself to maintain the journal for thirty days, and I challenged myself to find three blessings each day.

I must admit it felt forced in the beginning, but I persevered. Soon I discovered gratitude begets more gratitude. I found myself giving thanks not only for the shelter of my home, but for its imperfections as well. In giving thanks for family members, I began to understand their differing points of view.

Slowly over the course of these thirty days I began to see the world around me in a new light. I became more accepting of others – and of myself. I found contentment where I once experienced frustration. I learned to transform thoughts of scarcity (I am not enough – I do not have enough) to thoughts of sufficiency (God is enough).

By the time the month ended, I developed the daily practice of gratitude. While life’s circumstances had not changed, my attitude toward those circumstances did. I once again found joy in daily living.

I know God is in control. I know He cares for family members , even more than I do. I know His plans are to prosper me and not to harm me. I now know the peace that transcends all understanding.

While we can develop the habit of gratitude without maintaining a journal, I strongly encourage you to try it. Handwriting causes the brain to slow down, to reflect rather than react. Handwriting engages the right-side of the brain. The physical movement of hand across page and the formation of letters with the pen, is a type of creative expression.  This creativity expands our thoughts to consider other possibilities.

Journaling is key to discovering personal history, with no required word count, no right or wrong way to approach a topic, no set number of thanks per day

The value in keeping a journal is that it helps us recover joy in the present and leaves a legacy of God’s faithfulness for the future.

©2015 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 Authenticity Produces Rejection

During a recent family vacation, I made a choice.Woman celebrating

The rest of the family wanted to do a jeep ride, up the mountain several thousand feet and over bumpy trails. I’ve endured that jeep ride before, resulting in bruised bones and $45 less in my billfold. So I opted out.

Instead, I strolled through a little mountain town, bought myself a luscious chai tea latte, finished my Christmas shopping and read several chapters in a good book. I had a lovely time – alone – setting my boundaries and doing my own thing.

But the result of being my authentic self was a feeling of rejection when I met up with the rest of my family members. I was a little bit weird and set apart because I chose not to join them.

My authenticity resulted in rejection.

This is a common result when women begin to step into their authenticity and become vulnerable. They’re telling the truth and living in what is right for them, but others may not understand.

Some people just won’t get it. They’ll expect you to be with them, do what they want, fit in with their labels and follow the general flow of the populace.

The result of that mindset is losing your true self.

But to become your true self, you may lose a friend or face the rejection of people you love.

It takes more energy to be what others expect us to be, to do what they expect us to do. But at the end of the day, we don’t like ourselves because we’ve settled. We’ve caved.

It takes more courage to be your authentic self and make choices that empower you.

At the end of the day, you’ll be proud that you stretched yourself and kept true to your heart.

Deep down, those who once rejected you will someday respect you because you were honest and vulnerable enough to live in your truth.

So hang in there. Become an authentic woman and don’t compromise your true self just to fit into someone else’s expectations.

Don’t “should” yourself, just to make others happy or fit into their ideals.

Be who God created you to be – a strong, joyful, living-in-abundance woman.

©2015 Rebecca Thesman, CLC

Certified Life Coach and Program Director

GateWay of Hope

Why Does GateWay Matter?

Last week, a woman came to tour GateWay. She was impressed with our unique atmosphere and seemed surprised by all the things we do to help hurting women.

“I didn’t know about you,” she said, “but I’m so glad now that I do.”

As we seek to promote GateWay and let more women know about our services, it’s important to answer the question, “Why does GateWay matter?”

GW Logo w-o tagWhy do we work so hard to tell churches and organizations about our services? Why do we seek to help women who have been abused, divorced, suffered a loss or felt over-committed?

Why does GateWay matter?
• Because women matter to God. He created male and female in his image and he gifts women with abilities to make a difference in their communities, their churches and their homes.

• Because women are half the church. Think about how many programs in your church are developed, organized and serviced by women. Without healthy women to do that, the entire church suffers.

• Because a woman who is living within her authentic, created self serves God and others with freedom and joy. She has the capacity to her world and to join other women to nurture and influence another generation as mothers, teachers, writers and within thousands of other vocations.

• Because Jesus valued women. The Almighty Son of God included women in his band of followers, allowed women to learn directly from his divinely-inspired self and placed women in church bodies with unique gifts to share.

• Because women need to know they are cared for. Women have an all-inclusive capacity to nurture everyone in their networks, but they often forget to take care of themselves. At GateWay, we care for women and we show them how to care for themselves through our counseling, groups, prayer ministry and coaching.

• Because women often don’t feel safe enough to share their pain within their own churches and networks. They need a safe, encouraging place to go for counseling, groups, prayer and coaching.

• Because we are women helping women, and we understand.

Why does GateWay matter? Ask the 163 women we served during our last fiscal year.

Ask the women who learned they can set boundaries and protect themselves. Ask the women who saw miracles happen in their families and the women who allowed themselves to finally grieve that long-buried loss.

Ask the women who started over and found purpose and fulfillment within changed lives. Ask the women who finally felt loved and became the incredible women God created them to be.

GateWay matters because women matter, and that’s why we’re here.

2013 GateWay of Hope Ministries – The Helping Place for Hurting Women