6 Words to Avoid

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

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

What If …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s another word to avoid?

But …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the last three words to avoid?

I Should Have …

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

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

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

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

The truth is:

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Seize the Moment

My word of the year is DELIGHT. I love the multi-layered meaning. Its definition is extreme joy, which reminds me to find beauty in the every day world. In addition, the sound of the word evokes a feeling of weightlessness: learning to let go of things that hold me down in order to adopt a more carefree lifestyle.

Unfortunately I often forget this resolution. My comfort zone is to focus on the end destination; I rarely enjoy the journey along the way.

Recently I discovered delight and fear are closely related: if I desire delight I must be willing to overcome fear – to step out of my comfort zone for a short while.

In early September I made a conscientious decision to find delight in a Sunflower field. I wanted to take my camera and try to capture the color, whimsy, and glory of these late summer blooms.Sunflower Field - Molly T

For many this would seem a simple task, but for me it was filled with fear.

First I had to drive to the field, on a toll road no less. Will I be in the wrong lane? Will I drop the change? What if I lose the ticket before my exit?

The country field was about an hour away, along a gravel road not easily accessed by Google Maps. I fear driving to unfamiliar locations. What if I make a wrong turn? What if I have a flat in the middle of nowhere? What if I can’t find my way back?

I also suffer from “impostor syndrome.” I know I am not a professional photographer, so I fear others judging me as I carry my camera: Who does she think she is? I imagine their critical comments as I try to find the right angle and the appropriate f-stop.

But on this Friday morning, I filled the tank with gas, made sure my cell phone was fully  charged, and ventured out.

Although I got lost once, I managed to maintain composure and a positive attitude. Phone signal was weak, but I eventually connected long enough for GPS to get me back on track.

Sunflower rows - Molly TAs I rounded the bend toward the field, the view startled me: deep golden yellows and vibrant greens as far as the eye could see. The sky was a bit hazy, but the blue was evident. There was even an occasional wisp of white clouds that added dimension to the landscape: perfect photo conditions.

I spent nearly an hour wandering the field, snapping pictures, and delighting in God’s artistry.

One week later a severe thunderstorm moved through the area and destroyed the field. The once vibrant flowers who lifted their eyes toward heaven, were now stripped of color, hanging their heads in pain.

Had I stayed in my comfort zone, paralyzed by fear of things that never materialized, I would have missed the splendor and beauty of this ordinary Kansas field at its glorious peak.

While the sunflower may be our state flower, it symbolizes so much more to me: a reminder to seize the day, discover delight, let go of worry, and always trust God on this life journey. 

©2015 Molly Totoro for GateWay of Hope

Molly Totoro is a writer and a recently retired English teacher who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share” and is currently establishing a ministry, Milestone Memoirs, where she helps others discover and write their stories to impact future generations.  Molly frequently writes about the need to leave a legacy on her Stepping Stones blog.

Spiritual Alzheimer’s

She came down the hall laughing. She had just come from the bathroom and so I prepared myself for any number of funny scenarios.Cindy Richardson

“Mom, what is so funny?”

“I’m wearing two pair of pants! Isn’t that silly?” She continued laughing and I joined in.

But I was thinking, How do you put on a second pair of pants and not realize it?

The answer to that question wasn’t funny at all. It’s called dementia.

When my mom began forgetting to take her medicine we thought it just old age settling in. When she got lost driving home on a familiar road, we thought she was tired and it was too dark to see the road signs. But the day she put on two pair of pants we knew it was more than something silly.

A myriad of thoughts runs through your mind when someone you love has dementia. What caused this? What can be done to stop it? How long before she doesn’t remember me?

The answer to that last question haunted me. I begged the Lord to be merciful and allow her to remember me. Her condition was the topic of many prayers.

Not only was her mind failing but her physical health declined as well. As a 40-year diabetic, she was legally blind. Unpredictable blood sugar levels were extremely hard to regulate. She struggled with anxiety. A few mini-strokes required hospital stays and I pleaded with God to take her home to heaven before she had to live in a nursing home which was her biggest fear.

Although my mom was a woman of faith, she sometimes let anxiety get the best of her. I inherited that tendency. I was anxious about her health and her care.

One day, while crying out in prayer, I felt the Lord answer in a surprising way, You’re praying as if you have Alzheimer’s, spiritual Alzheimer’s!

The realization hit me hard. He reminded me of His faithfulness to answer many prayers: provision when my husband lost his job, broken relationships restored, hope renewed.

I didn’t have to fear that my mother might forget me. I just had to put into practice Philippians 4:6, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

Through prayer, I was able to be at peace with my mother’s dementia. Although no longer able to recognize her surroundings, my mother never forgot me.

I am determined to never forget the faithfulness of God.

©2015 Cindy Richardson

When the Road Leads to Grief

I never heard the phone ring, but my husband’s voice jolted me awake. “Cindy, Cindy, wake up. Answer the phone! Cindy, answer the phone!”

It was 1:30 a.m. Was I dreaming? I wished I was. The message would alter my life forever.bend in the road quote

My oldest sister had just been killed in a car accident. Disbelief, shock and fear entered my mind as unwelcomed guests. What do you do with sudden tragic news?

Questions flooded my mind but I had no answers. How did this happen? Was she really dead or maybe just hurt? Why would God let this happen? The hours that followed were filled with unbelievable sadness and heartache.

I recalled seeing a billboard along a highway: “If I never tell you why, will you still trust me?

Would I still trust God? Could I still trust him? Trust Him to be loving and good in the midst of such pain?

My sister was a breast cancer survivor. As an oncology nurse she had been driving home from a “Seven Levels of Healing” class she was teaching to other cancer patients. She had been married only seven weeks to a man she affectionately referred to as her “Boaz”; the man who had captured and redeemed her heart to love again after her 23-year marriage came to an unwanted, abrupt end.

She was the happiest I had ever seen her. Then it hit me. She died happy. She was cancer free. She had healed from her divorce, renewed old friendships and married a college sweetheart. Not many of us live happy, let alone die happy.

She had a favorite sign that read, “The bend in the road isn’t the end of the road, unless you refuse to take the turn.”

My sister took the turn to trust God with her cancer diagnosis, through her divorce, and in her choice to forgive.

Because of her example, I was able to take the turn to trust God in the midst of my grief.

The morning after her death, I read Psalm 27. Verse 13 gave me hope to trust in the goodness of God despite my painful circumstance. “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Although I cried many tears, I would not grieve as those who have no hope. As Christians, we have the hope of heaven. As sisters, I have precious memories. As her friend, I will be forever grateful she left a legacy of love, forgiveness and trust.

She showed us all how to trust God with the bends in the road.

©2015 Cindy Richardson
For over 20 years, Cindy Richardson has been guiding little kindergarten hearts to love Jesus while mentoring and teaching women’s hearts through Bible study, retreats and speaking engagements. Her desire is to encourage, challenge and inspire women to trust the Father’s heart.

Image courtesy of SearchQuotes.com

Easter vs Christmas Reflections

We spend so much time, energy and stress celebrating Christmas when the major Christian holiday is Easter.Cross at sunset

True, at Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus and what a momentous event that was! But we also max out our credit cards, deal with the dynamics of family get-togethers and go to office parties that we don’t care about.

We worry about buying the best gifts – “Will she really like this?” and try to figure out how to graciously accept the gifts we don’t want.

We spend hours in lines either buying or returning gifts, then add to our landfills when we throw away wrappings, ribbons and boxes.

We dutifully attend Christmas programs and take videos of our kids in their cute Christmas outfits, all the while hoping we can somehow manage to eat the Christmas goodies without gaining weight.

Somewhere during the pre-Thanksgiving through post-Christmas season, we remember the squalid manger, a scared teenaged mother and a bunch of smelly animals. So we sing “Silent Night” and say a quickie prayer of thanks for that baby born under the Bethlehem sky.

But Easter is another matter. Sure, we still get caught up in the dyeing of eggs, the filling of baskets and the baking of the ham.

But for the most part, Easter is less stressful and more of a contemplative holiday. Plus, we only have one week to consider what it’s all about.

One week to remember the horrific destruction of a young man’s body – how flogging and crucifixion induced painful inflammation, tetanus and infection.

One week to think about the disciples who fled in fear, then wonder if we wouldn’t have done the same thing.

One week to marvel at the miracle of resurrection and how awesome it must have been to see the risen Lord.

One week to take communion and truly remember Jesus.

One week to read each of the Gospel renditions and compare the lyrical version of John’s story to the logic of Matthew’s.

One week. Maybe this Easter week will represent a 360 in our busy schedules.

Maybe we will realize our need for a Savior and truly understand what Jesus did for us on that old rugged cross.

Maybe this Easter, we will decide to fill our Easter baskets with a gratitude that reaches beyond the April holiday and flows all the way to next December.

Maybe this year, Easter and Christmas will erupt with personal revivals around the globe. Now that would be a reason to celebrate.

©2015 GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women

Real Answers

She was so young, vibrant and blonde – with an infectious smile. But she had no idea what type of darkness lived in my mind.

She bounced toward me after church and said, “Isn’t it a beautiful day? Aren’t you doing wonderfully today?”

I decided to forego the usual, “Yes, I’m fine” response that people expect and told her the truth. “No. It isn’t beautiful today, and I’m not doing wonderfully.”

She backed away from me and seemed scared of the reality I had shared. That was the last time she ever approached me, the last time she even tried to understand.

My depression colored everything gray, even my face looked gray. Each day was a nightmare of climbing out of the bed in which I did not sleep, could not rest. Panic attacks rotated with moments of lying on the floor in a fetal position. I cried buckets of tears and couldn’t remember the last time I felt wonderful.

But eventually, I did move out of depression and back into the abundant life. Through counseling, nutrition and God’s outright miraculous healing – I traded darkness for light.looking up

Now to continue as an authentic woman, I try to stay real. When someone asks me how I’m doing, I don’t give the normal answer, “I’m fine”, unless I really am doing well. I want to tell the truth and hope that person won’t back away, won’t act afraid and won’t ignore me.

Real answers might include:
• I need a hug.
• Would you pray with me?
• I’m grateful that you asked.
• Today is a good day. I hope it is for you, too.
• I need a friend.

Depression doesn’t respond to easy answers, but we can help each other by staying real and honest. By reaching out to others and by responding truthfully, we can better deal with the circumstances of life and help each other move forward.

What about you? How do you answer real?

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

Afraid but Available

It’s Part 1 of the Christmas story.

The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. This teenaged girl from Nazareth was “greatly troubled.”

The angel said, “Do not be afraid.” He then told her that even though she was a virgin, she would bear God’s son.

A pregnancy miracle by the power of the Holy Spirit.

And what was her response to all this news? “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

Imagine Mary’s experience:
• She saw and talked with an angel
• She was told she would have a baby even though she was a virgin
• She was told that the power of God would overshadow her

Extraordinary or impossible.

Surely Mary felt afraid and confused, but look at her response recorded in Luke 1:26-38. She was willing to do anything God wanted her to do.

God had a plan, and He chose Mary to carry it out. It was an impossible plan as far as Mary was concerned. It was a fearful plan, since pregnancy outside of marriage could result in stoning.

But it was clearly God’s plan.

Mary chose to trust God and be available. She didn’t let her fear stop her from being used for God’s purposes.

What has God chosen you to do? How have you worked through the fear?

© 2012 GateWay of Hope Ministries

Scary Hope

This morning I read the term, “Scary Hope” and decided to ponder that a while.

From time to time in life, we might be asked by God or by our circumstances to take a risk and step out in faith. Those are the times we find out how deep our integrity is rooted and how strong our character really is.

These character-building risks might include some of the following:
• A mission trip to a foreign country
• Finding the finances to support that mission trip
• Writing a book and sending it to a publisher
• Dealing with a stronghold that has had a “strong hold” on us for a lifetime
• Giving up something we dearly love so that we can love God more – TV / sugar / romance novels
• You fill in the blank with whatever causes scary hope in your life __________________________

After taking that risk and/or making that decision, we often discover new character in ourselves. We now recognize the real person in the mirror – the woman God made us to be. We step closer toward that Jeremiah 29:11 plan that God has for us and to our amazement – we find joy.

The scary part of hope is when we think we might fail. We hate failure and everything it conjures up in our emotions. The response to failure is easy – depression, rejection, giving up.

But more often, we are afraid of success. With a successful venture, we have to stretch beyond what we can ask or think and trust God to fill in the gaps.

The response to success requires more strength, more confidence and even more faith.

Imagine what we could do in life if we stepped boldly toward success. Now that’s scary hope.

~ Rebecca Thesman