Hope for the Unknown

“Mom, what’s so funny?” I asked as she walked down the hallway to rejoin us. Having exited the bathroom, I anticipated a variety of funny scenarios.

“I’m wearing two pairs of pants! Isn’t that silly?” Her laughter was contagious and I joined in, but all the while thinking, This isn’t funny.

I caught my sister’s eye. Our laughter couldn’t mask our deep concern and growing suspicions.

When Mom began forgetting to take her medicine, we thought it was just old age settling in. When she got lost driving home on a familiar road, we excused it as too dark to see the road signs clearly.

But the day she wore two pair of pants we couldn’t find an excuse. It was something more than silly.

How can someone put on a second pair of pants and not realize it?

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

A myriad of questions ran through my mind. What caused this? What can be done to stop it?
How long before she doesn’t remember me?

The unknown answer to that last question haunted me. I begged God to be merciful and allow Mom to always remember me. Her condition was the focus of many prayers. Her physical health was in steady decline. Diabetes had left her legally blind and with unpredictable blood sugar levels extremely hard to regulate. Mini strokes required hospital stays, weakening her ability to care for herself. Growing more forgetful and confused necessitated 24 hour care.

I pleaded with God to take her home before she had to experience her biggest fear – a nursing home.

Although my mother was a woman of faith, sometimes anxiety got the best of her. I inherited that tendency. I was anxious about her health and fearful she would forget me.

One day while crying out in prayer, I felt God answer in a surprising way. Forming as thoughts in my mind, I felt as if God said, “You’re praying like you have Alzheimer’s… spiritual Alzheimers.

This realization hit me hard. I had been praying like I’d forgotten all God had done for our family in the past. Reminders of his faithfulness flooded my mind.

I recalled:

…unexpected monetary gifts to match a need
…return of a wayward child
…protection of my in-laws attacked in their home
…depression lifting after months of suffering

…broken relationships restored
…comfort when loved ones died
…emotional and physical healing
…guidance in parenting

As the list grew in my mind so did my resolve to trust God. Recalling his faithfulness infused me with hope.

Alzheimer’s was definitely a journey into the unknown. As I began to trust God, I no longer worried about my mom forgetting me. I found peace despite the temptation to be anxious. Fresh hope even found joy as we walked together into the unknown.

©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 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

How to Develop Self-Care

Everywhere I look this month I see reminders of the upcoming holiday: bouquets of red, pink or yellow roses, heart shaped boxes of chocolate or other sweet confections, expensive greeting cards declaring love to a perfect valentine.

While I’m not necessarily cynical about this holiday (and will probably enjoy a nice dinner out to mark the occasion), I plan to celebrate a bit differently this year.

My word for 2017 is “Nourish,” and in that spirit I plan to focus this month on Self-Care.

The saying goes, “You can’t love others without loving yourself,” but I like Joyce Meyers’ expansion of that thought: “If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love others. You can’t give away what you don’t have.”

For me, the first step in learning to love myself is to accept God’s love for me.

I grew up in a legalistic society, where a good Christian girl followed all the rules and “Thou shalt nots” and never voiced any contrary thoughts. To me, God was a big accountant in the sky, keeping track of my debits and credits in his ledger book of life. No love or grace survived in this equation. Only harsh judgment and the wagging finger of shame as I continually fell short of heavenly expectations.

It has taken a long time to erase this warped view of my heavenly Father. And I must confess, at times it still comes into clear view. But over the past two years I have focused my Bible study on His Love for me, and His Grace and Mercy extended to me because of the blood of Jesus.

I now carry two verses of scripture in my heart at all times to remind me of this powerful love.

The first verse is found in John 10:10 (NIV) “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.

Jesus did not die on the cross so I will feel defeated, despondent and hopeless. That is the voice of the enemy beating me down with his lies.

And Jesus did not die on the cross so I can merely exist or simply go through the motions. He came that I might experience the joy, excitement and adventure that life with Him offers.

A God who desires I live a full, rich, abundant life is a God who truly loves me. I can trust Him. The fact that the God of the universe chose to create me and desires to fellowship with me, means I am lovable.

The second verse is found in Matthew 23:12. I particularly relate to The Message translation: “If you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.”

All God asks of me is that I be who He created me to be. I don’t have to be someone else. I don’t have to compete with others. I don’t need to change my temperament, physical appearance, or personal interests . I only need to accept myself (my strengths and weaknesses) and my life will have purpose. What a wonderful way to show love to myself as well as to my Creator!

While I continue to meditate on these scriptures, I have also adopted some pragmatic methods of promoting Self-Care.

How do I love me? Let me count the ways:

Treating my body and mind with love and respect.

  1. Drinking more water to stay hydrated
  2. Eating more nutritious foods that feed the body and the soul.
  3. Staying disciplined in an exercise routine. I want a strong core to help me overcome physical, mental and spiritual adversity.

Taking time to relax and rejuvenate in a purposeful way.

  1. Relaxing in a hot bath
  2. Reading a good book with a hot cup of tea
  3. Writing in my journal at a local coffee shop
  4. Taking myself on a date … window shopping, the library, the local museum, a movie
  5. Meeting a friend for lunch and sharing life stories
  6. Taking a stroll through the park – not a cardiovascular walk, but a leisurely stroll to admire nature and allow my thoughts to wander
  7. Purposefully spending money, rather than buying what I don’t need in an effort to fill a void
  8. Learning a new skill (like speaking Italian) rather than watching mindless television re-runs
  9. Keeping a gratitude journal – focusing on one positive event for each and every day
  10. Lighting a candle and enjoying its fragrance
  11. Playing soft music in the background (or loud music and dancing)
  12. Breathing deeply

Taking control of internal self-talk.

  1. Choosing to be joyful despite the circumstances
  2. Focusing on what is going right rather than solely what is going wrong
  3. Replacing critical thoughts with positive affirmations
  4. Acknowledging my effort rather than focusing solely on the outcome
  5. Thinking the best of myself (and others) rather than the worst
  6. Forgiving myself for making mistakes and being imperfect.
  7. Forgiving others for their imperfections

Eliminating unhealthy thought patterns

  1. Stop caring about what others think; focus on what God thinks of me
  2. Stop trying to please everyone. It is an impossible task.
  3. Stop comparing myself to others
  4. Stop fearing failure; the only real failure is not trying
  5. Stop taking everything personally; sometimes it isn’t about me
  6. Stop taking care of everyone else at the expense of my own needs
  7. Stop worrying about the future and instead trust God
  8. Stop squelching my dreams and instead believe Psalm 37:4 “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

What about you? What are some practical ways you can develop more self-care? Accept God’s Valentine to you this year and show yourself a little Self-Love.

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

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 Detox Holistically

Because we are connected – body, mind and spirit – what affects one part of us affects the whole. During a recent Intensive workshop at GateWay, we talked about the process of detoxing the body, the mind and the spirit.

Detox the Body – presented by Lorraine Oberholtzer, RD, LD

Numerous methods are available for a chemical and physical detox of the body, but each of us has to know what is good for our own body. The idea of a healthy and effective detox is to free the body from anything that may be causing physical stress.

The best detox involves a two-pronged approach:

  1. Remove toxins
  2. Strengthen the body’s own defense mechanism

Toxin removal may include water filters, air filters, fasting from certain foods, buying organic foods, avoiding GMOs, cooking more meals at home and avoiding food additives.

Most toxin removal begins by reducing inflammatory foods such as processed sugars, dairy and gluten products.

We can begin to detox the body by simply eating less. This lightens the load on the digestive system and the all-important gut which contains immune strengthening properties.

Other important tips include:

  • Drink more water
  • Add a good probiotic
  • Increase the omega 3s with fish oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna and trout
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Choose healthy fats such as coconut oil, nuts, avocados and extra virgin olive oil
  • Increase exercise time and fiber consumption

Detox the Mind – presented by Kiersten Adkins, LPC, MA, Exec Dir of Pathway to Hope

The way we think determines our behaviors and can also affect us spiritually and physically. The mind truly regulates the flow of energy and information we receive and pass onward.

As we become more comfortable with who we are, our mental health is underscored by fulfilling relationships, well-being, healthy energy and a more impactful life.

Our basic functions such as eating, sleeping and breathing affect the feeling parts of the brain which also determine how we think about ourselves and our lives.

So our behavior is determined by how we emotionally respond to a situation. If we continue to think about something negative and feed that negativity, we will respond negatively. This can lead to self-sabotage and additional stress – which also affects the body.

Our goal, mentally, is to reduce the chaos and stress and become a more balanced, synchronized individual. The idea of balance, aka moderation, can help keep our emotions in a more steady, healthy place rather than swinging all over the place from despair to disgust to shame to fear then back to happiness and joy.

Some of the important questions to ask ourselves include:

  • Am I mindful of myself?
  • Who am I made to be?
  • What am I going to be?
  • How will I achieve this goal?
  • When will this happen?
  • Why will I invest myself in this goal?

As we determine to be proactive with our minds, we protect ourselves from emotional bankruptcy. Then, a healthy mind leads to a healthy spirit.

Detox of the Spirit – presented by Rebecca Thesman, CLC, BSE, GateWay Program Director and Life Coach

We know we need a detox of the spirit when we are out of alignment with God. For some women, that means they will feel directionless, unable to pray and/or feel as if they have no peace.

One way to return to alignment with God is to focus more on him than on ourselves and our problems. Keeping a gratitude journal is an effective way to discipline ourselves for more thankfulness.

But we also need to detox ourselves away from harmful attitudes such as:

  • Self-doubt – based on fear and focused on the “I can’t” or the “I’ll never” statements
  • Self-sabotage – when we procrastinate or feel paralyzed with no joy
  • Stress – when our energy is drained and we no longer set healthy boundaries
  • Settling – for what we don’t truly want – for what is second best

Some practical tips to help us avoid these dangerous “S” words might include:

  • Ignore the “shoulds” – when other people or even our own minds try to “should” us into doing something we don’t want to do
  • Set healthy boundaries, especially around the things that drain our energy
  • Plan for a day of play and/or a special retreat away from everything
  • Fast from anything that takes us away from God
  • Increase more of the stress-relieving activities: coloring, singing, walking
  • Remember we are made in the image of God – body, mind and spirit
  • Pay attention to the inner nudges of the Holy Spirit
  • Realize who we really are and appreciate our true value

As we work on these issues, we can move into more balance with our bodies, our minds and our spirits. Then we will be healthier and able to use our giftings to impact the world and make a difference.

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

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.

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.

 

 

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 Move Forward in Life

In a recent telecast, Joyce Meyer said, “We live life forward, but we understand life backward.”

This is a valid truth and one we women often reverse. We look backward and then decide how and if we should move forward.holly-gerth-quote-worth

We look back at the what-might-have-been moments of life.

  • If only I had married a man who kept his covenant vows
  • If only I had finished college when I had the chance
  • If only I hadn’t said that or done that
  • If only I had known then what I know now
  • If only …

But looking backward and living in regret will keep us from a healthy forward movement. When we’re looking back all the time, we’ll bump into something ahead of us – and usually cause some type of harm, emotional or physical.

To truly understand life backward, we can instead ask ourselves some difficult yet pointed questions:

  • What did I learn from this situation?
  • What did I learn about myself from this situation?
  • How can I improve in this area so I won’t make the same mistake again?
  • What did I learn about God’s love for me because of this situation?
  • How can I use what I learned to help someone else?

Do you see how much more positive these questions are?

When we journal through the process of learning from the past, then we focus on how to grow and how to share. The If Only statements are self-deprecatory. They condemn us, blame us and eventually – shame us.

We don’t need to live in shame – ever – because shame keeps us from moving forward. It blocks hope from our souls.

Author Holly Gerth writes, “I don’t produce my worth; I receive it.”

So no matter what we have produced or what has happened to us in the past, that situation does NOT affect WHO we really are. It is only a piece of our history, a small part of our journey on earth.

God does NOT look at what we do and judge us for it. He looks at WHO we are and loves us no matter what.

As a life coach at GateWay of Hope, I help my clients move forward. We talk about the obstacle or block that is keeping them from joy. Then we put together a plan for the next step in the journey.

We move forward based on that plan, and I become my client’s accountability partner. We don’t dwell on the past. We don’t look backward unless we’re going to find a nugget of learning and base our next step on that truth.

We don’t live in condemnation about what has happened before. We don’t judge each other. We never approach life from the viewpoint of shame.

So as you’re thinking about moving forward in life, as you’re putting together some steps for a positive attitude – think about how you may be sabotaging yourself by dwelling in the past.

If you need some help with the past, we have counselors who can help you find your way to healing and wholeness. Check out our website at: gwhope.org.

If you want an accountability partner / coach to help you move forward, then contact me at GateWay. My email addy is: rebeccat@gwhope.org.

Together, we can move forward and then celebrate the successes of an abundant life.

©2016 GateWay of Hope

When God Endorses Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was tired. Sad. Grief-stricken.

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

Not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2016 Karen Morerod 

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