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.

Hope in Unfailing Love

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

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

He wasn’t relaxed very often.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2017 Cindy Richardson for GateWay of Hope

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

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

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

Beware of Identity Theft

Not long ago, when I checked the status of a credit card account online, I noticed a charge I did not make. After several phone calls to the vendor and the credit card company, it became clear that I was a victim of credit card fraud and identity theft.Nancy Kay Grace

Thankfully, this did not involve a huge sum of money although it cost time and energy to resolve. The theft happened without my knowing it. After a new card number was issued, I had to contact any merchant that had used the previous card. Nearly a year passed before the refund appeared on my statement.

Identity theft can also occur within our hearts. The enemy of our souls robs us of our joy and self-esteem by whispering lies that cause us to doubt our value to God.

When we focus on comparing ourselves to others, we lose sight of our uniqueness to the Creator. If we think anything we do must be perfect, we believe the lie that we are only as good as the last performance of a task.

Regret from past mistakes keep us from forgiving ourselves and moving forward with confidence. Comparisons, perfectionism, and focusing on past mistakes are a few of the lies that can snatch our self-identity.

When we succumb to this wrongful thinking we suffer from identity theft.

How can we prevent this type of identity theft? By knowing and believing what God says about us in His Word, the Bible. Here are a few key thoughts and Bible verses to bolster self-esteem:

God knows you personally.
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

God created you.
“For you created my inmost being; you know me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14

Because of God’s unconditional love, Christ died for you.
“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6, 8

Because of God’s immense love for us, we are chosen as His children.
“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”1 John 3:1

As someone who has struggled with different kinds of identity theft—physical through my credit card incident and personal through listening to lies about my self worth—I know I must believe what the Word of God says about my value.

Each day presents a new opportunity to look in the mirror and say, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator who loves me.”

Our self worth is stronger when we understand our identity in Christ.

©2015 Nancy Kay Grace

Bio: Nancy Kay Grace writes about God’s grace in everyday life on her blog and in a monthly e-newsletter, GraceNotes. Her book, The Grace Impact, is a devotional that will be released in April 2015. Nancy and her husband live in Springdale, AR. The have two grown children and are enjoying the new stage of life of grand-parenting to their three little grandsons.Grace-Impact-Cover-667x1024

To read more about God’s love for you, please go Nancy’s blog and website at:
http://www.nancykaygrace.com/hugs-heaven-7-bible-verses-gods-love/

What Do We Crave?

A good friend recently described her emotional struggle as “An empty pit inside that I have to fill with something.”

That’s a great description of the reason we have cravings. Whether it’s a genuine need from our physical body for a particular type of nutrient or something even deeper – we all have cravings.Made to Crave

The problem we face is how to deal with those cravings.

Do we fill up on empty calories, stuffing ourselves with foods that we know aren’t good for us and ultimately lead to more cravings?

Do we attempt to fill our loneliness pit with relationships that ultimately fail and may in the long run hurt us more deeply than being alone ever did?

Do we buy clothes and houses and cars we can’t afford because we hope they will make us feel better about ourselves?

These are some of the things we crave and some of the reasons why we feel so discontent and even miserable about our lives.

We do have an empty pit, and it needs to be filled.

But we can fill it with more positive substances. We can learn to make healthier choices, to set boundaries around our hearts and to stop and think before we buy something we don’t really need.

We can also look to a higher source to fill that need.

Lysa Terkeurst writes, “We were made to crave – long for, want greatly, desire eagerly, and beg for – God. Only God.”

By addressing our cravings honestly, we can replace them with a healthy plan, make peace with ourselves and live our lives with that empty pit filled to the brim – with God’s love.

2014 GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women