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.

Unique Women of Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding A Word for the Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have a word for the year?

©2016 Molly Totoro for GateWay of HopeMolly Totoro

Molly Totoro is a writer who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share.” Molly helps others write their stories to impact future generations. Follow Molly’s new blog series, “How to Journal” at Revising Life after 50.

 

 

Love Gifts at Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2016 Cindy Richardson for GateWay of Hope

Cindy Richardson seeks to encourage, challenge and inspire women in their journey of hope through Bible studies, speaking and writing. Cindy weaves God’s truth and shares her faith with kindergartners at St. Joseph Christian School.

Residing in St. Joseph, Missouri with her husband, Tom, she enjoys the friendship of her three grown daughters and loves being Nana to six grandchildren.

For more inspiration, visit Cindy’s blog, Hang Onto Possible Endings.

Beware of Identity Theft

nancy-kay-graceNot 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.

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 was 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 five grandchildren.

To read more about God’s love for you, please go Nancy’s blog and website at: http://www.nancykaygrace.com.

How to Be a Martha

For those of us who are the Type A-git-er-done women, the passage comparing Martha and Mary can be a problem.stress - relax

In the book of Luke, Jesus is visiting in Martha’s home. That description itself is a clue for what is to come.

This was Martha’s home. She wasn’t living in her brother Lazarus’s home with her sister, Mary. This was her place and they lived with her. So either she was a wealthy widow who inherited the house and the grounds or she was a hard worker and wisely invested her money.

Martha was a woman who knew how to get things done.

In the Luke 10:38-42 passage, Jesus travels to Bethany and Martha opens her home to him. Obviously, she also had the gift of hospitality, and she knew Jesus was an important figure in her culture. She became a disciple and a follower of Jesus.

Because she knew who He was, she wanted everything to go smoothly. She probably ordered her servants to bring the best wine. She planned a generous meal with some extra treats – something she knew Jesus would love. She made sure the house was clean and in order for this important guest. She changed into her best tunic and fixed her hair, slipped on her best sandals and probably spritzed some type of aromatic oil on her skin. She was ready to meet the Messiah.

Because she was an organizer and a planner, she wanted everything to be just right. But her sister, Mary, wasn’t helping much. Mary was spending her time listening to Jesus teach. She was right in the middle of all the guys, sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning all she could. For a woman, in her culture, it was a gift to be included in this special teaching moment.

Then Luke records what happened next, “Martha was distracted – anxious and worried – by all the preparations” (Luke 10:40). She wanted Jesus to tell Mary to come help her.

Jesus reminded Martha he didn’t really need anything, and her worries were keeping her from the most important part of the day – listening to him teach. He reminded Martha that Mary had chosen well and he would not take that choice away from her.

Several important points can be taken from this passage:

  • Jesus is including women as disciples who can learn from him.
  • Mary recognizes this gift and takes advantage of it.
  • Martha is caught up in the worries of making everything perfect for Jesus.
  • Perfectionism is not how we honor God.
  • It isn’t Martha’s work ethic that’s the problem here – it’s her lack of balance.

Sometimes Martha is used as an example of a woman who is more concerned with the work and the appearance of her home than Mary – who is content to just sit and listen to Jesus.

Sometimes Martha – and women like her – are shamed for being hard workers.

It’s not the work ethic that’s the problem. It’s the fact that Martha has become worried, anxious and distracted.

It isn’t wrong to be a planner and an organizer. In fact, without planners, much of the world’s business would never be completed.

It isn’t wrong to care about our homes and to make fabulous meals for our friends and family.

It isn’t wrong to be efficient in our work and do our best.

The problem comes when we’re stressed, overwhelmed and can’t get anyone to help us. That’s when we’re too tired to sit down for a talk with Jesus.

Finding the balance in life is the one of the most important things we can do for our mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical health.

Stress is a killer and when we don’t set healthy boundaries around our time – the world and other people will take advantage of our work ethic.

Check out this article on the effects of stress on the body.

Even something that sounds good can be an over-the-top-stressor and we need to say, “No.”

So let’s not vilify Martha, but let’s learn from her experience.

Let’s organize our time wisely so we CAN do our work effectively. But let’s also make time for joy, for some fun and for that special time with the One who loves us most.

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

When Discouragement Settles In

depressed womanOne of the lines in the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” presents a great truth.  Clarence, the angel who’s trying to earn his wings, asks God what is wrong with George Bailey. “Is he sick?”

“Worse,” God says. “He’s discouraged.”

We might define discouragement as a black cloud that hovers over us, stealing our joy and distracting us from the abundant life. We feel melancholy and can easily slip into a gloomy pessimism that eliminates hope.

Or we might go as deeply into the discouragement that we eventually develop the darkness of depression.

Sometimes, as in George Bailey’s case, discouragement settles in because of the circumstances of life. He was in danger of losing his business and going to jail for a mistake he did not make.

For us, discouragement might be the result of a financial setback, a health issue, a child who denies her faith or a host of other struggles.

Discouragement may be the result of how others treat us. Constant verbal abuse that tears at our self-esteem or someone who ignores us when we so desperately need to be cherished.

Sometimes discouragement creates a rut of gloominess. We feel we’ve struggled for so long, we can’t move forward and we don’t know how to climb out of that dark pit.

So what do we do when discouragement settles in? Can we pray for an angel, a Clarence, to come alongside us?

Yes, we can. We can ask God to send us encouragement through the presence of angels or through the kindness of other Christians, through the changing of circumstances or through a special song we hear on the radio.

We can ask Jesus to pray for us and help lift us out of our melancholy. His role at the right hand of God is to intercede, to remind God of what we need and ask for divine intervention. It’s okay to ask Jesus to pray for us.

We can talk to counselors and coaches who will help us find the root of the problem and formulate a plan to move forward. GateWay of Hope offers counseling, coaching and support groups. Check out our website for more information.

We can also remind ourselves that discouragement doesn’t have to win.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

  • One day at a time, present the discouragement to God.
  • Journal about your thoughts.
  • Check with us at GateWay for ways we can help you.
  • Stay in hope – don’t lose heart.
  • Share the truth about your feelings with a trusted friend.

Discouragement doesn’t have to win, and we CAN live the abundant life in joy. Let’s all band together and fight against discouragement.

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

 

How Will You Celebrate Easter?

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

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

One week to remember how important the women were to Jesus – they stayed with him at the cross, they were the first ones to see the risen Lord, they spread the message as Jesus gave them the task, “Go and tell my disciples.”

Only one week. How will you observe Easter this year?

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

Maybe we will realize our need for the 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 spring 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.

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

When Women Believe Lies

preferred liesHave you ever believed a lie and then directed your life toward that lie?

One of the reasons we deal with authenticity at GateWay of Hope is because knowing the truth helps us become who God created us to be.

But if we center our lives around the topic of the lies we believe, then we can’t be authentic and we can’t move toward being our true and incredible selves.

What are some of the lies women believe?

Lie # 1:  God Doesn’t Really Love Me Because I’m Not Good Enough.

In the hallways of GateWay, women often hear this phrase, “You ARE enough.”

God has never said, “I only love the people who are good enough, those who do lots of good things, women who exhaust themselves with good activities, people who have all the right attitudes, etc.”

God IS love, so wherever he is – which is everywhere because he is omnipresent – that is where love exists. His love for us never depends on how good we are or how many good things we do.

He just plain old loves us. Period.

You want proof? Jesus told the thief on the cross that because he believed, he would go to paradise that very day. The thief didn’t have a chance to do anything good – in fact, he was being crucified because he was a thief.

He simply believed in who Jesus is and accepted God’s love for him.

We can try to accomplish many things, be as perfect as possible, follow every commandment and spend our lives being as good as possible. God will not love us any more than he does right now.

We don’t have to be good enough for God. He loves us more deeply and more sincerely than any other being ever created. His love is eternal, pure, kind and perfect for each of us.

Lie # 2:  Physical Beauty is More Important Than Inner Beauty

Although our brains tell us this isn’t true, our actions don’t always follow the truth.

We look at magazines and see models who have no wrinkles, no gray hair, no sagging skin, et cetera, and we suddenly feel old and decrepit.

We compare ourselves to air-brushed models and photo-shopped pictures. We believe the lie.

The truth is that we are holistic beings – body, mind and spirit. Our physical selves represent only one piece of the puzzle and aging is part of life. Actually, some of the most glowing and beautiful women on the planet are elderly, and their wisdom and spirit continue to inspire us.

Having a healthy mind and spirit will allow us to be our true selves, authentic in every way.

Sure, we want to be physically healthy. That’s why we exercise, watch our nutrition and schedule annual exams. But that piece of us is merely the outer shell.

As we continue to learn new things, to concentrate on our passions and our souls, to operate from our core values – we develop the inner beauty that outlasts and outshines our skin.

Who we really are – our personalities, our core values, our hopes and dreams – that is the true woman inside. And that is the truly beautiful part of us no one can touch.

Lie # 3:  It’s All My Fault

Some of us were told this lie as children. When we didn’t take care of younger siblings, when our first attempts at cooking burned the supper, when we couldn’t finish our homework on time or any number of other scenarios. We’ve believed the lie for a long time.

As mothers, we often false-guilt ourselves when our children make poor choices. Or when our husbands choose a younger and different model because of their own lack of strength and integrity.

We blame ourselves and shame ourselves into thinking it’s all our fault.

This lie actually began in the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, Adam tried to shame Eve. He told God, “This woman you gave me – she gave me the fruit and I ate it.” He blamed her for his own rebellion against God.

Women have been believing that lie and shaming themselves ever since.

The truth is that other people make wrong choices, and we can’t fix the negative consequences. We are not responsible for how other people think or the choices other people make.

We can train our children, but we can’t make good choices for them. It’s not our fault when they choose a negative direction.

We can love our husbands, but we can’t ensure they will be faithful. It’s not our fault that we’re not beautiful enough, skinny enough or enticing enough to keep them faithful.

We can work hard, but we’re not responsible for the choices of other people in the workplace. It’s not our fault when something goes wrong that we could not have prevented.

We don’t have to live from the shame and blame others try to put on us, and we don’t have to believe this lie. It’s NOT our fault.

Check out the book by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, “The Lies Women Believe.”

Think about some of the lies you may be carrying around.

Then fight those lies with the truth and march toward being the incredible woman you are.

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

The Power of “AS”

Truth be told, I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day. I believe love is expressed countless times in a variety of ways every single day. Not just on this one special occasion.

But global marketing tells a different story.heart of art

In grade school we determine how lovable we are by the number of cards we receive in our decorated boxes on the corner of our desks. In high school we determine our lovability by the number of secret admirers who profess their love through anonymous valentines.

As an adult, it seems every restaurant, floral shop, and grocery store reminds us of our love quotient: will I be worthy enough of that special box of chocolates or arrangement of roses; or will I be overlooked, ignored, discarded for a newer or more popular model?

How did I become so dependent on others to feel love and value?

I think it began in early childhood, perhaps as young as kindergarten. I attended parochial school where the Bible was our textbook. I memorized scripture and earned the gold star, but somehow the words became twisted on the way to my heart.

I was taught to fear the Lord and always put others first.

As a child, however, I equated fear of the Lord to BE afraid. After all, I could not hide from Him. He knew everything I did or thought. In my mind, He was always lurking behind the door, trying to catch me in a compromising position. And He relished writing down each infraction in my Ledger of Life.

Two years ago I decided this view of God was not working. How could I spread the Good News if I did not find God good? How I could show the unconditional love of Christ when I did not recognize it myself?

So I decided to focus my Bible study on the loving nature of God, on His mercy and grace rather than judgment and wrath. Slowly I began to realize that I am loved by God – unconditionally.

But recently I became aware of another childhood misinterpretation of a key scripture verse: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:36-39)

While my eyes read, love your neighbor AS yourself, my mind interpreted, love your neighbor INSTEAD of yourself.

Yes, we are to love others, minister to those in need, extend grace and mercy to our enemies – but we are also to do the same for ourselves.

If we do not accept and love ourselves as God loves us – if we do not tend to our personal needs – if we do not extend grace and mercy to our shortcomings, we will deplete the well and have nothing left to give to others.

An empty well breeds resentment, and the seed of bitterness will take root in our barren heartland. This harms our relationship with the Lord and our ministry to others.

So this February, open the Bible and read the greatest Valentine of all: a love letter from your heavenly Father to his beloved daughter. And then do something special to fill your well.

©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.