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 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

How to Stay in Hope with God

Recently I was filled with awe at the tenderness and love God has shown to us, his children.Cindy Richardson

When my husband accidentally hit our granddaughter with his car, he was devastated. The “what if’s” plagued his mind, both waking and sleeping.

After a few days he said to me, “I’m so glad it was me driving and not you. You would be a mess.”

At a time when most people would be lamenting why it had to happen to them, my husband loved me sacrifically; glad the burden was placed on him in order to protect me.

I thanked my husband, and the Lord, for His spiritual protection and covering. I was humbled.

I was surprised to apply a fresh understanding of God’s depth of love for me. Like my husband, my heavenly Father was glad it was his Son who endured the humiliation, the separation, the agony of the cross, and not me.

Why did Jesus do this?  Hebrews 12:2, “For the joy set before Him” he endured the cross.

He was glad to do it because it brought Him joy to spare us humiliation, shame and our ultimate separation from God.

John 3:16 is a familiar verse to many. Claimed by some, it’s the most overused verse from the Bible. From billboards to T-shirts, church to football games, most of us are at least aware of the verse.

Because of its familiarity we may unknowingly dismiss it, or at least its meaning.

Could I encourage you to take a fresh view of this verse? Insert your name into the parenthesis: “For God so loved (        ) that he gave his One and Only Son….”

God did that for you, and he was glad to, so that you might experience eternal life with him.

That life starts from the moment you believe. No waiting for heaven to experience his love.

Do you have that hope? Hope that nothing can separate you from the love of God no matter what accident, trial or circumstance comes your way?

Put your hope in God and you’ll find His love.

©2015 Cindy Richardson for GateWay of Hope

 

 

Easter vs Christmas Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One week to take communion and truly remember Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Tips from the Samaritan Woman

We don’t know her name, other than “The Woman at the Well” or “The Samaritan Woman.”praying_hands_bible

But God cared about her and sent Jesus to dialog with her.

Her story is written in John 4:3-34 which includes these 5 tips for us.

1. Jesus wants to spend Time with Us. He went out of his way to find this woman and chat with her. He does the same for us. He hopes we will meet with him and speak honestly with him about our concerns, our happiness and all the details of our lives.

2. Jesus is never too tired to Love Us. In this passage, he had traveled a long way – on foot. Yet he ignored his fatigue and spent time having a theological discussion with this woman. He admitted he was thirsty, and he sent his disciples into town for food. But he didn’t go take a nap somewhere. He cared about this woman.

3. It’s okay to be Honest with Jesus. This woman knew Scripture and she wasn’t afraid to be authentic. She confronted Jesus. “You’re not greater than Jacob, are you?” He accepted her confrontation and answered honestly.

4. Condemnation never mixes with Love. Although the people in the town condemned this woman and even the disciples wondered why Jesus was talking with someone like her, God responds with love. Condemnation does not win for those who believe in Jesus and walk with him.

5. Hearing the Truth leads to Obedience. After Jesus declared that he was the Messiah, this woman ran into town and told everyone. She evangelized the very same people who condemned her. Jesus transformed her life and she reached out to those who had rejected her.

Isn’t it wonderful how the Bible still speaks truth today? We can learn these important tips from a story recorded in John and we can go forward to spend time with the same Jesus who cared about the Samaritan Woman.

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

It’s Not Your Fault

So many of us women have been taught, “It’s your fault.”

But that’s a lie.

depressed womanWhile Jamie endured the sexual abuse, her perpetrator whispered, “It’s your fault. You’re so pretty, you lured me into this.”

The guilt and shame traveled with Jamie all her life. But it was a lie.

It was the abuser’s sin and his weakness. It was not Jamie’s fault.

Marcy’s mother-in-law blamed her for the miscarriage of her grandchild. “It’s all your fault, Marcy. If you hadn’t been so active and exercised every day, you would have kept that baby.”

Marcy grieved her unborn child and believed her mother-in-law’s words.

But they represented a lie. The miscarriage was not Marcy’s fault.

Throughout the early years of married life, Sandy listened to the rage of her husband. “You burned supper again,” he screamed as he beat her. “You can’t do anything right. It’s all your fault.”

Sandy believed the lies as her husband destroyed her self-respect and scarred her body. But everything he said was a lie.

Honorable men don’t beat their wives nor do they verbally abuse them. It was not Sandy’s fault.

Jesus reminded us that “the truth makes us free” (John 8:32).

Of all the religious leaders in history, Jesus was the one who respected, admired and cherished women. He spoke kindly to women, he included them on his ministry team and he healed them.

Jesus knows it is not your fault.

2013 GateWay of Hope Ministries – Offering Help to Hurting Women

Comparative Gospel

Most of us who grew up in a church know John 3:16 and can recite it without even thinking.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

The entire Gospel is in that verse. God loves everyone in the world – each and every person. He sent His only Son, Jesus, into the world so that we could see God with a face. Then He let that Son die to take our punishment so that we can join the family of God. All we need to do is believe in this truth and accept it as the guiding pulse of our lives. When we do that, our eternal address will be changed from hell to heaven.

An interesting comparative verse appears in 1 John 3:16.
“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for others.”

The Apostle John wrote both of these verses which underscore how Jesus gave Himself for us. He laid down His life – not just ascetically with His willingness to live in our wicked world, but also literally when He was tortured and killed. John repeated this truth in two of his books, using the same address of 3:16 – just so we wouldn’t forget.

The life and death of Jesus was and still is the prime example of love. To love someone with body, soul and spirit involves sacrifice – a willingness to cancel the desires of the self and think first of the other person. Most of us have difficulty with that. But Jesus went all the way to the cross and through the horrors of death for us. He mirrored love by making the ultimate sacrifice. Then He challenged us to love others with that same intensity and show the Gospel to them.