How to Nourish the Mind

In a few short days I will be leading a group of 38 students and parents on an international trip of a lifetime. We will visit seven major cities in twelve days: London, Paris, Florence, Rome, Pompeii, Sorrento and the Island of Capri. Needless to say, we are all excited.

At a recent group meeting, one insightful young man asked a valuable question: Do you have any tips for slowing down time? How do we remember the details when we are constantly rushing around?

While the answer I gave was specific to the trip, I think much of what I communicated can be applied to life in general.

Slow down. Recognizing the problem is always the first step. Since we know life is speeding by, we can now become more conscious of the world around us. Rather than always looking straight ahead with laser-lock focus, glance to the left and right to see what lies next to you.

Occasionally lift your head to the heavens and marvel at the color of the sky, the shape of the clouds, the warmth of the sun. Scan the path beneath your feet and notice the texture of the ground and the smell of the earth.

Allow your imagination to wonder who else traveled this same road. What did they experience? How was their life the same or different from yours?

Engage the senses. Don’t just walk around on automatic pilot, looking but not really seeing anything. As much as possible, try to notice specific elements, particular smells, distant sounds, unusual textures, and mouth-watering tastes.

The more we engage all five senses, the more likely we are to remember the moment in vivid detail.

Prior to writing his chef-d’oeuvre, Remembrance of Things Past: Marcel Proust wrote, “The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it … but … as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine … which my aunt used to give me …. the memory suddenly revealed itself.”

Monsieur Proust then went on to write more than 3,000 pages of memories. Do not underestimate the power of the senses.

Journal. We are far more likely to remember events or information if we write them down.

In her book, Writing Down Your Soul, Janet Conner reminds us, “When you write, you use several modalities at once: visual – you see what’s on the page; and you also see the events you are writing about in your mind. Auditory – you hear yourself talking about the events you are writing about; kinesthetic – you feel the pen, the paper, the whole physical experience of writing. That alone – using all three modalities – makes writing very, very powerful.”

When dealing with the hectic pace of an international tour – or everyday life – we don’t always have blocks of time to sit and write. In fact, we consider ourselves lucky to grab a spare minute here and there. But that is plenty of time to quickly jot a note, a thought, or a fleeting emotion.

The act of writing is what matters, not the perfect prose or the elaborate description.

At another time, when life is less chaotic, we will have the opportunity to review the journal entries, relive the experience, and add specific details as they come to mind.

When we take time to slow down and savor the moment, we are living in a state of mindfulness. It is in this space that routine tasks can become a source of joy.

For example, rather than grumble about the sink full of dirty dishes, shift the paradigm. We can be grateful for food to eat, colorful pottery on which to eat it, and indoor plumbing.

Rather than stand at the sink, mindlessly pondering our task list, we can emerge our hands in warm water, feel the bubbles tickle our forearms, and gently scrub away the grime.

Mindfulness is holistic, meaning, it focuses on life as a whole rather than the specific goal of the day. The latter emphasizes tyranny of the urgent, whereas mindfulness helps focus on life’s priorities – deliberately choosing what will bring long-term peace and joy.

Mindfulness also means living in the present. If we focus on the here and now, we have no time to think about the past, regretting things we cannot change; and we have no time to think about the future, worrying about things that may or may not happen.

This present moment is really all we have. And it is enough.

While present in the above context means the here-and-now, another meaning of mindfulness is gift. Imagine a large package, wrapped in colorful paper and tied with a festive bow. Excitement builds as we carefully remove the pieces of tape to discover what lies within. Such an exquisite package always contains a precious treasure.

This image is nourishes the mind. It helps us remember to never take a single day for granted. It keeps mundane chores in proper perspective. And it slows our steps so we can vividly live in the moment.

©2017 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.

How to Deal with Discouragement

discouragementOne of the lines in the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life,” presents a great truth.

Clarence, the second class angel who’s trying to earn his wings, watches a video about his divine appointment. Then Clarence asks God, “What is wrong with George Bailey. Is he sick?”

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

Anyone who has experienced discouragement knows it is a feeling of being sick at heart, a heaviness and a dread, almost a hopeless feeling.

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.

Sometimes, as in George Bailey’s case, discouragement settles in because of the circumstances of life. George was facing the possibility of jail time and scandal because his uncle lost the company’s money. Basically, George was discouraged because he thought he was worth more dead than alive. He listened to the lies of Mr. Potter, and then considered taking his own life.

Discouragement escalated to despair.

Some of our discouraging circumstances might revolve around a financial setback, a health issue, a child who denies her faith, the loss of a job – or any number of struggles.

Sometimes discouragement is a 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.

Any type of devaluing statement can cause discouragement. This is one reason why our words are so important.

Sometimes discouragement creates a rut of gloominess, especially when we’ve experienced a series of losses. We feel we’ve struggled 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. God knows the exact gift we need or the exact words we need to hear.

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. So we can cry out, “Jesus, pray for me. Send help!

Sometimes the way out of discouragement comes through powerful music. Just listening to a song or even dancing to the music can help us feel better.

When we are discouraged, we can talk to counselors and coaches at GateWay of Hope who will help us find the root of the problem and formulate a plan to move forward.

And we can remind ourselves that discouragement doesn’t have to win.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 TMB).

What are some practical steps for dealing with discouragement?

  • 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.
  • And keep reminding yourself … Discouragement does NOT have to win.

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

 

How To Do Self-Care During Recovery

This blog post, written by our Program Director and Life Coach, recently appeared at www.angeladmeyer.com.

When one of our loved ones is working through an addictive behavior, the focus seems to be on him and his problem. After all, he’s the one who made these destructive choices, so he’s the one who needs to deal with the consequences.

However, recovery is a joint process – a journey for everyone in the family.

rjt - 2013 picWe can’t help our loved one if we aren’t in a healthy place ourselves. As the airlines know, Momma can’t help the children unless she first grabs the oxygen mask for herself.

So how do we find ways for self-care while our loved one is going through recovery?

We first have to admit we are holistic people. Our physical selves affect our mental capabilities and our spiritual health affects our emotions.

So let’s look at each of these aspects:

Physical

Taking care of our physical selves will help us have the energy to deal with this difficult situation.

It’s important to make nutritious meals, to stay away from the sugars that cause brain fog and keep us from thinking clearly.

Exercise will release healthy endorphins and give us the endurance we need for this long recovery journey.

Sometimes taking care of ourselves physically also means doing some extra good things for our bodies: massage, yoga, a mani/pedi or a new haircut.

Making sure we’re in bed at a decent time with a solid eight hours of sleep will help us deal with whatever we face the next day.

If we feel better physically, then we can deal with the mental battle we face.

Mental 

Keeping our brains healthy will enable us to make difficult decisions and set careful boundaries.

Nutrition does play a factor here. Including healthy herbs such as rosemary and turmeric can help keep our brains in working order.

Another way to increase self-care on the mental front is to have plenty of resources available. Research about his addiction helps us learn how to cope. Reading brochures, pamphlets or books about addictive behaviors increases our knowledge so we can make wise choices.

And taking the time to just read a good book will also refresh the brain. Angela’s Meyer’s 1st book, “Where Hope Starts” and the new one, “Where Healing Starts” are great examples of good books that also teach important points about addiction and recovery. Check out her books at: www.angeladmeyer.com.

Remember this maxim: whatever is good for the heart is also good for the brain.

Emotional

When we’re dealing with recovery, we experience a bucket full of emotions. Shame, regret, false-guilt, sadness, rejection, anger…to name just a few.

It’s important to acknowledge these emotions and realize it’s okay to be sad or mad. God made us emotional creatures, so when we feel these things – that means we’re being authentic.

But how can we deal with them? We need to honestly grieve what has happened to us and to our family. It may help to journal through the emotions or share with a good friend how you feel.

And counseling can also help. At GateWay of Hope, we offer counseling, coaching and support groups to help women deal with the difficult emotions of recovery.

As we take care of ourselves emotionally, we begin to heal and find that sacred place inside that needs God’s touch.

Spiritual

Many women who have journeyed through recovery with an addicted spouse recognize their true Husband and Maker is God (Isaiah 54:5). He is the one who will never reject them, never fail them and never abandon his covenant with them.

It’s possible to grow spiritually even while going through the consequences of a husband’s betrayal. And with God’s help, we can become stronger each day and eventually share what we have learned with others.

How do we make certain that self-care includes the spiritual aspect?

Stay deeply dependent on God. Trust him with all your heart. Tell him exactly how you feel, because he feels your emotions anyway.

Share prayer requests with your most trusted friends – those who will keep your requests confidential yet will pray for daily encouragement.

Spend extra time with God’s word and journal about what God tells you. The Psalms are a wonderful place to camp.

Be willing – in time – to consider forgiveness. This is a process and only God can teach us how to forgive those deep wounds. But if we’re at least willing to learn about forgiveness and to step forward in that direction, God will teach us how to release the pain.

As you’re going through this scary and difficult journey, take care of yourself. God still has a good plan for your life and you want to be healthy when he reveals it.

©2016 RJ Thesman

What is the Secret Sauce at GateWay?

GateWay Logo Original with OutlinesPeople with the Secret Sauce are vital commodities in today’s workplace. These are the experts, the advice-givers, those people we seek out who can help us successfully move forward.

For example: Bill Gates has the Secret Sauce for Microsoft – this business he designed and put his life into.

Another example is Julia Child who had the Secret Sauce and determination to share the joy of French cooking, to persevere until her first cookbook was published and then walk into her celebrity with humility and grace.

Jesus has the Secret Sauce for helping us move past our strongholds, our bondage, lies of the past and any number of other struggles. He also has the cure for society and the future of our hearts.

At GateWay of Hope, we have the Secret Sauce to help women transform their lives and create new legacies.

Our Counselors are licensed, professional therapists who deal with any number of issues and crises women struggle with. They help women process through past abuses, depression, relationship struggles, grief and/or emotional angst.

Our Coaches are certified professionals with a wealth of experience. They help women design plans to move over obstacles in life and progress toward their authentic selves. Our Coaches partner with their clients to advance their personal development, effectively start over single after divorce, set healthy boundaries in relationships, move forward in spiritual formation and recover from betrayal.

Within the group relationships at GateWay, women discover more of the Secret Sauce available in such a comfortable and beautiful atmosphere. Women who have been betrayed, abandoned and emotionally abused find connections with a group that Restores Hope After Betrayal. These women learn they are not alone in their struggle and that even if their husbands choose pornographic images or other sexual deviations – these women can be strong enough to take care of their hearts. The tools these women learn in this group provide hope and healing as well as the gumption to move forward stronger and more content than ever before.

In the Grief Recovery Program at GateWay, the Secret Sauce is included in the truth that all women suffer a loss of some kind and it’s okay to grieve about it. So many women hide behind the mask of “I’m fine” or “I have to be strong” and they deny the power of grieving in healthy ways. Women’s lives have been changed by simply learning ways to grieve and being given permission to do that at GateWay.

The Secret Sauce is prayer for the PAC Moms group. These women come to GateWay twice a month to pray for their adult children. Their hearts are breaking for their babies who are now adults and have chosen to ignore God’s love or are engaged in harmful behaviors. So these mamas come to pray, and their fervent pleas to God are heard. We see miracles happening at GateWay as a direct result of these intense and genuine prayers.

The women who populate the Treasures group have become a band of “she-roes” at GateWay of Hope. These incredibly strong women find treasure within chronic pain and the illnesses they bear every day. Yet they do not come to GateWay to morbidly complain. Instead, they encourage each other in ways to live out their lives – albeit in pain – with a sense of joy and contentment. Their Secret Sauce include perseverance, gratitude for simple joys and the certainty that pain may last as a temporary affliction, but someday – healing will be complete.All women need hope

Although we often encourage women to journal and process through their thoughts, our Journaling Class occurs twice a year at GateWay. The Secret Sauce is conveyed through the teaching gift and life experiences of our facilitator who shares fascinating new ways to journal and gain benefits from this important discipline. Women come away from the Journaling Class with a renewed vision for how they can share their learnings and apply journaling tips to their own decision-making processes.

Our cornerstone group at GateWay of Hope is our Boundaries track. Three times a year, we present some sort of boundaries class, because we know how important it is for women to learn how to say, “No” and when to say, “Yes.” We have seen the consequences when women do not know the difference and allow life to take away their precious selves. So we want every woman to learn about these life-changing guidelines and begin to implement them into their worlds.

Where is the Secret Sauce at GateWay? It’s interwoven into everything we do and every woman we serve. Why is it so important to find the Secret Sauce at GateWay? Because we are the premier place that presents such restorative and transformative change in the lives of women.

Come join us on this journey. We’d love to serve you.

©2016 GateWay of Hope

Finding a Healing Journal Method

At GateWay of Hope, we have found journaling to be a wonderful process that leads us toward hope, healing and wholeness.journal

But sometimes, we need a new way to think about journaling and process our thoughts.

In his book, “The Listening Life,” Adam S. McHugh suggests the AHEN method.

AHEN is a simple yet wonderful acrostic for helping us find clarity about situations we find ourselves stuck in. As we process through the acrostic, it might also bring up other possibilities for clarity and growth we haven’t yet considered.

So how does this work?

A = ANGER:

We may hate to admit it, but most of us have some type of anger. We may have hidden it well through the years, or we may have masked it by calling it something else such as frustration, irritability or being ticked off at someone.

The tricky thing about anger is that if it isn’t acknowledged and worked through, it can bury itself so deep that it causes depression. Because depression has so many nasty side effects, it’s best to call anger what it is and deal with it.

So make a list in your journal of everything you’re angry about – then consider who you’re angry at. That might include yourself, a parent, a child, a church member – even God.

Once you start on your anger list, you may be surprised at the emotions that surface, but keep working on it. Acknowledge that anger and then move on to the next step of the acrostic.

H = HURT

When someone hurts us, we often develop anger toward that person or that situation. None of us likes to experience hurt, whether it’s emotional, mental, physical or spiritual.

But life is often filled with hurts and again – when we discover them and acknowledge the hurt – then we begin to deal with the effects of that hurt.

For example: are you isolating yourself from a certain person? Maybe that person hurt you and you don’t want to expose yourself to more hurt. That is self-protection, a valuable tool for setting healthy boundaries.

But is that isolation caused by the hurt someone did to you? And are you angry about it?

Journal through the hurts you may be feeling and consider how they might be connected to any anger you are experiencing.

Why does it hurt so much when people say things to us or do things to us? Because of the next piece in the acrostic….

E = EXPECTATIONS

We are hurt because we have certain expectations about people, about life, even about God. When those expectations are not met, we are hurt and that results in anger.

For example: when a woman dresses in her bridal gown and marches down the aisle toward her lover, she expects him to keep the vows – to love and cherish her until death parts them.

But if he breaks that commitment, that covenant, then her expectations have been shattered. She is deeply hurt and incredibly angry. She may carry that anger for several years, into divorce court and beyond – even to the point where she loses the ability to trust.

All because her expectations were not met.

What are some of the expectations that have failed in your life? How deeply did they hurt you? Did they result in any anger? Journal through these possibilities.

Why are expectations so important? Because they are based on the next phase of the acrostic.

N – NEED

We all have deep-felt needs, sometimes so deep we are not aware of them. Our needs then feed into our expectations.

In the above example, the expectations were not met for a lifetime of love and commitment. Why did that hurt so deeply?

Because women have a deep need to be loved. They crave strong arms around them, the security of a home and the presence of the man they fell in love with – all those years ago.

They need the intimacy of someone talking and listening to them at the breakfast table, a warm body to cuddle next to at night and the wisdom of a man who knows how to fix the flat tire and the leaking kitchen sink.

They long to be cared for, to be honored and cherished, to be the only person that man loves for a life-time.

When that need is not met, when that commitment is broken, then the hurt spawns other problems.

They may look for comfort in substances, even food. They may try to find intimacy in another relationship that ends in another tragedy or a lifetime of toxic communication.

Even worse – they may cover up the need so deeply that they become bitter and refuse to ever love again.

The expectations were not fulfilled, therefore the needs surface and become a stumbling block for the abundant life.

Do you recognize some needs that have not been met because expectations were shattered?

FINDING THE HEALING PLACE

Now that we’ve journaled and worked through this acrostic, let’s find how to work toward healing by starting backwards.

Our NEEDS are great and sometimes we are needier than we want to admit. But when we base the meeting of those needs on another human being, we will inevitably be disappointed.

Our deepest needs were made to be met by the God who created us. In fact, he promises, “I will meet all your needs according to my riches of glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

So the healing place begins by taking those needs right back to God. No matter what your needs are, God is able to meet them.

Do you need some encouragement? Ask God for it and then watch for the amazing ways he chooses to meet that need.

Do you need some help with finances? Ask God to give you the name of someone who can help you.

Do you need something more concrete? Clothes, shelter, food? God knows all the resources available at all times. Tell him what you need, then be ready to receive his blessings.

When we place EXPECTATIONS on another human being, we may be disappointed. Sometimes we need to speak about what we expect so that person knows how to plan for that need.

Do you expect your children to go to college? Then begin a college fund, make sure they do their homework and talk about the value of education. Still, they may make other choices, so you may have to change some of your expectations.

Be realistic. Most of us experience some shattered dreams in life, but that doesn’t mean we have to live in despair. It just means we need to set new goals.

If you need help with expectations, consider the Coaching services at GateWay of Hope.  We can help you set realistic expectations and then work toward meeting them.

All of us are going to be HURT sometime in life, because life is hard and some people tend to be cruel. That doesn’t mean we have to wallow in the hurt or surround ourselves with self-pity.

It just means we can expect hurts. But it’s what we do with the hurt that matters.

Again, God has a solution. “Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

We can bring those hurts to God and ask him to help us forgive so they don’t dig deeply into our souls and keep us from living in peace.

Some hurts ARE going to burrow deep, just because of how intense they are. If that is your experience because of abuse, then contact one of our Counselors at GateWay of Hope. They are skilled in dealing with many types of abuse.

So we’ve worked backward and now we’re at ANGER once again. But you may find that because you’ve journaled through this AHEN acrostic, some of the anger doesn’t seem so intense.

Now it’s time to let the anger go. Think of it as a visual – a box of yuck you’ve been carrying around. It’s become a burden and you don’t want it anymore.

Let it go. Bury it at the foot of the cross. Turn it over to Jesus and let him heal you in those deepest places of hurt.

Get rid of the anger so you can begin living in joy and peace. Then you’ll experience the abundant life and become the woman God has created you to be.

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

How a Basset Teaches Life Lessons

Molly TotoroI am a dog person. Dogs epitomize unconditional love, and I consider them my furry children.

We have owned Yellow Labs for the past dozen years. We welcomed three litters of Lab puppies, and maintained three Labs of our own. We know the breed.

Labs are people pleasers. That’s why they are easy to train. One cross look and a Lab will stop bad behavior and immediately try to earn back favor.

About four years ago, we adopted a Basset Hound and quickly discovered they are an entirely different breed ¾ literally. Bassets adore attention, they just don’t discriminate between positive and negative. A cross look carries no weight. And they are very stubborn. However, those droopy eyes and long, floppy ears endear them to us, no matter the turmoil.

At first I thought the Basset needed some additional exercise to wear out his puppy energy. While this helped the hyper-activity at home, the daily walk was a constant struggle. I wanted him to heel; I wanted him to obey; I wanted to walk him – not vice versa.

After a month of trying to train him, I was ready to quit. Then I had an idea.

What if during our walk, I allowed the Basset to lead. What if I allowed him to follow his nose, stop and sniff as long as he likes, and lead me, rather than me pulling him along.

In other words…what if I allowed the Basset to be himself?

While some avid dog trainers might disagree with this method, after all, humans are supposed to be the pack leader in the household, I was desperate.

I wanted joy with my dog, not constant battles. I wanted a happy pooch, not an anxious one. I wanted a peaceful home.

So I did it. For the past two years the Basset and I go for a daily walk. He is beside himself when he sees the leash, whining with delight and running around in circles with sheer joy.

He still lurches out of the garage, racing to the nearest fire hydrant, but we soon settle into a nice pace: walking a few steps then stopping to sniff and mark territory. This continues for about thirty to forty-five minutes, depending on the direction he takes.

At this point he has about five regular routes, and he always knows where to turn to lead us back home.

We typically walk in the morning, and he lets me know if we’re running late. But once the walk is complete, he is content for the rest of the day.

Maybe I can learn a lesson from the Basset.

What if I allow myself to be Molly for thirty minutes a day?

What if I do what I want to do, what I’m meant to do, without fear of others’ judgment or slavery to the task list.  What if I am simply me?

As women we wear many hats. We are wife, mother, teacher, chauffeur, cook, volunteer, friend, employee, manager. The list goes on and on.

And each role comes with its own list of responsibilities and expectations. It is easy to become the role and lose sight of the individual.

We are called to serve, and God has gifted us with talents, personalities, and passions to fulfill those roles in life.

But He has also called us to be ourselves. To be still and spend time with Him. To become the best “me” we can be.

And it is hard to accomplish that goal when so many other obligations vie for our attention. But what if we postpone those duties for just a few minutes a day and simply be ourselves?

For me, this might include a leisurely walk with my camera, taking a few photos along the way. Or sitting with a cup of tea and reading a good book. Or journaling my inner thoughts.

By acknowledging me, I acknowledge the Lord.

And just as the Basset returns from his walk, content to face the rest of the day, so too am I.

My soul is settled, my mind is at peace, and I am energized to serve others.

© 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.

 

 

Comparing Apples to Oranges

I have struggled with low self-confidence since childhood. When someone compliments me, I mentally list others who do it bigger, better, grander than I.

apple tree I rarely try anything new or (gasp) a little silly because I fear what others might say. I imagine their judgmental thoughts: she’s such a klutz, such a fool, a real loser. I constantly hear the inner voice of Mom’s stern warning: What will the neighbors think?

But all this comparison and worry of others’ opinions is unhealthy. In fact, it is unbiblical.

We are called to love others AS ourselves. This means I need to treat myself with compassion, grace and mercy. And I must learn to accept myself as I am: my gifts, talents, strengths, and weaknesses.

 We bring joy to God by becoming who He created us to be.

How I must disappoint Him when I devalue my accomplishments. How I must frustrate Him when I compare my shortcomings to someone else’s expertise.

Comparison robs me of the opportunity to become my best, and it denies God joy.

In reading through the Psalms earlier this year, I marveled at the number of the times nature is used to illustrate God’s truth. And this particular word image came to mind: God creates the apple tree to produce apples. That is its sole purpose and the apple tree willingly obeys.

The apple tree doesn’t look at the orange tree and wish it could produce oranges. It doesn’t resent it is an apple tree, or harbor envy that it is not an orange tree. The apple tree accepts its role in life and is content to fulfill that purpose.

The apple tree doesn’t look at other trees in the orchard and wish it could be like them. It doesn’t put itself down. It doesn’t judge its fruit to the other, wishing its apples could be bigger, redder, or more plentiful. It merely produces the best apples possible.

The Granny Smith doesn’t bemoan the fact that its fruit is tart. It doesn’t wish it could be a sweet Honey Crisp. It is satisfied with its lot in life, and so is the Lord. God knows there is a unique purpose for each variety of apple. Think of it, without Granny Smiths we wouldn’t have the perfect apple pie filled with warm firm fruit, rather, we would have mealy mush inside a pastry crust.

Sometimes the apple tree needs a little help. If it is allowed to grow wild with no direction or discipline, it can’t achieve its full potential. The farmer must water, fertilize, and sometimes prune to help the tree become its best. This pruning is out of love and respect for the tree; it is not a form of chastisement or punishment.

And so the apple tree accepts its calling to produce apples. It derives joy from doing exactly what it is supposed to do.

Nature is teaching me to stop comparing and to simply accept who God created me to be. This lesson brings me joy and peace, even as it honors God and brings Him delight.

“…He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”          ~ Zephaniah 3:17

©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.

How to Care for Yourself After Sexual Assault

saam - women 3By now you probably know that GateWay of Hope is honoring April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM). In our first blog post this month we looked at who is affected and how it affects them. (Click here to read the previous post.) We also examined how to help prevent sexual assault/abuse. In our second post, we explored how both individuals and churches can offer support to survivors.

Before we consider today’s topic – caring for yourself – I want to add three more suggestions for walking beside a survivor of sexual trauma:

  • Acknowledge your own inadequacies – to yourself AND your friend. You don’t have to have the answers or solutions. You are not called to make everything okay. You are simply called to be there and offer love. It’s okay to feel weak and not know what to do. Now you know how your friend often feels.
  • Be willing to witness intense pain, multi-layered anger, and unanswerable questions. The kind of evil your friend has faced will be hard for you to hear and look at. You may be uncomfortable at times. You may also be triggered if you have your own unresolved pain. If that happens don’t ignore it, but take care of yourself. Know this will be hard for you as well as her.
  • Pray. Pray. Pray. This woman is in a battle for her life. She needs your prayers. But always ask her permission before you pray in her presence. She may be angry at God and not want to have anything to do with Him at this time. Don’t force God on her, but keep praying for her anyway.

Today’s blog post is for the woman who has survived the tragedy of sexual abuse or assault. If you don’t happen to be one of those women, thank God…but please keep reading. You too can learn something.

In our first blog post we learned sexual abuse affects our entire lives: bodies, emotions, relationships, thinking and spirits. In today’s post, I want to encourage you to take care of yourself in all of those areas! I know this will be hard because some of you may not think you are even worth taking care of. But that just isn’t true. You are valuable. You have worth. It’s time to take care of you.

  • Physically – Be kind and sensitive to your body. It has been through a lot and needs your care. But first you will need to acknowledge your body. For many of you who have faced sexual abuse/assault, you have disconnected yourself from your body to such an extent you hardly know it’s yours. Or if you do know, you may hate it. Some of you may be rolling your eyes or shaking your heads, but please hear me out. You know the basics such as: get enough sleep, eat right, exercise, but I want to go beyond this to include your attitude toward your body. Reconnect to and appreciate your body. Embrace yourself.
  • Emotionally – Acknowledge how and what you feel: rage, grief, fear, numbness, helplessness, discouragement. These emotions are normal. You don’t need to act on them; just accept them. Many survivors are adept at pushing emotions down, trying to bury them, deny or ignore them. It doesn’t work…at least not long term. Until you acknowledge how you feel, you can’t do anything about it. Try journaling or talking with a trusted friend or counselor. Do some artwork that expresses your feelings. Here’s an exercise for you – identify what you are feeling and then assign a color that represents that emotion.
  • Relationally – So many survivors of sexual trauma find it difficult to trust – men, women, God, anyone. They also find it hard to say “No.” They want to be in relationship, but to do so feels unsafe. They must take a risk to be in relationships. So it is very important to learn how to know whom to trust. Take small, very small, steps. Not everyone is trustworthy and safe; but neither is everyone unsafe. Consider reading “Safe People” and “Boundaries” by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. Or sign up for a Boundaries class at GateWay.
  • Cognitively – Lies, lies, lies. So many lies develop when you face trauma. Healing comes when you replace the lies with truth.

        In her book “On the Threshold of Hope” Diane Langberg writes, “All of our thinking has been shaped by the experiences and people in our lives.”  

Sexual assault impacts the way you think. Find a friend, pastor or counselor who can help you sort out the lies and then replace them with truth. Here at GateWay, we are ready to help you. And don’t forget to ask God to speak truth into your heart so you can displace the lies that are controlling you.

  • Spiritually – When scripture is twisted to sanction abuse, it keeps us from trusting God. Or when your father (or father figure) sexually abused you it seems impossible to trust God as your “Father.” But know that your heavenly Father is so very patient and, unlike your earthly father, God NEVER forces Himself on you. He will wait until you are ready. Be honest with Him because He can take your anger. Write out your prayers and questions to Him. He’d much rather have you be angry and honest than pretending to love and worship Him when you really just want to shake your fist and scream. I promise you, He loves you, even if you don’t love yourself. Please allow Him to comfort you in your fear, grief and pain.

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse, take care of yourself. At GateWay of Hope we are available to help you in any way. Please call 913.393.GATE (4283) or email (deborahs@gwhope.org). We are here for you.

©2016 Deborah Simon, LCPC – Director of Counseling – GateWay of Hope Deborah Simon

 

How to Counteract Stress

We all experience it in some form or another and sometimes – we actually expect it. Within our busy lives, we expect to meet some version of stress.depressed woman

Stress usually makes itself known as we react to it. We yell at the kids, kick the dog, scream into our pillows and tear old love letters into pieces. We write long passages in our journals, comfort ourselves with a half-gallon of Rocky Road ice cream and promise ourselves that we’ll never, ever do whatever it is that has caused the stress – again.

And even if we manage to take a refreshing vacation, soak in a lavender bath or finish off that half-gallon of ice cream – stress can reappear. We can learn how to manage it and find some relief, but living with stress on a long-term basis can be downright dangerous.

At GateWay of Hope, we deal with the issues of women in a holistic atmosphere. We know that emotional stress can cause physical illness and spiritual apathy. Studies have suggested that prolonged stress may be a factor in certain cancers or the onset of early dementia and Alzheimer’s. And stress can cause a number of joint ailments, headaches, stomach and digestive issues as well as affecting our social relationships.

In our American society, we focus on productivity. We work hard, play hard, exercise hard and expect our bodies to keep up with the demands. Talk to a woman who has flamed out from stress and she will tell you – it’s not worth it. Yet most of us continue to do whatever we can to keep up with all the busyness, sometimes not even realizing what we’re doing to ourselves – until it’s too late.

As insidious as stress can be, it can also lead to burnout – which is even more dangerous. Burnout often manifests as numbing. We’ve become so stressed by a toxic relationship that we no longer have feelings. Or we’ve worked so hard and so long, we can no longer think clearly and lose a job. Or we withdraw and isolate ourselves, wrapping our souls in a false sense of comfort that may lead to depression. Check out some of the signs and symptoms of burnout.

So what can we do to counteract stress?

At GateWay of Hope, we have several ideas:

  • Boundaries – this summer we’ll offer a class called “Beyond Boundaries.” Register now by calling 913.393.GATE (4283).
  • Group relationships – it helps to share with other women who are feeling the same type of stress.
  • Counseling – check out our website  for the counselor you would like to see.
  • Coaching – move over those obstacles that are causing stress and march forward in life.
  • Pay attention to your body – it will often tell you about stress, so listen and learn.
  • Break unhealthy habits – what can you do to eliminate some of the stress?
  • Set realistic goals – perfectionism often causes an increase in stress. Be realistic and practical but at the same time, reach for your dreams.
  • Develop new and healthy relationships – any time we’re in a toxic relationship, it causes stress. Check out the book “Safe People” by Cloud and Townsend.
  • The Serenity Room – we have a special room at GateWay of Hope where women can come to de-stress, spend some time journaling, read a book and/or pray. Our sign-up calendar is in our front entry.
  • Journaling – we’re beginning another journaling class in April. You can register now by calling 913.393.GATE (4283).

All of us deal with some type of stress, but we can learn how to counteract some of its effects. Let us know if we can help you find some peace and protect yourself from too much stress.

©2016 GateWay of Hope – Transforming the lives of women to create new legacies

How to Determine More or Less in 2016

Statistics show that most New Year’s Resolutions have already been broken.Coaching - where you're headed

We begin, determined to exercise more, eat less sugar and move toward new goals – then something happens. We realize how much we don’t WANT to change. Or we finally accept the fact that change requires some stretching and sometimes stretching hurts.

Rather than focus on resolutions, let’s pare the subject down to More and Less. Then, to make it even easier to manage – let’s focus on just one month – February.

This is how it works…

During February, I want to do MORE:

  • More exercise / week – any type of movement counts as exercise. Even walking in place while you’re watching TV is a type of exercise. Parking farther out in the parking lot and walking the increased distance counts as more exercise.
  • More fun activities – schedule fun into your life by including it on your planner or weekly events page. Set a timer on your phone, “Go browse through a consignment shop.” Determine to color on a certain day of the week. Take yourself to a movie and yes – buy the popcorn. Find time in February to do something fun.
  • More inner reflection – we can all learn from listening to our inner Spirit and spending more time with inner reflection. Journal more frequently. It doesn’t have to be every day, but how about once / week – maybe on Sundays? Write down how you want 2016 to look, what some of your visions are for this year and how you will feel when you see those visions come to pass.

Check out this website which gives you a daily devotion: http://www.daily-devotions.net/. As we focus on the inner self, think about what the Bible teaches about the spiritual life and how important it is for our total health.

Think about the things you want to focus MORE on during February. Then take a look at the things you want to do LESS of in February.

  • Less sugar – most of us can eliminate a bit of sugar from our diets without feeling deprived. February is a difficult month to consider this idea – with all the Valentine’s candy in the stores. But we can save one day of the month for our sugar and chocolate fix, then determine to eat less during the other days of February.
  • Less negative self-talk – it’s easy to mentally put ourselves down, especially using those negative shoulds.  “I should have been more effective at that meeting.”   “I should have paid more attention to my children / my spouse / my family.”  “I should have been a better housekeeper, cook, teacher….”

Mental put-downs often focus on past behaviors and keep us from moving forward. We feel paralyzed in the fears that we’re going to repeat bad choices and everything will turn out awful. Not true.

We can turn the negative self-talk into something positive by admitting, “I am enough.” “I am not responsible for how other people think.” “I’m doing the best I can today as I let go of the past.”

Sometimes we need help with those negative voices. At GateWay of Hope, we have counseling, coaching and support groups to help you move past those lies and focus on the truth.

  • Less stress – by setting boundaries, we can eliminate some of the “I should do this” activities in our lives and focus on what is really important to us. In the More list, we included more fun activities. We can’t have that fun if we’re stressed out with too many activities. Attend a “Boundaries” class at GateWay, order one of the Cloud and Townsend books and begin to set healthier limits around your life.

Try the More and Less goal-setting plan for the month of February. Then let us know if we can help you with any of your goals. Let’s make February one of the best months of the year.

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