Transitions and Traditions

This past weekend I took a day trip to Branson, Missouri, home of the Ozark mountain amusement park, Silver Dollar City. For those unfamiliar with the area, Silver Dollar City is built around the theme of an 1880s farm town.

With a few thrill rides for the kids and some musical theater shows for entertainment, Silver Dollar City is an opportunity to step back in time and fondly remember a simpler life.

While I enjoyed meandering the streets of the old-fashioned town, admiring the artisan workers and their crafts, I especially liked visiting during this time of year. Nobody does Christmas like Branson. branson-christmas

Every building is outlined with festive lights, and Christmas Carols play over loudspeakers, joyfully announcing the Christ child’s birth. I left the park in a better mood than when I arrived, excited to return home and embrace the holidays.

On the three hour drive back to Kansas, I reflected on the day’s activities. Yes, I enjoyed visiting the past, viewing the idyllic life of a less stressful era. People seemed to smile more with little rushing about and harmonious peace filled the air.

But I would not want to return to that lifestyle.

I’ve grown accustomed to the modern conveniences of the 21st Century. I like my washer and dryer, which allows me to complete a week’s worth of laundry in just a couple of hours.

I enjoy my dishwasher, microwave and convection oven. I cannot possibly live without my computer and internet access.

No, as much as I admire a simpler time, I would never choose to go back.

So why do I hold on so tightly to my own past? I have a way of romanticizing how life WAS rather than embracing how life IS – especially this time of year.

In our household, November and December were steeped in holiday traditions, mostly involving food. Typically, I began cookie baking before Thanksgiving and kept them in the freezer – impromptu snacks for the kids and their friends.

We are an empty nest now with no children around to share sweet treats, and our figures certainly don’t need them. My baking days are now limited to a single afternoon.

During past Thanksgiving weeks, I would make a double batch of sausage balls and monkey bread for the holiday breakfast. We all sat around in our pajamas watching the Macy’s Parade. I especially enjoyed pouring over the newspaper ads as I carefully planned my Black Friday schedule.

Now I bake only a single batch as my husband and I, along with the basset, watch the parade.  It is becoming increasingly more difficult to surprise children with Christmas gifts. We now give them much-appreciated gift cards.

Decorating Gingerbread Houses was an annual event. I would make one house for each child and we would often invite at least one other family to join us.

The smell of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg would fill the house for days. The candy houses remained a part of the household decorations until January first, when the kids devoured them.

Now that the children live out-of-town and have full-time jobs, it is difficult to coordinate schedules to include this old family favorite. We have great intentions, but follow-through is difficult.

Christmas morning was always magical. After waking up and reading Luke chapter 2 together, we would all head downstairs to see what Santa brought. No matter the family finances, Santa never failed to disappoint, and the smiles of delight made the sacrifice worthwhile.

Christmas morning is no longer magical at our house. It has moved elsewhere. My eldest creates the magic at her house for her daughter, and the other children spend Christmas with their in-laws.

It is easy to think back to the way life used to be and long for the days when we were all together. But to do that would negate the joy of the present.

I am grateful my children are now happy, independent, flourishing members of society. My job as Mom the disciplinarian has now transitioned to Mom the friend.

In addition, I am grateful for the opportunity to focus on self-care. I gladly sacrificed money, time, and resources while raising my children. But sometimes at the expense of my own needs.

The empty nest phase of life allows me time (and a bit of extra money) to pamper myself. I can now pursue my creative interests without embracing the guilt of ignoring them.

Lastly, this new season of life allows me to focus on the needs of others outside the immediate family. By giving to Toys for Tots and the Angel Tree Ministry, I spread the tradition of Santa magic throughout my community.

Our family of five is now a family of nine, with the hope of more on the way. This growth and change means the joy of Christmas is no longer about the presents, but rather, about our presence.

We relish time together. And while it may look different than it did in the past, it is no less precious.

In this season of transition the one tradition that remains unchanged is our love for one another.

©2016 Molly Totoro

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

Hope Sets Healthy Boundaries

Isn’t it interesting how we can tell others what to do but not apply that same wisdom to ourselves?

In my life coaching ministry at GateWay, I often ask women, “What are you doing for fun?” We track their progress and talk about the importance of setting healthy boundaries.

Sometimes we refer to an emotional boundary as setting a fence around the heart. fence-autumn

Likewise with my writing clients. I may ask, “What are you doing for an artist date?”

They tell me about roaming through bookstores, writing morning pages at a quirky and fun coffee shop or choosing a new journal.

Terrific success for my coaching clients. Not such a good job by their coach.

I find it increasingly difficult to schedule artist dates and/or find some time for fun in my busy schedule. Am I too busy? Yes. How can I remedy that? Hmm.

One of my friends recently asked me, “What are you doing for Rebecca?”

I had to stop and think about that question, because we often define fun as something we do that costs money.

But I need to consider other things that are just as relaxing and important for me – activities that cost little or nothing. Fun might include playing the piano, banging out chords that help release some of the pressures of a stressful day.

Walking through crunchy leaves or strolling through colorful chrysanthemums at a garden store. These joys remind me of the creator and how he blesses us with an autumn Kansas.

Other possibilities for fun:

  • An occasional movie
  • Watching the baseball playoffs with my son
  • Jayhawk basketball and OU football
  • Pulling out my coloring book and finding a quiet moment on the deck
  • Singing
  • A new color of fingernail polish
  • The turquoise and corals of a Kansas sunset
  • A haircut
  • One of the autumn craft shows
  • A new journal or reading through the old one with an attitude of praise

These are some of the things that bring me joy, however I need to work harder at getting away and forcing myself to relax. Is that an oxymoron? Forced relaxation?

Even now, I feel the need for some time away to reboot my soul and refresh that creative spirit in me.

I write better after a break when I feel more energized to connect sentences that form paragraphs, outline chapters and introduce new characters to the world.

So I need to be more proactive about using my time off. I need to actually schedule a writing retreat and a personal sabbatical – wherever and whenever I can – soon.

As 2017 approaches, I need to discipline myself to do the same thing I ask of my clients – to find that special place of inner rest, to plan an artist date, to find my own creative boundaries.

Hope asks accountability of others but also demands spiritual nourishment of the self. Even as I help others, I need to do a better job finding myself and define that fence around my heart.

Anyone else want to join me in the search?

©2016 GateWay of Hope – repost of

Finding the Value in Group Relationships

At GateWay of Hope, we offer various groups for women – groups that foster hope, healing and wholeness.Sharing Experiences - Bengston quote

The group dynamic offers several benefits that help us move forward in life:

  • In groups, we realize we are not alone.
  • Within the group dynamic, we begin to grow new relationships with each other.
  • As group members build relationship, we teach each other.

How do these different dynamics work?


When we go through a struggle in life, we often feel as if we’re all alone. Sometimes we may even isolate ourselves so the aloneness becomes not only emotional but also physical.

But within a group, we meet other women who are going through the same struggle. They may even have the same experiences we’ve had.

Even with different experiences, we learn how to deal with the struggle – using a shared solution.

For example: every woman has had a loss of some kind whether it is within a relationship, a circumstance of life, even something as seemingly normal as moving to another state. And we need to grieve those losses in healthy ways.

All women grieve about something. But we don’t grieve in the same way or within the same timeline.

We learn, within groups, to respect that difference in each other yet to empathize because we, too, have grieved.

In some of the more unique groups at GateWay, we address issues women try to keep secret.

A woman who is married to a sex addict is not going to announce her struggle to the world. She will not share that trauma with even some of her best friends.

But within the safety of our group, “Restoring Hope After Betrayal,” women share the secret and realize they are not alone in the struggle.

They support each other, empathize with each other and help each other grow.


This wonderful phenomenon happens within every GateWay group.

Women from various demographics and ages begin to know each other and share together. They focus on the topic of the group, listen to the facilitator and dare to reveal their secrets.

Then one or more of them will bring a snack, share a favorite recipe or decide on a meetup at another time outside their group meeting.

They schedule a coffee together, either at GateWay or in another location. They discover a talent they share, a dream they both have or maybe the same parenting challenges.

They draw a bit closer in relationship and soon they schedule play dates together with their kids, introduce each other to their husbands and/or invite each other into their homes.

They become friends – sisters – with a shared background and now – a new relationship.

We love to see this happening at GateWay, and we welcome the value of relationships as women grow stronger together.


We may have shared experiences, but we don’t all learn in the same ways.

Women who grow together in groups share some of their practical tips with each other. Sometimes the older women help the younger ones; sometimes it works the other way around.

Dr. Michelle Bengtson reminds us how the sharing of our experiences may teach us valuable lessons and perhaps keep us from repeating past mistakes.

We help each other deal with the present but also prepare for the future. And as we heal from the past, we become stronger and more alert so we can help others.

The cycle of health then continues and reproduces itself. Women become stronger.

What we may not have learned from our mothers or grandmothers, we can learn from other women.

Women teaching women. It’s a biblical and a historical truth.

As we teach one another, we grow the dynamic of relationship even better which results in a new normal of strong, confident women moving forward in life to make a difference in our homes, our communities and our world.

So get involved in a group. If you’re interested in groups at GateWay, check out our website. We’re putting together groups for the fall semester and we’d love to have you join us.

©2016 GateWay of Hope

How to Transition Well

We’re in a transition time at GateWay. We have a new Executive Director and this week, we’ll begin our move to a new location.801 N Murlen - new site

All transitions are a bit tricky, but if we’re determined to do them well – they can result in joy.

Whether we’re packing boxes, finding ways to repurpose furniture or sharing financials with a new staff member – transitions involve several levels of movement in order to succeed.

–          Patience

Everyone is tired. We’re working longer hours and moving heavy boxes. We’re deciding what to keep and what to give away, choosing paint colors while doing ministry, drinking another cup of our chosen caffeine.

We do this transition well by being patient with others and with ourselves. Hurry doesn’t solve anything and can result in a broken lamp or a wounded heart.

We take deep breaths, do what we can, when we can, and know that step by step – the work WILL get done.

–          Grace

GateWay of Hope has been in this location and serving well for nine years. That’s a lot of memories and dynamics between people and even objects.

Moving to a new location forces us to clean out messes, throw away trash and wrap carefully the things we treasure.

It also forces us to consider the grief of change and how that affects all of us – staff, volunteers, board members and our precious GateWay women.

We give each other grace every day – and lots of hugs.

–          Acceptance

Our new space will look different although we’ll work hard to make it still feel like the cozy, safe atmosphere of GateWay.

We’ll use much of the same furniture, flowers and pictures, but we’ll design the space to accommodate new rooms and various dimensions.

With time, we’ll all grow accustomed to GateWay of Hope at 801 North MurLen. We’ll recognize the same spirit of acceptance and respect for every person who enters. And we’ll move forward to help women find hope, healing and wholeness.

So be patient with us and give us grace as we meander through this transition. Accept the changes and embrace the newness.

And remember that GateWay of Hope isn’t just a location. It’s also where God Himself stretches out his arms to welcome his daughters home.

©2015 GateWay of Hope

Seize the Moment

My word of the year is DELIGHT. I love the multi-layered meaning. Its definition is extreme joy, which reminds me to find beauty in the every day world. In addition, the sound of the word evokes a feeling of weightlessness: learning to let go of things that hold me down in order to adopt a more carefree lifestyle.

Unfortunately I often forget this resolution. My comfort zone is to focus on the end destination; I rarely enjoy the journey along the way.

Recently I discovered delight and fear are closely related: if I desire delight I must be willing to overcome fear – to step out of my comfort zone for a short while.

In early September I made a conscientious decision to find delight in a Sunflower field. I wanted to take my camera and try to capture the color, whimsy, and glory of these late summer blooms.Sunflower Field - Molly T

For many this would seem a simple task, but for me it was filled with fear.

First I had to drive to the field, on a toll road no less. Will I be in the wrong lane? Will I drop the change? What if I lose the ticket before my exit?

The country field was about an hour away, along a gravel road not easily accessed by Google Maps. I fear driving to unfamiliar locations. What if I make a wrong turn? What if I have a flat in the middle of nowhere? What if I can’t find my way back?

I also suffer from “impostor syndrome.” I know I am not a professional photographer, so I fear others judging me as I carry my camera: Who does she think she is? I imagine their critical comments as I try to find the right angle and the appropriate f-stop.

But on this Friday morning, I filled the tank with gas, made sure my cell phone was fully  charged, and ventured out.

Although I got lost once, I managed to maintain composure and a positive attitude. Phone signal was weak, but I eventually connected long enough for GPS to get me back on track.

Sunflower rows - Molly TAs I rounded the bend toward the field, the view startled me: deep golden yellows and vibrant greens as far as the eye could see. The sky was a bit hazy, but the blue was evident. There was even an occasional wisp of white clouds that added dimension to the landscape: perfect photo conditions.

I spent nearly an hour wandering the field, snapping pictures, and delighting in God’s artistry.

One week later a severe thunderstorm moved through the area and destroyed the field. The once vibrant flowers who lifted their eyes toward heaven, were now stripped of color, hanging their heads in pain.

Had I stayed in my comfort zone, paralyzed by fear of things that never materialized, I would have missed the splendor and beauty of this ordinary Kansas field at its glorious peak.

While the sunflower may be our state flower, it symbolizes so much more to me: a reminder to seize the day, discover delight, let go of worry, and always trust God on this life journey. 

©2015 Molly Totoro for GateWay of Hope

Molly Totoro is a writer and a recently retired English teacher who has a heart and passion for authentic living. She firmly believes “Everyone has a story to share” and is currently establishing a ministry, Milestone Memoirs, where she helps others discover and write their stories to impact future generations.  Molly frequently writes about the need to leave a legacy on her Stepping Stones blog.

Spotlight on Chocolate

choco cakeIf you’ve been following us on Facebook, you know we’re promoting our annual fundraiser – the Chocolate Extravaganza.

In just 6 weeks, on May 2nd, we’ll be having a great time at the TEAH Ballroom on 91st and Metcalf at 6:30pm. Our focus this year is “Making Life Sweeter for Hurting Women.”

Here’s how you can help:

Donate items for the Silent Auction – Donate a basket for the silent auction. A spa package, culinary basket, jewelry, gift cards, unique experiential packages, etc – any items are appreciated.

Sponsor a Table – Gather your colleagues, friends and/or family and join us as a Table Sponsor. With sponsorship opportunities ranging from $100 to $1000, you can reserve seating for up to 10 guests and have the name of your organization printed in the event program. This promotes your business and helps us serve more hurting women.

Buy Individual Tickets – Invite your friends. After April 1, tickets will be available for $15 on our website at At the door, tickets will be $20.

Promote us on Facebook – check out our link to the Chocolate Extravaganza and share it with your Facebook friends.

Send donations to help us make this an amazing event. It costs money to rent a beautiful ballroom, provide the materials needed, get the chocolate, print the programs, etc. You can donate online at

Most of all, we’d love to see you there. So mark May 2nd, at the TEAH Ballroom, 91st / Metcalf on your calendars, 6:30pm-9.

Come help us raise funds so we can help more hurting women.

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