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

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.

 

 

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

Are You Kidding?

For women who are hurting, one of the most difficult issues is forgiveness.

How can I ever forgive this person who has hurt me so deeply?

How can I forgive when he isn’t even sorry?

If I can’t forget, then how can I truly forgive?

No easy answers here, and we offer no simple platitudes. Forgiveness is truly one of the most difficult issues for any of us, and we may spend our lifetimes going through the process over and over.

But we know that forgiveness – at least at some level – is healthy for us; mentally and physically. Because if we refuse to walk toward forgiveness, we can easily slip into bitterness and retroactive anger – both of which can kill us.

So if there aren’t any easy answers, then how do we forgive?

One way to begin the process is to pray for the person who has hurt us.

Are you kidding?

No. In fact, praying for those who have abused us or hurt us in any way, is one of the commands Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves” (Matthew 5:44 The Message Bible).

We don’t ever have to trust our abusers or allow them back into our lives. We can’t forget what they have done to us, because we’re not God and we don’t have that kind of power.

But we can begin to pray for them, that God will do a work in their hearts, that they will understand what they have done and be sorry for it, that they will change and start over with a new attitude.

looking upAnd we can pray for ourselves – that God will change us into grace-filled women who speak and act from confident hearts, no longer hampered by unforgiveness.

What about you? How have you chosen to forgive?

2013 GateWay of Hope Ministries – The Helping Place for Hurting Women