Hope for the Unknown

“Mom, what’s so funny?” I asked as she walked down the hallway to rejoin us. Having exited the bathroom, I anticipated a variety of funny scenarios.

“I’m wearing two pairs of pants! Isn’t that silly?” Her laughter was contagious and I joined in, but all the while thinking, This isn’t funny.

I caught my sister’s eye. Our laughter couldn’t mask our deep concern and growing suspicions.

When Mom began forgetting to take her medicine, we thought it was just old age settling in. When she got lost driving home on a familiar road, we excused it as too dark to see the road signs clearly.

But the day she wore two pair of pants we couldn’t find an excuse. It was something more than silly.

How can someone put on a second pair of pants and not realize it?

The answer to that question wasn’t funny at all. It’s called Alzheimer’s.

A myriad of questions ran through my mind. What caused this? What can be done to stop it?
How long before she doesn’t remember me?

The unknown answer to that last question haunted me. I begged God to be merciful and allow Mom to always remember me. Her condition was the focus of many prayers. Her physical health was in steady decline. Diabetes had left her legally blind and with unpredictable blood sugar levels extremely hard to regulate. Mini strokes required hospital stays, weakening her ability to care for herself. Growing more forgetful and confused necessitated 24 hour care.

I pleaded with God to take her home before she had to experience her biggest fear – a nursing home.

Although my mother was a woman of faith, sometimes anxiety got the best of her. I inherited that tendency. I was anxious about her health and fearful she would forget me.

One day while crying out in prayer, I felt God answer in a surprising way. Forming as thoughts in my mind, I felt as if God said, “You’re praying like you have Alzheimer’s… spiritual Alzheimers.

This realization hit me hard. I had been praying like I’d forgotten all God had done for our family in the past. Reminders of his faithfulness flooded my mind.

I recalled:

…unexpected monetary gifts to match a need
…return of a wayward child
…protection of my in-laws attacked in their home
…depression lifting after months of suffering

…broken relationships restored
…comfort when loved ones died
…emotional and physical healing
…guidance in parenting

As the list grew in my mind so did my resolve to trust God. Recalling his faithfulness infused me with hope.

Alzheimer’s was definitely a journey into the unknown. As I began to trust God, I no longer worried about my mom forgetting me. I found peace despite the temptation to be anxious. Fresh hope even found joy as we walked together into the unknown.

©2017 Cindy Richardson for GateWay of Hope

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

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

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

 

7 Key Habits for 2016

Instead of making a list of resolutions which we may or may not keep, let’s focus on developing some good habits for the new year.purple 2016

All it takes is 30 days of a repeated behavior to form a habit. So try these healthy tips for 30 days and see how much better you feel.

Sleep seven to eight hours nightly. If you set healthy boundaries and learn to say, “No” to that extra TV show or another activity in your already busy day, you can make sleep a priority. Turn off the electronics at least two hours before bedtime and move your cell phone away from the night stand.

Exercise 20-30 minutes daily. Walk extra minutes on the treadmill, park farther out in the lot, or just jump up and down. Any kind of movement is beneficial.

Eat two colors and one healthy protein at each meal. Make sure one of the colors is dark green. Start your day with some kind of protein.

Schedule your annual exam today. Try to schedule it around February 14th. Love yourself and take care of your health.

Talk weekly with a friend. We need each other and building relationships is important. Whether it’s a coffee time together, a Skype meeting or a phone call – connect with a friend.

Think of at least three blessings you are grateful for each day. Record these in your gratitude journal and repeat them before you go to bed each night.

Talk daily with God. Whether you use a daily devotional book or you pray through a Psalm, God longs to hear from you. The more you talk to him and spend time with him, the easier it will be to hear from him. He loves you. Spend time with the Lover of your soul.

What about your list? Any other habits you’d like to begin in 2016?

©2015 GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

Image attribution: Designed by Gergo-sztuchlak – Freepik.com

 

Image – purple 2016

Unique Women of Christmas

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

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

Elizabeth is listed in Luke chapter 1 as a righteous and blameless woman yet she suffered with infertility. In those days, barrenness was considered a curse from God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perhaps Mary and Elizabeth spent countless hours together watching their sons grow, teaching them proper manners and showing them how to appreciate godly women.

And in the candlelight at day’s end, Elizabeth and Mary probably prayed for their boys who they knew would have a major role in the salvation of mankind.

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

©2015 GateWay of Hope

Hope Stored in Heaven

“Our marriage was made in heaven, but so was thunder and lightning.”heaven - by Web Design Hot

The tapestry on the pillow said it well.  Forever the funny man, it was a gift from my husband for our anniversary. Meant to be a joke, it still rang true.

Naively entering a business deal early in our marriage pushed us to the brink of bankruptcy. Dreams of becoming millionaires by age thirty were shattered and replaced with anxiety, stress and depression.

I wanted out; out of marriage, out of life. In fact I remember praying that I would have a mental breakdown, so I could escape the pressures of our circumstances. Instead, I had an encounter with God and I was saved.

I attended church all my life and would say that I believed in God. But it wasn’t until I realized I was a sinner in need of a savior that I came to know him in a personal way. It wasn’t until we had nothing that I gained everything. And it wasn’t until I surrendered, that I won the battle with depression and anxiety. Surrendering my life to the creator and sustainer of life was a game changer for me.

We’ve certainly experienced our share of storms in the thirty plus years of marriage. Wayward children, financial crisis, lifestyles altered by health issues, not to mention the everyday stresses that can wear on a marriage.

As I look back, I find one constant in all the stress, changes and heartaches; hope. Hope for emotional healing, hope for change in circumstances, hope for my future. Colossians 1:5 reminds us that hope is stored up for us in heaven.

When Jesus rose from the dead he went back to heaven to live. Ever wonder what he’s doing there? According to the Bible, he is praying for us.

“Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34).

Imagine, the savior of the world prays for you.

So ask him to fill you with hope; for your circumstances, your emotional health and your future. Jesus gives hope that is secure – hope as an anchor for the storms of life. Hang onto Jesus and you hang onto hope. When you have hope, you can Hang Onto Possible Endings.

Even in the middle of thunder and lightning.

©2015 Cindy Richardson

Cindy Richardson began in women’s ministry twenty five years ago through her local MOPS group. She seeks to encourage, challenge, and inspire women in their journey of hope through Bible study, speaking and writing. Cindy weaves God’s truth and shares her faith with kindergartners at St. Joseph Christian School. Residing in St. Joseph, Missouri with her husband Tom, she enjoys the friendship of her three grown daughters and loves being Nana to six grandchildren. Visit richardson.cindy@outlook.com for more inspiration.

Photo Attribution: Web Design Hot

 

 

 

 

 

How to Hang On to Possible Endings

Judgmental responses seem to abound in the faith community. Have you ever heard one of these?

Just get over it.”

   “You must be in sin.”

   “You just want attention.”

   “You don’t have enough faith.” 

imbalanced scale - attributed to FlaticonWhen my daughter left our home to live with her boyfriend, my faith was shaken. I had experienced many answers to prayer and now suddenly – God was silent.

I didn’t know how to respond. I believed I had enough faith for God to answer my prayer to bring her home. When He didn’t, I was undone and felt myself slipping into depression.

Since the Bible says faith as big as a mustard seed (about the size of a pencil point) can move mountains, I concluded that my faith must be pitifully small. So I read the Bible, journaled my prayers, talked to a counselor, even reviewed the “Passion of the Christ.”

In the end, my faith remained the same. Unable to just get over it, I dealt with the sin the Lord revealed to me. After checking to be sure I wasn’t seeking undue attention in the midst of drama, I was left with what I thought to be a lack of faith.

That’s when I found Romans 12:12. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

My journals documented my faithfulness to prayer. But I was not patient in this affliction. And I definitely wasn’t joyful; I was a sobbing mess!

So I began to pray the Romans scripture over my life. “Lord, I hate the situation I find myself in. I don’t know what to do. I am without resource for this. But You are my source and strength. Please show me how to be joyful in hope.” 

“Hang on to Possible Endings” was the answer to my prayer. I had no idea what the future held but I knew God held that future in His hands.

It isn’t healthy to deny emotions and pretend that everything will be fine, i.e. to just have enough faith. It’s also not healthy to be ruled by emotions, because sinful responses typically result from emotional living.

Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that the man who fears God will avoid ALL extremes. I needed to get balanced.

Instead of focusing on how to get my daughter home, I focused on the One who could lead her back.  Faith combined with hope could work through my emotions.

I cried less each day. I began to trust God in ways I hadn’t before. I left the hopeless feelings in the pit and felt the delight of hope springing in my heart.

As I held onto possible endings for my unwelcome circumstance, I found that I welcomed the Lord into places in my heart that needed healing.  Healing brought freedom, and freedom initiated joy.

May the God of hope fill you up with joy as you trust Him.

©2015 Cindy Richardson

Spiritual Alzheimer’s

She came down the hall laughing. She had just come from the bathroom and so I prepared myself for any number of funny scenarios.Cindy Richardson

“Mom, what is so funny?”

“I’m wearing two pair of pants! Isn’t that silly?” She continued laughing and I joined in.

But I was thinking, How do you put on a second pair of pants and not realize it?

The answer to that question wasn’t funny at all. It’s called dementia.

When my mom began forgetting to take her medicine we thought it just old age settling in. When she got lost driving home on a familiar road, we thought she was tired and it was too dark to see the road signs. But the day she put on two pair of pants we knew it was more than something silly.

A myriad of thoughts runs through your mind when someone you love has dementia. What caused this? What can be done to stop it? How long before she doesn’t remember me?

The answer to that last question haunted me. I begged the Lord to be merciful and allow her to remember me. Her condition was the topic of many prayers.

Not only was her mind failing but her physical health declined as well. As a 40-year diabetic, she was legally blind. Unpredictable blood sugar levels were extremely hard to regulate. She struggled with anxiety. A few mini-strokes required hospital stays and I pleaded with God to take her home to heaven before she had to live in a nursing home which was her biggest fear.

Although my mom was a woman of faith, she sometimes let anxiety get the best of her. I inherited that tendency. I was anxious about her health and her care.

One day, while crying out in prayer, I felt the Lord answer in a surprising way, You’re praying as if you have Alzheimer’s, spiritual Alzheimer’s!

The realization hit me hard. He reminded me of His faithfulness to answer many prayers: provision when my husband lost his job, broken relationships restored, hope renewed.

I didn’t have to fear that my mother might forget me. I just had to put into practice Philippians 4:6, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

Through prayer, I was able to be at peace with my mother’s dementia. Although no longer able to recognize her surroundings, my mother never forgot me.

I am determined to never forget the faithfulness of God.

©2015 Cindy Richardson

Defining GateWay of Hope

As we promote GateWay of Hope and work on marketing the services we provide, several words keep emerging as key tags.Gate on purple

HOPE: This word is, of course, in our name but it covers everything we do at GateWay. When women first come through our door, they may feel hopeless and powerless. They may wonder if life will ever improve. Then they walk into GateWay and begin to hope.

Hope is a feeling of expectation, but it also involves trust. Women trust their hearts to us and as we work together, we experience a warm belief that hope exists and life can get better.

SAFETY: Women feel safe at GateWay. This involves physical safety, of course, but it’s more than that. They know all our services are confidential and they discover they are not alone with their concerns.

Women feel emotionally safe at GateWay. They know they can take off their masks and lay down their walls. At GateWay, they can be their true selves. We will not condemn them. We will not betray their trust.

ATMOSPHERE: We work to make the atmosphere unique and beautiful at GateWay. We want women to feel comfortable within our spaces and to feel the warmth and love of the GateWay experience.

We decorate with women in mind, and we often see the visible effect when a woman crosses our threshold. She sighs and says, “Ah,” because she knows she is in a safe place and she is moving toward a more empowering future.

ENCOURAGEMENT: In our difficult world, we are often faced with discouragement and despair. At GateWay of Hope, we work to encourage women in their personal gifts and talents and to help them become who God created them to be.

This encouragement might happen through a counseling session, the group experience, an hour with a coach or a time of prayer. It might look like a hug or a pretty card, a smile or a warm cup of coffee. Encouragement includes total acceptance and the presence of a listening ear.

TRANFORMED: When women come to GateWay and begin to experience our services, their lives change. As they feel hope and receive encouragement, they work through their issues. As they meet other women, they realize they are not alone. They feel empowered to embrace their true identities.

In fact, some of our women experience such a transformation, they change their names. They feel like new creatures, able to function and succeed in life. They feel whole again, and we can see the difference in their faces.

Here’s the way one woman describes GateWay, “My life has been transformed by the counsel, resources and groups at GateWay of Hope. When I walk into GateWay, my walls come down, because I know it is safe.”

Our mission is “To transform the lives of hurting women through counseling, groups, coaching and prayer.”
That’s what we do at GateWay of Hope.

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

Depression is Not the Boss of Me

Kathy NickersonAt my lowest point, I walked into the break room, collapsed on the couch, and never got up. Co-workers finally called my husband. He carried me to the car, drove me home, and tucked me into bed. I stayed there until I lost my job, and I didn’t even care.

Depression haunted me for more than a decade. For weeks, I functioned like a normal human. Then, wham! The Great Nothingness would descend. A deep lethargy ruled my days.

Fortunately, by the time our fourth child was born, someone pointed me to the hope of the Holy Spirit. I whispered a half-hearted prayer to The Helper, and He answered with Power.

Not the kind of power that shook the room. But the kind that helped me get out of bed the next morning, take a walk around the block, and appreciate things like sunshine and snowflakes.

If depression is trying to be the boss of you or someone you love, consider these helps:

1.Prayer – The Bible shows us several places where prayer healed the sick and broke the power of bad stuff. It still works the same way today.

2.Medication – Not every person in the world was healed in Jesus’ day. Fortunately, He also gave us the miracle of modern medicine. The chemical balances in the brain are delicate and mysterious, so be patient with your doctor as she tries to find the right combinations.

3.Friends & Family – I call them “God with skin on.” These are the people who understand that you are struggling. They don’t coddle you, but they don’t tell you to snap out of it, either. They understand you would – if you could.

4.Counselors – The great Counselor is our best hope, of course. But He tends to use people like you and me to help one another. Sometimes the mere act of saying something out loud breaks the darkness and brings the light. That is the role of a good counselor – to help us find the Light.

It has been more than thirty years since I whispered that prayer for help, and depression has never kept me down since. Sometimes it threatens and taunts. But, it never wins. I still get up and walk with gratitude every day. Because Jesus is the Boss of me.

©2015 Kathy Nickerson
Kathy Nickerson writes stories of hope in her novels, articles, newsletters, and blog. She and her husband are the parents of four children who have grown up to become their best friends and who have given them fourteen grandchildren, so far. You can learn more at http://kathynick.com/
Thirty Days to Glory – http://amzn.to/1ufpINR
Once Upon a Childhood – http://amzn.to/14Pp4zN

Just the Facts, Ma’am

Have you been wondering…exactly what do they do over there at GateWay of Hope?Gate on purple

Well, let us explain with 8 simple points:

1. Many women are stuck behind their pain or within a problem. They can’t move forward in life and they can’t be the women God created them to be, because they’re stuck in the past or blocked in some way from moving forward.

2. For example, 1 out of 3 women experience some sort of sexual trauma or assault during their lifetimes. 1 out of 2 women experience divorce. Every woman experiences a loss of some kind and every woman struggles with stress. These are some of the issues that discourage women and keep them from becoming all they can be.

3. Women need a safe place to vent their stress, to share about their losses, to move past their pain.

4. GateWay of Hope offers services to help transform the lives of hurting women. We offer counseling, support groups, coaching and prayer.

5. Since we opened our office in 2006, GateWay of Hope has helped over 500 women. We give women a safe place with a uniquely beautiful atmosphere where they receive individual help from professionals and build safe relationships with other women in groups.

6. Women cannot share their deepest hurts with a male pastor. They often do not want their secrets known to friends and/or family. GateWay of Hope gives them a place where their secrets will be handled with confidentiality and compassion.

7. Some of our GateWay women say it like this:

* “A compassionate voice answered the phone and I felt immediately comforted.”

* “My life has been transformed by the counsel, resources and groups at GateWay of Hope.”

* “God saved my soul, but you helped change my heart. I’m not as broken as I used to be.”

* “GateWay has made a huge impact on women.”

* “I was consumed by fear. Now I know I am not alone.”

8. At GateWay of Hope, we help to transform the lives of hurting women and empower them to become all that God created them to be.

If you have questions, check out our website at: www.GWHope.org or call us at 913.393.GATE (4283).

©2014 GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women