How to Move Toward Your Dream

During the GateWay Pastor Appreciation Breakfast, we were privileged to hear a presentation from Phillip Kelley, chaplain of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Using an acrostic for DREAM, Phillip presented some inspiring ideas for how we can move toward our dreams. Although we’re adding some nuggets of text in this blog post – information we share with our GateWay women – we give credit for the original acrostic to Phillip Kelley.

D = Desire – the WHAT of your dream

Knowing what we truly desire helps us focus on the details of our dreams. Then as we focus on what the dreams entails, it can also expand into new territory.

As we focus also on God and the desires he has for us, we begin seeing him show up everywhere. When we are more aware of God and his presence all around us, it helps us confirm our dreams and move forward.

We also realize our dreams DO count for something. As the Psalmist wrote, “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4 TNIV).

R = Reason – the WHY of your dream

Sometimes we may wonder why we are so focused on an idea or why we feel a particular nudge in our hearts.

That inner voice is definitely worth listening to, because it might be the Holy Spirit urging us to listen and obey – to march forward and accomplish our dreams.

Michael Hyatt wrote, “When you know your why, you’ll know your way.”

Our “why” – the reason for our dreams – gives us the motivation we need to keep moving toward the goal.

E = Experience – the WHO of your dream

Each of us owns a personal experience story, the bumps and bruises along the way as well as the joys and exciting events that have happened to us.

God can use each one of those experiences to move us toward our dreams. Like stepping stones advancing us toward the next experience and the next goal.

How we own those experiences and how we react to them determines how successfully we navigate. We can become bitter or we can learn and grow better.

The Bible also confirms the importance of our experiences, “God comforts us in all our troubles, so we can comfort others with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4 TNIV).

As God comforts us and teaches us, we learn. Then we can pass on that learning to others and use it as a springboard for our own dreams.

A = Abilities – the HOW of your dream

We have each been given talents and giftings unique to our personalities. Often, we take these abilities for granted.

For example: the stay-at-home mom who organizes birthday parties has a gift of administration and detail-orientation. She may not realize how important she is to the family unit, but that gifting becomes the ability to get everyone to doctor appointments on time, to plan for meals and to make sure everyone in the family has a fun time on their birthdays.

Think of all the things you do in one day’s time. How do those activities line up with your abilities? When you feel energized by a certain activity, that’s a good sign you are operating out of your strengths and specific abilities.

Then those abilities become the action points for moving toward your dream. Lean your life into the abilities that strengthen you.

M = Maturity – the WHEN of your dream

Throughout our lives, God is in the process of growing us up. We become mature by moving through experiences and using our abilities to make progress.

Even though a dream may be realistic and so very important to us – we may not yet be ready to see it happen. God does stuff in us before he does stuff through us.

For example: it is rare for a person who carries the dream of writing to sit down and put together a best-selling novel. Writers learn how to write by practicing the craft of writing. That dream of writing and publishing a novel may come true, but for most writers – the dream becomes reality only after many hours of trial and error, rejections and starting over.

Are we defined by our circumstances or will we allow God to refine us because of our circumstances?

We may often feel as if we’re going backward instead of forward, but we need to remember that failure does not define a person – it is only an event.

As we learn from our failures, we become more mature. Then time determines the when of our dreams.

A good exercise would be to think about your current dreams, then journal through this acrostic. Check to see how you’re moving forward and perhaps what your next steps might be.

If you need help, call us at GateWay of Hope – 913.393.4283. We help women transform their lives and find that hopeful place where dreams come true.

©2017 GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

Beware of Identity Theft

nancy-kay-graceNot long ago, when I checked the status of a credit card account online, I noticed a charge I did not make. After several phone calls to the vendor and the credit card company, it became clear that I was a victim of credit card fraud and identity theft.

Thankfully, this did not involve a huge sum of money although it cost time and energy to resolve. The theft happened without my knowing it. After a new card number was issued, I had to contact any merchant that had used the previous card. Nearly a year passed before the refund appeared on my statement.

Identity theft can also occur within our hearts. The enemy of our souls robs us of our joy and self-esteem by whispering lies that cause us to doubt our value to God.

When we focus on comparing ourselves to others, we lose sight of our uniqueness to the Creator. If we think anything we do must be perfect, we believe the lie that we are only as good as the last performance of a task.

Regret from past mistakes keep us from forgiving ourselves and moving forward with confidence. Comparisons, perfectionism, and focusing on past mistakes are a few of the lies that can snatch our self-identity.

When we succumb to this wrongful thinking we suffer from identity theft.

How can we prevent this type of identity theft? By knowing and believing what God says about us in His Word, the Bible. Here are a few key thoughts and Bible verses to bolster self-esteem:

God knows you personally.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name, you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

God created you.

“For you created my inmost being; you know me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14

Because of God’s unconditional love, Christ died for you.

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6, 8

Because of God’s immense love for us, we are chosen as His children.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”1 John 3:1

As someone who has struggled with different kinds of identity theft—physical through my credit card incident and personal through listening to lies about my self worth—I know I must believe what the Word of God says about my value.

Each day presents a new opportunity to look in the mirror and say, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator who loves me.”

Our self worth is stronger when we understand our identity in Christ.

©2015 Nancy Kay Grace

Bio: Nancy Kay Grace writes about God’s grace in everyday life on her blog and in a monthly e-newsletter, GraceNotes. Her book, The Grace Impact, is a devotional that was released in April, 2015. Nancy and her husband live in Springdale, AR. The have two grown children and are enjoying the new stage of life of grand-parenting to their five grandchildren.

To read more about God’s love for you, please go Nancy’s blog and website at: http://www.nancykaygrace.com.

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.

What Restoration Looks Like

Have you ever found an amazing piece of furniture you knew would look spectacular in your home?

But you hesitated to buy it because it needed to be restored. It was covered with years of old varnish and dust and it had so many scars, the original wood couldn’t shine through.

Yet you knew it could be restored and made beautiful again. You knew it could be useful as well as adding a wonderful story to your home.Woman celebrating

So you worked on it day by day. You used chemicals to lift off the old varnish and the gunk of many years.

Then you sanded it, and gradually – even though some of the scars remained – you began to see the beauty of the original wood. The craftsmanship showed through and you were so glad you purchased it.

The piece fit perfectly in your home and you told everyone who visited how it once looked and all the work you did to restore it. You even shared “Before and After” pictures.

And you were so proud of the finished product. Once again, it was beautiful as well as useful.

When women come to GateWay of Hope, they often carry the scars of years of abuse and sorrow. Some of them have lived with the gunk of someone else’s sin and it has weighed them down.

Some of them carry the dust of years of neglect, because they’ve been so busy taking care of others – they’ve forgotten all about self-care.

But deep down inside, they know God has a better plan. So we meet them where they are with whatever problems they carry.

Sometimes they need counseling while other times they want coaching. And almost always, they will benefit from the support of a group.

Then gradually, as the scars are smoothed over and the junk of the past is removed – they begin to shine again. The beauty of their souls reflect God’s love. They rediscover their gifts and begin to revel in new life.

They become useful and beautiful once again. Their “Before and After” stories are amazing as we watch them embrace hope, pursue healing and come full circle into wholeness.

The Psalmist wrote about restoration in Psalm 71:20-21 – “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more.”

God does a mighty restoration work with the women who come to GateWay of Hope. From the depths of their pain and sorrow, he brings them up. He honors them and comforts them, providing hope and a new focus in life.

We love to see what God is doing at GateWay of Hope as he brings these incredible women back to life.

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

Why Sunsets and Sunrises Are Important

sunrise - sunsetBesides the color and the texture – the absolute enjoyment of how the clouds morph together – it is a creative and artful experience to watch the sun rise and set.

Artists paint them. Poets compose sonnets about them. Writers doodle in their journals while they watch them. Romantics use them as a setting for love.

Each sunrise reminds us of a chance to start over – that God’s mercies are new and his faithfulness continues.

The morning sunrise signals another opportunity to live life with abundance and joy, to make a difference in someone’s hurting life, to offer hope and encouragement even while we drink in the beauty for ourselves.

Each sunset reminds us of the brevity of life. Where did the day go? How is it we are almost into October of this year and soon will greet another sunrise followed by its sunset?

The dusky sunsets also signal an opportunity to look back on the last twenty-four hours. Did I live in abundance and joy? Was I alert for opportunities to be an authentic woman and share God’s love with others? Do I need to confess anything before I go to bed?

My dream house – which I have detailed in my vision journal – will have windows on the east and on the west so that I can enjoy the full panorama of sky, morning and evening.

It is part of my daily worship to meet God in the morning as the sun rises and to praise him for the day past as I revel in the colors of sunset.

Even God enjoys his own creative adventure each morning and evening. “The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy” (Psalm 65:8).

I wonder what songs of joy God will sing over this day, when the sun sinks under the western horizon. And what plans does he have for tomorrow’s colorful palette?

Finding that place of joy and enjoyment can be as close as your window pane. Take a moment tomorrow morning and this evening to joy in the patterns and shadings of God’s sky.

Then bow your head before the Eternal Artist who creates something new every day.

©2015 GateWay of Hope

When God Repeats

Every teacher knows the value of repetition – of repeating something important so that her students will remember it well.

The same thing is true when God wants to teach us something important. He repeats it.God repeats post

One example occurs in the book of Psalms in the Bible. The Psalms are wonderful examples of poetry that teach valuable truths and are sometimes set to music.

In Psalms 42 and 43, a phrase is repeated several times:

“Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul? Why are you crying the blues?
Fix your eyes on God. Soon you’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on your face. He is your God.”
Psalm 42:5, Psalm 42:11 and Psalm 43:5

Why does God repeat this phrase three times within these two Psalms? Because it contains important information that he wants us to remember.

He knows we can sometimes feel discouraged, but he doesn’t want us to stay in that place. He doesn’t want us to live in self-pity or continue to feel blue all the time.

The solution is to keep our eyes fixed on God. Think about how wonderful he is and how much he loves you.

Thank him for all the good things in your life. Yes – even when you feel downhearted – many good things still happen in your life.

Do you have hot water in your shower? That’s a good thing. Many women throughout the world have never taken a hot shower.

Do you have food in your refrigerator? That’s an incredible blessing. And you probably don’t have to walk seven miles every morning to find fresh water for your family.

Do you have a soft bed to sleep in with pillows and clean sheets? Some women live in caves and sleep on the hard ground. They have no idea how it feels to climb into a soft, clean bed each night.

So as you focus on these good things and thank God for them, you will feel a smile starting to break out in your soul and travel to your face.

God loves you and takes care of you. Focus on him and when he repeats something – listen carefully.

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

Tweaking Our Desires [Inspiration]

Forty plus years ago, I became a professional freelance writer. Throughout the years, my work has been published in various magazines and my current book series is becoming a best-seller in the Christian market.

Since my byline is RJ Thesman, people don’t always associate the Program Director at GateWay as the same person who writes the Reverend G books.

As a side business, I also became a freelance editor and helped several writers polish their books to make them publisher-ready. At one point, I wondered if it might be possible for me to become an editor at an established publishing house.Psalm 37-4

So I checked out places online and discovered most staff editors were journalism graduates with a long record of working in various communications formats. Probably not the easiest place for me to break in.

Still, I knew I was a good editor and while helping my own clients, I had a desire for more. How could I best use my English skills and my almost instant recognition of spelling and grammar errors?

In my role at GateWay of Hope, I am also responsible for all our social media sites and both of our blogs (http://gwhope.org/; www.StartingOverSingle.com).

Often, as in today’s post, I am the writer. I love this part of my job!

But I also initiate blog posts from other writers, from trusted sources who I know will write well about the issues we deal with at GateWay – how we help women become all God created them to be.

One day, as I was editing one of these guest posts, I suddenly had a stunning reality buzz.

All those years of thinking I could become a staff editor and here I am – at GateWay – in the role of writer and editor for our blogs.

That desire of my heart, planted so many years ago, has been tweaked by our creative God. I’m not working at a publishing house and thank goodness! Many of the publishers have ceased hiring staff editors. That’s why we freelancers stay busy.

But that desire to help writers do their very best has been realized as I edit posts, schedule for our blogs, search for just the right images and then share on all our social media sites.

King David wrote, “Take delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

I’ve seen that verse come true as God has tweaked my desire and made it a reality.

How has God been tweaking the desires of your heart?

©2015 Rebecca Thesman, CLC
GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women

Watch Out for Stress

Most of us know when we are stressed-out. We feel overwhelmed and tense or we have a great desire to just run away – anywhere!screaming woman

Sometimes stress manifests in our bodies with tense shoulder muscles, headaches or digestive ailments.

Did you know that insomnia or the desire to sleep too much are also signs of stress?

Teeth grinding, skin rashes, heart palpitations and reduced productivity are all indications that our bodies need a rest or a change of scenery.

Our bodies cannot tell the difference between real or imagined threats. So if we are stressed-out with anxieties, our bodies will react just as if we are faced with unemployment or a life-threatening illness.

The minor annoyances of life contribute just as much to stress disease as major life traumas. We tend to face major traumas with more endurance, ask for prayer and believe God will help us. But then a glass full of milk spills during supper and we scream.

Sometimes all it takes is a little spilled milk, a flat tire or a broken fingernail to send us over the edge.

So how should we deal with stress?

First, realize that life on this earth is going to involve some stress. Nobody’s life is completely perfect. Even the richest, most beautiful people sometimes get zits.

Second, pay attention to the signs of stress and don’t ignore how serious they are.

Third, be proactive in dealing with stress.

• Rest. Find a way to relax. Schedule a massage.

• Go somewhere for a brief getaway. Even a one day trip or a two-hour shopping excursion might help.

• Take care of yourself. Eat well. Sleep at least eight hours each night. Eat dark chocolate.

• Use your journal. Whether you do a webbing or write long paragraphs, let your stress escape onto the page.

• Read Scripture. Start with the Psalms in The Living Bible paraphrase.

When we remind ourselves of the dangers of stress, we take better care of our bodies and ultimately our souls.

What are some ways you deal with stress?

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

How To Wake Up

We might wonder what King David was thinking when he wrote these words, “Awake my glory, my inner self” (Psalm 57:8).monarch butterfly

Was he worrying about how to escape from King Saul without losing any more men? Or maybe he wondered why it was taking so long to claim the kingdom for himself? Perhaps David just felt tired from all the battles and needed God to encourage him.

At GateWay of Hope, we often see women who are just tired of all the battles. They’ve been beaten down by life and traumatized by experiences they never imagined would knock at their doors. They’ve been shocked by how the addictions of their loved ones personally affected them and the family unit. They’ve tried to hide behind their woundings so that no one could see how much they’ve been hurt.

But when they face the truth and become aware of the damage that’s been done, they begin to step forward and pray with David, “Awake my glory, my inner self.”

As these women journal their thoughts or enter into emotional healing prayer or join one of our groups or set up appointments for counseling or coaching – they begin to discover the inner self, the women God created them to be.

All of us need an occasional wake-up call. When our souls awake, then we begin to slough off the junk that has kept us from being genuine. The walls we have built around ourselves begin to come down, and we experience our own Jericho earthquakes.

As we wake to the women God created us to be, we are empowered to reach out to our world and thus, to glorify God.

Then we can echo David’s words in Psalm 57, “Give thanks to Thee, O Lord, among the peoples.”

2014 GateWay of Hope – The Helping Place for Hurting Women

A Riveting Question

Recently, God spoke to me, and I shared it with a friend.

My friend asked, “So what might be God’s invitation to you?” question mark

The riveting question haunted me, so the next morning, I read Psalm 42. As I meditated, I asked myself the question, “What is God inviting me to?”

I discovered four invitations:

Above all, God invited me to yearn for Him – to pant and thirst for Him. I often wake up agitated, wanting to experience Jesus. Though I don’t like that restless feeling, it indicates that I’m spiritually healthy.

What if the deer in Psalm 42 never experienced thirst? He might become dehydrated and die. I see my restlessness as an invitation to seek Him…so I can live.

I accept the invitation to yearn for God.

The next invitation was for me to be real, authentic. The psalmist cried out and questioned God. Twice he admitted to being “downcast.” He mourned. He was in physical agony. He had many enemies. King David was no pretender.

God invites me to be authentic with Him, even if that means shedding tears, questioning Him or acknowledging my pain or discouragement.

I accept the invitation to be authentic.

Another invitation I felt God extend to me was to recall the past. Though He invites me to be authentic when I am feeling down, He also invites me to savor the good times: leading crowds to worship Him…recalling places where I experienced Him closely.

In the midst of his pain, the psalmist remembered that God loved him. God was his Rock. God invites, even compels, me to remember past truths about Him as well.

I accept the invitation to recall, even savor, good times from the past and to remember who God is.

The final invitation from God was to hope in Him. The psalmist knew that in the future he would once again praise God.

But the way the psalmist did this is not something we are often encouraged to do. He talked to himself. He instructed his “soul” to hope in God. He did this twice!

I accept the invitation to hope, yes…even to talk to myself as I instruct my soul to look toward the future.

Four invitations:
• To yearn for God
• To be authentic
• To recall God’s truths in the past
• To stay in hope

What is God’s invitation to you?

2013 Deborah Simon, Executive Director
GateWay of Hope Ministries – The Helping Place for Hurting Women