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

Finding the Authentic Self

Molly TotoroFor years I lived life for others, molding myself into roles I was expected to play: wife, daughter, mother, teacher, cook, chauffeur, church volunteer. I was ensnared in the trap of self-worth based on what I DO and in the process, lost sight of who I AM.

I used to think this was God’s will, after all, He counsels us to “value others above ourselves” (Philippians 2:3 – NIV). But I came to realize that God does not call us to value others instead of ourselves.

Ignoring our own interests leaves us as empty vessels, no longer fit to serve, and if we are not careful, this can lead to resentment, bitterness, and depression.

I had to learn to let go of some activities that defined me (and earned me external praise) in order to learn to accept myself the way God intended.

I had to release internal criticism that told me “I’m not good enough” and instead discover the gifts and talents the Lord so graciously gave me.

And I had to do some prayerful soul-searching to identify my core values.

My process was quite systematic. First, I found an online list of 400 values. I then read through the printed list with a highlighter, indicating any words that resonated with me on some level. This narrowed the list to about 50.

Next I reviewed the refined list and eliminated any that were not truly at the core of my identity OR values I thought were similar, such as responsibility and accountability. This brought the list down to ten.

Finally, I made one final run-through to bring the list to a manageable total of FIVE.

Balance – I believe in moderation of all things.

Contentment – I believe practicing gratitude is key to cultivating a joy-filled life.

Family – I believe the importance of family relationship is second only to a personal relationship with God.

Spirituality – I believe in a sovereign God whose omniscience is superior to my limited perspective. I am grateful He sent His only son as my savior so that I may readily accept His gift of Grace. I am no longer a slave to perfectionism, trying to earn His favor.

Significance – I believe we are put on this earth for a specific purpose, which is not self-seeking, but rather to help and serve others. Life-long learning and teaching others what I have learned is how I achieve this significance.

Once I identified these values, I began to incorporate them into living an authentic life. I now seek to make all decisions through the lens of these values.

It is becoming easier to say “no” when asked to do something I know will cause imbalance in my life, and it is more bearable to do unpleasant tasks that I know will lead to long-term contentment.

©2014 Molly Totoro

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, Stepping Stones Publications, where she helps others discover and write their stories to impact future generations.