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 To Do Self-Care During Recovery

This blog post, written by our Program Director and Life Coach, recently appeared at www.angeladmeyer.com.

When one of our loved ones is working through an addictive behavior, the focus seems to be on him and his problem. After all, he’s the one who made these destructive choices, so he’s the one who needs to deal with the consequences.

However, recovery is a joint process – a journey for everyone in the family.

rjt - 2013 picWe can’t help our loved one if we aren’t in a healthy place ourselves. As the airlines know, Momma can’t help the children unless she first grabs the oxygen mask for herself.

So how do we find ways for self-care while our loved one is going through recovery?

We first have to admit we are holistic people. Our physical selves affect our mental capabilities and our spiritual health affects our emotions.

So let’s look at each of these aspects:

Physical

Taking care of our physical selves will help us have the energy to deal with this difficult situation.

It’s important to make nutritious meals, to stay away from the sugars that cause brain fog and keep us from thinking clearly.

Exercise will release healthy endorphins and give us the endurance we need for this long recovery journey.

Sometimes taking care of ourselves physically also means doing some extra good things for our bodies: massage, yoga, a mani/pedi or a new haircut.

Making sure we’re in bed at a decent time with a solid eight hours of sleep will help us deal with whatever we face the next day.

If we feel better physically, then we can deal with the mental battle we face.

Mental 

Keeping our brains healthy will enable us to make difficult decisions and set careful boundaries.

Nutrition does play a factor here. Including healthy herbs such as rosemary and turmeric can help keep our brains in working order.

Another way to increase self-care on the mental front is to have plenty of resources available. Research about his addiction helps us learn how to cope. Reading brochures, pamphlets or books about addictive behaviors increases our knowledge so we can make wise choices.

And taking the time to just read a good book will also refresh the brain. Angela’s Meyer’s 1st book, “Where Hope Starts” and the new one, “Where Healing Starts” are great examples of good books that also teach important points about addiction and recovery. Check out her books at: www.angeladmeyer.com.

Remember this maxim: whatever is good for the heart is also good for the brain.

Emotional

When we’re dealing with recovery, we experience a bucket full of emotions. Shame, regret, false-guilt, sadness, rejection, anger…to name just a few.

It’s important to acknowledge these emotions and realize it’s okay to be sad or mad. God made us emotional creatures, so when we feel these things – that means we’re being authentic.

But how can we deal with them? We need to honestly grieve what has happened to us and to our family. It may help to journal through the emotions or share with a good friend how you feel.

And counseling can also help. At GateWay of Hope, we offer counseling, coaching and support groups to help women deal with the difficult emotions of recovery.

As we take care of ourselves emotionally, we begin to heal and find that sacred place inside that needs God’s touch.

Spiritual

Many women who have journeyed through recovery with an addicted spouse recognize their true Husband and Maker is God (Isaiah 54:5). He is the one who will never reject them, never fail them and never abandon his covenant with them.

It’s possible to grow spiritually even while going through the consequences of a husband’s betrayal. And with God’s help, we can become stronger each day and eventually share what we have learned with others.

How do we make certain that self-care includes the spiritual aspect?

Stay deeply dependent on God. Trust him with all your heart. Tell him exactly how you feel, because he feels your emotions anyway.

Share prayer requests with your most trusted friends – those who will keep your requests confidential yet will pray for daily encouragement.

Spend extra time with God’s word and journal about what God tells you. The Psalms are a wonderful place to camp.

Be willing – in time – to consider forgiveness. This is a process and only God can teach us how to forgive those deep wounds. But if we’re at least willing to learn about forgiveness and to step forward in that direction, God will teach us how to release the pain.

As you’re going through this scary and difficult journey, take care of yourself. God still has a good plan for your life and you want to be healthy when he reveals it.

©2016 RJ Thesman

The Problem With Settling

SettlingMost of the time, we think of being settled as a good thing – a safe emotional place. When we feel anxious, we want to settle down and relax.

But the type of settling we’re talking about is different. This sad “S” word means we have chosen something we do not really want instead of waiting for the best.

Sometimes we settle in relationships. We have been taught marriage somehow holds the key to security and happiness. For some women – that does happen. For others – not so much.

Or we settle for a relationship built only on financial security, live with a guy and finally discover he’s only using us for his own type of security. We’ve settled for less than the best. Remember: a man is NOT a financial plan.

Settling can manifest itself in many ways. We buy clothes on sale just because they ARE on sale when we really don’t love them that much. The unused clothes hanging in our closets testify to this truth.

Sometimes we settle for an apartment or a house just because it’s the only thing we can afford. Years later, we suddenly wake up and realize we hate where we live. We’ve settled and a portion of our souls has become tarnished with regret.

We settle for jobs that don’t fulfill us just because they meet a need and/or they provide health insurance. Then we hate getting up every morning and live for the day we can take a vacation. We’ve settled for a life’s work that feels empty.

Settling is easier to accept because settling means we don’t have to change. We don’t have to deal with the difficult decisions.

We just live in the same old rut and keep breathing. But the stress of settling becomes a hidden cancer that changes how we think about ourselves and our world.

Settling breeds a hopeless existence.

So how do we stop this negative pattern of settling? What can we do to move forward and change our perspective – to live within the best possible scenario?

Know Your Core Values

Once you know how to guard your core values, you’ll be able to make wise decisions based on those values.

For example: if your core value is creativity, then you’ll probably be unhappy settling for a tiny house where you have no freedom or space to create. You’ll need large windows that let in light. You’ll want an area where you can walk and enjoy nature, then come home and feel refreshed to paint, write or sew.

If one of your core values is integrity, then you won’t settle for a relationship with a guy who is deceitful. You’ll be careful to whom you give your heart, and you’ll check out every date to see if he has integrity.

If a core value is to help people, then you won’t be happy sitting in a cubicle all day working on Excel charts. You’ll need a job where you can be with people and serve them.

Pay Attention to Your Gut Instincts

As women, we are particularly instinctive. We have an inner voice, a soul temple that shares protective nudges with our brains.

We need to pay attention when “something” tells us a certain relationship has red flags, a certain house isn’t right for us, a certain job is toxic.

Some women like to make lists of the red flags to watch out for. Other women just keep an inner checklist for any type of decision.

Whatever you choose to do, listen to your heart. Pay attention to what you’re feeling inside. It’s much easier to say, “No” at the beginning than to live with years of regret.

Don’t Ignore Your Dreams

One writer quotes, “Don’t downgrade your dreams just because of reality.”

Many women do this. We ignore the dream of a higher education because we’re afraid of the costs: time, energy and money.

We push down our dreams of becoming a writer, a painter or a concert pianist because someone else has made all the choices for us – choices based on economics and reality.

But the truth is … God gave us those desires for a reason. He planted those dreams in us because he wanted us to live an abundant life.

When we pay attention to our dreams, then we refuse to settle for second best. We march toward the best possible scenarios in life, and we end up feeling more fulfilled.

Take the Time to Be Patient

When we make hurried decisions, that’s when we often settle. We want to make something happen, and we think a certain answer will do – even if it’s not what we really want.

The best decisions are based on godly wisdom, logic, figuring out the pros and cons and looking at all the possible consequences.

It takes time to consider all the variables of a wise decision.

Plus … if we take the time to ask God for wisdom, he always has a perfect timing involved with his good plan for our lives.

So take the time to be patient and then choose the decision that is truly best for you – not settling.

Rely on the Wisdom of Others

It’s great to have wise people in your corner, especially when you have a tendency to settle. Every woman needs a solid confidante she can depend on or even a group of dependable friends.

When we try to make life-changing decisions all by ourselves, we often end up settling. But a corps group of smart and intuitive friends can help us sort out all the possibilities.

An accountability group that focuses on NOT settling will help point out where we might be compromising our principles or making foolish choices. Having a few wise friends is a great gift.

At GateWay of Hope, we have Counselors and Coaches who will help you work through decisions, then provide accountability as you move forward.

Be Cautious about Life-Changing Decisions

For women who have a tendency to settle, caution is the key word. You might want to keep a journal with “Remember When” sentences:

  • Remember when you believed those lies about that relationship?
  • Remember when you bought that expensive sweater you didn’t even like?
  • Remember when you settled for the wrong house because it was cheaper than the one you really wanted?
  • Remember how you ignored your dream of becoming a dancer and how miserable you felt?
  • Remember your little girl soul and how happy she was living in the country?

By reminding ourselves about other times we settled, we can be more cautious when faced with the next life-changing decision.

Trust God’s Love for You

God is not waiting around for us to make mistakes, ready to zap us if we choose the wrong path. He promises, “I will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

WHEREVER YOU GO.

No matter what decisions you make, God will be with you, still loving you and still helping you.

Sometimes, of course, we make really bad mistakes and then we have to pay the logical consequences. But if we refuse to settle for anything less than God’s best for us – then we’re definitely surrounded by his protective angels and the covering umbrella of his desires for us.

So believe in God’s never-ending love for you and stop settling. Wait for the best. Check out all the circumstances and listen to the wisdom of others.

Then move forward with joy and a renewed sense of self-confidence.

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

Finding Women in the Queue

For some strange reason, my printer decided to freak out. Everything was working fine, then it wasn’t. Even after unplugging and rebooting, the printer would not print.printer

In my frustration, I attempted to print several documents which sent them into the queue. Several times, I sent those documents on to this invisible place in techie land where they disappeared. Then I completely forgot about them.

The next day, after I unplugged and rebooted again, the printer decided to resuscitate itself and come back to life. But then, all those documents in the queue spilled forth – in fresh black ink – several copies of the symbols of my frustration.

While I was grateful the printer had decided to join me in the tasks of the day, I now added several pieces of paper to my scrap pile.

Then I decided this experience was not wasted. I could learn something valuable and share it with you.

When women first come to GateWay of Hope, they may be stuck behind a wall of depression, past abuse or a relationship struggle. They may be in crisis and need a counselor or they may need an accountability coach to help them over an obstacle. They may need to find relationship in groups so they know they are not alone.

Many of the GateWay women struggle with their identity. Who am I, really? I am searching for healing, but where do I go from here? What does God have for me? How can I find my purpose in life?

They may feel as if they are in the queue, just waiting for some power source to help them move forward.

Then one glorious day, everything begins to make sense. They realize who they really are – the incredible daughters of God.

They are women who have been gifted to help others, to serve in their communities, to raise a family or to live a contented single life.

They are unique and can accept their authenticity while setting boundaries around their hearts.

They represent the future for our country and they influence others through volunteering, facilitating a group or mentoring a younger woman.

The transformation becomes apparent for those of us on staff who have watched them morph into who God created them to be in the first place.

The junk of the past is gone. The emotional baggage has packed up and left.

What remains is the pure, sweet presence of God in their lives, redesigning their purpose and restoring what was stolen from them.

Suddenly, the power source is obvious. The Holy Spirit is alive and well in their souls and they are no longer stuck in the chaos or struggling to find their direction.

They are transformed and released.

They begin to pour forth love and fulfillment into their communities, their workplaces, their churches and their families.

And their influence creates a ripple effect throughout society.

These are the women of GateWay, empowered to move forward with hope and wholeness, because they have experienced an inner healing that can never be taken away from them.

In the Bible, the prophet Joel wrote, “In the last days, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons AND daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men AND women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28-29 TNIV).

This is what happens at GateWay of Hope. Women who once were stuck in the queue are now going forward to make a difference.

Won’t you join us in this incredible ministry? Check out our website or give us a call at 913.393.GATE (4283).

©2016 GateWay of Hope

 

What We Don’t Like to Think About

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).saam_logo_1

Sexual assault is not a topic any of us like to think or talk about.

Some of us are uncomfortable because we don’t like unpleasant topics. Or maybe we feel embarrassed.

Some of us don’t really believe sexual assault happens that much. We try to pretend it only happens to a “certain kind of woman.” We don’t believe it would ever affect us, our daughters or our friends. And it certainly couldn’t find its way into the church!

But that is not true. Sexual violence affects ALL genders, ages, races, religions, incomes, abilities, professions, ethnicities and sexual orientations.

Still others of us know entirely too much about “sexual assault.” We’ve experienced it up close and personal. Those words bring up terrifying memories of rape, fondling, incest, sexual harassment, being trafficked or filmed for pornography.

We were threatened to never tell. As children we were told it was our fault and no one would believe us if we told. As adults we were afraid to report it because we didn’t want to be humiliated or blamed.

Statistics may be something that make you yawn. But think of this: One in three to four girls will be sexually abused before the age of 18.  One in five adult women will experience rape or attempted rape sometime in their lives. Now think of the women in your life. Those statistics apply to them…to you.

The effect of this sexual violence impacts the victims long-term and in many ways. Diane Langberg in her book, “On the Threshold of Hope” identifies many ways sexual abuse damages us.

 

  • Sexual abuse damages our bodies. It can cause personal injuries, pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. It also affects the way the victim perceives and thinks about her body.
  • Sexual abuse damages our emotions. Fear, guilt, shame, self-blame and anger become all too familiar companions and affect every area of the survivor’s life.
  • Sexual abuse damages our relationships. Trust and boundaries become skewed. Survivors may withdraw from others including spouses, family members and friends.
  • Sexual abuse damages our thinking. Lies abound: “It must have been my fault. I’m damaged goods. Now I have no value or worth. No one is safe.”
  • Sexual abuse damages our spirits. We question God’s goodness and love. We demand to know “Why?” And if the abuser is a father-figure, as is so often the case in childhood sexual abuse, it makes it especially hard to call God “Father.”

From a mental health perspective, sexual assault can cause PTSD, depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

Sexual violence, sad to say, is not a new phenomenon. We can even find stories in the Bible. King David’s daughter, Tamar, was raped by her half-brother, Amnon, and then thrown out of his house. Her full brother Absalom basically said, “Don’t worry,” and then her father ignored the offense. See 2 Samuel 13 for the full story.

One of the worst stories of gang rape is found in Judges 19. When the men of Gibeah wanted to have sex with the visiting (male) Levite, their host gave them the Levite’s concubine/wife instead. The men of the city raped her all night and in the morning she was dead.

So, what can we do to help stop sexual assault?

“PREVENTION IS POSSIBLE” is this year’s theme for SAAM. Here are their suggestions as to how you can make a difference.

  • Intervene to stop concerning behavior
  • Speak up when you hear rape jokes or harmful comments
  • Believe and support survivors
  • Create prevention policies at your workplace or school
  • Coordinate a community event to raise awareness
  • Talk with neighbors about ways everyone can get involved
  • Email legislators to gain support for prevention and services

Visit www.nsvrc.org/saam for more information.

And one more: Call GateWay of Hope at 913.393.GATE(4283). We understand sexual abuse. We can help educate your church or place of work. If you are a survivor of any kind of sexual violence, our counselors are here to walk beside you.

Call today. We can’t help you if you don’t reach out.

In next week’s blog post, we’ll take a look at how to support someone who has been sexually assaulted.

©2016 Deborah Simon, Director of Counseling

GateWay of Hope

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

How to Stay in Hope with God

Recently I was filled with awe at the tenderness and love God has shown to us, his children.Cindy Richardson

When my husband accidentally hit our granddaughter with his car, he was devastated. The “what if’s” plagued his mind, both waking and sleeping.

After a few days he said to me, “I’m so glad it was me driving and not you. You would be a mess.”

At a time when most people would be lamenting why it had to happen to them, my husband loved me sacrifically; glad the burden was placed on him in order to protect me.

I thanked my husband, and the Lord, for His spiritual protection and covering. I was humbled.

I was surprised to apply a fresh understanding of God’s depth of love for me. Like my husband, my heavenly Father was glad it was his Son who endured the humiliation, the separation, the agony of the cross, and not me.

Why did Jesus do this?  Hebrews 12:2, “For the joy set before Him” he endured the cross.

He was glad to do it because it brought Him joy to spare us humiliation, shame and our ultimate separation from God.

John 3:16 is a familiar verse to many. Claimed by some, it’s the most overused verse from the Bible. From billboards to T-shirts, church to football games, most of us are at least aware of the verse.

Because of its familiarity we may unknowingly dismiss it, or at least its meaning.

Could I encourage you to take a fresh view of this verse? Insert your name into the parenthesis: “For God so loved (        ) that he gave his One and Only Son….”

God did that for you, and he was glad to, so that you might experience eternal life with him.

That life starts from the moment you believe. No waiting for heaven to experience his love.

Do you have that hope? Hope that nothing can separate you from the love of God no matter what accident, trial or circumstance comes your way?

Put your hope in God and you’ll find His love.

©2015 Cindy Richardson for GateWay of Hope