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Imagination

What does it take to build a cathedral?

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Or turn your home or business into a piece of art – distinctive – unique –  inviting?img_3737

And when wars or flood waters smash and destroy what you have built, what do you do?

What does it take to start over again?

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How do you pick up the pieces and reassemble them?

What would be different?

What would be the same?

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As I visited towns and cities on my river cruise last

month, our guides not only took us to see spectacular

and colossal churches, buildings and bridges, but also

recounted destruction from wars and floods.

 

There are times when our lives resemble a battle field; when competition, rivalry, hostilities and conflicts spin out of control and we are left feeling like a casualty of war.

 

We saw pictures mounted on walls showing the destruction of bombs. It reminded us that even

when nothing remained but a burning pile of rubble, these cities and bridges were rebuilt –

sometimes reassembling the original – sometimes with modifications.

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As we live our lives, we will experience not only tough times, but what might seem like a war zone.

Looking around us, our lives may seem like rubble.

 

What do you do when expectations are trashed

and the world you thought would last forever no longer exists?

 

When we are in the middle of a battle, our thoughts focus on survival.  But when the tornado winds have past and the flood waters recede we are required to shift from survival to picking up the pieces to rebuild – restore – and create a new beginning.

 

What is the next step we need to take?

 

The human spirit is incredible. Our imaginations can create plans to build the most intricate and beautiful structures and statues and emblems of faith and hope.

What history teaches us is that when such creations are destroyed, people rise up and rebuild. We see the results of that.

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But when it is our lives that have been broken or trashed, it seems harder to recover.

 

Where do we begin?

 

Sorting through the rubble it may seem there is nothing that can be saved. Tragedies, losses and huge life upsets are never easy to work through.

But what I have found in my own life when everything seems to have been turned inside out and  upside down, is that there are important things I can take away from such events.  It is where I learn to trust in God.  It is where I learn to accept responsibility for myself, my choices and my actions. It is where I have the opportunity to grow.

 

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It is in just such circumstances that I have become honest and genuine.  I accept both my strengths and my weaknesses.  It is where I come to realize what is really important and valuable in life.

 

I can make new choices that can take the stones of the past and rebuild into something more long lasting.

 

 

Marlene Anderson

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of Words

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Jennifer was a goal setter – she attended college, returned home for a visit, met and married her first husband.

But then her world began to fall apart and like all of us whose ideals, expectations and normal assumptions for life begin to crumble, she found herself struggling to save her marriage – eventually realizing it was beyond saving.

She went from a healthy, vibrant individual to sinking into a troubling depression and wondering what life was all about.

As she struggled with the enormous changes that had occurred  and the overwhelming challenges she faced, she found a bracelet that had been lost.  Unable to find the owner, she looked more closely at the words that encircled the band:

                      Imagine     Create    Believe    Achieve

                    Inspire    Transform

 

She found within the words inscribed on the bracelet the inspiration and motivation to put the pieces of her life together again – this time addressing what she really wanted to do with the rest of her life and began taking the steps to make that happen.  Today she is a vivacious, energetic, goal oriented woman who knows what is important to her and works to make it happen.  Her smile and positive attitude is infectious and she is loved by all the individuals that attend and benefit from her exercise classes.

I met Jennifer when I attended one of her Strength and Balance classes under her company, Inspire Fitness. It was where I saw the above words printed on a t-shirt she was wearing.  It immediately peaked my interest.  And with her permission, met to hear her story for a book I am writing, The Next Step beyond Survival, which chronicles the lives of women who have endured tough times and not only persevered but thrived.

   Imagine   Create   Believe   Achieve

Inspire  Transform

Because I want to share the power these words can have on individuals facing difficult times, my upcoming blogs will focus on each of them as together we explore the possibilities we have.

As we reflect on all the things we can create if we allow our imagination and creativity to flow and believe we can do the things that inspire us, we will be transformed from not knowing what our next step will be to discovering and living the values, passions and interests that make each of us unique, and then setting new goals, working with purpose and meaning to bring them about.

Taking that next step is both scary and exciting.  It is where we reach out and take our Lord’s hand and ask His help to lead and guide us to become the person we were created to be.

 

Marlene Anderson

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

 

Bottle Caps

 

river-cruise-2I have just returned from a wonderful

European river cruise;

 

Pleasant conversation, new relationships,

and perspectives from those coming

from many different parts of the world;

pampered by cheerful and

accommodating staff, good food

and good wine.

 

 

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Daily excursions took us to old castles on the hill,

gingerbread houses and towns and the natural beauty

found in countries and ancient towns along the Danube

and Rhine rivers; a wonderful stew of sights and sounds

and stories that will continue to be enjoyed through the

hundreds of pictures taken and in our memory banks.

 

 

 

So where does bottle caps fit into all this?

 

 

One of the friends I traveled with was collecting bottle capsoct-river-cruise

of beers from around the world for her son’s collection. So while

enjoying towns, watching our steps as we walked over uneven

cobble stones, she kept one eye open for that bottle cap that

might have fallen into the cracks and crevices of the uneven

stones we were walking on.

 

 

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It was amazing how many she spotted without even

trying to look – they just kind of jumped out at her.

The rest of us also became aware of them too without

even looking.

 

 

 

It occurred to me that we could also be alert to spotting and collecting the many blessings and

gratitude’s that are tucked into the sticks and stones of the uneven roads in our life.

 

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All we have to do is make it important and soon

without even looking or trying, we begin to recognize

and acknowledge all the little blessings God seems to

have in store for us. They become treasures that

warm our hearts and souls and help us appreciate

each other and how much we have even in the midst

of tough times .

 

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I enjoyed my trip and was blessed every day by the

historic towns, the beauty, the conversations

from the many, many people I met from all over the

world.  I continue to look for those blessings as I go back

to my daily routines and schedules.

 

 

 

I know they will be as sweet as the candies and cakes

in this window.

Marlene Anderson

 

 

 

 

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Focus on what you can do – not what you can’t

Don - graduation from HS 001What do you say to yourself?

What do you say to yourself when faced with handicaps or obstacles that seem overwhelming?

Do you say, I can do that, or do you look at all the reasons why you can’t do it.

That internal way of thinking will influence everything you do. When under pressure to complete work within a limited time frame, or when things go wrong in your marriage or you don’t know how to talk with your teens, and your life seems like it is spinning out of control, what you say to yourself is critical.

Our thoughts and typical approach to life will either compound and add to the stress we are experiencing or we will find new ways to accomplish what we want.

Do you hear yourself repeating any of the ones below:

I’ll never finish in time

If I don’t do a good job, I might lose my job

I wish I could work as fast as Susie

If I don’t get this done soon, they will take their work somewhere else

I knew I couldn’t do it, so why did I try

These and other automatic thoughts streaming through our mind have an immediate response.

When our automatic thoughts are telling us “we can’t” and we are incompetent, we will doubt our abilities to try one more time.  Our focus will move from impossible problem to brainstorming solutions.

Don - Tarzan in our basementWe can maximize our energy and work capability by replacing negative thoughts with positive affirmations:

  • I am relaxed, capable and confident.
  • When I am relaxed, I think clearly and creatively
  • I am able to handle whatever challenge is placed before me
  • There are answers to every problem
  • I can ask for and receive help from God and others
  • I can do this
  • I reduce stress every time I stop, breathe deeply and slowly and let go of my tension
  • I focus on my job and maximize my abilities
  • I enjoy what I do and am happy doing it

These affirmations not only reduce stress, but become a self-directive enabling us to work at our optimum and maximize our abilities.  We will be able to find something positive in any situation no matter how dull or demanding.

One-Minute Tension Breaks

Because we live in a world that is going faster and faster, we are expected to do more and more while maintaining or improving the quality of our work. Competition is fierce. Stress turns to distress and becomes the norm.

Take a one minute tension break throughout the day whenever possible. Sit back in your chair for a moment, close your eyes and focus on breathing out tension and repeating a positive affirmation. We may not be able to take ourselves out of stressful situations, but we can control our reaction and responses to them.

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

Sign up today to receive the entire series:  http://eepurl.com/baaiQ1

To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Challenge That Critic

Aria & me - practicing Halloween screams - 10-14-05As children we hear lots of negative messages that tell us we are “not good enough.”  They come from many sources: bullying, teasing, comparisons, and a lack of words of praise.

Over time these accumulated messages from our past can form tapes that are constantly being activated that program us to behave in certain ways and do things only one way.

These tapes have been rehearsed and repeated so long they become a habit that form an “internal critic” who constantly reminds us of how useless and unsuccessful we are.

Our focus remains on what we haven’t done right instead of all the things we have done right and can do.

Instead of analyzing problems, look at pros and cons, learning from mistakes and applying that learning in a positive way, we are instead sabotaged by this critic that says we aren’t capable of doing anything right.

An internal critic can only repeat what it has learned from the past.  It will be triggered whenever we face problems today. It pronounces a judgment and predicts future outcomes. It affects all our thinking and becomes an automatic response to whatever is happening.

“I am stupid, therefore, I won’t be picked for this job.”  or “I never do anything right so why try.” or “I’m not good enough, smart enough, etc. etc. etc.”

Aria & me at Schuh Farms - 10-14-05

There are no positive tapes.  They are always negative and critical.

Unless challenged and stopped, we will not be able to make conscious, informed decisions that are right for us.

When our critic is in control, we are not consciously making decisions based on the here and now.

If you have an “internal critic” that is constantly sabotaging your efforts to take that “next step” in your life, here are some things you can do.

Remember the critic is from our past – it has nothing to do with our capabilities and competence and doesn’t want to recognize any progress we have made.  Instead, it constantly downplays our achievements.

Don - boating 001How do you stop this internal critic so you can make meaningful corrections and find appropriate  solutions?

When you become aware that your self talk resembles a critic that only points to the bad and never rewards you for doing things well, it is time to take drastic action.

Unless you do, this critic will continue to beat you up instead of building on what you have done well.

Each of us is capable of so much more than what we can imagine. Don’t let doubts keep you from accomplishing all of your potential.

Here are some steps to take when your internal critic is persistent:

  1. Give your critic a name. It can be male or female or whatever.  Its easier to talk to something when it has a name.
  2. Tell it in an authoritative voice that you have heard his/her message many times and you do not intend to keep listening to the same thing over and over again.
  3. When you hear your critic’s voice, tell it to sit down and be quiet. Be assertive. You may even have to tell it to shut up. You are through listening to demeaning and useless comments.
  4. The messages from your past are taped – the critic is the voice. Visualize holding a remote control with a huge stop and play button. Whenever the play button has been triggered, visually see yourself pushing the STOP button. You are in charge – not your critic.
  5. The taped messages and critic have been around for a long time. You may have to be very forceful. If you are alone, say out loud, STOP. I do not intend to listen to all that negativity. Say STOP forcefully in your mind.

An emptied space needs to have something positive to put in its place. Replace what was just negative with positive affirmations that confirm your ability to think and make appropriate decisions. We learn to make better and better decisions as we go through the process and learn from those that didn’t turn out so good.

  • I am not my past – I am me in the present
  • I am becoming more competent every day
  • I accept myself unconditionally – both my strengths and my weaknesses
  • I am capable, competent and discerning
  • I look for solutions to my problems.  There are solutions to all our problems.
  • I am pro-active and my efforts make a difference
  • I am discovering more of my special talents and abilities every day

Affirmations are positive statements of something you are affirming in yourself. When we replace negative statements with positive affirmations we allow ourselves to live and learn from our mistakes.

We are not perfect. Nobody’s perfect. But we can affirm our ability to make new choices that are important for us and those around us. As you affirm your worth, you will be able to affirm the worth and value of others.

 Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

What Did You Learn?

MP900439449Throughout our lives we are learning. When we were little, we learned by doing and experimenting: falling down, getting hurt and gradually discovering what not to do.

We learn from our parents what we should and shouldn’t do. But  the learning that had the most influence is what we learned by  observing. It’s not so much what is said – but what is lived.

Kids in school and teachers have a huge impact on our lives. There is a lot of social learning as well as book learning that happens during those school years. How am I treated by other kids? Am I accepted or rejected? Is it easy for me to make friends or am I excluded? And what do I have to do to be in that inner circle?

Later, learning takes us into more formal academic settings where we get our degrees before entering the rough and tumble life of the real world where jobs dictate what and how things should be done.

Throughout the years we will continue to gather information, taking classes that enhance our lives in some way.

As we learn from many sources, we take the complex and often incomplete learning experiences and form perceptions and beliefs about ourselves and our world that are often biased and inaccurate. We fill in the blanks or add missing pieces to our puzzle of understanding and develop frames of references and rules that we follow; expectations and assumptions, opinions, attitudes, and core beliefs and then act upon them as if they were the truth.

In the process we also create an internal critic that will always find something wrong with whatever we are doing.

It is this uncensored and negative critic that takes whatever we do and puts a negative spin on it:

“I screwed up again.  Why do I always do such stupid things; what’s wrong with me, other’s don’t have as much difficulty as I do. . . . .”

We listen to this critic and compare ourselves unfairly to everyone else.  So when confronted with problems or situations that aren’t working we beat ourselves up instead of looking at situations in a more rational fashion.

Until we can recognize and confront our negative internal critic, everything we do will be colored by a bias against our abilities to solve problems, make decisions that are right for us and make the corrections we need to stay on the path of our choosing.

Exploring our patterns of behavior, attitude, expectations and assumptions can give us clues as to whether we are working for or against our best interest. Have we created unenforceable rules that others have to follow as well as ourselves?  Do they contain certain expectations that include what you and others must, should or ought to act on?  Do these rules and expectations and assumptions sabotage our efforts to make and accomplish our goals?

We cannot solve problems and make the necessary self-corrections needed to stay on course, if we are constantly listening to an internal critic who you can never please and who will constantly be telling you what you are doing wrong without allowing you to act on all the positive things you are learning.

Next week, I will tell you how you can challenge your internal critic.

Marlene Anderson

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

 

Self Correcting

BOATS026My husband and I were sailboat cruisers. We moved to the beautiful northern Washington area so we could take advantage of the wonderful cruising opportunities available in the San Juan Islands.

When you do any serious sailing or cruising it is important to learn the rules of the road, know where the shipping lanes are, what the different buoys mean, know how to chart a course and take into consideration prevailing winds, tides and currents. Without these basics you can easily get into trouble.

So it is in life. We need to learn what it means to be comfortable at the helm, where the rip tides are, how to avoid submerged but dangerous rocks and where the safe passages are located.

Preparation not only includes knowledge of the areas where we are sailing, but also preparation of the boat and ourselves.

There were times when we had charted a course, set the boat on its path and then were able to activate the automatic pilot – a self-steering apparatus which enabled you to take your hand off the wheel and allow the automatic pilot to take over. But you never left the area – you continued to monitor where you were going so in a moment’s notice you could resume control of the helm.

While the automatic pilot could self-correct within a predetermined set path, it couldn’t anticipate the unexpected.

So, it is with us. We set our goals, develop a course of action and then we move on automatic pilot. Yet if we have not prepared for the unexpected, know what to do when the weather changes, the fog rolls in or the winds whip up the waves, we will not know how to take over the helm and self-correct our directions and our actions.

Unless you are in danger of running aground, crashing into a barrier reef, or being run over by a ferry or large ship, correcting course on a boat usually requires small actions. The rudder on any size boat is relatively small in relation to the size of the boat, but its steering capacity is remarkable.

When we have dealt with unexpected changes in the past with panic and severe re-actions, it takes time to replace those habits with calm and thoughtful responses. Your first response to any perceived or real danger may continue to be panic and fear.

While fear and panic can motivate you to take immediate emergency action to correct a direction, if the situation doesn’t warrant such action, your responses simply continue to elevate heart pressure, put your body and mind in high stress and you become a candidate for major health problems at some point.

How do you change the habit of over-reacting to events? You learn a new way to assess, evaluate and respond.

Go back in your mind and revisit events where you panicked or worried. What automatic panic thoughts did you have? How did your body respond? (Heart racing, stomach flips, etc.) Did that way response help you resolve the situation or make it worse? Perhaps it is time to find a better way to put new responses in place. Next weeks post will address replacing automatic panic thoughts with new measured responses.

Marlene Anderson

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

Friendship Circles

IMG_0728We came together to pray and plan and encourage and find out where we were on our career paths.

Author, counselor, coach, teacher – we all congregated at my home for our annual retreat from life as usual to catch up and listen and ask for and receive clarification of our goals.

Sometimes our talking went on so long we failed to realize we were hungry when it was time to eat.

Friends: they support us and are willing to give us the valuable information we need from a trusted friend.

Our friendship circle was formed so we could support each other and encourage one another in our life’s work. Setting aside our wants and wishes, we reached out to help each other visualize and test their goal ideas. We shared information from the educational and training backgrounds we had along with articles we have read and books we recommended reading. At times it was like a think tank – exploring what we could accomplish if we set our hearts and prayers to it.

Friends: they are worth their weight in gold. No amount of money can substitute for friends who care.

We can accomplish many things in life – some of which, when looking backward can seem pretty impressive. But it is hard to accomplish a lot without the support of those who we can call friend. We can dream dreams and put our shoulder to the wheel of life and make things happen; but it is the support of friends who encourage us when we are down and out and take time out from their own busy schedules to give us a hand back up.

An honest and true friend will warn you about dangers of going down a wrong path while helping you visualize impossible dreams and goals. A loyal friend will support you when everything goes wrong or when you need help.

That is a friend I want to be – that are some of the friends I have. I want to be a friend who will see the best in others, and who care as much about them as I do about myself. I want to be a friend who will take time to listen and pray and support.

Marlene Anderson

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

 

A New Perspective

IMG_0751IMG_2579Every day, we have the opportunity to observe and be blessed by the wonders of our world. These wonders and blessings come as a gentle falling rain after a hot dry summer or silently tumbling snowflakes that shimmer like diamonds in the winter sun.

Who hasn’t felt refreshed by a cooling summer’s rain or been touched by the quiet serenity of an earth blanketed in mounds and mounds of downy snow?

At such times, nature is silenced and time suspended.

And who hasn’t experienced the deep, enduring and gentle peace that comes from looking over a countryside bathed in the light of a full moon. And what person hasn’t marveled at stars so dazzling and vivid it seems we could reach up and touch them.

And yet, the snow is only frozen water, and the sun, moon and stars are nothing more than hardened, desolate, uninhabitable rocks and dangerous gasses.

What transforms these unattractive objects into things of beauty? And what happens to change the mundane of everyday events into things of beauty, miracles and blessings?

When I allow my mind to become quiet and still, I not only see the beauty of our world and universe, but experience it on a deep, penetrating, healing level. God reveals Himself to us in these timeless acts that occur every day.

IMG_0748The mystery of life is constantly unfolding around us from the green shoot pushing up through the dirt to the developing baby spiders clinging precariously to the edge of their web. We brush them aside as a nuisance before we have had time to consider what it would be like without them.

I am humbled by the power of God witnessed in storms that lash out in gale force winds. But at the time I do not consider them blessings.

Yet, it is through storms that the earth is swept clean and renewal occurs.

If we take time to observe the awesome power and beauty of God in nature, would we be able to recognize that same awesome power in our personal lives as well?

Marlene Anderson

 

 

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.

 

Moments in Time

Women Posing for PhotographAugust has flown by – Minutes filled with work, accomplishing projects and conversations.

But the best moments were those spent with good friends – talking, sharing and just being together.

Relationships are an important part of any steps we take through life. Knowing we are not alone allows us to step more confidently.

“This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24.

We only have that moment in time. If we waste it, we are wasting a part of who we are. In that moment in time we have the ability to reflect, connect with loved ones, do some meaningful work, try new things, and look for opportunities.

Dr. Nathaniel Branden in his book, “The Art of Living Consciously” wrote about the need to take responsibility for where we are at any point in time. We are responsible for how we spend those moments. We decide whether we will live a life of purpose or simply plod along without joy or expectation.

This is the day the Lord has made. These are the moments He has given us. Pack them full of life lived to the fullest.

We live in a fast paced world – everybody running here and there, often fragmented and disconnected.

But we choose our pace. We choose to work hard to accomplish things. We choose to slow our steps to appreciate the people around us; to spend time with those we love. We choose to make relationships an important part of our lives.

We choose to stop and look and appreciate what God has given us and give thanks for our many blessings. We choose to notice that squirrel trying to steal food from the bird feeder or the hummingbirds challenging each other as they flit about.  We choose to notice that person in need and do something about it.

If we are constantly running, we will miss out on those very special moments in time when we are richly blessed.

 

Marlene Anderson

If you enjoyed this blog post, share with your friends.

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To Receive a Free Consultation for putting together a Personal Plan of Action for yourself,  fill out the contact form beside this blog or send me an e-mail.  I am also available for speaking engagements, retreats or teaching workshops for your church, clubs or women’s groups on a variety of topics that affect our lives.