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My Next Step

Woman Doing Sit-ups --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisTradition compels us to start the New Year with new resolutions. We have good intentions, but too often they don’t go anywhere.

 

I resolve to . . . .  Go on a diet,

start an exercise program,

lose 25 lbs. and on and on it goes.

 

But if you are anything like me, I look back at the many resolutions I have made and most did not come to fruition. Perhaps some effort was put into them, but then they were abandoned.

 

But why? I think we have a spurt of motivation which evaporated once our regular routines begin again after the holidays. So do we abandon the idea?

 

Woman filling in a formGoal setting works – most of the time – and when it doesn’t, it’s usually because the goal wasn’t specific enough or realistic enough. If you want to lose 25 lbs in a month without the appropriate dedication and commitment, you will fail. And that brings me to the last point.

 

It takes more than just immediate motivation – it takes a long term commitment. That commitment must take you beyond two weeks, two months, or a year. It is a commitment to yourself to make your life better because you are the only one who can do that.

 

It’s not just losing 10 lbs. It’s not just joining a gym. It’s not just dieting. It’s making life style changes that go beyond the little goals. The long term goal here is becoming responsible for your health and putting in place those tiny steps to work towards that goal. It’s an ongoing process.

 

Businesswoman Writing on White Board and Businessman at TableI don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore, but I do reaffirm my life long goals and the goals I put in place during the year; goals which I have considered carefully.

 

I am committed to living my values and principles, take charge of my overall health, my behaviors and my attitudes.

I remind myself that I am responsible for what I do with my life.  I can waste time or I can manage it more successfully.  I can sit back in comfort or take a step out and beyond my comfort zone. I am responsible for not taking on more than I can handle.

 

As I reflect on 2016, I stop and think about the gains I have made. I have made and completed goals. For those that weren’t completed, I ask was it important enough to me? What can I learn from this and what can I give myself credit for. Were my goals realistic?  Did I understand what it would take to reach my goal? We can learn from looking back and evaluating our efforts.  Give yourself credit for trying and the work you did; then ask what you want to do next time.  Perhaps it is fewer goals and more realistic ones.

So among your new resolutions, go back and reflect on your accomplishments.  List even the tiny ones, because it is the tiny steps towards a goal that eventually help us complete our bigger goals.

Happy New Year

Marlene Anderson

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New Steps – New Year

Family Celebrating KwanzaaOver the last few months we explored six little words that can help transform our lives.

Imagine    Create    Believe

Achieve    Inspire  Transform

These are words I want to remember as I step into the new year. I want them to form stepping stones to a better life, a renewed life, a transformed life.

 

It takes imagination to create a church, a cathedral or skyscraper. It takes time to build a structure that will rise thousands of feet in the air. We need to believe in ourselves and our abilities to achieve the impossible. It takes determination and a willingness to allow our inspirations to find a way to transform our dreams and goals into actualities and a willingness to be vulnerable.

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Within each of us are great possibilities for doing great things.  But it starts with the little things.  It is more than belief in one’s ability; it’s a belief in others – in their potential.  The possibilities then become how can we work together, how can we see the good in each other instead of all the things that divide us.

For after all, what each of us wants is to be loved and accepted; respected and given the opportunity to become all that God created us to be.  We can make that the focus of this next year or we can continue to strive for things that will divide us.

MP900444270As we reflect on all the things we have; if we allow our imagination and creativity to flow and believe we can do the things necessary to bring us together, we will be transformed from the ordinary to the extraordinary.  Our next steps will be discovering our potential and living our values, and reaching out to help others realize there’s.

Any new step can be both scary and exciting.  But It is where we reach out and take our Lord’s hand, asking Him for guidance and understanding and wisdom to become His people.

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.

 

Transformation through Action

Christmas tree with presents and fireplace with stockings --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisChristmas – we look at the twinkling lights and bright decorations and for a few seconds the Christmas spirit permeates our hectic schedules and “to do” lists.

We extend greetings and mail Christmas cards and packages and feel that “spirit” for a few more minutes. For some people, time is taken to attend candlelight services at a neighborhood church as a token to an old ritual or tradition.

But is that all there is?

Have we reduced Christmas to a few watered down traditions that we observe once a year before we go back to life as usual? Do we forget that we have this holiday because we wanted to honor and celebrate the birth of a tiny child who happened to be the Son of God? It is with this monumental event where transformation of the heart and soul begin.

j0444212A friend of mine buys a wreath every year to put on her parent’s grave.

This year, time was running out for her annual tradition and she stopped at a store she usually doesn’t frequent and was visibly disappointed to discover all the wreaths had been sold.

When she made an inquiry as to whether there were others in the back room not yet put out for sale, she was told no, they were all gone.

Her disappointment led to a conversation about why this was so important to her. The clerk suggested perhaps she could buy a swag, which was above her budget. The store manager, overhearing the exchange, came up and said they would like to give the swag to her free.

She was overwhelmed with such generosity and told them she would accept their kind offer. A week later, as she told me about the exchange, she reported how long lasting the deep warm feelings of good will she had experienced with this gesture of kindness and understanding still remained.

Girls Holding Plate of Mince PiesOne little act of understanding, of caring and giving created long term feelings of peace and good will.

If such a simple act could resonate so strongly and last for a long time, how much would a string of little acts transform the lives of those around us?

With this story, I am reminded again of the times I have not followed this principle of being sensitive to the needs of people around me. With a warm smile or a few compassionate words of understanding, we can let someone know they are not alone, that we have been in similar situations and that there is hope. We can extend that tiny kernel of belief that will carry them beyond the moment.

Christmas Tree in the SnowAs I look back over this past year, I am reminded of those times when I was too busy to see the need of another and to respond in some way. As I kneel humbly before the Christ child’s manager, I ask for more awareness and sensitivity to those around me – times when I can listen, or give a hug. It doesn’t take a lot of time. I ask that the transformation that He started in me so long ago, continues – that through my actions that transformation will grow – a transformation that goes beyond rituals and holiday celebrations but is seen everyday by simple acts.

Marlene Anderson

 

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Transformed

img_0200What does it take to transform one thing into another?

Flour, sugar, butter and water are some of the basic ingredients that go into the making of beautiful pastries such as those that filled a window in this pastry and coffee shop.

Enticing and tempting, their tantalizing shapes and forms suggest the pure enjoyment we have of biting into such sweet confections.

 

Just as a baker transforms the simple ingredients we find in our kitchens into magnificent works of culinary art, so we can take the ingredients of our individualism, uniqueness and innate creativity and fashion them into a life that reflects beauty and substance.

In the process we become transformed from the mundane into the bold, audacious and adventuresome.

Basic Ingredients

All of us have the basic ingredients to create a life full of promise, accomplishment and contribution.  Within each of us are the necessary ingredients to be more than just the ordinary.

Recipe books give us the formulas to take basic ingredients and them into cakes and cookies and casseroles. The recipe of life dictates certain formulas be used to survive, achieve financial security and raise our families.

But within that mixture is the inspiration and motivation we need to give ourselves permission to be creative and go beyond the norm of life as usual.

 

ConductorWhat would it take to transform your life from the usual static routines to one that is satisfying and robust? How can you put the icing and decoration on your cake? What have you always wanted to do but was afraid to try?

 

To go beyond the mundane you have to be willing to let go of the commonplace and give yourself permission to explore, to believe you can aspire to greater things.

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First you have to imagine. What if I tried this or what if I did that, how would I feel? How would it inspire others? What am I attempting to say with my art? With my life?

 

An artist, whether using paints or pencils or words to form and express ideas and the yearning inside each of us can transform what is ugly or unpleasant into something of beauty or inspiration.

 

Throughout my trip to European countries such as Austria, Germany, Slovakia, etc. I saw ordinary, sometimes very old buildings, made incredibly attractive by the use of artistic doors, window shudders and flowers.

 

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We are transformed when we pick up the pieces life has broken and put them back together again.

In the process we not only grow, but rise to a higher level of understanding and faith. In the process of doing, we are changed. We aren’t the same person we were before.

 

In much the same way an athlete becomes hardened and toughed and his muscles become stronger and more reliable through daily workouts, so too do we get stronger, more resilient and self-reliant when we are stretched in the arena of life.

It is in adversity when we are challenged to do more.  It is there, working through the knots and tangles of life where we discover who we are, what we are made of and what we can become.

When we allow ourselves to be transformed above the ordinary and routine, we will find an excitement for life as we discover the recipe that is inside of us to become the wonderful person we were meant to be. You become the piece of art, masterpiece, that is enjoyed and appreciated by others.

Marlene Anderson

 

Postscript at end of each blog:

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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.

 

 

Achieve

Award CertificateIf you can imagine a better life, you can create it.

If you believe you can, you will find the strength and resources to make it happen.

To achieve, you must first believe you can.

Just like you, I have struggled with the enormity of problems over the years and have been discouraged when trying to find solutions.

But I continue to remind myself that I have found solutions and can take whatever is handed to me and achieve something positive from it.

 

When struggling with devastating odds, we are often flooded with self doubts. “How will I do this? How will I survive?”  But when we stay in that space of doubt and fear, panic can set in and keep us frozen.

Yes you can!

 

StudentTo achieve anything we need to be willing to risk. As we step out into the unknown, the greatest obstacle we face is often ourselves.

What do you say to yourself when you are faced with unexpected tragedies, and life as you knew it has been turned upside down and inside out?

Life will throw us curve balls when we least expect it. And when it does, we will feel like a top spinning out of control. In the blink of an eye what we treasured can be snatched away and we will wonder what hit us. What will I do?

One of my stories

Years ago, my husband and I drove home from a large medical school hospital trying to absorb what the doctors had just told us. For five days doctors performed intensive tests trying to find the reason why our 10 month old son was unable to hold up his head. Words such as cerebral palsy, little to no intelligence, quadriplegic, were spoken to us as casually as if they were a weather forecast.

Struggling with the enormity of what we faced, I got on my knees to pray a very serious prayer. I knew I couldn’t ask God to simply take everything away – my son obviously had a very serious condition. But, I could and did ask God for the strength, courage and wisdom in raising our son and find ways to make his and our family’s life as normal as possible. I will never forget the incredible sense of peace and confidence I received. And I got up and knew we could do it.

 

don-tarzan-in-our-basement

We not only received strength and courage, but many other unexpected blessings as well. Don did not have cerebral palsy, nor was he mentally challenged and he was not a quadriplegic.

But he had been born with missing and weak muscles in his neck and other areas of his body. Although the diagnosis was less severe, his life was going to be a challenge for him and us.

 

I share this life event because I learned that the first course of action in any situation and crisis is prayer. And the second is to take that strength and courage and step out with confidence, determination and a “Yes I can” attitude.

Without a “Yes I Can” attitude, it would have been impossible to let him take the falls and scrapes and bruises he needed to gain that inner strength and confidence to become autonomous and self-reliant. We would have made him an invalid.

 

Young Woman Standing Over a Car Engine Bay Checking An Oil Dipstick

“Yes I Can” is a mindset that takes whatever life hands us and helps us use it to achieve.

It allows us to move forward with confidence.

It frees our energy to be creative, pro-active, resilient and flexible.

It enables us to risk

It gives us the freedom to try and fail and learn along the way.

It says, we are okay no matter what

 

“Yes I Can” is not only a skill – it is a way of life that allows you to live to the fullest.

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.

 

 

I Believe

img_0102Last month, I wrote about five little words that helped inspire a young woman to put together the pieces of a shattered life.

Imagine – Create – Believe

Achieve – Inspire – Transform

 

If you can imagine a better life, you can create it. If you believe you can, you will find the strength and resources to make it happen. But first you have to believe.

We are often Unaware of our Beliefs

Beliefs involve a conviction, a mindset and attitude – an approach to life where we take a position or point of view and act upon it with the assumption that something good or positive will result.

We don’t often think about it, but our beliefs are influencing our decisions in one way or another every day. Some we rarely give much thought to; such as the sun rising and setting even when hidden by clouds – we simply take for granted it is there. Others seem insignificant, such as believing your favorite sports team will win and cheering them on in the stands.

Yet, our beliefs guide and direct what we do all the time. In fact, when we do things that go against our beliefs and values, we will feel discontented, uneasy and distressed.

What do you believe in?

img_2847Losses, tragedies, and misfortunes will put into question what we believe.  We assume the trust and expectation we put in a marriage will last a lifetime.

We believe we will live a long and healthy life and then get MS. Our spouse dies before his/her time; our child is killed by a drunk driver.

We believe that if we get our degree we will be guaranteed a steady job doing work we love only to find ourselves dissatisfied and unhappy or without a job.

The expectations and assumptions we had and believed in are now questioned and challenged

And then you also begin to question yourself, your worth and your ability to make good decisions. You may question God – is He real – does He care. Do we believe enough to have confidence and faith to take that next step and try one more time?

 

Identify what you believe in and why

 

Sit down and make a comprehensive list of what you believe in and why you value those beliefs. If you don’t know what is important to you, what you believe, you will be conflicted in your goals and aspirations.

Here are some of mine:

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– I believe God gives us the strength and courage to face any adversity we encounter – I need to ask, be open and receive.

–   I believe when I face fear head on,  it will shrink in size.

–   I believe I can overcome whatever obstacle comes my way

–  I believe we can learn from our mistakes and become more honest and genuine in the process

–  I believe we will find solutions to our problems if we accept and believe we can

 

 

I believe we need one another for support and encouragement.  I believe there is determination and resiliency within each of us.  We need to be willing to dig deep to find it and put it to good use. Life isn’t always easy. But when we hang onto our faith and believe that we can, we can see amazing results.

My list can go on and on.  Your list may look totally different than mine.  What is important is that you know what you believe and why.  These will be important values you take with you as you move forward and take that next step.

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.

Create

img_2833Not everybody feels they have the ability to create.  But I’m not sure I would agree.

 

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. . .” Gen 1:1

 

When you look up at a star studded sky or watch the first rays of the sun rise above the curve of the earth, or stop to appreciate a panoramic stunning display of clouds colored by a setting sun, we are silenced and awed by the beauty.

 

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . (Gen 1:26) and then God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. . .” (Gen 2:7)

 

Did we receive some of that ability to create when God breathed life into us? I believe we did.

 

img_3194Oh, not everyone can create great cathedrals with spires rising to the sky or intricate carvings or giant monuments.

 

But every day we are creating something of importance.

 

We are creating relationships as we reach out to one another with care and concern.  We are creating acceptance as we look at one another as individuals with the same concerns as we have.  We create safe and warm environments within our homes where our children know they are loved.

 

Are these not as important creations as touring skyscrapers or driverless cars or phones that talk to you?

 

A number of years ago I attended a weekend course on art therapy.  The teacher was an art therapist who used different forms of art expression to help clients work through grief and loss.

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We were given a lump of clay and told to shape and mold it according to how we felt. It wasn’t important how it looked – what was important was that we allowed ourselves to use the clay as an expression of what we were feeling and experiencing.

 

At the end of our weekend course, our teacher, an art therapist, showed slides of some of the art her clients had done in her art therapy classes.  There were collages and quilts and wall hangings that were stunningly beautiful.

Yet I doubt any of them would have considered themselves an artist.  But out of their hearts and souls they allowed themselves to express who they were in that moment in time.

 

Children allow their instincts to create to come out in their play.  Clay and crayons and building blocks become their works of art.

 

The same instincts that are in children are the same creative instincts that are in all of us.  We just need to release them.

 

So allow yourself to be creative in how you play with your children, inquire about a neighbor who might be ill, find creative ways to reach out to those who may be hurting. Create a way to bring about healing from division. What will it take to bring your family together again? Perhaps it is just finding those ways to show love.

 

img_3132If you have a creative flair with flower arrangements, share it with others.  If you have a creative flair for writing, write.  Join an art class or writing group.  You may surprise yourself.

 

Allow yourself to be you: unique – creative and special.  And encourage others to use their creative talents.

Tell that child what a great job they did in drawing their dog or mom and dad.  Spend time asking them about the clay images they have made or the towering building they have made with blocks.  Ask an elder what they experienced in life and encourage them to share their life stories.

You will discover not only the triumphs they had over difficult situations and how they created a life out of nothing, but the what they learned in the process.

I do not know what you were handed in life to work with.  But I do know that God has given each of us the ability to take that inner spark of creativity and build on it. We can take whatever we are given and create something positive from it.

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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

river-cruise

 

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.

 

img_3737    img_3225 img_3227 img_3679

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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