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Love and Sacrifice

I am reposting an article I’ve posted several times in the past at this time of year, featuring a poem written by my friend, Darlene Dubay, entitled, “Tree of Hope,” reflecting on the tree itself that became the cross on which Jesus was crucified.

Starting from a tiny seed, Darlene conceptualizes what that tree was thinking as it grew, was chopped down and became a cross.

Darlene is a talented and gifted writer and poet and her book, Walking is a Prayer: Glimpses of a Spiritual Journey, was released in 2020. You can find more details on her website, dmdubay.com. It is a book I wholeheartedly recommend.

There are many poems each of us can relate to with beautiful pictures added to further illustrate the poem. I have added a podcast episode to this year’s re-posting.

Love and The Tree of Hope

“For God so loved the world….”        John 3:16

Love. People sing songs about it, create movies with love as its theme, and try to find words to express it in books. It is a gift – we can’t earn it, we don’t deserve it, and yet we find it so hard to receive. What greater love can anyone have than sacrifice their life for another, as Jesus did for us.

Love and Sacrifice | focuswithmarlene.com

Tree of Hope

I remember being a seed, full of hope, dreaming.

 I would be the tallest tree, and proud.

Then, thrust into the ground, I shuddered.

Darkness overcame me and I broke.

No longer latent, I began to search for light.

Yet wanting to be anchored, I thrust my fingers deeper into ground.

They laughed at me as I broke free.

“A twig,” they said: Insignificant nothing.

Yet I dreamed of becoming—magnificent I’d stand, towering above—mighty.

When finally ready I would be mercifully cut to become

A pillar, strong and straight to hold the weight of majesty aloft.

Or maybe I would be fashioned as a cradle,

Holding precious life, or toy or tureen—useful—

bringing pleasure by being used.

I did not fear the saw; it was a long way off.

But when it finally came. I cried,

“No, let me grow a little more. I want to be the biggest and the best.

I want my glorious form to be admired.”

I lay there on the ground, helpless—

My fate in the hands of those who ripped me from my roots.

It did no good to protest. My voice could not be heard.

Lying prostrate, I imagined what I would become.

It was not good. Their evil tones were hinting shame and disgrace.

“No!” I cried. “I did not grow for this.”

My limbs were ripped and nailed into a form

So horrible—degrading—a mockery of what was meant to be.

Bitter nails drove into my flesh,

But worse was yet to come.

Dragged and carried in my ugly form, I tried my best to help the struggling one,

But felt my weight grow heavier with each step.

Then on the top of that ignominious hill,

They laid me prostrate to accept my fate.

I felt his flesh caress the roughness of my bark.

I groaned in shame that I would be the one

To lift His whipped and trampled body far aloft for all to see.

I felt the spikes drive precious flesh and blood into my wood.

Helpless, there I stood, as I was lifted with my treasure.

Oh, the shame! The agony! The jeering crowds saying,

“It’s the end. His suffering has no meaning. ”

All is lost. What victory lies in death?

What justice shines through bitter clouds of hate?

I felt his spirit leave and fear of being discarded racked my being.

The coldness of his absence permeated me

And I wished for burning fires of purification.

Better to be cleansed than to lie rotting in the dirt.

The emptiness of my ugly form was wretched. I watched them haul him off—just another lifeless piece of flesh.

And me? I only hoped that I could fade to nothing.

On the third day, though, he returned.

He held me close and promised—what?

I could not comprehend.

“I live,” he said. “I am alive forever.”

“How can it be?” I cried. “I felt your soul’s anguish

And despair. I know the emptiness of your departing.

I never want to be the one who displays

Your trampled, lifeless body up for all to see.”

He held me closer then and I knew it had to be this way.

My gift of self will be forever a symbol of great love.

My collaboration in his plan will always be

The means to life eternal.

I’m honored. I am cherished.

And every day and moment

Someone remembers by my sign—

True life awaits those who hold me closest to their heart.

Darlene
4-5-2010

I wish each of you a blessed Easter, knowing that it was the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, his death, and resurrection, that brings us this blessed holiday as well as the love, hope and grace we all desire.

Marlene Anderson

To discover more about Darlene’s writing talent, visit https://dmdubay.com/

I Cried – He Came: God’s Presence in the Midst of Grief

Listen to this episode of the Focus with Marlene Podcast

 

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Grief is a journey requiring time and an open mind as we grasp the significance of our life, both before our loss and for what lays ahead. There will be moments when we acutely feel the need of understanding and comfort, and if we can be open to those moments, we will be rewarded with not only comfort but a greater understanding of life itself.

I Cried – He Came

God came one morning when I was down and low

He showed me a patch of blue between the clouds,

A bird scrounging in the dried bushes

Looking for food

Singing a song

 

And He said, “I’m here – I’m here

I’m right here beside you!”

 

I’m with that bird – He’s singing in the cold

I’m in that sky – there’s a promise of spring

I’m in the earth around you – Close your eyes and feel my strength

Feel me giving you breath to continue on

 

“Bloom wherever you are,” He said. “Just bloom.”

 

I looked and saw my rose bush blooming

There were no leaves

It was still the middle of winter

But there were roses blooming.

 

Bloom wherever you are

Bloom in the winter – the summer – the fall

Bloom wherever I place you

I will feed you

I will water you

I will be by your side

I do not understand so many things – why I must be alone when it is people I need… why I must struggle when others are at play. We all have our prisons – they come in separation and isolation – in loss and discouragement. They come in the midst of poverty and in the midst of wealth. They sneak up behind us and catch us when we are not looking, and in desperation we cry out to our God

I do not understand.

I do not understand.

But I do know this. My God came and stood beside me today

He came and I felt His presence: in the sky – the bird – the roses

I closed my eyes and felt his presence by my side.

 

And I was no longer alone.

 

Finding Humor in Our Grief and Loss

Listen to this episode of the Focus with Marlene Podcast

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When I was healing from the losses of my husband and then my son, I was writing and working with others on similar journeys.

As I read, studied, and took additional training about healing from loss as a therapist, a book written by Linda Richman captured my attention.

We seldom think of humor as important when grieving, but it not only is relevant and but can be instrumental in our healing process.  Here is a blog post I wrote at that time:

“And finding something funny – anything – under those painful conditions is good.

If you can laugh even while you feel pain, there’s hope.”

-Linda Richman

In her book, “I’d Rather Laugh: How to Be Happy Even When Life Has Other Plans for You,” Linda Richman tells her story of pain from the losses in her life, culminating in the loss of her young son and working through that tragedy with humor.

We may not think we can be as fearless or strong as Linda, but each of us has the capacity to activate humor in some way to help us heal.

On the first anniversary of my husband’s death, I invited friends and family over for a dinner party. All of us had been grieving in our own way. The intensity of pain had receded, and it was time to come together and just laugh. I wanted to put a happy, positive layer to our memories. So, we toasted to his life and laughed as we shared funny stories.

Laughter heals.

Finding Humor in Our Grief and Loss

Humor is not just fun. It is an extremely powerful “medicine” that heals the soul and mends the body. Humor can allow the pain to subside for a moment, make life bearable, put a different perspective on our troubles, and allow us to laugh at ourselves and our situations. It helps us cope. It gives us power over what might seem like an impossible or powerless situation.

It may seem difficult to laugh and find joy in our losses when our hearts are heavy with sorrow, but when we give ourselves permission to feel joy, happiness and laughter as we grieve, our losses begin to take on a more complete healing integration. We can tap into those layers of humor as well as the layers of pain and sorrow.

Humor takes the edge off pain.

We might think it is irreligious or in some way devalues our loss if we put a humorous spin on it. Instead, it balances our sorrow with joy. It takes the sting out of our loss and brings normalcy back into our life. It takes an intolerable situation – one packed with intense emotions –  flips it over and finds those kernels of gratitude that make us smile.

“Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”

-Mark Twain

We can choose to look at the world in a positive way or a negative way. A loss by its very nature demands the normal grieving process. But even within its borders, we can laugh.

“Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative… and latch onto the affirmative” were lyrics of a popular 1940s song. This is finding the blessings within our infirmities. It is reframing our circumstances to find gratitude and good in spite of the loss.

When we look at the glass as half full instead of half empty, it registers a different mindset and a different reaction in the brain.

Day’s Dawning: Whispers from God

We miss so many opportunities to connect with insight when it arrives at our doorstep. As you listen to this episode, think about those times when you may have dismissed those gentle nudges to rethink, reflect and ponder.

Get caught up with all episodes in the “Threads of Life” series


The day sneaks up, rousing me from deep sleep. The urging of another day has not yet crowded out the deep internal musings that rise to the surface while I’m still half asleep.

A new day dawning.

I enjoy the leisure of this time, allowing my mind to consider the streaming of creative ideas, solutions, and unanswered questions. I didn’t formulate them – they just arrived, and I simply received.

How often we hurry from such moments and step into the fast lane of life. For, we reason, doesn’t life demand that we don’t dawdle? If we stopped and considered options all the time, we would never get anything done. We would constantly be questioning every motive or changing directions.

Yet, if we hurry into our tasks without paying attention to these insightful moments, we risk losing the opportunity of receiving something vital and life-changing. If we lingered long enough to listen to that streaming consciousness, our souls and spirts might receive wisdom that otherwise would be lost.

Where do these early morning reveries come from?

Day’s Dawning – Whispers from God | focuswithmarlene.com

Perhaps it is simply the mind working through questions and problems we had the day before. But I believe there is more.

I believe this is a time when we hear God whispering to us – a time of gentle nudges when we are not distracted, offering inspiration. In those few seconds of time, I have received the title to a book I was writing, the themes for blog posts, ideas for future possibilities, words of comfort to forward to someone in need, etc.

As we hurry from one task to another during the day, there is little time to stop and allow our minds to be still. There is work to be done. And so, whether early in the morning or during the day, we miss those moments when we could be open to insight, receive inspiration and solutions. And gradually our souls and spirits wither and die.

When we feel the undercurrent of unrest and disconnect, we look to the world for clues to relieve our fears and anxieties. We race around trying to find remedies and miss the whispers from God. Even when we attempt to listen, we often remain too distracted, and dismiss the messages without further thought. We turn back to the world for answers and miss the insights waiting within us.

But the world cannot give us what we thirst for.

Our souls and spirits have a deep longing for something which the world cannot give us. I see the hunger in the eyes of individuals speeding through life trying to sandwich in one more thing before the day is done. And I weep and wonder if God weeps too. I believe God wants the best for us. He doesn’t want us to live programmed and mechanical lives.

In order for us to hear his whispers and murmurings, we need to stop and listen. Really listen.

Turn Your Gravel Pit Into a Beautiful Garden

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Can something ugly and scarred be turned into something beautiful and inviting? Let me share with you a true story about a real gravel pit.

A gravel pit is a piece of land where bulldozers and huge earth-scooping machinery have removed the soil to extract gravel and other ingredients needed to build roads, make cement, gather building rocks, etc.

What remains, after all the extractions, is a huge scarred and pitted hole in the ground with unstable and crumbling sides, water seepage from underground springs, stagnant pools of rainwater, huge, discarded pieces of rock and other un-usable mounds of earth. Debris is scattered everywhere, discarded by individuals who consider this a worthless piece of land; a place to throw away their pop cans, beer bottles or candy wrappers.

What do you do with old gravel pits that have outlived their use?

One lady who had the skeleton remains of a large gravel pit in her backyard decided she would find a way to turn it into something beautiful.

In the late 1800s, Robert Butchart began excavating limestone from a quarry behind the home where he and his wife, Jennie, lived. He used it to manufacture Portland cement in a factory he built at Todd Inlet on Vancouver Island. When all the limestone was extracted, all that remained was this huge, ugly, and expansive hole in the ground.

But Jennie was not willing to let it lay there discarded, ugly and debased. With the help of architects and landscapers, topsoil from neighboring farmland was brought in and a beautiful design created.

Paths were designed, ponds dug, trees and shrubs and hundreds of blooming plants planted. Leftover rocks were strategically placed in new locations, enhancing the gardens. And so began the stunning reversal of desecrated land that today is known for its spectacular beauty.

Turn Your Gravel Pit into A Beautiful Garden | focuswithmarlene.com

What was once an ugly and desolate pit in the ground is now a beautiful sunken garden whose paths wind around serene ponds of water where ducks and swans float between lily pads and tree branches gently caress the water’s edge.

Flowers, shrubs, and trees artfully placed draw you into a world of beauty and panoply of color. At night, thousands of strategically placed lights turn it into a fairyland.

And so was born the world-famous Butchart Gardens, visited by thousands of tourists from around the world every year. What was once an uninviting and inhospitable place has been turned into a showcase. In fact, it is so spectacular, that people come to see the exquisite beauty and splendor throughout the year and in every season.

While this is a nice success story, how does it relate to you and me? We can use that same analogy of a gravel pit to our lives: losses that have left huge holes, unstable lifestyles, wrong choices, underground seepage of bitterness and resentment along with huge boulders of doubt and shame and anger.

Everyone has a gravel pit in their life’s story – huge, ugly holes created by death or divorce, acts of violence, tragic and lonely childhoods, or careless living.

Within our gravel pits we find ungrieved old losses, toxic messages that continue to erode self-esteem and worth.  And we are left with scared landscapes of sorrow, isolation, rejection, and depression. Our days are filled with memories of what could have been.

In our attempts to reconstruct the pieces of our lives, we get overwhelmed, give up or accept that life will forever be an ugly gravel pit. We build sturdy walls or fences around it so nobody can see our feelings of shame. We don’t talk about it because we don’t want people to see our unpleasant side or be rejected. We run away from or deny our past because it makes us feel ugly and flawed.

Every aspect of our lives is affected by our gravel pits. But we can take our lives full of pain and broken dreams and turn them into places of beauty and contentment, comfort and inviting.

We can turn un-attractive and hopeless situations into satisfying, productive and pleasing futures.

We don’t scrap it – we use it. It becomes the backbone for our beautiful garden – positive gardens of hope, light, joy, energy, and strength.

Where do you begin such a daunting project?

The same place as the Butcharts did. They didn’t cover up the hole but used it as a springboard. If they had just filled the hole with dirt, it would not be the beautiful place it is today.

It takes a vision and a desire to examine our pits and remove rubble and toxic waste. It takes insight to see that what once was an obstacle can now be viewed as a piece of art.

With a readiness to count the cost of time, money, and energy a plan of action can continue the motivation. All of us can turn our gravel pits into beautiful gardens.

Marlene Anderson


Learning to Live Again in a New World, by Marlene Anderson | focuswithmarlene.comLearning to Live Again in a New World

We need validation for the turmoil of thoughts and emotions we experience. But we also need the tools necessary to create a new beginning that is both satisfying and meaningful. My new book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, offers those tools to help work through the problems you might be facing.

It is a guide to help you through the ups and downs of grieving a significant loss. And it includes a study guide at the end for use with groups.

God’s Love Streaming In

Listen to this episode of the Focus with Marlene Podcast

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When working through a loss to a new beginning, we experience ups and downs of emotions and thoughts. At times we might feel like a yo-yo, up one minute, down the next. It is an interval when we not only are working through recovery but taking stock of our life – what was important and what was not.

In my book, Learning to Live Again in a New World – available in hard copy, e-book, or audio book – I share strategies and methods to offset those difficult moments. It is a book full of suggestions to make your journey smoother and more complete.

The following piece was written some years ago as I contemplated my new beginning. May you find it helpful in your journey.

The sun is shining once more.

I have swept the cobwebs from my mind and stand within clean rooms. The past has been examined and stored according to value and importance; boxed, labeled, and neatly stacked for easy access should I need them for reference, clarification, or guidance.

Unnecessary trash of old rules, life scripts, unrealistic expectations and negative tapes have been eliminated – thrown away.

The dust has settled and light streams in.

God’s Love Streaming In | focuswithmarlene.com

I open the windows of my soul and allow the fresh air of new beginnings to cleanse my spirit.

Change pressures us to reflect and rethink our aspirations and goals.

Although the future seems bare, I am ready to create new meaning for my life. Old assumptions have been brushed away with the cobwebs, and new ones are ready for the scrutiny of God’s love streaming through the windows of my life. Where old dreams once lived, new ones emerge with promises for a brighter future.

Loss takes away the familiar.

As I look for a new path and direction, I am aware of God walking silently beside me. I let go of the past. His light pierces the atmosphere of my soul exposing residual fears and anxieties still clinging to the walls of my mind. That same light warms the cleaned rooms of my heart and fills every dark corner with intensity and softness.

I realize that God’s love cannot be denied.

It will find a chink – a crack to shine through – searching, drawing until the doors of our hearts are thrown open and light can stream in.

Where there was pain and sorrow, there is now peace and contentment. Where there was fear, hope rises like the sun. Anxiety has turned into anticipation. Healing and revealing Love permeates every cell of my body.

Life has taken on new meaning as I allow God’s love to stream into my world.

There will be other days when the cold winds of another icy winter sweep down into my life bringing heartbreak and disappointments. But the memory of God’s warm sun will shine as warm and bright as my fireplace. His light will guide me through the winter to the new birth of a new spring.


Learning to Live Again in a New World, by Marlene Anderson | focuswithmarlene.comLearning to Live Again in a New World

We need validation for the turmoil of thoughts and emotions we experience. But we also need the tools necessary to create a new beginning that is both satisfying and meaningful. My new book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, offers those tools to help work through the problems you might be facing.

It is a guide to help you through the ups and downs of grieving a significant loss. And it includes a study guide at the end for use with groups.

Hope that Sustains

Listen to this episode of the Focus with Marlene Podcast

Get caught up with all episodes in the “Threads of Life” series


When going through tough times for any length of time, we find ourselves feeling disheartened and despondent, unable to think of ways to constructively move forward. Remaining in that state, however, only intensifies that sense of hopelessness.

The cure: put your focus on hope.

Here is a piece I wrote in 2012. I think it is relevant today.

Hope! It is a gift I cannot refuse.

Belief. It is the assumption that God catches us when reality doesn’t match our expectations and we begin to fall.

We may not be aware of being caught and held safely because the terror of falling is too great. But regardless of how we feel, God is there, like the parachute keeping a skydiver from plummeting to earth.

Hope that Sustains | focuswithmarlene.com

A skydiver has learned to turn fear of falling into a heady joy of floating before opening the chute. When reality has dashed my dreams, I need to turn my fear of falling into floating with the parachute ready to open and set me safely down on the ground when the time is right.

Throughout scripture, we read stories of God gracing His people with faith, hope and trust. Within science we know that the thoughts we dwell on have an impact on us mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Hope changes the chemistry in the body.

Hope says there is the possibility of something good happening. It is not only a belief, but a feeling that “something desirable” can happen.

Without hope, we give up or find ourselves repeating the forlorn words made popular in a song of the 60’s, “Is this all there is?”

Hope encourages

When encouraged, we gain confidence. Within confidence, we find courage.

Hope motivates

With encouragement, we become motivated to look for solutions to tough problems and difficult life situations.

Hope energizes

When feeling helpless and hopeless, our energy is drained, and depression settles into every cell and fiber of our body rendering us almost comatose. Hope changes that in an instant. Hope allows us to focus on what we can do rather than what we cannot do.

Hope expects

When we feel hopeful, we expect a different outcome. We don’t worry about whether the earth will keep rotating, or whether the sun will come up in the morning or go down at night. When the sun is hidden in the clouds, we know it still exists and take for granted that it is there.

Hope played out in our lives expects that tomorrow has the possibility to be brighter than today, that our pain will recede, and that we can experience joy again. Hope says that when the world is all dark and we think we have been locked in a prison of despair, that, instead, we can place our expectation on a God we can call upon in our time of need and trouble. We can go to Him anytime and anywhere.

Hope believes

When our expectation is placed on God, we believe that He exists, that He loves us, and that He will never leave or desert us. He will give us the strength to endure. Hope believes God’s word that tells us He cares about us personally, and that His love is so great, He is willing to die for us. In fact, He did – on the cross at Easter and rose again.

Hope doesn’t quit

When we are exhausted and think we can’t do anything more, we hear God whispering to us, “I am there with you. Try again – one more time.”   We feel His arms carry us. We hear his promises in our ear and feel His strength flow into us. He intervenes in our lives.

Hope is surrender

Hope relies on something greater than ourselves. When we surrender to the knowledge that we do not know it all, will never know it all and we need God to survive, we begin to experience hope. We recognize that we are not sufficient unto ourselves.

In that surrender, we are asked to let go and allow. The focus is no longer making something happen but surrendering to what is happening and adjusting our responses. In that surrender, we find peace in acceptance. Hope then reveals itself in looking for and finding blessings in all things.

The Easter story is that revealing of hope for us that there is life after death – a new life that goes beyond the grave; a hope of salvation made possible by God. Within our tragedies lies new hope and new life as well.


Learning to Live Again in a New World, by Marlene Anderson | focuswithmarlene.comLearning to Live Again in a New World

We need validation for the turmoil of thoughts and emotions we experience. But we also need the tools necessary to create a new beginning that is both satisfying and meaningful. My new book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, offers those tools to help work through the problems you might be facing.

It is a guide to help you through the ups and downs of grieving a significant loss. And it includes a study guide at the end for use with groups.

Grab Hold, Let Go, and Swing!

Listen to this episode of the Focus with Marlene Podcast

Get caught up with all episodes in the “Threads of Life” series


When faced with life-altering situations, we struggle not only to grasp the totality of what we are facing, but to plan a way forward. Consider the options my son and us faced years ago. His physical limitations never deterred him. And he lived life never even considering he couldn’t make it and took his talents and built a successful career.

Don was born without the muscles to hold up his head. Muscle weakness extended to other areas of his back and neck. A special brace was designed for him, with a rod that went down the back, anchored with straps around his waist and a pre-formed support for his head.

One might assume he was a prisoner to his physical disabilities.

But he never saw it that way and neither did we. He never let his brace or lack of muscles deter him from grabbing hold of life and swinging into the unknown. He let go of anything that kept him grounded and allowed himself the freedom to swing.

With a twinkle in his eye and mischief in his smile, he went for it. He learned to walk, run, and swing from a rope hung in our basement for kids to play on. He traveled to Europe and performed in school plays. He drew amazing pictures.

Grab Hold

There are many kinds of handicaps. Difficult childhoods of neglect, lack of love, favoritism, alcoholism, rejection, abandonment, or abuse can feel as stifling as physical handicaps, trapping us in an ongoing cycle of shame, anger, and self-doubt. But no handicaps or impediments can keep us stranded unless we let them.

Grab hold of the new rope waiting for you, and swing to a new way of thinking, believing, and acting. The past cannot continue to hurt you unless you let it. Hanging onto that pain or perceived handicap or disadvantage only keep us stuck.

Let Go

Let go of old messages that tear you down. Let go of wanting revenge. Let go of your doubts and endless questions. Let go of all the negative things you were told as a kid that tore apart your worth. Let go of whatever has no purpose.

Hang on and Swing

Grab Hold, Let Go, and Swing! | focuswithmarlene.com

Life can be risky and scary. It requires courage. That courage resides deep inside you. But until you reach out and try, you will not access it.

Swinging out from what was familiar can be terrifying. Laugh. Let your laughter chase the shadows away. Life can be a wonderful adventure, full of surprises and unexpected pleasures if we allow ourselves to take part in it.

So, are you ready? Then take the nitty-gritty ugliness and rough edges of your past and fashion it into a rope. Grab hold and swing. Take that risk and swing out into a new and rewarding and promising future. Use those gifts and talents you were given and turn them into a positive force.


Learning to Live Again in a New World, by Marlene Anderson | focuswithmarlene.comLearning to Live Again in a New World

We need validation for the turmoil of thoughts and emotions we experience. But we also need the tools necessary to create a new beginning that is both satisfying and meaningful. My new book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, offers those tools to help work through the problems you might be facing.

It is a guide to help you through the ups and downs of grieving a significant loss. And it includes a study guide at the end for use with groups.

Adversity a Blessing? You’ve Got to be Kidding!  

Listen to this episode of the Focus with Marlene Podcast

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Life is full of challenges and sometimes it seems like we are going from one hardship to another with little time to recover between.

But what if we looked at adversity in a different way?

Would we see something of value for us going through hardships and difficult times? Here is a piece I wrote in 2014 about what I learned from adversity.

Adversity a blessing? You’ve got to be kidding!

Who would even consider such a thing? Who wants difficulties? And how can misfortunes or hard times ever be considered a blessing?

And yet, when I am honest with myself, it is precisely in those hard times where I have grown, became stronger and more resilient, learned I could do more than I thought I could, and developed emotional, mental, and spiritual muscles. It is where I learned to face my vulnerabilities head on; where I chose to take charge of my life, and not back away or sidestep or become a victim.

Going through tough times is like going to the gym to work out.

Adversity a Blessing? You’ve Got to be Kidding! | Focuswithmarlene.com

Our muscles are weak and decrepit and we know we need the exercise to get healthy and strong again. But it requires consistency, going more than just once or twice, to develop that strength and build those muscles. We need to remind ourselves why it is important to continue going even when we don’t feel like it, so we don’t give up.

With repetition, a habit is formed that keeps in place that incentive and driving force.

Adversity challenges us.

Am I willing to step out of my comfort zone and take some risks?

Am I ready to acknowledge my limitations and celebrate my strengths?

Am I ready to put in the effort and hard work to become capable and confident?

If I am, I will be rewarded with a new beneficial and productive response to life, its problems, and adversities. When I am in the middle of a catastrophe or tragedy, I do not consider it a blessing. It is only later, when I look back, that I can see that I have been strengthened by the struggle and challenge.

Here are some of the things I have gained going through difficult times.

  1. I have developed an ongoing “I can do it” mindset that energizes my efforts to keep trying, to discover new ways to solve problems or apply my strengths in new constructive ways.
  2. I have learned that my abilities far exceed the reluctance and hesitations I put on myself. Facing our fears includes recognizing that we are not perfect, that we might have to try many times but with each attempt we learn something new and valuable that we can apply the next time.
  3. Grace and forgiveness, along with humility, are important byproducts of facing adversity. We can’t change everything. But we can change our attitudes and our responses to whatever is happening. When we recognize our need for assistance, we can seek out knowledgeable mentors or trainers. We feel comfortable asking input from our friends or asking for their support. We can call on God to help us gain wisdom and understanding to find new ways to meet our challenges.
  1. There are solutions to any problem if we are willing to search for them. It involves critical and creative thinking, looking at our problems from a new perspective in order to see new possibilities. Sometimes those solutions require making some tough choices that we would rather not make.
  2. Until I have defined my principles and core values, my choices and responses will be based more on impulse and reaction than thoughtful consideration. We are responsible for our actions and the decisions we make. Are they thought out with pros and cons and consequences?
  3. I have learned that I am never alone – God is always there with me even when I don’t feel His presence. Often it is afterwards that I am aware of His steady guidance.
  4. I have learned that life needs to be tempered with gratitude, looking for and finding those blessings. It is in the simple things in life – love, friendship, and the ability to work – where I find satisfaction and contentment.
  5. Throughout all my trials, I am the only one who can be in charge of my life. It is tempting to blame others and everything for the difficulties I am facing. It is easy to fall into a victim trap. But that will not give me the confidence and self-reliance I need to live a fulfilling life. I will not give up the freedom to be in charge of my life, and whether win or fail, to be able to make those choices.

May you find blessings, strength and confidence in your challenges and struggles.


Learning to Live Again in a New World, by Marlene Anderson | focuswithmarlene.comLearning to Live Again in a New World

We need validation for the turmoil of thoughts and emotions we experience. But we also need the tools necessary to create a new beginning that is both satisfying and meaningful. My new book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, offers those tools to help work through the problems you might be facing.

It is a guide to help you through the ups and downs of grieving a significant loss. And it includes a study guide at the end for use with groups.

Stories Tell It All

Listen to this episode of the Focus with Marlene Podcast

Get caught up with all episodes in the “Threads of Life” series


Years ago, I was asked to give a speech to a group of teachers in the U.K. In that speech, I shared some of the stories my father-in-law used to tell my kids about when he was a kid.

Their much-loved Grandpa Bert was an easy-going guy, with seemingly not a care in the world, who drove my mother-in-law crazy. Here is one of his stories.

Bert attended a small, rural school. He was not a student of academia – in fact, he hated sitting in the classroom. During recess while other kids were busy jumping rope or throwing ball, he was busy exploring the tall grass around this little country school, looking for wonderful things such as worms, caterpillars, bugs, frogs, etc.

One nice warm spring day, he found a cute little baby garter snake. Wow! While he was busy enjoying his new discovery, the school bell rang, and all the kids ran inside. The teacher, knowing Bert would be dawdling, was at the school door and yelled sharply. “Bert!”

Uh-oh. Now what do I do?

He did not want to let the snake go! He also knew that if he didn’t move fast, he was going to be in big trouble!

So he did what every red-blooded young boy would do – he stuffed the snake into the pocket of his jeans and ran into the school.

At first the little snake was content just to lie in this nice warm cozy “nest.” But pretty soon, as little snakes are apt to do, it got restless and began squirming and wriggling.

And Bert began to squirm as he tried to keep the snake from slithering out of his pocket. Finally, he did the only thing he could think of to do – he reached inside and took the snake out and held it tightly in his hand.

The curiosity antennas of the astute kids around him went on full alert. “What you got, Bert?” and “Let me see,” they whispered expectantly.

Bert carefully and discreetly gave them a peek when the teacher’s back was turned or when she was looking down at the papers on her desk. But his luck soon ran out. Just as he was giving a kid across the aisle a peek, the teacher looked up.

“Bert, what are you doing?” she asked as she got up and started down the aisle toward him.

Oh no, I’m in real trouble now – big trouble.

He tried to put the snake back in his pocket, but the darn thing just wouldn’t cooperate.

The snake was just as determined to get away. As the teacher approached, she demanded in her loudest stern voice: “Bert! You give me what you have in your hand right now!”

Oh no, I’m dead meat, thought Bert. What am I going to do?

Stories Tell It All | focuswithmarlene.com

He did the only thing any rational young man would do. “No,” he said meekly. Upon which she adamantly demanded, “You give me what you have in your hand.”

Again, he said, “No”, upon which she said, “If you don’t put that in my hand right now, I will march you to the principal’s office.”

Now he was really worried. More than experiencing the wrath of his teacher, he was even more afraid of going to the principal’s office. Bad things happened there. Sometimes kids were never seen again – at least for that day!

So, he did what he was told, opened his hand and placed the squirming snake in his teacher’s hand. Upon which she screamed and fainted.

And yes, he did end up in the principal’s office – and yes, he disappeared from school for a whole week because he was suspended.

And here is the rest of the story. The day he returned to school, he was late and came screeching around the corner of the schoolhouse on his bike and smack – ran right into his teacher, knocking her flat!

We all laughed as the teachers I was talking to could identify with the antics of their students. And I’m sure they remembered times when they were the “Berts” in their own younger lives.

As we visualize this story, we have an opportunity to ask ourselves, can we see humor in those difficult and challenging times?

As a parent, can we bring humor into our family times together by being able to laugh at ourselves and see the humor in less than humorous moments?

It is not being insensitive or laughing at someone’s misfortunes. It is seeing within our life those humorous moments and knowing that we can laugh as well as cry.