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God’s Love Streaming In

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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

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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.

Venturing into the Unknown

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The plaintive sound of a foghorn filtered through the grey morning mist as our sailboat pushed away from the protective harbor of Victoria, BC and slipped silently into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The stillness of the morning was broken only by the low constant chug, chug of our diesel engine and the caw of a lonely seagull taking flight overhead.

The shoreline and our boat were soon swallowed by a grey, colorless matter silently and swiftly moving over the water. Although it had no shape or body, it was as unyielding and impenetrable as any brick wall.

One moment we saw the sky and receding shoreline; the next minute every point of reference was gone. In a matter of minutes, we were engulfed by dense fog that left us disoriented and unsure of where we were or the direction we were headed.

Fog.

Venturing into the Unknown | focuswithmarlene.com

Not only was visibility reduced to a few feet; even the sound of the fog horns became disorienting, making it difficult to distinguish distance or direction. We throttled back on the engine and cautiously glided forward relying on instruments, charts, and our knowledge of navigation.

Without them, we would soon be traveling in circles, entering dangerous shipping lanes, or ending on shoals and rocks. It is unnerving to see a huge ship emerging like some phantom apparition from a murky wall of white in front of you.

So why would any sane person leave a safe, snug harbor to venture out in this uncertain, potentially treacherous condition?

We left because we needed to reach the other side of the strait within a designated timeframe. Our options were limited.

But we didn’t leave our safe harbor unprepared.

The marine weather channel told us the fog was not going to settle in for a long period of time. Our boat and engine were in good working condition and we had plenty of fuel.

We had the knowledge and training of navigation courses. Our navigation charts were current and defined the areas of safe travel by numbered buoys, some flashing a sequence of lights and some with bells and fog horns programmed to sound and flash warnings.

Although we did not have all the sophisticated instruments most boaters of today have, we were prepared to negotiate the waters safely.

How is all this relevant to you and me, who are safely tucked into our lives on shore?

We know it is essential to venture out of our safe harbors at some point in order to live life. And just as a sailor knows his very life depends on his preparation, knowledge, and planning for whatever voyage he embarks on, it is equally as important for us to prepare for our journey through life.

As young adults, we leave the safe harbors of our homes and strike out fearlessly in uncharted waters totally unprepared for the rocks and shoals and obstacles that can shipwreck us.

We are unprepared for the catastrophes that appear out of the unknown as large as ocean liners bearing down on us through the fog. We are not only unprepared for critical and precarious times; we are unprepared for maximizing our time and energy in the normal routines of life.

Life teaches us many things.

When we have survived a storm and returned to our safe harbors, we reflect on what was required before venturing out again. Just as a sailor charts his course over the water from point to point, we need to set specific goals that not only give us a direction and destination for our careers, but also our lives.

Anticipation of known and unknown obstacles helps us prepare for the unexpected.

Developing plans of action includes building positive relationships with spouses and family.

Setting aside time for God as well as recreation and relaxation are vital in reaching our destinations.

Navigating life

Life navigation skills include knowing how to communicate, how to listen, how to problem solve and work together. It requires the establishment of efficient routines and habits. The skill of self-discipline and self-regulation prepare us for any storm of life. If we ignore the preparation for leaving the safety of our safe harbors, we will find ourselves in dangerous waters and sometimes crashing on the rocks.

Life is a risk. The future is like the fog.

Are you willing to venture out of your harbor? There are exciting and rewarding adventures waiting for you. But to experience them to the fullest, it is important to be prepared before venturing out.

As we learn how to prepare for our journeys, a confidence is developed. God’s manual on living defines the navigation skills we need to avoid rocks and shoals. In that self-assurance, we ask God for the strength we need and the wisdom to sort through the maze of life’s challenges. It enables us to leave our safe harbors and step out into unknown waters.

Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC


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 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.

Whatever You Focus On, You Will Become

Listen to this episode of the Focus with Marlene Podcast


As I begin this Threads of Life series, I would like to give some background on why FOCUS is so important and why it is the name I chose for my company, my motto, and my website.

When my husband and I took early retirement from teaching in Oregon, we moved to northern Washington to build our dream home and spend time sailing in the San Juan Islands.

My husband joined a group of talented musicians who played in a local rehearsal band and I returned to teaching part time at Chapman University Extension Center. However, long evening class hours prompted me to leave the formal classroom for good and start giving workshops and classes in ADHD parenting, pain management, stress management and communication.

I love working with people in small group settings and individually and wanted to extend my workshops to local businesses in my community. It seemed more expedient to work under a company name.

But what should I call this “company” of one (me)? One name kept coming up: FOCUS.

It represented what I believed in: that your focus in life will determine what you do, who you are and who you can become.

Energy is generated by our focus.

If you focus on anger, resentment, or grievances, your life will reflect that. But if you focus on learning new and better ways to live, problem solving, communication and positive thinking, you will begin to realize your goals in every area of your life.

Informational tools for problem-solving

Whatever You Focus on, You Will Become | focuswithmarlene.com

I have observed many times as a counselor, teacher, and small group facilitator the difference good information can have in the lives of people when they take proven strategies and apply them to their lives.

With these informational “tools” we can begin to resolve problems and reshape and define our lives in proactive rather than reactive ways.

I believe all of us want to live happier and less stressful lives but find it difficult to sort through the self-help books to find what works and what does not.

Benefits of living by pre-determined principles based on wisdom

Man's Search for MeaningAs we learn about ways to enrich our lives, it gives us a greater opportunity to determine how to live based on what is right for us. The more we live by predetermined principles based on wisdom versus spur-of-the-moment actions, the more purposeful our lives will become.

At any given moment we have the ability to choose how we will respond to life; in fact, we cannot not choose.

As Viktor Frankl said in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, the last thing anyone can ever take away from us is our ability to choose our responses to whatever is happening in life. As a survivor of the concentration camps during the Second World War, he could speak to that with authority.

Where is your focus?

At any point in time, we can stop and ask ourselves, where am I placing my focus? Is it something that will improve my life, allow me to laugh more, respond with compassion to others in need and bring joy to myself and others? Only we can decide.


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 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.

Threads of Life

I wish all of you a Happy New Year, with prayers and best wishes for a blessed 2021. I want to begin this year with a new series entitled Threads of Life.

Throughout our lifetime, we are weaving together the threads of our existence. Those threads are all around us – ready to be woven into a tapestry that shares our story and defines who we are. We choose how we weave them together. We are the designers.

Threads of Life | focuswithmarlene.com

Developing a life of meaning, purpose, and joy

I have been reviewing the stories and blog posts I have written or used in presentations about ways you can enrich your life, find comfort in your losses, and overcome what might seem like impossible odds. I chose to put together a collection of those stories that best illustrates our ability to move beyond discouragement and develop a life of meaning and purpose and joy.

They illustrate how important each part of our life is.

No matter how barren or dark they might seem, in the end they become a testimony of endurance, determination and love that create the most beautiful of tapestries.

Weaving our tapestries

As we start weaving our tapestries, there will be threads of comfort and joy and accomplishment as well as threads of pain and hopelessness and despair. Woven together they express the milestones of discovery, insight and growth, mountaintops with grand vistas of opportunities and deep ravines of rejection and setbacks.

You might think your tapestry holds too many dark threads of fear and anxiety. But the gold threads you use to reveal the overcoming of impossible odds and hardships shine like a beacon against dark backgrounds.

You will have bright colorful threads of joy and laughter along with the gloomy threads of pain and sorrow. The dull, grey lifeless threads of discouragement form a background for those colorful threads.

There will be bright spots of red representing those moments that demanded immediate attention, caution, and assessment. The stability and calming of blue and yellow, like the morning sun and enduring blue skies that keep the edges from unraveling are highlighted throughout your tapestry.

This weaving is a lifetime work in progress. We are challenged by the threads we choose to weave our narratives. We have been wounded. But we also have been blessed. Throughout life, there will be threads that tease us with hope and promises of a better future. These are the enduring threads woven throughout our tapestry.

In the upcoming months, I will be sharing some of these stories. Some will bring you to tears – others will have you laughing for a long time. Still others reveal the importance of stopping and evaluating what we do and the consequences of our thinking and behavior.

I hope you enjoy this new Threads of Life series.

Marlene Anderson

Spiritual Gifts to Guide You After Christmas

Listen to this episode of the Focus With Marlene podcast.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

—John 14:27, NIV

Christmas: a shining star – a break from the tedious schedules in which we find ourselves. A time to gather and connect with friends and family.

But Christmas is more than a nice diversion – a blip on the radar screen of our hectic lives.

  • For a moment in time we escaped drudgery, pressures, anxiety, and uncertainties.
  • For a moment in time we humbly knelt before the Christ Child whose birthday we celebrate.
  • For a moment in time we laid down our heavy burdens of doubt and fear and unanswered questions and savored the blessings of Christmas.

Now Christmas is over; the torn wrappings stuffed in bags ready for the garbage pickup, bows packed away to use again next year. Visiting families have returned home, and we collapse in an easy chair, take a deep sigh, and try to relax.

We are left with an afterglow of loving moments, age-old songs that brought joy to our spirits and rituals that filled our hearts with special remembrances. An afterglow that brings hope into our hearts, that life doesn’t have to return to the way it was before – the same grind, same routines, same stresses. It is an afterglow that maintains the magical remembrance of those extraordinary Christmas moments.

As I pick up the spiritual gifts I was given — love, joy, and peace — I find another one waiting for me to unwrap and use, that final gift of Christmas: Hope.

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,

whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

—Philippians 4-11-13, NIV

Hope

Hope: the glow that began at Christmas and extends beyond if we are willing to apply it in our lives. It is a gift I cannot refuse because without hope we cannot survive.

We are taking that gift God gave us at Christmas, that infant in the manager, and using it to overcome despair and see the blessings we have.

It is believing that God will be with us through all our troubles and sorrows. When life is at its darkest, God catches us when we fall, supports us when we doubt, and gives us the strength to move forward.

Hope takes those early tentacles of despair and hopelessness, reminds us there is a tomorrow and gives us the willpower to try one more time, or two or three or how many times it takes to reach our goals.

Hope faces the uncertainty of tomorrow and replaces it with an optimism that things will improve.  Hope allows us to stop running in circles and helps us identify the problems we face and start looking for realistic, long-term solutions.

Hope engages the spirit so we will put new plans of action in place.

Hope reminds us we are more than past efforts. We are the abilities not yet discovered or explored, the possibilities untried.

Hope reaches out and asks God to give us the strength and courage to go beyond defeat.

My hope for you is that you will take all the wonderful things you have learned and gained this past year and apply them daily next year until they become a part of who you are. Believe in yourself and believe that God is there with you in the dark of the night and the daylight of the morning. Let that hope glow in your heart and burst into flame as you energize your goals.

“O God, early in the morning I cry to you.

Help me to pray and gather my thoughts to you, I cannot do it alone.

In me it is dark, but with you there is light;

I am lonely but you do not desert me;

My courage fails me, but with you there is help;

I am restless, but with you there is peace;

In me there is bitterness, but with you there is patience;

I do not understand your ways, but you know the way for me.

Father in Heaven, praise and thanks be to you for the night.”

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Prayer Written in Tegel Prison, Berlin

This was a prayer Dietrick Bonhoeffer wrote when he was in prison during the Second World War. It was a prayer I first read in Max Lucado’s book, Anxious for Nothing.

Sometimes the worries of our world make us feel that we are imprisoned, unable to meet the demands forced on us, the time constraints, the worries about loved ones, etc. It is a prayer that we can adapt to our own lives.

May God bless you as you move into the new year.

Gifts of Christmas: Love, Hope, and Peace

Listen to this episode of the Focus with Marlene Podcast

For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

—John 3:16, NIV

This has been a difficult year with the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns, the inability to meet with each other, give hugs, and share concerns of the day.

We have learned to use more technology to operate our businesses and hold group meetings. We have driven up to our churches and stayed in our cars to listen to our pastors speak or we have listened to sermons on YouTube.

We have had groceries delivered and become familiar with masks. We have prayed and reached out to each other in the safest way possible.

It has been a surreal world – one in which we struggle to create a sense of normalcy. We are even learning how to sing as a choral group, rehearsing without gathering together in a group.

We have watched protests that turn into riots, people bullied and killed, businesses destroyed. The focus seems to constantly be on what we hate and if we destroy enough, we will be given what we want. We have become so polarized in our views; we no longer see the issues that need to be worked on.

But hate destroys.

Staying in that space of hate, we miss the most important healing component we have for our lives: love. True love is the only weapon against the assault of hate.

Without love, we are lost.

Without love there is no hope for us as a people on this earth.

It’s a time for humility and honesty and openness. It’s a time to recognize as never before our need for God, His forgiveness, His grace, His love and His direction.

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

—Philippians 4:8, NLT

Love – Hope – Peace

We speak to these themes each Christmas with our Christmas cards and music. Peace is usually thought of as a hopeful outcome of physical battlefields between countries or the end of bitter conflict between couples. We view hope as something we want but have become jaded about.

And love: well, we have been rejected and hurt too many times to trust or love anyone anymore.

Love, hope, and peace begin in our hearts.

It cannot start anywhere else. But how are we to love that person who has taken advantage of us, hurt us, used us and abused us? We don’t get that ability from our culture or love songs or peace rallies. A love that can bring hope and peace to our hearts starts with God and that little baby in the manager. That is, after all, what agnostics and atheists fear above all else – that there might be truth to the Christmas story.

A love that risks all – embraces all – gives all – endures all. That is what we received when a helpless, vulnerable baby boy was born so many years ago.

What parent wouldn’t willingly sacrifice their own life for that of their child? God, our heavenly Father, demonstrated that when He gave His only Son to die for us so we might live.

As we pray for each other and families whose lives have been turned upside down and inside out through riots, separation and rejection, we also pray for ourselves – for forgiveness, understanding, respect of differences – and peaceful ways to reconcile those differences. All our problems will not be resolved. But we choose how we will respond to each of them.

Love, hope and peace are only hollow words unless they are followed by positive personal action.


If you have a story of hope and endurance and faith that you would like to share with others, please let me know so we can include it in an upcoming blog post.