And It’s Official by Julie Arduini

I have a confession to make.

I’ve struggled as one of the bloggers here.

Not because I had an issue with anyone, quite the opposite, actually. As a reader, the other bloggers here at Christians Read are truly my favorite authors and have been. As a writer, they are my mentors.

But I felt like that Sesame Street sketch.

One of these things isn’t like the others.

Why?

Everyone was published but me. No one ever said a word about it as far as pressuring me to change the status. I was working quietly behind the scenes revising and taking my chapters through critique groups. But I let it get to me.

I even offered to step down.

And the gang lovingly said forget it.

They let me know it wasn’t a matter of if I’d be published.

It was a matter of when.

And I’m thrilled to say the time has come.

I signed two contracts recently that I’m really excited about.

The first is for an infertility devotional with Chalfont House Publishing. Heidi Glick, Elizabeth Maddrey, Kym McNabney, Paula Mowery, Donna Winters and I share our experiences with transparency in a way none of us saw in books when we were going through our struggles. Yet, there is hope. Something women in this season are in desperate need of. It’s the first time my name will be on a cover. Yay!

The second is twenty years in the making. Write Integrity Press offered a contract for my Adirondack contemporary romances. Spectacular Falls is finished and I can’t wait for readers to meet Jenna Anderson and Ben Regan. She’s the new senior center director in Speculator Falls producing a lot of change for grocer Ben Regan. My hope is readers fall in love with the people and the area. I’ve said more than once if I could go anywhere in the world, I’d most likely choose the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate NY.

The real Charlie Johns store in Speculator, NY is the inspiration behind JB's the store in Spectacular Falls. Picture by Julie Arduini

The real Charlie Johns store in Speculator, NY is the inspiration behind JB’s, the store in Spectacular Falls. Picture by Julie Arduini

I don’t know why having a contract makes a difference. I told my mom the only thing I can figure out is perhaps deep down I believe it’s validation. That I AM meant to do this writing thing. That someone believes in me. That I don’t stink.

Whatever the case, I’m thankful for the Christians Read gang. They believed in me when I didn’t and never made me feel less than because I wasn’t published. Thank you, reader, for contacting me behind the scenes when you enjoyed a post and didn’t question my qualifications.

Here are one sentence hooks for the series:

Spectacular Falls:

A  city-girl plows into an Adirondack village and produces change for the grocer.

Untangled:

A single mom and former Adirondack sheriff enters beauty school but creates split ends for the men in her life.

To Be Determined:

Trish Maxwell returns to Speculator Falls with crushed dreams, egg on her face, and the chance to make a new start with the very people and places she used to make fun of.

I’ll keep you posted!

 

It’s a Good Thing by Julie Arduini

I’ll never be mistaken for Martha Stewart on several levels, but she has that catch phrase, “It’s a good thing.” Well, there are some good things going on that I thought I would share. Because in full disclosure, I’m dealing with the stomach bug making its way through the family, we’re trying to ready our home for sale, and we’re looking for what we believe God has as our forever home.  These things made me miss my last scheduled post, so I thought I’d pop in and share what I can.

Because I don’t want to tell you that I learned my husband has been called to a business trip to India this year.

Or that I finished cleaning and our puppy flew through the kitchen and left his huge paw tracks everywhere.

So let me share some good things.

  • Last month I signed with Chalfont House. This is the first contract where my name goes on the cover, so pardon me while I do a little dance. Heidi Glick, Elizabeth Maddrey, Kym McNabney, Paula Mowery, Donna Winters and myself are writing a devotional on infertility. This opportunity dropped in my lap and I’m so excited about it. This is the book we wish existed when we were going through our season. None of our stories are the same, and we’re transparent about what our circumstances were, our doctors, the people around us, and more. Yet in these candid stories is hope. Prayers. And God’s Word. These ladies are amazing. Stay tuned.

 

  • I tried an experiment based on reading posts from Michael Hyatt and Jeff Goins. This year I was intentional about building my newsletter list by offering a contemporary romance to subscribers throughout 2014. Match Made in Heaven is a contemporary romance I first penned as a new Christian and a very green writer. I’ve had a blast revising it and sharing with subscribers. The experiment is working. My newsletter list is 4X bigger than it was in January. It’s not massive, but it’s growing. And like Martha says, “It’s a good thing.” My fiction features surrender issues and Upstate NY settings, and I’m proud to showcase Hammondport in this story, part of the Finger Lakes. As for surrender—Beth Prescott needs to let go of her past and comparing herself to others. Dean Kellerman’s stuck on trying to earn forgiveness because his mistakes continue to haunt him. Want to know more? Subscribe for free at http://juliearduini.com right sidebar and watch your inbox for activation.

My friend Holly's post on singleness went viral.

 

  • One of my dearest friends, Holly Hrywnak, recently started blogging. When I’m in Upstate NY we get together and share our struggles, breakthroughs, and I’m constantly encouraging her to write. She has one of the voices that I know God has a huge plan to use, and He is. Last week Holly’s post Forever Alone: The Single Girl Struggle, went viral. Her blog isn’t a year old and that post lit up cyberspace. She nails what I remember feeling as a single person, and what I’ve observed in others. If you know someone who is single, send them to her post. It went viral for a reason. Yep, Martha again. “It’s a good thing.”

There are other things going on that I wish I could share, but this is a good snapshot of what’s going on. And you know, as catchy as Martha’s phrase is, all that’s going on is better than a good thing. You know what it is?

A God thing.

The very best kind, don’t you think?

What God things are going on in your life?

No Dumb Questions by Julie Arduini

Each Easter season I’m fascinated to watch our daughter process Christ’s love for us as she watches it through our church’s Passion  Play. She has mild special needs that include comprehension issues, so often things her peers can figure out without a lot of cues, she needs some explanation. This year she wasn’t just the townsgirl/robe carrier, she made her way to the crucifixion scene. (I’m not certain she was allowed, but that’s another post for another day.)

Once the play ended, she asked if she could watch the Bible series on the History Channel. She compared the two performances and tried in her ten year old way to compare it to what she knew of the Bible. Of course, she had questions.

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Jesus inviting the children to come forward. Our daughter is in the light blue.

  • Why is Jesus looking at Peter funny when he’s talking?

(Because Jesus knows in a matter of hours Peter will deny Him three times.)

 

  • Where do you think Satan was when Jesus was on the cross?

(I’m guessing close by, enjoying every second, thinking he had won.)

 

  • Why did you say I’m more blessed than Thomas?

(Because she believes without needing to see.)

 

  • I don’t understand how Saul and Paul are the same person.

(That’s a tough one to explain. But in the end, she grasped that Saul was someone who lived to see Christians die. He was on his way to catch Christians when Jesus blinded him. Saul’s life changed so much he became Paul, one of the greatest evangelists the world could ever know. And what faith on the Christians part, because they allowed Paul in, not sure if his transformation was true.)

 

  • Why is it such a big deal John is listed last and it says he died of old age?

(At the end of our Passion Play it lists each disciple and how they died. John the Revelator is the protagonist and he jokes how they’ve tried to burn him, poison him, beat him…and nothing worked, so they exiled him. For him to die of old age gives me the goose bumps. He took care of Mary. He was a true friend. And how he loved the Lord.)

 

She had a lot of questions but I loved her understanding, the best we can, the depth of Christ’s love to sacrifice as He did. That she saw flawed men who goofed up and goofed up bad turn things around so much they were among the first to take the gospel and run with it. She understood when evil is the core of intentions, it will not end well.

Her excitement fanned my flames of adoration.

I kept thinking back to Peter. So confident and sure to full of shame. And because of Christ, stronger than ever and remembered through the ages because we can relate. Paul. He thought he was right, and to know he had a hand in so many murders, how could he go on? But go on Paul did. I’ve always been inspired by Him.

And of course, John. Talk about passionate for Christ. The attempts to kill him were such failures they sent him away to exile. I’m sure no one wanted to see his anointed face as a reminder he couldn’t be silenced, not by their hand. That gives me courage to be bolder.

But none of these questions exist, there’s no reason to explore the personal histories without Jesus.

And I praise God our kids know Him. They treat participating in the Passion Play as a small gift to Him, their way of saying thank you for eternal life. For our daughter, thanks we don’t have to kill animals and use their blood to get forgiveness. She gets that Jesus did that for us.

If you weren’t able to take opportunity to watch the life, death and resurrection of Jesus played out, it’s not too late. Find a copy of Passion of the Christ. Check out the History Channel.

Or, best of all, take time apart and spend some quiet time in prayer.

You’re welcome to ask questions.

 

Photo by Julie Arduini/dream special effect used

What Would You Put in Your Locket? By Julie Arduini

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Each Christmas vacation I visit my dear friends from my school years. Last December we met at the mall and as soon as I saw Julie, I was drawn to her necklace. It was a locket with charms inside. She told me it was a gift from her husband, an Origami Owl necklace.

I looked it up when I got home and became intrigued with them. The idea is you buy a necklace and fill it with charms that summarize your life and interests.

The charm choices are limitless.

  • Mom
  • USA/Military
  • Children (blue/pink)
  • Dog
  • Cat
  • Cheerleading
  • Golf
  • Cross
  • Words like faith and family
  • Flip flops

and more.

I gifted myself a cheaper brand for my birthday and I was surprised by how long it took me to figure out what charms I wanted. There’s only so much room in the locket, so you want to get it right.

I represent a lot of things to people: wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend. Ohio person, Upstate NY born and bred. Writer. Reader. Dog lover. Coffee drinker. Choco-holic. And of course,  Jesus-girl.

So, what did I end up with?

  • A set of wedding rings to represent marriage
  • A boy charm to represent our oldest son
  • A girl charm to represent our daughter
  • A pink cross to show the world I’m a Jesus-girl.
  • A stack of books because I’m a writer and a reader.

I think those sum me up well.

But I wondered, what charms would people pick?

If you were given a locket and 5 charms to choose from, what ones would most signify you?

I’d love to hear what you would choose, and why.

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Do Writers Owe their Audience by Julie Arduini

(This post contains spoiler alerts if you haven’t yet watched The Good Wife on DVR.)

I love to discuss writing when it comes to television. When I find a well-written show, I’m a fan. I still talk about the episode of LA Law when Roz walked into the elevator while talking, not seeing it was out of order. She fell to her death, a move I never saw coming. She was a regular character with a solid storyline.

Or so I thought.

It was the same when on 30-Something they teased a major death. Well, one character had cancer. They led you to believe she was going to be the one, and it made sense. Imagine my surprise when it was another character, the beloved Gary, who died in a bicycle accident no one saw coming.

I’m probably not the average television observer because I do look at it from a writing perspective. When I turned on the TV Sunday, I settled on The Good Wife because it was supposed to be The Mentalist. I was writing and although The Good Wife isn’t a show I watch often, between commercials and the little I’ve watched, I was familiar with the storyline. About 2/3 way though, I looked up and realized something unexpected was taking place. There was no foreshadowing that I was aware of, minus the minute before the shooting.

When the credits rolled I couldn’t believe it. The show eliminated the hero.

As I read online about it, killing off Will Gardner (played by Josh Charles) was a surprise to the audience, but not to anyone connected to the show. In fact, they had known for a year Josh Charles was leaving.

Audience reaction was mixed. Some, like me, found it a bold move that allows for new storylines to jump off the page.

But a lot of fans felt betrayed. They’ve been watching in anticipation of an official pairing between the hero and heroine. Will and Alicia. They’ve tuned in week in and week out, waiting. And now all hope of that romance returning and lasting is gone. And fans are angry.

That got me thinking. How many times as a reader have I been disappointed because the ending didn’t go “my way?” Who was the writer creating for? The reader and guessing what they might want, or for them and their own plot?

The Good Wife producers knew there would be a backlash, so they even had a letter for fans. Josh Charles even admitted they talked about the ways to say goodbye to his character. The actress who played the heroine, Julianna Margulies, went through this once before when her romantic pairing on ER, George Clooney, left the series. Back then they opted for his character to move to Seattle, and when the series ended, the two characters reunited and fans were delighted. The Good Wife cast and crew even tossed out the “move to Seattle” idea, one that would have ultimately given fans hope for Will Gardner’s return and possible romance with Alicia.

But with his violent death, Will Gardner’s dead and any hope of him and Alicia is gone.

These characters won't have a chance at love thanks to writers. The Good Wife, courtesy CBS

These characters won’t have a chance at love thanks to writers.
The Good Wife, courtesy CBS

And that’s real life, and the ultimate reasoning behind why the writers went the way they did. Life is messy. Sometimes the loose ends aren’t tied into a pretty bow. There are days you wake up with no indication you have hours left to live. The writers felt exploring the reality of life was a better direction to take the show than give into fan loyalty to two characters.

That makes me ask, what about you? As a reader and/or television viewer, what do you expect from writers? For them to follow their gut and plotting, or create with your happiness in mind?

Like I confessed, I come from a writer’s angle. I want to be surprised. I want that shocking moment that I don’t see coming, as long as it makes sense. I know it creates new challenges, but I find those storylines exciting and full of opportunity. When fans get their way, I think ultimately they end up disappointed and writers stifled. My example? Moonlighting, the 80’s show that paired Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd’s characters, and the show died a fast death.

I’d rather see a major character experience the death.

What are your thoughts?

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June Foster and Why She Wrote Ryan’s Father by Julie Arduini

Julie’s Note:

I had the pleasure of growing leaps and bounds as a writer under the mentorship of June Foster when we were in the same critique group. I admire her writing about subjects that are difficult and even controversial. This is the case with her latest book, Ryan’s Father, a winner with the Clash of the Titles reader-driven contest.

Ryan’s Father conquers the subject matter of homosexuality and Christianity. As you can imagine, June has come up against negativity for writing this book. I asked her to share why she wrote it, and her thoughts on tackling such a hard subject matter. Here is June Foster’s reply. Thanks, June!

The Story Behind Ryan’s Father

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Many years ago when my daughter was in high school, a young friend of hers would join us in the morning before school for a short Bible study. This young man was being raised by a busy father and no mother in the home. Once the teen pulled me aside and asked if we could chat. The precious guy confessed to an attraction to another boy in our church and asked my opinion. I could see how he suffered and needed direction. At the time I explained the best I could about what the Bible says about homosexuality. The boy’s situation grabbed my sympathies and wouldn’t let go.

Another time, an almost identical incident occurred. A young lady, a relative on my father’s side, asked me the same question.

Then years later after I had begun writing novels, the two events sparked an idea. I wanted to write a book which reflects a Christian worldview on the subject of homosexuality. In my book, a young Christian school teacher discovers same sex attraction, yet as a believer, he doesn’t want to go into the lifestyle. With Ryan’s Father I’d like to offer hope for any who wish to find freedom. For others who are happy where they are, this book is not for you.

When I read the Bible, in particular the books of Leviticus and Romans, God makes it plain that homosexual relations are not pleasing to Him. There are people who don’t care what the Bible says and others who would like to twist those passages, interpreting them to say what they’d like to hear. One argument is people are born gay. But I’d like to know why God would make someone gay if it’s against His will.

I realize that some may have a predisposition toward homosexuality. But because a person is born with a predisposition to anger doesn’t mean he should commit murder. Or like me, with a legacy of alcoholism. Though I struggled for many years, God set me free, and I don’t have to practice alcoholism.

Okay, now for the S word – sin. I believe homosexuality is a sin. But Christ died for all sin and wants to forgive us. Homosexuality is no worse than any other wrong—murder, adultery, lying, gossiping, you name it.

I believe God has a perfect plan for each of our lives. I’d love to see many find that purpose. When a person lives a homosexual lifestyle, I don’t believe they are experiencing God’s best. I want to see others set free. Frankly, I question whether a person in a gay relationship is truly happy, but only the individual can answer that.

All that to say, with Ryan I wanted to convey the message that homosexuality is wrong, but it is possible to be set free of the lifestyle. I’m not so naive to believe freedom could happen with one decision or a counseling session. In time, God can draw us out of that pit of deception. But only if we first call on Jesus Christ for salvation. Then God’s infinite power, peace, and truth can permeated our lives.

On a side note, I’ve been accused of being homophobic. I need to say—if I judged a homosexual in the lifestyle, I’d have to condemn myself as well. Jesus died for all sins, not just some. I love homosexuals and would welcome them into my church and life.

I’d like to make one last point clear. I’ve heard the question asked: “Will homosexuals go to heaven?” I believe we could fit any other word in place of homosexuals and ask the same question. Thieves, murderers, abortionists, gossips, etc. Ephesians says it is by grace we are saved through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. Anyone including homosexuals who have called on the name of Jesus for salvation will live for eternity with Him, finally set free of this sin-infested world.

Junefoster June Foster is a retired teacher with a BA in Education and a MA in
counseling. June has written four novels for Desert Breeze Publishing. The
Bellewood Series, Give Us This Day – February 1, 2012, As We
Forgive – September 1, 2012, and Deliver Us – April 1, 2013, and
Hometown Fourth of July – July 1, 2012. June’s book, Ryan’s
Father, is available from WhiteFire Publishing January 2014. Red and
the Wolf will be available April 2014. For All Eternity and
Misty Hollow, God willing, will be published in the near future.
June loves to write stories about characters who overcome the issues in
their lives by the power of God and His Word. June uses her training in
counseling and her Christian beliefs in creating characters who find
freedom to live godly lives.

To purchase Ryan’s Father, click here.

What I Learned from Johnny Carson by Julie Arduini

I’m intrigued with the late night talk show changes and last week I blogged about what I’m learning from Jimmy Fallon. Over the weekend my husband and I took advantage of our Amazon Prime membership and watched a documentary on Johnny Carson.

I’d read about his life and knew quite a bit, but there was something in the show that was news to me.

Johnny’s mom wasn’t even close to being encouraging. In fact, she was so harsh that when he won a prestigious governor’s award and he called her to tell her, her response was, “Well, I guess they know what they are doing.”

Johnny Carson photo: Johnny Carson Carnac Carnac.jpg

Ouch.

His need for her praise was so driven that as the show went on, the writers connected the dots that perhaps his failed marriages, isolation, drinking, and fidelity issues could be traced back to the encouragement he sorely needed from his mom, and never received.

Most artists/entertainers admit the foundation of their comedy or gift came from adversity. Laughter hid their pain and gave them attention. Even if they got in trouble at school, they confessed it was okay. Because at least someone was recognizing them.

I learned a few years ago that if I depend on the praise of man to dictate my joy I’m going to be disappointed. A lot. As a writer seeking publication, that’s an essential truth to embrace. There are going to be rejections. Negative reviews. People who don’t understand the sacrifices of the craft. Loved ones who hear of an accolade and aren’t impressed.

When I finally surrendered my fear of rejection and promised God I’d write for Him, a mentor took me aside and shared what her pastor had taught her.

“Have the heart of a dove, and the skin of a rhino.”

I’ve tried to keep that in mind as my writing life progresses. Watching that documentary and hearing his dear friends admit that as talented as Johnny was, happiness eluded him.

We can’t wait for circumstances for joy, and I turned the TV off feeling sad that a man lived a rich life by the world’s standards to die in what felt sad to me. Isolated. Disappointed. There wasn’t mention of a personal faith. And as wealthy as he was and as generous loved ones found him to be, he couldn’t buy joy.

Whether my writing life reaches platinum levels or stays right where I am, I know this: joy comes from the Lord. He is enough, and He is absolutely enthralled by you. If no one on earth encourages you, let His love comfort you.

You have given me greater joy
    than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. Psalm 4:7, NLT

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Royal Reading by Julie Arduini

So far 2014 has been full of reading for me. It’s a combination of a lot of book reviews due around the same time, a harsh winter, and well, I love reading. My next review is on Valentine’s Day, Rachel Hauck’s Princess Ever After.  As I read, it hit me.

Women love a princess story.

We know girls do. Disney has made a fortune and a legacy banking on that truth. Whether they were born into royalty or married that prince after growing up with some adversity, girls love the movies and merchandise that offer a royal story.

But I’m 40-something.

And I have to confess, I’m as wrapped up in the swoon of an average girl watching love all around her only to find it for herself in the form of a prince. Or a castle that belongs to her, and she finds the prince. Then there are the gowns. There’s the tension of having to choose between a man or a kingdom. Reading about the villain who plots to take away everything for the good of self, while the princess fights for the good of people.

Why is the royal premise as alluring for me now as it was when I was a girl?

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I gave it some thought, and here’s what I came up with.

  • I have greater clarity that a royal love story parallels our Heavenly Father’s love for us. Because of my relationship with Christ, I understand I’m chosen as His beloved. We are daughters of the King. The Bible is full of edicts, promises, passion, warfare, and declarations. When I was younger, I had a lot of baggage that made my own royal love story hard to accept, much less embrace. As I’ve grown closer to the Lord, I love the romance of royalty more than ever.
  • It’s a nice escape. When I’m cleaning up dog messes, folding laundry, and paying bills, it’s hard to get excited about the mundane. Reading about a woman with a car restoration business who learns she’s a royal heir and the country needs her, what a change of pace.  For a little while, I can leave my world and enter another.
  • A royal romance offers another escape, economic reality. I live in NE Ohio, and area that hasn’t recovered from the steel mill closings in the 80’s. Add the recession and the hit the auto industry took, our region has suffered. Hard working people are struggling. A lot of businesses have closed. To read about a kingdom where the heir has drivers, maids, chefs, and a team of people ready to do whatever the royal family needs, it helps me forget the empty storefronts not too far down the road.

How about you? Do you enjoy a royal love story? Why or why not?

If you’d like to read my review of Princess Ever After, visit juliearduini.com on Friday.

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Have you signed up for the Julie Arduini newsletter? On February 14th subscribers receive the first installment of my contemporary romance, Match Made in Heaven.

Beth Prescott realizes there’s more to her new job with the Hammondsport senior citizens when her clients keep trying to match her with their grandsons. She wants to excel at her job and push past the memories of a bad romance.

Dean Kellerman returns to the area to help his grandfather and forget his mistakes.

The two run into each other and find the only thing they have in common is Walt Kellerman. As they work together can they enjoy a friendship, or, will their secrets divide them once and for all?

Visit juliearduini.com and sign up through the right sidebar. Make sure you activate by looking for the email from Julie Arduini/Mailchimp.

Beating the January Blues by Julie Arduini

Last week Maureen shared a great post about reading and hibernation. Living in northeast Ohio we’ve had 7 snow (cold) days, thundersnow, rolling snow, and two visits from something called the polar vortex. It’s been a long January and like Maureen, I’ve taken advantage of a lot of home time with reading.

January typically is a tough month, our area is known for lack of sun and I have to be intentional to find positive things in the winter, especially one as relentless as this. So, I decided to make good use of the cold and snow and work on projects and try new things.

I thought I’d share some of my accomplishments.

 

  • Updated my website. When I looked at it as a reader, I noticed a few things. I’d recently received feedback that the font was hard to read because it was dark. Although I wasn’t sure I could change it because I use a template, I tried anyway. I was able to change everything but the font in the title (it’s a gamer template I completely made my own.) I changed my contributing author credit page to a slideshow, and added on my sidebar a slideshow of upcoming book reviews. I also added to the sidebar a way to sign up for my free newsletter.

 

  • Read up on ways to improve newsletters. Rob Eager from Wildfire Marketing and Jeff Goins are great information sources. I realized as great as social media is, it’s always evolving and if you count on it as the main way to keep in contact with readers/followers, you’re going to lose a lot from the changes. Email is a way that doesn’t change, and newsletters are a great way I didn’t pay a lot of attention to. I read up on Mailchimp ways to improve and decided to offer a story throughout 2014 that gives readers something no one else can get, and it shows them my writing style, Upstate NY settings, and hopefully engages them while we all wait for me to announce that first author contract.

 

 Beth Prescott didn’t know part of her new job working with senior citizens was the constant matchmaking with their grandsons. She’s focused on making a positive change in their lives and the stream of men showing up in her office are a disruption. Dean Kellerman returns to Hammondsport to help his grandfather and regroup after a heartbreak. The two have a run-in and learn helping Walt Kellerman is the one thing they’re both passionate about. With Beth’s secrets and Dean’s past, can the two fight the obstacles and realize they’re a match made in heaven?

  • Read. Read. Read. I love reviewing books and somehow I scheduled 15 between mid-January and February. Check them out!

    The Dream Dress by Janice Thompson is just one of the books I'm reviewing.

    The Dream Dress by Janice Thompson is just one of the books I’m reviewing.

I also cleaned the kitchen grout, but that wasn’t as much fun as the things above. Tip, vinegar and baking soda do wonders to make grout look brand new.

 

Has winter been brutal for you? If so, what have you done to stay sane?

By the way, I’d love for you to sign up for my newsletter. Visit my right sidebar or click here. Make sure you check your folders for a confirmation email from Mailchimp/Julie Arduini. I don’t want you to miss the first chapter in Match Made in Heaven, and it’s releasing in February.

Chosen and Preposterous by Julie Arduini

My last post was about my 2013 word of the year, abundance, and how it played out. It seems fitting as we’re still in the new year that I share my words for 2014.

Yes, you read right. Words.

Because if you have abundance as a theme for 2013, it would be appropriate that God would download two words for 2014.

Chosen and Preposterous.

Those seem to work at first glance like peanut butter and sauerkraut, but I get it. At least for me. I’m not better than anyone else, but there are opportunities and placements in my life where I need to realize I’m chosen. I also need to realize who I am in Christ. When all the world seems to be chanting the “Julie Arduini is this…” my heart needs to know and embrace that what the world thinks isn’t important. I’m the daughter of the King. Already I see this is just one aspect of how that word is going to play throughout 2014.

Preposterous came from a sermon I heard during a missions convention. When God taps you as chosen, He’s going to ask you to do preposterous things to further His Kingdom. Remember Joshua? Kind of crazy to circle a wall a few times and blow a horn, right? But it had purpose. Same with Gideon. But he obeyed, and we still remember his story. Because they were chosen and asked to do the preposterous, and they obeyed.

So far the words have come alive through the desire in our hearts to move to a “forever home.” This is something God placed on us last year and we feel 2014 is the year to put our faith in action. We feel chosen for a neighborhood where we believe we will minister and encourage. It’s preposterous because the market has taken a nosedive since we bought our current home. God will be the only One who can give us the desires of our hearts. It’s going to be close to impossible to sell, and just as hard to buy.

As we’ve prayed and pressed in, we felt we were meant to visit the neighborhood and pray. That’s pretty crazy. Driving somewhere you don’t live, praying as a family in broad daylight. But we did it. And as preposterous as it probably looked, we had peace. Even if none of this comes to pass, God’s still God. He’s been good to us. And we will continue to praise Him.

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I’m excited and a little nervous how these words will embed into the year, and I plan to journal them through Facebook updates.

Do you have a word or theme for 2014? I’d love for you to share it here in the comments.

Abundance by Julie Arduini

Happy New Year! 

It probably doesn’t surprise you that words are important to me.

Beyond writing, I ask God to reveal a word He wants me to focus on for the year. As we welcome 2014, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on 2013 and the word He gave me.

What was your word, if any, for 2013? 2014?

The word God gave me for 2013 was abundance.

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What a beautiful word.

And what a faithful God.

Abundance of healing after losing my mother-in-law.

Abundance of family time with a vacation we saved years for.

Abundance of unity with fellow believers as we chose forgiveness together.

Abundance of God’s provision as we have a new pastor we know God handpicked for such a time as this.

Abundance of time to write so I could finish my first novel.

Abundance of prayers from others to help direct my writing steps.

Abundance of laughter as I navigate life as a wife, mom, writer, mentor.

Abundance of healing as my wrist is well.

Abundance of unexpected blessings as I was able to travel to the Adirondacks with my mom.

Abundance of new opportunities as we close doors and open new ones, with His leading.

Abundance of clothes on our backs and closets.

Abundance of food on the table and in cupboards.

Abundance of words as in His goodness, the Lord gave me TWO words for 2014.

Abundance, abundance, abundance.

Thank you, Lord, for a great year!

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Pockets of Time by Julie Arduini

Last month I attended a gathering filled with women who had all participated in an interactive Bible study on Esther. The pastor had a message she wanted to share that went along with Esther’s story. It was an inspiring event and it ended with a time of prayer.

A woman placed her hand on my shoulder to pray and waited. Then she looked me in the eye. Here is what she said.

“Pockets of time are precious to Him. Stop the responsibilities.  Stop.  Just stop and enjoy pockets of time.”

You can doubt, but I assure you, she prayerfully had my number. I’d been running from one thing to the next, drained of energy. Low on intimacy with Him. And simply wore out.

That was before the Christmas season began. Since then there has been travel, sickness, ministry commitments, solo parenting while my husband traveled for work, Christmas concerts, shopping, wrapping, and walking our teen through what we believe will be a victory in his life.

Stop? How is that even possible?

I think the woman’s words hold insight.

Pockets of time.

If you’re like me, I get caught up in an all or nothing mentality.  And if I can’t give all, well, I give nothing.

And that’s not what the Lord is asking of us.

Years ago a homeschooling mom lamented how she had so little to give to Him. A few minutes of praise in the shower. Some prayer times while driving. And as she explained, the picture I had in my mind was the woman with the coin. To the world, that offering meant little. To God, it meant everything. She gave what she could.

This season, would you remember with me what God is asking? Stop. Pockets of time are precious to Him.

He’s not asking most of us for hours on our knees. Pockets of time. We can do that.

Here is a few minutes where I stopped last week and was caught up in the simplicity of the season. The reason. The love wrapped in swaddling clothes. For me. For you.

Enjoy this pocket of time with Christ the King.

Merry Christmas!

The Sparkly Responsibility by Julie Arduini

Every other Sunday I spend a couple hours at a nearby McDonald’s writing while I wait for our teen to finish with his youth group’s small group meeting.

The last time I was there I noticed two ladies who came in. One had a hat full of colorful sequins. To me it sang of Christmas spirit and reminded me of the sermon I heard hours earlier about being the light of Christ. Oh, this lady was sparkly and I admired the hat.

The woman with her had a red scarf that also sparkled. She looked so warm and inviting with it. I’m not one who can naturally approach strangers, but I wanted to shout out that I loved their accessories.

But something stopped me.

Their language.

They weren’t even seated before the f-bombs landed left and right. They were both loud about their thoughts. I didn’t want to eavesdrop, they were so loud I heard them whether I wanted to or not.

-The fries were cold

-They were overcharged at their last stop

-The boyfriend was going to demand hot fries

and with every complaint, the expletives dotted their negativity.

Now if I had sensed a Holy Spirit nudge to say something, I would have. But I felt my place for that situation was to pray for them. And I did.

Their scene reminded me of a mentor sharing the time she attended a wedding and how gorgeous the bride was in her flowing dress and beautiful veil. She stopped at a nearby table, back turned, and my friend and her friends shared how breathtaking the bride was. Then, the bride turned. And now they saw the full picture. A cigarette hung off her lips, and she had a full glass of alcohol in her hands. She wasn’t just going to toast her marriage, she was ready to get bombed.

And it soured the beautiful bride image my friend had.

Both of these scenes are a good visual for me to remember because I am a Christian, my job is to sparkle whether I have a sequin hat or not. I’m not supposed to be obnoxious or annoying in my faith, but it’s the little things that really glow in a dark world.

  • Going back to a store when I’ve been undercharged to make it right.
  • Opening doors for people I don’t know.
  • Praying over meals in public. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been approached when we do this.

There have even been times I’ve felt prompted to open up the phone book and send a message of God’s love to the name I point to, believing God has a plan for that person. I don’t promote a church or agenda, but let them know they are so special to Him that He asked me to send them a card letting them know they matter.

When believers obey we don’t just show a little light, I’m pretty sure we display wattage akin to an airfield at night. 

And that’s what we’ve been called to do.

 

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My Techie Thanksgiving

You can tell it’s NaNoWriMo month, I forgot to post once or twice. I apologize. November is always a busy month around here, and that’s without the fun of writing a 50K novel in 30 days!

I thought I’d share a fun tradition I’ve had with my family for Thanksgiving. Growing up when I knew it was Thanksgiving I knew there would be stuffing. Pumpkin pie. Celery with cream cheese. Fruit salad. Homemade gravy.

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Then I got married and had kids, and the last few Thanksgiving days it has been just us at home. The first year I prepared the same foods I grew up with. Then I watched many of the foods go untouched. My kids don’t like pumpkin pie. No one but me likes the celery and cream cheese. I was disappointed at first, but then I figured why not make this a family event where everyone has a say?

We’re a plugged in family. My husband is a programmer and our teen son is gifted in the same area. Our tween somehow got custody of the family iPad and is pretty good at it. With that in mind, I created a survey for them to fill out so I would know how to plan the Thanksgiving meal.

Some of the questions are silly, but most give me a good idea what to put on the grocery list for the big day. I started this three years ago, and this year our daughter asked why I hadn’t sent out the survey yet. Well, I got right on it.

It would have been tempting to grieve the changes I grew up with, but instead I chose to make new memories with my own family. For that, I’m thankful. As you prepare for your day, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of our little survey. You don’t have to answer it, but I thought it would give you a smile as you’re knee deep in gravy and stuffing.

Click here to take survey

Have a blessed, laughter-filled Thanksgiving.

What I Learned from the Book of Job by Julie Arduini

There was a wilderness season marked by sickness, death, and change. Just when I came up for air and felt a sense of normalcy, another event rocked everything I had ever taken for granted. A natural encourager, I was muted. Numb. My husband intervened and suggested a joint Bible study. We chose Chuck Swindoll’s Job: A Man of Heroic Endurance.

I related to so much of Job’s story. If anything, I felt like the wife. I didn’t understand how God could allow such pain. And what really was hard to comprehend was how Job carried himself. My husband took Job’s cue and challenged me to find the blessings. He wrote out a list of every single trial and walked me through thanksgiving.

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It changed everything.

Today I encourage people in those wilderness seasons. I point them to Hosea 2:14 and explain how it is not God’s cosmic joke at their expense. The desert experience is a season, and it has purpose. That time and the others that followed prepare me. I don’t love it, but I do embrace the purpose of it. I feel chosen to learn from the Master, and how extra hard I cling to Him. For those experiencing similar situations, I encourage them to receive all He has, because what they learn will be used again. And above all, praise. Be thankful. I am convinced praise is a key to breakthrough. I also know the true defeated one, the enemy of our soul, he can’t stand to be near praise. So all the more reason to be intentional about thankfulness.

There is so much adversity lately. My Facebook message folder has been extra busy with people asking for prayer. Loved ones are treading water, ready to get to shore when another wave hits. It’s heartbreaking. That’s why I’m more intentional than usual inviting people to start Thanksgiving early.

Each November I hand my blog over to guests who share why they are thankful. I’ve been doing this for at least five years and I’m always surprised by how inspiring each post is. No year is the same, no post is the same. There are health stories, money miracles, family funnies, job thanks, and more.

This year is no exception. It’s even international with submissions coming as far as England. Everything from hearing from chefs to grandparents to authors. They are always fun reads but this year with political chaos and financial unrest, you want to check this out throughout November.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.[a]
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”

Job 1:21, NIV

PS

If you’d like to submit a post, there’s still a few slots left, but don’t wait. All you have to do is write as little as a few sentences and as much as 750 words about why you are thankful. Send it to juliearduini@juliearduini.com with a bio and optional picture. Sign off the way you want the world to know you (first name, full, anonymous.) I reserve the right to edit, but rarely do, and it is first come, first serve. 

 

 

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