Adirondack Reflections by Julie Arduini

Last month I was invited to speak in Speculator, New York and share the writing process behind my Adirondack romance, Entrusted. What made it extra special was I spoke at the Lake Pleasant library, a place I used as inspiration in the book.

Once I finished sharing the process, guests lingered to chat. I came away encouraged and tempted to become like Jenna Anderson, the heroine, and pack it all up and move to the mountains once and for all. What encouraged me was hearing their stories about Adirondack life. Because I visit and don’t live there, it was important my research was accurate. They let me know I was right on track.

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Speaking at the Lake Pleasant library in Speculator, NY.

Here are some of my thoughts now that I’m back in Ohio:

1. Naming the village Speculator Falls instead of the real Speculator worked. It’s fictional and although I brought a lot of real experiences to Entrusted, having a fictional village gave me flexibility. They let me know my research was accurate and they appreciated that when I needed to embellish, it was okay.

2. Paying attention to the cover paid off. They loved the cover and felt it was Adirondack authentic. One woman felt she knew the exact location in Lake Placid where the picture originates. I explained that for some across the country, they see hills and believe they are mountains. My Speculator friends know the difference and were honest enough to say they would have called me on it.

3. They were so wonderful to share, but nervous to at the same time. More than once I heard, “You’re probably going to put this in your book…” What they appreciated was in Entrusted they couldn’t find anyone that was real and yet everyone felt like a real friend. I explained that I took everything I loved about Speculator and made composite characters. Each person in the story has something that reminds me of the people there.

On the flip side, I returned to Ohio full of mountain air and pleasant memories. I compiled video and pictures and organized everything for the Embrace Women’s Book Club featuring Entrusted. We had our first meeting last week and I had some reflections from the Ohio side, too.

1. The ladies find Adirondack life as peaceful as I hoped they would. From the tall pine trees to the lack of chain hotels and locals who stay year around, the readers in this book club were instantly enamored.

2. They immediately respected the people who choose to live there year ’round. We had a rough winter in Ohio but the Adirondacks saw temps as low as -40. I’ve been in Lake Placid in September when there was ice on railings. It is especially isolating in a winter as the one we had.

3. Everyone felt as loyal to the Adirondacks and the people as I feel. If I’d had a bus chartered and announced we were leaving for Speculator, everyone would have been on it. They understood the love for the woods and desire to protect them. Most couldn’t relate to living in a county where there were no traffic lights but they admired the literal frontierland.

And that’s where the summer will take us as a book club—a literal frontier land. Jenna leaves everything in Ohio to pursue a life without regrets. She wants to belong and with a non working GPS, inability to access Wi-Fi and constant conflict with the town grocer and councilman, it isn’t easy. Trying new things never is.

Have you ever visited a setting from a book? What observations do you have?

Coffee Filters and Generic Markers by Julie Arduini

Last month I participated in our church’s women’s conference. Our keynote speaker, Dawnita Istre, was anointed and full of spunk. The worship team did an amazing job. The vendors shared their hearts for causes like A21 campaign and the Pregnancy Help Center.

Then there were the workshops.

Because I was part of the core team hosting the event, I had duties to attend to first. Our pastor’s wife encouraged us to focus on being fed ourselves, not serving every moment. That’s a hard concept for me but I decided to sneak into a workshop on dealing with difficult people. Because that’s not a “if this will happen” scenario, it’s a “when will it happen again.”

I sat with a group of ladies I know, but not as well as I’d like to. If you asked me to describe them I’d say beautiful, creative, gifted, kind.

The leader asked us to take a coffee filter and use the marker on the table to write what we knew someone had said about us that wasn’t true, but we believed the lie anyway.

I grabbed a red marker and wrote “evil.” I know it might sound crazy to you, but it was one word of many this year I’d been called. And instances like it were happening so often I started to wonder? Am I rotten? Do I really create the worst in people and enjoy it? Honestly, that one word messed with my head.

The next instruction was to dip the filter in water and watch the word disappear. Let the true Living Waters clean us and tell us who we really are. Redeemed. Valued. Beloved.

Here’s where it gets funny at our table.

We had generic markers.              markers photo: markers coloredmarkers.jpg

When we dipped the filters in the water, nothing happened.

We giggled and shared our words.

“Oh no, I’m really evil!”

But as I thought about the experiment I realized how many times I’ve taken those words to Christ for an exchange and kept taking the words back. He’d proclaimed me saved and I thought of myself lost. I was healed but I walked around wounded. I was loved but lived as if I were hated.

If that’s you, generic markers that don’t wash off or not, embrace the truth.

If you have called on Christ as your Savior, Rescue and Friend—-

You are:

  • Deeply loved and highly favored
  • Saved by the blood of Christ, declared innocent by His sacrifice and clothed in righteousness (translated: Jesus died for us, He made a way for us for eternal life, and although human and sinful, we’re not evil, thanks to Him!)
  • Entitled to His peace and authority (the same power He had on Resurrection Day is available to us everyday!)

I invite you to write those promises where you can see them, and receive them in your heart, and use permanent marker!

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The Inspiration of “I Run 4″ by Julie Arduini

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In a few minutes I leave for the annual IEP meeting to determine what helps our daughter will receive in the coming year. We recently moved so it is with a new district (we attend a Christian school so my rep is the same, but the services are provided by the district.)

These meetings are never easy because it’s easy to believe what we read on paper. Through the years what was in black and white gave little to no hope. Now we’re preparing for middle school years. She is in a regular classroom fighting to keep up. Her overcoming spirit inspires me.

This group has been such an encouragement in a short time. Our daughter’s issues for the most part are invisible (hypothyroidism, Albright’s, Hashimoto’s) and somehow I feel I have to fight extra hard for her, especially against the world who feels she should look a certain way or don’t understand how tired she gets. I am very aware there are millions of parents fighting harder than me. I also know what a lonely journey it can be.

A couple months ago my friend directed me to an organization called “I Run 4.” Runners of all skill levels are matched with a special needs child or adult and each time they work out, they dedicate that run to their “buddy.” They run for those who can’t. A special need is anything from having an IEP like we do to Down’s, autism, CP, etc…

Our daughter was matched with her runner quickly. Our runner is from the same area where my step son lives. She writes and has a great idea for a book. She is a Christian. It is the perfect match. She runs 6 times a week and tags me/our daughter on social media. Her posts are inspirational. I’ve watched our daughter reach out of her comfort zone because she knew someone was rooting for her and going the literal extra mile. I Run 4 has been amazing.

Our daughter even received a care package from her runner. She gave her the shirt from her last race, and it is a well known race in Madison. I gave our tween permission to take a selfie and put it on Instagram to show her runner. My step son saw the shirt and wondered how on Earth did his youngest sister get a race shirt from his city? And it was fun to share how this all came about. The care package came with other goodies and an encouraging note that our youngest is carrying with her.

I write all this because there are many runners who can’t wait to be matched and there aren’t enough buddies. The process is easy and I found it professional/legit. I have no regrets, except I wish I’d heard about this sooner. The need is so great that runners are waiting 7 months for their buddy. I waited two days to be matched. The need is that great.

If you know someone with a special needs diagnosis, I highly recommend they check “I Run 4″ out. It changes everyone involved for the better.

We are living proof.
To learn more,

Mother’s Day and Infertility by Julie Arduini

The smell of hyacinths filled the air. Ladies walked in hand-in-hand wearing their finest clothes and holding chubby little hands. They sat and listened to the pastor talk.

About them. All good stuff. Encouraging words. Inspiring message.

He ended the message with an invitation to help themselves to a plant. A challenge to the men to take care of the meals and kids for the rest of the day.

Families exited, smiling, holding fragrant gifts in honor of motherhood.

And then there was me.

I was newly married and diagnosed. Polycystic ovaries. Like forbidden fruit, I never wanted to be a mother as bad as I did until my doctor sat me down and told me it might not be an option. I didn’t know it at the time but my ovaries were 5x the size of what they should have been. There were days my fertility or lack of didn’t bother me as much as the pain of daily living. It hurt to walk.

But Mother’s Day was another story.

It was painful to breathe.

I wish I had the perfect script to give those that want to say the right thing and for the women who are hurting. I remember skipping classes that talked about motherhood at conferences. I most likely skipped a church service during that season. The anguish is undefinable. People who don’t know hand over a flower and I would feel like a fraud accepting it. I’d hear that it would happen in God’s time and I wanted to slap them. In church. And feel even worse.

I share all this because maybe, just maybe, I have a small solution that can open the door for healing. If you know someone with infertility issues or miscarriage, I share my complete story with Heidi Glick, Elizabeth Maddrey, Kym McNabney, Paula Mowery and Donna Winters in A Walk in the Valley: Christian Encouragement for Your Journey through Infertility.

91LVPrvc+FLFrom diagnosis to where we are now, we’re completely transparent about our journeys. I believe healing can start through these pages because in our honesty, we share Scriptures that aren’t there to patronize or sound cliche. We ask questions, ones we prayerfully wrote because we’ve been there. We wished a book existed that could have helped us. I long for a Mother’s Day where a woman doesn’t have to slink down in the pew or cry driving home because she has hope.

The book recently released and already hit the Amazon bestseller list and is receiving solid 5 star reviews. I write this not because I want to highlight the business side of being an author. I want to assure you what we believed about this book, readers are agreeing.

 

From Amazon Reviews:

  • “The women who contributed to this collection have opened their hearts, sharing their deepest pain.Their practical suggestions and advice, along with their encouragement to let God walk beside you, come from experience, and are are not just things a pastor or teacher thinks he should say.”

  • “A Walk in the Valley is not a typical devotional. There is no condescension, sugar-coating, or trite suggestions to “wait on the Lord.” This is an honest combination of personal experience and soul-searching prompts desperately needed in the community dealing with infertility. I particularly appreciate the memoir-like recollections of the medical horrors, the difficulties within spousal relations as a result of this condition, and the frustration and disappointment resulting from medical intervention, all paired with relevant scripture.”

My friend read it and let me know she learned how to better respond as this wasn’t her experience. That’s something I didn’t even think of, that it could help those who don’t personally know the journey.

If anything about this post rings true for you, I encourage you to get a copy of A Walk in the Valley.

And know you aren’t alone.

When Words Wound by Julie Arduini

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2015 so far has had a lot of “stuff” I never saw coming. I’m a thinker and as I tried to process it all I realized everything I was dealing with was word related. When I thought even further I realized they were wounded words.

  • Negative statements uttered in anger
  • Snap judgments shot in fear and most likely anger
  • Barbs sent in the name of justice that wasn’t my battle to fight

Unfortunately this isn’t one instance and none of them are related. I could have handled one issue better but overall these were attacks that came without provocation. As a natural encourager who loves lifting others up, and an author who enjoys the written word, this has been a new thing experiencing words that were uttering the power of death.

How does one overcome that?

I realized fast I wasn’t going to pick myself up and move forward without the Lord’s help. The real me wanted to say the right thing, the perfect comeback, the rebuttal to all those things. But I knew wounded people wound people.

And I didn’t want to be next in line.

A few praying friends saw my distress and immediately prayed. When they finished, one of them gave me a card.

You guessed it.

More words.

These were words of life.

You are my hiding place;
 you will protect me from trouble
 and surround me with songs of deliverance. Psalm 32:7, NIV

She went on to explain that the trouble are words used against me. Words that wound. Attacking words. Words of death.

The songs of deliverance?

Those are God’s words. Words that heal. Words that encourage. Words of life.

And His words trump all other words. All negative. All attacks. All barbs. All death-filled words.

I hope this little season ends and soon.

But I’ve taken away a good lesson.

Even in the darkest moments, especially in the maelstrom of horrible words, I’m surrounded by His words. His promises. His comfort.

And so are you.

Lessons from the Mudroom by Julie Arduini

Even though it hasn’t quite felt like spring as much as I’d like it to, I have started spring cleaning.This is our first full year in the house so it’s been fun figuring out what needs cleaning and what to use. So far I’ve steam cleaned, dusted fixtures, polished paneling and now it’s grout time.

I started in the mudroom. With my knees to the floor and a brush in my hand, I scrubbed the tile. I watched the floor transform from muddy and dull to clean and sparkly. As I rinsed and dried the floor I thought about the Lord and my life. Where I’ve been. Where I am. Where He is directing me. It was a time of contentment. I saw results with the floor and was getting excited about life.

Then I opened the door.

There before me was the rest of the floors.

Dirty, grimy, muddy, lifeless floors.

And my anxiety started.

I only blocked so much time off the day for the project. 

I planned it in increments.

I have to finish the floors.

What if people saw them looking like this?

And then that still voice dropped a nugget that I know was heaven sent.

“Remember, this is a work in progress. Remember, YOU’RE a work in progress.”

Oh. Right. Cleaning grout, at least if I’m going to do it right, takes time.

89135-Stop-Beating-Yourself-Up-You-Are-A-Work-In-ProgressThose changes that bring me closer to Christ, it doesn’t happen in a day.

There will even be days I take a step back.

And I need to confess and move on.

Because like the summer construction that tied traffic for light after light, I forgot over winter how long the process was because it was finished. And it was a great product.

And like the mudroom, each day I’ll work on the grout. And it will all be sparkly and clean.

Just not all today.

And I’m going to be okay with that.

Do you struggle with wanting everything done at once? Do you see yourself as a work in progress?

Image from Love This Pic

Encouraging Young Writers by Julie Arduini

One of the things I promised God I would do as a writer is encourage others along the way. My take is if I can give information and resources to help accelerate their journey, why not?

I’d rather view this business as a family rather than a competition.

Last month I was able to spend time with junior and senior high school students at Youngstown Christian School as part of their literacy week. I shared my story, that I wasn’t in honor classes nor was I encouraged to write for a living. I was told to make safe choices and understand I was weak in grammar. Although I entertained friends with my daily fiction, I listened to the voices that told me to put that stirring on a shelf. I made sure the students knew that if God put that passion in them, nothing can take that away.

I then distributed a writing prompt and gave them ten minutes to choose one and craft a story around it.

The choices included:

  • A teen eating dinner while watching the news receives personal instruction from the anchor.
  • A student closing up a store at the mall encounters a mom with a stroller begging to enter the establishment.
  • A young man who opens an envelope and learns the results to…
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Three of the five Youngstown Christian students featured on the Write Integrity Press website. Photo: Shelley Murray

We had so much fun with this. The school is a melting pot of suburban and inner city experience and the kids reflected their reality into their writing. I saw humor that you can’t manufacture, it came straight from their gifting and made me laugh. The creativity really impressed me.

I shared on Facebook how much fun I was having and Tracy Ruckman, publisher at Write Integrity Press, read that and offered to feature my favorite prompts on the WIP website. I love that Tracy believes in building others up as much as I do.

The student prompts are available for reading and I’d love for you to take a look. Who knows? You might be reading something from a future bestselling author.

Read the writing prompts here.

When Moms Have a Winter Meltdown by Julie Arduini

Yesterday on Facebook I shared my random thoughts about what it’s like to be a mom in the northeast with multiple days off of school thanks to the weather.

My own experience is honestly not that bad. I write from home so I make my own schedule. Although I’m staying up later to write and enjoy my own television shows, I often do that as I love to soak in the quiet. My kids are older and we’re kind of a quiet family, so for the most part it’s just ranting over the disruption to routine. My precious routine.mom pulling hair out photo: mom pulling out hair veryangry.jpgimage courtesy photobucket

For those who live near palm trees, snow days and the subsequent cabin fever might be hard to understand.

If you follow moms on social media who live in a snowbelt, here’s why they might be going a little crazy this winter.

We are on cold day off from school #4 in a row, 10 or more total this year.

For those that don’t live with snow/cold and wonder why mom status updates from that region are getting angry, we need routine, and that’s a basic complaint. I have it easy and I get it. I make my own schedule and rely on few for the running of my household.

Imagine the moms who work outside the home and have young children. They need to make arrangements. They might be paying for childcare they didn‘t plan for in an economy where every penny counts. When the kids are home, they are bored. The bickering most likely escalates between siblings and when bored, they believe they’re hungry. Turn your back for a minute and suddenly a week’s worth of groceries is on a kid’s plate. Just because. There goes the budget. This I know from experience. I busted one of mine for having an obscene amount of junk on their plate purely out of boredom when they thought I wasn’t looking.

As an adult, and a woman, we need meaningful conversation. To be nurtured. Cleaning up extra spills, and if you have pets, their extra crap because they literally can’t perform outside because of the cold, is not nurturing. Before long, after 10+ snow days, four in a row, mind you, the moms get a glazed look in their eye when those cheap airfare commercials to Florida come on. They get through the sticky stuff on the counter by imagining their suitcase packed and their trip for one a done deal.

Here’s the thing, we’ll get that routine back and peace will be restored to the kingdom. While the darlings are at school, we’ll miss them and almost forget the winter drama.

Almost.·

Do you know a mom experiencing a winter like this? Ours is a bit harsher as far as days off because we don’t have delays. It’s all or nothing, and lately, it’s been nothing. It’s thrown everyone off to the point where my youngest isn’t even setting her alarm. Basically her attitude is, “Wake me when there is school.” Most nights before she goes to bed she already knows there isn’t going to be.

If you know someone with young children having a tough winter, you’d be surprised at how little the moms need to be encouraged and refreshed.

Here are things you can do to take the chill off their relentless winter:

  • Get mom out of the house and listen to them. They are craving adult conversation and someone actively listening.
  • Get their kids out of the house and let them release that energy. The kids are bored. Take them to a play place, whether a Kid museum or a fast food play area. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. If the temps aren’t crazy cold, take them outside and build a fort or have a snowball fight.
  • Have money and no idea how to spend it? A high end way would be hire a cleaning company to come in and take care of mom’s job. With extra days off I assure you, there are more messes and many moms confessed, as have I, we’ve quit trying. The floors are tracked with snow gunk and we know with 2 1/2 feet outside, it’s not going anywhere. It feels like a losing battle. Living in a messier-than-usual house makes mom feel like a loser. Trust me, I know. Having someone come in will lift her spirits.

Other money ideas:

  • Gift cards for groceries. I know our budget is off kilter because with the kids home more, we’ve gone through more food than I planned.
  • Money for childchare. Again, with days off of school a lot of families have had to scramble/pay extra for childcare they weren’t planning on.
  • Gift cards for movies, kid friendly museums, restaurants. Even if mom and kids go somewhere together, they are at least getting out of the house. That’s half the battle.

Once school is back in session, then its the teachers we need to remember. They are way off pace and especially with younger kids, will have to spend time reminding kids the routine and behaviors they had mastered in October. Start thinking of ways to encourage them!

How about you? Are you a mom enduring an endless winter or know someone who is>

Why Brian Williams is Fair Game by Julie Arduini

I’m a strong believer of building others up instead of tearing them down. It’s a principle I use as a mom, mentor and friend.

That said, the dull roar and many memes I’m observing regarding Brian Williams doesn’t bother me.

I think by his own choices, he’s fair game.

Image: Twitter

Image: Twitter

In case you missed the news about his news, Brian recently did a feature on a story he’s been telling for years. He recalled during the Iraq war he “was forced down after being hit by an RPG.” Over the years he added details to the story even though there were servicemen who were there who were crying foul. They were on the flight and recalled him not being on that flight, but one that showed up later. In other articles I’ve read NBC reportedly went as far as to tell him to stop telling the story because he was going to get caught one day. In this article from the Business Insider it’s reported that NBC was warned Williams had a reputation for stretching the truth.

Finally, the servicemen and their calling him out caught traction and it made it through social media and is now news. There were too many people who were there telling the same story for Brian to continue with his version. Instead of opening up and admitting he lied, he instead took the route of “I misremembered.” The backlash from that is so intense he is now saying he has taken himself off the air. True or not, I can’t discern. NBC news isn’t great at following through with scandal, from Matt Lauer’s role in firing Ann Curry to Dr. Snyderman being seen all over town while she was supposed to be quarantined, both are still on air getting paid well.

The internet is abuzz with Brian Williams memes and I don’t feel bad that they are out there. He grew up 20 miles from where I did and he was a hometown hero. I loved telling others that Brian Williams came from our area. I loved journalism and was headed in that direction when I realized I couldn’t be objective. News is too important to me so I left it before I would get caught in a situation where I’d share my views instead of facts or something in violation of the ethics that are so basic. Brian violated our trust and kept going when he was warned to stop. When he got caught, he failed to repent and ask forgiveness. My sense is he’s hoping we all simmer down and move to the next news cycle so he can get back to work and we all forgive and forget.

Is he the only anchor out there with issues? No. They lost their objectivity the day Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw retired. The anchors today share their opinions or what’s being fed to them but to my knowledge, they aren’t sharing heroic stories they were never a part of. For that, I think NBC needs an overhaul. Forget the ratings Williams used to bring and be about the news. Bring a trusted face and voice like Lester Holt and start over with an evening news program people can rally to watch because they want the news and know they are getting it.

And Brian, take your time wiping the dirt off yourself. Find that place deep within that wants to make a difference, a real one, and be a game changer for the world.

Not the butt of jokes as you ran headfirst into.

Congratulations to our own Julie Arduini

Julie Arduini is a faithful contributor to this blog and has been since its inception a number of years ago. Not too long ago, we collectively congratulated Julie on the publication of her book and celebrated with her.

Now we have two new books to celebrate with Julie!

Julie Arduini, Christians Read Author, A Walk in the Valley

A Walk in the Valley is from Chalfont House and is available for pre order, release date April 28. This is an infertility devotional and perfect for anyone experiencing infertility and/or miscarriage.
 
Julie Arduini, Christians Read, The Love Boat Bachelor

Julie Arduini, CR Author

 

The Love Boat Bachelor features Write Integrity Press authors where readers choose the ending. Chapters are being released now through http://writeintegrity.com and once the voting finishes, the book will be available for free on Kindle for four days, starting on Valentine’s.
Please join us in celebrating with Julie! We’re so pleased to see her doing so well!
Blessings,
Vicki Hinze
Christians Read Administrator

Choose Your Romance by Julie Arduini

Didn’t I just wish everyone a Happy New Year? Well, I blinked and it’s time to talk Valentine’s Day!

As I’ve confessed before, I love romance but I’m not a die hard romantic. You would probably catch me watching the latest Fast and Furious movie over a rom-com. But I love reading and writing romance.

Thankfully, so does my publisher, Write Integrity Press. Last year they had a fun Valentine’s promotion where they had readers choose the ending. A Dozen Apologies was a bestseller as Mara Adkins visited all the men she’d hurt over the years and asked their forgiveness. Readers chose the man she’d fall for and they didn’t pick Pastor Brent Teague.

Similar to the reality television show, the sequel, The Love Boat Bachelor, now has Brent as the main character. He’s really hurting, I mean afterall, the guy got his heart broken twice by the same girl. He’s wounded enough to even question his calling as a pastor. One thing he is sure of is he’s done with romance.10606051_10205457154047888_2682259527214337031_n

His sister and best friend disagree. They conspire and get Brent to agree to a stint as a chaplain on a cruise ship. The two week job will take Brent all over the Caribbean. What they don’t tell him is it’s a love themed cruise. The passengers are either in love or looking for it.

This week Write Integrity started releasing chapters so readers can meet Brent and the heroines. Once the chapters have been released, readers will vote on the heroine they want to see Brent fall for. Once the votes are tallied the book will have an ending and be available on Kindle for FREE for four days, starting on Valentine’s Day.

I love it!

I wrote one of the heroines but I can’t tell you which one. I can tell you I’ve read them all and I have no idea how the voting will go. They are all fun chapters where Brent visits beautiful ports, has interesting chaplain experiences and meets a lot of passengers on board the love theme and then some.

If you’re done with the snow and cold or want to escape with a tropical read for a bit, I’d love for you to check out The Love Boat Bachelor. Chapters will be released during the week this week and next before voting. I’d appreciate you sharing this so we can get a lot of readers involved and voting.

As someone who does enjoy a fictional romance, I’m always rooting for that happy ending. I’d love to see you give Brent Teague the ending he deserves!

To read The Love Boat Bachelor Chapter one, click here.

To read The Love Boat Bachelor Chapter two, Cozumel, click here.

Also, starting in February my newsletter subscribers will receive monthly installments to my contemporary romance, Crumbs and Embers. Those who are new to subscribing receive the novella Match Made in Heaven, too. To subscribe for free, complete the form in the right sidebar of Julie Arduini.com and watch for activation. I’m excited to share this Upstate NY Finger Lakes romance with you!

Delayed Fruit Tastes Sweeter by Julie Arduini

Happy New Year! I missed my last December post not remembering what day it was thanks to the holiday schedule. I was also basking in what had to be one of our best Christmas celebrations to date.

After we had our first ever Christmas with the four of us in our new house, we traveled back to our hometown to visit family. This time we met my husband’s adult children en route and drove most of the way together and spent precious days with them as we caught up with both sides of my husband’s and my family.

I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed so much laughter.

All four Arduini children plus girlfriends.

All four Arduini children plus girlfriends.

I got thinking, it didn’t seem that long ago when I was praying for such a thing. When I first met the kids they weren’t even teenagers. The very week we started dating my now husband learned they were moving  from Upstate NY to Wisconsin. We didn’t see them often, but when we did, we poured a year’s worth of love and laughs into those visits.

The goodbyes were heart wrenching.

I kept praying.

The distance was hard, especially in a time before Skype and texting.

But as they grew up and became young adults, we saw the fruit. For kids of divorce, they were well-adjusted and very close siblings. They had a lot of family that loved them from all sides. Although it wasn’t a perfect situation, we understood God knew what He’d been doing all along.

As time marched on and not only were they adults, but we also had kids of our own, the fruit became a harvest. When his daughter married I got to watch former spouses chat with fond memories and laughter. Former in laws greet my husband with kindness. Everyone reach out to me and our kids with hospitality and warmth. I still bask in the blessing that their maternal grandmother switched place settings at the reception so she could sit by me. It was an absolute perfect day.

My husband asked how did I know things would turn out so well? I didn’t even hesitate.

“When you’ve laid down fifteen years of prayer, you know it’s not going to return void.”

This last visit was more bounty. Grown children with solid jobs and healthy relationships. All kids interacting together as if they saw each other every day. A beaming father. So much laughter.

As a young wife, I wanted the distance erased and tears gone. Thankfully God asked me to pray. When we gathered a couple weeks ago we remembered those goodbyes. As hard as they were, we realized the silver lining. The older siblings have a strong bond and took amazing care of each other when traveling. They were surrounded by their mom’s family and love, their dad’s, their step dad and sister, and me, my family, and their siblings. When we Skype and they are at their mom’s, it’s fun to watch my husband interact with her. They had good times, and I love that they are able to remember them.

If you’re going through a situation you’ve prayed and prayed for and it seems like nothing is happening, don’t believe the lie. I believed a lot of activity was going on in heaven before it pulled down to Earth. And although it took more time than I naively thought it should, the fruit of those prayers is sweeter than anything I can describe.

My prayers are with you!

***

Starting in February, Julie Arduini newsletter subscribers will receive the exclusive Upstate NY romance, Crumbs and Embers. To subscribe for free, complete the form in the right sidebar of Julie Arduini.com and watch for activation. For a limited time, new subscribers also receive the 2014 novella, Match Made in Heaven. Spread the word!

When the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Isn’t by Julie Arduini

For me, it was 2004.

I stared at the blinking lights on our Christmas tree, almost in a trance like state. It wasn’t the colors or the tree. I was shell shocked at how fast my life had changed and how much those I loved suffered.

In a year we’d both had job changes. My husband’s job was such a transition we had moved 300 miles away. We knew no one.

We had a toddler recovering from a horrendous first year where we nearly lost her. She needed therapy several times a week on top of medical appointments.

My dad had passed away. When he got the diagnosis he knew the outcome even though for months he didn’t even appear sick. The strapping man who reminded me of John Wayne was gone.

Celebrate Christmas?

I was having trouble finding reasons to get out of bed each morning.

This year has been full of heartbreak for so many I know online and in person. So much transition, sickness and death. Job loss, injustices. Broken marriages. Miscarriages. Widowhood.  These are without looking at headlines. If so, there are families grieving from suicides. Shootings. Life seems full of bad news.

But the song says it’s the most wonderful time. How can that be? How can anyone celebrate the season when there is no feeling? When everything is numb and time feels frozen?

  • I know for me, it helped to decorate. That was my way of not only remembering I had two children who needed the bright lights and Christmas music, it was also a statement. I was down, but I refused to be out. I felt like the devil’s plan was to destroy everything in and around me and if I gave in, he won. And even if it was one small thing I did to remember it was Christmas, I was bound and determined.
  • I also thought of others. It wasn’t easy because I felt so lost inside myself. My favorite thing to do is to have blank cards and point to a random name in the phone book. I write something like, “You mean so much to God that I pointed to a name in a phone book to send a card and the person is you. You are not forgotten. You are loved. Have a Merry Christmas.” I don’t sign my name or leave a return address. I want them blessed, and it takes my mind off my situation to know I’m encouraging someone else.
  • If I couldn’t take the upbeat Christmas music, I put praise music on. If the words, as Christian and Biblical as I needed them to be were heartbreaking to hear, I played instrumental music.
  • I wish I’d been more honest. There were some events I shouldn’t have attended but didn’t want to let anyone down. Other times I isolated myself and should have said something. Keeping it all in wasn’t healthy and again, plays right into the enemy’s hand. You don’t have to air all your laundry, just say you’re struggling and can use prayer. And when someone offers, let them.

Since then I’ve had other difficult Christmas seasons but nothing close to that one in 2004. I think a lot of why I was able to bounce back a little faster was I applied the suggestions above and realized the pain had purpose. Hosea 2:14 has been my lifeline in dark times and I want my adversity to mean something and help someone else down the road.

My prayer is that if you’re struggling this Christmas, something here in this post helped you.

Father, let every person reading this post feel Your presence right now, and in the days and weeks to come. For every event and circumstance that has robbed them of peace and joy, replace it multi fold with blessings we can’t define. Give them special moments that are Your love notes just for them. Give them strength to celebrate Christmas, even if it’s in a different way this year. Draw them close to You. We give you the glory, honor and praise. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

All About Elf on a Shelf by Julie Arduini

He’s outfitted in red and white and pays attention to all your deeds.

He’s polarizing—he’s loved and tradition or hated and judged.

Santa? Nope. It’s the little figure that takes over your Facebook feed, Elf on a Shelf.

I had no clue who or what this was a few years ago and I still see folks scratching their heads wondering where did this thing come from, anyway?

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Photo from Elf on a Shelf website.

Elf on a Shelf is a children’s book that explains how the elves are sent by Santa to watch over boys and girls and report back to let him know how they are behaving. According to the Elf on a Shelf website, when a family adopts an elf by giving them a name, the elf receives its magic so they can go to work. At night the elf leaves for the North Pole to report to Santa and when the family wakes, the elf is back home, but in a new location the child/ren need to find. Often the elf is caught doing something mischievous. Elves have been also known to share lessons, Bible stories, or even warnings about bad behavior.

The concept has taken off so much that there is also a birthday and reindeer tradition. There’s also an app that gives ideas for the scout elf that can be simple, crafty, silly or messy. Part of the fun is taking pictures of the elf antics and putting it on social media. Another aspect is sharing the elf name. Over the years I’ve read about Joe, Chippy, Sparkles and Buddy.

We for our family, I was skeptical. I didn’t want another product to take away the true meaning of Christmas but our youngest was so enamored with the concept I compromised. Instead of buying the book and original figure I bought a plush elf that was a girl (and in my opinion, less creepy.) Our teen son and I had fun and a little bit of stress trying to put Pinkie Pie in all kinds of situations. There were mornings the youngest found Pinkie Pie on a zip line, in the sink washing dishes, in the bathroom putting bows on the mirror. But she also led a Bible study for the Christmas stuffed animals. Gave out gifts. Wrote encouraging notes.

I realized during the process I looked forward to our daughter’s reaction and her joy was contagious. It pushed me to be creative and intentional. Because she was on the upper end age wise, Pinkie Pie retired after one year of service. But the process surprised me. Sometimes the season is hard for me and this was a way to push past the fog and celebrate the season. We didn’t lose the focus on Christ’s birth. I really have no regrets.

This year we’ve moved on by adopting a family advent calendar. We took turns creating challenges meant to give us family time and situations that encourage us and focus on the real meaning of Christmas. Already I’m glad we’re taking the time for this, but I confess, I’m watching my Facebook feed to see what the elves are up to.

How about you? Does your family have an Elf on a Shelf? What are your thoughts about them?

I’m Not Ready by Julie Arduini

You know the phrase, “Be careful of what you wish for, you just might get it?”

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I wasn’t ready for two feet of snow a couple years ago.

I was thinking about that when I looked at the pictures from Greater Buffalo earlier this week. I heard a lot of people say how they wanted snow. The people who saw 50+ inches of snow, yes, nearly 5 FEET of snow in a day, most likely were saying they didn’t ask for that. Who could be ready for such an event?

It’s the same for couples with infertility. Before certain medications or procedures they are warned that there could be such success that they could end up with multiples. I dealt with infertility and even learning I was having one after praying for so long and hard still gave me fear. I got what I wanted and I remember saying to my husband as birth was imminent, “I’m not ready!”

With the holidays, I know how easy it is to get caught up in the events of the season and the massive to-do list that comes with it. No matter how early we wake up to prepare there’s a knock on the door and it hits me it’s show time. I look around and see a kitchen in chaos. Things I missed cleaning in other rooms. The guests are in the entry taking off their coats. “But wait, I’m not ready!”

This sentiment is exactly what I’m feeling with my first release out. I’ve worked years for this. Reading, writing, revising chapters only to tweak again. Now Entrusted is out and it’s a new road. I’m creating guest blog spots, interviews, media releases, updating my website, recruiting reviews and influencers. There’s writing deadlines for the second and third books in the series.

As I’ve tried to juggle these things against two kids in dramas, one also in driving school, helping the other with homework, cleaning a new house and keeping everyone dressed and fed, I’ve wanted to scream, “Wait! I’m not ready!”

No matter what we’re facing that seems too daunting to deal with, this I know: God equips. It’s His nature.Whether it’s a national weather event in my back yard or a new author trying to make the public aware of , it’s hard stuff.

What have you been wishing for that now that it’s here you’re in a panic saying, I’m not ready!

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