Friday, January 30, 2009

My Action Plan

This past week I had the experience of writing and revising my first formal 'action plan.' It sounds so business like to me - action plan, strategic plan, p.o.a. meeting, . . . so many words and they sound so formal. I tend to be the creative type, one who has so many ideas swirling in my mind at one time. I am a do-er, a go-getter or as my husband says, "I know you like to 'fly off the cuff' or 'shoot from the hip' but a plan will help you to focus. Ahh . . . focus, now he had my attention.

So on a Saturday morning we sat down with our mission statement and began writing our action plan. It took a long time, was tedious and sometimes frustrating , but in the end we had a two page plan with a main goal, objectives, action steps, and measurement tools with dates. A visual plan, an action plan, a guide . . . with focus on Jesus.

Since then I have used 'the plan' as a guide. It has given me direction, helped me plan my days, and most of all it has helped me to stay focused. On a daily basis it reminds me of what He has called me to do while I am here on the earth in addition to being a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend.

What does your plan or rather I should say what does 'His plan' for your life look like?
Sit down with a piece of paper, a pencil, and the Lord. Ask Him. I'm sure He will amaze you.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

What's Your Motivation?

Along with focus, there are other themes God is bringing to the front burner. Love. Heart. Motivation.


You mean like the actor preparing for his role saying, "What's my motivation?"

Yeah, like that.

The better my focus, the healthier my heart and love---the better my motivation.

But once my focus is off Him and on my self, boy does my motivation take a turn. A bad turn.

My desire this year is to have His heart, His focus, His love, His motivation.

And for it to be no act!

Lord, help me!

Anyone out there relate?

Julie Arduini is a wife, mom and surrendering writer. Her personal blog, The Surrendered Scribe, shows her writing resume. A graduate of the Christian Writers Guild, she is also a columnist with Take Root and Write. She recently placed 10th in the JournEzine Christmas story contest about the Good News of Bethlehem. Her verse for 2009 is Deuteronomy 11:11-12. She's a new columnist with the daily online newspaper, The Cypress Times.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Shifting Your Focus

Maria's note:

As you may or may not know, I write a monthly column for our local Parent magazine entitled, "Special Parents, Special Kids" and as I was writing next month's, I realized Julie, Kim and I were all writing on the same thing: Focus. Even though my article is geared toward reaching parents of children with disabilities, I pray all moms and dads will find peace in "Shifting" their focus once and awhile...and know that God has it all figured out, anyway...He is in control.

I’m sure all of you, like me, have many other responsibilities in your everyday lives besides caring for your special child. Taking care of our spouse, other children, our home—meeting the demands at work or school, etc…Things that aren’t always the first on our minds, because our special child may need more of our attention and energy, more of the time. Not that the other people and responsibilities are not important, just that when you became a special parent, things just shifted in the direction of that child’s needs above all—treatments, therapies, appointments, research, school needs, etc...

I have tried to multi-task to the best of my ability over the past 6 years, and train myself to be there for everything, all the time. And as I’m sure you can imagine, it doesn’t always work out that way.

Recently, I had the privilege of shifting my attention to other things (very important things) in my life—and I call it a privilege because I realized that even in the midst of not staring at my daughter and focusing on the next step in her treatment—she survived! And I gained a new perspective on this special parenting life of mine. It’s OK to make other people and things priority, and not feel guilty about it.

When other things take precedence over your special child, it actually forces you to take a few steps back and see the fruits of your labor. Most of us spent (or you may be still spending, depending on how old your child is or when you became a special parent) many of the early days in our journey setting up services for our child. Making sure he or she received the best care, the best way we knew how. We made mistakes along the way, but reached a point of knowing when to continue on a path, and when to take a detour. If you’ve been on this road for awhile, you have learned the ins and outs of the things that may benefit your child, and if they are a right fit for your situation.

When events cause you to change the focus of your attention to other things in your life, it creates an opportunity for you to actually be proud of yourself as a parent.

I recently had this happen to me, and when it was all said and done, I was grateful for my mind—that I allowed it to focus on other very precious and important things in my life. And it made my heart happy—that I gave my daughter the opportunity to shine on her own. I didn’t need to constantly have her on the front page of my to-do list. She was able to “stand on her own” so to speak, without me holding her hand through each step. The break allowed me to rejoice in how far I have come as a special parent—and how so far she has come on her own—without me.

Our kids grow and learn and progress---all at different times, and at different paces—without us. As hard as that is for me to actually say, and see the written words—it is so very refreshing. Many of us have been carrying the burden of our child’s disability within us for a very long time—and I finally know now that it was never a burden after all. It has been an honor—to be chosen to be her parent, and to do it the best way I know how with the support of services and friends—and God. He chose me after all, and He chose you.

Taking a step back from your situation and taking a deep breath will help you see that. Even if circumstances beyond your control cause you to do it, and your attention has to be spent elsewhere—it is worth it. I truly believe He wants us to capture each moment of our lives—not just with our special children—but with all of our children, with our spouses, at our workplace, and in our day to day routines.

Our children were given to us for a very specific purpose.

Not so we could minimize the other things in our lives, but to enhance them.

Enjoy each moment.

Take a breath.

Be proud of the very special parent you are.

Maria and her family reside in NE Ohio. She and her husband are the parents of two. Their daughter is a person with hemipelegic cerebral palsy.Because of her experiences, Maria provides parent-to-parent support for families involved in her local early intervention program. Her gift for writing has come directly from the Lord since her daughter’s diagnosis. She writes a monthly column entitled, “Special Parents, Special Kids” for the Mahoning Valley Parent magazine in Ohio; and has expanded into Parent magazines in parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia. She is also a contributing author at's first published work is in Jan Ross and Jeanice McDade's Women of Passion's anthology, "Ordinary Women Serving an Extraordinary God". Both Kim and Maria have been selected to have their work tentatively included in Lori Wagner's upcoming book, Quilting Patches of Life, Volume 2.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Calling All Worshippers


Once again I am going to follow Julie's lead with the theme this week. Worship . . . the word alone gives me goose bumps. I too am a worshipper.

When I first began walking in my faith I thought everyone should be jumping around and worshipping like I do, at the altar, hands up, singing and praising. After all, we serve a mighty God, how could people just sit in their seats? Well, my thoughts have certainly changed since then, and yes once in awhile you can still find me dancing at the altar, but most often I can be found with my hands in the air at my seat or sitting quietly holding my son, all while worshipping the glory of our God.

Worship . . . we all worship in our own way. One friend worships on Sunday through the beauty of 'the mass,' another through the lens of her camera, another while holding babies in the nursery, another while sitting quietly with his hands folded and head bowed. Everyday we have the opportunity to worship Him through our words, our actions, and the choices we make.
Worship. How do you worship? Not just on Sundays but each day.

Worship Him. He is worthy of our praise.



Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Visual Worshipper

I think another part of the Focus message God is speaking to me is to slow myself down and focus on Him so I don't miss even the smallest detail He wants to share.

This week He blessed me with a message I know on my own, I'd miss even if it was on a billboard in front of me. I'm really embracing the message because it addresses a regret I've quietly carried.

I'm not a worshipper. At least I didn't think I was. You've read Maria's posts, now she is a worshipper. My husband is a worshipper. These are people who can stand on a platform and scream hallelujah and praise His name---on key no less.

That's not me.

This week I learned it's not supposed to be that way.

What I've been is a nature lover. In college, even in my wildest times, I still marveled at a sunset. No matter what was going on around me, a water scene like a lake or beach gave me peace I could never put in words.

But I took pictures.

I take pictures of clouds, flowers, sunsets, weather, and nature locations. Recently I started sharing those pictures and even framed them all and placed them throughout the living room. I really had no clue why beyond they gave me peace.

This week He gave me the answer. I believe I read it, but this is what I learned,

I am a visual worshipper.

My pictures are simple, but the clouds, the perspective, I truly don't know how to explain it, display God's mastery. When I go to these peaceful places and snap a picture, it's my worship time. When I share those pictures, I'm on key visually to shout to the world, "Hallelujah! Isn't He great?" I don't need a choir platform for that.

He gave me a lens instead.

Does this resonate with any of you?

Julie Arduini is a wife, mom and surrendering writer. Her personal blog, The Surrendered Scribe, shows her writing resume. A graduate of the Christian Writers Guild, she is also a columnist with Take Root and Write. She recently placed 10th in the JournEzine Christmas story contest about the Good News of Bethlehem. Her verse for 2009 is Deuteronomy 11:1-12. She's a new columnist with the daily online newspaper, The Cypress Times. All nature pictures are from her camera, captured in Upstate NY or NE Ohio.

Friday, January 16, 2009

More On 'Focus'

I had a few thoughts about what I was going to write about and then I opened the blog and saw the word Julie wrote, "Focus." This came as a surprise to my flesh but not my spirit. This has been the word the Lord has been speaking to me as well. It has not been a booming voice from above but a feeling inside, in my spirit ,that it was time to slow down and truly focus on what the Lord has given me and what I am 'responsible for.' These feelings and thoughts have been coming the past few months during worship, while in prayer, and through words and interactions with others. Focus.

Focus on my walk with the Lord. Really focus. Where am I spending my time? Stop running around chasing Him. He is right there just open the door.

Focus on the word, the bible. I love what one friend and mentor always says when asking her a question, "What does the word say?" Not what does my girlfriend say, what does the conference speaker say, what do I say but what does the word say? So simple but so easy to overlook.

Focus on what He has given me . . . a loving husband and beautiful children. Focus on them, they are a gift from above.

Focus on Jesus. His life, His walk. He is the example of how we are to live. Study His life, live like Him. And most of all love. Love, love, love.


And finally focus on taking the next step. (This one has been big for me because I am always looking way ahead, planning and thinking about the future.) My husband keeps telling me, "Just focus on the next step." Focus and take the next step He has placed before me. With Him, not on my own.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009



If God showed me this word once this new year, I've seen it, heard it, or read about it half a dozen times already.

I think He has something for me.

And you.


When the ship is raging against a storm and you're on the ship, where is your focus?

The waves?

The ship?

The storm?

The sky?

God wants to take you back to the past for healing. He shows you something and years later, you see it from a different perspective. As a child you wondered where Jesus was in all of it.


He was there the whole time. Difference is focus. What was fuzzy is now clear.

This new year, I know I'm praying direction, wisdom, provision and favor.

His response?


Photo: photobucket

Julie Arduini is a wife, mom and surrendering writer. Her personal blog, The Surrendered Scribe, shows her writing resume. A graduate of the Christian Writers Guild, she is also a columnist with Take Root and Write. She recently placed 10th in the JournEzine Christmas story contest about the Good News of Bethlehem. Her verse for 2009 is Deuteronomy 11:1-12. She's a new columnist with the daily online newspaper, The Cypress Times.

Friday, January 9, 2009

I'm Back:)

Creak goes the sound of the gate as I re-open the door. It has been awhile, too long actually. It feels good to be back!!! The past few month have been filled with wonder and awe. I look forward to sharing it with you in the weeks ahead.

December came following a month of wandering for me. I had strayed some from my relationship with the Lord and I found myself feeling sad and lost, missing Him and knowing I, not He, was responsible for the place I was in. I had let the 'busyness' of life sweep me away along with feelings of disappointment and discouragement because things had not been going the way 'I' thought they should go. Yes, I was wallowing. Yet I knew in my heart, as Revelation 3:20 says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me." He was at the door and I was 'acting' too busy to answer. So . . . I opened my bible, opened my heart, and opened the door. And the days ahead blew me away!

December was filled with new challenges, new experiences, and new focus - His focus for me instead of mine. I remember one evening working on my bible study lesson and the question before me was, "Is there some specific area in your life in which you think God wants you to exercise faith in His timing?"

"Are you kidding me! Do I really have to answer this and then see my words staring at me on the paper!"

I don't want to.

But I did.

I wrote.

And then I was accountable.

Was I willing now to surrender these areas in my life to God or was I going to continue to hold onto them like I had been doing for months, trying to make things work out my way? There they were, three words on a piece of paper, in my handwriting. Hmmm . . . what if I surrendered them and things did not go as I planned. After all, I knew the dreams in my heart, I knew what I wanted, I had great plans, . . . and they were good plans.

'Exercise faith in His timing,' not my timing, His.

That day I took the plunge. I was like the nervous kid standing at the end of the high dive. It was either jump or get down. I chose to jump.

The days began to pass by and new challenges were laid before me. God began stretching me in the areas of forgiveness, submission, and conflict resolution. When I say stretching I mean stretching, like the salt water taffy on that metal machine where the taffy gets puled and stretched over and over again. There were days when I wanted to scream "I can't do this" at my small group leader as she would gently say, "Let's look at what the word says." I wanted to scream at God saying, "How can you ask me to do this? Don't you know how they have hurt me. Forgive them?? They should be asking for my forgiveness." Yet He lovingly continued to show up in His word, at my small group, during my quiet/still prayer time with Him, through others, during worship time, in the car, in the pastor's sermons on Sunday, and in nature (the cardinal came back, along with a female). I had a choice, listen and obey or keep doing things my way. So I prayed and asked Him to give me strength. And He did.

In December I walked in His obedience. We attended the church my husband chose for us (and I love it) and I forgave and loved on the very family members who had hurt me for years. I listened and He spoke. I obeyed and He took over. I walked and He moved. And I was set free and blessed by it all.

And He was not done. After all of this took place He also opened another door for mission work for me. One beyond my dreams or expectations. Mission work, one of the 'areas' I had surrendered while doing my bible study lesson weeks prior. I learned that before He could fufill one of my dreams there were some other areas in my life He needed to refine and put to the test. Areas that needed to reflect Him and not me and my flesh. Areas that needed purified and 'cleaned up.' Areas were I needed to trust Him and give him a chance to work.

As we enter a new year I am so grateful for all He has taken me through. One of my resolutions was to leave any 'old baggage' in 2008 as I move forward. I look forward to the days ahead and invite you to look forward to them too.

Kim is a woman who loves the Lord and has a burden for the abandoned, the orphaned, and the forgotten. She has been called to minister to the people and children of Romania where she was "forever ruined" in Christ for the people. At home she cares for her three children and her husband John. She also loves prophetic worship and writing for the Lord.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

About One Hundred Cardinals

Six weeks already? Surgery is done, recovery nearly there. Read up, rested, and inspired. I had great times with the Lord and He gave me direction. I'm excited to be back and share His heart with you.

Kim, Maria and I need to meet but we knew before my surgery we were going to pull back a bit and see what God would have. I know that stands for all of us. I'm ready to post, but I don't know how often. I don't know what His plan is for all of us. We appreciate your prayers!

The cardinal has been an ongoing theme here at the Narrow Gate Invites. For a season Kim was getting cardinal dive bombs and the message God gave her was to "slow down, it's of the utmost importance."

For me, I read up and learned the male cardinal is a loyal defender. I wasn't getting dive bombed as much as I was watched. During spring and summer the cardinal would perch himself in my sight and just stay for hours. I recognized his call and would miss it if I didn't hear it.

Fall came and I rarely saw or heard from the cardinal. Yet my spirit was all about trusting God. It's been my issue for the longest time. I've cried, been sick, repented, cried more and still I can't say it's automatic when an issue comes up that I'm able to trust God.

Then came Christmas. We traveled to Upstate NY. I saw cardinals in the front yard. Cardinal window decorations. My jaw dropped when I saw Christmas trees filled, filled with cardinals.

He is my loyal defender.

I returned home to find an insurance bill from a claim in 2006. Apparently because our insurance changed in 2008, the hospital refunded the insurance we had in 2006 and billed us. My stomach lurched. Anxiety zoomed.

Actually? Still happening.

Through it all, He keeps telling me He is my loyal defender. My guess is if it takes a million cardinal sightings, He'll do it to get the point across.

He is my loyal defender.

I'm starting to shift my prayer from why this again, how come, why not to...this is your battle. You are my loyal defender. Take it.

I still have to research this and it's hard because it is my name on the correspondence, not Jesus. But He is my loyal defender.

About one hundred cardinals in 2008 told me so.

Julie Arduini is a wife, mom and surrendering writer. Her personal blog, The Surrendered Scribe, shows her writing resume. A graduate of the Christian Writers Guild, she is also a columnist with Take Root and Write. She recently placed 10th in the JournEzine Christmas story contest about the Good News of Bethlehem. Her verse for 2009 is Deuteronomy 11:1-12.