Monday, October 29, 2012

Morning Glory is now on Amazon

I am thrilled to announce that my first book Morning Glory: Prayers, Petitions, and Purpose In The Psalms is now available on Amazon at the following link...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

InCourage Post Today

Today I am being featured as a guest on one of my favorite blogs for women.

"To live life to the fullest requires one to be brave. After all, life is an adventure of moving from what is known to what is new. It’s a journey that requires both courage and faith. Looking back, every life altering decision I have ever made proves it to be so…

Accepting that first dinner invitation from a handsome boy with the kind blue eyes; the boy who would, one day, become my husband. Brave.

Picking up stakes and moving away from my roots in order to start a new life after college graduation. Brave.

Leaving my career so that I could be available to my children full-time, even when the budget said it was impossible. Brave.

Starting the process of bringing home our fourth child through domestic infant adoption. Brave!

Every one of these milestones in my life required more courage than I can muster on my own. And yet, a refusal to step in faith, because of fear, would have denied me great blessing and purpose in my life. "

Won't you please join me over at InCourage to read the rest? I sure hope you will!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Release!!

Hi everyone!

It is an honor and a privilege to announce that my first book, "Morning Glory" is now available for purchase.

The following link will allow you to order your copy at a pre-sale price. I hope you will consider getting one for yourself and one for a friend. Thanks for all your support and for being part of this amazing dream come true!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Happily Ever After

When I was little, I wanted to be Cinderella. Like many girls, I dreamed of finding my prince and living "happily ever after". I imagined the dress. The flowers. The church. I knew my "big day" would be my very own fairy tale and that my groom would be more wonderful than anyone I could imagine in my dreams. Years later, at the age of 19, I met the man of my dreams. On an ordinary day in mid-September, we were introduced in the dorm cafeteria by a mutual friend. And though we had a few "starts" and "stops", our "happily ever after" had already begun.

On August 1, 1992, I married my husband, a sweet boy with kind blue eyes who made my heart beat fast whenever he looked my way. To be sure, we were just kids. I was only twenty-two years old when I walked down the aisle, and Marty was twenty-three. We lived in married student housing at Iowa State University. We worked part time at minimum wage jobs, attended classes full time, and pinched pennies. We ate lots of raman noodles and macaroni and cheese. And we were happy.

Together, we graduated, got our first "real" jobs, and started a new life in Texas. We lived in a tiny apartment. We started a family and saved for our first home. We changed diapers, spent Saturday afternoons at the "duck park", and lived on almost no sleep. We seldom went out on dates. Instead we snuggled up on the couch, watched movies, and counted our blessings. And we were happy.

Twenty years have passed since we said "I Do". Today, we are still saving our pennies. We spend our weekends at soccer games, dance recitals, and play performances. We sign report cards and attend parent/teacher conferences. We have gotten creative in order to steal private moments together. And we are happier than ever.

I have no idea what the next 20 years will bring. But, as long as I have this man at my side, one thing is certain. I have my "happily ever after". And for that, I give thanks to God.

“But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
-Mark 10:6-9

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

First Fruits

"Come have strawberries on the patio, Mom. Just us," Sofie said sweetly. It was the first part of spring, and strawberries were now in season. She had waited all winter to enjoy their sweetness once more. The time was now. And though I longed to spend time with my little girl, my mind wandered momentarily to the list of tasks I needed to finish before bedtime.

We were all alone in the house and I was packing for a women's retreat I was to attend that weekend. It was Thursday afternoon, and I was far from ready to go. Car pool. After school activities. Laundry. Cleaning. Packing. The list of things on my "to do" list appeared endless.

I looked into my youngest daughter's honey-brown eyes and heard a whisper in my heart. "First things first," it said. In that quiet moment, I knew what God was saying. Together, we washed up some strawberries and sat together under the bright blue sky on that warm spring day. And the first strawberries of the season gave me a first fruits moment with my beautiful daughter. For, my time given freely to her, was an offering to my Lord as well.

Sofie told me about her day and I listened to her share her heart. She made faces because the berries were tart. She laughed that her hands were sticky because the berries were so juicy. And she delighted me with her special Sofie ways. There in the spring breeze, my daughter's eyes glistened and smiled at me as we took some rare moments together. Just us.

Once more, I was amazed by the wonderful and unique sweetness that my daughter brings into my life. Truly, it was an extraordinary moment that I shall treasure all of my days. For it was more than strawberries on the patio. Rather, it was a first fruits moment, an investment in my daughter, and an offering to the LORD. To think I almost missed it because of my "responsibilities" makes me feel sad and a bit ashamed.

It got me thinking. How many "first fruit moments" have I missed because I was too busy to notice them? The thought convicted me as I considered the foolish distractions I have chased in the form of "things to do". Too many first fruit moments have slipped away because of tasks that can surely wait. Since then, I have made a  determined and purposeful effort to give my family the best of me as a first fruits offering to God.

 Scripture has alot to say about first fruit offerings. "When you enter the land I am giving you and you harvest its first crops, bring the priest a bundle of grain from the first cutting of your grain harvest.  On the day after the Sabbath, the priest will lift it up before the Lord so it may be accepted on your behalf". (Leviticus 23:10 NLT) Consider the place where God has placed you and the offering He deserves.

Some view our offerings as purely those related to our finances. But, I would strongly suggest that our offerings to the LORD are much more, and include our time and talents in addition to our cash. Our Heavenly Father, who sacrificed Himself so that we might be called His children deserves nothing less than our very best in every aspect of our lives. The LORD is clear that He wants our best rather than our leftovers. He wants and deserves our first fruits.

 Long ago, I claimed a life verse. "Take your everyday, ordinary life; your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking around life---and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him." (Romans12:1 The Message) I chose this life verse for a reason. It's a reminder to give God the first fruits of my time and my talents in whatever venue He places me. For it is in my ordinary life that I will shine most brightly for my Savior.

God brought me to this family and to this season in my life. Time may change my circumstances, but for today, my platform rests firmly in the ordinary moments that take place within my home. The world has much to say about my identity as a woman. But I must be careful to sift through the lies and schemes of the enemy and fix my eyes on the eternal things of God. I must remember to offer Him my first fruits in the circles of influence in which He has placed me.

Strawberries on the patio with my precious little girl is worthy of my attention, for she is a gift from God. After all, these are not ordinary moments to be squandered, but rather extraordinary opportunities to model the love of Christ within my home and bring glory to God. May my offerings be sweet to the Lord as I cherish the first fruit moments of my life.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Just A Mommy

I was 12 years old when my cousin, Minniette, made me a wager. She proposed that by the ripe "old" age of 28, I would be at home with my kids. At the time, those words filled me with outrage. After all, there was NO way I was going to be "just a mommy". Being raised in what seemed like a "greenhouse" of strong women, the role of capable, independent woman was easy to embrace. Family. Career. I naively believed I could have it all, do it all, and be it ALL. It never occurred to me that I would be a stay at home mother, for I had big things to accomplish. Confident that Minniette was mistaken in her assessment, I took that bet. I was certain that her dollar was mine and I smugly imagined the day I would rub her nose in my victory.

Ironically, the year I turned 28 changed my life forever. It was the year that God gave me our beloved son, Jack. He is the first of our three gifts from Heaven. With his birth, my priorities shifted. Over the next few years, I began to sense that somebody had sold me an empty dream of materialism and achievement that no longer aligned with my heart. With the birth of each of my children, my heart and my desires continued to change. Over time, I began to see in myself the things my cousin has always known.

The LORD gave me a heart that longs to care for and protect those whom I deeply love. Responsible, sensible, and careful, I was the self-appointed guardian of my younger brother and cousins, whether they needed it or not. God made my ears sensitive to tones of voice and my eyes keen to body language in order to infer feelings. As I came to truly know my heart, I discovered a startling conclusion. I was born to be a caretaker. No, I was born to be a Mother. It seems my cousin saw that better than I, even when we were children. I lost the bet, but won something much greater...a sense of purpose. I owe my cousin a dollar and my thanks. (Thanks, Minniette! I owe you a buck!)

Today, my sense of identity is firmly rooted in being the heart of our home. At long last, I have stepped out of the full-time workforce as an educator and into life as a stay at home mom. Instead of grading papers, writing lesson plans, and attending meetings, my days are now filled with clipping coupons, driving our children all over town for practices and rehearsals, and managing the many responsibilities of our home. Instead of finding my worth in my performance at work, I am content to be "just a mommy" while I model the love of Christ to my family.

There is no pay or earthly recognition for the work that I do every day. To the contrary, there are even some people who belittle and degrade my choice to be at home. With humility and gratitude, I recognize that my efforts to shape my kids do not go unnoticed by God. I pray my efforts to guide my children, for whom I am accountable, bring the LORD great glory.

Now let me clarify a few things. I recognize that a woman can be a good mother and work outside the home. In fact, I was raised by a woman who did just that! Whether it be ambition or necessity, I do not begrudge another woman the right to make her own choices. Some women are remarkable enough to do it all. Be it all. To everyone. And if that were the calling on my life, I have no doubt that God would have empowered me to do just that.

But, I must confess, that is just not "me". Truly, I was never very good at juggling both motherhood and a career. Trying to do both left me feeling exhausted and discouraged. I just couldn't seem to "do it all". Despite my efforts for many years to hold down the fort both at home and at work, I went to bed feeling like a failure in nearly every aspect of my life. I wasn't the teacher, the wife, the mother, or the friend that I was called to be. There simply wasn't enough of me to go around and I knew it. By faith, my husband and I decided I needed to be at home and we made many sacrifices to make it happen for our family, even when our checkbook said it was impossible. We made adjustments, created a budget, and we prayed A LOT!

God has blessed me in my decision to follow His lead regarding my position in this world, and I am thankful that I have the awesome privilege of being at home for my kids. Each day, I am reminded that my children are learning by my example. They listen to my guidance. They watch me intently. Not a day goes by that I don't understand more fully what God has called me to do. As a mother, I am shaping my children into the people they will become. Every action and every reaction makes an impact on the hearts of my kids. It's a heavy responsibility and an awesome privilege. But it's also LOTS of work! And that is only part of what I do all day.

I am the chief dietitian, counselor, detective, judge, cook, personal shopper, chauffeur, housekeeper, and gardener for our family. I am sure I could think of a few more titles, but I have to finish my point before the kids get home from school. My husband is out of town on business so I am flying solo tonight. When the kiddos push through that door we need to finish homework and dinner before our daughter goes to soccer practice. Did I mention she also has new badges for me to sew on her Girls In Action vest? Add seamstress to the list of titles I hold.

Be advised. I have discovered that life as a full-time wife and mother is not for the faint of heart. My days are full and bedtime is still relished at the Arbuckle household. We do not drive new cars and we stick closely to our budget. Financially, we make tough decisions and even give up luxuries to make ends meet. Some days, I wonder how our finances are going to all work out in the end. Contrary to what some in the world believe, we are not wealthy. We simply made a choice to downsize our life so that I could be home. It wasn't easy, but it was right for us. And I have no regrets, though I could use a nap and a mani/pedi.

Now, there is a sweetness that has gripped our family as never before. I believe it is because I am utilizing my God given gifts. I am, in fact, who I was created to be and in that I find my sleep to be sweet. I am just a Mommy. My title isn't grand and my achievements are not met with accolades, praise, or glory. I won't be winning any awards this side of Heaven. But I have peace. I have joy. And I know what it is to be truly happy in the LORD. It's a lesson I pray will stay rooted in my heart as I raise up children to take their place in this world.

I pray that God will give each of my kids eyes to see their gifts and talents and grant them the courage to follow their God-given dreams. I hope they are wiser than I was in finding their way in life. And more than any accomplishment, "I have no greater desire than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (3 John 1:4) Today, life has come full circle as my son is now starting to make plans for his future. Many days I listen to my Jack share his heart and I counsel him carefully. It's so much fun listening to my kids dream of what they will "be" when they grow up. A baker. A dance teacher. An engineer. And in the words of my youngest blessing Sofie, "A mommy...just a mommy".

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Brave And Courageous

Late this past fall, Marty took Jack to see the movie "Courageous". It had quite a big influence on our Man-child and recently, as it has hit the stores on DVD, Jack has been longing to watch it again. Jack's birthday is in just a number of weeks. He will soon be fourteen years old. Sometimes, I wonder where my little boy with the blond curly hair has disappeared. Today, Jack is a tall, confident young man with one foot already stepping into his future. I know God has amazing plans for our son, but I am also aware that I must be more committed to prayer than ever before. Like other young boys his age, my son is stepping into a world that is fighting a culture war that is darker than ever.The enemy seeks to destroy my son and steal his innocence. And Satan will use every tool available to get to bring Jack down. Friends. Music. The Internet. Even television. Especially television.

They say, the eyes are the windows to the soul. Young men today are bombarded with images that are designed to desensitize them to nudity and encourage them to dabble in acts of intimacy that are suppose to be limited to a man and his wife. The images on the television were a troubling reminder that Satan will use any and all means necessary in order to distract Jack and make him as ineffective as possible. After all, Satan is cunning and he knows Jack's name. He knows Jack's weaknesses. He fears Jack's potential. I am foolish to assume otherwise. And the Bible warns us that “the eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light". (Matthew 6:22) In essence, good stuff in, good stuff out. And bad stuff get the picture.

As a mother and a woman of faith, I have to step up my game and pray daily for my son's purity if he is to stand in this culture of "anything goes". At the risk of sounding like one of those "church ladies", I am sickened by the lack of moral boundaries in our society today. In fact, I wonder if we, as a nation, have gone beyond the point of no return. It's not hard to see how we got to this place of depravity. I just wonder if there is a way out.

Then I realize, it begins with my son. His generation has the power to change our direction. In him, I see a love for Christ and a desire to obey that is stronger than most adults I know. God is calling tomorrow's men to be strong and courageous! For they will do great things that will bring God glory.

Today, I went to a Christian bookstore in search of Jack's birthday present. I wasn't sure what I was looking for, but I knew it had to be special. It had to be something that could strengthen Jack in his walk into manhood. Make no mistake, there are many things on which my son could choose to fix his gaze. Unhealthy dating relationships. Pre-marital sex. Nudity and pornography. The world tells my son that all are acceptable. Yet, none of these things are God's desire for a young man seeking after God's best in life. Therefore, I want Jack to have something else to look upon. Something that will remind him whose he is when temptation is lurking. Something that challenges him to be the Jack that God created him to be and to fix his eyes on the things of God. I found a ring with the words "strong and courageous" inscribed upon it. It brought to mind a verse I hope Jack will live by as he grows and takes his place in God's Kingdom. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9)

When Jack was a little boy, we discovered he had a heart filled with courage. He loved to play with Rescue Hero action figures and enjoyed pretending to be a Super Hero. Spiderman was his favorite! As he grew, we saw that same courage manifest itself as he stood his ground with bullies both for himself and on behalf of his friends. Now that Jack is a teenager, he will need that courage like never before.

That is my prayer for my son...courage. Strong. Unmoveable courage. The kind of courage that only comes from being a man who follows after God.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Masterpiece

"I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I know that full well." Sofie uttered these words to me softly as I tucked her into bed the other night. With a sweet smile on her face, she shared with me a beautiful truth, a scripture, she had practiced at church that evening. I looked into her honey brown eyes and told her how I thought God was "showing off" the day he made her and that I was super lucky that He chose me to be me her Mom. Then, I kissed her goodnight, turned off her light, and closed her door behind me. It was one of those mountaintop moments as a parent. My heart was bursting with praise and gratitude for my daughter was beginning to understand who God made her to be.

But as with so many challenges in parenting, I was quick to find we had taken one step forward only to go two steps back. For, the very next evening, I was drying tears that were the result of some cruel remarks made by a careless classmate. Words like "ugly" and "terrible" pierced her heart and wounded her spirit in ways that made me burn with anger. It didn't matter that the words weren't true. What mattered was how Sofie felt about those words...and the effect they had on her once they had been uttered.

She was devastated. Then and there, I acknowledged that we had a long way to go if Sofie's self-image was going to be firmly rooted in Christ. Gently, I reminded her of the truth she had shared with me only the night before. "Who made you, Sofie?" I whispered softly. I wanted her full attention. "God did." "That's right," I replied, "And what does God say about you?" Once more, she recited Psalm 139:14. I continued, "God says you are wonderful. It doesn't matter what other people say. Their words only matter if you let them matter. I know they hurt. But don't let them tell you who you are. Only God can do that. He never uses words like 'ugly' or 'terrible' when he speaks of you."

Today, Sofie left for school a bit more tense than usual. Her face revealed a heart that was unsettled and nervous. I took her small hands in mine, kissed her forehead and prayed over her. And as she walked out the door, I reminded her, "Be the Sofie that God made you to be...for you are fearfully and wonderfully made." Truly, she is a masterpiece. I know that full well. Even if she has forgotten.

While she has been at school, I have done a bit of word study. The Bible says we are "fearfully and wonderfully made". But what does that mean exactly? My daughter needs to know. Perhaps we all could use a reminder. Here is what I found...

Fearfully means to "stand in awe", "to cause astonishment", "to inspire reverence".
Wonderfully implies we are "wonderful, distinct, distinguished, set apart".

In essence, God is saying that each and every one of us is a masterpiece, created by Him, to bring Him glory. By His hand, we were created. And by His Word we are said to be...
Set apart.

Like Sofie, the truth is short and sweet. Indeed, we are ALL fearfully and wonderfully made. In a word...Sofie is a masterpiece. So are you.