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Thankful: It’s Hard to Pick Just One by Jill Barlow

Posted by Julie on November 18, 2014 in Guest blogger, Life Lessons, Thankful November guest blogger, Writing |

In the beginning of 2013, I felt led to start my own blog. I wrote about God, but nothing in particular. I also ended up going through a divorce that year, which completely changed my life. I was married for 19 years. I was a stay at home mom for a great deal of that time. The last 3 years had been dedicated to my three children, because we pulled them out of public school to home school.


As I sit and type this up, I am thankful for so many things. It is hard to pick just one.


I am thankful for my Heavenly Father who has gotten me through the rough spots. This  journey we call life is not an easy one. Being a Christian is not a “get out of trouble” free card. We are still going to have hard times. Jesus even said, in John 16: 33, “33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”john16_33


It’s not an IF, it’s a WHEN type thing. God is always here for us, no matter what.


I am also thankful for my children, friends and family. Without them, I don’t know where I would be. They have made me laugh, hugged me as I cried and told me the truth when I did not want to hear it.


God has really moved in my life and heart over the past several months. He has started talking to me in every day ways. I have started writing those things for others to see that He is there, daily. He cares about our daily lives and He just wants to help us make it to tomorrow.


Take a moment and think about what you are thankful for. Maybe it’s totally different from me. And, guess what? That’s ok. 




Jill Barlow is a mom of three, an administrative assistant to two, and a writer. Divorced after a lengthy marriage, she started finding God in her every-day life. Jill says, “God really cares and is interested in talking to us through the little things. Showing people His love and character in a way they might not have ever experienced is my passion.” You can find Jill at and on Facebook .

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The Ordinary Life by Leslie Umstattd

The Ordinary Life

Most of us live what is considered an ordinary life. We go through life each day with the typical routine of getting up, going to work, doing laundry, shuttling children to their events, and retiring for the evening. The days and months pass by and before we know it, November hits and we are reminded to be thankful.

The retail stores force images upon us, the commercials on television have us grabbing the tissue box, and the Hallmark channel releases heart-warming movies with happy endings. It is that time of the year when even the most ungrateful person finds a reason to be thankful. We look around and begin to be appreciative even in the small things.

A few years ago my husband and I decided as parents we wanted to begin to lay the foundations of thankfulness in our children. To be completely honest, instilling the practice of thankfulness in our children forces us, beckons us as parents to model for them an attitude of appreciation.  Beyond Thanksgiving, we wanted our children to recognize how blessed they are and to be thankful for how God has provided for our family daily. We began by asking a simple question,  “What are you thankful for?” Most responses seem so child like. “I am thankful I got to eat lunch at school today.” “I am thankful that I got to jump on the trampoline after school.” “I am thankful I got to stay up, watch a movie, and eat candy!”



As they have grown, their thankfulness focus has turned from “I am thankful I got to watch Veggie Tales today,” to “I am glad I met a new friend at school.” As I listen to my children express their thankfulness for what seems like the “mundane” things in life, I am reminded where Christ tells us to come to him as little children, with child-like faith. A childlike faith finds good in the simple things, gives the benefit of doubt, extends grace when there is hurt, and even can be thankful for getting to eat candy before bed!

Being thankful for the small things helps to provide us with eyes that see how blessed we truly are in our lives. We have opportunities to be thankful for something small like having a friend who can be your running buddy, finding a $5 bill in last year’s winter coat that has been packed away, folding laundry which means we have clothes to wear, or a friend sending a text saying that she is praying for you and thankful for your friendship. These are the things in life that swell our hearts with gladness. It is in the ordinary things of life that we find God moving and blessing us.

It seems this time of year more than any other we find ourselves evaluating, assessing our thankfuls in life. We contemplate because we want to have attitudes of gratitude. The challenge of thankfulness is not just being thankful during the Thanksgiving season but creating mind-set of being grateful in the good, the bad, and the ugly. Being thankful that God is in control no matter the circumstances. Being thankful that we woke up this morning with hands and feet that move and eyes that see. Being thankful we live in a country where we can freely worship. Creating a year around attitude of gratitude starts with a speck of gratefulness for the ordinary life so when the big blessings come we have no trouble recognizing them, but we also realize that the ordinary life is our biggest blessing.



Leslie Umstattd has been involved in women’s and children’s ministry areas for over 15 years. Before moving to Missouri in 2008, she was an elementary school teacher in both the public and private sector. She recently graduated from Midwestern Seminary with her Doctorate in Educational Ministry and currently serves as Adjunct Professor in the Christian Education department at Midwestern. She has been married for 12 years and has two daughters.


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I Just Couldn’t Do It by Deborah Engle

Posted by Julie on November 7, 2013 in Uncategorized |

I Just Couldn’t Do It


Crippling, painful, and terminal conditions swoop down on people unawares. My own immediate family has fallen victim repeatedly, but I have remained healthy.


Self-absorbed parents abandon their responsibilities, and families disintegrate into bitterness. Instead of embracing that example, my children go out of their way to stay in touch, and offer support of every kind.


A driver breaks down on the side of the road and is stranded. It might have been me, but it isn’t.


Loss of income creates financial distress and puts honest, hard-working people out on the streets. Extended unemployment knocked my feet out from under me, but loving arms ushered me into a safe place.


All of these, and so many more instances I could name, are the reason I survive. All of these are evidence that God is in control. My understanding will fall short, my abilities may fail, and my spirit might flag, but God’s faithfulness, grace and mercy are eternal.


I don’t have to think long to be reminded of things I am grateful for. Over the years, I have faced dozens of difficult situations that could have had terrible results. Instead, God’s provision, enablement, and blessing have seen me through it all. I have never missed a meal, or been homeless or alone. I have never been in jail, or been attacked, or injured in a car accident. But I’ve been through enough to realize that any of those things might have happened to me.


And what of the things I’ve never known about? How many times have I not been in that intersection when the other guy ran a red light? Or have I not gotten the job that would have kept me miserable, or not been able to take the trip that would have ended in disaster?


Aside from the difficulties of life, I see God’s blessings all around me, giving me so many more reasons to be grateful. The love of my children and their spouses keeps me going. My sweet grandchildren make me smile. The glories of nature that emphasizes God’s loving kindness to His children, feed my soul. Friends, and the bonds shared with fellow-believers, encourage me. The privilege of owning something beautiful and well-made, the thrill of using a talent to glorify God and bless others, the joy of being content and resting in God’s love, the assurance of God’s salvation…this list could go on forever.


A friend wrote a blog post about gratitude, and encouraged her followers to name 1,000 things they are grateful for. Within just a week or so, they have almost reached their goal. I didn’t take part, though.


The gratitude I feel when I think about the events of my life, difficult and pleasant, overwhelms me. Emotions well up in my heart and spill over from my eyes in the form of sparkling drops of humility and thankfulness. It’s just too much to put in a few words. Even a thousand words couldn’t do it justice, though, because mere words can’t express the depth of my gratitude.


It was a great thought Vonnie, but I just couldn’t do it.




Jim's Wedding 2006_edited

Deborah Engle has been surprised by life many times. She is currently navigating one more turn in the road, but knows that her ultimate destination is in her Father’s hands. Along the way, she enjoys writing, playing Scrabble, listening to Christian music, and spending time with friends.

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Character Confession: Simply Amazing

Posted by Julie on September 17, 2011 in About Me, encouragement, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender |

It’s one of my favorite blogging routines—-Character Confession Saturday. I post how I’m feeling not because I like to air my dirty laundry but because I’m about surrender. I’m about living in victory. And after 41 years I realize the enemy likes to make us feel isolated, that no one but us feels that way. Honestly, my Saturdays are to shatter that lie. You aren’t alone!





Where do I start?

Amazed that in 15 years I went from bride… …to step-mother of the bride.






Amazed at how friendly everyone was to us. I met many family members that belonged to wife #1 and they not only were so kind to my husband, they went out of their way to meet me and our kids. I didn’t expect anything bad, but I can’t put into words how genuinely gracious everyone was. Amazing.


Amazed at how beautiful the state of Wisconsin is. In their favor it rained poured the entire trip until we reached the Wisconsin state line. Our entire time in “Wisco” was sunny, warm and downright gorgeous. Our 13 year old remarked that he was so impressed with the rural beauty that he wondered if he might live there one day as an adult.





Amazed at God’s provision and favor. We prayed specifically for these things and I asked others to do the same. We needed a roll-a-way bed and received SO much more. We were in the Dells and had a room next to a late night wedding reception. We were exhausted from our own wedding time and wanted peace and quiet. The front desk person not only gave us a new room, she gave a free upgrade in the quietest part of the whole resort. Because we arrived late Saturday, the entire WING was ours Sunday. We had a wonderful time and if a Dells stay is on your agenda, I highly recommend the Wintergreen Resort.

Amazed at how much we missed our healthy ways of eating. My husband changed his diet in February and the rest of us followed suit this summer. Collectively we’ve lost 63 pounds. I’ll be posting next week some tips we implemented but even packing snacks, and bottled water we still ate out. I tried to choose salads and wraps. Yet let’s just say our stomachs still rebelled.

There are so many adjectives in the dictionary, but only one sums our recent wedding vacation up:


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Second Verse Not Quite the Same as the First

Posted by Julie on September 16, 2011 in About Me, encouragement, God's Word, Julie Arduini, Life Lessons, surrender |

I can’t help it but I have the song “I’m Henry the Eighth I am” in my head. Specifically, the part where Peter Noone shouted out, “Second Verse, Same as the First.”

I noticed the last two years there are life events popping out that look really familiar. It’s almost like Groundhog Day with Bill Murray where it feels like the alarm goes off and I’m living the same thing again. Thing is, I didn’t like those events the first time around.

Insurance Issues

Communication Misunderstandings



Woundedness I received

Woundedness I dished out

When I first noticed the similarities I felt a gentle whisper assure me that although things looked the same, they were not. They were opportunities for me to trust God for a different outcome.  It was not the proverbial Lucy from Peanuts holding the football moment. In some cases there would be redemption, justice, revelation, and just flat out better experiences than the first go-around.

Not easy, but better.

I’m blogging this today because this pattern continues with me. I’m seeing things that look so familiar. Names, places, circumstances. My first reaction isn’t what I know it should be. Instead, fear. Dread. Anger. Everything inbetween, including my mumbling things like, “Second verse same as the first.”

Yet in the middle of my personal GroundHog Day I’m experiencing something so different than I expected and I know it’s only the start.

New beginnings



People looking at the full picture, not just the small glimpse




During the first set I had experiences with literal dive bombing cardinals. Friends shared the same thing happening to them. I prayed and did research and found for me, one of the definitions I walked away with was that a cardinal is a loyal defender. To this day when I see a cardinal I claim it as a promise. God is my loyal defender.

These issues and circumstances appear like things I’ve battled before, things that nearly snuffed out everything alive and hopeful in me. But they are not the same. I’m not the same. Because of those things I’m stronger, wiser, and more discerning.

God willing, I’m surrendering to be more trusting if not of people, than of my God who loves me.

And you.

If you’re going through the second verse looking the same as the first, embrace your Heavenly Father as your loyal defender.

Because He is.


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