Happy Birthday, Baby Bro

When I was fifteen years old, my youngest brother was born. And I was there, in and out of my parents’ bedroom turned delivery room, for the event. For hours and hours after the birth, I stood over my tiny newborn brother and repeatedly removed his thumb from his mouth and replaced it with a pacifier (and someone owes me a chunk of change, because he has perfect teeth).

Earlier that afternoon I had instructed my mother that she’d “better hurry up and have this baby today or tomorrow….or wait until the 2nd of July!” You see, all of the cousins on my dad’s side have a “2” in their birthday, and I didn’t want an oddball for a baby brother. Luckily, though, he obeyed Hawkes’ family law and was born on a suitable day.

As I stood over him that night, thankful he was healthy and the proud owner of a reputable birthday, that’s when it finally hit me, “When he’s fifteen, I’ll be thirty!” And thus began our relationship as brother and sister/part-time surrogate mother.

I took him everywhere with me (once he grew up a little, that is). We’d go on long walks and talk about nothing. And if babies and small children act as “chick magnets” for men, they act as “jerk repellents” for single girls. So, I took him with me whether he wanted to go or not.

I remember the first joke he ever told me. We were walking along and he stopped, “Sissy, do you see that squirrel?” He pointed and gestured and I looked and looked, but I didn’t see any trace of a squirrel.

“Where is it, buddy? I don’t see it anywhere.”

“It’s over there!” He bent down and pointed again, “Behind the dinosaur!!”

He was so stinkin’ cute. Well, he still is. Only now it’s the kind of cute best appreciated by sixteen year old girls. We live four hours away from each other and we haven’t taken a walk together in years. Our relationship had to change as he got older, I knew that and I’m fine with it (most of the time). And I’m very excited to get to know him as a peer!

No, I didn’t think he’d call me “Sissy” forever! But, well, maybe for just a couple more years!?!
Happy sixteenth birthday to the handsomest, kindest, most patient, Jesus loving, parkour doing, best babysitting guy around. I am I-could-never-express-in-a-million-words proud to call you my baby brother…
…even if you haven’t been a baby for awhile.


Busy, Busy, Busy

Like all of you, I’m sure, we’re busy, busy, busy. We’re busy inside, though, so that may not be like the rest of you. What’s the weather like where you are today?

I’m working on three very simple 4th of July dresses for the girls. And I don’t really sew, sooo I’m stretching myself today. But the first one is done and it turned out even cuter than I’d hoped!

And when I get frustrated with my lack of sewing knowledge, I just hit the kitchen to calm down. I’m working on an energy bar recipe that is almost perfect. Just one more test run, I hope. If you want to calm down in the kitchen (but you don’t want to heat it up), you might try what I think is the absolute best salsa recipe. I know, I’m really modest today.

Well, I think that’s it for now. I’ll be back later tonight.
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Just a Few Thoughts, Really

From Matthew 10:

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

That’s what I’ve been meditating on all month. The thought that we’re being sent out as sheep among wolves is pretty straightforward, I think. I know we all feel it every time we step outside (or turn on the t.v. or computer). But it’s also revolutionary because we are here (instead of being caught up the moment we except Jesus’ sacrifice) to shine a light to the world. Therefore, the wolves we are being sent out among are not the unsaved people of this world, but they are, rather (and in my opinion), the demonic forces warring tirelessly for their souls. We are not to be shrewd in our dealings with men because men are the enemy. But we must be shrewd in our dealings with demonic forces (which we usually come into contact with though our interactions with men.)

For a sheep to qualify as shrewd in his dealings (or lack of dealings) with wolves, it would mean he has paid careful attention to two things: One, he has stayed close to the shepherd. But that’s really the obvious implication of the scripture. A shrewd sheep, and this is something God had been teaching us again through our recent situation, must also stay close to the flock. Those within the flock are rarely picked off by predators. Those on the outskirts often are. Jesus has told us, over and over again in His word, that it’s really not Christianity to love Him on our own. He longs for His church to become one just as He is one with the Father.

The innocence part of this verse is, I believe, why the passage has been filling even my dreams over these last few weeks. And it’s my husband, as it should be, who is teaching me what it means to be innocent. I think it’s very fitting that the Holy Spirit compares our shrewdness to an earth crawling beast and our innocence to a high flying creation. Because what we are, temporarily of course, are earth crawling beasts. But what we really are, eternally, are high flying creations. We are entrusted with wisdom and commanded to act accordingly, but where earthly actions fail us, heaven will take it from there.

When Papa Bear was accused, he stood silent much more often than he spoke. I was furious that he wasn’t driving around town, clearing his name and protecting mine. But His peace was in an abundance of truth. The greater the Truth, the greater the peace. And I think I understand that now.

When we go out, the Valentes, we go out as sheep…tired, dirty, dumb sheep who couldn’t make it through one single day without the guidance and protection of the shepherd and the strength of the flock. We go out as sheep who take great pleasure in that truth. He leads us, we follow. And along the way, there’s a great deal of danger to avoid. When we can’t avoid the danger, we are to be as innocent of it as Papa Bear just proved to be. Meaning we are to be innocent of the charges against us (if we’re not, that’s a subject covered by many other scriptures), and we’re to trust, always, that God sees our need for a defender. And yeah, that He has our back.

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

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Last week, Papa Bear brought home an injured baby bird. He didn’t actually witness the injury, but he did see the bird emerge from underneath a passing car. He stopped to find him flapping away in the middle of the road. So, of course, adoption was the only thing for a Papa Bear to do.

I didn’t want much to do with the bird for the first few hours. I’ve had enough woodland creature heartbreak to last me a lifetime. But when Papa Bear said something about not wanting any living creature to die alone, I put some cantaloupe and flax seed in the blender.


He ate from the end of a drinking straw, but he only took three or four tiny swallows in the whole of the two days he was with us.


The first full day, in the heat of the afternoon, the kids and I took the bird outside and I tempted him to fly away. He definitely seemed old enough to fly, and when I lifted him high and encouraged him to flap, his wings appeared fine to me.
He napped in a young tree while we lounged in the grass and watched him.

And when the afternoon sun began to wane, I took him inside and offered him a moist piece of bread and another dropper full of cantaloupe. He was weak, and he barely made a sound, but I really hoped that this time, this one would make it.

The following afternoon, though, he began to stumble like a tiny drunk in the back of a moving paddy wagon. He’d stepped in his food; actually, he’d climbed in to sleep in the small jar lid filled with cantaloupe. And sensing he was very near death, I took him back outside. I washed his feet with warm water, wrapped him gently in a torn sheet and tried desperately, one last time, to make him eat. As I prepared the dropper with one hand and held him loosely in the other, his little head went limp, and he died.

The kids were all seated on the ground around me, and they all, instantly, knew what had happened. What surprised me was the lack of tears (from my kids, one may or may not have trickled down my cheek) though, as if death was the most natural thing in the world, and failure and grief were not words they’d been introduced to yet. “We did our best,” Cuddle Bug said, I think trying to comfort her grieving mother.

As I turned the little shell over in my hand, just to make sure he was gone, I saw what appeared to be either a severe birth defect or a hernia from his run in with the car. Either way, it appeared unlikely he would have survived, even under the care of someone much more capable. I walked a few steps up the mountain, and I laid him down under a shallow pile of dirt and grass.

About an hour later, I was standing in the kitchen. All traces of the bird were gone, but a sadness akin to guilt lingered to gnaw at my spirit. “What was the point of that, God?” I muttered, pretending that my children had been somehow injured by their brush with death. “Gentleness,” was the one word I heard in reply. And it occurred to me, in that moment (and so I’m writing it down for my memory), that the most important thing I had to do that day, despite how it looked to me, was to comfort, in view of my children, a dying baby bird.

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Let Them Do Crafts!

Around here, we like glitter. We also like paste, glue, craft sand, tissue paper, sequins, beads…you get the general idea. In other words, we don’t mind the mess. In reply, when faced with more domestically gifted moms who cringe at my mention of homemade playdough in the carpet, I usually say something like, “Well, I have a theory about that! If it gives them an hour of creativity and fun, it should be worth at least ten or fifteen minutes of clean up time.”

Because craft time is magic

“Oh, honey, of course your ocean can be bright pink. And don’t ever let anyone tell you differently!”

It gives me a chance to really talk with my kids…

“No, it won’t be possible for us to send these to all of the boys and girls without mommies and daddies. But it’s wonderful of you to want to do that!”

And craft time also helps to develop those fine motor skills that are not always acquired during active play.

We do crafts because they’re fun and interactive. And we also do them because I feel that getting dirty and coloring outside the lines is a very important part of childhood (and probably adulthood too).

Baby Bear has been painting with water while the older kids paint with, well, paint.

He doesn’t seem to know the difference, but once he does, he’ll paint with mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup (the perfect edible paints) until he’s ready for the real thing. Which, I’m sure, will be very, very soon.

How about you? How do you feel about craft time at your house? And what are your favorite pre-school crafts?

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My Love Language is Words

While I was packing Papa Bear’s picnic supper, racing to and fro, frustrated that I didn’t have dinner ready in time for him to sit down and eat it before leaving for his softball game, he got very serious and he said, “I know someone who would love to be with you.” I shot him a puzzled glance and he continued, “I do, I know someone who would give anything to be with you.”

I paused, before wrapping his pizza in foil and pouring olive oil and marinara into Tupperware, but just long enough to smile and say, “Oh yeah, you?”

“How did you know I was going to say ‘me’?!” he laughed.

“I don’t know, I just did,” I smiled. “But it made my week anyway,” I said.

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The First Seven Years

Papa Bear and I will celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary on July 13th. I’m more excited about this anniversary than I was about our first (well, equally at least; we had our wedding on our first). It’s not that we’re planning to do anything special; it’ll probably be just like any other night. But what it celebrates is fantastic, miraculous even, and I think it’s not coincidence that so much has happened in these past few months to prepare us for number seven.

Seven, biblically, is the number of spiritual perfection, completeness, and fulfillment. Of course, seven years in (and four years really in) does not somehow grant us the perfect marriage. But, I think know that God has indeed finished a specific work in us. While we’ll always be the couple with a story (praise the Lord, because even our darkest moments speak of His Light), it’s time for us to move forward…to press ahead. This was overwhelmingly confirmed to me by the Lord, through a sweet sister, who said, “You’ve been dealing with some things and God doesn’t want you to deal any longer. He wants you to walk in victory.” And, yeah, amen.

My first step on the road to uncompromising victory has been to fully reclaim the memories that were, I thought, indelibly marred by many coarse and filthy threads woven into the fabric of our first three years. It’s a process I’ve been involved in for awhile, actually (carefully pulling out the dirty threads while leaving the rest of the weave intact), but I’ve never had so much victory as I have these past few weeks. Sometimes God grants freedom in an instant, and sometimes He requires that we surrender, gradually and willfully, over time. Maybe that depends more on the individual’s level of submission than it does on God. And maybe I’m an especially hard case. Maybe.

This ten minute video was a gift to myself and Papa Bear and a sacrifice offering to God. Every clip, every photo has been redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. And when Christ redeems, He doesn’t leave anything untouched by His mercy. I feel nothing but blessed, the kind that heaps beyond measure, by the memories that are now scrubbed clean (inside and out) and left to bring only joy and contentment to my heart and mind.

I know it’s not exactly polite to subject your unsuspecting guests to home movies (oh, wait, that’s exactly what I just did to my brother over cake and coffee tonight). But to any of you who make it all the way through, I hope it will make you smile.

We thank God for the gift you have been (and I have no doubt will continue to be) to our lives. Your encouragement and prayers have spurred us more than I could express in a thousand words. And I hope you’ll stick around to watch our next seven years unfold.

The music in this video is by Jared Anderson. It had to be Jared, since his beautiful music is pretty much the soundtrack of our lives. And, lucky you, I still have two copies of Jared’s newest worship album to give away. Want one? Yeah, of course you do.

And what should I make you do to win one? Hmmmm…..

Yes, that’s good, simply “Like” Jared Anderson on Facebook (which you should just do because it’s right – also everyone should watch the inspiring video he has on his front page, though that’s not a requirement for winning) and comment here telling me that you did! I’ll pick two winners, from the comments, on June 30th.

Speaking of winners, Kami Q, you won the $25 gift certificate to Danielle’s Designs! Make sure and send me a pictures of your purchase. I just think her stuff is the cutest in the world!

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