It’s not quite eight o’clock.

My house would be eerily quiet if it weren’t for the click, click, click of dogs’ toenails on the [fake] wood floor and the pop, pop, pop of the fire. Oh, and I just heard a contented sigh from the kids’ room. Someone is not quite asleep.

I had planned to spend tonight with a sweet friend, but I didn’t hear her knocking while I was putting the kids to bed. I can usually count on the dogs to alert me, but the wood stove had lulled them to sleep. And of course, my front door was locked. I guess I’m still a city girl at heart.

So instead, I’ll spend tonight with a 1913 copy of Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary and do a little more research for my upcoming book (that is, if the fire doesn’t lull me to sleep first). I do most of my research online, but there is something about a really old book that makes me swoon.

{Oh, now the dogs are barking. Go figure.}

I think I’ll leave you with this deep theological question before I go: What kind of shoes are you wearing to church tomorrow? I’m torn between flip flops and snow boots. ūüėČ

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It’s Been a Little While Since I’ve Just Sat Down to Blog

I know there was a time when I sat down at this blog and just blogged¬†my little heart out. I didn’t have a preconceived topic or theme. I was just bored, and I thought I’d share that boredom with the world, I guess. Now that I am, ya know, “a blogger trying to be a real writer,” I want to sit down with some purpose and write something worth reading–or at least with cute pictures worth viewing. And while I rarely succeed in that no matter how much I try, I still feel like I should try.

Tonight, I’m sitting here in my bed…tired I need to stay up a while longer to throw another log or two on the fire. It’s nine o’clock, but it’s Sabbath Eve which means I’ve just made it through another P.D. (Preparation Day). So, we’ll see…I really could have fallen asleep at seven.

I made an enormous pot of chili today. I’m hoping it will feed the men who are coming to chop wood for me this weekend. I’m so grateful for the wood–and you don’t say “no” to the church decons, I’ve gathered. They didn’t ask, they just told me they were coming. God bless ’em.

Last week, two sweet girls came to watch my kids and spend the weekend so I could attend a women’s conference at our church. The conference started on Friday night and ran through Saturday, but I decided to have Sabbath dinner with the family and join the women on Saturday morning. Everyone told me that I missed out by not making it on Friday night, but I made cappuccinos and watched Phantom of the Opera with two adorable teenagers. Now you tell me who missed out?

These are the same teenagers that sparked a new ministry for me, and it’s one that I’m super excited about. Every two weeks or so, I turn my living room into a day spa and give free facials using all the gizmos and techniques that I learned in a skin care class (that I took about a hundred years ago) along with the information I glean on those rare occasions that I find myself at a spa. The girls are so sweet and always tell me I should open up shop. And one of them wants to hire me as her personal chef. Needless to say, these girls are quickly becoming my very favorite people.

A few days ago, I allowed my Facebook “likers” to nominate someone to receive a free copy of my devotional. The nominations poured in passed what I was capable of fulfilling. But a few of you stepped up and sponsored. THANK YOU! At this time, everyone who has requested a book has received one! Of course, many women nominated themselves. The stories of betrayal and heartbreak that my sisters are suffering has brought me to my knees, not just when reading their stories for the first time, but every time God brings these women to my mind. If you are safe and secure and cared for, please pray for the many women the world over who are not. And when you pray, pray not only for their safety but for the perpetual softness of their hearts.

It’s 9:30 now and I don’t think I can make it much longer. I’m gonna go check the fire and head to bed. If you’re reading this tonight, sweet dreams my precious friends!

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Since I’ve Blogged Last

We’ve had a lake day and then our first snow. I will miss the gorgeous days of summer and I’m so grateful they hung on for so long this year. Today, a fire is roaring inside my wood stove. Last week, the sun blazed down on us as we froze our toes in chilly water.

Quite possibly for the last time in 2012.

2012 yielded a grand total of zero fish. But all four of the twins are now experts in casting and reeling. My hopes are very high for 2013.

I was also able to get the shot I’ve wanted for book #2 (scheduled to be released before the snow melts)! If you haven’t read it yet, don’t forget, book #1: 31 Days to Lovely: A Journey of Forgiveness!

It was a very good day. It was a good day, even if I did have to wear the picnic blanket like a sling and carry my three year old a mile back from the lake because he’d completely left his legs in the water. It was a good day even if the fishing lure shaped like a crawdad sorta kinda embeded itself in my hair while I was wearing my three year old in a sling. It was a good day even if my older kids took very seriously my promise about the first one back to the car getting candy and thusly left me to carry the tackle box, cooler, and poles while slinging my three year old legless son.

It was such a good day because it was the very first day in my entire life to date that exposure to afternoon sunshine has not given me one heck of a headache afterward. And it’s because of this lack of a sun headache (of which I’ve been blogging about for years) that I have now joined the ranks of those exclamatory supplement distributors. I know, I know…but no, I just couldn’t resist the temptation to spread the word about something that has changed my life so rapidly. You can e-mail me for more information.

And on that note, go enjoy the sunshine if you’ve still got it–or a roaring fire if you don’t.

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Sabbath for Americans

For years now, about seven, I’ve been asking the Lord for rest. He has increased my dreams, yet limited my time. How, God?!¬†I didn’t know how was I supposed to set my feet to accomplishing the things He’d asked me to do.¬†I didn’t know how was I supposed to get a shower. But if He showed me the way to walk, I would walk that way; that was the vow I made.

Jeremiah 6:16¬†Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the¬†old¬†paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. –KJV

I have long since struggled, still do to some extent, to find my place in the “Old Testament,” the Tenach. Jesus saves, no amount of law abiding can do that. Yet, I read that there is righteousness and protection in obedience to the Law. God’s heart is represented in the details of the Torah. David loved God and was blown away by His Law! Like the bounds of marriage that cradle and protect the home, David felt at home–gloriously cradled–within God’s Law. He loved it, even though he was required to continually offer sacrifice to atone for his inevitable lack of righteousness.

A once-for-all, atoning sacrifice has already been made for me. But does that mean that I don’t ask God for the old paths? Does that mean that, unlike King David, I don’t need to¬†seek my God’s heart for the treasures that lie in His Law? That doesn’t seem to be what Jesus had to say on that subject.

Matthew 5:14¬†‚ÄúYou are the light of the world.¬†A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.¬†15¬†Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.¬†16¬†In the same way, let your light shine before others,¬†that they may see your good deeds¬†and glorify¬†your Father in heaven.17¬†‚ÄúDo not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.¬†18¬†For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.¬†19¬†Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands¬†and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.¬†20¬†For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. — NIV

When I was nineteen I lived with and trained under a Jewish midwife, and I was quickly made part of the family. Not once in all the months I was there did I ever notice that bacon was missing. The love in that household flowed like wine–and so did the wine, come to think of it. I looked forward to her Friday night Erev (Sabbath ceremony); and even though she practiced quietly, alone in the kitchen, that candle–her prayer–was my favorite part of every week. The subtle ways in which she taught me were powerful. She reclined on the couch and joined us in our silliness, and something was different. I now understand; it was the Sabbath.

Mark 2:27¬†Then he said to them,¬†‚ÄúThe Sabbath was made for man,¬†not man for the Sabbath.¬†¬†–NIV

To make a long story a little bit shorter, I’ve decided that the thing missing from my life, the reason for my exhaustion and unrest, was that I’d somehow misplaced the most detailed of the ten commandments.

Exodus 20:8-11 ‚ÄúRemember the Sabbath¬†day by keeping it holy.¬†Six days you shall labor and do all your work,¬†¬†but the seventh day is a sabbath¬†to the¬†Lord¬†your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.¬†For in six days the¬†Lord¬†made the heavens and the earth,¬†the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested¬†on the seventh day.Therefore the¬†Lord¬†blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” –NIV

I’ve felt God wooing me toward the Feasts and the Sabbath for quite some time, but apparently my American mind rebels against fun and rest.¬†And I joke, because we free in Christ¬†are the best at these things, right? Funnily,¬†I’ve never experienced the kind of rest that is now present in my life, and I’ve never had so much time to do everything He’s asked me to do.¬†

I’ve titled this post¬†Sabbath for Americans,¬†because this is simply the rough and inarticulate way in which we (the six of us, Valentes)¬†choose to honor the seventh day. There are so many fun and mysterious jewels involved in the traditional–old paths–practicing, but we’ve scratched the surface and adopted a few things as our own.

Two years ago, maybe closer to three, I decided that I wanted to observe the Sabbath. The only problem was that I almost completely forgot Preparation Day! So, by lunch-time, I was attempting to rest in what was basically a FEMA intervention waiting to happen. Not¬†restful. What’s so great about the Sabbath, anyway?!

Ah, so to tell you about our Sabbath, I’m really going to tell you about our Preparation Day. I’ve just lived through one (a few hours ago) so it’s fresh in my mind. Jesus’s body was taken down from the cross on a special preparation day. I didn’t know that, but now my kids do. We were listening to an audio Bible a few nights ago, and when we got to John 19:31 they all exclaimed, “Preparation Day! They’d better hurry!”

I’m kinda in love with my kids.

Preparation Day starts¬†on Friday morning, after I’ve had my coffee. Truthfully, I start to think about Preparation Day on Wednesday. That’s when I take a look at my laundry basket (which is usually not very full because I do one load–not counting pee, poop, or vomit induced extra loads–every day). Should I wash the blankets with the sheets this week? Whose pillows need to be bleached and fluffed? Does the slip cover on the couch need to be washed? And, umm…that last one is always a yes. I think about food, and I check my pantry. When Thursday comes, I step up the cleaning a bit. I might even move the couch when I sweep. Friday, though, that’s when the all out cleaning and cooking war commences. Friday is when we blare TobyMac so loudly that the neighbors think about moving. Friday is Preparation Day, and it looks a little something like this:

Today, I made eight loves of bread (four apple-cinnamon, four garlic). I made dinner and dessert for tonight and breakfast for tomorrow. We’ll have leftovers for lunch. I washed every blanket and pillow in the house, cleaned out the fridge, cleaned the microwave, and finally organized my bedroom while my children swept, mopped, washed dishes, and put away laundry. I have to honor Tiny Dancer, here, because she has truly learned how to be a help. I don’t feel like I did much at all today, actually. That’s definitely thanks to her.

The great thing about Preparation Day is that you don’t cook and clean until you’re done (done might never happen). No, you just go, go, go until sunset. We’ve adopted the three stars¬†tradition, and Lil Prince is our star spotter. He loudly¬†announces the evening’s first star, and when the third star appears, he orders the neighborhood to¬†“Stop working!” Thankfully, my parents are my next door neighbors.

We’re usually seated at the table for awhile before he spots the first star. Sometimes, we even have time to wash a few of our dishes before the third star is excitedly spotted. The pots and pans have been cleaned in advance, our glasses stay on the table for the next day, and any remaining dirty dishes are stacked neatly beside the sink–because we’re done, put down your pencils and stop working d.o.n.e.

When we sit at our Sabbath table, time stands still. We’re exhausted from cleaning and overwhelmingly excited to enjoy our rest–to enjoy each other. To reflect.¬†To pause. The kids are up past their normal bedtime on Friday night because we sit around the Sabbath table for at least an hour, laughing beneath the glow of a flickering candle. Heavy, earned, deep sighs are breathed as we soak in our love for each other and the Father’s love for us. I hear about what God has been teaching my children; I whisper what He’s been revealing to me. And as I tuck them into bed, I can hardly contain my joy at the last words they whisper before dreaming, “Happy Sabbath, Mama.” And tonight Bay Bit added, “God is Holy.”


As if Friday night is not more than enough, there is also¬†all day Saturday. I won’t try to explain that to you, though; I think this picture speaks for itself.