Portable Magic: Thus, It Begins

I got a text from my daughter yesterday. It said, very simply, “Samuel is trying to catch up to grandpa.” That was a reference to the beginnings of his book collection after they shelved everything received at the baby shower on Saturday. Check it out:

SamJam is way ahead of where I was two months before delivery. Still, he has some ground to make up. When I add my hard copy books to the items I have in my Logos library and on my Kindle, the grand total is around 14,000 volumes. Depending on his vocation and interests, he may inherit quite a few of them!

Why I’m excited for him:

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King 

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies….The man who never reads lives only one.” 
― George R. R. Martin 

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” 
― C. S. Lewis

“We read to know we’re not alone.” 
― William Nicholson

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” 
― Lemony Snicket

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” 
― Oscar Wilde

“Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly.” 
― Sir Francis Bacon

And remember, dear one:

“Life is God’s novel. Let him write it.” 
― Isaac Bashevis Singer

“Love at first sight.” A thank you note and gift from SamJam for organizing the baby shower.

And the Winner Is: Diaper Pong!

Now that was a baby shower! What a great turnout. And we all had a wonderful time. (Alas, I had to slip out to teach a class for a couple hours, but I got my share of celebrating in.) Everyone was so kind and thoughtful. Bethany’s network of support really came through to bless her with practical items needed by a first-time mom. It was the power of love and community in action, and I was touched. It was also great to see so many old friends and out-of-town family members.

My favorite game was Diaper Pong. Bounce a ping pong ball into an open diaper hanging on a board and win a prize. I tried to persuade my daughter that first prize should be a bowl of chocolate pudding with a glass of lemonade, but she vetoed the idea. (Yes, 7th grade humor is my specialty.) The Make-a-Onesie station was also a hit. My favorite design was the one that said, “I’m always getting picked up by the ladies.” Ha! I’ll remind him of that when he’s 16 or 17. It was a self-catered event, and everyone pulled together to pull it off. We couldn’t have asked for a better team or a lovelier day. 

So, now it’s getting real. Samuel is on his way, and we’re doing our best to get ready for him. What Peter said of Jesus could be said of SamJam, too: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you…are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). Amen.

Along with the joy is a prayer request. Bethany’s placenta needs to move about 1.8 cm in the next seven weeks to be able to deliver naturally. Otherwise, it will be a C-section. She’s not opposed to that since her platelets are low, which would prevent her from getting an epidural. That does not sound appealing to her at all! So, the general prayer is for the safety of both mother and child, and the wisdom to make good decisions when the time comes. Thanks for remembering her to the Lord.

Oddly enough, my son and I got into a fun conversation today about the Styx song “Come Sail Away.” Stranger things have happened, I suppose, but that was kind of random. We talked about surface meanings and hidden meanings, and the universal quest to journey toward love. Since “sailing away” fits with the nautical theme of the shower, I’ll include it below.

Have a great rest of the weekend! 

Thanks for coming!
Coffee, tea, water, and blue punch coming up.
Homemade desserts by Mimi (Samuel’s paternal grandmother).
Setting sail with homemade cupcakes.
A place for guest pictures.
Instructions for the Onesie station.
Mom and dad’s gift opening station.
The “Guess Which Family Member” contest. (My “Gotcha Day” picture is in there. Can you tell which one?)
Just waiting for the meatballs and the chicken salad.
I think we’re ready to go.
Guests begin to gather.
A fellow adoptee…and a little cutie!
Everyone was supposed to bring a used book. We gave Bethany her very first Bible (which we’ve kept over the years) to give to her son. The Word of God will be here long after we’re gone.
Our gift to Samuel.
Mom and dad reacting to a cool pair of mini cowboy boots.

Ship Ahoy!

Some family life updates, etc….

1. We have beautiful chaos chez Valentino this weekend. SamJam’s baby shower is this Saturday, so there’s been a flurry of activity lately getting everything ready and set up. Fortunately, we’ve had a couple of productive days, and all we need to do yet is put the food out and finish up a few displays and activity centers. We’re holding the event in the seminary fellowship hall, which is the perfect size for a group of 70-80 people. The nautical theme my daughter chose is adorable. I wonder if it portends another swimmer in the family. Below are a few snaps of the room in its current state. Hopefully, more will be coming when it’s all complete.

2. We also have several relatives from out of town staying with us right now. It almost feels like Christmas. My sister-in-law is trying to learn French for an upcoming trip to Paris, so it’s fun to have a conversation partner. She’s doing well so far, and her vocabulary is increasing. French is harder to hear and comprehend than it is to read and understand because of all the silent letters it contains. Nevertheless, le français est la langue de l’amour, n’est-ce pas? Je pense que c’est très romantique. I’m very much looking forward to going back to Paris someday. England, too. The sights, sounds, tastes, and smells are magical. The theatres and museums are also amazing. Did I just write “theatre” instead of “theater”? 🙂

3. My students are killing it this semester. It’s a dream come true to teach at a theological seminary, and it’s way beyond a dream to be able to teach at the doctoral level, too. This crop of students is motivated, humble, curious, and wise. I love spending time with them. All told, I’ll be teaching, co-teaching, or assisting in 15 different courses this academic year. That’s kind of ridiculous, but I’m having a blast. Blessedly, there’s not a lot of academic snoot in our neck of the woods. The folks in my cohorts are eager to learn, not showcase what they already know for the sake of self-aggrandizement. As Paul said, “Knowledge puff us. Love builds up.”

4. I structured one of our sub-master courses around the simple question, “Who is God? Who’s asking? And why does it matter?” That’s enough to keep us busy for an entire semester! In another course, we’re drilling down on what it means to be made imago dei, in the image of God. What an eye opener! I can’t wait to post some of my research on that, but, alas, the dissertation comes first. We’re also doing a lot of self-awareness work, personality inventories, and family-of-origin analyses, including genograms. There’s been a lot of vulnerability among the students, and a whole lot of laughs, too. They inspire me to keep learning and growing myself. It’s been a while since I’ve taken the MBTI, so I’m eager to see if any of my PCIs have shifted in recent years. 

5. On Sunday, we’ll be holding a service of remembrance for one of the two church buildings we’re in the process of selling. It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate what God has done in those special places before stepping into the future in a new place. (The congregational unity in this venture has been amazing.) My mind often goes back to similar places and spaces where God made himself known to me or blessed me abundantly through other people—whether through words, hugs, prayers, encouragement, conversation, or music. I have so many of those moments to look back on with delight–especially the hugs! As Michael W. Smith used to sing, “Friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them.” Exactly right. So, what we’re really celebrating this Sunday is God and his people—as they intersected our lives at specific times and in specific locations along the journey. We’ll do a similar service of remembrance for the other church next month.

6. Finally, I’m coming to the end of my Madam Secretary binge. For the most part, I’ve really enjoyed it. Next up is a collection of short-series period dramas, like Sense and SensibilityPride and Prejudice, Emma, Jane Eyre—all those good BBC productions. (Can you tell I’m ready to go back to England?) Actually, I want to re-watch these highly regarded flicks because my brain can’t hold anything new for a while. It’s already on overdrive from the academic load and the dissertation. Besides, my PCIs may change, but my tastes do not. ❤️📚 💙 📺 💛💻💚

Have a great weekend, everyone, and enjoy the blessings of God this beautiful time of year.

Welcome aboard!
Favor table.
Table setting with activity pack.
Dessert table with forthcoming theme-based cupcakes.
Another activity table. (One not shown here is a table for the game of ‘Diaper Pong.’ Hmmm.)
Stamp a building block for Samuel to play with.
Make a onesie for SamJam.
Banner above the special chairs for the new mommy and daddy.
Guess which member of the Valentino or White family each baby picture represents. And guess who authored the children’s book. 🙂
Cards of encouragement for the new parents.
Bethany showing off her baby shower nails at our daddy-daughter lunch date today.

‘Old Blue Eyes’ singing a tune from Ship Ahoy!

Munchkin Update

O.k., my kids aren’t exactly munchkins anymore, but they’re still my kids. And one of them is carrying a munchkin, so there’s that. 🙂

Andrew continues working on a variety of projects in his new media business, AVM. He’s doing audiobooks, voiceovers, real estate photography, special occasion videography, editing, etc. He lives about an hour away right now, so we get to see him weekly, which is wonderful. He has even been worshiping with us each week and will be providing some church tech support in the near future. I got to see him last night when we met at the Hamburg Area High School for the Hawks’ game against Conrad Weiser, where I got to see my niece and nephew in action (cheering and coaching).

One of our favorite things to do is watch movies and discuss them. We just finished binging season 2 of The Chosen. My favorite line of the series so far is where the keeper of a certain house says one of the rooms is haunted by his dead grandmother, and Jesus replies, “Oooo, I’ll take that one.” Drew is excited to be acting in the local community theater production of Grease with a good (and super talented) friend from high school.

Bethany became my part-time personal assistant this week, as well as a caretaker for her grandmother. She knocked it out of the park on both counts, and her administrative assistance will help me stay focused on writing my dissertation. (I had a wonderful meeting yesterday with my dissertation committee and was greenlighted for the next stage.) Her background in medical administration has given her some skills for charting the dynamics of my mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s. That can only help in an already challenging situation.

Her new dress for the baby shower came yesterday, so she tried it on and then asked me to take a few pictures. The shower is next Saturday, and about 70 people are planning to attend. Many are coming in from out of state, so it will be a busy weekend. I’m thrilled that she and her husband live less than 15 minutes from our house.

Samuel had the hiccups for the first time this week, but I already told you that. 🙂 I struggled a bit with the news that I was becoming a grandpa because, as I like to say, “I’m too young to be this old,” and “I thought it would take longer to get this old.” But a slight graying of the temples has begun, so maybe it’s time. When I was a competitive swimmer, my hair was three or four shades lighter because of the chlorine. It also gets a bit lighter in the summer these days, too. Maybe the graying effect will help me lighten up—on the age thing, too. 🙂 Well, at least I still have hair! 🙂

O.k., four smiley faces are enough for one post, and I need to switch gears anyway. So, have a great weekend, everyone, and thanks for stopping by. Blessings to all.

In addition to which…

Bethany and I just finished decorating the fireplace shelves in our living room. Thank you, Hobby Lobby!

A Million Dreams Are Keeping Me Awake

Just a little bit of this and that as I take a brief break from the books.

1. Fall is magical. As Khalil Gibran has said, “Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” In a similar vein, Ralph Waldo Emerson has said, “The earth laughs in flowers.” (See what I did there? Vein…) 🙂  Anyway, the crisp colors and beauty of this season always refresh my soul.

2. Speaking of laughter, six-year-olds laugh an average of 300 times a day. Adults only laugh 15-100 times a day. Be six again. (O.k., feel free to accuse me of being silly—but only after you read Proverbs 17:22. Life is too short to be curmudgeonly all the time.)

3. Martin Niemöller’s robe and preaching collar are now the property of the seminary where I work. I hope to do a short post on that in the near future. Niemöller is not really a household name, but he should be. (“They came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew….”) See, I can be un-silly, too.

4. “I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.” So said C. S. Lewis. Amen to that! Which books do you find yourself re-reading? Oh, you don’t read? As the adage goes (often misattributed to Mark Twain), “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t.”

5. The Phillies are just two games back. Why do they always get close enough to give us hope but linger far enough behind to break our hearts? Fortunately, it doesn’t sting as much as it used to. While I thoroughly enjoy the game of baseball, I’m no longer a fan of professional sports.

6. On a happier note, SamJam (Samuel James) is just two months away from coming into view. I suppose I’ll be more of a puddle than usual this Christmas, getting to hold a newborn and all. This little guy is just the third blood relative I will have gotten to meet on the planet. What an honor!

7. Speaking of Christmas, I probably won’t be able to write too many original posts this year on the Incarnation—one of the richest, deepest, most profound subjects we could ever ponder. So, I’m thinking of doing some re-posts of the more popular ones I’ve done over the past few years. Since that almost feels like cheating, I’m hoping to write at least one original post this year. 

8. My Advent series this year will focus on the history and theology of the carol “O Holy Night.” I did my own translation of it several years ago and discovered that the English version is way off the original French. Nevertheless, the lyrics are still poignant, and the tune is hauntingly beautiful. My favorite line is, “Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.” This concept is the next unit for two of the seven classes I’m teaching this semester. The Scripture pulsates with the sentiment, though we often try to obscure it. As Karen Salmansohn put it, “When you realize how much you’re worth, you’ll stop giving people discounts.”

9. Finally, here are two songs for your weekend pleasure. The first is Disturb’s cover of “The Sound of Silence,” a song about incommunicability. It’s really a lament about individuals who are physically close to each other but still separated by their inability to communicate. They speak without expressing any substantive content, and they hear without really listening. The realm of silence, into which the noisy nothings of this world often crash, is painful to the author.

The second song is much brighter. It’s the One Voice Children’s Choir performing “A Million Dreams” from The Greatest Showman. I love this group of young people, and I find the musical itself quite entertaining. In fact, my son and I have talked about doing a Friday night sing-along of the whole show. (All recording devices will be confiscated before we push play on the DVD!)

Thanks for reading. And have a lovely weekend!

P.S., Hurricane “Sam” is headed to the East Coast. Yeah, we knew that. (See #6 above.) 🙂

What’s That Dog Doing in My Car?

1.  Yesterday I walked out of the hardware store and started getting into my SUV. Or so I thought. (Hey, it looked just like mine!) I realized something was wrong when I saw a big dog staring back at me, growling. Fortunately, the creature was rather tame, but, oh what a fright he gave me! The real embarrassment was that the driver was still in the vehicle when I tried to fob my way into it! With her window rolled down, she smiled and said, “No worries, I do that all the time.” Glad to know I’m not the only one. Chalk it up to academic fatigue, I guess. (Yeah, that’s better than calling myself an airhead.) 

2.  I’m still plowing through my dissertation, and it’s wonderfully exhausting. I love the subject matter (more on that later), but academic research and writing are tedious and time-consuming. Still, I’ve learned so much, and I can’t wait to share the results. All in good time. Last I checked, my bibliography is 32 pages long, and that’s only half the entries. Yes, I’m insane, but I totally dig doing targeted research.

3.  Speaking of insanity, when I lay out the syllabi for all the courses I’m teaching this semester, there’s no room left for anything else on the table. Not even a coffee cup. Still, I’m having a blast gearing up for the new term. The only frustration has been moving from Canvas to Pathwright. It’s not a terribly difficult learning platform, but there’s a learning curve, and my muscle memory needs to be retrained. Courses begin on Monday.

4.  All these ventures leave little time for getting in the pool lately, but I do still get out for long, brisk walks. I can almost smell the fall season approaching. That’s nearly as good as the smell of coffee. 🙂

5.  My mother-in-law’s garden has exploded this year. We’ve gotten so much produce from just a 64-SF bed that we started putting some of it in front of the house with a FREE sign on it. Tomatoes, lettuce, squash, zucchini, green peppers, cucumbers—what a harvest!

6.  Samuel is due in about three months—another image bearer of God! What a profound mystery. I love the little munchkin already.

Well, time to get back at it. I do miss writing general posts and all the other features I used to do (e.g., Throwback Thursday, Friday Fun, etc.), but this is just a season. I’ll get back at it when I can. Thanks, everyone, for your support and encouragement. 

Have a great weekend. Be blessed!

EDIT: Our church is singing “Goodness of God” tomorrow for the first time. I’m taking some tissues with with me.

A Lovely Look at Divine Knitting

Justin Taylor yesterday posted the video, “Meet Baby Olivia,” which he rightly dubbed “the world’s most realistic animation of the development of a baby within her mother’s womb.”  It’s a beautiful and medically accurate portrayal of life within the womb, from fertilization to birth. 

It moved me to worship, and maybe it will inspire you, too. I have a nephew whose wife is expecting any day now, and a daughter who is expecting in three months. We’re praying for them both, along with their sons on the way (James and Samuel, respectively).

The journey these children take before delivery is breathtaking So many things have to go right for it to end (and begin) well. The real miracle is that it ever does. The miracle is life itself.

Psalm 139:13-16

For you created my inmost being; 
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 
My frame was not hidden from you 
when I was made in the secret place. 
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 
your eyes saw my unformed body. 
All the days ordained for me 
were written in your book 
before one of them came to be.

Fertilization
Olivia’s life begins and her gender, ethnicity, hair color, eye color, and other traits are determined.

Week 1
Olivia implants in the lining of her mother’s uterus, where she’ll live for the next 9 months.

Week 3
By week three, Olivia’s heartbeat can be detected, her brain and gastrointestinal tract have begun to form, and the cells for her nerves, blood, and kidney have appeared. Her mother may know of Olivia’s existence through a pregnancy test at this stage.

Week 4
At just four weeks, the buds of Olivia’s arms are and legs are visibly forming, and the right and left hemispheres of her brain are beginning to take shape.

Weeks 5–6
At weeks five and six, Olivia moves spontaneously and reflexively, her bones begin to develop, and her brain activity can be recorded.

Weeks 7–8
Olivia can bring her hands together, she can hiccup, she has had over one million heartbeats, and her ovaries and the cells needed for future generations of children are present.

Weeks 9–10
Olivia’s stage of human development now classifies her as a fetus. She can suck her thumb, swallow, grasp an object, touch her face, sigh, and stretch out in her mother’s womb.

Weeks 11–14
Olivia can play in the womb and her taste buds have matured to discrete tastebuds. By week 14, Olivia’s lips and nose are fully formed, she makes complex facial expressions, and her mother can finally feel her movements.

Weeks 15–16
The neuron multiplication of Olivia’s brain is mostly complete and she is sensitive to touch. At this stage of development, ultrasounds can detect speaking movements in her voice box and her teeth are beginning to grow.

Weeks 19–21
By 19 weeks old, her heart has beaten over 20 million times. At 21 weeks old, Olivia could survive outside of the womb with much medical assistance.

Week 27
Olivia can recognize her parents’ voices and will react to sudden loud noises. Her eyes respond to light, and she also has a functioning sense of smell.

Week 38
Olivia exhibits breathing movements, she can produce tears, her umbilical cord is typically twenty to twenty-four inches long, and she will weigh between six and eight pounds at birth.