Eight Months and Counting

My camp speaking schedule has prevented me from posting regularly this week—sorry! And I’m a few days late on Samuel’s 8-month birth anniversary, so I need to get cracking! Happy belated birthday, dear one! You are deeply loved! 💙 💙 💙 Here are a few shots of the SamJam, who now loves to army-crawl, giggle, drool, and “sing.” (He did not want to sit still for this photo shoot!) Oh, and he still loves to play “Samuel Sandwich.” 🙂

Both camps have gone very well, so thanks to all those who have been praying. As a left-brainer, I don’t typically emote during messages, but I lost it three times last week during a 2-part sermon on Yom Kippur. All seven feasts powerfully point to Christ and what he has done for us. 

I’m commuting daily for this third camp gig, so I get lots of time in the car to think, pray, and worship. My playlist is so uplifting! Last night I was worn out after the evening session, so I vegged out to Enya’s Dark Sky Island on the way home. I forgot how much I like this album.

Enjoy the rest of your week…and for those in this neck of the woods…I hope you can endure the sweltering heat!

God Sees and Remembers

Yesterday’s rainbow was stunning. The pictures don’t do it justice, but here they are as a reminder of God’s covenant faithfulness.

“Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (Genesis 9:16)


P.S. Why do we still put power lines above our heads rather than below our feet? That really shouldn’t be a thing anymore, and in many countries it’s not.

The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Humility

I was struck by the genuine humility Julie Andrews displayed after receiving the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year. Rare indeed is her talent, but rarer still is the sincere deference she showed to the many folks who work behind the scenes to convey her art to the screen. The clip of her acceptance speech is below. First, however, a little fun…

 💙 🎼 💚 🎹 ❤️ 🎵 💛 🎶 💙 🎼 💚 🎹 ❤️ 🎵 💛

Poolside with the Aquadorable

It’s too early to tell if SamJam is going to carry on the family business of being a competitive swimmer, but early indications are promising. He loves the pool and is fascinated by water. I suspect his lips and toes would have to be blue before he comes out willingly to get dried off and warmed up. He’s the picture of adorableness while poolside, but, of course, I’m forever biased. 💙 💙 💙

On another note, this past week was “let’s try to take some steps” week. He’s not there yet in terms of balance, but he can support his own weight and move his legs in the right direction. I’m astounded at the progress he’s making. Apparently, so is he. He smiles and giggles every time he realizes we’re enamored with his wiggly, jiggly attempts at forward motion. 

Finally, we can file this picture under the heading, “While My Guitar Gently Sleeps.” 

I cackled a bit when I saw it yesterday for the first time, so Bethany put it on him again today for our Sunday night hangout. Do I really need to mention that I had a blast “strumming” his strings? There might have been some pickin’ and grinnin’, too. Oh, and “tuning” the guitar just above the neck also led to some happy moments.

Maybe he’ll be a musician, too. That would fit the family profile.

Have a great week, everyone. Be blessed.

Bonus: The chatty one zooms in on himself!

The Newest Phillies Fan

Our neighbor across the street got SamJam a Phillie Phanatic doll. That was especially kind of him since he’s a Cardinals fan. At first Samuel was perplexed. Then he was intrigued. Then he smiled. Then he giggled. He was quite captivated by the long red tongue sticking out the long green nose. Best mascot ever.

All Chili Dogs Go to Heaven

1. My poor mother-in-law is prepping today for a colonoscopy on Tuesday, so we decided to have our Independence Day picnic yesterday and join her today in a period of, uhm, deprivation. Yeah, that’s the word for it. Deprivation. Nuff said! She continues to decline cognitively, and sometimes it’s a real challenge to know how best to care for her. Something seems to be wrong digestively, too, so we’re getting her checked out. Of course, it could all be mental. Either way, we’ll know soon enough.

2. Yesterday’s picnic treats included chili dogs (with mustard and onions) and a build-your-own sundae bar. We had three kinds of ice cream and about nine or ten different kinds of toppings. The most interesting topping was waffle cone crumbs, which turned out to be delicious. I’ve never had those before, but I saw them at Dutch-Way last week and wanted to try them. I’m pretty sure I could survive on picnic food! Especially chili dogs. All chili dogs go to heaven, right?

3. Since this past weekend was the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863), we watched the extended version of Gettysburg, the poignant 1993 movie starring Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, and Martin Sheen. Just hearing the theme song is enough to get me choked up. Sadly, Gettysburg was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. Officially, 7,863 were killed, 27,224 were wounded, and 11,199 went missing. My great-great-grandfather, Michael Link, fought in that battle and nearly died. I wrote about him here last year. 

4. Our current sermon series on the book of Philemon, which I’ve titled “Squeezed,” is meddling with many of our hearts. Paul’s letter to a first-century friend is only 355 words in the original Greek, but it carries a theological weight far beyond its length. It’s all about forgiveness and reconciliation. I keep thinking about Genesis 33:10b: “To see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.” I had the opportunity last week at a wedding to see quite a few folks from a previous era, and it was a delight to reconnect. The divine Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is pure relationship—perfect unity, diversity, and mutuality, so it’s no wonder the Scriptures keep pressing us to be on good terms with each other to the extent that we’re able. God is completely unified within himself, and he wants his people to reflect him in this way by being unified as well. Something to think about before it’s too late.

5. Since I was recently dubbed “Instagramps” by a good friend of the family, I’ll need to live up to my new name and end with a few shots of Samuel. Apparently, he’ll be driving soon. 🙂

EDIT: Bonus Fourth of July Pics:

Seven Pics for Seven Months

Samuel continues to be a great joy and delight to our whole family. Two days ago he turned seven months old. His parents are doing a great job with him, and it’s fun to watch them in action. I treasure every moment I get to be with this little guy—and that’s almost every day. I am supremely blessed. 💙💙💙💙💙💙💙

Adopted Twice: How I Became ‘One Less’ Orphan in the World

Best I can tell, the day of my conception was July 1, so happy pre-birthday to me! Here’s the story. A young woman living in Philadelphia, PA met a military guy passing through town. In time she became pregnant by this man, which was totally unexpected. Not wanting to stick around for the delivery (or the subsequent duties of fatherhood), the guy split, and the pregnant lady was left alone. “What man would want to be with me now?” she thought to herself.

But eventually she became romantically involved with another man, even though she was pregnant, and the new relationship seemed like it might fare better than the previous one. There was, however, one complication. The new guy on the scene wasn’t so sure he could accept—as his own—a child sired by another man. “I want you,” he said to his new sweetheart, “but I’m not so sure I want the baby inside you.”

So, a decision was made. When the baby finally came, he or she would be placed in a foster home. Abortion was not legal at the time, so their options were limited. The young woman had to carry the baby to term. Pre-born children back then were protected in law and welcomed in life.

baby-toes-mom-hands

The Following Spring

On March 31 the baby was born and placed immediately—as planned—into a foster home. It was a boy. Because he was unwanted, unplanned, and unloved, he needed a place to stay. Enter the Children’s Aid Society of Philadelphia. “We’ll find parents for the boy,” they said. “We understand full well that one couple’s ‘mistake’ is another couple’s dream—the answer to all their prayers—a blessing from heaven.” 

“Miss Andrews” from the Children’s Aid Society went to work. Her labors eventually paid off. On April 20 of the following year, another young couple—this one from Reading, Pennsylvania—walked out of the Berks County Courthouse the proud new legal parents of that baby boy.

This couple could not produce children of their own, but they could receive children of their own. And they did so through the miracle of adoption. In fact, this was their second of three trips down the adoption aisle, and they were thrilled with their new bundle of joy each time.

I am that second child—the adopted child of Carl and Cherie Valentino. This unwanted boy was wanted after all. And that’s why I am “one less”—one less orphan in the world today. I was an orphan for just thirteen months of my life.

A Word of Thanks

To all those who are reading this post who have fostered a child, adopted a child, or provided resources for others to do the same, let me offer a sincere “thank you.”

valentino-tim-headshot-2017

I am here today because of people like you.

I owe my very existence to people like you.

I can write this post today because of people like you.

You are the people who are filled with compassion, who genuinely care, and who not only love children but reach out to expectant mothers in crisis, too.

Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “Before we ever had a being in this world, we had a being in God’s heart.” That’s one of the great truths we find in Psalm 139, which tells us that God knits us together in our mother’s womb.

God Almighty has a plan and a purpose for every child—each tiny miracle conceived in the secret place and fashioned so wondrously by the Master Artist. Those plans are to give the little ones a future and a hope, just like he did for me. That’s why his art studio should not be firebombed.

The Beauty of Adoption

It’s an amazing thing for me to think about:

  •  I didn’t have a home, but through adoption the Valentinos gave me one.
  •  I didn’t have a name, but through adoption the Valentinos gave me one.
  •  I didn’t have a family, but through adoption the Valentinos gave me one.
  •  I didn’t have an inheritance, but through adoption the Valentinos gave me one.

I didn’t have food, clothing, shelter, money, hope or love, but through adoption the Valentino’s gave me all of those things, and so much more. Through a binding legal covenant, sealed in a court of law, I became the real child of Carl and Cherie Valentino. It may sound like a cliché, but it’s true: Adoption is the option everybody can live with. Literally.

A Spiritual Illustration

When I read in scripture that God has “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:15), I get excited because I have a little bit of “lived insight” into that great truth. When we believe into Christ, everything changes.

  •  Spiritually speaking, we didn’t have a home, but God gave us one in Christ.
  •  Spiritually speaking, we didn’t have a name, but God gave us a new one, written down in the Book of Life.
  •  Spiritually speaking, we didn’t have a family, but God put us in one—his church, the Body of Christ.
  •  Spiritually speaking, we didn’t have an inheritance, but God gave us “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places” and a salvation that can “never rot, perish, spoil or fade away.”

In that sense, I’ve been adopted twice, and I thank the Lord that he has allowed me to share this good news as a minister of the gospel.

heart-hands-cross

They Told Us Early

Mom and Dad told us right from the beginning that all three of us were adopted. They were proud of that fact, and they wanted us to be proud of it, too, so they told us when we were very young. In fact, I think we were a little too young. I was maybe four or five years old, and I just didn’t know what the word “adoption” meant, so I formulated my own definition based upon the context of what they were telling us.

I thought the word “adoption” meant some legal arrangement whereby no matter how bad we three kids were, mom and dad couldn’t give us back; they had to keep us! The other kids in the neighborhood—if they were bad enough, their parents could give them back at any time because they didn’t have this special arrangement called adoption.

Spiritually speaking, that’s not a half-bad definition of adoption! Having become a child of God by faith in Jesus Christ, we’re in the family of God to stay (John 8:35).

The Card That Came with Me

It was fascinating to me—and hopefully encouraging to you—that there was a greeting card that accompanied me on my journey from Philadelphia to Reading. I got to see it for the first time a few years ago.

card-new-baby-mom

It was a card from my foster family, and it was addressed to “Timmie’s Parents.” (Now, if anybody tries to call me “Timmie,” you’re dead meat!)

It’s clear from the language in that card that the foster parents who took care of me for 13 months were people of faith. They were followers of Christ.

I don’t know their names. In fact, I don’t know anything about them except this: They had a very powerful ministry to children in need. The card indicates that they had prayed for me, for my new home, for my new siblings, and for my new parents.

The Valentinos were far from a perfect family, but I believe that God honored their prayers. In fact, those prayers are why I’m here today. And to those prayers, I would like to add my own grateful “amen.”

Image Credit: https://www.adoption-connections.com

Goodness, Gracious, Great Balls of Memories

I know a few folks who have a bad case of fibromyalgia, and it doesn’t look fun. Recently, I’ve been suffering from a bad case of fibro-nostalgia. It’s certainly not as debilitating as chronic pain, but it sure can cause the mind to wander and the productivity to drop. I blame the latest flareup on my son.

Drew took me to see the new Top Gun movie on Father’s Day. It’s not a tear-jerker, but I found myself getting plenty choked up numerous times over the course of the film. Some of the feels were because I was, well, with my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Some were because of the constant allusions back to the original movie. Maybe I subconsciously thought of that era as my heyday. Or maybe I’m just a sniveling wuss. 🙂

“Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler had been out for a couple years and was still popular back then. “Amanda” by Boston could be heard everywhere, along with “Say You, Say Me” by Lionel Richie. “Manic Monday” by the Bangles had just hit the radio, and I really liked that song because they included my name in it. 🙂 And, of course, “Highway to the Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins made its debut in Top Gun

Other top artists back then included Bon Jovi, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Robert Palmer, and a slew of others. I didn’t care too much for Boy George or Madonna, but I (mostly) enjoyed Rush, Journey, Phil Collins, and REO Speedwagon. The Doors had flashes of brilliance, but their corpus was generally too dark for my taste. After I met Jesus, I wanted to make some adjustments to my collection, anyway.

Kate Christensen was surely right: “Nostalgia is a powerful drug. Under its influence, ordinary songs take on dimensions and powers, like emotional superheroes.” That said, I’m still more interested in tomorrow. As Anne Shirley Cuthbert put it, “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it…yet.” 

Come to think of it. I could get pretty nostalgic about Anne of Green Gables, too. Bethany and her friends used to watch the Megan Follows version, which was adorable and extremely well done. (And—while it’s a completely different approach, not to mention earthy, dark, and raw—Anne with an E really should keep going, and the producers should finish what they started. We were all left hanging.)

Anyway, back to the present. The best days are ahead.

Toasting Samuel on Father’s Day 2022

I’ve written before about my adorably delicious Samuel Sandwich gig—a fun little game I play with SamJam every time he comes to my house. You might remember that two pillows serve as the top and bottom slices of “bread.” Together they encase the “Samuel meat” and the tickling “condiments” he receives (endures?) from me before I gobble him up.

Well, for Father’s Day this year, I received two pillows that look like bread to give our game a touch of authenticity—one from Micah and Bethany, and one from Sonya. They were the funniest gifts I think I’d ever received, and I couldn’t stop laughing after I opened them. Of course, I had to try them out right away:

Micah and Bethany also got me a whipped cream spoon (long story, maybe for another post), and two beautiful cards that got me seriously choked up. Sonya got me a few polo shirts and a Japanese maple tree, something I’ve always wanted to get but never did. Her card was excessively kind, too.

Andrew took me to see the new Top Gun movie, which was fantastic. He also sprang for snacks at the theater, so he might need to take out a loan to pay for them! 🙂 It was great for just the two of us to hang out for a while. He’s a wonderful young man.

All this was after a great morning at church and family lunch at our favorite local Italian restaurant. Best Father’s Day ever. I am supremely blessed.

‘I Dedicate You to the Lord’

“For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him.” (1 Samuel 1:27)

There’s more to the passage:

“So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:28)

That’s the deep desire of Samuel’s parents, Micah and Bethany, so we dedicated Samuel to the Lord today in church.

Thanks, Pastor Tanner, for your assistance!


The Dedication of Samuel James White
Sunday, June 12, 2022

Twenty-seven hundred years ago, the prophet Jeremiah wrote these words, “The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart’” (Jeremiah 1:5). God had a plan and a purpose for Jeremiah—even before he was born. The same is true of you and me today. God has a plan and a purpose for us.

King David wrote, “Lord…you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:13, 16). From God’s perspective, no one is here by accident. Before any of us had a place in this world, we had a place in God’s heart. 

We are precious in his sight, and we are valuable to him because we’re made in his image. Young children remind us of that great truth, and that truth is on display here today as we dedicate a child back to the Lord who gave him to us.

The home is God’s chosen instrument for loving and caring for young children, and the primary means by which they learn the sacred truths of Holy Scripture. In other words, discipleship begins at home with believing parents. And so, we dedicate not only our newborn children to the Lord, we dedicate their parents as well, because their responsibilities are great.

In Deuteronomy 6, God said to believing parents through Moses: “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). So, learning God’s ways does not begin in Sunday school. It begins in the home. The church can supplement and support the home, but it can never replace the home.

This morning we’re dedicating one child to the Lord—Samuel James White, of whom Jesus would say, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14).

Samuel’s parents will now affirm their intentions by responding to several questions. Micah and Bethany:

Inasmuch as God has given you the gift of Samuel James, will you now consecrate him to God and His service, and will you publicly acknowledge that in so doing, you are submitting yourselves to God’s will for his life, whatever that may involve?

“We will.”

Will you be responsible for bringing Samuel to corporate worship, and teaching him reverence for the Lord and appreciation for his people?

“We will.”

Will you instruct Samuel in the Word of God and encourage him to obey the sacred Scriptures?

“We will.”

Will you endeavor to lead Samuel to know and receive Jesus Christ by faith as his personal Savior and Lord?

“We will.”

Will you teach Samuel, as soon as he is able to understand, the nature and purpose of this dedication?

“We will.”

And finally, will you dedicate yourselves as parents to live godly lives so that Samuel will see Christ in you?

“We will.”

And do you, the family of God here at this church, promise to encourage these parents in godly living and in the rearing of their child in the fear and admonition of the Lord?

“We will.”

Samuel James White, I dedicate you to the Lord in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. May you come to know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior at a young age, and may you grow to love him, serve him, follow him, and enjoy him all the days of your life. Amen.

And now, church, would you help me teach Samuel the most important thing he (or anyone else) could ever learn? [Singing:]

Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong 
They are weak, but he is strong

Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me

The Bible tells me so

Amen.

After the service, the whole family gathered to celebrate at Ozgood’s Neighborhood Grill in Robesonia, PA. 


Bonus: Several parishioners told me they were placing bets on where in the dedication service I would get choked up. They were disappointed when I made it all the way through to the end without incident. What they didn’t see is that Samuel fell asleep in my arms a short time later during the praise and worship time. That’s when the floodgates opened. I suppose it was the only time in church history when a dedication was immediately followed by a baptism of the same person. 🙂 Since I couldn’t sing at that point, I just made the song lyrics my quiet prayer for SamJam:

Spirit of the living God
Spirit of the living God
We’re leaning in to all You are
Everything else can wait

Spirit of the living God
Spirit of the living God
Come now and breathe upon our hearts
Come now and have Your way

’Cause when You speak, and when You move
When You do what only You can do
It changes us
It changes what we see and what we seek

Thank You, Lord…and Thank You to All Who Prayed

Now that the joyful blubbering has subsided, I can see well enough to type out a brief update for those who prayed for our precious little Samuel. Readers of TNL may remember that we were concerned about the health of his kidneys and the “painful pees” he would have from time to time. When those traumatic episodes took place, we could do nothing but cry along with him, begging God to give him some relief.

About a month and a half ago, those awful events just stopped, so we were hopeful. Bethany called about an hour ago to relay the good news she received from the nephrologist: The one kidney is clear, the other kidney is stable, and there are no stones or dangerous debris.

Hallelujah!

Praise the Lord!

Thank you, Jesus!

There are, or course, innumerable things in this world that we often feel the need to lament, so it’s totally uplifting when there’s something wonderful to celebrate. As such, I’m going to “Raise a Hallelujah” right now and rejoice in Jesus Christ, my “Living Hope.” Feel free to join in. The fallen world being what it is, we’ll all get back to lament soon enough.

My sincere thanks to all who prayed.

You, too, are precious.

Thank you, dear Lord, our Great Physician, for watching over little Samuel and healing his kidneys. Protect him as he grows. And grant your healing grace to the children of all parents and grandparents whose dear ones need a miracle touch from your nail-scarred hands. Amen.

A Mini-Milestone for the Munchkin

Our beloved Samuel has been part of the family now for six months (plus nine months in utero). He was born on December 1, 2021, so today is the 6-month anniversary of his birth. I’m incredibly blessed to have him in my life. His smile melts my heart, and his laugh—which is getting longer and louder—adds joy to everyone in the room. 

This round of anniversary pictures includes a Phillies theme, not that they’re worthy of his endorsement. 🙂 In fact, adding SamJam to their lineup could only improve things, as the team is tanking again this year despite some good off-season acquisitions. C’est la vie. We’re lifelong fans, not fair-weather friends. 

Anyway, Samuel is “halfway to first,” as they say, so enjoy these snaps of our little slugger.

Bonus:

I posted this shot a few days ago, but I’m including it today because it’s quintessential Samuel—smiling, pleasant, curious, and enthusiastic. Don’t you just want to kiss him and squeeze him?!

Roses and Rhododendrons

On Memorial Day 2022, the front yard roses are in full bloom while the lovely rhododendrons are coming to the end of their run. The white peonies are looking good, and the viola northern lights (if that’s what they are—maybe I should get that flora ID app) are coming along nicely.

Hopefully, the yellow marigolds will fare better than the petunias did last year. Alas, I couldn’t get my hands on red and yellow zinnias this year, so I went with red and white geraniums. I’m pulling for them! Finally, it’s time to put together the hanging baskets. There are a total of ten around the house, so I need to get cracking!