Saturday, February 27, 2016


The lyrics of one of Tim McGraw's songs speaks of a man who gets the chance to "live like you were dying". He relates how in the next several months he tried sky diving, mountain climbing, went a few seconds on a rodeo bull and read the Good Book. Well, I chose to skip the first three but I have enjoyed the adventure of reading the Good Book and just finished it again this week.

Years ago, I went to a church that offered the opportunity during the first week of January to "make this the year you read the whole Bible." They encouraged their members to do so by passing out monthly reminder papers that showed exactly which and how many chapters to read each day to accomplish this feat. Like many others, I eagerly took one of the papers at the beginning of the year but with four kids at home, by the end of January or the beginning of February, when the next paper was handed out, I was so hopelessly behind I could never catch up.  After 'failing' at this endeavor a couple of years in a row, I figured out, getting the whole Bible read in a year's time, was not the important part. The real accomplishment was reading it through, no matter how long it took. So about the third or fourth year, the church offered this challenge, I took my papers but didn't worry when I couldn't finish within the prescribed time limit. I just kept reading, little by little and finished the Bible for the first time, within about two years instead of one.

In doing so, I read chapters I never knew existed and discovered many more I'd heard quoted often but never really understood their context, exactly where they came from or what they were all about. I found quotes I never realized were Biblical, things I'd heard my late mother say many times over the years, and realized once again, how much better read and educated she was than I had ever known during her lifetime.

I learned about the 'writing on the wall' as written about in the book of Daniel and that while the Scriptures did instruct women to 'submit to their husbands', the very next verses cautioned the husbands to 'revere their wives' and lay down their lives for them as Christ did for his church. I learned once again that what Jesus asked most of all was that we love God and love one another and that if we did that, everything else would fall into place. 

Since then I've heard of another way to 'read the Bible through' and I've followed and enjoyed it, completing another complete reading three or four times through. Using three book marks, place one at the beginning of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, one at the beginning of the Book of Job and one at the first chapter of Matthew, the first book of the New Testament. Then, on the first day, read the first chapter of each of those books and continue to read three chapters daily, from these three very different portions of the Bible and the lives and history of the Jews, from which all of Christianity comes. In doing it this way, when you find yourself reading a part of the Bible that tends to make your eyes cross--like parts of Leviticus or Chronicles--you know the next chapter in another book, will be much more interesting or at least, understandable! In doing so, I've read the Bible several more times and look forward to doing it again.

The Bible is an amazing compilation of history, rules to live by and perhaps, most significant of all, the stories of other people's lives and how their experiences can impact the lives of others, even thousands of years later. I once heard it said, if you know someone whose Bible is falling apart, like as not, their life is not. I like that. I think it's time to look for three brand new book marks and start reading again.   

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Defining Myself by Laura L. Valenti

A friend I hadn't seen in a couple of years mentioned as we were catching up that she wished someone she loved didn't work such long hours. I told her that several years ago, I had to re-define myself because like so many working in law enforcement (and various other careers) I had come to feel the long hours, stress and hard work had taken over my life. It struck me that one day I would no longer be a jail administrator and then what? A great many of us face this realization, sooner or later. And for many, the picture is not pretty, with results ranging from depression to alcohol abuse to loss of long-term relationships. I decided I needed a definition of who I am that is permanent, that won't change because of a job or because it is dependent on someone else, like a spouse or a child. It is not that those designations are not important but I didn't feel like they should be the primary description of who I am.

After a bit of thought, I realized that first and foremost, I am a child of God. No matter what happens tomorrow, that will not change, and that prayer and Bible study will sustain me throughout anything that does. (And as my mother used to say, the only constant in this life IS change.) Secondly, I am a child of the three cultures in which I was raised. Most folks are raised in one or maybe two cultures but when I really think about it, my childhood included three different ones. My parents raised my sisters in St. Louis, an American Midwestern city and yet, we spent a great deal of time on my grandparents' farm in southeast Missouri, which was much further away than the 120 miles of highway that separated the two geographically in the 1950s and 60s. They were truly two different worlds. I remember my father having water put into my grandparents' farmhouse as a gift when I was 11 or 12 years old.  I also recall the installation of their first telephone, their particular signal being two long rings, differentiating them from the many neighbors up and down the eight party line. One room school houses were still in operation throughout their county while a decade later, I was graduating in the city from one of the largest high schools in the state, with a senior class of just under 1000 others. Two very different cultures. And then there was the whole Latin culture as we often traveled as a family in Mexico, adventures I relished, which along with later years in El Salvador, have had a dynamic impact on all the rest of my life.

After that, I define myself as a wife, mother and grandmother and finally, as whatever my job of the moment might be. That has included a lifeguard, a position that leaves life long results including training in first aid, CPR, crisis management and the ever present 'don't run' at ANY pool; a Peace Corps volunteer and school teacher; an Ozark trail ride guide, and as I tell folks, I'm still better at saddling a horse than I am at wrangling a computer; a bi-lingual secretary and office manager as well as a jail administrator and most recently, a freelance writer and novelist.

Those job titles are fun, fascinating but ever-changing, more so than any other definition and well they should be. These days, it's all about the writing, another different sort of life, I find myself thinking about in  a most serious way, with the upcoming debut of my sixth novel.

The Heart of the Spring Everlasting, the fourth volume in my Bennett Spring historical series should be available in just another couple of weeks. (Yes, I've become impatient waiting for it, too!) Set in 1967, the latest member of the Darling family, Tabby Shine ran away from home as a teen to the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco but quickly found out that California dreamin' is not what she thought it would be. She, too, finds she has to re-think who she really is.

What would you say if you were asked to define yourself? Write and tell me your answer. I can't wait to hear it!

 Laura L. Valenti, author
The Heart of the Spring,
The Heart of the Spring Lives On,
The Heart of the Spring Comes Home,
The Heart of the Spring Everlasting (March 2016),
Between the Star and the Cross: The Choice and
Between the Star and the Cross: The Election
Ozark Meth: A Journey of Destruction and Deliverance with co-author Dick Dixon

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Valentine's Day Love Story        by Laura L. Valenti    

In our household, we refer to February 14 as VALENTI ne's Day since not many families can claim their own world wide holiday.  As such, I thought about a couple of the great love stories, I've been blessed to find along life's way so I thought I would share one here.

My father was number five in a line of six kids and he and all of his older siblings were married multiple times as none of them seemed to be able to stay with their original spouse. One aunt was actually married eight times to seven different husbands; she married one of them twice. The youngest, however, my Uncle Ronnie was married to my Aunt Clara. They were known throughout the family as the ne'er-do-wells, moving due to mounting debts, chasing three boys the whole time, as Ronnie tried his hand at various jobs and trades. Clara finally took a job about the time the boys were grown, as a dispatcher at a local sheriff's department. She seemed settled there, doing well for a year or two, until the day she came home and told my uncle that she had fallen in love with a deputy, a man younger than her. She told her husband of over 20 years that she was leaving him and moving in with her new love, who had custody of his three younger children.

My uncle contemplated his wife for several moments before responding. When he finally spoke, it was in measured quiet tones. "Clara, more than anything in the world, I want you to be happy but I just can't see how moving in with this man is going to do that. We raised three boys together who are now more grown than not. This man claims to love you but he is also desperate for someone to take care of his young ones. I will not discuss divorce or even legal separation at this point. What I will say, is pack a suitcase and go. Anytime in the next six months, if you want to come home, just do so. We can talk about it or not, your choice. At the end of that six months, we can talk about what comes next but I won't discuss any great changes before that."

Clara angrily packed a bag and left and Ronnie along with his two older teen-aged sons came to visit me the next weekend and told me what was going on. I told him how sorry I was that she was following our family line and that I hoped she would change her mind. I received a phone call about three weeks later from my Aunt Clara. She was almost giddy with excitement as she told me she was home with Ronnie and her boys. "You know," she said. "He did just what he said. I told him I really didn't think I wanted to talk about it and he said that was fine."

I saw Uncle Ronnie and Aunt Clara about once a year or every other year after that, when my father, Ronnie's brother, would come to visit from California or when I would stop by their home in Thayer, near West Plains when I was down that way. They were the only ones of my father's siblings who celebrated a 50th anniversary, a few years before Clara died last year.

Jesus talked about love and forgiveness, for our enemies and for our brothers and sisters. Without a doubt, my uncle's patience, forgiveness and plain old-fashioned forever love, preserved his marriage and his family for another 30 years after that incident. Happy VALENTI ne's Day to you and yours!

 Laura L. Valenti, author
The Heart of the Spring,
The Heart of the Spring Lives On,
The Heart of the Spring Comes Home,
The Heart of the Spring Everlasting (March 2016)
Between the Star and the Cross: The Choice and
Between the Star and the Cross: The Election
Ozark Meth: A Journey of Destruction and Deliverance with co-author Dick Dixon

Friday, February 5, 2016

Political Seasons, Past and Current


I remember the presidential election of 1972. I was in a political science class at the University of Missouri-Columbia as an 'old' freshman, just beginning my college career. It was a lecture class in a large auditorium of over 700 students that could have been painfully boring but instead, it was anything but. The young professor who presided over all of us three mornings a week was incredibly energetic and gifted at illiciting political statements from his students, generally, by poking a microphone under their nose. I'm sorry to say I can no longer recall his name but I will always remember him bounding out from behind the podium and off of the stage, microphone in hand, to charge down the center aisle while posing the latest question from the campaigns to some unsuspecting and often unprepared student. It definitely got our attention and had us thinking more seriously about the issues than a great many of our contemporaries. And for those of us who were seated in the first dozen rows, it literally had us on our toes at all times! I learned, amongst other things, that there was no better time to take a poli sci class than during an election year!

Nearly a dozen presidential campaigns have come and gone since then. I've participated in some and simply observed in a few others, like 1976, when I was living overseas, and the two candidates were both gents I'd never heard of when I left the country in 1973, i.e., Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. I've written politically, from time to time, over the years but I gave it up, partly because my family, from my husband at his job to my grade school children, would end up taking flak for what I wrote. If you have a problem with anything I write, that's fine, but take it up with me, not my loved ones. And in short order, I lost my freelance writing job because my politics didn't jive with the latest newspaper editor. (I did manage to last through five different editors in my time there, however, approximately one a year.)

Sad to say, the timbre of the races has not improved over the decades. And this year is worse than so many others, marked by accusations, recriminations, and hysterical and deliberate falsehoods.

One would think with the rapid availability of information and a video camera on every corner (let alone in everyone's pocket, aka a cell phone), candidates would think twice before spinning tales that can be easily debunked but there seems to be no end to the chutzpa of some.

Still, I find myself is it that we have finally realized that bullying and bullies are a serious enough threat that we are establishing anti-bullying programs in most of our schools, and yet, several of  those leading the race for nation's top office meet the definition criteria of a school yard bully?  If we don't want our kids 'beat up' physically, emotionally or even electronically by bullies anymore, why would we want to elect one as President of the United States of America?