Read Dana's Valley Online

Authors: Janette Oke

Tags: #ebook, #book

Dana's Valley

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© 2001 by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan

Published by Bethany House Publishers

11400 Hampshire Avenue South

Bloomington, Minnesota 55438

Ebook edition created 2011

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

ISBN 978-1-4412-7024-5

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Cover design by Paul Higdon

Cover photograph by Patrick Orton/Getty Images

Dedicated with love

to Edward and Marvin,

who have been both supportive and encouraging,

not only in regard to our writing

but in every area of our lives.

We love you both.



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two


I slipped the butterfly bookmark between the pages of the journal and gazed out the window of my bedroom. I had been determined to keep any tears in check, but the familiar handwriting and the long-ago memories filled up my heart and tugged at my emotions, and I wiped at my damp cheek. It was more nostalgia than pain, though, that evoked my deep feelings. I guess I was rather surprised when I realized that fact. Then came sweet relief, and I felt myself smile as I picked up the book to continue my perusal. But I didn't resume reading immediately. I sat staring at the small volume in my hands, musing silently. The journal's story was not mine—but it was so intricately involved with my own personal journey that the words on the page seemed like my own.

Perhaps it is only when we are deemed adults that we really begin to understand, to appreciate, to evaluate our formative years. I think it has certainly been so for me. Looking back, I feel I am beginning to put some events from those years into a broader context. I am discovering the roots of the values I hold dear. Those mental images of childhood I have now been able to frame and arrange in some kind of order so I can step back and look at how I have been shaped into who I am. My understanding of life, of its joys and struggles, of family and of relationships, of how they mold and stretch us beyond who we might have been on our own, takes on new significance.

I know no family is perfect. But I also know that my average midwestern Christian family tackled the changes and trials we faced remarkably well, all things considered. Our parents must have started us out with a pretty solid base—or our story might have had an entirely different ending. We are closer to one another now than we have ever been.

My understanding of my heavenly Father—who He is, how He loves us—has been changed as well. This fuller view of God can only happen when one has faced challenges and trials, when one has been stretched beyond what is secure and comfortable. God is now more real, more present, more involved, in every part of my life. As my grandmother shared recently with me over a cup of tea, that is indeed the goal of our journey here on earth.

But perhaps you will understand more fully what I am attempting to say if I tell our family's story. To do that, I must take you back some years. …

Chapter One

By outward appearance you could have thought that the small stuccoed Cape Cod tucked in among the still-barren trees at 129 Maple Street was empty and silent. You would have been wrong. And only in the dusk of the early morning hours could such a mistaken impression have been possible. We were a family of six, with kids ranging in ages from four to fourteen, and our home was seldom quiet. Even this early, there had been stirrings for a couple of hours—more or less—and my mother, who hummed as she moved about the kitchen preparing another in an endless procession of meals, was soon to make sure the activity would increase.

“Brett. Girls. Time to be up.”

The call drifted up the stairs along with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and frying bacon. Newly awakened from slumber, I sniffed to sort out the beckoning smells. Even coffee smelled good when it wafted in on the morning air. I'd tasted it once and found that the fragrance was deceiving. No wonder ten-year-olds were normally denied the privilege. To my thinking, it didn't taste nearly as good as it smelled. But bacon—that was some~thing else. It also was an unexpected treat on a school morning.

“Dana and Erin.” This time the volume was turned up a notch.

I opened an eye and sneaked a peek at my sister to see if she was stirring. Light was beginning to filter through the blinds, and I could just distinguish her face above the motionless lump of pink comforter on her bed. We had always engaged in a contest of wills to see who would move first.

Dana still had not opened her eyes, but she did mumble, “It's your turn to practice first.”

“I practiced first last time,” I argued. I was now awake and, with the vigor of the younger sister, ready to fight for my rights.

“No, you didn't.”

“Did too.”

“No, you didn't—just ask Mom.” Dana's eyes were open now. Wide open and looking directly at me.

Even though her expression held no malice, I knew she had no intention of backing down. She tossed back the faded Barbie quilt and reached her foot to the cranberry-and-mint rug beside her bed, feeling around for her slippers and catching the edge with her bare toes. We'd chosen the matching bedroom set three years back when Dana was eight and I was seven. Now we both looked forward to the promised decorating updates somewhere in the near future.

I was about to launch another objection when I remembered. Dana was right. She had taken her turn first at the family's secondhand upright piano the day before. I let the matter drop. There would be no point in asking Mom. She remembered such things only too well. She would side with Dana.

I tossed back my own Barbie quilt, jumped out, and spent a moment scrambling around under my bed for my own slippers. I still didn't want to admit that Dana had been right all along—but I knew better than to continue an argument I could only lose.

The school bus would be coming in just over an hour and a half. Our morning chores and piano practice had to be done before bus time. If things ran a little behind—for one reason or another—the second person to sit at the piano for a romp through the scales and exercises would be lucky enough to have a shortened practice time. We had made that discovery on our own during the first year we were both taking lessons, and each of us had tried to use it to her own advantage. But Mom hadn't missed our discovery either. She quickly put an end to the manipulations by declaring we would take turns being first. And that meant the first person to practice had to put in her full half hour.

Dana was already pulling out dresser drawers, deciding what she was going to wear for the day, when I turned from making my bed. “You're full of lumps,” she said after glancing my way.

I looked down. My pj's were rumpled a bit but hardly “full of lumps.”

“Not you, silly—your bed,” Dana responded in answer to my frown.

I looked from Dana to my bed, then could see for myself what Dana was talking about. The bed did have some lumps. I looked down at my pj's again, and then we both started to giggle. I shrugged, quite willing to leave the offending spread as it was. I had obeyed the rule of our home that beds must be made before we left our rooms. And mine was made. That was good enough.

But Dana came over and threw back the covers. Beginning with the sheet, she straightened it carefully, smoothing it with her hand as she pulled it up. Then she flipped up the quilt, tugging here and tucking there, and the bed was done. Now it was as smooth as though no one had slept in it. A perfect match for Dana's own on the other side of the room.

I shrugged again and made some mental excuses for myself. After all, Dana was older. She should know how to make a bed better. But I knew that wasn't a very good excuse. There was only fourteen months' difference in our ages. Fourteen months. I was used to people making remarks about our “closeness.” Though I still couldn't really understand why this fact should be of importance to anyone else. I liked the way our family was. It seemed just right and not at all something to be considered unusual or even special.

I had heard Mom tell the story over the years, always with a bit of a twinkle in her eye, that this was one time when Daddy's plans hadn't quite worked out as he'd expected. At his prompting, they—“they” being my father, David Walsh, or Dave as he was usually called, and my mom, Angela—had mapped everything out carefully, thinking that once they decided they could begin their family, two to three years was a good spread between siblings.

Brett had followed their plan. He had arrived at precisely the designated time, which was a couple of years after Daddy had finished his training in accounting and investments and settled into his first real job. Mom had turned in her notice at the local phone company office a few months before Brett was due and hadn't gone back to work since. I've gotten the impression in hearing her talk about those days that she wasn't crazy about filing and typing anyway.

Just as predetermined, Dana arrived three years later—almost to the day. Mom and Dad's plans were working out just fine. A boy—then a girl—three years apart.

Apparently, they still hadn't made up their minds about adding to the family. Mom was busy with a baby and an active three-year-old, and Daddy was building up a list of clients at work. Besides, the family already seemed just right. That's when they got their little surprise. Another baby was on the way. And this one would arrive far short of the two- or three-year spread that previously had worked out well.

However, by the time I made my appearance, it seems they had pretty much accepted the reality. Mom always looked happy when she told this part of the story. She would shrug matter-of-factly, smile serenely, and admit that God knew far better than they what the family had needed. Dana had a little sister to mother, and being close together in age, we quickly became good buds as well. Mom maintained that, looking back, she wouldn't have had it any other way. That sounded fine to me.

For several years they felt the family was complete. And certainly there was not the slightest feeling among Brett, Dana, and I that there was any need for change. But God had another surprise. At least that's the way Mom described it. They named this next surprise Corey. He tagged along, six years younger than I. And Mom never missed a beat. If you hadn't known her well, you almost might have suspected she'd planned things that way all along.

The first time she laid eyes on Corey from her prostrate position in the delivery room, Dad said her face fairly glowed with joy, with a sense of completeness that accompanied the arrival of this baby boy. And I think her attitude was infectious. I'll never forget the moment I peeked into the little bassinet where he was sleeping next to Mom's hospital bed. His face was awfully red and wrinkled, but his hands—his darling, tiny hands—opened and closed even in his sleep. And when I reached down to gently touch the soft fingers, they closed around my own. I think I've been captivated by the wonder of Corey ever since.

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