I, Justin Jon Hawley, was born on September 14, 1977 in Waconia Minnesota. My family at the time lived in Winsted, MN, and so I think that Winsted either didn't have a hospital or they were on the road. I'll have to check on that.

Anyway, I was almost born in the back of a 1977(?) Cougar Eliminator. A yellow collectors edition with a black stripe that my dad has long since sold, probably to pay for the appetite and the diapers.

The next 5 or 6 years are sort of a blur. The only memories that I really have are chasing our cat Calico up carpeted stairs.

In 1980(?) We moved to Zumbrota, MN. Zumbrota is a small town of 2,500 people. Many of them are nice. Many of them, as in most small towns, are jerks. I had my share of both, I guess. Really, there isn't any difference between a small town and a large city in this case, except that in Rochester it is easier for me to ignore the dorks.

Where was I. Zumbrota. I faintly remember getting babysat by an old lady and playing in the basement. I don't remember when Brandon, who is two years younger than I, was born, but I do remember the day I woke up and my Grandma Marie was there and I knew it was the day that my brother Travis (4 yrs. younger) was born. And what a cute kid he was!

Soon to be inserted- a picture of all three rugrats!

Sometime between the age of 5 and 7 our dog Shane died and dad and mom stayed up feeding her warm milk until she breathed her last. They told us this the next day, and it was my first encounter with death, I believe. I remember how nice I thought it was that dad fed her warm milk.

When I was 7, the Lord moved our family from a house in town to a house in the country surrounding Zumbrota. It was a good move, I believe. I grew up really, truly enjoying the country, although there were years when I despised it. There is something that God teaches you walking across a clumpy tilled field to a smelly, froggy pond that you can not learn playing with trucks in the dirt on the side of the curb. I guess you are blessed with more time to think on your own. You learn to appreciate the wind. The smell of vegetation. The feel of a clump of dirt breaking up in your hands or the quiet voice of nature that so reminds me today of God's voice in my heart. The beauty of knowing that although you are all alone, it is all right.

My mother was a stay at home mom (the MOST respectable job on earth, in my opinion) for most of my and my brothers early childhood years. My father worked managing a Mid-America Dairymen plant in Zumbrota for 13 years.

I never really knew my father for 13 years of my life. Dad was gone from 4-5a.m. to about 8p.m. and then had work to do at home. I really hated this fact, although I knew he loved me. All I wanted to do was play football with him. He truly wanted the best for his family, but I believe he thought that meant maintaining a well-paying job. By God's grace, that was changed. My dad once told me when I was a teenager that he and his father had never been real close until my dad was in his mid-thirties. With this in mind, I always knew that he was doing what he thought was his best for me, and if every parents dream is to give their children a better life than what they themselves had, he and mom passed with flying colors.

Let me tell you about what I believe was the single biggest turning point in our familial life. When I was 13(?) Dad was fired (for reasons outside of his control) from Mid-Am, and I can now see that it was the hand of God beginning to repair our family relationships before it was too late. By this point in time I never talked to my parents about anything of any intimate importance to me, and was nothing but a tormenting bully to my brothers. I mourn, even to this day, over the lost time I spent being mean to my brothers, but I know that God has done a miracle in our family, and the best IS YET TO COME!! THANK YOU GOD!!

I will never forget, and neither, I believe, will my brothers, the day that Dad actually picked us up from school. This was an unusual sight, and it filled my heart with a feeling that I can only describe as a child's glee. My brothers will have to speak for themselves, but I believe they would say the same. It was an unexpected treat. He had picked up some Pepsi for us, and later in our lives showed us the gas station on Highway 52 where he stopped after being fired and bought us the sodas. To this day I get a lump in my throat when I see that gas station, because to me it represents God's grace upon my father and his family and his love in starting to repair our relationships. Someday I'm going to write a song about it. The same day he picked us up, later on that night, he told us children that he had been fired from his job at Mid-Am. It was silent in the room. It was frightening for such young kids, the oldest being around 13. But the shock left us fairly soon, and when he asked what we thought He should do for a job, Brandon replied "a librarian!" (That's one thing I've always admired about Brandon, his sense of humor!)

I remember looking for generic food at Hub Food center the next day with mom and dad, and they just laughed. At that point I really knew that our life would not change financially THAT much! But in other ways, it sure has.

My relationship with my father has never been better. I can honestly say that I respect him above all other men in the world, and pray for God's continued blessings and grace in his life. For me, the true mark of a man is summed up in two words: godliness and maturity. He has both, and at times I'm amazed at his selflessness, strength in doing what is right, faith, truly mature Christ-like attitude, willingness to put others before himself and his ability to take such risks. His faith in God has strengths that I am now just starting to develop, such as his security in his identity which allows him to accept criticism without emotional attachments, and his ability to take financial risks because he knows that God is watching and cares for Him enough to bail him out if he's wrong.

God has long since repaired my relationship with my brothers as well, and they are growing more and more every day. I am so proud of the people they are becoming, and praise God with every step of maturity and godliness they take. The other day I was talking with Travis on the phone, and sincerely got so excited in his talk of looking to God in his times of trouble that it makes me happy even now! And Brandon! The relationship I suspect was my worst has now become one of my favorites, and God is still doing miracles. I can't wait to see what is in the future!

I guess now would be a good time to tell you about my mother. Mom is my best friend. She, more than any one else in my life, has always been there for me, always encouraged me, always lifted my head and made me feel like there is at least 1 person on earth who loves me. She raised 3 rowdy young boys and somehow found time to make us all feel special, while getting our lunch packed, waking us up, cleaning our messes, etc. And Lord knows in the later years we had our own unique set of problems! But she is just a rock of love. I have never, not even once, questioned my mother's love for me, and have always been thrilled to call her "mommy" in the early years, and "momma" as an adult. There is NOTHING I wouldn't do for her. One example of how she affected me that stands out is when I was 13 or so she took me to Rochester early so I could wait in line to get Guns N' Roses tickets. On the way up I talked her ear off about all of my views of "major" and "minor" bands and how they made me feel... a conversation that I would dread listening to from anyone. But she seemed SO genuinely interested, that it made me feel loved. She asked questions, even though I know she could care less how I rated Firehouse compared to Def Leppard! I really felt good about that ride to Rochester, and still feel warm thinking about it even today. That is just one example out of millions. Momma, I love you, and I praise God for your faith, love, and beautiful spirit! You truly are a Proverbs 31 woman!

Next to come... Zumbrota/Mazeppa Public Prison! :-)