Before the concert

Before the concert

C is for concert.

Music weaves its way through the fabric of the days at Laity Lodge.

The sessions begin and end with song, usually old hymns for which the hymnbook may only be half-necessary.

Like the time we sang, “Shall We Gather at the River.”  I don’t really know all the verses to that one — just the chorus — so  I used the hymnal.  I got really confused, however, when the melody we sang didn’t match the music in front of me. It’s the plight of a music-reader to notice such things.

My favorite part of a concert is when the performer forgets their lyrics.  At that moment, something shifts from a performance to a sharing of imperfections, from an act on a stage to a friend who is willing to open up and reveal some deeper truth about themselves.

At the concert on the last night at Laity Lodge, the musicians sang their songs, forgot a few lyrics, and then gave us the privilege of hearing some new material.

“You mind if I share a new song?”

No, no, we didn’t mind at all when both Andrew Peterson and Andy Gullahorn asked that question. It was a pleasure to be their guinea pigs.

AP singing a new song

AP singing a new song

At times, the vulnerability made me want to look away.

How hard it must be to expose fears and struggles — from a stage. A few lines from one new AP song —

I tried to be brave and I hid in the dark.
I sat in that cave and I prayed for a spark
To burn up all the pain that remained in my heart,
But the rain kept falling down.

AP also sang a song dedicated to his wife asking if they would survive and I ached inside for them. At that moment, I wished my husband were beside me so I could slide my hand into his warmer, larger hand, and feel the squeeze of reassurance.

Beauty lives in the hard places — and we need to be reminded of that.

We do survive.

And even those who don’t can experience new life in other ways.

Easter is especially a time to be mindful of that.

Out of our greatest grief comes our greatest joy.

Thanks for the concert and the reminders.



The Batwhacker of Ban Rona

Well, Andrew Peterson has done it again.

I haven’t even finished the book, The Warden and the Wolf King, and I know I’ve gotten a treasure from it.

This long-awaited conclusion to the Wingfeather Saga showed up at our house last week. Mary had first dibs on it. She was nice enough to let me open the box, but the book quickly disappeared, as did my teenage bookworm.

She reappeared long enough for meals, bathroom breaks, and to snag the map of Aerwiar.IMG_3867[1]

Good thing she’s a fast reader. I started it on Saturday.

On Sunday, I set it down with a sigh. Not finished, just needing time to mull. And be thankful.

The Wingfeather Saga is a now-complete set of four books: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, North! Or Be Eaten, The Monster in the Hollows, and The Warden and the Wolf King. I’ve written about them before — An Open Letter to Andrew Peterson, Odds and Ends, The Liberty Press, and Birth Order are a few of the posts where I reference this book series. The books tell the adventures of the Igiby/Wingfeather children in the land of Aerwiar where they battle the evil Gnag the Nameless and the Fangs of Dang.

SCN_0017Tiny spoiler alert here: In book 4, Bat Fangs attack from the sky.  Fortunately, Leeli, the youngest Igiby, figures out that her whistleharp acts as a weapon against them, so she begins to play.

And play.

And play.

Leeli played for hours. She played in the center of that bladed, bellowing ring of Hollish protection and played every song she knew. Nia knelt beside her, one arm around her waist, speaking words of encouragement all the while. Leeli’s lips and fingers grew numb, and when her legs gave out after an hour, Nia eased her to the ground and yelled for water…

In Exodus 17, there is a story about the Israelites fighting Amalek. Moses watched from a hill.

Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side.

That’s the story that came to mind as I read about Leeli.

Whenever I’ve considered the Bible story, though, I’ve put myself in Moses’ position and wondered who will hold up my arms when I’m weary. Now I realize that I’m probably an Aaron or a Hur or a Nia.

A mother’s role is to hold up her children, their arms, their hands, their whole body. It is to whisper words of encouragement all the while. And sometimes, her job may be to ease them to the ground.

You see why I’m still mulling this.

Andrew Peterson, you’ve undone me again, with a reminder and a challenge.

And I haven’t even finished the book.

Ash Wednesday

It was an ominous way to begin Lent.

An early morning phone call let me know that my oldest brother, Stewart, had passed away from a heart attack.

And I stood in the kitchen, and I stared at the wall
And I prayed for some wisdom, so I could make a little sense of it all.
And I thought about the seasons, and how quickly they pass
Now there’s little to do but hope that the good ones will last…

Andrew Peterson, “Three Days Before Autumn”

I stood in the kitchen this morning, but I didn’t stare at the wall. I left the lights off and stood at the window, waiting for the sunrise.

Some sunrises are so spectacular with bursts of color lighting my horizon. I could have written, then, about how God spoke to me in the richness of the dawn, in the vast of array of pinks and golds and purples and oranges.

But He gave me an unassuming dawn, black to deep blue to gray. Gray. Non-descript.

I felt dull, like the sunrise.

My eyes filled with tears and I can’t even tell you why.

Stewart called me for my birthday, but I wasn’t home. He said he would call back, but he never did.

I had thought about it. I should call him, I thought, but I never picked up the phone.

And it’s easy enough to say, “He’s better off,
Chalk it up to the luck of the draw,
Life is tough, it was his time to go,
That’s all.”
Well, I don’t know about that…

Andrew Peterson, “Three Days Before Autumn”

Life is so short.  Just yesterday, I had been looking at Isaiah 40 —

The grass withers,
the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows on it.
Surely the people are grass.

I had thought about the Tenebrae services a woman at Laity Lodge had described to me, with candles being extinguished one by one until the church was in total darkness. I had been thinking about the breath of the Lord, withering the grass, blowing out the candles, one by one.

Our world is dark and sad.

I suppose that’s an appropriate place to start Lent, in the darkness and sadness of a broken world. Surely the people are grass. Surely Stewart is grass. Surely I am grass.

The grass withers,
the flower fades,
but the word of our Lord will stand forever.

I suppose that’s an appropriate place to start Lent, too.

Beyond this grassy withered world, there is eternity. And it is filled with hope.


Birth Order

Many sites delve into the dynamics of birth order.  My favorite treatise on it, however, is not a website based on studies and research, but a fictional book series by Andrew Peterson, collectively known as The Wingfeather Saga.

The Igiby/Wingfeather family has three children: Janner, Tink, and Leeli.  Janner, as the oldest, is naturally protective of his two younger siblings.  Tink, the middle child and the second son, is adventurous and impetuous.  Leeli, the youngest, a little girl who needs a crutch to walk, provides balance to her two older brothers.

Spoiler alert:  the children discover that they are, in fact, a royal family.  Unlike the traditional royal family, however, the crown does not go to the oldest son, but to the second.  The firstborn’s job is to protect the younger, a nearly impossible task when the youngest has a strong mind of his own.

I have the feeling that Andrew drew on his own relationship with his brother as wrote the stories.  Peet the Sockman, in later books, bears a strong resemblance to Pete the Peterson.  Andrew does a wonderful job developing the resentment each can feel toward the other at times, and yet always there is an undercurrent of love. I’m afraid to give too much away because I think everyone should read this series.

Start with On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, a Christy Award nominee, which introduces the reader to the family and begins the adventure.

Then read North or Be Eaten!  This won the Christy Award in 2009.  The adventure continues.  The plot thickens.

The Monster in the Hollows, my favorite so far, takes place in the Green Hollows.  If I were given the choice of visiting the Green Hollows, Narnia, or Bilbo’s Shire, it might be a tough decision.

The fourth book, The Warden and the Wolf King, has finally been written, and now we await its magical appearance on our bookshelves.  Even now, rabbits are scurrying around the Rabbit Room to make that happen.  Soon.

My favorite scene from On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is when Janner begins to understand his role.

“So, if my father’s dead, then that means… I’m… king?” Janner stammered.

Nia looked at him carefully.  “No, son.  No, you’re not.”

Janner’s cheeks flushed.

“It’s all right, dear,” she said, placing a hand on his arm.  “You see, in Annieria, the kingship is passed over the eldest son.  For as long as there have been rulers in Anniera, the position of highest distinction is that of protector.  Too many kingdoms have fallen because of envy, greed and lust for power.  So the second-born wears the crown.”  She looked at Tink.  “Your brother is the rightful heir to the throne.”

While I was looking through pictures recently, I found this:

Philip and owen

I love that God places within each child a unique set of gifts and talents, and a natural tendency towards certain behaviors — protection being one of them.

To the oldest goes a strong sense of responsibility and protectiveness for his younger sibling.

To the second, a kingship of his own, with great things ahead.

Within a family, our lives are inextricably intertwined.  I’m so thankful for the part we can play with each other.

Little Boy Heart Alive

102A lime green gun lay in the grass by my front steps when I walked out the door this morning.  I smiled when I saw it.

My children are too old to play space pirates anymore, but I had watched our new neighbor’s little boys chasing each other up and down the street with their weapons yesterday.  My husband and I had found a plastic silver light-up sword on our front lawn when we got home from church.  Someone had been disarmed right in front of our house while we were at worship.  Bud picked up the sword and carried to the house where the boys were now playing.

Later in the afternoon, the small passel of boys was in the backyard next door, swinging, climbing on a platform for battle, and jumping in the leaves.  Only one of the children belonged to the house where they were playing, the rest just came because that was where the skirmish-of-the-moment was. They were laughing and jousting and doing all the things little boys are supposed to do. I could watch it all from my kitchen window and it warmed my heart.

I drove my youngest son, now 16, to school this morning.  His days of playing with plastic pistols have been eclipsed by soccer and homecoming dances and a certain young lady. I knew the firearm on the grass wasn’t his.

When I returned from dropping Karl at school, I passed a older man trying to walk his grandson to the bus stop.  The little boy, one of yesterday’s combatants, was tugging in the opposite direction and wailing.  Oh, such a wail! I could hear it in my car even with all the windows rolled up. “Noooooooo….. Noooooo….” It broke my heart.

Although only one word was coming from his mouth, I knew all the things it meant.  Please, please, don’t make me go to school today.  I want swing on the swing and jump in the leaves. I need to duel with villains. Someone needs to chase lions and dragons off our street.  Please don’t make me sit at a desk, not on a day like today, when the sun is shining and the sky is blue.  Let me stay home and do what I was meant to do.

I walked past the abandoned gun on my way into the house. Inside, I grieved for a little boy, whose name I don’t even know, but whose heart I understand.

Andrew Peterson wrote a song about it: Little Boy Heart Alive

Open the door and run outside
Your little boy heart alive
Into the morning light
Into the deep and wide

Dinosaur bones in the flowerbed
Rockets in the clouds
In a fight with a spider’s web
Tunnels in the ground

Winding to China
To the mist of the distant shore
Better be home by suppertime
Back through the planet core

Feel the beat of a distant thunder
It’s the sound of an ancient song
This is the Kingdom calling
Come now and tread the dawn

Come to the father
Come to the deeper well
Drink of the water
And come to live a tale to tell

Pages are turning now
This is abundant life
The joy in the journey
Is enough to make a grown man cry
With a little boy heart alive

Kings and castles in the neighborhood
Swords on the forest floor
Dragons in the magic wood
Better saddle your battle horse

Fighting Goliath
Better choose your weapons right
Five little stones and a faith on fire
In a little boy heart alive


Met a kid at the railroad track
He had a stick and a nylon sack
I ran to the house to pack
I wanted to follow

Take a ride on the mighty lion
Take a hold of the golden mane
This is the love of Jesus
So good but it is not tame


Ever the road goes on and on
Ever the road goes on and on and on

The Liberty Press

While some hid in their cars on the first day of Hutchmoot, I knew where I was going.  I headed straight to the living room where I could nestle into a comfy chair.  It’s the advantage of having been there before.

The first year I sat on a bench in the main foyer.  I had watched the returnees greeting each other with hugs and joyful words. I remember wondering why I had ever thought it was a good idea to come to this.  The intimacy of such a small group both attracted and repelled me.  It’s harder to hide when the numbers are small.

This year I sat in the living room with a handful of people. Pete Peterson walked in, and, good Lord, he remembered my name.  That is a gift of hospitality.  He made me feel like maybe I do belong here.

Jennifer, his wife, sat across from me, legs curled, in an armchair. She smiled and said something sweet about my girls.  They are blessed to have her as a teacher.

But then Andrew Peterson walked in.  I tried to shrink back in my chair just a little.  Singer, songwriter, author, artist — how many talents can one man have? I confess that I am in awe.

The first year that I attended, Mary had sent me with a handwritten list of characters she wanted him to include in his final book of the Wingfeather Saga. (We’ll do a tally when the book comes out later this year.) I hesitated to give it to him because it meant that I would  have to say something, so I tried to give it to his wife.

“No, no,” she said. “He loves stuff like this.  You should give it to him.” So I did, mumbling something about my daughter being a fan. He was so gracious.

This year he walked in the living room where I was hiding, and sat right down beside me. “Have we met before?” he asked.

“Umm, well, kind of, not really. I’ve been to Hutchmoot before,” I babbled.

I started fumbling around in my bag.  I had, again, brought something from Mary for Andrew.

Over the summer Mary had worked as a Young Interpreter at the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown.  She was assigned to the Print Shop where she learned to operate their 1828 Liberty Press.

On our rides there, she had peppered me with questions, which initially I thought were just small talk. “What’s your favorite Jason Gray song?” she asked. “What’s your favorite Andrew Peterson song?”

These are the kinds of questions for which I have no answer.  I would list off three or four songs each time.

Then, she started talking about the Wingfeather books.  “Where’s The Dark Sea of Darkness?” she asked one day.

It was then that she told me about her Young Interpreter project, how she had to typeset and print something by herself.  She chose a poem from The Dark Sea of Darkness and printed multiple copies on different types of paper.

These were what I fumbled out of my bag to give Andrew Peterson.

He looked at it for a minute, then said, “How did she make these?”

I explained that she used an antique printing press, that she placed each letter individually into the tray, that she placed the spacers and chose the border.

“Wow,” he said. It was quiet for a minute, and I felt awkward. “How did she do it again?” he asked.

I was in the middle of explaining when Pete came through.  Andrew jumped up with that boyish energy that he has. “Look at this!” he said excitedly. “Her daughter made it.” He gestured to me, and added, “How did she do it again?”

I felt like I had hit a home-run. He signed two, one for Mary and one for the museum. I gave the rest to him.

Giving back — it’s something I wish I could do more of at Hutchmoot.  I receive so much from these beautiful people that I wish I had an adequate way to say thank you. A poem printed on an antique press will have to suffice for one.

The Carriage Comes

summer 2013 099

The Liberty Press

Operating the press

Operating the press






Hutchmoot Trepidation

It didn’t help that I got beat by an 11 year old.  I knew the minute I saw his entry that no one else stood a chance.

I’m talking about the contest to win a drawing by Andrew Peterson for reviewing The Monster in the Hollows.  Maybe an angry letter wasn’t the best tactic.  Maybe suggesting that he quit his singer/songwriter gig was offensive.  Or maybe this stop-motion Lego trailer was just totally awesome.  I wish I had thought of it.  I could have put my kids to work on it.  Here’s the winning entry:

So after that blow to my confidence, somebody started a Facebook group for people going to Hutchmoot 2011Yes, I’m one of the few, the proud, the 100 speedy-responders who actually got in.

The Facebook group is meant to build excitement.  However, all it is building in me is trepidation.

The Rabbit Room list alone is scary — published authors, singer/songwriters, musicians, pastors, and visual artists.  But let me introduce you to some of the other attendees — (I randomly clicked on Facebook pages to see if I might get more information.  My children call this stalking):

Ben Crawford — songwriter, musician, worship leader — I read this as VERY TALENTED!

Ben Yancer — He describes himself like this —

Ben Yancer is a writer, composer, musician, graphic designer, and overall creative genius.

Sharon Frazier  — I was scanning the pictures of the attendees looking for someone under the age of 40.  Sharon has gray hair.  Proverbs 16:31 says, Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.  It also means you might be close to me in age.  But then, as  I looked at Sharon’s information on Facebook, I saw that she plays hammered dulcimer.  Hammered dulcimer players are placed on a very high pedestal in my heart.  I wish I could play.  **sigh**

Emily Nelson — Whoa!  Her bio reads like this:

Emily Rose Nelson is an award-winning classical cellist. Born in Moscow, Russia, she has claimed [many] accolades… She makes her home in Greece, where she owns three private islands. She spends significant time in Nashville, TN.

Born and raised in Moscow, Russia, Emilianna Nelsonov has gained international fame through her masterful technique and musicianship, as well as her keen sense of fashion. Extremely driven and motivated in everything she does, she’s a prolific performer and clinician. Now living in Nashville, Tennessee, she is also an active member of the community, dedicated to bringing violists off the streets and helping them turn their lives around. She is always eager to play chamber music, and does not tire easily; she spends at least 10 hours a day practicing. She is also known for her contributions to the NAACP. A Guggenheim Fellow, Nelson is also the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Prix de Rome, a Pulitzer Prize, the Primrose Competition Gold Medal, and a Nobel Peace Prize. Nelson plays a 1689 violoncello by Japanese luthier Kazumi Noname.

I’m sort of hoping that this is like the bio Jacob submitted with his entry for an art show (Helen helped him write it).  The Nobel Peace Prize part of Emily’s bio was a tip off.  If you’re interested, here’s Jacob’s bio even though he’s not going to Hutchmoot.

Jacob Zaengle is a sophomore at the Zaengle Family Institution for the Motivationally Challenged. Growing up on a flamingo farm, Jacob is a hardworking yet persistently melancholy student. Jacob found inspiration for living from his many family members who abandoned their dreams to fit society’s molds for them. His 16th year of living has been dedicated to his older sister who dropped out of the circus to become a lawyer in Washington. Jacob would like to thank his many fans and air conditioners which kept him cool throughout his life.

I felt compelled to add the following:

Jacob Zaengle is the 5th of eight children.  He lives in Greene, NY and is a sophomore in high school, hence his sophomoric sense of humor.

Back to Hutchmoot attendees… They are an intimidating bunch!

Jenni Simmons — Editor, art director, writer at Art House America Blog

Judson Neer —  Studied Math at Penn State.  I stopped taking math in 11th grade because I got mad at my teacher.   I was following in the footsteps of my grandfather who dropped out of school because he was humiliated by a teacher.  Math, humph.

John Barber — a self-described Professional Geek.  I grow less and less computer-proficient with each birthday.  Thank goodness for Philip and Owen and Sam and, well, all my kids, who now are geekier than their mother.  Even Laurel knows shortcuts that I don’t.

Scott Rinehart  — it looks like he’s a mechanic with a great ministry.  Here what it says on his website:

The mission of the NewSong Garage is to help people who are in a tough spot in life. It happens to all of us at some time. We just want to be there for them to show God’s Love by serving them when they are in need. Our way of serving is to help fix their car when they can’t afford to. We want to help the single mom who needs to pick up the kids after work and take them to the doctor… but the car won’t start….

I love this idea for a ministry!  However, my car knowledge is incredibly limited.  I know where the key goes and then these parts: gas pedal, brake pedal, steering wheel, windshield wipers, radio.  That’s about it.  When Bud asks me about what kind of car someone has, I say, “Blue” or whatever color it is.

However, reading about Scott, I realized that not everyone is a published author or a musician.  Maybe there are some everyday people there.

Then I found Debi Adamson Zahn — Okay, I like her from the start.  Her name will come AFTER mine alphabetically.  This doesn’t happen very often and I appreciate it.  She lists under her activities homeschooling and sudoku, two things I spend a fair amount of time doing.  Plus she listed Keith Green as one of her favorite musicians.  I love Keith Green’s music.  So Debi, you don’t intimidate meThank you for that.

Here’s what my bio might say:  Sally Zaengle — tired mom, perpetually behind in paperwork, poor housekeeper, loves kids.

Do you think I’ll fit in?