School Colors

I was looking at my dismal blog stats, and saw that I had 666 posts.  I’m not super superstitious, but that number bothers me.

Silly, I know.

I looked at my draft folder to see if I could quickly publish something else. This one fits with the daily prompt: hope.

667 is an okay number. Not prime — its prime factorization is 23 and 29 — but it will have to do.

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“…while we do or die for Cooperstown High, and the orange and the black.”

I grew up in a town where the school colors were orange and black.

Strong colors.

Halloween colors.

And, quite honestly, hard-to-find-a-team-swimsuit-in colors.

Girls tied orange and black ribbons in their hair and shook orange and black pom-poms at football games.

Ten years ago we moved to a town where the school colors were green and gold.

In one of Andrew Peterson’s songs, he sings, “You led me by the hand into a land of green and gold; You never let go.” I know he wasn’t thinking of me, but isn’t it funny?

I was thinking about the green and gold this morning when I saw a goldfinch, all dressed up for spring, perched on the bird feeder. With the jonquils in the foreground and a mass of daffodils off in the distance, with the grass so rich and green from yesterday’s rain, and with Mr. Goldfinch visiting, all I could think of was green and gold.

Green is the color of hope.

Yellow the color of … I wasn’t sure. So I did a little research.

Yellow is also a color of hope.

And friendship.

Welcome to my house!

Welcome to my house!

A yellow house is seen as welcoming.

Too much yellow can be disturbing, though. Babies cry in yellow rooms. People struggle to complete tasks when surrounded by yellow.

But a splash of yellow is like a ray of sunshine, brightening any scene.

So much about that move to Greene, the town of green and gold, was hard. It felt more black and orange than Cooperstown ever did; maybe even black and blue. I was too old to move, to adapt, to find my way in a new place. I felt beat up.

Sometimes, I would shut myself in the bathroom, look out the window, and cry.

But what I saw from that window — the yellow siding of our house on the out-jut of our kitchen and the green of our yard stretching down to the little creek — was green and gold. Hope and more hope.

In so many ways, I grew more in those years than ever before. A growth spurt — in my late 40s and early 50s. Upward.

Painful, but oh so good.

God literally had to lead me to a land of green and gold so I could learn hope.

Now I straddle the two places — one foot in orange and black, the other green and gold.

And I’m thankful for both.

Thankful for the move and all it taught me.

Thankful for two homes, even though it’s hard.

 

 

Wingfeather Kickstarter

You must support this Kickstarter project.

Now. Go do that and then come back and read the rest.

I know, I know — I lack the congenial patter of a salesperson. I’m supposed to do a warm-up and ask you how your day has been, how’s the family, and talk about the weather. I really stink at that.

And all I really want to tell you is that this is an awesome project being spearheaded by one of my favorite artists, Andrew Peterson.

On Palm Sunday, I learned that the pastor of the church we attend in Cooperstown is an Andrew Peterson fan. That Sunday I had offered him a copy of “Behold the Lamb of God,” Andrew’s Christmas CD because it’s one of my favorites and I knew that I had a small stash of them on my dresser purchased for such opportunities.

The pastor laughed and said, “I give that CD to people all the time, too.” GMTA

His wife had told me that she hinted to the kids that AP’s newest CD, The Burning Edge of Dawn, would make a nice Christmas present for their father but none of them took the bait. I just so happened to have one of those on my dresser, too, purchased as a gift for someone but, long story short, I never ended up giving it.

So, when Easter Sunday arrived, I brought The Burning Edge of Dawn down and set it on the dining room table so I wouldn’t forget to bring it to the pastor.

Then I forgot it.

I remembered before we made it out of the driveway. Bud and the kids waited while I ran back in the house, grabbed the CD, and climbed back into the car.

When we got to the church, I was on a mission to find the pastor and give him the CD. Fortunately he was not hard to find; he was standing in the vestibule greeting people.

I rushed up to him and thrust the CD into his hand. “I brought this for you,” I said.

“And a Happy Easter to you, too,” he said.

I forget social graces a lot.

“Oh, yeah. Happy Easter,” I said, and then continued talking about the CD.

But I forgot to tell him about The Wingfeather Kickstarter. Sometimes, when I’m so excited about one thing, I forget other things.

So I’m telling him now.

And you.

Support Andrew’s latest project.

Please.

Note to William Kendall: Don’t you dare say that you have never heard of this artist. I KNOW I’ve mentioned him here before.

Vulture

V is for Vulture.

We’re getting to the end of this alphabet challenge and I’m starting to feel punchy. I thought about posting my picture taken at Laity Lodge of a turkey vulture and then accompanying it with vulture jokes.

But when I started looking up vulture jokes, they all sounded so familiar. It’s not that we sit around telling vulture jokes here, so I wondered if I had already written about them. Sure enough, yes, I had, in “Vultures (and a box full of Buechner).” If you’re interested in vulture jokes, you’ll have to go there.

I had forgotten that post because, at the time I wrote it, I was in a fog of grief regarding my brother’s death. There are a lot of things I don’t remember from that period.

But Frederick Buechner now occupies a significant chunk of shelf space and I like that.

The other day Andrew Peterson, my original inspiration for a vulture post this go-round, posted a picture of a t-shirt that said “Beek-ner“. The photo was captioned, “A gift from the Buechner Institute at King University. Educating non-Buechner fans one t-shirt at a time.”

Although, really, vultures have nothing to do with Andrew Peterson or Frederick Buechner.

I’m sure you’re scratching your head over this nonsense.

Welcome to my world — a jumble of thoughts and weird associations that I am forever picking through to try to make sense of things.

So back to vultures. And Laity Lodge.

I went on a hike there. We looked over a bluff. The view was spectacular.

IMG_6129And a turkey vulture seemed suspended over the canyon.

Like on a wild stringless mobile hanging over the world, moving on unseen currents, without ever seeming to have to use its broad extended wings.

Andrew Peterson’s song “Nothing to Say” is about a time when he is struck speechless by the beauty of Arizona.  He sings,

I see the eagles swim the canyon sea
Creation yawns in front of me
Oh, Lord, I never felt so small

Maybe he was watching turkey vultures.  They really are quite spectacular.

I see the vultures swim the canyon sea…

They just don’t sound as spectacular. In a song.

But they can be beautiful.

Concert

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.

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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.