bfg

Feb 11, 2017 by

Last night we watched The BFG. With the dirth of good family movies available at Redbox last night, I decided the only one that looked worth our time was The BFG, so I broke my cardinal rule of requiring my family members to read the book before watching the movie. I have such fond memories of the book, but have never actually read it myself. In 5th grade, when my family was falling apart, my teacher, Mr. Longmore, would spend the hour after lunch reading to us. He sat on a super-tall stool and crossed his super-long legs and as he read, he created magic in my heart. One of the books he read to us that year was The BFG and as he was nearly giant-sized himself and took a special interest in me, I easily pictured him as the BFG.

We loved the movie. So much. Annesley even got up at 6:00 this morning to get her Saturday jobs done so she could rewatch it before we take it back today. Total winner.

And when we woke up this morning, Annes had written this note.

Who is your BFG? My BFG is my papa. He is loving. My papa loves me. He loves to fish. My papa’s big fish is big. I love my BFG.

And then a drawing of Annes and her papa, AKA her BFG, with tons of hearts and BFGs all over it.

Ah man, this girl. She is full of love and life and so much delightfulness. I’m so grateful to be her mama. A big thanks to Mr. Longmore for being a BFG in my life at a time I so desperately needed him and to my husband for being an ever-present force of love in my life and the lives of our children. BFGs are all around us!

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the lion, the witch, & the wardrobe

Feb 19, 2016 by

On February 7 we finished the second book in our Narnia read-aloud adventure! Quite the accomplishment since I had been ill since the 23rd of January and getting my voice to squawk out a whole chapter was quite a task. My children got used to me whispering all the voices because whispering is less likely to induce a coughing fit.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is such a beautiful story of the price that must be paid to atone for the sins of another. Aslan gives his life willingly to save Edmund’s and his sacrifice both redeems and heals Edmund’s soul, just as Christ’s atonement does for each of us. The four children learn courage by serving and loving others. They learn to sacrifice their own needs for the the greater good of the kingdom. They learn the transforming power of repentance and each get to offer and receive forgiveness to and from another. Such necessary lessons for my children (and me!) to experience both vicariously through characters in a beloved book and in their own very human relationships.

I remember one of my teachers reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to us in elementary school. I remember the cover was super weird and I thought it was some crazy science fiction book that held nothing interesting for me. I must have completely blanked it out because I walked away from those story times hating the book and having no interest in ever reading or hearing it again. Such sadness that I didn’t take the lessons of Narnia in and allow them to give me a solid trust in God and courage to fight for what is right. And so grateful that I was able to rediscover them as a mother and share them with my children again and again.

Favorite lines this time through:

“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

This makes me laugh so hard because I can totally hear myself saying it. The professor does not solve the challenging situation for Peter and Susan, but he helps the sort it out so they see it in a new way. I hope that is what I do for my children.

“None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning–either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in it’s inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of Summer.”

The light of Aslan sparked something different in each of them. What does God spark in me? Right now, it is peace. Calm, loving, enveloping, hopeful peace. I remember a time when I was afraid of Him because I didn’t really know Him, but now the warmth wraps me up like a quilt right out of the dryer and the sunshine on my face. Poor Edmund, he didn’t know the love Aslan had for him.

“I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been – if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you – you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing is ever going to happen again.”

Oh yes, I have cried those tears and the quietness at the end is just what a soul needs to process the hurricane of feelings that has just tumultuously swirled around for hours on end.

“All shall be done, but it may be harder than you think.”

God will redeem us, the demons will be driven out, the land will be made free again, but the price is great. The cost of liberty always is.

“Lucy looked and saw that Aslan had just breathed on the feet of the stone giant.

It’s all right!” shouted Aslan joyously. “Once The feet are put right, all the rest of him will follow.”

How true this is! As our feet are set upon the path of God, all the rest will follow.

“For Narnia and for Aslan!”

What are we fighting for? I want to always fight for good things…liberty, love, and learning.

“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”

Oh, how I love for that day when my Savior returns and sets the affairs of this world in order. We need Him. We long for Him. Oh, glorious day!

Reading aloud to my family is my favorite thing. During those magic moments of story, the mishaps and sorrows of the day are forgotten and connection takes their place. Right before bed, we are wrapped up in imagination, adventure, and courage, all great things to fall asleep with, me thinks.

Now it is February 19 and we are hoping to finish up The Horse and His Boy this weekend. We have six chapters left so we need to do lots of reading!

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the magician’s nephew

Jan 16, 2016 by

We started our reading of The Chronicles of Narnia on New Year’s Day and we finished last night after the children begged and pleaded for me to finish the last two chapters in one sitting. They couldn’t bear to wait another day to hear the ending of The Magician’s Nephew.

Ah. It is like breathing life into my soul to read Narnia to my children. Blythe was obsessed with Narnia from about age six to eight. Obsessed. We read it over and over and over and listened to the Focus on The Family Dramatized version for years. The story of Aslan, Lucy, Peter, Mr. Tumnus, Caspian, Shasta, the witch, Tirian, the ape, the dwarfs, and all the rest are part of our family culture. So it isn’t that the stories are new to Fisher and Annes. But in a way they are new. I have never read them to them. They have never been through the story beginning to end. They have never experienced it all unfolding before them. I guess I thought that because it is all around them because of Blythe’s great love for the story and the movies coming out several years ago that they didn’t need me to read it to them. That they knew it all.

But they don’t. There is so much they have missed because they were too little when Blythe was still listening to the stories all the time. They have grown up with the characters and basic story line, but they have missed the greater wisdom of this epic adventure that grows as they identify with a character, feel the hard choices, pain, and joy, and face their own character flaws and strengths as they consider what they would do in the same situation.

And so we read each night and the story unfolds before them and wraps up their imagination in the lovely world of right and wrong, courage, friendship, faith, sacrifice, and always, always Aslan calling to their souls.

I’m so glad God gave me the prompting back in November that this should be our next read aloud. It is proving to be a delightful journey.

Favorite lines this time through:

“Oh, I see. You mean that little boys ought to keep their promises. Very true: most right and proper, I’m sure, and I’m very glad you have been taught to do it. But of course you must understand that rules of taht sort, however excellent they may be for little boys – and servants – and women – and even people in general, can’t possibly be expected to apply to profound students and great thinkers and sages. No, Digory. Men like me, who possess hidden wisdom, are freed from common pleasures. Ours, my boy, is a high and lonely destiny.”

As he said this he sighed and looked so grave and noble and mysterious that for a second Digory really thought he was saying something rather fine. But then he remembered the ugly look he had seen on his Uncle’s face the moment before Polly had vanished, and all at once he saw through Uncle Andrew’s grand words. “All it means is that he things he can do anything he likes to get anything he wants.”

Such wisdom young Digory is gaining! He knows that it is not just for a code of conduct to only apply to some people. He knows his uncle is behaving abominably and a little seed is planted in his heart to not do the same. In the end, his greatest joys come because he learns and obeys that lesson.

“In Charn [Jadis] had taken no notice of Polly (till the very end) because Digory was the one she wanted to make use of. Now that she had Uncle Andrew, she took no notice of Digory. I expect most witches are like that. They are not interested in things or people unless they can use them; they are terribly practical.”

How am I using people? I so want to love people, not use them.

“Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.”

Hmmmm.

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”

I have found this to be so true. I see in others parts of my own soul reflected back at me. Perspective is a crazy thing. It can be incredibly false and powerfully true. Praying to see as God sees has made a huge difference in my life.

“You know me better than you think, you know, and you shall know me better yet.”

All of us know God. Our souls yearn to be with our Father again. Knowing Him is my heart’s desire.

“Look for the valleys, the green places, and fly through them. There will always be a way through.”

Always. Always. Always He will provide a way through the hard, craggy mountains of life.

“But length of days with an evil heart is only length of misery and already she begins to know it. All get what they want; they do not always like it.”

We become what we desire, but that doesn’t mean the end of the road will be what we want.

“But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh, Adam’s son, how cleverly you defend yourself against all that might do you good!”

How do I make myself unable to hear His voice? What do I need to do today and each day to better hear Him.

“Things always work according to their nature.”

We live and multiply and work according to who we are. We can only pretend for so long, but the truth of who we are always comes out. At the root of everything, we are children of God and if we can let that truth grow within us, we will live as children of God.

“Child, that is why all the rest are now a horror to her. That is what happens to those who pluck and eat fruits at the wrong time and in the wrong way. Oh, the fruit is good, but they loath it ever after.”

Oh. Oh. Such wisdom. Takes my breath away to think about it.

“Glory be!” said the Cabby. “I’d ha’ been a better man all my life if I’d known there were things like this.”

The glory and majesty of God’s power is beyond my comprehension. I want to be a better, truer, more kind, obedient, and daughter. Oh, heaven help me.

Tonight we will start The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. What a joy it is to share Narnia with my little ones!

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narnia

Jan 1, 2016 by

We started our next read-aloud for 2016 tonight. In the midst of grumpy kids who were tired from late nights, sugar-laden, and about to dddiiiiiieee from taking down the Christmas decorations, magic was created.

Back in November, God whispered to my heart that our next read-aloud was to be the entire Chronicles of Narnia series. At first, I thought, “Our children know these stories inside and out, I don’t think I should take the time to read them aloud to them. I need to use this precious time for something they haven’t been exposed to yet.” But the quiet whispering continued and I knew there was a good reason for it. My excitement at the prospect grew and all through the nights of December Christmas stories, I grew giddy inside at the thought of sharing the wonderment of Narnia with our children over the next many months.

So, tonight, with children annoying one another and complaining at each new task assigned to them in our Christmas clean-up, we started our adventure. Richard made everyone hot chocolate while we finished the last of the clean-up and we welcomed everyone to grab a mug and a blanket and sit down and listen.

Soon calmness prevailed and happiness won out over the grumps. The magic of read-aloud time to bring a family together never ceases to amaze me. I think the world could be changed dramatically if all families spent some time in the evenings enjoying a delicious book together.

At the end of the chapter, they begged, “Please read another! Please, please! Just one more!” I reminded them that just thirty minutes prior they had been saying, “We don’t want to read Narnia! We want to watch Return of the Jedi!” and they grinned and said, “Yes, but now we want you to read more!”

Cracks me up.

The power of story is real. Stories speak to the deepest parts of who we are. They inspire courage, build connection, and create a culture of shared identity. They are the best things I know of to bind a family together.

What are you reading with your family right now?

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lift up your heart, lift up your voice, rejoice, again, i say rejoice!

Apr 5, 2015 by

It’s Easter night and my heart is full to bursting with joy and peace and love and gratitude. Tears of deep thanksgiving have flowed freely throughout the day as I have thought of my Savior’s sacrifice for me and all the rest of God’s children throughout the world who have ever or will ever live.

When I last wrote I was hurting and pleading for some measure of hope. One of the many conclusions I came to was that this whole connective tissue disorder journey is hard, really, really hard, because there are no actual answers, nothing to measure and have charted out. It’s not like I can do x, y,and z and reasonably expect a, b, or c to happen. There is no schedule of treatments, no way to predict what will happen. At one point in those hopeless days of last week I actually screamed out that I would rather have cancer than Ehlers-Danlos because then I would at least know how big the tumor is or what tests could be done or what probability success rates might be. For the record, I DO NOT WANT CANCER. But going down that rabbit trail of thoughts helped me to understand for a moment why this can sometimes feel so challenging – there is no data, no answers for my information-loving brain to rely on. It can feel like I have no control of my situation. Instead I do a lot of waiting…waiting for ligaments to ever so slowly heal, waiting for my nervous system to calm down, waiting for my stomach to digest food, waiting for inflammation to subside, waiting for bones to stay in place, and worst of all, waiting and wondering what the next injury will be. The not-knowing is driving me crazy.

We are at 17 weeks with this knee injury and it is still incredibly unstable and while it doesn’t hurt very much if I lie around doing nothing, the simplest activities like riding in a car, walking, or even crossing my ankles up the pain level dramatically. And really, all I can do is wait. I can’t have surgery, I can’t take some magic pill and get those collagen fibers to knit together, I can’t do an exercise or eat some special food to make it heal. I can wait and pray and hope and wear my brace and ice it down and use my oils and herbs and drink lots of water and give my body good nutrition. It can feel so incredibly hopeless to simply wait.

And this car accident has really done me in emotionally and physically. The pain in my neck and face and sacrum, oh, my goodness, it is constant and it seems as though we are not making much progress. Every week when I see Jeremy, the pain that he works on is either eliminated or greatly diminished, but a different pain takes its place. All the vertebrae and facial bones are so loose from being jarred in the accident, that shifting some of them back into place seems to move other ones right back out of place. I think we are making progress, but it is soooooo sssssslllllllllooooooooowwwwwwww that sometimes discouragement gets the best of me.

In spite of all of this, I woke up on Friday and my heart leapt with joy. It was Passover and I could tangibly feel the joy of being delivered and redeemed and loved by God himself. My feet had a bounce in their step that hasn’t been there in months and my heart felt light and happy. Kate, my new gymnastics assistant, said she had never seen me like that and Grant, my long-time assistant smiled a huge grin and said “I have, but it has been a long time.” The joy of the Lord is real – I know because it filled my heart and took me out of that place of despair.

We had a lovely Passover dinner on Friday evening with my dear friend, Jennifer, and her four daughters, three of my Worldviews students, our friends, the Cardons, with five of their children, and our friend, Paula, who jumped in at the last minute to fill Jesse’s (Jennifer’s husband) spot. Then on Saturday and Sunday we watched General Conference and my soul was lifted and strengthened even more with the messages of faith, the great love of God, and the hope the atonement and grace of God can give to each of us.

After Conference, I decided I had to completely ignore the vice-grip pain in my facial bones and read the last 32 pages of The Wingfeather Saga on this special Easter Sunday. I have been so incredibly frustrated at my inability to read more than a couple of pages to my family since the car accident before the pain in my face is so excruciating that I have to stop and ice it down, but today I realized it has worked out perfectly. I knew (since I have read the ending of the series twice already) that the last few chapters are a type of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice and resurrection and that the story would touch our children’s hearts and help them to see the atonement with new eyes as they learned the fanged monsters could be changed back into humans devoid of the anger and cruelty of their past selves. I have known for months that these chapters contained beautiful messages of God’s grace, sacrifice, and love that would reach deep into our children’s souls and give them truths they need and I have been hungry to give it to them, but I couldn’t make that happen very quickly because it hurt so much to read aloud. But now, with perfect timing, we have spent our Easter Sunday evening crying our eyes out as our hearts were broken with the sacrifice offered, the healing of the fangs, and the price of blood that had to be paid to bring it about.

Oh, my heart! It is so full with the love of God and love for God. I love Him. I trust Him. I rejoice in Him.

This song by Charles Wesley (the son of my beloved Susannah Annesley who Annesley is named after) captures the feelings of my heart tonight.

Rejoice, the Lord is King!
Your Lord and King adore!
Mortals, give thanks and sing
And triumph evermore.

Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

The Lord, the Savior, reigns,
The God of truth and love.
When he had purged our stains,
He took his seat above.

Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail;
He rules o’er earth and heav’n.
The keys of death and hell
To Christ the Lord are giv’n.

Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!
Lift up your heart! Lift up your voice!
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

With Christians around the world, I rejoice that Christ was willing to come to earth and make it possible for each of us to return to our Father and become like Him as we learn to love and serve and sacrifice.

I know more dark days will probably come, but tonight, this glorious Easter night, I want to savor these feelings of peace and joy and gratitude for all He has done.

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our current books

Jan 15, 2015 by

We are spending lots of time snuggling and reading. There isn’t much else I can do right now, so it is a season of books. Annesley and I have started reading Little House in the Big Woods. I have my old, tattered, yellow set from my girlhood days. Then I have a complete other, still old, but not quite as tattered, blue set I picked up at a thrift store. We also have a few hardcover copies of the beautiful, artwork-on-the-front ones. But, when we decided to embark on this new adventure, I decided to pull out a big, beautiful, five-novels-in-one, gold-leafed edition I was saving for either Blythe or Keziah. She loves fancy things and fell in love with the gold pages and tinsy illustrations.

Little House Cover

Fisher likes to listen in and he is often found building some lego creation nearby while we read about Laura’s life with her family in the big woods of Wisconsin.

Last week Blythe drove me to physical therapy and then to run a few errands. We were able to go to the library and with the help of the scooters, I was able to zip around all three floors of the library and get a pile of fun books to explore. We have a new author on our list of favorites – Andrea Beaty. She has written Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer which we already knew about and loved (and seriously, you should read them!), but when we got to her shelf at the library, we found another gem! Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau is a fun, rhyming story about a hat maker in France who designs fancy, exotic hats for all of her customers and is deeply lonely for a friend. Annes keeps asking us to read it over and over and even had Miss Sheri to read it to her when she stopped by for a visit.

The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett is pure genius. It is Fibonacci’s famous rabbit problem – “How many rabbits will you have in one year if you start out with one?” – portrayed with hilarious illustrations, calendars, carrot recipes, and a glorious pop-up of hundreds of rabbits on the 12th month. Really, go get check it out and laugh yourselves silly as you and your children learn all about Fibonacci numbers.

Another new favorite is The Art Collector by Jan Wahl. It is about a little boy who loves art, but isn’t adept at making the art he sees in his mind come to life (yes, I identified with little Oscar!). So, he decides to collect art so he can look at the pieces he loves so much. His collection grows and he has a museum built to hold his collection and share it with others. Such a delightful story.

Fisher and Keziah have both listened to Little Britches this week and Fisher has been listening to The Lord of the Rings. Blythe is reading Pride and Prejudice again and I have been reading Call The Midwife and To My Friends: Messages of Counsel and Comfort. Richard just finished The Black Hole War: My Battle with Stephen Hawking to Make the World Safe for Quantum Mechanics.

Our family read-aloud right now is still The Wingfeather Saga. We are on book four, The Warden and the Wolf-King, and have about 250 pages left. Our reading time at night is quite limited because of the big girls’ schedules and we are in the middle of play month for Blythe. She will be performing for the next 9 days and has had a heavy rehearsal schedule the past couple of weeks. That along with her work and symphony schedules puts her home late several nights a week. I think this will be the last read-aloud we do as a whole family because her schedule is too difficult for the rest of us to work around {tears}. On the nights she is home, I try to read to everyone for an hour so we can continue to make some progress. At the rate we are going it is going to be March before we finish! I am hoping for some long Sunday night reading sessions over the next few weeks so we can get to the exciting conclusion.

Kat really wants me to read Quiet so I can understand sensitive souls like her a bit better so that is on my goal list for the year. I think Annesley and I will keep reading the other Little House books for the next few months and I have a whole stack of books I need to be reading for my Worldviews and How To Talk classes. So my next 5 months of reading is pretty planned out and I haven’t even made my book list for the year for my colloquia group! What are you reading? Do you have any suggestions for fabulous books for my monthly book discussion group?

In other news, my knee brace is here and working well. Finding pants that will fit over top of it is proving quite challenging so it looks like I will be wearing knee length yoga skirts for the next several months. I totally overdid it yesterday trying to shop for a pair of pants, so all the muscles in my leg are pretty unhappy today, but my knee feels super stable in the brace and I am thrilled to have it and to be done with the tape that has been holding me together for the past five weeks.

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summer reading

Jul 2, 2014 by

Fisher and Annes and I have spent the past month or so reading Hanne’s Quest, a delightful little story about a little hen who must go on an epic journey to save her owner’s farm.

book_hannesquest

We picked up this book at a used book store several years ago when I simply could not resist the lovely artwork.

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Mem Pockets, the owner of the farm, has a flock of speckled chickens who lay speckled eggs that she sells at the market every Friday. She loves her hens and treats them nearly like children. One day she gets a letter stating she owes back taxes on her farm and has thirty days to pay them or she will lose her land. She has very little income and no way to earn enough money in one month’s time. The hens talk together to hatch a plan and the oldest hen remembers an old legend about a special hen laying three golden eggs. Hanne, the smallest hen, decides she is the one for the undertaking and sets off on her journey to faraway places to fulfill the ancient legend.

My children were on the edge of their seats each day as they traveled with Hanne through frightening adventures and noble deeds. The chapters are just the right length for a read-aloud of one chapter a day.

We have been plodding along in our family read-aloud, The Red Keep, for months and while I quite like the book, it is moving too slow for some of our family members. I’m sure there will be plenty of excitement by the end, but right now we are still in the laying the groundwork part of the plot and it has been increasingly hard to make much progress. It is my August book discussion book, so I will keep reading it, but on Friday night we made a switch to a new book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

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Oh my goodness, it is SO fun! The three introductions are hilarious and had us all laughing out loud. I have been reading the introductions to anyone who will listen to me for the past 5 days. When I heard about the Wingfeather Saga (the name of the series), I immediately went to the author’s page on Amazon. After reading his bio, I found his website, book blog, and awesome-sauce conglomeration of fellow authors, artists, and discussers of ideas, The Rabbit Room.

And to say I fell in love would be an understatement. When you read his bio, I think you will understand why.

Hey, folks. If you’re just discovering me or any of my work, it can be a little confusing because there are several facets to it. Here’s the rundown:

I write songs. I also record them to these cool things called CDs and put on concerts around the country. (And beyond! To my great delight, I get to play in Europe every year or so.)

I write books. Right now I’m three books into a fantasy series for young readers. It’s called the Wingfeather Saga. I just published book three (of four), in May of 2011. I also illustrated some of the pictures. (WingfeatherSaga.com)

I’m the proprietor of the Rabbit Room., a community of songwriters, authors, and artists interested in storytelling, faith, and fellowship. We have a yearly conference called Hutchmoot, which is as awesome as it sounds. (Hutchmoot.com)

I’m a proud member of the Square Peg Alliance, a happy band of singer/songwriters who write together, tour together, and eat together. (SquarePegAlliance.com)

I’ve been married for nineteen years to Jamie, and we have three sweet children: Aedan (15), Asher (14), and Skye (11). We live in a magical place we call the Warren, just south of Nashville.

The common thread in all this is my love for Christ and his Kingdom, my belief in the power of story and art, and my need for family and community. If I had to boil it all down, I’d say this: I want to use my gifts to tell the truth, and to tell it as beautifully as I can.

That ought to get you started. For a more in-depth look at what I do, visit Andrew-Peterson.com. Thanks!

Andrew Peterson’s approach to life, family, sharing his ideas, and making a difference in the world entered right into my heart. He is hilarious, generous, real, and is spending his life doing what he loves, an act of courage in this day and age of working jobs one hates.

The fourth and final book in the Windfeather Saga was released last week on his website and will be available for pre-order on Amazon with shipment on July 22.

Everyone is thoroughly enjoying this story, even my one child who is incredibly challenging to please with read-aloud time, so I declare it a solid winner. As soon as we have a spare $45, we will be buying all four books so we can delight in them again and again. Right now I have books 1-3 checked out from the library and local friends, DO NOT REQUEST THEM! Please, pretty, pretty please, let us keep them for a bit so we can get through them. We are reading as fast as we can. Promise.

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fiar: humphrey the lost whale

Jan 14, 2014 by

fiar: humphrey the lost whale

Annes and I started our FIAR adventure again this week. We took December off and just got into the swing of things with FIAR again. I wanted to read All The Places To Love, one of my all-time favorite books, but she chose Humphrey The Lost Whale

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This is the endearing, true story of a humpback whale who make a mistake and traveled under the Golden Gate Bridge, into San Francisco Bay, and up the the Sacramento River in 1985. Scientists, the U.S. Coast Guard, and people from all over the world worked together to help Humphrey get back out to the deep waters of the ocean.

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Miss Annes thoroughly enjoying this book. The whole time we were reading it she kept asking, “He doesn’t die does he? He makes it back to the ocean, right?” Today we talked about salt water vs. fresh water, the Golden Gate Bridge, blowholes, different types of bridges, whale sounds, and the maps in the book.

Great times with my little one – so grateful I have this time with her.

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a new year of books

Jan 7, 2014 by

It is a new year which means more books on my nightstand to read, write, and discuss with my family, students, and book discussion group. I am swooning over all of these books and can’t wait to read them and gain all sorts of new insights into myself, human nature, courage, and how this world works.

Colloquia Books

January

I wanted to spend the month of December contemplating the life of the Savior and his role in my life so I selected The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for our first discussion of the year. My soul is hungry for the Savior and I want to spend this entire year (and the rest of my life!) drawing closer to Him. I especially love this music video because it demonstrates the real life changes that can occur when we follow the teachings of Jesus.

February

I am teaching a class for youth at iFamily and we will be reading, writing, and growing at breakneck speeds. We are reading nine books for Wake Up and Be AWESOME! and I decided to make my life easier by doing some of my WUBA books for my adult discussion group as well. A Place to Stand: The Word of God in the Life of Martin Luther by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. is one of those doubled-up books. I am thoroughly excited to learn more about this man who stood so boldly against the strongest organization on earth in his time.

March

Resolved: 13 Resolutions For LIFE by Orrin Woodward looks FANTASTIC! It is a personal manifesto to change, keep your word, do hard things, and make a difference in the world. I can’t wait till my copy comes so I can devour it! I need all the help I can get to make even the smallest changes in my life.

April

I am a huge Ender fan and have read both the Ender series and the Shadow series in the past. Our youth are reading Ender’s Shadow for WUBA and now the adults will read it as well. I am not a huge sci-fi reader, but some authors in that genre really tickle my fancy and Orson Scott Card is one of them. I also want to read Pastwatch, but it will have to wait for another year (or be read in all my spare time, haha!). If you do decide to buy Ender’s Shadow, you might want to check out the Shadow and Ender’s Game box sets because I don’t think you will be able to stop with just the first book in the series!

May

We are studying William Wilberforce in WUBA, so this is another double-up month. Statesman and Saint: The Principled Politics of William Wilberforce is full of inspiration to tenaciously hold on to our ideals and do whatever it takes to implement them in our lives. The last time I studied Wilberforce was when I was pregnant with Annesley and I fell so head over heels in love with him I wanted to name our child after him. Instead, I named her Annesley after Susannah Annesley Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley, another one of my heroes. Wilberforce’s passionate fight for the ending of the British slave trade gives me hope for humanity.

June

One of the statesman we are studying in WUBA is C.S. Lewis, my favorite author of all time. His words have deeply impacted my life and have helped guide me as a disciple of Christ. We are going to read “Why I Am Not a Pacifist” in my youth class and read the entire Weight of Glory with the adults.

July

When I read an interview with Muhammed Awal Momen about his conversion to Christianity, I couldn’t wait to learn more about him. We are reading his book My Name Used To Be Muhammed with the hope of learning more about both Islam and Christianity and most importantly, the courage it takes to live according to the dictates of one’s conscience.

August

A few years ago we read Rolf and the Viking Bow and it was a huge hit with our adult readers and many of their children. Our family loved, loved, loved it and waited eagerly every night for family read-aloud time. This year we are reading another book by Allen French, The Red Keep, and I hope families will take the summer to savor a bit of history and adventure together.

September

My friend Becky told me about A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman (not the same Emily Freeman who wrote Written On Our Hearts) and it looks so delicious! It goes right along with my several years long theme to discover how I am a creator and become a purposeful creator who blesses the lives of others.

October

Becky also tipped me off to this gem of a book, Boys In The Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown. This review convinced me we needed to read it and learn the lessons of courage, teamwork, and inner reserve these men have to teach us.

I have never rowed. I have never read a rowing book that I can remember. If all stories about rowing were written like Daniel Brown’s fabulous multi-level biography, I would read every one of them. This is a wonderful account, told with such detail and precision that I sometimes felt as if I were in this tale. Mr. Brown totally sucked me into his adventure. These young men who rowed for the USA in the 1936 Olympics faced huge obstacles. It was the Depression. Many were dirt-poor. They came from a small (then) and nondescript town of Seattle. They could not have had more difficult problems thrown their way. But by taking every sliver of hope, and mixing in superb craftsmanship (from George Pocock), excellent coaching (Al Ulbrickson), and these nine perfectly attuned young men learning together……..the result was perfection. This is a true Team sport. I learned that. It is nice to learn something you never knew, but is common knowledge to an entire set of other people. If you want to read a great, true story of success, this will fit the bill in spades…..and you will understand rowing to boot.

The research is mostly based on primary resources, including interviews with some members who were still living as the book was pulled together. Family members did supply additional information to make this undertaking feel solid and well thought out.

Concepts from Daniel Brown to consider that are mixed into the story to teach all of us: 1) One of the fundamental challenges in rowing is that when any one member of a crew goes into a slump the entire crew goes with him. 2) There are certain laws of physics by which all crew coaches live and die. The speed of a racing shell is determined primarily by two factors: the power produced by the combined strokes of the oars, and the stroke rate, the number of strokes the crew takes each minute. 3) To defeat an adversary who was your equal, maybe even your superior, it wasn’t necessarily enough just to give your all from start to finish. You had to master your opponent mentally. When the critical moment in a close race was upon you, you had to know something he did not- that down in your core you still had something in reserve, something you had not yet shown. 4) The things that held them together–trust in one another, mutual respect, humility, fair play, watching out for one another–those were also part of what America meant to all of them. There are other great ideas to ponder in this epic almost 400 page, could-not-put-down story.

I am not giving away anything by telling you that they DO win Gold at the 1936 Olympics. It is HOW they did it that is so darn exciting. Even knowing the end result does not diminish this bigger than life adventure. This is a must read, period.

By Wayne Crenwelge VINE VOICE on May 5, 2013

November

How to Argue and Win Every Time by Gerry Spence has been on my to-read list for a long time. Growing up in Wyoming, I often heard tales of Gerry Spence’s effective courtroom tactics and have been curious as to how he has been so successful in presenting his arguments. This book breaks down the art and science of communication into small skill sets that if implemented will help each of us learn to communicate more clearly, with less offense and more influence.

December

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is a new book to me…another one of Becky’s recommendations. It is about a disfigured boy and how he learns to interact with the world and the world with him. On a more global level, it is about how each of us choose to interact with one another, how we choose to connect or disconnect with those who are different from ourselves. I can’t wait to take these lessons into my heart and become a more giving, loving, connected person.

Don’t those seem fun and inspiring! Over the past many months of injury and exhaustion I have often considered if I should give up my colloquia group, but after much pondering throughout the month of December I decided I need the intellectual stimulation these books provide and the subsequent discussions feed my soul in immeasurable ways. The relationships I have with the books we have read in the past eleven years are precious to me and have shaped and formed me in ways that I will always be grateful for. Just as precious are the dear friendships that have developed between members as we have discussed, debated, and grown together.

WUBA

My Wake Up and Be AWESOME class is also studying Patrick Henry, Abigail Adams, and John Brown. We are reading Give Me Liberty: The Uncompromising Statesmanship of Patrick Henry by David J. Vaughan and studying his famous speech at the Virginia Convention in 1775. I wanted to read My Dearest Friend: The Letters of Abigail and John, but we decided it was too long for our youth to read when they already have so much on their plate and I decided I couldn’t squeeze any more reading time into my life to do it for the adult group, so we are going to read Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie Bober. Maybe next year I will get their letters read. Our John Brown book is Fiery Vision: The Life and Death of John Brown. I studied his Harper’s Ferry raid in detail in my AP History class 20+ years ago, but I never learned about his life as a father or community leader and I am excited to delve into those aspects of his life and how his abolitionist viewpoints developed into the guiding force of his life.

Our C.S. Lewis biograpy is from the same Leaders In Action series as the Luther, Henry, and Wilberforce books. Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis by Terry W. Glaspey will give us a broad overview of Lewis’ life and impact. We will finish out our semester with the Chaim Potok favorite, The Chosen. I am silly excited to tackle these books with some of my favorite youth!

Personal Reads

Our scripture study this year at church is the Old Testament and I am reading several books to go along with it. Written On Our Hearts by Emily Freeman is so, so good. I am savoring it and reading little bits of it each night before bed. Here is an excerpt from the introduction:

“People often ask me why I love the Old Testament so fiercely. I always respond with the same answer. There will come a moment in your life when you or someone you love will struggle with a challenge so great you will wonder how you will make it through. In that moment you will long to better understand the Savior’s role as the Deliverer, and to do that you must go to the book of scripture that describes that role the best – the Old Testament…We live in a world that pleads for deliverance. We may not be called upon to cross the Red Sea, find ourselves thrown into a pit and left for dead, or face armies whose strength is far greater than ours. We may not be led into captivity, be compassed on every side by the enemy, or be called upon to testify knowing it might lead to our death. However, there will be days when we face danger, oppression, and injustice. There will be great obstacles in our way and times when we feel surrounded by those who are intent on destroying us. We will face evil, overwhelming health challenges or perhaps the captivity of sin. In these moments we must remember that, just as The Lord delivered the children of Israel, He has the power to deliver us from any trouble we must overcome in our life. He is, after all, the Great Deliverer.”

Doesn’t that make you want to read not only this book, but the Old Testament as well? Oh, how I love the lessons from Old Testament. They have connected all the dots for me in God’s great plan and have been a foundation of hope for me throughout my life. The stories of Enoch, Isaac, Gideon, Abigail, Jacob, Joseph, the Children of Israel, Jericho, David, and many others have taught me deep down in my soul that the God I believe in is more powerful than any other force and that with God all things, ALL THINGS are possible.

I am also reading 400 Questions and Answers about the Old Testament by Susan Easton Black and so far it is quite interesting. I love stocking my mind full of information, but right now my mind is full with my focus on healing. I knew I wasn’t up to doing a deep, detailed verse-by-verse study of the Old Testament right now and this book is the perfect way to fill my need for information without overwhelming me with hours and hours of study. Once again, by reading little tidbits once or twice a day and by the end of the year I will have learned quite a bit more about the ancient world.

I believe pretty firmly in reading the actual words of scripture to my children and we usually do, but I didn’t feel right about reading the Old Testament to Fisher and Annes. The thought of it overwhelmed me and I knew I wouldn’t last more than a few days in the effort. I wanted to bring the stories of the Old Testament alive for them and to help them love it as much as I do. So, instead of reading the OT to them, we are reading Illustrated Bible Stories for Latter-day Saints and the kids are eating it up. I promised them we would read two stories each morning, but inevitably we end up reading more – we are already past Noah & the Ark and we only started yesterday!

Fisher and Annesley were given Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims for Christmas from their grandparents and we are thoroughly enjoying it! I had never heard of this book as I don’t often (ever?) listen to Rush Limbaugh and I wasn’t quite sure what to think about reading a book from him to my children, but it is fabulous. Fisher and Annes beg for it every day and we are having wonderful discussions about the Church of England, having the courage to follow your own beliefs, leaving all you know to go to a new place, and what price is freedom worth. The time-travel aspect is super fun is bringing this time period alive for my little ones. Snuggling up with my boy with his head on my shoulder is the best part.

I hope some of these book pique your interest and you read them and share your thoughts with me! Also, what books are on your nightstand? What are you excited to read/study this year?

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