Walking With Wingfeathers

“Evil digs a pit, and the Maker makes a well. That is His way.” Artham Wingfeather in The Monster in the Hollows

In March, my girls and I went to hear Andrew Peterson speak to a group of children about The Wingfeather Saga, and his recently released third book in the series, The Monster in the Hollows. My family is no stranger to his gift with story telling as this modern-day, lyrical minstrel has been weaving some of my favorite tales for many years with his guitar.

Sometimes it is difficult for one to alternate artistic mediums, but Andrew has done more than entertain with his first attempt at fiction. Just like with his music that moves and stirs, he has created a story line and characters that stay with you long after the last page is turned. This series is unique in that he has successfully created an experience that engages the hearts and minds of young and old alike whether you are a student, single, or married with or without children.

As Andrew spent the afternoon with us, discussing the writing process and the perils of encountering creatures like Snickbuzzards, Bomnubbles, Toothy Cows, and Horned Hounds, the excitement in the room was palpable. But, it was when he read aloud from a section in Book 1, that we came completely under his spell. Which is how all great stories start…..from the beginning.

In book 1, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, we are introduced to the Igiby family, and consequently characters who are easy to identify with because of their honest struggle with matters of the heart. The mother, Nia, is living in a small cottage by the sea with her three children and one-legged, rough edged, ex-pirate of a father, Podo Helmer.

Janner, 12, is not unlike most first-born children. Being fatherless, he bears the weight of responsibility for his siblings on shoulders that do not feel strong or old enough for such a burden. He is thoughtful and has a deep longing to know the father no one will even mention by name.

Tink,11, is the middle child. Like most younger siblings, he has the luxury of questioning rules and plunging head long into trouble without a second thought. He is funny and very likeable, but finds himself making choices with great consequences for himself and for the family.

Leeli, 9, is my favorite. She is the youngest but by no means the “smallest.” Though injured after birth that left her leg lame and crippled, she carries a song inside of her that can make Sea Dragons stop to listen and remember.

At first glance, this family is not unlike the others living in the land of Skree. All residents struggle day-to-day under the oppression of the wicked, Gnag the Nameless and his dutiful, merciless hoard, the Fangs of Dang. But, upon further notice, you see the Igiby’s are far from ordinary. Only the three children do not know it yet.

So begins a journey of discovery after finding a map, a storehouse of weapons, a hidden jewel with a royal insignia, an odd man who wears socks on his hands, and a new name of distinction that belonged to their father who was lost in the Great War: Wingfeather.

At the book signing, Andrew let it slip that in North! or be Eaten, which won the 2010 Christy award for young adult fiction,  Gnag the nameless has discovered an eerie way for the dastardly, lizardly Fangs to overcome their inability to with stand the cold. This is discouraging as book 2 begins with the Igibys, now known as Wingfeather, trying to avoid capture by setting out for the safety of the Ice Prairies.

That is, of course, if you consider a frozen land of Bomnubbles as “safe.” This segment will challenge the reader as one character’s fateful decision will alter the face of the Wingfeather family forever. Such a great tale of sacrifice and loss and courage and love, that even our four-legged family member enjoyed the reading of this book.

As for book 3, The Monster in the Hollows, we have yet to finish even though an autographed copy was shipped to us from the Rabbit Room two weeks ago. Our slower pace is not due to an arduous story line. On the contrary, I think this book may be my favorite. It is because we have chosen to do this series as a family read aloud and walking with the Wingfeathers has proven to be as good as finding out what happens in the end.

What drew me to Andrew Peterson’s music so many years ago was finding someone who was able to articulate, in rhyme no less, the love of God in a world that is hurting. Sometimes a life of faith is a difficult journey, which will be true for our children as well. But, that does not mean the Lord is absent or unmoved by our struggles. It would be easy to assume at times that He is cold and unfeeling when life gets hard, but it would simply be untrue.

In fact, those are the moments when God can show up in our lost places to rewrite our own stories that would have otherwise ended in death. That is the hope that we have in Christ’s redemption, and Andrew is one of the best artists I have ever encountered who can communicate that truth so profoundly.  He uses his gift with words and translates this beautiful reality it into fictional series that my children can hold in their hands, and I am so thankful.

So, as you are considering summer reads for kids ages 10 and up, I would highly recommend The Wingfeather Saga. But, I would also encourage you to go on this adventure with your kids by reading the series aloud together. The chapters are short, yet captivating. It provides wonderful content for relevant discussions on themes such as forgiveness, courage in the face of fear, being drawn into a story that is much bigger than yourself, difficult relationships, disappointment, consequences of our sin, having compassion for the seemingly “unloveable,” and being remade out of a brush with darkness.

Besides, what greater journey can you go on alone or as a family than one that is an allusion to the Great Story. And, who knows, you may even find yourself in these pages, like this 37-year-old wife and mother did, as you take a walk with the Wingfeathers.

“Hope is the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul.” Emily Dickenson

Once the Sun Comes Up

I was blogging about a book I just finished when my girls came in from outside. They had been visiting all of their favorite outside places this morning.

They came in and pleaded with me to go with them to look at all of the flowers at their special haunts. Places referred to as “the hill place,” “the secret passageway,” and “the grove.”

To encourage me to follow them,  they brought in a ‘banquet’ (or bouquet) of flowers filled with “daisies” (buttercup weeds), “white snowflakes” (crape myrtle buds), and “puff-ball flowers”(buds from a mimosa tree).

When I told them I needed to finish writing and I would come out in a minute, my oldest was disappointed. She said, “Ok mom but once the sun comes up, the spell is broken.”

That was all it took for me me to stop and go outside. My post will have to wait, because I cannot turn down a chance meeting with mystery and beauty through the eyes of my daughters. I have so little access to it in my own self that it often has to be outsourced.

Reflections on a Savior

As I sit and reflect on a memory that transpired long ago

I see myself basking in the gifts only a summer day can bestow.

We swam all day and with sun ripened cheeks, I longed to rest for a while

So, I got out of the pool, called in the reserves to turn over the watch of my child.

She was my youngest and not yet three, so required an attentive eye

Because unable to swim the dilemma was in she was convinced otherwise.

Sitting off in the distance, I let my mind wander and noticed we’d outplayed the sun

It was exhausted and fading down low, mixing all of its colors into one.

Something caught my eye, but I was unsure if what I had seen had been right

Because no one else seemed to notice those little blond curls go under and slip out of sight.

Time stood still in what my mind could not comprehend

My body went tight, stone cold lost in fright; it would not obey my commands.

Then mother’s instinct rang true as I ran and plunged into the water

In a desperate pursuit armed with inconceivable love, I raced to save my small daughter.

From my lofty position, I reached down to the depths and with one final act she was safe

Trembling and eyes full of tears, she found comfort in my embrace.

With a cursory glance, the story has a happy ending it would seem to appear.

But look closer and see it was when she first tasted helplessness mingled with fear.

What I cannot erase was staring down at her face through the water and seeing her eyes

They were begging for mercy and revealed an utter dependence on me in order to survive.

Terror expressed not uttering a sound while her lungs were filled with a drink

She raised up her arms in one last attempt as her body continued to sink.

Too many visions emblazoned but one that I can never let go

Is when the light and water blended together, in her face was the reflection of my own.

With all of these thoughts is what you really wanted me to see

Is no matter how hard I try to deny, the little girl under the water is me.

Because I am stunned to consider how my whole life has been a vigilant attempt

To never find myself drowning in the pool of dependence and helplessness again.

What pride I did take in the life I had made, where desire and need never showed

How could I have known that burying those things meant I had disappeared long ago.

So I sit and reflect on how to accept what my daughter discovered one day,

That it is only from a desperate position that you see a Savior’s face.

I remember that moment when I raised up my arms hoping for a rescue to come

And you came down, lifted me up out of a mire where I was left lost and alone.

You called me your own and promised a treasure I could never lose,

Even if everyday I still fight the battle to not take my eyes off of you.

I’m thankful for the memory where I can look back and ponder

The Father who pursues the prodigals with a terrible tendency to wander.

Away from the fold but never too far from Your gaze and affection,

Only to return and see in your Heavenly face, our own beautiful Reflections.

Sublime. How the Spell was Broken

Ever have one of these? or four?

I have.  And they are evil. As in E’ville.

I didn’t think so at first. But, that is because it’s mind control in a plastic wrapper. They forget to mention that on the box.

Two years ago, this was an obsession of mine. They made me lie to my children. Well, not lie out right. More like….deceive them. There’s a difference.

My husband and I came across these in the freezer section at Trader Joe’s. They seemed harmless enough, so we bought a box. I remember him commenting on how much our children would love them as well.

That night, I had one and really….there are no adequate words to describe the experience.

Unlike other baked ice cream ‘cookie’ sandwiches, the Sublime cookies stay soft and moist even though they have been frozen. That should have been my first clue. It’s just unnatural. So, when you pull it out of the freezer, it’s like eating a chocolate chunk cookie straight out of the oven. Only cold. With ice cream. whatever.

When I woke up the next morning, they called to me.  And that went on all day. I felt it was only right to answer.

I like to save my sweets until the evening when all is quiet and settled.(read* when my children are in bed.) So, the next night, I ate another one. Which was fine, since four come in a box, that left two more for my girls. My husband doesn’t like sweets. Bless him.

I really meant to tell them about the unbelievable ice cream sandwhich cookies rolled in mini chocolate chips that were in the freezer, but it just slipped my mind. I’m sure.  So, after they went to bed, shocker….I had another one.

That left one for the kids, which was alright.  They were so large and really just a half between the two would be plenty as a treat after dinner.

The next day, I remember getting a call from my husband reminding me he would be in class all evening.  That meant I would be responsible for dinner. Then I thought, what would go perfectly with a night having complete control over the remote? But, a Sublime of course.

At that point, my conscience began to interfere. So, I took the girls to the grocery store that afternoon to get a frozen pizza, and surprised them with some ice cream sandwiches that looked like this…..

I was feeling generous. What can I say?

After dinner, the girls were very excited about their treat from ‘mommy.’ I opened up the freezer, not realizing that my oldest was behind me. I heard a loud…..”MOM!! What is That??!” Not much gets past that one; I was forced to share my Sublime. The last one. Seriously, there should be some kind of medal for that level of sacrifice for another.

For a few weeks, you would always find a box of Sublime in my freezer. Or 5.

One evening about a month later, we had a sweet friend come and watch our girls so my husband and I  could go on a date.  She is young, spunky, and loves to come over to our house. It may be because of the 5lb bag of m&m’s in the freezer, but I’m sure it’s more about us and our company.

When I was leaving, I told her she could help herself to anything in the house that she wanted and showed her the Sublimes. After all, that’s the secret of generosity isn’t….having lots of back up? Her eyes got big, and she was excited.

We got home a few hours later, and the girls were in bed. I asked her, “So….How was it?”  She responded that the girls had been very good, and that they had a great time.

I said, “A’hem…….I meant the Sublime.”  Her response was, “Oh, no way!! Did you see how many calories are in those things?”

What?! Calories!!?? Who does that? It never occurred to me to read the caloric intake in one cookie. So, I went and flipped the box over.

Let’s just say that one cookie has as many calories as a meal. For a lumberjack.

That’s all it took. And the spell was broken. Thank goodness for friendship.


A Cinquain is a poem with five lines that follow a specific format. Towards the end of our last school year, my oldest was assigned four different poems on any desired topic. This weekend, as I was organizing and storing school items, I came across her work.

I am a lover of words, but when you read something that your child has written about you….something that has given you insight into her/his heart, it can become a song.

Part of her poem made me laugh(you will too if you know me well), part of it was a surprise as it revealed her attentiveness to my life outside motherhood, and the last word felt like an anchor.

Because if you would have asked me separately to give you one word, one hope of what I desire to define my relationship with my children…I would have used the same word that she wrote as the summary of the theme of her poem.(that is the requirement for line 5: a summary of the theme of the cinquain, which is the first line.)

Cooking? When I gently asked her about this word, her response was…..”Well, you make french toast…..sometimes.”

The Last Word. The Final Say.


This is all I have ever wanted to be as a mom. Not a dictator nor a tyrant. And, not aloof or absent.

The older they get, the less I will say. I will just continue to walk down the path set before me. before us. until it forks.

The more they age, the more space I will afford them to seek their own way, so that they can find their own footing. Not abandon, but simply encourage their own voice.

Hopefully, they will have the map in their mind and heart that we have used together thus far. The Map. The Word. For their Journey.

And for my own.

Setting the Record Straight

Yesterday, a friend asked me if I was good at math. This was in response to me telling her that my oldest daughter is beginning middle school. Since I home school, it is a fair question.  But, it made me laugh because the truth is not only am I not good at math, I am actually an abysmal math person in general. In fact, I have made a vow never to speak in public when it comes to remembering numbers, counting change, or calculating percentages. Trust me, it is a wise vow.

But with the question, comes the misnomer that to be a home school parent you must need to ‘know’ everything, and be ‘smarter than a 5th grader’ so to speak. Well, in an effort to set the record straight, I wasn’t smarter than a 5th grader when I was in the 6th grade nor in my freshman year of college. If you don’t believe me, here are two “did you know’s?” I went around asking people after our second grade school year studying American History…..because frankly, I had no idea.

“Did you know that the Underground Railroad wasn’t really ‘underground!?’

and my other favorite……

“Did you know that the French and Indian War was NOT between the French and the Indians!?” well…it wasn’t. They were on the same team for petessakes. It’s all very misleading.

I guess I had a small problem with literal translations growing up.

So, what’s a mom to do? Well, outsource, of course.

This year we are doing My Father’s World: Early Exploration to the 1850’s.

I love this curriculum. Love it. It comes with a teacher’s guide and maps out daily what our reading and activities are in the areas of Bible, History, Geography, Science, Art, Root Word Study, Read Aloud Books for the time period we are studying, and Composer’s Study. Then I fill in what I want to do in regards to their math, language lessons, and vocabulary study.

I came across this curriculum three years ago through the recommendation of a friend. Years prior, I was more or less piecing it together on my own, and doing a horrible job. I had come to accept that I was just not that kind of person, as I am someone who becomes easily overwhelmed and has a low capacity for stress and chaos. This ‘muscle’ is getting stronger in me as I age, and grow, but I need not pretend I have Herculean strength when I much prefer hiding under my bed in the fetal position sucking my thumb.

One of the most challenging things about home schooling I feel is that ‘life’ does not cease to flow when our school year begins. In fact, our first year doing My Father’s World, I lost two grandmother’s, one of which was more a kin to a parent. I also had a sweet friend lose her younger brother in a car accident that winter. And of course there was…. this. I was very compromised  with grieving and barely getting by every day. But, we had a fabulous  school year in spite of all of the hard ship, because I could just open my planner, look at what was needed that day,  and press on.

As for the original question about math. The answer is most assuredly no. I am not good at math, but that is ok….because I do not have to be thanks to a couple of fellas from Harvard who created a fabulous math program for people like myself called Teaching Textbooks. ***pssst….it’s all on the computer for my kids. The lesson lectures, practice problems, and daily assignments. It even grades their work and keeps a record in a grade book on my computer. be still my heart.

There are a lot of different approaches to home educating your children if you choose to do so. For me it has been more of a journey of simply learning about myself as a mother and as a woman. It has helped me recognize my strengths and accept my weaknesses. I know it’s not for everyone. It’s really not. Every child and family is different. I do not know how long we will choose this as an option for educating our children, but for now, I feel that we are in good hands. Because they are not my own.

Pooh and Piglet

Last night, my oldest daughter and I went shopping for my youngest’s birthday  at Target. It was very familiar, as I thought back to 9 years earlier.

She and I walked the exact same store then, looking for a few last-minute items before the baby arrived. Things like onesie’s, socks, and burp cloths.

My three-year old walked up, and asked me to buy this baby rattle for her.

“Please,” she said. “It is so cute.”

I smiled at her, and said “Yes.”

I had been worrying about all of the changes that were coming her way in the next couple of days. A new baby. A sibling.

I wondered how she would respond. Would she be jealous? Would she regress? Would she act out?

About 5 minutes later, she came up to me with another baby rattle.

I said, “Oh, No sweetie. Just one for you. I’m not going to buy another.”

She looked at me sincerely and said, “No, No Mommy. This is for my baby sister.”

And it was.

And they have been a pair ever since.

And for the record? When did this happen?


The Least of These

Matthew 25:37-40

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?”

“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.”

Kiawah Island has been redeemed in my mind over the past year, and it took something as neat as this for it to be so.

It was not the island itself that I detested in my mind. Alone, it is a beautiful spot, if you enjoy the low country. It was simply a matter of association, like not being able to stomach, ever again the last thing you ate before getting food poisoning.

We first came here on an extended family beach trip when my oldest daughter was almost four years old. On our first evening, we packed up a wagon, and took our two small children to the beach. Our youngest was not yet one, so she spent most of her time eating sand. My oldest was ecstatic to play in the ocean, and went out into the water holding her father’s hand. She was tossed around by the waves and loved every second of it. We were so thankful for a break.

The next morning around 5:30am, I heard my oldest daughter whispering my name. I turned on the light, to see that she had become very pale. She complained that her stomach hurt and began to cry. Soon after she woke up fully, she got sick. Violently so. I will spare you the details; I do not want to be a blogger who puts her children’s bodily functions in print. Even if it is in context.

I put her in the bathtub to calm her down, and to clean her up. For the next 8 hours, she struggled with an intestinal virus, the likes of which I had never before experienced as a mother. I grew very worried as she became lethargic and dehydrated.

I could not stand it any longer, and I panicked.  I packed her up in my van and went to find a phone number for a doctor at the club house. I am not sure why I took her with me, or why I did not have someone go instead of  me. I wasn’t thinking clearly at all, because I was a very young mother who had not weathered before, this type of  illness in her child.

Looking back, I remember that I had not showered or brushed my hair. I left the house wearing old soccer shorts, a t-shirt, and a baseball hat.  Shoes are questionable. As we drove to the island club house, she got sick again. I carried her limp body into a very nice facility, and asked the man behind the counter for the restroom. He was uninterested in us, and did not speak or look in our direction. He just pointed over his shoulder.

After I cleaned her up again, I went back to the front desk to get some help. My daughter began to feel hot against my skin. I was so overwhelmed and afraid. I felt vulnerable and desperate. My least two favorite things to feel.

I stood right in front of the man, who now was intentionally avoiding eye contact with me, and asked him to help me find a doctor for my daughter. He was very dismissive and unmoved by my situation. Stoically, he asked me the address where we were staying on the island. I had no idea. More contempt for my ignorance. He then asked me my name. I told him my father’s name since he was the one who had rented the house.

I will never in my life forget the next 30 seconds after he typed the information I gave him into the computer. His face changed all of a sudden. Physically. I do not know what he saw on the screen that caught his attention. What it was that finally made him consider my humanity and needs. It had to be either my father’s name or where we staying that gave him a reason to have a change of heart.

But a change of heart was exactly what he had for us. He was all of a sudden very kind, attentive, and helpful. I left the club house with the phone number of a doctor on the island, who would ‘happily’ be awaiting my call. On a Sunday.

The doctor called us shortly after I arrived back at the house, and informed us of a very bad rotavirus that he had seen all over the island. He gave us a prescription that settled down my daughter’s digestive system, so she could rest and begin to recover. And also gave me all of the things I needed to know about how to avoid severe dehydration which was common with this particular strand of virus. She was back to herself the day before we left the island.

I try to remember this story when I myself am tempted to be dismissive of other people’s needs, which is often. I have more in common with the man behind the desk at the club house than I care to acknowledge, but not recognizing it does not make it any less of a reality. I try to remember what it felt like to be so fearful, desperate, without knowledge, and dependant on the intervention of another when I encounter someone who has found him/herself in the same position.

But mostly, I try to remember how in one moment, my newly discovered ‘status’ determined that I was worthy of compassion, and how that made me feel less human than being ignored and dismissed. Because, I knew that I was not receiving help because of me. Nothing of myself found me worthy in that man’s eyes.  Certainly, not my need nor my helplessness. Not even my humanity could rouse kindness.

I do not want to be someone who operates with that kind of sliding scale, though I know I am quite capable of doing so. daily.

May grace abound in me, for the ‘least of these.’  And may I always remember that…I am one of them.

Birthday Shopping

Last night, my youngest and I went birthday shopping for my oldest. It made me teary.


1. I passed the games Candy Land, Hi Ho Cheerio, and Chutes and Ladders, and headed for Twister, Guesstures, and Harry Potter Clue. I guess, I’m a little happy not to have to play Chute’s and Ladders anymore. That game can take FOREVER.

2. I walked passed the arts and crafts section, and went to pick out a nice hair straightening flat iron, hair product, and cute hair accessories. oh, and an i tunes gift card.

3. There was no play dough in my cart for party favors. Or pinwheels. Or bubbles. or sidewalk chalk. Or Disney themed party plates and napkins.


4. Because all she wants to do is ‘hang out’ with friends and stay up all night talking.

What just happened?

Wasn’t this you just last year?

Ok, maybe that’s me being a bit dramatic. But surely this is recent….

What?  No?

Ok, Ok….but this is where i draw the line, missy. And you can forget about going off to college!!

Ahhh, that feels better. Thank goodness for super powers.