A Raggant in Aerwiar

Wingfeather Kickstarter

Two years ago today, I arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina—my official move from northern climes to the south. The move was a bit haphazard in that I had come down for working visit a few weeks earlier and didn’t move my belongings down until a few months later, but March 31 was my official arrival. During my transition time after arrival I stayed with friends so I didn’t have my own address. I therefore used my work address for all necessary mail.

One of these necessary mail items about a months after I arrived was the reward from Andrew Peterson’s The Warden in the Wolf King Kickstarter project. I’d had the privilege of proofreading the book so it wasn’t so much that I needed to get it in order to read it as I needed to get it in order to find out if the right number of dragons had fought and died and lived in the final battle. That said, my excitement was not diminished for already knowing how the story ended.

In the day or so before the package arrived I took to haunting the mailboxes at my workplace, waiting to see if my books had arrived. There, the morning before my package arrived, I got into a conversation with two of my coworkers about what I was waiting for. I told them about the Wingfeather Saga and the Kickstarter.

My coworker Lynn said, “I know those books! My son loves them!” She said they hadn’t gotten in on the Kickstarter, but that her son Roch was eagerly awaiting the formal release of the final book in the series.

“He could borrow mine,” I said.
Lynn looked at me a little confused. “Are you sure?” she asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “I just read it a few months ago when I proofed it. I just want to count the dragons and then Roch could borrow it.”

So when my package arrived I took it home for a night counted the dragons (the right number lived and died this time) and then took it back to work the next day for Lynn to take to her son.

Roch devoured the book, and when Lynn returned it to me with profuse thanks, she said, “Okay, so can you help me know when the book actually comes out—there’s one more thing that Roch wants—it’s a little book that goes with it, some kind of encyclopedia?”

“Ah,” I said, “Pembrick’s Creaturepedia. Yes, I think they only made a limited edition of that, so there won’t be many available. I’ll keep my eyes out.” I hadn’t yet had the chance to meet Roch, but I could tell this 11-year-old boy was my kind of kid.

Some weeks later, still a month or so before the book’s official release, I was out in Nashville visiting the Rabbit Room. I had a brainstorm while I was there and realized I could pick up a copy of Pembrick’s Creaturepedia for Roch. I got the copy and took it back to Charlotte where Lynn realized the timing was perfect. Roch was performing in the skits for our church’s VBS that week and the book would be a gift to him for all his hard work.

At the end of the week, I was sitting at lunch in the kitchen at work and Lynn and Roch entered.

“This is Miss Givens,” said Lynn to a bathrobed Roch—I presume his costume for the VBS skit. “She’s the one who brought you the book.”

Roch made his way across the room and pulled his already slightly battered Pembrick’s Creaturepedia out of his bathrobe pocket and dove right in. “Have you seen this one? And this one? And here at the end how you can draw your own creatures? I drew this one and I’m thinking about another.” He paged through the text and showed me some of his favorite creatures. “And this one this one is the best!” he said. “I just think this is so cool—” He flipped to a page with the picture of a small, multi-eyed beast that looked a bit like a winged rhinoceros and began reading the description, “Something is surely amiss. Of all the odd creatures I have discovered, some rumor existed of each. But this raggant (a name which came to me the moment I set my eyes upon it) has no precedent, no mention in the volumes of Aerwiar’s history…”

As he read, I looked at the picture and thought to myself, Wait I know that creature… I had not flipped through my own Creaturepedia yet. Roch was giving me my first introduction.

“Roch,” I asked, “have you read the 100 Cupboards books by N.D. Wilson?”
“I read the first one,” Roch answered.
I pointed to the page. “Isn’t this the creature from those books?”
“I think you’re right!” said Roch.

It was one of those delightful little discoveries—those ones that make you love an artist even more because he made a nod to a thing you love. Ever since that day, I’ve wanted to know how a raggant came to be found in Aerwiar—and which cupboard door Henry might have opened for an entirely different adventure.

My great wish may never be fulfilled, but I haven’t stopped hoping for it. You see, there’s another Kickstarter going on right now (it finishes on April 4; you’ve still got time to support it!). They’re aiming to turn the Wingfeather Saga into an animated series. Yesterday they hit one of their stretch goals—$175,000. In addition to being able to animate Peet the Sockman, one of my favorite characters in the series, this stretch goal includes the reward of a story in the world of Aerwiar written by N.D. Wilson and illustrated by Joe Sutphin.

I can’t say I’m not dreaming of seeing a raggant in Aerwiar yet.

Post-Moot

We are post-Hutchmoot again, and I am certain I will have many things to say in the next few days, but I’ll begin with a few quotes:

“A song or a painting or a story can play on the imagination of the reader or the listener or the viewer almost in the same way a pianist can play on the piano keys.” -Doug McKelvey

“This is not forever, we are just living in a day of a story that spans all of time.” -Heidi Johnston

Hutchmoot 2015“What makes story present and grants us the opportunity to be in the story at this present time is the telling.” -Walter Wangerin, Jr.

“Beware of the man who makes himself the hero of his own story.” -Russ Ramsey

(and for a bit of fun, please imagine the following in a Northern Ireland accent)
“Have you ever been at a conference with so many references to Deuteronomy?!” -Heidi Johnston

“A Good Word for Winter”

I discovered James Russell Lowell’s “A Good Word for Winter” a couple of weeks ago—to my utter delight. I could probably quote from it for hours. For now, though, on this Winter Solstice, I’ll simply give you the meat of his argument:

“I am going to ask you presently to take potluck with me at a board where Winter shall supply whatever there is of cheer.

DSC_6957“I think the old fellow has hitherto had scant justice done him in the main. We make him the symbol of old age or death, and think we have settled the matter. As if old age were never kindly as well as frosty; as if it had no reverend graces of its own as good in their way as the noisy impertinence of childhood, the elbowing self-conceit of youth, or the pompous mediocrity of middle life! As if there were anything discreditable in death, or nobody had ever longed for it! Suppose we grant that Winter is the sleep of the year, what then? I take it upon me to say that his dreams are finer than the best reality of his waking rivals.

“‘Sleep, Silence’ child, the father of soft Rest,’ is a very agreeable acquaintance, and most of us are better employed in his company than anywhere else. For my own part, I think Winter a pretty wide-awake old boy, and his bluff sincerity and hearty ways are more congenial to my mood, and more wholesome for me, than any charms of which his rivals are capable. Spring is a fickle mistress, who either does not know her own mind, or is so long in making it up, whether you shall have her or not have her, that one gets tired at last of her pretty miffs and reconciliations. You go to her to be cheered up a bit, and ten to one catch her in the sulks, expecting you to find enough good-humor for both. After she has become Mrs. Summer she grows a little more staid in her demeanor; and her abundant table, where you are sure to get the earliest fruits and vegetables of the season, is a good foundation for steady friendship; but she has lost that delicious aroma of maidenhood, and what was delicately rounded grace in the girl gives more than hints of something like redundance in the matron. Autumn is the poet of the family. He gets you up a splendor that you would say was made out of real sunset; but it is nothing more than a few hectic leaves, when all is done. He is but a sentimentalist, after all; a kind of Lamar-tine whining along the ancestral avenues he has made bare timber of, and begging a contribution of good-spirits from your own savings to keep him in countenance. But Winter has his delicate sensibilities too, only he does not make them as good as indelicate by thrusting them forever in your face. He is a better poet than Autumn, when he has a mind, but like a truly great one as he is, he brings you down to your bare manhood, and bits you understand him out of that, with no adventitious helps of association, or he will none of you. He does not touch those melancholy chords on which Autumn is as a great as master as Heine. Well, is there no such thing as thrumming on them and maundering over them till they get out of tune, and you wish some manly hand would crash through them and leave them dangling brokenly forever? Take Winter as you find him, and he turns out to be a thoroughly honest fellow, with no nonsence in him, and tolerating none in you, which is a great comfort in the long run. He is not what they call a genial critic; but bring a real man along with you, and you will find there is a crabbed generosity about the old cynic that you would not exchange for all the creamy concessions of Autumn. “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” quotha? That’s just it; Winter soon blows your head clear of fog and makes you see things as they are;  I thank him for it! The truth is, between ourselves, I have a very good opinion of the whole family, who always welcome me without making me feel as if I were too much of a poor relation. There ought to be some kind of distance, never so little, you know, to give the true relish. They are as good company, the worst of them, as any I know, and I’m not a little flattered by a condescension from any one of them; but I happen to hold Winter’s retainer, this time, and, like an honest advocate, am bound to make as good a showing as I can for him, even if it cost a few slurs upon the rest of the household. Moreover, Winter is coming, and one would like to get on the blind side of him.”

From My Garden Acquaintance: A Good Word for Winter, A Moosehead Journal by James Russell Lowell &The Farmer’s Boy by Robert Bloomfield, pp. 49-53

O Antiphons: A Guest Post by Thomas Turner

You know those people you overlapped with in life for a short time, but somehow, you manage to get to know them better after that point? Thom Turner is one of those folks for me. We went to college together; our lives overlapped in a variety of activities, but I wouldn’t say I knew him well. Instead, I’ve gotten to know Thom through the magic of the internet, as we’ve continued to overlap in the organizations we know, the publications we write for, and, of course, that place of wondrous connection: the Facebook newsfeed. He’s graciously allowed me to guest post at Everyday Liturgy on occasion, too. I’ve enjoyed watching the turns his life has taken and have always appreciated reading his writing. Now he’s written a book of Advent prayers, a new reading of the traditional “O Antiphons,” and it’s available on Noisetrade. Read on to see what he has to say about it! -Cg-


O AntiphonsDecember is one of the busiest years of the month for me. Not just the usual bustle of presents and parties and pageants at church. I work in fundraising at International Justice Mission, and on top of all the holiday hustle I am pulled in many directions at work as well. It seems like the wrong time to start spreading the word about a prayer book for Advent that I have written…

But then again, it is precisely the right time. Because not only do I think you need this book (and you do!), but I need it as well.

In the midst of the hustle and bustle I need to slow down and realize that Jesus Christ came to this earth, is coming to the earth through his Kingdom and will come again in the second Advent, to unite heaven and earth under his glorious reign. I need to take some time to be still and know that the Lord of Lords and Prince of Peace came in the flesh to dwell among us. I need to prepare my body and soul to worshipfully meet the King of Kings on Christmas day.

The aim of the Advent and Christmas seasons are so rich in meaning: the first and second coming of Jesus, the Incarnation, the Kingdom, Mary’s song about what the Messiah, who is in her womb, will do when he is birthed into the world. All of this, and yet by the time I get to Christmas day I just want to eat a nice dinner, gorge on some cookies and take a nap. Where’s the worship in that?

Simply put, O Antiphons: Prayers for the Advent Season is a prayer book for you and me to use to prepare our bodies and souls to worship on Christmas day. The “O Antiphons” are one way that Christians for over 1500 years have been preparing their hearts, souls, minds and bodies to celebrate the coming of Christ at the first Advent, Christmas. In this book, I have given a fresh reading of the O Antiphons, along with an Old and New Testament scripture reading and a meditation with discussion questions to guide you during the last week of Advent. From December 17th to December 23rd, you can use this prayer book to prayerfully come into the presence of the baby Jesus, born of a virgin, fully God and fully human in form, who is Wisdom in the flesh, our Lord, the Savior promised from David’s line, our Eternal Light, the King who unites all peoples and our Emmanuel, the God-who-is-with-us.

Starting today, you can pick up your free copy of O Antiphons: Prayers for the Advent Season on Noisetrade. And if you are truly in the Christmas spirit, all of the tips I receive on the book will go toward a nice gift for Jana Miller, who contributed awesome illustrations that you can turn into Christmas or Jesse tree decorations, and toward ending everyday violence against the poor.

Have a Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas!


TTurner PicThomas Turner is the Strategic Partnerships Research Manager at International Justice Mission and curates Everyday Liturgy, a source for worship and liturgical ideas. He is happy to be living back below the Mason-Dixon line again after a lengthy sojourn in the NYC metro area. You can follow Thomas online, on Facebook and on Twitter.

And Then There Was the Day…

And then there was the day that I didn’t want to write a blog post. I wondered when it would happen. I was feeling pretty impressed by myself for making it through nearly two-thirds of the month without running out of ideas or just simply not wanting to write.

But I’ve hit my wall. I don’t feel like it.

I’m desperately trying to come up with some memory of a time when I had hit a wall and I just didn’t feel like going any further.

I can’t.

So, instead I’ll tell you in broad sweeps with very little attention to detail and no revisions whatsoever (except for there when I just typed the word “whatsoever” as “whatsover” and hit the backspace button to fix it) about the weekend that my family went camping at Warren Dunes during Hurricane Hugo.

Warren Dunes

Warren Dunes

It was a great trip. We met up with my uncle and aunt and cousins and Seth and Shane and I spent hours in the vine-festooned woods where we would break off dried curly-cues of vine and use them as keys to get us through the doors we imagined in the vine-and-branch posts-and-lintels into Narnia. And there we met Caspian and Reepicheep and Peter and Edmund and we shouted, “Narnia and the North!” and traversed the land—except for when we were playing it on the dunes themselves as we hiked toward Lake Michigan and discovered we were headed west and therefore changed our phrasing to “Narnia and the West” so as to be geographically accurate.

I don’t actually remember the storm. I slept through the tent collapsing on top of us and Dad and Uncle Hal getting up to anchor the tents to the cars and the trees. I missed it entirely.

But Hurricane Hugo was the storm that blew a Yugo off of Mackinac Bridge up in Northern Michigan, so to say I was tent camping that weekend definitely lends me some cred.

Julie’s Porch

I sat in Julie’s living room this evening. I walked in, looked at the sofa, and turned to look back at her.

“I’ve never sat down in this room before,” I said.

She raised one eyebrow and cocked her head a little. “How is that?”

I gestured to the darkened screen porch out the back door. “I’ve spent many hours on your porch.”

It will be a strange thing this winter, learning the living room at Julie’s house. I’ve gotten to know the kitchen quite well and there’s a bedroom upstairs that’s been mine for nights in a row. But the porch. That’s my spot.

I first came to Julie’s at the very end of May in 2013. I was tired. I was worn. I was hurt.

A quiet breakfast on @juliesilander’s porch with good books and a delightful mug. @therabbitroom

A photo posted by Carolyn Givens (@carolyncgivens) on

And she offered me coffee, books, and a spot on the porch. And I took it. And I drank in the cool days, the quiet yard, the trees, the birds.

And for the better part of two days, she didn’t bother me much. She’d come out, sit on the other wicker loveseat, and read her own things. From time to time we’d read out a passage to one another, or stop to talk for a few minutes. And in quiet mornings a cup of coffee and a good book was healing for my soul.

On the last night of my visit—my birthday—the whole family joined me on the porch and fed me cake and asked me questions, a household birthday tradition.

I came back in late March this year. It was warm enough again to be on the porch, and I dragged my laptop out and counted dragons in the final battle of Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga as I copyedited The Warden and the Wolf King.

Then, in April I returned again. I didn’t need the room upstairs, but the porch was still there for me. And on it we gathered other friends, some new to me, who shared their hearts and their words.

Tonight we moved our words indoors and feted them with hot apple cider. It’s grown chilly for the screen porch, but next spring—next spring I’ll be back there again.

Fireplace

Someone posted a photo of a woodstove happily burning on Facebook this evening. It glimmered in my sight as I scrolled passed.

At first, I bemoaned the not-quite-fall that we seem to be having here in Charlotte, but then I paused, noted that I had been chilly for most of the day, and suddenly recalled that I now have a gas fireplace. It ain’t a woodstove, but it’s better than nothing.

fireplaceSo I figured out (with the help of Google) how to get the pilot lit (Dad’s lessons from June had been forgotten), and now have a cozy little fire going in the living room.

Fireplaces are a sign of my childhood. Until I was 10 years old, we heated almost exclusively with our woodstove. The bedrooms upstairs were chilly, so we spent our winter evenings in the family room and kitchen, nearer the stove and its warmth.

On Sunday evenings, the doors opened on the front of the stove and we roasted hot dogs or sandwiches or marshmallows as we picnicked indoors watching Murder She Wrote after evening church.

Most weeknights, Jessie and I would take baths before bed and come back down with my wet hair and Mom would turn the blowers on high. With me in front of one fan and Jessie in front of the other, we’d sit, drying our hair, and listening as Mom read to us from Little House on the Prairie or The Chronicles of Narnia. Loren sat at the kitchen table doing her homework. Dad worked on projects nearby.

I’m certain these memories are golden-colored with age, and those quiet evenings were probably not as often nor as idyllic as I recall them; but I’m happy to let the memories lie. Ideals are lovely things. And even if my future is more likely to be a family all examining their smartphones simultaneously, I think I’ll still turn off the heat and gather them near the fireplace, so at least they’ll do it together.

Exchange

In our study this week, my Bible study group looked at the passage in Romans that says, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25).

I wrote a note in the margin of my book: Jane Eyre.

I adore the novel Jane Eyre. I have multiple copies and if I ever find one for a good price at a library sale, I pick up a copy to have on hand to give away. I’ve given away more copies than I own.

When I was packing to move up to Alaska, I decided to get some audio books and listen as I worked. I picked up Jane Eyre from the library and started in on it. Quickly, I discovered that I was noticing things I’d completely missed in my reading of the text. I was so familiar with it that I often would consume whole pages, rather than read individual sentences.

And then, just before the climax of the story, I came to a line that changed my whole understanding.

Jane Eyre is a redemption tale. It’s a story about a governess who goes to work for a man named Mr. Rochester. He’s wild and untamed, and she’s quiet and chaste. And they fall in love.

On their wedding day, his past sins find him out, and Jane discovers that he keeps a madwoman in his attic—his wife. He intended bigamy, because life had given him pain and he had found purity and joy and wanted it.

It’s easy to see Rochester’s character arc in Jane Eyre. He was sinned against, and he sinned against others in response, and only when Jane leaves, ripping away from him all hope of happiness, and his physical prowess and sight are taken from him in a fire that also kills his mad wife, does he begin to repent of his sins. At the end of the book, he says,

I did wrong: I would have sullied my innocent flower – breathed guilt on its purity: the Omnipotent snatched it from me. […] Divine justice pursued its course; disasters came thick on me: I was forced to pass through the valley of the shadow of death. His chastisements are mighty; and one smote me which has humbled me for ever. You know I was proud of my strength: but what is it now, when I must give it over to foreign guidance, as a child does its weakness? Of late, Jane – only – only of late – I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were, but very sincere.

It is easy to see Jane as simply the victim of Rochester’s sin. She, after all, entered the relationship in good faith, with pure intentions.

But the line that caught my ear that day was just before everything goes sideways, during the happy weeks of the couple’s engagement. Jane says of that time: “My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world: almost my hope of heaven. He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for his creature of whom I had made an idol.”

I read Romans 1, and it is so simple to see the list of sins and excuse myself from the remonstrance of the passage because I’ve been “good” and avoided the things on that list. But the ultimate accusation against mankind in that passage is one of exchange: we exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped the creature rather than the Creator.

And suddenly I see myself standing with Jane, recognizing the things that stand like an eclipse between me and the sun, the idols I make.

Words, Words, Words

I learned a new word today.

I love learning new words, particularly when they’re multi-syllabic and fun to say.

WordsToday’s word was “concatenation.” Both multi-syllabic and fun (and defined as a series of interconnected things or events). Evidently, listening to NPR does make you smarter.

It reminded me of some of my favorite words of the past and my adventures in using them. Like when I worked my hardest to get the 18-month-old, highly verbal son of friends to start saying “caterpillar,” “hippopotamus,” and “hobbledehoy.”

I discovered the last one on an evening during college when my friend Bekka and I were either bored or determined to waste time, and rather than doing it sitting in our distinct dorm rooms and chatting with each other on AOL Instant Messenger (where we would sign off with threads of text that said things like, “Farewell, Gorgeous.” “No, you’re gorgeous.” “No YOU’RE gorgeous.” “No, you—”…if you ever needed proof that college students are like preschoolers, I’ve got plenty of stories for you), we were hanging out in my room and exploring the dictionary.

One of the things I regret about our digital age is the loss of the codex dictionary. While I adore being able to type a word into Google and have the precise Merriam-Webster definition pop up immediately, I miss seeing all the other words on the page—that was where the fun lay. For on the same spread as “longitudinal” in my dictionary are words like “loofah” and “lollipop.” I can’t look up “summa cum laude” without seeing “Sumerian” and “sumac.” Natural curiosity leads me to read more definitions on the page than I went there to find, and in the process I learn new things—words, concepts, history, connections.

Anyway, Bekka and I sat on the floor and thumbed through the dictionary and found fun words, and when we happened upon “hobbledehoy” we knew we’d found a keeper. Its origin unknown, but dating from 1540, the term means, “an awkward, gawky youth.” We were sophomores in college, surrounded by 19-year-old boys. It was a descriptive-term-to-situation match made in heaven.

I’ve used the word any chance I can ever since, including trying to introduce it to every toddler I know. Perhaps, though, my favorite use of it I found when reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters. She describes the first meeting of Molly and Roger this way:

To Molly, who was not finely discriminative in her glances at the stranger this first night, he simply appeared “heavy-looking, clumsy,” and “a person she was sure she should never get on with.” He certainly did not seem to care much what impression he made upon his mother’s visitor. He was at that age when young men admire a formed beauty more than a face with any amount of future capability of loveliness, and when they are morbidly conscious of the difficulty of finding subjects of conversation in talking to girls in a state of feminine hobbledehoyhood.

That right there? I don’t think I shall ever be able to top it.

Speaking of fun words, I want this book.

The Musicians of Bremen

BremenArby’s is currently serving “meat stack” sandwiches and their employees have donned t-shirts with a pile of edible animals on the back as advertising.

I hope the designer of the t-shirt had the musicians of Bremen in mind when coming up with the idea. I like to believe we’re still cultured enough in our society to remember our folk stories.

I immediately thought of the tale when I saw the t-shirt this afternoon, and it actually took me a few moments to figure out just why the young man behind the counter had it on. It was only when I compared the silhouettes of the animals to my memories of the matchbox holder in my parent’s downstairs washroom that I realized the stack in front of me was not quite accurate. Bremen’s musicians, after all, were a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster. There was no pig, as prominently displayed on the Arby’s t-shirt.

But the shirt brought back warm memories of my mom and dad reading me the story as a child from our “Well-loved Tales” storybook copy of it.

Do you know the story? If not, here’s a translation of the Grimm Fairy Tale.