…because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars; to be satisfied with your possessions; to despise nothing in the world except falsehood and meanness, and to fear nothing except cowardice; to be governed by your admirations rather than by your disgusts; to covet nothing that is your neighbor’s except his kindness of heart and gentleness of manners; to think seldom of your enemies, often of your friends, and every day of Christ – to spend as much time as you can, with body and with spirit, in God’s out of doors, these are the little guideposts on the footpath to peace.
-Henry Van Dyke
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
― Charles William Eliot
You are cordially invited to…
The Storyformed Child Conference :: April 12, 2014 :: Sterling, Massachusetts
Hello friends, I am delighted to announce the very first Storyformed conference, the first event I am launching as part of my new venture at storyformed.com. For years now, I have wanted to hold a conference on the topic of story; its power, its spiritual significance, and how parents can use it to deeply shape the lives of their children. This conference is the answer to that hope, a day long event in which I will deeply explore the power of great books, the need for beauty, and the vital importance of imagination in the life of a child. Speaking from my own experience as a child deeply formed by story, and my study of children’s literature and imagination at Oxford, I truly hope to inspire those who come to a love for story, to an understanding of its soul-forming power, and to a vision of how to create a storyformed home. I’ll have new talks, special workshop sessions, and a conference workbook designed to help parents plan for the storyformed life. I hope to leave those who attend with a deep understanding of the power story has to shape, equip, and kindle heroism in the hearts of children.
My dear friend Stephanie is hosting this conference at a local church, and ensuring that it will be a delightful first event. A lovely lunch will be catered (you have three choices at registration), and resources will be available at the conference. My goal is to make this a day to nourish your soul, kindle your own imagination, and immerse you in the beauty of great books.
But register soon! Register by March 8th to receive the limited, special offer of a copy of my new book as part of your registration!
Caught Up In A Story: Fostering a Storyformed Life of Great Books and Imagination With Your Children is my soon-to-be-published book exploring the power of story and helping parents know how to use that power to shape the hearts of their children. Complete with booklists and short reviews, personal stories, and ideas for bringing literature into the home, this book will companion and encourage parents ready to live the storyformed life with their children. The book will be available at the conference, but early registrants will receive a copy free with their registration.
You can go directly to The Storyformed Child conference website, or click here to register. The website offers an abundance of answers to any questions you might have about the particulars of the event.
I am delighted beyond words to have the opportunity to finally give a full conference on a topic so dear to my heart. I hope this will be the first of many, but I invite you to take part in this very special first event.
So please, spread the word every way you can and let any of your friends in the North East know about this special event! I hope very much to see you there.
I write this from 35,000 feet up in the free blue air. A grey quilt of clouds obscures the earth below, but sometimes the cloud down frays and the earth winks up, a brown, wry face patterned with laughter lines and the rutted gullies of old tears. I never get tired of having the window seat on an airplane. My awe at technology is usually spoiled by my suspicion that it might be ruining my imagination, but I still have a tiny girl’s wonder at the fact that we humans can fly. Airplanes feel a little like magic to me. I could sit here, nose pressed against my window, reveling in my rare, eagle’s eye view for hours.
At the moment though, I’m also just glad to be sitting. I can feel the dark circles under my eyes. For the third time in four weeks, I have gotten up far too early to lug a half dozen suitcases and crates to various airplane counters. I have packed and unpacked, washed (and, well, “unwashed”) more loads of laundry in the past months than I care to mention, changed time zones, chased rental car shuttles, and stumbled up, hair awry and eyes slightly wild to quite a few hotel desks. I have a bag of cherry tomatoes in the bottom of my bag, because I couldn’t stand to throw out good produce one more time, but they sit next to a bar of chocolate because travel season wrecks my healthy intentions. My carryon is stuffed with the speech I haven’t yet gotten by heart, the insurance papers I haven’t figured out, and the manuscript I still haven’t edited though the deadline is this weekend. In order even to write this, I must ignore the ten, urgent, unanswered emails sitting on the next tab over.
I tell you all this because in this rare moment of (literally) suspended calm, I find myself contemplating the worth of doing hard things.
Everything in my life of late seems hard. Conference season is hard. It comes as a mix of marathon, disaster, and holiday. Writing is hard. My brain at the end of a working day feels like a mental sponge squeezed dry of every word, and my heart rate spikes at thought of all the work I have yet to do. Integrity is hard. To write about beauty is one thing, to make it amidst exhaustion and laundry with nerves frayed and tongue sharp is harder. Health is hard. To eat good food, to walk long miles, to seek out natural instead of processed food takes time, and thought, and a mighty dose of discipline. (Especially amidst travel.) Even loving God is hard. Turning my mind away from the many lists of things I need to do, the countless desires, the endless distractions in order to sit with my Bible and listen, listen to his whisper in the silence is one of the most difficult habits I have ever undertaken.
Hard, every bit of it. Hard every single day of my life.
Yet undeniably, unequivocally… good.
Hello friends! Forgive the long blogging silence. Three conferences, one wedding, and the travel in between have just been a bit too much. My writing mind is a rather shell shocked. But a post shall follow soon, scout’s honor. For even a mind bewildered by busyness can be renewed by a good few hours of reading. And ah, I’ve been reading.
Today though, I want to share this luminous video with you, a creation of my inspired friends over at Story Warren. Sam and Gina and their lovely, imaginative children (you will meet them in the video) are kindred spirits in their vision to help families cultivate children with “holy imagination.” We’re comrades in arms, I think. Enjoy.
This Is Story Warren – Allies in Imagination from Laidley Media on Vimeo.
I didn’t mean to buy five books. I only meant to browse the tumbled shelves at Poor Richard’s. I came for replishment after two weeks of hard writing and a conference to boot. It’s not like I needed more to think about. I just wanted to have a good cappuccino, people watch, explore a few art books, read a few first lines. Peruse, at most.
It was the first lines that got me. How, I ask you, could I leave books with such words as these in their opening chapters abandoned in the shop? Obviously, I was meant to adopt them into my library:
To my Readers: This book of essays was written because I believe that culture begins in the cradle. Literature is a continuous process from childhood onward, not a body of work sprung full-blown from the heads of adults who never read or were read to as children… from Touch Magic by Jane Yolen.
Has it ever occurred to you that the acts of reading and meditation resemble each other in many ways? Both are usually done alone, in silence and physical stillness, our attention focused, our whole selves – body, mind, and heart – engaged. Both can draw us deeply into ourselves, all the while taking us out of ourselves. Our consciousness shifts… from Walking a Literary Labyrinth by Nancy M. Malone
Ironically, to Campbell, the end of the hero’s journey is not the aggrandizement of the hero. “It is,” he said in one of his lectures, “not to identify oneself with any of the figures or powers experienced. The Indian yogi, striving for release, identifies himself with the Light and never returns. But no one with a will to the service of others would permit himself such an escape. The ultimate aim of the quest must be neither release nor ecstasy for oneself, but the wisdom and the power to serve others.” One of the many distinctions between celebrity and the hero, he said, is that one lives only for self while the other acts to redeem society… from Bill Moyers’ introduction to Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth
This book could not have been written by sitting still. The relationship between paths, walking, and the imagination is its subject, and much of its thinking was therefore done – was only possible – on foot… It is an exploration of the ghosts and voices that haunt ancient paths, of the tales that tracks keep and tell, of pilgrimage and trespass, of song-lines and their singers and of the strange continents that exist within countries. Above all, this is a book about people and place: about walking as a reconnoitre inwards, and the subtle ways in which we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move… from The Old Ways by Robert MacFarlane
The mouse father put Despereaux down on a bed made of blanket scraps. The April sun, weak but determined, shone through a castle window and from there squeezed itself through a small hole in the wall and placed on golden finger on the little mouse. The older mice children gathered around to stare at Despereaux.
“His ears are too big,” said his sister Merlot. “Those are the biggest ears I’ve ever seen.”
“Look,” said a brother named Furlough, “his eyes are open. Pa, his eyes are open. They shouldn’t be open.”
It is true. Despereaux’s eyes should not have been open. But they were. He was staring at the sun reflecting off his mother’s mirror. The light was shining onto the ceiling in an oval of brilliance, and he was smiling up at the sight… - from The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo
What was I to do?
Brew a cup of tea, of course. And settle in for a longer winter’s afternoon of reading…
I woke quite early this morning. I resented the universe for startling me from slumber even before I opened my sleepy eyes. But when I did, I found a whole dawn sky of softest rose staring back and I felt that it was the face of a young child eager to play. The sunrise today wasn’t the fell, hard crimson of the dawns in “sailor’s warnings.” What I felt wasn’t awe, but laughter. For that light was gentle, an exuberance of playful color, a child’s breath lifting the thin morning clouds, blowing the streaks of mist into the light like dandelions in the wind.
I wondered abruptly if among the many other things he is, God is a glad-hearted child, a holy little one at play in creation, smearing vivid swathes of color over his page of sky, merry and sweet in his making, holding up his handiwork for us to see.
And I wonder if we, in our frailty, are careless, faulty keepers of this Child who tugs so ceaselessly on our hands, begging us to look on his creation. We barely glance, for we have more important things to do. We sleep or work through the beguiling moments of first light, our eyes fixed already on the lists within our brain before our eyes have even opened. We wake impatient for God to get on with the real stuff, willing only to look at him for spiritual business, for action, and need.
And he, with saddened eyes lets the soft, pink light fade. The hard day kick swiftly into gear along with his faithfulness and he sighs, hungry for the morning when we will all have aged enough to be a child like him once more.
But he, eternally innocent soul, is indomitable. His laughter rises with each new morning and he peers into the windows of our homes and hearts once more, begging us to play, to laugh, to see.
At least today, I did.