All posts by hanna


‘There lies the fastness of Southern Mirkwood,’ said Haldir. . . ‘where long the hidden Enemy had his dwelling.  We fear now it is inhabited again, and with power sevenfold.  A black cloud lies often over it of late.  In this high place you may see the two powers that are opposed one to another; and ever they strive now in thought, but whereas the light perceives the very heart of the darkness, its own secret has not been discovered.  Not yet.’ (395)
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
John 1:1-5


Just a friendly reminder that Haldir is awesome!

Happy Saturday!

“I Am Groot” (and High School Biology)

Confession time: I have never seen an Avengers movie.

But if it can redeem me, I have seen one Marvel movie (which I am very grateful to have seen!) and that was Guardians of the Galaxy.  Which I loved.  Since I don’t have space, in one post, to analyze all five beautifully crafted lead characters, I want to talk about one: Groot.

Almost everyone can appreciate a good humanoid tree.  I have yet to talk to anyone who doesn’t love Groot, but really now, what’s not to like?  He is a walking, talking tree who can regenerate from one twig, whose vocabulary consists of I and am and Groot (in that order).

But my favorite thing about Groot is the way he grows.  From his habit of shooting up twice his original height to reach things for people, to the flower he spontaneously grows out of his palm for the beggar girl on Knowhere–I love the way he is simply bursting with life.  There’s a special place in my heart for the glowing firefly-like things he generates at the end.

What I did not realize until just recently was how appropriate this attribute was for a (sort-of) talking tree.


I’ve spent this school year finishing my high school biology course (“Exploring Creation with Biology” by Dr. Jay L. Wile), and I’m really enjoying it.  The latest chapter I finished was all about plants, including (of course) trees.

One thing Dr. Wile discussed was stems.  He pointed out that the stem you would typically think of as a plant stem (herbaceous stems) cannot grow any larger after they mature.  This is because they will crack the skin of the stem, and expose the inside of the plant to the elements.

Tree trunks (or woody stems), however, are another story.

Underneath the outer bark of a tree trunk is a layer called the cork cambium.  Its job is to produce new bark, underneath the old layer of bark.  This allows the tree to continue growing as long as it can and simply break through the bark, since there is always a new layer underneath.


Whether the makers of Guardians of the Galaxy were aware of this or not, I love how accurate their depiction of a “human tree” is; trees are literally cracking their own skin with the pressure of the life inside them!

Groot’s unquenchable, thriving growth is actually quite congruent with his real-world counterparts.


‘When that happens to a tree, you find that some have bad hearts.  Nothing to do with their wood: I do not mean that.  Why, I knew some good old willows down the Entwash, gone long ago, alas!  They were quite hollow, indeed they were falling all to pieces, but as quiet and sweet-spoken as a young leaf.’ (457)
The Tower Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

Alright, we storytellers just love trees.

A Writer and the Word

Since I attended a girls’ conference when I was little more than a decade old and committed to read my Bible every day, I’ve known it was important for me to read the Bible as a Christian.

While I did not honor my original commitment very well at that stage, it was the beginning of my journey towards making the habit of picking up my Bible every day.  It’s a been a roller coast to say the least, but I stuck with it fairly well.

Then I started reading “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers, and he posed the question: am I worshiping God while I form good habits, or have I started worshiping the habit itself?  And I began to wonder if I was worshiping the habit.  Was I reading my Bible to “be a good Christian” or to learn more about God?  In the circles I move in, reading your Bible every day is “cool”.  Was I persisting just so I could smile and answer affirmative if the topic of daily reading ever came up?

So I started to let myself take breaks.  I took the pressure off.  If I didn’t find time for the Bible, I would assure myself I was doing important things and God didn’t want me to spend all my time reading (like that argument would have carried a fleck of weight if we’d been discussing reading The Lord of the Rings instead *cough*).  And maybe if I remembered I would run through a psalm I had memorized before I fell asleep.

It’s not like you would have found my Bible a month later, in the back of a cupboard, covered in dust; I probably still read it most days.  But it certainly wasn’t a priority.  Even when I came to the conclusion it probably was beneficial to read it every day, it was still not top of the list.

But then I noticed a difference.  When I didn’t read the Bible, I was different–and I didn’t like the different me.  Reading God’s Word changed me.  And THAT was the beginning of another journey, towards prioritizing my Bible reading. . . again.

So I read the Bible every day; not because someone tells me I should, not as a safety net in case I’m asked, not even really because I want to know what’s in it.  I read the Bible every day because it makes me feel closer to God, and that’s where I want to be.

But what I didn’t anticipate was the how darn inspirational this reading plan was going to be–while I knew it was going to affect me spiritually, I didn’t expect it to affect my imagination.  My writer-brain gets on fire when I’ve been consistent in reading God’s Word.  I don’t why it took me seventeen years to understand it’s important to read the Bible as a storyteller.  It’s gotten to the point where I can hardly read my Bible anymore, if I’ve been consistent for days, because the story ideas come so fast while I read.

I mean, tell me this isn’t Middle Earth or Narnia-esque:

“But you, O God, are my king from of old;
you bring salvation upon the earth.
It was you who split open the sea by your power;
you broke the heads of the monster in the waters.
It was you who crushed the heads of Leviathan
and gave him as food to the creatures of the desert.”
-Psalm 74:12-14

And is this not just begging for a novelization?

“I also saw under the sun this example of wisdom that greatly impressed me: There was once a small city with only a few people in it.  And a powerful king came against it, surrounded it and built huge siegeworks against it.  Now there lived in that city a man poor but wise, and he saved the city by his wisdom.  But nobody remembered that poor man.”
-Ecclesiastes 9:13-15

And that’s only two of many I’ve run across (Job, for instance, always just sets my imagination on fire!!).  I’m sure I’ll find more.

Good morning again

Good morning readers!  By the time any of you can read this scheduled post, it will be Sunday morning, and I’ll be on my way to church to find and hug my friends, and already missing my older siblings whose Christmas break from college has finally run out.

Man! has it been too long.  As a writer, I wanted–of course–to post all through December, about gifts and Jesus and the real meaning of things, and maybe write a short Christmas story: the whole shebang.

Needless to say, none of that happened: I posted once about Christmas, and left my blog to its fate.  I read Pride and Prejudice in two days (it was exhausting but I cannot put that book down for the life of me!) and I re-read A Christmas Carol just for the giggly Christmas-feels.  I stressed about life while simultaneously abandoning the real world, and I epic-ly failed at giving Christmas presents.  I stayed up late unloading my heart on my family and crying (more than once), and I wrote several thousand words in a messy first draft of “Nieo & Star”.

Christmas break was a whirlwind, and sadly included no blogging.  I’m back to school now, but we’ll see how it goes.  Maybe I’ll be back.

‘What do you mean?’ he said.  ‘Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?’ (13)
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

(Side note: if you say that quote replacing good morning with merry Christmas, you sound like Scrooge.  Just try it.)

Good morning, my good hobbits!  And a late merry Christmas, whether you want it or not.

‘Tis the Season

Mom poked her head into the kitchen.  I was making room in the fridge for the turkey and rice soup we had just enjoyed (Thanksgiving leftovers put to good use).  “Are you good, or do you want to drop it and help us?”

“I’m good,” I said.  I enjoy cleaning, and the kitchen was quiet.

They were decorating our newly-scored Christmas tree.  I was cleaning up after dinner in the half hour I had left before dance class.  It felt like I should be in the living room, even though it wasn’t really a family occasion–Spencer is back to college in another state, and Becca was at church.  The darkness outside that evening made the lights inside seem cozy.  I gave it up –I squeezed the soup pot into the fridge and headed for the living room, navigating the un-swept floor.  What was I doing by myself in the kitchen anyway?

I got down on my knees and started helping attach wire hooks to our glass balls.  I back and forth ran from the bin of decorations to the Christmas tree, and there and back again.  The glitter stuck to my jeans and my hands.

“I love this color scheme,” I said, looking over our fir, which was turning into a pillar of red and blue and silver.

“Good.”  Mom smiled.  “That makes me happy.”

She had turned on this gorgeous, gentle, instrumental music and the whole thing felt magical.  If there’s one thing that gives me nostalgia, it’s Christmas music.

I love Christmas, and I’m so excited for this new Christmas season.  Happy December, readers!


There was a moment when I realized that China inspires me more than almost anything else.  Not just China–adoption.  I’ve considered myself a writer for a long time and I’m almost always writing.  It was a sobering moment when I realized that I write the most during hard times.

I haven’t said it a lot, but I said it in this post (and shared this quote).  Adoption is hard.


It’s one of the hardest, most painful things I have ever seen.  Adoption is God’s plan B after man’s rebellion.  Children should not be orphaned, parents should not be abusive, babies should not be lost.  But they are, because the world is broken–we broke it, mankind.  (It is not, and never has been, God’s fault.)  Adoption is like the cross.  Adoption is recklessly hoping that we can pick up the broken pieces of what we shattered and trampled and fuse them together.  We can.  I believe that.  But it doesn’t eliminate the pain when things break, when people die, when people disappear, when important stories fade into the mist and nobody can explain to us why things happened the way they did.  If “adoption is a redemptive response to tragedy”, it must start with tragedy.  It still hurts.

And yet……

And yet I get most inspired to do what I love when I’m smack in the middle of it.  Why?  Why does pain inspire me?  Why does God choose to meet me in the brokenness, the squalor and the slime, and the mind-boggling heart-ripping pain?

I noticed this the last time I went to China (a year ago, this week).  Adoption, this insane, beautiful, painful, humbling, humiliating adventure, sparks my imagination in a strange way.

Why is this?

God created the world to be perfect, “good”.  So why do I find so much beauty in the brokenness?  Why do I find Him, so often, on the ground in the dirt?  God gave me this gift, and I believe, with all my heart, that I am to use it to glorify Him.

But then–

Then why does it thrive on pain??

I say we’re supposed to run to pain.  I run to it myself.  But then, like a regular hypocrite, I recoil again and thrash against it.  I cry, and whine, and scream for answers, and wonder why God won’t heal my cracking heart.  I press my hot face against my tear-stained pillow in the dark and realize, even amid my complaining, that my mind is still going–the gears are turning.  I’m going to have to write.  I collapse onto the ashes and smoldering cigarette-butts.  I nurse my bleeding fingers after pounding my fists against the rubbish piles we’ve made of forgotten bottle-caps and broken glass.  And again and again my cut, sweaty, blistering hands grope for my pen.  I thrive on pain.

But do I really?

“God is near to the brokenhearted.”

The human heart was made to be whole and beautiful. It was created in the image of God.  His presence is where we are filled and inspired; we cannot thrive on brokenness.  But the world is broken up and bloody, and God runs to the suffering.  He picks up the ends we snapped off in rebellion and pride, and He fuses them together; He gathers up what we’ve beaten and broken and makes them new.  He runs to the pain, He staggers to the cross and pours His own blood into our mess.  He accepts our brokenness and makes something wonderful out of it.

We do not thrive on suffering.

God runs to the pain, and when we run to it, we meet Him there.

Earl Grey Tea

I make horrible decisions pretty often.  But once in a while I make decisions like deciding to incorporate tea into Nieo and Star’s story world–that was a good decision.  You have to describe tastes, so I can now randomly make myself my favorite kinds of tea and call it story research.  Clever, I know. 😉

Happy Wednesday!!


While we’re talking about writer-ly things, I just read this blog post about what excites writers and knew I should share it.  I expected to relate with a few points, of course, but I did not realize I would agree with all of them!  Each new point and I was thinking, “Oh my goodness, yes, that thing makes me feel so excited!”  So if you’re a writer and you love reading about yourself (like me!), or if you’re not and you want to hear some things that make us whoop with excitement, click through and read ahead!

Happy Saturday!


All the Writerly Angst

I think one of the perpetual questions a writer asks is will anyone really want to read this?  I often find myself wondering if anyone else cares even a bit about the things I write about.  I have yet to find some perfect way to know what the world (or even my corner of it) wants to read, so I fall back on writing to myself–I like reading this kind of thing and I’ll trust that others do too.

So we have this post.

I love reading about other writers’ writing processes, so I’m going to take a little long post to talk about my writing desk.

When I finished writing Catania’s Forest close to this time last year, I was left with the inevitable question of what to write next.  The stories come and go so fast!

There was a quaint little story I had left lying around half-written called Blue Eyes Eastward.  I picked it up again and decided to finish writing it before anything else.  I got a new story idea partway through (Anchored, my pirate story) and started plotting it, but Blue Eyes was still a priority.

Well, then I had a setback, that started when I realized my villainess was sadly shallow.  In the end I realized I didn’t like the themes of my story at all, I was doing things I had seen other authors do and hated, and I needed to consider dropping it.  So that story died–I killed it.  And man! was that hard.  When I look back on it, I don’t feel much for that story, but at the time it was a very hard decision to make.  As Anchored was still deciding what it wanted to be and how many characters would live through it, I was not ready to start writing it (still not!).  So there was a lull.

And into that lull came “Nieo and Star”, the story I’m currently writing.  And guys, I love this story so much!  There literally aren’t humans in this story, it’s straight fantasy creatures, and my imagination is. in. heaven.  While Cat’s Forest was certainly fantasy, I was very focused on making it feel real and it’s darker than what I usually write (I know that some of you will find it amusing that I call Cat’s Forest dark, but it’s dark for me!).  And so as Anchored isn’t typical fantasy and all the important characters are human, and I’ve been toying around with some sci-fi lately, this story is just perfectly timed!  It feels so, so good to get back to good ol’ classic Medieval fantasy and remember why it’s my favorite genre.

But, of course, it isn’t all peaches and rainbows through and through.  While this has been a pretty peaceful stage in my writing with minimal writer’s block, it’s also lead me to think about being a writer more than usual.  This story feels unique.  It’s also very, very me.  It’s been a long time since I wrote something so fresh off my imagination.  It’s hard to put into words, but this story feels personal.  Which means it’s more fun to write, but it’s really scary!  I feel like I’m slicing a piece off my heart and pasting it to a page.

And hence: the inevitable question.  Does anyone want this stuff besides me?

And I don’t really have an answer.  Would people like Nieo and Star?  Would anyone read it?  I don’t know.  But I’m writing it anyway, and I’m writing it the way my imagination wants it, in hopes that someone else is like me, and someone else likes to read such things.

Anyway, I hope this post didn’t feel too down-in-the-dumps and someone found it interesting.  If anything, it was interesting to write!  Happy Monday!!

22 of my favorite Tolkien quotes for Hobbit Day

A compilation of my favorite Tolkienisms to celebrate September 22nd, otherwise known as Bilbo and Frodo’s shared birthday, otherwise known as Hobbit Day.  Fair warning, there’s a good dose of Aragorn and Faramir–because all the L.R. fans pick favorites!


“Bilbo was sadly reflecting that adventures are not all pony-rides in May-sunshine.” -The Hobbit, pg. 36


“‘War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory.  I love only that which they defend.” -The Two Towers, pg. 656


“It needs but one foe to breed a war, not two. . .  And those who have not swords can still die upon them.” -The Return of the King, pg. 937


“Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that come down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death a light that endures.” -The Silmarillion, pg. 162


“‘There go three that I love, and the smallest not the least,’ he said.  ‘He knows not to what end he rides; yet if he knew, he still would go on.'” -The Return of the King, pg. 762


“‘Maybe the paths that you each shall tread are already laid before your feet, though you do not see them.'” -The Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 413


“‘Too often have I heard of duty. . . I have waited on faltering feet long enough.  Since they falter no longer, it seems, may I not now spend my life as I will?’

‘Few may do that with honour,’ he answered.”

-The Return of the King, pg. 767


“‘But these evils can be amended, so strong and gay a spirit is in him.  His grief he will not forget; but it will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom.'” -The Return of the King, pg. 851


“‘Good morning!’ said Bilbo, and he meant it.  The sun was shining, and the grass the was very green.  But Gandalf looked at him from under long bushy eyebrows that stuck out further than the brim of his shady hat.

‘What do you mean?’ he said.  ‘Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?’

‘All of them at once,’ said Bilbo.”

-The Hobbit, pg. 13


“This of course is the way to talk to dragons, if you don’t want to reveal your proper name (which is wise), and don’t want to infuriate them by a flat refusal (which is also very wise).  No dragon can resist the fascination of riddling talk and of wasting time trying to understand it.” -The Hobbit, pg. 191


“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not whither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.”

-The Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 193


“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while.  The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him.  For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.  His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself.  Now, for the moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him.” -The Return of the King, pg. 901


“He walked in the deserted ways of Tirion, and the dust upon his raiment and his shoes was a dust of diamonds, and he shone and glistened as he climbed the long white stairs.  And he called aloud in many tongues, both of Elves and Men, but there were none to answer him.” -The Silmarillion, pg. 248


“‘In this high place you may see the two powers that are opposed one to another; and ever they strive now in thought, but whereas the light perceives the very heart of the darkness, its own secret has not been discovered.  Not yet.'” -The Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 395


“‘Then you would have us retreat to Minas Tirith, or Dol Amroth, or to Dunharrow, and there sit like children on sand-castles when the tide is flowing?’ said Imrahil.

‘That would be no new counsel,’ said Gandalf.  ‘Have you not done this and little more in all the days of Denethor?  But no!  I said this would be prudent.  I do not counsel prudence.'”

-The Return of the King, pg. 860


“‘Do not scorn pity that is the gift of a gentle heart!'” -The Return of the King, pg. 943


“‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.

‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.'”

-The Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 55


“He rose and looked long at Gandalf.  The others gazed at them in silence as they stood there facing one another.  The grey figure of the Man, Aragorn son of Arathorn, was tall, and stern as stone, his hand upon the hilt of his sword; he looked as if some king out of the mists of the sea had stepped upon the shores of lesser men.  Before him stooped the old figure, white, shining now as if with some light kindled within, bent, laden with years, but holding a power beyond the strength of kings.” -The Two Towers, pg. 489


“‘The world is all grown strange.  Elf and Dwarf walk in company in our daily fields; and folk speak with the Lady of the Wood and yet live; and the Sword comes back to war that was broken in the long ages ere the fathers of our fathers rode into the Mark!  How shall a man judge what to do in such times?’

‘As he has ever judged,’ said Aragorn.  ‘Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men.  It is a man’s part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.'”

-The Two Towers, pg. 428


“And a great wind rose and blew, and their hair, raven and golden, streamed out mingling in the air.” -The Return of the King, pg. 941


“‘Then the prophecies of the old songs have turned out to be true, after a fashion!’ said Bilbo.

‘Of course!’ said Gandalf.  ‘And why should not they prove true?  Surely you don’t disbelieve the prophecies, because you had a hand in bringing them about yourself?  You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit?  You are a very fine person, Mr Baggins, and I am very fond of you; but you are only quite a little fellow in a wide world after all!'”

-The Hobbit, pg. 255


I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

-The Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 313