All posts by hanna

Our House

These past few years, our church has been in the process of renovating a bowling alley to meet in.  We sold T-shirts for the campaign that read “Our House.  Our Story.”  (They’re cool–I still wear mine. 😉 )

Well, we’ve been meeting in “Our House” for a while now, and it’s beautiful.  We’ve done amazing outreaches in Our House’s neighborhood, hosted many events from weddings to funerals, and worshiped God there so many times.  Mom and some of the Littles spent some extra time there during the week last summer, cleaning the bathrooms.  I often went with them.

Our whole family attended a graduation there a few weeks ago, and us “older kids” stayed late to help clean up.

Confession time: I’ve always hated helping people clean up after parties.  I’m happy to help, but I never quite know what to do or where to put things away–and I hate situations where I don’t have all the information!

I started helping some other girls who were arranging the sanctuary chairs, when my older sister called me to help her clean the bathrooms.  I followed her out, and ran straight to the closet where I knew the cleaning supplies would be.  I took the job I always did, and it felt so familiar: I snagged the stainless steel cleaner, sprayed the sinks down, scrubbed the faucets, wiped the water-marks off the paper towel holders.  This was my house, this was my story, I knew what to do.

We propped open the door to the men’s bathroom, and I didn’t even feel that awkward scouring the sinks there.  I got down on the ground and scrubbed footprints off the floor, and let the feeling of home sink in.

Having our house wasn’t really about stained-glass windows, polished pews, or (even!) an air-conditioned place to meet.  It’s a place where everyone fits in, everyone can serve.  A place where we can be a family.

My house, my story.

Your house, your story.

Our house.  Our story.

Three Reasons why Lord of the Rings and Narnia survived the Test of Time: A Guest Post by Savannah Grace

Happy Monday, readers!  As you can see, we have our first-ever guest post today, by the lovely Savannah Grace!  So enjoy the post, and hop over to Savannah’s beautiful blog, Scattered Scribblings, here.

“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them …”

“Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.”

I think almost every writer or reader of fantasy would know which books these two quotes are from – and neither of the books are modern! Both of them are over sixty years old – so what helped Lord Of The Rings and Narnia survive the test of time? And how can we help our stories do the same?

1. Both Authors Took Risks

Fantasy was still a new thing when J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis wrote their stories – a lot of people consider them the ‘Founding Fathers Of Fantasy’. Fantasy wasn’t a popular thing back then like it is today, so it was a little risky to write a story like Lord Of The Rings or Narnia. But, looking back at these authors, and other authors whose books have lasted, I’ve learned that it can really pay off to take risks.

It’s hard to really hard “go out on a limb” with our stories nowadays – it feels like every idea has already been thought of and used! But one of the important things to learn about writing is that no one writes the same way. Two people could write a story with the same premise, and the stories would still be so different. Which means that it might not just be an idea that you can take risks with – it can be your writing style plus the idea that is a risk. And sometimes risks seriously pay off ;).

2. The Characters Are All Unique, Realistic, And Easy To Relate To

The Pevensie siblings are some of the most realistic characters – the childlike innocence of Lucy, the feeling of responsibility for his siblings that Peter had, Edmund’s jealousy, and Susan’s caution. All of the siblings are unique from each other, and they’re all easy to relate to.

Same thing goes for Lord Of The Rings. Not only are the character different from each other in personality (I don’t think anyone would mistake Gimli’s personality for Gandalf’s!), but J.R.R Tolkien has different races of people in his story, which makes each character even more different from the others.

One of the easiest ways to make sure all of your characters are different is to put them side-by-side and see if the story would change much if you cut one. If the answer is ‘no’, then you’ve probably got a character or two that isn’t quite needed in the story. And if the answer is ‘yes’, then well done! Keep your story-people realistic, unique, and easy-to- relate-to, and you’ll have a cast of winning characters on your hands.

3. The Books’ Themes

Honestly, I think this one is the most important. Books always stick around when they have powerful themes, because – no matter what time we live in, or what the circumstances are -there are just some themes that we’ll always be able to relate to. The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe (the most well-known Narnia book, in my opinion), has themes of redemption and sacrifice. The Lord Of The Rings has themes of courage and hope.

It’s easy for books to survive when they have themes that everyone can relate to, no matter how long ago the book was written. Some themes, like bravery and love and never-giving- up, are never going to run out of steam, because they’re some of the themes that will always play a big part in real life.

Let’s take risks, writers. Your story could be the next one to survive the test of time.

“Courage, dear heart.”

~ Savannah Grace

Which is your favorite, Narnia or Lord Of The Rings? What are your favorite themes to read/write about?
Feel free to ask Savannah any questions you have in the comments.  Also, you can read a post by yours truly on her blog today, so go check it out!

A Post for Pip

From December, 2016

He had no name then–at least, no one had told me if he did or not.  He had no face, no mental picture, no name.  But I knew he had a soul, and I knew that every hard “situation” is made up of people–beautiful, hurting humans beings, made in the image of God.  I knew it must become personal, because he was a real person, back then too.

So I called him Pip. . .


They told me, and I was shocked.  I didn’t know how to cope with this.  But I knew I had to do something; even if I just had to care.

And care I did.  I prayed–hard.  I dreamed and imagined; and I hurt–with every inch of my heart.

And I called him Pip.

Then he had a face.  And then a name.  As a matter of fact, several names.  Pip wasn’t any of them.  But that was alright; all I ever wanted for him was them.  But a piece of him will always be mine too.

And in a corner of my heart, he’ll always be Pip.

I recently prayed a friend through a terrible illness, and felt the widening rings of the enthusiasm and joy that spread from her recovery, and I thanked God and let my full heart over flow.

And I bled my heart out in a dark basement, while we watched recovery fade out of sight and felt health slip through our fingers (but not hope).  I came face to face with death and felt the contact burn sear my heart.

And then I threw myself on my knees and pleaded for life.

The answer to that prayer was no.

I don’t understand why God would spark life, and then end it so soon.  I don’t understand, but I know God is good.  In the pain, in the mystery, in life, in death, in the tears, the blood, the sweat, the fire, the storms, the brokenness.  He’s good.

And I believe He loves him more than I do.  More than any of us could love Pip.

So I trust.  And I stay; and I care, and I pray.  And my mind reels and my heart bleeds, and I feel the brokenness become a part of me; like it became a part of Him as the nails drove into His skin.

I watched the funeral on the live stream, and I let the pain soak through their saturated hearts and drip onto mine.

And I loved Pip.

He opened my eyes to a new angle of the world I had always been blind to.  He touched me, and others; and broke our hearts for a crippled world.

I’ve learned to love my world, and I’ve learned there’s nothing wrong with that love: God created us in it for a reason, and He called it good.  But it’s not really my home, none of us really belong here.

Pip’s time was shorter here, but there’s still a reason for it, and God is still good.  He didn’t belong here any more than I do, and God took him home early.

This world was not his home.  There’s a reason God let us meet him, but there’s also a reason He took him back.  This was not the place for Pip.  But in heaven, there a place for him, that’s where God knew he had to go.  A place that’s perfect.

For the little boy called Pip.

Pirate Ships

Greetings, friends!  Just dropping a quick note to say that I’m brainstorming a new story idea, and I need to name some pirate ships (and some not-pirate ships, actually).

Image from

So, if anyone has any ideas for ship names, I’d be grateful.

Happy Friday!

I hope to be back soon.

Costuming: Why it isn’t as complicated as you think

Hey, y’all!  I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you guys about this.  I’m working on finding a date in June.  In the meantime, I decided to do a post about simple costume ideas.  Because they’re really not that hard.

Stories teach better than anything, so I thought I would simply share a few costumes I’ve made, starting with this one:

Spencer happened to have the three-cornered hat laying around, my grandma gave me the shirt, and I happened to already own a simple skirt.  So I just randomly ended up with the pieces for a simple costume, without even really trying.  Not hard.  (If you don’t have an older brother to get hats for you, I’m very sorry.)

Next, what Spencer and I wore to a Lord of the Rings themed English country dance*:

*Yes, that’s a thing.  And in case you were wondering, it was super fun!

Can you tell who we are?  Most people at the dance recognized us. 🙂

The idea of finding a Middle Earth costume for both of us was daunting at first, but it wasn’t actually that hard.  Both our shoes and most of our clothes are just carefully selected from our closets.  My cardigan was borrowed from Becca, the elf-ears were borrowed from a friend, I happened to have Spencer’s necklace already but you can buy one on, and my crown (the only piece we bought specifically for the dance) is just a plastic one we ordered, probably also from Amazon.  It was rather expensive for a plastic crown, but it was the only money we had to spend and we could have gotten a cheaper one if we had gotten on it sooner. 😉

Spencer’s cloak might be a bit of an elephant in the room, and yes, that part was complicated.  That cloak is one of my favorite creations, and the result of a summer-long project, almost a hundred dollars spent on fabric, and lots of help from Mom (and I mean lots, because I have almost no experience sewing).  If you’re not a seamstress or don’t want to buy that much fabric, etc., (back to Amazon) I know there are plenty of hooded cloaks available there too if you look.  Most of them looked thinner and not super high quality, but they weren’t expensive and would work fine for a costume.  We bought one for Lucy for under $20 dollars, and it’s worked well for her and is quite lovely.

Sure, people could probably tell Spencer was in brown dress shoes, and I had a T-shirt on under the cardigan.  But you know what?  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  Like I said earlier, most of the people at the dance knew who we were, and we had fun.  There’s no right or wrong answer.

This is a simpler example (I’m sorry the picture’s poor quality):

Once again, just random things from my closet, but it reminded me of one of Sleeping Beauty’s first costumes in the Disney movie:

I’ve thought about adding my cloak to it, but you could really just use any nice piece of fabric and wear it like a shawl.  And a black headband wouldn’t be hard to find.  It doesn’t look exactly like the movie, but I’d say it’s close enough for me. 😉

In one of her blog posts about building characters, Savannah Grace talked about certain characters having “trademarks”.  She was talking about writing, but when you’re making a costume for a certain character, it can be helpful to think about what “physical trademarks” that character has.  Savannah’s example of Princess Leia’s hair was a good one.  Elsa’s hair is another: all you need is something blue and sparkly and a braid pulled over your shoulder and everyone will know who you’re trying to be.  Arwen/Aragorn’s Evenstar necklace is another example.  So is Jyn Erso’s necklace.

All you really need is a good “trademark” or one quality piece of fan-gear, and it’s easy to go from there.  Or (like in the Sleeping Beauty case) sometimes you don’t even need that.  Like I said, it’s not complicated.

What are simple costumes you’ve made?  What other neat character trademarks did I miss?

Aragorn: The Reluctant Hero (A Detour Through the Movies)

Our pastor recently mentioned Aragorn in one of his sermons.  Needless to say, I was thrilled.

(listen to it here–the recording is from the first service, not the second, so you can’t hear me whooping the first time he says Aragorn’s name. 🙂 )

His sermon was based on the movies, which ruffled this purist just a tiny bit, but it was still very thought-provoking.  One of the biggest differences between book-Aragorn and movie-Aragorn is his attitude towards inheriting the throne of Gondor:

In the books, he is 100% on board with the idea at the time of The Lord of the Rings–in fact, it’s pretty much his goal in life.  Like I talked about in my post Aragorn: The Servant Leader, he knows he is a king and he knows he can lead.  He isn’t afraid of who he is.  And as far as I’ve seen digging through appendices, he always was on board, since he figured out who he was at the age of 20.

However, in the movies, Aragorn isn’t sure he trusts himself to rule.  After his ancestor, Isildur, failed pretty miserably and left a terrible mess for others to fix, Aragorn doesn’t have faith he can do any better.  It takes nearly half the movies for him to finally embrace his ancestry.

Like I talked about in my last Aragorn post, I’ve always focused on the way the king of Middle Earth represented Jesus–and I believe he does, to a certain extent.  But Aragorn is still human, he isn’t perfect.  Hearing Pastor Matthew’s sermon made me realize he can be an allegory of us as well.

The sermon was part of a series about being heirs of Christ.  I began to realize that we are heirs of the King now.  We are sons and daughters of the world’s Creator, and heirs of the universe.

People focus on salvation being access to heaven, and I get that.  But there’s more.  God isn’t just giving saving us from hell, He’s giving us access to Himself, His power.  His Spirit lives in our hearts.

The power and dignity of kings is in us.  In me.  In you.  Will we take it to war with us?  Will we take it to the pain?

We’ll mess up, yes.  People will misunderstand us, scorn us.  They’ll fight us, hurt us, betray us, fail us.

But God will never, ever, ever fail us.

Middle Earth needed Aragorn to return, the world was in chaos without a king.

Our world needs the King to return and win the war as well, and it needs the heirs of the King to move.  We can’t do it in our own strength, but we are the hands and feet of God.

We are heirs of the King.

The victory is ours.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and other thoughts on Shakespeare

So, as it turns out, yesterday was Shakespeare’s birthday.  I read a couple plays when I was little, but didn’t read any more for a long time.  But I’ve gotten back into it recently, reading some plays for high school, and I’ve been loving it.  So I totally freaked out when Mom told me yesterday!  I didn’t have time to do anything about it then, but I decided today was an appropriate time to post the first Great Books paper I wrote this year.  Enjoy!!

I was first introduced to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, before I was a decade old, in Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare for Children by E. Nesbitt.  I read the original version, after seeing it performed at Shakespeare on the Green, a few summers later.  Even at the age of ten, I was enthralled.

Continue reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and other thoughts on Shakespeare

Aragorn: The Returning King

Tolkien, very explicitly, did not write The Lord of the Rings as an allegory.  He rather described it as “applicable”.

Aragorn is a relate-able human, he doubts himself, he messes up.  But Tolkien chose to give him a very powerful role in Middle Earth.  As a king and a successful hero, I think he must, on some level, represent Jesus.

Like I talked about in the paper I posted on Easter,  I believe in hero stories because I believe in one Hero who saved me.

You certainly can’t take this analogy too far, but they all break down somewhere, don’t they?  The Lord of the Rings is just a story and a story’s job is not necessarily to be perfectly theologically accurate.

I knew I had to do one of my “Aragorn posts” about kingship, but someone has already put what I want to say quite beautifully, so I’m going to stop rambling and point you all over to

I know I’ve linked to this before, but I think Tolkien-fans should read it.  In The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter, Tolkien said:

Of course, Allegory and Story converge, meeting somewhere in Truth. . .  And one finds, even in imperfect human ‘literature’, that the better and more consistent an allegory is the more easily can it be read ‘just as a story’; and the better and more closely woven a story is the more easily can those so minded find allegory in it. (121)

I think this article has really helped me think about stories and fictional characters, and sort out what’s merely story, what’s allegorical, and what’s “applicable”.  So instead of my words (which you’ve already had enough of), you can read someone else’s on Aragorn and Middle Earth.  Enjoy!

When We Need a Hero: Observations on Richard III

I wrote this paper for school last week, and then realized it was perfect for Easter, and just in time for it too, so I decided to share it today.

I honestly do not know why I chose to read Richard III for Great Books this year.  I recall seeing it on my list of books, after I had long forgotten picking it, and thinking something along the lines of What was I thinking? or What have I gotten myself into?

The fact remains: it’s an odd play.  Not to mention, a bit disturbing.  It is a story–not surprisingly–about Richard III.  Richard is a discontented man, with no friends, no pretty lady to court, and nothing to do.

“And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover

To entertain these fair well-spoken days,

I am determined to prove a villain

And hate the idle pleasures of these days.” (4)

Out of this boredom, he sets out to become king of England.  The play follows this power-hungry, dissembling villain as he works his way up the hierarchy and pays mercenaries to murder off all other potential heirs.

Continue reading When We Need a Hero: Observations on Richard III


My Mom read me an article recently, that an adoptee wrote about things adopted children often struggle with.  To be honest, it was a pretty hard read.  I knew I believed in the power of listening to others and hurting alongside them when you could do nothing else–but somehow I felt something in me shutting down to the heartbreak.

I’ve experienced pain in many forms, but this was pain I could avoid, walk away from.  Someone else’s cross, I could choose to carry–or not.  You might think I had already made this decision, but adoption isn’t a moment in time, it’s a journey.  It isn’t my consent on a legal document, it’s my promise to always, always, always accept you.  Sure, these kids were my siblings–that didn’t guarantee a natural, Christ-like love on the spot.

(Who am I kidding, is love ever natural?  Yes and no–because we’re all sinful, but we’re also all made in God’s image.)

We were family, whether I liked it or not at that point, but that didn’t mean I had to bear their pain.  I was faced, as I so often am, with the unexpected choice.  There was no question in my mind as to what was right–Jesus bore our pain, our sin, our shame, in ways I can never identify with.  He wants us to do the same.  He wants us to care, He wants us to show up.  He can do the rest.

I think there is something God is trying to teach me about pain, because shortly after this our pastor started a sermon series about the cross.

What if there’s gain in feeling someone else’s pain, just because we can?

Jesus said to take up our crosses daily and follow Him.  I think he also wants us to take up others’ crosses, and help them bear them.

This Good Friday, are we willing to look at the cross, as it truly was–painful, ugly, shameful, and unjust?  Are we willing to look at pain?