Since graduation, I’ve been trying to keep reading works in the canon of great Western literature (likely an unattainable dream). Last week I finished Brideshead Revisited (which mostly made me more annoyed at Downton Abbey for existing and also wishing that every Catholic author had the clairvoyance of Walker Percy). This week I’m reading Lord of the Flies for the first time.

I’m not sure what I expected, but so far, I’m profoundly disappointed. Maybe it gets brilliant after chapter 9, but up till now this book has been lazy writing and I don’t think it’s to prove a subversive Faulknerian purpose. I miss having lit class discussions, and I wish that my English major gang would bat this around with me a bit.

I read The Spire a couple years back and really enjoyed it, despite some psycedelic confusion (the character/narrative voice, not me). It was well-written and memorable and I would like to reread it and turn it over in my mind after a second reading. It merits it–there’s a lot going on in it.

So when I picked up Lord of the Flies, I hoped for something as provocative and difficult and memorable. But I feel like Golding let me down. So far, the narrative voice has been inconsistent, and the physical descriptions are lazy and inattentive. He’ll start describing something, interrupt himself, and then reintroduce the description, with new elements that he assumes and doesn’t describe. It’s all very confusing. I could forgive him the sloppy dialog (seriously, you couldn’t make a satisfying argument for who is speaking a quarter of the time), if only he would be willing to describe the island and scenes with a bit of care and attention. (That said, perhaps it’s a ploy to suggest the placelessness of human depravity! Even so, he could have done a better job at creating a placeless disorientation.)

However, his worse sin is that his character definition is spotty. The conflicts between the boys are hard to follow because he hasn’t created enough distinctions and individuality to cause such conflicts. Again, if this was to emphasize the everyman element of the story, he failed. These aren’t everyboys, they’re boring boys.

And I’ll forgive his weird juvenile homoerotic moments because he was writing in a different era and writing about childish affections. There’s enough true innocent loyalty in these moments to almost make this modern reader accept the heart palpitations and dizzy fondness as archaic norms. But could he at least give us enough character for each boy to let these interludes be believable? I guess I’d accept them more if I knew enough about Ralph’s personality to understand why he and Jack get along so well.  I don’t want them to be predictable, but this is an excess of character flat-lining on the other extreme.

I’m not going to give up on Golding, for the sake of The Spire. I’ll finish this book and I suppose I’ll read more of his work eventually. Maybe I’ll like Lord of the Flies better when I’ve finished it. To be determined.

For those of you who’ve read Lord of the Flies, what did you think? (Hold the spoilers for now!) Am I being too picky? What’s the brilliance of this? Couldn’t we just read Homer to pick up on the depravity of man left to himself?

This has been “Really? Really??” with Hännah.

Note: I’m aware that I’m significantly under-read in great literature outside of the Western canon. Now accepting suggestions!

May has been a month brimful with emotions. I need to discipline myself to write every day, rather than doing short recaps like this.

This month I turned 23 and was alone a lot. The day after my birthday I found out that my grandmother had passed away, and I discovered didn’t know how to grieve. I know that if I let myself feel, I could write about it, but I don’t know how to let myself feel these things sometimes. Taking communion on Sundays and giving thanks for the simple, tangible grace of bread and wine helps me feel solid again, though.

Later in the month I had jury duty for three days. This helped me break out of a reading rut and gave me time to enjoy some of the many good things sitting in my birthday book pile. [I think the reading rut is tied to my writer’s block, so I am hopeful about writing again soon.] Reading during jury duty allowed me to remember again the wholeness that comes from swallowing a book in one piece. I also loved the first-hand experience with our judicial system. I have new appreciation for a good judge and am surprised to discover that I really disliked the lawyers.

In the midst of these things, I had some job interviews. These left me breathless and deliberately strangling my growing sense of anticipation. I’d been feeling the need to leave my current position for a while (my desire to work with publications rather than fundraising wouldn’t die). With my experience in primarily Christian organizations and my lack of interest in public policy, I was less than optimistic about my chances of finding a fulfilling editorial position with potential for growth and mental stimulation. But then I got a job offer which was more wonderful than I could have hoped, and I feel a little guilty for feeling so incredibly happy and for being handed something so good. I wrote a professional notice of my resignation last week and handed it in, shaking. I was then surprised by unexpected congratulations and kind words. It feels really good to have a concrete to-do list for my last days and see a good conclusion to my time here taking shape. I have learned so much in this job and will be sad to leave the people [and the cushy commute] behind. It’s a good end to this season.

As if this news wasn’t good enough, Kevin was also interviewing for jobs and received a really fantastic job offer. He will be starting his new job on the same day I start mine. I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am about this and about the prospect of normal work schedules for both of us. I’ve been so thankful for his patience and commitment to his grueling restaurant job, and am just giddy that he gets to do something more tailored to his skill set in a place where he will be treated well for good work.

I’ve had a lot of thoughts in my head and probably could have written a post here every day this last month. But most of these thoughts have instead been channeled into long, long emails to friends discussing complementarianism, Sovereign Grace Ministries, marriage, and family stuff (see: my grandmother died). Kevin says that what gets posted here is the tip of the iceberg and also the cleanest and most well-thought out writing that I do. He’s right. Maybe I’ll do some Q&A posts based off of a couple of those emails. Oh, and I’m also featured as part of a panel on the “Raised Quiverfull” series over at Libby Anne’s blog. I think I’m the only active professing Christian on the panel, which I realized after I wrote my answers to the questions. I would probably revise some of my answers after reading those of the other panelists to be more thorough, but I really haven’t had time or energy.

There are lots of other emails from friends to which I haven’t replied yet. If that’s you, I’m sorry, and I’ll get to it soon. If I’ve been putting it off, it’s probably because it touched a tender spot and I’m still waiting for the words to say what I need to say.

Other sweet things have happened, too. There was a birthday party for the daughter of a friend and a spontaneous road trip to our alma mater, and we have good friends in town for the summer. We’ve had some wonderful family gatherings with good food and music at my in-laws. My family is going on a month-long road trip across the country, and our church continues to be a haven for us. I got to see a delightful author speak live at a book festival, and I bought plane tickets to see friends and family this summer and fall. And I’ve been making a lot of caprese salad and dark ‘n’ stormys. Life is sweet. Lhude sing cucu.

I think I avoid writing because I’m not comfortable talking about what really matters to me. And I’m not comfortable talking about it because I’m afraid of the criticism and friendly “heart checks” I’ll get from my parents and the good people who knew me mostly during 2000 – 2008.

I am happy to either 1) let them think I haven’t changed that much and am a happy newlywed making home and love and reading her Bible and working a little and having a beautiful life, or 2) simply bulldoze them with long arguments against the tenets of conservative fundydom and leave them reeling.

There is no comfort in vulnerability for me. I want to be happily ignored or a force of reason to be respected.

And when I don’t have happy housewife blog posts to write (and really, I should just let the gushy poetic types with good cameras, etsy shops, and cute kids have that genre) or a new tour de force about feminism & grace or some such thing, I hide. I bury my need to write in absorbing a never-ending stream of information, blog posts, essays, and piquant news articles.

Upon reflection, I’ve realized that this is an addiction in the truest sense of the word: I self-medicate against my intense need to write (journal, blog, ponder) by numbing my mind with an overflow of words and ideas from others.

In high school, I used to think that I could be a good writer if I wrote regularly. But then I realized that I needed to read good books in order to write well, and I “took a break” from writing, which turned into a 3 year self-directed course of reading all the “classics” I could get my hands on (being in a conservative environment, this meant reading anything written before 1940 and the post-war cynicism of true 20th century literature), and eventually a degree in English.  I still wrote, but it was a strange mixture of half-baked jabs at hard questions, platitudes, and detailed evaluation of little moments. I was sure I hadn’t lived enough or read enough to write well. (I’m still convinced that the good writer is a regular reader of good writing)

But I think this discipline-turned-habit has become a way to avoid writing, now. And I think I do have some things I can say better than I could before, but I’m afraid of the consequences. I’m too much of a people-pleaser.

This year for Lent, my husband and I stopped drinking alcohol. We do this every year (or have for the last three) and it’s a good idea, especially as we have family history of alcoholism and mothers who are concerned for us because of the simple reality that we think alcohol tastes good.

In retrospect, though, I think I should have given up reading my rss reader feed and keeping up with the various news outlets and social media hotspots I have on my browser’s bookmarks. I don’t think I’ll give it up completely, now that I realize this about myself, or that I’ll suddenly start writing honestly instead of finding something to distract me.

But maybe I can open up a little more, and be okay with the fact that I’m not really the goody-two-shoes who kept her parents and church friends satisfied with her behavior throughout high school and [most of] college. Maybe I’ll admit that I am normal and that’s okay. That I liked Hangover II and I like reading The Bloggess. That I write better when I drink whiskey. That yes, mom, I wear a bikini to the pool and that’s just fine. That I have an anger problem which is tied to anxiety which is tied to not being okay with letting go and not having control over everything in my life. And sometimes I like to use strong language, because I feel strongly. That I’m using birth control pills and think that’s an acceptable moral thing for a Christian to do, if it’s a careful, educated decision. That I really respect stay-at-home homeschooling moms with 9, 10, 11 kids, if that’s a careful, educated choice. That I’m afraid of being a mom someday, but I’m also really at peace with having a family with Kevin because he’s a good man. And so forth.

The funny thing is, none of that is “shocking.” I just tie myself up in lies, thinking that it is and trying to ignore it or laugh it off.  I’m going to try to stop being an internet voyeur in order to ignore real life. And perhaps I’ll try to write more frequently (in general, not necessarily here).

Tonight I made Kevin a Valentine’s Day dinner (belatedly). He loved it — I think the recipe speaks for itself.

Bacon Tenderloin with Bourbon Mushroom Sauce

Melt 3 T butter over medium high heat in a medium-sized frying pan.


3/4 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onion

When translucent, remove from pan. Set aside.

Prepare the tenderloin steak. Get cutlets or cut in rounds–I got mine at Aldi, pre-wrapped in bacon. Wrap in bacon strips (use toothpicks through the center if the bacon won’t stay wrapped). Rub with freshly ground pepper (1/4 tsp each). Grill (or fry in the same pan) at high heat until just seared. (I seared mine in the leftover grease from sauteing the onions and mushrooms)

Preheat oven to 350. Set cutlets in a baking dish and bake (covered in foil) for about 20 min.

When five minutes remain, add mushrooms back to pan at medium heat.


1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 T cornstarch

Stir in evenly. Then add:

1/2 cup Wild Turkey bourbon (or bourbon of your choice)

Allow to simmer at for about two minutes (or a little less, for more flavor). Then add 2/3 cup half and half and lower the heat. Simmer gently until the sauce is thick.

Remove steaks from oven when done to preference (less time if you prefer your meat rare–this cut of tenderloin lends itself especially well to a rarer doneness). Pour the sauce from the pan over the cutlets, serve hot.

I would pair this with mashed potatoes and broccoli, and a dry red wine.

[I wish I had taken pictures! I might go back and add some later.]

Tomorrow Kevin and I regress into the “need” of having an internet connection at home. There’s a lot of good things that will come with this, but I’m trying to steel myself into Wendell Berry-esque curmudgeonry so I don’t forget the real life things that we value more than connectivity and entertainment or feeding our information addictions.

I’m not going to apologize for going AWOL for a bit. My real life has been rich and full. Writing stagnated while other things thrived.

Since I wrote last, we celebrated our first anniversary and dreamed big while spending a long weekend in the Shenandoah Valley. Kevin stopped temping irregularly and started working regularly as a waiter at a snazzy DC restaurant (everyone loves him–he’s great with customer service). We downsized to one car. He’s planning on starting school for music therapy in the fall. I got a UVA hoodie. I finally got around to reading Quivering Daughters (and highly recommend the first 2/3rds of it to anyone who grew up in a conservative Christian home where “courtship,” “gender roles,” and “homemaking” were buzzwords). Nearly the entire department I work in turned over and I’m adjusting to the new strategies and work styles. My dad called a family meeting and we had a Christmas miracle. Kevin and I flew to Oklahoma for my best friend’s wedding.  My sister came home from college and is taking charge of her life in healthy ways. We found a church we where feel comfortable and welcomed, and are seeking to get confirmed in the ACNA. Kevin wrote new songs. Old friendships were discovered to have life in them yet, and we started attending a monthly couples’ dinner club + Bible study with new friends.


In the meantime, I need to decide which of my blog post drafts from the last few months to finish first.  It’s never too late to post on Advent, right?

I have an ikon now. But what about “Thou shalt not make for yourself any graven image”?

First: I do not think that God is in the picture in my kitchen. I do not think he looks like a double-chinned Caucasian with doe-eyes. I do not believe I am kissing the face of Jesus when I caress this image, and I am not worshiping a picture for its own sake.

The remarkable thing about an ikon is this: prior to the Incarnation of Jesus (when he became man and took on our skin and bones and the sheer tiredness and little pleasures of being human), it was wrong to make an image of God. God was not flesh, God was spirit, and no one had ever seen his face. It would be wrong to make a picture of God, for there was nothing under heaven and on earth that could be designed in his likeness. The commandment in Exodus is to this point. You can’t have an image of God the Spirit.

However, I am not monocovenantal and I believe that God is with us and has been one of us. Jesus’s incarnation gave God a face and a body and a true empathy with humanity’s frailty. Jesus had a nose and eyes and ears. He probably had crooked teeth, bad breath after eating onions, feet that smelled and needed washing. He had hands that got torn up during carpentry work and broken through by the brute force of nails on the cross. He was just like us.

The literary trope of the Everyman is so appealing because we subconsciously know that God cannot have compassion on our troubles and joys unless he becomes just like us, and the Everyman is a hero who is just like us.

To make an image of Jesus is not blasphemy anymore, because an ikon/iconic image of Jesus depicts him as the Everyman, the suffering kinsman who also happens to be the one who can save us all from ourselves.  An image of God the Son can be made because he did become flesh that could have been pictured if only he had sat for a portrait. Since he didn’t, we can’t assume he looked exactly one way or another, but that’s part of the beauty of not knowing what he looked like. He is perpetually preserved in our historical imagination as the ultimate Everyman.

Ikons aren’t a violation of the OT commandment. Jesus was made just like you. And Jesus can inhabit my kitchen. He’s just not contained to a picture. And he’s not bound by your abstract idea of his historical person and actions. Go look in your mirror and see Jesus in your own humanity.

revised 11/29 for clarity.

The Good Shepherd

This is now hanging on my kitchen wall, in between the copper-tiled backsplash by the stove and my apron hook. I’ve been hankering, no, craving, an icon in my home for over a year now, since I first saw icons in a home of one of my professors (who happens to be Orthodox). This family has them over the doorway to almost every room (but not the bathroom, which I find an amusing contrast to the Episcopal/Anglican tradition of a house blessing, in which there is a prayer for every room including the bathroom). It really adds a degree of beauty and sobriety to the house that I found very satisfying. Little gestures of eternity in the everyday of a home make me stand a bit smaller [read: more humbly and more thoughtfully] and take me out of the perpetual self-monologue in which I’m wont to live.

Kevin took me to a Catholic bookstore in DC on Saturday as part of our date out on the town. We went to a crêperie for lunch (and while he wouldn’t admit it, I think he liked the chicken and pesto crêpe), and then to the bookstore, where we purchased this icon. (ikon? I think I like the latter form better, to avoid confusion with internet/desktop icons).  Afterward we went to Georgetown, which was just lovely at sunset. Kevin geeked out at the Apple store and I wandered around. The Potomac was nearby. I’d like to spend more time walking along it sometime.

On Sunday Kevin had obligations with the worship team at our old church. I don’t particularly care for that church’s services (the people are nice, though), and so I played hooky. It was refreshing to have a long morning with coffee and a book and I even got to have a nice chat with a dear friend. There’s something sacred about restful recreation without a particular purpose, especially in the morning. Even though I very much missed the prayers of confession and receiving communion at our church, there was a reverence and an understanding that the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath, and that Jesus is honored when his disciples respect themselves and his given order by taking rest and allowing themselves to stop their striving.

We finished our Sunday with the prayers for the close of the day, after getting drinks and dessert with some friends in town and having lots of good talks about everything and nothing, and working on a crossword puzzle together on the metro.

I feel a little sheepish saying this, but I think that such a restful, unstructured weekend was a gift to me from my Shepherd, and that when I savored it for all it was worth, he was smiling on me.

1) I have some long posts in draft form. Coming soon. This stuff is personal and hard to write about, sometimes.

2) Hopefully, I’ll be posting some guest posts, too!

3) A friend wrote a really good post about contentment disguised as laziness and legalism.

4) I started NaNoWriMo yesterday. This is the result of a panic this weekend when I thought I had lost all. my. writing. from the last four years, but then found it again on an external hard drive. Once recovered, I browsed around and found the seed of a good story. Inspired, I declared: crazy, here I come!

5) Mika’s new single, “Elle Me Dit” is super cute. Here’s a sort-of decent translation.

6) All Saint’s Day was yesterday. Go read about it.

After a couple months of steady discouragement fogging up my thoughts, I’m waking up to discover that it’s melting away. All I can see are new ideas, new options–life rearranged in a myriad of shapes, and they’re all pretty exciting.

This morning was a grumpy morning (Monday showed up and Thursday called in sick): the cat had shredded an entire (new) roll of toilet paper all over the bathroom, my dress pants were missing, my pearls were missing, I didn’t have any leftovers ready to go for lunch, I ran into horrible traffic when I took my husband to the subway so he could get to work, and then again on my own route to the office.

Yeah, it sucked. But it wasn’t really anything bad and none of it really affected anything important, and the day went well and I felt like I was a productive person, and I had Chipotle with my husband for dinner and we got drenched in a downpour. And that was funny, because we had to dry off under blow driers in the restrooms and wipe our faces with paper napkins. We’re just silly kids, and there’s grace to not take ourselves or our plans too seriously.

I think I like this. This uptight firstborn INFJ is learning to enjoy options. To change plans. To savor the freedom of waiting on the next thing and not know yet what’s around the corner. My job is good. It’s stable, and I’m enjoying it. My guy’s got some temp jobs and piano lessons, and we’re making ends meet. I lack nothing.

Being married to a second born is a serious lesson in adventure for me. We’re painting pictures of tomorrow and I’m learning how to laugh. I have to admit, it’s really fun.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. 

– 1 John 4:15-19, ESV

I suppose, if I were the tattoo-getting type, I might get this inked on me in some artsy fashion: Perfect love casts out fear.

This passage above was the catalyst for one of those epiphanies which we have when we are at our most broken and some phrase sticks in the mind and beats on the heart until its origin is dredged out of memory and brought to light. This phrase came to me several times when I was discouraged and anxious about my relationship with my then-boyfriend/now-husband (let’s just call him “Jayber” okay fine I’ll use his real name: Kevin) and how the choices we were making were creating a strain in my relationship with my parents. Perfect love casts out fear. The grace I knew I had in Christ came through that perfect love and did not require me to be fearful or anxious about how I was measuring up to ideals, standards, or values I no longer quite identified with.

This phrase became my touchstone. With Kevin, I was not afraid. After living under a spirit of fear for nearly my entire adolescence, this was a new, bright, and relieving experience. I didn’t have to be anxious about measuring up, I didn’t have to apologize for everything, and I didn’t have to tiptoe around the expectations of others, fearful of raising a “I-fear-for-your-soul” lecture dripping with guilt-trips. I could just be and know that Kevin still loved me because Jesus loved me. I was safe. I could spill the thoughts brimming in my heart and ask the questions which were lined with doubt–and I would still be confident that I would be accepted and loved, even if I was confused or weary.

My husband’s example of tenderness and patience demonstrated to me, in the most tangible way I had ever known, that Jesus and His redemptive love were real. Because Christ loved, Kevin loved. And in that love was a miniature reflection of redemption and grace on a heavenly scale.

And it was the sweetest thing I had ever known.