Saint Patrick's Day & Hebrews

I haven't done much to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day (except for accidentally wearing green?) but I did listen to the rendition of Saint Patrick's Breastplate that my friend Tyler made for me three years ago after I pestered him about writing a new tune for it... maybe with banjo.  (Sorry, I don't think I have a great way to upload Tyler's version.)  I wasn't fully prepared for the emotions that would swamp me as I listened to the words of that prayer.  Three years ago I was deep in one of the hardest springs of my life.  It was filled with what felt like a never-ending chaos of drama, of relationships crumbling, of people making poor choices and bringing catastrophic consequences down on their own heads (and others', sometimes.)  Also, I was getting ready to leave Bloomington and go settle down in China for three years.  All of these things have a way of messing with a girl's head and leaving her spirit dizzy and exhausted.

I'm sure that I'm fo…

Favorite Lines from Delta

It was spring semester of my junior year in college that friends began introducing me to the music of Mumford & Sons.  Ben R and Caitlyn in particular come to mind, both more or less forcibly sitting me down and saying, "You have to listen to this."  I wasn't convinced at first, but they grew on me, and since then, their music has been a deeply integrated part of different stages of my life. 

That summer (before my semester studying in China,) my roommate Joanna and I bonded over Sigh No More.  My memories from my first fall teaching in China are soundtracked with Babel.  When I lived in Bloomington, I fell in love with Wilder Mind (despite the very different sound) one song at a time, as they'd play on our radio station at the coffee shop and I would think, Wow, who is this by?  ..wait, this is also Mumford & Sons?

So I wasn't too surprised when I also fell in love with song after song on their latest album, Delta.  It's probably no surprise that it&…

Yet a Little While: spring semester 2019

I've never had much patience for Buttercup of The Princess Bride.  She names her horse "Horse," fails to recognize her True Love when he is (barely) wearing a mask (maybe it was the mustache?) and generally comes across as incompetent and shallow.

So I've always sort of ended up snorting at the line, "It was a very emotional time for Buttercup."  Seriously, your True Love is kidnapped by pirates and killed and it was a very emotional time?  C'mon girl, grow some depth.

However, this year I find myself saying a lot, "It is a very emotional time for Hannah," and that's about as well as I can generally describe it.  I am strongly wired for anticipation, which can be very enjoyable (I get a gleeful feeling looking at wrapped birthday gifts long before it's time to open them) and also awful when what I'm anticipating is of the leaving-a-place-and-people-and-job-I-love-and-moving-around-the-world-again variety.  The past semester was ful…


After three and a half years, here's what I'd tell myself back at the beginning.

There will be too many students for you to know them all.  It's okay. They will see you and yell hello, hold your hand, or slip away with an awkward laugh -- it's okay. By the time you're done, you'll have taught thirty-seven classes of students, well over a thousand individuals. You won't remember all their names, but you taught them and graded them, listened to them and laughed with them, scolded and encouraged them, and it is enough.
You'll dream of old students sometimes, despite the intervening years, and they will remember you, too. You'll walk the streets of Beijing, talk about their jobs, eat meals together.   It doesn't always end on the last day of class.
You will laugh, and cry, and panic, and want to give up, and want to throw a textbook at some of your students. But you'll settle for throwing chalk, and laughing, and laughing, and laughing. It will get easier,  but there will …

At the end of 2018

Here I am, thinking about what to write at the end of 2018 (and feeling like a time traveller since I'm in China for it this year!)

"What will you do tonight for the new year?" Phila asked me this morning, and rolled her eyes when I suggested sleeping.  So now I'm trying to remember what all has happened this year.

A year ago, I had just surprised Susan and Natalie (and quite a few other people) by showing up for Nat and Jason's wedding and I was in Virginia, hanging out with the Wilsons before going back to PA to finish off the surprises.  This year I'm looking forward to being in Thailand soon before heading back to the US briefly for Abbie's wedding.  The past year has been full of travel and transition, despite the stability of living in the same apartment and keeping the same campus team.  I feel extraordinarily privileged to live the life that I do, to get to call so many places home and so many people my favorites, but the continual transitioning f…

The Magic Happens

Every time I get a new group of students, I experience some anxiety and dread.  With several hundred new names and faces to learn, I always wonder how is this going to happen? and for the first few weeks, it feels pretty impossible.  This year brought a record-breaking number of new students (322, I believe) and my assurance to students that love grows and isn't a limited resource that I'll run out of as I get to know more of them come out of a place of trust rather than a tangible reality.  Goodness knows that I don't feel at the beginning of the year like I'm going to be able to get to know all of them or like I have anywhere nearly enough love to go around.

And yet...

Right around this point in the semester, week five or week six, I start to feel the shift.  All of a sudden, classroom discipline gets much smoother because I have a handle on the names of the more active (read: more likely to cause trouble) students and can call them out without much disruption to the…

Hard to Find

[So, by way of prologue, this post is maybe a little different than my norm -- maybe a little more personal, maybe a little more in-depth, and maybe not something I would bother posting on my blog if life was different and more friends could have already observed for themselves the underlying themes of what I'm about to say.  One of the tricky parts of a long distance relationship is figuring out how to honor the relationship and let it be a reality even when most people can't see what's going on in it.]

It's a confounding thing to me when I simply can't find the words to even begin to express what's in my heart.  Yet that's where I've been for months, my mind full of different ways to begin but with no idea what to say in the middle or at the end, because it feels to me that there aren't enough words in the world for this story.

Let me begin here: When I was a child, I loved Little Pilgrim's Progress with a vast and fierce love.  My parents bou…