Showing posts from 2019

Advent: Rejoice & Lament

Advent is one of those liminal seasons, an in-between time of looking back at the incarnation of Christ and looking forward to His second coming, a time of joy at the multitude of ways we  already experience God's goodness and the pervasive, deep brokenness that reminds us that all things are not yet  made right. It feels appropriate this year. I mean, I don't actually know when the last time was that I didn't feel like my life was undergoing some kind of major transition, because such is the nature of life.  So maybe it feels appropriate every year. But this year, I'm rejoicing that I'm back in the US and don't need pages of details about logistics of winter travels.  I'm missing the sunshine of Thailand and the company of my Wheaton cohort.  I'm rejoicing in having opportunity to continue teaching at the Village Church, and I'm missing my students from Chuan Wai.  I'm loving watching the VC kids grow in their friendships with each other a

Thoughts on Trajectory

I spent part of this past weekend babysitting some friends' kids.  Or, well, not babysitting.  As both I and their oldest son described it at various times, I was mostly there to hang out with them and make sure they didn't burn the house down or kill each other.  At some point during our time together, I realized that the first time I was ever in their house was in February.  You know, like this past February.  Just over nine months ago.  I sat on their couch at a birthday party, incredibly jetlagged, trying not to fall asleep and struggling between the desires to eat the delicious cake they had and feeling like I was about to die from sugar overload. Since then I've spent uncounted hours hanging out in their house, slept on the couch more than a few times, eaten many meals around their table.  (This could be a story of how grateful I am for unexpected friendships, but that's for another time.) Photo by  Kurt Cotoaga  on  Unsplash And as I considered -- nine m

Rings of Experience

These memories are not yet fuzzy: the hallways and staircases of the Duangtawan in Chiang Mai; the Causbys' living room in Dujiangyan; the view from my tiled balcony looking out on Qingchengshan.  It's incredible to think that my body -- so small, so fragile -- has experienced all these places and more, that the rhythm of walking from my apartment to my classrooms ended less than five months ago.  The air conditioned Billy Graham Center at Wheaton, standing in the Kuang Si waterfall in Laos -- airports and buses and train stations -- These are all a part of me now, because we are shaped by both nature and nurture.  If nutrition and trauma and rays of the sun can reform our bodies and rewire our brains and reprogram our cells, then I must believe that all these places I've lived, the people I've spent time with, the languages I've spoken, the meals I've shared -- all of these have also made and unmade and remade me, in elegant, intricate ways that I can'

Three Months in America

*dusts blog off* It's been a little while.  My mind has been busy and the rest of my life has been too.  And now, suddenly, it's the very end of September and I have most of my work schedule for Sheetz and I've been back in the US for three months -- when did that happen ? (As Imagine Dragons  sings, All my life, I've been living in the fast lane Can't slow down, I'm a rolling freight train... I am the color of boom. I'd say that I like my life to have plenty of margin, but the choices that I make (consistently) seem to indicate that I enjoy having it pretty full, so...) At the same time, most days it feels like I've been here way longer than three months.  I've moved into my apartment, become friends with the stellar roommate who God so generously provided, started working with the Village Church, gone through confirmation classes, been working at Sheetz for over a month, traveled to Indiana and New York to see friends, started working on

Wrapping up the last semester

On Friday I gave finals to my last two classes (minus one student who didn't show up -- I think it's impossible for finals to ever go exactly as planned.  From my first year of teaching, when students were late because they got locked into their dormitory, to a student throwing up in the back of the classroom while others took their finals, to a student sobbing through her interview because her boyfriend broke up with her a few minutes before -- if it's not one thing, it's another.  But it's never boring.)  Grades are almost done (I think, I always hold my breath a bit until they're officially approved by my department contact!) and then I can really dive into dismantling my apartment, cleaning, and packing. My mind can't really comprehend it.  The last few summers have been jam-packed with Wheaton classes, traveling, and trying to cram in time with people in Bloomington and Pennsylvania.  But this summer I have a one way ticket (finally, hallelujah!)

Hope is Alive (courage, spring 2019)

Earlier this semester, we had a class about courage and hopes.  Students had the homework to talk to someone in their life who they consider brave and ask what motivates their courage.  I wanted to share some of their answers.  photo by Oliver Cole, hosted on unsplash I think my roommate is the bravest.   Last night our water dispenser caught fire in a short circuit, s he pulled out the power in a hurry. At this time I have been crazy. I think the bravest in my mind is my grandmother.   She was born in the 1950s. Life was very hard at that period. She never complained about the situation at that time, but bravely faced it. Life request that she must be brave or die of hunger. In my life, I think my uncle is very brave.   Because he is a fireman.   Whatever difficult he meet, he never give up. When fires broke out in some places, he is always devoted to saving everyone. My friend think their family give them brave.   They said: “When I want to give up, my family al

Where Else Would I Go?

For the first time in a (very) long time, my heart suddenly feels quiet.  I'm not sure of why exactly. Maybe having finally finished the last requirement for Wheaton and, for the first time in almost three years, not having a nagging (or screaming!) feeling in the back of my mind reminding me that I should be doing some reading or writing a response or researching something or preparing for a class. Maybe, having lived in Sichuan for two and a half years, the incredibly (and I do mean that in the most literal possible sense) slow pace of walking has finally sunk into my body.  Although I still find myself setting out from my apartment at a briskly purposeful American stride, more and more often I find that it slows to a stroll by the time I'm halfway across campus, even if I'm not hanging out with students.  And I notice the irises growing everywhere, the strange patterns of ripples on the surface of the small lake on campus as ducks chase each other across the wat

The Light Seems to Have Forgotten Me (deepest fears 2019)

Each time I give my students a chance to put their thoughts into written words, I am blown away by the facility and creativity with which they express themselves in English.   Each year when we talk about loneliness and fear, my heart is broken by the glimpses into their own cracked hearts.    It’s my honor to share some of their responses with you in the hopes that you may get to know them a little bit more and ask for hope to be brought into their lives, that they would know that they have not been forgotten by the Light. My deepest fear is abysmal sea There is endless darkness on the bottom of the sea And the unknown things I’m afraid I’ll be swallowed up.   My deepest fear is that I am not strong enough to hold my whole family. In my heart, the deepest fear just is That I can’t find anyone to talk. Because I don’t bear silence And I am hungry for coming up   And talk with others. My deepest fear is that some life realities. Some people who n

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. Photo by Todd Cravens

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 surpris

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 w


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 throwin