He came unbidden to the world
A stranger at our feast
He hoped he would destroy us all—
This unrelenting beast.

We didn’t know he was so strong
The blade, the blood, the rope
We only knew he wouldn’t win—
He didn’t count on hope.

He brought an unseen magic
Worked by Deity on high
With every stroke he grew our faith
And joy tinged every cry.

Sweet blessing sipped from poisoned glass
He schemed, we triumphed still
His voice grew hoarse with raging on
Ours held a quiet will.

How strange a fiend to share our bread
To calculate our ruin
He targeted our desperate clay
And left us madly human.

First Language

Most people who know me know I love learning languages. I say random things in Chinese and go to French class and sing along with Russian songs in the car even though I have no idea what they’re saying. But there are other languages that cannot be written or even spoken like a foreign language can. Body language. Facial expressions. Silence. And love.

I bought this wooden plaque for a room decoration a few years ago, because it’s something that I think of a lot. Above French, Chinese, or any other language that I’ve ever desperately wanted to speak, I want to speak the language of love.

In the little poem below, I share this hope.

First Language

Oh yes. English, of course.
I don’t remember learning it.
I was barely ten when
Dickens was flying delightfully across the page
Each word tasting of cinnamon and summer
Or cold fog and acrid smoke.
But can you swap?
First languages, I mean.
I want to stop acquiring
Flawless Anglo-Saxon intricacies that
Make me sound smart.
I want to trade this
Effortless, airy dance for
An army-crawl through the dust
That will make me look like a fool.
Grammar rules can inspire but can never
Love—love, who speaks the language of love?
I stumble, switch from English mid-sentence,
Grope in the black web of language for a word
A sign, a movement, a sigh that will
Express my love for life, for you, for all humanity
For God, who spoke love into existence
And is by very nature its essence.
I study, I practice, I speak more smoothly—
Some would call me fluent.
But fluent and first language are not the same.
A first language you can’t forget, you could be
Insane and still it would flow.
So if you prick me, what pours out—which
Language, my flawless Dickens, the language I
Share with half the world?
Or intentional, painful, lovely
Love

Best of 2020

Pandemic, riots, debates, division… I’m sorry 2020, but despite your best efforts, I had a great year.

First off, I went to Morocco. I have dreamed of going to Morocco ever since I was like twelve years old, and my ten-day trip there with my brother did not disappoint. I spoke French, Chinese, Spanish, and maybe ten words in Arabic. I ate tagine and stood beside the tomb of a king and watched the Mediterranean Sea in the moonlight. I also had some incredible pistachio gelato in Spain on the way home.

At home it was back to psychology classes and cute kids at the after-school program. My classes went online after spring break, but of course my brother and I took the drastically falling prices of airline tickets as an invitation to go traveling again. We took a short trip to Florida to see my grandparents, enjoying the fact that we had almost an entire airliner to ourselves both ways. I spent the rest of my spring break/quarantine writing, reading, hanging out with my family, and working on my language learning. I made some videos for my virtual students and handed out supply bags to them. I also got obsessed with Robin Hood and started a new book, which I subsequently worked on all summer.

In June, my sisters and I went on a girl trip to Estes Park, where we cruised around in a convertible and pretended that we were wild teenagers (maybe we were, idk!). In a decided burst of maturity, I bought my first car, a white Ford Mustang. I have since named him Rowan, after Jack Rowan, of Noughts and Crosses, which I may possibly have binge-watched with a friend one night during the summer.

I also did this

It was our family’s Father’s Day celebration, where we went up to the mountains to pan for gold. Despite freezing my hands off in the river and not finding any actual gold, I experienced this moment of pure joy and elation. Yep, an empty Pringle tin is pretty much all it takes.

My summer was spent working long days with third and fourth graders at a summer day camp in town. They were spoiled rich kids, in general, and did not much appreciate me. But I appreciated being warm for a change, and teaching them how to play “Mother May I”. I was also really glad to be back at work in person, rather than on the computer as I was all spring. In July, I joined my family on a trip out east, with my wonderful dad as our personal pilot. The job of copilot, navigator, and pilot entertainment system fell to me.

Over the summer and fall, I also had a couple chances to visit my friends in York, where I had lived for two years before moving home. Although all my classes continued online in the fall, I was very happy to have in-person Bible studies on campus and to be back in the classroom. This year, I am a site lead and in charge of a classroom of thirteen wonderful kiddos, from kindergarten to second grade.

And no, I don’t spend all my time lying on the slide while the kids run wild around me. I also cut up pumpkins for them and practice being strict.

We had our first snowfall at the beginning of September, so I proclaimed a moment of silence for summer and pulled out my winter gear in resignation. In October, I was amazed by the beauty of these tiny snowflakes I captured on my windshield once morning.

I got very, very sick with all the symptoms of Covid, but according to the doctor, it was just the flu and bronchitis. That made me feel better…I guess? At least I could go back to work and circle ‘yes’ to cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue every day but not be worried about spreading anything dreadful. I did lots of statistics homework and babysat and wrote poems and a short story (which I hope to share with you). One day, I exercised. On a ski slope, with my friends. I went down a blue run for the first time and was excessively proud of myself. No successful photos were taken on the slopes because I didn’t want to die.

To tell the straight-up truth, I am incredibly grateful for 2020 in all its unpredictable variety. I am grateful for a childhood that taught me to be okay with sudden changes, a faith that reminds me there is hope amidst the raging of the nations, and a family big enough to make even quarantine feel like a small block party. Most of all, I am grateful for Jesus, who gives me so much hope. Some days I feel like my life is one unending wave of hope. “And hope does not disappoint, because of the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5). So here’s to 2021 and the wish that everyone may find this hope in the year to come.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Please let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in reading some of my poems and short stories from the past year! Or maybe you just want to see more pictures of me cutting up pumpkins. And that’s fine too. Until next time…

Renouncement

Okay, so I know it’s been forever! And in that short forever I’ve moved again, started college, started a new job, met new friends, and had my heart nearly broken. It feels like I’ve written a million college essays, while my creative writing waits hours for me to share a few stolen moments. I get it, it’s a different season of life. And my fictional characters aren’t going anywhere. But still, I miss them. I can’t stop thinking of these lines from one of my favorite poems…

I must not think of thee; and, tired yet strong,
I shun the love that lurks in all delight…
But when sleep comes to close each difficult day…
With the first dream that comes with the first sleep
I run, I run, I am gathered to thy heart.

So, with college life sucking the time and creativity away from me, I’ve renounced my obsession with writing a thousand words a day. Here’s the full dramatic poem to tell the story…

Hunting Park!

img_20190420_170927_097

What’s a hard-knock Philly ghetto to a writer who’s been to seventeen countries in twenty-one years of life? A trashy street, a smoky apartment building… This is the ABSOLUTE HIGHLIGHT of my year so far!

Three years ago I had the amazing blessing of visiting London and seeing some of the spots where my first novel, Paris of London, is set. A few weeks ago I was blessed again–a trip to Philadelphia to see the place where my second novel, Marty’s Kid, racks out its dramatic twists and turns. My dear friend Shannon was so patient with me as I went nuts over Connor’s stomping grounds, which in actuality are a few not-very-impressive blocks in North Philadelphia.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We took the Amtrak train into Philly, stayed the night at a mission apartment on 6th Street, and spent one morning slumming and the next being tourists. As I wrote in my diary that night, “…all that was just a magical, incredible, almost-surreal blessing. The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall after that were just icing on the cake.”

By the time I left Philadelphia I wasn’t sure if I should stalk it forever or just pack up and move there. I mean, who wouldn’t wanna know their favorite hero could be around any corner?

20190420_123949

As of now, God hasn’t called me there, so I’ll have to be content with admiring from a distance. And writing, always writing. Pouring my love for vulnerable children onto the page through a tense, troubled Philadelphia teen named Connor. Someday, I madly hope, you all will meet him.

 

Snapshots from York

Inner-city teacher’s life in York, PA–how do you sum it up? I’m going to flip back through my diary and see if we can find anything worthwhile.

9/04/2018–FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL–What a different first day than last year! Probably the most stressful thing was greeting, shaking the hands, and marking the attendance of 50+ students who came through the door in a 15-minute period of time.

9/06/2018–THREE DAYS INTO SCHOOL–Shooter drills and chapel and an hour assessing a 5th-grader with ADHD, TouchMath with Larissa, administering recess games, supervising the alley at lunch, work in the office, crossing-guard duties after school…

Then I’m going door-to-door inviting kids to our Thursday Bible club. At the first house I lean on the porch railing, looking at the trash accumulating around the front door of the abandoned house on the other side of the rail. A girl comes out of the house and says, “You might not want to lean on that.” I suppose it’s because it’s about to fall over, but she points a finger, and I straighten up and look at the railing. Okay, I don’t even want to guess what that substance is. Probably not something I wanted all over my dress either.

The second house is full of yappy dogs. The stench is so overpowering, I can hardly stand in the doorway long enough to talk to the old lady permanently affixed on the couch across the room. The dogs are so loud she can’t here us talking. “Shut up!” she yells at them, over and over. Sorry lady, maybe find a new method, cause yelling ‘shut up’ at your dogs is not working.

Next we meet a sweet lady who moved here recently and won’t let her kids come out of the house because she knows this isn’t a safe neighborhood. She’s so happy to hear about a church and kid’s club where her children can make friends.

At the last house, a guy smoking on his front porch steps looks at me and says…(well, I won’t quote his bit of French, but en effet), “What the heck are you doing here living in this trashy hood?”

“It’s Jesus,” I tell him. “Because he loves us and we want to share his love with others.”

“Makes sense,” his wife said, from her standing position behind him.

But he doesn’t get it.

Sometimes I don’t either. I just know, if it wasn’t for Jesus, I wouldn’t be here.

20180918_174826

9/10/18–SECOND WEEK OF SCHOOL–Isaac (my 5th-grader with ADHD) reads the word ‘rip’ in a succession of flashcards and says, “What’s rip?” I make the sound and imitation of a paper ripping. “Oh,” he says, “I thought it means you’re dead.”

20180907_131538

9/15/18I’m coming out of the school with a giant tape measure, on my way to the upper-grade classrooms to measure the tables for the writing class I’ll be teaching this fall. I see a tough-looking, saggy-pants woman come out of a house and cross the street. Funny, the house she’s going into is her house–the house she just left is not. I take a glance at the house she came out of. That house has been condemned ever since it was lit on fire by teen arsonists several years ago. The windows are boarded with huge pieces of plywood, the door blackened with either dirt and grime, or smoke from the fire. So…my dear neighbor, what could you possibly be doing coming out of a condemned house with a shifty look in your eyes?
My imagination runs free. There’s something shady going on in that house–drugs probably. If this was a movie (or I had a daring adventurous boyfriend), I would sneak in through the back to investigate.

20180918_174726

As they say in France–C’est la vie! Such is life in York. I have many more snapshots to show you another time.

Thanks for reading! Whether you live in a rough hood or out in the middle of nowhere, please go out and shine the light to someone today. The world is such a dark place, and we have the Light inside us. It’s not for hiding, it’s for giving away.

 

Whirlwind Trip to China

I was 12 years old when my dad came home and said, “How about moving to China?” Yes, he had already applied for the job (pilot for a German-Chinese airline), and yes, my mom was pretty chill with it. A few months later, we moved to China.

We moved back to the U.S. in 2014, but China still feels like home in some ways, and we jump at any excuse to go back. So when my friend Jennifer invited me to her wedding (in China), I asked for a long weekend off work and made it happen.

I met my brother CJ in Chicago and we went downtown. We got good Chicago dogs at Portillos, walked countless city blocks, and stood on the banks of Lake Michigan.

That was a bad idea because we misjudged how long it would take to walk back to the subway. Before we even got to the airport, we knew we were going to miss our flight. What to do now? After praying and checking Google Flights, we found a one-way ticket on American airlines that was leaving in a couple hours. We went up to the counter and each bought a ticket for $380, which, despite being my entire salary for September, was a huge blessing. It could have been a lot worse.

20180920_164450

After a 13-hour flight, we arrived in Beijing. My dad met us at the airport and we took a taxi to his little apartment. The next day was full of nostalgia. Riding in the back of my dad’s three-wheeled electric scooter (he drives almost like a Chinese person now, which is wild and unpredictable!)

Shopping for all our favorite childhood treats at Carrefore (a semi-western grocery store)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Eating McMystery meat at McDonalds… 😉

20180922_113508

The next day was Jennifer’s wedding. It was a little crazy back in the kitchen, as we rushed around trying to cook and keep things clean and help out wherever we could. But when we finally sat down we enjoyed a beautiful ceremony. As the groom’s father told us, “At the end of the day, two people are married, and that’s what matters.”

Two young people who love each other but love Jesus most of all…make the most beautiful match!

IMG_0892

Our last day in China. CJ and I took the subway downtown and shopped at the silk market. I was glad for the little Chinese that I know. Instead of standard bargaining, I was able to use more sophisticated tactics, like explaining how I had lived in southern China for several years, telling them that my dad was a pilot for Hainan airlines, and by the way I am a teacher for small children and only make a tiny bit of money (showing them a very small amount with my thumb and forefinger). By the end of the conversation, they were smiling and telling me how I was their special friend. “We give you good deal,” they said. “Not for everyone, but for you…we good you special price.” It may be they say that to everyone who comes through, but oh well, it was fun practicing my Chinese.

We also spent a couple hours at the famous Tien’a’men Square, which had changed quite a bit since I was there with my family ten years ago, before the Olympic games in 2008. Wow, has it been that long?

On Monday we headed west again. My dad gave us a tour of his company headquarters and showed us where he flight plans, gets his schedule, and briefs the crew before a flight. Then he dropped us off at the airport and headed back to the company, hoping to see us at the gate before he boarded with the crew. We ended up being bused to the plane, however, and didn’t see him until we were getting off the bus and looked up.

20180925_130913After waving and snapping a few pictures, we climbed the stairs.

20180925_130940

The flight attendant at the top reached for our tickets, which pronounced our seats in row 40—at the very back of the plane. But something clicked in her eyes as she looked at me. “You…you are the captain’s daughter?”

Oh yeah! That was a cool moment. Grinning, I nodded and told her yes, I was the captain’s daughter.

“Come this way.” She motioned us to the left, into business class.

My brother and I couldn’t stop grinning at each other.

The only thing better than being treated like royalty in business class was hearing my dad’s voice over the intercom. “Welcome aboard, this is your captain speaking…”

I arrived in Baltimore just after 1:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. At 2:00 a.m. the guy who was driving me home was pulled over by the police. Just a fun ending to an adventure, right?

All in all, I’m so thankful to God for giving me a few days full of adventure and time spent with my family and international friends. I truly feel like a rich kid, because I know many others don’t have the opportunities that God has given me.

Now, back in York, it’s back to school and tutoring and teaching. I’ll try to give you a little snapshot of home life next time. In many ways it’s just as adventurous as a weekend trip to China!

Dramatic Poem–All The Nameless People

Here’s a Hannah K original! I wrote this poem about all those hundreds of people you pass in the airport and you wonder what their names are, what their lives are like, and whether they know Jesus.

I know it comes out kind of depressing, but the truth is, the majority of the people we pass on the street, in the airport, or anywhere, are living without hope and with God in this world. Remember that, although you are only one, you are one, and although you cannot do everything, you can do something. Do your best to share God’s hope with whoever you can this week.

Thanks for reading!

Hannah K

Journey to York

You may know I taught kindergarten last year at a Christian school in York, PA, and I’m going back for another year. You probably don’t know all that was involved in getting me from the Wyoming prairie to a York ghetto in one day. Well, maybe two.

Since all the busyness didn’t give me much time to write, I took some videos of my trip and I’ve invited them here to do the talking. Sort of a vlog, not professional or anything… just a little narration for my crazy life.

That was a really long day!

Since then it’s been a nonstop city life of school orientation, classroom setup, meetings, get-togethers, and responsibilities. It’s definitely a different life than my quiet home with my family on their prairie.

Here’s some of York from the roof of our new school building (which we hope to move into next fall)…

20180823_132247-e1536432580799.jpg

Got my plot tracker for my novel in progress up on the wall outside my room…20180829_203815

My tutor room when I got here…

IMG-20180827-WA0000

My tutor room now 😀

20180908_145243

I’m here. I’m ready to go. Bring on the kids!

 

A Poem For My Hero

Is it so weird to have friends inside your head, even when your too old for the kindergarten ‘imaginative’ stage? Characters from my stories, characters who come from all different countries and situations and periods of history–I’ve created them, but I don’t feel like the master of an entourage of little puppets. It just feels like I’ve got a lot of special friends.

I don’t have much to share with you today, just a little poem I wrote the other day while waiting for inspiration. 😀

Waiting

8.02.18

As if in prayer
I wished you here
In tender melancholy.
I wished you knew
The day was through
And here I stood
Awaiting you.

But then you came
You were the same
In tender melancholy.
You wished I’d see
Your love was free
And here you stood
Awaiting me.