29 April 2010

In His Time

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Eleven weeks ago tomorrow, I started my post by quoting Jeremiah 29:11. As I contemplate what I have gone through in those eleven weeks, I can only say that God has been faithful, and even when I have been at very low points, God has had me in His hand. It has been a difficult time, but I can truly say that I know He has been there through it all, and that He is using all I have experienced to bring me to the place that He wants me to be.

I'm not there yet, but one huge burden has been lifted over the last two weeks. Two weeks ago, someone from the ICF suggested I contact the principal of another International School here in Phnom Penh, and at least talk to her. I was keen to remain in Cambodia, as I have come to love this country and her people, and I have a deep desire to make a difference in this place. I truly believe this love and this desire come from God, that He brought me here, and that my time here was not yet finished. As a result, I sent off an e-mail to this principal.

I met with the principal last Thursday (22nd April), and having discussed all that has occurred, we decided that we would continue to proceed with the possibility of employment at this school. I provided contact information for her to obtain references, and settled back to wait. On Tuesday afternoon we met again, and had another meeting. I greatly appreciate the sensitivity with which this meeting was handled, and I felt safe in acknowledging areas of concern, and also in considering how these could be addressed. While this school is not a Christian school as such, the principal is a Christian, and I believe that God is leading both of us as we both step out in faith for the coming year. I have been offered and accepted a contract for the 2010-11 school year, knowing that there are areas which I need to be working on, especially in the way in which I relate to other people, and being open to the support being offered to me, to ensure that I can grow in this area.

Someone said to me this week, that they believe the reason that I have been going through this season in my life is, not because I'm a failure (and there have been times when I've felt that way), but because God has said "That's enough! It is time for Karen to be what I really want her to be." In John 10:10b Jesus said, "I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full." and in John 15:11 he said "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete." As I have thought about the comment, and as I have continued working through the issues that have been brought to the surface over the past 11 weeks, I sense this to be true. This is God's plan for me. He's got my attention, and finally, after 46 years, I'm letting Him work in me to set me free and heal me.

The past 11 weeks have been painful, and I have struggled through them, sinking to the depths of depression, and rising from that to a level of functioning, but not joy. I have come to the point where I have reached out, and asked someone to help me sort through the issues, and I know that this person is praying for God's healing in my life. Had the events of the last 11 weeks not occurred, I would probably still be pottering along, knowing the assurance of salvation, but not knowing the joy that God wants me to know. The days ahead are not going to be easy, but I truly believe that God is leading me on journey to a much better place, and that as I travel on that journey, He desires to prune out the rotten stuff, and heal past hurts, and show me the fullness of life that He planned for me. I'm excited by that thought, and at the same time scared, because I sense that some of the pruning He does will hurt. I sense that there are going to be days when I will struggle, and when I will wonder if it is all worthwhile. Had I found another job within weeks of the news that I would not be returning to Logos, I doubt that I would have come to this point. The day after the first interview, my devotions were from Ecclesiastes 3 which reminded me that there is a time for everything. I am also thankful that I don't have to go through this time alone. He has provided me with a support network and people to help me as He brings about His healing.

Several posts ago, I mentioned the song "God will make a way", and He has made a way, where there seemed to be no way, and I truly believe it is His way. I'm going to finish this post with another song, an old chorus, but the words remind us of a great truth.

In His time, in His time,
He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Lord, please show me ev'ry day,
as You're teaching me Your way,
that You do just what You say in Your time.

In Your time, in Your time,
You make all things beautiful in Your time.
Lord, my life to You I bring.
May each song I have to sing
be to You a lovely thing in Your time.

Copyright 1978 Maranatha! Music

20 April 2010

What a day!

There are some people who could say, "What a day!" about every day of their life, but for most of us, each day comes and goes, and we move through them fairly smoothly. Then comes the day when you say, just how did so much get packed into this day? Today was like that in some ways. As I write this I'm conscious that the time of day has come when people seem to start using more electricity, and as I watch my internet connection come and go in the bottom corner of my screen I think, OK, we'll hope I can stay connected long enough to post! So just why was today one of those days?

Actually, it was a pretty ordinary day until after lunch. First of all I headed into the office to retrieve a book that had been sent to me by a friend in Australia. For some obscure reason, it came addressed to her & her husband instead of me, but at the school address. A staff-wide e-mail I received late yesterday alerted me to it's presence, and so it was fun to start the day with a gift from a friend, even if I didn't have time to read it.

Shortly after that the students arrived in the classroom, along with the ICT guy who ended up taking away the classroom computer again, this time for a brain transplant! It was not healthy before the holidays, and late last week it died. He took it and did some major surgery yesterday, but when I tried to use it after he brought it back it would not talk to me, so today it went away for a full makeover! Hopefully it will return to the classroom, fully functional tomorrow sometime. Once the computer was gone, the students enjoyed listening to a large chunk of "Spindles" this morning. Since we didn't have Chapel, which I had put into my planner, we had a little extra time for read-aloud story time. We worked our way through our Math lesson and our Language Arts lesson and then I sent everyone off to Khmer/ESL/Computer classes and headed up to the cafeteria for lunch. Nothing unusual so far, and lunch was yummy - fried rice.

After that delicious school lunch, I headed back to the classroom to deal with some paper work (endless grading no-less). The students enjoyed their recess and lunch and then returned to the classroom. They had a short silent reading time, and then we all enjoyed our Bible lesson. It was great to hear the children share their feelings as they thought about God's grace and all it means to them. Part way through the lesson the rain, which had been threatening most of the morning, came down in the form of a tropical thunderstorm. Wow! That was some rain! Once again I forgot to take a photo, but it was so heavy that you could hardly see the other side of the school for a while. The rain was so heavy that we ended up with minor floods! Nothing like what we used to see at the old school, and the roof of my classroom definitely didn't leak this time, so there was much to be thankful for, however, the water did come into the classroom, under the door! It appears that the slope of the floor is not quite how we would expect it to be. Instead of sloping away from the classrooms toward the drains, it actually sloped toward the classrooms, and so both 4th & 5th grades ended up with water coming into them. Happily it was discovered before too much came in, and we were able to block it to some extent. I sent the students off to their music practice, and helped the cleaning staff get the better of the water! I also managed to sneak a quick read of the first chapter of my new book, which just whetted my appetite to read the rest. By the time the children returned for the end of the day, the rain was pretty much gone, and the floors were almost dry.

After school was dismissed, and I'd sent the students off to their various destinations, I was returning to the classroom to put in some preparation for tomorrow when I met a good friend, who wanted to chat with me about something. Since finding out that I wasn't being offered a contract for next year, I have gone through a whole range of emotions, and this friend has been there for me through most, if not all, the ups and downs. She has listened to my struggles, and today it was my turn to listen. I have to say, that there are not a lot of people who firstly would have had the courage to say what she said today, and secondly whom I would have accepted those words from anyway. I praise God for this friend, who was prepared to remind me that, even though I don't have a contract for next year, I do have a responsibility to complete this year well. Yes, I have a responsibility to my current students and their parents, but it was more than that, which as I reflect on it, showed me just how much she cares for me. Her concern was as much for me as it was for my students, and how I would feel in two months time, when all this is in the past, if I don't do the best job that I can, in God's strength, and finish this year well. How will I feel, if, I look back on these last months, and know that I didn't do my best, and didn't fulfil the task that God had prepared for me.

As I thought about what she said, several scripture verses came to mind. Ephesians 2:10 has this to say: "God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing." Colossians 3:23-24 adds this: "In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work as if you were doing it for the Lord, not for people. Remember that you will receive your reward from the Lord, which he promised to his people. You are serving the Lord Christ".

I thank God for this timely warning, that, no matter what I might be feeling, He has given me a task to do right now, and I need to do that task to the best of my ability. Why? Because I'm doing it for Him, and because He deserves nothing less than the best that I can give Him. And so I'll conclude this section with the verse which I know will help me to do just that. Philippians 4:13 "I can do all things through Christ, because he gives me the strength." I don't have to do it on my own. He will give me the strength to do finish this year well, for His sake, for the sake of my students, and for my own sake. Praise God that I have a friend who cares enough to be honest with me, and whom I trust and respect enough to accept this reproof from.

So was that it? Was that all? Well, wasn't that enough? No. But wait, there's more! After I'd made sure all the materials I needed to do my best tomorrow were ready and organised, and easy to find, I decided to head home early, partly so that I could take the time to write this blog tonight. I packed up, and headed down to my moto, which despite the rain, started without any problems, and headed out the gate. It was just before 5pm, and so I headed down the lane which is one-way traffic during peak hour, but a quicker route back to the main road. After the torrential rain earlier, it was amazing to see the dry patches already on the road, until I rounded the bend to the narrowest part of the road. I was going pretty slowly, and so had plenty of time to see that I wasn't going to be getting out that way this afternoon. Just ahead of me a car was totally bogged! Oh, why didn't I take a photo? When installing the power line to our transformer (which is still not operational by the way), they had dug up this road to lay wires underground. They filled in the trench, but we all knew that it hadn't been compacted very well. With the traffic that had driven over the "road" during the after school pick-ups, it's quite likely that some fairly deep ruts had formed. I didn't get that close, but from what I could see I'm not quite sure how they were going to get the car out, since is seemed to be bogged up to the axles at least on the left hand side. It will be interesting to see what I find tomorrow morning, or if I'll have to take a detour! Time will tell.

Well, that truly is all for this evening. Hope you've enjoyed reading the joys and challenges that God has given me through this day. In His service, Karen

16 April 2010

Friday's gone too!

I'm riding in the rain! Yep, I had the dubious pleasure of breaking out the raincoat this evening as I prepared to ride my moto home from a BBQ this evening. I'd had a lovely evening with friends, and finally decided it was time I headed home, lest I get locked out of the house again! As I went to leave I saw heavy spots of rain on the ground, and so decided that it would be wise to give the raincoat it's first work out of the year. By the time I got home I was somewhat damp below the knees, but the rest of me was pretty dry. Actually, it was a pleasant end to a fun evening. No, I don't really like riding in the rain at night, but I do enjoy the coolness that the rain brings to the atmosphere. Thanks Lord for rain.

Today was a somewhat frustrating day, although very productive considering all the factors impacting on it. After a late night last night I didn't end up swimming this morning, but am looking forward to swimming again tomorrow morning. When I got to school, I discovered that the computer in my classroom had finally decided to die, and it would not boot up at all. That was frustrating, since as well as a pages that I needed to print from an e-book, I also needed to print math worksheets and work on other planning/assessment documents. I managed to get a computer in the library to cooperate with me for a while, but eventually it too decided that it was going on strike, and simply shut down on me. Not sure if it got too hot or what the problem was, but it certainly wasn't going to cooperate. Never mind. I got the important documents printed, and a fair bit of planning done. Not only that, I've got a good idea of what I plan to do in the next two weeks. Still some work to do tomorrow, but in reality the next couple of weeks are looking pretty well planned.

Time for bed! Good night. Karen

15 April 2010

Please tell me tomorrow isn't Friday

It just can't be Friday tomorrow, can it? Are you sure? It can't be. I need another 3 days of holidays please. This week has just flown by. I guess that's the way it happens when you are having fun. Alas, it is true, and I have just 3 more days before the fun begins again. Once again, I've achieved a fraction of what I had planned to achieve, however there are still two days to get some more done. On a positive note, I'm feeling pretty good because not only do I have my schedule drawn up in my plan book with all the various holidays and special events between now and the end of the year plotted in, but I have got two weeks of Bible lessons planned (including all the required materials prepared and ready to go), and I've got Language Arts for the coming week done as well (just some photocopying to be done there). Tomorrow I hope to get the following week's Language Arts planned (a Reading-Writing Workshop focusing on Research Reports), as well as two weeks’ worth of Math lessons. I also need to work out how I'm going to finish the current Science Unit, and plan the final Social Studies Unit on Ancient Rome. One of the key assessment items for Ancient Rome will be a Research Report (hence the Language Arts focus for next week), combined with a PowerPoint presentation. Then I have to work out how I'm going to fit everything in to just 26 days, especially since I'm definitely losing two Social Studies blocks to Music presentation rehearsals.

It hasn't all been work though! I've enjoyed playing Scrabble on Facebook in the evenings, and swimming in the mornings. I started out by swimming 20 laps of our 25m pool on Monday morning, and this morning I managed to do twice that. Yep, that means I swam 1km this morning, and it only took me 40 minutes. My goal is to be able to do it in half that time, but that will require consistent effort, so I'm trying to work out how I can achieve that, as well as keep up with school demands. Having a friend join me in the pool a couple of times this week has added to the pleasure.
I've also managed to enjoy a few meals out with friends, and am looking forward to a BBQ tomorrow evening with a few friends.

At this time, I'm wondering how late the party across the road is going to continue tonight. I thought I was going to have trouble getting in the front gate because there was a car parked right in front of it, but it was OK. Right now, the music is vibrating the glass in my windows, and I can hear the music just as clearly as if I had every window and door in the house open (which I don't). Just as well I still have a few jobs to do this evening, as Khmer parties are not conducive to sleep! Oh well, it is Khmer New Year after all. I should be happy they are happy and that it's not a funeral!

Good night all. I'm off to cook Apricot Crumble and do some laundry.


10 April 2010

Hooray for Holidays -- Khmer New Year

Yes, it's holidays. Just one week off school, but a very welcome break, especially as the hot season continues, and the rainy season has not yet started. Sometimes we wish for a storm, just to cool things off, but then we think about what it would do to the access roads into and out of the school and we decide we'll be content to wait a little longer.

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week are the official Khmer New Year holidays, so I'm anticipating something of an exodus from Phnom Penh. This is the holiday when most people seem to head out to the provinces, and the streets of Phnom Penh are somewhat quieter. That can be good, in that there tend to be less traffic jams, or it can be not so good, because the young and reckless drivers see the open roads as a chance to go faster! Either way, I'll continue to be cautious.

Today has been a delightful day in some ways. I have not left my house all day, but have enjoyed relaxing, catching up with family and friends on Skype, playing Scrabble on Facebook, reading, and watching a couple of episodes of "Numbers". Tomorrow I will need to do some music practice, since I'm playing for the afternoon service at ICF, and there are some songs that I'm not really familiar with. I'll do some work on them, and then trust God with the final outcome.

Do I have other plans for the holidays? Well, sort of. I'm going to head out to the school at least 3 mornings, hopefully with a friend, to start the day with a swim, and then do some grading and planning in air-conditioned comfort. Since there will be very few people around, I'm allowed to run the air-conditioner in the classroom, even though I'll be the only one there! Of course, this can only happen if we actually have electricity, so I'm hoping and praying that we do. The electricity is useful for planning too, so that I can use the computer.

Apart from that I've got plans to meet an acquaintance for lunch on Tuesday, and have been invited to a barbecue next Friday with some families from the school, so it won't all be work. Might also invite some other friends over for a movie one evening.

For those who are wondering what's happening in relation to the future, there is no news at this stage. I continue to hold on to the fact that God is faithful, and that He has good plans for me, and trust that He will show those plans to me in time for me to make the necessary arrangements.

OK. I've got time for one more episode of Numbers before I head to bed! Good night all. Karen

01 April 2010

Easter is here - but it doesn't seem like it!

I haven't seen any Easter Eggs, or Hot Cross Buns, and I have to teach school tomorrow. In fact we're doing testing. It just does not seem right. I "should" be rising early for a Good Friday service, and then enjoying a four day weekend. Alas, this is not to be. I seriously doubt that I will see any Easter Eggs, although it's not totally impossible, and after all, that's not what Easter is really about anyway.

Actually, technology and electricity permitting I will see some Easter Eggs, when I show my students Veggie Tales "An Easter Carol" tomorrow afternoon. That's the plan anyway, but I think I'd better have a Plan B as well, just in case we are out of electricity again.

So what's happening in my corner of the world. At school the 4th grade students started their SAT testing today, and that went well. We were done by 10.20am, and we didn't lose power until 10.30am. God is good. It's really hard, as the days continue to get hotter, and without air-conditioning it becomes really hard for the kids to concentrate. This afternoon I took them down to the playground to get out of the classroom, and that was OK to a certain extent, but with PE & swimming classes going on around them, the students are easily distracted.

On the job front I'm still waiting patiently (or not so patiently) for God to show me where He plans for me to be next year. I'm doing OK most of the time, but it's not easy. I continue to work on surrendering to Him daily, and trusting Him with my future. I've submitted the second part of an application to an organisation of Christian International Schools, and know they have contacted people for references, so I'm waiting to see what comes of that. I also had a chat with an Aussie missionary here in Cambodia earlier this week who is looking for a teacher for an "outpost" of HOPE, but they really need someone with Early Childhood training. Not my area at all. God has a plan, and He will show it to me in His time. Meanwhile He's definitely helping me to learn to trust Him more, and to be patient for His timing.

My latest "fun" activity has been the discovery of Scrabble on Facebook. I had a great game tonight, playing two seven-letter words, one of which crossed two double-word score spaces! Yes! Love it. Will have to discipline myself there. Still, life can't all be work. Fun times are important too!

Well, that's it for the first day in April 2010. I hope and pray that all who read this have a blessed Easter time as they remember our Lord's sacrifice and triumph. Jesus is Alive!