27 July 2010

Life's about learning and second chances

Did you ever sit down with a textbook (not a novel) and find it so good that you couldn’t wait to find out what you were going to learn next? The last day or two I’ve been reading a book like that. I’m not finished it yet, and there are definitely bits that I’m going to reread, but this book has my attention. What is it? Not telling just yet.
At the Refresh! program I recently attended in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we had opportunity to complete a Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment, and to learn something about how our personality types, and those of people we work with, might be affecting both our personal lives and our ministry. As we were working through the material, I remember having moments when I thought, “so that’s why I prefer to do things that way”. After the session, the leader told me that she would like to talk with me specifically about my score and how it might impact on my new job. It was a few days before we managed to do this, but I really valued the insights that were shared with me, especially about how colleagues, parents and students who have substantially different personality types to mine may perceive me, and what happens in my classroom. At the time it was suggested that maybe it would be helpful to me, as I transition to a new classroom in a new school, to do some more reading on this.

This weekend I decided to do that, and after some digging on the internet discovered an article which seemed really relevant. After I’d read the article, which made a lot of sense, I discovered that the authors had written a book called “Differentiation Through Personality Types”, which seemed like it might be really helpful. I followed up on the book, and am now busily reading it, and thinking about how I can apply what I’m ready in my new classroom.

Most teachers will tell you that different children learn in different ways, and that catering for all the different ways can drive you crazy. Something that I’m learning at the moment is how I can change some of the things I do in the classroom, or even just the way I do things, so that all the children in my class are better able to learn, and to learn well. I knew that change was needed, but had no idea how to make the change, and I was also very afraid that it wouldn’t happen, and the consequences of that type of failure were overwhelming. I praise God for what He is teaching me right now, both about myself, and about the children I will be teaching. I praise Him for guiding me down the path of learning that I’m currently on, and for showing me a framework that will help me understand both my students and myself better. It is a framework that will allow me to continue to use the strengths that He has given me, while also allowing Him to take my weaknesses and work in my life to bring about His glory.

The words written by Darlene Zschech in the “The Potter’s Hand” are my prayer for this coming school year as I take hold of the second chance that God has given me:

Beautiful Lord, wonderful Saviour,
know for sure, all of my days are

Held in your hand,
Crafted into your perfect plan.

You gently call me into your presence
Guiding me by your Holy Spirit,
Teach me dear Lord,
To live all of my life
Through your eyes

I’m captured by your holy calling
Set me apart,
I know you’re drawing me to yourself
Lead me, Lord, I pray

Take me, mould me,
Use me, fill me.
I give my life to the Potter’s hand.
Call me, guide me,
Lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter’s hand.
By Darlene Zschech © 1997 Hillsongs Australia

25 July 2010

Sunday in Cambodia

I love that I go to church at 4.00pm.  That gives me the rest of the day to procrastinate over the things that I "should" be doing, or to enjoy catching up with family and friends on Skype, e-mail and Facebook, have a sleep in, and enjoy reading for pleasure.
It was good to get back to ICF this afternoon, after a break of about 7 weeks, but it was also a bit difficult, knowing that there would be several people missing, who won't be back anytime soon, having gone on home assignment. Still there was a good number of people gathered together to worship our Lord, and to hear the message Pastor Richard had to share with us.
After church I headed to a favorite restaurant for dinner, and now I'm home and procrastinating as I try and decide what I really should do before my helper arrives tomorrow morning (at the moment it looks like I've done very little for the last 2 days or so). I have actually been doing some research among other things, but there's nothing concrete to show for it, apart from chaos, so I'd better go and get on with it.
Meanwhile, God reminded me this evening just how much He cares for me, in an e-mail that I received and have copied here.

He Sings Over You
Posted: 24 Jul 2010 11:01 PM PDT
“The Lord God is like a sun and shield; the Lord gives us kindness and honor.” Psalm 84:11
Rejections are like speed bumps on the road. They come with the journey . . . You can’t keep people from rejecting you. But you can keep rejections from enraging you. How? By letting God’s acceptance compensate for their rejection.
When others reject you, let God accept you. He is not frowning. He is not mad. He sings over you. Take a long drink from His limitless love.

Let's all do as the author suggests and focus on God's acceptance rather than the rejection of people. Trust me it hasn't all been rejection, and I'm very thankful for a number of great friends as well as my family who accept me as God made me, but it's very easy to focus on the rejection instead of God's loving acceptance. Praise Him for this timely reminder today.

24 July 2010

Learning from the past to build a future that glorifies God

Today I received some information that I had been waiting about 3 months to receive. It was one parent's perspective on my classroom, as she saw it through her child's experiences & expressions. I was glad to receive it, as it allowed me to see how someone else saw my classroom, and I have to say that I didn't like what they saw. I already knew about some of their concerns, and I thought that I had made changes in my teaching practice to address those concerns. I also recognise that there is room for more to change. There were some practical things which I could do something about, and with God as my helper I will change those things. There were also some things written which, if someone who didn't know me read the letter, could lead the person to think I was a cruel, heartless, inflexible and disorganised teacher who shouted at her students all day every day. Trust me when I say I'm not, and I don't but unfortunately that seems to be how I came across to this person. I know the letter was written with the intent of improving the situation, but that it could very easily be misinterpreted in this way. It did provide me with a reminder that we all perceive things differently, and that I need to be mindful not only of my intentions but also of other's perceptions, and to consider how others might interpret my words and actions, so that God can be glorified in my classroom.

As I contemplate my future, in a new school, with a new principal, new colleagues and new students (to me), I pray that God will work in my life so that I can be the teacher He wants me to be. In considering the information I received  today, along with other information I had already received, I spent time exploring the Internet to seek information that might help me change. Some of the issues raised relate to my personality, and so I explored information about MBTI that might help me better understand who I am, and why I operate the way I do, as well as some ways that I can change. Some things I found were helpful, and others weren't, but I know that God will continue to lead me in the areas I need to change. I also know that it is God who changes us, and that if I submit to Him more fully, then change will happen.

I love teaching, and I love my students, and several people have told me that they can clearly see a teacher's heart and passion in me. Unfortunately I haven't been so good at showing this to my students in ways that they understand. Pray with me that I will do this. I believe that God has given me a second chance! He is the God of second chances, and it is my heartfelt desire to take this chance and use it to glorify Him in all that I do.

23 July 2010

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances by Andy Andrews

Andrews, A. (2010). The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Imagine for a moment that you are digging in your garden, rooting out a dead tree, when you hit buried treasure. Well, maybe not quite treasure, but what you find is old and well preserved. Would you start to ask yourself some questions? Where does it come from? Why is it there? What is the story behind the items you have found? Author Andy Andrews did just that, and he couldn’t rest until he found the story behind the items he discovered. The Heart Mender tells that story. This intriguing story of war and peace, of hatred and forgiveness, will keep you engorssed to the very end. It’s compelling reading and I found it hard to put down. Truth and fiction are cleverly woven together to tell the story, and get the reader thinking. Set during the early part of WWII, the characters seem real, and face issues that we continue to face today. To forgive or not to forgive. What is the real purpose of forgiveness? To love or not to love. Is there a difference between being German and being a Nazi? This thought provoking book tells a great story,

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

22 July 2010

Coming Home

What is it that makes a place home? I’m not sure, but I do know that as I flew into Phnom Penh yesterday evening it was with a sense of excitement to be coming home! After seven weeks away, it’s good to be back living in a place where I know where everything is, and if it’s not where it should be then that’s probably because I didn’t put it away. I think that “home” is a place where you feel like you belong (even if you are different to many of the people there), a place you can call your own (even if it’s rented), with your own bed, some favourite books, and the knowledge that you have friends around you. There’s a different type of “home” as well, which is the country you were born in (often called your “passport country” among expats), and where most of your family & probably extended family live. I’ve been there, and yes, it was “home” but not the same as the place where I live my daily life and work and worship.

Today has been a good day, picking up the moto, getting the oil changed & putting air in the tyres, then off to do some visiting. First I went to one place to see if a friend was there, but found out she’s on holidays, so I went and visited her at home. It was good to see her, and hear that her new school is growing. Sadly she hadn’t been well (dengue fever strikes again) but she is recovering, so that’s good. Next I rode out to my old school to check on mail, and just say Hi to a few people, and the welcome I received was special. Then I phoned a special friend, and went to visit her. It turned out to be great timing. We enjoyed chatting on the roof, and then sharing lunch together with her boys plus an extra. After that I headed back into town to pick up some mail which was actually waiting for me at my first stop, as well as some other things which had been in storage while I’d been away. Next stop was a local grocery store for a few essential (and non-essential) items before heading home.

Since then I have been enjoying reading a brand new book! It’s called The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews and you’ll just have to wait to find out more, as I will be reviewing it in this blog very shortly. Yep, that’s what was in the mail that was waiting for me to collect. Actually, I got a pleasant surprise when I found they had actually sent me two copies – one for me and one for a friend – so I’m still considering who I might give the other copy to, but know that someone in Cambodia is going to enjoy it (maybe several someones). I think I’ll finish reading it and write the review before I finally decide.

Well time is marching on, and I really want to see what happens next in my book so I’ll finish for tonight. Praise God for good times in Australia and Thailand, and praise Him too for bringing me safely home to Phnom Penh. Praise Him too that one day He will return to take us to our final and forever home, with Him for eternity, meanwhile, I pray that I will live for Him in my current home in a way that brings glory to Him.

09 July 2010

Flight of the Gibbon

I’m soooo sore and I think I’m going to be even sorer tomorrow or the next day, but I wouldn’t trade how I feel for not having the experience that I had this afternoon.

I’m grateful for God allowing me to participate in an amazing experience in the jungle in the mountains outside Chiang Mai. A group of ten people attending the Refresh Retreat, aged from 12 to 60+, were driven for about an hour into the mountains, where we had a wonderful experience. We enjoyed breathtaking views of God’s creation, as we walked and “flew” through the rainforest canopy for more than 2km.



When we arrived, we were outfitted with safety harnesses and helmets, stowed our belongings in lockers, and headed off into the jungle. I’ll admit there were moments when I was scared (being a hundred feet or more above the ground and dependent on a series of cables, ropes, harnesses, etc will do that for you), but it was a fear that I conquered, and consequently had a never to be forgotten afternoon. It truly was an amazing, if scary, feeling to fly through the air, and to observe the rainforest around you. We also walked across suspension bridges high in the canopy, and dropped about 100ft on a rope. The climb back to the starting point at the end was almost too much for my unfit body, but I was very kindly rescued by a man on a moto who saved my poor legs many climbing steps.

The whole experience was truly an exercise in trust, as I placed my life in the hands of the guides. If I can go through an experience like this, trusting men, cables and equipment, how much more can I trust our all powerful, all knowing God to continue to lead me through His plan for my life? Here’s the proof that I actually did do it!

Flying High