19 July 2011

What are holidays for?

So what do you think holidays are for? I guess it depends what type of holidays we're talking about. If you're talking about those wonderful Cambodian public holidays that appear on the calendar more or less regularly through the school year, well I'd say they are for sanity preservation! They give me a chance to get marking/planning under control and also to have a little "me" time without feeling guilty. Longer holidays are awesome for that too, but often I need a project to do in the longer breaks so I don't get bored or spend all my day playing Scrabble on Facebook.

Back in April we had a week off school for the Khmer New Year holiday season. It was a really timely break, to recharge batteries for the final 10 weeks of school, as well as time to get a few jobs done - like passport renewal etc. Something I also did during that time was help a friend who was editing a special issue of Japan Harvest. God's timing is always perfect, and in this case the time when she needed a hand was the time when I had time of school. Amazing. Today I finally got to see the complete finished product when I found the package of magazines at the post office.

Today has been a great holiday day! First I went out to visit my old school, and pay an outstanding debt, which it felt really good to be able to do. It was fun seeing the staff and even some of the students out there, especially seeing two of my past teaching assistants. Next it was off to lunch with a friend who lives on that side of town. It's been quite a while since we caught up, so it was great to see her and catch up what's happening in her world. Then I managed to do two banking jobs and some grocery shopping, and finally I decided to call in at the Post Office on the way home, and there, sitting on the counter, was the package with my name on it! Hooray! Now to enjoy reading it and sharing it with others. I hope that as others see how God is working in Japan, they will be encouraged in their own lives, and also encouraged to keep praying for the people of Japan. We don't hear as much about the disaster now, but it's still an ongoing nightmare for many people.

I love holidays! I love the extra time they give me, for writing and for building relationships with people, as well as the time for quiet recharging of my batteries ready for the new school year to begin at the end of August. Hooray for holidays.

17 July 2011

God leads ...

One of the things that I do here in Phnom Penh is lead worship at the ICF once a month at the 4pm service. Originally I was just the pianist, but about 2 years ago I was asked to lead services occasionally, and it seemed that God has given me a gift in this area. I was hesitant, but willing, and over time God has shown me again and again, that if I am open to Him, He will guide me in exactly the right direction.

This weekend I was leading and playing, but I got distracted during the week, so it was Thursday evening before I started putting the service together. All I knew was that our guest preacher was preaching on Psalm 23. I prayed, and asked God to guide me, and proceeded to select a number of songs and arrange the service. I e-mailed if off, and then continued with other things. Yesterday I actually did some piano practice (well on the keyboard, but better than nothing), then this morning I finished off the planning.

One of the songs I had chosen is an older song by Geoff Bullock, titled "Have Faith in God". I'm not sure why now, but I googled his name, and discovered that he had rewritten some of the lyrics to this song. The new lyrics are even better than the old ones. You can find them here. What I like so much about them is that the focus is now even more on the God that we have faith in, and His mercy and grace. As I sat listening to the sermon, it struck me how perfectly this song went with the message. I couldn't have done that. Only God can do things like that. I'm so glad He is in control, especially when it comes to planning and leading worship. I may not be the world's greatest musician (trust me, I am far from it), but I'm willing to serve God with the abilities and training He has given me, and I continue to see His blessing as I trust Him to lead.

If God wants you to do something, then trust Him and do it, because He will supply all you need to do whatever He asks of you.

15 July 2011

Summer School is over

English Summer School is over, and I'm officially on holidays. I took the opportunity this morning to get a photo of almost all the children attending (from Preschool to Grade 5). We had 24 children in Grades 3 to 5 and the rest were in Preschool to Grade 2. We finished our three weeks with a Science Fair, where the children shared some of what they had done and learned with each other and with the parents who were able to come. It was exciting to see a number of parents coming along this morning to see what their children had been doing. A big thank you to Miss Tabi for all her organisation, and also to the office staff, who took all the enrolments and fielded questions. Another big thank you needs to go to the Khmer staff, who do an excellent job, and finally thanks to my special team - Miss Mary and Ms Lyda! Starting next Monday, some of the children will attend Khmer Summer School, which will go for three weeks, while the rest of us enjoy a break. Summer Science Spectacular has brought many happy memories. I hope you've enjoyed the snippets I've been able to share with you!

11 July 2011

Simple and Complex Machines

Teachers and students all learned something about simple and complex machines last week. Do you know how many different simple machines go together to make a kitchen gadget like a can opener? First we read about the different types of machines in our Science A-Z Machines book "Simple and Complex Machines", and then we tried our hand at making six of the simple machines.

Inclined plane
Wheel and axle
After that our teachers challenged us to use at least 3 of our simple machines to move a table tennis ball up and over a chair and across the carpet. We had lots of fun doing it, but it wasn't easy. Those table tennis balls just did not want to go where we wanted them to.
Now how do we get it to work?
Team L Ready to Go

Going up!

And over ...

Not quite ... never mind, we did our best!
Team M get's underway

Team K is almost ready to roll.

That pulley is a tricky contraption ...

Well OK, that part worked anyway.
Finally, after all the fun of making and demonstrating our complex machines it was time to draw and write up our activities. Well done Masterminds!

Two years of blogging

Wow, it's hard to believe I've been blogging for two years now! Yes, that very first post was written on 8th July 2009. What a lot has happened in those two years. God has worked in my life in so many ways, and I'm thankful for His love and patience with me. I've been through tough times, and I've had some great times. I'm thankful to Him for all of it. Yes, even the tough times. Through the tough times God has taught me lessons that I needed to learn, and in and through them He has shown me His unwavering faithfulness. Thank Lord, that you care for me. Thank you that you care for those around me as well.

As well as going through tough times myself, I've seen friends go through tough times. For some of them it has been very tough, and yet, like me, they have seen and continue to see God's faithfulness, care and provision.

Thanks to all who read this. I hope that it is a blessing to you, and also that as you read, you are able to pray for me, for my students, for my colleagues, and for my friends and family. I hope there will be many more happy stories to come.

Happy 2nd birthday "Teaching In Cambodia".

Playing with electricity

I don't think I know a science teacher who can resist setting up circuits. We'd been talking about the invention of the light bulb, so it seemed appropriate to let the children have a go at making a circuit. After a trial with aluminium foil (which I've been told does work), we went to plan B and bought some copper wire (coated of course). Each group of children had one battery two wires, a light bulb, and some insulating tape. Eventually all the groups managed to get their light bulb lit up.
As a finale, we decided to see what happened when we connected 5 batteries in series. As we added each battery, we checked to see it was still working.
Eventually we managed to get the 5 batteries in series without burning any fingers or burning out the light bulb. Here's the proof!

Summer School fun continues - Air cars

Part of our summer school fun has been experimenting with different materials and seeing what we can do with them. One popular activity the first week was making "air cars". After several trials of following the book's instructions, my co-teacher consulted one of our science teachers and they came up with the design which we used. Pretty easy and lots of fun!

What you need:
  • CDs, balloons, cardboard, scissors and plenty of tape!
Two important things to watch out for:
  • There must be a seal between the balloon and cardboard collar and the CD.
  • Make sure no tape goes through to the bottom side of the CD.
Blowing these balloons up is really hard work!

Can she do it?

Will it work?

Whose car will go furthest?

Demolition derby!

Yes, the girls were successful too!

07 July 2011

Five books that changed who I am

A fellow blogger challenged me to write about this topic some time ago, and I'm finally getting around to it! The fun part comes when you tag another three to five people, and see what they write. I'm tagging AnnaKara, and Katherine. Friends if you are up for the challenge the rules are these:
  • Tag between three and five people
  • Link back to this post
  • Call the post "Five books that changed who I am"
  • Enjoy
This was actually harder it might seem. Why? Well think about it, which books have changed who you are? This wasn't just asking me to consider what my favourite books are, or even the ones that I read the most often, but books that have changed who I am. Interesting concept. In reality, it isn't the books that have changed me, but God who changes me, but He often uses books to do it. Almost every book I read has some impact on my life, and many change how I think about certain topics. That doesn't just include non-fiction books, but also much of the fiction I read as well, especially the inspirational fiction. As I continue to contemplate this topic, it becomes harder and harder to limit myself to just five books, but here goes.

The past 18 months saw a lot of change happening in my life, and there are several books that have helped in that change process. I'd be wrong if I didn't mention the Bible as a book which has changed my life, so that will be my first book. The Bible is such a powerful book, and it brings comfort and challenge. Each time I read it, I hope that I change a little, as I continue allowing its author to mold me life to be what He wants it to be.

As I faced the many challenges of the past 18 months, another book which has changed me in positive ways is "Self Talk, Soul Talk" by Jennifer Rothschild. Each time I have picked this book up I've been challenged to consider how I talk to myself. No, I'm not going insane, but yes, I will admit that I talk to myself. Is all that self talk helpful? This book has challenged me to change the way I talk to myself (and what I choose to hear myself saying) so that I grow through my talk rather than get discouraged.

The third book that has impacted on my life and teaching this year, and which I continue to go back to is quite different. It's a book written for teachers, and has really helped me understand both myself and some of my students so much better this year, and I hope it has helped me to become a better teacher. The title is "Differentiation Through Personality Types: A Framework for Instruction, Assessment, and Classroom Management". Understanding my own personality type better, and how it affects me in the classroom, and then considering the personality types of my students using some of the tools in this book, has I think helped me to become a better teacher.

Book number four is "Be a 24/7 Christian" by Wade Akins. This book focuses on the Lordship of Christ, with a number of short, pithy chapters grouped under each heading. With headings like Significance of Lordship, Surrender to Lordship, Struggling with Lordship, Secret of Lordship and Serving Under Lordship, this book was one which challenged me at a time when I was truly feeling "out of control" of my life. I had no idea what I was going to be doing after the end of May, and I was really struggling with that. God used this book to "break" me, and to help me to learn a deeper level of surrender to Him. As I struggled with some of the content of the book, and knowing that I so often failed to be fully surrendered, God reached out and showed me His grace. The last chapter of this book is titled "Amazing Grace" and I think it is the most important chapter of all. God's grace is awesome, and beyond description.

Which brings me to the final book which has changed my life. I've only recently finished reading "Captured by Grace" by David Jeremiah, and I'm not going to tell you any more than that it led me to a much deeper understanding of the grace which is ours each and every day through Jesus! You can read more of my thoughts about this book here.

As I continue to read and reread many books, I know that God will work in and through my reading to bring me closer to being the person He planned me to be.

Five favourite books/series/authors:
  • Chalet School Series by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
  • Abbey Girls Series by Elsie J. Oxenham
  • Max Lucado
  • Karen Kingsbury
  • Robyn Jones Gunn
So if you are one of the people I've tagged, or even if you're not, I hope this post has led you to think about how books have helped change you. Happy reading friends.

02 July 2011

Captured by Grace by David Jeremiah

Captured by Grace: No One Is Beyond the Reach of a Loving God by David Jeremiah.
God's grace is free and available to all who accept it.
This book uses the stories of both the apostle Paul and slave trader John Newton to help the reader comprehend the depth and magnitude of God's freely available grace.
Under the headings of Grace for the Past, Grace for the Present and Grace for the Future, David Jeremiah explores God’s freely available grace in a way that is easy to read and deeply meaningful.
This book challenged my idea of what “grace” is and deepened my understanding and appreciation of the grace that God extends to each of us who accept it. Did you know that the other brother in the story of the prodigal son needed grace just as much as the prodigal? This book helped me understand that.
As I also experienced God’s grace in my daily life, I was encouraged and strengthened. This God, who is the all powerful creator, offers grace for each and every aspect of our lives. I encourage you to read this book with an open heart and mind. God will touch you deeply if you can do this. He wants you to experience His grace in the same way that Paul and John Newton did.
It took me many months to read this book, not because it was hard to read, but because of the depth and relevance of the content. I wanted time to think about it and absorb it. This book is definitely a keeper that I will read again!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.