Food for Thought

I breeze through some books, while others I chew on while I read.  One that I've been reading since July is Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster.  

Since I had a few free minutes on Sunday, I lay in the hammock behind our house and absorbed some goodness.  Foster is talking about the beauty of obedience in simplicity, and he says this, "Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience...It is a cheerful revolt against self and pride....Utter abandonment to God is done freely and with celebration...Hold this work lightly, joyfully."  

Living in a different culture, working in an environment where I always feel weak, sometimes I think it's only through sheer grit that I will survive.  But since I'm obeying God in being here, I need to remember that God has already filled me with His joy.  In obeying Him, I should be the most joyful.  Lord, help me to find strength in Your joy today.


Little Lessons

One of my student's dad owns a Chinese restaurant here.  I LOVE all foods Asian, and other than a questionable Styrofoam box of orange chicken in the Miami airport in October, I haven't had Chinese food since I came here in July.  Heather and I spent yesterday morning together at an orphanage, and we decided that, as our day-after-Thanksgiving, no-school-for-me treat, we would go out to Jorge's restaurant for lunch.

It was a beautiful restaurant, and I was so excited to be able to tell Jorge that I ate at his restaurant.  It's the time of year when Bolivian missionaries pinch pennies because of extra costs that come in December (Bolivia has a cultural tradition of paying all employees a double salary in December), so Heather and I gulped a little at the prices, but we ordered anyway and the food was delicious!  
It was also great to spend time with Heather and chat with her, since when I'm teaching we really only see each other in the early morning and late at night.

When it came time to pay for the bill, the waiter asked us to go to the cash register instead of bringing us the bill, and when we got to the front of the line, the woman working turned out to be Jorge's aunt.  She refused to let us pay for our meal!  I was so blessed.  We also got to chat about my student, and I was encouraged to see his family's concern for his wellbeing and education.

Sometimes I doubt that God will provide for my needs, or I think that He will only do it in traditional ways.  By now, I should know better.  I love God's little lessons, especially those that involve peanut chicken!


Thanksgiving in Bolivia!

Today was not my first Thanksgiving in Bolivia.  I was here just two years ago for two months and spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas with my sister.  Today we celebrated in much the same way that we did then.  Called the family in the morning (I got to see my nieces sing a song to us on Skype!), then went to a missionary family's house in the afternoon to celebrate with about 50 other expats.  

Although I had tears rolling down my cheeks when my nieces sang to me, realizing that I wouldn't see them for 9 more months, I really have enjoyed today more than I thought I would.  If we didn't celebrate today, or if I had to be teaching at school, I think today would have been much harder.  As it was, I really enjoyed getting to spend time with people I am getting to know and love, and to see our mix of cultures all come together for a common purpose-- giving praise to God for His many blessings.

Things I am thankful for:
- A family that loves me in Wisconsin
- Wonderful friends all around the world, especially in WI and MN
- Salvation, grace for even a sinner like me (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
- God's Word
- The different passions that God has given me, and the fact that I get to use almost all of them here in Bolivia
- Knowledge of Spanish
- People who support me both in prayer and financially in the US
- God's mysterious provision
- My heritage, both that from my family and that from my country
- Books!  I love reading
- My students.  They may struggle, I may struggle, but I really love them.
- People in the US who care enough to be intentional with me even though I am down here
- So many things that I can't list them all.

Now I'm going to the orphanage next door to watch a movie with my friend who lives and works there.  God is good to me.  And to you.  Romans 8:28


By Faith

Too many days I get too caught up in lesson planning, patrolling my classroom, and correcting papers to remember that I am right in the middle of an adventure.

I came to Bolivia and stayed.  God is teaching me how to listen to His voice.  Teaching me how to trust Him in new ways.  Stretching me.  The trials that I will face during this year are not just something to endure.  They are an adventure to navigate my way through, trusting my Guide who has never failed me.  I am following this Guide because He saved my life when I was hopeless and helpless, and now I have eyes only for Him.  If following Him to a place that is part rainforest and part grassland, part upperclass 5th graders and part young orphans who cling to me, part familiar and part foreign is what brings joy to His heart, then only that will make me content.

I claim in no way to be like the great men and women who have gone before me in spreading God's name to all nations, but if I can have a little taste of what Hudson Taylor felt when he lived on a loaf of bread and a bag of apples, or if I can experience a small fraction of what Amy Carmichael felt when she gave Christ's love to those who had never heard His name, then how can I complain? If "grin and bear it" is what God calls me to for a year, how can I not have the biggest grin, the most joyful bearing?  Who am I to doubt my Guide's plans?  

I don't know what lies in the coming months, and I have no idea what I'll do when I go home, but I will "bless the Lord at all times.  His praise shall continually be on my lips."

Now pray that I can rest on God's strength to live as He calls me to, because although my words and my spirit can be willing and strong, my flesh is weak.


Bearing Burdens

I made it through another week of teaching!  The weekend has arrived and I am alive and in a much better place emotionally than I was last week at this time (when I was still at school working).

Part of the reason that my week was better is that people were praying for me.  I have felt prayers every day.  Thank you! if you were a part of that.

Another reason is that people here have been helping me.  Heather has been grading papers almost every night, my housemate Adreana came in to help control my kids Monday and Tuesday for the big production, and today, my friend Amy came to teach a language lesson for me!

Amy is a wonderful woman who writes a great blog that you can find here.  Her main ministry is homeschooling her three kids, and her husband works at the hangar of our mission as an airplane mechanic. Her secret weapon that she doesn't like to remind the administration at the school about is that SHE HAS HER MASTERS IN EDUCATION!!!

And she loves teaching language and grammar.  As a linguist, you'd think that'd be my specialty, but I actually often have a hard time passing my enthusiasm for language on to my students.

Amy had my students listening to and interpreting poems, then creating their own poems about themselves and even about me, all in less than 30 minutes.  I was grateful, inspired, impressed, and most of all, encouraged.

Check out that interaction!
So, overall, from dread in the pit of my stomach Monday morning at the thought of going back to school to big smiles all day today, my week has gone straight uphill, thanks to the help of the body of Christ.

Look at how attentive they are!
Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
- Galatians 6:2


Reader's Theater

As the scaredy-cat (spelling, anyone?) newbie teacher in me looked for a way to put off the daunting-sounding "lit circles,"  I bit off more than I should have chewed.  I thought, "Oh, I'll just put off lit circles for one more week by going through a Reader's Theater play."  Reader's Theater is students reading their lines and acting out their parts-- like a really relaxed play. It actually wasn't a bad idea for me to spend a few days working with my students to improve their reading fluency; my lack of foresight came in when I decided that since we needed an audience, we would invite all students from Pre-K to second grade along with all of my students' parents!!!

Needless to say, I've been very stressed out the last few days prepping and praying that God would make these things go smoothly and without big problems.  I'm a people-pleaser, as many of you know, and the idea of some parents not liking our Reader's Theater was more than I could handle.  

PRAISE GOD! my housemate Adreana, who used to teach at the school, came yesterday and today to help me keep my kids in order to practice and perform.  And despite my worst fears, the kids did great!  They made me so proud!  Here are a few pictures of them performing.

Reverend, Mrs. Smith, and Uncle George discuss Isaac Newton's future

Isaac Newton teaches his brother and sisters about wind

Group One lines up for a bow

Group Two takes the stage
I'm looking forward to a normal day at school tomorrow, and tonight I went over to the Orphanage, Talita Cumi, that is two houses away from us and just chilled with the kids there for a bit.  I feel like after having such a narrow focus of pleasing parents for a few days, I have had my eyes open to see God's bigger picture.  Pray that I would be able to share that bigger picture with my kids.

 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
-Galatians 1:10



In the midst of my week full of questions as to why I'm here this year and why I am teaching 5th grade when I am not certified and have to remember how to do the math I am teaching my kids I had to remind myself often that God called me here.  I remembered that He is faithful (I even remembered sometimes that I only have 6 1/2 months of school left..shhhh).  But I had forgotten that I am serving a God who is POWERFUL!

I decided that my Sunday was truly going to be a Sabbath today.  I did everything I needed to do for school yesterday, so this afternoon I had a few hours in between church to just refocus.  I finally am reading Knowing God, which I started this summer.  In Chapter 2 Packer is talking about "The People Who Know Their God," and, in speaking of Daniel, he says, "Those who know God have great thoughts of God...These were the thoughts of God which filled Daniel's mind...'Praise be to the name of God for ever  and ever; wisdom and power are His.  He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them.  He gives wisdom.  He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him.' "  

I had forgotten that the God who brought me to Bolivia is powerful to conquer my fears.  He is powerful to break down barriers that Satan has set up.  He is powerful to work change in the lives of ten and eleven year-olds.

Please pray for me this week as I let God's power stand me up on my feet and give me wisdom and authority to teach as He has called me to.

Pray also as I try to figure out how to budget my time, as I could easily spend twelve hours a day at school but feel that God is calling me to serve in some side ministries as well.

So well-known but so true:
I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.
-Phil. 3:14



It's been my hardest week so far.  And I have already had some hard weeks.  But this one has got the others beat. One person saved me from wanting to pack up my bags and go home.  She is a servant, and she sees needs and meets them.  I present to you my sister, Heather.

This wonderful woman of God kept me going this week.  She did my laundry, cooked, listened and consoled.  And listen to this:  She has her own busy (though flexible) schedule.  She often comes in on Thursday mornings to do a devotion with my class.  This week, since Thursday I was fighting to stay in control of my emotions all day, she came in early and stayed until 11:00, just watching me teach and then taking my recess duty for me (while I pulled myself together).  

Today, I had to stay after school and give my room a good cleaning.  I never really even got to organize when I started teaching because school started right away, and I was always teaching or planning.  So, at 5:00, Heather came and just cleaned my room and put up posters for two hours while I cleaned my desk and got ready for next week.  Her PRESENCE more than anything else has been a huge comfort to me.  I also can't believe that she just completed changed her plans to be with me when I most needed it.  

I'm so glad that I get to serve in Bolivia with my big sister this year.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.
- Proverbs 17:17


Cultural Adaptation

It's late Saturday night, and I have to be at church early tomorrow morning to practice for worship team, but this post has been itching in my fingers to be typed for so long that it just needs to come out.

For the last few weeks I've felt this giant propensity towards selfishness.  The culture of Bolivia requires a person to greet every person in a room upon entering and say good bye to every one of them upon leaving.  It requires a polite American to spend 30 minutes making small talk with the parents of her student so that she can get to the point.  In the upper-class environment that I work in, it also means that if a parent has a problem with my teaching, he or she goes to the director of the school before letting me know that anything is wrong.  The missionaries here are so thinly stretched (SEND MORE WORKERS, GOD) that I feel so involved in side ministries that there is hardly time for teaching-- a tendency that already comes much too easily to me. 

Also, it is so HOT here!  It makes me cranky sometimes.

These stretches on my time, my body, my personality, and my pride make me want to hole myself up in my room, make me want to escape to familiarity, make me want to daydream of the life I could be living in the US this year, make me want to treat those around me like I don't care about them.  I was feeling so burdened by the weight of my sinful selfishness that in desperation I cried out to God, "If you say that 'my yolk is easy and my burden is light' then why do I feel heavy and like everything is a struggle?!?"  He answered me in three ways.

First, He says that His yolk is easy and burden light when we come to Him.  I was neglecting to do that in my moments of being lost in teaching or overwhelmed by ministry.

Second, a good friend and fellow (veteran) teacher reminded me that what I'm feeling is normal for someone in their first 1-5 months in a new country.  Yes, there are times when I need to fight the temptation to be selfish, but there are also times when I need to also realize why I'm feeling selfish and see what I can do to understand the situations that I'm in (or give up trying to understand them).

Finally, we have in our sin nature a tendency to make ourselves first and most important.  In my study of Philippians, God has reminded me that, as I help myself through this transition, I also must look to the interests of others.  I have to fight this desire to withdraw, knowing that at the root of it is me trying to make myself most important.  

I had lost my desire to serve, my desire to worship in joyful action.  I praise God that He is beginning to show me how to recover those desires.

Tonight I learned that we're singing Onward Christian Soldier (in Spanish) in church tomorrow.   "Hell's foundations quiver at the shout of praise"  It is God's work and our praise of it that will eradicate this sin at its core.  May I be in such praise of Him that there is no room left for sin in me.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
-Philippians 2:3-4


Teaching Moments- October

A few highlights of teaching 5th grade last month.
- One of my students came up to me and started our conversation with, "Miss, remember when you said we could talk to you about anything?"  He wanted to know how he could behave better in class, but just knowing that my students take my offer seriously was exciting to me.
- Everyone knew their Bible memory verse last week (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)!
- I am becoming more accepting of the fact that I am an imperfect teacher.
- All of my students professed to having Christ's blood painted on the doorframe of their hearts when we studied the Exodus.  Praise God!
- In a special class my students are learning how to stop bullying by BUILDing others up
          B- Be a Hero
          U- Use Kind Words
          I- Include Others
          L- Let Go Of Anger
          D- Do the Right Thing
My students now like to point out when someone is being a hero and when they are not using kind words- it's great! 
- I have learned so much about being a teacher and letting God use me even when I feel worthless that I could never explain it all. Praise Him for His faithfulness!


A Breath of Fresh Air

A fun activity that I'm doing with my students this quarter is that each day I choose an idiom of the English language that my ESL students (and most of my MKs, usually) aren't familiar with.  I explain it and we try to use it as many times during the day as we can.  Today we learned "a breath of fresh air" (refreshing; it makes you feel better; a change that feels good )

I had Monday and Tuesday off of school, which was a breath of fresh air for me.  I swam, hung out, had lunch with a friend, and went shopping at a local vegetable market where I got about three pounds of carrots for about 14 cents.

I grated six cups of carrots yesterday, and from them I made Morning Glory Muffins!  I also froze some grated carrot so that I can make more later, and I still have more than enough carrots to take to school every day this week.  Ahh!
May this short post with a food picture be a breath of fresh air for you blog-readers who have put up with my long posts about cultural adaptation and imperfections lately.  :)



Sometimes I wonder about making the decision to stay here.  Who am I to teach?  What kind of person makes such an impulsive decision?  How in the world will my physical needs be provided for?

God is slowly showing me the answers to these questions.  I'm learning daily that God called me to the 5th grade this year for a purpose.  I'm learning that responding quickly to God's calling is something that He is continuing to teach me how to do-- a quick decision doesn't always equal an impulsive one.  And finally, He is providing for my needs.

I was BLOWN AWAY last week when I got my support report for September.  Not many people had gotten my support letter before the end of September, so I was only supported by a few people.  There is no way I would have gotten money for October except that a family from my church supported me for a month and a half.  Yes, that's right...they gave me a donation that completely covered my October costs.  Praise goes to God!  Who knows how I would have continued to be here if it weren't for their quick response to my need!  I stand in awe and gratefulness for what they've done and how God has worked in my life.  

There have been parts of this "living by faith" thing that have been hard and required me to walk blindly into what I trust to be God's faithfulness, but that moment was like having blinders pulled off my face and seeing a concrete, tangible experience of His faithfulness.

I don't know if the rest of the school year will look like this abundant provision or if there will be times of scarcity, but I am confident that the God who sent His very own Son to die for my sins will certainly give me what I need for each day- in little ways or in big ones.

My God will supply all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4:19