Friday, January 28, 2011

Classroom Facelifts

This past weekend, my classroom got another face-lift.

Being the principal of the school means that I have very little time to be the Kindergarten teacher, which always breaks my heart a little bit each day. Most days I like being the Principal, but my heart is truly in Kindergarten and its hard to not be able to focus 100% of my time and energy on my class.

But administratively speaking, things have slowed down a little bit, and I took some time to rearrange and clean some things in the room, and it FINALLY feels like a real live classroom.

I happy to report that the large white offices (click for a reminder of what they look like) have been removed from every classroom! This may be my crowning glory moment as the leader of the school. And the really great news is that they have not gone to waste... they will be used in the University library as study cubicles, which is a much more practical and useful place for them.

So now, without further adieu, I present to you the final edition of our classroom. I will also include some pics of other grades soon just to boast a little more about the fact that the offices are gone! Horray!


View from the back of the meeting area and tables
Other side of the room-cubbies, T. Lykheng's desk

My desk, back wall

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Those of you who know me well know that I am not super crazy about change. The older I get, the more I come to accept it, but in most cases I can't seem to find a way to welcome it with open arms like I should. However, coming here has already taught me to deal with so much change.

Clearly, there are the obvious changes... I have to learn to speak a language that is so incredibly different from my native tongue.... I have to eat a lot of rice, and a lot of noodles, and I have to use chopsticks...If I want to go somewhere, I can't just get in my car and go--I have to ride a motorcycle, or Tuk-Tuk, or walk...I have to make new friends.... I have to be the boss... I have to bargain for fruits and vegetables... I have to live with no air conditioning...

These changes are the big things you think about when you pack up your entire life and move to another country. But right now, for me, the big changes are easier to deal with than the little, day to day changes that are slowly creeping into my life.

On Monday of this week, one of my little girls came into the classroom with her haircut. Previously, she had long hair down to her back which she usually wore in two pig-tails or braids, sometimes with bows. Now, her hair is cut shoulder length, and she wears just a headband. She was a beautiful child before, but now, with her hair cut short, she is absolutely gorgeous and looks so grown up. When I first saw her, I felt like such a mom because I couldn't believe that my baby looked so grown up! I know this feeling from the many moms that I know, and when you are a teacher for a certain amount of time, your students become your children.

But it got me thinking about all the little changes that are occurring here, and suddenly I got a panicky feeling that my time in Cambodia was going by so fast, and I wasn't even paying attention. It's been four months since I have arrived, and already so much has changed at the school, at the University (where I live), and even in the town of Sihanoukville.

At LIS, the teachers are doing a great job of making the classrooms look more like classrooms, we can see improvements in our students, and new, wonderful teachers have come and this has allowed us to change the schedule so our school day is more normal. Not everything has been easy, and some of the changes at the school have really felt like a battle, but the little changes have slowly added up and I have realized that Life International School is moving forward. God has such amazing things planned for this school, most definitely not by my efforts, or anyone else's, but by His infinite sovereignty and grace, He is bringing all of the right people here at the right time.

Life Schools, or Cambodia Life Mission Organization, is the larger ministry that Life International School is a part of, and I have slowly been learning that the nature of this mission is one of change. So many people come and go.... teachers come and serve, and then go back to their home country.... missionaries come and stay anywhere from a couple weeks to many months, but then also return to their homes.... University students graduate and seek out exciting new opportunities both in Cambodia or abroad...even our international students will attend school for a while, but then have to go back to their home countries.

Once I arrived here, I selfishly thought the world I immediately fell in love with always be the same. This just goes to show how much I fight against change in my life. I thought that since God had called me all the way across the world, He would create an environment for me where my work would stay the same, and the people would stay the same, and I would just be content for two years to do the work God had called me to do, without ever having to deal with immense changes in my environment or community. Sure, God could teach me things about Himself, and myself, and other people, but for some reason I really think I expected this to happen while everything around me stayed the same.

But the truth is that God has never promised me that things would always be the same. He has promised me that HE will stay the same, amidst all the changes and emotions that come with living in a broken world. The more I think about it, of course I want God as the constant in my life, even though everything changes. People come and go, relationships change and grow, but God remains the same. And it actually makes me smile a lot that he chose to remind me of this lesson by way of a little girl's haircut :).

On a happier note, the one thing that has remained constant in the past four months is the amazing community of teachers at LIS. I am so privileged to work with this group of people. Here is some of us after we helped decorate for the University's "Smart Boy and Smart Girl Pageant."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kindergarten Class Photo

Here is the adorable Kindergarten Class of the 2010-2011 school year. I am the principal of the school, and love all 120 of the students in each grade level dearly, but these little ones of course have a special place in my heart. Kindergarten is, and will always be, the best!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Prayer for the New Year

Being in Cambodia for the holidays was a totally new and different experience. I knew I should have expected this, but I think deep down I still expected the warmth and tradition that comes with the holiday experience I am familiar with. Honestly, the first time being away from family and friends for the holidays was much harder than I anticipated it would be, but God is faithful and He brought me through and gave me small blessings along the way.

Christmas in Cambodia was filled with a lot of food, a lot of singing, and a lot of dancing. The busyness of the Christmas season we experience in America was almost even intensified here, with parties and programs daily. The tropical weather definitely gave a different feel to things, and I found that Christmas is just celebrated differently in Asia, even among Christians. I most definitely missed the family time and the sense of community I have grown accustomed to in the past few years. However, this first Christmas away from home, I got a small glimpse of the community that the Lord is developing for me here, and I am truly thankful for the people that I was able to spend Christmas with, even though it was so different.

As for New Year's, I have never been a huge fan of this holiday so I don't think that I had many expectations. The celebrations continued, but I feel like this new year was harder, but in a way more special than any other new year I have experienced in my life. This year, being a new place and reflecting on all of the strange and wonderful things God had done in my life in 2010 really made me look ahead to 2011 in a way that I have never really approached a new year before.

Usually, my New Year's experiences involved getting dressed up, staying up late, and thinking and dreaming of all sorts of ways that maybe, just maybe, the new year ahead would be special and different from the year that was coming to a close. In short, it was never anything special, and ringing in the new year was more about empty wishes I had created for myself than it was about anything meaningful. But this year, when I began to look back on 2010, I was absolutely in awe of God's faithfulness and goodness.

2010 began just like any other year, but slowly it turned into one of the most significant years of my life. I had minor doubts and despairs throughout the first couple of months, and looking back, I began to have a small feeling that my life was about to change drastically. And that is exactly what happened. In the midst of a lot of pain and confusion, God led me to Cambodia. 2010 was no longer about the empty wishes of my life, but it became about God's very specific plan for my life. The second half of 2010 was full of drastic changes, but each and every change taught me more about myself, and more about God.

Because 2010 was so significant, looking ahead to 2011 became that much more significant. As I said earlier, it was so much harder to be away from family and friends than I anticipated, but that made relying and trusting on God that much easier, and of course that much more important. I am in a new place, but I know it is the absolute right place for me. I have met many new people, but I know that these are people whose love and friendship will stay with me for a lifetime. I have a new life, but it is a life that is completely focused on the work that God has called me to do. That doesn't mean that it's easy every day, or that I'm perfect every day, but by his love and grace I am able to look ahead to this next year with so much thankfulness and rejoicing.

As I reflected on the year gone by, and contemplated what I am really hoping and praying for in this next year, and years to come, the Lord brought a beautiful verse to my attention. And this is my prayer for my new year, and my new life in Cambodia:

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord forgave your, so also you must forgive. And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
~Colossians 3:12-17