Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Favorite Part of the Day

 One of my favorite parts of teaching at a Christian School is that we open everyday with prayer. Last year, with my second and third graders we shared prayer requests. There's nothing wrong with that. Philippians 4:6 states: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
     What bothered me, was that my children were so focused on their own needs and wants (mostly wants, to be honest), that they often forgot WHO they were talking to during prayer. In fact, one day, one of my boys said to me, "God makes our wishes come true." To these kids, prayer was a time to give their wishlist to God. It was like writing a letter out to Santa...EVERYDAY.
    So, this year, I decided to approach my prayer time a little differently. I decided to teach my kids how to pray. And I'll admit, I stole the idea from a fellow teacher from when I was in Guatemala. She taught her students to pray using the ACTS model (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). Everyday, they would focus on a different letter. I liked it, so I stole it. On Monday, we praise God for who He is. On Tuesday, they have a time to pray silently--specifically to confess anything they may need to--otherwise, it's a great time to talk to God quietly. Thursday is Thankfulness. Then, Friday is the day they share their requests. Friday have been a lot less about a wishlist and a lot more about sharing their needs. One of the other things I've done is allowed each of my kids a chance to prayer. We go around the room and each child says their own prayer--and I love it. Monday is probably my favorite. It's the day when I hear prayers like: God, I praise You that You are Almighty and Creator and You loved us and sent Jesus to save us. Thank you for being so big and awesome. This really is my favorite time of the day--when I hear my kiddos praying and talking to God--doing more than just give their daily wishlist. I love it!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Roman Holiday: Part the Second

     One of my favorite paintings is "The Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo. I love the imagery of God reaching down to man, and man's half-hearted attempt to respond...love, love, love the painting. "The Creation of Adam" is one of the many painting Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, located within the Vatican (which by the way is the smallest country in the world), located within the city of Rome. Obviously, on a trip to Rome, visiting the Vatican was a must. So, on the morning of day two in Rome, by two partners of adventure and I headed off to see the Sistine Chapel, amongst other things. First, though, we stopped by St. Peter's Square, to visit St. Peter's Basilica, one of the largest churches in the world. This is where I once again mention that I LOVE cathedrals. I forget sometimes how BIG God is, but everytime I am near a cathedral, I look at its massive splendor and realize that my God is MUCH, MUCH more massive and splendid...AMAZING!
We saw long lines to get in, and at first we were worried. Then, we realized they were lines for security and actually were moving fairly quickly (much faster than most airports, I might add), so all was soon well. And the basilica did not disappoint--it was beautiful...and massive.

     The next stop was to visit the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. One of my favorite parts of living in Europe (besides the traveling...or the food...or the operas) has been seeing the works of great artists in person.  A work by Titian in Venice...Da Vinci in Milan and Paris...and now Michelangelo AND Raphael? Incredible. The Vatican Museums were amazing. One of our first stops was a part full of Egyptian artifacts--including several mummies (real live..um..dead mummies!). We also so Roman and Greek statues, the Raphael rooms, Matisse originals (Adventure Buddy has taught about him in an elementary art class before, so she was pretty excited to see those), and finally, the breath taking Sistine Chapel. At first, Adventure Buddy and I stood in the center of the room straining our necks to see everything, but then someone moved from one of the benches along the wall, and we had a chance to sit for a while and gaze. I probably could have sat there all day, it was so breathtaking. Of course, I kept returning my eyes to "The Creation of Adam". Love that painting. Adventure Buddy and I looked around for our third friend, and realized she wasn't sitting where she had been before. After trying to look through the crowds, we finally gave up and decided maybe she hadn't seen us and had already left. We decided to head out of the room and see if maybe we could catch her.
      We wandered through the rest of the museum (stopping to look at displays and out of the window at the Vatican Gardens along the way. We arrived at the bookstore at the end, and we still hadn't found her. We decided to text her and wait (giving me a chance to buy a bookmark featuring "The Creation of Adam"). Finally, we the three of us we reunited and we left the Vatican to continue our Roman Adventure.

       After lunch, taking a ride on the hop-on-hop-off bus for which we had tickets, and and visiting another cathedral, we wandered through a few markets. By the time we finished in the markets, it was getting dark. Since we weren't that far from the Colosseum, we decided to head over there to get a few night pictures. It was beautiful! The next part of our adventure eventually led us to visiting Trevi Fountain, all lit up for the night. Also, breathtaking. By then, it was time to eat. We came across a restaurant with a 4 our of 5 rating by Trip Advisor--Trattoria Gioia Mia Pisciapiano. We decided to stop there for dinner. It was amazing. The waiters were friendly. We had great food and great service, and it was much less expensive than we had been expecting. All in all, day two was a very successful day!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012



By a fourth grader

My mom once told me about bottomless, and ever since that moment, I've been thinking and thinking. It's so hard to imagine bottomless. When my thoughts say the word bottomless, I think and think, scratch my head, and think some more. So, when I'm falling into a bottomless pit again, I can do whatever I want, because I'm never going to reach the bottom

One of my kiddos just published this piece. It wasn't very long, but the student did such a good job of capturing voice, I had to share it. I can hear the child telling me this as I read it! :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Roman Holiday: Part the First

     I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Audrey Hepburn. Paris When It Sizzles, Breakfast At Tiffany's, My Fair Lady--I love them all. So, when presented with the opportunity to go to Rome for "holiday" (as my kiddos would call it) for a holiday weekend, how could I say no? The thought of having my own Roman Holiday beckoned me to greatly to refuse. Added to that, my ever faithful adventure buddy also wanted to go. Who can refuse an adventure with Adventure Buddy?
     So, the day before Thanksgving (after a VERY long day at school), Adventure Buddy, another friend, and myself set off to explore The Eternal City. Rome is only a 2 hour flight from Prague, so we actually arrived in the city at a decent hour. We took a bus to the city center from the airport and made our way to our hostel--which was, thankfully, not too far from the train station where the bus deposited us. The next morning we woke up excited to begin our explorations.

Day One: Ancient Rome
     I figure that I am doing pretty well for a 27 year old. I've climbed the Great Wall and the Eiffel Tower, floated along the canals of Venice (in a boat), stood on Juliet's balcony in Verona, and have now seen and stood inside the Colosseum. IT WAS AWESOME! Just catching my first glimpse of it was incredible. I can imagine for even a person who does not have faith in Christ it would be impressive, but for a believer to see a place where so many men and women were unashamed to lay down their lives for Christ it was breathtaking. To know this was a spot where so many early Christians chose to honor and worship God above themselves--above their own lives--it was inspiring. And sobering. Would I have been that brave?

    So, we were all pretty excited to visit the Colosseum, but first we had to find the place where we could get the audio guides for our tours....easier said than done. The place was located on a back road and we may or may not have wandered around a while before we found it--but we did find it and eventually made it to the Colosseum. I've heard that Rome is VERY crowded during the summer. November actually wasn't that bad, so if you're planning a trip that might be the time to go. The temperatures were lovely--about 60 F--and it was pretty sunny during our entire stay.

     One of my favorite parts of the Colosseum was the cross that had been erected as a memorial to the men and women martyred for their faith in Christ.
      After a delicious lunch of pizza (it is Italy), we decided to head off to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. It was crazy to know that we were strolling through the heart of ancient Rome. The ruins of buildings and temples were ruins built by Romans! They were places that I'd read about in books. It was awe inspiring.

     I really enjoyed taking a break in the Roman Forum to read part of the "River of Time" Series by Lisa T. Bergren.
      One of the saddest parts of the Roman Forum to me was seeing an arch that was built to commemorate the destruction of the temple in 70 AD. Part of the carving on the arch depicts the Romans carrying back the spoils from the temple. Seeing that, I realized that it wasn't a Greek or Roman temple or some other random temple for some other random god...that was THE TEMPLE, the temple built for MY God...and I know that by 70 AD Jesus had already died and rose again and the Holy Spirit dwelt inside believers (Acts really is an awesome book to read), but still, it was MY God's temple. That arch almost felt like a personal affront.

     After successfully exploring the Roman Forum, we set out to explore Palatine Hill. Our audio guide claims this was the birthplace of Rome. Apparently, Romulus and Remus were discovered here by the She-Wolf who then raised them. We explored some of the sights, but my favorite parts were getting to see orange trees...and palm trees...AND ROSES STILL BLOOMING! Everything was so green. Prague is dead and brown by this time of the year! Oh--and we also came across this amazing view of the Colosseum. It was quite lovely.

 By the time we left the forum and Palatine Hill, the sites were beginning to close down. We were also starting to feel worn out (from the combination of a busy week and travel and walking around all day), so we made our way back to the hostel to rest before finding a bite to eat. It really was a wonderful start to a wonderful trip!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Nameless Frog Goes to Cesky Krumlov

My classroom is decorated with frogs. It all began, because right before my first year of teaching, my mom and I found some frog stuff left over from her last year of teaching fourth grade. It spiraled from there...

When I moved into my flat in August, I saw that one of my flatmates had left a stuffed frog sitting on my shelf, and through a series of events I decided he would be my classpet. I just haven't told my kiddos about it yet (I was waiting to take the frog on an adventure first). So, finally Fall Break came and it was time for the nameless frog to go on his first adventure--to Cesky Krumlov, a medieval town not to far from Prague (although, compared to other places I've lived--like Seoul or Guatemala City--Prague is a town, so really Cesky Krumlov is more of a village--it's quaint, it's fairytailish, it's small). But, anyway, back to the Frog's adventure.

 Froggy visited the castle. He even climbed the tower--but I forgot to get a picture of this, because he was in my backpack. He strolled through the castle compound (still in my backpack) and finally was taken out of it when I saw frogs as part of the fountain in the castle garden, reminding me he was there!

 Here is poor Frog trying to get to his friends in the middle of the fountain. Alas, they were too far away and he is one of the few frogs in the world who doesn't like getting wet. Poor froggy!

After that, I took Frog back to a part of the castle where you can overlook the village-town. He really enjoyed the view and was ever so excited to have his picture taken here. He was still sad that he missed seing the view from the tower. I know--I'm such a terrible person to have forgotten the stuffed animal in my backpack.
After all the wandering, my travel buddies and I were getting hungry. It was also getting cold. We decided that a nice, heart Czech meal was in order. Both Lonely Planet and Rick Steeves has recommended a restaurant called "The Two Marys". It served traditional Medieval Bohemian food. We got the old style Bohemian feast, which included smoked meat, potato cake, chicken, potato dumplings, millet cakes, cabbage, and salad. It was quite delicious. Actually, the whole trip was wonderful--even if I did get several strange looks from people for taking pictures with a stuffed animal. I'm an elementary teacher--what can I say.

PS--The Nameless Frog has since been named "Billy Bob" :) 


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

It's Started!

It's started! School has finally started! My lovely fourth graders strolled into my classroom this morning and greeted me with "Good morning, Miss Miller!" Truth-I have missed that a lot over the summer!

I've also missed their hilarious quotes. That is why some of the conversations today REALLY made my day.

Conversation 1:

Student: Miss Miller, what is "staff"? Like, when you walk in the bathroom you see the word "staff" on the door.

Me: Staff is like the teachers or the secretaries--people who work at the school.

Student: Oh, so like you...I thought it was something to do with the FBI. Are you in the FBI, Miss Miller?

Conversation 2:
Student: Miss Miller, what is the difference between Nigeria and Germany? I can't remember which one I've been to.

Me: Well, Nigeria is in Africa, and Germany in right next door to the Czech Republic. It's here in Europe.

Student: Oh! I don't think I've been to Nigeria, then.

Conversation 3:
 First student is talking about how he is American.

Student 2: You're not American! You were born in the Czech Republic!

Student 1: Yes, I am! My parents are Americans!

I try to briefly explain to student 2 about the concepts of passports and citizenship--which is hard to do, by the way, when all of your students are either currently living outside of the country their parents are from or have done so in the past--love all my Third Culture Kiddos! :)

Student 2: Oh, well, I'm American, too. I speak English.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Break My Heart for What Breaks Yours

I was reading an article about an Atheist summer camp for children. A quote from one of the children about why they didn't believe in God broke my heart:

"Personally, I don't believe in him, but if he were to come down and do something really amazing, I would be able to accept that he exists."

What broke my heart is...He did.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why Hello Culture Shock! or Why this place is NOT my home

I've had an enjoyable time visiting the US this summer. If anything my visit has reinforced my personal belief the US is a perfectly wonderful country to visit, I fail to understand why they would choose to live here...or call it home...but that may be just me. :P But a couple things have caught me off guard that I knew in the back of my mind to expect but wasn't really expecting it to catch me off guard as much as it did.
For instance, my parents live in a small town in the South, so people are friendly. I mean, REALLY friendly--like strangers smiling at me, saying hello, and then sitting down to start a conversation with me friendly. The first couple times that random people said hello and asked how I was, I thought I knew them and forgot who they were. Then I realized that no I didn't know them and they were just being friendly (or overfriendly depending on what you're used too). Then, yesterday, while my mom and I were at the bank waiting for my grandfather (he recently moved to VA from WA, so he's moving all his accounts) this guy sits down and starts up a conversation with us covering everything from Obama to Romney to the heat to ABC stores to pretty wine bottles to West Virginia to real estate to the price of soft drinks to Christian being filled with the Spirit (that's the other thing--almost everyone here claims that their Christians). It was weird....then I was buying construction paper and sharpies (AND TWISTABLES FOR MY KIDDOS!!!!) and this other guy started up a conversation with me. Weird! I mean, little old Czech ladies talk to me all the time, but most of the time they're just talking to talk and don't expect me to say anything (not that I could, since I have no clue what they're telling me!) I've probably come across as a snob to half the town because I keep forgetting that people here are friendly like that!
Another thing--everyone is LOUD! I mean, REALLY LOUD! I don't know how anyone can think around here, they're all so loud! And everyone speaks English, so I want to listen to all their conversations, so it's almost like language overload.
Also, the amount of choice is overwhelming. I ran into this after my first year in Guatemala when my mother told to get ice cream while I was at the store. I had to call her back to ask her to be more specific. They had an entire aisle! so, yesterday my mom asked me to get the ranch salad dressing while we were grocery shopping. You would think that would be simple...or not. Did you know that there is lite ranch, fat free ranch, bacon ranch, buttermilk ranch, cucumber ranch, peppercorn ranch, and original ranch (I apologize to any varieties of ranch I have left out. It was not intentional!). Who knew there were so many types of ranch! :S
The final shock to me was one that has been building slowly over the past decade. I'm different. I've lived in five different countries since I was eighteen. I love Canada--watching "Anne of Green Gables" or "Flashpoint" make me homesick! I miss the Atlantic Coast and visits to Halifax and PEI! I watched the "From Sussex and I Know It" YouTube video multiple times, because, hey, I lived in Sussex! For four years! I love Canada! And just as much or even more, depending on the day, I love Guatemala. I am a chapina en mi corazon! I miss active volcanoes and black sand beaches. I miss strolling the streets of Antigua, CAG, and the people I called family. I miss worshiping in Spanish as church! I miss Guatemala. Even more, my entire family misses Guatemala. At one point or another, all of us have called it home. It's a place that will forever be home to me. I also occasionally miss good Korean food. I only lived in Korea for a semester while in university, but I loved it while I was there.
Don't be alarmed. There is a part of me that will always love the US--especially Virginia, the place my family has lived since the 1600s. I am a Virginia girl...it's just that Virginia isn't home anymore. It's the place of my past, not my future. Up until now, Virginia has always still been a little home. This summer I have realized, I don't live here anymore. I'm a visitor here. I don't belong here, and I probably will not live in this country long term ever again. It's not where I belong. Not that I belong in the Czech Republic or Guatemala or Canada or Korea or anywhere on earth for that matter. Thankfully, God has a place for me where I do belong--and someday I'll be in my real home. Until that day, I'll claim the definition of home an a picture my mom gave me for my birthday yesterday. It has all these shoes on it and reads, "Home is where you hang your heels." After all, every woman needs a good pair of heels and a place to hang them! :)

By the way--my mother jokingly suggested a picture that read, "Home is where my mom is." I vetoed it and she understood...I think...
Actually, my parents are very good and have made a point of telling everyone, "Rebecca is VISITING us for the summer." :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Lasts (but only until August)

This time of year is always filled with "lasts"...

  • The last test of the year
  • the last day of school with the kids
  • The last day of school with teachers
  • The last time you step foot inside your classroom until August
Living internationally adds even more "lasts" sometimes:
  • The last view of Prague Castle until August
  • The last trip to Tesco until August
  • The last ride on the trams and metro until...(well you get the picture)
  • The last stroll through Old Town
  • The last visit to the Harry Ghost
  • The last visit to The Pind
  • The last gelatto at Cream & Dream
As I experience all these lasts, it still seems surreal to me...I can't believe my first "year" in Prague is over. I have fallen in love with this city and the school I have come to serve. I feel very blessed and privileged to be used by God here! And as I experience all these "lasts", I look with anticipation toward my summer visiting supporters and family in the States. It will be wonderful to be back in Virginia again...but I also look with anticipation to August and returning to a new flat, new roommates, and a new year! So here is to enjoying the time God has given me now..and looking with hope to what comes next!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Confessions of a Bookaholic

If you know me well at all you know that I love books--a lot! I also enjoy watching movies and tv shows--like "The Gilmore Girls". So, recently, when a friend posted on facebook "The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge" (http://bookreviews.me.uk/rory-gilmore-reading-challenge/), I couldn't help but look and see what books on the list I had read. (I'm at about 50.) One of the books on the list was War and Peace. Back in August, I had made it my goal to read War and Peace before the end of the school year, and I finished it months ago, but it did get me thinking about some of the books I have read over the past school year. So, here is the no-where-near-complete Becca Miller 2011-2012 school year reading list. (And for the record, some are rereads--yes, I do that. :D Also--they're in a random order, because I listed them as I thought of them!)

  • Teaching Redemptively by Donovan L. Graham
  • Philosophy annd Education: An Introduction in Christian Perspective by George R. Knight
  • Foundations of Christian Education by James Braley
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  • Mocking Jay by Suzanne Collins
  • The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  • The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
  • The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  • Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren
  • Cascade by Lisa T. Bergren
  • Torrent by Lisa T. Bergren
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
  • Terrier by Tamora Pierce
  • Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce
  • Mastiff by Tamora Pierce
  • Through My Eyes by Nathan Whitaker and Tim Tebow
  • Choosing to See: A Journey of Struggle and Hope by Mary Beth Chapman
  • A Love that Multiplies by Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar
 So, there you have it a short-and-by-no-means-complete list of books I have read since last August. :)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fritz the Frog's Adventures in Ancient Egypt

Years before I was born (before my parents were even married), my dad used puppets a lot of the church my Grandfather pastored. Amongst all these puppets was a quartet of frogs-very cute frogs. I like frogs--I think a few of my classes are convinced they are my favorite animal. They aren't, but they're a really fun theme for my classroom! So, when I found out I was going to be teaching second and third grade here in Prague, I thought it might be fun for one of those frogs to make the move with me. Since they're my dad's puppets, I let him choose which one.
So, thus begins the adventures of Fritz the Frogs from Fritzerland (my uncle named him--not me!) in Prague, Czech Republic.
When it came time to teach a unit on Ancient Egypt, I thought it might be fun if Fritz helped me. So, with my help, Fritz wrote a couple of e-postcards to my class, met them, and then was whisked off in a time machine to Ancient Egypt. As an end of of the year-end of the unit activity, I thought it might be fun if my kiddos wrote some stories about Fritz's adventures while in Egypt. Enjoy a few of them! (And please remember 1)These are 2nd and 3rd graders and 2) Most of them are not native English speakers!)

Fritz in Ancient Egypt
Once upon a time, there was a curious frog called Fritz. He was a very kind, brave, and curious frog. One day he was so curious about Ancient Egypt. So, he made a time machine and went inside. And in five seconds he saw a pyramid. Then, he saw a lot of frogs in the Nile. He went to play with them. He met Hannah, Peter, Silvia, Lilly, Andrew, and Michael. They played "Jump Frog" and some other games. But he was bored, so he went to the palace and became friends with King Tut. Then, King Tut taught Fritz the hieroglyphic alphabet. Soon, Fritz went outside and saw someone messing with his time machine! Then, he ran over to see what happened. And he broke it! Fritz ran back to the palace to tell King Tut. So, King Tut fixed it.

The End

Fritz Lost in a Pyramid

There once was a frog and the frog's name was Fritz. He lived in Ancient Egypt. There was a bad man. He said to Fritz, "Go with me to the big pyramid." So, Fritz said, "Ok." So they went to the pyramid, and the man took Fritz to the the big pyramid, and the man took Fritz to the top of the pyramid. Then the man said, "Wait here until I come back." So Fritz was waiting two hours, then five hours, then nine hours, but the man did not come back. So, Fritz thought the man forgot about Fritz, but he did not. He left Fritz in the pyramid. The Fritz was not waiting in the bi g pyramid but he was going to a door but the door stopped Fritz. But then Fritz heard something outside the pyramid. Fritz thought it was some guards, but it was not guards. It was a Hero. The hero's name was Miss Miller. Miss Miller was a good queen she was always helping people and animals. Miss Miller looked in the pyramid where Fritz was. Miss Miller looked and looked, and Miss Miller found Fritz. So, Fritz was save, because Miss Miller took Fritz out of the big pyramid.

The End

Fritz the Frog's Visit to Ancient Egypt 

Once upon a time Miss Miller sent Fritz the Frog to Ancient Egypt. His time machine broke, so she built her own one and went to Ancient Egypt. She got him and his time machine and came back.

The End

I must admit, it's nice being the heroine in stories! Have a wonderful summer!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Italy in the Spring

Spring Break...Semana Santa...No School...Milan Verona....

It's amazing how wonderful two words can sound, especially when it's two words like NO SCHOOL or MILAN and VERONA. Adventure Buddy and I spent a great deal of time on skyscanner.cz (one of my favorite websites EVER), looking for inexpensive tickets. We figure since we live in Europe, we might as well SEE Europe. I had found $80 tickets to Milan (and then discovered how close it was to Verona, home of Shakespeare's star-crossed couple, Romeo and Juliet).

Anyway, after buying our plane tickets, booking hostels, researching good places to eat, and finding out what we wanted to see, we set off on our grand adventure. We got to Milan pretty late at night Adventure Buddy claims it wasn't worth it because we had to get a taxi and pay for an extra night in a hostel. I say that it was, because it gave us an extra full day on the trip--totally worth it for that! (I also enjoy taking taxis every once in a while--it reminds me of Korea. Plus taxi drivers can be highly entertaining.) So, Adventure Buddy and I will just strongly disagree on whether or not getting there late a night was worth it or not. It just depends on whether you like taxis or not. I do. It was totally worth it!

So, the next morning we were off the explore Milan (and try to make our scheduled visit to see DaVinci's The Last Supper). After figuring out how to buy transportation tickets, we caught the tram...in the wrong direction. Finally, we started in the right direction and made it to the Piazza di Duomo, and we caught our first breathtaking view of Milan's splendid Duomo It's the 4th largest cathedral in Christendom and took about 6 centuries to build. And while we were busy gazing at the duomo, we were accosted by African men who grabbed out wrists and tied bracelets around them before we could even think, all the while telling us, "Free gift! Free gift!" And then they tried to get us to give them money "for Africa". Hmmm...yeah...sure...and I'm not quite sure they understood the meaning of the word "free"...

Adventure Buddy and I soon learned that we would have to spend our time in Milan dodging the men (we used "Africa" as a code word and whenever we saw on of the guys we would be like "Africa to your left! Watch out Africa is coming over"--it wasn't anything against the continent--it was just a lot shorter and easier to say than "Hey those guys who claim they have a free gift but then want your money to give to Africa are coming towards you right now!")

After getting lost and wandering several times, Adventure Buddy and I made it to see The Last Supper. It was awesome. It was huge. Enough said.

We also climbed the roof of the Duomo di Milano. That was cool too--except the raining part. Oh--and had panzerotti (kind of like a pizza pocket only MUCH better) from Luni's Panzerotti. If you ever venture to Milan--go there! Only, please be aware they are not open Sunday. Adventure Buddy and I tried to go there on a Sunday, but they were closed. Thankfully, we had already eaten there twice, so it wasn't completely devistating. We also took the Hop On-Hop Off Bus tour, which is an awesome way to see the city. You can get on or off the bus at different stops, and while you ride the bus, you can listen to a tour guide give information about different places of interest, as well as interesting historical facts. There were several languages to choose from, so I may or may not have listened to the Spanish version for a while.

The fashionista in me (that doesn't always make an appearance, but does sometimes) was very thrilled to see the Galleria Vittorio Immanuel II, as well as to stroll through Fashion District. Seeing all the designer labels may or may not have made drool, and everyone was dressed so nicely! And I may or may not have dragged Adventure Buddy all over Milan on our last day there, so I could buy a purse...just so when someone says, "Hey, I like your purse!" I can reply, "Thanks! It's from Milan!"

 After spending two days in Milan, Adventure Buddy and I caught the train to Verona. After rainy Milan, we both fell in love with sunny Verona. Actually, after big and bustling Milan, we fell in love with the much quieter Verona. One of the first places we headed was to Juliet's House. I recognize the fact that it is a tourist trap, but I couldn't help it. I wanted to stand on her balcony and quote "Romeo, Romero, where for art thou, Romeo!" And I did!

Adventure Buddy and I discovered that there is much more to Verona than Romeo and Juliet. Verona also has many Roman Ruins. In some places, they had sections on the street excavated and fenced off so you could see the ruins beneath. In one cathedral we visited, you could see ruins of a Roman Bathhouse.

They also had a Roman Bridge, a Roman amphitheater, and  THE THIRD LARGEST ROMAN ARENA STILL IN EXISTENCE! That was cool. Today it is used as an opera house, but it was still fascinating to look out over it and wonder what it would have been like during the days of the Romans!

Verona was also home to this amazing gelato place, Gelateria Savoia. It's incredible. If you ever go to Verona, get gelato there! :D We also stumbled upon a delicious restaurant called La Griglia. It was by happenstance that we ended up choosing it. We were famished and finally decided to just go into the restaurant and eat, regardless of price. We were a bit concerned when they brought out soup without us even ordering, but it turned out to be one of of our less expensive meals--and one of our tastiest!

After spending two days exploring the beauty that is Verona, headed back for Easter Sunday in Milan (which is when we went on the "Great Purse Hunt").  And the really nice thing about Spring Break was that Easter Monday is a holiday in the Czech Republic, so after arriving home on Easter Sunday, we had the day to rest from our...rest?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Thank You

Dear Father,

Thank you! Thank you that I know that you are in control of my life!
Thank you that I know that You have a plan and I don't have to worry about the future--where I'll live, what I'll teach...anything...because it is in Your capable hands!

And as I look at my Facebook newsfeed full of pictures of babies and weddings...as I see the pins on Pinterest all about wedding ideas....thank you for the incredible blessing of singleness that I have right now.

Thank you that I had the opportunity to spend three months students teaching in South Korea...without the time I spent there, I probably would not have chosen to teach internationally.

Thank you for the three amazing years I had in Guatemala...for the absolutely wonderful children that I got to teach, the amazing men and women I worked along side, and for the amazing missionaries I had the chance to partner with--the numerous ministries I got to be a part of because I taught missionary kids! Thank you for the time I had to fall in love with the Guatemalan people! Thank you chances to snorkel in the Caribbean, to climb breath-taking volcanoes, and marvel at your might while strolling along black-sand beaches. Thank you so much that I have those memories to cherish for a lifetime.

And thank you that I finally have had the chance to come to Europe! After years of dreaming and wishing, I am here! I am teaching at a school I love! I have a class full of children who have stolen my heart! I have the chance to travel on vacations and see more of this world you created! And I get to live in one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen!

Thank you these blessings! Thank you that I get to serve you, that I have a life and a ministry--that You fulfill me as no one else ever could! Thank you for walks along the Vltava and for vistas from the castle! Thank you that I am right where You have placed! Thank you, Father! Thank you!

And even more than that, thank you, that in You I have a purpose for being and a reason to live! You are my everything, and for that, I thank you.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Happily Ever After

I love chic-flicks...I love the sappy romantic guy meets girl and saves girl and they fall in love and end up happy together stories. Sometimes, I also love the guy dies saving girl stories as well. And once upon a time, these stories made me wish for that in my own life...

I wanted to be rescued. I wanted to be cherished like that. I wanted some guy to see me hurting and take away the pain, to fulfill my every need...

And then I realized, I already have that...I have the perfect guy who loves me no matter what. He saw me as a confused and broken 15 year-old struggling with an eating disorder, battling depression and suicidal thoughts. He saw me as a college freshman who felt used and worthless...and afraid to trust. He saw my longing to be love and cherished. And He loved me. And in the tradition of romantic epics, once upon a time, He died...for me. That's how much He loved and valued me. And if that is where it ended, it would be a tragedy, but see, this Guy who loves me that much--He's also all powerful and conquered the grave. :) He's still alive today--over 2,000 year later. And He still continues to love me.

And one day I realized that watching these romantic movies shouldn't make me depressed or sad or fill me with longing, because I already have it. I have Someone who died to save me. I have Someone who fulfills my every need. I find my completion in Him. He is always with me--He never leaves me and He always wants to hear from me. He's never too busy for me. He's my protector. I cannot even begin to count the number of times He has protected me. He gives me worth and value. He calls me beautiful an dearly loved. He is my provider. He healed me. He is my all in all--my everything. So, no, I don't need a boyfriend or husband to do that for me. After all, men are human. Humans fail. They get tired. They mess up and hurt each other. If I am looking for a human to fulfill my needs, to give me worth and value, and to protect me, I will live in constant disappointment. Only One man can do that--the One who is both God and man. Jesus.

So, I can safely watch those movies now, and about 95% of the time (I am still human after all--I get sidetracked sometimes) walk away comforted in knowing that I don't have to long for a love like that...I already have it. And, as stories end, one day I'll live happily ever after, worshiping in front of His throne for all eternity.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Little Conversations

I love those moments in my classroom where conversations about God and life come from the smallest little moments.

Today it happened at a time when I was rushing around trying to make sure we had everything ready for standardized testing. One of my kiddos was sitting there reading "The Beginner's Bible", and he called me over to answer a question.

He pointed to a picture of Goliath on the cover and asked, "Miss Miller, why does this have a picture of a bad guy on the cover when everyone else is a good guy?"
Which got us talking about how in truth, none of us our good guys. We're fallen human beings who live in a sinful world--we're not the good guys. Which led to a discussion on Adam an Eve.

"If I were Eve, I would have told the snake 'NO!'" He told me confidently.

"Really, so whenever you're tempted to not listen or to goof off, you always say no?"

"That's different, Miss Miller."


"Well, because....I don't know. Anyway, they could talk to God, so it was easier for them." Which moved the conversation on to prayer.
"Miss Miller, do you ever hear God speaking to you? Like in the 'Prince of Egypt' where His voice came down from the sky."

"Yes, God speaks to me, but not quite like that.

"Oh, yeah, He speaks to you when He makes your prayers come true." Hmm...God is not quite the same a fairy godmother, child. :)

"Honey, God doesn't always answer our prayers with a yes."

"I know, but it's only when I pray bad things, like, "Let there be no school tomorrow.'"

"Or sometimes when we pray good things, like, when my grandma was really sick and I prayed for her to get better."

"But that's good. God said yes to that one!"

"No, He didn't. Not in the way I wanted Him to."

"Oh, why not? It's a good prayer?" And that, my friend, is the million dollar question. I love those moments when I can be completely honest with my kiddos and tell them, I don't know, but I do know that God sees a bigger picture than I can understand. And I know He's in control, and I am ok with that.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Art of Thinking Like a Pick-Pocket or Why my God is so Incredibly Awesome!

The whole reason I was there was just to see Prague Castle. I've lived in Praha for 5 months and I have yet to go on the castle tour. I've walked around the outside of the castle several times, marveling at the beauty of St. Vitus Cathedral. I've explored Golden Lane and seen the house where Kafka lived. But, I have never been inside the actually castle...and I really, really want to!

So, when one of my friends told me her parents were going to be visiting and that she was going to be taking them to tour the castle, I immediately volunteered myself to accompany her. We're adventure buddies. We've explored many parts of Praha together. We went to Dresden together. We're going together to Milan and Verona next week. So, it seemed appropriate that I join her on this adventure.

We picked up her parents and took them to the catch the tram, Tram 22, affectionately known here in Prague as "The Pick-Pocket Tram" or "The Tourist Tram". It's the tram that goes up to Prague Castle, so it's crowded with tourists and pick-pockets. We mentioned this to her parents, but as sometimes happens, a pocket was picked and a wallet was stolen.

As we were getting off the tram and preparing to proceed to the castle, Adventure Buddy's father realized his wallet was gone....containing his credit card, bank card, driver's license, etc. Now, the nice thing (if there is such a thing) about Prague pick-pockets is that they tend to only want quick cash. Meaning, they'll open the wallet, take out the cash, and then throw the wallet away.

So, after going back to the hotel and canceling the credit card just in case, we used the process of elimination to figure out where the crime had occurred. When we got on the tram, it was very crowded and there was this guy who kept pressing up against us, weaving around us, and acting very, very suspicious. He got off at the next stop. After that, Adventure Buddy's dad had sat down. So, we were pretty sure Mr. Pick-Pocket had gotten off at the second stop. So, Adventure Buddy and I headed out to go "dumpster diving".

(I'm getting pretty good at "dumpster diving" by the way. Although, I've never actually dove into a dumpster. People tend to leave things they don't want anymore sitting by the dumpsters nice and neatly folded, ready for the taking. I scored a nice, almost-new pair of black boots last week, as well a a few sweaters.)

We walked all around the park at the tram stop looking in trashcans (and praying the entire time). Nothing. Still praying, we headed into the metro. Both of us were pretty discouraged. I was disappointed that the castle was not going to happen. Adventure Buddy was upset that this was marring her parent's visit. All in all, it was turning out to be a very discouraging day. We had looked in almost every trashcan in the metro and were about to give up there, when we saw one more trashcan sitting beside a Bank Machine.

Adventure Buddy reached in and pulled out...a wallet! But it wasn't her dad's wallet. We deduced by all the Czech writing on the business cards inside that it must belong to a Czech person. Finding that wallet also got us thinking about where to look. A trashcan near a bank machine made perfect sense. The thief could try to get some cash and then pitch the wallet.

So, praying all the while that God would salvage our ruined day and work a miracle, we headed across the up the stairs to the other side of the road to check out the trashcans there. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Sadness.

Adventure Buddy told me she was giving up. I felt like giving up. So, I told God we were giving up. And we headed back to the hotel where Adventure Buddy's parents were waiting. As we did, we walked past another tram stop with two trashcans and thought, "Well, why not." The first one--nothing. Adventure Buddy got ready to look in the second one, and I pretty much told God that it was then or not at all. Adventure Buddy reached in and pulled out...a gum-covered, nasty black wallet. Except it was black. Adventure Buddy had said her dad's was brown or burgundy.

We decided to go through it anyway...and found out that her dad does NOT have a brown or burgundy wallet. He does, in fact, have a black wallet (that was covered in chewed gum-nastiness). Inside was his driver's license, (canceled) credit card, bank card--everything. Except the wad of receipts that were left after he had taken out his cash the previous night to give to Adventure Buddy. The poor pick-pocket had taken the stack of papers, probably thinking he had gotten some cash, only to end up with NOTHING! Ha...take that silly thief.

Needless to say, a lot of prayers of thankfulness were uttered. God had truly come through and worked a miracle for us. Would her dad have survived without getting his wallet back--yes. It would have been a pain, but he would have survived. But, God helped us to find it, working a miracle to show that He cares about things like stolen wallets. Because He's awesome like that! I have a pretty incredible God who knows in just which trashcan that a thief threw away a wallet. Now that,s pretty cool.

By the way, we managed to salvage the rest of the day. Sure, plans changed a bit, but it still worked out to be a pretty good day with an awesome story of how God really does care about our needs. :)