Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Three Little Pigs: The Wolf's Story

We have been doing a unit study on "The Three Little Pigs". We've compared different versions of the story, and read the story from several different viewpoints. One of my kiddos' assignments was to write the story from the wolf's view, telling why it was not their fault. I thought they were too cute not to share. :)

"I will tell you why it is not my fault. Once upon a time, there were three little pigs. The first little pig made his house out of chalk. The second little pig made his house out of glue and pepper. The third little pig made his house out of bricks. So, then I was walking and I smelled chalk, so I sneezed. Then I walked again, and I smelled a house out of glue and pepper that made me sneeze. Then I finally walked again, and I did not smell anymore smell of pepper or chalk. So, it was not my fault. Next time, have a better idea."

"Once upon a time there were three little pigs building their own houses. The first pig is building a straw house. The second pig is building a house out of sticks, and the third one is building one out of bricks. They were next to each other. Then the wolf heard about the three little pigs. He went to the first house. He needed medicine. He said, "Can I come inside?" The wolf the blew the house down. The pig wasn't even there. The he went to the second pig's house. The wolf said, "Can I come inside?" Then he blew it down. The second pig wasn't there. The three pigs were in the third little pig's house. He went and asked"Can I have medicine?" (note:I'm not sure what happens next. It's a cliff hanger. Does the wolf get his medicine? Is he left out in the cold? Who knows...)


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Absolute Official Ranking of the 10 Best European Cities, Part 1

One of my absolute favorite things about living in Europe is the chance I have to visit other cities and countries. I also can't resist comparing them and ranking them as I visit. So, without further ado, here are my favorite European cities (note: I have not visited ALL European cities. So if your favorite is missing, it could be because I haven't gone there...yet):

1) Prague

 This one is completely and unshamedly biased. I LOVE Prague--the history, the architecture, the beauty. This is my home, and I love it! No competition in this one!

What to see: Vysehrad, Namesti Miru, Charles Bridge, Mala Strana, the view from Prague Castle at night, the view from Letna Park

What to eat: trdelnik, hot chocolate from the Louvre Cafe, svíčková

2) Budapest

This one is a recent addition (since this past weekend, actually). But I officially LOVE Budapest. Not as much as Prague, but it is a beautiful city. (I also might be a little biased since I have friends who lived here and may have once almost applied to teach at a school there.)

What to see: Fisherman's Bastion, the Citadella, ride the yellow metro line

What to Eat: Gelato from Gelarto Rosa (located near Saint Stephen's basilica),
Lángos (try the one from the Lángos stand in the Central Market Hall)

3) Verona, Italy
Maybe it was because we were vitamin D deprived, and Verona was sunny, but I fell in love with this city when I visited my first year in Europe. Roman ruins, Shakespeare, and Italian charm without some of the crowds of other European cities.

What to see: Walk the streets--it's pretty! Or if you feel super touristy, check out Juliet's house. You can stand on the balcony and quote Shakespeare.

What to eat: It's Italy. Do I even need to answer this question?

 4) Paris, France

 I also fell in love with Paris when I visited my first year. My flatmate and I enjoyed just walking around and soaking up the city. I was only there for a weekend, but I would love to go back.

What to eat: Crepes, baguettes, cheese, croissants, macaroons

What to see: Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, just wander beside the Seine

5) Venice, Italy
Venice was my first European adventure, and the first city that I traveled to by myself. I went in December, when there were not that many tourists, the city was decorated for Christmas, and it was too cold for the canals to smell. (Evidently they stink during the summer months.)

What to eat: I'm pretty sure I could live off of gelato and pizza.

What to see: Get lost. Explore the beautiful streets.

Coming Soon: Cities 6-10! (I know you all will be sitting on the edge of your seats waiting for my rankings.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Salt and Light: Don't Forget the Mission

Don't forget the mission...

Was I starting Bible studies with Czechs or building meaningful relationships with my neighbors and was I fluent in Czech yet...

The questions caught me off guard and then the conversation finished with "Don't forget the mission." In answer to the questions, no, no (that would require seeing my neighbors and we all seem to keep very different schedules), working on it, and I haven't. I haven't forgotten the mission at all.

I remember why I am here every morning as I walk into my classroom. I'm reminded as we meet for devotions or prayer times as a staff and implore God to send us more students. I'm reminded as I've had students talk about how they know their teachers care because we do a job where we don't get paid.

And every time I see the brokenness around me, I have to fight to remind myself the reason. I see the darkness that engulfs this city, hear the statistics of how the Czech Republic is the 3rd worst slave state in Europe. I walk past people shooting heroin on the way to work and witness the man passed out on the tram, an empty wine box at his feet. And my heart breaks again. And again I have to fight to remind myself why I am here.

Because I'm not here to plant churches. As much as I want to fight human trafficking, that is not my primary reason for being here. I'm not in this country to start Bible studies with Czechs or to mentor my neighbors. Does that mean I don't want to be a part of these things? No, these are good things, noble things, honorable and right. But I am not the one God has called for that. (Not to say I would reject the chance to do any of those things if they come up, but they aren't ministries I seek out.)

Saying I'm a missionary to the Czech Republic is not necessarily the best terminology. Perhaps it is better to say I am a missionary IN the Czech Republic.

Because the people group I work with are not Czech. It is also equally right to say they are not Americans or Canadians or Korean or Italian or Polish. They are a crazy mix of cultures...a people group where conversations are effortlessly carried on in a mixture of languages (when I coached middle school volleyball, half of my practice was in Korean because a majority of my team was Korean and they would get so excited about things that they would start talking Korean). They love peanut butter just as much as they love trdelnik or Kimbop or fresh tortillas. They speak with authority on the best airports and airlines and carry on conversations with topics ranging from "when I lived in ______ country" to "when my family was visiting _______ country". They know their way around jet lag better than most adults. They are adaptable...and always, always facing change.

And I'm in this country for THEM. They are Third Culture Kids (TCKs) or Global Nomads, as some prefer to be called. Kids who have spent significant amounts of time outside their passport countries (which is probably not their "home" even if mom and dad call it home). Some of them are multi-ethnic, with parents from one or more countries. Some have spent most of their life in their passport country. Some have only left their passport countries in the past few years. Some have never even lived there at all.

They are incredible and amazing. And I'm here for them. To be a stable person in a very unstable world.

I'm here to be Jesus to them. By the light switch in our staff bathroom, someone posted "Be salt. Be light." That's what I am. Salt and light. I'm here to be the person who is here for my missionary kids--someone who is called specifically for them. To be Jesus to them, while their parents are doing what God has called them to do. And I love being a partner in ministry with them.

But I'm also here to be salt and light for my kids who do not come from families that know Jesus. And I have fallen in love with this role as well. I have had students walk into my room who knew nothing about how much God loves them, and I've gotten to tell them! For the first time. As much as I love the light that comes on when a student understand an academic concept (I am a teacher after all), I love even more when I see the light come on about a spiritual idea. Remembering when one of my students told me as she was leaving, "Don't be sad, Miss Miller. I know now God will be with me at my new school." And I got to be the first one to tell her that.

Salt and light. I remember why I'm here. Salt and light. I'm their salt and light in a busy world, a dark world. I'm here for them. Salt and light. 

I haven't forgotten the mission after all.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Endings and Memories

It's the beginning and ending of the year that always flies by for me. Meanwhile, the time in between manages to drag by slowly. Then, May comes and leaves almost as quickly. Next thing I know I'm hugging my kids one last time, wishing them all a happy summer and saying goodbyes to those who are leaving (or else trying to remain in denial that they are, indeed, leaving).

I read a blog recently (you can read it here: Why Expats Hate June) that does a wonderful job of explaining the dreaded goodbyes. My students say that so much--to family, to friends, to teachers, to classmates. In just this year, my class had to say it to two fellow classmates. But if I focused on the goodbyes, I would never be able to enjoy the good times, the walks around the city, the movie nights, the lunches and dinners spent laughing. Or the amazing times with students. Or the incredible times of worship together. So, while I do recommend reading that blog if you would like to know what my coworkers, students, and I go through every single June, I instead what to savor the memories of good and wonderful times.

Water Fights

"Candy" Awards Voted on by Classmates

Wonderful Dinner Cruises
Beloved Coworkers (and Former Coworker)

"On a good day, enjoy yourself; On a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days so that we won’t take anything for granted."

Ecclesiastes 7:14, The Message

Monday, June 9, 2014

Facial Hair, Food, Field Trips, and Fun

10th Year Anniversary Time Capsule Project
For the 10th Anniversary, each class took a different year from the school history and create a project showing that year. 4th grade did a balloon tree for ours.
Drawing all the students from our year on the balloons

This required quite a bit of concentration

Preparing to be traffic directors for history class--to protect our tree

The Balloon Tree

Fourth Grade Plays with Our Food
Food Art for the Art Show
History Class Facial Hair Fun
They used scraps from a project to make beards and mustaches.

And were quite thrilled to pose for me.
 1st-4th Grade Field Trip to the Zoo
Pointing out the Red Panda

My awesome boys

Love their craziness

Having fun on the slide by the polar bears

Looking at the hippos

The Giraffes

I found a new friend for all my bearded students

Cooling Off

I've had a great year with these kids

Fun trip to end the year with

Thursday, June 5, 2014


A song has been running through my mind quite often in past months. And in some ways, it almost seems to be the story that God has been writing in my life over the past three years. Then a friend from college posted another version of it (one I think is now my favorite). There it was again--the idea that this life that I live is not my life, that even on the hardest day (although, to be honest, today was actually quite a wonderful day), there is a reason I am here.

Three Years Ago:
 You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail...
And I will call upon Your name
Through floods, loss, grief, and the hardest of days:
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Trusting His love and provision:
 My soul will rest in Your embrace
13 Different Nationalities in 6 Years of Teaching:
 Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
 Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
I am Yours and You are mine 

"Oceans" by Hillsong United

Monday, June 2, 2014

Spring Concert

On Saturday we had our annual spring concert, including scripture recitations from the 1-4 graders, songs from the elementary students, elementary choir, and high school, and dramas by the middle school drama students. Everyone did a wonderful job!

I thought it was quite funny however when my fourth graders began to complain about "being forced to work on a Saturday".  So, I asked them what they thought I was doing.

"But that's different," One of them replied, "You're a grown-up. Your supposed to do that."

There you have it, folks. Being a grown-up means we're supposed to work on weekends!

High School Choir

Reciting Psalm 23

Elementary Choir

Middle School Drama

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ten Years

I've been thinking a lot about the past ten years this year. Partly because I teach fourth grade and most of my students are either ten or turning ten. But I think the biggest rest is that this is CISP's tenth year. We have talked a lot about the tenth year. (See my post about that here: What Will You Be Doing in Ten Years?)

And as we've looked back over CISP's past ten years (also known as the entire lifetime of all my kiddos), I can't help but reflect on the past ten years of my life.

In the past ten years I have lived in five different countries on three different continents. I have been a teacher for six of those years. I have climbed the Great Wall of China and the Eiffel Tower (yes I CLIMBED the Eiffel Tower--only one elevator was working the day I was there and the line was ridiculously long), gotten lost in Venice, explored Nazi bunkers, roasted marshmallows over molten lava, and seen the Colosseum. I have survived a volcanic eruption, earthquakes, hurricanes (all three of those in the same weekend), blizzards, and floods. 

And then I look back to ten years ago. Ten years ago I had just finished my first year of college. I have moved outside of the US and survived. I was preparing to help my parents pack to move to Guatemala for their own international adventure.

But I also think of the things I don't want to remember. The loss of a friend. The beeping of hospital machines. The words heard as I stepped off an elevator, "If you want to see him alive, you need to come as soon as possible." A funeral. Watching a grieving mother cry over a casket. An unwanted class reunion next to a grave.

Because ten years ago was also when I told God I hated Him for the first time. Ten years ago was when I spent an entire summer screaming at Him and question WHY? Why did He allow tragedy? And how could He possibly be a God of love? And how could I possibly love a God who allowed that to happen?

But ten years ago was when I also experienced grace after a summer of despair. Ten years ago was when I first really understood how deep, how wide, how high, how far God's love and mercy went. Ten years ago was when I learned that questioning is not bad, but you need to be prepared to accept that sometimes you don't get an answer. Ten years ago I wept as I finally understood what it meant to trust God. And I learned what it is to realize He is in control and working, even when it doesn't look like it. Ten years ago shook me, but it also grew me. And through that will hopefully even further impact others--and not just through my life.

Ten years ago on May 29, 2004,  I also made a decision to become an organ donor.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Of Darkness and Light

The view during Sunrise Service this morning
When I first began to tell people I was moving to Prague, those who had traveled here before began to tell me of it's incredible beauty. And living here for two and a half years, it continues to amaze me with it. As I was standing in Letna Park overlooking the Vltava at sunrise service today, I was again just struck by the beauty of this city that has won my heart. I love Prague.

Yet, this magnificent jewel has so much darkness. It's seen during in the eyes of its people, with looks of hopelessness, loneliness, and despair. It's seen in the sex stores on the corner. It's seen in the nudity and marketing of the human body everywhere. It's seen in the empty cathedrals, functioning now as museums rather than places of worship. It's seen throughout the Czech Republic, in places like Lidice and Terezin, where the evilness of men is so evident.

The other night, the presence of this darkness hit me as I walked through Wenceslas Square. The clubs had opened their doors for the night. Around every ATM there were men crowded, pulling out wads of our smallest bill, 100 kc. I walked past several women propositioning men. And while hearing the mixture of languages I could see clearly that this is not just a Prague problem. This is a world problem. The English, spoken with both American and British accents, the Spanish, German, Italian, and multitude of other languages. The nationalities--European, African, Asian, North and South American. All of this pointed to the darkness not just being here in the Czech Republic, but somewhere much deeper--in the hearts of men.

Again this morning, as my roommates and I walked through the square again, passing people staggering to the metro and down the street, people throwing up on the steps of buildings, people obviously only then going to bed, we could see it. Not the darkness itself. But the symptoms of it. Signs that something is not right, that something is broken and needs fixing.

We kept walking, through Old Town, through the Jewish Quarter, past the oldest synagogue in the city. We crossed the bridge and climbed the many steps up to Letna Park. And at an overlook, we watched as the mostly-risen sun shed its light over this dark, yet beautiful city. And we knew that light had come.

That over 2,000 years ago the world was at its darkest. All hope had seemed lost. Death seemed to have won.

But then something marvelous and glorious happened. The stone rolled away. The tomb was empty. A dead man had been brought back to life. This was no ordinary man, but Immanuel. The Lamb who was slain for our sins rose again.

And as we worshiped with my church this morning, looking out over the city below us, I was reminded once more of why I am here. It may be a city full of darkness. But light has come. I'm here to share that light. Because He is risen. He is risen indeed.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

On Holiday in the Alps

"You're on holiday in Germany, and you don't speak German?"
I had to laugh when I was asked that, partly because I am glad that not speaking a language doesn't bar you from visiting a country. Otherwise I would be limited to only English speaking and Spanish speaking countries. Also, because who wouldn't want to visit the Bavarian Alps? They are breath-taking. As I said goodbye (actually, I said "tschüss"--one of the few German words I do know) and continued on my walk, I was struck not for the first time by how beautiful my surroundings were.

Originally, I had intended on spending my Spring Break in Prague and not going anywhere. My adventure buddy had other plans with her mission organization, and I wasn't sure I wanted to go anywhere. Then, on a whim I decided to start looking at option for Salzburg, Austria. Salzburg has been on my list of places to visit for years, mostly because of my love on "The Sound of Music", but also because it's one of the places my dad is always talking about from the European tour his family took when he was growing up. So, after discovering that rooms were more affordable across the border in Germany, and kind of accidentally booking a room, my spring break plans began forming. My destination: Salzburg, Austria and Berchtesgaden and Königssee, Germany. 

(Confession time: When I got to Germany, I couldn't find where I had written down the name of the bus stop I need when I bought my ticket, so I may have gotten off six stops too early. However, it was an absolutely beautiful day, so I wasn't too concerned.)

Why I wasn't worried I had gotten off at the wrong place
Adventure 1: Berchtesgaden and Obersalzberg

After the adventure of reaching Germany, I decided that for my first day, I would stay close to where my pension was. One nice thing about my pension was that the city tax (which you have to pay at a lot of places in Europe) actually covered a transportation pass for the local buses. So, if I wanted to take a bus somewhere, then I didn't have to worry about paying for it. Part of the problem is that the buses only come every so often. However, the area is also very friendly to walking, with signs that give you estimates for how long it would take to walk places. So, when faced with the option of waiting a while for a bus or walking, I would often opt for walking.

The first thing on my list to see was Obersalzberg, former mountain retreat of none other than Adolf Hitler. There was a bus that would take you up there, but I decided to take a lift up the mountain and then walk the rest of the way  (like I said, it was pretty). My main reason for going here was to see the Nazi bunkers. They also have a documentation center with a lot of information about Nazi Germany. Afterwards, my plan included heading back to Berchtesgaden to explore the town center. 
View from my ride up the lift

This was a shaft the connected two levels

Adventure 2: Salzburg

The next day I headed off to Salzburg, Austria. I spent the day exploring the fortress, wandering the Old Town, learning about Mozart, and of course, searching for the different "Sound of Music" locations.

Adventure 3: Lake Königsee

When I told my father where I was headed for spring break, he almost immediately suggested I visit Lake Königsee. I wasn't sure at first, but as soon as I discovered it was 2 kilometers from my pension, I knew it was going to make my must-see list. And I'm glad it did. It was a cold, rainy, foggy day, but the lake was still gorgeous. My favorite part was the echo wall. It's a part of one of the mountains next to the lake that echoes back sounds. They play a trumpet for you, and you can here the echo of it. Quite lovely. (It was also one of the parts my dad liked.)

Getting ready to play the trumpet

Saint Bartholomew
The Lake and the Mountains

Adventure 4: Hellbrunn Palace and the Panorama Terrace

On my last day, I had a bit of time between when I arrived in Salzburg and when my train left, so I used that time to explore a few final places. One of those places was the trick fountains at Hellbrunn Palace. This was another thing my dad insisted I must see. The archbishop who built Hellbrunn loved to surprise his guest with hidden fountains. It was very fun, but also very cold and wet. I can see how this would be wonderfully refreshing during the summer!

The other place I wanted to see was the panorama terrace, with incredible views of Salzburg. This was also a "Sound of Music" location, since it appears in the "Do-Re-Mi" song (It's where Brigitta tells Maria that do-re-mi doesn't mean anything). Bonus: They have lifts you can take to the terrace. It costs a few Euro. Unless you have the Salzburg card (like I did). Then, it is free.

Quite a lovely holiday, I must say.