Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Of Brokenness and Healing

I originally wrote this post several years ago, but I never got around to posting it. However, the message is still very true.

    One day a few years ago, one of my friends pinned part of the verse, Zephaniah 3:17, on Pinterest. I hadn't really read Zephaniah all that often, so I decided to check the verse out:

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

    "He will quiet you with His love." That part stuck in my head. "He will quiet you with his love." I can rest in Him, even during the times when I know family is hurting in the States or parents are going through hard times or there is that kid in class who just can't seem to play well with others or that stack of papers that needs grading or there are so many meetings I can't keep track of what I'm supposed to be doing. He will quiet me with His love.

     In Spanish that reads:  "Te renovar√° con su amor." He will renew you with His love. I thought that was beautiful and something I need to remember. So, after careful consideration, I had "Te renovar√° con su amor" written on my shoulder.

    That night I went back and read all of Zephaniah 3. I hadn't looked at the whole chapter before, just the verse. I was surprised. Verse 17 comes in the middle of a section all about God's restoration. Verses 19-20 read:

Behold, at that time I will deal
    with all your oppressors.
And I will save the lame
    and gather the outcast,
and I will change their shame into praise
    and renown in all the earth.

At that time I will bring you in,
    at the time when I gather you together;
for I will make you renowned and praised
    among all the peoples of the earth,
when I restore your fortunes
    before your eyes,” says the Lord.

     God is a restorer, fixing the broken and healing the hurting. I was once broken and hurting. Now I see just how much He has healed me. And even when I didn't realize how much He was fixing me and healing me, He was at work. As I  sat reading the chapter, I was completely amazed about HOW MUCH God has worked in me. Yes, there are still scars in my life, but I'm not broken anymore. There is healing in my mighty God, who quiets me with His love. Through all the hard thing in life, He has quieted me, calmed me, carried me. I am quieted by His love.



Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Few of My Favorite Things: Companies That Do Good

The summer in between my last year of college and my student teaching, my father handed me the book Not for Sale by David Batstone and told me I HAD to read it. And I did. And my heart broke. And I realized just how horrific Modern Slavery is. Reading that book also started me on a journey that has led me to try to support anti-human trafficking however--well, almost however--I could. About a year ago I really began to feel convicted that I could do more, and I really needed to put my money where my mouth has been. So, I've tried to become an ethical consumer and shop companies that do good. These have become just a few of my favorite things. (And in case anyone wonders, this is a list I compiled. I didn't receive anything for this.)

Companies I've tried and love:

1. PACT--organic and ethically sourced cotton basics; also very soft and comfortable. My two favorite pairs of yoga pants come from them.

2. Synergy Organic Clothing--organic and ethically sourced cotton clothing; Some of my favorite pieces in my wardrobe come from here.

3. Naja-- bras, underwear, swimwear--The company employs single mothers, paying them above market wages and also helps with the education costs of their children

4. Rey Swimwear-- ethically made and eco friendly swimwear; also modest for those of us who aren't fans of how we look in itsy-bitsy bikinis :)

5. Oliberte-- fair trade boots and shoes--I just got a pair of boots from here for Christmas, and I love them.

6. MOVMT (The People's Movement)-- footwear-- They stand for a reduction of single use plastic and use recycled plastic in many of their designs. Also, I have sneakers from them that are really comfortable.

7. Naturalium-- I JUST came across this a few weeks ago. I was buying new shampoo and had never heard of this brand and decided to look them up. They are a Spanish company that gives part of their revenue to World Vision Spain. Also, it smells really good. And I can order it as part of my online grocery order and it comes straight to my flat. (Thank you, Rohlik!)

9. Starfish Project-- jewelry made by human trafficking survivors

10. Free and Crowned-- headbands, and definitely a more girly site; 25% of every headband sold is donated to anti-human trafficking

11. Simply Earth-- my new favorite essential oil company; They have monthly or quarterly subscription boxes. My next one is in April. I may be a little excited. 13% of profits donated to fight human-trafficking

12. Leiva's Coffee-- family-owned coffee; A portion of the proceeds are reinvested into their community in Guatemala. It tastes amazing. And I worked with the Leiva family while I was in Guatemala. They are pretty awesome people. :) 

Companies I haven't tried YET:

13. Everlane-- ethically produced clothing; They are very transparent about the costs of production as well as their supply chain. I had been coveting a coat from here, but I just got one at a clothes swap, so I will have to wait a while before trying them out. Also, I have my eye on their day heels.

14. Good Paper-- cards made by sex-trafficking survivors

15. Thistle Farms-- ethically produced bath and body supplies; part of community for survivors of abuse, addictions, trafficking, and prostitution

16. Trades of Hope-- jewelry; provide a fair wage job to women in communities where that might not happen. I have a friend who sells this, and while I haven't bought any (yet), I do like it.

17. Odylique-- organic and ethical skin and hair care and make-up

18. Fair Squared-- fairtrade personal hygiene products

19. Celia Grace-- ethically sourced and eco friendly wedding dresses; also for every dress sold, they supply a school uniform to a girl in need; I'm the girl who has been planning her wedding since she was 8, so this is one of my favorite sites ever. I will wear Celia Grace if I ever get married. :) For now, I just drool over them.

Other clothing companies:

20. Komodo

24. MUD jeans-- Sustainable jean company that has a program where you can lease jeans and then return them for a new pair; They are on my radar to try. (Also, if you want to know why sustainable fashion is important, I recommend the documentary The True Cost.)

25. Sseko-- sandals made in Uganda

These are just a FEW of the many companies that choose to do good with their companies. If you know of any others, feel free to let me know so I can investigate.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Sometimes We Get Lonely

One thing I have noticed about returning to the US for an extended period of time is how incredibly lonely it is. I'm teaching full-time at the moment, visiting partner churches on weekends, and have spent more time with family than in the past four years combined, so the loneliness is not from lack of people. Rather, the loneliness is much like what many expats feel when they first move overseas. People everywhere, but an astounding lack of people who get us.

I haven't lived in the USA for twelve years. This is the longest stretch I have gone during this time without leaving the nation's borders. I'm the girl armed with the passport and visa (and I don't mean the credit card kind), who has no problem navigating airports and foreign public transit systems, is an expert at packing a suitcase, and has a thirst for adventure. I'm a missionary who strives to be salt and light, and wants the world to know the hope I possess that they so desperately need. I'm the teacher who loves that moment when students get it, wants to share my love of reading and learning, and is completely amazed that I get to share the love of Jesus with my students.

But I'm also the girl who no longer knows her passport country. There are cultural references I don't get, commercials I've never seen, poplar songs I have never heard. In many ways, because my world had been so expanded, I no longer share many of the values Americans (and southerners in my case) hold dear. I don't want the big house (I'd settle for a kitchen big enough for two people to cook in at the same time), the two cars (I utterly despise having to drive), or the white picket fence. I don't understand why people tell me to be safe in Prague, when they live in a country where you can't even go to a movie theater without fear of getting shot. I honestly could care less about guns and hunting and second amendment rights and the only football that interests me is the kind Americans call soccer. International experience causes me to disagree strongly with many about immigration reform and how to treat people who are different than us.

And I have stories that I long to share...but who has the time to listen? And when people do listen, the questions are always about what I miss from America. Very seldom has anyone asked what I miss about Prague. And honestly, I miss so much...I miss my family there, my job, my flatmates, my friends and co-workers, my church, my city...my life. I haven't lived in this county for twelve years. There are not many friends left here.

And I can only imagine that other expats and missionaries feel the same way. All, while those of us who return to the States are glad to see those her (please don't think I'm not thrilled to see you), but sometimes we get lonely and just want someone who gets us.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Teeth Brush and Finding Prince Charming

Sometimes, my kids write such cute stories, I just need to share them with everyone. Please keep in mind that both authors are still learning English. :) 

Teeth Brush
By: A Fourth Grader
       I know to brush teeth. It's easy. You brush the sides really fast and hard. Then you do it to the front of them and the back.
      My friend did not brush his teeth, and now he doesn't have teeth. He didn't brush his teeth everyday.
      My other friend washed his teeth really nicely and has really strong teeth. My mom's teeth are really good, because they are not broken. She did wash them.

Cinderella Finds Prince Charming
By: Another Fourth Grader
Once upon a time there were four people. Those four people were in a ballroom dancing, but then a cat came and took Prince Charming. No one knew what happened to him. Cinderella tried to find him. She asked all the people, but the people said, “no” always “no”.
               Then the king said to everybody, “Prince Charming is going to come on stage and tell us a story.” The king called Prince Charming, “Are you coming or not?” No one responded to the king. The king was waiting for five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes but he did not come.
               Then Cinderella asked the Fairy Godmother, “Can you please give me your wand. Because I can do magic with it. Because I have to find Prince Charming.”
               So Fairy Godmother said, “Ok, you may have my wand. They wanted and always do eight wishes.”
               So Cinderella said, “Ok. Thank you for the wand.”
               “Remember that when the eight wishes are gone, call me and I will be there.”
               So Cinderella said, “But what is the magic word? What is the magic word?” But at that time the fairy godmother had went away. She had to wonder for a little bit. And the guessed it and it was “Cinderella”.
               So she said, “I wish I could find where Prince Charming was.” The wand brought her to Prince Charming. Cinderella said, “The cat has got him.” Prince Charming was all with rope around him. Cinderella said to the cat, “Can I please have Prince Charming back?”
               But the cat said to Cinderella, “No.”
               So Cinderella said to the wand, “I wish the cat was frozen and the rope was not tied.” So then everything was back to normal. So they danced and Prince Charming told the story.


Friday, April 24, 2015

College Courses I Never Had But Probably Should Have

In a moment of frustration, I may have said that I never had to take "Recess Conflict Resolution and Management" while I was in college. Which got me to thinking--what are some courses that I probably should have had in college to prepare me for my career as an international school teacher? I was an education major with a cross cultural minor, so really, somewhere some of these thing should have been covered!

1) The aforementioned "Recess Conflict Resolution and Management 101"

Some days I think if I have to hear the words, "But he cheated" one more time I'm going to curl up in the fetal position and scream. And then cry. This should probably be added to every education program ever.

2) Charades 101

For some reason I never had a course on charades in my cross cultural classes. This would have been a handy tool to have in my pocket when I first moved overseas. Thankfully, I've gotten rather good at charades, but I still think this should be added to the program.

3) Visa, Paperwork, and Other Redtape Issues 302

Really, a course on what it take to get a visa in different countries would have been useful. For the final exam we could have practiced filling out forms in block letters in blue ink. While running around to six different classes to finish it. Because heaven forbid that all paperwork be filed at once in one location or at one time. For even more fun, we could have then waited for months before finding out whether or not we passed the course.

4) Field Trip Planning 101

While I recognize that field trip procedures differ from school to school, a course on planning a field trip might have been useful. On the required list of supplies--a giant bottle of ibuprofen for when the trip is finally over.

5) Computer Maintenance 101

This isn't such an issue anymore (because the only computer in my classroom is normally my laptop), but when I was in Guatemala whenever the classroom computer wasn't working the first words out of my students' mouths were always, "Miss Miller! Fix it!" Right--because I can totally do that.

I'm sure if I spent long enough thinking, I could probably think of even more courses that would have been useful. But all I can say is that the one thing I have learned in my (almost) seven years of teaching--most days I'm still not sure I know what I'm doing. I think many time I'm learning even more than my students--about the subjects I teach, about them, about myself, and most importantly, learning and growing so much in my faith and learning what it means to be Jesus to a room of fourth graders.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Absolute Official Ranking of the 10 Best European Cities, Part 2

A few months ago I created a list of what I consider to be the top five best European cities. (Read it here.) As a review they are: Prague, Budapest, Verona, Paris, and Venice. So, here is my long awaited part 2.

Number 6: Lucerne
My second year in Prague, we attended an educators' conference in Germany. One afternoon, there were several different excursion options that we could sign up to attend. I chose to go to Lucerne, Switzerland. Think quaint, fairytale-ish. And since it's Switzerland, definitely think chocolate. Even though it was a cold, snowy day, this city definitely makes my top ten.

What to see: The Lion Monument, Stroll the streets and explore
What to eat: CHOCOLATE (It is Switzerland)--although, get it from a grocery store--it's cheaper than the tourist locations.

Number 7: Salzburg
Last spring break, my roommate deserted me to go to Turkey for a conference. I decided to adventure out on my on and go someplace I had always wanted to visit, and by "always" I mean since the first time I watched "The Sound of Music". I skipped the "Sound of Music" tour and decided to find the places on their own. One thing I recommend if you are planning on visiting quite a few places in any city--look into getting the city's card. Often times it can be a great value, because you will get free admission or discounts. If you are planning to go enough places, it really ends up paying for itself. And most of them also include public transit. Bonus!

What to see: Are you a classical music person or a musical fan? If you are a "Sound of Music" fanatic, check out the many sights from the film. If you love classical music, you can visit Mozart's birthplace, as well as another house where he lived. I was also recommend Helbrunn Palace. Take the tour of the Trick Fountains, but also be prepared to get very wet!

Number 8: Rome
Rome was a wonderful Thanksgiving Get Away where partook in very non-traditional Thanksgiving meals of pizza and pasta. And gelato, of course. It would be hard for me to really choose a favorite part of Rome. I found the Colosseum fascinating, as was the Roman Forum. One of the most striking parts for me was the Arch of Titus, which was built to commemorate the Siege of Jerusalem. Well, that and the Sistine Chapel, which holds my all time favorite painting, "The Creation of Adam".

What to eat: My favorie gelato place in the world is located in Rome: Il Gelato di San Crispino. SO GOOD! We also enjoyed Trattoria Gioia Mia Pisciapiano and Bar del Cappuccino.

What to See: The Colosseum, The Vatican, The Roman Forum, The Pantheon, The Spanish Steps, The Trevi Fountain...I could go on...maybe it would be easier to make a "What not to See" list.

Number 9: Nice
There was this one time when I spent spring break in the French Riviera. Take that all you Florida and Cancun-ers! We had heard mixed reviews before we went, but I ended up liking it. We were right in the middle of Old Town. Really close to Monaco (Princess Grace was one of my favorite actresses!). Right on the Mediterranean.

What to eat: Nice is really close to Italy, so enjoy Italian food. Also, there is quite a bit of sea food, as well.

What to see: If you are a Grace Kelly fanatic like me, enjoy a visit to Monaco. In Nice, Castle Hill was once of our favorite spots--sweeping views of the city and sea. Also, stroll along the Promenade des Anglais.

Number 10: Milan
I really debated over what my number 10 city was. Milan is typically a love it or hate it city. I don't LOVE it, but I don't HATE it. That being said, I would go back to Milan in a heart beat. Why?

What to eat: MY NUMBER 1 REASON FOR WANTING TO RETURN TO MILAN: Luini's Panzerotti. Think hot pocket only not a gross and a million times better!

What to see: Well, there is the obvious: shopping. However, my second reason for loving Milan is that it is home to one of my favorite paintings: The Last Supper. The third reason: the Duomo di Milano--the cathedral. It is beautiful. Although, personally, I think you could skip the inside and just go explore the roof, which was one of my favorite things that we did. The final reason I love Milan--it's a gateway to so many other parts of Italy. Go to Cinque Terre (I want to go there) or Lake Como (another place I want to go) or Verona (featured previously on the list). Enjoy beautiful Italia.

I'm sure as I explore other places, this list will evolve and change. But for right now, this has been my top ten favorite. (Honorable mention to London--I was only able to explore for about 4 1/2 hours while on a layover, but I would love to go back!)