Thursday, February 23, 2012

Small victories: field trip

When the 5th grade classroom teacher sent an email about chaperones for the upcoming field trip, I jumped at the chance. Not only was I interested in the destination, but I knew that going on the field trip with my students would give me time with them outside of my classroom, something that I covet when I only see them twice a week for 40 minutes at a time.

It was probably one of the oddest field trips I'd ever been on. Not that it wasn't good, but joining it from the flip side was definitely a different experience. And even though I may or may not have looked like one of the students, I chose not to care and took my job very seriously (there was one point where I wondered where the other chaperones were when the kids were running all over the Hakka museum). The cheers I heard when the students were informed I'd be going with them were encouraging. I realized I was quite popular with the girls -- something I didn't quite expect since I was almost sure I had broken the hearts (read: pride) of a couple of them and that they still held it against me. But such is not the case. I realized that as much bad rap these students get, they are still children, ready to be loved and to give love in their own child-like ways.

In writing this, a song just came onto my playlist that I would call my theme song for my first few months in Taiwan. It recalled the searching and seeking during those few months, while learning to rest in His Answer alone. But I also remembered back to the first semester of teaching, that "sink or swim" feeling, where I struggled to "learn the ropes" when it felt like I was designing their layout at the same time. I was overwhelmed with doing my job.

This semester is different. I've gotten the hang of this whole job thing. I know who my students are -- they are more than just wiggling bodies that fill the chairs in my room for 40 minutes at a time. Now I am getting to know their individualities--their likes and dislikes (including crushes, something I was able to observe in the unfolding drama of the day) ... and I am thoroughly enjoying it. They brought many smiles to my face and heart with their amusing antics, their genuine appreciation, their excitement, and their distinct originalities.

Lately I've been learning to think of people with gratitude for who they are and how God is working in them. I believe that a heart of gratitude overcomes a heart of judgment. I would say that it's not just for adults who are my peers but it goes the same for my students as well.
And I am grateful.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Spiritual Emphasis Week

This week is Spiritual Emphasis Week at our school, which means we've brought in a guest speaker and arranged special meetings to get the kids thinking about their spiritual lives. I've really appreciated this because working in a Christian school sometimes makes me take for granted that the kids have already heard the gospel and come to terms with it. I didn't really realize that some of these kids come from homes that are opposed to Christ where the parents tell them never to believe in Him. Really eye-opening for me.

The middle schoolers have been assigned to small groups to discuss the messages from the meetings and any questions that may have been raised. When I found out that I had been assigned 6th grade boys, I sort of raised an eyebrow. Mixed-gender counseling was one of the conservative-Christian taboos that everyone knew about, I thought. But then I realized later (after meeting with my group) that it was because they assigned the hardened, cynical, non-believing kids to older and wiser teachers. Makes sense.

But still, even my "easy" group of Christian/Christian-sympathetic boys have raised some deep questions. These 6th graders, still so freshly out of elementary school, are grappling with issues like "If God knew people would reject Him before He created them, why did He create them?" or "How do I know the Bible is real?"

It amazed me today when these boys would flip back and forth between silly and serious, when one boy looked me straight in the eye and asked me earnestly, "How do I know if I really believe in God?" while the rest of his buddies continued joking about something random.

I sensed that many of these kids are so close to realizing the full weight of God's grace and His awesome Love for them.

 It makes my heart ache.

It makes me think of the sight of several of them standing to the call of "If you decide to follow Jesus with your life, please stand to your feet right now." Kids that I see joking in the hallways, snickering in the back. Standing in a moment of seriousness, for One who's blood was shed in love for them. This is real. Oh, if only they knew how real it is.

Join me in praying for these kids.

 In other news, I learned today that His Hands, the ministry I am so fond of and love working with (the little that I do) is going through a major change with new governmental policies, and they need our help in prayers and finances. Please consider donating to this precious, lovely, amazing ministry. Even little gifts make great change! :)

Go to link below for more information:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day! I love Valentine's Day even though it is VERY materialized, stereotyped, and often griped over. I love it because it is a great day to share the beauty of God's Love and the love that He has given to us in people. It seems so surreal this year, though. I certainly have not been bombarded with reminders of this impending date by the hyped-up commercialism in the States. And with all the traveling I've been doing (Taipei and back, with a quick turnaround to go to Taichung and back, all in 5 days), I feel pretty behind. But I'm actually not that behind. As per my personal tradition for Valentine's day, I made valentines to give to the single people in my close circles. I'm excited to put them in their school mailboxes tomorrow morning! I wish I had had the foresight enough to get chocolate to go with them. =/ sigh.

Oh well. Sugar will abound regardless, the day of. I work at a school.

May the day be a expression of the abounding, amazing gift of the Love of God!


Friday, February 10, 2012

Connected by dots

Just got back from a two-day workshop hosted up at Taipei American School--a workshop for music educators, which included lots of dancing and singing and storytelling and exploring sound/space/movement. I always enjoy hanging out with music educators. They are a special breed of people that I am not ashamed to identify with, even though I am shy and perhaps more self-conscious than most of them.

I really appreciated getting to meet these people from different walks of life, now teaching in such different places like Singapore, Jakarta, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Many of these people (from Canada, US, London, or Australia) professed a love for Asia that I could appreciate. It's always good to meet people who are well-traveled. They know that the world is much bigger than their own experiences.

Classmates were lovely, the classroom was lovely, the school was beautiful. I'd only heard of TAS before and seeing it in real life and in action made all the childhood legends of enviableness make sense. 

I want to work there. Sort of.

Being there made me wish I were staying here longer. I wish I could invest more into this...and really own it for what it's worth. But the stakes are high against the possibility of staying, and that's always a downer.

In the meantime, though, I'm going to use what I've got.

So thankful for Orff workshops! This is the kind of teaching that motivates, inspires, strengthens. It makes me realize in new ways how our experiences with music can shape who we are, how it resonates deeply in an unseen part of our souls. Music truly does draw us together, on different levels and in more ways than we realize. We are like dots on a page, ready to be connected, ready to be inspired by the fluid and dynamic lines that may pass through us.*

It's quite beautiful, actually.

(*taken from the theme of the workshop)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Where lights shine

Nightscape at Love River

 Last night I went to the Lantern Festival by the Love River. There were so many different lanterns, and the bulk of them made by students (with their teachers?). They were pretty impressive.

Yay for 2012, year of the Dragon!
While walking through the lanterns, I couldn't help but think about this celebration of light becoming more or less another expression of the longing for some kind of hope, whatever hope may be out there. We found a vendor selling little paper boats in the shape of dragons, where for a small fee (100NT) you could write your wish, light a candle, and send it down the river. Me and my western friends thought the idea of it would have been aesthetically pleasing, had there been a mass exodus of paper-boat wishes on the river all at once, but whatever wishes actually did make it down the river did so quietly and unobtrusively. But what wishes? Don't we all, in our humanity, wish for the same thing, more or less -- peace, happiness, success? Could these things be a hint of what we all truly need? When in the darkness, we long for the light. And oh, how we need the light of Christ. How this place, these people, need the Light.

This morning my roommate invited me to go out walking with her, which turned into something of a prayer walk. As we trekked the winding mountain road, we prayed for the land, the people, and for freedom from the bondage that enslaves them. One of the things I prayed for was a boldness and a courage to share the gospel and do the work of God among His people here. The sun was warm and bright and the people we passed by ever so curious about these two strange girls walking by the side of the road. I always feel both nervous and relieved walking out with my roommate because of all the looks she gets as a black girl in the country-side of Taiwan. Walking with her means she gets all the attention, but sometimes the attention is not the most polite.

Walking back, a driver of one of those blue trucks honked, then stopped in front of us. I have a leery suspicion of all blue truck drivers. C told me that if you get hit by one, they will run over you multiple times to make sure you're dead to avoid paying rehab fees. My oblivious roommate didn't see it so she kept on walking, but turned around when the guy rolled down his window and asked if we needed a ride. Duly alarmed, we said no and walked on. Fortunately, he didn't bother us anymore and drove away.

The incident reminded me a little of the story in my newsfeed this morning about sex trafficking during the Super bowl. This serious global issue has been brought to my attention multiple times this past year, and it still gives me a fire in my bones. There is a need for action. Sometimes I am tempted to feel hopeless or helpless in thinking about the magnitude of the problem, the insidiousness of the sin it perpetrates, or the unconnectedness I seem to have with what goes on. But I know the least I can do is pray. I hold the audience of the Ruler of the Universe, the Mighty and Just Judge, and I know He will listen to me when I pray for the freedom of the innocent and the judgment of the wicked. I got home and read Psalm 94 as part of my daily read:

14 For the LORD will not forsake his people;
   he will not abandon his heritage;
15 for justice will return to the righteous,
   and all the upright in heart will follow it.   

16 Who rises up for me against the wicked?
   Who stands up for me against evildoers?
17 If the LORD had not been my help,
   my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. 

" the land of silence." ... The more I thought about it, the less it seemed to be a reference to death. Of course. When righteous people do nothing (i.e live in silence), the wickedness triumphs (as said the oft-quoted Edmund Burke). How we, as warriors for God's kingdom, need His help to stand and fight against the workers of evil! God promises final judgment, but now in the midst of creation's groaning, we as His people still have a part to play. I will not live in the land of silence.

22 But the LORD has become my stronghold,
   and my God the rock of my refuge.

Lord, shine Your light on us.

on baby duty

This week I had 4 days of working 4-hour shifts at the nursery for His Hands. It was fun, and I am definitely learning more about taking care of babies. One of the things I love the most about it is getting to know the babies. The smaller ones don't have their personalities as developed yet (most of the time they sleep, eat, and cry when they don't have either one of those), but it is fun getting to know the little ones bigger than a couple months old.

I like that I know that baby Grace is always watchful and careful of her surroundings. She was an anxious baby to begin with (probably owing to the trauma of her conception), so it is always a joy to see her smile. I like knowing that she is getting better about trust, and trusting love.

I love knowing that Carson is a fast eater and will usually down his whole bottle in a few minutes, and is learning to hold the bottle on his own. I know that his smile will surely bring a smile to Matthew's face when they make eye contact.  I know that he likes music and singing and moving. His welcoming, responsive smile has made him a general favorite.

I love that I know that Matthew's favorite thing is standing. So much so that he will fuss if he gets put in the bumbo seat too long. He loves working his legs, and if you bounce him up and down, you will surely get a baby grin. When awake, he seems to be constantly moving, which is probably why he is such a wiry little baby. I also know that he is not good at making eye contact sometimes -- perhaps a remnant of some feelings of rejection from when he was in the womb? I also know the kind of fussy he gets when tired, but if held against the chest and gently rocked, he will fall asleep within a few minutes. But he also wakes easily and will fuss when disturbed from sleep, so it's better to lay him down for naps. When he wakes up, he is always happy to see you because he wants to play.

I love knowing the distinctive, bird-like cry of Cadence, and that she eats very slowly and likes to play with the bottle in her mouth more than eat after she's had enough. I have loved seeing Sadie's demeanor and disposition change as she grows. She used to be so fussy all the time, but now she is a well-adjusted, plump, cheerful, vocal baby. She also has a baby fascination for looking at things up close, like hands.

All these things may sound petty to you, but they are small details that make up the beginnings of real people. I love the words they put up on the wall of the House of Hope recently -- "Every child is a story waiting to be told." These little ones are definitely stories in themselves. I know mommies who record the tiny developments of their babies -- their ups and downs, their quirks -- it is an honor to be able to share in the same journey of growth with these precious ones, at least for the beginning. I have been truly blessed.