Thursday, November 15, 2018

November 15, 2018

Today Leak amd I told the story of why we celebrate Christmas. This is what we told:

 The story of Christmas starts back at the beginning of time, back when the earth was created. In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
(John 1:1-5)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1) He created it in 6 days, on the last day he created people in his own image; God created humans to be like himself (1:27). The first was a man named Adam and using a rib from Adam he created a woman, named Eve. Adam and Eve were the first humans created. God had created a perfect world where there was no evil. No one ever cried, there was no pain, sadness or hurt. While their garden was a place of peace there was still the enemy of God, his name was Satan, he hated God because he wanted to be in charge. In the garden, it was Adam and Eve’s job to fill the earth with people and to be masters over all the animals. God told them they could eat from all the trees and plants in the garden, all BUT the Tree of Good and Evil.
 One day Eve was near the Tree of Good and Evil and the enemy of God, Satan, told Eve that God was hiding things from her and didn’t want her to know everything. He told Eve that if she ate its fruit she would know Good and Evil and she would be wise like God. So, she ate the prohibited fruit and then she convinced Adam to eat the fruit as well. Right away they could tell something was wrong, they had lost their connection to God. They had not trusted him and now they knew what evil was, it was called sin- it created sadness, pain, hurt, hunger, fear and death. Its biggest problem was that sin separated them from God—the life-giver. Adam and Eve broke the rules and they could no longer stay in the garden, they had to leave their perfect home and they were sent to earth. God explained to them that because they sinned they lost their connection to him, without their connection to God they would die, that all things now would eventually die.
The cost of sin is separation from God—the life-giver, it’s death. Adam and Eve and everyone born after them would die a forever death.
What Adam and Eve did not know was God, his son Jesus and the Holy Spirit had come up with a plan to save all of humanity from forever separation from God, from forever death. It was a plan that would take time but God was willing to wait for the perfect time. It was a plan to bring us back together with God. So, as they left the garden God gave Adam and Eve hope, something to look forward to. He said that one day Satan would be defeated and they would be connected to God again, that death would end. They left the garden knowing that one day the Savior would come.

 As each new generation was born the people of God wondered if this would be when the Savior would come. Each mother looked at her baby and wondered would he save the world? Years and years went by. In that time, a prophet/messenger of God gave messages to the people to know what to wait/look for:
Isaiah said:
All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). (Isaiah 7: 14) And he also said:
For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6
Another messenger of God told the people where to look for the birth of the Savior:
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel,
 whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf. Micah 5:2
After even more time passed, in a small village, called Nazareth, a young woman named Mary was engaged to be married to a good man named Joseph. One afternoon God sent Gabriel, an angel to visit her. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” (Luke 1:28-33)
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin, I have never been with a man.”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:36)
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.
When Joseph, her fiancé found out about her pregnancy he was shocked and not sure what he should but that night, the angel, Gabriel visited him.
 Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)
So, Joseph agreed to marry her.
Just before the baby was due to be born the King wanted to count everyone in his kingdom. That meant poor, pregnant Mary and Joseph had to travel to Joseph’s province, Bethlehem. It was a very hard journey for a pregnant woman. They traveled on a donkey over many hills.
When they arrived in the village they looked for a place to stay but every single hotel was full. There were no rooms left in the entire place. Things were getting more desperate because Mary was going into labor, the baby would be born that night! Finally, there was one hotel owner who said they could sleep in his barn, the house for goats, cows, and other animals.
The family was poor. They didn’t have a fancy things or much money. They were not important or famous. Joseph was a carpenter not a king, they were simply people who loved God and were willing to obey.
That night Jesus became a human. He chose to leave heaven, the perfect garden where God was and there was no sin—death, hunger, pain or sadness. That night the Son of God was born
 to Mary and Joseph. The King of the world, the creator of everything shared his bed with farm animals.
That same night there were shepherds watching their flock of sheep. Suddenly an angel appeared before them and they were terrified. The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid! I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Saviour—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will know him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a whole bunch of other angles—an army of angels from heaven—praising God saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth, goodwill to all people.” (Luke 2:10-14)
The shepherds ran all the way to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph and there lying in the manger was the baby Jesus, Immanuel—God with us, just like the angel said. They praised God and told everyone that they had seen the Messiah.
There were also Three Wise Men from the east. They had been studying the stars and they discovered one that announced the birth of the King. They followed the star for months until it lead them to Bethlehem where Jesus, the Savior, was born. These three men were the wisest wealthiest men and they came to worship the King of the World. They each brought him a gift—gold, frankincense and myrrh.
These three gifts had meaning too.
 The gold was a symbol of kingship on earth, because he is the rightful king of the Jews and of the world.
Frankincense is an incense and a symbol of deity.
Myrrh is an embalming oil and is a symbol of death which pointed to his plan to save all of humanity from forever separation from God.
The baby that was born, baby Jesus, was both God and Man. He went on to grow up and become a teacher, a healer, and to ultimately bring us back together with God, our Life-Giver, by defeating sin--the power that separates us from God. He wanted people to understand that God was good and He loves us. Most importantly Jesus wanted to bring us back together with God by taking the punishment of death on a cross when he was only 33. With his life he taught us how to live and love. This is why the creator of the universe chose to become a baby, born to a virgin and into a poor family in an unknown town of Bethlehem.
We are in a world of sin and that separates us from God--the life-giver. Without that connection, we have no life. Christmas is a day to remind us that we don’t have to be alone, we were given the perfect gift, the gift of JESUS, Immanuel--God With Us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

November 14, 2018

Christmas Staff Retreat! Unfortunatly the cooling down rain storm came just when Penny amd I were getting ready to head out. It was a glorious rain storm and normally a 6 am downpour would be no problem at all. We gathered our back packs and shlepped them down the 7 floors to wait in the bike  covered bike garage on the forst floor for a passapp tuk tuk, it’s a Cambodian rickshaw. The problem was it was a down pour so no one in their right mind was going any where. We waited another 10 min till the rain was almost gone and we were finally able to get one.

When we get those giant downpours the roads can’t get rid of the water fast enough so there were many flooded roads on the way to work. Including a lovely lake rigjt outside our office. This is precisely why I bought shoes that are water friendly because I had to cross the lake many times before we left. I do love a good rain storm!

It will be a bot hard for me to wtite these next few days as I am on my tiny phone with my giant fingers and I’ll be having so much fun I won’t want to write.

Anyway, stay dry out there kids!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

November 13, 2018

I am so very tired tonight. I woke up at 12:30 am because my room was so hot. I moved the fan and opened the door to the balcony, unfortunately that also opened up my brain and I couldn't seem to close it again.

After a great meeting with the teachers at the Ta Skor Government school this morning, my brain is done in and I'm packing for the trip, eating a bowl of plain instant noodles and going to sleep.

Good night.

Monday, November 12, 2018

November 12, 2018

There was a buzz in the office today. It wasn't even my fault because I didn't drink any coffee today. I blame the buzz on a full office of people and the fact that it's two days until the Christmas Staff Retreat and for me like any good extrovert the extra people jazzed up my energy.
*Side Note* In case anyone is wondering it is actually a burden at times being an extrovert. By the time the work day was over I felt as if I had just finished a cup of coffee. I was excited, loud, funny and on top of my wit game--why? Because there were people in the office, I'd gotten a lot done, there is a road trip in two days etc. This kind of energy is exhausting and I am aware that people must be annoyed by the happiness and excitement I gush out. Well, it's not like I can really control it. Thankfully my coworkers seem to enjoy it/embrace it/tolerate it and accept me for it. ((I like you for you!)) *End of Side Note*
There is always a lot of talk about our Christmas Staff Retreat. We always go somewhere, unknown to those of us who don't have to do the booking, and it's always a 'mystery'. Except the fact that it's an Australian NGO and they are nutzo about the beach and miss it like a squirrel misses a bird feeder so it's obvious we are going south to the coast. The mystery is simply which town/island/province are we going to. I, however, along with Sam are holding out for the north to Mondulkiri and her mountains, cool air and elephants.

A surprise that has already come is Nic is here from Australia. Those Roberts are a sneaky family who LOVE to surprise! Ha, welcome back to Cambodia Nic, we are very happy to have you here for the week.

We also have a White Elephant gift exchange on the retreat. It's always fun to see what is the most popular with the foreigners and with the Khmer. I'm excited about mine! It may be my best one in the three years I've gone. I'll let you know who gets it. I asked around in the office to see whose gift sounded exciting. I'm not sure what everyone got but the unknown is fun and I like building the excitement around the game.

Over all, I don't care where we go, I don't care what gift I get or who gets my gift. I'm honestly just excited about getting to hang out with my awesome coworkers. They are some of the best of the best. They are genuine, kind, hilarious, strong and my friends. I'll share more about them as we are on the retreat, till then I'm off to sleep so I can regenerate my energy tomorrow, one day more!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

November 11, 2018

Friday was my day for office worship and I decided it was time for another office read along. I chose My Friend is Sad by my favorite Children's author Mo Williams. I love his books because they are simple to read, enjoyable as an adult and they have such good lessons.

Here's how worship went:

You are enough. It's you I want to be friends with, not anyone else. I like you, for you.

Proverbs 17:17 says: A friend loves at all times.

A true friend loves you for you. We just want to be friends with who you are, you don't have to change or try to be someone else. It's you I like!

It's said even better in a great song by Mr. Rogers.

It's You I Like
Written by Fred Rogers | © 1971, Fred M. Rogers

It's you I like,
It's not the things you wear,
It's not the way you do your hair
But it's you I like
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys
They're just beside you.
But it's you I like
Every part of you.
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you'll remember
Even when you're feeling blue
That it's you I like,
It's you yourself
It's you.
It's you I like.

Be you. Who you are is enough. I like so much about you!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

November 10, 2018

This morning I went to the International Christian Association campus in Phnom Penh to a women's conference. It was lovely. I was able to meet some new people and listen to a speaker from Texas, which is always a treat.

The highlight was the worship songs. I love singing for worship. There is nothing better than a room full of people breathing as one as you praise God for who he is. It's incredible. While I love my local Adventist church we don't sing many praise songs so today was a treat. I wish we could have sung all morning.

A verse that one of the songs reminded me of was Psalms 73:25, 26.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever.
What I want more than anything is the second line to be true: I desire YOU, God, more than anything on earth. More than traveling home for Christmas, more than my safety, more than a relationship and more than myself. This verse has often been such a struggle for me to make true but today I prayed that it would be.

I was reminded of the power and the importance of prayer. I need to get back to it again. The speaker reminded us that action and worship are not the same as prayer. My plan is to shake my morning devotion time up. I need to pray and not just read something and call it a morning, I'll listen to praise music, meditate on verses and listen for His voice.

Because at the end of the day, my health may fail, and my spirit grow weak BUT God remains the strength of my heart because HE IS MINE FOREVER.

Friday, November 9, 2018

November 9, 2018

I've just finished putting my green chair back inside my apartment, I've turned the kitchen lights off and it's the end of another wonderful Friday night Pasta Night.

Pasta Night is when the other RAW expats gather together in my kitchen, cook a simple dinner and hang out. It was born when I first got here out of a desire to carry on a family tradition of sharing the Friday dinner together and starting the Sabbath (Saturday, the day I go to church) off right. After a long busy week it's nice to slow down, cook a meal with friends and chat about life.

It is an always evolving party. At one point when Re-Knee was here we had to make sure we didn't cook with A LOT of different foods that she was allergic to (tomatoes, garlic, gluten, etc) it was a fun challenge and we were all in support of it. That was how we ended up branching away from always cooking actual pasta. Since then we've experimented with recipes, making everything from roasted capsicum (bell peppers) pasta sauce, smashed avo on toast and spiral pasta (carrots and wax melon spriralized into a 'pasta' type thing, which I think may be my favorite).

It's consisted of just two of us cooking and hanging out. It's been Tesser and Re-Knee laughing and talking about memes and me enjoying their laughter and just listening to their craziness. It's even been a small crowd of almost 10 of us cooking up a storm all doing different parts that contribute to the dinner.

Tonight Karen, Sarah and Alanah came over and we cooked fajitas. I made sweet potato tortillas from scratch, Alanah was a wiz at cutting up the veggies and we used my next to last packet of taco seasoning on them. Sarah splurged on some sour creme and a jar of local salsa and Karen was the supervisor, making sure we picked up the onion slices that kept escaping. We chatted as we cooked talking about everything and nothing at the same time. We simply were present. When everything was just about finished the fireworks started over at the river front by the Royal Palace. They were in celebration of Cambodia's Independence Day! We finished up all the cooking, made our tasty fajitas and ate while enjoying the fireworks from my apartment balcony. It was almost like Cinco de Mayo, ha! We sat and ate and ate and ate until all the tortillas were gone, our stomachs full and the fire works were over. There is never an agenda with Pasta Night, it's simple, we cook, we chat, we hang out.

I've enjoyed getting to know my friends better this way the last few years. There is something special about preparing food together. Your hands are busy and you have things to look at but you can talk and connect with people or listen and hear their stories. Then there is something even more beautiful about sharing a meal with someone. Food connects us to memories, stories and people we love, so we share those moments with each other through out the evening.

Tonight after the food and fireworks, we made our way inside and sat in the living room, in the glow of the Christmas tree, around the fireplace while enjoying the crackle of the beautiful YouTube fire. We pondered the psychological effects of the crackle sound of the fire causing your brain to think it was real and that you would trick yourself into feeling the heat. We had the crackle and two fans going, the heat may have just been genuine heat from living 10 degrees north of the equator. . .

We'll have about 1 more Pasta Night this year. We'll get busy with teams and then Christmas but when we do get together next we'll pick up right where we've left off.

I am so very grateful for Pasta Night and the family it brings.

I pray that we all will always be able to share a Pasta Night with the ones we love.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

November 8, 2018

No two days are the same here. One day I may be heading to Ta Skor village to meet with the principal (Tuesday) another day I may be in Mondulkiri conducting a Teacher Training (last Tuesday) or I may be doing a random afternoon of prep for the staff retreat that is next week (today).

I'd say most my days start with me opening my eyes at 5:30 am and getting up at 6 am. Breakfast, quiet worship time and the whole rest of the morning stuff and out the door at 8 am, with a quick stop at Wild Coffee before work with Morning Meeting/Worship starting at 8:30. Then I work on projects, lesson plans, communication etc till lunch at noon. Lunch is normally rice and veggies eaten with my friends in the office but sometimes is an adventure at a new lunch place in town. Then from 1 pm to 5 pm work some more with a recess break somewhere in there so I don't go too crazy (imagine a lot more chair spins then necessary.) I'm back at my apartment by 5:30 pm and I clean, cook, read, watch youtube, or a movie/tv show and do art (braided rugs, weaving, or sewing). I try to rap up my evening and in bed by 9:30 pm but it doesn't always work. . . hence this later posted blog. . . 

That's a regular working in the office day. I'll post about a crazy teacher training day later this month, I've got a couple of them coming up!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

November 7, 2018

I walk to work on Wednesday. I don't work far from home. Since I've moved it's even closer but I usually take the long way.

On Wednesday you can get a $1 coffee from our favorite little café, Lot 369. So I walk to the coffee shop (opposite direction from work), say hello to all my friends there and then walk to work. I call my dad and chat with him as I walk, it's hard being 12 hours time difference to chat. Wednesday's are good for calling, no one is busy on a Tuesday night.

As I walk to work I get to see up close the neighborhood. I get to dodge around traffic and tell the tuk tuk drivers I don't need a ride. I really enjoy walking past my regular morning-ride-to-work friends. There's the ladies who sell fruit at the corner, just down from the 5 way intersection. They always have a smile and wave. Then after that next corner I pass "Grandma". When I walk I get to interact more with her. We do a lovely formal greeting, then she says stuff to me in Khmer that surpasses my level 1 and I nod my head. We chat a bit more and then I head on my way to the office. Some days I also see "Grandpa". He's a cutie too, he always stops on his slow walks to reply to my formal greeting. Gotta love the commute friends!

It feels good to walk somewhere. It's a perk of living in the city, I can walk EVERYWHERE!!

On my way home I walk with Sarah. It's a fun thing to look forward to. We chat about the day and I usually stop at my favorite banana stall to get . . . bananas. Today I decided to call the grandma Yey Chek, Banana Grandma, she liked it and laughed at it. Her bananas are always so good, last so long and don't seem to carry a thousand ants like other bananas.

Sometimes on my way home I stop and get a smoothie. My favorite is avocado and mango. IT IS INCREDIBLE. You cannot say anything unless you have tried THIS ONE. I like to buy it take it home and stick it in the freezer so it's more like ice cream. Then I'll pop some popcorn over the stove and I've got dinner! It's so good. Come over and I'll shout you a smoothie and popcorn at my place.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

November 6, 2018

It's 8:30 at night and I am sitting on my 7th floor balcony (unless you are an Australian or British, then it's the 6th floor) and I can see in the distance the lights of Olympic Stadium, there must be a soccer game tonight. The construction that happens near it must be finished for the day because I don't see the sparks of the welding.

To the right is a tall building with a giant letter K on the side facing me. It's top floor lights are on, they are red, green and yellow- I think they are trying to be festive in the workout room? The lights are on most nights. When I go to sleep the lights are still on but when I wake in the middle of the night it is dark, minus the giant K. I like to imagine they are having a lot of disco's up there.

Tonight I can hear the planes passing over the city as they go to the left to the airport a few miles outside of the city. They blink softly as they pass. It's a relatively clear night, no stars yet I know they are on the horizon waiting for the city to sleep so they can come out. The longer I sit here the brighter they will get. Often the planets are the first things I see in the night sky.

I can hear the German Shepherd two lots to the right barking at the tuk tuk that is in the street dropping someone or something off. It's not late enough for them to let the dog out to stretch his legs and he'll run down the road with his toenails clicking on the street. I think I hear someones radio playing Khmer music and a child in the distance crying. The music isn't annoying, I find it soothing to have playing very softly in the distance. I definitely hear some whistles, they must be from the guards outside of Royal Mart helping the cars to pull out into the street.

The wind is not blowing strongly so my wind chimes are silent. It's a gentle breeze, enough so my hair flutters gently on the sides. A car passes, a moto passes and it's quite enough again that I can hear a dish and cutlery across the street and voices coming from the street as the neighbors across the road arrive at home. The neighbors across the road on the third floor is still sitting outside. They are often outside, I'm not sure how many men live there but there must be several. They like to sit outside in the evening and listen to music on their phones while they smoke and drink their evening beer.

A street over is a Family KTV, which means it's a karaoke club, advertising for families, I only hope that they are the good kind. It's sign on the top floor is on, the boarder lights softly changing and blinking in their rhythmic pattern. The top corner lights have fallen so the boarder isn't complete, I try not to stare because it will only bother me and make me want to fix it.

I can see the space in the neighborhood buildings where the Russian Market/Toul Tom Pong Market is. The lights from the night market are glowing and I can see the Long After Dark bar that over looks the night market. 

As far as cities go this one is okay, it's an equal blend of friend and enemy. . .my frenemy.