Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Most Challenging Time of the Year

February pretty consistently for the last 16 years this month has been the hardest month of school for me. It's the time of year where Christmas holidays are gone and spring break looks forever in the distance. It is also the time when many of our directors and school administrators head back to the home office to recruit which leaves many doing double duty to cover their responsibilities. Added to these other events are plans for WWW - Week Without Walls - our school wide ministry project. In typical February fashion, this last week or two of school has been particularly challenging. Just as I had begun noticing that this time of year was rolling around again, I received an email from our academic development coordinator at the home office. In her email, she talked about the Third Quarter Phenomenon. Over her 35 year career in education she too had noticed that the hardest time of the school always occured during third quarter - January, February, March. According to her insight she saw that this is the time of year that brings ...
  • the lowest grades
  • the most discipline problems
  • an increase in interpersonal conflict
  • a rise in parent concerns
  • the greatest stress for teachers/staff
Many of the reasons she found for this phenomenon were because this is when...
  1. the most new material (curriculum) is presented
  2. families are run ragged after school and on
    weekends with extra-curricular activities
  3. friendships among students often shift, causing
    hurt feelings (particularly noted grades 5-8)
  4. parents tire of conflicts their students experience
  5. we wonder if the cost or salary is worth it
  6. students spend less time out-of-doors
  7. everybody’s tired
  8. illness invades
  9. it’s cold(- now this reason is not really an issue for us in the tropics :)
As I read through that email, I realized I wasn't the only one that felt this was the most challenging time of the year. In a sense it is good to know I was just not making things up in my head. Another good thing is now I can begin preparing for and anticipating these difficulties. That way I am not shocked when problems happen, and I can be better prepared to deal with them in a positive manner. Most of all I can elicit some much needed prayer support on my behalf and on behalf of the school. That is where you all can come in. As you think about it, I would covet any of your prayers on my behalf and on behalf of my school. 

My prayer requests for the next two months can be summarized into a few items...
  1. Pray for our students, parents, and staff that as we go through the struggles of the Third Quarter Phenomenon. Pray that we can look at our struggles as ways for God to grow and strengthen us.
  2. Pray that I have wisdom as a leader to encourage and guide my staff through this time of year.
  3. Pray for our WWW ministry in March that Satan does not distract us and divide us but instead we can use this time to share the love of Christ with those that are around us. 
  4. Pray for joy in the midst of difficulty. 
  5. Finally, pray that God will provide the 7 new teachers that we need to hire for next year.
Now with all seasons of difficulty not everything is all bad. In fact there are many things I am thankful for right now.  

My praises that I have for these past two month are...
  • Our Spiritual Emphasis Week (SEW) went well this year. I had fun being back with the kids. 
  • Teachers for the most part have been healthy. We haven't had any major illnesses like we had at the start of the year. 
  • Details were finalize for our construction project. Building has now begun on a new swimming pool and locker room facilities, a soccer field, better perimeter fencing, and a new floor for outdoor basketball court. 
  • Enrollment continues to be at an all time high for our school. 
  • Parent and community support is very strong. 
  • I am enjoying spending time with family and friends here in Indo. 
All in all there life in Bandung continues to be an adventure in faith.

Fun photo highlights from Nov and Dec:

SEW Worship on the Sports Court
5 a.m. Christmas present exchange 
Christmas Morning Service at 1st Baptist

A visitor from the U.S., volcanoes, and rainy season. 

New Year's Eve game night ....

...and crazy sparklers at midnight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Best time of the Year!

November - this is one of my favorite times of the year. Normally this season is called 'Fall' but living in the tropics I don't get to experience that season: no fall leaves, cooler nights, Friday night football games, or sweatshirt weather.

What I do get to experience this time of year is birthday celebrations, Thanksgiving festivities, and the anticipation of Christmas traditions. This is the time of year that teachers have settled into their classrooms, school is running smooth, and everyone seems to know what they are doing. By November, I have reacquainted myself with students and parents and there seems to be a sense of fit or belonging. It is also the time of year when rainy season is beginning, so the weather is cooler and everything seems to appear washed and clean around me.

Most of all, this time of year brings with it a sense of thankfulness and reflection. As I look over my last two months of being back in Indo there are so many things that I am thankful. Here are few of them...

  • God's sovereignty - coming back has brought a lot of new experiences and new situations. For a person that likes routine and tradition, this can be a bit unsettling. Yet, even though I don't know what tomorrow will bring, my Heavenly Father does, and I am learning again to trust in Him daily to work out all the details. 
  • my international family - being overseas during holidays and special events can be challenging at times. For me though, this time of year reminds me how blessed I am to be surrounded by so many people who love and support me. No matter where God's takes me, He has never left me without a sense of family. 
  • a job and life I love - being a principal has got to be one of the hardest things I have ever done. Most nights I come home exhausted. There is always a list of things to do and an inbox that never stays empty. Despite all of the struggles and difficulties though, I have come to love what I do. I love my crazy staff, my sometimes out of control students, and my many varied parents. I love that every day I go to work I have no idea what the day may bring. Most of all I love that I am doing something that will impact people both now and for eternity. 
Some other praises that I have for these past two month are...
  1. enrollment is up and new students are inquiring weekly. 
  2. just this past week 2 elementary students prayed to ask Jesus to be Lord of this life. 
  3. visits by the Department of Education have been successful, and we are moving forward with receiving permits for each of our school divisions. 
Some prayer requests are...
  1. Nov 24th, 25th, and 26th is our Spiritual Emphasis Week (SEW). Pray for last minute details in planning and that God will work mightily among the staff and students during this time. 
  2. Pray for health - this year has started out with lots of illness in the staff including Dengue Fever, Typhoid Fever, and Ecoli. 
  3. Pray for details to finalize so we can start construction on a new swimming pool, soccer field and sports court for the school. 
  4. Pray for continued wisdom and grace as I continue to transition back both to school and to the community. 
  5. Pray for an ability to balance work, personal life, family, and time alone. 
  6. Pray for creativity and insight as we try to meet all the new educational requirements that the government has placed on our school in this last year. 
Finally, I am so thankful for each and everyone of you that walking through this journey with me and lifting me up with your prayers and your support. This time of year, where ever you are, I hope you too are enjoying God's Sovereignty, faithfulness, and provision.

Here are a few fun photos of highlights over these last 2 months:

Spirit Week - Dress as your favorite animal :)

Pajama Day for I Love to Read Month

The preschool class at their first sports assembly. 

Celebrating Fall during an Elementary Staff Meeting
Making smores tropics style.

My birthday gamefest and picnic

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back home in Asia!

It's hard to believe that a little over a month ago I arrived back in Indonesia. In a sense, it has been like I never left. My house for the most part was the same thanks to my sweet sister who kept it up for the year. My room was all set-up including a new paint job that helped turned my white-on-white walls into a lovely shade of blue. The city and the school were pretty much the same. Even among my staff, 99% of my teachers returned from previous year. I only had one new teacher for art, and she was a friend of mine that I already knew from a previous school in Bandung. Overall, it was a very easy transition back.

Yet, despite the normalcy of returning home to Indonesian, I could tell there were things that had changed. First and foremost I had changed. My year in the states helped grow my perspective spiritually, socially, and academically. I returned as a state certified administrator with training in educational leadership. My graduate school studies had given me a better understanding of my job and many ideas of ways to work smarter not harder. I had returned with a better sense of how to be a principal as well as with a better sense of the need for balance and rest. For anybody that knows me I am a work-a-holic. After my year in the states, I realized I needed to do a better job of resting, of finding time for family and friends, and of simply leaving the office even through the work was not all done. The number one comment that I kept getting from people since being back was that I looked different. So many ways, people were saying I looked better than when I left. My answer to them was - this is what "rest" looks like.

I am not the only one that has changed though. In small and subtle ways everyone around me has changed too. Some of my dearest friends are gone. My entire admin team has had a turnover. My staff has grown and changed personally and professionally. Many of my teachers have told me last year was both a great year and a very difficult year. Each day I seem to run into a policy that is slightly new or an event that is slightly different. There is this strange sense that I know what is going on and yet in reality I am completely lost.

Thankfully this is my second time returning from a furlough in the states. It is pretty normal to be both completely familiar and completely lost when coming back home. Because of this, I have tried to put a couple things in place to help my transition. First - I have committed to not jump in right away and volunteer for anything. Instead, I want to slowly learn the new things that are happening at the school and take time to rest and reacclimatize to life in Indo. Second - I have slowly been going on a listening tour with my staff. One by one, I am sitting down with all my teachers and my office staff to hear how their year was last year and to listen to their expectations for me and for the year to come. My hope is that by taking time to listen I can learn about how life is different and how I can fit back into a community that changed while I was gone.

Overall - I am extremely glad to be back. Many of you know that during my year home, I wasn't exactly looking forward to coming back to Indo. I knew though that when the time came, God would give me peace about coming home. That has happened. I love being back. I love rooming with my sister again. I love my teachers, my students, and my parent community. I even love my new admin team. This has been the biggest blessing, since I was very close to my previous admin team. All in all I am so thankful for God's faithfulness and His leading. Once again He has proven "He who calls is faithful, and He will do it." I Thess 5:25. 

Prayer Requests -
- Pray for my transition back. That I can find balance between work, home, rest, and exercise. 
- Pray for more students to join our school. We have almost met out enrollment needs for the year. 
- Pray that I have wisdom to lead and that I don't overwhelm my staff with all the new ideas I have from grad school :)
- Pray that God will show me what to get involved in now that I am back. 

Praises -
- My trip back to Indo was safe. All my luggage arrived, and I only had to pay for an extra bag 1 time. 
- Staff orientation and the first week of school went really well. 
- I have enjoyed reconnecting with friends at school and in the community. 
- All our teaching positions are filled this school year, and we added over 20 new students to the school. 
- The political situation toward international schools has eased a bit even though we were required to change our school name to Bandung Alliance Intercultural School rather than Bandung Alliance International School. (Long-story :)

First week of school pics...

- For staff orientation, the admin treated everyone to a homemade pancake breakfast.
Admin team bonding at it's finest :)

The Indonesian cooking staff didn't know what to do with all the foreigners in their kitchen.

- First day pictures...

I am so thankful for my elementary team. 

 - You can't beat playground fun and chapel worship!!!

It is so good to be back home (my asian home)!!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Flagstaff

  Its hard to believe that my season in Flagstaff is done. Every furlough, I look forward to spending a small bit of time among the pines, living life with my church family at Grace. This is always a place of rest and refreshment and a time when I can see God's fingerprints in amazing ways. As I look back over these last three months, I am reminded of a story from the Gospel of Luke. A few weeks ago in church, we talked about Jesus sending out the 72. As he sent them out, He told them not to take money, or bags, or shoes. They may not have had a clear idea of where they were going or what exactly they would be doing. It was an ultimate step of faith. In the end though the Bible says, "The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Luke 10:17. 

I arrived in Flagstaff the first week in March. About a month earlier, I had no idea where I would live, what I would do, or how I would pay for things. I just knew that God was directing me there. My prayer journal entry from March 11th read " time in Flag - Lord how do I spend my time? Will I just be at home most of the time? Do I need a car? Lord, who will I shadow? Give me wisdom on how I will get to the school." Like the 72, as I leave Flag and return to Indonesian, I return with a sense of joy for seeing all the amazing things that God has done. In my prayer journal later that same week in March, it was written "God always has a holy surprise up His Sovereign sleeve. Ask God to show you what surprise He has for you and then watch out for it."  Here are 10 of my favourite surprises God had in store for me during my time in Flag (in no real order)...
Sammy is learning to fry and eat a grub he caught :)


  1. a home with the Cutlip family: a homeschool family of 5 little peeps included field trips, games, hikes, movie nights and so much more!!!
I loved the hours of reading and playing with the kids.
2. neighbours right across the street that went to the small group I wanted to join
Many times were spent in this kitchen with talking, tears, meals, and fun.
3. a group of ladies to laugh with, cry with, study the Bible with, and watch cheesy movies with
my first hike with some of the ladies

good food and good friends  - you can't get better than that!

4. half price tickets to a dinner theatre showing of the Secret Garden

I had always wanted to see this show...
...and thanks to half price tickets - a group of us were able to go!!!

most of my Thursday Night Grace Group

5. a Thursday night small group of amazing but wacky people
prayers to send me off :)

one last meal with the crew

6. a family in my small group helped me get connected with the local Christian school to shadow

It was great to get a perspective on how Christian schools in America are run. 

7. a spontaneous hike of the Grand Canyon

everyone should wake up one day and descide -
'Sure - let's just go hike the Canyon for the day!'
two of my favourite hiking buddies!!

amazing signs like these were posted all over the Canyon

8. a car to drive 

my brother gave me his car for 3 months - wow!!

9. an American swim meet to watch
this was my first US swim meet to see - so interesting

10. and a cat to cuddle with :)

you can't get cuter than Phoebe the cat and Baby Danniers!!

James 1:16-17 says " Do not be deceived my brother, every good gift and every perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of Lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." 

I am thankful for the gifts God has for me in Flagstaff, and as I move on I wait to see what He has in store for me in these last few weeks in America.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Answered Prayer - we can stay in our house

Praise- I just talked with my sister in Indo. They have worked out negations with my house owner. The house owner is raising the rent, but after seeking advice from others, it seems that the raise is reasonable. She is also willing to sign another 2 year contract with us. It is nice to know we aren't moving and everything is settled for another 2 years. Thanks for all your prayers.

Here are a few pics of the house as it looked before I headed back to the States.
our front porch
the dining room and kitchen
my bedroom

our backyard and porch

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Prayer Card 2014 - Please let me know if you would like one!

Prayer Card 2014
View the entire collection of cards.

'Perspective' - a furlough in America

Perspective – (definition) -“a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view”

By now most of you are already aware that since June of 2013, I have been back in America for a 1 year sabbatical. Many of you know bits and pieces of how things have been going but few of you know the full story. In an effort to catch everyone up on what has been going on, I want share with you the first part of my furlough story.

It has been more than 2 years in the making since I began praying and preparing for my time home in America. According to the BAIS/NICS furlough policy, missionaries can apply once every 6 years for a 1 year sabbatical back in the states. For me that meant the 2013-2014 school year was a time to come back to the states, reconnect with family, remind myself what it is like to live in America, and get some rest and refreshment.

As I began preparing to come back to America for the year, the Lord gave me the word perspective. This was to be my theme for my time at home. I haven’t lived in American for a significant period of time since 2007, and I haven’t taught in America since 1998. In my limited understanding, I planned for my furlough to be spent with family, finishing up grad school at Asbury University, and gaining a better perspective on how American schools in America run as compared to my American school in Indonesia. Little did I realize that God was going to help give me a better perspective on more things than just family and education. Since being home, my attitude toward or way of regarding life’ (aka my perspective) has been refined in multiple areas including…
  •  education (either public or private)
  •  the church and the body of Christ
  • youth groups and Sunday schools
  • politics and life (either in a big city, a small ranching community, or a military town)
  • relationships (it is definitely not easy being single in America)
  •  family
  • and what home means 

At times it has been difficult being back in American. For anyone that has gone through reverse culture shock, they know that it stinks. It is almost harder coming ‘home’ than it is to head out in the first place. This fall, I spent time helping my mom get settled into my parent’s new home in Hereford, Arizona. In early January, I headed to Missouri for a 2 months to help my dad pack up their old house and get ready to join my mom in Arizona. Then in March, I returned to Arizona and headed up to Flagstaff, in order to spend a couple months with people from my supporting church. All this bouncing around has been a bit crazy and a little tiring.Yet despite the struggles and tough times, I feel like I have grown a lot during my time at home, and God has surprised me with many wonderful blessings…

Furlough Highlights-
  • new friends and a new community of Hereford, Arizona
  • an amazing Bible study on James with a dear group of ladies
  • frequent flyer trips to visit the Marshall’s In San Diego, the Durham’s in Texas, Tanis in Canada, my dad in Missouri, and Becky in Colorado
  •  shadowing experiences in two public schools -a small rural school (Palominas Elementary School) and a larger military school (Wood Elementary)
  • lots of time to work and play with many horses
  • and hours of hanging out with family and old friends

My time in the states is quickly drawing to a close. I fly back to Indonesia around the second week in July. In the meantime, I plan to stay in Flagstaff until the beginning of June. After that I am not sure what my last 5 weeks in the states will be like. I still have 4 more classes to finish in grad school before I fly home, and I am hoping to take one more trip to visit a dear roommate from Indonesia. What all of that will look like, I don’t know. God tends to keep me on a need to know basis, and right now he is telling me I don’t need to know. In the meantime though, I would appreciate your prayers in a couple of areas....

Prayer Request –
  1.  please pray I can find one more school to shadow at in order to finish up the last of my grad school requirements
  2. pray that I will be able to study well and pass the Arizona Administrators Exam at the end of May
  3. pray for rest and refreshment so that I can truly be ready to head back to Indo in July
  4. pray for housing negotiations for my house back in Indonesia. The house owner wants to raise the rent a lot which means my sister may have to pack us up and move us before I get back. I am praying that we get a fair deal from the landlord and that we can stay.
  5. pray for wisdom on how to spend my last 3 ½ months in the States
As always I thank you so much for all of your pray and support of my ministry. I really could not do this crazy life without you. Also, if any of you are near Arizona I would love to touch base with as many of you as possible before I leave the country. 

Blessings - Charity