Sunday, June 5, 2011

This week has been one of ending.

The End of Spirit Week
Spirit Week began with the science show and included a formal dress day, a sports day, and a dress-as-a-CISP teacher day. But on Friday, Spirit week went out with a bang (not a whisper): an all-out Seventies day, with dress and music to match.

I glanced in my closet that morning and found neither bellbottom jeans nor a paisley top, so I turned up in a 2010 pink polo with my camera and compensated in other ways. My 11th and 12th graders got to listen to the only 1970s music I'm actually familiar with: John Denver. Later, there was a 1970s party and choir performance: nothing elaborate, just some music on a CD player; a few songs from our choir. I (still wearing my pink polo) appointed myself official photographer and captured a few images of the fun.

It's hard not to rock along to the Seventies music, and so the kids indulged their inner dancers, together:

And separate:

Even the teachers got into the spirit:

Later, they did the Hokey-Pokey. I actually joined in this one (thanks to my student Jessica, who dragged me over to the circle), but there was no one to take a picture of my feet.

Everyone enjoyed the choir performance:

Half the audience snapped along as they sang, 'I'm a Believer'.

And 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' was also wildly popular with the audience.

Perhaps embarrassingly enough, I am not acquainted with any of these songs through my parents (hence the John Denver in class). I know 'I'm a Believer' because it was continually piped through the True Value Hardware store I worked at after high school, and 'Ain't No Mountain High Enough' because it was on Remember the Titans.

The End of Czech

A fellow teacher asked me, on Friday, an unusual question about my plans for leaving. Rather startled that I was leaving after six months, she asked whether anyone here at the school 'drove me away', whether I had been made to feel unwelcome. I assured her that this was not at all true.

Every day, I feel how much I will miss bits and pieces of my life here, here at school and here in Europe.

In regular life here, I will miss people-watching every morning on the Metro and the deep royal blue of the sky at 9:30 PM when I am walking home from Bible study. I will miss seeing the castle spire on my way to work in the morning and the Charles Bridge on my walks in the evening. I will miss traveling: the rich ancient ruins in every city I visit; the people (all of them wise, it seems) that I meet and with whom I stay city by city. I will miss the European chocolate.

At school, I will miss yakking with my fellow teachers after a long day or grocery shopping together after church. I will miss the regular Bible studies we have, with delicious Mexican food and conversations that go on far longer than anybody intends them to (9:30 PM is early for us). I will miss the sudden gasp from a student that tells me they just got the symbolism in The Great Gatsby, or their attempts to rabbit-trail me if class is a little dull that day. I will miss the little 4-person class I had with the 11th graders, where I sat on the table and we all drank tea.

But Not the End of God's Blessings

A friend of mine in Spain shared a story with me about two European friends of hers, both sisters: one happily married and living in San Francisco, the other finishing up her university degree a little later after a couple years of traveling through Europe. My friend pointed out that both sisters envied each other's lot, just a little; both had to learn that God blesses them independently, that whatever we have - now, in this present moment - is God's gift to us.

In Psalm 16, David reassures himself of God's promise of continual blessing: "Thou wilt shew me the path of life; in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore."

I'll be honest: there are times when I wonder whether I'll be able to live in the States again and be happy there. Probably there are times when you have similar thoughts. And I've learned to just live, for now with a lot of this uncertainty.

What is resolved, though, is the goodness of God. Although His goodness may not be revealed in physical blessing, He is nevertheless actively engaged in blessing His children. It is God that 'shows' us the true path of life, its true pleasures and true ways; the word 'show' is an active verb, suggesting that God is personally involved in our lives, personally caring for us rather than leaving our circumstances to chance.

Moreover, the the blessings of God are not elusive: they are 'in [his] presence and 'at [his] right hand' - convenient for the believer, already indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Wherever I go, God's Spirit is with me, and so wherever I go, the blessings of God are with me as well.

Finally, the blessing of God is permanent: they are my blessings 'forevermore' - as long as this world shall last, and into the next one. My God is continually blessing me, regardless of geographical location or temporary job.

Ever since my college days, this Psalm has been a favourite of mine. I have a feeling it will continue to be a favourite in the weeks and months to come. I have been blessed in my six months here, physically and spiritually blessed. I will continue to be blessed as I return to Iowa this fall.

The sense of continual, unchanging blessing is captured earlier in the Psalm. There, David points out that '[t]he lines [as in boundary lines] are fallen to me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage'.

In other words, wherever God has chosen to set the boundaries of our life is good. For me, what this means is that whether my boundaries are in the Midwest or in Europe, it is good. Perhaps for you, if your boundaries are in the Middle East or Middle America or the American South, it is still good. If those boundaries are working your 'dream job' or asking people about fries, God is still good. If the boundaries are single or married, that is good too.

Wherever I am (or you are), whatever we are doing, God is being good to us.

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