Sunday, May 6, 2018

May Update

Dear friends,

Happy May! Germany is so very excited to have beautiful spring weather - so excited, that there was a marching band that began making its way around town at 6:30am today! They were still going strong around 1pm, and I don't know that they've truly stopped yet. Seriously though, springtime in this part of the world has been stunning this year, and we are grateful! At the end of this post you will find some pictures of the area around Kandern, as well as of many of the events which have made this time of year so exciting.
Since my last update, much has happened. We held another very successful Music Festival. All of our private lesson students performed on various instruments and received helpful, valuable insights from each of the visiting adjudicators. While many students tackle stage fright during this week, they also gain a lot from the interactions they have with the judge. It is also an exciting week for me as a teacher, because my students are pushed to a new level personally and musically. We capped the week with a stellar Honors Recital, featuring some of the strongest performers from the festival.
On the Sunday afternoon following festival week, two of our music students gave their Senior recital. This is not something we require of every student, but when a student has shown particular care, excellence and dedication their study, we invite them to give a recital. My student, Hudson, did an outstanding job. He has worked hard and well, and I am very proud of his performance.
The academic quarter leading into Spring Break was a busy one, and we saw God's faithfulness in many ways. I absolutely love my teaching responsibilities. When I think about the fact that this vocation was one I tried to avoid, I see that this love can only come from Him, and this enables me to continue. Every semester of group piano class brings new challenges and possibilities. This one is no different. My Piano 1 class, is eager and consistent. They are curious and ask excellent questions, which opens more doors for their personal musical discovery. It is always exciting to remember that 3 months ago, these students didn't read music, and now they are practicing and helping each other with musical fluency that they find surprising. My Piano 2 class is a very unique, small group. All three students come with an innate musical sense, and some with a strong musical background. They simply want to be better at something they love. And I love that. From the first class we shared, it was obvious that each student enjoyed composing, arranging and improvising. They would come to class having figured out various pieces and songs by ear, or having come up with something original. I felt a little out of my comfort zone, because I LOVE reading music off a page (if you know me, you may know that sight-reading gives me a rush - it's weird.). But we went with it. I listened, and gave insight, and one day they began to but some of their ideas together. Their ideas have grown into a really fantastic piece for three pianos, and I am looking forward to a performance day in about a month that will give them the opportunity to share it with others! I am personally learning and benefitting from the joy that comes from spontaneous creativity. For those of you who think more like me, don't worry, they are working on standard solo repertoire as well. We've just created more opportunities for them to grow. :)
Some of you might remember that I had the privilege of going to Israel over Spring Break with a group of students and staff from BFA. I have so much to share, so I will dedicate my next post in about a week to sharing more about what God taught us during that trip. It was incredible!
We are now in the final weeks of our school year, and life is full. I am excited to see what God will do in the coming weeks.

Praise the Lord with me:
1. For safe travels and open hearts during Spring break.
2. For the way that He is working in the hearts and lives of students.
3. That He is always good, and always supplies every need that I have. I have recently see Him do this in very specific ways.
4. For you, my supporters and prayer partners. I am grateful every day for you!!

Pray with me:
1. That students and staff alike will be open to what God is teaching them and doing in their lives.
2. That God will provide more monthly financial partners. I am praying for at least 10 new people to commit to monthly giving.
3. For good health and a strong finish to the school year.
4. For joy in all circumstances.
5. That God will continue to draw me close to Himself.

Thanks for reading, praying and caring. Now, please enjoy some pictures!

A favorite path

...and another.
Anyone for a walk?

Front row seat to see the marching band from my balcony.
Music Festival Honors Recital performers - all did such a fantastic job!

Just a few days after Music Festival, Hudson and EunSu gave a stellar Senior Recital.

Piano 2 students during class. Super creative group!
The piano lab at the end of the day - full of students for whom music is an important outlet!
This view made my heart happy.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sur Le Pont D'Avignon

This post comes on the heels of a ministry update, but I want to take time to give tribute to someone whose loving influence made a big impression on me. Not long ago, in the middle of the night, I received a message informing me that my grandfather's wife, whom we affectionately called Grandmama (she was from Montreal) had passed away.  Hearing news like this from so far away is never easy, and I've been processing this loss over the last week. I've been journaling a lot, and decided to publish some of those thoughts here as my tribute to her.

When I received the message from mom, I wasn't quite sure what to feel or do. We hadn't seen Grandmama in a really long time, at least for most of my adult life. Like most family relationships, this is a complex thing. My whole life, this exotic woman with a charming accent and dramatic eyes was another grandma to me and my siblings, though I think I may have the most vivid memories of her. We wholeheartedly embraced her and called her "grandmama" because she was from Montreal. She adored us, and was lovely with children. We have some great pictures of her playing with each of us as babies. She got us toys and books en Francais, and tried to teach us words, praising each success. I can still her saying "Bonjour Lauren!" whenever I answered her phone call, and I can still hear the smile in her voice. I'm sorry I lost touch, and I'm sorry we drifted, but sometimes life is like that. I'm not sorry for her loving influence on me. She used to sing "Sur le point d'Avignon," a French folk song. She added her own motions and drama. When I took French in high school, I was surprised to learn that Avignon was, in fact, in France. Not Canada. I just assumed she had been there. 
Dad always enjoyed speaking to her in French, learning the subtle differences between Francais et Quebecois. I always hoped that one day we would have a conversation in which she wouldn't have to switch to English. 
More than her French Canadian charm, I remember her compassion. She loved our family deeply and told us so. But she used her actions too, which proved her words. I've only been to visit Montreal twice, that I recall. But each time she lovingly hosted us. Carolyn and I even stayed at her apartment for a few nights, and though my memories are foggy, I remember laughing a LOT. The day of my high school graduation, she and grandpapa surprised us with a visit. It meant the world to me to have them there. At my party the next day, Grandmama practically danced around offering people food and charming everyone. She was happy to be there and let it show.
I've been told that she struggled with Alzheimers and that it changed her. but I am grateful to remember Yvette CotĂȘ Eveland as she was. I will miss her!

Another birthday - look at all those tiny kiddos! If you can find me,
 you can also see Grandmama leaning on the back of my chair, looking at my brothers. 
My sister's birthday, nearly 20 years ago. Grandmama is 2nd from the left. Look at that smile!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Home, Fiddlers, and collaboration!

Greetings from snowy Germany!

The last month and a half have been busy, so I'll spare you most of the tedious details. I have been hoping to post for about a month, but I've been busy recovering from a flu bug that moved in as I flew back from the US at the beginning of January, and has only recently gotten better. In the midst of sickness and busyness, there is excitement, with great things happening in many areas.
First, we are heading into production week for our school musical, Fiddler on the Roof. This is the first time I've been involved as part of the pit; I've also been playing piano for daily after-school rehearsals. The cast has been working hard, learning lines, practicing the songs, and enjoying the process. After any of them finish singing one of the numbers, the others will applaud and encourage them. It's pretty cool to watch. Performances are this coming weekend (February 23-25), and we would appreciate prayer for strength, and for the many teaching moments that happen during a production like this. Fun fact: I learned how to attach a synthetic beard to a face yesterday, and it's actually not that hard! I'm in charge of hair for this thing, and I'm learning a lot in the process.
Second, there is a lot happening in both Piano 1 and 2. Piano 1 just submitted their first project, a composition that describes the idea of "Home." I realize that this seems like a deep and difficult project for beginner pianos students. However, each student came up with a short melody that described a place, people, or feelings that reminded them of what it feels like to be at home. You can learn a lot about a person when you take words out of the equation. I was impressed with the vulnerability of my students, as well as the gentle and hopeful way in which they listened to and encouraged the work of their classmates. They never cease to amaze me.
When I enter the classroom to teach Piano 2, the students are often playing, collaborating, creating, and improvising. This particular class stands out with an aptitude for creativity. They enjoy imitating melodies that they know, or creating their own, and then weaving them together. We are working on reinforcing other areas of knowledge, and I am excited to see how strong they are by the end of the semester.
Third, I am helping to lead a group of students on a study trip to Israel in about a month. To say that I'm excited is an understatement. I'm looking forward to walking through these experiences with our team of students. They are insightful and observant, and I know that traveling with them will be rich.
Finally, I am thinking and praying about the future. Next year is my fifth consecutive year at BFA, which means that I can either file for an extension to stay an additional year or two, or I can leave the country for one full year. I am considering many options at the moment, and will keep you updated as I am able. For now, however, I am in need of maintaining financial and prayer support so that I continue to teach and serve here for as long as I am called. At this point, I am seeking more monthly financial partners, as my support is a bit low. I am also helping with the study trip to Israel, which requires so additional funds. With two opportunities to partner in giving with what God is doing, would you consider joining me? Any amount will help!
If you already support me, I want to thank you!!! Because of you, God has confirmed the fact that He has called me here, and I am learning what it means to be fully available to Him. God gives daily affirmation that I am exactly where He wants me. I am so grateful to be here in this place at this time.

Thank God with me:

1. For continued depth in relationship with students and colleagues
2. For daily strength and energy - I've been learning not to take this for granted.
3. For those who are partnering with me in prayer and finances.
4. For three fantastic performances of Fiddler! (*this is an update! I wrote this post just before the performances)

Please pray:

1. That my relationship with God will continue to be my top priority, and that He will be clearly seen in all I do.
2. For High School retreat this weekend. Pray for safe travels and for God's continued great work in hearts.
3. For health and rest for the entire community.
4. For more financial partners, which are needed for me to be able to continue serving here.