Monday, October 15, 2018

But Only He Who Sees, Takes off His Shoes

I began working on this post recently as I was sitting in my classroom with one student clicking away on his keyboard; the others are gone on class trips to other parts of Europe, so we took a break from our curriculum so he can explore his own creativity. Sometimes this life we live blows my mind. The student has decided that the day's class schedule makes a really great chord progression. So he's writing a song using those chords. As one does.
The school year is off to a great start, and I find my role to be a multi-faceted one. I have two sections of group Piano 1 this semester, and from day one, I knew it would be exciting. One of my favorite things about teaching group piano is helping each student fill in the gaps of their basic musical knowledge. Already there are students who are playing pieces that would have felt impossible just one month ago. I'm continually reminded that good learning is a slow, deliberate process that can often feel tedious and even useless. Adding virtue to faith, and knowledge to virtue is much the same. As I watch my students work, see the determination in their faces, I see character emerge. So as we work on hand position, note naming, and reading music from a staff, I see incredible individuals, created with purpose, begin to emerge. Sometimes the glances are fleeting, but in those moments it's as though their Creator leans toward me and says, "watch what I'm doing!" 
Every school day is full. When I'm not teaching a group class, I'm practicing or meeting with a student, planning with my piano teacher colleagues, or teaching a private lesson. I have 12 private students this year - the most I've had at BFA. With a greater number of students comes a greater number of challenges. Some of my students are basically beginners, working to be able to name and play notes easily and well. Others are advanced, looking ahead to majoring in music with auditions and recitals looming. Still others are in between. Each day is an exciting combination of any of these elements.
I am also privileged to be serving on the leadership team for a group called Walking Together. This group seeks to connect women in the Kandern area from various churches, providing fellowship, mentoring, Bible studies, and community. We recently held our yearly kick-off event, and it has already been exciting to watch the women in our community begin to connect in new and deeper ways.
Looking ahead, we are coming to the end of the first grading quarter. In just over two weeks, we will present our faculty recital. In the classroom, we will be wrapping things up so that students can begin to mark the progress they have made and plan well for what needs to be accomplished in the coming weeks.

Finally, I want to leave you with these words that were presented to us in August and I haven't quite been able to shake:

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire
with God; but only he who sees,
takes off his shoes - The rest sit
round and pluck blackberries.

~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

May we have hearts that know His presence and are ready to watch Him work!

Praise God with me:
1. For His continued provision, financially, physically, emotionally, and Spiritually.
2. For the a strong start to teaching and mentoring
3. For safe travels for our grade 11 and 12 trips to France and Italy.

Please pray:

1. For the students I mentor. One I have known for a while and I need wisdom as I speak into her life. The other is new to me, so please pray that I will listen well as we get to know each other.
2. For upcoming projects I am involved with, and for finances for these projects.
3. For my financial support to increase, and for openness in the hearts of those God is calling to partner with me.
4. For the women involved with Walking Together ministry. For connection, support, and fellowship.

The Seniors prepare to participate in the parade of flags at Opening Ceremonies

All of the incredible people I get to serve with here at BFA...can you find me??

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!