Wednesday, December 24, 2014

'Twas the Day before Christmas

This is not going to be a long post. But for the first time since I arrived nearly one month ago, my room feels settled. Why the need to publicize this milestone? For one thing, it's finally starting to feel like home; I'm not guessing where I should put things to try and establish my 'normal'. For another thing, it's symbolic of so much more. Whenever there is a move or a transition, feeling displaced, or not quite like one belongs in either the old or the new place, is a natural experience. I've been feeling that way a lot over the past few weeks. I am thrilled to be back, but I miss  However, yesterday was a day full of events which contributed to expelling the 'displaced' feeling. In the morning, good friends took me to go submit my visa paperwork. Not much can make me feel so small as walking into a business/government building with my minimal Deutsch and needing to acquire something as big as a visa. But God, in His faithfulness that hasn't changed a bit, made a way once again. Lord willing, I'll have my visa shortly! The rest of the day was spent with a (new) friend baking and getting ready for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. This is one of those moments in which I stop and realize that, without me even realizing it, God is once again building community for me here. So when I finally plunked down on my bed, and looked around last night, I realized everything had a place, or was at least getting there. In the midst of it, I keep thinking of the words of Christ when He came to earth. (paraphrase mine) Foxes have dens, birds have nests, but the Son has nowhere to lay His head. It's not about the decor of my room, or finding the perfect storage containers. It's simply about following the Son, step by step, through each day, and allowing Him once again to define my role in this place. His way is perfect. For today, my next step is to participate in the Christmas Eve service at church, and continue becoming a part of this community here. And to keep on following.

I also want to say thank you again to all of my prayer and financial supporters! I am so thankful for each of you and think of you often. May God bless you richly for your kindness and generosity to me!

Merry Christmas and many blessings for the coming year!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Settling in

After successful flights, and a safe arrival in Kandern, I am enjoying getting settled in, meeting new friends, and reuniting with old ones. I've spent significant time in the last few days accomplishing tasks that allow me to feel more at home, as well as trying to wrap my brain around this transition. Per usual, this transition looks different than I had expected. There are definitely hard aspects. I miss those of you who were a huge part of BFA for me before. On more than one occasion while at school or walking around Kandern I've found myself looking for you. Sometimes I feel as though I am living in a ghost town. "[insert your name here] used to live there!" But it's not totally depressing, and leaves me feeling very grateful for the lives that have touched and changed my own. I also miss working in the dorm and often feel compelled to ask to drive a dorm van. I assume this will change, and can only hope so. :)

But there are so many amazing aspects of this transition. I have an office now, with my name on the door! And I have a piano, and another unique vantage point into life here. I get to go to department meetings and be part of a new team. I live in a beautiful home with two other women who are a privilege to do life with. From the moment they picked me up at the airport, I have been continually grateful for the smooth transition they have given me into our home. I've gotten to see and begin to catch up with many of the guys who I shared time with at Sonne. Last Sunday I had the privilege of sharing a meal with them, and was overwhelmed with a loving welcome. Mixed with so many familiar faces are many others that are new to me, but I am so grateful for the way so many have reached out to me. Can you tell that my heart is full? Over the last two weeks, I've gotten registered at the rathaus (or town hall), and spent time completing other tasks that contribute to living here for more than only a month or two.  I've also tried to spend time at school each day so that when I officially start next semester, I won't be unfamiliar. Through all of this, the cry of my heart is that God will make clear to me what my role is to be at this time, and in this place.

To all who are praying for me and who have given to allow me to be here, I want to say a huge thank you!! I look forward to sharing more as I find my new normal.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Leaving!!!

Dear Friends,

What an amazing journey of faith this time of raising support has been, and it's only the beginning! I am ridiculously excited to be leaving for Germany and BFA to start a new season of ministry! God has supplied so much, and through so many of you! Thank you so much for partnering with me, both in prayer and financially. It has been humbling to watch the ways that God has led so many to give. I will continue to post here about the things God is doing at BFA. When I think about how big He is and how He blessed the last time, my heart thrills to think of the possibilities this new season holds.
I have to admit that over the last week, as I've prepared to leave, I've had some recurring sadness as I realized all over again that I won't be going back to help shepherd (and feed!) a guys' dorm. God gave such amazing relationships with students and staff, and I will truly miss serving in that capacity. However, I am thrilled to be teaching music, sharing something that is so much a part of me and fostering a love for it in my students. God created us as relational beings, and I know that just as He caused these opportunities to come alongside students before, He will do the same.

So please pray for me!


  • Pray that I will, first and foremost, draw closer and closer to Christ. That is one of the best things you can ever pray for anyone in ministry! 
  • Pray for safe and on-time flights.
  • Pray that I will get over jet lag quickly and be able to come alongside the staff and help in any way that I can before the semester ends. 
  • Pray that the remaining funds needed to allow me to be fully funded would come in.
  • Pray that as I transition I would be humble, teachable, and ready to serve.


My heart is filled with a good theme, and I am overjoyed to be part of the work that God is doing!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Getting Closer!

Last week was full of the kind of excitement the leaves you wondering what this new week is going to hold. My support has taken a dramatic turn upwards, and I am now only $275/month shy of boarding an airplane. The more I think about the amazing way the God is meeting this need, and the way He is moving people to partner with me, my heart is filled with gratitude. I am excited to say that I have begun the packing process, even though I don't yet have a departure date. For those of you who know me well, you know that packing is one of my LEAST favorite activities, so I'm thankful for a little extra time in which to do it. I am also looking forward to the day when my blog posts are not filled with pleas for support, and I am free to share about what God is doing in the community in Germany!
So my requests for this week are simple. First, would you please pray that God would move in the hearts of those whom He wishes to partner with me, and that they would respond quickly? I have a sense of urgency about this request, that is not an unwillingness to wait on God's timing, but simply a desire to encourage His people to act promptly. I have been praying that He would allow me to return to Germany this month, and I believe that this could become reality!
Second, would you consider partnering with me, either through a one-time gift, or as a monthly supporter? Please feel free to email me: Laurenholland25@yahoo.com, or click on the following link to donate https://give.teachbeyond.org. Be sure to specify that your gift is for me, "Lauren Holland."

In the next few months I am excited to begin blogging about some of the amazing things that God has been teaching me through studying a book I haven't visited for a while: Deuteronomy! What an amazing book, with lessons about passionate, whole-person service to Christ. I look forward to sharing with you!

Thanks for checking in, and thank you for praying!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

So Close!

As we begin the month of November, I'm already thankful for so many things. God has answered so much prayer, and in specific ways. My financial need in returning to Germany has been huge. Many have responded and given generously, and I want to say a huge thank you to everyone supporting me prayerfully and financially. I am humbled and encouraged by your partnership with me, and I pray for you daily. Not only is my percentage of support almost where it needs to be, my startup costs are completely covered. I am so excited to be able to leave and begin doing life in Germany!
I am also thankful for this time of waiting. I've shared more about this time in a previous blog post (10/25/14), but every day I thank the Lord for His perfect will and guidance.

Because of the amazingly generous giving of so many people, I am very close to being able to leave! Currently I only need $320 more per month until I reach 90%, and $580 more per month until I am 100% fully funded. Every amount matters at this point, so I want to invite you to partner with me. If you've been praying or thinking about the possibility of giving to missions, here's your chance. You can contact me at Laurenholland25@yahoo.com, or visit this link: https://give.teachbeyond.org and specify that it's for me. I am so close to reaching this goal! Please prayerfully consider what your part in this ministry could be!

As a quick refresher, here's a brief summary of what my ministry at Black Forest Academy will include:

  1. Teaching - private piano lessons, piano classes, various music classes, accompanying and coaching, and assisting in other ways in the music department.
  2. Mentoring - I hope to help lead a small group Bible study of students, and make the most of opportunities to speak into the lives of students. I also hope to help substitute in the dorms.
  3. Hospitality - I will seek to make my home and resources available to care for and minister to others, both in the BFA community and the German community. 
  4. Community - I have an ever-increasing burden for the German community surrounding BFA, and will be actively seeking opportunities to reach out and share the Gospel. This will involve a concerted effort to improve my German language skills!
Thank you for visiting my blog, and for your interest in my ministry! I look forward to sharing more answers to prayer very soon!

~Lauren

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Be Still...

I was hesitant to put the following thoughts out in public. Not because they're controversial or earth shattering, but because they are so close to my heart.

Waiting. If I weren't waiting for support, I'd be waiting for something else. I'm not being cynical, but  I have noticed this become an apparent pattern in my adult life. There are always hopes, dreams, goals, achievements, among other things, to be looked forward to. However, before those things come there is often a waiting period. These are times which the Lord uses to teach us, grow us, change us, remove things from our lives (I should say "my life") that shouldn't be there, again the list goes on. However, I find myself impatiently wishing for the end of the waiting instead of looking for what God is doing right now, in me, around me and hopefully through me. So while I do get antsy in the waiting, I am learning, slowly but surely, to be still while I wait to get my plane ticket and start a new season of ministry.  He is teaching me to be still, not only physically, but in my mind and my heart ("My heart is fixed..." Psalm 57:7). He has given me wonderful quiet times with Him ("Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law." Psalm 119:18), in which He is renewing my vision, strengthening my soul, and giving me a bigger picture of Who He is. There is much more, but that would take a much longer post. So to those who are praying for me, thank you!!! God is answering in many ways. He is teaching me to have courage to persevere and to trust Him. For my birthday last summer, my brother got me a necklace I had been admiring. I wear it all the time now, not only because it's cute, but it has the words "Be strong and Courageous" from Joshua 1:9 inscribed on it. This has served as a powerful reminder as the days go by. Not only does it bring this particular verse to mind, but also Psalm 27:4, which says " Wait for the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage, wait for the Lord." 

Also, God continues to provide my need for support. I am continually amazed and thankful for the way God moves in the hearts of believers to give to me, pray for me and encourage me. Thank you for your sensitivity to Him in praying for and giving to me!

As you pray, please remember these things:
1) That those who have been considering partnering with me would do so and act quickly.
2) That God would continue to prepare me now for the work He has for me at BFA.
3) That I would be teachable and open to everything He has for me right now. 

 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Prayer and Needs

We all have needs. If we're honest, talking about them comes easily, sometimes more easily than praying about them. As I think about my needs for support, my need to get back to Germany and BFA, and then the needs of my siblings and family, the result is that my focus is directed at the need rather than the One Who can meet the need. So this week I've been challenged to revise how I've been praying for my needs. I'd like to share with you some questions on which to reflect as you pray:

1)By dwelling on the need, am I allowing it to become bigger than it is? 
2)What do I know about God? How big do I really know Him to be?
3) Do I believe that God is big enough to meet my needs? And do I trust Him to answer in His perfect way and timing? 

Another great way to pray is to pray Scripture, and the Psalms are a current favorite of mine. I can't seem to get away from them. For starters, check out Psalm 16. 

Please understand that I know that many people carry heavier burdens than my own, and for much longer. However, my purpose in posting this is to encourage believers to focus our attention on the fact that we have a huge God, one Who made us, loves us, died for us, and walks with us. As the children's song says, "they are weak, but He is strong."

Also, I want to invite you to pray with me specifically for several things.
First, that 14 families or individuals will be moved to support me at $100 per month. Support is coming in slowly but surely, but I still feel led to pray this way.
Second, that people who want to give will give soon. The school year at BFA is well underway, and I am prayerfully wanting to miss as little as possible.
Third, that I will be back in Germany by November. It feel impossible on many levels, but I know that God can do it.

Thank you for lifting these needs before the Lord with me! So many are praying for me, and I am encouraged to keep on persevering!! If you or someone you know is interested in giving, please click here: https://give.teachbeyond.org and specify it's for me (Lauren Holland).

Another church let me know of their desire to partner with me last week!!! So much joy here, as this church has watched me grow up and has prayed me over mountains and through valleys before. They are amazing prayer warriors and I am thrilled to have them on my team. I look forward to sharing more stories of partnership and needs being met soon! Thank you, as always, for checking in and for praying for me. God is good, all the time.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fulfilling, Completing, Perfecting

Six months ago, I thought that I had this school year (and the following ones) figured out. However, our best laid plans are not always identical to the plans that God has for us. I am thankful for everything that the last year has held, and I am thankful to be where I am. In just under two months, God has brought in 50% of my support, which is amazing!! This is a huge hurdle to be past, and I know that now that I'm past the halfway point, excitement continues to build. There is still a huge need to be met and I am still praying for 14-15 people to commit to $100 per month. If you would like to partner with me and help to meet this need, click here: Click here to help support Lauren

I've referred to Psalm 138:8a before, but this verse has been on my heart often lately and I wanted to mention it once more. "The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me. Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever." The word "fulfill" can also be translated "complete" or "Perfect." As I wait and pray and seek God's will for each day, He brings people, conversations, and times with Him that continue to change me from the inside out. My prayer during this time of waiting is that He will equip me to be able to hit the ground running when I arrive in Germany. He alone knows what awaits me around the next bend in the road, and He alone can equip me for whatever may come. He is so faithful! Whether or not the following year looks anything like I think it could, I know that God is sovereign and His way is best. How great is He and how faithful!


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Remembering God's Faithfulness

There's great power in memory, no? Through memory, we re-live, reminisce, keep alive, learn, grow, change. Some of us live in fear of forgetting, because we fear if we forget, we run the risk of leaving behind part of who we are. Memory motivates us to action. Like many people, I enjoy a good ramble down memory lane, and I try to retrace those steps regularly. I've been doing a lot of remembering lately, and reading through blogs and journal entries from before I went to Germany the first time, in the fall of 2010. As I write today, I find myself in a similar situation to when I first began to write about "Simply Trusting." Today, as then, I have a great financial need to be met before I am able to depart for Germany. Today, as then, I have seen God meet a large part of that need through His people. Today, as then, I am hopeful and confident that He will complete the work that He started, not only financially, but in my life longterm. Today, I have the richness of friendships and experiences to remind me why I so strongly desire to return.
Over the weekend, I discovered that my monthly supporters had nearly doubled! So for those who are giving and those who are praying, let me say thank you, for not only responding to my need, but for allowing God to move and work through you.

So reminisce with me, and let me share with you a brief excerpt from one of my very first posts in September of 2010:
"For now, I am trying just to keep things in perspective, both long-term and short-term. My long-term goal (obviously) is to get to Germany, in God's time. Short-term involves following in faith, daily.  I am coming to appreciate the vital importance of immersing oneself daily in the Word, and having done that, meditating on what I've read throughout the day. Short-term also involves doing the next right thing, i.e. sending support letters, addressing envelopes, talking to churches, and talking to potential supporters. My prayer is that people will see this as an opportunity to partner with the work God is doing at and through BFA...Please pray with me that many will want to be involved, and also that I will not worry, but instead learn to trust God in an even greater way!"  

"And my God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."                   Philippians 4:19

If you would like to be part of meeting this need, please click here: Partner with me!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Always the Same

Over the last few weeks I have received much encouragement, from both sides of the ocean. Many friends have joined my team of ministry partners, and I can't thank you enough!! I wanted to share a couple of thoughts with you today. First from my time in the Word just this morning, in Psalm 81:10, "I am the Lord your God, Who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it." This verse follows a retelling of the deliverance of Israel from captivity. God has been faithful to them and He reminds them here that He is faithful, and that He is who He says He is. How can you hesitate to trust a God like that? So often I am guilty of a Pinterest-like Christianity. I hear something that resonates with me about Who God is or what He asks of me at church or Bible study, and with the best of intentions, I file it away for later. I continue living a walk that does not put that belief into practice. This weekend I have been under intense conviction over doubt, and failing to act when I have clearly been asked to trust and to act in the confidence of my calling. God has called me, so what is there to doubt. Giving in to doubt because God hasn't supplied my need the way I might think He should is not an option. He is faithful, He loves me and He knows how great my needs are. If you are familiar with my story, you will recall that last time I served in Germany, God provided financial support for me in incredible ways, and through some of you! "Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it." Not asking for millions of dollars, a huge home or designer clothes, but simply trusting that God will provide as He has in the past. Because He never changes.

Second, I want to pass along the following statements to you. These have appeared on my Facebook news feed over the last week from well-wishers and prayer warriors at BFA.

"Lauren, I miss you a ton, tell your supporters that we all really want you to come as fast as possible" - Mike*, student

"Praying for God to supply the remainder! Students can't have piano lessons until you come..."           - fellow BFA teacher


"We're eagerly anticipating your arrival! (And Jon* cries in my office every day! so HURRY!)           - fellow BFA teacher     

*names changed 

With cooler temperatures here in NJ, and school in full swing at BFA, my heart is aching to return to these people and this place that I love. I am praying today for 14 people or families who will commit to partner with me for $100 per month. Would you consider being a part of the way that God supplies for me to return to BFA? To partner with me by giving, visit this link: https://give.teachbeyond.org. or email me (see below) for more information. I am so excited to see how God will continue to supply the remainder of my support! Thank you to all who have given and are giving!! I can't wait to be posting here from across the ocean and sharing all that God is doing at BFA. 

If these thoughts have impacted you in any way, please email me here: Lauren's email




Thursday, September 11, 2014

Never Forget

I have been trying all week to write, but the words have not come easily. However as I grieve with my country today, the words are finally flowing. This will not be a support update post. Look for that in a day or two. For now, remember with me.

As I sit at home in New Jersey just hours away from the site of each attack, I am listening to the names of all those who perished on that awful day, September 11, 2001. Individuals who are in some way connected to the fallen are reading the names of their own loved ones and those beloved by so many others. Most heart-rending to me are the ones reading in memory of their parents, siblings and spouses. I know where I was that day, what I thought, and the way it has changed the way that I live. But that is not important in this moment. In the face of very real grief, the qualities of those who have passed are being remembered. I can't help but wonder, if my name was on that list, what would be said of me? What words would immortalize my memory? The sacrifice was inadvertent for many of the victims. Each one started the day just like everyone else on the East Coast, unaware that it would be their last. How am I living now that would be remembered if today were my last? I know how I want to be remembered, but what impression am I leaving? If the lady filling the coffee pots at Wawa were the last person I ever spoke to, would I have left her with a kind word and a smile? If the UPS guy at our door were the last person to interact with me, would I have shown him Christ? And then there are those closest to me, who see me in all of my tattered, human glory. What would live on in their memory after all of the kind words from others had drifted away?
Titus 2:7 says, "Show yourself, in all respects, to be a model of good works and in your teaching show integrity, dignity..." Recently it was pointed out to me that this idea of being a "model of good works" is that of being a form or mold that once it makes an impression on the clay or other molding material, leaves a impression that looks like the mold. This is the kind of impression we are to be leaving on each other. I pray that the way that I live will not shape lives after Lauren, but rather that after knowing me, others will look a little more like Him.

If this is confusing to you in any way, or if you have questions about what it means to follow Christ and to have a relationship with them, please contact me. Click here for Lauren's email



Monday, September 1, 2014

Pondering Partnership

"No, you keep it. So you'll have it when you get back." - Tyler 

These words held confidence that made my heart sing. He was putting music back in my hands that I had held all summer; music for his senior recital. Tyler is cellist, and a senior at Black Forest Academy. By God's grace he believes that I will be back to accompany him.
When I first embarked on this journey into missions, I had a REALLY hard time asking people for money. Why should people give money so I could go to Europe? Through communicating with supporters as well as my organization TeachBeyond, God has changed my perspective. Please hear me when I make the following:

Giving to missions is not a one-way street. Did you get that? If not, read it again. Please.

In certain parts of the United States, we have attendants that pump gas into our cars for us. No matter how you may feel about that, it enables our vehicles to run. He puts the gas into the vehicle, we give him money, and then we drive away. The attendant does (likely) not refine and produce the fuel before it gets delivered to the station. Nor does (likely) get into our vehicle, much less get into my driver's seat. But by putting fuel into the vehicle, he plays an integral role in allowing the vehicle to run. Even though he may not ever see where the vehicle went, he played a vital part in getting it there. In a similar way, you as an individual have the opportunity to enable ministry to happen. When you partner with a missionary by giving them money, you are metaphorically linking arms with them,  helping to "fuel" the vehicle of ministry. You enable them to live in a situation in which the Word of God is taught, people are shown what it looks like to be like Christ, and training for life happens. This kind of ministry cannot happen on its own, just as a car cannot run without fuel. BFA serves many, many families around the world. The students come from many different cultures, family situations, and home environments. Regardless of how you may feel about boarding schools, these are students who God has called us to love.

Partnership is a two-way street.

Just like any other human relationship, giving one way as a ministry partner can be extremely exhausting and unfulfilling. What has been exciting this time around is to pray for support to come in, and then as people give, to continue praying specifically for them. At this point, I want to say a huge thank you to those of you who are already partnering with me. It means the world to me to have you on my team! Please know that I also partner with you in prayer as specifically as I can! *Also as a side note, if there is a way I can pray for you specifically please email me here: Lauren's email. As a missionary, I want to stay in touch with my ministry partners and supporters to the best of my ability, giving as much feedback as possible. I do my best to post pictures here and to Facebook, blog here to keep you in the loop, and communicate prayer requests through family and friends at home. Finally, as you contemplate partnership, with me or any other missionary, please do so prayerfully. For many of us, funds are limited, making giving difficult. I encourage you to lift these needs before God and to ask Him to direct you as to where He would have you give.

So my question is this: will you partner with me, and enable me to fulfill the calling God has placed on my life to love the students at BFA?
School at BFA starts tomorrow. Will you help get me there so I will miss as little of the school year as possible?

If you would like to partner with me, please click here: https://give.teachbeyond.org

I would be honored if you would partner with me. May God bless you as you consider partnership and ministry!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

FAQ's - the August Edition

Over the summer, I have been asked numerous questions that I wanted to take some time to answer. This is in no way a frustrated post, but simply a means to articulately and adequately answer the questions which so many have kindly thought to ask. Thanks for wondering and being interested!

1. When is Carolyn getting married?
Answer: She did yesterday!!! We are SO excited to announce that my dear sister Carolyn has now taken the last name of Dignan! She and Jimmy were married this past weekend, and the wedding was gorgeous! I maybe a wee bit biased, but I've never seen a more beautiful bride or a more smitten groom. Enjoy the photo of them below! (Photo creeds to Robby Berkstresser) More photos will follow when they become available!
The happy couple - Jimmy and Carolyn! 

2. Are you still planning to go back to Germany? When do you leave and what will you be doing until then?
Answers: YES! At this moment, I do not have a departure date and until I reach commitments of 90% (and preferably 100%) of my support, contacting people to partner with me will be a full time job. Once I reach 90%, I can book a ticket to fly to Germany. Currently, I am at 20% of my support, and I am very thankful for all of those who have committed to partner with me. Many people are asking when I leave and are praying for me, so I want to say a huge thank you to you who are doing so!! Prayer is powerful!! Please pray that those who are praying and are capable of giving financially will do so. I have been mulling over some thoughts on partnership and missions and hope to post them here over the next week or so. Stay tuned!
The clincher? School starts at BFA in one week. God is completely capable of bringing in more than 100% of my need before that time, and I am asking him to do so. Will you partner with me in this amazing ministry to the students at Black Forest Academy?
Click here to give: https://give.teachbeyond.org

Also, for more information about the school, click here: http://bfacademy.com

Below is part of my inspiration to return and continue loving on the students at BFA:







3. What did you do with your summer?
Answer: I was the Lead Counselor at the Csehy Summer School of Music. This is an official title for a lot of administrative and logistical work, which I loved! This year, the Lord blessed us with our largest group of students in the history of the organization, and He also gifted us with an extremely capable and joyful group of counselors. I was honored to help lead this group.
Csehy Counselors 2014




Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Summer Happenings

I've been wanting to post for a while, but we are in our fourth and final week at the Csehy Summer School of Music and life has been hectic. Also, if you haven't heard, my sister Carolyn is getting married in a little over three weeks, so our family is abuzz with wedding planning. Needless to say, excitement is everywhere!! Because of the busyness of life, I have not had time to contact and follow up with potential supporters, but I intend to start doing more of that next week. Since time has been an issue, it does not appear that I will meet my goal of returning to Germany by the end of August. I do plan, however, to continue plans to return to Germany, and the Black Forest Academy, as soon as possible. God's timing is perfect, and I trust Him fully to bring my support in. I am praying for monthly supporters who will partner with me for at least $10 per month. I am still currently just above 10%, and in order to return I need to be at 90%. Every partner makes a difference, no matter how large or small the amount. Would you prayerfully consider partnering with me?

A quick Csehy update: I am currently serving in the role of Assistant to the Head Counselor and Director of Staff, which essentially translates to Counselor for the counselors.  I have held this role for the past 5 years, and I love it! This year, I have taken on a bit more of the administration, schedule and travel coordination and general logistics. I am amazed with the way that God uses past experiences to build and prepare us for new ones. This year's team of counselors is phenomenal, and each one has a sincere desire to serve and love. It is my privilege to work with them, pray with them, and assist them in any way possible. I am so grateful to serve with the counselors, faculty and staff here, and to interact with our incredible students!!

To wrap up, I again ask you to consider partnering with me, both prayerfully and financially. You are a vital and enabling part of my ministry, both in the US and at BFA. Please feel free to contact me here if you would like more information. I would love to hear from you if you would like to partner with me in prayer support as well.

Have a blessed week!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

New Development

Just over a year ago, I entered a transition back to life as I remembered it back in the US. I knew it hurt a lot, and that it would continue to hurt. Nothing could have prepared me for all that this year held, or for the joy that has come.

The question of what to do and where to go next school year has been on my heart through the year. I love being part of the team at Pilgrim and the ministry there is deeply valuable and important. Working with the students and faculty has been an honor. Through all of the experiences and lessons brought into my life this year, two things have been clear to me. God has given me a love for third culture kids that goes far beyond simply missing those I have known, and He has also given me a distinct love for Germany and its people. So, after seeking wise, Godly counsel, and continually laying my own heart before the Lord, it gives me great joy to announce that I am planning to return to Germany and Black Forest Academy in the fall. I have been offered a position in the music department, teaching private lessons, accompanying LOTS, teaching music appreciation classes, among other things. I also plan to get involved with leading a Bible study for high school girls, helping out in the dorms, getting involved in the Gerrman community, and otherwise filling the role that God has for me. Some have asked how long I will be there. At this point, I am looking at a 5 year commitment. This is not a matter of like vs. dislike. It is a matter of following the call of God on my life so that He can accomplish His purpose in me, through me, and in the lives of others.

The goal is for me to return to BFA by the end of August, so I am in the midst of raising support that will enable me to go back. The need is urgent, and I am prayerfully seeking those who would partner with me, especially on a monthly basis.  I would love for you to join me! If you feel that this is something God would have you pursue, please either click on the following link, or simply contact me personally via email:  https://give.teachbeyond.org/ or Laurenholland25@yahoo.com. If you would like more information about BFA, you can find more information here: http://bfacademy.com/
More than anything I am in need of your prayer support! I look forward to sharing this journey with you as it unfolds!

Black Forest Academy, Kandern

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Clarity and Lessons Learned

Clarity. We all need it, craving it at times. The question "why?" seems to be continually present in some (all?) seasons of life. This year has been one of those seasons for me. I asked this ever-present question at many bends in the road this year. One thing has been abundantly clear to me, however, and that is the fact that God is in complete control. No matter what expectations others have for me, or that I may have for myself, nothing surprises God. And with those things in mind I have been attempting to sounds the depths of all that I have learned this year. I will attempt to share the beginnings of my findings with you:

1. Let it go - a recent film has elevated this phrase to fame, but seriously, how easy is it? When I am struggling with certain grace-producing factors in my life, how obediently do I really release my sense of pride and submit to the hand of the Master, steadily at work in the depths of my soul? Or what about the sense of defeat when you or I realize that the problem we've been chipping away at is simply much bigger than we are? The abundance of peace that comes from letting go in these, and many other, situations comes not from releasing them into the great unknown and refusing to think about them, but rather from handing them into the all-capable hands of the Master of our lives and times. 

2. Classroom management - This one is a particular favorite, because I look back at my all-wise college-age self and think, so you didn't want to teach??? If I had only known. The opportunity to stand in front of a classroom, maintain attention, interest and discipline, and everything else that goes into running an orderly classroom, has been both daunting and rewarding. It has been humbling simply to know that I am responsible to adequately prepare so that I am ready to present and hopefully enlighten the minds before me. I don't profess to have perfected this area, or even come close, but I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow.

3. Mentor and be mentored - with every passing year I am made more and more aware of my need to be poured into if I am going to pour out into others. If I am going to pass on any semblance of wisdom, I need to be seeking it myself. I am thankful for the chance to rub shoulders with some of the faculty that taught me during my high school years, building on past relationships and forming new ones. Each one has touched my life and enriched me with their wisdom, from discipline, to relating to and loving students and faculty, to growing my own walk with Christ. At one point, one woman I look up to greatly professed her own need to walk more closely with the Holy Spirit and listen to Him more. Wow. If she needs that, then how much more do I? 

4. The importance of family - I have seen more clearly than ever before my need for my family. We have worked through some excruciatingly difficult things this year, but the beauty of a struggle is the resolution that follows and the healing that results. Before this year, I had underestimated the depth of my need to be around my parents, adults who have walked farther and experienced more in life than I have. It was also high time to be around my siblings again. It has been 9 long years since it was physically possible for me to spend this much time around my sister and brothers, let alone share a time zone (most of the time). These five incredible people teach me so much about life, myself, and God. I need them.

5. Involvement with teens - This is not something I envisioned being part of my job description, but it's what I've been up to, or rather continues to be a huge part of what God keeps handing me. And I am amazed at the continual refilling of His love that He supplies.

These are only a few of the lessons that God has been teaching me, among many others. I pray that in some small way they can be a blessing or encouragement to my readers.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Apples of Gold

Before we get to the apples...March has flown by, and it is with a bit of disbelief with a trace of denial that I find myself near the end of it. The beginning weeks were consumed with preparations for our state-wide Fine Arts Festival. The day was extremely successful on many fronts. Our students did exceptionally well, placing high in many different categories that allowed Pilgrim to place first overall. I enjoyed competing in this festival myself during high school, but there is a distinct joy that comes when you see your students excel that far outweighs any of my own personal achievement. I was particularly proud of my own brothers, Peter and Mark as they placed well in many different categories, and also of my dad as he prepared and directed numerous musical groups! See pictures below!

I wanted to briefly share with you a verse and a thought that my freshman Bible class discussed this morning. 

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." Proverbs 25:11 

think it is often hard to recognize that in high school one sets precedents and builds habits that are continued later in life. It is much easier to focus on the here and now, making the grade, winning the game, turning in the project or assignment. All of those things are important. However, it is incredibly important to be able to recognize that the thoughts we think daily have a massive impact on our attitudes, words and actions, and ultimately on those around us. Therefore it is particularly important to realize the import and impact of our words on those around us and to chose our words with care. A negative or harmful word or interaction has the power to distort the color of an entire day. Equally, a word of admonition or encouragement is extremely formative, and stands out when spoken into someone's life. A word well-timed, a kind word, words that build up, and even a word held back, are extremely valuable in their time and way, even more so because they bring glory to God our Creator. They are as distinct as a beautiful piece of guilded art or architecture. May our words be as 'apples of gold in pictures of silver today.'

             Mark and Peter celebrating with TPA's Quality Award and overall 1st Place.

                                         Dad and the TPA Festival Orchestra 
                                       TPA group photo to celebrate the win!

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Thankful Month

Since being back in the US, I have been through a whirlwind of moods and emotions. Transition is not an easy thing. However, lately, when reflecting on where God has placed me right now, I am thankful. He has placed me with my own family, during a time of learning, change and growth. They have graciously adapted to my presence with them, listened, talked, listened some more, prayed, and rebuked. Being present with my younger two brothers as they are learning and making decisions is exciting and encouraging. I have also rediscovered the fact that the Holland siblings laugh a lot when we are together, and for that I am also thankful. I am thankful that God has given me a job in a place that is familiar, with familiar people and those who pour into me and mentor me. I am thankful for my students who trust me and teach me so much about life and grade. Most of all, I am thankful for Gods grace to me. Every day as I stand before my classes, I am reminded of the enormity of what Christ has done for me, and what He is accomplishing in my own life. And every day I am compelled by His love to say yes to Him so that my students will desire to as well. He has drawn me close when closeness has not been my deepest desire, and has shown me His unconditional love in very personal ways. When I have felt least desireable, He has manifested His desire for relationship with me with utmost clarity. He is there, and He is not silent. He is always at work, even when I cannot see. So because of this awareness of all that He has given to and done for me, I have decided to honor that by journaling every day this month something for which I am thankful. Many people do this around thanksgiving, but I'm not generally one to go with the flow, so I am doing it in March :) I hope to be able to share with you some of my reflections. Please feel free to inquire how I'm doing. I could use the accountability! And if you would like to join me in this month of thankfulness, I'd love to hear from you as well. 

Blessings!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Winter Retreat

Normally a winter in NJ brings a dash of snow here and there, but I'm beginning to think I brought back more of Germany than I realized! The past several weeks have been littered with snow days, for which both students and teachers have been grateful! 
Last week I had the privilege of traveling to upstate NY, one of my favorite regions in the US, with our church youth group for their winter retreat. We spent several days in a cabin with no internet or running water, and had a fantastic time! The purpose was to remove distractions for the kids in the youth group, but I needed it just as much as they did. I was so grateful for the chance to get away with our teens and make time with God an even bigger priority. How often do we think about spending time with Him, and tell ourselves 'I'll do it later'? We make time for that which is truly important to us. Our actions and words stem from our hearts, therefore putting Christ first in our lives starts in our hearts and minds as well. This happens when we acknowledge Him in all our ways (Proverbs 3:5-6), are still before Him (Psalm 46:10), and seek Him first (Matthew 6:33). His Word is a lamp to our feet, a light to our path; in His presence is fulnes of joy. There is nothing more important in life than Christ and our relationship with Him, and the way that we live should exude that. 
We are also told to take the good news of the Gospel to others, and with that in mind I would ask for prayer. I am prayerfully considering where God would have me go in the coming years, and doors are opening. Please pray for wisdom and discernment, and that I wouldn't second guess His leading. His way is perfect, and I trust Him to continue guide as He has been so faithful to do before. 
Also, it may seem a bit early, but I am also preparing for another summer with the Csehy Summer School of Music, another ministry to which God has called me to dedicate my summers. Each year I am amazed at the group of people God brings together, so please pray even now that God will direct exactly the faculty, counselors, staff, and students that He desires to be there, and that He will begin to open hearts to be changed and molded into His likenes.

God is truly good, all the time.
Have a blessed week!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New Semester

Today is definitely not Saturday, which means that I'm late in posting, but I want to put out a short, sweet request this week. Due to a holiday and two snow days (which has to be some kind of record??)  tomorrow marks the delayed start of second semester. I love the fresh newness of beginnings of things. Middle times can be difficult. Endings bittersweet. With especially these last two in mind, I would ask you to pray with me for the students and staff as they begin tomorrow. That they would come with a mind set to please Christ most of all. That they would really truly love Him. That we would all run our race with patience. That nothing would rob us of our joy. And that we "may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." Philippians 1:10

I can honestly say that I am looking forward to what this new semester will bring. Thank you for your prayers! I look forward to sharing with you again soon!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Resolutions (sort of) and a wedding!


I'm not normally one for making New Year's resolutions, primarily because I'm not very good at following through with them. However, a little over one week ago, I decided to blog once a week, and here I am following through :)
School has started up again, and with it, all the joy and drama that Academia brings. During Christmas break I attended the wedding of some family-friends and while the I was challenged, rather indirectly, to live each day with joy. I realized at that time that joy was something that I had not been seeking, at least on a regular basis. How convicting! It was rather startling to come face to face with the fact that I was attempting to live without one of the essential elements of the Christian life. Of course I had been asking God for courage and strength, because those seemed to be the obvious things one would need when doing something difficult. But joy. So this week I've been asking for joy. And with it has come a lifting, both of my spirits, but more than that, of the eyes of my heart beyond myself to the needs those around me. I am not able to meet needs or fix hearts, but that's not what God is asking. His grace is sufficient. He's asking me to be available so He can work through me. This week was good, but I have a feeling this is the beginning of a much longer journey steadily upwards, and I cannot wait to see what He will do.
So that wedding I went to? Well, some dear friends, Timmy and Kristi Gaster (Hooray! I can finally write that!) got hitched in Seattle a few days after Christmas. What an incredible, joyful, emotion-filled time of celebration we had. Guests came literally from around the worlld, which was in itself amazing. But in the faces of those present, one could see the luster that only comes from having been changed  by God through another human being, and in the case, because of the willingness of Timmy and Kristi.  Many words were spoken, memories shared, stories told, and encouragement given. But beyond that, there was hope expressed, for the future these two will share, and what God will continue to do through them. It was so sweet to see BFA friends and former staff and students and reminisce and share about how each of us is handling our transitions. What amazes me is how God has a distinct path for each of us, and how He has been guiding us all individually. So although I was sad to say good bye yet again, I look forward to the next meeting, and to all that will happen in the meantime. So to my BFA family: May God make His face shine upon you until we meet again! Love to you all. 

Here's a pic from the wedding:

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year 2014

So it's been a while since I posted last, and there are lots of excuses, and maybe some valid reasons. But so much has happened in the 6 months since my last post. I made a heart-wrenching move back to the US, worked another summer of Csehy, got a new job at my old school, started transitioning back to life with my family, had German 'Danke's' caught in my throat every time I was at a cash register, got grafted back into the loving community of my church, and tried to maintain some degree of 'normal' without really knowing what that meant. All the while, I was dearly missing the people, places, smells, sounds, and emotions that composed BFA in Germany. Tears and waves of emotion stronger than I'd experienced in my short life were my constant companions. And still are sometimes. The reason is simple: I have loved hard, long, and at great cost. This left me feeling much like a worn out piece of elastic, with about as much energy. But I wouldn't have it any other way. Because when God calls us to love others, He doesn't only ask for half of our hearts. It's His greatest commandment. 
This year God has allowed me to keep on loving in an opportunity I didn't expect (more on that later), but the call is the same. There was need, there was me; God said go and I went. Every day I ask God for strength to serve, and every day He is faithful. 
As the new year begins, and the smell of snow is in the air, I have hope. 
And this is why: "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6), "The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever." (Psalm 138:8) 
"But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him." (Lamentations 3:21-24)