Thursday, December 31, 2015

He Directs My Path

It's 12:29am, January 1, 2016, and Kandern is a bit of a war zone - before you panic, let me share that it's New Year's Day now, and at midnight, people you didn't even know lived here take to the streets to set off every form of firecracker, firework,  and sparkler imaginable, in the streets, backyards, and hills. So it's to that soundtrack that I write. I didn't want to miss the opportunity to reflect and thank God for the year this has been. There are the usual things that feel as though they were left incomplete, or the desires that feel unmet (the seemingly endless wait is so hard). I'd love to have logged more practice hours and written better lesson plans, or gotten in better shape.  But as the clock struck 12, and the church bells around town began to peal madly there was an undeniable sense of hope, and even more than that, trust. So this isn't a post listing resolutions for the new year...I'm still deciding on those. It's an affirmation that no matter what in the world (quite literally) is going on, God is good all the time; it is an affirmation that I will follow hard after Him this year because He directs my path. It's an expression of hope that by His grace and enabling, I will aim higher, think bigger, dig deeper, and love more richly than before. It's a determination to lay aside things that have held me back from serving completely.

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14

Thanks be to God

It's 12:51am, and it's past my bedtime...after all this year holds a rather...ahem...significant birthday for me. :) My heart is full. Frohes neues Jahr, Happy New Year, and may you walk into it confidently leaning on the One Who never changes.

Monday, December 7, 2015

December 7 - Reflections

I can hardly believe we're one week into December!! The last month has flown by, and I apologize for  taking so long to update you on life in Germany - although I would venture to guess that many of you are busy too!
During the last full week of November, my roommates and I had the pleasure of hosting 13 people at our house for Thanksgiving dinner. Since Thanksgiving is an American holiday, we don't get the day off, so we get creative and celebrate at different times and with different groups. During our meal, we went around the (very large) table and took turns sharing things we're thankful for, and things that God is teaching us. It was encouraging and humbling to hear how God is moving in the hearts of those around me. We have been blessed with some amazing people, and we serve an incredible God Who knows the burdens that we can't find the words to express.
Saturday held the annual school Christmas Banquet. It was a fun night that brought back lots of memories of the years I spent as an RA. I spent the afternoon before the event with a number of home student girls, doing hair and getting ready. I love getting to do life with these students - it's amazing how well you can get to know people while you have a curling iron in your hand! I'm thankful for the relationships forming in this new season at BFA.

With just over one week until Christmas break, my piano class is persevering through to their Showcase performance tomorrow after school. If you see this before then, pray for them! They are nervous! The have worked very hard, and are presenting two different songs for four pianos. Their technical skills and ability to play as a group has grown by leaps and bounds.

This year, the season of Advent has been particularly meaningful and reflective for me. It is a season of waiting, anticipating the coming of Christ, reflecting in wonder on His birth, and eagerly looking for His second coming. In spite of the many events swirling through the calendar, His love for me and those around me has become increasingly apparent. That God became man, giving Himself for mankind as the perfect sacrifice is overwhelming and humbling. He died, so we could live. He loves with an everlasting love. Have you accepted that love in your heart? Christ humbled himself to the point of death on a cross so that we could live forever with Him. What Love! Have you accepted Him? I pray that His love will overwhelm your heart like a flood. If we come to Him, acknowledging our sin, He does not withhold forgiveness. Do you know Him? I pray that you will. I pray that He would increase and I would decrease; that no matter how tired I get, I would more fully realize and embrace His sufficiency.

I would also like to say a HUGE thank you once again, to those who are prayerfully and financially supporting me. I am so grateful for your generosity, and I thank God for you every day. By your prayers and giving, God is enabling work in the lives of many students and friends.

To those of you who may be curious, I am going to be staying in Europe for Christmas, in an effort to save money for a ticket home this summer. I will miss spending time with family and my supporting churches, but I am looking forward to times of rest and quiet on this side of the ocean.

Please pray with me:
1. For the next week of school - for strength and perseverance for my students. They have been working very hard and are very worn down.
2. For health at the school - we have had a number of illnesses circulating among our students and staff.
3. For a restful Christmas break.

Praise God with me:
1. For great times with my small group girls! They are a joyful bunch and have become close.
2. For wonderful roommates. Sarah, Kristi and Jamie are a joy to do life with!
3. For a semester full of learning and growth! I look forward to more of it!


*If you would like to know more about how to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, I would love to share more personally. Please email me: Laurenholland25@yahoo.com

Monday, November 16, 2015

Urgent Prayer Update

Dear Praying Family and friends,

As you went to bed on Friday or woke on Saturday morning, you may have heard news of the 
terrible attacks that have happened in Paris on Friday night. There were numerous shootings
 and explosions in very public places around the city. So I wanted to inform you that our BFA 
community is safe, that friends I have who are in the city are safe, and that it seems that the 
situation is under control. The French borders have been closed, which raises concerns for 
BFA students who live in France and commute daily. (The nearest border is about 20 minutes 
away). Now more than ever the city, and the continent need your prayers. The hashtag 
#prayforparis is ubiquitous today on social media, so when you see it, please do pray. But
 when you do, pray not only that the violence will end for now, but pray for hearts to turn to 
Christ. Pray that Christians in the city and all over Europe will act, reaching out in compassion 
with the good news of the Gospel. May our hearts, like Jesus, be 'moved with compassion'. 
The need of the human heart is always great, but situations such as these make us even more
 aware. So pray, friends, pray. For Paris, for France, for Germany, and for all whose hearts do 
not know the presence of the Prince of Peace. Those who were behind these attacks may be
 powerful, but we serve the living, true God, Whose power is beyond our comprehension, and 
He is coming. 

Such an event happening so close by is unsettling, but my heart is gripped when I think of 
those for whom these acts of violence are an everyday reality. News from the refugee crisis in 
Syria and other countries is constantly in the news internationally. Many European countries 
are offering them asylum, and Germany is at the fore. At least 800,000 refugees will be 
welcomed into the country over the next months, and that number will likely increase. This 
raises safety concerns, but also excitement - the mission field is literally coming to us. Pray 
that we will take advantage of every opportunity to help and be Christ's hands and feet to
those who have been displaced.

School is going well, and I will post an update regarding other aspects of life soon, but I 
wanted to invite you to pray with me specifically about these two areas.  

Even so, Jesus come quickly.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Monuments, Memorials, and Memories

If you were to come to visit me in Kandern, an easily visible landmark on a hill above town is what we call "the monument". It is a memorial to those who served and died in WWI and WWII. Back in September, I had the opportunity to work with a group of students to clean up the monument and the surrounding area. As we worked, I wondered about the various individuals who were memorialized, who they were, and what their lives may have been like. Memorials and monuments seem to be a recurring theme this semester. As a Junior class sponsor, I was privileged to spend a weekend in Normandy, France with the class. We left Germany on Thursday night, and arrived at Canadian cemetery near Juno Beach on the northern coast of France first thing in the morning. Each headstone is etched with the name of an individual and some information about them, as well as their age and a brief epitaph describing them as a person. "He Gave All", was inscribed on the headstone of a 32 year old man who died in the invasion. As we moved from museum, to monument, to historic site, the words continued to play through my mind. Each site we visited was in its way a memorial to incredible sacrifice, both by those who died and by those left behind. We visited the Canadian, German, and American cemeteries, and various museums that brought to life the events of June 1944. Students and sponsors all came away with a lot to think about, and I had many meaningful conversations with students about what they had seen. Many were moved to tears. What would it mean for me to give all today? If I died today, for what would I be remembered?

After a busy weekend, we drove back to Kandern, with a stop in Paris on Sunday afternoon. Monday morning we rolled into Kandern and dragged ourselves home to try and recover from the weekend. In the days since we returned, I've gotten to reflect with a number of students on the things we saw. They loved Paris - who wouldn't? The view from the Eiffel Tower is always thrilling. However, memories of the cemeteries and other sobering memories have also come to mind. When one comes face to face with so great a magnitude of sacrifice, it is difficult to turn away unchanged.

The rest of the week after we returned from Normandy was a whirlwind of preparation for the next event - the Junior class hosted a bake sale fundraiser on Saturday during home athletic events. The students came together and did a fantastic job!

One last monument for the week was an anniversary - 5 years ago this week, I arrived at BFA. I've enjoyed taking time to reflect on all that has happened since then. I'm missing all of my dorm brothers and family immensely just now, but God has used this place immeasurably to change me and the way I look at ministry. I look forward to what He has in the future. He is always has been, and always will be faithful.

Praise the Lord with me:
1. For safe travels to Normandy and back.
2. That my small group of Junior girls is bonding and growing.
3. For continuing to supply my needs, and the needs of my colleagues.

Pray with me:
1. That I will be faithful to speak into students' lives as opportunities arise, and that I will not let fatigue get in the way.
2. For close fellowship with Jesus, for me and those I work with.
3. For testimony and outreach in the German community - and also that my language skills will continue to improve.



Pointe du Hoc - soldiers landed on these beaches and scaled the cliffs during the invasion

"He Gave All"

Memorial at the American Cemetery, Omaha Beach 


Sonne seniors year 1 - JSB

Sonne year 3 - JSB
Sonne year 2 - Christmas Banquet







Tuesday, September 22, 2015

You're invited to Thursday

Dear Reader,

It's easy for me to take my routine here for granted. From time to time I'll try to give you a glimpse into what daily life is like in this community. No two days are exactly alike, but I'll invite you to walk with me through last Thursday here at BFA. 

Pre-8:50am: My alarm goes off around 6:30 and I go through the necessary preparations to presentably make it through a day. I have been making a conscious effort to spend quiet time with God at the beginning of the day, and I am so thankful for the perspective that this brings. Recently I've been studying in Galatians, and have been encouraged by the reminder that "not I, but Christ lives in me." On Thursday this week, I left my house at 8am, which was much earlier than normal. The internet at our house has been down, which meant I had to get to school early to finish up some things before the start of the day. Once I get to school, my first order of business is to brew some coffee. It's kind of an essential element in my life.

8:50 am:  Normally at this time, students report to class, and we have a brief time of devotions and announcements before starting on course material. However, this past week we had a visiting group from a church in North Carolina to lead us in a time of worship before the start of the school day. The impact they had was incredible, and the students have really enjoyed starting the day this way. I'd ask you to pray that they would continue to be sensitive to what God is doing in their lives as we get back to our regular school schedule.

10:05am: My first hour Piano 2 class arrives; the day is overcast and they're sleepy! They were thankful to be indoors today though; yesterday was school Impact Day, during which the entire school helped with service projects in Kandern and in surrounding towns. It rained most of the day.
We talked briefly about their experiences, and I reminded them that their practice charts are due tomorrow. They're required to practice for 80 minutes per week. After that, we delve into scales and also a discussion about the Baroque period. I've been wanting to help my students grow in their abilities to improvise because of the musical freedom this can give. We delve into some group improv, with me playing broken chords in the lower range of the piano, and the students improvising a melody or melodic pattern in the upper range. The bell rings, and we grudgingly end our time of creativity.

10:45 am: Time to switch gears! This is my prep time, and I review the slides I've prepped for my 3rd period Music Appreciation students. My desk and workspace are in the same classroom where I teach, so I have a seat and get to work.

11:30 am: Shortly after the bell sounds, the seven bright minds who are part of my Music Appreciation class file in. They also look a little sleepy, but their efforts to stay alert are valiant! They have a project, analyzing a favorite song, which they will be presenting to the class tomorrow. We take some time for questions, and then delve into a discussion about Hildegard von Bingen, a female composer from the Middle Ages who lived only a few hours drive away from Kandern.

12:15pm: Lunchtime! I enjoy this short interlude between classes, because it's my chance to engage with teachers outside my subject area, or students who may not be in my classes. I try to alternate eating in the kitchen on the third floor of my building and the staff room down the hall from my 2nd floor classroom.

12:50pm: Time flies! Another prep period, and it's time to focus on lesson planning for tomorrow and the following week. Back to my desk...

1:35pm: We are blessed to have lots of pianos on our campus. The nicest one of these is found in the Auditorium, which also happens to be one of the rooms with the highest use on campus. I'm thankful to have two hours a week reserved in this room on that instrument. This may not seem like a big deal to some, so think of it as having two hours a week driving a Ferrari all to yourself when your everyday car is a Chevy.  I have no problem with a Chevy, but the time with the Ferrari is incredible!

2:05pm: In addition to the classes I teach, I also have some private piano students. *Laura comes this hour for her lesson. She is quiet and perceptive, and will try anything musical I show her how to do. I'm really excited to see how she will progress this year!

2:55pm: Switching gears yet again, it's time for the Performing Arts Department meeting. Today I'm sharing some of the student listening forms I use with the group. We always have a lot on our agenda, but I really enjoy the way that our department interacts! Everyone is gracious, good at listening, and conversing about their opinions. We also laugh quite a bit as well. I'm so thankful for each of the people in our department!

4:00pm: The school day is over, and I head home to work on dinner. I'm grateful to have a crockpot I can set up and let cook through the day. One of two grocery stores in Kandern in situated between school and my house, so I stop in quickly to buy some zucchini to sauté for the evening meal. My roommates and I will eat together tonight. I always look forward to these times, because all four of us have extremely busy schedules. Again, there's no shortage of laughter in this group.

Earlier in the week, I have various activities in the evening that include helping out at one of the dorms, and leading a small group of Junior girls. Thursday evening tends to be full of prep for Friday, sometimes some exercise, and an attempt to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Friday morning comes early.

Thanks for taking a stroll through my day with me! I hope that you've had a great day as well, and that God is teaching you much about Himself. I'm thankful that no matter what I do and where I go during the day, He is always with me.








Sunday, September 13, 2015

First Week of Classes

The first week of classes can be hectic, exciting time, and this past week did not disappoint! While schedules are still being solidified, I feel as though I have a good handle on what the semester could look like. My Piano 2 students have a wide range of musical experience, and are already catching on quickly to the material I present. We have even enjoyed a bit of group improvisation already! On Friday, they were assigned to play a piece for the class that represented what they enjoy about playing the piano. Their pieces reflected a variety of things, from pieces they learned in Piano 1, to songs that evoke a reflective mood. This assignment gives me a brief glimpse into how they think and what they value, and also helps as I assign pieces for them to learn in the future.

Music Appreciation is also going well. I have several students who simply need the class for credit and have marginal interest in music, a few who enjoy making music as a hobby, and two who are considering it as a career choice. Their common ground is that they enjoy thinking and making insightful observations. I've been pleasantly surprised by the quality of their work already. The challenge I face is putting words to something I feel so deeply about, and communicating effectively to my students. This week we'll be doing more in-depth discussion about early music as well as ways to discuss music more effectively, including terms to use to describe it, etc.  The discussion is bound to be interesting, and I look forward to keeping you updated!

This coming week is Spiritual Emphasis Week, and every day will start with a chapel service. Please pray for open hearts for both students and staff, and that we will have ears to hear and tender hearts to receive what God has for us. This Tuesday night I'll also be meeting with my small group for the first time. I have a group of junior girls this year which I'll be co-leading with a dear friend. I'm really excited to start to spend time with them!

There is a lot going on, but through the busyness of the season, my heart is encouraged because of our God Who never changes, and is always faithful.

Praise God with me:
1. For the safe arrival and provision of support for our new housemate, Sarah Mol!! We are so excited to have her in our home!
2. For God's continued provision of my own support, and for YOU my supporters!!
3. For God Who never changes.
4. For a great first week of classes and for the opportunity to grow in my teaching ability.

Please pray with me:
1. For Spiritual Emphasis Week - for those leading, and those attending
2. For Impact Day on Wednesday, when the entire high school will be involved with service projects in the Kandern area.
3. For wisdom and insight for my first meeting with my small group.
4. That my personal time with God will be deep and sweet.



Sunday, August 30, 2015

Preparations and Friendships

Over the last week, there has been an air of excitement around the school. Starting last Thursday, everyone who works at BFA gathered at the school for All-staff In-service type meetings. In our morning sessions, we have had a number of guest speakers who have encouraged and inspired us as we begin the year. One of the biggest things I've been impressed with is the fact that as a part of BFA and international Christian education, I am part of something much bigger than myself, and I have a role to play. In the afternoons, we have had time to work on preparations for the coming year in our own classrooms and offices. This year I've moved offices, and am sharing a space with one of my illustrious musical colleagues. My desk is now located in the classroom where I will be teaching Music Appreciation as well as Piano 2. We've acquired a new keyboard this year, so we have more space than ever in which students can learn! I'm quickly getting used to the new space and look forward to all the possibilities it has to offer. I'll make sure to post some pictures soon!

In addition to teaching responsibilities, I will also be a junior class sponsor. This will involve planning fundraisers around the school, helping with a class trip, and likely a lot of other things I have yet to discover. I'm really looking forward to getting to know the students in the junior class, and working with the other sponsors!

Also, in preparation for the new school year, we spent a day cleaning around campus. While cleaning might not be everyone's favorite activity, I really enjoy the opportunity to working alongside other staff whom I might not see much over the course of the semester. Cleaning stairwells is fun when you have great people to work with! I've also been enjoying the chance to spend more time with people in the community here. These friendships and others have played a big part in helping point me to Christ and accountable during my time here. I'm continually reminded that God has placed some wonderful people in my life, from roommates, to officemates and department colleagues, to friends who live down the street. These relationships are truly iron-sharpening-iron and I am thankful for them.

In closing, I just want to say thank you to my financial and prayer supporters!! I thank God for you every time I think of you.

Praise the Lord with me:

1. That I'm able to be back at BFA on time this year!!
2. For you, my financial and prayer supporters!
3. For excellent, thought-provoking sessions during the All-Staff meetings.

Please pray with me:

1. For our students as they travel to Kandern over the next few days.
2. For last-minute preparations as we approach the first day of classes.
3. That I will begin the school year strong, and be open to what my role will look like this year.




Sunday, August 16, 2015

God is Good All the Time, All the Time, God is Good

This post is a bit different from others - on Saturday I learned that Dan Pinkham, a dear friend and mentor of mine, had entered Heaven the night before. God used Dan and his wife Sharon to initially begin my journey to Black Forest Academy. I want to share some thoughts and memories here.

If you are friends or acquaintances of Dan and Sharon Pinkham, you were continually reminded of the words in the title of this post over the last year and a half. It's easy to remind others of this truth when others are struggling; however, it's another thing altogether to speak them from a place of personal hardship. Dan and his family faced a long, uphill battle with an ugly opponent, and one that ultimately took his life. However, I don't want to focus on the last 18 months or so; I want to simply share what this amazing family has meant to me.

I first became acquainted with the Pinkhams through stories of the old days at Csehy Summer School of Music that I heard from my parents. Dan was a camper when my mother was a counselor. Always enjoying a good practical joke, he took great delight in scaring the wits out of my mom when she thought she was practicing her flute in solitude. My mom got over it, though, and the Pinkham's prayer card was frequently brought out in our home through the years, as they embarked on years of missions and service both in the US and abroad. As I became more involved with Csehy, my path became closely involved with Dan and Sharon; He was a member of the board and chapel speaker for many years, and she was his helper-completer. God gifted both Dan and Sharon with wisdom, but their gifts are special because they seemed to bless people equally, whether they were having a one-on-one conversation, or counseling as a couple. I have many memories of long conversations with both of them together during the summers we served together. They exemplified Romans 12:10 - "Outdo one another in showing honor," deferring to each other; it was never a one-up contest. Together they spoke wisdom into my life, and into the lives of so many others. By loving others together, Christ was seen more clearly through them. I can only hope and pray the same for my own life. It's impossible to talk about Dan without talking about Sharon; they were a team, and madly in love. One only had to spend a few moments around them before it was apparent how much he loved her, and vice versa. Perfect? no, but they were the first to admit it, and I pray that I would be so humble.

Another thing that comes to mind when I think of Dan is his infectious laughter. His life was not an easy one; his job didn't put him in the public spotlight or win him fame. But His walk with His Savior became closer with every passing year, and his joy was evident. Dan's laugh was infectious, and was an intrinsic part of any counselor meetings he and Sharon joined. Having to regroup after a joke was a key feature of those times we shared, and I'll miss them dearly!! As I scrolled through old pictures last night, I realized that in most of them, it looks like he's laughing - and it's probably because he was. The beautiful thing, though, is that in making others laugh, Dan was loving on people in his own way, making you feel valued and appreciated. One summer Dan challenged the counselors to introduce themselves with a song, and another year he gave us all pith helmets. Another year we had to make up a poem! Much laughter ensued. Psalm 16:11 says "You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fulness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures forever more." I truly believe Dan's life was a clear picture of this verse.

There is so much more I could say, and no doubt more be said by others. Dan's counsel and advice meant the world to me, but I know that I am one among many. To anyone who may read this who knew Dan: You know the way that God impacted your life through this servant of Christ; how are you and I impacting others today? Is Christ more visible that you and I are? These have been my reflections since I heard of Dan's passing, and I pray that with every passing day, He would increase, and I would decrease.

Saying goodbye is never easy. But I am so thankful for the chance to have known Dan and been changed by his life.

So, see you later Dan, and hopefully see you sooner than later. I'm a little bit jealous that you're now in the presence of Jesus, and I can't wait to worship Him together there!

Counselor meetings with Dan were never dull! I can still hear the laughter.

Shawn Doremus and Dan

Sharon and Dan - love those smiles!

How he loved those handbells!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How Many Days Until Christmas? or Csehy?

As a child, I used to look forward to holidays and birthdays, often counting down the days. Christmas was my favorite! When those special days came they would fly by, leaving me eagerly awaiting the next one. Being involved with Csehy Summer School of Music is my summer equivalent. We plan for it and talk about it through the year, and then in a few short weeks, it’s over, and we’re back to looking through pictures and talking about how much we can’t wait for the next one. I am so incredibly thankful to spend my summers as a part of this organization that has an equal focus on both music and Christ. My responsibilities this summer as Lead Counselor involved mentoring the counselors, interacting with students, organizing schedules, travel arrangements, and 100 other things that might bore you if I listed them here but are all a part of helping Csehy move forward. Having family around for the majority of the time was a huge bonus! This summer was a busy one, but God was busier. It’s truly a privilege to see the way that He works in the hearts of the students at Csehy. Please pray with me that the seeds planted will grow in His time!

I am so thankful to serve with Black Forest Academy during the school year, and Csehy Summer School of Music in the summer. I am continually reminded of how similar these organizations are. Both have Christ and His love for others, especially students, at the heart of their mission. This particular summer was my 17th one affiliated with Csehy; this coming school year is my fifth involved at BFA, and I pray that that relationship is a long-term one as well. Both are tightly connected communities that are continually welcoming people in; the kind that takes root deep inside your heart and leaves you dreaming about what Heaven will be like. 

This weekend will find me wandering the streets of Kandern, Germany once again, and I couldn’t be more excited about the coming school year. This semester my responsibilities will include teaching group piano class, Music Appreciation, and private piano lessons, as well as doing a large amount of accompanying and collaboration. I’m excited to be taking on a few other projects as well, which I will share more about in the future as they unfold, so stay tuned! I’m also praying about the possibility of being a small group leader again and taking on the role of a class sponsor. As a class sponsor I would be involved in organizing events for a specific class and getting to know the students in it. This is an exciting opportunity to be able to mentor and disciple, and one I’m very excited about! There is much to look forward to in this new semester and school year, and I am continually grateful for you, my supporters, who enable me to be a part of what God is doing at BFA. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. 

Praise God with me:
  1. For a wonderful summer at Csehy and beautiful times with family and friends.
  2. For God’s unchanging faithfulness
  3. For the ability to return ON TIME to Germany for the start of a new school year!!!!
  4. For faithful supporters who give so selflessly to the Lord.

Pray with me:

  1. For wisdom in balancing my time in the coming school year. 
  2. For many precious hearts to be touched for Christ this year.
  3. For me to be the best I can be in the roles which God has called me to: teacher, friend, roommate, etc. 
  4. That I will fiercely guard my personal time with God.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

June Update

This update is very similar to an update which I recently sent out to my supporters. I apologize for the redundancy, but want to make sure my thanks are known! 

Summer is upon us, and I feel as though I stepped off a roller coaster - a very exciting, amazing ride, but also one that leaves me a bit dizzy! As most of you know, I flew to the Black Forest Academy in November, and began teaching in January. What an adventure this year has been! This semester was my very first teaching group piano, and I loved it! I was blessed to have two classes of eager learners, who asked great questions and were amazing people. Several of them told me that piano class was their favorite part of the day. Praise the Lord, because this was new territory for me! I also taught Music Appreciation, which was an interesting story. Being a new teacher to BFA, and not known to many students, only one student signed up for the class. She really wanted to take it, so we did an independent study tutorial course. We met regularly and had amazing discussions about music and life! This was not the way I had envisioned teaching this course, but it was fun. I look forward to teaching a larger class next school year! In addition to teaching, I also did a lot of accompanying. We have a very large private music lesson program, and I was privileged to play a lot for many students, as well as for other members of our music faculty. 

This semester was full of new beginnings, meeting new students, settling into a new home with new roommates, and getting used to life as a teacher. I’m always amazed to see the way that God leads us into various relationships, and the way he uses us like ‘iron sharpening iron.’ I am humbly grateful for the lives that God allowed me to touch this year. Please pray that with every day I will be a more humble tool in His hands. 

This summer I will be serving once again at the Csehy Summer School of Music in NY. I am excited to once again be part of this ministry! 

Before I close, I want to apologize to you, my supporters. This year has held so much change, I have been slow in my communication with you. What I do at BFA would be impossible without you, so accept my humble apology for my lack of communication. With God’s help, I look forward to improving. My blog is updated on a regular basis, and I hope that it will help keep you updated on what God is doing at BFA: http://laurenmholland.blogspot.de. Finally, I want to thank you for your faithful, generous giving. I am honored by your partnership, and thank God for you daily. May God bless you!

My very-relieved Group Piano class after finishing their Final Performance

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mid-May Thoughts

Busy as this time of year may be, one of the features that I love about this place is that there is always something going on. This evening I was privileged to attend an art exhibit by some BFA students, and I was touched by the level of their talent and excellence. Visual art intrigues me because it seems to me to be the visual equivalent of the textures created by dynamics,  articulation and expression in music (Artist friends, feel free to disagree…this is merely my perspective) Add individual personality and you have something truly unique. 

This last week also held home soccer games, which I always enjoy. Many of my students and small group girls are on the soccer teams, and it is so much fun to watch them passionately contributing to their teams. 

Staff Recital was also held on Wednesday evening. I was thrilled to take part for the first time as a teacher. As scary as the moments are before I start to play, there is nothing so satisfying as losing yourself in the music. My playing wasn’t perfect, but I hope that my students were able to see that it’s possible to finish in spite of memory difficulty. 

As wonderful as these events may be, and we have many more to go before the year is over, I feel most myself, who I’m supposed to be, in the moments between. During the conversations with students that happen in quiet moments, while spending time with a colleague, and especially in quiet moments of reflection and talking to God. I am so thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to reconnect with some of the guys that I worked with in the dorm. They have played a big part in making me feel welcome here again, and I’m thankful that I’m still able to be a part of their lives. I’m also really enjoying getting to know students who are new to me, and I’m almost…almost used to being called “Miss Holland”. I am so thankful to serve in a way that allows me to both pour out and be poured into, musically and spiritually.

Praise God with me:
  1. That many of the seniors have made decisions for next year. 
  2. For you!! My supporters who enable me to be here.
  3. For growing relationships with students.
  4. For great friends and roommates here.

Please pray with me:

  1. For my small group girls as they finish this year; that they will finish the year well, and say needed good-byes.
  2. For health in the school as a whole; we have had a LOT of sickness this year.
  3. For me to walk closer with God and that my relationship with Him would grow daily.
  4. That I would be sensitive to God’s leading in daily interactions with those around me.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

April Update: It's the little things

Do you ever get to the end of a week and wonder where the time went? After a restful and adventurous spring break, we are flying towards the end of the year. This past weekend held a number of school events, all of which were extremely enjoyable. This coming week is a 4-day week because of a national holiday on Friday, and Monday-Thursday we will be holding our annual Music Festival. Next week is Junior senior banquet, and staff recital is the following week. Somewhere in the midst of all of it, my mom has a birthday, my brother Tim graduates from Cairn University (woot!!), and I'm training for my first half-marathon (yikes!). It's easy to wish away one event after another, and dream of a time less busy. Instead, I've been asking God to make me aware of the smaller moments which are significant, but might be harder to spot because of life whizzing around us; to cause me to be still and know, and rest. For example, on Monday evening my small group met at my house. These incredible high school seniors girls sat, ate, talked, and laughed infectiously. I'm surprised you couldn't hear us in the US, we were that loud. But in spite of the noise, there was peace. Each of these young women has walked through her own deep waters, and some are still in the midst of them. And in coming together, we encourage each other, we have community. Every time we talk, I'm blown away by the way they think. If a question is asked, thoughtful answers are given and received. Seemingly small moments, but deeply significant. Also, there are my piano classes. This last week was not my best teaching week. I'm still learning and growing, and I have a hunch that this will be a life-long process. So this week I learned a lot about what I don't want to keep doing. But I learned. And I thank God for those moments as well. I'm thankful for a God who loves me enough to correct me, and continuously shape me. There are also conversations. Psalm 23 speaks of the Shepherd restoring my soul. Did you ever wonder just how He goes about this? His methods are numerous, but recently for me, it has been through His Word and through truth being spoken to me by others. I'm continually blown away by the way the smallest word of His truth can penetrate deep into my heart, chastening and restoring. Walking away from a conversation, I wonder how the person with whom I was speaking knew just what to say, and then I realize, "Father, that was You." There may be a lot on the calendar, but God is hard at work here as well.


Praise God with me:
1. That He is meeting financial needs for our seniors
2. For the spiritual growth seen in students
3. For you, my prayer and financial supporters!!! I thank God for you continually!
4. For His mercies that are new every morning, and His immense faithfulness

Pray with me:
1. That financial needs will continue to be met for the seniors who need it
2. That our school will be 100% healthy!! We've had a sudden outbreak of sickness this weekend. Pray that it will NOT spread.
3. That I will be quick to hear and slow to speak
4. That Music Festival will be a great time of growth and learning for both teachers and students, and for me as I accompany.



Now to Him Who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.    Ephesians 3:20-21

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sight-reading Sympathy

With only one week to go until spring break, the days are full and exciting! Last weekend BFA hosted a festival for which students from many different schools and countries traveled to our campus. They participated in honors band, orchestra, and choir, practicing hard for several days and performing two concerts. I was originally tasked with helping to organize meals, doing airport pickups, and other logistical tasks. The weekend before the festival, I received a heads-up that the choir accompanist who was originally scheduled to come might not be able to make it. Monday morning, I was handed music and Thursday morning I found myself playing for the rehearsal. For any of you who felt compelled to pray for me last weekend, this is probably why. :) I definitely felt a lot of sympathy for my group piano students, to whom I give sight-reading assignments on a regular basis. The challenge of working with a conductor, music and students who were new to me was exciting, and the joy felt in the room was infectious. So instead of being nervous, I was caught up in the fun that the students were having, learning to sing well and make music together. I was also again reminded of the impact that God has allowed music to make in my heart and life. When a writer communicates in their own words the ways in which God has spoken to them through the truth of His Word, I catch myself longing for that depth of relationship too. Then, tracing my steps back over the last ten or twenty-ish years, and looking more closely at events that seemed arbitrary, I see His fingerprints all over them. He is faithful. As I sat on my bench at the instrument I love, and surveyed the faces of the young people in the choir, I was overcome with the calm affirmation that He Who has been faithful in my life, is equally faithful in theirs. I think that's what gives me hope as I teach and practice, and do life here, because if we're honest, in ministry there are moments in which we are desperate for a glimmer of it.
The coming days hold one final week of classes, submitting of grades, and then the students will scatter all over the world for two weeks before returning for a final quarter of school. We are thankful that for the most part the students are back to being healthy. They are tired, however, so please pray that both staff and students will finish strong during this last week of class.

Praise God:
1. That I've (nearly) made it though half the semester! His grace is truly sufficient.
2. For awesome, encouraging conversations with students, and opportunities to speak truth into their lives.
3. For you, my supporters!! Your partnership is helping to enable me in ministry here. Thank you!

Please pray:
1. For seniors still making plans for next year, especially for those in need of financial aid.
2. That I will be especially faithful in the small details of life this week.
3. For rest and refreshment over break, physically and spiritually, for both students and staff. God is at work here, but there is also much opposition. Pray that walls will be broken down, and victories given.

Thank you for praising and praying with me!!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Retreat and a Recital

Someone wise once said, "March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb." I don't know who was listening and took note, but that's definitely been true in southern Germany! We haven't had a lot of snow, but we've definitely had some cold weather. Last week, we had occasional hints of spring, which left us hoping it would stick around. Today I enjoyed a long walk with a friend, soaking in the beauty this area has to offer in spring time! I'm amazed at the color and contrast our Creator has woven perfectly into His Creation!
Other than the beautiful weather, there is a LOT going on right now! Last weekend, the entire high school packed into buses and got away from Kandern for a little while. I've been co-leading a small group of senior girls this semester, and during the retreat weekend, we had a chance both to listen to amazing teaching from the Bible, and discuss what was being taught. During the discussion times, the girls were very open and it was exciting to hear what God was teaching them. God is clearly at work, and it's exciting to catch a glimpse! In addition to processing what was being taught, we laughed and bonded closer as a group. We are blessed to work with some AMAZING young women! They continually speak truth to each other, ask many good questions, and they all desire to know God and His Word in a deeper way. I've been pondering how God has given love upon love to me for this group when I couldn't imagine loving more, but I'll save those thoughts for another post.
The Tuesday evening following retreat, I and a good friend and colleague had the privilege of taking our group piano classes into Basel to attend a student recital at a music school. The recital itself was excellent. The performers were strong, the repertoire diverse and though mistakes were made, it was healthy for our students to see mistakes and recovery happen. I personally really enjoyed the drive to and from Basel. I've been missing driving a large dorm van and sharing that time with students (crazy, I know:) ), so it was fun to be able to experience that again. I was impressed by the observations each student made. Music may be a universal language, but it's incredible how perceptions of a particular piece can vary. Again, another post in the making. I'm intrigued.
Last, but not least, I've been encouraged by some interactions I've had with the German community this week. I've been a little frustrated with my limited German, and am striving to improve but the progress is slow. Yesterday I went to get a hair cut. I felt the usual conflict, "should I try to chat? Is that acceptable here? Will she be open to it?" So I asked my stylist her name, which led to a whole conversation about where we were each from, and her telling me about a trip she had made to the US, among other things. The exciting part? Most of it happened in German! Thanks God! What was even more thrilling was that as I walked away I felt strongly compelled to pray for her, that God would allow our paths to cross again, and that ultimately I'll be able to share the Gospel with her. This evening I went to a local Doner kebab restaurant (Doner is a turkish fast food and is popular in Germany) to pick up dinner. The restaurant is located right in the middle of town, so they interact with everybody, including all of the English speakers in town. I like to try to use my limited German to communicate, and try to be very congenial with the people who work there. Tonight, there were only a few other customers, so when we paid for our food, the man at the register spoke to us in English and was very pleased with himself when we responded encouragingly! When we complimented his English he beamed and said he's learning by picking up words from the English-speaking customers he encounters. Please pray that this man and his coworkers will not only learn English, but will encounter Jesus through us!!!
I've listed prayer requests and praises below, but first, please enjoy pictures from the retreat and recital. Thanks for stopping by my blog, and as always, thank you for your prayers and financial support!!! God is working here, and you play a vital role!

Small group selfie! 
We absolutely love these ladies!
The entire high school having a blast on retreat
Piano classes 1 & 2 attending a spectacular recital in Basel
Praise the Lord that:
1. He gave safe travel to and from retreat
2. He is visibly at work in the lives of students and staff here
3. He is actively protecting and working through the families of our students, both in Kandern and around the world. 
4. He is sovereign, nothing takes Him by surprise, He loves us with everlasting love, and pursues relationship with us.

Please pray with me that:
1. God will supply financial needs as well as guidance and direction for our senior class. 
2. We would trust that He is at work, even though at times we are not permitted to see what He is doing.
3. I will take every opportunity to speak truth and be His hands and feet.
4. God will draw Samantha (my hair stylist), and the man in the restaurant to Himself, and that we would represent Him well in this country.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Day to day: Group Piano

As I sit and write, I have to admit that I'm battling a strain of a virus that has been making its way around our community. I'm on the mend, but I do apologize if this post seems a bit disjointed.

Jumping into a new role in a familiar setting has its challenges. Adjusting to teaching here has included a rather steep learning curve. When I first came to BFA as an RA, I quickly realized that life here involved taking on new things that didn't seem "comfortable". Teaching piano in a group setting  was one of those things for me. When the idea first came up, I wasn't sure it was a great idea. Three weeks in, I'm having a blast and enjoying connecting with the students. As in every classroom setting, every student possesses a different level of musical knowledge, so at this point as I start out, my biggest responsibility is to observe how each student learns. Some are more tactile, some are auditory and some come with a broad base of musical knowledge already. All are seeking to develop their piano skills, and seem to be willing to work hard. We've worked on major scale fingerings, and playing them with both hands together. I've been very pleased to see the progress they've made already! Tuesday they'll each be performing a piece from the Baroque time period, that's new to them this semester. I'm looking forward to hearing them! 

Each day as I stand before my classes, I'm reminded how very "green" I am at all of this. I need to speak more slowly and concisely, I need to ask more than just yes or no questions, and the list goes on. But I've also been very blessed by the patience these students have displayed, and even more so by their eagerness and determination to tackle new material. Music is deeply personal. Not just in the emotions of a powerful performance, but in the struggle and learning process. When we talk about triads and tetrachords in class, I'm reminded of the knot in my stomach the first time I tried to understand why we gave them numbers, and how many times you could invert them. So in all of this, I'm grateful for the learning curve, because with learning comes growth, and I want to grow. I'm grateful for my teachers who taught me in a way that I could in turn teach others, and who modeled good teaching.  

Most of all, I'm thankful for the path that God is charting for me and how He confirms that path, through new friendships, and through the "light-bulb" moments for my students in class, among other things. 


Praises:
1. He is faithful! I've been continually reminded of that in tangible ways over the last several weeks.
2. When I got here, I received a letter from the German government asking me to file my taxes for 2013. They were confused by my comings and goings and asked that I take care of it as soon as possible. Praise the Lord that this was taken care of quickly! 
3. My small group girls are gradually getting responses to their college applications! 
4. For new friends! I'm so thankful for the people God has brought into my path here. 
5. For YOU!!! Thank you for praying for me, supporting me financially, and for simply being interested in my ministry here!

Prayer Requests:
1. MANY of us in the community are sick; please pray that God will keep us close to Him during this time, that it wouldn't spread any further, and that we would all be well soon!
2. Please pray that I would continue to be sensitive to God's leading each day, in personal relationships, my role in my department, my classes, and with my roommates.
3. Two BFA students traveling to the US this week, one for college auditions, and one for a college up-close visit.
4. Summer plans!!! I can hardly believe it, but it's time to plan for summer and Csehy (!!!). 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Week 1

For He has said, "I will never leave you or forsake you." So much promise in one simple verse, and spoken by God who never changes. This was close to my heart this week, as I stepped into my first official week of teaching here at BFA. I've been pondering what to write all week, and am eager to share about my first week of teaching!  I've spent the last month working through the curriculum materials made available to me so on Monday I felt as prepared as I knew how to be, and yet still had that 'new teacher' butterfly sensation. This semester, I am responsible for two sections of group piano classes, and Music Appreciation. The students seem eager to learn and I'm looking forward to the challenge of keeping things interesting while progressing according to the course guides. The students have about a week at the beginning of the semester to finalize their schedules, so teaching this week was challenging because class size fluctuated a bit. I think that our discussions in piano class about tetrachords, intervals and scale fingerings were still beneficial, though! 

Through each day, I have been asking God to show me my role here.  I find myself asking Him to show me the individuals who He wants me to encourage or pour into and have been encouraged to see who He sends to my office or guides me to around campus. In addition to classroom teaching and private lessons, I am also co-leading a small group of senior girls. They are bright and enjoyable to be around, and from the first time we met, the showed an eagerness to talk and ask questions about life. Please pray with me for them as they seek God's will regarding their futures. 

On Saturday evening, I had the joy of being a part of the senior recital of a student who is gifted not only in performing on several instruments, but also in musical composition. I was privileged not only to accompany him, but also to assist in the performing of one of his own works. This young man has grown much as a person and a musician over the last several years, so this recital was a huge milestone of personal achievement for him. One of the things I love about music is that it can be so much fun to perform, and this recital was no exception! Accompanying is going to continue to be part of my role here, so you'll be hearing more about those adventures in the coming months.

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I'd love to hear from you, and learn how I can pray for you so feel free to comment below, or email me by clicking here.


Praises:
1. My support came in and allowed me to be here!! I know this isn't new, but I'm still VERY thankful!
2. New friendships, and renewed old ones.
3. Wisdom and courage to proceed through the first week of teaching.

Prayer requests:
1. That I will stay close to God, and have deep, rich times of quiet with Him.
2. That I will be able to view the "big picture" for the semester as I teach each day, and help my students progress through new material.
3. That I will use my time wisely and prioritize well as I prepare for classes and work to keep my own musical skills up to par. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January 2015

Dear Reader,

First I want to say thank you for stopping by my blog. I've been thinking that I really have no idea who sees this. So, especially if you've been checking in for a while now, thanks for staying with me. In case you weren't aware, this Christmas I once again experienced the joy of the season in Germany. Christmas is such a beautiful time of year here, and as I walked around Kandern, I felt compelled to pray that this beautiful little town will know the One Whose birth they are celebrating with so much enthusiasm. Pray with me that Light of Christ will shine brightly here!
The last 4 years have been full of so many thoughts and adventures. Last Wednesday began the start of a new season of adventures here at BFA. Along with several other people, I shared a three-minute testimony of my journey here, and home and here again, officially beginning this season at BFA. The thought of new memories and events happening is at once exciting and saddening. I treasured my time at Sonne, and think about my guys and fellow staff often. I'm reluctant to begin something new because it feels as though those people become of less value, even though that is not true. On the other hand, many of those same people have been part of the impetus for my coming back in this new role in the music department. I'm hopeful and optimistic as I settle into my office and begin the joyful task of getting to know my friends and new colleagues in the music department on a new level. They are a fantastic, talented group of people, and I am excited to see what we accomplish together! (If any of them are reading this, thank you for your encouragement so far, and for fielding all of my questions! I'll catch on soon, I promise!) I also encounter on a daily basis, many of the guys who I shared life with at Sonne.
These last few days have been full of personal preparation to teach Music Appreciation and Group Piano 2. As I work through the curriculum, my excitement to share the material grows. Each of these classes will be a new challenge, but I also look forward to growing through the experience. Hopefully my students will as well!!
As I process through this transition back to Germany and life at BFA, the complexity of the beginning of this new season has been a little overwhelming. Thankfully, I have had time to work through these things, and remember what exactly certain words mean, maintaining contact with friends and family in the US, and building new relationships here, and discovering how this living outside the dorm thing actually works! I am so thankful for my time of arrival, unconventional as it was. Instead of hitting the ground running, I've had the time to gradually find my place in this community again. And with every new personal breakthrough, I sense that God is at work. He has always been in control, and He always will be.

Things to Praise the Lord for:
1. I'm still in awe of the fact that my support has come in! I praise the Lord for each of you who enabled that to happen!
2. Friendship and community that have already been established.
3. That my residency here has been established, and the process to obtain my visa has begun smoothly.

Prayer Requests:
1. Continued preparation for the start of 2nd semester. Students have exams next week, and the new semester begins the week after.
2. Closeness to God during this time of transition.
3. That as I teach, I will be teachable.

Thank you for reading, praying, and praising along with me!