Sunday, March 19, 2017

Is it March already??

Dear Friends,

I have been wanting to post an update for a while now - please forgive the delay!

This weekend I am enjoying some much-needed rest. But the events of the last few weeks have been exciting. Both our guys and girls basketball teams won their DoDDs European championship. This was a historic year for them, with the girls clinching their fourth title in a row, and the boys winning their first title ever. We are proud of our teams, their coaches, and all of their hard work! It's a good time to be a Falcon!

The same weekend as our basketball teams were busy winning, our high school cast of Treasure Island was busy putting on their production. It was pretty amazing to see the stage, that is used for so many purposes during the week, transform into a pirate ship. I had the privilege of helping with hair, which might not sound like a big deal. My experience with making people look like pirates is rather limited, so when the need came up I have to admit that I wasn't over eager. However, things came together, we got lots and lots of input and I think the overall effect worked well! The cast and crew did an amazing job, and had us laughing and nearly crying (and sometime both!) the entire time.

The joy of both of these things is getting to see our students in their element. Some of them decided to try something new and found they were good at it. Some have been working towards these goals for a very long time. All were successful, and learned and grew in the process.

Then during the first weekend in March, the entire high school picked up and went to Switzerland for a weekend of retreat. We were blessed to have a BFA alum who shared openly and insightfully from the Word. It was an especially sweet time for my senior girls' small group. We enjoyed a lot of really deep conversations, and we laughed a lot too!

Looking ahead, we are about three weeks away from spring break. In two weeks, we are pulling off our annual Music Festival. I'm excited to see what my students will take away from this experience!

During a season so full of events, I am certainly tired, but I am hopeful. When things get busy, it is easy to default into doubt. However, God has proven Himself faithful over and over again, and He is always the same. Just as He has guided me and those around me so perfectly in the past, He will continue do to that as I follow Him in faith. During this exciting time, I anticipate learning much about Him as well! How good He is!

Praise God with me:
1. For God's unending faithfulness.
2. For great relationships with students and colleagues.
3. For YOU my friends, family, and ministry partners. You are God's gifts to me!

Pray with me:
1. For opportunities to share Christ with my students.
2. For wisdom for each of the young women in my small group (and their families) as they seek God's will for their futures.
3. That I will be able to find opportunities to rest in the midst of busyness.

Thanks again for reading, and for your encouragement and support. I thank God for each of you!

Also, as a side note, I will be posting an update with pictures soon so stay tuned!

~Lauren




Friday, January 6, 2017

New Year, New Lessons

Happy New Year from the Hollands! (some of us, anyway)
First of all, Happy New Year 2017! I had the privilege of hosting my parents and two of my brothers here for Christmas. When you've lived outside of your home culture, even for a little while, the ability to share it with those close to you is both sensitive and sensational! Sensitive because welcoming others into your world is scary sometimes, no matter who they are. And sensational because of the joy that comes from that kind of vulnerability. I love that when I talk to them next, and tell them that I wrote this post sitting in a Starbucks in Basel, they'll know the city I'm talking about because they've been here! We traveled and talked and laughed and ATE and even sang together for a Christmas Eve service. They met and engaged with so many people here who are dear to me. There is absolutely nothing that compares with being with and together with those whom you know and who know you. And even though I was tired when they left, my heart is so very full! Mom, Dad, Peter and Mark, thank you for coming to see me and valuing me, my life and world here.

We are just a few days away from the start of school, and I can honestly say I'm looking forward to it. This break has been one of the best yet, but I also have one of the greatest jobs in the world, which I'm looking forward to resuming soon! The students return to homes and dorms over the weekend, and classes start Monday. This coming week is the last week of our semester, with exams following the week after. Please keep us in prayer as we finish one semester and begin another one. My Piano 2 students played a fabulous showcase recital just before Christmas. They did a couple of arrangements of favorite Christmas songs, including an improvisation on Angels We Have Heard on High. This was a big stretch for some of them, but was a fitting expression of the way their learning has developed so far this year. I'm looking forward to hearing the repertoire they've prepared for their final exam as well!

The start of a new year brings many emotions and thoughts to mind. I've never been one to intentionally make resolutions. But this year I've felt a strong emphasis in my heart on the word "Hope." Hope is worth as much as whatever it's placed on. This year, I am determined to set my hope on Christ. One day at a time, one challenge, struggle, sadness, joy, grief at a time. "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare, and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11
He is Lord, and I will trust Him.

Praise the Lord with me:
1. For an awesome visit with family!
2. For a restful Christmas break.
3. For His constant, incredible provision.

Pray with me:
1. For the students as they make their way back to Germany. Safe travel is such a gift - please pray for our students!
2. For a strong start to school in 2017 - wisdom, vision, patience and direction.
3. That my heart will be tender to the Lord, as I teach, mentor, lead, and listen.

Thank you for your constant prayer and financial supper, and your interest in the work God is doing at Black Forest Academy!




Sunday, November 20, 2016

Peace, Be Still

Dear friends,

I have to admit that my mind has been a whir lately, so this is going to be more of a reflective post. Watching the political struggles in my homeland has been disheartening and disconcerting. To-do lists seem endless. Balance is an elusive thing. But there have been some wonderful moments too, like getting together with my small group girls. My piano class is making some exciting progress on their ensemble pieces. They are improvising left and right, and grasping the style of their solos. Last night I was privileged to perform with my colleagues in the Performing Arts Department in our annual Faculty Recital. Today I was a guest at a baby's 1st birthday party. I'm grateful for these things.

And there have been some unplanned moments of quiet that have restored part of my spirit. Please allow me to share a moment from the other day with you: 

Something about it felt different. After I finished teaching during 1st period, sunlight was beginning to seep through my classroom window. It was a welcome sight after so many days of rain and clouds. 
“I have so much to do, there are piles of papers and music on my desk to deal with…and yet…I need more coffee.” 
So I made myself another cup of coffee and headed outside. The clouds were in process of revealing a beautiful blue sky beyond them, and chilly golden sunlight lit up the golden shades of autumn as only it can do. So I went and stood by the creek for a while, breathing in the fresh crisp air, filling my ears with the sound of gentle waters, my eyes with gold and orange, and my heart with gratitude and the power to continue. I lift up my eyes to the hills, knowing that my help, my will to live, my every breath, comes from the Lord, Maker of Heaven and earth, Lover of my soul. Although I would have loved to capture the beauty of the day in a picture, my heart needed that brief bit of quiet time more than my camera lens did. Do I struggle to spend time with Him? How often do I choose to deprive myself of necessary margin? And yet His mercies toward me are new every morning, and His faithfulness endures. How thankful I am for the gift of quiet that He gave when I didn't even realize I needed it. My very own "Peace, be still" moment. 

No matter what happens in the course of a day, may our hearts be at rest, knowing all things fall under the dominion of our Almighty King. May take our burdens, from the largest to the smallest, to Him, leaving them there. For some reason, I often feel that there must be some burdens that I actually can handle on my own, but the reality is that He asks for all of them. How willingly do we place them in the hands of a loving, all-powerful God?

And He awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" 

May we be aware and looking for God's work in our lives and the lives of those around us. And may we trust Him even when it is difficult to see. Peace, be still.