Monday, September 28, 2009

The Dependence of Asking

This fall marks my fifth year at Black Forest Academy. Time goes by so quickly! My best friend and former roommate in Wichita remarked that this means I have now lived in Germany longer than we lived together in Kansas. What a landmark!

I am so grateful to you for your support and prayers for me these past four years. How did God do it? How did He get me get here? The original plan was teaching piano for two years and then heading back to “real life.” The thought of asking people for money turned my stomach. Now, however, I would not have it any other way. The word “dependence” has dirt under its nails.

The Book of Joshua has captured my attention for the past month. The action has been great – battles, cities taken due to the power of musical instruments (I especially like that one as a music teacher!) and people being swallowed by the earth. God’s people obey, disobey and obey again.

Toward the end of the book, it’s time to divvy up Promised Land real estate. The author takes several chapters to specifically delineate the properties of each tribe. Each tribe, that is, except one.“But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the Lord, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.” Joshua 13:33

How incredible! The Levites who received no ration of land, actually received the One who was the only portion they needed! Later, the Levites come to Joshua to say, “…The Lord commanded through Moses that you give us towns to live in, with pasturelands for our livestock” (21:2).

Our God was faithful to provide for them. He had promised to be their inheritance and portion forever, but the Levites still had to ask. Was it hard for the descendants of Levi to ask Joshua for what they had been promised? Either way, they had to have been reminded once more of their dependence, their need.

He has promised to be my inheritance forever, but He commands that I still ask Him to provide my daily bread. Perhaps it is in the asking, that He is already providing. Perhaps dependence on Him alone is already His gracious provision.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Story: Part 2 (in response to the youth at River)

Okay, take a minute to think of a time you were rejected. I'll wait... Got it? How did you feel? (e.g. Angry? Hurt?) Why do you think you felt that way? (e.g. Unmet expectations, hurtful words, identity crisis) Now turn to a neighbor and discuss how you felt and why.

As a review: I had applied to a mission agency in order to teach piano at Black Forest Academy, but I was rejected by that agency. And it was hard.

Part 2: Some very generous people had already given money toward my mission training that summer. I had informed loved ones that I would be leaving. And the night before I was to get on a plane for training, I got the phone call. "We do not feel you are ready at this time to go to the mission field." Ouch!

So I spent the next week handing checks back un-cashed and trying to be grateful and to sheepishly explain why I would not be going to Germany after all. I suppose you're wondering at this time as well why I was not going. Well, essentially, I was very honest on my application to the mission about some things that were going on in my life, and they were questionable.

It was a pretty dark time in my life. I had failed my last graduate recital hearing, which meant that I was not going to be able to give my recital yet. A boy had broken up with me not too long before, and now I felt like my spirituality was being rejected, too. I was hurt. Angry. Frustrated. Confused. Ashamed. Lonely.

Take one minute to think on your own: If you had a friend who told you he/she felt this way, what would you think? How would you respond to him/her?

I meant that it was a dark time in quite a literal sense as well. One afternoon I was feeling the weight of my choices while driving west on E. 21st Street. In my memory, the sky in front of me was pitch black, though I know it was actually around noon. At that moment, I hit bottom. Despair and exhaustion overwhelmed me, and without knowing what would come out I opened my mouth... and sang.

Praise. Praise came out of me in what seemed like an involuntary response. I couldn't help it. And I didn't understand it. (And I also don't remember it, although I'd like to think it was "Blessed be Your Name / when I'm found in the desert place / though I walk through the wilderness / Blessed be Your Name") I started crying and had to pull my car over. What a good God to give such a gift - hope. He was near. And He still loved me.

What song reminds you of God's love for you?

For the next two years, God began to surround me with truth about who I was. My pride and independence had built my identity apart from Him for a long time. I had been a pianist, a girlfriend and spiritual leader, but God was beginning to show me that I was His. I was chosen, dearly loved and holy only because of Christ. The pressure was off. It was no longer about me and what I could accomplish. It was now about Him and what He wanted to accomplish in me.

Two years later, in 2005, the phone rang again...

How did I end up getting to Germany?
Why is teaching piano in Germany considered missionary work?
What in the world is Kohlrabi, can you eat it, and why should you care?

Stay tuned... these questions and more answered in My Story: Part 3.

p.s. No, the truth is, I much prefer the original Fleetwood Mac version of "Landslide!"

Friday, June 05, 2009

My Story: Part 1 (in response to the youth of River)

My name is Suzanne, and I am 31 years old. I grew up in the Dallas area, went to college in Arkansas for 4 years and graduate school in Wichita (which is how I found my church, River). I went to River for 5 years before moving to Germany to teach piano at Black Forest Academy (BFA).

When I was 12, I went forward at a chapel service to tell God that I would be his missionary. I think in the back of my head I thought if I volunteered then surely I wouldn't get sent to Africa... I half expected a letter in the mail the next week with my assignment. It took 15 years for that letter to come. (Hmm... sidenote: I remember reading somewhere that it took an average of 15 years to see answers to prayers... where was that again? interesting...)

In the meantime, I figured out that I really liked playing the piano and that I was kind of good at it. My friends, parents and teachers encouraged me in playing, so I decided to pursue it in college. Then I got a masters degree in it as well.

It was in graduate school at Wichita State that I discovered a love for teaching. The more I taught, the more I wanted to play. The more I played, the more I wanted to teach what I was learning.

It was also in graduate school that I found out about BFA (, a school in southern Germany - in the southwestern corner, within 20 minutes of France and Switzerland). I found out they had an opening for a piano teacher the next year as well. Since I had had an interest in learning German after childhood trips to Europe with my family and a semester abroad in Austria in college, and I would get to hang out with youth and love on them - this seemed like the perfect job for me!

So what did I do? Nothing. I didn't check out the website. I didn't write them. Nothing. I still really can't explain why, but fear definitely played a role. My friend Dwayne, who had grown up at BFA, had to tell the personnel director to call me. I talked to him on the phone and was CRYING.... oh, I was so weepy. After that conversation, I knew I was supposed to apply to teach at BFA. Something was stirring in me. Someone was stirring me.

So I applied in 2003 for the open piano teacher position. I began raising support for summer training and getting myself over to the land of bratwurst and sauerkraut. I told friends, family and neighborhood pets that I would be leaving for Germany the next fall. Goodbye parties in my honor were being planned, people were telling me what a good person I was for going to the mission field, and the day before I was to fly across the country to training, my mission called to tell me that my application had been rejected...

Why was I rejected?
How did I end up getting to Germany?
Was I angry?
What did it feel like to have to give money back to people and explain my rejection?
Why is teaching piano in Germany considered missionary work?
Did I like the Dixie Chicks' remake of Landslide better than Fleetwood Mac's original?

For the answers to these questions (and others you might have), you'll have to stay tuned for Part 2.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Today I want to learn how to play the accordion... so I'm knitting instead.

I heard a statistic recently about our generation's struggle to be present in the moment.... what was I saying?