Connecting the Darkness

After a long day of a long week, following a long month of this long journey I’ve been on in 2014, I found myself stumbling in the door way past my bedtime tonight. It feels almost sinful to lay here in bed, typing a blog post on my cell phone, knowing I don’t have to crawl out of bed at 4:45 tomorrow (as is my typical Friday routine). But I will tell you–this late night could not have come at a more appropriate moment.

I forget that I love the silence and darkness of the late–or early–hours. I forget how blessed that rest of spirit is when the world around me settles and I can let down my guard long enough to think and speak and pray.

So that’s what I did tonight. I came home, put the groceries away as quietly as I could (it’s amazing to me that Arianna and Gabey-Baby didn’t wake up), stepped into my warm slippers, and settled myself on one of the deck chairs for a few moments.

The sky is perfect tonight. The stars are crisp and clear, like a first snowfall that is too mesmerizing to bother the world with its chill. The Milky Way is spilling over the edges of the sky, inviting mystery and wonder. And I, an insignificant little speck on the Creation radar, find myself as captivated with the night sky as ever.

In June, I went to a show at the Shiras Planetarium. Worth the mention: if you haven’t gone out to support your local planetarium recently, please do it. As I gazed upon my favorite constellation (Cassiopeia), I remembered something that I heard at the show that astounded me–that some cultures don’t tell stories by connecting the stars; rather, they connect the dark spaces in between the stars.

So there I sat, contemplating the dark spaces in between the Cassiopeian stars, and it suddenly made sense in terms of my faith.

How often do we hide our struggles, our past, the “dark” parts of our lives? We believe, of course, that God works “all things” together for our good, but we don’t ever mean to imply that God works our addictions, our insecurities, our bad habits, our sin together for our good. And yet…He does. We look for bright points of light that seem to go together; We forget that He connects the darknesses, too.

So let me encourage you (and myself). If you know someone who is struggling with sorrow or depression or discouragement or any kind of “darkness,” spread the word: God connects the darkness.

Laughter

Being with people who make me laugh, who laugh at me, who laugh with me…

It is such good therapy, folks.

Left to my own tendencies, I take life much too seriously. I look for hidden things–always searching, always questioning, always reasoning and sifting. And listen, if you could see the deep crevices of my heart, where memories and questions of Earl and Hannah and Rodger still grip me, you would spend a lot of time trying to make sense of it, too.

Life isn’t easy. In fact, it can be downright excruciating.

But it can also be warm and full of joy. If it wasn’t, I suppose the other stuff wouldn’t haunt us as it does.

So this is a reminder…to myself as much as anyone else: live, laugh, love.

Live each day to its very fullest, even if that means a mistake now and then.

Laugh from your belly (and if you pee a little, that’s okay–just laugh about it).

Love…because the greatest of these is, after all, love.

Pax,
Sar

Therapy

Sometimes the greatest therapy is the simplest thing.

To say that I’ve been emotional lately would be about as understated as the National Deficit. The reasons why are mostly unimportant, but I must confess that music has been a large part of it. I have been missing music, and recent events have pushed me to my breaking point, to my “must play, must sing” point. This is a good thing.

So yesterday, after another difficult and long day at work, I went home, changed out of my work scrubs, kicked off my socks, and the guitar and I strolled out on the grass in my back yard.

I landed, eventually, with my blue jeans rolled up to my knees and the sun warming my skin, on top of the picnic table, singing at the top of my lungs. For two hours, I played all of the “old” songs in my brain, the old Caedmon’s tunes that I haven’t sung in years, some songs of my own that I had forgotten, and a few new songs.

There is no greater therapy, friends. And to those of you in Marquette…I am choosing to believe that I summoned this great thunderstorm this morning by singing “April Showers” in the sunshine yesterday.

Be blessed, folks.

Choral Panic

I remember the very first time I felt what I’ve come to call “Choral Panic.” We were three rehearsals away from our Spring concert, and I realized (after I’d finally made sense of the ha-ha-ha-ha-hallelujahs in Handel’s Zadok the Priest) that counting and singing with precision in an auditorium with an organ was going to be an entirely different task than what we’d been practicing in the choir room with the piano for months. One person, I remember thinking; If even one person sings it wrong, we are all going to lose our places.

The following semester offered me a similar moment, when I tried to count 7/8 time. And then there was the German line that I was still worried about the week of the concert.

There’s always a moment.

There’s always a sinking realization–a fear–that wrenches my gut and says, “This is going to fall apart. You’re not ready. None of you are ready.”

That’s where I am right now. At rehearsal this week, I sat in my little corner of the choir room trying desperately to find the F-natural after the F-sharp of which the entire alto section seemed entirely oblivious, and it was enough to bring me to that moment. We are three rehearsals away from our concert, and I can’t find an F-natural. I am in Choral Panic mode. I’m wondering how I’m going to sing that Latin at a gajillion-Mozartmiles-per-measure (no, I’m not exaggerating [okay, yes, I am, but it might as well be a gajillion]). I’m wondering how I’m going to count all those ridiculous rhythms. I’m wondering how I’m going to keep from crying when the choir breaks out in Libera Me. I’m wondering whether it would help me at this point to go in and mark the solos so I don’t accidently sing with Jean on her beautiful alto parts. I’m wondering if I’ll be cognizant enough to remember that the altos do have three measures to sing in Faure’s Sanctus. I’m wondering whether my shoes are still comfortable enough for the concert. I’m wondering how I can stop myself from singing “homni-es” when I need to be singing “homines.”

In spite of how it may seem, I actually love this part of the process. I love this anxiety, this restless uncertainty of how our performance will turn out. It is an incredible lesson in any area of life–not only in music, but in sports, in writing, in work, in relationships: You prepare as much as you’re able and then do what you’ve been preparing for. In the end, one of two things will happen. It is commonly expressed as “sink or swim.” It’s that moment, when the audience hushes and we know: This is it. We are going to give it everything we have and there’s no stopping to fix it. This is when we see what we’re really made of as singers.

But here’s the truth of it, folks: Floyd has never lead the choir where he couldn’t conduct us (okay, except during that one concert where he tried to bring the ladies in at the wrong time and we rebelled and came in where the music implied). He knows this music better than anyone in the choir, better than anyone who will attend the concert, better than anyone else I know. He knows where he’s leading us; he knows how to get us to respond and produce the very best that we’re able if we will simply commit to following him.

So am I in Choral Panic? I am. But I’m going to bunker down and do with it what I always do with it–listen to the music as if it were Bing Crosby on ‘repeat all’ and work on it until it makes me crazy. I’ll tape the Latin to my bathroom mirror until I am comfortable with it. I’ll trust Floyd.

It’s such a neat parallel to faith, isn’t it? I’m so glad that Christ never leads us where He can’t conduct us. I’m so glad that He allows us to prepare and struggle through F-sharps and F-naturals and 7/8 time signatures and foreign languages while He makes a beautiful piece of music of our lives.

Have I mentioned that joining choir is the best decision I’ve made as an adult? Yeah. It still is.

If you’re in the area, contact me for concert details. I’d be honored to see you there. :)

Pax Christi,

Sar