On Gluten, Love, & Having Babies

It’s been some time since I’ve come here simply to share my heart with you all. And in spite of my neglect, I am always humbled to log in and find that my blog still gets daily hits. I promise, friends…I haven’t forgotten you. I promise, I won’t be silent forever. If you think of me, please encourage me to keep writing. I need that once in awhile (thank you, Kris).

Gluten.
I’ll start with Gluten. This has been a mammoth issue on my heart lately. As many of you know, my older brother, Jeremiah, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease some time ago. I have been incredibly proud of how he’s changed his life and welcomed the challenge of being completely gluten-free. It would be naïve and insensitive to say that he hasn’t struggled; I know he has. Gluten is not an easy thing to give up. It’s not an easy thing to avoid. It lurks around many corners that most of us are oblivious to. Like some lip balms and prescription drugs.

When my doctor tested me for the antibodies that indicate Celiac last month, I was certain she was just being overly-cautious. When one of those tests came back quite impressively positive, I was certain it was a fluke. When she said I needed to see a gastroenterologist and have a biopsy taken of my small intestine, I thought she was jumping to conclusions. To say that I was in denial would be one of the biggest understatements of my life. I was in serious denial.

Working in a medical office, one of the things I absolutely dislike is when patients try to diagnose themselves by searching for information on the internet. Still, that’s what I did. I go0gled and b1nged (just to make sure one of them wasn’t posing as a French model–we all know you can’t believe everything you read on the net), looking for any other possible explanation of my elevated test results. What did I learn? What did the interwebs tell me? Unfortunately, the more I read, the more I realized that Celiac is an elusive disease which doesn’t always manifest itself as diarrhea and stomach pains. I read about migraines and joint pain and PCOS and a myriad of health issues that may be indicative of Celaic Disease, but I was unconvinced. Couldn’t it just be coincidence, after all?

It could. But. I’ll tell you honestly, my heart sank when I read an article discussing the relationship between untreated Celiac and gall stones. When I was in high school, I had my gall bladder removed. I remember (as does my mother) the doctor being baffled that someone so young had developed gall stones. There was no explanation, really, and we didn’t push the issue. I wish now that we had. Listen, I don’t know if it’s possible to save a gall bladder once you’ve developed stones, but it sure would’ve been nice to know if it was caused by something like gluten toxicity. I mean, friends, that was more than fifteen years ago. If I needed to cut gluten from my world back then, I wish I had known.

Nonetheless, I don’t know. I have an appointment coming up in a few weeks with a gastroenterologist. I am eager to have an affirmation or negation of my doctor’s (and now, my) suspicions. I am eager to cut gluten out of my world. I will keep you updated as I’m able, but in these coming weeks, please pray for me. The idea of going gluten-free is overwhelming, to say the least.

Love.
As a few of you know, I’ve lately been spending time with a man (who shall remain unnamed; if you know his name, please keep it to yourself) that I’ve known many years. He is a good friend, and I’ve enjoyed his company very much. Recent events and conversations, however, have confirmed what I should have recognized all along: He will never be more than a friend to me. I have no desire to share all of the details with the rest of the world. I only mention it here because it brings me to two very difficult matters.

First, how did I–seriously, I, the girl who has been so guarded that even her close friends have to pry the truth from her–let my guard down far enough to have this little snafu break my heart? And okay, listen, friends…I’m not devastated. My life is good. My friends and family are good. My job is good. My passions are strong. My purpose in life is unwavering. But I honestly cried more over this than I did over any past relationships. I knew I liked him, but I had no idea I had grown so attached.

Second, another male friend asked me at one point, “does he speak your language?” The answer is, undoubtedly, yes. He does speak my language, in ways I can’t even express. What were the chances of me finding one man in the entire world who spoke my language? Slim, I’m sure. Now, what do we suppose the chances are of me finding another? I’m banking on non-existent.

I am 33 years old, folks. Being single at this age is entirely different than being single at 23. The church, society, friends, family…mostly, the world around me doesn’t even know what conversations to have with someone like me. I don’t fault anyone for it; I don’t know what conversations to have with the rest of the world, either. I mean, honestly, do you want to hear about the struggles of a 33 year old, overweight, single Christian woman? Do you want to talk about sex? Do you want to talk about familial roles? Do you want to talk about the incredible difficulty of maintaining friendships when my girlfriends are all coupled off and my guy friends think I am in love with them if I call? Do you want to talk about being an hospitable person and bringing company under the protection of my home without the structure of a spiritual head? Do you want to talk about being an aunt to children you would love and do anything for, knowing that they will (and should) never return your love the way they do their mother’s? Be honest. These are conversations to which most of society doesn’t give a thought. Even the church has no place for a single woman in her thirties.

That was a rant, to be sure. I apologize. My point here is simply that with every relationship disappointment, I am growing more weary of the expectation. Maybe it is better to expect a life of singleness, to welcome it with full embrace. Maybe it is time to stop acting as if I have endless hope, like I did at 23. Maybe…if you’re in my world…you are going to be exposed to these conversations, whether you want it or not. That includes my blog. By the end of this, friends, you’re going to be very uncomfortable around me.

Having Babies.
Someone very close to me made a remark several weeks ago, about me not understanding a certain situation, because I don’t have children.

I mention it here…not to argue the point, but simply as a reminder to the rest of the world: There are many women who are not mothers, and it is not by their own choice. Please, for the love of all things sacred, choose your words toward them with care. In the same way I cannot comprehend the pain of childbirth, a woman who has been married and had children by age 30 cannot comprehend how it breaks the heart of a childless woman to be reminded of the fact that she can’t or doesn’t have a baby. There are few hurts so deep, so raw, and so unmending.

And there are few hurts so capable of breaking trust and friendship between two women. Please…choose your words with care.

And that, folks…is all I have for today.

God’s blessings upon you. Please drive safe, give yourself extra time, and turn your headlights on.

Thirds: Choir, Parallelism, & 5K

Hello Folks!

The Summer is settling into something far more comfortable, something far less busy, something inspiringly familiar–Autumn. Here’s what’s happening in my Autumn-loving heart.

Choir
Our first rehearsal for the Fall 2013 semester is two days away! I cannot believe it. In 48 hours, folks, I will be overwhelmed with the joys of a first rehearsal. There’s something magical about it, about opening a book of arrangements you’ve never heard before (much less, sung) and attempting to sing through as many pieces as Floyd sees fit with a group incredibly unique to the semester. It can be scary, if you want to know the truth; but more, it is ineffably fun.

I am serving on the Executive Board this year as the Interim Secretary. I’ve been involved in this manner since the end of last semester, so there have been a few meetings during my already crazybusy Summer. I’m very honored to be serving the Choral Society in this manner, and the temporary nature of the position allows me to become more involved in the behind-scenes stuff without falling in “way over my head.” I have to confess, I am loving it. I am having such a great time with the Board, and I am looking forward to an excellent Concert Season.

Parallelism
As an official end to my Summer, and as an ushering in of Autumn, I have resumed my Three-Part Study of the Psalms. I know–this is news to all of you. Some time ago, a conversation with Steve here on my blog challenged me to pick through the Psalms with a fresh perspective. First, I am dissecting each Psalm (in English, not Hebrew) to better understand Hebrew Parallelism. Second, I am considering the focus of each Psalm–whether it is man or God (or both). Third, I am looking for correlations between music/sound and theology.

This is a project I began some time ago and set no goal for finishing. I wanted to give myself ample time to ponder and dig and pray as I studied. Some of my remarks have been quite unimpressive, but there may be nuggets worth discussion somewhere in the midst of it. And because two young ladies that I love and admire have asked me to share my insights as I go along, I have decided to make it a weekly post on my blog. I need to be blogging more anyway, and this will give me cause to do so. I think I will make it my Friday project each week–though, I’m not sure yet whether it’s feasible to share the Parallelism part here; I may skip that for the purpose of the blog. Anyway, be watching for the big Psalm Project!

5K
Well, folks, here it is. The news of the hour. I’ve kept it to myself for the past several weeks, except for a few people from whom I’ve tried to glean an ounce or two of courage! A few weeks ago, I began the Couch to 5K Running program.

You have to understand–I am not a runner. At all. Attempting this program is scary for me. But I realized something today: I just finished week 3. That’s means I’m one third of the way done! Keep me in your prayers, and encourage me as you see fit!

Pax Christi, folks!
Sarah

Choral Society, Program Notes, and Grandpa Schmitzer

We take for granted that Jim’s program notes will be informative, pertinent, entertaining, and–yes–even a bit touching. We take for granted that Lynne will sit tall and play the piano flawlessly, with or without her glasses. We take for granted that Floyd will select music that is both infuriating and breathtaking, and will make a decent choir out of an un-auditioned community group. We take for granted that the program will be formatted correctly. We take for granted that the posters will be both beautiful and inviting. We take for granted how sharp the choir will look in black attire with red corsages. We take for granted how wonderful we know it will feel when we are there on the stage and finally hear the fullness of our program, start to finish.

There are so many pieces to a semester of choir. There is so much we take for granted in the scheme of it all. The highlights of this semester of Choral Society were, for me, the moments I refused to take for granted. I’ll share one of them with you.

Jim, who has written the program notes for almost forever, was honored this year with the Choral Leadership Award. How incredible it was to learn more about him and his service to the Choral Society (and the community!), and to hear his remarks of humble appreciation! But after our dress rehearsal Friday night, I sat home on my sofa, numb from my eyes to my neck from Cepacol overdose, and I read Jim’s program notes. Over. And over. And over. Friends, I’m not too proud to tell you that it brought tears to my eyes. I’m not even sure I can identify the emotion, but I can tell you it was an enormous one. I read his words and it hit me like the deep thunder—you know, the kind that shakes the birds right out of the trees, sends the cats ripping through the house to find safety, leaves your heart trembling, and steals the warmth right out of the air before unleashing its torrent—I wasn’t just reading history. I wasn’t just reading the history of German or Lutheran music. I wasn’t just reading the history of brilliant composers. I was reading my history.

My heart still quivers just to think it, just to type the words.

What a moment! What a realization! What an awesome and humbling thing, to read my own history on paper in the words of perhaps the most articulate man I’ve ever known—to learn, from one of my heroes, the stories of some of my Grandfather’s heroes. For a moment, I felt like I’d been given a chance to know my Grandpa, the man I have longed to love, the man I have longed to know, the man who gave me his love of music, who died seven years before my birth. What an enormous, emotional, unexpected, thunderous blessing.

I refuse to take for granted the moments that move me, that challenge me, that change me, that reveal myself to me. This is really what singing in the choir is about for me: Identity. There is something incredibly profound about the movement of harmony, the struggle and peace of dissonance and resolution. There is something to be said for the paradox of so many voices—individual voices—coming together to sound one corporate voice. There is something quite theological about it, folks. Too often have we taken it for granted.

If I died today or if I had a tragic accident or diagnosis that left me unable to sing (or far more likely than either of these: if I were banned from the choir for excessive laughing during ridiculous songs like Adam Lay Ybounden), I would still raise my voice in thanksgiving. Singing with the Marquette Choral Society hasn’t simply changed me; it is recreating me. It is refinding* me, a soul that’s been lost for a very long time.

Just like my faith.

What a blessing to see it as it unfolds.

*I don’t think refinding is a word. It should be. I use it here intentionally.

The Quotable Floyd, part II

There are a lot of “best parts” about concert weekend, and later this week I will do as I promised and share my thoughts about the Marquette Choral Society program. Tonight, in my complete and blissful exhaustion, I offer you the part that makes the most sense: The Floyd Quotes. If you missed the Winter 2012 Quotes, you can read them here.

If you use a tritone in a piece, it invites the devil into the Church.

The Choir in my head never misses a beat!

We’re going to take several detours into error.

Please sing your rest.

You want an “ah?” I’ll give you an “ah!”

Everybody sing everything. Bar 10.

I don’t want you to lose the two-ness of this music.

It’s called a phrase.

Suddenly, rhythm breaks out after all that smoothness.

Jim: Don’t look at me like that.
Floyd: I was just imagining you dancing.

Might or all: Sounds like an Alto line to me!

We really need more “ah.”

We need a “G,” and we need an “L.” We also need a pitch.

I can’t possibly preach without consonants.

I don’t think Schutz liked Tenors very much.

It’s not Boston; It’s Schutz.

You. Be very metrical.

The key is making sure God is not held too long.

Bars 9 and 10: Don’t get caught by the devil.

This rest is for you.

Page 264. The funky German hymn.

Try to release all your dots.

Too fast? Too bad.

Just take a breath and sing.

I kind of helped you there in a wrong way, Altos.

Seven Robins

I had a great idea this morning. I awoke and thought, “How ever many robins I see today, that is the number of things I will share on my blog.” Of course, I realized early this afternoon that I had no chance of seeing any robins if I stayed home all day. I could have justified staying in (strep and bronchitis and green phlegm, you know), but I took a gander and went for a drive and a short walk, which presented me with seven robins. So here we go. Seven Robins for you on this beautiful April day.

Robin One
I awoke to the sound of honking geese this morning. You cannot know (unless you live in the Upper Peninsula, where winter–which is always long and fierce–felt particularly long and fierce this year) how the sound comforted me. Mother Nature, nice try; but the geese have voted for spring. It reminds me of what Pastor Drake used to say: “Faith is believing, in the middle of winter, that spring will come.” How I’ve clung to those words this winter. How thankful I am for geese, and the underlying promise of at least a few months of warmth and sunlight.

Robin Two
We are in the final countdown–the last week before the Marquette Choral Society concert. If you’re in the area and you need details, please don’t hesitate to ask. I would love to see you there. This concert is going to be amazing. I am praying today that my voice returns so I can perform with the choir. I, however, am surrendered to the knowledge that God knows what He’s doing. I don’t want to miss what God has for me, even if it’s not what I think I want.

Robin Three
My goal was to write letters today. I’ve written one. It seems about par for the course, and I refuse to feel bad about it, considering my current state of phlegm. I have received several in the last few days that deserve my attention, however–and the promise of one to hopefully arrive this week. I love receiving letters. I need to love writing them again.

Robin Four
I am reading The Lord of the Rings again. It never gets old. I am always slow to start. I find that it takes me awhile to suffer through the first part of The Fellowship (Book One). I want to pull my hair out and scream, “Just get out of the Shire!” It takes so long, but I suppose that is my movie-centric instant-gratification nature. And, I’m sure, it’s also that The Two Towers is my favorite, and I’m eager to get there. Still, it never gets old. It’s like visiting old friends.

Robin Five
I’m considering a trip to Israel next year with my sister. There is someone in my life (not really “in” my life so much as…”randomly appearing once in a blue lagoon”) that I spoke with a few years back and shared (for the first time in my life, really) my desire to visit Israel. I never thought–not even in my craziest dreams (and Lord knows I’ve had some doozy dreams)–that I would actually be telling you that I’m possibly going to go there. It’s not written in stone; it’s not even written in ink or charcoal. It’s pretty much just feathers in the wind right now, but…feathers can give you flight, I suppose.

Robin Six
I’m also considering…very prayerfully…a Compassion Sponsor Tour. It has long been a desire of mine to travel to a third world country; and it has lately been wedded with my desire to meet and hug and take a photo of myself with Joseph and Moise–my two boys. It’s a long way off, and it would require funds that I can’t even fathom having to my name…but…there’s something stirring in me about Burkina Faso. I want and need to be there. I think. I’m not sure. I need to pray about it more and think about it less. Compassion has a tour going next year, so I have time to pray on it. I invite you to pray with me. Registration opens late next month, so I hope to have made a decision by then.

Robin Seven
And finally, Robin Seven: If you’ve seen the Dove video floating around the web, don’t believe it. Beauty is about so much more than physical appearance, and even those of us who greatly lack in that department…are beautiful. Your worth, your identity, your character–these are not determined by whether your face and body appeal to others. Go out and be who you are, and be fully that. Change the world. Find your purpose. Chase your passions. Forget beauty. Those who love you don’t need it; and those who need it don’t love you.

Pax Christi,
semmie.

Watch Floyd

Watch Floyd.

Or…Look Up.

Or…Fix Your Eyes.

Or…”Then Let All the Living.”

I can’t decide on an appropriate title for this blog. There are so many good choices.

In just under two weeks time, the Marquette Choral Society will be performing our spring concert. I can’t wait to tell you about it. I think I love this music even more than I loved the music last spring. I feel connected to this program for a few different reasons, but I won’t bore you with those details tonight. In two weeks, I promise to share my thoughts about the concert, the material, and (best of all) my Floyd quotes from the semester. It hardly seems like we can be so close to performance…

Anyway, I had something of a revelation last night during rehearsal. We are singing several incredible (and difficult) pieces of music (those Germans know how to write a hymn, yo). We were working on a piece from one of my newest favorites, Heinrich Schutz, entitled, “Dank sagen wir alle Gott”–or, We Offer Our Thanks. It’s a beautiful hymn in a sort of flowing 6/4 time.

At least, the first page is. I confess that I’ve been struggling with measure 11. It’s right there on the page, easy as can be–a half note (two beats), then a quarter rest and half rest (three beats of silence), and a quarter note (one beat). It doesn’t sound hard, does it? The two notes are even the same pitch, so there is absolutely nothing about this measure that should be difficult. All semester as we’ve worked on this, I’ve chided myself: “If you were able to sing the 7/8 song last semester, and Zadok with the organ the semester before that, there’s no way you aren’t going to master this simple measure.”

Yet…I struggle. Why?

Well, I could tell you it’s because of the page turn. That could be part of it. I’m not turning soon enough. I could also tell you it’s because this nice flowing piece of music, beginning with that last quarter note of the measure, suddenly moves. And I could tell you that I’m not being diligent about counting my rests, so I’m not hitting the quarter note with anything that could be mistaken for confidence. It could be that I’m still feeling “new” to the piece, and the movement of the next page still catches me off guard. I could tell you that I’m not breathing when I should. All of these things, I suppose, are true; but none of them (individually or together) are the reason I struggle with this measure.

And I realized that quite clearly last night when I did everything right–the counting, the breathing, the page turn, the expectation of the next page. I had it, folks. I was there, I was ready, and still–I missed it. How did I miss it?

I know I wasn’t the only one because Floyd stopped us and made us do it again. And as I sat there, wondering how in the world I was going to conquer this measure–this stupid little measure that was half silence–I had a brilliant idea. “Stop trying to figure it out,” I said to myself, “and just watch Floyd.”

The amazing part about it is that even as I forced myself to not look at the music, to turn the page a measure earlier than normal and fix my eyes on Floyd, I have to confess to you that there was an enormous part of me that didn’t expect anything to happen. I’m embarrassed to tell you that it surprised me when Floyd gave me my breath, and my cue, and by gosh, if he wasn’t movin’ to the rhythm of the page turn in expectation of what we were barrelling into!

It shocked me.

It shouldn’t have.

Poor Floyd, who tells us week after week, “Watch me.” Poor, poor Floyd. Hahaha.

I just had to laugh at myself. Of course the answer is to watch my director. What’s really amazing is that I knew it all along. I pride myself in watching Floyd, in paying attention when he’s talking, in following his lead. But me, in my pride, in my folly…do I trust him when I am faced with something I am struggling with that I shouldn’t be struggling with? Nope; I decide I’m going to conquer it alone, rather than trust the man at the front of the room who really knows where we’re going.

It reminded me of the verse in Hebrews that tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. How often do we try to conquer situations and emotions on our own? Even when we have all the particulars analyzed and figured out, even after we’ve counted every beat of silence, we blunder; we step without confidence; we don’t anticipate the page turn. Christ knows exactly where He’s leading each one of us, and if we could but turn our face toward Him and trust Him to lead us, we would excel through the most difficult situations.

“Then let all the living, then let all the living join with the angels’ shouts of thanksgiving, thanksgiving.”

God bless you this week as you learn to fix your eyes on Christ.

Pax Christi.
Sarah