Struggling Toward Spring

I’ve been struggling.

It’s a difficult confession for me for so many reasons. First, I suppose, because (as I’ve allowed myself to contemplate again this week) I am an introvert. I am such an introvert. I am an outrageous introvert. This has sucked in many regards, because it means that I hurt people unintentionally and they hurt me back unintentionally. I haven’t quite figured out how to maintain a healthy lifestyle (in any regard–physical, spiritual, emotional, workical, friendlical) as an introvert. When I struggle, I withdraw. I close the blinds, I lock the doors, I turn off the cell phone (or refuse to answer it), and my natural stance becomes one of retreat. You’re far more apt to not see me when I’m struggling than to even see me walking away. Hiding helps. For a time, hiding helps. Second, in spite of hiding, I find that I am no nearer a resolution to my struggles than I was previously. In fact, I am, perhaps, farther away. Third, one of my goals right now is to minimize unnecessary drama in my life (which is ironic, if you know how ridiculous the past few weeks of my life have been–isn’t it funny that the moment we resolve to do something, the exact opposite attacks us with vengeance?). Fourth, as so often is the case in my life, I simply don’t know how to talk about my struggles. Even writing them down is difficult for this gal.</p

I’m exhausted.

I’m stressed.

I feel entirely overextended, entirely taken advantage of, entirely disregarded, and entirely disappointed in several areas of my life.

And some of it, quite frankly, is simply the weather. This winter has been of an incomprehensible length and weight. I do take vitamin D to help with the lack of daylight, but let’s be honest–there is something about the warmth of sunlight on your face (even on a chilly day) that is therapeutic and irreplaceable. And you know, I can’t even express how badly I want to dig my fingers into the soil and plant something. The snow drifts in the yard (you know, the ones that are taller than the bird feeder, the back deck, and even, oh, myself) pretty much guarantee that the only planting I’ll be doing is indoor seed-starting. And that’s okay! It’s a sort of therapy in its own rite! Still, I’m eager for the outside stuff…with the bumble bees and the apple blossoms and even the neighbor dogs charging down the hill at me.

I feel a bit overwhelmed, you know? I have much to do, and not much time to get it done. I’m struggling to finish what I need to finish when I’m at work. I’m struggling to keep up with my writing and reading. I’m struggling to get things done with the Family Reunion this year. I’m struggling to even get my laundry done. And friends? Don’t get me started. I haven’t had time for my friends, and they have realized it. Neither Sarah nor her friends are happy about this.

Additionally, I’ve been missing Rodger. It is still very near and very personal. Grief changes over the course of time, but I keep thinking about him. I keep thinking about Burkina Faso, and how he would have been the first person to encourage me. I keep thinking about the “friend” that will never be more than a friend, and how Rodger would have said something outrageously threatening and hilarious to remind me that I don’t have to set my hopes on someone who is unworthy of my affection. I keep thinking about going back to school, and how Rodger always told me he and Kristin would make sure I had help if I needed help. I keep thinking about his beautiful children, who are children no more–how proud he would have been to see his kids grow up to be such incredible young adults, so ready and willing to change the world, each in their own way, each as nobly and as dedicated as the next. I keep thinking about how Joy pointed to his picture and knew who he was, even though she had never met him, and how he would have adored her. I miss him. I miss him so much. Rodger was more than my sister’s husband, or the father of my nieces and nephews. He was, he always will be, my brother. And I miss him. My heart grieves, friends.

Life, it seems, is going faster than me. I can’t keep up. I don’t want to keep up. I want to shrug off every responsibility and write stories of my family, and look at old photos, and laugh. I want to laugh.

I am struggling. 

If you want to pray for me, it would be most appreciated. All will settle, as it always does. Life is nothing, if it is not constant change.
God’s warmest blessings on each of you.
Pax Christi.
semmie

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.