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

 

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.