Another Random Sunday

December 2, 2012

The most wonderful thing about my family is…

Did you know that I’m singing in a choir? Yes, of course you did. This is my second semester as a member of the Marquette Choral Society. It is, quite honestly, the best decision I’ve made in my adult life. Not only am I geeky-in-love with music and singing, but I am geeky-in-love with the incredibleness of being in a choir.

This weekend is our Christmas Concert, Carols in the Cathedral, which is performed at Saint Peter’s Cathedral. You’ve never heard Christmas until you’ve heard it in a Cathedral. You want acoustics? Baby, you’ve got acoustics!

As we were rehearsing last night for the first time in the Cathedral, something happened. I was standing on the far right where an Alto 2 belongs, and I was feeling nervous about the distance between us and the Basses. I find that the Alto part always makes more sense when I hear the Bass part. And there was an entire half an Alto section (the Alto 1’s) separating us. I was a bit anxious. We arrived at the song with The Great Alto Conflict (as I’ve come to call the dissonance at the end of Alan Smith’s There Is No Rose) and I thought to myself—this is going to fall apart. Right here. On the risers. In the Cathedral. We’re not going to be able to hold these notes without the strength of the Bass part in our immediate hearing. So there we were, gently descending on those beautiful words—“transeamus,” meaning “let us go” or “let us follow”—and I heard the most remarkable thing.

While the 2’s held firmly to our middle C, the 1’s D struggled against us. It was the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. It was like the rest of the choir existed, in that moment, only to give context to this beautiful juxtaposition of the C and the D. We found ourselves in relation to one another. And suddenly, it didn’t bother me that the Basses weren’t right behind me, because I realized that we can’t just understand ourselves in terms of one other part; we must understand ourselves in terms of each other part.

It is the same in a family. You don’t understand your character, your identity, your dreams, your talents, your weaknesses, your passions simply from one relationship. You begin to understand yourself most fully when you hear your part in the context of the other parts.

And you know what the greatest thing about this is? The greatest thing is realizing that all of us are learning and growing at the same time. While I’m depending on you to help me understand my own self better, you are depending on me to do the same! In that regard, we are a very fluid, very malleable unit.

That’s the most wonderful thing about my family: We’re still being made into the people we are, and we’re doing it in context of one another.

Stay Rooted!

Aunt Sarah

Who is Faithful?

New Year’s Resolutions

…or…Who is Faithful?

There’s something about this time of the year that causes us to reflect. Where the tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions came from, I know not. What I know is that we often set unrealistic goals, set off running, and then collapse a week or two into the new year. We may try again, but most of us (I would guess) put those resolutions aside until the Holidays wind down again and we face another new year.

I have always loathed resolutions, and I’ll tell you why: They are constant reminders of my failure, my faithlessness. In a faith that deals with convictions, promises, and covenants, I find that I am the worst of the keepers. Everything I see in this generation, in others–in broken promises, in broken relationships, in broken self-image, in broken faith, in broken everything–I see and despise all the more in myself. Why would I find any pleasure, any hope in holding resolutions upon myself that I know I cannot and will not uphold? I can’t. I don’t.

I am the most faithless person I’ve ever known.


The good news is what Paul wrote to Timothy (2Tim.2:11-13, NIV).

Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him, we will also live with him;

if we endure, we will also reign with him.

If we disown him, he will also disown us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

I find it fascinating that Paul adds these last words: “for he cannot disown himself.” Somehow, God’s faithfulness to me is as much (maybe more) about remaining faithful to His own character as it is about my need or my desire. It has everything to do with the Unchanging One. He remains faithful to me because it is in His character to be so–even when I am faithless.

What a relief!

So what does 2013 have in store for me? Do I not desire to change at all? Of course I do. And if I do change, let it be not because I somehow managed to become faithful after 32 years of being faithless, but rather, because He remains faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.


The Quotable Floyd

The Quotable Floyd

or…What I learned at Choral Society…
or……Take a breath!

I am a quote junky. It’s true. Words inspire me. I love to be surrounded by words and quotes and ideas–even when they aren’t serious in nature, statements can be fascinating, can evoke strong response.

Our Fearless Leader is uncommonly quotable. Last semester, I had the idea to write quotes in the margins of my music wherever we happen to be working when Floyd said something that inspired or humored me. I, unfortunately, erased many of the remarks I had quoted from our Spring rehearsals, but here are a few from this Winter. These all pertain to music (to choral music, specifically), but several can apply to life in general. Regardless, I hope this gives you a taste of how much fun we have at Choral Society.

There’s no shame in having no E, Basses. 

Turn to “ding.” 

If I give a cue and no one sees it, is there even a conductor? 

Make spacious vowels.

Seek verbal enlightenment.

Sopranos, you may roll in like a Mack truck.

Are you ready to accent your yums?

There’s a breath there; take it.

Eyes are good at cues.

Don’t turn the page and lose your pulse.

You are allowed to have fun in a minor key.

It’s hard to say which quote is my favorite. I’m partial to each! Still, I think especially in light of this Advent, we should encourage one another to breathe. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the stuff of our culture (and even the stuff of our traditions) that we forget to pause, to breathe, to take the moment of the incarnation and let it bring life and rest to our souls. Somewhere, friends, in the midst of the busyness and the beautifulness of this holiday, I pray that you’ll realize…there’s a breath there; take it.

Pax Christi!

Proud to be an American?

I don’t often feel like words fail me. Words have always been an abundant resource for me, a manner of communicating my concerns and convictions.

A few years ago, one of my best friends from high school was visiting and we were out to dinner. She has had something of a difficult life, and has always struggled (I think) to find her identity. When she joined the National Guard, she gained a confidence and self-respect I’d never seen in her before. I can’t tell you how proud of her I was and am. I digress. She was visiting and we were eating dinner. An older woman approached our table and put a twenty-dollar-bill on the table. She told us that whenever she and her husband see a serviceman or woman out in a restaurant, they pay for her meal. They had been doing this for many years (I think she said forty years, but I don’t remember). The truth is, I don’t remember much of the woman’s words. What I remember–what I’ll never forget–is the look on my friend’s face. She looked humbled–not humiliated, but humbled–and honored.

I remember thinking about it all night. She didn’t enlist so that strangers would pay for her meals. Without exception, I have never met someone serving in the armed forces who acts like or says others need to show them special treatment. They do what they do for a reason–and it’s not for attention.

Why am I telling you this?

Yesterday morning, I was refilling my coffee in the break room, and I caught just a glimpse of something on the television. Lee Greenwood sang that old song that used to bring tears to our eyes and then a group of individuals placed their hands on their hearts and–following one young man–recited the Pledge of Allegiance. They were becoming naturalized citizens of the United States. One gentleman said it was like he had been “born again.”

Those who’ve been a part of the Christian community know how powerful those two words are. We don’t know the name of the emotion, but we know it sweeps over us every time we hear those words. To think–everything past is past, everything is new, we are born again. That’s an incredibly powerful feeling, and it struck me that a newly-oathed citizen of the United States would describe the experience in those words.

And then it embarrassed me. Just a little bit. It has become so easy to distance ourselves from the patriotism of our fathers and grandfathers. Many of us were born into freedom. We have always known the security of belonging to this great nation. We don’t remember the threats our ancestors faced. 9/11 is the only moment in recent history when we’ve questioned our security, our future. It brought us together in a surge of American pride–rightly so.

I thought about this all day yesterday. And somewhere in the midst of it all, I remembered the face of my dear friend, humbly accepting a free meal of gratitude from a complete stranger.

How blessed we are–still–to live in a nation of freedom.

How blessed we are–still–to be individuals and pursue our passions.

How blessed we are–still–to be governed by laws and not by kings.

How blessed we are–still–to be healthy and happy and productive.

How blessed we are–still–to freely worship in the manner in which we find our conviction.

How blessed we are–still–to be the United States, not the Wanting-to-Peacefully-Secede States.

How blessed we are–still–that men and women sacrifice their time, their energy, their relationships, their careers, their health, and their very life’s blood to defend our freedom.

How blessed we are–still–to be a nation that strives to promote freedom to the oppressed around the world.

All this, and more, I can still see in my mind in the face of my friend that night at the restaurant. I am so blessed. I am so proud. I am so thankful. Of all the places in the world I could have been born, I am so thankful I was born in these United States of America.

As I spent the day thinking about all of this and remembering my friend’s face, I thought about what a difference that woman made. I wondered if my friend remembered her (I bet she does). I wondered if anyone has ever paid for my sister to have a meal. I wondered if anyone else out there pays for our servicemen and women. I wondered if anyone would dare to join me in this conviction.

I can’t pay for every military person I encounter. And I may not be able to pay for them every time I see them. But it’s my new commitment–to myself, to my God–to show my gratitude for my freedom by paying for a meal for a soldier whenever I see them out. I realize that not everyone is in a place financially to do this, but if those of us who could made it a habit–just like that woman and her husband–think of how honored our military would feel. Think of how appreciated and loved they would feel.

What do you say, folks? Anyone else game?

And…for anyone interested…or for anyone who’s forgotten how emotional it is to be an American, here is part of the ceremony I saw yesterday.


I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. Maybe it’s all psychological. I’ll be honest—I’m just empty. I’ve run out of steam. I feel like I push myself hard for work, for family, for friends, for everyone and everything. It is rewarding in its own right, but what I’ve failed with is finding a balance in life where I can chase after the things that make me “me.”

We are all under the same plague. You have no more hours in a day than I have. But somehow, I have felt those hours slipping—wasting—away from me, precious moments that cannot be recaptured, opportunities unpursued. I have lost something crucial to myself, and I am struggling to find it again. I am praying about it more than I want—it’s difficult to admit (yes, even to my Creator) that I care so much about this, about my life. I like to fancy myself self-less and unconcerned about self’s pursuit. Yet, I remain—aching for time and space to enjoy and to become the person God created me to be. I feel so foreign to myself! It’s not supposed to be this way.

So I return to the basics, the things I need: Music. Writing. Study.

I have to make time for these things in my life. I feel good when I do. I feel rotten when I don’t. It’s as simple as that.

So today, I return to Komae. Someday, I promise you, I will finish this story. It’s just as much about my own Becoming, apparently, as it is about the characters’.

A Story About A Girl: A Random Sunday Memories Event

Grab your popcorn! Get comfy on the sofa!

Just kidding, it’s not that exciting. ;)

I haven’t been blogging my Sunday Memories this year, mainly because the prompts focused on some specific parts of our family which I felt were best kept separate from the great big interwebs. Being my birthday last Sunday, however, the prompt was to write about, well, myself, which I found incredibly difficult. Here’s what I came up with.

There’s an awkward moment when folks find out that I’m trying to write a novel. They ask, “What’s it about?” What’s it about, indeed! Experienced writers encourage amateurs like me to come up with a one or two sentence summary of our plot and memorize it so we’re prepared to answer this question. Of course, breaking a story down into one or two sentences is no easy task. So far, this is what I have:

It’s a story about a girl…

Pretty lame, eh? I’m just not sure how to summarize what’s happening in my story. I don’t know which morsels to reveal to try and interest people; I don’t know which secrets to hide so I don’t give everything away. All I know to say is that it’s a story about a girl.

I feel a very similar awkwardness when people ask me about myself. I could tell you a lot of things about myself, and it would never tell you who I am or what I am passionate about. So far, the only thing I know to say about my life is that “it’s a story about a girl,” and I’m that girl.

But there is one word that describes me well, I think: Longing. I am longing. I am always longing for something: Christmas, music, time to write, to speak with someone, to walk around the island, to finish a novel, to travel, to study, to read more books. I am constantly longing.

I think it comes across as unhappiness, sometimes. It’s not. It’s just a recognition within myself that I am not finished yet. A.W. Tozer talks about Christianity, and this strange phenomenon we see, where our expectation is that we make a decision to follow Christ, and suddenly everything in life falls into place. We are happy, we have clear direction, we have impeccable morals, we are faithful to our churches and to each other, we stop sinning, we stop even wanting to sin, we stop looking for fulfillment in other areas of our lives.

The truth is, it is right for a Christian to long for Christ. It is right that we should desire His presence in Eternity. It is right that we should feel a bit unsatisfied with this world.While He is the Giver of “every good and perfect gift,” that He blesses us with mercies that are “new every morning,” we also stand in an awkward awareness that no blessing on this earth can compare to the fullness and joy of being united with Christ. Our hope is not merely for an easy go of this life, but of the life eternal—which is what we were destined for.

I’ve heard it said also (by C.S. Lewis, I believe) that “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”We think that this life is what it’s all about, but it’s really just the pre-game event. What we are created for, what we are being refined for, is to dwell in the presence of God Almighty for eternity—to live in rightness, to live in wholeness, to live in worship, to live in communion with Christ and with His Body.

It is right that we should long for that.

It is right that we should long for those things that make us more into His likeness.

It is right that we should feel a bit unfulfilled and unsatisfied in this world—it is that grace that keeps us seeking hard after Christ, reminding us how small our brains are, how little we actually know Him. He is, after all, beyond our comprehension. Or, as the Proverb says (chapter 25, verse 2),

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.”

So that’s me. That’s Sarah. It’s a story about a girl. Longing.

Forget About It

Forget it. Just forget it.

We forget so many important things. We forget the name of the person we just met. We forget where we left our keys. We forget what day the rent comes out of our checking account. We forget whether we’ve had a tetanus booster recently (though I always seem to remember having it more recently than I actually have). We forget birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions. We forget to write letters. We forget to put a check in the mail. We forget to pull our clothes out of the dryer, and then they get all wrinkled. We forget (admit it, you’ve done it) to brush our teeth before bed. We forget to put on deodorant. We forget to pray before meals. We forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. We forget our cell phone numbers. We forget to reply to that text we received when we were at work. We forget whether Kathryn Russell was our fourth or fifth grade teacher. We forget the exact wording of our favorite passage of scripture. We forget which Wesley was the hymnist. We forget how to drive in the snow. We forget to return library books. We forget to check the air in our tires. We forget, we forget, we forget.

We forget so many things. And yet, when it comes to the things we need to forget (more for our own sakes than anyone else’s), we can’t do it. We can’t forget the harsh word someone spoke to us forty years ago. We can’t forget how hard it was to grow up without one of our parents. We can’t forget the time someone stole from us–money, purity, time. We can’t forget the person who cuts us off in traffic or in line at W@lmart. We can’t forget that one time we lent money to someone and they never paid us back. We can’t forget when someone snaps at us, argues with us, or makes us feel insecure.

This is on my mind today because I am remembering a person and a situation that I honestly thought I’d let go of. So tonight, my prayer is that Christ would continue to recreate me into His likeness and character, that He would teach me to forgive, that He would teach me to forget.

Pax Christi.