Relearning. Or, Duplets. Or, Watch Floyd, again.

As promised, here I am–back for a few moments, and ready to say something (though I’m still unsure what needs to be said) about Fall rehearsals and concerts.

I’ve said it before, and it won’t hurt you to hear it again: Joining the Choral Society is one of the (or maybe, simply, the) best decisions of my adult life. I would be hard-pressed to think of another choice I’ve made in the last decade that has resulted in so much fun, so much discovery, so much reconnecting with myself, so much simple soul-fulfillment, so many blessed relationships I didn’t know I was missing out on–friends new and old, heroes amazing and approachable. There is not even the tiniest speck of disappointment or regret in this area of my life. I am so blessed, so thrilled to be participating in the Choral Society.

This was my fourth concert season with the Choir–two spring concerts, two winter. One of the great things about the Choral Society is the winter concert. It is traditionally held at St. Peter’s Cathedral (where the acoustics give us a heavenly sound that even Floyd can’t summon of his own will), and serves as a sort of “ushering in” of the Christmas Season in our Walton-esque town. When Floyd turns to the audience during that concert and directs the community, not a soul dares keep silent. There, in the beauty and reverence of the Cathedral, I truly believe the townsfolk would follow Floyd anywhere.

But what of the Choir?

I’ve been mulling over this question since the concert, asking myself why we–why I–struggle so ferociously with following Floyd? I try, friends. I really try. But when I most need Floyd, I look down. At the music. It hit me again, like the lesson I didn’t learn last Spring. We were singing an incredible arrangement of Silent Night with an F-natural that the Altos had been fighting for all semester. And there, in the mess of this beautiful 6/8 carol, the Altos had a duplet.

Right?

Are you kidding me?

The Sopranos are singing a dotted quarter, for three.
The Tenors and Basses are singing a quarter and an eighth, for a one-two, three.
And the Altos get to divide those three beats into two?

I won’t insult your intelligence by trying to describe how lacking the Altos were at that moment when we first realized it was a duplet (I think most of us were content to ignore that little “2″ above the notes and just sing it like a quarter/eighth with the guys). I’m sure there were a few who had it right–there always are; but I’m honest enough to tell you right here, on the wide open interwebs, that I wasn’t one of them.

In fact, I’m still not.

We went over and over and over it in rehearsal. And finally, we breathed a collective, Altoic sigh of relief when Floyd said, “I’ll point, like this, when you need to move to the second note of the duplet.” And he did. He pointed. A good, sturdy, unmistakable point. Right at any Alto who had the sense to look up.

And if you know me, if you know what a slow learner I am, or how I think I’ve learned some lesson and then have to go through the process several times more before I actually learn anything, you know that I didn’t have the sense to look up. There I was, at the Friday night dress rehearsal, still trying to count it perfectly all on my own.

I’m a bit proud that way. If Floyd can do it, if Brubeck can do it, surely Sarah can do it. Right? (And for those of us counting it right now in our heads, I just want to remind you [and me] that counting it alone is an entirely different pursuit than counting it in context of a choir, and an entire section which is made up of people trying to count it the same.)

So why is it? Why am I so slow to accept that I need Floyd’s direction, when there in the audience sit a community of friends and family who would take any cue Floyd offered without hesitation? Why does my pride, my ego always step in and blind me to my need (and desire) to follow Floyd? It baffles me! I baffle me!

This, friends, is the exact lesson I thought I learned last Spring. Remember? How insightful I thought I was when I told you all to “Watch Floyd“! And here I am, still struggling to watch him when I most need direction.

I would be lying if I told you that this is no reflection of my spiritual life. It strikes me hard, yet again: I look to Christ, and I trust Him to lead me, until things challenge me. Then, somehow, my self-preservation kicks into high-gear and I try desperately to come out on top on my own. And isn’t that entirely counteractive to the Gospel message?–that in and of ourselves, we can never accomplish what we need or desire (salvation)? Isn’t that entirely why Jesus became a man, gave himself to be born of a young woman in a barn, surrounded by animals?

As you approach this holiday, may your eyes be drawn once more to Christ, who never fails to cue us, to guide us, and to lead us in righteousness. May your trust be in Him, fully, when your duplets confound your rhythm.

Pax Christi,
and Merry Christmas!

Sar

The best thing about Christmas is…

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The best thing about Christmas is…

 

The best thing about Christmas is the gifts. I’m not even joking.

I told you two weeks ago that the best gifts are those we give, and in a world where we are less and less connected with each other, where we trust so few of the people around us, where families and friendships are broken over silly trifles, perhaps the greatest gift you can give someone is yourself, your love.

It doesn’t always evidence as a big gesture—you don’t have to change the whole world all of the time (though I admire the spirit that wants to). Sometimes it breaks through a cloudy day with just a smile and an arm around another. Sometimes it is listening to someone dream. Sometimes it is a cup of coffee well past your bedtime that allows you to share your heart with another. Sometimes it is a game of Scrabble, decorating Christmas cookies together, watching the John Wayne marathon, tossing a football around in the yard, unwrapping four bags of Rolo’s together to make pretzel turtles, or shopping for yarn. The point isn’t necessarily what we do, but that whatever we do—we do it with others. When you give someone your time and attention, you give them yourself, the greatest gift you have.

Those really are the best things about Christmas—the memories we create by spending time together. This Christmas has been such a blessing for me. Though my heart has been heavy with those missing from our gathering (Steven’s family, Rodger, even Sanka), my heart has been birthed with new hope. We have each other. We belong together. God gave us the gift of this family—however difficult it may be to unwrap at times.

As always, kids…keep writing. Keep remembering. Keep living. And keep giving.

All my love,

Aunt Sarah

The best Christmas gifts are…

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The best Christmas gifts are…

There are several gifts (not only Christmas gifts, but birthday gifts, rainy day gifts, no-reason-at-all gifts) that were so special to me that I’ll never forget them: The decorating tips that Steven gave me; the night sky bandana from Maggie’s clan; the opal ring from Momma; the socks from Jesse (when I jokingly asked for thick socks and was surprised to find that it was exactly what he gave me); the journal that Jenn gave me for my birthday—she had remembered it from an outing some time past and that I had fiercely coveted it. Those (and others) are the gifts I love.

The best Christmas gifts (the best gifts, period) are those given from the heart. Why did I love those gifts? Because they showed that someone knew me well enough to know what would bring me delight. Great gifts are chosen with care, are a result of sacrifice, and reflect the giver.

I forget that. A lot. Just today, I was feeling discouraged because I don’t have cool gifts to share, and those I do share—I feel insecure about. I want to be the person that everyone gets excited about receiving gifts from! I want my friends and family to be trembling with anticipation as they wonder what I came up with this time. But I’m not. I’m just me. And maybe I’m weird, but I really enjoy giving the gifts that I give. They really are chosen with care. They really are a result of sacrifice (have you ever tried stitching a journal together?—trust me, it’s a sacrifice; so is dipping bags and bags and bags of pretzels without eating them all). They really are a reflection of me (well, maybe the pretzels aren’t a reflection of me, but…you get the idea).

Those are the best gifts—not the ones we receive, but the ones we give. My hope for you this Christmas is that you’ll know the Giver of all good things and the great Gift He gave to us, and that you’ll find ways to give to others—whether tokens or time or fellowship—that truly reflect the giver (that’s you!) and the Giver (that’s God!).

Happy Gifting (that’s Christmas!)!

All my love,

Aunt Sarah

How I prepare for Thanksgiving is…

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How I prepare for Thanksgiving is…

Thanksgiving is a magical time. There’s snow in the air, pretzels dripping chocolate all over the kitchen table (yes, even with the waxed paper, somehow I always manage to make a mess), a popcorn chain that’s never quite long enough, a final rush to finish my Christmas gifts, and—best of all—suddenly the rest of the world catches up with my love of Christmas music (secretly, I’ve been listening to Bing Crosby croon ‘Silver Bells’ since, oh, June-ish).

Thanksgiving is magical: The meal, the traditions, and the never-heard-enough Cool Whip story. But long before the day arrives, before the tree is up, before the bird is stuffed, there is something I have been compelled to do—a project that has consumed me for the last decade of pre-Thanksgivings.

The Snowmen.

Did you know that your Grandma collects Snowmen? She didn’t either, until it was too late! I’m not sure what started it, but it is such a fun tradition for me. Every year, I spend the weeks working up to the Thanksgiving shopping all around town to find the cutest and most unique Snowmen. Those with character end up with the year written in permanent marker on the underside (or somewhere not too obvious—which, believe me, can be difficult to find sometimes!), wrapped in tissue paper, and tucked away in a bag or a box or a crate for gifting. Then, on Thanksgiving (with a few exceptions—like this year, we did the Snowmen early so it wouldn’t interfere with everyone coming home for the Big Day), I give them to Grandma.

And every year, she gasps—she oohs and aahs and giggles like a child. “Oh! He’s got a little birdy!” “Look at that pudgy nose!” “It’s a Snow Family!” “They’re all holding shovels!” I don’t know if she’s really that excited about Snowmen, but she sure puts on a good show. So every year, a handful of Snowmen are added to the collection, and on Thanksgiving, when the tree is up and the decorations come out, she’ll be surrounded by Snowmen that she can enjoy all throughout the Christmas season.

To me, that is the greatest way to prepare for Thanksgiving. It puts my heart and mind in a spirit of being Thankful and of Giving.

And…it really does make your Grandma smile. That alone makes it worthwhile.

All my love,

Aunt Sarah

Luke 2:11

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

What more can we say?

Rejoice, friends. Our Savior has come. May your heart be filled with the wonder of his coming.

Merry Christmas!