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.

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 Quotable Floyd, part III

Well, friends, I’ve avoided my blog for several weeks now; and would be content to keep avoiding it, were it not for the incredibly quotable Floyd. I simply cannot resist sharing this semester’s quotes from Choral Society. As always, I do promise to share my thoughts about the concert weekend at another time, and I do encourage you to go back and read Floyd’s Quotes, part I and part II. Without further adieu, I give you the Fall 2013 Floyd Quotes.

This must be good! I have a power point clicker!

They look good. The Choir In My Head sings them really well.

Tenors, if it’s too low, just look like you’re humming.

No tongue lifts.

Relax the collision.

6/8 is a rhythm pit.

I heard s-words.

11/8 — it’s slowing down; who cares how many beats there are? Don’t count.

We’re going to fermataize.

You’ve gotta breathe sooner than you must for life.

If you can’t be forgiven in a choir, there’s no forgiveness for you.

O come, all ye faithful, lalalalala, Amen. That’s the Reader’s Digest version.

Sing in English or Latin as you wish.

There should be a fermata. If you keep your eyes open, I’ll actually show it to you.

I have nightmares about 6/8 carols.

I’m going to do the music there, not the notes.

Thank you for being wrong with me in unison.

You’re different from everyone else. But you’re Altos. That explains everything.

Oh my gosh! I thought that would be pretty! It is!

I wrote down “slower.” I hope this is the slower I meant.

I release you from any note-reading responsibilities.

You must fight for your right to sing C.

Virgin Mary had a baby boy? Have the boy later.

You’re still trying to read the notes, aren’t you? Stop that.

Please make sure your “w” has a pitch.

Big space. Big open hole. Look through there before you go on.

Take your legato engine and stop it.

It’s a vowelless sound.

We are the singers who sing “duh.”

Relax the Men.

Hum in Polish.

I will not do the proper tempo, apparently.

About 80% of this piece is entirely logical.

There’s no way I’m going to conduct this one steady. Completely not steady.

I think I will always conduct 8th notes. Except when I don’t.

I may not do what you think I’m going to do.

Do more like you did before, but not quite.

The Choir In My Head has perfect legato.

A comma isn’t a comma unless I say it is a comma.

Make it sound important.

I’m gonna sleep on my tempo.

I recommend more air. At every moment.

I wish I knew what I was doing.

Allegretto? I don’t think so. For reading, we’re going to do slow-o.

Those chords are so interesting. Why should we go through them at 40 miles per hour?

I’m gonna be releasing some energy right there.

You’re all by yourself. Except when you split. Then you’re yourself and a half.

Kris: We’re doing so well they shut the door.

Nameless Soprano: Can we keep singing this til we get to Jesus?

Nameless Choir Member: Where are we not supposed to breathe?  Floyd: Anywhere.

Wow! I didn’t realize Floyd gave me so many quotes this semester. It sure was fun! If you live in the Marquette area, please join us for Spring rehearsals. Contact me for details. :)

Pax Christi.

Sarah

Psalm 4

Psalm 4

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of David.

1 Answer me when I call to you,
my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

2 How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
3 Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.

4 Tremble and do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.
5 Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
and trust in the Lord.

6 Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
Let the light of your face shine on us.
7 Fill my heart with joy
when their grain and new wine abound.

8 In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety.

Focus.
Only four psalms into this project and already I am realizing that this is more difficult than I expected. Here, again, we see a shifting focus.

Verse one is focused on God’s actions. It is the understood “you.” [You] Answer me; [you] give me relief; [you] be merciful; [you] hear. David is speaking directly to God, and the focus is on how David desires for God to behave toward him. David is petitioning God, but his trust is in God to respond according to His holy attributes.

In verse two, suddenly, we are talking to men; but verse 3 immediately returns focus to God’s actions. David tells us how God behaves toward those He has set apart–specifically, that He hears when they call to Him.

Verses four and five are interesting. David is speaking again to men, telling them how to behave toward God. I’ll just note that herein are two of the most fascinating phrases in Scripture to me:

In your anger, do not sin;

Search your hearts and be silent.

The last three verses are clearly focused on God.

Music.
In the Psalm 3 writing, I said that if there is something theological about music, then there must be something worth noting about silence, also. Although, I’m reconsidering my thoughts about this. Think about the moment of Creation (regardless of how you believe it happened): I have always said that it was God’s voice that broke the silence and darkness. And that’s true, I think. (I think!) Except that silence and nothingness in the realm of mankind does not necessarily denote silence and nothingness in eternity. Before man, before Earth, before our universe, were the living creatures of Revelation 4 still crying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty; who was and is and is to come”? If so, then even though there is silence in the world of created man, there is sound in eternity. That is a really mind-blowing idea, and I challenge you all to think about its implications.

I am fascinated by verse four: Search your hearts and be silent. I have no idea what this may imply. It suggests to me more of a contemplative or reflective meditation, rather than a cognizant prayer. In fact, it may be why we see that beautiful word “Selah” at the close of the statement. We often think that for God to hear our prayers, we must offer something coherent or articulate. I know I do! For me, it has a lot to do with the way I write, the way I process: I am often more verbal than I need to be, simply as an exercise of discovery. The more I say (or write), the more I understand what I’m really thinking or feeling, what the “right words” are, etc. Fortunately for myself, this has lead to a very abundant prayer world; unfortunately, it has meant that I struggle with silence.

Piano has helped. It isn’t silence, but it definitely allows me to focus and search without allowing my intellect to take over. It may be worth considering that in a noisy world, we could all use some silence–even in our prayers.

And here’s an added bonus.

Psalm 3

Psalm 3

1 Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.” Selah.

3 But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain. Selah.

5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.

7 Arise, Lord!
Deliver me, my God!
Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people. Selah.

Focus.
As I suspect will be the case in many of the psalms, it is not immediately clear where the focus of this prayer is. This is a psalm of David, when he was fleeing from Absalom, his son, and it begins with something of a desperate cry.

Almost immediately, the focus shifts from the many that surround David to the character of God. Verse 2 is pivotal. It speaks the question of whether God is willing to intervene and deliver David. Interestingly, it ends with that mysterious word we all love: Selah. Perhaps the best explanation I’ve read (though it is an idea, not a certainty) is that “selah” meant to pause. It allowed time for reflection before moving on.

Inserted here, we sense a tension. It is like a moment in fiction where our hero is considering whether to give up in despair or to press on in determination. It is a moment of decision. The question here is this: What does David believe? Does he listen to the doubters and scoffers? Are they right? Has God abandoned David to his foe?

And here is the pivot: “But you.” Suddenly, we hear the conviction in David’s tone. He is defying his doubt with statements of how God behaves. Relationally, the focus seems to be on David–how God behaves toward him. However, the focus is really God’s actions, not the recipient of His actions.

Music.
There are two things I’d like to point out here.

First, we have the first use of the word “Selah.” in the Psalms. What does the word mean? We may never know for certain, though I am partial to the idea of pause. If there is something theological about music, there must also be something at least worth noting about silence.

Second, the wording of verse 4. Notice that David doesn’t merely cry or pray or hope; he calls “out.” In the KJV, it is rendered, “I cried unto the Lord with my voice.” In the old NIV (the Bible I use), it reads, “To the Lord I cry aloud.” There is a definite sound attached to David’s plea. Is this intentional? I cannot say; only that sometimes in our greatest need, our greatest darkness, it helps to speak aloud, to let our voices break the silence.

It was God’s voice that broke the silence in Genesis, bringing all things into existence. Could He have created man with only His will, without His voice? Of course. He is God! But it should tell us something about God (and ourselves) that Creation comes from His voice.

As does David’s prayer.