The Tangled Sweater

This is a story about a girl who may or may not bear any resemblance to me. Let’s call her Shhhhhhara. Yeah. Shara.

On Friday, Shara was driving home from work, singing at the top of her lungs to the soundtrack from That Thing You Do (aka: Best Movie Ever). The afternoon was sunny and beautiful, but the air was cool enough to relieve the warmth. Shara lived for days like this. Having recently been diagnosed with Lupus, Shara had–as of late–been trying to dress in layers. The Upper Michigan weather had been so fluctuant, and layers helped her to manage the effects of the climactic extremes. On the day of our story, Shara had chosen a bright (not neon, but bold) pink three-quarter shirt under a lightweight black cabled sweater. Bold colors look great coupled with black, by the way.

So there was our girl, driving home from work with the windows down and the music blaring. She realized for the first time in a week that she was feeling good, and decided to celebrate by taking off her sweater. Now if you think that taking off a sweater while driving is a bad idea, you’re right. However, it is a well-established fact among Shara’s friends and family that she can do this without unbuckling her seat belt or taking her eyes off the road. It’s all about the steps, the process, she tells people. In fact, Shara has done this several dozen times in her life and has never had a problem or caused an accident.

Shara gripped the wheel with her left hand and carefully maneuvered her right arm out of the black sleeve. Leaving the right sleeve limp on her shoulder, she took the wheel in her dominant hand and slithered out of the weaker sleeve. All that remained was her head. She lifted the sweater over her head and —

TIGHT.

Not good, Shara. Not good.

She slowed her highway speed to 40mph. There was no one behind or before her, or she never would have attempted this in the first place. Shara glanced down and saw the problem. Her left sleeve was caught in the back of the seatbelt. No problem. She reached back and pulled it free, then tried to pull the sweater under the shoulder strap of the belt.

TIGHTER.

Really not good.

A car appeared in her rearview mirror long enough to signal before passing her. The other driver glanced as he passed, double-took, and then shook his head with a laugh as he cruised by. Shara finally did the smartest thing in this story.

She pulled over.

It was there, on the side of the road by Marquette Mountain, in a tangled sweater-seatbelt with the Shrimp Shack playing on the stereo that Shara had a beautiful, unexpected, ridiculous God-moment.

How often do we look at our lives and think we understand what God is doing? We think that our understanding enables us to correctly (and safely) behave in a way that will bring about the (assumed) end result. The truth is, just like Sarah in the Bible, when we try to make God’s promises come about on our own, we mess everything up. We cause ourselves more heartache and grief simply because we forget that God is the Author of our story. And when we realize that we’ve done it–that we’ve caused more trouble than we’re worth–there’s only one thing to do: Stop. Stop and Untangle.

In more than one regard, this is where I am in my life. I’m untangling a lot of things–music, writing, theology, poverty, purpose, love, family, health. I’m stopped. I am overwhelmed with the realization that I don’t understand any of it. I want to understand, and I thought I understood–but I don’t. I’m caught in my own sweater, and every wrong move tightens around my neck like a noose. You can understand, then, why it’s necessary for me to take time and not rush this process. I’ll get it all worked out. I know I will. I just can’t promise it’ll happen as quickly as it should. I have always needed to do things in my own time, and this is no different.

I’m so thankful that God allows us to pull over and untangle!

Pax,

Sarah

No sweaters were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

Distant

“You’re distant, Sarah,” he said. “Hauntingly distant.”

I answered, I questioned, I answered, “I am.”

How can I not be after the week I’ve had?

The year I’ve had. The life I’ve had.

And I’m so angry; I’m not even sure what about.

Maybe it’s my lovers, or my brother, or my father, or God.

But I keep losing everyone I love.

How can I not be distant? Tell me, friend–how can I not?

Cause there are some things you can never unlive–

No matter how hard you try.

So let’s stop pretending that Jesus will fix it.

He can’t undo the choices I’ve made.

And I’m so weary of the grief like I’m weary of snow.

I wish it would melt and flood me so I can feel whole.

But I’m so buried beneath it all.

I can’t feel anything anymore.

How can I not be distant?–I’ve lost everyone I love.

And I’m losing my mind here, in the chaos of it all.

So when you walk away, friend, I understand.

I’ll be here, distant and alone, in the end.

Counten Hands & God’s Voice

For the last week, I’ve been listening to a worship cd from 1988. It was my favorite as a child (more on that some other time), and it still resonates the strings of my spirit. One of  the songs tells us to “lift up your countenance,” and it has kept me smiling all week–not because I’m choosing to lift my countenance, but because I remember being a child and thinking they were singing, “lift up your counten hands.” I have no idea what that would even mean, but in a world of hand-raising Christians, it made sense to my 8-year-old brain. 

Isn’t it funny when we think we understand something, and later realize how mistaken we were? It doesn’t make us heathens. It doesn’t make us obstinate. It just makes us mistaken.

So often, this applies to my hearing of God’s voice. He speaks to me in quiet, intimate moments (like dreams), and I awake with this certainty of what He has said, realizing later that I misunderstood what He spoke.

There is a friendship in my life right now that has been the unfortunate recipient of such a situation. God definitely spoke to my heart about this person–even before we had met–and I misunderstood what God was telling me and why. My friend has been incredibly understanding, but it would be dishonest to say it hasn’t caused some tension between us.

All because I didn’t understand what God was speaking to me, so I used my best logic at the moment and tried to make sense of it.

Still, I have to tell you…there is no shame in mistaking. 

There’s a verse in one of the Pauline epistles (I can never remember which) where we are encouraged to “only let us live up to what we have already attained.” I have loved that exhort for many years now. It reminds me that God does not expect me to have everything figured out; He doesn’t expect me to walk according to some truth I haven’t yet learned; and He doesn’t expect my fallible self to perfectly understand His infallible self when He speaks. He expects me to live according to what I’ve learned and taken to heart.

For me…today…that means a shift in how I respond to His voice. It means prayerfully considering His words and asking His Spirit to make clear to me what He is saying. 

Wherever you find yourself today, I pray that you hear God clearly and seek to understand His words.

Pax Christi.

Sar

Broken Beauty

A poem. 

Alone in darkness,
void — Her shame,
a longing gaze
through time outstretched.
She searches, searches
long — and finds
no star can
hold Her fury, wretched.

She yearns to know
and to — be known,
Her waxing, waning,
pulsing tide,
bound to a Rock
She does — not love.
Her lifeless, listless
course in stride.

He finds Her cold
and — wandering,
engages Her
with steady gaze;
No shifting love, but
certain — True,
with hope and warmth 
for every day.

Revealing all the things
She’d — lost —
the things She is,
both joy and strife.
And in His eyes, 
She finds — Herself,
brings broken beauty

now to life.

Genealogy Do-Over: Week 1

A new year is the perfect time for a Genealogy Do-over! Many of us were genealogy addicts long before we had learned anything of the process, the resources, the citing of sources, etc. A do-over allows us the chance to go back, to start from scratch and implement some of those techniques and habits that (we think) would make our research more effective.  So let’s get to it. I invite you to join me (and countless other genealogists and bloggers) on this incredibly exciting and frightening 13-week journey. Be sure to follow Thomas MacEntee over at geneabloggers so you know what we are focusing on each week.

Week One Goals:

1) Setting Previous Research Aside

I’m pretty sure I can do this. One of my primary reasons for embarking on this adventure is my frustration with my previous research! After losing my digital copies of all the records I have (thank goodness for hard copies!), I thought this was an excellent time to start over. This do-over is quite timely for me. My folders and binders aren’t exactly inaccessible, but I don’t feel any particular draw to them at present.

2) Preparing to Research

As I think is true of many of us, my research habits have been sort of…seat of the pants. I research when I have time, when I have energy, when I have an inkling, or when someone asks me a question I cannot answer. This, sadly, does not work. It makes my research lack the uniformity I desire. One of my biggest problems is that I’m not organized about my research.

In other crafts/hobbies/pastimes/obsessions, I tend to gather the materials at the beginning of a project and keep them together until I’m finished. I confess, I have not been so diligent about this with genealogy research. My goal here is to gather the items I know I will need, and keep them together in a tote bag so I know exactly where they are at all times (and so I don’t have to hunt for them every time I want to work on research). Thomas encourages us to “make a list of items that you must have available when you are researching.” These are the items I will keep in my tote bag!

  • A new genealogy research notebook (because who doesn’t need a new notebook?);
  • My genealogy flash drive;
  • A folder with blank forms (pedigree, individual & family group record, research log, correspondence log, and source log);
  • A folder for forms-in-process;
  • My trusty BIC (because no other pen will do);
  • A copy of my research goals, as listed below.

3) Establishing Base Practices and Guidelines

Here, we are challenged to list five most important tenets by which we will research. This is difficult, because researching often becomes so exciting or frustrating that we forego all form. Perhaps all the more reason to commit to a process! Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Begin an end with a “to do” list;
  • Cite and log all sources;
  • “Track all work, even dead ends, negative evidence and non-productive searches;” (thank you, Thomas!–what a great reminder!)
  • Stick to a twice-weekly schedule: Tuesdays for research, Fridays for processing and preparing;
  • Name and date all work.

There it is! There’s my Week 1 of the Genealogy Do-Over. I’m super excited about next week! Can I hold out until then? Sure…I suppose I can spend some time preparing my bag and locking away my old records… :)

Good luck! And let me know if you’re in!

Pax Christi,

Sarah

The Quotable Floyd, part V

Well, my dears, it’s time again for the best part of the choral post-season: Quotes! As I’ve said in the past, I love quoting Floyd. He’s so funny. More than this, however, I find his words sage and witty, pertaining both to music and to life. Now as we near Floyd’s final (full) retirement, I cherish these quips as memories. What a blessing it has been to learn and sing under his direction!

This time around, I’ve listed the quotes under the song title where they were written into my music, and I offer them to you here in concert order. Enjoy!

Resonet in Laudibus
If you sing the way I conduct, you’ll sing a wonderful concert.
 Always keep your accompanist happy.
 Everybody sing everything.

O Magnum Mysterium
 If you wait too long, you’ll sound late; if you’re too quick, you’ll be early.
 Just go ahead and try it. You may actually get it right!
 Where in the heck do you put the pitch?
 There is still some residual pulsation going on.
 I’m just gonna give you a three-four ‘cause I have a three-four to spare.
 Those two notes are friends.
 Ascend, Altos! You may ascend!
 You may flip your R in that way if you like.
 Sopranos, would you sing “la la la la.” No, wait. That’s not it.
 If you were a medieval scholar, you’d be forbidden to write that interval because it would summon the devil.

Ave Maria – Stravinsky
 If you’re gonna be wrong, be wrong loudly.
 Once in awhile I may even cue your section.
 You may generally breathe; don’t specifically breathe.
 This is the hardest little piece I know.
 There’s our friend the G!
Lynne: Watch out for the nunc!

     Floyd: Notice the dynamics?
     Lorna: They’re easy to miss.
     Howard: Mine says ‘piano for rehearsal.’

Ave Maria – de Victoria
 Our tempo meter has gone pfffffft!
 It’s gotta be in tempo. You can’t just dribble off.
 If I looked up to find you, I…I wouldn’t!
 Take a breath on the rest; don’t rest on the breath. Ooooh! That was good! Write that down!
 After awhile, the bar lines don’t matter anymore.
 If there were a sharp in front of that G, it’d be the pitch you’re singing.
 You had a real nice G#. Please don’t do that again.
 Orapronobis fermata-bus.
 Nobis? No breath.

Ave Maria – Biebl
 We’ll follow the music and see what happens. Then again, maybe we won’t.
 Go ahead and sing your fullest forte.

Glory to God in the Highest
 Some of you head too much sloppy for supper.
 The grammar will defeat you.

Jazz Gloria
 We could throw a few more pitches in there. Just for fun.
 There’s where the pitch lives!
 There’s no chord upon which to sit.
 Eat enough to fortify your jazz chops.

     Beth: Were we low enough?
     Floyd: You’re fine. It’s just ugly.

     Nameless Alto: We can’t see you.
     Floyd: Why do you want to see me? You don’t watch anyway.

One, two, three, four…twelve…thirteen…square root of eight…
 There’s some magical musical mysticism going on here.
 I don’t know what I was doing; I was improvising.
 I can’t tell what’s coming out of my mouth sometimes.
 You could, without knowing it, tripletize the sixteenth note.
 Swing: That’s not notated; it’s just felt.
 There’s no rushing in Jazz Land.
 It’s just here and there and back again.
 We’ve got two Jesus Christs, and then Jesus Christ followed by the Holy Spirit—which is very important, theologically.
 Don’t think of it as a measure. Think of it as a series of notes upon which I will pounce.
 No matter what happens—SING.
 Don’t think in rhythm.
 The wrong note at the right time equals music. The right note at the wrong time equals noise.
 Find your seats and put them in your chairs.

Christmas Day
 Make them up. (In reference to the words.)
 I bet I can unlegatoize you.
 I will shoot a cue to you that you can’t miss!
 I’m not in the right key, but who cares?
 You’ve got a rhythm to wait in expectation of.
 You’ll have a rhythmic moment right there. It’ll be short, but you’ll have it.
 The minute the tongue touches the teeth, cut it off.
 At this point we have a surprising harmonic move. It always comes at a page turn.
 I would never look down on good music!
 What you just did—write that in.
 If you’ve got the notes, I’m not gonna stop you.
 Relax. Relax. Blalalalala. Blalalalalala.

Fortify your jazz chops. Hahahaha. I want that on a bumper sticker. Don’t forget to go back and read the quotes one, two, three, and four. :)

Pax Christi, friends!

Sar

Let Go, part I

What are you holding onto?

In my closet, all the way to the right, tucked into the corner, just beyond the Hawaiian blue chiffon dress I wore at my brother’s wedding, a sassy pair of boot cut blue jeans hangs from the same hanger that has held them for the
past fifteen years. They’ve been a favorite all this time, in spite of the fact that I haven’t been able to squeeze into them since the summer I graduated from high school and fled the dreary Copper Country. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I cling to the hope of what those blue jeans represent.

Every woman knows what I mean. Somehow, it has nothing to do with the jeans themselves; it has everything to do with the way you felt when you wore them. I have one lone photograph of myself wearing these jeans, and when I see it, I still marvel. I look happy, I whisper to my soul. I want to feel the way I look in that photo.

Okay. Let’s be real for a moment. Blue jeans do not have the ability to make one happy, neither can they make one beautiful or engaging or alluring or any other desirable trait. They are an object of denim, stitch, and button. In light of eternity, they mean nothing.

But here in my physical world, they represent something. They represent the young woman I was fifteen years ago: Bright, hopeful, unjaded, confident. So you see, they are–and are not–just a pair of old blue jeans. There in the back of my closet, they whisper to me that I once was this woman…that I should be her still…that I could be her still…

The truth?

I can’t.

Oh, I’ve no doubt that I can somehow find beauty and life and confidence in myself again. I only recognize, as a woman in her thirties is more able to appreciate, that it has taken many choices, many roads for me to become the woman I am today. The girl in those jeans? Yes, she was unjaded; she was incredibly naive. Yes, she was confident; she was incredibly foolish.

Beauty is deeper than a pair of jeans.
An appealing spirit reveals in the eyes, not the hips.
Confidence is knowing who you are, not being comfortable.

So this year, as I approach the New Year, this wretched pair of blue jeans are the first thing on my list.

I’m letting them go.

Pax!
Sar