Schmitzer Family Reunion

In fourteen days, I will be in Frankenmuth, eagerly awaiting the arrival of my dear cousin, Cindy-Loo-Hoo.

It began last year. When Cindy’s father, my dear Uncle Wayne, passed away in September, Cindy began planning to honor his wishes and bring him home to Michigan and to celebrate his life with the family here. As we began talking and preparing for the event, as Cindy’s travel plans began to solidify, it seemed the only logical thing to do was to take advantage of the opportunity and have a good old-fashioned Family Reunion. After all, if Cindy — whom I have never met in my 30-some years of life — was going to make the trip all the way to Michigan from Florida, we had better make it worth her while and gather as much of the family as humanly possible.

In some regards, the past ten months have been a blur. The brainstorming, the planning, has taken more time and attention than I expected. In my mind, it was just yesterday that we decided to really open up the reunion and send invitations to cousins outside of the immediate clan. It was just yesterday that Cindy told me she just wanted to make it through the holidays and get to the summer, so she could hug all of her family. It was just yesterday. And now suddenly–we are fourteen days from Cindy’s arrival; fifteen from the Reunion.

Am I excited?

I am feeling overwhelmed at the moment. There is still so much to plan, to think about, to prepare (not to mention the food). And in the midst of all of it, there are personal things happening that are vying for my attention. I just want to enjoy this Reunion. The Schmitzer heritage is such an enormous part of who I am, and the family history I can glean from a gathering like this is going to be heavier than a February blizzard. I have to be prepared and be smart about recording information.

In spite of all the time and thought already invested, I feel very, very unprepared.

Still, I know that once we get on the road, I am going to be overloaded with excitement. Until then, I just need to keep focused and keep working through the wrinkles…

Pax Christi.
Sarah

She Sings the Dawn

Just before the light of day,
before the rising of the world,
gripped in silence, darkness, shame,
there the rolling dawn unfurls.

She breathes the chill of night away.
It fades to navy, purple, flame.
There the morning song resumes,
beneath the twilight of the day

and waking trees and yawning streams.
The meadow needn’t fear her dreams.
She sings the dawn, the rising sun,
and Life begins–again.

semmie.

The Elusive Novel & Who Was At the Temple

I’ve been working on my elusive fantasy novel. I have avoided it for too long, primarily because my villain and I were not seeing eye-to-eye about her behavior. However, I think I am finally back on speaking terms with all of my characters. We may not agree, but we’re on speaking terms.

I’ve decided to simplify the novel’s perspective. Instead of writing from each character’s viewpoint and shifting around, I am going to return to the original concept and just follow the main character. At least for the time-being. I think this is going to make more sense. It’s also going to facilitate something I really struggle with in my writing: Keeping Secrets. Writing from one perspective will, I think, cause the reader to ask more questions; and it may be, in the end, that only Koon, Steve, and I know who else was at the Temple on that fateful day.

I am struggling, however, with age propriety. I have already made the characters older than they were in my very first draft for believability’s sake, but I sense that they are still behaving older. It may require some tweaking, but I suppose it will have to wait for my beta readers.

Interestingly, I met one of my brother’s students and she had the same name as the Healer in my story. I thought I was being original in my name selection, so this came as a surprise to me. Still, kind of cool.

Where does it end? In an episode of NCIS, DiNozzo gives McGee grief about not knowing how his story is going to end. I laughed, but the truth is that I know a lot of writers who don’t know how their story will end. It’s more common than I would have expected. Still, it concerns me. If I don’t know where it ends, I won’t know where to stop. I am so in love with this world and these people that I fear I would just keep writing and writing and writing and…and someday realize that I’ve outwritten the story I started with.

So. Anybody have a suggestion for an ending? :)

Why I Didn’t Write the Bible

I’m not much a fan of Paul.

I know, I know. It’s almost heretical to confess it freely. It’s not that I don’t like him. It’s not that I don’t think he’s a great teacher of our faith. It’s not that I don’t appreciate his sensitivity to the Spirit of God. It’s just…I’m not a fan. I read his letters, and I think, “Come on, Paul. Come down to my level.”

It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that I take great comfort in reading Peter’s epistles.

Nonetheless, I had an inner-argument this morning. It was between the Me who doesn’t care much for Paul, and the Me who knows Paul is right (I suppose this could be more accurately described as the natural self and the spiritual self — which makes Paul right, all over again).

It went something like this:

the Paul-is-right Me: Sarah, just stand.
the other Me: Quiet, you.
the Paul-is-right Me: Sarah…just stand.
the other Me: If I had written that passage, I’d have written something better. Like…and having done all, Crochet.
the Paul-is-right Me: Not crochet. Stand.
the other Me: Or…work on your novel.
the Paul-is-right Me: No. Stand.
the other Me: Or play my guitar.
the Paul-is-right Me: Or stand?
the other Me: Make lasagna?
the Paul-is-right Me: Having done all, stand.
the other me: Didn’t I tell you to be quiet?
the Paul-is-right Me: Just stand, Sarah.

It’s not that I want Paul to be wrong. It’s not even that I disagree with him. It’s more that I try to distract myself from the difficulty of life by doing things. While doing things can be acts of faith, acts of worship, acts of love, they can also be distractions and acts of disbelief. And don’t get me wrong — distractions can be okay sometimes. The problem is that if you seek distractions when things are difficult, you not only shield your gaze from the struggle, but also from the Solution.

Several months ago, my mom told me something that I found very profound. She said that we tend to relearn the same lessons again and again. It’s not always that we forget the lesson; it’s not always that we have failed and need to be corrected; it’s that we need the reminder of where our Help comes from. We need the reminder that nothing and no one in this life is stable or faithful; only God Almighty is faithful. Only He can be fully trusted. Only He can provide our needs. Only He can make us whole. Only He can grant us peace.

That’s where I am this morning: Relearning the lesson. Having done all, to stand. I don’t have to figure everything out. I don’t have to make a meal and write a new song about it. I don’t have to crochet a new afghan or save the whales. I just have to stand. I just have to plant my feet firmly on the Rock that will not move.

And be thankful…that I didn’t write the Bible.

Stand firm, then.

Choral Society, Program Notes, and Grandpa Schmitzer

We take for granted that Jim’s program notes will be informative, pertinent, entertaining, and–yes–even a bit touching. We take for granted that Lynne will sit tall and play the piano flawlessly, with or without her glasses. We take for granted that Floyd will select music that is both infuriating and breathtaking, and will make a decent choir out of an un-auditioned community group. We take for granted that the program will be formatted correctly. We take for granted that the posters will be both beautiful and inviting. We take for granted how sharp the choir will look in black attire with red corsages. We take for granted how wonderful we know it will feel when we are there on the stage and finally hear the fullness of our program, start to finish.

There are so many pieces to a semester of choir. There is so much we take for granted in the scheme of it all. The highlights of this semester of Choral Society were, for me, the moments I refused to take for granted. I’ll share one of them with you.

Jim, who has written the program notes for almost forever, was honored this year with the Choral Leadership Award. How incredible it was to learn more about him and his service to the Choral Society (and the community!), and to hear his remarks of humble appreciation! But after our dress rehearsal Friday night, I sat home on my sofa, numb from my eyes to my neck from Cepacol overdose, and I read Jim’s program notes. Over. And over. And over. Friends, I’m not too proud to tell you that it brought tears to my eyes. I’m not even sure I can identify the emotion, but I can tell you it was an enormous one. I read his words and it hit me like the deep thunder—you know, the kind that shakes the birds right out of the trees, sends the cats ripping through the house to find safety, leaves your heart trembling, and steals the warmth right out of the air before unleashing its torrent—I wasn’t just reading history. I wasn’t just reading the history of German or Lutheran music. I wasn’t just reading the history of brilliant composers. I was reading my history.

My heart still quivers just to think it, just to type the words.

What a moment! What a realization! What an awesome and humbling thing, to read my own history on paper in the words of perhaps the most articulate man I’ve ever known—to learn, from one of my heroes, the stories of some of my Grandfather’s heroes. For a moment, I felt like I’d been given a chance to know my Grandpa, the man I have longed to love, the man I have longed to know, the man who gave me his love of music, who died seven years before my birth. What an enormous, emotional, unexpected, thunderous blessing.

I refuse to take for granted the moments that move me, that challenge me, that change me, that reveal myself to me. This is really what singing in the choir is about for me: Identity. There is something incredibly profound about the movement of harmony, the struggle and peace of dissonance and resolution. There is something to be said for the paradox of so many voices—individual voices—coming together to sound one corporate voice. There is something quite theological about it, folks. Too often have we taken it for granted.

If I died today or if I had a tragic accident or diagnosis that left me unable to sing (or far more likely than either of these: if I were banned from the choir for excessive laughing during ridiculous songs like Adam Lay Ybounden), I would still raise my voice in thanksgiving. Singing with the Marquette Choral Society hasn’t simply changed me; it is recreating me. It is refinding* me, a soul that’s been lost for a very long time.

Just like my faith.

What a blessing to see it as it unfolds.

*I don’t think refinding is a word. It should be. I use it here intentionally.

The Quotable Floyd, part II

There are a lot of “best parts” about concert weekend, and later this week I will do as I promised and share my thoughts about the Marquette Choral Society program. Tonight, in my complete and blissful exhaustion, I offer you the part that makes the most sense: The Floyd Quotes. If you missed the Winter 2012 Quotes, you can read them here.

If you use a tritone in a piece, it invites the devil into the Church.

The Choir in my head never misses a beat!

We’re going to take several detours into error.

Please sing your rest.

You want an “ah?” I’ll give you an “ah!”

Everybody sing everything. Bar 10.

I don’t want you to lose the two-ness of this music.

It’s called a phrase.

Suddenly, rhythm breaks out after all that smoothness.

Jim: Don’t look at me like that.
Floyd: I was just imagining you dancing.

Might or all: Sounds like an Alto line to me!

We really need more “ah.”

We need a “G,” and we need an “L.” We also need a pitch.

I can’t possibly preach without consonants.

I don’t think Schutz liked Tenors very much.

It’s not Boston; It’s Schutz.

You. Be very metrical.

The key is making sure God is not held too long.

Bars 9 and 10: Don’t get caught by the devil.

This rest is for you.

Page 264. The funky German hymn.

Try to release all your dots.

Too fast? Too bad.

Just take a breath and sing.

I kind of helped you there in a wrong way, Altos.