An invitation to Let Go

Every November, I begin evaluating my silly little existence and asking myself to make resolutions for the coming New Year. How can I change to be happier? Healthier? Wiser? Kinder? It is important to look at life this way, to take stock of where you are, where you’re headed, where you want to be. We are beings of constant change out of constant choice.

Will I get on the treadmill this morning? It seems a simple decision, but each day that choice is chipping away at an idea and revealing what’s really burning in my heart. And what of tomorrow? I am a firm believer in the momentum of choice. If I get on the treadmill today, I will be more inclined to get on the treadmill tomorrow. And the day after? The day after that? Etc? Each day carries with it the conviction of the previous choice, making it ever easier to make the same choice as the day before. So today, whether I get on the treadmill or not, it will be that much easier to make the same decision tomorrow.

But in the midst of such critique of your life, it can be easy (too easy, perhaps) to focus on things that we lack. I lack the self discipline to get on the treadmill each morning. I lack the silence I need to write. I lack the money to travel.

The real question isn’t what I’m lacking; rather, what is unnecessarily taking up my time and energy? And more importantly, why am I allowing these things (situations, relationships, emotions, fears, et cet) to monopolize so much of my existence? Is that really what I’m here for? Is that why God gave me life?

Not all of it is bad, friends. Some of it has simply outlived its usefulness. Maybe…just maybe…I need to let go of some of it in order to welcome whatever God has for me in 2015.

My friends, my family, random strangers: I encourage you to join me on this endeavor. Consider the things that you’ve been carrying in 2014 that have left you dissatisfied or unchanged. Life was never intended to be static. Join me, if you will, in trading your typical, easy-to-forget New Year’s Resolutions for one or two things that simply need to go. Then, together, we will do what is necessary for life and growth.

We will Let Go.


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The Joy & Fury of Genealogy Gifts

Family Historians live for those five precious words: I have something for you.

Let’s all just take a moment to remember that the amount of “stuff” I have (and believe me, I’m trying to eliminate a lot of it) in no way diminishes my deep longing (and yes, need) for mementos of familial significance. I may have no idea where I’ll put it or how I’ll document it or how to share it. Yet, I absolutely need it. Make no mistake.

Sometimes you expect it. Sometimes you almost plan it. You know that if you ask enough questions about a person or a situation, you’ll be offered a photograph or a letter or some striking piece of history that ties him into the fabric of your story.

And then, sometimes, it catches you totally off your guard. You are driving someone home after a Thanksgiving visit, and someone you haven’t seen in months greets you at the door with a brown envelope and says, “I have something for you.” Your heart races. Your pupils dilate. You feel the blood rush to your face. You couldn’t be more enthralled if it had four wheels, a hood ornament, and a bright red Christmas bow. This is the moment for which you didn’t even realize you were longing. For a moment, you even forget that your name is misspelled on the envelope. It doesn’t seem to matter at that moment.

What’s inside? Is it a letter? A death certificate? An ancestor’s attempt at a pedigree? Naturalization papers? Civil War records? Photographs? A lock of hair?

What’s inside?

What’s inside?

What’s inside?

And then you remember: It doesn’t matter.

The contents of a small brown envelope or the contents of a trunk that’s been rotting in the attic. It doesn’t matter what’s inside. What matters is this: It’s been entrusted to your care. Someone, with some appreciation of the family history, feels that the best place for this treasure is in your keeping.

That’s a humbling realization.

I’ve had two moments like this in the past year. Both situations left me silent, soaking up the incredible information that was being gifted to me. Both situations left me stunned, overjoyed, silenced. The first came about at the Schmitzer Family Reunion in August. A woman I’d never met (who, ironically, had emailed me prior to the Reunion but I didn’t read the email until afterwards) handed me a brown paper bag full of Reunion logs, letters, and other information that I will be sifting through for a long time yet. I can’t wait to share it with my family.

But yesterday, when my dad handed me this small brown envelope of papers, I could hardly stand the 6 hour drive home so I could rip it open and sort through it!

I confess that I was frustrated at first. Several of the pages have apparent coffee stains, which is certainly not worth complaining. Except the two pages of handwritten notes (my secret genealogy obsession) where the coffee stains are more like blobs, making much of the document illegible. I need someone who can pull an Abbie Sciuto on the pages and separate the coffee from the ink, or something. I was also frustrated, initially, because the pages didn’t seem to make sense in context of one another. It seemed like random information, but I’ve been doing family history long enough that I should’ve known not to jump to conclusions! The pages actually belong together.

The first two pages document the marriage and children of Joseph and Jane Moore, my Scottish (according to this person’s research; Irish, according to some others) 3xG grandparents. The pages that follow document the descendants of his children, my 2xG grandfather, Thomas, and his brothers.

The Edward clan (on of my 2xG grandfather’s brothers) has been problematic for me for some time now. I’ve connected online with one or two of his descendants, but I have better questions than I have answers. Ironically, it is the text on his family that has the Coffee Blobbing.
Coffee Blob
The experience is further complicated by the lack of authorship. It is an excellent reminder to myself (and any genealogist, regardless of experience level) to byline and date my work. As it stands, most of the information corroborates what I already know, so it’s not problematic; the information regarding Edward, however, is obviously a photocopy of a handwritten account without apparent author at present.

What is a Family Historian to do?

Simple, folks.

She rolls up her sleeves, makes a fresh pot of coffee, and begins transcribing the documents before her while she waits for her father to call and answer some of her questions about where the information came from and whether it can be replicated or attributed to anyone.

Is there a better way to spend a Friday evening? Nah. There isn’t. There really isn’t. The truth is–frustration or not, we get sucked into genealogy because we love the puzzle. And we love new pieces, even if it’s a sky blue piece and you’ve already filled in the sky.


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Has it been forever since I’ve shared my heart with you? It seems like forever. I’m here tonight, friends, without agenda. I just need to write (erm…type); I need to share what’s been happening with my heart and my head and my…self.

Life has been busy, folks. I hate saying that; it’s such drivel. You don’t have any more minutes in a day than I have, and there’s no point in pretending I’m such an excellent manager of the minutes I do have. If you gave me 60 extra minutes each day, I’d still find a way to feel ‘busy.’ Admit it…you would, too.

I suppose it is never really that I’m busy. I’m the type of gal who needs time to process. I need to process my new job, my monthly bills, my leftover yarn stash, my pile of laundry, which route I will take to get to work, how many right hand turns I’ll make if I take Front Street instead of Third…I process. I analyze. I need a game plan. And you can ask my mom and brother, Jeremiah, what happens when they allow me to plan a trip. It was the best unused itinerary ever!

Unfortunately (or fortunately…maybe, somehow, it is a good thing, after all), I tend to need time to work through everything I think and feel and want to say. It can be frustrating at times, and I can’t tell you how many friendships have been on the line in my short 34 years because I needed time and I failed to articulate that need.

That’s kind of where I’ve been: I’ve needed time.

Not just with the blog. Literally, with everything in my life (except knitting), I have needed time this year. And more than ever, I’ve felt like I’ve had too many things to process for the minutes I have alone in the course of a day.

I won’t share it all with you. That wouldn’t be appropriate to the other people involved.

I will tell you that I’ve been struggling with my health this year in a way that I didn’t anticipate. I’ve been a migraine sufferer for twenty years now, and I honestly thought I had a handle on them. This year has brought much change in that department, culminating in the dreaded “worst headache of my life” that sent me to the Emergency Department. Friends, I won’t lie to you–the pain was unbearable. I thought I was going to die. Between you and me (and the world wide web), I was ready. My words to God that evening were brutally honest. When I started reacting to the IV meds they’d given me, I flashed back to that episode of NCIS where the guy was locked down in the sewer and slowly lost his mind and ripped out his own eye. That seemed very logical to me suddenly! I digress. I had a follow up visit today with a Neurologist, and I have to tell you, I’m surprised by the direction we’re headed. I don’t want to share anything at the moment, other than…he ordered some labs and I’ll have to do some imagining. The culprit, he suspects, is something my doctor suspected (and brushed off) about twenty years ago, when I first was diagnosed with migraines. Or…he believes that my severe symptoms were stress related.

Totally unreasonable.

Or…totally not, if you know the kind of year I’ve had. :/ Whatever is going on, I feel hopeful about having a Neurologist on my team. And I am eager to get my life back.

In other news, believe it or not, I’ve been writing a lot of music. I know this shouldn’t surprise any of us at this point, but it still catches me off guard a little bit: I am a songwriter. I’m not the best singer. I’m not the greatest lyricist. I’m certainly only a mediocre guitarist. But I am a songwriter. That’s so cool! Anyway, I’m trying to be brave and share a song or two with those around me. If you’re out there and you want a snippet, send me an email and I’ll link you to my dropbox. I will just warn you upfront: Most of the songs I’m writing are about a boy. Okay? Okay. Don’t laugh. Okay, you can laugh a little. It’s actually a pretty ridiculous story, and someday maybe I’ll tell you all about it. But right now, the closest you’ll get is a song. So. There you go.

Work has been good. I think. I can’t tell you how much I love what I’m doing or the people I work for and with. I’m in a new position now, which is pretty stressful for me. I confess that I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the constant and unending workload. But I do enjoy the work that I’m doing–and that makes a huge difference. I will say, I’m praying more and more for my bosses. Our office is a busy one, and the simple nature of the office is a stressful one. It takes its toll on the staff. But I will say…I really do see the doctors investing emotionally, physically, tangibly in the staff, and that is very encouraging. I’m still thankful to be there, thankful for the people God has brought into my life through the job. But. I am stressed with it lately.

Family is…sigh. You don’t want to hear about my family, do you? I love them. They love me. Sometimes we act stupid. Still.

Choir is going well! We are preparing for our Christmas concert (can it really be coming up so quickly?) the first weekend of December. If you’re in Marquette, stop by to see us at the Cathedral. It’s going to be super-uber-totes COOL. Next semester, we will very sadly, but with many good memories, finally allow our Fearless Leader to retire and settle down to do the things he WANTS to do with his life. In honor of the occasion, we’ve commissioned a three-movement piece by British composer Paul Ayers. Seriously–if you’re going to be in Marquette, this is a concert NOT to miss. It’s going to rock like 1984, folks. We’re also planning a retirement shindig for Floyd. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and I feel so blessed that I get to be involved at this moment of his life. Floyd is like…a Marquette icon.

I’m still working on the Psalms. Reminder to self: I need to meet with Rob and talk about Psalms.

I guess that’s all I have for now. I just wanted you to know I’m here and I’m still alive. I miss you all. Yes…all of you. Give me a holler and let me know you’re doing alright.

Pax Christi.

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Words for Sara(h)









We grow up surrounded by the safe wisdom of those who know: Never judge a book by its cover; beauty is only skin deep; it’s what’s on the inside that counts. These are havens for us when we are young. They remind us that we are made up of something more than what we look like. At least for me, growing up with two beautiful, thin sisters–it was a haven for me. It was hope. It meant that if I was never thin and pretty, I could still be worth something.

I won’t lie to you. I won’t say that I don’t still struggle with this particular issue. In the last year, especially, though, I’ve been noticing a far more disturbing trend: A tendency to judge one another by what we possess.

And more frightening–by what we don’t possess.

College degree.

Stable career.


Health insurance.

Dependable vehicle.

Credit card with 0% APR.

Book published.




The “things” you lack do not define you anymore than your physical stature. It doesn’t matter why you lack them. It doesn’t matter whether you are happy or enraged about your lack. The only thing you need to know — the only thing of which I’m here to remind you — is that none of it defines you.

You would never disown me for being overweight. You would never tell me that this is somehow a flaw in my person, ridding me of value, ridding me of the ability to make a difference in the lives of others. You would never diminish my worth upon such a basis. Don’t you ever — EVER — believe or accept the lie that you are diminished because someone “has” something that you “don’t.”

You are an amazing woman, one that I am so blessed and proud to call my sister (even if I do get a little bit touchy about sharing a name with you when you insist upon spelling it incorrectly). You, my dear, can slay any dragon that you face. You wield an amazing sword. You have worked hard to build strength and perfect your skill. And most of all, you are unrelenting in your pursuit of what is good.

Do not ever, Sara…do not ever let anyone’s words destroy your heart. And if you need the reminder, you know where I am. I am lost somewhere in Michigan, cheering for you, believing in the amazing woman, sister, wife, student, fire fighter, daughter, friend you are. There are those in this world…who need you.

Yes, you.

Now stop what you’re doing. Go to the beginning of this blog. Read those first seven words and know: I chose them just for you as a reminder that you lack no good thing.

I love you, woman. Always.


Pax Christi,

the other Sara(h)


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Number 5, folks: Malaria is preventable and curable. It is heart-breaking to think that anyone–ANYONE–should die such an unnecessary death. Can we get involved? Can we do anything to change the trend?

We can…


The topic for this month is: Malaria.  Here are some facts and stats from the World Health Organization:

1. Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected mosquitoes. 

2. According to the latest estimates, released in December 2013, there were about 207 million cases of malaria in 2012 (with an uncertainty range of 135 million to 287 million) and an estimated 627 000 deaths (with an uncertainty range of 473 000 to 789 000).

3. Approximately half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria.

4. Most deaths occur among children living in Africa where a child dies every minute from malaria.

5. Malaria is preventable and curable

6.  Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria reduces disease and prevents deaths. It also contributes to reducing malaria transmission. Access to diagnostic testing and treatment should be seen not only as a component…

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Here I Am: Burkina Faso

Yes, here I am.

I confess, I’ve been incredibly unfaithful to my blog as of late. I make no promise to be better. I promise only to reward you for coming back by sharing a beautiful song at the end of this post.

So I’m reading a fascinating book right now called Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I highly recommend it. It’s interesting how God teaches us, don’t you think? Here is a book about Community and how that should function and look within the Body of Christ, and what am I taking away from it?

Well, I’m learning a lot about Community, to be sure. I’m also learning a lot about music; about the Psalms in general; about the Lord’s Prayer; about Hebrew Parallelism; about the relationship between individual and corporate prayer and praise; about marriage. It’s fascinating to me that a book about Christian Community would deal so squarely with so many topics that are already on my heart and mind! God sure has a sense of humor, doesn’t He?

But this morning, as I sat at Starbucks reading this heavy (but thin) book, I was taken aback by the issue of bread and poverty.

The table fellowship of Christians implies obligation. It is our daily bread that we eat, not my own. We share our bread. Thus we are firmly bound to one another not only in the Spirit but in our whole physical being. The one bread that is given to our fellowship links us together in a firm covenant. Now none dares go hungry as long as another has bread, and he who breaks this fellowship of the physical life also breaks the fellowship of the Spirit.

(p.68, emphases his.)

It hit me square. This is a difficult idea to accept; I dare say, it is impossible to digest without the working of God’s Spirit. It reminded me that we are not merely commanded to love one another with emotion, but with action. Perhaps D.C. talk said it best back in the day: Love is a verb.

It is our responsibility, friends, to care for those in need. It is our obligation as the Body of Christ to view His blessings upon us as gifts to receive and administer rather than entitlements to possess. We are not blessed for the sake of attaining some socio-economic status. We are not given gifts for the sake of tucking them away to be used only for our benefit and glory.

No, brother; sister. We are blessed to administer blessing. If today you find that there is bread before you, may God quicken your heart to love and bless those who hunger. And if you don’t know what that looks like, allow me to offer a small suggestion of where to begin: Compassion International. By sharing your bread (your financial blessings, but also your heart and encouragement and prayers) with a child in need, you are not merely changing a life–you are changing the world by breaking the cycle of poverty. And by sharing your bread, you are honoring and promoting the fellowship of the Body of Christ. What will you say?

What will I say?

Sharing my bread with two young men in Burkina Faso has been the greatest blessing of my adulthood. My spirit attests to this idea that we are bound in fellowship, that we are obligated to one another. And that is why I am convinced more and more that I not only desire to go to Burkina Faso and meet my boys, but I need to do so. I need the fellowship of breaking bread with them, and simply of loving and being loved by those who share with me both in blessing and in poverty. Because I’ll tell you something, friends: There are two boys in Burkina who are economically impoverished, but who are spiritually full of life and hope and joy,  and they give freely of these loaves and fishes.

Take a leap, friends. Sponsor a child today.

As promised, a song to end my post today. This is an original song, written and performed by a friend of mine, local musician, Troy Graham.

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Roberta and I met Friday morning for coffee. It was remarkably good fellowship, which is saying a lot. Roberta is always great company, but this was more. More than just catching up with someone I love. This was heart to heart, the benedictions of life and peace and joy upon one another as fellow members of Christ’s Body. What a wonderful experience.

One of the things we spoke about is my complete lack of desire to sing or make music for an audience. We can speak honestly about this, folks. There was a time when I longed for audience. There was a time I believed my heart was there, on a stage, speaking life and hope to people too close to be strangers. And I don’t know precisely when it changed. I remember even in leading worship at the Tab that I made a subtle transition from wanting to “lead” to wanting to accompany and support a “leader.” When my brother got married six years ago and they asked me to sing a duet at the reception, I was so uncomfortable at the thought–but so comfortable with the reality.

I forget little things. For instance, I really do like the way my voice sounds in a microphone. And I really do enjoy looking out at people and making eye contact. And I love–more than almost anything in the entire world–noodling on the piano as I try to speak the words on my heart.

But I have long desired the solace of having no audience, no stage, and nobody looking at me.

The question is, as a musician, how do you love and pursue music without desiring an audience? This is a question I’ve pondered for years, and I am no nearer an answer than I was when I first posed it.

As Berta and I discussed this the other day, she–in her typical, gentle but challenging manner–suggested that maybe it would be good for me to be exposed to a bit of audience again. I love Roberta’s manner of making me feel totally uncertain and yet entirely certain. Of course audience is good for a musician, even if performance is not the aim.

So there I was, yesterday, sitting on the edge of the stage at the bandshell all alone, my bare, cracked feet swinging off the edge like a little girl, and my guitar in my arms. And I sang softly. There was no one nearby, so I allowed myself to have a little fun and let loose (which, if you know me, needs to happen more often). And so I’m singing one of my old favorites by Rich Mullins–My One Thing–and I’m hamming it out. And…?

This guy comes out of nowhere. With his dog. I figured he’d walk right by and all would be well, so I just kept going. Every night, every day, ya hold on tight or ya drift away, and you’re left to live with the choices ya make. Oh Lord, please give me the strength to watch and work and love and sing and pray…

Aaaaaand he sits down.


Like, I know it’s an actual stage, and I know there are benches for the audience during concerts, but the fact that no one else is there and I’m sitting on the edge of the stage without any equipment other than a guitar (without even a pick, I might add) should clue you into the fact that this isn’t a concert. But he sat. And his dog sat. And wow–that was awkward.

But what the heck, right? I kept going. And I know that the pure…the pure in heart…and I know that the pure in heart shall see God. Yeah, I know that the pure…the pure in heart…yeah, I know that the pure in heart shall see God… and out of the corner of my eye, I see a young man with a lot of hair walking towards the bandshell. And I’m thinking, he’s headed for the restrooms. And the dude with the dog is just sitting there watching me with a silly grin on his face, but the song is over so instead of stopping and having an awkward moment with the stranger and his dog, I went right into another song–another favorite–Thankful by Caedmon’s Call. Of course, it isn’t nearly as awesome without the trash can beat, but…•shrug•

So I’m singing along, trying to be a little amusing for the guy with the dog, but secretly wishing I weren’t dumb enough to sit on the stage where people might mistake me for entertainment. Cause I am just like Lazarus, and I can hear Your voice. I stand and run my eyes and walk to You…because I have no choice. And I am thankful…

And the young guy with the hair? Nope. He isn’t headed for the restroom. He turns toward the stage, walks right up to the very first bench, and sits down.

Oooookay. If I hadn’t left my cell phone home to charge, I likely would have paused right there to call Roberta and make her come out to witness this odd moment of my existence. But I couldn’t, because I did leave my cell at home.

So I finish the song and pause long enough to say, “I wasn’t expecting an audience.” They both seemed amused by this remark, but neither made a move to leave. And since the dog had laid down on the ground by his walker’s feet, I figured–what can I lose? So I sang them another song–this time (be proud, folks), I sang one of my recents–Daisies, which I shared the lyrics to here on my blog recently.

And as I’m nearing the end…singing my very own song for these total strangers–a family of four walks up behind the benches. Mom and Dad and two little girls. And Dad just held the younger girl in his arms while Mom held the older girl’s hand. And me? I capo-ed the third fret and I sang the song I always sing over children, another one by Mullins–Let Mercy Lead.

And as I watched these people, watching me, I thought–being heard is not such a bad thing. It is that “being heard” that allows us to minister to one another, to speak truths through music that we are often unable to speak conversationally, to connect with people that we may have absolutely nothing in common with other than our humanity.

I stopped after that song. The family left. The man and his dog left. The young man with the hair spoke with me for a moment about guitars. And as I walked alone to my truck, with my guitar slung across my back (as no guitar-respecting young woman should ever do, because there is too great a risk of it falling [and trust me, duct tape does not fix a broken guitar]), I heard myself pray.

“God, what was that?”

But I didn’t really need to ask the question. I knew the answer.

It is just like God, too, isn’t it? We think we understand some aspect of our lives, our hearts. Someone (thank you, Roberta) speaks challenge to our assumed desires, and suddenly, God places the people and the circumstances in our lives to give us the opportunity: We can grow and learn, or we can remain as we have been.

I still have no desire to perform. But if you see me with my guitar, I hope you won’t be afraid to ask for a song, because the truth is–I don’t mind the audience.

Pax Christi.

Posted in Music, SemStuff | 6 Comments