Sunday Musings

Just wondering . . .
on a summer Sunday night,
with cool night air drifting in from the door
and sweet worship music on 
the computer.
Just wondering . . .

what comes next?

We’re home this week,
when we thought we’d be gone.
Traveling to the northwest,
to see beautiful country,
and beautiful friends.
But we’re not. 

So here’s a calendar,
suddenly open.
And here’s a body,
more tired than I knew . . .

My mom-in-law
began to slip,
and down.
And her daughter had long-laid plans
to be gone.
It didn’t feel right to be gone at the same time,
so here we are.

And really, it’s fine.
We’re relieved not to be packing and unpacking.
We look at each other and wonder –
how come we’re feeling so tired?

When did we get so old?

And that has me wondering. . .
what happens in this culture
as we get old?
We see lots of pictures of
green space,
golf games,
exotic travel,
smiling, silver-haired models
seem to say,
“It’s time to relax,
to enjoy the fruit of your labors,
to remove yourself from the world of work.”

But here’s what I’m learning.

It’s truly difficult to do that.
I love to travel – I do.
But not all the time.

And I love to relax – I do.
But not all the time. 

So, we put our hands to what we find.
My husband, gifted with finance and investing,
sits on boards and committees,
and he manages the money he so carefully
invested for us,
for our moms,
for other family.

He tends this huge yard,

with good professional help. 

He invests himself completely in our grandkids
when they’re around. 

And I?
I sit in my small study which needs sorting.
And I meet with those who are seeking
more of God.

And they teach me far more than
I ever teach them.

 And I tend to family, too.

Ailing mothers, growing grandchildren.

I make spinach salad for 50 at our
first-Sunday-back-to-college student lunch
after church today.

And in, around and through all of that,
 I try to write.
But I’m late to this game,
really late.
And I am also way past the age of most
of my compatriots out here in cyberspace. 

Most of the time, I’m okay with that.
But tonight, I’m feeling out of place,
out of sync,
out of my element.

I’m sure this wondering phase will sort itself out.
And I’m talking to God about it,
in my usual, on-going conversation
with this One who seems both near and far,
surprisingly small,
yet immense.
And right this minute,
I am listening to the song I wrote about 
And the beauty of it pierces,
it pierces through all the wondering,
all the melancholy,
all the feelings of uncertainty 
and ego-centered angst.
Because THIS is the truth – 
and a woman who lived many centuries ago*
wrote these words,
in another tongue,
another place.

But her words, her insights
speak to my soul this night, in this place:

I cannot dance, O Love, unless you lead me on.
I cannot leap in gladness, unless you lift me up.
From love to love we circle, beyond all knowledge grow.
For when you lead, we follow, to new worlds you can show.

Your love the music round us, we glide as birds on air,
entwining soul and body, your wings hold us with care.
Your Spirit is the harpist and all your children sing;
her hands the currents ’round us, your love the golden strings. 

Play me a medley,
play me a song.
Lead me, I am yours.
I cannot dance alone.

O blessed Love, your circling unites us, God and soul.
From the beginning, your arms embrace and make us whole. 
Hold us in steps of mercy, from which you never part,
that we may know more fully the dances of your heart. 

I cannot dance, O Love, unless you lead me on.

*Our Director of Worship Arts, Bob Gross, wrote a lovely melody to go with these powerful words written by Mechtild of Mageburg in the 13th century. This translation was done in 1991 by Jean Wiebe Janzen, but the words in bold are Bob’s addition and serve as a beautiful refrain throughout the piece. Since I first wrote about this beautiful, haunting song, Bob has included it on #5 in a series of self-produced CDs taken from our Sunday worship services. And if you would like to listen to it, follow this link right here and scroll down to number six on the list. Hit the play button and enjoy. (If you use the contact addresses on the home page, you can order CDs for yourself. We are a congregation of about 325 people and apart from Bob, everyone you hear is a volunteer – vocalists, string players, acoustic and electric guitars and bass, piano, wind instruments, percussion – all from within our own community, many of them college students. We are so blessed. SO blessed. Please remember, these are not studio sessions, but live worship recordings.)

I’ll join this with Michelle, Jen, Duane, Ann’s Monday gratitude group – because I am grateful, even for the melancholy times – and maybe with Laura and Laura, though it’s not particularly playful nor is it about a physical place so much as an emotional one.

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  1. May I melanchole alongside you?

    This stirs me, Diana.

    Your words lead me to realize, with this tightening in the pit of my stomach, that I don’t know how to relax.

    But I do remember how to pray. . . offering those for your mother-in-law, and you, your husband, and his sister.

  2. Of course you may, Sheila. Some days are just like that, aren’t they? And learning to relax is sometimes tough. I’ve gotten a whole lot better at it – but after a bit of it, there’s a restlessness that begins. And sometimes it’s hard for me to determine the source of the restlessness – is that ego talking? Or is that the Spirit saying, “Time to move.”

  3. Kathy Nolen says

    Diana, I have been reading your blog for some time now and for some unknown reason decided I wanted to comment today. Maybe it is because I wanted you to know that even though you may be older than some of your fellow bloggers, God is using you and your words in my life. I am a 63 year old mom and a new grandmother who is seeking to know and love God in a deeper way in what I am calling “the last third” (not original, I know). I feel some kinship with you even though we live on different sides of the country; me in Birmingham, Alabama and you in beautiful, beautiful Santa Barbara. My son lived in Santa Barbara after college when he and some college buddies started a .com. The first time we flew to visit him I cried because it was so lovely and I knew he wouldn’t be moving home again.
    I enjoy your writing and find it winsome, honest and true. Thank you for using your gift with words to minister to me. Keep writing – God has given you a gift to share.

  4. Thank you so much for these encouraging words, Kathy! And congrats on becoming a grandmother – you will love it. And yes, Santa Barbara is a beautiful place – one that we have chosen not to leave, even in retirement. We’re grateful beyond words that God’s call brought us to this place – and that it is a place our children love to visit. :>)

  5. Hi Diana – great thoughts here. My Mom is aging and I see how she is slowing down and I see how all her bad habits are now showing in all she can and cannot do. I hope to learn from that and I know I will be relying big time on God’s grace and mercy. You have set me to thinking. God bless

  6. Carol J. Garvin says

    Both the words and melody of “Lead me, I am yours” are beautiful! It expresses a yearning that niggles at me, too. Just because we’ve reached those so-called golden years doesn’t mean we should sit back and do nothing. The difference after retirement is that we should have the freedom to choose how we occupy ourselves and to pick activities that utilize our strengths.

    After 18 years as choir director and director of music at our church, I’ve ‘retired’ four times. Whenever my replacements have retired/resigned/moved/etc, I’ve been called back to provide transitional leadership. I’ve just committed to doing another full year and every so often I find myself wondering what possessed me to agree… except it felt like God’s prodding, and the right thing to do. And as much as I sometimes feel it requires more energy than I have, I know I’m not going to be doing it alone. He lends his strength. I won’t ‘dance’ alone. And I DO love working with the music and musicians in our church!
    I’m sorry you’re missing out on the planned trip, but God’s wisdom and timing is always better than ours. I pray your MIL’s health will stabilize, but it’s good that you’re available during her daughter’s absence.

  7. I’m thinking maybe this comment was meant for an earlier post? Last week’s post was about my mom – this week’s was about melancholy… And surely my concerns about my mom add to the melancholy!

  8. Amen, Carol. A full year back in the saddle, eh? I’m definitely not up for that – but I wish you the very best as you offer your musical gifts to the community. And as you so wisely note, you will not be doing it alone. Blessings along the way, friend.

  9. You’re right–we do need to talk more about aging.

    What I know is that you are a gift to us slightly younger cyber folks. We need your wisdom, your training, your experience.

    Hope you enjoy your unexpected gift of a week.

  10. Thank you, Megan. And I am still enjoying it – we were supposed to be gone from the 22nd of August until the 5th of September. TWO WEEKS of no appointments. Wow. So we’re sorting through stuff these days – which I desperately need to do. And tonight, I’m reading through a pile of letters I wrote home to my parents the two years we lived in Africa. Those will be making their way into that Africa Journal series…

  11. lindalouise says

    I love reading your thoughts Diana. So often they reflect my own. I sometimes worry that I am not using the days wisely – and they don’t stretch out to an endless horizon as they once seemed to. They slip through my hands at lightning speed. We do many of the same things, helping aging parents, adult children and grandchildren. We volunteer at church….all the usual things.
    I often feel out of sync here – loving the writing, the sharing and the friendships – but often feeling a bit like a fish out of water.
    So we’ll figure this out together – leaning into Him, taken each day with whatever He brings.
    You bless me Diana. I am so sorry to be missing out on Laity this year. I would love to sit and chat.

  12. so many good questions, good thoughts. where I work I see the worse case scenario of aging. God dealt with me about this recently when my boys were both so sick, so suddenly. I discovered how much fear controls me. Wow. What a reveal that was. I like where you arrive, though, Diana. And I am heading over to hear the song because the words have touched me so.

  13. Oh, I was hoping maybe you would come along this year to Texas. It would be good to chat a bit – face to face! I have to tell you that we found a treasure trove today – a cache of letters I wrote home from Africa to my parents and brothers. I can hardly believe it – and am so enjoying re-visiting things – both what I remembered and what I forgot!

  14. When it comes to our children and sudden illness – fear moves right in – it’s really to be expected, right? It’s a normal physiological and psychological defense. What has been harder for me to realize is that the fear can conquer me, making prayer impossible. That’s where I count on the groans of the Holy Spirit. And the Jesus prayer, to tell you the truth! I use that a lot when fear mounts – most especially over health issues for anyone I care about. What I’m writing about in this post is more like a low-level anxiety, feeling of displacement – which can be just as destructive if we don’t open ourselves to the mercies of God. And sometimes music is the best way to open. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your usual lovely words . . .

  15. We’ve had a summer of slight re-arrangements. For the most part, nothing earth-shattering, but enough to set off these same kind of ponderings. It’s funny how that happens. Praying for your week – for rest for souls. Grateful, Diana, for your voice, your perspective, your honesty.

  16. Thank you, Annie, for these encouraging words. Hope your own ponderings lead you to something sweet and helpful at some point. . .

  17. I will so miss my roommate. 🙁

  18. You know how I’m with you here. I feel so squished sometimes and doing so much of the mom stuff at my 63 years. The things I’m neglecting (and I’m drooling over your study and looking around at this messy dirty farmhouse and wishing I could do with it what I envision can be done.) I’m frustrated that I don’t have more energy. And there are days I wonder what on earth I’m doing. And then I remember I can’t not do it. (I did turn down a request last night to teach a 5th grade Sunday School class. I do have a bit of a handle on my limits.) You bless me daily, and I hope I get to spend more time with you next month than I did last year.

  19. Yes, I’m counting on spending more time with you – and with a lot of other folks, too. That should be a bit easier this year as my husband is not coming, so I will have more freedom to just hang out a bit. I loved having him with me for my first, very scary experience. And I’m not really looking forward to flying alone – but the pay-off will be worth it!

    And yes, you do so much of the ‘mom’ thing with your grands. Wow – I don’t think I could do that as graciously as you do. You inspire me . . . truly.
    We are going through lots and lots of junk these two weeks of ‘found time’ in our calendar – and hopefully, my small study will become habitable once again. I am really good at initial organizing – making files and labels and sorting and tossing . . . but I’m NOT good at maintaining the system once it’s in place. So I have stacks. and stacks. and stacks. Sigh. Pray for me, okay??

  20. Deal! We are still trying to figure out if I can tag along with my husband on a business trip to the Upper Peninsula and hang out up there for a few days. I’m not sure if it’ll work out with my daughter’s schedule and grand girl’s school and sports schedules. What’s an empty nest?

  21. Oh Sandy – do everything in your power to make that trip work. It sounds like exactly what you need. You’d be with your husband – but on your own, too! THIS could be your monastery time, honey. Make.It.Work.

  22. Oh, Diana! I didn’t know (or forgot, or wasn’t thinking straight) that flying challenges you, or I would have offered to go from LAX and travel with you. 🙁

  23. Or, I would have invited you to come to Orange County on Wednesday and fly with me from there on Thursday morning. That would have given us a slumber party before the trip.

    I’m sorry!!

    And they charge a fortune to change tickets these days 🙁

  24. It’s okay, Sheila. It’s ‘good’ for me. :>) I’ve done a ton of it in my professional life – I just never learned to like it very much. And I do have to go to LAX the night before because the flight leaves so dang early. I’m changing planes in Phoenix – are you??

  25. No, Dallas.

  26. See you in SA, then!

  27. Working on it. 🙂

  28. hi Diana,

    So glad I linked up behind you at Duane’s so I get to read your wise and beautiful, honest and wise words…beautiful backyard…grateful you are writing and sharing with us…


  29. Kim Hyland says

    “I’m late to this game.” I feel this. At 43, I may not be running quite as late ;), but I’m definitely a few years beyond the average Christian woman in cyberspace. But you are needed here! You are rare and wise. And your willingness to be brave gives ME courage to keep writing when I feel out of place. I’ll be back, so please don’t go anywhere!

  30. Thank you, Dolly. I’m always glad and grateful to see you here.

  31. Such kind words, Kim! Thank you – and yes, you are WAY behind me in this race (if that’s what it is!) 43 is kid stuff, honey. :>) Blessings as you find your way through this interesting maze out here.