Cloudy Days

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It is June in Santa Barbara, California.

That means clouds. Lots and lots of low-hanging clouds. Apparently, the heat in the central valley does something magical to the sea air, dragging in lots of creeping fog to lay its head all along the central coast. Mornings and evenings are darkish and very damp, occasionally to the point of invisibility through the front windshield of your car. Most of the years we’ve lived here, I sort of tolerate this kind of weather. It’s not my favorite, but it is frequently redeemed when all that fog burns off about mid-afternoon, revealing blue skies and shadows, showing off the loveliness all around us, loveliness that somehow seems less visible in the fog and clouds.

When I sat down to write my semi-monthly newsletter yesterday, I was surprised at what came to me. (You can subscribe through the pop-up or by using the link at the end of this post. If you are subscribed and are not receiving these letters, be sure to let me know. I can get them to you if I know you’re missing them.) In the letter that went out early this morning, I wrote about the presence of sadness in our lives, even in the midst of deep joy and contentment.As you might guess, I spent some time reflecting on this hard journey with my mom. Somehow, writing about sadness seems appropriate in this kind of weather. 

I will quickly add that this year, I’m deeply grateful for all that cloud cover. Why? Because we are working harder physically this year than we have in a very long time. We’re pulling things out of corners we’ve forgotten about, we’re lugging old, broken pieces of yard furniture the entire length of our acre lot, we’re filling up not one, not two, but THREE recycle containers in a matter of hours. And cool weather makes all that work a whole lot easier to do.

As I often do after a particularly rich sermon, I chewed on the truth that Jesus must have carried a great deal of sadness when he walked this earth, too. We all do, you know? It’s always there and it needs to be acknowledged. Not catered to or unduly emphasized, but owned. Why? Because to be human is to be sad, at least once in a while, and sometimes it’s good to let that sadness breathe a bit. 

We are enjoying a marvelous series this summer on how Jesus read the Bible, which means how Jesus interpreted the Old Testament, the only Bible available to him in first century Palestine. This happens to be one of my very favorite topics, one I believe to be central to our understanding of how we are to view and use the Bible we have today, so I am greatly enjoying what we’re hearing. I had hoped to be one of the preachers in this series, but life intervened and that will not be happening. At this moment in time, ALL of my books are in boxes, not to be unpacked until sometime after August 10th, so preaching will be impossible for me this summer.

In years past, I would have been heartbroken about that truth. I used to love preaching, more than almost anything else I did as a pastor. But a switch got turned sometime during my last year of professional church ministry and that deep desire just sort of dried up. Sometimes I am puzzled by that. But most of the time, I am grateful. It was sometimes difficult to be a part-time associate — a role I felt called to and grateful for — when I loved preaching so much. Part-time associates do not preach often. Of course they don’t –it’s part of the deal, you know? But I loved it and I longed for it.

So losing that driving desire felt like a deep confirmation in my discernment process about retirement. It was like God said, “There will be new things for you to love, Diana.” And there have been; yes, there have been. This space is one of those things, and I am sorry that life has intervened to the extent it has in recent months. I am not able to make as many contributions to this space as I would like to. Hopefully, that will be resolved sometime next fall.

I am also thoroughly enjoying the newsletter. I allows a bit more personal interaction than the comments space (although I do love the comments space!!) and I may find it the best place to write about my journey with my mother. I also enjoy writing bi-monthly for our denominational magazine and monthly for SheLoves. I miss Deeper Story dreadfully,  but am grateful for the occasional connection with writers there via our private Facebook group. 

So losing that driving desire felt like a deep confirmation in my discernment process about retirement. It was like God said, “There will be new things for you to love, Diana.” And there have been; yes, there have been. Like this space (which I have been badly ignoring during this time of heavy lifting!), the newsletter, the articles I write for our denominational magazine, SheLoves, and anywhere else that will have me.

I think what I loved most about sermon-crafting was the writing. It was also the part that I hated the most, so go figure! And that is an interesting parallel to the joy/sadness thing, isn’t it? Both things are true. Most of us who write have a true love/hate relationship with the whole process. And all of us who live must become accustomed to that constant mix of joy and sadness, ease and difficulty, wonder and discouragement. 

Life is complicated.

But isn’t it glorious??

 

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Comments

  1. Sandy Hay says:

    I, for one, am truly grateful for these writings. Without them at sheloves, we would probably never have met.

  2. Diana, I believe these words about sadness and joy. They can occupy the same place. I am losing a friend to colon cancer, an artist who is 45, one child, a daughter still in high school. She’s going quickly and I am sad but I make myself remember the joy that Jesus had before him when He endured the cross…because He knew and He knows what is on the other side of this pain. That is where I find joy in the sadness. To me, joy and sadness feel incredibly full… a paradox and mystery that I embrace as a gift.

    I am one of those who signed up for your newsletter (or thought I did and haven’t gotten them.) I am making sure I verify. Hopefully, it will work for me this time.

    • Oh, Dea. I am so sorry about your friend! But grateful that you are finding ways to manage the grief that is such a necessary and important part of such a process. Let me know if you don’t get the letters – send me your email address via FB message and I can make sure you receive them directly from my own gmail account.

  3. Your newsletter is sitting in my email box waiting its turn — next!

  4. I was in the hospital room years ago when our 18 year old daughter entrusted her newborn daughter to a young couple who had been waiting years for a baby. There were tears of sorrow and tears of joy and barely enough tissue to go around. And as for a writer’s relationship with writing? Yes, Diana. Thank you.

    • Oh, Sue, I did not know this piece of your story. Such a brave, hard choice. A perfect picture of this wondrous and painful mix of joy and sorrow we call life. Thanks for sharing that with us here.

  5. ps – and that last photo of the shining sea? Wow! You will see that again 🙂

    • Actually, the last two days have been quite warm and sunny, with more projected. Very atypical for June, but I’ll take it!

  6. It is so true, Diana, that joy and sadness co-exist in our lives and actually intertwine more frequently than we always notice. As for writing, it is the one thing in my life that always brings me joy even on days when I struggle with words. The sadness comes, though, as it did recently when I finished the last book in my upcoming novel series, when I finish something BIG and have to walk away from my characters. I grieved for days, believe me!
    Thank you for this most thoughtful post and for your newsletter. You are an inspiration!
    Blessings!

    • I’m so glad it always brings you joy, Martha – and a novel SERIES??? Good grief, how do you do that? And are you going to publish? I’d say you are the inspiration just now, my friend.

  7. AMEN, Diana, AMEN! AMEN to the love/hate relationship with writing. (Who was it that said, “I love to have written?!”) AMEN to the sadness that clings to the edges of joy and contentment. The former increases our appreciation of the latter, doesn’t it. AMEN to confirmations of closed chapters and optimistic expectations for what God has planned next. You affirmed my hope, Diana. And thank you for giving my nebulous thoughts the clarity of your words!