A Simple Look at a Not-So-Simple Life


I’m feeling a bit melancholy these days. Nothing serious, just the convergence of a few factors.

First, a difficult anniversary is coming up. There hasn’t been an Easter in over a decade that this underlying feeling of loss has failed to make an appearance. I don’t look for it, but when it arrives I just nod my head in recognition: a not-so-welcome friend that is in town for the annual visit. The visit won’t last forever.

Second, I’m learning the meaning of “sandwich generation.” My father was very ill last week, hospitalized for eight days. During that time, my mother came down with a nasty respiratory virus. They were both sick, sick pups. I live four hours (on a good traffic day) away from my parents. I have young children in school. I’ve never been so miserable, having to be in one place, but needing to be in another. My brother (my hero!) was able to get away for a few days to take care of them. I found a substitute preacher for Palm Sunday and spent the weekend with them, trying to help out. Thank God we were able to bring Dad home from the hospital on Saturday. Trying to take care of my dad (in the hospital), my mom (at home), and making sure my kids were taken care of (Aunts? Cousins? Help, please?) was a major stress factory. My parents are getting better, but I learned that being caught between the needs of two generations is no fun. I’m suddenly not such a fan of sandwiches.

Third, It’s Holy Week. I remember, in my pre-pastorate days, when this was a deeply meaningful, spiritually renewing time for me. Back then I was a teacher. Our spring break often coincided with Holy Week. I was able to take the whole week to read, to write, to think, and to connect with the enormity of what this week means. Please don’t think I’m awful, but becoming a pastor has ruined Holy Week for me. It is now pressure-cooker week. It is manic week. It is exhausting week. I remember the conversations that Susan and I had in the week before her death. (See melancholy reason #1 above.) I felt so sacrilegious as we commiserated together over how ready we were to get Jesus back out of that tomb again so we could get back to normal. (Okay, add to this reason the immense guilt I feel at even making such a confession. I feel like such a bad pastor!)

Finally – and I’m almost as ashamed of this reason as I am the previous one – I’m just a wee bit envious. Well, maybe more than a wee bit. It seems that the publishing/scholarship/workshop gods are smiling fondly on a LOT of my blogging friends and acquaintances. I am so excited for them. Every one of them receiving these great breaks deserves it. Still, it feels kind of like being the last one who hasn’t been invited to the prom. What makes matter worse, even if I was invited to the prom (um, given the opportunity to go bigger with my writing) I’m not sure I know how to do my hair, my make-up, or my nails. And I know I can’t dance worth a darn. (In other words, I don’t know how to do anything beyond plugging away at my blog and writing weekly sermons, and I’m not sure I have what it takes to go beyond that, especially when I find myself awkwardly mixing odd metaphors.) The frustration is uncomfortable. The envy is unattractive. Then just when I needed it most, I ran across this blog post, which gave me words I needed to hear today.

I know my uninvited “friend” will go away in another week or two. I believe my parents are getting better every day. I know that when time for worship on Maundy Thursday rolls around, I will feel the sacred heaviness of that night. My spirits will be lifted as the sun rises over the Cooper River during our Easter Sunrise Service. The worship – especially the music – of Easter Sunday will breathe life back into my tired soul. I’ll keep plugging away at my blog, enjoying the play with words, all while trying to trust God’s timing. The melancholy isn’t here to stay.

~ Embracing what is. Trusting what will be. (Or at least trying!) ~


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14 thoughts on “Melancholy

  1. Jan I didn’t know you had lost your best friend. I knew about your sister but not about this loss. So when I ramble on about losing Jan it is pretty real for you too.
    You are so NOT a bad pastor. You are just human..go figure.
    I am so very glad you are my pastor and even more grateful to have you for a friend.

    • Yes, Susan was an amazing woman. You would have loved her – lots of mischief and a wicked sense of humor, yet one of the most compassionate women I’ve ever known.

      I remember in my pre-pastor days when my brother (also a pastor) talked about being soooo glad Easter or Christmas was over and I thought he spoke blasphemy! Lol! Why yes, I do learn best by hands-on experience. How did you guess?

      I am sorry you are having a rough day. Praying for your friend. Praying for you.

  2. jharader on said:

    My chiropractor asked me this morning, “How are you doing? Ready for a good week?” I thought I gave the expected upbeat response, but I guess the preemptive weariness came through in my voice. “Just fine?” he said. “Well,” I replied, “it’s Holy Week.” And then the pastor guilt of having disparaged the sacred week ahead. So thanks for the post. Misery, or even just general angst, does love company.

  3. Oh yes! And I know I’m in good company. Thanks for letting me know you’re out there too.

  4. Grief is a tough thing when trying to deal with Holy Week. Often, because I am part of a terribly symbolic denomination I get ‘stuck’ in Holy Week and can’t get to Easter. It is very common for us pastor-types. Give yourself a break interiorly. You don’t have time during Holy Week to take care of yourself, but trust on those of us who are praying for you. Preach on the grief and the fatigue. There will be others who need to hear about that during Holy Week too. And then TRUST that there is a resurrection on Sunday. And as soon as Sunday comes, let your parish know that you need some rest and take time to just sit and be with your family and get restored. Jan, this is not uncommon and it is just part of what happens in ministry. You are far from a bad pastor because you allow yourself to feel the depths of our Lord’s passion in the lives of those you love.

    I know that all of us who have experienced this would love to take this away from you, but it is necessary to your growth as a pastor as the cross is to our salvation. Fear not, your sistahs will be praying with you all this week.

    • I love my sistahs! The words of reassurance and understanding that I’ve gotten here and over on FB are helping so much. As my friend Susan loved to say, “The Bible says that ‘It came to pass,’ not ‘It came to stay.'” This too shall pass.

  5. Jan, this post has been a blessing to me. It made me think of my own pastor who lost his father Sunday and had to fly out to Minnesota for the funeral and has to be back Thursday for our church’s Holy Week services.

    My heart hurts for you as you approach the anniversary of the loss of your friend. It made me think of my dear friend, and how much I lean on her and how I forget how fragile life is.

    And then I spent a crazy amount of time on the deeper story blog. The “stupid wait time” post was right on time for me. I am in the reversal, and I NEVER thought of it like that before.

    Finally, my pastor’s wife has a blog you might like:
    Today’s post is about Matthew 5:4 – “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted”

  6. Our friends are indeed precious and are a part of us forever. This is an annual grief, but it’s worse this year than it has been in the past couple of years. I believe it is compounded this year by grief for my sister as well. I felt her absence so much this past week. She lived closest to my parents and was a natural born caretaker. Missing TWO such awesome women who died way too young has been overwhelming. I feel for your pastor during his time of loss. Y’all love on him good when he gets back. He will need it. (Warning: We pastors are used to taking care of other people. We aren’t always so good at receiving care. Be persistent.)

    Thank you for sharing the blog post. Very timely. Very helpful.

    As far as the “stupid wait time” blog post – it was a godsend to me. I know this isn’t just about wait time (reversal) for me. It’s also about reaching a new level of learning. There is so much I don’t know – mainly, what to do next or even how to do it. Praying for productive growth and maturing during reversal, and quite frankly, am past ready for it to be over!

    • I will remember to be persistent. He has been there many times to pray for my family as we welcomed Cate into the world. When she was admitted to the hospital a couple of weeks ago, he was there within the hour.

      I’ve read the stupid wait time post many, many times… and you articulated why it was so powerful… it’s about the learning and the growth. But sometimes, I’m like, “Okay, God, I’m good. Can we get on with it?” 🙂

  7. One of my dear friends, a college roomate died on Good Friday…for many years that day was filled with memories of her, struggling to deal with breast cancer, chemo, and ultimately metastastatic tumors every where…

    Like others, I knew of your sister, but I don’t remember your friend…I’m sorry about her loss…and will hold you in prayer during the days ahead…

    • Isn’t it something how anniversaries can affect us? The actual date of Susan’s death (April 20th – it was a late Easter that year) isn’t nearly as painful as the Friday-after-Easter tie-in.

      Susan’s death was a long time ago – 2001. Some of the intervening years have been easier than others. This year is just particularly difficult. Thank you for your prayers.

  8. revmommy on said:

    Oh wow. I’m right there with you. All the way.

  9. Pingback: Simply Jan – A Writing Year in Review « simplyjan

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