Sabbatical-ing

The last five years have been rough for me. It started out with the death of my mom. Then came the death of my dad a little less than two years later. I was finishing up seminary, was involved in a difficult situation in my church, and was trying to transfer my credentials into a different denomination. I was diagnosed with a weak heart and I could feel my anxiety and stress ever building within me. Thankfully, the church that I serve saw fit to extend me a sabbatical, three months away from work with the goal and intention that I rest, recharge, and study.

If you had asked me ten years ago about a sabbatical, I may have been able to tell you what it was, but it never occurred to me that I actually might have one someday. My father was a pastor for more than forty years and never took a sabbatical. While he worked towards and received his doctorate degree during that time, he never had that much consecutive time off. As he reached the end of his career as a pastor and as he reached the end of his life, I think the lack of some kind of sabbatical may have been detrimental to his health.

I was and am so incredibly grateful to my church for this opportunity. To whom much is given, much is required, and so I wanted to make sure that I was making the most of this time. I put together a plan, found an area of study that I could dive into during the time, planned some travel, and planned time with my family. Although it felt like a tall order to accomplish a lot in this period of time, I felt like I could do it.

Since I am used to sitting in front of a computer and typing a mile a minute, I knew that one of the things that I needed to do during my sabbatical was slow down. I wanted to be intentional about slowing down and that kind of intentionality can be somewhat painful. So, I went to the store and found a journal, you know, one of the ones that has paper and that you actually have to use a pencil, pen, or other writing utensil. I thought to myself, “Here goes nothing!”

The first few weeks were a little awkward. My hand hurt…..a lot. I couldn’t remember the last time that I had sat down and written so much. It was awkward because the words just didn’t flow the way that they did when I sat in front of a computer. They felt forced, contrived, empty, but I wasn’t going to give up, I was going to press on. So press on I did.

The more that I forced myself to pick up a pen and write, the easier it became. I realized that the intentional slowing down was forcing me to think things through in a different way than I did when I sat at a computer. I realized that although I couldn’t get the words out as fast as I had hoped, the slowing down was helping me to process things, helping me wrap my head around things that I had been speeding past as I typed my words so quickly on a screen and keyboard.

By the time I got to the end of the 13th week of my sabbatical, the entire journal, the one that I had wondered whether or not I would even keep up with, that same journal was nearly full. I couldn’t believe it. My diligence had paid off and I had learned an incredibly important and valuable lesson in the process: journaling could significantly improve my own processing of information and spare some of those closest to me the pain of having to listen to me verbally process my thoughts.

I’m different than I was at the beginning of the three months. I’m not quite sure how, but I can feel it, I can see it. I’m pretty sure that if you were to ask my wife and kids, they might say the same thing. I’m hoping that the difference becomes evident to those around me, I’m hoping that they see how much this time has benefited me. I’m hoping that my goal of delivering a better me at the end of thirteen weeks will be realized.

My heart is full of gratitude for my church and this gift that I received. Even in the midst of a difficult season, they were willing to cut me loose to be recharged. For this, I will be forever grateful and I’m pretty sure that my family shares that same amount of gratitude as well.

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Winding Down

As my three month sabbatical winds down, it’s hard to put in words the impact that it has had on me. There have been some people who have, whether jokingly or not, assumed that it has just been a three month vacation for me. That’s hardly been the case as I have engaged in training and learning experiences along the way. Not to oversell the moment, but I feel as if the lessons learned during this time will have a ripple effect for months and years to come, both in my immediate family as well as my church family.

I’ve learned an awful lot about myself during this time, some that has made me happy and some that has made me reconsider my approaches towards things. I consider myself to be a person who is constantly assessing myself and the things that I do. I don’t like status quo for the sake of the status quo but would rather see if I can be stretched and challenged to find new and different ways to be who God made me as well as do the things that I need to do.

As I knew setting out, there were some things that just wouldn’t get done while on sabbatical. I feel like I set my sights high without going into “overachiever” mode. I have found in the past that I have often set my sights so high that my own inability to accomplish things ended up being a frustration or bone of contention to me. Instead of feeling like I was improving, I focused more on all the things that I didn’t accomplish, which wasn’t helpful for me or the process of growth.

I have found that we as a society too often move quickly from one thing to the next without fully embracing what’s before us or allowing the experience to wash over us, change us, and reform us. It’s happened far too often in my own life and I’ve seen the results afterwards. In some ways, it’s like taking the caterpillar out of the cocoon before it’s fully been formed into a butterfly. The results are not nearly as satisfying as they could be had the process taken full affect. In fact, the results can be disastrous if the process of growth is stunted or stopped.

One of the biggest takeaways for me, which I am sure will be unpacked more and more in the months to come, is about slowing down. I can’t begin to count the number of times that I have heard from parents of older children how quickly time goes. There is no stopping or slowing down the passing of time, it marches on regardless of whether or not we want it to or go along with it. Some will put the brakes on and will find themselves left behind in the wake of a changing world. Some may embrace the change so greatly that they forget that the change is not for change’s sake but for the sake of a changed self.

While I can’t slow time, I can slow myself. I don’t have to conform to the ways of harried schedules and overcommitments. I don’t have to allow myself to get washed into the stream of busyness that seems to haunt us all if we aren’t careful. I can’t slow time, but I can choose what to do with the time that I have.

I have no doubt that memories have been made in me and my family during my three months. I have no doubt that I am different than I was at the outset of this sabbatical. Like Frodo and the hobbits sitting in their local pub having come back from the journey of a lifetime, the world is different and there is no choice but to see it through new eyes, eyes that somehow look clearer and more vivid than they did before.

I don’t fully know all that has happened within me over this time, but I am going to do my best to probe and mine it, to find out what’s beneath the surface, to see the changes that have begun to take shape and form in me. My prayer is that those changes will ripple far beyond me into all those that I come into contact with on a regular basis.

A Month In

It’s been about a month since I started my sabbatical. Over the course of that month, I’ve spent some good time learning, resting, reading, and spending time with my family. I’ve also spent time getting even more familiar with myself, seeing my own idiosyncrasies, and seeking out ways to continue to grow and learn.

The first couple of weeks were kind of rough. To be honest, I felt like I was a bit of an exile. I was gone for a week spending time with some colleagues in Charlotte, when I got back I had a rough reentry and I began to think about just how weird it was to still be at home but be disconnected from all of the people who I had come to know and love, people who had become good friends, people whom I had invested my life. It felt odd.

Much has happened in our country in this month. Specifically, much has happened in Orlando. Tragedy after tragedy after tragedy. The shooting of a rising pop star, the insanity of someone acting out their hatred and disagreement with violence, the death of a little child by alligator, and these are just the ones that are making the headlines. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that the headlines I was reading were out of a movie script rather than the reputable news outlets, this kind of news used to be the stuff of make believe and fiction, yet here it is, a reality for us all.

I have found that when I stop and slow down, I begin to see God everywhere……EVERYWHERE. When I am rushing through the tasks of my day, it’s easy to lose sight of the little miracles that take place right under my nose, I brush past them as if they were no big deal and then when something doesn’t go the way I want it to, I unload my frustrations. As I have slowed down, I’ve been able to better assess the things before me with a more rational and controlled response. When something breaks, instead of getting so worked up, I lift up a prayer of thanksgiving that I have the means for repair or replacement, something that the majority of the world can’t always say.

I continue to express my gratitude for this time, a time that I am privileged to have. One of the outcomes of this time, a deliverable, was “a better me.” God has done a lot in this short time. He has blessed me with great friends, colleagues, and family. I have filled nearly a third of a journal with thoughts and notes on my experience, which is fine since I still have some more time to fill it up. I have rested, embracing the nothingness of my schedule to seize the opportunity not to be lazy, but to rest and recharge.

This extended time has done nothing but reinforce my own need for a weekly Sabbath. Finding time for rest and recharge is not only beneficial, it’s essential. A few years ago, I could feel the toll that a lack of Sabbath was having on my body, if I’m not careful, I will feel that toll again, and the older I get, the harder it is to bounce back from those tolls.

There is still adventure ahead, there is learning ahead, there is rest and recharge ahead. I am reminded of the words of Solomon, who wrote, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Plans are for paper, but reality can often take a different shape and form. I guess you can kind of think of it as origami, once you’re done folding the paper, it might little resemble the original flat piece of paper, but what you hold in your hands has a beauty that is far surpassing what you might have imagined in the very beginning. If nothing else, this time will contain the stuff of which memories are made. Here’s to the great adventure!

Slowing Down Again

slothI don’t write very fast. I’m not talking about typing, I’m talking about manual handwriting. I’m not a fast writer and the further I get away from my school years when I had to write by hand every day, the harder it is to write for prolonged periods of time. I’m a much faster typist and it’s much less work for my poor hands. Not to mention, as fast as my mind moves, trying to capture my thoughts by writing things down by hand can be downright frustrating.

But slowing down is important. In fact, this isn’t the first time that I’ve thought about it or written about it (check this out). Writing things by hand is far from convenient for me, but the whole point of the sabbatical that I am on is to slow down, to rest, to recharge, and to refocus. If I try to maintain the pace that I keep all year long, how am I supposed to do those things?

A few weeks before my sabbatical started, I went and bought a journal. Part of the reason why I blog rather than journal is for the reasons listed above. I’m not a fast writer and it gets me very frustrated to feel like my hand moves at a sloth’s pace compared with the thoughts that are whizzing through my brain. But I figured I would give it the ol’ college try. After all, it was only 13 weeks, how hard could it be?

A week and a half into this sabbatical, I’m not sure that there’s anything profound or earth shattering that I’ve written in my journal, but is that really the point? Like I said, it’s about slowing down, resting and recharging. I think it’s achieving that purpose for me.

The other night, I connected with my accountability partner from when I was in Asheville. We spent a good chunk of time together and he was telling me all about his business and how God was using it to bless others. He hired a chaplain for his employees and was doing his best to make sure that his life at home, at church, at work, or wherever was the same, that there was no inconsistency across the different aspects of his life.

I was proud. I was proud that he is my friend. I felt privileged that for one short period of my life, we walked together, encouraged one another, challenged one another, and cried with one another. While we don’t talk often or frequently, when we get the chance, we connect and do our best to pick up where we left off.

There’s no way that I have found to REALLY slow down time. We can only control what we can control (which doesn’t seem like a whole lot), everything else is out of our hands. But why not do our best to control those things that we can control with reckless abandon? Why not completely capture those things and use them to our advantage?

Sabbath. Slowing down. Resting. I’m certainly not an expert in those areas, but I’ve been growing more and more and forcing myself to slow down while I am writing will hopefully cause something else to change in me.

Resting

sabbath-restIn the biblical creation account, God creates everything in six days and on the seventh day, he rest. Did God need a rest? Was he tired? No, he did it to set a precedent for his creation to follow. He knew that within the order of creation, humanity would need rest and what better way to set the standard than to practice it as an example.

Rest continued to be emphasized by God when he gave his commandments to his people on Mount Sinai. The command was to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. Set apart a day to stop, to cease, to rest, to recharge from all that happened up to that point. Rest.

I’m not sure when the idea of sabbaticals first came up for people to practice. I know that when I came into the Presbyterian church, it seems that it was a standard that had been set long before I had gotten there.

Those who work in vocational ministry know that it’s hard to put a timeframe on the work performed. While some jobs have a typical 9 to 5 component, it’s hard to put those specific boundaries on ministry work. That’s part of the job, knowing that your schedule will be different than the typical job, knowing that evenings and weekends will often be overtaken by work, duties, and responsibilities.

For as long as I have been in vocational ministry, I have had Fridays off. At the beginning of my time as  pastor, it was just me and my wife. It would be a few years before we added a son to our twosome. Fridays have been my Sabbath. I’ve set Fridays aside to rest, to recharge, and to step away from the things that I deal with Sunday through Thursday.

You don’t always know how you’re doing with something until you step away from it. It’s hard to access the successfulness of something until you can step back and analyze it. Have I been doing as well as I thought I was doing? Have I been achieving success or have I only thought that I was achieving success?

It’s been funny and a little ironic that these last few months leading up to my sabbatical, I have had to speak about Sabbath rest. I spoke to a group of young mothers about it in early February. Then I preached a sermon on it at the end of last month. Preaching and teaching on a subject is a sure fire way for me to see just how well I am doing. While I didn’t think that I was succeeding with flying colors, I also knew that I had been fairly intentional about fencing off those times of rest that I have.

Just a few days into my sabbatical, I’ve found that I’ve been doing a pretty good job with fencing off my Sabbath. The last few days have felt, in a way, like the movie “Groundhog Day.” I’ve felt as if I’ve been reliving Friday over and over again. I guess that means two things. One, that I’ve been doing my best to rest. Two, that I’m doing a decent job on all those other Fridays of being restful.

I’ve found that there are seasons in my life when my pace can get so frenetic that when I finally give myself time to stop and rest, my body catches up and I get sick. It seems a little odd that the sickness wouldn’t come in the midst of the busyness, but that’s just how it seems to happen. I’ve felt a little worn out these last few days, no surprise, I expected that I would feel that way. If I’ve felt worn out having done my best to preserve the weekly Sabbath, I can’t imagine what this would be like had I not been practicing this every week.

My sabbatical will not be me simply resting the whole time. Saturday marks the day that I begin some of my adventures. After trying hard to rest this week, it will be nice to head out and see what things I can learn on the road.

Sabbatical – Week 1

Here I am, finally at the sabbatical for which I have been waiting. The hours leading up to it seemed harried, stressful, and somewhat surreal. It’s very hard to step away from something in which you’ve immersed your life, all the while knowing that rest and reinvigoration need to be a part of our lives if we think we’re going to stick around for any length of time.

I continue to be grateful for an opportunity that my father never had before me. Although he was a pastor for over 40 years, he never had a sabbatical. While there are some who think he would have gone stir crazy during a sabbatical, I think that’s one of the main reasons why he should have had one, to learn to be still.

Despite popular belief, a sabbatical is not a long vacation. In order to get to this point, I had to put together a plan with goals. Just like stay at home moms don’t sit around and eat bon bons all day, I won’t be sitting at home during these 13 weeks or sipping umbrella drinks by the pool all day long. Rest is an important part of this time, but so is reflection and learning.

I’m excited to spend some time at other local churches that I’ve wanted to visit for years. Having been in this area for nearly nine years, my visits to other houses of worship have been limited…very limited. We’ve had some invites to some other churches where our friends attend and are looking forward to taking advantage of this time to do this. There are also other places where we have been wanting to visit where we don’t really know anyone, so it will be an exciting time to take that all in.

I’ll be heading to a sister church for a few days to spend time with their staff and pastors. We have gotten to know them a little over these past few years through our denominational meetings. They’ve been incredibly gracious in setting up a fairly full schedule for me while I am there. I am looking forward to hearing them share their insights and wisdom that they have gained since they were planted fifteen or so years ago.

I’ll be spending some time with a dear friend and mentor who has extended invitations to me to come visit him in Lynchburg, Virginia. I look  forward to spending time with him as I always do. We usually meet up for lunch in Charlottesville, so this will be a nice change and opportunity.

I’m heading to Minneapolis, Minnesota for four days total to be trained in StrengthsFinders. As that time grows closer, I will be updating this blog about my takeaways and insights. StrengthsFinders has been a valuable resource for me and my wife in our nearly fifteen years of marriage. I’m looking forward to digging deeper and helping others to see the potentials when they can better understand their strengths.

Our sabbatical will end with a cross country trip. Two adults, three kids, one mini-van……it’s will be an adventure, if nothing else. We’ll get the chance to see some good friends along the way. Friends from many different chapters of life spread out across the United States. Texas. California. South Dakota. Ohio. We’ll throw some family in here and there in New Orleans, North Carolina, and it will make for a full trip.

In the time leading up to my sabbatical, God was already beginning to show me some neat things. I’m still processing those out, but I plan to share them as they take shape in my head.

Looking forward to this journey!

Rules for Sabbatical

Being a pastor is a different kind of job. It’s not just a 9 to 5 job where you do your work and then go home. Oftentimes, it’s a job that last far beyond the bounds of what some might see as the typical daily grind. It’s a job that isn’t easily “left at the office” either. If you are truly called to it, there are deep ties and connections with those to whom you minister. While one might develop some deep relationships with co-workers in normal jobs, working as a pastor may result in deeper relationships with more people.

As I have been preparing to go on my three month sabbatical starting next week, it’s been mildly amusing to hear firsthand or secondhand about what people think are the appropriate levels of engagement that they can have with me along the way. Can we talk to you if we see you in public? What if we’re having a party? Can you come? How about golf? Can you play?

I was at a meeting the other night and made jokes with the others at the meeting as I imagined people seeing me in the grocery store and running the other way for fear of disrupting my sabbatical. If someone did that, I’d be really disappointed (although it might result in a good, hearty laugh). Everyone laughed at the thought of that but I told them that I was legitimately planning to write a post about the rules for my sabbatical. So, here it is.

My lead pastor gave me a piece of advice that I think can frame up a lot of my sabbatical. He said, “If it causes you anxiety or it raises your blood pressure, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.” While life will still go on throughout the thirteen weeks of my sabbatical, this is good wisdom to know the kinds of conversations in which to engage and which should be avoided.

I am a social person and to become anti-social during this time would be uncharacteristic of me. So, I don’t plan to do that. At the same time, engaging in banter on Facebook or other social media outlets may result in that anxiety and raised blood pressure of which I wrote. It also may invigorate me. I plan to continue to blog and hope to actually become a little more consistent and disciplined in my writing through this time. I am going to do my best to allow people to track with me through my blog in a way that they might normally do via more personal contact.

While I will most likely be taking advantage of attending other houses of worship when I am in town during this time, I certainly don’t want people to avoid me, especially when they see me in public. I don’t want people to feel that they can’t talk with me. I don’t want people to feel that they can’t drop me a note here and there, shoot me a text, or even leave me a message, especially if it’s to let me know that they are thinking about me and praying for me. I have a hard time thinking that kind of encouragement would raise my anxiety or my blood pressure.

When it comes to whether or not something is acceptable during this time, I think others can probably abide by the same rule about raising anxiety and blood pressure. Like I said, the thought that people are praying me through this time and the idea of me getting encouraging notes, texts, or emails (to my non-work email) along the way is a pretty neat thought.

This is all new territory for me. My father was a pastor for over forty years and he never had the pleasure of privilege of having a sabbatical. While his church was incredibly accommodating with him for different seasons of his life, especially when he got his doctorate, to the best of my knowledge, he never received an actual sabbatical. So, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity.

I’m excited for what lies ahead during this time. It will be a learning and growing experience. When I get back, I will see just how well I’ve done at raising up others to serve in my areas of ministry. I’m excited to share just where I am along the way and what I’m being taught through the bumps, the curves, and the quiet moments on the road.

One Week To Go

I stepped off of the platform yesterday morning after preaching a sermon on Mother’s Day, a particularly hard day for me since losing my mom five years ago. A friend had said to me earlier, “How do you always get stuck preaching Mother’s Day?” I smiled at him and actually thought about the privilege that I would have to share a little bit more of a glimpse of my mom to whoever happened to be inhabiting the chairs and listening.

As my body dropped into my chair, I was exhausted. It wasn’t just the weight of this day that I was feeling, it was actually the weight of the past five years. I had recounted January 31, 2011, the day my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but less than two years after that, my dad died. I was involved in a very difficult process with a church after that and a large group of us launched out on our own.

As life continued to pass me by, I was fortunate to hear about the potential of a reprieve coming my way. In my particular denomination, there is a practice of giving pastors a three month sabbatical every seven years. I was secretly hoping and praying that an exception might be made for me despite some of the technicalities that may cause people to scratch their heads. I was ordained in another denomination twelve years ago this month. I’ve been in my current position (in some shape or form) for the past eight and a half years but did not transfer my ordination fully until a few years ago.

Imagine my excitement when I found out that I would be granted a full sabbatical this year! I could hardly contain that excitement, but I was pacing myself to the time when it finally began.

Now, I sit a week away from that sabbatical, and I feel like I’m sputtering to the finish line. It’s been a rough five years and I could recount the many things that made it that way. Like the Israelites, I seem to find the most meandering route to my destination, a route that hardly seems to be the easiest either. And despite those around me asking me for the countdown until the beginning of my sabbatical, I hadn’t really been keeping track of the days myself…….until the last few weeks.

Sitting in that chair after preaching an emotionally draining sermon on Mother’s Day, I lifted up a silent prayer of thanksgiving for what was to come. I need a break.

Despite popular belief, a sabbatical isn’t an extended vacation. I’ve got lots of plans for that time period. In fact, I wrote up a five page report to present to our Human Resources committee to explain just what would happen during this time. While rest is a big part of what I hope to experience during the time, I also expect to do a lot of learning.

I’ll be spending some time at a sister church just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. We’ve gotten to know some of their staff well and have been intrigued at what God has been doing in their church. Spending a few days with them will be energizing, encouraging, and enlightening.

I will also be attending some training for becoming a Strengths Finders coach. Strengths Finders is an assessment that has been a huge part of my life over the last fifteen years. It has helped me to understand myself, my wife, and those around me. It’s helped me to extend grace when my instinct is to not do so. It’s helped me as I’ve discipled others and tried to point them in a direction towards things that will energize and invigorate them. I am hoping that the training will further enhance my ability to coach others towards using their God-given gifts to serve.

I’ll spend some time with a cherished mentor who has been an encouragement to me over the last few years. There are other various trips that I will take all culminating with a family cross country trip at the end as my family and I make our way to California and back, staying with friends, in hotels, in tents, and various other places along the way.

This will be an adventure and I can’t wait to see what God shows me over the course of this adventure. I plan to do my best at writing out my thoughts and insights along the way. It will help me to stay connected without really staying connected.

Just one week to go, and although these last seven days leading up to this time may seem to crawl along, when the time comes, I’ll drink it in and enjoy the moments set before me.

I’m looking forward to sharing and hope that you’ll stick around to read what insights God might give me along the way.

Working For the Weekend

sabbath-restThe weekend is a funny thing, isn’t it? We wait all week to get there, we work hard and keep it in our sights all week long. When it finally comes, we celebrate, we proclaim, “TGIF,” and we party like it’s 1999…….right?

Well, that may have been the case back when we were teenagers. Maybe we even carried it into our 20s and 30s, but at some point, it seems that we begin to understand that the whole purpose of the weekend was to actually rest and recreate. After all, there is a reason that some of us call the weekend a Sabbath.

Of course, not everyone does this. There are some people who simply see Saturday and Sunday as an extension of the work week. Some of those people do it because that’s the nature of their job. Others do it because they are drive, motivated, and (possibly) obsessive people.

A few weeks ago, I spoke to a room full of young moms about Sabbath. I felt a little inadequate on a few different levels, not the least of which was the fact that instead of speaking, I felt more like I should be listening to this roomful of wisdom. Young moms are a resource that more people need to encourage and tap into because of the collective wisdom that they have and can offer.

But I also felt inadequate because speaking about Sabbath rest to a roomful of women who can barely find 5 minutes to themselves can feel a bit overwhelming. The biblical mandate for Sabbath speaks of setting aside a day of rest, how could that possibly be on the radar of people who can’t think about an hour of rest?

As with so many other things in life, we don’t get there overnight. As the old adage says, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It’s taken us a long time to get to where we are and it will most likely take a good deal of time for us to establish a new norm, a new way forward. Just because it takes time and work doesn’t mean that it’s not worthwhile though. What things have you ever found that were valuable and didn’t require work?

As I said to that roomful of moms that morning, you’ve got to start somewhere. You need to find an hour or two and fence it off. Protect it…..relentlessly. Let everyone know that it’s important to you, that you’re not to be disturbed during that time. Communicating that to infants, toddlers, and children is a challenge at best and a fiasco at worst, so enlist the help of someone else to make it happen. We aren’t alone in this and we weren’t created to be alone. Set the time aside and then make it happen.

Once you find that time and fence that time off, use that time to do the things that energize and recharge you. A Sabbath, a weekend, they’re not there for us to get ahead on the stuff that we do Monday through Friday, they’re there so that the stuff that we do Monday through Friday can be better because by the time we get back to them after some rest, we are fired up and ready to go.

I’m no expert in Sabbath rest. I’ve gone weeks without really taking some down time. Sometimes that’s a stage of life thing, but other times it’s because I’ve not relentlessly protected the time that I had set aside. No one else will protect it if you don’t. If you compromise it, everyone else will as well. That’s an important lesson that I am learning. If I set aside a day to step away and yet engage in every phone call, email, test, or social media post that comes across my path or screen during that day, I’ve said with my actions. rather than my mouth, that this time isn’t important to me.

Rest. Relax. Recharge. Find restoration. I’m learning through my limited experience that the more I take time for these things, the better I am to do the things that I have to do throughout the week, and the better I am to be around.

It’s an uphill battle, but the reward at the top of the hill is completely worth it.

Flip Flops and No Watches

flip flops and sandThere’s something about going on a vacation where you only pack shorts, T-shirts, a swimsuit, flip flops, and the essentials. When you take off your watch at the beginning of the week and don’t put it on until the end of the week. When you take a deep breath as you enter into relaxation and disconnecting with just about everything but your family. All of these things are an indicator that I’m on my way to a relaxing week.

I do my best to practice Sabbath every week, but to have an entire week of that is a blessing that I sometimes forget about. Stopping to breathe and take everything in is a luxury that life rarely affords us, yet when we don’t do it, we will find ourselves burned out and bitter.

The sound of the ocean waves lapping on the sand of the beach ranks up there as one of the most relaxing sounds that I can hear. Watching the ebb and flow of the tide, listening to the waves, watching the birds and the people, it can consume me to the point of trance-like focus and concentration.

The biggest problem with taking the time to step away and practice extended Sabbath is that there is always reentry. There is always the moment when reality seems to slap you in the face. No matter how far your feet get off the earth, there is always that moment when they need to touch down again and reacquaint themselves with their normal routine.

I’ve grown a lot over the years, I’ve come to know myself better too. I know what I need to make transitions easier. I know the process of reentry and what can make the transition easier for me.

I’ve grown in not being so confined to the plan that was made at the onset of a trip. I try to stay as flexible as I can, not allowing “road blocks” to derail and frustrate me. After all, when you’re stuck in traffic or waiting on a line, if you’re with your family, it could be worse.

I’m settling back in and trying to prepare myself for the busyness that has a tendency of consuming me. I’m doing my best to ease in rather than jumping head first.

I’ll let you know how that goes!