Remember the children’s game, “Ready?  Set?  Go!”  These are the words I’m hearing in my mind as I prepare to depart my Regional responsibilities for a long awaited three month sabbatical. Am I “ready?”  No, I’m not!  Am I “set?”  Wait! I’m not ready!

I entered into the work force when I was 15 years old, and I have worked every year since with only two weeks vacation most years. In the latter years, four weeks but I never took all four at once. I was eligible for a sabbatical in 2007, but I gave it to my colleague instead who desperately needed it. I was eligible for a sabbatical again in 2013, but I chose to forego it so I could apply for this current position. I was supposed to take this sabbatical last year, but COVID-19 came. This year, I’m going, ready or not!

I have created a list of things to do while on sabbatical! After being trained to become a Healthy Boundaries trainer, my list includes rigorous exercise, playing with horses, reading a long list of books, writing every day, volunteering at a local community garden or food pantry, burying my mother’s ashes and spreading our son’s ashes, and reconnecting with family and many (vaccinated) friends.

My executive coach, Rev. Cameron Trimble, has advised me to set aside this long, too-long, list of things to do. Rather, she says, I need to make a list of ways “to be” ~ to rest and reclaim the person God has intended. Robert Saler in Planning Sabbaticals reminds me of the same wisdom in four important points:

  1. He recommends taking the “joy vs. obligation test.” Is the activity on my list going to bring joy or is it an obligation? Sounds a bit like Marie Kondo!
  2. He cautions not to make the mistake of creating a bucket list rather than balancing energy. The goals of a renewal leave all depend upon a deliberate pace with lots of “downtime” for reflection and processing built in.
  3. He encourages reveling in unplanned detours, surprises, or other deviations from the “script”. In other words, make space for improvisation or the Holy Spirit.
  4. Most of all . . . dream.  Breathe. Give yourself over to the vulnerability of showing the world what it is that feeds your soul. That trust is the cornerstone of sabbaticals that renew and delight. Robert Saler, Planning Sabbaticals, (Missouri: Chalice Press, 2019) 39-48.

I think I will listen to these two wise, experienced mentors who are both encouraging me to practice being and not doing. I truly pray my time away will be filled with the grace and mercy of God to be renewed and prepared for a new season of shared ministry and mission with you all.

So, ready or not, I am going! As I walk out the door in a few weeks I am reminded of Wayne Muller’s words:

“Jesus did not wait until everyone had been properly cared for, until all who sought him had healed. He did not ask permission to go, nor did he leave anyone behind “on call,” or even let his disciples know where he was going. Jesus obeyed a deeper rhythm. When the moment for rest had come, the time for healing was over. He would simply stop, retire to a quiet place, and pray . . . When Jesus prayed he was at rest, nourished by the healing spirit that saturates those still, quiet places.”  Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives (New York: Bantam, 1999), 25.

Like Jesus, I am going, leaving some tasks untended. Unlike Jesus, I have permission! And, I am leaving you in the very competent hands of Rev. Paxton Jones, the Acting Regional Minister, Associate Regional Minister Rev. Michael Davison, and Executive Assistant Ellen Spleth, who serve as the Regional Staff, and of course, the Regional Executive Committee and Board are equipped to handle anything that might arise. Thank you all for this privilege of rest and to be nourished by the healing spirit.