August 14, 2013

I'm Back! A Summary of Sabbatical

Well, I'm baaaack! We returned from our sabbatical late last week, and we've settled in again quite nicely, eager to rejoin the life that we love here in Charlottesville. I was pretty vague when I told you we were going on sabbatical because, for one thing, I didn't want any boogie men breaking into our house while we were away. But mostly I felt apprehensive, and I get quiet and stare off into space when I'm apprehensive. So my vagueness was really apprehension: Would God speak? Would He give us the rest and renewal we so craved? Would I have anything at all to say here in this space when I returned?

Resoundingly, He spoke. Profoundly, He gave rest. Thankfully, I have much to share.

We went on sabbatical because our church sends pastors on sabbatical after a certain number of years of service. They sent us off with love and without complaint, which is such an insanely incredible gift. We spent the summer in California, enjoying San Francisco and the surrounding area, visiting churches, hanging out with friends, playing with our kids, and, primarily, listening for and receiving from the Lord. We also squeezed in some family and friend time in our gloriously hot and gloriously Tex-Mex-filled home state of Texas.
When we left for the summer, I knew I was tired and distracted, but it wasn't until we settled into sabbatical that I realized just how tired and distracted I had become. I was somewhat alarmed and saddened when I realized the extent of my emotional unhealthiness. As I've shared about our summer with friends and family, I sense their own alarm when I use those words, but they are accurate words. In the quiet and stillness of sabbatical, away from all outside responsibilities and people, God gently pointed out the thoughts, beliefs, habits, and practices that have created unhealthiness in my life, and He challenged me to follow and obey His leading as He roots those out in me.

I will be sharing what I've learned in the next few weeks because I know I am not alone in these things. Ministry, if we are not purposeful and diligently intentional, can create obstacles to emotional healthiness. (What I mean by emotional healthiness is well-being, joy, and appropriate boundaries regarding activity and rest. I mean enjoying life rather than trudging through.) Sometimes we need to step back from extreme busyness, look at the big picture, and recognize that God doesn't intend for us to be emotionally unhealthy as we do the work He's called us to.

One of the biggest obstacles to my emotional healthiness, I've realized, is not living within limits. I have limits as an introvert. I have limits as a finite human being. I have limits according to my life stage. I have God-given limits: He doesn't ask me to be everything to everyone and He doesn't ask me to carry the responsibility of everyone else's well-being. I learned so much about this on sabbatical that I'm going to devote the entire next post to lessons on rest and renewal.

So for now, I just wanted to say hello, and that I'm back, and that I missed writing my heart out in this space. I'm excited to write here again, and even more excited to hear from you and connect with you and hear what you've been learning. There were many times this summer that God would show me something incredible and I wanted to write you and tell you about it, as if you all were personal friends. Stepping back from the blog for an extended period, I recognized what a profound gift it is to me that you come here and read this scribble and sincerely reflect on what God is saying to us together. Thank you! And see you soon!

Before you go, I'd love a welcome home gift from you: I'd love to hear the main points of what you've been learning this summer. Leave me a comment below with a summary of your summer!