About a year ago, our board of directors decided that it would be good for all directors at Pine Cove to take a month long sabbatical after they have served for 5 years. Since this was my 6th year, my time had come. The word sabbatical is hard to say, and it is hard to spell. I have to spell check it every time I write it. Usually I just write a bunch of letters “sbbbtcall” and hope my computer or iPhone does the rest. But the word comes from the Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabbatikos, from Hebrew shabbat, i.e., Sabbath, which literally means “ceasing”. Thank wikipedia for this info, not me. So it is basically just a rest from work, or a hiatus, often lasting for a certain period of time. I like the term rest. And “rest” is a lot easier to spell than “sbbbtcall”.
Today mine officially ends. Here’s what I did, what I learned and what I would change if I ever do it again…
What I Did:
Week 1: Had a week of recovery/transition from having just gone on a 10 day trip to Argentina. I was surprised by how much this trip took it out of me this year physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. I was able to hang out, did a little reading and finished up a few wood working projects that had been on the list. It was tricky trying to slow down life a bit while also feeling pretty run down.
Week 2: Traveled to Nebraska with my family to visit my wife’s family. I then headed out west to go on a 3 day solo trip to the mountains to snowboard at Breckenridge and Vail. (Vail won) I also went “offline” during that time which meant no social media or email at all. Then came back to Nebraska for some more family time. Probably the highlight of the trip was being introduced to Downton Abbey! We purchased all 3 seasons immediately on our return.
Week 3: Transitioned back home. Did odd jobs around the house. Read. Did a tiny bit of wood working. Hung out with family. And I built Finley a sweet cottage out of cardboard! My days mostly consisted of enjoying the morning together as a family with coffee and breakfast and reading. The days were a mixture of play, reading, odd jobs, organizing the house and or working on the yard. Almost every night was putting Finley to bed, and then enjoying dinner over the next episode of Downton Abbey! This was the week we also transitioned our 21 month old to her new bed. That was fun!
Week 4: Continued much of what week 3 consisted of, but had to take more of an effort to not think/worry about what was coming. (there is quite a lot for me to do when I get back to my work at Pine Cove, so I had to be careful not to worry too much)
- Life After Murder, by Nancy Mullane
- The Explicit Gospel, by Matt Chandler
- Lit, by Tony Reinke
- Andromeda Strain, by Micheal Crichton
- Desiring God, by John Piper (not finished)
- The Aquitaine Progression, by Robert Ludlum (not finished)
- The Bible
What I Learned:
I need to know MY values. I had never thought about it much, but Pine Cove in its mission and in the people I work with are a substantial anchor in my life. This is a good thing. But it can also be a massive crutch. While gone, I had to look in the mirror often and face difficult questions about myself, my beliefs, and my values without taking cues from everyone around me. Although hard, this was a fantastic experience and much needed for anyone who works in ministry. At the end of the day, I alone have to ask and answer the deepest questions of my beliefs and values. No one else. More on this later, I imagine.
Rest and laziness can be very blurry. I think this is mainly due to our culture. I kept having the nagging feeling that I had to have SOMETHING to show for my time off. I didn’t want to “squander” it so to speak. If I were to error in life, it would not be towards laziness. I am a go getter, and I like to accomplish things. I also like to start things. Lots of things. It took a lot of willpower to rest. And truthfully, it felt like being lazy. But I had to re-orient my belief system. I had to decide what was rest and what was being lazy and live by it. For example, I didn’t have to “maximize” every moment in order to avoid laziness. Now the trick is how to continue this as a way of life.
Confusion is a part of life. Because I had more time to think, (I am a major thinker/processor along with being a talker), I was confused a lot more. This had to do with books I was reading, questions I was asking and what I thought I should do certain days. Since my structure of work was gone, I found it a little unsettling at times, and well, confusing. But being confused is part of life. And it can take time for the fog to lift. The sun doesn’t just shoot up in the sky and eliminate the shadows.
I am an introverted extrovert. I really enjoyed laying low. I really enjoyed hanging out with my wife and daughter. I did not once get bored or need to “get out”. This confirmed that while I enjoy social situations and time with friend and family, I really do like time alone. And I think I like it a bit more. That is why I phrased it “introverted extrovert”.
Expectations can hurt. As I prepared for extended time off, it was amazing how I was picturing myself in the weeks to come: Sitting at a desk C.S. Lewis style every day crafting my new philosophy of life and recording my latest revelations of God. Taking long walks with my family, having picnics on a quilted blanket and giggling together. Reading 18 books and feeling so wise. … Um, yea right. … We can probably thank movies for this. Or social media. It seems that everyone ELSE puts their best foot forward and enjoys life to the fullest. Not me, it seemed. I then had to come to terms with MYSELF and who I AM and what the time off really was supposed to be about and forget about the expectations of what it “should” be. I had to lay the smack down on my expectations and bring myself back to reality. Yes, I had little moments that I wanted to have, but not nearly what I thought they would be. And that is ok! I was able to connect with God, my family and myself as well as rest from work. Trying to control what that should look like is exhausting.
What I Would have Done Differently:
- Don’t Cannonball. I wouldn’t have jumped in right away. This time was a timing thing that I couldn’t control, but if I ever do another Sabbatical, I will make sure I am working and being methodical in wrapping things up until it happens. Because I had a 10 day trip right before, I was unable to delegate everything or feel secure about being gone. I was also incredibly drained after the recent trip.
- Clarify Boundaries. I would clarify boundaries with my family a teeny bit better. Things were truly great at home. But there were times when I almost felt bad about sitting on the back porch rather than helping my wife with our daughter. I am sure all dad’s can relate to this. The only thing I would have changed is a little more discussion with my wife on what I need and what she will need. But it really was great at home with tag-teaming and hanging out all together.
- Lowered Expectations. I already talked about this, but I would work hard not to worry about what it will be. I would provide myself with goals and boundaries, but leave it pretty open to what happens and be content with what happens.
- Gone Offline More. I wouldn’t unplug for the whole time, but I really enjoyed being unplugged while in Colorado. It is AMAZING how much we go to our phones and social media. I would have set better boundaries there for sure!
- More Exercise. The absence of exercise is not rest. While I did many physical things, I should have added a little more regular physical exercise to the mix to keep myself feeling fresh and healthy.
All in all, it was a great experience. I am truly grateful for it and I have emerged feeling very good about the time. I am ready to get back and rejoin the mission of what we are doing at Pine Cove. I am eager for structure and to serve. And I am thankful to work and serve at a place that values me enough to allow for me to take some time to connect with God, my family and myself.
Feel free to ask me more questions!