Today is the official “first day” of a three-month writing sabbatical. I say “writing” as if I am actually going to write. Maybe I will. Or maybe I just need time to think.
Fifteen years ago when I turned fifty—after a decade of painful reflection, slow rediscovery and deep healing—I was ready to put the past behind me and lean into life again. With plenty of fear, but also anticipation, I opened my mind and heart to new opportunities.
As an introverted homebody, the scope and scale of “new opportunities” were unexpected and oft-times overwhelming.
South Africa. Zambia. Democratic Republic of Congo. Israel. Palestine. Jordan. Iraq. The global AIDS crisis. Immigration reform. Peacemaking. Refugees. Public speaking. Hosting women on international trips. Climbing Kilimanjaro.
What a privilege to go where I’ve gone and do what I’ve done and meet who I’ve met!
But recently I’ve been aware that I’ve been showing up to fulfill commitments—to give a talk, or host a gathering, or lead a trip—without having the necessary time to be still, think, pray, and prepare myself adequately.
Just this weekend, prior to a speaking engagement, I felt so stressed out from rushing that I was unkind to someone who asked a simple question. I don’t want to be that kind of public person.
Of course, it’s not just the public side of life that needs a tweak sometimes. I find it especially interesting to move between my roles as grandmother and daughter.
I have two priceless grandsons (Henry, 9 and Mac, 4), who have brought more delight into my life than I could have imagined. Nothing and no one pulls me back into the simple pleasures of life like they do. Spending time with them is a nonnegotiable!
On the other side of family life, I recently journeyed through my dad’s cancer and then grieved my mother’s death. Nothing has ever been as tender as the sweet times I spent with my mother during her final months.
I’m so grateful I had the freedom to bounce back and forth between the boys in Illinois and my parents in Michigan. But I logged a lot of miles on the roads that stitch Illinois and Michigan together via Indiana and the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Adding those miles to the miles I spent on planes for ministry trips meant I never stayed in one place for long.
Did I mention I’m an introverted homebody?
So, that brings me to today, and this sabbatical, and the waves I’m listening to right now as they lap against a sandy beach.
For twenty-five years Bill and I have enjoyed a simple 1150-square-foot cottage on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan’s eastern coast.
With the pace of life in recent years, I haven’t spent much time here lately. But for the next three months I’m planting myself here. Bill will come and go, as will kids and grandkids.
(Actually the grandsons are coming tomorrow, which is why I’m writing today!)
My first priority as I settle in for the summer is to pull some weeds and plant some flowers. My brain is as overrun with weeds as are my little gardens. Hopefully, my fingers touching dirt and leaves and roots will help loosen the vines of old thoughts knotted in my mind.
Interestingly, I just found some old journals I’d stored here at the cottage. They reminded me that twenty years ago I spent an extended time here, too. That was a difficult era as I worked desperately to shape a healthier life emotionally and spiritually. (A story for another time.)
Thankfully, I’m not in a painful space like that now. But I do recognize the need to step back a bit to gain a new perspective on my life.
I’m grateful for what the past fifteen years have been.
But how best do I move into the future?
How best do I honor the people, the places, the ministries I hold dear?
How best do I steward the years to come?
Life looks different on the edge of 65 than it did at 50!
So, here I am.
I might blog a lot this summer. Or not at all.
I might post an endless stream of sunsets and flowers and grandsons on Instagram. Or none at all.
I might write book reviews of all the amazing books I’m going to read. Or I might just keep pulling weeds.
But however the days unfold, this will be true:
I will be grateful as I reflect on and learn from the past.
I will be intentional as I lean with unrushed attention into the present.
I will be prayerful as I look ahead, trusting God to help me discern how best to move into the future.
Whatever your summer looks like, may you enjoy your own moments of gratitude, intention and prayerfulness—mini summer sabbaticals!
PS I was actually here for a few days last week and did some weeding and planting. Sadly, a cute little bunny nibbled his way through my herb garden last night. Gone: fennel, dill, parsley. And there’s one more sadly empty hole amongst the herbs, but I can’t remember what was in it. Apparently that darn little bunny even snatched the neat little label I had made! I hope my gardening experience improves in the weeks to come.