I planned the first weekend of sabbatical for months. Months. I knew exactly how I wanted to spend those first 24-48 hours and nothing was going to force me to deviate from the plan. I had a wedding to perform the Saturday before I didn’t have to go to work on Sunday, but as soon as the wedding party was gone from the church I was going to set my sabbatical message on my email, shut the lights out, and consider myself “off.” Dinner and games with friends that night, brunch the next morning complete with fancy crêpes (and maybe a mimosa). It was all lined up well in advance, and the plan was carried out without a hitch.
It never occurred to me, however, to plan the last night of sabbatical. So here I sit taking deep breaths and drinking a glass of wine.
Deep breaths of gratitude for this gift of true rest that I have had. A friend told me a couple of weeks ago, “Steff, you were burned out.” It was scary to hear because I knew I was tired and needed sabbatical, but I didn’t know it was as bad as it was. Somehow I had gotten to a place where I was leaving my house with 3/4 of a sermon written on Sunday morning 90 minutes before worship began. Yeah, I was burned out and I didn’t even know it. But I feel fresh now. I feel like my mind and spirit are clear and ready to step back into the waters of ministry, aware of where I had been, aware of what it took to return me to health, aware of what it will take from me and from the congregation I serve to keep our ministry together vibrant.
Deep breaths of joy for the time I’ve had with my family. I was probably most nervous about being home with my kids for the. whole. summer. I’m a working mom for many reasons, and thankfully I’ve had no guilt about that. I love my calling to ministry and motherhood, and I can’t imagine what life would be like without either one. I was scared of how I would operate as a mother without ministry also in my life. The pressure of needing to make plans and keep peace and create memories was high and came only from myself. But we did it. We did it so much better than I ever imagined we would.
Deep breaths for strength
- To lead in new ways with confidence and a vision for First Presbyterian Church
- To do the things sabbatical allowed me to hear God calling me to do
- To say “no” when I need to say “no”
- To advocate for what I need to be the minister God has called me to be
- To know what I can and can’t do in the immediate and long-term future
Deep breaths to put the nerves to rest. I’m nervous that I have forgotten how to craft a sermon. I’m nervous that I will come back changed and won’t fit the church anymore. I’m nervous that I will forget all my plans to limit the number of evenings I’m away from my family, that I won’t make time to read more books, that I’ll put the work email app back on my phone.
Deep breaths of hope. I’m not going to try to summarize 14 weeks of life – of play and rest and struggles and travel and happiness and frustration and prayer and family and breathing and friends and fear and joy – in one pithy little sentence or even this longer blog post. There’s more to it than it would be possible to do here and now. But the breaths I am taking as I’m sipping the last of the Côtes du Rhône left in this glass are full of hope – trust in action. Hope that I will go back to my congregation tomorrow with all of us ready to explore what’s next. Hope that we will have grace for and with one another as we get reacquainted and readjusted. Hope for the future of my ministry here in Hudson and wherever else the Spirit of God takes me someday.