I have three days of some time away from church left. It's been a total of three weeks: two for vacation and one for professional development. Most people will not believe that I'm an introvert, and I am. I was in need of spending some time with my family AND of spending some time alone. So, I have done both. For two weeks, I set aside email and thoughts of the office to be with my family. We had a great time! And, this last week, I spent some time alone: reading, even eating, in quiet. All of this time has given me the space I need to feel ready to return to church. Now that parts of me are full, I am ready to share my self, and my faith, again.
I want to share with you four experiences from my time away. My hope is that by telling my story you will find some nourishment for your own story, your own spiritual path.
First, I want to tell you about visiting an art museum for the first time in many, many years - with three children. The focus of our family vacation was a massive hotel that includes water slides, lots of water slides. I, however, need more than water slides. So, I insisted that, on the way there, we stop at an art museum. You can imagine the resistance from my family, and you can imagine that I was stubborn, in my own way.
A friend gave me some wonderful advice, "Stop at the help desk," she said, "They will have something for the children to do." Indeed, they did: a scavenger hunt with a prize at the end. So, off we went running (if you know my son, you understand why I say running) from room to room looking at as much art as possible and completing the scavenger hunt. AND IT WAS WONDERFUL! The kids loved it. It was incredible to see my children's faces change as they took in beautiful, not so beautiful, and even some curious art. My husband and I, somehow, found some space to talk with one another about the art . And the kids each got a prize (yay!).
As we loaded up in the van, I felt satisfied. I also realized that something inside of me felt nourished. Some piece of my soul, perhaps buried or forgotten, rose up and said Thank you for that. You see, I had forgotten how important quiet spaces full of art are to my soul, my spirituality, my self, my experience of God...
It was not long before we arrived at the massive hotel/water park. My husband, saint that he is, quickly took the kids to the water slides. Meanwhile, the baby and I went to the local grocery and rested until dinner time. The next day it was family time at the water park (yay). My two older kiddos dragged me up to the first water slide. I tried to be enthusiastic. And there's one thing you should know, one essential element to this story, I am terrified of heights. This fear makes riding roller coasters, going on water slides, climbing tall towers, you get the picture, a bit difficult. However, there are risks I'm willing to take for my kids - mainly so they'll think I'm strong and brave, and because I love them more than life itself. Now, you may not think that going on water slides is risky. However, the week prior to my vacation a woman died falling off a roller coaster in Texas - just sayin'. Anyway, we had a great time and I'm glad I went down those water slides with my kids. Mostly, because it reminded me that risk - whatever it may be - for the sake of love has its own rewards (even if it is a first world risk of water slides at a nice hotel).
My third story has to do with reading, studying, or learning. As I was preparing to take this week of professional development, a colleague asked me, "Will you be able to do it? I've never been able to really take a week on my own to read and study; I need more accountability." And it's true. Having a professor, study group, or colleagues to hold you accountable has always been an important part of my own professional development. The good news is that I had to read one of these books for a conference I'm attending in September, and I take my job very seriously. I wanted to be able to tell my parish about what I had read, to share my learning with them.
This week I've read four wonderful books. I will write more about each of them on this blog in the coming weeks. I want to tell you today how grateful I am that I took the time to read these books. I've begun to answer some questions I've pondered over the last two years as a Rector and as a Christian. I've begun to ask a different set of questions. The challenge set before me is to continue what has begun this week. I've remembered that now I must take the time, every day, to study, to learn, and to pray. It is essential, to my faith and ministry, to make these as much a priority as the people with whom I minister. Together, learning and people, form, for me, a full ministry, a true portrait of the priesthood.
Lastly, to sum up, I want to encourage you to make time for Sabbath. By Sabbath, I mean time to rest - to fill your soul, to play, to risk, to learn. The creation story reminds us that even God rests: the creator of the universe took time to stop, to not work, to walk in the garden. I am so very grateful, especially to my parish, for this time of rest, play, and learning. It has nourished essential pieces of my soul. I pray that you will make the time to do the same.
God's peace be with you,