Remember in college professors would take sabbaticals? Even in those carefree days this struck me as a fantastic idea. The freedom to pursue something new, a true respite from the daily grind? Brilliant. In some ways, my whole life has been a sabbatical. The seasons where I have had to get up, get dressed and go to work every day have been short-lived, almost to an embarrassing extent. I’ve pretty much scammed the system.
But on the other hand, motherhood is a demanding and full-time vocation. I think it’s the most important job in the world, and a privilege too. It is fulfilling and challenging and fun and exhausting, and there’s nothing I’d rather do. Yet a sabbatical is still a good idea. However short, a little break should be part of the mothering contract. I’m not talking about a trip to Europe or even the Caribbean. I’m just talking about a little getaway, even if it’s for a single night.
That’s what I did Friday. I took a one night (33 hour) motherhood sabbatical. I had to get someone to cover two volunteer duties at my boys’ school on Friday, I had to arrange for a friend to pick Sam up from preschool and then my husband had to get the boys to two baseball practices, two swim practices, three baseball games, and a birthday party all within that little window.
After preschool drop-off, I drove down with my friend, Holly, to a Young Life camp just outside Lexington, Virginia. Holly has been my Bible study leader for years (in fact, I first met Holly ten years ago and have loved her madly ever since), but we’ve never had more than a few minutes of one-on-one time. Well, you can cover A LOT in the course of 180 miles! It sort of reminded me of my time with Fahim (minus the bladder-about-to-burst pain), but since Holly and I share a love for Jesus and a glass-half full outlook, the miles flew by and we talked and talked and talked and I think we could’ve driven to L.A. and back and not run out of laughs or conversation topics. Such a gift.
Then at the camp, I was able to have many conversations without interruption or distraction (both of which are hard to come by at my house). I took a long walk with Holly and another friend along the stream above. I got to have conversations with some friends about their kids, about overcoming cancer, about one’s longing to do foster care.
It’s always fun to meet new people, too. One young mama I sat with at dinner had once mooned a “cabin” of women with John 3:16 Sharpied on her bottom. I immediately loved this fun mama, in part because this is something I personally could never do (read the essay entitled “Bad Naked and Bad, Bad Naked” in my book to find out why). But what was truly amazing about her little daredevil maneuver was that one of the moon-ees had no idea what John 3:16 was! No kidding. God used the mooning to prompt a sharing of the gospel. Hilarious.
I also sat next to a sweet young mama who told me about how three years ago her healthy husband died of H1N1. She told me how she’s been surrounded by death her whole life, and how she envies people who go on to heaven before her. She was something else. Her beautiful blue eyes were not hardened in the least by her loss. Her hope and faith must inspire many, because I just ate blueberry pancakes next to her and will never forget her.
I also ran into an old friend, who I hadn’t seen in six years. She’s gone through some really tough times and I’m so glad that I got to see her, hug her and know better how to pray for her.
There was also some very entertaining skits. I think the one-girl-show actress could easily do SNL. She was a hoot! There was worship music and teaching from God’s Word. The food was great, the company delightful, and the surroundings majestic.
On Saturday, I got to do the zip line, also pictured above. Twice! I had told the boys I was going to do this. Actually I built it up to a ridiculous extent and was worried about hanging my head in shame if I’d wimped out. Clouds were rolling in and I needed to leave for home because Will was scheduled to work. Along with my friends Heidi and Christy, I hightailed it over there at the very first opportunity. We met up with my friend Jan from Jill’s House, who I also wasn’t expecting to see this weekend. We climbed the stairs together and flew down as a pair. I was sort of thinking I was brave to do this — it is quite a ride after all. But since Jan is traveling this week for her 40 year high school reunion, it didn’t seem so radical after all. When we climbed out of the lake, laughing and exhilarated we couldn’t resist going again! When we got to the bottom that second time it started thundering and minutes later it was pouring.
I showered, packed and hopped in my car. It was the best mini-sabbatical I could’ve asked for. Even the drive home was a treat. I haven’t spent that much time alone in the car since I drove back from Roanoke and the bar exam twelve years ago. It was raining so hard that I kept looking for a faster setting on my windshield wipers, yet I loved every second. I stopped for Starbucks and sang every mile of the way.
Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Don’t you think breaks — sabbaticals — are part of this numbering aright? I sure do. Our summer vacation, which is largely uplugged and camp-like, seems to ground us like nothing else. But that shouldn’t be the only time that we jump off the treadmill. I’m contemplating how to be more intentional, how to spend more time unplugged, how to dial down the speed of life in general.
How are you building sabbaticals into your life? Have you ever thought about trying to take a week, a month, or even a year off? I have. In fact, I’m thinking hard about it, and praying for discernment.
Also, as an aside, I don’t care who you are — how old, how young, how committed to Christ or how godless, I would advise you to never, ever, ever pass up the opportunity to spend some time at a Young Life camp.