I returned to my office at church on August 22, a little over a month ago, yet I’m still deep in personal adjustment and re-entry tasks. It’s a jarring experience to jump into a regular work schedule after time away, especially when it was combined with a new job for my husband–which started a week before I came back to church–and my kids’ new school year. It was good to begin our new schedules together; it was overwhelming to start everything at once. Our little dog reflected these quick changes: when he returned from time with a loving caretaker for 2 months, he skittered and shied away from us for the first couple of days; when school started, he raced around the house for several mornings in a row, wondering where we were going with such intensity. Now that my husband rises and leaves before the rest of us, the kids are grieving his French Toast and bacon and morning snuggles. Returning from sabbatical means giving some things up, yet I don’t know how to mourn a gift. It feels a bit like ungrateful-ness, though that couldn’t be farther from the truth. So much goodness at once is hard to let go of, and the sadness is a marker of the joy of the experience.
Rachel and Marty, my brother and sister-in-law’s friendly dog, enjoying a moment together at Cannon Beach, OR in July. (Photo by my sister-in-law)
Returning to church has been clunky. I’m not the same as before I left for sabbatical and neither is the congregation. For some, my absence was hardly noticed in the busy-ness of summer; for others, sabbatical meant extra work and leadership tasks. It will take me a long time to process the impact of my time away, and it’s important that I stay aware of the changes I’m noticing. In the meantime, I’m asking for patience as I adjust and figure out what I want to bring from sabbatical into my daily life. I came back to several (wonderful!) big events at church and have been a bit overwhelmed by the pace of the past few weeks. Sabbatical is forcing me to also have patience with myself as I can’t run at the same speed I did a few months ago, and maybe my running style has changed, which is ok too.
Photo also by my sister-in-law. Sabbatical and ocean joy.
I learned early on in my sabbatical that I wouldn’t be able to absorb everything at once and the impact would continue to affect me for a long time. I have a resovoir of experiences and learnings to share for months (years?) to come in sermons, teaching, conversations and publications. I feel a pull to share everything at once, to wrap it up and move onto the next tasks. But it’s not possible as the sabbatical–even now–continues to nudge me to slow down. My family was strengthened through time together in ways we’ve never experienced before. I rested and knew restlessness, unpacked my suitcase for the final time in August with relief after 8 weeks of travel, and indulged an impulse to organize, decorate, declutter and better my home after being away from it for so long. I loved being away and I love being home.
A quite moment at St. John’s in Collegeville during my silent retreat at the end of the sabbatical time. It was a transformative few days for me.