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Friday, January 15, 2010

Sabbath, Sabbatical, and Semester

Doug and I are about to embark on a journey of a different kind. Yes, it involves traveling, but more importantly, it involves rest. For the first time ever, we are going to take a mini-sabbatical, 7.5 weeks of time away from church. It will sabbath, in the best sense of the word. We need rest and by taking so many weeks in a row, we will actually have time to rest and relax and find out what it means to really leave the pressures of life behind. It will be sabbatical in the sense that we are seeking renewal through changing our rhythm and pattern of life for a significant amount of time. We will not be studying during this time or seek to accomplish something in the form of a book or a paper. But we look forward to the renewal that will be ours as we spend time together as only a married couple and not as colleagues. It will be semester...the Swedish word for vacation. Sweden is a generous country when it comes to time off and we finally realized that we are fools to not take advantage of this opportunity to be away, on paid vacation, for an extended period of time. Amazingly, every person from church has responded with tremendous enthusiasm and joy for us. They express how they will miss us, and yet, affirm how wonderful it will be for us to have this time away.
We knew that we wanted to provide for our church even in our absence and as we considered the kind of support that our associate pastor might need during this time, we began to think about a retired pastor and spouse who might like the chance to live in downtown Stockholm and lend a hand with the ministry, on a voluntary basis. We could offer flights over and our house but little else. We are happy to report that we welcomed Steve and Janet Armfield to Sweden today and they are now sleeping happily in our extra bedroom after a jet-lagged first day here. Steve just retired from active ministry in August. He planted a church and the spent 30 years with them. What a great servant and leader! His wife Janet is a wonderfully creative artist and they both offer warm gifts of hospitality. Their daughter was our intern 10 years ago and when their names came across our radar, it seemed perfect. We are excited for the church to come to know these folks and excited for them to get to know our church. It is such a great community and we have such a love for them that we feel very blessed to see how this has unfolded.
So, what, you may be asking, are we going to be doing on our sabbath, sabbatical, semester? A bit of everything. We will spend time visiting family in both Minneapolis, Minnesota and Palm Springs, California and catch Doug's folks again in their winter place in Pensacola, Florida. We will do some fun stuff, in sunny spots along the way. We will drive the coast of California and take in the unique beauty of my home state, spending significant time in San Francisco and Napa Valley. We will enjoy being away and being with one another. We will celebrate a significant birthday for Douglas while in San Francisco and I look forward to exploring this beautiful area with my beloved husband.
With only two more days before our January 18 departure I am exhausted and excited. I have a women's brunch at church tomorrow and the services on Sunday. Hopefully the Vikings will beat the Cowboys on Sunday night and we leave for MN on Monday at 9.00 a.m.
As the reality of our break has set in, I have realized what a gift this season will be for us. I feel a bit uncertain about how it will feel as the weeks go by and I wonder what changes it might create within me, but I am certain that it will fruitful and that we will enjoy it all. My only sadness at this point is that Tanner is staying behind. He's staying with the family that always cares for him and who love him dearly and that brings great comfort, but still...almost 8 weeks without our boy...feels a bit sad.
We will miss our congregation and the rhythm of church life here. We will miss our friends and our life here, but I know that new things await us, new discoveries, new experiences, new thoughts, new feelings and that feels very renewing indeed.