Sabbatical Planning

Looking to spend time with a 30 something woman to see what sparks her imagination when she doesn’t have the day to day demands of work.

It looks like a personals ad, but it really is the heading for my sabbatical planning sheet. I have 8 weeks coming up with which to do…well, that is the question, really. What do I want to do? My planning sheet is divided into two parts- my study time and time for my own spirit. My study time is already well defined. I have reading to do, a study project, some writing and planning that needs to be done and that I’m looking forward to. How often do we get the chance to give our minds some space in which to really dream, vision, and plan about the big picture of our ministry and not just tackle the to- do lists? There are objectives I want to meet and will come out the other side of my sabbatical with something accomplished. I’m ready.

But what about that time for my own spirit? Part of sabbatical is for myself- for the woman who lives within, who competes with the wife, mom, and pastor that I am and always gets the time leftovers – and you know what that means. The possibilities are so numerous and exciting that I can easily see myself trying to cram so much into my time that I end up feeling exhausted and spent rather than refreshed and renewed. I often over-schedule my days off, so imagine how I could over-schedule two whole months! My planning sheet is a long list of brainstormed options. I could plan the garden or wander art museums I haven’t been to in years. I could take day long walks in the park and meditate through the labyrinth near my house. Maybe I’ll take up bird watching, or learn to draw, refresh my French, or finally learn how to make a power point presentation. There are rooms that need painting, photos albums to be put together, and closets to be organized. The ideas get tossed onto the page and there is a momentary excitement about the idea of them but then I feel that they are not quite what my soul is longing for. Do I really have no idea what would feed my spirit? Have I been so task-focused for so long that I can’t plan play?

There is one thing that beckons to me to resurrect an old part of myself. It stands silently waiting to be brought back to life in the corner of my room- my cello. I grew up playing the cello and while I loved it, it slowly gave way as schooling and work took over. The cello for me is not just an instrument that makes music; it is a multifaceted sensual experience that feels like the breath of the Holy Spirit. I love the feel of pulling the bow across the strings, the sound rising up as if from the belly of the earth. I love the moods that can be created just by pace or pitch. I remember how my whole body would play my cello, not just fingers, hands, and arms, but legs, breath and feet were all involved in the song. The deep rich sound of the cello takes my breath away like nothing else and reels in my body, mind and spirit and takes me wherever the song goes. Yes, picking up my cello again feels like the right thing to do. But it also scares me. What if I can’t remember how to read the notes? What if something that once came easily to me and that I excelled at was actually a passing talent? What if sitting down with my gorgeous instrument that has hints of red glowing in the wood doesn’t stir me like it once did? My planning sheet sat empty while I pondered these disturbing possibilities.

But God continues to call me through my cello that stands in the corner. “Come, sit down, give yourself time and grace to re-learn and let me speak through the experience.”

Maybe it is time to re-learn how to practice and be patient with myself. Maybe it is time to remember that I can do something that is just for me. Maybe it is time to breathe with the pull of the bow and allow the vibrations of the notes to stir up some long put away emotions. Maybe it is time to learn a new song.

I’ve crossed out most of my other ideas on my planning sheet. The walks will happen and rooms will be painted. The photos will be put in albums and the closets organized. They will be good breaks from my cello practice.

5 replies
  1. mary allison
    mary allison says:

    i hope your sabbatical is wonderful. i love the idea of returning to the cello. this seems a bit more realistic (and less cacophonous) than my dream of learning to play the fiddle.

  2. Sara
    Sara says:

    Ruth – after not having picked up my violin in 10 years, I finally took some private lessons…and it’s wonderful! So yes, it will be squeaky and yes it will take a while to get back to where you left off – but for me, it’s been a wonderful spiritual discipline of being gentle with myself and just enjoying the present.

  3. Elsa
    Elsa says:

    I wrote a Lenten study for my congregation that sounds a lot like this… My Lenten discipline has been to resurrect my art. It’s not working, but it’s a lovely ideal. I hope you’ll share with us what happens. I’m looking forward to a sabbatical in 2012 and would love wisdom.

  4. Joanna
    Joanna says:

    I also grew up playing the cello and the sound from that instrument stirs me like nothing else. I’m looking forward to a sabbatical in the next 2 or 3 years, and I can really relate to your brainstorming phase. I’m sure my list will get longer before it gets shorter.
    Blessings on your sabbatical time.


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