I’ve been back in the office and back on social media for three days now after being away on a sabbatical for the last 30 days.  Before I get too caught up in the busyness of work routines, I wanted to take a bit to reflect and share a few learnings or re-learnings.

By the way, a sabbatical is not the same as a vacation. It is a time to break away from the routines and the usual to change the tempo of life.  I’m grateful that our church gives our pastors a month off every five years of service.  Working every weekend, working long hours, giving ourselves to serve and support others in their deepest time of need does create a unique fatigue that needs special times for rest and recharging. 

So, my wife Linda and I chose to spend three out of the four weeks doing what recharges us the most.  Traveling.  And here are some thoughts that we wrote down along the way.  These are good for us to remember every day.  And, maybe they will help you as well. 

Slow Down…Take Life in Small Doses – After arriving in the Dolomite mountains of Italy the day before, our first full morning was a lesson in this very principle.  At home, we are used to brewing our ten cups of coffee and each of us having two large mugs of coffee as we leisurely start our day with a scripture-based devotional, a short email recap of the news of the previous day, a few glances of our social media channels, looking ahead at our schedules for the day, etc.  This first full day of our sabbatical, we wanted to go explore the amazing beauty of the Dolomites. But we needed to start the day with our usual coffee.  Our hotel coffee shop gave us one teeny tiny little mug that was about three swallows at the most.  So, we stopped at a second coffee shop five miles down the road and got a second tiny little cup of coffee. And another five miles down the road, we found a third coffee shop that gave us their largest size available, another very tiny cup of coffee.   God smiled and made us smile with this thought, we Americans need to learn to slow down and take life in small sips instead of the large gulps we are used to.

The largest of the three cups of coffee that morning.

Anticipate Change – I’ve known and taught that change is a good thing.  Spending a week in the Dolomites, reinforced that in a powerful way.  One day while visiting the famous Tre Cime di Lavaredo, we experienced incredible changes from fog to sun, showers to rainbows and more. The regular changes became a beautiful experience when we finally started anticipating it instead of lamenting that we couldn’t see what we wanted to see.  As a photographer, I was able to capture some of those changes and it was a powerful lesson of how boring life would be if there was not change and everything looked the same all day and all year.

The Climb is Difficult… But Worth it – One day we decided to hike to the distant waterfall that we could see each morning from our hotel room window.  The climb wasn’t easy.  Steep roadways, rocks and roots were the norm.  But the waterfall at the end was so worth it.  The trail of life is similar.  It’s not always smooth and it’s often difficult.  But when we persevere, we see the beauty that God has for us.  And the path back to our hotel in the valley was much easier.

Seeds become trees – As we hiked to the waterfall mentioned above, we were reminded that some of the steepest parts of the trail, were made more difficult by the roots of established trees.  We reflected with deep gratitude on the seeds we started planting in our community over 36 years ago when we moved there to start Cape Christian.  Our successors are now able to use those roots (large campus, flexible buildings, community leader relationships, etc.) as steppingstones to make a powerful recovery impact in the wake of a devastating hurricane that happened while we were away.

Grace is Always Needed – My beautiful wife Linda and I have been married nearly 48 years, but we still need to give each other grace.  We had one or two miscommunication situations over the month where she needed to extend a boatload of grace to me.  My intense desire as a photographer to get a great shot (ironically now one of her most favorite pictures of the entire trip) led me on a half mile trek down a narrow winding road on the edge of a cliff while she stayed in the car.  However, when I didn’t return in the time she anticipated, she was extremely alarmed and concerned about my safety.  I didn’t communicate to her well what I was thinking or planning, and she was deeply shaken and upset about my possible demise.  In every relationship, grace is needed.

The Risky Capture

God Cares About the Details – We found that to be true many times in our 30-day journey, God took care of so many details.  We traveled by plane, car and train and repeatedly, we arrived just in time, or we talked to just the right person that knew which line to get in or which choice was our best option for one thing or another. We were even blessed with the first snow of the season in the mountains that beautifully changed the scenery and photographic opportunities. We had one rainy day where we had to adjust our plans, but it turned into a great day of much-needed rest, and time for reading and processing hundreds of pictures.  We felt God’s care frequently.  From a change of plans due to a hurricane-cancelled flight to finding our windchimes had been safely protected up in the rain gutter of our home during Hurricane Ian, God showed us he cares, even about not-so-important details.

These six reminders have been good for us while on a sabbatical and, in everyday life.  Writing them down helps us.  And, just maybe, one or more of the six is something you need to hear right now. 

QUESTION:  Which one of the six is a needed reminder for you right now? (I’d love to have you make a note in the comment section). 

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