When I began my sabbatical four months ago, I was tired. I had been through the wringer looking after my family while my husband went back to school. I had served in the pastorate for fourteen years without much of a break. I was still grieving the loss of my mother. I needed an extended break to sleep, pray, think and rest. I have now had every opportunity to do that. It was wonderful.
When I started to slow down, however, I noticed a few things about my life. I became aware of how fast I was used to eating, even when our family sat down for a meal together. I saw how I desperately depended on my calendar and to-do lists to keep me from forgetting things–even really important things. I discovered that I had grown unaccustomed to doing one thing at a time.
As I slowed down, I could also see more clearly how busy everyone else was. So many people live life at breakneck speed, rushing from work to home to work again. They are busy tending to the needs of young children and aging parents, volunteering at church or school and trying to find time to go to the gym. Many lives are full of worry about ill health, money, relationships. When I ask anyone how they are, they almost always say, “Busy.” And they are.
The problem is that this busy life can leave us exhausted, unhealthy and sometimes frustrated and empty, too. As we rush around we long for a slower pace and a life that is more fun. How then shall we live?
This is my question as I plunge back into work. How can we live in ways that are less frantic? How can we cultivate a spirit of peace within us, even when our schedules are full? How can we be content in the midst of life’s struggles? How can we live in ways that are healthy for our minds and hearts and bodies?
My sabbatical in the garden has given me many gifts, not the least of which is the desire to live differently. I want to stay connected to God’s beautiful creation, find time for unhurried moments, and remain rooted in my community. I want to figure out how to do less while still making the world a better place. I don’t want to go back to rushing through meals and doing sixteen things at once.
This will not be easy. I will struggle to walk this talk, especially as school begins and life gets busier in the fall. I will likely have some spectacular failures to share, along with some thoughts on gardens, friendship, and family life. But I will continue to write, since that’s what I love to do, and I hope that you will join me as I try to cultivate the practice of learning how to stop and smell the roses.