Diane Stermer recently returned from a six week sabbatical and shares some of her thoughts on her time away.
I am extremely grateful for the gift of a sabbatical although in the beginning of my six weeks, I was not sure what I was going to do to fill the time.
I considered what outcomes I wanted from my time off from work:
- I wanted to know that I had made time for God. Uninterrupted time; leisurely time, unhurried, time to read, pray and journal.
- I desired to hear from God, to KNOW that God had spoken some things meant just for me.
- I wanted to experience His presence … the reality of Him and me together.
- I also wanted time with family and friends, time to enjoy being outside, and time to just pursue those activities that bring me joy.
I divided the sabbatical in to two three-week sections. The first three weeks were “my” time, the last three weeks would include time for my husband Jerry and myself to enjoy together.
I took the first three days of my sabbatical, each day, to begin my day with God. I started with several hours of reading, journaling and praying, being quiet and listening. I chose locations that would allow me to be outside, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine and the sounds of nature. Time outside is a luxury and one I sincerely enjoy. These three days were very meaningful. They set the value for my entire sabbatical.
The remainder of the first three weeks were a little more busy, filled with day-to-day responsibilities, but still I found it was rather easy to have my alone time with God, to be aware of his presence as I went about my daily activities.
It became more of a challenge the second part of the sabbatical. Jerry was home, the “routine” I had established in the first three weeks was non-existent, and the routine we have during our working schedules was non-existent. All the structure was gone! Structure helps me to fit everything in I want to accomplish, but I now found my time in each day to be very fluid. Not necessarily a good thing. My daily time with God was threatened.
I realized it was going to require some intentionality to “keep” God connected to my sabbatical, and to bring our time together back into my norm, post-sabbatical schedule. In preparing for my sabbatical, I had begun reading Whisper; How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson. He introduces seven creative ways God speaks to his children: Scripture, Desires, Doors, Dreams, People, Promptings and Pain. This book reminded me that God’s voice is all around me, He isn’t limited by my human ability to hear, however, I have the responsibility to take the initiative to position myself.
“Carved-out” time just for God is an incredible gift, but that is not the norm for most of us. The realities of life have a tendency to rob us of time and focus. I came back from sabbatical not willing to forfeit what God and I established together those first three days, the ability to sense His presence and involvement in my day to day.
I want – I need – my focused time with Him each and every day. As I have gotten back into my normal routine of life, I am finding ways to connect with Him and to enjoy His presence throughout the day. I continue to strive to have some type of carved-out time; however, I am finding ways to be intentional throughout the day to connect and to be more aware of His presence. God has done everything to make his presence known; it is up to me to take the initiative to embrace what He has made available. Daily time in Scripture continues to be the primary connection point, but I am becoming better in listening for and recognizing other opportunities to live throughout the day in God’s presence.
Just starting the day by acknowledging His presence and committing the day to Him, makes me more aware that he and I are living the day together. I am also trying to be more aware, each day, of his blessings and miracles. God is always at work, always providing for His children; it is my desire to become more aware of what he is doing and giving him thanks for his involvement and provision in my life.
Written by Diane Stermer