Following their Footsteps
When my parents were were a bit older than I am now they both went through stages when they were trying to figure out who they were and who they wanted to be. Dad was beginning a new life as a recovering alcoholic (and I'm proud to say, sober ever since) and Mom, as a divorced, single mom. Of course, there was a lot more to them then those labels, but it took some time and attention to figure it out.
Hate to admit it, but my sister and I were more apt to complain about the struggles and inconvenience the family's breakup made in our lives - e.g., moving off-island and attending an inner-city middle school - than to show compassion, empathy, and support for Mom and Dad. Heck, we were typical, self-focused young teens. We made fun of their self-help books and their sometimes awkward attempts to reinvent themselves.
Yet my relationships with both parents were in the early stages of turning into the friendships they are today, and I picked up enough to be helpful to me as I've reached speed bumps and crossroads of my own.
I've been thinking about my parents often during these months of sabbatical, and it's been good to compare notes from time to time. Since I'm sometimes quite restless about being "at home," and sabbatical is about rest as much as anything, I delayed a trip West until quite late in the process. I also like to see the Pacific Northwest in its best season. When the sun comes out, this is a glorious place.
Anyway, I've enjoyed this visit more than any in a long time. Praise God.
As regular visitors will realize I've been reading a lot of books about personal development this year. Here are some you might like as well. I didn't find these uniformly helpful, but "got something" out of each one, as well as some of the fiction and other things I read. I know you may be thinking, "If I didn't have to work, I might read books too!" Ah, well... may God grant you the space and input you need to live a life worth living. Whatever means he may use.
a. Rest and Perspective
Early on in the sabbatical I read The Overload Syndrome: Learning to Live within Your Limits, by Richard Swenson, and later picked up In Search of Balance. I loved Mark Buchanan's The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath and also read his Things Unseen: Living with Eternity in Your Heart. I got a lot out of The Vertical Self: How Biblical Faith Can Help Us Discover Who We Are in an Age of Self Obsession by Mark Sayers, which I read at just the right time.
b. What You Might Call "Life Coaching"
Dan Allender's To Be Told: God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future and Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life gave me some tools and inspiration to look at the path of my life more closely. Previously, I had read Max Lucado's Cure for the Common Life, which was also helpful; I think I will give it a second look.
48 Days to Work You Love stressed me out - it's written in the same style as those Swenson books mentioned above; too many bullet points, quotes, and statistics. But it had some good content. Now, Discover Your Strength and StrengthFinder 2.0 were helpful ones this month. Don't Waste Your Talent is still in my pile.
c. Personal Growth, esp. Considering Loss and Disappointment
The last newsletter I wrote said I thought a good chunk of my sabbatical would be less about having fun and being at peace, more about facing and feeling my loss, disappointment, and grief about a variety of things. Now, that doesn't sound like the kind of thing any of us do willingly; certainly I don't. I might have been able to go deeper, faster and "get that over with" if I had been less reluctant. But even my feeble efforts have born a great deal of fruit.
Among the helpful things I read were the Old Testament (yes, all the way through) and Yancey's The Bible Jesus Read, Nouwen's The Way of the Heart, Keller's A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, McGee's The Search for Significance: Seeing Your True Worth through God's Eyes, Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission, and Foyle's Honorably Wounded: Stress among Christian Workers.
One of the best books I encountered was Jerry Sittser's A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss, which I wrote about several weeks ago. Highly recommended.
Now that the sabbatical is almost over, I realize that in addition to my stated goals to seek rest, reflection, and renewal in order to live a more fruitful life in the years to come, I expected I'd be ready to make a practical decision about what to do about my job situation...It may happen yet, but so far, nope.
Here's the deal. While I have project opportunities (e.g., teaching and writing) waiting for me, I don't exactly have a position, and I no longer have a team or office. Can I stay with my mission agency? That would mean finding a new team/fit within the ministry, probably working with minimal companionship or accountability. (Freeing? or foolish?) How much of an open door there is for me to stay with P.I. is not entirely clear to me. If I leave, where would I go? There are some great ministries out there, and I know which ones I "like" best and why - but which ministry or team would be the best fit for me at this point, and - one would hope - for the next 5-10 years?
What am I even looking for in evaluating teams, organizations, situations? I seem to be in a position where the answer is not just "whoever will have me." Guess I can be thankful for that! Yet which is more important, finding a great team/office situation, or staying in Denver? Continuing the kinds of projects I've put so much into, or taking my skills into new areas to do the work others think is important? Some of those things may compatible, but if they turn out to be in conflict, what will I prioritize?
Honestly, while those questions have been on my mind, God hasn't shown me what's next, yet. I haven't reached a stage where I'm ready to make a decision. I haven't even researched the options very well. However, I have a greater sense of clarity - and peace - than I did. I'm about ready to talk. It's a good start.