Sabbatical Reflections {12 Month Report}

The phone rang early one morning a few weeks ago. It was my husband, not thirty minutes gone from home on his way to work:

I was just thinking about our life this year. You know, how the kids are so cute and it’s fun having them little. And the amazing ways that God gave us this sabbatical and our house and this job and how this year has been relatively stress free compared to what life has been like for us. Do you think this is what people mean when they say that these are the “the golden years?

{“They” are all the well meaning older folks who have fondly complimented our family in public over the past 10 years, commenting that “These are the golden years. Enjoy them.” To which we always smiled politely and walked away saying to each other “You have no idea. If this is golden, then count me out.”} 

After my husband and I finished talking that morning, I hung up the phone and cried. Because he summed it up so well. 2015 was indeed a golden year for us- a time that leaves us in awe because we have never known life to be this settled and pressure free. It keeps hitting us that this must be what most people consider to be ‘normal life.’ We were reminded again recently of how different our life has been when someone mentioned having had three life changing events in their lifetime, and said that those things don’t happen every year. My husband and I squeezed each others’ hands a little tighter. Because for us, those things have happened every year for nine of our almost eleven years together.  This doesn’t make us better or worse than anyone else- it’s just the path that God has chosen for us early in life. So for us, this year was a first. Of course it  hasn’t been perfect- there’s been deep struggle and major cultural adjustments. But God has graciously allowed us to enter into a new and strange world in which we are able to enjoy life instead of just manage tremendous stress and survive repeated trauma.

So. Twelve months on sabbatical. Where are we at now, and where do we go from here?

We are in a waiting place- a hallway of life- at transition yet again.  I thought I would give you a little ‘comparison’ update in this post. Because when we evaluate our hearts where they are now against where they were a year ago, we are in awe of His miraculous work of grace in our lives!

One year ago, I couldn’t bear the thought of moving again. Now, I’m ready to pack in a heartbeat whenever God makes our path clear. {Remind me of this when we actually do start packing.} 🙂 We are settled but ready to go.

One year ago, we were exhausted in every way. Now, we are dreaming of ministry again. My husband is a gracious, gifted, and Godly pastor who truly loves to shepherd people. I miss hearing him preach. I miss having “my ladies” and being able to actively minister alongside him to the people God gives us to love and care for.  Yet our rest time has been and will be essential for future ministry. Truly, God knows how much we are able to bear and He brings the rest of reprieve at just the right time. During 2015, many pastors’ wives have written to me and expressed how much they, too, long to take a sabbatical like ours.  After watching God Himself validate our weariness and minister to us in amazing ways this year, I believe with all my heart that if you truly do need a break, God will give it to you….but He may make you wait longer than you expect.

One year ago, we were reeling from years of accumulated grief and loss. Healing seemed impossible. Now, light is breaking and I sink to my knees in utter gratefulness that my God “heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds.”  He is still doing this in our hearts, and part of me wonders if the grieving process ever really ends- maybe it just changes? We have some difficult things to face yet {both emotionally and physically}, but we see God faithfully at work to redeem our past and bring glory to Himself and healing to others through it. Yes, we still ache and cry. Yes, we still long to be poured into the way we have poured into others. We are still learning not to expect people to reach out to us, but to let God fill our empty places.

One year ago, my faith was crumbling. I cried through every church service a)because I was finally in a place where I could be myself, and b)because I was grasping to believe that the God Who gave me so much pain from my childhood up, really did love me. Over the past year, God has gently and consistently rebuilt my faith and brought me to a deeper place of trust. I see Him bringing purpose out of our pain. Worship music and journaling my adoration of God through Scripture  have completely captivated me and have become a daily lifeline. Truly, He does love me, and I’ve only scratched the surface of grasping how much.

This year has been incredible for our marriage. God has blessed us for nearly 11 years with a good marriage, and we’ve always thrived doing ministry together. It hasn’t been perfect, of course, but it’s been the one thing in our life that didn’t change. The difference is that, until 2015, we’ve always had a marriage that was under intense emotional pressure from ministry. But this year has just been plain FUN! We both feel like we are on a second honeymoon that is a hundred times better in every way than the first one was. It has been amazing to just have fun together, laugh freely, and be great friends without the ministry dynamic. And it’s been pretty grand to sit together in church every service. Now we are daydreaming about how to keep the honeymoon when we re-enter ministry. 🙂

I could go on and on describing the differences a year of rest can make in every aspect of life. It’s been a gift in every way.  Last year my “word of the year” was rest. My Scriptural mandate was be still and know that I am God. This year my word is listen and my Scriptural mandate is wait patiently for Him. We are not in a hurry, but we are listening.

We are looking ahead and seeking God’s leading. Many have asked us if we will return to our beloved Canada. We are certainly open to that and would be thrilled if God led us back to a different part of Canada.  We still feel very Canadian and have struggled to adjust to the American way of thinking. Our whole family owns dual citizenship, so moving back would be fairly simple and paperless. However, we are open to anything and are praying about several countries right now, not excluding the possibility of a different location in USA. The Bible Belt is a great place to heal and restore, but the fact that it is so  Gospel-saturated and spiritually affluent has made us increasingly restless. This is not a criticism! Truly it is a blessing for many. Our restlessness just speaks to what God has put in our hearts. After serving on a spiritually cold and needy field for so long, we can’t help but think of all the places that are desperate for pastors and churches.  In most cases, this also equates being in an extremely difficult ministry. While we have been humbly begging God to give us a church that is Christ focused where the people truly love each other and unite for God’s glory, we realize that He may not choose to do that.  Quite frankly, this is cause for trepidation on our part, and is definitely an area for surrender in our hearts, as we place our hands into our faithful Shepherd’s and willingly follow wherever He leads.

You know….I do realize that I write a lot about pain and about finding hope in Christ. This is not to be whiny or to be a martyr. I believe God has gifted my husband and I with a greater amount of pain than normal {so people have told us}  in our twenties and thirties so that we can learn to throw ourselves into His loving heart and learn His character. He has also gifted us this pain to grow in us compassion and empathy for others who are suffering. In a way, writing about His redemption in our lives is a gift I can give back to Him.  I choose to write openly about it because I have a passion to encourage others {and that’s hard to do without speaking of hard things}, so that you know you aren’t alone, and so we can find hope together in Christ. Pain does that- it makes you realize you have nothing but Christ. And that He’s enough.

During the “golden year” of 2015, I was beyond blessed to be in community with so many of you dear pastors’ wives! Thank you for loving me, for sending sweet emails, for sharing your heart, and for doing life with me. You are a gift. Whether 2016 is golden or not, let’s keep our eyes on our Good Shepherd and find our rest and hope in Him. Join me?

XOXO,

A Kindred Spirit

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About Leah {Embracing Grace}

Leah Highfill accepted Christ as her Saviour and became a child of God at the age of 18. Originally from the USA, she and her husband moved to the mission field of Canada in 2005, where she served in full time ministry as a pastor's wife for 10 years. During their tenure there, they became dual citizens. Leah and her family recently returned to NC and are currently enjoying a much needed sabbatical for the year of 2015. She homeschools her children {Small Son is 9 and Tiny Daughter is 7} and teaches private piano lessons on the side. She can be found reading, writing/blogging, playing the piano and violin, or ice skating. A friend to ministry wives everywhere, Leah has a passion to inspire hope and to encourage women in their walk with God. Her first book, Expecting Grace, was published in 2013. Expecting Grace is the story of Leah's experience and survival of a life threatening pregnancy, and of many medical and financial miracles along the way. Her second book is currently in process. Join her grace-filled journey right here at Embracing Grace!

2 thoughts on “Sabbatical Reflections {12 Month Report}

  1. So thankful that your year of rest and renewal has been a such a time of spiritual rejuvenation!! Will be praying for God’s leading!! God bless your desire to serve Him in even greater ways once again!! Hugs sent along with the prayers

  2. I love this post and hearing all about what the Lord has done in your lives this year. Praying for His leading in your life and your future ministry. Sure wish it was closer to us!

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