Better Than Normal

Well, my lovely three-month sabbatical is winding down. A pastor friend told me that he’s never more depressed than at the end of a sabbatical. When you’re on sabbatical, he said, you come to realize that a pastor’s life isn’t normal. When you have a chance to taste “normal”, it’s hard to go back to “crazy”.

I know something of what he’s talking about. Still, my sabbatical is having a different effect on me. Having tasted “normal” (or as normal as life in the P-R house is ever gonna get) for nearly twelve weeks, I’m coming back inspired and eager to try some healthier practices, both at home and at church. More on that later.

This week I’ve been holed away at a mountain cabin, writing, writing. Mountain “cabin” is a bit of an understatement. More like a mountain mini-Biltmore. Undying thanks to two dear friends who opened their home to me.

Today I’m doing my best slug imitation, lazing in a rocking chair, soaking up the harmony of wind chimes and ogling the lavender carpet of mountains in the distance. Just off the deck is a bird feeder that seems to be a Circle K for every feathered creature inside a five-mile radius—warblers, plovers, thrushes, tanagers, buntings, chickadees. These birds of the air indeed do not sow or reap. But they do bully each other for Cole’s Special Blend around the feed trough. Here’s a 30-second clip:

My friend Brett Younger says that when you look up the word sabbatical in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of a pastor smiling. Yep, I’m smiling.

And so grateful.

First, to a good God who’s in the restoration business.

Second, to my dear, generous First Baptist Decatur family for giving me time and space to refill my saggy tires and to remember who I am, what the Church is about, and what we’re meant for.

Third, to our selfless staff who’ve covered lots and lots of extra bases all summer. I know, I know…I owe you big time.

And finally, to all the super-dee-duper preachers who’ve filled the pulpit each Sunday. Confession time: It’s a tiny bit possible that in some dank, reptilian corner of my soul, I secretly hoped that at least a few of you might stink a little, you know, for a comparative boost when I got back. You let me down, people.

Next Sunday I fly to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to wrap up my sabbatical, kayaking on Lake Superior with nine people I’ve never met. Back before Easter I saw an ad in the Christian Century for a retreat, sponsored by the Cedar Tree Institute, called “The Spirit of Place”. They had me at hello. We’ll kayak by day and talk about the writings of Flannery O’Conner around the campfire at night. Yes, I’m that lucky.

Two things you should know about the Michigan trip:
a) The ICE PACK on Lake Superior finally thawed just last month. Did I mention there’s been ICE?
b) I’ve never actually been in a kayak.

I’ll keep you posted.

2 thoughts on “Better Than Normal

  1. Hi Pastor Julie – Andy Black sent me a link to this post. I just got back from a conference in Ireland where we talked about this very thing! That is, the conference was entitled “Flannery O’Connor and the Mystery of Place.” Indeed, that could very well be the working title for my dissertation on the subject. So I’m very interested in hearing how the reading group goes. Could we keep in touch about it?

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