Many of you are kind enough to tell me how much these Encouragement Emails mean to you and how moved you are by my “vulnerability.” I love hearing from you and I’m glad my musings are helpful. This week I’m following the example of Rachel Held Evans, one of my favorite authors and bloggers, to share what she titles, “What I don’t always tell you.”

The truth is that after 20 years of clinical work, I’m beyond tired emotionally and spiritually. For too long I’ve felt trapped by my responsibilities (which I dearly love) and believed it was impossible for me to practice fully what I preach about self-care because of the demands of the ministry. Now in unmistakable fashion, a loving God is doing for me what I can’t do for myself by creating the space for an extended rest. I’m grabbing this God-break and taking a sabbatical for the month of August and into the first part of September! Yippee!

My family example and personal nature compel me to “soldier on.”  Since my mother died when I was three-years-old, I learned to square my shoulders, put a smile on my face and keep going. Recovery taught me to share my challenges and feelings with safe people, which helps enormously. Ironically, that practice also provided the fuel to keep on keeping on when I really should have taken a time out.

None of us are immune from significant trials. Personal and family illness, deaths of those I deeply love, professional challenges, gut-wrenching personal betrayals – all are part of my life just like they are part of yours. Even the wonderful events like weddings, the births of grandchildren, professional presentations and writing books are still enormously taxing. Clinically, I know that stress, whether positive or negative, is still stress and the body bears the toll. Personally, I haven’t wanted to admit that I’m affected. Today, I’m confessing that I’m teary and grumpy too often and jealous and judgmental even more. I need a break.

Finally, I’m stepping out from under the crushing load of my perpetual To Do list. For me, the burden of what I “should” be doing is the most weighty of all. I can’t get away from that unremitting yoke – whether it’s responding to the scores of daily emails and phone calls, to caring for the broken and hurting, to assisting other clinicians, to juggling my work with time for my family. Even during periods of supposedly taking time off, I’ve still been attached to computer and phone. I’ve always felt the tasks looming in the background.

I don’t really think I’m a workaholic, though others often call me that, including my own son when I told him last night about my sabbatical. I dearly love my time alone away from work and have learned (because of physical necessity) in recent years to better attend to my self-care. I simply find there’s always too much work to be done and not enough resources to do it. More truthfully, I think I’m the best one (I’ve learned I’m not the only one) who can do the jobs.

Ah, that’s the deeper truth. Pride. The arrogance that surely the God of the universe needs ME to accomplish his plans. A lack of faith that God’s purposes are quite secure despite my lack of contribution. A reluctance to give up the kudos my work provides. Yikes, no wonder I’ve been reluctant to take a break. And incredibly tired.

I expect this sabbatical will be both a spiritual oasis and a spiritual wilderness. I plan to ….. well, I don’t have any plans at all, which is super refreshing in itself. I’m going to play with my little grandsons and read and watch the hummingbirds at my feeder. I’m going to rest in our mountain retreat and spend time with David without my laptop at my fingertips. I’m going to breathe and swim and walk the labyrinth, ride horses, observe and just be. The most strenuous things on my radar are writing when the mood strikes and painting the old flaking rocking chair on my porch.

Several months ago an off-hand comment by our daughter’s pastor really impacted me. I’ve so enjoyed learning from Dean and Lisa, a fabulous husband-and-wife team, when we go to church in South Carolina. One Sunday we were laughing about raising kids and enforcing a time-out when they needed one, and Lisa said, “You know, at this stage what I need most is a time in instead of a time out. I need to unplug and disconnect and be still and go inside. You know – a time in.”

Thank you, Lisa. I’m ready!

“Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, New International Version).

 I would appreciate your prayers for my rest and for Bethesda Workshops. What advice do you have for me as I step away for several weeks? What would you do if you had a similar chance? Please share your thoughts. Although I’m on sabbatical, I definitely will check the Bethesda blog [smile]!

See you in September.

Marnie C. Ferree