This first month of my sabbatical has been spent at Christmount Christian Assembly, the national conference center of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Black Mountain, North Carolina.
This is where my family came on day trips in the fall to see the changing colors, play on the playground by the creek, and hike Merry Lane Trail.
This is where I came to camp for the first time when I was 11 and then every year after.
It is where I got asked out for the first time during a weekend retreat.
Where I rethought a long held belief that I was no good with kids when I was Camp Staff for not one but two summers. It's where I directed camp for the first time (middle schoolers when I was 22).
This is the place where I have cried from heartbreak and from laughter.
This is the place where my soul feels at home.
Even as things change - staff cabins came down in favor of cottages (a change I wholeheartedly support and have been reaping the benefits of this month!), and our old dining hall turned gathering space slowly is transformed into a year-round building - there are some things that never change. The sound of the creeks still trick you into thinking it is always raining. Blackwood Haven and Watters Garden still feel like holy ground where you can hear the sound of campers singing Sanctuary and Pass it On even when they are still and empty.
Every place I pause weaves connections between memories of the past, the present and hopes for the future.
The rocking chairs on the porch (a timeless staple of life at Christmount) invite a slowness, a shedding of anything besides the moment you find yourself in.
And that has been the greatest gift of my sabbatical so far - the falling away of to do lists, of the minuscule and the major. The little tasks that are so easily lost or forgotten that it takes double the energy just to track and remember them all. The big questions that come with ministering at any time, let alone during a pandemic. They have all been cleared away.
I do have a list for my sabbatical (I'm a list maker, it's inevitable) but it consists of things like "read" and "journal." My daily and weekly to do list making has taken a sabbatical of its own. The hardcover journal that is ubiquitous in my everyday life has been retired, a new one for when I return waits patiently unopened.
The energy, the focus, the freedom that comes with relinquishing the never-ending mental to do list has allowed me to respond more nimbly to the nudges of the Spirit. To allow my mind to wander as I read, as I consider the Psalms, as I breathe deep.
In conversations with a wise, trusted mentor and friend, we have taken to calling this the gift of "spaciousness." Here, in a place that is surrounded by the wide beauty of nature, my mind and my spirit have had the space to settle in, settle down. And when I distance myself from the news of the world for a time, there is also space for them to quiet down.
Spaciousness has meant not feeling the pressure to have the "perfect" sabbatical day, or week, or month. There is room for mistakes and lazy mornings. There is energy for trying a new rhythm, freedom to abandon what doesn't serve me, and time to try again.
In the next week the spaciousness will take a new form as I participate in two virtual conferences and bring my time at Christmount to an end.
My prayer today is sabbatical month two will bring it's own form of spaciousness as I take time to reconnect with family and friends.
Sometimes you find in the folder of random coloring pages you packed is one truer and more fitting than your past self could have even imagined. Illustration by Illustrated Ministry, coloring by me.