Well, today is May 15th which means that today marks the half-way point of my sabbatical. I figured it couldn’t hurt to take a look at the past month and a half and think things through a bit. It might be a bit long but this post is just as much an opportunity for me to sort through things and process/articulate them as it is a chance for those who care to catch up on what we’ve been up to.
I started off the sabbatical just hanging out with my family for about a week after a very, very busy Easter season. Kaleb was out of school so it was a great chance to spend uninterrupted time with family. My parents were out here for some of that week too, to it was great to hang out with everyone without any evening meetings/practices/studies, etc.
Following that week I took the next week for some time in study and solitude. It’s funny how God made me! Even though it was a time filled with people I love dearly I needed a break from being surrounded by people all day long. That’s something I’ve learned about myself as an introvert. If I spend my breaks from work with people the whole time, regardless of what we’re doing, I seriously need to rest. I love people. I don’t think I’m anti-social or awkward (most of the time), but people drain me. Solitude restores me.
Anyway, the point of this was that I spent a week in study and solitude (during the day). I got started on a number of books I want to read and, since one of my goals is to get a very basic, working knowledge of Biblical Hebrew, I started working through the Hebrew alphabet and vowel system. I really enjoyed that. Surprisingly I haven’t found the whole reading right-to-left thing to be very difficult at all. And, while the alphabet is really different than English or Greek, that hasn’t been that difficult either yet. It’s the vowel system that’s been the weird part so far.
After that week of study we took off and had our little ‘holiday’ portion of the sabbatical. One thing that’s been tough for our whole extended family is that, for almost the last decade, 3/4 of the Braun families have been ministry families. My Father is just wrapping up 40+ years of ministry, I’ve obviously been in ministry for 7 years now, and my sister-in-law was in the ministry for about 8 (or was it 9?) years. The effect this has had on our family is that it has been incredibly difficult to get together. Since weekends and major holidays are precisely when ministry is the busiest there are very few times when family gatherings are possible. And so it was great to spend 3 weeks travelling around visiting family and doing a few fun things with the kids that we finally had a chance to do since we had more than… well… 1 day in a row off! [please understand, none of this is intended to be understood as complaining! I LOVE the life of ministry that God has called us to. But there are certain realities to ministry lives such as working every single weekend, Christmas, Easter, etc. that can be difficult on minsitry families. The other thing is that I, like many pastors, take Saturdays and Mondays as my ‘days off’ which means that we don’t have 2 days off in a row like most other occupations. This basically limits all of our options to a single day; there’s no such thing as ‘going to the lake for the weekend,’ etc.]
Highlights of this time of rest would be Juanita and me leaving the kids with my parents and running off to Edmonton to catch a soccer game (my beloved Vancouver Whitecaps vs FC Edmonton), meeting up with my brother and sister-in-law at the Calgary Zoo to let the cousins run around and terrorize the animals, taking Kaleb and Luke to the Royal Tyrrell Museum to see the dinosaurs (Kaleb had just finished learning about dinosaurs in kindergarten), and spending time in Lethbridge at a time-share that some astoundingly wonderful people gifted to us.
Another little highlight was the fact that we could actually attend church together with family. Again, this is not a complaint but I literally cannot remember the last time I participated in a worship service with anyone from my extended family in which I wasn’t leading something.
And I know that spending time in Lethbridge might not sound all that exciting but, well, ‘not exciting’ is exactly what we needed! The facilities were great, the weather was great, and it was close to the family we were visiting. It was perfect.
As we settled into this whole sabbatical thing there are a few moments that stand out to me that I wasn’t anticipating.
The Laugh – I don’t remember exactly when it happened but, a few weeks in, we were driving somewhere in the car and Juanita made some sort of joke (I don’t remember what she said but I’m sure it was something devastatingly clever) and I laughed. Now, there really isn’t anything unusual about me laughing. I laugh a lot. But the moment I laughed I could tell that this laugh was literally physically different than any laugh in who-knows-how-long. It was a full, unencumbered laugh. Like I said, I could feel it in my body. Juanita even looked at me and said something along the lines of how she hadn’t heard me laugh like that in a really long time. I’m not sure what to read into this, but it was good. And a little weird!
Sabbatical Dreams – We’ve all had stress dreams. We’ve all had work dreams. I suppose I am now one of the elite few who have had ‘sabbatical dreams.‘ For the first few weeks I had a dream at least once a week. Juanita and I talked about them after the fact and realized that at least a couple of them were on Saturday nights; no surprise there! 1) The first dream I had was that, even though I was on sabbatical, there were certain services at church that I had to prepare for and run that ‘didn’t count’ as part of my sabbatical. Of course this doesn’t make any sense but, as so often happens in dreams, it made perfect sense in my dream world. The basic gist of it was that even though I was on sabbatical I still had a bunch of work to do. Not cool. 2) The second dream I had was that I was at some random get-together at some big event and, even though I had no idea what was going on, people kept on coming to me for instructions. Even though I wasn’t supposed to be running things suddenly I was in charge and ended up running around organizing everything. Notice a common theme? Again, not cool. 3) The third dream that I remember was that there was some event at MBC and Juanita and I decided that it would be funny if, even though we were on sabbatical, we decided to ‘crash the party!’ So we decided to just randomly show up and have fun hanging out with everybody. However, in my dream, the moment we walked through the doors into the church building I had this huge, overwhelming feeling that this was a huge mistake. Everyone was happy to see us, but the entire time I had this inexplicable sence of tension and stress hanging over me. Really not cool.
So, feel free to psychoanalyse me. It’s not very hard. After each of these dreams it literally took several hours for my body and mind to unwind. The funny thing is that some of these dreams happened while I was at my parents’ place and, while we were joking about them, my dad said he had the exact same thing happen to him when he was on sabbatical!
The Kids – Many fathers, or any working parent for that matter, will be in the same shoes as I am. When was the last time that you spent 3 full weeks with your kids virtually every waking hour? For me the answer is: never! Juanita is an amazing stay-at-home mother and, as such, has been ‘acclimatized’ to our beloved children. Me? Not so much. It was strange spending that much time with them (both good and, um, frustrating). I had to have a few ‘time-outs’ but, once we hit week 3 in Lethbridge, we had all settled down and had a great time together. Still, just thinking of the fact that never in my life had I spent that much uninterrupted time with my children was a strange thought!
As you can see from the previous post (haha, get it? Post! That one’s for you, Harv), once we got back home we dove right into a little yard improvement project. While Juanita had tossed around the idea of doing a hedge or fence in our front yard for quite a while now, it was the fact that… how do I say this delicately?… we and our neighbours don’t have the same definition of how to maintain and respect property lines… this prompted us to just build a fence and be done with it! My handsomely bearded brother came out and, miracle of all miracles!, we built a cute little country-style fence in Martensville, in a single day!
And that takes us up to today! It’s been great so far; a true blessing. I am immensely grateful to our church Elders for this opportunity. Now that we’re back home I’m looking forward to a bit more structure. I’ve got an awesome list of hopefully great books to dig into and, well, Hebrew isn’t going to learn itself!
P.S. – In case you haven’t noticed, I’m also growing a beard.