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sab·bat·i·cal

"a rest from work, or a break"

This summer, I'm taking a leap of faith. 

I'm going off-line. 

Insert deep gasp here!

Dramatics aside, I wanted to take a moment and share why I feel the need to communicate with you about this decision. It feels silly in many ways to share this sort of news. It's not like I'm having a baby, writing a book, changing jobs, or moving to a new town. It's not the sort of announcement that typically gets announced. 

But I feel the need to share. 

And to explain. 

Because maybe by the time you finish reading this post, you might be called to take a summer sabbatical too. 

At the beginning of this year, I wrote a post about how to enter into the land of the living. After a grueling year of writing and releasing Invited in 2017, I was just coming off the heels of burnout and beginning to feel alive in Christ again. I had so many hopes and dreams for this spring...but then I got stuck. Stuck on a BIG DECISION, I spent more time inside of my head rather than walking in the land of the living. This decision was a God-sized decision that cycled through all the emotions - fear, doubt, uncertainty, excitement, hope, anticipation - and it took Raleigh and I several months to pray, talk to wise counsel, and be still long enough to discern a direction from God. This spring I didn't "do" a whole lot of external work but my mind and my heart were put to work processing the answer.  To eliminate options, we had to examine the big picture and the small details of our lives. We had to get to the root of what made us afraid to make this decision and how to overcome our fears of the future. In many ways, the choices we have already made helped us make a decision to where and what we would be doing next.

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A verse that brought me great comfort in the midst of this big decision was Exodus 14:13-14:

Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."

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This call to stand firm and be still so God could move was comforting to me. I didn't need to fret, or worry, or be scared that I'd make a wrong choice. God was fighting for me to have freedom from all my fear and anxiety, not just over this decision but every decision, every single day. 

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Through the process of making this decision, God revealed to me how I was not living free in Christ. I've been a slave to perfection, people-pleasing, and my performance. This April, I had the chance to attend Priscilla Shirer's simulcast at my church. Her theme for the day was prayer and how to live life in the Spirit. During her afternoon session, she spoke a lot about social media and noted how women can appreciate people who are gifted but take their eyes off Jesus. Priscilla remarked, "Our culture applauds followers over faithfulness." 

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If I'm to be completely honest, her words stung. 

They stung because they were true.

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I started blogging nine years ago because I wanted to share the light of Christ with others. I had big hopes, big dreams, big plans. I wanted to give God the glory (of course!) but so much of my writing career has been more about navigating the struggle of comparison, not feeling good enough, and fearing failure. While there have been so many good things that have come out of my writing and speaking ministry, I've allowed my own sin and shame to keep me from living free in Christ. 

I can't go on living this way. 

So, I'm making a change.

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To truly live the abundant life that God has invited me to, I want to live life in the Spirit. To experience freedom, I am learning how to make better choices with my thoughts, words, and actions. I'm also taking time to recognize the goodness of God: to see His image in my people, to taste Him in the fruit picked from my backyard, to hear Him whisper in the wind and the waves, to touch Him through deep hugs and meaningful conversation. I want to take a sabbatical this summer from social media so I can experience God more fully and without distraction. 

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I believe there is power in text, video, and images. Social media is a communication tool that is meant to be good and resourceful. However, it does often distract us from the life we are living right now and can easily be a source of comparison, frustration, and anxiety. When I was trying to make my big decision earlier this year, I often felt the pull to get on social media just to escape the weight of the decision. I thought that the more I'd scroll, the better I would feel, but I often got off social media feeling even more drained and confused. 

Do you ever feel this way too?

If so, maybe a sabbatical is just what your soul needs this summer.  

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A sabbatical is a short term break that can produce long term results. A sabbatical is another form of practicing the Sabbath, which is typically a day of rest. People will often take sabbaticals from their professional careers for a month or up to a year so they can travel, study, or write. Our souls need sabbaticals so that we can live life in the Spirit. To live in the Spirit, we have to rest in the Spirit.

What does this look like practically? Here are a few suggestions:

1. Study God's Word

This summer, I'm participating in the Church of the Highlands Freedom study with my small group. We are halfway through and I've already learned so much about living in the Tree of Life rather than the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. I'm also beginning Kay Arthur's Precept study of Genesis. It's such a good, in-depth study of the word of God!

2. Meditate on God's Word

There are many ways to meditate but some of my favorites are listening to praise music in the car, going on long walks outside, and practicing yoga. If you are in the Wiregrass area, be sure to follow Kathryn Pittman's Holy Yoga feed to see when her next class is available (it's so good!). 

3. Celebrate God's Word

You know by now that I love a good party! This summer, I'm hosting my best girl friends for If:Table in June and I'm also looking forward to celebrating Raleigh's birthday in a few short weeks. My favorite form of celebration usually involves baking and I encourage you to try new recipes this summer on your family and friends! 

So, yeah, I could take pictures, videos, and write blog posts all summer long so you are completely up-to-date with my life, but I'd rather be talking to you face-to-face or over the phone instead of on my screen. Getting back to a life of #connectionnotperfection begins by being free from social media this summer. While I won't be online, you will find me with my kids at the pool, on dates with my husband, and at local restaurants with my friends. You'll also find me tucked away in my home and at the beach, with books and journals and my Bible. If you need to get in touch with me, I'll still be communicating through the contact form on my website, my e-mail address, and in person/over the phone during these summer months. I want to experience God the way I experienced Him before technology, so I can be better equipped to rest in Him when I get back on social media in the fall. 

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Thank you for being a community that offers grace and doesn't need an explanation but deserves an explanation. I wanted to share all of this with you not just so you know why I've gone off the grid but also in hopes that you might take a break this summer too. We might not all be in a place for a radical sabbatical but we can all benefit from setting aside a day each week to practice the Sabbath. Happy summer, friends!

Celebrating you,

Christen

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