Sabbatical year

Fresh Breeze

I am sitting here listening to a combination of “White Christmas” (the movie the kids have chosen for our Friday Movie Night) and the wind outside. It has started to warm up and the breeze is so welcome. Quite often the breeze becomes a strong gust. I had no idea before we came how windy it could be here but on those hot days it’s worth the occasional slamming door to have the windows and doors open. I usually open them every chance I get. Teddy is kind enough to tolerate it.

People use the breeze and the air in a more practical way here. It’s common to see the linens being aired out by hanging out of an open window. Also, living in a Mediterranean country and lunch being the primary meal, the open windows help to air the fish smell out of the house after lunch. There’s something about a breeze clearing out the air in the house and giving it a fresh flavor. Sometimes gentle and almost unnoticeable and other times so strong you can barely stand straight.

There’s something in this year that has felt like a fresh breeze. We’ve had time to spend together as a couple, we’ve had more time as a family, we’ve been able to get a more global sense of the church. It’s refreshing to remember and set aside time for the things that are most important, a call to be still at times.

I have to admit that I am a busy-body. “Hi, my name is Emily and I have problems resting.” “If I’m wrong I will resign as the president of the New England Chapter of busy-bodies anonymous.” (Just heard this line in the movie.) I knew this year would be challenging in this way for me. Before we came I had a list of all the things I was going to do while I was here. What can I say? I like making lists. But in hindsight, I can see the ridiculousness of this. Okay, maybe I could see a bit of it at the time but I quickly pushed that aside so that I could “GET THINGS DONE”! My list included many good things: Spending more time with family, having devotions more consistently, practicing Spanish every day, flossing more regularly, wearing my retainer more (totally serious), etc. Some things were obviously more important than others. As Teddy and I were preparing for this year we were able to figure out that if we devoted our time to all the things that we wanted to do then there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day to do them all. We could have scheduled our ‘sabbatical’ year so well that we would have had no time left.

Luckily that’s not the way things have ended up.

We have come to the end. That’s a sentence I have trouble writing. As we reflect over the last year, as in every stage of life, there are times where we got it right and times where we got it wrong. The good times were choosing to sit and watch the kids play or watch the birds outside in moments of free time instead of surfing on Pinterest. After an entire year, I’m still practicing the stillness side of Sabbath. I’ve been reading in Ezekiel where God says that the Israelites “dishonored” his name by not keeping the Sabbath. For me right now there is nothing passive about a Sabbath. It’s staying on my guard for the things that waste my time or direct me/my thoughts toward myself instead of God or others. I used to think that Sabbaths weren’t for those that had young children. Making meals and breaking up fights weren’t what I thought made up a Sabbath. Then I read a fabulous book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, that lists ‘the care of children’ as a Sabbath activity. Nothing turns me/my thoughts away from myself like having to care for others.

Where was I? Oh, yeah the breeze. The breeze of Spain has aired me out. There are so many things that make my heart ache to leave. There’s a spot on one of the trails where I run where you can see 360 degrees around. You can see the Cuatro Torres (the only four skyscrapers of Madrid), the mountain range, our little town and all the fields that cover everything else. I have tried to stop there and force myself to take in everything that I feel and see so that I won’t lose any of it after I get home. But even more than that I will miss the people and the way they spend time together. The other day our group of neighbors had a BBQ. We ate slowly and talked for five hours. There was no sense of having overstayed the welcome. It was relaxed and meaningful. What a lesson in stillness and the value of time spent with people.

I have a refreshed sense of family time, time with my spouse, time for relationships. My prayer in these last few weeks is that I won’t divert back to the ‘to-do’ list but will use what the Spanish people have taught me about not being so focused on accomplishing tasks that I overlook time spent together.

3 replies on “Fresh Breeze”

Spending unrushed time with people and loving in a new way is probably the most important thing I have learned from our Spanish friends as well. I will miss you deeply.

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