so, how’s your sabbatical going?

I’ve been asked this question a lot lately since I began my glorious 1-year academic sabbatical on January 1st..  Ever since I began working for InterVarsity I have looked forward to hitting that seven year mark  when all employees are eligible to take a 3-6 month rest sabbatical or up to a year academic sabbatical.  Even when things would get really tough, I’d remind myself- only three years to go until sabbtical, only six months left until sabbatical.  I actually had to pray with some friends that I would put my trust in God and not in the month of January which I was beginning to see as my promised land of rest from my normal work routine.

When I was at Urbana I asked colleagues that have taken sabbaticals what I should expect or if they had any helpful advice for me during this time. Here is a smattering of what some of them said:
“about three months in, you’ll be an emotional train wreck. God will start doing some major work in your life and you won’t be sure if you can handle it. I was crying all the time” – this was from a male staff member who looks like he used to play football and has five kids.

“about three months in you’ll finally have a quiet settle into your life, your mind won’t be racing, you’ll slow down when you’re talking and you’ll settle into a mellow rhythm. When you come back you’ll feel like you rode your bike onto the highway because everyone else is still talking and going so fast.” -also from a male colleague  who is highly ambitious and a hard worker.

Hmm, seems like there is something about the three month mark for dudes.

“When I took my sabbatical, I thought my life would be less crazy. I thought that InterVarsity made my life crazy. Then, a few months in and I was just as busy, I realized I made my life crazy. Having a sabbatical helped me to realize that I need to make better choices with my schedule.” -from a female colleague who was working on her M.Div and is newly married

“Write your books! Write like crazy!”- from my good friend Gracee and other female friends who are my cheerleaders and writing friends and colleagues as well.

If you remember my post about things I was hoping to do on my sabbatical, I was dreaming about all the fun things I thought I’d have time for. However, for the past two weeks, it’s been nothing but a big platter of crazy, with a side of hectic in busy sauce for my life. I am remembering my friends comments- “work doesn’t make my life crazy, I make my life crazy.” I don’t need to go through the laundry list of what I’ve had going on, but it’s been a balance of schoolwork for my M.A. program, including the most difficult (and simultaneously fun) paper I’ve had to write, catching up on housework after being away for Urbana, figuring out schedule stuff with my husband and trying to be a good mom to my son.

Thankfully in the midst of this, Dave and I have really been having wonderful prayer times together.  The message from Sundar Krishnan at Urbana sparked our prayer life tremendously and we’ve been praying like God is actually God ever since then.  If you want to listen to the message it’s here on the December 30th video. The man cast a vision for prayer unlike any I’ve heard before. Seriously. It’s good. Go watch it now. It’s way cooler than my blog anyhow.

Thankfully things are beginning to slow down into a normal rhythm of life this week. Funny enough, I also received “Find your strongest life” in the mail today.

I've really benefitted from Marcus Buckingham's other leadership books as well.

I had ordered my books for my next class at Wheaton with Amazon’s one-click ordering and had forgotten that I had pre-ordered this book for when it would be released. It seemed like a timely delivery :).

Thankfully, I also have a husband who wants to help me make the best choices to honor God, care for our marriage and family and live out who God has created me to be. Making a schedule for the semester really helped to see what we’ve already committed to, what I need to say no to and the things I’m still hoping to do.

I didn’t make a new years resolution this year, but if I did, it would have been what I’ve been praying and asking others to pray for me- that God would give me wisdom to know how to best use my sabbatical when I’m not working on my degree, and that I’d have the self-discipline to say no to things- even If they’re really cool opportunities.

So, any other friends that want to offer me sabbatical advice? Encourage me to trash the platter of crazy and indulge in some peaceful pudding instead? 🙂 Talk about how Marcus Buckingham is a visionary leader, has a great accent and is handsome?


  • Lisa

    I don’t have any advice. I’m 5.5 months in and I’m still learning. However, I think it just takes time to feel detached from ministry. Right now I feel so detached that the entire Urbana conference just passed and I barely noticed (I consider this a good thing since I’m supposed to be resting).

    Even though classes add a measure of busyness to life on sabbatical, I am learning so much. I feel like I am feasting and not just like it’s regionals and I have to listen to so much stuff that my brain will explode, but just like I am doing life with my family and learning and the same time over the course of the term and it’s great. (Ok, one piece of advice. I decided to take 2 really easy classes this term along with Hebrew and I am loving it. Jeff is taking an easy one too. After all we went through this fall, we wanted to start out with a more peaceful posture).

    You will find a new rhythm with Reuben and Dave, but being a mom, I think it takes longer than 3 months to feel like you are really on sabbatical and not just on vacation (but maybe that was because I moved to California and spent my first couple months taking walks near palm trees and swimming in the pool with Emma). Clearly, my sabbatical is atypical in every sense 🙂

    Blessings for this year, Jess!!

    • Jessica

      Good word Greg. I don’t think I’ve owned their projections, just wondering what might be in store for me or what I should be prepared for.

  • Elizabeth Pagano

    Have you read the results of the recent study from The Louisville Institute on the effects of sabbaticals in the ministry? More than 500 pastors and their congregations were surveyed. 87% of pastors reported that their sabbatical significantly renewed their commitment to ministry, something noticed also by 86% of congregational observers. A large majority also felt re-energized “to a great extent” in their work. Full results are at http://tiny.cc/wClhx. While http://www.yourSABBATICAL.com is more geared toward the career sabbaticals in the business world, we’ve learned a LOT from the ministry about how to have a meaningful time away. I wish you good things during this period and may it have a lasting effect.

  • Jessica Miller

    Hey Jessica,

    I’d like to donate to your sabbatical. It’s nothing much, but I was really impacted by your seminar at Urbana and I’d like to support you during your year of growth in Christ. Just let me know where to send the money.

    God is going to do great things through you!

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