175: My Sabbatical Rest Experiment: What I Learned from Pressing Pause This Summer - Vibrant Christian Living

175: My Sabbatical Rest Experiment: What I Learned from Pressing Pause This Summer

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Are you in need of a sabbatical rest from the busyness of life? We think, “It must be nice to take a break from everything going on in life,” right? If you struggle with overachieving and the need for accomplishment like I used to, then it can be so hard to choose rest and take a break, even though we know God tells us we need rest. What can finding rest look like when trying to live a life that honors God? 

In today’s episode, I share ten truths I discovered while taking a sabbatical rest over summer break to give you some ideas of how finding rest can be a realistic part of your life too. Let’s explore some of the ways I found rest this summer and how I was able to step into this moment-by-moment kind of trust with God to restore my soul.

Would taking a sabbatical rest help you in this busy season of life? If the struggle for you is about accomplishment and the need to overachieve, then it can be challenging to choose to take a break, even when we know God is telling us to. Let’s look at some of the ways I have found rest this summer and how I was able to restore my soul by trusting God.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • [4:16] Truth: Life doesn’t stop even in the midst of a sabbatical rest
  • [8:14] Truth: I need to stop filling my schedule, especially during a sabbatical
  • [9:23] Truth: Taking time to rest and replenish always brings the fruit of the Lord
  • [10:17] Truth: Rest allows me to process important issues of life change 
  • [12:40] Truth: It’s restful and fulfilling to complete important projects
  • [14:18] Truth: Creativity is restored through seasons of rest 
  • [21:30] Truth: Spontaneity breathes rest and replenishment to my soul
  • [24:01] Truth: Habit and routines bring my soul ongoing rest and comfort 
  • [29:20] Truth: Even during a sabbatical rest, life will never be perfect 
  • [30:26] Resources to help you discover sabbatical rest

[4:16] Truth: Life doesn’t stop even in the midst of a sabbatical rest

Today I’m sharing what happened over the summer when I committed to take a sabbatical rest. 

Earlier this year, during spring, I felt like God was asking me if I would continue listening to Him about the need to rest as if He was asking me to move to the next level of my journey by trusting Him. I was already starting to show slight signs of burnout, fatigue, lack of motivation, and inspiration. 

So my business coach challenged me to dedicate some time off to allow God to restore my soul. This, to me, was a confirmation from God. Doing something like this would be my first time with any kind of extended rest because I’ve never had a proper rhythm of rest in my life. My past has been filled with overachievement, productivity, and accomplishment, so any kind of rest felt overwhelming. However, I knew I needed this next step in my recovery with God’s help.

I accepted the challenge and started by recording a podcast episode on rest, episode 172, to discuss the phenomenon of avoiding rest and how to get past that mindset. We use specific things to keep ourselves safe as we avoid rest, especially if you were anything like me. I knew I had to share why rest was such an issue for me and many others before taking my sabbatical. 

So this episode is about sharing the other side of what could happen if you take a break and rest. It looks different for each of us, but I wanted to share this experiment with you within the boundaries of real life for me in this season. For me, this wasn’t about leaving my whole life behind to get some rest, but because I have four kids, three of them being teenagers, one-on-one clients, and a husband to encourage, I had to fit this into my life and set those boundaries around what finding rest could look like for me.

Life didn’t stop in the process for me. There were still things in my life that continued on through my eight-week sabbatical journey. I didn’t walk away from all my responsibilities as this isn’t realistic. The word sabbatical seems a little scary as if you are going to walk away from everything in your life, and it would be tough to take a break like that, but a sabbatical can be however long you want it to be: two days, a month, four hours. That said, I want to share what happened as I took on God’s challenge of taking a sabbatical.

[8:14] Truth: I need to stop filling my schedule, especially during a sabbatical

One of the truths I discovered during this time is that I could stop working and still be super busy. This is the essence of why I needed this sabbatical, to begin with – stop being busy. 

The purpose of this sabbatical rest experiment wasn’t to fill up my time with something else in its place but to trust that some days I wouldn’t know what I was going to do that day. Sometimes I could journal, read scriptures, and write down whatever was on my heart, or I could read a book for a few hours. It was a moment-by-moment kind of trusting in God that I had to learn how to step into. This trust became something that I craved the more I did it.

[9:23] Truth: Taking time to rest and replenish always brings the fruit of the Lord

Another thing I’ve discovered is that taking time to slow down brings about fruit from the Lord every time, even if I don’t notice it right away. I can see the results of that now, as I have fresh ideas regarding my creativity. After taking this sabbatical rest my creativity has been revitalized.

I’d heard from others that taking a rest can increase creativity, and I found that to be true. I have found that my creativity is easier to access, and being in a creative flow state is easier to access as well. 

[10:17] Truth: Rest allows me to process important issues of life change

In terms of that flow aspect, I have discovered that it’s really important for me to continue to let myself process mentally and emotionally. I know that God often speaks to me in those moments when I’m thinking deeply, so that open space to process, especially as a mom of three teens, is crucial during this uncertain time in my life. “Am I doing this right? Or am I not doing this right?”, is a big part of that uncertainty.

There is a part of parenting or when you are encouraging others that no matter who the person in your life is – the process isn’t linear. You cannot guarantee the results. So in the midst of grief and loss, you have to accept that tragic things happen. For my kids, especially with the age they are in, it’s natural for them to want to pull away and gain some independence, but it’s an interesting stage to walk through as a mom. 

God asked me, “who do you want to show up as for them and for yourself when they move out and have their own lives?” I know that the empty nest stage is around the corner for my husband and I, and this is going to take lots of surrender along with time with God to tell Him about the things on my heart. It can be a really challenging time, but that’s a part of any journey in our lives. 

[12:40] Truth: It’s restful and fulfilling to complete important projects

There were some projects I’d put off forever, and they weren’t that big of a deal, but they were important to me. This summer over my sabbatical break I was able to complete them and it felt so great to get them checked off the list.

The first project was to throw a graduation party for my high school and junior high graduates. I wanted to honor them by sharing pictures around the house of them through all stages of their lives so far that I could eventually put them into a scrapbook.

This project was difficult for me because it meant that I had to let go a little more. These pictures were really triggering for me. Even before taking my sabbatical, there was some work I had to do to face my issues coming up with these pictures. God was so faithful to help me with my fear of letting go. With that fear, I realized that moving through it wasn’t that big of a deal after all. 

That’s exactly what I began to realize as I was doing these projects around the house, too. There was great joy through the process of doing them and accomplishing them. I was really able to see God’s handiwork in and through those projects, which was a beautiful thing.

[14:18] Truth: Creativity is restored through seasons of rest

Next on the list of truths I discovered was how God gave me a high need to express myself creatively. I rediscovered this summer that being creative was like a flow for me. It’s an ongoing cycle of being able to express myself in different ways and in different seasons.

Right now, I find my best expression through drawing and watercolor. If I don't make time to let that kind of a flow happen, especially with watercolor, I tend to feel stuck and frustrated inside as if I am unbalanced.  

There is so much mystery with art and expression, but when I make room, any amount of time, I feel as though I am able to access the person God is calling me to be, in a much easier way. 

While on this summer break sabbatical I took a trip with my sister and sister-in-law down the Pacific coast along California. 

We don’t get to see each other very often and I was ready for an adventure this summer, so I knew that driving down the Pacific Coast would be just the thing to do. We broke it up into two different sections. I had my sister-in-law with me from Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon. Then my sister flew to Portland and we drove down to San Jose together. We stopped at different places along the way, which felt so fun and liberating. Both of my sisters were the medicine my soul needed. They are both radically different, but are in similar seasons in life with mothering and marriage. 

So all along with exploring this summer, I had a creative project that I incorporated into the whole trip. I decided to create a watercolor journal of the places I went with my sisters. Every day of the trip, I documented something I saw. I allowed myself to not make this watercolor journal picture perfect but to simply have a fun way to represent all the places we visited. 

Ideally, I wanted to create the watercolor journal as we went, but I gave myself permission to have fun if I didn’t get to the drawing every night (and I was glad I did that). However I did take pictures and outline what would go on each page of the journal. As I record this episode I am one picture away from finishing the whole journal. It has been such a fun way for me to experiment with watercolor, different colors, and schemes in general.

 [21:30] Truth: Spontaneity breathes rest and replenishment to my soul

I had moments this summer that were spontaneous, especially with the trip I took with my sisters. I live for spontaneous moments in life – I need it actually. Recently, I felt like I needed to get out of the house and have a staycation adventure for the day to blow off some steam. Since I live in San Diego, my mind immediately went to Coronado. It’s my happy place. Coronado is a manmade island with a military base on one side of it. One of the most famous places on the island is Hotel Del Coronado, where many movies have been filmed. It’s a beautiful area to explore. 

I gave some structure for where I was going and when I’d be back, but I was open to spontaneity once I arrived at Coronado. I also decided that I would bring my watercolors in case I decided to draw, otherwise I would let things just happen. I knew that I needed to take advantage of that. It was the kind of rest that my soul needed– to be able to just walk around, explore, while still having some structure. I listened to God and let Him lead me throughout my adventure. It truly filled up my soul.

[24:01] Truth: Habit and routines bring my soul ongoing rest and comfort

This summer I also reinstated many habits and rhythms in order to bring additional comfort and peace. I began this summer by asking myself the question: “What things in my life do I need to include to get me to where I want to be? 

I started by looking at my current habits and routines. Did I need to reinforce any of them? Were there any that I should add in, and what were they giving me that were so helpful? 

I discovered that some of these habits were helping me reach my goals faster, some were meant to bring me comfort, and some a sense of stability.

For example, a recent habit that I have taken up is making my bed. I’m not a neat freak by any means, but I do like to keep a tidy home. So adding this one in has helped me to feel more organized, especially since I work at home and am in and out of my bedroom several times a day.

Another habit that I have started this summer was walking my dogs. Along with adopting another dog this summer named Roscoe, which was a complete God thing, all three of our dogs are somewhat high energy. So it was important for me to start walking them in the mornings with my husband and I. This habit that I’m cultivating for myself is making sure that my dogs also have exercise. 

With building these habits, I have used certain techniques to make things happen more smoothly. A wonderful book that has helped me achieve this is called Atomic Habits. I love the science behind building habits and how you can stack them together in a really practical way. So after I take my dogs on a 45 minute walk, I immediately come inside to do a ten-minute strength training session. I highly recommend this book if you are wanting to build some habits for yourself for whatever season you’re in.

 [29:20] Truth: Even during a sabbatical rest, life will never be perfect

Honest confession: I am not 150% refreshed coming back from this time of rest. There are still areas of my life that I struggle with and issues God is speaking to me about. Just know that if and when you take a sabbatical, your problems won’t go away. 

However, I do feel more rested and energized to take on some new goals.

[30:26] Resources to help you discover sabbatical rest

The last truth I want to share that I discovered during my time of rest is that I want to make having a sabbatical a regular part of my routine. I want to find ways of streamlining my life so that I can make rest and replenishment a high priority in my life. This kind of rest has helped me to show up better for myself, for God, my family, and my clients. I don’t know what that sabbatical rest will look like, but I’m continuing to speak to God about how to bring that into my life.

Before we end this episode, I want to ask you a question. Have you ever taken a sabbatical, an extended time of rest? What would it look like for you? Although we often can’t fully step away from our responsibilities (I couldn’t either) it is possible to step away from some things and find rest in those areas to fully lean on God. 

How could taking a rest like this not only help you feel better but lead you toward your ultimate goals in life? 

In the Christian Mindset Makeover, we talk about boundary building and doing activities and exercises around those to help you create new rhythms in your life. There are some things through this practice that may help you take that sabbatical rest to then kickstart you into the thing you want to do. If you want to build boundaries around your life that will help you get to that sabbatical rest, then sign up for this life-changing course.

And one more resource I want to share with you about rest and sabbaticals is Dr. Sandra Dalton Smith’s book, Sacred Rest, which helps you see what type of rest you need and how to cultivate it, whether it be intellectual rest, emotional rest, spiritual rest, sensory rest, creative rest, or social rest. What part of your tank is empty? It’s important to see how rest and the fruits of rest are truly something that we can't get through other means.

If you want to make rest a part of your life, I would love to continue this dialogue on Instagram. I would also love to be able to help you through one-on-one coaching. Specifically, we could help you determine your biggest rest obstacles for you and how you can get a fresh perspective on those. If that interests you, reach out to me on Instagram and let’s chat!

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About Alicia Michelle

Alicia Michelle is a certified NeuroCoach™, Bible teacher, speaker and host of The Christian Mindset Coach Podcast and You Tube Show. More importantly, she’s a lover of Jesus, a wife of 21 years to her best friend, and mom of four amazing kids ages 19 to 10. Alicia struggled with overthinking, negative thoughts and “being enough” for most of her adult life until God radically transformed her heart after a life-threatening medical crisis. Now through her signature courses and coaching programs she loves equipping women with practical, scientific and biblically-based mindset tools to help them overcome negative thought patterns and discover more confident, joyful lives in Christ. Listen to her on the podcast or on You Tube; download free workshop trainings at VibrantChristianLiving.com; and connect on Facebook and Instagram.

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