I write to you as if I’m learning how to ride a bike again; after such a long hiatus from the blogosphere, I’m a bit tentative and shaky in my keyboard strokes. For most of the month of November, thanks be to God and my gracious school community, I had the incredible fortune of taking a sabbatical — a necessary break from the daily routine to make room and seek space to just BE. My hope was to live simply, unplug, and lean into a time and space for silence, solitude, and being in nature, and to say that it far surpassed my expectations is quite an understatement.
I was grateful to spend nearly three weeks by the Gulf of Mexico along the “Emerald Coast” in Blue Mountain Beach, Florida, and I wish I could offer the words to adequately describe this transforming experience. My pictures of the wild expanse of sky, sand, and sea do far better justice than my humble words (and I had nothing to do with that either; I just happened to have THE best subjects at which to point and shoot my tireless, 11-year old Canon PowerShot!), but what I can offer now is that it was a time of experiencing and softening to God’s lavish GRACE and LOVE in my life. To turn off distractions of all types and slow the pace was to open up to revelations and illuminations — both beautiful and incredibly challenging — yet nonetheless meaningful — and begin the process of letting go of so much…among them habits and patterns of thinking, paralyzing fear and shame, illusions of control, and rigid rules I’ve followed blindly for far too long. During this opening space, I was thankful to spend time in a simple state of existence: walking, journaling, wandering, observing, thinking, writing, taking pictures, encountering strangers, praying, singing, listening to music and to silence, playing my guitar, painting, and reading. Living simply like this, stripped of habits, comfort zones, and familiar, yet distracting technology, I was able to dig deep and become vulnerable to myself.
While I hope to offer a follow-up post to express some of what I learned and continue to learn as I still unpack and process the journey (in a sense, I’m continuing the journey, and yet I’m beginning again), what I want to share today is the list of books I read during this time. It was beautiful how one book led to the next, as common threads and themes began to emerge: God’s “Forever Love,” everlasting Grace, how suffering/weakness/vulnerability can become life-giving, and our desperate need to tell our secrets and become our authentic, True selves.
Here they are in the order in which they “found” me and floated gracefully into my life/heart/mind (while some were precious gifts, others have been patiently waiting on my shelf for the “right” time to be read):
Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer
Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen
The Naked Now by Richard Rohr
Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Immortal Diamond by Richard Rohr
Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor
Telling Secrets by Frederick Buechner
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones (This was a gift from a dear friend, written/illustrated as a “children’s” book, but no, siree…this was my reading before bed each night, and it’s one of the most beautiful “Bibles” I’ve ever seen/read…illustrating the story of God coming back to rescue us with his Love…to heal what had been broken “in the beginning” and to satisfy the deep yearning within us – that desire to be “whole” again. It, like the others listed, is magnificent.)
Thank you for reading and “listening,” friends. I hope one, a few, or all of these books find their way to you at some point, and when and if they do, may they touch, encourage, and open you as they did me.
Finally, in the coming weeks, I hope to write again, but at the same time, I must confess that I did NOT miss the computer screen, nor any screen while I was gone…
So, with that, let’s take one day at a time, and I hope to see you soon (and by that I mean face-to-face)…
With love, gratitude, and hope in this waiting season of Advent…