Sabbatical, Rest, and Lessons From the Last 6 Months

This is technically the last month of my 6 month sabbatical.

6 months of rest. I even chose the word ‘rest’ as my one word for the year.
Someone asked me recently how I have been doing my sabbatical.

How I am doing rest.

I had an idea going into this that I could do both rest and productivity.

Apparently, rest doesn’t work that well with productivity. I had a list of what rest was going to look like. As if healing was a linear process that was going to involve creativity and writing and excersize and study and… and… and… by the end I would be well rested AND accomplished.

Instead the last 6 months have involved a lot of take-away food and mindlessly browsing facebook and sleeping in (and yoga once a month counts as a healthy lifestyle right?). Somehow a lot of other people in my life were okay with that, but I wasn’t.

I felt guilty all the time, and when I didn’t feel guilty about not being productive, I felt guilty for the privilege of being allowed rest (workers in clothing factories in China don’t get 6 months off when they burn out!). At about the two month mark I started feeling guilty because I wasn’t doing any better. I was still grieving, I was still exhausted, I still didn’t want to respond to emails.

I felt I had accomplished nothing in the first two months off…

And now we are getting close to the six month mark.

Shockingly I have realised that 6 months in, I am getting better. I may not have been productive in the ways I had hoped, but I have experienced a different kind of accomplishment.

I learned that all of my people can give me permission to be at ‘rest’, but I need to give myself permission too. And not just in theory. I needed to dig deep down into myself and say that if I do nothing, if I am nothing, I am still okay. I am loved. I can be at rest with myself.

I have often caught myself fighting happy moments. How can I be happy when the world holds so much heartache? It shouldn’t be allowed.

I had to allow myself to get off the linear timeline of healing. Grief, loss, burn out, these are not simple human experiences, and niether is guilt.

On Sunday I wept in church because a worship song triggered deep grief, on Tuesday I wept over instagram because this time it was a photo that brought up my emotions. Yet in the midst of all that ‘I’m still grieving feeling’, a tall Dutch man who has been making me happy everyday for a while now (yes I am sneaking that one in there, along with mulitple exclamation marks!!!) reminded me that sadness and happiness are not mutually exclusive. That I can feel heartache and grief over the last year, but I can also feel happy when my friends are giving birth to new babies, or pledging their lives to their person, or when I find myself sitting on my roof with him drinking a cup of tea and just enjoying the moment. I can be happy and sad, all at once, one after the other. Being happy at this moment does not diminish the losses. Feeling guilty about happiness or privilege does nothing to solve humanity’s struggle.

And maybe this is what 6 months of sabbatical has really been teaching me: Joy.

Little tastes of it.

I have never ever really understood what joy means, but I am starting to see it may be grateful-contentment-for-what-is mashed up against longing-and-aching-for-what-is-not. Seeing God in the midst of it. Laying it all out on the table to be felt and acknowledged.

These days are better, not all of them, but most of them. I learned to laugh with a 2,5 year old while still grieving his father and brother who are not with us. I learned/am learning to celebrate my own good moments, while still acknowledging that for others that goodness may trigger their own heartache or missing.

There is no right way to experience rest, but it is an experience, not something I can do, win, or succeed at. Joy is something uncovered, bit by bit, not something I can force myself into.

So this is technically my last month of sabbatical. And I don’t know if I did it right, but I feel as though I learned. It seemed that grace was all over it even when I didn’t recognise it.

So I am thankful, uncertain, but thankful. Still grieving, but joyful.


5 Responses to “Sabbatical, Rest, and Lessons From the Last 6 Months”
  1. Beautiful words Saskia,

    “There is no right way to experience rest, but it is an experience, not something I can do, win, or succeed at. Joy is something uncovered, bit by bit, not something I can force myself into.”

    And SO true.

    Peace to you.

    Thank you for writing.


  2. orrinlieuwen says:

    Hey Saskia,

    I have never met you, but my cousins heard you speak in Abbotsford, BC, and they told me about your blog, and since then I have been following you.

    I know that I have not yet experienced the suffering that you have seen in the world, with the work that you have done, but in the fall I plan on joining a mission organization whos goal is to go to the darkest places and do the hardest tasks. I plan on going to India, and spending myself among the dalites, or going to the middle east, and serving there. I fully expect to die for the gospel. But before that, I recognize that the road to martyrdom is paved with a thousand daily deaths. I don’t just want to die for Jesus, I want to live for Him, in the power of His Spirit. Not serving in my own strength, but being carried along by His grace.

    I read your blog today and it stirred me. I believe that I heard your heart, and I want to offer some things that the Lord has taught me. If you don’t want it, thats fine, but I feel the need to write it nonetheless:

    The Gospel has its foundation first in the Character and nature of God. That He is the creator, and therefore owner of everything. That His holiness is so vast and infinite, and He is so far above and set apart from us, that it will take an eternity of pursuing Him and we will never come to the end of all that He is. His love is such a consuming fire, that burns away any stains of sin that are set against His goodness, that His desire is to share all of Himself with us little, weak humans.

    Now, as we have each rejected Him, and tried to build our own kingdoms, we bring upon ourselves His justice, which demands that evil be punished. However, in His great love, Jesus Christ volunteered to come and pay the price for our rebellion, so that we can once again be reconciled to Him.

    Now, in the power of that cross, we must die to ourselves, and find our life flowing straight from that heavenly fountain of Gods love. As Jesus said “If anyone believes in me, rivers of living water will flow from his heart”. As the channels of our lives are found in Him, we are transformed into His likeness, from glory to glory.

    So yes, Saskia, Joy comes from being. From being a daughter of the King. Yes, this world is jam-packed full of darkness and depravity. But I cannot carry the weight of the sins of the world…I must find my life to be rooted deeply in the love and joy of God, and than He will make me strong, and pour me out. Than I will go out in joy to lead others into HIS life, not simply the things that I have to offer, but infinite blessings that are stored up for us.

    There is a deep burden in my heart for the millions that are turning their back on Him and His goodness, and because of that enslaving others by their own lusts and idolatry. But this deep burden is from His heart, which also overflows with hope and peace.

    It is an odd tension, which is only completely reconciled in the person of Jesus Christ, and as He lives in me, I can find that balance, and that life.

    • orrinlieuwen says:

      oops, that was unfinished. I wanted to say, Thank you Saskia, for your life. It shines. If you feel exhausted, that is part of being human.
      Even though I haven’t met you, I feel privileged to live in a world where people are still spending themselves for God, and to be labouring alongside you for the establishment of His Kingdom.
      We don’t attain perfection in a day, but seeing a vision gives us a direction. My desire was simply to encourage you in your walk, and to lift Jesus high.
      Be blessed, Saskia,


  3. Sarah Pickering says:

    Hi Saskia,
    Well done
    That is all
    Love you

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