“The Space Between the Beats” — Sue’s Post-Sabbatical Reflections

Dear Friends and Colleagues in the Rocky Mountain Conference,

I don’t know how many times during my sabbatical I stopped to give thanks for your extreme kindness and generosity in providing a time of rest for your Conference Minister. I came to regard this time as the space between the heart beats—that precious time of void, that brief pause in which no work is required and stillness is celebrated. I took full advantage of the luxurious hollowness of that space between the beats.

For many, sabbatical provides a wonderful time for a majestic trip to see parts of the world otherwise unseen. For me, the space between the beats provided the opportunity for the stillness that allowed an inward dive into the parts of myself that often lay hidden by the busyness of my daily routine. The space between the beats allowed me a deep dive into my soul—and I am unendingly grateful.

Perhaps the biggest insight from that deep inward dive was a reflection on my compulsion with activity; this somehow insatiable need to be “doing” all the time. Resting is hard for me, and having been raised with what has been dubbed the “Midwestern Work Ethic,” the idea of sabbath—a time of intentional rest and self-care—rubs against a long-instilled value of constant productivity. This is a value I clearly learned from watching my grandmother work in her kitchen, her house, and her garden from well before sunup to well after sundown, rarely even stopping to catch her breath. This pattern of constant self-servitude to perceived neverending responsibilities has informed my work habits most of my life.

It is only when I have the luxury to stop working (that precious space between the beats) when I can embrace my God-created human being-ness. You see, in theological terms, rather than understanding myself to be of inestimable worth to God by just “being”—which is my understanding of God’s unending love and inordinate goodness for all of us—it is cross-wired in my brain that it is only through doing, and doing, and doing some more, that I am worthy. It is all too easy in the midst of my busyness for me to be a human “doing” rather than a human “being.” So, I have emerged from my sabbatical with a commitment to living as a human being rather than a human doing, and you are welcome to call me on it if you see me doing otherwise.

And so, dear friends, the gracious gift of this space between the beats proved fully refreshing for me personally, and has renewed my focus for our shared ministry, which I will share more about further down.

Along with the quiet reflection of my time away, I would also like to share a brief travelogue of some sabbatical experiences that inspired deep joy in my soul (pictures of which can be seen throughout this letter).

I celebrated fully with my daughter Meghan as she married the love of her life, Mr. Myles Potter, on August 18 at La Foret.

In early fall, I toured Colorado for its magnificent color and sights, and I reconnected with my father’s family on the Western Slope. While in Grand Junction, I toured the space we will meet for Annual Celebration 2019 (it will be great!).

On occasion, I took the opportunity to be a Denver tourist. Among other sites, I visited our Colorado State Capitol, marveled at the beauty of its stone architecture, and spent a bit of time with the fabulous fabric quilt honoring various women’s contributions to the state’s founding. The irony that our forefathers are etched in stone and bronze and our foremothers stitched in floss (let alone the nearly total omission of the contributions from people of color) may be an article for another day.

I played tour guide for some of my conference-ministry colleagues, leading them through my beloved Yellowstone National Park… which many of you know is my holy space. Ahhh…

A quick trip to Kansas City and its extraordinary Nelson Art Gallery, along with a bounty of time spent decorating my house for Christmas, rounded out my sabbatical time.

Oh, by the way, I took an “Improv” class, too. Don’t be surprised if some of those techniques show up at Annual Celebration!

Again, I give unending thanks for your generosity of time, treasure, and spirit. Please be likewise supportive of your pastors when their time for sabbatical comes, and really challenge yourself to find that holy space between the beats in your own lives.

Wishing you all a joyous Advent,