Tonight I am writing after packing clothes, souvenirs, cookbooks, new cooking utensils, and the assorted "stuff" which I brought from Laramie for this extended time away or that I acquired in the last three months. It is a bitter sweet time for me on this last night of my sabbatical. In numerous ways I have enjoyed the relaxed change of pace, the opportunities of new learning, and the time to read, reflect and write without the pressures of time constraints. It has been a time of unexpected grace and blessing to have had so much time in Rawlins, renewing friendships with life time friends, entertaining family and friends for suppers created of new recipes, taking long leisurely walks with the dogs and finding that I can actually enjoy a walk long after dawn has come and gone.
My time here could not have been more timely; thus I stayed here in the home I grew up in for considerably longer than I had originally planned. My parent's health is increasingly fragile, so it was so good that I could be here to help them when Daddy had to be hospitalized with pneumonia. Mom hasn't gone up or down stairs or driven in 5 1/2 years, so I was in a position to really pick up the slack for them. Lots of cleaning, laundry, shopping, cooking, defrosting freezers, going to doctor's appointments, etc., but more importantly just having unhurried times to talk with them about all sorts of things. Daddy had recently been contacted by a man in the Netherlands doing research about the glider operations in WWII and the liberation of Holland. So as I helped him to respond--taking dictation and sending email--I heard stories I'd never heard before about his military service as a glider pilot. I am constantly amazed at the love Mother and Daddy share as continue in the married life of over 62 years now. Certainly I see the goodness of the Lord in that! Mother and I spent one delightful afternoon as she taught me the secrets for our favorite fruit cake. Another day, Mother and Daddy supervised my oldest nephew, John, and me in making a Swedish Potates Korv--a kind of sausage that Mother once described (when new to the family) as nothing but "hash in a gut." It is a family tradition that needed to be passed on. John and I learned all about it as we made and stuffed 40 pounds of Korv. Certainly I can taste the goodness of the Lord in these "delicacies."
All of this, plus all the other time on sabbatical, have been wonderfully restorative in many ways. I like feeling this rested and relaxed. I am gratefully aware of how the people of St. Matthew's picked up the pace and took on bigger roles in leadership and management in order for me to have the grace of this sabbatical. While in some ways it may be hard to go back to the day to day stuff of ministry, I am hopeful I will be able to incorporate some of the sabbatical disciplines into that part of my life as I move into the beginning of Advent with the celebration of my 20 years as a priest and my intentions for some more great years in this ministry entrusted to me by God.