Back in 2014, I was officially about six months into my business and buried by client work, dodging phone calls and scared to open my email. I made deadlines and promises I couldn’t keep and it was all catching up to me. In an act of desperation I decided to take a month-long break from new client projects. At the time I was paid on a monthly retainer fee, so this decision meant a month without getting paid. Not an easy decision …ever, but especially not at a time when we were living paycheck to paycheck.
It was April at the time and I wasn’t sure how much longer I could sustain this work pace. I knew for my business to continue, and for the sake of my own sanity, I had to g0 off the grid for an entire month. After sitting down with my calendar and current list of unfulfilled promises, I mapped a plan to complete all my current work commitments by the end of June and take the entire month of July “off”.
July 2014 became etched into the memory books as my first month-long sabbatical. I pulled many all-nighters fueled by saltine crackers and diet coke to get there, but it was a turning point for my business and my life.
During that first sabbatical, Kyle and I took a week-long cabin retreat and then I spent the remaining three weeks with my head buried in work desperately trying to get ahead of this new business.
As many of you know, that first month-long sabbatical became an annual tradition. Every July I close up shop for an entire month. No emails. No client correspondence. No content creation. Time away to catch my breath, slow down, lean into the quiet, rest and recharge.
Through the years, sabbaticals have become a part of my annual rhythms.
That first sabbatical in 2014 still consisted of really hard work. To some it may have not looked like a sabbatical at all! But taking that time out of my business to work on my business felt like the exact version of rest I needed. Those four weeks off breathed new life into my lungs.
according to Merriam-Webster, means to take a break.
“We tend to think of sabbatical in academic terms, as a school year free from teaching duties that can be devoted to research, travel, and writing. Traditionally, this occurs every seventh year. Because of this scholarly context, we may miss what is hiding in plain sight: that sabbatical is related to Sabbath, which refers to the Biblical day of rest, or the seventh day. We trace the origins of both sabbatical and Sabbath to the Hebrew word shabbat, meaning to rest.” source
Over the years each of my sabbaticals have looked very different.
In 2016, Kyle and I took an extended 10-week sabbatical to travel across the US! It was one of the greatest trips of our lives! I worked one day a week coaching students through the first ever class of The Blueprint Model, but that was my one and only work commitment. Most days I was living sans cell service or internet wifi!
In 2017, I took an eighteen-month sabbatical from social media. I needed time to quiet the noise and hear my own thoughts again. This sabbatical wasn’t a full sabbatical from all work, but from one area of business that was no longer serving me.
And, as I’m sure you all know by now, in 2020 I’m taking a year-long sabbatical from my business in order to explore new ideas, passions, and to get curious about things I’ll probably never get paid to do!
Since way back in my days as a Fortune 100 financial advisor choosing a word of the year has been a part of my annual planning process.
As I sat down to work on my annual planning back in November of last year, I was sure my word for 2020 would be “rest”. It only seemed fitting.
As I studied this idea of sabbatical, Sabbath, and rest I had several aha moments:
When I first announced closing my business at the end of 2019, I knew I needed to take a break. I had no idea exactly what would come of this time away and maybe I, like many of you, thought it would be a leisurely time of rest (I mean a year off from work sounds like a dream, does it not?!). Insert picture here of me sailing around the Carribean and working on my tan lying beside white sand beaches.
But as the dots started to connect: Winter, Active Rest, Sabbatical, Sabbath, 7th Year, Fallow Fields …. I realized Rest wasn’t the goal.
Rest was the means to the end.
Replenish : To be filled up again. To make full and complete. To mend the soil that’s been depleted.
I can envision a sabbatical in the future spent on island time, but for this particular 7th year of rest I know that is not the purpose. What I need this year isn’t just a break from work, but a way to do life and work together without depleting the soil. I want to learn new rhythms. Day to day, ordinary rhythms; of work, and rest, and exercise, and eating well, and loving my neighbor and loving my husband.
That’s what’s been missing. Living well in ordinary times.
Embracing this season hasn’t been easy! Have you ever heard the business saying “if you aren’t growing, you’re dying.” While I don’t believe that to be true… it feels true. Doesn’t it?
I just finished reading Matthew Sleeth’s book 24/6 (so good by the way) and he says, “As heirs to the Pilgrims, we tend to place great value on work and its by-products. Because of that, we believe that rest is less noble than work.”
So, I wrestle.
A few weeks ago I wrote in my journal, “I’m struggling to accept the pace I feel most joyful living. Unrushed.”
The pace I operate from best, doesn’t fit the pace of this world. For me, resting is about giving up control and trusting that the work will keep going even when I don’t. Taking a break forces me to trust that we weren’t designed to “harvest” in all seasons, to this achievement junkie that just feels downright lazy.
When my mind races for purpose and I’m not sure how to lean into new rhythms, I cling to this truth: “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” – Psalm 127:1
I rest so that I can do better work later.
If you find yourself wondering “what’s up with Shanna?”, I’ll just be over here doing the hard work of replenishing the soil. That may look like speaking at a conference or taking a casserole to my neighbor. I may plant a “cover crop” to cultivate a work-related activity I love, or I may plant some cucumbers in the community garden. Whatever it is, I’m committed to doing the work that replenishes the soil, the soil of my soul.
While it may look as if this business owner is lying dormant, a lot of work is being done. I trust that nutrients are being replenished in the soil so I may come back with “a fresh wind in my sail” Psalm 51:7-15
So there you have it. My hope for 2020 (and biggest struggle) is to be Replenished.
As always, thank you for reading these words. It means more to me than you’ll ever know!