Our search for a home to rent for our Sabbatical year was not producing many results that satisfied what we hoped for. Our family was planning to move to Chiang Mai from Laos so that we could access counseling services and be closer to nature—both felt needs after hitting burnout in Laos. Chiang Mai was a place we foresaw as offering us these much needed resources.
“I think we should look at this house!” my husband exclaimed as he showed me a house unlike any I had found in my own internet search. But I wanted to know, “Where is it?” How far would it be to drive to the school where our boys would attend? “Not too far!” he tried to assure me, but spouses don’t always agree on what is close or too far…
As we drove up a windy mountain road to see the house, I commented that we had just passed over the “too far” spot in the drive. “Oh, it’s not much farther” my husband said dismissively of my concern. After several more twists and turns, and about eight more windy minutes, we turned off into what felt like the middle of nowhere. We were about 20 minutes from the boys’ school, and fifteen of those minutes were on a narrow windy mountain road. We had left the city limits and entered what felt more like village life. I was sure this was not going to work out. Whether I complained aloud again or not, I cannot remember.
Our car turned down a narrow street past a few Thai-style homes and then we pulled over. I looked out my window to see a beautiful home right on the edge of a bamboo forest, but I was determined not to like it—it was way too far away from the city. But when I opened my car door I was met by the sound of rushing water. I found myself taking a deep breath as I scanned the horizon and saw the source of water—a creek with big rocks along the edge.
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
In my longing for rest, I had been drawn to Psalm 23. And now here I was stepping into the passage literally! It felt as though this place had been waiting for us—or was I reading too much into it all? My heart was stirred, already daring to take a deep breath after gasping for air so long…could I really dare to open my heart to such a beautiful place? Could we actually rent a house that would offer us true retreat and restoration? Were we selfish to rent a house that was beyond our basic needs? Should we allow ourselves to dream at all? Shouldn’t we consider more practical options closer to the boys’ school?
But this place took my breath away. I could feel my heart awakening as I considered what it might be like to actually live here—by a creek. This place said yes, indeed, “he refreshes my soul.”
Sometimes the rational and practicalities create obstacles to listening in to what our souls long for. We were coming out of a long dry season, and our souls were thirsty. We wondered if God would actually give us water. Is God good? Does God care about our thirst? Can we trust God to lead us beside still waters and restore our souls?
It was a crazy dare, but one I will forever be grateful we took. Seven years have passed since we made the decision to rent a house by a creek—what would become our home for a Sabbatical year. When I look back on our year, I know it was one of those decisions you don’t regret. We were marked by our year. We learned how to play again as a family. I took my shoes off and walked in the creek barefoot. I heard God’s voice speaking to places in me that were all but dead. God spoke to me during our Sabbatical season in ways I desperately needed.
Upon reflecting on that year, my heart feels with gratitude: “Thank you, God, for that year! Thank you for the ways you met us that year. What a gift!” I am marked forever by our decision to step outside of our practical boxes and dare to receive a gift.
Where does my story connect to yours? Perhaps it sounds far-fetched and like “Well, that’s great for you! But I/we could never do that. You were just lucky.” Honestly, I don’t have any easy answers to offer. And perhaps it was irrational, and it was “lucky”…or maybe it was a gift from God. But it does beg us to ask–what do we believe about God? Does God only ask us to serve and give everything and live as bare bones? Does God only want us to serve until we have nothing left to serve from…forcing us to beg for more energy, so we can keep giving more of nothing? Is God a taskmaster that we are living to please?
How is your view of God impacting the choices you make? How is God wanting to invite you to see, know and experience God in new ways in your life? Are you thirsty to know the God you tell others about? It might not be a house with a creek that you need, but God has a rich imagination…what might you discover if you say yes to the invitation?
What a strange season to be moving to the field. On top of a global pandemic you might wonder, “Will I like the food? Will I learn the language?” Surely you’ll connected to God or get along with your teammates. But what if you’re wrong? Don’t miss this chance to “Make the Most” of your first year on the field even in the midst of such wild and crazy times. Register today before the price increases on Friday.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
That sounds like a dream! A house by a creek…. 🙂
Phllis, It certainly was like a dream! We still look back at that year with gratitude at how God provided such a beautiful place to live for our Sabbatical.
I loved this post, and especially your application questions!! “How is your view of God impacting the choices you make?”
After we’ve had kind of “the worst year ever” being kicked out of our host country of over 20 years, it has taken some real reflection to see if and how I’ve come to view God wrongly (depending on the day!)…as the One who sits by and doesn’t defend us, as the One who didn’t seem to care about how our kids would hurt so deeply, as the One who could have warned us but didn’t, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum! 🙂
Now, as Covid has delayed us from moving to a new country to work in, and our son is a high school senior, there are many decisions to be made, and even more things to just surrender to. It’s a busy time for our inner lives, this Covid period!