I spend my life helping people see and know God as a god who loves them beyond a doubt and is always as close as their breath, but I had forgotten that for myself somewhere along the way.
Pottery was the other art form I learned and practiced while in Bozeman. I had the great privilege of learning from Carl Sheehan, a working potter and teacher best known for his work with Yellowstone National Park. He was the most patient teacher I have ever worked with, calmly coaching me as I tried hard not to mess up.
Words I often heard from him, you wonder? Well, S L O W D O W N was the front runner at the beginning and then “don’t be so timid” became a theme as we finished the pieces. Not only was I finding myself having to reconnect to my body but also to my heart as I claimed my own power to continue to shape the clay. I learned that I can be bold and sometimes I will make a mistake, but there is almost always a way to fix it.
As I traveled in Europe, I found myself drawn to the ways they practiced relationships, mainly the time they chose to spend sitting with their family and friends and connecting, especially over coffee or tea or beer. I found myself adapting quite easily to the longer, slower meals and the habit of taking time in the middle of the afternoon for a cup of coffee or tea and a pastry. During my time in Jerusalem this became my habit; each day at 2:00 I would go to the cafe, order some coffee and a nibble of something and sit with myself and journal. It was during this time that all that I had experienced came together in meaningful and powerful ways. I had reconnected to my body and my soul, and finally my heart and head were catching up. So, while I drank less coffee on sabbatical than I did in normal life, sitting down with a cup of coffee each day became the most important experience I had. I was sad when it was time to head back to the States, unsure what I would encounter as I began to ease my way back into real life, but I had a few more weeks before I had to worry about that.
My grandfather, George A Brown, was a professional photographer and his art hangs in our family homes and in buildings across southern California, where he worked. I remember my mother trying her hand at photography when I was younger, and I was fascinated by everything that goes into making a photo an art piece. When I learned that a childhood friend, who is now a nature photographer, led photography workshops and they occurred in Death Valley National Park, I knew I had to go to one while on sabbatical.
By this point I was two thirds of the way through my sabbatical and was finally in California. I could not have imagined anything more being revealed to me, and yet the Spirit surprised me, again. My 5 days in Death Valley with 10 strangers were the most profound days of my sabbatical. Not only was I able to spend a great deal of time outside in an amazing part of the world, being creative (and, of course, being told/encouraged to slow down and look around me), but I was also with people who only knew me as Karyn, friend of Michael and amateur photographer. I had connected again to my body and, by this point, my heart, and now I got to try being wholly me with this lovely group of people. Friends were made, laughing and crying and snark all ensued. It was beautiful.
So there I was, in a store at an amusement park, overcome with emotion because in front of me was a mouse painting a picture of the one who created him. I am sure, even though she was incredibly gracious, the store clerk thought I was a little strange. But see, I spend my life helping people see and know God as a god who loves them beyond a doubt and is always as close as their breath, but I had forgotten that for myself somewhere along the way. The gifts of sabbatical, of slowing down, of making time for reflection and prayer, the re-membering of my heart, spirit, body and head led me to know that greatest gift of my sabbatical: the gift of remembering that I am loved beyond a doubt and my creator is always as close as my breath.