Heeding the sabbatical call.

Planning for sabbatical is a two-fold endeavor. On one hand, it is all head—logistics, timing, finances. On the other, it’s all heart—intuition, discernment, intention, preparation.

The head part is all practical, and honestly, it’s pretty easy to work out once you’ve made the commitment. It might not happen overnight, nearly 18 months in my case, but you can chart the path and start making progress against your goals. That’s a whole other blog.

The heart part is a journey unto itself.

Some of it happens in preparation; some of it is only work you can do when you have stepped out of the boat.

I’ll barely crack the surface in one blog. Honestly, this started to get really long, so I’m just going to highlight intuition and discernment in this post, hit intention and preparation in the next, and hopefully continue to work out these themes in future blogs.

In the 18+ months before I actually embarked on my sabbatical, I prayed. A lot. I’m aware of the blessing and privilege of even being able to do something like take time off from work, and I don’t take the responsibility of that blessing lightly.

I felt the call to sabbatical, but I didn’t want to throw up my hands and walk out on my job (although I do think God can work through that if you do end up going the light-everything-on-fire route). I wanted to do right by my employer, my teams, and myself. I also wanted to be really intentional about how I spent my time.

A sabbatical, however long it is, is a finite season. Its purpose should be to bring forth the work on the other side of it, to sow seeds in rest that you’ll harvest for years. And a month, three months, six months, or a year can fly by you.


Intuition is the whisper of the Holy Spirit, although you may be more comfortable calling it a gut feeling. Sometimes, the whisper tells you to steer clear of a person or place. Sometimes, the whisper nudges you to reach out to someone who pops into your head over and over. Sometimes, the whisper beckons you out, right to the edge of the shore. It tells you to leave behind the safe place because there is so much more if you’re willing to choose trust over fear.

But listening to your intuition, hearing that holy whisper is work that takes silence and space. Listening takes stillness in our surroundings and in our beings. You won’t hear it if you’re drowning it out with a constant flood of intake—Netflix, a packed schedule, too much wine.

It takes learning to be alone with yourself, and being willing to turn inward and heed what you hear.

A lot of times it feels scary. There’s nothing of what our society values in terms of science or data that will prove your intuition is right. But the wild thing about a life marked by faith is that it looks like one insane leap after another. And once you hear, the responsibility shifts to you. You’ve been told what to do, no matter how risky it seems, will you listen? What will you do?

For me, I felt in my being that I needed more space, to not have my calendar dictated by work, to be able to think and listen. I wanted to write more, sing more, learn, and adventure, do the things that give me joy and fill my being. I’m increasingly convinced that we can build things in this life that last into the next. I think that’s what purpose really is—doing the work we were created to do, to which we can uniquely contribute to building things that last. I want to do that work, but the first step was wild submission—sabbatical.


Discernment is about confirmation and direction. It’s also one of those spiritual words that can seem really vague and amorphous. Basically, it’s the phase where you know your intuition is screaming at you, but you’re still not sure. So let’s go ahead and ask over and over if this is actually what I’m supposed to do. Or maybe that’s just me.

Again, prayer, seeking silence, and creating space to just be and listen are critical. Discernment really is about the push and pull between doubt and determination. And it’s hard to be determined when you can’t hear with your heart.

What’s funny is how simple the elements of seeking guidance are, and how hard they are for us to into practice in our busy, distracted world.

I recommend developing a daily and weekly rhythm of centering. My own morning routine revolutionized my whole life. Every morning, I wake, make tea, read two chapters of the Bible, and pray. I also try to move my body every morning in some form or fashion—class, Peloton, walk, yoga. It takes continual discipline, but sticking to this routine has actually created so much more expansiveness in my life for curiosity and discerning. When I started my morning routine, it was wake, make tea, read a quick devotional, and occasionally pray.

Just start somewhere… maybe it’s wake and sit in stillness for five minutes before you move onto anything else—no phone, email, or rushing straight to start the day—five minutes to pause, be present, and hold space.

Discerning direction really is an ongoing work. Because unfortunately, you can’t discern once and be like, I’m done! All good!

I’m blessed to have some really wise mentors and friends in my life who were willing to ask smart questions and then listen while I worked it out. And I also found it helpful to work with a spiritual director.

Keep asking questions, listening, and writing down what you hear. It’s like putting down a few stones a day at a time on your path. When you start, it’s a handful of stones, but after months and years, you’ve built a path that leads to oceans, mountains, deserts, rivers, to faraway places and hearths around the corner. It’s amazing how it starts to accrue to something you never would have thought at the beginning. And how an insight you write down years ago suddenly crystallizes and connects everything together in your present.

Why sabbatical?

Telling people about my sabbatical has been fascinating.

Friends and family will start with excitement, but then immediately ask when I’m going back to work.

And I usually say something annoyingly noncommittal like, probably in 8-12 months. I’m not quite sure yet, but I’m taking at least eight months off.

Partly, I don’t know what will unfold during this time, and I want to allow for the mystery of allowing for something I can’t foresee. I might take some project work, but that’s about it.

This creates some confusion. So they ask, your job is okay with you just being gone for that long? Because there are rules, lots of rules in the lives we lead. And this seems like a trick.

No, I left my job.

Then it’s usually something like what my neighbor said to me, “oh, so you’re not really on sabbatical, you’re just calling it that.”

Not quite. No, this is a sabbatical. But then they are in for a pretty long-winded explanation.

Culturally, I get that. Sabbatical in western cultures is common in an academic setting, but not so much in a corporate one.

In a corporate context, it can look a lot like it did at my former firm. After seven years, they offered six paid weeks off for sabbatical. In Europe, that’s just called a decent holiday.

Other corporations offer some longer form of sabbatical time. Starbucks, for example, allows for a “coffee break” after 10 years of service—six months unpaid with a guaranteed job on your return. I think that gets closer to the actual intention of sabbatical.

Sabbatical finds its roots biblically, whether we recognize it or not. And the roots are in sabbath, or shabbat—which in Hebrew mean “to stop” or “to cease [from work].” There’s also an interesting tie to the word sheva, which is “seven,” which is a biblical symbol of wholeness or completeness.

Humans and creation live in cycles—days, weeks, months, seasons, years, decades, centuries, millennia.

Every seven days for those of us who have a sabbath practice, we shabbat—we stop—and we rest and nestle in to all that’s been given. In the busyness of our modern context, it’s hard to think of stopping work, not getting ahead on email or finishing a project for a whole entire day.

But the biblical practice doesn’t stop there. Every seven years, in a continual cycle of rest and work, in the Torah, Israel is called on to take a sabbath year, a sabbatical year. It’s called the year of release.

And it’s radical. Debts are to be cancelled. Lands returned to their owners. So no one hoards too much, or accumulates too much land, or holds too much power over their brother or sister.

It is to be a sabbath year of rest for all people and for creation—Israelites, their servants, and the land.

It’s an ancient practice, and there is wisdom in it.

There is a rhythm of resting and working built in to the creative order that we ignore. And I think that’s to our detriment as humans. And who knows? Maybe even the world is crying out for us to let it rest.

Think about it: we’re supposed to let creation, all creation—the people and the land—rest every seven years. Just from an agricultural standpoint, we know the benefit of letting land rest. Letting it lie fallow allows it to regain its nutrients and strength—it increases the yield of the land. Rest brings forth a harvest.

I think it’s the same for humans. Rest reveals, it brings forth our work, lets us see more clearly the next harvest. Rest gives time and space, it creates room for presence with God and loved ones. To truly be in the moment you’re living, not with a mind racing to the deadlines and demands of work.

And rest requires trust.

Because in practicality, *you’re not working!*

How will all the ends meet?

It seems to make no sense, especially not to our understanding—where only our grit and our output provide for our lives. But tied to the sabbath year command is God’s promise to provide, and provide abundantly.

So it’s a call and a challenge to trust that God will do what He says He is going to do, that He will provide, even if we stop.

The world doesn’t spin because I work; and it doesn’t stop spinning because I stop.

It is so wildly opposite to what we’re told to value—work, productivity, drive, ambition.

We don’t live like this in the present moment. We worry about what won’t get done if we stop. Somewhere inside us, we’re afraid it all will fall apart and consequences will be catastrophic.

But I think the consequences of not stopping might be worse—anxiety, fear, apprehension, depression. The list of mental illnesses afflicting our culture are overwhelming. Not to mention a globe wracked with natural disasters and a world full of injustice.

What if we all stopped and admitted trusting in ourselves—in our human innovation, in our human wisdom—isn’t working?

And maybe considered there might be a better way. A way of wisdom for the ages.

So even if it isn’t corporately sanctioned, I’m taking a sabbatical, facing the fear of “what if” and the excitement of possibility. I’m trusting, even if I don’t always believe it, that God will do what He says He’ll do, so I’m nestling into God’s sovereignty and provision.


A couple months ago, I left my job, and I launched myself into an unknown that I haven’t experienced in my professional life—sabbatical.

I’ve been working nonstop since before I graduated from college. In an office by a certain(ish) time, deadlines to meet, expectations to exceed, achievements to rack up. It can be hard to imagine that there’s another way to be.

But over the last several years, as I have considered how I want to apply my time and energy, to what I wanted my effort to accrue, and what really matters, I knew I had to stop.

I wanted a break, a rest, so badly, the time and space to listen to God, listen to myself, and figure out how I can make the most impact with this one wild life I have. How I walk to the end, whenever that is, and look back knowing I did and gave my best to work worth doing. Building things that last.

But all I knew was work, and I couldn’t see another way.

Until a friend asked me, why not… what would it take?

And something shifted, and opened, and I started thinking, and praying, and planning, about how to make a different way.

And slowly, the pieces started coming together.

Sabbatical has its roots in Shabbat, the Sabbath. It’s an ancient practice—a time to stop, rest, and trust in the provision of God. A resting space from which our work flows. We’re made to work from rest.

Deep down, I knew I couldn’t commit to any next step for my career, until I stopped.

It is the space for me to do the work to align my why to my what and my how. To co-create my future with my Creator. To do some more of the creative things that I haven’t really had to time to do in years.

Stepping into this time is thrilling and terrifying. When I gave notice near the beginning of the year, Covid19 was barely a twinkle in anyone’s eye. But even as the shutdowns began, I prayed, turned over the outcome, and the wooing to sabbatical time continued unabated.

So here I am. Wandering in the unknown.

Seeking with hope for what this sacred space holds.


Photo credit: Matt Fons, Mountain Coast Media, Instagram: @mfons

Socials fasting…

When my friend asked if I wanted to join her in giving up social media for Lent, I hesitated. Mostly because I wasn’t sure I could do it. And I didn’t want to make a promise I couldn’t keep.

And with the realization that I legitimately might fail at choosing to not mindlessly scroll for 6.5 weeks, I had to do it. I don’t want anything man-made to have that kind of power over me.

On Fat Tuesday, I deleted and hid all social media apps on my phone. And as I launched myself into a social media-free existence, it became really clear how much of my time on social is just mindless habit. A flip-flip-flip… unlock phone, flip to social apps, click on Instagram. By just putting Instagram in a different place on my phone, it was enough to remind me that the choice was mine. I could either go hunt for it, or choose not to worry about it.

Although I did spend the first few days wondering what to do with my hands, the choice was shockingly easy.

When I first gave up social media, coronavirus was just a hint of something that might be a thing. I remember going to Target with my ashes on because I had an inkling I might need to get some Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer. By the following Monday, the world as we knew it was starting to unravel.

A social media fast in the midst of our collective social contact fast turned into an unexpected and prescient blessing.

Everything on social media is looking for a reaction. Literally, we click on our reaction… hearts, likes, dislikes, laughter, horror. But what is happening right now, it’s a lot. I still haven’t fully processed it. I’m not sure I’ve even started. I don’t think any of us have. And if you are having a reaction right now, it might be different with a little more time and space. I know it all is a little confused inside me. Social media is full of emotions, thoughts, opinions, and too. much. news.

The last thing I needed/need was the little space I have between work, news, updates, checking in and with family and friends, and my own reactions and feelings to be crowded by a barrage of input from an algorithm.

I did miss seeing updates and photos from family and friends. But text and FaceTime filled in the gaps. And I missed memes. A lot. Like a lot a lot.

But I think the biggest lesson is pretty similar to what I observed in the beginning – it’s a choice. And I get to choose what I allow into my spiritual space, my brain space, my emotional space, and my heart space.

Social media is a vice and virtue. A paradox. Another time, I’ll ponder on paradox. But that’s what it is.

There is so much good. Connection across distance and isolation. Humor, love, caring, sharing. And there’s a lot of not good stuff, too.

As it dawned on me Easter Sunday that I could go back on the socials, I hesitated. Mostly because I don’t want to go back to a place where I’m not sure I can give it up. I’ve treasured the sacred space my Lenten social fast created.

I’ll go back on tomorrow. I think.

A Lenten journey—preparation for discernment.

As I prepared for my 2018 project, I knew I was being called to do work. Dig deep in myself, ask tough questions, actually answer them. And I innately knew this process would not be easy or quick.

I looked at the year and mapped out things I know that I’ll want to pursue—art, adventure, new experiences, peace—that may yield some revelation to help define and articulate my purpose, my why. Or just be fun. But in order to get to those things, I knew I need to lead from deep rooting in my internal life. I need to be able to hear God and hear myself. And in order to hear, I would have to listen.

Before I move to months focused on my home, my music, or my writing, it was critical that I practice and develop the disciplines of discernment. These are foundational to my journey.

Discernment is defined as the ability to judge well, and within the Faith, it is further defined as judging well by obtaining spiritual direction and understanding.

So how to do this? I crowdsourced. I’m fortunate to have a lot of pastors in my life, and I asked all of them for their advice, perspectives, and reading recommendations. Insight about discernment doesn’t have to come from a pastor, but I do think the intense schooling helps produce a strong point of view on the study of the spiritual disciplines.

Initially, my plan was to focus on the discernment for February. Then I started studying, and I realized I needed more space. Space to practice what I was learning, space to listen. Especially with a super busy February at work, I did not want to shortchange the work. And it’s my project, so I get to choose how I spend my time. I decided spend two months—February and March—on discernment.

Once I considered moving to a two-month focus, I realized that the church calendar beautifully aligned with this desire. Beginning with Ash Wednesday on Valentine’s Day, the contemplation of Lent would bring a spiritual weight to my time in the disciplines. And Easter on April 1 would lead me out of the months of reflection—hopefully, with some additional habits developed around the disciplines to carry into the rest of my year.

I read Richard J. Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, which teaches about the 12 spiritual disciplines of discernment. Twelve is a lot of disciplines, so I concentrated on meditation and silence. As an extreme extrovert, these two are tough disciplines for me. But once I started, I found myself craving time alone, quiet, and more and more space to listen.

Since I had begun my year mastering my morning, I was able to make time for meditation in the mornings and on weekends. One discipline was a building block for another.

Full disclosure, I also tried to add fasting, but failed pretty miserably at it. Mostly because I would forget to fast. I’m only a half-Cath, not a full Cath, and I don’t have that muscle memory around fasting. Perhaps for later in the year… the one time I managed a full fast, it was centering.

When I started, I thought I would spend the whole time discerning, if I got quiet, it would be full revelation. But revelation is a process, and God refuses to be rushed. Judging well with spiritual direction—whether my next steps or truths about myself—is not a one-and-done. You get one message at a time. And sometimes, it’s not one you want to hear. And then you sit with it, in the silence or in the noise of life, wrestle, journal, step back, re-engage, and in this pondering, the truth comes alive. And what’s crazy, the vibrant truth, revealing itself piece by piece, is just the beginning of the work.


Photo credit: Matt Fons

Master the morning.

I am not a morning person.

It’s hard to underscore how much of an understatement that sentence is.

Here’s how mornings have typically gone for me before I started my 2018 project. It doesn’t matter how many hours I’ve slept, I wake up thinking, can I just go back to sleep? And I’m a little mad. Not at anyone or anything, just a general state of being mad.

My brain doesn’t function. I can stand in my closet for 15… 25 minutes staring at my clothes and realize no conscious thought has passed through my mind in this time. I usually hit snooze for anywhere from 30-60 minutes and then mutter curse words under my breath while I tell myself, “skin, teeth, hair, clothes, makeup.” I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want the lights on, I don’t want any noise. Just let me make peace in myself with the fact that I had to wake up.

Basically, it’s not a great way to start the day.

As I started thinking about how I wanted to ground myself for my project, I wanted to start the year with developing better habits, establishing the foundational steps to making everything else work for my 2018 project. And this starts with revolutionizing my morning routine. I need to Master the Morning, rather than let the morning master me. And my January focus took shape.

As I thought about how I wanted to spend my mornings, how I wanted to approach the start of my day, I focused on building a morning ritual grounded in my top two principles: 1) turn to God, and 2) discipline is a muscle.

For the month of January, my daily morning ritual would be: wake, devotional, pray/meditation, scribe/journal, move. To do this well and with intention, I need an hour. So how do I squeeze another hour from the day?

Pretty much all research on the topic says establishing a regular sleep rhythm helps to get adequate sleep. And I had to get adequate rest for my brain and body to function, so revolutionizing my mornings would start with revolutionizing my evenings. I needed to get control of my bedtime.

I’m a night owl. Always have been. If my natural body clock wasn’t subjected to a world order controlled by early birds, it would be bedtime at 2 a.m. and wakeup at 10 a.m. But that’s not an option. So I have tended to struggle to fall asleep before midnight, sometimes much later, while still waking up early for work, and then spend most of life sleep deprived.

Since I needed to pick a bedtime and a wake time that I could realistically expect myself to keep, I decided on 11 p.m. and up at 6 a.m. I use the bedtime setting in my iPhone alarm clock app, and I listened to all the music for waking and picked the most soothing, least annoying tone to my ear.

Then I defined my non-negotiables—start winding down at 10 p.m., in bed and lights off at 11 p.m., no hitting snooze, and no going back to bed. I wake up and get out of bed with the first alarm and even if I still do a lot of staring into space and wishing I were back in bed, no getting back in bed.

So far, at three weeks in, it’s made a drastic difference in my ability to start my days peacefully and with intention. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. I don’t get into work any earlier, but I get there more focused and ready to dive into whatever is on my plate.

I’m not perfect, but I have gotten up with the first alarm every morning and I don’t go back to bed. Even if I’m groggy and mad, which I am. I sit in the same spot on my couch and move through my morning ritual. I did find that jumping straight into devotional and meditation was causing some head bobbing, so I’ve made adjustments.

Currently, I wake, start coffee, stretch, pray for my intentions, get coffee, read my devotional, pray and journal, and then move. Usually a walk. You know, if it’s not raining.

Pursuing Purpose: My 2018 Project.

I love the New Year. I love resolutions. I love talking and thinking and puzzling and planning. Everything about it, I love it all.

At New Year, we mark what has gone before, honor the journey that has led us to the present moment, and hope for the growth ahead.

And if you’re like me, you make a plan.

Obviously, you can start any time, but I like the forced reflection that the turning of the calendar brings. Recognizing the unrelenting passage of time. The push forward, ever forward, whether you want to go or not.

Typically, I reflect on resolutions and look at approaching the year ahead in broad themes of how I want to be. And then I ladder up small specific goals to those themes.

Since 2012, turn to God has been at the top of my list. It still is, but my approach this year is different. Less free form, more methodical. It’s a project.

My bestie and I decided to start a long distance book club last fall. We listen to books on Audible and then discuss on the phone. We read The Happiness Project, and an idea germinated—what would a project like this look like for each of us?

The author’s project started because she wanted to be happier and wondered if it was possible to change habits and actively pursue happiness. As she notes, research shows happiness is a largely dispositional proposition. Basically, each person has a happiness range, and my general disposition is a pretty happy one. So I don’t really need a happiness project.

I’m more of a seeker. And what I am pursuing is purpose.

Purpose feels intangible, almost ephemeral. We all talk about it a lot, but there’s not a lot of substance to what the it is. But all current research points to needing a sense of purpose to engage your intrinsic motivation, find flow, and achieve a sense of fulfillment.

So how do you find this purpose? And once you do, once you can clearly articulate it, how do you pursue it?

I don’t have answers to those questions, not yet. That’s the work ahead of me.

What I liked about The Happiness Project is the author’s organized approach. Be clear about your priorities, set goals, and map actionable steps to those priorities and goals with a monthly focus on one area.

So on January 2 (because we all deserve a day to recover from NYE), I began my 2018 project. A name for it doesn’t feel like it’s fully materialized yet. And rather than get hung up on a name, for now, it’s just my project.

12 months focused on my priorities, pursuing my goals, and grounded in principles that I articulated for how I want to live and be in the world and in my interactions with others.

My priorities are:

  1. Faith.
  2. Family. Friends.
  3. Love.
  4. Art.
  5. Fulfilling work.
  6. Creating beauty.
  7. Living generously.
  8. Travel. Adventure.

Every month will have a different focus area. My intention is for each of my month-long focus areas to be building blocks that develop better disciplines and habits to achieve my overall goals. For example, in January, I’m working to Master the Morning because developing a better morning routine is foundational to achieving the rest of the project.

My bestie is doing her own project. And hers looks different from mine.

I may annoyingly love the New Year and New Year’s resolutions. But it’s because of the promise it holds, the questions it begs… Will you grow? Will you go forward changed? Will you take paths to better yourself? Will you do the hard work?

Some years we need a rest, but that’s not 2018 for me. It’s time to go deep, know myself better, and do some work.

And if you are on a similar journey or are interested in getting started on your own, I would love to have a conversation about what’s working and what’s not. Mutual encouragement and learning is an amazing thing. There’s never a bad time to start.

The first step.

Hi, I’m Jocelyn.

And I’ve lived a pretty charmed life.

Last year, my whole world changed.

My Mom passed away suddenly after a very brief illness.

And it shattered everything I thought I knew.

But in this storm, some things held. Held fast and held me. God, family, friends. Hope.

My Mama Bear had two prayers, among many thousands, she prayed for me throughout my life. I think she’s still praying those prayers.

My Mom prayed I would be bold and be good. She told me that boldness carries blessing; and she counseled there is a wholeness and holiness to simply seeking the good.

During our time in the hospital, writing was a meditation that focused my prayers and illuminated the path ahead.

So I want to do something new for me. A bit raw. I want to talk about grief. I want to be honest about loss—terrible and beautiful.

And to honor my Mama Bear, I want to embark on a journey to be bold and be good. To carry grief with grace. To make the most of my time. Explore what that means. And how it is practiced in my life.

I don’t entirely know what shape this endeavour will take. I do know it has been on my heart to share.

Sometimes, being bold requires a first step. So here is mine. I’m excited and a little nervous for what comes next.

I hope you’ll join me on the journey.