slow seasons

Before I graduated, the #1 question I would get asked was, “so what are you doing after graduation?” Since I knew the answer to this question, it didn’t bother me to be asked it. But after graduation, the #1 question became, “so what are you doing this summer?” This question was one that I didn’t like so much, simply because – I didn’t know. I didn’t have any big plans set in stone, I didn’t have any big trips ahead, and I didn’t have a job, which was the opposite of what I felt most people were expecting me to say.

This summer I’m babysitting & pet-sitting with the occasional guest preaching gig, and I intentionally chose to do this over getting a normal part time job (whatever normal is) because while I knew I needed money (#AboutToBeABrokeGradStudent) I also knew this would probably be the last summer that I’m not busy doing field education for school (and then after that, it’s off to the real world) so I wanted to take advantage of it. I knew these jobs would give me flexibility and adequate time to enjoy this season while also making money. So, I’ve been busy taking care of the cutest animals & the cutest kids, but because these types of jobs are more sporadic & less structured, it has been a slow summer with lots of free time. Usually free time wouldn’t be something that someone would complain about, but for someone whose not the best at resting and not having a bunch to do, it has been a bit of a challenge, but also very helpful in many ways.

This summer has been a lesson in the importance of embracing slow seasons rather than wishing them away or dreading them altogether. I needed this season because after about the first week of summer, I realized I don’t know how to rest at all. Before I got reached out to about preaching opportunities and baby/pet sitting, I was constantly trying to find things to keep me busy and I would get anxious if I found myself sitting around my house with nothing to do. I didn’t know how to effectively utilize the gift of sabbath time that I had been given. I had just graduated from college after four years of hard work and somehow I still couldn’t fathom the idea of sitting around my house for a few hours doing nothing. I realized this probably had to do with the fact that the entirety of my senior year was the polar opposite of this – I constantly had things to do. The idea of not having things on my to-do list was foreign. Applying to seminaries might as well have been a whole other class in and of itself, and I was already in 5 classes including a field placement that I loved but that took up all of my time. I had no time to stop, or so I led myself to believe. I was constantly going, going, going because when I have things I know I need to do, I am not great at putting those things on hold, even if it means jeopardizing my self-care. This is something that I’ve definitely gotten better at, but I know there’s always room for improvement, and I felt as though this summer would be a great opportunity to improve in this area.

When I went before DCOM (the district committee on ordained ministry) for my renewal interview earlier this year, they really stressed to me the importance of using this summer before seminary wisely – to rest and “take time for Ashley.” I’m grateful they made it a point to tell me that, because I do see them as people who care about me, but also as people who have authority, particularly in my candidacy process & on, and for them to acknowledge my need for rest prior to beginning seminary was very helpful – it made me think, “hm, I really need to do what they say,” and while of course I realize I need to prioritize this on my own, it always helps to be reminded. (Maybe you can let this post serve as a reminder to you to rest).

So, this summer – it certainly is a slow season. It’s my first slow season that I’ve had in a while, which is why it makes sense that its been an adjustment. But I’m learning to embrace its slowness. Whenever I tell someone I’ve been bored this summer, I always try to catch myself because I know I’ll regret saying that when I start school again. While I may get bored occasionally throughout this summer, I’m learning to fill my time with things that still keep me busy to a certain extent, just not in a way that drains me. I’ve been hiking & taking lots of refreshing trips up to the mountains (AKA my favorite place in the world). I’ve been writing more and reading various books that pastors in my life have graciously given or lent me. I got Duolingo & have been brushing up on my German & Spanish, I’ve been piddling around on the piano again, connecting with friends & spending more time with my family. This time is still being spent wisely, just in different ways – ways that fill me up, & ways I didn’t realize I really missed & needed.

I have, indeed, started the countdown to the date I move down to Durham, because of course I am excited to begin this next chapter of life – this chapter I’ve been waiting to embark on since freshman year of college if I’m being honest. But rather than wishing the days away or rushing this slow season, I’m basking in the excitement and the preparation, acknowledging that this time is valuable. This summer is not merely a season of waiting for the next thing, it’s a season of “being” and “preparing” this heart, mind, & soul of mine, and prematurely asking God to hold my hand through things I couldn’t possibly prepare for. I want this summer season to grow me and make me better as I walk into seminary. So I’m working on being present where my two feet are right now, acknowledging there is growth that can happen here, too. I love being in this season of just being excited for what is to come this fall, without rushing a thing. I’m trying to see this season as not merely a weird limbo in between schools, but rather, a season of growth & rest & renewal (& money making).

I think in our society today, being busy is often idolized. It’s easy for us to fall into that trap & feel ashamed when we are not constantly doing things, because we think that rest or boredom somehow equate to laziness or not being productive, when in reality, we need rest. We need down time. We need slow seasons. We need days, or at least a few hours, where we do nothing – nothing but whatever it is that centers you, grounds you, restores you, recharges you, refreshes you. We need Sabbath. (Hello even God rested)

So I hope that if nothing else, these words above would encourage you not to be afraid when your life is moving at a slower pace. Don’t give into what society preaches about glorifying busyness. Instead, bask in the slowness, acknowledging that before you know it, the pace of life will pick back up again. Take in the slow moments and learn to appreciate them more than you fear them. Allow yourself to be still, to breathe deeper, to walk slower, to not constantly be rushing onto the next task or the next place. Take a day or a weekend to do nothing other than your favorite things. Be where your two feet are – whether it’s a busy season or a slow season – whatever season you are in – be all there.

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