There is a sign, fashioned from cardboard and a Sharpie, sitting on my bathroom vanity that reads, “Go, Mr. McBroom - Don’t Stop!” Created by my friend Cole, a 5th grader who lives next door, it was a call for me to complete my third marathon last fall. Well after the race was over, I’ve kept it before me each day, a reminder to keep pushing ahead. Every day.
I’ve not stopped for 14 years. I’ve taken vacations (good ones) and retreats (short ones), but not really stopped. In that time, God led me to launch Fishhook, build a team, serve the Church, launch a Saturday night church service, run marathons, downsize my home, upsize my office, travel, go, network, connect, create and love. Debbie and I continued to raise our family, advocate for clean water, travel, serve and are poised to celebrate 30 years of marriage together. As we are about to empty our nest, we sense God preparing us for a new chapter and a new kind of relationship together. And, with Debbie having wrapped up her years of teaching, we envision possibly a new work opportunity for her.
What’s next? We wonder.
This spring, through a series of conversations with Leah Norton (my Fishhook business partner), with a trusted friend and small group leader, my pastor, and my wife, I’ve decided it’s time to stop, or at least pause. Through times of prayer and in God’s word, I feel God calling me over and over to, “Be still before the Lord; and wait patiently on Him.” (Psalm 37:7) Why? Because I believe the Lord is calling Debbie and me to a quiet place to give us rest and renewal. Our prayer is for Him to reveal what’s next for my work and role at Fishhook, for roles as parents of adult children and for Debbie’s work. We’re going on a sabbatical.
The sabbatical is an extended time when Debbie and I will step away from all our work and volunteer responsibilities. As several pastors have advised, I will have no planned contact with my Fishhook team, I’ll stay off email and I will be off social media (breathe deeply). As my pastor said, “Evan, if you really disconnect, God will drop huge vision on you for what’s ahead.” I believe this to be possible, even true.
It feels awkward for me to take a sabbatical. Besides pastors and professors, who else gets to do this? And, as one pastor friend said, “You and everyone on your team will be nervous, but the sabbatical will be good for you and good for Fishhook.” As I’ve prayed through the nervousness, I’ve sensed an incredible peace and building excitement, not only for what this time away can do for Debbie and me, but as importantly, how God will work through Fishhook and our team, and most of all, through Leah Norton, who will fully take the helm while I’m gone.
People have asked me where I'm going and what I'll be doing. First, I respond, “Well, since I’m not receiving one of the incredible Lilly Endowment Pastoral Renewal Grants (designed for eligible clergy), our time won’t be as structured or well funded as one of those sabbaticals! But, we are leaning into a question key to their process, “What will make your heart sing?” To answer this we will focus on time together, quiet time at home, impromptu adventures, a learning opportunity, a short trip to Michigan and a long trip west to Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain and Grand Teton National Parks.
In prayer and preparation, I feel the Lord has led me to four key words: rest, seek, hear and see, and I feel clearly the focus is about God and me, God and Debbie, and Debbie and me. Not many people get to do this in their lives, but with the support of Leah and the Fishhook team, I’m able and grateful.
I'm going to have time, on all of our behalf, to dream in new ways. And the team will have time to work and do in new ways!
My sabbatical runs July 15 to October 9, 2017. My work responsibilities are being covered as follows:
- Company leadership: email@example.com
- Operations: firstname.lastname@example.org
- New client inquiries: email@example.com
Will you pray with me? Here's what's on my list:
- Rest and renewal as Debbie and I have both been on the Fishhook adventure for 14 years
- For times of fun and adventure both close to home and at National Parks out West
- Direction for Debbie and I together as we begin our season as empty-nesters
- Career/purpose direction for Debbie as she has wrapped up 10 years of teaching pre-school, ready for what God has next for her.
- Direction for Fishhook - what might God have next in store for us?
- Direction for me personally - am I to continue doing all I'm doing? Are some of God's assignments finished and others starting?
- For the Fishhook team - for Leah Norton, our leadership team and our entire team as they step into a new season of leadership (for which I know they are well equipped and ready).