It might be obvious to many folks why I chose the Grand Canyon and why I chose to spend a week of my sabbatical there. For one, I’ve never been there, and have always wanted to to see this expansive beauty of God’s creation; and quite honestly, I’m looking forward to sitting outside my airstream at night with no light pollution and looking up and seeing the stars. Maybe just stating that is enough of an answer. But as I’ve been preparing for this trip, (in which many folks spend up to a year planning for and here I am throwing everything together in about two months), I realized that there’s may be more to why the Grand Canyon struck me as the place to go.
Where could I go that would be amazing to see? Where could I go that would provide space for what I need (rest, outdoor activity, amazing beauty, and a place that would push me to truly unplug but allow room to reflect and process the past couple of years and the conference I would have just attended)? Where might be a place that I can continue working on resetting my rhythm and be re-grounded in God’s grace and love? The Grand Canyon leapt off the map.
Time that I can disconnect and just be. I can arrange and schedule some guided group hikes and tours, and soak it in. I can sit and read, and knowing that the place where I’ll be staying does not have wifi, I truly will be able to cut out the distractions and really spend time reading, resting, reflecting as I journal through my days away, and listening to what God might be trying to say … and even maybe what God has been trying to say, but maybe I’ve just been too busy to listen, and I’ve allowed the noise of my life to make it so I didn’t have to hear.
A quick note for you who have expressed or quietly held anxiety and concern for me traveling alone… I could tell you not to worry, but I know that will be like telling a sieve to hold water. 😉 And if I told you I wasn’t nervous about traveling and exploring on my own, I was lying (I hope y’all can forgive me for that). Because while I might be nervous, I decided very early on that any nerves I was holding wouldn’t hold me back from exploring and living my best life, I could hold on to only nerves and live in the either/or spaces of life – meaning I could go to the Grand Canyon OR not, I could get to Arizona and stay in a beautiful airstream and explore OR just sit inside the entire time, OR I could allow my excitement for the trip to show up and exist, and live into the both/and of life. I can be both excited and nervous and live my best life, I can rest AND witness some amazing scenery. This is another area in my life where I have found myself to constantly be living in the both/and; I remember walking in downtown Chicago with my college friends when we suddenly found ourselves in a less than safe feeling area. As we walked, a friend reminded us … stay calm, ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings, and just keep walking. This is something I’ve carried with me ever since.
Also, I should note that the place where I am staying is not as remote as it looks, and it is in a populated area, and maybe it will be comforting to know that I am booking group/guided hikes and tours. So rest assured, I will strive to have fun and stay safe! (But will welcome your prayers as I travel, rest, explore, learn, and reflect).
Here’s the beauty of traveling, and leaving things behind for a brief moment … that no matter where we are, God is there. Psalm 139: 7-8 reminds us of this ,.. “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.” Whether we are in the valleys of life, the plateaus, or the mountaintops, God is with us … God is with you all here in Kingston, your families wherever they may be around the world, and will be me as I travel and come back home refreshed, renewed, and grounded in the reminder of God’s presence and love and work in my life and in the life of the church.