January was a hiatus, a retreat, a hibernation (or aestivation, as it's summer) for me. It has been my practice to hide away for a week or two after Christmas for a number of years now, an annual withdrawing from the world to allow one year to end and prepare for another to begin.
This year, I took the whole month - or five weeks. A good thing, too, because just after Christmas I came down with bronchitis, and knowing I had so much time to recover helped to let my body take its time to return to wellness.
In the midst of the illness, and of heat waves and enthralling summer sport, I managed to write. Stories that had to be put on hold in their creation during the busyness of a full rich year finally had the space to be written down, played with, enjoyed. Five stories, to be exact, four of which are part of a new series I will introduce later this month, the fifth to be debuted at an event I am planning for May this year. Most of them have been percolating for nearly two years. It has been delightful to spend time getting to know these stories and their characters, and I look forward to sharing them with audiences in time.
For as I emerge from my hiatus, this year is unfolding as a year for doing things I have wanted to do but not got around to, for which I have not had time or money available. There are these stories I have been longing to tell, there are stories I have wanted to respond to with meaningful action, there is always a returning to God.
The paradoxical thing about a hiatus, about slowing down, retreating, for me at least, is that this is when I seem to be most productive, most creative. It is when I stop for contemplation, when I take the time out for a walk, that the stories and poems emerge, seeking to be written. I need to still myself in order for the muse to find me, in order for me to find the Creative Spirit and connect. I can't do that when I am rushing, impressed by my own busyness.
So as I re-emerge into the world, into life with my congregation and into the work of sarah tells stories, I do so desiring to take with me the stillness of my aestivation, the attentiveness of my retreating.
Seeking to continue to deepen my turning towards God, my Lenten discipline will involve a giving up of something treasured as I reflect on what resources I have and how I want to use them in response to stories of loss and need.
Seeking to encourage the telling of stories as a way of nurturing the health and wholeness of individuals and communities, I am facilitating a workshop in telling our own stories (book now!) and a series of contemplative story spaces in which to encounter the stories of Jesus. I am also knitting story scarves, wrapping you in stories with a unique story for each unique scarf, only available at sarah tells stories events.
Seeking to bring light into the darkness of depression experienced by so many Australians, I plan to hold an evening of story and poetry in which I will tell my story. My hope is that this will be an evening to break down the wall of silence that still surrounds experiences of depression, and perhaps raise some money for ongoing support of people living these experiences.
For fun, I am also hanging out with the theatre group Subtle Bricks, am submitting more poems for publication and competitions, and I will continue as a casual lecturer teaching biblical studies and whatever else they can find for me to do at Uniting College.
As I re-emerge into these creative projects, my prayer and my hope is that stillness remains part of the rhythm, and attentiveness the discipline, of my living: that the fullness and richness of this year is not a busyness on the surface, but a depth of experience, of presence, of participation in the fullness of our humanity.