Listening to my hair grow
By Rose McCormick Brandon
I found myself tangled in a web of connections linking me to
too many responsibilities — a husband with his own full schedule; three
children with homework, after-school lessons and maturing personalities; plus
cleaning, laundry, appointments, leadership of a women’s organization, speaking
engagements and teaching.
The only sparkle left in my eyes came from pent-up tears. My
stomach was in knots, and I endured migraine headaches at least one day out of
every week. I didn’t need a doctor to tell me I was overwhelmed.
A summer sabbatical sounded like a solution to my problem.
My husband, Doug, and I bought a trailer on an island in Georgian Bay, an
hour’s drive from our home, and moved in for the summer. After his vacation
ended, Doug commuted to work each day, spending an occasional overnight in town
to cut the lawn. The children and I stayed in our new 25-foot home with three
bunk beds for them and a kitchen table that made into a double bed for my
husband and me.
One day an acquaintance dropped by for a visit. “I couldn’t
bear to sit here all summer and listen to my hair grow,” she said as she surveyed
our tiny retreat. Her statement grabbed my attention. Listening to my hair grow
was exactly what I needed.
My tanned kids went fishing with their dad, swam till they
wrinkled, built cities in the sand, rode bikes on dirt roads, collected toads
and pudding stones (a rock unique to the area) and played Battleship and
Scrabble on rainy days. Often they fell asleep at our nightly campfire and had
to be carried to bed. Each morning they awoke within a stretched arm of one
another. No television, no traffic, no telephone, no calendar.
I read my Bible and other books while chickadees sang and
chipmunks scurried. Every day I biked to the general store for the daily paper,
our connection to the outside world. When it was open, I visited the local
My sabbatical worked wonders. It gave me time to reflect.
Pondering my condition, I saw a worried woman with mixed-up priorities,
pleasing everyone but the people who mattered most — my husband and
children. I’d become hurried with no time for interruptions.
I heard God. I had always been diligent to read Scripture
and pray, but now I took time to notice the colors and sounds of creation, to
let wind and rain mess my hair, to swim in the bay, walk country roads and read
under a giant maple tree. I began to realize if I had a perfectly organized
life from all outside appearances, but didn’t follow God’s leading, what would
it all benefit me?
Rest was healing. I spent hours in my lounger — at the
beach, by the campfire, sometimes even napping — and I refused to feel an
ounce of guilt for my idleness. Sleep came easily at night and I had no dread
Labor Day arrived too soon. A lump lodged in my throat when
we packed our belongings and closed our cramped summer home that could be
cleaned in 15 minutes. That fall, I made some changes. First, I asked for
Mondays off. Having three-day
weekends made my life a lot easier. I learned to say no to responsibilities
that weren’t mine and to save my energy for the ones that were.
I paid attention to writers like Hannah Whitall Smith who
wrote: “Learn to live in God’s rest. In the calmness of spirit it will give,
your soul will reflect, as in a mirror, the beauty of the Lord and the tumult
of men’s lives will be calmed in your presence, as your tumults have been calmed
in His presence.”
My family and I continued summer sabbaticals at the trailer
for five years. I learned to love the sound of hair growing.
ROSE McCORMICK BRANDON lives in
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.
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