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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 library.

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 of morning.

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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