This summer marks the following family “milestones”:
24th anniversary for Marshall and Becky (August)
9th year at Greenville Grace (on April 16th)
Rhett is in his first year of travel with the Northwood University baseball team
Halli graduates from High School in May
March 3 – April 26 (8 weeks)
Is there any significance to the timing this year? Is this some sort of emergency?
[from Marshall] The short answer is “no”. The longer (and more vulnerable) answer is, “not yet”. While we aren’t in crisis, given the transitions the church and our family have gone through both recently and over the last eight to ten years, I (and the elders) feel I’d benefit from some preventative time to “search the contours of my soul” a bit more intentionally, so that burnout is avoided. The elders are not concerned and neither is Becky, or even me. In Danny’s words (that I feel are accurate), some dash-lights are flickering and it would be good to get some time to discern through which ones are on and how the Gospel can be applied to them! I am not broken, but rather need some space. My personality type plus my position of being over much of the daily and weekly administration at Grace have me in a place that makes it difficult for me to dive too deeply into heavier soul matters for very long. This break from the day-to-day will serve myself and Becky by giving us time and space to simply abide in Christ. John 15 makes it clear that unless our doing for Christ flows from our abiding in Christ, we are wasting our time, robbing ourselves of joy, and actually working destruction in our souls. It will be good for me to step away for a time….to just take time. To take some time to process through the last eight years of the goodness of ministry here at this amazing church called Grace that shepherds me more than I shepherd her.
Are you leaving?
Yes. But only for 8 weeks. Some of you know that I have recently begun to sub-contract design hours back to the landscape company I was once a part of, and that just this new year took a few hours away from my week at Grace to do more in that arena. Please know, the addition of those hours in design is not part-one of me stepping away, and this sabbatical part-two. When Becky and I prayed through the decision to pull back a bit at Grace and take on more design time, the Lord made it very, very clear to us that we are called to serve here at Grace…first. To step away, at this juncture, would feel like disobedience to Him. These feelings from the Lord simultaneously thrill and settle us as we love serving at Grace and we love her people more than we ever thought we could. We are as excited about the returning in 8 weeks as we are about the leaving.
Why are you excited to be on sabbatical?
[from Marshall] A few reasons.
First, we won’t be unsupervised and walking through the time alone. Jim Cofield (of CrossPoint Ministries) will be helping Becky and I make the most of our time and encouraging us to keep our expectations realistic. Jim has helped us a church in the past and he and I get along very well…it will be a joy to have him as a source of wisdom, counsel and perspective during the eight weeks!
Second, my own soul. I plan to dig into the book of Isaiah. The Lord has repeatedly brought the book to mind and across my path recently and I am excited to have the time to see what the Lord has for me in it. I hope to see more of God’s faithfulness to His people, faithfulness to His Word, and faithfulness to His character…even when His people are not faithful to Him, His Word, nor His character. I am looking forward to time. Time alone…with God…not for a study, not for a sermon, not for a class, not for a counseling appointment, but for my own soul. I have begun praying that the Lord would use the 8 weeks to foster a deeper hunger for His Word, His people, and His character in my soul, my home, and my future ministry. I pray that I can see His goodness more clearly and apply it to my own story more clearly…and carry that freshness, patience, and hope onward into what the Lord has for us. Join me in praying to those ends.
Third, we are stepping into a new phase of parenting. It’s trite and I often hated hearing it, but they do “grow up so fast”. Parenting for us has (nearly and fully) transitioned from relationships of control and indoctrination to relationships of influence and investment. This is both exciting and…well, a little intimidating. This time away will allow for us to more intentionally seek the Lord in how best to adjust to our new phase in ways that allow us to be more effective ambassadors for Christ to our children. Pray for us as we take time to consider these things in our souls, in our schedules, and in our home. Halli heads off to Wright State in the fall (she will commute but may stay with grandparents in Clayton through the week some) and Rhett (if his college/baseball schedule holds) may only be ‘home’ for 2 months in 2019. Absolute.Craziness. Becky and I hope to use the time to begin to set new rhythms of “normal life” that mesh her (and my) full-time work schedules together to the end of capitalizing on our days together in more intentional ways that can set new patterns for us going forward. I plan to design (some) of the days she works and we will use the other days to just enjoy each other, be it in travel or folding laundry.
And lastly, travel. The break will allow us to travel to watch Rhett play baseball in Florida (our happy place) during his first season as a college athlete. We plan to head out west to CA to attend a nephew’s wedding in April and while there reconnect with many friends there that I’ve not seen in over 10 years. We have a quiet place arranged to stay at while in Florida, as well as in California (through some very, very gracious friends) that will allow for extended periods of quiet…and when in town, plan to conduct our days at a much slower pace…which we also hope to carry on into future ministry and life. All of this, even though we will miss you terribly, thrill us and make us excited for how the Lord will bless the time you’ve given us. Thank you.
We praise God for you when He brings you to mind…which is often.
What is Grace going to do during the sabbatical?
Adjust: Lori Palmer will take on much of what Marshall currently does in the week-to-week, and use the time of him being gone to plan ways to keep it off his plate when he returns. Lori was hired with the intention of her being more “executive” in role rather than “administrative”. She has proven very capable and we are excited to see how the Lord will use the sabbatical period to grow her in the ability to transition from “leading herself” in admin to “leading others” in it. Danny has invited other elders and local pastors to preach so that he is a bit more freed up to minister to those that need it. He plans to preach about 50% of the Sundays instead of the more normal 75%. This gap will allow him to be more present with the ministry needs that come up along the way.
How can we pray during the Sabbatical?
Marshall and Becky: Pray that their schedule (and their souls) allow for rhythmic periods of intentional rest for the purposes of understanding themselves and knowing their God more deeply. Pray for safety as they travel. Pray for the ability to “be all there” where they are, and when they return, to “be all here”.
Grace Church: Pray that we feel the difference of the Gipes being gone, and respond in life-giving ways when things feel different. Pray for discernment and energy for Danny and Lori as they work together as a “skeleton staff” during the weeks of sabbatical.