Beyond Wood and Stone

Rev. Elisabeth's Cedar Park Blog site

Sabbatical Journal

The latest entries are just below. My Sabbatical Journal for each of the previous weeks can be found each on their own page.   You’ll note that the ‘travelog’ is over, as I have now taken up residence in my home study, where between pages on midrashic imagination, I muse on various topics, and post some of them to this blog. Enjoy!

Day 96: Saturday December 16

Perhaps it’s an appropriate activity to do on my last ‘secular Saturday’; a clear out of boxes and clutter in the basement!  One reason is that the data files for the thesis must be stored for three years!(American academic bureaucracy is a weird and not so wonderful thing!) Most of it is on a flash drive, but there are paper copies of some materials, and now I need to cherish them like receipts for a potential CRA audit.

This has also been a week of taking care of medical business, the stuff of which you do not need to read, but can guess!!! The eyes? Lots of eye drops and strictly rationed screen time for the next week, but otherwise fine!

I had intended to write something profound for this the penultimate entry, but frankly, my brain is caught between post- thesis mental lassitude, and anticipation of “re-entry” tomorrow.   What I shall confess to those of you reading this: I am more of an introvert than my pastoral occupation might have most people assume.  I have indeed missed the community – a lot –  but I have not tired yet, after 13 weeks, of the solitariness of this Sabbatical time.  My soul, body and mind have thrived in the contemplative elements of this time, and my challenge will be how to bring some of that back with me into the bustle and busyness of this very active congregation for all our sakes.

Day 94:  Thursday December 14

Ooops!  Not a moment too soon, as they say.  I ventured back to the computer screen on Tuesday, and my eyes were not happy.  Tried again today, and the same thing.  Off to the ophthalmologist in the morning.  I’m guessing just strain, but wise to be sure!

Day 93: Tuesday December 12

That’s the first time in I don’t know how long, that I have not sat at my laptop for over 72 hours

There is a snowy, cold world out there!!  I enjoyed the snow day on Tuesday, because unlike so many of you, I had no where I had to be!  Making mince pies, and ginger cake, just because it smells so good on a cold day! There is rich grace in this, to know that in a week’s time, I will indeed have places to be again.  Time is certainly a wrinkled, curious thing.

Day 92: Monday December 11

Celebrating the birthday of one of our children today,  with a simple lunch and reminiscing. Such simple pleasures, not marred by the amazing organized (i hope!) chaos that is the Turcot yards! If they get all those roads to reconnect with one another in a couple of years, it will be little less than a miracle.

Day 90: Saturday December 9

DONE!!!!!  That’s it. Just that. Done.

I am off to listen to Ceremony of Carols, and I can’t think of a better way to close this phase of writing than to shut the computer, and listen to Britten’s amazing choral work, a glimmer of holiness, light and hope in a war-darkened world (that was when he composed the piece).  Please forgive in advance, the silence for the next few days on the journal.  I’ll be back mid week next week.

Day 86- 87

Writing, piling books. Eye breaks. Tea breaks. Writing.  I think Norman is somewhere in the house, but the poor man is a thesis widower! Spare a kind thought for this long-suffering spouse who has been so unwaveringly supportive.

Day 85:  Whatever day it is. (I don’t even know if I’m counting right!!!)

Whoever thought “Literature Reviews” were a good idea,…  I have opinions….. no, yes, none of that is printable!  And to think, when I was in academic ministry, I used to  enjoy writing book reviews.  I’m over that, so over it!  A quick look at the study floor, it looks like my bookshelf had a gastric upset!!  I have had serious doubts that I can pull off this accelerated completion rate, and today nearly undid me completely, but the best revenge is success, right?  Tomorrow we climb a little closer to the summit…..

Day 83: Sunday Dec 3

Sundays are the days when I feel most keenly my own absence from the community which nourishes my own faith.  I’ve also noticed how easy it is for that morning to be filled up with other things… long gone are those days when Sunday mornings were empty of other public options… Now all sorts of activities beckon!  So my hat goes off, and my heart goes out to all of you who choose to shape your weekends to include  worship in community – whether you do that weekly, or monthly, or even rarely.   Sunday blessings to you all.

Day 80: Thursday November 30

Back to the desk indeed, with the smell of Christmas baking still lingering from yesterday’s baking marathon.  And a shift of gears to write what is arguably the kernel of this thesis: just what is a midrashic biblical imagination?  This is the second chapter of the thesis, but I saved it to close to the end, because I truly wanted to let the experiences we’ve had as a community shape my answer to that question, and those experiences are recorded in later chapters,… which I wrote first.   I think I’ve said it here before;  I much prefer to be creating midrash than writing about creating it, but I am actually looking forward – a bit – to writing this now.  In a nutshell: midrashic biblical imagination approaches the Biblical text with curiosity and openness to multiple possible understandings of a text.  It trusts that when this ancient text meets each new generation or geographical context, new meanings emerge.  And the sign of a good midrash?  Do you have yet more questions, more curiosity than you started with? If the answer is “yes” that’s a GOOD thing!

Day 79: Wednesday November 29

One of the distinct gifts of a sabbatical is that you have a wide open schedule. So today, it was possible to set aside the prepping for the penultimate chapter in favour of introducing the newest grandson to the smells of Christmas baking. Sarah, our daughter, is the keeper of family traditions, especially around Christmas, so, despite the face that none of us need the extra calories, a Christmas Cake (traditional British DARK fruit cake) must be baked,  puddings must be steamed, and pastry prepared for the butter tarts and mince tarts.  I don’t think I’ve done this in November since, well since Sarah was herself a small child! (Certainly not while being Minister at CPU!!)

Once again, and for yet another reason, I am grateful for Sabbatical time!  Tomorrow it will be back to the writing desk!

Day 77: Monday November 27

Another day, and another chapter is being proof-read one more time before being sent off for review.  There was a week, back at the beginning of November when I despaired of the tight agenda I had set myself to complete this work before returning in mid December.  There’s still a lot that could get derailed, and a lot of “rear in seat, door shut” ahead, but that week’s  despair is replaced by a hopeful determination.   Not a bad way to move into the Season of Advent, which is one of “preparation”, not the passivity of a waiting room.



  1. I filled out a long comment to your blogs entries. I followed the instructions when I did not do the anti-spam word correctly. I filled out the anti-spam word again. My original comment seems to have disappeared. I cannot fill it out again. Sorry that this has ended up as a complaint which was not my intent.
    I had enjoyed your blog entries very much.

  2. erjones

    September 23, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Hi Jeanne,
    Sorry for the frustrating experience with the comment box. Glad you’re enjoying reading the journal.

  3. Going home yet still being away from home—you describe that familiar paradox well. Enjoy all that tea!

  4. Wonderful to be able to share your journey with you.

  5. Thinking of you as you journey. May your time bring you joy, and many blessings. Denise & Billboy

  6. Renate Sutherland

    October 6, 2017 at 10:39 am

    I am following your blog of your Sabbatical with great interest.
    Thank you for sharing your personal reflections. Take care and enjoy your journey.

  7. Hi Elisabeth, Did not see the reply space before so here goes! Just love following your journey of rest and renewal. Also really miss you so it is a good “fix”. So happy you are back with your sweetie in beautiful Devon. We will drink a toast to you tonight at the first theatre evening. Hugs, Lynn.

  8. Ah, que c’est beau! Bonne écriture, Madame…

  9. I marvel that you have the discipline to write in the midst of the distracting beauty!

  10. erjones

    October 11, 2017 at 3:46 pm

    Indeed! Trying to keep the surround undoing beauty as inspiration, not distraction!

  11. Since you’re that close to Avignon, if you get a chance, spend an overnight in Aigues-Mort (Louis XIV first Meditteranean port) the walled city where the bull reigns – no butter or milk because the cows only have enough milk for the calves. It’s all imported from the north & the bull kebabs are really good. The wine is terrible as the “soil” is salty sand.

  12. Such magnificent photos and your descriptions are so inspiring and thoughtful. Smiled when you sang “Sur le pont D’Avignon”. I love reading about your journey /pilgrimage. Thank you for sharing.

  13. No small amount of envy over here! Taking notes in hope of following in your footsteps.

    Whilst cycling about running last minute errands this afternoon, I found myself taking a detour via Chemin des Avions, and found myself singing, you guessed it, “sur le chemin d’avions, on y danse…”.

  14. Bonne chasse aux mots (now there’s a cool-sounding sport…)!

  15. I am enjoying your posts and the photos. it sounds like heaven on earth, so glad you were not involved in the multi car accident.

  16. Glad you are taking the time to breath in all those scents, tastes and sounds. Love reading your posts; Lourmarin sounds like a place to put on the “must visit” bucket list.

  17. Hi Elisabeth
    I have enjoyed your Facebook photos immensely. Europe is heavenly.
    I can relate to the coldness of McLennan and feel for you having to work on GREEN PLASTIC Chairs???!!! Ouch.
    I wonder that McGill chose to add the Brutalistic Architecture to their previously beautiful campus.
    know you are missed. I can’t wait for you to share your new found insights from these months of study.

  18. I saw some of that “Protestants won” stuff and it made me really, really uncomfortable. I think the talk of religious traditions “winning” or “losing” Is the farthest thing from helpful—especially today. Thanks for sharing your reflection on this.

  19. It’s a month before Christmas! I want to let you know my week does not feel complete until I have read your blog , every Friday afternoon or evening. It’s a very peaceful way to wrap up the busy week. Thank you for sharing your stories for it benefits the soul. (And I just looked up your name day, St. Elisabeth of Hungary).

  20. erjones

    November 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Joanne, Thank you for this note of encouragement!

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