I came close to murder. Blinded as I was by brown brittle branches, I didn’t see any signs of life. Thus, I reached for a shovel and gloves, ready to rip its lifeless form from the fallow ground.

But when I pushed the mulch away to get a better grip, I noticed tiny green shoots pushing up from the earth.

“It’s alive!”

I called to my husband. He’d planted the shrub a year or two before when he’d built a sprawling patio and fire pit for sweet summer nights. But the bushes never seemed to take hold. Life was too much work. Thus, after two seasons of struggle, it gave up the fight.

So I thought. A closer inspection revealed a tenacity I’d missed.

“Let’s water it like crazy and see if it’ll take hold,” my husband said.

Nodding, I got to work. Cleaned away debris, gave it food, showered it with a soft downpour of water. Moments before I was ready to chuck it in the trash. Now it was an object of affection. For the rest of the day, I kept my eye on it, as if in the minutes since its resurrection I’d be rewarded with shoots of new growth.

Of course, I know better than that.

Life takes both tenderness and time, back-breaking effort and ruthless rest.

I’ve always made it a point to be straight-up honest with you, friends. Long before book contracts and travel became part of my daily reality, you’ve been my people. The faithful blog readers who endured my musings and, then, shared your own intimate stories. You have provided comfort and companionship more often than you know.

This is why I’m sitting cross-legged and bare-hearted before you today. Because I need to tell you something, something that matters for both of us.

I need rest.

Not a nap or a weekend away. I need a full season of quiet, a season void of deadlines and demands and endless expectations.

Thus, like last summer, I’m taking a two-month sabbatical. No social media, no blogging, no new projects or engagements or task lists. Instead, I’m slowing my schedule, quieting my soul and learning, once again, to be still. And listen.

I’m withdrawing not because I don’t want to write, but because I do. I cannot coax life from a shallow piece of neglected earth. Instead, my heart and mind and spirit need water and food and sunshine and rest.

In three years time I’ve written two books, conquered two bouts of cancer, buried my dad, and launched a third boy into adulthood, not to mention mothering three little ones with additional challenges. These are simply the big things, not to mention the daily rigors of ordinary life.

And I’ll tell you something we both need to hear:

If you and I don’t nurse the tender green shoots that remain today, there will be nothing of life left tomorrow.

Somewhere in the past few decades, we’ve lost sight of this. We’ve bought into the American “More is More” mentality. One that drives us toward metrics that move up. We want bigger email lists, better sales numbers, crushing Amazon ranks, and social media statistics that make others swoon. If percentages start to slip, we double, triple, quadruple our efforts until the graph of our existence resumes its upward climb.

In the process, the branches of the soul have turned brown and brittle. By all appearances, there is nothing of life left, and many are losing their souls. 

I’m not willing to do that. The cost is far too high.

How about you? Is your soul in need of care?

I can’t answer that for you. Nor can I tell you when or how you need to nurture it. You must—must—discern that for yourself. But let’s not neglect what nature already knows:

Winter is just as productive as spring, the fallow ground just as rich as the green.

Life requires an ongoing cycle of seasons. A tree can’t exist in constant spring. It also requires summer, fall and winter. 

In spite of our infatuation with busyness, fallow ground is holy ground. When we grow quiet, dig into the deeper earth of life’s meaning and purpose, we allow the barren, broken and untended parts of ourselves a chance to renew. It is in the fallow moments—not the frantic ones—that we discover green shoots in places we thought beyond resurrection.

And when we offer fallow ground to the Living God, life happens.

Extraordinary life. Uncommon life. Holy life.

That’s what I want, what I’m praying for. For me. And for you.

[reminder]Much like the brown branches of our struggling shrub, we can often see clues of our soul’s struggle to thrive. What are some of the signs that tell you its time to withdraw, rest or invest in nurturing your soul? [/reminder]

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