Time for a Radical Sabbatical
About the Guest
Are you feeling overwhelmed with busyness? If so, you'll want to hear about the radical steps one over-extended mother took to step out of the rat race and refocus on her family. Author Joanne Kraft talks about some of the fun family field trips they took and her favorite family memories from their relaxing and rejuvenating year off.
Are you feeling overwhelmed with busyness? If so, you’ll want to hear about the radical steps one over-extended mother took to step out of the rat race and refocus on her family.
Time for a Radical Sabbatical
Bob: When Joanne Kraft’s family had a head-on collision with busyness, they decided to try a twelve-month experiment where they unplugged from all their extracurricular activities each month—well, almost all of them.
Joanne: What made it a little bit easier, and helped the detox time, is that we told the kids, when we sat down with them on that day: “What we’re going to do is—every month, we’re going to set aside one day on the weekend; and we’re going to plan a trip. We’re going to do something, as a family, with intention; and everybody’s going to get a chance to choose their field trip—their family field trip.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, April 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today about some of the Kraft family field trips and about their year-long radical sabbatical. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. Did you read the acronym that Joanne Kraft included in her book—the acronym for “BUSY”?
Dennis: I did; I did. I think it would be good if she shared it with moms, right off the bat. Joanne—welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Joanne: Thank you so much for having me.
Dennis: She’s a busy mom of four kids.
Bob: You had better not call her busy, given what that acronym—[Laughter]
Dennis: Well, she is still busy. I mean, I don’t think just because she called a sabbatical for a year and did nothing with her kids except build into their lives and also write a book called Just Too Busy: Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical. Now, explain what BUSY—“B” “U” “S” “Y”— stands for.
Joanne: Burdened Under Satan’s Yoke.
Dennis: Say it again.
Joanne: Burdened Under Satan’s Yoke.
Bob: Now that sounds a little harsh.
Joanne: It’s pretty harsh; isn’t it?
Joanne: Wow! My girlfriend showed that to me; and I thought: “Wow! Thanks a lot. I don’t want to take your call next time.” [Laughter]
Bob: But you felt a little bit of that; right?
Joanne: Most definitely. It’s from the Scriptures. God says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. When we’re in a family situation, as it is, it’s busy. But when it starts to feel like you’re in captivity to it—when you’re in the captivity of activity—then there is bondage and something is wrong.
Bob: You already shared with our listeners about the year-long radical sabbatical that you took, where anything that involved an extra trip for Mom was off limits for the kids.
Bob: I’m just curious: “What did you do?” I mean, as soon as you pared away all of the stuff that you were used to doing, I see the family sitting around watching a lot of TV or saying, “I’m bored.”
Joanne: Well, if the children say they’re bored, my husband tells them they’re bored because they’re boring and he hands them a broom. [Laughter] So, they didn’t say that too much—I’m joking.
The kids—what surprised me the most and what was most surprising about how this book came about was—though the “radical sabbatical” gets top billing as the topic, it’s really only a few chapters in my book.
What happened was that, once you took away the busyness, you got to get to the deep part of the family. You got to get to those places that I was able to—really—I just think it was a refocus. It was taking my face and focusing it back on the most precious people in my life. At the time, our kids were, I believe, between the ages of kindergarten and sophomore in high school. That brevity of time with our children was drawing to a finish line, especially with our oldest. We thought, “This is our only time that we have.”
My husband and I shared with the kids: “We want to make this time matter. We want to be as strong together now as we’re going to be later. We want to focus on us, as a family.”
Bob: So what did that look like?
Joanne: What happened was that the kids had school and they would come home. We actually talked / we actually did homework at a normal time. I wasn’t doing homework after a practice or rushing around.
We actually had communication—there was relationship going on.
Dennis: Family meals showed up again?
Joanne: Family meals—“Amen and hallelujah!” my kids would say.
Dennis: And what did you do at the family dinner table? Because, seriously, I think some moms have so lost the wonder of a meal together because of activity. They don’t know what they would do with the time if they had it.
Joanne: Well, you know, it’s interesting about meals as well—is that, not only are people having a hard time sitting around a kitchen table—and every family is going to struggle with it—we still have to commit to doing that. What’s interesting now is—people have meals, sometimes, around the TV. So, not only are you having meals, but you’re being distracted by this white noise; and you’re not able to focus on your kids or your husband.
What we did is—we talked, as a family. We talked about the day. It’s really amazing how God created us actually to have relationship; you know?
Joanne: And how He created it to happen organically. We actually would start talking about something; and we would bring up an old memory, or we would talk about relatives, or family, or what’s coming up. It was life, as it should be.
Bob: Was there a withdrawal period? I mean, I’m wondering if: “Week one of the radical sabbatical—was everybody having to detox from what they’d been doing?”
Joanne: Well, one of the things we did with our radical sabbatical—and, actually, our pastor coined that term, which is funny because I told him, “We’re just taking a break,”— is what I said; and he said, “Oh, you’re taking a radical sabbatical.” The word radical means “extreme” but it also means “revolutionary.”
Joanne: Okay. What made it a little bit easier, and helped the detox time, is—we told the kids, when we sat down with them on that day: “What we’re going to do is—every month, we’re going to set aside one day on the weekend; and we’re going to plan a trip. We’re going to do something, as a family, with intention; and everybody’s going to get a chance to choose their field trip—their family field trip.”
I write in my book that I don’t like field trips. I didn’t like being the field trip mom—sorry if that’s blasphemy—I did it. I love my children greatly; but, to me, it was like [Sounding wearisome]: “Oh, a field trip?! I have to go on a field trip?”
Dennis: But did that change in the midst of your sabbatical?
Joanne: Well, what was interesting was—with the kids—each month, when we chose a family field trip, I actually enjoyed getting together and doing those things, as a family. I always loved it with my family—I just didn’t want to go take care of somebody else’s children on a field trip.
Bob: Now, when you talk about a field trip—if one of the kids said, “I want to go to Maui!” That wasn’t on the—did somebody say that? [Laughter]
Joanne: I think you’re giving them ideas now because they’re listening to you. Thanks a lot, Bob!
Dennis: I see Grace in there—she’s pounding the table for Maui. [Laughter]
Joanne: That’s usually Samuel’s choice.
Bob: No, but was this a tour of the local dairy or what did you do for your field trips?
Joanne: Okay. What happened was—this was where I realized how ingrained our busy—this universal epidemic of busyness is, even when we chose to do something together.
Let me tell you what we did. We let Grace—since January was her birthday month—let her choose the field trip for January. January’s field trip was—we went on a picnic, we went ice skating, we went to a matinee, we went to the boutique. It was ridiculous!—we were running!
Bob: Cram as much into the day as you can.
Joanne: That mom-guilt again.
Joanne: It was incredible! It took us a while to detox from even our good stuff was over-the-top and ridiculous!
Dennis: Still cramming too much in.
Joanne: Cramming too much in, but you know what the real breakthrough moment was for me? It was in the spring when it was my turn to choose the family field trip. I went to write down on the calendar, “Daffodil Hill.” Now, anybody, from the Northern California area, will recognize Daffodil Hill as a farm where 300,000 tulip and daffodil bulbs explode for their two weeks of glory—that’s really it! When my kids saw me write, “Daffodil Hill,” it was not their top destination choice for the trip of the month. They started to say, “Oh, no!—not Daffodil Hill!”
Then I had a flashback—I remembered, as a child, vacations weren’t common in our home—we didn’t have a lot of money. I was the oldest of four. So, when rumor had it that a vacation was going to happen, I decided to help my parents out and tell my younger siblings we were going to Disneyland.
We didn’t go to Disneyland. [Laughter] When our nine-passenger, wood-paneled station wagon arrived in front of a lumber mill for a tour and in front of a fish hatchery, I thought I would die—I did. Years later, our family splurged and took us to Disneyland. You know, as adults, we siblings laugh—we don’t remember anything about Disneyland—we remember the fish hatchery.
Joanne: We remember the lumber mill. So, I kept Daffodil Hill down—I did that.
Dennis: What’s your favorite memory from Daffodil Hill—if you could just give a snapshot of one scene from that time?
Joanne: It would be putting my children—having them all sit amongst the daffodils and the horrible looks on their faces, like they were eating worms, as I took a picture.
Dennis: Yes! I figured it had to do with taking a picture [Laughter] because we did the same thing.
I wanted to go back to kind of the start of the year and just ask you a question about you and Paul:
“Did you guys have a planning session for your year, where you kind of sat down and said, ‘What would we like to really accomplish out of this, in terms of experiences / way to go about this?’” Were you intentional from the very start, or did that intentionality happen more over the months as it unfolded?
Joanne: I believe that, in the beginning, it was more of a sporadic: “Let’s just do this. We need something different.” Then, I think, it happened gradually, as we started to see and unfold the areas that were changing—like our kids. My teen-aged daughter, Meghan—you can imagine, as a sophomore in high school—your children really don’t want to hang out with you too much!
Joanne: I mean, they’ll climb over your dead body to get to their girlfriends. They don’t want to be with you that much.
Joanne: What I realized, by the end of the year, when it was Meghan’s choice for a field trip, I asked her. I was all ready to say, “No,” thinking she’s going to want to go to Maui—
Joanne: —or she’s going to want—
—she said, “Mom, how about if we just hang out all day today on my day and stay in our pajamas all day and watch movies?” That’s huge for a parent of a teenager!
Bob: Yes; yes.
Joanne: There wasn’t any pushback by that time—she wanted to hang out with us. That was huge for me.
Bob: Dennis already asked you to kind of bottom-line what the benefit of this year was—you said it was in relationships—but, along the way, there were some surprising, unexpected God-moments. Something happened with your son, David—that was unexpected; right?
Joanne: Right—with David. We have some friends from Australia, and they came for a visit. They asked us if David could be the jackaroo on their sheep ranch—their 3,000-acre property in Australia. I mean, they’re Australian—it’s “jackaroo” and “mate.” They’re the most precious people you ever want to meet.
David was so excited. He said, “Oh, Mom and Dad, can I go to Australia?” My husband said, “Well, how much does it cost?”
David said: “Well, it is $1,000 for my ticket. It’s $200 for my passport. Dad, can you pay for that?” My husband looked at him and he said: “You know what, son? I can pay for that, but I’m not going to pay for that. That’s between you and the Lord.” David said: “But Dad, I’m only 15! How am I going to earn money to go?”
I was thinking, as a mom, because fear robs our kids so often—as a parent, I’m thinking: “Ha ha! You’re not going,” because I don’t want my son to travel across the world without me. My son, that summer, decided to start refereeing soccer games—this was the year after our sabbatical. He earned enough money to buy his passport. He bought a pig for the FFA program at his high school. He—I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a pig auction?
Dennis: Not recently. [Laughter]
Joanne: They are pretty fun. I had no idea they were so exciting. My son had to earn enough on his pig—
Dennis: Well now, wait—why are they exciting? I’ve got to ask that.
Joanne: Oh, my goodness. They’re exciting because you’re auctioning them off—
—you’re auctioning—basically, the county comes together. It’s a way for the county to support the kids and the programs. It’s so exciting! Have you ever seen a rabbit sell for $800?—that’s exciting!
Dennis: I would think it would be!
Bob: To the owner of the rabbit, particularly. [Laughter]
Joanne: The kids are happy.
Joanne: Anyway, my son had to earn so much money. We knew how much he had to make in order to buy his ticket. He had named his pig Australia. When we get there, there were 13 of our family waiting in the seats there. I’m waving at my friends—my husband was having a heart attack because he was thinking I was waving and the auctioneer is going to count it—
Bob: To take your bid. [Laughter]
Joanne: —yes—and we’re going to buy a $5,000 sheep.
My son gets up there. He got third-place pig in the whole fair, which was so awesome for his first time. He needed—I think the first-place pig made $350—David needed to make at least that. We thought, “Well, there’s no way our son’s going to make $350 because—
Bob: He’s third place.
Dennis: Sure, sure.
Joanne: —yes—“he’s third place.” How sad! Poor guy isn’t going to Australia.
They did it—they auctioned it off—$400—the gavel came crashing down. Our son flew to Australia. His plane landed in Brisbane, Australia, where he got to be a jackaroo. I tell this story, when I share with parents at conferences or at women’s conferences, about entitlement and how we are robbing from our children.
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Joanne: We’re stealing opportunities. We’re really strangling the Holy Spirit because how do we expect to raise independent, God-honoring, hard-working children if we don’t allow them those opportunities? We can’t expect our kids to want to lean on God if they’re not doing it now.
Dennis: That’s some serious bacon—that’s all I can say. [Laughter] That must have been some really good bacon!
Joanne: We steal from our kids. I’ll tell you what was kind of interesting—we get to the San Francisco airport. My son was getting ready to get on the plane. Every single person there, I believed, was a terrorist—you couldn’t tell me differently. [Laughter] The cute little Swedish grandmother, with a bun—she had a shoe bomb—I knew it! My husband took my son aside. He touched his eyes, and he touched his mouth, and he touched his heart—he said, “Keep them holy, son.”
Dennis: That’s cool. That’s cool.
Bob: You invited your oldest two kids—your son and your daughter—to add a chapter to this book and they didn’t. They fell through on the deal; right?
Joanne: You share everything I’m telling you; aren’t you? [Laughter]
Dennis: But your daughter, Meghan, wrote you a letter.
Joanne: Yes, she did.
Bob: Read for our listeners what Meghan had to say about the radical sabbatical and her reflection on it.
Joanne: Yes. I did ask both of my children because I wanted to give parents a true glimpse into our life: “How many kids really were interested in doing this?” It wasn’t perfect—my son didn’t enjoy it. He wasn’t happy he was taken off of the pitching mound. I didn’t want to edit it, but parts of it I did because she shares the truth to me in this letter. She says:
Dear Mom, it’s early in the morning as I reach back into my own memory, bringing forth our radical sabbatical into lessons I learned so long ago. It was New Year’s Eve and I was ecstatic to be with family friends rather than staying home, which promised a much earlier bedtime. While I was engaging myself with friends, you began to concoct an idea that was to begin in a mere couple of hours. I was oblivious to your thoughts as you received support from Dad, felt questioning from yourself, and set your mind to twist our lives around.
But truthfully, Mom, if I knew your radical plan, I probably wouldn’t have thought much about it because early on New Year’s Day, when you and Dad called a family meeting, after our devotion, I thought this was another of your little phases—like the lemonade stand you painted and we used once, or the move we were going to make to Texas, or the family trip we were supposed to take to Washington, DC, that never materialized. I wasn’t worried.
Yes, this was a phase. You would break down in the spring, when we signed up for soccer. There was no way you were going to cut my weekly singing lessons—you were Mom—the nice one!
We went to you with cut knees and broken little hearts. You made yummy dinners and talked to Dad in the late hours of the night if he was too hard on us. Yet, somehow, your creative mind, usually used for good, warped with exhaustion and spun out your radical sabbatical.
You didn’t change your mind. We learned that extremely fast; and our activities, as a family, changed quickly. Our ice skating escapade was an exhausting, expensive wreck. We suffered through Daffodil Hill. However, we also turned our fingers all colors of purple and blue as we picked berries. We had movie nights, filled with laughter, and long car rides discovering the town we grew up in. I found out that Dad was pretty funny and I wouldn’t die if my hand brushed my brother David’s in the car. I learned sharing drinks with my siblings wasn’t poisonous and school friends weren’t always the best.
I find it funny that my hardest year in high school was the year of the radical sabbatical. I cried for the first time at school after the experience of a fire-spitting bully. I found myself with an overwhelming crush on a boy who simply liked the idea of being liked, and I lost my best girlfriend to a young man she found more important than me.
I think that during our sabbatical year, you held me more than you had in quite a while, allowing your arms to run with hot tears and shirts to soak with salty heartbreak.
Now, that I think about it, our year-long sabbatical experiment not only taught me about being too busy, but about my mom. I was no longer too busy—but now I had time to see who you really were. As a parent, you have had an immeasurable impact on me. Not only do I look like you and make your facial expressions, but I dream like you and think like you.
Your lessons spanning from simple childhood “Do this,” and “Don’t do that,” of stealing and sharing, or how to treat others who are different than me with the love of God and form honoring relationships have stuck with me. Each tidbit of advice from sidelong whispers to messages on Facebook has glued themselves to my psyche. Your words have never died in my heart. If I disagree or disobey, they are still there, sticking like sharp pangs and hot needles.
Now, Mom, your words get to affect others. The advice I get for free is going to have a price tag on it and sit on a shelf. I am so proud of you and that I get to call you “Mom.” Your life has taught me so much and helped create the person I am now. I might struggle and give in to the urges of the young, but you’re always somewhere in my mind. You’ve done well, if I do say so myself.
Our sabbatical taught me I can enjoy my life rather than allow busyness to drive it away. Thank you for giving me this lesson so young. I will, one day, be able to love my husband and spend time with my children and be able to guard myself from being painfully selfish.
If you knew the way I felt about you then and the way I feel about you now, I am sure you would be encouraged. I remember telling people that, if I had only one child, I wanted a girl. You know why? Because I wanted to be a mom—a confidante—to someone in the same way you were to me. One of my biggest dreams is to be like you. Love, Meghan.
Dennis: Not bad for a 15-year-old—not bad.
Joanne: I hope this gives parents encouragement because she shares that if I knew how she thought about me then—our home is not perfect, our children are not perfect, their parents are not perfect.
Joanne: But you know what? I really hope I encourage parents to hold onto the reins—that if they know they’re doing the God-honoring thing—turning their focus on their family, and on their children, and their time to their husbands and their kids—God honors that.
Dennis: He does. As you were talking there, I couldn’t help but think—and we don’t think of this passage being for a mother/daughter. It was actually the Apostle Paul writing a letter to his spiritual son, Timothy.
He said: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
That’s a father’s heart / it could be a mom’s heart too—of running the race well and passing the baton to the next generation. It really sounds like Meghan got it. You did do a good job, Joanne. I appreciate you being on the broadcast.
Joanne: Thank you.
Bob: And I appreciate you sharing with, not just our listeners, but with readers about your year-long sabbatical in the book you’ve written called Just Too Busy, which is a book that we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. I’m guessing a lot of our listeners are going to want to get a copy of the book just to hear about your experiences and to see what you guys did. There’s some humor in this book too. I think you’ll enjoy reading the book called Just Too Busy: Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical by Joanne Kraft.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You can get a copy of the book from us, online. Again, the website is: FamilyLifeToday.com; or call, toll-free—1-800-FL-TODAY is the number—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.” Ask about Joanne Kraft’s book, Just Too Busy,when you get in touch with us. You might review some of the other resources we have to help you promote family togetherness—some of the things we’ve put together so that families can do more things together rather than just going our separate ways.
Again, you’ll find those resources at FamilyLifeToday.com.
You know, our conversation today has really been about priorities. In a real sense, that’s what our conversation is about every day, here on FamilyLife Today: “How do we make God’s purposes our priority?”
We believe that marriage and family is central to God’s plan for His people. That’s why we want to focus on how we can more effectively love and serve one another in our families—how we can represent Christ and be Christ to one another, as husbands and wives and as moms and dads. I know for me, I need the regular input that challenges me to walk in the Spirit instead of walking in the flesh in my marriage and in my family. We hope that this time together, each day, is providing that for you.
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And we hope you have a great weekend. We hope you and your family are able to worship together in church this weekend; and I hope you can join us back on Monday when our friend, Gary Thomas, is going to be here. We’re going to talk about what it takes for a marriage to go all the way to the finish line with joy. How do we have a lifelong love? We’ll talk about that Monday. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today
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