My husband and I both tend to be extreme people.
When we realized technology was playing too big of a role in our lives, we turned it off for thirty days.
When we wanted to eat healthier we removed ALL sugar, grains, dairy, and legumes from our diet for another thirty days.
When my husband felt like God wanted us to leave our job in the US in youth ministry and work overseas, he went in the next day and gave his boss his six-week notice with no idea of where our future income would come from. He just knew God wanted him to act so he did…immediately. (We did talk about it first, and I was onboard. I was scared out of my mind, but onboard!)
When we feel like we need to make a change, we tend to jump all-in and go extreme.
Usually, I love to blame my husband for our extreme actions. I always say he just jumps off cliffs when rational people are naturally afraid to even get close to the edge. But this most recent extreme jump began as my idea. It was a decision that came from a deep longing in my soul.
I felt as if my life was busy. My life was becoming chaotic. I felt overwhelmed.
I know I’m not alone. These are all words I hear many moms use to describe their life. Sometimes these words are used as badges of honor. The speaker claims to love this crazy life and wouldn’t change it for the world. Other times these words are cries for help from a life they feel they are drowning in.
I was part of the last group. My heart wanted to love this life I was living. I knew looking at my life from an outside, objective view, I had so much to love. But standing in the middle of my life I felt out of shape, out of energy, and out of control. I felt like I needed a change that was too big to make and I was just stuck. My life was full of a lot of good stuff, but it lacked passion and drive.
I felt like we needed to do something extreme.
So our family began to practice Sabbath. When I say that, this is what I mean: we set twenty-four consecutive hours aside to stop working and focus our life on rest and worship.
I realize that this concept is pretty foreign in today’s society. I think the best and clearest way to explain why we have chosen to do this, is to give you a glimpse into what Sabbath looks like in our home. But before I tell you what Sabbath looks like for us, I want to be clear about something:
Sabbath is not about rules, Sabbath is all about freedom.
When I share what our family does or does not do on a certain day, it is not to create a list of rules other people should follow. I tell you all this in hopes of inspiring you to find what creates rest and worship in your life, and that you would pursue it with passion.
With all that said, this is how we Sabbath:
We choose to Sabbath on Sunday.
There were not a lot of factors that went into this decision. Basically we wanted to celebrate Sabbath as a family and the kids are in school Monday through Friday, Saturdays usually included parties, church events or a lot of work preparing for Sunday, so the decision for Sabbath on Sunday was easy in our home.
Our entire family participates in preparing for Sabbath.
Not only do Brian and I appreciate a clean house, but we relax better in a clean and tidy atmosphere. However, there is no cleaning on Sabbath. So the preparations begin on Saturday evening. Either when we finish eating dinner or when we get home from being out, we send the kids to their playroom to clean while we get our home in order by cleaning up the common areas and doing a quick vacuum. Hopefully the house isn’t too trashed and this doesn’t take too long, but sometimes it does. That’s life.
Next we move on to the kitchen. Brian fries up bacon and sausage and preps the breakfast casserole for the next morning while I marinate meat or do whatever is involved in prepping lunch for the next day. Usually we finish this up around bedtime for the kids.
We make sure they are excited for the next day. After a few months of practicing Sabbath, we don’t have to really get them excited—a day of no cleaning and lots of family time is exciting on it’s own! It is at this point that we tell them their Sabbath is beginning. We read together, pray together and tuck them in. Again, this is on an ideal Saturday evening, it’s not always that picture perfect.
We might have a few more things to finish up before Brian and I are ready to begin Sabbath.
If I like taking a break from one thing on Sabbath, it’s laundry! So I make sure the kid’s school uniforms are ready for Monday morning. I don’t let myself make lists or even look at my planner on Sabbath so I will try to look over my calendar for the coming week and make any notes of things I need to know for Monday morning. At a certain point Saturday night, I will completely close down my computer, shut my planner and empty my desk. The house is clean, my mind is at ease, and I am ready to Sabbath.
Brian and I often enjoy ending the night reading or watching a sitcom on Netflix. When we first began practicing Sabbath, I was going to be a stickler about a “no technology” rule. As I said earlier, Sabbath should be governed by freedom, not rules. I have since abandoned all strict rules except one (more about that later) and we occasionally use technology (actually I find it is way more useful to limit social media through the week when I am getting work done and then to enjoy it on Sabbath than the other way around.)
On Sabbath morning, I don’t sleep in. I am a morning person. I believe my best hours are in the morning and I hate to miss them, especially on Sabbath. Brian and I both get up and one of us gets the breakfast casserole in the oven. After this I get a cup of coffee and my bible and spend some time reading.
The kids wake up and play until it’s time for breakfast. Our Sunday morning breakfast actually pre-dates our Sabbath celebrations. Since we moved to Wales almost four years ago, we have enjoyed eating breakfast together on Sunday mornings and praying for the church service that was ahead. We have expanded our breakfast tradition to include praying for the Sabbath as a whole. I will often ask the kids to reflect back on their week and think about what they are thankful for or proud of accomplishing in the past week.
One of the things we remember when we practice Sabbath is that we are following the pattern God set when He spent six days creating and then rested. So we all take turns saying something we created or accomplished over the past week that we are proud of. This might be a story written, a Lego creation, a hospitable atmosphere in our home, or a really good meal. We take time to be proud of each other and thank God for the abilities He’s given us.
When breakfast is over, Brian leaves to go to the church early. I make sure the kids are completely ready and playing together in the playroom. Then I shut myself in my room to get physically ready for the day. At this point, I usually listen to a preaching podcast (Most Sundays, I am not in the preaching part of our church so this is my time to hear God’s Word). I might finish getting ready by using this time to paint my nails—something I don’t do at any other point in the week because it just isn’t a priority.
It’s finally time to begin heading to church together.
If you’re new to my blog or my story, my family lives and does ministry in Wales and together we lead many areas in our church and organize a lot of what goes on. I realize church is a very cultural thing. When I describe our church, it might not sound at all like what you experience in your culture. That’s okay. Remember, I’m not trying to give you a list of rules to follow, I’m simply painting the picture of what our Sabbath looks like.
I wrestled for many weeks with how serving at church fit into the grid of Sabbath in our lives. ‘Maybe we shouldn’t even attempt to Sabbath on Sunday because it is too much work.’ But over the past two years we have been on a journey with God that has shaped our view of what God has called us to do.
So let me state what I mean when I said our family does ministry in Wales:
First, we believe that if you are a follower of Christ, your family is where they are to “do ministry”. It is the job of all disciples of Christ to make new disciples.
And secondly, and most importantly, we believe that this discipleship does not happen best on Sundays. Our belief is that the “big stuff” in ministry happens between Monday and Saturday making Sunday a day of coming together and celebrating what has happened over the past week. This takes the pressure off of Sunday. It is no longer the main event where we must show up ready to perform. It is the very heart of Sabbath—a time to look back on what the week has brought us and worship God for all He has done.
What does this look like in real life? Am I standing in a flowing dress with my hair and hands free to worship God with my whole being and just an overwhelming sense of freedom? No. Not at all. I mentioned that we lead several areas in our church, didn’t I?
So a typical Sunday at church includes Brian going early for band practice, making sure technical glitches are all worked out, sometimes preaching as well. And then there’s me with a hand full of sign-up sheets organizing teachers, ladies meals, and children’s events.
But I realized a few weeks in to the practice of Sabbath, that I could make sure those sign-ups were ready by Saturday night. I could contact the many people I needed to talk to about events through the week and not leave it until I saw them on Sunday. I found that I could go to church without a running to-do list in my head and just genuinely enjoy talking with the people that were gathered there. I don’t get out my calendar and make plans on Sunday. I often say the phrase, text me this week and we can find what time works best for that. I am not avoiding commitment, I am purposefully choosing to keep my mind free of all the “need to’s” on Sabbath.
My continual prayer throughout the day on Sabbath is that God would keep my heart in an attitude of worship.
Sabbath is a practice.
I’m not getting it right every week. Some weeks I come home completely stressed out or at least have a stressed out moment in the middle. But for the most part, I have been able to thoroughly enjoy that sense of community and belonging I find at my church, and it has greatly enhanced Sabbath in my heart.
We all come home from church together. At this point we usually send the kids to play and start on lunch. There have been weeks we just grabbed a quick sandwich lunch and went to take naps because we were just done. Then we would have a larger family meal later in the evening. But for the most part, we have come to enjoy this time together. Most of the prep has already been done, so this is just the finishing touches phase. Cooking the meat on the skillet, putting together the salad, something like that.
Brian and I are both verbal processors. That is code for: we like to talk! So we talk through all the events of that morning, anything we feel like God has spoken to us about, I might talk about a podcast I listened to earlier in the day. We love this time of working side by side in the kitchen and sharing our hearts.
When the food is ready we call in the kids and sit down together. Now, by this point we are all pretty tired. It’s been a long day already. This is usually not a long drawn out meal with a lot of conversation.
What follows next would probably be best described as “quiet time” or even “alone time”.
Boston usually takes a nap. That kid loves sleep!
Brooklyn usually reads, writes stories, or draws pictures.
I often take a nap. It’s not because I feel like I have to sleep on Sabbath, it’s because my body is normally very tired from the week and days activities. On Sabbath, I choose not to ‘push through’ but to listen to my body and rest. I have also enjoyed reading or even doing a puzzle during the afternoon.
Brian stays far away if a puzzle comes out—that is not restful for him! He might write, go to the church and play the piano, sleep, read or when it’s nice out, run.
What constitutes rest is different for each of us.
Once we have spent the morning in community and the afternoon in solitude, we come together in the evening for family time. Quite often this is comprised of breakfast for dinner and a family movie. But it might also mean a long walk together, a trip to the park, family game night or whatever else we decide to do together. Then it comes time to put the kids to bed once again and close out our Sabbath day.
At this point, our Sabbath is technically over.
I might spend some time packing lunches for the next day, open back up my planner and check out what Monday holds. Jot down some notes of things I need to remember to do. But I don’t get into anything too heavy that night. Like I said earlier, I am a morning person. I love feeling refreshed at the end of Sabbath and going to bed early even.
I have found that I wake up Monday morning motivated and ready to go. This is weird! I used to hate Mondays. I hated the structure of sending the kids back to school after enjoying a weekend. I hated getting up early after being able to sleep in for two days. And I did not enjoy getting back to ‘real life’.
But Sabbath has changed Mondays.
I wake up Monday morning with a ton of motivation and energy to tackle the day. Our bodies were created to work. In my personal experience, when we take an entire 24 hours off from that work, we emerge refreshed and ready to tackle what lies ahead. And it doesn’t just end on Monday. I have more energy and passion to work throughout the entire week.
I love to observe Sabbath, but I do not wish to spend my whole life in Sabbath.
I believe it was created for a specific intent: to give us rest and a time to reflect on the beauty of the work that has been accomplished. Sabbath only functions in connection with hard work.
As I look back on my life three months ago and compare it to now, I can honestly say I no longer feel overwhelmed, too busy, or like I am drowning. I don’t have less responsibilities, in fact I have taken on more. However, choosing to Sabbath one day a week has given me energy and inspiration to accomplish more in the other six days than I have had in a very long time. I have even tackled the hard areas of eating and exercise and organization and I feel like I am living in the zone God created me to live in.
Do I think Sabbath is a command that all people, or even all Christians, MUST obey? No. I believe we have freedom. Colossians 2:16 very clearly says we should not let anyone guilt us in to participating in any customs. It says:
Don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.
I don’t believe Sabbath is a law that current day believers MUST follow. I believe it is a gift that we have the ability to accept. And I believe that truly embracing this gift, has changed the way I live my life. I believe it has made me more intentional, more productive, and more passionate about life.
And I believe it can change the way you live yours too.
Will it take extreme action to make this a reality in your life? Maybe.
Will it be worth it? Try it for a month and then let me know.