Home/Family Life

Getting My Life Back One Day at a Time

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

— Rebekah

Home/Family Life, Ministry

Intentional But Generous

IMG_9894_2My family moved to Wales two weeks ago. That is a reality I am still having a hard time grasping. This thing we have been working toward for 4 years is actually happening now. God has worked in some amazing ways and our last 2 months have been crazy good saying good-bye to our life in the US and hello to our new life in the UK.

In the past two weeks we have had an ever-opening door on our apartment as we have invited people over and welcomed in teens that need a place to talk and a willing heart to listen. To add to all that crazy goodness, our baby girl started school for the first time this week! A new routine is starting in our home and a new phase of family life.

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This past week has been amazing, but very full. I decided I needed to go out and decompress and just spend some time alone. Brian graciously said, “GO!” (I might be a tad bit hard to live with when I get to this overloaded state)

When I need to get my priorities back in line and organize my life, it usually goes like this:

  • Go get coffee
  • Start with a small project that will give me a sense of accomplishment

So that’s what I did. I took a bus ride to Starbucks and started deleting old photos off my phone – tell me I’m not the only one that waits until I my storage is full to finally delete those photos that have already been on my computer for months. Anyway, as I did this I found a screenshot of a quote that spoke to my heart right where it was at this exact moment.

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“Guard your time fiercely. Be generous with it. But be intentional about it.”

Generous but intentional. This is my heart right now. I have made “Simplify” my word of 2015. With this I have wanted to be intentional with what I have, spend, eat, and probably most importantly- invest my time in. But I also want to be GENEROUS. Oh, how I want to be generous with my time. It is one of my greatest fears to take this amazing opportunity to live and minister in Wales and live for myself instead of God.

I love my iphone, my laptop, and I love talking- but I think with a pen a paper. So I got out a notebook and got intentional. 6 full pages and a major cramp in my hand later, I had an idea of what guarding my time and being generous would look like.

This was my process:

I wrote “What is Important?” across the top of the first page. I started with God and then moved on to people. Under people I wrote out every name that was important to me. People I wanted to invest time in, people I wanted to impact, people I wanted to get to know better, people I love and people I want God to make me love. Under people came my health, my home, and my personal interests.

IMG_0020 After I wrote out everything that I have a desire to spend real time on, I moved on to the next page – “What Do These Priorities Look Like?” The names and things written on the first list were goals, but they weren’t a plan. So on this page I started really dreaming. What would it look like to really put time into these areas? Discipleship, dates, budgeting, letter writing, and many more real tangible ideas.

IMG_0018 Then comes the putting it all together step. If I had been at home I probably would have gotten out a wipe off board or some cute post- it notes. But I worked with what I had: paper and pen. So I ripped up little slips of paper and wrote an activity or event on each slip. Then I made a week-long schedule and placed the slips of paper where they fit in the week. I intentionally placed the most important items first and worked through my slips.

IMG_0017 Will my week really go as perfectly as I have it laid out right now? Goodness no! But I am taking a step in being intentional but generous with my time.More important than following my schedule, it is my prayer that I let God guide my time this week and make it count. May you have a meaningful week too!

-Rebekah

Home/Family Life, Lessons Learned, Ministry

Getting Away

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There is a difference between getting away and running away.

I love to “get away” for a little while. My love language is an afternoon at a coffee shop with praise music and my laptop.   Most of the time after 3 hours reading, praying, and writing I feel refreshed and ready to face another week of real life.   But there are times when that refreshment I feel only lasts the 20 minutes it takes me to get back home. As soon as I walk in the door I am mom and wife and everything else again. Lately I have just wanted more time, just more time away, more time to refresh, more time to refill my soul. I have struggled with guilt that I should cherish time with my family. I should be thankful for the ministry opportunities God has given me. I should be able to manage my time better to fit refreshment into my day without having to go away to get it. I do cherish my family, I am thankful for opportunities, I do “fit some God time” into my everyday life. But what about when that ache in my soul still says “I’m tired”. What about when at the end of my 3 hours away I’m not ready to go back home yet.

If I am going to get so honest about how I feel lately, I need to get honest with what God is speaking to me about lately as well.

In my quest for more time away, more time to refresh, I have become extremely self-focused. Ouch. I recently heard, “Where you stare you will steer”.  I have been staring at myself lately. I have been staring at my lack of free time, my desires, my problems. Because my focus has been on my lack, my soul has ached for what I don’t have.

I’m not saying a time of refreshment is bad or that taking time out is selfish. This is what I am saying – If I focus on myself during that time of refreshment, I will walk out feeling exactly as I felt when I entered it. When I get away simply to forget my problems for a little while- I am running away.

If I focus on God and His Strength, His agenda, His plan – I will walk out refreshed and ready to face the world. I am no longer running away from the situation, I am getting away to get better perspective and a renewed energy to face what is ahead.

This weekend I heard someone speak on “What do you do when you don’t know what to do?” The basic answer she gave- Love God. Love People. Well, 2014, you have clearly spoken again. My goal I made to love people more this year just keeps coming back to me. It seems each time it comes up there is a different area that I am challenged in. This time I realize, I don’t have the time or energy to love people like I want to. There I said it, loving people is something I just can’t do in my own strength.

If I want to really love people as 1 Peter 4:8 says, [Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.] I have to first focus on God. It’s not about loving myself before I can love others, it’s about loving God and the things He loves.

Today I am at the end of 4 days away from my husband and beautiful children. I finally got my time away to refresh and rest my weary soul.   It was needed time and I highly recommend everyone take some regular time away. But don’t just take the time to run away from “real life”. Take the time to refocus your life on the One who life is really all about. In a few hours when Brian picks me up, I’m sure it won’t take long for my focus to quickly shift back to myself. This battle to focus on Christ is a daily one. Thankfully, it is also one that is wrapped in His grace.

Thank you God for not demanding perfection out of me. Help me to daily remember to love You and love others.

Rebekah