Rest as a Routine: 10 Ways to Help Keep Your Sabbath
It is early Monday morning and I am getting some writing in before Hudson wakes up. I find myself working with a sense of peace, clarity, and focus. Probably not typical feelings on a Monday at 5:30 am, but I have a secret and I want to share it with you. Keep the sabbath. Allow for 24-hours of your week to be untouched by work, hustle, hurry, schedule, and yes, even social media. This actually is no secret. It is a biblical command:
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy: You are to labor six days and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work…For the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy” Exodus 20:8-11
It seems like even for Christians, this is a command that is easy to not take as seriously. Our culture literally preaches the gospel of work and hustle and making a name for ourselves. The concept of rest often runs counter to everything our culture seems to stand for.
While rest is something that definitely does not come naturally to me, I have been learning, especially recently in the past year, how essential the weekly routine of sabbath is for myself and for our family. It has become the part of the week that I most look forward to. It is restorative and necessary. And the truth is, this stop in work, is the very thing that allows me to produce better quality work throughout the week.
We Work from Our Rest
I have had the concept of work and rest backwards for much of my life. I used to think that I had to work really hard to deserve my rest. And here’s the thing: I never felt like I fully deserved it. There will always be things left on my to-do list. There will always be things I simply did not get to. If we only allow ourselves to rest when we feel like we deserve it, rest will likely not happen very often.
It clicked in my mind a month or so ago when I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey. Her guest that week, Dr. Saundra Dalton Smith, explained how we don’t earn rest, we work from our rest. When you think about rest in this way, it no longer is just some nice luxury that you will get to if you have time; it is absolutely necessary and is commanded of us by the Lord.
Typically, when we think of routines, we probably don’t first think of rest. However, we should start thinking of rest as a routine that is just as important as our cleaning routine. One of the many reasons I love routines so much is because it makes things that do not come naturally to me, aka rest and cleaning the house, actually happen!
The thing that is different with sabbath is that this is a routine that I do not need to create or carve out on my own, it is a gift given by the Lord. It is not about us creating sabbath, it is about us keeping it. Thank you to Emily P. Freeman’s podcast episode on “Keep Your Rest” for reminding me of this truth. It is not about creating or carving out rest on our own power; it is about obeying and keeping the rest that is already ours.
10 Ways to Keep Rest as a Weekly Routine
Below you will find a list of 10 things to consider when thinking about how to better keep the sabbath in your own life. I say the word “consider” because there is no one size fits all sabbath. Based on your season, your sabbath will look different, but it does not mean you simply throw out the practice. You adjust and keep sabbath based on your current stage of life.
1. Choose a Day
It does not necessarily need to be Saturday or Sunday. Examine your week and choose the day that is most open for you and your family. For us, it is on Sunday. We could also practice sabbath on Saturday, but Saturdays seem to always get full with birthday parties and events and time obligations. Sundays work better for our family. We try to keep church the only planned thing of the day. After church, our day is fully open.
2. Keep a Timeframe
Once you choose the day, it is important, that you set a clear signal for when your day of rest officially begins and when it ends. Biblically, sabbath goes from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. So for some, this is a helpful way to indicate the beginning and end of sabbath. If you don’t have a clear indicator or signal, it is less likely you will fully get a 24-hour period of sabbath. Also, if you are in a place where 24 hours of sabbath feels not possible, that is okay. Create a time segment that you can weekly commit to. Maybe it is when you wake up on Saturday until lunch on Saturday. Whenever it is, I have found that it is essential to commit to that time framework.
3. Step Away From Social Media
This is one I recently added to my personal discipline of sabbath and I think it is essential. I have a personal rule that I will not look at any form of social media, the entirety of my sabbath. This rule prevents me from laying on my bed, scrolling through newsfeeds. This is definitely a temptation of mine when it comes to my day of rest, but I have found (after many sabbaths filled with social media) that I do not receive as rejuvenating of a rest when I am on social platforms.
We do not limit all screens, we tend to watch a show or maybe even a movie, but even this we need to be careful with. Sabbath simply is not about just vegging out and doing nothing. There is a big difference from practicing sabbath versus being on the couch all day binge watching Netflix.
4. Limit Time Obligations
This will likely mean that you will be saying “no” a lot when it comes to plans or events on your given sabbath day. Occasionally, we will attend a scheduled event that falls on our sabbath if we feel it will be a time of good fellowship. For example, sometimes our church will have fun outreach events on Sundays and we will mostly always still attend those.
When it comes to getting together with friends, we like to schedule things like this on Saturdays, but with really close friends (shout out to Hannah and Kyle) we enjoy spending time with them on our sabbaths. It is all about determining what is restoring and what people ultimately bring you closer to the Lord. Spend time with those types of people on your sabbaths + whenever else you can. If we are meeting people or people are coming over to us, we like to have a looser time boundary on our sabbaths. It is incredibly refreshing to have one day that does not feel as scheduled or as pressured to be at places at a specific time.
5. Prioritize One Thing You Typically “Never Have Time For”
I started a scrapbook for Hudson when he was born. For the first 6 months of his life, I was invested in this scrapbook. Every month, I would fill out the page and write all about what we did for his _ month birthday and list out major milestones and his likes/dislikes. Now, he is almost 17-months and I have piles of photos and a half-empty scrapbook. Life has gotten more full now that he is older and scrapbooking just does not happen during our busy weeks.
But here’s the thing, memory keeping through the act of scrapbooking is something that very much fills me up. I love it. When I create the time to actually work on it, I sense my whole body relaxing. It is a really healthy and joyful practice for me; the perfect sabbath-keeping activity. It feels extra special because I know Sundays are the one day I get to work on my scrapbook. What is it for you? List out the activities that your heart always longs to do. Maybe it is gardening, or baking a pie, or knitting a sweater, or learning calligraphy. Write out your list and use your sabbaths to start actually doing those things!
6. Connect with Your Family
Sabbath is the perfect day to really spend quality, focused time with your family. Of course we try to spend a good amount of family time throughout the week, but during our regular week, it feels like a to-do list is always running in the back of our heads. It is refreshing to have one day set apart that I just sit on the couch and really watch Hudson play and create and imagine. I love this stillness that is created on our sabbath. I am not frantic, I am just sitting and watching and connecting.
Last Sunday, during Hudson’s nap, Lance and I went out into the backyard, threw Nala tennis balls and went through our roses, buds, and thorns of the week. It was simple and good, and it is so different from our normal pace during the week. Our best connection as a family absolutely happens on our sabbaths. So, turn off your phones, get outside, watch your children play as you simply sit, and slowly chat with your spouse.
7. Don’t Touch Laundry, Dishes, or the Broom
Our house is not pretty on our sabbath days. And I am perfectly okay with this. There usually are dishes stacked in the sink, laundry sitting in the dryer, and crumbs scattered throughout the house. And I do not touch it. I do this stuff all the time during the week. It is essential for me to have a day that I simply let the house go. This would typically bother me, but because this is the designated day of rest, I am perfectly fine leaving it for Monday or later that evening. I also try to not get super legalistic with things like this. Of course, if there is a huge spill or mess, one of us will wipe it up, but as a whole, we will try to not worry about cleaning on our sabbaths.
Like scrapbooking, sabbaths are my days to actually curl up with a good book. If you read all the time, maybe choose a special book you just read on your sabbath. Something that will draw your nearer to God. Something that really fills you up. I am currently reading Run the Mile You’re In by Ryan Hall (thanks mom for giving this to me!). It is the perfect sabbath book for me right now because it is a book about God and running. Two of my favorite things. Find a book if you are currently not reading, and save it for your sabbath days.
Sabbaths are also great opportunities to collectively read the Bible as a family. We typically just do our personal Bible reading in the morning, but this is something I would like to start incorporating into our weekly day of rest, especially now as Hudson is getting older and loves listening to stories.
On our most recent sabbath, we all woke up extra early due to the time change. I threw together a veggie scramble, we ate, watched the NYC Marathon, and since we had two hours to spare before church, we drove down to the beach for a walk. On our walk, Lance and I dreamed. We rambled and casted vision for our future. When we both are undistracted by the hum of our to-dos and social media, we can really come up with amazing things. I was reminded on our dream walk, how days of rest are the perfect days to dream and wander and talk to God about what He has in mind for the future.
10. Thank God
This should be a daily practice, but sabbaths also create the perfect, quiet space to intentionally thank the Lord. This could be done through prayer or creating a gratitude list. It is easy for our busy and full days to slip by without even noticing the amazing work the Lord is doing. Take the time on sabbath to really notice.
I would love to hear from you. Do you practice sabbath as a weekly routine within your own life? If so, I would love to hear some of the ways you keep sabbath. Please leave a little comment below about sabbath, rest, time away from social media, or really anything this post made you start thinking about!
See you next Thursday. Find some rest, my friend. Actually, keep the rest. Remember, it has already been found by our kind, Father.