On Sabbath

Rest does not come naturally to me. I am really good at pretend rest where it appears I am resting, but underneath it all my mind is racing through a running to-do list that never seems to stop. It is so hard for me to fully rest, but my heart and soul desperately needs it. The truth is, I could find things to do and work on 24/7. If you have seen our dirty floors you will know what I mean. If I wanted, I could be on a non-stop cleaning streak. There are also hours and hours of more work I could do to pour into my blog. If I let it, I could be constantly writing, constantly researching, constantly emailing. I don’t think we ever will reach a point in our days and lives where we can say everything is perfectly done and clean and finished. We still are here on earth, heaven is coming. Since there will always be another load of laundry to do, more crumbs to sweep up, another post to write up; we must set boundaries that allow for rest. If we don’t, we will constantly be in a state of busy. And this is not good for anyone. This is no way to live. Not only is burnout just around the corner, but not stepping away from my own work misleads me in believing that I am in control. It misleads me in believing that my work somehow plays a factor in my salvation. Only God saves me. I know this, but let me just do a few more good things, just to be sure. I hate typing this, but if I am fully honest, it is very easy for someone like me with this people-pleasing heart to quickly fall in the traps of a work-centered gospel, rather than a grace-filled one. All this to say, I desperately need rest in my life. And I am not talking about rest in terms of napping and Netflix. I am talking about a rest that restores body, mind and soul. A rest that reminds me of my weakness and points me to the greatness and fullness of God. The world will keep spinning if our washer and dryer that is typically always running stops for 24 hours. The world will keep spinning if the sink becomes a tower of dirty dishes. The world will keep spinning if I stop producing, planning, performing for a day. I think of God as he created the whole world. If the Lord that made the universe, takes a rest day, how much more does this little, weak, selfish mother need rest?

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating he had done before” (Genesis 2:2-3).

This day of rest is holy. It is sacred. It is untouched. I know I easily forget the holiness of this sabbath day. It is so easy for calendar schedules and busier seasons to get in the way of this sacred day of rest. It is also so easy for my mind that has a tendency to be incredibly legalistic to also get in the way. I definitely have had sabbaths where I spend most of the day worrying about what I can and cannot do or pointing out to my husband what is and is not restful. That is no way to sabbath either. There are so many amazing resources and teachings when it comes to this idea of rest. First and foremost, the best resource will always be the Word. If you are interested in really understanding God’s heart for rest, there is no better place to start than in scripture. We have also found the teachings of John Mark Comer, a pastor of Bridgetown Church in Portland, to be very helpful in understanding Sabbath and learning ways to live it out.

We by no means have figured out our perfect way to sabbath. We have weeks where we really end our sabbath feeling rested and rejuvenated, and we also have days where we fully messed it up. Like most things, the sabbath is an art and practice. You would think rest should be an easy thing, but even rest takes planning and practice. This is true without babies and kids; however, when you become a parent, sabbath can become even more logistically challenging. Diapers still must be changed, babies still must be fed and cleaned and watched over. Your sabbath is going to likely look different based on the season you are in, but I am convinced that regardless, you can still incorporate a sabbath into your life, it might just not always be a 24-hour period or exactly how you might imagine “rest” to look. This is the thing that can tricky, there is no exact formula for a perfect day of rest. Rest is personal. What I find to be restful and restoring to my soul, another person might classify as work. For example, I know some people enjoy exercising on their sabbath. They might run or even go to a fitness class. For me personally, sabbath entails zero running and exercise. I run throughout the week, sabbath is my day off from running. I need to step away from it. While I love to run, in a lot of ways, running is still considered work to me.

Sabbath is an art form and it is a type of worship that is largely personal. There is no formula or exact steps you must take. With that said, here are a few things to consider that have helped us as we have built a sabbath that allows for rest and worship.

Choose a Day

When you sabbath is going to vary based on a myriad of different factors, but for us sabbath is on Sundays. Sabbath does not need to be on Sunday. Especially if Sundays are days of work for you, choose another day in the week that makes sense. Sundays mostly work for us, but there are weeks where we need to adjust our day. Maybe for you, it is Wednesdays or Fridays. I don’t think the Lord is concerned with the day of week, he just wants our hearts.

Set Boundaries

This is incredibly important, especially if rest does not come naturally to you. I am the type of person that literally needs to pencil in times of rest into my calendar. I have learned that if I do not set the time for it in my calendar, it simply will not happen. It is important to realize that your sabbath likely will not happen on its own unless you set parameters around when it will actually occur. Again, I do not think the Lord is concerned that we sabbath for exactly 24 hours a week. He wants our hearts, I don’t think the number is as important to him; however, whether we sabbath for a 4-hour time period or a full-length day, I think He does want that time to be set apart from the rest of our days. For this reason, it is important for you and/or your family to set parameters around when sabbath will start and end for you. Since we have a baby, we have found that what works really well for us is using bedtime as the start and end of our sabbath. For us, typically this means that our sabbath officially begins Saturday evening around 7:30 pm once Hudson has fallen asleep and ends around 7:30 pm on Sunday when he goes back to bed. This rhythm is incredibly helpful for my busy mind. I know that if I want the floors to be cleaned or the laundry to be folded or that blog post to be published, I must get it done before Hudson falls asleep on Saturday evening. This often means leaving things unfinished. And that is okay! It slightly drives me crazy, especially when I am almost done, but if I don’t follow this boundary, a few more minutes of work, easily turns into a couple hours. The work will be there in 24-hours. I am not that important. Things will keep on spinning. No one really cares if my post or podcast is a day or two late. I can stop and rest in the Lord.

Plan Ahead

With setting boundaries, you must plan ahead. I have already alluded to this, but if you know that all Sunday you will not be working, it is essential to ensure that you get the important things that must be done before your sabbath. This might entail staying up later for one night in the week or getting up earlier. By setting one day of the week for rest, you will find that you can actually be more more productive in those 6 days. Plan those 6 days well so you can fully rest on the seventh.

Figure Out What is Most Restful to You

This may sound obvious, but this can take some trial and error. Like I previously mentioned, what one person finds restful, another will deem as work. Figure out what activities are the most life-giving and soul-restoring to you. We have not yet done this as a family, but I think a fun way to get the whole family involved is to create a list of your family’s favorite sabbath activities. Post this somewhere the whole family can see. Allow this to guide your sabbaths. For our family, some of our favorite sabbath activities include: going to the beach, hanging out by the pool, going on a walk, getting doughnuts or coffee or some special treat we typically would not have during the week, reading, watching a movie, baking cookies together, seeing close friends or family, disconnecting from screens, and the occasional nap (or for someone like me that can’t take naps during the day, just lying with my eyes closed for a few minutes). It is also important to note here that the activities we choose for sabbath largely depend on how the previous week leading up to sabbath looked. For example, if it was a particularly busy week filled with events and people, we would try to spend more time with just the three of us and might stay home more. If it was a less crazy week, we might try to get out of the house more and spend time with good friends. While most often are sabbaths seem to involve just the three of us, getting together with people we love can be incredibly restoring, but it also cannot be. Let’s just be honest, being around people can be work. If you do choose to enjoy fellowship with others on the day you practice sabbath, I think it is important that the time you meet them is established as being more flexible and they are people you can fully be yourselves with. That way it can be life-giving, rather than life-draining. This idea of setting a more flexible time is important. Most of our lives seem to be dictated by times. For us, it feels so rejuvenating to have a relatively empty calendar box that is not filled with the pressures of times and places. Our very best sabbath days are the ones that were fully blank and we freely chose how to spend our day.

Allow for Grace

The thing with many spiritual practices is that it is very easy to turn the discipline into a rule and become very legalistic about it. I so easily fall in this trap! Our sabbaths quickly start to fall apart the moment I start nitpicking. The moment we start concerning ourselves with what is and is not allowed on sabbath, is the moment our hearts are no longer receiving the Lord’s rest in the correct way. As I have already alluded to, I do not believe God is as concerned with the smaller details; He simply wants our hearts. Our sabbath is not suddenly ruined if we need to stoop down and clean something up off the floor. We are human, which means even the way we rest will not be perfect. Is that not humbling? We even mess up rest! What beautiful evidence for our great need of His grace. Sabbath is all about recognizing our great need for a Savior. It is about recognizing that our own work is insignificant and we daily and momentarily need the grace of God. Allow for this grace. You will have sabbaths that you mess up. That is okay. He will give you another try next week.

Spend Time Alone with God

Lastly and most importantly, spend some valuable time alone with the Lord. This could be through reading the Bible, praying, meditating on how God has moved in your life in the past week, and journaling. We have fully missed the point of sabbath if this part is not included. Sabbath is way more than eating doughnuts and lounging on the sand. It is getting, good quality time to remember all the amazing work the Lord has done and continues to do in our lives. It is about loving God more and receiving his love and grace with open hands.

We need rest. We need God. We can’t do it all. It’s all really that simple. Sabbath is not just something you should do, it is biblical. We are called to rest and worship. We are called to have a day set apart. A day the Lord calls Holy.

When You Don’t Feel Like It

All day I have been planning on sitting down to get some writing in. It is now nearly 9 pm and these are the first words I am creating all day, minus the numerous text messages I sent out. The thing is I could of easily squeezed in an hour of solid writing, but instead I dilly-dallied, I mindlessly scrolled and consumed social media, and I watched unnecessary drama on the Bachelorette. The task of writing has been in the back of my head all day, but I seemed to put everything ahead of it. The 9 miles, the loads and loads of laundry, the dirty dishes, the grocery list, the dinner, the banana bread, the party planning. I think what I really needed today was to write. I needed quiet. I needed time alone, time to string words together. I needed the steady rhythm of finger tips tapping away. I needed to sort things in my head through. I needed reflection and revision. This is what I needed. But instead, I avoided it. I clicked on Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, Netflix. Anything, but write. I did not feel like it today. I did not want to write another post that only my husband, mother, and a few kind people will read. I did not want to write today, but here I am, at 8:50 pm, writing. And with each passing word, I feel better. That is what I want to talk about today. How do we do the things that are good for us, even on the days or weeks or years when we simply don’t feel like it? That is a loaded question. And to be honest, I don’t really have an answer, but I have a few thoughts.

Right now you could probably name a handful of things you don’t feel like doing. I sure can. Going on a run. Making the bed. Folding all those loads of laundry I previously mentioned. Emptying the dishwasher. Waking up early. Eating healthy. Being kind. Reading a book. Writing. And the list could go on. Those last three might be the most surprising, but if I’m being honest, right now, kindness does not feel natural to me, nor does reading or writing. Here’s the thing, if I lived my days off of my current feelings, not much would get accomplished. I would eat a lot of sugar, watch Grey’s Anatomy, and be alone in my room. That’s the truth. Clearly, my feelings can’t be trusted. Watching endless hours of hospital drama and consuming lots and lots of sugar is not a recipe to a fulfilled life. This is why I have such a problem with the phrase “follow your heart.” Follow my heart? Really? My heart can’t be trusted. It’s broken, sinful, selfish. My heart will lead me astray. Every. Single. Time. Sure, it might feel right in the moment, but long term, the feelings of my heart won’t satisfy. Only Jesus will. I need to follow Him, not my heart. And the thing with Jesus is that He is in the business of people and serving. So following Him, naturally revolves around these two things. For an introvert, this is not always easy. Following Jesus is not always the easy thing to do, it actually rarely is, but it is always the right thing. My heart can’t be trusted, but He certainly can.

So, returning back to that question. How do we do the good things, the things our soul longs for, even when that is not our natural inclination? I think the first part to answering this question, is learning how to differentiate between what our human heart longs for and the calling of Jesus in our lives. This is a good time to mention that I do believe that these two things can and should line up at times. This is the mark of a mature faith that is immersed in the Word. However, I am coming more from a post-vacation mindset. We just got back from a trip to NYC. We had the best time, but I fell completely out of normal rhythms. We squeezed a ton into our few days into the city. We even made a relatively detailed itinerary to ensure we got all the things we wanted to eat, see, and do in. We had full, fun days. We stuffed our faces with lobster rolls and cookies the size of our faces. We rode the subway back and forth, all over the city. We ran along the Hudson River, did loops in Central Park, and walked all over. My Fitbit has never hit such high numbers. We did all the things, but there was a sacrifice. My quiet, morning devotional time. That vanished. We forgot to include that in the itinerary. And if I’m honest, it put me into a bit of a slump. I forget how important some of my daily patterns I place into my life are. I need time alone with God. I need to be in the Word daily. My heart gets weird without this. I become lazy. I desire tv over discipline. Especially as I recover from this post-vacation hangover, my daily patterns and routines become even more important. I need to get back into these rhythms. I need to wake up early, even though I definitely do not feel like it. I need to open my Bible, not Instagram. I need to write, even when the words seems to not be there. I need to run hard, even when I want to just stay in a comfortable pace. And most importantly I need to love. I need to love and serve the people in my life, even though what my heart really desires is to retreat and be alone. There are seasons where everything I listed above comes so much more naturally. I leap out of bed. I enthusiastically open my Bible. The words come easily. The miles do too. And kindness is my attitude of choice. However, again, if I’m honest, there are more days where this is not the case. This is where patterns of discipline become so important. I write a lot about routines and daily rhythms, and the reason is because they keep me on track. They help me to do the good things I need in my life, even when I don’t feel like it.

I know I began by saying I didn’t fully have an answer to the question, but I think this is my answer. Establish daily, weekly, monthly, yearly patterns in your life and stick with them. Do them with a no matter what-ness attitude. The thing that I love about routine is that it takes away some of the thinking and decision making. This could be why I thrived in high school. A lot of my days were determined by a pre-existing bell schedule. The bells have faded away. Now, it is up to me to create the bells, the rhythms, the patterns. All this to say, vacation and stepping away from normal life is a good thing, but if you’re anything like me, it can be harmful to step away from the patterns that keep you grounded and rooted. So, when you don’t feel like doing all the things, check the patterns in your life, check what is taking up your minutes, check what it is you are consuming. Are you taking in Truth or bad television drama? It may seem like a small choice, but it is these little choices that make all the difference. It could be that you need to make just a few small adjustments to get back on track. Or, it could be that you just need to do the thing even when every fiber of your body and mind is fighting against it. This morning, I had a long tempo run I was supposed to do. I have done this tempo run for the past three Wednesday’s, except I missed it this past Wednesday due to travel. This small break in routine, made me really not want to run it today. And along with that deep, internal feeling of dreading something, there were things that happened along the way that made me want to choose the easy thing: skip the tempo. I was very close to choosing this option, but something kept tugging me along. And I did it. I did it even though I lost a contact in one of my eyes, the route I normally do was completely closed off, and my breathing was much harder than normal. And here’s the thing: my pace was slower than previous weeks, my focus was slightly fuzzy (probably due to the fact I had clear vision in only one eye), and I wanted to just stop basically every mile. But, I did it. To me, this tempo was my best so far in training. Again, it was not the fastest one. I actually felt the worst on this one, but I pushed through. I did not let go of my no matter attitude. Outwardly, not the best performance, but inwardly, it required way more focus and discipline than the days where the miles and pace were effortless. The thing I kept thinking about when I was running this morning was about how a lot of people can do the things when it comes easily, but what really allows you to stand out from the crowds is when you do it on the days where every part of you is fighting against it. This is where true character is built.

So, if you’re with me, and don’t feel like doing all the things, especially the things you technically don’t need to do, you should. Run when it’s the last thing you want to. Write even when the words flow as slow as molasses. Just start, and you will find your rhythm, it might just take until mile 9 or the 1,000th word.