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.

2019: The Year of Open

Last Friday, Lance and I had our first date night in a while, and it was amazing.  One of the pieces of advice we both seemed to hear a lot in pregnancy was that you must prioritize your marriage when you start having kids.  Already, I can see how true this is.  The reality is that life is so much busier and more structured than it used to be and if we do not intentionally make the time to just be Lance and Kelli, husband and wife; we will live our lives solely as mommy and daddy.  This is not good for anyone, including Hudson, especially Hudson.  I want my son and any future children we may have to look at our marriage and see a strong Christ-centered marriage that sets an example for them.  We realized that we need to be more intentional about having date nights once a month.  Since this date fell just a few days before the New Year, we ended our date at Urth Cafe and set intentions, goals, and habits we hope to strive after as a family.  We first attempted to come up with what we wanted our overarching theme for the year to be.  What one word did we want to really focus and embody in 2019?  While a few words were tossed on the table, we landed with open.  I wrote it in big letters in my planner: “2019: The Year of Open.”  In many ways, this directly aligns with a vision and campaign at our church entitled The Open Campaign.  In the way that our church is striving to be more open to the surrounding community, Lance and I also hope that we can live 2019 well with an open heart, home, and hand.  The aspect I really love about this concept of openness is that it is two-fold.  In one sense, being open allows us to pour out into others, but the opposite is true as well.  Embracing a posture of openness, also allows us to be filled up.  Both are essential.  Unfortunately, I have a tendency to hyper-focus on the pouring out, that I forget to fill up.  This year, I personally want to better embrace this idea of allowing time and space to be filled up.  I wanted to share 5 ways in which I am attempting to do a better job in this area.

  1. Get Up Early.  When I was teaching, I woke up every morning at 5am.  While I initially dreaded that early morning alarm, it allowed me to be so much more productive and efficient with my time.  I did not realize it at the time, but that early morning commute was a really important time for me to wake up, plan the day, and pray.  It gave me a pause before the day fully started.  Once I stopped working, I stopped setting the alarm and chose to have Hudson be my new alarm clock.  This worked initially, but I began to realize I was starting my days grumpy and unprepared for the day ahead.  Even if it is just 15 minutes of uninterrupted, quiet morning time, I am able to start the day at peace and in joy.  While I don’t quite feel ready to set my alarm back to 5am, setting it to 6am this week has allowed for time to sip my coffee, drink a glass of water, light a candle, write down what Hudson did the previous day, and spend some time alone with the Lord reading my Bible and praying for the day ahead.  These sound like such simple things, especially the one on drinking water, but I am finding it is these simple acts that put me in the right frame of mind to be open to loving and pouring out to the people in my life.
  2. Write Daily. Writing is something I really enjoy to do.  I have always been the journal keeping type of girl.  Journaling and just writing in general really helps me process how I am feeling and why I am feeling that way.  While I really love writing, I have not prioritized it.  I hope to keep a daily practice of making sure I am writing on a daily basis. It might not always be a full blog post in one day, but regardless of the type of day I am having, I hope that I can take at least a few minutes of it to practice my craft of writing.  Even in just a week, I have experienced certain days where the words just rolled off my fingertips and others where the interruptions were abundant and the words scarce.  I am not concerned about length or even initial quality, I really just want to write because it is something I love to do.  The other goal in writing is that I can share some of what I write to be open and vulnerable.  It does not come naturally to me to want to share personal pieces of my life, but I want to be more open in this way.  I know that I am not alone in a lot of my experiences, especially recently in motherhood, so I hope some of what I write can connect well to others.
  3. Read Daily. Like they say, garbage in, garbage out.  Some of my very worst days are the ones spent scrolling on Instagram at every free moment.  Some of my very best days are the ones where I forget where my phone even is and I pick up a book or am outside.  What I consume in a day greatly affects my mood and outlook.  While I am a very slow learner at times, I am finally coming to terms that I cannot handle Instagram.  In the past few months I have deleted and re-downloaded it basically every single week.  I delete it because I am consuming too much of it and then re-download it just to check one thing and the next thing I know I have scrolled away an hour.  Time is now even more precious now, and I do not want to waste it away scrolling through content that often times does not even motivate or inspire me.  I close the app and I feel tired and unmotivated to do anything at all.  I am done with it (hopefully for at least a longer stretch than just a week).  I am very intentionally training myself to pick up a book rather than my phone.  Similarly to the writing intention, I am not expecting to finish novels in just a couple days.  I am a slow reader. This week I have just been reading a chapter a day.   This may seem small, but it is a whole chapter more than what I previously would read in a day. To me, it is not about going through all the bookshelves.  It is about slowing down and just reading.  And not just reading to read, but really delving in and being invested to the people and the lives I read about.  This past week I keep having an image of myself as a little girl staying up past my bedtime reading The Boxcar Children in bed.  I can still remember how those books made me feel.  All I wanted was to be in bed reading about the adventures of Henry and Jessie and the other Alden siblings. I craved those stories.  For quite some time now, I have not craved reading like I used to.  I think schooling and being forced to constantly read material that was not always the most riveting created this lack of desire within me.  I also think I became tired.  Reading is more effort than Netflix.  Whatever the reason, I stopped reading for pleasure and I am really missing it.  I want to return to that little girl curled up reading The Boxcar Children.  Reading, along with listening to really great podcasts, fills me up.  It opens up my perspective and feeds my love for words and storytelling.  Reading is good for me, Instagram is not.  So here’s to hoping in 2019 I read more and scroll less.
  4. Invest In Friendships.  We are built for connection.  God intended for us to live in community.  I love community and I love people, but I am learning more and more that I am naturally more introverted.  It takes more internal convincing and pushing to get myself out to meet with friends.  I always leave a phone call, a brunch, a walk with a friend in such a better mood and mindset.  I love connecting.  I long for connection, but I often times forget that this is a need of mine.  This year, I want to be more intentional about having an open schedule and calendar that allows for planned meetings with friends and even last-minute ones (because sometimes these impromptu meetings are the most important ones).  Friendship is a gift of God.  He is so kind to place people in our lives that make us laugh and make us better.  I never want to be too busy to take the time to invest in the friendships I already have and reach out to make new ones as well.  This year one of my hopes is to be slow to say no when it comes to friends and connection.
  5. Take Sabbath More Seriously. Recently, I have been extremely convicted in not taking the Sabbath as seriously as I should.  When I was running in college, I used to be annoyed that our coach always had long runs on Sundays.  The longest run of the week was on the day that was meant for rest.  I felt like I could not fully practice a Sabbath when I was running 12 miles at 7am on Sunday morning.  Now I am no longer tied to this obligation of Sunday long runs, yet still I find myself not fully embracing the Sabbath.  I still find myself scrambling to get things done even on a Sunday.  I am not fully satisfied with the work that I have done, so feel like I still need to get a few loose ends taken care of.  This is not the Lord’s desire for us.  If even the Lord needs the seventh day to rest, how much more I need it.  He does not care how clean our house is by Sunday; he wants us to rest regardless the state of our home or the length of our to-do list.  So much of my days and weeks are filled with obligations and things I must do, I really want to strive towards using the 6 days of the week in more intentional ways that will open up my Sundays so I can really have no agenda other than church and small group.

Did you notice that word open pop-up in each of the 5 intentions?  2019, my hope and prayer is that I can live out these intentions, not with obligation or pressure, but with joyful willingness because I know these things will allow me to ultimately be more open to your will in my life.