In June 2019 I found myself burned out. It was a cocktail of experiences that all found their way into my head and heart at once and I shut down. I identify as an enneagram 2, which means I don’t think about my own feelings very much, because I am carrying all of yours! So no one even knew how I was feeling, because I didn’t recognize it myself.
It was then that I heard God speak really clearly to me. He told me to rest for a while. To sit at Jesus’ feet and rest. That was the most freeing thing I could think of. I was in. Sign me up! But… how? I mean, I can’t sit as his literal feet. And when? I have a life taking care of my family and a heavy mental load to carry just thinking about everyone else. (It’s that enneagram 2 thing.) So, how do I put that down? There are so many kinds of tired and that’s the kind that was draining me.
So, in my Stay At Home Mom nature, I searched podcasts for the word “sabbath”. I added all of them to my queue. I listened and listened for months. Lots of stories came out of these podcasts, but I’ll share one interesting one: There was a farmer who was trying to figure out the best work method for his horses. He was working them 7 days and then they had 1 day off. They were tired. So he worked them 5 days and gave them 2 days off. Then they had too much energy. Through his trial and error, he learned the perfect rhythm was 6:1. And 6:1 is our God-given rhythm too.
The main teacher I have been learning from is John Mark Comer of Bridgetown church in Portland, Oregon. He recently authored the book The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. He was burned out after planting a church with his Dad while in his twenties that grew by 1,000 people per year for 7 years straight! I can’t imagine having 80 new church attendees every month… and they all stay. Every single month for 7 years. Here I thought I was burned out… man.
What is Sabbath?
Sabbath comes from the word Shabbat. It literally means to “stop, rest, delight and worship.” So that is our criteria for 24 hours. In the traditional Jewish faith, Sabbath occurs from 20 minutes until sundown on Friday, to 20 minutes until sundown Saturday. That’s when you’ll find us sabbathing too.
What does one do on Sabbath?
It was not hard to talk Dave (enneagram 9) into implementing a practice of Sabbath! He has since become a Sabbath evangelist. “Remember the sabbath and keep it holy” is the fourth commandment, and yet probably the most highly ignored. “Thou shalt not murder” is something you know is a commandment. By comparison, going 90-nothing for 7 straight days doesn’t sound like such an offense.
I asked my girls what they wanted to do to honor the Sabbath. They said they wanted to take communion. That was a way they could honor Jesus – and so we do! What a gift as parents to be able to explain and execute such a sacred faith element.
Our typical sabbath routine:
We light candles as a visual representation that Sabbath has begun. I turn on my Sabbath playlist, and I start cooking our feast. We get by on average meals the rest of the week, but on Sabbath – we feast! We usually sit around our kitchen counter on weeknights, which means Dave and I stand. But Sabbath means we sit around a table together, be it inside our outside. It sounds kooky, but truly the atmosphere changes when we start that playlist and light those candles. The kids know what is coming. They look forward to Sabbath and get excited on Fridays when we tell them what day it is. Sabbath to them is like a holiday.
As dinner is cooking, we do something together on purpose. We play a game, we read together, we fit in a quick bike ride. We have our deepest family conversations over Sabbath dinner.
Next we have dessert. Again, not a normal weeknight thing. Sometimes we make s’mores, sometimes we bake a skillet cookie and dump ice cream and fudge on top and everyone grabs a spoon!
By then it is often bedtime. Part of Sabbath is physical rest, and so the kids go to bed early (don’t tell them)!
Ideally, we would all sleep in on Saturday morning, but the kids haven’t gotten on board with that yet. They do have screen time in the morning, but most of the day is spent off-screen for everyone. So I don’t capture many photos on Sabbath due to my phone being mostly out of reach. However, every picture in this post was taken on Sabbath.
After a big breakfast and the first of many cups of Sabbath coffee, we go to our hot tub together. Ollie plays with his Paw Patrol toys and shows us how long he can hold his breath, Adelynn and Ava play with their mermaids or snorkels. The jets go on and off several times and Dave and I all but physically toast our second cups of coffee to each other with knowing smiles. We are grateful to Sabbath. We are grateful for those moments together where we are connecting with no distractions. Grateful that this is our normal after a long, long dry season.
Once we are out of the hot tub, everyone gets sent to their respective bathrooms for baths. The girls usually have to be told it’s time to get out before they shrivel up. Then they are hungry and we eat again. We often go out this time, and /or run any family errands we might have.
It’s not a “day off”, so it’s not for yard and house work. Those things will be there every other day. It’s a day of gratitude. A day of many, many whispered prayers. A day of long relaxing baths and open windows.
Although it’s screen-related, we have used Sabbath to teach our kids the iconic game of Rock Band, to help build 1,000 LEGO towers, to go on bike rides, jump on the trampoline, to push them a million times on the pogo swing, to time their scooter races down the driveway, to spend time reading and journaling, and mainly to teach them to seek and find God in new ways.
Dave and I determined we both needed hobbies since we plan to Sabbath life-long. Hobbies that are solely for Sabbath. Dave’s new hobby is woodworking. He is starting with a tree-house for the kids. It’s started, but only gets worked on during Sabbath. That also will serve as a community gathering place during Turquoise Table season, or any other chance to be outside. It’s a little funny how Sabbath multiplies itself.
How we decide what to do: The criteria is basically asking ourselves “Is this rest? Is it delight? Is it worship?” If you can affirmatively answer one of those questions, then go ahead. If exercise or cooking are restful for you, then do it. If you hate those things, then don’t. If drinking 12 cups of coffee is delightful for you – and it is for me! – then do it. If leftover skillet cookie sounds like breakfast, great. If you want a nap, take one. I often find myself redecorating or crafting. Dave is usually building something.
The concept of a very loose routine is in play here. You know, a feed-the-kids-when-they-are-hungry kind of thing. Other than paying minimal attention to sunset, time is off the table for 24 hours. How freeing is that?! It’s like both a physical and a soul-penetrating vacation every week. Sabbath is the only commandment that is a both a command and a gift. It’s the gift of time. What would you do if you had 24 hours to ignore the messes and forget the to-do list? What if no one needed you? (As a 2 that sounds painful, but trust me, it’s amazing.) How would you find joy? In what new ways would you seek Jesus? Would you lay in your hammock? Would you go to your local coffee shop in the middle of the afternoon to get a chai? (I would!) Would you meet a friend for brunch? Would you take your air pods along to Target for the afternoon?
If you feel that all you’re going to think about on Sabbath is that mountain of laundry, or the yard full of leaves that need to be raked, then handle it before Sabbath. OR get a perspective shift and ignore it! Those are not the things that matter. The Jewish have a Day of Preparation. For us, it would be during the day Friday or Thursday night. I use that time to clean up my kitchen and any other areas we will be using during Sabbath. And if I don’t get it done, I just add more dishes to the sink and load the dishwasher on Sunday! Because of that, I have time for the things that matter. Sabbath is a reminder of what matters.
Isn’t Sabbath on a Sunday?
Day of Preparation on a Thursday-Friday and Sabbath on a Friday-Saturday sounds wrong doesn’t it? I’ve had to refocus myself in this area because that’s what I thought. Sunday is church day where you don’t buy or sell anything, everything is closed, you have a big lunch, take a nap, watch the game, and that’s a day of rest. But do you know that the first day Adam and Eve were alive was the day God rested? They start their week rested. God enjoyed them. He delighted in them. They delighted in Him. And they started their week from rest, not striving for rest. Not pushing through the week just to collapse. They start out rejuvenated and work from there.
Imagine that old cup example about pouring out. What if you poured out of your cup everyday Monday-Saturday and on Sunday you also had to go to church where you volunteer, remember your offering, make an amazing family lunch, prepare for the upcoming week, and somehow rest enough to get your cup filled? Yikes! That’s not rest, that’s work!
My mindset has shifted. Now, on Friday I prepare to rest. On Saturday, I rest. On Sunday, I go to church already refreshed so I can listen and soak in more, and then Sunday afternoon and evening, I prepare for my week.
I don’t get as annoyed picking up dirty socks on a Sunday afternoon, because I remember that Ava threw them off in a rush to the trampoline on Sabbath. (Ava is always the random sock throwing culprit!) I don’t mind at all loading the dishwasher full of feast-filled dishes. It honestly becomes another place to reflect in gratitude because I am in a good mental space and can clearly see the work God has done.
I am an extrovert, and if you’re like me, you probably skipped most of those paragraphs to look for the part where I address needing people to recharge. I see nothing wrong with inviting people in on Sabbath for brunch, your Friday evening feast or meeting at the pool or for mini golf. (But only if it’s beneficial for everyone).
Having spent the majority of the last year in a dry place, coming into a season of social distancing should probably cause me so much dread. A friend of mine posted something the other day that caused me to comment “I might be the only extravert who would welcome quarantine with open arms!”
And it’s only because of Sabbath. It’s because God has shown me how – and I have practiced – slowing, silence & solitude, simplicity and Sabbath. (All practices recommended by John Mark Comer).
I know how to be alone without being lonely. I have learned how to seek God in the quiet goodness and in the isolated wilderness. I get refreshment out of hearing and seeing what comes out of my kids in these times. Hearing my then 6 year old say things like “We don’t care about stuff, we care about people”. And making connections in new ways. And meeting new neighbors when we are out on a walk. And sharing our dreams. And ending up in food fights. I think of all I would have missed if I hadn’t had Sabbath to slow me down. To show me how good I feel from putting down my phone. To remind me of what matters and what doesn’t.
How you appear to people and achievements you’ve made are not the end goal. How you treat people, how you love them well, how you care for yourself so you aren’t pouring from an empty cup… those are the things that will matter.
Here we are in the middle of March and we are alone in our homes because we love others well enough to do our part in keeping them healthy. A year ago I think I would have been full of dread and fear. I would have been seeking things I couldn’t find. But this year, our whole family is as peace. This rest is a gift. This can be an extended Sabbath if you choose to view it that way. You can spend your time in self-pity about being homebound, worried you won’t teach your kids as well as their teachers, worried you’re going to screw them up for life. But guess what? You’re not that powerful! They see more of who you are than what you do. So let them see you reading, let them see you put down your phone, let them see you enjoying them and taking care of yourself. If that means more structure or less, if that means playing outside or dance party breaks, if that means all learning something new together, then do it.
Your choice is to view this social distancing time as punishment or as a gift. Sabbath is a gift. So that’s how I’m going to view it.