When I was 13 I started spending the summer with my aunt and uncle who were Seventh Day Adventists, and who practiced a strict Sabbath (or at least it felt strict to my teenage self). They didn't go out to eat or spend money on Sabbath. They didn't watch TV or go to the movies or play video games or computer games on Sabbath. They didn't work on Sabbath. At first this felt like a limitation, but even as a young girl I slowly started to feel the sweetness in it. We spent a lot of Saturdays laying on the living room floor laughing as my cousin entertained us. We snuggled on the couch together and listened to Adventures in Odyssey tapes. My aunt and I went for long walks and talked. My sister-cousin and I giggled and shared secrets. They were slow, long, lingering days. And they were sweet.
After my cousin died this summer I kept thinking about those lingering summer Sabbaths. I couldn't shake them. I felt so grateful for those days, for those moments, for those memories.
Ever since then I've been trying on limitations for Sabbath. I say trying on because it has been like a woman trying to decide what to wear for a date. I try on a limitation and then discard it and try on another. There's been lots of grace and flexibility and gentleness, but slowly I'm finding my way. I'm trying to pursue a Sabbath that feels like rest, celebration, and freedom, for us in this season. I'm seeking a day that feels set apart and different from other days. So I've been sitting with a few questions...
What things do I want to rest from, set aside, not HAVE to do?
What things do I want to focus on, lean into, and celebrate?
What activities feel like freedom and rest to me and what activities feel like bondage?
I'm still figuring it out. Truthfully, there are plenty of things in my life as a caregiver that feel like bondage that I can't set aside, like the syringes of food I need to give my daughter every 15 minutes. But I'm finding that there are plenty of things that I can set aside, that I can limit. For example, I may not be able to stop giving Sage food every 15 minutes, but I can make her blended food ahead of time so I don't have to do it on Saturday. So on Friday I make enough food to last her from Friday night to Sunday morning.
Slowly I'm finding some freedom in a few limits I've gently adopted.
I don't clean or do laundry on Sabbath. As any of my friends will tell you, I'm not a natural housewife. My house isn't often clean and my laundry is rarely done. I hate these tasks, they are drudgery to me and they spread into each and every day of my week, but not Saturdays. Saturdays I'm choosing something different. This has lead to me making sure that all the laundry is done and the house is picked up before Friday night, which means we sit down to dinner Friday in a clean space, a space that feels light, and free, and clear. For at least this one night a week my house is clean. And I can enter into my decision to not clean or do laundry on Saturday with freedom.
Now this doesn't mean I stubbornly refuse to do ANY dishes on Saturday. There have been Saturdays I have washed dishes while talking to my husband and hanging out together, but I did them because I wanted to do them, because it was a shared activity rather than a chore or a task on my to-do list. I don't require myself to do them and if the dishes stay in the sink all day on Saturday I let that happen.
Another "rule" we've started has been attempting to make Friday night dinners something special. We sit down to dinner together at the table most nights, but on Fridays we also light a candle, pull out a jar of questions and ask them to one another, and linger a little longer. Last week we read the Friday Compline from the Celtic Book of Daily Prayer together before starting dinner. We don't eat leftovers on Fridays and I do what I can to make this a special meal and time together.
We also actively pursue quality time on Saturdays. On Saturday mornings my husband and I sit and drink coffee and talk together. If he invites me to do a cross word puzzle with him I say yes, rather than my norm of saying no and rushing off to my to-do list, or to something else I enjoy more. I don't check social media at all on Saturdays. Sometime on Saturday we play a game together as a family and often we pick out a movie to watch all together rather than being on our own devises.
We haven't limited electronics on Sabbath, apart from my personal choice to be off social media, but I have organically tried to encourage other activities. We have also tried to engage in electronics more as a family activity on this day rather than an individual activity. So if my son really wants to play minecraft, rather than letting him and going to do my own thing, or telling him he can't and has to do what I want to do, I ask if I can play with him and we play together.
We intentionally pursue togetherness.
Cooking is another one of those daily tasks that looses it's joy and becomes a chore for me, so on Saturdays I've decided not to cook. I make food for Saturday on Friday. Maybe this means prepping a meal that I can just dump in the crockpot in the morning. Maybe it's making something for Friday's dinner that will give us enough leftovers to eat for Saturday. Maybe it means my kids have cereal or toast or something they can get themselves. Maybe it means my husband cooks. After Friday nights nice dinner, I don't cook.
I won't spend money or talk about spending money on Sabbath. This means that on Saturdays my son can't ask me for a toy or app that he wants over and over and over again. This rule is especially soft and bendable when others are in town or when we are out of town, but it's a helpful way for me to not allow a common stress trigger to influence my thoughts or behavior for a day.
Both my husband and I don't do any work on this day. I don't prepare for yoga classes, or work on writing, or check email, or work on various projects or ideas I may have. We don't cross things off our to-do list on this one day. This day is for rest and being together, not for furthering our goals.
These rules have been gentle, there's space for breaking them. There have been Sabbaths in the past few months that don't look at all like this, but slowly we are settling into this rhythm, and Saturdays are starting to become a day that feels different and set apart.
We are still very much just figuring this out. Some of these things are decisions and limitations I'm not sure about yet. It may shift and change, but right now these things are working for us in this season.
How about you? Have you ever implemented an intentional day of rest? What did/does that look like for you?
Grace and peace, Bethany