Sabbath Thoughts

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

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Self Care, Solitude, and Motherhood

The water runs over my hands as I scrub the crusted pot. My baby is snug in the wrap sucking the sweet life energy out of me as I stack dish after dish. I begin to smell the onions cooking on the stove and turn to give them a stir. My son comes running in asking me to fix a toy truck whose soft rubber wheel has snapped off. This multitasking of other people’s needs feels like my constant state.

 

The phone buzzes begging for attention and reminding me that it’s nearly time to pick my husband up at the bus stop. My mind returns again to the conversation I had early in the day.

 

“I don’t feel guilty for leaving them with him because I have them all week.” My friend’s casual relaxed statement plays around in my head over and over again. I feel almost jealous of her ability to separate from her children without guilt. I can’t even imagine leaving Bryan with the kids all weekend and not feeling guilty about it.

 

My mind wanders to the book sitting on the counter nearby.

 

“Herein lies one key to the problem. If women were convinced that a day off or an hour of solitude was a reasonable ambition, they would find a way of attaining it. As it is, they feel so unjustified in their demand that they rarely make the attempt…It is more a question of inner convictions than of outer pressures, though, of course, the outer pressures are there and make it more difficult. As far as the search for solitude is concerned, we live in a negative atmosphere as invisible, as all-pervasive and as enervating as high humidity on an August afternoon. The world today does not understand, in either man or woman, the need to be alone…

Actually these are among the most important times in one’s life – when one is alone. Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone…

Women’s life today is tending more and more toward the state William James describes so well in the German word, ‘Zerrissenheit – torn-to-pieces-hood.’ She cannot live perpetually in ‘Zerrissenheit.’ She will be shattered into a thousand pieces. On the contrary, she must consciously encourage those pursuits which oppose the centrifugal forces of today. Quiet time alone, contemplation, prayer, music, a centering line of thought or reading, of study or work. It can be physical or intellectual or artistic, any creative life proceeding from oneself. It need not be an enormous project or a great work. But it should be something of one’s own.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gifts from the Sea

 

I have always longed for solitude, but I have never been very good at self care. Since having kids I’ve gotten even worse.

 

I know in my head that time alone has a great deal of value for me as an introvert. I have been told time and time again that not taking care of myself will backfire in the long run. I know that abandoning my needs for the needs of my husband and children, may seem like selflessness, but in reality it isn’t. But, somewhere in my heart I don’t believe these things. Somewhere in my heart I still feel that I am not worth the self care, that time in my own persuits isn’t valuable enough, that I am selfish if I don’t pour my whole self into my family every second of every day.

 

I turn back to the stubborn crusted food on the pot before me and a question rises in my mind.

 

HOW? 

 

HOW am I to find time for myself amidst family cares? HOW am I to find time alone with an active three year old and an 18 month old with special needs? And when if I do, HOW am I going to fight this devaluing of my own self worth, this voice that says I do not deserve it?

 

I have made some progress in this area since January. I have had a babysitter come one morning a week so that I can get some time to write. And every other Saturday morning I have left Bryan with the kids so that I could go teach yoga. And two or three times a month Bryan and I have left the kids for a much needed dinner date.

 

I am realizing  that the answer to the resounding how that echoes in the questions above is community. The only way I can get the space and time I need to fill my soul and feed my heart is by leaning on the people around me.

 

I dig my strength deeper into the burned sides of the crusted pan in the sink. This is were the real struggle arises for me.

 

Before kids it was easy enough to change around my schedule, reorder some priorities and get time to myself when I needed it. Even during busy seasons I could always find time to step out the front door and go for a long walk alone. Now there are two little people who rely on me utterly and completely. I am responsible for their well being, for meeting their needs and I have carried that weight heavily on my shoulders.

 

The only way for me to get time alone is for me to rely on other people almost as deeply as my children rely on me. I must ask for help. I must let my need be known. And I must trust someone else to be there, to meet my children’s needs in my absence.

 

This has been incredibly difficult for me, even with my husband. I feel immense guilt about leaving my children for any length of time with anyone I am not paying to be there. Even when I do pay someone to watch them I still feel deep guilt for spending money that we don’t have on something that feels unnecessary.

 

My phone buzzes again and I put down the sponge to read the message. My husband tells me he is almost at the bus stop. I decide to leave the pot to soak as I hurry to bundle the kids against the cold wind outside.

 

My friend’s words play again in my mind, “I don’t feel guilty for leaving them with him because I have them all week.” I realize I have a long way to go.

 

I also realize how vulnerable I feel in this need.

 

Lately, the small moments away have been life changing for me. On the weeks when they haven’t happened I have felt the void and wondered how I survived without them. In the past two weeks my weekly babysitter has gotten another job and been unable to come. My mother-in-law, who usually takes Thaddeus on Wednesdays so that we don’t have him during Sage’s therapy appointments, had to cancel twice. And Thaddeus was off school for a week.

 

I think of these things as I slip into my coat and feel the weight on my shoulders. How I long to slip the weight of motherhood off my shoulders if only for a few hours.

 

If I’m really going to get space to take care of my soul, I not only need to fight this feeling of guilt with all I have, I also have to be utterly dependent on other people.

 

So, I come back to the question…

 

How do I find space for myself? How do I consistently get the time alone I need, not just once a week or a few times a month, but regularly? How do I safeguard my time so that I can take care of myself despite the changes in others schedules?

 

I can’t say I have totally figured out the answers to these questions. But, one thing I’m realizing is that I need more than just a small handful of people I can depend on. I need a lot of people. I need a whole community of people I can call. I guess you could say I need a village.

 

What about you? How do you work time for yourself in amidst other responsibilities, especially the all consuming responsibilities of motherhood?

 

Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany Stedman

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Consumerism Overload

Lately, I’ve felt the pull of consumerism in a way that I’m not sure I ever have. Or maybe I’m just more aware of it.

But, it’s not just consumerism, it’s appearances, it’s the allure of the new and shiny, it’s American culture. Of course these things aren’t just American, it’s human nature to compare, to desire, to be impatient and opportunistic. All humans struggle with these things. But, somehow I can feel these things more here, they press on my heart more. They reach in and try to rearrange my values and steal my contentment. More than they did in Prague, more than they did before Prague (or perhaps I was just less aware and more numb to them then).

Part of me feels a little like I did on our first trip back to the states after moving to Prague. We got in the airport in New York and suddenly realized everyone around us was speaking English. We walked around unable NOT to eavesdrop on everyone. In Prague, surrounded by Czech speakers we had gotten out of practice at tuning out the background distraction noise of English. We hadn’t been able to understand people around us so we hadn’t needed to tune them out. Back in America we did need to tune them out and our brains were out of practice. That’s a little how I’ve felt lately. I don’t know how to tune out and ignore the commercialism around me anymore.

Bryan and I tend to be very intentional about how we spend our money, we spend money on things we value (people, food, devices that connect us with people, etc). And we have never valued appearances all that much so we don’t spend a lot of money on things like clothes, cars, or our home. And here’s the thing, when we were in Prague I didn’t feel like anyone cared if all of my clothes were hand-me-downs or I didn’t have a car, or my house wasn’t perfectly put together. Here, back in the states I do feel like people care. It’s not necessarily that I feel judgement, but others around me do care a lot about their own appearances, they spend their own money on appearances so they must care about it. There is a cultural value on appearances. And since I don’t always share that value I feel a conflict, and I feel at odds with my culture. Perhaps this is what they mean by culture shock?

Lately I find myself wanting more and more to spend money on appearances and convenience.

I feel it when I go to pick up my son at school and wait in a line of Prius’s and Mercedes.

I feel it when I clean the crumbs off my hand-me-down couch before going over to my mother-in-laws perfectly coordinated and immaculately decorated home.

I loose the struggle when I don’t invite people over for dinner because my house isn’t big enough, clean enough, decorated enough, or just enough.

I feel it when I go to target to get a wedding gift for a friend and leave feeling depressed about the 20+ things I saw that I want (but of course don’t need).

I give into it when I buy my son yet another cheap toy, even though he has plenty of toys strewn all across the family room.

These are mostly things that didn’t weigh on me in Prague, they didn’t tempt me. I didn’t feel these comparisons (or at least not as constantly). My values didn’t conflict with the culture, or at least with the sub-culture I was a part of. And honestly I also just didn’t spend as much time out at restaurants, stores and shopping centers as I do now. And  now I’m struggling.

Part of me is questioning. Perhaps there is more value in appearances then I have previously thought? I value beauty and spending money on appearances is just spending money on beauty… right? Sometimes, I guess.

Part of me is frustrated. I don’t want to change my values just because of my culture having slightly different values. I don’t want to give in to discontent and comparison.

And when it comes down to it our money is very limited and if I choose to start spending more of it on things like clothes and my home what other things will I have to choose not to spend money on?

And that’s really what it comes down to. As much as I may want myself and my house and my family to look like one of the pictures from my pinterest boards when it really comes down to it I’d rather spend my limited money on other things.

But, sometimes I waver. Sometimes I find myself lost in what can only be called coveting. I look around and feel like I don’t have enough, like my appearance isn’t enough, and soon I begin to feel like I, myself, am not enough. I look around and realize that I’m so far behind the rat race that there’s no catching up.

Ugh!

Can I get off? I don’t want to be comparing myself. I don’t want to be constantly reminded of things I don’t have or to hear the implied “should have” that follows. But, I feel like I’m out of practice at ignoring it.

So, does anyone have any suggestions?

Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany Stedman

If you like this post please consider buying me a cup of tea (Suggested: $3 a cup)

If you come to my house….

If you come to my house for dinner…

You can expect to be given a home cooked meal made of real food…but, it’s very likely that there will be dirty dishes in the sink.
Expect to be eating largely organic, free-range, and grass fed as the case may be…but my toddler may sing ABCs during dinner, or reach clear across the table for bread, or roll his toy car on your back.
Expect that I will have good beer (usually local) that you can enjoy…but, you may be dragged to the playroom to play cars or asked to hold the baby for a bit.
Expect to be heartily welcomed…but, you may be asked to leave early because we aren’t afraid to kick people out because we’re tired.
Expect casual, comfortable and usually messy.
Expect laughter and conversation…but expect it to be interrupted by kids and seasoned with awkwardness now and then.

If I invite you to my home for dinner…

I expect you to play with my kids at least a little.
I expect you to make yourself at home – take your shoes off, help yourself to water, beer, raw milk or whatever other drinks are around, change the music if you want.
Excuse the mess and pardon the kids chaos.

I love having people over, i would usually much rather have people in my home than go to someone else’s, but I’m not a Martha Stewart type of host. When I invite someone over I invite them into a little bit of myself – I am messy, and unfinished and so is my home. I am not interested in facades or perfection, I can’t maintain them. I am interested in friendship, I am interested in building authentic community.

I will welcome you into my home on the day when my kids took extra long naps, and I am refreshed and prepared, and on the day when I only got two hours of sleep and didn’t have time to clean. I will welcome you in on the days when I’m energized and creative and the days when I just can’t snap out of my negative funk. Sometimes I might ask all the right questions and we’ll have a great conversation. Other times I might be tired and awkward and we may end up just watching an episode of Friends or Modern Family together.

So, come on over. Come in and take a seat. Breathe. Relax. I won’t pretend if you won’t. Welcome to the mess, the chaos, the unfinished work in progress. Welcome to my home.

Rejoicing in the journey,
Bethany Stedman

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Thankful

Well, Bryan is at a pub with some friends and the baby is asleep, I realize I haven’t blogged much at all this month and know that this would be the perfect time… so here I sit staring at a blank page knowing I should write, knowing I’ve neglected my blog and all of my sweet readers, knowing that writing would be good for me, but unsure where to start.

There’s lots I could write about, lots bouncing around in my head, perhaps lots that I will write and keep private for the time being… For today I think what I really NEED to write though is this…

my sweet baby giving me the sweetest kisses right on the lips
my husband smiling at me over Thaddeus’ sleeping head
watching my son as he learns new things every day
Father and son roughhousing and bonding together
the way my heart skips a little when Thad says “mommm” and reaches for me
the strength I feel when Bryan slips his arm around my waist
long naps in the afternoon
reading an old, worn, used, hardback and beautiful book
organizing my fabric stash and dreaming about sewing projects
the excitement my husband showed upon receiving back some slippers I mended for him
the smell of fresh baked bread
drinking warm milk with a bit of butter in it
talking honestly with a dear friend
taking a long bath
sun shine and a warm spell however short lived it may have been

These are things that have made me happy the past few weeks.

These are things I thank God for today.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

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