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

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Winter Rhythm and Trusting God

Lately, I’ve been feeling really depressed. Honestly, I think some of it is stress from a busy schedule and uncertain future. Some of it is from some things that God allowed to be stirred up and ways he allowed me to hurt over the past month, but I think some of it is just natural and seasonal.

It seems to me that in winter, especially in climates like Prague, there is this natural desire to slow down. With short cold days, there’s a desire to stay inside, to be home and spend a lot of time with family and close friends. There’s a desire for familiar and comforting things. I’ve felt this very tangibly lately. I don’t want to keep long active hours, I don’t want to run all over town, and I don’t want to meet a bunch of new people or spend times in large groups. Instead, I long to reflect, to read, to think, to ponder, to write, to have deep conversations with close friends, to cuddle up with my husband, and to eat and drink warm food.

Today I was trying to catch up on blogs that I’d gotten behind on and I came across this post, by Christine Sine at Godspace. She writes:

“Maybe, we reflected, we need to take notice of our bodies and build a slow down time into our winter schedules. In nature the winter is a time when on the surface there seems to be no activity, but beneath the ground roots are growing deep and strong. In fact shrubs planted in the Fall send down deeper roots than those planted in the spring and so are more resistant to drought. Maybe we too are more resistant to spiritual droughts if we take time to slow down and reflect over the winter, allowing our roots to go down deep…We are not meant to be continually producing fruit or even be continually blossoming. In fact plants that are forced into bloom at the wrong season by florists never recover their natural rhythm. Most of them will never blossom again.”

This struck me so profoundly. I feel this physical and natural urge to slow down, but I realize that this beginning season of winter has been and is and will continue to be incredibly busy for me. I have not been listening to my body or this call I have felt to rest and slow down, and instead I have sped up. And it seems that this pressure and speed of action will continue for some time still.

It seems interesting to me that this is common for many people – winter is actually a very crowded and busy season, not a relaxed or slow season. Especially December is a month filled with stress and activities for people, not a month of reflection and waiting and rest. And January as well, though a slower month in many ways, it is also a time when we set  new goals and try to plunge head first, full speed ahead, into the New Year. January is often a time for making changes, for starting new things, for trying to create fruit in our lives – does this seem counterintuitive to anyone else?

This month will be busy. I can’t really change that. But, what I can do is not add to that busyness. I can choose to take time as often as possible to reflect and be with God. I can be picky about the things that I add to my schedule and the things that I choose to let drop. I can choose not to give into the pressure to perform, to produce, to fill my days with motion. I can choose a different rhythm.

I was talking with a friend the other day and she made a statement about Sabbath and about rest. She basically said that choosing to rest is choosing to trust God.

So, often I choose to produce and perform and crowd my schedule, because I am not trusting God, because I want to control my life and control the outcomes of my life. I choose not to rest, not to slow down, not to take the time to put down deep roots, because I feel that I have to make things happen. But, the truth is that I can’t make anything happen.

The truth is that only God can provide for my needs.
The truth is that only God can really raise financial support for Bryan and I.
The truth is that only God produces a harvest and makes fruit grow and drop from the trees.
The truth is that only God draws people to himself, and only God grows a church.
The truth is that only God can make me or some project that I think is mine succeed.

Really, my job isn’t to make anything happen – I can’t really make anything happen. Yes, God chooses to involve me in his work, but it is HIS work, not mine. Really, what God calls me to is to abide in him, to rest in him, to put down deep roots and stay connected to the true vine, Christ Himself. He calls me to listen to him. Sometimes He may call me to action and sometimes He may call me to rest, but the important thing is that I am connected and listening to Him.

Lord, teach me to trust YOU. Teach me to rest in YOU. Teach me to not grasp at control, or rush forward in my desperation for results.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Back to the USofA for some good old R. and R.

Last night my parents and my husband’s parents graciously bought us tickets to go back to the states for Thanksgiving. We leave on Monday and will spend a week in Seattle and about a week in Arizona and then be back in Prague on the 2nd of December. It’s really last minute and I’m still sort of in shock. My head is swimming with all that I have to do in the 3 days before we leave. But, we are so excited to get to see friends and family and to just be in the states for a little bit.

Today I was meeting with a friend and talking through some stuff that has to get done before we leave and also getting some advice about support raising while we are back in the states and at one point she stopped the conversation and basically shared with me that she saw and heard that this trip needed to be a time of Rest and Receiving for Bryan and I. It suddenly dawned on me how little rest I have felt lately and how difficult it is for me to receive from God and from other people.

The past few weeks in Prague have been really difficult for me in many ways. I have known and experienced for a long time that Prague is a very dark place physically and spiritually and emotionally. But, the past few weeks I have FELT that darkness like never before.

In the past few weeks and months I have also seen more clearly and more tangibly then ever brilliant and radiant rays of Light and Hope. I have experienced God’s spirit at work in his people and have seen him piercing this darkness and speaking his truth.

…but, even with those rays of light, there is still so much darkness, and it has weighed down on me lately.

As my friend spoke truth to me and called me into God’s perfect rest I suddenly felt this growing peace and excitement about this trip back to the states. It really dawned on me and I really felt that for two weeks I won’t be here in Prague and even as I felt sad that I would be missing out on being a part of the rays of light God will bring in those two weeks I also felt relief and freedom that for a few days I won’t be under this same cloud of darkness and I can rest. It felt good to know that rest is coming and that I can trust that God will restore me so that I can come back to Prague energized and rested, with renewed passion and energy for bringing his Light to this dark city.

It also felt good to realize that I would be with family and friends who have known me and loved me for a very long time. And even though receiving and allowing others to support and love me has been a continual struggle for me, in this moment I feel such a deep need of others support and love that I feel like I am ready to receive and to relax into the ways that God wants to build me up through his body. I feel ready to let people in, ready to let them know that I need them desperately, and ready to accept whatever forms of love and grace God may direct them to give to my husband and I.

Lord, bring deep rest and restoration through this trip. And Father, teach me to, with open hands, receive your love and blessing through your people. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Lessons from Yoga: Savasana and Letting Go

Savasana, or Corpse Pose, is a yoga pose in which you lay down on your back with your arms resting comfortably at your side. You lie on the floor and allow all of the muscles in your body to relax. It is usually practiced at the end of a yoga session as a time to allow your body and mind to settle after practicing yoga. It is a restorative and rejuvenating pose. To me it is also a pose of surrender.

I have a difficult time surrendering. I struggle with letting go. I have a hard time relaxing. Savasana is difficult for me. To lay on the floor, open and vulnerable to God, to relax and allow my mind to quiet and my body to rest in God’s presence is not easy for me.

Lately I feel like God has been calling me to live more open handedly. To not cling to my own imagined control but to let go and allow Him to work. I have especially been challenged with this in my prayer life.

Sue Monk Kidd writes in When the Heart Waits about how there are two levels of letting go.

“First, there is the active work we do with the conscious, surface attachments in our life – those patterns we recognize and can campaign against… to let go of these ‘you pray and suffer and hang on and give things up and hope and sweat.’ … The second level deals with deeper, more unconscious patterns – what Merton called our ‘secret attachments.’ To uproot these he cautioned that ‘we need to leave the initiative in the hands of God working in our souls either directly in the night of aridity and suffering, or through events and other men.’… We let go our letting go. We stop struggling, stop saying, ‘I will let go, I will, I will.’ Instead, having done all we can, we allow God to work directly on the more secret and deeply ingrained attachments we have to self. We allow god to release us through the experiences, encounters, and events that come to us.”

I’ve been thinking about that lately, the deep letting go that comes by letting go of letting go – The rest that comes from allowing God to work change in us instead of just striving to change ourselves. I want to be able to rest in God and allow him to do his work within me, but it’s difficult for me. I want to control even the process of letting go of control. I want to hold on to my old self, my old life, my old ways, my hidden sins, and bad habits. I want to come to God and with open hands allow him to do his work within me, but I also want to run away from the transforming work He is doing in me. I want to let go but I am scared.

“It seems that at the moment of our greatest possibility, a desperate clinging rises up in us. We make a valiant attempt to ‘save’ our old life. In the words of Daniel Day Williams: ‘We fear it is all we have. Even its sufferings are familiar and we clutch them because their very familiarity is comforting… Yet so long as we aim at the maintenance of this present self, as we now conceive it, we cannot enter the larger selfhood which is pressing for life’.”

Then yesterday I started to again read With Open Hands by Henri Nouwen. The first chapter is entitled With Clenched Fists and it talks about how prayer begins by opening our clenched fists to God.

“Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow the other to enter into the very center of your person, allow him to speak there, allow him to touch the sensitive core of your being, and allow him to see so much that you would rather leave in darkness… to let him into that place where your life gets its form, that is dangerous and calls for defense… The man invited to pray is asked to open his tightly clenched fists… But who wants to do that?… you don’t want to let go. You hold fast to what is familiar, even if you aren’t proud of it. When you want to pray, then, the first question is: How do I open my closed hands? Certainly not by violence. Nor by a compulsive decision. Perhaps you can find a way to prayer in the words of the angel to the frightened shepherds, the same words the risen Lord spoke to his disciples: ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Don’t be afraid of him who wants to enter the space where you live, or to let him see what you are clinging to so anxiously… Don’t be afraid to offer your hate, bitterness, disappointment to him who reveals himself as love.”

Today as I finished my yoga practice and lay in savasana (corpse pose) I heard the gentle whisper, “don’t be afraid, let go, just let go and be with me.” And as I lay in that open posture, spread out before God with nowhere to hide, I felt my heart and my body surrender and relax and if only for a moment I let go of my grasping for control. I think that God had been trying to take me to this place for a while now but it wasn’t until I took my body to a place of open relaxation that my heart and soul could follow.

Lord, I need that. Lord Jesus, I know I need moments when I fight to become the person you want me to be and when I fervently and actively pray for the things you have placed on my heart, but I also need moments when I just rest in you. When I let go of trying to become and let go of the hidden places in my life I try to keep hidden, and let go of the desires and control I try to seek after in my life. I need times when I am just with you, Jesus. When I open myself to you and surrender completely to you. Lord, I am yours. And I have no life apart from you.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Roundup From Around The Web: The Quick Version

So, I finally watched the last two episodes of Lost last night! CRAZY! I’ve been watching the show since day one and I can honestly say I love this show!! Anyway, on from randomness to more randomness…

Julie Clawson has been writing about the life of the mind on her blog – basically presenting a defense of intellectualism. Very interesting stuff that I really felt I agreed with and could relate to.

Phyllis Tickle wrote a blog talking about showing love and hospitality to “strangers” – very challenging thoughts that I felt fit well with Tara’s thoughts on the “invisible”

This was a great blog about Deep Rest.

Ever wondered which US city is the most “sinful”? This study looked at all seven deadly sins and ranked each US city in them. There’s an interactive map to play around with too. I thought it was sort of interesting. I found it from a blog where the author was talking about how the church should interact with the specific needs and problems of the particular city/community it finds itself in.

Well, I think that’s actually it for today.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Beth Stedman

                                                                          

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.