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.

Holy Saturday

img_4465.jpgHere is a prayer for Holy Saturday from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. It struck me this morning and has become my prayer for the day.

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 May you eagerly wait with God today for the coming resurrection and new life of tomorrow.

Rejoicing in the journey –
 Beth Stedman

Photograph by 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.

Isaiah 58

 6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
       to loose the chains of injustice
       and untie the cords of the yoke,
       to set the oppressed free
       and break every yoke?

 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
       and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
       when you see the naked, to clothe him,
       and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
       and your healing will quickly appear;
       then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
       and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
       you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
       “If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
       with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
       and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
       then your light will rise in the darkness,
       and your night will become like the noonday.

 11 The LORD will guide you always;
       he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
       and will strengthen your frame.
       You will be like a well-watered garden,
       like a spring whose waters never fail.

 12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
       and will raise up the age-old foundations;
       you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
       Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

 13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
       and from doing as you please on my holy day,
       if you call the Sabbath a delight
       and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
       and if you honor it by not going your own way
       and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

 14 then you will find your joy in the LORD,
       and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land
       and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
       The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

 Isaiah 58:6-14

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.