The idea of The Sabbath has always been confusing to me. As the daughter of a minister, I was acutely aware that Sunday was not a day that those who served in the church actually rested. Sundays were usually hectic days that started by scrambling around, getting dressed, finding shoes, filling up our bellies and hurrying to get to church before Sunday School started. Sunday afternoons were full of planning for evening services, practicing choir music, preparing lessons and songs for the little children, more scrambling around and heading back out to church. We would often play games after church or go out with the youth group, get home late and go to bed. I loved it. I have wonderful memories of growing up in church, having action-packed Sundays where I learned about God and made relationships that are still important to me as an adult. It was good. It was even wonderful. But it was not rest.
I have always worked hard. My whole life has been focused in a way that I have come to understand as rare. I think part of it was not having boyfriends and part of it was having older siblings who gave me different perspective, and the biggest part of it was the prayer that my Father prayed for me every day of my life: That I would be safe, well, and in God’s will through the day (the prayer I now pray for my own children). Whatever the reason, as a child and a teenager, I was always focused. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I wanted to do something.
I was never still. If we were watching a movie, my hands were always busy–drawing clothes for my paper dolls or cutting little people and houses out of colored envelopes. When we went on vacation, I always carried a huge bag of things to keep me busy in the car or in the hotel. Mama laughs at me because when I was ten and we were on vacation, we went into the hotel room and I went straight to the wall and hung up a calendar. (Randy also reminds me of this when I am being too demanding that we make a schedule for the day…) I was never bored. I am never bored. I don’t understand how anyone in the world could ever be bored. Working, making things, being productive–this has always come easy to me. Rest? That has been much more difficult.
Randy and I started taking rest seriously when I was in grad school. I was so stressed out and weary, wondering how I ever got so involved in photography, which was clearly not as much a part of my life as it was everyone else’s in my department. I was tired of overthinking my work and myself and being so aware of the meaning behind every artistic decision I was making… I was weary of critiques and the artificial experience of creating art on demand, even when the well had run dry. Of course it was a wonderful time for me in so many ways–I grew to understand what I love most–the ability to create/write about/reflect upon/handmake something that inspires me. And I learned so much about myself. And I was producing a lot of time-consuming, very personal work. (Something I appreciate much more now that I am a mother of three small children, which are most definitely my most important and time-consuming, very personal work…) But it was a weary time. The work was never finished, and as soon as the project ended, I would have to really seek out inspiration elsewhere–which is the hardest work of all.
So, we decided to start taking a day to rest. We saw it as biblical and logical. We took Mondays off, since we were working in the church at that point, and Sundays were more crazy and hectic for the two of us than they had been for me when I was growing up as the ninth child of the Pastor and the Church Pianist. I began to really look forward to our days of rest. It was the one day I allowed myself not to think about school or work. I didn’t do homework, we didn’t plan for the classes we would be teaching. We just rested and spent the day together.
It was amazing. I could tell a huge difference in my ability to think clearly and get started on an idea after having a mental break. Randy was able to loosen up when things became tense at work. There was one day a week we didn’t have to think about it. Instead, we read, prayed, rested, drank tea, ate chocolate, took walks, and enjoyed rest. It had a healing effect on me.
Since then, we have had seasons of really taking a Sabbath seriously and seasons of realizing that in our culture it is nearly impossible to totally take one day consistently to rest without obligations to do other things. Also, after having kids, the idea of the Sabbath has changed dramatically. For one thing, there is very little rest with three children ages 4 and under. Even on the appointed rest day, there are dirty diapers, there are messes, and three little mouths to feed… This came as quite a shock to me, and admittedly, we are still working out the ever-changing way to enjoy rest with children.
One thing I have realized is that rest takes a lot of preparation. In our home, in a good week, while Randy is working, my entire Friday is spent preparing for the Sabbath, which we now celebrate on Saturdays. I try my best to make food ahead of time. (Which often means cooking double portions during the week, freezing extras, and thawing out meals on the weekends…) And I try to get as much cleaning done as possible. If I get the dishwasher emptied and ready for Saturday’s dishes, the toys picked up, and the laundry folded and put away (in the midst of meeting all the other daily needs), I am really satisfied. We have been starting our Sabbath at sundown on Friday night, which we announce by lighting a candle in the dark kitchen. Singing and dancing usually follows, and I sometimes wonder what our neighbors may think of us if they see us dancing by candlelight in the kitchen. The girls love it, and I can see that rituals have a lot of meaning to them. Lighting the candle, singing, and dancing has become a really important part of their Sabbath. If we don’t do these things, they will beg us…
We don’t have a lot of particular rules about things we do on the Sabbath. The main goal is to rest our bodies (no dishes, no laundry, no housework, no yardwork, etc.) and our minds (no recording, no lesson plans, no thinking about school or work, no stressing out about money, no couponing, etc…). We have been having some splendid tea parties upstairs in our little corner library every Saturday. This is usually the highlight of the day. We listen to mellow music, drink tea, read books (separately), the girls play, and then Randy reads them some stories from the Bible. The girls love this time. I realize more and more how much I love Randy when I see him caring for them in this way. We try to stay up there and read (write/chill) as long as the girls will let us. Then we come down and usually watch a movie at some point during the day.
It has become the favorite day for all of us. It is a time to reconnect with God, thanking him for all he has given us and praying about our future. A time to teach our children about our Savior, who has changed our lives forever. It is a time for us to reconnect as a family, to look into one another’s eyes, to listen, to be present in a meaningful way.
We obviously do not observe the Sabbath as was strictly commanded in The Old Testament. But I have come to see the benefit of trying as best we can to follow the command to rest, as it has brought a great peace into my life and into our home. I believe more than ever that we have to make time to rest, even if it means a great preparation to do it. At the end of each Sabbath, I hope to say this: It was good. It was wonderful. It was rest.