(After a long hiatus, my wife has finally penned a new post for the blog! I’m so thankful for her willingness to share what is on her heart. Here’s to this just being a taste of what’s to come!)
My husband & I lead a weekly community group in our home and our church encourages all group leaders to take a Sabbath rest for the entire month of July. It’s a chance for physical rest, to shift some responsibilities and encourage others to step into their own gifting. It’s also a chance for us to step back, reevaluate the condition of our hearts, and ask for a renewed filling of Jesus & His Spirit. I’ve been thinking back on those times when I have experienced sweet Sabbath rest and found myself wondering why I don’t lean into it on a more regular basis!
Sabbath is defined as a time of rest, or in Biblical terms, a weekly day of rest or time of worship given as the seventh day (and seventh year). Yeah, that’s great and all, but rarely do I intentionally move towards keeping a sabbath. Life is just so busy after all! But, for the month of July we’re taking a closer look at what that actually looks like for our family.
I came across the book “Rhythms of Rest – Finding the Spirit of Sabbath in a Busy World” by Shelly Miller and it’s been such a gift! By sharing her own personal experience, Shelly encourages readers to practically move towards Sabbath-keeping. It’s inspired me to think realistically how to make it happen week after week.
So by the time last Saturday rolled around my family and I busied ourselves like little worker bees – cleaning the house, grocery shopping, cooking extra food, all in preparation to rest well on Sunday. And oh, how we rested!
We’ve been attending our church’s evening service lately, so we eased into the day lingering over coffee and taking a walk around the neighborhood as a family. Phones & devices were put away, cat naps taken here & there. A ready made meal was heated and served on paper plates, spontaneous music filled the house. There was lots of reading, conversation & times of quiet reflection. Oh, so sweet!
Just so we’re clear, though our recent Sabbath was delightful, it wasn’t perfect. One kid was upset we weren’t walking at her appointed scheduled time, another whined it was too hot on the walk, & the final one was scheming about “work” in the coming days. There were still sibling squabbles, messes made, and temptations to check emails & social media, but our pace was different, slower and more intentional.
There was a moment on Sunday afternoon where I thought to myself: “this is how it use to be in NC when we would visit Carolina Beach.” I know we’ve entered into a season where our kids are older and more self sufficient, where there’s not an endless demand for my attention, but it wasn’t that long ago though when we had three littles, my husband was never home because he was busy “doing ministry” and Sabbath rest was just an elusive dream. It usually came once a year, when we could escape for a couple days for a quick trip to the beach. And we’re not even “beach people!”
But sweet friends owned a condo and we could usually get it at a moments notice in the off seasons. We would have that mad dash the day or two before leaving town to shop, prepare, pack for the upcoming getaway. It was frantic and a little stressful but once we arrived at the beach and left our cares behind it was all so worth it! No agenda, no real plans, just time away from the normal hustle and bustle. Time to be still before God with listening ears, eagerly awaiting His voice and presence. It never failed. We always felt more alive, more connected, & more loved after the time away. Yes! Why wouldn’t I want more of that on a regular basis?!!
Those trips hold such fond memories, but there’s a sadness entwined, too. Why were we not more intentional about making Sabbath a priority? Why didn’t we set more boundaries? Why didn’t we say, “this is incredibly unhealthy?” No, there’s no way a Sabbath back then would have looked like the Sabbath Sunday we recently experienced, but we should have worked towards something! Anything! Instead, God gave us a forced Sabbath. A wilderness experience what would have been my husband’s 7th year of “doing ministry.” And, no, the irony is not lost on us.
So here I stand looking back while looking ahead, mourning the loss of years vanished and facing an unknown future with determination not to repeat the past. I’m realizing the importance of Sabbath on a regular basis and I am so incredibly thankful for a church family who see the value in it and the health of their leaders.
Throughout our Sabbath prep day and all Sunday morning, Psalm 23:2 kept playing on repeat in my head, “He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul.” The imagery and emotion this stirs up in my heart is beautiful, but became even more so when we arrived at church Sunday evening and discovered the new sermon series: “Renewal: spiritual realities for restoring our souls.” Cue the water works! His love overwhelms me and draws me close, reminding me that I am His and He is mine. He restores as I rest in Him.
Our pastor reminded us during worship that night about the word “Selah” (used 74 times in the Bible). The exact meaning is unknown but a couple interpretations can be “stop and listen” or “pause, and think of that.” Isn’t that interesting? Isn’t that what Sabbath-keeping is all about? Slowing down, resting, listening intently, and expecting that He’ll come.
My husband and I ended the evening with a tasty charcuterie board and a sweet FaceTime call with my parents in NC. With our bodies, minds, and hearts rested and renewed, we already began thinking about and looking forward for our next Sabbath. Each week might look a little different, but we’ve certainly found a rhythm we want to continue to keep.