How to have a Sabbath Rest Day for Exhausted Families

The alarm clock is a 4-year-old, waking me since June 2016. His noise beckons before sunrise, unless it’s summer when daylight comes almost undignified. But even in the summer…

The moment my feet hit the ground means serving. Doing. Working. Making. Baking. Wiping. Washing. Typing. Trying.

Trying to what? My feet don’t stop.

Maternity-leave pandemic-days exist in a vacuum of bum changing and baby feeding, toddler reffing and food prepping, only seasoned with bills and dirty laundry and crap. Everywhere. Not literal crap of course – but somehow miscellaneous household items scattered through every square foot of the house is now commonplace. If I’m lucky, I might get human contact with my mom, dad or sister.

I never rest well. And when I say never, I mean… it is personal growth to sit down for 10 minutes with my coffee while the chaos advances.

I am not proud of that. It was and is extremely unhealthy.

Eventually, my body screams for sleep and I oblige. Until my baby protests.

Do you ever feel like that? Like life’s demands far surpass your ability to meet them?

Kids or no kids, chaos and constant doing does something dark to us, doesn’t it?

Resisting Rest

You’d think rest should be something we welcome in a state of exhaustion. But somehow rest gets resisted.

This hunger for rest has been a pang in me for years. The thought of it was glorious. The practice of it was vaporous. I’ve never been good at resting.

I read The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer and was convicted I needed to change something.

“Our worst moments happen when we’re in a rush.” – John Mark Comer

That statement rang so true for me, the ringing in my ears hurt. The moments I’m least proud of are always, always when I’m rushed, stressed, overextended, overcommitted, or trying to do do do.

I think we – collectively – are experiencing a solitude famine.

Solitude is “a subjective state in which your mind is free from other minds.” as defined by Kethledge and Erwin, authors of Lead Yourself First.

You and I are experiencing a solitude famine in our hyper-connected, media-heavy, productivity-obsessed culture. In Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport works through the implications of our digital culture and ways to fight for solitude.

It’s like — you know when you’re enjoying a quiet moment at home? And then the dishwasher is finished, the fridge stops humming and the furnace fan turns off? You know when you realize it wasn’t really quiet at all once there finally is silence?

That’s like how we live. But nothing ever turns off.

Taking Sabbath

If Sabbath is a new word to you, it comes from the Old Testament and refers to a day of rest. A full day. To rest. Every. Seven. Days.

Sounds whimsical, right?

It is actually a command with deep meaning and beautiful purpose handed to one of the most ancient known people groups in the world – the Jewish people.

Scripture might be foreign to you and I understand. Hang with me for a sec because there is still something here for you regardless of what you think or don’t think about the Bible.

The Hebrew root word for sabbath is a verb. Sabbath is something you do. Like eat or talk or breath or walk. You sabbath.

It means to cease, to rest, to celebrate. I’m no Hebrew scholar but you can check it out for yourself here.

Why? Scripture tells us Sabbath is a gift. Sabbath is part of the rhythms and cycles of life. Because life is richer in rhythms and seasons.

Why the gift? So we may know the Lord is our God. Did I just lose you? Not a God person? I get that. This part might not resonate with you as much – or it might. I don’t know!

God gave his people Sabbath so that they would know him. Learn. Understand. Experience Him.

God gave his people Sabbath so they would learn how to depend on Him, understand His faithfulness, experience His goodness.

Because while we are driven to do – He loves us when we are still. Because what we do is not what gives our lives value – He loves us because we are the value.

And Sabbath is a way to experience this.

That all sounds wonderful for super-spiritual people with a lot of extra time to contemplate, but I couldn’t fathom how this was supposed to look while cooking dinner and trying to keep a 2-year-old from self-destructing on the banister and a 4-year-old from eating all the ice cream in the freezer.

How a Rest Day Looks for a Family with 3 Kids under 5

Experimentation is key. I’m passionate about experimenting with all kinds of other habits, I had just never tried experimenting with Sabbath.

But I was ready to admit the truth. I was missing something. Not only that, I was ignoring the ultimate wise Counsellor, my Heavenly Father. He knows something I didn’t. I need a Sabbath. Our family needs a Sabbath.

Philosophically, I would have said that was true for a long time. I just had no idea how to do it.

Jefferson Bethke gave us some great ideas in his interview with Carey Nieuwhof here!

So – we don’t get it all right – but every Saturday in January we just decided to try Sabbath with some simple goals. *

*often people choose Sunday, but my husband works for a great church and Sunday’s are not a rest day for us.

Simple Rest Day Goals

This list is not exhaustive. Nor is it instruction, but hopefully it is inspiration. 🙂

We set some pretty simple goals and guardrails for our Sabbath / Rest Day experiment.

  1. Stop being productive.
    Pause the home projects and productivity. Pause the laundry and the honey-do’s. Pause the errands and the tidying.

    Start being present.
    Slow down, get on the floor and play with the kids. Slow down, have more conversations with one another. Slow down, notice the good in the day and give thanks.
  2. Stop recalibrating.
    Stop trying to fix and mend. Stop trying to adjust and get ahead. Stop trying to plan and prepare for what’s next.

    Start celebrating.
    Celebrate the new day. Another day not a given, it’s a gift. We imagine a “ideal normal day” and aim for that. To me, celebrating was a new word to filter Sabbath through and it changes everything.
  3. Stop working.
    Unplug from professional roles. Set intentional boundaries around work life and responsibly prepare to disengage for a day.

    Start playing.
    Plug into fun. To steal Annie f downs phrase – what sounds fun to you? Do that.

Though it took us time to ‘get the hang of it’ – we both look forward to Sabbath every week.

Nitty gritty do’s and don’ts

Because I know some of you will ask… here’s a little nitty gritty.

We don’t actually have a list of things we do and don’t do. We just put everything through the filter above.

Here are some tricks that we find work for a restful day – but yours may look totally different depending on your age and stage!

  1. Plan fun meals – I enjoy breakfast and baking but really don’t like cooking. So, I make a hot breakfast and bake something exciting in the morning (like cinnamon buns with espresso icing!) Justin LOVES making homemade pizza, so he’s in charge of dinner, I get a break. We have a pizza party!
  2. Enjoy something fun – what do you wish you could do more often? We do that. Build snow forts. Paint paintings. Play play dough. Drink coffee. Read books.
  3. Trade “quiet” – we take turns and each get an hour of quiet to spend as we wish (rest or play). I often choose a bubble bath with a book and a glass of wine. Can you blame me??
  4. Give extra grace – we make the day a little easier on ourselves, guilt-free. The last hour of the day is popcorn and movie night, the kids get extra screen time, and we all get to unwind.

Rest days are not perfect and not even always relaxing with little kids around, but something about them is so good for our souls.

Sabbath Rest is Worth Starting

I’m just on the front end of seeing the value in a sabbath. But there is treasure to be found.

Solitude. Celebration. Love. Connection. Joy. Contentment. Presence. Patience. Hope. Peace.

And to think… it was God’s idea for us.

The beauty of sabbath is a balm for the tired soul.

If you resonate with any of this – I encourage you – try it.

If this is something you do in your week or in your family — please do tell!!

I’m new to embracing a Sabbath in this stage of life and would love to learn from you!

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