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Last autumn, our family began practicing a weekly Sabbath meal together, which I wrote about in more detail over here. Six months into this new family tradition, I have a little more to say about both the difficulties and surprises of this new practice, so I thought I’d list them out to share:

Rest is a gift. ||  This point sounds redundant but it is worth repeating. I simply cannot stress enough how valuable this weekly 24-hour period has become to our family and to myself. Naturally, it better guards our family time but the sweet spot for me is shutting down the obligation of output, whether in social media or school work or even events within the community. For an entire day, I literally shake my hands of typical responsibilities pertaining to the home and work. If I wake early, I’ll often wander back to our bed at some point for a nap or to more leisurely read a book. In a season of life filled with millions of things to do, it has been empowering and peaceful to tell myself (and the nagging TO DO list in my head): not today.

Rest is a discipline. || Oddly, by practicing rest more often, I’ve realized how often I actually fight it. Because Mark works outside of the home and our children are with me during the week, the weekend can feel like my time to get things done. So it’s been surprising to learn that while I love this period of intentional slow, it still requires discipline to practice.  In the same vein, I have noticed that practicing the Sabbath has helped me gauge the my levels of stress more acutely, as it takes me longer to settle into a restful state when I am feeling anxious. On those weeks I tend to think “this is wasted time; I have so much to do.” I know it’s ridiculous, but in those more stressful weeks, rest is a discipline, one that always rewards me with what I really need: time to wrestle with the origins of the stress, time to ask the even the deeper questions of why I feel undeserving of it, and of course, time to bring all of this to God. The gift is time. Although it feels anti-productive, the discipline of rest has been a spiritual and mental refreshment from the tyranny of all work, even work I love, even when I don’t think I need it.

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Sometimes you run out of gusto. And that’s okay. || Some weeks simply steamroll us, making it more difficult to find the physical or emotional gusto required for the elaborate meal. On those sort of weeks we’ve adapted our meal, at times eating pizza or take-out food by candlelight. Those are the weeks I need rest the most and relieving the burden of the fancy food (while less enticing) is helpful.

Sometimes we say no to good things. || Tons of events happen on the weekends, especially with children: birthday parties, sleepovers, sports activities, traveling, etc. When possible, we stack our weekend plans for Saturday evening or Sunday. Although we occasionally make exceptions for travel or holidays or special events, we weigh those things heavily and are learning a simple lesson that sometimes it is good to say no to good things. Sometimes we need the undivided rest more. Since a few of you have asked, our children do not currently participate in any activities that require regular weekend commitments. In certain seasons, it’s better for the harmony of the home to say no.

Share the meal (and the meal preparation).  || Since my sister and brother-in-law live practically down the street from us, we share this meal together most weeks. While it requires more coordination and larger amounts of food, it’s fantastic sharing the responsibilities and expense. It always helps with accountability too, much the way having a gym partner will. You’re more likely to follow through if you know someone else is counting on it. If you’re far from family or don’t yet have a family of your own, consider hosting a meaningful weekly or monthly meal with close friends who have similar values. A communal table is beautiful.

Children love helping. || The children are perhaps more enthusiastic about this meal than the adults, and although in our home they are required to help, it’s beautiful seeing how they love participating in the process. They are eager for this time together with good food, family movie night, and a following slower day together. Each week, they mostly set the table themselves, spreading the table cloth, arranging the florals and tableware, and writing the name cards. They also help filling the glass water bottles and making the food. They’re always eager to help with the weekend cake. Wink.

Eat outdoors, when possible. ||There’s something tremendous and spiritually connecting about a beautiful meal and nature together. I’ve found the weeks we set a formal table outdoors are often my favorite. Since the weather has been sporadically warm this January, we enjoyed our Sabbath meal in the backyard last week, just beside a warmly life backyard fire-pit. Honestly, leaving the physical house for a bit can be the best way for me to draw that initial line to end work. Walking through the back threshold of our home, I figuratively announce: I’ve worked enough. Perhaps that’s the greatest lesson for me thus far, learning the power and humility in the word enough.

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25 replies
  1. Lanna
    Lanna says:

    Love these thoughts! My family has been practicing Shabbat for a few years now. We started as just the 2 of us; now we have a 1.5 y/o daughter and another on the way. I’m with you in that sometimes, I’m just too exhausted with the work of growing a baby and raising a toddler and keeping a home to make the big meal. Sometimes we order pizza. Sometimes the table doesn’t even get set. I’m learning that that’s ok. It’s the coming to the table, the communing with each other, giving thanks to God for work and rest, that matter. These are the things that are beautiful to the Lord. The rest is just adornment.

    Reply
  2. Lindsay M
    Lindsay M says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey, Bethany. Our family has a kinda sorta rhythm of Sabbath on Sundays but I don’t often feel the blessing of it. Some of our challenge is young children (3 and 9 mo) who don’t appreciate a slow Sunday afternoon like their parents do! I felt the most grace as you shared your words regarding different seasons of life. And yet I am still inspired to be creative with what we have available to us now.

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Yes, I’ve been realizing lately, I want the benefits of every season of motherhood all at once. It’s good to take a step back and realize that’s impossible. Each year folds into another, yielding the fruit we and our families need right then. If your children aren’t napping at the same time, giving a natural rest to your home, perhaps try swapping half-day duties with your husband. Just a thought. Grace upon grace to you, Lindsay. x

      Reply
  3. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    This is a dream of mine, and one we have sporadically accomplished. However, with an acreage to maintain, I often feel like hoarding Saturdays for work. My dream would be the Sabbath meal followed by a worship service in our home. Then I could make Sunday my work day.

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Honestly, there is a time and season for everything. I too struggle not work or produce something. This has been a sweet lesson for me and our family. I hope you find space to celebrate in a way that works with your own family right now, not with heaps of striving, but a rest that is your own. x

      Reply
  4. Liz
    Liz says:

    I really want to start the “after church meal” tradition. I’m just too lazy after a busy morning of preparing for church. I need to plan better, I think.

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      I’m sure it would be much harder if I had a regularly planned event before our Sabbath meal, too. Have you considered Saturday evenings instead? Be encouraged: planning is the most important element for me. On weeks that are busier or overwhelming in other ways, I find those are the weeks that it’s hardest to follow through for our meal. I hope that you find a way that works within your own family rhythms and routine right now.

      Reply
  5. Nicki Hawes
    Nicki Hawes says:

    I loved reading this! I have practiced a “sabbath day” all my life, but have recently worked to fine-tune it into something more purposeful for our entire family. The benefits are amazing! I really enjoyed reading your insights and experience-thank you for sharing :).

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      Great question, Kim! Typically on Sunday. If it’s something that I can do on my own, I’ll try to work it in during the week somehow, but otherwise, we do what we can on Sunday and have to let go of the rest. Since my husband is in education, he typically has off for clusters of time. We’ll save larger home projects for summer. ;)

      Reply
  6. Lorena Barnes
    Lorena Barnes says:

    Your decorations are so amazing, simple, effective – your photos!!!! Just breath taking! It is extremely inspiring for me! Thanks Bethany for sharing your beautiful home!

    Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      How kind for you to share, Lorena. I’m so grateful to hear when this space is meaningful and inspiring to others, as it requires so much of my heart and time. So thank you. x

      Reply
    • Bethany
      Bethany says:

      As you know, it’s both sweet and difficult to make time to share the things that are in your heart. It’s always good when we do. Thank you for the encouragement, Faith. x

      Reply
  7. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    So beautiful, Bethany. My sister and I just told each other we ought to plan a big family lunch for Sunday’s after church because we all live in the same neighborhood. Now you’ve inspired me to make that a reality! And practice the discipline of rest!

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] weekends / Weekends are a natural place for many people to find a little reprieve. If you have children, consider a swap of time with your spouse. In the last 18 months, our family has developed a Sabbath practice, a ritual borrowed from Jewish culture. We are still learning so much about this gift in our life. We begin with a Shabbat meal on Friday evening, and Saturday, we each find space for silence and solitude, for letting go and receiving. Sometimes this will be taking a long walk on my own or laying down on a blanket in the sun. We take the posture of rest, of turning our thoughts from house projects or school work or creative ideas to rest, to enjoyment of one another and also of silence. To read more about our developing Shabbat meal and Sabbath practices: here and here. […]

  2. […] family meal or a hum-drum school day. And every Friday night, when the kids set the table for our family Sabbath meal, the candles neatly wedge between our food and plates and flowers. I keep spare sheets in our […]

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