The Grove – Sabbath

“I have a disease… I am addicted to measurable productivity.”  –Emily P. Freeman

Does anyone else get twitchy when you try to force yourself to rest? Do you feel guilty?  Self-indulgent?  Bored?  Does your to-do list buzz incessantly in your ear when you try to take a day off?

Why is Sabbath so hard for us?

Because we are born and bred to produce.

We’re addicted to doing, wondering all the while why we’re so crazy exhausted.

But the fact is, we serve the Lord of the Sabbath, a God who says, “Come to me, and I will give you rest.”

Do we trust him with that promise?  Do we know the world will spin on without us for a day? That each week we can let go of the doing that defines us and instead simply be?

I think that if we can, we might trade our weary yokes and heavy burdens for his, the kind that are easy and light.

I’m on this journey myself, trying to wean from the addiction, to live in the kind of life he offers me.

I think addictions are best fought in the support of community.  So what if we all share what’s working for us with Sabbath rest?  Not as prescriptions for each other, but an opening up of our stories to see if we can find hope in each other.

Here’s what working for me and my family when it comes to Sabbath….

Sabbath Day  Our Sabbath is on a weekday.  As others have mentioned, weekends often end up being the days that we pour the most out.  We’re left depleted by the end of them.  So we’ve found that Sabbath doesn’t work for us unless it’s on a weekday.  At the beginning of each semester, we work hard to find a day of the week that we can dub our Sabbath.  Then we guard against scheduling any regular activities or commitments or work for that day.

For homeschooling this even means doing extra on other days or fitting in some school work in between activities during the weekend.  Not everyone has the flexibility to do this, but for those of us with the curse/blessing of not having a nine-to-five job, this can be the key that makes Sabbath possible.  Maybe you can make Sabbath work for you on Sunday or Saturday.  Maybe you have to.

I’ve found the best way to find Sabbath is to think outside the box of “should.”  It’s our own expectations that hold us captive.

Sabbath with Kids  I know.  It sounds like an oxymoron.  For a long time when my husband and I would hear or talk about Sabbath, we’d just roll our eyes and think, “A day of rest?  Ha!”  Last time we checked no one is interested in taking our children away for 24 hours every week so that we can get a break.  Bummer.

But we believed Sabbath to be important, so we tried anyway.  More often than not, we’d get to the end of our Sabbath, look and each other and ask, “Do you feel rested?”  Yeah, me neither.  Just keeping our three young children fed, refereed, and alive was exhausting.

We realized that each of us needs alone time to recharge.  So here’s what we do.  Each Sabbath, we divide the day into two four hour chunks of time 8am-12pm and 1-5pm.    One week, he gets the morning shift, I get the afternoon, and the next week we switch, because, hello, nap time is a significant advantage.  During my four-hour time, I am off the parenting clock.  They are all his.  I can lock myself in my room or go out guilt-free. Then when I have the kids, I’m glad my husband is getting the chance to refuel.

It’s really quite amazing how good it feels to have a four-hour chunk of time every week devoted to doing WHATEVER I WANT.  By the end, I come back to the family happy to see them.  We still eat three meals together, leftovers, something super simple, or ordered in (because going out to eat with young kids is the opposite of restful, right??). Then our evening is usually family movie night with popcorn.  Our kids love Sabbath, and now my husband and I do too.

I share this only to say that Sabbath with kids IS possible.  It isn’t perfect.  But don’t give up on the idea.  Get creative and find what works for you.  Chances are your Sabbath will continually evolve as your family grows.

Sabbath Rules  I once heard a speaker talk about how he and his family practice Sabbath.  By the end, I thought, “That sounds miserable.”  There were so many rules about what was allowed and what wasn’t.  It all smacked of law and legalism.

Here’s the one rule that I’ve found to be helpful for Sabbath: “Do that which is life-giving.”  If you’re having trouble deciding if you should or shouldn’t do something on a Sabbath, ask yourself, “Would this be life-giving or life-draining?”  Only you can answer that.  For some that means saying yes to going out with friends.  For others that means saying no.

Figure out what fills you up, connects you with the Father, and makes your mind and body unwind.  For me that means reading, journal praying, watching “Call the Mid-Wife,” going for a walk, taking a nap.

On Sabbath days, I still sometimes get twitchy thinking of all the things I could be accomplishing, but if I resist the addiction, the craving to do, I find the refreshment that feeds my soul, that connects me with my Father, and in turn blesses my family and my work.


So, what’s working for you when it comes to Sabbath rest?  What is your journey with Sabbath?

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Photo Credit: skoeber via Compfight cc


  1. Ruth April 24, 2014

    I love this focus on Sabbath this week.  The addiction to doing has been something I have become aware of once again in my life recently.  It is subtle because often I don’t feel like I’m actually accomplishing anything – just doing the same laundry, changing the same diapers, dealing with the same tantrums over and over.  But I have realized that feeling unproductive causes me to work even harder for that feeling of accomplishment.  So I get caught up in striving and striving, and then when I have downtime I usually waste it because I’m not sure what to do with it.

    In the past the idea of taking a sabbath always seemed legalistic.  Weren’t we supposed to be free from all those nitpicky rules?  I pictured sitting stoically quiet and trying to pray for 12 hours or something like that.  But lately I am remembering Jesus’ words about the sabbath being made for men.  I love your “rule” about “Do that which is life-giving.”  That is exactly what sabbath is about – rest and an opportunity to stop and drink fully of the things that recharge us spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

    We’ve still been working out what sabbath looks like for us, but the most important piece so far has been for my husband and I to each have time to get away to refocus and recharge.  I truly feel this will be the most important decision we have made about our time in this season.  I think so much good comes out of that time.  Since I’m still nursing a baby, it’s not practical for me to get away for a super long time, but just taking a couple of hours has been really helpful (and yes, we switch off who gets naptime!).  I usually sit outside, read the Bible or something else, listen to music, journal, breathe…  The rest of the day I actively try to avoid doing all those little chores that so easily fill the entire day.  Sometimes it is really difficult to not fret over everything I’m not accomplishing – which makes me aware how much of an addiction it truly is.  I want to accomplish because then I can feel good about myself.  Instead I try to listen to God to reminding me how he feels about me – not about what I do, but just about me.

    1. Brittany April 25, 2014

      Your line about wasting your downtime because you don’t know what to do with it…that resonates with me completely.  And then after it’s wasted, I feel even more exhausted!  Thanks for sharing how you do Sabbath.

      1. Patty Stallings April 30, 2014

        Brittany and Ruth, that was the same line that resonated with me!  In fact, today is a holiday in the country in which I serve, and I was up at 5 am trying to figure out how to include rest and play in the day.  For me, that highlights the importance of considering Sabbath sacred enough to plan and prepare well.

  2. Danielle Wheeler April 25, 2014

    Yes!  The daily work of motherhood doesn’t feel like much accomplishment.  You’re right, I think that makes us push even harder to find a sense of accomplishment.  Love the thoughts you share here, Ruth, especially the last sentence.  If we really know down to our toes how God feels about us, regardless of what we accomplish, we’d be much more able to rest.

  3. Brittany April 25, 2014

    Danielle, I think this is my favorite post of the week.  You have no idea how POSSIBLE you just made Sabbath for me.  My husband and I have been faithfully attempting Sabbath every week of the 6 months we’ve been in the field (we were much more successful before moving overseas).  But by the end of our day of rest, we feel anything but rested.  We’ve got a 17 month old and 3 year old who is still struggling with potty training.  You are right, just keeping them fed and alive is pure exhaustion!  But what a great idea to divide the day into shifts!  I’m going to suggest that to my husband today.

    And the “rules” have been a problem for us as well.  My girlfriends and I like to get out for a night every month or two and it’s usually on our Sabbath.  It’s always a tension of should this be allowed?  Should I just be at home with the family?  But this time is extremely life giving for me.  My husband likes to go running and one of the only days he has time to do it is on our Sabbath.  When he’s at the park, he usually runs into a group of young kids and he joins their workout and builds relationships with them.  Is that work?  Should he do that?  But again, it’s life-giving to him.  I think asking ourselves this one question is going to revolutionize our Sabbath.

    I’m already trying to have easy meals pre-prepared before Sabbath, the housework already done, eat on paper plates to reduce dish washing.  We do a movie and pizza night as well.  A kids movie before they go to bed and then after they go to bed, we do a grown-up movie.  Our activity during the day is what we have the hardest time with.  Being slothful makes us feel exhausted, so we want our rest to be intentional.  We have been sending the 3 year old to his preschool still on our Sabbath days because it gives us a little bit of a break, but then is that teaching him to not observe the Sabbath?  I think after this week, my husband are going to have a very productive talk about all of this!

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 25, 2014

      So glad this will stir conversation for you and your husband!  And I love your comment on how being slothful can be exhausting.  I think it really does take practice to rest intentionally in a way that breathes life.  Still learning!

  4. Tanya Marlow April 25, 2014

    This is spooky timing – I’ve just taken the scary step of announcing a blogging sabbatical. It’s hard to step away from doing, particularly when the doing is so much fun.


    Love your idea for doing a sabbath with kids – genius!

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 25, 2014

      Ooh, sabbatical!  Good for you!  I’m sure it feels risky, but way to be faith-filled.  I really think you’ll come back fuller.  Can’t wait to hear about it!  And yay for spooky timing. 🙂

    2. Cecily Willard April 26, 2014

      When I read about your blogging sabbatical, I thought that maybe I need to take a look at my life to see what needs a sabbatical.  I struggle with taking a weekly Sabbath because I feel the pressure of unspoken expectations weighing on me all of the time, but you gave me something to ponder.  Maybe there is something in my life that needs a rest, and as I give it a rest, I will have some extra time for rest.

      1. Patty Stallings April 30, 2014

        I love this concept of taking a sabbatical in one area of life.  I usually think of a sabbatical as an “all or nothing” endeavor – which then consequently leads to no sabbatical.  I’m so glad we are talking about Sabbath together as a community!

  5. Laura April 25, 2014

    Danielle, I love what you said about doing what is life-giving. Since my schedule can be really busy one week and not busy at all the next, I rarely take a weekly Sabbath. But I do find that I need to take a break and get away every six weeks or so. A quick day trip to a local castle with a stop at Starbucks on the way home leaves me feeling more rested than simply staying home for the day.

    1. Cecily Willard April 26, 2014

      Laura, I like your idea of a six week break since you don’t take a weekly Sabbath.  It is good to think about some creative ways of getting the rest that the Lord calls us to.  Thanks for the idea to get me thinking, even though I will not have the pleasure of including Starbucks in my planning.

  6. T April 25, 2014

    hi!  to comment on the 3 yr old going to preschool–we take our sabbath during the week when our kids are at grade school.  during the summer and when they are older, we’ll work on the sabbath training!  you and your husband choose–i just thought i’d let you know what we’re doing.   also, i try to make worship music a bigger part of my day and also try to have laundry done and leftovers ready to eat…thankfully, my househelper comes the day after, so the dishes get to wait til then.   also, try to keep my expectations low as for how “rested” i’ll feel at the end of the day. week after week, it is working, though!

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 25, 2014

      Love the idea about making worship music a bigger part of the day.  And such a good point about keeping expectations low!  Sky high expectations are a sure-fire way to have a miserable sabbath! (I may be speaking from experience. 🙂

  7. Ashley Felder April 26, 2014

    Agreed with above, this post spoke to me, perhaps because it’s Momma to Momma. I, too, like your idea about shifts. My only mental block now is, do we start now? Our lives are about to transition to the States for several months. Do we start then? Or when we return? Possibly the most annoying thing about our ever-transitional lives….no schedule/routine ever stays the same. But, you’ve made it seem possible with a family with young kiddos. And that’s a relief. Thanks for your words!

    1. Cecily Willard April 26, 2014

      Ashley, it sounds like flexibility is the name of the game for you.  I am seeing in these posts a lot of room for flexibility and creativity.  I like what Danielle suggests:  do what is life-giving, drawing you to the Father and helping you unwind.  There is a lot of room for interpretation in that!  May the Lord show you how to do it as you stay close to Him at each step along the way of your transitional life.  Surely He is the One who calls us to the Sabbath rest, just as He is the One who has called you to this life full of transition, so He has a way for you that will be abundant in freedom.

  8. Malia April 26, 2014

    I so appreciated your encouragement and advice here, Danielle. I’m motivated to make Sabbath rest a reality! ^^

    Your story about Sabbath rules making the day miserable reminded me of Laura Ingalls sitting on her stool and pouting: “I hate Sundays!” because she couldn’t run around and play. But your advice is perfect–and poetic (a bonus!). “Do what is life-giving.” I’ll need to play that on repeat. Thank you.

  9. Caitriana April 27, 2014

    Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

    Growing up on the Outer Hebrides, islands off the north-west coast of Scotland, this was nailed into our consciousness from our earliest days. It’s a place where Sabbath-keeping is still very much part of the community and culture. There were no shops and restaurants open. Only in the last few years have there been ferry sailings and flights to the island on Sundays. Everything pretty much comes to a standstill.

    As kids, Sundays weren’t our favourite day of the week, and in stereotypes of the island, the legalism of Sabbath observance there often comes to the fore. When I was growing up (in the 80s), TV was out but Christian books were in. Playing football in the garden was out, walks on the beach were OK. Since then, though, while I’ve (hopefully) grown out of the legalism, I am immensely grateful for the imprint it’s left on my life of a routine day of rest. I also try, as much as possible, to avoid things that will cause work for other people. As a university student, there was the freedom to take a break from studying, even in the midst of finals, guilt-free, and trust God for the outcome. Today, just moved back to Asia, with piles of unpacked boxes in the bedroom, it’s freedom to spend time worshipping, reading, writing, thinking, leaving the boxes till tomorrow, guilt-free. I love it, and hope that if I have a family of my own some day, that I’ll be able to leave that legacy with them too.

    I love Ps. 127:2 – “he grants sleep to those he loves” – and the thought that rest is an expression of dependence on God!

    I also really liked something I read by a Jewish rabbi a while ago (unfortunately I can’t remember his name), in which he made the metaphor of Sabbath being like a cathedral in the architecture of time – a sacred space to enter into week by week, in feasting and celebration.

    Thanks everyone for the discussion this past week – I’ve really enjoyed reading all your contributions. As I start a new job this coming week, it’s made me resolve anew to try and keep time and space clear for that ‘cathedral’ each week!

    1. Shelly April 27, 2014

      I didn’t have such a background as you Caitriana, but I have been working at in over the last few years, and especially the past 18 months. It has been slow going, and I have called it more discipline than delight at times, but I am grateful for what it calls me to remember: I am not God; I am limited; I need rest; God commands it because it is good for me.  When I have nearly abandoned sabbath for the pile of work that lay before me, He reminded me that I am not Him and I need rest, and that He can take care of that which I am worried about. Rest, my child, and then work out of your rest.

      The fall semester showed “progress”, but this spring semester I am finding that my weekly sabbath is usurped by organizational meetings that leave me 2-3 weeks out with only pockets of sabbath and not a day. I don’t feel that I can tell the  “committee” that I can’t meet Saturdays when that really is the only day that all of us are “free” from teaching. Sundays include campus activities in the evening, so that’s also not a restful option for me.  I have chosen a different day for the next month to see how that is for me, but it is already in conflict with another committee meeting. (sigh). All this to say, I’m still trying and figuring out how it works in the life I currently live.

      1. Caitriana April 30, 2014

        Yeah, figuring out how best to make it work in this crazy life, how it should look in a different place and culture and stage of life, is definitely a challenge! I find it encouraging that Jesus was accused of ‘working’ on the Sabbath, breaking the norms of his culture in order to do good to others.. so maybe we don’t have to worry too much about having a whole day work-free every week? I’m still thinking about this and trying to figure out how much of my understanding of Sabbath comes from my culture, and how much from Scripture!

        (BTW, are you the Shelly that I know, or a different Shelly?)

        1. Shelly April 30, 2014

          Yes I am. 🙂

    2. Patty Stallings April 30, 2014

      In my family of origin, Sundays were our one day to step away from our family’s auction business.  I’m so grateful for the model my parents gave of making Sunday unique, taking time for church and naps and play.  The ability to take a break, guilt free, in the midst of all-the-work-that-must-be-done truly is an expression of trust in God.  No doubt, He is pleased when we wholeheartedly engage in that gift of Sabbath He’s provided for us.

  10. Colleen Mitchell April 29, 2014

    I have been a “sabbath season’ of late and have not had much chance to blog or join the conversation here because of a move and furlough time. I finally got to link up and reflect on why this season has been good for me, something I have been thinking about long before you guys announced the word prompt here. I am glad the Spirit blew me back here as I begin to flex my writing muscles again, I have missed the life-giving conversation here!

    1. Patty Stallings April 30, 2014

      Welcome back, Colleen!

  11. M'Lynn April 29, 2014

    So, my big plan was to get this posted on our blog and link up.  That didn’t happen, so here it is in comment form!
    “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.  On it you shall not do any work, you or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.”  Exodus 20:8-11
    A few days ago, Jeremy and I were discussing whether or not he should agree to his students’ request for him to chaperone an event on a Sunday.  This sparked some really interesting conversation between us.  Then, surprisingly enough to me, Velvet Ashes revealed their weekly theme: Sabbath.  After reading Kimberly’s post on Monday, I knew I had more processing to do!
    First, here’s a short recap of my conversation with Jeremy.  My main concern with him agreeing to chaperone said event on a Sunday is that he would be working on a Sunday.  Even if the students are just meeting up to play a game, as “official chaperone,” he’d be WORKING.  How is this different than some teachers and students meeting up at the gym on Sunday afternoon to play basketball?  Well, in that situation, he’s not in charge.  So, he’s PLAYING.  For us, it boiled down to having to answer to my children when they ask, on a Sunday afternoon, “Where’s Daddy?”  My response for the chaperone situation would be “He’s working.”  That just didn’t sit right with me.
    Some background info might bring some understanding about where I’m coming from on this.  I grew up on a cotton farm.  My father could basically create his own work hours (at the mercy of the season and the weather, of course).  Even in the busiest of times I cannot remember him working on a Sunday.  Sunday meant two things:  church and rest.  He wouldn’t even mow the lawn on Sunday or allow us to.  Growing up with this pattern where the Sabbath day was kept holy (set apart) gave me a deep appreciation and respect for this commandment of God.
    Our first year in China, my clear cut idea of how to keep the Sabbath day holy was challenged by the views of others and our circumstances.  Our next years in China as English teachers trying to build relationships with busy college students further challenged my views.  How could we not WORK on Sunday when the only time so many students we were trying to meet with were only free on Sunday?  In those days, we had a flexible schedule during the week, so we compromised by working on Sunday, but making sure to set apart a day during the week when we would not meet with students or do any work.  I’m not saying this is right for everyone and I’m sure we could get into some theological discussions over it, but it did seem to work for us during that season of our lives.
     “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
    We’re missing out on something special when we miss out on keeping the Sabbath day holy. The problem lies in the subjectivity we’ve assigned to this particular command. Stealing, cheating and lying…those things are pretty objective and it’s easy to see when we’ve broken God’s commands not to do those things.  How long will the body of Christ excuse our obligation to keep this commandment as we see Sunday after Sunday on our calendars fill up with obligations and busyness?  It’s a slippery slope because we all want to be in the exception category.  In all the subjectivity, Sunday has become just another day.
    “Oh, I’ll just work this Sunday and then make sure to rest next Friday night,” we say.
    Is that really what keeping the Sabbath day holy looks like?  Back to now.  Now, we do not have a flexible weekly schedule. Now, our work hours are mostly inflexible.  Because of that, I’m very protective of our Sundays.  A Sabbath day is a day set apart by God for rest and worship.  I want to be supportive of our community and the events going on at the school, however, I want to balance that by setting an obedient example for my kids and others.
    Have you struggled with what it looks like to follow this command?  Do you have any “best practices” you can share with me?

  12. M'Lynn April 29, 2014

    Oh, no!  I broke one of the grove posting rules by copying directly from Word.  I’m guilty!  So sorry.  I think I’m going to have to start my own blog so I can participate in the link-up.  You see, I’m a writer, not a blogger.  If I write something for a blog, it’s always been posted by someone else (thank you, hubby and velvet ashes!).  So, I actually have no idea how to do all that linky goodness stuff bloggers get giddy about.  I’ll let that idea simmer on the back burner for a bit.

  13. Danielle Wheeler March 2, 2016

    Sorry for the spam comments that came through on this post! They’ve been deleted and blocked.

    Apologies.  (And Jesus, please save spammers!) 🙂

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