Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Observing the Christian Sabbath {Part 4: Practical Application}


So far in this Sabbath series, we've covered:
Today is the last post in the series. I'm going to briefly give you a picture of what Sunday's look like in our home, then provide a few suggestions which will hopefully be helpful to moms of little ones, seeking to find rest and spiritual refreshment within the unrelenting demands of motherhood.

As I mentioned in the last post, because believers today are no longer under the ceremonial law, there is no longer a black and white list of dos and don'ts for exact Sabbath observance. Practical application is going to look a little different in different homes. Developing your own personal convictions and practices will come as you seek the Lord through prayer, His Word, and counsel with other wise believers.

My desire with this post is to give you a helpful starting place for structuring your own day of rest and worship.


A typical Sunday morning at the O'Neill's house starts with getting ready for church. Most Saturday nights I lay out everyone's clothes, pack the diaper bag and Bibles, take my own shower, and prep the next day's meals so the day is as easy as possible. All I have to do in the morning is dress myself, feed everyone, and dress the kids.

We get home from church between 12:30-1. I heat up leftovers for lunch- no cooking enables me to rest from my normal work. Our two older kids used to take naps after lunch, so Niall and I took them too. Unfortunately now they are bigger and have mostly outgrown naps. Since they both sit in service with us, I don't feel good about making them do their typical week day quiet time either. Kids need to get their energy out at some point! This is a new challenge for us.

Some weeks Niall and I take turns napping. I lay down while he plays with the kids, then he wakes me up at a pre-determined time and we switch. I let the kids go out on our enclosed porch at the back of the house and close the door so I can read my Bible, study, or read another Christian book in quiet while they play. When they are bored of that, I set them up with art supplies and play either the Audio Bible for them, or a playlist of Hymns on Spotify.

Then we feed them a quick dinner and get ready to go back for evening service. By the time we get home from this second service, it is past bed time and we rush to get all of the kids down for the night. At which point Niall and I conclude the day, make a quick dinner, and enjoy a show on the couch before going to bed ourselves.

"Sabbath" for us is a day that we take a break from screens. We don't use our phones {apart from Skyping with long distance family} or turn on the t.v. {until the kids are in bed after evening service}. Occasionally we will spend the afternoon with folks from church- either hosting them for lunch, or going to another home. Sometimes we might visit someone in the hospital or a nursing home.

Between morning and evening services, we really don't have a lot of time to be bored, as I so feared before adjusting our lives to the weekly rhythm of Sabbath.


To boil it down, here are some practical ways a mom can "rest" on the Sabbath. Yes, you will still be disciplining, refereeing, training, and meeting the needs of your children. But these little tricks really make me feel rested at the start of each week:
  • Cook ahead of time. This is a big one for me! I try to cook enough on Friday and Saturday so that meals on Sunday are just a matter of reheating. We've also recently instituted a tradition of muffins for breakfast Sunday mornings. I make the batter the night before, and just pop them into the oven first thing for a warm and yummy, extra special breakfast just for the Lord's Day.
  • No housework. I don't do dishes or laundry or any other housework on Sundays. I don't go grocery shopping either. This requires strategic planning, and due diligence on Saturday especially. But it is totally worth it! Sure, Monday morning is usually spent getting everything in order for a new week, but the rest I had the day before equips me for facing the disaster. Institute a paper plates on Sunday policy to give yourself more leeway.
  • A different agenda. Every day but Sunday, I have a to do list driving me. In between sibling conflicts and potty trips and blowing noses or instructing a child, I'm tackling as many to do's as I'm able. On Sundays, rest and worship are my only agenda. That means if the kids are playing nicely for a few minutes, I pick up theological reading I struggle to get in the rest of the week. Or I pray or read my Bible or just sit. Sure, I might not get many uninterrupted moments- but the ones I do get are spent with a specific purpose.
  • Swap naps with your spouse. This might not work in every house- for example, a pastor's wife might have to diligently protect her husband's time between multiple Sunday services- but its at least worth asking your spouse about. If both husband and wife can catch a few minutes in bed while the other spouse keeps them quietly occupied, everyone wins. 
  • No screens. A common thread in our culture is the overuse of technological devices. Laying down my phone, turning off the computer and television for one day, is so helpful in our home! It curbs addiction- we are comfortable when we don't have access to a screen, because we are used to not having them every single Sunday. It helps us to reconnect with the most important people in our life, to spend quality, distraction free face-to-face time. 
  • Center kid time on the Word. I want the Lord's Day to be a meaningful, God centered day for my children as well as myself. Mothering is the one job in my life that I don't get a weekly Sabbath from! Sometimes it can feel frustrating to never get a break. To curb these feelings in my heart, I really attempt to spend focused Word time with my kids on Sundays. While they color their pictures from Sunday School, I talk with them about what they learned or play the stories they heard in church from the audio Bible. When they are clambering for some attention, we snuggle up on the couch and read Bible story books. We might go for an afternoon walk to burn some energy and talk about God's hand in the creation around us. If I'm intentional about the time I spend with them, I'm less likely to get discouraged. 

If you've never set aside the weekly Christian Sabbath but you'd like to start, the change might not be as drastic as you fear. If you're anything like my husband and I were before we did, it will probably be radically refreshing compared to your current worn-out and overbooked condition! 

First, identify areas of work you can set aside for a day {mine for example are food prep, dishes, shopping, and other housework}. The key is to prepare as much as possible ahead of time. Plan to pick up that emergency gallon of milk or package of diapers Saturday afternoon. Plan your meals ahead of time. Try to tidy your home Saturday night before bed so the next day is relaxing and not stressful. Then, purpose to fill your day with rest and spiritual refreshment. Include your kids as much as possible- the Sabbath is for the whole family!

I hope this series was helpful for those of you asking me about the topic. If you have any questions that I haven't answered, hit me up with an email {thepurposefulwife@gmail.com} or leave them in the comments. I'll do my best to respond promptly! Thanks. 

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