Habits of Rest: Keeping Sabbath

Psalm 131 (A song of Ascents, of David)

“O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;

My eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things

Too great and too marvelous for me.

But I have calmed and quieted my soul,

Like a weaned child with its mother;

Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the LORD

From this time forth and forevermore.”

For those of you that follow me on Instagram, you know that recently I have been digging into a new habit; the habit of keeping Sabbath. Now I don’t do this in really any kind of formulaic or even strictly religious way, but God has been tugging at my heart about this topic for awhile now. And after reading the book Rhythms of Rest by Shelley Miller, I realized that resting on the Sabbath is a gift that God wants to give to me, even me in my busiest seasons with little people at home.


Let it Rest

A couple weeks ago my husband and I were blessed with a little time away as we look forward to the arrival of our third child sometime in the next few weeks. When we got to the house at Breck, all we could hear was quiet and bird song. At least, that’s what we noticed first since we are used to living in a house with two rambunctious young children.

The quiet brings with it this peacefulness, and I wanted to let that peacefulness seep into my bones. The breeze was blowing through the open eastern windows that first morning, keeping me cool as I sat at the dining table to write. For me, a 35 weeks pregnant lady in a Colorado July, this escape to the mountains was an escape from the heat of the lower altitudes as much as it was an escape from the busyness of our every-day life. As I wrote at my computer during the early morning freshness, all I could hear was the breeze in the trees, a hawk circling somewhere nearby, and the clack clack of my fingers on the keys. And being away, I didn’t anticipate any sounds other that that. It’s easy to let the silence invade in a place far away from the usual rhythm of everyday life with it’s typical responsibilities, but how do we let that silence invade during our normal week? How do we come to rest on Sabbath, when our every days lives are so full of constant needs and demands?

Plan for Rest (the practical) , 

As I have been sharing in mini-blogs and posts on my instagram, for me the practical aspects of Sabbath include preparations. How to rest on Sabbath includes, planning for rest. For us specifically, this looks like preparing food enough food on Friday that we can enjoy delicious things to eat on Sabbath without my having to cook. It means making sure I’ve run any errands that I need to run by Friday night, and planning to do any crazy house cleaning or projects on any day other than Saturday. It means I make sure I’ve taken out the trash and wiped the counters, and that I’ve washed the vast majority of the dishes before the sun sets and we use paper plates for the next 24 hours. We take our time drinking our coffee. We watch the goats graze. We read the Bible and extra stories to our kids and spend time asking them questions and listening with undivided attention. We take naps. We have a movie night. We eat a special dessert that I prepared on Friday. (Homemade Goat milk ice cream has been the favorite of late!) In short, though it looks different from week to week, we choose to spend this set apart day in “peaceful celebration”.

For you it could be similar, or totally different. You could celebrate on Saturday like us, or any other day of the week that works better for you. Maybe you eat out on Sabbath instead of cooking the day before. Maybe you stay home, or maybe you go on a hike or a family adventure. Maybe you spend time in your garden because that is life giving to you, or maybe you spend most of the day reading or in quiet reflection. Maybe you refrain from doing anything “extra” no matter how great the temptation is. It doesn’t really matter exactly what you do or don’t do, so long as you are choosing with intention what you will do or not do, as an act of worship, and for the sake of true rest.

Anticipate Rest (the spiritual) 

But even more important than these practical aspects to think through is the preparation of spirit we need in order to cultivate a truly meaningful Sabbath rhythm. I call this anticipating rest.

Anticipating a time of peacefulness of spirit; of rest, is part of preparing our hearts to receive what God wants to give us on Sabbath. Like the traditional setting of an extra seat at the Sabbath table, he asks us to come expectant, for him to show up. And he doesn’t show up empty handed.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

We prepare our hearts for Sabbath when we allow the LORD to set our expectation. Does it seem too high to you? Does it seem like with your life, your circumstances, your job, your kids, your ministry, that he couldn’t have meant YOU when he promised rest? The word “all” is pretty inclusive though isn’t it? Maybe this is strong, but I think we have to work pretty hard to willfully misinterpret what he meant there… and yet, how many of us do that?

Pride and unbelief will try to steal the dearest, sweetest, promises of scripture away from you. The promise of rest is one among many that I think it has become so culturally easy to ignore. Perhaps we’ve let our God become too small. Perhaps we read that verse as a comforting intention for what he would like to give us, if only he were able. But of course, saying that out loud, it’s easy to see what an insane heresy that is.

The God of the Universe promises rest! The God who formed mountains and seas; who designed the expansive universe and also designed the smallest function of every cell in your body. The God who died on a cross for sinful man and them RAISED HIMSELF FROM THE DEAD… this God promises rest.

He doesn’t say, “Come over here and we’ll see what I can scrounge up to give you…” He isn’t sorting through his pockets for loose change. He is the God who makes promises, the God who keeps promises, because he alone is the all powerful deity with the ability to actually, perfectly, do both. 

He promises rest. He built the law of rest into his world on the 7th day after it’s birth (Genesis 2:1-3). He put commands for rest in the center of his very law (Deuteronomy 5:12-15). And when he came to earth to live among us, he lived and breathed Sabbath rest even in the rigors of his earthly ministry (Luke 5:16).

Do you believe me yet? Rest is and was God’s idea. And he longs for us to come to him anticipating it.

We can sit with him quietly, like in that passage from the Psalms, we can tell our soul to sit quietly like a weaned child on his mother’s lap. We can surrender to him and his kind intentions towards us. We can choose not to worry about the things that are too great and marvelous for us. We can lean in to trust the one who has nourished us and carried us thus far, who has promised to carry us still. We can anticipate that our needs will be met, just as they have been before. Like my son Boaz rests with me now that he is a little older, he lays his head on my shoulder and asks nothing more than to be held. And I will hold him, often, for as long as he’ll let me.


Dear Reader, if rest has long seemed too far out of reach, remember that the spirit of Sabbath exists even in the smallest moments when we quiet ourselves before the Lord. When you humble yourself. When you remember who he is, and who you are, and that that world will keep spinning with or without you. This next week, I hope you find some time, be it a whole day or even just an hour, to quiet your soul before him.  Do whatever it takes to set aside some time with intention. Prepare to Rest. Then come anticipating Rest. Keep your hands open. Remember his great love for you. Don’t let Satan lie to you any longer; no matter who you are or where you are at today, this invitation is for you.  


You can follow my journey towards rest and Sabbath at @gracieishomesteady, or with the hashtag #learninghowtosabbath if you’d like to see my weekly posts on this topic specifically. Please feel free to leave me a comment there, or here, or shoot me an email if this topic resonated with you and you’d like to learn more. I’d also love to hear how your time of rest went if you pursue it with intention this week.

May we Cultivate a Fruitful life, by God’s grace and for his glory.

P.S. Speaking of rest, as many of you know we are due with our sweet baby boy in a couple weeks at the time this blog will be posted. As I didn’t make it to my due date with either of my first two babies, I don’t expect to with this one either, so if you don’t hear from me for a hot second, then you know why! Stay tuned to my Instagram for baby updates, as I’ll likely post there first. I do have some bomb-digity guest posters scheduled to help me cover a few weeks in August, but wanted to let all you readers know ahead of time. Looking forward to this special time with my family, and to returning to you with even more stories of God’s sufficiency in providing rest by his grace, through the sleepless newborn days! 

Habits of Work: Are they working for you?

Habits that Work for You

Your day is full of working habits. From that first time you push snooze, to the time you get up, brush your teeth, and put on your clothes. To where you find your keys, wallet and phone just before heading out the door. As I spoke about in my last post, Let the Daily be Deliberate, these seemingly trivial and insignificant moments add up to so much of our lives. So my question for you today, Dear Reader, is are your habits working for you, or against you?

When your habits of work are working for you, they can turn the daily grind into a rhythm and a routine that brings with it the comfort of the expected and the normal. They can bring you to a dailiness that helps you feel as prepared as possible for what lies ahead. By contrast, when they are working against you, you will feel habitually behind and unprepared for what your day holds, always scrambling to keep on pace with the demands placed upon you by your actual work, whatever that may be.

Morning Habits, that make our Routines

Let’s zero in for a moment on those pesky morning routine habits. The Lazy Genius, Kendra Hennessy, has an entire podcast episode where she talks about the power of a morning routine and how everyone has one, even if that routine means having no routine. (Click here to listen.) If that is your daily life, then that is your routine. This is where you can think back to my previous blog where I talked about how habits are basically just pre-made decisions; some of which we have fallen into because we haven’t been intentional in those decisions.

I know we all come from different personality types, from hyper structured/organized Type-A person, to the super creative/spontaneous left brained person; but allow me to argue that a little routine is good for everyone. If you are the less structured type, but find yourself constantly waking up in a sweat, with no time for breakfast, rushing around to find your phone and your keys…allow me to submit to you that you are starting your day in a sweat of anxiety that will likely bleed into the rest of your activities whether you think it will or not.

And to the Type A person who is tempted to write this whole “live intentionally by creating fruitful habits” thing off because you already have a structured schedule, let me ask you this: When was the last time you really thought about the habits you are making and keeping, and whether or not they are yielding the fruit that you want to be cultivating in your life? You could be super organized, with a routine for everything, and still not be cultivating fruitful habits. Your life might look like a very clean trap of legalism and safety.  Dear Reader, whichever camp you think you find yourself in, I urge you to examine this! Your life may be full of untapped potential that could be awoken by something as simple as starting to make your bed every morning.

My husband, who is not at all a morning person, has finally found the value of giving himself enough time in the morning to get his cup of coffee, a decent breakfast, and a little quiet time with the Lord.  His work is extremely demanding and often exhausting, not to mention we have two (almost three!) small children at home. But for him, this morning routine before heading into the office, though hard to start at first, is now far worth the price of getting out of bed when his alarm goes off. We have realized that this is especially significant for him because he is an introvert, who works a demanding job and also has little kids and an extroverted wife to attend to whenever he gets home. Until this change, he basically got NO ALONE TIME EVER. It’s been really cool to see how even just a little time alone in the mornings is serving him better, and helping him to perform better in all the various roles that he is asked to fill throughout the day.

Habits of Homemaking

I’ve always been a morning person, so getting up with the sun in the summer isn’t much of a change for me. But when the Lord began to demolish my perfectionism 5 years ago, and I needed a new motivation to clean, habits of homemaking became the first life giving habits that my family and I benefited from.

Good home keeping habits have not only allowed me to spend less time working in my home, but they have also freed me up to spend less mental energy even thinking about what needs cleaning. This all adds up to more time enjoying the family that is sheltered by the walls of my home, even if those walls do occasionally contain a rogue smudge of peanut butter.

Some people enjoy the routine of having one day a week set aside for cleaning, for others (like me) I know that with little people constantly needing things from me, that one day puts way too much on my plate. So for me, a cleaning routine looks like having certain tasks that I do on certain days of the week (usually). This gives me the freedom to not stress about when the bathrooms are getting cleaned, because I know I cleaned them last Wednesday, and I’m going to clean them again on Wednesday. I see hand prints on the windows and I know that I can leave it until Thursday, which frees me up to just live in the middle of the everyday messy with my little people, instead of constantly fretting over mess. I give myself two days for our regular laundry, and one separate day to wash linens. I do this because I know that some weeks there is going to be more than others, and almost every week I end up leaving at least one load in the dryer for a day longer than I should, or I end up leaving clean clothes folded in the basket at the end of the day instead of getting them put away.  This is just part of knowing yourself and what is realistic for your life, as well as what actually works for you. The key is to be flexible. If I have something going on, like a sick child, that doesn’t allow me to get to a certain task the day I normally would, I have “buffer days” that give me the needed time to catch up and at least hit the high spots on the things I missed. This keeps my routine from being stifling and legalistic, and instead keeps it doing what routines and habits should be doing best; working for me not against me. Not scheduling something to clean every single day of the week gives me the freedom I need to rearrange when my life requires it.

The practical application of these ideas will always differ person to person, from capacities, to stage of life, to work schedule, to personality type. If you are in a season of life where one day of cleaning makes more sense, by all means GO FOR IT. The important thing is to realize that your routines and habits can either be working for you or against you, and that it is up to you to set your intention and create the habits that will best serve the life style of your family, as well as their physical needs.

Get Started

You can’t makeover all your life’s habits in one day. Say it aloud with me. YOU CAN’T MAKEOVER ALL YOUR LIFE’S HABITS IN ONE DAY. And that’s OK.

But you can make one new fruitful habit today. That’s why I created this short worksheet, 5 Steps to Cultivating One (new) Fruitful Habit.  It’s not super fancy or complicated, but if you are hankering to try making a new habit today, why don’t you give it a look and see where it takes you. Maybe you start with your morning routine, or maybe it’s your evening routine. Maybe you reevaluate the way you are cleaning (or not cleaning) your house right now and add one step that makes things just a little bit better. Maybe you examine the way you structure meal planning (or don’t). Let it be an area of high impact for you. Click here to start making little changes today! 

Dear Reader, I pray you aren’t too daunted as you think about your habits of work and whether or not they are working for you. My prayer is that instead you would see that even some of the most seemingly insignificant changes can make a world of a difference for you, for your family, for your life.

And if you have something to share, or a question to ask, please reach out! You can find me on Instagram @gracieishomesteady, shoot me an email at gracekelleywrites@gmail.com or just leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

May we realize that we have more potential for growth and change than we every thought possible, and may this spur us on to love and good deeds by the grace of God, for the glory of God.

 

Let the Daily be Deliberate

Sometimes as a stay-at-home Mama, it feels like I’m drowning in the daily. Like the little tasks I do again, and again and again may smother me inside their static ordinariness. The littleness of the days can threaten to swallow you in insignificance. If you’re staring into the washer this morning, wondering whether the clothes are clean or dirty, if like me you’ve been fluffing the same load in the dryer for three consecutive days,  then you know what I’m talking about. Or maybe you feel stuck in a lifeless career that doesn’t exactly make you want to jump out of bed in the morning. Maybe some days you feel like little more than a button pusher, doing the same mindless task over and over again. Or maybe it’s just the opposite. Maybe you work really hard to achieve and come up with creative solutions in your work, but no one ever seems to notice. That’s when the temptation to quit speaks up the loudest; “quit and then they’ll notice you! They’ll notice all the work you have done just by the fact that it’s all NOT getting done right now!”

Whichever deadening dailiness you may find yourself in, can I let you in on a little secret? Every moment of your life matters.

Just think about that for one hot second. Every moment of your life matters. That means every mundane chore, every thought that you have while walking down the hall at work, every casual word or casual glance, every little, seemingly insignificant, choice that you make matters.

And because we are creatures of habit, even if we don’t think we are, so many of these choices are in some way “pre-made”. Sometimes the pre-making of the decision happens by default, as in, we decide we can’t decide and so we do nothing. Others of them are made with intention. And still there are others that probably fall somewhere in between. When you boil it all down to this it may feel overwhelming. But I’m not asking you to think about and analyze every choice and non-choice  you make right now; I’m just asking you to be aware of the fact that you have made/are making these choices.

So what’s the big deal? Well, since our lives are built of these moments, these choices, these habits; that means that if we want to Cultivate a Fruitful Life we need to start by cultivating the building blocks of a fruitful life. The good and the bad news is that we need to start small, by cultivating fruitful habits. By letting the daily, be deliberate. 

Realizing that the choices we make and don’t make every day are not only meaningful, but important and crucially significant, may seem overwhelming. Don’t let it. This is our opportunity. We get to cultivate a little more fruitfulness in our lives every day, and sometimes all it takes is breaking or making one small habit. (If you haven’t read it yet don’t miss my last post “Break this Habit First.“)

Don’t be afraid to start small. As my garden teaches me; seeds hold in them the unimaginable potential for amazing fruit. Jesus isn’t intimidated by our small beginnings. 

Letting the daily be deliberate can feel like putting a whole lot of pressure on a situation, but don’t let it. Look around you today. What choices are you making in habit? What choices do you wish it was easier to change? What do you wish you had more time for? What do you want to do less of? How does your attitude change and shift throughout the day? Are there ways that you need to change your perspective in order to cultivate a more fruitful outlook?

We’re going to get into all this friends; because I care about you. Because God has taught me so much about the power of habits of work, and habits of rest. Because I no longer believe that fruitfulness is about what I can manufacture, but about what God does in and through me as I obey his commands to be faithful with what I have been given. I can’t wait to share with you.

If you are interested, I’d love to hear from you about the daily habits you currently have and whether or not you feel like they are leading to fruit in your life. Where do you find yourself struggling most in the daily? Where do you think you are succeeding by God’s grace? I’d love to hear from you!

As always, thank you for reading and thank you for sharing.

Praying for you, that God would use my words here in this space to help you cultivate a little more fruitfulness, by God’s grace and for His glory.