If you’ve been following this story for long, you know the last year of our life has been a little on the insane side. In less than 9 months time my husband accepted a new job, we sold our beloved yellow cottage, moved to Tennessee, bought a Victorian farmhouse on land outside of Nashville, renovated it top to bottom, and moved in. And of course along the way there’s been a mile-long list of other things happening as well, from travel to conference speaking to new dreams to heartache to parenting to promotions to hosting people, far and wide. And etc.
No wonder a few weeks back I found myself doubled over in tears for almost a week while my body screamed it was at its max. Kidney stones. For someone who prides herself on living a healthful life, you can imagine how humbling, literally. The irony is not lost on me.
Part of living such a life, for us, is centered on the practice of Sabbath. A day of the week certainly, but so much more. And particularly when we’ve been thru especially busy seasons, we invoke Sabbath. Meaning, we declare a certain period of time be deemed sacred intentional rest, and we guard it fiercely.
I’d known since the day we knew for certain we were moving that Sabbath would round out the season. It’s a rhythm. Practice if for long and it almost becomes second nature. Inhale, exhale. But unaware at the time of just how much we were taking on, I wasn’t prepared. And it was a lot, fast. Think trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose. Overwhelming is an understatement. Even more, you don’t know how to make it STOP. I find a lot of people live in this place, but that’s a whole other blog post.
Beautifully, the universe has a way of letting us know, ENOUGH. Kidney stones sent the message loud and clear for this girl. Every project was shifted, plans were canceled, to-do lists pushed out of sight. And here we are.
I get a lot of questions about what Sabbath practically looks like for us. It’s very simple, although not necessarily easy. But most importantly, it’s healing to the bone and marrow, even the soul.
It begins with time blocked out on the calendar. It can be as little as an afternoon or even an hour, but in general for us it’s a few weeks. This particular time, a few months. And it involves the following:
~very limited hosting
~intentional nourishing of our bodies
~time spent outdoors, in nature
~long walks and drives
~deep, heartfelt conversation, lots of processing
~long quiet showers and baths
~going to bed early
~intentional periods of quiet
~reestablishing order in our home, cleaning and organizing
~the soothing ritual of hot tea, don’t underestimate it
~saying no, a lot
~keeping cell phone use to a bare minimum, on vibrate, and stowed out of sight
~communing with God
~and very significant, we do not apologize for disappearing
Simply put, it’s time alone as a family to regroup and be still. It can involve any myriad of things from cleaning up our budget to reconnecting via a trip somewhere. Even the simplest thing like intentional touching, holding hands. (again, don’t underestimate it) Anything of importance that gets lost in the midst of busy, we take inventory and reorganize.
This particular season of Sabbath is proving more healing than ever, as prior to the final move we made some big decisions about how we want to live our lives. And how we don’t.
We totally unplugged. No cable, no internet, no cell phone signal. Text messages will come thru but never calls. I deleted every single unnecessary app on my phone including Facebook and all kiddo apps, and it’s been nothing but sweet relief. Mind you I still have a weak 4G signal so I can access the web if I need to, but it’s a headache and a half. And I have zero problem with any of this.
Thanks to a DVD player in the car Ev is in no way completely deprived of the wonderful childhood indulgence of cartoons, there’s a Redbox a few miles away, and I drive into town for internet usage at a coffee shop if I need extended time. So we haven’t totally gone underground, we’ve simply made a definite, intentional shift in how we do life.
Another deeply transformative element that has become almost as important to me as how we eat, is how we sleep. After years of research on how light effects hormones and the necessity of truly restorative sleep for health and wellness, I knew we needed to be far enough out to live life without blinds. I know, scandal. It’s beyond wonderful and I never intend to have them again. I want to rise and fall with the sun, precisely as nature intended. I’ve been amazed at how quickly and effortlessly our bodies are adjusting to the cycles and rhythms of natural light. Everyn began sleeping soundly thru the night for the first time ever and hasn’t skipped a beat since, not one single night. Josh still sets an alarm, but generally he’s awake before it ever goes off. We indulgently ‘sleep in’ on the weekends until what feels like 10am, only to laugh when we realize it’s 7.
We did invest in an incredible new mattress. I totally buy into the whole ‘you spend 1/3 of your life on it so make it good’ sales pitch. And also important, we put all our main lights on dimmers so once the sun goes down we transition to lower lighting to help our bodies move towards rest. You can’t imagine how powerful this is. (the same can be accomplished with lamps and low wattage bulbs) We have no light pollution of any kind outside, only moon and stars and fireflies. I kid you not, we lie in bed at night and watch dancing fireflies far as the eye can see. When the moon is full it illuminates everything so brightly our entire room is bathed in soft soothing light. It’s downright dreamy. So beautiful. I’ve desperately missed the experience of moon and starlight. As I kid in the country I spent half my life under the night sky be it wrestling with God or downright mischief, but somewhere as an adult I lost touch. Jobs, exhaustion, big city living. Normal, I think, but no less tragic. There’s also zero sound pollution out here save nature. Crickets, locusts, thunderstorms… echoing quiet. There is one bird that sometimes sings a lovely melody in the dead of night, so bizarre and enchanting at once.
All of this contributes to truly deep and healing restorative sleep, something we’ve perhaps missed out on most of our adult lives. For a professed night-owl who’s never known how to unwind and quiet my mind to sleep, and thus never been a morning person and endlessly tired (hello thyroid and adrenal issues), you can imagine how life-altering this has all been.
Suffice it to say as we’ve practiced the art of Sabbath over the years it’s begun to saturate and affect our lives. Not only how we feel, but how we live. How we choose to live. I cannot possibly imagine going back to the constant striving, producing, achieving, success-chasing life we once knew. Add in social media and it’s enough to make an entire culture sick, and has. But to us, this is success. Slow living, intentional living, healthy living. It’s the thing people spend their whole lives chasing when truly, it could be theirs tomorrow. No matter where you are in life even a penthouse apartment in bustling New York City, Sabbath is a gift within all our reach if only we open our hands to receive it. It’s a perspective shift more than anything else, one that gives birth to entire new ways of thinking and living and eventually being. My husband is quick to point out that living a lifestyle of Sabbath practice does not equate to lazy. On the contrary, we work incredibly hard. But in his words resting well means working better, more efficiently.
On a strictly spiritual level, the more I’ve practiced Sabbath the more aware and intentional my entire life has become. A single bloom on a hillside or cloud in the sky holds the power to provoke me to tears. The God of all creation uses everything, and I do mean everything under the sun to speak to me. To illustrate love and affection. To open my eyes to His truth and His character. All of life has become a kind of constant worship where I’m forever astounded by His goodness and enchanted by His beauty. I don’t know how not to be anymore. It is constant communion that destroys fear and anxiety before it ever takes hold, the way He intended we live, trusting Him. The life of Jesus clearly illustrates this for us. He literally embodied peace and intention. Never anxious, never hurried, never in a rush, and yet always on time and indescribably fruitful.
I realize as a whole this post could translate as both foreign and entirely out of reach. I get that, because once upon a time I was there, too. But as with any kind of lifestyle change or transformation, if begins with small steps. Perhaps one afternoon a week you plan and practice. Start there and build on it. Go to the beach, picnic in the backyard, light a candle, take a nap, read a book with real pages. No different than overhauling your diet, it takes time and consistency. Sabbath is the kind of addicting thing that will work its way into your soul and take root without too much effort on your part. Practice it consistently for a few weeks and you’ll find yourself longing for it more and more. I’m an absolute testament to that.
I’ll continue sharing Sabbath moments via Instagram but if you’re interested in deeper study and reading, a couple of my favorites on the topic include:
Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, & Delight in Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller
Sabbath: The Ancient Practices by Dan B. Allender