Exploring Summer Sabbath
Sabbath: the seventh day of the week observed from Friday evening to Saturday evening as a day of rest and worship by Jews and some Christians; often observed on Sunday among Christians as a day of rest and worship; a time of rest; abstaining from work
There is simply something about summer that leaves me yearning for quiet, slow, sunny mornings and extra time under the stars late at night. Somehow, exploring Sabbath rest comes more easily in the summer. The days get longer and time seems to slow down, even though my task list, chores, and never ending ideas continue no matter the season. Yet, summer days help me embrace the concept of Sabbath a bit more freely than other times of the year.
I don’t know about you, but my Sabbath time is not often scheduled on one set day of the week as the definition suggests. Since my retreat and workshop work often continues throughout the weekend, it’s challenging to always find Sabbath on Sundays. Many of us work varied hours, and those of us who are caregivers or parents know this type of work cannot be unscheduled on certain days. Those who work in the church or other ministry settings often share with me that Sunday is far from a day in which they abstain from work. Can we, too, discover Sabbath rest and might it be easier than expected in the summer?
Amidst the ongoing duties of life, new rules seem to take effect in the summer for our family. Or, maybe it’s less rules? A teen who calls to stay over and spend the night at his grandmother’s house rather than come home (he knows his room looks like a tornado hit and avoids this duty at all costs), yet I agree. A newsletter that has a deadline, but instead, a yoga mat, some homemade kombucha, and a lovely back porch (from where I cannot escape the loud construction of a new home next door) call more loudly and I easily unplug. And a day that should have involved household cleaning - instead I find myself loading my Kindle with tons of library books. Free fiction and summer - that’s my Sabbath.
Today I sat in silence and wondered - rest and worship come easy for me. Yet why is it sometimes hard to abstain from work? Is it because there are so many great ideas brewing in my creative heart? There are not enough hours, even on a long summer day to tackle everything God has planted inside me (and the stuff I avoid too, like laundry). How do I step away from "work" and lean in to my own soul care? Here are five soul care tips for exploring Summer Sabbath:
This summer I am definitely not tossing my ideas or creative spirit - these are not work. I am exploring Sabbath rest and discovering time apart from work (like my computer screen) more freely. I desire to embrace soaking up the sun, sleeping plenty, keeping safe boundaries for my social media time, savoring my senses, and discovering plenty of silly fun! Will you join me in this and keep me accountable as well?
What does your summer Sabbath look like? How do you make space away from your work? Is that easy or difficult in this season of summer?
By the way, I was inspired to write this post as one of my fellow Upper Room authors, J. Dana Trent, is releasing a book on the topic of Sabbath this fall. I’m excited to dive in (I might just get a sneak preview, one of the perks of “working” alongside her). Yet reading her words will not be work for me. Sabbath, this summer I’m ready to embrace you! Stay tuned for the release of For Sabbath’s Sake!
Meet Me At the Table?
Recently, we shared a meal with new friends. It was one of those fruitful times of conversation that linked lunch to dinner. By the time we got up from the table, we were due another meal. That is meeting at the table - literally.
In the past couple of weeks, "lay it all out on the table” conversations have popped up with other friends in my life. And several of them expressed how challenging and lonely this world feels at times. It is ironic that in a society that is "connected" more than ever, many of us experience feelings of loneliness or isolation that often lead to depression. These feelings are more real than rare.
My own periods of depression have stemmed from various chronic health conditions. The first of which began when I was 18 years old. I had Graves Disease, a thyroid disorder. To treat an overactive thyroid (one that made my heart and my head race) my thyroid was literally zapped. Today I no longer have a functioning thyroid. A little colorful pill awaits me every single morning. But those levels can be hard to regulate and fatigue and depression take center stage. And while these side effects that have come and gone over the last 20 years are real, this post is not about my health struggles.
This is an invitation to come to the table with your struggles and hard work, to embrace God's activity in your story. Meeting at the table means you pull up a chair and tell that story. Meeting at the table means speaking truth. Meeting at the table means inviting others to join you there because you are not alone and they feel less alone in the process.
Here is the thing, we all have something in our life that requires our hard work. My body just happens to need a lot of care and regular "maintenance." Any person with chronic health problems or autoimmune disorders will understand that statement. It requires commitment and sacrifices. And if you review our family’s budget, you’ll notice we spend far more on vitamins and vegetables than we do on cable or clothes.
But let’s say your health is stellar and you don’t have to follow a regimen other than caring for the basics: you move, breathe, sleep, and eat. You don't need a crisis, everybody has something and you have a story to tell! Yep, you sure do. I think that’s where we miss out sometimes. We know God is in the sunsets, the miracles, the sounds of the ocean, and the birth of a new child and we're happy to talk about those. Yet we struggle to see God in the crises, the catastrophes, the losses, and even the hard work of every day life. Once we do recognize God in those places, we often don't want to talk about them. And when we don't talk about them (with God or with community), we're opting to journey alone. This life was not designed to be journeyed solo.
Friends, we are not alone. God is amidst every single day, the hard ones and the less hard ones. Even the mundane ones. Anyone ever have a mundane day? If not, you can come do my laundry because there are baskets surrounding me most days. Laundry is mundane. There is a shirt in my dirty laundry that says "life is good" and I would agree with that statement but it is not easy.
Both counseling and spiritual direction have helped me cope (with others, with myself, and with God) during very tough times on this journey. Meeting at the table means we are not alone. We are invited to no longer simply cope with life challenges but to truly acknowledge God's activity there.
We EACH have a place at the table as we encourage and support one another on this journey. Start with being honest with yourself. Uncover your story, friends. Tell it. And while you're at it, listen to another story in the process. That is community.
Will you meet me at the table? Pull up a chair. Bring your baggage and your junk, you're definitely not alone.
Our family recently moved to a new home. During our transition I have come to better understand what a life of abundance we live. We have bags, shoes, and jackets for every member of the family and every season that comes our way. We have an abundance of books, treasured photographs, and other important memories. The abundance is flowing out of my laundry room and into our new (to us at least) garage.
Our "new" home also has an abundance of surprises. So far we have flower bulbs popping up all over the yard. Every time I turn around, I notice an abundance of new greenery popping through the previously frozen ground. While not all blooms have appeared, there are hints of purple and white as the elegance of our newly discovered irises begin to come into bloom. I couldn’t have fathomed that our home would have such treasure awaiting us when it was purchased (amidst freezing temperatures and without a bloom in site).
And while the abundance of our treasured materials and the abundance of my new favorite flower blooms, we celebrate the abundance of the other side of Easter. A time as Christians to feel the endless love of God in our lives as a fresh and new reminder. We are to continue living like Easter people. Like those blooming flowers, I’m reminded we only get a glimpse of all that Jesus has done for us in our lives while on this earth. As I prepared my new home to welcome those who will enter for times of private spiritual direction, I trimmed the dying monkey grass that abundantly lined our walkway. Yet it was not a dreaded chore. It was a reminder of the letting go of the old, the dying away of what has been, making room for what is to come this ongoing Easter season.
Recently, a friend made a statement that I have continued to ponder. We were talking about old testament times and she asked a question “Can you imagine living in those times of Noah, without hope?" Just think, really imagine it, what it would have been like to live to be 900 years old and not have the abundant love and hope of what Easter promises us?
The promise of Easter is abundantly more than we could hope for and far more than we can imagine. The promises God has made for us are actually unfathomable in abundance. They stack high above the boxes of my old photographs and they are far more beautiful than a new backyard full of blooms. God’s love, hope, and promises are true abundance.
As we continue life on this side of Easter, let us remember that God’s love is abundant. It is all around us. Let us accept the call to simply notice it, receive it, and help others soak it up as well.
Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine… Ephesians 3:20 NRSV
Whitney R. Simpson
yoga & meditation teacher
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Whitney R. Simpson
Exploring Peace Ministries, LLC