Rules and Sabbath Rest: Four “Ts” to Kick-Start the Sabbath

Before we go any further on this journey together, it should be made known that both Jeff and I are firstborns. So when I mentioned in my last post that I’m your get-it-done kind of gal, you should also be made aware that Jeff is painted with a similar brush. I definitely won’t go as far as to say that we’re identical in the way we approach life. (He’s an engineer, after all, while I briefly studied music before settling into a career as a hairstylist. Practicality meets artsy fartsy, at its finest.) However, it is safe to say that both Jeff and I fit the stereotypical mold of the firstborn – responsible, dependable, loyal, fair, and rule followers to a tee. Some may call us boring, or safe, or rigid. (I’m sure down the road, Elsie, our only non-first born in our family, will plunk down on a therapist’s couch in all her spontaneous, rule-breaking glory and bemoan life lived in a family of firstborns. Suffice it to say she is corralled and mothered by all three of us.)

The point is, in our world, rules and guidelines mean something. We are ok with being rule-followers, with knowing where our boundaries are and where we experience limitations. So when Jeff and I sat down together to brainstorm what it means to experience Sabbath rest, we naturally wanted a list of guidelines to follow. Now, before any of you remind me that Sabbath rest is not about keeping a bunch of rules, please know that we are aware of this. What we do know, though, is that without some structure, our challenge to carve out Sabbath rest for the month of March would never even leave the ground. In order to live intentionally, we need to be intentional. It’s all well and good to say “I want to make time for Sabbath rest.” But if we don’t change the way we are doing things, if we don’t make ourselves aware of what needs to be revised in our lives, then we’ll never make those adjustments.

Nevertheless, the set of guidelines pertaining to Sabbath rest that we have come up with for our family are not hard and fast. They are not meant to be exhausting or rigorous or overly demanding. That being said, they are also not meant to be comfortable either. They are meant to stretch us, while being simultaneously subject to experimentation and change. In summary, the guidelines we have come up with may look entirely different at a different stage in our lives. They may even look different at the end of this month. And that is ok. They are simply a barrier around which we plan to preserve our Sabbath.

Because I like alliteration, I’ve come up with four “T” words to outline our Sabbath rest framework:

  1. Time. We felt that in order to truly reset, we needed enough time to rest. Since our family attends church each Sunday, it seemed natural to incorporate that time of worship into our Sabbath rest. Beginning at 6:00 pm Saturday, we enter Sabbath rest for the next 24 hour period – until 6:00 pm on Sunday.
  2. Tasks. At 6pm on Saturday evening, we stop working. To be honest, we have young kids. Anyone with young kids will know that you are never truly done working when you’re at home with them. However, we refrain from beginning or completing any jobs that could be done at a different time. For example, no cleaning (other than dishes or making beds). No yard work (unless we need to shovel snow to get out our drive). No cooking (this includes menu-planning and grocery shopping). We tried these guidelines this past weekend, and it was truly relaxing. It meant that we actually were more productive together on Saturday morning and afternoon. We prepped meals that we could simply heat up the next day, we cleaned and did laundry ahead of time, and thankfully we didn’t have to concern ourselves with yard work because we’re still in the throes of winter.
  3. Tech. We made the decision to unplug completely. No email. No social media. (And obviously, no TV.) This was definitely harder for me than for Jeff. He goes on Facebook maybe once a year. And he has no idea what Instagram is. Myself, on the other hand….I didn’t really realize how much time I spend on social media until my phone was tucked away in the junk drawer for those twenty-four hours. And the sad truth is, my social media addiction may have sky-rocketed since our TV fast. This is clearly an area in which I need to gain some balance.
  4. Training. Currently, Jeff is training for an Ironman in the summer. The weekend is a prime time to spend either running, biking or swimming in preparation for this race. For Jeff, training for a race of this magnitude is actually enjoyable. He feels peaceful and actually experiences his own version of Sabbath while biking for sixty kilometers or running for hours on end. (This, I do NOT understand.) However, any time that he is gone training, it leaves me to parent the girls for a significant amount of time on my own. I’m not opposed to this. I’m a stay-at-home mom by choice after all. I do this all week. However, even though Jeff would be experiencing his own Sabbath rest while working out, I would not be. To me, him being gone for long periods of time would feel like any other day of the week. Likewise, if I hole up in the office or go out to Starbucks for a few hours to work on my blog (something I find equally relaxing), it would leave Jeff in a situation that is also not optimally restful. Bottom line – during Sabbath rest, anything that takes us away from supporting the other parent is a no go.

So while these guidelines are subject to change if they are no longer proving to be restful, the purpose behind them will remain the same. We are in desperate need of Sabbath rest – a time to be still before our Saviour, to savour each other, to be fully present, to listen to the Holy Spirit’s direction.

As the month of March unfolds, we plan to incorporate one of our family core values into each Sabbath. Five weeks to live out five principles in the most nurturing, soul satisfying way possible. What do you do to carve out intentional rest? What guidelines help support you in your desire to keep the Sabbath day holy, set apart?


  • Mel B

    Our family does a lot of the same things you’ve outlined here – meal prep beforehand etc. and “chores” that need to get done on the Sabbath are shared my both parents (dishes, diaper changes, snow shoveling etc.). For me the larger picture for Sabbath rest steams from how I set my mind about the Sabbath day overall. It’s a day to pause, celebrate life, praise my Lord and spend time with family and friends. Tasks that fall into the category of pushing, striving, prepping, trying to get ahead are not for weekly celebration day! Lovely blog post Jen!

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