Embracing the Imperfect & Balancing Mary and Martha

“Martha, Martha,” the LORD answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42.

When it comes to hospitality and housekeeping, I wish I was wired just a little more like Martha – especially heading into the Christmas season! I have this vision of how I’d like things to be heading into Advent, and instead of setting the perfect table for my family this weekend, I can’t even put out my wreath yet! First, I need to dig out my table – which is currently buried under piles of craft stuff, homework, unopened mail and other artifacts proving that a busy family without a Martha mindset live here!

With or without a clean table and a wreath ready, Advent is starting tomorrow and I don’t want to miss it. I love Advent. I have lots of memories of sticking evergreen branches and candles into circular Styrofoam bases as a child, and the first candle lighting signaling the start of the Christmas season in my world.

The great news is, that despite my Martha-deficit, Jesus reminds me that the one thing that matters isn’t how pretty I make my table, but having a heart that is focused on hearing from Christ. For these four weeks, I’m seeking to spend time daily sitting at Jesus’ feet and learning from his word – choosing what is better. Just like Mary, I’m seeking to focus on that one thing that is actually needed.

It’s a balance though – I don’t want to awaken my easily frustrated and disappointed inner perfectionist that will stress about irrelevant details and notice what we lack from how the commercials, malls, and social media posts tell me that Christmas should look. I know that I don’t need a pintrest perfect holiday, and that if I try for pintrest perfect, I’ll stress myself and my family out to the point that we won’t enjoy any of it!

I’m prepared and ready to celebrate an imperfect Advent – honestly, it’s in those imperfectly real moments that memories are made, and I will embrace that! But, my inner Martha does need to wake up just a little and clear the table! I need just enough of a Martha-mindset to be ready and able to extend hospitality and comfort to my family so that we have space to sit around the wreath, light our candles, and prepare our hearts together. So, I’m off to work to get a few things prepared and ready.

What are you seeking this Advent season? Are you ready for an imperfect Advent season too? What do you need to get there? I’d love to hear your comments, ideas and goals in the comment section below.

 

Motherhood is Seasonal

When I asked my son to be sure to include a mother-son dance on his wedding agenda, he was skeptical. When I told him that I would need to explain it before we danced, he just complied and made it happen. Smart man.

See, when my boy was a baby, God gave me incredible clarity about one thing (and it felt like one thing only!) Motherhood is Seasonal – and seasons will change often and fast and sometimes with out notice.

Our family is in a huge season of transition. I’ve gone from a single mom with four kids at home, to only two kids at home seemingly overnight. But it wasn’t overnight! It was a long road. And I’m so glad that God has been putting rest, Sabbath and self-care higher and higher on my agenda. I think that’s what’s making this season change manageable.

I’m posting a link to the video of my mother-son dance explanation in hopes it blesses you. It’s just a video one of my daughters shot on a cell phone – quality isn’t stellar, but you can see and hear and get the message.

If I was a better organized blogger, I’d include an affiliate link for Kleenex. I’m told people need it!

(Oh, and the tie at the end is not explained, but is a tribute to my father who died when my son was 9…)

Click here for the video:

https://youtu.be/QmczYbD1id0

I pray you are able to embrace and enjoy today’s season! Whether it’s a hard season, or a great season, or a miserable one… it’s a season, and seasons change!

Keep my Sabbath days holy…

Ezekiel 20:20 says “Keep my Sabbath days holy, for they are a sign to remind you that I am the Lord your God.”

I wish I was the kind of person who didn’t always need so much reminding! But honestly, I easily lose focus, get sidetracked, and am prone to wander off course.

As I am striving to find a consistent Sabbath practice in my life, I know I am at risk of creating the conditions of Sabbath, but losing the purpose. And, resting is part of the gift, but it isn’t the purpose unto itself.

Keep my Sabbath days holy…. this week, I want to head into my Sabbath time in prayer – dedicating my time to God, setting it aside as His.

For they are a sign to remind you… I am so thankful for a God who knows I need reminding! Another reason Sabbath is such an amazing gift.

That I am the Lord your God. I can rest because God is God. If I was in charge, there could be no rest! If everything in life really fell on my shoulders, there could be no rest. But, the Lord is my God. His promises are so good. He’s my provider, my defender and my father. Who He is, that is what allows me to rest.

I want to make sure I keep my focus without creating a whole new set of “rules” for myself. Anyone have favourite ways to keep their Sabbath holy and focussed on Christ? Add comments here, or head over to our Seeking Sabbath Facebook group to join in the conversation.

Smart and Simple Solution #2

I knew I was heading into a crazy weekend. A crazy, no window for rest kind of weekend. But, I got a little strategic in finding ways to simplify and managed to still make Sabbath a reality.

I decided this weekend needed to be as kitchen-hassle-free as possible. My smart and simple solution? Crock pot pulled pork for the win.

I have literally the easiest recipe EVER ever and knew I could easily make one crock pot cover multiple meals.

My pulled pork recipe involves covering a pork tenderloin with BBQ sauce and turning it on. That’s it. Prep time, maybe 90 seconds. 120 if the sauce pours slowly!

Which BBQ sauce? Really doesn’t matter, I go with whatever is on sale.

I put the pork in on Saturday morning. We did pulled pork sandwiches with salad on Saturday night.

I put the inside of the crock pot in the fridge over night, plugged it back in on the lowest setting on Sunday and we had pulled pork and rice Sunday night.

We ate well all weekend, and I really didn’t even cook.

Oh, and since my kid’s schedules didn’t all fit together, I also had take away containers packed and ready. So easy!

This smart and simple solution made my weekend so much calmer and helped create space for rest. I’d love to hear if you try this recipe, or if you have a go-to easy meal for busy weekends. Be sure to leave a comment with your ideas. We’re in this together!

Back to School, Busyness and Sabbath?

I work on call during the summer. My work can be quite predictable and fairly easy to gauge, and so I was pretty confident that I had this whole week off work to get organized, do housework and focus on back to school stuff. BUT, things didn’t go the way I planned.

I got called out to work for the whole balance of the summer. Financially, this is AWESOME. But, in every other way, it really isn’t! I will not have a week day off to get anything significant accomplished, or fit in some rest before we go back to school.

This year, my youngest child is entering her last year of elementary school. My third born is entering his last year of high school. And, I made the big decision to take a year long educational leave and go back to university myself. So there are some serious milestones attached to our back to school. Oh, and did I mention, child #1 is getting married in less than 6 weeks. And, child number 2 got engaged just this week! YAY!

When I talk about my life, and I talk about busyness, I feel a bit like Paul boasting about all the things in his resume in 2 Corinthians! Let me show you just how gifted at being busy I am…

Honestly, this is my reality. And each season seems to bring its own busyness. I don’t think its going to get naturally less busy any time soon. But, at least I can hold Paul’s perspective that my confident has to come from something other than what keeps me busy.

I had a lot of things I had hoped to get accomplished during my days at home this week – and that didn’t happen. If we are going to be honest, I’m further behind than when the week began. I’m heading into this weekend, and my windows for rest are small. I’m already questioning whether I’ve set myself up for a Sabbath fail!

But here’s what I know to be true:

1)      I need to choose to rest even in the middle of chaos

2)      There will ALWAYS be something that looks like it needs to get done “first”

3)      I don’t have to be legalistic, with a whole bunch of self-imposed rules to judge my Sabbath

4)      Sabbath rest is God’s gift to me. Appreciating it, and spending time honouring him is my gift back. And no stack of dishes, pile of laundry or shopping trip is worth missing it.

So, as I head into this weekend, already aware that I’ll be practicing Sabbath is a pretty imperfect way, I invite you to also find your time to stop. Rest. Breathe deeply. Don’t miss the gift in the midst of the mess or endless to-do list.

If you are serious about seeking Sabbath for yourself, or curious as to what that even might look like, head over to our Facebook group – where we can connect and chat and encourage each other. 

Smart and Simple Solution #1

To create space for Sabbath, I’m finding that I need to be intentional and intelligent in how I approach my “normal” six days – so when my window for rest comes, I’m not such a scattered or disorganized mess that I miss it!

My goal is to test and blog about one “Smart and Simple Solution” each week that makes my day-to-day life easier to manage – and makes seeking Sabbath just a little easier too.  

My #1 new favourite thing and the #1 Solution I’m sharing with you is… drum roll please… online grocery shopping.

This is seriously the best thing.

My closest grocery store has a Click & Collect service, where I can make my online grocery list, confirm a time slot, and hit click. I used to grocery shop on my way home from work – and typically finished tired, hungry and a little miserable… And, then I’d still have to get home and cook! URG!

Now, it’s like I have an assistant who will run to the store for me. And, while I can’t really afford a personal assistant, I can afford the $3 fee that the store charges for this luxury. (It’s $5 for a prime time or weekend time slot).

I am saving myself a whole lot of hassle. It’s giving me back well over an hour a week. My planning is better. I literally “stick to my list” in the store and don’t end up with impulse purchases. I love this service! It’s definitely a Smart and Simple Solution worth sharing!

If you want to try this, and you live near a Great Canadian Superstore, message me and I will send you a link for a code for $10 off your first order. If not, google and see which grocery stores in your area offer this service and try it.

Leave a comment and let me know how this solution works out for you, or share a Smart and Simple Solution of your own. We’re all seeking together and I’d love to hear what’s working for you!

Sabbath Recipes and Perseverance

I’m finding it easier to identify what is NOT good Sabbath practice for me than to nail down what IS my best practice. And, while I’ve been experimenting and seeking Sabbath consistently, no two weeks have been quite the same.

I haven’t found a formula for Sabbath that exactly “works” for me. I have no quick and easy, tested and true, three or four step recipe for a perfect Sabbath that you can ALWAYS count on to turn out right (or that you can download for a small fee!)

I’ve been reading a lot and trying different ideas. One of the books I recently read, which touches on this topic, is “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World.” Author Joanna Weaver suggests the closest thing I’ve found so far to a “Sabbath recipe” – as she lists three components of a Sabbath. To seriously simmer down her full thoughts (found on page 185-186 in the original 2000 edition for those who want to go back to the source), she suggests:

  • The Sabbath needs to be different, contrasting noticeably with the other six days.
  • It should be a day of devotion with time to focus our hearts and minds on God alone.
  • And, it should be at least partially a family day, with time spent with our family of faith in corporate worship and fellowship.

I think those are some really good ingredients for a successful Sabbath. For me, I know that I also need to intentionally include some sort of literal, physical rest – ideally a nap or maybe two. I find that I want to read or study, and have casual connections with friends. It is a good day to go for a walk, or out for coffee with a friend knowing that the work can wait.

In my weeks of experimenting, I’ve had some really good Sabbath experiences, and some gong shows. Literal gong shows. No rest, no downtime, no particular devotion to be found amongst the crazy! Sabbath fails, shall we say.

I found encouragement in Weaver’s book to persevere. Here’s what she says:

“When it comes to our spiritual lives, a lot of us are all-or-nothing people. If we aren’t automatically perfect, we just give up. When Christ-like virtues like patience and kindness seem hard to come by, we abandon our character development and decide holiness is for those better equipped. But when we give up, we’re giving up on our part of the partnership. Perseverance is one of our responsibilities in this process of being changed.” (pg 202, I added the bold emphasis myself!).

Perseverance is my responsibility in the process of being changed. Hmmmm… I need to name that, claim that, cross stitch and frame that! (but seriously… who am I kidding! I’m not making time to cross stich anything!)

Perseverance is what I’m bringing to my search for Sabbath. I’m going to keep on keeping on, and I sure hope that in the process, I am changed. And, I hope that you’ll stick with me. Maybe we can figure out this Sabbath thing together.

If you are interested in getting your own copy of “Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World”, it has been re-released since the 2000 edition that I have dog-eared on my shelf. I found mine at Value Village, but if you don’t happen to come across a copy and want to buy one, click on this link for ordering information from Amazon.ca.

Sabbath Imposters

A while back, I had a season where I felt like I was drowning in unending task management. I decided I needed “a Sabbath” and I stayed home from church – and I proclaimed to anyone who asked that I was taking a Sabbath and not attending service (where I often am in work mode).

My children went to church and I power cleaned for three hours. When my son came home and realized that I spent the whole morning catching up on housework, he said, “I don’t think you quite understand the concept of Sabbath mom!”

The boy was right.

I’m getting a better working definition of what good Sabbath practice looks like for me, but in my experimenting over the past few months, I’ve discovered a few things that I try to label as Sabbath that honestly just aren’t. 

Here are four Sabbath imposters, that need to be kicked out of my Sabbath practice.:

1.       Being sick… not a Sabbath!

I used to sort of joke about my various illnesses and injuries as being signs from God to rest. I say “sort of” because while it sounded funny, I wasn’t actually joking. I didn’t rest in any significant way until I was so sick or injured that I was incapable of anything but couch surfing. That kind of forced rest is not something I can qualify as Sabbath anymore.

2.       Catching up… not a Sabbath!

Power cleaning, or spending a day clearing items off a neglected to-do list might require a day set aside from “normal” tasks. That doesn’t make it a Sabbath. That is just a different kind of work day! Even though I may feel WAY better and more at peace when I’m done, catching up definitely isn’t rest.

3.       IKEA shopping… not a Sabbath!

I’m trying to find a good formula for my Sabbath that includes time with God, time with family/friends and time alone in real rest.  I recently tried spending a portion of a day that was set aside as Sabbath with my daughters walking through IKEA. Bonding time with the girls fits Sabbath for me – so this seemed like a good idea! Perhaps if you really love shopping and find it a relaxing way to connect in relationship, it might have worked for you. But, after two hours in IKEA, I knew 100% without a doubt, that shopping is not Sabbath-friendly for me! Not at IKEA, the mall, the grocery store or online… There is nothing restful or restorative about it for me. It’s stressful and I don’t like it. I can’t claim it as a Sabbath.

4.       Crap TV… (sadly) not a Sabbath!

This is honestly my go-to “relaxation” strategy. I turn on “time-well wasted” television that has little redemption value. OK, lets be honest – the stuff I like to watch in my downtime often is crap! Its fluff. Funny, mind numbing fluff. But, fluff all the same. Again, for you a sitcom or movie might very well fit into your definition of Sabbath rest. I personally have more sitcom dialogues memorized than Bible verses and I know it! I have to resist the temptation to turn that kind of TV on and turn my brain off at every opportunity. Binge watching is so easy once you’re comfortable and settled. So, even if by definition, watching television may be restful. It’s not a good choice as part of a Sabbath practice for me.

I’ve spent a few months now experimenting and failing and learning and succeeding with developing an actual practice of Sabbath. I’ve found things that work and fit well for me too, but those are stories for another post.

A disclaimer… I am aware that some of these things may be something you include in your Sabbath time. That is totally OK. We’re all wired a little different and, so this is not intended to judge. You do you!

Speaking of Seeking

Having now had multiple conversations about Sabbath with different people in my world, I’ve learned that some of the very smartest people I know (who I trust and respect very much) have totally different views on some key theological points to do with Sabbath keeping. I think it’s important to make one clarification before we go much further together.
I am approaching Sabbath keeping as a seeker, not as a theologian.
I am currently working on the assumption that there is a God-ordained and designed rhythm for our lives which includes time for work, and time for rest. I’m viewing the Sabbath as a gift, not an obligation.
Let’s be very clear. I am terrible at rest – like REALLY bad at it. I tend to feel guilty when I’m not busy, and rest alludes me. When I’m not physically active, my brain is still processing and is chronically unable to settle. From the conversations I have with co-workers, neighbours and friends, I know that I’m not alone.
I’m not a theologian. I’m a normal person and I am seeking Sabbath – and I invite you to seek it with me. I’m planning to explore what a modern-day Sabbath observance might look like and how to faithfully create guilt-free space for rest into my otherwise crazy busy life. I’m planning to study, and learn, and try, and probably fail, and grow, and try some more.
I guarantee that I won’t always hit the target, but I’m sure it’ll be an interesting journey. I’m happy to bring you along for the ride.
(Of course, I completely reserve the right to share more on those heavier theological pieces as I go. I’m studying a lot. While I’m professing to not be a theologian, it is possible that I could learn something worthy of blog-space, and if I do, I promise to tell you! We’re in this together!)

Seeking Sabbath

There are certain topics in Christian conversations that tend to make me cringe… the Sabbath has been one of those avoidance prefered topics.

About a year ago, I sat at the dinner table with my community group and found my voice rising into NOT a sweet Sunday morning kind of tone as I proclaimed that honouring the Sabbath was impossible in my life and I was mad about any expectation or command about it. Literally mad. Voice raising, face going red kind of mad. About being commanded to enjoy a day of rest. Seriously, what is wrong with me!?!

Seems being called to rest doesn’t sit well with me and it drags up all sorts of frustration, envy and disappointment. My life is hard. I work REALLY hard to make it all work. But, if its true that God commands Sabbath rest, and that God intends it as a gift for me, then it has to be possible. God wouldn’t ask me to do something He wasn’t willing to equip me to do, would He?

Must tell you, I didn’t go home from that meeting anything but mad. I didn’t have a lightbulb God-breeze kind of moment where it all made sense and the Sabbath was suddenly an easy gift to receive and implement in my life. I didn’t leave with peace or joy or contentment. Nope… I left mad at God, mad at my life realities and mad at everyone else who seemed to have it figured out.

I was mostly mad that I knew the topic was no longer avoidable. I had declared fairly loudly in conversation with other people from my church (one of whom was a pastor) that I was totally incapable of honouring a Biblical command.

They were all much more gracious about it than I was. I’m always harder on myself than anyone else can be. I couldn’t let this one rest. (Ironic, when the whole thing was about rest to begin with…)

I started to go after it myself – this whole sabbath thing. And, the past year has been filled with more than a couple more raised voice conversations, research, reading, experimenting and increased attempts at making Sabbath a reality in my otherwise overloaded kind of life.

Seeking Sabbath. It’s my story and my song this season. As I unpack some of the things I’m learning and discovering. I’d love to hear how you honour the Sabbath in your life too. Leave a comment about what the Sabbath looks like for you, what works, what you struggle with. Oh, and if it all just makes you mad, feel free to vent a bit – sometimes we need to let go of the sweet Sunday tones and go ALL CAPS. I get it!