(Is That Even Possible?)
Guest post by Katie Hirn
Recently, I was asked how do I make Sabbath happen with so many little ones. Currently, in our home we have four preschoolers, and one toddler. We also have ten other children ages 19 and down at home. So, is it even possible to have a day of rest?
“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to YHWH in all your dwelling places” (Leviticus 23:3, ESV).
First, I will explain my understanding of Sabbath. Sabbath is the seventh day of the week (Saturday). It was established the first week of creation by God. It is a gift from God to man. The word Sabbath means to cease, desist, to stop work. Every time God gives the command of Sabbath in Scripture, it is given as a day of rest. In our culture, rest is often thought of as relaxation, purposed laziness, sleeping in, doing nothing. But rest in the Bible is defined as not doing your everyday tasks and work. It is stopping the building of the temple and stopping the daily tasks of cooking and cleaning. It is a day off of the required work of survival. Not only are we commanded to stop our everyday tasks, but to not employ others on the Sabbath.
So, with this idea of not working on my daily tasks, I must figure out what daily tasks am I resting from. For me, this is a challenging question. My number one task daily is teaching and training my children. I spend each day doing this activity, as I make meals, clean house, and teach school. So, does that mean on Sabbath I don’t do these tasks?
I thought a lot about this, because I felt overwhelmed each week before, during, and especially after Sabbath. I felt like to really prepare for Sabbath I had to start on Thursday, to get everything in place, but that didn’t seem right. I felt like to really enjoy Sabbath I should be able to sit around read my Bible, sleep in, take a bath uninterrupted, not clean up messes, and so on. I thought I shouldn’t ask the kids and my husband to do work on the Sabbath either. So, then at sundown each Saturday night, was a crazy mad dash to clean and catch up on all the work that went undone. It was so NOT a restful Sabbath for me, my older daughters, or anyone else for that matter.
Then my husband spoke with me and the kids and said that cleaning up after ourselves and keeping an eye on the little kids is NOT the same as working our daily tasks. IT is just good manners and common sense. So, we re-evaluated our Sabbath preparations and our Sabbath ideas of rest. Here are a few things we have found help us enjoy a day of rest.
1. Prepare heart and home. On Friday as we all do our preparation work. We try and add in time of worship and prayer alone, to prepare our hearts for calm. We play soft scripture and music while we work. We talk to the little ones as they work with us and remind them that Sabbath is coming.
2. Preparation day takes everyone, and a plan. We have a Sabbath preparation list that we write on the white board. Then each older child writes their name beside the tasks they are going to handle. Then each younger child is matched to an older sibling to work with all day. This way all children are kept track off, and no one is off making messes.
3. Sabbath is a special day, so make exceptions. We use paper products on the Sabbath. Normally, I don’t use napkins, paper plates, etc., but we decided to make an exception for Sabbath.
4. Make meals that are easy to clean up afterward. We don’t want anyone to have to spend the day in the kitchen cleaning pots and pans all night, after sundown. So, we make meals and clean up as much as possible before Sabbath. We do clean off the table, cupboards, and even load the dishwasher after a meal. This takes less than five minutes with everyone chipping in.
5. Be a team player. Since we have six teen/adult children who all want a day of rest, and my husband and I also want a restful day, we have an unofficial schedule of times of rest. My husband likes to stay up late and play and visit with the kids on Friday night, so that is my time to go take a bath, read a book, or go to bed early. A few of my teens like to get up early, even on Sabbath. So, they take on the earlier risers and let the rest of the family sleep in.
Currently, we host Sabbath Fellowship at our house, this took a little planning to make work with so many little ones. I really wanted my husband and older sons to be able to focus on the teaching time. So, during that time, I have my 11 year old son take care of the baby quietly. I have each of the preschoolers assigned to a teen girl to sit by. If anyone is getting antsy or needs to be taken to another room, I do that. I would rather take them out and let me husband listen, and not fret. We do give each little one a writing pad and pen to help them sit.
After the teaching time we eat as a fellowship, I again have each younger child assisted by an older assigned child during this time. Following the meal, my teens take all the children to another room and tell them Bible stories, sing songs, and play games with them for about an hour and a half. Then for the rest of the day, my teens rotate every thirty minutes playing with the little kids. Each one then has time to go and rest and do their own thing most of the day.
6. Be flexible. Always in life there are things that happen. Like the Sabbath that all my kids started throwing up. There is just no getting around the fact that if you have sick kids you are not going to be resting. But, resting is a state of mind and a matter of the heart. Do what needs to be done in an attitude of rest.
I am not sure if this helps at all.
But, I truly believe that God is calling us to rest in Him, by surrendering our anxiety, our need to be provided for ourselves, our need to be in charge of things. He wants us to let go of the distractions of life and focus in on Him. He is the great provider, He is the peace that passes all understanding, He is in charge. So, resting isn’t sitting around doing whatever I want for a day, but a day of reflecting on Him. A day to be reminded of His greatness. If I am stressing over “resting” than I am not KEEPING SABBATH at all.
“Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as YHWH your God commanded you” (Deuteronomy 5:12, ESV).
Katie Hirn is one of our HomeschoolingTorah members. She is the mother of 15 children, so she has lots of experience keeping Sabbath with little ones! Katie blogs (when she has the time) at Hirn Homeschoolers.