12.22.2014

Making Shmita Attainable in Everyday Life

After reading comments from a handful of readers, I’ve realized that in my last post, “Shmita: Enriching the Land of Our Souls,” (click here to read) the main message of the post may have been lost in some of the details.  I shared about some of the choices my husband and I have made to make this year a year of rest for our family.  Many of our choices, though, were rather drastic and may have made a “year of rest” seem unattainable. 

So, first, let me say that I am sorry for any burdens any of you may have felt.  Pouring stress onto you is the exact opposite of what I was hoping to present.  My hope was to explore the idea of returning to an ancient, God-given rhythm of rest by setting aside the seventh year as a year to cease from striving and production in order to rest.  That was my hope.

Rest can look vastly different from person to person and from family to family.  Engaging a rhythm of rest is about you actually resting.  It is not about following a set of rules or anyone else’s pattern of rest.  It is about finding out how you can set up your life in such a way that you (and your family) are engaging in rest. 

So, when I shared that my husband and I have opted to have him work less so he can rest and to hire housecleaning and get more take out so that I can rest, those things were specific to us and our family.  What I didn’t share was that my husband is coming out of a season of medical burn-out.  The medical system reality for family practice doctors is often overwhelming, burdensome, draining, and disheartening (click here and click here to read articles describing that reality).  As we experienced Val burning out the past two years, we knew we had to make drastic changes to his work life for his (and our) overall life-health. 

What I also didn’t share was that we have made conscious choices in our budget this year to spend money on specific things that will bring me rest (for example hiring house cleaning every other week).  At the same time, there are other areas that I am giving myself to in our family that we do not have to spend money on (for example I homeschool, so, our “preschool” cost is minimal and allows for us to spend money on other things that facilitate rest for me).

I would hate to communicate a God-designed rhythm in such a way that it becomes unattainable and weighty.  What I do know is that if God designed this rhythm, it is attainable.  It just may look differently from family to family.  I was so grateful for the readers who could see past the specifics that I had shared on into what my core message was in the last post.  There are great comments on my Facebook profile in response to my previous post.  Honest comments from readers considering how to make rest a reality for them. 

That’s what I hope to share more about here, today.  For some of you, this calendar year is just not an option for resting…whether it be grad school or a pregnancy or a life transition, you just know you won’t be able to rest this year.  That’s okay.  My hope in sharing about “Shmita” was not so much that you’d do it right now lining up with the Jewish calendar.  Rather I hoped to bring up the ancient rhythm and ask whether or not you thought it would be possible to engage that rhythm in your life.  Engaging that rhythm of rest for you may be looking ahead for a year you can set aside sometime in the next few years…a year when you know you’ll be able to rest more.

The other vital piece that some of my readers were able to tease out of my post was that I was searching out what it would mean for your family to rest.  And even more specifically, what is feasible for your family to rest.  For many families, “working less” just isn’t an option.  Or hiring house cleaning.  Or getting more take out.  I totally get that.  What I do know, though, is that there probably are other things that you can take off your plate in life, things that you can say “no” to for a full year that would allow you and your family to rest.  To be honest, the number one thing that is allowing me and my family to rest is saying “no” to all our ministry commitments we’ve had.  We’ve been going hard for a while…leading, writing, speaking, travelling…and while it’s been awesome, it’s also taken a lot for our family to pour out in that way.  Just shutting down ministry outputs for a full year has made considerable space in our life to rest.

Creating space to rest is so varied and so specific to each unique individual and family.  Ideas from readers ranged from having much simper holiday and birthday celebrations to taking shortcuts with meals and housework to simply being intentional to rest and reflect and re-center.  Other ideas could include purposing to have a decreased social schedule, cutting back on children’s extracurricular activities, swapping babysitting with friends so you get a little more time alone, setting aside your lunch break to do something restful and rejuvenating (pray, read, journal) as you eat, diminishing your ministry commitments, taking one day to cook the month’s meals ahead of time, using your kids’ naptime for restful pursuits rather than chores, setting aside a few nights of the week as “home date nights” with your spouse, and/or re-arranging your budget to cut back in certain areas in order to spend more on other areas that facilitate rest.  These are all just random suggestions for how to make a year of rest attainable in everyday life.  This list is not exhaustive at all, but is just a springboard for creatively thinking about how to make rhythms of rest attainable.  I’d love to hear more ideas from you.

So, I am curious how you…in your own, very unique life…would create space for rhythms of rest?  What could you actually take off your plate for a solid year to make space for rest?  And what are things specific to you that would facilitate rest?  How would that year look?

If a year of rest seems like too much to attempt, what smaller rhythms of rest could you incorporate in your everyday life right now?



12.08.2014

Shmita: Enriching the Land of Our Souls

A few days ago it dawned on me that our “Sabbath year” started exactly six years to the day after Val and I got together.  Exactly six years to the day.  That means we are resting in our seventh year together. 

I got eighteen red roses on October 1, 2008, with a question inviting me to call him. On October 1, 2014, we started a Sabbath year…a year to rest, to reset, to recenter. 

Coincidence?  Maybe.

But how crazy is this?  Not only had we been together exactly six years when we began our year of rest, but we also unknowingly had started our year of rest just days after the Jewish Sabbath year started (“Shmita,” the Jewish Sabbath year, started on September 25, 2014). 

Coincidence?  Maybe.

But…

Probably not. 

God sets up rhythms for His people that are for their good.  The Sabbath year, as described in Leviticus 25, seems to be primarily intended for the land rest.  But in letting the land rest, the people, too, rested. 

Whatever the land produced was for the people to eat, but not to sell.  There was to be a rest from commercial production, from working the ground for profit.  Whatever grew out of your land was for you to eat.  It was also meant to be food left available for those in need.  Not only that, but in the “Shmita” year, debts were also meant to be cancelled.  A regular rhythm of resting and resetting. 

As we step more fully into our personal Sabbath year, we are hoping to incorporate some of these ideas, these rhythms of resting and resetting. 

Granted, we are not farmers with land that needs to rest. 

But we are workers.  Hard workers.  Engaged in pouring out and producing in work, family, and ministry contexts these past six years.  The “land” in our life is all that we’ve given ourselves to…Val’s job, retreats, speaking, conferences, writing, mentoring, relationships, etc.  This is our year to let that “land” rest. 

Yes, we still have to pay our bills.  Yes, our family still needs to eat and have clean clothes.  But we are minimizing our work.  Val is working a part-time hospital doctor position.  We’ve hired house cleaners and are ordering more take-out.  We’ve said “no” to all ministry investments for this year (with a few exceptions in which we feel a specific “go-ahead” from God).  We’ve arranged our life so that both of us can truly rest from our work.  Just like nutrients were restored to the land during the Sabbath year, I feel spiritual and emotional “nutrients” being added to us as individuals and us as a family as we cease from production. 

Just like the land and the economy reset during Sabbath years, we as a family are resetting.  I believe that because we are stopping to rest and reset now, we will later be able to offer more in the next six years.  I believe we will have a new richness to offer after resting this year, much like the land had richer soil after the “Shmita.”  I think God meant this rhythm not only for the land, but for us…so that we could stop, rest, reset, be renewed, and produce rich fruit once again.

Just over two months into our Sabbath year (and those two months even being with a newborn!), we are already experiencing the benefits of taking a year of rest. We are shifting some of our family’s life rhythms, adjusting parenting practices, and gaining fresh vision for life after this year. Both Val and I are starting to feel ourselves “let down” into a reality of rest. I am the least stressed I've been...probably ever.  Val is beginning to feel awake and alive again. Our kids are thriving. 

It makes me wonder if taking every seventh year to rest and reset might actually be beneficial to everyone.  Maybe the Sabbath year is actually a rhythm God intended to be incorporated in normal life rhythms. I know bills still have to be paid and laundry still needs to be done. But...what if you actually pared down your life as much as possible every seventh year to allow yourself (and your family) to rest. What if you said "no" to all extra commitments and profit-producing endeavors so that you could enter into rest for a year? What might happen in your family if you reset your rhythms every seventh year, looking to enrich each individual in your family and your family as a whole (much like the way the land was enriched and renewed after a year of rest)?

So, I’ll just ask you: what would it look like for you and your family to take a year of rest?  How could you make it feasible?  What stands in your way from taking a year of rest? I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this!














12.01.2014

Rest

rest: to refresh oneself, as by sleeping, lying down, or relaxing; to relieve weariness by cessation of exertion or labor; to be at ease; have tranquillity or peace.*

Our year of rest has officially begun.  We have entered into our Sabbath year.  Technically this year began for us October 1st; however, I was still in such a newborn daze that I was fairly unaware of the “resting” that we were entering into.  Thankfully, we had stages of this year in our mind, allowing us to slowly progress toward our ideal restful rhythms, knowing that having a newborn is less than restful.

Now that December has begun and our “newborn” is getting bigger and more settled into himself with more regular eating and sleeping rhythms, we are beginning to find rhythms of our own…restful rhythms. 

These restful rhythms are unique to us as a family…things that we each individually need to enter into rest.  Things like having alone time each day for Val and I, ordering more take-out for dinners than cooking, hiring housecleaners, letting toys be strewn about a little more and stay out a little longer, making a point to connect as a couple throughout the day, and incorporating plenty of play and projects in our day for and with the kids. 

These restful rhythms are made possible due to Val working a part-time hospitalist position.  These restful rhythms are made possible because both Val and I stepped out of all ministry commitments, retreats, and speaking engagements for the year.  Lastly, these restful rhythms are also made possible because Val and I are taking a team-approach to the year, working together to carry our home, life, and family responsibilities…so we both can rest. 

It is in these restful rhythms that we hope to find renewal of soul and a re-centering on Jesus.  It is in these restful rhythms that we hope to find overall health as a family and connection with each other.  It is in these restful rhythms that we hope to reset and reprioritize our life’s goals and purposes and dreams and callings. 

It is out of these restful rhythms that we hope to be renewed and once again re-engage our Kingdom work on this earth. 


* As defined by dictionary.com (click here to see the full definition of “rest”).

11.26.2014

I Didn't Know: My Response to the Ferguson Reality

As I scrolled threw Facebook late Monday night, my heart began to break a little bit.  I was appalled at some of the comments I read in my feed.  My heart ached over certain responses.  These recent events are just about Darren Wilson and Michael Brown, but are a picture of a great reality.  The comments flying all over social media have evidenced that greater reality.  For days, I have been trying to find the words to express what I see, what I feel, what is real in the face of all that is flying about in response to these current events.  These are the simple words I have.

Once upon a time, I lived in the West, studying the great names of the Civil Rights Movement as though it was something of the past.  Then five years ago, I moved out here, to the south-ish-midwestern state of Oklahoma.  And I learned quickly that the Civil Rights Movement is not something of the past.  To think it is a thing of the past is to ignore reality.  Once upon a time, I just didn’t know.  I was blind to the reality of racial division. 

But now I do know.

Back then, I didn’t know that there is still an invisible racial divide in many parts of the country.  Not due to a government-imposed racial segregation, but due to a naturally occurring, often socio-economic, disparity.  Or maybe that socio-economic disparity is not occurring so “naturally occurring,” but rather is the outcome of past realities that still haunt us today.  One must consider this.  

Whatever the case, what I do know today is that we still have a long road ahead of us toward true racial reconciliation.  The events of the pats few days have made that even clearer.  The comments I have seen on social media put a spotlight on the blindness that is still present in so many hearts.  Yet, I find myself hopeful that this blindness may be limited.  I read many other comments that show that there are many of us moving ahead on the road toward racial reconciliation.  There are articles I have read these past few days that have given me hope.  Hope that this blindness may be lifting if we will just see, if we will just truly listen to one another. 

I want to invite you in to see.  To listen.  These articles will pave the way to seeing, listening, and beginning to understand, ultimately lifting blindness to our present reality. 

Please do take some time to read:

“Ferguson and the Path to Peace” by Russell D. Moore (click here to read)

AND

“How NOT to be a Racist” by Brian Loritts (click here to read)



The reality is that our nation is trending towards diversity. The church has no option but to maintain the same trajectory, not so much forward, but backward to her first century roots where the normal was ethnic diversity. A failure to do so will put us perilously close to being irrelevant to the changing face of our society.
Brian Loritts