Keeping the Sabbath: Evolving as People & Elevating our Sights
Keeping the Sabbath day holy is a vision that the Lord would like us to catch and an old habit that He'd like us to re-evaluate in each of our lives.
I'm sure we've all heard a lot of sacrament talks on this topic lately, not to mention General Conference themes.
Our family's Sabbath days have taken an abrupt turn recently since my husband was called into the high council and to serve simultaneously as the Stake Young Men's President back in November. As part of this, he was also ordained to the high priesthood which was a wonderful milestone for him.
One recent Sunday, a sister in our ward gave a talk on keeping the Sabbath Day holy. It was also announced that our 5th Sunday lesson later that day would be on the same topic.
I felt impressed to write down as many suggestions as I heard that day that would help our family do a better job of "making the Sabbath a delight" and do you know how many I came up with? A lot. I'll list them at the end of this post for you to think about.
But first, I'll share one tip that was shared in this sister's talk that stuck in my head. At first, I didn't think much of it, but we have tried it out and it's a mantra I've decided to keep. She said, "try keeping the Sabbath day holy one hour at a time."
I don't know how Sundays go for you guys, but when kids are young, Sundays can be harrowing. And I've found that it basically comes down to this thought that there is either "nothing to do" on Sundays or that there are so many things we're "not allowed to do" on Sundays.
I remember that feeling. As a kid, I remember wanting to swing on my swing set in the back yard, but being inhibited when my Dad wanted us to stay in dresses, and not being allowed to play with friends. Eventually, we settled into a routine over the years and as we grew: Mom prepared a delicious meal of roast beef, carrots, potatoes and rolls with homemade jam. Someone did the dishes. Most of us slipped happily into a food coma/long nap. Slowly kids woke up and someone made chocolate chip cookies (almost every week). To keep us quiet (and lesson the sibling squabbles so my parents could rest), we started watching good, old-time movies which my mom had on VHS. Then there was eventually a Disney Movie on TV. We popped the most enormous amount of popcorn and ate it like piggies around a huge silver bowl.
I'm sure my parents remember the squabbles more than I'm mentioning here, but it generally worked out. Sometimes I remember Dad making homemade french fries. That was a treat.
And eventually, as we grew, youth firesides became the norm on Sunday nights.
It's funny how you remember things. It's funny how sometimes things work for one family or one family in a particular circumstance, but not for others. And it's interesting how the leaders of the church have moved away from giving us a list of do's and don't's toward giving us a higher principle and inviting us to evaluate our Sabbath Day observance for ourselves.
The higher principles is this: What kind of sign do I want to give the Lord through my Sabbath worship and observance?
A Story About Bees & the Sabbath Day
When Steve and I were in our first house and our babies were teeny tiny, we attended a neighborhood picnic on a Sunday, something we wouldn't normally do, but did because we were moving into our house that week and wanted to meet our neighbors. The next year, they were holding the same annual picnic, but now our children were mobile and we needed to think about what precedent we wanted to set for our growing family.
We tried to convince the organizers of the neighborhood Labor Day picnic to move it to a Saturday or Monday, but it was a long-standing tradition, and they were not willing to move it.
We were disappointed. We also felt perplexed about the Sabbath Day and decided to do all the research we could into any guidelines that might be out there on how one should observe the Sabbath. We read as many talks as we could from the leaders of the church and then as a couple, we made a list of any suggestions we could find. Then we sat down and talked about them together. We were surprised that there were so few "lists" of do's and dont's...even though we had grown up in families with pretty clear guidelines for Sundays.
I remember saying, "If only we had a list, like the law of Moses, telling us what to do on Sunday and what to avoid...it would be much easier."
That week was the picnic. Children cut through our yard on the way to the other neighbor's pool. My children could both see and hear all of the fun happening all around us. It was torture for even me!
But as a family, actually as parents leading our family (because our children were like 2 years old) we made the decision not to attend the picnic on a Sunday. (One thing I did do to show my love for my neighbors was that I printed out pictures from the previous neighborhood picnic and mounted them so they could be enjoyed by the neighbors in attendance.)
So, another week went by, and it was Sunday again. I settled down to nap in my bed with my two children (and my pregnant belly). My husband Steve went to read a book in the play room. About 10 minutes later, I heard him screaming. I knew something was very wrong.
When he went into the play room, he noticed a bubble in the ceiling. He poked it and out flew a swarm of carpenter wasps. Within seconds the room was filled with bees and there was a huge hole in the ceiling.
Steve told me to stay in the other room with the kids. This was a crazy, scary emergency. I still remember Steve going straight to work making this homemade bee-keeper costume! He put on a long sleeve shirt and draped a window sheer over him and under a hat, then duct taped his sleeves shut to avoid being stung! He looked ridiculous.
He grabbed the shop-vac and vacuumed the bees/wasps up, then went out to the adjacent empty field and dumped them out.
It was harrowing to say the least (and now, years later, that I have actually been attacked by bees--which is a different story!--I know that was a very dangerous scenario.)
When the bees were mostly gone, Steve came to me and asked if I thought he should run to Walmart and buy bug killer to fully exterminate the hive.
I already knew my answer, but I said, "Why don't you pray about it and let me know how you feel." He did so, and came back with the following conclusion.
It was necessary for him to act quickly to remove the danger of the bees from our house. But in this case, it was not necessary for him to go to the store on a Sunday to get the bee killer. He could complete that part of the job on Monday.
I couldn't believe this crazy experience happened to us, however in light of the searching we had been doing to discover more about the Sabbath, I recognize that the Lord had given us the perfect learning opportunity.
I no longer wondered why the Lord didn't hand us a "list" of do's and don'ts for the Sabbath Day. The Lord wants us to "feel" our way to the right way of doing things. He wants us to turn to him and ask. He also showed me that if He WERE to make a list of do's and don'ts, it would be ridiculously long and detailed.
Can you imagine a list that includes "if on a Sunday, bees swarm your children's playroom while you are napping, you may get them out of your house, but don't go buy poison unless someone is allergic....." and on and on??? So silly. So unnecessary when he has given us the gift of the Holy Ghost and the power of prayer among other things to help us figure this stuff out...to lead us toward the state in which we "govern ourselves."
It's a good plan.
Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy Hour-by-Hour
So, back when my kids were babies, Sundays were fairly easy. Everyone took a nap, ate food, and played with trains.
I've realized now that my kids who are very active need me to lead them in Sabbath Day activities that help keep the peace and set an example for them to follow.
I can't just say (as I have many times): "It's Sunday!!! Be reverent!" Or "Be Quiet!" Mommy needs a nap!" Just as Sacrament meeting often turns into something that is not about ME, the parent, but about THEM, the children...Sunday has become about more than Me resting...but another opportunity to carefully, thoughtfully teach and lead them...so that when they are ready to govern themselves to a greater extent, they'll understand what their options are more clearly and how to fulfill this commandment joyfully.
So, over the last year or two (or five?), I've tried to have something to do on Sundays including Sunday Scrapbooks, journaling, writing letters to cousins, and utilizing our "quiet time" boxes. They've all worked well but need to be rotated depending on our family's needs and circumstances.
Is someone sick? Is Daddy going to be gone for his calling (usually it's me that's been gone!) or to do home teaching? Is there a special church broadcast happening that night? Did our church schedule recently change?
These are all things that affect what and how we do Sundays. It affects when we eat, when we rest, and what activities we might need to implement.
This past Sunday, having just moved from 9am church to 11am church, we needed to figure out how our mornings would go. We had the children lay out their clothing the night before the first week...and that worked great. And they have enjoyed reading quietly (surprisingly) while Mom gets ready.
But this week, we added the fact that Steve had to leave for the Stake Center as soon as we came home from church. That meant preparing and eating dinner alone and hours of time with just me and the kids.
To help my children take responsibility for how the day would go, I moved the dry-erase board I use for my to-do list into a highly visible area. I listed the hours of the Sabbath Day and a few options for things we might do during those hours.
I felt that this "hour-by-hour" approach to the Sabbath really helped the kids.
1. They knew what was expected of them. 2. They knew how to help. 3. They knew what was coming up next. 4. They knew that they had options, since I listed about 3-4 things we could do during each hour of the day.
Here's what our dry-erase board looked like.
Here's what we did:
2pm - Help make dinner. Eat dinner. Make cookies (I happened to have a roll of store-bought sugar cookie dough in the fridge left over from a Christmas project...all of the magic of homemade cookies, all of the motivation, none of the clean-up! Win!)
3pm - Write Thank you notes. While we cleaned up the dishes, I asked each child to write down the name of someone who they wanted to thank and why. After the dishes were done, we got out our stationery and started writing notes. I ended up finding a note to myself a few days later from Autumn that said "Thanks for making dinner, Mom!" Even Honor was proud to write a note thanking her Primary teacher for a gift she gave her today.
4pm - The weather got really windy, so the kids ran outside to enjoy the wind that always makes my kids excited, and to drop their letters in the mailbox for pick-up tomorrow. It felt and smelled like Spring...and in January in Central Pennsylvania, that's something to stop and appreciate any day of the week! What a blessing!
5pm - My sister Dawn called and asked if Guy wanted to Skype with his cousin Evan...so Guy spent a chunk of time doing that and was pretty happy about it! (While the girls played and them tried to crash his party!)
Dad/Steve came home closer to 7pm than 6 and I'm pretty sure he was expecting to come home to mass chaos and a grumpy, pregnant wife. But the children were so helpful that instead he came home to quiet, calm, very clean house, and dinner left over from earlier.
Even I was amazed.
We had survived the day without his always dependable help and managed not to kill each other! And even though we "did" stuff, I felt more rested, than had I not lead them in activities and instead sat around scolding them or nagging them to "find something quiet to do."
Of course, this was one day...but it worked and I believe it's a good path for us to go down as a family this year.
To end our day, we (didn't play a game as listed, but) had hot chocolate with whipped cream while we had Family Council around the kitchen table.
I probably should have made more food, but somehow we all went to bed pretty happy. Next week's another Sunday, right???
Ok, I promised to type up my list of things that can help us keep the Sabbath Day...so even though this is a LOOOONG post, I'll type them up anyway...(that way I can throw out my old planner and move on with 2016, so it's helping me out as well!)
This is just a brainstorming list and things I picked up while listening to this topic during church the other week...perhaps it will spark a thought in your mind to help you make the Sabbath more of a delight for you and your family!
Suggestions to Make the Sabbath a Delight:
1. Do Family History/Indexing
2. Blog your testimony (or share it on social media)
4. Write letters to family
5. Call grandparents or other family members
6. Write thank you notes
7. Read next week's Sunday School lesson
8. Play a Sunday game (board game)
9. Write in journal
10. Play the piano
11. Plan the FHE Lesson
12. Take cookies to someone
14. Listen to church music
15. Enjoy nature quietly
16. Read together
17. Fill up Gas in car on Saturday/Lay out Sunday clothing
18. Teach the family a lesson from General Conference (see what we've done here.)
19. Think of someone to serve
20. Have quiet time for 1 hour separately (either nap or use quiet time baskets, which you can read about here.)
21. Make a list of things you're grateful for
22. Hold Family Council
23. Skype with family (or spend time with family if they're nearby)
24. Take it one hour at a time.
25. Partake of the Sacrament reverently
26. Plan family's menu for the week
27. Read church magazines
28. Organize family photos
29. Work on Faith in God (or personal progress, etc.)
30. Listen attentively to talks during Sacrament meeting (We encourage our kids to take notes and report back to us what was talked about later.)
32. During Sacrament, ask, "What lack I yet?"
33. Recall as a family what was taught in church
34. Sing the hymns during church (don't just sit there!)
35. Lay out our clothing, Sunday shoes, coats, and scriptures the night before.
36. Plan/prepare Sunday dinner on Saturday night
37. Forgive others before taking the Sacrament
38. Go to bed early on Saturday night
39. Listen to the teachers and participate reverently during class
40. Finish homework on Saturday
41. Decide NOW to keep this commandment 100% of the time (our lives will be full of "extenuating circumstances".)
42. Come to church early and sit quietly in preparation for Sacrament (don't talk loudly when you leave either)
43. Dress modestly for church/try to remain in nicer clothing the rest of the day instead of lounge or junky clothes.
44. Put phone on "airplane mode" for the three-hour block of church
45. Avoid surfing the web on the Sabbath Day
46. Pray for the Holy Ghost to accompany you.
47. Keep voices low
48. Unplug from technology to connect with the Spirit (Take advantage of LDS.org/Mormon Messages online to enjoy as a family instead of worldly media.)
49. Ask ourselves, "Are we willing to do this? To keep the Sabbath/be a witness, to get the "trash"/"noise" out of our lives?
50. PRAY for the desire to keep the Sabbath Day holy.
I do believe that these are all ways that we can make the Sabbath a delight...and when Sunday is more delightful, it's less stressful, and I think my children are happier too! Good luck!