Saturdays are for expectations. I wake with thoughts of rest, time off, brunches and exciting expeditions, ideas that are rarely shared by my three-year-old when he wakes up at 6:30am. Nevermind my five-year-old who would rather ride a bike than read a newspaper with a coffee.
It took me years to realize I left most of my weekends heavy with disappointment and frustrated by unmet expectations. What has made our weekends a bit lighter? Staying present, focusing on the need, whether it is for food or extra play time or another round of hide and seek. Expectations put me in the future, staying present keeps me grounded today. I need this to thrive. Also, I do tell Husband when I need time off because 30 minutes in a coffee shop can fill me up in ways many things do not. It may not be brunch, but it is something.
Here’s to a happy weekend for you and yours, and if you’ve got a few minutes, these reads filled up my heart and mind this week.
How to Survive the Election because I cannot be the only one out there who is so finished with the US elections. And for the love, I don’t even live there. These are sound tips for anyone who wants to stay sane, healthy and whole until November
Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls by Nichole Nordeman she wrote most of the songs of my teen years, and her words in this post brought ears to my eyes. So much truth and beauty, give it a read if you’ve been through a hard season and are doubting that there are good things in God’s heart for you.
You, too? Every corner of our world is shouting at us, telling us to work harder, be more, get more, buy more. If you take a moment to catch your breath, you can feel you need to try harder while failing at the same time. Work, busyness, creation is celebrated as the answer, but maybe what you’re looking for is rest, permission to stop, permission to say, “I can’t do it all.”
We have slowly been working our way back to a weekly Sabbath celebration from Saturday evening to Sunday evening – I don’t believe it matters what day of the week is set aside for rest, but I think it is necessary to set aside a specific day or amount of time. Here are four small, weekly lifestyle changes that have made a big difference for us.
1Work hard. Maybe this has been the most ironic thing about disciplining myself to rest. Rest requires hard work. It means that Saturday is no longer a sit around and relax day, Friday is often busy as well. I make sure the laundry is washed and hung up somewhere where I can’t see it, or folded and put away. Dishes are washed. Food is bought, put away or cooked. We bring our home to a state of order. Often I get snack bags ready for Sunday. In the middle of this work, when I’m tempted to leave things undone, Sabbath is my motivation. I get to not do anything tomorrow, so get this done now. 2 Simplify. We’ve started eating the same dinner on Saturday and Sunday nights – the abend brod, German for evening bread. In Husband’s home in Germany every night the dinner is always the same: bread, butter, a selection of cold meats, cheeses, pickles and cherry tomatoes. I never understood cold food that isn’t a salad until I found weekends even more exhausting than the week because I was cooking all the time. German women are smart, the abend brod saves time and energy, and it’s easily repeated week after week (as a meal, as an item on a grocery list, as food my children will eat with joy and zero whining).
3Find daily pockets of rest. Yesterday I had a rare nap from one of my children, and suddenly had an hour of silence. I instinctively reached for my laptop for no reason, and I felt nausea wash over me. I’ve learned to listen to my body. I set it down, and picked up The Year of Cozy instead. I thumbed through it, and let the photos and the beauty minister to my soul. It was only 15 minutes but a solid soul exhale. Even in the middle of the hard work, it has given me so much to take 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there of soul rest. For me it usually means listening to a few songs that bring rest, reading a book, looking at something beautiful, the scent of something I love. It reminds me daily that rest matters, and it gives me even more reason to crave and work for the full day of rest.
4Light candles. I learned this in Sweden: Everything looks better, feels better, is better by candlelight. Our boys are easily quieted by the flickering lights, and the promise that they can blow it out when the meal is finished. It’s a gentle, beautiful touch that sets this day apart. Bonus? It’s easy and cheap.
Now it’s your turn: How’s your resting life? What small changes can you do to bring more rest to your life?
Maybe you’re frustrated by the list of big goals but wanting to seize your life and change? Small changes are for the rest of us, the ones whose dreams mock us from the sidelines, the ones who yearn for change but know they can’t just shove everything to one side. We do it bit by bit, piece by piece, and we believe that each piece is making a difference. If you want to read more about small changes, you can start here 3 Small Things That Make a Big Difference.
I rolled over the other day, and said to Husband, I miss Sweden. Only a few words, but this was more than homesickness. It’s the sadness that follows me around even though life in Australia has been more than good. Sadness that cannot be shaken, not by gratitude or numbering my blessings or coffees or warm weather. Fatigue can wash over me in the middle of the day, and I’m still surprised with the overwhelm when it comes to making simple decisions, the energy I do not seem to have for connecting with people.
I am 34 now, and I have two boys under five in tow. You could say that life on the move, all that carrying on, caught up with me.
I tell myself that this move to Melbourne should be easy, the easiest I’ve made in my life. I have family and friends here, a support system is in place. I can read, speak and write in English. I can make a bank transfer again. I know where everything is. People are helpful and friendly, white-sand beaches are less than a 30-minute drive away, cafes and delicious food are everywhere.
But there are emotions, events and fears I picked up from carrying on, and I was carrying them everywhere.
I started 2016 on a personal retreat, and I took Soulkeeping by John Ortberg with me. Toward the end of the book there is a chapter about rest. He writes about the Christian life, how it is not easy and is not supposed to be easy. We know this, don’t we? We’ve read the book about holiness and not happiness, we know to expect suffering, even to rejoice in suffering.
You know this. You are mothers, fathers, brothers, sons, daughters, friends, sisters in far flung places, fighting your daily battles. You’ve argued with with your boss, studied for exams, wrestled children who don’t listen. There’s an illness in your family with no diagnosis. You wonder how much longer you can live paycheck-to-paycheck. You’re walking out a difficult marriage day after day. Or maybe you’re just unsettled wherever you are in the life that you have and there is no explanation.
You know that God has not called you to easy.
I never expected my life to be easy. When it comes to hard work or the incoming “hard” thing, I’ve always thought, This is from God. But Ortberg continued.
The Bible uses the word easy only once. It came from Jesus. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened…and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
‘Easy’ is a soul word, not a circumstance word. The soul was not made for an easy life. The soul was made for an easy yoke.
We have the punishing voice of productivity saying, “Do more. Be more” and the distressed words of anxiety on the other, “It will not work out. It will all fail.” And this is the heavy, hard yoke that was not meant for our shoulders.
One year ago in May we were in Melbourne for my sister’s wedding. It was the trip that led us to move here, so this one year anniversary comes with a mixed bag of emotions. We’ve been in Australia seven months now, and it is familiar and strange all at once. Thank goodness for the fabulous weather. It’s a winter day today, bright sun is shining and a high of 15 degrees. I can survive bright winter days. I’m not even wearing a coat.
Rest is the key to my sanity, you’ll be hearing more about this in the weeks to come, but for now I’ll say that the first few weekends in May were jammed with events, and I could feel myself wilting day after day. It wasn’t until we scheduled in a Sabbath for two weekends running that it hit me – again – I was not made to go, go, go. I need a hard stop, I need regular, refreshing rest. And rest is not the absence of things to do. Rest is the choice to set aside the things that need to be done, and it is so worth it.
Small changes work, some of the small changes continue to make a big impact on my day-to-day life, and I wrote about a few of them here (a new alarm clock, keeping my bedroom neat, and a simple meal plan).
Red sauce + meat does not work says MasterChef, Husband and I are obsessed with this Australian show, and several weeks ago a contestant cooked duck with a caramelised beetroot broth, which was bright red. Matt Preston remarked that the delicious sauce looked like blood and was quite unappetising to look at.
Thanks as always to those of you who subscribe (scroll down to do that), read, comment and share. I appreciate it so much. Now tell me, what did you learn in May?
Maybe you’re in the same place, frustrated by the list of big goals but wanting to seize your life and change? Small goals are for the rest of us, the ones whose dreams mock us from the sidelines, the ones who yearn for change but know they can’t just shove everything to one side. We do it bit by bit, piece by piece, and we believe that each piece is making a difference.
Here are three small changes that have made a bit difference in the past weeks.
1Simple meal planning. I cook the same food now week after week after week. What this means is that I have essentially the same grocery list, and I use up all of my ingredients because what doesn’t get finished can be re-used on the same recipe the next week (hi there, anchovies). So I save time when it comes to planning meals for the week and writing shopping lists, and I’ve also started memorising the recipes, so I can cook them fast and make adjustments as I wish. I try to cook double so that dinners become our lunches, and I keep it very simple like Mexican for Monday, stir fry for Tuesday, soup for Wednesday, salad for Thursday, curry for Friday.
These are a few of the recipes that have been making our rotations:
2 Maintaining my bedroom. I’m happy to report that two months after redoing our master bedroom, it is still a clean, neat and beautiful space. And I still make the bed every morning. Knowing that no matter what happens to the rest of our house, I have one space that is visually peaceful, makes a huge difference to me during the day. Everyone is different, and I’ve noticed that a mess is a stress trigger for me, but I have kids. And I want our kids to have the freedom to create in messy spaces. I won’t be a mother who is forever nagging or requiring completely neat living rooms and dining tables. It has been great to reclaim our bedroom for ourselves and for order.
3Phone boundaries. I’m still struggling through this one, but the little changes do make a difference. I’ve made these rules for myself:
I can use the phone before 7am (when the boys wake up), but after that it goes away.
I can use it for fun for 30 minutes in the middle of the day.
The phone goes away from 5pm until the boys’ bedtime (6:30-7pm).
At 8pm, the phone is turned off and put away.
I turn the phone off from Saturday evening to Sunday evening as we celebrate Sabbath.
I bought an alarm clock, so the phone is also not with me is in a drawer in the living room and not next to my bed. I use the phone for calls and texting during the day of course, but I get no notifications on my phone for social media, and this is what I wanted to curb. I love Instagram, but I don’t want to be “on” it at random points in the day, only when I want to be there, and only for a purpose. No more mindless scrolling. Or less mindless scrolling anyway.
There you have it. Now tell me, what small changes are making a big impact in your life?