playfulness and adventure for Sabbath rest

This week for Self-care Sunday we’ll continue to explore the topic of Sabbath rest. If you want to really learn to nurture yourself, you’ll want to consider scheduling a day of rest into each week. The definition of physical rest might surprise you.

Despite the controversy surrounding Laura Ingalls Wilder, her depiction of how Victorian America ‘kept the sabbath’ has stuck with me all these years. Children sat fidgeting, holding in pent-up energy, and waiting breathlessly for their parents to declare the end of Sunday. Heaven forbid that they do anything that smacked of fun.

I always scoffed to myself and whispered a quiet thank you to my parents—they never made Sabbath a day of restrictions and soul-crushing stillness. I couldn’t imagine the inhumanity of a room-bound-still-as-a-church-mouse afternoon. Our sabbath keeping started the night before.

As the sun went down, my mom would put on a record of her favorite church music. Then we would have a meal together as a family and welcome the Sabbath. The next morning brought other delights. Cold cereal for breakfast (a real treat, back in the olden days) and a chance to squabble with my siblings over the prizes.

After spending the morning at church, we’d take off on some adventure—often carrying a picnic lunch with us or leaving as soon as potluck ended. We’d go on hikes, collect flowers for flower pressing, see how many trees we could identify, go canoeing, or bicycling. During the summer, we’d take along picnic supplies for supper. In the winter, we’d eat popcorn and fruit milkshakes (nowadays kids call them smoothies) and play endless rounds of Rook and Uno.

I loved Sabbath because my parents both lavished their attention on the four of us kids. We didn’t sleep in or watch cartoons while our parents slept. But the day felt restful, nevertheless.

After raising two daughters, I realize the sacrifice my parents made to prevent us from having a Laura Ingalls Wilder inspired day of rest.

Rest Starts with Adventure

As an adult, planning adventures and fun activities seemed so difficult at the end of a busy week. The idea of sleeping in sounded lured me. Going outside to play in the snow or cross-country ski when the thermometer hovered around 5 degrees didn’t appeal to me. But just telling our daughters to keep themselves busy seemed churlish.

Have you ever thought about using playfulness and adventure to find Sabbath rest? Those things seem counterintuitive, but sitting around all day trying to be 'holy' won't help you make the Sabbath a delight. #rest #sabbath #sabbathrest #adventure #playfulness

So, off we’d go. Admittedly, sometimes I’d catch a short nap while Pedro drove to our destination. And I always loved whatever we did, even though I felt reluctant about leaving the house. Invariably, even if we cross-country skied for ten miles, I felt rested when we returned home. Invigorated and ready to take on a new week.

Physical adventures (no, not running a marathon or even a 5k) give our brains a chance to shed the cares of our workweek. Interacting with others while building a snowman or hiking draws our minds away from the things that burden us.

Lynn A. Barnett, who co-authored a 2013 study on playfulness in young adults and their ability to cope with stress, concluded that, “Highly playful adults feel the same stressors as anyone else, but they appear to experience and react to them differently, allowing stressors to roll off more easily than those who are less playful.”

In other words, nurturing a sense of playful adventure once a week will help you deal with stress the other six days of the week. Taking a Sabbath rest will give you physical rest.

Make Sure You Get the Right Kind of Sleep

Sabbath rest doesn’t mean sleeping in until noon. In fact, sleeping in actually makes your weekend more difficult. Experts agree that getting more sleep on the weekends can make up for sleep deficits. suggests catching up on sleep by taking short naps rather than sleeping in an extra four hours. Sleeping in an extra hour won’t mess up your circadian rhythms.

We DO need to plan the sleeping hours to ensure that we get more sleep while still waking up at the about the same time as we do during the work week. I opt for going to bed earlier the night before. In fact, I’ll head to bed at seven on a weekend night. Call me a fuddy-duddy, but sleep deprivation can lead to all kinds of horrible things.

Try going to bed earlier on the weekends and waking up at about the same time. Your body will thank you by making it easier to fall asleep the rest of the week.

Sabbath Rest in a Lawn Chair

Once you’ve gotten the hang of intentionally resting on Sabbath, you can start to boldly sit in your comfy lawn chair all afternoon. Or swing in your hammock. If you choose to make Sabbath a day of rest, you’ll want to distance your activities from anything that smacks of ‘chore’ or ‘work.’ Don’t mow the lawn, enjoy your lawn. Turn the sprinklers on and listen to your kids scream as they run through the water. Join them occasionally.

Take time to delight in what you’ve accomplished rather than ruminating over lists of things you’d like to accomplish. Intentional rest takes practice and training your brain to just let stuff go once a week.

Learning to reframe everything you thought you knew about Sabbath will help you learn to rest physically in ways that really refresh. #rest #sabbathrest Click To Tweet

Trust me, it works. I kept the Sabbath all through high school and college. I spent parts of the day outside and refused to crack open a textbook. My grades never suffered.

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:27 NIV

Go Birding…or Fish Watching

Just kidding. You don’t have to go birding or snorkeling (aka ‘Fish watching) on a Sabbath afternoon. Although combining the light physical activity with the appreciation for God’s creativity does produce a special kind of relaxation.

If you have young children, you can take a page out of my parents’ book and go for short walks with tree or flower guides in hand. Learning with your kids in a stress-free environment will set a great example of lifelong learning for them.

What do you like to do to find Sabbath rest that seems counterintuitive yet provides rest?

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  1. I probably don’t take my Sabbath on Sunday, as much as on Friday when my husband and I both take the day off. On those days, I do try to pull away from most “work-related” efforts. But I don’t pull back completely, Anita. I’m challenged by what you’ve shared to up the level of Sabbath rest in my life. I’m certainly feeling a bit more stressed lately than I want to be, so this could be just the fix for that burden! Thanks also for the linkup, my friend! Have a great week!

  2. Great post Anita!
    I do try to have time out on the Sabbath, I am in a “Sabbatical” in my life at the moment, so rest & refreshment is balanced hopefully with wise activity within chronic health conditions.
    Tea With Jennifer recently posted…Pause & Reflect…My Profile

  3. Anita,
    I totally agree that the Sabbath can and should be filled with playfulness and adventure. Sunday is one of our favorite days to take our beagle on a long walk around a nearby lake and just take in God’s creation – the sunshine through the canopy of tree leaves. A Sunday afternoon nap?? Heavenly!! I am trying to make a more concerted effort to slow down and practice the discipline of rest! Great post!
    Bev xx
    Bev @ Walking Well With God recently posted…Heaven – So What’s In Store For Us?My Profile

  4. Our Sundays involve a big family breakfast (other days we eat breakfast in shifts), church, dinner, naps or rest time, and then reading or sometimes games or watching something together. I used to keep the TV off on Sundays, but that’s one time we have the time an lack of other distractions to watch something together as a family.
    Barbara Harper recently posted…Smelting the SoulMy Profile

  5. Thanks so much, Anita! I grew up in a home where playfulness was not modeled or encouraged and even as an adult I have had to work toward giving myself a nudge to try it. (Not experiencing it in childhood can make it seem awkward as an adult.) This was a great read and reminder. Your writing always nudges me in great ways!

  6. Your post is a bit convicting, but I love it! We are a pastor family so we often come home from late from church…hungry exhausted. My husband needs a nap and the kids and I just want downtime from being “on”. I feel inspired by your memories of childhood Sundays, though. Gosh—I want more of that for my family. I hope it’s possible!

  7. A very interesting and insightful post on how we can spend our Sabbath. Indeed rest, recreation, family time and even communing with nature should take precedence and importance ever for once a week since we need to literally unwind and unplug to get our wits end.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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