Start Small, Start with Sabbath


Start with the one day, this week, and declare a slender victory for the gift of being human in God’s good and gorgeous world.

It is permissible.

Of course, it is.

You can work two very important jobs, you can blog, tweet, manage social media for several organizations until you think in 140-character sound-bites. You can even write book proposals, sign contracts, do it all. You can volunteer at church programs, and sign the tinies up for soccer practice two nights a week, handle drop-offs-and-pick-ups. You can clean your house, make beds every day, and cook three meals a day, and you can try to stay on top of the laundry. You can exhaust yourself on an elliptical training machine while listening to sermons on podcast. You can purchase eco-yarn to make handknit baby sweaters for all the new babies of your friends. You can meet friends and family three nights a week, and attend a home group, too.

You can go go go go go go and you can do do do do do and you can tell yourself things like “Good things come to those who hustle” and you can pride yourself on your work ethic.

You can mutli-task like a mama octopus, and you can rise early after going to bed (too) late. You can pull down deep to your prairie-kid work ethic, top it off with some good old Protestant fear of idle hands, a side of the evangelical hero complex. You can fill your life with “should” and “ought to” and “must” and make colour-coded lists, download a few iPhone apps for productivity. You can put your tinies to bed, saying “no” to their requests for another story, another song, another snuggle, because, darling, can’t you see? Mama has so much work to do.

And then, like most women, you can berate yourself for all the things you want to do and don’t do, all the things you think that Good Christian Women do. You can think about exercise and losing weight, about Bible studies, and helping orphans and widows, about money, about the whole hurting world. You can spend your emotional energy  on all the ways you don’t measure up, sure, I’m doing this, but it’s not enough, it’s never enough, I’m never enough. You can look around at other women, other women you admire in real life or online or in bookstores or on TV, and think, well, look at her! I don’t know how she does it! I must work harder, I must do more.

It’s permissible. (But it is not beneficial.)

Deep breath now. Exhale. Go on.

If you are waiting for permission, here it is:  you are allowed to step off that crazy-making highway.

Start small perhaps?

Start with Sabbath. With the practice of intentional rest, once a week, one day when you radically care for your soul by stepping back from the expectations–external and internal–a day to pull over to the side of the highway, and go for a walk in the meadow you’re always driving by. Start there. You are allowed to take a day off from it all, to rest and renew, to worship, to press pause.

It’s permissible to stop. To take a step off the merry-go-round of our culture’s expectations on women, wives, mothers, friends, on Good Christian Women. It’s permissible to go to bed on time and sleep well. And to laugh at the days to come. It’s okay to shut off the damn computer, turn your phone to silent, and let the constant email pile up, forget your Facebook messages for a day (or a week).

It’s permissible to let the laundry sit unfolded, to take one day off from “should” and “ought to” and “must.” It’s permissible to practice radical self-care, read a magazine for fun, ride bikes with your children, draw with sidewalk chalk on the street, make a meal out of real food.

It’s permissible to pour a glass of white wine and sit out on the back deck, put your red lipstick on, flirt shamelessly with that man of yours, you know, instead of cleaning up the supper dishes. It’s okay to make love in the morning, to watch a movie that makes you feel good. It’s okay to go for a walk by yourself, no iPod, and pray-talk your way around the neighbourhood, at  leisurely pace.

If you are tired, worn out, burned out, start small. Start with the Sabbath, luv.

Start with the one day, this week, and declare a slender victory for the gift of being human in God’s good and gorgeous world, created with pleasure and delight. Start with the revolution of Sabbath, with the counter-cultural revolution of slowing down, of one-thing-at-a-time, of delight, of worship, of an ancient practice for your working-it-out soul.

It is permissible. And this one? Also beneficial.

– Sarah


So, my SheLoves friends … your turn:

  • Will you practice Sabbath this week? How will you practice a bit of radical self-care?


Photo credit: Ontario horses, by Erin Wilson Photography

Sarah Bessey

Sarah Bessey

Sarah Bessey is the author of Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith and Jesus Feminist. She is an award-winning blogger and writer who lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia with her husband and their four tinies. You can find her online at or on Twitter at @sarahbessey.
Sarah Bessey

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  1. MikeGraf says:

    Turns out “It is permissible” is just the key. There’s some research showing that the quality of relaxation has much to do with how much you just let your mind go, the extent that you give yourself permission to “recreate” or relax or what have you. Thats why Spas can be so good, its a relaxation environment where you allow yourself to totally let go. If you can give yourself permission in your own back yard, then who needs to spend $60 an hour?

    see this blog post for more on the idea:

  2. This is why my husband has declared “should” the real s-word in our house. Prarie kid work ethic – check. Protestant fear of idle hands – check. Evangelical hero complex – check.

    Thanks for the reminder (and the permission) to rest. Other than lip service I wasn’t raised to believe that this is actually the rhythm God designed us for.

  3. Anastasia B says:

    I’ve tried making a Sabbath, it always turns into unplug-the-computer-but-play-housework-catch-up day 🙂 I need to be a lot more intentional about it and leave the day for connecting with God, my spouse, and my kids!

  4. oh, so hard. Oh, so necessary. Thank you for the loving reminder.

  5. Lindsay Privette says:

    This is good stuff, because the truth is, if we try to play the game, we’ll never win. There will always be more laundry to do, more dishes to wash, more little feet to wash and mouths to feed. But we’ll end up more tired, more burned out, and less the person they need us to be, less the person we were created to be. Thanks for this reminder to cultivate a Sabbath.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Wow. Your first paragraph made me catch my breath. You really do all that? (And more, I’m sure).

    I’m curious about your elliptical training and podcast listening. Do you do that early morning, late at night, when kids are at school, etc? Curious.

    P.S. Thanks for the reminder to slow down and savor life.

  7. My mind is always filled with all the things I “should” do, say, make, clean, read, write….. It takes a conscious effort [and frequent reminders from my hubby] to take the “should” out of my vocabulary and just be. Thank you for being my reminder today that life’s not all about the “should do’s.”

  8. And if you make sure everything is clean and tidy before the Sabbath, you can have a guilt free day as well.

  9. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about this as we just moved back to the US from a busy and loud country! We are in a slower part of the country and still in transition. I’ve had time to read, prepare meals, worship, knit…all slowly. When our lives pick up activity, I want to hold on to some of that slow Sabbath time. It’s food for my soul.

  10. Sandy Cooper says:

    I started out reading this between reaching for a snack, starting the dishes so I could begin cooking dinner in a clean kitchen and (re)starting the dryer to fluff the clothes that were in there too long. And then I a saw myself. And it stopped me dead in my tracks. I am not always on the crazy train, but lately I have been. And I want off. Thank you for giving me permission to do so.

    • Lindsay Privette says:

      I find that I read most posts somewhere between the washing machine, dishwasher, and stove…what a crazy person I must look like, too. Ha. Your life sounds like mine. 🙂

  11. Wow, I sure did need that deep breath there in the middle. 🙂 One day a week free of expectations and “shoulds?” Sounds so lovely…I believe I will give it a try tomorrow. Thank you, Sarah!

  12. Oh yes. I will do both. Sabbath and self care, because I don’t do it all and I don’t even want to. And I love life too much to want to run a crazy making pace.

  13. beth lehman says:

    good stuff. very good. thank you.

  14. I think you’re going to love my friend MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s new book coming out next month – Sabbath in the Suburbs. All about practicing sabbath as a busy family with tinies, etc.

  15. I made one small step in this direction this week when I made one tiny change. I got down from the chair that faces the computer and sat.on.the.floor.
    It took an actual act of humility–getting down on the same level of someone who means the world to me, to shake me out of my screen loving/blog reading/lovely women I adore slash idolize/ “worship-like” stupor.
    And it was lovely.
    To sit, eye to eye, and really see my precious son…well, it was the first step in my recovery.
    Thank you for putting out the word, Sarah Bessey.
    I pray that I can but live it.

  16. hmmm…one kid at camp and the other at school, I think the beach is calling me for a sabbath rest. thanks for sharing.

  17. Diana Trautwein says:

    What’s the old truism, “the longest journey starts with a single step… ?” And this is a great single step to start with. Thanks, S.

  18. inspired to start tomorrow!

  19. I need to be reminded about this from time to time, and my children are all grown up and out on their own.

  20. This was utterly profound for me today. I recently backed away from a project I have been doing with a friend. She’s one of those friends who can do all you listed and more and her smile never weakens. So when I stepped off my personal treadmill I was overwhelmed with guilt feelings of laziness, ineptitude, weakness.
    Thank you for permission. I needed that


  1. […] Sarah Bessey, Start small, start sabbath […]

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