Every week before our Sabbath, Matthew and I experience an almost giddy joy getting ready. Stocking the refrigerator, clearing out the junk mail pile, folding the laundry, we feel our excitement growing. The house sparkles. Computers are put away. Candles are lit, and fresh flowers adorn the mantle. Hooray! The Sabbath bride is almost here!
Last week was one of my most intense but gratifying Sabbath preps ever. During the preceding week, I had purchased a few "new" work dresses on Ebay and waited until Saturday to try them on for Matthew. They all fit perfectly. That was the good news. The bad news: I always try to purge one or two items for each new purchase I make.
So in preparation for my Sabbath Mother's Day, I spent a few hours cleaning out my clothes closet.
It was hard work. But it felt great. I ended up with a stack of blouses, pants, and dresses that were ready to be worn by someone else. Matthew helped me bundle up the pile and take it to Goodwill before I could have any second thoughts. When I came home and saw my clothes closet beautifully organized–with lots of empty hangers–I felt a rush of joy.
A few days ago, Matthew and I were sent a pre-publication review copy of a colleague's forthcoming book on Sabbath. Subversive Sabbath was authored by our dear friend, Dr. A.J. Swoboda. Matthew has been asked to write the foreword. When the book comes out, we'll be sure to do a more complete review. But for now, I wanted to share a list from A.J.'s book. It offers some practical advice on preparing for the Sabbath:
- Take half a day (or even a couple of hours) before beginning your Sabbath to finish all housework. This may include mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, and watering the garden. If we do not intentionally do these things in advance, it can lead to work on the Sabbath and distract us from resting.
- Care for any animals in advance. Give the pets a double portion on the day before the Sabbath so they are free to have a day without needing your constant attention.
- If you are a student, plan your study schedule around the Sabbath and resist studying for that mid-term for a day.
- Pay the bills, do the laundry, go to the bank, get your hair cut. Remember, the Sabbath is not a day to catch-up.
- Get any and all shopping done, such as food, clothing, or filling the car with fuel.
- Clean house. Resting is difficult if you are thinking about cleaning the house on the Sabbath. Keep in mind: if you have too much stuff to take care of on the day of preparation, consider that you may own too much stuff. The Sabbath almost implies simplicity in the things we consume and own.
- Prepare a big meal for the night before the Sabbath so you have an abundance of leftovers for the Sabbath. This frees you from needing to cook or eat out on the Sabbath day.
As you prepare for Sabbath this week, rejoice! Clean out your closet, calendar, or email inbox. Prepare a double portion of crock-pot deliciousness. Unplug from your electronic task masters. Make space for the beauty, peace, and joy that God offers you through holy Sabbath rest!
Nancy Sleeth is co-founder and managing director of Blessed Earth.