How to Intentionally Plan a Day of Rest

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Most Friday nights, you will find me sitting in the chair by my front door with house keys still in hand, one shoe off, snoring with my mouth wide open. I’ll only wake up when I hear either my sons laughing at the sight of me, having fallen asleep sitting up, or to their nudging me with a “Mom, I’m hungry.” The week is so harried and hurried that I look forward to the weekend, only to remember Saturday morning that I don’t get to sleep in. There are swim lessons, a violin recital, and a birthday party.

After a busy week, not just my body, but my soul cries out for rest—a Sabbath. Just as God took a day of rest after six days of creation, he invites us to set apart, to make holy, a day for rest. I know I need to slow down. I need to find ways to connect with God by allowing time for holy moments on my Sundays, not just at Mass but after we leave church. Here are some of the ways I’m more intentional about making my Sabbath day holy.

In the morning

Sunday mornings, before the rest of the family wakes to get ready for Mass, I take a walk. In the quiet of a sleepy world, I feel myself slowing down—a good precedent for the day. I leave my phone at home and walk slowly, meditatively, through a small forest near my home. There is no need to burn calories, just to listen. Noticing the budding flowers and sound of rustling trees has a healing effect, reminding me of the psalm: “Let all the trees of the forest rejoice” (Psalm 96:12). After a walk like this, I feel my heart is open and ready to listen to the words I’ll hear at Mass.

In the afternoon

Sunday afternoons, my husband has created his own Sabbath ritual with our sons—he takes them to the local library to pick out stacks of books for the week. When they return, we all stretch out in the front room to read. I’ve been reading through several spiritual books on Sunday afternoons, including “Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God Through St. Francis and other Unlikely Saints” by Christiana Peterson or “Movies Are Prayers” by Josh Larsen. It’s my attempt to set apart this reading time as sacred and holy, different from the other times I read during the week.

In the evening

Sunday evenings, my husband and I have been trying to bring back traditional Sunday dinners with friends. It’s been a trial and error experience as our first tendency was to go all-out and prepare an elaborate feast. But who can keep that up every Sunday? Or even once a month? So, we’ve simplified by putting something in the crockpot in the morning or even ordering pizza. We invite another family or two to join us and bring a salad or dessert to round out the meal. The heart of the dinner is being with friends, echoing the table we shared earlier in the day at Mass.

Poet Wendell Berry says the Sabbath “asks us to notice that while we rest, the world continues on without our help. It invites us to delight in the world’s beauty and abundance.” I’m beginning to notice this in my own Sabbath practice. It’s humbling (and a little obvious) to realize the world doesn’t need me to rush around at a frantic pace. No one calls to see if all my laundry is clean. No one emails to see if my work is done. And in my newfound state of rest, I realize I’ve been watching a robin hobble around the yard for half an hour bringing worms back to its nest. And that I laugh each time my son does as he reads his book, even when I don’t know what’s so funny. I really do need to slow down enough to let God restore my soul so I’m better prepared to face the week ahead.

Originally published July 17, 2019.