Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Taking A Day Off

We just got back from a wonderful 10 day vacation home to Seattle. It was great to spend time with friends and family, it didn’t rain even once, and Claire did relatively well on the long flights. I did not check my work email at all for the duration of the trip. Some of you might think, “Of course not! You were on vacation!” The rest of you can identify what a huge accomplishment this really was for me. It was the first time in 5 years that I have taken a trip of any kind without checking in for work. It felt amazing!

Before we left, Pastor Dave had been covering a series of talks on Sundays at Great Lakes Church on The 10 Commandments. It was not the "Summer Bummer" it might sound like, each week was surprisingly relevant and applicable. Especially the week he talked about the fourth commandment, reminding us about keeping the Sabbath. In other words…


Ok, maybe when God sent these commands to Moses he did not use all caps and an exclamation point. Or, maybe we should read all of them with exclamation points. Either way, I paraphrase that way because it’s the one commandment that makes me reply to God (in my head, of course) and say, “Aw, that’s sweet. Thank you for thinking of me, but that’s not necessary.”
Anyone else?
Just me?

Now, imagine if I replied to the other commandments the same way…
God: Thou shall have no other gods before me.
Michelle: Aw, that’s sweet.
God: Thou shalt not murder.
Michelle: Thanks for thinking of me, but that’s not necessary.
See the problem? When God speaks, it is not meant to be sweet. Though he is loving, I should not respond to the things that are important to Him as though it’s a Hallmark greeting card. But, I just can’t help it when it comes to this idea of taking a day off.

In a typical American work week, most people put in approximately 40 hours and take two days off… If you read that last statement and said, “Yeah right, my boss has me working 60 hours and I rarely get a day off!” you might have boundary issues, which is your problem and not your bosses. If you are your own boss, then you might have boundary issues, which is just one of your many problems, and mine. But, even if you are neither of the above, you still might find it very difficult to observe this seemingly optional commandment.

Here are a few reasons I find it hard to take a day off:
1. I love my job!
It’s really true. Right now, I work for Great Lakes Church and love everything I get to be a part of. To top that, I haven’t had a job I didn’t love in a very long time. I have been lucky to work with great teams for great causes with great results. What’s not to love? So, since I love my job so much, it is hard to actually want day off. I have always been unbalanced in this area of work & play and always wanted more time to just relax, but I’ve never made it a priority. This could also be because, for the most part, since I’ve loved my jobs, I’ve found it energizing to be productive and helpful.

2. Being a part-time employee + a full-time wife and mother are tricky to balance.
Practically speaking, I do work part-time from home and do not have a set day off. Desiring to focus the majority of my attention on Claire, I try to get work done while she is sleeping or otherwise occupied. This means that, for the most part, I do a few hours of work each day, some days I get even a few more in and work still spills into the next day and the day after that. This leads me to feel guilty thinking of taking an entire day off, not checking emails, not planning, etc. since the time I am able to work around my little girl already feels so limited.

3. Most moms don’t get a day off from motherhood.
The other practical thing to consider is that my home and family is also my full-time job. I have to confess that while Dave was speaking on this topic at Great Lakes, I was sitting next to a friend of mine who is also a mother. I leaned over and rhetorically asked her, “Could everyone not make a mess, or use dishes on my Sabbath? Could Claire make her own bottles and change her own diapers on that day?” Snarky, I know. But, I don’t think I’m alone in sincerely wondering how it’s possible to take an entire day each week to rest from the demands of parenthood.

The idea of a day of rest is definitely the root of some tension in the Peterson home. You see, Tony has always been very good at this one. I remember the first year I knew him, I tried to give him a call at work to wish him a Happy Birthday. No answer, no big deal. Only to find out the next day that he always takes a day off for his birthday. I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. I asked him if he had any special traditions, like going to a theme park or hanging with his family for that day… Nope. Even if he stayed in his pajamas and played video games all by himself, he was not going to work on his birthday. I, on the other hand, once attempted to make it into work even though I had just been in a car accident and needed to be at the hospital while they used 14 stitches to mend the cuts from my face hitting the windshield of my car. (That's a story for another day, folks) So, you see, we have very different approaches to what warrants a day off of work.

As much as it annoys me, Tony’s idea is much closer to God’s than mine. Would you believe he never checks his email and rarely even answers his cell phone on Mondays, his one day off? He is quite strict. He sleeps in, snuggles with his girls, watches movies, plays video games, reads a book, goes to the zoo, takes a long drive, and eats meals with friends. He does whatever he wants to do except work. In general, I haven’t felt like I needed much “me time”. And that, right there, is the lie.

“Me time” is not what the Sabbath is about. The Sabbath is about taking time to rest, refocus and reconnect in my relationship with God, acknowledge my need and dependence on Him, and thank Him for His faithfulness to me. Observing a Sabbath would help me remember that, even if there were more hours in a day or days in a week, I still could not get it all done. I need to remember that God is the provider of my needs and the needs of those who might be depending on me. It is ok and even acceptable to say “no” once in a while. As a wise person once said to me, “Sometimes you need to say ‘no’ to good things so that you can say ‘yes’ to great things”. One of the greatest things I can say yes to is putting time into my relationship with God, who is simply not impressed by how much I might accomplish in a day.

So, while I work that out, I have developed a new habit. I call it “Sabbath Moments”, but since saying that out loud sounds super cheesy to me, you can call it whatever you want.

You see, I know that Claire will need me throughout the day, that I will have meetings with people I serve with, that I will check my email, and return voice mails all day long. Since I can’t see a way around any of these things, I am now in the habit of purposefully getting up out of bed long before Claire wakes up and my day officially begins. Lately she’ll sleep until 7:30am or even 8:00am. I know that if I get up at 6:30am, I can make myself some coffee and sit and read in the quietest moments my home will be all day. I know that I meet Jesus there, whether I choose to read the Bible or browse the Pottery Barn Catalog (although, I have made it a rule not to pick up my phone or open the laptop). It’s quiet, I can hear my own voice in my head and I always hope to hear the voice of the Lord. The mornings that I actually do this, I am that much more thrilled when Claire wakes up and I feel extra excited to see her! On a good week, I can make it happen 4 out of the 7 mornings. This also means that I go nuts trying to straighten up the house and the kitchen when she goes to sleep the night before, in anticipation of a peaceful early morning.

Another Sabbath Moment I get to enjoy now and then is at a coffee shop by myself. I just work it out with Tony when a good time for me to take off will be and then I go and sit for a couple of hours by myself! I realize for some of you, the idea of reading a book sounds much more like work than rest. But, for me, it is the essence of peace.

Thankfully, because Tony is so strict about his day off, I am usually forced to get out of the house and have some fun with him, whether it's a trip to Ikea or a breakfast date. He takes family time seriously, and his approach really keeps me in check.

I’m curious how you’ve found to take time to stop working and rest? Have you?

So, coming off of 10 days of rest, I’ll share with you some of the pictures of our time in Seattle. Enjoy!

PS Claire had a lot of firsts while we were gone…
1st time meeting her relatives (except for her great-aunt Nancy who stopped by our place in Wisconsin in May)
1st time Riding the Ducks
1st time clapping her hands together (Thank you Joshua Davies)
1st time eating foods that were not pureed (We tried bread & rice noodles, and we liked them!)

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