I carried all my bible study materials – notebook, pens, prayer journal, bible – to the table-for-two on our front steps. Flipping to 1 Thessalonians, I breathed in the fresh morning air, the sun weaving golden threads through the willow boughs, and –
Why did it sound like the goat was outside the barn? Reluctant to leave my perfect study time, I tramped around the garage to discover Adeline (my five year old) standing next to a nervous and blinking Penelope, unhappily being led out of the barn.
“Addie, you have to ask.” I tried to be gentle, but the idea of a rampant goat at 7 AM was NOT on my list of favorite things.
“Okay mom…” Addie pulled Penelope closer and grasped her collar. “But Penny WANTED to go outside. She needed her morning walk!”
I sighed. “As long as you watch her closely – we don’t want her weaseling out of the collar.”
Fifteen minutes later Adeline was shouting from around the corner to be pushed on the willow swing. I looked down at my study notes… the unfinished planner… the list of things I wanted to get started on in the rare silence of day. But then I pictured her: hair swept back into a ponytail and three bows, Texas Tuxedo – jeans and a denim jacket – donned on her slim frame, hot pink rubber boots completing the look.
Come swing me, mom! Penny, loosely tied to a low branch, gazed at me from across the yard.
I left the Bible to swing my daughter and keep a tiny goat from running into the road… because there is always enough time.
I haven’t always lived this way, and I can’t honestly say I always live this way now. Daily I choose between the pressure of my ever-expanding lists and the quietness of the moment in front of me. I fully recognize I am one of many voices (most much more eloquent than I) talking about a slower, sweeter, Sabbath-based life. Indulge me being one more.
In the past, I made time for rest – but usually at the end of the day or the end of my tasks. Productivity was security. Overwhelm robs me, and I don’t like to be robbed, so I create systems – systems and discipline that have served me immensely well. Yet in the middle of them I must not miss the point. If the system meant to help me rest just enslaves me to the system… it has ceased to do what it was invented to do. Even the “system” of bible study, the discipline of coming faithfully to study the Word every morning for years, can become a legalistic burden if I am not in tune to the heart of God.
This morning, the heart of God was in a five year old’s hopeful request for a willow swing.
Sabbath expands our ability to trust God; abundance is believing His sovereignty. The more I learn these truths the freer I feel in my use of time. Time has felt like a diminishing resource; I’m quoted as saying: “I wish I could clone myself” and “I wish I had a second brain” just to make more time. I managed to create more margin through discipline and routine, but as our life expanded with kids, homeschooling, church, and business, even my routines could not save from the endless tasks ahead. When we started implementing a real Sabbath – when my time to produce diminished – my ability to trust expanded.
As I trusted God’s sovereignty over my time, I found myself with an abundance of it. I didn’t gain more time, but I did gain a better understanding of how to use it. In the last few years we’ve implemented principles of Sabbath, my heart has been readied for willow-swings and goat-kids at 7 AM. I still get a lot done between 8 am and 5 pm, a necessity for the life we live and the stewardship I’m called to pursue. But how often do we refuse margin in the name of stewardship? About as often as we replace rest with its knockoff, leisure.
I know by now you’re probably wondering what that rest looks like. You might even have a pile of excuses for why you can’t rest. I remember those days: “I have to prepare for the week… we have college students coming over…” There was always a reason to stay “on”. Particularly when it came to phone boundaries, it was like I couldn’t unhitch from the tiny computer in my hand. Always checking, always making sure people could contact me, and always wondering why I was anxious or overwhelmed by it all.
The first step was over two years ago. I implemented a no-phone Sabbath (Sundays) and turned it off, put it in a drawer and left it at home. At that point I had been deleting social media off my phone daily. But I needed more. I needed a real silence from it. I needed to be unavailable to potential distractions, not just the ones I knew I had, and the firm boundary created was my phone being off. At first I thought… what if there is an emergency? But I’m with my kids all day. Josh is usually there too. Any other emergency could come to me after 6 pm, when my phone turned back on.
That was how it started. When I broke my leg in the middle of 2019 and started a season of forced rest, I realized just how much I placed value in what I could do. As I look at my life, it’s divided into two parts: before surgery and after surgery. Before surgery, I inched toward Sabbath with reluctance and fear. After, I discovered that rest is a lifestyle – God’s lifestyle – and with Him we are “heirs of eternity” (Mark Buchanan).
I think about that phrase often: heirs of eternity. What does it mean to hold the right to endless time? To have access to unstoppable peace? And if I believe it, hold onto it, how will that change life here on earth?
To inherit time is to hold the key to an endless resource. Time is no longer running out, it’s running free – and we’re running with it. We get to “fill every unforgiving minute”, as Kipling said, except our minutes aren’t unforgiving. They’re full of grace. With God, there is always more. With God, there is the chance to know exactly what our priorities should be and pursue them without the “hustle”. With God, we really do rise up on wings like eagles.
And it all starts with Sabbath.
I returned to my bible study journal twenty minutes later. I put the goat back in its pen and Addie started her chores a little later than normal. I still think about the brightness of a July morning, a baby Nubian softly chewing her cud, and the brush of a little girl swinging against a willow. I could have missed it, if time was scarce. But it’s not.
There’s always more than enough.