About a year ago, I finally accepted the fact that I have a job. It is a flexible job that I can mostly do from home, but it is still a job with work and money and deadlines. Even for those of you who work away from home, there is always email to check or papers to grade long after work hours have passed. Work has the potential to buzz at our fingertips no matter where we are. As my work load has increased since the book came out in the fall, I have been forced to re-think the way I do things. How can we create space for our souls to breathe in the midst of lives that are so full?
1. Open your Sabbath gift. One of the many shortcomings that haunt people who have grown up living the try-hard, good girl life is that we tend to roll our eyes at anyone who implies there is any limitation to our humanness. Tell the self-sufficient they need to practice Sabbath and they don’t see the point. What a waste of a good, productive day.
Over the past several years as I’ve learned to release my tight hold on that try-hard life and see it for what it really is – an ugly, gross attempt to be my own god – and as a result I’ve become increasingly more open to practicing an intentional Sabbath. It feels less like a discipline, more like a gift.
“If we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, illness becomes our Sabbath — our pneumonia, our cancer, our heart attack, our accidents create Sabbath for us.”
Wayne Muller, Sabbath
From Sunday morning when I wake up until Sunday night after my small group leaves, I don’t check email, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. I don’t try to tap out one more chapter. I don’t mop the floors. Once a week, I’m completely cut off from the internet and if I can, from anything that doesn’t bring life into our home.
We go to church together. When we come home, I cook slowly. I read fiction. I watch the kids play outside. I close my eyes on the couch. I drink coffee after lunch. It is saving my life. Because my husband is a pastor, he practices Sabbath on his day off, Mondays. It isn’t perfect; ideally I want our whole family to benefit from resting on the same day. But we’re taking small steps. He even has a Sabbath phone. Every Monday, he leaves his iPhone in the drawer and instead he carries around an old phone circa 2002, complete with the rad flip.
Find a day, or even a few hours in your week where you can sit and slowly unwrap your Sabbath gift. Don’t wait until sickness or fatigue force it upon you – embrace the gentleness of the gift while you are healthy and can enjoy it.
2. Wear blinders. One of the most difficult parts of working from home for me is all the things there are to do. I sit down to write, to finish a chapter or an article or an email, and all I can see is the sink filled with dishes. I walk by the kids rooms on my way to grab a power cord and my heart nearly stops beating for all the Legos and Barbies on the floor. It is ever so tempting for two things to happen. (1) I think to myself, I’ll just step in here for 5 minutes and clean the stuff up off their floor. Before I know it, an hour has passed and I’ve color coded the Legos and filled two garbage bags with every toy they’ve broken since the last time I did this. Or (2) I walk right past, but feel guilty that I’m writing instead of organizing the Barbie house or sorting out their summer clothes.
I don’t write a productivity blog, but I know there are practical things about being productive that can encourage us in our work – keep a clutter free work space, set a timer, things like that. Here’s something I’ve noticed – the more I open my Sabbath gift and rest when it’s time to rest, the easier it is for me to wear blinders to anything that distracts me from my work when it’s time to work. I would prefer to work at my table in a spotless kitchen, but if that is not possible, I clean the table off and face the window.
Cleaning up around the house is something I can do with the kids. Writing is something I must do alone. When you have alone time to work and can’t leave the house, embrace it as work time and don’t look back.
3. Make bread. Maybe it’s crazy, but there’s something about making bread from flour and water and yeast and salt that keeps me grounded. Settled. Connected to home. Even if the day has been filled to overflowing in both good and difficult ways, pulling a loaf of bread out of the oven gives my soul space to breathe in a way I never expected. I use the simple recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It works, it’s delicious, and I feel like I’ve accomplished something important even though it’s just bread. Because it’s not just bread.
4. Grocery shop online. When the twins were babies, I struggled through taking two babies into the grocery store and tried it every way imaginable : wear one, push the other, cram both car seats into one cart and pull the grocery cart, get a sitter. Then one day, as I left the grocery with two babies in tears, spit up on my shoulder and a cart filled with only half of the groceries we needed, I saw the sign: Food To Go. Because I shopped there regularly, I had enough points to cover the small fee to online shop and so the next week, I sat on my sofa and shopped from my list. I don’t always shop for my groceries this way, but during the weeks with deadlines or a lot going on, it has been an amazing gift.
5. Rhythm over schedule. Just changing terminology can help to lighten the load. Instead of labeling his calendar a weekly schedule, my husband has established a habit of calling it a weekly rhythm. I’m starting to copy him. Schedule implies strict lines and boundaries while rhythm gives a little room to breathe. I have goals to I want to accomplish, but I’m learning that making a schedule for myself often leaves me discouraged with all the disappointments and unmet expectations. But when I look at my work as more of a rhythm, then interruptions from family and friends are more gentle and welcome. Work is more part of a bigger picture of this life we’re making rather than This Really Important Thing I Have To Do.
What about you? What are some things that help your soul to breathe in the midst of your work?