This last Sunday we gathered together as community to unpack what it means to "take a sabbath". Our illustrious Paul Potter shared with us that we, our bodies, our minds, all of creation is called to abide. Which is not so much obedience as it is presence. Remaining. Pausing in the midst of our motion to be grounded in the rhythms set about by the Holy One. I was floored by Paul's reading of Genesis. True story: something new rises every time I allow myself to abide and simply listen and let it's poetry rise. This time? No different.
Six days the Divine One took to create the earth and all her creatures. And what we always seem to think of as "the last thing", Paul introduced as the first thing. The first day that the WHOLE of Creation spent as the WHOLE of creation was a day of rest. OUR first day as Beloved Creation together was Sabbath.
So.... WHY IS IT that I keep convincing myself that I have to EARN my REST?
For this, might I highly recommend taking time on your own to continue or enter in to the journaling we all did together.
STEP ONE: Make a "T" Chart.
STEP TWO: One one side, write "Things that aren't actually restful" (you can include in your journaling things that you've been TOLD are supposed to be restful but aren't). On the second side, write "thing that bring me rest".
STEP THREE: Spend time creating your lists. Come back to them as you dwell in reflecting on them. Circle the ones on the "restful" side that you want to try out. Cross out the ones on the other side that you are realizing you need to abandon or let go of.
STEP FOUR: Try out some of the practices on the right hand side without any expectation of them working a certain way.
STEP FIVE: If you live in a house with young folx, consider gathering together for a family meeting and doing the T chart journaling together. Compare and contrast one another's T charts. Make a T chart together as a family. Then, make a plan to try practicing one of the practices on the "restful" side together. Let your young ones steer the decision making and scheduling. The more ownership they have over the process, the more you are gifting them with the ability to be self aware humans who can recognize their place in the created order.
Here's the other thing that I've been thinking about lately. This practice doesn't have to be all Jesus-y and reserved for the most excellent Christians. For one, our Jewish brothers and sisters are sometimes worlds better at practicing sabbath than we are. For another, EVERYONE is part of creation. Everyone is connected to the earth and her rhythms. So, if we believe in Sabbath, we are invited to believe that it is for everyone. Anyone can practice sabbath rest. Because everyone's bodies need rest. Everyone no matter who they are should feel invited to practice their wholeness.
Written by Anna Hoesly
Anna is a community organizer and pastor at Storyline community, where we are currently doing a book club about the currency of women's bodies, and leaning into a series in November about what it looks like to operate out of abundance rather than scarcity, in the nooks and crannies of our lives!
This is the story of how, today, I found myself at a birthday party for my belly.
A little background you should know: My 5 year old son legitimately has a relationship with my belly. He kisses her. He talks to her. He plays with her. He makes sure she is not feeling left out. When we are snuggling in the morning before we face the world, he sometimes looks like he just remembered something very important, and gives my belly a good morning kiss.
He commonly refers to my belly as his best friend.
I have to remind him that we don’t lift mommy’s shirt in public, and that he needs to ask mommy’s permission to touch my belly. Because best friends deserve consent too. And also because being seen talking to your mom’s belly is probably not the best way to make human friends.
This morning, he declared that it was Belly’s birthday.
I did not know this.
I thought he would forget about this declaration, because, well, it’s a weird thing to say that can’t possibly be grounded in anything more than a fleeting misfire of neurons. But when I picked him up from school, he ran to me with sad eyes and said “I’m SO sorry I missed Belly’s birthday”.
He asked if he could make it up to Belly by throwing her a birthday party.
His eyes were so big and so earnest that I heard myself say yes. AND THAT is how I found myself walking into a birthday party with a crop top on at 4 pm on a Monday.
There was a play dough cake.
And dolls who also brought their bellies; all of whom were hiding under blankets initially, because it was a surprise party, as all good belly birthday parties are.
My 7 year old daughter was in attendance as well and, by the way, did not for one second question this whole endeavor. When my son told her it was belly’s birthday and belly needed a party, she just nodded her head like “Of course, yes, we will do that for belly, that makes perfect sense, what would we like for appetizers”.
This is all very ironic, because while my son has a relationship with my belly, I , historically, do not. In fact, of all the parts of my body, it is the part of myself I have most disenfranchised from my existence.
Belly and I have always had an on-again, off-again relationship, but after I birthed two babies via emergency C-section, I think we officially broke up. I didn’t mean to do it. It just happened. I didn’t know how to understand my belly after she was done with her very important job. I spent months in awe of what she was capable of. I held her, caressed her, gazed at her, beheld her. I fell in love with my belly as she quietly, surely, provided for all the needs of my babies, held safely inside.
But afterward, she looked like an empty vessel, vaguely mimicking the shape of the important thing she used to hold. My belly button was not the proud center of attention it once was... by which I mean, it literally LOST. ITS. ABILITY. to be in the center of my stomach. Which I didn’t even know was a thing. And a scar showed the portal through which those very important magical parcels of life were miraculously, almost inconceivably, delivered to into my arms. My son once told me what Belly reminds him of; in the same manner you would tell someone that their eyes are like infinite pools of water and their smile is like the radiant morning sun. He said ever so fondly- with a sigh of adoration- "your belly is just like Flarp".
I had flashbacks of the belly I used to have, and how I understood it growing up- though I preferred the term “tummy” thankyouverymuch, because I understood tummies as feminine and flat, and bellies as things people refer to in metaphors including beer and bowls full of jelly. I was always monitoring its size, its shape, its tautness or lack thereof.
Not noticing so much the way one kajillion gut wrenchers in soccer conditioning week could make me a badass with a core of strength that centered my whole body into powerful movements across the field... but noticing how it transformed me ever-fleetingly into the mythical kind of girl who could wear a bikini top with confidence.
When I looked at my body I did not see what it could do, I saw a social currency that would determine my status and desirability.
I didn’t mean to see it this way. It wasn’t on my vision board of goals for my life, it was just the auto-focus I seemed to inherit from the world.
I learned early on that our wider culture often scales and ranks the currency of women’s bodies, with a lens of scarcity. Only a small pool can be the MOST beautiful, the MOST desirable, and that small pool becomes the standard by which others are measured. Hot or not. I remember learning this in 5th grade when one of the boys in my class referred to Vanna White as a “dog”, in contrast to someone else who was “hot”. I remember this being shocking to my little ten year old ears. Because Vanna White was quite literally the most beautiful person I could imagine. If Vanna White was a dog, then what was I? That scarcity mindset propels women to compare themselves with each other constantly, competing for a piece of the beauty pie, while slowly learning to discount the beauty that is right in front of us. And frankly, it makes our understanding of beauty so small, and so boring.
As I grew older, I started to become aware of this auto-focus and work to dispel it for myself. I didn’t start by changing the way I saw my own body, I started by changing the way I saw other women. I chose to reject the scarcity mindset and intentionally look for the unique beauty of all women in their manifold shapes and expressions. Sounds a bit like the kind of aspirational quote that is written on a poster floating across a sunset, in a doctor’s office. But as it turns out, its true. I came to see the forms of other women as unique works of art, embodying the full and radiant life emanating out of their soul. And over time, it began to change the way I saw myself.
And yet here I was, post-baby, suddenly transported back to my old way of seeing. My belly had exceeded my wildest expectations for what a human body part is capable of, and yet all I could see were the remnants of the super power I no longer needed- and a betrayal of the currency I thought I no longer believed in.
So in the end, I mostly managed my confusing remnant with the ever-so-timely trend of high-waisted pants, hid her in moments of intimacy, and chose to forget about her. I could not make sense of her so I dismissed her from my consciousness, avoiding eye contact and human touch.
And then along came my son, the one person in the world who seemed to admire her. At first I swatted away his touch because it challenged her shield of untouchability.
But over time, I began to receive it and allow her to be seen.
His love for her started to reconnect me to her.
My image of her began to shift from being a useless collection of flesh to being a part of me; a part that was soft and loved and lovely.
The “currency” she provided me, began to feel like a silly game that I no longer wanted to play.
What seemed real and true is that she is mine.
She is a part of the whole that is me.
The body that connects me to others through the portal of touch.
That provides a soft place to lay a little head.
That forms one-of-a-kind curves and edges that my own hands can hold and touch and wonder at.
That holds all the parts that work together to feed and nourish me.
That carries traces of who I’ve been-
from the muscle memory of those one-kajillion gut-wrenchers
and my one (magnificent) break-dancing move,
to the sensory spark of my husband’s touch.
from the space she carved out to hold the life inside me,
to the pain she survived and brought me through.
I don’t know how she will continue to change in shape and function over time.
But she will continue to carry the traces of who I am to become- a vessel for the moments I have in front of me.
Like that one friend who, day after day, year after year, always shows up for you, to bear witness to the moments that make you.
So, as it turns out, it actually feels quite appropriate to throw Belly a party.
Yeah. Bring on the weird presents and play dough favors.
This gal deserves to be celebrated.
Sacred Rhythms and Raspberry Bushes
By Sara Gross Samuelson
The thing about rhythms in my life is that they only become so when they arise repeatedly, either by purposeful practice or mysterious accident. Often, the rhythms I find most grounding are the ones I stumble across accidentally, the ones that rise up out of the necessity of the calendar or of creation. This is how I found myself suddenly stumbling into sacred space around my yard bin on Saturday morning.
I was trimming back my summer garden, gloved hands, garden clogs, scrubby jeans and a yard bin that I had now stomped down twice because I can’t manage to spread my gardening work out over a reasonable space of time. My fall list builds until one day it finally bursts and I blitz through the needed tasks with reckless abandon, all the while silently apologizing to my long-deceased Grandpa Mac for letting such things go for so long without paying attention or anticipating the changing weather as I’m sure he would have in his own garden so many years ago. The raspberries, in particular, seem to have elicited a particular sense of duty in me of late. My earliest memories are of my Grandpa Mac’s prolific raspberry bushes and learning how to tell exactly when the best berries were ripe for the picking.
By last Saturday my raspberries had fallen into a sorry state of post-summer over-ripeness. Half of the berries were now molding on the vine and drooping heavily on the twine that once neatly held them back. What had once held the promise of summer bounty was now just a sad mess. So I began the work of pruning the bush back for it to lie in rest over the winter season. When you prune raspberries, you’re supposed to cut the vines “back to the wood”... that is, cut them back to the strength of what was established before summer even began. As I reached into the viney mess searching for the point at which to cut each vine back to, I found myself suddenly pulled in to this metaphorical wonder.
The rhythm of getting my produce ready for dormancy required that I look for their last point of established strength. Their last point of growth that “stuck” and bore some level of permanence. This is how the vine is able to become gradually more and more rooted in the soil around it. It’s taken three summers now for my raspberries to grow and root themselves deeply enough to fill out the 4’x8’ raised bed in which their 2’x2’ starter was first planted. All the while, I have tended each fall to helping them lie dormant in a way that will root them more deeply. Because my raspberries need these rhythms of restoration. And you know what? I do too.
So when my friend Ryan brought a similar idea to our community grounding the very next day, I found myself in awe of the confluence of the need of both the created world (ie, plants creatures, etc.) and the peopled world (ie, humans) for this pause as part of our natural rhythms. During our time together on Sunday, Heather called it a holy pause between the goodbye of one thing and the hello of another. Like when we say goodbye to summer and hello to fall, there’s a threshold where we pause and take time for that transition. (Relatedly, I definitely ordered the children’s book she read our kids to add to my kiddo’s shelf: https://www.powells.com/book/-9780544798755)
This thing, that both Ryan and Heather grounded us in, is sabbath. A pause. A break. Between one season and another. Between one thing and another. Between one day and another. It’s sacred space. AND…. as Ryan affirmed, it’s space that all of creation needs. I’ve been lax in my NPR consumption of late (#momlife) but I encourage you to give this a listen/read:
Sabbath is a rhythm. It’s a rhythm I stumbled upon in my garden last weekend in the midst of my raspberry bush. It’s a rhythm I noticed my body forces upon me sometimes when I pretend that I’m “not sick” for so long that I just can’t pretend any longer. It’s a rhythm that I think I should probably notice rising up sooner than those too-late sick days. It’s a rhythm…. Not one that I should “work for” or “achieve”, but one that I should practice for the sake of my work. For the sake of my spouse and my son. For the sake of my community around me. For the sake of creation. And… while it is indeed biblical, it’s also - as the NPR piece Ryan brought to us so aptly points out- quite plainly, human.
If you’re finding yourself in need of stumbling upon sabbath, you’re in good company. We’ll be digging into this again on October 20th at the LAB gathering. AND… it’ll probably continue to be something that rises up for us in community and communion with one another again and again.
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