Sabbath for Americans

For years now, about seven, I’ve been asking the Lord for rest. He has increased my dreams, yet limited my time. How, God?! I didn’t know how was I supposed to set my feet to accomplishing the things He’d asked me to do. I didn’t know how was I supposed to get a shower. But if He showed me the way to walk, I would walk that way; that was the vow I made.

Jeremiah 6:16 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. –KJV

I have long since struggled, still do to some extent, to find my place in the “Old Testament,” the Tenach. Jesus saves, no amount of law abiding can do that. Yet, I read that there is righteousness and protection in obedience to the Law. God’s heart is represented in the details of the Torah. David loved God and was blown away by His Law! Like the bounds of marriage that cradle and protect the home, David felt at home–gloriously cradled–within God’s Law. He loved it, even though he was required to continually offer sacrifice to atone for his inevitable lack of righteousness.

A once-for-all, atoning sacrifice has already been made for me. But does that mean that I don’t ask God for the old paths? Does that mean that, unlike King David, I don’t need to seek my God’s heart for the treasures that lie in His Law? That doesn’t seem to be what Jesus had to say on that subject.

Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. — NIV

When I was nineteen I lived with and trained under a Jewish midwife, and I was quickly made part of the family. Not once in all the months I was there did I ever notice that bacon was missing. The love in that household flowed like wine–and so did the wine, come to think of it. I looked forward to her Friday night Erev (Sabbath ceremony); and even though she practiced quietly, alone in the kitchen, that candle–her prayer–was my favorite part of every week. The subtle ways in which she taught me were powerful. She reclined on the couch and joined us in our silliness, and something was different. I now understand; it was the Sabbath.

Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  –NIV

To make a long story a little bit shorter, I’ve decided that the thing missing from my life, the reason for my exhaustion and unrest, was that I’d somehow misplaced the most detailed of the ten commandments.

Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day.Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” –NIV

I’ve felt God wooing me toward the Feasts and the Sabbath for quite some time, but apparently my American mind rebels against fun and rest. And I joke, because we free in Christ are the best at these things, right? Funnily, I’ve never experienced the kind of rest that is now present in my life, and I’ve never had so much time to do everything He’s asked me to do. 

I’ve titled this post Sabbath for Americans, because this is simply the rough and inarticulate way in which we (the six of us, Valentes) choose to honor the seventh day. There are so many fun and mysterious jewels involved in the traditional–old paths–practicing, but we’ve scratched the surface and adopted a few things as our own.

Two years ago, maybe closer to three, I decided that I wanted to observe the Sabbath. The only problem was that I almost completely forgot Preparation Day! So, by lunch-time, I was attempting to rest in what was basically a FEMA intervention waiting to happen. Not restful. What’s so great about the Sabbath, anyway?!

Ah, so to tell you about our Sabbath, I’m really going to tell you about our Preparation Day. I’ve just lived through one (a few hours ago) so it’s fresh in my mind. Jesus’s body was taken down from the cross on a special preparation day. I didn’t know that, but now my kids do. We were listening to an audio Bible a few nights ago, and when we got to John 19:31 they all exclaimed, “Preparation Day! They’d better hurry!”

I’m kinda in love with my kids.

Preparation Day starts on Friday morning, after I’ve had my coffee. Truthfully, I start to think about Preparation Day on Wednesday. That’s when I take a look at my laundry basket (which is usually not very full because I do one load–not counting pee, poop, or vomit induced extra loads–every day). Should I wash the blankets with the sheets this week? Whose pillows need to be bleached and fluffed? Does the slip cover on the couch need to be washed? And, umm…that last one is always a yes. I think about food, and I check my pantry. When Thursday comes, I step up the cleaning a bit. I might even move the couch when I sweep. Friday, though, that’s when the all out cleaning and cooking war commences. Friday is when we blare TobyMac so loudly that the neighbors think about moving. Friday is Preparation Day, and it looks a little something like this:

Today, I made eight loves of bread (four apple-cinnamon, four garlic). I made dinner and dessert for tonight and breakfast for tomorrow. We’ll have leftovers for lunch. I washed every blanket and pillow in the house, cleaned out the fridge, cleaned the microwave, and finally organized my bedroom while my children swept, mopped, washed dishes, and put away laundry. I have to honor Tiny Dancer, here, because she has truly learned how to be a help. I don’t feel like I did much at all today, actually. That’s definitely thanks to her.

The great thing about Preparation Day is that you don’t cook and clean until you’re done (done might never happen). No, you just go, go, go until sunset. We’ve adopted the three stars tradition, and Lil Prince is our star spotter. He loudly announces the evening’s first star, and when the third star appears, he orders the neighborhood to “Stop working!” Thankfully, my parents are my next door neighbors.

We’re usually seated at the table for awhile before he spots the first star. Sometimes, we even have time to wash a few of our dishes before the third star is excitedly spotted. The pots and pans have been cleaned in advance, our glasses stay on the table for the next day, and any remaining dirty dishes are stacked neatly beside the sink–because we’re done, put down your pencils and stop working d.o.n.e.

When we sit at our Sabbath table, time stands still. We’re exhausted from cleaning and overwhelmingly excited to enjoy our rest–to enjoy each other. To reflect. To pause. The kids are up past their normal bedtime on Friday night because we sit around the Sabbath table for at least an hour, laughing beneath the glow of a flickering candle. Heavy, earned, deep sighs are breathed as we soak in our love for each other and the Father’s love for us. I hear about what God has been teaching my children; I whisper what He’s been revealing to me. And as I tuck them into bed, I can hardly contain my joy at the last words they whisper before dreaming, “Happy Sabbath, Mama.” And tonight Bay Bit added, “God is Holy.”


As if Friday night is not more than enough, there is also all day Saturday. I won’t try to explain that to you, though; I think this picture speaks for itself.

11 thoughts on “Sabbath for Americans”

  1. Beautiful. 🙂 I was friends in high school with a girl whose family observed Shabbat every Friday evening. I always loved going to their house for dinner on those nights. They did the works – candle, prayer shawl, Challah bread, grape juice in these beautiful stone goblets from Israel…it was really neat to get to participate in that.


    1. We don’t braid the bread every week, just because it takes longer. But that’s one of my favorite parts. 🙂 Maybe I’ll make time for challah this week!


  2. Love this!! I’ve long since felt that “wooing” too, as you put it, towards the Feasts and the Sabbath… A conviction I don’t know what to do with, how to convert, how to explain to those around me…

    Anyway, I am finally starting with observing the Sabbath. Do you mind sharing your bread recipes?? Garlic and apple cinnamon loaves sounds AMAZING (not mixed, of course!).

    Do you have any more specific advice, recipes, tips for meals from Fri-Sat evening?

    Oh, and I love your three star rule! How cool! My daughter would love that one. :o)


  3. This is SO SO cool. My great grandmother was Jewish, raised in an Orthodox Jewish home, her parents came to America from Prussia. She came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, but kept most if not all of the Jewish traditions and Biblical feasts. I wish I had paid closer attention, she died when I was a teenager. Anyway a few years ago my husband and I entered on this path to learn more about it and we are learning to keep Shabbat, the feasts and do Torah study each week. This post is wonderful. Thank you for sharing it! Sunshine


  4. I have to confess. I was all excited when I read the title of your post. I read your blog every once in a while and thought how great it was I happened to read it today.
    But I ended the post a little confused. Why not keep the Sabbath day holy on the actual Sabbath? I think the tradition you have set is great and I too have great respect for the Jewish observance of their Sabbath but since most Christians celebrate the Sabbath on Sundays it seems odd that yours is on Saturday.
    I am LDS and we are very clear on the importance of keeping the Sabbath day holy. We try not to do too much other than attend our worship services, spend time with family and grow in our relationship with Christ. We don’t shop or go out to eat, we try not to buy anything in fact. Growing up we didn’t watch TV and we always had a simple meal so as not to spend too much time in the kitchen.

    I think your prep day is fantastic, you dinner is amazing and the goal to be perfect. I might try it on Satudays for my family 😉


    1. “Why not keep the Sabbath day holy on the actual Sabbath?” That is exactly what we are doing. I believe that to honor the old ways IS do to things the way Israel does them. Sunday is the first day of the week. We will continue to keep the Sabbath on the actual Sabbath day. 🙂


      1. Saturday is the Jewish sabbath but most Christians believe that since Christ rose on Sunday that it should be the new sabbath day, which is why most Christian churches celebrate the sabbath on Sunday. So to me that IS the actual sabbath day 🙂
        Please don’t think I’m trying to tell you which day you should celebrate on, I figured you had a good reason, I was just curious.


      2. Christ DID indeed rise on the first day, but the Bible outlines the seventh day as the Sabbath. I certainly don’t have a problem with those who honor the first day as their Sabbath, though. 🙂 Thanks for the conversation!


  5. Random question. What is the Jesus book cd you listen to in the morning you mentioned in another post? Is it the Jesus storybook bible cd? I wanted to email you but I couldn’t find any other way to contact you.


    1. I’m sorry I didn’t see this before! We do love the Jesus Storybook Bible, but the Bible on CD that we use is just the Zondervan NIV. 🙂


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