Community Post: The No-Laundry-on-Sunday Sabbath
It's a Friday afternoon. I wait for my mother’s arrival, and can only imagine how our lives are about to change.
Years-in-the-making rhythms of daily prayers, Scripture reading, and study—as well as weekly Sabbath worship and rest—are like breathing, eating, and morning coffee. It wouldn’t be life without them. But Sabbath practices are as unique and changing as my circumstances. These practices are soul anchors, with long ropes that stretch and adapt to fluctuations in my abilities and responsibilities.
But my soul-anchoring practices are drastically altered the moment my mother is wheeled through our front door on a stretcher.
Mother grimaces as the men who drove the medical transport van slide her onto the hospital bed in the middle of what used to be our master bedroom. Disabled and with dementia, Mother doesn’t say a word. She trembles, cold and afraid; and though I remind her, she’s confused about where she is and who I am. Her clothes are drenched with sweat and urine, and the drivers offer no explanation for what happened to the catheter she should have had when they picked her up at the rehab center hours earlier.
When the men leave, I fill the bathroom sink with warm water and remove her wet clothes. I give her a bath, dress her in clean clothes. The reality that I’m on my own sinks in. Any confidence I had that I could care for my mother as well or better than those who had been caring for her for weeks slowly evaporates as I wonder what can be done—late on a Friday afternoon—about her need for a catheter and the blistering bedsores I discover on both her heels.
Two days later, my family leaves for church without me. It's the first of many Sundays, field trips, sports and social events for which I’m left behind. Mother’s complicated care is my responsibility alone. My Sabbath disappears. So does any measure of leisure time I may have carved out of our family’s schedule, a schedule that includes homeschooling two teenage boys and their younger sister. Leisure time disappears in the feeding, changing, bathing, dressing and meeting of my mother’s complex needs.
Beginning with feeding her breakfast, my routine with Mother is the same every day. I give her a bath and dress her in clean clothes. Using a mechanical lift, I move her out of bed into a sheepskin-lined geriatric chair that I can move around the house and onto the porch. Before the morning is over, I make her bed with fresh linens. Every. Single. Day. With massages, diligent care, and good hydration and nutrition, her bedsores begin to heal. I’m not inclined to change a thing.
Mother’s laundry alone is more than a washer load. When added to the rest of the family’s dirty sheets and clothes, keeping the laundry under control means washing at least two loads every day. More laundry over the weekend is added to the routine.
One Sunday, I’m aware I’ve created no room for a Sabbath rest or the grace and manna that comes from trusting God for my needs. I consider what work I can cease for a day without compromising Mother’s care, and though it’s a little thing, I give in to the nudge to not do laundry on Sunday.
I release my grip on control and open my hands to receive this small measure of Sabbath rest, and I’m given God’s unique-to-me redemption of time and energy. Mondays—with twice the laundry workload added to caring for mother and homeschooling—are amazingly not more difficult.
Thirteen years ago this past Easter my no-laundry-on-Sundays ended when Mother left our home on Pollywog Creek for Heaven. Whatever Sabbath God offers me today, I receive with gratitude and the confidence that, no matter the circumstances, it will miraculously be more than enough.
Patricia Hunter is a freelance writer, with both feature and ghostwriting articles in print. She is also a wannabe psalmist with a camera, and her photography is featured in the recently published "No Matter What, It's a Good Day When," a small gift book of encouragement by Robbi Cary. This post originally appeared on her blog.
Reclaiming Sabbath Keeping
Sabbath is more than a day off. It is a turning of the entire being toward God—a time set apart to contemplate life and work and praise the Creator for it all. The Christian observance of Sabbath is set apart by its lack of rules—there is no strict way to keep Sabbath in Christianity. It’s not a “must” of our faith. And yet, to ignore this fourth commandment is to miss some of God's richest blessings for his people. In this series on Reclaiming Sabbath Keeping we explore what the Christian Sabbath might look like and glimpse some benefits and challenges of Sabbath-keeping in today's productivity-driven culture. Join us in the conversation and invite others along by sharing these stories through email or your social media networks.