The Hebrew Day Planner

In the few weeks before I left for vacation back in July, life had gotten pretty busy. It was all good stuff – family visiting, extra writing assignments, summer social-type events, birthday parties, involved work projects. But it all left me living in a pace I couldn’t sustain, a pace I hadn’t even tried to live at since my early 30s.

Something had to give: either me or the schedule. And since most of the busyness involved activities I could control, I decided it was the schedule. But what kind of changes did I really need?

Having spent my 15th through 32 years at full throttle, making an idol out of busyness, there have been times in the past 8 years when I have felt the pendulum swing the opposite way. I have worked so hard to not be busy that idleness and even rest can become idols, too.

When opportunities to spend time with friends and family come my way, sometimes I feel bitter, wanting to preserve an open calendar. I also can be hesitant to commit to new ministry opportunities or service groups because I don’t want to tie up too many evenings.

The idea of slowing down is good: it’s too easy to go with the flow in our modern culture, filling all of our time with activity. But the motivation behind slowing down can be bad: I risk becoming a hoarder of my own time, unwilling to share the sacred commodity.

In the past couple of weeks, as I have evaluated this new busyness, I determined that I was not just brushing off the household god and returning her to the altar. Indeed, my pace of life was actually bordering on unhealthy. Real change was needed.

As I evaluated the activities I had been filling my life with, there wasn’t an obvious cut. Many of them were just one-time events that serendipitously (or not) fell together in a short period of time. Now the activity has ended, but it didn’t necessarily feel like the pace had slowed down. What had happened in that busy season?

First, I had lost my margins. Life works better for me when there is time on each end to emerge and withdraw slowly into and out of each day. When the schedule became busy, I was staying up late and getting up early just to get everything done. When the schedule eased up, my body was still operating at the same pace. I had to intentionally redraw the margins.

For me, that means I have to start shutting the blinds and turning off the lights throughout the house about an hour before I am ready to be asleep. It’s not a rigid structure-some days it’s 35 minutes, others an hour and a half. But once I begin shutting down the house, my mind takes its cue that its time to begin shutting down, too. I might check email one last time, read for a while, or spend time praying. Sometimes I might still be taking a shower, or other nights I might make a cup of tea. But during this margin time, my body and mind begin to take the posture they need to rest.

I need a similar amount of time in the morning. Once I am up, I like to give my body and my mind time to awake before running into a new day. Time in the morning means I can lay in bed a few extra minutes letting my mind wander. When I am up early, I eat a healthier breakfast and usually have time to pray, read, write. By the time I am ready to leave for work, my mind is alert and ready.

Creating margins might not mean I am always getting more sleep. But it does mean that I am resting better; I am no longer forcing my body in and out of awake and sleep with a matter of minutes.

The other problem with my hectic schedule was that I had lost a sense of rhythm. Because there was so much to do, I was working when it was time to rest and finding it hard not to rest when it was time to work. (I had to take a break from work one day just to drive to the local Einstein’s for a cup of coffee; I had nearly dozed off while typing!)

Different than just creating margins, restoring rhythm means making room for Sabbath rest in my life. Sabbath is not just about setting aside a day; it’s about believing that life will go on under God’s sovereign hand even if I am not hard at work directing things.

Restoring rhythm to life is also about submitting to the creation order, too. Believing that light and dark, summer and winter, six days of work and one day of rest are something more than just a freak of nature or a cultural construct.

As in his book, Making Room for Life, Randy Frazee calls this God-made rhythm of life the “Hebrew Day Planner.”

The basic premise of the Hebrew Day Planner is that we were designed by God on the sixth day of creation to function in harmony and rhythm with what he created on the first five days. On the very first day God created light and darkness. On the fourth day God filled the night and day with objects that governed the time of the day, the beginning and end of seasons, and the yearly calendar–in other words, a divine Rolex watch.

I haven’t completely redrawn the margins or restored the rhythm to life yet. It’s difficult when my decisions about my time mean others have to schedule around me. But I am finding the pace gradually slowing down.

What about you? As summer is winding down, do you find the pace of your life picking up? Or settling back in to a good normal? What are you planning to do (not do) about it?


Charity Singleton Craig

Charity Singleton Craig is a writer, author, and speaker, helping readers grow in their faith and experience true hope in the middle of life’s joys and sorrows. She is the author of My Year in Words: what I learned from choosing one word a week for one year and coauthor of On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life That Lasts.

  • reply Amber ,

    It seems like this last month is getting a little more chaotic. I can’t wait for fall when I have time for projects again. I’m starting to get better at saying no to adding things to my calendar, but I’m not htere yet.

    • reply Ann Kroeker ,

      I’ve appreciated hearing your process and resolve, Charity. Tomorrow morning I am being interviewed for a radio show on the topic of my book: Not So Fast!

      My life is full right now. Very full. I will be honest with the interviewers about that, how we have limits, and each of us must discover those limits.

      The Hebrew Day Planner takes it to another level and says that all humans should be operating in a rhythm that is modeled in nature, respecting the way God made our bodies and ordained the day of rest.

      It’s so counter-cultural, though, we have to find our own way.

      It’s nice to know you’re doing this, so when I am trying to figure out how to organize the fall schedule, and I make bold moves, I know I’m not alone.

      That’s partly why I long to share the message of my book with people, too–so they know they aren’t alone in the struggle and the desire to slow down.

      • reply Erin ,

        I love the direction you’re going here, Charity.
        As I’m sitting awake at 4am with my chemo-brain ;), I’m quite aware that this year is NOT going to be a normal year in my household. Mommy’s up at 4am and napping during breakfast!

        In the past I’ve felt very confident in my busy/resting boundaries, but adding cancer to the mix lately has turned a lot of my personal “knowing” onto it’s head, especially as the school year approaches.

        I find myself scrambling for (what feel like) props and crutches to help my kids along academically in the areas I don’t feel confident to fulfill this year. I’ve fought the urge to enroll them in lots of outside activities and enrichment courses to make up for how I won’t be able to be the involved mom I want to be. (I’ll likely sleep through a lot more breakfasts to come and I don’t like knowing that.)

        But it became clear to me when my spirit was unsettled by our not-even-committed-to future, that I needed a 180 shift and this year might indeed be the year when our homeschool just drinks a lot of tea together and snuggles on the couch reading the classics. Or goes for sunny walks by the river because Mom has energy today.

        I’ve tried very hard to avoid, as you so aptly name it, the IDOL of not being busy, but I think for me it’s just needing to redraw my margins better. Margins seem to indicate a better understanding of the true situation, don’t they?

        Time for a cuppa while I pray for insight.

        • reply Ted M. Gossard ,

          Charity, Interesting how you’ve been working through this. The Hebrew Day Planner does sound intriguing. I too have been slowing down intentionally. Your thought on making slowing down an idol is a good one for me to remember. Really about the best I do is rest at night when asleep when asleep as far as planning anything. 🙂 But for the most part I have slowed down across the board. I need more silence before God, I’m sure.

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