Category Archives: A Counter-Cultural Sabbath Rest

A counter-cultural sabbath rest – Summer in Honduras

I want YOU to join us on our Honduras adventure this summer!

I want YOU to join us on our Honduras adventure this summer!

As part of our ongoing search for rest and “slowing” in our family and our respective lives this year, we are spending the summer in Siguatepeque, Honduras (about 15 minutes from the location of Providence’s orphan care community, La Providencia).  While our first week has been a whirlwind of settling in, parties, shopping, Spanish classes, frisbee golf, futbol (i.e., soccer), we’ve also snuck in some reading and relaxing, and we’re hoping that the “slowing” and rest will happen soon.

My wife, Becca, is blogging about our time here this summer at darkesidehonduras.wordpress.com, so I won’t go into much detail here.  This is a big win for you all because she is a much better and funnier writer than me.  And her first post, “Estamos Aqui (We’re Here),” which published yesterday, did not disappoint.  So if you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to follow the blog (you can subscribe to it) so that you can join us on our adventure here this summer.

Here are some pictures from our travels and first few days in Honduras (don’t know if they’ll encourage or discourage you with big families to make a similar trip : )):

Our first attempt at air travel as a family of 7

Our first attempt at air travel as a family of 7

Follow the leader

Follow the leader

Security would have been a bit of a nightmare if they hadn't taken us to a "special location" to get checked : )

Security would have been a bit of a nightmare if they hadn’t taken us to a “special location” to get checked : )

This is how we roll

This is how we roll

I'm sure that this shot was posed

I’m sure that this shot was posed

Some of that rest we were hoping to get (didn't happen too much during the flights)

Some of that rest we were hoping to get (didn’t happen too much during the flights)

Honduran immersion - shopping at Price Smart (i.e., Costco)

Honduran immersion – shopping at Price Smart (i.e., Costco)

Playin' in the rain

Playin’ in the rain

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Just chillin’ in my hammock

Lovin’ the treehouse

Savannah with her "tattoos" at the party on our first full day in Siguatepeque

Savannah with her “tattoos” at the party on our first full day in Siguatepeque

Savannah "leading" Sunday School at church

Savannah “leading” Sunday School at church

A counter-cultural sabbath rest – Month 5

In last month’s update (“A counter-cultural sabbath rest – Months 2-4”) on our family’s attempt to take a 2013 “counter-cultural sabbath rest,” I talked about our family’s need to recalibrate after hitting reality in the face with our “experiment” in slowing down in our fast-paced world.  As I talked about last month, slowing down has been a struggle, and in that struggle we’ve learned lots of lessons together as a family.

For instance, cutting things out of your life doesn’t guarantee that you’ll connect more as a family.  You have to continually work at connecting with each other (this holds true with Becca and me, as well as with the kids).

IMG_3549Spending more time together as a family doesn’t necessarily result in better family dynamics or better relationships — in fact, sometimes it has the opposite effect.  You have to make better dynamics and relationships a priority, and continually work towards those goals.

When you are intentional with relationships with your children, as well as between and among your children, and actually take the time to use the teachable moments to teach, coach, and lead your children, incredible things can happen.  Family relationships flourish, minds are shaped and formed in positive ways, character is developed, and disrespect for others decreases dramatically.

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In addition to our family lessons, I’ve learned some personal lessons through this experience. One thing in particular is that it is really easy to let “important” things sneak into our lives to distract us from the really important things in our lives.  And I constantly have to be on guard to ensure that I say “no” or “no more” to the non-essentials so that I can give 100% to the essentials.

Acting on what I’ve learned so far this year, I have successfully said “No more” or “not at this time” to two of my major commitments.  And I’ve taken a step back from everything that I’m doing right now and asked a simple question of myself: “What are the things in this world that only I, Phil Darke, can do?”

In answering the question, I came up with a very short list — a list of only three things:

  1. Self-care – i.e., take care of my mental, emotional, physical, social, psychological, and spiritual health.
  2. Be the husband to my bride.
  3. Be the father to my children.

dark family shoot 143 darke family shoot 168

Nobody else can do these things.

So, with God at the center, these are the three things I always have to give 100% to . . . no matter what.

Everything else in my life is secondary (or tertiary, or further down the list of priorities).  I know that God has created me to do other things, such as work to bring excellence to orphan care through Providence, and I’ll strive to do those things with excellence as long as I’m called to do them.  But not at the expense of the the things that only I can do.  As many have said before me, I won’t sacrifice my family at the altar of ministry or my job or any other “important thing.”

I encourage you to ask yourself the same question, “What are the things in this world that only I can do?,” and do whatever you have to do to make sure that you give 100% to those things — every minute of every day . . . no matter what.

A counter-cultural sabbath rest – Months 2-4

(This is the third entry in the series on our family’s experience taking a counter-cultural sabbath rest in 2013 – Part 1Part 2)

One thing has definitely become crystal-clear over the past three months.

Slowing down as a family in our fast-paced world is really hard.

Birthday cake - Darke style!

Birthday cake – Darke style!

Especially if your family has five children under the age of 12.  Add to that the fact that all of the children (and their parents) are extremely active, and you have a recipe for a very difficult sabbath rest.  Think about it . . . even if each your five kids has just one play date (or birthday party) a week, mom and dad go out on a date just once per week, you have occasional one-on-one time with each child, and you have dinner with another family just once every other week (I got tired just writing this : )), there is not much margin left for quality family time, particularly since a couple other things (i.e., school and work) need some attention, too.

That is what we’ve been up against the past few months.  After the “honeymoon” period of the first month, when we had very little on the calendar, work was slow, and we simply cut out nearly all commitments, we’ve run into busyness over the past couple months.  (Don’t get me wrong – we’re much less busy and are connecting as a family much more then years past, but busier than we want to be).

Without boring you with all the details, I’ll share a couple things with you that exemplify how busyness has crept into our lives despite our best-laid plans.

ImageRemember that idea I had that track would be a fun thing for the family to do together.  Well, it hasn’t worked out quite as we planned – because of illness, uncooperative younger children : ), injuries (including my severe ankle sprain), and other realities, we have not run together at a single practice in 2013.  We did get to be together at the older three kids’ first track meet a couple weeks ago . . . for those of you who have ever survived an all-day youth track meet, you know that we did not have quality family time connecting with each other that day.  We supported each other, had some good memories from the races, and our kids had fun with their friends, but Becca and I spent most of our time ensuring that Justin and Kirsten did not kill themselves on the bleachers where we camped out for most of the day.

Personally, I’ve been hit with all kids of “fires” at home, at Providence, and with the different boards and clubs with which I serve.

The experience with track, the “fires” in my life, and several other things have made us realize more and more just how intentional we need to be with our time and commitments if we truly want to slow down.

IMG_3434So we’ve been working on that intentionality over the past month or so, re-calibrating and trying to figure out what slowing down really takes and looks like in the reality we live in.  I hope and pray that the next post in this series will be about how we are getting closer to a “sweet spot” where we are consistently able to discern and commit to the path that leads to slowing down, growing closer together as a family, and enjoying the awesome things that happen when we have some margin in our lives — all while still pursuing with fervor our passions and the things that God has placed before us in our lives.

I’m sure you can relate with me . . .  I just want to ensure that I’m never to busy for the really important things in life.  Like snuggling with my two-year-old, not just to console him, but just to love him – because I know we both need it, that he is going to be 10 in the blink of an eye, and that he likely not want to snuggle with dad then (at least not in public).

I’d love to read your stories about how you and your family have been able to slow down in our fast-paced world.  We all have a lot to learn about this topic and I hope that we can all share our stories so that we can learn from each other.

A counter-cultural sabbath rest – Month 1

Sabbath RestLast month, I introduced you to our family’s “sabbatical year” in 2013 from commitments that we cannot do together as a family, such as competitive soccer (“A counter-cultural sabbath rest”). Over the past few weeks, it’s been fun to receive feedback from other families who are doing similar things (and others who want to adopt the practice).  If you’re wondering, not a single one of them has any regrets or negative things to say about their experience. To the contrary, to a person, they say that it was one of the best decisions they have ever made and their family has grown much closer together since slowing down. And, not surprisingly, slowing down likewise has strengthened their marriages.

Several of you have asked me to give periodic updates on how the sabbath rest is affecting our family, good and bad.  Since I aim to please : ), here is a little glimpse into the Darke home since starting our sabbatical a little over one month ago.

IMG_3054Month one has been everything I’d hoped for and more.  Though we have still had arguing, whining, fighting, and all the other things that go along with a family of 7 (with five kids ranging from 11-22 months), we have eaten dinner together as a family virtually every evening and have actually had devotionals and real conversations with each other during those dinners (most of the time – after all, we do have five kids).

We went to the park (and played soccer) together, went bowling together (even Justin, our 22 month old, got in on the action), read together, and watched movies together.

Becca and I have gone on a weekly date (yes, just the two of us), which already has produced much fruit in our relationship and is very important for our kids to see.

IMG_3049The kids have had time to do their schoolwork and chores, hang out, and have playdates and sleepovers with their friends.

We’ve had time to share numerous meals with our friends, new and old, without feeling rushed and without having to “book a date” a couple months out.

And this is just a glimpse.

To sum it up, while it definitely has not been perfect, slowing down has resulted in a lot of fun together, a lot of laughter together, deeper relationships, substantially less stress, and much fewer arguments (with quicker resolution of the ones we do have).

Granted we’ve only done this for one month, but I couldn’t recommend this practice of slowing down and intentionally spending more time together as family more to you.  Just try it out . . . give it a couple months . . . I would be really surprised if you have any regrets from the experience.

If your family has taken a similar sabbath rest, if you want to take such a rest, or if you think we’re crazy for taking this rest, leave a comment sharing your story so that we can learn from each other.

A counter-cultural sabbath rest

soccerI am excited for 2013 for many reasons – not the least of which is that my family is taking a sabbatical rest from sports or other major commitments that we cannot do as a family. Yes, that means that we are even taking a break from the “sacred cow” of competitive soccer. Many around us think that we’re crazy and are quick to remind us that we likely are ruining our kids’ chances of getting a college scholarship – that our kids will never be able to “catch up” to the kids who are training in 2013.  Well, we’re willing to take that chance : ).

Why are we doing it? Simple. The health of our family.

We were apart way too much in 2012, and the health of our family suffered greatly. Among other things, we were apart nearly every weekend last summer and this fall, we rarely ate dinner together and it was rushed when we did. Becca and I went on very few dates because we simply didn’t have time. Our family didn’t play games together, rarely went to the park as a family, and were not able to have regular family devotionals and extended conversations. We seemed to spend more time fighting than laughing, and our older kids were stressed a good deal of the time because there simply were too many things on their plates.

Sunset picSo we decided to take a break from the chaos, slow down, and see what happens. We are already seeing a difference, as the practices and other commitments have died down in December. We eat dinner together nearly every night, are playing games together, are watching old home movies together, and, as a result, are talking and laughing a whole lot together. In addition to more of that type family fun, we are excited to take some road trips together, run on the local track “team” together, have our 10 and 11 year old coach our 4-year-old’s soccer team next fall, and just hang out more together.

Now I’m not living in a dream world – I know that this won’t solve all our problems and won’t result in no fighting. I know that it won’t magically transform our home into the Cleaver home, and we don’t want it to. Becca and I simply want to build deeper relationships with each other and with our kids. And we want our kids to to develop deeper relationships with each other, because the reality of it is that most of their current friendships will fizzle out, but they will always have their relationships with their siblings (and their parents).

Before I sign off today, I want to be clear that I’m not advocating this for everyone in 2013. While we think it is right for our family right now, it definitely is not for everyone. That being said, I can’t wait to see how our family dynamics are affected by it, and how our relationships are strengthened through it. Stay tuned for follow-up blogs next year on the sabbatical’s impact on our home.