Sunday Funday: A Different Kind of Sabbath

On a Sunday afternoon, you’ll see a white Ford F-150 cruising down a Tennessee highway with Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road blaring out the open windows. Inside the truck, you’ll find eight feet wearing Keens and Chacos, ready for an adventure. 

Our Sunday Funday tradition began as simply as this: we needed one day a week to have a real Sabbath, to get away from farm work, and to go on adventures. We love the type of work we do (chefing for my husband, farming for both of us, homeschooling and writing for me), but they’re all jobs where we’re constantly pouring out physically and emotionally. Since we also work on Saturdays running our little farm store, Sunday afternoons have become mini-vacations that restore our souls and steady us for busy weeks full of keeping lots of things alive and businesses afloat.

We don’t always do something out of town. Sometimes Sunday holds space for something else fun, restorative, and different near home…like driving to a fishing lake five minutes down the road to skip rocks and explore in the middle of winter. Or setting up day camp at our unfinished cabin in the woods, eating big salads in bowls that I carried back there on the floorboards of the truck, and sharing pints of ice cream with our feet dangling off the cabin porch, imagining what it could be one day. 

But whenever we can, we go on a little excursion away from home on Sundays, because the combination of Sabbath + adventure seems to work well for us. I personally feel more connected to the heart of God when I’m getting out in wild places often and being surprised by new discoveries in creation.

In one of my all-time favorite books, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, author Wayne Muller says:

“Sabbath is more than the absence of work; it is not just a day off, when we catch up on television or errands. It is the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing, or true. It is time consecrated with our attention, our mindfulness, honoring those quiet forces of grace or spirit that sustain and heal us.” 

Consecrate—I like that. Because having a real Sabbath definitely requires some forethought, a setting apart, a carving out. It’s our weekly pause, a line drawn in the sand that says we’re taking intentional time to prioritize our connections to God and each other. A restful, recharging Sabbath can look different for everyone, but I absolutely believe it can include adventure. 

Here are our criteria for choosing a Sunday Funday destination (any or all can apply):

  • Adventurous (meaning out of the ordinary or in excitingly unknown territory)
  • Beautiful/wild/in nature
  • Restful
  • Encourages connection vs. distraction
  • Encourages dreaming and hopefulness for the future
  • Feels different from daily life
  • Feels slow and unscheduled

If the idea seems busy/chaotic, makes us feel stressed when we think about it, or will cause us to meet Monday morning exhausted and drained instead of restored and energized, it’s a hard no.

We especially love our summer Sunday Fundays because waterfalls. Tennessee has more than 500 of them, and there’s a long list of seriously stunning, powerful falls within a 1-2 hour drive. (If you’re local or visiting the area, check out My Guide to Middle Tennessee Waterfalls.)

Other ideas:

  • Museums
  • Parks
  • Lakes
  • Hiking trails
  • Wineries
  • Quaint towns
  • Sections of a city/neighborhoods you’ve never seen before
  • Country drives to nowhere in particular

Sometimes we go to the early service at church, change afterwards into play clothes, and then hit the road. Other times, we need a break from groups of people and decide to skip church and experience God in the rush of a waterfall rather than in a worship song.

Here’s what we pack for serious adventures:

  • Essential oils (Melaleuca, lavender, frankincense)
  • Band-aids
  • Baby wipes
  • Sunscreen
  • Protein bars/snacks (and depending on budget, all our food for the day)
  • Water (a few small individual water bottles, plus a giant jug in the car for refills)
  • Natural bug/tick repellent
  • Change of clothes
  • Extra pair of shoes
  • Pillow and blanket for our kids (because they’re usually exhausted on the way home, and this allows my husband and I some quiet time in the car while they snooze)

After we load up the car, we start one of the playlists we curated ourselves that have become our soundtracks: Sunday Funday / Sunday Drive / Sunday Drive 2.0 / Sunday Drive 3.0

Bonus? Our girls are exposed to good music that also has connections to family memories. I have to admit, my folk-music-loving heart swells with pride each time my 5-year-old begs for Lucinda Williams as we’re pulling out of the driveway.

While we’re on the excursion, we do a few more things to make it memorable:

  • We add photos to a shared album on our phones. For example, we have an ongoing album for all of our waterfall trips, which makes finding photos from them much easier (and fun to scroll through all the places we’ve been).
  • We use the Evernote app to write notes to our future selves with helpful tips for the next time we visit a place. We have a shared Evernote for each location that says things like, “At Greeter Falls, remember there’s no restroom. You have to use the restroom 12 minutes away at the ranger station.”

Sundays this summer have held some adventures I’ll never forget, like getting soaked under pounding waterfalls at an archaeological park in the pouring rain (we were the only ones there, and it was glorious). 

On Father’s Day, we packed a special lunch that was all my husband’s favorite foods and treats and ate it on a beach at Rock Island State Park. We played in the water all afternoon, and then surprised our girls by taking them to a drive-in movie theater for the first time, where we spread comforters and blankets in the back of the pickup truck under the stars and a full moon. 

And then a few weeks ago, we invited close friends (three other families) to join us at Rock Island. Everyone brought their own lunches and a spirit of flexibility as we scaled rocks and rapids, floated in a lake, and our kids buried things in the sandy beach. We then piled in our cars and caravaned our suntanned selves to the quaint town of Bell Buckle to eat ice cream cones at an authentic old-fashioned parlor. It felt like we were all on vacation together, which in reality would be pretty hard to pull off for most of us. But for this afternoon, we were.

What do you think? Maybe your Sabbath/rest day isn’t on a Sunday, or you think we’re crazy to consider scaling waterfalls “rest.” Whatever your life looks like, I’d love to know how you set apart time for those things that, as Wayne Muller says, are “deeply beautiful, nourishing, or true.”

And if you decide to pack up your car and go, just know that we’re waving to you from somewhere on a Tennessee highway. 

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