It is amazing how much children take in from the life-style around them and store in their minds as part of their patchwork of life. Things about preparation for Sabbath are very strong in my memories.
My mother and father had been to college, and many of the things that they did there remained through their married life. We often had people to lunch, and so the cloths for the table were checked and the serviettes pressed again to make sure the last creases were smoothed out. They had been starched, and how easily that starch went into yellow patches.
Preparing the House
Everything that could be done, ready for Sabbath, was done and left under clean tea towels. The vegetables were prepared and the gravy almost ready; it just needed to be heated. We often had tins of vegetables that only had to be opened, or a winter meal was a thick stew with chunky bread. Later it seemed to be a lentil soup that became a standard Seventh-day Adventist recipe in many homes of the day. The whole house was hoovered from top to bottom and dusted. Almost last of all was the bathroom and toilet, with smells of Harpic and Vim, shiny black and white floor tiles and bright chrome taps and towel rail. Everyone had their baths and hair washed and then the bathroom was cleaned. This was my job. My mother felt I was safe in there and would get on with the job. I had (and still do!) a problem that everything with print on it has to be read. That does not get the job done for a youngster. Bathrooms, fortunately, do not have much in them to read!
Preparing the Clothing
The next task was to put out all the clothes for the morning, examine the stockings for any snags, check to make sure the white gloves were spotless, and press Dad’s trousers. I had the shoes to polish, and I had that down to a fine art. You could have seen your face in the black toecaps of Dad’s shoes. Handkerchiefs would be laid out on the table, a crisp white cotton one boiled in Omo, and dipped in the ‘blue’, for Dad. Mum had one from Switzerland that she had been given, with pretty white embroidery and lace, always with a hint of lavender from the ‘scenty drawer’ where the best things were put. Along side these were our offerings in Sabbath purses with our tithe envelopes, Mum’s best watch, Dad’s special silver propelling pencil, and our lesson books, Bibles, and hymn books. Mum had a miniature leather, tan-colored suitcase as a Sabbath bag, and this was put ready too. Inside was usually hidden a Mitcham mint to curb a rumbling stomach in second service!
Sometimes I was sent on an errand to another member’s house, and there it seemed to be just the same. The smell of Lavendo polish met you at the door; fresh flowers were on the table, and there was always a smell of new made bread. I just knew it was preparation day there too. The next day, Sabbath, the same sister came quietly into church and knelt and prayed in her place as she entered the house of God. She had on her neat costume, little round hat and her fox fur with the satin lining round her shoulders. She was ready to come before God, and I knew that her home was like that too.
Secular Activities Out of Sight
Back at our house, papers and the Radio Times were hidden under the cushion of the easy chair by the fire; all toys and knitting were put away out of sight, and last thing of all, fresh towels were put in the bathroom. In the kitchen, crisp tea towels were hung on the hook, and a new roller towel with orange and green stripes was put in place, along with a snowy white boiled dishcloth on the sink. We had all worked to make the Sabbath a special day.
We often used to put up the speaker if he had traveled some distance, and so we frequently had company for Friday evening, which I enjoyed. Pastors did not travel on the Sabbath if this was avoidable. Sometimes we had returning missionaries home on furlough to stay with us, and it was a delight to look at the curios that they had brought back from distant countries. There were pictures made of blue butterfly wings, beads from India, a canoe from Brazil made of raw rubber, a hummingbird’s nest and other delights. Of course I had sneak previews before the Missions Appeal the next day.
Preparing the Heart
As it began to draw towards sunset, preparations were all finished, casual slippers were taken off and smart shoes put on, fresh clothes were donned and hair brushed. If Sabbath came in around the time of a meal, aprons were always taken off and laid to one side. My father offered prayer for us as a family, thanking God for the blessings and watchcare of another week and praying that the messages of the hour would be food for the people of God as we worked to hasten the coming of Jesus. He always prayed that nothing in our lives would dishonor the Sabbath in any way and remembered the groups meeting around the world during the sacred hours. We had a harmonium at home which my mother used to play well. Mum and Dad sang duets, tenor and soprano or alto, or we learned a new hymn. Visitors joined in choosing favorites, each singing parts. “Our God Shall Come” always seemed a special one. At the end of worship, different pretty Sabbath aprons were donned and tea served. Friday night tea was always salad, just like it had been at college.
Train Up a Child
Children absorb these details, and they remember the standards and the explanations that are told to them. The secret is consistency week by week. This gives security and purpose to the plan of life that God has given us. This preparation shows the importance and joy of the Sabbath, and the weekly anticipation adds to the reverence of the Sabbath day itself.
At home the ‘scenty drawer’ is still there on the left-hand side of the dressing table. When the clocks changed for the summer, it seemed to put out all the routines for us all. My mother phoned and said she had had a difficult Friday, and as a result, the wash hand basin, usually the last job now before Sabbath, had not been cleaned, and she did not feel right. Suddenly the time gap of 50 years had been bridged, the preparation was still vital, and my mother’s words prompted me to still higher standards about the Sabbath and the importance of our day with God.
Is Your Home Ready for the Holy Appointment?
[Editor’s Note: How is your Sabbath preparation? Have we become lax in the way we approach God’s holy hours? Perhaps this will give us a little nudge to make sure that we are “ready” in all aspects of our life when the Sabbath hours approach every week.]