Take Care of Your Heart – That is What You Need to Mother

The pile of summer recreation booklets from no less than four metro cities sits on my desk, each booklet highlighted and dog-eared for potential activities to keep my kids busy this summer. Then there’s Vacation Bible School, swimming lessons, family events, my husband’s deacon commitments, and other random extra-curricular activities to consider.

What is wrong with you, Lisa? I asked myself aloud as I thumbed through the pages and pages of activities as I cross-referenced them with my family’s calendar. All this busyness will drive you, your husband, and your kids m-a-d!

I then recalled some very wise words shared by Marcie Stokman, founder of The Well-Read Mom book club. Words and advice that have truly opened my eyes and heart.

Marcie shared a story about a particular woman, but really, this woman could probably be many of us. The woman in Marcie’s story was sitting in a coffee shop, enjoying a grande latte. As she sat there, she glanced at her watch and realized that if she was going to make it to her son’s cross-county race in time, she needed to leave at that very minute. Rather than leaving, though, the woman instead sat paralyzed in the coffee shop, staring blankly at its brick walls. She felt exhausted. Empty. She didn’t move, and guess what? The woman missed her son’s cross-country race. She, too, wondered what is wrong with me? and recognized then and there it wasn’t a grande latte that her soul needed.

A few weeks later, the woman shared her experience in the coffee shop with an Italian friend. The Italian chided her a bit, but not for missing the cross-country race as maybe some might fear. The friend said,

“You Americans think mothering is all about running to everything your children are in. Take care of your heart — that is what you need to mother.”

Take care of your heart — that is what you need to mother.  

The Church fathers, St. Benedict in particular, wrote about the need for Otium Sanctum or Holy Leisure. It refers to an ability to enjoy beauty, to be at peace through the activities of the day, to pace ourselves. One step in guarding our hearts, as the Italian friend suggested, surely must involve becoming intentional about holy leisure.

St. Benedict isn’t the only one to address the human desire and need for holy leisure. St. Pope John Paul II also understood leisure as an urgent need when he prophetically proclaimed, “Women will increasingly play a part in the solution of the serious problem of the future.” What was the first serious problem he listed that women would help solve? The lack of leisure time. The second thing he listed was quality of life (from his Letter to Women).

Leisure time and quality of life often seem at odds with our culture’s focus and drive on efficiency and productivity, don’t they? It seems the employee who gets into the office first and is the last one to leave is often the one applauded and awarded for getting things done. Omid Safi, Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center, writes the following in his post The Disease of Being Busy.

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul (read full post here).

Take care of your heart — that is what you need to mother.  

As I consider summer schedules for the members in my household, I pray I’m mindful of guarding and taking care of my heart as well. Maybe the advice to guard your heart resonates with you as it does me? If so, please keep in mind (… and here comes the shameful plug!) this really fantastic event called The Well. On Saturday, July 16, The Well will provide those gathered with plenty of opportunities for holy leisure — to examine hearts, explore souls, and share with the other beautiful women gathered. I look forward to sharing my heart at The Well.

And if there’s a particular woman who comes to mind while reading this, please consider it a nudge from the Holy Spirit to invite her to The Well.

Women enjoying holy leisure

Holy leisure and sharing hearts (Photo by Lisa Schmidt)