Breastfeeding and the Liturgy of the Hours

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I am a doer, goer and to-do list extraordinaire. I buy post-it notes in 12 packs. Freshman year of college was the first time I met anyone who actually enjoyed sitting around doing nothing. Bursting into our dorm room to change clothes for an intramural soccer game before my study group and the floor party later that night, I was shocked to find my roommate perched on her bed, staring at the wall.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Fine,” she answered.

“But what are you doing?” I asked, puzzled.

“Just sitting here,” she responded. I’m sure I gave her a quizzical look before darting off to my game, inwardly judging her for wasting time.

That was the beginning of nearly twenty years of living with introverts (including my husband), a true gift of tough grace for an extroverted over-achiever like me.

Through the years, God has used various people and circumstances to wrestle me to the ground, sometimes finding it necessary to dislocate a limb of pride, power or privilege along the way as He holds me to a forced stop. But though sitting still can sometimes feel more like being punished in time-out, I’ve grown to recognize that pausing, waiting and stillness is, in fact, a gift of lavish love from a patient father.

***

Now is one of those times—and I am fighting it. I am breastfeeding my newborn several hours a day, leaving my other two children, age four and two, wild and free to execute devious plots and create elaborate messes. Though I thought pregnancy was the worst sort of slowness, I had forgotten the demands of having an infant.

I now spend hours on my couch, holding a tiny, dependent human, in the midst of a house that looks like someone picked it up, shook it snow-globe-style and then put it back down again. Sitting here, I scan the living room, feeling overcome by the chaos: piles of small socks, leggings and onesies needing to be put away, train tracks and plastic princesses strewn about, a random pile of sand in the middle of the den and shriveled cheerios clinging to the carpet. To top it off, this past week we’ve had The Attack of the Googly-eyes, stickers a friend gave my son that I am now finding in every hilarious place possible. There is so much I need to do, but here I sit.

This is forced rootedness—involuntary stuckness; a quiet agony for the typical American doer. And yet I’m discovering this special gift for goers, achievers and extroverts: the spiritual discipline of simply sitting still.

“Cease striving and know that I am God…” (Ps. 46:10a NASB). As I sit still, I begin to notice, hear and know that God is here, too.   

This built-in pause allows me the opportunity to stop and caress the soft skin of my newborn’s ears, neck and chubby thighs, read a book (or, realistically, catch up on social media), watch my other two meticulously put rocks into their play cars, admire the dancing light on the tree limbs in my backyard or talk to Jesus about these little ones in my care. Life is happening right here after all. The work of living is being done without me lifting a finger.

Like Mary in the messy, smelly chaos of the stable after Jesus was born, I have the space to ponder all this, locking these treasures away in my heart.

From this place of immobility, I am learning the beauty of being, the necessity of a forced pause in the rhythm of life. Though I’m not Catholic, I recently came across the Liturgy of the Hours, a sequence of psalms, prayers and hymns observed by Benedictine monks to mark the hours seven times throughout the day. The first month of breastfeeding, I logged into the app and found truth words in the tired hours of the day and night. I discovered that in my pause, I too could ring in the morning or keep vigil in the night with a psalm of either praise or lament.

Holy pauses can be productive, too.

The sacred is hiding out in the open: on the kitchen table, painted with the sauce of yet another shared meal; on our wrinkled bed sheets, slept soft by a thousand nights of slumber; the images peering back at my husband and me in the morning—faces we hardly know anymore because of the lines etched around our mouths and eyes—an artist’s canvas, now representing all the sadness, joy, pain, late nights and laughter of life.

Perhaps this is not a problem for everyone—this drive to do or prove our worth through our productivity–but in every season thus far, God seems to weave a sole melody into the music of my life: cease striving. Just stop. Listen, watch, and learn. You’re beloved, but you’re not as important as you think you are.

God whispers, I am with you in the dish washing, laundry heaps, car rides with screaming babies, interrupted sexy times, crumb sweeping and breastfeeding for the sixth hour today. This is the rhythm of your life—and the pauses give you the chance to notice something…

I love you.

I always have and I always will. There will be more chances for doing later. But for now, just rest. And know that you have value because I give you value, because I whispered breath into your lungs and poured blood into your veins.

For now, enjoy small, slow, and lessening. This, too, is my gift to you. And these seemingly agonizing pauses? They’ll be over almost as quickly as they began.

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Leslie Verner
I am a goer who is learning how to stay. I’ve traveled all over the world and lived in northwest China for five years before God U-turned my life and brought me back to the U.S. to get married to an actor in Chicago. I’m a former middle school teacher, mama to three little ones and like American cuisine the least. I currently live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and write regularly about faith, justice, family and cross-cultural issues at Scraping Raisins.
Leslie Verner
Leslie Verner

Latest posts by Leslie Verner (see all)

  • This post ought to be required reading for all expectant mothers. Nothing prepared me for the jolt when, like you, I sat feeding a baby and staring at the chaos of my lived-in home. By the time baby #4 came along, though, I was thankful for the “forced pause,” because it seemed as if that was the only time I ever had to focus completely on him.

    Stillness is such a discipline, but your words open my eyes to the beauty (and necessity) of it.

    • Michele, Yes, it’s amazing that stillness IS a discipline–especially for those of us in the west. And you’re also right that I sometimes look forward to that forced pause, as agonizing as it can be at times. For us, it’s meant that a lot more of the duties fall to my husband, so anything he would write about this season of his life would most likely not include the words “still,” “pause” or “rest”! God is teaching us very different lessons through the exact same season of life.

  • This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  • Jamie

    “Perhaps this is not a problem for everyone,” no, not for me. I actually suffer from the opposite problem — of not feeling motivated enough. I love the quiet times, the pauses and the rests. Doers like you both inspire and confuse me! I need the things in my life that force me to go, not to stop, like deadlines and responsibilities and my friends and family who are more extroverted. Otherwise I think I’d sit and read and rest all the time. I loved this piece for showing me how different we can be!

    • I definitely have those moments, too! It is interesting to see how our personalities play in to how we perceive our circumstances, though.

  • There is such richness here. Whoa. I love this journey you are on, Leslie. I love that your voice is getting amplified.

    • Thank you for opening up the space for our stories to live–I really appreciate it!

  • Leslie, love your post. Yes sometimes it is hard to sit and do nothing. And breast feeding was one of the activities that taught me this discipline. Talking today on phone to daughter and half way through she is nursing. And I heard her sigh as her and the baby settle down. I know, I say, by the time your brother arrived I was looking forward to nursing. To having forced rests through the day.

  • Ah, that forced pause. I found myself so antsy during breastfeeding (especially with our second!) But after I learned to embrace the pause, I met God in that holy space. Thanks for this reminder….

    • I know, I LOVED it with #2, but maybe because my third takes three times as long to eat, it’s been so much harder for me. But I’m sure I’ll miss it when it finally ends, as is the way of motherhood;-)

  • While a much different season in life, I am in a new, forced season of slowness right now. It’s good for me, I think, embracing rest and taking this season to try and be well again. I have many moments that I feel like a bump on a log and wonder what my life is while I’m DOING so little. But grace and good is found in this space and I hope to fill up on those things so I can pour them out. Very sweet words, thank you for them.

    • Glad you have found grace and good in resting. It can be hard for us “doers”!

  • Oh, how beautiful is this reminder! I do not have an infant but there are several places where my life is “pausing”. Thank you for this.

  • I love this so much, Leslie. Thank you for so beautifully capturing the tension and the invitation. I’m past the breast feeding stage, but I remember sitting with my baby in the wee hours thinking “These are the most sacred moments. God is here.” Blessings on you, sister!