Breastfeeding and the Liturgy of the Hours



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.