“I feel pulled in a million directions.”
“It feels like everyone wants a piece of me.”
Do those sentiments sound familiar to you? Perhaps you or your spouse or your best friend have said them (or at least thought them) at some point. I know I have.
These expressions point to what happens to our spirits and psyches when we feel overwhelmed, rushed, and crushed under the weight of too many competing demands—a state that is unfortunately common when one is raising children, running a household, and/or caring for spouse, parents, or other loved ones. We feel torn, scattered. We don’t feel whole.
My friend Jennifer Grant has a new devotional out, designed specifically for mothers who frequently feel torn and scattered but want to feel whole, who want to tend to our spirits but struggle to find the time. Aptly titled Wholehearted Living: Five-Minute Reflections for Modern Moms, the book features a very short essay for each day of the year, along with a quote and a question or two. Each month focuses on a theme that speaks to the typical patterns and events of each month. For example, February, which features both Valentine’s Day and the isolating effects of cold winter weather and gray winter moods, focuses on “Connection,” while December is devoted to “Waiting on God.”
While many entries clearly reflect Grant’s Christian faith, she handles talk of God with a light touch that can speak to women at many different places in their faith journeys. A favorite recent entry, for December 11, read in part:
In an Advent homily, my priest quoted a theologian who said that thinking about God is like trying to draw a picture of a bird in flight. “You end up with details of its wings caught in a certain position, feathers, eyes, claws frozen in place for careful scrutiny,” he explained. “Or you end up with a blur that loses all detail, but captures speed and movement.”…I realize sometimes the “bird” I picture when I think of God is a faraway dot, flying high in the sky. At other times, it’s just outside my window, allowing me to appreciate the details of its feathers and the angles of its beak before it flies away.
In many other entries, Grant writes about basic faith concepts—forgiveness, sacramental celebration, gratitude—in gentle language, keeping things firmly grounded in real life with lots of anecdotes of family life that will ring familiar to any parent. Some entries are more practical, encouraging mothers, for example, to think about ways to re-introduce playfulness and joy to our days, or suggesting that we take some time before the holidays to “lie fallow,” spending a few weekends just with our families and by ourselves before the holiday frenzy begins.
Because I’ve been reading Wholehearted Living since late October, I am most familiar with Grant’s holiday-themed reflections. But I’ve become sufficiently hooked that I expect to pick up Wholehearted Living throughout the winter and into the spring and summer, to see what she has to say about self-care in April, or taking chances in July.
As I’ve written before, keeping a daily prayer discipline has always been a struggle for me. And honestly, I’ve even failed to read Wholehearted Living every single day. But I’ve been keeping my copy next to my computer, where I pick it up four or five days out of the week to see what beautiful or challenging or comforting thing Grant might have to say to me today. Wholehearted Living has been just the thing to help me take a deep breath before entering each day’s fray and spend just a few minutes (sometimes less than five) thinking about something other than which emails are urgent, what deadlines I’m about to miss, and whether we have everything in the fridge that I need for tonight’s dinner.
Wholehearted Living would be a terrific gift for just about any mother you know who has an introspective/spiritual bent. It will be particularly resonant for Christians, but I think even someone who is unsure what they believe about God—but who is open to thinking about it—would find plenty to ponder in this book. The core message of Wholehearted Living is that while our families and responsibilities will sometimes pull us in a million directions or make us feel that we’ve handed out so much of ourselves to other people that there’s very little left for us, we can take a few minutes each day to nurture quiet and engage in meaningful reflection. In so doing, we can move our spirits back a few notches toward the wholeness for which we have been made, and in which we and our families will truly thrive.