Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Our Need for Holy Recreation

I'm learning a lot from this challenging newborn of mine. (We're currently in month six of "whatever you call it"--colic, infant reflux, hyper sensitivity, dragging her Mama to heaven one scream at a time.)

I figured out a clear difference between "Me Time" and "Recreation."

Me Time is selfish. It was NOT working. Me Time was when I either threw the tense, crying baby at my husband the second he came into the door after work and announced "I'm off duty now!"--or when my husband found me sobbing after another failed breastfeeding session would say "Why don't you go to the coffee shop for a break..."

That sounds great in theory, but it didn't work out in practice.  I'd go to our only local coffee shop --which does NOT sell good coffee (only burnt) and overpriced stale baked goods, and spend money we didn't have, eat stuff that tastes worse than I could make at home, I'd read bad Nora Roberts romance books for an hour and then come home still a mess. I'd walk in, the baby would see me and start crying for milk, my insides would get into a ball of acid and I'd think "When can I get another break from my life again..."

In my head, Me Time is something I grab as my "right" when I'm feeling overwhelmed and ungrateful about my life.

Contrast that with "recreation."

Recreation demands foresight. Recreation is intensely individual. Recreation is a gift of play given to us by God.

Recreation demands sacrifice from the whole family. It feels uncomfortable on the front end. For example, I often grab a $3 Nice Chocolate Bar while shopping at Target without thinking about it because "It's been a hard day and I deserve a treat." That was a totally different experience from my husband saying I think you should spend $125 (which is a week's worth of groceries for my family) to go to fencing lessons." It felt really hard and weird to quote "take" that money from my family for my lessons--and the only reason I could do it was because I'd urged my husband to buy a fishing license and new pole two weeks before. (Not to mention the fear I had getting into a car leaving a young baby who won't take a bottle yet, while I spent an hour in a gym in another town).

Yet my individual fencing lessons blessed my family beyond measure.  My husband and I now have plans to fence competitively when we're 70! (Can you imagine a sport that starts out at age 9 and yet also has an over age 70 division?) Similarly, his early morning fishing trips make him so relaxed and happy. He's taken our family out on picnics to beautiful local fishing spots and caught fish with our kids.

Recreation is holy. It is time alone that restores you. It blesses your family. It sets up a good role model to your children and your spouse. Recreation is a fancy name for "recess". It makes you feel like a kid again.

When you feel like a kid, you can pray better. When you pray better, you love better.

What are your holy recreation choices?

Here are mine: Fencing practice, playing tennis with my husband (perfect toddler friendly activity b/c you can shut the gate and let the toddler run around while you work up a sweat), running around the block at 6 AM when everyone is still asleep in bed, talking Fall walks with my husband while pushing two sleepy babies in a stroller, dancing in the living room while listening to Pandora, knitting

Here are things I want to add: playing bridge with friends, writing snail mail letters, singing hymns, starting a church choir


  1. While I firmly believe in the coffee breaks and time away from the baby (I usually brought them when they were nursing though, and now I met Kate at a Starbucks down the street after the kids are in bed), recreation is a better fit overall, like you say. With a big family, we have to be careful how we use our time, because so much of our day (and night) is packed with life with many other little (and not so little) people. As we've talked about, running was something I started because it was a huge benefit to getting rid of my depression. Medication did not all. We do pay for a monthly health club membership, and there have been times we've had to financially revisit this payment because is a sacrifice. But also, my need for running and my mental health are a real issue. It just is, and for a better, happy, family and momma, it's something we budget for. My husband used to work a few extra hours a week to make sure we could afford the health club. The club not only benefits myself, but my kids. They swim there now, it's less than 10 minutes from my house, and it's a place for the younger ones to play as well. I do worry about my post partum depression after this next baby, but I know that I have this option of going to the club when I need to walk and just have an hour to myself to regroup, but not necessarily take time away from my husband. I have the child care there, and I've known them for so long now that they love my kids dearly (we actually have a lady who works there who babysits for us and is wonderful with David. A blessing for sure). This is a such a wonderful post. I'm a firm believer in recreaction...even those in religious life have it. It's part of who we are, how God made us.

  2. Thanks Jen.

    I'm in this cool space as a Carmelite. I spent the early part of motherhood deleting-deleting-deleting--

    Now I'm back to "adding" in holy things. Because I'm working hard at Serving my Family--I need to take care of myself. It's a totally difference experience to put the baby down in her crib at 6 AM (usually screaming) and know that I've got to take a shower, visit with my husband, pray and then take a brief run--all while fighting my brain that says "the baby needs me, she needs me..."

    Yet I know that if I don't take care of myself every morning (and morning prayer is a huge part of taking care of myself) there won't be any gas in the tank to take care of anyone else at 3 PM that day.

  3. I was struck once by how in the Gospel, Jesus tended to everyone, but if you notice, He always, always took time out for Himself. Because He knew He needed that time in prayer to fullfill the huge task in front of Him. Don't know what He did for recreation, per say, but He had that time alone. ;)

  4. Thank you for this beautiful reflection. It is so true. I am very thankful for your blog posts. Blessings to you in all that you do!

  5. Thank you for this post! I've been slowly coming to this realization that God wants me to have a balanced life - which requires a lot of discipline and PRAYER as I figure out what to say yes and what to say no to. Good for you for following this inspiration of the Holy Spirit...I'm trying to do the same!

  6. Thank you for this post! I've been slowly coming to this realization that God wants me to have a balanced life - which requires a lot of discipline and PRAYER as I figure out what to say yes and what to say no to. Good for you for following this inspiration of the Holy Spirit...I'm trying to do the same!

  7. I'm coming back to re-read this post because it's been haunting me. It feels like a partial answer to a question I keep asking and yet like it's only one piece in the jigsaw puzzle I'm trying to assemble.

    I had already come to the conclusion that my constant search for enough "me time" wasn't working. There is this hunger in me for... something and when I read this post a bell chimed deep within me and I thought: yes, that's that I want, what she has.

    Yet despite that realization I still feel stuck because I still don't know what in my life will fill the space for "holy recreation" that you've found fencing and Jon has found fishing.

    Ever since reading this I've been praying about it, asking God to help me find the answer. So far all I'm getting is silence. Maybe it is still the wrong question for me and I've got to keep looking for the right one. Or maybe I just keep asking and the answer will come in due time.