Today, I continue my ongoing series of conversations with published authors as I’m joined by Erica Campbell, the founder of Be A Heart and the creator of the awesome new productivity tool Be A Heart Planner.
I’ll admit to being a “planner addict”. While the majority of my work tools are digital, I still cling to and rely upon a paper planner. It serves a dual purpose. I track my daily commitments, appointments, and to-do list. But I also use my planner as my personal journal, taking time each day to incorporate it into my morning prayer routine. In previous years, I’ve used a regular business-style planner. This year, I’m truly excited about making Erica’s Be A Heart Planner a part of my everyday life. Not only is the planner absolutely beautiful inside and out. It’s also chock full of thoughtful details that will help me make the most of the gift of each day. I’m happy to share my recent conversation with Erica and encourage you to discover her work for yourself! Lisa
Q: Erica, congratulations on the publication of your beautiful new Be A Heart Planner. It’s simply beautiful! Would you please briefly introduce yourself?
Thank you so much! My name is Erica Campbell and I am the founder of Be A Heart, a lifestyle brand for the modern Christian. I am Catholic so I approach my designs and ministry from that lens, but we hope to be a space that is welcoming to all who are seeking Christ. I live with my husband and two daughters (Frances – age 2, and Lucille “Luce” – 8 months) in San Antonio, Texas.
Q: Please share a bit about your mission with Be A Heart and how this aligns with your spiritual values.
Be A Heart was originally my blog when I was a volunteer living in Brazil for 18 months. I was really moved by this quote by the founder of the group that I was with: “be a heart, nothing but a heart.” When I moved back to the US, I kept my blog to share about what it meant to be a heart as a young person in New York City. A short while later, with the urge of my spiritual director, I ended up getting sober and I took up calligraphy as a new coping skill to deal with my anxiety. It became a meditation practice for me and long story short – I kept saying yes to the way that I felt God was leading me to share my spiritual experience and growth. Be A Heart has transformed many times over the last 12 years as I follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
I began making products that I wished existed – Catholic goods that were as beautiful and modern as I saw in the stores in Los Angeles, where I was living at the time. I wanted to reflect that our religious tradition was not one that was just for our grandmothers, but that with the Holy Spirit, was always relevant to guide us toward God.
We hope that by having small touchstones throughout our day that remind us of God’s presence, the people who use our products feel less alone. Our mission is simply to be a heart, to be with, to accompany – like Mary at the foot of the cross. We seek to carry hope for each other so that no one falls to despair.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the Be A Heart Planner? How does this tool differ from the traditional planners we see out in the world?
Years ago I designed another planner on the market when I did more freelancing than producing my own products. When I decided to make my own, I wanted something that was a bit more playful and colorful like I saw from some of my favorite women’s brands.
I was recently diagnosed with ADHD. A woman reached out to me to say that she has been using my planner design since the very first one I made in 2016 and she’s convinced she loves it so much because she also has ADHD and it is the first planner that has worked for her.
The difference between this planner and a more traditional one is that it has space for day-to-day things and secular holidays, but also has the Liturgical calendar feast days and holy days, space for prayer intentions, gratitude, and monthly devotional prayers. It seeks to be a place for our whole selves.
Q: As a planner lover, I have to say that I’m delighted that the liturgical planner begins in December and that you’ve actually included goal-setting activities for the year and for each month. Why was this important to you?
I was lamenting to my spiritual director in the last year that I was having a really hard time connecting with God and didn’t see him in the exhaustion of my day-to-day life as a mother (I admit I tend to be a bit dramatic…). He reminded me that this is not the first time that I’ve said this and that it is usually only in looking back that we can see where and how God was moving. And if we can see it more clearly in the past, then we can trust that God is acting now, present now, even if we can’t see.
So the reflection piece is really important for me. To be able to look back on the whole year and see the little ways that God was there gives me fortitude in moments of despair. And the monthly reflection is more of a nod to Saint Ignatius and his Examen. I know for myself that I have so much “room for improvement” in my life, but I can only make changes and tweaks if I look back and see what worked and what didn’t work.
It is so easy to skate through life – our modern lives really are so packed with activity and overwhelming – that we need opportunities to step back from the hourly schedule to grow.
Q: How do YOU use your own planner as a way of organizing yourself intellectually, physically, and spiritually?
I have the issue that when I sit down to pray, my brain is flooded with 1,000 things that I need to do. I have a hard time getting it quieted down. So for me, the planner is a place to begin. I can write down all of the things that I need to do (I have a big master to-do list because the reality is that with young kids, I am only getting a few things done on the list at a time and I don’t want to keep writing the list over again), all of my big prayer intentions – especially people I’ve told that I would pray for them, and a place that I can write what I’m grateful for – a practice that is really important for me as I struggle with clinical depression and anxiety.
I know from being a calligrapher and writing a book about handwriting, that the physical act of writing things down on paper puts our mind at ease. It’s an actual release that your brain can say okay, I can let go of this thought. So after everything is written down, I am able to connect with God. And if another to-do list item comes into my brain, I just quickly jot it down.
Lastly, even though I made this planner and we share a lot of ways to live liturgically (I just turned in my manuscript to Ave Maria Press yesterday for a book that will release in 2023), I am terrible at remembering feast days, and holy days. So I use the planner to remind me!
Q: What would you suggest to others who may be new to using a formal hard-copy planner about why something so tangible can make a difference, particularly in our prayer lives?
I think for most of us, there is just a LOT to remember. We have things coming at us from every angle. Having a physical thing to help us manage it all can be a huge anxiety reducer.
I chose the verse for this year’s planner: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” because I think the rest comes from allowing God into the minutiae of our days. He’s interested in the fact that we have a dentist appointment at 10 am tomorrow. He’s interested in carrying our worries with us and in return delivers us rest.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you would like to share?
The only thing that comes to mind is to explain my choice to draw the saints on the monthly tabs like I did. I wanted them to look like a gallery wall that we would have in our homes of our loved ones. The saints are so rich and diverse and are holy powerhouses for us to draw close to. I hope they inspire each of us to become more who God created us to be, to answer his unique call, and seek holiness and love above all.