Guest Post by Amy Ekblad
As a homeschooling mom of 13 children I get asked “how do you find time to…….” In this blog entry I’m going to address the issue of “how do you find time to pray?”.
For as long as I’ve been a mother (26 years!) I have heard “wake up earlier than your children and you will find quiet time.”. This has never worked for me. I think my children are born with internal alarms that go off when my toes hit the ground, no matter how quiet I am. Late at night isn’t really an option here either. Currently we are parenting children who range in age from 10 months to 26 years. Granted two are married and out of the house so we have ages 19 on down under our roof. Teens stay up late. And our teens, thanks be to God, enjoy board games and talking. Additionally, we homeschool so the children are always here.
Over the years my “prayer time” has taken many different forms. Over the years I have worked through feelings of inadequacy for not being able to go to daily Mass and/or adoration, feelings of bitterness for not being able to attend retreats due to family obligations and nursing babies, or if I did attend it was with a baby which can sometimes be OK but often I was so distracted by the baby I wasn’t able to fully engage in what was happening at the retreat. In the last few years I realized how much time I spend IN my home. Most of it is spent on my feet working. Much like a sister in a convent, my life revolved around Jesus and my work. So I wanted to figure out to make our home more like a place of retreat, a place that surrounds all of us with the love of Jesus, that brings those who enter it closer to God, and that allows me to find time for prayer even as I washed dishes or folded laundry.
With one income and many mouths to feed their was no money for a complete home makeover or expensive religious art. So room by room I pulled together freebies or cheap prints that I had collected over the years. Throw in some discounted frames from Hobby Lobby or IKEA and bam - religious artwork surrounds us. Every room (except the bathrooms) have a crucifix on the wall. I wanted to include all of the senses so have essential oil diffusers or candles in each room. Book shelves hold many religious books, bibles, and devotionals. I need to have short readings within my reach in every room. Technology has helped tremendously. My iphone houses the divine office app, rosary recordings, Laudate app, the You Version Bible app, a Novena app, a confession app. You name it, itunes has it. My kindle app has Saint stories, daily prayers for my husband, and so many other things to keep the Word of God in the forefront of my mind.
So with all of my prayer aids pulled together now it’s time to “find the time”. My day has a rhythm to it just like everyone else’s. Plugging in prayer time wasn’t difficult at all but it did take discipline. My wake up alarm reminds me to first and foremost begin my day with gratitude. As soon as I open my eyes I thank God for another day, for health, and for anything else that comes to my mind. Next I pray a rosary. I would love to say that I sit with the rosary beads slipping through my fingers as I contemplate each mystery but that’s not my current reality. Instead I play the Rosary from the Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist on my phone while I shower and get ready for my day.
With the Rosary under my belt I am ready for what comes next. Filling cereal bowls, putting laundry in, changing diapers. I do all of those things with my most inspiring praise and worship music playing and my favorite essential oil diffusing. I crack open whatever daily devotional I’m reading at the time while I swallow down coffee and heat up the baby’s breakfast.
The next part of my day involves waking the children who aren’t already up. They come down in their pj’s and we do our morning prayer together. We are NOT early risers so this is at 9 am or after (advantage of homeschooling for us!). We do personal intentions, daily prayers, the Gospel, the Saint of the day, and meditation book for us all to ponder together.
As the day goes on, wherever we are, whatever we are doing, Jesus is with us. Even with the convenience of technology and e-books I still enjoy the feel of the Magnifcat so you will often find that sitting around the house or in my purse. As I lull little ones to sleep, help a grade schooler with an assignment, or make lunch I continue to pray for those intentions that people have shared with me.
Time will not manufacture itself. Children’s needs are many and often. We must carve out the time within the tasks that God has given us to do. We must learn to do what He has asked us to do and make our lives intentional prayers. In my house the afternoons involve playing and reading time. And yes, TV time. I sit near, book in hand, or earbuds in. I pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet as my fitbit watch alerts me to the 3:00 hour. I stand and work on my current Bible study as I stir soups or pasta. In good weather I walk the dog and listen to an inspirational book that reminds me of who I am in God’s eyes. I pray for my friends and family as I fold laundry.
When the sun sets and small people begin to fade I do my daily examination of conscience, write in my Examen journal, I read some more, I listen to a favorite pastor’s podcast with my husband. I marvel in the beauty of my vocation and give thanks for another day. When I fall into bed I do my You Version Plan, read some more, close my eyes, and drift off to sleep praying protection for my family, each of them one by one no matter where they are, and praise Him.
Regardless of your vocation it’s easy to create a “rule of life”. Even with my many interruptions, sometimes schedule variations, and fractured times of prayer I believe that God multiplies my often weak efforts to glorify Him in my days. One of my favorite chapels has this sign over it’s doors “Prayer takes time. Saints pray more and get more done” . I have found this to be true in my life one hundred fold!