When my daughters, Sarah and Anna, were young, I had to find creative ways to find time to pray and be still with God.
Although they played on the deck while I swam, the forty minutes spent in the water gave me space for reflection. The mental clarity when I emerged from the water refreshed my body and spirit.
When we lived in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, a small town in southwestern Indiana, there was no year around swimming pool. The community pool was open from Memorial Day to Labor Day which gave me an opportunity to connect with God in the water once again.
Most of the year, however, I ran three to four miles every day. The length of the town from east to west was 1.3 miles. Taking off from my house on the west side of town, and running east, returning for a couple of laps on the small street next to our parsonage made for a nice three mile workout.
Wanting to combine exercise and time with God, my running route became a path of prayer.
Mowing the grass also brought time for silent reflection. We moved to Indianapolis in November, 1983, and the next summer I started mowing our large yard. We lived alongside a busy road on the south side of Indy that did not offer a lot of external quiet, but mowing row across the large yard helped me reach the quiet, inner space where God entered. I finished the lawn each week, refreshed, renewed and restored.
Caring for the yard during the summer of 1984, brought special meaning. Toward the middle of July, I realized I wasn't alone going up and down the path outlined by the width of the lawn mower.
Back in those days there were no home pregnancy tests, so I had to wait several weeks, then get a test at Planned Parenthood to confirm, indeed, I was having a baby. Carrying around a new life that I kept secret for awhile gave me a head start on communicating with another much-desired infant.
We "chatted" each week in the front and back yard. I wondered what this new life would look like. What would his or her talents and interests be? Wondering how I could love another child as much as my first kept me perplexed as the months went on. When I finally held Anna, in March, 1985, my heart expanded quickly realizing there was enough love to go around.
Although I no longer need someone to care for my children while I escape to pray, the ways I nurtured my faith years ago are still with me today - swimming, and mowing the grass.
Waiting or postponing intimacy with God until "he/she starts pre-school or kindergarten", or "when I retire or work part-time" are not an option. Try these simple ways to incorporate God into everyday life.
1. Put a candle or a cross or other small symbol that remind you of God in the kitchen, a busy place for most people. When you see each one, acknowledge that you are always in God's presence. Take a deep breath, inhaling God's love, strength, patience or what you need in that moment.
2. Combine what you are doing with an awareness that God is with you. A simple mantra such as the following may help: "God as I cook, I remember ____________;" "God when I fold _____'s shirts keep him safe;" "God as I watch my child/children play let them run and stretch and enjoy all their bodies can do;" 'Jesus come when I eat, cook, and work in the yard, bringing me to you always."
3. Practice gratitude. At the end of the day, recall at least one part of the day for which you can give thanks.
4. Say the Lord's Prayer every morning. This short, comprehensive prayer honors God, reminds you to bring God's kingdom wherever you go; offers thanks for food and forgiveness for ourselves and others; guides us to keep our minds pure; celebrates God's power and glory all around.
5. Write and tape one scripture a week or month to your bathroom mirror. Read the message while you brush your teeth, asking God to bring a new insight or perspective on these words.
These steps can increase our awareness that God is with us as well as deepen the inner space where God can enter and fill.
Prayer: God, open our eyes and hearts to creative ways we can pray with you when we have difficulty finding time to sit and be still. Amen.