“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking, I’ll have peace when…fill in the blank. I’ll have peace when the kids go back to school. I’ll have peace when everyone is in bed and I can finally relax and think for a moment. I’ll have peace when I get a weekend away. I’ll have peace when I finish this project, or this chore or this event.
While it’s true that those moments can have aspects of peace, I’ve discovered that, for myself, it’s much better to not rely on my circumstances to define my peace. Because let’s face it, when you’re outnumbered it can take a lot to find those peaceful circumstances.
One thing that’s helped me to find that peace in the midst of the chaos that is our life is to step back sometimes and just breathe. Calvin is crying because I took the extension cord out of his mouth, so now both dogs have started howling in sympathy and the cable guy just knocked on the door – take a breath. Gwendolyn decided to give herself a haircut, Layla needs help with her spelling words and Sydney wants to show me her artwork RIGHT NOW – ok, deep breath. I need to send a work email but the server isn’t responding, and, oh look, the baby just dumped over the dog’s water bowl and Gwen is treating the tile floor like a slip n slide – breathe in, breath out, honey. It doesn’t make the chaos go away, but it helps me to put it in perspective and remind myself that my circumstances don’t define me.
Another tool that helps me is to give thanks. Even when everything seems to be going crazy, I can find something to be thankful about. Sometimes it’s something big, like, thank you for my family, my home or my health. Sometimes it’s little. Thank you that Gwendolyn only cut her bangs and you can’t really tell if you turn your head and squint one eye. Thank you that I had to mop today and now Calvin and Gwen have taken care of half the chore. Thank you that the girls can go to school and they want to share their work with me. Our pastor said today that it’s hard to be angry when you’re being thankful. Similarly, it’s hard to feel overwhelmed by bad when I’m focusing on the good.
When I don’t let my circumstances define my peace, I’m much more able to help my kids find peace. There are many times when they get overwhelmed also, and if I can be peaceful in those moments, it’s much easier to help my children work through their crazy. We breathe deep together, we think about those things that make us thankful, and we get through the mess of emotions or schedules or work-loads. “Did you take your deep breaths?” is a common question we ask around here. “Did you think about what you’re grateful for instead of what’s making you unhappy?”
The other day we were in the car, and one of the girls was VERY upset at something her sister was doing. There were copious amounts of tears, snot, and general wailing and gnashing of teeth. Suddenly there was quiet. I looked in the rear view mirror, and there was my daughter with her eyes closed, taking deep breaths in and out. I didn’t ask what was happening, what was wrong or what they needed, because I think it’s good for them to work things out on their own sometimes. But it did my heart good to see her trying to be peaceful in that moment, despite her circumstances.