Photo Credit: Ken Thorson
There was an easy peace and lots of laughter when the clocks rolled into 2018 totally unnoticed. About three minutes past midnight, my six-year-old, staying up for the first time, asked, “When do we do the countdown, Mom?” (Thank you, Jesus, for Netflix and the anytime count.) I am nine days into January, and about 20 years past making resolutions that I will not keep anyway. And the word peace has been echoing around me since Christmas.
Several friends and a number of writers I follow have been choosing a word for the year for the last several years. (You can read more about the trend started by Rachel Olsen.) I usually resist any trend that is not my idea; my openness to peace must be growth away from self-righteous stubbornness, obviously.
Speaking to his disciples at the last supper, right before the chaos, denials, and pain of the crucifixion in the gospel of John, Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives” (John 14:27). Weeks away from birthing a new baby, I am nesting my way from one room to another in a whirlwind. I have enough life experience to know that adding a fourth child to our household is unlikely to be described as the epitome of peace. And still. It is the longing of my heart.
By chance, I stumbled across a quote attributed to an unknown author this week. It reads: “Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. Peace means to be in the midst of all those things and still be calm in your heart.” A bit of digging suggests it may come from a Hindu text, but I was not able to find a definite source. Whoever spoke it first has been speaking to my heart, and deepening my appreciation of Jesus’ promised peace.
Oh, to find peace in whatever lies before me, to receive it as God’s gift, to walk into this year in peace.
So much lies before me these days. Baskets of ordinary and baby laundry. Meals and snacks for five most days. Work – paid and unpaid, fun and not. Big feelings and school concerts and unscheduled ninety minute tantrums from a very persistent toddler. These I signed up for and planned, even though I am not in charge of how they play out most days.
Then there are the pieces I do not participate in planning. A big dump of snow when my husband is working a long shift and the shoveling needs to be done. The tragedies being carried by my people – a house fire, childhood cancer, death of a parent. A pending court proceeding and trial, eventually sometime. It is possible to be in these places, expected and not, and be at peace. I could seek more intentionally to find peace in these places.
When I have tasted this peace, never having feasted on it or had it as regular fare, it has come from beyond me. I have experienced it as a gift, open enough to receive it – at least for the time it lasts. It is a feeling, but also more than a feeling. It is a reality that exists always, with the certainty of the sun’s daily rising, and the frost that comes with winter. God’s constant peace is the foundation of the world, and I’m running on top of it instead of sinking in. This year, I want to practice receiving the gift.
And more, I want to walk through the world more peacefully. Gandhi wrote that “There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.” What I am seeking I can be practiced while I am finding and receiving. My littlest – until the new little arrives – is stretching the limits of her power. When I went to dress her this morning, she insisted on downstairs, and then after breakfast, and then in the living room. It is so easy for me to get fed up, to use my size and sense of time to get my own way. And it was possible to parent her well, to have good boundaries, to insist on kind words, and still get out the door together peacefully. I want more of that.
The world is full of distractions, and my life is unlikely to slow down. And it is full of good things worthy of my time. For now, peace has been echoing in my heart and my world. It is moving from an echo to an intention, and it doesn’t matter if everyone or anyone else is doing it. I am going to spend the year practicing peace.