Elusive Peace

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The pounding, hammering, and whir of the machines felt shocking in light of my expectations.

A few weeks ago I wrote a little about my trip to St. Meinrad’s, a monastery in southern Indiana. I looked forward to a couple of days away focusing on solitude and reflection.

After breakfast, on what was one of the first truly beautiful mornings of spring, I decided to take a walk around the campus. I couldn’t wait to find a quiet place outside to do some studying and enjoy the fresh air.

What do you picture when you think of a monastery? Close your eyes for just a moment and visualize it. I imagined a place where it was extremely quiet everywhere. For whatever reason, I simply pictured a place where sound became nearly muted. The clamoring of the outside world would cease to exist.

I already knew quiet is hard to find, but I held deep conviction that this experience held a rare opportunity.

As I left the guest house, this is what I nearly immediately encountered:

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IMG_2277IMG_2278IMG_2279Oh, the clamor! My heart sunk a bit. I had not expected this at all. I continued my walk and made my way down to a large pond. The noise was at least in the distance. My beautiful view here:

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was interrupted with this:

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Finding peace outside of ourselves is a nearly impossible endeavor. Things break and need repair. Lawns need mowed. Various machines grace our world performing important jobs. Ambulances, police cars and fire trucks must rush to the rescue multiple times a day, sirens blaring. These things are necessities in our damaged world. Even nature itself can produce quite the racket, like the birds recently at my house at 6:00 or so in the morning.

As I walked, it occurred to me that the only way to achieve peace is from within. I must strive to make my inner life peaceful, because if I look for peace outside of myself I will only be disappointed. 

I finally made my way into the church. Surely I would find quiet there. Nope. Someone was practicing the pipe organ. At least it was good noise, so I found a seat and settled in to do some reading. About a half hour in, the gentleman practicing came over to me (I didn’t even know he knew I was there, because I couldn’t see him from where I was sitting). He looked at me and said, “Maam, it’s fixin’ to get real loud in here. I just didn’t want to scare you.” I thanked him for the warning and grinned to myself as the organ proceeded to belt out Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. You know, the one that makes you think of horror movies? I just had to grin to myself.

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If we rely on things of the world to calm our spirits, we will walk away deprived. We can travel hours away, spend lots of money, and still leave empty.

For me, in my experience, there is only one source of true peace. John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

If you are struggling in this area, this article has practical examples of things you can do to deal with anxiety and worry. These problems are on the increase and in a world where noise only increases with time, we need to work harder than ever to maintain a positive and peaceful inner life.

What works for you?

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When You Get It Right

I often wonder how I’m going to mess up my kids. Not if. Just how.

Over the years I have learned to live with my imperfections to a greater degree, but it’s hard when you see your own foibles play out in the lives of your children. I see my perfectionistic tendencies pop up in my boys and I desperately want to save them from that ugly demon. I watch my oldest crave order and I want to shout to him to embrace the mess, because order is an illusion.

Fortunately, life gifts us with what feels like rare moments when we know we are getting something right. Our words have indeed sunk in, and all hope is not lost.

For Mother’s Day my son made the following list for me:

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He made a point to tell me he put them in order from the most important to the least. That’s the part that struck me the most when I read #1: “You love me even when I make mistakes.” In my mind, the greatest role in being a parent (or a spouse) is exercising unconditional love. That kind of love is something extra special in those relationships, or at least it should be.

As I reflect, I realize we talk a lot to our boys about how everyone makes mistakes, even grown ups. We talk about how that is the beauty of our relationship with God. We can mess up again and again, and He will still love us. The gift of forgiveness is one of the most powerful gifts we can give one another.

There are thousands of lessons I want my boys to learn. I want to teach them to be respectful, caring, kind, and generous. But more than anything, I want them to know I will love them no matter what. Home will always be a safe place to land.

I will get many things wrong on this parenting journey, but it’s good to know I at least gotone thing right.

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Gut Guilt: Wisdom from First Grade

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When is the last time you did something truly wrong? I’m not just talking about making a decision that you feared offended someone or upset them. I’m talking about when you 100% know you messed up big time. You told a lie. You cheated. You stabbed a friend in the back. You did something behind your spouse’s back you shouldn’t have. Shall I stop there?

Sunday presented an honesty theme for our family in a random, yet pointed way. Our boys learned about the theme of honesty in their class at church. The sermon my husband and I heard was about Ananias and Sapphira. If you aren’t familiar with the story, they were both struck dead…in church…because they sold property and gave only a portion of the proceeds to the church, claiming it was the whole thing. They had no obligation to give any of it, yet they chose to lie that it was the whole amount just to make themselves look more generous than they really were. Talk about an icky story!

At lunch the boys began discussing someone they know who told some lies recently. “He should feel gut guilt!” Austin insisted.

“What’s gut guilt?” I inquired. I couldn’t recall hearing that phrase before.

“It’s that awful feeling you get in your stomach when you know you’ve done something wrong. Like you want to throw up. That’s how you should feel when you lie, ” he replied most matter-of-factly.

I couldn’t come up with a better definition of guilt myself, and this brilliance came from my seven-year-old. “Did you learn that in church this morning?”

“No. My teacher told us that at school.” See, public school isn’t all bad!

Our family spent quite awhile talking about guilt. Austin was surprised that guilt can be a good thing. It let’s us know we need to seek forgiveness and apologize. He was especially surprised his daddy and I feel gut guilt sometimes. Even grown ups make mistakes. We talked about the dangers of not feeling any guilt and how bad that would be. Austin learned that the tears he sheds after making a wrong choice are a result of guilt, and help him know not to make that choice again. (He also insisted he doesn’t lie, and that could very well be true. He has always been a very honest little guy. It’s one of his best qualities.)

There is a huge difference between guilt and shame, though. Here is a quote from Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly:

“Based on my research and the research of other shame researchers, I believe that there is a profound difference between shame and guilt. I believe that guilt is adaptive and helpful – it’s holding something we’ve done or failed to do up against our values and feeling psychological discomfort.

I define shame as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection. 

I don’t believe shame is helpful or productive. In fact, I think shame is much more likely to be the source of destructive, hurtful behavior than the solution or cure. I think the fear of disconnection can make us dangerous.”

Is there anything your gut is telling you to apologize for? There’s freedom in owning our mistakes and poor choices. And the good news is, we are all worthy of forgiveness. Whether others choose to grant that forgiveness is on them, not us.

“Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change.” Gretchen Rubin

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