Peace. This singular word has been reverberating in my ears for about seven years and has become my championed reality. I wholeheartedly embrace peace and know it can be attained. With that in mind, I’m starting a series on PEACE for the month of September. The series will serve a few purposes, 1) Clarify my thoughts and experiences 2) Imprint these truths even deeper on my heart and, 3) Hopefully inspire, or at least intrigue, you to begin your own study of peace.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
Non-Exhaustive List of Coping Strategies
All five of us are strapped in, buckled up, fully clothed, and somewhat ready for Sunday morning church. As Jeb backs out the driveway, I am finally dabbing some makeup on and combing my fingers through my hair. We are leaving on time. Potentially, we will arrive, park, disembark, check-in, drop-off, and make it to church on time. VICTORY, potentially.
The left eye is looking good. Now onto the right. Have you applied eyeliner while in a moving vehicle? Of course you have. You’d think it gets easier with sheer frequency, but each ride is a bit different. I like taking risks. Living on the edge. For some reason, I never think to bring facial cleansing wipes. That would make this venture much less risky. Anyway, I am on the right eye when a large, empty gatorade bottle is thrown from the back of the minivan, and crashes into the center console. I jump. Eyeliner smears. I’m livid. I look down to see four empty bottles collecting near the front seats. “That’s it,” I think, “This is unacceptable.” Next, I fuss: “STOP, throwing, BOTTLES in the car. That’s it. ENOUGH.”
True story. The van got quiet. I sideways glanced at Jeb and thought, “Oops, that escalated quickly.” After realizing my blunder and loud shaming tactics, I apologized and tried to turn the mood back to cheerful. I decided it was a thick eyeliner day… And, we did make it to church on time. This once! So, why did one bottle throw me over the edge? I’m usually the last in our car, and am running through a mental checklist of all the things we need to get through the next two hours with our crew – Is Owen wearing shoes? Pants? Did Cade want to take his drink? Backpacks, diapers, pacifier, sunglasses… so mentally, I am checked out in the passenger seat. Then I scan the car and it’s so filthy. Like spilled, sticky drink filthy…and cluttered. When did all this stuff and trash surface? I can feel the overwhelm creeping in. I start focusing on my makeup. And then spew a rebuke that’s much too severe for the offense.
There are two lists, one is for ongoing practices, and the other is in the moment, “Help me NOW,” strategies for getting your peace back.
Ongoing Coping Strategies to Gain Peace and Not Lose it During the Day
1. Spend time with Jesus. Connect to the Source. Learn who God is and what He’s all about. What’s His character like? How does He see me? What did He create me to be? How can I love Him more? Some ways I spend time with God are reading the Bible, taking walks and noticing the remarkable within nature; sitting quietly with my thoughts not on myself, and really doing anything I love with my heart and intentions focused on Him, thanking Him, and glorifying Him.
2. Speak Life-Giving Words. Check your thought life. If I have a thought and it’s negative or destructive in nature, I literally tell my mind, “No. That’s not who I am.” Then, I turn the thought around and speak the opposite. THOUGHT: You are so apathetic, look at the house…there’s stuff everywhere. When did you get so lazy. TRUTH: Wow, the house is a wreck. We’ve certainly been busy. Good thing you’re so efficient and creative…time to knockout the cleaning. Similar thoughts cycle through my head often, but they’re usually much deeper and typically attack the core of who I am and what I’m contributing (or not) to the greater good.
3. Schedule both Connected and Disconnected Time. Plan for time away from home, family, and friends to recharge. Likewise, plan for time with those who energize and fill you up.
4. Listen to Music and Burn Good-Smelling Candles. I love to soak in uplifting, calming music. I play piano music in my children’s rooms and am likely to have worshipful music playing as we go about our day. When it’s time to clean, or get something done the music changes to something fast paced. Smells are so powerful. Light a candle, diffuse oils, cook an aromatic meal… get your house smelling good!
In the Moment Strategies
1. Disengage. Apologize for any blunders or outbursts, declare a time-out for yourself and regroup. Do something that will immediately force you out of negativity – cite three things for which you are thankful, take deep relaxing breaths, stomp your feet, fling your arms – do something physical and deliberate to acknowledge your stress and then begin to work toward peace. NOTE: The physical part of this in no way harms others or yourself. Rather, it is an exercise to release the pent-up stress and allow you to move on.
There’s a jingle on Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a part of the Fred Rogers Foundation, that says, “If you can’t get what you want…STOMP three times; it’ll make you feel better.” Full disclosure – it works. For my kids, for me. Seriously… “Stomp three times; it’ll make you feel better.” The song gets stuck in my head and I can’t help but listen and obey the words. Ha!
2. Pray. Ask for help. Ask for peace, wisdom, or forgiveness. Open up in prayer and expect the burdens to lift.
I, in no way, have this down perfectly. That truth has been abundantly clear as I’ve been writing this section. All my “methods” and tricks aren’t fail proof. If my inner-self is worked up and jumbled, no amount of deep breathing exercises will force all the crazy to stay inside. What I’ve noticed is the more I work on the ongoing, maintenance of creating peace, the less likely I am to lose it day to day.
So, what works for you? How do you maintain peace or keep a calm head in the midst of obstacles?