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
My Week of Unending Peace
I woke up naturally, easily, and with a clear mind. It had been weeks, well months since I felt completely rested. It was a good night. I slept. Undisturbed, without pain, without awful dreams. “Hmmm… this is new,” I thought aloud. As I began dressing for the day, I again realized that I wasn’t in pain. No shoulder aches or a stiff neck. My body felt whole. I couldn’t help but smile and begin thanking God. It’s nothing special, just a breezy praise that fills my head as I’m overcome with thanksgiving. I start my day like any other, but it isn’t. Something is new. My week of unending peace has just begun and I had no idea what was to come.
It is April of 2008 and Jeb and I are living in Northern Iraq. We’re a part of an American team working at a local university and living near the campus. We shared a three story flat with the men, and the women lived next door in an adjoining flat. We were on the top story. It made for some excellent rooftop time. Everything about our year abroad was incredible. We absolutely loved our team – the community of our peers is unmatched. The Kurdish people are gracious, kind, and so hospitable. Adventure and the unexpected became our norm. I could seriously go on and on about our time there, but here’s a little snippet. As idyllic as it was, there were definitely some challenges and physically difficult situations.
Although we felt safe, we were keenly aware of potentially dangerous situations, thus lending to a heightened level of stress. I didn’t even realize I was carrying so much tension until we traveled out of country. Daily, we would lose electricity. We’d run out of water. Our stove was hooked up to a large gas propane tank. Once, while lighting the oven – with a match, leaning in – it did something and I found myself across the room under our kitchen table. Thankfully, nothing was singed or burned! We didn’t have dishwashers, microwaves, toasters, hot water when it was cold, or cold water when it was hot.
April 4th – My prayer journal reads: Father God, I can feel my discomfort, anxiousness, and tension rising. I pray for peace. I am pursuing and seeking peace – right now. Not rest and sleep, but peace. Peace from my insides that calms, quiets, and directs me.
Waking up and physically feeling free from stress, tension, pain, and the gnawing worry over the day was huge. It’s why I couldn’t help but smile and feel slightly giddy. I went on about my day and noticed the strange sensation of being free. Completely free. The issues of my day didn’t squelch my joy, I had patience, I was able to dream up crazy solutions to problems and then not “pick up” all the troubles. This first day I didn’t realize that peace was at work. I knew it was big and I wanted it to remain, but I didn’t even name it yet.
“May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.” Jude 1:2
What happens next is a comedy of errors. Jeb badly sprains his ankle while playing soccer. It takes three of the guys to get him home – on the top floor of a three story building. Six flights of stairs. His ankle is the size of a grapefruit and already black and blue. Ice is an issue because we lack electricity. He is laid up in our bed trying to keep it elevated. I’m in the middle of laundry, which is a feat in and of itself. The “washer” is on the first floor and the spinner dryer is activated by hand. So, I’m carrying loads up and down the stairs. Oh, and we have eight people coming for dinner. EIGHT! Did I mention, Jeb’s out of commission? I call in my girls for reinforcements. Throughout this entire time, I am at perfect peace. I’m not swayed by plans changing, or concerned about asking for help, I’m not second guessing my decisions, or harboring any frustration. It is incredible.
Over the next few days, I’m silently pleading with God to make this stay. I didn’t fill anyone in on all my internal shiftings, and I barely acknowledged it to myself. Why? Because as ridiculous as it sounds, I didn’t want to jinx it. I know we can’t jinx a move of God and I’m not superstitious, but this was too good to chance it. (Just being real!)
By the end of my six-day, on cloud-nine, full of faith and peace experience, I didn’t feel the same. It was like the overwhelming sensation that NOTHING could touch me had faded. I was still joyful, I wasn’t losing my temper, but the feelings had subsided. I distinctly remember standing in my kitchen talking to my mom on the phone (prepaid calling cards are a God-send). We were chatting it up and then I said very calmly, and matter of factly, “I’m going to put the phone down, there’s a fire, I’ll be right back.”.
Jeb’s ankle is still the size of a small melon, he’s in our bedroom, and I can see a fire gaining ground in our hallway. A candle had burned all the way down and caught some fabric on fire, which spread to our stash of toilet paper directly next to the water heater. At this point, I’m thinking the water heater could blow up so I’m trying to turn that off. I begin using my take charge Editor voice and telling Jeb that he should probably hobble out here. I pick up the phone, give a play by play while filling pots of water. We drench the fire, Jeb assures me that the water heater isn’t a threat (who knew?!), and then realize all the carpet needs to be removed! In the hustle I was never afraid. I didn’t lose my cool or allow my mind to immediately think up more worse case scenarios. I was joyful and at peace. Did I need to act? Yes. Was it calm and serene? No. But, even when my feelings – the perception of my emotions- were telling me I no longer had peace, it was wrong.
I have an unshakeable and undeniable peace that isn’t moved by external circumstances because it is a by-product of my relationship with God. And He is unchanging and good. His mercies are new every morning and He delights in me.
There’s so much to say about this journey of peace but this is where it started. In the hills of Iraq with a crazy, obstacle-filled week.
“The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.” Isaiah 32:17