The other day, as I was looking over my calendar for the upcoming months, I started feeling a little stressed. I saw many things pressing for my time: finishing this article, a logo that needs to be completed, upcoming parties to plan for, and a house that we’ll finish renovating over the next month or so just in time for our twin boys’ first birthday. All the tasks I needed to do came rushing in on me. An internal panic washed over me.
I’ve always wanted to be one of those women who is unruffled by external circumstances. But that isn’t naturally me. Not that you could tell by looking at me. I don’t often wear my emotions on my sleeve, so you probably wouldn’t know I might be feeling like having an emotional breakdown. But I know. I can feel the crushing weight on my chest.
Here’s the thing, I generally don’t find it hard to find peace in God with the big things in life. When they come, I’m aware of His grace, strength, and the fact that I’m facing a huge trial that I will only be able to survive if I rest in Him. It’s the little interruptions and inconveniences that often push me into a downward spiral. I can easily allow uncontrollable circumstances that change my plans to "ruin" my day. I can berate myself for the inability to complete a demanding and too long to-do list.
As I stared at my calendar filled with many things to accomplish, God brought to mind the lesson I learned almost a year ago. And I remembered I must pursue peace.
It was during the last trimester of my pregnancy when I was big, tired, and working full-time that my husband and I began "the kitchen project." We had started renovating our 1950s house a few weeks prior to finding out I was pregnant. Shortly after we started this ambitious project we planned on doing ourselves, we discovered not only that I was expecting, but that I was expecting twins. We considered what would be the wisest of actions: to push on with the renovation or stop. We decided to push on.
We came to the biggest undertaking just months before I was due. Prior to beginning our kitchen project, which I knew would last a good many weeks, I prayed that the Lord would help me have "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding" (Phil. 4:7). The fact was that thus far, I hadn’t handled all of the chaos very well, and I knew our living situation would become even more challenging without a kitchen for up to a month. I hoped that my attitude would be joyful, flexible, and that I’d experience great peace. After all, the chaos was a blessing. I reminded myself that we were lucky to be able to renovate our dinky little kitchen into something new and larger.
And so the kitchen project began. Several weeknights were spent packing all the items to be stored in the dining room, along with the refrigerator and stove. The only sink we could use for washing up was the slop sink in the basement. Plastic secured the doorways from allowing dust to escape and demolition began. Dust flew and hammers tore out walls. We ate out of the microwave and people from church graciously brought meals for several weeks to help us out.
I was surprised at how peaceful and joyful I was in the inconvenient and sometimes exhausting circumstances. Not only was I able to display outward peace, it genuinely flowed from inward peace. It was a huge difference from the past few months. I knew it was only the peace that God could give me.
During this time, I read a chapter entitled, "Pursue Peace" in the book Pathway to Purpose for Women by Katie Brazelton. I came across this verse: "Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it" (Psalm 34:14, ESV). The Amplified Bible puts it this way: "Depart from evil and do good; seek, inquire for, and crave peace and pursue (go after) it!"
I realized peace wasn’t going to come swooping down from on high. It’s something I have to go after, yet at the same time it is a gift that is given, not something I can manufacture. I had to truly pursue peace through prayer—over and over again if need be—and then let go of the circumstances and let God work in my heart. I had to stop torturing myself with "internal mind chatter," as Brazelton describes it in her book. I had to stop talking to myself and start talking to God when I was tempted to complain, get frustrated, or anxious.
Looking back over that time, I’m so glad we decided to press on with our kitchen renovation. Not only do we have a beautiful kitchen, I learned an important lesson in seeking peace. So now, as I face many things to accomplish over the next week and month—including the finishing of our renovation project—I inquire after God to grant me peace of mind and heart. And I know He will.