What is peace? There have been several events in the past few months that likely have rattled your sense of peace, whether it is weather related like the devastation left behind by Hurricane Sandy or caused by government decisions in places like Syria or Israel. The impending fiscal cliff is certain to be causing stress to many as well and I am sure we all felt our peace being shaken when we heard of the horrific events that unfolded in Newtown, CT and then right next door in Webster. There is no doubt that those events are examples of what peace is not. Can we, as individuals, achieve peace in such a tumultuous world? What if we sheltered our families from all outside influence and barricaded ourselves in our homes? I am certain that even then, especially those of us with children, peace would be fleeting. So what can we do to find peace in our daily lives?
The easy answer is to say that peace can be found in the gospel. In Psalms 29:11, we read The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace. When I was a young girl, I used to spend the day before my birthday having lunch with the next door neighbor of my paternal grandmother. Ginny was a good friend of our family and her birthday was 2 days before mine. When I was 17, her husband John was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and they were told he would only live a few more months, 6 tops. For 2 years, I watched as my dear friends struggled through that wretched illness. John suffered physically while Ginny suffered emotionally. They were still dealing with the awfulness of it all when my maternal grandmother received the same diagnoses in May of 1995. It was a little more than 2 months after my baptism and I hated thinking of my grandparents going through what our friends had been dealing with. I remember getting down on my knees and praying to Heavenly Father, first asking that the doctors be certain they knew what they were doing and second, that if they were correct, that my grandmother would not suffer long and that she would be taken quickly. She suffered a stroke the next day and passed away peacefully a few days after that. My first thought was that I did not mean that quickly, but my heart immediately felt a peace that I could not explain. Through the funeral, that peace stayed with me and it was the knowledge of the gospel that brought me such peace. I knew where she would be and I knew I would see her again. Knowing the Plan of Salvation certainly doesn’t make death easy, but it does allow us to have a peace of heart, but what about other times in our lives?
Like all of you, I have had difficult personal experiences to deal with. One such event happened several years ago, when my oldest two children were just toddlers. I do not want to get in to details of what happened, but I initially just shut down. I made sure that the most basic needs of my family were met and that was it. One of the little ones had taken a bag of pretzels and spilled them on the living room carpet. Every day, I looked at the mess and thought to myself, “I really should clean those up.” And every day, I let them sit there, watching them get ground into the carpet more and more. During those first few days, I spent lots of time in prayer. I have no doubt that Heavenly Father was carrying me through those few days. Finally, I pulled myself together and got the vacuum out. I cleaned up the pretzels and continued on to clean up the entire apartment. During the weeks that this event was occurring, I found my strength, but also a great peace not only in prayer, but also in reading my scriptures and attending church. One scripture I came across was John 16:33, These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world. It is that scripture that stays with me to this day, so that when I am hurting, I remember that Christ felt this pain, too, and so much more. It is a very real reminder that I can get through this and that I am greatly loved, even if I do not feel loved by others, I KNOW I am loved by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. And, I do know that I am loved by many people here on earth, but some days, like many people, I struggle to feel that love.
Now, I have talked a lot about how we can find peace in our lives during traumatic events, but what about the every day events. With a family of 7, peace is not something that just exists in our home, but it is something that is desperately needed on a daily basis. I am going to share some of the ways that I try to bring that peace into both my home and my life on a daily basis. The first thing is to have peace in my heart. That comes from reading the scriptures, church attendance, and prayer, lots and lots of prayer. If my heart is not at peace, I find it very difficult to get through the day without completely losing my cool. The next step is to eliminate distractions, such as video games, music and tv, particularly when they are not uplifting. The extra noise creates stress and can draw attention away from where it needs to be. There are times when wholesome entertainment is appropriate, but if it is causing stress in the home, that is not the time. Once I have that quiet and the internal peace, I am then able to better choose my battles, something that is key to maintaining peace in my relationships. So how do I deal with those? When I find myself faced with a child, or my spouse, making a decision I do not like, I ask myself A) do have any right to say anything about their choice, B) why is it THAT important to me and C) what would I rather they choose. Often, I am stopped at A, but if I decided that I do have the right to say something and that it is very important to me, I will approach them with why it bothers me and whatever it is I would rather they choose, rather than just tell them I do not want them to do whatever it is that was bothering me. It lessens the contention when they understand why it upsets you and when there is already a solution. Of course, this goes both ways, and I have to be willing to listen to them when they don’t like something I am planning to do. When I am choosing which battles to engage in, I try to keep a perspective of the bigger picture, as well. This extends to not just my family, but strangers as well. If someone cuts me off in traffic, I tend to let it go because I am pretty sure it was not personal (I am really not that important that people go out of their way to annoy me) and what harm did it really cause to me, except maybe to make me a second or two later than I might have been otherwise? I also apply compassion when faced with these stressors. Maybe the guy that just cut across 3 lanes of traffic is trying desperately to get to the hospital to comfort his child or maybe he was distracted by some terrible news he just received. When it is my kids, I try to remember what it was like to be a child, and how different their priorities are. Losing a favorite toy is to a child, close to what losing a child in the store is like to us, even if it is 5 minutes until church starts and they are not even dressed yet. It is also important to remember that we cannot change other people or their priorities, even if we would do things differently and life is much more peaceful if we learn to accept others as they are and love them anyway.
So what is peace? The best way I can describe it, is that peace is that calm you feel in your heart, even when the events in your home or in the world, are a bit crazy. The feeling you know that you are a child of God, that He loves you, and that He has overcome all of this so that we may live with Him again.