+[the peaceful, the quiet, the simple]+

On the left sidebar you may have noticed one of the books I have been reading for some time now - The books of the Bible.   This is the bible for reading, not studying.   Its basically the NT in a chronological format, nothing added, but with chapter and verse numbers deleted, which ends up reading more like a novel.  Because the chapter divisions, verse numbers and footnotes are absent, The Books of the Bible removes all distractions and puts the focus completely on the text. The layout is one column, so it's easy to follow.  It has helped me learn the characters in ways I can not yet fully find words to describe.  Paul has come alive.  Luke, wow, so interesting to me!  And Peter and Mary Magdalene, well, they are simply my favorites.  In the same way that I became attached to William or Columba in The Hawk and the Dove series, Im now attached to these authentic biblical characters.  Because of how they are attached to Christ!  Thats just never happened before.  But when put into a chronological format, the reader can feel all that was surrounding each letter and story.  Cant recommend it enough!  I still like my ESV Study Bible best but for reading for enjoyment, this one is great.

Anyway, as I read this week of Pauls words encouraging both Timothy and all those to whom he would minister to live peaceful and quiet lives I paused.  For days I paused.  For so long my days as a wife and mother were the farthest thing from peaceful and quiet.  Run, run, run to the next thing was all we did.  I remember actually sitting at a leadership training meeting at church one night and our small group leader asking each of us to go around and use one word to describe ourselves.  Doug used "tired".  I used "busy".  We both thought those were noble words back then, I guess.  

Now I find it so alarming when I am talking with someone and all they can do is read me their minds list of all their activities, how busy (read: important) they are.  But that is what our culture says we should be, right?  Busy, Important.  Thus tired.   And that is exactly what Paul was speaking out against.

One has to be (ironically) diligent at pursuing a peaceful and quiet life.  

Mind your own business, be diligent and be dependent on no one, he teaches.  How does that work itself out in my life, I pondered.  

Children live on adult schedules these days - up early, to bed late, stressed and over committed with school, sports, achievement.  Adults run at full pace everyday - never catching up, no margin of any kind.  Survival of the fittest.  And then there is Paul; busy man, to be sure.  Imprisoned, one might argue, so that he actually had time to write all the letters that would be canonized for the Christian family at large.   Yet, he teaches on the value of a peaceful and quiet life.  

Oddly though, to slow down enough, I mean to slow down permanently, not just for a day or a week, means facing ones self.  It means having to breathe in the simple space of your own mind and conscience.   For many, that is too painful, too demanding, "too" many things.  They would rather be busy.  The truth is, when we are that busy though, our mind becomes taken up with our own circumstances, thus we can not be taken up with the mind of God.  

My life, both familial and personal, is quiet and peaceful now.  Im very thankful for that because I do remember when it was not.  Doug works three jobs: at Compassion, his personal consulting work and also weekly as a highschool/college tutor.  But he will tell you his life is peaceful and quiet because there is a life giving rhythm (missions, creativity, coaching) and there is a consistent home refuge.  The girls (thus I) have a very demanding school schedule.  But we start at 9, are done at 3 and dont school on Fridays ever.  We spend two days a week at home, never leaving, intentionally practicing quiet and peace.  None of us gets up in the morning saying, "oh Im going to practice quiet today" but we do.  Its become our life rhythm and honestly its something I have been very intentional about building.  But it, like every discipline of the Christian life, is not a once done achievement but rather a returning gaze to the Father.

Living with godly simplicity does not equal inactivity. It is not an encouragement for mental or physical laziness. Simplicity, when it is handled properly, removes the noise and clutter that threaten to steal our sense of peace and intimacy with Christ.   It is, at its most basic,  cleaning house.  And simplicity brings freedom! It is not the absence of control or convenience. Instead, it is the pinnacle of true abiding and fellowship with God. 

I remember sitting on my front porch in Minnesota one crisp, early December day.  I was on the phone with a new friend who was already challenging my life in a very good way.  She asked me if I ever thought of just stopping the activity so I could hear the call of God in that day, and that circumstance, of someone elses life.   I did not know how to live "stopped".  So, after wrestling the thought a bit,  I prayed that the Lord would show me...and mercifully, He has.

I want our home to be a place of refuge for all who enter.  I want my family, guests and myself to feel nourished here in body, mind and spirit.  I want our guests to find calm and peace both as they help us make meals or as they sit and watch the trees blow in the wind.  Im not talking about perfection, Im talking about quiet simplicity.  We bicker like all families do, but there is still an overriding abundance of peace which is the period at the end of any issue.  But if I, Keitha, am not practicing daily peace, quiet and simplicity, how will I ever bring this to them, cultivate it in my home?

Outloud daily reading with the girls (homeschooling in general), ritual afternoon tea with candles, tranquil music, walks and journaling in nature as a family, after dinner fireside discussions with cocoa and meals prepared alongside my children and our guests are all practical ways in which I incorporate quiet and peace into our days.   And, though often criticized or misunderstood, I refuse to over-schedule our family, so most of our nights are spent without commitment.  Ive found that kind of cultivation leaves much room in between for listening for the life needs of others.  And that, I believe is the pearl of peace and quiet: it allows you to truly hear.