This week marks the one year anniversary of the last “normal” thing I did before the world shut down as I knew it.
One year ago this past weekend, I had the honor of speaking at a women’s event in West Virginia. It was such a great time of connecting….there were literally hundreds of us women packed together in a room, worshiping God, laughing, eating together…it was great.
And then on the drive home from that event, I got the word that things were shutting down.
It was the last little taste of normal I had before life as we knew it changed completely.
Then, we all went into survival mode. W did the best we could with the resources we had and a giant helping of stress, anxiety and uncertainty to go with it.
I remember the day I lysol wiped a banana. In that moment, I asked myself….”What am I even doing? This is just not okay.”
The stress has continued to build and wear away at so many of us this year, and as a result, we are weary. In the constant swirl of stress and pressure and expectations and responsibilities and anxiety, it can feel like peace is nowhere to be found. Even for those of you who haven’t struggled with finding your peace in the past, this year has put “peace” to the test for people in every walk of life, men, women, kids, all across the world.
Whatever this year has looked like for you, here are
3 Steps to Reclaim Your Peace
I’m not sharing these because I have heroically defied all odds and walked in perfect peace this year, but because I, too, have been on a journey of walking through the storm of life and struggling to find peace. And these are the 3 things that God keeps bringing me back to.
1. Give yourself permission to not be okay.
Is anybody else just not okay?
This year has held so much for all of us. There are so many layers to it. Our plates were already full with work, family, school, and housework. But walking through a pandemic added an ever-present current of uncertainty, change, stress, anxiety, and grief. For some, the grief of losing loved ones, and for all of us, the grief of the loss of normalcy.
We are in a season of pandemic exhaustion.
If you have been feeling like….
- I just can’t seem to get ahead.
- I have so much to be thankful for, so why don’t I feel happy?
- I’m tired all the time.
- I feel like I don’t have help or enough help.
- I’m lonely.
- I’m weary.
- I’m scared about the future.
- I feel like I’m losing it.
- I’m done
I’m right there with you.
We’ve been carrying on with working…many of us from home…and if you’ve ever worked from home with kids, you know it’s a nearly impossible thing to do. We are working, doing dishes, washing laundry, cleaning the house, cooking meals, grocery shopping, homeschooling, helping kids with virtual school or in-person school with a ton of new regulations. It’s like we’re doing everything we did before, but this time blindfolded and with one hand tied behind our backs.
And we are tired. We’ve pulled out every strategy we know, bought the planner, tried the course, decluttered (or not), baked bread (or not), listed to the podcast, and we are still struggling. And that’s okay.
What we have walked through this year is so much more than normal stress. This year has upended so many of the things that have brought us peace and joy in the past, and it’s just hard.
One of the most important things you can do as you seek to reclaim your peace is simply to give yourself permission to not be okay.
Whether you’ve tried all the things or avoided trying any of them at all, it’s okay.
It doesn’t mean you aren’t a good spouse or parent or employee or business owner or person. It just means that you’ve hit a point of pandemic exhaustion.
You are not alone.
2. Shift your view of peace.
This has been a huge struggle for me. Like so many things in life, I look at peace as some elusive experience that I am grasping at but no matter HOW hard I try and what I do, I just can’t. ever. seem. to reach it. Do you ever feel like that?
But it’s because this is the entirely wrong understanding of what peace even is. Despite what we THINK…
Peace is not a situation.
Peace is not a feeling.
Peace is not an achievement.
True peace is only found in the person of Jesus Christ. And the only way to truly step into peace is to position yourself in Jesus.
We have to stop telling ourselves the story of…. “If I can just….then…” Well when THIS happens, then I’ll have peace.
- Well, when the pandemic is over…THEN I’ll have peace.
- If I can just get my house in order…THEN I’ll have peace.
- As soon as I declutter, THEN I’ll have peace.
- When the kids are back to “normal” school…THEN I’ll have peace.
- When my financial situation changes…THEN I’ll have peace.
- If I can just start block scheduling so I can get more done…
- When I find a babysitter…
- If I can start having my quiet time again…
- When church starts up again…
When we define peace as a feeling, or a situation, or an achievement, then we will always be striving, working, pushing to do more, to feel better, to BE more….and that is the exact OPPOSITE of peace.
Isn’t that ironic? As though we can work ourselves into a state of peace.
But you cannot hustle your way into peace. You can’t work yourself into feeling peaceful. You can’t schedule yourself into rest.
It just doesn’t work that way.
You can’t ACHIEVE peace because peace is not situational; it’s positional.
Peace is only found in the person of Jesus Christ and the only way to have true peace is to position yourself in him.
I love the story in Scripture of Jesus in the boat with his disciples. Jesus had been teaching and preaching from town to town, and one day, as it’s told in Luke 8, Jesus tells the disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side of the Lake.”
So they get in a boat and start their journey. Then Jesus falls asleep in the boat. But a storm starts to rise up and the disciples lose it. They can’t handle it. They’ve had enough and they just don’t know what to do. (Sound familiar?)
Jesus…who was sleeping in the midst of the storm…got up, rebuked the wind and the waves, and the storm instantly stopped.
If there’s a good way to describe this past year, it’s trying to sail a boat on choppy waters when you have zero control of the storm.
But what’s funny is, when we freak out like the disciples because the storm feels like it’s closing in on us, instead of going to Jesus, we start rowing harder and harder and harder until it feels like we have nothing left. And the storm hasn’t changed a bit.
Peace is not a situation. It’s not something we can work ourselves into.
Peace is found in Jesus.
What if you stopped everything right now and just rested?
Wait, what? Are you kidding me, Beth? Have you seen the mountain of laundry all over my bedroom? I have work to do, kids to feed, homework to help with….my list never ends. I don’t have time to rest!
But what if rest was the most powerful thing you could do for yourself and your family? What if rest is actually the secret…the thing you need most in order to brave the storm around you?
Here’s the crazy thing…at the end of this story, after Jesus calms the storm, he asks the disciples, “where is your faith?” He doesn’t say to them….”Why didn’t you row harder? Why didn’t you build a better boat? Why didn’t you schedule this journey in your planner and check the weather?”
No, he says “Where is your faith?”
It’s like he’s telling them…you didn’t need me to calm the storm. You had what you needed already to confidently quell the storm.
God is not asleep in your boat. He’s inside you. He’s already given you everything you need to weather the storm you’re in.
Your job is to rest in him.
You’re not on some ethereal journey to find peace. Peace has already found you. His name is Jesus. Will you trust him?
I say all this to myself too, because let’s be honest. This year has been ridiculously hard in so many ways. And yes, there have been many opportunities for good things too, but we have to let ourselves grieve. We have to give ourselves permission to be tired. To be EXHAUSTED. To feel tapped out. To recognize when we’ve come to the end of what we can do and what we can give.
Because it’s in THOSE moments that we are able to see that we can’t do it on our own and we were never meant to.
3. Focus on staying connected to your CORE 4.
- Connected to God
- Connected to yourself
- Connected to your spouse
- Connected to your kids
When you’re overwhelmed, everything else can take a hit, except these. These are the four corners of your foundation of a healthy life. And if this isn’t your list, or maybe you’re not married or don’t have kids, then go ahead and make adjustments to it. What this list represents is the key priorities in your life.
When it feels like everything is up in the air, you have to set your TRUE priorities. Because everything will feel like an emergency. Every new situation, every new problem that arises, will feel like an emergency. But don’t let everything be an emergency.
I remember a moment halfway through this past year that my husband was feeling overwhelmed (he and I take turns and I take more turns than he does) — but in this particular moment he felt like there were so many things weighing on him and they were all emergencies….and I encouraged him to stop and ask two questions:
- How many of these things are TRUE emergencies? (as in they can’t wait, they can’t be rescheduled, they can’t take a hit, they can’t be delegated or automated or eliminated)
- Is this really my problem, or am I working harder on somebody else’s problem than they are?
And on his list of 10 or more things, you know how many actually couldn’t wait or be changed? One. So that’s the one we tackled first.
Your core 4 are your true priorities.
They are the things always worth investing in. They are the things that you want to spend your time and energy on. When everything hits the fan, these are the things you don’t let go of. And they are also the things that will bring about the greatest reward.
But, when you’re overwhelmed and you feel like you have nothing to give, upholding your core four feels like work. It can feel like more than you can do.
But that, too, is all about perspective.
Let’s simplify it.
Connect to God
Just like we tend to view peace as something we need to achieve and work for, we often view connecting with God that way as well.
We think, “I WANT to connect with God, but I just don’t have 30 minutes in the morning to have a quiet time. You see, my kids live here. With me. All the time.”
I think it’s so important, especially for us as parents, to set aside this idea that connecting with God has to look a certain way. Like it can only look like you sitting in a cozy chair with the sun shining in, sipping a hot cup of coffee in silence and gently turning the pages of your well-worn Bible. All by yourself. For an hour.
Wait, can we just take a minute and think about how amazing that would be?
And if your kids are older or you have somehow managed to make this hour of reverent silence a part of your day, I applaud you. Will you pray for the rest of us?
Because chances are, if you’re a mom, that’s not a possibility for you. Especially not if you have young kids…maybe not any age of kids.
But don’t think for a second that you can’t connect with God if you don’t have that.
Here’s what’s beautiful – God is with you wherever you are. And he wants to connect with you wherever you are.
Connecting with God is not about a formula; it’s about turning your heart towards him. While you’re cooking breakfast, turn your heart to him. When you’re feeling a fit of rage coming on because your child is calling your name for the 427th time today, turn your heart to him. While you’re on your laptop or driving to work, invite his peace to guard your heart and turn your heart to him.
God created you. He gave you the most amazing role of being a parent. And he understands what that looks like.
Any time you want to connect with your kids, do you schedule a private hour of silence in a separate room to talk to them? No, you’re talking to them in the car, while you make dinner, while you’re watching a movie…as you are doing life together.
Do. Life. Together. With God. He’s right there, full of peace, ready to connect with you at a moment’s notice.
Connect to yourself.
What does that even mean? The whole concept of self-care has gotten so diluted in our cultural understanding of mom life that it’s been reduced to the idea of taking a shower by yourself. Or a bath. Am I the only person in the world who doesn’t enjoy baths? I’m just not a bath person. So whenever someone is like, “You really need some self-care. You should take a relaxing bath.”
I’m like, nah, I’m good.
But contrary to popular belief, self-care has nothing to do with bath bombs.
True self-care means allowing yourself to admit that you have needs….and giving yourself permission to meet them. Self-care is about recognizing that you have feelings…and giving yourself permission to feel them. True self-care is about honoring the value of who God has created you to be by embracing who you are and taking care of yourself like only you can.
The more we allow ourselves to think that our value is in what we can achieve–how much we squeeze into the calendar or how well we sacrifice our needs for our families–the more we lose ourselves in the process and just end up exhausted, depleted, and empty.
You were not created for emptiness. You were created for greatness. But the greatness God created you for isn’t something measured by a checklist. The culmination of your life is not your ability to speed through a list of to-do’s.
You are a masterpiece of God. Your value is in who you are in him. God designed you as the pinnacle of His creation. And then, he rested.
You, as a beautiful being created in the very image of God, deserve to rest.
You deserve to eat food regularly. To feel your feelings. And to let your house be a mess or your work be just okay or your child to take the consequences for their own unsubmitted homework.
One of the best gifts you can give to your family is to stay connected to yourself. The more you give yourself permission to be a real person with real needs and real boundaries, the more you will be filled up and able to pour out to meet their needs.
What does this look like practically?
Recognize your rhythms. For me, by the end of the week, I need a few hours away from my kids to recharge. So my husband and I work out a swap on Saturdays where he takes the kids for a few hours while I recharge and then we tag team. This has been so life-giving for us!
It also means giving yourself permission to not be happy all the time. When you’re feel sad or angry or lonely, instead of telling yourself, “I should be thankful! I have so much in my life to be thankful for, what’s wrong with me?” Ask yourself….”What am I truly feeling? Why am I feeling this way?”
If you’ve ever seen the kids’ movie Inside Out, it’s about a young girl named Riley and the 5 “feelings” who live inside her brain that dictate what she does and how she responds to the world. The feeling called “Joy” is the boss. She’s always trying to push out the feeling called “Sadness,” because she wants Riley to always be happy.
But there’s this powerful moment when Joy realizes that nothing she is doing is working and she allows Sadness to take over. It’s only then, when Riley gets in touch with her sadness, that she is able to release what she’s been carrying…and to ask for help…and to reconnect with what she really needs in the moment.
THis is SO true of us as moms especially.
We have this idea that we have to be happy all the time. And that if we aren’t, then it must mean there’s something wrong with us. Or that we’re not trying hard enough. Or we’re not really grateful for what we have or we’re not really trusting God, and then we feel even more guilty.
But what if negative emotions also serve a purpose? What if your striving for happiness is actually preventing you from experiencing the negative emotions that could actually open the door for your healing?
True self-care means staying connected to what is REALLY going on inside you. And letting yourself experience it. You don’t have to experience it alone. Lean into the person of peace and walk the journey with him.
Connect to Your Spouse
It’s so important to remember that the quality of your connection with your spouse is not measure in the number of minutes you spend with them. It’s about maintaining a quality heart connection with them, which can be done in tiny pockets of time.
With my husband Michael and me, we’ve been finding it in the little moments like stopping to hug each other in the hallway, bringing each other a cup of coffee when we know they have a lot going on.
These tiny investments are worth so much.
Don’t get stuck in thinking that connection with your spouse can only look a certain way…like a fancy date night out with a babysitter.
In reality, it’s those small moments each day where you choose kindness. Where you extend grace. Where you express love. Those are the choices that maintain that connection.
Connect to Your Kids
And with your kids… the quality of your connection with them is not measured in minutes. It’s measured in love. Find ways to spend time with your KIDS that is life-giving to you. I would die for my kids, but sometimes if they ask me for one more snack, I’m ready to lose it.
That. Is. Normal. ESPECIALLY in a year like this one.
Remember that staying connected in to their heart doesn’t mean you never get upset or that you feel all warm and fuzzy every time they’re around.
It means you are choosing to love them in those tiny pockets of time in an intentional way.
Sometimes for me that looks like snuggling with them on the couch and watching a movie together. (Yes, screen time.) Sometimes it means doing a puzzle together on a Saturday or drinking hot cocoa by the fire.
Find some small ways that help both you and and your family members feel connected to each other without putting a lot of stress on you and lean into those moments.
And if that means your house is a mess or you have to stick to easy dinners or the homework gets turned in late, you are still a good mom. You are still choosing what’s most important.
The past 12 months have been hard on everyone.
And it’s been really hard to find peace in the midst of the storm.
But remember these 3 steps….
- Give yourself permission to not be okay.
- Remember that peace is not a feeling or a situation….it’s found in the person of Jesus. And you have instant access to his peace in every moment you need it.
- Stay connected to your core 4 – When everything else feels overwhelming, use the little energy you have to lean into God, to stay connected to yourself and your needs, and to love your spouse and kids.