"The fruit of silence is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service; the fruit of service is peace."
Last year was tumultuous. I actually had a pretty good year, but gosh, there was so much going on in the world that was disturbing and upsetting. Horrific. My heart seemed to break over and over and over again. There were terrorist attacks and natural disasters and mass shootings, just to name a few incidences. And on top of all the chaos making headlines in the news, violence and hatred seemed to pop up a lot in my everyday surroundings. I had to take a break from social media for a little while over the summer (and change a few things when I came back) because my mind and heart were so heavily burdened by the things I was exposed to on a daily basis. It's bad enough to hear about bad things in the news- but to see people I know (or people I don't, really) cursing each other, spreading hatred and bigotry, preying on people's fears....it was overwhelming. I couldn't take it anymore, so I had to tune it out.
Toward the end of 2015, though, I started to realize something. One of the things that God wants most for us is peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. We are instructed to seek peace in our personal conflicts. Even when dealing with our own thoughts and fears, it comes back to peace. Now, other than a weird fascination with the hippie movement I had in middle school, "peace" has never really been something that's featured largely in my life. Growing up with an anxiety disorder and coping with clinical depression really kept me from giving too much thought to the concept, other than "I've heard of that, must be nice for the people who have it." When yet another mass shooting claiming the lives of innocent civilians took place just before Christmas, I turned to my Bible for comfort (or a Bible app!) I wasn't afraid. I'm still not afraid of terrorist attacks, or bad guys with guns, whatever you want to call them. But I did notice how intensely fear affects people. Mostly it made people I know angry, and sometimes a little hateful. The things that were said in the aftermath of the San Bernadino shooting regarding our fellow human beings demonstrated a real lack of peace- and a lack of a desire to foster it, too. But these ideas really contradicted what I was reading in my Bible. We are told not to fear, to love our neighbors, to pray for our enemies, to turn the other cheek. Peace, peace, peace. I shared some of these verses in the hopes that some frightened or angry friends and family might see them and pause. Take a deep breath. Think about what Jesus calls us to do in these situations. Pray, instead of shouting. And that's when it hit me. I knew what my word for 2016 was going to be.
In 2016, I am seeking peace. I want peace for myself- a nice calm mind and spirit. Some ways I'm working on this are spending time every evening reading my Bible. I got myself and two lovely friends pretty journals with reading plans printed in the front, and having the plans and knowing friends are reading along, too, has really helped me stay accountable. I know we're only two weeks into the new year, but I feel like I'm doing pretty well so far, and I'm encouraged by that! I'm noticing new things in often-read passages, and I'm making it a point to share a verse with my instagram followers and facebook friends every evening (I try to find pretty, stylized prints of them through Google!) I also started reading Jesus Calling: Morning and Evening, which was a Christmas gift from my mom. I have owned a copy of Jesus Calling for several years now, and I love the deeply personal way Sarah Young brings the words of the Bible to life. The nice thing about this updated version is that there is a devotional for the morning, and the evening, as the title suggests! There have been two days so far where I forgot to read the morning devotional in the actual morning hours, but I have faithfully kept up with it before bedtime, and I'm a little proud of that, too. :)
Not only do I want peace for myself, I want peace in my household, and peace in my world, too. I'm trying really hard to be conscious of the way I speak to my husband, and apologize if my tone gets harsh at times. I want to do as much as I can to make the world a better, more peaceful place, too. Sometimes that means sharing a news article with some good news, contradicting widely held prejudices or misconceptions. Sometimes that means ignoring a stupid comment or a rude post (I have a tendency to want to argue with people when I feel they're wrong. My moral compass, or whatever you want to call it, can be overbearing at times- I don't like it when things are wrong or unfair, and sometimes I feel compelled to fight about it.)
Perhaps most importantly, I want the people I love to have a little more peace, too. Several friends and family members have been facing many trials over the past weeks, months, and even years. My prayer is that I will be receptive to their needs and will be able to help them, even if it's in a small way, to have some peace. Maybe that means helping them move past a tough situation, or providing some comfort in a time of loss, or even just being an encourager when they share their frustrations and fears with me. I want my sponsor kids to have peace, too, and am specifically praying for more of that in their lives. This year I'm going to be working on some new project ideas for things to send them, and really trying to speak peace into their lives and specific situations. Most of my letters are about *my* life and what's going on with me, because I like to write several times a month (of course, response letters are written in direct response to letters I've received from them!) But this year, I want to try to get a little more info out of them regarding their hopes, their worries, and even the situations in their neighborhoods and countries. I want to better know how to pray for them and encourage them. I want them to have peace in their hearts and rest easy at night, even if their father is in jail, or their mother lost her job, or they're sharing a bed with multiple siblings, or they're concerned about their school performance or their future.
I'm really enjoying reading others' blog posts about their goals for the new year, and thrilled that very few of them seem to be the tired old favorites like "lose weight" or "spend less." There is so much more to life than the size of your clothing, or how much money's in the bank. :) Did you pick a word for 2016? I'd love to hear about it!
And just because I love you, take a look at this little cutie. Ashini lives in Sri Lanka and attends the Peace Makers child development center in her community (see what I did there?) Please join me in praying that this precious little girl finds a sponsor soon!