The Work of Peace

Mom, what do you want for Christmas? Bea asked the other day.

Oh, Time…… I responded wistfully, thinking of how lovely a quiet, peaceful afternoon with nothing to do would feel.

No, I think you want matching Christmas jammies with me.

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Matching jammies!

This week we lit the Peace candle on our Advent wreath. It’s a time to remember the declaration that this tiny baby came to bring peace on earth.

Especially with events of the past few months, it’s difficult to remember this promise: That God has come to bring peace. We’ve been inundated by name-calling politicians; by images of genocide and babies raised in the midst of the horrors of war; by those trying to protest peacefully being attacked violently; not to mention the everyday violence that somehow has become less horrific in comparison.

Lately, the word peace brings images of quiet and rest. And that’s one way to view the word. I remember when I was teaching, my classroom was rarely quiet. The kids were on task (mostly!) and busy, but there was a steady hum and buzz of work happening. I rarely asked for absolute quiet for several reasons. Partly, because it’s nearly impossible to require that of 26 8-year-olds and partly because absolute quiet isn’t often conducive to work getting done.

When I look at the buzz and noise of the world around me, sometimes I wish it would all just stop – that we would have peace at last. But I don’t think that’s the sort of peace that Jesus promises. I wonder if peace will come in the buzz of work being done. Of activists working toward social justice; of doctors working in dangerous areas; of politicians fighting for what’s best in our country.

When people lament the noise of continuous news or social media, I get it – it is a loud, often cacophonous drone. I long for the days of Facebook being about baby pictures and “What I’m thinking of…” But the reality is that I learn so much from following those who are different from me on Twitter; from seeing images of justice workers on Instagram. Sometimes I need the background noise to be the hum of work, as a reminder that peace can be a noisy and messy process.

So, while I wish for time and quiet space, I also am reminded that the peace of Christmas comes with activity, with purpose, and with work toward the promise of a deeper peace.

How are you reminded of peace in these final days before Christmas? How do you practice the work of peace?

Raising Awareness Step by Step

One of the coolest things about living in the Internet age is access to amazing projects across the globe. From helping to build a well in Kenya to following the adventures of an old high school friend, we are able to follow the stories of friends and strangers. Recently, the trend in giving small amounts for a big project has become more and more common. We’ve been longtime supporters of micro loans, giving $25 loans to help small businesses. Other groups have a cap of $25 donations with the idea that we can all give.

It’s such an amazing feeling to be part of a larger good. In this phase of life when travel is tough and I feel like I can’t make a difference, I love supporting others who can. Knowing that I don’t need to be a millionaire to aide these projects is even better!

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I had heard of One Million Thumbprints (1MT) via a blogging friend and then, a couple weeks ago in a Facebook group we’re both part of, Leia Johnson asked for help getting the word out. The more I looked around at what this organization is doing, the more I loved their story.

1MT started when its founder, Belinda Bauman sat in the Democratic Republic of Congo and listen to the stories of women who were the victims of sexual violence. One story in particular led Belinda to act:

Esperance, a woman from a small village in the Congo, watched her husband die at the hand of rebels. She was violently raped and would have died if her sisters hadn’t rescued her. Across a blank sheet of paper, Esperance, who cannot read or write, had her pastor write the words: “Tell the world.” Then she stamped her thumbprint underneath. Esperance’s thumbprint became Belinda’s mandate: violence against women in war is violence against me.

unspecifiedSo, in about 6 weeks, 16 people from all backgrounds are meeting at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania’s “mountain of light.” They will embark on a 5-day journey through 4 climate zones, over 38,000 steps, to summit at just over 19,000 ft on March 8, International Women’s Day.

Why?

 

This inaugural event, the Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb for Peace, is an effort to raise awareness and funding for programs on the ground in Syria and Iraq, the DRC, and South Sudan through their implementing partner, World Relief.

If you’re interested, join! You can donate your thumbprint (your voice) online, give a gift of any size – from $1 to $10 to whatever you feel to the campaign. Even raising awareness by sharing about this important event and cause on your own social media outlets helps!

Let’s stand together, and do what Esperance asked: Tell the world that violence against women in war zones must end.

Comfort and Joy

Bea is very much like her dad – Christmas lasts all year long. After a particularly grating repeat of one CD during July, I laid down the rule that we could read Christmas books any time of the year, but no music until after Thanksgiving!!

Bea "comforting" Elle
Bea “comforting” Elle

One of Bea’s favorite Christmas books is a series of carols illustrated by Tomie dePaola. One of them is God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Whenever Elle is crying in the car and I ask Bea to comfort her, she will say, Shh! Shh! Shh! Comfort and joy, sister! Comfort and joy!

In Bea’s mind, joy means Elle will stop crying. I think for many of us, this is our definition. Joy equals happiness. But, then I am reminded of Psalm 30:5

Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

When I’ve had a night of weeping or a season of struggle, the aftermath is never a quick shift. I struggle to go from sadness to happiness in a snap. But, that deep peace and joy? As I’m emerging from a tough season, it’s there – deep rooted and a reminder that, though struggles happen and sadness is part of life, joy is never far.

I’m learning to love this deep joy. This joy that is not happiness but is married to contentedness, to peace, to a deeper understanding that life is made up of so much more than fun, happy moments.

How do you view joy? Can joy and sadness happen simultaneously?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Behind a Door

The door to our sunroom, now Bea’s playroom, is at the back of the house, between the kitchen and backyard. It was an addition at some point, long before we owned this house. It’s gone through many incarnations over the years: It started as a junk-room, then it was where all of my living room furniture was stored, set up as a breezeway. Then we had an actual tiled floor put in and moved in Frank’s weight set but the room slowly became storage again.

Last year for Mother’s Day, as Bea moved from infant floor gyms to actual, space-taking-up toys, we decided to try yet another purpose for the space. With the help of my parents, we put up curtains, put down a foam puzzle mat, and made the room kid-friendly. As the weather has gotten colder, we found a child-safe space heater and now have a 3-and-a-half season room. Even in the past six months, Bea’s toys have grown in size and space and this room has been perfect to help keep the rest of our house tidy.

Now, Frank will get up in the morning, turn the chair toward the sunrise for his quiet time and enjoy the peace. It feels, after so many different tries, that we have finally found a purpose for this room that works with the house. I can work in the kitchen while Bea cooks in hers. When the weather was warmer, I would leave the door to the backyard open and Bea and Daisy would come and go as they pleased.

As I’ve reflected on all the incarnations of our sunroom, I began thinking of other “rooms” in my life that seem to not fit. Often, my first reaction is to think that just because my church or my friends or my job isn’t meeting my immediate needs, it must be a bad fit. Maybe I should find a new church or focus on other friends or start searching for a different job. Or, maybe it just takes time and new circumstances for those old rooms to suddenly fit. Maybe a new perspective or a new coworker or a new conversation is what it takes to make an awkward “room” into a place of peace. In our case, it took four years of moving furniture until our sunroom became a useable space. I wonder how often I give up on something when really, I just need to rearrange the furniture or rethink the purpose of that room.

What are some rooms in your life that could be repurposed to a place of peace?

Inspired by Ann Voskamp‘s November Joy Dare:”3 gifts behind a door.”