Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world give do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
It had been a crazy morning. I was tired from a night of restless sleep. My kids were tired and cranky. It was one thing after another. My son’s jacket zipper got stuck. We finally gathered his belongings and got in the car only to find that I needed gas. We were already late but I had to stop. I dropped him off just as the teacher on bus duty was about to shut and lock the door behind her. Phew! I made it. I hurried home and started round two with my daughter. She was groggy and moving in slow motion but we were good on time. She got on her shoes, grabbed her coat and back pack, and out the door we went. We started down the street and were looking at the sun and the clouds in the sky when she remembered her flute. We turned around in the neighbor’s driveway and went back. Now, we were late. God was watching out for us because we hit every green light and we made it to school just in time. Finally!
During the short drive home, I thought about all the things I had to do that day. My list was long and my energy was in short supply. I was on week 3 of my chemo meds and the fatigue was at its worst. I turned down the radio, took a few deep breaths, and mentally prepared for my day. When my energy was low, I had to prioritize. I wasn’t going to complete all the items on that list. Not today. As frustrating as that was, as a cancer patient, I had learned I had to cross things off that list sometimes, decide what truly needed to be finished that day. It was hard for me when I felt unproductive. My anxiety was already building when I walked in the door and saw my dog poke his head up in his crate. My husband was out-of-town. In our crazy morning rush, the dog conveniently slept in but now he needed to go outside. One more thing I had to do. I loved that big goofy dog but the thought of walking him on that bitter-cold, snowy morning made me feel defeated before I even got started.
That lovable dog needed to go outside so I let him out of his crate and grabbed his leash. He greeted me as only a dog can do and anxiously walked over to the door. I put on my coat and boots and bundled up, dreading the sting of the cold awaiting me outside. I pleaded with my large companion to please take it easy on me that day as I didn’t have a lot of strength to keep up with him. He looked at me like maybe he understood. I opened the door and the cold breeze assaulted my face. We walked over to his usual spot and he did his business. Then, we walked around to the back yard. I was looking forward to walking back in the house and getting a cup of hot tea to warm me up and I hoped we could make this walk a quick one. I was starting to feel anxiety again about all the things I needed to do and how long the little energy I had would last.
As I walked around the back of the house, I was greeted with the most beautiful view. As cold as it was, the sky was a calming blue-gray. The clouds crowded around the sun but allowed for its warm rays to cast down upon us. The temperature seemed to instantly jump 20 degrees as the sunshine covered the hillside in a warm, coppery glow. All was quiet. I heard the wind gently blowing through the trees. I heard a few birds chirping from their snow-covered branches. I heard the distant sound of a train whistle. I heard my feet crunching in the fallen snow. So quiet. So peaceful. As my dog explored his surroundings, I looked down over the wooded hillside. I watched the wind blow bits of snow off the tiny branches of the brown trees. I watched the snow fall down from the sky in slow, unhurried paths. I watched the bright orange sun rays trickle through the brown, sleeping trees on the hillside, saturating that brownscape with much-needed color. In the middle of a cold January morning, in the midst of a hurried and overwhelming day, on the hillside behind my house; I felt peace. God’s peace.
In the quiet of that moment, I felt God speak to me. Not in words. Not in a grand message. He spoke to me through those sunrays, through that falling snow, through that wind that no longer felt cold. He told me that I needed to be still. He told me that I needed to slow down and enjoy. I needed to stop rushing, to just be. I needed to stop trying to keep up, to cross off my to-do list, to finish this one woman race I was running. He quieted my surroundings and soothed my soul. He filled my heart with the peace I needed that morning. I closed my eyes and listened to the quiet amidst those sounds – that gentle breeze buzzing past my ears and into the trees, that snow falling in its silent descent, that bird singing a beautiful song – it was all for me. God was conducting nature’s orchestra as it performed a masterpiece on that hillside and I was in the front row enjoying a private concert.
My dog and I stayed outside for a while that morning. I didn’t want to lose that feeling. I didn’t want God’s music to end. Although the temperatures were low, I was warmed from the inside out. That warmth melted away my stress, my anxiety, and my guilt of being every thing to every one. Suddenly, my to-do list was doable, my breathing slowed, and my mind was clear. I felt renewed and refreshed. I was filled with energy that was usually denied to me at this stage of my treatment. I was standing in the cold on a blustery January day but I felt the warmth and freedom of summertime.
I thought about the peace that I felt and the sounds I heard in those quiet moments. How easily I could have rushed out in the cold and hurried my dog back inside… how easily I could have buried my face in my coat to avoid that cold breeze and missed that gorgeous view… how easily I could have let my own thoughts drown out the sounds of the wind, the snow, and the birds…how easily I could have missed God’s message and gift of peace that morning.
It made me think about how many times I have missed messages just like this one. How many times had I rushed through life’s moments? How many times had I ignored God’s messages? How many times had I suffered with anxiety, self-doubt, and sadness unnecessarily because I was too busy and too self-involved to receive God’s peace in those situations?
He used a mundane task like walking the dog to speak to me.
I wasn’t at church or on my knees. I was in my back yard.
He used an ordinary moment in the middle of my crazy morning.
I wasn’t in my oncologist’s office awaiting scan results.
He used the wind, the sun, and the birds to speak to me.
I wasn’t listening to a sermon or reading a Bible passage.
God communicates with us in many ways.
Are we listening?
God is with us all the time.
Are we open?
He is there in every moment of every day, no matter where we are. Some people are desperately looking for Him. Some people search their whole lives to find Him. Funny thing is … we don’t have to look for Him. He is already there. We can find Him everywhere. Sometimes, even in our own back yard.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him. Romans 15:13