I love our Amazon Echo. It’s wonderful for getting information, checking what the temperature is so I know if I need a jacket for our morning walk, turning on the music we want to hear (and getting the volume just right), reminding me to do something, etc. I use it every day. But when I learned a year ago that everything we say to Alexa is recorded and archived, I didn’t like that. I did some quick research and learned how to delete our voice history – not because we have anything to hide – it’s just a privacy preference for me and being able to do so helps me feel more comfortable and in control.
But what if every word you speak every day was recorded and couldn’t be erased? If I checked the recordings, what would I hear most often on your playback?
(Did that last question make you cringe…or smile?)
If you were to listen to the Jan & Dean recordings, among the limitless possible comments or topics of conversation, almost every day you’d hear a comment like, “Our home is so peaceful. We are so blessed.” And every day you’d hear, “I love you”, “I luvs you lots!”, “You’re my bestest friend” or some other iteration of that sentiment. I’m not bragging; I just want to make a point…that we are fully aware of the peaceful life we have and are filled with gratitude for it. And…we consciously work to maintain that peace with our words…by design. We are mindful of doing so because it hasn’t always been this way…it has been created over the years by making many small choices and changing habits.
You may ask, “How, specifically, is your home peaceful?” “Big picture” short answer: physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
From a physical standpoint, we have decorated our home to be peaceful by adopting a style of “simple elegance.” That doesn’t mean expensive, just pleasing to the eyes and ears. It’s in a quiet neighborhood with little traffic. We have open space, simple decorations, comfortable furniture, not much on the walls, etc. Dean and I are neat freaks, so while the house is not always spic ‘n span clean, it is neat most of the time. (When our 4-year old granddaughter comes to visit, her chaos and clutter is welcomed!) We have speakers throughout the house and there is music playing constantly. The genre depends on our mood or activity: yoga radio for yoga; spa or yoga radio through the night; country when we feel like two-steppin’; rock ‘n’ roll for housecleaning or to liven things up a bit; Christian, spa, yoga or solo piano music during the day. The result -- eyes and ears at peace – designed by us. It’s a physical space of peace.
Our emotional peace comes by choice.
I heard this saying years ago: “You can be the thermostat, or you can be a thermometer.” It changed my life because it broke the “power” I had given circumstances over my thoughts and emotions. In any situation, you can be a thermometer and let the “temperature” of your circumstance cause you to react, often without thinking it through and in a way that is not productive. Or you can choose to be the thermostat – read the “temperature” of the situation, realize it is not healthy or what you want it to be, and thoughtfully respond in a way that adjusts the “temperature” to where you want it. By choosing to be the thermostat, you are in control of your emotions. It’s the difference between explosion and diffusion.
Being the thermostat takes lots of practice. Fortunately, life naturally gives us plenty of opportunities to do so. Choosing to be the thermostat gives you time to decide if this is a battle you choose to fight or not. The result for Dean and I is that after years of practice, our thermostats are firmly set on “peace.” That helps tremendously in shaping our emotional peace, and it is a state of being for us. It’s our default setting, and when something happens that changes the temperature, we work hard to get our heads back to the state of peace as quickly as possible.
But the foundation of any environment of peace is spiritual peace. A lot has happened in our 41 years together, but looking back, since 2008 there has been one thing after another that could have easily derailed us were it not for the peace we have from our faith. The challenges came from all directions: relationships, accidents, health issues, work, loss of loved ones, unexpected transitions. Knowing Who is in control has helped us through every tiny bump and massive storm. We believed that something good could come out of every situation and prayed for exactly that. For the things out of our control, we trusted God to be in control and asked Him to protect our hearts. For those things within our control, we kept being the thermostats and didn’t let circumstances get us off track. Without fail, when we came out of a trying situation, we were able to look back and, even though we were not always aware of it at the time, we could see how God’s hands had been at work in our lives long before “this” event to prepare us for it. And when we saw the evidence of His presence each time, it grew our spiritual peace even deeper. Here’s the latest example:
It’s been almost five months since our son, Dustin, died. The comment we hear most often is “I don’t know how you’re taking this so well.” This very thought is one that has been the focus of many conversations between Dean and I since November. The answer is easy for us to articulate and share but isn’t always easy for others to understand. The answer is…we have God’s peace in our hearts about where Dustin is now – in Heaven. We take in that spiritual peace with every breath, ever heartbeat, every thought about life.
Let ourselves be thermometers? Everyone would understand that the anticipated temp would be grief, and it is definitely there. But living in an atmosphere of grief is cold and painful. However, as thermostats, we don’t accept that our prevailing emotion must be sadness and grief. Instead, we adjust our thinking to a mindset of peace. We focus on the joys we’ve had, the blessings we’ve received, Dustin’s gift of Olivia, our closeness with Derek & Kate, God’s grace and the evidence that He was preparing us for this difficult time during the years when Dustin was distant…when he was our prodigal son. We work to open our hearts and minds to receive the spiritual peace which allows our mental and emotional state to be one of peace also.
We all know that it’s easy to be at peace when things are going well, but what I hope you believe is that it’s also possible when they aren’t. Dean and I are living proof of that.
So how about you? If you’ve already designed a peaceful life, congratulations! If you’re not there yet, what would having a peaceful life look like for you? In what areas of life are you lacking peace – Spiritual? Emotional? Relational? Health? Financial? Mental? Physical? If you want to bring peace into those areas, you absolutely can!
Next time we’ll talk about some common things that keep peace away and examples of how simple changes can help make your life more peaceful.
Until then, may Grace & Peace flow into your life.