Friday, January 15, 2010

Keeping the Peace

I’ve been reading – and loving – a book called Finding Your Purpose as a Mom by Donna Otto. First this book gave me the slam-bang epiphany that my home is holy ground, as absolutely sacred as any church building, because the work of God is done here on a daily basis.


The other thing – well, one of the other things – that have really spoken to me in this book is the talk about peace in the home.

I have come to realize in the past few years that a peaceful home is not necessarily a quiet home. Quiet time is wonderful, of course, sometimes. But in a house with lots of kids quiet time will certainly be hard to come by! However, some of my most happy, content, peaceful times have been in the midst of loud singing, shrieking outdoor games, hysterical laughter, or voices of a dozen different people talking all at once. I was very glad to read in this book that I am not the only one that thinks noise can be very peaceful!

I have known some households, some families in which loudness – be it loud voices, loud laughter, loud singing, whatever, were not only discouraged but severely disciplined. Now, if you go and visit those households, you may, at first, be amazed and even slightly jealous of the quiet atmosphere. But the more time you spend in that house or with that family, you will come to realize that the quiet they have achieved is far from peaceful. Think of silent tension. These houses are filled with it. Children in these houses are not well-disciplined; they are well-punished, at the expense of crushing their fragile little spirits.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a time to be quiet. Children have to learn manners, inside/outside voices, appropriate and inappropriate times for jokes and games. But at home children should feel safe, loved, accepted. They should be able to laugh and shriek and have fun. I guarantee you that if you let your kids just be themselves the majority of the time, they will have such immense love for Mommy that they will gladly be quiet when she has a headache!

Peace is not necessarily quiet. What is peace? The dictionary has multiple definitions:

Peace, noun:
1. The absence of war or other hostilities.
2. An agreement or a treaty to end hostilities.
3. Freedom from quarrels and disagreement; harmonious relations: roommates living in peace with each other.
4. Public security and order: was arrested for disturbing the peace.
5. Inner contentment; serenity: peace of mind.

The Bible gives countless references to the word ‘peace’ as well…

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. ~Colossians 3:15

Finally, brothers, good-by. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. ~2 Corinthians 13:11

Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. ~2 Thessalonians 3:16

And many others!

So, what is peace? In short, peace is the presence of God. There is no peace without Him! God grants us His peace, a contentment, a happiness, a faith and trust that all will be cared and provided for, a resting in the comfort of another.

But the thing I’ve been thinking about while reading this book is not what peace is. It’s what peace-making is. Everyone knows that verse from the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God. ~Matthew 5:9

If you’re like me, when you hear the word “peacemakers” you tend to think of the people who break up fights, the referees, the neutral parties in any argument or fight. But I think this way of thinking is wrong. Those people I’ve just described are better called “peacekeepers.” But you can’t keep the peace until you’ve made the peace!

Of course, as I said above, true peace only comes from God. But, remember, if you are a Christian, Christ dwells in you! Whatever attributes God possesses are there inside you, waiting for you to claim them!

As mothers, we are to be the peace makers in out homes. To do this, we must create a truly peaceful atmosphere. Our job is not just to break up fights and sibling squabbles, but to create an environment that minimizes the chance for these squabbles to even happen. This also means creating a peaceful feeling between ourselves and our spouses, and between us parents and our children.

How do you do this? I’m not going to claim to be an expert, but here are some thoughts I have…

Remember that definition of peace up above? Let’s go through it, one piece at a time, and examine how we can address each area.

The absence of war or other hostilities.
What is likely to cause arguments and fights in your house? Thinking ahead can alleviate a great many squabbles! Clear-cut (and age-appropriate) rules about toys, chores, TV time, etc. go a long way to avoiding fights. For spouses, clearly-established priorities are a must! Married people need to be on the same page about all important life factors or the result will always be disastrous!

An agreement or a treaty to end hostilities.
What about when the rare (hopefully!) fight does break out? Fairness and forgiveness are crucial. Kids especially need to know that if they are disciplined for something today, brother or sister will also get disciplined for that same thing if they do it tomorrow. Double standards are absolute no-nos. Consistent means of conflict resolutions are wonderful!

Freedom from quarrels and disagreement; harmonious relations.
There will always be some quarreling. We’re sinful beings, after all! But the way to make peace anyway is to learn to (and teach our kids by example and consistency) express opinions and views in calm ways. People will not always agree on everything, and that’s OK. Each of us is entitled to our own opinions, and it needs to be a rule in every peaceful household that the opinions of other house members must be listened to and respected, whether you agree or not. The only place this becomes a problem is that children will often be of the opinion that something the parent says or expects is not fair! In this case, it is our job, as moms (and dads) to examine what we’ve said or done and decide if it is fair! If it is, and the child still wants to argue, go to the Ultimate Authority! The Bible is full of wisdom and instruction that even young children can understand! As children obey their parents, parents must obey God! If our reasoning is a sound, “Because God commands it,” there is no room to argue and children will quickly learn to accept this if it is presented consistently in their lives and lived out in example by their parents.

Public security and order.
Kids thrive on routine. Familiarity. Schedules. Some kids need it more than others, but a standard schedule and set of rules in a household and family will work wonders. Get the kids in on the act by creating your family rules together. Make sure chore divisions are fair and age-appropriate and that everyone does their part. Make sure there is no favoritism toward one child over another (or toward all children except one!). Again, referring back to the Ultimate Authority of God’s Word is the way to go. Kids need to know that they will be safe, protected, both physically and emotionally/spiritually in their homes, safe from the outside world but also from their parents’ tempers or their siblings’ hurtful words. Create rules and schedule, make them fair and attainable, and stick to them.

Inner contentment; serenity.
What is the one thing most likely to give you inner contentment? Well, God, of course, but what else? I think it’s knowing that you are worth something, you are valuable. You have meaning and purpose in life, in your family, and in your home. You are a unique individual, an amazing and much-loved creation of both your parents (or spouse, as the case may be) as well as of God! To instill these feelings in our selves, spouses, and children, we must treasure and cherish the individuality of each member of our families. No one can be truly happy when they are no different than anyone else (though many people seem to think they could be). If a child excels in something, celebrate it! Teach your other kids to be happy for and proud of their siblings (or their parents!) for their abilities and accomplishments. Everyone has something that they are good at – and, yes, something that they are better at than everyone else in the house. That’s OK! Celebrate the amazing differences, the wide array of skills, gifts, and abilities God has blessed individual members with in order to make a truly amazing family!

I want to share a few of the ways we personally make peace in our home.

I’m home all day with the kids, so by bedtime I am desperate for alone time. Tony realizes this. He knows that I need time by myself to regroup and re-energize so that then I can devote attention to him. Most nights find me in bed alone – a good thing, I promise! – shortly after the kids go to bed. I read or write, or catch up with friends online! Sometimes I just lie in bed and enjoy NOT having to go, go, go, and do, do, do! Often Tony will come to bed later, or sometimes I’ll get back up, and we’ll talk or snuggle, or…well, we are trying to conceive! But he knows that I need that time to de-stress before I can really focus, lovingly, on him.

My kids are all very different – Katy is an amazing artist, Becca is a gifted singer and writer, Jake is a math whiz and our comic relief! They like to watch different things, play different things, read different things, and we have made a point to try to encourage each of them in their own interests and pursuits. We also encourage them to really take an interest in the things each other is doing and cheer each other on instead of being jealous or feeling inadequate.

My husband is a wonderful man who works 10 hour days. Anxious as I am for him to get home in the evenings, I gladly “let” him go do other things a couple of times a week. On Tuesdays he has bowling league and on Thursdays he has RPG with his buddies. I like knowing that he is getting his own personal re-charge!

I know there are other things we do and I’m sure there are many things YOU do! Feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, and examples!

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