December Parent Devotion: Chasing Peace in the Chaos
This morning I was mentally processing my to-do list during my drive to work like always. It included the usual run-down of the day’s meetings and project deadlines, but also much more than what appeared on my Outlook calendar.
I could feel my anxiety mounting as I remembered the other things that I needed to accomplish before noon:
- Stop at the post-office to overnight gifts to my nieces and nephews that have been sitting in my car for 2 weeks. (why do I spend more in 2-day postage than the costs of the gifts? Every. Single. Year.)
- Follow up with my college-age daughter to make sure she gets the yellow-fever vaccine before travelling abroad next semester.
- Contact our insurance company about a claim denial from a recent car vs. garage door incident from our newly-driver’s-permit-enabled youngest son.
- Contact the yearbook ad people to beg for any remaining senior year farewell ad spots because I missed the deadline.
- Beg for an appointment with the dog groomer before we have TWELVE relatives visiting this week for Christmas. (Oh no. I forgot to order the 26+ lb organic fresh free range turkey that my in-laws mentioned. I think I was supposed to do that weeks ago…)
My heart was pounding beyond the effects of the quadruple-venti-soy mocha from Starbucks I was sipping, and I started to feel light-headed. I pulled my car to the side of the road, closed my eyes, breathed deeply, and reached out to God for help.
Within an instant, I was awash with guilt.
My mind flashed to everything in the news recently—numerous natural disasters, horrific mass shootings, the plight of refugees all over the world, and the threat of terrorism (or war) on our own soil.
There are people with much bigger problems than mine. What right did I have to be bothering God with my shallow pleas because I was struggling with first-world problems like a busy schedule?
I’m no stranger to tough times, and I’ve had some legitimate knee-dropping moments when all I could cling to was God. Like when my first marriage crumbled and I was a single mom with three kids under age six. Like when the doctor spotted what they believed was osteosarcoma (bone cancer) on my son’s x-ray. Like when I found out my daughter was cutting. Again
In light of this, I felt paralyzed with confusion. Was it OK to feel desperate before God on a basically "good day” for something as benign as busyness? Shouldn’t I be more reverent and grateful that things aren’t that bad?
And then I opened my eyes and saw the answer to my question.
On this blustery morning in December, with the ominous dark skies of a storm rolling in over the mountains, the sun had peeked out and there was a brilliant rainbow stretching across the landscape in front of my car.
A rainbow. In December.
And then (not even kidding) I saw the bright white reflection of a flock of seagulls rising against a dark sky, swirling in front of the rainbow.
Seagulls. In Colorado. (OK, so they weren’t doves, and the seagulls were probably coming from the nearby landfill, but it still looked spectacular.)
I’d almost call the scene cheesy if it wasn’t the handiwork of God--but it was God’s handiwork (with an obvious dose of his humor). And it was beautiful.
I knew it was a sign from God meant for me.
You see, years ago when my kids were young, they used to pester me with deep theological questions like, How do I know God is real? How is God with us if we can’t see him? When it rains, is that God’s pee?
Without much theological training, I tried my best to answer their questions. I explained that a dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit, which is God’s presence with us and in us, so they could look for birds in the sky for a reminder of that truth.
I’m pretty sure I earned a divine “high-five” for that answer because my kids were constantly on the lookout for birds in the sky so they could “see” that God was present. When they hit the teen years, they were much less excited about Holy Spirit bird sightings. And by “much less excited,” I mean not.
But then last week when my daughter called me from college and I’d felt totally helpless talking through her anxiety about the end of semester projects and finals, she mentioned she’d been looking for birds in the sky.
"Why?" I’d asked.
She said, “Because it helps me remember God is always with me. Duh.”
So there it was. My God-sighting right in front of me, and the answer to the question I should have known: God is with us. He is for us. He loves us. All of us. Always.
And he wants an “everyday” relationship with us-- in the good, in the bad, and in the mundane business of life.
We don’t earn the right for God’s help based on the severity of our needs. We don’t earn the right for God’s presence. Period.
Because we don’t need to.
We have Jesus, and we have grace. And they're gifts.
In the chaos, in the challenge, in the heartbreak as well as the joy of life, we can discover the deepest gratitude and peace by remembering the promise of the Gospel and that God is always with us every step of the way.
And in this season of Advent, which is often overshadowed by our busy-ness and to-do lists, we need to remember what it stands for: Celebrating the birth of our Savior, as well as looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people.
O come, O come, Emmanuel.
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. " (which means, God with us) --Isaiah 7:14
Digging Deeper: Reading, Reflection and Challenge
Read and reflect on Romans 8:26
Journal prompt: What's on your mind right now that's troubling you? Make a quick list, including the big things and the seemingly unimportant, irritating things.
Challenge: Close your eyes and take a few minutes to breathe deeply and reflect on how the list makes you feel. Instead of reciting a list of your needs to God in prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to hear the groaning of your heart and intercede on your behalf. Allow yourself to rest in the peace, comfort, and trust of knowing your needs are heard by God.
Read and reflect on Psalm 27:14 and Galatians 5:22
Sometimes in the fast-pace of our daily lives, we get into a "too busy" mode to be still with God. Even for those who have a routine morning or evening quiet time of reflection & prayer, it often might start to feel like it's part of the daily "to-do" list.
Challenge: "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10) During your busiest time of day, take a 10-minute "time-out" for God. It might seem impossible to fit in, but throughout this month try take spontaneous, unplanned moments when you can interrupt your daily schedule with a short time of prayer and quiet listening. Pay attention to how you feel during your daily activities after your impromptu "God break." Do you feel more strength? More peace? More hope?
Read and reflect on John 14:26-27
Journal prompt: Do you ever have "God-sightings" --moments you recognize something (or someone) as a sign from God? What are some recent examples? Is "God-sighting" a habit in your life, or a happenstance?
Challenge: The month of December is a season of prolific list-making. For every list you make--even your grocery shopping list--add the phrase "Seek His peace" to your list. Let this practice help you pay more attention to the presence of God in the midst of your busy activities, and prepare your heart to embrace the gift of Jesus' birth.
Written by Kami Gilmour, author of a best-selling devotional book for parents of college students (Release My Grip), and mom of five teen and young adult kids (releasing her grip on her son at college drop-off day in the photo.)