The morning sun was pouring through the tree tops its rays leaving a golden mist above the pasture where calves and chickens grazed contentedly when I stepped out porch into the cool air this morning. All was quiet and the crisp autumn air reminded me that cooler days are not far away. My ash tree is always the first to greet the changing season and the bright red leaves glistened in the morning sun. What a beautiful autumn morning and while they may not be uncommon, I don’t often take the time to pause for a moment and simply enjoy the beauty of the season.
I wrap my hands around a mug of hot coffee and take a deep breath exhaling slowly in an effort to force my body to relax and my mind to slow down and stop fretting over things I need to do, things I cannot do, things I need to change, and things I cannot change. Amidst the whirl of worries running through my thoughts, the Serenity Prayer that once hung on the wall at my parents’ home suddenly surfaces. I whisper it aloud, surprised that I could still remember the words,
“Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I look around at the beauty of this autumn morning and I see serenity set there before me…a visual picture of nature at peace and harmony with itself. If I could see inside my heart, I know the picture inside would look very different from the picture I see outside…a mind jumbled with worries regarding work and finances, spinning with concerns for children, and frustrated by the endless tasks that seem to fill my days and overflow into my nights.
A dear friend once gave me a book by Elisabeth Elliott titled Keep a Quiet Heart. It is a collection of short articles written by Elisabeth Elliot and complied over several years. The central theme of the articles is learning to know God and having a deeper, more restful walk with Him, but just the title alone speaks volumes to my heart….’Keep A Quiet Heart’, and I think about that this morning and wonder… how? How do I keep my heart quiet amidst the chaos that seems to echo in and around me?
I think about my morning. By the time the sun is peaking over the horizon, I have been up three and a half hours, rising in the dark and doing barn chores with my son before my nephews even awake, then washing milk pails and calf bottles after waking boys. There were lunches to help prepare and breakfast to fix and boys to shuffle to school. After three trips to the school because eighth-grade athletics has boys arriving long before sunup and early band starts forty-five minutes later and someone forgot something and so I make one more trip, I come home and strip beds and dump sheets in the laundry.
Then as I headed back to the kitchen to finish breakfast dishes, I caught a glimpse of the morning sun just peaking above the horizon and for a moment I paused to notice the beauty of the day and decided I would take just a moment to step out and enjoy a quick breakfast on the porch. As I put toast in the toaster, I noticed the sausage on the cabinet and decided to cook it up for sausage/egg burritos tomorrow. And while the sausage was cooking I put a load of sheets in the dryer. I finally finished the sausage, buttered my toast, and poured myself a cup of coffee, but before I headed out, I gathered up the kitchen trash and attempted to carry my coffee, a piece of toast, and the kitchen trash as I headed out the door. All the while, my mind was in a flurry jumping to the next thing that I feel just has to be done and wondering how I could have got all these things done if I was working and at the same time wondering how I’m going to pay all the bills if I don’t have more work and how am I ever going to write if I don’t even have time to think.
Then I stopped, gazed upon the morning and I was instantly reminded of all the abundance for which I have to be thankful. I reminded myself to be thankful for the moment…this day…a morning to be home and enjoy the quiet stillness. In that moment I was reminded that a grateful heart is a joyful heart. And as I stood there still for a moment, a little book which I read many years ago titled The Practice of the Presence of God written by Brother Lawrence came to mind. In a collection of letters, Brother Lawrence states that his time in the kitchen became just as precious to him as his time on his knees in prayer. While this morning it took stopping for a moment for my heart to refocus my thoughts, I thought if Brother Lawrence could find his time in the kitchen to be just as much a ‘practice in the presence of God’ as his time in prayer shouldn’t I be able to do the same?
And how could I so quickly forget those powerful passages from the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew that I read every day for a month just last year…particularly verse 33 and 34, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness: and all these things will be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. ” Matthew 6:33-34.
I suddenly realized it is not the chaos around me that has robbed me of peace, it is the noise inside. Yes, it took stopping this morning to still my heart, but I know I don’t always have to stop amidst the bedlam and commotion of a busy life to keep a quiet mind; I have only to keep my mind set on my Lord…His kingdom…His righteousness. When my heart is set on Him there is peace in the midst of chaos. In the noise of a busy life my heart can remain quiet…a place of peace, contentment …and serenity.