It is a brand new year and a brand new start for a more peaceful life! To get this year kicked off right, Peace Project 365 recently sat down and asked me some questions about gaining and maintaining inner peace.
PP365: How did you find and maintain inner peacefulness while everything around you is/was causing chaos or just stressfully busy?
Melissa: Several years ago, I found myself in a position where something had to give. My marriage was strong and we were blessed with two great kids, but I was physically exhausted and in pain. My doctor ordered 2-3 months of therapy and bed rest. I realized that for too long I had ignored the personal cost of always saying yes, keeping up and being available for everyone in my faith community that needed something. I had been looking for self worth from the approval and validation of others.
The recovery period was like God telling me, “Enough!” Opening my Bible for the first time in a long while, I began to explore God’s great love for me and his joy about me as his daughter. The bed rest effectively truncated my schedule, and when I felt well again, I found I no longer needed to resume that pace. My priorities had been reordered: Take care of myself, look after the needs of my beautiful family, and then do what feels joyful for others with whom I have a real relationship.
My husband was truly amazing through this season in my life and God was working on each of us simultaneously. We both felt ready to move out of the Midwest and live somewhere that our family would appreciate more. To accomplish this, we really had to simplify.
PP365: What do you mean by simplifying?
Melissa: Well our schedule had been simplified. Next, we had to eradicate debt. For a year, we cut back on unnecessary spending. This led to a lot of creative event planning, doing inexpensive things together and I truly enjoyed it.
Additionally, I spent that year sorting all our possessions, because a moving company would charge per pound to relocate our household. I examined my relationship with things. It’s all inventory that has to be cared for and managed. For example, I love antique keys and blue mason jars, but do I have to have 30 of each in order to enjoy them? I decided to keep only what was beautiful or useful. My son and daughter were enthusiastic helpers and weighed in on what should stay and go. I was able to turn a small profit here and there, or bless others in need.
PP365: Why did you choose those things? A lot of people would have added things instead of taking away. Like more church, bible study or yoga or something. Why did you subtract these things specifically?
Melissa: Well, keeping things in your house that are beautiful and useful is a good principle to apply when it comes to keeping commitments in your calendar. My last faith community was rather large and needed a lot of volunteers and money to keep it afloat. I spent a very long season helping, and even grew from the opportunities. But I believe when something is no longer joyful to you, it’s a good time to examine if maybe God doesn’t have a new direction for you to pursue.
I love being in church, worshiping with other sincere friends and hearing someone speak from their heart. However, every social event, be it church or work related or whatever, takes not just my time but also physical and emotional energy. I realized that in order to live well, I had to guard that energy and be honest with myself and my family before I was depleted. God didn’t make me a robot; he made me a daughter and blessed me with a family. I must manage my needs in order to savor this gift like I was meant to.
PP365: So you simplified possessions, schedule and financial commitments. What does that look like for you? Was it hard to adjust?
Melissa: At first, I felt like if I wasn’t busy, I must be doing something wrong. Not being busy gives an analytical person like me too much time to think. There’s an excellent book I found, Addicted to Busy by Brady Boyd. When I questioned my new mode of operation, this book helped me gather not only sanity but courage. Surprisingly, I began to truly connect with many other women in the same boat. They were withdrawing from busy in order to live fully present. We built deeper, more vulnerable and authentic, friendships with one another. It reminded me why I chose mindfulness over busyness.
The financial part wasn’t too bad. Not constantly looking for ways to spend gives me more time to enjoy what I have. Not being willing to constantly pay for events and classes give me and my family necessary downtime together. We love being outdoors, especially now that we live in the mild climate and high hills of Nashville. This is the most restorative way to spend time, in my opinion. Creation is like God’s idea of therapy.
And possessions? You’d be surprised what you don’t miss! I used to be weighted down by a large inventory of things. Now, it’s freeing. I liked giving things away. I truly enjoy hunting for a deal when we need something, and I still like window shopping. Nonetheless, my definition of need is permanently altered. I also enjoy knowing what and where things are in my new house, and not having to spend frequent time cleaning and organizing it all. For me, simplicity increases happiness.
PP365: Travel, especially with kids, can be intense. But you do it a lot, right? How does that happen and you all stay happy together AND get all your school and work done?
Melissa: Well, our first big trip together was Hawaii with my wonderful in-laws when Adrienne was 1. We loved it immensely and started using it as our yearly family getaway to plan and dream for the following year of life together. We knew early on that traveling often was going to be a big part of our family life. Having just two kids, home educating them and being self employed made this a realistic dream. We wanted to create as many shared experiences together as we could and really pour our heart and soul into being a family. We didn’t really pick up the travel pace though until the kids were 6 and 10, which made it easier.
Living in Tennessee puts my family closer to the places we love. (I’ll give you a hint, they all have beaches.) We can typically drive about 8 hours a day without going crazy. Maybe… Actually, some of the best memories have been after too many hours when we go loopy and laugh hysterically about the absolute dumbest things.
We have extra time for conversation and truly value one another’s company. We share our favorite music albums, watch BBC documentaries and absolutely stop at all the oddball roadside things we can find. America’s biggest pie? You betcha! Superman statue, giant crater, and wild west film set? Check, check, check.
I primarily select consumable text books because they are easier to pack. The kids work hard when we are at home. When we hit the road, they can take it easy or just bring a few things along. Plus, we seek out educational things to do. (For example, all the science museums or zoos give reciprocal membership benefits.) Each of the kids has a tablet and they use it every other hour in the car for reading or gaming.
My husband is a sound technician in a band where all the families travel together. Sometimes this means we are in a new city and I am on my own with the kids and the car. I make a game of it, like I am captain of the adventure ship. Traveling is a special opportunity to explore the world with them. The way I do travel mostly ends up feeling restorative, believe it or not. I try my hardest to live what I love, never be bored and capture moments with the family God graced me with.
Practical – laminated packing list, less clothes and BYO laundry soap, keep an extra basket of family toiletries packed. Sturdy collapsible cooler bag, use a hotel deal site for discounts and to earn free nights.
PP365: What is something you do daily that centers you?
Melissa: Great question, because you don’t just find inner peace and it perpetuates itself forever, right? I make a point to wake up at 6:30 and I don’t use an alarm clock. I rely on my body’s sleep rhythm. My family has breakfast together at 8 so that gives me enough time to shower, do yoga, read my Bible, etc. in the quiet stillness of the dawn. I am a morning person, but this is an essential starter. I find I need a rejuvenation period in the late afternoon, anything quiet- take a walk, read a book, enjoy a mug of hot tea.
Some days one or both of these is impossible, like when we travel. (I would love to have a motor home for this reason.) In that event, I focus on what makes me happy- having a beautiful house to clean, listening to my kids’ stories, texting my best friends. Recently I had day that took all my courage to get through. Focusing on loving my family well, caring for myself physically and reaching out to a friend for help really pulled me through. The next day was easier and I had no regrets about the way I handled myself.
Thank you so much to Trisha and the Peace Project 365 team! This was a great opportunity to be introspective and thankful, as my family and I head into 2017. Make sure to check out PeaceProject365.com and follow them on Facebook for updates.