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Peace Be With You

story by Laurie Grathen

Here in Southwest Florida it’s getting to be that time of the year when the temperature drops about 10 degrees to perfect, and there’s a light breeze blowing off the gulf. The water is still warm enough to swim without artificial heat and it’s just purely amazing to be outside most of the day.

I’ve been spending a lot of time out on the lanai since the pool cage was reconstructed. During the year it was down I was outside a lot too, but without the protection of the cage, which is really just a screen enclosure, the bugs are bothersome. And the critters in Florida have easy access to areas around the outdoor living area of our home in places I don’t want them to be. It’s kind of weird, but I felt exposed without the cage, and completely protected with it.

One morning last week I went outside as soon as I woke up. I’m one of those folks who wake slowly and have to ease into the day. I haven’t always been like that, but retirement changes you. Waking up slowly is a luxury being retired affords and whenever I can, I take advantage of as much luxury as I can gather round me.

As I eased awake, I became conscious that morning of how peaceful the neighborhood is. It wasn’t particularly early, and it was a week day. My mind wandered to how different that morning felt compared to most of the last year. All of the houses within sight were done with hurricane repairs. There was no construction or maintenance noise. Everything looked…. normal. Between moving and getting settled two years ago, and Hurricane Ian a year ago, I realized how long it’s been since life seemed normal to me.

Being retired and a writer causes me to think more deeply about things than most people ever stop to take the time to do. Last week, when I wrote about what matters most, it wasn’t until I was almost ready to publish my post that I understood how to put into just a few words what the point of my post was. Quite simply, what matters most is to help someone feel loved every day. You can read that post here.

I enjoyed the solitude and leisure that morning, but as I thought more deeply about it, I grasped that what I was feeling was complete and utter peace.

That understanding brought to mind how often, in the Bible, the word peace occurs. In the King James Version, peace appears in 420 verses. Of course, there are several ways the word peace is used biblically, just as there are several ways we use the word peace in the English language. I was only interested in when peace is used to indicate inner calm. In the New Testament Paul often opened or closed his letters with “Grace and peace be with you.” Jesus said, “My peace I give to you.”

The peace in these verses denotes inner calm, a freedom from anxiety and discontent. Peace for me includes an overwhelming bubbling up in my spirit of gratitude and appreciation for what I have, physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, every day of my life. That is exactly what I was feeling that morning…a peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

Many people don’t ever experience that kind of inner peace because they don’t allow themselves to, or they don’t take the time to savor it. It’s so easy to worry. Modern main stream media seems to keep us in a constant state of fear. I call it fear porn. We’re programmed, even encouraged, to worry about everything. And anything. Years ago I turned off the television and the news. I keep up with what’s going on in the world but seek out information from sources that simply report facts without telling me how to feel.

Most of the things we worry about are things over which we have absolutely no control. Worrying about them is silly and, as the bible say, don’t add a single hour to your life. In fact, the bible has quite a bit to say against worrying.

To be clear, thinking about things and preparing for worst case scenarios isn’t the same as worrying. If we’re going to have nuclear war, I’m running toward the mushroom cloud. Who the heck wants to live in the aftermath of how we’ve been taught to envision a post-nuclear world? Cancer, yup. I’ve had cancer (after all cancer is nothing but cells gone rogue, some say everyone’s got them) but I dealt with it, did my own research, made my own decisions and am cancer free today. IF (big IF) it returns, I’ll deal with that when it happens. Crazy people intent on harming others? I live in a constitutional carry state and take full advantage of that right. I might be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but there’s no way to predict that. A Burmese python crosses the road in front of me on a walk through the neighborhood? Well, hell, that will scare the spit out of me, but I’m not going to quit walking or spend any time actually worrying about that.

There’s no victim anywhere in my mentality.

I know I’m going to die sometime. We all face that same fate. Worrying about dying will ruin the life you live every day. I know I’m going to walk through some difficult things in life, and that the world could explode and burn around me at any moment. Up until then, I choose to live fully and cultivate peace that passes all understanding.

I thank God for my understanding of the abundant inner peace I am blessed with. And for the joy I experience when I stop to consciously savor that peace and tranquility.

Grace and peace be with you!

P.S. There’s not going to be a nuclear war no matter what you’re hearing.

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