The stress was getting to me. Almost a year earlier, I had agreed to work at a weekend retreat for teenage girls, and somehow that year hadn’t been enough time to get myself ready. I was overwhelmed by the realization that the list of things to get done before I left kept getting longer, while the hours remaining before my departure were quickly slipping away. At best, it left me questioning my decision to commit to the event. At worst, it tempted me to question my effectiveness in my primary roles of wife, mother, and pastor.

I finished packing up my van and drove out to the camp hosting the retreat. Once I arrived, I swapped stories with a few other people who were experiencing similar feelings as they left their homes to serve alongside me. We shared our concerns about things at home left undone, work that would undoubtedly get behind schedule, and family commitments that we would have to miss while we were away.

But then the conversation turned to why we wanted to be at the retreat, and why we had said yes in the first place even though it required sacrifice. As we settled into what would be our community for the next three days, we talked about the confidence we had that God was going to be at work in the hearts and lives of people. And as I stood in that circle, I was able to let go of the negative feelings I had about the things I had left behind, and I became aware that I was completely at peace about my decision to commit to this experience.

Too often, I reject God’s offering of peace without even realizing I’ve done it. I tell myself that His peace is only present if things around me are tidy, and if my feelings are unruffled. I forget to remember that God’s peace is available to me even while I stand in whatever storm I currently find myself in. Through grief, uncertainty, fatigue, disappointment, or any other negative emotion that threatens to pull me under, God’s peace is still present and it is still available to me.

The weekend was spectacular. Oh, it was challenging at times because the schedule was kind of brutal for an old lady (compared to teenagers), and the things kids deal with are heartbreaking at times. But it was still a glorious experience as I, to the best of my abilities, used my witness and testimony to point others to Jesus. I got a front-row seat to the evidence of God’s grace as I watched joy radiate from young faces who were experiencing the love of Jesus Christ in a real and personal way.

Then I came back home to a mess. Not my house, because my husband is awesome, and he worked on some laundry and made our boys pick up before I got home. But there was still mess in my mind because there was mail to check, and email inboxes to work through, and homework papers to sign, and stories to hear about things I’d missed. And again, I felt a bit overwhelmed.

But I took a deep breath, reminded myself that I had a choice, and exhaled my need to rush around trying to make everything around me perfect again. Instead, I visited with my boys and heard about their weekends. I went to dinner with my husband and talked about my experiences. Then I came home, washed my face, changed into pajamas, and crawled into bed. I was completely at peace with my decision to have been gone those days. As I drifted off to sleep, I reminded myself that everything would get taken care of and put back into place before too long. I relaxed into the peace that is mine to claim as a cherished child of God.

Peace.

This post is chapter 3/7 of The Ways God Speaks To Us.