Peace: the Perfect Gift

By on December 1, 2011

By Nancie Carmichael –

A year ago before Christmas I wandered the shopping center, looking at sweaters… books…games. Gift-giving can be such a delight, but such a conundrum. Since “gift-giving” is one of my love languages, I have a thing about wanting to give my children, my husband the perfect gift. As I shopped (and exchanged some things I’d already bought in my quest for the perfect gift) it occurred to me that the gifts I really longed for my family to have were not things I could wrap and put under the tree. It would be confidence for one child; self-discipline for another; involvement in a good church for one son. Certainly I could encourage, or make suggestions. But the bottom line is that it was up to each of them to attain these things for themselves.

As I hurried to complete my shopping list, a question out of nowhere hit me: So what’s the real gift that you need? It almost seemed as if God was asking me what I wanted for Christmas. As I thought about it, I realized: How I need  peace! That deep, settled peace that only God can give. Maybe I felt I needed peace so much because the world seems chaotic, and my family is in flux, as everything is changing so fast. Besides, I was buying far too many sympathy cards for friends our own age who are losing their spouses as well as  their parents.

And I confess: I am a worrier. This is truly my growing edge with God, to let go of worries and rest in His peace. I can be creative; what I worry about depends on the day. Beneath my calm exterior is often a raging torrent of anxiety and worry which threatens to overwhelm me. And for some quirky reason—maybe because of my “mother” label—I do what I can to make sure everything comes out right for those I love the most. Something that is neither logical nor possible. Still, I try.

Two weeks before I started my Christmas shopping a few years ago, my husband Bill gave me a wonderful, surprising gift. He told me to save four days sandwiched between the holidays for he and I to celebrate my turning fifty. It would be a surprise. Was it ever!

When I was a little girl, our family was driving to our cabin on the other side of Glacier Park in Montana. It was late fall, and my parents liked to go to the cabin after the summer work was done. On the way, though, we encountered an early blizzard and the highway was closed. We were near an old lodge on the edge of Glacier Park called the Izaak Walton Inn so my father did the unthinkable: he splurged and booked two rooms for all of us—my parents, my grandmother and five of us children. We children were ecstatic, as we rarely stayed in a hotel. Being in this special place with its high ceilings, the massive stone fireplace, the cozy dining room with my family while the storm raged outside remains a special memory.

I’d heard the Inn had been restored and casually mentioned to Bill that someday I’d like to take him there. Bill decided my fiftieth birthday would be the “someday” and since Amtrak stopped in front of the Inn, for six months he  planned a surprise train trip home to Montana. By the time we got to the train station in Portland, I suspected that we were going to the Izaak Walton Inn—but to have my extended family and some life-time friends show up at the train station to go along with us was a shock. It was like a traveling “This is your life.” It took several hours to get the stunned look off my face.

Of course I accepted that gift—I just got on the train, not knowing for sure what was happening and immensely enjoyed the journey. I had done none of the work; none of the planning and organizing—Bill had done it all.

Almost a full year has passed now since I told God how much I needed His peace. Accepting His peace reminds me of that surprise train ride home, an unexpected time of sheer pleasure. Because I knew and trusted Bill, I just got on the train. And because I know and trust God, I must believe God wants to give me the best gifts—to surprise me with joy…to shelter me from the inevitable storms of this life with His peace. He Himself is our peace, Eph. 2:14 says.

A friend who has a serious brain tumor told me yesterday, “I don’t understand it, but I have a deep, unshakable peace.” My worries pale beside what my friend is facing, and I don’t understand how he has such peace. I only know that it is a gift that somehow he has accepted. It is possible to receive a gift from someone and leave it on a shelf somewhere, not bothering to unwrap the gift nor use it. God offers peace to all of us, but we must accept it by faith.

Life will always be full of uncertainty and ragged endings; of wondering how things will turn out. But as I cast my worries and cares on Him I enter His presence through praise and prayer, which is where I need to be anyway. What a great gift exchange—I give Him my worries; He gives me His peace!

I can get the on the “train” of His grace with everything that I am, everything I have, knowing He’s done all the work—He is my ticket to peace. I just need to enjoy the ride. So much is beyond on our control—but we can choose to trust Him, to accept His peace. Christ’s gift to us is Himself.  He is our perfect gift. I gratefully receive His perfect peace as I yield to Him my all and all that I hold dear.

  • Do you have peace now? If so, when have you not had peace? What factors contribute to your state of mind?
  • What factors in your life destroy your peace?
  • How can you make conscious choices to accept His peace?

            Let your goodness, Lord, appear to us, that we, made in your image, conform ourselves to it. In our own strength we cannot imitate your majesty, power and wonder; nor is it fitting for us to try. But your mercy reaches from the heavens, through the clouds, to the earth below. You have come to us as a small child, but you have brought us the greatest of all gifts, the gift of eternal love. Amen.

            –Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153 [1]

 

Nancie Carmichael is a speaker and author of several books, including, “Lord, Bless My Child” (with her husband, Bill) “Selah—Time to Stop, Think, and Step into Your Future” and “Surviving One Bad Year—Seven Spiritual Strategies to Lead You to a New Beginning”. Contact her at [email protected] and visit her website, www.nanciecarmichael.com


[1] The HarperCollins Book of Prayers; 1997; Castle Books; Edison, New Jersey; p. 64

Nancie Carmichael

About Nancie Carmichael

Nancie Carmichael and her husband Bill have been involved with the writing and publishing field for many years as they published Virtue Magazine and Christian Parenting Magazine. They now own a book publishing company, Deep River Books. Nancie and Bill have written several books together including: Lord, Bless My Child; and Seven Habits of a Healthy Home. Nancie has written: Your life, God’s Home; Desperate for God: How He Meet Us When We Pray; The Comforting Presence of God; Selah: Time to Stop, Think, and Step into your Future; and her latest book, Surviving One Bad Year—Seven Spiritual Strategies to Lead You to a New Beginning. Bill and Nancie make their home in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and are parents to five married children and grandparents to ten. Nancie received her Master’s of Spiritual Formation from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 2012, and in 2005, received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Western Baptist College. Website: nanciecarmichael.com

2 Comments

  1. Nancie carmichael

    December 4, 2011 at 10:43 am

    How I love the illustration for this piece. It looks exactly like the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex Montana where I had my memorable “50” birthday party. Makes me want to go back for a visit. Great snow-shoeing around the Inn.
    Peace be yours this Christmas…and always!

  2. Michele

    December 11, 2011 at 9:50 pm

    Nancie,
    Thank you for writing this article and sharing it. This is exactly where I am today, right down to the end of the first paragraph. I have been wrestling with finding this sense of peace for over a year. Just turning it over to God and just being at peace… knowing He will take care of things His way and in His time. I look forward to reading more from you and others as to how I can continue to grow my faith through accepting His grace and peace.

    Warmest Blessings to you.

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Peace: the Perfect Gift