He stood, leaning on a shovel, taking a break from digging out tree roots in my neighbor’s yard. He was on one side of the split-rail fence. I was on the other. He looked past my shoulder, watching the chickens scratch and peck.
He said, “I like your chickens. Your home. It is like my country. It is like my home in Mexico.”
He’d been in our home for days. He and his team. Drilling holes. Snaking pipes behind plaster walls. Jonathan told me later what he said as they stood, talking, out in the yard.
He said, “Your home is so peaceful. It reminds me of my country. It reminds me of Vietnam.”
I doubt that a red-brick farmhouse in Pennsylvania looks like Mexico. It seems unlikely to me that it looks anything like Vietnam. But there is something about this house on a hilltop. This old house with its gardens and chickens and songbirds. Something about it whispers Peace. Something about it sings Home.
Most miraculous of all, to me at least, is that the whispers are louder than the noise of my four children (or my own responses to those children). Louder than brothers fighting or toddlers tantrum-ing.
Whispers so loud, so insistent, they make grown men pause. And remember.
And dream of home.
As long as Jonathan and I have been making homes together (whether a tiny apartment, a city high rise, a suburban split-level, or a century-old farmhouse) visitors have said the same thing:
Your home is so peaceful.
I have heard those words with gratitude but also with detachment. Because surely that peace had nothing to do with me? It wasn’t something I created or controlled.
It was a gift. Always and only a gift.
Peace is not merely the absence of conflict or violence. It is a presence. It is a place.
It has a prince.
It is a gift. But like so many good gifts, it can also be cultivated. Like soil.
We can slap down some concrete and rid ourselves of all that bothersome dust. Or we can grow tomatoes. Or flowers. We can sow peace. We can water it. We can watch it flourish.
Like gardening, it is hard work. It is a daily discipline.
How do we cultivate peace? In our hearts, our homes, our communities?
I think we begin by making room for it.
So many of us, myself included, live with too much. Too much in our closets and too much in our day planners. We see an empty shelf, and we fill it. We stumble on an empty moment, and we pounce on our to-do list. We feel some hunger and we rush … to the pantry, to the television, to the computer.
And then we wonder why our lives, why our world, is saturated with conflict and worry. Loneliness and hurry.
Peace begins with simplicity. Is simplicity the soil, the water, the sun? I don’t know. My understanding is limited, my metaphor possibly faulty. I don’t yet fully grasp the relationship between the two, but they are related.
I think they may be more deeply related than I have ever known.
I used to think that simplicity was a lifestyle choice. I am beginning to think it is the only way to follow Jesus.
Simplicity is the way of the child. The way of a rich young ruler who says yes and gives everything away. Simplicity just may be the door to the kingdom of God.
I have in mind a series of posts. Not because I have learned “Ten Lessons” or “Five Secrets.” It is only that I am noticing patterns in my past. Patterns that suggest it is possible to practice simplicity and cultivate peace with more deliberateness and passion.
And I want to talk about that here. With you.
I am more than a little bit afraid. Afraid of the price I must pay to walk this way. Afraid of sounding preachy if I talk about it.
But I am also hopeful. Excited, even. Simplicity is as heavy as a cross on my shoulder. But the kingdom of Jesus, the kingdom of the prince of peace, is an upside-down kingdom. And that heavy burden?
It is the light yoke, the easy burden of freedom.
Love this, Christie. “Peace begins with simplicity…Simplicity just may be the door to the kingdom of God.” Looking forward to reading the words God places on your heart. In Christ, we are free. xox
Thank you, Veronica! So glad to have you along on this journey.
Oh my, I am craving this like a tall glass of water on a hot day. Can’t wait to read along.
Oh, yes, Laura, that’s exactly how I feel. So glad to have you reading along.
I’m leading a bible study on 7 by Jen Hatmaker & this is perfect for our group. Simplicity leaves space for God to speak. Thank you for sharing this!
Heather, I’m familiar with the book but have never read it. I’ll add it to the list I’m compiling. Thank you!
I’m hooked. I look forward to your wisdom.
And I look forward to the quietness and simplicity of returning home tomorrow after 5 weeks with our youngest 3 GRANDS.
How close to CHOP, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, are you?
Thank you, Sue! I’ve just sent you an email …
We often get similar comments about our home, but beyond the concrete space, I believe the comments point, as you say, to presence. Whenever I think too hard about simplicity, it turns into a brier patch where I’m snagged by one thought or another – too many questions and a need to produce hard and fast rules. Simplicity is often not simple, it is hard work and focus and, in our culture, a constant winnowing.
So true, Kelly. I have felt the same. Simplicity, despite what I have often assumed, is not easy and is not even, really, simple.
Just last night my sister and I were talking about the “upside-down” kingdom! I love it.
Yes, please. Such a series is gift to us all.
When I met you last fall at Allume, I sensed a very real peaceful spirit in you. It made me want to talk to you all the live long day (lucky for you that wasn’t possible). Because of who you are and because of the home you’ve created, I would love to read further thoughts on the relationship between peace and simplicity from you.
Much love, Christie!
Thank you, Kristen. Such kind, encouraging words. So glad to know you’ll be reading along.
I’m looking forward to this series!
I’ve always loved Ps. 34:14: “Seek peace and pursue it.”
I love that, Danielle! I’m going to claim that as my verse for the summer.
Blessed are those who make peace. Looking forward to this series.
Thank you, Constance!
We get the same response from people when they come to our place. My internal reaction has been the same as yours, as though it doesn’t really have anything to do with us. Your words illuminate the fruit of the hard choices and helped me put two and two together and come up with encouragement and motivation to keep walking a slightly different road, even though it’s definitely not simple and sometimes even lonely. Thanks for that.
Longing for peace and simplicity! Glad to have found you through Ann Voskamp. We live in Lancaster, PA. Love the farm country!
We are practically neighbors! So glad to have you here, Wanda. Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Christie, I think all of us are longing for the kind of peace and rest you describe. A home that hides us from the clamor of too busy lives. Please please do write the series as you learn! Let us discover with you, those secrets to entering in.