Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace:
Chaos on a schedule

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the Sept. 14, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Cronk Farrell “Are you glad the kids are back school?” a friend asks.

“Yes,” I answered. “At least now the chaos is on a schedule.” I sigh. Is it inevitable that family life feels like chaos?

Over the years, my husband and I have continually tried to simplify and slow down. We’ve cut back on our commitments and our kids’ activities. We’ve set aside days of relaxation, and planned down time together as a family. Still, I often feel swept along on a barely controlled current of places to go and things to do. Where is the peace promised to us in Philippians, “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding”?

As a young mother, I thought that I could bring peace to my family by arranging a routine centered on God, and taking care not to over schedule. Over the years, I have come to realize a family cannot be organized into tranquility. It is impossible to prevent the next interruption, unexpected hitch or unpredictable reaction. Parents need a way to calmly rest within the commotion. Somehow, the peace of Christ must be found within the midst of the chaos.


That’s an age-old question no one seems to have answered with three easy steps. But we must not let that stop us from trying. Peace is as near to us today as it has ever been to anyone.

I’m willing to throw out my three suggestions.

• Accept mystery.
We like to have everything nailed down: the carpool schedule, football practice, whose turn it is to clean the kitchen, how much money is in the checking account. We have information and answers instantly at our fingertips via the internet and cell phones. It’s true, life needs practical management, but faith requires leaving space for mystery. God’s hand in our lives is beyond our understanding. Surrendering to mystery opens us to allow peace to enter.

• Practice trust.
Yes, we’ve been hurt before. There’s a chance things will turn out badly. Trust doesn’t come like a package in the mail. We choose it. We gather our courage and make the first move. We do it over and over again. We decide not to dwell on the past, not to worry over the future, to forgive. We allow others to know our brokenness, our neediness. Peace comes when we know we need others and that they will be there for us in when we need them. 

• Commit to stillness, to prayer.
Find a quiet time in your day and find that still point within you, that place where Spirit resides. Spend time there, get comfortable, receive. Knowing that stillness can make it accessible throughout the day.

Persian mystic Jelaluddin Rumi, who lived in the mid-13th century, wrote of this mysterious presence of God this way:

I want to feel myself in you when you taste food, in the arc of your mallet when you work, when you visit friend, when you go up on the roof by yourself at night. There’s nothing worse than to walk out along the street without you.

The Spirit flows between our private and communal prayer. One does not thrive without the other. Pray with your family, and with your faith community.

If our faith is Good News it will transform the simple everyday muddles of our lives. Jesus came to liberate, not at the end of time, not when and if, we finally reach heaven, but now. “For behold, the kingdom of God is among you.” (Mk 1:15)

Yes, it’s a challenge to accept mystery when it’s time for school and your child is missing her backpack. It’s difficult to trust when your teenager gets his driver’s license. It seems impossible to find a quiet moment whether you have toddlers or teenagers.

Rumi has a poem for that, too:

If you can’t pray a real prayer, pray hypocritically, full of doubt and dry-mouthed. God accepts counterfeit money as though it were real.

Even in the worst chaos of family life, we can experience the peace of God’s presence.

© 2006, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and children’s writer. Her latest book, Celebrating Faith: Year-Round Activities for Catholic Families, has been published by St. Anthony Messenger Press. Contact her at

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