Spread a Little Peace and Goodwill

The giggles of my youngest children tinkled through the living room like little sleigh bells. One of my older daughters at the piano added her sweet strains of Silver Bells to the mixture. The aroma of freshly baked sugar cookies enveloped the house. And in the growing dusk, the gentle glow of the lights on the tree wrapped the moment like a beautifully tied bow on a picture-perfect present.

Even though the wind rattled the window and the snow swirled in a blustery gale, in the warmth of the kitchen with a steaming mug of peppermint tea, my heart was at peace.

I’d spent part of the afternoon researching online. My plot for my next novel was coming together. And I was getting excited about the way the characters were revealing themselves to me. If I could continue to make steady progress with my research, I might be ready to start writing the first draft in January.

I folded both hands around my mug and slurped a hot sip. A glance at the clock in the corner of the laptop told me I still had at least an hour. A whole hour left to research. What could be a more pleasant way to spend a winter afternoon?

Suddenly, a box popped up on the screen in front of me. A glaring, red box. It read, “Your computer is compromised with a trojan. Begin anti-virus scan.”

My heart crashed to a halt. I stared at the word “Trojan” with dread. The nightmare of the last virus invasion darkened my thoughts. But then, calmly, with my heart sputtering back to life, I did what I’d been told to do. I refrained from panicking and clicking any of the pop-ups (which are usually the trojans trying to trick us into clicking and in the process downloading them into our harddrives). Instead, I shut down my laptop and prayed the problem would go away.

After a few minutes, I restarted my computer. I held my breath as I waited for the screen to reload.

"Oh, no," I whispered. The dreaded box was still there. I tried restarting my computer again. But it wouldn't go away. I attempted to activate my laptop's malware program to no avail. I tried to run an AVG scan. And that too failed.

The children's laughter in the living room grew obnoxious. The piano music was too fast and loud. The room turned as chilly as my forgotten tea. My insides rattled with the same unsettled tempest as the wind that thrashed the oncoming darkness of night.

Have you ever noticed how quickly we can loose our sense of peace? One moment it's there, and in the next it slips out of our grasp.

In the original Trojan Horse story of ancient Greece, the people of Troy brought a big wooden horse into the city as a gift to their god Athena. Little did they know that their long-time enemy, the Spartans, were hiding in the belly of the wooden horse. After darkness fell, the Spartan soldiers climbed out and conquered the unsuspecting Troy.

Just like the Trojan of ancient times and similar to the online viruses that infect our computers, the trojans of real life sneak in undected too. We don't see them coming, but suddenly they're there--irritating, frightening, and often destructive. A scary health diagnosis. An unexpected relationship problem. A sudden death in the family. An unwanted job loss.

Sometimes we can't stop an invasion. As hard as I tried, I couldn't stop the trojan from making it past all of the protection I'd loaded onto my laptop. And we often can't stop the bad things from happening in our personal lives either.

If you're like me, you may even say something like, "What kind of twisted person takes pleasure in hurting and causing problems for others? Who would do such a thing and why?" But, the fact is, evil exists. Thus, hardships and difficulties abound.

Maybe our goal shouldn't be so much about how we can avoid life's painful times (although I'm all for self-protection!). But when we try to avoid anything difficult, perhaps we miss out on the growth that can come while we're in the middle of the hardship.

When we can't escape those unavoidable trojans, when our own peace deserts us, one of the best ways to cope is to do good for others, to take the focus off ourselves and our problems. And even if we're not experiencing a trojan, during the times of peace, wouldn't we all be better off if we took a few minutes every day to do something good for someone else?

A kind word. A card of encouragement. A smile to a stranger. Taking a plate of cookies to a teacher. Shoveling the walkway for a neighbor. Sending a restaurant gift card to a new mom. Offering a critique to another writer.

Especially during the holidays, I challenge all of us to look for ways we can spread a little more peace and goodwill.

Merry Christmas, everyone! Peace and Goodwill to you!

P.S. This year my annual Christmas letter is online! You're invited to read it: Hedlund Happenings

(I will be taking a blogging break starting Friday, Dec. 24, but will be back bright and early on Monday, Jan. 3.)


  1. This post brings home a real important truth or truths. That God gives us hardships for two reasons: one is to strengthen us and make us grow tough, and the other is to make us humble; its then we realize what someone else is undergoing.

    Hope your computer problem goes away.

    Wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Jody.

  2. Oops... forgot to add that I always take things for granted; in my case hardships are God's way of making me value things, and feel compassionate towards others and show gratitude and humility which I tend to forget.

  3. Oh man, I SO feel you. When something happens to my laptop, I get incredibly stressed. Yesterday my McAfee kept turning itself off. I was sure I had a trojan or virus. I went to work and barely ate because I was so heavy with worry. Then I came home and before reloading my virus software, I ran their auto-check. It FIXED the software. I worried for nothing. *sigh*
    As for your trojan, did you get it off? What's worked for me in the past is hitting ctr-alt-delete and seeing what's running in your applications. Right click the thing that claims to be spyware software. Find where it's located, the file, and then delete or put that file in the recycle bin. Then you can download spybot or malware bytes for free and those usually catch a lot.
    But you probably already found all this out... :-) Have a beautiful, peaceful Christmas!

  4. This was exactly my thinking this weekend. About peace and how easily it can flee. Two things happened. My computer broke. My car wouldn't start. The normal Katie would freak out and spin into a frustrated tizzy. But I made myself step back. In a couple weeks, my car would be fixed and I'd either have a new computer or my old one would be fixed. The frustration would be forgotten, but the way I responded wouldn't. I'm always so disappointed in myself when I react poorly. I did some praying and some refocusing. Seriously. A car is a car. A computer is a computer. Money is money. We'll just make more. I'm so incredibly blessed and we have such an opportunity to shine for Christ when those annoying inconveniences pop into our lives. So I took a deep breath and chose joy and peace. Now the car's fixed and I have a new computer and I'm thankful God's sanctifying me each and every day.

  5. I love our message here, Jody! You are so right! We learn so much more from our mistakes and our challenges than from the times in our life where everything goes smoothly.

    I'm glad your hubby was able to help you with the trojan! Those are no fun at all!

  6. I completely agree that we grow more in times of turmoil. On the mountain tops, nothing grows. But the fertile (albeit turbulent) valley is where it's the most lush. Ironic, isn't it?

    This post really hits home for me, Jody, as I'm dealing with computer issues right now (Ugh!). Thank GOD for my hubby, who has backed up all my files while we begin the search for a new laptop. But in the midst of it all, I refuse to relinquish my peace! And I WILL be a blessing to others. :)

  7. Beautiful message, Jody. Satan wants to steal away our joy and peace, and so often succeeds. It's when we take the time to rest in Him that our peace returns, wrapping us up in His love. Merry Christmas!

  8. Such a touching reminder to be there for others. (and a reminder to back-up my files)

  9. Doing good for others definitely brings us peace, thanks for the message, and Merry Christmas.

  10. Good morning, everyone!! Thank you for the Christmas wishes!

    And, for those who were wondering, we were able to beat the trojan and come out victorious. It took hours (because it was a nasty one!), but with some help and perseverance we got it off the computer. I do suggest every writer have a back-up. Fortunately I had (have) Carbonite, which automatically backs up everything without me having do it. I love the peace of mind that comes from it. The trojan is still horrible, but at least I knew I could recover everything if I needed to.

  11. Jodi, this is so true! I can identify. Right before sending my manuscript in to a contest, I found an embedded watermark. I had no idea how it got there and after going through several computer gurus and google searches for help, all I could do was take my printed version and retype the entire thing in less than a week before deadline. My peace went from still waters to raging storms, but it was in those few days that God taught me valuable lessons! Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  12. Life is such a bipolar rollercoaster some days! Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  13. Many blessings to you and your family this Christmas and in the new year!!!

  14. Oh no! I hope your computer is all right! It is sad that someone would do such a thing just for spite's sake. I love your attitude though. The best way to defeat that is to spread cheer! Happy holidays!

  15. *shivering*

    I've had too many computer problems this year. I'm so sorry you had this happen--and right when the sugar cookies were baking and the peppermint tea brewed!

    Have a very Merry Christmas!

  16. Phew! I see in the comments that you were able to oust the Trojan. I feel for you, though. Computer troubles can be scary. I'm glad you've got an off-site backup in place. I do, and that gives me peace of mind.

    I enjoyed the first online issue of Hedlund Happenings. What fun to see all the wonderful times your family shared this year. Of course, my favorite pictures are those relating to your release. What a year 2010 has been for you with your debut novel hitting the shelves and making the CBA fiction bestseller's list.

    I wish you and your family a blessed celebration of Christmas.

  17. I'm so, so sorry about your computer. I can only imagine how horrifying that was.

    One of my mantras is "It can always be worse." If I'm having an especially bad day, I think about the mother watching her child receive chemo treatments. Or the family of a soldier who was lost in battle. My problems are minimal, and I'm thankful for the blessings.

    Merry Christmas, Jody. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday.

  18. Jody, you had me in the beauty of your peaceful scene, and you ripped me from it just as skillfully. You are such a powerful writer!

    I'm so sorry to hear about your laptop. I hope it can be fixed. Have a wonderful peace-filled, trojan free, Christmas! :-)

  19. Oh noooo! So what's the end of the story? Did you have to start the computer in safe mode and run your malware program? Did you get the Trojan off there some other way? Ugh, I hate those things. You'd think someone could spend better use of their intelligence than to be malicious to other people.

    Your opening paragraphs were lovely!

  20. That's a very good message, Jody.

    It's true that serving others is the quickest and best way to refocus when bad things happen.

    I'm sorry about your computer. I hope it was not total devastation!

  21. Happy Holidays and thanks for being so groovy!

  22. Merry Christmas Jody - hugs and more hugs and have a blessed Christmas

  23. Great analogy! Yes, those trojans of life have a way of sneaking in and wreaking havoc. I am so thankful that God blesses me with calmness and clarity during those times.

    Merry Christmas, Jody!

  24. Nothing spoils a day like a computer problem. But I am glad you could fix it.

    Thank you once again for all the wonderful posts you have written this year. And thank you for the comment on my blog.

    Have a Merry Christmas and a wonderfully prosperous New Year.

  25. Jody, you left me hanging, so I'm so glad to have read the results in the comments box! I have Carbonite too, thanks to my mom-in-law who nudged me to that.

    I do hope that lovely depiction of peace that began your post can reign through much of the next couple days. Thinking of you and yours!


  26. That is the kind of awful thing I always worry about, not being a techie wise computer gal. I'm always hyper vigilant about runny scans, etc. But I liked so much your attitude. It is so true. Bad things happen that you can't prevent even when you are mindful. So it's good to be reminded about what the truly important things are in life, and how one should face difficulties. Thanks for a truly valuable post!

  27. I try hard to remember this, but sometimes I fail and have a pity party for myself:( But I agree if we can look outside ourselves and focus on someone else and their needs it always helps. When I dwell on the bad it leaves me feeling empty,but when we help others it fills us up:)

  28. Just wanted you to know, Jody, that I ordered a copy of Preacher's Bride today. I planned to do it much sooner, but I was distracted (tsk). Now it is done and I look forward to reading it. Thank you for all the hard work that goes into writing a novel. Blessings to you...

  29. This is one of my favorite posts, Jody. I love the connections you've made here, and the way you've offered a way to be with bad things that cannot be avoided. I hope your computer is okay and that you had a wonderful and blessed holiday season.

  30. Totally as an aside: Might I suggest that anyone who isn't tech-savvy should get a Mac. I've been a user since 1984, have never had a component failure (I often keep my computers for five years), and never had a virus or trojan horse. I don't even run virus scanning programs.

    It's just a far more secure operating system.

  31. Peace to you in 2011. Your words are your generosity.

  32. I took your book out of my library on Thursday night and just finished it today!
    I loved it!
    I could not put it down!
    I look forward to reading your next book!

  33. Hi chattymommy!

    Thank you so much for reading my book and letting me know how much you liked it. I appreciate that so much! I just love hearing that readers can't put my book down! It's music to a writer's ear! I hope you'll enjoy the next book too!


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