An Eve to Enjoy!

From heaven the Lord looks
and sees us all.

Psalm 33:13

Though I retired from my teaching career some time ago, I can’t help anticipating holiday breaks with a smile. Whether it is a one-day hiatus such as Veteran’s Day or a days-long winter or spring break, I enjoy these departures from the norm. When I worked full-time, my husband, our sons and I filled these recesses from school with everything that our school schedules prevented. We played in the snow and then went to the movies to retreat from the cold. Enjoying new toys and other Christmas gifts added to the fun. We went to bed a little later and slept in a little longer with great relish. Today, I admit to partaking of these pleasures with special joy in spite of the fact that I have the option of doing so almost every day. Somehow, sleeping in and setting aside my to-do list bring the greatest pleasure during the days between Christmas and New Year’s. A welcome side-effect is the leisurely tone with which I pray during this time. There’s no rush involved in these conversations with God. Yes, leisure time is a beautiful thing!

This New Year’s Eve, our sons and their wives and children are making the most of this break from their jobs and school. I smile broadly as I acknowledge that this particular family tradition is not lost on the younger generation. They learned well to appreciate this special time to relax and enjoy one another. Appropriately, they are teaching their children the same.

Loving God, be with us as we make the time today and throughout the coming year to enjoy ourselves, one another and you.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

My Resolutions

I am a voice in the desert, crying out:
Make straight the way of the Lord!

John 1:23

Though I’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past, I most often avoid this opportunity. It has seemed a little foolhardy to allow the calendar to dictate meaningful change in my life. Still, I’ve decided to do so this year.

Before actually committing myself, I’ve taken time to reflect. This exercise in introspection included a leisurely afternoon during which I reread all of the Christmas cards and letters we received this year. Each one brought a measure of glad tidings and re-acquainted me with friends near and far. Halfway through, I came across an unusually beautiful card. It features the unexpected image of John the Baptist. Subtle silhouettes of both a crèche and cross are etched into the background. The verse from John’s gospel cited above is printed on the inside cover. I couldn’t help thinking that this particular card truly proclaimed the message of Christmas.

After reading the remainder of our Christmas mail, I considered my resolution. It occurred to me that I should attend to both body and spirit in my efforts. So it is that I’m taking John the Baptist’s lead on both counts. I’ll keep my body healthy by resuming my once chiseled-in-stone walking schedule. I’ll keep my spirit healthy by sticking to my message as John did. I’ll tend to my words and my actions by writing the truth as I know it and by living accordingly as best I can. In both cases, I must proceed with absolute love. I think John tried to do that, too.

Loving God, today and always, help me to use my body and my spirit to care for those you have given me to love.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Blessed

The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream
and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother,
flee to Egypt and stay there until I tell you.”

Matthew 2:13

For decades and decades, my family has gathered to continue our Christmas festivities on New Year’s Day. My dad’s Canadian family lovingly preserved this traditional gathering which always includes a blessing. At the appointed time, we gather before our eldest family member to request his or her intercession. He or she responds by asking God’s gifts of happiness, health and prosperity for those present and for all of our loved ones during the coming year.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve experienced a sense of peace while kneeling in the company of my extended and extensive family. Each time, I cannot help feeling protected somehow regardless of what life has in store for the next three hundred and sixty-four days. This was especially important to me the year my dad passed away and for many years thereafter. Perhaps this is the reason I was careful to help my own sons to feel safe. Perhaps this is the reason I hold my grandchildren so close. Perhaps this is the reason I’m compelled to remind all who will listen that God is always nearby, around us and within us to keep us safe along the way.

Dear God, even Jesus had reason to fear from very early on in his life. Still, Mary and Joseph remained steadfast in their loving care for him. Help us to treasure and nurture one another with equal devotion. Help us always to remember that you are at our sides in everything.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Indescriminate Grace

The child grew in size and strength,
filled with wisdom,
and the grace of God was upon him.

Luke 2:40

As 2016 eases into its final days, I prepare to hang my 2017 Calendar. In the process, I wonder aloud what the coming year will bring. As I flip back through this year’s calendar, I give thanks for the many blessings which have come my way. Even the trauma and tragedy which touched a day here and a week there were accompanied by unexpected blessings. I’m impelled to acknowledge these past gifts and the ever-present love which surrounds me.

That love encourages an inner calm which I really cannot explain. I find myself engulfed by goodness. When life is trying, this invisible shield keeps me focused on the things to come. I consider Jesus who Luke tells us grew in strength and wisdom and had God’s grace upon him. Though I sometimes question my own strength and wisdom, I do feel the grace of God upon me and around me as well. Jesus himself has convinced me that this impression is accurate. His lessons regarding God’s love assure me in every circumstance that my loved ones and I will be fine in the end. Indeed, as Jesus tells it, God’s grace is upon us all.

Good and Gracious God, thank you for your presence among us. Your love enhances the best and worst of our days. It enriches our best efforts and softens our failures. You draw goodness even from our imperfections. In truth, your grace really is upon us all.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Daddy’s Gift

Here, then, is the message we have heard from him
and announce to you: that God is light; in him there is no darkness.

1 John 1:5

On the third day of Christmas, I always think of my dad. Today is his birthday and I hope he is celebrating with great gusto. My dad passed away many years ago at age 39. He has celebrated far more birthdays in the afterlife than he celebrated here.

When I was a little girl, the date of my dad’s birthday troubled me a bit. I thought that my dad was shortchanged. I asked him if he minded that his birthday fell two days after Christmas. Good man that he is, Daddy replied that this was okay. He felt that Christmas was a very good day which led into his own very, very good day. Because my grandparents had little money, I’m quite certain that my dad didn’t receive many gifts on either day. Still, he shared his memories with a smile big enough to convince this daughter that his childhood Christmases and birthdays were just fine.

This is a small parcel of the wisdom my dad shared with me. Happily, he always did so with a smile. Today, I’m going to allow myself a piece of cake in my dad’s honor -a sweet reminder of his sweet presence in my life. We’re going to party together in my heart.

Generous God, thank you for my dad who is among the best of those who have shown me your love. As you well know, Daddy did this with great competence and with a flourish which will never be replaced.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Christmas Continues…

Following this, they selected Stephen,
a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit…”

From Acts of the Apostles 6:5

I enjoy the day after Christmas. What a gift this is! Our Christmas preparations have come to fruition in one way or another. Today, there is nothing more to do than to continue to enjoy the successes of our celebrations and, perhaps, to clean up a bit. As I ponder all that went well yesterday, I give thanks. Truly, I’m generously blessed. In gratitude, I insist to myself that I will disregard anything which was not to my liking or is out of my control. At the same time, I will pray for all concerned, including myself. After all, I’m the only one over whom I have jurisdiction.

In spite of the imperfections of my life, I hope to celebrate for a very long time the God who offered heaven to us from the hands of a little baby. Today, on this Feast of St. Stephen, I hope to be known as a good and just soul just as Stephen was. Like the good Stephen, I hope to take all that Jesus means to this world to heart and to share these things generously. Like the good Stephen, I hope to present a worthy heart -as best mine can be- to God one day. In the process, I hope to bring a bit of Christmas to every day.

Dear God, thank you for the gifts of Christmas 2016 and for the Gift of the first Christmas. Jesus truly changed my life and this world forever!

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved