Gifts Everywhere!

Let rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy
before the Lord.”

Psalm 98 III:7-9

The four seasons captivate me, each one with its own variety of nature’s grandeur. Spring arrives with only the slightest hints of renewed life-in-the-making. Summer brings hope-fulfilled in lush green carpets of grass and blossoms of every color. Though fall’s sometimes gloomy days replace summer’s vibrancy too quickly, its own colors renew my fascination with the outdoors. Yet, in spite of all of this beauty, I find myself most taken in by the coldest season of the year. The other day, blustering winds hinted at winter’s impending arrival. I realized that winter will soon draw me in with its onslaught of snow and cold perhaps a bit sooner than I’d hoped. Still, I find nothing more beautiful than an ice-clad tree or an undisturbed expanse of hardened snow. Add the crunch of that snow under my feet and a chilling wind around me and I am in outdoor heaven!

Having written that, I see that the piles of leaves I raked this morning now flutter about in the wind. They crackle as they fly and I wonder if they’re actually laughing at my wasted effort. Mounds of snow will require similar and perhaps equally futile attention when they arrive in not too many weeks. Still, I look forward to winter.

You see, it is during winter that most living things lie dormant beneath the surface. To me, they symbolize the potential to be found in so many unexpected places and people. Recent gatherings with family and friends revealed gifts which too often lurk beneath the surface. Finding these treasures in those I’ve been given to love elicited pure joy. These wonderful encounters rekindled my hope, just as winter does. Though it may be hidden for a while, life is everywhere!

Creator God, help me to appreciate your gifts whatever the season.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Zipping Along…

God has done great things for us.
From Psalm 126:2

Road construction surrounds us in every direction both nearby and faraway. As a result, my husband and I drove the “scenic route” when we returned home from Wisconsin a few weeks ago. Since Mike enjoys the drive, I contented myself with the beautiful autumn colors which graced the roadside. Along the way, we passed a zip-lining site. The lines and platforms stretched amidst a forest of trees for what seemed at least a mile. My view from the car indicated that those trees were the best of the scenery a rider would enjoy.

Though I don’t mean to be a “zip-lining snob”, I think I’ve become one. Five years ago, while visiting Alaska, my husband and I enjoyed an excursion in Icy Straight Point. It was there that we took advantage of the ingenuity of the Hoonah Tribe. These Native Alaskans operate the world’s longest zip-rider. For reasons unknown to me, Mike and I found the courage to take that zip-rider from the side of a mountain hundreds of feet above ground to enjoy the most amazing experience of our lives. For the entire duration of the ride, I repeated two phrases: “This is awesome!” and “Thank you, God, for giving me the courage to do this!” I recall that I smiled all the while.

When I looked back toward that roadside zip-line, I acknowledged that it paled in comparison to my Alaskan experience. Still, I wondered if I should give it a chance. After all, I’m the one who finds an adventure every time I walk my neighborhood. Every new day brings me a new perspective regarding the greenery I pass along the way. Perhaps those trees will provide their own wonderful soul-changing experience. With that, I turned to my husband to suggest that we may want to zip-line locally next time.

Generous God, thank you for showing yourself to me in all of the wonders of this world.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Ever-Evolving Gifts

“Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell in it;
Let rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy
before the Lord.”

Psalm 98 1:7-8

The other day, a cold front transformed moderate temps into a taste of late fall. Though I enjoy the approach of each of the four seasons, this sudden change took me by surprise. I’ve recently enjoyed a string of wonderful gatherings with family and friends. Perhaps I fear that the change in temperature will somehow effect this joyful trend. As I head outdoors for a walk, I consider the miracles in nature which I will pass along my way.

As fall eases he way in, life around me will give way. Most of the living things I encounter will hide, lying dormant beneath the surface until next spring. The potential they hold reminds me of the potential to be found in so many unexpected places -and people. I realize that recent outings with family and friends revealed many amazing gifts which too often lurk beneath the surface. The transformation in nature around me is reminiscent of the new and forgotten gifts of those I have been given to love. These wonderful encounters fulfilled my hope, just as nature does, that life is everywhere and in everyone I meet along the way. I need only to take the time to enjoy it.

Creator God, help me always to appreciate the gifts of nature and of those you have given me to love, whatever the season.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Ever Grateful

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.

Psalm 145:11

Perhaps the arrival of our newest grandchild is the reason. Perhaps memories of that wonderful dinner with our kids and grandkids in celebration of our wedding anniversary set the tone of my day. With both in mind, I set our for the morning’s walk. Within a minute or two, feelings of gratitude overwhelmed me. I’m a creature of habit who usually walks the same route every time I venture out. Still, the blue sky and the trees above me which I’ve seen a hundred times fill me with awe. Every day, nature reveals something that I’ve failed to notice before. Chirping birds are the frosting on the cake. Even drizzling rain gives me reason to feel grateful.

Perhaps I’m an unwitting student of God’s wisdom during these treks. Perhaps the clouded blue sky that beckons my eyes toward heaven and the trees who continuously raise their arms upward are reminding me to do the same. Their very existence points to God’s glory. Perhaps my existence on this earth is meant to point to God’s wonder as well. Certainly, little Benjamin’s arrival and the joy I find in my family do this on a daily basis. Like Nature around me, perhaps we’re all meant to do what we do with a spirit of gratitude. After all, being a part of God’s creation is a privilege and honor -something for which we can all be grateful.

Dear God, help me to live with a grateful heart and to share my gratitude with all of those you’ve given me to love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Beauty in Everything and Everyone

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
and forget not all of God’s benefits.

Psalm 103:2

That afternoon, while my husband headed to the gym, I abandoned my writing and headed outdoors. Rather than walking the neighborhood, I drove to a little lake just a mile away. I seized the opportunity to hike the path around this tiny body of water. Though the scenery there isn’t very different from that of our local park, it took my breath away. A brisk breeze urged me along. It also caused leaves to rustle and tiny waves to form on the lake. Though I could easily see from one edge of this pond to the other, those ripples of water made it look strong in its own right.

Along the way, I encountered numerous unfamiliar flowers, an oddly shaped tree and a chipmunk who dared to scamper inches from my toes. A very large and unleashed dog gave me reason to pause until the canine’s owner noted my alarm and quickly attached a leash to her furry companion. I thanked her for this consideration after I complimented her admittedly cute canine. When I began my second trek around the lake, I hoped to see that dog again so I could exhibit my newfound bravery in its presence. I also looked forward to discovering even more of the treasures hidden in this beautiful place.

Afterward, I strolled back to my car filled with gratitude for this amazing interlude with nature. While pulling away, it occurred to me that my fellow humans are filled with hidden treasures as well. That day, I promised to take a closer look at every opportunity…

Creator God, thank you for giving me the capacity to appreciate this beautiful world. Help me to appreciate my fellow humans as well.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Gifts Everywhere…

The Lord’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.

Psalm 24:1

The four seasons captivate me with their shows of nature’s grandeur. Spring arrives with only the slightest hint of renewed life-in-the-making. Summer brings hope-fulfilled in lush green carpets of grass and blossoms of every color. Though autumn’s sometimes gloomy days replace summer’s vibrancy too quickly, its own colors captivate as well. Yet, in spite of this beauty, I find myself most taken by the coldest season of the year.

The blustering winds outdoors hint at winter’s impending arrival. That frigid season will soon draw me in with its onslaught of snow and cold. I find nothing more beautiful than an ice-clad tree or an undisturbed expanse of hardened snow. Add the crunch of that snow beneath my feet and I’m in outdoor heaven!

My revelry over our ever-changing seasons doesn’t dispel the twinge of frustration I experience as I peek out the window at the leaves I raked an hour ago. They’ve deserted their piles to flit and crackle in the wind. Are they laughing at my wasted effort? Mounds of snow will soon do the same. Still, I look forward to winter. Living things lying dormant beneath the snowy surface symbolize the potential to be found in so many unexpected people and places. These wonderful discoveries rekindle my hope just as winter does. You see, though they may be hidden for a while, the gifts of this life are everywhere!

Creator God, help me always to appreciate the gifts to be found in others whatever the season.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved