Precious Gifts Abound

“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

A cold front transformed yesterday’s moderate temps into a taste of fall this morning. Though I enjoy the approach of each of the seasons, this sudden change took me by surprise. Then again, I’ve recently enjoyed a string of wonderful family gatherings with my niece who is in from California. Perhaps I fear that the change in temperature will somehow lessen the “Cece Effect” which is always a boost to her Chicago family. As I grab my jacket for a walk, I consider the miracle of Cece’s presence and in nature which I’ll pass along the way.

As fall progresses, life around me will give way to winter. Most of the living things I encounter will lie 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 transformations I find in nature are reminiscent of the new and forgotten gifts of those I’ve been given to love.

My morning walk and the encounters of the past few days have renewed my belief that new 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.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Travel Lightly

He instructed them to
take nothing on the journey
but a walking stick…

Mark 6:8

Last week, my husband took a friend to a nearby brewery to celebrate his birthday. This friend shares his birthday with our grandson, so my husband had very good reason to partake of a bit of ale with him in celebration of them both! At the same time, my sisters and I gathered for one of their birthdays. Though we’d each had a good time, Mike was excited to share that our friend is as interested in travel as he is. As Mike elaborated on this revelation, it occurred to me that my dear husband was already making plans…

The truth is that during the planning stage of any of our earlier trips, I have bitten the bullet and allowed myself to be dragged along. The further truth is that my husband’s wanderlust guides his planning with such precision that the results have never disappointed. We both enjoy a wonderful time once we reach our destination regardless of where it is. The planning, packing and other preparations are what drove me crazy. I was our trip to Israel which changed all of that. Finally, I realized that I needed to focus less on the inconvenience of “getting there” and more on the treasure to be found when we arrive.

Perhaps this is what Jesus was getting at when he sent out his disciples with no luggage. Perhaps he didn’t want anything to keep them from making the most of their travels among us.

Dear God, thank you for my persistent husband who continues to plan much-needed times away for us. Bless him with more wonderful trips and bless me with the courage to enjoy this beautiful world and its wonderful people.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Enjoy Life!

“You always have the poor with you,
but you do not always have me.”

John 12:8

It’s August 4 and the good news is that I’ve been on a roll writing. The bad news is that I haven’t been on a roll with anything else. Wasn’t it just Tuesday when I committed to an actual writing schedule which allows time for writing and enjoying life? I pondered this thought as I ran downstairs for a glass of water. While I stood at the sink, a flurry of activity drew my eyes to the bird-feeder in our backyard. My husband’s persistent feedings and his new bird house have attracted countless finches. I considered taking a break to watch these tiny wonders for a while, but I had writing to do…

As I headed back upstairs, movement on the patio caught my eye. A lovely white dove sat in the large flowerpot outside our patio door. Though such visitors usually fly off when I draw near, she remained. Oddly enough, she seemed oblivious to those flitting finches and content to stare at me. A ray of sunlight caused her feathers to take on a heavenly aura. As I wondered what she was up to, it occurred to me that she might wonder the same about me. When our eyes met, I realized that I hadn’t relaxed at all this day and I was about to miss an opportunity when I passed on finch-watching. Did that lovely dove intend to remind me to slow down? Did she know that my writing could wait because those wildly happy finches deserved a few minutes of my attention?

Loving God, once again, I thank you for the work ethic with which I’m blessed and for your well-timed reminders to set aside my work and to enjoy life.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Dance Like You Mean It!

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:4

This summer, my husband and I will attend three weddings. Two of these involve the offspring of dear friends. As a result, both promise ample opportunities to reconnect with special people from near and far. Both will include numerous well-wishers who have good reason to make merry.

Though my husband is never anxious to dance for any reason, I consider every wedding invitation to be an invitation to dance the night away. This ritual usually begins with a slow dance or two in my husband’s arms. Afterward, he retreats to join anyone who is not dancing while I continue the fancy footwork with whoever else needs a partner. This “whoever else” is usually a friend or relative whose spouse has also “retreated”. In the end, I spend an hour or more allowing the dancer within me to take over. Though she has a difficult time guiding my feet into the “right” steps, she always succeeds in freeing me to abandon my inhibitions and to rejoice in the music at hand.

It occurs to me that God intentionally created us with the ability to “party”. This is one of God’s most creative ways of reminding us to take the time to relax and not to take ourselves too seriously. There is no more effective way to do this than to dance with abandon… and so I will!

Gracious God, thank you for caring for all of us: Our hearts, our bodies, our souls and our need to enjoy this life.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Enjoy God’s Gifts

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.

Psalm 90:14

I recently shared in this space that I am not much of a traveler. It is my husband who keeps a bucket list of sorts of all of the places he hopes to visit before -well, you know. I also shared that, in spite of my seemingly genetic aversion to travel, I feel the need to get away these days.

Just as I expected, my husband read my lamentations. This time, however, he is taking a more subtle approach to his planning. I have seen no travel brochures and I have not witnessed a single online search for flights. He seems to be waiting for me to hint at where I might like to go. Today, I will share with him that I would like to get away with as little trouble as possible. This means that I prefer not to involve planes or trains or buses in our travel. Today, I will ask him to join me in selecting a destination we can drive to and enjoy for a few days. Regardless of our choice, I am certain I will find precisely what I need along the way.

This is the case every time my husband convinces me to venture away with him. In each new place and new person I meet, I discover an uplifting morsel of Creation and of the God who gifted us with this world and with one another. With each new encounter, I find good reason to shout for joy then and on every day with which I am blessed.

Generous God, thank you for giving me the sense to enjoy your gifts once in a while.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Relax… Enjoy…

“You always have the poor with you,
but you do not always have me.”

John 12:8

The good news is that I have been on a roll writing. I’m also co-hosting a baby shower for our daughter-in-law and son tomorrow. The bad news is that I have let everything else go. Though we’ll eat well at the shower, there aren’t many groceries in the house. Though I have my dress for tomorrow, the rest of the laundry has piled up. I also have an article to write for our church bulletin.

That’s odd…

A gentle tap at the window distracts me. Though it is far too windy for her to rest out in the open for long, a lovely white dove stares at me from the large flowerpot outside our patio door. Though such visitors usually fly off when I draw near, she remains, content to stare back at me. A ray of sun causes her feathers to take on a heavenly aura. As I wonder what she’s up to, it occurs to me that she may wonder the same about me. Our gazes meet, and I realize that I have not relaxed at all today. Does this lovely dove know that she has reminded me to slow down and to do just that? Does she know that my chores can wait because our celebration tomorrow is what matters just now?

Loving God, once again, I thank you for the work ethic which with I am blessed. I thank you more so for your well-timed reminders to set aside my work and to enjoy life.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved