Our Personal Best

And people will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God.
Luke 13:29

As the 2019 Chicago Marathon approaches, I recall our older son’s effort a few years ago. I enjoy walking, but I admit that I’m no athlete. Though my husband maintains a very respectable workout schedule, he doesn’t consider himself to be an athlete. Still, our older son managed to acquire the very best of our gene pool in this regard. Mike has enjoyed participating in sports since his t-ball days. Running became a serious pursuit for him in adulthood. He completed the 2013 Chicago Marathon within a very respectable time-frame. When he ran his second marathon, his only goal was to exceed his personal best and he did.

This reminiscing urged me outdoors for a trek of my own. As I considered what my son accomplished, I pushed myself to walk a bit more briskly and a bit farther. Once I established my pace, I attended to the beauty around me, my constant companion during these jaunts. The sky boasted an amazingly deep blue and the trees showed off their emerging fall colors. The spraying fountain which I pass near our village hall sparkled in the sunshine like an array of diamonds. “Thank you, for all of this!” I prayed.

My son and I embark upon very different journeys when we exercise. Mike attends to what his body tells him, while I attend to the things outside of me. We each do what we must to accomplish our goals and we both feel very good in the end.

Unique demands accompany each of our journeys through this life. God asks only that we deal with these things as we can as best we can and as only we can. This is all that is required.

Gracious God, our personal best -even when it isn’t very good- is all that you ask. Thank you!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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A Glimmer of God’s Goodness

Wherever we are, we are the light of God’s goodness.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta

The young woman bagging my groceries listened and watched. When she heard me tell the cashier that I had a case of Snapple in my cart, she eased the cart forward. Then, she gently placed each bag into the cart, being certain that nothing was damaged in the process. After I paid for my groceries, the young woman asked if I needed help outside. Though I normally pride myself in being able to load up the car myself, I needed help that due to a very sore back.

As we walked to my car, the young woman said, “I’m sorry about your back. Did the doctor look at it?” I shared the saga of my morning exercise routine and my week-long failure to adhere to it. “My goodness!” she said as she placed the groceries into my car. “Well, you get back on schedule and do what you’re supposed to do. You’ll be just fine. When I say my prayers, I’ll pray for you. I’m going to pray right now on my way back to work.” Before turning away, that sweet young woman offered me her most encouraging smile.

Yes, I smiled as well. The truth is that I smiled all the way home. This harbinger of good cheer is one of the “special” young adults employed by our local grocer. Though she is allegedly developmentally challenged, this young woman is in no way challenged when it comes to bringing light to others. Her promise to pray for me is one of the most unexpected and welcome blessings I’ve ever received!

Dear God, thank you for those who light our way with their kindness.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Gifted Freely!

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
all my being, bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul;
and forget not all God’s gifts.

Psalm 103:1-2

I’d been walking indoors quite a bit, so I seized the opportunity to hike around a nearby lake with my husband. Though the scenery wasn’t really very different from that of our local park, I enjoyed the change. The breeze which urged us along caused leaves to rustle and tiny waves to form on the lake. Though we could easily see from one side of this body of water to the other, it looked mighty and strong in its own right.

As we walked, I found myself distracted from our conversation by unfamiliar flowers, an oddly shaped tree and a chubby chipmunk who dared to scamper across our path. A very large and unleashed dog gave me reason to pause, though my husband ambled toward it without fear. The dog’s master likely noted my alarm as she quickly attached a leash to her furry companion. I admit that I thanked her for this consideration after I complimented her admittedly cute canine. When we began our second trek around the lake, I hoped to see that dog again so I could exhibit my newfound bravery in its presence. I also hoped to notice even more of the treasures hidden in this beautiful place.

Though that walk around the lake was free of cost to me, it was jam-packed with treasure. It seems to me that this is true of all of God’s gifts.

Creator God, I enjoyed that walk. Thank you for giving us the capacity to appreciate this beautiful world. Thank you for our capacity to appreciate you. Thank you for everything!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s With Me

The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear
the sound it makes, but you do not know
where it comes from or where it goes…

John 3:8

You’re probably tired of reading that I enjoy walking outdoors more than any other physical exercise. Please forgive my repetition. It helps me to renew my resolve and to walk as often as possible. You see, regardless of my mood, walking lifts my spirit. If a soft breeze caresses me along the way, I relish nature’s attention. If a blustery wind pushes me onward or threatens to push me back from where I’ve come, I welcome nature’s challenge to continue on my way. Whatever the conditions, except perhaps pouring rain or below-zero temperatures, the outdoors never cease to speak to me. Even then, they cause me to reflect from the comfort of home.

I think I enjoy these treks outdoors because I do my best praying when I walk, especially on breezy days. Though the trees and the pond that I pass are beautiful, it’s the wind that nudges me out the door every time. There’s something about the wind that assures me that God is attending to my praise, my gratitude, my remorse and my requests as I amble along. At the same time, I also feel most listened to when I walk in the midst of Creation. I imagine God swirling down, sometimes in a whirlwind and sometimes in the gentlest breeze, simply to let me know that I’m never alone. I always return home convinced that I’ve been heard and that I’m in very good company!

Dear God, I thank you for the creative ways in which you make your presence known.
I thank you even more for the inspiration which lets me know you are with me.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hope… Even At The Mall!

Peter said, “I have neither silver nor gold,
but what I do have I give you: in the name of
Jesus Christ the Nazarene, rise and walk.”

Acts 3:6

I’d ignored my sadness for weeks due to the numerous tasks at hand. With my Lenten and Easter to-do lists complete, those buried emotions rose to the surface. I decided to walk because the fresh air always seems to rejuvenate me regardless of the condition of my psyche. Unfortunately, rain coaxed me to the mall to stretch my legs and my spirit.

That pouring rain proved to be a blessing. As I walked indoors, I ran into a friend who had recently survived a seemingly hopeless ordeal. Though that topic never entered into our conversation, the joy with which she embraces every new day was unmistakable. Still, in spite of her miraculous outcome, my friend has not forgotten the pain of her grim journey. So it was that, after allowing me to bare my soul, she hugged me. “Mary, you have reason to feel they way you do. The good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel and you will find it!”

I walked away from that conversation feeling a lot better and a little silly. My dear friend had survived cancer though she was not expected to live. I was surviving raw emotions which didn’t come close threatening my life. For the rest of that walk, I thanked God for the numerous and abundant blessings which have come my way, especially for that wonderful friend!

Loving God, you sprinkle morsels of hope and encouragement in the most unexpected, but opportune places. Thank you!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Greatest Fan

I know that God’s ways are spiritual,
whereas I am weak flesh…

Romans 7:14

Our September trek through Italy netted unexpected results. I’d lost three pounds before we left in anticipation of the amazing meals I’d enjoy there. When we returned, I found that I’d lost an additional pound. All of that walking certainly paid off! As a result, I recommitted to my daily attempt to get in those 10,000 steps with renewed vigor. I also tweaked my daily intake a bit. In the month since we’ve returned, I’ve managed to ease myself extremely close my ideal weight. I admit that I’m fairly excited about this.

At the same time, I took a look deep within to check conditions there. In the process, I found that my internal health had slipped as well. Though I pride myself in keeping my inner demons at bay, I found that they were running freely, coloring my attitude and my mood as they pleased. I’d internalized the multitude of troubles which plague this world these days. Sadly, I’d also added a few of my own to the mix. Needless to say, I’d lost my ability to keep things in perspective. The worst of this is that I’d failed to turn the source of consolation who always eases me through tough times. What was I thinking?

The reason I cited the scripture passage above is that I wasn’t thinking clearly at all. God has no expectation for perfection from any one of us. God knows better than we do just how difficult this life can be. God also loves us and God has great faith in us. All God asks is that we do our best along the way. Though sometimes our best efforts will be paltry at best, God appreciates our effort just the same. All the while, God remains around us and within us, cheering us on. When I finally came to my senses, I attended to my inner health by listening carefully for those cheers from our Greatest Fan!

Loving God, THANK YOU!.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved