Much to Be Grateful For

“A senseless man knows not,
nor does a fool appreciate…”

Psalm 92:7

Both an adage and an old song remind us that we sometimes don’t realize what we have until we lose it. More often than not, we don’t appreciate the impact of these losses until it’s too late. I remember how eagerly I awaited the start of high school only to find that I missed the comfort of my junior high school friends when I arrived there. I was thrilled to change schools during my teaching career until the first day I walked into the teachers’ lounge and realized that I didn’t know a soul. Though our only dog drove me nuts most of the time, I missed Ernie terribly when he died.

My list of lost and unappreciated treasures is far too long. Fortunately for me, one of these precious gifts remains a constant in my life. I was born to parents of faith who relied on God in good times and in bad. My amazing mom and dad shared this great faith with me quite tangibly. As a result, my faith is a constant which remains part and parcel of who I am. I’m most grateful for my faith which opens my eyes to a plethora of found and appreciated treasures every day.

Generous God, thank you for giving me the sense to recognize your gifts MOST of the time.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Grateful, in Spite of It All

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

Psalm 145:11

I’m usually tired on Wednesday. This is a good thing as it’s the result of spending Tuesday with my grandson. This week, I found it particularly therapeutic to run with Danny for the day. I’ve been in a dark mood due to circumstances all over this world of ours. Though things have deteriorated closer to home these days, some of our sisters and brothers across whichever ocean you chose have suffered the equivalent for lifetimes. The worst part of all of this is that much of the suffering is long-term. I can donate to relief efforts, which I will, but I can’t do much more from here. What’s worse is that I can’t seem to make much difference regarding suffering which is closer to home…

I consoled myself with a walk. As I headed down the block, I saw our neighbor’s car. They’ve returned from a weekend away. I smiled as I congratulated myself for remembering to bring their baby bottle to church. We filled them with spare change to support a program which assists women in difficult pregnancies. That same weekend, a doctor and nurse from the Mission Doctors Association also made an appeal. The outpouring of support for both causes amazed everyone. In spite of my dour mood, I felt a twinge of gratitude.

For the first time in several days, I noticed the blue sky, an assortment of wispy clouds and the lush trees which line our neighborhood. For the first time in several days, I took notice of the goodness which surrounds me. Though a day with our grandchildren is always a treat, so is a day touched by the goodness of the people who grace my life. Though floods and poverty and injustice won’t be wiped away in an instant, every effort to respond will make a difference every time!

Dear God, help me to live with a loving and grateful heart by responding to those you have given me to love, both near and far away.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Joyful… It’s Okay!

God fills your lifetime with good;
your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Psalm 103:5

A friend of mine hopes to change careers in order to move on to something which will bring her joy. She wrestles with this notion because it seems selfish to her to want to do something which makes her happy. Though this new opportunity will allow her to serve others in a truly significant way, my friend struggles.

I find that I relate far too well to this dilemma. I share the notion that we’re meant to serve others in this life regardless of how happy or unhappy it makes us. Like my friend, I fail to fully appreciate God’s generous gift of free will and God’s absolute faith in our choices. Indeed, it is because of these things that God sends us out on our own.

When we spoke, I encouraged my friend to heed her heart’s longing. The happiest people I know do the things which bring them joy. In the process, they also bring joy to those around them. As I spoke to my friend, I listened carefully to what I said. Apparently, it is time for me to heed my heart’s longing as well.

Loving God, you know the longings of our hearts long before we can speak them. Help us to love ourselves as you love us. Give us the courage to hear our deepest cries for joy and to fulfill them as only we can.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Precious World

Truth shall spring out of the earth…
From Psalm 85:12

When I drive just south of our neighborhood, I pass a greenhouse, Mary’s Greenhouse to be precise. I chuckle when I read the sign on that building full of flowers and greenery. For years, I’ve told my husband that he should have been a florist or tended a greenhouse because he has an amazing green thumb. Though I’m a worthy assistant when it comes to digging up flowerbeds, trimming roses and weeding here and there, my knowledge of annuals, perennials and most other aspects of gardening is minimal. The good news is that my husband loves these things. As a result, the land which flanks our home is beautifully picturesque. I appreciate his efforts more than words can express and I find a world of inspiration in the loveliness of his handiwork.

As I write, it occurs to me that “Mary’s Greenhouse” provides the perfect reminder of how generously God has blessed me. God has given me both my own gardener-in-residence and the sense to recognize the wonder present in his flowerbeds. In each one, I enjoy both the fruits of my husband’s talent and the fruits of God’s love for us. How much God must care to have created a world capable of producing such beauty! How much God must care to have given us those who make the most of this gift!

Generous God, we can all find joy in the beauty which springs from this earth. Make us good custodians of this precious gift.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Mom’s Gift

I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:7

It’s Mother’s Day Eve and I’m counting my blessings. As I assemble my list, I place my mom at the top. Of all that I learned from my mom, it was the grace with which she lived her last days which touched me and taught me most.

Three days before my mom passed away, fatigue confined her to bed. Her daytime attire changed from street clothes to a nightgown to a hospital gown within seventy-two hours. This day, I arrived just as Ruth, her nurse, spooned tiny dollops of ice cream into my mom’s mouth. After giving me my “Hi, Mary” smile, my mom turned to Ruth to whisper, “Thank you for the ice cream.” Afterward, Ruth helped her to the washroom. As Ruth nestled my mom into the wheelchair, my mom whispered again, “Thank you for your help.” Mom held on tightly when Ruth wrapped her arms around her to ease her back into bed. As she left, my mom’s eyes followed Ruth to the door. Ruth turned to wave and my mom smiled in gratitude. Later, when the activity director came to see how she was doing, Mom met her with another of her grateful smiles.

In spite of her impending passing, my mother concerned herself with the people around her. She never complained and was ever grateful for even the smallest kindness, whether or not it was part of ones job or part her children’s duty to their dying parent.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Dear God, thank you for the gift of my mom. She revealed your generosity, grace and love until the end. Give me the courage to offer the same to those I meet along the way.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

In The End…

Yes, it is coming and shall be fulfilled,
says the Lord God. This is the day I have decreed.

Ezekiel 39:8

When I saw Megiddo-Armageddon on our itinerary, I quickly researched this site. I discovered that the Megiddo National Park is a World Heritage Site. This designation was rendered for reasons far beyond the area’s obvious reference to the end of the world.

Biblical references to the end times have never drawn me in. This world is a difficult place. I can’t imagine that this world’s “last days” can be any worse than what we’ve experienced ourselves and via the daily news-feed from around the world. So it is that I look beyond these references to more hopeful passages. It is my hope for better things to come which sustains me.

While in Israel, I learned that Megiddo has been of serious importance for millenniums. It’s strategic location incited many nations to control Megiddo which resulted in numerous battles and wars. Each time, this precious acreage served its occupants well. Archaeological excavations have revealed 26 layers of ruins which include temples, luxurious palaces, impressive forts and complex water systems. Still, in spite of this illustrious history, some Christians consider Megiddo (“Armageddon” is likely derived from its Hebrew name) to be the future site of the final battle between God and the forces of evil. Others say this battle will be a world-wide conflict.

Again, I admit that neither scenario draws me in. The optimist in me is convinced that if I’m present for this unraveling, it will end in God’s favor. Though more fundamental believers will cringe at my next sentence, I would be dishonest if I didn’t write it. I cannot concern myself with the end times because the most important times in my life are the series of present moments I’m given every day. It’s up to me to use every one of them to love and appreciate God’s gifts to me and to love and care for my neighbor as myself.

Compassionate Creator, you give us all that we need. In return, we will care for your gifts and for one another as you do.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved