Joy That Lasts!

“I assure you, there is no man
born of woman greater than John.
Yet the least born into the kingdom of God
is greater than he.”

Luke 7:28

While working on our Christmas Cards, memories of Christmas Past filled me up. Year after year, our large family gathered to celebrate this favorite of all holy days. This year, I’m struck hard by the number of family members we’ve lost. My mom had seven siblings and all have joined her in the hereafter. My dad was one of twelve and only his youngest brother remains with us. I lost my brother Raoul, my sister Cecele and several of cousins decades earlier than my family ever expected.

Though these don’t seem to be “Christmas” thoughts, the mood of each of their wakes and funerals gives me reason to believe that my musing is just that. Though we lamented each loss, we also celebrated our favorite memories of each one. We added our projections regarding their current activities at home with God. Though we miss each one, the joy we found in these loved ones has never escaped us.

Apparently, the gift of those who go home didn’t escape Jesus either. When Jesus acknowledged the greatness of anyone who makes it home to God, he offered us more hope than we could ever have imagined. Jesus also gave us more reason to rejoice than we would otherwise have known possible.

Generous God, with great joy, I anticipate our celebration of the birth of Jesus. His coming revealed your unconditional love and your amazing plans for each one of us. Thank you!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Our Faithful Guardian

He leads me in right paths…
From Psalm 23:3

When I consider the state of the world around me and of my own heart, I sometimes wonder why God bothers. Though God gifts humankind in ways more numerous than the grains of sand which cover this earth’s beaches, we manage to misuse our gifts in equally bountiful ways.

Fortunately for me, God takes note of my discouragement long before it morphs into something unmanageable. In the midst of my laments, images of kindnesses great and small distract my thinking. Moments in nature, in the company of those I love, at prayer and at peace with the tasks at hand compel me to utter words of thanks without much thought. While I remain baffled at this transition from discouragement to contentment, God leans back and admires this bit of Divine Handiwork.

As I consider Psalm 23 once again, I understand. God will never cease to lead us in right paths because it is in God’s nature to do so. When one loves as completely as God does, one never EVER gives up on the objects of that love!

Loving God, thank you for your ongoing encouragement in things great and small. Remind me never to give up on this world because you will never give up on a single one of us.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love…

My lover belongs to me and I to him
He says to me:
“Set me as a seal on your heart,
as a seal on your arm;
for stern as death is love…”

From Song of Songs 2-8

On this date some decades ago, my husband and I married. (Happy Anniversary, Dear!) The passage I cite from Songs of Songs was read at our wedding.

I’ve shared before that my husband is a deacon which allows him the opportunity to witness marriages. As is often the case during the summer months, our home has evolved into “Wedding Central” once again. I’ve also shared that I assist divorced Catholics who wish to pursue the annulment process. I’ve recently felt that I’m in “Annulment Central” because several people have sought my help as of late. Though I hope our encounters ease those concerned through a difficult time, I know that the pain of a failed marriage lingers on.

On this anniversary of my own wedding day, I pray for married couples everywhere, that they truly work at their love and maintain their respect for one another. I also pray for those who find themselves in a troubled relationship. May they rediscover the love which drew them to one another, if they can. May those who cannot do so find the courage to do what is best for each other and for their families. Sometimes, that “best” is living apart. In both cases, God will remain to see them through.

Loving God, bless those who find the love and the courage to marry with all that they need to truly enjoy their life together. Bless those who struggle with their commitments with peace. Be with them as they choose what is best for all concerned.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Seize The Joy

Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.

Psalm 98:4

A few weeks ago, my husband and I drove up north to our favorite getaway, a little log cabin in the woods. In spite of the fact that we left plenty of work behind at home, we gave in to this much-needed opportunity to relax. My husband doesn’t enjoy driving. However, he is always thrilled to be at the wheel when we’re headed north. Though I always volunteer to share the driving, I was grateful that my husband didn’t take me up on my offer. I happily lay back and enjoyed the view beyond my window. Nature didn’t disappoint as summer’s splendor revealed itself throughout the drive. As it happened, we made excellent time and were surprisingly refreshed when we arrived.

Though we intended to relax, as soon as we settled in, we tackled projects which we’d let go during prior visits. A few hours and lots of progress later, we realized that dinner time had come and we had made no plans. We opted for the twenty-minute drive to our favorite Mexican restaurant. As we settled in to scan the familiar menu, we laughed at how little we had relaxed that day. Still, we felt much better than we had a few days earlier when we decided we needed this get-away. My husband observed, “Maybe we didn’t mind all of the work at the cabin because we didn’t have to do it. We did it because we wanted to.” How right he was…

Gracious God, thank you for sharing your joyful Spirit with us. Give us the wisdom to revive our spirits by occasionally doing what we want to do.

©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

A Prayer for Happiness

From the day we heard about you,
we do not cease praying for you…

From Colossians 1:9

I’m finalizing Father’s Day plans with our family. My husband relishes his roles as “Dad” and “Grandpa” and we’re doing our best to ensure him a worthy celebration. All of this has put me into nostalgia mode. I clearly recall the day my husband found out he would be a dad…

After a years-long struggle to have children, poor Mike feared this doctor’s appointment. Those which preceded it had brought much disappointment. Doctor Wool was fully aware of this which is the reason he couldn’t refrain from smiling in the midst of my exam. “By God, you’re pregnant!” he announced. While, I giggled uncontrollably, he sent the nurse to the waiting room to get Mike. There was no reason to tell Mike anything as he’d heard my giggle.

From that moment, we knew our baby. We had no idea of what he or she would look like or who this child would be. Still, we loved our precious offspring. On that day, I began to pray above all else that this child would be happy and that we would be worthy parents. When our baby arrived, he proved to be all we had hoped for and more. Still, I continued to pray for him.

The truth is that this is my ritual regarding our second son, their wives, our grandchildren and, of course, my husband. I do this for all whom I’ve been given to love. These days, I’ve added all or our world’s suffering to my list. After all, if people were happier the world would be far more peaceful. And, I’m certain God wishes happiness for us all.

Loving God, bless us all with happy hearts!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved