T is for…

Give thanks to God, for God is good,
and God’s mercy endures forever.

Psalm 136:1

T is for Thanksgiving. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve probably made it crystal clear in too many ways that life isn’t always perfect for me. At the same time, I truly hope that I’ve made it equally clear that I have much to be thankful for, far more than I ever expected or dared to hope for. Though the most precious of these gifts are intangible, they are very real to me just the same. Yes, I’m a very blessed soul.

This is the reason that I occasionally look into my mirror to give myself a stern look when I respond to life’s trials with something less than thanksgiving. When unpleasant challenges arise, I’ve been known to address my patient God with, “God, I know you’ve been very good to me, but really? I don’t mean to complain, but how can I deal with this?” My stern look, which is far more menacing than anything God would send my way, always assists me in adjusting my thinking and my prayer. So it is that I continue with, “Thank you, God, for being with me in everything. I know that all of this will end well. In the mean time, help me to respond as you would.”

T is for Thanksgiving. Our ability to be grateful is key to our happiness and our joy. Today and every day, I will do my best to face everything with a heart full of thanksgiving. Trust me. This effort makes all of the difference in the world and I encourage you to do the same.

Generous God, thank you for everything!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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S is for…

Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased…

From Isaiah 42:1

S is for Service. When I was a little girl, I was usually the first to raise my hand when a teacher asked for assistance. At home, though I disliked my own chores, I happily volunteered when my mom requested help with a non-mandatory task. I jumped at the opportunity to do something for her especially after my dad passed away. Young as I was, I quickly discovered that, of all of the joy I’d experienced, the best of it was the result of being of service to someone.

Our lives are filled with opportunities to serve. I’ve been a spouse, parent, teacher, colleague, daughter to an elderly mom and sister to dying siblings, an ear for a troubled soul and an all-purpose volunteer. I’ve rescued a wayward can of soup that rolled out of a fellow shopper’s bag and a twenty-dollar bill that fell out of another’s wallet. I’ve even extinguished the burning hair of a wedding guest who stood a bit too close to a lighted candle. Your list of everyday and life-time service would fill a space much larger than this. Whenever we respond to those God has given us to love, we serve.

The joy that resulted from my helpful efforts as a child has remained with me. Though it’s nice to be thanked on occasion, the joy comes either way. Perhaps this is God’s way of assuring us that God is indeed pleased with us and all that we do!

Thank you, Good and Gracious God, for giving us loving and caring hearts like your own.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

R is for…

This is the day the Lord has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.

Psalm 118:24

R is for Rejoice. I admit that the current state of this world of ours tempted me to consider using “resignation” as my R word. Life on this earth is imperfect at best. Sometimes, it seems that the only way to deal with this reality is to accept that some things are what they are and to move on. Unfortunately, when I choose to move on, I do so reluctantly. I’m convinced that the situation at hand actually could be improved for the better.

Recently, I found myself in the midst of a situation of this kind. I decided that I couldn’t accept that it is what it is. I decided at least to try to do something to give all concerned a bit of hope. Though I didn’t change much, I did help to adjust a few attitudes regarding the mess which temporarily overwhelmed us. Turning my resignation into an opportunity to rejoice that things weren’t any worse helped me and those involved. Perhaps the most important aspects of all of this were our conscious decisions to be positive. Each of us opted not to add to the negativity at hand. Together, we infused joy into tough circumstances.

The Psalmist who offered the verse cited above asks us to be glad and to rejoice. This is a choice we can make anytime and anywhere. Today, I’ve decided to abandon my resignation about this less-than-perfect world. Today, I’m going to rejoice and be glad. Tomorrow, too!

Dear God, thank you for giving us the capacity to rejoice and to be glad and for the free will to choose to do so.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Q is for…

Be still, and know that I am God…
From Psalm 46:10

Q is for Quiet. Moments of quiet are amazing gifts. I relish the quiet around me. When I’m home alone, the television is off and other noisy distractions are scarce. I’m a master at creating a quiet environment. Still, this isn’t the best of the quiet I’ve experienced. I consider myself most fortunate when I experience that internal quiet where I encounter God.

This is the quiet that often comes in unexpected places at unexpected times. As I struggled to write this afternoon, I realized that I needed a measure of quiet with God if I was going to produce anything. I ventured outdoors to walk under the sunny sky in a brisk breeze. Oddly, though I could hear leaves rustling the entire time, I found precisely what I needed. Creation’s sound effects didn’t keep this inner quiet at bay. Though I didn’t utter a single prayer all the while, I felt God was listening to my every thought, breath and heartbeat.

Q is for quiet… that wonderful quiet in which I come to know God almost as well as God knows me.

Dear God, thank you for filling the quiet with your loving presence.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Call to Love

Thus says the Lord God: I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,
from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,
and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;
on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit, and become a majestic cedar.

Ezekiel 17:22-24

After finalizing Father’s Day plans with our sons and daughters-in-law, I got offline with the hope of tending to some writing. Before opening my file, I glanced toward the window for a peek at summer’s greenery. Nature always inspires me and I expected this glimpse to be no exception. Much to my surprise, my gaze never made it to the huge blue spruce that rests just beyond the glass. A photo on the file cabinet in front of the window caught my attention first. There were our sons with their wives and our grandchildren. Mike and I couldn’t have smiled more broadly as we posed that day. When we’re surrounded by our family, we’re in the happiest of places. It occurred to me that Mike’s and my smiles in that photo might actually have competed with our grins the day we received the news that we were expecting our first baby. Though neither Mike nor I knew much about parenting at the time, we did know that this news was the start of the most important and exciting time of our lives. Over the years, we’ve used many other mostly positive adjectives to describe our stints as Dad and Mom. In the end, we wouldn’t trade these roles for anything. How grateful we are for this family of ours!

When I turned back to my keyboard to open that file, a photo on the bookcase next to me also caught my eye. There I saw the first family which gave me an appetite for the joy I’ve found in my own. This photo was taken when I was six years old. My siblings were fourteen, twelve, four, three and fifteen months. We’d posed in front of our house on Easter Sunday just two years before my dad passed away. I reminded myself of how fortunate I am to have memories of my dad. My youngest sister knows him only from pictures. The next youngest was only five years old when our dad passed away. Though her memories included only a few fleeting images of him, my sister observed more than once that our dad loved her very much. She assured us that this had to be the case because she’d felt the absence of that love ever since. My best “Daddy memory” is bath time. The four youngest of us played together in the tub for as long as our parents could tolerate it or until the water cooled a bit too much. Then, our mom quickly washed and rinsed each of us, usually in the order of our ages. One at a time, we ran across the bathroom floor from our mom to our dad, giggling all the while. Daddy dried us off and dressed us in our pajamas. The goal of all of this was to get us into bed before my dad left for his night shift at the railroad yard. I wondered when we realized that this scene would be repeated only a few more times…

My brother, my sisters and I each responded to the loss of our dad differently. Still, the pain of his absence remains a constant in our lives. This good man, husband and father impacted his family as no one else could have. When we’re touched with great happiness, we miss sharing the good news with him. When we find ourselves in turmoil, we long for the embrace of his caring arms. Sometimes, we simply want to share the mundane details of a boring day with him. Our dad is a very funny guy who would likely turn our monotonous moaning into an amusing anecdote, if only he could. Like my younger sister, I know that our dad loved each of us as best he could. Perhaps the greatest impact of his love for me is manifested in my relationships with my sons. Mike’s dad certainly did the same for him. From the time we knew they were on the way, we loved our sons. When each of them was born, Mike and I felt as though we’d known them forever. We spent every available minute with them. Though this sometimes required very efficient tweaking of our work schedules and adjusting or ignoring our social calendars, we gladly spent our time with our boys. After all, Mike is the only dad our sons will have and I am their only mom.

I cited the quote above from Ezekiel because God’s intent is precise in this message. God created something amazing in each one of us. Just as God took that tender shoot from a cedar tree and planted it in a place where it would flourish, God has planted you and me precisely where we are meant to be. Just as God provided the sun, rain and soil needed to nourish that tree, God does the same for you and me. All the while, God hopes that we will do the same for one another. If you question the value of your life, take it from this daughter that the eight years I shared with my dad meant everything to me. Every day that you have with those you have been given to love is equally valuable. With that, I wish the dads among us a very Happy Father’s Day! I wish the rest of us the grace we need to follow their leads and God’s by nurturing those we’ve been given to love as only we can.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

P is for…

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.

Psalm 85:11

P is for Peace. Of all of God’s gifts, I think I relish peace most of all. The truth is that during the most difficult times of my life, I’ve been at least faintly aware of a measure of peace deep within me. In spite of the troubles at hand, I feel convinced at some level that circumstances will evolve for the best. While I make my own ample contribution of blood, sweat, tears and prayer in the process, peace eases its way to the surface. Eventually, I accept that I can only do what I can do and I leave the rest to God. Though letting go is extremely difficult for me, it is also very liberating. When I empty myself of my worry, I make room for God’s peace to enter in.

It seems to me that each of us can infuse some level of peace into every moment we’re given. I can begin by taking a deep breath before allowing less-than-peaceful sentiments to flow from my lips. I can also glance upward and within before I take the gloom and doom around me to heart. Perhaps I need to begin every day with a prayer that God’s peace surfaces within me before I allow anything else to erupt. Yes, I can bring a measure of peace to this world with a bit of well-placed effort.

Compassionate God, help us to set aside our worries and to focus upon your peaceful presence as we embrace what lies ahead.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved