From Hope To Joy

“There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord..”

From Isaiah 11:9

The approach of Christmas preparations always pique my nostalgia. Tomorrow is the first day of Advent and I can’t help taking a walk down Memory Lane. My musing draws me back to Christmas 1959, just five months after my dad passed away. I was only eight years old and I wondered what Christmas would be like that year. Today, I recall the efforts of those around me who made this Christmas special, perhaps in an effort to ease the sting of my dad’s absence…

Though she was in mourning herself, my older sister Rita helped our Mom to prepare a special gift for each one of us. On Christmas Eve, our parish priests asked my brother to walk his wagon to the rectory. Raoul returned with a full wagon carrying a beautifully wrapped package for each of the six of us. After Christmas dinner, we went on to Aunt Claire’s and Uncle Steve’s home to celebrate with my dad’s family. My aunt and uncle ushered us to their Christmas Tree for more gifts. Though all concerned knew that nothing could replace my dad, they did their best to emulate his love for us. Though I cannot name all of the gifts I received that year, I continue to feel the love offered that day. It has sustained me for a lifetime. My hope was fulfilled well beyond my expectations that Christmas. You know, my hope is fulfilled beyond my expectations every day!

Generous God, you gifted me with loved ones who fulfilled my hope beyond my dreams. As we begin Advent 2017, help me to spread hope throughout this season and always.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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I Give Thanks

Give thanks to God;
bless God’s name for God is good:
the Lord whose kindness endures forever…

From Psalm 100:4-5

As I consider the things for which I’m grateful, I find that I have more time than usual to compile a list. My husband and I aren’t cooking today. Our older son and his wife have taken on our annual Thanksgiving feast. His younger brother and wife will do the same for Christmas Day. I admit that I’m quietly rejoicing in response to this turn of events. Thank you, God!

The next point on my list of blessings is my family. That I married was a huge surprise to me. That my husband and I have children is a miracle, literally, from what the doctors have told us. I’m grateful to my parents who shared their faith with me through their practical daily lives. They appreciated God’s love and their resulting ability to weather any storm taught me to do the same. My siblings each contributed to who I am today in so many ways. Thank you, God!

I appreciate God’s love, too. When in doubt, I turn to Jesus who insisted that God loves us as we are with all of our frailties intact. Though Jesus provided a lifetime of very good example, he also assured us that God expects only what we are able to do, nothing more. Thank you for this, Dear God, because I sometimes forget that I’m good enough for you!

On this Thanksgiving Day, this reflection should be the longest I’ve ever written because my blessings are so numerous. Suffice to say that God knows them all and that I’m most grateful. I hope you find that the same is true for you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Generous God, thank you for everything!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Favorite Photos

Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.

Psalm 145:13

When our first grandchild was born, I began to organize our pictures of her and the rest of us from Day 1. Though I’d done the same for our own sons, it had been a while since I started new albums. Some family members and friends acknowledged our new roles as “Grandma and Grandpa” by gifting us with photo albums and I put each one to immediate use. As I completed each one, rather than storing them away, I displayed the albums on our coffee table for easy access. I didn’t want to forget a bit of this new adventure.

Three more grandchildren and a few memorable trips enticed me to keep this “album thing” going. Twelve volumes later, I find that my thinking in this regard is sound. When visiting, our grandchildren and their parents look through these albums often. Numerous conversations regarding the places we’ve been, the kids’ growth spurts and a variety of special occasions result. The smiles which accompany all of this indicate that my photo album collection is truly a celebration of who we are and where we have been.

I can’t help thinking that my family album experiences mirror God’s love for you and me. In spite of the world’s distractions and that challenging gift of our free will, we all manage to engage in good deeds far more often than we realize. Each one certainly elicits a smile from our Benevolent Creator. Though my photo albums don’t chronicle our difficult family times, God’s albums do. God looks upon these events with loving concern. More importantly, God remains with us most closely during these difficult times.

Generous God, thank you for making our memories your own.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Welcome Home

So rejoice, you heavens,
and you who dwell therein!.

From Revelation 12:17

Several days ago, my husband and I traveled downstate a bit to attend the funeral of his Aunt Mary. Though it was two years ago, it seems just yesterday that we made the same trek to celebrate Aunt Mary’s 100th birthday. The persistent rain reflected our mood as poignant memories of Aunt Mary and many loved ones passed emerged. Though I’m certain of their current bliss, the sting of their absence remains. Memories of every sort and circumstance prompted the tears which would come and go throughout the day.

Though Aunt Mary didn’t want that 100th birthday party, I guessed that she welcomed this change in her circumstances. The past few months had been tough for her. My husband’s cousins shared that their mother smiled just before she passed from this earth of ours. Perhaps Aunt Mary caught a glimpse of her dear husband John and some of other loved ones who awaited her arrival. Perhaps the sudden release from her suffering filled her with joy.

As Aunt Mary’s wake and funeral progressed, a sense of peace seemed to embrace her children. I prayed that this would be only the first of many blessings Aunt Mary will secure on their behalf. Aunt Mary’s almost 102-years boast a myriad of joys and sorrows alike. Still, I think her new perspective has convinced Aunt Mary that every one of them was worth her effort. Though this is certainly already the case, God bless you, Aunt Mary, forever!

Loving God, as you welcome Aunt Mary home, bless her children and all who will miss her until we meet again.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Promise Fulfilled

“Amen, amen, I say to you… the dead will hear the voice of God.”
From John 5:28

I believe I make peace with he passing of my loved ones for good reason. From very early on, my parents assured me that those who neared death were destined for absolute happiness and health in heaven. As I grew older and came to appreciate the suffering of those left behind, I held on to my parents’ promises and my own conviction that heaven is indeed worth the pain of this temporary separation. Over the years, I’ve found further consolation in my faith and in the wonderful accounts offered by those gifted with Near Death Experiences. These people who have tasted life after this life assure us all that my parents’ promises from long ago are well-founded.

A close encounter with this phenomenon came at the hands of my mom. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a prognosis of four more months. After acknowledging that she had lived a good and long life, my mother’s only wish was to be independent for as long as possible. As it happened, she remained miraculously pain-free and medication-free, except for her insulin, until the end. It was during her final week among us that my mom mentioned the beautiful voices. She also remarked that her sisters were waiting for her. The morning of the day she passed, I asked my mom if she was afraid. Her face glowed when she answered, “Oh no, Mary. It’s beautiful over there!”

Loving God, thank you for these amazing glimpses of the wonder which lies ahead.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Living Gratefully

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

Psalm 145:10

This occurs occasionally and without explanation. Unexpected feelings of gratitude overwhelm me. I’m a creature of habit who walks the same route every single time I venture outdoors. Still, the blue of the sky or changes in the trees which I’ve seen a hundred times before fill me with awe. The familiar green branches looming overhead reveal new knots and gnarly twists every time I pass under them. Chirping birds provide the frosting on the cake. Even drizzling rain gives me reason to be grateful.

Perhaps I’ve been an unwitting student of Creation’s wisdom during these treks outdoors. Perhaps the gently clouded sky that beckons my eyes toward heaven and the trees which continuously raise their arms upward are reminding me to do the same. Their very existence points to God’s glory. And then there are those people I’ve been given to love…

Perhaps my existence on this earth is meant to point others in heaven’s direction as well. Like Nature around me, perhaps I’m meant to do everything I do with a spirit of gratitude. After all, being a part of God’s creation is a privilege and honor and something for which to be extremely grateful.

Generous God, when I appreciate what I have, it’s easy to share my gifts with others. Help me to do so generously.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved