My New Normal

“We have this confidence in God:
that God hears us whenever we ask for anything…”

1 John 5:14

Each year, when I organize the coming year’s calendar, I’m usually ready to return to what I consider to be “normal”. This year, however, is different. The past ten months have redefined “normal” in a big way. Though I’ve adjusted to this pandemic-normal in many ways. I haven’t adjusted to it in many other ways.

As I begin to tackle what will be considered “normal” during Year 2021, I consider my “de-decorating” strategy. I wonder just how long I will dare to keep our Christmas tree and houseful of decorations intact. After long days of navigating through minimal “our family only” festivities, I find great comfort in the colored lights strewn about the railings and tree. My affection for the peaceful company nestled in the crèche under our tree compels me to hold on tightly to Christmas. Though I only see the lights outdoors when I leave and return, the thought of those passing by enjoying them elicits a smile. So it is that I long to postpone my return to “normal” for as long as possible…

As I consider how to proceed, I sit near our Christmas tree with the hope of finding inspiration there. As I gaze at the tiny baby in the crib, I realize that there was no returning to “normal” after Jesus arrived. Because of Jesus, everything changed for us all. With that, I’ve decided to tell my husband that we can take down the decorations whenever he’s ready. Though these visuals will be packed away in our basement until Christmas 2021, the transformation which began in Bethlehem more than two thousand years ago will continue.

I turn my thoughts back to Year 2021. A year-full of opportunities lies ahead. What will my new “normal” will be?

God of Hope, this world needs you more than ever. Help me to bring your presence into every moment of the coming year.

©2021 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Always Christmas

Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you.

Isaiah 60:5

The blanket of sleet on our patio slowly melts away. Though it will be a mere memory by noon, it sparkles quite beautifully just now. I recall the sound of sleet tapping my window. How generously it supplied inspiration as I worried and wrote about New Year 2021! As is always the case, when I stop to listen, I hear just what I need to hear…

January 6 is the traditional date of the Epiphany when the Magi of long ago followed their star to find the Christ Child. These masters of the night sky carried news of their discovery to what were then the ends of the earth. When I was a child, we always left our Christmas Tree standing until this day when we moved tiny figures of this trio to the stable where Jesus lay. It was on this day that we considered our celebration of Christmas to be complete…

As I look back at the fading blanket of white on our patio, I find that yesterday’s sleet inspires once again. Though our Christmas tree will soon be transformed into mulch and our patio will soon be sleet-free, I cannot allow myself to be Christmas-free. The Magi carried news of their Christmas encounter wherever they went. That sleet transformed our patio into a mini-winter wonderland. Our Christmas tree fills our home with the beautiful fragrance which still lingers. What am I to do in response? I am to share my Christmas treasures of peace, love and hope in everything I say and do during this new year and always.

Loving God, help us all to keep your loving spirit alive in our little corners of your world.

©2021 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Make The Most of Now

“I have written this to make you realize
that you possess eternal life…”

1 John 5:13

I’m considering my commitment to hold onto my own Christmas spirit and to bring peace to this world of ours. I’m also wondering what I might add to my agenda to accomplish this. Though the first week of the new year usually provides a bit of breathing room before my routines fully return to normal, this hasn’t been the case this year. In spite of my stay-at-home efforts, I feel as busy as ever. Though I don’t know how I can add another item to my schedule, my good intentions gnawed at me…

After further reflection, I realize that I must practice what I preach and write! How often have I used this space to insist that we do our best by simply making the most of the moment at hand? How often have I written that God has placed each one of us precisely where we’re meant to be, even when we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic? With that, I see that there’s nothing to add to my agenda. What I need to do it to polish up and refine my delivery. Perhaps that “delivery” includes finally finishing my book! When I acknowledge that God has assigned me a specific mission every moment of every day, everything becomes worth my best effort!

About that book… While I continue to pour over the scriptures and my own life experiences to fill this space, I will also pour over those pages which may just add a bit more peace to this world.

Loving God, please continue to nudge us along as we do our best for you.

©2021 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Wrapped In Peace

This, remember, is the message
you heard from the beginning:
Love one another.

1 John 3:11

I have a little headache and a bit of heartache. The realities of the New Year have revealed themselves in full force. I celebrated with many across this world when the clock struck 12:00 AM on New Year’s morning. I shared their relief over the close of Year 2020. I also whispered a prayer of gratitude for the many blessings that came in the midst of 2020’s challenges. Still, there is much to be done in our battle with the COVID-19 pandemic. There is much to be done to counter many of the disruptions to peace on earth and peace in my little corner of this world.

Apparently, the heavens have a headache, too. A storm is brewing just beyond my window. This is an odd phenomenon. Only rarely do we hear thunder before snow. If my minimal meteorological knowledge serves me, ice pellets, rather than snowflakes, will fall within the next few minutes. I wonder. Ice pellets sting, unlike snowflakes which gently settle to the earth. Still, in the end, both blanket the earth in white.

My headache fades a bit because there is wisdom to be found in the white stuff which has begun to fall. As those icy pellets tap my windowpane, their music lifts my spirit. I realize that Year 2021 brings its challenges, but it also brings promise. Sometimes, I’ll respond gently like the falling snow, because that’s what is needed at the moment. Sometimes, my actions may sting me or those around me as a result of what needs to be done. Either way, I’ll do what I can to blanket as much of this world as possible with God’s peace.

Loving God, you never said that our work will be easy, but you do promise always to be with us as we do it. Thank you!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Holy Simplicity

He went with them to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them, advancing in
wisdom and favor before God and the people.

From Luke 2:51-52

This second day of New Year 2021, as I embrace the 363 days which lie ahead, I’m going to try to keep in mind that every moment of every day offers the opportunity to begin anew.

With that in mind, I sense that the Christmas Spirit around me is slowing easing away. The joy of the first Christmas faded just as quickly. After all, poor Mary and Joseph had a baby in tow for the long trek home from Bethlehem. There, life would fall into some level of normalcy and they would be left on their own to raise Jesus, much as we are left on our own to do what we do. This means, of course, that God watches over us and remains with us all the while.

This year, perhaps more than ever, it’s important to remember that the ordinary days of our lives are as important for us as they were for Jesus. On Christmas, we whittled down our usually large and festive celebrations into more intimate gatherings. The joy we shared with those closest to us provided the perfect reminder that the best of this life can be found in simple experiences.

Long ago in Nazareth, perhaps picking up playthings and helping to clear the table predisposed Jesus to becoming a responsible adult. Perhaps his willingness to cooperate helped young Jesus to notice when another was in need. Perhaps being thanked by his parents taught Jesus to be grateful when others were kind to him. Perhaps there were times when the Holy Family did without things in order to share with others. These choices taught Jesus the generosity characteristic of his encounters with the suffering in adulthood. Perhaps the seemingly mundane things that you and I do for others are making an impression as well.

Dear God, help us to transform our simple lives into holy lives, one good deed at a time.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s A New Year!

Then you shall be radiant over what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow…

Isaiah 60:5

It was late December. After offering my usual “Thanks for the sleep and this new day” to the Almighty, I crawled out of bed and opened the shades in our room. As soon as I’d drawn the first one a quarter of the way up the window, I saw it. An amazing full-sized, heart-warming blanket of white covered the entire world, at least as far as I could see! It’s beauty took my breath away. It was a full minute before I could shout downstairs to my husband, “It snowed!” I couldn’t get over my elation over this wonderfully inspiring surprise.

I love snow and that morning’s treasure couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. I’d been succumbing to pandemic-fatigue with unexpected depth. The world-at-large suffered greatly as did too many good souls nearby. Though I truly did all that I could to infuse peace and a bit of joy into the moments at hand, I felt that I was in the midst of a losing battle. When I opened that shade, I discovered a new world and a new day and a new opportunity to begin again.

As it happened, I began that day by helping my husband to clear that lovely blanket from our driveway and walk. With every shovel of glittering white stuff, I exposed another opportunity to see my world with new eyes. Nothing would be the same that day and nothing will be the same today.

This is the first day of New Year 2021 and God blesses each one of us with an amazing full-sized heart-warming blanket of opportunity. We’ve endured a great deal during 2020. Still, today, it’s 2021! Today, we begin anew! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Generous God, thank you for a lifetime of opportunities to begin anew, especially today’s!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved