It’s Not Always Easy, But…

This, remember, is the message
you heard from the beginning:
we should love one another.

1 John 3:11

I have a headache and a heartache. The realities of New Year 2019 insist upon revealing 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 2018. I also whispered prayers of gratitude for many blessings of that year. Today, however, I realize that there is still much to be done if there is ever going to be peace on earth and 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 a snow. If my minimal meteorological knowledge serves me, ice pellets rather than snowflakes may 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. 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 2019 brings both challenges and promise. Sometimes, I’ll be called to respond gently like the falling snow. Sometimes, my actions may sting me or those who need me. In the end, I must do what is needed to blanket as much of this world as I can with God’s peace.

Loving God, you never said that our work will be easy, but you will always be with us through it all. Thank you!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Uncover The Hope Around You

Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the world and those who dwell in it;
Let rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy
before the Lord.

Psalm 98:7-9

Wintertime captivates me with its onslaught of snow and cold. While this past December’s warmth provided excellent conditions for Christmas shopping, I longed for a shower of frozen flakes to uplift my spirit. I find nothing more beautiful than an ice-clad tree and an undisturbed expanse of hardened snow. Add the crunch of that snow under my feet and a chilling wind around me and I’m in heaven! I willingly volunteer to be the driver in the worst winter weather. You see, even then, I find peace in the midst of nature’s havoc.

Why this affinity with this difficult season? I’m not certain. I can only guess. The “winters” of my lifetime have snowed a plethora of challenges and sorrows and disappointments upon me. Still, I emerged from each storm with renewed hope, increased stamina and a stronger resolve to carry on. Perhaps winter, when most living things lie dormant beneath the surface, symbolizes the potential to be found in the many unexpected places, circumstances and people in our lives. Perhaps knowing that spring will eventually come inspires my hope that, indeed, life is everywhere, in everything and in everyone!

Creator God, thank you for the beauty of this world that so inspires my hope. Help me to uncover that hope for those around me, whatever the season.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Greatest Fan

I know that God’s ways are spiritual,
whereas I am weak flesh…

Romans 7:14

Our September trek through Italy netted unexpected results. I’d lost three pounds before we left in anticipation of the amazing meals I’d enjoy there. When we returned, I found that I’d lost an additional pound. All of that walking certainly paid off! As a result, I recommitted to my daily attempt to get in those 10,000 steps with renewed vigor. I also tweaked my daily intake a bit. In the month since we’ve returned, I’ve managed to ease myself extremely close my ideal weight. I admit that I’m fairly excited about this.

At the same time, I took a look deep within to check conditions there. In the process, I found that my internal health had slipped as well. Though I pride myself in keeping my inner demons at bay, I found that they were running freely, coloring my attitude and my mood as they pleased. I’d internalized the multitude of troubles which plague this world these days. Sadly, I’d also added a few of my own to the mix. Needless to say, I’d lost my ability to keep things in perspective. The worst of this is that I’d failed to turn the source of consolation who always eases me through tough times. What was I thinking?

The reason I cited the scripture passage above is that I wasn’t thinking clearly at all. God has no expectation for perfection from any one of us. God knows better than we do just how difficult this life can be. God also loves us and God has great faith in us. All God asks is that we do our best along the way. Though sometimes our best efforts will be paltry at best, God appreciates our effort just the same. All the while, God remains around us and within us, cheering us on. When I finally came to my senses, I attended to my inner health by listening carefully for those cheers from our Greatest Fan!

Loving God, THANK YOU!.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Miracle Revisited…

From the depths of my despair, I wept before you.
You heard my voice, dried my tears and responded.

Inspired by God’s Absolute Love

We’ve just celebrated my grandson’s birthday. Danny is 3 years old! He’s also Big Brother to sweet Little Brother and all is well. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to revisit the journey from despair through hope to absolute joy which accompanied Danny’s arrival…

Because his mom’s contractions began during Week 26 of this pregnancy, reaching Week 32 proved to be a major milestone. Another two weeks would bring Baby close to typical newborn size and development. A day into that week, the telephone rang at 1:00 AM. I heard my husband repeat, “So your water broke?” Tears flowed as they spoke further. My prayers began.

That morning, we learned Baby could remain in place for two weeks while his mom remained in the hospital. Precautions would slow progress and assist the baby’s development. Later, my husband and I headed to church and our usual Sunday morning routine. I admit to complete distraction from everything except my prayers for Baby and his mom. My husband-the-deacon remained to perform baptisms and I returned home. On the way, I called my son. I heard the concern in his voice as he reported that his wife was experiencing a lot of pain. Because my daughter-in-law is healthy, athletic and incapable of complaining, I took this news to heart. It was then that my prayer changed…

I wept as I drove home and when I arrived. I wept as I changed my clothes. I wept until I found the courage to look heavenward. I wept bitterly as I spoke… “Dear God, I can feed the hungry and be there for the lonely. I can listen to those who need me and I can mourn with those in pain. But this? There’s nothing I can do about this. I can’t stop the contractions. I can’t keep that baby in place until the time is right. Only you can fix this. So I beg you for a miracle. I beg you not to allow this baby to be born until he is ready enough. Please give them a miracle because I can’t. This is all up to you.” And on I wept.

Our son called an hour later to report that things had settled down. Three hours after that, he called again: “He’s here! Daniel is here!” All tests indicated that Daniel was behaving like a mini-full-term newborn. His color, weight and reflexes amazed all concerned. Though he would remain in the hospital for a few weeks, there were no indications that Daniel was anything but “ready enough.”

Loving God, I humbly thank you for allowing me the courage to pray as I did and for responding with nothing less than that miracle which continues to bear the sweetest fruit!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just Pace Yourself!

For a thousand years in your sight are as a day…
From Psalm 90:4

The day after July 4, the house was quiet. Our sons had taken their dad out for a belated Father’s Day excursion. I’d decided to use the time to write and to walk outdoors before the day’s heat set in. When I headed out, I noticed remnants of fireworks strewn about. Before walking, I swept up the contraband which had no doubt entertained someone nearby. As I worked, a delivery truck sped down the street. The driver’s urgency indicated that he was likely making up for his holiday off. I couldn’t help smiling because he reminded me of Mr. UPS, my favorite employee of that company.

Some years ago, Mr. UPS frequented our front door. Every time he set down a box in my foyer, he asked, “More books?” Mr. UPS knew that I write because he had the dubious privilege of delivering hundreds of books to me. In spite of their weight, he presented each box with a smile. I replied in the affirmative and then added that I was struggling with a year-long devotional. He smiled more broadly as he suggested, “Just pace yourself!” This advice was quite helpful back then just as it was on July 5.

After sweeping the driveway, I walked. I also gave a good deal of thought to Mr. UPS’s suggestion from long ago. “Just pace yourself!” I repeated. As I walked, I considered the beautiful flowers that adorn so many of my neighbors’ homes. “Those flowers didn’t plant themselves!” I mused. “They’re blooming today because someone made the time to plant them and to take care of them.” With that, I quickened my pace, finished that walk and headed home. As I sat at my keyboard, I reminded myself, “Your book isn’t writing itself either!” after completing a few more days’ reflections, I pulled up that neglected file and began again…

Dear God, thank you for the messengers who remind us to use the time we’re given well.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Pray With Certainty

Then Abraham said, “May the Lord not be angry,
but let me speak just once more…”

Genesis 18:32

The promise of springtime has also brought the promise of eternity with the end of some lengthy illnesses and other unexpected departures from this life. Recent wakes and funerals bring to mind a springtime loss of my own…

Thirty years ago, I stood at my step-father’s bedside with an aching heart. Emphysema had transformed the muscular carpenter I once knew into a shadow of his former self. I prayed and asked the God of Abraham to watch with me for a while. Like Abraham, as soon as I had God’s attention, I began negotiating.

First, I asked for relief for my dad’s difficult breathing. When I felt assured of that much, I went on. I requested strength for my mom and for the rest of us to remain present to him for as long as needed. I knew God was listening as always and so I continued. In the end, I dared to set limits on the “as long as needed” part. Indeed, I challenged God to hear and to respond to my prayer as Jesus promised God would do.

Just a week later, we walked with my step-dad through his passing. When all was said and done, I apologized to our patient God for my insolent and demanding prayer. I also thanked God for taking this second dad of mine home. In spite of my tears, I smiled and promised to pray with the conviction of Abraham many more times before God and I meet face to face.

Loving and Patient God, thank you for listening and for responding with more than I could ever hope for.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved