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

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More On God’s Gifts…

Let the rivers clap their hands,
the mountains shout with them for joy.

Psalm 98:8

When friends of ours expressed doubts about taking a cruise, I promised to convince them otherwise. In an effort to do so, I showed them our album from an Alaskan Cruise we’d enjoyed some years ago. Though mere mention of the 49th State conjures up mental images of this trip, our album brought these beautiful memories to life…

Every morning, the majestic outdoors waited outside our window to welcome us to the new day. Mountains peered from above inviting me to gaze their way before the inevitable approach of cloud-cover. Gulls, salmon and whales gifted me with appearances as well and then quickly continued on their way. Even before breakfast, Creation filled me with reason to rejoice and be glad.

The people we met added to our treasure. I remember the Tlingit Tribe Member, the fifth generation Alaskan migrant, the Alaskan newcomer and fellow travelers who shared their stories with us. Each one embraced the simple life dictated by Alaska’s geography and climate only to find much more. Though it was impossible to understand each of their journeys completely, the peace within them was unmistakable. Life is not perfect for my Alaskan friends. Still, the beauty and simplicity around them lightens their burdens and frees them to focus more fully on the things that matter most.

Though I didn’t say much about the ship as I shared that album, the beauty we discovered on that cruise convinced our friends to give it a try.

Loving God, thank you for the wonderful gifts which urge us to expand our horizons and to appreciate your handiwork.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Ever-Evolving Gifts

“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 1:7-8

The other day, a cold front transformed moderate temps into a taste of late fall. Though I enjoy the approach of each of the four seasons, this sudden change took me by surprise. I’ve recently enjoyed a string of wonderful gatherings with family and friends. Perhaps I fear that the change in temperature will somehow effect this joyful trend. As I head outdoors for a walk, I consider the miracles in nature which I will pass along my way.

As fall eases he way in, life around me will give way. Most of the living things I encounter will hide, lying dormant beneath the surface until next spring. The potential they hold reminds me of the potential to be found in so many unexpected places -and people. I realize that recent outings with family and friends revealed many amazing gifts which too often lurk beneath the surface. The transformation in nature around me is reminiscent of the new and forgotten gifts of those I have been given to love. These wonderful encounters fulfilled my hope, just as nature does, that life is everywhere and in everyone I meet along the way. I need only to take the time to enjoy it.

Creator God, help me always to appreciate the gifts of nature and of those you have given me to love, whatever the season.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Find The Joy

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

Psalm 98:4

My husband and I recently drove up north to our favorite getaway, a little log cabin in the woods. Though we left plenty of work behind at home, we gave in to this much-needed opportunity to relax. Though I always volunteer to share the driving, my husband almost always opts to take the wheel for the duration. I admit that I was grateful that this was the case this time. I happily lay back and enjoyed the view beyond my window. Nature didn’t disappoint as summer’s splendor revealed itself throughout the drive. We made excellent time and were surprisingly refreshed when we arrived.

Though we intended to relax, as soon as we settled in, we each tackled a project which we had 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 five-minute drive to the nearest 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 determined that 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 our capacity to find joy in the most unexpected places.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Best Laid Plans…

Let the sea and what fills it resound…
Let the rivers clap their hands…

From Psalm 98:7-8

I have a dear friend who is truly a world traveler. When John plans a trip, it’s usually several weeks in duration and may involve not one cruise, but two. I admire his wandering spirit and I enjoy reliving his adventures with him when he returns home. For the past few days, however, I’ve been following John’s cruise on Facebook only to discover that it has unfolded quite unexpectedly. He’s actually spent three days in “canal limbo” because of a ship failure. After 48 hours of unsuccessful repair attempts, it was determined that the ship needs to be dry-docked. After another 24 hours in “traveler limbo”, John managed to book a few side trips which will fill the time until his second cruise begins. As I noted earlier, I truly admire John’s wandering spirit!

How often we find ourselves in the midst of unplanned scenarios which seem determined to keep us dry-docked for a while! How often we struggle to escape these circumstances only to find that we sink deeper into their mire! Finally, when we stop fighting our circumstances and start planning ways to deal with them do we find peace. Like my friend John, we sometimes have to re-plan, regroup and begin again. Like my friend John, sometimes we find ourselves in far better circumstances after all.

Life isn’t perfect for any of us. Still, when we keep ourselves attuned to the peace deep within, we focus on the things which matter most. In the end, we actually find a better way.

Loving God, thank you for being the peace which sustains us.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Precious Gifts Abound

“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, 1:7-8

A cold front transformed yesterday’s moderate temps into a taste of fall this morning. Though I enjoy the approach of each of the seasons, this sudden change took me by surprise. Then again, I’ve recently enjoyed a string of wonderful family gatherings with my niece who is in from California. Perhaps I fear that the change in temperature will somehow lessen the “Cece Effect” which is always a boost to her Chicago family. As I grab my jacket for a walk, I consider the miracle of Cece’s presence and in nature which I’ll pass along the way.

As fall progresses, life around me will give way to winter. Most of the living things I encounter will lie dormant beneath the surface until next spring. The potential they hold reminds me of the potential to be found in so many unexpected places and people. I realize that recent outings with family and friends revealed many amazing gifts which too often lurk beneath the surface. The transformations I find in nature are reminiscent of the new and forgotten gifts of those I’ve been given to love.

My morning walk and the encounters of the past few days have renewed my belief that new life is everywhere and in everyone I meet along the way. I need only to take the time to enjoy it.

Creator God, help me always to appreciate the gifts of nature and of those you have given me to love, whatever the season.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved