Respond and Rest

Jesus went into the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know
about it, but he could not escape notice.

Mark 7:24

My husband serves as our “family grocery shopper” most of the time. When I joined him in retirement, I tried to retrieve what had once been my responsibility. After my first few trips to the store, my husband finally asked, “What takes you so long? I can find the stuff on a list twice as long in half the time. What are you doing there?” When I thought about what had transpired on these outings, I realized that, each time, I had run into a neighbor, a someone from church, a former colleague or a friend. Of course, I took the time to chat. Why not? I had all of the time in the world.

I admit that I eventually relinquished my hold on our shopping lists much of the time. As visits to our grandchildren and my writing schedule have increased, I realize that efficient shopping trips are sometimes in order. I also realize that these grocery-store encounters are sometimes unexpectedly important to me or to the person I’ve met along the way.

The scriptures tell us that Jesus’ moments of peace were often disrupted by those who needed him. The same is true of you and me. All that is asked is that we respond as best we can. By the way, we’re also allowed to rest on occasion just a Jesus did.

Dear God, I am grateful that others occasionally need me. Help me to respond with kindness to them and to my own fatigue as needed.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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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

Enjoy Life!

“You always have the poor with you,
but you do not always have me.”

John 12:8

It’s August 4 and the good news is that I’ve been on a roll writing. The bad news is that I haven’t been on a roll with anything else. Wasn’t it just Tuesday when I committed to an actual writing schedule which allows time for writing and enjoying life? I pondered this thought as I ran downstairs for a glass of water. While I stood at the sink, a flurry of activity drew my eyes to the bird-feeder in our backyard. My husband’s persistent feedings and his new bird house have attracted countless finches. I considered taking a break to watch these tiny wonders for a while, but I had writing to do…

As I headed back upstairs, movement on the patio caught my eye. A lovely white dove sat in the large flowerpot outside our patio door. Though such visitors usually fly off when I draw near, she remained. Oddly enough, she seemed oblivious to those flitting finches and content to stare at me. A ray of sunlight caused her feathers to take on a heavenly aura. As I wondered what she was up to, it occurred to me that she might wonder the same about me. When our eyes met, I realized that I hadn’t relaxed at all this day and I was about to miss an opportunity when I passed on finch-watching. Did that lovely dove intend to remind me to slow down? Did she know that my writing could wait because those wildly happy finches deserved a few minutes of my attention?

Loving God, once again, I thank you for the work ethic with which I’m blessed and for your well-timed reminders to set aside my work and to enjoy life.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Seize The Joy

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

Psalm 98:4

A few weeks ago, my husband and I drove up north to our favorite getaway, a little log cabin in the woods. In spite of the fact that we left plenty of work behind at home, we gave in to this much-needed opportunity to relax. My husband doesn’t enjoy driving. However, he is always thrilled to be at the wheel when we’re headed north. Though I always volunteer to share the driving, I was grateful that my husband didn’t take me up on my offer. I happily lay back and enjoyed the view beyond my window. Nature didn’t disappoint as summer’s splendor revealed itself throughout the drive. As it happened, we made excellent time and were surprisingly refreshed when we arrived.

Though we intended to relax, as soon as we settled in, we tackled projects which we’d 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 twenty-minute drive to our favorite Mexican 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 decided 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 sharing your joyful Spirit with us. Give us the wisdom to revive our spirits by occasionally doing what we want to do.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Relax and Rest

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered,
“you are worried and upset about many things,
but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better,
and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:41-42

It has taken me a lifetime to appreciate my need to slow down and to relax a bit. I truly enjoy the natural beauty around me. Still, I sometimes use more energy listing the reasons that I can’t head out to walk on a particular day than I would have spent actually walking. In the end, I accomplish far less than I might have if I’d been energized by that trek outdoors.

As I contemplate my need to relax, I look up from my keyboard to respond to the tree outside of my window. I watch as it seems to wave to me. It occurs to me that I must listen to the Wise One who once told Martha that she worried far too much. Martha needed to be more like Mary who sat peacefully at Jesus’ feet, drawing in his every word and all of the love that came with them. It occurs to me that I must ask Mary to move over a bit so I can sit with her. It is there that I’ll learn to stop worrying about the tasks which lie ahead and to enjoy the moment at hand.

I’m going to sign off now and go for a walk. I want to wave to that tree outside my window in person. Perhaps I’ll find a bit of Mary’s peace along the way.

Generous God, as I set aside my own worries, help me to assist others in doing the same. Teach us all to find your peace in our much-deserved rest.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God Delights Us

Great are the works of the Lord,
exquisite in all their delights.

Psalm 111:2

A few weeks ago, I admitted that I was as tired as my poor husband was that day. My admittedly self-imposed to-do list had overwhelmed me and I needed a break. So it was that I joined my husband in the family room to relax. It didn’t take long for us to be drawn in by the travel channel. We discovered a series of shows which featured Alaska. The week before, friends had shared that they’re planning a cruise to the 49th State. Ever since, I couldn’t help relishing flashbacks to the wonder we’d encountered there. Though cloudy weather had prevented us from viewing the Aurora Borealis, we encouraged our friends take every opportunity for a potential sighting. Much to my absolute joy, the program my husband and I watched that day featured the Aurora in all its glory.

Though I’m certain that these images didn’t do justice to God’s handiwork, they took our breath away. They gave my husband and me a most welcome distraction from our fatigue. Perhaps they’ve also given us reason to take the time to explore God’s other treasures as well.

Loving God, thank you for the beauty with which you surround us. Thank you also for these little interludes which nudge us to enjoy that beauty as often as we can!

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved