Enjoy The Rest

He makes me lie down in green pastures…
Psalm 23:2

Long ago, I dubbed my husband the “travel aficionado” of our family. He takes great pleasure in exploring new places and getting to know the people who inhabit them. These adventures leave him refreshed and ready to tackle our daily routine once we return home. In the past, as Mike planned these wonderful excursions, I wasted away the days of anticipation with my worry about small spaces in airplanes and anything and everything which “might” go wrong. The good news in all of this is that I’ve come to share in my husband’s enthusiasm. These days, I look forward to get-aways near and far as much as Mike does and this is a very good thing.

As I reflect further on Psalm 23, I see that my persistent God is behind my husband’s travel efforts 100%. This very God knows everything and certainly understood my reluctance better than I did. Fortunately for me, I finally attended to God’s desire to make me lie down in green pastures as willingly as Mike has. I finally allowed God to see to it that I get the rest and enjoyment I need by inspiring my husband to plan on. God is attending just as carefully to providing moments of rest for you. I encourage you to embrace these opportunities every time!

Loving God, thank you for caring for us even when we’re reluctant to care for ourselves.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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That Bucket List

Beloved: I am writing you,
although I hope to visit you soon.

1 Timothy 3:14

The other day, my husband received a message from our Italian friend, Francesco. My husband’s visit to his grandparents’ village in Sicily was a huge success partly as a result of Francesco’s intervention. He’s become a friend who’s always a pleasure to hear from.

While in Sicily, Mike remarked that he couldn’t believe that he’d completed this item on his bucket list with such a flourish. He added that he might have to add a subsequent trip back to that list. I was glad to see that my dear husband’s bucket list isn’t near exhaustion!

It seems to me that we all need to plan a bit in order fuel our dreams and to eventually accomplish the things which mean most to us. Though I haven’t composed one of my own, even mentally, a bucket list isn’t a bad thing to have. My only caution, which I’ve repeated to my poor husband, is that we need to tackle our lists with both determination and good humor. Finally, we also need the flexibility to change our plans when necessary. Remember, we make God laugh most heartily when we plan too carefully.

The moral of the story seems to be, “Plan a little and live a lot.”

Loving God, life is truly an adventure. Please guide us along the way with the wisdom to plan well, the courage to embrace every moment and the stamina to do our best until we make our way home to you.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Zipping Along…

God has done great things for us.
From Psalm 126:2

Road construction surrounds us in every direction both nearby and faraway. As a result, my husband and I drove the “scenic route” when we returned home from Wisconsin a few weeks ago. Since Mike enjoys the drive, I contented myself with the beautiful autumn colors which graced the roadside. Along the way, we passed a zip-lining site. The lines and platforms stretched amidst a forest of trees for what seemed at least a mile. My view from the car indicated that those trees were the best of the scenery a rider would enjoy.

Though I don’t mean to be a “zip-lining snob”, I think I’ve become one. Five years ago, while visiting Alaska, my husband and I enjoyed an excursion in Icy Straight Point. It was there that we took advantage of the ingenuity of the Hoonah Tribe. These Native Alaskans operate the world’s longest zip-rider. For reasons unknown to me, Mike and I found the courage to take that zip-rider from the side of a mountain hundreds of feet above ground to enjoy the most amazing experience of our lives. For the entire duration of the ride, I repeated two phrases: “This is awesome!” and “Thank you, God, for giving me the courage to do this!” I recall that I smiled all the while.

When I looked back toward that roadside zip-line, I acknowledged that it paled in comparison to my Alaskan experience. Still, I wondered if I should give it a chance. After all, I’m the one who finds an adventure every time I walk my neighborhood. Every new day brings me a new perspective regarding the greenery I pass along the way. Perhaps those trees will provide their own wonderful soul-changing experience. With that, I turned to my husband to suggest that we may want to zip-line locally next time.

Generous God, thank you for showing yourself to me in all of the wonders of this world.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Trust In God’s Plans

My husband-the-deacon and I traveled to Puglia, Italy last month. While we were there, Mike and I never concerned ourselves with where we were. We toured with a small group and followed a full itinerary. Our guides led us through lovely and quaint towns which I’d never heard of before this trip. I found each one to be uniquely welcoming. What a pleasure it was to discover them with little effort on our parts! All the while, the only choices Mike and I had to make were how much to eat and which beverages to enjoy with our meals. Though Mike has planned many wonderful trips for us in the past, it was a relief not to have planned this time around. When the tour concluded, Mike and I flew on to Palermo. We continued this adventure by exploring Mike’s grandparents’ birthplace in nearby Altofonte.

The truth is that we were exhausted when we landed in Palermo and we questioned the wisdom of this venture into Sicily. Fortunately, our friends Francesco and Pietro had planned an itinerary to guide us along the way. Somehow, these two managed to get us to exactly where we needed to be with the most unexpectedly amazing results. This began when Francesco met us at the airport, drove us to our hotel and then on to Altofonte. Mike’s grandparents’ church was hosting a festival which we were to attend. Though we knew a week earlier that Mike was assisting as deacon at the evening Mass, we didn’t know that Palermo’s cardinal would be there to celebrate the parish’s two hundred fiftieth birthday. We also didn’t expect the thousands of people who filled the village square. As soon as we arrived, Pietro and his girlfriend Simona met us to introduce Mike to the parish priest. Father Vincenzo ushered Mike to the sacristy where he was outfitted in an alb and stole. The cardinal’s arrival was my cue to join the congregation with Francesco, Pietro and Simona.

Because all of the seats were taken, we stood on the sidelines as the drama unfolded. During the opening hymn, Pietro tapped me on the shoulder. His parents who live on the square insisted that we watch from their balcony. I found my place above the crowd just as Father welcomed the cardinal and the congregation. Though he spoke Italian, my ears perked up when I heard a familiar name. Francesco excitedly translated as Father acknowledged this Deacon Michael Penich who had come all the way from the United States to visit his grandparents’ village and to celebrate that special day. Though I was a distance away, I couldn’t miss the deacon’s smile. Mike had hoped forever that he’d attend his grandparents’ church festival some year, but he never expected to be a part of this remarkable anniversary celebration.

In spite of his non-existent Italian vocabulary, Mike assisted the cardinal throughout the Mass. Afterward, the elderly cardinal departed while the remainder of the clergy, servers, choir and local dignitaries assembled for the procession. Mike and the others led the way for the portable shrine of Mary. It took twenty-four men to carry the beautifully encased painting of Mary which had adorned the church for more than two centuries. As I watched, I prayed that those men would hold tight. One slip and the good deacon would have been crushed! As my friends and I followed along, Francesco determined that we would see more of the mile-long procession if we ducked up and down side streets. With that, he led Simona and me every which way. Every time we stopped, we saw another portion of the thousand-person procession. While Francesco documented it all with some amazing photos, I caught my breath until he led Simona and me up another hill. Did I tell you that Altofonte rests on a mountainside? The celebration ended with a flourish of fireworks in the square. Mike and I watched while enjoying a wonderful meal with Pietro’s family.

I reference our tour and our first day in Altofonte with you because both couldn’t have unfolded more beautifully for Mike and me. We didn’t worry about a thing because we trusted our friends who took care of us. In today’s gospel (Mark 10:35-45), Mark tells us that two of Jesus’ disciples weren’t as trusting of Jesus. James and John concerned themselves with their places among Jesus’ followers. Apparently, the two brothers felt smugly certain of their ranking among the disciples. They considered themselves to be at the top of Jesus’ list. Rather than leaving the planning to Jesus, they insisted upon choosing their own places at his side. I don’t think James and John realized how fortunate they were to be in Jesus’ company. If they’d stopped to enjoy their good fortune, they would have realized that Jesus was already making all of the difference in the world for them. As for Mike and me, we wouldn’t have experienced the fullness of Puglia or Altofonte if we hadn’t relied on the good will of so many others.

In the end, James and John looked beyond their own plans to what Jesus had in store for them. I think they’d tell you today that everything ended well for them. Today, God invites you and me to do the same. Rather than fretting and wringing our hands in the midst of our plans gone awry, God asks us to open our eyes and our hearts to what the moment at hand has in store. Though we can do our best to prepare, sometimes simply embracing the moment that God has prepared for us is enough.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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

Precious Time With God’s Gifts

You fill us at daybreak with your kindness
and we shout for joy and gladness at what we see.

Psalm 90:14

I’ve recently shared memories from some recent travel. Though I’m always pleased with the sites we see, it’s my husband who keeps a bucket list of sorts of all of the places he hopes to visit. Oddly, in spite of our recent trek to Italy, I feel the need to get away these days.

Just as I expected, my husband read my lamentations. He seems to be waiting for me to hint at where I might like to go. When he reads this, he’ll discover that I’d like to get away with as little trouble as possible. This means that I prefer not to involve planes or trains or buses in our travel. Today, I’ll ask him to join me in selecting a destination we can drive to and enjoy for a few days. Regardless of our choice, I am certain I’ll find precisely what I need along the way.

This is the case every time my husband convinces me to venture away with him. In each new place and new person I meet, I discover an uplifting morsel of Creation and of the God who gifted us with this world and with one another. With each new encounter, I find good reason to shout for joy over what I see.

Generous God, thank you for giving me the sense to enjoy your gifts on occasion.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved