Prepare The Way

Do not fear, Mary. You have found favor with God.
You shall conceive and bear a son…

From Luke 1:30-31

Advent 2020 begins this Sunday. I was reluctant to type “2020” as this year to date has been challenging at best. Advent usually urges us to make time in our holiday frenzy to engage in the joyful anticipation of Christmas. Most years, this is difficult because there’s just so much to do! This year will be very different. Our efforts to limit errands to the essentials and to avoid crowds have probably already inspired a good deal of online shopping. We’re also likely paring down our Christmas gatherings to our immediate families. As I look ahead, I wonder what there is to joyfully anticipate in all of this…

As soon as I typed that last sentence, images from my visit to the Holy Land filled me up. As I recall the unearthed homes which were part of Jesus’ neighborhood in Nazareth, I’m immediately reminded that life wasn’t easy for Mary and Joseph either. They lived under an often combative government which considered the needs of the people a low priority. The temple hierarchy was often inclined to do the same. Mary and Joseph prepared for Jesus’ birth in the midst of tough circumstances.

Perhaps Year 2020 is the perfect year to recapture the spirit with which Mary and Joseph approached that first Christmas. Perhaps we can focus a bit less upon what we can’t do and can’t have and celebrate what we can do and what we do have. In the face of all that we’ve been through this year, we might spend Advent 2020 paving a safe and content path to Christmas.

Loving God, in spite of our struggles, help us to take joyful steps to Christmas Day.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Seeds of Hope

A man scatters seed on the ground.
He goes to bed and gets up day after day.
Through it all, the seed sprouts and
grows without his knowing how it happens.

From Mark 4:26-27

It was a month ago when we had three trees removed. Though this was done quite carefully, three gaping hols remained in their places. When our dedicated landscaper planted three much smaller trees in the area, those holes remained. He filled each small abyss with soil. After packing it into place, he seeded and watered. Daniel advised us not to worry about the grass. “Worry about everything else you have to do. The grass will take care if itself,” he said. Though we had plenty of time on our hands due to our stay-in-place status, we heeded Daniel’s advice. We actually accomplished a lot indoors and outdoors while we ignored that grass seed. A few weeks later, while my husband and I checked on the flowers he’d planted, we were pleasantly surprised. Amazingly lush growth had sprung from those one-time holes in our lawn. My husband smiled as he noted that Daniel’s and our faith in that grass seed was well placed.

You know, God places faith in the seeds you and I plant every day. Sometimes, our endeavors are long-term. Sometimes, we must do what we can in a given moment and move on. In either case, we do our best and hope for the best. In either case, God is pleased with the our efforts.

Trusting God, you have great faith in our ability to sow seeds of goodness wherever we are. Help us to do this as best we can as we return our world and one another to health.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s Time To Prepare

On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse…

Isaiah 11:1

While at the grocery store the other day, I saw a fellow shopper wearing a very familiar sling. I couldn’t help asking if he’d had shoulder surgery. The poor guy wearily replied in the affirmative. After encouraging him as best I could, I wished him a speedy recovery and returned to my grocery list. I’m certain shopping took me twice the time that day because memories of my own shoulder surgery emerged in full force…

When I counted back in time, I discovered it was six years ago that I had my shoulder repaired. I recalled timing the surgery to allow Thanksgiving and Christmas preparations to distract me from the painful recovery which I was warned would come. As it happened, these distractions weren’t as helpful as I’d hoped. Still, the pain wasn’t as horrific as expected either. I eventually learned to put my incapacity to good use. As a result, I embraced Advent 2013 with great fervor.

You know, Advent 2019 begins tomorrow. Once again, I’m given four weeks to engage in joyful anticipation of Christmas. Most years, it’s extremely difficult to find the time to truly joyfully anticipate this feast. There’s just so much to do! As I look ahead to the next twenty-four days, I’ve decided to recapture the simplified life-style which was forced upon me after my surgery. This year, I’m going to prioritize, organize and enjoy the wait for Christmas. I’m also going to have to look for that fellow with the shoulder sling to thank him for the inspiration. My fervor during Advent 2019 will be better than it might have been as a result of my conversation with him.

Loving God, this year, help us to all celebrate Advent and Jesus’ birth with resounding joy.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Prepare Joyfully!

There shall be no harm or ruin on my holy mountain
for the earth will be filled with the Lord…

From Isaiah 11:9

A few weeks ago, when my husband complained of a sore shoulder, I cringed. Suddenly, five-year-old memories from my own shoulder repair returned. “Ugh! I wouldn’t wish that on anyone,” I told myself, “especially Mike!” That year, I’d timed the surgery so that Thanksgiving and Christmas preparations would distract me from the painful recovery which I was warned would come. I’d deluded myself into thinking that I’d somehow be of use when it came time to decorate, shop for gifts and bake. As it happened, nothing could have been further from the truth. Fortunately, the pain subsided and I learned to put my incapacity to good use. As a result, I embraced the approaching Christmas Season with contemplative fervor.

As I considered my poor husband’s aching shoulder and his aversion to any intervention at this time of year, I decided to encourage him to do what I’d done five years ago. I announced that, with so much to do, he and I needed to pace ourselves. Happily, this is precisely what we’ve done. We’ve organized, prioritized and simplified just enough to allow ourselves to feel that we actually will be ready for Christmas with time to spare. The best part of this is that our moods inside have been as energizing as the brisk winter breezes which urge us on whenever we’re outdoors. So far, so good!

Will you join me in organizing, prioritizing and simplifying your to do list as well? Trust me. Once you start, this will become easier than you think! I assure you that God’s Christmas Spirit will be with you all the while.

Loving God, help us to anticipate Christmas with your resounding joy!

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Hearts Like God’s

We give thanks to God always for all of you,
remembering you in our prayers…

1 Thessalonians 1:2

I was very excited to cross off another item on my “check-up” list. I’d gone to my internist and eye doctor and had a mammogram. When I arrived for this appointment, I was taken aback by the waiting room filled with pregnant women. I’m well past that possibility and it hadn’t occurred to me that I might wait in the company of so many mommies-in-waiting. The good news is that they all appeared cheerful as they chatted about their pregnancies and shared helpful tips with one another.

Though I’d brought a book along to occupy myself while I waited, I didn’t read a word. Instead, I stared at the same page all the while as I listened to the exchanges around me. I admit that I filled up with love as the young women around me shared their joy with one another. “Ah, to be young again!” I thought. I clearly recalled the joy my husband and I experienced throughout my pregnancies with both of our sons. It was only when the nurse interrupted my musing that I remembered the reason I was sitting in that waiting room.

As she escorted me to the examination room, I remembered the moments when the doctor confirmed each pregnancy. I fell in love with those babies-to-be instantly. Such are the hearts of parents. They are fashioned to love their children no matter what. Did you know that God’s heart works the same way?

Loving God, thank you for teaching us to love in such amazing ways.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Get Ready!

On that day,
A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse…

Isaiah 11:1

Advent 2017 begins this Sunday. Once again, we’re given four weeks to engage in joyful anticipation of Christmas. Most years, it’s extremely difficult for me to find the time to truly and joyfully anticipate this feast. There’s just so much to do! As I look ahead to the next twenty-six days, I’ve decided to try to recapture the simplified life-style of my youth. This year, I’m going to prioritize, organize and enjoy the wait for Christmas. Though I realize I addressed this very thing quite recently, it bears repeating. It is in all of our best interest to find a do-able, productive and happy path to Christmas Day.

Will you join me on this path by seeking a bit of simplification as well? Though none of us can shirk all of our responsibilities, we can all probably let a few things fall to the wayside. Trust me. Once you start, this will become far easier than you expect!

As for me, I’ve already urged my dear husband in this direction. We’re starting to decorate a few days earlier and we’re already assembling our shopping list. We’re simplifying menus and preparing our Christmas cards earlier as well. Yes, this business of simplifying life can become habitual! Enjoy!

Loving God, help us to take joyful steps to Christmas Day.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved