Light Up The World With Joy

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
From Matthew 22:19

As I strung lights around our Chritmas Tree, I remembered my mom doing the same half a century ago. My mom was perched on a small ladder in our living room. Our dad had passed away the previous July. Young as I was, I wondered how my mom found the strength to celebrate Christmas that year.

In spite of the sadness which remained with us all of those months, my older sister Rita joined Mom in preparing special gifts for each of us. On Christmas Eve, our parish priests asked my brother to walk his wagon down to the rectory. Raoul returned with a beautifully wrapped package for himself and his five sisters. After Christmas dinner, we went on to Aunt Claire’s and Uncle Steve’s home to celebrate with my dad’s family. My aunt and uncle ushered us to their Christmas Tree for more gifts. Though all concerned knew that nothing could replace my dad, they did their best to emulate his love for us. Though I cannot name the gifts I received that year, I continue to feel the love offered that has sustained me for a lifetime.

I began Advent 2016 with thoughts of hope. This week, I focus upon joy. In spite of the terrible loss my family experienced, those who loved us did their best to return joy to our lives. It seems to me that we observe our wait for Christmas best when we do the same for one another.

Loving God, help me to bring joy to others in everything I say and do.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Mary’s Joy

“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
From The Magnificat

I needed a break from the hustle and bustle of the past few days. I rummaged through my car to find a favorite Christmas CD which features The Magnificat. Then, I rummaged through my son’s closet in search of his old CD player. When I remembered that I had given it away, I returned to my desk and slipped the CD into my computer…

The words which are attributed to the Mother of Jesus took my breath away as they always do. When the song ended, I contemplated Mary’s choices and the mindset with which she faced what lay ahead. When Mary embarked upon motherhood, she also embarked upon a treacherous journey. Mary’s worldly lot would be uncomfortable at best. Still, her spirit rested in the presence of the Lord. Mary endured because she trusted in God’s faithfulness to her.

I recalled the peace I enjoyed as a child when I knew my Lord was with me as well. Over time, the troubles of this life dulled this awareness. Over time, I attended more to what was wrong around me than to what was right. I have to admit that there have been moments as of late when this phenomenon has repeated itself. Still, when I place myself in God’s presence once again, my journey becomes do-able once again.

It seems to me that our own perspectives and our awareness of God’s intimate proximity to us make all of the difference in the world. Mary thrived amidst the lifetime of challenges because she realized that never once did she walk alone. The Magnificat echoes Mary’s realization of God’s promise to you and me. We, too, amble along in God’s company every step of the way.

Loving God, thank you for remaining with us all.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Blessed with Hope and Love

As is the case with most people, my life becomes increasingly busy with each passing day as we near Christmas. With this in mind, my husband and I began our Advent and Christmas preparations a bit early. While I contemplated this First Sunday of Advent writing, my dear husband raked up the last of this year’s leaves. After staring at the empty page before me for what seemed like hours, I decided a change of scenery might provide some inspiration. Though I intended to head outdoors for a quick walk, I stopped to admire the large piles of leaves that flanked the parkway in front of our house. Either my husband had tended to those leaves extremely quickly or I did actually sit at my computer for far longer than one unproductive hour. With that, I walked around the house to compliment Mike on his productivity.

Seconds later, I found the poor man in the midst of evergreen branches which were strewn about our patio. Mike had turned his attention to the barren planters which once boasted the colorful blossoms which we enjoyed this past summer. Mike had already filled two planters with a variety of those branches, colorful red twigs and a few faux poinsettia blossoms and berries. His creations looked at least as attractive as the decorations that have appeared in stores everywhere for the past several weeks. When he realized I was there, Mike told me, “I decided to take advantage of the warm weather and get these pots done.” This declaration enticed me to get something done as well.

I scrapped my plans to walk and set out to find Christmas Cards. Mike had seen a nice selection at Tuesday Morning a few weeks earlier and he advised me to start there. With a bit of unspoken skepticism, I agreed. When I arrived at the store, I found the card display precisely where Mike said it would be. There were numerous boxes to choose from, but not enough of any one design to meet my needs. We normally select one card to send to everyone on our list. Still, I perused box after box. In the process, I found five cards which I really liked. Each one featured lovely artwork and an inspiring greeting. Though these messages focused on varied aspects of Christmas, each one expressed the true meaning of this special day in its own way. As I selected the boxes I needed, I laughed at my less-than-hopeful attitude at the onset of this quest. I had left home with the intention of finding the perfect card with the perfect message at the perfect price. I did not expect to find it at this store. In the end, I had found five perfect cards with five perfect messages at a far better price than I expected. In addition, I found inspiration for this writing.

Every year, I begin Advent with the resolve to keep the true meaning of Christmas in my mind and in my heart. Every year, I struggle to do this with the rest of God’s people. How difficult it is to reconcile the trials and tribulations of this life with the absolute miracle which occurred in Bethlehem so long ago! When I returned to the scriptures, they reminded me that our struggle is nothing new. Though their settings seem somewhat remote to us, our biblical counterparts suffered in many of the ways we suffer today. These troubles might be economic, health-related or legal. They might be matters of the heart, matters of faith or matters of need. Regardless of the source, unrest played merciless havoc with our ancestors in the faith just as it plays havoc with us today. In the earliest times, God responded through the prophets. In Bethlehem, God responded with Jesus—the same Jesus who continues to respond to each one of us today.

Mike’s unexpected handiwork with our planters inspired me to set out on my Christmas Card search. My encounter with those inspiring images and verses rekindled the hope which had been but a flicker an hour earlier. I am quite certain that, throughout Advent, you and I will encounter the unexpected in many forms. However these adventures unfold, the final outcomes depend upon us. When we remain open to God who responded to this world’s troubles by sending Jesus, we remain open to God’s most precious gifts. Our hope in the things to come and our certainty regarding God’s love for us arm us to deal with the unexpected in all of its forms. When we do so, we inspire those we meet along the way to do the same. This is our Advent journey: To share our hope and to spread God’s love as only we can.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

There’s Always Time

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

Though it is a week before Black Friday, lines grow in stores and malls everywhere. While standing in a linear mass of humanity this morning, I whispered a prayer of gratitude for those retailers who have agreed not to open their doors on Thanksgiving Day. Of all of the holidays we celebrate in this country, Thanksgiving Day is the one we can all enjoy without regard for ones religious affiliation or lack thereof. Yes, blessed be these employers whose workers will enjoy the holiday with their families this year.

With that, I returned to my grocery list to see that I had everything I needed. A voice from the front of the line distracted me from my work. This person remarked that he would be wealthy if he had a dollar for every minute he spent waiting. As he hurried out of the store, I chuckled to myself. I had already found wealth in these seemingly wasted moments when nothing more than to wait was demanded of me. While the world rushed about me, I found the time to pray.

Perhaps this is the reason Jesus often rose early and stole away for quiet time. The scriptures tell us that Jesus’ moments of peace were usually disrupted by those who needed him. The same is too often true of you and me. Still, as Jesus did, we find the time to respond.

Dear God, this world of ours grows busier every day. Still, help me also to find the time to respond to one another and to you.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Enjoy The Wait

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.

From Mark 7:24-30

The person two places ahead of me in line remarked that he would be wealthy if he had a dollar for every minute he spent waiting. As this man hurried out of the store, I chuckled to myself. You see, I have already found wealth in these seemingly wasted moments when nothing more than to wait is demanded of me. It is during these few minutes when the world rushes about me that I do my best thinking and my best praying. Perhaps this is the reason Jesus rose very early and stole away for quiet time as often as he could.

The scriptures tell us that Jesus’ moments of peace were usually disrupted by those who desperately needed him. The same is true of you and me. Today, I am going to try to respond as Jesus would, with patience, genuine concern and love.

Dear God, I am grateful that others occasionally need me. Help me to respond to those in need as you would.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved