Loved, Always Loved…

This morning, I woke with a sense of gratitude in anticipation of Thanksgiving Day. Though I’d like to think that I’m a grateful person, this sentiment took me by surprise. Like so many of us, on Thanksgiving 2020, my husband and I won’t gather with our entire family to enjoy our Thanksgiving meal together. This year, Mike’s and our younger son’s birthdays fall during Thanksgiving week. Our observances in their honor will differ as well. Still, I must finally be adapting to our new normal because these realizations didn’t dispel the gratitude with which I woke. With that, I made a mental list of the gifts for which I’m most grateful. My family and the numerous others whom I’ve been given to love top that list. God has been extremely generous to me in this regard. As I contemplate further, I must acknowledge that God has been extremely generous to me in everything!

God… It occurs to me that it has always come naturally to me to include God in every aspect of my life. “When did this relationship begin?” I ask myself. While my dear husband tends to something in the garage, I’ll ponder this question in the chilly, but sunny outdoors. As I walk along, I recall the nighttime prayers of my childhood. I always asked forgiveness for the day’s misdeeds and blessings for those in need. Our family is large and at least one of us requires prayers much of the time. Back then, I relied upon our Creator God for everything. These nighttime litanies always began with, “Dear God…” Later, when First Communion Day approached and my catechism classes focused upon Jesus, things changed. While I held on to my awe for the God who made us and tends to all of our needs, I was also completely taken in by this Jesus who became one of us and who experienced all of our trials and tribulations firsthand.

Jesus, son of Mary, grew up in the small village of Nazareth. Jesus, cousin to John the Baptizer, worked as an apprentice stonemason with his father Joseph. Jesus, friend to the couple who married at Cana, helped out when their wine ran out. Jesus the Rabbi taught with authority in the temple. This made him a threat to the temple hierarchy and a source of inspiration to the people. Jesus the Storyteller used his parables to reveal God’s compassion, mercy and love. Jesus was hope personified to the hemorrhaging woman, the blind man, the lepers, the paralytic, Martha and Mary and the thief who hung on the cross next to him. Jesus was life itself to the woman caught in adultery, to Jairus’ daughter and to Lazarus. Jesus the Servant washed his friends’ feet at their last supper together. Jesus the Risen One made the promise of life everlasting a reality for us all.

As I continue this morning’s walk, it occurs to me that becoming better acquainted with Jesus was a game-changer in my life. Until then, I’d made many assumptions regarding God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. My faith assured me that God offered these things to me on an ongoing basis. When I encountered Jesus and learned all that he did for others, my assumptions about God became reality. I no longer needed to rely upon my faith because Jesus showed me that everything I believed about God’s love for me is absolutely true.

As I walk toward home, I return my thoughts to Thanksgiving 2020, to my unshakable gratitude and to God’s presence in my life. Something more occurs to me. I realize that both my awareness of God’s presence in my life and my sense of gratitude deepened as a the result of my acquaintance with Jesus. As I sit at my desk to begin this writing, I determine that today’s Feast of Christ the King is the perfect end to the Church Year, the perfect beginning to Thanksgiving Week and the perfect prelude to the Advent Season which will begin next Sunday. Who better than Jesus can inspire our hearts to be grateful in the face everything that lies ahead?

You know, Year 2020 has taught us that none of us can predict all that today, much less the coming week or month or year will bring. What we can be certain of is God’s affection for us. If you doubt God’s love for you, turn to the life of the beloved king whom we honor today. Though Jesus shied away from this title, Jesus embraced every opportunity to “reign” God’s love over the people in the midst of the wear and tear of their lives. Jesus shared God’s love so perfectly that he could never pass by a soul in need without stopping to help. The same is true today.

Meeting Jesus has helped me to experience God’s love quite tangibly in the joyful and the troubling times of my life. On this Feast of Christ the King, I celebrate Jesus with gratitude and I invite you to do the same. After all, Jesus’ words and works assure us all of how precious we are in God’s eyes. Even today in the midst of this sadly remarkable year, Jesus’ words and works assure us that all will be well in the end.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Share It All

O God, let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.

Psalm 145:10

Perhaps I feel this way because I was recently thinking about how different Thanksgiving Day will be this year…

This morning, as soon as I established my pace as I walked, feelings of gratitude overwhelmed me. Now I admit that I’m a creature of habit who walks the same route almost every single time I venture out. Still, the blue of the sky or changes in the trees which I’ve seen a hundred times fill me with awe. The familiar barren branches looming overhead reveal new knots and gnarls every time I pass beneath them. Chirping birds who should be well on their way south are the frosting on the cake. Even drizzling rain gives me reason to feel grateful.

In spite of these worrisome days, I’ve been an unwitting student of Creation’s wisdom during my treks outdoors. The clouded blue sky that beckons my eyes toward heaven and the trees who continuously raise their arms upward remind me to do the same. Their very existence points to God’s glory. Perhaps my existence on this earth is meant to point others in heaven’s direction as well. Like Nature around me, perhaps I’m meant to do this with a spirit of gratitude. Even as I stumble through this pandemic, our nation’s unrest and the numerous ills which hurt so many, God calls me to show others the way. Being a part of God’s creation is a privilege and an honor, something for which to be extremely thankful and something to share.

Generous God, help me to share your gifts with all of those I meet along the way.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Go In God’s Direction

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.

Psalm 145:10

I haven’t been as regular with my outdoor walks as I’d like. I can offer no worthy excuse for this because these adventures always leave me feeling better. I’ll blame my uncontrolled angst with life these days. Need I state the obvious? COVID-19 continues to threaten. Social injustice continues and non-productive politics is rampant. Much to my good fortune, something, no, Someone, nudged me toward my jacket and then out the door this morning.

In spite of the chill, as soon as I established my pace, feelings of gratitude overwhelmed me. This is quite miraculous considering the persistent issues I’ve listed above. Though I’m a creature of habit who walks the same route every time I venture out, the blue sky and changes in the leaves of trees I’ve seen a hundred times filled me with awe. Squirrels scrambling to hide winter’s allotment of nuts forced me to laugh. Though I always enjoy these walks, the joy I experienced this morning was remarkable.

I suppose I’m an unwitting recipient of God’s generosity during these treks. The blue sky that so often beckons my eyes toward heaven and the trees who continuously raise their arms upward remind me to do the same. Their very existence points me in God’s direction. It occurs to me that my existence on this earth is meant to point others in God’s direction as well. No wonder I returned home with such gratitude. Being part of God’s creation is very good reason to give thanks -even in the midst of this world’s troubles.

Generous God, help me to live every day with a grateful heart and to transform my gratitude into acts which make this world a better place for us all.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Walk Into God’s Presence

Teach me your paths, my God,
and guide me in your truth.

Psalm 25:4

By now, you know that my favorite solo activity is walking outdoors. The weather matters little to me as I find these treks enjoyable regardless of the temperature. A breeze of any velocity enhances these excursions exponentially. I do admit that my walks have been irregular as I’ve late. In spite of my efforts to stay-in-place as much as possible, I’ve had trouble juggling my housebound schedule and making time to write as often as I’d like to.

A few days ago, I couldn’t deal with my restlessness and frustration any longer. I announced to my husband that I was going for a walk and that was that. Not two minutes out of the house, a gentle breeze enveloped me. Two blocks later, the breeze’s strength increased and nudged me along the way. This was quite a feat as I was already walking briskly. Halfway into this adventure, my head cleared and our good and gracious God took residence there for the duration. Suddenly, my writing schedule -or lack thereof- seemed less of a problem and more of a blessing. Somehow, I knew I would find the time to do what needs to be done. In the mean time, I would walk.

It seems to me that we sometimes learn God’s path best when we head out in search of it.

Loving God, thank you for having pity on me as I fretted. The moment I opened the door, you came to me.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Living Gratefully…

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.

Psalm 145:10

This occurs occasionally and without explanation. Even in the midst of this pandemic; even when I wish I could free this world of our worry; even when nothing at all seems perfect, unexpected feelings of gratitude overwhelm me.

I’m a creature of habit. I walk one of my two designated routes every time I venture outdoors. Still, the blue of the sky or changes in trees which I’ve seen a hundred times before fill me with awe. The familiar green branches looming overhead reveal new knots and gnarly twists every time I pass beneath them. Chirping birds provide the frosting on the cake. Even drizzling rain gives me reason to be grateful.

Perhaps I’ve been an unwitting student of Creation’s wisdom during this pandemic. Perhaps the gently clouded sky that beckons my eyes toward heaven and the trees which continuously raise their arms upward are reminding me to do the same. Their very existence points to God’s glory. And then there are those amazing people I’ve been given to love…

Perhaps my existence on this earth is meant to point my people in heaven’s direction as well. Like Nature around me, perhaps I’m meant to do everything I do with a spirit of gratitude. After all, being a part of God’s creation is a privilege and honor and something for which to be extremely grateful. Even during these difficult times, we’re alive!

Generous God, when I appreciate what I have, it’s easy to share my gifts with others. Help me always to be grateful.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Walk Your Walk

People will come from the east and the west
and from the north and the south
and will recline at table in God’s Kingdom.

Luke 13:29

We recently enjoyed our first family gathering since our stay-in-place regimen began. Our sons, their wives and their children joined us that day. As we sat in the breezy outdoors, I smiled as I acknowledged that our sons draw the best from our gene pool. My husband is of average height and I’m short. Still, our sons are six feet tall. They have far healthier lifestyles than we had at their ages. Our sons and daughters-in-law adhere to their exercise routines while instilling the same passion in our grandchildren. When it comes to healthy eating, they’re all experts.

These observations and a few extra stay-in-place pounds nudged me outdoors the following day. I pushed myself to walk more briskly and a bit farther. Once I established my pace, I attended to the beauty around me. The sky boasted an amazingly deep blue and the trees sported vibrant greens. The spraying fountain I passed along the way sparkled like an array of diamonds. I looked up and gratefully whispered, “Thank you, for all of this!”

As I walked on, it occurred to me that our younger family members and I each embark upon a unique journey when we exercise. They attend quite astutely to what their bodies tell them, while I turn to life outside of me to distract me from the same. In the end, we each do what we must to accomplish our goals and we all feel very good in the end. It also occurred to me that all of our journeys through this life bring unique demands. God asks only that we tend to these things as best we can and as only we can.

Gracious God, help each one of us to be a blessing to those we meet along the way.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved