Time To Be Alone

A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them;
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
Ecclesiastes 3:5

My need for order in my life makes it unlikely that I will ever embrace the opportunity to “scatter” stones. I am far more likely to arrange them in neat piles or rows -depending upon their size. I am even less likely to choose to be far from embraces. The human touch is extremely important to us all, and I cannot imagine ever situating myself far enough away from my fellow humans to preclude hugging.

As I composed that last sentence, the image of my mom an hour before her death came to mind. She had drifted into a coma just after noon the day before, and we knew that her time left among us could be counted in hours. Though we all had agreed to leave our mom for the night, I could not bring myself to do so. I had stayed another forty minutes or so after my sisters when I realized the error of my ways. You see, when our mom received her terminal diagnosis, she was very specific regarding where she would spend her last days. The underlying message was that she had no intention of breathing her last in any of our homes. She could not bear to leave us with that memory. My presence at her bedside had obviously interfered with my mom’s intent. After kissing her one last time, I drove the thirty-minute ride home. About ten minutes after I arrived, the phone rang. My mom had taken her leave of this earth shortly after I left her.

Sometimes, we need to leave the proximity of those all-important embraces in order to deal with our most important work. In the end, there are some things which we must attend to alone.

Patient God, I can be thick-headed when it comes to learning the lessons of this life. Help me to see your direction more clearly. Nudge me when it is the right time to embrace those you have given me to love. Nudge me a bit harder when it is time for me to look within and to embrace my own heart.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Do Something

It is not often that I feel “down.” I am blessed with a positive disposition which usually serves me quite well. Nonetheless, I woke this morning with the weight of the world upon my shoulders. This made no sense to me as I had slept well. Usually, the first thing I do when in the morning is to turn my thoughts upward and pray, “Thank you for the sleep!” On this particular morning, I forgot my prayer because a laundry list of worries distracted me.

I fretted about those suffering in the aftermath of recent tornadoes and flooding. I fretted over the Nigerian girls kidnapped in April who still have not been found. Have we forgotten them? I fretted about military personnel who walk in harm’s way. What will the troubles in Iraq mean for them? Closer to home, I fretted about the price of gasoline and those forced to leave bills unpaid in order to afford transportation to work. I fretted because our St. Vincent DePaul members work very hard to serve the needy, but their resources have dwindled as of late due to the great numbers who need assistance. Will they have to say “no” to some of those who turn to them for help? I fretted over a dear woman’s unexpected widowhood and a friend’s decline in health. I fretted about one man’s job woes and another who needs to make changes in his lifestyle. As tears threatened, I realized that the weight of these worries would keep me in bed for the day if I allowed them to do so. As I wondered aloud why life on this earth seemed so impossible to manage this morning, I threw the covers aside and began my morning routine.
My dear husband usually rises a bit before I do, so I am left to make our bed. This is a good thing as the finished product gives an aura of order to the start of my day. Next, I grab my daily devotional for a few minutes of inspiration which always manage to lift my spirits. While the day’s story might not be my cup of tea, every entry gives me something important to consider. Since I didn’t feel like embracing anything this morning, this dose of inspiration was a must. Indeed, rather than reading at my dresser where I keep the book, I took it and sat in the chair near our bedroom window.

Heavy rain had given way to a drizzle, and I prayed that my heavy heart would lighten as well. After reading this morning’s reflection, I turned to the back of the book to peruse the bios and photos of the contributing authors –people like you and me. Finally, I thumbed through the dozen or so pages I had earmarked since last January. In the end, I found that these entries had touched me because they described ordinary events which had become extraordinary moments of grace. Each transformation occurred when a troubled soul turned to God for help and then dug in to do something to alleviate the problems at hand. With that, I set my book aside and prayed for guidance. In the end, my list of worries became an invitation to do something to make things right.
While considering Saint Peter and Saint Paul whose feast we celebrate today, I remembered that worry burdened these two as well. Poor Simon had given up everything to follow Jesus, yet he often failed to get Jesus’ meaning. Jesus chided him as a result every time. Still, it was Simon who found the courage to say aloud that Jesus was the messiah. Simon’s willingness to step forward was not lost on his Lord. In the end, Jesus called Simon “Peter,” the rock upon whom the community of believers would be built. With all of his imperfections intact, Jesus left his people in Simon Peter’s care.

Saul, on the other had, stepped forward quite willingly to support the leaders of the temple. Saul upheld The Law and persecuted Jesus’ followers with a vengeance. He ignored all that the disciples tried to share in Jesus’ name until the Risen Jesus himself knocked him to his senses in a flash of light. Jesus renamed this adversary “Paul” and invited him to embrace the truth. Paul responded and became the champion of outcasts who opened God’s family to everyone. In the end, Peter and Paul rose under the weight of their imperfections and worry. They responded to God’s invitation to make a difference by doing something. We celebrate them because of what they did.

I am happy to report that I have risen above my worry today. Just as God did something to inspire Peter and Paul, God used the words of my fellow writers to inspire me. Though nothing I do will erase all of the world’s troubles, the little “somethings” I do will make a difference.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Dance

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

Ecclesiastes 3:4

I took a break from decision-making mode to celebrate. My husband and I attended a wedding. Actually, Mike witnessed the marriage and I tagged along. The couple involved are wonderfully thoughtful young people who seem well-prepared to make this commitment. Since they generously included us on their reception guest list, we spent the evening with well-wishers who had good reason to make merry.

After spending the dinner hour savoring a delicious meal and rapt in pleasant conversation, we made our way to the dance floor. This ritual usually begins with a slow dance or two in my husband’s arms. After this, he retreats to join anyone who is not dancing while I continue the fancy footwork with whoever else needs a partner. This “whoever else” is usually a female friend or relative whose spouse has also “retreated” from the dance floor. In the end, I spend an hour or more allowing the dancer within me to take over. Though she has a difficult time guiding my feet into the “right” moves, she always succeeds in freeing me to abandon my inhibitions and to rejoice in the music at hand.

My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed that wedding. In the process, I managed to put my current state of mind into perspective. I came to realize that God intentionally created us with the ability to “party.” This is one of God’s most creative ways of reminding us to take the time to relax and not to take ourselves too seriously.

Gracious God, thank you for caring for all of us -our hearts, our bodies, our souls and our need to enjoy this life.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Let Go

A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to tear down, and a time to build.

Ecclesiastes 3:3

Change is difficult for me, especially when my established routines prove to be helpful to all concerned. “Why change what is working?” I often ask myself.

The problem is that I don’t always evaluate what “working” actually means. Is the status quo simply maintaining my peace of mind or is something positive actually being accomplished? Is adhering to what I am used to adding to the quality of my life and life around me or is it allowing a musty fog to blur the wonder left to discover?

Change is difficult for me. Still, discarding a bit of what I’m used to may bring healing to my restless spirit.

Loving God, give me the courage to let go of my routines and to embrace the opportunities which lie ahead. Be with me as I muster the courage to take that first step.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Time To Be Born

A time to be born and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot the plant.

Ecclesiastes 3:2

A time to be born… I enjoy walking outdoors because of the constant changes in the environment. The entire world seems to engage in rebirth during springtime. The growth continues throughout summer when flowerbeds and gardens flourish. Leafy trees respond to September’s mix early on with subtle changes in color. October brings those changes to fruition only to give way to November winds. Leaves crunching beneath my feet remind me that winter is near. Even then, barren trees hold the promise of new life. Yes, it seems to me that there is always time to be born.

A time to die… The lesson in all of this is that as Nature engages in rebirth around me, it also engages in dying all the while. Something old continually gives way to something new. Seeds fall from trees and dance in the wind until they find rest on the ground below. Though no longer part of a living tree, they hold all of the potential they need for life anew. Everything has changed for them. Still, these seeds nestle into the ground with great hope in the things to come.

A time to plant and a time to uproot the plant… If those seeds are lucky, a watchful gardener will see that they are covered with enough soil to survive. If they sprout too closely to one another, that gardener will gently relocate them so each will have room to take root and to receive its share of sunlight and water.

Compassionate God, you are the watchful gardener who places each of us precisely where we are meant to be. Help me to embrace my place with the certainly of those seeds who entrust their futures to your loving hands.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Appointed Time

There is an appointed time for everything
and a time for every affair under the heavens.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

I have been troubled by time management as of late. The truth is that I am actually troubled by a lack of time management. As a result, I am turning to one of my favorite scripture passages for guidance.

The words I’ve cited from Ecclesiastes seem to indicate that there is time for everything. The truth is that, in my entire life to date, I have never had time for everything. Decisions are always required when it comes to time allotment. I remember deciding at age sixteen that I would likely not be a “straight A” student because I had to devote time to the part-time job which would fund my college education. Once I came to this realization, I began to balance school and work as best I could. In the end, my grades were just fine and I enrolled in college with a scholarship and savings enough to keep me there.

Today, I find myself faced with important decisions once again. What can I continue to do and what must I let go? If I am going to finish the book stored partially in that computer file, partially in my head and partially in my heart, I must take the time to attend to it. Am I ready to embrace my appointed time to get the job done?

God of Love and Understanding, you know better than we how to proceed with everything. Still, you place our lives in our hands with absolute trust in us. While I thank you for this vote of confidence, I also beg you for guidance. Help me to find the appointed time for all that I am called to do.

©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved