Happy Halloween!

After this, I had a vision of a great multitude
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb…

Revelation 7:9

My Catholic roots compel me to celebrate Halloween by attending to the trick-or-treaters at my door and to those who have gone before us. Every Halloween in elementary school, Sister kept us focused on the point of our celebration. She invited us to dress for our class Halloween Party as one of the saints responsible for our annual inordinate intake of sweets. After complying with Sister’s wishes in school and trick-or-treating afterward, we attended Mass in honor of All Saints on November 1.

I look back upon my childhood fervor with a smile. I am grateful for numerous Halloween memories and for the All Saints Day celebration that followed. After all, this was the day that we celebrated everyone who had arrived in heaven, not just those saints whom we knew by name. This was the day on which I celebrated my uncle, two grandfathers and my own dad who had passed away. This was the day on which I acknowledged that these loved ones and so many others were indeed in heaven.

As I dole out candy to this year’s trick-or-treaters, I will give thanks for the gift of eternal life to our generous God who ensures that we all have every chance in the world to enjoy it.

Loving God, thank you for affording each of us the opportunity to join you as a saint one day. In the mean time, take special care of our trick-or-treaters. Keep them safe and give them joy.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

A Lesson In Forgiveness

Forgive us our trespasses…
From Matthew 6:12

It was almost Halloween and I was in need of more candy. As I watched a young teacher gather treats for her students, my thoughts returned to the days before my first class Halloween Party.

Three of my students had already distinguished themselves behavior-wise. Halloween’s approach proved to be too much for them. The little imps couldn’t keep themselves in line; they couldn’t keep themselves quiet, and they couldn’t keep their hands to themselves. By Wednesday before our party, they’d pushed beyond my fairly minimal limits. That afternoon, I informed them that they would not attend our class party. Crestfallen, they moped as we walked outdoor at dismissal. Thursday morning, they romped around the playground until they saw me. My presence apparently reminded them that they’d be sitting outside the principal’s office the following afternoon. Their skips morphed into slow walks and their smiling eyes clouded over. They focused on the blacktop beneath their feet as they joined the line inching into school.

Jesus made his thoughts regarding forgiveness clear. When I acknowledge my own imperfections, I mope like my wayward students who did their best to spoil Halloween for themselves that year. The day before the party, I saw that my three outcasts were somewhat subdued. By Friday morning, I hardly noticed them at all as they’d joined in their classmates’ cooperative efforts. An hour after lunch, as my three friends gathered pencils, paper and books for the trek to the principal’s office, my heart ached. “Do you know why you’re leaving?” I asked. Each one nodded. “What are you going to do about it?” I asked. “Be good!” they said unison. With that, in spite of what I’d told them earlier, I led them back to their desks to join in the festivities.

Merciful God, thank you for teaching me to forgive.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Great Gifts

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed.”

Psalm 126:2

While finalizing what we would like to do during our “driving get-away”, I went online in search of nearby zip-lining. Two years ago, while visiting Alaska, we stopped in Icy Straight Point. It was there that my husband and I 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 ride hundreds of feet above ground to enjoy the most amazing experience of our lives. For the 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 the entire time.

As I perused the webpages of various zip-lining companies, their offerings paled in comparison to my Alaskan experience. I wondered if I should give them a chance or if I should hang on to that wonderful soul-changing experience which took my breath away. Perhaps I should stop while I am ahead. After all, nothing can compare to the amazing view I enjoyed from that vantage point. More importantly, nothing can replace my conviction that I rode in the palm of Someone’s hand all the while.

I think I’ll tell Mike that we’ll move onto to something else…

Generous God, I will forever be filled laughter and rejoicing with regard to that AWESOME experience. Guide me as I continue to strive to experience you in the wonder of this world.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Check That List

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

1 Timothy 3:14

The other day, I received an email from a fellow traveler whom my husband and I met in Italy. She was also a teacher who had a bucket list of sorts which included many places she had once taught about and now hoped to see. Like my husband and I, she was just beginning her quest to do so.

Later that trip, we met two quite seasoned travelers who noted that this particular trip was the last adventure on their bucket list. At first, I was thrilled for this determined duo as they were on the verge of completing all that they had set out to do. As I considered their predicament further, I also felt a bit of sadness for them. “Now what do they have to look forward to?” I wondered.

It seems to me that these daring souls offer some important lessons to the rest of us. First, we all need to plan a bit in order to accomplish the things that mean most to us. A bucket list is not a bad idea. Second, we all need to tackle our lists, one item at a time, with determination and good humor. Remember, we make God laugh most heartily when we plan too carefully. Third, we need to keep our bucket lists active. What I mean is that we all need something to look forward to and something to keep us busy along the way. We also need the flexibility to change our plans when necessary. When we discovered that our most recent grandchild’s due date fell in the middle of a scheduled trip, we changed our plans so we could be home to welcome Daniel. The moral of the story seem sot be, “Plan a little and live a lot.”

Loving God, life on this earth is always 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.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Picture Perfect

Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.

Psalm 145:13

When my first grandchild was born, I organized our pictures of her and the rest of us from Day 1. Some family members and friends acknowledged my new role as “Grandma” by gifting me with photo albums and I put each one to immediate use. Rather than storing them away, I displayed the albums on our coffee table for easy access. I didn’t want to forget a bit of this new adventure.

Three more grandchildren and a few memorable trips have enticed me to keep this “album thing” going. Twelve volumes later, I find that my thinking in this regard is sound. When visiting, our grandchildren, their parents and their aunt and uncle look through these albums often. Numerous conversations regarding the places we have been, the kids’ growth spurts and a variety of special occasions result. The smiles that accompany all of this indicate that my photo album collection is truly a celebration of who we are and where we have been.

Though I have no photographic evidence, I am certain that my family and I have not been alone in all of this. God has been with us every step -and click of the camera- along the way.

Generous God, thank you for the memories and for the wonderful family who build them with me.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Make Every Day a Good Day

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness,
that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.

Psalm 90:14

I have only vague memories of rare “bad” days when I seemed to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed. Though I never figured out which side of the bed was “wrong,” a dear friend showed me how to begin every day with a positive attitude.

Carol and I had known one another for a year when her husband was transferred and their family relocated to a distant city. We had become fast friends, so this loss was difficult for both of us. We kept in touch via the phone and email. I also kept Carol in the loop regarding our church by sending her our parish bulletin each week. When our first Christmas apart arrived, Carol sent me a daily devotional to thank me for my effort. Though this was a completely unnecessary gesture, it has had long-lasting and life-changing ramifications.

It took only a few weeks for that devotional to become part of my daily routine. I found that I remembered to read it every day if I did so first thing in the morning. Though every reflection wasn’t necessarily my cup of tea, each author managed to cast a positive light on the new day. Ever since, regardless of what life brings my way, this attitude adjuster assists me in facing everything with hope and joy. That devotional also inspired me to do the same for others through my own books and these posts. One never knows just how powerful a single act of kindness can be.

Loving God, help us all to begin every new day with joyful anticipation of the things to come. May our example give others reason to do the same.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved