Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Here, then, is the message we have heard and announce to you:
that God is light; in God there is no darkness.

1 John 1:5

On the third day of Christmas, I always think of my dad. Today is his birthday and I hope he is celebrating with great gusto. My dad passed away many years ago at age 39. He has celebrated far more birthdays in the afterlife than he celebrated here.

When I was a little girl, the date of my dad’s birthday troubled me a bit. I thought that my dad was shortchanged. I asked him if he minded that his birthday fell two days after Christmas. Good man that he is, Daddy replied that this was okay. He felt that Christmas was a very good day which led into his own very, very good day. Because my grandparents had little money, I’m quite certain that my dad didn’t receive many gifts on either day. Still, he shared his memories with a smile big enough to convince this daughter that his childhood Christmases and birthdays were just fine.

This is a small parcel of the wisdom my dad shared with me. Happily, he always did so with a smile. Today, I’m going to allow myself a piece of cake in my dad’s honor -a sweet reminder of his sweet presence in my life. We’re going to party together in my heart.

Generous God, thank you for my dad who is among the best of those who have shown me your love. As you well know, Daddy did this with great competence and with a flourish which will never be replaced.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Believe!

“Why are you so terrified?
Why are you lacking in faith?”

Mark 4:40

A recent discussion with a second-time mom brought back memories of my own. This young woman’s first delivery was so much easier than her most recent effort! It was easy for me to commiserate. I’ve given birth twice and I can honestly say that I would do it all over again for both of my sons. Still, this is an easier call for my older son as his delivery was a little too easy, I’m told. The second time around was as baffling as that of the new mom I spoke with the other day…

Because I’d experienced contractions for days, we expected a quick delivery. Still, we waited several hours for progress. Suddenly, a nurse tossed a gown at my husband and rushed me into the delivery room. Monitors had detected fetal distress. When he made his appearance shortly thereafter, Timothy was white as a ghost. The nurse whisked our baby away without allowing me to hold him. After some whispering among the medical team, our doctor asked us not to worry. Then he added that he was calling in a specialist. My husband and I prayed. We’d waited a very long time for this child.

The next morning, the doctor shared that our baby might be suffering from an illness which would cause serious disabilities before taking him by age three. This news devastated us and our prayers continued. Later that day, Sister Charles who managed the hospital lab hurried into our room. She said, “I’ve looked at Timothy. Trust me. He’ll be just fine.” By the time the tests were completed, our little boy sported a very healthy glow. I’m happy to report that Sister Charles was absolutely right!

All of our worries aren’t unfounded, I know. All of our worries aren’t dispelled as happily, I know. I also know that God has always been and always will be with us through them all!

Dear God, you understand our worry better than we do. Thank you for being with us though them all.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Blessed Now and Later

Jesus toured all of Galilee. He taught,
proclaimed the good news, and cured the people of every illness.

From Matthew 4:23

Recent planning for my husband’s birthday, our granddaughter’s birthday and Thanksgiving Day has elicited a renewed appreciation for the gift of my family. Poignant memories of younger versions of my husband and me, falling in love, marrying and the pregnancies which resulted in two amazing sons fill me up. Add to this our sons’ wonderful wives and our grandchildren. You get the idea. I have much to be grateful for.

Still, none of this would be possible if not for the family and other special people who nurtured us along the way. So many of the people who helped me to become who I am today have passed on. Though my certainty of their joy in heaven remains steadfast, the sting of their absence reemerges often. The scriptures teem with examples of the healing powers of Jesus. Sometimes I wonder, “Why not two millenniums later? Why couldn’t they have stayed just long enough to see our grandchildren?”

When I find myself asking such questions, I look to Jesus who struggled with the trials and tribulations of this world just as we do. I can’t help thinking that Jesus was able to do all of this because he knew what was coming afterward. In the end, he determined that eternal life was worth the trouble. Since we know what Jesus knew back then, aren’t our woes worth the trouble as well? Events in the here and now don’t always unfold as we hope because, in the end, they lead us to so much more. Our loved ones in the hereafter attest to that!

Loving God, I will try to embrace every moment I’m given, even the difficult ones, because I know joy will follow them.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Aging Happily!

Only goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.

Psalm 23:6

In a few weeks, I’ll be a year older. I admit that I fully appreciate the opportunity to hang on to each year’s newly awarded number for the duration. After all, I usually don’t get used to my new “age” until a few months into it. I also admit that the efforts of my husband, our sons, our daughters-in-law and our grandkids sooth the sting of getting older. I find great pleasure in all of their secretive planning. The behind-the-scenes activity is the best part of whatever will transpire.

This wasn’t the case when I was a little girl. I had one birthday party. Because our household budget was perpetually stretched to its limit, I continue to be amazed that I dared to ask for this party and that my mom agreed to host it. I have no recollection of the planning. I recall that my three friends joined me for ice cream, cake and games that day. I remember my best friend’s gift because he slipped that shiny half-dollar into my hand ever so gently. This party was extremely important to me because I longed for the recognition that only a “birthday boy” or “birthday girl” receives. In the end, however, I was completely overwhelmed by it all. Because my shyness kept me from enjoying that limelight, I stood by and watched.

This year’s birthday and the many I’ve shared with my family are quite different. There is never cause for shyness because these are my very own family. I’m never uneasy or self-conscious with them because my roles as wife and Mom and Grandma are steeped in shared love. What is there to be overwhelmed by, except the joy of it all?

Loving God, once again I thank you for my loved ones, the gift of their love and the gift of your love..

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Hospitable

“My heart is moved with pity for the crowd.
By now they have been with me for three days
and have nothing to eat.”

Mark 8:2

When I glanced at the calendar this morning, I saw that Thanksgiving is just two days away. Thanksgiving is also the feast of St. Cecilia. This is my sister’s feast day. Since she passed away six years ago, these little reminders of her always give me reason to celebrate her. This is a great way to spend these pre-Thanksgiving days.

Cecele is a lot like our mom who was a hospitable woman. She opened her door to whoever knocked, offering a chair, a cup of coffee and whatever else she had to her guest. Though our kitchen table was already crowded, my mom extended her welcome to our friends who occasionally stayed for dinner. After our mom passed away, Cecele led the effort in scheduling our family gatherings. She also elicited just enough guilt from the rest of us to ensure good attendance every time.

Today, our mom’s and Cecele’s welcoming ways live on in the rest of us. We continue to take turns hosting our family gatherings where food and laughter are plentiful. Though our attendance isn’t as complete as it used to be, we still enjoy good times in good company. I’ll remember to thank God for this as I prepare to partake of Thanksgiving Dinner!

Dear God, you bless us with our families. Help us to show our gratitude by extending our hospitality beyond our homes to those who need us most.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Those Special Women

Her children rise up to praise her;
her husband, too, extols her.

Proverbs 31:28

My husband’s aunt passed away a year ago just prior to her 102nd birthday. Aunt Mary was a true matriarch who held her own until the very end of her life. The only exception was her one hundredth birthday party which she told her children not to have. When they insisted, Aunt Mary insisted as well. She would allow only a very small gathering. For once, her children didn’t listen to her! It was a grand celebration that even Aunt Mary enjoyed.

When my husband’s cousins recently sold Aunt Mary’s home, memories filled me up. Though I’m the in-law in all of this, the family who occupied that home welcomed me into their lives. Because of the distance between them, she and my husband’s mom spoke over the phone frequently. Afterward, my husband’s mom quickly called him to share the latest family news. Of course, he shared the same with me. And so it went for decades…

You know, there’s something to be said for the matriarchs in our families. My own clan boasts several who resemble Aunt Mary in their determination and their immeasurable capacities to love. They lead us in strong, but nurturing ways, each in her own way. Though not one of them is perfect, each one certainly leaves her indelible mark on us with loving precision. In the end, each of these women did the best she could and I am most grateful. After all, they’ve given me a peek at God’s feminine side which I might otherwise have missed.

Loving God, thank you for the special women who enrich our lives.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved