Oh So Grateful!

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

Mark 4:40

On this Thanksgiving Eve, I’m feeling blessed, especially with regard to my family. The close proximity of my husband’s and son’s birthdays enhance my gratitude. I’ve given birth twice and I can honestly say that, though he was at my side both times, I think my husband missed out a bit. We moms are very fortunate to have our roles in all of this. I’d do it all over again for each of my sons.

I admit that this is an easier call for our older son as I’m told his delivery was too easy. The second time around was a little different… Because I’d experienced contractions for days, we expected a quick delivery. Still, after I was admitted, we waited several hours for progress. Suddenly, a nurse tossed a gown to my husband and rushed me into the delivery room. Monitors had detected fetal distress. When he made his appearance, Timothy was terribly pale. That nurse whisked him away without allowing me to hold him. After some whispering with his team, our doctor asked us not to worry, but added that he was calling in a specialist. Mike and I prayed. We and his big brother had waited a long time for this child.

The next morning, the doctor shared that our baby might be stricken with a disease accompanied by serious disabilities. His lifespan might be only a few years. While I tearfully prayed for a different outcome, a friend stopped in. Sister Charles, the hospital lab director, told me, “Mary, I’ve looked at Timothy. His color is very good. He’s going to be just fine.” The following day after he consulted with that specialist, our doctor shared that tests confirmed that Sister Charles was absolutely right!

On this Thanksgiving Eve, as I consider all that has gone right in my life, I find it a bit easier to deal with circumstances that have gone awry. May each of us find reason to set aside the trauma of this pandemic and all of our other worries to give thanks for those who are most important to us. Though we my be unable to be together tomorrow, we do have one another to love!

Dear God, thank you for the gifts of our families and our friends and for all of the things which bring us joy.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s All About Love

Our granddaughter recently mailed a thank-you note to Grandpa and me. In celebration of her twelfth birthday, we’d shipped our gifts via online shopping in an effort to avoid going out. When we visited on her birthday, we brought Laruen our card, our birthday wishes and lots of love. We normally celebrate our grandchildren’s birthdays with a family party, a sleepover and a special outing. Much to our dismay, Year 2020 is quite different. Nonetheless, in spite of this subdued celebration, Lauren bubbled with excitement over the things we’d given her. Afterward, she texted us pictures of each one in use. There was no hint of disappointment in Lauren’s response to her special day. Apparently, she understands that we did the best we could. After reading Lauren’s thank-you note, it occurred to me that I shouldn’t have been surprised by her gracious response to her meager celebration. She’d responded the same for her sixth birthday too many years ago…

When we began planning her sixth birthday outing, Grandpa and I asked Lauren what she’d like to do. She quickly asked if we could visit a dinosaur museum. Mike investigated online and found a child-friendly venue. When Grandpa arrived to pick up Lauren for her birthday adventure, she was standing at the door with her suitcase. Lauren could hardly wait to begin this special time away from her younger and older sisters. Grandpa offered to carry her bag to the car, but Lauren insisted upon pulling it along herself. During the drive, Lauren confirmed our plans with great anticipation. When she arrived at our house, Lauren carried her little suitcase up to her dad’s old room. “I’m going to sleep in Daddy’s bed, right Grandma?” When bedtime arrived, Lauren announced, “It’s strange to be here without Ellie and Claire.” We immediately picked up the phone so Lauren could wish a good night to her parents and sisters. With that, she slept soundly. The next day, we drove to that dinosaur museum. Though Lauren didn’t say a word, I was terribly disappointed. It was much smaller and less adventurous than we had hoped. Still, Lauren reassured Grandpa and me. “It wasn’t what I expected,” she told us, “but it was still fun.” We filled the rest of the afternoon with a stroll by Lake Michigan and a visit to the pumpkin patch which we’d frequented decades earlier with our sons. These unexpected detours delighted Lauren beyond words.

That evening, when Lauren climbed into bed, she said her nighttime prayers. Afterward, she shared what she thought of our weekend together. “Grandma, I love being here with you and Grandpa. It’s fun to have you all to myself, but do you know what would be even better?” Before I could reply, Lauren went on. “It would be the most fun of all if Ellie and Claire and Mommy and Daddy could be here, and Uncle Tim and Aunt Kim, too. Then, we could all have fun together. Wouldn’t that be great?” I had no choice but to agree with this wise little child who’d learned and shared an extremely important lesson regarding love. When I turned to today’s gospel, I couldn’t help thinking of Lauren who seems to have taken to heart all that Jesus shared that day…

Matthew (22:34-40) tells us that, once again, the Pharisees tested Jesus. That time, they asked, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Without hesitation, Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself…” On her sixth and twelfth birthdays, and many times in between, our wise granddaughter demonstrated her understanding of both commandments. As a little and not-so-little girl, Lauren has consistently offered her prayers for those she loves. God definitely has a place in her life. It is Lauren’s understanding of that second commandment which is more remarkable. Lauren continues to enjoy special times with Grandpa and me. These adventures provide all of the attention Lauren can ever hope for. Still, when all is said and done, she realizes that this special time is even more wonderful when she shares it with those God has given her to love. Lauren has discovered what Jesus hoped to teach the Pharisees and all who would listen so long ago: God’s love blossoms into absolute joy when we share that love with others.

You know, Jesus didn’t ask us to love God in an effort to burden us with guilt or unreasonable demands. Jesus knew that it does our hearts good to express gratitude to the One who loves us unconditionally, who responds to all of our needs and who walks with us through every bit of our joy and our sorrow. Just the same, Jesus didn’t ask us to love our neighbor to complicate our lives. Jesus knew firsthand the joy that comes when we share our lives with one another. Jesus designated the Two Greatest Commandments for good reason. These two simple requests are the means to our happiness today and forever. Just ask Lauren…

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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