Specially Made

“You have made them little less than the angels,
and crowned them with glory and honor.”

Psalm 8:6

I come from a very large family. My dad is one of twelve children and my mom is one of eight. My earliest memories include large gatherings filled with our relatives on a multitude of occasions. I also grew up down the block from our church. Numerous people passed our house on their way to Mass each week. I worked at a grocery store throughout high school and college where the entire neighborhood shopped. Afterward, I married and began my teaching career. Throughout all of this, amazing people of every sort have come into my life.

I’m especially grateful for the moments I’ve shared with those around me. During these encounters, I’ve received glimpses of many remarkable souls. Several of them have no idea of how richly they contribute to this world of ours. As a result, I take great pleasure in pointing out their unique gifts at every opportunity.

You know, each of us has been made “little less than angels”. As God’s children, each of us is “crowned with glory and honor”. God sends us out to enrich those around us and this world with the unique gift of our selves. Let’s take a long look in the mirror today. What is it that you and I have to offer those around us? What can only you and only I do to make this world a better place?

Thank you, Dear God, for loving us so much that you trust us to bring our own variety goodness into this world!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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N… Name!

He called his disciples and selected twelve of them to be apostles: Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter, and Andrew, James and John, Phillip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James and Judas Iscariot.
From Luke 6:13-16

N is for Name. My name is Mary Ellen. My recently widowed aunt suggested this name to my mom just after I was born. In tribute to her sister, my mom gave me called me Mary Ellen. Still, every time she visited, our elderly cousin Bertha insisted upon calling me Margaret Mary. When I reminded her of my actual name, Bertha always responded with the same explanation: “Oh, I know your name. It’s just that I love the name ‘Margaret Mary’ and I love you.” Needless to say, I didn’t mind our cousin’s extra attention or her love. Both made me feel very special.

God gives us parents some latitude in naming our children. This is quite a gift since God knows the value of our names. God renamed Abram when God sent him off. Abraham would father the Jewish people. Jesus gave Simon a new name. Simon Peter became the rock upon whom Jesus built his church. Later, when Saul persecuted Jesus’ followers, Jesus stepped in and renamed him as well. Paul became one of our greatest Christian preachers.

Though my two names were bestowed with a bit less fanfare, God uses them with the same expectation. In every opportunity which comes our way, God calls all of our names with great love and with great hope in our responses.

Dear God, I will listen as you call my names, both of them!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Answer That Call

Fill us at daybreak with your kindness…
From Psalm 90:14 1:38

I can’t remember being this busy! The phone has rung once too often with today’s allotment of roto-calls. Then there were the legitimate callers who needed something which only I could provide. I’m truly humbled that others depend upon me. Today, however, I wished to be depended upon just a bit less. I’m tired. I received two books as gifts which await my perusal and my own book needs to be written. Just a minute. There goes my phone again!

This time, I’m grateful for the call. Our grandsons needs a sitter. Of course, my husband and I are available. Of course, we’ll stay as long as needed. Of course, we’ll enjoy every minute we spend with Danny and Ben.

As I look to my calendar to clear the day, I notice the little bust of Charlie Brown which Danny’s and Ben’s dad sculpted in elementary school. The signature and date scrawled on its bottom indicate that Tim fashioned this replica of my favorite Peanuts character when he was 9 years old. I treasure it because of Charlie Brown’s endearing message to me. Though Charlie Brown’s outlook can sometimes be more dismal than I’d like, he always manages to pull himself together and to do his best no matter what. Though Charlie Brown doesn’t initially appreciate the fruits of his labor, in the end, his efforts always prove to be worthwhile.

My responses to those earlier phone calls and to many of this life’s demands didn’t emulate Charlie Brown’s efforts as much as they should have. It was that request for Grandpa’s and my services which adjusted my focus. You know, it truly is an amazing blessing to be needed! The next time the phone rings, I’ll answer with Charlie Brown’s enthusiasm and his good will.

Dear God, help me to respond with love whenever I’m needed, regardless of when I receive the call.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

N is for Name

At daybreak, he called his disciples by name… Simon, to whom he gave the name Peter,
and Andrew his brother, James and John, Phillip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot.

From Luke 6:13-16

N is for Name. The day my mom gave birth to me, she and my dad hadn’t yet selected my name. They had some time to decide because new mothers had longer hospital stays back then. The day after, my mom’s sister visited her. When Aunt Lucille asked my name, my mom admitted that she and my dad hadn’t yet decided. With that, Aunt Lucille immediately suggested, “Mary Ellen! I have Jean Ellen and I would’ve named my second daughter Mary Ellen.” My aunt wouldn’t have a second daughter because her husband had passed away some months earlier. Without a second thought, my mom responded with absolute love: “We’ll name her Mary Ellen!” When my dad arrived, my mom announced her decision. His first response was, “Where did you get that name?” When my mom explained, my dad agreed that his brother’s wife had offered the perfect name for me.

Naming someone is a powerful gift. My mom named me to remind my aunt of just how much she is loved. God renamed Abram when God sent him off to father the Jewish people. Jesus renamed Simon who became Peter, the rock upon whom Jesus built his faith community. When Saul vengefully persecuted that community, Jesus renamed him. Paul is among the greatest teachers of Christian living.

Though your name and mine were bestowed with a bit less fanfare than those of our biblical predecessors, God uses them with the same expectation. In every opportunity which comes our way, God calls your name and mine with great love and with great hope in our responses.

Dear God, we listen as you call our names and we respond as best we can.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Special, Indeed!

“…to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God…”

2 Timothy 1:2

This past weekend, we gathered to celebrate our newest grandchild’s baptism. I admit that this gave me reason to pause. It wasn’t all that long ago that I had held his dad in my arms. How is it that my baby is blessed with a wonderful wife and two sons of his own these days? Of course, this musing filled me with joy. I completely overlooked the fact that my son’s evolution into a father was proof positive of my own evolution into a grandma!

Throughout our gathering, I kept myself in close proximity to our newest grandchild as often as possible. Eventually, after my husband, his other grandparents and aunts and uncles stopped doting over him, I held Benjamin for a while. I took this opportunity to ask that tiny baby, “Do you know how loved you are? Are you happy with your name?” Though he closed his eyes to nap, I continued. “Your dad wasn’t at all happy with his name. He felt very badly that his was the only name in our family which didn’t begin with an M. It was only when I explained just how special Timothy was to me that your dad realized that he is special to me, too. Never forget that you’re special, Benjamin.”

With that, I relinquished that squirming little boy to his mom. As she nursed her content little son, I smiled. What better evidence of our being loved is there then our mom’s embrace? With that, I looked upward and prayed that Ben and all of my family will remember just how loved and special they are.

Loving God, each of us is special in your eyes. Help us to remind one another of this in all we say and do.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Things That Stay With Us

It was after dinner Monday evening. Since my dear husband and I had spent the day with our grandson, I was fully prepared to snuggle in my recliner until bedtime. Mike sat a few feet away in his own chair with his laptop in position for an email and Facebook check. I would have dozed off as Mike typed away if he hadn’t begun to whistle Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. Before I could question Mike’s choice of melodies, I remembered that Danny and I had sung that song several times throughout the day. Danny is allowed to watch an episode or two of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood most days and he’s learned the lyrics to this and a few other favorites. Danny often sings them while we play. As for me, I remember every word because I used to sing those lyrics decades ago with Mr. Rogers and with our own sons. As Mike whistled away, I offered my thanks for Mr. Rogers’ influence during our sons’ formative years and for his continued presence to Danny through Daniel Tiger. I ended my prayer by observing, “Nice that those lyrics have stayed with me.”

Mike stopped whistling as he became engrossed in the evening’s Facebook posts and I dozed off. I awoke only when Mike asked me what my plans were for Tuesday. I didn’t tell him that I’d been napping and that I’d dreamed myself back to my own childhood. I’d been gazing skyward toward the white clouds which lingered above the backyard of my childhood home. Many a summer evening, I sat on a swing with my eyes fixed on the billowing white clusters above me. I loved the clouds because I knew that just beyond them God kept watch over me and my loved ones. Though my parents had never put it quite this way, their continued reliance upon our benevolent Creator assured me of this reality. “Nice that those memories have stayed with me,” I mumbled to myself.

When I finally turned my attention to Mike’s question, I told him that I had nothing special planned except to write. When he went on to ask if I wanted to see a movie and then added that the Mr. Roger’s documentary was available, I jumped at the opportunity. Mike would likely have chosen to see something else since we haven’t been to a movie in some time. Still, in spite of the thirty minute drive we’d have to make for the showing, my very dear husband checked the show times and then asked which one I’d prefer. As for me, I’d already begun to anticipate this viewing because I’d seen snippets a few days earlier. As I considered Mr. Rogers’ contribution to the welfare of so many children, I pictured him in his trademark sweater singing his welcome to the neighborhood to everyone within earshot. “Nice that his kindness has stayed with me,” I thought to myself.

The following day when Mike and I made our way into the theater, I was grateful that the Tuesday afternoon crowd was sparse. If my reaction to the previews I’d seen earlier was any indication, this would be a joyful and tearful afternoon for me. As it happened, the documentary offered far more than I expected. I recalled several of the episodes which were featured. I’d forgotten that Mr. Rogers had tackled tough topics which challenged even the most seasoned parents. He addressed divorce and death, racism and war. He featured persons with disabilities whose different bodies also housed amazing talents. Mr. Rogers explained everything in terms children could understand. At the same time, he reminded the adults who took the time to watch to appreciate the value each one of us brings to this world of ours. Outtakes with the crew revealed Fred Rogers’ humanity and his genuine nature. What we saw in those decades of episodes was indeed the real deal. What we saw in Fred Rogers’ activism in support of children’s television and in support of all of our humanity was the real deal as well. “Nice that the importance of this dear man’s work has stayed with us,” I told Mike on the drive home.

I share all of this because Fred Rogers learned from the best. When he focused upon the most important messages our children need to hear and did his best to see that those truths stayed with them, he did as Jesus did. When Jesus sent his disciples out on their first missions, Jesus hoped a few things would stay with them as well. Mark’s gospel (6:7-13) tells us that Jesus prepared his disciples carefully. After offering them the best of his teaching and the best of his example, Jesus gave a few final directives: Take nothing but a walking stick… Wear sandals and a single tunic… Stay where you are welcomed… Shake off the dust of any place that doesn’t welcome you… I can’t help wondering what Jesus whispered as he watched his best friends walk out into the distance: Remember I am with you… Reveal God’s love in every word and deed… Know that your best is good enough for me… I love you… This passage closes with the happy news of the disciples’ success. Nice that the things Jesus shared stayed with them, isn’t it? Nice that the things Jesus shared stay with you and me.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved