Called By Name and By Love

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

From 2 Timothy 1:2

Our granddaughter recently made an astute observation regarding our family names. She noted that in her family everyone’s name begins with a different letter. She also noted that in Grandpa’s and my family everyone’s name begins with the same letter except for Uncle Tim. “How did that happen?” she asked. I responded with the same explanation I’d offered Tim more than two decades ago…

It was dinner time and Tim was uncharacteristically quiet. Suddenly, in the midst of the conversation, our red-faced seven-year-old son howled, “Why am I the only one in this family whose name doesn’t start with M?” My husband and I were taken aback because we had no idea that this bothered our younger son. Before we could respond, Tim tearfully added, “Mike, Mary and Michael. Why is my name Timothy?” I hoped that telling Tim the truth would sooth his wounded spirit.

“Tim, Dad’s name was Mike and my name was Mary when we met. We didn’t have any choice about that. When we had our first baby and he was a boy, Dad wanted to name him after himself and Grandpa. So his name is Mike, too. When you were on the way, I just knew you were going to be a boy. Dad and I talked a lot about your name, but I didn’t like any of the M names. Why pick a name just because of the M? I loved Timothy and that’s why you have that name. Yours is the only name that this family really had to think about.” With that, Timothy finished his dinner with a smile.

I’m happy to report that my granddaughter accepted this explanation as well.

Dear God, please bless all of your children with grace and peace, especially those who question their place in your world today.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love Works!

…proclaim the good news there also.
From Mark 1:38

The other day, Grandpa and I played a board-game with our granddaughters. The youngest had been doing well until my game piece landed on the same square as hers. Her guy had to return to start to begin the trek around the board once again. Poor Claire was beside herself. She ran from the table crying that she was tired of being picked on. Now I shouldn’t put this in writing, but I am Claire’s favorite. So it was particularly painful to hear her say that I was picking on her. As I formulated the words to respond, a similar adventure with Claire’s dad came to mind…

When my son was about the same age, he wasn’t at all happy with what I’d asked him to do. In response, he shouted “I hate you!” I never used that word and it broke my heart to hear it from my little boy. Still, I remained calm until Mike’s bedroom door slammed. It was then that the tears flowed. When I went out to the backyard to recover, I saw my neighbor. Ellie had been a great friend to my husband and me and an auxiliary grandma to Mike. Still teary-eyed, I told her what happened. “Did your kids ever say that?” I asked. “Sure they did. They’re kids. And you know what I did? I pulled them close and said, ‘Well, that’s okay because I still love you!’” Ellie noted that this gesture quickly put an end to such talk. With that, I went to my son’s room to remind him that I loved him. I couldn’t help smiling when he said he loved me, too.

My encounter with Claire ended just as happily.

Dear God, love makes sense always and everywhere. Help us to transform our own relationships and this world with love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love With A Child’s Heart

Become as little children and you will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3

A wise teacher once told me that if I ever wanted to know if a person was a good person I should watch the way children respond to him or her. Though I wasn’t necessarily convinced of Sister Imelda’s wisdom at the time, three decades of working with children and my own parenting experience support her assertion for the most part. Children somehow instinctively seem to know who does and who doesn’t have their best interests at heart. Though I realize children have suffered greatly at the hands of adults they may have misjudged, children more often than not seem to be great judges of character.

My own sons seemed to do this instinctively. When my parenting came from the heart, they complied with my wishes with little or no complaint. However, when I pushed them in directions which I myself wasn’t sold on, they balked. They kept me honest in many ways, helping me to keep my words and my deeds in sync with what I truly believed was right.

Though I haven’t been a child for more than half a century, I think I need to regain my childhood view of things. Back then, I assumed all was well and that everyone was lovable until someone gave me very specific reasons to feel otherwise. With so much negativity in the air these days, it seems I need to begin each day with my childhood’s positive outlook. At the very least, I’ll try to see the goodness in my circumstances and the lovableness in those around me. That goodness and lovableness might just last all day!

Loving God, help us to love another as you love us and help us to transform this world with that love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Friends For Always

“Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.”
Luke 4:24

A recent email exchange with a childhood friend turned my thoughts to the old neighborhood and someone I’ll never forget. I’ve told you about Glenda before, nonetheless, I can’t resist…

Glenda and I had been classmates from first through sixth grade. We played together whenever we could. During sixth grade, we endured some troubles. Glenda began to blossom into a young woman quite noticeably and I managed to annoy our teacher on a daily basis regardless of my genuine effort to do just the opposite.

One day, Sister announced that we must read the essays we’d just written to the entire class. Since Glenda and I were shy, we trembled in unison at the thought. When it was my turn, I managed not to fumble. When Sister called Glenda, I closed my eyes and prayed that she would do the same. A giggle from the back of the classroom interrupted my prayer. A second giggle prompted me to open my eyes. By the time I focused on Glenda, everyone in class was laughing, except for me. When I noticed that Glenda’s blouse had unbuttoned, I was mortified for her. Fortunately, Sister took control and sent Glenda and me into the hallway.

While I explained what had happened to Glenda, Sister mercilessly reprimanded the rest of the class. Poor Glenda sobbed until I convinced her that we were the lucky ones because the rest of the class was in trouble. In the end, our classmates ostracized us for a bit because we “got them into trouble”. Never mind their cruel laughter which caused Glenda’s tears. As for Glenda and me, our friendship grew stronger and Sister managed to muster a bit more patience when it came to judging my behavior.

Dear God, thank you for helping me to put my friendship with Glenda ahead of my standing among my classmates. Help me to put my friendship with you ahead of everything.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

One of Baseball’s Stars

“…everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
and the one who humbles himself will be exalted”

From Luke 18:14

The World Series will begin next week. I share disappointment with fellow Cub Fans because our beloved North-siders won’t be playing. At the same time, I can’t think of the Cubs, without recalling a close encounter of the amazing kind with my my mom’s favorite player…

It was almost two decades ago when my sisters and I took our mom to Santo’s, a local restaurant owned by the Cubs’ famed third baseman. While we were there, Ron Santo made one of his frequent appearances to mingle with his patrons. When Mom saw him, she flew out of her chair to greet him. Mr. Santo graciously shook her hand. Unfortunately for him, Mom didn’t let go. She pulled the poor man to our table, saying, “You have to meet my five daughters!”

Mr. Santo never stopped smiling as Mom dragged him across the room. When he arrived at our table, we tried to apologize for our mom’s enthusiasm, but he would have none of it. Ron Santo looked around at each of us and said, “Well, you sure have beautiful daughters, just like their mother!” He chatted with us for several minutes, gave Mom a hug and then went on his way. When we left the restaurant, Mr. Santo made a point of saying good-bye to his seemingly greatest fan.

Though this beloved Cubby is remembered for so much more, I’ll never forget the kindness he showed to Mom that day. Since his arrival in the hereafter, I’m quite certain that my mom has renewed their acquaintance and that she’s told him the same.

Loving God, thank you for good people everywhere who do what they can for others regardless of how busy they are.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

To You, Mom and Dad!

God blessed them, saying:
“Be fruitful and multiply…”

From Genesis 1:28

Though I addressed this occasion last Sunday, today is the day. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! While they celebrate together in a better place, I’m feeling particularly close to them today. My own family continues to grow as our extended family reaches farther into the horizon. Though sometimes we perplex one another with our differences, we also support one another as no one else can because of our common roots and, more importantly, our common love.

On this special day, I consider the wonderful gifts which my parents passed on to me. I celebrate their lifelong effort to love one another and to love my brother, my sisters and me as best they could. How fortunate my parents were to have found each other! How fortunate we children are who have been raised by the likes of these two! Though my dad passed away only seventeen years into their marriage, he left our mom and us with the fruits of their love. Perhaps my sister Cecele put it best when she observed, “Daddy must have really loved me because I’ve missed that love ever since we lost him.” I can add that we miss my mom’s love as much.

It seems to me that the best way to celebrate my parents’ anniversary is to take the scripture passage above to heart. May we all be fruitful and multiply their love in everything we say and do. Yes, Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Loving God, thank you for our ability to love. In all of its forms, love is the greatest gift we offer one another.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved