A Good Guy

“Joseph did as the angel of the Lord directed him.”
Matthew 1:24

Today is my father-in-law’s birthday. Like my own dad, he passed away far too early. The good news is that I knew him for ten years before he took his leave. Though our older son knew and loved his Grandpa, our younger son never met him. They would’ve liked one another! If his interactions with my elder son are any indication, this dear man wouldn’t have been able to contain his love for his five great-grandchildren either! How I wish I could have seen him holding each one of them!

Life wasn’t easy for my husband’s dad. Just after he married, he had to leave his wife behind to serve in the army. When he returned, the two had a tough time having children. When their first child was born, he lived only a few hours. Years later, my father-in-law told me that carried his son’s tiny casket to his grave for burial. Fortunately, my husband and his younger brother eventually came along.

My father-in-law was one of those good guys who worked hard at his regular job. He also took on part-time work to provide a few “extras” here and there. All the while, he cared for his aging parents who lived next door. This dear man actually had three jobs if you count the care-taking and home maintenance for which he was responsible. Still, he persisted in his roles as son and husband, dad and friend. Yes, he was a good man.

I cite the line above from Matthew’s gospel because it illustrate’s my father-in-law’s approach to things. Though I don’t think he actually saw an angel, I do believe he followed his heart in everything. This means that he followed God because God certainly resided within him.

Happy Birthday, Dear Father-in-law! Enjoy!

Loving God, thank you for this man and all of those who grace my life.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Share The News

Let’s move on to the neighboring villages
so I can proclaim the good news there also.

From Mark 1:38

When I gave our sons their childhood photo albums, I thumbed through them in search of a picture of our next-door neighbor. Ellie had become an auxiliary grandma to both of our sons from the day each one was born. Her impression on our elder son was so great that Mike named his eldest daughter after Ellie. As for me, Ellie proved to be a source of parenting wisdom especially with regard to Mike.

We saw Ellie almost every day. When she relaxed on her patio, we joined her to catch up on the day’s news or to solve the problems of the world both far away and close to home. One such visit was the result of one of those problems in my own home…

Mike was just seven years old and he wasn’t at all happy with what I’d asked him to do. Rather than comply, he shouted “I hate you!” and stomped off to his room. 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 outside to our backyard to recover, Ellie saw the tears and called me over. After I reported the incident, I asked, “Did your kids ever say that to you?” Ellie smiled. “Sure they did. They were kids. And you know what I did? I pulled them close and said, ‘That’s okay. I still love you!’” I hurried home to tell the same to Little Mike. As was the case with Ellie’s children, Mike never used those hurtful words toward me again.

Oddly, Mike doesn’t recall that incident. What he does recall are Ellie’s nurturing manner and kindness which he’s passing along to his own children.

Dear God, thank you for Ellie and the many good people who share your love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Small Bits of Love Add Up!

Every day we are called to do small things with great love.
Mother Teresa

While my granddaughters chatted about their first week of school, I hoped that all of the kids who’ve begun this new academic year are equally pleased. Throughout August, I’d encountered numerous parents and children in a last-minute search for school supplies. I was amused by the interplay between parents and their children as they negotiated which items were and were not essential to the coming school year. My granddaughters and their parents had certainly done the same!

The parents I saw amazed me with their patience as they gently urged their children back to their supply lists. The children responded in kind as they agreed that their family budgets would go only so far. In the end, parents and children shared the load as they carried their treasures off to their cars. All the while, they chatted about new teachers and reunions with friends. This scene repeated itself over and over again over the past several weeks. Those parents who kept their cool and those children who took their parents’ cues certainly made the most of what can sometimes be a trying time for all concerned.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed countless acts of love -tiny, heroic moments in our every day lives. Our attitudes and our choices in the moments make all of the difference in the world to those around us. Whenever we choose love over anger, love over impatience, love in spite of our weariness and love in the midst of heartbreak, we do our greatest work. Those parents and their children did just that!

Loving God, Mother Teresa certainly got it right. Help us to love as she showed us to love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Irresistible God

When Jesus said, “Come after me;
I will make you fishers of men,”
They immediately abandoned their nets
and became his followers.

Mark 1:17-18

My relationship with God began early on. My parents inspired my effort in this regard by taking their own faith to heart. No matter what the circumstances, they found reason to thank God for blessings received or to place the misery of the moment in God’s hands. My parents and all of my family seemed to assume God’s involvement in everything. No matter what, they were convinced that God was aware. They also knew that, in the end, all would work out for the best. Most of the adults I met along the way seemed to share my family’s perspective. When I came across someone whose opinion differed, I contented myself with the knowledge that God loved that person regardless of what he or she thought of God.

I think the adults who inspired my faith took their lead from Jesus’ followers. When I consider how quickly the disciples walked away from their daily lives to follow Jesus, I feel certain that something about Jesus drew them in. Simon and Andrew were successful fishermen who left their livelihoods to follow Jesus. Martha and Mary ignored the social mores of the day when they opened their home and hearts to Jesus. Mary Magdalene, a woman of means who made her own way in spite of persistent illness, did the same. Did Jesus do such an amazing job of revealing God’s love and compassion and mercy that his company was irresistible? The God I’ve come to know and love certainly is!

Generous God, thank you for the gift of you. You’ve transformed my life from the moment I first heard your name.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Chosen To Love and To Be Loved

Now I have seen for myself and have testified,
“This is God’s chosen One.”

John 1:34

A very wise teacher once told me that if I ever wanted to know whether or not a person was a good soul simply to watch the way children react to him or her. Three decades of working with children and my own parenting and grandparenting experiences support her assertion. Children somehow instinctively seem to know who does and who does not have their best interest at heart. A chance encounter underscored this assertion…

I was at the park with our grandson. While Danny and I constructed a twig bridge in the sandbox, numerous adults and children passed. I looked up often to watch as various preschoolers were coaxed to try the slide or the climbing wall. I was surprised by the reluctance of a boy who seemed to be about 9 years old. He and the gentleman with him hesitated quite a while before the boy put his hand on the wall. After a gentle verbal exchange, the man put his hand over the boy’s hand and both attempted to shake the plastic rock on which the boy would step. Seemingly convinced that the rock would indeed support his weight, the boy eased closer. A few urgings and a few minutes later, he began his climb. After considerable effort, that boy made it to the top. Without hesitation, he turned with a triumphant smile and shouted, “Dad! I did it!” It was then that I saw that boy’s face. He is one of God’s very special creations.

As Danny and I continued building our bridge, I looked upward with my own smile.

Dear God, you gave that boy a wonderful dad! Help me to be just as caring of those you’ve given me to love.”

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Potential For Goodness

I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man,
but rather in his conversion that he may live.

Ezekiel 33:11

When we arrived at the playground, our grandson led us directly to the sandbox. I admit that I enjoy the digging and building. Usually, other children join us which allows all concerned to hone their abilities to cooperate and share. That morning was no exception. While Danny and his companions discussed the bridge he and I had started, a group of preschoolers on the nearby slide caught my eye. Their caretaker was talking with a little girl who seemed to need a reminder regarding taking turns. I wondered if the woman was using the same pitch I’d used years ago on the playground.

When I was a reading teacher, I pulled students from other classrooms. As a result, I monitored outdoors at the open and close of every school day. During these morning patrols, I encountered some reluctant grade-schoolers who sometimes needed a variety of reminders. Many of these children had more to worry about than their places in line at the slide. They often expected only the worst from the coming school day. Still, in spite of their trepidation, these children responded to our daily interactions with surprising openness. I learned a good deal about them as I urged them into school and on to what might actually become a very good day.

As I watched that little girl make her way to the slide with a smile, I knew her caretaker had said just the right thing to get her on her way. With that, I turned back to my grandson and his new friends. I hoped that I could add something positive to our sandbox adventure and to the rest of their potentially good day.

Loving God, be with us as we bring goodness to the moments at hand.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved