Find Peace In It All

You shall not fear the terror of the night
nor the arrow that flies by day.

Psalm 91:5

I’ve written about Lee before. A recent post by one of Lee’s classmates brought this lovable student to mind. I couldn’t resist Lee’s smile back then, nor can I today…

When I taught, I prided myself in exhibiting calm in the face of misbehavior. My students apparently appreciated this effort as indicated by their subsequent compliance. Still, I admit that my anger got the best of me the morning I heard that Lee had died. The sting of his loss remains.

Though he had a very kind heart, Lee had been taken in by the allure of the streets like some of his older siblings. This time, Lee drove a van which his friends loaded with bicycles they stole along the way. A police chase resulted in the accident which took Lee’s life. At school the following morning, I heard one of Lee’s classmates bragging that he’d been in the van during that chase and that he ran away when the van tipped on its side. Before he could continue, I interrupted his lie. “Who do you think you are?” I wailed. “Lee died last night and you were nowhere near that van. Don’t you dare try to make yourself look cool because of Lee’s death!”

I didn’t realize the power of my words. Suddenly, one could literally hear a pin drop in the once noisy hallway. While the target of my ire crept into his classroom with his eyes cast to the floor, others who knew Lee stopped to share their sadness over the friend we’d all lost. Their kindness returned some semblance of peace to our never-to-be-the-same world.

So many equally heartbreaking events have threatened over the past several months. Some were the results of wrongdoing as in Lee’s case and some simply happened. Though what used-to-be may be unsalvageable in many cases, what can be always rests in our hands. It’s up to us to find the peace to move beyond it all.

Dear God, Lee rests in your everlasting peace, I know. Be with us as we work to bring a hint of that peace to one another and to our world.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Beloved Lambs

The Lord is my shepherd and there is nothing I shall want.
Psalm 23:1

October 2020 continues to be challenging. In addition to our ongoing immersion into the pandemic, a dear family member moved on to the hereafter. A young woman looks toward her future with an unexpected diagnosis which will determine her passing as well. My husband has presided at more funerals and committals than expected as of late. The rainy weather mirrors my sentiments as I offer prayers for those looking toward their last days and for those left behind.

I’ve walked with loved ones through serious illnesses. Though I couldn’t do much to help, I watched with care as they processed the scenario which lay before them. In every case, I was deeply moved by their bravery through transitions from anger to fear to sadness to practical concern for those left behind to joyful anticipation of the things to come. It was then that I thanked God for the grace which allowed these amazing souls to manage their illnesses and to embrace their final journeys home.

As is the case with most of us, my journey home to heaven lies ahead sometime beyond my knowing. In the mean time, I turn to a favorite Psalm where I find encouragement for the journey ahead. Psalm 23 elicits the image of a happy little lamb dancing through tall grass in a beautiful pasture. Within seconds, this lamb’s revelry becomes my own. “The Lord is my shepherd and there is nothing I shall want…”

With that, I resolve to do my best today regardless of all this day will bring. I do so with a smile because God is my shepherd and there really is nothing more for me to want.

Loving God, help us all to remember that you are always walking at our sides seeing to our safety with great love.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

We Walk In Good Company

God rescues you from the snare of the fowler
and from the destroying pestilence.

Psalm 91:3

Psalm 91 inspired a familiar hymn which I hear at most funerals. Isn’t it odd that, in the midst of our losses, we sing about God’s rescuing us from the snare of such sadness? Though this may seem odd, this is precisely what God has done every time I’ve found myself steeped in misery.

A few weeks ago, a friend sat at her son’s funeral. Though this mother was elderly and her son had lived five decades, the setting was not as things should be. Parents shouldn’t bury their children at any age. Yet, how often they do. As I wrote a not of sympathy to this woman, my thoughts turned to Mary, the mother of Jesus. It occurred to me that even Jesus’ family wasn’t spared this unthinkable sorrow.

Our earthly lives include a few givens. The cynical side of me wants to list taxes and death first. Though our time on this earth includes ample opportunities to enjoy God’s gifts, it also includes a measure of sorrow for each one of us. When we sing or pray about God rescuing us, this doesn’t guarantee that God will dispel our misery or scoop us up and away from our troubles. It does promise that God will walk us through our pain toward better things to come. Even when we forget to ask for God’s company, God remains with us.

Loving God, thank you for walking at our sides.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Best Kept Promise

“Amen, amen, I say to you…
the dead will hear the voice of God.”

From John 5:28

I believe that I make peace with the passing of my loved ones for good reason. From very early on, my parents assured me that those who neared death were destined for absolute happiness and health in heaven. As I grew older and came to appreciate the suffering of those left behind, I held on to my parents’ promises and my own conviction that heaven is indeed worth the pain of this temporary separation. Over the years, I’ve found further consolation in the wonderful accounts offered by those gifted with Near Death Experiences. These people who have tasted life after this life assure us all that my parents’ promises from long ago are well-founded.

A close encounter with this phenomenon came at the hands of my mom. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a prognosis of four months. After acknowledging that she had lived a good and long life, my mother’s only wish was to be independent for as long as possible. As it happened, she remained miraculously pain-free and medication-free, except for her insulin, until the end. It was during her final week among us that my mom mentioned the beautiful voices. She also remarked that her sisters were waiting for her. The morning of the day she passed, I asked my mom if she was afraid. Her face glowed when she answered, “Oh no, Mary. It’s beautiful over there!”

Even in the midst of our battle with COVID-19, I can’t deny it. Heaven truly is worth the wait!

Loving God, thank you for so many amazing glimpses of the wonder which lies ahead.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

We’re All Invited!

Turn to me and be safe…
From Isaiah 45:22

Our granddaughter’s and grandson’s recent birthdays inspired some reminiscing on my part. Perhaps because we couldn’t gather for our typical large family parties, memories of parties past filed me up. Like my mom, I’m happiest when we’re gathered as family under one roof having a good time. How she would have loved to participate in the many gatherings that have occurred since her passing!

It was seventeen years ago. After what we expected to be uneventful surgery, we were shocked by news of our mom’s cancer, her four-month life expectancy and the possibility of pain, a lot of pain. When we told our mom, she shared our surprise at the diagnosis, but not at the outcome. “We all have to die from something. I’ve had a good long life… I hope I can do what I want for a while. I hope I can be comfortable. I hope I go without too much trouble. I hope…” We all hoped with her.

In the end, the outcome was precisely what my mom had hoped for. The pain never came and Mom did everything she wanted to until her last two days when she remained in bed. Two days before she left us, I asked if she was okay and if she was afraid. My mom sported a huge smile and said, “Oh no, Mary! I’m not afraid. They’re all waiting for me!” On the day she left us, my mom’s eyes were closed, but her heart was wide open to the things to come. She was about to enjoy the best family gathering of all!

Loving God, thank you for making us capable of loving so much that our losses hurt and thank you for filling us with just enough faith and hope to cope until we join in that celebration.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Consider Yourself Reminded!

They carried to him all those afflicted with various diseases
and racked with pain and he cured them all.

From Matthew 4:24

The pandemic has caused all of us to change our plans even for wonderful once-in-a-lifetime events. A recent rescheduling notice for a no-longer-upcoming wedding brought on a bit of melancholy. I haven’t seen our extended family for some time. This delay has elicited memories of my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings who now reside in the hereafter. Though I’m certain of their current bliss, the sting of their losses remains. I can still recall the details of their last days among us…

When the people we love are sick, it’s difficult to see God’s hand in their suffering. When depression, addiction or a misguided heart brings them pain, we wonder why this has to be. When our loved ones’ days are numbered, the inevitable isn’t easy to accept. When we recall the healing powers of Jesus, we’re tempted to ask “Why not now?”

As I ponder this and similar questions, I consider Jesus’ experience as one of us. He struggled with the miseries of human existence just as we do. If that isn’t enough, he was nailed to a cross as well. Was Jesus capable of doing all of this because he knew what was coming afterward? I also know of the things to come. And, if I’m honest with myself, I must admit that this should be enough to see me through. Yet sometimes…

This is when our loved ones in the hereafter -and God, too!- get our attention as best they can. They use a pleasant memory or a persistent butterfly or a must-be-delayed wedding to remind us that, indeed, the best is yet to come! It’s time I listen! It’s time for us all to listen!

Dear God, when the going gets rough, nudge us along with reminders of the wonders you have in store for us down the road.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved