Time To Choose Wisely

A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.

Ecclesiastes 3:7

Though I cannot recall a time when my mom tore anything apart, she always made the time to sew. She was a talented seamstress who sewed her own clothing from her high school days throughout most of her life. She clothed my sisters and me beautifully because she could transform the plainest fabric into the cutest outfits for us. She often fashioned our winter coats from adult coats which others had cast aside. Our mom sewed some of our wedding dressings and the bridesmaid gowns which accompanied them.

Late in her life, my mom found sewing to be more tedious than creative. Her eyesight had diminished just enough to make threading a needle a daunting challenge. The arthritis in her hands added to the difficulty. So it was that she set aside her sewing machine and purchased the clothing she needed.

As I move on to the next line of that passage from Ecclesiastes, thoughts of myself resurface… There was a time when I always found the time to speak. This prompted my dad to ask, “Who put the nickel in you?” This also prompted my husband to note more than once, “What others can say in a sentence, you say in two paragraphs.” I admit that, on occasion, I’ve found my words to be tedious as well. Though I haven’t set aside every word that comes to me, I am more selective regarding which words to use and when. Though I know perhaps too well that there is a time to speak, I’ve also learned that there are also many times when being silent is the better choice.

Dear God, being good stewards of our gifts requires that we make the best use of them. Once again, I ask for guidance, especially when it comes to my words.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

O… Original

For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be and favored.

Psalm 128:2

O is for Original. I had difficulty settling on today’s word. I was torn between “original” and “opus” because both words describe an extremely important aspect of our existence. You see, each of us is an original. Even my cousins who are identical twins are very different people. Still, I cannot dismiss the word “opus” because each of our lives is exactly that. You and I are unique and important works which God has contributed to our human family. Our part in all of this is to contribute our own unique and important work to the mix. Whether we compose or construct or cause things to happen, our opus is vital to the rest of humankind. Whether this work is a lifelong process, a singular effort at a particular moment in time or a combination of the two, our original opus will make an impact upon others as no one else’s work can.

My first reaction to all of this is to feel the weight of the world upon me. Then, I consider the great and small works of those I’ve met along the way. I realize that the grandeur or smallness of their actions means little to me. It is their presence and their delivery which changed everything. Each person’s original opus has impacted me in some way. The same is true of my own work. It’s up to me to make my contribution to this world. I must seize the opportunities before me and make the most of them as only I can. The same is true for you and for all of us!

Loving God, be with us as we bring our unique talents to fruition. Inspire our efforts to contribute our own original opus to impact this world as only we can.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

D… Depth

Jesus said to them,
“Come after me and I will make you fishers of God’s people.”

Mark 1:17

D is for Depth. I wonder if Jesus appreciated the irony when he called Simon and Andrew to follow him. They were already experts regarding what lay beneath the surface. After all, they were successful fishermen. Still, Jesus asked them to cast their nets into much deeper waters. Jesus asked them to set their sights upon fellow souls…

It seems to me that I deal best with the challenges before me when I look beneath the surface. Most things aren’t as they seem. Just as Simon and Andrew made a science of studying the waters to determine where best to cast their nets, I must study the circumstances and people around me before casting a word or deed in their direction.

Depth… Of all of life’s gifts, I think I appreciate most the understanding of another soul. What a gift it is when someone delves beneath the surface to discover what actually makes me tick! What a gift it is when I care enough to allow another to share the depths of his or her spirit with me!

Dear God, you reside within the depths of each one of us. Teach us to cast our nets with care as we seek to find you within one another.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Jesus, My Teacher

For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.

Psalm 72:12-13

Yesterday, I shared that my favorite image of Jesus is Jesus The Teacher. I found great joy in my own teaching career and I’m pleased that Jesus and I share this vocation. I suppose the similarities end there as Jesus’ curriculum extended far beyond my own. Nonetheless, I’ve decided to turn back to what I know best.

I realize that I’ve relied upon the ABCs a few times before to inspire me as I fill this space. I hope that this trek through familiar territory will free me up to finish a book that needs to be written. I’ve been on page 93 for far too long. So it is that I begin at the beginning with A.

A is for Abundance. Each of us is a treasure-trove to ourselves and to one another. We are filled with abundant gifts which no one possesses in the same configuration as we do. It is up to us to look within for our own abundance and to share it generously with those we have been given to love. It is also up to us to find and to acknowledge the abundance in others that they may do the same.

Loving God, the most important work Jesus The Teacher did was to recognize the abundance in the needy souls before him. Help us to show in all that we say and do that we have learned this lesson well.

©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

Christmas Love

This is Christmas Day. In my parish church, our Nativity scene, a forest of lighted trees and a garden of beautiful poinsettias set the scene. I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place to celebrate Christmas. Things were a little different three weeks ago when our parish family immersed itself in Gift Weekend. The sanctuary was filled with packages and gift bags of every size and color. Our statue of Mary was lost behind that mountain of generosity. Rather than today’s folding chairs which provide extra seating, the gathering space was filled with an assortment of bicycles. As that weekend unfolded, I found myself wiping away tears multiple times. I pictured my fellow parishioners shopping with gift tags for those in need in hand. I also imagined this Christmas Day when hundreds of men and women, teens and toddlers will open those gifts with great excitement and appreciation. When I left church that day, my heart was filled with at least as much love as our church building had been. When I arrived at home, I decided I was in the perfect mindset to prepare this Christmas reflection.

As I pondered the miracle of this holy day, I couldn’t shake the images of those gifts and the smiling people who would welcome them. Suddenly, a little boy I met many years ago came to mind. Isaac was an expert regarding matters of the heart and his capacity to love was second to few. Just like my parish’s efforts on Gift Weekend, and throughout the year for that matter, it seemed to me that his generous gesture many Christmases ago captured the spirit and the love with which God touched this earth on the first Christmas Day…

Isaac was one of my students because he needed a little direction in developing his reading skills. On our way to and from my classroom each day, we had the opportunity to talk. It isn’t often that children have an adult to themselves and my students took full advantage of the situation. Isaac was no exception. I knew the latest regarding his mother’s lengthy disabling illness and his father’s efforts to care for her and the children. I knew about his older brother’s return from the military for an early Christmas visit and that Isaac read from a little prayer-book every night. The last day of school before winter break, Isaac shared something very special which remains with me today.

I’d purchased a small Christmas gift for each of my students. When I retrieved them for their lessons, I asked that they bring their book bags along so they could put away their gifts and forget about them until they arrived at home after school. When I gave Isaac the package with his name on it, his eyes became saucers. He examined the wrapping and the card addressed to him. “Can I put this under my Christmas Tree?” he asked. I told him that he could do whatever he and his mom and dad wanted him to do. It was his gift, after all. Now when Isaac came to school every day, he arrived clean, having had breakfast, and ready to do his best, though in the same shirt and slacks for the week. Isaac didn’t enjoy the luxuries we sometimes take for granted. Still, his family was rich in love. When Isaac opened his book bag to store his gift, he said, “I have something for you. I have a gift for you.”

Isaac took me completely by surprise. His dad was among the working poor and certainly couldn’t afford gifts for his children’s teachers. I finally understood when Isaac reached into his bag and pulled out a green two-headed dragon. I told Isaac that it was a great dragon, but that I would be very happy just knowing that he enjoyed playing with it. Still, Isaac persisted. “I was going to trade it for Poke’mon, but I want you to have it instead.” At the time, anything Poke’mon was a valued commodity. Isaac had planned to trade his dragon for one of his classmate’s coveted collectibles. He abandoned this plan to show his reading teacher how much he cared for her. When I finally composed myself, I asked Isaac if his mom or dad would mind that he left the toy with me. “Oh, no, Mrs. P. They would want me to give it to you. It’s for Christmas.” With that, Isaac and I made a prominent place on my bookshelf for that dragon. Afterward, I told Isaac that he could take the dragon home anytime he wanted to. “Are you taking your present back?” he asked. “Never,” I told him. Isaac responded, “Neither am I.” I kept that two-headed dragon for more than a decade. After Isaac had been promoted from eighth grade and graduated high school, I gave it to another little boy who needed a taste of the love which filled Isaac’s heart.

God touched this world with selfless love two thousand Christmases ago. Jesus spent thirty-three years showing us how to share that love. Isaac’s parents paid attention and they passed on what they learned to their son. Isaac paid attention and he passed on what he learned to me. Today, we pay attention as well. Now, it is up to us to pass on what we’ve learned as we tend lovingly to those we meet along the way.

Merry Christmas!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved