Thank You…

One of them, realizing that he had been cured,
came back praising God in a loud voice.

Luke 17:15

In another attempt to purge our home of clutter, I tackled a box of mementos stored in an over-stuffed closet. In the process, I found the scrapbook my older sister gave me for my thirteenth birthday. I intended to use it to chronicle the aftermath of President John . Kennedy’s assassination. As it happened, the emotions of those dark November days were too much to bear and I let my scrapbook sit empty for months. It was then that I asked my mom if I could have a few of our family photos to start a collection of happier memories. Over the next decade, I added items which were important to me. When I ran out of pages, I continued to store treasures in the back of the book.

For decades, this scrapbook has been too full to hold another bit of paper. Now I save letters, notes and cards in a dresser drawer. Each one speaks love to me. Every time I return to them, I’m grateful beyond words.

I site Jesus’ encounter with the ten lepers because Jesus felt their pain as only he could and he cured them all. Still, after they realized what had occurred, only one leper returned to Jesus to express his gratitude. I clearly recall my gratitude to my older sister who gifted me with that scrapbook. I hope I thanked her appropriately! You know, our capacity to love is an amazing gift. Our ability to feel gratitude makes all of that love even more precious.

Loving God, be with us as we enrich our lives and the lives of others with our love and our gratitude.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Time To Edit…

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

Ecclesiastes 3:7

There was a time when my mom insisted that there is always time to sew. She was a talented seamstress who made her own clothing from high school throughout most of her life. My mom clothed her six children 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 made some of our wedding dressings and the bridesmaid gowns which accompanied them. Though she loved to sew, it was an extremely tight budget which urged her on.

There was a time when I would have said that there is always a time to speak. Still, my dad often asked, “Who put the nickel in you?” when I monopolized a conversation. My husband has noted more than once, “What others can say in a sentence, you say in two paragraphs.” Though I haven’t heard complaints regarding my written words, I can’t say the same about those I’ve spoken.

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 impossible. The arthritis in her hands added to the difficulty. So it was that she set her sewing machine aside and purchased her clothing.

Though I truly enjoy writing, on occasion, I’ve found speaking to be tedious as well. Though I haven’t resorted to silence, I’m trying very hard to be far more selective regarding what I say.

Dear God, help me to make the best use of my ability to speak and to write. Once again, I ask for guidance.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Share God

When they fulfilled the prescriptions
of the law, they returned to their own town of Nazareth.
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom,
and the favor of God was upon him.

Luke 2:39-40

When our sons were born, we planned for their baptisms shortly afterward. No discussion was necessary. In our minds, it was only natural to share our faith with them. This endeavor went far beyond the day the priests poured water over their heads. Their dad and I weren’t simply sharing membership in the church. We were sharing our relationships with God.

I discovered early on that my parents did a good job of this. Though times were often tough, they never missed the silver lining in their circumstances. They had no doubt that God watched over them. Even when my young dad faced his own passing, he referenced this God who would see to everything for us and for him. My mom shared this conviction which saw her through the tough years which lay ahead. As for me, knowing that God understands has sustained me through many trials and tribulations throughout my life.

When Mary and Joseph first took Jesus to the temple, they planted the seeds of faith in him. It was up to him to make the most of this gift. When we introduce our children to God, our efforts are no less important. However we relate to our Maker, let’s share this with our kids.

Dear God, thank you for reaching out to us in such a variety of ways. Help us to share the treasure of knowing you with those you place in our care.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

The Gift of You

Tell it to your children,
and your children to their children,
and their children to the next generation.

Joel 1:3

When my extended family gathered at our house over the holidays, we gathered at the table to play a new game. While we organized our play pieces and reviewed the rules, I ran upstairs to get a toy vacuum for my grandson. We’d settled down after our meal and it was good time for Danny to busy himself with cleaning up. On the way, I couldn’t resist pausing at our family picture wall. This collection includes photos from my childhood. Many of those pictured have passed away including my parents, sister and brother who have joined the heavenly host. Because I didn’t want to delay our game-playing, I left my reminiscing until I said my last good-byes that evening. After the family left, I returned to that wall to consider each one of my loved ones passed. Though I know that they’re all alive and well in another place, I miss their physical presence.

I stared longingly at the photos of so many who have “moved on.” Each one touched my life as no one else has or ever will. Each one, with his foibles and her imperfections, will never be replaced. Each one added something special to my life and to life on this earth which no one else will replicate or replace. I whispered a prayer of thanks for them all.

This New Year 2018, I will pray that we all become good souls who thrive in spite of our imperfections because we generously share ourselves and our gifts with one another.

Thank you, dear God, for the good souls who so creatively brighten our lives.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Gifts of Love

“What will this child be?
Was not the hand of the Lord upon him?”

Luke 1:66

This week before Christmas, thoughts of my family fill me up. They always do! Still, every time I walk past the gifts my husband and I wrapped for them I imagine their reactions. Our granddaughters have given up their fascination with gift wrap and turn their attention to the gifts inside. Our little grandson is following in their footsteps. He certainly enjoyed his last birthday gifts! Our daughter’s-in-law will enjoy their gifts as well. If they don’t, we’ll never know because they’re two of the most gracious young women I know. Our sons are another story. Old as they are, they have studied and shaken the gifts left in sight over the past few weeks. We have purposely disguised almost everything we’re giving them in an effort to confuse them as best we can.

Yes, my family has been on my mind –not their gifts as much as each one of them. Though none of us is perfect, the hand of the Lord has truly blessed us all. I’m most grateful! When one feasts upon Christmas Love all year long, there’s nothing more to do than to give thanks.

I thank you with all of my heart, Dear God, for the family and friends you have given me to love. Help me and all of these precious people to share your love wherever we find ourselves.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Waiting Peacefully

This Second Sunday of Advent, we begin our liturgy with the lighting of two candles on our Advent Wreath. Last weekend’s candle invited us to renew our hope by acknowledging God’s promising presence among us. Though this is the season of waiting, just as God’s people awaited the Messiah, we cannot help celebrating that arrival in the moments at hand. This week’s candle draws us in from December’s cold and that of our weary world. Its flame lights our way back to God who promises us all that we will ever need. It’s light draws us into the glow of God’s peace.

On the First Sunday of Advent, I lamented with Isaiah over the many imperfections of this life. I joined him in questioning God’s wisdom in allowing us the freedom to do what we wish. After all, we don’t always choose what’s best for ourselves or for those we’ve been given to love. Fortunately, I joined Isaiah in coming to one additional important realization: Along with the gift of freedom, God offers us the gift of good counsel. Isaiah put it perfectly when he prayed, “O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you are the potter: we are the work of your hands.” Upon hearing those words, I promised myself that I would hold onto that image throughout Advent. What more can I ask than to have God’s hands wrapped gently around me, molding my rough edges into the person God knows I can be?

This past week, that image transformed potentially trying moments into joyful encounters. Tasks which might have overwhelmed me became memories in the making. My dear husband and I decorated for Christmas with the bows and beads, lights and ornaments we’ve gathered over the years. Each one inspired gratitude for blessings received and tragedies overcome. Though I cannot know what the next few decades will bring, I expect only more of the same because this is what God has taught me to do. As for this coming week, let’s turn to Isaiah once again for inspiration…

In today’s first reading (Isaiah 40:1-5; 9-11), the prophet heralds the onset of new times for his people. Isaiah rejoices because God’s passionate love has not run out. God is the shepherd who “…feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom.” While I found great solace in the image of myself as clay in God’s hand, I find greater peace in seeing myself as a lamb in God’s arms. God can certainly work miracles by molding my imperfections away. Still, how much more God can do with me when I’m drawn into God’s arms! What more might I become as my head rests against God’s chest so close to God’s heart?

This image evokes both a chill and remarkable peace. Resting in God’s arms is a welcome retreat. Yet I must consider the consequences. Once I allow myself to be in such close proximity to my God, I might never be able to pull myself away. I might never again be able to experience the things of this world in quite the same way. I might always be distracted by God’s beating heart, always looking toward something greater than this world has to offer. It occurs to me that I must thank Isaiah in my prayer today for revealing another facet of God’s love. How attuned Isaiah must have been to our loving Creator, for he describes God’s love most eloquently.

The flickering flames of our Advent Wreath’s candles beckon me once again. Though my thoughts unexpectedly return to all I hope to accomplish by Christmas, those flickering flames plead for my attention. I imagine myself to be the tiny lamb whom Isaiah sees in God’s arms. Suddenly, the tasks which await me at home and here at my parish seem less daunting. Suddenly, I find myself impelled to do what I must to share the peace I experience in God’s arms. Perhaps I can imitate Isaiah’s generosity by sharing Christmas Peace a few weeks early.

Inspired as I am by Isaiah’s peaceful image of you and me in God’s embrace, I acknowledge that not one of our lives is a series of perfect Hallmark Moments. Still, I can’t help sharing Isaiah’s conviction that you and I can transform those imperfections into something better if we choose to do so. How can we waste our time lamenting when we’re rapt in God’s peace? This coming week, will you join me in making this your Advent Prayer?

Loving God, I am the tiny lamb at rest in your arms. Hold me close to your heart that I may learn to love as you love. Let me see with your eyes, let me listen with your ears and let me touch every moment with your peace. Be with me as I embrace every day with the peace of Christmas. Amen.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved