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

Advertisements

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

From Hope To Joy

“There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord..”

From Isaiah 11:9

The approach of Christmas preparations always pique my nostalgia. Tomorrow is the first day of Advent and I can’t help taking a walk down Memory Lane. My musing draws me back to Christmas 1959, just five months after my dad passed away. I was only eight years old and I wondered what Christmas would be like that year. Today, I recall the efforts of those around me who made this Christmas special, perhaps in an effort to ease the sting of my dad’s absence…

Though she was in mourning herself, my older sister Rita helped our Mom to prepare a special gift for each one of us. On Christmas Eve, our parish priests asked my brother to walk his wagon to the rectory. Raoul returned with a full wagon carrying a beautifully wrapped package for each of the six of us. After Christmas dinner, we went on to Aunt Claire’s and Uncle Steve’s home to celebrate with my dad’s family. My aunt and uncle ushered us to their Christmas Tree for more gifts. Though all concerned knew that nothing could replace my dad, they did their best to emulate his love for us. Though I cannot name all of the gifts I received that year, I continue to feel the love offered that day. It has sustained me for a lifetime. My hope was fulfilled well beyond my expectations that Christmas. You know, my hope is fulfilled beyond my expectations every day!

Generous God, you gifted me with loved ones who fulfilled my hope beyond my dreams. As we begin Advent 2017, help me to spread hope throughout this season and always.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

‘Tis the Season…

Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O God, I lift up my soul.

Psalm 86:4

I can still smell the turkey. This is quite a phenomenon since we ate our son’s house yesterday. Still, in spite of the lingering aromas in my psyche, Thanksgiving Day is fading into memory. Some shoppers headed out before the leftovers were put away last night. Others left their beds in the wee hours this morning to take advantage of sales. Many who are working today will go directly to the mall afterward with the hope that their wish list items are still available. Overnight, the Christmas Shopping Season made its stealth entrance quite effectively.

If you haven’t given much thought to Christmas yet, don’t worry. Though today’s sales will make a dent in store inventories, those empty shelves will be filled again soon enough. Retailers will seek your contribution to the cause for the duration. In the mean time, I invite you to join me in letting go of the holiday frenzy and in reaching out for a measure of peace.

I’ve decided to tackle the tasks which lie ahead in small increments. I’m going to shop when I can, but NOT until I drop. I’ll save the rest for another day. My husband and I will decorate indoors and outdoors in the same fashion. We enjoy the Christmas Season best of all and we hope to have the energy to attend to every minute of it. In the process, we’ll avoid the weariness which comes with trying to do too much in too little time.

So it is that I invite you to join me in finding ways to remove just a bit of the hustle and bustle of the season from your life. I also invite you to enjoy the little things along the way. You truly deserve to do so!

Loving God, gift us all with a touch of your peace as we prepare the way to Christmas.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Sew Love

I will thank you always for what you have done,
and proclaim the goodness of your name.

Psalm 52:11

Whenever our family gathers, my granddaughters are very generous with their offers to help in the kitchen. This is especially true of Ellie who is the eldest. The last time we gathered, Ellie helped me put together a taco dip which is a family favorite. Actually, I should say that I helped Ellie because she truly did most of the work. Thank you, Ellie!

While engaged in such culinary activity, I normally wear my green apron. I have two of these terry cloth creations which are identical. When they’re helping, my granddaughters often vie for the honor of wearing the second one. Though I cannot be certain of their motivation, I know my own. I love my green apron…

My sister fashioned this favorite decades ago. At the time, Cecele had two young children whom she was raising alone. As Christmas approached, my sister realized she had no money for Christmas gifts other than a few things for her children. Christmas has always been our family’s favorite holiday. Even in the leanest of times, our parents managed to provide something special for each of us. Cecele couldn’t bear to arrive on Christmas day without gifts for her siblings and God-children. So it was that she hand-made something for each of us. She sewed a large stuffed snake for my son. Because I’m the cookie baker of the family, at least at Christmastime, Cecele made two green aprons for me. I’ve used them ever since.

Before I put that apron away after washing it, I hold it close. I love my sister and this apron reminds me of her love for me. Thank you, Cecele!

Generous God, thank you for gracing us with hearts which can express our love so creatively.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved