It’s Still Christmastime

Following this, they selected Stephen
who was filled with faith and the Holy Spirit…”

From Acts of the Apostles 6:5

I normally enjoy the day after Christmas. What a gift this is! By this time, our Christmas preparations have come to fruition in one way or another. This year, I’m particularly grateful for this day on which we begin the count to Christmas 2021! I feel quite certain that we will have much to celebrate next Christmas!

In the mean time, I ponder the past two days and I give thanks. Many enjoyed Christmas because of the selfless adherence of others to mask-wearing, social distancing and handwashing. Many others welcome the New Year because of the ongoing efforts of first responders and healthcare workers. For all of these generous efforts, I give thanks. In gratitude, I will do my best to add my own positive efforts to the mix as generously as possible. I’ll also pray for all concerned.

Perhaps we all need to extend the Christmas Season for as long as possible this year. We can do this by being the best we can be. On this Feast of St. Stephen, I’ll strive to be as good and just a soul as Stephen was. Like the good Stephen, I will try to take all that God’s love means to this world to heart and to share that love at every opportunity. In the process, I may just bring a bit of Christmas to each of the 364 days until Christmas 2021.

Dear God, thank you for the gifts of Christmas 2020 and for the gift of the first Christmas. Your love has truly changed all of our lives and this world forever!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Those We’ve Been Given To Love

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

Luke 1:66

We’ll celebrate Christmas at the end of this week and thoughts of my family fill me up. They always do! Still, every time I walk past the Christmas tree, these family thoughts come to life in the images before me. You see, every year, I create a “family section” on our Christmas tree. This area includes photo ornaments of our sons as young children. It also includes ornaments which capture a scene from each of their weddings. We have First Christmas ornaments from each of our grandchildren and a few ornaments they’ve made for us. Finally, this section includes ornaments which acknowledge our loved ones who celebrate Christmas in heaven these days. Yes, though we won’t be able to celebrate all together this year, my family is on my mind, each and every one of them.

Not long ago, someone reminded me that I often reference “those God has given me to love.” This phrase began as a description of my own parents and siblings. It grew to include my husband and then our sons. It expanded wondrously when our daughters-in-law joined our family. The arrival of our grandchildren added to those I’ve been given to love in ways I never realized were possible. Each one of these loved ones has opened my heart to all of God’s people in remarkable ways.

God’s hand has truly blessed us all with both God’s love and our capacity to love one another. We really are God’s family. Regardless of whom we will share our tables with on Christmas Day, be assured that we all share in the love that will surround us.

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

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Persist with Wisdom and Love

God who is mighty has done great things for me…”
From Luke 1:49

Though our house is very quiet these days, I don’t always make the best use of this luxury. Luxury? In spite of our lack of social interactions these days, I still consider a quite house to be a luxury. This is likely because I do my best writing -and praying- when it’s quiet. My husband has provided me a bit of this luxury by tending to the grocery shopping this afternoon. Rather than writing, I steal away to our living room where our Christmas Tree reigns.

Though the tree’s fragrance invariably beckons me in to appreciate its splendor, it’s the village at its feet which keeps my attention. Every year, my husband lies on the floor under our tree for hours to fashion his current vision of our Christmas town. Though Mike’s placement of the houses and trees, cars, figures and skating pond vary from year to year, they always sit in humble deference to the crèche. Though Mike added his childhood train to the scene this year, our tiny corner of Bethlehem continues to draw me in.

As I gaze at the images of Joseph, Mary and little Jesus, I consider the difficulties that turned their lives upside-down from that day forward. Images from my visit to Nazareth where their family life unfolded remind me that today’s troubles aren’t much worse than what Jesus’ contemporaries endured. With that, I consider all that the coming days and weeks and months have in store. I pray fervently that we will respond to our circumstances as Joseph, Mary and Jesus did. I pray that we persist with determination, faith in God and love for one another.

Generous God, help us to endure and to respond to whatever lies on ahead with wisdom and love.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Proceed With Care and Love…

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

Mother Teresa

Our neighborhood school won’t open in the usual way this year. Like communities everywhere, administrators, teachers and parents collaborated with health experts and came up with a plan. As I prayed for all concerned, I also breathed a sigh of relief because I wouldn’t be returning to a classroom this year. Every person involved with educating our children, including moms and dads, grandparents and caretakers, deserves our admiration and needs our support just now.

In our family, the ongoing patience and ingenuity of my daughters-in-law and their husbands in this regard truly amazed me when their homes became classrooms last March. Our grandchildren responded in kind by cooperating as best they could. All of the educators and parents who kept their cool and the children who took their cues certainly made the most of what could have been an even more trying time.
In the end, the last quarter of the 2019-2020 School Year was indeed productive.

As the onset of the new school year approaches, let’s pray that this year will unfold even more productively for all concerned. It seems to me that the eleven words above which I cite from Mother Teresa make an important point. Countless acts of love -tiny, heroic moments at laptops and during Zoom lessons and in conversations about the assignment at hand- will bolster our children’s spirits rather than break them. When we choose calm over anger, patience over impatience, persistence in spite of our weariness and kindness in the midst of our frustration, we teach our greatest lessons and do our greatest work. Every single one involved will be better as a result.

Loving God, be with all of the adults and children who will work together to make this a nurturing and productive school year.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Examples of Love

Set an example…
in speech, conduct, love, faith, and honesty.

From 1 Timothy 4:12

While walking outdoors the other day, fellow walkers and I carefully navigated around each other to maintain social distancing. Though some of us had masks dangling below our chins, none were needed as we allowed one another our space. Actually, this was the case until a family of four approached in the distance. We were nearing a narrow stretch which made social distancing difficult. When I realized the predicament, I pulled up my mask and then retraced my steps until I found a spot wide enough to allow us all to pass safely.

As that family walked by, the dad thanked me for the extra effort. He added, “I didn’t think we’d run into anyone so we left our masks at home. So sorry!” As we parted ways, one of the children commented, “So stupid, Dad. I hate wearing a mask.” I admit that I stopped to tie my shoe because I wanted to hear how Dad responded. How sweet it was to hear his reply. ” I don’t like wearing a mask either,” he said, “but I don’t like seeing anyone get sick, especially you guys. I wear my mask for you and Mom.”

I smiled as I stood to continue that walk. It occurred to me that parents everywhere are offering their children lessons which none of us ever imagined would be necessary. You know, the weeks and months ahead are going to be tough as we adjust to some type of normalcy. As for me, I’m going to try not to worry about this too much because of selfless people like that dad who are in this with me. When we care about one another, we have a chance.

Loving God, you are goodness and you are love. Be with us as we bring both to our efforts to heal this world by caring for one another.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

It’s Up To Us

Be compassionate as God is compassionate.
Luke 6:36

I admit that I’m repeating myself here, but I can’t help it. A recent phone call ignited my angst regarding the injustices of this life. A few minutes spent perusing the newspaper and then listening to a newscast added to my unrest. I admit to lots of anger over the suffering of those I’ve been given to love. Whether they are my own family, starving children half a world away or the sick across town, I find it difficult to accept that there actually is nothing I can do to help.

My frustration almost always gets the best of me. After moaning to myself, I look upward and groan, “If only you would reveal yourself to those in power, they might actually take it upon themselves to fix this mess!” I tell God that I do realize that repairing this world of ours is a multi-leveled task. Still, I add that a change of heart among the higher-ups (as well as the rest of us) would certainly help.

In God’s infinite wisdom, God allows me to stew until I return to my senses. It is then that I acknowledge that God leaves it to us to do the best we can in all of this. God’s assistance comes in the example of Jesus, in the good people around us who urge us on and in God’s presence among us and within each one of us. In the end, God leaves it up to us to bring about change, one moment at a time, one problem at a time, one opportunity at a time…

Patient God, forgive my impatience with others, with myself and with you. Help me and all of us to do what we can whenever we can to make this world a better place.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved