Swaddled With Love

Your ways, O Lord, make known to me;
teach me your paths.

Psalm 25:4

While spending the day with our grandson, I noticed his Advent Calendar. Danny has happily joined his older cousins in counting the days until Christmas. Our granddaughters’ calendar features a bare stable and twenty-five numbered pockets. Each pocket contains a stuffed figure which will complete the Nativity scene by Christmas. Every year, the girls take turns placing a little stuffed animal or person in or near the stable. A few years ago, while admiring the partially complete scene, our youngest granddaughter slipped Baby Jesus from the pocket marked December 25. “Look at poor Baby Jesus,” Claire told me. “He didn’t have any baby clothes so his mommy put a towel on him.” I explained that though Mary and Joseph had a hard time finding a place for Jesus to be born, they did bring some very special clothes for him. “This is what babies wore back then. They’re called swaddling cloths.” This year, it was Claire who taught Danny about swaddling clothes.

Though Claire is now the swaddling clothes expert, she has held on to her concern regarding Jesus’ apparent poverty. I pray often that she and all of my grandchildren will always feel concern for those in need. After saying, “Amen,” I promised myself to respond to my own concern by doing something for someone in need today.

Loving God, help me to see your people’s need with your eyes and to respond to them with your heart.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Prepare The Way…

Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths…
Luke 3:4, 6

I’ve shared before that we celebrate our grandchildren’s birthdays with a sleepover. This year, our four-year-old grandson enjoyed (I hope!) his first overnight stay. The drill for each of these sleepovers in the same. I put a clean sheets on the bed and make the rest of the room child-friendly. I clear a space for our little guest’s suitcase and I place nightlights in strategic areas. I do my best to make this temporary space feel like home…

As Advent continues, I consider the temporary space Mary prepared for Jesus’ arrival. Though that manger once held hay for livestock, this didn’t matter to Mary or to her child. What did matter were the arms and the heart which held Jesus far more warmly and lovingly than any bed could have.

I hope our grandchildren will enjoy their sleepover bedrooms for years to come. Grandpa and I will continue to love them and to keep them safe and comfortable for as long as we can. Hopefully, our efforts will inspire these little ones to go out and do the same for their own families and everyone else God gives them to love.

It occurs to me that there is an Advent lesson and a life-long lesson here for me. Just as my husband and I willingly care for our grandchildren, we must care for all whom God looks upon with loving eyes, at least the ones who cross my path each day.

Loving God, fashion my heart into a resting place for you and for all of those you have given me to love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Precious and Loved

Your children will be like olive branches who enrich your table.
From Psalm 128:3

Whenever our grandchildren visit, they spend a good deal of time thumbing through the photo albums stacked on our coffee table. These albums feature all of them from the time of their births. Of course, the rest of us are also preserved for posterity in this smattering of birthday, Christmas and other special occasion photos. Though kids enjoy looking at all of us, they seem especially amazed by the way they’ve changed over the years. So are we! As that metamorphosis continues, so will our love for each of them!

The other day, I decided to peruse my husband’s and my photo history. After enjoying our grandchild-filled albums, I opened our wedding album. As I poured over the decades-old pictures, tears threatened. On almost every page, I found Mike and me in our twenty-something prime. In those same photos, I found many a loved one who has passed on from this life. Just as Mike and I have had a significant impact upon one another, each of these special people left a significant mark on us. The love they showered upon us so long ago is tangible even today in most of what Mike and I do and say.

You know, my husband and I aren’t perfect. Nor are our sons and their families and the countless others who’ve touched our lives. Still, we love them dearly and we hope we’ve added to the richness of their lives just as they’ve added to our life together. The most important gift we give to one another is our love, especially when it seems least deserved. It is then that our love matters most of all!

Thank you, God, for the people you have given me to love in this life and for those who so generously love me in return.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love Works!

…proclaim the good news there also.
From Mark 1:38

The other day, Grandpa and I played a board-game with our granddaughters. The youngest had been doing well until my game piece landed on the same square as hers. Her guy had to return to start to begin the trek around the board once again. Poor Claire was beside herself. She ran from the table crying that she was tired of being picked on. Now I shouldn’t put this in writing, but I am Claire’s favorite. So it was particularly painful to hear her say that I was picking on her. As I formulated the words to respond, a similar adventure with Claire’s dad came to mind…

When my son was about the same age, he wasn’t at all happy with what I’d asked him to do. In response, he shouted “I hate you!” I never used that word and it broke my heart to hear it from my little boy. Still, I remained calm until Mike’s bedroom door slammed. It was then that the tears flowed. When I went out to the backyard to recover, I saw my neighbor. Ellie had been a great friend to my husband and me and an auxiliary grandma to Mike. Still teary-eyed, I told her what happened. “Did your kids ever say that?” I asked. “Sure they did. They’re kids. And you know what I did? I pulled them close and said, ‘Well, that’s okay because I still love you!’” Ellie noted that this gesture quickly put an end to such talk. With that, I went to my son’s room to remind him that I loved him. I couldn’t help smiling when he said he loved me, too.

My encounter with Claire ended just as happily.

Dear God, love makes sense always and everywhere. Help us to transform our own relationships and this world with love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just Following God’s Lead

For the Lord loves the people…
From Psalm 149:4

We’re celebrating a our second grandchild’s birthday this week. Grandpa and I came up with a creative plan for our grandchildren’s birthdays a few years ago. Rather than purchasing numerous gifts which sometimes go by the wayside in short order, we decided to share the gift of our time with them. We planned overnight stays, special dinners and outings for each one. Our hope was that the special attention would underscore the love that we feel for each of them twenty-four/seven. This year, our four-year-old grandson will enjoy his first overnight birthday stay with us. So far, these special times together have been far more enjoyable than we ever expected. Hopefully, we’ll do the same for our youngest grandson in a few years!

Though I can recall very few of the gifts I received for my own childhood birthdays, I do remember the celebrations with my mom, dad and siblings who sang “Happy Birthday” and offered hugs in abundance on those special days. I also remember the story books and picnics shared, the reassurances at 3:00 AM, and the “I love you!” that accompanied a good-night kiss. I especially remember the forgiveness offered after a much-deserved scolding.

Hopefully, Grandpa and I will succeed in giving all of our grandchildren the best gift of all: the affection of a family who truly loves them.

Dearest God, we would not know how to gift one another with love if you had not shown us the way.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Generations of Hope

I hear what God proclaims;
God proclaims peace.

Psalm 85:9ab

I’ve enjoyed an abundance of family time as of late due to recent birthdays, our family vacation and our anniversaries. Still, in spite of the tangible love evident in all of these events, I’m bothered these days. I wonder aloud if this restlessness is a sign that I’m getting older. A sense of urgency overwhelms me and I feel a deep need to fix everything that needs fixing!

I love our sons, their wives and our grandchildren more than anything else on this earth. This prompts me to be gravely troubled by the current state of this world of ours. When I convince myself that things cannot possibly get worse, the airwaves deliver another bit of bad news. After lamenting this turn of events, reminders of poverty and other social ills here at home and around the world hit me right between the eyes. I think of my family, especially our grandchildren, and I wonder what this world will be like long after Grandpa and I are gone. How will this mess get fixed?

The family photo resting above my keyboard interrupts my brooding. The sparkle in the eyes of my offspring insists that I give them and their contemporaries a little credit. That sparkle touches smoldering embers of hope deep within which I’ve neglected these days. It occurs to me that numerous generations before me have wrung their hands in despair as well, only to be surprised by the goodness brought about by the young people among them. Finally, I find peace.

Loving God, thank you for the gift of each new generation. Within them lie hope and the potential for peace on this earth.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved