The Promise of Hope

You love me, O God, in your goodness…
From Psalm 51:3

I’m grateful for the signs of spring which renew my hope with every new sprout-sighting. My husband and I have been fortunate enough to be able to walk outdoors every day since our stay-at-home life has been in place. We who venture out have become expert at social distancing and at appreciating the fresh air and the natural beauty around us, rain or shine! The best part of this is that the expanse of the outdoors, from the sky above to the earth beneath our feet, puts our current situation in perspective.

You see, I’ve learned something from my walk through Lent and Easter 2020 and our battle with COVID-19. I’ve also learned something from Spring 2020. Each of these experiences promises life after winter, life after the trauma which besets us just now and life after death. Regardless of my success or failure to use the moment at hand optimally, another opportunity awaits me in the moment after that. This doesn’t mean that I’ll intentionally waste even a second of the time I’m given. What it does mean is that, when I make a mistake, I’ll be as patient with myself as God is.

Merciful God, help me to do my best. When I don’t, help me to acknowledge this setback honestly, to assess my regret sincerely, to seek your guidance once again and then to move on.

©2020 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

God, Our Caretaker

Thus God prepared the land:
drenching its furrows, breaking up its clods,
Softening it with showers,
blessing its yield.

Psalm 65:11

The other morning, I looked at our calendar to find that neither my husband nor I had anything scheduled for the day. Shocked, I quickly called to him and asked, “Do you have anything going today?” He replied, “Miraculously, not a thing!” Having said that, he appeared in his most threadbare shorts and t-shirt. Before I could ask what he was up to, he recited a laundry list of outdoor chores which he planned to accomplish by noon. I laughed as he headed out the back door to the yard.

After taking care of a thing or two myself, I checked on my husband. He had weeded around all of our perennials and checked all of the planters and pots. He had also fertilized every flower he’d planted around the yard. When I found him, he was assessing our bird house to be certain that is was still standing firm in the rain-soaked soil. When I asked why he was devoting this uncommon free-day to so much manual labor, Mike replied, “Are you kidding? I love doing this stuff!”

As I headed back to my own chores, I looked upward and smiled. “You love doing this stuff, too. Taking care of us and watching us flourish makes your day. Nice! Thank you, Dear God!”

Loving God, you never take a free day from caring for us. Whether our troubles are great or small, you tend to them and to us with great love. Thank you!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Second Chances

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.

Psalm 51:3

I’m grateful for the signs of spring which renew my hope with every new sprout-sighting. The change of seasons always induces reflection on my part. Usually, this is very good news, except for those times when I reflect upon the negative for a little too long…

I’m often told that I have a selective memory. The worst of my personal history lies deep within me. The best of it glows in a rose-colored aura which attests to my many blessings. Occasionally, something unexpectedly jars a dark recollection from its hiding place. Such memories tempt me to give in to guilt or despair. I’m happy to report that I’ve resisted this temptation more often than not as of late.

You see, I learned something from my walk through Holy Week and Easter. I’ve also learned something from Spring 2019. Both experiences promise life after winter, life after failures and life after death. Regardless of my success or failure to use the moment at hand optimally, another opportunity awaits me in the moment after that. This doesn’t mean that I’ll intentionally waste even a second of the time I’m given. What it does mean is that when I make a mistake I’ll be as patient with myself as God is.

Merciful God, help me to do my best. When I don’t, help me to acknowledge my guilt honestly, to express my sorrow sincerely, to accept your forgiveness fully and then to move on.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Beloved Greenery

God’s are the earth and its fullness;
God cares for the world and those who dwell in it.

Psalm 24:1

This is Arbor Day, a very special day for my husband who sports a truly capable green thumb. He takes an immediate liking to all plants great and small. If there is such a person as a “plant whisperer”, Mike is indeed that person. This is evidenced in his decades-long relationships with two plants. The first is a colorful, purplish-green Tradescantia Zebrina. His parents gave it to us as a housewarming gift when we purchased our first home. The plant is older than our sons! The second is a Philodendron which my husband’s teachers gave to him in 1987 when he was named a “candidate” for the diaconate. This designation indicated that he would indeed be ordained the following year. Mike’s staff realized that it had taken a good deal of effort for their principal to get to this point and they wanted to cheer him on. So it is that both plants are very precious to him.

These plants have survived outdoor transitions from spring through summer to fall when frost came unexpectedly early on more than one occasion. They have also survived floods and dry spells when we were away and our designated plant-caregivers were either overly zealous or stingy with their task. After each incident, my husband painstakingly nursed his beloved greenery back to health for another season.

My husband’s adventures with plants are a living parable regarding God’s ongoing and loving care of each one of us. Like my husband’s plants, we could not be in better hands!

Gracious God, thank you for caring for us and for all of creation with such love.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Our Potential For Goodness

I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man,
but rather in his conversion that he may live.

Ezekiel 33:11

When we arrived at the playground, our grandson led us directly to the sandbox. I admit that I enjoy the digging and building. Usually, other children join us which allows all concerned to hone their abilities to cooperate and share. That morning was no exception. While Danny and his companions discussed the bridge he and I had started, a group of preschoolers on the nearby slide caught my eye. Their caretaker was talking with a little girl who seemed to need a reminder regarding taking turns. I wondered if the woman was using the same pitch I’d used years ago on the playground.

When I was a reading teacher, I pulled students from other classrooms. As a result, I monitored outdoors at the open and close of every school day. During these morning patrols, I encountered some reluctant grade-schoolers who sometimes needed a variety of reminders. Many of these children had more to worry about than their places in line at the slide. They often expected only the worst from the coming school day. Still, in spite of their trepidation, these children responded to our daily interactions with surprising openness. I learned a good deal about them as I urged them into school and on to what might actually become a very good day.

As I watched that little girl make her way to the slide with a smile, I knew her caretaker had said just the right thing to get her on her way. With that, I turned back to my grandson and his new friends. I hoped that I could add something positive to our sandbox adventure and to the rest of their potentially good day.

Loving God, be with us as we bring goodness to the moments at hand.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved