You Are Special!

God is the strength of the people,
the saving refuge of all the anointed.

Psalm 28:8

Sometimes, it’s difficult to feel “anointed” or “special” in any way when we consider ourselves to be just one of many, regardless of the group. I come from a very large family. My dad is one of twelve children and my mom is one of eight. My earliest memories include large family gatherings for the holidays, christenings, birthdays, graduations, weddings and funerals. I grew up down the block from our church. Numerous people passed our house on the way to Mass each week. I worked at a grocery store throughout high school and college where I tended to a line of customers all day long. When I married and began my teaching career, people of every sort continued to fill my life. There were times in each of these settings when I felt lost in the crowd. Then there were those other times…

I’ve always been especially grateful for individual encounters with those around me. Whether a scheduled or haphazard meeting, it is during these precious moments together that I receive glimpses of many amazing souls. Most of them have no idea that they are contributing to my well-being and that of this world of ours simply by sharing their time. I take great pleasure in pointing out their unique gifts and my appreciation of them as often as possible.

You know, God looks upon each one of us as an anointed one. This is the reason God sends us out to bless those around us and to bless this world with the gift of ourselves.

Thank you, Dear God, for loving us so much that you trust us to bring you into this world!

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Uniquely Good and Holy

He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant
and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness.

Hebrews 5:2

When our sons, daughters-in-law and grandkids left the other day, I smiled. We’d shared a wonderful time and I couldn’t help feeling blessed by this family of mine. With that, I excused myself from cleaning and retired to my recliner. From that vantage point, I have a wonderful view of our backyard. Though tiny flecks of snow beckoned my attention, I turned in the opposite direction to feast my eyes. My husband had just updated our family picture wall with the kids’ newest photos. I couldn’t help reliving the day we’d shared as I looked from frame to frame. After acknowledging to our generous God that Mike and I truly are blessed, I left my comfy chair to visit another wall.

This second collection includes photos from Mike’s and my childhood. Many of those pictured have passed. They include our own parents and grandparents, several aunts and uncles and my brother and sister. Mike and I shared much of our lives with these loved ones. Though I know that they happily abide in another place, I missed their physical presence.

You know, though our sons look like brothers, each brings a unique presence to our family. Though I would be proud to call both of my daughters-in-law my own, each brings unique gifts to the mix as well. The gaggle of grandchildren who grace us do so as only they can. Every member of my family and a lifetime of friends have touched my life as no one else has or ever will. Each one, with foibles and imperfections intact, can never be replaced. They’ve added something to my life and to life on this earth which no one else will replicate or replace.

This New Year 2019, I pray that we all thrive in spite of our imperfections and that we generously share our gifts with everyone we meet along the way. I assure you, your presence is a gift and your contribution to the rest of us is worth the effort!

Thank you, dear God, for the good people who brighten our lives.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Bring Joy… Find Joy!

That is my joy, and it is complete.
John 3:29-30

A recent conversation with a friend who was once a nun unearthed memories of my own aspirations in that regard. Though my friend found that a different calling better suited her, she continues to treasure the years she spent with her “sisters”. From the time I realized who the nuns and sisters were, I wanted to join them as well. When discussing this with my mom, she often responded that she would be thrilled if one of her five daughters did just that.

As it happened, I spent a lot of time with the nuns over the years including an entire summer during college. Still, I never did become one of them. Oddly, it was during that very summer that the nuns encouraged me to accept a date with the young man who eventually became my husband. Who would have known?

In spite of my marital state, my desire to emulate the good sisters’ service ethic has remained with me. Fortunately, my husband shares a similar perspective. For all of our married life, we’ve been service-oriented. Like my friend and the other nuns whom Mike and I encountered along the way, we’ve found amazing and unexpected ways to be of help to those we’ve met along the way.

The moral of the story? Find a way to do something for someone. Though it may not seem like fun at the onset, whatever you do will bring you joy!

Dear God, you never cease to surprise us with opportunities. Help each of us to respond generously to your heartfelt invitation to care for one another.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

What Families Do…

My husband and I planned a pre-Christmas gathering for early December. We began by coordinating calendars with our sons to insure that they and their families would be able to attend. All was going well until the week beforehand. It was Tuesday when our eldest granddaughter called. Ellie began the conversation by sharing her excitement over the new friends she’s made in middle school. This grandparent and retired teacher was very happy to hear this as middle school can be challenging for newcomers. Ellie went on to say that one of her new friends had invited her and a few others to a party. The single complication in all of this was that the party was scheduled for the same evening as our gathering. Ellie called to ask if Grandpa Mike and I minded if she attended the other party. Before I could respond, Ellie assured me that she didn’t want to disappoint us and that she would come to our party if we wanted her to. Of course, my heart melted. I told Ellie that Grandpa and I wanted her to attend her friend’s party. After Ellie excitedly thanked us, this worrying Grandma confirmed with my son that Ellie had a ride to the party and that she would stay at her neighborhood friend’s home until her parents and siblings returned from our house. As it happened, Ellie had an enjoyable and safe time with her friends just as we did here.

Though we missed Ellie that Saturday night, Mike and I celebrated the realization that our first grandchild is morphing into a wonderful young person. We can’t ask for more than this. At the same time, Ellie’s party adventure brought back poignant memories of her dad’s and uncle’s experiences in this regard. Before our sons left the house for an evening of fun, I offered an excess of motherly guidance regarding their activities. Shall I mention that their dad usually stood in the background rolling his eyes? When our sons left, I also offered a prayer. I begged God and everyone else who was listening from above to inspire our sons to be wise and safe until they returned home. Happily, my prayers were answered generously! I share all of this because all of us want the best for those we’ve been given to love and parents have worried about their children since the beginning of time. Not even Mary and Joseph were spared this reality…

On this Feast of the Holy Family, Luke’s gospel (2:41-52) details Jesus’ contribution to his parents’ accumulation of gray hair. As was the custom at the time, Joseph, Mary and Jesus walked from Nazareth to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover in the temple. They traveled in the company of numerous neighbors and friends. After observing the feast, Mary and Joseph allowed Jesus to mingle freely amidst the caravan as they walked home. After all, Jesus was almost a teenager at the time. All the while, Mary assumed that her growing son was walking with the men. Joseph, who likely acknowledged that Jesus still had a lot of growing to do, assumed that his son was walking with the women and children. It was nightfall when Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus wasn’t with either one of them. Because they’d taught Jesus common sense and consideration for others, the frantic couple feared the worst. So it was that they left the safety of the caravan and walked back to Jerusalem alone to search for Jesus. When Mary and Joseph finally found him in the temple, Jesus seemed bothered by his parents’ concern. He asked, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” I know many of us could have advised Mary and Joseph regarding an appropriate response! Still, these two who had taught Jesus compassion, kindness, humility, patience and forgiveness practiced what they preached. Though they failed to understand Jesus’ actions, they resisted scolding him and simply led him home. As for Jesus, he returned to Nazareth “…and was obedient to them.” Perhaps I should tell Ellie that if she avoids causing her parents to worry, she’ll be far more successful than Jesus in this regard!

As I consider today’s Feast of the Holy Family, Jesus’ adventure in the temple compels me to dismiss the beautiful Christmas Cards and artwork which depict father, mother and child with halos and perpetual smiles in place. Life in Nazareth two millenniums ago wasn’t any less complicated than our lives are today. Just as our complicated modern-day circumstances impact family life, circumstances in Nazareth did the same for the Holy Family. Overcrowding, poverty, inhumane Roman rule and the unyielding expectations of the temple hierarchy were formidable stressors in this little family’s life. Like us, Joseph and Mary struggled to keep order in their household while loving and raising their child as best they could. When Jesus was lost, Joseph and Mary did exactly what any of us would have done when they went to the rescue of their loved one. It seems to me that today’s celebration of the Holy Family is a celebration of all of God’s family. Whether our roles are those of parent, child, grandparent, friend or a caring passer-by, God asks us to love one another and to keep track of one another just as God loves and watches over each one of us. After all, this is what families do, especially God’s family.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Just Do What You Can

Blessed are the peacemakers;
they shall be called daughters and sons of God.

Matthew 5:9

A follow-up news story regarding another unjust shooting ate away at the peace I desperately tried to hold onto. I felt discouraged because, once again, I had to acknowledge that I have no antidote for the ills of this world.

In the midst of my discouragement, a small voice from deep within interrupted my litany of troubles…

I heard, “Have you forgotten that I am with you?”

No. Never. But you seem less tangible today than the troubles around me seem.

The voice continued, “Did you know that I have commissioned others to deal with these things?”

No. Well, yes. You always have a plan in place. Still, I’m not good at standing on the sidelines.

The voice trickled off into a whisper, “I know, but it’s time for you to learn this. Just do your best where you are. That’s all I ever ask. I will take care of the rest.”

With that, the peace within me emerged once again. With that, I embraced that day with renewed resolve to bring God’s peace to my little corner of this world.

Loving God, thank you for placing us precisely where we need to be.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Healing Love

“I will leave as a remnant in your midst
a people humble and lowly,
Who shall take refuge in my name.”

Zephaniah 3:13

The other day, I was impatient and on edge. Nothing in particular had gone wrong at the time. Still, I felt as though the entire world was in trouble and that it was up to me to fix it all. Sadly, I felt as though I was in trouble as well. It’s odd that these feelings overwhelmed me on a Sunday morning at church. Just a week earlier, at the same time and in the same place, I’d found a smile for everyone I encountered and I’d felt very much at peace.

On that seemingly peace-less day, I tried to cheer myself by voicing my gratitude for the many encouraging and inspiring people around me. They always manage to raise me up when I seem destined to sink into the depths of despair. Fortunately for me, two of them appeared when I needed them most. The first thanked me for writing for our parish bulletin each week. He told me that my words never fail to touch his heart. The second told me that she didn’t know what our parish would do without my husband and me. I admit that she brought a tear to my eye as I wasn’t feeling particularly helpful at the time.

During the drive home, I acknowledged that my misery was minimal in the grand scheme of things. I also acknowledged that this world has been in misery throughout human history. No one will ever fix it all! All any of us can do is to place our trust in God’s love and do our best to share that love wherever we are.

Loving God,be with us as we transform our little corners of this world with love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved