Oh So Grateful!

“Why are you so terrified?
Why are you so lacking in faith?”

Mark 4:40

On this Thanksgiving Eve, I’m feeling blessed, especially with regard to my family. The close proximity of my husband’s and son’s birthdays enhance my gratitude. I’ve given birth twice and I can honestly say that, though he was at my side both times, I think my husband missed out a bit. We moms are very fortunate to have our roles in all of this. I’d do it all over again for each of my sons.

I admit that this is an easier call for our older son as I’m told his delivery was too easy. The second time around was a little different… Because I’d experienced contractions for days, we expected a quick delivery. Still, after I was admitted, we waited several hours for progress. Suddenly, a nurse tossed a gown to my husband and rushed me into the delivery room. Monitors had detected fetal distress. When he made his appearance, Timothy was terribly pale. That nurse whisked him away without allowing me to hold him. After some whispering with his team, our doctor asked us not to worry, but added that he was calling in a specialist. Mike and I prayed. We and his big brother had waited a long time for this child.

The next morning, the doctor shared that our baby might be stricken with a disease accompanied by serious disabilities. His lifespan might be only a few years. While I tearfully prayed for a different outcome, a friend stopped in. Sister Charles, the hospital lab director, told me, “Mary, I’ve looked at Timothy. His color is very good. He’s going to be just fine.” The following day after he consulted with that specialist, our doctor shared that tests confirmed that Sister Charles was absolutely right!

On this Thanksgiving Eve, as I consider all that has gone right in my life, I find it a bit easier to deal with circumstances that have gone awry. May each of us find reason to set aside the trauma of this pandemic and all of our other worries to give thanks for those who are most important to us. Though we my be unable to be together tomorrow, we do have one another to love!

Dear God, thank you for the gifts of our families and our friends and for all of the things which bring us joy.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be Generously Grateful

It is good to give thanks to God.
Psalm 92:1

Thanksgiving is just two days away. This week, in the midst of prepping, I habitually offer prayers for those who work on Thanksgiving Day. Though I realize that our police, firefighters, EMTs and hospital staffers are used to rotating shifts through the holidays, I wish that stores and other non-essential businesses would close on this one national holiday which we all have reason to share. Still, this year, I’m not certain that I should voice this wish. So many long for a typical workday and the salary that comes with it…

This realization gives me reason to adjust my Thanksgiving prayers. After praying for all of those workers, I’m going to list all of the things for which I’m grateful. But I’m won’t stop there. After each one, I’m going to add a prayer. When I give thanks for my family, I will pray for all of the families who’ve lost someone to COVID-19. When I offer thanks for our own negative test results, I’ll pray for those who suffer with this and all diseases of the body, mind and spirit. When I offer thanks for our material blessings, I’ll pray for the many who need so much simply to get through another day. As I consider what their Thanksgiving meal might be like, I’ll promise to tweak our budget just enough to provide food for at least some of those in need.

I think it’s fair to say that none of us are completely satisfied with our situations today. The pandemic has certainly taken its toll. Still, I invite you to join me in finding the inspiration in our own blessings to pray for those and to do something for those who need them perhaps more than we do.

Loving God, we are so grateful for all that we have. Now be with us as we share our blessings with those in need.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Everywhere Prayer

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

A friend recently reached out in sadness. She’s maintained her stay-at-home status in an effort to stay healthy and to allow for minimal visits with nearby family. Though my friend is grateful for time spent with her own family, she misses her parish family. Attending Mass hasn’t been an option as she’s considered a part of our most vulnerable population.

I understand my friend’s sense of loss. I shared the other day that I lived down the block from our parish church. This allowed me to drop in whenever I felt the need. I took the term “God’s House” literally. Whenever I went inside, I knew I was in God’s company and I always felt welcomed there.

Later, when my family moved to a new neighborhood and a new parish church. I was at a terrible loss because I didn’t feel at home in that new building. When I complained to my mom, she assured me that God not only abided in our new church, but also deep inside of me. My mom insisted that I could talk to God wherever I was, not only in church. I told my friend that the same is true for her. Just as God remains in our churches, God remains within her and within all of our parishioners. Truly, God abides within each one of us.

The moral of the story is this: Wherever we are, God is also there and it’s the perfect place to pray.

Loving God, thank you for inviting us into your company wherever we happen to be.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Loved, Always Loved…

This morning, I woke with a sense of gratitude in anticipation of Thanksgiving Day. Though I’d like to think that I’m a grateful person, this sentiment took me by surprise. Like so many of us, on Thanksgiving 2020, my husband and I won’t gather with our entire family to enjoy our Thanksgiving meal together. This year, Mike’s and our younger son’s birthdays fall during Thanksgiving week. Our observances in their honor will differ as well. Still, I must finally be adapting to our new normal because these realizations didn’t dispel the gratitude with which I woke. With that, I made a mental list of the gifts for which I’m most grateful. My family and the numerous others whom I’ve been given to love top that list. God has been extremely generous to me in this regard. As I contemplate further, I must acknowledge that God has been extremely generous to me in everything!

God… It occurs to me that it has always come naturally to me to include God in every aspect of my life. “When did this relationship begin?” I ask myself. While my dear husband tends to something in the garage, I’ll ponder this question in the chilly, but sunny outdoors. As I walk along, I recall the nighttime prayers of my childhood. I always asked forgiveness for the day’s misdeeds and blessings for those in need. Our family is large and at least one of us requires prayers much of the time. Back then, I relied upon our Creator God for everything. These nighttime litanies always began with, “Dear God…” Later, when First Communion Day approached and my catechism classes focused upon Jesus, things changed. While I held on to my awe for the God who made us and tends to all of our needs, I was also completely taken in by this Jesus who became one of us and who experienced all of our trials and tribulations firsthand.

Jesus, son of Mary, grew up in the small village of Nazareth. Jesus, cousin to John the Baptizer, worked as an apprentice stonemason with his father Joseph. Jesus, friend to the couple who married at Cana, helped out when their wine ran out. Jesus the Rabbi taught with authority in the temple. This made him a threat to the temple hierarchy and a source of inspiration to the people. Jesus the Storyteller used his parables to reveal God’s compassion, mercy and love. Jesus was hope personified to the hemorrhaging woman, the blind man, the lepers, the paralytic, Martha and Mary and the thief who hung on the cross next to him. Jesus was life itself to the woman caught in adultery, to Jairus’ daughter and to Lazarus. Jesus the Servant washed his friends’ feet at their last supper together. Jesus the Risen One made the promise of life everlasting a reality for us all.

As I continue this morning’s walk, it occurs to me that becoming better acquainted with Jesus was a game-changer in my life. Until then, I’d made many assumptions regarding God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. My faith assured me that God offered these things to me on an ongoing basis. When I encountered Jesus and learned all that he did for others, my assumptions about God became reality. I no longer needed to rely upon my faith because Jesus showed me that everything I believed about God’s love for me is absolutely true.

As I walk toward home, I return my thoughts to Thanksgiving 2020, to my unshakable gratitude and to God’s presence in my life. Something more occurs to me. I realize that both my awareness of God’s presence in my life and my sense of gratitude deepened as a the result of my acquaintance with Jesus. As I sit at my desk to begin this writing, I determine that today’s Feast of Christ the King is the perfect end to the Church Year, the perfect beginning to Thanksgiving Week and the perfect prelude to the Advent Season which will begin next Sunday. Who better than Jesus can inspire our hearts to be grateful in the face everything that lies ahead?

You know, Year 2020 has taught us that none of us can predict all that today, much less the coming week or month or year will bring. What we can be certain of is God’s affection for us. If you doubt God’s love for you, turn to the life of the beloved king whom we honor today. Though Jesus shied away from this title, Jesus embraced every opportunity to “reign” God’s love over the people in the midst of the wear and tear of their lives. Jesus shared God’s love so perfectly that he could never pass by a soul in need without stopping to help. The same is true today.

Meeting Jesus has helped me to experience God’s love quite tangibly in the joyful and the troubling times of my life. On this Feast of Christ the King, I celebrate Jesus with gratitude and I invite you to do the same. After all, Jesus’ words and works assure us all of how precious we are in God’s eyes. Even today in the midst of this sadly remarkable year, Jesus’ words and works assure us that all will be well in the end.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

I Can Do Something…

“Teach them to carry out everything…
and know that I am with you always…”

From Matthew 28:20

While going through boxes of mementos, I found a tiny plate just 5 inches in diameter. This antiquated bit of porcelain features a sketch of President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy. Though it isn’t fine artwork, it elicited a smile. I quickly recalled the enthusiasm of the early 1960s. Though I was only 9 years old and I didn’t know much about him, I cheered when JFK was elected. When Mr. Kennedy offered his inaugural speech, I learned something about his hope for the future. Our new president told us, “…ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for your country.” I wondered what I could do.

Though in elementary school during JFK’s presidency, I clearly recall Khrushchev’s rants and our fear of communism. I remember the worry surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis and our relief over its resolution. Though we fretted and prayed about such things, I felt safe. Then, on November 22, 1963, everything changed. 1036 days into his term, President Kennedy was killed by an assassin.

I think the eve of this sorrowful anniversary offers the perfect opportunity to respond to President Kennedy’s request. Regardless of our religious and political affiliations, we all have good reason to do something because our collective future truly depends on it. So it is that, today, I’m going to stop wondering what I can do. Today, I’m going to do my part to make this country one nation again.

Dear God, you know our imperfections better than we know them ourselves. Still, you place your trust in us to care for this nation, for this world and for one another. Be with us as we do something which illustrates that your trust is well-placed.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

No Strings Attached!

Brothers and Sisters,
Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another,
for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8

I closed my career in education with a county level job. Though I no longer taught students of my own, I did work with the amazing professionals who did. This position also allowed me access to people and opportunities beyond the school setting which I might otherwise have never encountered. I very much appreciated this chance to benefit our area children in more global ways.

In the process, I made a new friend who had been elected to a position at the state level. This person understood the possibilities that came with this role and she was anxious to add her good will and good sense to the mix. Unfortunately, over time her frustration mounted. Her every attempt to transform a good idea into practice required her support of less-than-good legislation in return. In the end, my friend found that too many bad ideas had become reality as a result of the “deals” which had to be made to gather support. After only one term in office, my friend moved on to a service position where there were no strings attached to anyone’s good deeds.

I admit that the recent electoral cycle brought my friend’s experience back to mind. Though I can’t do much on a grand scale, I can certainly hold myself to a higher standard. We all can. Today, I’m going to try to do the right thing because it is the right thing. No strings attached. Hopefully, my efforts today will set the tone for the rest of the days I’m given.

Dear God, bless us with the wisdom to discern what is right and to act accordingly. Help us not to hinder our own goodness or the goodness of others by attaching strings to our good deeds.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved