Fear No Evil…

Though I walk through the valley of darkness,
I fear no evil; for you are with me;
your rod and your staff bring me comfort.

Psalm 23:4

I just received a postcard reminding me to make an appointment with my dentist. Though I don’t fear the dentist as some people do, I do admit to being “doctored out”. I’ve recently taken care of all of my annual check-ups and I’ve had enough. Oddly, that last phrase reminds me of a time long ago when I felt exactly the same way…

As a little child, I feared a visit from the doctor more than anything else. (Yes, doctors made house calls back then!) Though our family physician was pleasant enough, he visited our home only when one of us was ill enough to require immediate intervention. That intervention usually took the form of an injection. Much to my dismay, I was the designated patient on one such occasion. Though only five, I recognized those dreaded letters as my mom spelled “D-o-c-t-o-r” to inform my dad that she was making the call. I’m certain that my tears began to flow by the time my mom said “c”.

An hour or so later, the doctor arrived with that dreaded syringe. After assessing my symptoms, he opened his black bag as my dad lifted me over his shoulder. I carried on so that I didn’t feel pain. When my dad told me that it was over, I cried even harder. I was angry as ever that the doctor had accomplished his dastardly deed. I spent the next half hour on my dad’s lap. He wrapped his arms around me as my sobs faded into whimpers. When my whimpers disappeared, my dad pulled me close to whisper in my ear. “Tomorrow, you’re going to be all better,” he promised. I believed his every word. Though he wasn’t able to keep me from the evils of this world, my dad did love me through them all.

Dear God, thank you for loving me even more powerfully than my dad did.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Say Cheese!

Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.

Psalm 145:13

When my first grandchild was born, I organized our photos of her and the rest of us from Day 1. Some family members and friends acknowledged my new role as “Grandma” by gifting me with photo albums and I put each one to immediate use. Rather than storing them away, I displayed the albums on our coffee table for easy access. I didn’t want to forget a bit of this new adventure.

Four additional grandchildren and a few memorable trips have enticed me to keep this “album thing” going. Thirteen volumes later, I find that my thinking in this regard is sound. When visiting, our grandchildren and their respective parents look through these albums often. Numerous conversations regarding the places we’ve been, the kids’ growth spurts and a variety of special occasions result. The smiles that accompany all of this indicate that my photo album collection is truly a celebration of who we are and where we have been.

Though I have no photographic evidence, I’m certain that my family and I haven’t been alone in all of this. God has been with us every step and click of the camera along the way.

Generous God, thank you for the memories and for the wonderful family who build them with me.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Those Special Women

Her children rise up to praise her;
her husband, too, extols her.

Proverbs 31:28

My husband’s aunt passed away a year ago just prior to her 102nd birthday. Aunt Mary was a true matriarch who held her own until the very end of her life. The only exception was her one hundredth birthday party which she told her children not to have. When they insisted, Aunt Mary insisted as well. She would allow only a very small gathering. For once, her children didn’t listen to her! It was a grand celebration that even Aunt Mary enjoyed.

When my husband’s cousins recently sold Aunt Mary’s home, memories filled me up. Though I’m the in-law in all of this, the family who occupied that home welcomed me into their lives. Because of the distance between them, she and my husband’s mom spoke over the phone frequently. Afterward, my husband’s mom quickly called him to share the latest family news. Of course, he shared the same with me. And so it went for decades…

You know, there’s something to be said for the matriarchs in our families. My own clan boasts several who resemble Aunt Mary in their determination and their immeasurable capacities to love. They lead us in strong, but nurturing ways, each in her own way. Though not one of them is perfect, each one certainly leaves her indelible mark on us with loving precision. In the end, each of these women did the best she could and I am most grateful. After all, they’ve given me a peek at God’s feminine side which I might otherwise have missed.

Loving God, thank you for the special women who enrich our lives.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love’s Difference

We can do no great things, only small things with great love.
St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

My husband and I rearranged our wall of family photos to make space for our new grandson’s picture. The pictures include our sons as toddlers, college graduates and grooms. As I considered the little boys-turned-men, I wondered how it happened that my older son became a husband and the father of three little girls. I went on to wonder how his younger brother also became a husband who now is the dad of two little boys.

As I perused the family photos further, my eyes rested on my husband’s and my parents who have all passed away. Wasn’t it just last week when they celebrated the kids’ birthdays with us? My momentary grief morphed into a chuckle as I gazed at our sons’ wedding photos which include their dad and me. It occurred to me that he and I are well past the ages our parents were on our wedding day. “How did that happen?” I wonder further.

As I consider these familial milestones, the significance of every moment of our lives becomes crystal clear. Both the good and the bad from our pasts made possible each of the photos on our wall. Though the future is filled with uncharted waters, my response to every moment will contribute to the happiness which lies ahead. Most importantly, I realize the value of the present moment –God’s greatest gift to each one of us– which requires my undivided attention and my love. The events of my life, both great and small, will be shaped by the love I bring to each one.

Loving God, help me always to remember the value of the opportunity at hand and the difference my love can make.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Love Past and Present

Your love endures through all generations.
From Psalm 145:13

Our granddaughter spent a few days with us in mid-August. This belated overnight stay for her birthday coincided with our wedding anniversary. Because everyone was gathering at our house to celebrate on Ellie’s last day with us, my husband pulled out our wedding album. Ellie glanced at a few pictures probably in an effort to delay her bedtime. After ushering her off to bed, I found it was the perfect time for me to revisit those memories.

As I poured over our wedding pictures, tears threatened several times. I lingered a while over the photos which featured loved ones who’ve passed on from this life. Each one has left a significant mark on my life. Each one contributed in one way or another to my love for my own children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews.

Though I know my loved ones present and passed on aren’t perfect, they’ve all added to the richness in my life. It seems to me that the most important gift we can give one another is time well spent together. We do more good than we realize whenever we love one another the best we can as only we can.

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

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Expectations Fulfilled…

In verdant pastures God gives me repose;
beside restful waters God leads me;
God refreshes my soul.

From Psalm 23:2-3

This is the anniversary of my sister’s departure for the hereafter.

When Cecele returned to her doctor due to a persistent cough, she didn’t expect him to suggest an exploratory procedure. Not long afterward, she didn’t expect to hear about cancer, her months-long prognosis and the chemo which might or might not help. When she finally absorbed all of this, Cecele observed, “I’m a fighter. I’m going to fight this.” And that she did!

My sister dug in her heals and embraced the regimen of care laid out for her. The rest of us accompanied her to appointments and did whatever else we could to lighten her burden. We talked a little and we listened a lot. When the chemo wreaked havoc with her hair, my sister’s daughter-in-law shaved her head for her. Though the Cancer Society provided a lovely wig, Cecele determined that bald is beautiful. On her, it really was. When the chemo failed to help, Cecele accepted hospice care. Again, she fought, This time, she fought to accomplish everything that needed to be done before she took her leave. And that she did, too. I don’t think I’ll ever meet an equally prepared dying person!

Though my sister’s final journey was unexpected, the outcome was precisely what she’d hoped for. When I bade my final farewell to her earthly remains, the peace on Cecele’s face was unmistakable. The few glimpses of the hereafter which had graced her last days sustained Cecele through her good-byes and her last breaths. I have no doubt that her experience of the things to come is everything she hoped for and so much more! It was her expectation regarding eternal life which saw her through what could have been a far more difficult journey.

Loving God, thank you for this life and the amazing life to come.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserve