Beautifully Simple

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves in me.

Matthew 11:29

There is something more to add to yesterday’s post about our porch Christmas Tree. It was three years ago when I almost replaced them…

While I decorated the tree on our porch that year, my husband perused the plastic figures which would rest beneath it. He noticed that the base of the Mary figure was cracked a bit. When he examined Baby Jesus, he found that the side of his little face was completely cracked. Only Joseph and the two lambs remained intact. With that, my husband asked if I would run out to purchase some Gorilla Glue while he determined if our beloved figures could be repaired.

I admit that while I searched for that glue I also looked for an equivalent set of Nativity figures. When I found a similar set, I phoned home to ask if I should purchase it. My husband’s response was immediate and absolute. “No. I can fix what we have.” On the way home, I realized that it wasn’t the cost which concerned him. Our Nativity figures had belonged to his parents and he wasn’t quite ready to part with them.

These three years later, I reassert that my husband’s instincts were well-placed. Though both the Jesus and Mary figurines had seen better days, that Gorilla Glue did the trick. In the glow of our porch tree lights, they looked absolutely beautiful back then just as they do today.

Thank you, Dear God, for sending your love into this world and into our hearts in such simple ways. Help us to bring your love to one another.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Live with Faith, Hope and God’s Love!

This week, I’ll celebrate my parents’ seventy-seventh wedding anniversary. While my mom and dad will observe this special day in a place far better than our troubled world, I’ll reminisce over old photos and poignant memories. I’m tempted to long for the simpler times my parents seemed to enjoy, but I cannot. Life was no easier for them than it is for us these days. Though the details of our circumstances differ, similar pain has punctuated human history since our beginning. One of the treasures my mom left is an album in which she mounted the bridal shower and wedding cards she and my dad received. These treasures get to the heart of everything of importance to us as we journey through this life and beyond. I’m certain they inspired my parents’ efforts in this regard…

I opened my mom’s album and considered each page of cards. These tiny treasures measure no more than three inches or four inches in height and width. Still, in spite of their diminutive size, they carry grand wishes. The personal notes added to manufactured verses speak eloquently of each sender’s love for my future parents. The various signatures elicited images of family members and friends from long ago. As I thumbed through the yellowed pages, one letter-sized paper stood out. I wondered who might have sent this particular greeting. As I read, I discovered perhaps the most touching message of them all. It was written by the president of the company for which my mom worked. Here is what that extremely wise man had to say: “Dear Rita: I am happy to learn that you are to be married on Saturday and want to extend my best wishes to you and your husband. May your wedded life be full of joy and happiness. Do not let the present gloomy world conditions put a damper on your hopes and ambitions. Marriage is a wonderful venture in life and I know it is going to mean much happiness to you both in the years to come. With kindest regards, I remain… W. R. Barker”

My parents married in 1942. World War II raged and times were tough. Many family members and friends served in the military. The damage done by a childhood bout with rheumatic fever kept my father from joining them. My mom had been working for years by then. She took a job during high school because her family needed the added income to get by. My mom’s single regret was her inability to attend college. Neither she nor her parents could afford the tuition. I’m certain that meeting my dad dulled the sting of that unrealized dream as a new dream took shape in their relationship. Indeed, my parents’ wedding day proved to be the first of 6,112 amazing days together. It seems Mr. Barker knew the potential for joy which my parents realized throughout the years ahead. His letter summed up everything that we can hope for in this life: A measure of happiness, the love of others, encouragement in spite of troubling times and friends who stand at our sides. Apparently, my mom appreciated Mr. Barker’s sentiments because his letter is displayed quite beautifully in her album. My mother’s grateful approach to her circumstances over the years since convince me that she took Mr. Barker’s sentiments to heart. Yes, our hopes and ambitions and love make all of the difference regardless of the conditions around us.

Mr. Barker’s words touched me as well because they reflect the love which Jesus exhibited when he met a group of lepers one day. Luke’s gospel (Luke 17:11-19) tells us that, when they saw him, these suffering men cried out, “Jesus! Master! Have pity on us!” Jesus felt their pain as only Jesus could. Without hesitation, he sent the men to show themselves to the priests of the temple. On their way, one leper realized he was healed. While the others went on to have themselves declared cured, this man raced back and fell at Jesus’ feet. Though the others certainly realized what had occurred, only this man returned. Could it be that he recognized a more significant blessing? Indeed, he had encountered the Lord! Not only was his body made whole, but his spirit had also been revived by God’s all-encompassing love. This grateful one-time leper realized that he would flourish in spite of the world’s gloomy conditions because he was loved. God’s love would ensure that nothing would ever again put a damper on this man’s hopes and ambitions. He returned to say “Thank you, Lord!” for good reason!

As I consider the wedding greetings which fill my mom’s album, I realize she kept them for good reason. They provided a constant reminder of the love which surrounded her and my dad as they began their life together. Just as the leper’s healing reminded him of God’s healing love in his life, my mother’s album kept her cognizant of God and all of the loved ones who walked this life’s journey with her. It seems that Mr. Barker described perfectly how the cured man and we should respond to God’s love in our lives: We must never allow gloomy world conditions to put a damper on our hopes and dreams. We must embrace this life as the wonderful venture it is. God’s love will bring happiness to us in the days ahead both here and in heaven above.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s House

Father, keep them in your name
that you have given me, so that
they may be one just as we are one.

From John 17:11

This morning, my friend-since-kindergarten texted. A recent errand had placed my friend in close proximity to our old neighborhood. Because he’s as taken with that neighborhood as I am, my former classmate detoured through our former digs. This trek included a drive past his high school and mine. Of course, all of this ushered me back in time as well…

We grew up on the West Side of Chicago. Beside our church and school buildings, I was awed by the mysteriously awesome synagogue which stood a few blocks north of our parish church. I’d passed this building numerous times. Every time, I looked upon this stone-clad edifice with high regard. My mom had explained that this was a Jewish temple. She said that our doctor probably prayed there. As for me, I was convinced that the Lord God certainly lived in that holy place.

Years later, our neighborhood demographics and this building’s ownership changed. I remember exhaling a sigh of relief when I heard that it would remain God’s house. The synagogue was sold to a Christian church and it would serve as their place of worship. This thrilled me at the time because I knew that God would continue to live there.

You know, just as my friend and I continue to love our old neighborhood, God continues to love all of the places in which God dwells. I’m convinced that God loves that versatile place of worship as I do. Still, I’m even more convinced that God loves the spaces we make for God in our hearts even more!

Gracious God, thank you for residing in our houses of prayer and in our hearts.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Agents of Healing Love

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…

From Galatians 5:22

Polk Street lingers in my memory. Today, another childhood friend comes to mind. Trino is expert at finding tidbits of interest. The passing of another character from the BOZO SHOW prompted an onslaught of emails regarding Bozo’s costars, toys from that era and even an early Mickey Mouse clip. As always, I thoroughly enjoyed these strolls down Memory Lane. Life was less complicated when we were children and I enjoy these reminders of that simpler time. When things went awry, I had a variety of people to whom I could turn to restore my peace. I also knew even back then that, when all else fails, God listens when we whisper our troubles heavenward.

Earlier today, some unkindness on the part of someone who knows better sent me teetering to the edge. To the edge of what, I’m not sure. Still, this person’s behavior soured my mood. The good news is that I sulked only briefly before I decided to distract myself with email. In the midst of this self-imposed therapy, I discovered another of Trino’s nostalgic messages. This reminder of the comforts of my youth prompted me to enjoy one of those comforts by spending a few moments with God. With that, I left my keyboard for the windows which overlook our yard. I gazed at melting snow, a mere remnant of the heavy snowfall from weeks ago. The large patches of green which showed themselves dispelled my sour feelings. This attitude adjustment helped me to see the beauty in dismissing the mean-spirited behavior I’d encountered earlier.

I returned to this writing with a smile, a prayer of thanksgiving for peace-recovered and a prayer of intercession for my cranky acquaintance.

Dear God, I’ll try harder to be an agent of your healing forgiveness and your love.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Happiness to Come…

My renewed need to purge our home of non-necessities nudged me up the stairs to our spare bedroom. This was a huge mistake as that particular room is likely the most nostalgic place in our house. The wall of antique pictures of great-grandparents and grandparents and photos from my husband’s and my childhood eased the urgency I’d felt just a minute earlier. When I finally opened the first dresser drawer, I found one of the treasures my mom left when she passed away. As I paged through the seventy-four-year-old album, I rediscovered my mom’s bridal shower and wedding greeting cards. Suddenly, I realized that my definition of non-necessities was evolving quickly. My parents were married in October and I couldn’t resist this opportunity to celebrate their anniversary once again…

As I gently perused the yellowed cards, I was taken aback by their diminutive size. Most are no larger than three inches by four inches. One is just two inches by two. Still, these tiny cards carry grand wishes. Single phrases added to the manufactured verses spoke eloquently of love felt for my mom and dad. I imagined my someday-to-be-parents smiling over this album which teemed with kindness. As I read the various signatures, images of loved ones filled me up. “Auntie C. Dionne” clarified the origins of my propensity to address all of my aunts as “Auntie.” Isabelle, who attended my mom’s bridal shower, wrote a lovely poem to accompany her gift. Perhaps she inspired my mom always to add a note to her greeting cards. Emily Gutchick’s signature confirmed that she was married before my mom and dad. Her name also conjured fond memories of my first dance with a boy -her son, Bobby.

Telegrams from Auntie Lucille and Uncle Leonard, Mr. and Mrs. Belanger and soon-to-be Uncle Clarence underscored everyone’s excitement over this union. My dad’s co-workers sent their greetings as well. Perhaps the most touching message came from the president of the company where my mother worked: “Dear Rita: I am happy to learn that you are to be married on Saturday and want to extend my best wishes to you and your husband. May your wedded life be full of joy and happiness. Do not let the present gloomy world conditions put a damper on your hopes and ambitions. Marriage is a wonderful venture in life and I know it is going to mean much happiness to you both in the years to come. With kindest regards, I remain… W. R. Barker”.

My parents married on October 17, 1942. World War II raged and times were tough. Family members and friends served in the military. Damage done by a bout with rheumatic fever kept my dad from joining them. My mom had been working for years by then. She took a job during high school and continued after graduation because her family needed this added income. My mom’s greatest regret was her inability to attend college. Neither she nor her parents could afford the tuition. I’m certain that meeting my dad dulled the sting of that unrealized dream as a new dream took shape in their relationship. Indeed, my parents’ wedding day proved to be the first of 6112 amazing days together. It seems Mr. Barker predicted the joy which lay ahead. His greeting summed up everything that we can hope for in this life: A measure of happiness, the love of others, encouragement in spite of troubling times and friends who are always at our sides. Apparently, my mom appreciated Mr. Barker’s sentiments because his letter is displayed quite beautifully in her album.

Mr. Barker’s touching words reflect the empathy Jesus exhibits in Luke’s gospel (Luke 17:11-19). As he walked along, Jesus encountered ten lepers who cried out, “Jesus! Master! Have pity on us!” Jesus looked upon them and felt their pain as only Jesus could. With little ado, Jesus sent the men off to show themselves to the priests of the temple. On the way, one leper realized he was cured. He raced back, fell at Jesus’ feet and worshiped him. Though the others knew by then that they, too, were healed, only this man recognized the more significant blessing. He had encountered the Lord! Not only his body, but his spirit as well had been made whole. Jesus knew that a healthy spirit would flourish in spite of gloomy world conditions. Nothing would ever again discourage this man’s hope and ambition. So it was that he returned to say, “Thank you, Lord!”

As I consider the greeting cards which fill my mother’s album, I realize she kept them to remember the love which surrounded her and my dad throughout their life together. Just as the leper’s cure reminded him of God’s presence in his life, my mother’s album kept her cognizant of the loved ones who walked this life’s journey with her. It seems to me that Mr. Barker described perfectly how we are to respond to the miracle we celebrate today: We must never allow gloomy world conditions to put a damper on our hopes and ambitions. Life is a wonderful venture which will mean much happiness to us in the days to come –on this earth and in heaven above.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Find Peace

In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Against such things there is no law!

Galatians 5:22

A life-long friend and I have shared a series of nostalgic emails over the past few weeks. I have thoroughly enjoyed these strolls down Memory Lane. Life was so much simpler when we were children. When things went awry, I had a variety of people to whom I could turn to restore my peace. I also knew back then that, when all else fails, God listens carefully when we whisper our troubles heavenward.

Earlier today, a bit of mischief- actually, outright unkindness- on the part of someone who knows better sent me teetering to the edge. The edge of what, I’m not sure. Still, this person’s behavior soured my mood. The good news is that I sulked only briefly before I decided to distract myself with email. In the midst of this self-imposed therapy, I discovered another of my friend’s nostalgic messages. This reminder of the comforts of my youth prompted me to enjoy one of those comforts by spending a few moments with God. With that, I left my keyboard for the windows which overlook our yard. I gazed at the mountains of snow which herald our recent snowfall. The beauty before me dispelled my sour feelings in short order. With this attitude adjustment came the realization that this person’s mean-spirited behavior is her problem, not mine.

I returned to the day’s work with a smile, a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s peace, and a prayer of intercession for my cranky acquaintance.

Comforter God, help me to see the unkindness of others with your eyes. Teach me to respond with your kindness, forgiveness and love.

©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved