Let It Go!

Say to the Lord, “My refuge,
my God in whom I trust.”

Psalm 91:2

Though I’m probably more patient than most, this isn’t necessarily the case when I’m tired and it’s never true when I’m worried. Worry makes me edgy at best. Little things which are normally easy to let go of become heavy burdens. Though I often don’t verbally express my displeasure with the situation at hand, my face betrays me. These days, I find myself as worried as ever.

My dear husband frequently checks in with my psyche as subtly as he can. When he does, I habitually respond, “I’m fine. Are you okay?” Though my concern for him is genuine, my response to his question is not. It isn’t easy to worry day in and day it without it taking its toll. Though I manage to sleep well, fatigue sets in and threatens to overwhelm me. I hide my angst by smiling (halfheartedly, at best) throughout the day. All the while, I mistakenly think that I’ve done everything within my power to help and that there is nothing more I can do to solve the problems of this world.

After sharing all of this, I admit that I shouldn’t invest so much energy in worrying. I also realize that my responses to my husband’s queries don’t fool him a bit. When I ask myself what I would tell a friend who has my concerns, I’d answer quickly: “Stop worrying! Pray about this mess, hand it all over to God. Then count your blessings because they are many!” I’ll stop writing now because I’ve got to start counting!

Dear God, you know our troubles better than we do. So it is that I hand them all over to you. Thank you for the gift of our lives today and always.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Proceed With Care and Love…

Every day we are called to do
small things with great love.

Mother Teresa

Our neighborhood school won’t open in the usual way this year. Like communities everywhere, administrators, teachers and parents collaborated with health experts and came up with a plan. As I prayed for all concerned, I also breathed a sigh of relief because I wouldn’t be returning to a classroom this year. Every person involved with educating our children, including moms and dads, grandparents and caretakers, deserves our admiration and needs our support just now.

In our family, the ongoing patience and ingenuity of my daughters-in-law and their husbands in this regard truly amazed me when their homes became classrooms last March. Our grandchildren responded in kind by cooperating as best they could. All of the educators and parents who kept their cool and the children who took their cues certainly made the most of what could have been an even more trying time.
In the end, the last quarter of the 2019-2020 School Year was indeed productive.

As the onset of the new school year approaches, let’s pray that this year will unfold even more productively for all concerned. It seems to me that the eleven words above which I cite from Mother Teresa make an important point. Countless acts of love -tiny, heroic moments at laptops and during Zoom lessons and in conversations about the assignment at hand- will bolster our children’s spirits rather than break them. When we choose calm over anger, patience over impatience, persistence in spite of our weariness and kindness in the midst of our frustration, we teach our greatest lessons and do our greatest work. Every single one involved will be better as a result.

Loving God, be with all of the adults and children who will work together to make this a nurturing and productive school year.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

With God At Our Sides…

Stay-at-home mode has prompted me to expand my efforts when it comes to prayer. I’m certain that our patient Creator can testify to the frequent ongoing monologues I’ve whispered heavenward. On occasion, in an effort to give God a much-deserved break, I’ve turned my attention to my other allies in the hereafter. My effort began at our family photo wall. This display features dozens of images of loved ones who have graced my dear husband’s and my lives throughout our childhoods and well into adulthood. Most of those pictured dwell in the hereafter these days. Since the pandemic began, I’ve frequently stopped at that wall and lingered to pray. Each time, photographs of Mike’s and my parents, our grandparents, aunts and uncles and two of my siblings turned my thoughts to the difficult circumstances each of them endured.

Uncle Gee was born with polio in the 1920s when there was no vaccine or cure for the disease. Though he sported a terribly hunched back, he lived a productive life. Our grandparents and their children survived the Great Depression. When my grandfather became disabled in the midst of his career driving a truck, my mom and her siblings took on the financial responsibilities of their household. While they all completed high school, they simultaneously took jobs to keep their family above water. My mom was heartbroken at the time because she couldn’t fulfill her dream of going to college. Mike’s dad and my eventual stepdad served during World War II. Several of our uncles served as well while our aunts kept their families together until they came home. My own dad’s damaged heart kept him out of the army. It also kept him from living to forty. Two uncles served in the Korean War. None of them spoke of the wartime horror they experienced. We all survived the polio scare of the early 1950s. Unexpected incidents of illness and lost jobs added to the trauma. Photos of my brother who succumbed to diabetes and my sister who lost her battle with cancer are nestled among these family heroes. I stop at this photo wall frequently these days because, like our loving God, these loved ones understand what you and I are going through today.

I always begin my prayer by acknowledging what heroes each one of these precious loved ones is to me. Though I don’t think I would have called them heroes before the pandemic, this seems most fitting to me these days. I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I had been immersed in their circumstances. Yet, here I am in the midst of a worldwide assault by COVID-19. Unlike these seemingly capable family members, I really don’t know what to do except to be here for those I’ve been given to love and to keep them and myself healthy and safe. Much to my good fortune, it is after I acknowledge my own ineptitude that this wall-full of sweet souls nudges my thoughts to the one who inspired them and who is standing by ready to inspire me as well…

This is when images of Jesus hard at work fill me up. He cured the lepers, the centurion’s daughter and the man born blind. Jesus raised up Lazarus and then wept bitter tears over the loss of John the Baptist. Jesus’ uncommon generosity and his unconditional love for God’s people drove everything that Jesus did. Even when Peter and the others failed to understand Jesus’ words and example, Jesus never gave up on them. Jesus offered them chance after chance after chance to do their best as only they could. Every time I pause to pray at that wall, my dear loved ones remind me that Jesus walked this earth as one of us and that Jesus understands everything we are going through. The best of part of this is that, no matter how often I fail others or myself, Jesus never fails me.

Today’s gospel (Matthew 14:13-21) gets to the heart of what I’ve learned from those who’ve made their way through this life before you and me. The passage begins just as Jesus received the news that John the Baptist had been murdered. Jesus attempted to withdraw from his friends to mourn because he loved his cousin John. Though he perched himself in a small boat far away from his followers, word of Jesus’ whereabouts spread quickly. Before he could shed a tear, that throng surrounded Jesus. Matthew wrote, “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them and he cured their sick.” As heartbroken as he was, Jesus knew that there was nothing more for him to do for John the Baptist just then. The people before him, however, were another story. So it was that Jesus abandoned his own suffering to embrace the needs of those gathered on the shore that day.

Today, as I wrestle with this pandemic’s havoc, I’ll stop by that photo wall again. There I’ll be reminded of Jesus’ unending patience, his compassionate heart and his absolute love for us all. More importantly, I’ll once again hear Jesus’ ongoing insistence that you and I are indeed God’s first love. Once again, I’ll take a deep breath and move on to whatever the day will bring in God’s good company. I think I’ll survive this after all and so will you…

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Meanness Doesn’t Help…

Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Luke 4:24

While plugging away at my book, I included an experience from sixth grade. Since I seem to be in “school mode” these days, let me share what happened…

Glenda and I had been classmates since first grade. All was well until sixth grade when we endured some troubles. Glenda began to blossom into a young woman quite noticeably and I managed to annoy our teacher daily regardless of my genuine effort to do the opposite.

One day, Sister assigned essays which would be read to the entire class. Because Glenda and I were shy, we trembled in unison at the thought. Somehow, I managed to read my essay without a fumble. When Sister called Glenda, I closed my eyes to pray that Glenda would also do well. A classmate’s giggle interrupted my prayer. A second giggle prompted me to open my eyes. By the time I focused on Glenda, everyone in the classroom was laughing except for me. When I noticed Glenda’s unbuttoned blouse, I was mortified for her. Fortunately, Sister took control and sent Glenda and me into the hallway.

I told Glenda what had happened while Sister mercilessly reprimanded our classmates. Poor Glenda sobbed until I convinced her that we were the lucky ones because the rest of the class was in deep trouble. In the end, our classmates ostracized Glenda and me for a few weeks because we “got them into trouble.” Never mind that their merciless laughter had elicited Glenda’s tears. As for Glenda and me, our friendship grew stronger. As for Sister and me, Sister managed to muster a bit more patience on my behalf.

I don’t know if our classmates ever realized how deeply they’d hurt Glenda that day. I don’t know if Sister ever realized how deeply she hurt me day in and day out that year. The more of the story is this: Being mean does no good for any of us.

Dear God, it isn’t always easy to do the right thing. Still, help me to try.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Make It Right

Guide them as a shepherd guides his flock.
From Jeremiah 31:11

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, people here and all over the world have responded to this tragedy. A recent news clip indicated that Pope Francis is one of them. During an address on June 3, Francis made this observation in response to George Floyd’s murder: “My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”

Francis’ point is clear. Many of us who claim to be pro-life unwittingly limit this support to the unborn. Day after day, we adhere to policies and practices which systematically deny large segments of our human family access to the basic necessities of life. Francis insists that being pro-life requires our respect and our support of human life from every persons conception to his or her last breath.

Francis’ observation reignited my heartache over all of this. If you have a family, you know how difficult it can be to repair relationships which have gone awry over the years. Sometimes, a bit of gentle urging is all that is needed to make things right again. Most often, however, strong and deliberate effort is required to repair the damage done. In the case of racism and exclusion, I’m afraid the “strong and deliberate” approach is required.

Then again… It occurs to me that while we make our feelings known to those who govern, we can also make our feelings known to those we meet along the way. We can plant seeds of acceptance and inclusion with a welcome, a smile or a well-timed helping hand. We can discourage attitudes and language which deepen divisions by offering positive alternatives. It seems to me that none of us need to look very far to find ways to make things right again as only we can.

Loving God, be with us as we open our hearts to all of our sisters and brothers.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Peace Be With Us All

“The works that God gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify that God has sent me.”

John 5:36

Wasn’t it just yesterday that I wrote about the peace with which I begin each day? Though I’m grateful that God’s peace stays with me much of the time, this is sometimes not the case. Today, I’m more than impatient with a few of my fellow humans. Though I believe God loves us just as we are, I’m having a little trouble following God’s good example. I just watched a news report which I wish I’d missed. Those featured seem to have forgotten that we’re all God’s people. I shouldn’t have allowed these few to distract me from the remarkable good that is being accomplished by so many these days. Yet, I did!

Determined to change my attitude, I ran upstairs to take another peek out of the window which inspires my morning talks with God. Before I said a word, childhood memories regarding some of Jesus’ contemporaries filled me up. Before I could ask the point of all of this, the eleven-year-old I used to be came to mind. She was extremely impatient with the Pharisees who had no use for Jesus. This younger me was convinced that Jesus’ words and works had come from a loving God and she wondered why it was so difficult for the Pharisees to see this.

As I consider my current frustration, I acknowledge that times haven’t changed much. I’d revived my eleven-year-old frustration. I’d also lost the peace that resides not only beyond that window, but also deep within me. With that, I’m renewing my resolve to find that peace once again. I’ll pray for those who’d frustrated me so. I’ll also do what I can to bring peace to my little corner of this world.

Good and Patient God, help me to do just that!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved