Precious and Loved

Your children will be like olive branches who enrich your table.
From Psalm 128:3

Whenever our grandchildren visit, they spend a good deal of time thumbing through the photo albums stacked on our coffee table. These albums feature all of them from the time of their births. Of course, the rest of us are also preserved for posterity in this smattering of birthday, Christmas and other special occasion photos. Though kids enjoy looking at all of us, they seem especially amazed by the way they’ve changed over the years. So are we! As that metamorphosis continues, so will our love for each of them!

The other day, I decided to peruse my husband’s and my photo history. After enjoying our grandchild-filled albums, I opened our wedding album. As I poured over the decades-old pictures, tears threatened. On almost every page, I found Mike and me in our twenty-something prime. In those same photos, I found many a loved one who has passed on from this life. Just as Mike and I have had a significant impact upon one another, each of these special people left a significant mark on us. The love they showered upon us so long ago is tangible even today in most of what Mike and I do and say.

You know, my husband and I aren’t perfect. Nor are our sons and their families and the countless others who’ve touched our lives. Still, we love them dearly and we hope we’ve added to the richness of their lives just as they’ve added to our life together. The most important gift we give to one another is our love, especially when it seems least deserved. It is then that our love matters most of all!

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

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Never Short of God’s Love!

Amazingly enough, my dear husband and I actually have a bit of leftover Halloween Candy. This is truly remarkable since the good deacon was quite adept at pilfering his favorites from the candy bowl at the front door when I wasn’t looking! As I search for a good place to hide these calorie-laden extras, I can’t help thinking about the adventures of this past week. Halloween always urges me to walk down Memory Lane. The lull between trick-or-treaters provided ample time for this excursion. This past week, All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days compelled me to continue my journey. You see, many of my family members passed away when I was a child. As a result, I learned early on to keep these loved ones close by in my thoughts and in my prayers. Back then, after attending Mass on All Saints’ Day, my mom always reminded us of the significance of All Souls’ Day. We would visit church once again that day to remember and to pray for our departed loved ones. I found great comfort in acknowledging each one of them and I appreciated the opportunity to celebrate their arrivals in heaven. So it is that, during Halloween week and often throughout the year, I stop at our wall of family pictures to remember. This past week, I lingered longer than usual to celebrate these precious souls who are so much a part of me.

I admit that our photo wall doesn’t include any canonized saints just now. My family members and I bear the burden of being truly human. This characteristic takes form in both our creative and mundane imperfections. My family members who have passed away and those who remain with us never cease to amuse me and to amaze me with the variety of ways in which they respond to their personal shortcomings. They have taught me much about making the most of who we are. Perhaps this propensity to make the most of our human condition is the reason I’m drawn to Zacchaeus in today’s gospel (Luke 19:1-10).

Luke tells us that as Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem he passed through Jericho. Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector and a wealthy man, heard that Jesus was near and he was intent upon seeing him. Being very short in stature, Zacchaeus couldn’t see Jesus over the heads of those who’d gathered along the way. Rather than miss this opportunity, Zacchaeus ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a sycamore tree that had grown over the path where Jesus walked. Now Zacchaeus was a public official already held in contempt because he cooperated with the Romans by gathering taxes from the people. Still, Zacchaeus disregarded what the people thought of him as he made a spectacle of himself up in that tree. Apparently, none of this mattered to Jesus. When he saw Zacchaeus, Jesus called up to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” As the ecstatic Zacchaeus made his way to Jesus, the crowd grumbled. After all, Jesus had accepted the hospitality of a sinner and Zacchaeus wasn’t just any sinner. Tax collectors were known to gouge the people for their own profit and Zacchaeus’s wealth suggested that he was guilty as charged. Fortunately for Zacchaeus, he recognized the opportunity before him and he responded to Jesus immediately. Zacchaeus told Jesus that he’d give one half of his wealth to the poor and that he would return anything he had extorted fourfold. It seems that Zacchaeus recognized that being short in stature was the least of his burdens. The lifestyle he’d assumed at the expense of his neighbors was far more detrimental to his well-being. His selfishness had kept him from loving as only he could.

Wise Zacchaeus made the best of his shortcomings by turning his life around. Zacchaeus’s effort touched Jesus and Jesus proclaimed, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” When he called Zacchaeus a descendent of Abraham, Jesus acknowledged to the crowd that Zacchaeus had just as much right to God’s mercy and love as they did. Zacchaeus’s willingness to turn his life around by sharing the riches he’d accumulated indicated that Jesus’ faith in him was well placed. Zacchaeus provides a great example of redemption to us all!

I’m drawn to Zacchaeus because he isn’t very different from those who inhabit my family photo wall, from me and from us all. His humanity is as genuine as yours and mine. Jesus’ willingness to keep company with Zacchaeus assures me that Jesus is just as eager to keep company with us as well. Like Zacchaeus, we can all draw Jesus’ attention, perhaps not by climbing a tree, but through our own equally creative efforts to emulate Jesus’ ways in our lives. Like Zacchaeus, we can take our shortcomings and turn them into grace-filled opportunities to care for those we’ve been given to love. Like Zacchaeus, Jesus counts us among the descendants of Abraham. Like Zacchaeus, God blesses us with mercy and love because of the goodness God sees in us all.

©2019 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

God’s Favorite Photos

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

Psalm 145:13

When our first grandchild was born, I began to organize our pictures of her and the rest of us from Day 1. Though I’d done the same for our own sons, it had been a while since I started new albums. Some family members and friends acknowledged our new roles as “Grandma and Grandpa” by gifting us with photo albums and I put each one to immediate use. As I completed each one, 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.

Three more grandchildren and a few memorable trips enticed me to keep this “album thing” going. Twelve volumes later, I find that my thinking in this regard is sound. When visiting, our grandchildren and their 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 which accompany all of this indicate that my photo album collection is truly a celebration of who we are and where we have been.

I can’t help thinking that my family album experiences mirror God’s love for you and me. In spite of the world’s distractions and that challenging gift of our free will, we all manage to engage in good deeds far more often than we realize. Each one certainly elicits a smile from our Benevolent Creator. Though my photo albums don’t chronicle our difficult family times, God’s albums do. God looks upon these events with loving concern. More importantly, God remains with us most closely during these difficult times.

Generous God, thank you for making our memories your own.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Picture Perfect Love

All the paths of the Lord are
kindness and constancy…

From Psalm 25:10

Whenever our granddaughters visit, they spend a good deal of time thumbing through the photo albums we keep on our coffee table. These albums feature each one from the time of her birth. Now, they include our grandson as well. Of course, the rest of us are also preserved for posterity in this smattering of birthday, Christmas and other special occasion photos. The kids enjoy looking at all of us. Still, they seem especially amazed by the way they have changed over the years. So are we! As that metamorphosis continues, so will our love for each one…

The other day, I decided to peruse my husband’s and my photo history. After enjoying our grandchild-filled albums, I pulled out our wedding album. As I poured over those decades-old pictures, tears threatened several times. On almost every page, I found a loved one who has passed on from this life. Each one of these special people left a significant mark on me. The love they showered upon my husband and me so long ago is tangible even today in most of what we do and say.

Though I know my loved ones present and passed on are not perfect, they have all added to the richness in my life. It seems to me that the most important gift we give to one another is our love. We give this gift best during time well spent together.

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

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved