Grateful, Even Today

I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7

It’s Mother’s Day Eve and I’m counting my blessings. In spite of our current stay-at-home status and the distance between me and those I love most, I am grateful for so much…

As I assemble my list, I write “Being a mom”. This is the best job I’ve ever had! Next, I write “Mom” with a flourish. I learned a lot from my mom. Even her imperfections taught me important life lessons. As it happened, it was the grace with which my mom lived her last days which touched me and taught me most.

Three days before my mom passed away, fatigue confined her to bed. Her daytime attire changed from street clothes to a nightgown to a hospital gown within seventy-two hours. This day, I arrived just as Ruth, her nurse, was spooning tiny dollops of ice cream into my mom’s mouth. After giving me a “Hi, Mary” smile, my mom turned to Ruth to whisper, “Thank you for the ice cream.” Afterward, Ruth helped her to the washroom. As Ruth nestled my mom into the wheelchair, my mom whispered again, “Thank you for your help.” Mom held on tightly when Ruth wrapped her arms around her to ease her back into bed. As she left, my mom’s eyes followed Ruth to the door. Ruth turned to wave and my mom smiled in gratitude. Later, when the activity director came to see how she was doing, Mom met her with another of her grateful smiles.

In spite of her impending passing, my mother concerned herself with the people around her. She never complained and was ever grateful for even the smallest kindness. Whether or not it was part of ones job or part her children’s duty to care for their dying parent, my mom always whispered, “Thank you!” Yes, even in the midst of our pandemic woes, I have much to say “Thank you” for. We all do!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Dear God, thank you for the gift of my mom. She revealed your generosity, grace and love until the end. Give me the courage to offer the same to those I meet along the way, especially now.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Holy Week… Wednesday

Then Jesus went with them to a place called
Gethsemane. He said to his disciples,
“Stay here while I go over there and pray.”

Matthew 26:36

In Israel, the Garden of Gethsemane rests next to the Church of All Nations. I can’t help making my own interpretation of this architectural juxtaposition. The church’s name acknowledges the many countries which contributed to its construction. For me, the church’s name designates much more. Jesus opened his heart to his fellow Jewish people as well as to many others who were ostracized by their communities. Jesus made room for anyone who longed for his company. It seems to me that Jesus was teacher, preacher and caretaker to all nations, just as we should be.

Though this grand church’s architecture draws tourists’ eyes from afar, it is the garden at its side which beckoned me nearer. In this place, Jesus opened his heart to us all once again. When I arrived, I was reluctant to step onto this holy ground. A lifetime of images I’d created in my head and in my heart filled me up as I imagined Jesus’ praying there so long ago. It was Jesus’ custom to go off by himself when he turned to his Abba in prayer and this evening was no exception. Though I cannot know the content of their prior conversations, this night the talk between Father and Son had taken an extremely serious turn. This night, after consulting with his Father one last time, Jesus chose to continue the journey which has made all of the difference in this world to me and to us all.

As I look out my window this morning, I consider that garden in faraway Israel. Though we have several decades-old trees in our yard, none can compete with the centuries-old olive trees which grace the garden where Jesus committed himself to the trauma of his final days. Still, my relatively youthful trees remind me of Jesus’ endurance. During the most difficult days of his live, Jesus did what he had to do. On this Wednesday of Holy Week, all God asks is that we persist as well. Like Jesus, we must do what we have to do even if that means simply staying home, staying safe and staying well…

Dear God, we know you are with during these difficult days. Thank you!!

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

I’m With You…

Caiaphas said to them, “You know nothing,
nor do you consider that it is better for you
that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”

John 11:49-50

Of all of the places I visited in Israel, I found Jerusalem to be the most unsettling. Its present-day inhabitants seemed more harried and focused on the moment at hand than their counterparts in less populated areas. I imagined that Jesus’ visits to Jerusalem were more taxing than the time spent in other places as well. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday and images from the Holy Land and the first Holy Week swirl about in my mind. I wasn’t in Jerusalem two thousand years ago and I don’t know what my response to Jesus would have been if I had been there. I am here now and I can only be certain of my response to Jesus today. Still, I’ll turn back time and imagine myself in Jesus’ company long ago…

While Jesus and the disciples enter Jerusalem, Caiaphas unfolds his plan. He is determined to see to the demise of Jesus-The Trouble-Maker who has interfered with the high priest’s hold on the people. Poor Caiaphas has missed everything that Jesus said regarding God’s mercy and inclusiveness and unconditional love. Poor Caiaphas is blinded and deafened by his desire to maintain his stature and his power. Caiaphas missed Jesus’ assertion that each one of us, including Caiaphas himself, is worth everything Jesus would endure in coming week.

I think it’s important to keep Jesus’ assertion in mind as we continue our worldwide battle against COVID-19. Though none of us can be certain of when that vaccine and cure will be discovered, we can be certain of God’s love for us and of our need to love one another through these difficult days. Like Jesus, it’s up to each of us to do what we can to care for those who share our little corners of this world with us.

Loving God, be with us as we love one another through this very difficult time.

©2020 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Be A Grateful Soul

I give voice to my thanks,
and recount all your wondrous deeds…

Psalm 26:7

I cannot tell you whose voice it was that I heard. I was in the other room during the telecast. Still, those words echoed in my mind throughout the day. Even today, I can hear, “A grateful soul is a happy soul!” Though I was too busy to run into the family room to see who was speaking from our television set, I wasn’t so busy that I ignored the message. As is usually the case when I hear or read something which gets to what I consider to be the heart of the matter, I mulled over this observation for several days.

My parents and other influential adults taught me the value of gratitude very early on. I learned to begin my prayers by saying “thank you” for blessings received, even at those times when I wasn’t feeling particularly grateful. I soon discovered that these initial expressions of gratitude changed the tone of the rest of what I had to say. What might have been a litany of requests became a conversation during which I spoke and then listened regarding the needs of others. Though I didn’t “hear” a voice in response, I certainly felt the presence of our Benevolent Caregiver. It is no wonder that I wake up every morning saying, “Thank you for the sleep!” I simply can’t help myself for which I am also most grateful!

Gracious God, help us always to be grateful heralds of your love for us.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Treasure It All

Beside restful waters God leads me;
God refreshes my soul…

From Psalm 23:2-3

An adage and an old song join forces to remind us that we often don’t realize what we have until we lose it. In addition, we sometimes don’t appreciate the impact of these losses until it’s too late. I admit that I’m a creature of habit and that change doesn’t come easily for me. Still, there have been times when I’ve embraced something new, only to discover that I missed what I’d replaced.

At the same time, I’ve also found joy beyond my expectations in the midst of new experiences. When my husband, our sons and I moved from our first home to a new home in a new neighborhood, we found our new neighbors, new opportunities and new environs to be just what we’d hoped for. Fortunately, my aversion to long flights didn’t keep me from my first overseas trip. I eventually set aside my fear to embrace the treasures to be found in numerous destinations since. New friends, new jobs, new adventures in volunteering and enjoying life fill me up as well.

It occurs to me that holding on to familiar treasures while opening our hearts to new ones is the way to go. What more wonderful way is there to appreciate the tried and true gifts of this life while sampling the new offerings along the way? God placed us here to do our best, to learn from our experiences and to smell a variety of roses along the way.

Generous God, thank you for everything.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

Ever Grateful

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.

Psalm 145:11

Perhaps the arrival of our newest grandchild is the reason. Perhaps memories of that wonderful dinner with our kids and grandkids in celebration of our wedding anniversary set the tone of my day. With both in mind, I set our for the morning’s walk. Within a minute or two, feelings of gratitude overwhelmed me. I’m a creature of habit who usually walks the same route every time I venture out. Still, the blue sky and the trees above me which I’ve seen a hundred times fill me with awe. Every day, nature reveals something that I’ve failed to notice before. Chirping birds are the frosting on the cake. Even drizzling rain gives me reason to feel grateful.

Perhaps I’m an unwitting student of God’s wisdom during these treks. Perhaps the clouded blue sky that beckons my eyes toward heaven and the trees who continuously raise their arms upward are reminding me to do the same. Their very existence points to God’s glory. Perhaps my existence on this earth is meant to point to God’s wonder as well. Certainly, little Benjamin’s arrival and the joy I find in my family do this on a daily basis. Like Nature around me, perhaps we’re all meant to do what we do with a spirit of gratitude. After all, being a part of God’s creation is a privilege and honor -something for which we can all be grateful.

Dear God, help me to live with a grateful heart and to share my gratitude with all of those you’ve given me to love.

©2018 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved