Prayer is hard, Chili is easier.

When I was in Elementary School I attended an assembly led by none other than Ronald McDonald. It was a pretty big deal, and at the time I was sure he was THE Ronald McDonald from TV and not some lame replica from our local chain store.

In that seminar he drove home one point. Don’t smoke.

Done! I had no interest in becoming a third grade smoker so this was an easy lesson to keep.

Yet my little heart was troubled because …my Dad smoked. Surely, I thought, he must not know the things that Ronald McDonald had just to me, so I rushed home from school, hauled out my markers and wrote him a letter. With pictures, asking him to stop smoking.

Turns out he did know that smoking was bad for him and he kept at it anyway, much to my dismay. I wrote him countless letters.

It became my most fervent prayer request: “Dear God, please help my Dad stop smoking so he won’t die. Amen.” (And probably other things about Care Bears and Disney World and mean kids on the playground…)

But God didn’t come through like I hoped he would. Eventually my Dad died of heart disease, which the smoking surely had a role in. Continue reading

Where are the Pennys Living? (with gifs!)

I owe you guys some words, an update of sorts. What the hizzle is going on with the Penny family?  And why does she still think it’s okay to say hizzle? 

I have had nearly a dozen people ask me over the past week where we are living right now. I feel this is something that I can correct with a blog post. 

Okay so here is what’s up with us. Kel was officially assigned to Dowagiac United Methodist Church over the last month.

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Where is Dowagiac? And how do you pronounce that?

It’s here.

Where is Dowagiac

We live in Grand Rapids now and will be moving to “Basically Indiana”

And you say it like this: də-WAH-jak
It’s Potawatomi for ”fishing [near home] water” There’s some learning for ya.

You’re welcome Continue reading

What I’m Into (March 2015 Edition)

For the first time in a Year I am linking up with Leigh Kramer for a “This is What I’m Into” post. Look at met go! Holla! And other good !!! words! #gettingmygrooveback

Well I’m sitting on the bed in our weekend home after a rough night of sleep thanks to my baby Clara. Kel is preaching at a local nursing home and it’s sleeting outside. I’m wearing my running gear but I’m wussing out due to sleet.

My head is exploding right now and I’m in ALL THE THINGS mode.

You know the “All the things” meme?

It’s this guy

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No really, ALL. THE. THINGS.

I’m the “All the things” guy on a normal day, but with the move and the selling of the house and the wanting to plant a garden and write blog posts I’m the all the things guy in overdrive.

My brain is exhausted and excited, it wants to attack in full force and run away ALL OF THE TIMES!

So that being said I think I will attempt my first “This is what I’m into” in a year. A year. Eesh.

I can’t even remember my categories so, let’s start some new ones. Shall we?

Tweetable Month in Review (140 characters or less)
Mich is all: Cold! warm! j/k-cold! Move 8 may kill me. Painting cabinets forever? Living in 2 houses is weird, bring bagels. Spring is that you?

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 3.30.02 PM Continue reading

Not where, but Who. (On homes and Story and HGTV Cynicism)

I have 20 minutes to write this before I need to paint cabinets and tackle a MOUNTAIN of laundry. I didn’t plan and I didn’t edit but I wrote, and I sang and it feels good.

We don’t have cable, which is sad, because I love HGTV. I remember fondly the days of folding laundry with toddlers underfoot and letting House Hunters play like an endless soundtrack in the background.

That was a few houses ago.

3. 3 houses and 4 years ago.

Did I tell you we are about to move into our 8th house in 8 years of marriage? Craziness I tell you, my life crazy.

Back when we were living in house number… 5? Let’s see here… carry the 1… there is no 1… Riverview, Broadhurst, Asbury, North High School… Yep CR 3590, House number 5.

House number 5 was brand new and sparkly, it had a huge soaker tub and two whole bathrooms with showers! It was small, but it was easy and as I sat in my small, easy, brand new house, the musings of the buyers and renovators on cable’s most popular home channel seemed plausible, logical, a little demanding at times, but I felt for them.

No Longer.

As I prepare house number 7 for sale and another friggin exodus I watch HGTV with a healthy dose of cynicism.

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Get ready for the Snark.

The other day while Noelle and I snuggled for a House Hunters Binge we heard a lady say the following:

“I’m just not sure I can live with that color of granite counter tops, we’d have to replace them before we moved in. I expected better taste when shopping in the 800k price range.”

What? Live? Like survive and not die? You’re not sure you can LIVE with THAT COLOR of HIGH END GRANITE countertops?

Ahem… Continue reading

Looking for God’s will in the Grocery Store. (it’s by the raisins)

I spent over an hour last night in the grocery store. My list only had 12 things on it, but still I walked up and down the aisles in a daze. I wasn’t even thinking about anything specifically but it was more a a plodding, processing rhythm.

Moving again. Moving again. Oooh, new yogurt!…. Moving again.

I found beef jerky chocolate bars, and kumquats on sale. I didn’t buy either, but I found myself curious on both accounts.

Also they keep moving the raisins. I hate that. Make up your mind grocery store dictators: Are we keeping them in produce? Baking? By the Canned peaches? I’m already on the verge of madness as it is, can you just keep the raisins put pleaseandthankyou?

I like here. I’ve figured out here (I know where the raisins are, this week.) Why does it have to change again? What is God up to? Why God, why get all settled, have us fall deeply in love with this sense of home, only to mix it all up again after less than a year?

These are questions God doesn’t really answer.

If you ask him how you should love people or to help you be more generous he’s all over those answers, he wrote a whole book about it.

But, if you ask “why” about the hard stuff of your life he just sits with you on that, whispering something that can’t be put into words but somehow centers around a thousand intertwined strings of moments all focused on bringing his healing love to the world through your life. Continue reading

20 thoughts and feels from a not so good pastor’s wife about having to (probably) move again.

How do you like THAT title? You like it… You like it….
Warning grammar nerds, I have not adequately proof read. I’m sorry. Can we deal? 

Pew Selfie, New Church.

Pew Selfie, New Church. hi.

I laid in bed last night for a while after Kel fell asleep, feeling deeply sad. The sort of sadness that comes from knowing you have to let go of something, even though you don’t want to. Even though all you want to do is channel your inner four year old and dig in, screaming until maybe… just maybe you get your way.

We are moving again. It’s not officially official but it may as well be. Yes, there is a five percent chance (or less) that we could get to stay but since my thirties is forcing me to be an adult about things (boo forced maturity that comes from three kids and home ownership) 

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Big sister, little sister storytime.

I want to grow claws somehow and dig them into the drywall, hissing at anyone who tries to remove me from our home. I want to go buy 7 spirit hoodies from Noelle’s school and wear them on repeat to represent how very much we are NOT leaving. I want to make mimosas and day drink and whiny text all my friends about how hard this is, because yes I know there are people dying and starving but we have to move. again. dammit. dammit. dammit.

Pass me another mimosa. Or scotch, someone bring me scotch maybe?

OOOH Or Put Big Metal Chicken on my porch Blogess Style? 

This is not, by the way, how a “good” pastors wife handles moving. I am pretty sure they sigh and say something about the will of God and how blessed they are to serve no matter where.

Maybe I’ll get there. Maybe the mimosas will help.

PS I’m not really day drinking. If I were I’d be Netflix binging on Scrubs, Parks and Rec or Gilmore Girls. Or all of the above…. WWLGD? What would Lorelai Girlmore do? 

Probably drink more coffee and kidnap Rory for a trip to boston to eat Chowder in her Jeep.

This is not helping, or is it….?

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So I’m not day drinking or Netflix binging, I’m doing the much more helpful, cathartic thing and whiny blogging about it to you guys. Continue reading

Crazy Easy Little Kid Valentine’s Cards

I’ve always been crafty, so much so that I’m often tempted to make everything by hand and from scratch. I’m trying to reform this a bit because if I don’t I’m going to end up with carpal tunnel syndrome, suffocated after being buried under a mountain of leftover fabric and felt.

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That being said, I just can’t give up homemade Valentine’s Day cards. And I adore doilies, I hold firm to my belief that it doesn’t have a doily, it’s not a Valentine.

However, my son has 36 kids in his preschool class, my daughter? 20.

Then there’s the 15 cards for the play group party and the ones they want to send to their cousins, aunts, uncles and apparently all the cats in the world. Because of course they do.

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So, over the past few weeks I spent a bit of time trying to figure out how to combine homemade with wicked simple in an end product that would both involve them and not destroy my home or my sanity.

This is what I came up with! I guarantee you Pinterest has cuter, wittier ideas but these have a special, vintage something… doilies probably. #doilylove

The great thing about this project is that it will take at least 3 craft sessions to get done. Which is a bummer if you’re short on time but GREAT if you are looking for a way to fill the long winter hours.

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Breakdown: Have your kids glue scraps of ribbon, paper, lace and doilies onto a heart. Then place a message over top “found poetry” style and cover with a light layer of mod podge (optional) so it all stays on.

Here is what you’ll need:

Valentine’s Paper (solid colored or patterned, I did both)
Scissors
Glue Sticks
Doilies (never optional!)
Heart punch (optional)
Printer
Mod Podge
Paintbrush
To be honest I had all this on hand, but like I said I’ve developed a mildly impressive craft stash over the years. 

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Cut out the hearts. I did this for my kids but you could totally have your older ones trace and cut out the hearts. I could have had Noelle cut them out herself and hone her cutting skills but in the interest of time I cut them out while they were having a bit of screen time.
Make sure your hearts are a size that you can find envelopes for, I got mine at Hobby lobby but amazon has great deals, like these! 

Prep your materials by cutting shapes from the scraps leftover from the paper you cut your hearts out of. Cut doilies into little triangles too, like lacy pie. Punch out hearts or confetti. The kids can help with this stage!

Give your kids the hearts and glue sticks and let them glue confetti, doily pieces and paper scraps to their hearts. I set my kids up at a card table in the corner so we could keep this project going for a few sessions.

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Glue Glue Glue, Stick Stick Stick. We went through four glue sticks in an hour so stock up!

I marked the back of each heart with the first letter of each kid’s name so they could give their friends and family the cards they made. I feel as though this will prevent kid drama.

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Now print out a cute message. I went old school and did “Happy Valentine’s Day” in a typewriter font, but there are countless witty valentines phrases. I cut each word out separately to have it look more found poetry (or ransom note?) style, but you can do it your way.

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Stick on the words in the appropriate order.

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Now, if you’d like, when your kids are in bed, paint a thin layer of mod podge over each valentine.

Let them dry and that’s about it! Envelopes and off to school or the mailbox! 

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SO there you go, my crazy, easy take on vintage Valentines card designed for young kids to get involved while parents stay sane.

If you like this, there’s more words in store, to keep up easily use the box below to have new posts from this blog delivered to your inbox.

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurnerAnd when share with your friends, well that makes me pretty happy. 

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Penny Family Update

Well I’ve said that I want to get back into blogging. Let’s start with an update, shall we? Then I’ll try to follow this up with a fun, easy Valentine’s Day card project perfect for preschoolers and Kindergarteners. 

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How it actually looked writing this post…

With as many snow days as we’ve had, I still declare winter 2014-15 a fairly mild one… so far. It’s only February after all. I would probably be cool with any winter less severe than last winter which left even the perkiest of Michiganders running for Zoloft and SAD lights. It was 8 foot snow drifts bad, so this? Easy Peasy.

Little miss Clara is 12 weeks old now and a gorgeous, soul-healing, life changing little baby. She sleeps amazingly well at night and only gets up to nurse once (on average… knock on all the wood) and then goes back to sleep until 9 or so. This allows me to help Noelle and Caedmon with breakfast, clothes and their very important, yet terribly elusive socks. I hate folding them, they love losing them… we live in constant sockmageddon.

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We are all loving Clara beyond measure and we’ve had had no jealousy issues with the older two. If anything they’re a bit too into her, especially Caedmon who has been known to pick her up and move her to wherever he is for fear that she is “very sad being alone momma.”

Watching your four year old carry your wiggly 12 week old is endearing and terrifying all at the same time. You want to swoop in screaming and grab your camera simultaneously. But ultimately you have to go with swooping and screaming so as not to encourage the behavior which can only end in tears for everyone involved.

And speaking of Caedmon, he’s still my big hearted, snuggly, opinionated little guy. He’s enjoying the mountain of Christmas and Birthday Legos and presents in addition to lots of craft time. Honestly I think we’re all ready to ride bikes again but we’ve got a lot of waiting to do. He hourly asks me if it’s fourth of July yet… nope… still very nope.

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Noelle is doing really, really well in Kindergarten. We adore her Montessori school and I’m so thankful for it that I well up with tears on a weekly basis. I’ve felt such a peace sending her there. The staff, especially her lead teacher, advocate for her beautiful individuality as they do with all the kids, praise God.

This past fall she was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder by a doctor at Brains Potential here in Grand Rapids (I wholeheartedly recommend them if you need help with your kids.) Seeing her through this lens has been so much more freeing than I ever imagined a diagnosis could be. It’s just a way of understanding how she interacts with this world, not a pill, not a stigma, but a way of understanding my very unique daughter.

I’m starting to see with stunning clarity that each child is really and truly an individual who processes, learns about and interacts with the world differently. This is really causing me to call into question a “one size fits all” education model and love and advocate for montessori education.

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Kel has been working for the Methodist Denomination while waiting tables at Carrabas Italian Grill to carry our family through until he gets a full time placement as a pastor again. But he will be done slinging noodles as of February 14 and he will be the interim pastor at Dowagiac First United Methodist church in Dowagiac, Michigan, which is roughly a 75 mile drive from our current home in Northeast Grand Rapids.

This is currently a temporary placement, due to the former pastor leaving unannounced, and Kel being a natural, available fit for the job. He is commuting down there twice a week and staying overnight a few evenings a week to reduce the drive time and expense. I hate going 36 hours without seeing him but it’s only until July.

Sometime in the next six weeks, the Methodist Denomination will let him know where his next, full-time placement will be. The Methodist church uses the itinerant system (click that link if you want to understand what that is.) Which means that basically the Bishop and his Cabinet decide where Kel will work and ultimately where our family will live. It’s part spiritual and part strategic and a hundred percent hard for me to come to terms with, but I’m getting there. It’s hard to know what you’re supposed to accept and what you’re supposed to change up in your life.

Maya Angelou said “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” There is something there… when I married Kel I married his dreams and calling as much as he married mine.

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I’m still breathing hourly prayers that we can stay here in Grand Rapids, at the school I fought for and love so dearly, among these walls that we’ve painted, these floors we’re polished and sense of home we have cultivated with moments both bitter and sweet.

But the phone call could go the other way, any week now.

Either way I’ll hit my knees in some sort of Hallelujah, for at least the waiting game will be over.

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And as for me, I’m adjusting well to being a mom of three, usually. I’ve never had so little left to give at the end of the day. I wonder where I went in the hours of my day and yet, still I find myself in their eyes as we play, create and observe life together. I want more than this, even though I am often deeply satisfied with the work of “mom.” It’s both AND. It always will be. There has to be more than this, there is more than this, it’s just spending a lot of time chilling on the shelf right now. For now. Just for now.

It’s a conflicting way to live and I’m likely not saying it well.. but I’m starting to find scraps of time to release a little creative energy out through words, and fabric and yarn. And this is so so good.

So yeah, that’s what’s up with us. More to come. Thanks for reading, really.

What have you been up to? 

If you like this, there’s more words in store, to keep up easily use the box below to have new posts from this blog delivered to your inbox.

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurnerAnd when share with your friends, well that makes me pretty happy. 

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My most important 2015 plan

I’m late to the 2014 reflection / 2015 goal setting thing, I call new baby to that… I mean hey, it’s still January.

Every year, in December, I make a photo book for our family that sums up our new year. Some we give away, one we keep.

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This year the back of that book said the following:

“2014: The year of Clara. And moving. And church planting. And Kel graduating. And Noelle starting school. And…. a lot of other stuff.”

Last year life exploded across the pages of our calendar. It was a mix of every feeling I’m currently familiar with: hope, joy, heartache, grief, stress, depression, satisfaction, infatuation and frustration.

As I look back through the pages of our 2014 photobook I can see the mix of emotion in our eyes, and as I do each one takes center stage in my chest and, in a small way, happens all over again.

Remember how happy we were when all that snow finally melted and the tulips broke the soil?
Remember how our mouths dropped with the test was positive?
Remember how proud you were when you saw him in his Cap and Gown?
Remember how scared we were as we peeked in on her, sleeping on Kindergarten eve?
Remember how relieved and grieved we were when it all came crashing down?
Remember how overjoyed we were when they brought her to your side and you saw each other for the first time?

2014 was all the things, really it was.

Continue reading

This is 33

I turned 33. A week ago, wow. I started writing this ONE post a week ago.

Ahem. Thirty three is busy.

Do you remember being a child and being absolutely sure that you were going to do life better than your parents? You believed this same thing in adolescence and in your twenties.

You’d say things like “when I grow up I’ll…..” or “when I’m a mom I’ll _____ with my kids / for my kids.”

I’d have a lot of dogs. (this was a young Leanne dream…)

No, Thank God. 

I’d drive shiny new cars

Nope! We own that old mini van and I love that.

I would travel extensively before I had kids and have books full of pictures detailing my travels.

I’ve yet to leave the continent. 

My husband and I would have a romantic date night every week.

Babysitters + Food = weekly budget breaker, monthly, maybe. But mostly takeout on the couch with board games… and to be honest… movies… and by movies I mean Netflix.

When I became a mom I would have a career but also spend tons of time with my children.

I own NO dress pants and 5 pairs of yoga pants right now so… there’s that. 

Those children would wear cute, gap clothes and never have to endure all the hand me downs of my childhood. 

I adore consignment stores and the kids wear 97.5% Used clothing.

The list goes on. Thirty three is nothing like I thought it would be.

I think I safely qualify as a grownup now. I have three kids and a mortgage so those certainly seem like grown up things and being a grown up? It’s way harder than I thought it would be.

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This is what 33 looks like, as seen in a dirty bathroom mirror full of toothpaste splatter.

The bags under my eyes have everything to do with my newborn daughter and my hair is too fun and doesn’t match my dirty mini van and lavender goodwill zip up.

When I look at that woman in the mirror I have a lot more questions than answers.

How I define success in thirty three years of living?
What story am I telling with my time and what sort of role model am I for my children, to whom I’ve dedicated my days and for whom I’ve decimated my boobs?

Am I just a Mom? Is that even a thing? “Just” a mom? It seems like a crock because “mom” keeps me busier than any job I’ve ever been paid for.
Am I just a wife? My career is voluntarily on the back burner these days and I have an associates degree in laundry.

I love being there for my people, but some days I go through life and wonder…. who is Leanne when she’s not being mom and wife?

Impressive Netflix consumer?
Latte addict?
Tidy-counter obsesser?
Worrier?
Whiner?
Pinner of newer, better ways of doing ALL THE things?

Who is Leanne and what was she put here to do, in motherhood and then… not in motherhood?

I’m learning that this is an important question to ask in my life, for all of us, but I think especially for Mothers.

Where are you in the midst of all the Mom?

You were before they were born and you will be again.

I don’t want to send Clara off to college and have no idea what to do with myself.
I want to show my girls that even if you don’t go to a 9-5 that you need to have things that you sprawl across the pages of your life and walls of the world that extend outside guiding them though childhood.

Is Mom enough for me? Should it be? Is this a controversial question? Should it be?

When in doubt I go and read “what my mother taught me” by Shauna Niequist … then I ponder.

Thirty three involves a lot of mom-ing.
A lot of rinsing cloth diapers and folding little socks.
A lot of grocery lists
Endless people feeding. Endless.
It’s a lot of running around cursing and picking up legos smaller than any toy ever should be.

It’s a bit of wondering where I went in the midst of the backpacks and bills.

But I’m learning that the best thing for my family is to be me for them, and I suspect that involves more than dishes and doling out snacks.

I’m trying to remember that when it comes to the number of people in my family that have needs that need to be met, that number includes me. I can’t keep ignoring myself and be the woman my family needs me to be.

I don’t really have a great handle on what thirty three looks like. I think it will involve more flossing than the previous years… and a lot of pondering questions like this.

This post doesn’t resolve. Nor should it. My life hasn’t resolved, it never will, it will end and leave a legacy that has and will continue to impact other lives. At least I hope it will.

Either way I’m starting off 33 with a commitment to think about such things.

If you like this, there’s more words in store, to keep up easily use the box below to have new posts from this blog delivered to your inbox.

Enter your email address:Delivered by FeedBurnerAnd when share with your friends, well that makes me pretty happy. 

You can also find me on twitter and Facebook as well. Join the conversation on all fronts, that’s my recommendation…