Smaller, Weaker, Loved, Held.

I never had any reservations about moving back to West Michigan, even though I knew that the ghosts of my life hover more prominently in the curbs and corners of this place.

As I drive the tree lined roads of my hometown, my mind flashes back to the days I when experienced these streets not from the driver’s seat but from the back seat of the mini van.

Back when I was the little one with small control and big questions.

Now I have big control, or at least big responsibility, and the questions have only grown and gained weight.  Losing both my parents so quickly stole all my rights to feel like a kid and left behind the awful realization that I can’t “go home again.”

I know that I’m the parent now and I know that the home I’m cultivating will become my own children’s childhood, with all it’s wonders and perhaps all it’s resentment… but still I want to be the kids sometimes, to go home.

Don’t we all?  Don’t you?

Most of the time I love my motherhood and I love being the woman of the house… but sometimes?  I want to curl up on my mom’s lap and feel her flannel nightgown against my tear-stained cheek.

I long to confess to her that there are moments when I don’t feel like I can do it.  And would she tell me it’s okay?  And would she please run her fingers through my hair, just a little while longer?

I want ask my Dad why our mini van sometimes shimmies when it’s changing gears, I want to know that he’s there with his dolly to check things out should they go awry.  I want to serve him a plate of balsamic pork tenderloin and listen to all the ways he loves his grandchildren.

I’ve moved back home and realized that this Orphaned adult thing is so much harder when you’re constantly driving past the spots where it all fell apart.  The house, the train tracks, the cemetery.

I ache for them as I begin to create some of the same memories we made with my own children.  I can’t bring myself to visit their graveside yet.  Not even on memorial day.  There are other spots where they are no longer alive that I must deal with first.

Sometimes, in the middle of the day, sometimes in the middle of a task I fall onto our bed exhausted and pull my knees up to my chest and I feel way too big and not nearly brave enough.

nesting dolls

I don’t want to be the mom today, I want to be the one in the backseat on my way home to a container of Dannon yogurt and an afternoon of reading Baby Sitter’s Club books on the top bunk.

I want my smallness to be okay for a while, I’m sick of being the largest nesting doll, the one keeping all the others safe and secure.  

I long to be tucked away sometimes, oblivious to the big world that must be weathered and tamed.

Then yesterday, as I laid there on my bed, in my ball I found it…  the exact thing I needed.  I found myself held, gently and powerfully by a Father God who, lately, has seemed to me a provider from afar, a workaholic papa with no time for my small and shaky trembling.  

And I know that he didn’t change or move, that it was always, will always be me who wanders.

I never doubted him, I never wondered if he left me… I’m just more comfortable with Provider God
Corrector God
Judge-God with the unmeetable standards

The Daddy God?  The one who is okay with my smallness?  I can’t find his nap nearly as often as I need to.

Then yesterday in a gift of great grace and mercy we found each other, for a few moments in between lunch dishes and nap time, between the busyness of my life… and he scooped me up and reminded me that I will always be his baby.

Always be smaller
Always be weaker
Always be loved
Always be held.

I’ve been told many times that in the absence of my parents I would need to come to rely on the relationship with my heavenly Father, my only remaining parental connection.  This advice never comes from fellow orphans, but always from the lips of those trying to say something clever and comforting.

And I’ve wanted to flip them off, because they don’t know what it’s like to long for a hug from your mom and dad, to have them at birthday parties flipping burgers and washing dishes, spinning little girls in twirly dresses and posing for photos.

Papa God does much, but he doesn’t do dishes or burgers.  For this I need my parents.  

So I’ve resisted.  I’ve wandered.  I’ve convinced myself that I can’t go home again so I may as well get over it, ditch the longing, lose the parental need.

But the longing for home is tattooed on my heart, it’s standard issue to every soul, isn’t it?

And yesterday, in an exhausted heap, half dressed on my un-made bed I went home.  Just for a moment.

But I think I remember how to get there, I only need to still and be small and he scoops me up and rubs my hair.

And no he doesn’t do burgers, but he does want me… just for me.. and I think that may be our road home.

  • Pilar Arsenec

    This brought tears to my eyes. I am sorry you lost both your parents and were orphaned. They would be proud at who you’ve become. You write beautifully. Thank you for sharing this vulnerable part of your life.

    • Leanne Penny

      Thank you love… Thank you.

  • Sarah Askins

    I don’t know if I have the words to say how much I needed this. Today, like right now. I want to be small too, held. I want to see the image of God as Daddy not the one of fire and brimstone, worse…too busy. Love you, friend.

    • Leanne Penny

      Love you back and so glad we got to share this. Daddy God is there for us… and he’s not too busy… I think… I’m learning to believe he wants me.. my heart… my vulnerable smallness.

  • Hannah

    Wow, friend! Beautiful.

  • Mark Allman


    Sometimes I travel those same places in my mind and want to just be invisible. I am thankful for the hurt for it reminds me of the worth of those things I hurt and long for. I often realize that I think I wish for someone to run to and there is no one.

    I am glad God pursues us even as we want to run away from it all.

    I am also so thankful for the moments that we make that flood our memories and make us wish for events long past. Those moments we may not be able to repeat but we can repeat them in our mind and be thankful for them all over again.