My One (painful) Word: Trust

Last night found our family playing together on our new Wii, the one I got Kel for Christmas that he almost returned GRE study material (which is crazy if you know Kel.)

Noelle was having a riot boxing on the beginner setting and Caedmon was delighted with the idea that we had created computerized versions of ourselves.

At some point I looked up from my book and remarked to Kel: “We’re past the worst of it I think, we’re on our way up.”

All four of us were engaged happily together in our home, which doesn’t happen often given our recent ministry slump and Caedmon’s nearly two year old fondness for epic tantrums.

But here we were, simply together and happy to boot! (and I don’t want to talk about the fast that it was video games that did it)  It was so lovely that I remarked about it and that remark was so beautiful that Kel spent the entire evening reflecting on it and after I’d drifted off to sleep he wrote me an email thanking me for my optimism.  Wow.

The thing is that lately I haven’t said many things like that, rather I’ve said many things that sound just the opposite of that.

Things like:

“God’s just going to leave us where we are because for some reason he loves to teach us lessons the hard way.”


“If we ever make it back to Michigan I’m going to have to get three waitressing jobs and give up writing just to survive.”

And to be honest, this is the PG-13 version of what I’ve been saying lately.  I’ve been all glass half empty, or emptier.

OneWord2013_trust Continue reading

31 Letters to my Mother {Day 11} Cupped hands, held high

 Dear Mom,

Guess what? These letters are not just bringing healing to our hearts, but they’re inspiring people to reconcile with each other here on earth. While they have the blessing of breath and life to share.

I’m broken hearted that our real life, skin to skin time has passed. I will never claim that this road of losing and remembering you is an easy journey.  It has undone and remade me Mom.

Yet, I keep imagining myself with cupped hands, held high, begging God to redeem my story.  A posture of “here, take it, make it beautiful in a way that only you can.”

Do you remember the story in John 9 about the man born blind?  I have no idea how heaven works, but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.  Heck maybe you’ve done drinks with THE man born blind.

My mind is imprinted with the verse: “this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:3

I love that Jesus side steps the stupid trap of the question and gives something far more lovely.

We question “why” all the time, both on purpose and by nature. The why of pain is a road that cannot be navigated and to be honest I rarely mess with it anymore.

I have no idea how to sort out what God sends for his glory and what is an inevitable result of living in a broken world.

This world, that operates outside of original intent.

I don’t think God sent your depression, or that his finger was on your death.

Yet I am glad you’re free of pain, whole and reunited with Our Father, and Dad too. I’m glad for the redemption of your story, my story, our family, this life.  Piece by piece, day by day, bit by bit.  

That the works of God might be displayed in him

Redemption, hope, healing, reconciliation, I see those works happening and they certainly fall under the heading of works of God.

For without him, those words are not, cannot come to fruition.

I love you, I miss you,


Letters to my Mother {Day 10} Hope Collides

 Dear Mom,

Tonight my spirit feels lighter, after Kel left to go back to work the kids and I sat on our huge new bed and worked the Melissa and Doug puzzles you got us.

The cool fall air drifted in through the window and for a moment all was just… perfect.

In that breath I caught a glimpse of something, something that looked an awful lot like hope.  Something drifted through our window, beautiful and translucent, that reminded what me hope feels like.

Not what it looks like, because I think I get the physical steps down pat, but the feeling of hope has been sorely lacking, elusive.  Yet tonight my soul felt marshmallow light, feather free and I felt as though hope collided with us right there on the bed among the peg puzzle pieces.

It took me back to summer evenings when I was a child, laying with the windows open because we didn’t have air conditioning.  I remember even then marveling through the screen at the way the lawn smelled after Dad mowed it.  Or the way the neighborhood sounded as the houses settled in for sleep.

You know what feeling I’m talking about?  When all just feels, right and you soul takes off.  The hope and future that God promises us suddenly feels around the corner rather than 7,462 miles away.

I know this feeling eluded you on earth but I bet you take baths in glorious hope nowadays, wholeness becomes you.

Yet for me, earthbound and striving, the hope on my tongue melted sweetly.  It was more delicious than the peanut butter cupcake I ate after the kids dozed off… or at least equally as delicious.

As I cling to hope and learn to pray I realize that as I hold hope in my folded hands, it melts and becomes the glue that holds me together.  Hope and prayer fill in the cracks and make me stronger.

I don’t feel like I’m bragging, because this is what we all want for our children isn’t it?  Eyes to behold the wonder created just for them, revelatory moments where they realize that the simple is the profound and eternal.

So I think that this, truly makes you smile.

I love you, I miss you,


Another year, grief over time.

Melissa Pullis, of Hazlet, N.J., stands at the engraving for her husband Edward at the World Trade Center site in New York City during memorial ceremonies for the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2012. (Getty Images)

This morning I walked my daughter up the stairs to her preschool, and realized that she no longer needs help climbing those steps.  It feels like only a few months ago when I was holding her left arm tightly while she climbed each one with focus and effort.

Yet, it’s been three years.  Time seems to both drag and fly, doesn’t it?

As I packed up backpacks and tied shoes this morning I noticed my husband had ESPN on, and it was showing images of the towers falling.  Playing clips of teary eyed daddys and grief stricken mamas who had lost their athletic sons in the catastrophe of that fall.

My mind clicked to check the date, that’s right, it’s September 11.  Deep Breath,  Flashback to that day, watching the towers fall on my parents television and later delivering those tragic newspapers to the doors of hundreds of homes.

Each paper felt heavy in my hand, a piece of history and tragedy leaving its inky mark on my hands and my life.

I can’t believe 11 years have passed since that date, the one I’m sure my children and grandchildren will ask me about the same way I asked my parents about the challenger explosion and the day JFK was shot.

We talked a lot in the raw days that followed Sept 11, 2001 about all that we lost as a country, our sense of safety was gone and we realized that war would no longer be easy to identify or contain.

We grieved as a nation and I think that we still do, even though the years have healed our wounds into scars.

Sept 11 is a grief that we all share, in a way.

But eleven years later, this shared grief has been easy to put on a shelf and convert into a memory, a story.  Eleven years later Sept 11 is a fairly easy day for me to endure, there is sadness and remembering, but there is routine and normal life in spite of it.

But there are days on my calendar that aren’t easy to endure because for me the loss on those dates is personal, it marks another year without someone I love, someone who shaped me, gave me life.

The two year anniversary of my Mother’s death is coming up in just over a month and anytime I think about it I hyperventilate a little bit.  Two years seems like a unbearable gap between this moment and our last conversation.

I long to go back and save her, to intervene somehow.  But I can’t, and so I live in a world where train whistles chill me to the core.

This grief, October 13, is personal and scoffs at the thought of life going on as usual.

And it is this feeling that the mamas, daddys, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers and friends of the 3,000 lost in the twin towers feel today, right now.

I’m sure that for them, watching the towers fall on TV is a lot like a train whistle is to me.  Not just a piece of history or technology but the gut wrenching thing that brings them back to the moment of impact.  The moment they lost someone senselessly and permanently.

It’s the that they wish they could go back and change, to convince them not to go to work that day, not to respond to the call.

The strange thing about grief over time is that it feels like it flies by and drags on all at the same time.

We rail and shirk at the idea that another year separates us from those we love, and that there is no bargaining chip, no option B, nothing we can do about it.

So today as the thought of shared grief arises within you, may we prayers and dedicate our tears to those who can’t get off the couch today, who can’t watch the news, who can’t believe that another year has come between them and their dear one.


Our mother’s laps and that universal longing

Over the weekend we housed 8 people in our tiny home for two nights.  Our friends Heather and Aaron came to stay with us over the weekend along with their sons, ages 2 and 3 months.

As you can imagine it was madness, life exploded all over the walls and floors of our home.  Luggage didn’t fit neatly into closets and Noelle kept trying to climb into the baby swing.  Friday’s breakfast dishes stayed where they were until we shoved them out of the way to make room for Pizza that evening.

Heather and Kasen

As we attempted to coax all four kids to sleep Heather stood in my kitchen nursing Kasen and singing him to sleep.  She opened with Somewhere Out There from American Tale and then transitioned perfectly into Somewhere over the rainbow.  He drifted off in her arms as I finished the dishes.

There is something about bearing witness to the intimate moments of a friend’s mothering journey that arrives as a special gift.  A baby nestled into his mother’s arms is a sacred and precious thing, don’t you think?

Continue reading

Beautiful Scars – Princess Abi’s Faith

Today’s Guest Post came in this week from Laurie Wilks and I knew I had to bump my Friday posting plans to share it with you.  

Laurie is a new friend, mother, teacher and fellow Asbury-ite.  I promise you’ll walk away in love with her beautiful and brave daughter Abi, as I did.  Abi’s perspective on God, Faith and Scars is something that we could all take notes on.  ~ Leanne

A big chunk of our family time happens on-the-go, running errands in our sage green mini-van.

It was the week before Thanksgiving and we had several destinations to check off that afternoon.

We had reached the point in the day when sweet treats beckon, but dinner seems far off. The bickering from the older kids in the back seat was noticeably absent. On a whim, we pulled into the drive-thru and ordered two kid sized hot chocolates and a juice box.  Cheers and laughter erupted from the back seat.  Sweets! With Whipped Cream! Happy day!  John and Laurie Wilks: Parents of the Year!

We waited, as patiently as possible.  Soon enough, an awkward teenager handed us our steamy liquid goodness.  We thanked her and I passed them back to the worlds happiest 8 and 4 year-old kids.  They were so grateful, it melted my heart.  I hollered a warning that their drinks were hot; and glance back at their smiling faces as John pulled back on to the highway.

I wish I could have frozen this moment and savored it.

Suddenly, I heard an ear piercing, terrified scream from my 4 yr old daughter.  She just kept screaming, and crying.  Traffic prevented us from turning around or pulling over. Continue reading

Beautiful Scars- And Then The Morning Comes

I’m in awe of the strength and stories of the women who have submitted pieces for the beautiful scars series and Jennifer Little is no exception.  I’m humbled and honored to be a part of sharing her story with you and to be a small piece of her healing.  There is no story that God won’t redeem, but this one is especially dear to my heart.


And Then The Morning Comes

It’s easy for me to say I was molested for the first time as a nine-year old. It’s not, however, easy to sift through and relive all those years (27 to be exact), since I was visited in the darkness. That was when the safety of my pale pink bedroom shattered into millions of tiny pieces that would later cut deep like glass.

When I first began writing this, I fooled myself into thinking I could whip up an account that has, by the way, blossomed into one of hope and love and forgiveness. The truth is, though, there is no way for me to share the light without first revisiting the dark—the secret, the fear, the loneliness and wild anger. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there, thank God.

Thank you, God. It’s been a long time since I’ve been there.

One might think my childhood was a dark stain on my life. After all, the secret of sexual abuse is so devastating, it can set children up for a future of rejection and failure in every possible way. But I know my parents and step-parents loved me as much as they were able, and there were plenty of happy times and fun memories. Continue reading

Beautiful Scars- When I was a Christian

For a long time God has been nudging me about the need to be part of a community that not only shares their story, but speaks of redemption.  An honest connection for sharing how God has used our scars as unique qualifications to bring his light to the dark spaces.  

It all started with trying to write about my own story and being smacked in the face over how my childhood wounds make me the perfect mother for my own daughter.  And how my grief and loss has enabled me to talk about hope and tenacity in the valley.  

So I’m starting a series of sorts here on the blog where I’ll host and create space for other people to share their beautiful scars and painful yet unique qualifications.  A space for sharing our stories, even the most painful parts all for the purpose of glorifying a God who wastes nothing and is open to redeeming it all.  

If you have a story of beautiful scars and would be willing to share it here please contact me and we’ll chat about it.  

Today I am humbled to give blog space to my friend Joy Cannis as she shares her raw and honest story of loss and restoration.  I’ve known Joy for a while online now and I’m blessed to be in connection with her, hoping you feel the same:

I grew up in a loving home surrounded by “God-fearing” parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors. My mom says that I prayed to receive Christ at age two. Though she was unable to decipher my words, she’s certain that’s what I did.

I distinctly remember at age seven, sitting at the kitchen counter, across from my mom, when my dad called to say that my grandfather’s long and painful battle with cancer was over. And just like that I learned of mortality.

I was never afraid of death before having someone that I knew and loved pass away. It made it so real. When my grandmother died many years later, I can remember looking at her body in the casket. Her hands were pale and shriveled.

“Why do her hands look that way?” I asked my uncle.

He replied with a look of disdain, “There’s no blood in her body! They have to drain it all out! Didn’t you know that?!”

I didn’t know that, but I would never forget it after that moment.

Continue reading

The beauty of scars

not my knees, I'm not that brave

not my knees, I'm not that brave

My knees are full of scars and by far my least favorite part of my body.  No matter what I do my knees don’t heal right and I have lingering scars.  For example on the morning before Caedmon was born via C-section  I set out to shave my legs, because well, there would be a lot of people examining my lower half.  In my attempt to bend around my huge belly I nicked my knee something fierce.  That scar is still there, a smooth, red reminder of the day Caedmon officially joined the Penny clan, as if the C-section scar wasn’t enough.

My body is covered in scars, on my wrists from my days as a pizza maker and one on my nose from a night where my dare devil childhood met the corner of a coffee table.  My scars tell a story, but other than that I don’t see what they’re really doing for me.  To my knowledge Kel doesn’t find them sexy.

By the age of 30 we’re all bound to have some scars on our skin, but not only that, we bear scars on a deeper level.  Few people make it to 30 without going through something painful and heartbreaking.  It may be loss through death, divorce, abuse or abandonment.  These are immensely painful parts of our story.   Yet lately God has given me fresh perspective on scars.

Your scars are beautiful credentials and they point you toward something you are uniquely equipped for.  I’ve been depressed and buried both my parents, so I write about that.  I have a deep passion to speak truth and light into the lives of those who grieve and linger without hope.  My scars have given my life passion and purpose.

About a month ago I attempted to write a submission for an amazing project called “What a Woman is worth”  headed up by Támara Lunardo of Támara out Loud.   This project tells the stories of women who struggled to find their worth as a woman and it affirms their God-given value.  I went through at least 8 drafts trying to craft a submission that told my story well, but nothing came together.  I called my Aunt Betsy and asked her about my childhood and her take on my mother’s illness and how it effected my younger years.

Eventually our conversation turned to my own daughter, Noelle, and all the truth I’m endeavoring to speak into her life.  She’s forever active just like I am and was as a child.  She struggles to focus and be still, she moves from one thing to the next in rapid succession, she keeps me on my tippiest of toes from morning to night.  She stretches and challenges me and gives me stinging insight into what my Mother went through.

The difference is that I am the mentally healthy mother of a busy daughter, while my mother was occupied fighting her own inner battle.  I have a million assets she didn’t.

The words “hyper” and “busy” stung me as a child, I heard them over and over again and I always felt broken and all wrong.  This left a scar that took years to heal and caused me to look for my worth in all the wrong places.  It also left me uniquely qualified to parent my bright and beautiful Noelle.  Now, anytime someone calls her “hyper”, “too busy” or “loud” my guard goes up and I’m quick to advocate that her energy is a gift,  we are simply teaching her how to use it well.

My busyness felt like the disease of my childhood, I was forever medicated, rejected and discouraged.  Yet, now I use those scars to Noelle’s advantage, they have gone from a wound to an asset.

As I endeavored to write about what a woman is worth, I failed miserably.  Yet I did emerge with amazing perspective on validating the worth of my daughter through my scars.

That’s the thing with scars and wounds, once they heal and we make peace with them, God stands fully ready to use them for his glory.  I have a deep desire to offer up my smooth, red scars to help others on the journey.  I survived because others were willing to do this for me and it’s an understatement to say that I want to return the favor.

Physically I only have two hands and they’re often filled with the little paws of my children.  Yet spiritually I am able to reach out beyond the walls of our home and hold the hands of those struggling to heal from the same wounds that left me scarred.  And as I reach out to grasp and uplift, I am also pulled along and held by the hands of others who guide me forward.

We are all called to grasp hands and use our scars and lessons to lead and be led.  God does not send us our wounds but he will use them to bring healing and hope.

I know you have scars, we all do, all of us.  You are not alone in this, and I pray that God shows you that you are brave, that you have two hands and that he yearns to use your hands and scars for his glory.

Think upon your wounds, are the healing?  Have they healed?  You are uniquely equipped through these scars to bring heaven to earth.  Don’t wait another day, you know what to do.