Penny, She Did Not Share Her Thoughts, But Her Life

It was a slice-of-pie piece of land; a wedge encased by two busy highways and a brand new tollway. For a long time, everything in me had been drawn to the house; wondering, yet waiting. When the expressway went up, I wondered if they’d tear it down. In fact, every time my family and I passed by the old farm, I would comment on it. I was certain that it was abandoned. There were never any cars in the driveway, or any lights on at night.

For years this went on, and yet it still stood, a snapshot of the past, surrounded by the present. Recently, while doing research for my historical fiction novel, I found an 1873 drawing  of the house. I decided to pay the home a visit. If I could spend time near the home, maybe I could feel the breath of my heroine coaxing me to finish her story.

As I pulled my car onto the gravel driveway, I entered another dimension; another century. Everything looked untouched. I headed to the back door for a peek through the window when I noticed that there were clothes flapping on a makeshift clothesline stretched out between two branches of a naked tree.  I stopped in my tracks, rethinking my assumption that the house had been abandoned. It was then that I noticed her. Way off in the distance, she was kneeling in a large vegetable garden, grey hair flying with the wind. I was startled, a little disappointed and more than a little intrigued. This was not what I had expected. I began walking in her direction, passing willow tree and vineyard.

“Hello?” I shouted over the ever increasing gale. Nothing.

“Hello?!” I tried a little louder. Still nothing.

“HELLO?!!” I was nearly upon her now, and still nothing. Was this an aberration?

“I must be losing it,” I told myself, “My love for history has taken over and I’ve gone somewhere in my mind that I might not be able to return from.” My heart pounded.

“HELLO?!!” I was now only a few feet away. She jumped.

“Oh, hello!” she stopped her planting and answered as though she’d been expecting me, but nonchalantly, as though I belonged there and as if we’d already spent hours talking and knew everything about each other. She went back to planting as if we were the kind of companions that continue on in comfortable silence.

“My name is Kim, and I’m writing an historical fiction novel about this area. Would you mind if I took a few pictures of your property?”

“That would be fine.”

“What is your name?” I inquired.

“Penny.” Now that I had her attention, I no longer needed to shout through the wind.

“I’m glad they didn’t tear this house down when they brought the expressway through,” I hoped to start a conversation with her, although she didn’t seem too keen on it, she was preoccupied getting those seeds in the ground.

“Oh, the historical society wouldn’t let them. This house is too important. It started as a log cabin in 1836, and they finished it the way it is now in 1840.  It took four years to finish.”

“I see.” I was taking a shot of the vineyard. “How long have you lived here?”

“My whole life. I inherited it from my father,” she answered.

I tried my best to engage her in conversation, but still her entire focus was on sowing those seeds.

I walked toward the house and snapped a couple of shots, and started toward my car again.  Looking back toward Penny to see if she was watching for a wave goodbye.  She wasn’t.  Instead she was kneeling on the rich black soil.  I wondered why that garden was so important to Penny.  She had to be in her eighties.  There wasn’t even a guarantee that she would enjoy the work of her labor.  Here I had come into her world as an opportunity for her to have someone listen to her past, something that many people her age seem to enjoy.  But Penny was more interested in the future, and what it would bring. Her diligence reminded my of an old D. L. Moody story:

The great evangelist D.L. Moody was asked, “What would you do today if you knew Jesus Christ was coming tomorrow?” His answer came, “I would plant a tree.”

How many of us make excuses not to plan for the future?  Not to dream big dreams?  In our minds, we are too young, too old, too weak, too fat, or too ordinary.  Penny didn’t let any of these excuses keep her from looking to the future.

How many of us say that we’re too tired or that something is too difficult?  Penny didn’t use that excuse.  Instead, she bent her eighty something year old body in half on the windiest day of the year and dug her wrinkled hands in black and crumbling Illinois soil.  Just being out of doors took determination that day, the wind wore me down like water on a stone in a wild and rushing river.

But Penny, she was untouched by the world, its climate, and its ways.  It may seem easier to go to the store and buy vegetables, but what do we miss when we don’t understand the parable of the sower?  We miss everything, according to Jesus. It may seem easier to dry clothes in a machine, but Penny’s clothes waved dry in a tree instead.  There was no machine to break down or replace, because there was always a rope and a tree.   What is simpler, really?  To have, or to have not?

Recently, I’ve taken up washing the dishes by hand.  My dishwasher wasn’t working properly and there were too many other things to attend to financially.  What freedom this has brought me!  I am no longer in bondage to a machine, the electric company for the use of the machine, and the repair man for the fixing of the machine.  This seems simpler to me.  In the Christian Classic Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes,

…refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.  Time-saving devices almost never save time..Most gadgets are built to break down and wear out and so complicate our lives rather than enhance them.

Finally, I realized that Penny has taught me more by her actions than she ever could by her words. She taught me with her life. She refuses to complicate her life with what the world deems necessary.  She works hard toward the future.

If someone were to come visit my slice-of-pie piece of land, what would they come away with?  Would they see someone hurried and panicked?  Someone who, although she seems to have many of the world’s most popular conveniences seems to be rushed and burdened both financially and in bondage to these same items?  Would they see someone who is easily distracted flitting from this project to the next without ever finishing any of them?

What would someone see if they were to visit your slice-of-pie piece of land?



The Story of Valentine’s Day – Guest Post by Craig From Deep Into Love

Happy Valentine by Hamid Eslami (hammmyd)) on
Happy Valentine by Hamid Eslami

February 14, 269 AD

Her face is round, as are her eyes…
and dark and deep…
and head lowered…
a voice as veiled as her face…
she lilts a whispered “I do”.

His arms strong, chiseled chin, brown locks…
eyes even softer than hers…
like a doe in the forest.

He places his hand to her chin.
Raises it to until her eyes meet his…
and says in definitive and loving tone…
“I do”.

There are three witnesses to the ceremony, God, myself, and a single dove resting on a vine branch in the courtyard. They had come, cloaked and dark, hushed footsteps entering my home, hooded heads, like thieves, indiscernible against the morning mist.

There were the three knocks on my door…
then the pause…
then one more single rap upon the wood.


So I opened my door and began the ceremony ending in the joyful declarations of both that they would love, and cherish until death. Entering as two they departed as one. A few coins tossed in the fountain as they left. Nods exchanged between them and myself as they scuttled off down the path to the sound of morning larks.

No one will know but us.
No one can.
This marriage is secret.
They all must be.

As they left Antony entered, my friend, another of God’s priests, “You can’t continue to do this.” His first words to me, not good morning, but these. I brushed the comment aside like dust off of a windowsill.

My answer came as easily as breath,“The Emperor’s decree cannot stop the will of God. What’s one more secret marriage, two more outlaws. I’ll make the whole land outlaws and he’ll be able to arrest no one.”

The decree of Claudius that there will be no marriage in Rome is too obvious in nature. Married men, he thinks, don’t enlist, don’t fight the invading hordes to the north. So he thinks by outlawing marriage his army will grow. But Claudius will not win. There will be marriage among God’s people.

If they choose to fight, the decision is theirs.

He wants an army armed with swords and daggers.
I’ll build an army of Christian Love, by marriage.
And I know this…
within a generation the Kindgom of God…
will overtake the Glory of Rome…

The setting of this story is a quiet little hamlet in the heart of the Roman Empire, called Interamna. The location is fact, The decree to outlaw marriage by the Roman emperor Claudius in 269 AD is fact too. The priest conducting the secret marriages is fact as well. The rest…

a bit fiction to lend body to the story that will unfold over the days between here and the holiday bearing his name.

It’s my Valentine gift for you.

That’s his name, by the way, the priest.

He is Valentine, Bishop of Interamna…

and you’ve not heard this story, not told this way…

of secret marriages…

and love…

and Valentine’s day.

Craig has two wonderful blogs. Deep Into Love and Deep Into Scripture. My favorite part of his bio is when he writes that he is a “perpetual weeble, occasional rock”…isn’t that the truth for all of us? He makes me smile.This magnificent piece comes as a series and has oodles more parts…for the next installment please click here.  Make sure that you read the rest of the story of St. Valentine!

My Salvation Army Heritage

Salvation Army worker
There’s nothing more “Christmasy” than hearing a Salvation Army bell ringer. I wonder if you’ll take a look at my past with me? A stroll down memory lane if you will…

I had the most beautiful upbringing in the whole world. Part of this heritage includes a family with its roots entrenched in the Salvation Army. My father, the eldest son of Salvation Army officers started his young family where his foundation lay…at the SA. My mother had her life changed when at 15, after a Billy Graham crusade, she filled out her followup paper work with SA for Saint Ann’s Catholic Church, and the Salvation Army showed up at her door. I have a plethora of family members that has served as officers of the Army and are now retired. As someone who has had the pleasure of watching their lives from the inside, let me tell you, they do the most good.


My own spiritual formation took a turn when I was 14. An uncle from my mother’s side started a non-denominational church and we began attending there. However, there have been key moments in my life when I have found myself right back where I started…at the Army. Two times stand out in particular. Once was the… Please click here to read the rest of my story…

sis button 2

Little House on the Prairie – Books That Inspire

Every Sunday evening, I spent in front of the TV in order to see how Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert were going to make me cry.  The second installment of my Monday series, Books That Inspire is the Little House on the Prairie series.  These books are some of my mother’s favorites, and I remember her reading them out loud to me.

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about what it was like to grow up in an America with less than fifty stars on a flag, and before automobiles and skyscrapers.

If I summarized how these books influenced me, I think I would respond that they made me feel as though with hard work and ingenuity, man could accomplish just about anything he set his mind to.  The stories of survival in a once very wild America instilled within me an awe and reverence for the pioneer.  I loved to imagine what it would have been like to live here before all of our modern day conveniences.  I couldn’t imagine a world in which one could be so self-sufficient.

The relationships in the book were ideal to say the least.  I didn’t realize this until my second or third reading.  Ma struggled to be the always supportive, submissive wife.  The girls obeyed their parents and learned to work out their differences even with the ever-snobby Nellie.  Many of the moral and relationship themes are timeless.

These books also create a healthy interest in the time in history when their were still skirmishes with Indians, a growing railroad and new and when modern inventions were arriving at an alarming rate.

Tell me, which Little House book or story was your favorite?

What Do You Think?

So…I’m an evangelical Christian celebrating Lent.  Why?  I don’t know.  Maybe I feel like we may have thrown out the baby with the bath water in Christian liturgy and symbolism.

I totally understand how we must be careful not let the traditions of men steal the truth of the Word.  However, in studying Christian history it is interesting to see how different seasons and observances came to be.  For instance, did you know that lent as an established discipline has been around since before The Council of Nicea?(325 AD)

One of the first ideas established about Lent, (and the only one I’ll be writing about today) is that it was a fast endured by early converts before they were to be baptized.  No easy believeism there.  I’m sure those converts were pretty serious about their new life in Christ after having prepared their hearts with some type of forty day fast.  The idea here was to remind the believer that they were to die to self and be raised up again with Christ.  Many times baptisms were done on or near Easter, so that the converts identified with the death, and burial of Christ in their fast and the resurrection of Christ through the celebration of Easter.

Some times I think we make it too easy to “get saved”.  “Just say a prayer”, we hear ourselves say. “It’s a free gift.”  This is true.  No amount of fasting or dunking or good works can earn salvation.  However, when we use symbolism, like baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we bring Christianity from belief to experience.  Particularly when we come to these observances with respect.  Should we stop doing these things because we are afraid that they won’t mean anything anymore?  Perhaps the even greater fear is that people will begin to put their trust in the symbolic acts instead of in Christ.

I know that Lent is not mentioned in the Bible, but fasting is.  And Lent was established by a very early church, a church that only a few generations previously walked with the Lord.

What are your ideas on rituals and church?