Sometimes when you’re tired and you’re also sad, the two become one and make a mess of the afternoon.

You know that a nap would be helpful but decide instead to get on with the busy-ness of your life. You get out of the house to do what you must and you run into someone you only sort of know and whose ever present smile can solve all the world’s problems.

But today for the first time (as far as you know), he doesn’t smile and the problems remain and it’s too much. It’s too much to think that he too is sad or tired or both. So you give him a hug and he’s grateful and you are as well.

You know that could have been really weird and you take comfort in the fact that it wasn’t and in the fact that your wonderful spouse knows you well enough to be secure so it’s not weird in that way either.

Still, you go home and you eat too many gingersnaps and you take a hot bath, because it’s either that or start blubbering and make a mess of more than just the afternoon.

Gingersnap tears and a hot bath are sometimes a decent substitute for the nap you should have taken hours ago.

 

Life is funny, isn’t it? We walk one way, then turn this way, then that but really, it’s all the same.

I was reminded today, by one of my favorite teachers, of the poet I carry inside of me. “Oh hello, Poet. You’ve been sorely neglected, have you not?”

These past 2 years I’ve found myself exploring the world of color and light and shadow and form as I fancy myself an artist.

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My mistake was to assume that one exists in exclusivity of the other. I can be a poet or an artist. No. I can be both. More accurately, I am both. And I like that about myself. I like remembering that about myself.

Like I said, it’s the same. It’s the way I get from here to there or perhaps what’s in, out.

Art and poetry are so personal and yet we share this journey. We walk one way, we turn this way and then that. We do it together and we feel so alone. With color and words and swirls and rhyme I expose the pieces of myself I never knew were hiding. And I’m gifting them to you, my neighbor.

He knew He must do it

So He died for me

I didn’t deserve it

His gift was free

He hung on a cross

My Savior chose death

To pay for my sin

He gave his last breath

He hung there and died

With His heart full of sorrow

He did this for me

And my eternal tomorrow

For another solution

In the garden He prayed

But He did not retreat

And so I am saved

Oh how He must love me

And value my life

To give me this offering

Of sacrifice

But it wasn’t enough

For Jesus to die

He came back to life

Once three days went by

He died on the cross

So I could be free

And He came back to life

To live inside me

My Savior’s alive

Let us rejoice

Lift up your hands

Lift up your voice

Yes, I said us

And I said you

See friend, He died

And He lives for you too

Penny Fairman, 2000

I’ve recently rediscovered journaling with images and art…not just words. And have been wondering, “When did I forget how much I love this?”

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While I don’t feel at liberty to share the new stuff I’m doing, I thought I’d share some images from an art journal I kept several years ago.

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They’re nothing fancy. But still I love looking at them.

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I love the way the images and text tell me my story and help me remember. Even when all I wrote was a to do list!

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I am so excited to be back at using creativity to express myself! And while the pages of my life and the style of my art looks different now, art journaling is that same old comfortable love that I remember.

I’ve been spending lots of time with these paints lately and that makes me very happy.

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I love to create and share art, but my recent projects have been for an audience of One.

That’s difficult for me. It’s almost like if I don’t share it, it doesn’t count. In reality what we do to worship and honor God is what counts most.

What I think He wants me to learn is that not only is He enough, He is audience enough.

Valentine’s Day has come and gone. My family had a great day. We ate heart shaped pizza and chocolate chip cookies, cut lots of paper hearts and laughed through the taking of family photos. Like, I said, it was a great day, full of love and smiles.

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It’s funny how a good day can get you thinking about the bad ones. Last year was tough for my entire family. My sister and I lost her best friend and our Dad to cancer, just weeks apart, my pastor of over a decade stepped down unexpectedly…and those are just the things I’m at liberty to share. There were days that I found myself wanting to run away or hide, days full of anger and soaking wet with tears. But through it all I was held. The Creator of the world and everything in it held me in His hands and He held me together even when I wanted to fall apart.

The most difficult week I faced last year was in June. I turned 38 on Wednesday. On Friday I got the call about my dad dying. On Sunday my pastor resigned. A week that started with joy ended in devastation. But you know what…God was the same that Wednesday as He was that Friday as He was that Sunday as He was on Valentine’s Day as He is today. He is faithful and He can be trusted.

We’re now several weeks into 2014 and I’m hopeful that this year will be better but even if it’s not I still know that I am held.

I’d like you to meet Dominic. I like to call him, “The Boy Who Captured My Heart”.

Dominic

My first Sunday morning in Ghana started with us finishing a 12 hour overnight bus ride from Accra to the northern region. We were picked up at the bus station and given the choice, we could either take a much needed nap or attend church in a nearby (only 1 hour away) village. We chose church. We all agreed that the time for sleeping would come later.

After a wonderful time of praising God the pastor called Dominic forward and asked, “What happened to this child?” Dominic was hunched over a bit and was obviously having trouble walking.

We learned that a few days before he had been running with a stick and fell on it puncturing his abdomen near his left leg. I’m having trouble putting the words together that would really help you “see” his wound. Let me just say that it was extremely swollen, filled with pus and oozing…obviously very infected and painful.

We had no medicine with us on that Sunday morning. There was nothing we could do help his body heal. We encouraged him to keep it clean and then had to be on our way.

Dominic Penny

The earliest were able to return was Tuesday and even then only to quickly drop off antibiotics for Dominic and then head to another village.

Finally on Thursday morning we were able to hold medical clinic in Dominic’s village and spend a little more time with him. We could see that the antibiotics were helping but there was still a large amount of pus a infection in the wound. Our nurse decided to extract as much it as she could.

Medicine in a remote village in Africa is much different than medicine in the States. This fact really hit me when we had Dominic laying in the truck bed as pus was being squeezed from his wound with no pain meds or sanitary conditions. Dominic’s tears poured down his face and his body was rigid in response to the pain.

I couldn’t help but think of my own boys who are both very close to Dominic’s age. What would happen if they were playing and hurt themselves this badly? We would go the emergency room. They would have to get stitches. It would hurt but in addition to antibiotics we’d probably be prescribed something to ease the pain. In a few weeks it would be over and in a few months probably forgotten. Dominic’s recovery would not come nearly as easily.

Those were the thoughts running through my head as Dominic’s back arched in pain.

He’s such a sweet boy. He never fought us. He never cried out. We prayed as the nurse worked…that God would heal Dominic and take away his pain.

Dominic Penny tree

When finally it was over and he was bandaged up again he was back to smiling, posing for pictures and playing with his friends. Like I said, he’s a sweet boy…the boy who captured my heart.

In 1980 an EF1 tornado hit my small Oklahoma town and became the author of the hundreds of tornado nightmares I’ve had since.

In relation to the EF4s and EF5s we’ve seen in Greensburg, Joplin, Tuscaloosa and yesterday in Moore, my tornado was not too bad. EF1s typically result in what would be called mild damage. Mobile homes can be pushed off their foundations, moving cars pushed off the road, the surface may peel off of roofs.

I was 5 years old so I don’t remember a lot. But what I do remember I will probably never forget. The surface of the roof of our house did not peel off. Our entire roof blew away. I could feel our house swaying back and forth. The front door kept banging open in spite of our efforts to secure it closed. We had no basement. My grandma sat with me at the kitchen table and tried to distract me with a game of cards. My mom, who was a nurse, ran out into the wind to go help the injured. My step-dad yelled for her to put a coat on. She kept running with bare arms and wind whipping her hair into her face.

Obviously, the adults around me knew we were not going to die but I was terrified.

I had family in Greensburg. I have family in Joplin. I have a dear friend who is closely connected to Tuscaloosa. I have lived in the midwest almost my entire life. This is part of our reality and as we go through it again and again I can’t pretend to know the pain of those who have endured these monstrous tornados and the horrific devastation they bring with them.

But I know my pain…my little EF1 pain. I know that tornado sirens often bring me to tears and can sometimes even lead to full blown panic attacks. I know that I’m always looking for a “safe place” wherever I am…even driving down the highway. I know that the majority of my life I’ve endured nightmares in which tornados become living breathing entities striving to devour me and my family.

We live in a fallen world. We are not in control. Bad things happen and we can not stop many of them. We are not safe. That is reality.

I’ve been memorizing a passage of the Bible that helps me in times like this.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

I love the promise there. If we will pray instead of worry, if we present our requests to God with thanksgiving, the peace of God will guard our hearts and our minds. The Bible never promises that bad things will not happen. But it does promise the protection of our hearts and minds…IF we will lean into God in every situation. IF will lay down our worry and pray instead. I’m not great at this but I’m learning.

So let’s lean today…for ourselves, for the families in Moore and in Joplin and elsewhere. On behalf of those who’ve met the crisis that will become the author of their nightmares, let’s lean into God today and pray.

My dad is dying.

It was hard to type that. It’s hard to say it…or even think it.

But he is. And I’m not. And that’s weird. It feels weird to do dishes and curl my hair and do my homework while my dad is slowly wasting away.
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He has what we believe is a cancerous tumor in the very back of his mouth on his tongue. He’s refused treatment and is now under hospice care.

A little over a week ago my sister got a call saying he wouldn’t live through the weekend. His tumor had been bleeding and he was very weak. But it quit bleeding and by the time we arrived (less than 24 hours after getting “the call”) he was up and around, drinking whiskey and smoking cigarettes like normal.

Like I said it feels weird to move on from those hours we thought would be our last with him.

We spent last Saturday evening and most of that Sunday just sitting outside together. We talked about his dog, the weather, his grandkids. He was willing to chat about anything, except what we needed to talk about the most.

He looked terrible. His complexion told the story of the blood he’d lost the day before. And it broke my heart.

I don’t really know my dad very well and I guess part of my heartbreak is that I never will.

And though it’s hard for me that life goes on…it does anyway. Time does not stop because I am in crisis. I cook for my family. I clean my house. I curl my hair. I try to do homework.

I remember that God is faithful and that He is my hope.

The hardest part about my mission trip to Ghana was coming home. Not just coming home…being home. That first few weeks I was an emotional wreck.

ghana church in sing

My plane landed in the States on a Tuesday afternoon over spring break. My youngest didn’t have school. My oldest didn’t have his homeschool enrichment program to go to. Church was canceled that Wednesday and Sunday due to crazy snow. So aside from my own family…I didn’t see anyone for 5 or 6 days.

I needed the down time and I was grateful for it. But I didn’t realize how cocooned I had been from the rest of my world…from my friends. Monday morning “back to life” was a shock.

ghana clinic in sawla

I got my youngest where he needed to go and was walking with my oldest into the front door of the enrichment program. He went left to go to class and I kept walking right out the back door. By the time I reached it I was in tears.

So what happened that was so traumatic between the front door and the back door?

Questions.

I didn’t know how to sum things up. I didn’t know how to answer honestly. And I didn’t know that I didn’t know. So it took me by surprise. And it was overwhelming.

ghana learning to play the drums

I’ve since processed through most of it and will attempt to answer the following questions in my next several posts.

•What was your favorite thing about Africa?

•What was the hardest thing about being there?

•Did you meet anyone that you’ll never forget?

•What did God teach you while you were there?

•What was the ministry like?

•Do you feel called to go back?

Like I said, the hardest part about the trip was those first few weeks home. But I think I’ve processed enough of the information to share now. Finally!

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