Archives for the month of: May, 2013

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


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.
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.