My name is Penelope.
I am 25 years old. I am much more than I ever thought I could be. I am a wife, a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, and a mother….
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” — Ephesians 2:10.
Christ has been wooing me from the very beginning. My mother dedicated my life to Him before I was even a thought. And as He formed me in the womb, my mother prayed over me daily. She asked that He guide and protect my life’s journey, but more importantly that He would use my life for His glory. I believe that because of my mother’s obedience and faith, God’s grace spilled onto me. I am so very blessed to have grown up in a home filled with the love of Christ.
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18.
Unfortunately, like so many others, my parents divorced when I was just two years old. My father left us for someone he thought was more important and twelve years of marriage were thrown away in the blink of an eye. As the years passed I watched my mother spiral downward into depression. Her husband had left her and as a result, she thought she was worthless. I remember thinking it was so sad that she had let an imperfect man define her. I swore then, that I would never let myself be hurt the way she was. My mother’s heart was broken and I promised myself I would never let a man get mine. I started to resent my parents for their selfish actions and bitterness began to seep its way into my life. It crept in slowly and I hid it away in my heart. My mother’s broken heart was breaking mine.
“Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed.” – Psalm 34:5.
I always attended the church youth camps in the summertime. Every year was filled with fond memories, but there was one year, my 5th grade year, that I remember so vividly because everything changed. It was an insignificant evening. The day had been filled with sports and recreation and everyone was tired and drifting off to sleep in their beds. That is, everyone, except for me. I lay there on my top bunk, staring at the ceiling, enjoying the soft breeze sifting through our cabin window. I was meditating on the lesson we had been given that night. I cannot recall the words that were said but it was right then and there that the Lord called me to be His bride and I gladly accepted. I remember feeling the Holy Spirit surrounding me. I had such a peace that night as I slowly fell into slumber. An insignificant night at church camp turned into the most important one in my entire life. The God of the universe, who told the sun to shine and the Earth to spin, had just called me to be His.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. — Hebrews 4:16.”
With that life-changing moment safely secured in my spirit I went on about my life but I was not the best disciple. I didn’t always make the right decisions, but Jesus never left me. I was a typical teen, and I became rebellious towards my mother. She had become a recluse since the divorce and was drowning in self-pity. She was present in body but absent in spirit. My father was gone except for one day every couple of years when he tried to buy my affections with gifts. I felt like he had abandoned me. I had no brothers or sisters and I was very lonely. I took care of myself. The only thing I relied on my mother for was transportation. “This is easy”, I thought, “I don’t need anyone”. The years passed; the bitterness in my heart grew and my world became gray. The few relationships that I did have, I always tried to sabotage. I isolated myself from people and kept them at arms length. Everyone that was important to me had left and I was sure that everyone else would eventually leave me too.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” — Ephesians 2:8.
I struggled for many years, trying to find meaning in worldly things. At age 13 I started cutting my skin to feel pain. The world had become so very numb, that I just wanted to feel something, anything again. I wore long sleeves year round to hide my demons. Yet even in all the chaos, God was softly calling me back to Himself, He remained faithful even though I continued to fill His rightful place in my life with everything else. At age 16, when carving my flesh didn’t satisfy my longing anymore, I started starving my body of food and nutrients by not eating or purging what I had eaten. “If only I am skinny enough”, I thought, “if only I am pretty enough, people will love me.” But what I didn’t eat, I made up for in alcohol consumption. And still, the small quiet voice of my Jesus kept calling to me, “You are enough in Me.”
“As for me, I said, “O Lord, be gracious to me; heal me, for I have sinned against you!” –Psalm 41:4.
As a result of a poor diet and drowning in alcohol, my gallbladder failed. It was right then, once again, as I was lying on my back in the hospital bed that I really began to question what being rescued by the King truly meant. If only I had known that the answer was right in front of me all along! Suddenly I remembered that I had asked the Lord of the universe to be my Redeemer, but I surely wasn’t living like a treasured bride. My selfishness and vanity had been robbing me of my identity. It was then in that hospital room when I was at my worst that I gave thanks to the Father for His unending grace and love. I gave him my heart again. Praise the Lord for grace. I’m so thankful that it isn’t my life that earns my salvation. Jesus death and resurrection has paid my debts, all of them.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” — Ephesians 4:32.
Soon after high school, I was able to rekindle relationships with both of my parents. For God had forgiven me of my wasted years, so surely I could pass that forgiveness and grace onto them. And I am happy to say that I now have a good relationship with my father, and was able to spend the last years of my mother’s life free of anger and resentment.
“ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11.
God healed me and set my heart free. The vow I made to never marry was selfish and not a part of God’s plan for me. I first met Matt when I was twenty-two. At first, I tried hard to keep my distance, but there he was, beautiful, and a gentleman. We had met through a friend, and I soon became his daughter’s cello teacher. Through this I came to know this wonderful man and his three treasured daughters.
“Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” – Colossians 3:18.
In Matt, I came to find my truest friend, my most faithful encourager and most importantly, my husband. In his daughters, I came to find the purest hearts imaginable and my first three children. We were married June 2nd, 2012 when I was twenty-four years old. That was the happiest day of my life. I still to this day can’t believe what the Lord has entrusted me with. I am so thankful to be reminded of Christ’s love for me through the lives of my beautiful family.
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” – Revelation 21:4.
Although the time of planning my wedding was supposed to be blissful, it turned out to be very sorrowful. In the midst of everything, my mother had developed kidney disease. She never let on how much she was really hurting. Looking back, I think she was trying to be brave for me and she didn’t want me to worry. She spent the last three months of her life in the hospital. I visited her two, sometimes three times a day to catch her up on my current events or to play board games so she wouldn’t go crazy lying in bed all day. But her body gave in on October 21st, 2011, at 6:05pm. She didn’t suffer long before the Lord called her home. For that I am very grateful. But at the very moment that I was preparing to become a mother myself, I lost my own. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss her, remember her, or want to ask her questions. I wear her diamond around my neck every day to have her with me in some small way. I miss her laugh, her hugs, and her heart. I long for the day that I will see her again.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27.
It is very surreal to think that I am a mother now. Most women get nine months to prepare for that role. It is quite a hard semblance to transition into over night. If I’m being completely honest, it was the scariest thing I’ve done thus far. There are days when I wish my mother were here to put her two cents in on raising teenage girls! But then I feel her smiling from above saying “Remember to take it one step at a time. You’ll do fine.” If there is one thing that I am certain of, it’s that I could not love them any more if they truly were mine. The fact that they didn’t come from my body has no bearing on the fact that those girls are my pride and joy. They are love and hope and light wrapped into three persons and I see the Lord in them daily. They are all blessings from The Lord and I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to be a part of their lives and to see what God has in store for them.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6.
I love children and have always been involved with them since I can remember. Their honesty and innocence is what captivates me most. From an early age I have known that I want to be a stay at home mom. Matt and I pray that the Lord provides us with many more children down the road. They are an inheritance from the Lord and we have a lot of love to give. But for now, since that chapter has yet to come, I am working at a church daycare. I’m getting to know and love babies that are already here on Earth. I used to I think that traveling the world to help those in need was all that life was about, but I now see that it’s about being used where you are planted. I may never have my name in lights or make a huge discovery but I take comfort in knowing that I am making a difference in the lives of children and making them feel important.
“Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” – Psalm 31:25.
I used to think that if I told people I am saved, I would be expected to be perfect and to be found without fault, so I kept quiet. Vanity is my daily struggle and I must remember that it isn’t about me at all. It is only through Christ that I am beautiful. I am but human, and I have scars, but by giving Himself up on the Cross of Calvary He has removed every blemish, and washed me white as snow. The rest of my days, I will give Him all the glory. I am but a single drop in the vast ocean. My time on Earth is very short and when I am gone, I want people to think of me and be able to say, “She was a woman of God. She really lived!” When my time has come up, and I am finally called home, the sweetest sound to my ears will be hearing my Father say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” – Revelation 22:13.