Inspiring Women Series - Penny

Mar 17, 2011


I am so excited to introduce you to my online friend Penny Franklin of Living Above Ministries.  She also writes at the blog Seeds of Faith.  I want to tell you that this is a long post, but so very worth your time in reading.  Penny has been very transparent in where she has been and where her life is going and I know you will be blessed!



Late in December, Penny, her husband John, and their two children were enjoying some vacation time at a friend’s ranch in Texas.  John’s love of hunting took him out to a stand one more time before their trip would end.  Tragically, somehow John’s gun was accidentally discharged and he died that day.  Penny herself described that day as being full of little gifts:  Sweet time with their children, photos taken of John with the kids, and John loving on Penny.

Every time I read something that Penny has written, I cry.  If you go to her blog and read her My Rockstar page about her husband, you will cry.  They share a beautiful love story with a tragic ending on earth, but an amazing  homecoming in heaven.  Your emotions can’t get more confused than that!  Penny inspires me to live out my faith in both the good times and the bad times.

Do you remember when you accepted Christ?
Yes!  As I read this question, I smiled!  I’ll never forget that Sunday afternoon.  I was sitting on the staircase with both of my parents. I remember going through all the questions and discussions about salvation with them.  Then it came time to pray - pray to receive Christ.  Through my tears, I asked my Dad if he would pray “the prayer” for me.  He just smiled and said, “Penny, this is the one prayer I can’t pray for you.  You have to do this.  It’s between you and the Lord.”  That day, I prayed the only way a six year-old can pray and asked Jesus to come into my life and save me from my sin.

Did you grow up in a Christian home?
Yes!  I have been very blessed to have two Christian parents who in fact are still married and serving the Lord faithfully to this day!  I grew up watching my parents read their Bibles daily and discuss topics from the Bible as if they were reading the newspaper.  Although through my teen and college years I did not emulate their example - it truly has been my foundation - and something to which I knew how to return to once my life went astray from the Lord.

What can you attribute in your faith walk as being something that really grew and strengthened your faith?
Wow!  I’m not sure if most of my readers know this about me…. But John was not my first husband.  While in college I lived a rebellious life.  I wasn’t into drugs or anything like that - I just walked away from the Lord, from going to church, and all the other foundational things my parents taught me.  I met someone who was not God’s choice for me.  I rebelled and married him anyway.  This was not a good marriage and we were divorced 6 years later.  I lost almost everything I had.  This was an extremely difficult time in my life.  The only thing I knew to do was go back to the Lord.  

I started going back to church.  The first few Sundays I cried every time!  I think I was homesick for my relationship with the Lord and truly sorrowful that I had been away from Him for so long.  I started reading a One Year Bible.  I soaked it up like a sponge!  I realized just how much God loved me and wanted to renew a real and intimate relationship with me.  This truly was a time of renewal between me and the Lord. 
I started sharing my story of Redemption at Single Events around town.  And it was through this that the Lord called me into ministry.  I left my very successful career as a HazMat Training Supervisor and enrolled in Seminary.  While working for a church, I met John Franklin!

John was a pastor and you were a mother at home when he passed away.  How are you handling this change?
Whew!  This has probably been one of the biggest struggles.  I’ve been very busy during the day tackling financial & legal issues.  I’ve been trying to study for the Alternate Certification Exam so I can teach High School Science.  I have a Chemistry degree.  However, it’s in the quite moments that I wonder who I am now.  I was once a Pastor’s Wife and now I’m not anymore.  I once was a Womens Minister, and now I sit on a pew every Sunday - sitting not serving.  I feel when John died, I lost my job.  My job as a Minister’s wife and as a minister myself!

Today I read about Mary, the mother of Jesus.  After she heard the news about how her life was about to change, she said this, “I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.”  I want this to be my heart as well.

Logistically… I’m currently living with my parents.  My kids are enrolled in great schools in the very same town where I grew up and went to school myself.  Daily I am working as a substitute teacher.   I’m hoping to be a full-time Science Teacher in the Fall.

You also had to move across several states shortly afterward.  How did you find the strength to do this?
Wow!  I think was completely a God-thing.  The true answer to this question, as I look back on that week… is I don’t know!  We arrived in New Orleans on a Friday night.  On Saturday morning there were people there from several different cities (Houston & New Orleans) ready and willing to help!  A week later, on Friday at 4pm we were leaving New Orleans - heading for Texas.  The house was clean and empty and we threw away more trash that I care to remember.  All I kept telling myself is, “’pack a box!”  Others would come and tell me about things I needed to address, (the lack of Life Insurance, the lack of a will, selling the Jeep, etc) - and my only response was, “right now I have to pack a box - I’ll address that issue later.”
To be honest, I really thought going back into the house after Christmas - finding it just as we left it - and going through all of John’s stuff to get it packed would completely destroy me.  I have to say, I didn’t cry much in those early days.  It’s now that I’m crying.

Within a week of John’s passing you were back posting to your blog and sharing your story.  I was amazed at your strength and perspective.  Can you tell us about that?
Yes.  I’ll never forget my first post after his Homegoing.  It was a Sunday morning.  It was our first Sunday back in New Orleans.  In fact, it was the Sunday we had his Memorial Service!  On Sundays I like for my blog to only about God’s Word - I call those posts “His Word Sunday”.  It just seemed fitting for my “first day back” to be about God’s Word.  It’s God’s Word that I’m clinging to so tightly.  It’s the only thing that was not changing - and still has not changed!

I know many want to know how I’m doing - but don’t feel they can ask.  I’ve experienced this myself as I’ve ministered to others who have experienced extreme losses.  I guess I just wanted to let them see God’s grace and love in action. Faith is not seen best on the mountaintops - it’s seen best in the valleys!  I wanted people to see that I still loved, trusted, and believed in my God!

Many who go through a tragedy of this magnitude struggle with anger and bitterness toward God.  How were you able to avoid these feelings?
What a question!  In fact, as I’m typing… I’ve had to pause. John always used to say that he didn’t want to go to Heaven clean and unused.  He wanted to slide in there beat up and worn out!  He wanted to say he gave it all on the field - so to speak.  Ministry was never an easy life for us.  Sure we had great experiences - but they were battles well fought all the time.

No one did this to John.  No one shot him.  I can’t be mad at someone.  In my mind I reason this out in two different ways.  1) This was God’s time for John.  He was sitting in a deer stand where he loved to pray the most.  He was alone doing what he loved best.  For John, he couldn’t have stepped into Heaven from a better place. 2) I truly believe that God has chosen me for this “assignment”.  This could have happened to anyone - but it didn’t.  It happened to me.  And I believe it’s time for me to show all those around me that I truly believe what I’ve been saying and writing about God all these years.  Can I  abandon those truths just because He brought John Home?  Did God stop being loving?  No!  He says He loves me with a steadfast love.  It doesn’t say He loved me with a steadfast love.  He still does.  And  I believe He’s called me to continue that message - even in the face of tragedy.

I won’t lie to you.  It has not been easy.  And I’m not talking about the grief part.  Our finances were and still are a wreck! I’ve had to make calls to the IRS, Social Security, Chase Home Finance, Honda Financial, and many others.  This part has felt extremely lonely and is still a current journey I am walking.  I know my God is going to get me through this part as well.

Can you tell us about someone who has been in your life who has inspired your faith?
I have many.  Several years ago, my sister lost a baby girl.  Her name was Anna Kay.  Anna was born to Heaven.  My sister knew the entire time of her pregnancy that Anna had a rare genetic disorder that would probably take her life.  She shared two passages from scripture with me during her pregnancy.   One was the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Obednigo.  She relied on the verses that said, “I know our God is able to save us, but even if He doesn’t we will still praise the Lord.”  And then she found a verse in Psalms that reads, “Your love is better than life.”

I was amazed at her strength as she carried a child that she knew would soon see Jesus.  I have never forgotten how God loved her and carried her through that entire experience.  I think of her, and her pain and grief often, and draw from what God showed her today.

Where is your life heading right now?
I still very much want to be in ministry.  I’m not sure what God is going to do with the call He has on my own life.  Of course I have dreams and aspirations that He will let me return to ministry in some capacity.  But for now, I’m working on my Alternate Teaching Certification..  I’m very comfortable teaching - whether it be God’s Word or Science.  In the immediate future, I would love to get a Chemistry teaching position, but I’m completely open to whatever direction and doors He decides to open.  In the long run, I would love to one day lead Womens Retreats and Conferences or even right a book.  

But more than all of that, I want to be able to say, “let it be to me according to your word.”


Getting to know Penny has been such a blessing to me.  Thank you Penny for sharing your story and your faith with all of us!

Do you have an Inspiring Woman in your life that you have honored with a post?  Leave us a link in the comment section!

11 comments:

Penny,  March 17, 2011 6:13 AM  

I am still so honored! Thanks so much for being my friend Cherie! You've blessed me and made my day!

pen

Hallee the Homemaker,  March 17, 2011 6:36 AM  

I loved reading this.

Hallee

Marci,  March 17, 2011 7:28 AM  

Penny- I have been following you journey and I am always inspired and encouraged by the way you are letting God use you. Thanks for sharing!

Mom,  March 17, 2011 9:00 AM  

Beautiful story of a strong woman.

Kami,  March 17, 2011 1:14 PM  

Penny, I knew John and have been following you since I saw you at the funeral. This is beautiful transparancy. I think John is nudging God saying "That's my girl, watch her go!"

Anonymous,  March 17, 2011 1:43 PM  

Penny is a beautiful woman. She was a blessing to John, our son, and continues to be a blessing to us as well as to all who meet her. You will do well to know her.

Papa Lou

Martha Brady,  March 17, 2011 3:16 PM  

enjoyed reading the interview. very encouraging:) i was surprised to see the parallels in our lives as i am wife of a "retired" pastor. i think the blunted ministry opportunities are what encouraged me to get seriously blogging. of course, i'm not in the arena of grief that you are. thanks for being open and vulnerable. our prayers are with you during this time of grief and major life adjustment.

Anonymous,  March 17, 2011 5:16 PM  

Penny, you are loved and admired for your strength, steadfastness, and humility. All that you do honors our Lord in an amazing way. Hugs to you ... Kathy Girgenti

Racheal Fernandez,  March 17, 2011 7:41 PM  

I am blessed and encouraged by Penny's story.Thank you for sharing your heart with us!
God Bless You,
Racheal

Joy,  March 17, 2011 11:55 PM  

Penny is such an inspiration. Her blog is a true ministry to others. I know I have been blessed by her posts. Definitely honored to call her a friend. Much love to you Penny!!

BARBIE,  March 18, 2011 1:26 AM  

I follow Penny's blog and absolutely love her. She is full of the strength and the peace of the Lord. Even in the midst of her pain, she is always reaching out and sharing her faith with others. I admire her so much!

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