I love Autumn and I love this poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906).
It's all a farce,—these tales they tell
About the breezes sighing,
And moans astir o'er field and dell,
Because the year is dying.
Such principles are most absurd,—
I care not who first taught 'em;
There's nothing known to beast or bird
To make a solemn autumn.
In solemn times, when grief holds sway
With countenance distressing,
You'll note the more of black and gray
Will then be used in dressing.
Now purple tints are all around;
The sky is blue and mellow;
And e'en the grasses turn the ground
From modest green to yellow.
The seed burs all with laughter crack
On featherweed and jimson;
And leaves that should be dressed in black
Are all decked out in crimson.
A butterfly goes winging by;
A singing bird comes after;
And Nature, all from earth to sky,
Is bubbling o'er with laughter.
The ripples wimple on the rills,
Like sparkling little lasses;
The sunlight runs along the hills,
And laughs among the grasses.
The earth is just so full of fun
It really can't contain it;
And streams of mirth so freely run
The heavens seem to rain it.
Don't talk to me of solemn days
In autumn's time of splendor,
Because the sun shows fewer rays,
And these grow slant and slender.
Why, it's the climax of the year,—
The highest time of living!—
Till naturally its bursting cheer
Just melts into thanksgiving.
Today, I’m pleased to welcome Karen Pennington, lay minister, blogger, podcaster, and author. Karen, welcome and congratulations on your recent publication, An Anointed Mess, Discovering the Daily Adventure of Grace.
I just love that title. But before we talk about the book, will you tell us a little about yourself and your mission? You have such a fresh and down-to-earth approach to Scripture.
Thanks so much. I’m always grateful for the opportunity to share my story and my heart.
About me… I have a lot of words, but at the risk of sounding redundant, I could sum myself up using only two of them: anointed mess. I feel very flawed, yet beautiful. I have lots of issues, yet I sense and claim God’s favor upon my life. I am so messy that I can’t even tell you where my iron is, let alone the last time I used it. And yet God continually works this mess that is me into a masterpiece of a life. The key for me is to remember that it’s about God’s the artist. I’m just the paint.
To be more specific, I have four passions in life: The God of scripture, family, friendships and clearance sales, in that exact order. I currently live in Jamestown, NY with my husband of nearly 20 years and boyfriend of nearly 22 years (same guy), Ben. I still think he’s hot. We adore our daughter Ali and her husband Baker. And don’t even get me started on our granddaughter Amelia. She’s just about the best thing ever, or at least the best thing in 2,000 years.
Beautiful -- and I completely understand about grandchildren. They really are grand, aren't they?
I just finished listening to the latest episode of Daily Adventures in Grace. Your podcasts feel so warm, welcoming, and honest. They’re like a cozy chat with a friend and, like the best of chats, there’s always a valuable takeaway. Do you usually plan your podcasts or are they straight off the cuff? Is there one aspect of podcasting that is more challenging for you than others? I feel sure that for your listeners, the topics can be emotional – different ones for different people. Do your podcasts ever catch you off guard emotionally?
Thank you so much for saying that. I sometimes think of my episodes as a little messy, and I am never quite sure if that comes off as a good or bad thing to those who listen. But it’s important for what I offer to come off as 100% me.
I post every weekday, because my book claims that if we seek out the adventure of grace every day, then God will show it to us every day. So I felt the conviction to do just that. I do not think I have the right to challenge others to seek out God’s grace every day if I am not doing so myself.
I always do some sort of Bible study or devotions right before I record, but that is not always what affects the subject matter. Sometimes the episode content comes to me after a few days of thinking things through as studying, or even as a conclusion after years of study and thought on a matter. Sometimes I read or realize something just minutes before recording, and I get so excited about what God has revealed to me that I just have to share it right then and there. Sometimes- and this sounds crazy- I will pray and begin with nothing more than a sentence or two in my head, completely unsure of where God is taking me. Those are the times I pray a little extra before I hit the record button, and I am often just as surprised as anyone else would be at what God draws out of me. It truly is a daily adventure for me.
Your book, An Anointed Mess is uplifting, encouraging. How did you come up with the title? Was it the first one that came to mind? Like your podcast and blog, the tone is beautifully conversational and friendly. Please, share with us your heart’s feelings about this devotional. I ask because it’s clear your heart went into it.
You might find it interesting to know that I started the first manuscript of the book about 15 years ago. I thought I was done six months later, but God had more to write in me, and I had much more to learn. I thought at first I could use God’s Word to answer some of life’s tough questions. But somewhere along the line it became more about honoring the journey itself, and rather than trying to tidy up life’s chaos, I began to appreciate the mess.
I am not saying that we should not try to go through healing or seek out godly wisdom and understanding. But we don’t have to wait until our life’s problems are all solved (which does not happen on this side of eternity) to enjoy the grace and favor of God, nor to be used by God as an instrument of grace in others’ lives.
The book title changed about halfway through the process. I can remember two distinctive conversations. One friend once told me this: “We woman may be a hot mess, but at least we’re hot.” And someone else commented that I always seemed to be going through some sort of a struggle in life. I think that second comment was meant as an insult, but it inspired me to own my flaws. Right there something in me connected the mess with the miracle. In my mind I linked it with the original biblical concept of anointing, which literally means to pour oil all over the head of someone who has been set apart by God for a special purpose. That’s super messy. That’s extravagantly beautiful. That’s me! I want the book to help other gorgeously imperfect people see themselves there too.
Wow. Bravo! It's beautiful and brave of you to share yourself and your struggles in order to lift up and encourage others. Is there another book on the burner? Do you have special blogs, podcasts, or anything else planned for the holidays?
Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I have A LOT of words, and I use them often. I blog about once a week. I do Youtube posts, which I convert to podcasts, about five times a week. I post daily Scripture verses, midday quotes on weekdays, and a smattering of resources, shares and just plain silly thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkIn, along with the occasional pictures on Instagram and Pinterest.
I just wrote a short eBook devotional called “10 Healing Truths from God’s Word.” It is a free gift that I send out weekly to all new subscribers to my “Words of Grace” newsletter. This book forms the seeds of a longer, more in depth book I am developing called “Not Flawless, but Perfect: A Journey from Wholeness to Healing.” All of this, along with my personal contact information, can be found at my personal website, karenmariepennington.com.
It all sounds wonderful. Thank you.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this interview, I am just so grateful for the chance to share my story and my heart. Everybody’s story matters, and everyone’s life is an adventure, whether they know it or not. And God has amazing plans for everyone reading this. We just need to let God in.
Thank you for joining us today, Karen, and for the wonderful, generous work you do. May God bless you in all your endeavors.
An Anointed Mess: Discovering the Daily Adventure of Grace
by Karen Pennington
Whether our struggles seem big or small, life changing, or merely mildly annoying, we generally just want God to take them away. But what if we changed our mindset to instead seek God’s grace in the midst of these difficulties?
Author Karen Pennington considers grace the key to experiencing God’s victory, transformation, and peace in the everyday chaos as well as in the major life challenges. An Anointed Mess: Discovering the Daily Adventure of Grace will inspire you to not only seek God’s grace but also become a bearer of this heavenly gift, ultimately empowering you to manage life’s ups and downs with joy, faith, and integrity.
Karen beautifully weaves personal experiences with biblical parallels and common burdens of today that intimately connect us with one another, such as anxiety, forgiveness, weakness, shame, and control. Engaging and easy to read, An Anointed Mess will benefit the reader as either a personal devotional or a group study. Each chapter includes insightful questions encouraging you to discover how God’s Word and grace intersect with your own story.
Quotes from the book:
The Bible is the world’s largest anthology of seriously messed-up people.
I love that God’s Word does not merely outline a bunch of spotless, picture-perfect personalities and lifestyles that I could never attain.
But the landscape of life is far richer than the peaks and lows, and the Lord is the architect of it all.
We easily forget that the Lord has an extraordinary ability to bring about the most amazing results out of the most seemingly ordinary circumstances.
I believe that God can grant any of us victory and peace right within the struggle, while at the same time constantly moving us forward in grace.
As we learn to receive and live by God’s merciful power and plan, we become both witnesses to and bearers of heavenly grace.
In fact, it shatters the powers of darkness in unspeakable ways when we choose to persist as warriors praising and worshipping God even when our emotions and circumstances beg us to retreat.
We cannot in any way resemble God if we do not to some degree possess in our innermost core an intense yearning for what is good and right.
As we come to God openly and honestly with whatever we feel, God will be faithful to walk us through it all, and even to work it all for our good.
Sometimes it takes a total break to lead to complete healing and restoration.
Available at Amazon.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
A devotional blogger committed to seeking the excellence, fun, and wisdom of God in daily living, Karen Pennington also has written and published Christian magazine articles. Her career has centered on education and Christian ministry, including local, regional, and national lay ministries; curriculum development; and conference and seminar planning. Karen now enjoys substitute teaching and serving at her church. She and her husband, Bill, live in Jamestown, New York, and consider church and Sunday family dinners—with granddaughter Amelia (the light of their lives), daughter Aletha, and son-in-law Baker—the highlight of each week. Second to being in the presence of those she loves, Karen’s happy places are the beach and in the middle of a good clearance sale.
For review copies and media interviews, contact:
Slowly, slowly the world is illuminated,
silvery twilight revealing
all that was just hidden.
The veil of night, comforting or intimidating,
retreats to the other side of the earth.
What is revealed in me?
Has my darkness also retreated?
It should, for it is a new day.
Is it a gift or a challenge?
Surely, it’s both.
Twilight fades quickly.
The sun, in all its glorified glory,
tells me yes, this day is a gift
and a challenge set before me.
Firmly. Gently. With a smile.
I lift my coffee mug
in acknowledgement and acceptance.
I send up a prayer of thanks and petition.
The sky, all bright dawn, winks at me.
My heart lifts. Another day…
Keep me away from the wisdom that does not cry, the philosophy that does not laugh, and the greatness which does not bow before children. – Gibran Khalil Gibran