Penny's Story: "God has calmed my heart"

Penny’s UPDATE: DECEMBER 2018

“I had my spiritual awakening at the Julia Greeley Home in 2015 .. at Julia’s my faith grew strong and I was growing strong too.”

Penny came to the Julia Greeley Home in 2015 after a family breakup followed by homelessness and depression. Today she is in her own apartment, reconciled with family, and a straight A student at Community College of Denver.

Penny overcame her serious challenges with the help, guidance and spiritual support of the Julia Greeley Home and through our partnership with the Ward Family Foundation, which gave her a scholarship opportunity to continue her education at Community College of Denver.

Penny has made the most of every opportunity. Today she is completing her first semester at CCD with straight A’s as she works toward her degree in social work: “That will open me to do so many different things. Ultimately I would like to work in community mental health or a community clinic as a primary care provider working with the homeless and with people with mental illness and substance abuse issues.”

“I want to be able to advocate for others and share my story and be an inspiration for someone who is struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues.”

Penny has walked the walk —- and now she wants to lift up and inspire other women who follow her.

“It has been awesome — God is amazing. When His time is right, you just know it it,” Penny says. “Things fall into place. You say to yourself, ‘This isn’t something I’ve done, this is something I’ve done by the grace of God.”

WHEN PENNY CAME TO US AT JULIA’S IN 2015 ……

Imagine having an accident and going into a coma. When you wake up your husband is gone and he’s taken the kids.

That’s what happened to Penny. It was part of a long, rough road that led her in late 2016 to the Julia Greeley Home. Estranged from her family after her divorce, she was living a dreary existence in homeless shelters. Her caseworker suggested she try the Julia Greeley Home.

“I am so grateful my caseworker suggested this,” she says. At Julia’s she is healing from longterm depression and what she calls a “ high strung, controlling nature” that made her difficult to get along with people. 

“God has calmed my heart,” Penny says. “If I wasn’t here where would I be? Still living on the streets and struggling.”

She’s in school now and interested in a counseling degree, and considering an application to Julia’s scholarship program with the Ward Family Foundation.

One of Penny’s best memories so far at Julia Greeley Home was a festive New Year’s Day dinner. Penny had invited her father, who she had lived with after her divorce until they had a falling out. On the first day of 2017 they were trying for a new beginning. As residents and guests went around the table expressing wishes for 2017, her father said something she will never forget:

“My dad gave me the best compliment, he said how happy he was that I was here, and then he said, “I’m grateful that my daughter is here and not living on Colfax or in the snow!”

Residents and guests clapped, and her dad hugged her. 

It was a long time since she had reached out to family in that way.

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Penny’s accident changed everything.

“When I woke up from the coma I was told I was single again,” she says. “I had a very rocky marriage, and my husband couldn’t deal with it.” 

Penny was a “a California farm girl” “searching for success.” She thought she found it in her quiet, introverted husband who was in the Air Force. They moved to an Alaska military base; soon they had two kids, a boy and a girl. But parenthood couldn’t make up for the fact they were drifting apart. 

Even worse, she was developed a painful and serious case of colitis.

“I hadn’t been properly diagnosed, and I was dealing with trauma of it, not able to do anything,” Penny says. “I was unhealthy, sensitive, and crying.”  

The accident shattered everything. But two days before her birthday, she woke up from a 6-week coma without any lasting physical effects. “I give the glory to God,” she says. “He restored me.”

Although her husband had left, she credits her mother-in-law with introducing her to a relationship with Jesus Christ. Today she sees her relationship with her mother-in-law as part of God’s merciful plan.

“I wasn’t raised in a Christian home,” she says. Depression had blocked her from a relationship with God, and all she could think was, “Why did he toss me aside?” But when she recovered from her coma, “I think God got my attention with that.”

Today, Penny is looking ahead, not back. At Julia’s, she enrolled in school and wants to pursue a counseling degree. In Julia’s family style home she has daily opportunities to work on the character traits that used to alienate her from others: “Before I would have made everybody in the house miserable. Now I ask, “Hey, can we talk about that?’

Spiritual support is key, she says, and Penny cherishes the gift of a Bible, received by every resident at Christmas. “The Holy Spirit is giving me insight” Penny explains. No matter what the challenge, “I ask God,  I don’t know how to resolve this but you do.”

Penny adds, "I have a thirst to get closer to God. I want to be known as a person of integrity.”