Entering empty

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It’s New Year’s Eve. It’s not even 7pm and I’m in my pjs, trying to stay awake until a reasonable time to call it quits for the day. I will not see the ball fall in Times Square. I will not watch the clock until it ticks at midnight. I will not participate in any activities involving fireworks other than trying to drown them out in order to rest. I will not welcome the new year in any other way than a good night’s sleep. I hope.

My thoughts about the new year have been somewhat void of excitement. I have plans that are good and goals to be reached, but they remain factual in nature, currently lacking the enthusiasm I’ve had in past years. 2017 has been, quite possibly, the most difficult year of my life and I am spent. David and Paul of the Bible spoke of their lives being poured out in the noble efforts of serving God and teaching others. My actions do not compare to their sacrifices for the cause of Christ, but the words poured out resonate with me in this time of reflection.

This year provoked an onslaught of emotion that I wasn’t expecting and which seems now to have sucked the energy from my soul. I began the year tired and only seemed to grow more so with each month that came and went as the duties of my new job increased, peaking with absolute exhaustion by summer’s end. But my hopes for a restful fall season were washed away by a hurricane. Literally. Experiencing the storm was profound and the recovery was difficult and exhausting, both physically and emotionally.

Then Mama died. The depth of my sorrow knows no end, the vacancy in my life impossible to be filled by anything else, my mourning so heavy it is as if I can’t breathe.

However, if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that my feelings do not determine what is or is not real, and certainly do not dictate what lies ahead. The emotions themselves are real and serve a purpose I may or may not understand. I had the energy in my younger years to suppress and ignore them. Besides the completely unhealthy nature of that approach, now I simply am too tired to hold them at bay. They have overtaken me whether I wanted them or not. I trust hindsight will sooner or later bring insight.

I’m not afraid of the future. My faith is intact, my confidence is not shaken, my resolve to move forward is sure. I’m simply entering the new year empty.

I’ve spent the day resting and praying, acknowledging my vast need for my Savior all the more, assured that He will come through at the right time and fill me once again with an enthusiasm for life. But for now, it’s ok to be empty. It’s enough to rest. Enough to be still and know He is God. It’s not a bad way to start a new year.

Psalm 46:10

Goodnight and Happy New Year!

 

Entering emptywas written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

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Her hands

mom's handAs agonizing as this photograph is for me, it is equally precious. I’ve photographed her many times, but trembled this day as I captured the image of her hand, our hands together, one last time. I don’t remember the days when I was small and she reached to hold my hand for guidance, protection, and comfort. As I reached for her hand this time, I don’t know if she knew I was there or not. And as much as I hoped she felt comforted by my touch, I know I was desperately grasping for my own comfort more.

Her hands became to me more beautiful with age. Except for the limitations presented by a weaker physical body, she really didn’t mind being old. She wore it gracefully. She would scoff at that statement as graceful is not a word she would have ever used to describe herself. For the better part of her life she remained always more a tomboy than a lady, strong and capable of doing things the average woman never considers. But she was graceful. She was full of grace.

DSC_0275_edited-1These are the hands I will remember. Hands that worked hard but were often gently folded in prayer. Hands that yielded plenty of discipline when needed but always provided the love that buffered any punishment imposed. Hands that were dampened with countless teardrops as she faithfully prayed over our lives, growing in her own faith with every silent word. I can’t remember ever hearing her pray aloud. That just wasn’t her. But I remember seeing her pray in silence throughout my life and that image taught me much.

It’s funny the things that make an impression. How the memory of something so simple, something that would normally be perceived as mundane, becomes something intimate and powerful to those who see its beauty. We are walking this grief road together, my siblings and I, past the difficult decisions that had to be made, now taking the time to share the little things in an effort to process the immense loss we feel.

The following is from one of my sisters:

Sorting Beans (2)“Physically, I never resembled Mother in any way that people took note of, but, especially as I have aged, I have noticed hand gestures that mimic hers. I was handling things pretty well today, but then I went to start a pot of pinto beans. When my hands pat out the beans on the counter to sort them, they are her hands. Today I couldn’t help but wonder how many thousand dried pinto beans her hands touched over the years. I don’t know when she quit cooking beans, but it was well after I left home. The patting the beans flat on the counter and sorting out the dirt clods, rocks, and bad beans was a ritual that I must have watched her do hundreds of times throughout my childhood. Today it made me cry.” 

Oh how we miss her.

 

Her hands” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photographs by Kay Stinnett and Judy Webb and cannot be used without permission.

 

A few things she taught me

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  • To say “yes, Ma’am” and “no, Ma’am” as an expression of respect, not an indication of age…
  • How to sew
  • That church was important
  • How to make a delicious pound cake
  • That good posture was important
  • How to sew a garment so that the inside looks almost as good as the outside
  • That manners are important, particularly at the dinner table
  • How to whistle loudly
  • That never saying “I told you so” is mercy in silent action
  • That just because you’re the mom doesn’t mean you are always the mediator
  • That family is important because everyone doesn’t have what we have
  • To be grateful because everyone doesn’t have what we have
  • That following Jesus means serving others even when it’s hard, inconvenient, and uncomfortable
  • To see people, not colors or culture
  • To be strong
  • To laugh at myself
  • That silent prayers are powerful
  • To live with purpose
  • To not fear death
  • To love

I expect she will continue to teach me still more in her absence ♥♥

 

A few things she taught me” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

She finished well

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It’s 5 am and I can’t sleep. I’ll share at her grave site today. I’ve struggled to find the words. How do you define a life in a few moments? How do you utter a sound when you feel as if you can’t even breathe? How can you put love into syllables when it is has so profoundly shaped who you’ve become? How do you convey the essence of one who never wanted to be the center of attention yet whose absence has caused your world to spin off axis?

My favorite thing about her is that her understanding of being a Jesus-follower was that it was a life of action. She lived with purpose. For many, many years that purpose was to care for her children. Five souls she considered her precious priority during a time when money was sparse, responsibilities were endless, and she was still coming to know who she was herself. Those were not easy years and there were many tears but she laughed more than she cried and that is what we remember, as do so many who have shared with us the past few days. Her laugh was full and contagious, evidently easily recognizable as people now say they hear her when her children laugh. It’s a good memory.

Life dealt her many a blow, each of which caused her only to adjust and move forward, never to give up. She often didn’t have the answers when we would come to her with the latest problem life had presented to us, but she’d lived in such a way before us that we could believe in her confident assurance that life would go on and life would still be good. She had dreams that were never realized and when those dreams died she simply made new ones. I loved that about her.

She loved large, a risk she gladly took over and over. She loved well beyond the walls of our home and as is the case with all who love easily, she suffered heart ache when love wasn’t enough and relationships failed. Yet she kept her heart tender and chose to love again and again. Because that’s what Jesus does.

She had no poker face, no pretense about her, and she hated flattery. She was highly opinionated and you learned quickly never to ask her what she thought if you didn’t really want to know what she thought! Oh, she would be as kind as she could with her words, but you might need to buckle your seat belt before you asked. I can’t say I always appreciated this particular trait, but I grew to gladly expect and depend on it. She and Daddy shared this characteristic, so if you’ve met me or my siblings perhaps this explains a lot…

She served gladly because that’s what love does. At home, at church, at the nursing home, in the quilting group, wherever she could. She lived her faith and took every opportunity she could to share it. Never pushy, just confident. Because love believes in sharing the best in life and she had no greater joy than her relationship with God. Her children were a very close second.

She forgave. Not always easily because some things just take time. But she was determined to live a life of forgiveness and would pursue it until her soul was at peace. She walked away when needed but refused to carry unforgiveness with her. She learned to guard her heart which is not an easy task when you love like she loved.

Our “thing” the last 10 years has been to go get our hair done together. I would pick her up and we would drive to Beaumont to meet my sister for lunch and then have her do our do’s. Our car conversations throughout the years covered just about every topic you can imagine a mother and daughter might discuss. Except politics. Never politics. Not because we disagreed, but more because it wasn’t how we wanted to spend our time. Occasionally, she would share her “I should have…” and “I wish I had…”s with me, particularly pertaining to what she felt she had missed doing for us or giving to us. It was always countered with my assurances that she had done a good job as a mom and we were happy, not lacking in any good thing from her.

When Daddy was dying, he apologized to her for all the things he didn’t do, expressing his “I should have…” and “I wish I had…”s to her. She quickly stopped him with these words “No regrets.” She had none. She had loved him deeply, forgiven him any offenses years ago, and held nothing but appreciation for all that he had done. Because that’s what love does.

As I walk through this sorrow I feel regret lurking. My mind has raced with all the “I should have…” and “I wish I had…”s, even before she was gone. As she lay in the hospital bed I must have told her “I love you” 100 times. I knew that she knew I loved her, but can you really ever tell someone too many times? Oh how I want to look in her face one more time and tell her! But I know what she would say to me right now if she could: “No regrets.” She decided a long time ago that any failure or offenses her children may produce would be forgiven. It wasn’t on a case-by-case basis. It was decided. It was done. And I think she came to this decision long before she realized it was exactly what God had done for her. She wants her children to live free from regret. Because that’s what love does.

Several years ago I published a post about her entitled An unfinished life. She was still getting around independently and fulfilling her purpose. She delighted in knowing that God still had things for her to do and she took His call very seriously. She was faithful in this labor of love until she died. This reminds me that no matter how we started or how we may have messed up the middle, it is how we finish that matters.

She finished well.

 

She finished well” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

If you would like to read the previous post, An unfinished life, please use the search feature on this page to find it.  

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am thankful

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This picture makes me happy. And thankful. It doesn’t reveal much but it represents just shy of 191 years of life. Our lives. Four generations still living and laughing and loving and venturing out on a beautiful day to have our photographs taken. Photographs that will hang on our walls or lie close at hand in albums (yes some of us still have those), reminding us how blessed we are.

I wonder if I’ve done enough (says every mother on the planet) as a daughter, a mom, a grandmother. Am I passing on the important things? The funny stories? The wisdom gleaned from familial struggles overcome? Am I taking the time to make lasting memories? Am I looking in their faces and making my own indelible memories of lines and details and expressions of who they are, these loves of mine?

We’ve argued and angered and disappointed and forgiven. We’ve screamed (well, only two of us) and cried and laughed and given grace. We’ve ignored and listened and worried and prayed. We’ve prayed a lot. We’ve frustrated and helped and hoped and healed. Mostly we’ve loved. And I am thankful.

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We weren’t the only ones at this lovely park. Countless teenagers dressed to the nines were there having their photographs taken as well, homecoming pictures or something of the sort. Little do they know the moments that seem so important at that age are seldom truly memorable. Our movement among them was slow, Mom taking her time and resting when needed, perhaps provoking a few questioning looks as we waited in line behind the teens for the choice spots. How could they possibly know the meaning of the four of us together?

When do you learn the meaning of this kind of love? When you hold that newborn? When you look into the eyes of that grandbaby? When you beg time to slow down as your little one grows too fast for your liking? When your grown child falls into your arms, bruised and broken? When you sit with your arm underneath your mom so the hospital bed will be tolerable? When you linger around the table, tears streaming from laughter, unable to imagine life without them?

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It won’t always be like this. There won’t always be the four of us together on this earth. But there will always be this love. And I am thankful.

 

I am thankfulwas written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photographs by Andie Campbell and cannot be used without permission.

 

Even the high places have rocks

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There are times getting away is an absolute necessity. The weariness of months of almost non-stop activity became unbearable when the hurricane blew into my life. It left me empty and broken and hurting, precariously hanging by the proverbial thread. So in the middle of duties undone and responsibilities unfulfilled, I took time off. I have family in the foothills, so in my need of deep soul healing and rest I made arrangements for a visit. And while there I went to a high place to meet with God.

Compared to living in an area that isn’t that much higher than sea level, just about any place you go is a high place. The high places of the bible, however, were not necessarily defined by elevation. They were places designated for worship, for meeting with God. Jesus changed that by giving us His Spirit to dwell within, but there’s still something to be said for finding a way to meet with God in your own high place. A place where intentional worship will occur. Worship that is free to be messy and frustrated and tearful and even angry if that’s what needs to be dealt with. I believe the greatest worship we offer God is our attention, acknowledging He is, fearlessly coming to Him with no pretense that we are anything but who we are in that moment.

I found a place beside still waters where I set up “camp” – my folding chair, my blanket, my bible and journal, and of course, my coffee. I had determined to stay until I heard God. It was a perfect day with cool temps, a bright blue sky, low mountains in the distance. I sat for a while just taking it all in. The beauty of nature has always moved me and this day was no different. Combine that with the events that preceded this escape and the tears flowed readily. I knew it shouldn’t and couldn’t be rushed, this seeking of answers from God.

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I’d opened my bible to Isaiah without a lot of forethought, flipped through the pages and stopped at the first thing I saw highlighted – “but those who wait for the Lord…” (40:31). I wasn’t even giving it much thought when I looked up and saw three bald eagles effortlessly moving above. If you are not familiar with the rest of that verse, it speaks of renewing your strength and soaring as eagles. God’s good that way, you know?

I knew this time wasn’t going to be one of lengthy bible passages or deep, wordy prayers, but rather just “being still and knowing”. I got up to walk along the edge of the water, exploring the view surrounding me. Now, if you’ve ever been in a mountainous area you know you there are rocks. Lots of rocks. To walk along a shoreline every step must be strategic lest you want to face plant on the stones or take a tumble into the waters. Honestly, I’d rather walk on pristine white sand with clear blue water washing in waves over my feet, mindlessly moving along, not having to measure every step. It’s hard to walk on rocks.

We have a tendency to think that if we’re obedient, if we’re following where God leads, if we keep our hearts right and strive to learn and grow, the walk will become smoother, easier. And it does. But there will always be rocks. There will always be people He brings into our lives that grate on our nerves. There will be responsibilities that He calls us to that are difficult and frustrating. There will be challenges as He moves us into the uncomfortable. There will be pressures demanding action and questions He seems to be slow to answer. There will be rocks.

I returned to my chair, picked up my bible, and begin to skim the next few verses. One phrase was repeated several times and caught my attention “…I will help you…”  I’ve had some wonderful times with God in the past when many words were exchanged and I was led to intense study. This was not one of those times. The four words of that phrase brought me more peace than I’d experienced in months. There were details I still wanted Him to speak to, situations for which I still needed His counsel, wounds that needed to be healed. But this day it was enough to know He would help me. This day was to worship amid the rocks in the high place.

 

Even the high places have rocks” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

 

Led to brokenness

broken pottery*Kintsugi

Brokenness. No one wants to be there. We run from it. We try to protect ourselves. We try to hide. We often avoid those who are there, not knowing what to say or do. Human suffering is hard to see, hard to enter into with another, hard to bear. But sooner or later we are there ourselves, like it or not.

There is quite literally brokenness all around me right now – the piles of debris are slowly being removed, and what is left remains broken and empty. Lives have been turned upside down and there are no answers as to where the displaced can go, where will they work, how will they pay for their losses. Thousands of lives in limbo and I feel helpless to affect. My contributions seem but a drop in an endless sea of anguish and I am fighting the paralysis that inevitably settles in after intense crisis efforts have passed and the day-to-day tries to resume. I am at a loss as to what to do next. And I am not alone.

My frustration increases daily in this state of doing little, yet I find that I busy myself more with the mundane rather than get seriously alone with God. I know I need to. I know that is where I will find the answers I need. It is in His presence I will find joy and peace and rest. So what’s the hesitation? I know He will lead me to brokenness. I can go there voluntarily or continue an attempt to resist. But I will go there.

There is much to learn about Jehovah-Rohi, the Lord Who heals, when life leaves us wounded and broken. Psalm 147:3 assures us “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” and He calls us to Himself for exactly that. But what about those times He takes us into brokenness? We don’t hear much about that.

There is a surrender required in order to be filled. I cry out for more of Him – more understanding, more intimacy, more revelation – but room must be made for this more that I want. My will involved in any level of “self-preservation” must be broken if He is to be what others see in me. It’s not a new thing, just ask Jacob or Moses or Jonah or Peter. Or Jesus. He made it very plain –

For whoever wishes to save his life [in this world] will [eventually] lose it [through death], but whoever loses his life [in this world] for My sake will find it [that is, life with Me for all eternity]. Matthew 16:25 (AMP)

My opinions, my emotions, my desires, and even my own heartache, all must be laid down before Him in an act of obedient surrender. Dying to self. Not allowing self to dictate the steps of my life, but rather yielding to the brokenness that will cause my every natural impulse to become secondary to His. His Spirit within me longs for this brokenness to take place because He desperately wants me to experience Him at a new level. So I will yield. I will be broken. And I will be changed, reminded once again that it’s going to be worth it all.

*Translated to “golden joinery,” Kintsugi (or Kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair”) is the centuries-old Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Beautiful seams of gold glint in the cracks of ceramic ware, giving a unique appearance to the piece. Since its conception, Kintsugi has been heavily influenced by prevalent philosophical ideas. Namely, the practice is related to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, which calls for seeing beauty in the flawed or imperfect. The repair method was also born from the Japanese feeling of mottainai, which expresses regret when something is wasted, as well as mushin, the acceptance of change.

Kintsugi kinda sounds like Jesus.

Led to brokenness” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

*Photograph & text taken from http://mymodernmet.com/kintsugi-kintsukuroi/