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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

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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.

 

To be known

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CJ and I have a regular route that we walk and run together.  I’ve mapped this particular course #1 because it is a large circle, preferable when one is navigationally challenged, and #2 because it is exactly 2 miles and easy to calculate my efforts when I’m inclined to do so.  I noticed this distinctly marked driveway on the very first time around and it made me smile.  It still makes me smile every time I see it.  I suspect it is the result of an action without much forethought nor concern for what the local home owners association would have to say about it.   Just a young boy with a can of spray paint upon which the thought comes to mind to write his name.

I’ve wanted to photograph this signature for a while now but as it is private property and I intended to post the photo on the internet, I thought it wise to obtain permission lest I be considered some kind of creeper with a camera in the neighborhood.  I decided on my round with CJ Saturday morning that I would knock on the door and ask.  As I approached, however, there was no need to knock for the woman of the house was outside with her dog.  From the street I told her how every time I walk by her drive it makes me smile.  She warmly replied that her son had scrawled his name there years ago and while she felt she should probably do something to remove it and the now older teenage boy strongly encourages her to do so, she leaves it as is because it makes her smile, too.  She graciously permitted me to take the picture and I promised that I would drop by a copy of the blog once written.

One of my granddaughters is the age now that her son was when he made his mark.  She loves to write and gifts of paper and pen are always welcomed and treasured.  She writes her name and I love the perfectly imperfect way her letters and words form on the pages.  She writes little stories and draws pictures and writes simply for the love of writing, the strokes of the pen leaving an imprint of who she is now that will not be forgotten no matter the years that pass.  It is a bittersweet ache this grandmother’s heart feels as I watch her grow up faster than I would like.

It is not uncommon for children to write their names.  A lot.  On papers and tablets and books.  In the dirt with a stick or spelled out with rocks.  In the sand where the next waves will quickly wash it out to sea.  Carved in trees and picnic tables and more than a few desks.  And of course, the occasional driveway.

For some children perhaps it is a cry for help, a need for immediate attention.  But I think for the most part they are simply the declarations that  I was here.  This is me.  I am.   An unconscious, unemotional expression of the need to be known, a need we all have that deepens and most definitely becomes more emotional as we grow older.  We want others to know who we truly are, often before we even really know ourselves.  We sometimes seek relationships to complete us.  We enter professions where our talents and abilities can define us and accolades are our measure of who we are.  And while these things may bring a great deal of satisfaction and fulfillment it is not unusual to struggle with insecurities once left alone and all is quiet.  Who really knows us?  And if they did really know, would they still love us? Are me making our mark on this world in way that matters?

I think of how we look at our own children and see things they cannot see and know things they cannot know about themselves.  To know them is so much more than knowing what they do.  It’s recognizing the briefest of looks that crossed their face when no one else saw it.  It’s understanding their joys and pains when they have no words to describe them.  It is knowing that you’ve looked at that little face so many times you have every freckle memorized and would know if one should fade away.  And yet, we are still limited by our humanity when it comes to knowing another completely.

But there is One who knows.  He knew us before we were ever created in the womb.  He knows the very number of hairs on our head.  He calls us to come to Him as His children, unafraid in His presence.  We are fearfully made and unconditionally loved not because of what we do but for the simple fact that we exist.  We are accepted through Jesus as if we have never erred, sung and danced over with unadulterated joy in the heavens.  The impact we desire to make, the peace we search for, the fulfillment we long for is founded in a truth that is ours for the taking – we are known by Him.

 

To be known” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.

 

 

In her shoes

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I caught her eyes several times during the service.  She struggled to listen as she was surrounded by her four children and the activity that invariably ensues when two or more children are in close proximity.  The chapel is simply the dining area with most of the tables removed and only chairs in their place.  She sat at the back with the other mothers of busy children, concerned that they were a distraction but longing to hear anything that might expose a glimmer of hope.

Their faces are like open doors giving a glimpse into their hearts.  I can see some are simply there because it is a place to rest in the air conditioning, a break from the routines of responsibilities they don’t want to do in a place they don’t want to be.  They are disinterestedly polite.  Some smile and nod in agreement as my words confirm what they already know.  Others are so tired from the physical and emotional demands of the day that they nod in a different fashion.  Anger and frustration burn in the eyes of a few as there is no longer a pretense that they are fine even when they come to church.  Especially when they come to church.

She was the farthest from me but it’s as if I can see in her face a silent plea. “I’m hungry!  Feed me something that will last until tomorrow!  Give me more than empty platitudes and churchy phrases!  Please make it real.”  Across the room expressions without words reveal she is not alone in her desire.

Does she know that I see her?  Does she see in my eyes that she matters?  As I look from face to face I pray that the women who sit before me know they are seen.  I haven’t walked in their shoes on the paths they have traveled, but I see these, my fellow Egypt-wanderers.  I have no stones to throw.  We’ve traveled paths we never planned and feared we would never find our way home.  We’ve found our feet unable to move through the muck and mire of our own selfish choices.  We’ve fallen under the burden of someone else’s choices.  We’ve choked in the grips of trouble, desperate to believe there is more than this.  More to life than the struggle.  More to church than a list of do’s and don’ts and the fear of going to hell.  More to God than children’s stories and greeting card verses.

Can she hear me?  Can she fathom the depths of the Love offered her this night?  Can she imagine a life of freedom purchased through Grace where no condemnation speaks?  Can she believe the stirring in her soul is His voice compelling her to come to Him just as she is, loved and accepted?  Can she find the Hope that is her future?

I watch as she walks toward me.  She is tall and beautiful and tired and ready.  Ready to reach out to a stranger who has not walked in her shoes but will take her hand and perhaps point her toward the way out of Egypt.  We pray and hug.  She takes a bible.  There is so much I want to say but there is no time.  We smile and say goodbye.  We will probably never meet again.

God, take me to a place in prayer for her where there is no hint of opinion or judgement, no arrogance that thinks I know what she needs, no pride that considers myself any different as you have delivered me out of my own Egypt-wandering.  Remind me as I pray that I haven’t walked in her shoes.

I am the Lord your God, Who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.

Open your mouth wide and I will fill it. 

Psalm 81:10

In her shoes” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.

 

If you can kiss your elbow…

 

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Kylie and I were puttering around the house doing this and that and chatting away as we usually do. There is an ease to our conversations that pleases me.  We talk of the everyday and things of the future, particularly the much-anticipated swim party she will have for her birthday near the end of the summer. We talk of simple things and silly things and important things and sometimes things magical.

“When I was a little girl my grandmother told me that if I could kiss my elbow I would turn into a boy.”  I don’t remember what sparked this particular memory, but it still amuses me and thought it might amuse her as well.

“What??  Why did she tell you THAT?”  Not the response I’d expected.

“I don’t know.  But I tried and tried to kiss my elbow to see if it were true.”

“You wanted to be a boy???” this very girly-girl incredulously asks.

“I guess maybe I thought boys had more fun.  Or maybe I just wanted to see if it would work.  I suppose I believed that if turned into a boy I could kiss my elbow again and turn back into a girl…I don’t know…”   I tried to explain.

But even before the words had all escaped my lips, my brain realized that this conversation could have an entirely different meaning to this child if she is even remotely aware of what is happening in our world today.  Oh dear.  Do I just leave it alone, a little story that means nothing, hopeful that she will not remember?  I must say I was tempted to do exactly that.

What do you say to an eight year old about the headlines and the new stories when gender reassignment is now a reality rather than an impossibility?  I was wishing I’d never told the silly little story.  Without too many complex details, what do I tell her?  What do I really want her to know?

I want her to know that she is loved.  No matter what.

I want her to know that God knew her before her body was ever formed in her mother’s womb and that He has amazing plans for her life.

I want her to know that it is possible to live with God as the greatest influence in her life.

I want her to know that it is not the body that defines who she is, but rather her heart.

I want her to know that she will find her true identity in who He says she is.

I want her to know how to love others.  No matter what.

So I took the time to plant some seeds.  Seeds of love.  Seeds of confidence.  Seeds of truth.  Seeds of identity.  Seeds of trust.  Will she have questions about who she is as she grows up?  More than likely. Will she face struggles of confidence or fears?  Perhaps.  But I plan to be keep watering those seeds and teaching her how to find her answers in Him.

Jesus once asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  Not because He was confused, but had they received the revelation?  Did they really know His true identity?  Peter did and Jesus immediately told him that he could not have known except by the Holy Spirit.

The world is full of seeds.  Seeds of confusion.  Seeds of doubt.  Seeds of fear.  Seeds of hopelessness. It is a roller-coaster ride if this is our source of identification.  In our search for significance and the discovery of who we are, are we asking the right question of the right One?  We cannot truly know who we were created to be without His Spirit giving us revelation.

This is where we find the unshakable confidence in who we are.  This is where He reveals the purpose for our lives.  This is where our identities lie – in who He says we are.  But this is also where we lay down our own opinions and ideas.  This is where we abandon ourselves to whatever He wills, believing in His goodness and perfection.  This is where we die to self in order to experience really living.

Dare we ask of Him, “Who do You say that I am?

 

If you can kiss your elbow…” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photograph by Kay Stinnett and cannot be used without permission.

 

 

 

 

My Father’s Day outing

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Father’s Day I went to the cemetery.  I hadn’t been since the funeral and would not have thought to go on that particular day if my sister had not asked.  She and my brother were taking my mom and asked if I wanted to go.  So I did.

On the drive out to my mom’s it occurred to me that people usually take flowers or something decorative when visiting a cemetery.  The thought of me taking flowers to my father actually amused me, as he would think that ridiculous.  A watermelon would have been more to his liking but I suspected that others who may visit the nearby graves in the following days would not appreciate a rotting melon in the Texas heat.  So I took nothing.

I wondered how I would feel when we got there.  Emotions have always been difficult for me.  Not so much in that emotions are difficult to handle, but rather the fact that I don’t experience a lot of emotion that frequently.  I have often found myself feeling simply indifferent in situations where others were overflowing with emotion.  Awkward.  I’ve many times attempted to feign the appropriate emotion for the circumstances of the moment.  Even more awkward.  Having never been able to hide my feelings well, when there’s nothing there it comes across through the blank stare, and this just seems downright rude to those who are expecting a response.

This was the first time I had seen his headstone and it suits him.  It is plain and simple as he cared nothing about aesthetics; it serves the practical purpose of indicating his name, the span of his life, and the fact that this is where his body was buried.  I stood there for a few moments waiting for even a small hint of the emotions that others seem to experience at times like these.  Nothing.  No particular memories came to mind, no stirrings of grief or love that were any different from any other day.   Daddy wasn’t big on a lot of emotion anyways.  His bones lay buried but I know he is not there, so this visitation seems a bit contrived to me.  I imagined that  he was watching us from heaven and saying “Go home!”, an image that made me smile and that only those who knew him will understand.

My mom educated us on how it came about that these were the burial plots selected for them and the relationship of my dad to a few who were buried near.  Our conversations were all concerning matters of fact, which worked really well for me.  I’m better with facts than emotion.  I loved my father very much.  A love that was a fact and most certainly an emotion, but an emotion that was more just known than openly expressed.  It worked for me and him this way.

For many years I believed I was incomplete, that something terribly important was missing from my character in my inability to feel what others feel and my incompetence in expressing the things that I did feel.   Some things can be learned and I have developed over the years, becoming a better, more compassionate listener and communicator.  I said better meaning better than before, not necessarily great.  But some things cannot be learned.  You either have them or you don’t.  The times that I have met the emotional needs of another are the times that God has intervened to equip me with a supernatural ability for the moment.  And I am always so grateful.

So this visit to the cemetery had me thinking more of myself than my dad…one more thing that seemed inappropriate.  But if there was anything in this life that my daddy wanted for his children it was that they be confident in who they are.  My battle for self-acceptance was a hard-won victory, one that he got to see before he left this life and I knew he was proud, even if he struggled to express it.

I left the cemetery assured once again that I am who I am because of God’s wonderful grace and that my dad most certainly had a happy day watching us talk and laugh and love.