Christian, Encouragement, Faith, family, God, grace, grief, Jesus, loss, love, mothers, peace, sorrow, Uncategorized

Finishing 2018

mom's quilt4

My mother was a quilter and this is one of the many, many quilts she made. In going through her things last year we discovered several quilts on which she had never finished the edges. They were pinned and basted and ready but never completed. I have a couple of theories:

#1 She didn’t like finishing the edges. For whatever reason, she enjoyed the cutting and piecing and quilting but not the last step of finishing. In comparison to the creativity of the previous efforts, finishing seemed tedious.

#2 She was a perfectionist (this is fact, not theory). However, I strongly suspect that these unfinished edges were a grade of sorts that the perfectionist in her gave to her own efforts, grades that were low enough to deem the project unworthy to be finished. Hours and hours of labor that didn’t measure up to the expectations she had of herself, doomed to be hidden away for years, never displayed.

mom's quilt5

She was always meticulous in her work but if we looked closely we could see the progression of her skills as we compared the treasures we found, the early ones with more markings as guide lines and only slightly unequal stitching. The later ones neared perfection, every stitch seemingly measured with impressive consistency. Works of art.

mom's quilt2

She went as far as to baste the edges. Basting stitches are intended to keep the edges in place until the finishing work is done then they are removed. Basting stitches don’t need to be evenly spaced or pretty or even in the correct color thread because they are temporary. They serve an important purpose but are not a part of the finished look.

mom's quilt3

Now I’m finishing these quilts. I like the finishing part. I always have. Yet with as many projects that I have finished there’s still one thing that gives me grief every single time: corners. I know how to make them but I inherited my mother’s perfectionist tendencies and thus my increased frustration with the outcome. I find myself folding and tucking and pinning, unfolding, refolding, tucking some more and, well, you get the picture. But in the end the wrinkles and folds and tucks will settle in beneath the final stitches and the corners will look just right.

Kind of like finishing this year. 2017 was The Year of Difficulties. 2018 has been The Year of “In the Feels”. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions with speeds I hadn’t anticipated, both fast and slow, breathtaking drops that left me gasping for air, and now a slow approach to the end of this year’s ride. I’ve experienced an intensity and depth affecting my soul like no other time in my life. I felt like my heart got folded and tucked and pinned, unfolded, refolded, and tucked some more. You get the picture.

If I look closely at 2018 now I can see how I’ve progressed. But there were times throughout the year that all I felt I was doing was holding it together. It wasn’t pretty and I languished over my seeming lack of progress. Motivation was erratic and very unevenly spaced. Productivity was inconsistent with many days of just going through the motions. But these times were temporary, not intended to be a permanent part of the finished work.

It’s been a good year as God put things on hold while He took me step-by-irritatingly slow-step through facing the aftermath of the heartaches of the previous year. Dreams and plans were shelved while another lesson in resting took place: Healing can’t be rushed. And the process isn’t all sunshine and rainbows even though you know you’re on the right road. I would have much preferred God let me leave the difficulties hidden away in the closet of another year gone, never to be displayed. Instead, emotions swept in without warning, often at the most inopportune times, many most times leaving me embarrassed at my inability to completely control hide them. Like the inconsistent stitches of the beginning quilter, my steps through grief and brokenness didn’t look like what I wanted, didn’t measure up to the expectations I had of myself.

But here I am at the end of the year experiencing the ease of healing taking place, the self-forgiveness over unmet expectations, and the hope that comes with the turning of a simple calendar page. I know God is not doing what He does based on our measurement of time but there is something about a new year beginning that feels a lot like grace. A chance for a do-over. A chance to make changes. A chance to let go of mistakes. A chance to believe that a new year will bring new and better things.

I may think that 2018 didn’t look as good as I would have liked but I will finish it well. The lessons learned were worth the struggle and turn it into an eternal work of art. And those corners? The wrinkles and folds and tucks will settle in beneath these final stitches and they will look just right.

I pray you find the hope of Jesus Christ in the new year. Happy New Year!!

Finishing 2018” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Quilt by Sammy Stinnett, my mom.

 

Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, Uncategorized

The promise of a reward

endurance

This was my beach vacation read. It’s not the usual relaxing kind of tale one might enjoy while lounging by the ocean, but it was actually quite interesting. You see, I’ve signed up to run a half marathon and I needed some encouragement that I would actually be able to do it! It worked. I found it quite informative and motivating, and full of training tips that I was sure I could implement. So I began to form my plan. It seemed so simple.

It actually is a simple plan but I’m finding it harder to implement than anticipated. The core principle is to run at a pace at which your heart rate will remain within the recommended beats per minute based on your age and fitness level. Once you’ve strengthened your aerobic system through this training method you’ll be able to run faster and increase distance while still maintaining a lower heart rate. I have a wonderful sports watch which tracks just about everything you can imagine and I set the format to monitor not only distance covered and time elapsed but heart rate also. Again, it seemed so simple.

Enlightened with the new information, I set out on my first run with a fresh focus: watch my heart rate. This proved to be quite challenging. Besides trying to remember that was the focus, the pace at which I was having to run seemed off. It was much slower than the pace I’d achieved and been able to maintain in the weeks prior. And while I had been able to run faster in those weeks, the recovery period lasted much longer because the runs would completely wipe me out.

One would think it would be easier to go slower. Not really. My body kept falling into the faster pace I’d established previously, then when I’d check my heart rate I’d have to slow down. This cycle repeated itself for miles. Nothing felt right about it, none the least of which was my bruised ego. I could almost walk as fast as I was “running”. It felt like a setback.

The struggle continued for weeks as I worked to establish some level of consistency. Most runs ended with a modicum of satisfaction from having completed a run, but precious little otherwise. I’ve wondered if signing up for the half marathon was such a good idea after all. I don’t really like this new training method, but I’m doing it because it promises a reward: greater endurance.

As He often does, God has turned this training time into much more than how fast I can run or a consistent heart rate. It’s no big secret that I’ve been frustrated for months, just ask my husband. I’ve blamed most of it on events of last year that were just hard. And they were. But God’s taken me deeper into the examination of the frustration to see that I’m still trying to get through life pushing myself to go harder and faster and do more, but it’s not working. He’s slowing me down, training me at a new pace, developing new patterns. I don’t really like it but I’m doing it because He promises a reward: greater endurance.

If genetics are a determining factor, I’m destined to live quite a few more years. I can’t expect to continue the unhealthy cycle of pushing myself to exhaustion then shutting down to recover if I expect to make it through the years ahead and actually enjoy them!  This year has been very much about self-care, finding healing for my soul, rediscovering hope, and committing (again) to faithful obedience – to follow Him, doing whatever He may ask, even if it means going slower. I want to finish my life well, like Paul – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:7) – and hope in the end to hear Him say “Well done.”

Oh, and my running performance? Going farther at a faster pace already. Half marathon, here I come!”

The promise of a reward” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

The Endurance Handbook and many other resources beneficial to health and fitness can be found at https://philmaffetone.com. Check it out!!

 

 

 

 

Bible, Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, sorrow, Spiritual, Uncategorized

times of refreshing

If only it were as easy as one click.

refresh-animated   https://kayslife

…so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, restoring you like a cool wind on a hot day…

But here I am, still processing.

Image result for processing gifI knew that healing and restoration would take time and I began the new year with plans to slow down and let it take place. But I didn’t think it would take this long. I didn’t think it would be this hard. I didn’t know it would bring my soul to a complete stall. I looked up the definition of stall: …stop running, typically because of an overload… Yeah, that just about sums it up.

I’m thinking today of the Israelites of old and how it must have been when the prophets had nothing to prophecy because God was silent. Normally, I don’t mind silence. Perhaps this time is to take me into a deeper level of listening. It is definitely a season where standing in faith has taken me to new depths. What did the Israelites do during those silent years? They kept on doing what they were doing the last time He spoke. Or they didn’t. I can understand how at times they strayed from their faith, feeling God was too distant, uncaring toward their struggles, desperate to hear His words of deliverance. I’m tempted often to throw that pity party.

It’s not that I haven’t heard Him speak. I have. But I am longing to hear something more than “be still” or “not yet”. I want “…and suddenly a sound came from heaven like a rushing violent wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting…” to shake things up a bit.

Normally, I don’t mind getting permission to take it easy either. For a little while. Being highly achievement motivated, however, makes this longer-than-anticipated season a struggle. I’ve started running again which is good and gives me momentary satisfaction in accomplishments. But I can’t outrun the sorrow that still weighs on my heart. Many days it still clouds my vision and drains my energies and I just want to move on.

There was no rush to the morning so I sat on the balcony in the sultry air to watch the sun rise above the trees and read my devotional. It began “Come to Me, My weary one…” and ended with this –

“I want you to know that I approve of you and I approve of rest. When you relax in My Presence, trusting in my finished work on the cross, both you and I are refreshed.”

And there He was, like a cool wind on a hot day, refreshing me with His Presence and His promise that more times of refreshing are coming. I hope you found refreshment in His Presence today, too.

 

times of refreshing” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Scripture references: Acts 3:20, 2:2, Matt 11:28

Devotional excerpt from Jesus Always by Sarah Young

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian, Encouragement, Faith, God, Spiritual, Uncategorized

What it’s not

giphy

Having recently radically changed my eating habits, I’ve experimented with numerous recipes in an effort to satisfy my desire for the now prohibited carbs – bread, grains, etc. Obviously, the first step was to Google low-carb recipes – I had no idea how many ways cauliflower could be used! I like cauliflower so I’ve made cauliflower bread, cauliflower pizza crust, and cauliflower muffins, roasted cauliflower, baked cauliflower, and steamed cauliflower, all of which have been quite tasty. My husband even likes most of them and he hates cauliflower. But let’s get something straight – no matter how you chop it, process it, season it, or cook it, cauliflower “rice” is not rice. Ever. It’s just not. I want it to be. I keep trying different methods but all fail to fulfill my expectations. I don’t mind the flavor of this poor substitution and would settle for even a slightly similar texture. Still a no. It can best be described by what it’s not. It’s not rice.

Looking back over the past few years it’s easy to see when I began to slack on really taking care of myself. I can blame it on many things such as an unexpected move, living a year in “temporary” mode, a new job with new responsibilities, taking care of my mom, a hurricane, etc. There are other outward factors I could list but you get the idea. Lots of changes occurred and I made it to the other side but with a bit of a dark cloud still hanging over me.

With my new year’s focus on better self-care I am striving to once again make Sundays a true day of rest – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s been challenging, but I’m determined! The plan is to come home from morning services, change into something comfy, climb into bed with my bible and journal and see what happens. Some days I just sleep. Other days are study and journaling. Some days are just relaxing and reflecting.

It was on one of those days of reflection that God led me to examine the real reason my little black cloud was still looming above: resignation. During that season of many changes that were not a part of my grand plan, I resigned myself to the belief that certain things in my life would never change. “It is what it is” became an internal mantra, a coping mechanism to just get through it all. I called it “accepting those things I cannot change” and hoped that if it worked for Reinhold Niebuhr, this acceptance would work for me. But God being always attentive to the condition of my soul wanted to take me deeper. He began by reminding me of another “what it’s not” that I’d heard many years ago:

Trust is not stoop-shouldered, foot-dragging, sighing resignation.

Now my mom put a high importance on good posture and those threats to strap a board on my back if I didn’t stand up straight worked on me! But inwardly I saw that I was walking through life stoop-shouldered. Forward progress seems impossible when you see very little hope so foot-dragging becomes the norm (another thing that seriously irritated my mom). And sighing. There was lots of sighing.

God gave me the mental image of a teeter-totter, or seesaw, as we called them as kids. The fulcrum was my Faith and the balance point was Acceptance. One one end of the plank which lay atop my faith was Trust. On the other end was Resignation. He showed me that Acceptance can go either way and led me to look up the actual definitions of trust and resignation:

Trust – firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something

Resignation – the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable

At the same time I was living in my stoop-shouldered, foot-dragging, sighing resignation I was also proclaiming my faith and trust in Him. But I didn’t really trust Him. I didn’t have a firm belief in His reliability that these negative experiences and circumstances in my life would have purpose. I didn’t really trust that He would work anything good for me through these unsatisfying conditions, so I chose acceptance. Acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable. Sigh. Living without hope, even if it’s only in certain areas of your life, is hard. I was like Solomon “So I say, “My strength has perished, And so has my hope from the LORD”* but with a tone like Eeyore “It’s all for naught.” More sighing.

Once again God brought me to a place of choosing: trust or resignation? I can’t have both and call it faith. Trust offers hope – the expectation of good, the very opposite of resignation. It doesn’t seem like a hard choice, hope is ALWAYS better than despair, but it takes effort. It takes a willingness to return to fervent prayer over those things I’d left in my pit of self-pity. And once again, I chose to trust that He is faithful and just and has greater things in store than I can possibly imagine. He is God. He is worthy of my trust.

Quite frankly I’d rather live a life in hope with the risk of never seeing my dreams realized than to continue on in stoop-shouldered, foot-dragging, sighing resignation, for how can I accomplish my purpose of leading others to Him? No one wants to follow resignation. And that little black cloud? Dissipated in the presence of Hope.

*Lamentations 3:18

What it’s not” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

children, Christian, church, Encouragement, Faith, family, God, gospel, Jesus, loss, Spiritual, Uncategorized

We are they

He stood in front of me, his small frame literally quivering with energy. I knelt down so that we could be face-to-face as I welcomed him into the large group and helped him find a seat. He sat barely long enough for his feet to leave the floor before he got up, excitedly asking me if I knew who Voltron was and did I have a Voltron at my house? I told him I did not which seemed to concern him. But then, everything seems to concern or interest him. All the time. He must be the most animated and expressive and energetic young boy I have ever met!

It was about time to begin so I pulled him and his sister away from each other and toward me. Again, face-to-face, I tell them how happy I am they are there, but it’s time to take our seats and leave each other alone. Between every few words I am reminding them to look at me while we talk. This proves to be quite challenging as the ceiling, the carpet, the other children, and my bright pink nail polish are just too enchanting. I’m explaining to them that it will only be a few minutes they must sit before going to their class when he looks me straight in the eyes, completely focused. I’m feeling a measure of success as I finally have his attention and will surely have him seated soon. He’s leaned in so that we are almost nose-to-nose when I notice his expression – his brows are deeply furrowed and his eyes reveal what can only be described as alarm.

“Why are your eyes cracked???” he asked.

“What?”

“Your eyes are cracked!! I can see the red cracks!”

“Ohhhh…”

Yeah, he was focused all right. Hadn’t heard a word I’d said. I’m quite certain this little one is going to provide me a lot of writing material!

He, like many of the children I see each week, has the blessing of a good home and family that will teach him and train him to be a good person. They will invest in his character development as they eat and play ball and watch superhero movies together. He has generations of Jesus-followers who will love him and guide him, pray for him and with him. Oh, they will worry and wonder often what to do with all this energy, but they will exercise their faith, discern his gifts, and feed his soul with good.

But what about the others? The children who don’t have that.

xxx-police-tape-generic-photo

I am sick over the happenings of the last 10 days. Another school shooting. The news and every form of social media offer us multitudes of opinions, supposed solutions and blame. Lots of blame. Surely someone is to blame. Something is to blame. Let me blame some person, or people group, or organization, or corporation, or anyone or anything that will make me feel better, let me off the hook, because what could I possibly have done to prevent this?? THEY failed. THEY didn’t do what they were supposed to do. THEY should have stopped him!!

What if WE are THEY?

We didn’t know that shooter. We had no impact on him as a person. And that is sad. But what if we decided to influence our world proactively in an effort to thwart evil before it has a chance to take seed in the life of a young person? What if we invested in the lives of the children around us, in our neighborhoods and communities? What if we actually decided to live out the call of the gospel with a focus on young families, taking them under our wings to love and encourage them, being their “village” as they raise their children?

What if we stepped up to serve before someone came to beg for help? What if we sought out the places children gather so we could be Jesus to them, loving them and helping them become good people? What if we, God’s people, showed up in our churches and schools and community centers and civic clubs so often we would have to wait in line to serve? What if we sacrificed that hour of sleeping later on Sunday mornings and spent that time helping to teach little ones, or skipped the 2 hour movie we’ve seen over and over and invited a young family for dinner? What if we dared to volunteer in the activities hosted for teens so that we could reach that one whose family isn’t open to our offer of friendship, the one who’s afraid of an empty future? What if we actually believed that God has called us to serve, to help those in need, realizing that there is no greater need in the lives of our children, all children, than to know they are loved and that God has good plans for them?

We are they.

There are things to be done. Are you serving? There is no Jesus follower retirement plan. We are called to serve others until He calls us home. We can dare to step out of our apathy and complacency and into actions that have eternal value, here and now. This is how we give hope to the children, teens, and families of our day and time who are surrounded by the same evil reports you and I are struggling with. This is how we change our world.

…let us not love merely in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth – in practice and in sincerity. 1 John 3:18

We are they” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

death, Encouragement, Faith, family, grace, grief, loss, love, mothers, prayer, tears, Uncategorized

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.

 

children, death, Encouragement, Faith, family, friends, God, grace, grief, Jesus, loss, love, mothers, sorrow, tears, Uncategorized

She finished well

DSC_0024_0192_edited-1

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.