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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.

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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

 

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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.

 

Mother’s Day – look both ways before crossing

mom and kids crossing street.jpg.838x0_q67_crop-smartThis road is a busy one, traveled by the thankful, the frustrated, the exhausted, the overwhelmed, the happy, the sad, and the everything-in-between. Sometimes we march with determined steps and fixed gaze, confident and sure of where we are headed. Sometimes we watch and follow those with determined steps, completely unsure of where this road will lead. Sometimes we dance and sing and play along the way as if the journey is all that matters, the destination insignificant. Sometimes we just stop in the middle of the road and cry.

There are many who’ve walked before us, those who’ve completed the journey and others we can still see in the distance. If we are blessed, we have those who’ve already walked this road yet have turned back to walk it again by our sides, cheering us on, sharing their stories and giving us hope that we, too, will make it.

Some of us are on the sidelines, hopeful, waiting, resigned. We’ve been there a long time and seen many walk by. To stand still watching feels as if this is the only road worth traveling, all others meaningless and empty. Many speak as they pass, giving encouraging words and heartfelt prayers. Sometimes they stop and hold us while we cry. But they’re on the road and must move forward and they leave us feeling lonelier than ever.

Many have walked this road only to find our travel plans abruptly and heartbreakingly halted. We desperately wanted to complete this journey but now there’s no focus. We find ourselves paralyzed, unable to move. Walking alongside the others is painful and awkward. We don’t return to the sidelines. We just stop. We belong on the road…but now we only look back at the footbrints we left behind…

Before we cross this road or remain on the sidelines or move forward or stand still, let’s look both ways, or better yet, all around. Let’s take ourselves out of holiday mode and just stay in Jesus mode. Let’s share the love and the joys and the pains and the heartbreaks of just being human because for many this is a hard day.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, sharing their joy; mourn with those who mourn, sharing their sorrow. Romans 12:15

Bear one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ… Galatians 6:2

Nothing wrong with taking a gift or a card and spending time with your mother this Sunday. But do we really need a holiday to do that? Did you know that the woman who created Mother’s Day later denounced the holiday’s commercialization and spent the latter part of her life trying to get it off the calendar?? Yeah. That.

Mother’s Day – look both ways before crossing” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

On birthing an Ishmael

Wilderness south of Machtesh Ramon3, tb q010403

It’s a quiet Saturday morning, the raging storms have slowed to heavy clouds and scattered showers. At least for now. I sit here sipping my herbal brew which has replaced my morning coffee and am fully enjoying both the brew and the stillness. I’ve had a full and productive week which brings its own satisfaction, a feeling which has escaped me for quite a few months. I embrace this return of peace to my soul and vow to never let go again. Easier said than done…

I think of Abraham and what it must have been like to pack up everything he had and move his family when he didn’t know where he was going. The changes God brought in my life a few years ago weren’t quite as dramatic, well, at least not geographically. I remain in the same city with family and friends near. I thought I knew where I was headed but my “wandering” has lasted longer than expected. Seeking His direction has become a much deeper experience and I’m realizing just how often I distrust my ability to discern the difference between my own way and His.

I can certainly identify with Abraham’s impatience. He’d heard from God a profound promise for his life. He’d obeyed the instructions that did not make sense and began his journey as a man of faith. He had every intention of doing exactly what God wanted but found himself yielding to the pressure to make something happen. So he did. And Ishmael was born.

There is pressure in the not knowing. Pressure from people…what are you doing? Pressure from the checkbook…how are you going to make ends meet?  Pressure from within…are you sure you heard Him? It’s easy to believe the pressure can be relieved if we would just do something. 

I embarked on a venture last year that had all the potential in the world to be successful. There is an untapped market in this area, I have the talents and abilities to provide the product and services, and the high-end nature of said product could provide a very sizable income as the business could expand even into international arenas.

I had someone to introduce me and guide me through the details of this particular market. I easily found the resources and supplies I would need, and so I began. The logistics and timing of my first productions were challenging to say the least. It was definitely a learning process for me and my guide, and we were both making our notes of how to do it better the next time. And while I was confident that I could do it and could envision the potential of this business, I was striving to make it happen.

Working hard and striving are not always the same thing. To strive can mean to devote serious effort or energy. That’s a good thing and can bring the sense of satisfaction I mentioned above. But striving can also mean to struggle in opposition, and deep in my soul I was striving with this new endeavor. I didn’t have that absolute peace that I was headed in the right direction.

Abraham yielded to the pressure from his wife and he acted on it hoping that it would bring him peace. It did not. Ishmael was an innocent child and Abraham loved his son but he was not the son of promise. I’m sure Abraham tried very hard to make him the son of promise, he could see his potential, but in his soul he knew. Ishmael’s presence brought grief rather than peace. There was nothing wrong with Ishmael but he was an obstacle in the plan and God had Abraham send him away into the wilderness.

I can only imagine the grief in the heart of Abraham at the loss of his son. It surely was an obedience that he wrestled with greatly. Yet he obeyed. And when he did, peace returned to his camp. The promised son would come in the right time and it would be because God did something, not Abraham.

While I still see the potential for this business endeavor, I have sent it to the wilderness. It’s not a part of His plan for me. Once I obeyed in the letting go, peace returned. Direction became clearer of where I am to continue walking. I’m tempted to look back and lament wasted time. But that in itself is wasted time. Rather I will chalk it up to the experience needed to get me to exactly where I am. At peace.

This is not the first time I’ve had to send a desire to the wilderness. I’ve spent much time in my life trying very hard to make things work that just weren’t right for me. Or their season had ended and I just wouldn’t let go. And leaving these things in the wilderness wasn’t easy. But realizing that these things would only bring grief if I held on was the call to obey.

Jesus talked about the kind of peace He provides. Peace that defies pressure. Peace that isn’t logical and that cannot be fully explained. Peace that positions us to hear Him more clearly. Peace from within that cannot be taken away. Peace that has nothing to do with what I can make happen but rather what He has already done. Peace that remains in the midst of hard work. Peace that will cause the world to hunger for what we have.

*There are many families in the greater Houston area that are dealing with the devastation of floods. Please pray that these families find God and His peace during these difficult times. Please consider a donation for disaster relief to help the many who have literally lost everything. Samaritan’s Purse is a favorite organization of mine and I invite you to follow this link in order to help Houstonians:   http://www.samaritanspurse.org

 

“On birthing an Ishmael” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com