death, family, friends, grief, loss, love, tears, trials, Uncategorized

So I held her hand

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I’m struggling as sorrow visits me once more. My friend is leaving this earth very shortly now and I am already weighed down with her absence, another seat empty at this table that is my life. I want so much to have the words that fully express the depth of love I feel for my friend but there are none. As I sat with her, I wordlessly prayed she would experience my love as I looked in her eyes, eyes that were already beginning to focus on things not of this world. There was nothing more I could do. So I held her hand.

For me, and probably many who grieve, there is a deep fear that the one we’ve lost didn’t really know how much we loved them. I find that a hard thing to accept and live with. Even with all the humanly possible expression through words and actions I am still left with the frustration in the inadequacies of them all. But touch has a power all its own. So I held her hand.

Her life has been hard and vibrant and beautiful and full. She is one of the strongest people I have ever known, her life a message of perseverance and success, truly an overcomer in this life. We’ve only known each other for a little over a decade but it seems like it’s been our whole lives. We’ve cried together and laughed together and traveled together and made lots of memories that I hold dear and cherish. I am grateful that I’ve had the chance for a last hug, a last I love you. I will miss holding her hand.

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So here’s to you, my friend! I know that you will soon be whole and free and full of joy unspeakable and fully aware of how very much you were loved in this life. I will see you later. And I will hold your hand.

I was blessed to see my friend a few more times since writing this, a few more chances to hold her hand and tell her I loved her before she left this world today. I miss her so.

 

So I held her hand” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

 

 

 

Christian, church, death, Encouragement, Faith, God, loss, love, sorrow, Spiritual, tears, Uncategorized

We called you murderer

You-Murderer-Font-Horror-Font              I’m so sorry. We, who proudly proclaim the mercies and love of a good, good God presume to know your heart. We think if we shout our righteous indignation loudly enough from our imagined lofty place we will drown out the still small voice that says we are no different than you. We act as if it is impossible to passionately disagree with your choice while showing compassion for why you made it and loving you at the same time. We cry for your baby but not for you.

We call you selfish as we arrogantly stand in our own self-centeredness, thinking that Jesus didn’t really mean it when He said “everyone who hates his brother (or sister) is a murderer…” or “everyone who continues to be angry with his brother (or sister) or harbors malice, enmity of heart, against him (her) shall be liable and unable to escape the punishment imposed by the court…” Surely He didn’t mean us. We feign humility as we bring our gifts to the altar ignoring His words to make peace with any who have a grievance against us before we attempt to present a gift to Him. We have grieved you deeply.

I wish we had been there for you. I wish we had walked with you through the agony of your decision and shown you the true love of Jesus Christ no matter what direction you took. My heart breaks that we failed you, that you hide your hurt for fear we will only make it worse because it’s true – that’s so often exactly what we do. I wish we had held you and cried with you and let you know we love you. I wish we had been tender toward you as you struggled, remembering this world is full of trouble and none of us escape with hearts untouched by pain.

I applaud your courage to tell your story in the midst of rampant accusation. I needed to hear it. We the church, the body of Christ, need to hear it. We need to see you in the here and now as a person of worth and value, a living, breathing creation for whom the Father sent His Son to save. Just like us. We need to be reminded that God is not weighing our sins one against another. He is not comparing our righteousness or lack thereof because it’s all as filthy rags apart from Him. We are all in this same boat of humanity and we need Him and we need each other.

Your story brought me to my knees, ashamed of myself for not looking harder for you in my small part of this world, ashamed that I hadn’t considered how hard it was for you. Because you are here too. You have different names and different faces and different lives, but you are near if we will only open our eyes. As I bow my head, aware of my own life choices, I pray for us both. I pray we will both be healed and we will both raise our heads once again, unashamed in the presence of our Father. I pray we will live in the freedom of forgiveness – the forgiveness we receive and the forgiveness we give, even to our enemies. Even when the church seems like the enemy.

I am sorry.

We called you murderer” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

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

Finishing 2018

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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.

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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

 

Bible, Christian, Faith, God, grief, loss, prayer, sorrow, Uncategorized

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

 

 

 

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

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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.