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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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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

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Led to brokenness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kintsugi kinda sounds like Jesus.

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

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

Among the losses

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Yesterday I didn’t cry. I think it’s the first day since the hurricane I haven’t. There was no water in my home and my possessions are not heaped at the curb. I didn’t spend hours or days trying to find my mom or my siblings or my children, I knew where they were and they were safe. I didn’t even lose electricity or cell service or cable. But I endured the storm with some who did and I am heartbroken.

As they entered our doors you could see it in their faces. They were scared and angry and frustrated and in shock. They were wet and cold and hungry and lost. They were transported to a place they had never been, a town they had never even heard of, to stay with strangers they were not sure they could trust. Most came with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a few with small bags, many with children in tow and families with newborns. Yes, newborns. A few were sick, really sick with kidney failure and cancer and heart disease, their bodies rescued from the waters but not their necessary medications.

We offered what we could, a hot meal, dry clothes, pillows and blankets, a safe place to stay, and what felt to me like seriously inadequate emotional support given their circumstances. Ill-equipped as we were, we settled them into every room, nook, and cranny of our buildings, trying to make them as comfortable as possible on the cold, hard floors. We packed them in like sardines and hoped they could rest and prayed they could sleep. Some did. Some did not.

We stayed up with one man who literally paced the hall throughout the entire night, agonizing over the helplessness he felt as he couldn’t find his nine-year old son. I held the newly widowed woman as she sobbed in my arms, her recent loss intensified by the loneliness of a shelter full of strangers and the uncertainty of a future without her husband and the home they’d shared. I watched a beautiful young woman crumple to the floor as she received the news that loved ones were lost. I stood on the sidewalk in the early morning hours with a precious mom, her tears mixing with the rain as she poured out her heart, struggling to find the strength to overcome the loss of everything. Again.

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Among the losses in this storm was also any notion I may have held onto that the heart of the gospel can be neatly organized from my nicely decorated office, that it can be scripted and planned and comfortable and easily implemented on my terms.

I’ve visited shelters (as it fit in my schedule) and I’ve ministered to the poor (when it was convenient) and I’ve taught the classes (from my nice, clean classrooms) and I’ve fed the hungry (when I had the $ with me that I could easily hand to the homeless person on the corner as I went on my way). My desire has been to make an impact on the world around me with the message of God’s love through these efforts, and I will continue to seek these very same opportunities.

But I have never experienced anything like this. It has irreversibly affected me. I will never be the same. I don’t want to be the same. I want to be different. I want to allow these flood waters to wash me beyond my comfortable ideas of ministry into really understanding that the hands and feet of Jesus got dirty. He touched those considered untouchable. He loved those viewed as unworthy. He walked and talked with those who were royally messed up. He changed their lives and He did it outside the walls of the tabernacle.

We are moved by the compassion of a community who showed up in the midst of the storm. Literally. Through the wind and rain they brought food and water and clothes and bedding and personal items and kennels and air mattresses and a shower trailer. And port-a-potties (yay!). They brought trucks, BIG trucks, and boats, LOTS of boats. Our first responders brought the professional medical help needed for the sick and the organization needed to send volunteers out to find those still stranded and bring them to safety. The community together brought hope and help and rescue. They brought Jesus to the hurting and the helpless.

This good news of Jesus Christ is a completely inconvenient gospel. If we truly desire to see people find Jesus, He will take us into the unpredictable where our religious platitudes will be meaningless, where our hands will get dirty, where our hearts will be broken, where we will work to exhaustion and then work some more, where we will be pressed to give grace, grace, and more grace, and where we will experience the depth of His love for humanity in a way that doesn’t feel particularly spiritual in the moment, yet is profound.

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I am still grieving for those who came to us, who experienced losses I cannot imagine. I will never forget their faces. I don’t want to. And I am grieving for those who are afraid to go beyond the security of the church doors to be Jesus to their world. I pray we will dare to be awkward and uncomfortable in the spontaneous opportunities presented to us that beg a response. I pray we’ll trust Him as He leads us into the unknown in the inconvenient and often messy business of living as His hands and His feet and taking Him to a desperate world.

 

Among the losses” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com

Photographs by Kay Stinnett 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