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

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.

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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.

 

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, Christian, church, death, Faith, family, God, love, mothers, prayer, Uncategorized

A few things she taught me

mom

  • 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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

children, family, love, Thanksgiving, Uncategorized

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.

 

Christian, church, God, grief, Jesus, loss, love, sorrow, Spiritual, tears, trials, Uncategorized

Among the losses

loss

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.