Author Archives: Sherri Stone Bennett

This One is For the Ragamuffins

Hi, friend! 

It’s been a while. Over six months, to be exact. Nice writing to you again.

I’ve been on quite a journey this last year. A hard one, but a good one. A necessary one. Thus, the serious infrequency of my blog posts. (Or complete lack thereof, ha ha.) If you have been one of those faithful followers who receive these in your inbox, thanks for hanging in there with me. I can’t wait to share more of what’s been going on; I wonder if it might be just as life-changing for you, too. 

But for now, this overdue post is being written for my sweet mama; a woman I deeply admire and look up to, who has had her fair share of struggles in life yet still shines like the best of them. She, like me, is what Brennan Manning would call, a ragamuffin: one of the “bedraggled, beat-up…burnt-out…wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together…”; one of the “inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is [often] falling off their cracker.”1 Knowing this about herself is probably why she resonated so much with something I wrote recently.

After posting this “something” on Facebook for my husband’s and my 21st anniversary about being just that, two people who still don’t have it all together and whose cheese falls off their crackers on a regular basis, Mom asked me to please write it as a blog post. I’ve been hesitant. I mean, why beat a dead horse? And yet, it’s Mom. She wins. :) But instead of merely reposting what I already wrote, I decided to take it a bit further. 

The original post went like this:

I have been guilty of looking at other couples and being jealous. They did it “right” the first time; never knowing what it’s like to be married again. They birthed all of their kids together, every one of them theirs from the beginning. They seem to do everything perfectly, practice every spiritual discipline together, and almost always share the same ideals and thoughts on life. 

And then, there’s us. We’ve waded through the seemingly insurmountable waters of being divorced and married again. We’ve weathered certain types of storms that only a blended family can bring. We are two strong souls that have differing opinions on almost everything; love languages that are just as opposite, and wear each other just plain thin at times. 

But…we’ve pushed through, fought hard, held on, and continue to grow. Not only are we still here, all these twenty-one years later, but we are stronger, wiser, more resilient, more empathetic, and more in love than ever. 

And I wonder. Which is more admirable? More commendable? The people who instinctively, naturally, or whateverably do life “right” most of the time – or the ones who don’t, but overcome anyway? Perhaps both. But I think you know how I feel. 😉

Yes. Here’s to us! Me and my introvert honey, who will probably be way too shy to respond to this post. ☺️ But that’s okay. Here’s to the two of us; celebrating each other exactly as we are, admiring all that we’ve grown through, and looking forward to all that is ahead. 

Happy, happy anniversary to us!!

It was, indeed, a very happy anniversary for us. 

That said, I have to interject here and say that I do deeply admire those who haven’t screwed-up quite as much as I have. (Okay, not even half as much as I have.) I think it’s commendable to have only been married once, to not have dragged your kids and step-kids through the ringer of your dysfunction, to have never been drunk, to have been way more selfless than selfish during the first half of your adult life, to have never been addicted to sugar, or drugs, or alcohol, or relationships, or anything else that people like me might struggle with…I could go on and on. I applaud you. I have wished, many a time, that I was you!

At the same time, something about that Facebook post resonated with a lot of other people besides Mom, as well; people who dropped me a word, stopped me at church, or called me up. Perhaps they are people who, like me and Mom, don’t have the best track record and have walked around for years feeling less-than because of their past. Or their present. People who have struggled hard, even still do, and look up longingly to those less-messy others. People who think their lives are nothing much to shout about because they keep falling short.

I beg to differ. 

In coming out of the journey I’ve been on this last year, I am gaining a much different perspective on many things. And I, for one, can’t think of any better person to celebrate than the one who is completely screwed-up yet honest, introspective, hardworking, tenacious, vulnerable, enduring, willing, open, determined, and growing. (Feel free to add to my list.) 

I mean, it is natural to look to the one who is well put-together and want to be like them. It’s even natural to esteem those who have come from unfortunate circumstances and have taken a different path and turned lemons into lemonade. 

But…those ones who seem to make messes everywhere they turn? And then clean up a bit, only to make one more mess on their road to wholeness? At worst, we shake our proverbial fingers at them. At best, we ignore them. We certainly don’t look for qualities in them that we want to emulate.

This was the thinking behind my Facebook post: celebrating the ragamuffin. The scandalous. The unworthy. In all of their messy glory. 

Because the truth is, they are the ones most likely to have cultivated deep life lessons that we would be stupid-silly not to glean from. For they are people who have strength, compassion, and wisdom that has not been book-learned but life-earned. These are some people who fight hard, discover much, and are worth looking up to! 

So. This blog post is really rather simple. This one’s for the underdog. Let’s give a shout-out to all the ragamuffins, shall we? 

Here’s to the people pleaser who is learning to embrace conflict.
Here’s to the single parent, who has made a boat-load of mistakes, but is doing her best to raise amazing adults anyway.
Here’s to the prideful who are willing to swallow that pill and seek out humility.
Here’s to the one who has used any sort of addiction to help them get through life and has the guts to call it what it is.
Here’s to those who have struggled with vanity and limit their selfies now.
Here’s to the powerful who is willing to let go of control. 
Here’s to the one who can be critical of others but is learning to embrace imperfection.
Here’s to the one who desperately wants the approval of many but is learning how to let others shine.
Here’s to the one who has been married more than once but still works hard to get it right. 
Here’s to the angry one who is learning how to use it for good. 
Here’s to the know-it-all who is realizing he still has much to learn. 
Here’s to the taker who is learning how to give.
Here’s to the one who’s had a chip on their shoulder and finally acknowledges that it’s there.
Here’s to the defensive one who is finally letting down their guard.
Here’s to the skeptic who is learning how to trust. 
Here’s to the one who sucks at managing money but wants to get it down. 
Here’s to the fearful one who is forging ahead anyway. 
Here’s to the perpetual victim who is beginning to see others in the world. 
Here’s to the stubborn one who is learning how to yield. 
Here’s to the one who struggles with their weight but tries again, and again, and again, and again.
Here’s to the selfish one who is learning how to put others first.
Here’s to the wayward soul who has wandered for years but refuses to stay lost. 

Here is to all the imperfect, in-process ragamuffins that we have much to learn from and even more to look up to. If you know somebody that falls into one of these categories, tell them how proud you are of them and give them a shout-out. This one is for them. 

Oh, no, wait. I forgot. This one is for us

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Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2005), 14.

When You’ve Lost Your Passion

We had a dinner party Saturday night. We ate, and drank, and talked with old friends and new.

One of those new friends dropped a shrimp appetizer on the floor within minutes of getting there, launching that poor little sucker in front of a small group of wide-eyed spectators. Bless her heart; what a way to start the evening, with a bunch of strangers. I told her, Don’t worry. By the end of the night, I will probably have spilled red wine on my white shirt.

I was right. She laughed as she pointed it out to me later.

There were a lot of laughs shared around the table that night; mine included. At the same time, I did everything I could to hold back tears in front of these old friends and new; tears that threatened to dampen the evening’s festivities, had I let them roll. They would have been unstoppable. I didn’t want to rain on everybody’s parade because, after all, we were there for a good cause and there was much to celebrate: four more children would now be cared for in Uganda through an organization my husband and I are involved with. He leaves next week to go back.

I think it’s time for me to finally go, too.

I haven’t wanted to. There is not a cell in my body that wants to travel thirty to forty hours to get there, “shower” with an orange bucket, eat goat, and get bitten by bugs. (I hate bugs.)

My husband likens me to the story of the princess and the pea. You get where he’s going with this.

But as much as I dislike those kinds of inconveniences, the truth is, I haven’t had the desire to do much of anything the last few years, for any reason. Oh, I dabble in this and I dabble in that…I write some, speak some, blog some… But nothing has penetrated my soul and motivated me to really do something with my life. I haven’t pursued any of those things with any real hunger or excitement.

For a long time now, I have been in a very strange place. Passionless.

I’ve been trying everything to get it back. I know that some people think we each have a “calling” and we just have to find it, then go for it and make things happen. I’ve done that. I’ve made things happen.

Then there are those that subscribe to the thought of, “just love God, love others, and do what you want.” I’ve done that too.

And then there are those who say, Wait on God – He’ll show you what you should do…Yup, yup, yup. I’ve thought about it all; have tried everything in the book.

And could still give a rip.

For years I have been asking myself and God, Why? What in the world is wrong with me? Why don’t I care all that much about “going” for anything?

After that interesting night of shrimp launching and me tie-dyeing my clothing, I think I finally found my answer.

The morning after the dinner, as we headed to church, the previous evening’s events continued to go through my mind. We had talked about children living in little mud-huts trying to survive without parents, having lost them to AIDS…we talked about how happy they were to receive letters from us…how one precious girl was elated to eat her one piece of candy…we looked at pictures of kids whose dirty and tattered clothes were the only ones they had…we talked about a video in which our sponsored girl talked about how thankful she was that we would “waste” our money on her.

Waste our money on her.

That broke me. It finally broke me.

Because I finally let it.

You see, it dawned on me, on that freeway to church, that over the years I had erected a huge wall around my heart to keep me from feeling the deep pain of others.

I started thinking about the fact that I’m the one who turns the channel when a commercial comes on about animal cruelty…that I turn off the television when a report about child abuse comes on the news or there’s a story about bullying…how I can’t stand watching shows on starving children in places like, well, Africa.

Why? Not because I’m cold-hearted. Actually, on the contrary. The truth is, I am an extremely sensitive person and absorb everything around me. Those types of things consume me. Rattle me. I cannot get them out of my mind. So, in an effort to protect myself, I unwittingly built a wall around my heart and put up a guard. Because if I didn’t, those images would ruin my day. My sleep. My life.

And it hit me –

Maybe it’s time to let my sweet little life be ruined.

Be in the mess of others. Be uncomfortable. Be in the hard.

It’s easy to throw money at a problem and then look the other way. It’s a blast, throwing dinner parties to get more kids sponsored. And all of that, by the way, is not bad in and of itself.

What’s not easy, is letting your heart be consumed to the point where you can’t think straight; where it takes forever to write a blog about it because you have to stop every five minutes to process. And I realize…

Jesus couldn’t wash His disciples’ feet without being willing to get dirty water on Himself.

He could have done things the easy way, too…thrown some spoken words of healing and forgiveness from afar rather than touch the leper, or have a conversation with the prostitute, or touch the eyes of a blind man with spit and mud in the palm of His hands.

No. He got muddy.

And I believe that that fueled His mission. Ignited His passion. When He saw the tears of those He loved after Lazarus’ death, He, Himself, cried and it moved Him enough to bring forth life. When He wanted to be alone, but people kept following Him, begging to be healed, He had compassion on them, and it moved Him to heal.

Compassion. Oh. There’s the passion I’ve been looking for.

Jesus fixated on people. I turned the channel.

Jesus let their stories touch His soul. I gave money. And threw dinner parties.

No wonder I lost my passion. There was no “who” behind my “why.”
Just a lot of “what.”

I cry as I type this.

I look at the picture above, at Pretty – yes, that’s her real name – number 427. She is ours now. I can’t wait to meet her, and Peace, and Caleb. Because love propels us to travel forty hours, eat goat, and hang with bugs.

And write. And speak. And blog.

Love is what fuels our passion.

Love for God and love for others. And true love, by the way, always involves a sacrificial cross; a “wrecked” life for the sake of another.

I wonder what would happen in this world if more of us took down the walls of self-protection.

And got over ourselves.
And got our minds off ourselves.
And got over living for ourselves.

Because living for oneself will never, ever bring the fulfillment, satisfaction, joy, sense of purpose, meaning, peace and even happiness we are all looking for.

Nor will it spur us on to do great things. Life-changing things. Passionate things.

It’s sobering to look at the picture above: a menu with filet and a little girl with dirt.

But I am now willing to look. And let it wreck me. And fuel me.

How about you?


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