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An Honest Account of Love, Grief and Walking With God
Finding God's Goodness in Life's Disappointments

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Adventures in Widowville

I have had so many adventures in the past week.  Breaking news...I mowed the yard for the first time all by myself!  But you have to hear the story to appreciate it.

Joe always mowed the yard.  It was his thing to do and he loved it.  Last year God provided each time I needed the grass mowed.  Someone offered and I took them up on it.  But now I guess it was time I learn one more new thing!  I went out and looked at the riding mower and thought to myself, "I can drive a car so I am sure I can drive a lawnmower."  I went to start it and the battery wouldn't even click.  Not to worry, I have a battery charger.  I hooked it up and left it.  Hours later I came back and still there was no charge.  This time I asked a neighbor to come look at it.  He tried to charge the battery with his charger but it still wouldn't work.  No problem, I know how to go to Wal Mart.  After a trip to Wally World and the adventure of being in the automotive section, I discovered  you have to bring your old battery back or you are charged extra.  So now I go back home to get the old battery then back to the store.  Finally the new battery is purchased and I put it in and tighten the bolts.  I was so proud of my accomplishment I eagerly jumped on my riding mower with my skirt and heels on and give it a crank.  It starts!  I drive it to the front yard but turn it off because I cannot mow in a skirt and heels and have now discovered the tires are low and need to be aired up!  After a quick change, I hook up the air compressor and air up the tires and start to mow.  Then the mower stops again.  I am baffled.  Now what?  Back to the kind neighbor to ask for another favor.  After 30 minutes, he can't figure it out but I suggest, "Could it be out of gas?"  He checks and it is!  I am prepared because I know where Joe kept the gas can.  The gas tank gets filled and I begin to mow. I did not mow in straight lines like Joe did; that is too boring.  There are many ways to mow a yard and I think I tried them all!   I have 3/4 of an acre and although my mowing job would probably not pass Joe's inspection, it is mowed!  Oh and one more confession...I couldn't figure out how to start the weed-eater so I got the scissors and trimmed.  A girl can only figure out so many things in one week!  After mowing, picked some squash I have been growing, cooked it and ate it and really felt like I had accomplished something.

On another note, I have had two men ask me how I spell my first name...I think that is the latest pick up line in Kerrville!  I am at least smart enough now to realize that!  No, they did not pick me up!  I miss the protection of my wedding ring and wonder what world I am in now.

I have gone to Starbucks several times to write.  It is a peaceful place that looks over the Guadalupe River and is a good change from my house.  I have submitted a story and hope to start on a book soon as things are a little more settled with my parents.  I continue to help my dad get some financial things in order and run him to therapy.  Riding around town with a 82 year old  in my convertible and a walker in my back seat hurts my single image a bit but we are having fun! 

I went to Austin this week to see Price before he left for his summer internship off the coast of Louisiana.  He is with a drilling company and is getting great experience using his Petroleum Engineering Degree.  I will miss him and it is another opportunity to trust God with my baby.  My trusting muscles are getting bigger and bigger!

I had a wonderful divine appointment this week with a 91 year old man I ran into while I was getting an estimate on a repair job I needed.  He had lost his wife the July before I lost Joe.  He was quite interesting to visit with and asked me lots of questions about my grief journey.  He said something very profound that I had felt but not yet put into words.  He said, "After you loose your mate, your home, the place you have always come for love and a hug, is the coldest and most empty place."  It brought tears to my eyes for the first time in a is a true statement.  When you are happily married and have kids, home is where you are loved the most and held.  When those significant people are gone, home isn't the same.  At then end of our conversation, my new friend said, "You are doing real well.  I have 11,000 volunteer hours as a bereavement counselor with Hospice."  God continues to encourage me with people that know what transition and loss are all about.  I smiled all the way home as I thought of how much I love God as I drove with the cool breeze blowing my curls.

God is speaking much to me in this season and my journal is getting thicker and thicker.  He leads me beside still waters and restores my soul.  Psalms 23  Most of all, I am learning more about being with God and becoming more like Him.  Intimacy with Him is my quest.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Permission to Enjoy Trials

I know it has been 10 days since my last post.  Blogspot was undergoing some repairs and I was unable to post.

Mothers Day a few years ago
Mother's Day was different this year.  It was the first time ever none of my children home.  I missed them but got calls from all of them. Austin and Laura are of course in Maryland, Rob and Mal were playing in a tennis tournament and Price was studying for finals.   I spent the day seeing my parents and went to lunch with Joe's mother, brother and his wife.  It was good spend some time with them.

 Since my last post I have been taking my dad to physical therapy and took my mother to two doctor's appointments only to find out we need to see two other doctors!   Oh my goodness...she has a bad case of bronchitis, and we need to see about two other things that have developed with her.  I have tried to make these events fun for them and my mom loved riding in my convertible with her hair blowing.  I am probably the only single woman that drives a convertible with walkers in the back seat!

 I have also been helping my father with some of his personal affairs in order.   I know this season will pass.  There are great rewards for honoring your parents and I am discovering more of God's grace to do things I never thought possible.  His grace ours over me and I am thankful.

I am discovering more and more how my ministry is who I am and wherever I go.  It makes life an adventure to listen as He speaks and creates divine appointments.  I have had the privilege of praying with a wide range of people from a high school student to a distraught woman close to 80.  I just show up and hang on as I live life.

Below is an article I wrote for the Kerrville Daily Times.

   Permission to Enjoy Trials

In the past few weeks, I have run into a number of people who are struggling with some very difficult issues in their lives.  Hardship and difficulty are just part of life here on earth.  I heard a variety of difficulties this week; everything from marriage problems, divorce, heartache, child custody, law suits, adultery, financial problems, challenges with health, and difficulties with children.  I have personally had my own things to overcome with my aging parents having been hospitalized 8 times since my husband of 30 years past away 19 months ago.
I have asked God to help me see my adversity from His view point.  I think I found the answer in I Peter 4:12.  It views all the above challenges from a different perspective.  It says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange is happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (NIV)
Several things stood out for me in this passage.  First, painful trials are normal, and we should not view them as strange.  Actually we should be surprised if we do not have trials!   Next, I discovered that we have permission from God to enjoy these trials.  There is a tendency when trials come that we should also be miserable.  Not so!   We have a God given permission to enjoy ourselves in times of trial.  God wants us to!  And if He wants us to, we should.
The word “rejoice,” as it is defined in its literal translation, actually means:  calmly happy or well off, cheerful or joyful.  God sees our trials as a privilege because we get to know Him better if we choose to...or we can just whine and be miserable!  What an honor to get to know the heart of almighty God and become more intimate with Him, but it is a discipline to keep this perspective—trust me on this one!
Yes, things we endure may really be painful.  To the degree we experience pain is also the degree we get to experience joy as we anticipate and see His purpose revealed and how it works for our good.  Now that is good news!  We must hang on to this promise when things are difficult.  For me personally, I have developed a greater compassion that I did not have before watching people I love suffer.  Compassion is what moved Jesus and should move the Body of Christ.  Oftentimes as believers, we are moved more by our knowledge or judgment than compassion for those in crisis or bondage.  I believe God is developing many to have a heart like His.
Sometimes we suffer because of wrong choices we have made.  That is called a consequence of our behavior.  It is extremely difficult, though, when we suffer unjustly or for things in which we do not have a choice.  For example, it was very heart breaking to watch my husband suffer from cancer and what I personally went through was not because of a wrong choice I made.    Scripture addresses this also.  I Peter 2:19 says, “For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.  But if you suffer for doing good and endure it, this is commendable before God.”  Bearing up or endurance is of great value and is only developed in hard times.  We live in a microwave society, and many Christians are weak because they have stopped believing God or blame Him when things get tough.  I feel God is raising up a people who are strong, full of strength, radiant and who are trusting Him.
Endurance produces strength in the physical as well as in the spiritual sense.  As a runner, I know that the more I endure a jog or the further I go, no matter how painful, the more strength I have.  It takes lots of time and energy to develop physical strength.  It is the same in our spiritual life, and God sees us much stronger than we do.  I Peter 4:19 says:  “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (NIV)
  God tells us that suffering is part of His will because it produces good fruit, and we just need to surrender to the process and pour out goodness to those around us.  The best part is that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are with us to help us.  When we are God conscious, we can go through our trials with peace, comfort and joy and those strengthen us.  
 Let us be a community that is rejoicing and overcoming, because only goodness pours out of us no matter what.

Blessings of grace and joy,

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hugging Grace

What a whirlwind life has been for me!  Somehow I was under the impression that when I retired from CWJC, life would slow down.  Well, color me surprised. . . it has not!  The main reason it has not is because of the season I am in with my parents.
After two and a half weeks in the hospital for a fractured vertebra, my father was released Saturday.  Being a caregiver and widow has been the hardest thing I have ever done.  In my heart, I know God is using these things to develop me.  I know I am growing in long suffering and endurance, and these will be necessary for where God will take me next.  This process has challenged me.  When someone you love is in the hospital and suffering , it shifts the world you know around and puts new demands on the caregiver emotionally as well as physically and mentally. Every patient needs an advocate and I am a professional one now! I remember a nurse  advising me to use caution because so often the caregiver dies  or become ill before the patient because of the stress.  I am having to exercise extreme self-care right now in my life.  I talked yesterday with a woman who said it has been years since she was a caregiver of a family member, and she still hasn’t recovered.  

Saturday I arrived at the hospital at 10:30 a.m., and at 4:30 p.m. I still had not stopped long enough to eat lunch.  Just getting him home, settled, medicated, grocery store, prescriptions filled, and then my mom was having trouble breathing, had a mini sezuire  and  then became  listless, so I had to take care of that. all while the help we had hired had to leave!  I crawled home, completely exhausted.  This is a season where I have the opportunity to serve my wonderful parents and develop new spiritual muscles that I never knew I had; become the woman God knows I am, and prepare for the dreams He has for me.  He is a great economist!

I think it is totally amazing how God answers us when we look to Him!  I love how He uses different ways to speak to us.  We are the most blessed of all people to have a living God that wants to speak to us and help us in our need.  I have recently struggled with feeling like hospitals, doctor visits, care giving will never end. I have been dealing with this constantly for 7 1/2 years now, intensely the last two years with Joe and the 8 hospitalizations my parents have experienced since he died 18 months ago. God brought encouragement to me in several ways and I adore Him for cheering me on in my quest to overcome the circumstance I have found myself in.

Leia Francisco, a Life Coach and dear friend asked me to lunch and it was a huge deposit in my bank.  Our lunch had been planned for several months.  She works with women all over the nation and world that are dealing with transition in their lives. She has even appeared on TV and is a national speaker.  I was honored to go to lunch.   As we visited, she made a comment that encouraged me.  She said, "I have worked with many women for years, but I have never worked with anyone going through so many transitions and endings at one time: aging parents and anticipatory grief, children marrying leaving home, death of a spouse, a job ending, you have seen your last child go out into the world and are moving into another decade of your life.  You are managing both external and internal transitions."  Then she said, "You will never be the same.  You are not only grieving at many levels but reinventing yourself and it all takes a lot of energy.  You have to go through the rituals of letting go and that takes time and energy.  Rituals are very important.  The old Kathleen isn't and can't come back because these events have changed you. And you are progressing in the journey at all levels."  Then she said, "Some people will struggle with the fact that you will not be the same."  I  told another friend the other day, "There is a better version of me coming!"  I know these circumstances are designed by God to help me become the woman He has intended for me to become although at times I wondered if they would kill me in the process! I think they are pruning some of the things that need to go in my life.  

 Yes, the suffering  has been intense because He is intent on my accelerated development.  Some days I have a good attitude, find joy, walk in peace and some days I don't do so well and wish I would have done better.  It has been much more difficult without my mate to hold me and cheer me on but I am learning who Kathleen Maxwell is without the things that have always been there for me to lean on.  Some days I stumble and gasp for breath and others I stand tall.  The important thing to me is that I get back up and keep trying to walk.
After lunch I was walking through the hospital and ran into  someone who had been a family friend for years.  He asked what I was doing there and I told him about my dad.  He compassionately looked at me and said, "You have been through hell.  We will be praying."  He was a man that had lost a child years ago and understood grief and validated the challenge.  Those words blessed me and actually encouraged me because he felt my pain.  That is what Job longed for was friends that could share his pain with him and cheer him on.
This past week I had the honor of attending a Christian Men’s Job Corps graduation.  I helped start this ministry six years ago, and one of my graduate’s husband graduated.  Joe and I have parented them through the years, and it was wonderful to see this family growing in God.  Congrats to Benny and Andrea!  I felt like a proud Mama and Grandmother.
I also attended the annual Christian Women’s Job Corps Style Show.  It was wonderful to see the ministry I have been passionate about for years continue.  I had several ask me if it was hard or sad for me; not at all.  I know my season there is complete, and I have done my job.  I am thrilled for the new Executive Director and for her assistant to have the opportunity I had and know God has a new assignment for me.  As I watched the event, I was at perfect peace and love cheering others on.   It was great to see so many from my community that I love and get so many hugs.  I miss all the hugs I got at CWJC.  Tonight is CWJC graduation and it will be awesome to see the women I interviewed graduate from the program and Friday there will be a retirement party for me at Rails at noon.
The rest of the week was spent attending Relay for Life, the annual fund raising event to honor cancer survivors, caregivers, and those lost to the disease.  This year was easier than last, and again I got to cheer others on.  I walked around the track with the crisp spring breeze blowing my curls listening to the music in the background.  The words to the song were, “It is just a little time and Jesus will be coming soon.”  I felt God reminding me that life is short, make a difference, and know it is all about life in heaven--not here on earth.

Life goes on and on a fun girlie  note I had the pleasure of visiting with a newly engaged young woman and her mom and we shared wedding stories.  I also went with another friend to help her get things ready for her wedding and to celebrate her being a bride.  We are close to the same age and have both been dating and now she is getting married.  We had so much fun!  Life may be difficult but I will figure out a way to have fun!
God continues ministering to me, revealing truth, and giving me promises.  We all love the promises, but the process of obtaining them is not always funThe process, however, gives you authority and power.  Here are just a few promises for those of you who are widowed.  We are really quite dear to His heart!  Psalms 68:3-5 says, “. . . rejoice before God. . .sing praises to his name, He is a father to the fatherless and a defender of the widow.”  He will be our defense!  Whooo hoo!  Psalms 146:9 says,” . . . he sustains the fatherless and the widow.”  This brings great comfort for me and my children.  God is on our side, because He knows and understands the distress as it states in James 1:27.  Reinventing yourself is not easy, and I have been challenged with more than I have been able to write about, but I will overcome as I hug His grace and hang on to joy.  His presence is where I find them.  I also know that many of you are struggling with big things in your life.  Keep getting up, pressing on and hang on to Him.  God is working on all of us and we will be a radiant bride!
Hugging Grace and Hanging with Joy,