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

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Feel Like A Failure?

 The Kerrville Daily Times asked me to be a columnist for their paper.  Below is an article that appeared last Friday in the paper.

Feel Like A Failure?
We live in such a high performance society these days. Often times that can make someone feel inadequate or like a failure if they don’t live up to others standards or their own.  I have talked to a number of individuals that have commented that they felt like failures for various reasons; divorce, loosing a job, not living up to parental expectation, past mistakes and financial failure are just a few I remember.  One of the things I always share when I hear those words are the words I heard one day that brought relief to my dry soul.   This powerful sentence changed my life.  You are never a failure unless you fail to see God’s love for you.  
When we fail to see God’s love for us we can easily fall victim to negative thoughts, feelings and sometimes actions.  Knowing we are loved and are special can make or break  your day.  What I have discovered is that can only be found on a daily basis by looking to God and believing His word.  Sometimes people can fail to relate to us like God intends and that can lead to a struggle with our value and worth. Have you ever been ignored? Excluded? Belittled? Put down?   It is in times like these that we have to contend with the truth from God’s word.  He calls his children beloved and we cannot let other’s treatment of us,  appraise our value.  One of the most healing sentences spoken to me were the words, “I am so sorry that you were treated that way because that person did not reflect God’s love for you.”  That comforting sentence restored my value.
In early 2000, God began to reveal to me that he wanted me to live as His beloved and he continues to  teach me this truth at a deeper level even today.  The word beloved means  “much loved.”  It is used 110 times in the bible and God frequently refers to us as His beloved.   This indicates to me God wants us to understand this concept. Beloved is how he address us.  A couple of examples  are found in 2 Thessalonians 2:13
“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the 
Spirit and belief of the truth.”  James 1:19
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”  There are many more and frequently God refers to his people in the New Testament as “beloved.”  
 We often hear the phrase “God loves you” but we don’t believe it is true for us personally.  I grew up in church and heard those words frequently but it wasn’t until I was a woman in my 30’s that I really began to believe them and they moved from my head to my heart.  God Almighty, creator of the universe really loved this girl!  It was the beginning of understanding my identity and value.Understanding a love that is freely given for no reason is hard to comprehend because we live in such a performance based society that often says, “I’ll love you if you love me.”  God’s love is totally unconditional.  There is nothing we can do to earn it.  It is free, it is abundant and never ending.  

I have learned that the more I can receive God’s love for me, the more I have of it to give away.  I know in my own life, I wasn’t close to  loving others well until I began to open my heart to receive God’s love for me.  That took being vulnerable to the Lord but I found the more I did that, the more I began to tell God over and over again how much I loved Him.  Now I daily sit and say, “God I love you and open my heart to receive your love for me.”  This has made space in my heart to love even those that are challenging to love.  God is huge on relationships because He is a relational God.  He wants his children to love as he loves.  For me that takes drawing on the grace of God and sometimes having to ask God to give me His heart of love for that person.  I now have a phrase that governs my life; I am what I love, not what loves me.  Anyone can love those that love them; the rubber meets the road when others do not reflect God’s love for us. Let’s be a community that lives as the beloved and loves others well and don’t forget- You are never a failure unless you fail to God’s love for you.



Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dancing Cheek to Cheek

I am fully confidant that God is writing the pages of my story in life.  The melody has changed, therefore, it is a new song and rhythm.  For whatever reason, my life dancing partner is gone and I have had to "change partners and dance." I am determined to keep dancing through life.  I know heaven is full of dancing and celebration so I feel I have a God given right to dance now and celebrate even though I didn't want the melody and song to end.  In the Lord's prayer, Jesus says, "on earth as it is in heaven." therefore, I will keep  trying to follow the melody of His grace.

 Joe gave me a figure years a few years back that I think was prophetic.  The saying on it said, "When you reach for your dreams your soul dances."  He gave it to me when I went to Thailand to speak.  Then a dear friend gave me another figurine of a beautiful girl dancing.  I believe that is who I am becoming.  It is a season of learning to dance cheek to cheek with Jesus.  I know that sounds a little cheesy but it is true.  I love getting lost in worshiping God and dancing with Him.  Read the Psalms...David danced so radically his clothes fell off!  I will keep mine on!

I continue to take little steps forward in the things that are my dreams.  I loved going to Baytown to speak at a Baptist Church Ladies Night.  There were 115 ladies there and a number of them came up to me afterwards and said the message was just for them.  Several spoke through their tears and I loved seeing God restore their dignity and worth.  Satan is a thief and I see too often he has robbed the body of Christ by convincing people to get their identity in something other than Christ.  Thanks to all of you who prayed for that event.  Things didn't really go as I expected but nothing else has in my life so I should be use to that!  I took a number of props to make the evening fun and yet mix truth in with the message.  What I saw though was the truth was hitting pretty hard and really making the women think.  It made me have to readjust.

This season of my life is a time when I feel like I am reinventing myself as I am coming out of the fog of grief.  I am discovering things about myself and love the freedom.  I continue to attend several writers groups and am learning much. I have a whole new group of friends too.  I have submitted some stories to magazines and continue to write 2 times a month for our local paper.  That has developed me and challenged me. God continues to encourage me to advance in the area of writing and speaking. Today I got several letters in the mail from two women that shared how much God had taught them personally from my writings. One even ordered all my CD's and my book. I felt so blessed and what a gift from God.  I saw this as God confirming I am on the right path and I needed the encouragement as it breeds courage.  He promised me in Psalms "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go."  I hang on to that as I step into the unknown.  He promised to sustain me.  I will also be attending a Christian Writers Conference this weekend and am excited about the opportunities that await.

On a personal note, I was able to see my sweet daughter and son-in-law when I went to Houston.  I have really missed my girl. It is fun to see them making their own life together.  Price is out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico on an off shore drilling rig this summer.  He is following the head engineer around and is working 12 hour days.  I know he is learning much. Austin and Laura have purchased a boat and are busy skiing, planting a garden and enjoying the East Coast.  I plan to go see them in July...well really I planed to see them in June but hit the wrong button when I booked the flight so now I am going in July!  It will be interesting to see why God wanted me here now and there later.  Planning does not work for me still!

My trip to California recently proved that I truly am advancing in the area of grief.  I had one day that I cried for about 3 minutes.  That was huge for me; but later that day I just felt angry.  As I pondered why, I realized that our last family vacation was to California and that there would never be another time like that for us.  Our family dynamics have changed...I never wanted them to, but change is here to stay, like it or not.

Dancing and Reinventing,













Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Divine Appointments

Summer time...I love it!  Yes the heat is challenging but I love the summer nights sitting on my deck with the lights and torches.  I love the cool breeze early in the morning when the birds begin singing and I
love swimming in the evening.  I love vacations and the fun summer brings but I guess I love life period.

I recently looked at the make up of the audience of my blog and I was astounded.  There were people that regularly view from US, Canada, Russia, United Kingdom, Germany, Lavinia, Taiwan, Ukraine, Alaska, South Africa, South Korea, India, Slovenia, Australia, Malaysia, Japan, Chilie, Brazil, Austria. Wow! Let me hear from you.  Please make a comment or email me personally.  Let me know what touches your heart.  kathleenmaxwell1@gmail.com or comment below.

Since I wrote last week, my father has had surgery and I spent Monday in the hospital.  He had 3 compression fractures and they had to put him under a general anesthesia which was risky with his heart condition but he pulled thru once again.  I think he is part cat and has 9 lives since this is his ninth hospital stay in 20 months. Each visit challenges me as it readjusts my life.   He and my mom celebrated their 53 anniversary this week.  What an awesome accomplishment.  I have decided the years of caregiving is my Ironman and I will finish strong.  
God supplies all I need when I think I cannot take another step...

I am leaning that to survive as a caregiver I must have times when I totally escape.  Our local newspaper printed an article about caregiving this past week and it said, "Caregiving for an elder loved one is an awesome and loving task.  Few gifts are more valuable than time and attention.  Far too often, though, the stress of caregiving creates health problems for the caregiver.  Studies show caregivers must first take care of themselves so they'll be able to care for their loved one.   Hard as it may be, it's critical they get a break just to be able to continue their important job."  I have to get out of town from time to time just to catch my breath as this situation has been intense  and long...

I want to talk about divine appointments.  Divine appointments are so much fun and make the day fun.  Recently when I went to California I had three divine appointments on the flights.  One was with a young man I knew from years ago.  His mom is in the last stages of cancer and as we talked and cried together I felt like I was able to help him embrace where he was in the grief journey.  The next flight I sat by a young man that had just won a trip for being top salesman for a mobil phone company.  He was 20 and as we visited I felt to encourage him in the gifts God had given him.  I shared part of my testimony  and then gave him the book I had written on  "Wake Up to Who You Are."  At the end of the conversation he stated that he felt he was to become a pastor and I was able to affirm his gifts and callings.  The next leg of the flight I sat by a woman from South Africa and she was a volunteer for a social service agency.  As we visited I shared my passion to help women discover their God given value.  She made an interesting statement,  "Women in Texas and especially in the church have not idea of their value.  Women in South Africa aren't like that.  They are much more confidant in their value.  You need to get the message to women in the church to discover their value."  She was a woman after my heart and passion and I loved our visit.  I have had three different people say in this past week, "You have a story that you need to get out there."  God continues to affirm what He has called me to do.  Now I wait to discover the rest of the story.  I love divine appointments and find them as I simply live my life and look for God in the journey.




One day this week I stopped at a local store to pick up some of my books I had printed.  As I visited with the lady in the store and heard her heart, I felt to pray for her right there.   God touched her heart.  Later that evening I went to swing dance lessons in San Antonio.  While there I had the opportunity to help a woman discover her God given talent and encourage her in her job search.  We prayed right there while others were busy enjoying practicing their dancing.  I love taking God into the world.  Too many times we expect these people that need His touch to walk through the doors of our churches.  I believe we need to take the church to them.

I am speaking at Second Baptist Church in Baytown Tx this Friday night at a Summer Ladies Night Out.  I can't wait to see what God has for this group of ladies.  He continues to show me His faithfulness, His goodness, His love even in the hardest of times.

If you would like a copy of my book, "Wake Up to Who You Are" contact me at my email.  The cost is $4.00 and includes shipping.  kathleenmaxwell1@gmail.com


Yea God!

Kathleen

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Here we go again...

I know I sound like a broken record, but this last week has been spent at the Sid Peterson Hospital with my dad again.  I found out today he has two more compression fractures in his back and is scheduled for surgery Monday.  As I went to register him, the lady said, "you look so familiar."  I wanted to know if I got frequent flyer miles!  My sister came down to help as I also had to take my mom to San Antonio to see her doctor.  Tis the season for them and as hard as it is, I am getting a rhythm  now and it just seems normal. I know in the days ahead I will treasure these days.  I  too am asking for your prayers.  This is an endurance time  for me and a challenge time for me.  I have set my will to finish strong and joyfully...breathe and focus will get me through.  He is faithful and He loves; me-this I know.

 My time away prior to the plethora of doctors. xrays, bone scans, etc. has helped me to be in a better place to handle things this time.  I continue to find ways to make this season fun by putting the top down on my car and turning the radio up.  This is the ninth time in the hospital in 20 months.  Yesterday marked 20 months of being single.

A friend wrote and told me of a dream she had about me and Joe.  I want to share it with you because it was a real encouragement.


You were at the front of the room leading the celebration with songs and prayers of thankfulness for the blessings these people were in our lives. I was at the back greeting both the living and the dead as they came to celebrate their lives and and see those still here who loved them. We were able to distinguish between the people who were alive and the people who had come down from heaven to "visit" their families and friends. As I was greeting a woman who had come from heaven, she smiled and pointed toward the front of the room.
And that's when I saw Joe. He had on a suit and was all handsome and strong. He was carrying a little girl with blonde wavy hair. She had on a white dress with pink trim. When he came in, the crowd went crazy with applause and joy at seeing him. The two of you embraced and you kissed him two or three times on the cheek! He was smiling, you were smiling, and then you both said good-bye and he told you he was happy and that heaven is wonderful. And that he was proud of you. And he thanked me for keeping you and the kids in my prayers.
I guess when we pray, God isn't the only one who hears our prayers. Our loved ones know we miss them, know that we love them, and know that we are doing well and moving on and they are totally okay with that. Expecting that to be the case, in fact! And when I have dreams like this, it fills me with such peace and reminds me that our time here on earth is so short and to just do the best we can because the real victory as we know is in heaven!


The interesting thing about the dream was that few people know that we lost a baby girl in 1997 due to a miscarriage.  It was a great comfort to know that she was with her dad and I had no doubt Joe was happy,  It was good to hear he was proud of me.  My friend had no idea we had lost a child and I know God was speaking to me thru her.

I had the opportunity to speak in Gonzales and had a lot of fun.  It was my first time to speak at a fundraising event.  Next week I will travel to Baytown and will speak at Second Baptist Church on Friday June 17th for a ladies meeting.  If you are in the area please join us. secondbaytown.org for information


My trip to California was fun.  It is a beautiful state and there is so much to do.  Lin and I went hiking, went to Lake Tahoe, bike riding, enjoyed the gorgeous views.  He continues to be a wonderful friend and is the most humble man I have ever known.  He is very easy to talk to and understanding with the grief.  His friendship has been a great gift and he has been perfect for me to learn how to date again.  Dating at 51 is quite different!





Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Joy

I am 51 years old and I still encounter new things that I don't expect.  This Memorial Day, I had the opportunity to escape Kerrville and go to Lake Tahoe.  Most Texas Memorial Day's are spent in  90 degree weather but this one I actually had a BBQ in the snow!  I cannot say I have ever had that experience and it was another adventure in things not going as one might plan but nevertheless a fun experience.   


I am very thankful for the chance to rest and get away from local responsibilities and find it necessary in this season of caregiving.  Although the recent months have challenged me, I continue to see His goodness day in and day out.    I will write more later about the trip and things God is teaching me.  

This weekend I will be speaking in Gonzales for a Christian Women's Job Corps fundraising event.  I had the honor of helping start this ministry and am anxious to see what God has done in the community through this organization.  If you are in Gonzales, come to the Magnolia Tea at 11:00  Saturday.

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

Joy...what exactly is it?  Joy is a feeling of great happiness or pleasure.  It is an attitude that I feel God wants His children to have each and every day. But it is easier said than done because some days are simply more challenging than others.  I am discovering that there is grace to access joy when I choose to.  This means that I am responsible for finding my joy if I have lost it or it appears that it is hiding behind difficult circumstances.  So, how do we swing the joy bat  when life throws us a big curve ball?  How do we find joy when we are enduring situations that continue to hurt or linger?  Where is the joy when you feel you are standing alone?
I certainly don’t have all the answers but I do have some experience in the above circumstances.   I have found that it is easy to be joyful when life is going like you like it.  Most of us would agree that life doesn’t always go like we plan.  One of my life scriptures is in Psalms 16:8-11 which says, “I have set the Lord always before me, because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Therefore, my heart is glad and my inner man rejoices and my body will rest secure. You have made known to me the path of life; you fill me with joy in your presence with pleasures at your right hand.”

The important thing for me in managing my joy is keeping the right focus.  I do much better when I look at how powerful God is and how much He loves me instead of looking at my problem or dilemma.  Jeremiah 31:3 says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love and with loving-kindness I have drawn you.”  His love never fails.  He is always loving me and no matter what happens in life, I must focus on His love and goodness.  
 As a former gymnast and coach, I know how important focus is to maintain your balance when you are on a balance beam.  The right focus is the difference in staying on and falling off.  The same is true in life.  If my focus is negative, my outlook and attitude will be too.  
  This scripture also says I am not alone.  He is holding me by the right hand.  Some days I get busy or distracted and forget to let Him hold my hand and I am more challenged by life’s circumstance. On the other hand, when I picture myself holding His hand I am much more confidant and secure.   Do you let Him hold your hand?
I love the determination of the psalmist here when he says, “I WILL not be shaken.”  Our will is a powerful thing that we can use in a positive or negative way.  There have been many days I have had to live out of my will to do what is pleasing to God verses what I feel like.
Determination and endurance can be done with joy when you keep looking at the end result.  Often times for me, it is to finish something well.  There are some things you simply cannot control or escape and those situations test your endurance level.  Anyone can quit, champions finish the course.  For example, the first ten sit-ups can be done with a smile but it is harder to find joy and have a smile  with sit up number 97,98,99 and 100.  When I am in a situation that is an endurance race, I have found joy focusing on finishing vs. where I am in the situation.  It is so much easier to do those last few sit-ups when people are cheering.  Sometimes we don’t get that blessing and have to simply breathe and draw on grace and count the trial as one that strengthens us and that is our joy.
Joy follows when our focus is right, we hold His hand and we set our will in a positive manner. The cool thing is hope is right behind along with rest.  Keeping our inner man at that place when our circumstances are screaming at us takes discipline and trust, but it is much better than the alternative.  It is my responsibility to learn to rejoice always and just be happy. (Philippians 4:4)  Join me in swinging the bat and knocking the curve balls of life out of the park! 





Kathleen