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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Crisis At Christmas Is Nothing New

Christmas last year

Merry Christmas to all! I hope this finds you enjoying the season. It has been a fun and busy week for me with lots of adventure! 
My sister and her family are here for the holidays so life is busy with my 3 nephews and all the Christmas preparations. Children make life fun. Christmas day will be spent with my parents, Price, my sister and her family and Mal and Rob will come in sometime in the afternoon.
Below is the article that appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times this week.

Crisis Is Nothing New At Christmas
Kerrville Daily Times Article 
December 23rd, 2011
Kathleen Maxwell

Have you ever made plans and things just didn’t turn out the way you expected? I have to say there have been many things that haven’t turned out the way I had expected or planned. Two thousand years ago, things were not going the way Mary and Joseph had planned either. They were in love and engaged. I am sure, like most couples, they had held hands and chatted about their dreams together.
Suddenly an angel appeared to Mary and told her of another plan. This plan was one that actually put her in danger of much judgement and even possible death. It was not OK for a girl to be expecting without being married. From Joseph’s point of view, he had to really decide how much he loved and trusted Mary. Seriously, this story is a little out there; however, I believe it is true. God is not always predictable and doesn’t always do things the way we expect. I guess that is why it is called a walk of faith. God sent Jesus to be Immanuel, which is translated, “God with us.”  Matthew 1:23
When you think about it, what more could we really want in life other than for God to be with us in every situation in life. What an incredible gift! I found myself the other day in an unexpected situation that could have been quite intense but I had been singing earlier that morning, “Come let us adore Him.” That song kept ringing in my ears in the midst of the situation. I was at perfect peace. The focus of my day was adoring Him. I think the problem is that most of us don’t remember to use the gift that has been given in Jesus. We can be at perfect peace in any situation if we choose and hold His hand and make Him our focus. 
Let’s go back to the Christmas story. There was crisis in Bethlehem. Mary was expecting and wasn’t married. There was no place for them to stay when they arrived in Bethlehem to give birth. Joseph had to trust that Mary was being honest with him and then there is an order to kill all the babies under two in the neighborhood. Can you imagine if Obama declared to kill all the baby boys under two? It would certainly be a national crisis. We really don’t have anything to complain about.  
Maybe your crisis is different. Maybe it is a divorce you didn’t want. Perhaps it is the death of a loved one or someone you love is very sick. It could be a  financial crisis you are looking at. It might be that you have someone you love caught in an addiction and it is destroying your relationship. Crisis sometimes barges in unannounced and makes itself at home.
Mary chose to focus on God and the precious gift she was given that I am sure she didn’t understand. This is a good lesson for us. Focus on God in the midst of crisis is what will keep us moving through the crisis and give us peace. The alternative is to be overwhelmed by our circumstances. She didn’t have to understand, she loved God and focused on Him and loved Joseph. This is good advice. As believers, we often are way too judgmental and simply need to focus on God and love those he puts around us. Actually, Jesus came so we could not only have the capacity to love those that love us but to love those that don’t. We don’t have to understand or figure things out, we simply need to love as Jesus did. When we do that, our trust grows in our Savior. 
If we don’t focus on God in the midst of crisis, we will miss the gifts in the crisis. 
In the midst of any crisis there are blessings. The problem is we often have to look hard enough to find them. As I have journeyed the past three years watching my late husband battle cancer and then leave this Earth, I can say I have encountered crisis that, often times, felt like a nightmare after my father was hospitalized nine times in the 18 months that followed. There were times I wasn’t sure I was going to survive the trauma, but I kept my focus on God. It was all I had to hang on to. In the midst of all the disappointments, I have found numerous blessings and know God in a way I had never experienced in my 42 years as a Christian. I will have to confess, it has taken a discipline to focus on the gifts in my crisis and some days I haven’t done so well.
Often times at Christmas I give gifts and I wonder if people will like them, but God was pretty confident in the gift he gave. 
In Isaiah 9:6, 7 he tells about the gift of Jesus. He describes him as, “Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace.” Wonderful counselor means Jesus is our go between. He goes between us and any problem we have. Mighty God means He is bigger than any problem we face. Prince of Peace says that we have a God-given right to walk in peace in any situation. Jesus came to be our Prince of Peace. That means we have an escort in any situation. A prince rules and escorts. For me personally, I often picture myself being escorted by Him and overwhelming peace comes over me.
Luke 1:37, Mary replied to God in the midst of her crisis, “Be it unto me, according to your word.” She said yes to God. She trusted Him. She embraced her trial, focused on Him and let God escort her thru the situation; then she discovered the most incredible gift. 
Can you follow Mary’s example? Can I? Have you accepted the gift of Jesus? It is a question we must all ask ourselves. If we do, we just might discover the most incredible gifts of life.


C

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday 2011





     "Rejoice in your past because it got you where you are today." This is a quote from Bob Jones and I love it. It has been a great way to reframe the challenging things of life. It is true. I was telling a friend yesterday that I will never be the same because of what I have walked thru. It has reshaped me and this is a good thing. 
Christmas past...Maxwell dog pile. Is that Austin on the bottom?
     This holiday will be different. Austin and Laura will not be able to come home and we will really miss them. Mal and Rob will be with his family Christmas Eve and until Christmas afternoon. Looks like it will just be Price and me to get all the stocking stuffers!  We will celebrate with my sister and brother and their  families at my parents home. Different seems to be the name of things for me but here we go! I will miss my big kids...
     This holiday season, I am so thankful for all of you that have walked with me thru life, held my hand when I needed it and prayed for me and my family. Thank you for your faithfulness and love and I pray blessings on you and yours.


Love That Overcomes Fear
Kathleen Maxwell
Kerrville Daily Times Article
November 10th, 2011

   The longer I walk with God, the more I realize I need a fresh revelation of His love for me. I think most of us could use an upgrade when it comes to comprehending God’s love for us. Scripture is clear about the connection between the love of God and fear. 
     I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love.But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who is fears is not made perfect in love.” (NIV) The more we live in an understanding of how radically loved we are, the more confident and secure we are.
      Fear torments and is like punishment. God’s heart for us as his kids is to be free to enjoy life and live secure in his love. I feel it is imperative that we treat fear as a robber or thief instead house guest. I think I was the queen of excuses guarding the fears I had in my life. Actually, I thought they were just a part of normal life until God began to gently challenge me and show me more about his love for me. Now when I realize I am afraid, timid or hesitant I ask God for a greater revelation of His love for me.
     One of the biggest fears many face, is the fear of the unknown. It often paralyzes people and keeps us stuck and from living a life of faith. In reality, life is full of the unknown. So many times we want a guarantee before we step into the unknown but the only thing we can really rely on in life is the love of God and the fact that he promises to be with us in life. This was something I learned when my mother was stricken with a debilitating rare disease. There were many days after she was ill that I was tormented by the unknown and the fear of loosing her. One of the blessings of her illness was I learned a very valuable life lesson; God is always with me. That is powerful and has given me an unshakable confidence.
       Hebrews 10:38-39 says, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” (NIV) God’s heart is for his kids to live lives confidant and courageous. Actually, God rewards our confidence in him. Hebrews 10:35 says, “So do not throw away your confidence, it will be richly rewarded.” What a win/win situation for us!
     Fearless people give others confidence. Have you ever noticed that after watching a great movie when an ordinary person steps beyond all odds and wins, it makes you feel like you can overcomer too?  As we conquer our fears,our own fearlessness helps others walk out of their fears. Overcoming your own fears is not just about you but also about those God wants you to impact. We must see the bigger picture in overcoming our fears.
     What about another common fear, the fear of believing again? I remember years ago I went through a time when month after month there were major obstacles in my life. There were family heart aches, our new car was stolen, a close friend suddenly died, our baby had pneumonia, my children all got pink eye and then my daughter went to a slumber party and came home with lice! In the middle of all that, my marriage was difficult. When there was finally a break in the trials, I found it difficult to believe again. In God’s kindness, he slowly used these difficulties to tear down my self erected walls of protection. He showed me he was more than able to protect me and that I could trust his love for me. 
     Are you afraid to believe again? Maybe you are a captive to doubt and unbelief.Trial after trial can lead us to loose faith if we are not careful. That is when we need others to cheer us on to help us believe again and walk in faith. Sometimes we need others to pull us out of the trap of disappointments
     Another fear I  have battled is a fear of being hurt again. When we love like Jesus does, unconditionally, we open ourselves up to being hurt by others. That flies in the face of our logic to protect ourselves. Loving unconditionally is the way Jesus loves. Unconditional love says, “there is no condition you have to fulfill for me to love you.” Loving like Jesus also opens our hearts to hurt. It is easy to  hide behind the walls we erect to protect ourselves but what also happens, is those walls imprison us. The good news is that when we take down those walls and love unconditionally, we also open ourselves up to a freedom to love and be loved. 
     The problem with too many Christians is we preach the love of God but do not really live it in giving love or opening our hearts to it.  Jesus talked about those that would be great in the kingdom of God. He challenges us in Matthew 18:2-4, “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: I tell you the truth, unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like a child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Little children are open to love. Their hearts have a purity and they fully trust. Jesus admonishes us to be childlike, openhearted. 
     The problem we all face is we encounter sinful people, dishonest or insecure leaders,  spouses  that betray us and we build walls and pitch our childlike wonder and vulnerability to the wind.  The challenge for all of us is to humble ourselves and be vulnerable to love, and be loved. How childlike and vulnerable are you? 
     
     God’s healing is here for us when we realize we have self erected walls and repent of building them and not trusting God. Why not join me today in asking God to help you tear down your walls, love unconditionally as a little child, and ask him to restore our childlike  innocence to receive His love and unconditionally love others? We could be a powerful force of love and transform our community.
Kathleen Maxwell is a native of the Hill Country, educator, writer and speaker. She is passionate about helping others discover the joy of walking with God and their value. You can contact her at kathleenmaxwell1@gmail.com and on her blog www.themaxwellminutes.blogspot.com

Sunday, December 11, 2011

God Is With You In Your Grief and Pain

   


 It's the most wonderful time of the year...yes it is. The key is we have to keep looking for the wonderful. 
     One highlight this past week was that I was asked to speak to a Young Adult Class at my church. Seven of my current students from YouthBuild attended and I loved watching God touch their hearts. I also loved getting to be with another group of people from my church that I don't normally rub shoulders with. I also was invited to the CWJC Christmas Party and was able to stop by for a few minutes and see some of my former students. It warmed my heart to hear of how well some of them are doing. One graduating from nursing school, another the leader of an Officer's Wives Club in the Army, another's testimony of more freedom. Yea God! It was a blessing to attend.
      God continues to encourage me daily and reminds me of his goodness to me as I go through another holiday without Joe. I don't really know how people do without God.
     December 17th I will say goodbye to 51 and hello to 52...I honestly do not feel that old but my birth certificate says otherwise. 
     Below is an article that appeared in our local paper this Friday. I have heard from several grieving people that were touched by it. Somehow God continues to work me although at times I just look for energy to get through the day.
         
Fun Christmas Memories
                                    Kerrville Daily Times Article
                                                                        Kathleen Maxwell
                                                                     December 9th, 2011
     The holidays can often times be painful for those of us that have lost loved ones. Holidays can remind people of joyful times spent with those that are not with us anymore. Many can struggle with grief during the Christmas season that may have been swept under the carpet the rest of the year. 
     Grief  seems to barge in at the most unexpected times, I guess all the lights we have up in this season make grief think it too is invited to the celebration of the season. For example, the other day I was planning a holiday party and  talking to a woman in a local restaurant. The conversation began to change after we finished preparations and she asked me a question about marriage. I answered with, “Early on in our relationship...but right before our relationship ended...” All of a sudden the words I spoke brought tears to my eyes. I looked at her with tears beginning to spill from my eyes and said, “ Give me a minute,I have never used the words “our relationship ended.”  “It really ended.” I said again.
      I had said numerous times, “ My husband died”, ”Joe is gone”, “I am a widow.” but never “our relationship ended.” The words I used hit me like a ton of bricks.The relationship we shared had ended. My friend did nothing wrong in asking a question but my response triggered the pain that still lingers and the reminder that he would not be my escort to the event I was planning.
     I have learned to just let the tears roll and I don’t mind crying in public although it is not my favorite thing to do. Grief is a personal process and not a one time event. It takes time and it is best to just keep walking through it and let the tears roll. 
      The best thing you can do as a friend to someone grieving is share their pain. Hold their hand until it passes. Let them talk. I sat next to a woman older than my mother this week at a luncheon that lost her husband of 50 years. She just needed someone to understand her pain and the challenges she faced. She needed someones love to just help her thru the luncheon that was overwhelming.
     Often times grieving people can feel like God doesn’t care about their pain. This is not true. Numerous times in scripture God says He is near to the brokenhearted. Psalms 34:18 says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” This life is full of pain and suffering but God did not leave us alone and knows exactly what we feel.
      God recently allowed me to experience the truth of Psalms 34. I was shopping at Costco in San Antonio and was missing Joe that day as we frequently shopped together for the holidays. A wave of grief had come and and I was just trying to catch my breath again. I get tired of the waves...  Suddenly a woman walked up to me and said, “I think you are the prettiest woman in this store.” 
     Perhaps she had forgotten her glasses in the car but I smiled gratefully, thanked her and walked on. I had never had anyone say something  like that. 
    All of a sudden I realized that was God speaking to me. I love to encourage others to know God or see him in everyday life. I quickly turned around to find her down the next row of groceries and said, “I just want you to know God used you to bless me. I am a recent widow after 30 years of marriage and my husband frequently told me he thought I was pretty. I miss those words.” 
     She replied, “I am so sorry you lost him. You are so young.” “I lost my son years ago but that is not like loosing a spouse.” “I at least had my husband to share the pain.” she said.
      I can only imagine her the pain of loosing a child and would not want that experience. Then words came out of her mouth that again touched my heart. “The worst part is  most people don’t understand your pain because they can’t.”  “They haven’t been there.” 
     “Never let anyone minimize your pain either.” she said with a voice of authority. 
      “And you miss those hugs from your husband too don’t you?” she asked.
     Here I was just trying to shop and a total stranger read my mail! She reached out to hug me and I welcomed her arms. I knew God sent this woman to be His arms and voice of love to my weary soul. 
     We didn’t even exchange names. We didn’t need to. The most important thing was we shared the pain of not having someone with us to celebrate.
     I walked away from this precious lady knowing God knew where my heart was and that He would see me through this valley. Whatever the problem, God always has a provision for us.
     God sent Jesus to bind up the brokenhearted as he proclaims about Jesus coming in in Isaiah 61:1. “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives...” Binding up our broken hearts is part of Jesus job description. God has the power to heal in an instant but I find he often wants us to trust Him in our pain. Jesus suffered and in his suffering he learned obedience. He also learned how to walk with his father and trusting in God in his pain.
     There are many in our retirement community that are widowed. There are also parents that have lost children.  Men and women that have lost brothers, sisters, and friends. There are children that don’t have mommies or daddies around this holiday season. Maybe God wants to use you to be a gift to someone this Christmas. You never know how your kindness can be healing or encouraging to someone else just like the divine appointment I encountered.
     I pray that God would show you that He knows where your heart is this holiday season and reveal to you He is Emmanuel- God with us. Let’s be a community that seeks God and allows him to use us to bless others. Will you look for your divine appointment this Christmas season?

Please let me know if this article touched your heart. You can contact me at kathleenmaxwell1@gmail.com or via the blog.

Sunday, December 4, 2011



Fun Christmas memories
I told someone today, I am fully confidant about God and his ability to turn my ashes into something beautiful. In the mean time, the pain is still real and it hurts. There is no way to hurry grief and it always shows up and barges in the door of my life. I wonder why it has come to see me again. I never invite it to come but who does?
I seemed to get through the last week with Thanksgiving just fine but this week has been difficult.  My job in very demanding and makes running the Job Corps look like a cake walk. I have had to work 3 nights until 6 and 6:30.. I am also on my 7th week of antibiotics and this has challenged me as I am not a sick person. I miss Joe. Our staff party is coming up and we were asked to bring our family, husband or significant other...I have no family here, Joe is gone and I can't think of one man in Kerr County I want to invite! No offense to anyone, maybe I just can't think of you at the moment! I breathe and I focus and sing to keep me going. 
And yet, God is so faithful to let me know He knows where I am in my pain. Yesterday I was shopping in San Antonio and a woman walked up to me and said, "You are the prettiest woman in this store." I smiled and thanked her, although I don't think she must have looked at many people! 
I turned around and  tapped her on the shoulder and said, "I just want you to know God used you. I am a recent widow and my husband told me almost every day that he thought I was pretty, Now that he is gone, I miss those words.
Christmas 2007...note the UT hat!
 She said, "Oh I am sorry for your loss; you are so young." I lost a son 16 years ago so I have some idea of your loss but that is nothing like loosing half of you. Honey, the worst is people don't understand your pain. Don't you let anyone minimize your pain. The one you have always shared your pain with is gone." "And you miss being hugged and physical contact." She read my mail as  she was a friend of grief. What an amazing God I serve. He sent her to comfort me. She hugged me and walked with me a few steps. We didn't even exchange names but we were two people that understood each other.
I press on in life. I had two fundraising events this week for Brad McCullouch. I am happy to use my skills to help someone else in pursuit of their dreams. He will be a great district attorney for our community and has won 98% of the cases he has tried over the last 8 years as an assistant prosecutor. Check him out at www.bradfor198da.com