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

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Celebrating, New Life and Forgiveness

     When I think about Easter, there are three words that come to mind: celebrating, new life and forgiveness. Celebrating comes to mind as I could only imagine the joy of those that loved Jesus and saw him alive instead of hanging on the cross or in the grave.  The word forgiveness and new life rang loud like a bell  as forgiveness and new life are the whole basis of the Christian faith. I personally think most of us would benefit from focusing on Jesus and on these three words as the Easter season approaches. 
     Celebrating is the atmosphere of heaven. Jesus prayed in his prayer in Matthew, “on earth as it is in heaven.” This is a challenge to me to lead a life of celebrating no matter what is happening in my life. Sorrow and trials are just part of living on earth but we have the privilege to pray as Jesus did, and declare over our negative or difficult circumstance, “On earth as it is in heaven,” and find something to celebrate. 
      Joy, laughter, smiling, excitement are some of the words that come to mind when I think of celebrating. Don’t you know that the disciples and those that loved Jesus were excited to see him again after thinking he was gone forever?  Psalms 16:11 tells us that “in His presence is fullness of joy.” I’ve discovered that when I can’t seem to find joy, I usually do not have my mind focused on God but on myself or other negatives in my life. 
     One thing that helps me celebrate is being thankful. I have had my share of heartache with losing a spouse and both of my parents within three years and other losses and heartbreaking things happen, but nevertheless, I have much to be thankful for and to celebrate. Each day, we need to look for something to celebrate because Jesus paid a great price for us to experience joy and find joy because of His love and commitment to us. Knowing you are loved and valued helps anyone get through the roughest day and we are always loved and valued by God and always can be thankful for His love and the suffering He endured just for us. Most of the time, we need to open our eyes to see the blessings we have to celebrate. Jesus said in John 10:10, “I have come so you can have life and life to the full.” 
     Celebrating the little things in life is one of the best ways to change the atmosphere anywhere. Let me challenge you to find joy and if you can’t find it or a reason to celebrate each day, ask God to help you and to change your thinking.
     New life is what Jesus came to give us through His death and resurrection. Romans 6:4 says, We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
     So what does that mean for us today? All of us have made mistakes and wrong choices. Each of us is sinful and even as hard as we might try, we can be wrong and fail. The hope we have, when we believe in Christ and His death and resurrection is that God can redeem any situation and we can have new life no matter how bad things seem. Think of a caterpillar. You cannot get much lower to the ground than being a caterpillar. Then the creature goes thru another stage that seams even worse. He hangs upside down in an ugly brown bag. Maybe you feel like your life is upside down and all messed up. There is hope when you invite Christ into the situation. At the end of the process for this pupa hanging upside down, a new and wonderful free creature emerges with a totally new life-a butterfly. Often times in the process, we can become doubtful and disillusioned in the cocoon stages of our lives and we must hang on the hope found in Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good for those who are in Christ Jesus.”     The other day I was driving and praying as I drove. I was talking to God about several situations that were occupying my mind. As I prayed about each, I felt God say to me after each situation, “yes and I will work it out for your good.” After the third item I offered up in prayer, and getting the same comfort and encouragement from God, I realized, it didn’t matter how bad a situation was, I could benefit and overcome simply by looking to Jesus to bring “new life” into what I faced. Romans 6:4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” He makes all things new.
     Forgiveness…now that is a word that is easier said than done. Jesus hung on the cross so you and I could be forgiven of our sins and failures. Now that is good news! He suffered so we do not have to suffer from guilt and shame. It is not in God’s heart that you walk around carrying guilt and shame for your failures. 1 John 1:9  states, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (NIV) We all have something to be thankful for because of the fact that we can receive mercy and freedom instead of judgment. Let me encourage you to confess your failures to God and thank Him for mercy, then trade any guilt and shame for freedom. Now that is a great Easter present and a reason to celebrate!
     Once we receive God’s forgiveness, then we have the responsibility to give forgiveness to others, as we live in a world where people can mess up, hurt us and let us down.  Ephesians 4:32 says, “ And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (NIV) I know there have been times in my life that I was mad and didn’t want to forgive but knew it was a command from God. In those times, all I could pray was, “God, change my heart and help me to be willing to forgive.” That started the process of forgiving others.

     Find something to celebrate today and every day. Hang in there in the tough situations, find hope in God and look and  listen for the signs of new life. Most of all receive the forgiveness He provides and give it away. You may need to ask God to help you with all three of these things and I am confident that He will. I plan to upgrade my celebrating, looking for new life and forgiving. Will you join me?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rest and Father's Delight

Rest and Father's Delight
Kathleen Maxwell-Rambie
March 2013

     What does  resting in God’s love and God’s peace look like in a world where there is little peace and constant stress? All I know is what rest and peace look like for me as I have had to navigate through some rough waters in my own life. I have learned that there is power in guarding my rest and peace so I can walk in all the changes and challenges  in my life. I cannot say I am always good at resting and walking in the peace of God but I know I function much better when I do and am personally trying to make it a lifestyle just like exercise or eating right. 
     Whenever there is a shift in our lives, how we view God in  the change, loss, or trial is critical our heart being at rest and peace in our hearts. Our stability and security cannot be rooted in our circumstances or people. Circumstances are totally unpredictable and even the best people in our lives let us down and can leave in a time that does not seem convenient to us.
   Recently I was visiting with my new husband and stated, “My life does not look anything like it did a few years ago, My job is different, the man I’m married to is different, my kids are all on their own now and both my parents are gone.”  “I’ve gone from being married 30 years,  to the death of a spouse, to adjusting to single life, and  caregiver and being on constant high alert for them.” My heart was trying to handle  the wave of grief that had washed over me with losing both of my parents in less than two months, as well as having a house fire. Cognitively I know from experience that grief does not always show up when we want it to. Those waves hit and can be exhausting and make you feel upside down but I’ve learned to just let the tears roll.
     Somehow I guess I had expected this newlywed time to be filled with total joy. Instead, grief and losing those close  have shared  this time as Stephen and I have only been married since October 27th 2012. My new husband is incredibly funny and responded with, “Yes, I know...I’ve gone from doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, to living in Kerrville and even Sara, my dog that lived in the country now has to walk on a leash!” “Poor Sara doesn’t know what has happened to her. She now has to share her master with a Kerrville girl, another dog and a cat!” “Men in Uvalde don’t have cats and now I have a cat I pet,” he informed me. Trying to add humor to our conversation I said, “yes and before you know it you will be singing the Tivy Fight Song.!”  “I don’t think so,” was his reply as he was once a star quarterback for Uvalde. There has been a long standing sports rivalry between the two schools for as long as I can remember. I am very thankful for this wonderful man that has been a real trooper with spending much of our short married life in hospitals and funeral homes. 
     Hebrews 12:7 says, “Endure hardships as discipline;God is treating you as sons.” (NIV) Then in verse 11 it states,”No discipline seems pleasant at the time but painful. Later on, however it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Often times it is easy to look at challenges as the enemy instead of something that is making us stronger and bring out the beauty within us. We all have hardships but do we endure and learn from the experience or waste it?Submitting to where we are in life isn’t always easy or fun but we can find joy when we adjust our thinking and trust God in the journey. Why a loving God would allow me to lose my husband three years ago, find love again and seven weeks after our marriage, bury my mother and then my father is something I don’t have the answer to nor will I get stuck in the “why did this happen to me” mode. One of my prayers in this season of my life is, “God, align my thinking and  my heart with yours.” If we simply look at the hardship, we can become disheartened. We must find the good and what we gain in the trial and command our heart to rest in God’s love. 
     God is never obligated to tell us why things happen as they do. He simply says confidently, “trust me.” Proverbs 3:5 says,”Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.” (NIV) That is good enough for me and I am committed to trusting Him.
      God is a daddy that delights in His kids and loves helping us in the journey. In the trials I have experienced I have come to a place of learning,  to rest in His love for me. At times I can hear Him saying and shaking his head, “Yes, that is my girl and I delight in her and love her and she loves me.” Did you know God delights in his kids? Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”
   Father God delights in His kids. What a comforting thought. His love for us is constant and unconditional, keeps us steady when waves  of change and grief rock the calm waters of our lives. Sometimes, resting in His love for me is all I can hang on to, especially when letting go of those I love and miss. There is a power that comes and strengthens me when I choose to rest in God’s  constant love for me. Where do you run when life rocks your boat? Do you sink or rest in His love? 
    Whenever we have to let go of life as we knew it, change greets us. Yes, we let go of life as we knew it but we also gain new experiences and people in our lives, and that makes us rich. How we think about the change can cause stress and rob us of peace or we can find joy in our new adventures. For me, I find myself tearfully embracing the loss of the two people that have loved me the longest and adjust my thinking to look at the life that is ahead of me. As the child that has lived with them in Kerrville and has been their caregiver for nine years, it is a big change for me. I have lost but I am now free from the responsibility and frequent hospital visits. When death comes, we lose those we love but we also can make room for new relationships and new  people to love and new experiences.
    Will you join me in resting in His love and delight for you? He delights in you, delights in being with you and holding you close in the changes of life. I know He hold me and His arms are big enough to hold you too.

Holding my Daddy's hand in his last hour