This series was inspired by the book Anything written by Jennie Allen. Please follow me as I struggle with life’s difficult questions and walk down the path to find my “anything”!
Maxine is a part-time chef at Fort Collins Rescue Mission. She came to us after working for a decade at the Larimer County Jail as Kitchen Supervisor. She loved her job there, but was looking to slow down a little…
But slowing down doesn’t really seem like something Maxine is capable of. At 65 years old, she has seven kids, 15 grandkids, and seven great-grandkids. She is unassuming, quiet and humble. I’ve chatted with her here and there, but I heard pieces of her story from others. Adoption, working in a prison and before that, working for the Salvation Army…I needed to interview her.
I finally got my chance last week!
RG: Have you ever prayed a prayer like “anything”?
MD: I’m sure I have. I pray quirky little prayers all the time.
RG: Tell me about your kids.
MD: Which ones?
RG: All of them!
MD: Well, I always wanted 10 kids. Now I say Thank God I didn’t have that many. But my children are the joys of my life. I’m really close to all of them and I don’t know what I would do without them. My husband had four children when we got married when I was 18. The girls were 7, 6, 5, and 3 years old when we got married.
RG: 18 and 4 kids?! That’s crazy. Did you have any more?
MD: At first, I couldn’t get pregnant. We did everything imaginable. We were married five years when I finally got pregnant. With a boy. It was so exciting. But I was sick almost the entire 9 months. It was so worth it. I had Bobby James in 1972. We tried for more children after Bobby, but I couldn’t get pregnant. Bobby is so special. He was the only boy but it didn’t spoil him. He always wanted to please everyone.
RG: So five kids total?
MD: Six, well, now seven.
RG: Puzzled look.
MD: We adopted my niece in 1979. She was five when we got her. Her parents had been absent for most of her life. I picked her up from the airport when she moved to Arizona to live with us. She asked what she should call me. I told her she could call us aunt and uncle or whatever she wanted. She said she wanted to call us Mommy and Daddy and she never called us anything different. She just fit in with us. She became the little sister. If anyone is spoiled, it’s her. She’s the baby of the family. She didn’t just have Bob (Maxine’s husband) wrapped around her finger, she had him wrapped around her whole arm.
RG: So, by 25, you had six children?
RG: So where does the seventh come into the picture?
MD: My husband was always opening our door to people. We worked at a camp in Estes Park and Bob met him there. He brought him home one night and he just stayed. He was 17, just graduated from high school. His family lives in Alaska, so we adopted him like he was ours. To this day, when he has a problem, he calls me. We just went out to Pennsylvania for his wedding.
RG: It sounds like it’s not just your husband that opens his heart to people. You do it, too. Why?
MD: I was raised in the Salvation Army. It’s a giving environment. Because you grow up watching people give, it rubs off on you. You do it because of the Lord, but it becomes a part of you. My mom always had people in the house and took care of others.
RG: Tell me more about Bob.
MD: My husband was not a Christian when we got married. He knew who the Lord was, but he didn’t walk His walk. God made our marriage good. He was always a good man, but he glowed when he became a Christian. Four years after we were married, he started going to church with me. The Lord became his Savior. Then he was hooked.
RG: How did he pass away?
MD: I took him to the hospital on New Years Eve, 1999. We thought he was having a heart attack, but they discovered he had bone cancer. He only lived 10 more days.
RG: I’m so sorry.
MD: He was an incredible man. I’m jealous of him, that he got to go. This world is not my home. When he passed away, I had to turn to God in a completely different way. I never thought I would have to walk these years by myself. But I don’t. God carries me. He has never dropped me.
RG: So after that you came to Fort Collins Rescue Mission?
MD: I just couldn’t stay in Estes. It was too lonely and out of the way. After three more years, I came back to Fort Collins. I got a job at the Larimer County Jail. I was a Kitchen Supervisor. I told men what to do. It was the perfect job for a woman because she could tell 18 men what to do all day long and they had to do it. I worked there for 10 years and I really loved it.
RG: So why did you come to the Mission?
MD: It was time to slow down. And I love this job. I love to hug people. I couldn’t even make contact with people at the jail. It just wasn’t allowed. I can talk to the people here. I can pray with them, hug them. I pray for these guys every day. I prayed for the inmates too, but it’s just not the same. It’s more personal here.
RG: It feels like your life came full circle. You spent your younger years helping people, and now you’re doing it again. Why?
MD: I’ve always wanted to do things for everyone else. Even when I didn’t work, I still did things for other people. I was always the person who watched everyone’s kids in the neighborhood. We had an open-door policy.
RG: So if you had advice for my generation, what would it be?
MD: Take the time to watch. God has already done everything and been everywhere. I think that this generation, who sees so much and has access to information, it’s harder for you to believe in a God. We don’t see him every day. We can’t feel him walking beside us and hear him talking to us. If we don’t have communication with our spouse, we lose each other. It’s the same thing with God. You have to talk to him constantly, pray to Him constantly. We need to communicate with Him and read His book. He shows us how to trust, grow and love.
RG: When you got married to a man with four kids at age 18, did you ever think your life would…?
MD: [Maxine cuts in...] Oh no, no, no. I was just taking it one day at a time. But I learned since then that God ordained this life for me. I would give up anything for the Lord.