Note Writing…a Lost Art?

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In the past when asked to write a thank you note for a gift, I once heard, “Mom, nobody does that anymore.” My answer to that was, “Well, maybe they should.”

We live in a day when most people use a text to say thank you…if they even say it at all. While I think any act of gratitude is commended, in my opinion there is just something very personal and special about a hand-written note.

My friend, Nancy Waldo, has taken a similar journey as mine recently.  Just a few of the many things we have in common is our husbands have had cancer and we  responded similarly to the overwhelming and incredible acts of kindness bestowed upon us from our many wonderful, godly friends.

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This is Nancy and her beautiful family! (Nancy has on the green scarf.)

Just this morning she shared about how writing thank you notes has had a positive impact on her life. I believe the world could greatly benefit from this needed message so I want to share it now with you, my readers. This is a longer post than normal, but please take the time to read this. You will be blessed! Nancy writes…

Thankfulness

I look at the card one more time, slip it in the envelope, lick the back edge, press it shut and set it to the side. Another batch of “thank you” notes are ready to hit the mail. I set the pen down and finger the stack. I’ve been thinking a lot about thankfulness and what it looks like. I’ve had a lot of time to think about it in these past 8 months. The Lord has been teaching me much about it in this past ½+ year.

I must backtrack and say that writing “thank you” notes has been a part of my life since I was a kid. My mom use to laugh and say that she has no idea where writing these came from because she doesn’t think that she taught it to me. Maybe she did and maybe she didn’t, I don’t remember. I remember that the first time someone did something kind for me, I sat down and immediately wrote a child’s note of thankfulness (I suspect it had a lot of errors in it). I remember the person being touched by my note and saying so. I think it was there, in that young heart and mind, that gratitude was truly born.

I continued to write notes to people throughout my growing up years. I remember writing a bunch at graduation. When I got married, the “thank you” notes nearly did me in, however. There were so many to do, it took me nearly a year to complete all of them. I almost grew to hate writing them, at that time. And yet, I was grateful for each gift, whether big or small that came to us. I was touched by their kindnesses.

When the boys began to read and write, I taught them to do “thank you” notes. At first, they were the simplest of notes. “Dear Grandma, Thank you for the gift. Love, Andrew.” With each year, (and with the transition to homeschooling) I taught them the proper ways to write a “thank you”: date, salutation, opening paragraph, body of the text, closing paragraph, and signature. Sometimes there were complaints about doing the notes. I would always remind them that if someone took the time and effort to give a gift, they could take the time to write a thank you. Also, if it was that big a bother to them, they could always return the gift (with an explanation, of course).  (“What a great come back Nancy!”- Gaye) They never opted to return a single gift. Their notes got creative and interesting over the years. Some of those notes surface from time to time. Age 12: “April 3, 1998 Dear Grandma, How are you? I am fine. Do you still have snow where you live? [she lived in the Adirondacks] Thank you for the gift of birthday money. I am putting some in the bank to save for a car [they were only 12 and saving for a car] and I also bought some Legos [of course!]. Thank you for thinking of me. We miss you and hope we will see you this summer. We love you. Love your favorite grandson, Timothy…PS Just kidding”

However, back to present day, as the first days of diagnosis came to us, we began to receive an outpouring of love so kind and generous that we were humbled (and surprised). Not being able to remember everything that was going on around us in those early days and fearful that we would forget some kindness (which we probably did anyway), we purchase our little blue notebook. In it we wrote 3 sections: Bible verses that people sent us, prayer requests of other people’s needs, and a section for names and gifts of kindness. There were a variety of gifts and helps. Some people were so creative in their giving.

At the beginning of each treatment week, Dave and I would arm ourselves with things to keep us busy for the 4-5 hours that we sat while life-saving treatment was administered to Dave. Dave brought his computer, magazines and paperwork. I brought embroidery, magazines and writing materials. We brought lunch with us. The two of us would look like street people loaded down with bags as we passed the examining rooms and the lab. Always, always on those first days each treatment week, after Dave was situated and I took my place beside him with an ever-watchful eye, I would get out the little blue notebook, notecards, and my pen. I held a magazine on my lap and I would write out “thank you” notes. At first, the written notes were me just trying to show appreciate for the help coming our way. As each treatment week came around, I would once again take out the blue notebook and begin writing. I’m not sure when it happened, when the light began to dawn, when a new truth began to come through my brain….the “thank you” notes were not just for the giver BUT were for us, as well.

You see, when I would look in the notebook and see who I was thanking, there was a few seconds that I would recall when the gift came in & how it was useful to us. I would begin to formulate how I wanted to say, “thank you.” I began to see how writing in the little notebook, taking the time to formulate what I wanted to say, reflecting on the gift itself & the giver gave me an opportunity to be thankful at each step of the writing process. Each step gave me one more opportunity to appreciate the thoughtfulness, the kindness, and the sacrifice of the giver. It changed writing thank you’s from a need-to-do to a want-to-do job. Each gift was given with love and care. My use of words took on a greater care as I desired to truly express what Dave and I were feeling, not just saying thank you. Dave often mentioned something he wanted included in the notes and I read each of my outgoing notes to him.

It made me realize that all the years I was teaching my sons the art of saying thank you, I was really teaching them the art of being thankful. For it is in the disciplines of life that we learn something: how to walk, how to play soccer, table manners,… being thankful.

This year God taught me the art of real thankfulness, real gratitude. He taught me how thinking of the giver and their thoughtfulness also teaches me to be a thoughtful giver. He showed me how each note drew my heart closer to friends and family, knit our hearts together. It also made me wonder: how often do I thank my Heavenly Father for all He has done for me? Do I say thank you when He answers a panic-stricken prayer? Do I act truly grateful when He sends wonderful surprises my way? Or is most of my communication with Him a want list and complaints?

As in the case of my sons, starting on the road to a truly thankful heart starts with discipline, a pad of paper and a pen. “Dear God, thank you for a warm house today, Love Nancy.” Then as time goes on and I practice small sentences of gratitude, I might think more about the giver and my words might take on a more intimate tone. “Heavenly Father, This morning as I got up, I peeked through the blinds and saw the most beautiful sunrise casting lovely shadows on the snow. God, you have made such a beautiful world. I took a picture of it. I loved it. Thank you for beautiful sunrises. I love you. Your grateful daughter, Nancy.” You see, by writing down my thankfulness, I get another chance to reflect on what He’s done. Anyway, I hope that I continue to learn things from this time in the valley…..and I hope I can be grateful.

Philippians 1:3-4 I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.

Psalm 9:1 I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

Ephesians 5:19-20 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you SO much Nancy for sharing your heart with us and teaching us as God teaches you!

I did a group Bible study once about the attitude of gratitude.  We talked about how people felt about receiving a thank you note that was months or even years overdue. One lady said she received a thank you note for a wedding gift that she had given about three years prior to receiving the note.  This note was especially meaningful to her because she knew the bride still remembered her kind gesture. So it’s never too late to write that note!

So let’s not let this note writing go out of style! Who’s with me?

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

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Snow…a Winter Wonderland!

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First snow of the year! 1-22-2016

The recent snow is SO beautiful! Living in the south I don’t get to see it nearly as much as I’d like to. Tonight there is a full moon and the light is reflecting on the snow making this night extra beautiful.

One thing I like about the snow is that it transforms imperfect things like rusty barn roofs and dead looking grass into an amazing winter wonderland! Dirty things appear clean when they are covered with snow.

The pure, white snow reminds me of Isaiah 1:18 where the Lord says, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Jesus promises to transform all those who trust Him with their lives. I was made a new creature in Christ when I invited Jesus into my life. Old things were passed away and all things became new.  He changed my sinful desires to the desire to please Him with my life.

There is nothing I know that is whiter than snow!  As I walked around outside today in the fluffy, white powder, I was humbled to think that the Lord has cleaned my crimson, sin-filled heart to make it as white as that snow. Because Jesus shed His blood for me and God has forgiven me of my sin, He sees Jesus’ righteousness when He looks at me and I look clean to Him.

IMG_0324Romans 4:7 says, Blessed are they whose iniquities (lawless deeds) are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

Another thing I noticed is that “white” things that usually look clean, look dirty next to the pristine snow.  My house usually looks really white, but it looks dingy and dirty now with the white snow surrounding it.

This reminded me that I might feel pretty good about myself spiritually when I compare myself to someone who isn’t doing as well (which God’s word clearly advises against).  But when I compare myself to Jesus (the only One I should ever compare myself with) and His righteousness, I see the many discrepancies. My dirtiness really shows up!

Along with physical reminders like the snow, is God’s word, the Bible to teach us truth.  It is such a special gift that speaks to my heart and assures me that my faith is founded and grounded in truth. It is full of promises and hope….not a “wishful” hope, but a “know so” hope. (This is something a dear friend reminded me of a few days ago.)

I’d like to leave you with these beautiful verses from Isaiah 55: 10 and 11 to encourage you. God is speaking and He says…

 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:  So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

I would love to hear YOUR  thoughts about my thoughts! You have to include your email address and a password, but I hope you will take time to do this and share your thoughts with me!

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

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1/23/16

 

How Desperate are You?

IMG_20160107_223429Yesterday I asked God for a few very specific things.  Things that I knew were His desires too. Things I knew He could do and eventually would do.  What I wasn’t expecting was for Him to do it so quickly!  Within hours I saw Him do just as I had requested.

Afterwards I stood amazed… and then ashamed that I was so surprised.  So as I pondered this miracle, I thought, “Why would He not do this?” If it is something God also wants, doesn’t He want me to ask for Him to intervene? And the better question is, “Why is He not doing more of this in my life?” I quickly realized it is because I’m not asking Him and seeking His will enough.

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Sunday, I was sobered when the preacher asked, “How desperate are you for God?” Hmmm. Well, I can say this past year I’ve been more desperate by far than I ever have  been in my life. I’ve been desperate for God’s guidance. Desperate for His comfort. Desperate to see and feel His presence in my life. Desperate to know He is right here with me….. and it has been a good thing.

There have been more times that I can count where I could barely communicate my need for Him. Like Peter, when he began to sink, all I could say was, “Lord, save me!” or “Help!” In my sorrow, my prayers have often been boiled down to, “I need you God. I can’t make it without You. I HAVE to have You, now!” But I’m still not where I could be or should be spiritually.

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In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus spoke a parable about a widow who persistently came before the judge asking him to intervene in her life. The judge admitted that he didn’t fear God or really care about the lady, but he helped her because she wouldn’t give up coming to him. She wore him down.

Jesus said if an ungodly judge would intervene, won’t God do the same or better for His children whom He loves? Absolutely!

The preacher made some valid points about what it takes to be close to God.  If we want Him in our lives,

  • Our pride has to go!

We have to want God’s way more than our own way. We have to be willing to let God be the pilot.  Having God as a co-pilot won’t work. He must be in the driver’s seat.

  •  The Word of God (the Bible) must be central in our lives.

We won’t see God working, if we don’t know Him or how He operates. The preacher said,

“If we stay ignorant to His teachings, we will be oblivious to His actions!”

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  • We must be praying often

Praying is more than talking to God.  It is listening to Him. It is slowing down long enough to be quiet before Him. It is listening for that still small voice when the cares of the world are continually screaming loudly.

  • We have to get our priorities right.

What is coming between God and me and my time with Him? If our relationship with God is of utmost importance, our time with Him should reflect that. We must set aside time to commune with Him.

  • We can’t presume that we can live any way we want to and experience God’s blessings.

I feel like this is something our country as a whole doesn’t understand. It doesn’t work to say, “God bless America!” when, as a nation and often individually, we are repeatedly and habitually violating so many of the laws found in His Word. God not only calls sinners to repentance (a sorrow and a turning away from sin), but He also calls Christ-followers to repentance. Sin separates us from God. It creates barriers  between us and God and stifles our relationship with Him and others.

So basically, we have as much of God as we want in our lives. He is there capable, willing, and ready to be all we need Him to be for us. But we have a responsibility as to how often and to what degree He is welcomed to be involved in our lives. He is a gentleman. He won’t force Himself upon us.  Let’s welcome Him in today.

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

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P.S.  I like birds!

Signs of God’s Love

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“We have good news and bad news,” read my text on Christmas day. I was in NC spending Christmas with my family.  My neighbor, Catherine, was checking on the house and taking care of our animals while I was away.  She continued, “…Baby Jesus floated away yesterday- the good news- Lee, Mrs. Ellen and I cleared your drive so you can get to your house.” Thank the Lord for wonderful neighbors like these sweet people!

We have lived near our babbling creek for 15 years and have thoroughly enjoyed it. The children spent many hours playing in it while growing up.

IMG_20151027_080101543Unfortunately, when we get what I call “gully washers” and there is a lot of rain in a short amount of time, this babbling creek turns into a roaring river. Thankfully, the water has never reached the house, but  the rushing water will sometimes wash the gravel from our driveway and leave behind piles of leaves, sticks, and logs.

 

 

IMG_20151228_143735140For many years we have enjoyed a manger scene in our yard to remind  ourselves and others that the real reason for  Christmas is  Jesus’ birthday. Well, this year the flood was on Jesus’ birthday. I was upset to hear that the most important character in our display had washed away. Then the thought came, maybe there is someone downstream who really needs to meet Jesus today.

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My son, Nathan (age 16), and I were working last week shoveling the gravel back into the driveway and I was silently talking to God. “Lord, I wish you would have held the water in the banks so we wouldn’t have to spend all this time cleaning up.” I wondered why life has to be so hard some time. It’s because we aren’t home yet. This isn’t heaven. It’s earth.

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The Apostle Paul addresses this in Romans 8 about how even creation is unsettled and waiting for God to make all things right.  He goes on to say, For I reckon that the suffering of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

When we are going through difficult times, it may seem as if God doesn’t see it, know about it, or even cares. That could not be further from the truth. Psalm 139 describes how God knows every detail about us, but loves us anyway.

IMG_20160102_164509300While raking up the debris, I looked over to see something quite amazing. There was a walnut shell opened up to reveal the perfect shape of a heart!

Immediately, it was as if God was saying, “I love you, Gaye.  I know what you are going through and I care.” I remembered Jeremiah 31:3, The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness I have drawn thee.

We have several walnut trees on our property so I’ve seen lots of opened walnut shells, but they have always been circular. I have never seen one like this. I asked myself, Could God have made this shell just for me? Last spring when I was just beginning my journey with grief after losing my husband, did God form this walnut knowing I would need the confirmation and assurance of His love for me on this day, January 2, 2016?  Does God care that much? Could the Creator of the world with all its billions of people over the ages be such a personal God for me?

I came to the conclusion of YES! YES! YES! YES! God knows the end from the beginning. God knew last spring that some of the hardest days of my life were about to unfold.  He cared then and He cares now. He will always care because His love is unconditional, it never gives up or quits…ever!

In Isaiah 54:5 says, For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

A good husband will often remind his wife of his love for her. God has done that for me.  He does that for all of us.  Although I fully believe God did make this walnut for me, I also believe He made it for you! I believe if you are reading this, God is reminding you of his great love too. Because when God blesses us with things like this, He wants us to share it with others.

What a gift this walnut is!  Out of all that debris, what are the chances that walnut would be opened up? That it would be lying in the open and not buried in a pile?  That my eyes would even notice it?  I firmly believe God directs our steps and orchestrates our days and every circumstance in our lives, whether good or bad.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand. (Psalm 37:23, 24)

And when God works a miracle for us or reveals something to us, it is our responsibility to pass that blessing on to others.

So no matter how you are feeling today, please know that God truly knows and cares about what you are going through and He loves you supremely. James 4:8 promises, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” Let’s draw near today.

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

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P.S.  My neighbor, Catherine Paulsen Daugherty has two wonderful blogs I think you would really enjoy where she shares yummy recipes along with her spiritual insights.  You can find them at www.facebook.praycookblog.com and her personal blog is entitled, My Daily Bread Body and Soul. Check them out!

 

 

 

Why Make a Resolution?

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There is something very refreshing and forgiving about new beginnings.  This new year, new month, new day provides opportunities for positive change.  I messed up yesterday, but today I have a chance to do it better….to smile more, to gossip less, to lend a helping hand, to visit the sick, to be an encouragement to someone.

Are you hesitant about making a New Year’s resolution because too many times you’ve already blown it on the third day?  Or maybe I’m the only one who has that history.  But there is always hope with Jesus! Here is why I’ll be making some resolutions today.

  • God will give me multiple chances

It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. (Lamentations 3, 22, 23)

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Sunrise on Jesus’ birthday- 12-25-2015

God knows I’m going to blow it today. He knows I’m weak. He knows I’m needy. He knows I don’t have what it takes to defeat the devil and overcome temptation to sin. He knows. So He provided a way out for me.  When I confessed my sin and need for Him, He forgave me and sent the Holy Spirit to live within me and convict me of the sin I would commit in the future.  And He keeps on doing that for me.  He not only forgives me, He forgets those confessed sins!

  • God will forgive me when I fail

If we confess our sins, he (God) is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)

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Chetola Resort- Blowing Rock, NC

  • God will not hold my failure against me or remind me of it

He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy (loving kindness) toward them that fear him.  As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:10-12)

If you head east, you keep going east. It’s the same if you head west, you continue to go west. East and west never meet. What a great analogy used to describe what God does with confessed sin of the repentant! So if God does that with our sin, shouldn’t we do the same? It will do me no good to dwell on the sin I committed yesterday. I need to learn from it and do better today.

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So God is faithful to give me His  love and mercy new and fresh every day to cover my messes and I don’t even have to wait until tomorrow to try again!  When He is asked to forgive, He doesn’t sit around and think about if I deserve it or if He’s feeling up to it. He forgives me…. instantly! I can start over the next minute! And since He has forgiven and forgotten, I need to forgive myself and forget too!

The apostle Paul asked in Romans 6:1,2 if we should just sin away so God’s grace can be freely given. Of course not! This great love and forgiveness makes me love God all the more. I want to please Him. It sure is nice to know God’s forgiveness and grace is there for us when we need it. This great love and forgiveness makes me love and want to please God more. That gives me confidence and courage to step out and try to do better again and again and again.

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And while we’re making those resolutions, let’s not only try to eat healthier and exercise more.  Let’s try to draw closer to God by reading our Bibles more intentionally, praying more earnestly, loving more deeply, living more selflessly,  prioritize our time more wisely,  and serving others more willingly.  And when we mess up, let’s be quick to repent, receive God’s forgiveness, and have the courage to begin again!  May this new year bring you bountiful blessings from above!

A very Happy New Year to you!

Gaye Hughes

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Blue Ridge Parkway, NC December 2015