Unseen but still there!

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Anna April 2016

Isn’t it funny how we have a hard time with things we can’t see? Many people have congratulated me because I’m “going to be” a grandma.  I am already a grandmother.  I sent my daughter, Anna, a Mother’s Day card and told her she is now carrying this little one in her womb, but very shortly she will be carrying him in her arms.  Either way, she is very much the mother of her baby.

We believe in the wind even though we can’t see it… only the effects of it.  We are sustained by oxygen and we sure believe in it even though we can’t see it. Because we can’t see it, doesn’t make it any less real.

likeness_of_godI was saddened this morning to learn that a sweet Christian lady had gone to be with the Lord. I wasn’t sad for her because I know she is in heaven, but I empathize with her husband. When I conveyed this to my pastor he said, Yes, they are precious people. I liked the way he used the present tense because we understand she is more alive now than she ever has been and is even sweeter because she bears the likeness of Christ.

tumblr_ly7sauhKoz1r9ebn2o1_1280After the doctors told my husband he probably had less than a year to live, he thought a lot about the dying process. He wasn’t afraid to die because he placed his trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ…his death, burial, and resurrection and he claimed the promises in God’s Word, the Bible. He had no trouble believing the Bible because he had seen and felt God work in his own life…changing, teaching and leading him as only God could.

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Gaye and David February 2013

However, he was concerned about the suffering he might have to endure before he died.  But he often said he believed leaving this life was as simple as walking through a door or going to sleep. Interestingly enough, he passed in his sleep, just the way he had hoped.  When you’re tired at night, he would say,  you fall asleep and wake up the next morning.  You can’t remember the exact moment you fell asleep, but you know you did. Then you wake up to find it’s morning. I think that is the way it is when a Christian dies. You go to sleep and wake up in glory. Your faith may be good enough to live with, but is it good enough to die with? David’s was.

I have come to believe the only thing that separates us from heaven is a veil. Eternity is not confined by time or space.  I believe there is a wonderful other world just beyond the skies and if we could only see it, we would live SO differently.  We wouldn’t get upset or discouraged about things that don’t really matter.  We would live life more intentionally because we would realize how temporal this life really is. We wouldn’t be so sad when our loved ones left, because we could see how marvelously overjoyed they are now in God’s presence.

hebrews_11_1_by_blossomcloud-d5r58u9But we can’t see. So we must have faith and keep an eternal perspective.  Hebrews 11:1 defines faith.  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) Does our unbelief make God sad? I hope not, but it probably does. I say, like the father in Mark 9:24 said, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.

May we be as persuaded by the things we can’t see as we are by the things we can see!

Keep looking up!

Gaye Hughes

 

 

 

My Ragnar Relay Revealings

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Jeff, P.J., Katrina, and Kathy waiting for the last runner, Jamey, to come across the finish line in Nashville!

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You many ask, What is the Ragnar Relay? This is where teams of twelve runners pay a fee (that will be partially donated to a charity) to tag team and complete a run of around 200 miles. The first runner on each team begins early on a Friday morning and the teammates run around the clock until they finish sometime the next day.  In a few cases,  a team of only six runners (Ultra Ragnar Relay) complete the race.

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The crazy, fun, happy Van 2! Katrina, Kathy, P.J., Jamey, Gaye & Sergio excited about beginning the Ragnar Relay 2016.

Your next question might be, What kind of nut would do something like that? That’s a good question! It is one I asked myself a few years ago when I first heard about this run.

Honestly, I’m not sure exactly why I signed up. The team needed two more runners. I was assured that it was just for fun and they weren’t out to win anything.  My friend, Kathy, had participated in it a few years ago and said she loved the experience, but she would never put herself through it again.  So right away I gave her a call, knowing my level-headed friend would talk me out of it.  Instead of the expected,  No way, Girl! Don’t do it! She excitedly said, If you do it, I’ll do it!

WHAT??? You said you would never do it again!  Kathy cheerfully responded, Oh, it will be fun!  We will make some good memories together! So that’s when I signed up for this run a few months ago and my awesome teammates and I ran from Chattanooga to Nashville, TN this past weekend. Although I didn’t know most of my teammates prior to this event, these Christian people inspired and encouraged me. It was a wonderful experience.

I’ve been forced out of my comfort zone in so many ways this past year with the passing of my husband.  With God’s help, I’ve done things and made decisions I never thought I could.  And I’ve found that this stretching has made me rely more on God, has proven God’s faithfulness and power in my life, and has given me more confidence to let God use me. This event was another good stretch for me.

There are so many analogies in running a race to running the race of life.

I’d like to share some things I think about while running.

  • Pace yourself

While on the farm when I was young, I would begin working in the early morning at full speed and my dad would say,  Gaye, you have to pace yourself.  It’s going to be a long day. I still have that problem.  At the beginning of a race, my adrenaline is flowing and I want to give it all I have. But I must be careful, because I must not run out of energy before the race is completed or I won’t be able to finish.

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Van 1 and Van 2 relaxing while Kathy runs down the mountain!

This is the way it is while serving the Lord.  In the past, I have gone full speed ahead trying to serve God and I haven’t taken the necessary time to pray, meditate on God’s Word, and know God while doing so. It isn’t long before what started out as God’s work being led by the Holy Spirit turns into  “Gaye’s work” which will burn up, leave a pile of ashes, and have no reward in the day of judgment.  If I am too busy to spend quiet time with God, I am too busy.  If I’m obeying God’s schedule for my life, I will have time to spend with Him.

  • Keep the run in perspective

I’m more competitive than I should be. I know that how you run the race is much more important that winning, but I have to continually remind myself of that. P.J. Simmons provided the perfect example this weekend of giving your best whether or not it looks and feels like you are winning. She had been having ankle pain before the Ragnar. The doctor confirmed that the bones were not broken or fractured and that it must be a damaged nerve or tendon.  P.J. rested her ankle and didn’t run any for two weeks prior to the relay. As she began her first leg of the relay (5.5 miles), sharp pains immediately began radiating throughout her ankle.

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Jamey, P.J., Gaye, Sergio, and Katrina

We tried to talk P.J. into letting us do her run, but she insisted on not letting her team down.  Her husband lovingly supported her by running with her, checking on her, and asking about her condition. As I fought back tears while watching her limp/jogging in excruciating pain, I wondered how God could stand to watch His only son, Jesus, be tortured and then die on a cruel cross for the sins of the world.

P.J., like Jesus, was so determined to follow through with her commitment. Her tenacity and perseverance inspired and humbled me. What if the sinless Jesus had caved in and said, No! I don’t deserve this pain! I will not do this!? He could have. No one would have blamed Him.  But mankind would have been doomed to hell for all eternity if He had.  Jesus bridged the gap for sinners to be redeemed (bought back) by paying our sin debt.

  • Weakness is not a bad thing

When I’m feeling good, the run is fun! But it is also easy to forget where my strength comes from. When my strength is gone, I’m begging for God’s help! When we have enough money, our health is good, our relationships are happy, when the car is running, etc., it is easy to trust in ourselves and not seek God like we should. But when the problems come and we don’t have the solution, we are much more inclined to start calling out asking for God’s help.

After only 9 hours of sleep in two days, not much food, and running 11 miles, I was out of gas by my third and last leg of the Ragnar Relay.  My teammates had done so well and I sure didn’t want to let them down, but all my energy was gone.  Even the peanut butter and energy jelly beans did not seem to help. I almost panicked. I asked my friends to pray and I claimed Isaiah 40: 29, He giveth power to the faint (weak); and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. I said, God, I guess I was crazy to think I could do this, but here I am.  Will you deliver me? As I began running, His strength was made perfect in my weakness…just like He promises in 2 Corinthians 12:9.  It was  amazing to feel strength that I knew was not my own.

  • Let’s cheer others on

After the runner starts running his leg, the other runners drive on ahead and pull off the road to cheer their teammate on as he runs by.  This encouragement goes a long when you’re tired. It motivates you to keep pushing forward.

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Katrina, Kathy, Gaye and Sergio

Kind words of encouragement are necessary as we daily run the race of life.  Texts, cards, and calls can motivate and inspire others to live life well when they feel like giving up.

  • Be careful who you follow

Near the end of the race, one teammate had an eight mile leg to run.  I couldn’t imagine having a long difficult stretch to run at that point in the race where there had been so little sleep or food.

Everyone wears their running bib on the front of their shirt so as they approach the gate, the new runner can identify their teammate. Not being able to see the bib, our teammate began following the runner in front of her only to realize at one point that he was NOT a Ragnar runner! To her dismay, she found herself 2 miles off course and lost! This is such an easy mistake to make. Eventually, her teammates were able to locate her and help her get back on track.

We must be SO careful to keep our priorities right in life and not get distracted by the world.  Spending time reading the Bible keeps us heavenly focused and combats the lies of the devil. When we do stray, hopefully, there will be other Christians who have the courage to lovingly lead us back on the right path.  AND, hopefully, we aren’t too proud to allow them!

  • Keep the end in mind

During the night runs, everyone is required to wear safety gear that includes a headband with a front and back light and a reflective vest. When I did my night leg of the race around 1am, I could see no other runners in front or behind me. I was running in the country with only the moon and stars shining, a cool breeze, the sweet fragrance of honeysuckle, and the occasional sound of dogs barking.

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P.J. cheering me on at my night run.

This reminded me of the lonely times in my life when God’s sweet presence was the only thing I had. There aren’t distractions from the world, but I have to fight the enemy of self-pity to persevere through the dark valley.

Just as I became weary and wanted to stop and walk, I saw the bright flood of light that marked the end of the run….the exchange station! The place where I could stop running.  The place of rest. Then I heard the cheers of encouragement to make it to the end! What a wonderfully exciting time!

Our teammate, Kathy, shared with us how this reminds her of how special it is going to be to enter heaven at the end of our race on earth! Our loved ones who have gone on before us along with our Savior will be welcoming us into our eternal rest! The struggles of life will be over for those who have completely trusted Jesus Christ and made Him Lord of their lives.

In conclusion and most importantly, I think our team enjoyed this relay.  As an added bonus, we were happy to place 14th out of about 200 teams! Whether you ever choose to run or not, you are in the race of life.  May you run well the race God has called you to so one day you will hear Jesus say, Well done, thou good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of thy Lord! (Matthew 25:21)

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

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Gaye and Kathy- Ragnar Relay 2016

 

 

 

 

 

And they shall be one flesh…

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David and Gaye 12-16-89

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)

What does this even mean?  Obviously, the man and woman do not morph into the same body. I think it means there is no longer a “mine and yours,” but everything becomes “ours.”  Instead of separately, the couple begins working as a team as they face life and work toward common goals.

David and I were twenty-six and twenty-five when we married.  We both had to wait longer than we would have liked.  Since we were separated by two states, our “dating” was via telephone lines.  We felt like God had made us for each other so after he popped the question, we wanted to make sure our marriage got off to the best possible start and was according to God’s plan.

We read and discussed many marriage books and we each drove three hours to meet for a counseling session once. By the time the wedding date rolled around, we thought we were marriage experts. Ha ha!

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Gaye and David 12-16-89

Although we both had a lot to learn, one thing that I thank God for is that I knew God’s purpose for me in marriage. I was made to be David’s helpmeet. This marriage wasn’t only about how it would benefit me. I went into the marriage with the purpose of helping David better accomplish God’s will in his life. I looked forward to serving him.

Later, when I didn’t always  feel like serving David, I tried to do it for God.  When I had a bad attitude, I tried to remember God’s design for authority recorded in Ephesians. By submitting to David, I was indirectly submitting to God.

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Because we had so much in common, I believe the thing that continued to surprise and frustrate David the most was how differently God made men and women in general. He would often ask aloud, Why did God have to make men and women so different?  For the longest time I thought if I could just find the right words, I could convince David to see things my way. (I think they call that nagging!) I finally realized it wasn’t my finding the magical words to persuade David that was needed. The solution was us asking God to show us what HE wanted and then us making the proper adjustments.

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One of the hardest things I ever did was leave our one year old babies and go off for a day and night to celebrate our wedding anniversaries.  As much as I enjoyed our time alone, it tore my heart out to leave the little ones.  But we wanted to make sure we didn’t end up being one of those couples who found themselves strangers when the kids left home. Those get-a-ways were like glue in our marriage. Those times always reminded us of why we got married in the first place.

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David and Gaye at A Weekend to Remember at Chattanooga, TN Oct. 25, 2014

I spent years trying to learn how to respect, submit, and honor David.  Practicing good communication was a constant challenge for both of us. Although we had a good marriage, in the fall of 2014, the recent trials of life (his cancer, my cancer, and our two daughters getting married all in the same year) had taken a toll on our relationship.

We felt overwhelmed and discouraged.  We knew we needed some spiritual encouragement as well as some help in our relationship.   We went to a Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference hosted by Family Life Today in October 2014 right before our 25th Wedding Anniversary (5 months before David went to Heaven).  It was humbling and hard to admit our failures, but we received a lot of practical help. I will be forever glad we went and thankful to God for how He worked in our hearts and for what He showed us that weekend!

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And above all things have fervent charity (love) among yourselves; for charity (love) shall cover the multitude of sins. (James 4:8)

Marriage is tough under the best of circumstances even when a Christian couple desires and is trying to follow God’s plan. Misunderstandings can happen so easily. Communication can be difficult.  If you have a problem that sends you on the merry-go-round for the thousandth time, please get outside help.

Don’t let pride stand in the way of getting the help you need. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been married a few months or 50 years, a relationship can always be improved if people are willing to make changes.

Proverbs 11:14 says, Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

You don’t have to be headed for divorce court before you see a counselor.  But don’t go to just anybody for advice!  There are good Christian counselors available. You need to make sure the counselor is going to steer you God’s way.

My prayer is that your marriage is all that God intended it to be. Keep working at your relationship. It is worth the effort!

Looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith,

Gaye