Things to be thankful for during Covid-19

encouraging-bible-verse-17l

“Gratitude never comes from avoiding difficulty but from finding yourself sustained through it.” -Randy Alcorn from his book, 90 Days of God’s Goodness.

We’re probably all learning some important life lessons through being isolated in our homes with our families.  These are a few things I’ve taken for granted and have become especially thankful for the past few weeks.

  • Good health

What a blessing it is to be able to walk around outside and feel the breeze and sunshine! I’m thankful that this virus has happened in the springtime with warmer weather and more sunshine. (Also, our electricity and gas bills will be cheaper during this time with so many unemployed.)

  • Freedom

The privilege to be able to freely come and go is something I’ve taken for granted. Until recently I’ve never thought about what a blessing it is to be able to go to a store and just pick up some necessary items or browse around.

  • Fresh air

I’m thankful I can walk outside and not have to worry about the air I breathe.  I’ve enjoyed living in the country my whole life, but I’ve definitely taken fresh air for granted.

imagesQY01DSGE

  • A slower pace

I’m a list maker. I like staying busy and getting things done.  That can be a good thing, but it has its negatives too. My dad used to often say, “Gaye, will you please just sit down? You’re making me nervous the way you’re always zipping around.” Slowing down can be uncomfortable for me.  If I have too much time to think, I tend to become sad.  It’s easier to stay busy than to think about some past sins and mistakes, strained relationships, emotional pain, etc. But it’s been healthy for me to have extra down time to process and deal with my bad attitude, what angers me and why, and things I could or should have done better. Now, I can take steps to not repeat those things I regret.

  • Time for completing projects

Do you have projects you tend to keep pushing back because you aren’t motivated to do them?  I have! Well, I can’t use the excuse that I don’t have time now.  So I’ve cleaned out some closets and drawers, organized some messy places, painted, done some much needed yard work, and have sent more cards to people.

  • Friends

I’ve been particularly blessed to have reconnected with old friends during this time.  Some I haven’t heard from in quiet awhile have contacted me and I’ve tried to do the same. I’ve realized how much I’ve missed these people.  I believe God puts every person in our lives for a reason. He has used my friends to encourage me, to laugh and cry with me, to instruct and teach me, and to rebuke me over the years.  They make my life rich and are a gift from God.  God uses our relationships with others to mold us into the people He wants us to be.

  • Family

I didn’t think I could love my family any deeper.  I have found I can. I appreciate them more now than I ever have. I’m so thankful for the technology we have today to be able to communicate with our loved ones. We have cell phones, texting, zoom, Marco Polo, and facebook to just name a few.  What a blessing it is to be able to keep in touch! I think about how life was just 30 years ago.  Families didn’t have any of these ways of communicating.

wedding pictures316

My and Scott’s wedding day when the Hammersley and Hughes families joined forces. 🙂 9-1-18

For most people it’s easy to put on your happy face, and be kind and friendly to those we see outside our homes. But we can’t hide who we are from those living with us.  They know all the good, the bad, and the ugly. With this shelter-in-place we’re stuck with each other all day, every day whether we like it or not.  Fortunately, I’m married to the best man on the planet so I’m enjoying having him around, but I realize that isn’t the case with everyone.  Family relationships can get strained quickly when life is stressful, we’re dealing with disappointment, and worse yet, the whole world seems chaotic and suffering abounds. All while the very things that often encourage us: family, friends, worshiping together in church, vacations, going out to eat, etc. have been stripped away.  It’s in these moments we realize how much we need the support of our family. We’ve been given a wonderful opportunity, free of distractions, to learn to love our family well. Let’s be committed. Let’s be there for each other, if in prayer only, when no one else can be. I’m thankful for family.

  • God

I’m thankful for extra time to spend reading God’s words, the Bible. I’ve certainly prayed more. The many encouraging sermons I’ve heard via you-tube have taught me more about God. (One of my favorite preacher is Adrian Rogers.)  This is a good time for us to draw closer to the God we love but are prone to wander away from.

When we emerge from this unprecedented time like a butterfly out of its cocoon, may we be more patient, more kind, more thoughtful, more humble, more intentional in our living and giving. I want to look and act more like Jesus.

untitledjoy

May we not let this time of testing be wasted. We can look at this time of isolation and widespread sickness as training ground to become more of a soldier of Jesus Christ. It’s a time to dig deep, search our hearts, discern what is holding us back from giving God and others our all. May we learn to prefer others above ourselves and become a humble servant. And what better place to learn this than at home with our families? Jesus humbled Himself and became a servant and He calls us to do the same. This is where we will find true joy and peace. And let’s not forget to look for the positive things and thank God for them.

 

Again, I quote Randy Alcorn, “The degree of joy rises to the degree of gratitude, and the level of gratitude corresponds to the level of God’s grace experienced in our suffering.” 

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes Hammersley

 

 

Does Cancer Scare You?

The word “cancer” can strike fear in your heart.  Recently, my daughter was telling me about  a lady who just learned she has the same type of aggressive breast cancer that I had (Triple Negative).  She said, “Mom, I’m sure glad we’re over that!” I told her I would never be “over” it.  There are follow up doctor visits and although I don’t worry about the cancer recurring, it is always in the back of my mind.

I’m sitting in the oncology waiting room as I write this.  As my eyes scan the room, I feel out of place and am disturbed.  It is obvious there are some very sick people here.  After multiple visits and four years later, it is still surreal.

I’ve had a chest x-ray and blood drawn.  I’m waiting to see the doctor and hear the test results. Even when I received the cancer diagnosis, I did not have any symptoms except for a pea-size lump.  Now, after all the chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, my body feels the same.  Because I feel physically fine, it doesn’t make sense to me that the doctor can either give me a clean bill of health or report that the cancer has returned.

How is one to cope with this? My husband used to say, “People feel sorry for me because they know I don’t have much longer to live. They don’t seem to realize they could die before I do. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. I’m just more aware of it.”  We may think we have a measure of control in this life, but we don’t.  We couldn’t take our next breath but for the grace of God.  But don’t let this scare you! Our times are in God’s very capable hands. He is a good, good Father and loves us very much. We can rest in Him and trust His best for us as we walk closely with Him.  Cancer doesn’t scare God and we don’t have to let it scare us.

There are much worse things than cancer.  People who live selfishly to obtain things in this life have the worst disease of all!  They are missing out on real joy-filled living. I can’t imagine even getting out of bed in the morning if I did not have the love of Jesus in my heart and the assurance that His peace, grace, and mercy would cover me through the day.

Every time I come to this waiting room, so many questions flood my mind…Why did God bring me through the cancer journey basically unscathed?  Why would God choose to give me more opportunities to serve Him, when I fail Him so miserably every day? Why was I spared when so many of my cancer friends were not?

As I walk by the treatment room, I would rather look away and forget, but I feel obliged to absorb the scene.  I need to remember the uncertainty and fear I experienced while sitting in those chairs receiving poison in my veins.  Do these people know the peace only Jesus can give during this most gut-wrenching time of their lives? They need my empathy and my prayers.

After all the questions, my conclusion is always the same… I don’t know.  This is what I do know….

  • God is always good.
  • His way is perfect.
  • He will walk through every valley with me.
  • He is God and I am not.
  • I can trust Him.

I know I will come face to face with God one day and thank Him for using cancer to remove some of the fog of materialism and vain distractions from my heart so His purposes for my life could be more clearly seen and accomplished.

So with tears in my eyes and joy in my heart, I am thanking God for leaving me here to witness my last homeschooler (Nathan) graduate high school, Abigail receive her college diploma, Anna and Bethany marry their awesome husbands, and for having the privilege of enjoying my little grandson, Destin.  And I could go on and on.

Nathan graduating from high school (2017)

Abigail graduating from BJU (2017)

Bethany and Wesley Crews married 8-03-14

Anna and Danilo Vara married 9-27-14

 

Anna, Bethany, and Abigail (9-27-14)

Destin Vara as a newborn (9-24-16)

With a broad smile on her face, my sweet doctor just reported that my tests results were great! If my life ended today, I’ve been far more blessed than I’ll ever deserve.  It thrills me to know I’ll have all eternity to thank and worship my Lord and Savior for daily showering me with His gifts!

No, we don’t have to be afraid of cancer. We have a mighty God.  If we know Him and  find our life coming to an end here, we have a much better place to go where we will live like never before!  We can enjoy the presence of God for all eternity. Don’t let cancer scare you.  It can be a gift in disguise!

Keep looking up,

Gaye

May 2017

 

 

Why is This Day Called Good?

What is so good about this day?  This day we call Good Friday is when we remember the greatest injustice in all the history of the world.  A completely innocent man (who also happened to be the Son of God) was interrogated, mocked, spat upon, lied about, beaten, humiliated, and then tortured to death for apparently no good reason.

If we didn’t know better we would think this was a weak man who couldn’t defend himself. This innocent man, Jesus, was there when our universe was formed. He has no beginning and no end. Jesus said, No man taketh it (life) from  me, but I lay it down of myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.  This commandment have I received of my Father (John 10:18). And that is exactly what He did.

So this most horrible day for Jesus became the best day for the rest of us.  Jesus took the wrath of God for the sin of the whole world on Himself that day. He bought us with His holy blood. He paid the sin debt and redeemed a selfish, sinful world of people so we could be united with Him for eternity. This love is SO hard for me to wrap my mind around.

Jesus left the splendor of heaven and presence of God to come to earth to bridge the gap between our sinful brokenness and separation from God. He has done all the work.  He has done every possible thing.  All He asks is for us to repent of our sin, believe in Him and His work on the cross, and ask Him to take residence in our hearts. I can attest to the peace and joy that follows that act of faith!

As I think of Jesus’ suffering, I’m amazed at how He endured all that suffering and separation from God and didn’t yell, Enough! I don’t deserve this! I’m done! He could have easily called for the angels to release Him or walked away on His own. I know His love kept Him on the cross, but there was also another motivation.

This example is not anywhere close to what Jesus went through, but the most pain I’ve been in is when I gave birth to my children.  I chose not to have pain medicine and there was a few times I caved and said, Okay! Give me something! But the baby was ready to be born and there wasn’t time. Anyway, as I lay there writhing in pain, I wasn’t necessarily thinking about how much I loved my husband or the baby, although I did love them both very much.  I looked into the near future and thought about the joy of holding that precious new life. That thought helped me plow through the pain.

Jesus looked into the future and saw joy! Hebrews 12:2 says, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. He was thinking about the joy!

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. (Luke 15:10) He has made a way for us to have abundant, joy- filled lives, full of faith and hope not only because of what He did on that cross on Good Friday, but because of the resurrection afterwards. He has taken the sting out of death and the grave for us as believers.

“Whenever you feel tempted to ask God, ‘Why did you do this to me?’ look at the cross and ask, Why did you do that for me?”  (Randy Alcorn in 90 Days to God’s Goodness)

So if you are going through a tough time now, look into God’s Word and claim His promises of peace, rest, and joy as you trust in Him. He will never fail you or forsake you.

Yes, it was a horrible Friday around two thousand years ago today, but it was also a glorious day for the millions of believers in the ages to come. What a precious gift Jesus gave the world that day! It is a very Good Friday because Sunday’s coming!!! Happy Resurrection Day!

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

 

I Am?

left to right: Ashlee Bitton (4 yr. old teacher), Megan Smith (2 yr. old teacher), Me (phonics teacher for 2 & 3 yr. olds), Teena Anders (2 yr. old teacher), Alyx (4 yr. old teacher), Andrea Muse (owner and 4 yr. old phonics teacher), Brooke Eggleston (2 yr. old teacher).

I usually work as a phonics teacher at Muse Montessori, but I also substitute when a teacher is absent. Last week we had an unusual number of teachers absent due to sickness so each day I received a text asking, “Can you ‘be’ (name of teacher that was absent) today?”

We have exceptional teachers and they each bring their unique talents to the classroom. I gave up a long time ago trying to “be” them.  My boss doesn’t expect that. She just asks me to be me.

But one day it dawned on me, No matter who I’m asked to “be” today, as a Christian, God always asks me to be like Jesus. That means being loving, kind, patient, understanding, tender-hearted, and forgiving. It’s a tall order!  And just like I can’t “be” one of the teachers, I certainly can’t “be” Jesus….without His help.  But with His help, I can be what I need to be for these children.

My name means happy, keenly alive and exuberant. Although I’ve often failed miserably, I have tried to live up to my name. In Bible times, a name often signified a part of the person’s character.  That is one reason God changed people’s names.  He changed Abram’s name to Abraham, meaning the father of many nations.  He changed Sarai (meaning contentious) to Sarah (meaning Princess). He changed Jacob’s name to Israel (meaning wrestler with God).

Although it seemed God had a deaf ear to the Israelites crying out 400 years for God to deliver them from slavery in Egypt, that was far from true. God had seen their oppression and heard their cries for help. (Exodus 3:9) He appeared to Moses and told him He would use him to deliver them.  Then Moses asked an interesting question and the answer was even more bizarre.

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you: and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM; and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Did you notice that God repeated Himself?  He obviously wanted to make sure there was no misunderstanding about His name. There is so much in the Bible that I don’t understand and many things are confusing to me, but there are other things, as in this case, where God leaves no doubt whatsoever what He means!

Have you ever wondered about the name/title God gave Himself here?  I sure have! How odd! What kind of name is this? It seems left unfinished.  I am… what? Why didn’t God say, I am Deliverer? I am Salvation. I am Savior. Why just…I AM?

In the Hebrew, I AM implies absolute self-existence and action. This is God’s promise to redeem His people. If God had used a single characteristic of Himself, maybe our little, finite minds couldn’t think outside the box. But God left this wide open as if we can fill in the blank! He is not only an active God that keeps His promises, He is our healer when we are sick.  He is our comforter when we mourn and are sad.  He is our peace when we are anxious.  He is our refuge when we are overwhelmed.  He is our rock when life wipes us off our feet. He is our provider when we’ve lost everything in this world. When we are afraid, He is our tower we run into and hide. He is our friend who will never fail or forsake us.

 

Then several years later, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and said, She (Mary) shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)The name explains His purpose in coming.

 

 Later Jesus said,  I am the bread of life (John 6:48).  I am the light of the world (John 8:12). I am the door (John 10:7).  I am the good shepherd (John 10:14). I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). I am the true vine (John 15:1).

He is every single thing we ever need Him to be! Psalm 9:10 says, And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. When we know and understand God’s name, we know and understand Him.  To know Him is to love Him. And when we know and understand Him, we will put our trust in Him.  I challenge you to join me in dipping into God’s deep reservoir of riches. Let’s get to know God better!

Keep looking up!

Gaye Hughes

 

 

When God is Silent

psalm62v7I was talking  to a very polite lady from my insurance company yesterday. We both knew it was going to take quite awhile to answer all my questions. She was having to do a lot of typing and searching for information.  It was then I heard this sweet comment, “There may be times of silence, but I am here.” It may as well been God himself speaking. My heart had been anxious, but suddenly comfort flooded my soul!

The thoughtfulness of this stranger touched me deeply.  She knew absolutely nothing about me, had never seen me, yet she cared enough to reassure me she was there to help me in spite of the many miles separating us.

Isn’t God’s unconditional love just like that? Yet, He does know me…all my yucky and chose to send His son, Jesus to die in my place even while I was yet a rebellious, unrepentant sinner!

Have there been times in your life when you wondered where God was? Did you doubt He was even aware of your situation? Have you cried out for answers and it seemed your prayers were bouncing off the clouds? Have you wondered just how many prayers it was going to take to get a response from God?  Have you been so desperate that you would gladly accept a, “No” rather  than not hear from Him at all? I have.

I think of poor Joseph that was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery only to then be lied about by Potiphar’s wife. Then he endured the long, lonely nights in the prison when he had been wrongly accused.  (Genesis 37-39) Surely he often wondered, What in the world are you doing, God?  Where are You? But one day EVERYTHING changed and Joseph went from being a prisoner to second in command of Egypt!

3fdcab5ff8cc5a7c36e7aa3b352b99d5

Oh, and think of the thousands of Israelites who lived their whole lives crying out to God for deliverance from the hard bondage in Egypt! Can you image  trying to explain to your children the importance of continuing to pray for God to do a mighty work when they knew their parents,grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. had prayed for generations for exactly the same thing only to have their situation worsen? That took faith! BUT, there came a day God broke the silence and parted the Red Sea, killed their enemies, gave them water from a rock, and bread and meat from the sky.

And then there are the situations we don’t have the luxury of time to wait and pray. Have you been in that situation?   A decision has to be made quickly, as in Queen Esther’s case.  She and her people were about to be annihilated.   When the easiest thing to do would have been to panic , she asked everyone she knew to fast and pray with her for three days and nights. God came through and turned things around for her in a most amazing way!

Although David was a man after God’s own heart, he evidently experienced God’s silence.  Psalm 28:1 begins, Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.  But something soon happened because of what he says in verses 6 and 7,

psalm-28_7

Blessed by the LORD, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

I think this verse contains  the key to turning our weakness into strength, our helplessness into hopefulness, our sadness into joy, and our torment into praise.

MY HEART TRUSTED IN HIM…. When we turn our focus off of our problems and onto the only One who can solve them, we are helped. Sounds easy enough, right?  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)

One thing is for sure, although God’s silence can feel like an ominous cloud and be misunderstood, we can be sure  He is there, quietly working.  This quote is in my house,

I believe….

  • in the Sun even when it is not shining
  • in Love even when I cannot feel it
  • in God even when He is silent

He will NEVER, EVER, leave us alone. When everything in you is screaming differently, you can bank on God’s promises. He is there even when we don’t understand and can’t feel Him. He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  As that lady reminded me yesterday, There may be times of silence, but I am here!

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

gigi-and-destin

It’s never too early to teach your grandbaby!

Perfect Peace

l-97608As my eyes opened yesterday morning before the alarm sounded, thoughts immediately rushed into my head. I thought of my friend having serious back surgery this day. I was to be at a new job in a few hours…the first time working outside my home in twenty-seven years. I had just gotten news that my grandbaby needed to do an acrobatic flip inside the womb of my daughter pretty quickly as his quarters were getting more cramped by the day. This day I was to hear the extent of my son’s knee injury.

I was anxious.  I began talking to my Father (God) about these things.  As I asked God to please guide the doctor’s hands during the surgery of my friend and give her and her family peace, I remembered all the many miracles Jesus performed while on this earth and how He continues to heal the sick. He is the Great Physician.

As I prayed about the new job, I thought about how God had prepared me in several ways throughout my life for this preschool teaching job. I began teaching Sunday School to children only a few years younger than myself at age 13. I homeschooled my four children (and still are) for the past twenty-four years. I’ve taught Junior church and Sunday School for years. I gained some confidence as I thought about how God has faithfully directed my steps over the years.

43ba36668618a988e24705ac6f359351

Concerning my grandbaby, God has been busy forming him in the womb for several months now. He knows all about his character, personality, physical traits, and has grand plans for his life. God loves him much more than even his parents and I do. He is holding this little one in His very capable hands even as I write this.

Nathan has been uncomfortable for close to two weeks with his bum knee. He has learned to better sympathize with those you can’t get around easily.  He longs to run again. He has a greater appreciation for good health.  We’ve had to wait for test results and possible surgery for several days. I asked God to work out the details about getting him on the road to healing quickly. As I talked to God about this situation, my worries began to fade as I thought about all the other times He had come through for me at the last minute.

When I called to get an appointment yesterday (Tuesday), the nurse said she could see us next Monday. I began to plead, My son has been on crutches for twelve days and is uncomfortable.  We really need to get something done. Is there any way you can see him before then?  She told me the doctor was booked, but she would see what she could do and for me to hold.  I began to earnestly ask God to intervene and get me an appointment in the afternoon so I wouldn’t have to ask off work.

She came back on the line and said, Can you be here tomorrow at two?

YES!!! Praise the Lord! Thank you SO much! was my response.

6dfff272c80385869ba8f66c9a25d0fdbird

It is easy for me to take my burdens to my God whom I know longs to hear from me.  As I begin to pray, I envision myself bowing before Jesus’ feet. I see the love in His eyes. I’m empowered as I think about HIS power to change anything and everything. I believe He is for me and has good plans for me. The challenge is to leave my cares with Him and not pick them back up when I walk away.

Sadly, it’s only been in the last months that I think I’m learning what it means to truly rest and hide in Jesus.  I know He doesn’t want me upset and worried.  I Peter 5:7 says, Casting all your care upon Him; for He cares for you. I have been asking Him to control my emotions and help me have the mind of Christ. I want to think as He thinks. I want to feel as He feels about things.

Because I can’t right all the wrongs in the world, I’ve asked God to give me compassion for the people and ministries He wants me to be involved in and to be somewhat indifferent to the ones I don’t have the resources for. Also, I know I can’t have an intimate relationship with every person I’ve ever known so I’ve asked God to burden my heart for the ones who need me most that day. I want to be where He wants me and use my time in a way that pleases Him.

This is what hiding and resting in Jesus has come to mean to me.  I would love to hear your thoughts on what it means to you. I know I have a long way to go, but my life has become so much more peaceful lately as I’m learning to lean on Him.

I would like to leave you with the lyrics of Perfect Peace by Joe Zichterman.

When life’s burdens get so heavy and it seems I’m all alone,

I cast my care on Jesus and come boldly to his throne.

I find His grace sufficient when His promises I heed.

For His very life He sacrificed, and He lives to intercede.

Chorus:

He is the Lord of lords, and when He speaks, winds and waves obey.

When Jesus whispers, “Peace, be still,” then darkness turns to day.

And as I’m trusting in my Savior’s Word doubts and fears all cease.

And beneath the shelter of His wings I’m at rest in perfect peace.

Verse 2

I will seek for souls in darkness, Calv’ry’s love with them to share,

Empowered by His Spirit I will follow anywhere.

For I know whate’er befall me my Lord is in control.

And as my mind is stayed on Him, perfect peace He gives me soul.

My you have perfect peace today,

Gaye Hughes

IMG_20160324_080459400

 

Abby’s Adventures- “Where did that come from?”

13692526_10208228227958038_5691226497229781760_nabbyat wilds

Hiking in the NC mountains

13769540_1218877014798658_6947142790478762093_nabbyat wilds

Wild blueberries

13775843_1218892491463777_6576878614202956184_nabbyat wilds 13770313_1218894408130252_2675890388082236385_nabbyat wilds 13620318_1218891788130514_3911895697060606156_nabbyat wilds

These pictures were taken by Abby on a hike Saturday afternoon.  The campers arrive each week on Monday afternoon and leave Saturday morning.  After the staff thoroughly cleans the camp, they are free for the afternoon. The following is Abby’s update for this past week. Gaye

Wow. Where do I even begin? I have so much to testify about this week, but I’ll try to pick out the important parts.

I think this week has been the best one I’ve had all summer. Not because of anything I did, but because of everything God has done. I’ve always heard that I should have my devotions and spend time alone with God to pray. But these past few weeks, I’ve realized that it’s not just that I SHOULD have time alone with God… I NEED it. Oh boy do I need it. I don’t always rely on God’s strength. I say that I do, but I don’t always live that out. I have always been very unfaithful in my Bible studies. When I was at school I was “too busy” to have time for anything more than skim reading a chapter or so in the Bible a day. There was no depth. Since I’ve been at camp, I think it’s finally hitting me that my actions are DIRECTLY related to my level of dependence on God. I’m still learning how to die to myself every day, but I have seen improvement and growth. I’m becoming more faithful in my devotions because I know I NEED Him.

31525_20120905_231838_Keep_quotesI'm improvingI won’t go into detail, but Tuesday night I counseled a girl who struggled with homosexuality. God had convicted her of it during the service and she was so broken about her sin. She told me about how she had pushed God and her parents away for months. She stopped going to church and had completely rebelled. But now she was sitting in front of me in tears. It’s amazing how God’s word can change a person.

97e8cd3177e5ce210d2dc51ea7484823

At first when she said that she struggled with homosexuality, I started freaking out a little on the inside. I was thinking “I don’t identify with this at all! I have no idea what to say! What if she thinks I’m judging her? How can I show her this in love? What if I say the wrong things?” But as I talked with her, God gave me words to speak. I don’t remember everything I said, but I just remember walking away from it thinking, “Where did that come from?” I knew beyond a doubt that it didn’t come from me. God had worked in her heart so much and all I had to do was watch it happen.

That is one of at least 3 separate times this week that I felt God’s power take over when I was completely unqualified for the job.

6bdf808fcb2e25e36b57a02d35099e02

Please pray for the girl I mentioned above. A lot of things are going to have to change in her life. She kept saying, “I just feel trapped in this and I can’t change now.” But we always have the choice to do right. Jesus died to free us from sin. We aren’t slaves to it anymore. It just comes down to when we say we love God, do we mean it? She has a tough road ahead with cutting off some of her close friends, apologizing to her parents, possibly having to repent in front of her church, etc. She knows it’s not going to be easy, but she seemed very firm about her decision to forsake her old lifestyle. Just pray that she will continue to make that decision every day.

58354f6079612402a520db961af9c230daily choicesThere were several other girls I talked with this week who also made really big decisions that will drastically change their lives when they go home. I pray that these won’t just be “camp decisions” that fade away when they go home, but that they will continue to let God show them areas of their life to surrender to Him.

889357329bf421113f8ae1d0d400e05dsurrender

Nothing that happened this week was because of my strength. I experienced God working as I counseled these girls and it was THE COOLEST!!! I could never have come up with the perfect words to provoke that kind of change in these girls’ lives. God changed their hearts. I’m just so thankful I got to witness it all.

Working at camp this summer has been so rewarding. Seeing lives changed every week never gets old. Now I’m constantly looking for the next opportunity to talk with someone about God, or ask them what God has been teaching them. I’m reminded of how only God can bring true joy and satisfaction. The world has NOTHING on God. Experiencing God is the best high you will ever get.

Thank you so much for your prayers!

Abby Hughes

13770529_1218892338130459_2414303969860763155_abby at wilds

Here’s the country girl coming out in Abby!

 

How I KNOW There is a God

IMG_20160605_102148651

Anna and Danilo June 2016

I recently drove to Oklahoma to visit my daughter, Anna, and son-in-law, Danilo. After several months of delays, disappointments, and searching, they were finally moving from their small apartment into a house and we were excited.

Anna’s friend, Alaina, and I were so blessed to be able to be there to help. When we arrived, we were surprised to see that Anna had already packed up a lot of their things and their living area was filled with boxes. As a result, Danilo had graciously reserved and paid for a nearby hotel room for us.
After twelve hours of driving, we were good and ready for a soft bed. Danilo told us we could sleep in and enjoy the continental breakfast the next morning.

Alaina and I woke up rested and headed downstairs to eat before the long day of moving. As we got on the elevator, we got a good whiff of the bacon and coffee. Once downstairs, as I reached for a plate, we were greeted by a smiling gentleman. He politely asked, Do you have a voucher? With a blank look on my face, No. I didn’t see one in our room. I then noticed the green “ticket” in the hands of those behind us in line.

IMG_20160607_224257939

Anna and Alaina loving motherhood June 2012

I was embarrassed. It was humiliating. I could tell the people in line were getting annoyed at our conversation. As we walked away, I thought, But we didn’t know we needed a voucher! With the price Danilo paid for that room, why didn’t we have one? When we inquired at the desk, we learned that the meal tickets had to be purchased separately.

IMG_20160604_114850575

Danilo and his “moving” friends!

We walked away disappointed and hungry. I said, Alaina, we only missed a nice breakfast, but can you imagine what it would be like to stand before God one day and have your whole eternal destiny banking on whether you had “the right ticket” to get into heaven? In that moment Matthew 7:21-23 took on a whole new meaning.

13000a457660ceabc7be495aa79b7b00

If I had not had a personal experience with God, these verses would scare me crazy.  Fortunately, my parents taught me about God and took me to church. I often heard verses from the Bible that told me the facts about my condition before God. I’d like to share some of those here.

For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved; for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  (Romans 10:9-10)

For WHOSOEVER shall call upon the name of the LORD shall be saved. (Romans 10:13)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is a gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:9)

By the time I was eight years old, I could quote most of those verses, but one night as the preacher was saying them, they came alive to me.  They ceased to be just words and I knew God was singling me out and asking me to come to Him. My heart was heavy and I felt like I was carrying a 200 pound backpack.

The preacher said if anyone needed to make things right with God to come to the altar and repent. I didn’t want to do that! How embarrassing! I could talk to God at home.  So at  bedtime, I told God I knew I was a sinner, that I deserved hell, that I was sorry for my sin, and asked Him to forgive me.  Guess what happened? Nothing! Absolutely, nothing.  As serious as I was, I felt no different. I had no peace.

The next time I went to church and the preacher started reading the Bible, my heart started pounding, the weight of my sin was so heavy I could hardly bear it, but I held to my stubborn pride.  I wanted to do it my way. This went on for months. As long as I wasn’t in church I was ok, but every time I heard the preaching, the conviction of my sin weighed me down. I began to dread church, but my parents made me go.

One night after the preacher had finished his message, I could not stand it any longer. I silently said, God, I have tried my best to come to You in private over and over again and nothing has worked.  I know You want me to publicly come to You. I want relief. I’m tired of fighting You. I give up!

When I took the first step for the altar, that weight fell off my back! My heart became light and pure joy flooded my soul! I publically announced that I knew God had forgiven me and come into my heart to live. I wanted to go to heaven and be with Him right then…to thank Him for what He had done for me. I wanted to tell the whole world how God had washed my dirty heart and made it clean!

The Bible says anyone can call out to God at any time and in any place and God hears them, but, in my case, I needed to do it in church and I knew it. God will let each of us know what He requires of us.  We must all come to God on His terms, not our own. My pride kept me from having a relationship with God. I wanted to do it MY way. That never works. We must want God more than anything or anybody else and totally yield our will to His, holding nothing back.

That experience is something I can remember as clearly as if it were yesterday. And during the hardest, darkest, and most loneliest times in my life, I think back to that experience and know my God is with me, loves me, and has a plan and purpose for my life.  I won’t understand on this side of heaven why He kept chasing me when I tried so hard to run from Him, but I’m SO glad He did.

0571489c22dca757972656b11689a9c8

I know everyone’s experience is different, but I believe according to God’s Word, there are a few necessary components in everyone’s salvation.

  1. There is conviction of sin.
  2. There is belief that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and that He died and rose again.
  3. There is repentance.
  4. There is peace and joy.

When your time comes to meet God, will you have the “voucher” needed to get into heaven? It won’t matter how logical your plan seems to you. God will be calling the shots.  It won’t help to claim ignorance. Just like at the breakfast bar, either you will have it or you won’t.  It will be too late to make other arrangements. Your opportunities will have run out.

Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)  All it takes is one step in His direction and He will run to meet you.

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

IMG_20160605_215950917

 

 

 

 

Are You in the Furnace of Affliction?

126cbee9c44f9497dcd44895df12620180a7b2bf“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one that feared God, and shunned evil.” (Job 1:1) Doesn’t this sound like a fairytale? But it isn’t! Job was a real man who walked on the same earth we do!I’d like to share some definitions according to Webster’s Dictionary….

blameless: without fault

upright: having or showing a strict regard for what is morally right, honest, fair, making a conscious choice and regularly practicing what is right.

shun: to avoid deliberately and especially habitually.

If Job could live this way, without the Bible to read, then  it’s possible for us to live this way today. If it wasn’t for Job’s example, I would wonder if this kind of lifestyle is even possible in today’s world. But Job’s example gives me hope that it is possible to make good choices everyday and please God.

Job was serious about his faith. He prayed often.  He confessed not only his own sin, but for any unconfessed sin his children may have overlooked. He did all the right things and God richly blessed him with a wife, ten children, several servants, land, and thousands of animals.  He was respected and the most influential man in the East.

Life was good! Then in one single day, within minutes, without warning,  the rug was ripped out from under him and he lost almost everything he held dear in his life. Through a series of events, he lost everything except his life, his wife, and four servants.  I think the servants were only spared so they could bring him the bad news.

Job’s response to his tragedy reveals  his character and devotion to God. He fell to the ground, and worshiped. Then he said,

d50297c5af124ee2f0d6a981a2a220d9

Job must have been shocked and numb with grief, yet these are the words that immediately came from his lips. First, I’m amazed at Job’s impressive walk with God. Then, I’m blown away with his righteous response to adversity. But it gets even better!

No one can ignore the way all this came about. One day the angels came to present themselves to God and Satan came with them. (Job 1:6) Have you ever thought about Satan having access to God? Anyway, God asked Satan what he had been doing. (The Bible is clear that God is omniscient so He didn’t ask because He didn’t know.)

Satan said he had been walking around in the earth. I Peter 5:8 warns us to be on guard that the devil is our adversary and as a roaring lion, he walks around seeking whom he may devour. He wants to chew us up and spit us out. You can bet he is still doing that today!

God asked Satan if he had considered Job, an upright man that feared God and deliberately avoided evil. God even said there wasn’t another one like him on earth. (Job 1:8) The devil said that wasn’t anything special.  Why wouldn’t Job love God? God had protected him, blessed Job’s work and made him rich. Satan suggested if all Job’s things were gone, Job would curse God to His face. (vs. 11) So God gave Satan the go-ahead to mess with all Job’s stuff, but forbade him to touch his body. This tells us that God has power over Satan.

I don’t know about you, but this is hard for me to swallow. It appears God is ratting Job out. Why? Doesn’t God bless us for loving and obeying Him? He sure does. He had blessed Job. He blessed Abraham, but then asked him to give up his son. God has much bigger plans than we can understand.

So Satan probably quickly and happily skipped away whistling, planning how he could most torment Job. Although Satan had his hay day, Job faithfully stayed devoted to God and did not sin.

We don’t know how much time passed, but there was yet another day Satan appeared with the angels before God and the conversation was almost verbatim. (Job 2:1)

Satan told God a man would do anything to save his life and if Job’s health was gone, Job would curse God to His face. So God gave him permission to touch Job’s body, but ordered him to not take his life.

That’s when Satan gave Job boils that covered his whole body. Job was in constant torment with itching, oozing sores from head to toe.  Many of you know this truth all too well; Continual, poor health can be one of the biggest trials! It wears even the spiritually strongest people down.  It is frustrating and discouraging. But Job knew a better day was coming.  (see Job 23:10 in pic)

job-23-10-ww-stock-9x

Many speculate why Job’s wife was spared….maybe to further torture him.  At this point, she suggested Job curse God and die. In the first round of tragedy, Job 1:22 says, Job neither sinned or wrongly accused God in it all. However, after round two when he lost his health, Job clearly attributes his affliction to God. (Job 19) And I have to agree with him. God did allow it. So Job wasn’t wrong in saying that.

When Job’s friends came to “help” him, they just made it all worse. They reasoned that Job clearly had unconfessed sin in his life and if he would just admit it and repent, God would quit punishing him. Job assured them he had already done that. Wow! This amazes me! I don’t feel like I could ever say that I could not think of even one unconfessed sin!

In chapter 29 Job verbally makes an impressive list of how he has lived.

  • He made a covenant with his eyes to not sin with them
  • He had earned respect with those who knew him
  • He relieved the poor
  • He opened his home to travelers
  • He helped orphans, widows, and  the helpless
  • He helped the blind, lame, and abused
  • He visited the bereaved
  • He defended the weak

Job couldn’t understand why God had allowed all this turmoil and he was desperate for answers.  Job had two requests from God. (Job 13;20-22) He asked,

1) That God would lay off the afflictions

2) That God would directly address him, break the silence, and answer him

God did both.  Out of a whirlwind (storm), God asked Job a series of questions. Here are some of my favorites….

  • Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? 
  • Have you ever ordered the morning?
  • Do you know where Light comes from and where Darkness lives?
  • Have you ever been where snow is made?
  • Where do I launch the lightning?
  • Who is the father of rain and dew, the mother of ice and frost?
  • Do you know the first thing about how the sky’s constellations affect things on Earth?
  • Can you get the attention of the clouds and command a shower of rain?
  • Did you teach the eagle to build her nest on the cliff?

Job was humbled,  said he was vile, admitted he had talked too much, and would shut up and listen. God went on to say He was in charge of the universe and basically told Job that He was God and Job wasn’t. Job admitted he had second-guessed God’s purposes and was wrong for doing that and promised to never do it again.

Job repented and asked God to forgive him. God rebuked Job’s friends, but He praised Job for his honesty and sincerity. After Job prayed for his friends God restored his health and doubled his wealth and gave him ten more children. Job lived another 140 years and was able to see four generations before he died a contented, old man.

The Bible doesn’t say that Job ever got an answer to why the trials came, but after he heard from God, that was enough to satisfy him. After feeling so alone in his pain, God broke the silence. Feeling God’s presence is enough to get us through the toughest of days.

As Vance Havner said,

God marks across some of our days, ‘Will explain later.’

That “later” is sometimes not until we get to heaven.

Could it be that God knew He could trust Job to come out on top? I think so. I don’t think God just used Job to get one up on Satan. That would be sin and God is holy.  Just think of all the people down through the ages that have been encouraged by Job’s life to keep going when their world crumbled around them! His life has inspired thousands if not millions.

At the time, Job felt like no one understood and not many knew what he was going through.  He even commented, Oh that my words were now written! Oh that they were printed in a book! (Job 19:23) Job had no idea that they WOULD be written down and that thousands would read his story, and as a result,  be inspired to trust God and cling to Him during their trials.

Are you feeling the heat from your furnace of affliction today?  Be encouraged and stay strong. God knows you can walk through this fire and come out on the other side a vessel that He can use and be glorified through. Pain is never wasted if we turn to God through it.

Keep looking up,

Gaye Hughes

IMG_20160324_080459400

 

 

 

 

Closing the Cancer Chapter!

Below are some pictures from a fun visit to the The Wig Shoppe in January 2014.  My sweet friends, Kathy Burnett and Melissa Rigney, and my daughter, Anna, went with me before I started chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer.

DSC08424

I tried the “Kathy Burnett” look. She rocks it. I did not.

 

DSC08443

Kathy and Melissa were such sweet supporters for me on this day!

DSC08452

Anna checking out the blonde look. She could swing it for sure, but she wasn’t convinced!

DSC08429

I feel like I’m closing the cancer chapter in my life today. I had the port that was used for my chemotherapy treatments removed this morning.  My surgeon said it was a day of celebration because the port is no longer needed!

With tears of gratitude, I heartily agreed with her.  I completed my treatments 19 months ago and it is still hard for me to believe there is no sign of that aggressive cancer.  I’m still in awe that I wasn’t nearly as sick as I could have or should have been taking the “Red Devil” chemotherapy.  Nor, did I experience the extreme fatigue that is so common with thirty-five radiation treatments.

Yet, I still have so many unanswered questions.  Did I learn all the lessons I needed to from my cancer journey? I feel happy and relieved it is over, yet cautious.  This is why…

  • I am humbled that my story has ended so well when so many times it does not for others.

Why am I so blessed to be basically done with the seemingly endless doctor appointments, treatments, and scans? Was it because I was a tough cookie?  No.  Was it due to my good diet and exercise? Although I did what I could, the answer would be, “No.” Is it because I had the most intelligent doctor who chose the best treatment? She was a good doctor, but I don’t think that is the answer either. Is it because I had faith to overcome? No. What little faith I have has been provided by God Himself because of His amazing grace.

Many others have had these same advantages and have had much different outcomes.  I believe there are two reasons.

1) There were many precious saints of God, many who are reading this right now, who prayed for me. THANK YOU!!!!

2) Because my God, the creator of the universe, has work for me to do. Thank you, God, for giving purpose to my life!

In my mind, there are no other explanations.

  • Once there is a cancer diagnosis, there is a chance of recurrence.

People ask me if I worry about the cancer recurring. I don’t worry about it, but every time I have a new ache I wonder if the cancer is back. I haven’t figured out a way around that one. Once there has been a cancer diagnosis, I wonder if one can ever completely not think about it. The doctor said as I get older I will naturally have more aches and pains, but pay attention to the ones that persist or worsen.

Pleanuts-worry-cartoon

When I’m tempted to worry, I remind myself that my times are in God’s hands. (Psalm 31:15) At best, Job said in Job 8:9, we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow. God planned my days before I was born. Psalm 139:13-16 from The Message says it beautifully,

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God– you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration–what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,  how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

My husband, David used to say, People feel sorry for you when you have cancer.  But what they don’t seem to realize is, they could die before I do.  Any of us could die suddenly in a car accident, with a stroke, massive heart attack, etc. at any time. No one is promised the next breath.

I don’t mean to be morbid, but it’s just a fact…. we aren’t getting out of this world alive, unless Jesus comes back to get us in our lifetime…which is very possible!  Either way, wise is the person who plans for eternity. Everyone will live forever somewhere. Those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone will live forever in heaven with Him. Those who have not, will have to spend eternity in the lake of fire…a place where God never wanted or intended for His creation to go.

john_14_1-3

As I celebrate life today as a cancer survivor, I pray you can celebrate life as a child of God as you live out His plans and purpose for your life!

Keep seeking Him,

Gaye Hughes