Thank You Notes

Thank You Notes

My great aunt and uncle lived in North Carolina and would come to Oklahoma once or twice a year for visits. Mostly I remember them visiting over the summer, but I also have some holiday memories tucked in my mind, visualizing a Thanksgiving one year and some Christmases too.

Although this sister and brother-in-law to my Grandma lived in North Carolina, I very much knew them. Aunt Venita and Uncle George were not the great aunt and uncle my mom forced me to hug or demanded I talk to. Actually, none of my great aunts and uncles were unfamiliar to me. I had the opportunity to build my own relationship with siblings on both my grandparents’ sides of the family. And one thing I knew about my Aunt Venita and Uncle George is that they liked Thank You Notes.

It was a pain as a kid having to write them.  Although, I did love what they’d send me for my birthday and Christmas. I even remember my seventh birthday specifically. Aunt Venita mailed a pretty pink spring dress. I opened it and could not wait to wear it.

Seriously. I know we say that as a figure of speech, but I really could not wait, made evident by what transpired a few hours after I opened it.

I’m certain I tried the dress on, although I don’t specifically remember. What I do remember is getting in bed with such excitement to wear my new dress the next day that I could hardly go to sleep.

But I did.

And then I woke up. The fact that it was still dark outside didn’t mean anything to me. It was usually dark when I got up for school.

However, the fact that my mom was still there did mean something to me. She was usually gone for work by the time we were supposed to wake up.

In the moments before I realized this, I got out of my bed, wide awake and ready for the day, put on my dress, and my shoes, and exited the room feeling dressed to the nines, because in my mind, I was. Entering into the hallway I could hear Mom’s voice. Curious as to why she was there, I walked over to my parent’s bedroom door to see my mom in her pjs! I assumed something was wrong.

Oh something was wrong. Mom wasn’t late for work. She was going to bed!

I had such anticipation of wearing that dress that I had hardly slept and woke up round about time for the ten o’clock news!

I wish I could tell you I was just as eager to write the thank you note.

I wasn’t.

Nevertheless, over the years I learned how much a simple thank you note meant to the people who received it, and I began to feel that it was the least I could do for the gift of what they gave to me.

In fact, I screen shot this Facebook post back in May. A friend wrote, “I love getting thank you cards in the mail. It makes your gift seem appreciated. It’s becoming a lost art.”

She’s right. But not in The Meadows Home.

I’ve had this post stirring in my heart, and portions of it sitting in my folder for over two years. I took pictures of Caden writing thank you notes after his 9th birthday. At nearly every age I’ve had my kids write thank you notes. From the time they only had the ability to sign their name, to copying a formatted example I provide, to getting the gift list and writing them independently, each child has been raised with value placed on expressing gratitude in a note. 

I know a lot of people approach it differently, but here’s a couple of my personal goals when writing thank you notes.

  1. In the event the receiver didn’t physically hand me the gift, the note communicates the gift arrived whether by mail or passed along from another person. It doesn’t leave the giver wondering if I ever got it.
  2. My goal is to communicate consideration of the cost. We live on a budget in our house. And thanks to Dave Ramsey, regardless of our future earning potential, I imagine we always will. With that in mind, I envision each gift given to me coming out of a budget. That means someone chose to take money from something else to purchase something for me. Furthermore, it cost their time. To spend time working to make the money, then to spend time using that worked-for money to buy a gift for me, to spend even more time to wrap it, package it, mail it or bring it to a celebration which takes again, more time! I aim to communicate how valued I feel by acknowledging the value of what was given- time and money.

And for a little cake topper here, Thank You Notes are a keepsake. For the words person like myself, a special note can be retrieved on the difficult days, and in the trying times, to be the much-needed reminder of the goodness in life.

But there’s one more. Yep! Bonus material right here on heathermeadows.com. ☺️

I wouldn’t have thought about it, but now I know it—Thank You Notes can open doors.

Because my routine for writing Thank You Notes was established years ago, it was natural for me to send on a note of appreciation in 2014 to Video Revolution for their help in getting us set up with a camera to record some of our speaking events. That little Thank You Note led to a connection with Stevie Fernandez who invited us to share our story for Explore Tulsa a year later, and giving me his card for InVision Media Group.

Fast forward to 2017. Stevie created an incredible speaker video from Saint Francis’ Hospital Week for me, potentially opening even more doors to share not only my story, but the messages this story has written.

I’d say Aunt Venita and Uncle George developed something of great value in me from their expectations of a Thank You Note. If they were here today, I’d write them one to thank them.

Proverbs 18:16 NLT Giving a gift can open doors; it gives access to important people!

I pray this post spoke to you. Did you know I’m writing a book?! Would you join me in supporting these endeavors by subscribing to our blog and sharing with your friends and family? We can’t grow with out you.

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I’m Not Enough

About fifteen years ago, Brandon and I were volunteering as youth leaders. Our youth pastor approached me with a question, “Heather, would you take the service the week after next?” Take the service? As in preach?!?! I pretty much said, “no” right then and there. Actually, I’m sure it was probably more delicate with something along the lines of, “Oh I don’t think so.” But our youth pastor, who had been my own youth pastor, didn’t let me off the hook that easily. He instructed me to do something that I’m pretty sure he knew would change my answer—he told me to pray about it.

Well, enough said. You know what happened.

I ended up taking the service—although it was laden with disclaimers that I was just “sharing” and not “preaching.” Preaching just seemed like too big of shoes to fill.

When I think about my journey as a speaker, that moment was the starting line; the beginnings of the Lord revealing His calling to me step-by-step through each opportunity He’s provided.

While the Lord has given me a vision of the work He has for me as a speaker, I sometimes confront doubt rising up in my heart. Not doubting God, but doubting myself, doubting my ability to accomplish what He desires for me to do.

Have you ever done the same?

Here’s a few scenarios right off the top of my head that may cause you to question if you have what it takes:

  • starting a new job
  • becoming a parent—and then pretty much every day thereafter
  • leading a small group
  • starting a new business venture
  • applying for college
  • graduating from college
  • writing a book
  • starting a blog
  • planting a church

There’s countless more, and if I sat here for a bit longer I know I could fill at least a page, but for the sake of word count, we’ll move on.

I know someone else who questioned if they were enough.

Moses.

God called Moses to do a work and speak to the king of Egypt. But Moses didn’t want to and made all kinds of excuses. The Lord was so patient with him and from what I read, really gave him some things to beef him up to stand before the king. You know—just a few things like a shepherd’s staff turning into and out-of a snake, and his hand instantaneously being afflicted with and then delivered from a severe skin disorder, oh and last but not least, the thing with the Nile River water turning into blood. I’m saying if that doesn’t make you feel that you’re on a guaranteed winning side, I just don’t know what will.

But honestly, I get Moses.

A few weeks ago the Lord opened a big door of opportunity to me. I accepted the invitation to speak for an event, but then afterward questioned if I was enough. I shared my doubts with Brandon and he looked at me as if I had just fallen off a pumpkin truck. The guy really says a lot with his eyes. Probably why he doesn’t need to utilize as many words as I do.

Moses, on the other hand, was not good with words. And not even these words from the Lord in Exodus 4:11-12 could change his mind, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” God was so gracious to Moses and met him where he was. He’s so awesome like that. He meets us all right where we are. If you want to read on a little further you’ll see that God allowed Moses’ bro to speak for him—Aaron was good with words, plus it’s just pretty cool to see this portrait of family coming together for a big moment in biblical history like this!

Now that I’m in the planning stages of this big event, I’m getting pretty excited, mostly because I’ve reminded myself of God’s Word right there— Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say. He’s been so faithful each and every time from all those years ago when our youth pastor said, “take the service.”

So here’s where it stands—when we doubt, it’s probably because there’s some fear somewhere in it.

You know what Brooklyn and I just discussed recently? Identifying the antidote to fear. It’s faith. Each time we are confronted with fear, we fight it with faith.

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I don’t know about you, but when I think of evidence, I think of something I can see. But faith is the evidence of what we can’t see. So if you can’t see yourself, let’s say graduating from college, starting a new job, leading a ministry or maybe writing a book, but if the Lord has planted it in your heart, then you can stand firm in faith that it will be, even though nothing with your physical eyes tells you so. You walk by faith—the substance of things hoped for.

Last but not least, let’s close with this thought. Don’t feel the pressure to be enough. We were never meant to be. If we were, we wouldn’t need Jesus. When I consistently put myself out there in situations that make me question if I am enough, those situations are opportunities to remind how much I need Him.

II Corinthians 3:4-5 says, “And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.”

I am enough in Him!!! And so are you!!!

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What’s In This Box? The Meadows Merry Christmas to You!

What’s In This Box? The Meadows Merry Christmas to You!

Have you ever pulled wrapping paper off a box and got incredibly excited only to realize the box was solely for packaging purposes, that the item held within was not the one reflected on the box?

I’ve done that. It’s embarrassing.

Generally I still absolutely love the gift, but the situation makes me feel the necessity to overly emphasize my gratitude, as if I need to convince the giver that even though it wasn’t what I thought it was, it is still something I love.

You know. Something kinda like this year in reflection.

2016 held some things we would have preferred not to face, but the experiences have grown us individually and stronger together as a family. All in all, it was a year we’re overly grateful our Giver gave to us.

_42a8338Gavin turned 7 in July. He had his very first season of baseball last spring, and what an experience it was! His team was undefeated!!! Quite the start! Gavin took his position as catcher very seriously, not wanting the umpire to help him out in the least bit when throwing the ball back to the coach/pitcher. He may have found his niche, making the Dad so happy that Gavin shares his love of baseball. He played goalie in soccer and has now started his first year of basketball. Gavin is rocking it out in 1st grade, recently receiving Tiger Cub of the Month for December. While we wouldn’t consider him super social, his teacher tells us he demonstrates leadership qualities in the classroom and was just recognized for the life principle gentleness. Like all the rest of us, he’s making his way, doing a fine job.

_42a8353Caden moved out of the elementary school to middle school this year. All four kiddos are at different locations now, never to be back on the same campus again. Let the Mom shed a tear here.😢 Caden is in 4th grade with a rotating schedule, changing classes every hour, but his homeroom teacher is one of our best, dearest friends, having taught three of four kids so far. What a blessing! For Caden’s 10th birthday he wanted his room redecorated in a beach, surf theme. He has drums, a microphone, a guitar and a ukulele he tinkers around with here and there. We have a hunch that he’s got a music bug, but at this season he keeps busy with baseball, soccer and basketball. He is still the most laid-back, easy-going kid ever. Caden is very likable, even getting elected as class representative. He’s quite the guy.

_42a8347Jaron is in….wait for it….(can you hear the dun dun dunnn?)…..JUNIOR HIGH! We may have some negative opinions having been through this with child one, but Jaron seems to be handling the environment well at the time. 7th grade so far is good. He was able to join youth group starting in the summer and is on the student leadership team. Honestly it’s hard to wrap this kid up in one paragraph. He wants to be involved in everything and is starting to realize the challenge to be fully committed and effective in so many different areas. He’s playing soccer on a rec team, he ran cross country for the school, is playing school basketball and plays trumpet in band. I pray the Lord allows him many opportunities to soak up all he pursues in life. Jaron is the example of “making the most of our days,” and that translates to Mom and Dad trying to catch our breath in between it all!

_42a8366Brooklyn has put her best foot forward this year, finishing her first semester of 10th grade with an A in every class! She’s getting closer to becoming an independent driver having obtained her permit back in September. It was one of our highlights this year and we shared about it in The Other Side of Failing. Her passion is her horse, Gray Boy and she continues with improvements in making his house snazzy. She is enjoying having Jaron in youth group with her and serving on the student leadership together. We’re so proud of her growth, maturity and her vision for her future. It’s as if that future is speaking those words from playing tag, “ready or not, here I come.” And she is getting ready!

Brandon had an unexpected job change this year. We wrote about the experience in Living in a Layoff. We’ve always known that being an engineer in oil & gas in Oklahoma comes with a dose of unpredictability, but we never anticipated a layoff. Needless to say it was a big opportunity for our own growth. During the three months out of work he obtained his project management professional certification and is now working as a project manager for Rose Rock, and gets to work from home on Fridays! His office is right across the street from the hospital where I work.

The location is quite convenient and now Brandon and I carpool in together on the days I work. I’m still enjoying my NICU nurse gig at Saint Francis working a shift a week. Although I’m not there full time I’m quite passionate about my NICU babies. In April I obtained my RNC, a national certification in NICU nursing. In my time away from the hospital, I’m the official schedule coordinator for the family. I do my best but could definitely use more improvement. Nevertheless, we haven’t forgotten a kid. Yet. 😉 I continue serving events, conferences, schools, businesses, banquets and churches through inspirational motivational speaking when given the opportunity. However, the main task is the book project I’m working on, writing a personal memoir about persevering through life’s painful places. Our prayer is that it will be powerfully effective for those who need it in a time they need it most.

We’ve had some beautiful gifts in 2016. There was something special inside each package. Some were wrapped up in obvious goodness. Like our family’s mission trip with Brooklyn and Jaron to El Salvador with our church in June. Or our family vacation in October returning to see Mickey on Oahu. But even the challenging, unpleasant, unpredictable, unsure moments of the year held something special within them for us. And we have an expectation 2017 will hold the same.

It has been a joy sharing our moments with you through the year here on this blog. We can’t thank you enough for being a part of our online family. We pray the Lord continues using the posts to bring encouragement, inspiration, strength and joy to you as He continually provides to me in writing them.

Merry Christmas to you and yours! May you feel God’s presence and know His faithfulness today, in the New Year and every day thereafter, no matter what the package may look like!

Matthew 7:11NLT So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.

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