Confessions of Good Intentions and Thank You’s Never Sent

We were going through old boxes, that necessary yet emotionally-exhausting rite of passage before moving overseas. Before our first term in Ireland we carefully labeled and stowed away mementos and heirlooms, birthday cards and documents. These were all the things we wanted to keep, but didn’t really feel like lugging across the ocean.

So just a few weeks shy of returning for our second term, it was time to cull, save or throw out what remained of our first 10 years of marriage, the things held together with faded tape and cardboard. Our bed was a disaster zone of papers and trinkets and, much to my dismay, a half dozen never sent thank you cards… from our wedding.

Oh the shame of finding these outdated remains of my good intentions. With clarity I remembered a distant relative’s queries to my grandmother when a thank you card for hand towels never appeared in her mailbox. Oh, I sent it, I told Granny. No, Karen. You didn’t send it. You didn’t even put a stamp on it.

I wish I could tell you – 15 years after that wedding and a decade into our cross-cultural journey – that I’m a deft and thoughtful thank you card writer. That my excel spreadsheet of names and addresses and “date sent” columns is color-coded and up to date. I wish I could tell you that every Friday morning I sit at my writing desk and put pen to paper, sending prayers and loving gratitude to over 100 people and churches that have sent us to serve here.

But I’m not. I’m a terrible thank you card sender (and it should be noted I’ve missed the deadline for this post by a month; that’s how bad I am at thank yous). I’m a better texter, Facebook messenger, blog poster. I buy stationery inlaid with beautiful Irish scenes, yet I freeze with pen in hand, wondering how to put into words the ocean-full of thankfulness I feel welling inside me. The stories I could share seem hollow, the anecdotes seem repeated and the gratefulness-centered verses seem rote.

And all my good intentions seem pale and trite when faced with the reality: the sacrifices made on our behalf, the friends and mentors who fall to their knees interceding for us, the churches who remember us and the siblings who miss us, and our parents who – willingly, literally – gave us up.

How do I say thank you? Where to even begin?

I will start here, with these typed words on this dreary day:

When I feed my children, I thank God for you.

When I share a cup of coffee with a new friend, I thank God for you.

When we enter the homes of those enduring trials, I thank God for you.

When the Spirit invades my ears and heart during worship, I thank God for you.

When we take our sick child to the doctor, I thank God for you.

When you bring us crayons and candy corn and Kansas City barbeque sauce, I thank God for you.

When we receive a note, an email, a message or a text, I thank God for you.

When I share why we came, try to do justice to the story of Jesus moving Himself into this earthly neighborhood, I thank God for you.

When a young man shows up on our doorstep with a Wisconsin accent and a gift from home, I thank my God for you (and we feed him, too).

You are always on our minds, always in our hearts. We take no steps without considering how you have given, prayed and sent us. Even now, my hands tremble on these keys as I remember you.

Thank you, thank you… Oh, thank you.

And forgive me. Please forgive me for not saying it more, for not writing the words in longhand, for forgetting and – to be honest – for my laziness.

Your faithfulness astounds me when my weakness surrounds me. You are a life raft, pulling us ever closer to the safe harbor of Jesus.

How can I not thank you?

Perhaps, now that I’ve typed it out all out, now that I have a record and a roadmap… perhaps it’s time I pick up that pen once again and start from scratch.


What’s one thank you you’d like to say, but never have?

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  1. Elizabeth November 26, 2014

    I really resonate with your statement “when I share a cup of coffee with a new friend, I give thanks for you.” Everything, even those seemingly little things like coffee, which are really not so little, because they are opportunities to share life with people, happens because people love and support us.

    The wedding thank you mixup happened to me too! A few years after my wedding I realized some of the cards hadn’t been sent. Written, but not sent. I had to work with some of those people that coming summer, and I dreaded seeing them. I wanted to pretend like the oversight never happened, but I couldn’t. So I swallowed my pride, HARD, and gave those two sweet ladies their well-deserved thank you notes, and was relieved. There were also a few that never did get sent, for lack of an address. So, you’re not the only one this has happened to!

    1. Karen Huber November 26, 2014

      Elizabeth, I’m SO GLAD it’s not just me! And I’m proud of you for still giving them out. I’m sure it was a sweet gesture to them, and a funny story to look back on. 🙂 Thanks for the comment, and the commiseration!

  2. Alison November 26, 2014

    Claude Wilson, my history and sociology teacher during my senior year in high school, taught me how to think.  He was a bull rider who did the rodeo circuit and an atheist, probably the first one of either I had ever met, and we had a bond.  He liked the way my mind worked.  He challenged me and prodded me on and he sent other students to me to learn how to learn.  How grateful I am for him.  Before I had a chance to say thank you, he suffered a critical injury on the rodeo circuit and (according to my mother) died, leaving a wife and an infant.  I’ve searched for him high and low, trying to find an obituary or something to confirm my mother’s suspicions; hoping that somehow he survived and he is still using that wonderful mind.  That was 44 years ago and I’m still looking for him to tell him thank you.  Don’t wait to show your love and appreciation.

    1. Karen Huber November 26, 2014

      Mom, that’s such a wonderful story – and one I don’t think I’ve ever heard. Thank you for sharing it. xo

      1. alison November 26, 2014

        I thought I’d google his name again (I have so many times) and there it was.  A friend wrote about him in 2014.  He did indeed die during a rodeo in 1976 when a horse fell on him.  He was a bare-back champion.  I’m sad, but now I can stop looking for him.


  3. Kristina Krauss November 26, 2014

    What a great reminder to say thank you!

    Well, I shall dive in and write my “thank you card” right here. I should probably wait until Friday’s grove, but I just cant wait. I’m sitting on my couch crying like a baby after my visit this morning with my connection group. And so my thank you is to Velvet Ashes, the leadership team, and Amy Young, the leader of my group. Thanks for taking the time to organize this group, the work to maintain the website, all the articles and activities, and all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into Velvet Ashes. It really has been life-changing for me. (I may not have noticed before, as it snuck up on me!)

    The truth is, I’m a long-term cross-cultural worker, and I remember the days before internet and cell phones. We lived in a small town in Mexico, and I remember only 1 phone in our town. We had to walk down to the small store, pay money, and make a call. It cost a lot. It was painful to catch people back in the states in a good moment for a visit. I didn’t make the transition to the modern world all that great. I now have a phone plan in my home where it is free to call the states, and I don’t use it. I have great internet and Skype on my laptop. The problem is, when I tried to connect with friends back in the states, I was so disconnected from life up there, schedules, etiquette for “visiting appointments” that I didn’t succeed in starting up visiting long-distance. I tried a few times, but had my feelings hurt by what felt like a lack of interest and friends not willing to spend the time with me. I didn’t know how to work around their schedules.

    So I use Skype to visit with my husband when I make trips for teacher training conferences. That’s it. Here I have all the technology to connect with friends and family from home, but haven’t been able to pull it off.

    This summer I had a counseling appointment, where the m-care lady said I was headed for serious trouble. I have a stressful job, I have been isolated for too long, and I now have two stress-induced long-term illnesses. She told me that I had to find some English company and make it a priority. (plus take some time off)

    I live near Mexico City, so there should be some English-speaking communities somewhere. I looked and looked, but didn’t find anything Christian. Not that it had to be Christian, but I’m not about to join some party scene. jijiji I went online and looked and looked. In the end I found Velvet Ashes and started trying to read the posts and to comment as much as I could. Then I signed up for a connection group this fall. Its interesting to just go online with 5 other ladies I have never met and try to get to know them just with voices on Skype. (our internet didn’t work so great for video) I have to admit, at first it was hard to open up with them. But in just a few short weeks, I’m dumping way too much stuff on them already! jajajajja

    So this morning I find myself grateful for my group of girls. I have really enjoyed getting to know Amy, Michelle, Sarah, Raquel, and Alex. I don’t really know why I’m crying so hard this morning. Maybe it is a release. Maybe its just joy to finally have broken thru the silence to find people to talk to. I talk with Mexicans here, and our little group of gringos. (we are 7 now!) But I have felt so isolated for so long.

    But there is another joy too. Last week, in fear that the groups were ending, I contacted a great friend from my home town and church, and initiated a “weekly one-hour Skype visit”. She accepted, and we had our first visit last week. Today we will have our second visit. I heard from others that she is excited about our “weekly visit” even tho we have only had 1 visit. The truth is, people in the states DO care. We have just become sooooo disconnected. They don’t know how to approach me either!

    And soooooo, my connection group has been fabulous for me. I feel like I am actually getting a real visit with friends every Wednesday. (I’m also taking Wednesdays off from work to visit with the girls, and relax more.) But my connection group showed me a system that could work to connect with people in another country. I tried the exact same system with this friend from home, and it is working! She is excited, and so am I.

    So thank you ladies. Thanks for pouring into me and taking the time to visit with me. Thanks for letting me share my deep burdens with you. Thanks for showing me how to connect again.

    Thanks for taking the time, working without fail, even through your holidays. 🙂 (Thanks Amy… even though it means a crazy week!) And if anyone else needs a hour-visit on Wednesdays, I’m here!

    This thank you card is wet with tears, but they are tears of joy. Thank you Velvet Ashes.

    1. Karen Huber November 26, 2014

      Kristina, thank you thank you thank you for posting this here. I’m touched by your journey and your willingness to share it here with us. And I’m so thankful for your connection group and for the blessing it’s been to you. I’ve had those same tears myself and can only credit them to some overflowing from the Holy Spirit.

    2. M'Lynn November 27, 2014

      I’m so encouraged by this. Thank you for sharing. I don’t quite know what it is about Velvet Ashes, either, but I’m usually blinking back tears as I read. What a sweet gift a HE has given us!

    3. Raquel November 29, 2014

      Kristi, thank you for your thank you note ;)It has been wonderful getting to know you & our group. You just made me even more sad that I missed the last one haha. I’m so thankful for the source of community & refreshment that velvet ashes has brought me as well! So exciting to hear about your new weekly skype date. Praying for you, friend! 

  4. Barbara November 27, 2014

     Ah, thank you notes.  I’ve bought ‘cute’ cards to motivate me, tried to keep messages short and personal, made lists with dates and checks, and shot off quick emails (even with the reminder that handwritten is best).  I’ve also lived most recently where snail mail and internet are somewhere between frustrating and non-existent.  But on a positive note – one year I sent out  a group thank you.  Impersonal? No, I had faces that went with each expression of thanks.  The response – and  I wasn’t expecting any – was such a gift.  Many people wrote  – “was that me?”  “I hope I was the one…”          I even tweaked it a little and used it again two years later.   Thanks all around!
    For caring about me and asking about my faith, my health, my job, my students – year after year
    For faithfully praying for  people in other cultures and lands whom you may never meet on this earth
    For writing me emails (and the occasional letter or phone call!) with news of your life and its challenges and joys
    For being Lights of truth and grace where you work
    For inviting me to share a meal and a long conversation
    For living day after day with health issues that have changed your life and yet still asking me how I’m doing
    For continuing to gather with others of like faith
     For doing something very difficult
    For being students of His word and living out His good news in your corner of God’s world
    For exchanging questions and doubts without labeling ourselves critical or weak
    For writing and singing poetry and songs
    For caring about people who are poor, addicted, ignored, or lonely and may never fully acknowledge your care.
     For loving to read and share new books
    For striving to raise children (and influence grown children and grandchildren) to know and honor their Creator in a world that doesn’t even acknowledge His existence
    For being the only one doing or saying something with conviction
    For asking me thought-provoking questions
    For making me laugh

    Each of the above statements brings faces to mind – yours is among them!
    Happy, Thanksgiving!

    1. Karen Huber November 27, 2014

      Oh, Barbara, I love your list of thank yous here… How amazing all the distinct, beautiful ways God has gifted His Church! And especially, the last one: “for making me laugh.” That is a good one… Happy Thanksgiving to you!

    2. Monica December 4, 2014

      Oh I love this!  Thank you for sharing!

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