Still…Or Stagnant?

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When my comfort zone becomes a funk…

There is a lake on the grounds of my workplace.  Toward the middle of that lake are a couple of fountains.  They sparkle in the light and make ripples outward, circulating the water and providing tranquil sounds when one can take a moment to enjoy the scenery.

Toward the edge of the lake, though, the water becomes shallow and still…and eventually, swamp funk begins to accumulate there.  It is unsightly for sure, and I would be willing to bet that it smells bad as well.  Periodically the funk needs to be cleared away.

How often is my life like that?  The line between stillness and stagnation can be a fine one indeed, and it can be difficult to tell when I have crossed from restful stillness into stagnant funk.  My waters need to be stirred into action, the funk cleared away.

Sometimes life throws us into circumstances that stir our waters into clarity, but that stirring often feels like the violent spin cycle of a washing machine.  Clearing out the muck is not an easy process.  God often stirs us when we feel least equipped for it.

I am entering a clearing season, spinning out my funk of inertia in a job I have held for a very long time, a job which is ending soon.  I did not ask for this process to happen in this way; however, I know that it will ultimately be for my good.  It is time for me to sparkle again.

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Muses

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What inspires us…

My friend David shared an insight with me years ago that I have never forgotten.  He said that all creative/artistic types have more than one outlet for expression.  That one bit of wisdom has held true for me, even before he said the words to me and, in fact, since long before I ever met him.

I read somewhere that famed fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy cited Audrey Hepburn as being the inspiration for much of his design work…she was his muse.  Over the years I have found my own inspiration in many places, things and people.  A conversation with a valued friend can spark an idea for a blog post, or for a different way to interpret a phrase in a song I am working on; seasonal change and the beauty of nature often urge me to snap photographs, capturing a moment of color, texture, light and shadow; a sound, scent or memory can prompt me to write a poem, haiku or brief passage which might eventually find its way into a larger work.

Inspiration does not always come from things that are traditionally considered beautiful.  Sometimes an inspiring image is one depicting pain, brokenness, sickness or even death.  For me, if a thing evokes a strong emotion, it can serve as a muse.  I want to explore it further, document how it makes me feel…to wonder about, or create, its story.

In future posts, I hope to write more about my various muses, their stories, the reasons I find them so meaningful and inspiring.  You may find yourself mentioned here, or pictured here.  You may see a photo that evokes an emotional response.  I hope you do!

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Horizons

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Looking ahead into the unknown…

Recently a number of my coworkers and I received news that, as the result of our company being acquired by a larger entity, our departments, and positions, are being relocated.  We, however, are not being relocated with them.  I suspect that others of us may get similar news before everything is all said and done.  Some of us have never experienced a layoff before.

I have.  This is actually my 3rd trip to the layoff rodeo and, while it is a disappointment, I realize that it is not the Earth-shattering catastrophe I once would have thought.  Is there uncertainty?  Of course.  Nervousness, even?  Well, sure.  But panic?  No.  (At least, not yet!)

I am grateful for ample advance notice, time which will allow me and my team of coworker-friends (many of whom I love like family) to formulate a strategy for moving forward.  We range from early 30’s to near-retirement age, and each life stage presents unique challenges and opportunities in the world of job searches, networking and how we might proceed to reinvent ourselves.  As this news is still sinking in, the choice I am making is to imagine a world full of possibilities for all of us.

Do you remember being a child, and having an adult ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”?  I am once again asking myself this question…moving forward, what do I want to be and do?  How do I wish to spend the remaining days of my life, professionally and otherwise?

I want to pursue many avenues, and I also want to focus on a select few.  I want to build upon the skill set I already have, and I also want to reinvent myself completely.  I want to be able to provide for my family’s immediate needs and desires while taking a new, longer view at the horizon before me…a horizon filled with interesting, terrifying, exciting possibilities.  For all I know, everything else in my life has been building up to this precise moment, to what end, I have no idea…yet.  But as we say in the television business, stay tuned.

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Smelling The Roses

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Don’t wait…

My friend Isaac took me to supper this past Saturday night, to celebrate my Sunday birthday.  (#souldate). Visiting with him is always a good time to catch up on each other’s lives, enjoy a meal together and discuss some of the deeper issues of heart, mind and soul. He provides a valued sounding board for my random musings, creative endeavors and family “stuff”.

Over the table, we hash out the dreams and doldrums of life, including the relentless passage of time that a birthday always brings to mind.  I mentioned to him a country song from the 90’s that tells the story of a family at 3 different life stages, and how poignantly it speaks to the changes we all endure and witness.  If you are interested, look up artist Tracy Lawrence’s “Time Marches On”.  It is an intelligently written yet simple narrative of one family’s life story.

Our niece is getting married a month from today, a lovely and accomplished young woman whose birth I remember vividly.  We will be traveling to Houston to gather with the Cutshaw side of the family and celebrate her wedding, as well as my and Sweet Pea’s 32nd wedding anniversary, and Cutshaw Grand Poobah Howard’s birthday.  As I look forward to this wonderful occasion, my happiness is tempered a bit by sadness at the unexpected death of a friend.

Ellen had moved to California at the end of 2012 and I had not managed to keep in touch the way I would have liked.  Still, as I explained to a mutual colleague, just knowing she was “out there” comforted me.  Now, knowing that she is not, is a kind of sad that is quite undefinable.

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Once more I am reminded of an old adage, that I need to stop and smell the roses.  The daily-ness of life lulls me into complacency…until there is a wedding, a birthday…a death.  Every day is an occasion to be savored and shared with the people around me.  God, give me eyes to see and a heart to appreciate both the monumental and the mundane occasions You set before me daily.  Amen and Amen.

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Little Things

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…mean a LOT…

For most of us, it really doesn’t take a lot to bring a smile, a laugh or a moment of warmth.  A small gesture can yield large dividends in terms of improving morale or offering someone a boost.  If you are like me, those little things are memorable.

When I see someone leaving work to go get lunch, I’ll often joke, “Bring me back a cookie!”  One day my friend Jason did!  Happy making.

 

After I wrote a blog post mentioning that my childhood neighbors had taught me how to pray the rosary, but I had long since forgotten how, a sweet surprise from my friend Jenny showed up in my mailbox

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A couple of Saturdays ago I showed up to work and found a note left for me, in high-tech style, from my buddy Rand.

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#Workhusband Steve brought me a feather.

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In fact, I have a lovely little bird figurine at home that holds a collection of feathers too large to laminate for bookmarks.  Each feather in this arrangement was a gift from someone.

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My point is this: each gesture I mentioned here probably was not much to the person offering it…but the impact of such thoughtfulness was immense for me.  It doesn’t take much to make someone’s day.  I want to challenge myself to show such little kindnesses each day.  Little things really mean a lot.

A New Lease On Life

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Redemption, salvation and Holy Week…

Recently at my workplace, a meet & greet happened with some program hosts.  This kind of event happens from time to time when one works in media/television.  Rarely will I go and wait in a line to meet people, unless I am a fan of their work.  In this most recent case, I did, because I am.

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I am pictured above with Mike Whiteside and Robert Kulp, owners and proprietors of Black Dog Salvage in Roanoke, Virginia, and hosts of the DIY Network television show, “Salvage Dawgs”.  Their business and the program revolve around their occupation (and sometimes adventures!) rescuing architectural elements, windows, lighting fixtures and other features from buildings that are about to be torn down.  These salvaged items are either sold as-is, or repurposed into new home decor or garden pieces.  These fellows and their team do great work,  “Saving pieces of history, one salvage job at a time”.

When it was my turn to meet them I expressed my appreciation for the work that they do, and they told me that their business and their philosophy is all about salvation and redemption.  I looked up at them both, smiled and said “Who among us DOESN’T need salvation and redemption?!”  And they smiled and agreed with me.

During spring and especially Holy Week, my thoughts naturally turn to those very themes…salvation, redemption.  When we trust God with the mess and brokenness we often make out of our lives,  He saves and redeems us, polishing and fashioning us into repurposed creations.  He makes all things new.  Never is this truth more evident than at Easter, the celebration of the moment in history when the world turned upside down, when death died and love LIVED.

I give thanks for reminders of salvation and redemption from all kinds of places…from nature, literature, art, music, and even do-it-yourself television programs.

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A Place For Me

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Faith formation, hospitality and being included

Last weekend I was blessed to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime event.  Through a series of music and church connections, I “wrangled” an invitation to sing in the Diocesan choir for the Dedication Mass of the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus in Knoxville, Tennessee.  Ground was broken for this space 3 years ago, the Cathedral for the Diocese of Knoxville, a diocese which was established in May, 1988 by Pope John Paul II.

I am not Roman Catholic, but I think I understand the momentous nature of an occasion like this, which makes me doubly grateful for the privilege of participating.  Glenn, the director of the music, not only allowed me to sing, but welcomed me.  His welcome took me back to my childhood when I was so often welcomed by other people of the Catholic faith.

About halfway down Ford Street lived Beth Sedgwick and her daughter, Mary Lim.  These sweet ladies were devout Catholics, wonderful neighbors who welcomed me in to visit whenever I popped by after school, or earlier in the day if it was summertime, always unannounced.  Usually with a dog in tow, I’d knock on their massive front door, and Mary Lim, long ago paralyzed in a car crash, would usually roll to the door in her wheelchair and let us in, laughing as the dog jumped up to give her kisses.  I began visiting them with my brother Reed at first, then later on after he got busy and I got a little bigger, I would go and visit them on my own…except when a dog accompanied me, of course.

They would usually be sitting at their dining room table, with the newspaper, needlework, decks of cards and crossword puzzles, and there was always a place open for me.  These women taught me about praying the rosary when I asked what “those pretty beads” were, although I have long since forgotten how to do it.  There was lovely religious artwork throughout their home, and anytime I asked about a picture or a crucifix, they patiently explained its meaning to me, knowing that I and my parents were Christian, but not Roman Catholic, and there were elements in their artwork that I didn’t understand.  Mostly, though, they taught me about their faith—-and about my own—- simply by welcoming me in.

Flash forward nearly 4 decades, after our little neighborhood was replaced by the South Knoxville bridge, the Sedgwicks had long since passed away and much life had happened for the rest of us.  I found myself surrounded by the glorious space of this new Cathedral, many unfamiliar faces, and a small group of friends from both Knoxville Choral Society and Ebenezer United Methodist Church who helped make it possible for me to witness this dedication and participate in it.  Enveloped by music, warmth and the fragrance of incense, I felt Mrs. Sedgwick and Mary Lim with me, swelling with the solemn joy they would have felt to see this new space dedicated and the Diocese united in both humility and celebration.

I am not Roman Catholic…but because I sing, there was, once again, a place for me.

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