Monthly Archives: March 2014

Hand Made

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Genesis 1:1—In the beginning God created

I spent part of an afternoon recently with my cousin Jim (aka Bobo) and his wife Donna in the home studio where she makes original fused glass art pieces, jewelry, bookmarks, window hangings, Christmas ornaments and just about anything else imaginable that can be made with glass.  She had posted pictures on Facebook of art pieces/caricatures she had made of Bobo and his brother, Hazen, doing their favorite hobbies, golfing and fishing, respectively.  I was so taken with them that I asked Donna if she could do one of me singing, and she said she’d give it a try.  When she contacted me to let me know that my art piece was completed, we made a date for me to go over and pick it up.  And when she unveiled it, I squealed with delight!

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We enjoyed a wonderful visit, someplace other than a funeral home, which is where we tend to run into each other these days.  I looked around her studio and learned the story of how she got into working with glass.  The colors, textures and shapes fascinated me as I poked in every corner of the space, and Donna explained that each piece is one of a kind because when it goes into the kiln for firing, she never knows exactly how it’s going to turn out.  Colors and finishes change when they are fired.  That element of surprise is part of the joy of fused glass work.

Donna was a hairstylist for years before retiring and beginning this new creative chapter of her life.  I commented that doing hair was an art form and she replied, “Well, it should be.”  Her daughters are both creative as well, with enterprises and interests ranging from music to photography to embroidery.  And they’ve passed that creativity to their children as well.  It runs in the family just like brown eyes or blonde hair.

My friend Vicki recently sent me a surprise in the mail, a beautiful pair of handmade silver earrings shaped like treble clefs.  She wrote in her card that she’d seen them where a lady was showing her handmade creations and they made her think of me.  I’ve worn them numerous times since receiving them and people always comment on how beautiful and unusual they are.  And with gratitude,  I always share the story of how they came to me.

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Several years ago, my friend Olivia, who was a member of the fraternity I serve as chapter mother, made me a bracelet in the fraternity colors, with a heart charm and my initial.  It’s a treasured gift and a reminder of the gift of creativity that lives within her, and within all of us.

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I am primarily a musician, a singer.  But I also write, make scrapbooks and greeting cards, and take pictures.  My friend David told me years ago that all creative people have more than one outlet for expression, and I believe that is true.  There are writers who also paint, painters who also dance, dancers who also quilt, quilters who also play instruments…the combinations are limitless.  

Genesis tells us that “In the beginning God created…”, (emphasis mine) and that He “made mankind in His image…”.  It stands to reason, then, that we are all endowed by the Creator with the gift of our own creativity, in whatever ways it manifests itself.  I count myself blessed to come from a heritage of so much music and creativity on both sides of my family.  I may not express my creative instincts in all the same ways as my predecessors have, but I try to express myself to the best of my ability and in the ways that best suit me.  And I continue to explore new ways to express those creative urges.  God gave them to me to use, and I hope to use them to bless other people.

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Reclining Chairs And White Flowers

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Pop Cutshaw’s birthday and my memories…

My father-in-law, Floyd Houston Cutshaw, was born on March 20, 1923.  He’d be turning 91.  That seems unfathomable to me.

I have to say that the Pop Cutshaw I knew was probably a very different person than the father his kids grew up knowing.

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By the time I came onto the scene he was about to retire, and I think that growing a little older and developing some health problems had mellowed him some.  To me, he was always easy to be around, with a dry sense of humor and a favorite chair.

Jeff’s growing-up memories include Pop making old-school, stove-top popcorn in a pan that was, in Jeff’s recollection, beat-up and black from all the stuff that got cooked and/or burned in it, and no longer flat on the bottom but “bowed up in the middle”.  Pop Cutshaw brought home a swirly brown ball from someplace and drilled holes in it to make Jeff’s first little bowling ball, a treasure we have to this day.  Jeff spent countless hours propping up a pillow in their kitchen or den behind his set of little plastic bowling pins as he practiced big boy bowling.

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My history with Pop was a lot shorter because I came into the family as the last child-in-law.  I always liked him and I felt that he liked me too.  A routine developed over the years when we would go over to their house for dinner or whatever reason for a visit.  We always went in the sliding glass doors into the den, and Pop was generally sitting in his recliner in the corner watching sports on TV.  Mom Cutshaw might be in her chair as well, opposite his, or she might be in the kitchen.  I always leaned down to kiss Pop on the corner of his forehead (usually leaving a lipstick smear behind) and he always said “Thank you!” when I did it.

I mentioned that he developed health issues as he got older. One of those was prostate cancer.  It scared all of us to death, because he already had a heart condition, and there was concern that side effects from treatment could make his existing problems worse.  Fortunately, no surgery was needed, just radiation (which was still no walk in the park).  When he began treatment, I sent him an arrangement of white roses, the flowers I always choose to express respect.  Our phone rang that night and it was Mom Cutshaw saying, “Your father-in-law has something he’d like to tell you,”.  He told me he’d never gotten flowers from a woman before and he was touched by the gesture, and he thanked me.  He did very well during radiation, especially for his age and considering his heart problem.

He endured bladder cancer prior to the prostate cancer, a heart attack, several angioplasties, double hernia surgery and an enormous aortic aneurysm that he didn’t want to get fixed until he finished building the carport for the motor home!  That was just how he was.  In his younger days, he could build or fix just about anything thrown his way.  He and Mom Cutshaw eloped to Ringgold, Georgia after he came back from The War, a period of his life that he never talked about much.  The war, not the marriage.

How strange and sad that after surviving so much, in the end it was Alzheimer’s Disease that took him from us.  How ironic that, after years of lipstick-smeared forehead kisses, I should be wearing the original Kissy Shirt the night he died and I kissed him for the last time.  And how poignant was the conversation we had in a dream following his death.

I dreamed that, like every other time we had gone to their house, Pop was there in his recliner, stretched out with his feet up.  The whole family was there for dinner and everyone else was in the kitchen.  I leaned down and kissed him on the forehead just like always, leaving my mark behind. And he thanked me.  I sat down in Mom C’s chair. He and I were by ourselves in the den, and I knew that he was dead, but he had been allowed to return for a visit with me.  He thanked me once again for the white roses I’d sent him years before, and said he would like me to plant a garden of white flowers for him, whatever kind I wanted, but all white.

And then he was gone, I was awake, and tears of joy and gratitude were flowing before my eyes even opened.  Dreams like this are so vivid, real and beautiful when they come, and I would endure every bad dream gladly for the chance to experience these occasional visits from my departed loved ones.  I miss them all so much, but now and then I am granted the gift of a visit like this one with Pop.  I have never gotten around to planting that white garden.  Maybe this year that will happen.  But every time I see white flowers of any kind, I remember Pop and that precious moment we shared in my dream.

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Happy birthday in Heaven, Pop.  I’m sending you a big forehead smooch.  ❤

Happy 89th, Aunt Ruby

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Your first birthday in Heaven…

And we all miss you every day.  I haven’t been as diligent about keeping in touch with your kids as I’d like.  It’s hard with all our schedules being crazy like they are.  I know that’s no excuse.

Thank you for showing up in my dreams when you have, even when it’s been bittersweet.  The first dream was so hard.  I dreamed that we were in a huge gymnasium somewhere, with me up high in the bleachers and you down on the gym floor.  I couldn’t get to where you were no matter how hard I tried, and all I wanted was to reach you.  I guess that just speaks to how I feel about you since you died.  Sometimes all I want is to reach you, but I can’t be where you are.

The few dreams since then have been sweeter because I’ve been able to hug you. In each dream I’ve just held you for the longest time, pressing you into my chest until I could feel both our hearts beating at the same time.  Like if I pressed hard enough, you would leave your imprint on me.

The truth is, you DID leave your imprint on me, in ways I’ll probably spend the rest of my life thanking you for.  Lord, how I miss you.  How we all miss you.

Part of me still can’t quite reconcile myself to the fact that you died, even though I was there when it happened.  I felt your last breath, your last heartbeat.  I guess I just know that, while you are gone from this Earthly life, you aren’t really gone.  I’ll be able to reach you again someday, to hold you close and to share an eternity with you and Mama and all the others who are with you in Heaven.  For now I have to be content to know that you are healthy and whole there, surrounded by God’s love and reunited with so many of our loved ones.  Heaven must be so beautiful, and even more so with you there.

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So, Happy Birthday in Heaven.  I hope you and Mama and the rest of The Big Five can sit down to a big meal together, laughing and remembering the many happy times we enjoyed together.   I miss you every day, but I know you are with me in the ways that really matter, and I know that I will see you again someday.  I love you.

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Dust And Ashes

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There’s a reason God made us out of dirt…

Having been raised in the United Methodist Church, I am familiar with the season of Lent and the tradition of self-denial many Christians observe as we remember the final days of Christ’s earthly ministry and His journey to the cross.  Year in and year out, whether I’ve been active in a church or not, Lent has always been a special time for me as I remember Who Jesus is, and who I am.

What I am.

This year I am singing and serving in a Lutheran church, and their observance of Lent includes elements I had never experienced before, including The Imposition of Ashes, a portion of the Ash Wednesday service in which the pastor or priest takes ashes and makes the sign of the cross on the foreheads of those who wish to receive them.  The ashes came with the scriptural reminder that,  “… thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.”  (Genesis 3:19)  Receiving the ashes proved to be an overwhelming moment for me, and as I returned to my seat, quiet tears crawled down my cheeks as I contemplated the coming season of Lent and the nature of Christ’s sacrifice for me. No amount of self-denial I exercise during Lent can make me truly understand the magnitude of that sacrifice…and that is not what Lenten self-denial is meant to accomplish anyway.  My self-denial helps me to be more mindful of Who He is.

And what I am.

I am dust, and to dust I am going to return.  Genesis tells us that God took the dust of the ground, breathed life into it and it became Man.  Without God’s breath of life in me, I am only dust.  A collection of chemicals, elements and water.  Someone once analyzed the monetary worth of a human body based upon its chemical/elemental makeup, and that value was something along the lines of $5, including our skin.  A fascinating and humbling prospect.

I’ve always believed there is a reason God made us out of dirt. If He had chosen gold or jewels to make humankind, we might feel overly confident in the intrinsic value of our substance.  Acknowledging that God made us from the dust of the earth, breathing His Spirit into us to give us life, we can realize where our value really comes from, if we choose to.  I am grateful that my substance is frail dust, and that my true worth is what God has breathed into me.

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Giving It Up For Lent

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When I give something up, I gain something else…

I spent the afternoon yesterday visiting with Aunt Helen and her kids, my cousins Lisa and Mike.  It was a much-needed visit with family I don’t get to see nearly often enough.  For years we have run into each other most frequently at the funeral home, and that is a situation I think we all would like to change.  After some recent events in each of our lives, we might be more likely to make time for visits like yesterday.

I remarked yesterday that I collected feathers but I had not found one in a while, and I was looking forward to springtime when the birds are more active and there might be more feathers to find.  In an interesting bit of timing and providence, today on the first day of Lent,  I found my first feather in months.  It’s not a pretty one.  It’s kind of dirty and pitiful, actually, enough to make me wonder what the little bird might have suffered in the process of dropping it.

But I didn’t think twice about picking it up and adding it to the others I have gathered over the last few years.  It’s pitiful, but I will give it a home.  As Lent commences, I think about how pitiful I am, but God has given me a home even in my pitiful state.  Many religious traditions encourage their adherents to give up various indulgences during Lent, or to take on some extra project to enhance one’s spiritual life.  A couple of times during Lent I have written letters to people telling them how much they mean to me.  It turned out to be a study in gratitude that blessed me more than it blessed the recipients.

Several years ago I decided to read the C.S. classic “Mere Christianity”.  It took time that I could have used tor other pursuits, but what I gained from reading it far outweighed the time I invested.  This year, in addition to eating more sensibly, I have decided it’s time for more C.S. Lewis during Lent, and the book I’ve chosen is “The Problem of Pain”.  I am certain that God led me to this particular book for a reason; after enduring Aunt Ruby’s death last summer and watching numerous friends lose their loved ones, especially parents, in the last several months, suffering has been very present in my world.

Jesus told us that in this world our lives would be filled with trouble.  He never promised is that we would not suffer.  What He did promise is that we would not suffer alone; He is with us in our pain.  As I give up pieces of my time to do extra reading during Lent, I am trusting that God has something for me to gain through that investment.  He always does.

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(the opening page before the preface to “The Problem of Pain” by C.S. Lewis, and the sad little feather I found today)