Tag Archives: blessings

Five Years And A Thousand Words

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My own personal D-Day…

Today, June 6, 2017, is the 5th anniversary of my weight loss surgery.  I kept a blog chronicling my journey from the initial consultation with my surgeon on October 25, 2011, through the 2-year anniversary of the surgery itself, writing the final post on June 6, 2014.  Those stories, trials and tribulations still live in Cyberspace at:

http://www.incredibleshrinkingdiva.blogspot.com

I hope people still stumble across that blog and gain some insight, inspiration, information and humor from it.  For numerous reasons, I did not include photographs in that blog.  It just was not part of the journey I felt like sharing at the time.  However, I admit there is truth in the adage that, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.  So on this, my 5-year-Surg-I-Versary, I am posting some before-and-after pictures…with some caveats.

I have bounced back from my lowest weight, more than I would like.  And I am working on shaving some of those pounds away.  It is a lifelong journey and my weight will always be something of a struggle.  That is all part and parcel of this process.  Even with my bounceback, I am profoundly grateful that I am not where I started.  I am stronger and healthier than before surgery and I am free from the hip and ankle pain that drove me to pursue surgical intervention after having exhausted every other means available to me.  Weight loss surgery is a true last resort and should only be considered when all other measures have failed.  Knowing all that I know now, I would make the same decision.  For me, it was what I needed, when I needed it.

So, here are some pictures.

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With my longtime friend Mary K. Briggs, April 2010 and March 2017

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With my husband, Sweet Pea aka Jeff Cutshaw, August 2010 and April 2016

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With friend and singing partner Marc Hampton, November 2011 and April 2017

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With mentor in music and weight loss Eric Thorson, November 2010 and December 2017

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With Delta Omicron sisters and friends Allison Hendrix and Ann Jones, July 2009 and July 2015

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Me.  Just plain old me.  July 2009 and April 2017.

I’m not where I want to be, but thanks be to God, I’m not where I used to be.  Life is good and I’m healthy.  I am blessed and greatly loved.  I am thankful.

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Countless

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Name them one by one…

My blessings are countless.  Yesterday I was reminded just how blessed I am, through the friends God has placed in my life.  I see Him in their faces, feel His love in their hugs and smiles.  I hear Him in their voices as we sing together, as we laugh, as their sweet words offer counsel, comfort and affirmation.

Meetings both planned and unexpected filled my day, feeding my body at lunch and supper, and my soul throughout the hours.  After running a quick errand I stopped for lunch and ran into my sweet friend Valencia, a member of my CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) peer group from 2012, who has been on my mind for a couple of weeks now.  I was about to sit down and found myself instead scooped up into a long and joyful hug, the kind only Valencia can give!  And then she invited me to join her and her precious daughter for lunch.  We enjoyed a meal and a visit that nourished me in more ways than I can count.  It was a total God moment running into her, a blessing I didn’t realize how much I needed until it happened.

Afterward I proceeded to my friend Clay’s church for a couple of hours jamming at the piano and organ, him playing as I sang.  After the singing came a long conversation and some catching up.  Clay is a former Delta Omicron student, a reminder to me of my own student days and the value of the mentors who guided me when I was young and trying to find my way.  I’m still finding my way in some areas, a work in progress as we all are, and it always amazes me how people like Clay offer such reinforcement without even being aware of it.

After this I had my nails done and then met my friend Tina for supper to discuss “life stuff and musician stuff”.  I’ve known Tina for 30-plus years and sung with her in several ensembles over the years, from college to now.  She is a Delta Omicron sister from our college days, a level-headed, intelligent, grounded woman whose counsel I trust and whose love for God inspires excellence in all she does.  Sometimes I need a gut-check with people like that, and our meal together offered me assurance that some recent decisions I’ve needed to make came from a place of priorities rather than of pride.

If I started counting my blessings right now and did nothing else for the rest of my life, I’d never complete the list!  Yesterday’s encounters, planned and spontaneous, reminded me how much God loves us through the love of other people.  My friends and family serve as God’s hands and feet, His eyes of compassion and His voice of reason.  Gracious God, please use me this way in someone else’s life, that they may see Your blessings through me.

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The Mouths Of Babes

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A heart-melting moment…

I serve as a cantor for a Lutheran congregation filled with some of the sweetest people I have ever met.    Church was where I first learned that I loved to sing, and where my musical abilities were first discovered and nurtured.  In every church I’ve ever attended, no matter what the differences in theology or worship have been, there have been two common elements among them all: the inclusion of music and the children’s sermon.

Kids are so unpredictable!  Some days they gather around the pastor quietly and attentively.  Some days they are rambunctious little urchins!  Our pastors always handle the children’s behavior with good humor and a smile.

One thing you can count on with little children is that they are honest (sometimes to their parents’ chagrin!).  They will say exactly what they’re thinking, simply and without guile.  It might not always be what we want to hear, like when a little child asks why that lady has a mustache, or how come some people have stinky feet or loudly points out, “That man just pooted!”.

Sometimes, though, a kid will warm your heart with a sincere, sweet compilment.  I experienced such a moment this past Sunday.  I was getting into my car to leave church after the second service when a very cute little girl and her very cute grandmother waved and called out to get my attention.  I stopped and opened my car door to talk to them, and Grandma said, “We tried to find you in the choir room but you’d already come out to the parking lot, and my granddaughter wanted to tell you something.”

This sweet little girl could not have been more than 6 years old.  With her dark hair, she reminded me a lot of myself at that age, smiling up at me with her little baby-teeth smile.  I said hello and how glad I was to meet her, and she said, “I just want to say I think you’re a beautiful sing-ger!”

Singing last summer at Carnegie Hall was cool…but not as special as this moment with this little girl.  I thanked her, reached out to take her hand and asked her name, and she told me her name is Bella.  “Your parents gave you a wonderful name, because Bella means beautiful, and you sure are!”  I also noticed her pink cowboy boots and told her how much I liked them.  Grandma went on to say that Bella sometimes gets to visit at our church but lives in another area of town.  I thanked them both and we chatted a little more before parting ways.

In my rush to get home, it would have been easy to miss Bella and Grandma trying to flag me down in the parking lot.  What a blessing I would have missed!  Jesus took time to touch and bless little children.  He takes the time to listen when I need to talk to Him.  In His eyes, maybe we are all children.

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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.