Tag Archives: feathers

Time To Go Home

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Timing is all…

Wednesday, August 30, 2017, was an intense day.  My emotions ran the gamut from profound sadness to overwhelming love to incredible joy, over the course of both hours and moments.  I’m actually still trying to process it all, and in doing so, I’ve spent a bit more time lately just keeping to myself and being still.

It was the beginning of my work week as Wednesdays always are, but with a distinct change in the middle of the day when I took a 3-hour lunch to go and sing for a funeral at Messiah Lutheran Church, where I sang and served from 2013-2016.  The associate pastor’s mother had died, and I adore both pastor and mom.  Being asked to offer music for this occasion both honored and humbled me, as I would have attended the service even had I not been singing.

Even the most seasoned of musicians sometimes feel nervous, especially when called upon to provide music for funerals and memorials.  It is only natural.  And nerves visited me as well.  My friend and #firsteverworkhusband Martin, knew how much I love this family, and how important the service was to me.  We exchanged messages first thing in the morning and throughout the day.  I had gathered a little token of love for Pastor Pauline to take with me and give her prior to the service, along with a big hug.  A reminder that she has not lost her marbles.

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As I had predicted, my singing was not easy or perfect, but it was, as I told Mother Farrington’s grandchildren afterward, with my speaking voice breaking,  “…a way for me to love your family…”  Reuniting with my former “choir boss”,  Joan, to make music for this service comforted me, and being back among this church family warmed my heart and made me feel loved.  As I have come to understand, musicians and people of faith are all part of the same family;  we never really say goodbye and we always recognize and welcome one another back.

I left the fellowship hall and I walked to my car with tears of sadness, gratitude and love…and I thought the intense part of my day had passed.  Knowing that Martin had held space for me meant the world to me, especially with everything he has endured this year…a transitional period in his relationship, his health, undergoing medical procedures, and his living situation, including being without a home for months and staying with friends/family, and in shelters ranging from tolerable to hellish.  His, and my, fondest wish, had been for him to find a place to live, and that process seemed to be taking longer than forever to happen.  Until this intense day.  Almost the minute I returned to work, Martin ping’ed me with a message.

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Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows that feathers are for me a symbol, a powerful reminder that God is there, looking out for me and my loved ones, sending comfort when I need it in a language I can understand.  When this teeny feather floated down after the funeral and landed on the program, I assumed it was just for my benefit…turned out to be a harbinger of Martin’s wonderful news as well.  That his housing came through at the same time I sang and we were commending Mother Farrington to her home in Heaven…seemed, and still seems, especially poignant, and fitting.  For her, and for Martin, it was time to go Home.

Home.

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Wings

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The blessing to soar and to sing…

This past Sunday the lovely people of Messiah Lutheran Church where I have sung and served since 2013 said “Farewell and Godspeed” to me as I have begun a new chapter at a different church, Ebenezer United Methodist.  Both churches have referred to my “ministry”, which I have never considered my singing to be.  For me, it’s just doing the thing God gave me to do, offering back to Him the gift that He has lent me to use while I am here.  Semantics, I suppose.

People who know me, or who read this blog, know that I collect feathers.  On my way into the church, I spied a tiny little white feather on the ground, no bigger than my thumbnail.  “Thanks, Lord, ” I thought, tucking it into my bag.  It was a beautiful little piece of comfort on a bittersweet day.

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Joan, Messiah’s director of music, had mentioned in an email that I collect feathers and that if anyone at church found one, they could bring for my last Sunday as a member of their staff.  What a sweet gesture, I thought, and such a nice way to say not “Goodbye”, but “Until we meet again,”.  Because Christians, and musicians, never really say goodbye.  We remain part of the same family.

I had the chance to sing some of my favorite things, with some of my favorite people, in a place that I’ve grown to love.  At the end of the first service my friend Anne came up and handed me a Baggie with a collection of large feathers inside, explaining that she had her son Cameron had collected them on walks over the years.  I said, “I hope this isn’t the whole collection!”, to which she replied, “It is, and Cameron wanted you to have them.”  When I went into the choir room to drop off my folder before Sunday school I found a feather lying on the floor, and picked it up thinking someone had just dropped it.  They had…and that one was just the start.  All over the fellowship hall floor, feathers…on top of every table, feathers…little children tugging on my skirt to bring me feathers!  It felt like I’d won the lottery!

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During Sunday school, Joan presented me with a parting gift, a gorgeous piece of art depicting a treble clef and feathers combined, inside of which she had tucked a small white feather that one of her dogs had tracked into the house after a walk.   And then she had me explain the significance of feathers in my life, how God sends them when I need comfort, a reminder that He is watching over me.  When I see a feather I pick it up, because, while my brain knows that feathers come from birds, my heart likes to imagine that the feathers drop from the wings of guardian angels God has placed in my path to look after me.

As the choir gathered for the second service, Mary Soprano (because we also have a Mary Alto!) presented me with her own take on a feather gift, a hilarious pink and purple boa, which everyone agreed suits my Diva personality perfectly!  I squealed like a child when I opened it, and posed for a photo showing my bounty of gifts and blessings from the day.  Pastor Eric prayed for me during both services, and Pastor Pauline blessed me, anointing me with oil after I had received communion.  Tears of gratitude welled up as I received love, hugs, affirmation and the blessing to continue singing in another family even as I remain loved by this one.

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Over my shoulder the banner reads “Cantate Domino”, Latin for “Sing to the Lord”.  I LOVE that Joan framed the shot this way.  It’s a reminder for me why I do what I do.

And I love that my feather gifts remind me of both the birds and the Angels, creatures that soar and sing to the Lord.

 

 

Broken Ground

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The 15th anniversary of 9/11…

I remember the events of 9/11 as vividly as if they occurred yesterday.  We all do.  My closest connection with the tragedy was the fact that my brother, Reed, was caught up in it.  He worked for American Express in the World Financial Tower, which was very close to the WTC towers that were destroyed that morning.  Like many other families, we watched the footage unfold on TV, horrified by the images bombarding us.  And like many other families, I and my loved ones anxiously waited to hear from Reed, praying that he was safe, at least physically.  We were among the more fortunate families, hearing from him hours, rather than days, after the towers fell.  I was working for the local Fox TV affiliate at the time, and I reported to work that afternoon, thankful that Reed was out of harm’s way, and surrounded by my work family as we all watched the horror replayed for hours on end while news people and experts tried to make sense of it all.  Our boss, Tom, my friends Larry and Dan, and I, kept master control running that day and into the night.  One of my clearest memories of the day was when Dan’s sister came by that evening with her baby boy, and she let me hold him.  Cuddling that sweet child comforted me, reminding me that God is still at work in our world, and that life indeed goes on.  Dan told me on Facebook that his nephew has his learner’s permit to drive now, and that he has been told the story of how he blessed me on 9/11.

The world seemed to break that day.  Buildings, peace, faith, even the very earth underneath the city.  Broken ground.

Flash forward 15 years, and I am sitting in a church service at Ebenezer United Methodist Church where I have just recently accepted a call to sing and serve, leaving behind a church I have served since 2013.  The decision was not made lightly or without deep soul-searching, consideration and prayer.  On the 15th anniversary of the broken ground of 9/11, my new church family celebrated the groundbreaking of a new sanctuary, welcoming me into their heritage.  The significance and timing were poignant and emotional for me.

At the end of the service, we each received a river stone symbolic of “raising our Ebenezer”, then went out onto the lawn to stand where the new sanctuary will be built in the days and months to come, to pray for God’s continued blessing on the church family, and to break ground.  As I took my place on the lawn with the rest of the choir, I noticed something at my feet that has become a meaningful symbol of God speaking to me…

 

I hollered at my friend Marc to show him the feather, and he said, “That’s just like something that would happen to you!”  I replied, “It’s more like something God would do,”.  Then he and I dug into the dirt and celebrated the same blessed peace that holding that sweet baby 15 years ago had given me…that God is still at work in the world, and life indeed goes on.

Thoughtful

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Sometimes the sweetest gifts are free…

Readers of this blog know that I collect feathers, and I have for several years.  I don’t remember how I got started with it, but at some point I saw a pretty feather someplace and decided to pick it up and take it with me.  For the longest time I simply stuck them into my Bible or other books I was reading, and many of my books still contain feathers.  I came across one the other day and it both surprised and delighted me.  I hope the people who inherit my books someday will have the same reaction.

Larger feathers, or ones from trips or momentous occasions, I have laminated on pretty paper or photographs with a description of when and where I found them and why they are special.  These make wonderful bookmarks as well.  I have also included them in notes or little presents to people, taping a small feather to a letter or the inside of a book.

Several people have spotted feathers and photographed them for me, sending the pictures via e-mail or on social media.  Those are always nice surprises and they tickle me to pieces.  And a few people have found feathers, picked them up and saved them to give to me when we saw each other next.  A couple of these “feather presents” came earlier in the summer, just a couple of days apart.  My friend Ann Rita is an avid hiker, and on one of her excursions she found a gorgeous dark-brown-and-white striped feather and picked it up to bring to me at church.  It is gorgeous and unique, and sturdy enough to use as a writing instrument like they did in the olden days.  Just a couple of days after that, I met my friend Marc to practice music and he said he had a surprise for me.  He had found an enormous, shiny black feather and saved it to bring me because he knew I collected them.

A couple of years ago my cousin Judy sent me one tucked inside the pages of a magazine featuring Alton Brown, my favorite food personality (and nerd crush!).  Rebecca and Karen, friends I have sung with in Knoxville Choral Society, have also contributed to my collection.  Rebecca brought me a huge, HUGE turkey feather from a trip to North Carolina.  Karen’s property has geese and she gathered a baggie full of soft grey feathers and brought them to me at rehearsal one night.

Most recently, my sweet husband Jeff was outside our house and something caught his eye.  It turned out to be a blue jay feather, with black stripes and a white tip.  It’s unlike anything else in my collection, and he could easily have just left it on the ground where it had landed.  He found it on the 3rd anniversary of my last visit with Aunt Ruby before her stroke.  I hugged him so hard I think it surprised him!  And I may or may not have cried in private a little later on for that precious gift from God letting me know that Aunt Ruby is indeed with Him.

Any time someone sends me a feather picture, or actually picks one up to give to me, I am amazed at their thoughtfulness in doing so.  For that moment, a person remembered me, and chose to let me KNOW that they remembered me.  That in itself is a gift, just as much (or even more sometimes) than something purchased with money.

Thoughtful gifts don’t need to be expensive…and expensive gifts aren’t always Thoughtful.

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Flight

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There are many ways to fly…

Last week Jeff and I were in Orlando for our nephew’s wedding.  Usually when we take trips we drive, but since Orlando is a longer distance than we often travel, we opted to fly this time.  We are not the most seasoned travelers, and the process of flying in a plane is still something of an adventure, to me at least.  An adventure…and a mystery.

Our whole week there became for me a metaphor about the ways we travel through life, and the ways life travels around us.  Time really does fly.  The nephew who got married, Aaron, was about 3 years old when Jeff and I got married, and now he is a grown man, a doctor, marrying a wife of his own and well-established in his chosen field.

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His older brother and best man, Clark, is Nephew Number One, older by about 3 and 1/2 years than Aaron, successful in his career and life, with a beautiful wife and 2 adorable little boys of his own.  When Jeff and I got married, Clark was told that he could go on our honeymoon with us.  He was a little peeved when he found out he was not going to the beach after all!

How is it possible that these little squirts are all grown up?!  But they are.  And next June, Lord willing and knock wood, Jeff and I will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.  Time flies.

While we were in Orlando, we took a little drive over to see Kennedy Space Center.  Talk about the mystery and wonders of flight!  Jeff and I marveled at the sights, exhibits and history there.  He said it may be his favorite day ever as a grown-up.  It was awe-inspiring to see and learn about the history of space travel, and humbling to imagine the courage of the pioneers who took those first brave flights into the unknown reaches of space.

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Back down to Earth, we enjoyed lovely views of lake and sky from our resort condo balcony.  It struck me every day, sometimes from hour to hour, how big and puffy the clouds were there.  I suppose it has something to do with the location and proximity to water, but the cloud formations were unusually beautiful, varying throughout the day.  I spent a good deal of time on our balcony reading one of my favorite little books, “Intra Muros” by Rebecca Ruter Springer.  It describes the author’s vision of Heaven during an extended illness.  The fluffy clouds and Springer’s words made me think of Heaven and the reunions we will enjoy there, in the presence of God and those we love who have gone before us.

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Anyone who knows me (or follows this blog!) knows that I collect feathers.  On our way into the visitor complex at Kennedy Space Center, I found one and tucked it safely inside my purse.  What a treat to remember our trip by.  On our way out of the complex, I found a second one, white and fluffy, much like the clouds I so enjoyed watching during our time away.  How poignant that, after flying on a jet to Aaron’s wedding where he and his new wife will take wing into the future, on our way to see the history of mankind’s efforts to fly into space, God should send me feathers to remind me that He created the birds of the air, giving them the ability to fly, before He ever created Man in His own image.

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Gracious Lord, thank You for your many gifts of Flight—flight of birds and humans to places far away, the flight of time, our flight through life and into the future, and eventually into Heaven.

Farther Along

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We’ll understand it all by and by…

This past Sunday, July 26, was the first anniversary of my friend Lola’s death.  I have written about her several times here in Patchwork And Potpourri, sharing bits of my grief journey as I have tried to process her passing and make some sense of it.  While I have not been able to accomplish the sense-making part, I have found amazing pieces of comfort and blessing along the way.

Some months back, my church music director, Joan, planned an old-fashioned gospel singing (or as we in the South sometimes say, a “SANGIN'”!) for this date.  I cut my teeth on many kinds of music, but old-timey hymns and gospel songs are like mother’s milk to me, so I naturally jumped on the bandwagon…and then I realized what day it was, becoming uncertain and unsettled as to whether I’d be up for this gathering on such a poignant anniversary.  Oh, me of little faith!

At this point I need to back up and recall last year.  Lola had died on a Saturday, and I had committed some weeks before to sing a duet with my friend Marc the next day at our friend Greg’s church.  Part of me feared a complete breakdown in the middle of the song…but my inner musician kicked in and soldiered on.  Moments like these are when God works in ways that are beyond understanding, providing His strength in my weakness.  We sang, our voices blending in that unique way that Marc and I always seem to achieve, God singing through us to speak to those gathered there, and ministering to my soul in the midst of such overwhelming sadness.  Afterward we sat together behind the piano, and I began to cry silent, uncontrollable tears.  Marc reached for my hand and mouthed, “What…?” and I mouthed back, “Lola died yesterday.”  He had known all about her illness, prayed for her along with others I had asked to pray, and when I shared that she had died, he just held my hand and petted my arm.  No more words were needed.

The whole rest of last summer, God added feathers to my growing collection, signs of His eye upon the sparrow.  I had started collecting them years before, but in the wake of Lola’s death, I started finding them eveywhere!  Tons of feathers, showing up to remind me that she and my many loved ones in Heaven are all OK…and that I eventually would be OK, too.

This past Sunday, on Lola’s anniversary, once more I sang and made harmony with my longtime friend Marc, recalling last year’s moments of comfort in sadness, strength in weakness, music in tears.  We hugged and talked and laughed…and sang, the old gospel songs about Heaven and hope.  And as Marc and I left the church together, I found another feather, my first one in months.  “Feather!” I exclaimed as I  reached down to pick it up.  Marc said, “Oh yeah…”  I said it must be a Happy-First-Anniversary-In-Heaven-for-Lola feather, and he agreed.

A favorite old song of mine is “Farther Along”.  Granny used to sing it and Mama taught it to me.  It has been recorded by artists ranging from Southern Gospel quartets to The Byrds, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.  The chorus states:

“Farther along we’ll know all about it,

Farther along we’ll understand why.

Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine.

We’ll understand it all by and by.”

As I sang it this past Sunday I thought of Lola, her death and her life, and how much I still don’t understand why she had to leave us so soon.  I thought about Joan and the lovely blue hydrangeas from her garden that she had brought in to decorate the tables, reminding me of the ones from Mom Cutshaw’s backyard.  I thought of the almost mystical harmony that happens whenever Marc and I sing together.  I thanked God for these gifts and mysteries.

And once more I looked forward to that day when things I wonder about now will somehow make sense…farther along, by and by.

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Good Days

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The blessings of being refreshed…

Yesterday was an epically great day.  It was fabtacular!  It was, in fact, blogworthy, for several reasons.  So I want to share my day with anyone who might happen to read this post.

The day started with a simple pleasure, a sweet-smelling bubble bath.  I had won an eBay auction on some shower gel in a favorite scent that has been discontinued, and my bottle of aromatherapy had arrived in the mail on Monday.  My nose, skin and mood were pampered by this simple indulgence, so the day started off great and only got better.

Yesterday was also the much-anticipated day of the Alton Brown Edible Inevitable concert tour stop in Knoxville at The Historic Tennessee Theatre.  I looked forward to this for months.  Not only did he do his show, he announced a “flash signing” at the venue in the afternoon.  I was able to go, get him to sign my Granddad’s antique butcher’s apron and have a photo made and a chat.  He seems to be a genuinely nice guy.

I am a huge fan of Alton Brown, Food Network fixture, creator of the program “Good Eats”, chef, author, food scientist, TV show host and Peabody Award winner.  He also plays guitar and is quite the comedian.  His live shows have received great buzz on social media with good reason.  They are hilarious!

The tickets went on sale the day after my chorus and I arrived in New York City last June for our Carnegie Hall performance, which I wrote about in previous posts.  At breakfast in the diner before our first rehearsal, I was freaking out and melting down because I was unable either by phone or on the Web to get through to any site or venue to purchase show tickets.  A flurry of texts and e-mails to Sweet Pea followed, and with some effort, he was able to procure tickets, FINALLY.  So I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the New York trip and focus on the music and memories being made there, while anticipating the Alton Brown show coming in the fall.

I had met Mr. Brown 4 years ago when he was on-site at work for that year’s United Way kickoff.  I still can’t believe that whoever planned the event managed to keep it quiet until he was actually on the premises.  I had the chance to meet him and chat, and have a photo with him.  The one I am sharing here is from my boss’s Blackberry.

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Ensuing years brought, among other things, weight loss surgery for me, as well as lots of other changes, including menopause, deaths of loved ones and hitting the big 5-0.  So I approached yesterday’s photo-ops with gratitude, and a little trepidation because looking older is not a prospect that brings me joy.  Fortunately, I think the pictures turned out all right.  (Believe me, I’d never share them otherwise!)

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It was also manicure and haircut day.  Again, simple indulgences that can do wonders for a girl’s mood, self-esteem and sense of well-being.  My friend, “Queen” Elizabeth, introduced me to the place I now go to get my nails done, and as it happened, yesterday she had an appointment scheduled not long after mine.  So visiting with her was an unexpected treat as we both had our hands transformed by the experts at the nail salon.  Elizabeth is a source of wonderful positive reinforcement and a bubbly friend, a joy to be around.  Seeing her yesterday was a sweet surprise.

From there it was haircut time with Brianna, who always gives me cute hair and makes me feel good about myself.  I think a good hair person is as important as a good doctor, and for many of the same reasons.  They fix a problem and make me feel better.

After the haircut I had a little time before the show, so I was able to go by Lola’s and check on the house.  I’ve been going by there about once a week just to make sure things are OK.  When I got out of my car, I saw a small downy feather floating down across her front yard just a few yards away from me.  I was rooted to the spot as I watched its slow-motion descent to the ground instead of chasing it.  Once it landed and I was able to snap out of my haze, I did try to find the feather on the ground, but I wasn’t able to.  I think it might have been Lola’s way of letting me know she was with me, because I felt her presence as I watched that feather floating through the air.

From there I went to Pizza Palace for spaghetti and a t-shirt (the shirt is something I’ve been trying to get for almost 2 years and has eluded me for whatever reasons!) I picked up one for me and one to take to Alton Brown as a souvenir of his stop in Knoxville.  He seemed happy to receive it and asked me where his pizza was!

The show was hilarious and I laughed until my face and throat were sore.  Today I’ve been able to rest and enjoy a quiet day snuggling with Our Boy Roy, listening to gentle rain and reading.  In the mail today I received a wonderful surprise, a “mailable hug” from my talented friend Katie Jo.  She has started a campaign of sharing hugs via the mail and social media.  I am sharing my hug here and in every other way I can.

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Share this hug with everyone you know.

#thehugproject

#spreadhugsnothate

I told Sweet Pea last night that I almost felt guilty for having such a great day and enjoying it so much. He looked at me and said, “You’ve been through some @#$%.  You deserve a great day.”

I think we ALL deserve a great day.