Tag Archives: nature

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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The Queen Of The Snot People

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Springtime in East Tennessee and the glorious paradox…

The Dogwood Trail signs have gone up in Knoxville in anticipation of the Dogwood Arts Festival and the beautiful springtime blossoms that are on the way.  The Bradford Pear trees are already blooming.  If sneezes had a face, the Bradford Pear would probably be it.  The temperatures are moderating, and after the crazy winter we endured during February, the change of season is a welcome one.  But spring does bring its own set of seasonal allergy symptoms.

I’ve suffered with hay fever for decades, as many East Tennesseans do, and different seasons with their various kinds of plant life will cause different symptoms.  Eyes that itch/sting/water, sneezing, drippy/stuffy noses, headaches, fatigue, coughing, congestion…and crankiness.  Even the dog has allergy symptoms in the spring and fall.  We do what we can to keep on top of his sneezing and itching with medication.

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As a singer, I try to stay on top of my allergies as well, because the mixed multitudes of mucus that happen make a difference in how my voice feels and sounds.  It is a constant balancing act of antihistamines, decongestants, hydration and prayer!  Years ago, I went to my family doctor, affectionately known as Dr. Awesome, for yet another sinus infection and he came into the exam room and asked how I was doing and why I had come to see him.  I replied, “I am The Queen of the Snot People!”  He roared with laughter, checked my ears, nose and throat, gave me prescriptions and said he loved how I described my symptoms.  (I figure I might as well keep a sense of humor, especially at the doctor’s office, because usually that’s the only thing I can control there—modesty and dignity usually fly out the door!)

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Here’s the thing, the glorious paradox.  As snotty as I am this time of year, it’s worth it to be able to enjoy the incredible beauty of God’s creation.  The winter is giving way to spring’s vibrant color in flowers, grass, trees, and the returning birds and bees.  My senses can rejoice in the glory of nature all around me, in sight, sound and scent.  How blessed I am to have the chance to take in such great majesty in even the tiniest of these miracles.

Gracious Lord, thank You for the loveliness of Your creation.  And thank You for each sneeze reminding me that my immune system works!  Forgive me when I complain and keep me mindful of the beauty all around me.

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Considering The Lilies

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Beauty at every stage…

Summertime in East Tennessee is filled with the scents, sounds and colors of nature.  All manner of blooming things burst forth to bring joy and beauty to the world around us.  From roadside patches of wild daisies and Queen Anne’s Lace to the fluffy blooms of the mimosa trees, the world seems awash with the glory of flowers.

Right now I am fascinated by the golden hues of the daylilies in various stages of development around my workplace gardens.  Unlike human beings, these flowering beauties never seem to have an awkward stage.  Even in the flower pod phase their detail is exquisite.

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From here they start to unfurl their trumpet-shaped blooms and reveal the yellow-orange flowers that contrast so beautifully with their green leaves and stems.  No interior designer could create a prettier color scheme.

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I always marvel at the simple, yet miraculous, way that our natural world perpetuates itself.  Perennial plants and flowers that return year after year with little or no intervention from humans amaze me.  We have a little patch of peonies in the front yard that we inherited when we bought our house.  Neither Sweet Pea nor I are wizards with outdoor plants or landscaping, and our peonies have never received much care from us.  Yet, every May, they return with their fluffy double blooms and sweet fragrance.  Some years they have been affected by poorly-timed cold snaps, and other years we’ve enjoyed bumper crops of them.  But they have never failed to come back.

The flowers remind me of God and His masterful craftsmanship.  He could have made our world a sterile, grey place…but He chose instead to delight us, His ultimate creations, with color and beauty throughout nature.  As I consider the lilies, I like to ponder how God must view us at our various stages.  Does He see beauty in all the phases of our lives…of MY life?

Lord, make my life a lovely, fully-flowered blossom whose color and fragrance point people to my Maker, Savior and Friend.

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Over The Rainbow

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Maybe the rainbow IS the pot of gold…

East Tennessee summers are known for producing sporadic, sometimes intense, pop-up storms, especially in the heat of the late afternoon.  Often those storms come and go in a matter of minutes, and sometimes, if we’re blessed, we can spot a rainbow in their aftermath.  I was fortunate recently to be able to see and photograph a rainbow on my way home from work after such a pop-up thunderstorm.

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A couple of years ago at the end of my extended unit of CPE, Carolyn, a member of my peer group, painted a watercolor for each of us as a gift and as part of her peer review.  Her artistic vision captured each of us as some element or scene from nature.  One of us was an ocean, one of us was a mountain.  Her vision of me was that I was a rainbow.  I was flattered and touched by her assessment of me and her ability to see my true colors (pardon the pun) in this way.

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I’ve often heard the old tale about there being a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  It’s a nice thought, but I am not holding my breath waiting to find that pot of gold anytime soon.  Which end is it supposed to be at, anyway?  The front end or the back end?  Not really the point, I realize…but my mind works like that sometimes.

I think maybe the rainbow is its own pot of gold.  It’s a beautiful treasure, a gift from God, like His very own brushstrokes across the sky reminding me of His promise never again to destroy humanity with a flood.  I think of the many kinds of floods in my life…floods of trouble, illness, death and sorrow.  “When it rains, it pours,” as the old adage states.  But in my floods I know I am never alone.  God is not going to drown me, and He is not going to abandon me in the midst of the pouring rain.

Nature In The Concrete Jungle

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Surprises from my trip to New York…

I never expected to find much nature in The Big Apple. All my life I’ve heard and read about the spectacular skyscrapers, the lovely brownstones, the dilapidated tenements with their rickety fire escapes. But the only reference to nature I remember is the book title, “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn”. So on my recent adventure to the big city, all I expected to see was …big city.

But, like any other city, New York has refreshing spots of natural beauty as well as an impressive skyline. Granted, that “natural” beauty has in most cases been designed and inserted into the cityscape. Still, on the way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral with Jenny and Jere, I was delighted to see a beautiful garden with fountains and hundreds, if not thousands, of blue and lavender hydrangea blossoms. Mom Cutshaw grew incredibly gorgeous blue hydrangeas in her backyard garden, and anytime I see them I think of her.

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The carriage ride around Central Park with Elizabeth, Susan and Katie Jo showed me more of the nature New York has to offer. We saw huge rock formations, trees, shrubs and flowers of all kinds, including Japanese dogwoods in bloom. The weather for our trip was as perfect as we could have asked for, with mild temperatures, sunshine, breezes and low humidity. The only rain we had was the day we landed (and it was gone and the sun shining on us again by the time we reached the hotel) and the morning we left to come back home. I feel a little bit spoiled that my first trip to New York was as beautiful as it was!

The happiest “nature moment” for me came as we walked to meet our carriage driver. I had prayed and hoped against hope that I would have the chance to add to my feather collection on this trip. As Elizabeth and Katie Jo and I hurried to meet Susan and our driver, I spotted a beautiful white feather, more than 2 inches long, on the ground. This was almost too good to be true! So I asked my companions to wait up while I grabbed it and tucked it safely inside my bag.

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 That pretty white feather is such a blessing, as all the feathers in the collection are. It reminds me of God’s watchful, loving care. Once again I imagined that my feather came from the wing of some guardian angel God had assigned to watch over me and my friends. Wherever it came from, it is a reminder that His eye is on the sparrow…and the pigeon, and the singing tourist enjoying the beauty of New York for the first time.

Falling

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Why this is a hard time of the year…

I awoke to gentle rain this morning and would have loved to stay in bed, cocooned in sleepy warmth.  But there is work to be done and a living to be made, so I reluctantly dragged myself from my cozy bed and got my day started with the regular routine of vitamins, bath, makeup/hair and getting dressed and out the door.  Our Boy Roy is a morning dog, so as usual he got up when I did and kept me company as I went about my morning.

The rain intensified as I drove to work and as the rain fell, so, it seemed, did the remaining leaves on the trees.  It’s always a little sad when the last of the leaves drift to the ground, especially when a rain seems to beat them down prematurely.  But it is November, and the leaves can’t hold on forever.  The rhythm of the seasons is unstoppable, and as fall deepens and winter approaches, the last of the leaves must inevitably let go.

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This time of year brings memories of Mama in the hospital and a different letting-go process, as she began to release her earthly life and turn toward her Heavenly one.  From her hospital window we could see the shifting seasons as the vibrant autumn leaves fell softly from the trees outside, whipped by wind sometimes, or battered by rain.  Inside her room the only color seemed to be pale…pale walls, pale sheets, Mama’s pale face.  Her whole life she had been so vibrant, until sickness drained all the color out of her.

So it is with the death of the leaves in the fall, and with Mama’s dying process that I always seem to re-live at this time of year.  I like to imagine that Heaven is filled with all the beauty of all the seasons, all at once.  We can witness the majesty of snow without being cold, the rich reds and golds of fall, and spring and summer’s lavenders, pinks and greens will be more saturated than we can begin to imagine here, with no harsh winds or battering rains.  Our loved ones’ faces will be rosy and glowing with perfect health and wholeness, and the Sun of Righteousness will shine His radiant light throughout Heaven’s kingdom.

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Violets Are Blue

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Sometimes I wonder about the tiny miracles

Every spring, without fail, the violets catch me off-guard.  They shouldn’t come as a surprise.  They pop up as part of the rhythm of the seasons, the cycle of life on our planet.  But still, somehow, their appearance inspires wonder in my heart.Image

Sometimes our world is a very cold and ugly place, after all.  Crime, poverty and injustice are everywhere.  People do horrible things to one another for all kinds of crazy reasons, or for no reason at all.  People commit the unforgivable.

But for all its atrocities, our world is also a place of astonishing beauty.  Flowers bloom, butterflies flutter and children laugh.  Love happens.  The unforgivable, somehow, is forgiven.

I have heard it said that violets are the symbol of forgiveness, because it is only when they are crushed that they reveal their sweet fragrance.  It makes me wonder about the fragrance I waft into my world when I feel wronged.  Am I able to forgive and spread sweetness when I’m crushed, like a violet?

God made the violet so tiny, yet so beautiful.  I am always amazed at His creativity and attention to detail.  Why bother to craft something so small with such exquisite care?  It is just what He does.  Forgiving me is something He does, as well.  If He can forgive me for my offenses, what right do I have not to forgive those who offend me?  Lord, help me be like the violet, spreading sweetness when I am crushed.Image