Some Remodel Kitchens. Others Build Cathedrals.

As the Monday Morning Prayer girls gathered on April 4, 2011, we did not know that the craftsman who built the cathedral within my home had passed into glory. Jay Sutherland was no common contractor, but a skilled craftsman with an eye for detail and a spirit of prophecy. You’ve probably heard the story of the traveler who came upon a construction site during the Middle Ages.

He passed three workers and asked what they were doing. The first snarled, “Can’t you see? I’m laying bricks. It’s not pleasant work, but it pays the bills.” The second drew the traveler’s attention to the fine smooth stone and the straight wall he had laid, puffing up at his own fine craftsmanship. The third, looking heavenward, whispered, “I’m building a cathedral to the glory of God.” Forward the story a half dozen or more centuries and that third craftsman is Jay Sutherland.

Three years ago, we hired Jay to remodel our kitchen and living area. We had lived in our “new” home for over twenty years, raising kids, cats and one very active golden retriever with attitude. The polish was gone; it was time to dig in and revive our space. We asked Jay about the possibility of removing a wall that divided the two areas and raising the floor of the living area to match that of the kitchen. The configuration had always made it difficult to entertain. People would either stand shoulder to shoulder in the kitchen or cramped like lemmings in the living room. We needed to throw open the space. Jay said it could be done. On leap year day, 2008, Clark, Annemarie and I ripped up the carpeting in the living room. The next day the wall of division came down; we were on our way.

Day after day, Jay’s diesel truck roared up our hill and into the driveway so he and his sidekick, Robbie, could work their magic on home. As the great room with the bright new kitchen emerged all on one level, we were thrilled. Jay’s workmanship was brilliant just as his sense of humor was disarming. He dealt with crooked walls, wavy floors, and removed a pantry that hid plumbing, electrical, central vacuum, and the intercom system. He found places to hide everything in the new open plan. He guided us in the selection of granite and Travertine. His tile work showed like a blue-ribbon quilt at the fair. He perfectly cut and installed crown molding to finish the cherry cabinets. He raised his eyebrows, but went along with my selection of vivid yellow-green walls, ceilings and skylight wells. When I asked him if he thought my paint color was over the top, he responded, “I wouldn’t tell any other customer that, but, yes, Marlee, it’s over the top!” The skylight wells could have served as “camo” for Kermit the frog. Robbie toned down the ceiling and threw a coat of white on the sky light wells. The results are stunning!

And then one day, Jay stood right in the middle of the newly opened space next to the immense granite-topped island and made a statement I will never forget. “This is your home church, Marlee.” I agreed it could be, but little did I know it would be.

Before the job was completed, I felt compelled to draw a group of women together on Monday mornings to pursue the heart of the Father in prayer. Jay’s wife Debby came. For nearly three years now, the initial five and now many more have met to share in a community of faith that is holistic in design. Purposeful in intention, it is about lifting women from an out of balance subservient role, drawing them from caves of “camo” into the destiny for which God designed each to rule and reign.

So this past Monday, the original group plus three newer members came together. I did not expect Debby that day because she had another commitment in the morning. About 1 PM I called Debby to set up an appointment with her and another member. That’s when she told me, “Jay passed away this morning.”

As I study my magnificent kitchen and living area all on one level so open and inviting, I once again hear Jay confidently saying, “This is your home church, Marlee.”

Beneath our lofty ceiling, Jay built a cathedral for the glory of God. He created a place for women to find healing, hope, and community. We’ve seen miracles over the nearly three years since we started meeting. We’ve had each other’s backs. We’ve cried with one another and laughed with one another. The ripple effect from this group has literally gone around the world!

Jay, you never considered yourself a prophet, but you were! You were both a prophet and the kindest husband for Debby, the love of your life. Jay, know that the cathedral you built will continue to serve as a place of refuge to love and support your precious Debby and many more who come through our front door with a heart that is broken. You built yourself a legacy right inside our house. You planted a seed of an idea and that sapling is flourishing. The crown of that tree is spreading its branches around the globe as its roots go deeply into the soil of women’s hearts.  Meanwhile, your crown is getting bigger, brighter, and bolder! There’s something more brilliant than your shiny dome radiating from the top of your head! And it’s getting to be quite blinding!

Thank you, Jay! Well done, my friend! You rock—with a flourishing crown!

About Your Flourishing Life

As a child, Marlee Huber loved to ramble through gardens sampling juicy berries and delighting in the heady fragrance of roses. As an adult, she thrills at maintaining a country garden in the foothills of the Washington Cascades. Something happened in 2012 that changed everything for Marlee. She followed the love of her life as he bicycled across the continent from their home in the NW to his brother's home in the Virginia. Ninety days later she came home and has never been the same. After photographing the backroads and hamlets across America--all on auto, she came home and took an online photography course, read dozens of books on technique and vision and stepped out into a new career. Her passion is coaching young people to discover their brilliance. She calls it Life-Themes Coaching and during one nearly half-day session, she unpacks what makes you brilliant and one of a kind. Then she matches the discoveries with a photography session where she tells the story of your life with her camera. In her personal life, she is a wife, mother, and grandmother delighting in her flourishing family!
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5 Responses to Some Remodel Kitchens. Others Build Cathedrals.

  1. JoAnn Shiley says:

    Very nice tribute! A wonderful place, with skillful hands, and an eye toward the eternal.

  2. Marjorie Roth says:

    You have written a beautiful tribute to Jay. He dreamt, he built, he spoke – an amazing legacy that continues on around the world into eternity.

    Thanking God that He will comfort Debby with the peace of His presence.

  3. Thank you JoAnn and Marjorie for your comments. Yes, Jay had an eye all right–a brilliant eye for design in tiles and wood and in the Spirit. His is a rich legacy growing richer as the days go on. To hear his nephews at his celebration share about his impact on their lives was powerful. Jay knew how to speak into the lives of young people and young marrieds. He called forth destiny in all he knew. May we go and do likewise!

  4. Chris Van Kirk says:

    Marlee, it was beautiful what you wrote. You are an amazing writer! I can see how hard it must be for you and those who knew Jay to deal with the loss of him. How cool though to see the legacy he left behind in your home and all that it is doing in this world…in just one home alone. I wonder what grand things he is building in heaven!?

  5. I wonder, Chris, I wonder.

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