aCross Tennessee, Shine Your Light For All To See

What started in 2018 as neighbors on a 4 mile stretch of Sykes Road putting up crosses at Christmas, has turned into a movement that is exactly what we need this 2020!

It all started when Robin Underwood was driving home from work one evening in late 2018. “I was looking at all the lighted Christmas scenes in yards. It was Christmas time, but where was Christ? I saw snowmen, Santa and all his reindeer, even the Grinch, but where was Jesus? That really sat heavy on my heart. I’m not knocking by any means that we use Santa or snowmen in our decor, but I thought wouldn’t it be neat for children and families to be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas. So, I started thinking about what we could do to share the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of the Savior of the world. Wouldn’t it be great if people came through our little community of
Sykes (that is so small you would blink and miss it) and saw lighted crosses in every yard proclaiming the gospel from the hilltops, from the barns, from the valleys. Wouldn’t it be a glorious sight?! We would be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas every day as we made our path home, we would be reminded of the greatest love story ever told, we would be reminded to slow down and focus on the most important things in life. Soon after that, Clete and I shared the idea with our family over Sunday dinner table talk and they were on board. Our homes were the first to erect a lighted cross scene and then we began making flyers and going door to door in Sykes to spread the word.”

Forty or so other neighbors on Sykes Road joined in and then it expanded from there with a few others in and around Smith County. “It was a glorious sight to drive along the little country road of Sykes, TN, and see all the variety of crosses.”

Robin continues, “We then began seeing crosses come up in other areas of Smith County and had many Facebook messages and requests from the community to make this a countywide event. So, when November 2019 rolled
around, we announced the expansion on “aCross Smith County.” We started a Facebook page with a website so folks could register their crosses. We ended up with 1200 registered crosses in Smith County!”

As news about the crosses spread on Facebook and other news media sites, crosses started popping up in several states and those crosses began to get registered as well.
“It was so joyful to see crosses being erected. They were so creative, we had one of Santa kneeling at the cross and manger, they were on barns, CHRIST spelled out in lights, the traffic on Sykes Rd increased every night as people
came to see all crosses. We also drove out every night just to see what new ones had popped up.”

And it wasn’t just families that participated, businesses participated as well as churches. People stopped at crosses and prayed in yards, children added crosses to their barn playsets in their rooms, they colored crosses and shared them on Facebook.
“The community really showed off big in the love of Christ,” says Clete.

In early 2020, the Underwoods were invited to Christian Day on Capitol Hill to share their story and success of “aCross Smith County.” It was there they first shared their expansion to “aCross TN’ for the upcoming 2020 Christmas season. “We would like to see the cross lighting ministry expand to “aCross America”. Our world is so divided and we just need unity. Jesus is love and our world needs love more than ever.” notes Robin.

What started with the humble beginnings of 47 crosses in one tiny community has spread to every corner of Smith County, and to eight other Tennessee
counties and nine other states. People are reaching out daily from across the nation to learn more and to participate.

Clete states that “our mission is to keep Christ in Christmas and share the love of Christ with the world. As Christians, we are told to go into all the world and share the gospel. What an easier way to share the gospel than with a lighted cross in your yard, field, barn, business, or church and show your love for Christ.”

The Underwoods are gearing up for a lot of work this coming Christmas season as the movement has no boundaries. With the world in crisis right now and people asking what they can do to help, this cross-ministry is the perfect place to lend a hand right in our own backyard!

To help promote or volunteer with the cross lighting ministry within churches and communities please contact Robin Underwood at 615-489-5921 or email her at RobinUnderwood75@gmail.com. You can find the ministry on Facebook at aCross Tennessee or their website at www.aCrossTenn.com (website and
logo are compliments of friends at Better Letter Printing). And if you are wanting to participate with your own cross, be sure to go to their site and register your cross as well.

“Light a cross, be creative, help a neighbor that may not be able to make a cross on their own and let your light shine for all to see!”

 

 

Pool Days Are The Best Days

Take A Dip Into the World of Gene Kulas Pools

  • Pool Days Are Great
 

There is something to be said about sitting out by a pool on a hot summer day. And one man, who definitely sees the benefit in that, is local pool builder, Gene Kulas.

Gene and his wife, Leanna, live in Lebanon and soon will be moving into their forever home built on Leanna’s family farm. Their pool is still in the planning stages but chances are it will be spectacular!

Gene was raised in Hartford, Connecticut. The son of Polish immigrants, he grew up speaking polish at home and being the interpreter for his parents. He also grew up visiting his aunt and uncle who lived in Mt. Juliet and soon fell in love with the area. At the age of 16, he moved in with his aunt and uncle, ready to make middle Tennessee home. Immediately upon arriving, he went to work with Roy and Janet Vaden of Roy Vaden Pools. He would often work for them and then later that same day work at Big Lots and when not working those two jobs, would be found at Mega Market sacking groceries.

He was taught work is good for the soul from his parents and grandparents and since the age of 16 he has continually been working to support his family.

After graduating high school, he continued to work for Roy helping build pools with him and soon after met his wife, Leanna (King) Kulas. “Becky Sellars was a friend of mine and she was working at the pool store with Gene. She set us up and the rest is history!’ , states Leanna.

In 1997 Gene and Leanna married and together have built a wonderful family and thriving business. They have two children Anna Cate who is in college and Alek who is a Senior in high school.

Gene Kulas Pools has been in business since 1998 and Gene tries to only build 8 to 10 pools a year because he does the job himself from start to finish. “I remain on the job the entire process. I can build a pool, renovate an existing pool and also help design and build outdoor living environments. I’m also a licensed contractor and electrician and have been building pools from the ground up now for over 25 years. With proper planning, there’s nothing we can’t build.”

Every year, Gene takes classes to be sure to stay current on the latest building trends and innovations. Automation is becoming a feature everyone wants and with smartphones you can now control your entire pool with an App. Some of his favorite pools that he has built include a guitar-shaped pool he built for a Nashville musician which was featured on the Today Show and recently he built a lazy river pool for a family in Franklin.

To come up with his ideas, Gene will sit with the homeowner and find out their wish list and their vision. “I take into account the architecture and color of their home, is it rustic, modern, or formal and how the yard lays. I have built small pools for exercise and large pools and spa combos. If you can dream it, I can build it.”

Keeping the business small remains a priority for Gene. “I don’t have a storefront or big overhead. I don’t do much advertising either. My clients come to me based on referrals which makes me feel good because that means I did a good job for somebody else.”

The future looks bright for Gene. His son is becoming more and more interested in the pool business and the family will soon settle into their new home in Lebanon – a home Gene built himself at night and on weekends.

“By next spring we hope to be enjoying our own pool and I’m excited to start building more pools in my community as I plan to stay closer to home so that I can come home at night and finally enjoy my own pool!” Gene Kulas Pools can be found on Facebook and Instagram at @genekulas_pools

The Road Home

By Angel Kane

As I sit here on my porch this early Saturday morning, I’m amazed by how time flies.

Four years ago I wrote an article about our oldest child leaving for college. At the time I thought my heart would break. Dropping her off and driving away was one of my toughest days thus far. I sobbed for the first hour and for the second and third hour, my husband and I sat in almost complete silence driving home. 

We were always trying to teach her to be strong and self-sufficient, but to be honest we didn’t think she was listening! 

And then she was gone. 

Four years have passed and since then our #2 has followed in her sister’s footsteps and gone off to college. (A different one in a completely different direction because that’s what middle children do!)

And in that time we’ve survived. 

Probably because #3 is still here and we are completely obsessed, with him. Some mornings, I literally just stare at him eating his breakfast. 

“You’re doing that thing again. It’s freaky.” he used to tell me. (Apparently a completely normal phenomenon for parents trying to soak in the last few years of child-rearing. ) Bless his heart though, four years later, he no longer says anything and just lets me stare. And then he gives me a long hug goodbye before he heads to school. 

But next week our eldest returns. 

I remember the first year she was gone, I followed her every move on my Verizon App. I’d obsess if she wasn’t in her dorm by a decent hour. I’d fret over her wardrobe choices and friend missteps. And if she didn’t text back for over three hours, I’d start calling her friends to look for her! (True story, and now she responds a little more quickly.) 

When she was happy we were thrilled, when she was sad we were crushed. She studied, she worked, she traveled. And each time we’d see her, she was a little smarter, a little stronger and a lot more self-assured.

She returns with two degrees in hand, a job lined up an hour from home and not the little Madi we dropped off with her matching dorm room bedding and twinkly lights. 

I like this Madi more. 

She survived and thrived and learned she could stand on her own two feet. That’s what we wanted after all. 

Soon after I wrote my initial article, I was at the park walking. Glenda Davis was walking too. She may not remember, but she called out to me and said, “I read your article, just know it gets easier. She’ll be fine. This is what we raised them to do. “ For some reason, her words brought me the peace I’d been looking for. She had once been in my shoes and knew how the story ended. 

So for all the mammas that are dropping their first-borns off this week, just know time will pass quicker than you know. They will call you heartbroken, they will call you overjoyed, each experience is a step to who they are meant to become. 

And those steps will eventually lead them home. 

LET THEM EAT CAKE & other tasty treats!

It was a love of baking instilled in her from her own mother that started it all. And from that little spark, Italian Mama’s Bake Shop was born.

Lauren Costley lives in Mt. Juliet with her husband Brandon, their sons, Collin, Luke, daughter Tessa, and their fourth child, Barrett, just arrived on May 6th. When she isn’t mothering or working in the family hardware store and mechanical business with her father, then you’ll find Lauren in her kitchen – baking.

“I was very fortunate and blessed to grow up with a Mom (Sharon Caputo) who was always cooking and baking. So, naturally I have always loved to cook and bake, whether it to be for my family or my friends,” notes Lauren. “After my Mom passed away in 2008, I really started to cook more and more because it reminded me of our time together.”

A love of family and a love of cooking are an integral part of Lauren’s life these days. “When Brandon and I started our family I began to have an interest in baking even more. I loved to make my kids birthday cakes and cookies. My friends started asking to buy cakes and desserts from me and at first, I was reluctant but gave it a shot. From there I started doing a little advertising online with my sister-in-law and it’s now taken off! Everything I’ve done has been something I learned from my own mother or just getting in the kitchen and giving it a try.”

But Lauren readily agrees she could not have done this alone. While her husband isn’t one to bake, he will help her when needed running to the grocery for necessary ingredients or cleaning up behind her. Her boys, on the other hand, don’t mind pitching in when its Pizza night, but it’s little Tessa who loves to put on an apron and help mom out in the kitchen.

“My sister-in-law Gina will also help me out with larger cakes or large events like parties or weddings. She is very talented herself and that’s how our name came about. We are both full blooded Italian so we thought it fitting to be known as “Italian Mama’s” Bake Shop.

Italian Mama’s offers all sorts of different treats from Italian cookies, decorated buttercream iced sugar cookies, different flavors of scones and breakfast/brunch desserts, cupcakes, cakes, cake pops, and brownies. They also are becoming very well-known for their gorgeous wedding cakes. “

The wedding cake trends I see and just love are the simpler one tiered cakes,” comments Lauren. “It’s a more affordable way to have multiple cakes with different flavors and designs for your wedding. Also, the semi-naked cake with gold drip and the two-tiered fresh flower cake with gold brushed paint, are both very popular right now and those are the ones we did for the Wilson Living Magazine wedding photo shoot.”

Lauren still considers her baking more of a hobby than a full-time business but her select few clients are keeping her very busy these days and no doubt, with her talent, we will all be hearing more and more about this Italian Mama!

If you are interested in any of her tasty treats then you can reach her at (615) 306-6355 or at 2italianmamasbakery@gmail.com. You can also check her work out on Instagram or Facebook at @italianmamasbakery.