Laurel Jean Presents...'

Laurel Jean Presents...'
Music with a Message and a Mission

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Highlights from my Life of Music and Ministry

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Celebrating Independence

Laurel Jean with fellow Dixie Land Guide Team members at the entrance of Patriots Point

The month of October is recognized as Disabilities Employment Awareness Month and October 15th is celebrated as White Cane Safety Awareness Day. I can't imagine my life without the independence and safety provided by my ability to properly use a long, white cane.  Every day, I thank God for this personal independence and for my literacy. I am so grateful for my Christian faith, and for the freedom to serve my Lord and Savior in professional music ministry. For me, all of these freedoms make every day worth celebrating!

It was a beautiful, sun-drenched October morning here in South Carolina.  I joined a few of my fellow Dixie Landers and friends at Patriot's Point Naval Museum in nearby Mount Pleasant, to learn, fellowship and, perhaps even teach while spending a couple of enjoyable hours aboard the USS destroyer Laffey, the World War II aircraft carrier, Yorktown and the USS submarine, Clagamore, all of which now are part of the Patriot's Point Naval Museum.

We were met at the park's entrance by Cindy C.; Cindy L.; Molly and Melissa who graciously and patiently offered to escort us all around the premises.  The very first piece of precious memorabilia we stumbled across was their tribute to all of the South Carolinians who gave their lives during the Viet Nam war.  Surges of pride, patriotism and gratitude embraced us as we ever so gently ran our fingers across the multitudes of replicated dog tags hanging on their wall. We all agreed how blessed and fortunate we are to live in such a magnificent country.

On the Destroyer Laffey
Soon Cindy C. began to tell us about a handful of volunteers who had donated their time and efforts that entire week towards the up-keep and appearance of the destroyer Laffey.  Before long a couple of those dedicated fellows were introducing themselves to us and telling us how they'd all been connected to that destroyer at one time or another.  We all thanked them for their service and remarked how it was through their efforts that we were even allowed to be there. N Then, it happened!  From out of no where walked "Ari, the Greek", or, at least that's how they introduced him.  Ari, now living with his wife and family in Portland, Oregon, proudly donned a bright orange shirt that had printed on the front, "USS Laffey Plankowner".  He explained that he had been assigned to "her" when she was commissioned  and spent 2 years aboard during World War II.  We were all spellbound as Ari began a very special guided tour of "his" Laffey. Probably my most memorable time spent on the Laffey was my experience of the simulation of the ship under attack during World War II.

In front of flag on Yorktown Hangar Deck

Much too soon our tour of the Laffey was over and it was time to visit the Yorktown.  There was no comparison between the two in size.  One was a destroyer and the other an aircraft carrier.  One was the size of a city block and the other, an entire city!
The Yorktown was commissioned in 1937 and fought during World War II until she was sunk in 1942.  She now sits proudly in the shadows of the newly erected Ravenel Bridge in the Cooper River just outside of Charleston, SC.
Because of time constraints, our tour of  the Yorktown was somewhat rushed but we did get to visit the flight deck, hanger deck and a few other points of interest. 

With Yorktown Mascot, Scrappy

As we passed their mess hall, we could actually hear the tinkling of glasses and clunking trays just like it was so very many years ago when that ship was fully manned.  Our lunch at Sticky Fingers was delicious and we even got to have our photos made with their mascot, Scrappy! As he stood beside me, I announced to the group that I, too, now had a guide dog and I could feel his shoulders shaking with laughter.

In touring helicopter

Before long we were headed towards the gangplank and the parking lot. We'd have to see the submarine Clagamore another day.  But wait!  Some of us still had one more thing that we absolutely had to do.  Within a few moments, Kimberly Taylor, Kimberly's friend Cindy and I were jumping in the tour helicopter and flying over Fort Sumter and the Battery.  I had never ridden in a helicopter before and that has been one of my "bucket list" items for as long as I can remember.

"This is the best day ever," Kimberly said as she exited the chopper area. It was, indeed, a great day, the perfect day to celebrate freedom and independence!

We'd only spent 4 hours visiting Patriot's Point, but we'll have a lifetime of memories from our time there.  Thank you, Cindy C,; Cindy L.; Melissa and Molly for an incredible day and a very special note of appreciation goes out to all of the brave men and women who have served or are now serving in our US military, especially "Ari, the Greek."

Thanks to  our driver, Libby who generously donated her time and vehicle to transport us.  God bless you all and God bless the USA!

Stay tuned for more posts like this one. Until next time, God bless you and keep His Song in your heart!

© 2015 by Laurel Jean Walden

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

God's Love

Laurel and her American Labrador, Sonny

It has often been said that "having a baby changes everything." This time last year, I had no idea how much my life would be changed by a very special fur-baby who was about to be dropped into my life. In October, 2014, I had just said that I was not getting another dog "unless God just dropped one on my head." Of course, I love my Zettie and still miss her, but…Then the phone rang.

The lady from Florida sadly shared her story with Dixie Land Guide Dog Users. The puppy was just six months old. She had purchased him just after he had been weaned. She told us of her heart attack and her stroke which followed, rendering her unable to care for the puppy. He was getting more rambunctious by the day and she wanted him to have a good home, hopefully as a service dog.

It is hard to imagine that almost a year has passed since that day last November when "Gunner" (whose name has been changed to Sonny) came leaping and bounding into my life. No, this American Lab is not destined to be a conventional service dog. Still, he does have a very important job and that is to love "his mom"—you know—me.

Together, my Sonny and I have gone for many long walks and had many long talks, like "Don't eat the carpet," "No, we can't chase the neighbor's cat," etc. We've worked thru behavioral issues and health issues. Most important, we have learned to love each other.

As I write, the Lowcountry area is recovering from a flood of millennium proportions. An event such as this really goes a long way toward putting life into perspective. This past weekend, I sat safe and dry indoors listening to the seemingly perpetual rainfall outside as my Sonny slept curled up at my feet. During those long hours, the words once spoken to me by a dear friend were truly brought into perspective and made very real to me, "Life is precious. Everything else is just stuff." The following is a poem I wrote for Sonny. I would print it out and give it to him, but he would eat it. So, I will let it suffice to share these words with you.

Sonshine…

God's love came in by leaps and bounds, giving no thought at all
To pretty things upon the shelves or pictures on the wall,
Paying no mind to things which seemed of importance to me.
By leaps and bounds, God's love became my heart's priority.

God's love darted from room to room, making my house a home,
Wrestling there with my broken heart, no time to be alone,
No time to think what might become of things from days gone by.
God's love would chase, by leaps and bounds, a teardrop from my eye.

God's love pleaded with me to set my Sunday best aside,
And as I donned my oldest clothes, my heart was filled with pride.
Forsaking all appearances to walk and romp and play.
By leaps and bounds, God's love has brought sweet Sonshine to my day!

Thanks for your prayers for both of us. Be sure to stay tuned for more posts like this one. Meanwhile, feel welcome to share how our wonderful God of surprises has blessed your own life.

Until next time, God bless  you and keep his Song in your heart.

© 2015 by Laurel Jean Walden

About Me

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God has blessed me with a Music Ministry that is still ongoing and growing after twenty-plus years. This includes my outreach promoting Braille Literacy in the Christian venue, and my recently-founded Children's Chaplaincy for blind youth. To make things a bit more interesting, I have also been blind since birth. I consider my blindness to be a unique gift from God, an opportunity to serve as an ambassador among blind and sighted folks of all ages, on all walks of life. To learn more about my work, from South Carolina to Central Illinois and beyond, please visit my Web site, and be sure to stay tuned to my Blog!