Music By Laurel Jean

Music By Laurel Jean
Music with a Message and a Mission

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Laurel Jean's Scrapbook

Sharing God's Guiding Glimpses into my Life of Music and Ministry

Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas, 2010 Music and Ministry

Christmas, 20-10 proved to be a season of Music, Ministry and Community Outreach that I will always remember. It all began with Laurel Jean in Concert Ministry at Grace United Methodist Church, Charleston, SC. Thanks to all the folks of Grace who promoted this concert to the Charleston community, and to all who brought a friend to enjoy the afternoon program.

Laurel presents for 2010 Holidy Party, Charleston Association for the Blind

Here I am presenting for the annual Holiday Party of the Charleston Association for the Blind. This was my second year of serving as Emcee and providing dinner music for the over two hundred guests in attendance. “Paws” in appreciation of Dixie Land Guide Dog Users who sponsored Music By Laurel Jean for this event.

Laurel with long-time friend, Rev. Thompson

The next day, I was winging my way to southern Indiana. Here I am with my long-time friend, fellow servant of God, and “foster dad” Rev. Tarrell Thompson as we worked together in a musical outreach effort to his home community of Owensville, IN. My thanks to the folks at Transcendent Healthcare of Owensville for making me feel so welcome during my visit there, and for their ongoing care of Tarrell’s wife, my adopted “Mama Lena” in her advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

From Indiana, I was off to my home state of Illinois. In spite of a shortened stay due to weather-related travel delays, God made possible many opportunities to share in Ministry and Music. My thanks to Rev. Ken Roedder (another longtime friend and fellow-servant of God), as well as the folks of Tuscola Healthcare Center (for the care of “Rev’s” wife, Maxine in her advanced stages of Alzheimer’s). Thanks also to Pastor Lynette and Mary for ministering to me during our time of fellowship and prayer.

Laurel with the people of Woburn Church of Christ


Before heading back to South Carolina, I was honored to present a Christmas concert for the folks at Woburn Church of Christ, Woburn, IL. Here I am with Pastor and Mrs. Max Whited (left), and Pastor and Mrs. Don Schmollinger (right). I am blessed to have worked in ministry with Pastor Max and his wife, Norma over many years. It was truly an honor for me to return to the Woburn Church and I look forward to going back again, soon!

The year 2010 is drawing to a close, with Special Music at Grace Church, time spent with good friends (and my precious dog, Zettie), and planning sessions for upcoming events in 2011. Please join me in keeping that Christmas Light shining as we enter the New Year!

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

© 2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

Fall, 2010 Music and Ministry

Shelby sings National Anthem for White Cane Day, 2010

Shelby, a Lowcountry blind youth and part of my Chaplaincy, sings the "National Anthem" to kick off Charleston, South Carolina’s 2010 White Cane Day Celebration. We in the blindness community take a lot of pride in White Cane Safety Awareness Day, October 15. It is a time to celebrate the independence afforded us by the long, white cane, and to bring awareness to the sighted community. The Honor Guard, the National Anthem, and the flag (with stars and stripes which can be actually touched) remind us of the unmatched independence that we, both blind and sighted, share as American citizens.

Laurel  Jean with vision teacher, Kathy Ouzts

I was honored to serve as Emcee for the second year in a row, for this special event. Here I am on the stage at Francis Marion Square, with Kathy Ouzts, a vision teacher who serves actively as a sighted member of the American Council of the Blind. My thanks to the Charleston ACB, and especially to the folks of Dixie Land Guide Dog Users (who sponsored me for this event).

White Cane Day Procession

Prior to the official White Cane Day ceremony, God’s outa sight kids of all ages formed a procession from the Visitors Center to Francis Marion Square. The drum Corps of West Ashley High School led the way, making it very easy for everyone to follow the route.

Laurel playing backwards for children's time at Seymour First UMC

From Charleston, SC, I was off to Southern Indiana. Here I am having a fun time with the children of the First United Methodist Church, Seymour, IN, where I presented for Morning Worship. Thanks, Pastor Steve and Congregation, for making Music By Laurel Jean part of the Fall, 2010 schedule.

Laurel Jean with Rev. Tarrell Thompson and mutual friend, Anna Lee

The trip to Seymour First UMC brought a happy reunion with a long-time friend and fellow servant of God, Rev. Tarrell Thompson. Here we are together with our very dear, mutual friend, Miss Anna Lee. I am honored to count Rev. Thompson as a “foster dad”, among those who have most richly blessed and shaped the life of music and ministry which God has given me. Music inspired by him and his wife Lena can be found on my Family Album, Circuit Rider, and Christmas Gifts CD’s.

Laurel presents for Peoria Rescue Ministries Annual Banquet

On to Peoria, IL and the annual banquet of Peoria Rescue Ministries! What an honor to be this year’s featured Guest Musician! My thanks to driver and friend, Carolyn, for all of her help in making this event a success.

Laurel Jean presents for Pink Sunday at Grace UMC


Back in Charleston, here I am presenting for “Pink Sunday” at Grace United Methodist Church, promoting breast cancer awareness. We honored survivors and caregivers alike, and took time to remember those who have lost their lives to this disease. This really hit home for me. My maternal grandmother, Garnet Mansfield, was a breast cancer survivor, and her mother, Bessie Walker, lost her life to the disease. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting regular cancer screenings.

Stay well, everyone!

Until next time, God bless you, and keep His Song in your heart!

©2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Able To Serve

On Sunday, August 22nd, God blessed me with yet another opportunity to serve Him in Worship. My friends and I (His kids of all ages) worked together to offer an “Able To Serve” Sunday at Grace United Methodist Church, Charleston, SC.

Shelby singing at Grace Church

Pictured here is fourteen-year-old Shelby, a gifted soprano, presenting Special Music during the Contemporary service. Folks who attended the traditional service were also blessed by Shelby’s beautiful voice as she led them in the “Call to Worship”.

Taylor singing at Grace Church

Sixteen-year-old Taylor joined us for the traditional service, singing and keeping us smiling with his Spirited commentary!

In addition to accompanying these two “Outa Sight” kids who are part of my Chaplaincy for Blind Youth, I was honored by the invitation to be a pulpit guest, delivering The Message in tandem with Senior Pastor, Dick Broomall.

Laurel presenting to congregation

The message, entitled “Seeing Things Differently”, discussed the integration of the disabilities community in general and the blindness community specifically, within the Body of Christ, The Church. Folks of all abilities were challenged to ask God how they might see things differently in their own lives and in service to the community at large.

Laurel, Jerry and Jack presenting a skit

A couple of small skits illustrated how the incorrect assumptions of well-meaning sighted folks can create unnecessary distractions for those of us who do not see. Here, Jerry (Taylor’s great-grandfather) and Jack (director of Disabilities Ministries at Grace) helped me to reenact a scenario that many of us who are blind encounter on a daily basis. By humorously illustrating things that one should not do, we were able to teach folks how properly to serve as sighted guides, and how to give directions to a blind individual.

Audrey and Zack at Grace Church


Ministry associate Audrey Gunter (current Vice President of Dixie Land Guide Dog Users accompanied by her guide dog Zack), joined in the skits, taking time to teach what to do, and what not to do, when meeting a guide team.

What a blessing it was to be part of this event, as people of all ages, with different abilities, united to praise God and shine His Light!

With over ninety percent of the worldwide blindness community estimated to be unchurched, would you know how to be helpful to a blind person entering your church for the first time? Has your congregation ever considered hosting an “Able To Serve" Sunday? Contact Music By Laurel Jean to learn more. We’re looking forward to seeing you!

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

© 2010 Laurel Jean Walden

Saturday, August 14, 2010

August Homecoming

Laurel by Old Unione Church Sign

Here I am, outside of Old Union Missionary Baptist Church, Mt. Vernon, IL. On Sunday, August 8, This congregation celebrated Homecoming.

What a joy it was for Music By Laurel Jean to be part of this Sunday afternoon service, as the folks at Old Union marked over 60 years of fulfilling our Lord’s Great Commission in Mt. Vernon and beyond!

Laurel playing and singing for Old Union Homecoming

The Old Union Homecoming was just one of several Music Ministry stops on the schedule during my most recent trip to my home state of Illinois. I flew into Springfield on Saturday, July 31. An Access Springfield bus, a service of Springfield Mass-Transit, took me to my hotel.

On August First, I caught a cab to New Berlin, where I brought The Message In Music to God’s kids of all ages at New Salem United Methodist Church. My good friend, Carolyn who often drives for me, had brought my piano to the church ahead of time, so everything was all set! This day was extra special because it was the 90th birthday of Carolyn’s mom, Barb.

After Morning Worship, Carolyn took her mom out to lunch while many of us stayed behind, moving my piano down to the basement fellowship hall and getting ready for a surprise birthday party!

Laurel with Carolyn and Barb

I had a great time providing background music for the party. Here I am with Carolyn and her mom.

Other engagements included music for a special open house, and for the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL. Thanks to access Springfield, Lincoln Cab, and a couple of volunteers, I was also able to catch up with some of my long-time friends.

Laurel and long-time friend Millie


Millie, now 82, was responsible for both scheduling and driving me to my first ministry engagement, over 22 years ago! Though time and circumstances prevented us from staying in touch, we were reunited last year. Unbeknownst to me ahead of time, Millie attended my 2009 concert for the Lincolnland Chapter of Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International, where this picture was taken.

Due to several health complications, Millie doesn’t get out as much as she would like to. Still, God’s Spirit shines brightly within this beautiful Christian lady! Public transportation allowed me to visit Millie’s home on several occasions during my recent ten days spent in Illinois. I would also like to thank the pastor, whose prayers and blessings made it possible for me to bring Communion to Millie, sharing in the Sacraments with Millie and her daughter. Through tears, Millie told me afterwards, “Nothing in this world could have pleased me more. No one has ever done anything like this for me.”

On August 10, I was up early to catch another Access Springfield bus back to the airport for a very pleasant flight back to Charleston, SC. God still has more work for me to do, so stay tuned for more posts like this one.

Thank God, and thank you, for your ongoing prayers and support! Until next time, God bless you, and keep His Song in your heart!

© 2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer Adventures With One of God's Kids

Laurel and Taylor studying


Here I am at my kitchen table, keeping up with sixteen-year-old Taylor as he uses his Pac Mate to annotate a book that he chose for summer reading. Blind since birth, Taylor’s life has been complicated by a number of other physical challenges, but he’s not letting them get in the way of learning!

Earlier this year, before the end of school, I sat down with Taylor and his great-grandparents, who are raising him. I wanted to give Taylor the same opportunity that I gave other blind youth in the Lowcountry area, to choose some goals for the summer which the Youth Chaplaincy could help them work towards achieving. Taylor had lots of great ideas: to improve his confidence in the kitchen and in socializing at mealtimes; to study the art of singing country music; to improve his reading and note taking skills; to learn typing on a standard computer keyboard and of course, to play at least one computer game (which he had never done before). His grandma and grandpa agreed enthusiastically, and we planned a summer schedule of their visits to my Charleston, SC headquarters.

In just a few weeks’ time, Taylor has gone from slowly and methodically brailing his notes, to growing in speed and accuracy as he blitzes them out on his Pac Mate or on a desktop computer. He has to date learned to play at least five computer games, accessible to those of us who are blind. Today, he helped prepare lunch and seems to enjoy more and more the custom of eating and visiting as we sit around the table. I would be proud to allow him to give an invocation before a meal on any occasion. He is almost ready to make his first professional-level recording of a country song, and he is learning that it is much more fun to improve one’s own voice than to try to sing like somebody else, even if that person is famous.

Taylor and his grandparents tell my associates and me how much they appreciate the time that we spend with them. Really, we are the ones truly blessed. I never cease to be inspired by the determination of this bright young man and those two dear folks who encourage and support him in his education, his recreation and his growing Christian faith.

Sometimes, God calls me to put on my Sunday best and evangelize His Good News through word and song. At other times, He calls me to don a comfortable pair of jeans and a T-shirt and accompany one of His special kids for a time, on one individual journey, at no cost to that child or that child’s family. It is truly not I, but Christ in me, Who does this work.

I thank God, and thank you, for the ongoing prayers, support and sponsorship, which keep my life of music and ministry going, and growing!

Stay tuned for more posts like this.

Until next time, God bless you and keep His Song in your heart!

© 2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Standing together for Braille Literacy!

Brianna Murray with National Braille Challenge Varsity Group


Rising high school senior, Brianna Murray, holds the Varsity sign as she poses with her group of participants in this year’s National Braille Challenge, Los Angeles, CA. Blind since birth, Brianna is an honor student at the Charleston, SC School of the Arts, where she is also a violin major.

The Braille Challenge is Braille Institute's national reading and writing contest in Braille. It is a great way to motivate blind and visually impaired students to practice their literacy skills. Students test their skills in reading comprehension, Braille speed and accuracy, proofreading, spelling and reading tactile charts and graphs. More than 500 students from first through twelfth grades participated throughout the US and Canada on the regional level, in the Preliminary Round. The top scoring 65 went to the national competition in Los Angeles, in June for the Final Round—two days of competition, camaraderie and fun!

Brianna was among these 65 students, the First-Place winner in the 20-10 South Carolina Regional Braille Challenge, Varsity Division!

“Although I did not win,” Brianna says of the national Braille Challenge, “it was a great trip in a number of ways. I talked to a lot of blind friends, read a lot of Braille, and even received a new Braille book. I learned a few more ways of Braille graphing, and a great deal just in general.”

I first met Brianna in 2006. She continues to be an inspiration to me personally, and to my Chaplaincy for Blind Youth (founded July, 2008). She is always eager to learn something new, and to assist the community in any way she can.

Since 2006, Music By Laurel Jean has also teamed up on several occasions with Dixie Land Guide Dog Users, Inc., the folks who founded and hosted the very first Top Dog Workshop! It is an honor for me, personally, to serve as an officer and technical adviser of this organization.

In 2008, Dixie Land Guide Dog Users voted unanimously to offer an annual scholarship for the first South Carolina student to contact Dixie Land with qualification for the current year's National Braille Challenge. The Dixie Land Guide Team was one of many organizations helping to sponsor Brianna’s trip to compete in California this year. Both Music By Laurel Jean and Dixie Land Guide Dog Users believe in the encouragement and support of a strong, positive presence within the blindness community and among the community-at-large. We promote Braille literacy, taking pride in the hard work and accomplishments of blind youth, everywhere!

Thank God, and thank you, for the prayers and support which make outreach like this possible!

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

© 2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

Music Ministry Update

Laurel with driver Ethel

Here I am with my good friend, Ethel, who often drives for me on behalf of the ministry. This picture was taken by Ethel’s identical twin sister, Bethel, in the home of Jim and Mary, who hosted us during my most recent trip to Illinois.

Laurel standing by Lakewood UMC sign

It is always such a treat when God gives me the opportunity to spend Father’s Day in His House! Here I am, beside the Lakewood United Methodist Church sign. I spent Father’s Day, 2010, with this congregation, presenting Special Music during Morning Worship, and bringing The Message in Word And Song during the Evening Service.

Laurel presenting for Lakewood UMC congregation


Spending time with the folks at Lakewood UMC is like “old home week” for me. This is the church, which presented me with my first Braille Bible when I was seven years old. A big thanks to Pastor Lynette and the Lakewood Church, for the many prayers and generous sponsorship on behalf of my Music Ministry, my Outreach and especially my Chaplaincy for Blind youth.

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

© 2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

Friday, July 9, 2010

Outreach Update

Laurel provides music for Paws to Educate kickoff

On June 16, Music By Laurel Jean teamed up with the Charleston, SC Association for the Blind and Dixie Land Guide Dog Users, Inc. for the Grand Kickoff of “Paws To Educate”. This initiative of Dixie Land GDU began in order to teach the community the “Three R’s” of guide dog users, “rights, responsibilities and recourse”. When the folks at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in North Charleston learned about this exciting new initiative, they contacted Dixie Land to schedule a presentation geared just for the kids attending this year’s Vacation Bible School.

Laurel reads Braille for children at St. Thomas Episcopal VBS


I was honored to assist Dixie Land President Nancy Moore and Vice President Audrey Gunter with the program, providing music, along with answers to questions from teachers and students about Braille, technology and independent travel with the long, white cane.

In my teen years, when my professional music and ministry were just beginning, I often considered the gap, which seemed to separate the sighted and blindness communities. I would talk with whoever would listen, about my dreams and goals to assist in bridging that gap. Since those days, God continues to bless me with opportunities for such an outreach effort. Thank God, and thank you, for your ongoing prayers and support!

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

© 2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Spring Picnic

After participating in one of my Youth Chaplaincy events, Shelby’s mom, Debbie said, “I think we all ought to have a picnic. You name the date and I will do everything I can to help make it happen.”

This idea was so wonderful, I didn’t want to limit it among just a few people. So, with a few phone calls and Emails, Dixie Land Guide Dog Users, the Association for the Blind and the folks at Grace United Methodist Church were invited and excited about getting involved!

gathering for spring picnic

On May 15, we gathered for what I hope to be the first of many spring picnics. Our group consisted of blind and sighted folks of all ages, along with some of the best guide dogs (both working and retired) in the whole wide world! Although Hampton Park was closed to the general public, the kind folks at the City of Charleston Parks & Recreation Department issued Dixie Land GDU a special permit to exclusively host this event.

group enjoying picnic lunch

Northbridge Piggly Wiggly delivered the lip-smacking southern fried chicken, yummy 'tater wedges, baked beans and other fixin's, which, by the way, were all sponsored by Dr. Virgil Alfaro and his Charleston Neuroscience Institute. We had lots of guests, including Cornelia Pelzer and Nicole Harvey, from the Association for the Blind; Carolyn & Jack Baker, from Grace UMC's Disabilities' Ministries; and Peter Smith and his friends from the Charleston Flyers. (Most folks also brought a favorite picnic dish to share!) After eating all the great food and goodies everyone brought, all “outa sight” guests, including “yours truly” each enjoyed a bike ride around the park, with tandem bikes and sighted pilots courtesy of The Association for the Blind, Peter Smith, his Charleston Fliers and other members of the Charleston Cyclists.

Shelby tandem biking with a sighted pilot

I’m especially proud of “my” kids. Shelby faced her apprehensions and climbed onto a bike behind a pilot whom she had never met before.

Taylor tandem biking with a sighted pilot


Taylor took a spin around the park and even paused to triumphantly sound the bicycle horn as he returned from his ride.

I would like to thank Bill and Debbie Craig; Dixie Land Guide Dog Users; Betty and Jerry Stebbins; Kim and Tim Taylor (with retired guide dog Rufus); Dorace Lackey (and retired guide dog Smokey); The Association for the Blind; Northbridge Piggly Wiggly; the Charleston Parks and Recreation Department; Grace UMC; Dr. Alfaro and Charleston Neuroscience and of course, the Charleston Fliers for your part in making this time of food, fun, fellowship and furries such a success!

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

© 2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

Music and Ministry for more of God's kids

Laurel presents for the Chapel Service of Grace Weekday School


By May 7, I was back in South Carolina, in time to bring God’s Message in Music to the students of Grace Weekday School during this Friday Morning Chapel Service. These precious children range in age from one to five years. I think that Pastor Don, who also attended the service, was the “biggest kid” of all as he joined in the fun of singing along in Worship!

I will always believe that, when we unite to learn more about each other, in spite of those things which make us different, then we can work together sharing God’s Good News in a more powerful way. A big thanks to Grace Weekday School Director Joyce Gresch, for continuing to make Music By Laurel Jean part of this inspiring program of early childhood development and education.

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

© 2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

Music and Ministry in Illinois

On April 22nd, I flew out of Charleston, SC to trade sea breezes for prairie winds during a time of Music and Ministry in my home state of Illinois.

sound check, First Free Methodist Church, Peoria, IL

Here I am, doing a sound check before my Sunday April 25 service at the First Free Methodist Church of Peoria. The heart of this congregation is as beautiful as their church, and I am so grateful for their ongoing support over many years!

Laurel Jean with Pastor Tim Ward, First Free Methodist Church, Peoria, IL

Here I am with Pastor Tim Ward of First Free Methodist. We had just come in to Peoria from an even earlier Morning service at New Life Fellowship Church in Wataga. The Wataga Church family was new to me, and I was so excited to meet more of my family in Christ!

Laurel with driver, Carolyn

Here I am with Carolyn, a good friend who also serves as one of my drivers. As usual, it wasn’t foggy enough for me to drive that weekend, though we did get lots of rain!

Laurel on the air, Live Record Request Show


This picture shows me in the studio of Christian Radio WLLM, Lincoln, IL, where I joined station manager Bill Dolan as guest host of the Monday, April 26 Live Record Request Show! We had lots to talk about, including the Community Sing, which took place on Saturday, April 24. I was so blessed to participate in the Community Sing Event, along with Christian artists Arlie Neaville, Josh and Christina Long, and Bill Dolan himself. We sang praises to God, heard lots of amazing testimony, and helped to raise funds for WLLM! If you haven’t met the WLLM family yet, you’re really missing a blessing. You can connect with these nice folks on their Web site, where you can even join their Facebook Community!

A big thanks also to the First Christian Church of Brownstown, the Lakewood United Methodist Church and the Edwardsville General Baptist Church, for making Music By Laurel Jean part of this year’s Mother-Daughter Banquet, Sunday morning Worship and a special 57th Anniversary Celebration, respectively. I’m looking forward to meeting more friends old and new in Illinois again, very soon!

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

© 2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

Monday, May 24, 2010

2010 Spring Break Miniature Golf Outing


Here, sixteen-year-old Taylor takes his first shot at miniature golf with a little coaching from his great-grandfather, Jerry, on the greens at Frankie's Fun Park!

During this year’s Spring Break, several of us planned an outing for God’s “outa sight” kids of all ages here in the Lowcountry. Everyone laughed and had lots of fun as we taught ourselves and others that one doesn't have to be able to see to tee.

It took us half the day to play half the course; but, at the end of the ninth hole, Taylor was our winner! Taylor, an active teen in my Chaplaincy for Blind Youth, was accompanied by his great-grandparents, Betty & Jerry Stebbins, who have been extremely helpful in most of our community events.

Thanks to all who were such good sports on this day as we really put the “crazy” in “crazy golf”!

Stay tuned for more posts like this one.

Until next time, God bless you, and keep His Song in your heart!

© 2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

2010 Outa Sight Easter Egg Hunt


Here I am, tagging along with Shelby, as she participates in my 2010 Accessible Easter Egg Hunt. Her mom, Debbie, serves as one of this year’s volunteers in charge of handing out Easter eggs.

On April 3, I was blessed to host this outreach of my Chaplaincy for Blind Youth in partnership with Dixie Land Guide Dog Users, Inc., at the Charleston, SC Headquarters of Music By Laurel Jean.

When I first started working with the young folks here in Charleston, I asked them if they liked Easter egg hunts. They answered with a resounding “no”. They told me that all of the sighted kids got the candy and prizes first. One youth spoke of an Easter egg hunt in which blind kids participated and audible eggs were used: “It was pretty much a disaster. We were all falling all over each other.”

When we host an Easter Egg hunt, we try to make sure that everything is accessible to the blind kids who participate. The scavenger hunt takes place in a familiar area, with clues presented in Braille, large print or audio formats. Often, kids work as a team, taking turns reading clues and sharing knowledge of cane travel and landmarks with one another.

At the beginning of the Easter Egg hunt, each kid is given a clue in a format accessible to him/her, then it’s off to find the first egg! At each clue destination, a nice volunteer stands waiting and usually acting silly, ready to hand out eggs. With each egg comes another clue, and so on,. When all of the eggs have been found, they are traded in for bags of candy, and a special prize, usually a $5 gift card to a favorite fast food restaurant. Everyone is a winner!

A big thanks to Nancy, Max, Audrey, Debbie (Shelby’s Mom), Carla Beck (my former vision teacher) and Sara Thomas (who took this picture), for making this year’s event special for all of us.

Stay tuned for more posts like this one.

Until next time, God bless you and keep His Song in your heart!

© 2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Remembering Good Friday


God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world His only Son so that we could have life through him; (1 John 4:9)

The Crucifixion reenactment pictured here took place this past Good Friday, from 5:00 to 7:00 PM, along Sam Rittenberg Blvd., a very busy road in Charleston. Every year on Good Friday, the people of Grace United Methodist Church, Charleston, SC share their Christian witness with the community in this unique and wonderful way.

I spoke with a man named Glenn, who played the role of “the good thief” last year. He told me that whenever he grew weary of standing for two hours, it gave him a chance to reflect on what Jesus did. “My minor discomfort paled in comparison to what He did for all of us,” Glenn said.

In dramatic presentations such as this, or in the welcoming of “my” kids in Worship, this church’s heart for Ministry is unwavering, and truly inspired by God. I am so blessed to know and have the support of the folks at Grace Church as part of my extended family in Christ!

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

© 2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Total Christian Television Debut

How about another note from Yesteryear! I’m pictured here on the “TCT Alive” set with host Crystal Thornton, where I was blessed to make my international television debut on the Total Christian Television” network. This episode of “TCT Alive” was recorded December 17, 2009 in the studio of TCT Affiliate WLXI, Greensboro, NC. The episode also first aired on this affiliate station, December 25.

A big thanks again, to Rev. and Mrs. Larry Patton and the rest of the WLXI staff and volunteers, who made me feel so welcome while I was in Greensboro, and to my good friend, Susan, who assisted me with makeup choices that were very easy for me to apply independently.

It is always a joy for me to meet more of my family in Christ! Stay tuned for more posts like this!

Until next time, God bless you, and keep His Song in your heart!

© 2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

2010 Cooper River Bridge Run/Walk


Here I am on the Cooper River Bridge in Charleston, SC, in this picture taken March 27. I’m pictured with Jerry Stebbins (the great-grandfather of Taylor, one of the kids in my Youth Chaplaincy) who has graciously served as my shadow during my participation in both the 2009 and 2010 Cooper River Bridge Run.

When I first walked the Cooper River Bridge in 2006 and was told about the annual 10K Cooper River Bridge Run/Walk, I knew that I wanted to enter this fantastic event. I love to walk, enjoy being outdoors, and really like being around other people. (There were lots of other people, to say the least! My bib number this year was 39577, and a lot more folks entered the race after I did.) My time from start to finish during this 10K event was two hours, thirteen minutes, and six seconds.

Jerry is a terrific shadow. He respects my independence as I travel with my long, white cane, but makes sure that I stay on the route. With so many people walking and running along with me, even “Miss Independence” needs a shadow!

In 2009, I walked the bridge on behalf of the Charleston Miracle League. This year, I walked to raise awareness for Dixie Land Guide Dog Users, carrying a banner across the starting and finish lines for this organization. The long, white cane has always been my mobility tool of choice, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Still, I really appreciate the work of Dixie Land GDU, both for all of us in the blindness community, and for the community at large. It is an honor to work together with such a dynamic group of people and the pooches who guide them!

On a personal note, I believe that it is important for all of us in the blindness community to make a strong presence of participation within our surrounding communities, as we are able to do so. Music is a big part of my life and ministry. Just like anyone else, I have other hobbies and interests, too. Over the past couple of years, the Bridge Run has allowed me to minister in a unique way, and I’m already looking forward to 2011! Several of the area blind youth have even expressed an interest in joining me! It’s just another way of seeing and being God’s Light. Read Matthew 5:16 and think about joining us next year!

Stay tuned for more posts like this one!

Until next time, God bless you, and keep His Song in your heart!

© 2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Music and Ministry Update

A big thanks to the folks who take pictures for me, to those who send me pics, and to Arleigh, who does my image editing! Here I am at my piano in the sanctuary of Goose Creek United Methodist Church in Goose Creek, SC.

I can’t believe it’s been a month since I brought The Message In Music during that Fifth Sunday Service in January! I have so many fond memories of time spent with this congregation: greeting folks and singing to them as I walked from the back of the church to my piano; sharing my music and testimony; reading God’s Word from my Braille Bible; inviting the children to come forward for an impromptu jam session; listening to God’s kids of all ages as they sang along with me throughout the service and, oh yes, that delicious potluck lunch! During this special day, God blessed me with an opportunity to meet another of His “outa sight” kids”, eight-year-old Christian, who came to church with his mom and dad. Christian is already learning to play the guitar, and is looking forward to trying out “The Coaster” my Blind Youth Chaplaincy’s tandem bike!

With February came the Second Annual South Carolina Regional Braille Challenge. Once again, my love for Braille literacy and God’s calling to help blind youth led me to volunteer to serve on this event’s judging panel. I was delighted to see that the number of students participating had tripled since last year!

Mentoring and tutoring continued through February, in spite of some unusual weather for this area. Taylor is doing great with his Pac Mate computer, reading and taking notes on a library book and learning to apply the scientific calculator to his algebra. Brianna and Shelby, both of whom placed in their age categories of the Braille Challenge, have also expressed an interest in joining me in this year’s Cooper River Bridge Walk. This has launched a personal initiative of mine to encourage exercise among the kids. I found a nifty little talking pedometer at The Braille Super Store that will get us all thinking more about how many steps we take during the day, or during a workout. What would we do without our gadgets!

All of this, and so much more, is made possible by folks like the people of Goose Creek Church, and folks like you! Thank God, and thank you, for your support!
Stay tuned for more highlights. Until next time, God bless you, and keep His Song in your heart!

© 2010 by Laurel Jean Walden

Friday, January 29, 2010

Top Dog, 2010

Here I am, presenting a special award to Pastor Don ClenDaniel, Senior Pastor of Grace United Methodist Church, as part of the Opening Awards Ceremony of Top Dog Charleston, SC.

Last year, I was asked by Dixie Land Guide Dog Users, Inc., to assist with Program Planning, and serve as a Musical Master of Ceremonies for Top Dog Charleston, a gathering especially designed for blind individuals and sighted folks who are dedicated to making a difference within the blindness community. This January 15 thru 17, over one hundred people gathered at Charleston’s Best Western on Spring Street from all over the United States and Canada, for a weekend of fun, food, fellowship and furries (guide dogs, retired guide dogs, and future guides with their puppy raisers). Long before this event took place, I was at my trusty computer, creating spreadsheets, a file for name badges, printing flight schedules and helping to plan the itinerary for the weekend.

Opening Ceremonies began with a narrated Presentation of the Colors. Then, three of “my” kids, Shelby, Taylor and Brianna, ushered in the evening, singing our National Anthem, leading us in The Pledge of Allegiance and giving the Prayer of Invocation, respectively. My heart filled with pride as I watched these three blind youths of the Lowcountry conduct themselves with such grace and poise! After a Spirit-filled hymn sung by Taffany Bolger, my associate Miss Audrey joined me in a zany but heartfelt presentation of awards. Plaques were given to over twenty different individuals and organizations from the local community, and the Community at large.

During this weekend, I was especially honored to work with Pastor Dave Andrus, Director of Lutheran Blind Mission, St. Louis, MO. Pastor Dave came to assist with the Blessing of the Guides, and to sit on a panel of blind adults who answered questions posed by the youth as part of Saturday morning’s schedule.

An action-packed Saturday afternoon included tandem biking in the rain, narrated bus tours and an exhibit hall with eighteen vendors. The day ended with a scrumptious “Barbecue roundup”, featuring dinner music by guest musician Duncan Holmes, Elvis (AKA Mike Viljac), and “yours truly”. The event came to a close with a non-denominational Song Service on Sunday morning.

I have always believed that the best way to help the blindness community is to support blind entrepreneurs. This event was not only a shot in the arm to Charleston’s local economy. In fact, Top Dog Charleston was responsible for the employment of a blind caterer, two blind musicians, several blind artisans and a blind pet masseuse. Two blind pastors also contributed to the success of this event. Dixie Land Guide Dog Users and all who made Top Dog possible truly “walk their talk” when it comes to offering support on behalf of the blind. Thank God, and thanks all, for including Music by Laurel Jean!

© 2010 Laurel Jean Walden

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

December, 2009 Highlights

Here I am, setting up a microphone for the annual Christmas Party of the Association for the Blind, Charleston, SC. My thanks to Dixie Land Guide Dog Users, Inc., sponsors of Music By Laurel Jean for this event!

December 2009 was filled with Music and Ministry. The schedule began with an interactive Message in Music entitled “Getting Ready for a Birthday Party”, for God’s kids of all ages at Grace United Methodist Church. The following week found me in Summerville, SC, for a guest appearance on the local television program “Daughters of Charleston” hosted by Colette Harrington on WLCNTV Channel 18.

Traveling back to Charleston from the studio, I was called to assist in the delivery of twins. I checked my voice mail to find a message from a very frantic music director. She was calling from a local hospital, where her twin grandbabies were about to be delivered. She was unable to provide music for a church Christmas dinner that night, and needed to schedule me for an extreme last-minute booking! Healthy babies, Cooper and Claire came into the world just hours later.

On December 16, I boarded a plane to Greensboro, NC. There, Rev. Larry Patton, the station manager of Total Christian Television affiliate WLXI greeted me. Bright and early the next morning, I joined host Crystal Thornton, fellow guest musician Phyllis Heil, Rev. Patton and the rest of the production crew for prayer and a taping of “TCT Alive”, my debut on international Christian television! The program was first broadcast Christmas Day and has been aired at least twice since then. Stay tuned for video highlights from this program and others from 2009!

Back in South Carolina, I joined the Grace Church Family to celebrate Christmas Eve, with another Message In Music during the prelude of this blessed service. They even trusted me with a lighted candle!

When not in church, on the road or on TV, I kept busy helping some of “my” kids to celebrate the Season. I accompanied Shelby on her first independent Christmas shopping trip. We baked cookies and made homemade Christmas cards, drawing a picture using the Braillewriter. She even learned to wrap a present by herself! During Christmas break, Taylor and Brianna joined me for an afternoon of games, food and fellowship in the Celebration Center of Grace UMC. Thanks to all who assisted with this fun afternoon, including Brianna herself, who is proving to be a wonderful mentor for the younger blind teens and an inspiration to all of us!

Every Christmas needs a Christmas angel, and God never ceases to provide! My thanks, for the one who “out of the blue” brought a Romeo Braille Embosser to my doorstep in mid-December, at no cost to me or to anyone I know personally. This piece of equipment will allow me to better serve my brothers and sisters in the blindness community!

Already, I’m on the go and moving in 2010, a testimony to the prayers and financial sponsorship of folks like you! Watch my Events Page, follow me on Twitter, get my Newsletter and stay tuned to this Blog for updates.

Until next time, God bless you and keep His Song in your heart!

© 2010 Laurel Jean Walden

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A Little About Me

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God continues to bless me with a busy and fulfilling life. Even after thirty-plus years, my music and ministry keep going and growing. Blind from birth, I am n avid user of Braille and the long, white cane, in addition to a variety of mainstream and access technology. While my blindness does not define me, I consider it to be a unique gift from God. With this gift comes my opportunity to serve as an advocate on behalf of my fellow members of the Blindness community, living and serving among blind and sighted folks of all ages, on all walks of life. To learn more about my music, ministry and outreach, please visit my Web site, and be sure to stay tuned to my Blog!