Friday, January 29, 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
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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- 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!