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

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

A Little About Me

My photo
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!