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, 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

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!