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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sharing God's Gifts

Laurel presenting to Mt. Pleasant, SC Boy Scouts

God continues to open doors and break down barriers thru the musical ministry that He gives me. Here I am speaking with Boy Scouts in Mt. Pleasant, SC. This presentation was made possible in part by the “Paws 2 Educate Initiative” of Dixie Land Guide Dog Users, Inc. and the South Carolina Association for the Blind.

Laurel with her fellow Dixie Land Officers

Fellow Dixie Land Officers, Audrey Gunter (President) and Taylor Jones (Vice President) joined me as we assisted these area Scouts in earning their Disabilities Awareness Merit Badges.

Laurel presenting for Drop-In at the Association

For me, the Sounds of the 2011 Christmas Season began with the Holiday Drop-In hosted by the South Carolina Association for the Blind.

Laurel deplaning in Evansville

Two days later, with the blessing and sponsorship of Dixie Land and the Association, I flew into Southern Indiana where I seemed to hit the ground running.

Laurel doing craft project with Taengkwa

I had promised “my” Indiana kids that I would teach them to make Christmas cards by drawing pictures with the Perkins Braille Writer. Here I am with Taengkwa, age 10.

Laurel presenting concert at St. Lucas Church

After the craft project, it was time to prepare for a very special Christmas Concert. This concert was hosted by St. Lucas Church, Fort Branch, IN, to benefit these “outa sight” kids on their road to Dallas for this summer’s National Federation of the Blind Annual Convention. Thanks to Pastor John and the Fort Branch United Churches of Christ, the Gibson County Shriners and the area parents and teachers of blind children who helped make this event possible. Thanks again to Dixie Land and the South Carolina Association for showing such compassion for “my” kids in their generous donation toward this effort.

Laurel singing with Taengkwa and Jessie

I was honored to feature Jessie and Taengkwa during the concert, and even more honored when they asked me to sing with them! Ten-year-old Jessie accompanied the two of us at the piano as we sang “God Is So Good” and “Jolly Old St. Nicholas.”

Laurel at Princeton Radio Station WRAY

I was up bright and early the next morning on my way to the studio of Princeton FM 98.1 WRAY Radio, where I joined Mark Latham, “Grandpa Ed,” “Uncle Dave” and the rest of Saturday’s Country Gold family for the on-air debut of my latest CD Just Over The Hilltop.

Laurel presenting at Mt. Zion General Baptist Church

Sunday found me bringing God’s Musical Message in yet another one of His Indiana “Family Rooms,” Mt. Zion General Baptist Church of Wadesville. I knew this Sunday was going to be a lot of fun when a very enthusiastic deacon met me at the car, introduced himself, grabbed my hand and ran with me across the parking lot in the rain. This was a blessed time of music and fellowship as I served as guest teacher of the adult Sunday School class, and led the entire church family in the Worship service.

Laurel with the children of Mt. Zion General Baptist Church

As always, I especially enjoyed my time with the children, teaching by word, song and example that even though we are all different, we can use those differences to work together in the Body of Christ.

Laurel reading Scripture to the Mt. Zion church family

I love to read God’s Word to God’s kids of all ages, but the little ones really enjoy watching “Miss Laurel Jean read with her fingers.”

Laurel presenting for Lakewood Church

The following Sunday December 11 in Illinois, I stopped by the “little church by the roadside,” the Lakewood United Methodist Church where I first felt truly welcome in God’s house, attended my first accessible Vacation Bible School and received my first Braille Bible. This church has represented so much love and support for my ministry and me personally over the years. I am touched beyond words by the Lakewood family’s ongoing sponsorship of my Chaplaincy for Blind Youth. It was my blessing and privilege to present each family in the congregation with a copy of my “Just Over the Hilltop” CD. My thanks to Pastor Lynette, Mary and Carolyn whose planning, hospitality and transportation helped make it possible for me to do this.

Laurel goofing off with Pastor Linda


Rantoul’s Bethany Park Christian Church was my next stop, where I offered another concert of “Sounds of the Season.” It is always a joy to work with Rev. Linda Trowbridge, a true friend and mentor. Here we are goofing off as I was doing a sound check.

After a brief visit in Springfield, I flew back to sunny South Carolina just in time to present music and ministry for the Annual Christmas Parties of the Association for the Blind and the Genesis Sunday School Class of James Island Baptist Church.

Another year has drawn to a close. God’s Music By Laurel Jean keeps growing, and going! Thank God and thank you for your ongoing prayers and support.

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

© 2011 by Laurel Jean Walden

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sharing The Message

Laurel playing backwards for Heartland residents

Recently, I was blessed by the opportunity to share Gospel Joy with the folks at Heartland Rehabilitation of West Ashley, Charleston, SC. This was made possible in part by Dixie Land Guide Dog Users Inc. and the people of Grace United Methodist Church. Members of both Dixie Land and Grace Church joined me in bringing The Message In Word, Song and Sacrament.

Taylor singing with Laurel

It is always an honor to feature Taylor Jones Stebbins as a guest vocalist. Taylor currently serves as Vice President of Dixie Land GDU, and is one of the “outa sight” youth with whom God blesses my life. He attends Ravenel First Baptist Church, where he sings in the choir. He remembers with such enthusiasm his Baptism Sunday at Grace Church, and is always eager to share the gifts that God gives him.

Pastor Dick Broomall singing with Laurel

Pastor Dick Broomall of Grace Church joined me for a duet before leading all of us in a unique celebration of Holy Communion. Pastor Dick is a gifted musician and minister, and I am always honored to serve our Lord with him.

Grace celebrating Communion with Heartland residents


My thanks to Dixie Land Guide Dog Users and Grace United Methodist Church for making it possible to include the Lord’s Supper in this special service.

Even those of us who served came away from this event knowing that we had truly been fed in the Spirit.

Thank God and thank you for your ongoing prayers and support.

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

© 2011 by Laurel Jean Walden

Thursday, October 6, 2011

God's Light keeps shining!

Laurel presenting for Dominican Sisters

Sacred Heart Convent, home of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL, was my first stop during my most recent time of Music and Ministry in Central Illinois and Southern Indiana (Sept. 9 thru 19). The Dominican Sisters have been part of my life for a long time and it is always a joy to be welcomed back to the Convent. It was at their enthusiastic request that I first recorded my song "Vision Through Your Eyes" many years ago, and these amazing women of Faith continue to inspire and support me in my ministry. My greatest joy in spending time with them is hearing their own stories of God's calling on their lives and of their own unique ministries. I am honored to be their "kid-sister" in Christ!

The Access Springfield bus service made it possible for me to travel to the Convent, then to my long-time friend Millie's house for more fellowship and a special celebration of Holy Communion. Thanks, Pastor Dick of Grace UMC in Charleston, SC, for blessing the Elements which I brought to Illinois to share with Millie. Millie was responsible for scheduling and transporting me to my first official music ministry engagement when I was just fourteen. She's still supportive of my ministry, a mighty prayer warrior and one of my very dearest friends.

Laurel presenting for Delavan Women's retreat

The Delavan, IL United Methodist Church was my next stop. There I was the main presenter for this year's All-Church, Ladies' Luncheon Retreat hosted by Delavan UMC. My friends, associates and I always pray for God to break down barriers that separate His people. How refreshing to see Christian women of all denominations gather for food, fellowship, devotionals, music and inspiration! My thanks to Carolyn Binion, a good friend and one of my drivers, who provided my transportation to this event. It wasn't quite foggy enough for me to drive that day!

Laurel presenting cross to Lakewood Church

The Lakewood, IL United Methodist Church is always like home to me. It's the "Little Church By The Roadside," where the door is never locked so that anyone who passes by may enter and pray at any time. This was the first church family to make me feel truly welcome in "God's House", and the congregation continues to support my outreach with a stipend as one of their missionaries.

On this day, it was my turn to express my heartfelt appreciation to this little church family in Illinois. Thanks to my "adopted dad-in-ministry", Rev. Tarrell Thompson of Owensville, IN, for crafting the beautiful redwood cross which I presented to the Lakewood congregation.

Laurel Presenting Cross in honor of Rev. Marlin Miller

That Sunday evening in Cowden, IL, I presented another cross during Concert Ministry in honor of Rev. Marlin Miller (1924-2011). Marlin (pictured on the plaque) was responsible for leading my grandpa (who was homebound at the time) to make his formal profession of Christian Faith. After my grandfather's death back in 1981, Marlin continued to do all he could to insure that I had a solid foundation from which to launch my own Faith Journey. The first pastor to express interest in my own, personal spiritual well-being, Marlin invited me to Vacation Bible School and made sure that it was accessible to me with songs and activity sheets in Braille. Then, he saw to it that I received my very own Braille Bible, presented to me at that same little Lakewood Church. He listened to me at a time when it seemed that no one else would, and his compassionate spirit continues to inspire my work with blind youth today.

Thanks to Marlin's wife Mrs. Colleen Miller for receiving this cross in Marlin's honor. I would also like to thank Clyde Wehrle (presenting the plaque) for joining with me on behalf of Marlin's home church, Cowden United Methodist, to celebrate the life and honor the dynamic ministry of this very special shepherd.

My dear friends and sisters in Christ, Pastor Lynette D'Attley (of the Cowden and Lakewood UMC) and Mary Glick (whom I've known since I was born), were instrumental in helping to coordinate these special services. Their ongoing friendship and support mean more than words can express.

Laurel in studio of WRAY Princeton, Indiana

The studio of WRAY Radio, Princeton, was my first official stop in Southern Indiana. I joined Country Gold host Mark Latham (along with "Grandpa Ed," Larry, "Uncle Dave" and "Joe from Otwell") to promote the release of my upcoming album and to invite folks to Sunday Worship at St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Poseyville. Thanks to the Country Gold Team for making me feel so welcome, and to that wonderful Donut Bank for keeping us all fueled with donuts and coffee!

Laurel with Christian and Jessie in Studio

Christian and Jessie, two of "my outa sight Indiana kids," joined us during the 11:00 AM hour of the Country Gold show. Before spending time with us in the main studio, Joe allowed the kids to take a "hand-on" look at the station. They even got to assist at the controls.

Jesse was in charge of making sure that the volume was just right on the sound board.

Christian changing CD

Christian helped with the changing of CD's.

Laurel with Debbie Phillips

Sunday morning, I was at Poseyville's St. Paul's UMC, where I joined missionary to Haiti, Debbie Phillips, in presenting two services highlighting women in the mission field.

My thanks also to Transcendent Healthcare of Owensville, the Evansville Scottish Rite Lodge and Home For Your Heart School of Evansville, for making my music and ministry part of their schedules.


It is always a joy to serve our Lord with my "adopted dad-in-ministry" Rev. Tarrell Thompson of Owensville, IN. He and his wife, my precious "Mama Lena", are long-time friends of my ministry and me personally. His belief in my ministry and youth chaplaincy, his volunteerring to help with driving, and of course his crafting of those beautiful crosses, truly helped me keep God's Light shining during this trip!

Thank God and thank you, for your ongoing prayers and support.

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

© 2011 by Laurel Jean Walden, with all glory to God!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In Tune for Summer Day Camp!

Laurel playing for summer day campers

This summer, Music By Laurel Jean partnered with Dixie Land Guide Dog Users and the Association for the Blind, Charleston, SC, to bring music, education and fun to sighted students ages 4 thru 10, attending one of the City of Charleston’s summer day camps. Music was a favorite activity throughout the day!

Laurel reading to campers while Taylor waits his turn

After music time, day-campers divided into groups. Some learned about guide dogs, while others joined me for a story. The kids enjoyed watching me read with my fingers and telling me about the pictures on each page!

Taylor, a Lowcountry blind youth and an officer of Dixie Land GDU, waited patiently to demonstrate his computer technology. He also challenged the kids to a game of Uno, using cards containing both print and Braille!

Laurel and Taylor with campers

Here I am with Taylor and some of the day-campers. Taylor and I had just finished brailing the kids’ names, demonstrating our long, white canes and teaching students how to walk properly as a sighted guide for someone who is blind.

The kids even got to enjoy an ice cream social, compliments of the Dixie Land Guide Team!

Laurel, Audrey, Jerry and Miss Shirley


My thanks to Dixie Land GDU, the Association for the Blind, Miss Shirley with the City of Charleston, and Miss Patty with Creatures Around Charleston, for making me part of this special event.

Thank God, and thank you, for your ongoing prayers and support! You keep my ministry and its outreach growing and going!

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

© 2011 by Laurel Jean Walden

Friday, July 29, 2011

On the Air and On the Road in Indiana!

Laurel with Country Gold host Mark Latham


Music By Laurel Jean continues to be “in tune for summer!” During my recent trip to Southern Indiana, I enjoyed guest-hosting the “Country Gold” show with regular host Mark Latham on Princeton, Indiana’s FM 98.1, WRAY Radio! It is always great to spend time with the Country Gold family of listeners and radio personalities!

Grandpa Ed Scott answering the Country Gold request line

Special thanks to “Grandpa Ed” Scott, for taking phone requests and relaying messages from listeners, as well as keeping all of us fueled with coffee and donuts from the “Donut Bank!”

Thanks also to Transcendent Healthcare of Owensville, the family of Rev. and Mrs. Tarrell and Lena Thompson (my adopted family in ministry), the Owensville United Methodist Church and the Bluegrass United Methodist Church of Evansville for making Music By Laurel Jean part of their times of worship and fellowship. I always look forward to being, as the old song says, “back home again in Indiana!”

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

© 2011 by Laurel Jean Walden

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Road to Independence

Nancy, Laurel and Audrey in front of CARTA


Here I am with fellow Dixie Land officers Nancy Moore (with guide Giza) and Audrey Gunter (with guide Jesse) as we pose in front of CARTA, the Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority.

Nancy, Audrey and I recently had the privilege of speaking to CARTA drivers. It was a joy for me personally, to have the opportunity to thank some of the folks who make it possible for us in the blindness community to stay "on the road to independence." Public transportation allows us the dignity of independent travel at a rate more reasonable than that of a personal driver. Whether traveling to Walmart for routine shopping, or heading to the airport to catch a flight to a musical engagement, I absolutely love public transportation and paratransit!

The drivers asked us a lot of really great questions, including how they could be of better help to those of us who don't see. We exchanged a lot of funny stories, and shared a lot of laughs, too.

My thanks to CARTA, Dixie Land GDU, and the Charleston, SC Association for the Blind for making me part of this three-day set of educational workshops.

Thank God, and thank you, for your ongoing prayers and support. You help keep my ministry and its outreach growing and going!

© 2011 by Laurel Jean Walden

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Youth Chaplaincy Update

I thank God for two gifts above all else, my Christian Faith and my personal independence. Each is encompassed by a variety of people and circumstances which God still uses to keep both gifts alive and growing in my life. As an offering of praise to my Lord, I live to pass these gifts on to others, blind and sighted alike. He has placed a special calling on my heart to reach out to blind youth, allowing me to share these gifts with His precious children through mentoring and tutoring.

Laurel helps Dalton learn to track a Braille line

Recently, God blessed my outreach in Charleston, SC with six-year-old Dalton, “my” youngest yet here in South Carolina. Here I am introducing him to the concept of tracking a line of Braille. Braille literacy is so vital to my personal independence, and I take very seriously the honor of helping to unlock that door for someone else. Dalton loves to learn and takes his learning very seriously, too.

Laurel and Dalton at the piano

Of course, one must never take life too seriously, so in our regular visits, we take lots of time for singing, dancing and fun. Here at the piano, Dalton's favorite songs to sing are “Miss Mary Mack” and “Joy In My Heart.” He likes to play along with my accompaniment as we sing.

Laurel and Dalton catching imaginary bumblebee

Even blind children can enjoy learning songs and games to get their feet and hands moving. In this shot, we just caught a pretend bumblebee as part of the “Baby Bumblebee Song.”

My thanks to Dalton’s parents, David and Dani, for allowing me to share these pictures and for the opportunity to spend time with their precious child.

Dalton’s mom, Dani, has a gift of creating fine art paintings with bee’s wax. The pictures are beautiful to see, and are completely discernable by touch as well. To learn more about how you can show your support for this family through the purchase of Dani’s full-vision, accessible artwork, visit the Web site of Dixie Land Guide Dog Users. Then, scroll down to the “Links and Resources” section of the Dixie Land site.

Thank God, and thank you, for the ongoing prayers and support which make possible my ministry’s outreach to brilliant young people like Dalton.

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

© 2011 by Laurel Jean Walden

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Ruff Justice" Part 2

Jesse The Guide Dog

Hello, everyone!

It's me again-Jesse! You all remember me, don't you? I'm Zack's little brother and my mom Audrey Gunter’s special, furry lap warmer. Although I've only had my new mom for a few months, we've really been lots and lots of places and done lots and lots of things. Folks always say how handsome and sweet I am. Mom just smiles, nods her head and tells them that I'm just as good as I look, too! Mom really loves me and I really, really love her too!

This week I've been taking Mom down to the Judicial Center on Broad Street, where we've been summoned for Jury Duty. Boy, were those guys ever surprised to see me there! I'm not sure exactly why, but they just couldn't understand that, even though Mom's eyes are broken, she can still do lots of things, especially with me guiding her! They act as though they really want to help her, but just don't know how. Instead of asking her, they grab her arm, shoulder or elbow. Sometimes a pair of "helpful Helens" will run up to us, each grabbing one of Mom's arms and begin pulling on her-most of the time in different directions.

"Hey, guys! That's my mom-not a wishbone! If she needs your help, she'll ask. Meanwhile, she has me and I can take her anywhere she needs to go, thank you very much!"

Today we returned to the Judicial Center in a Sheriff's car and there was a Deputy Sheriff waiting on us at the curb, thanks to Uncle Bill. When Mom told him how we'd toured North Charleston, West Ashley and James Island before our paratransit bus finally reached Broad Street, Uncle Bill fixed things. He said that we shouldn't have to depend on a bus to serve on a jury panel.

Anyway, things were a lot different today. We entered the building through that funny revolving door and nobody stopped us today. I guess they saw how good I worked yesterday and they figured I could handle things just fine.

The folks behind the security desk were kinder to Mom, too. Not one time did anyone pull on her arm or shoulder! They just patted their legs, like Mom told them, and off we went! I think they were competing against each other to see who could work with me!

"It's about time you guys got the message! You lead and I'll guide my mom. That's my job!"

We signed in when we reached the Jury Assembly Room and the ladies there were great! Each one of them bent across the table and watched as I led Mom to our chair.

"Can't talk now, girls! Got to be sure Mom gets to where she needs to be. Besides, can't you see the big sign on my harness? Sheeze! "

We sat in that room for a couple of hours and other folks were getting impatient. Not me, though! Oh, no! I had a nice carpet to lie down on and my mom's feet to use as a pillow.

One of the bailiffs came out and told us to take a 30 minute break. "Break from what? All we've been doing is sitting and talking! Let's get this show on the road, guys! Let's get moving!"

Mom and I remained there during the break and, after about an hour of more sitting, that same fellow announced that we should go to lunch!

"Lunch! Okay! I'm all for that!" Too bad Mom wasn't hungry, so we just stayed there in that big room.

A lot of others chose to remain there, too. The lady in front of us just couldn't help herself, and she began asking Mom about me. She seemed genuinely interested in how I was specially bred, born, raised and trained as a guide dog, and how much I help my mom. She was particularly moved when Mom told her about my big brother, Zack, and that he'd actually led her to God. Curious, she listened intently as Mom told her about meeting Aunt Mary Kay and how she'd prayed for and with Mom, back in 2002. Tears streamed down her face when Mom recalled Zack guiding her down the church aisle to the altar, where she accepted Jesus as her Savior. She laughed aloud when Mom told her the part about Pastor Bobby wanting Zack to jump into the Baptismal Pool because he'd never Baptized a dog before.

"Yep, that Zack is a character, alright! He may be laid back, but he really loves to swim and to eat! Boy, does he love to eat!"

As they talked, they discovered the nice lady went to school with Mom's niece, Wendy, and she knew a lot of folks Mom knows. The conversation really got interesting when Mom told her about Aunt Laurel's Christian Music Ministry, her outreach and Chaplaincy for Blind Youth. I could hear the love in her voice when Mom described each of the kids and how Aunt Laurel had improved their lives. She told them about how Aunt Laurel has improved their cane skills; taught them how they can live independently (like she does); how to use a computer and how she works to improve their Brailing skills. More importantly, Mom told her about how Aunt Laurel is so interested in their spiritual needs and about the accessible Vacation Bible School she hosted, where one of her "kids" accepted Jesus.

By this time, tears were streaming down the nice lady's face and another nice lady had joined us. The second woman was a little older and a lot quieter than the first; but her love for the Lord was loud, though! In no time. Mom and those other 2 ladies were holding church services right there in the Jury Assembly Room-laughing and trading stories and praising God! I just laid under Mom's chair and soaked it all in. I love to hear Mom talk about God and how He uses everyone if they'll only let Him.

Another bailiff came out and began calling names for people to report upstairs. Soon, we were following them into a tiny courtroom. Someone brought Mom a chair and sat it in the aisle so I'd have more room.

"Thank you, sir! I'd never have fit in that little bench over there!"

The judge began asking if anyone knew anyone involved in the case-the attorneys, witnesses or defendants He asked if anyone had any reasons as to why they felt they could not render a fair and impartial verdict if selected to serve on the jury. When he asked if anyone had any close relatives in law enforcement, Mom and I stood up, along with about a dozen other folks.

Each had to tell the court how they were related and what agency they worked in. Then, the bailiff began calling names and those folks had to get up, walk to the front of the room, turn around and face the prosecuting and defense attorneys, who would either accept or reject them for the jury. When I led Mom up, I heard one of the defense attorneys remind the other that Mom's brother was a Sheriff's Deputy. Of course, we were excused.

It took a while, but they finally filled all 12 of the jury seats and one alternate and we were told to go back downstairs to the Jury Assembly Room. I hadn't even gotten Mom back to her chair when they told her that her name had been selected again and that we'd be going right back upstairs.

"Okay! We get to keep moving! I'm too young for all this sitting and sleeping. Heck! If that's all they needed, Zack would have been great for this job!"

Well, we went back to the same courtroom and I led Mom back to the same chair. We listened to the same spiel from the same judge and stood before the very same attorneys who made the same decision to excuse us from duty. Before long, we were back downstairs, waiting.

This time our wait was short, though. In no time, we were told that we could go for the day; but to call back the next day for further instructions for the rest of the week. As we exited the Jury Assembly Room and entered the elevator, a nice man came up to thank Mom for being such a positive inspiration to him. He said that it was refreshing to see someone of her caliber willing to serve, despite her disability. He added that it was even more inspiring when you consider that she could probably have been excused. When he asked why she hadn't tried, Mom just smiled and said, "I love this country and the rights that I enjoy every day. I believe that those rights come with responsibilities and that it is my duty to serve in anyway I can. Just my eyes are broken-not my brain. Besides, if I ever had to stand trial for anything, I'd like to have someone like me on my jury."

"Yep, I would too," he said respectfully.

When we got off the elevator, I didn't wait on anyone but guided Mom right out through the security gate and to the lobby of the Judicial Center. Uncle Bill walked up behind us and offered us a ride home.

Zack and Smokey were waiting on me in my front yard and Mom unleashed me so I could play with them. First, though, I just had to run and run and run!

Later Mom was talking with Aunt Laurel about our day's adventure. Aunt Laurel laughed and reminded Mom that we may have only thought we were there in that courthouse to serve on jury duty but that God may have had us there for another reason. They pray everyday for Him to put them where He needs them and, you know, I think Aunt Laurel may just have been right! I think that, at least for one day, the folks at the Charleston Judicial Center actually experienced "blind justice"!

Tomorrow we're going to celebrate! We've been excused for the rest of the week so we're going shopping!

"Oh, boy! Shopping! I love shopping with Mom! After a while of my working really, really hard, we have a "love-fest" and that makes everyone around us smile."

"Hey, Mom, can we get Smokey a new ball and Zack a new Frisbee? Maybe I could get a new chewy bone, too? I can't find my other ones. I think the other guys have hidden them from me."

"Hey, Mom! Get ready! I'm going to hop up in your lap! I love you, Mom."

Jesse's Pawdograph

Monday, April 25, 2011

"Ruff Justice" Part 1

Jesse The Guide Dog

Hi, everyone!

It's me, Jesse-Zack's little brother and I'm trying my pawmanship at this writing stuff, just like my big brother!

For those of you who have not yet met me, I'm a handsome yellow boy, too; but a little longer in the legs and thinner in the body than Zack. Aunt Laurel says I'm Mom's basketball player and Zack is her football player!

Oh, I'm every bit as smart as Zack-maybe even a little bit smarter than he is and I really, really love to take my mom places.

Today we began our first day on Jury Duty. Mom got the summons about 3 weeks ago and scheduled our paratransit bus system to come pick us up this morning at 8am. We got up around 6am and by the time Mom took Zack, Smokey and me out to "busy", got herself dressed and ready, fed us all and took us all back out for our morning constitutional, it was time for me to get ready, too.

"Oh, boy! Mom's got the "furminator"! It feels so good when Mom runs that fine-toothed steel comb throughout my fur and remove all the dead stuff! As always, she's reaching for the baby-wipes now! I'm gonna smell gooood!"

Well, the bus got here around 7:45am and, after we let out a lady in Northwoods Mall and picked up 2 others on James Island, we finally arrived at the courthouse. Our driver was really nice and very sorry for not getting us there earlier. Mom just smiled and thanked her as we exited the bus. Like Mom always says, "God puts us where He wants us when He wants us there, regardless of what we may think our schedules are."

When we got off the bus I guided Mom down a long walkway to an iron gate and then made a right turn, just like she directed me. Immediately I began to search for the door and found one of those funny revolving doors. Mom and I were inside the revolving door when Mom felt some resistance and the door began to push us backwards. On the other side of the glass door was an elderly gentleman, frantically telling us that we had to use another door.

"What's up with this, Mom? We were almost in the building when he made us turn around and go back out."

A nice lady met us at the other door and offered to escort us through security. When she grabbed Mom's arm and began pulling on her, Mom just told her to pat her leg and she'd give me the command to follow her.

A bit confused and a whole lot impressed, we were soon at the security gates. As Mom handed over her purse, she told the officers that both she and I would set off the alarm.

"Hey! You all be careful with Mom's bag! That has my cookies in there!"

In no time we were through the security gates and had retrieved Mom's purse when another nice lady offered to take us to room 279 or, The Jury Assembly Room. Obviously not familiar how to be a sighted guide, she grabbed Mom by the arm and began to pull. Once again Mom smiled and told the lady to simply pat her leg and that I would follow her. This lady was really cool about it and kept looking down to watch me work.

We got off the elevator and went down a long hallway to a big room full of people. Everyone had to stand up as their names were called and tell their occupations, ages and the occupations of their spouses. Boring! That took forever; but, I took advantage of the "down time" and grabbed a couple of winks.

Later, a man in a robe came out and had folks line up against the wall. We were included in that group. As we were trying to follow them to where ever we needed to go, another nice lady grabbed Mom by the elbow and insisted we go with her on the elevator.

We caught up with the rest of our group and were herded into a very, very little room where another man in a robe started talking about exemptions. There weren't enough chairs for all of us, so one of the deputies brought one in for Mom to sit in. I immediately took my place underneath her.

We stayed in there for about an hour and, when Mom's name was called as a potential juror, the defense attorneys politely asked for her to be excused. Mom said it was because it was a criminal case and the defense attorneys were afraid that Mom would be more inclined to take the side of the prosecution, since Mom's brother, Uncle Bill, is a law enforcement officer.

When they filled all the juror's seats and that of an alternate, we were excused for lunch. Since we were in the back of the room, we were the first to leave, but the others must have really been in a hurry because they began shoving and pushing Mom out of the way.

A nice lady came over and directed us to another elevator. Mom asked her where their relief area was and the nice lady was stymied. She admitted that she didn't know what a relief area was.

Mom smiled and said that she needed to take me to use the bathroom. The lady's confusion quickly turned into disbelief as she said, "Oh, he has to go outside!"

"Yes, I know," Mom replied. Can you direct me to a grassy area outside?"

"Oh, that would have to be downstairs," the nice lady answered proudly.

I led Mom off the elevator and back down that long ramp, where the security gates were.

"Come on, Mom! I can find the door out!"

Soon we were outside and walking down a long walkway when I spotted a nice patch of grass.

"Boy! Was that ever a long time coming!"

Mom told me that she wasn't hungry, but wanted to give me a little snack and a cool drink of water. Somehow, our bottle of water never made it through security so we had to find another restroom for Mom to get me a cool drink (out of the sink, of course).

Once again we headed through the revolving doors and actually made it inside when a uniformed officer ran over to help us.

"Where do you want to go, ma'am?" the lady asked.

"I need to find a restroom so I can give my little boy a drink, " Mom answered.

Obviously very confused, the lady said, "You mean the dog?"

"Yes ma'am," Mom replied. "Just tell me how to get to the restroom, please."

The lady began to point as she said, "just go right over there."

"I don't see," Mom said, "so if you're pointing you're going to have to point really loud for me to see you!"

"Just go right there by that man in the gray suit!"

"Ma'am, if you can, please put your hands in your pockets and verbally direct me to the restroom.:

Thoroughly confused and disgusted, the lady told Mom that she didn't think she could and we'd have to just follow her. Thankfully, another more understanding lady came over and led us to the restroom, where Mom gave me a much needed and greatly appreciated drink of cool water from the sink in my travel bowl, followed by a nice peanut butter cookie.

As we exited the restroom, another one of those uniformed ladies offered assistance. Mom thanked her and told her that she wanted to go back to room 279 and wait until everyone returned from lunch.

Now, I'm not sure what that lady thought she heard or how she processed Mom's request, but instead of going upstairs on the elevator; we were soon outside again, headed for the snack bar. When Mom questioned our location, a couple of deputy sheriffs came to our rescue and instructed the lady to take us to room 279.

Back through the security gates, on the elevator and down the hall, we finally reached the Jury Assembly Room. We waited there for about 2 hours and were finally dismissed for the day, with instructions to call a special number after 6pm to find out if we needed to return tomorrow.

We were standing out under the portico on Broad Street, waiting for the paratransit bus, when Uncle Bill walked up and offered to take us home.

"Finally! Someone with good sense!"

Mom recanted our day's experience on the way home. Uncle Bill couldn't figure out why the lady took us to the snack bar when we'd asked to go upstairs. Mom told him it was obvious that very few blind folks had ever been called to report for jury duty.

Uncle Bill said he couldn't remember seeing any blind jurors, but that the manager of the snack bar was blind.

"That's it!" Mom shouted. "The lady realized that I am blind and knew the snack bar manager was blind, also. Typical of some sighted folks' intellect regarding the blindness community, she figured she needed to keep us blind folks together."

Uncle Bill wasn't convinced, but Mom was sure that had to be her reasoning.

We finally got back home and I got a much needed nap and a few moments to play. Mom called that special number and found out we have to go back again tomorrow. I can't wait to see what happens then!

I'll keep you guys updated! Until then, stay safe and God bless you all!

Jesse's Pawdograph

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Indiana and Illinois Ministry

Laurel looking at tactile flag with nine-year-olds Christian and Jessica

This spring, God blessed me with two new kids from Indiana. Here I am with nine-year-olds, Christian and Jessica, looking at some really neat tactile representations of the American Flag produced by National Braille Press. We met and spent time together just before my concert at Oak Grove General Baptist Church, Oakland City, IN, Sunday, April 10. Proceeds from this concert helped benefit a special “Road To Orlando Fund,” allowing area blind youth to attend this summer’s National Federation of the Blind Convention. My thanks to teacher Jeanne Lee, and the families of these beautiful kids, for the joy of meeting and staying in touch with them!

Laurel sings to congregation of Trinity UMC

Sunday morning found me presenting The Message In Music at Trinity United Methodist Church, also in Oakland City. It was great to meet and share in Worship with Pastor Larry Stoops and his congregation!

Laurel and Carolyn at Trinity UMC

My friend, Carolyn who often drives for me, came over to Indiana from Springfield, IL. Here we are by the beautiful stained glass window at Trinity UMC.

picture of river

Saturday, April 9, after visiting with Mark, Grandpa Ed, and the guys on Princeton Radio Station WRAY Country Gold, Carolyn and I enjoyed an afternoon in New Harmony, IN. We visited the Roofless Church, a must-see if you’re ever in New Harmony, then walked back to the river.

Laurel climbing up riverbank

Of course, I had to climb down the rocky bank to a spot where I could dangle my bare feet in the water. Carolyn snapped this picture on my ascent back to level ground. She didn’t worry…much!

Laurel and Rev Thompson

During this Southern Indiana weekend, I was blessed to work once again with Rev. Tarrell Thompson, a long-time friend of my ministry and me personally. Here I am with this “adopted dad” of mine after a presentation for the residents of Transcendent Healthcare of Owensville and a visit with Tarrell’s wife, my dear “Mama Lena.”

I spent time sharing music, reading and fun with the students of Home For Your Heart School Evansville, and then Carolyn and I drove over into Illinois.

Laurel with Pastor Linda

Palm Sunday was spent in Rantoul, IL with worship and concert ministry at Bethany Park Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. It is always a joy for me to work with Rev. Linda Trowbridge, who now serves as pastor at this church. She took time to pose with me for a picture by the baby grand piano. I am honored to be her "kid sister in Christ"!

Laurel with Rev. Roedder

My thanks also to Rev. Ken Roedder, another long-time friend and “foster dad” shown here with me at Bethany Park. His generosity, hospitality, help with transportation, fellowship and ongoing support of my ministry mean more than words can express. In appreciation of Ken and his precious wife, Maxine, I was honored to also present a concert for the residents of Tuscola Healthcare Center in the Roedders' home community of Tuscola, IL.

Thank God, and thank you, for your prayers and support which help keep my ministry growing and going!

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

© 2011 by Laurel Jean Walden

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Celebrating Ministry

Laurel, Rev. Thompson and Miss Anna Lee outside of Grace Church

Sunday, March 27, Grace United Methodist Church and Music By Laurel Jean were pleased to welcome Rev. Tarrell Thompson all the way from Owensville, Indiana to Grace’s Celebration Center in Charleston, SC for a presentation of “Who Cares…The Man Behind The Music.” I’m pictured here with Tarrell and our very dear friend, Anna Lee in front of Grace Church. Many were blessed as Tarrell shared his faith journey of sixty-four years in ministry, from his early days serving in a leper colony to his disaster relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina, and beyond! Rev. Tarrell is a long-time friend of Music By Laurel Jean and my outreach on behalf of the blindness community. Over the years of our working together, he has become an “adopted dad” to me.

The Amazing Grace Chancel Choir and musicians from the Grace Alive Praise Band joined me during worship. We really surprised Tarrell with new arrangements of my music inspired by his life and ministry, including the above-mentioned “Who Cares” from my Circuit Rider collection.

Rev. Thompson's cake

Members of Grace, officers of Dixie Land Guide Dog Users, and even one of the young people from my Chaplaincy for Blind Youth gathered at the West Ashley Crab Shack after church, to continue this surprise celebration in honor of Rev. Tarrell and his ministry. We presented him with this cake, a creation of Grace’s resident cake decorator Bart Knapp. The cross and flame pictured on the cake is an image of one of Rev. Tarrell’s many handcrafted crosses and flames which he has donated to religious institutions around the country.

Laurel and Rev. Thompson with cake

My heartfelt thanks to the people of Grace Church, Dixie Land officers and other friends who helped to make this day so special!

Anna Lee, Laurel, Tarrell, Audrey and Jesse at Angel Oak

During Rev. Tarrell’s visit to Charleston, Audrey and her guide dog Jesse joined Tarrell, Anna Lee and me for several sightseeing outings. Here we all are at the beautiful Angel Oak tree, one of the Lowcountry’s many natural wonders.

Laurel and Tarrell at the ocean


Of course, in spite of uncooperative weather, we had to visit the ocean. Anna Lee snapped this picture of Tarrell and me walking together on the beach. I always feel very close to Father God when I am at the ocean, on the edge of one of God’s most magnificent creations. What a blessing, what a gift, to be there with one of our Lord’s very special shepherds.

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

© 2011 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!