Music By Laurel Jean

Music By Laurel Jean
Music with a Message and a Mission

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

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dinner In The Dark

Recently, Dixie Land Guide Dog Users partnered with Grace United Methodist Church and Music By Laurel Jean, challenging sighted folks in the Lowcountry area to come enjoy an admission-free, donations-only spaghetti dinner…blindfolded. To our surprise and delight, around two hundred people accepted our invitation to dine in the dark.

guests enjoying Dinner In The Dark

Saturday January 29, guests ranging in age from eleven months to ninety-six years were greeted enthusiastically by our trained, sighted volunteers at the door of the Grace UMC Celebration Center. Those who asked for blindfolds received them and put them on at the door. Then, these “newly-blinded” guests were escorted to their tables. Our volunteers had been instructed in how to show a blind person to his/her chair and how to orient a blind person with table settings, food and drinks.

Some people left their blindfolds on throughout the entire evening. Others became dizzy and disoriented and had to remove their blindfolds. All left with a new appreciation of what it is like to “see things differently”.

Laurel at microphone

In addition to serving as a musical emcee for this exciting “fun-raiser”, I was honored to assist with the event’s organization and the training of volunteers.

Grace Youth learn to be sighted guides

Here, two youth from Grace UMC help each other to learn the sighted guide technique. After everyone had learned to be a sighted guide, we asked if anyone would like to try navigating around the youth house using Slim, my long white cane.

youth experiment navigating with long, white cane

The youth were ready for the challenge. I think they did pretty well, having only been blinded for less than five minutes and having no formal mobility training whatsoever!

Youth director Bruce tries using the cane

Even Bruce, Grace’s youth director, took his turn walking around the room with Slim.

For me, our version of Dinner In The Dark felt more like a big family gathering than an outreach event. Barriers came down as sighted and blind people alike enjoyed food and fellowship, music and laughter. My thanks to the families of Brianna, Taylor and Shelby, all blind youth of the Lowcountry, for their involvement in this event.

Brianna playing her violin

Brianna, a high school honor student at Charleston School of the Arts, helped provide dinner music with her violin. It is always a joy for me to accompany her violin playing at the piano.

Taylor and Shelby each took a turn sharing their vocal talent.

Taylor singing


Taylor had everyone clapping their hands and patting their feet to a rousing rendition of “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus.”

So many people and organizations helped make this community outreach possible, and it was truly an honor for Music By Laurel Jean to be a part of this “eye-opening” event!

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, January 17, 2011

Top Dog 2011

Brianna reads for 2011 Blessing of the Guides

One of “my” SC kids, Brianna, reads Scripture as part of the 2011 Top Dog “Blessing of the Guides”. This year’s Top Dog Workshop was held in Orlando, FL, hosted by Guide Dog Users of Florida.

Brianna plays violin for Blessing

I was honored to accompany Brianna at the piano, as she also played her violin for this special service.

The Blessing kicked off a day of workshops, fun and fellowship, and the convention concluded with a delightful banquet.

Laurel plays for banquet

Here I am at the banquet.

While others attended specialized workshops during the day, I was blessed with a visit from my technical assistant Arleigh Baker and his beautiful wife, Diane.

Laurel with Arleigh and Diane

For me, a visit with Diane and Arleigh is like a visit with “Mom and Pop”. I can’t imagine my life without these two precious people in it. I love them dearly and am always thankful for the opportunity to spend time with them.

The hotel housing the convention was pet-friendly, so my beloved Zettie got to join in on the fun, too! She’s come a long way from the shelter life from which I adopted her in 2002.

Laurel with Zettie


To reiterate, Zettie is not a guide dog. She takes a lot of pride in her job as my chief home security and morale officer, when she’s not holding down the couch, of course!

My thanks to Dixie Land Guide Dog Users, the Charleston, SC Association for the Blind, Guide Dog Users of Florida, and the many other sponsors who made it possible for Music By Laurel Jean to be part of Top Dog 2011!

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, January 13, 2011

Sharing God's gifts

Laurel donating blood


This year, I made a personal commitment to “give the gift of life” on a regular basis. Here I am donating blood for the very first time at a Red Cross blood drive held at Citadel Mall in Charleston, SC.

I thank God for my ongoing Christian Faith, physical health and personal independence—all of which have led me to do this. I pray that others in good health will be inspired to do the same!

God is good…All the Time!

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

© 2011 by Laurel Jean Walden

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Very Special Gift

Laurel with friend Joyce Gresh

Here I am with my good friend, Joyce Gresh of Charleston, SC. Raised in a traditional Jewish home, Joyce converted to Christianity in her teens and has since witnessed the Christian conversion of several family members (including her mom). I am inspired by her amazing testimony and will never forget her words, “My Christianity makes my Judaism complete.”

Recently, Joyce took time out of her busy schedule to give me a precious gift. I have always been interested in Jewish history and culture and have done a lot of reading, but being blind and raised in a rather isolated rural area prevented me from really getting to experience that culture firsthand.

Laurel with items of Jewish worship and prayer

Joyce invited me into her home and allowed me to examine treasured items used in Jewish worship. I’m pictured here with the Tzitzit and Tallit, Yarmulke, Tefillin, menorahs, and the Passover Seder plate. She allowed me to wear the Tzitzit and Tallit, Yarmulke and Tefillin in order to get an idea of how they would be worn in Worship and prayer. I was especially moved by the Seder plate, which contained Hebrew writing in raised, embossed letters I could actually feel!

Laurel stirring Matzo

After examining these items, I got to make my first pot of homemade Matzo ball soup! We made the matzo balls from scratch. I will never forget the delicious smell of the matzo meal with spices as I mixed them together!

Laurel stirring matzo with hands

When the dough became very thick, Joyce told me to use my hands to stir it. Of course, that meant I had to taste the dough…Yummy!

Laurel making matzo ball

Here I am making matzo balls and adding them to the pot of soup, and what a pot of soup it was!

Laurel at table

The real treat was sitting down with my dear friend and sister in Christ for this special meal. Before we blessed the food, Joyce read the following Scripture, “Deuteronomy, 6:4-8: Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, The Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your means. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart. And you shall teach them to your children And speak of them when you sit in your home, when you walk up the way, when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be an ornament for your head between your eyes."

Laurel tasting matzo ball soup


Ah, my first taste of the soup! There is really nothing like it! We had gefilte fish and matzo as an appetizer, also a first for me.

Before I left that day, Joyce gave me a mezuzah for my Charleston, SC headquarters (Oh yes, and the rest of that big pot of soup!). This was truly a blessed day for me, which really made me feel even closer to my Savior and His Word.

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

© 2011 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!