This past week my husband, daughter, and I went on a short four day vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains. We stayed at a lovely resort called the Sunrise Ridge Resort just out of Pigeon Forge. It was close to the Great Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. What a wonderful place to stop and reconnect with your family!
We were anxious to see the damage done by the fires from the past year. Several times as we drove through this iconic area, we saw signs that said, “Smoky Mountain Strong.” We saw lots of black areas of burned trees in the Smoky Mountain park and on the road into Gatlinburg, but Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg seemed unaffected now over 7 months after the fires.
Some attractions were not open yet like the Gatlinburg Sky Lift. It sustained a great deal of damage during the fires. Everything at the top of the lift, and even the huge poles that held the cables, had to be replaced. They are set to reopen before summer. Most other attractions are up and running.
It rained constantly for two of our 4 days of vacation. It was too wet to visit the park, so we went to some shows in Pigeon Forge. The two we saw were The Hatfields and McCoy Diner Theater and The Comedy Club. I would recommend them to anyone as both were family friendly. We also visited my husband’s favorite place, The Smoky Mountain Knife Works. He bought a few knives and even two skillets for me! Driving around in Pigeon Forge, you would have never known that a fire had been near that area, but once we got on the road to The Great Smoky Mountain Park we began to see the evidence that had been left behind.
Cabins built into the sides of the mountain were destroyed with only the stone fireplaces showing. Black trees, and areas cleared by the fire, were very near Gatlinburg proper. Some trails, used for a hundred years, were littered with charred trees, yet Cade’s Cove looked to be totally unharmed.
The spring had produced some budding in trees that were only black at their bases. Grasses and flowers sprang up through the park. All of the trees that were not affected brought forth the glory of God. The park was Smoky Mountain strong because our God is strong! The picture above is Laurel Falls. A three mile hike through both burned and beautiful landscape brought us to this falls. Once there, you cannot help but think of the God who crafted it all.
In spite of the destruction we witnessed, there was so much hope everywhere. Shops and restaurants opened their doors and welcomed everyone in like they had done for years. This area of Tennessee is not shutting down because of a careless act. They are rebuilding, renewing, and forging ahead. They are “Smoky Mountain Strong” and God is applauding their efforts of renewal! Make the Great Smoky Mountains a part of your vacation plans this summer. You won’t regret it.
Mary T. Wilkinson, a retired elementary teacher, lives with her husband, Paul, in Indiana. She writes inspirational fiction and non-fiction, but most days you will find her babysitting her young grandchildren. Mary is a public speaker and does Author Visits in elementary schools. Please “Like” Mary on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Mary-T-Wilkinson-700254123347586/ and “Follow” her on Twitter at twitter.com/MaryTWilkinson. You can buy her books: Call Me Lizzy, Henry Listens Harder, and Sober by the Grace of God on Amazon.com and Lulu.com.
2017 is a new year and I published a new book. It is the biography of my parents- Don and Theresa Wenning. The title is Sober by the Grace of God- One Alcoholic’s Story, because it was by God’s grace that my father started to love God, his wife, and children more than the bottle. If you’ve made a resolution to drink less this year, or to stop drinking, this book will encourage you to keep that resolution.
My dad became an alcoholic in the Navy during WWII. When he came home, he married my mother and tried to live a normal life as a husband and father. But his life was a mess. He and Mom had 13 children, of which I was the second oldest. For the first decade of my life Dad couldn’t figure out why he had so many problems, why he kept getting fired from his jobs, and why his wife kept harping on him for his drinking. He came to the conclusion that he was going to have to get up every day and drink all day for the rest of his life. He decided he was worth more to his wife and children dead than alive. He attempted suicide, but God intervened and kept him from going through with it.
Then on his birthday, August 13, 1964, he ended up in a jail cell with broken ribs and a contrite heart. It finally occurred to him that he was a sinner and heading to hell. He got on his knees and asked God to forgive him and to take over his life. That was the beginning of his sobriety and he stayed sober until he died at the age of 77. He’d been sober for 39 years and helped countless other alcoholics to reach sobriety.
Don and Theresa’s story is amazing and full of hope for anyone who is affected by alcohol’s grip on their life or the lives of their loved ones. A copy of this book can be purchased on Lulu.com or Amazon.com. Don’t let alcohol ruin another year for you and those you love. Let 2017 be the year that you “Let Go and Let God” be in control of your life; not alcohol.
by Mary T. Wilkinson
Everybody has a story, but not everyone wants to share it. “Oh, I’m not an author,” you say. “Nothing I have done is worthy of being shared.” How wrong you are. Each person alive has lived with struggles, awakenings, and putting their faith into action. Why should you share your story? Here are a few reasons.
You have been through the same situations we will face in the future. Did you ever notice that certain problems are the same during all generations. You lived through yours. You overcame. You now have wisdom to face those problems in a different way. How did you overcome? That information will keep us from making the same mistakes. If you don’t want to tell it to a wide audience, why not tell it to your loved ones who need to be steered in the right direction so they don’t have to suffer what you did. Share your story with your children. They will be the ones to benefit from it the most.
Your story can inspire us. It can tell those closest to you that life is worth the effort. Love is amazing, Forgiveness is healing, and God can be trusted with all of it. I have just finished writing the life story of my 95 yr. old mother-in-law, Anna. I titled it “A Really Good Life” because that is what she always says when you ask her how living 95 years has been. Her book is inspiring to me. She had a good life, but it wasn’t always an easy life. To hear of how her faith was an integral part of everything she did, gives me hope that living out my faith will have the same results; a good life and a hope for eternity to come. Share your story with your close friends and relatives. It will be a treasure to them.
Stories can be for just one person. If you are married, why not tell your spouse how much you love them in writing this year? Tell them why you fell in love with them. Tell them what qualities you still admire in them today. Tell them what a good mom or dad they have been to your children. Tell them of your devotion and desire to have no one but them for the rest of your days together. First of all your spouse will probably be shocked. Then they will kiss you and hug you and maybe cry a little. Most will save that piece of paper or card in a safe place so they can look at it over and over. After all, your years with that person are part of your story and their story combined. Make somebody happy this Valentine’s weekend by sharing your story.
I welcome to my blog site Mr. Ranny Grady, or as his readers know him, Doc Christian. Ranny is a fellow writer and blogger who has been a mentor to me. He is not only a writer of books but a publisher as well. His newest novel is titled The Theophany- Sonlight Restored to a Dark World. See his website link below to order a copy for yourself.
When 9 Christian students from Umpqua Community College were murdered in their classroom this past fall, I had no words to write about this horrific act. Ranny had just the right words. I think you will enjoy his condensed guest blog post. The entire post may be read at the link at the bottom. Thank you, Ranny, for speaking on this subject.
MARTYRS by Ranny Grady
In the rural area of southern Oregon, located near the Umpqua River, lie, Umpqua Community College, and October first, its 740 fulltime and 2,437 part-time students were waking up to another beautiful Fall day. Its interim president, Dr. Rita Cavin, was probably in her office ready to meet the day’s events.
The students arriving for the class in the Science lab, were a diverse, eclectic group of people taking on the day. One might say, “Things were normal, possibly a bit mundane, as the school grind moved ahead another day.”
For one student, that formula didn’t apply. A mentally disturbed, recently discharged from the military as ‘unfit for duty’, Chris Harper Mercer, put his plan into action: he was angry, lonely, disaffected, and wanted the world to pay for his perceived lack of success. His mind had been twisted by Muslim association and terrorist propaganda, (this information was recovered when his apartment was searched, and his internet connection was found) and his hate for anything or anybody connected with the Bible and Christian religion. Evidently, he had become convinced his life would suddenly have value if he made a public statement, a lasting legacy the world couldn’t ignore and wouldn’t ever forget. He did!
He forced his way into the classroom in the Science lab, with a cache of weapons, and systematically murdered nine students and wounded many others before he was shot, wounded, and then took his own life.
The media reported this horrible carnage, but often failed to report why certain students were shot and others just wounded. It would be a while before the wounded victims would reveal, and the media would reluctantly report, when asked by the Satanist shooter, if they were a Christian, nine died when they answered in the affirmative.
What thoughts do you suppose ran through those student believers as they faced Satan’s man? “Holy God, I just came to school to get my degree. I’m never going to graduate, I’m never going to get married, have children, or become a doctor, nurse, lawyer, teacher, or live to see grandchildren. It’s not supposed to end this way! Christians are killed by terrorists…from places thousands of miles from Oregon. I’m too young to die for Jesus! Sweet Jesus, he shot Joe on my right, Jennie or my left, I’m next.” Who amongst us Pilgrims would have answered, knowing we were number nine?
At first glance, perhaps some Pilgrims consider the idea of martyrdom as some near-death- defying romantic act found in the pages of Church History, replete with torture on the rack and flayed skin, found on the shoulders of faithful warriors wearing togas and sandals. In the land of Muslims, black scarfs cover the faces of the Satan worshippers, as the heads of Christians are lopped off, then and now. Who could have spotted today’s martyrs? Young people wearing ‘”Skinny jeans, NFL jerseys, and any number of items from Under Armor or North Face are now targets of evil assassins marching on the orders from the Prince of the Air.
From all Doc Christian can learn about this tragic event, one remarkable fact rises above all others. The college campus doesn’t have an Inter Varsity Christian college chapter (perhaps, in the aftermath of this evil carnage attack, the President might seriously entertain the idea of inviting Inter Varsity to establish a chapter at the college), yet, in one class, there were a minimum of nine Christian students. I’d have bet you could travel to any non- Christian college campus in America and you wouldn’t find nine students who would sacrifice their life by choosing to be martyrs for Christ.
From Peter, James and John, the extra Apostle, Paul, grafted in by Jesus as a missionary to the Gentiles, to famous names: Joan of Arc, Cromwell, and the many missionaries who lost their lives trying to convert Satan’s people, believers have died for Christ’s sake Martyrs, everyone, and they echo the words of Christ found in the Beatitude’s. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Righteousness means a “right relationship with Jesus’. Jesus said it empathically, “It will take his righteousness to get a Pilgrim to heaven.”
Scripture teaches Pilgrims it is our duty to our savior to choose to die for him each day as we demonstrate the biblical principles we choose to live by are more important to us than anything the world has to offer. Do we believe this?
What we all can take pride in is that when given a choice to affirm or deny the deity of Christ, nine young students in Oregon chose to die with the name of Jesus’ on their lips. Might we all die as well.
As a farm girl born and raised in Union County, I was an avid 4-H member and at age 16, while at the fair watching the dog show, I knew, in one of those rare lightning-bolt moments, exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up: A newspaper reporter!
I wanted to be just like the pretty young intern traipsing around the show ring in her sundress, notebook in hand, camera around neck.
And for the past 32 years, I’ve been that girl. Or at least that’s how I’ve thought of myself, even though my girlhood days are long gone. I love telling people’s stories, and for the past 26 years, I’ve told them (and still do) at the New Castle Courier-Times.
I always tell people I’m glad this worked out because I really don’t have any other talents or career dreams. Or at least I didn’t.
Seven years ago, at the cliché age of 50, the Empty Nest Syndrome hit me hard. Along with newspapering, I had devoted most of my adult life to raising my husband Brian’s and my two sons. I loved everything about being a mom: the baseball and soccer games, being a room mother or dugout mom, hearing all the details of what was going in in their lives. Then in one day: they both moved out! One was bound for an apartment and the other, back to sophomore year at college.
The house felt haunted by my missing their presence. I missed them so badly and couldn’t imagine what God could possibly have for me to do next that would be anywhere near as fulfilling as spending my time with these two sons.
It wasn’t long before Brian, who wasn’t feeling the least upset about any of this, told me that maybe when we retired we would return to my hometown of Liberty. For whatever reason, and I feel it was God’s instruction and direction, Brian’s comment snapped me out of my funk. I started thinking about what our life might be like if we did move back to my hometown – and about other things God might have in store for my life right then, and right now, where I was, and where I am.
I had always dreamed of having a bed and breakfast and a story came to me about having one in my hometown. From there, these various characters “showed up” in my mind, and I wrote about them. Pretty soon it was obvious that I was writing a real book.
The central theme for my novel’s main character, Samantha, is this: God has something for her in every season of life if she will just trust Him with her life.
And the truth of it is, in reality, not just in a novel, He has something for me, and for you, too.
The resulting book, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, has been and continues to be a delight in my life. Women tell me how much they enjoy the story, how they related to Samantha, how they tried the recipes in the back of the book, and enjoyed the scriptures I included for reference.
I have gotten to experience things and meet and visit with people I never would have otherwise. I’ve given speeches and a program on women’s bucket lists, to groups of a few in a woman’s home to banquets and teas for a couple of hundred. Each venue is different and I am having so much fun, I decided to write a second novel, which continues this story, and comes out next summer.
If you are reading this anywhere in Indiana, and need a speaker for your home ec club, church ladies group, women’s tea, mother-daughter banquet, Red Hatters Club or any other venue, I would be honored if you would consider giving me a call or emailing and we’ll talk about tailoring a program for your group. I give an audience-participation program on women’s bucket lists that makes for a fun activity.
And if you would like to read my book, it’s available from me or on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions. I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org or call, 317-224-7028. And I want to thank Mary for allowing me to be her guest blogger. I welcome readers to my author page on Facebook at Donna Cronk or to my blog at donnacronk.weebly.com.
Recently we had a great weather event when summer showed up again after temperatures had dropped into the 40’s. It was in the 70’s for a week and in late October that’s a pretty wonderful thing here in Indiana. If you live in a four season state, you can understand what I am talking about.
We’d already had our nights of frost, even one night when it froze, so our tomato plants had to be covered in order for them to continue to live. On one of these plants, there were three or four very big green tomatoes; the slicing size. When the first night of frost was predicted, they were still green, so we covered them up. Now due to the Indian Summer we had, they received warmth again and finally started to ripen. A few days later, the weather changed once more and we had to bring them all inside to finish ripening on our kitchen counter.
Soon the snow will fall, and after that spring will come. Then summer will return to be swallowed up by fall once again. That is just the way it goes for seasons and for life. God promised that the seasons would never stop until He comes back, and so far they haven’t. He is a faithful God.
My dad had an adage he repeated everytime he was experiencing a low period in his life; “This too shall pass.” Not only does it work everytime when you are experiencing a low period, but the good times do not last either. They are like the seasons; seasons of our lives. One following another, good and bad, but always changing. Are you in a low season of your life? Have hope, because it will pass. Are you in a good season in your life? Unfortunately that will change too over time.
My tomato plant was having the time of its life making big slicing tomatoes, until a frost came and threatened to throw it into a bad time. We humans helped it out by covering it so the frost would not kill it. We allowed it to live under the covering until the Indian Summer arrived and it once again thrived in the warmth of the sun.
What does that have to do with you? We have a heavenly Father who covers us when we are in our lowest valleys. He hides us under the cover of his wings. Psalm 91:4 says, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
That tomato plant needed me to cover it during frost and freezing temperatures. I need God to cover me with His wings in times of trial and suffering. Your bad times will not feel as bad, when you remember who is covering you. Before you know it, the bad time will have passed. And after it, you may have a refreshing season that could be your Indian Summer. Rejoice in those special times while they are here. Whatever the season in life, “This too shall pass.”