Smoky Mountain Strong

Laurel FallsThis 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 and “Follow” her on Twitter at You can buy her books: Call Me Lizzy, Henry Listens Harder, and Sober by the Grace of God on and


This Too Shall Pass


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.”