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.
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.