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 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.

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New Year – New Reason to Stay Sober

sober-by-the-grace-of-god-rack-card

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.

Stretching My Wings

When I Mitchell and monarchtaught school, I used to have my class bring in Monarch caterpillars they would find on milkweed near their homes. Sometimes we would have 6 or 8 caterpillars brought in at the same time. We watched them feed on milkweed leaves and grow big and fat in a discarded fish tank with a screen lid on it.

How we enjoyed watching the caterpillars climb laboriously up the sides of the fish tank, attach themselves to the screen at the top and hang upside down until the seemingly miraculous moment when they would shed their skin and turn into a chrysalis. After about a week, they would break out of that chrysalis, with much struggle, and stretch their new wings out to dry. If anywhere along the way, we tried to help the caterpillars get to to the top or help the butterflies get out of their chrysalis, they would die. They had to go through the struggle. It made them stronger in the end.

As a writer, I felt many times like I was that caterpillar, struggling to get my words on paper and edit, edit, edit. Then patiently wait for the rejection letters that never gave me any helpful advice. And finally, after an excruciating time of waiting, I find out that someone thinks my book is worthy to be published! Amazing!

At last I am that butterfly who has emerged and has to stretch her wings. I am doing things to promote my book that are foreign to this elementary teacher. It is always hard for me to promote myself. I have had to become a public speaker, which turns out to be very fun and rewarding. I have sat long hours in Author Fairs with 20 other authors where all of us only sold a few books. I have had book signings at more coffee shops than I can remember and I don’t even like coffee.

Now I have been to two schools to do an all day Author Visit and it has been wonderful. It was not because I signed books, but because I was back in the classroom doing what I loved to do for so many years; teach. I try to teach at least two test standards that I know elementary students will encounter; poetry and figurative language. I use excerpts from my books and talk about becoming an author. It has been great!

Very soon I will be sitting at a booth at the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio talking with moms about my book and how they might use it in their homeschooling. I am still stretching my wings and hopefully one of these days, I am going to fly.

(Mary is available for Elementary school visits for the 2016-2-17 school year. Email her at booksbymarywilkinson@gmail.com)

This Too Shall Pass

tomatoes

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.”