As fall arrives I keep an eye on the trees in East Tennessee, looking for the first changing leaves, wondering when the autumn colors will begin to pop out in our neighborhood, along the highways, and in the Smoky Mountains. As the chlorophyll production, that causes the leaves to stay green, stops, the actual hidden colors of the leaves appear—the oranges, reds, yellows, and golden browns—giving us a glorious show before the leaves finally fall. The longevity and beauty of the fall colors every year are affected by temperature, rainfall, frosts, winds, storms and other natural factors. But generally, the trees in East Tennessee begin to change color by mid to late October, and into early November, so that by Thanksgiving most trees, except the evergreens, are bare.

We sometimes grow anxious about changes in our lives, but trees don’t. As Donald Miller wrote: “All the trees are losing their leaves and not one of them is worried.” A popular quote on Facebook right now, adds: “The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let things go” [anon]. Trees provide many wise lessons for us and these are some of the lessons I think trees teach us about life:

Lesson 1: Trees show us that good things begin small and that growth takes time…. “Even the tallest trees always begin as a seed.” [A.J. Darkholme]… “The day you plant a seed is not the day you eat the fruit” [anon] …Trees remind us that all big and beautiful things in the natural world begin small. They show us the hidden potential in ordinary things, and the importance of steady, constant growth. Growth always takes time and ongoing patience, a lesson we can learn from in a world that is often pushing, rushing, and marked by impatience. Trees remind us, too, that we need to grow deep roots before reaching further upward.

Lesson 2: Trees teach us we need to develop strong roots to live wisely and well. . . .   “A tree with strong roots laughs at storms.” [Malay Proverb]… “A tree has roots in the soil yet reaches to the sky. It tells us that in order to aspire we need to be grounded and that no matter how high we go it is from our roots that we draw sustenance.” [Wangari Maathai] … Strong, deep roots help trees—and us—weather the inevitable storms of life. When difficulties and tragedies come to trees, breaking their branches, stripping their leaves, bringing hardship, they stand strong and patient through it all, gradually recovering and continuing to grow and flourish and fruit. They adapt to the problems and seasons of life that come their way with a calm strength we can learn from.

Lesson 3: Trees illustrate to us the beauty of diversity and the joy of individuality….     “In a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are alike. And no two journeys along the same path are alike.” [Paulo Coelho]…Trees represent life, growth, peace and nature—with over 60,000 different types of trees.” [Laylee Brensenaki]… Except in fanciful storybooks, no tree yearns to be like another tree or envies another. Each is what it is, true to itself, growing to its best self and type. Trees show us the beauty of diversity and teach us that we are each meant to be unique and not all the same. We need to remain always true to ourselves, fulfilling our own unique purpose to the best of our abilities, like the trees do.

Lesson 4: Trees provide a role model of giving, sharing, and contributing to others. “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree.” [Joyce Kilmer] … “Trees are constantly working to make earth a healthier planet … Trees provide shelter and food for a variety of birds and small animals…. And they make a difference in lives and in the world.” [Natural Wildlife Federation] … Trees are givers. They provide beauty to the earth, inspiring us, and they work in many ways to make the world better for others beyond themselves. Birds nest in their branches, and many animals live in, on, and around trees and depend on them to survive. Trees give shade freely, provide fruit, nuts, or flowers according to type, showing us a giving role model. In a world in which most are “all about themselves.” trees show us the goodness of sharing and of living in community wisely, contributing to the good of others as well as growing to become the best they can be.

Lesson 5: Trees help to exemplify that every season of life has its beauty and merit….    “I feel a great regard for trees; they represent age and beauty and the miracles of life and growth.” [Louise Dickinson Rich]…“To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven… [and] everything is beautiful in its time.” [Ecc 3:11, KJV Bible]… There is beauty in every season of a tree, and trees show us how each season of life brings its own unique grace and wonder. In the Fall trees display glorious beauty even during a time of hard change. In the quiet and cold of winter, trees rest and put down deeper roots. In the Spring, they burst forth with newness, budding with new growth, freshness and joy. And in the deep of Summer, they grow rich, abundant, and warm with life. We pass through our seasons of life, too, not only broadly over our lifetime from birth to death … but in an ongoing manner as the days and seasons we live through ebb and flow, one into another. The trees teach us how to change, and move through the seasons of life with grace and a positive and right attitude, growing and becoming better and stronger, seeing the beauty and possibilities in each season and time. Trees never get stuck in one time or season either and they never retire from the wonder of life.

Walt Whitman suffered an early stroke in his life and claimed coming into close touch with nature, and learning from it, helped him recover. Horace Kephart similarly found emotional healing in coming to the Smoky Mountains. There is a deep comfort in nature available to us that we often ignore, and a deep comfort in trees. They represent life, the wonder and beauty of growth, strength, stability, wisdom, and peace. For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers,” Herman Hesse wrote. “Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree.”

Like the old Sound of Music song I go to the mountains and hills, the parks and out-of-doors, when my heart needs a lift or is lonely. I know the beauty of nature, the richness of the trees, will help to recharge me, bring me new inspiration, reconnect me to my goals, to myself, and to my faith. As John Muir wrote: “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” So…”Get lost in the trees every now and then; it’s good for the soul.

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.



September 2021 – LATE BLOOMERS

September 7th is Grandma Moses Day. Reading about her life was a positive story reminder to me that it’s never too late to pursue dreams and goals, never too late to learn, and never too late to create a life you love.

Grandma Moses life is such an inspirational one. Anna Mary Robertson Moses, born on September 7th, 1860, didn’t begin painting in earnest until in her seventies. She grew up one of ten children on a big farm, married Thomas Moses at seventeen, and ran a farm with him while raising their five children. When arthritis made embroidery more difficult in her sixties, she began dabbling with paint, mixing leftover house paints to create pictures on old farm board. In her late seventies, when her husband died, she began to paint more, selling some of her primitive folk art paintings, like the one depicted here, in a local drug store. An art collector, Louis Caldor, saw a group of her paintings and bought them, and the next year put them in a New York art exhibit. The public loved Grandma’s simple colorful paintings of rural countryside scenes and farm life, and she soon grew a wide following. From her seventies to her nineties Anna Mary created more than 1,500 paintings and her work was exhibited through the U.S. and abroad. She won many prestigious art awards, was memorialized in books, magazines, and movies. One book about her life you might enjoy is her own autobiography called Grandma Moses: My Life’s History.

So often we think we need to have the right connections, the right training, or a lot of money, to try anything new … but Grandma Moses shows we can often simply begin where we are. If we would. As she wrote: “Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”

Another “Late Bloomer” grandma story I love is of Grandma Gatewood, who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail at sixty-seven, the first woman to hike the entire AT, with no special equipment and a drawstring sack carrying her simple trail needs. It was 1955 and the Appalachian Trail was rougher and less developed then than it is today and few had hiked its length. Emma Gatewood had known a rough life before this date, raising eleven children, enduring an abusive marriage and harsh poverty. When she set out that spring of 1955, she told her children she was “going on a walk,” never offering them any particulars. You can read her remarkable story of that “walk” and her many hikes after in Ben Montgomery’s book Grandma Gatewood’s Walk. Her story shows again what is possible, no matter your age.

It isn’t only grandmas who bloom late. Many men, or grandpas, also pursue new ventures late in their lives, move into new careers, discover new inventions, create new businesses. Some notable examples of late men bloomers are Mark Twain, Morgan Freeman, Colonel Sanders, Albert Einstein, Ray Kroc, and James Michener to name only a few.

I love Harlan David Sanders story. As a young man he did a little of everything—farmer, pilot, salesman. He loved to cook, too, and at mid life opened a restaurant, which failed, leaving him bankrupt. But he didn’t give up his dream or his belief in a fabulous chicken recipe he’d discovered. At 65 years old he used his first Social Security check of $105.00 to begin again and to found the Kentucky Friend Chicken Company, becoming a multimillionaire before he died. He once wrote: “Every failure can be the stepping stone to something better” and he proved that belief to be true.

Albert Einstein is another man who bloomed into greatness in latter life. He was born in Germany in 1879 and considered slow in development and learning as a boy. A late bloomer, he taught himself calculus and geometry and loved physics. He failed the entrance exam for the Federal Polytechnic Institute the first time but tried again and passed later. Einstein struggled in his early adult years, taking menial jobs to get by, and in the scientific field later, people had trouble understanding the importance of his work. He wrote: ‘The ordinary adult never bothers his head about the problems of space and time… but as a child I developed slowly and began to wonder about this.” Einstein’s wonderings, study, and work led to his discovery of the mathematically complex Theory of Relativity in his mid life. His name became synonymous with brilliance and he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921 for his services to Theoretical Physics.

I think both these men’s stories show that people don’t always understand the dreams or talents of others. None of these people had an “easy” life either. A common misconception is that talents, production, and intellectual development peak in young adulthood and decline with age, but this has been disproved time and again by research and by countless individuals who didn’t find their deepest talents and abilities until later in life or who didn’t get the time or life breaks to pursue them earlier in their lives.

For many of us at mid life, or later, there might be many reasons that cause us to push forward to doggedly pursue an old dream despite life’s setbacks or to totally change course to begin pursuing an entirely new dream. Reasons which might lie behind mid life change include:

(1) Termination from a job. Statistics show that businesses are less loyal today than in the past and that 56% of employees are “let go” for various reasons at late midlife so companies can avoid paying retirement benefits and the higher salaries a long-time employee nets.

(2) Demands of life. The busyness and responsibilities of life often keep individuals from reaching for their higher goals and dreams until their latter years.

(3) Unhappy work situations. Discontent and changes in employment situations often push individuals to reevaluate their lives and seek change.

(4) Work retirement. After retirement individuals gain a long “second adulthood” of useful years, freeing them to pursue new dreams, works, and goals.

In all instances, change is hard and never easy. It’s risky. Change forces people to leave “the comfort zone” of their present life and its familiarity. It demands overcoming fears and self-doubts. It requires self analysis and the courage to change in all the ways needed to pursue something “new” and different. Change demands discipline, hard work, and persistence. It also pushes against the innate nature of people to remain comfortably or uncomfortably as they are. Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion reminds us that: “a body at rest tends to stay at rest.” People are governed to a great extent by this law, and it takes a “push” or a “force” from within or without to propel most people into a new path. However, on the positive, Newton’s Law also states that: “a body in motion tends to stay in motion.” So once factors from within, or without, push a person to change – and they get past that first stage of fear, anxiety, and resistance—a move in a new direction may prove very positive and productive indeed.

I hope you can see more now that Late Bloomers are individuals with the zeal and courage to bloom a little later than at the expected time in life … and often in a way no one would have ever expected. Late Bloomers may achieve recognition and success or they may simply find joy in discovering new, rewarding, and useful works and interests. Can you bloom late? Yes! People are living longer and stronger today, and a “wide open” new life period exists for people at mid life who want or need to change direction and for those beyond sixty-five to pursue new interests, new careers, and new pursuits. Be assured, you CAN BLOOM beautifully and bloom well even in midlife or late life. Don’t let anyone convince you that you’re “over the hill” and that it’s “too late to pursue new dreams.” Success and joy in work can happen at any time and at any age … and there are more late bloomers out there than you may think. …I’m one of those Late Bloomers myself and blooming more joyfully every day.

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.


August 17th is “National Thrift Store Day” … so I decided to write my August blog post about thrift shopping. Because we all know people who love to go to Garage Sales or Thrift Stores to find bargains, we tend to think of “thrift shopping” as a norm in our world. However, “repeat sales stores” and “garage sales” are actually a relatively new phenomenon in our world and not everyone loves bargain hunting. A recent research firm found that only about 16-18% of Americans will shop at a thrift store during a given year, and yet resale is a multi-billion dollar industry today—not even considering garage and charity sales. The demographics of thrift store shoppers have changed over time, as well, with a decreasing “stigma” about thrifting. In fact, lower-income shoppers no longer represent the major face of thrift shopping any more, with middle and high-income shoppers now equally drawn to thrift and bargain hunting.

Looking back at the history of garage sales and thrift stores is interesting. Most sources suggest the first garage sales branched out of “rommage” or discount ship cargo sales in Europe in the 1800s, with charity sales later emerging in the churches. Churches and women’s groups later held many early bazaars and rummage sales in Europe and in the U.S. but actual thrift stores didn’t really evolve much until the 1900s. The first thrift stores had their origin through Christian organizations like the Salvation Army, but it wasn’t until the mid to late 1900s that thrift stores and garage sales began to gradually pop up around the U.S. Growing up in South Knoxville, Tennessee, I don’t remember seeing or hearing much about either in the 1960s or 1970s, but by the 1980s both thrift stores, charity sales, and neighborhood garage sales began to become more common.

The “why” is probably because more and more mass-produced disposable goods evolved—and people had more consumer goods to “cast off” or resell. Previously, people bought less household items and clothing goods and passed them down within the family, among neighbors or friends, or donated them to charities. In addition, early resale stores were not attractive or appealing to the general public. Today many thrift stores are cleaner, neater, and more appealing to shop in, often arranged to emulate department stores in design.

I began “thrift shopping” in my early-married years in the 1970s when setting up house in our first home and when our children were babies. My parents started “thrift shopping” in the same time period—helping to look for items for their grandchildren and discovering the bargains on clothes, home goods and home furnishings they could find. Mother delighted in finding fabric and notions for sewing and dad tools for his shop. Our family never embraced the “stigma” that enjoying someone else’s cast off home items or wearing someone else’s cast off clothes diminished our worth in any way. To us shopping at “thrift stores” or “garage sales” was simply “smart shopping” and fun. Knowing good clothing and household brands and names, we knew what to look for and what to avoid. For me thrift shopping in those early married years, when our children were small, enabled me to stay home with my children through most of their preschool years. One thing that is a “given” about small children is that they always “grow fast,” outgrowing clothes and shoes faster than they can wear them out. This meant that the garage sales and thrift stores were full of quality, little used children’s clothing, shoes, baby needs, strollers, car seats, toys, books and other items at a quarter or less of the price of those same items in the store. Saving on these items left more income for fun outings, vacations, pool memberships, and summer camps.

As young marrieds, furnishing a new home, we found many choice items for our house at the garage sales and thrift stores. It didn’t take us long to discover either that we could also find quality clothing items for ourselves—some with the sales tags still hanging on them or barely worn—and often with brand names not readily affordable for us otherwise. I also found wonderful art supplies, puzzles, and family games at garage sales and thrift stores, plus books from 25 cents to a dollar each.

Even now thrift store shopping is still an adventure and a pleasure to us, even with the children grown and gone. When we have time J.L. and I love to take a day to “hit the shops” in our area. We usually shop with a “needs list” now to avoid bringing home items we really don’t need, and we go from store to store, Goodwill to Karm, etc, looking for those items on our list.

If we don’t find what we need, we usually head to some favorite retail stores another day—but even there, we hit the sales racks first. Two new welcome arrivals to the “thrift store” world are the “used book stores,” a joy to a book lover like me and used furniture stores. Additionally, holiday stores have sprung up in our area—for back-to-school clothes and needs for kids and for holidays like Halloween or Christmas. We had fun exploring an area Christmas thrift store this last year and finding several items we really loved.

I’ve never felt “my worth” is expressed in “how much I spent for something,” “where I bought it,” or in “what trendy brand it represented.” Some items, I’ve learned, are best bought “new”—but in general, thousand of dollars can be saved yearly by wisely bargain shopping. Also, it is J.L.’s and my belief that any money we have or any financial blessings we enjoy are God’s first and not ours. So if we save, there is more to give as God directs—and when we save, we are prudently saving and wisely spending the resources God has given us. J.L. and I always pray, too, before shopping for anything, and we have found that God often leads us to exactly what we need at a bargain value and price from either an excellent used car, to a winter coat, to a great pair of hiking boots.

If you have never explored your area’s garage sales, charity sales, or thrift stores, I encourage you to give a day to checking them out. It’s fun simply to look—and you might come home with a few great bargains you’ll love.

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act


“Life is a journey; travel it well.”

Life is a lot like a trip or a journey. As we travel through the years of life we all grow physically every year and we learn by the experiences we pass through. Growth simply happens to us in many ways. We can aid our own personal journey as we grow if we will—physically, mentally,  and emotionally—making our life a better and more positive one. Our “Faith Journey, ” however, follows a different road. It is a heart chosen journey. The general journey of life happens to us all, but the faith journey happens only to those who decide to seek and walk it. As A. W. Tozer once wrote: “Faith is not merely a journey for the feet, but it is a journey for the heart.”

To understand anyone’s faith journey better, you need to look back at his or her early life. For myself, I was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but my family moved to Knoxville shortly after—so all my childhood memories are of Knoxville. I grew up in a rural suburban area of South Knoxville in a pretty Dogwood Trails neighborhood, where quiet streets wound in and out among small well-kept homes with spacious yards, shady trees, gardens and flowers. As soon as I was old enough, I walked and biked those streets and explored the nearby countryside, parks, and mountain trails. My father was an engineer, my mother a home economics teacher before staying home with my brother and me. Mother’s domestic arts continued at home; she sewed, gardened, grew flowers, and worked in church and civic groups. Dad, a skilled handyman, enjoyed his shop, our yard, garden, and property.

My parents were good, moral, Christian people. They instilled strong values, a good work ethic, and a value for education in my brother and me. Our journey in life is always impacted by those who guide and lead us—by families, schools, neighbors, community, local and national government, and our country’s broader social institutions. I was blessed to grow up in a value-laden home, a wholesome neighborhood and time. I believe our society is not as healthy in that way now as when I was a girl.

I did not see faith as a “journey” when growing up. It was simply a given background element of my life. We went to church on Sundays, we believed in God and the principles of the Christian faith. Mother read me stories of faith at home; I went to Sunday School and Bible School where I learned more. Morals, respect for faith and country, were an integral part of community and school and the lives of our neighbors and friends. I attended a series of Communicants classes, joined the church, and had my first disappointment in the ritual of faith. Somehow, it seemed that joining the church and making a commitment of faith should have changed me or made a difference. It didn’t. In Sunday School and at home I began to ask questions but the answers I got were not satisfying. I was hungry for something deeper and stronger, but I didn’t know how to find it. Everyone else around me seemed content where they were.

These feelings intensified through junior high and high school. My father had been transferred to North Little Rock, Arkansas. We moved to a more city environment and I went to bigger schools. I missed Tennessee and all my friends—and I wasn’t happy overall in those years. I felt I had journeyed into a foreign land I didn’t belong in. I looked forward to college and a change, but looking back, I know I was seeking and searching for something deeper in those years. After leaving home, I wandered down a lot of pathways that taught me various lessons, not all good, but underneath an inner discontent always lurked. Like the old Peggy Lee song “Is That All There Is?” I felt like I was missing something vital. And I was.

J.L. and I met at the University of Tennessee and married after he graduated, while I finished college. We’d known a similar childhood and upbringing. In J.L.’s hometown of Athens, he attended high school with the friends he’d known all his life, creating a happier school experience for him. He had been raised, too, in a Christian home, with church and faith a big part of his life, but like me he’d grown discontent with church and the aspects of faith it presented. We married in church in Knoxville, and we attended church after we married, but we couldn’t see much difference in the lives of those we knew within the church and those we knew, un-churched, in the world. Church to us was, quite frankly, boring. We were not growing spiritually in any way from what we received there.

Later, settled into our first home and expecting our first child, we sat down in the living room one evening and had a good talk. We decided what we wanted was a faith like Abraham’s in the Bible, something vital and real, with a relationship with God. We wanted to talk with God and Him to us, to really know Him, for faith to mean something every day. Otherwise what was the point? J.L. and I had not grown up in families that prayed together, except a rote prayer or blessing at dinner, but we said a first prayer together that night, letting God know we planned to start seeking for a real and strong faith to live by and to raise our children in. We asked God to help us find a faith like Abraham’s that was real, vital, and strong.

I didn’t realize it at that point in time but that was the beginning of our “Journey in Faith”—that we wanted more, were seeking for more, and were willing to pursue that quest. J.L and I dug out a Bible we had in the house and I got books at the library about men and woman of faith to see how they’d arrived at that place. It was slow work but we kept after it. We talked to people, to friends and family, to our pastor—all of whom assured us we were “fine” because we believed and went to church. They were wrong.

In a season when we were renting an old farmhouse near the Smoky Mountains between homes, J.L. traveling a lot with sales and me home with our first baby, we were still seeking. J.L. and I had read by that time accounts of several evangelists and men and women of faith who all talked about a pivotal change moment in their lives when they were “saved” or “born again” and truly found the Lord. It seemed that every person with a strong faith we read about had experienced this moment—moving from just believing to coming into something deeper and real, into a relationship with God and into change and newness. We wanted this and we began to seek and pray for it, but we couldn’t figure out what to do to “get it.” Church people, our family, told us we were Christians and already “had it.” They were wrong again. As J.L. said, “if you have an experience you ought to know it.”

It got to be almost a joke with us, trying to figure out how to get this experience of being “saved” or “born again.” J.L. was traveling a lot at that time with his work and when he came home after trips, we’d ask each other: “Well, did you figure out how to get born again this week?” One time when J.L. came home, he said: “Yes, I did.” I could tell from his face and his excitement that he had, too. He’d prayed with an evangelist on television who’d led him in a prayer to get saved. Amazing—that the answer was just a heartfelt prayer. J.L. shared the words he remembered praying. Very little Christian television existed then, but I went out in the field not long after and prayed that prayer for myself—asking the Lord into my life, giving myself and my life to Him. A beautiful knowing and sense of God swept through me as I did. I knew-that-I-knew-that-I-knew that I was changed in that moment and made new, that God had moved into my soul and life and being.

My Journey of Faith moved into a new level then. The words of the Bible came alive to me with the Spirit of God helping my understanding. J.L. and I were constantly sharing with excitement what we learned and read. We began to get books and tapes from different ministries to help us grow richer and deeper in faith. Churches often criticize television ministries but I think people wouldn’t reach out to them so much if the church was doing what it should be to grow people in faith within its doors. In the churches we attended, including several denominations, we could not get the answers we needed. We could not find the vital faith and relationship with God we were seeking. I could have sat on one pew or another, in one church or another, and never found the truth I needed or been taught how to grow in faith after I did. I’m not saying there weren’t people in the churches we attended who had a real and vital faith, but they did not communicate it to me or to J.L. in a way for either of us to find it, too. And that’s sad to me.

In the world, we grow in many ways physically and intellectually whether we like it or not … but I learned that the “Journey of Faith” is different. It is “chosen.” We get to choose whether we come into the Family of God, into living in the rich Kingdom of God every day, and into relationship with God or not. At every step, how far you go in faith is due to your own “choice”… your own hunger and desire for more, your willingness to journey on, to seek, to want to grow. Romans 10: 17 advises, too, that “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God”. Once into relationship, you can seek and grow through studying and reading the Bible, or the Word of God, daily or stagnate in place in your journey. Faith won’t simply happen to you. It won’t fall on you like rain. It comes from your efforts, your seeking, your study, your reaching out to God daily, your wanting it. God may stand at the door and knock, but you have to open that door and invite Him in, not only once, but every day. You have to seek, to ask, to want more of God and of faith to find it. Either you are moving forth in that journey by daily effort, by ongoing seeking, study, prayer and a hunger for more. Or you’re not.

Like that old hymn that talks about how you have to walk that lonesome valley by yourself and that nobody else can walk it for you, those words are true. That’s the way the Faith Journey is. You may have a good church, strong leaders—and if so you’re blessed—especially if they convict and encourage you to seek, to pray, and to diligently study and desire to grow in your faith. I hope they share with you, too, the incredible benefits in doing so, the blessings and joy of living in the Kingdom of God, and that they push you to seek for more every day. I hope, too, that your church pastor or pastors’ personal zeal and joy in the journey, and that their vital life of daily faith, constantly makes you want what they have. However, regardless of your life or church experiences, the Journey of Faith is yours alone to make. No one is keeping you from a deeper place in God but yourself even if no one encourages you to go there. We all know you have to study and work in any subject area that we want more of in order to grow in that area of knowledge, skill, or expertise. Faith is no different. If you spend any time with J.L. and me you will quickly see that we keep journeying on every day in our Faith Journey. We’re always reading and learning and sharing. We’re always hungry for more and excited every time we learn new things of faith. Like a couple of kids at Christmas we can’t wait to see what’s next on this journey.

My closing word to you is: If you have not found an exciting, vital faith to satisfy your soul, if you’re not living a rich, abundant life, if you don’t have a personal relationship with God, if He doesn’t talk with you and walk with you, then DON’T let anyone talk you out of seeking for more—or convince you there isn’t more. If no one goes on in this journey with J.L. and me, if no one encourages us or celebrates with us the milestones of growth in the journey, we’re still moving on. Together we explore, travel, and hike a lot in the natural—but no adventure has ever matched the Journey of Faith.

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.


Taking a long walk along the Tennessee River this week, I realized again how beautiful it is and how grateful I am that it flows right through Knoxville, my hometown city. I think sometimes we forget to notice the beauty of our rivers and forget to realize how they bless us. Rivers carry needed water and nutrients all over the earth and provide homes for fish and other wildlife. Rivers are highways for transportation and joyous places for recreation, boating, fishing, and water play. Rivers can teach us lessons, too, and I love those “Advice From a River” posters and signs that counsel us to slow down, flow more naturally and freely through our days, stay current and constant, and not let obstacles stop our goals or journey.

Deciding to write my blog about the Tennessee River, I looked up rivers in general to see how many are in the world. Most sources cited tens of thousands, stating the exact number is not actually known. In the United States, though, there are 250,000 rivers and the Tennessee is one of the three largest and longest rivers in the state, along with the Mississippi and the Cumberland. The Tennessee River’s name originally came from the Tanasi Cherokee Indian Village often spelled in earlier times more like the spelling of Tennessee, as in Tinassee and Tennassee. On an old 1755 British map the river is even termed “River of the Cherokees.” The Tennessee River long ago could only be navigated by flatboats, due to shoals, rapids, and shallow areas. Muscle Shoals in northern Alabama was especially treacherous.

On the little bulletin board map here you can see that the Tennessee River travels in a winding U-Shape from East Tennessee into Alabama, and then north across Middle Tennessee and into Kentucky. The river begins a mile above Knoxville at the Forks of the River where the Holston River and French Broad River converge. Early records note the Tennessee River’s beginning point at different places, one as far east as Kingsport, but in 1890 a federal law fixed the start of the river at its current location at Knoxville. You can see on the map how the Tennessee River squiggles almost into Georgia, Mississippi and even Ohio on its route before it finishes its U-Shaped journey.

I began hearing and learning about rivers earlier in life than many because my father was an engineer with the U.S. Geological Survey, Ground and Surface Water division. Part of his job when I was a girl was traveling into the field to collect data and take measurements of the rivers and larger streams around our area. His division of the USGS monitored and accessed ground and surface water at different seasons, and in particular weather conditions like in storms and droughts. I remember lessons Dad often taught me about stream flow and patterns, rivers, wells and ponds, and concerns with flooding, erosion, and pollution. He shared a lot of interesting stories, too, about water in caves, hidden underground streams, boat and barge wrecks, destructive floods, fatal drownings, and angry land and water disputes. When we traveled around the East Tennessee area, he often detoured off our main route to show us gage stations and spots where cable lines spanned the river. Dad would ride part way across the river to measure stream flow in a metal box running along the cable line. In inclement storms this was a dicey affair!

Since Dad was concerned, also, with dams and lakes, I also heard many stories about the construction of the dams on the Tennessee River and its tributary basins. On many trips we stopped to see different dams, exploring or taking tours. Nine main dams were built by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on the Tennessee or its impounded lakes, including familiar ones near our home like Norris Dam, Douglas Dam, Fort Loudon Dam, and Fontana Dam. When J.L. and I traveled on vacations after we married and while working on our Tennessee state parks guidebook, we visited other dams and sites along the Tennessee River, like Pickwick Dam and Guntersville Dam in Alabama. The Wilson Dam near Scottsville, Alabama, was built between 1918 and 1924 before TVA was established in the 1930s, to free up navigation and commerce problems in that area and provide hydroelectric energy. A huge dam, at 5,451 ft across and 137 ft high, Wilson Dam can really pump out the power! The first dam TVA built was Norris Dam on the Clinch River to control flooding in the Tennessee Valley. It opened in 1936 and the photo above is one we took at the dam when visiting not long ago.

In early days in Tennessee, with slow and limited land transportation, towns and cities grew up close to the river—like Knoxville did. I always enjoy visiting the historic spots along the Tennessee River in downtown Knoxville like the James White Fort and Blount Mansion. Later recreational parks grew up along the rivers, too. Several in Knoxville near my home are Lakeshore Park, and the Carl Cowan and Concord parks. Downtown in the city is the Volunteer Landing Park and on the south side of the river is the 315-acre Ijams Nature Park, a lovely park to explore, and further east in the Forks of the River area is the new Seven Islands State Birding Park. We love walks at these parks and looking out over the Tennessee River at each one.

When growing up, my family traveled from South Knoxville across the Henley Street Bridge over the Tennessee to get downtown or to travel to north, west, or east Knoxville. To me, as a child, that bridge seemed huge whenever we crossed it. Sometimes when I pushed to do something my friends did that Mom knew unwise, a favorite phrase of hers was: “If your friends jumped off the Henley Street Bridge, would you do it, too?” The idea was that just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean you should. But I often thought about that, driving over that bridge, as it was a spot where suicides did occur—and where people often did jump off the Henley Street Bridge. Although  there have been some suicides off that bridge, most deaths on the Tennessee River are from drowning accidents, while swimming or boating. I think we often forget that water, although beautiful, is also dangerous.

To close on a happier note, a number of songs have been written about the Tennessee River like the classic Country song “Tennessee River” sung by  Alabama. As a Bluegrass lover, I also like the lively number by The Bluegrass Situation called “She Took the Tennessee River. ” Another is Darryl Worley’s Country song “Tennessee River Run” and a little known song is “Tennessee River Runs Low” by The Secret Sisters. The sisters, Laura and Lydia Rogers, sang that if they could be a river they’d want to be the Tennessee! So would I! … Hope you enjoyed the pictures I snapped and the memories of the beautiful Tennessee! Be sure to get out to enjoy some times on the rivers near your home now that warm weather is here.

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.


I grew up in—and still live in—Knoxville,  a small city in the eastern half of Tennessee near the Smoky Mountains. Whenever I travel I am always happy to “come home” to Knoxville again—the place I love, rich with beauty, and filled with good memories. Like the Wizard of Oz line, for me “There’s no place like home.”

Coming back from our vacation to the beach in late April, I felt a lift in my spirits as soon as we saw the mountains and hills of Tennessee on the horizon, and I smiled to see the sign: Welcome to Tennessee as we drove over the mountain toward home. Someone at the beach in South Carolina asked me, “What do you like so much about Knoxville and East Tennessee?” I offered several ready answers, but I’ve thought about that question often since.

What do I like about Knoxville? First, I love the diversity of the seasons. In East Tennessee, we experience four distinct seasons—a crisp fall rich with gorgeous color, a winter not too cold but offering a few snow days, blanketing the world in pretty white, but melting away quickly. Spring in Knoxville comes far earlier here than in cities up north, bringing with it a burst of color after the gray of winter, along with the return of green grass and leaves and an array of beautiful flowering trees and shrubs. The flowers I love so much return, too—crocus, daffodils, tulips, azaleas, and more. The fields and mountains awaken with wildflowers everywhere, including many varieties of mountain trillium like in the photo. The green  then deepens and thickens as summer begins to arrive, the days growing balmy and lazy. With the air and water warmer, shorts and flip flops are the perfect daily wear, the days usually hot enough to run barefoot through the sprinkler, lie in the hammock and read, swim at the pool or lake, or wade in the cool mountain streams of the Smokies.  Each month of the year holds its own beauty.

J.L. and I cherish our links into East Tennessee’s history and past, too. I grew up here in Knoxville, J.L. not far away in Athens, and both of us went to college at the University of Tennessee. Those years hold good memories for both of us as we met at UT, and after our marriage lived in an apartment near campus so I could walk to classes and finish my degree.

Both J.L’s and my families were early settlers to East Tennessee, too, tucking this region into our bloodlines. They came to this Appalachian wilderness in those early years to farm the land and help to build new towns and communities. J.L. and I were both told many fascinating stories about our early Tennessee ancestors. My mother’s stories were especially rich ones, as she grew up one of twelve children in a big two storied farmhouse. Childhood visits for both of us often took us out into the country to visit grandparents, aunts and uncles—giving us a chance to roam the fields, hike, and explore the out of doors, which we still love to do today.

Growing up in rural South Knoxville, I carry happy memories of my early childhood years. A treat when I was a girl was to take the bus into downtown Knoxville on Saturday or a warm summer’s day. In those years shopping was centered in downtown Knoxville before outlying malls and big shopping centers developed. Downtown with girlfriends I went to the movies, poked through the department stores, dime stores, and bookstores, went to the library, and ate lunch at Woolworths, the Blue Circle, or, when shopping with mother, at the S & S Cafeteria. When my first book published in 2009, J.L. and I held my Book Launch on the Star of Knoxville Riverboat downtown, and over 250 friends joined us to ride down the Tennessee River to celebrate my first published novel The Foster Girls. Whenever I see that old riverboat downtown, it brings a smile of remembrance of that good day.

Knoxville hosts many joyous and fun festivals year round, many centered around the old Market Square downtown. I remember shopping with my mother here as a girl, buying fresh vegetables or flowers from the farmers set up on the square. At festivals like the Dogwood Arts Festival, the vendors and crafters turn out to share their work, just like in the past. Often during the Dogwood Arts Festival Market Days, J.L. and I did a street signing in front of Union Avenue Bookstore for Flossie McNabb, talking to people as they walked to the Market Square. We attend many festivals around the area as visiting authors, helping to support events both in Knoxville and nearby. There is nothing more fun than a festival, and in Knoxville and East Tennessee people are warm and friendly, too—making these events even better. We’re already looking forward to the festivals on our schedule for this year.  And maybe we’ll see you there!

Knoxville has won a lot of awards over the years and it’s easy to see why. In recent years it’s won awards as the “Nicest Place in America”, awards for “Best Places to Live” and “Best Places to Retire, a “Most Fun City” award, a “Best College Town” award, a “Summer Travel Destination Award,” and many more accolades. I know I’m prejudiced, but I can see how special Knoxville is. I can see why people want to buy homes in our part of the world, too. In traveling, I’m often shocked to see how homes are crammed so close together in many towns and cities that you could shake hands with your neighbor out the window! I’m grateful that here in Knoxville, most all the homes have spacious yards, lovely trees, shrubs, and flowers. Our home, where we’ve lived for over forty years, has a large yard and sits on a cul-de-sac in a quiet neighborhood. I love living in a place where I can happily and safely take a long walk every day, stopping to talk to neighbors or to look at the flowers blooming along the way. Good neighbors and a happy home are blessings so many do not enjoy… but in Knoxville they are more common than in many other places. Or at least, it seems so to me. A sweet quote about home says: “Home is where love resides, memories are created, friends always belong, and laughter never ends.” Our home here in Knoxville is that for me.

Happy May … See you next month!

Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act. Several photos in this blog are free photos from dreamstime.